Gromet's PlazaTG/CD Stories

The Consultants 4.18

by Charlotte Arabella Graham

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© Copyright 2013 - Charlotte Arabella Graham - Used by permission

Storycodes: F+/mf; M+/mf; cd; fem; maid; costumes; leather; public; buried; concrete; encase; revenge; cons/nc; XX

(story continues from )

Part 4: Chapter 18

Gwyneth was in the study seated in front of a professional video player and monitor. From time to time she stopped the tape, shuttling back and forth a few frames to find exactly what she wanted then pressing a key of the computer Charles had set up for her to garb them as a permanent record for later enhancement and study. The tapes she was watching so intently had been obtained by Amber, courtesy of her rapidly widening circle of television contacts, both on and off the set. Together they covered almost every race in which Sarah Turnbull had entered a horse.

Leslie arrived with plates of sandwiches on a tray; as she had decided it was her turn to be maid, she was dressed appropriately. She put the tray down and looked over Gwyneth’s shoulder as a horse galloped along in the middle of the pack then suddenly surged forward to win by a length. With a start, Gwyneth realised someone was behind her and, concentration broken, looked round.

“Hello, Leslie,” she said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in, I was well away. Pull up a chair and have a look at this. She gestured towards the nearest empty seat. “I think we are on to something. It’s particularly clear on this tape and I think it should be possible to go back and look at the others again now that I know what to look for.”

Gwyneth had been seeking an explanation as to why Sarah’s horses ran so erratically; a characteristic that had become more marked in recent months. The earlier races seemed to have been run within, though only marginally so in some cases, the bounds of normal riding; the jockey holding his mount back or not urging it forward as enthusiastically as he might so that it failed to win by a just believable margin. However, in the last three races for which she had tapes Gwyneth had seen the opposite happen. The horse, for a while content to go along with the bunch, had suddenly leapt forward to win, apparently without any specific urging from its rider.

Her suspicions were raised by the fact that for each of these Sarah had used the same jockey, Sam Gidding. He was by no means in the top flight; moreover she vaguely recalled there had been some unproven rumours about him a few years before, when he had worked for a trainer who had since lost her licence.

Leslie drew up chair and sat down at Gwyneth’s side, grateful to take the weight off her legs. As a maid she would always respect the protocols of the rôle, but she was still finding it uncomfortable to stand still in one place for long.

“What have you found then?” she asked peering at the television monitor.

“Just watch Sam’s whip hand,” Gwyneth rolled the sequence again.

“I didn’t see anything,” Leslie confessed. Gwyneth smiled.

“You don’t know what you are looking for. I’ll run it again in stop-frame slow motion.”

“There, look! Sam lifts his whip and,” she clicked on a frame. “Looks down at the handle there.” She wound on a few more frames. “He presses the end.” She sat back, a triumphant gleam in her eyes.

“Now let’s run it again full speed,” she said quietly, “and you can see what happens. As soon at Sam presses what I think must be a button on the end of his whip the horse leaps forward without him ever hitting it at all. Watch!”

Leslie watched again and had to agree that it certainly appeared that that was what appeared to be happening.

“Did you say that you have seen the same thing in other races?”

“Not so clearly as that, but in the previous two outings Sarah’s horse behaved in much the same way. The camera didn’t catch it so well and the pictures aren’t as clear, but it’s my hypothesis that there is something special about that whip that would be of great interest to the Jockey Club.”

Leslie laughed at Gywneth’s choice of words, “Hypothesis!” she cried. “You want to watch out. You are starting to sound like Charlotte.” She quickly resumed a serious air again.

“Have you any idea what the whip does?” she asked. “It doesn’t give the poor horse an electric shock, does it?”

“I wonder if we can enhance the images at all?” Gwyneth mused. “I don’t see how it can be just a shock. There’re no wires or anything. He didn’t seem to touch the horse. It might be a remote control of some sort or other, but for what I have no idea. You couldn’t hide anything under the saddle that would be spotted straight away at the weigh in.

“It is possible that Charlotte can pull something more out of the images,” she continued. “I e-mailed some earlier ones to her and the results are pretty good. I’ll send today’s catch now and she might be able to work her magic tonight if Barry lets them out early enough. We could have the results tomorrow, but I don’t really expect that they will tell us much more than we know already. There’s a hidden bit missing somewhere.”

“What will you do then? Pass them over to the Jockey Club?”

“No, it’s far too soon. All we have is a hypoth, a hunch,” she corrected herself with a laugh. “To steal a line from Sherlock Holmes, ‘It is a capital error, dear Weston, to theorise with insufficient data,’ or something like that. What we need is a closer look at that whip of Sam’s.”

“Has your registration come through?”

“Yes, this morning.”

“Good. Right, the flat racing season is almost over but your first race could be in France in three weeks-time. That’s where ST had her horse entered so if the maid will stop chattering and serve the sannies, I’ll sort out the paper work later. All this race going works up an appetite, I’m starving.”


Three weeks later found them about to set out for France. Charles had volunteered to drive them in the BMW so it was decided that they should all congregate at Leslie’s house, Charles and Amber joining the others after work. Charles went up to the flat to pack a few last minute things. Only then did he realise in a panic that his passport was in the name of Charles Graham. Moreover, even allowing for the traditional dissimilarity between passport photographs and its owner, there was no way that Charlotte could pass as distinctly masculine image that starred back at him from the booklet. Somewhat embarrassed, he explained his predicament to the assembled GALs at dinner the night before departure.

“That’s not a problem,” Leslie said, “since you are driving you can be Charles my chauffeur. I’ve got a uniform downstairs somewhere.”

“You mean, you want Charlotte to dress up as a man?” giggled Amber. “How kinky.”

Charles glared at her, but was silent. It did seem the only way out of his predicament. While most other internal borders in the European Union had disappeared, Britain perversely still retained passport controls with mainland Europe so it was really too risky to try to go as Charlotte. Weeks ago he had been persuaded to take all his men’s clothes to the charity shop. He could perhaps find somewhere open late to buy some clothes, but as he thought about the possibility he felt a strange reluctance to now go and buy men’s clothes.

“How odd,” he thought, “only a few weeks ago as Charles I had to steel myself up to buy women’s things, now Charlotte has collie wobbles about going to men’s outfitters!”

“It seems the only way,” he said out loud. “Can I find the things, Leslie, to save you getting up?”

Leslie gave him directions as to where he should begin his search.

“You had better take Amber with you to help you look for the uniform and try it on. It’s not been used for a while so you may find it a bit stiff. Could be a little on the tight side too so she can help you get into it. Gwyneth and I’ll tidy up here while you change, then we can have a demonstration.”

Amber bounced ahead down the dungeon steps, Charles trailing behind, once again with the sneaking suspicion that he had drawn the short straw. She already had the cupboards open when he arrived and was lifting out costumes and holding them up to herself to see the effect.

“Hey, come on,” chided Charles, “you are supposed to be helping me find this damned chauffeur’s kit, not something for you, for next Halloween.” He grabbed a heavily constructed rubber outfit from her and hung it back in the cupboard.

“I have,” she replied jauntily, “I hung it over that chair,” she pointed. “I knew exactly where it was ‘cause I put it there. I was the last chauffeur of Leslie’s to wear it.” Charles face dropped and she burst out laughing.

“You mean…” said Charles, lost for words.

“Come and try it, as Leslie said it will probably be a bit stiff to begin with and rather tight. I think that you had better keep you corset on for the waist of the trousers but you won’t need your falsies. It’s supposed to be a sort of male shape and I had to bandage my boobs when I wore it. Here, let me help you off with your dress.”

Charles followed Amber to where she had dumped the uniform. It was in the style popular at the turn of the Century. Jodhpurs, a high-collared, double-breasted jacket, peeked cap, all made in thick well-polished black leather.

“Crikey,” he said, I’m driving a 1997 BMW, not a 1907 Rolls Royce.

With some difficulty Amber got Charles inside the suit, buttoned it tightly across his chest, hooked the collar together, pinned up his hair and finally settled the cap on his head.

“What do you think?” she asked, standing back so he could see his profile reflected in a mirror.

“Well apart from the near impossibility of moving, I suppose it sort of looks the part. What about foot-wear?”

“The boots, oh dear, the ones I had will certainly be too small. Do you have any knee length one of you own?”

“Only with twelve centimetre heels.”

“No, I agree those wouldn’t be any good, especially if you get out of the car. They would give the game away. Leslie must have some others somewhere.”

“How long will I have to wear this lot,” Charles asked plaintively, trying without success to ease the tight high collar of the jacket with a finger, at the same time walking to and fro to flex the stiff leather of the suit as Amber continued to rifle the cupboard.

“Well it’s just for the benefit of the passport people, but changing en route may be tricky so it may be best to wear the disguise down to the Tunnel and for few hours on the other side till we get to the hotel.” Charles’s heart sank at the prospect.

“Here, these will do.” She held up a pair of rubber riding boots. “Try them on for size.”

Back upstairs in the lounge, Charles had to endure the obligatory fashion parade and inspection accompanied to the usual stream of helpful comments from Amber. He needed to make his face look more masculine. He ought to wear dark glasses to hide his plucked eyebrows. When Amber had chauffeured Leslie in the Jag with the top down she had worn a false moustache.

“Shall I go and find one for you?” she asked.

Having put so much effort into becoming Charlotte, Charles was getting cross.

“No!” he said angrily to this last suggestion.

A glare from Leslie silenced Amber.

“I can understand your feelings, Charlotte, much better than Amber can. She’s only trying to help, really. If I had thought things through properly sooner we could have done something better about it, but now it’s either this or you don’t come and I wouldn’t want that. We need you a lot.”

“Oh, all right,” Charles responded, “It’s my fault, really, I should have thought about the passport thing before.”

Amber pressed up to him.

“Sorry,” she said, eyes down cast, and gave him a little kiss. Then she started to giggle, “But it is really funny, Charles becoming Charlotte then having to act as Charles again.”

Even Charles had to agree.

“To iterate is human, to recurse divine,” he intoned.

“Pardon?” said Amber.

“What Charlotte means…,” Leslie began.

“Don’t tell me, I won’t understand,” Amber butted in, “I’m only the resident bimbo, but I do know we have to finish packing and be off early. Come on!”


Next morning saw them all in the mews loading Charles’s car. At least that had been the theory, enunciated at breakfast. However, to Charles it seemed that, squeezed again into former chauffeur Amber’s uniform, he was doing all the fetching and carrying while at random each of the GALs decided that there was something else that they just had to take.

“We’re only going for a long weekend,” Charles protested at one stage.

At last the car was full. The boot was crammed to capacity, though admittedly a lot of the space was being taken up with Leslie’s folded wheelchair. Gwyneth and Amber sat on the back seat, with garment bags and a hatbox, surreptitiously produce by Leslie at the last minute laid carefully on their laps. Leslie sat in the front.

“I do believe we are all, quite ready,” she said in a pretend haughty aristocratic voice, “Charles, you may proceed.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, touching his cap, and slid the car out of the mews and into the Knightsbridge traffic.

The journey down to the Channel Tunnel passed uneventfully giving them time to discuss tactics for the race next day. Shuttle traffic was heavy and at the toll they were told that they would have to wait for an hour before loading.

“That’s not a problem,” said Leslie as Charles drove down to the parking area, “we can go and buy some Dom Pérignon in the duty free, ready to celebrate.”

“Don’t be too sure,” warned Gwyneth, a veteran of many disappointments where horses were concerned.

“Well, drown our sorrows then.

“Would my chauffeur be so obliging as to get out and open the doors for me and my guests?”

Charles get out of the driving seat with a struggle, pleased on the one hand to stretch inside his constricting suit, but reluctant to be seen in it by the crowds of people. He opened the passenger door for Leslie and helped her out. Then went to release the others from the back.

Gwyneth gingerly handed the garment bags to him and Leslie.

“Careful with these,” she said before stiffly emerging herself having hardly dared to move during the two-hour journey for fear of disrupting their contents.

Leslie helped Charles lay the bags back in the car.

“Charles,” she said in a loud voice, “my friends and I are going to visit the emporia. You will clean the car. I understand that water may be found over there,” she pointed into the distance. “The car seems to have collected some insects en route and I want it immaculate when I return.” She turned on her heel and was gone, following the others, leaving a dumbfounded Charles to go in search of water.

Half an hour later the ladies reappeared armed with half-a-dozen bottles of champagne and sundry other bags to be eased into any surviving nook or cranny.

“You should have been with us, then we could have had two more bottles of bubbly.”

“Well, never mind,” he said, returning the proffered bottle to Amber, “it’s not a particularly good year.”

A glance from Leslie checked her, as she was about to put out her tongue at him.

“Anyway, I’ve had quite enough bubbles for the moment,” he said went on as he wrung out a frothy sponge. “If you are quite ready we ought to be going through the check point. I confess to be getting a bit anxious. If they are suspicious and decide to look in the car we will be all day unpacking that lot.”

“Don’t worry,” said Leslie.

“Forward team.”

Charles need not have worried. The passport check went smoothly and soon they found themselves in France on the A26 heading east before turning south on the A1 in the direction of Paris. During the crossing there had been a heated debate as to what to do about Charles. All previous thought had been about passports. Now that problem had been resolved so satisfactorily Leslie realised that they had another to add to the list; she had booked rooms at the hôtel for all of them, including Charlotte Graham on the list. The first proposal was for Charles to change on the Shuttle. That was rejected on the ground of lack of time and the very public nature of the facilities. The idea of going into the loo as Charles and re-emerging as Charlotte seemed dangerous. In addition, Amber said that she thought she should be involved to help with the make-up. Unresolved, the debate continued on into France.

Charles pulled the car of the Autoroute into an ‘Aire’, choosing a parking spot well away from the road amongst some trees.

“Look,” he said, “we are only thirty or so kilometres from the hôtel. We have been round and round this argument; there is no way I can change. I’m stuck, in more ways than one, in this uniform till I can get into the hôtel. What I suggest is this; I’ll let my hair down again after which Amber can make me up in her best big sister, little sister style. We shove something up my front, if there is any room in this damned jacket, to look like boobs then, when we arrive at the hôtel I’ll swap my boots for Gwyneth’s stilettos. That way I can be Charlotte chauffeuse till we get inside.

“Brilliant,” cried Leslie, “they don’t give PhD’s away for nothing. Amber, get your stuff out.”

“It’s in the boot, at the back,” she pleaded.

“At your service, ma’am,” said Charles heaving himself out to unpack all the things he had so laboriously stowed six hours before.


Charles was awakened by the ringing of the bedside telephone. He seemed to have been awake half of the night his mind alternately churning over problems he had left behind at the office and running through possible ways in which events might pan out on the morrow. It couldn’t be getting up time already? He picked up the hand set.

“Allô, bon jour!” he said in his best, for seven AM, French.

“Bon jour madam, ziss is Fiffy, zi French maid, would madam be takin’ zi petit déjeuner in zi chambre?”

It was Amber of course. Charles heard a scuffle at the other end, then Leslie came on the ‘phone.

“What shall we do with her?” she said, “And before you tell me, I have already signed up for first go. I’ve ordered breakfast for all of us in my room. When you are half decent can you come across the corridor? We can discuss tactics over breakfast and you can collect your things to wear this afternoon.”

“Sure, give me twenty minutes. After last night’s dinner we all should be on a diet, but could do with a croissant and a coffee.

“And what do you mean about things to wear? I’ve brought my best suit that you gave me for my birthday. I was going to wear that.”

“It will be very nice if we go into Paris later, but hardly appropriate for the Presidential enclosure. See you in twenty minutes, no more or the coffee will be getting cold, bye!” The telephone clicked and went dead.

Charles shaved, struggled into his under garments, put on a pair of tights and gave his hair a perfunctory brush then, wrapped in a towelling robe from the bath room he gingerly poked his nose out of the door.

“What on earth am I holding back for,” he thought.

He was now more than happy as Charlotte, so much so that being Charles the chauffeur had been so odd he did not much like the idea of the return trip. He had been worse than naked in front of the GALs. It was, well, just being partly dressed crossing a hotel corridor. He scurried across to the door of Leslie’s suit, all of three paces, and knocked.

“Hello, who is it?” called a voice, the question being repeated in French.

“It’s me, Charlotte.”

“Just a mo, I thought it was room-service with the breakfast.”

The door opened and Charles went in and sat on the end of the bed.

“I thought you were supposed to say, ‘It’s is I’”, said Amber, tongue in cheek.

“I had enough of you this early in the morning,” said Charles, threatening her with a pillow. “I though you said breakfast was already here. I’m not sure I like the idea of being seen by room service looking like this.”

“I shouldn’t worry,” Leslie reassured him. “I’m sure that they have seen everything and, anyway, you are more wrapped up than either of us.” Which Charles had to agree was true.

There was a knock on the door.

“See who it is Charlotte, it’s probably Gwyneth.”

Indeed it was Gwyneth, wearing a not overly opaque negligée and eagerly followed by a waiter pushing a trolley laden with breakfast.

“It’s a lovely morning, ladies,” he said cheerily in English almost devoid of accent. “May I set breakfast for you on the balcony?”

They chattered through a breakfast that turned out to be a leisurely affair. Finally it was over, the last croissant dunked and the last slice of brioche eaten.

“Right girls,” said Leslie at last, “time to get dressed I think. Shall we meet in the foyer at eleven? Do you mind chauffeuring us again, Charlotte?”

“You don’t want me to wear that wretched uniform again, do you?” he pleaded.

“Of course not, silly. Here come with me.”

She led him back into the room and went to the wardrobe. She checked through the garment bags hanging there and handed him one.

“Here you are. This is yours. I hope you like it. I know it’s not really to your taste, but there is a certain style that is expected of one on these occasions.”

Charles unzipped the bag. The dress was definitely not his style, far from it. Neglecting his love of latex and leather, his preference was for short sharp designs, most often in black or, if not, in clear colours. In complete contrast, the dress he was now being offered was a frilly, frothy affair in multi-layered white floaty material with a vague blotchy pattern in pastel shades on it. Though clearly an expensive creation it was just not, ‘Charlotte’, as he conceived her.

For a moment Charles was lost for words.

“You don’t expect met to wear that, do you?” He said finally.

“Yes I do, and yes you will,” he was told in no uncertain terms. “And this is the hat to go with it.” She handed him a great cartwheel of millenary, all of 90 centimetres in diameter. “Now go on and get ready. It’s what’s expected of us on occasions like this. I’ve got one that’s similar. I can’t say it’s to my taste either, but we have to act the part or we will be conspicuous. We both have had to learn that lesson at different time so be a good girl, cheer up and do it, just for me.”

When Charles arrived in the hôtel foyer at eleven he found the others assembled and waiting. His mood had only improved slightly.

“With all this stuff around me,” he said, trying to squash the sides in with his hands. “I look like a fairy on a Christmas tree.”

Amber was tempted to say that that would be fun, but thought the better of it and, with a rare streak of diplomacy said that she thought that they all looked a bit silly and over formal, but she was sure he looked better than most.

“Anyway,” she went on, “look on the bright side. If you were a man you would have to wear one of those frock coats with stripy trousers and a top hat; that looks really silly.”

Amber was right, having parked and tip-toed across the soft grass from the car park to the Presidential enclosure, Charles found himself surrounded with more ladies in frilly frock and preposterous hats than he could recall. Certainly his dress was nothing out of the ordinary in that company. Indeed the only thing that made him stand out in the crowd and which had raised the suspicion of the security guard who had minutely scrutinised their passes was the professional video camera and heavy tripod that it had somehow fallen his lot to have to carry.

The major race of the afternoon arrived. As expected, Pendragon Falcon made the running from the off, effortlessly leading the rest of the field and making it look for all the world as if it was just a training gallop. Sam Gidding’s mount was nowhere to be seen, back with the pack running a little to the side of the others close to the rail. Charles and Gwyneth had their binoculars trained on it while Amber filmed the action through the extra-long telephoto lens of her camera. Only Leslie made a token gesture of following her own horse. Then, 100 metres from the winning tape the watchers saw what they had been waiting for. Sam glanced down at his whip hand and suddenly he was hurtling along the track as if the horse was turbo-charged.

A shout went up from the crowd as Pendragon Falcon lead was cut from a walk over to nothing and the two horses raced side-by-side to a photo finish.

“Gosh,” said Amber, “that was close. Can I breathe again?”

“Yes, as long as you have that on tape,” replied Gwyneth. “It was just like we’ve seen before. Leslie, you had better go over to the winner’s enclosure while they are sorting out the photo. Why don’t you let Charlotte push you in the wheelchair and I’ll help Amber with her kit and bring it over. It would be nice to have some home movie footage from there as well as the technical stuff.”

Leslie’s arrival was met with an icy stare from Sarah. For perhaps five minutes the little knots of friends and admirers round each horse talked amongst themselves. Amber used the lull to find a place to station herself where she could get a good view and began filming.

Then the result was announced. Sam Gidding’s mount had won by a nose, with Pendragon Falcon second.

A gloating Sarah Turnbull deliberately walked past Leslie’s wheelchair, with Sam in tow, his eyes down cast not daring to look at her. What inspired her to do it she was later never sure, but in that split second she stuck out one of her crutches, causing him to stumble. Trying desperately to keep his balance, Sam dropped his whip. Charles snatched it up. Sam tried to grab it back and a scuffle ensued. Officials descended on the group from all direction, accusing Leslie of attacking Sam because the decision had gone against her.

Charles, Charlotte for the moment forgotten, hat trampled underfoot, struggled with Sam for the ownership of the whip. Eventually he won. A security guard made to grab him, hesitating for a crucial moment wondering whether he should wait for a female colleague to arrive before tackling this tall woman. Charles snapped the shaft of the whip over his knee. Nothing happened, the force being cushioned by the folds of cloth.

“Damned frock,” he swore, pulled his skirt up and tried again on his bare leg. This time the whip broke in two near the handle to reveal a collection of wires and electronics hidden inside. Sam fell back.

“Oh, ‘ek, that’s torn it,” he cried in despair.

Whatever confusion had reigned before was as nothing to that which now erupted. The officials that had gathered turned their attention from Leslie and rounded on Sam and Sarah Turnbull, demanding an explanation.

After some minutes of everyone excitedly talking at once in his or her native language to the mutual incomprehension of forty per cent of those present, Leslie caught the attention of the Clerk of the Course and beckoned him over. Quickly she explained to him in French that she had reason to believe that Sarah Turnbull’s horse had been the subject of a hi-tech doping, triggered by the mechanism in the jockey’s whip.

“Moreover,” she went on, “I have video evidence that the same technique has been used by her before.”

After a reminder by Gwyneth, Charles, though hot and flushed, was trying to be more Charlotte-like. Although he would dearly have liked to have had a better look at what was inside, he meekly handed over the two halves of the whip to the Clerk. Once in his hands, the Clerk was not going to give it up again to a mere woman, even if she did rather tower over him. Whatever he had in his hands was a prize indeed that would make his reputation because of his serendipity at cracking this most subtle of racing scams. He was going to take that glory. However, there was the little matter of the race. If a declaration were delayed much longer the spectators would become restive.

Amid uproar, Sarah Turnbull’s horse was disqualified and Leslie’s declared the winner

Sarah fell to her knees and clawed at the Clerk of the Course, all pretence of the haughty Grande Dame having evaporated.

“I have to win,” she screamed.

The French official ignored her as his assistants dragged her off him. Though his English was impeccable this was one occasion when he was more than content to hide behind the general embargo on using English on official occasions. He did not know if Sarah’s command of French was sufficient for her to understand his “Je suis désolé, madame, mais c’est totalement impossible”, but his body language was unmistakable.

“My horse has to win, it must, it must,” she pleaded her face crossed with fear as she was lifted upright, tights torn to ribbons and with her previously immaculate white dress stained green and brown from the grass and what the horses had left behind.

“It just has to, everything depends on it.” She went down on her knees again, fists grabbing at the air. “It was my last chance. The Syndicate said they would kill me if I didn’t fix it so that they could clean up on the betting. It was the only way I could buy them off.”

Fred dragged her up. Sarah had spilled the beans. There was no point hanging on any longer, their position was untenable. His instinct was to run and run fast yet out of some streak of loyalty he grabbed Sarah by the hand, pushed her under the white railings of the paddock and ran with her head long through the crowd to where the black Mercedes was parked.

Back at the Course there was a general commotion as news of what had happened, increasingly garbled and exaggerated as it passed from stand to stand, became generally known. The cold official version was simply that Sarah Turnbull’s horse had been disqualified pending a Stewards Enquiry and that Pendragon Falcon was declared the winner. Generally the announcement was greeted with pleasure, even from those who had placed their bets elsewhere and a crop of ‘experts’ sprang into existence, asserting that they had always known that there was something fishy about ‘That woman’s’ horses.

Two men in dark glasses seemed not so pleased. The taller one, who had had binoculars trained on the events in the paddock, had seen Fred’s hurried departure. He beckoned to his stocky colleague and together they left the course, the second man waking with a pronounced limp, angrily talking all the time in to his mobile phone while gesticulating violently with his free hand.

Back at the paddock the press and television were having a hay-day. In Leslie they had found an ideal person to interview as she switched effortlessly from English to French according to which interviewer had managed to get a microphone near her. An owner, winning a major race the first time she had a horse running was good stuff. That she was in a wheelchair and there was a major scandal hanging over the disqualification made it a reporter’s dream come true.

In the mêlée, Sam, led by two gendarmes taking him into custody, walked past where Leslie was sitting. He pulled away from them in her direction.

“I’m sorry, miss,” he said as they yanked him back. “I didn’t want to do it, She made me, same as the other thing.

“I couldn’t help it,” he called over his shoulder, “It was because of…” but what was lost in the noise of the crowd.

“I wonder what he meant by his last remark?” said Charles

“I think I know,” said Leslie, “I’ve been making some discrete enquiries. Despite everything, I feel rather sorry for Sam. If there really are extenuating circumstances I think we should keep an eye on what happens to him.”


Fred Cooke had been driving the big Mercedes fast. He was not sure where he was aiming to go; he just simply wanted to put as much distance between him and the racecourse as quickly as he could. For want of any better idea he had headed east, thinking that the country roads might be safer for them than the Autoroute. Even so, several times he had had the distinct feeling that they had been followed. Now he was certain. It was never the same vehicle for long, but there was always someone behind them, always pushing him to drive a little faster than he felt comfortable on unfamiliar roads, and always just far enough back not to be able to see in the rear-view mirror who it was it was. He ought to know, he had done it to that Weston woman; and now look at the mess they were in. Once a small helicopter flew overhead, dipped low, circled the car and disappeared in to the distance ahead of them.

Eventually whoever had been tailing them dropped back and disappeared. He relaxed a little. Four kilometres further on the road was blocked by a barrier bearing the sign ‘Route Barré’ and a diversion arrow, pointing to a narrow road off to the side. He brought the car to a sudden stop, swerving the car in the process.

Sarah Turnbull, whose thought had been focussed on her plight, was thrown forward against her seat belt.

“Watch what you are doing, you bloody idiot, do you want to kill us?” she screamed.

“Watch yourself,” he retorted, “If you think you can do better you can drive the bloody car.”

He violently swung the wheel and accelerated the car up the side road.

The road was climbing now, all the time becoming more and more windy. To the right a cliff reached above them. On the left, a deep valley dropped away from the road. From time to time it was possible to catch a glimpse of a small river in its bottom, seemingly kilometres below them.

Fred rounded a bend and slammed on the brakes bringing the car to a screeching halt. Ahead of them the narrow road was blocked by a mechanical digger planted at right angles to the road and spanning it from side to side. This was no accident. Flanking the machine stood two men in black suits, guns at the ready.

Fred wrenched the car in to reverse. He and Sarah were thrown back in their seats as the car slammed into the solid mass of another digger that had emerged from a cleft in the cliff face, blocking them in. One of the men came forward and motioning with his gun for them to get out of the car. Fred made to get his own gun in his shoulder holster. Pain exploded in his arm as he was hit from behind with an iron bar wielded by the driver of the second digger, leaving his arm to hang broken and useless by his side.

In silence Sarah and Fred were marched to the edge of the road. Some distance below lay a half-finish bridge abutment, still under construction.

Without a word being spoken they were motioned to scramble down the rocky hillside towards it. They did not go fast enough for their captors, who kept poking them in the back with their guns. Fred screamed as one pushed at his shattered arm. Sarah Turnbull slipped and lost a shoe. She limped on one high heel for a couple of paces then cast off the other Charles Jordan.

Eventually, the two were standing among protruding lengths of reinforcing bar on top of the abutment between sections of shuttering. The men retreated back up the hillside, all the time keeping their weapons trained on Sarah Turnbull and Fred Cooke. One of the men disappeared. A few minutes later they heard a motor start up and a creaking sound from overhead. Looking up they could see a skip making slow progress along a cable that spanned the valley above the river and crossing the top of the shuttering which extended above tier heads

“What the devil’s that?” demanded Sarah.

“Don’t know, but I don’t like the look of it,” Fred responded.

The next moment both of them found out. Jaws at the bottom of the skip opened and tonnes of wet concrete began to pour out. At first they were able to move to the side, but as more and more concrete fell the soft material began to spread out. Soon they were up to the tops of their legs in it. By now they were shouting desperately, pleading with the men who still had them in the sights of their guns. Sarah tried offering them money, gold, anything, but her pleas went ignored.

The cascade stopped. Sarah, hardly able to move against the heavy slurry turned as best she could in the direction of Fred.

“Do something!” she demanded.

“Do something yourself, you old cow,” he retorted. “It’s all your bloody fault. If you hadn’t been so damned conceited and tried to do for that Leslie Weston we wouldn’t be in this mess. And, why did you try to sell that stupid statue of hers?”

“You know why, I needed the cash. Anyway, you shouldn’t have bungled pushing her off the road,” she retorted. She tried to grab at him for support, lost her footing and fell backward with a scream. “Help me Fred,” she called as she struggled, arms out stretched trying to float.

“Drown you bugger,” was all the sympathy she got, as he turned his back on her and, impeded by the closely placed reinforcing surrounding them, attempted to wade toward the edge of the shuttering, hoping to find some way of climbing out.

The clanking overhead began again as the skip receded. He had made only a little progress when it returned, positioning itself immediately above him. He looked up just as the jaws opened, burying him completely in a cone of concrete. Though Fred did not live to see it, his wish to have Sarah drown was shortly granted as she too was entombed. Several more skips were emptied on top.

The men eventually climbing down to work the concrete evenly into the forms and amongst the reinforcing bars with a vibratory compactor and to ensure that no sign remained of the bodies encased within. Finally, they returned to the road.

They were distracted from surveying their handiwork by the sound of the helicopter returning. Two figures, clad in black jump suits with balacalava helmets pulled over their heads so as to leave only their eyes showing, stepped out of the craft. Both carried sub-machine guns, pointed at the men who only a few moments before had thought of themselves as invincible and the masters of the Universe, or at least the fates of Sarah Turnbull and Fred Cooke.

One swung his weapon as if to fire at the newcomers. As he made to squeeze the trigger the taller of the two men fired, hitting his gun and knocking it out of his hand. He and his colleagues raised their hands in the air. The tall man motioned them towards Fred’s Mercedes. They got in. While the shorter man kept his gun trained on the car’s occupants, the other shut the door.

He went over to the digger that had blocked the escape of the late Sarah Turnbull and Fred Cooke, started it up and manoeuvred it to the front of the car. The digger easily pushed it backwards to the cliff edge. With a final tap the car was sent tumbling down to the valley below. Twice it bounced, then, with a loud explosion; it burst into flames till finally coming to rest, upside down where it set fire to the dry grass and gorse bushes that flanked the river.


When the police arrived on the scene some hours later it, was almost dusk. All was very quiet. The concrete top of the bridge abutment showed no sign of what had happened save for being a little higher than when the workmen had left it after being given a surprise half-day off. Only the burnt out wreckage of a car and some charred vegetation at the bottom of the valley indicated that anything amiss had occurred. Why the police had been so long in coming was never discovered, though an enquiry subsequently took place.

For several months the road had been closed after the old bridge was washed away in a winter flood. So it was only by chance that a farmer, taking a short cut and drawn to the site by curiosity about the absence of the sounds of construction that had recently broken the silence the valley, had spotted the crashed car and, later, reported it when he got home.

The inspector sent a young gendarme down the valley to inspect the car while he took in the scene, had a smoke and thought about what he would do for the rest of the weekend. Twenty minutes later and much out of breath, the officer reappeared over the edge of the road, carrying a pair of women’s shoes.

“Not much more to report than you might expect, Chief,” he greeted his boss. “It’s pretty dark down there now mind. There are three bodies in the car burnt beyond recognition, I would say. Probably going too fast and ran off the road. The car’s all smashed up. Funny thing though, there are no number plates. They must have come off in the fall. I looked for them, but couldn’t find anything. On my way back I tripped over these, though,” he handed the shoes to his superior.

“That’s certainly possible, though I wonder why were they here in the first place, the road is supposed to be closed. We had the shift the barrier.” He tossed one of the shoes in his hand in a contemplative way. “I don’t see what these can have to do with it though. Perhaps someone just had a romp in the grass and left them behind.”

He peered over the edge to look at the car almost invisible in the gathering twilight.

“We’ll need lifting tackle to get the car and bodies out. Radio the station and tell them to have a car at each end of the road to keep the media off and stop sightseers. I want to have a good look round in the daylight before everything is messed up.

“Come on. Let’s go!” He stuffed the shoes, one each side into his raincoat pockets. “Charles Jordan, hardly used, right size too,” he thought, just the thing for a little present for his mistress.


The total disappearance of Sarah Turnbull and Fred Cooke remained a mystery. Fred Cooke’s car was extracted from the gorge and identified, despite its lack of number plates, by its engine number. Who the three bodies were in the car when it was examined and why they should have been there at all also remained a mystery. The leading theory that gained acceptance was that after that Sarah and Fred, who had been seen leaving the race course in a great hurry had subsequently abandoned the car or done a swap. The occupants of the crash car had then either stolen the abandoned vehicle or were, perhaps, taking it for disposal.

The continuing absence of Sarah Turnbull delayed the start of the enquiry into the doping of her horses and served to take much of the substance out of it. Both her trainer and Sam claimed that they had been acting under duress, but nevertheless lost their licences. They might well have expected heavy fines, but in the case of Sam help came from a totally unexpected quarter when Leslie caused a minor sensation by arriving to plead on his behalf. Though she refused to go into details she declared that she had good reasons for believing that he had been put under intolerable pressure by his recent employer and, as the ultimate winner of the last race, she asked that the Enquiry exercised clemency on his behalf.

Sam could not believe his luck at the turn of events. He was dismissed, without his licence, but with only a modest fine, though one that would sorely tax his resources, as he had never made large sums out of his rides. After the Court closed he went in search of Leslie, eventually finding her in conversation with her solicitor. He stood a little way off, uncomfortably shifting his weight from one foot to the other, wringing his hat in his hands and wondering how to catch her attention. Leslie noticed him and beckoned him over. Recognising his embarrassment, she started the conversation.

“Well Sam, that’s all over,” she said.

“Yes, miss. Why did you do it miss?” he blurted out. “After everything.”

“Because I know a lot more about you than you think. I know what hooks she had into you and I should know more than most what she was capable of.”

Sam shuddered at the recollection of that night and felt he wanted to be sick again.

“I also know that you risked your own neck more than once and tipped off the police. You perhaps don’t know that one young kid you helped was the younger sister of one of my best friends. You probably saved her life, Sam.

“Now, about that fine; you can’t really afford to pay it can you? And without you jockey’s licence you are out of a job.”

“Yes, miss. How do you know that I can’t pay?” He paused then added defiantly, “I can if I have to.”

“Never mind how I know, but I know you can’t. So I’ll pay it for you.”

Sam protested violently, but Leslie held up her hand to silence him.

“Now look Sam, I don’t want any argument. I’ve made up my mind and I’m not going to change it. In return I want you to come and work for me and my friend Gwyneth. She’s decided to rebuild the burnt-down stable and expand that side of the business. She wants a stable lad and though you can’t race you can ride and look after Pendragon Falcon and make sure we win lots of races together.”

Sam continues to protest for some minutes before he finally realised that it was pointless. He had exchanged one fierce powerful woman of another, but this time one with a heart of gold.


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