John Fish B.Sc.Publishers of Tenby in Wales (UK)
PRESELI BLUESTONES INTERNET SUBSCRIPTION CHANNEL
A Trans-Atlantic Romantic Comedy exploring
The Special Relationship
"Ar hyn o bryd rwy'n sefyll fel un ar graig wedi ei amgylchynu ag anialwch môr ..."
"For now I stand as one upon a rock environed with a wilderness of sea ..."
Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus
Although from a non-wealthy background, Peach Madoc was the archetypal career woman: chic, intelligent, talented, university educated, now wealthy, but above all else ... ambitious. She gazed down on the city from her office suite, at the little ant-like people running around in circles as they led their little meaningless ant-like lives.
It was as it should be: as director of public relations for the DogCat oil company her rise to the upper echelons of the corporate empire had been meteoric.
She gazed at her reflection in the mirrored walls of the designer office, practising her range of subtle pouts and smiles; she had recently discovered that a slight, almost imperceptible, dilation of the nostrils could register a hit.
She was a single woman in a world of bored married men and knew, without the slightest shadow of doubt, the devastating effect her feminine sexuality could have on even the meanest son-of-a-bitch.
She was mounting a challenge for the greatest achievement of her career to date. But then her career had always been like that and always would be. She'd planned it out from an early age. She'd always wanted to do something with her life: there'd always been that inner drive and determination without which ambition is unthinkable let alone attainable.
Not that she wouldn't marry one day and have children, that was all part of the plan. But, at the end of the day, it would be a career move and to be on equal footing she would need to win her next battle. Then, and only then, would it be safe to enter into a contractual arrangement which would have written into it the necessary level of financial compensation should an incident of a force majeure nature occur. Not that her husband, identity as yet unknown, would necessarily be in truth the guilty party ... but legally he would be.
She had the duplicitic mind of the lawyer: nothing was black and white, nothing was as it seemed, life was about winning and losing, it was a war in which the winner takes all, and the loser ... the loser sucks. And she didn't suck. Well, sometimes, but only as a tactic, as she sold a dummy in a career move. It wasn't for real.
What was for real? She knew what was for real as she glanced over her shoulder checking the straightness of the seams of her stockings, smiling inwardly to herself at the realisation that even the dumbest male couldn't help but fail to register that she was wearing a thong.
She was glad that the old millennium was over, glad too that the year 2000 was over. To her 2000 had seemed a phoney new millennium. But now it was 2001 and the new millennium seemed real ... She pouted to herself and whispered slowly with determination: "You sure are one gorgeous bitch, the most gorgeous meanest bitch this side of the pond ... You are the American dream."
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
The intercom bleeped, it was her secretary: "Miss Madoc, Mister Stevens is here."
"If you could just ask him to wait for a few minutes ..."
Wait, always make a man wait, just long enough to soften him up, to get him thinking, to get the upper hand.
Once again she watched the ants, they fascinated her. She tried make out patterns in their movements ... like a predator hunting a herd ... most were unidentifiable but there were a few who stood out ... stood out from the herd ... but for the wrong reasons; they were little people and she didn't live in that world.
Stevens was a little person but had made the fatal mistake of standing out from the herd and being noticed by the predator. She was looking forward to this, it was going to be fun.
She checked her make-up, her bladder felt quite full and she wondered about urinating but thought better of it. She'd learned to use her body's stress signals as an aid to concentration and, anyway, in a perverse sort of way they added to a feeling of nervous excitement which, misinterpreted, was quite contagious in male company and inevitably registered as a hit.
"Melissa, send Mister Stevens in please."
"Would you like me to come in as well?"
"I believe I can handle this on my own, thank you."
"I just thought ..."
Stevens stood in front of her desk and she gestured for him to sit. "Mister Stevens this is a very serious matter ..."
"Oh come off it, we're both adults!"
One-up, she'd realised that he was going to attempt to bluff his way out, it was going to be easier than she thought. "What I may think is irrelevant, it is what the company thinks that is important here."
"And they've even a policy on that?"
"You could be dismissed."
"On what grounds?"
"If she made certain accusations ..."
"You've seen the video."
"Yes, but the security cameras don't record sound ..."
"Did it make you feel horny?"
Two-up, he was attacking and so walking into her ambush. "If I were you then I would attempt to help me get to the bottom of this since, as you'll appreciate, the underlying issue in all this is the safety of the company's female employees which, I believe you'll easily agree, comes within the company's range of responsibilities."
"What is there to get to the bottom of? What I'd like to know is why there is a camera in the document storage room in the first place. It's just for spying on people, isn't it?"
"As you know I am head of the department in which you work. I am your boss. I am not head of security and, frankly, as long as they don't spy on me I couldn't give a shit where they stick their silly little cameras."
Three-up: he smiled broadly, relaxed to her easygoing frankness and heaved a sigh of relief: "So you're not going to chop-off my balls?"
She stood and walked over to the office's window, although appearing to peer down on the ants she was watching his reflection out of the corners of her eyes, he was still seated but watching her over his shoulder: "Please remain seated, if I may I would like to ask you a question?"
"Feel free, be my guest."
"What do you think of me?"
"I've always found you to be a good boss. You're fair and even-handed. I guess everybody thinks that. At least I've never heard anybody talking you down."
"That's lovely to hear and you are in fact a valued member of my team, as you well know from your last appraisal."
"But I wasn't thinking in terms of me being your boss. But in how a man thinks of a woman."
Four-up: he joked nervously: "The words drop-dead gorgeous come to mind but I wouldn't have thought that I was in your league."
"If you were, I mean if we were, in the same league would you be attracted to me?"
"Would you attempt to do anything about it?"
"If the opportunity arose."
"Even though you're a married family man?"
"Well it's too late for me to lie, then yes I would."
"As you know I'm single. Although I meet lots of men in the course of my work I find it increasingly difficult to meet suitable partners. Do you get my drift?"
"I ... I think so."
"It's only since I reached senior level that this difficulty has occurred. Since school I've always led a normal life, I even worked my way through university as a pole-dancer!"
"So that story really is true?"
"But nowadays I'm practically celibate."
"What a waste."
"I was thinking that since we work in the same department, as your boss I could easily give you a work assignment which would mean that we had an excuse to spend time together alone here in my office."
"Fine by me."
Five-up: she walked back behind her desk and opened a draw: "Before we began this meeting I took the liberty of removing my underwear." She stretched her thong between her thumbs then dropped it back into the draw, closing it. "Now stand up and drop your trousers ... and your pants ... that's right, now stand back so I can lie across the desk in front of you." She glanced over her shoulder and laughed at his gob-smacked face and predator-like went for the jugular, for the kill; she switched on the intercom and screamed: "Melissa, help me, rape, rape!"
The door burst open, Melissa screamed: "You bastard!" at Stevens and dragged Peach out of the office.
Stevens staggered after them, attempting to pull up his trousers: "It wasn't like that, the bitch set me up!"
Melissa screamed: "Stay away, stay away, help, help, for God's sake someone help us!"
Steven's fell over his trousers and Melissa slammed the office door behind them. A group of people were gathering, attracted by the shouting, they barricaded the office door and waited for security to arrive. Steven's started to bang on the door, shouting-out obscenities directed at Peach.
Melissa hugged Peach to her: "You okay honey, you okay?"
"I ... I think so ... Melissa it was so awful, he was like a wild animal. He was going to rape me!"
"I know honey, I know ... what, the?"
"I'm sorry, please don't be angry. I think I've wet myself."
HOW CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
"Honey, did you enjoy your holiday?"
"Oh it was lovely, look I've brought you a present."
"Oh you shouldn't have."
"It was the least I could do. Oh it's so embarrassing, the way I wet myself over you. How can you ever forgive me?"
"Forget it. As long as your all right. That's the main thing. Mister Wilson wants to see you first thing."
"Oh that sounds serious. Did he sound angry?"
"No, of course not, he's just as concerned about you as the rest of us. Would you like a coffee?"
"I'd better go straight to his office. It doesn't do to keep the Chief Executive waiting ... Melissa, I met this wonderful man, he's a plastic surgeon and he suggested that I might like a boob-job. What do you think?"
"You've got a lovely figure. If I was you I think I'd think very carefully before I did something that I might regret later."
"Miss Madoc how can I ever apologise to you for what happened. How can you ever forgive me?"
"I'm just glad it happened to me rather than one of the younger women on my team."
"That's a very noble sentiment ... I'd like to apologise in advance for what I'm going to say. Unfortunately the police have become involved. I was hoping we'd simply be able to fire Stevens but it's not as simple as that I'm afraid."
"But he tried to rape me! You're not saying that I imagined it."
"Please try not to upset yourself. No of course I don't believe him but his story differs from yours. He says that you encouraged him."
"Well he would, wouldn't he? I was terrified. You ask Melissa my secretary, I even wet myself."
"I heard about that and I'm very sorry. Anyway, a Lieutenant Andrews of the Police Department wants to interview you. I've arranged for him to make an appointment to see you in your office, if that is okay with you?"
"Well I suppose it will have to be, won't it?"
"Not necessarily, if you preferred I could request a woman police officer to be assigned to the case."
"But why are the police involved? When I agreed not to press charges it was the company's idea for me to take a vacation."
"Yes, and we're very grateful to you for your co-operation but he is attempting to prosecute you. I suppose he feels that his future career prospects are at stake."
"What's the charge? I suppose he's going to claim that I tried to rape him?"
"I'm so sorry. But I'm afraid it is something like that."
"Good morning Lieutenant Andrews ... take a seat please."
"Miss Madoc as I understand it you're not pressing charges?"
"No, that is correct."
"Could I ask why?"
"Well there is my career to consider."
"You mean you're worried about the detrimental effect that the publicity of a trial could have?"
"Well I think the press would love it, don't you?"
"But do you think it's right that such an incident should be swept under the carpet?"
"Well fortunately I was rescued by my secretary before anything actually happened. Or is he claiming that we actually had sex?"
"No nothing of the sort, he's quite clear on that point."
"Well perhaps we could say that it was all a misunderstanding and forget about it."
"I'm afraid it's not that simple. He's attempting to clear his name and so hang on to his job."
"I don't honestly see that his extra-marital activities are my concern. Presumably you know why he was here in my office, surely you've seen the video?"
"Sexual harassment works two ways."
"Is that what he is accusing me of?"
"Well if you could tell me exactly then I may be able to be of more help."
"I'm not certain what exactly is, in this case."
"Well it's obvious then. He's attempting to use this in order to circumvent any consequences there may be from his extra-marital activities recorded by the security cameras."
"But they don't exactly constitute rape."
"Well perhaps I panicked then, after all I'm a big girl now and I don't make a habit of wetting myself either."
"So you and Stevens were having an affair?"
"Is that what he's claiming?"
"No, I'm just attempting to get to the bottom of this."
"How does he account for his state of undress? To my recollection he dropped his trousers and pants himself. Or is he claiming that I was the perpetrator performing a sexual act with my mouth before sacrificing myself across my own desk!"
"No, nothing of the sort. He's quite adamant that no act of a sexual nature took place. As to dropping his trousers and pants then he admits he did it himself but at your instigation. He claims that you had already removed an undergarment of your own."
"When I was a student I worked my way through college as a pole-dancer. As you'll appreciate I developed a certain expertise in removing my garments. In fact I was called Supersonic Jet. Described as being supersonic in bed with long jet-black hair down to my cute little butt. But it was a job, my image a fantasy one designed to appeal to the customers and I did it because I come from a humble background and needed the money. Why on Earth would I a successful businesswoman, one of the top managers of a multi-national company, throw away everything I've worked so hard for for so many years for the sake of a bonk with a nobody?"
"I agree it doesn't make a lot of sense."
"Well have you considered that perhaps Stevens has some sort of grievance against this company, perhaps in the past he was overlooked for promotion or something similar, perhaps he justifies himself on the grounds that by victimising me he is somehow getting even."
"To be honest with you the conclusion we had come to was that this was a matter outside of police jurisdiction. That is unless you, the victim, wished to pursue the matter."
"The policy of DogCat is to fully cooperate with the forces of law and order ..."
"I don't mean that. There was a possibility that you might have been leaned-on to keep quiet ... to avoid adverse publicity for the company."
"I haven't been."
The hits had been going in hard and furious, he was like a boxer on the ropes and it was time for the trainer to throw in the towel.
"I'm quite satisfied by this interview that you haven't and I must admit that I admire you immensely for your bravery. There aren't many women, or men for that matter, who could handle such a traumatic episode as bravely as you have."
But before the referee could intervene there was still time for the knock-out punch.
"Lieutenant, are you making a pass at me?"
"My first name is Richard though my friends call me Dick."
"Well Dick what do you usually do when you go out for an evening?"
"Go to a local bar, drink a few beers and talk, shoot a game of pool or two, then go for a meal to a small Italian restaurant I know."
"Do I dress formal or informal."
"You wouldn't be out of place in T-shirt and jeans."
"I know that. But do I or don't I wear a bra?"
I HOPE YOU DON'T MEAN THAT
"Miss Madoc, Lieutenant Andrews has called again and would like to speak with you."
"Melissa, how many times have I told you that I don't want to speak with Lieutenant Andrews."
"He sounds ..."
"If you come into my office I'll explain ... We had a lovely evening together and went to a lovely Italian restaurant. We went back to my place. It was just a one-night stand, that was all."
"Well you seem to mean more to him than that."
"I like him, I'll admit that. But it doesn't mean that I'm his girl. I'm my own girl."
"You're not a girl, you're a woman and at your age you ought to think about settling down."
"I'm only twenty-nine."
"And he's twenty-eight."
"Melissa, are you trying to marry me off to Lieutenant Andrews?"
"I'll tell you why not: my career."
"Lots of married women have careers."
"You seem to know a lot about Lieutenant Andrews."
"I ... We talked a bit about you when he was investigating the case whilst you were on holiday."
"You mean you interviewed him as to his suitability to be my husband and he passed?"
"I think you could do a lot worse."
"And a lot richer."
"I hope you don't mean that. Whatever you do don't marry for money, marry for love."
"And would Lieutenant Andrews be so attracted to me if I worked behind the counter in a fast-food restaurant?"
"True love always finds a way."
"Well in that case you've got nothing to worry about, have you?"
"Well my, my, if it isn't Sherlock Holmes."
"That's the trouble of having an unusual name. It gets you noticed."
"I think you might be right. The gallery owner said that someone was asking about me earlier, the description she gave sounded a bit like Stevens."
"I'm off-duty, if you like I could hang around and escort you home."
"Melissa said you'd like me to be your girl."
"I like your paintings."
"They're not all mine, just these here."
"I like those best."
"If you like you could help me with my summer collection, it would give us an excuse to spend some quality time alone together."
"But I'm not an artist."
"It doesn't matter, I just need someone to appear in the pictures. It doesn't have to be you, it could be anyone, but with your profile you'd do just fine ... Let me introduce you to Fifi Lamort the gallery owner ... Fifi, this is my friend Lieutenant Andrews of the police department ... He's going to help me with my summer collection by posing for me, I intend to do a series of paintings centred on a study of the male nude."
"You should have seen his face!"
"Do you think he'll go through with it?"
"Well if he is as desperate to see me as you think he is then he's got no choice really."
"I've got a confession to make. I just had to put him out of his misery so I told him he'd find you at the art gallery."
"Melissa! And he made out to me that he'd gone to the trouble of tracking me down. By the time I've finished with him his colleagues at the police department won't be calling him Dick anymore, he'll have a new nickname and it won't be Moby Dick it will be Tiddler!"
"He calls you Pussy!"
"I hate being sucked up to like that."
"I'll believe you."
"I've got a confession to make too. I told him it was your idea to ask him to pose nude for me!"
"You should have seen his face!"
"Do you think he'll go through with it?"
"Well if he is as desperate to see me as you think he is then he's got no choice really."
"And that really is the little key hanging around your neck?"
"Well what gave me the idea was when we were having dinner at our little romantic Italian restaurant. He whispered in my ear that I'd either have to use his handcuffs on him or wear a chastity belt. Then it came to me in a flash of inspiration: the theme for my summer exhibition: Man in a Chastity Belt!"
"I'm not that interested in art but I'm definitely going to see that!"
"My agent, Fifi Lamart, is extremely enthusiastic about the idea. She's already talking about a series of limited edition prints and, as a publicity stunt, the auctioning of Dick's chastity belt for charity.
"I'm going to produce a series of five or six paintings of Dick doing mundane things, like household chores, wearing just his belt. The theme will be the taming of man through civilisation and that's why Fifi's so excited: because it's making a statement about humanity it will be real art and not just pretty pictures. She's even talking about entering me for prestigious art competitions like the Turner Prize in England."
"You'll be famous!"
"And so will Dick!"
"I bet he gets excited when you turn your little key to take it off!"
"No way! This is a work relationship now. I'm the artist and he's the model. Our relationship will be purely platonic until the pictures are finished ..."
"I don't believe you!"
"You didn't let me finish ... platonic until I decide otherwise. I'm going to wrap him so tight around my little finger that his balls will burst!"
"Oh I get it, you're playing hard to get!"
"It's really exciting. The atmosphere is electric, I can push him right to the edge ..."
"If you're not careful he'll explode."
"That's why it's so funny too, you should see his face. To be honest with you I think at times he finds it really painful!"
"I'm not surprised. You'll have to be careful that you don't do any permanent damage."
"Mmmm, I hadn't thought of that."
"Bet he finds it so raunchy, what about you?"
"Well for the moment I'm quite happy to rock myself to sleep. Until I change my mind that is! What he wouldn't give for what I've got in the palm of my hand!"
"I think that when you change your mind the San Andreas fault-line will slip!"
"If not an earthquake there'll certainly be a bed-quake!"
"God, he must really love you."
"We'll find out tonight. We're having dinner together at our little romantic Italian restaurant. And at midnight he's going to pop the question."
"He's going to ask you to marry him!"
"Yes, we've even chosen the ring. I hope he knows what he's let himself in for, I'll be able to tease him even worse and because we're engaged everybody will think we're sleeping together!"
"Perhaps you will be!"
"Either way, only the two of us will really know!"
AND SHE'S LEAKING OIL
As usual the weekly meeting of the top line managers at DogCat headquarters was taking place. But from the look on the Chief Executive's face something was seriously wrong. All the managers, Peach included, looked anxiously at each other, wondering if they were the one who was the cause of Mister Wilson's grief, and if they were the one who would incur his wrath.
But they needn't have worried.
His voice was grave: "Ladies and gentlemen I have something extremely serious to tell you, of which I have only been informed myself a few minutes ago.
"It seems that a fully loaded supertanker, the Antarctic Penguin, has run aground on rocks at the entrance of the Milford Haven Waterway in the United Kingdom, on its way to the DogCat oil refinery ... And she's leaking oil!"
Shocked murmurs of "Oh, my God" and "Jesus" echoed around the room.
Like a computer the meeting seemed to have crashed. The Armageddon of an environmental disaster threatened and the upper echelons of DogCat all knew, without the slightest shadow of a doubt, that they were in the firing line.
The sun came out from behind a cloud, the diamond on Peach's engagement ring sparkled and rebooted her mind: "I think we should attempt to take the initiative by at least showing our face. Therefore, I propose that I address a press conference to be held in an hour's time."
"What you going to do, wet yourself?" Madge Wallis, director of the finance division, wasn't exactly a fan of Peach ... she seemed to think of herself as being in competition with Peach for the forthcoming vacancy on the executive board of the company, which would be the next logical step up the corporate ladder for them both.
Peach was used to Madge's bruising confrontational style and was delighted that she'd registered a hit for her ... and a big one at that, for some unknown reason Peach's male colleagues found the thought of her wetting herself to have erotic connotations.
Peach responded calmly: "No, but the analogy is not inappropriate. We, as a company, have wet ourselves. We have made a mess. What we have to do now is attempt to clean up that mess as best we can."
Madge retorted: "Well you're obviously not the person to handle this situation. All you'd succeed in doing is admitting that DogCat is at fault. From the company's point of view, and with the shareholders' best interests at heart, who after all own the company and so employ us, we need to deny liability at all costs."
Peach leaned back in her chair then twisted into an akimbo-like stance designed to express authority, and at the same time show-off her breasts: "What is going to be important is not necessarily the truth. The truth, that is, based on the actual facts. No, what is going to be important is what is believed to the popular imagination.
"Now the public believe what they believe because of what they are fed by the press and media. So to my professional opinion it is absolutely vital to get in on the game of moulding the plasticity of public opinion as soon as is humanly possible.
"But to answer Madge's critique: it will in the first instance be essentially a diversionary tactic since until we have a greater knowledge of the facts it is impossible for us to assess our innocence or guilt. In the context of the tactical game that lies ahead we will be essentially adopting a neutral gambit. Neither defence or attack but we will have laid down our gauntlet and appeared on the field of combat."
Madge cracked: "What you going to do then, erect a pole and dance around it?"
Madge had inadvertently given Peach another hit ... sometimes Peach wondered why it didn't register in Madge's mind that what got under the skin of their male colleagues, and so aroused their interest, wasn't political correctness but femininity.
Peach leaned forward and clasped her hands together and spoke earnestly and slowly and, as was her norm, continually engaged and disengaged eye contact with all the assembled male colleagues: "Gentlemen, if I believed that my performing a pole-dance in the foyer of this building's entrance hall would make the Antarctic Penguin go away then believe you me, I would.
"But my cavorting in just a G-string won't save the wildlife that is threatened by this tanker being on the rocks and spilling oil.
"So I think," and she targeted the Chief Executive, "we should cast jocularity to one side and concentrate on the job in hand. Since the information we have is minimal and, based on experience, factual information that we receive in the next few hours could well turn out to be inaccurate, I propose that I conduct the press conference unbriefed."
"That would be in character," murmured Madge but the others were all concentrating on Peach and didn't seem to hear ... Madge muttered a single word, under her breath so no one else could hear: "Bitch!"
HOW WRONG YOU CAN BE
"You should have seen his face!"
Peach's face was set in a steely mask of concrete concentration as she clattered away at the keyboard of her computer: "He was hurting me."
"Whatever happened between you two? I've never seen two people in my entire life so happily in love like you two."
"Haven't you? Well it's all in the past now."
Melissa held out Peach's engagement ring to her: "He asked me to give this back to you."
Peach snatched it from her and threw it across the room, it bounced off the window and Melissa picked it up, it sparkled in the artificial light between her fingertips: "Don't be like that honey."
"Is the flight booked?"
"We're holding options on a number of flights so that you can leave straight away after this afternoon's press conference."
"If only Concorde hadn't crashed, I hate travelling across the pond the way that the little people do."
Melissa's voice was all sympathy and sadness: "He's really hurt you, hasn't he?"
Peach's voice was all indignation and hatred: "More than you could ever know!"
Peach pushed the keyboard away from her and sobbed "Melissa" who then held her to her as she wept.
Melissa soothed: "There there honey, have a good cry and you'll feel better ... now why don't you tell me all about it."
"When you said I should marry for love and not for money I knew exactly what you meant. And that's why in the end I decided to marry him. It was like we were made for each other, our love-making was beautiful in its intensity, he seemed to find his fulfilment in my happiness."
"That's how it should be honey and, mark my words, that's how it will be again."
"There won't be an again, I'll never be able to trust him like I used to."
"Oh you're just saying that because you're angry. He was so upset, he was practically crying, when the elevator door was shutting I think he burst into tears."
"Good! When he made me cry he just laughed at me. He liked hurting me!"
"You mean he hurt you in bed?"
"He hurt me where it hurts most, he made me bleed!"
"Honey, he couldn't have meant to."
"Then why did he do it? I've always been quick to climax and orgasm, but that night of our first date was the first time in my life that I ever had a multiple orgasm. Even though we're such different people I thought I'd found the love of my life. For the first time in my adult life there was something that meant more to me than my career: him."
There was a tap on the outside of the office door, Peach looked up from her desk as the door slowly opened, then stared back at the document she had been studying as Lieutenant Andrews gingerly entered the room closing the door behind him.
"Pussy," he soothed.
"Don't you Pussy me" she growled.
He sat on a chair opposite her and, leaning forward on the desk, tried to peer upwards into her face: her steely mask instantly flashed into a wicked smile, as she saw the congealed blood of the three long deep scratches that she'd inflicted on his left cheek, then just as instantly her face set into concrete again.
"Please forgive me ... I love you ... I don't want to live without you."
"If you take the stairs, instead of the elevator, then on the top floor you will find a fire exit which will lead you out onto the roof. But try to be careful when you jump because otherwise you'll squash one of the little people and they make a nasty mess on the pavement."
His voice sounded agonised: "I don't know what to say."
Hers was almost matter-of-fact: "I do." She picked up her phone and pressed a button to dial a number: "Security? This is Peach Madoc, director of public relations. There is a man in my office by the name of Richard Andrews. He entered uninvited and refuses to leave. Would you please send someone along to escort him off the premises, thank you ... Oh my God, he's got a gun!" and with her index finger she disconnected the phone, then with her little finger gestured towards him inviting him to spin.
He was shocked: "Peach!"
She commanded: "By now they will have contacted the police ..."
"But I'm in the police."
"Yes, but not in the SWAT squad, you're in homicide. Correction, you were in homicide. By the time I finish with you you'll be lucky if they let you dish out parking tickets. I imagine you'll probably end up in jail. Threatening people with loaded guns is a serious offence but since you're in, I mean were in, homicide you'll probably know more about that than I do." She stood up: "Now sit still with the flat of your hands on the table and I'll make everything all right again."
He did as she told him and was visibly shaking. A siren could be heard and she went to look out of the window. It was a fire engine. Then she saw a number of vehicles approaching at speed from the opposite direction. Quickly, she opened the door that led into the office's en suite toilet and locked it behind her.
"I don't believe you."
"Melissa, he had a gun."
"Well he is a policeman they carry guns. But I don't believe he was threatening you with it."
"That's not for me to decide."
"What are you trying to do to him? Honey, you'll crucify him"
A wicked thin-lipped sneering smile spread across her face: Exactly."
"I've never seen you like this before."
"Like you hate him."
"Well I don't love him."
"You do really."
"You do, you're making him suffer. You told me you were going to wrap him around your little finger so tight that his balls would burst!"
Peach brought her hand to her mouth as she attempted to stifle her involuntary, spontaneous, laughter.
"So you do love him!"
"You should have seen his face!"
"Do you want your ring back, it's in my hand-bag."
"No, not yet. We're going to make him suffer so much that he'll wish he was never born! But to do it I'll need your help. You can be my confidant, you can be our go-between."
"I'm all ears, I'll do anything I can to help you both."
"I don't know how long I'll be away but you're not to tell him how to contact me. But you can tell him what I'm doing. Especially if I get taken out to dinner by an old flame or two. I'll have to dig out my little black book. Then when I come back there is a possibility that I may allow him to take me out to dinner to our little romantic Italian restaurant but only if you agree to chaperone me. Is this acceptable to you?"
"You shouldn't be so hard on him."
"Hard on him! You haven't heard nothing yet. If I agree to let him back in my bed then it will be on my terms with his hands handcuffed behind his back, with his own handcuffs, and then we'll see how he likes it rough. It won't be the cheeks of his face that get scratched!"
"Honey, I'm so glad to see you happy again. I knew you'd forgive him."
"Good morning Inspector Humphreys ... take a seat please."
"Miss Madoc as I understand it you're not pressing charges?"
"No, that is correct."
"Could I ask why?"
"Well there is my career to consider."
"You mean you're worried about the detrimental effect that the publicity of a trial could have?"
"Well I think the press would love it, don't you?"
"But do you think it's right that such an incident should be swept under the carpet?"
"Well fortunately I was rescued by the police before anything actually happened. Or is he claiming that he fired his gun?"
"No nothing of the sort, we're quite clear on that point."
"Well perhaps we could say that it was all a misunderstanding and forget about it."
"I'm afraid it's not that simple. He's attempting to clear his name and so hang on to his job."
"Sergeant, sorry I mean Inspector, Lieutenant Andrews and I were lovers. In fact, we were engaged to be married."
"I know and I know how much you mean to him. I've never in my entire life seen a woman change a man so. It's like he became a completely different person. But meeting you, I must admit that I'm amazed you'd have even noticed him let alone ... if you get my meaning."
"I come from a humble background. In my own way I wear a uniform, as do you. We met because he was investigating an incident which occurred here in my office."
"I know all about that but ..."
"He invited me out to dinner."
"You mean he ..."
"Yes, believe you me Dick can be very forward if he wants to be."
"Some of the guys I work with I wouldn't trust with my cat. But Dick I'd let him sleep in the same bed as my sixteen year old daughter."
"My impression, or should I say my recollection, of him is completely different. If I were you the last thing I'd do is let him sleep with your daughter. Dick is an extremely accomplished lover."
"What Dick Andrews! We are talking about the same person, aren't we?"
"To my experience he's a real credit to the police department. He's gentle, kind, considerate, polite ..."
"Polite! With Dick every other word is f-this or f-that."
"Hand on my heart, I have never heard Dick swear."
"Well you certainly amaze me!"
"In truth I thought that in Dick I had met the perfect man for me ... both in and out of bed."
"Jesus! I don't believe I'm hearing this."
"You will never hear my Dick do what you just did, taking the name of our Lord in vain."
"This is unbelievable. Dick's got a reputation for being thick, for acting first before thinking, he's a bit too ready to use his fists if you know what I mean."
"Look Inspector, we at DogCat are up to our necks in this Antarctic Penguin business. At two o'clock this afternoon I'm due to give a press conference and then fly out immediately to England."
"This oil spill, it's bad is it?"
"Strictly in confidence I can tell you that our experts believe it will get worse, a lot worse."
"I can appreciate that this really is not only an unwelcome diversion for you but one that is costly in terms of your time too. I thank you for seeing me at such short notice ..."
"If I may make a suggestion?"
"I could begin my press conference by saying that Inspector Humphreys of the police department was extremely pleased with the outcome of this morning's controlled exercise, conducted with the complete cooperation of DogCat, to test out the rapid response of the police department in the event of a hostage scenario taking place in the city's commercial quarter."
"But what about Dick?"
"Leave Dick to me. As you'll appreciate I won't be in a position to hold out the olive branch until I return from England but, until then ... well he'll have plenty of time to cool off so we'll, as I believe you police put it, keep him on ice."
"When you return I'd like to invite you both to dinner at my house. My wife would love to meet you, everybody wants to meet the woman who tamed Psycho Andrews."
"That's his nickname. He's what you'd call a hard-nut but I guess you've straightened him out. I never thought I'd consider Dick Andrews to be promotion material, just shows how wrong you can be."
YOU CAN'T BLAME ME
Peach's trans-Atlantic flight landed at Heathrow Airport, London, then she was transferred by helicopter to Pembrokeshire Airport at Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, Wales-some 200 miles away, nearly due west on the main trans-Atlantic flight-path, at the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was late-January and the twilight of dusk had already set in as the helicopter touched down in the heavy drizzle. A taxi took Peach to the Cleddau Bridge Hotel, overlooking the Milford Haven Waterway, where later that evening she had intended to have dinner with Buck Rogers, manager of the DogCat oil refinery, and Carl Goodwin, DogCat's director of engineering. But when she checked-in Peach found that a reception committee of journalists, from around the world, were waiting for her. So she cancelled dinner and her briefing was held in the manager's office at the refinery.
Peach was furious: "Whose idea was it for me to stay at a hotel that's full of journalists?"
"I'm sorry," apologised Buck, "it's where our top executives usually stay."
"Well isn't it rather obvious that that is where the media would tend to congregate?"
"We didn't think ..."
"That's the reason we are here now: human error."
"I'm afraid it's a bit more serious than that from DogCat's viewpoint."
Peach was aghast: "You're not saying that we're culpable, are you?"
Carl: "Not exactly, but we've been operating on the cheap and have been caught out."
Peach:"DogCat company policy is to put the highest priority on safety irrespective of cost implications."
Carl: "What's in a company's mission statement and what happens in the real world are often two different things."
Peach: "They shouldn't be."
Carl: "When you were appointed director of public relations I can assure you that there were a lot of raised eyebrows in this company."
Peach: "That's because I'm a woman."
Carl: "No, because people foresaw this eventuality happening."
Peach: "That's ridiculous, you can't blame me."
Buck: "Carl's not blaming you, no one is blaming anyone at this stage. It's just that you lack experience of the oil industry. When you were appointed five years ago it was over the heads of quite a few more experienced, much more experienced, candidates who were well known within this company."
Peach: "Male candidates."
Carl: "That's ridiculous! Madoc, you're out your depth, it's as simple as that really."
Peach: "Or do I detect a conspiracy to cover up who is really to blame and stick it on public relations."
Carl: "Public relations, it's just a joke, what the hell do you people actually do apart from lying, making up stories and confusing everyone?"
Peach: "We speak for the company, we communicate to the public via the media."
Carl: "And who are the public?"
Peach: "The people who put petrol in their cars and fly abroad for their foreign holidays. The people who, at the end of the day, pay our wages and who we indirectly work for."
Carl: "Why would you want to speak with them? All they worry about is how much it costs them."
Peach: "That's not true. There is a sea-change in public opinion occurring. All around the industrialised world people are becoming more and more concerned about the environment. Pollution and global warming, and the associated predicted rise in sea-levels, have become a political issue which is taken seriously at the highest levels within governments, including our own."
Carl: "You said the people who we indirectly work for. Who do we directly work for?"
Peach: "The company's shareholders. I imagine that you are aware of the fact that they do legally own the company."
Carl: "But isn't there a conflict of interests at work here? The shareholders want the company to maximise its dividends, whereas the public want to minimise them."
Buck: "Gentlemen, sorry I mean colleagues, this is a pointless discussion which could last all night and, whatever the validity of your respective opinions, irrelevant to the task at hand."
Carl: "And what's that?"
Peach: "Damage limitation."
Carl: "So what you going to do? Pole-dance for the journalists to take their minds off the Antarctic Penguin and the wildlife which is being massacred by the oil slick?"
Peach: "I object to what you have just said and demand an apology!"
Carl: "Over my dead body."
Buck: "Carl, it doesn't help one little bit you taking this aggressive attitude towards Miss Madoc. Now let's get on with the real business of this meeting."
Peach: "No, I demand my apology."
Carl: "Madoc, you're just window dressing, it makes the company look good to have an equal opportunity programme and appoint a Native American to senior management level."
Peach: "The company's equal opportunity programme isn't just window dressing, as you put it, it's absolutely vital for the efficient running of the company, and the financial implications implicit in that, that promotion and progression within the company is based on merit and not on prejudice."
Carl: "You just said it. If promotion were based on merit, instead of prejudice, then no way would you be senior management. Favouritism got you where you are and we all know how a bimbo like you returns her favours."
Peach: "You can't talk to me like that!"
Carl: "Ah, go and do a pole-dance. Anyway, I'm leaving. It's been a long day and I'm dog-tired. If you need me you'll know where I'll be."
Buck: "I'm sorry Miss Madoc, anyway now that Carl has gone I can brief you on my own."
Peach: "I'm not going to take his remarks lying down!"
Buck: "I haven't got the time for all this bickering and back-biting. If you want me to brief you I will, otherwise ... well as you'll appreciate I've currently got much more important considerations on my mind."
Peach: "But the equal opportunities programme is at the heart of the company's strategy for the new millennium. Why, my own secretary is a black middle-aged woman who has returned to work after raising a family and she does an excellent job ..."
Buck: "Please Miss Madoc, I've had very little sleep in the last few days but once this crisis is over I promise you that I'll watch the appropriate company video ... If I may do the talking and if you could leave your questions until I finish, okay? ... We're in a similar situation that Texaco were in with the Sea Empress in February 1996.
"Now the port authority, on which we have representation, have learned from their mistakes and the Antarctic Penguin has been towed out to sea by tugs maintaining a position approximately ten miles offshore. Although she has been leaking oil, and still is, because the ship's so far offshore the amount of oil that has come ashore is much less than with the Sea Empress. But these are early days yet, we don't know how much oil will come ashore but expect there to be more, in all probability a lot more.
"The plan is to await a window of opportunity in the weather and bring her safely into the Milford Haven Waterway. A lull in the weather is predicted for tomorrow so at first light an aircraft containing, amongst others, Carl and myself, will fly a reconnaissance mission. If we're happy with what we find then we'll give the tugs the go-ahead to bring her in.
"Now if you like I can arrange it so that you accompany us?"
Peach: "I think that would be a good idea."
Buck: "Well there isn't really much more to say, so see you at dawn."
LA BELLE MADEMOISELLE PEACH
Peach had intended having a long soak in the bath then going straight to bed. In the taxi from the refinery back to the hotel she'd found it difficult to keep her eyes open, so exhausted was she by lack of sleep and the excitement of the last forty-eight hours.
But when she walked into the hotel's foyer she was startled by a familiar voice: "La belle mademoiselle Peach, ça va?"
It was Pierre Dubois, a journalist with the French magazine Paris Match. Exercising her professionalism, Peach's response was opposite to her true feelings: "Pierre, how wonderful to see you."
They exchanged kisses on the cheek and what was supposed to be a light embrace was converted by Pierre into more like a grope as, hand around the small of her back, he attempted to press her body to his: "Remember, ma chère, when we last met? I pinched your adorable bum and you slapped my face!"
As she disentangled herself she joked: "Which I could well do again you naughty little Frenchman, you!"
"But this time we stay in the same hotel. Perhaps we could become better acquainted and share a midnight feast of, say, peaches and cream?"
"Perhaps we could both go to bed early and get a good night's sleep!"
"And why does ma petite chère need a good night's sleep? Is it because as the English say: Early to bed, early to rise?"
"No, because I'm absolutely knackered. I've been on the go since yesterday morning, United States' time."
"Well since you don't need to get up early perhaps you will do me the privilege of allowing me to buy you a little night-cap in the bar?"
Cornered, Peach felt obliged to accept: "Just a few minutes then, but really I must retire to my room, I'm nearly asleep on my feet."
"But chère wouldn't it be more romantic to fall asleep in my arms?"
"Perhaps more romantic but then I don't think I would get much sleep, would I?"
"You could close your eyes and dream of Paris."
"And you could order our drinks instead of ogling my tits."
"I like you American women, you are so direct and to the point."
"I'll have a gin and tonic, please."
"See what I mean ... you are so self-confident, so self-assured, you are magnifique."
"I only ordered a drink."
"But it is how you sip, the sensual way your luscious lips caress the lip of the glass ..."
"Take your hand off my knee please."
"In your presence I feel like my hand has a life of its own." His hand left her knee and his fingertips stroked the bare skin of her forearm: "Je t'aime your skin, it is such an adorable colour, so smooth it feels like velcro ..."
"Oui, velcro, n'est ce-pas? Ah, oui ... so smooth it feels like velvet!"
"Too late! You've broken the spell. And I was going to invite you to my room for a midnight feast of peaches and cream. Goodnight Pierre."
"À la matin, but first chère will you not dance for me?"
"Dance for you?"
"You are wearing your high-heels and I could not but help to notice your G-String."
"It's not a G-string, it's a thong. Goodnight Pierre!"
As she dismounted from her bar-stool he slyly pinched her bottom, Peach swung around to slap his face, missed as he quickly pulled back his head, then catching the heel of her high-heel on the rung of the bar-stool, she staggered awkwardly ending up in an ungainly, and revealing, heap on the floor.
"Ma pauvre chère, come let me help you."
"Don't you chère me! I can manage on my own, thank you very much."
As she walked sternly away he called after her: "Chère, je t'aime your thong!"
Peach blushed deeply as she realised that her rucked up skirt was halfway up her buttocks.
I'D LOVE A COFFEE
Like a true professional, Peach was up bright and early the next morning in order to catch the plane. Outside the entrance of the hotel was an important looking executive car, the driver held the back-door open for her and, naturally enough, she got inside. Suddenly the opposite door opened and Pierre was beside her.
She exclaimed: "Where's my car?"
"This is your car, compliments of Paris Match. Why travel ordinaire when I will treat you with the je ne sais quoi that only a Frenchman can treat a beautiful woman."
Peach exclaimed: "Let me out!" But it was too late as they sped off for Pembrokeshire Airport.
At the airport there was no sign of Buck Rogers or Carl Goodwin and their party; only the dozen or so planes being readied for the day's operation of spraying oil-dispersing detergent on the oil slick. Peach was flustered in case she'd missed take-off but Pierre was able to find out that the flight, by helicopter, was due to leave from the port authority's headquarters at Hakin near Milford Haven. They sped to Hakin but, in the first-light of morning, could see the helicopter had already taken off and was heading down the Milford Haven Waterway towards the open sea and the stricken Antarctic Penguin.
Peach was fuming: "It's all your fault!"
Peach was wearing a brightly coloured ski jacket, jeans and trainers: Pierre joked: "Today ma chère is not dressed to kill but for action!"
"I told you, don't call me chère!"
"Let us go for coffee and discuss our plans for today."
"Why yes, ma chère, your employers obviously don't require your technical assistance but require you to entertain Paris Match instead."
The thought suddenly clicked in Peach's mind about what Carl Goodwin had said about her being only 'window dressing' and she wondered if, for some reason, they wanted her to act as a diversion for the press. And what did he mean when he'd said that they'd been: operating on the cheap and been caught out?
She decided to play for time: "I'd love a coffee!"
"Your DogCat is in serious trouble, n'est ce-pas?"
"When the Sea Empress ran aground in similar circumstances in 1996, resulting in much more serious oil pollution than the Antarctic Penguin, the port authority was found to be legally at fault."
"Oui, oui, but legality and morality don't always agree. I think that people will think bad of your DogCat. For like a woman who wears no knickers she has no protection if her skirt reveals her modesty."
"Is that all you ever think about?"
"Oui, of course, ma chère. How could I ever think of anything else when I am being intimate with la belle mademoiselle Peach?"
"We're not being intimate!"
"But we could be. Why not leave the ugliness of DogCat for the glamour of Paris Match?"
"Are you offering me a job?"
"Not a job, a future."
"With strings attached!"
"When we first met you stole my heart ..."
"And took my photograph."
"I had no idea who you were, it was love at first sight, le coup de foudre!"
"And a photograph of my bum appeared in your magazine."
"L'amour, je t'aime your adorable bum and now so does the whole of la belle France! You were wearing jeans as you are today. I have never seen such poetry, the poetry of beauty and slavery, as you slaved to pull the Preseli Bluestone."
"I wasn't a slave, I was a volunteer."
"I wasn't a volunteer, I was a slave of Paris Match to report the absurd story. But I found my freedom when your beauty enslaved me."
"Why was it an absurd story?"
"Well really, ma chère, who in their sanity would attempt to pull a Preseli Bluestone from the Preseli Mountains of Wales to Stonehenge in England? No one, so they had to enslave ma chère to do it."
"As I told you before, we weren't slaves we were volunteers. We were re-enacting history, something that happened five-thousand years ago before your belle France had even been invented."
"And four-and-a-half-thousand years before Christopher Columbus discovered America and enslaved your New World."
"I'm not a slave. I'm a university educated professional career woman, a top executive of a multi-national."
"Your belle France and the Old World hasn't got much going for it. With pollution, global warming and rising sea-levels all you're learning is that obsession with personal wealth is wrong."
"And what is right, ma chère?"
"What my people always knew, one's relationship with nature."
"With the Great Spirit?"
"The concept of the Great Spirit is essentially a generalisation, in much the same way that liberté, égalité, fraternité represents your belle France; it is an ideal to be aimed for, but never achieved."
"But you must be wealthy, ma chère."
"I'm an American living the American dream. We believe in ambition and measure success in material terms."
"But is there not a conflict in being a new American and an old American?"
"I don't think so. The political agenda is changing because the relationship of the electorate with nature is changing. Like an oil supertanker it's not going to change course quickly, but slowly over a period of time. People are asking the questions but it's people like me who are going to have to provide them with answers."
"Because they'll still want a modern standard of living. They'll still want electricity in their homes and work-places, they'll still want the freedom of movement provided by automobiles, they'll still want to travel the world be aeroplane. They'll still need DogCat."
"And I'll still need ma petite chère."
"You've got a bigger problem than I have."
"But it's a problem that only you can help me solve."
"I'm bursting, if I'm not careful I'll wet myself."
"I need a pee, a wee-wee."
Peach sat on the seat of the toilet pleased at how she was managing to regain control of an impossible situation-that Paris Match had sent Pierre was a stroke of luck, he was so easy to register hits with since, like a moving target, he set himself up eagerly inviting her aim-but the relevance of her presence in Pembrokeshire was no longer obvious to her. She'd acted on instinct, to be at the centre of things, but had ended up side-lined. This wasn't how things were meant to be in the world of Peach. In truth, something was missing in Peach's world so she acted on impulse.
She took out her mobile phone and phoned Melissa at her home in America: "Melissa, it's Peach, I'm sorry if I've phoned at an inconvenient time but ..."
"That's all right honey, we're in bed but weren't sleeping. Clyde, cut it out, I'm talking with Miss Madoc. I'm sorry honey ..."
"Listen Melissa, I need my Dick, give him back my ring and tell him to come to me as soon as possible. Did he phone?"
"Well if that's the way he wants to play it, fine by me!"
Pierre and the car-driver were studying a newspaper, Peach went to the window and studied the panoramic view of Milford docks and the Milford Haven Waterway.
Opposite, two coastal oil-tankers were being loaded at the shipping jetty of the Texaco Oil Refinery. One was well on the way to being fully loaded, the other had just come out of ballast with its bow propeller clearly visible. A large white passenger ferry, with a green shamrock emblazoned on its bow, was slowly making its way up the waterway to the Irish ferry terminal at Pembroke Dock. In the docks were a few Spanish trawlers and the ubiquitous marina.
Peach was not at all impressed by the array of small, and much smaller than big, yachts. These were little people's yachts, and even the owner of the largest who may have thought that he was a big person was, in reality, only a little bit bigger than normal little person. Last year Peach had enjoyed a ten-day break sailing out of Nassau in the Bahamas on a sixty-nine foot ocean going yacht, but wouldn't have been seen dead beautifying the deck of such mediocrity.
Looking all lonely, and glistening wetly in the light rain and mediocrity, was the Millennium Bluestone that Peach had helped pull on a stage of its journey, one Sunday last summer, and so met Pierre. It had been a not too hot sunny May day and to Peach it had been one of those experiences which appealed to the spiritual side of her nature.
The spiritual side of her nature was very important to Peach. Being a woman in a man's world, being a Native American in a white world, meant that she could be extremely introspective as she explored what it was to be her: her colleagues tended to be clones whereas she could not hide her individuality; even if she'd wanted to.
It had all began, that particular trail in her holistic life's journey, when she'd first joined DogCat. She'd been head-hunted, but then that was to be expected if one were to rise from being a little person to being a big person. She'd been standing by her office window, watching the little patterns being made by the little people as they lived their little people's lives.
The traffic had come to a halt and the movements of the little people become frenzied. Peach had seen such a change of behaviour before, she knew it was only temporary and normal behaviour patterns would reassert control once the mess made by one of the little people being squashed by the traffic had been cleaned up. There were even specially designated little people to perform this task; she'd, in fact, once wondered why, since this danger of squashing was ever present, changes in behaviour weren't adopted, or behaviour adapted, to decrease its occurrence. But then, the little people were an abundant resource and so, to the market force laws of supply and demand, easily and cheaply replaceable and so expendable.
This made her think of what happen if people were valued, if people in general were valued as, indeed, she was valued? If instead of a world population of a few billions ... the population was so small that everyone was needed, why it would be as if everyone were a big person.
She called this theory: Big Person World or BPW for short. BPW would be like the world was from the beginnings of mankind's evolution to, in the case of North America, the coming of countless little people from Europe and so had brought about the demise of BPW. If the little people hadn't arrived from Europe then she would have born a big person and wouldn't have had to go to all the trouble of being ambitious and making her ambitions real.
She was struck by the irony of the role-in-life of big people, being to manufacture products-consumer goods, food, entertainment, heat, light, in fact all and everything-for the little people. The world may appear to be run for the sake of the big people but its purpose was to maintain a plentiful and cheap supply of little people. Of course, this rather bizarre state of events was destined to come to a sticky end, and in the not too distant future: world oil output would be unable to keep up with increasing demand from, primarily, Asia.
And, why not, Africa? Africa was the enigma and didn't seem particularly interested in, what she called, Little People World or LPW for short. It was as if Africa had rejected LPW and wanted to return to living in BPW but disease, warfare and starvation alone were not sufficiently powerful forces to achieve that aim since population levels were still increasing; a return to BPW would require a drastic lowering of population.
But Africa was where it had all began, the evolution of mankind and so the beginning of BPW. According to the 'out of Africa' theory, as population levels rose people left Africa. In general terms some turned to the right ending up in Asia, and eventually, North and South America. But others turned to the left, into Europe. Now what this meant was that people populated the world, encircling the globe until the Atlantic Ocean prevented further movement both east and west.
This was when it all started to go wrong: increasing population levels meant BPW evolved into LPW. Though whether this was regressive or progressive evolution was about to be tested with pollution, global warming and the rise of sea-levels.
So Peach wasn't really interested in Europe as it was today, she was interested in the Europe of yesterday when it was part of BPW. When she'd first visited the one place she'd had a compulsive urge to visit was Stonehenge. At the visitors' centre she'd made a remarkable discovery: Stonehenge had been built from stone monoliths, known as Preseli Bluestones, which had been transported around five-thousand years ago from the Preseli Mountains in Pembrokeshire. Pembrokeshire being where, coincidentally, DogCat had its oil refinery for its western European operations.
The reason she'd found this discovery remarkable was that for some reason it had made her pulse race. It was if she had made contact with BPW and this communication was something she'd actively, when the opportunity arose, explored.
And so when last year's  Millennium celebratory project had been announced to re-enact history and transport a Preseli Bluestone from the Preseli Mountains to Stonehenge, she'd made certain that a visit to DogCat in Britain was coincidental. The reason the Millennium Bluestone, as this particular Preseli Bluestone was named, was now on the dockside of Milford docks, was because although the first stage of the project had been successfully negotiated and the Bluestone had been hauled from the Preseli Mountains to the Milford Haven Waterway. The second stage of the project had gone dramatically wrong and the Bluestone had sunk into the Atlantic Ocean as it was being rowed into open sea on leaving the Milford Haven Waterway. But it had been recovered from the sea-bed and now was awaiting patiently the next chapter of its public life.
THIS IS THE END OF MY CAREER
Peach decided that she would ask Pierre to take some photographs of her and the Millennium Bluestone. She turned to speak to him and noticed that both he and the car-driver were staring at her with a rather peculiar, anxious-like, expression.
She gave a quizzical look and Pierre spoke: "I think you should take a look at this ... perhaps you'd better sit down."
That morning's issue of The Moon newspaper showed a full inside page devoted to the Antarctic Penguin: the headline read "Antarctic Penguin tragedy continues". Displayed were an aerial view of the oil-tanker and associated oil-slick, some badly oiled sea-birds attempting to be cleaned at an animal sanctuary and workmen sucking up oil from a beach with what looked like a giant vacuum-cleaner. The associated text was factual and to the point, making clear that when the weather and sea conditions allowed an attempt would be made to tow the Antarctic Penguin into the safety of the Milford Haven Waterway.
There had been no finger-pointing or blame associated with DogCat, Peach was quite cheerful: "Well that's not too bad, is it?"
Pierre gave the car-driver a look and then unfolded the newspaper to reveal the opposite inside page. Peach gasped, with what seemed like horror, then seemed to take an age to digest what was riveting her eyes to the newsprint.
The headline, in conjunction with the opposite page's headline, read: "Antarctic Penguin tragedy continues as Supersonic Jet plays".
Digitally altered photographs showed: Peach and Pierre kissing as they embraced; them sitting at the bar, smiling at each other with his hand seeming to caress the inside of her thigh; Peach in a sort of kneeling position but leaning back on her hands, in an erotic dance-style posture designed to display her crutch to the customers, her underwear had been skilfully airbrushed out and a small picture of a peach placed strategically to preserve her dignity; Peach walking away from a smiling Pierre, but glancing over her shoulder at him, with bare buttocks.
Naturally, the text was rather scathing of the morality of multi-national oil company executives, contrasting the heroic efforts of ordinary people to cope with an environmental disaster and Peach's behaviour. But horrors of horrors, it had been like a personal attack on Peach herself with the story of her once being a pole-dancer being given an airing. There was even a photograph of the outside of the club she'd worked in and a photograph of Peach herself performing though, fortunately, it was of poor quality.
Pierre put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek: "Ma pauvre chère."
She stared at him and whispered in an awed, hushed voice: "This is the end of my career!"
"Sacre bleu, and of mine!"
"It's all your fault!"
"Mais, ma petite chère ..."
"Don't you petite chère me! You set me up!"
"Why doesn't it say who you are?"
"Je ne sais pas."
"And I thought that we were friends. Some people will do anything for a story!"
"But it's not my story!"
"I'll never be able to show my face in public again. I'm ruined! After this all I'll ever be is a joke, a complete laughing stock!"
Her mobile phone started ringing; Pierre said: "You better answer it, it might be important."
She held it in her hand, staring at it as it rang: "More like me getting the sack."
Pierre took it from her: "Hallo?"
"Madoc, is that you?"
Peach recognised Buck Rogers' voice and took the phone from Pierre: "I know why you're phoning and I must ..."
"How the hell can you know? Now listen carefully, the salvage boys have made the decision to go ahead and we're on our way back from the Antarctic Penguin to the port authority headquarters. Now where are you?"
"Great, it'll only take you a few minutes to get to Hakin, you can meet us there. We're going to give a press conference at nine o'clock and I want you to conduct it. I guess it will more or less run itself but I want someone professional to keep the media under control ..."
"But I'm not really dressed ..."
"Madoc, you women are all the same! I don't think people are going to be too worried how you're dressed. Turn up in your G-string if you like, I don't care. But just get your cute little butt over there. We've got to make this count for DogCat. Show the world that we really do care and aren't just along for the ride. Okay?"
Pierre snatched the phone from her hand: "Monsieur Rogers, this is Pierre Dubois of Paris Match. We have a chauffeur driven limousine at Mademoiselle Madoc's disposal and will drive her cute little butt à toute vitesse to the headquarters at Hakin, ça va?"
I AM OF THE CHEROKEE NATION
"Madoc," Buck Rogers grasped Peach by the hand, "you were great. I thought that guy from The Moon was going to cause us grief but you made him look like a complete jackass!"
"I was only doing the job I'm paid to do."
"See, Carl Goodwin is very good at his job but he doesn't understand that for a company like DogCat, its relationship with the media is absolutely crucial. I'll be honest with you, it's so easy to be caught with your pants down and it's happened to me in the past."
"For good or for evil, in the modern world image is everything."
"The thing is that you get so caught up in your own responsibilities that you forget that it's through the media that we communicate with the public. It's what people see and read in the newspapers that really matters. That's why it's so comforting to be able to rely on a true professional like you. Madoc, you're a real asset to this company and, have no fear, I'll tell Mister Wilson that to his face."
Peach returned late morning to her hotel to freshen up. It was planned that the Antarctic Penguin would enter the Milford Haven Waterway on the afternoon tide and be tied up at the old ESSO jetty by tea-time.
She showered and stood naked in front of the bedroom's full-length mirror brushing her long waist-length jet-black hair. Her hair seemed dull and lifeless, lank, usually it was glossy with a slight wave; she felt emotions in her body which weren't hers to control. She put down the brush and imagined how she would look late in a pregnancy, then cupped her arms as if she were suckling a baby; she could hear her voice whispering little-nothings and see her face giving encouraging smiles.
Then the mirror seemed to go a dull grey, then brighten as a naked aroused Dick came towards her in a silvery aura. One arm cradled her and the baby, he stoked its cheek and kissed its forehead. Then he was kissing her, his hand on her stomach; as his hand slowly moved down her belly she gasped as they kissed, standing on tip-toes.
Then he was disappearing into the mirror as the silvery aura dulled into grey, she held the baby out to him in a gesture of pleading for him not to go. Then she was all alone, no Dick no baby, just her cheeks glistening silvery with tears.
There was a knocking on the door, she quickly put on a towelling bath-robe and answered it. It was Buck Rogers, she sat on the end of the bed and gestured for him to sit in an easy chair.
He declined: "I won't sit down, the Antarctic Penguin should pass Saint Ann's Head, at the entrance of the Milford Haven Waterway, in an hour's time so I'll have to get straight back. I can see you've been crying and I can understand why. It must have been a terrible shock to have seen those pictures and read that report in The Moon newspaper. First I knew about it was when Pierre Dubois showed me the newspaper and told me what really happened.
"I agree with him, The Moon's behaving in a completely unprofessional way by victimising you. I don't pretend to understand why they should pick on you, but in picking on you they're picking on DogCat and if they want a scrap we'll give them one.
"So I think the best thing is for you to take the rest of the day off. Then tomorrow we'll give them a show of solidarity. I'm due to be on-board the Antarctic Penguin at seven o'clock for the initial internal inspection of her damaged tanks. So how about if I pick you up at six-thirty and we spend the day together?"
"Thank you, I'll be ready and waiting in the foyer."
"I understand now why you were so venomous towards The Moon's reporter at the press conference. You're quite a fighter."
"We have to be."
"Which tribe are you?"
"I am of the Cherokee Nation."
"I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago, that it was the opinion of the colonists that being in a state of war, rather than peace, was the norm for Cherokee society."
"So you believe that Christopher Columbus and the European colonists who followed him came in peace?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to get into an argument with you."
"You haven't. I expect you watched too many cowboy films when you were young."
"John Wayne was my hero, I'm ashamed to admit."
"It's one of the aberrations of the mentality of your white-mans' world to equate being a murderer with being a hero."
"This always happens, I know only too well from my own personal experience that it's so easy to say the wrong thing."
"I understand, from your viewpoint it's a bit like being a German who was born after the Second World War."
"The thing is, you can't put the clock back. What happened, happened."
"I don't want you or anyone to forget. What I want is for people to remember the past and attempt to learn from it. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the prime motive of the white European immigrants was greed."
"What about freedom from tyranny and a new start in life?"
"Another of the aberrations of the mentality of your white-mans' world, that by transference of guilt one is somehow not guilty."
"People have always found scape-goats."
"Yes, but we are rational beings, we are able to think, we are able to learn. If one compares what happened in Vietnam with what happened to my people then it would seem to be a character trait of your white-mans' world."
"Do you ... I mean, do you live in fear?"
"No, my religion, my philosophy of life, is different to yours. I believe in the concept of the Great Spirit, that we are all, you and I, of the Great Spirit. In practical political terms I see the way forward in the Equal Opportunities programme of companies like DogCat.
"So Mister Rogers, I can assure you that I am quite at peace with myself and with the world I live in. Obviously, as a woman and as a member of what is quaintly termed an ethnic minority, I use my commonsense to safeguard my own personal safety. But then, I imagine you do too."
"I wouldn't disagree with that."
"And so the white-mans' war goes on. Put quite simply, The Moon has made a mistake in picking on me. And the reason they have made a mistake isn't because I am directly a threat to them, but because I am a role model.
"I practice what I preach, I enable DogCat to practice what they preach, I enable the United States' Government to practice what they preach too. All that has really happened is that The Moon have been exposed as hypocrites. Sure, it upset me but they won't break me, they won't break my spirit."
"I'm glad to hear that." He glanced at his watch: "I'd really better go now. Perhaps we could continue this conversation at some time in the future?"
"There's really no need."
"There is for me. I'll tell you something nobody knows. People think my wife is part Mexican but, in reality, she's a mixed-blood Sioux."
"Why do you pretend otherwise?"
"My career. I've been with DogCat for forty years. Things were a lot ... let's say a lot more difficult in the old days, if you know what I mean?"
"And they've changed since?"
"Well, you're living proof of that. If there's time before you return to the States, I'd like to ask you to dinner at my home to meet with my wife?"
As he was closing the door, he joked: "But I think it would be a good idea if you wore something a little less revealing!"
When the door clicked-too Peach glanced downwards, following the line of his sight, to discover that the bath-robe had flared open and she was naked from the belly-button down.
She sat still, silently staring at herself then began to tremble and become tearful. She curled up on the bed in a foetal position and remembered her first date with Dick.
THE CUTE PUSSY
The Cute Pussy was a little-people's bar, the clientele little-people and the music on the juke-box, most definitely, little-people's music. Still, Peach felt quite at home, her entrance had been rather grand in such mundane surroundings-to a superlative degree of comparison it was a bit like the Queen of England visiting the White House.
She'd dressed for the part, as an ambassador from the big-people's world to the little-people's world, she'd gone for an expensive chic look. Nothing particularly ostentatious, but a line had to be drawn in the sand and she'd drawn it.
Why was she there? She'd asked herself that question and didn't really know. She'd have much preferred to spend a free hour or two at home, working on one of her paintings whilst listening to classical music — preferably Tchaikovsky, the extravagant emotional beauty of his music seemed to mirror her soul much as the still waters of a lake might reflect the natural splendour of an alpine mountain.
Perhaps it was the effect of the new millennium. Yes, that must be it. Her long-term future plans would require her to reconnect with her humble background. She sighed, this wasn't relaxation it was work. Oh how boring, to have to study the boring lives of the little-people and their boring little world. But then sacrifices have to be made to achieve ambitions and so that was why she was in the Cute Pussy and she'd thought nothing more of it than that.
The reaction of the clientele was predictable in their supplication; an old man who the bar was propping up, rather than he propping up the bar, said what they’d all thought, the male clientele that is: “That’s the cutest pussy I’ve seen in here!”
Firstly contact had been made merely by her entrance, now was the time for phase two: communication. In a well-practised voice which was commanding in its tone and just loud enough to be heard by all above the hubbub—much like that of a schoolteacher, a profession she’d initially targeted until she’d discounted it due to its financial limitations, exerting control above the classroom din—she spoke with a patronising air to Dick.
“Dick! Manners Dick. Introduce me please ... Dick and I haven’t been dating long. I wonder if there is anything you can tell me about that you feel I should know?”
“Well Big Dick is a regular sort of ...”
She almost shouted—phase three, that of absorption into her world rather than she being absorbed into theirs, commenced: “Big Dick?”
The old man mumbled almost in apology, rather like a disgraced servant to his master: “That’s what we call him.”
“Dick, what have you been telling people? You must learn not to excessively exaggerate! Still, I’m not complaining. My Dick may be only an ordinary guy but, personally, I’ve always gone for quality not quantity!”
Dick’s face went bright red as everyone in the bar seemed to stare at each other, biting at their lips to hide their laughter—successfully initiating phase four of establishing who was who in the hierarchical social strata of her world.
“Come now Dick you said we were going to play a game. A ball game if I recollect your words correctly.”
Dick stuttered: “Pool was what I meant.”
She glanced round at everyone and joked: “What on earth do you think I meant!” She laughed in an exaggerated good –humoured way and everyone laughed too in a similar fashion.
They stood at the pool table and she held the cue the wrong way round. “Well, what do I do?”
“Break the balls.”
“Pardon! Well if you really want me to.” And she jabbed the end of the cue towards his groin causing him to involuntarily step back—phase five, she was the centre of attention and Dick was her stooge and everyone was loving it and loving her.
Predictably the show continued, and the audience lapped it all up mesmerised by the simplicity of her humour and her exotic appearance. First Dick had to explain to hold the cue the right way round, then he had to hold the cue with her in a close embrace, etceteras.
They sat facing each other across a table in a small traditional style Italian restaurant. Dick had pre-booked and was pleased that she obviously approved of his choice.
They studied the menu and she queried him: “Starters Dick, I can’t see anything with peaches, can you?”
“I don’t think they do peaches as starters. To be honest I can’t recall ever having a peach as a starter.”
She sounded shocked: “Really Dick!” She brought the menu upwards, covering her face, just peeking over it as she spoke: “You look the sort of guy who’d enjoy a nice juicy peach.” Then tried to stifle her laughter as his face burned red again.
This time she’d been unable to keep a straight face and couldn’t prevent an uncontrollable giggle from escaping. Dick was annoyed: “Why are you doing this to me?”
She was all innocence: “Doing what?”
“Making fun of me all of the time and embarrassing me in front of my friends.”
“Well you started it.”
“How do you work that one out?”
“Oh come off it Dick. From the reception I received when we walked through the door of the Cute Pussy it’s pretty obvious that you’ve been making up stories about us.”
Dick pleaded: “I haven’t. Please, you’ve got to believe me.”
She looked sternly at him then spoke sternly: “I’ve got a good mind to leave right now. If there’s one thing I can’t stand then that’s a liar!”
“Please, Precious, please!”
She giggled: “Precious!”
He placed a hand over hers: “It’s just the way I feel about you.”
“And how’s that?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody I like as much as you.”
She pulled her hand away: “But just now you were nasty to me.”
“I didn’t mean it. I got to think that perhaps you were having second thoughts.”
“Dick I don’t know what sort of impression I’ve given you, but I think it would be a good idea if you told me what you mean by second thoughts?”
“About coming on a date with me.”
She spoke almost absent mindfully, sounding disappointed: “Oh is that all.”
“I mean ... Look I’m making a complete mess of all this. If I’ve upset you then I’d like to apologise.”
“Might be too late.”
“Is there something I could do to make it up to you?”
She hesitated and sucked at the tip of her thumbs then muttered: “Perhaps.”
“Good, how about if I took you to a concert? Tina Turner is in town next week and I know a guy who’d get me a couple of tickets.”
“Seen her before.”
“How about. Hell, I don’t know ... you decide!”
She mumbled: “Forfeit.”
“Pardon, I didn’t catch what you said.”
She looked him straight in the eye: “Forfeit.”
“Yeah, anything you like.”
“Could be painful.”
“I’ll take that chance.”
“So you’ll do anything I tell you to do and let me do anything I might want to do to you no matter how painful?”
“If it means you’ll let me see you again.”
“On another date?”
“Well we could go somewhere different if you like. Perhaps up town somewhere.”
“No, I’m enjoying this evening. I’ve made so many new friends, I’d like to see them all again.”
“Good, I knew you’d forgive me.”
“But you haven’t paid your forfeit yet.”
“You’re just fooling around, I know that.”
“I like you Dick but we live in different worlds. If we got to know each other better then I’m afraid you’d be disappointed in me.”
He felt her stocking-encased toes insert into his trouser leg: “I think we should take things very slowly. Get to know each other really well. Talk a lot. See how much we’ve got in common.”
“Fine by me. I think you’re very sensible.”
“So how about if after seeing me home you come in for a coffee, and I mean just a coffee, before you go home.”
The stocking-encased toes left his trouser leg then moved upward stopping inside his knee: “I’m a very tactile sort of person ...”
He grabbed her ankle: “In that case you’ll enjoy being tickled.”
“Dick no, not here I won’t be able to control myself!”
“Perhaps I don’t want you to.”
Peach had fallen asleep and woke with a fit to the sound of the phone ringing; it was Melissa: “Honey, be brave something terrible has happened.”
“He stopped by a gas station that was being robbed. They shot him ...”
“Inspector Humphreys says his last words were to say that he loved you and asked you to forgive him.”
“Oh my God!”
“Honey, how could you do what you did? Because of your allegations he was suspended from duty and his gun was taken away from him.”
“You mean it’s all my fault?”
“If what happened hadn’t happened he would never have been where the robbery was taking place and he would have had his gun.”
“They can’t blame me.”
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen to you, you’re much too clever for that, aren’t you? Inspector Humphreys says Dick died a hero doing the job he loved. Oh yes, and by the way, they’d like you to be at the funeral to receive his bravery award ...”
Peach woke with a start from her nightmare and immediately phoned Melissa: “How’s Dick?”
“I’m sorry Honey but he hasn’t been in touch.”
“Do you think he’s all right?”
“Have you been crying?”
“Haven’t you seen the newspapers?”
“About me, oh Melissa he’ll never want to see me again!”
As she soaked in the bath she went back to their first date: with one hand he’d gripped her ankle and with the fingertips of the other was ever so slowly and gently tickling the ball of her foot. She was biting at her lips to stop giggling and was squirming in her chair, gripping tightly at the seat.
He suddenly looked shocked and muttering “I’m sorry” let her go. His face was aglow and as their eyes met everything seemed to go dark until all she could see was his face and then that dimmed to and she was in terrible pain. She was giving birth to a child and her long dead grandmother was with her, helping her. A man was holding her hand with both of his, muttering her words of encouragement and love, he looked like Dick but was dressed in old fashioned clothes and they were in a world of long ago, his cheeks were wet with tears of sorrow at her suffering and his impotence to help her. Then he was looking proud and happy, holding her baby in his arms and touched his lips to its forehead.
Then all was darkness and she could hear a far away voice calling her as if she was a lost child “Precious, Precious”. It was Dick’s voice and as his voice came near her eyes opened. His face was close to hers, cheeks wet with tears. Fear turned to joy, he muttered “Thank God” and kissed her forehead.
To be continued ...
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