They’d swung about in the back of the car for, Minnie thought, 20 minutes or so.
Miss Lawyer had tried to break the ice but the male voice in the passenger seat asked her to be silent. He even said please – which Min found surprising.
It was an apprehensive silence, Min thought: She was no longer sure she was safe. She felt flushed and empty – nervous and a little out of control: Her mouth was dry but a little musky dribble had escaped into her knickers. She had thought she’d feel panicked or scared when it came to this moment. The truth was she was sick with excitement.
When she woke that morning she’d decided that she wasn’t going to make the journey. Her leg, she’d told herself, was enough to make this whole thing too much of an ordeal. But she kept looking at the envelope on her dressing table with the outward part of a return rail ticket. She kept telling herself that this would change her life even if she failed and it was just the one exotic, crazy, erotic weekend, And, if she was chosen, it was still her choice. She could say thanks for the ride and walk away.
Min had one hand on the icy top rail of the Land Rover‘s side and the other wrapped round Number One, who had tried clinging to the sticks supporting the canvas roof, before realising they were anything but rigid. Number One was now pushing herself back against the side and clutching the bulkhead between her and the cab. The slab sided seats, the lack of safety restraints, the restraint attached to their legs that was anything but safe – and their lack of anything but tiny glimpses of metal and canvas from the corners of their eyes – forced them all to push themselves together and hold on to each other. It felt like the worse sort of white knuckle ride – the engine was rumbling noisily, but in a restrained fashion. Min thought they probably weren’t going that fast.
They braked and swung right and the drone of tarmac changed to the crunch of gravel. The vehicle slowed and the girls found themselves bunching together even tighter. Number Two slipped off her seat on to the aluminium floor. Branches and leaves slithered over the canvas’s sides and top as they negotiated a bumpy, narrow driveway. They slid to a stop a little too suddenly and Min found herself with a head in her lap, a sudden wet heat, the feel of chunky, stinking fragments trickling down her leggings and the sound of retching.
She tore her glasses off – it was the barging blonde. “Jesus”. “shit”.
The tailgate came down and the man stood there again. He pushed his flat cap onto the back of his head, revealing curly greying hair and a wrinkled brow. Which furrowed. He said nothing.
Behind her Min heard the sound of the heavy canvas fume curtain being pushed to one side and the driver, a buxom, tall blonde woman in her late forties or early fifties, looked round. Her beaming smile disappeared but her lilting, Welsh voice came, confident and caring: “Oh dear, oh dear. Don’t worry, we’ll sort you all out. Darling, let’s get them inside and cleaned up”.
The man looked grim. But nodded. he unlocked the end of the chain securing them all that was nearest the tailgate and handed the keys to number one, gesturing. The remaining padlock was swiftly removed.
The man zipped up his Barbour and gingerly helped Min -and then the others – down. The chains jingled as they slid between them and onto the ground. They were still all linked together.
“Keep those shades on”. “If you were mine,” he said “I’d hose the car down and then hose you lot down for the inconvenience. But you aren’t”.
“Darling girl, take them in and get them showered will you”. He stomped off.
“Please sir.” The blonde, bargee stood there, eyes downcast, vomit dripping from her chin and down her denim mini skirt and over her thighs and knees.”Please sir, if it would please you, you can hose down this girl sir. It was this girl’s fault, please sir”.
Min turned her head so she could just see the girl, to her right, in the gap behind her opaque spectacles. The man stopped. Looked at the speaker. “Why?” he asked: “Does the idea excite you, number three?”.
“No sir.” The blonde shivered and not just, Min thought, from the cold. The blonde tossed her spattered hair but said nothing more.
“Darling, it would make you so much feel better” broke in the man’s partner, perfectly seriously and without a trace of mischief or distress for Number Three’s situation: “Besides, it’s beastly out here – can’t I get the others in out of the cold?”
“Very well. Unshackle yourself and follow the car, Three. Give my girl your glasses”. Three bent and unbuckled her ankle cuff.
They waited as the Land Rover trundled off. Min could see her two remaining comrades were, like her, twisting and turning their heads to get a glimpse of events. The car moved toward a barn-like building a few metres off, the blonde followed at an ungainly trot.
“Dears – do come on, we’ll all catch our deaths” bubbled the man’s partner: “Lets go in and get clean and warm. I’m The Girl by the way, but you can just call me Girl”.
Still shackled and wearing their darkened glasses, the three shuffled off toward the left hand corner of the large stone and brick-built house that they sensed more than saw. It was unlit and there was little twilight left.
They followed the beam of the girl’s torch. Minnie was hobbling and Number One’s stride pulled her forward with each second step. She cursed as she almost toppled. ‘The girl’ stopped and tutted, not unpleasantly: “Girls I’m so sorry, I can’t unshackle you or let you see. You must co-operate with each other. Being in step might help.”.
“Hands on shoulders?” suggested two. “And I’ll call left-right” said girl one. “Good”, agreed The Girl: “hold my hand one and I’ll lead”. They shuffled on, more confidently.
Behind them a bright, yellow security light went on, throwing huge shadows, and they heard the sudden hum and sputter of a pressure washer.