He came out of the barn trundling a pressure washer and a reel of electric cable. He unwound the heavy-duty extension lead and plugged it into the yellow pressure washer. Hauling a hose from another reel on the barn wall, he screwed that into the side of the washer. He pressed the trigger. The motor started and a second later the jet hissed out of the nozzle. He motioned to three to stand by the low barn wall, under the eaves.
He walked the jet across the drive, letting her see its power, swirling the gravel out of its way. He lifted the lance over the truck tailgate and flushed the remains of three’s vomit off the floor and swilled it onto the gravel. He swirled the jet around again, so the solid fragments disappeared into the drain.
He let go the trigger. Silence.
“Against the wall”. She did, feeling the grain of the ancient oak weatherboarding through her blouse.
“Face me”. She turned. There seemed no reluctance.
“Very well. Stand quite still”. He pulled the trigger again and the washer jet hissed out, its tone changing as he lifted it to drum on the wooden barn wall beside her. Within seconds, she was soaked from the spray.
He dropped the lance and let the jet play on the brick courses of the wall, just above ground level. She could see the lime cement liquefying and dripping from between the bricks. She gasped and gratefully recognised why he had not pointed the lance straight at her body. He moved the jet across and opened the nozzle, making the spray more diffuse. He let it play on the platform soles of her shoes. Gravel and stinging water suddenly burned her legs. She skipped away.
“Don’t dance” he said: “Do you trust me?” She whimpered, but nodded.
“Time for a hair wash, Ready? Stand quite still” Three breathed in, closed her eyes.
“Open your eyes”. Three did. The shiny brass tip of the washer’s black lance was a metre from her forehead. The man’s finger curled on the trigger. And he lifted the lance, spraying the jet into the soffit above three’s head. A great cascade of freezing water and thatch debris cascaded upon her. She flinched, cowered and then stood straight. He opened the spray nozzle wider, lowered the jet a tad and let clean water fall on her.
“Rotate” he said. She did – grinning, laughing and pirouetting, for all the world like the plastic, pink ballerina inside the lid of her first jewellery box. But that didn’t last. She had to put up her hands to bat away the debris ceaselessly falling on her. The rush that had hit her with the shock of freezing, blasting water was replaced with nothing but numbing cold. Her lips were blue, she shook ceaselessly, she cowered now, she could hardly stand. She crouched, her head In her hands and hid in the corner of the wall. She wept. He opened the nozzle as far it would go and let the mist, most of it’s power gone, soak her.
The pressure washer stopped: “how useful are you now?” He asked. “Could you serve anyone? Does this make you useful to me?”
“Is there a service I can give?” she wept. Then she tossed her hair and looked straight at him, a little pride in her voice: “And have I not given service now?”.
He said “Follow me”.