The very second that Veronica touched the bell, the door opened and she immediately dashed through. The lady who had opened the door to her with such providential promptness immediately slammed it shut crisply telling her to run upstairs to the first landing. Something about this woman impressed Veronica. She had an air of efficiency, as of one who had been used all her life to having all situations effortlessly under control. Veronica did as she was told. As soon as she reached the landing, the wall seemed to move and a section of it swung round to reveal an opening into the next house.
"Go through - and hurry!" mouthed the woman silently - virtually obliging Veronica to lip read. By this time the front door was being well and truly hammered by the two police women. The terrified girl obeyed and the wall closed up behind her. She found herself half-way up the staircase of the next house and could see, through the front door, the flashing light of the police squad car in the street outside. There was no sound of knocking on the next door any longer and she guessed the woman must have let the two officers in. The door of the front room opened and out came Mr. Andrew Vane-Clatworthy, looking as frail as ever, but smiling broadly. Today had obviously been a very good day for him! Veronica knew that she ought to be able, empathetically, to share his happiness, but was unable to for some reason!
"Come down, my dear Veronica. What a very dramatic escape that was - the stuff of high drama, indeed! Come on in to the front room and take a seat."
Veronica did as she was told, hoping that the mysterious woman next door would not be forced to reveal her whereabouts. She would put nothing past that crazed and vicious pair and felt herself to be anything but out of the wood, just yet.
The still shaky Veronica sat herself on the sofa and the old man settled himself into a comfortable armchair, smiling at her perspiring and travel-stained body with its grazed and weeping knee.
Five minutes later, the woman and a couple of men came in.
"I think I put them onto a false scent, Sir. I told them she’d run straight through the house and over the wall of that disused warehouse at the rear. They looked as if they might turn rather nasty until Pete and Dud here came into the hall to back me up!"
"Those bitches were going to take me up to Hampstead Heath and rape me," gasped Veronica, still trembling in every limb at the horrible things which that awful woman had been whispering into her ear.
The old man looked at the woman.
"Did you get their numbers, Miss Prosser?"
"Good." replied the aged man. He turned to Veronica and smiled reassuringly.
"Don’t worry, my dear. I have a lot of influence in all sorts of places. And, in any case, their nasty words to you were monitored by one of my many associates. We’ve kept track of you for much of the day, partly for your own safety, but mainly to make sure you obeyed all the instructions. I love all these surveillance devices they have on the market nowadays - so useful and SUCH fun to play with! I don’t think you’ll need to worry about those two again after tonight! The pair of them will assuredly be, to use a vulgar colloquialism, busted, when their superiors learn about their behaviour and I very much doubt that any charges will be preferred against you."
The other three left Veronica alone with Mr. Andrew V-Clatworthy for a short time. He told Veronica to stay seated until she was fully recovered. Miss Prosser came in a little later with a tray on which lay a cup of coffee, laced with brandy, and also a bowl of warm water and some first aid materials.
"Get that inside you, my dear." she said in a kindly voice to Veronica, handing her the cup. "You’ll soon feel better! And I think that graze needs a little cleaning up. What a shame - you‘ve such pretty knees - along with the rest of you!"
Veronica smiled her thanks and took a sip. The lady had been dead right about the drink’s therapeutic effect and she was soon largely recovered. The disinfectant stung a bit, but it was nothing compared to the pain she had so recently suffered from the psychotic Harriet’s punch to a stomach which still ached from the blow. She saw, looking down, that she was very red and bruised in that region.
As soon as the wound had been treated and the bleeding stopped, Mr. V-Clatworthy motioned his assistant to leave them alone. He put his arthritically deformed hands together and gazed over the top of them at our would-be millionaire heroine.
"And now, I think, the time has arrived for yet another stage of this day of trial and self discovery to begin. Kindly remove your one remaining garment and stand before me in all your glorious nakedness - revealed at last as Nature has always intended. I will take that wisp of red cloth off your hands, my dear. In the few years remaining to me, my increasingly infirm and circumscribed existence will be comforted and enriched from time to time by the sight, smell and touch of a slip of material that once adorned the loins of the most beautiful woman I ever beheld in all my days."
"You’re more than welcome to it," said Veronica a little sharply. Truth to tell, she was beginning to want nothing more than to get all this over with and slide down between the sheets of her own bed in Hampstead. She slipped her one remaining covering over her hips, down her magnificent athletic thighs and along her calves. Finally she stepped out of the red thong, glancing down at her pubic forest, noting how the wiry golden curls were reacting now that they were released from their former restraint - and how she herself was reacting now that at last, all of her was exposed to view!
She handed the thong, without regret, to the eagerly waiting Andrew Vane-Clatworthy - dirty old man! He sniffed appreciatively at the soft and silky material, to Veronica’s great disgust, and placed it, still warm and slightly moist from her body, beside him. He arose none too steadily to his feet and pointed to a small table in the corner of the room.
"Would you please be so kind as to fetch that over, my dear and move your own seat in order that we may sit opposite each other with the table between us? When you have done that, you will find a chess set and board in the cabinet over there. Set up the pieces my sweet. Before you leave here tonight and before the witching hour, you must play and beat me at least once, or your chance of becoming rich will vanish. I feel I should warn you - I am a pretty fair player!"
"I’m surprised that you choose to live in such a down market area as this" said Veronica as she busied herself setting up the pieces for the most important game of chess that she would ever play in her life. Why had she neglected to keep in practice? Too busy making money, of course! And now her rustiness might cost her very dearly. Oh bitter irony!
"I don’t live here, my sweet." replied her elderly host.
"This place is useful to me from time to time - that’s all. Let’s face it; it was providentially useful to you today! And now, you unutterably lovely lady, I‘ll allow you, as my very welcome guest, to be White for the first game. I cannot wait to pit my wits against yours!"
The two leant over the scene of their impending battle, Veronica’s sweet young breasts hanging down over the fine ivory pieces and beautifully inlaid board. The old gentleman bent forward as near to these twin glories as he was to the finely carved pieces on the board. He waited expectantly to see what Veronica’s first move would be!
Veronica moved her king’s pawn to start with, and the old man responded in kind. ‘So far so good,’ she thought, as she brought up her queen’s pawn to be next to the other piece. What would he do now? Again, a reciprocal move. She felt the sweat begin to pour off her and her heart rate increase. ‘For heaven’s sake, calm down, Veronica,’ she told herself. After all it was only a game and she didn’t need the money anyway - not a resourceful girl like her.
All day, this thought had been building up. She was capable of making her own way in life. Even if she somehow jumped through all the hoops and cleared all the hurdles this man had put in her path, it was the journey that was important to her now and not the destination, which had imperceptibly retreated into irrelevance as the day had progressed. She would still take his money alright, but she didn’t need it. All that she needed for success in life she had within herself.
He won the first game, although not without a few hairy moments for him, but Veronica was very rusty and sacrificed a pawn in the early stages, failing to gain the tactical advantage from this move that she hoped for. From then on it was a steady battle of attrition in which her position finally became quite hopeless and she resigned, seeing clearly that all was well and truly lost.
Having the advantage of being White gave him the second game also. She looked up at the clock. Plenty of time before midnight and she only needed to win once. Now that it was just a matter of beating him to satisfy her honour and make up for some of the things that had happened to her today, she was calmer now and coldly concentrating on the game, treating it as a mental exercise rather than a life or death struggle.
Game three lasted far longer than the first two and Veronica thought she had him at one point, but he fought back with great tenacity and was able to force a stalemate. Not good enough, but encouraging!
Game four was a scrappy and very unbeautiful game, after which the victorious Vane-Clatworthy murmured sadly and ruefully. "Unworthy of us, my dear. Quite unworthy! I suggest we adjourn in order collect our thoughts and refresh ourselves."
He rang the bell and Miss Prosser came in.
"My lovely opponent and I are in need of coffee, strong, black and sweet. She will help you prepare it, I am sure, as long as you ask her nicely!"
"No need to ask," laughed Veronica, glad to take a break. "I volunteer!"
She got to her feet and saw the momentary surprise on Miss Prosser’s face as her full nakedness was revealed. This good lady quickly suppressed whatever thoughts she might have and smilingly showed Veronica the way to the kitchen.
"While we wait for the coffee to brew, why don’t you go and have a shower, my dear. You look as if you could do with one!"
"And probably smell as if I could," giggled Veronica. "I’ve had a lot of exercise in the last couple of hours and that room is pretty hot."
By the time she had showered and made herself her usual sweet-smelling self, the coffee was ready. As Miss Prosser prepared a tray and a plate full of biscuits, Veronica asked her how long she had worked for Andrew Vane-Clatworthy.
"Since I left school, twenty-three years ago. A fine employer, Miss Harmsworth, but prone to the odd practical joke: like finding out just what people will do for money, for instance - seeing just what they are willing to do by way of sacrificing their dignity and self-respect. Sorry! That was unkind."
"It was unkind, but quite just." replied Veronica. "I would back out of this now, but for the fact that I shook his hand and agreed to put myself at his disposal for the day. But the glittering prize at the end doesn’t glitter any more. I know I can make my own millions without any help from an eccentric philanthropist. And if I can‘t, then I don‘t want them!"
"Well - I advise you to tell him what you just said. But that is your decision, of course. Do you want to hold the door for me, please?"
The coffee was placed on a small table and both players sipped a few drops.
"That’s better! The grey cells are in motion again, after my lapse into catatonia! Shall we resume?"
"Yes, Sir. Let battle recommence!"
The old man’s brain certainly did seem to have been rejuvenated by the coffee and Veronica lost three games in a row before her luck began to change. Tiring of her lack of success, she varied her opening in the next game, in which she was Black. The game ended in stalemate and Veronica resolved to pursue the same approach next time. The old boy clearly had great trouble coping with knights. Twice she almost managed to fork his Queen and rook, and she knew this was her only hope of overcoming him.
Once again he asked for a pause, and the now tepid coffee was replaced by some freshly brewed. Once again Veronica stood chatting in the kitchen to Miss Prosser, who tried unsuccessfully not to show how much she liked being so close to the naked guest. Just as they were about to rejoin the old financier, she touched Veronica on the arm. There was an earnest look on her face, in which the nude girl also detected and undertone of longing.
"Don’t think those two brutes who arrested you are typical . We aren’t all predatory - live and let live is the code most of us go by. I can’t say I blame them in a way, though. You are so lovely - so very, very lovely. Coming upon you the way they did must have unhinged them a bit, and I can see why, although I hope they both are dismissed form the force - and they will be!"
"Thank you very much for the compliment!" Veronica blushed scarlet. She returned the older woman’s gesture, placing her hand on her shoulder.
"Do you have a lover, Miss Prosser?" she asked.
"No. I never have done. Mostly I stay celibate. The name is Phoebe, by the way."
"Would you like to kiss me, Phoebe? You have been so kind. I would like it if you did - really I would!"
The other woman needed little encouragement and the pair embraced, tongue seeking out tongue for many long seconds. Veronica had never done this with a woman before and certainly had no intention of doing so again, but found the experience quite enjoyable, nonetheless. Phoebe obviously found it a great deal more than mildly enjoyable! This previously calm and capable lady began to gasp and moan and as their mouths drew apart there was a look of longing on that previously impassive face. She uttered a string of passionate endearments. Then her customary self possession returned and she disengaged herself.
"You’d best get back to the game, my dear. And I hope you do beat him at least once. You’ve still got over an hour! Good luck, and don’t forget to say ‘Goodbye’ when you leave!"
They went back into the front room with the coffee. Mr. Vane-Clatworthy looked up briefly.
"Wipe Veronica’s lipstick off, Miss Prosser. It really doesn’t suit you! But I’m glad the two of you are friends!"
The good lady went the deepest shade of red that Veronica had ever seen anyone go in her life and looked as if she might burst into tears at any moment. Infuriated that Phoebe had been spoken to so rudely and that she was the cause of her embarrassment, Veronica walked over to the sideboard, where she saw a box of tissues. She wiped her own mouth free of the stuff and went across to Phoebe.
"Let me wipe it off for you. It’s my fault it’s there in the first place." She did the necessary and then clasped Phoebe in her arms and kissed her again, much longer, much harder and much more passionately than before. Finally she drew back and smiled at the other woman.
"There, I think that was a better effort, don’t you? And try to find a lover. We all need someone to love, each in our own way!"
Alone again, Veronica resumed her seat.
"That was bloody rude of you and quite unforgivable. I hope you apologise to her pretty soon. Her loyalty to you deserves a better reward than that", she hissed in a voice laden with icy fury.
"How right you are, my dear. I will indeed make my peace with her later on, as she knows full well I will! Now, I suggest we get back to the fray. I see that time is marching on, as the saying goes. Only time for a couple more and all will be lost for you. Such a pity!"
It was half past eleven when Veronica had the pleasure of checkmating the old gentleman. He leant back in his chair and sighed.
"A most enjoyable evening, my dear. I am so grateful! You are a talented player, you know! Just rather out of practice. I suggest you take it up again. A wonderful way to meet people. You don’t meet enough, you know. And I really will apologise to the excellent Phoebe, have no fear!"
"Thank you, Sir. I enjoyed the games and I really feel lucky right now to have beaten you even once! You are one of the toughest opponents I have ever had. And you are so right. Well! Is that it? Do I get the money now?
Andrew Vane-Clatworthy laughed in a faintly malicious and disagreeable manner.
"Almost, my dear, but not quite. There remains yet one more task to perform. It will take you until midnight and well beyond, but as long as you complete it before dawn, all will be well."
Her heart sank at this news. All she wanted was to be in her own home and her own bed, stretched out between the sheets and recovering from all her trials of the past day. And there was still more to be done. Oh, shit!
"May I suggest we all three of us have a drink together before you embark on the final home run in this, your pursuit of great wealth? Go and get Miss Prosser in here. Linger with her in the kitchen if you wish - you did her good, I could see that very clearly."
Veronica did as she was told. After that last kiss, she was inclined to leave it at that, having very successfully demonstrated to herself that she was one hundred per cent heterosexual, but when she found the poor lady sitting disconsolately at the kitchen table, red-eyed and obviously not long recovered from a bout of weeping, she changed her mind. ‘The things I do for this woman,’ she thought as she felt Phoebe’s hands exploring her most secret places and her tongue hungrily seeking out the furthest recesses of her mouth.
Finally Veronica broke away from the other lady‘s eager grasp. "Come on Phoebe. That’s all you get from me - ever! Find a lover and don’t be too long about it. Now let’s go and have a drink with the old buzzard! I have to start my final task after that."
"I know." replied Miss Prosser. "You haven’t been told what it is, yet have you?"
Veronica shook her head. "No. I hardly think it can be worse than anything else I’ve been put through today!"
Phoebe shook HER head sadly.
"On the contrary, my dear. The worst part of your day lies ahead. Oh, yes! You won’t like your last task one little bit!"
The housekeeper/secretary/right-hand woman’s rather intimidating and gloom laden words were still ringing in Veronica’s ears as they settled down in the front room. The industrious Miss Prosser put the table and chess board away and the three took their seats. The old gentleman occupied an armchair and Veronica and Phoebe shared the sofa.
Veronica, tired by this time of being the object of the older woman’s lust - never mind that she had been the one to arouse it in the first place - sat right at the end of the settee and noted with dismay that Miss Prosser nevertheless contrived to be close enough to the girl for her to feel her body pressed against her. She breathed a silent prayer of gratitude that at least the still insatiate Phoebe was fully dressed and so at least the naked girl had the consolation of not having to feel bare skin pushed hotly and steamily against her. Andrew Vane-Clatworthy observed Veronica’s embarrassment with a malicious twinkle in his eye and a sardonic smile on his aged and wrinkled face.
"It really is so awfully hot in here, Miss Prosser. An old man such as I needs to be warm but to the hot bloodedness of youth it must indeed be unbearably stifling in here. Why do you not slip out of that awful tweed jacket and blouse? Relax - make yourself comfortable like our pretty young friend here! I seem to remember you have quite the handsomest shoulders and arms of any woman I ever met - until darling Veronica came into my life, that is!"
Miss Prosser, with a word or two of gratitude, responded positively and promptly to this suggestion, in fact Veronica could not recall anyone divesting themselves of their clothing more quickly and eagerly in all her born days. The jacket and blouse were lying neatly folded at one end of the sofa and Veronica was squeezed next to a bra-clad Phoebe at the other - in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. So she WAS, after all, doomed to be pressed closely against steamy hot flesh! And, by Golly, was it ever steamy and hot!! All the pent up frustration of a life of self denial was to be felt in that body now pressing nakedly and lustfully against hers.
Andrew had spoken truly when he paid that compliment to the charms of his assistant’s body. She did indeed have the finest arms and shapeliest firm and well-muscled shoulders. Despite her being on the wrong side of forty, she was trim and well toned - without a trace of flabbiness. Except for her hands, which were ill cared for and hardened, with chipped and dirty nails, she could pass for a woman in her twenties.
Veronica caught a whiff of the other woman’s body smell and felt herself stirring uncomfortably down below; uncomfortably and almost pleasurably - to her shame and horror. She put her arm around Phoebe and the gesture was returned with the same decisive speed that had just deposited the jacket on the other end of the couch.
"What a charming thing it is to behold the sweet and touching sight of the two of you so happily embracing. Oh, the precious, forbidden and mysterious love of Sappho! Although the last thing I want is to be thought a kill-joy, I must issue one minor caveat. Whilst nothing makes me happier than to observe the simple joy of others, particularly those near and dear to me, I must ask that you endeavour by all means in your power, my darling Veronica, not to leave any stains upon my valuable sofa! I perceive that the cup of your awakening desire is full and begins to run over! No doubt the excellent Miss Prosser will come to the rescue with a tissue - or her tongue. I leave it to the pair of you to settle this delicate matter in what I do not doubt will be an amicable fashion. I must leave you for a few minutes and then we can finish our drinks."
With this, he lifted himself painfully to his feet and walked to the door. As soon as he had gone, Veronica grinned ruefully.
"OK, Phoebe - this is really your lucky night isn’t it? Why don’t you slip out of the rest of your clothes so we can make a proper job of this! And I’m sure you’d much sooner use your tongue to dry me out down there than a tissue, so we’ll take that one as read!"
Once again the decisive Miss Prosser needed no second invitation and Veronica resignedly opened her legs to allow Phoebe to have her fill of her. It was a surprisingly pleasant feeling on the whole, although she could not prevent herself thinking how much nicer it would be to have Douglass doing all these things to her - to say nothing of that one supreme and very special thing that Miss Prosser, for all her resourcefulness and demoniac energy, could never do!
It was well after midnight when the ancient and creaking Andrew returned, by which time Veronica was close to exhaustion and bathed in sweat, her hair once more plastered against her shiny, dripping wet back. By this time both of the women had rolled off the sofa and on to the deep-piled turquoise and yellow-patterned carpet, where they continued thrashing about, both of them, by this time, aroused to the same intoxicating level of enthusiasm, until a discreet cough alerted them to the fact that they were no longer alone. Veronica had learned quite a lot in that hour with Phoebe!
The indefatigable Miss Prosser was obviously good for another few hours, but dressed herself when her employer came back and sat on a separate chair. Veronica was again the sole naked occupant of the room as the three finished off a bottle of wine between them. It was clear that a still desperately lustful Phoebe knew that her fling with Veronica was now well and truly over, at least for tonight.
Veronica hoped that Phoebe would quickly find a lover on a permanent basis. Whoever she was, the chosen one would need to be strong and possessed of extraordinary stamina. Too much more of this and she would need a month’s rest and rehabilitation to recover! And it STILL very definitely wasn’t her scene, although she was forced to confess that she was a lot more adaptable than she would have ever imagined herself to be when she woke up that morning, all those long and eventful hours ago!
Glancing down Veronica saw what her feelings were telling her, namely that the sofa was still in imminent danger of being stained! She walked over to the sideboard and pulled out a pile of tissues. Returning, she arranged them on the sofa beneath her, blushing furiously as she felt the eyes of the other two boring into her back. She wondered which of them would have the tissues as a souvenir after she had departed! Perhaps they would share them! Ugh!