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The Professionals

by Charlotte Arabella Graham

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© Copyright 2014-20 - Charlotte Arabella Graham - Used by permission

Storycodes: F+/fm; latex; maid; heels; hood; inflate; sendep; remote; public; toys; insert; leather; castle; tease; cons; X

This chapter was missing from the original posting of this story, but has recently been recovered. Please enjoy it, and if you want to refresh your memory of the story, start from Chapter 1 and enjoy a fresh edit of the whole story, with some new pictures to go along with the text.

Continues from

Chapter 7

Charles rang Barry that weekend to let him know the decision.

“Jolly good, jolly good,” he said. His relief sounded even over the telephone. “I was concerned I’d left it too late asking you, got too busy with the collection, and that you’d found something else.”

Charles started to say something but Barry was now in full-flow. 

“I don’t just want you to be a caretaker. I’ve grown the business from nothing and don’t want it to go stale. New ideas, different ways of looking at things. Thinking out of the box and all that. 

Look, I’ve got a few things in the office that I’d like to collect before I go. How about you having the day off Monday, then on Tuesday what say you I come around about ten and we can do the formal hand over. 

On Tuesday morning Charles arrived at the Company offices even earlier than usual. He had no wish to meet any of his erstwhile colleagues; rumours spread like wild-fire, they were bound to have heard of Barry’s plan if only in some garbled version of it. In fact, save for the security guard and a cleaner all was deserted. Charles nodded to them acknowledging their greetings and scurried up to his office.

For the next two hours he pretended to work; not that there was anything to do. He was just going to arrange the papers on his deck for the umpteenth time when the ‘phone rang. It was Barry’s PA asking if he would come up to the office. 

As he went upstairs, he suddenly realised he didn’t even know the PA’s, soon presumably to be working with him, name. She had always been either Barry’s PA or, on formal occasions, Mr Schofield’s.

 Charles was still wondering how to find her name without betraying his ignorance when he entered the outer office.

“Good morning, Dr Graham, I’ll tell Mr Schofield you are here.”

“Gosh,” though Charles, taken aback by the formality. “It’s always been Charlotte and Barry before.”

 Charles was ushered into the inner office. Barry had his back to the door, wrestling with some papers in a filing cabinet, others strewn here and there about him.

“Sorry about the mess. Took a lot longer to sort things out that I thought it would. ‘spect you’d like your office back, too.”

“It’s your office.”

“Yours now, dear lady.”

Charles winced at the; ‘dear lady.’ cleared some papers off a chair and sat down waiting for Barry.

“Oh look,” Barry said at last. “I take these with me. Have the rest,” he waved to a great pile littering the floor, “put in my back room, will you? I’ll try to sort them out later.” 

“That reminds me, I’ve been thinking about your sanctum sanctorum. I don’t think I should use it. If I stop-off the door with a book-case or something would you mind using the back stairs?”

“That’s fine and, anyway, I shall be away from next week. Just don’t forget to dump the papers before you fill the book-case. All those maths books are pretty heavy I would think,” he added with a laugh. 

Charles and Barry talked on for a while...

“Oh, one other thing. Will you keep Wendy as PA? I suspect she knows a lot more about the Company than I do. Been with me right from the beginning. Came straight out of school. All I could afford. Been with me for the best part of fifteen years. Could have almost asked her to run it if she had a bit more, shall we say, gravitas.”

‘At least I now know her first name. I hope I’m not stereotyping but, somehow, she doesn’t seem like a Wendy, though.’ thought Charles. “Of course, I’ll keep her, if she wants to, that is. As you say, she knows a lot about the Company, much more than I do.”

“Ah, yes, but it’s not what you know about the things we did in the past, it is what you can think to do with it in the future,” Barry responded. “Anyway, I know she wants to carry on and she could be a good link for you.”

Eventually, with one last nostalgic look round at the office that had been almost his home for the last ten years, Barry was gone. Charles felt that there was something special about that look, almost as if Barry knew that he would never be back and again seated behind that desk.

Charles went into the outer office where Wendy was trying to look busy. Though not quite in Amber’s category of impatience, she clearly wanted to know what had happened and, especially, how it affected her.

She stood up as he entered.

“Right, Wendy, first things first. If you want to, I should like you to be my PA.”

“Oh, thank you, Dr Graham, I was really hoping that you would ask me. I’d like to very much.”

 “Secondly, for Goodness sake stop calling me Dr Graham. For other than formal occasions I’m Charlotte. That’s what everybody in the Company calls me and I see no reason for a change now.”

“Sorry, doctor, er Charlotte.”

“And another thing, there’s no need to stand up, sit down, I want to talk to you.”

Barry and I talked about a lot of things, more of them as we go along. I told him that I want to change the inner office quite a bit. His style and mine are rather different.”

Wendy nodded.

“He can get to the sanctum sanctorum by the back stairs, so I want to stop-off the door to it from the office with a bookcase or some such. I want you to measure up what size it needs then go over to Heals and get a piece to fit. And I want it this week, not next year so I expect you to exercise your charm or whatever to bring it about. I also want a low occasional table and two easy chairs to go with it. On your way out, button-hole the caretaker and ask him to come up here with two hefty lads. I want to move the big desk into the corner so there’s lots of space for the table.

“Oh. And another thing. Barry had a big list of contacts stretching back to his school days. I don’t, so I think that I should go and see our clients and potential ones to make myself known. A lot are here in London but there are some in Brussels and Frankfurt so, will you call in at our travel agents on the way and pick up some time tables?”

Wendy went off, pleased that Charles wanted her to stay as PA and to have been given her commissions.

Charles watched her go. He was sure that her heels were even higher. “I really am going to bring those ballet-boots.” he said to himself.

By Friday Charles was beginning to settle in. The low table and chairs had arrived with the book-case promised for next week, without fail. The weekend was coming and he could relax if one could even fully relax at Leslie’s with Amber liable to bounce-in at any moment, and think about the strategy for the next few months.

Charlotte, now CEO, in her office

Charlotte’s PA, Wendy Roberts, ready for a meeting or anything!

Late in the afternoon, the buzzer sounded. 

“Mr Scofield to see you.”

‘He’s changed his mind,’ Charles thought, not being sure whether that would be a relief or not. 

Barry came in, waving a piece of card.

“Should have remembered about this before, invitation to quarterly get-together of some business owners and CEOs,” he explained.

“The letter was in a pile of paper I’d pushed to one side. Only found it this morning. It’s Saturday at the Dorchester. I’ve telephoned to tell the organiser what’s happening here and, in future, to set the invitation to you. So, you’re invited as well. It’s a black tie and long frock job, I’m afraid. If you are agreeable, we could go together in the Roller and I could introduce you to some of my, I mean, your clients.

“Someone one said that one should tell one’s friends that it is only a bistro but I think they make a reasonable stab at fine dining for us, given that we can be quite a sizable group.”

‘Duke of Bedford,’ remembered Charles as he took all this in whilst, simultaneously, his mind raced over the consequence of Barry’s announcement.

When he got back to the flat that evening he went in search of Leslie. He found her in the lounge, curled up in an armchair, glass in hand, idly leafing through a magazine. She looked up.

“Hello, Charlotte, how were your first days as CEO, then?”

“Pretty, ‘how.’ actually, though it’s been so much of a whirl I don’t think my feet have touched the ground much. But I have a problem that I’d like to talk to you about.”

“Get yourself a drink, then, and tell me about it.”

“Well, it’s not really a problem, I suppose; not a business one, anyway, more of a personal one. Barry came in this afternoon. I thought, for a moment, that he had changed his mind,” said Charles, smiling, “but, apparently, he was going through some paper and came across the invite to a quarterly dinner he goes to with some other CEOs. It’s Saturday evening and he wants me to go with him to do a sort of hand-over. There’s no way I could not go, that would let Barry down and, anyway, it’s a golden opportunity to meet a lot of important clients on neutral ground, as it were”

“Bet you’ve got nothing to wear.”

“Well, I’ve got the dress I bought when I took Amber out but somehow it seems wrong for this do. Bright red may have been right for that occasion but it doesn’t feel right for this one. A little ‘sudden’ as Jeeves would say,” said Charles, smiling at the recollection.

“Look, it’s Friday night now. It’s too late to get anything new now. Off-the-shelf dresses almost certainly won’t fit without some altering and it’s far too late for made-to-measure. Then you’ve got to get your hair done, you’ll need all Saturday morning at Raymond’s and Amber’s magic in the afternoon.”

They were both silent for a moment, Leslie deep in thought. Charles knew better than to break in.

She snapped her fingers.

“What I think is this,” she said. “Why don’t you have one of my dresses? I got a new one just before my ‘accident.’ It’s never had an outing and I doubt now if I will ever wear it, there are just too many associations. It should be about your size and, anyway, it’s made of black latex so it will stretch a bit if necessary. I planned to wear it with ballet heels so it had to be extra-long; with your extra height it should be just about right with ordinary shoes.”

‘You mean flatties with ten to fifteen-centimetre heels.’ Charles thought.

“What about shoes?”

“I suppose that’s part of the general problem. I’ve got a reasonable collection for every day but ‘till now there has not been the need for anything by way of evening things.”

“I’m sure I can find something suitable in the dungeon in your size if you don’t mind them not being brand new. What size do you take?”

“44, 43 at a pinch, literally!”

“Well I’ll look for some 41’s, they’ll make your feet look smaller. Actually, I had at least one client who had a bit of a shoe fetish,” Leslie smiling at the recollection. “I know there was also a strappy black pair with Perspex wedge soles. They have never been used; they would be ideal if we can cram them on.”

Charles was not so sure but Leslie was now in her element, planning for Charles. 

“You won’t be able to have much under it though,” she went on. “just some padding up top. No corset, it would show underneath. On another occasion one on top would be fine but that wouldn’t be really right for this event.”

“That shouldn’t be too much of a problem if I wear some really tight rubber Bermudas they will smooth everything out,” agreed Charles, not sure what he might be letting himself in to.

“Going to the Lady Powder Room, will be a bit difficult.”

“It always has been,” replied Charles with a smile.

“Most of Grandpa’s treasure is in the bank’s safe deposit,” went on Leslie, “but I kept a few things back, thinking I might use them. A tiara might be a bit flash for Saturday but there were three diamond croaker necklaces. You should wear one. It will help to cover up your Adam’s Apple and add a touch of glamour to the outfit. And you’ll need some long opera gloves; your hands can be a bit of a give-away. There is a new pair in black latex down stairs. They will go up to your armpits and look great with the dress. They have cropped-off fingers, too, so you won’t have to peel them off to eat your dinner. One of the chokers was probably intended for a child. It was so small so I had it made into a stretch bracelet. It will look great around your right wrist.”

“Are you sure?,” said Charles. “I’ll never be out of your debt”,

“Well,” Leslie replied; Charles wasn’t sure he quite liked the way she drew out the ‘well.’ He had the distinct feeling that something not exactly pleasant was coming.

“Well,” she went on. “In the early days I had a client who wanted a bird-cage. I got one made but then he chickened, if you’ll excuse the pup, out. It was then that I learned that the first rule was to demand paying up front.”

“You certainly passed that message on to Amber,” remembered Charles, laughing. “She demanded her fee almost before we had met.”

“Quite right. Anyway, the cage has been in the store shed, unused for years. I came across it again the other day when I was looking for something else.”

“I’ve always wondered what a new-looking hook was doing fixed to the alcove in the old wall of the muse; I suppose you could hang a cage from it.”

“Yes, I’d not been long out of the university engineering department, made it of titanium that I ‘acquired.’ Probably too cautious, anyhow that was the general idea. The cage was designed to hang from it by a coil spring, like a garden swing, but it was so damned heavy it took two to lift it up. What say we give it another try? Then you, as designer extraordinaire of kinky devices and some-time Mistress’s rubbermaid, can report back on how it feels to be locked up. Might then even add it to the repertoire again.”

With all Leslie’s generosity Charles could hardly turn her down; and it would probably be fun.

“OK, Monday’s a bank holiday and, for once, it’s supposed to be not raining. Let’s schedule it for the morning, that will give me Sunday to get over the ‘do.’ Probably need most of the day to get out of all your things, any way,” he added with a smile.

Saturday morning found Charles at Raymond’s, Leslie having again pulled all the stops to get him into the salon at short notice. 

‘At least, I’ve now got plenty of my own hair for him to go at now,’ he thought as the Maestro fussed and tutted. Eventually, he was satisfied and Charles was allowed to return home where Amber was already waiting, inpatient to be started on her piece of magic.

Leslie was waiting for him when he eventually got back,

“I’ve got most of your things in my bedroom,” announced Leslie as soon as he got back. “Amber’s up there already. I’ll join you in a mo., I’ve just thought of something else that’s down in the dungeon,” and she was gone. Charles had no time to wonder what she might have thought of as Amber, literally hopping from one foot to the other, cooeed him from the top of the stairs.

Once again, she pulled off the effect of ‘kid sister and big sister’ or ‘mother and daughter’ with herself as the younger prototype.

Finally, by late afternoon, the two women were ready to turn their attention to getting Charles dressed. With Amber’s stern instruction, not to touch his make-up, initially Charles just let them get on with it though, at the same time, thinking that they were enjoying it just a rather too much. 

Leslie adopted her didactic style, “you can’t afford to have the slightest bump. People will be very close to you and you are bound to be scrutinised as a newcomer to the group. Your tight rubber Bermuda’s may be all right for the everyday but they have too much give under the dress; we need something guaranteed to be totally effective.” Charles thought that in another life she must be a university professor.

“I could wear two pairs,” he offered. But Leslie was in her stride and nothing and, certainly, not Charles’s weak protests, was going to stop her.

“As you know, there's only one place for the penis to go, and that's to fold it back between your legs. However, first the testicles must be pushed into the space they retract to when they are cold; that's where they sat when you were young, after all. The space they dropped through is still there. The easiest way to get them in is to lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor, and find the place to push them into your abdomen. This is generally straight up, relative to your body. With that done, you can tuck your penis back comfortably, and all you need is a pair of panties that are tight enough to hold it all in place. That’s what I went downstairs for.” 

She held out a pair of black gaff panties. They seemed too small for him. Charles was about to say so but Leslie was in lecturing mode.

“The panties are a size too small and made of a cotton weave that has no stretch. They’ll hold everything in, so get them on, unless you want us to do it for you.”

At last they came to the black latex dress. Charles tried to hold himself in as much as possible whilst the girls tried to zip him in.

With much tugging they eventually got it to the top.

“I thought you said it would fit,” said Charles, as much out of breath as anybody having not dared to breathe during the whole exercise.

“Well, I was sort of slimming at the time.”

“Now you tell me!”

“Elle doit souffrir pour être belle.”

“Pardon?” said Amber.

“Oh. You must know that one, Amber,” retorted Charles.

Amber slapped him on his now ever so tightly rubberised shiny bottom.”

“Enough of that, you two, there’s a lot more to do getting Charlotte ready.”

Charles wondered if mothers were like this getting their daughters ready for their first prom. 

“Let me look at your hands.”

Charles obediently held them out.”

“I knew they’d be horrible!,” was Amber’s response. “Have you been chewing your nails? Good thing I brought some extra-long stick-ons for you.” 

“What are you sticking them on with?”

“Super-glue, that way they won’t come off accidentally.”

“They probably won’t come off at all! “I’ll never get them off!”

Amber was getting anxious, there were so many things she had wanted to do but they all seemed to be taking longer than she had anticipated and time was now.

“Well, no, probably not,” she snapped angrily. “S’pose it could be a bit interesting at the office. You’ll have to ask Wendy for a demo on Tuesday – you’ll have to use the sides of your fingers when you want to use a keyboard like she does.”

Charles decided that the deed was done – cyanoacrylate was essentially instant anyway – and decided that he should try to calm Amber down and take more interest in all that was being done. It was for his benefit or the Company’s anyway though, at the back of his mind, there did sneak a thought that Leslie and Amber were having a great time too.

“Are we going to have black varnish to match the dress?”

“No, I thought about that at first but decided to was too Goth; save it for Whitby. No, I think this red will be best.”

She held up the bottle, it was the brightest possible, or so it seemed to Charles.

“I’ve got matching lip-stick too, that and then some gloss will make them really shiny.

Leslie who had been watching from the background butted in.

“You’ll need an evening bag for your lip-stick and powder compact for touching-up; and bit of money for any tipping you might have to do to the Powder-room attendant.”

Charles groaned internally; he did like the idea of having to go there. It was not so much what the attendant might think of the dress; he had grave doubts about getting it off enough to do anything useful and sure that, without the enthusiastic assistance of Amber, aided and abetted by Leslie, he would never get it on again.

“…and don’t forget to take your credit card; there might be an auction or something.” 

Now it was Charles’s turn to do the asking.

“Could you lend me your fox-fur stole; the white one? I assume it was yours. The one Amber had when she had me take her out for dinner. I’m already sweltering inside this dress and that makes my bare shoulders seem even colder.”

“That’s part of the idea.”

But before he could ask her what she had meant by that enigmatic remark she was gone to get the stole.

Leslie returned with it almost immediately, in retrospect, Charles reckoned that she must have had it down in readiness, he would have it whether or not he had asked, and continued to fuss over every last detail.

“Anyone would think it was she who was going to the quarterly dinner,” though Charles. “Though, in a way I suppose she is, I’m sort of her prodigy.” For the second time he thought that it must be a bit like a proud mum getting her daughter ready for her first prom.”

In the end Charles was left thinking that perhaps after all he should have retired to the country and kept bees.

As the dress got one final polish, door-bell rang; it was Barry. Charles thought that he must have been lurking for ages around the corner of the block so as to be so exactly on time at precisely seven o’clock.

Leslie opened the door and Barry stepped into the hall, where Charles was waiting, and stopped in his tracks.

“Magnificent, quite magnificent,” was, for the moment, all he could say.

“On these occasions there always tends to be a bit of a competition between the ladies but I have no doubt who is today’s winner.”

Charles was embarrassed.

“I had to borrow the dress and jewellery from Leslie.”

“Ms Weston always had impeccable taste.”

Barry’s Rolls-Royce, one of his collection of antiques Charles always thought, was of uncertain age but, to his great relief given the extreme tightness of his dress, was made at a time when cars, unlike the sports models beloved of Leslie, were made to be entered, not climbed into. Usually Barry liked to do the driving himself but, on this occasion, there was a chauffeur who held the passenger door for them.

“Parking’s difficult,” Barry explained.

As they drove though the heavy evening traffic, Barry went over the clients who might be at the event. Charles did his best to remember them but the list went on and on as Barry thought of more names. He had already decided he had to visit as many of them as possible, anyway. He also had more immediate things on his mind. Upper most was how he would be received. On average the company was likely to be rather conservative, certainly much more so that those who worked for Barry – by-and-large he didn’t care about the person as long as they did a good job. Then there was the dress. It had seemed a good idea when Leslie had offered to give it to him; now he was distinctly unsure. She may or may not have been slimming when she had ordered it but now while, sweating with anticipation and, though he would never have admitted it, some fear as to what he had let himself in for, he felt more like tooth-paste about to be extruded than anything else.

Charlotte in Leslie’s Ectomorph dress ready to go to the formal dinner

As soon as they entered the room it was clear that some of the group had arrived early and were talking in little knots, ‘doubtless doing business.’ thought Charles.

A glass was pressed into his hand, “Champagne madam?”

Charles took a sip. ‘Mmm, not bad,’ he thought, ‘though Juhlin might be a bit sniffy about it.’ 

But before he could analyse the contents of his glass any further a waitress arrived with a tray of canapés. ‘Did she want to have a closer look at the dress so she could tell her colleagues or was she, simply, doing her job?’

Certainly, the dress was causing interest, to the men in the assembled company, who were pretending not to notice and the women, some of who were distinctly jealous. Too much, perhaps as the next thing Charles knew was his glass being knocked out of his hand by one of the women who was already in excited conversation with an acquaintance. The champagne splashing on the front of his dress that, being latex, did not absorb any but instead allowed it to trickle down in rivulets to wet his feet.

With profuse apologies, a flurry of hankies dapped the front of his dress. Charles couldn’t help thinking that the ‘accident’ was more to gauge his reaction or, perhaps, to finally confirm the rumour circulating among the female members of the coterie, and the hotel’s staff who rushed to help with the mopping up, that it really was made of latex.

Miraculously, once things had settled down his glass was again full.

Barry decided it was time to take control.

“Sorry to butt in, old chap, but I’d like to introduce you to Dr Graham.”

“Oh, hello Barry. Heard on the grape vine that you were retiring.”

“No, just taking a sabbatical. Passing the helm to Dr Graham while I’m away.”

The men looked round, to see about whom Barry was talking.

“Dr Charlotte Graham, that is,” to their obvious surprise, Barry’s amusement and Charles’s embarrassment. Barry had played the same trick on Sir Henry and had been waiting for the opportunity to do so again.

Formal introductions having been made; a stilted conversation started again but with members of the group suddenly finding that they had something urgent to say to an acquaintance on the other side of the room.

Dinner couldn’t come too quickly for Charles. When it did, he found himself on a table with Barry and six other persons, two women and four men. They obviously knew each other but Charles, as the new-comer, was the centre of attention – especially of the women!

Barry, ever the gentleman waited until Charles was about to sit down so that he could slide the chair under him. 

Charles would have liked to have observed that it was not so much sitting down, after all, gravity was doing its bit to help, as getting up again in this dress.

On the table is a woman reporter from the Financial Times, perhaps unsurprising as his taking on the running of the Company was the most newsworthy thing at the time.

“Would it not be difficult running the company, ‘As a woman.’” She asked as soon as introductions had been made.

Charles didn’t much like the implication, whether it was simply that of being a woman in what was still a man’s World or, worse, that he had been read as a transvestite. Charles paused for a moment then, deciding that attack was the best form of defence and that a piece was going to appear in the press anyway, launched in.

“Yes, it’s still not as easy as it is for a man. There are at least two types of prejudice to overcome. There are those men whose position hasn’t changed much, if at all, from the Victorian one. They believe that women are intrinsically inferior, can never run a business and should stay at home minding the children. Then there are those who aren’t quite so old-fashioned but are still uneasy, at best, with any sign of transgender.”

“Then there are the old-boy networks – women, and that includes me, tend not to have them to anything like the same extent, if at all.”

“What I plan to do is, as quickly as possible, to visit all our clients and potential new ones to prove to them that it’s just as safe to do business with us as it ever was – perhaps even safer.”

Charles paused for breath. There really wasn’t room in the dress to get too animated.

The reporter changed the topic.

 “What about having a special ‘Women’s section?’”

“I really don’t believe in special women’s sections. In every area women have proved they can manage teams cohesively and successfully. We all have the same problems, whether they are gender stereotypes or how to run a business. We can solve them by working together not separately.”

“Running a successful business requires leadership, communication, clarity and clear goal-setting. Arguably, women are better at all these than men as they usually have more empathy.”

The reporter decided it was time to change to the personal angle.

“Do you have time for any hobbies?”

Charles thought it best not to talk about the Dungeon.

“Well, I like taking photographs, especially of architectural and industrial subjects, so I’m hoping that making visits will give me some opportunities. And classical music, especially Bach.”

“What about reading, books and so on?”

“Mostly technical stuff ‘til now. Having been made CEO it has been suggested that I should read two books.”

“What are they?”

“Clausewitz On War, and Machiavelli The Prince. I think,” said Charles with a smile, “the idea seemed to be that I should be forwarded about the tricks that may be played and, where possible, get my retaliation in first.”

A waiter appeared from nowhere to take his order. Properly looking at his menu for the first time, Charles realized that his, along with those of the other women, menu didn’t have prices. In some places inequality dies hard, he thought.

Charles just has a starter and a fish main course, that dress really was tight, though, glancing up, it did look as if some of the men were in the habit of ordering double helpings of everything.

Barry, overhearing Charles’s order, insisted that he should have a bottle of eight-year-old Meursault. It was at its peak of perfection; goodness knows how much the hȏtel was charging for it.

As planned by Leslie, Charles kept his gloves on for the whole meal, thinking all the time how odd it felt to handle the cutlery and to pick up a glass.

Eventually, the dinner was over.

Charles said goodbye to the Financial Times reporter, hoping that she would write a good piece that would help the planned campaign of visits.

Trying to get up Charles wobbled. Maybe it was the high-heels but he had to admit that it was more likely to be the bottle of wine plus Goodness knows how much champagne.

Charles couldn’t help thinking that, with the amount of drink flowing, finding parking places for cars was not the only problem, there was finding them again and driving them home.

Charles arrived home in the early hours of Sunday morning. As on that evening with Amber, now another world away, he kicked off his shoes, flopped, fully clothed on to the bed and fell fast asleep.

Charles woke late with a start. He had been dreaming. Most of what had passed through his mind was the usual kind of dim haze, but one dream was still quite clear though and thoroughly ridiculous; he was a mermaid, his legs fused together into a tail.

He reached out semi-consciously to turn on the light to see what time it was. His hand felt funny. As a little more consciousness returned, he realised that he was still wearing the rubber dress and long gloves from the night before.

Rolling out of bed and trying to make his way to the bathroom while still only half awake, he forgot the necessity of taking only tiny steps in the hobble skirt of the tight dress and fell all his length. Scrambling up, he unzipped the dress at its hem and continued his journey at a shuffle, leaving a trail of drips of perspiration on the carpet behind him. Once in the bathroom he peeled off the gloves to reveal a set of fingers that had gone all pruney in the damp.

Leslie left Charles alone for much of the day; figuring correctly that he a lot on his mind following the day before, so it was early evening before she knocked on the communicating door.

“Can I come in?”

Charles woke from his reveries and unlocked his door.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to hear how the dinner went.”

Eventually, Leslie got up to go.

“About tomorrow,” she said. “Are you still game to give the cage a go?”

“Yes, of course, that was part of the deal, wasn’t it?”

“That’s good, it’s supposed to be fine and sunny all day. See you in the muse about ten then we can get it up.”

The Monday did dawn fine. Charles was in the muse a bit before ten, dressed in the closest approximation to ‘working clothes’ that he possessed, a pair of 10-centimetre heel ankle boots, an old leather skirt he had recently bought from a charity shop, a polo neck sweater, now very tight around the chest being one of the few things that he had brought, or rather been allowed to bring, from his old house and a pair of gardening gloves to protect his nails. Leslie, on the other hand when she emerged a few minutes later, had a set of what were obviously Designer overalls.

“Hello,” Charles called across the muse, “I can see who’s going to be the labourer.”

Leslie led the way across the muse to one of the shed doors alongside the garage, unlocked it, threw it open and climbed into the Aladdin’s cave inside.

“It’s here, near the back,” she called over her shoulder. 

Charles peered through the gloom.

“I can see it. We’ll need a trolley of some sort to move it over the cobbles.”

“There should be one at the back of the garage,” called Leslie, gingerly stepping over the clutter to try to get nearer to her quarry.

Between them they eventually extricated the cage, loaded it onto the trolley and wheeled it into position beneath the bracket.

That was the easy bit. Hooking the cage with its spring on to the bracket was something else. Each time they tried lifting the spring flopped over so that the two of them could not lift the cage high enough to hook on to the bracket. After several abortive attempts they were about to give up when Charles had an idea.

“I’m going to get that old car jack that’s at the back of the garage. If I use it to lift the cage, you can shine-up a step ladder and do the hook while I hold things steady.”

This time everything worked perfectly.

“I’m the one that is supposed to be the engineer,” said Leslie when they were done.

“Ah, it’s an example of the English mind working best when it’s almost too late, though if you are going to add it to your repertoire, I think you had better lay-in a block and tackle or a crane. Anyway, I think we deserve a coffee after that.”

“I agree,” said Leslie and lead the way into the house.

Half an hour later found them in the lounge, sipping the coffees.

“Where did you get the cage?”

“I went to a welding class to make it”,

“I bet the instructor wondered about it.”

“I left him to speculate”

“I bet he did,” said Charles with a laugh. 

“Anyway, if I’m going to ‘test’ the cage I think I ought to dress the part. I have a purple latex maid’s outfit I got just before coming to London. I never managed to use it but it should be just right for now; what say I change into it?”

“Sounds great. Leslie replied. “You do that and I’ll get some chains and things by way of adding some finishing touches.”

It was a good twenty minutes later when Charles returned to the muse dressed as a maid. The purple latex dress had a tight collar, hidden by a white latex frill, below which was a deeply scooped neck-line, again with a frilly latex edging. The skirt had a slight flare with a matching frill at the hem. Generally, the dress was of finger-tip length except at the front where it scooped up to the waist, what little modesty it gave being preserved by a regulation - just - dress-length white apron, again in latex and with a frill round its lower edge; the frilly edged, open crotch white latex panties, making no contribution at all. The short sleeves again ended in frills; long black latex gloves covering the rest of the arms. For the legs there, were stockings, again in black latex. Remembering his recent experience of trying to walk in ballet-heels on the muse’s cobbles, Charles had finally chosen a pair of shoes with ‘only’ fifteen-centimetre-heels rather than eighteen-centimetre ones he might have preferred if they had been indoors.

“Sorry I’ve been rather a long time. When I got the dress, I intended to wear some padding under it but now I still had a struggle getting the zipper up without any. It also ought to have matching stockings and gloves but the best I could do was to have matching nail varnish and that took a while to dry.”

“You look great,” said Leslie. “Go on, give us a twirl, we’ll get matching stockings for next time.”

Charles was not sure about the, ‘next time’ 

“Very nice. I’ve got the chains.”

Leslie fixed a collar with a bell round Charles’s neck linking it to more chains around his waist and those joining his wrists.

“I won’t join your ankles,” said Leslie, obviously enjoying every moment, “that would make getting in and out of the cage too difficult.”

“Thank you, very much,” replied the now largely immobilise Charles, sarcastically.

Charles shuffled to where the cage was hanging and, with a lot of help from Leslie, climbed in. Leslie produced a pair of pad-locks, fastened his wrist chains to two of the cages vertical bars and shut the door with an ominous click.

“There,” she said, hands on hips as she surveyed her handy-work. “that should keep you from roaming.”

At that moment her mobile phone rang.

“It’s Amber,” she said. “She has half-an-hour between meetings and wants to come round to hear about the dinner. I’d better go and let her into the muse or she’ll be standing on the doorstep giving the bell hell.”

And with that she was gone leaving Charles swinging gently, fifty centimetres off the ground.

Leslie seemed to be gone for a long time. The excitement abated and Charles’s mind started to wander. The cage with him inside it was like a compound pendulum, he thought, trying to remember the mathematics he had done at university. Soon he was swinging gently as he shifted his weight to-and-fro.

Leslie let Amber in.

“Where’s Charlotte?”

Leslie explained about the cage.

“Oh, there she is,” said Amber, peeped round the corner to where Charles, now in the middle of compound pendula and otherwise oblivious to the World, was swinging quite vigorously.

She paused in thought, for a moment.

“Can I borrow one of your plastic suits for a bit?”

“Why, of course, are you going to wash the cars down?”

“No, but I thought it would be fun to wash Charlotte down!”

Leslie laughed.

“Well, I hope she sees the funny side of it; at least you’ll have a sitting target. You’d better have a pair of Wellies, too. It’s not that smooth and, as I expect there will be quite a lot of water sloshing about it might be a bit tricky under foot.”

Charles was still musing about parametric oscillators when he was struck in the back by a powerful jet of cold water, sending him and the cage spinning wildly.

When the motion had died down a little Charles could see Amber, almost as wet, dressed only in one of Leslie’s plastic suits, laughing uncontrollably and dangling the cage keys, tantalisingly, just out of Charles’s reach.

“This is much better than that old ducking stool at Gwyneth’s,” she managed to splutter.

Then, hose pipe in hand, she went flying on the wet cobbles.

Now it was Charles’s turn to laugh as Amber, also now laughing at her own predicament as she skidded on her wet bottom, tried to get up.

Leslie came round the corner.

“I was tempted to leave you both there,” she said, helping Amber to her feet. “But while you were having fun, the ‘phone rang. It was for you, Amber. They want you back at the studio tout suite. 

“What time is it?”

Leslie told her.

“Gosh, must fly.”

“I’ll come and help you change and get dry.” Then to Charles. “Back in a mo.”

Ten minutes later, she was back.

“Where are the keys?”

“I don’t know. Amber had them. She hasn’t off with them, has she?”

Leslie shook her head. “I’m very much afraid so. Don’t worry, I’ve got a duplicate set in the house somewhere. I’ll go find them. Don’t go anywhere till I get back.”

‘How could I?’ thought Charles.

After the Bank-holiday Charles was early into his office; waiting for sounds that indicated that Wendy had arrived.

‘Let her get her coat off,’ he thought then went to see her.

Wendy was sitting at her desk as if butter would not melt in her mouth though she was bursting to hear all about the dinner.

“I’ll tell you all about it later after I made a few ‘phone calls but I’ve got something to ask you first.”

“What’s that?”

“How do you type with nails like these,” bringing his hands from behind his back to show Wendy his long false nails, “with these? Amber stuck them on, on Saturday, now I can’t get them off.”

Wendy laughed, then put her hand to her mouth.

“Sorry,” she said, “but it’s so funny. Look, it’s easy. You just have to use the side of your fingers; like this,” turning to her keyboard and hammering out a short message.

“It’s all right for you, you’ve had years of practice. What about me?”

“You learn. And, anyway, I think you look much more feminine with long nails.”

Charles returned to his office.

“Has Wendy got aspirations to be his fashion advisor?” he wondered.

Continues in


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