THE VANISHING

by Wolverine


Police Constable Vanessa Wright knocked on the Detective Chief Inspector’s door a little uncertainly. She had no idea what he wanted her for and in the normal way of things, he would not be dealing with her, for she was not C.I.D. On the one hand, possibly he wanted to suggest she apply for a transfer to C.I.D., which would be a dream for an ambitious and conscientious young officer. On the other hand, it could be about that incident when she’d overpowered and arrested some guy who’d been beating a woman in a side street, only to find he was a valued informant and C.I.D. were not at all pleased he’d been put in trouble. If it was that, she’d defend her actions with firmness, even passion. Women had to stand up for one another and that sort of behaviour was unacceptable.

“Come in,” said Chief Inspector James Bakker, his tone giving no indication of his intentions or mood. Nor did his face reveal anything as she walked in. “Sit down,” he said. She sat.

The Chief Inspector, to her surprise, was not alone. A youngish woman, quietly but stylishly dressed, maybe about thirty or a bit younger, sat alongside him, short, curly dark-brown hair framing a quizzical, intelligent, restless, elflike face – just a little darker than the Anglo-Saxon - with green eyes. Vanessa had never seen her before.

“This is PC Wright, Sergeant. Vanessa, this is Detective Sergeant Valerie Cohen from the Trafficking Task Force,” the DCI began. “I’ve got a job for you if you want it,” he continued. “C.I.D. work. Wouldn’t call on you, but it needs an attractive young woman. Stowell’s off work after breaking her leg ski-ing and Connor’s unfortunately known to one of the suspects. Smith and Elliot I don’t rate as attractive.”

That sounded sexist, thought Vanessa, glancing at the DS and sharing a woman to woman look, but she could understand that the role might demand looks of a sort Tracey Smith – well overweight – and Dawn Elliot – forty-something and wrinkly – hadn’t got.

“What’s the role, then, Sir?” she asked.

“Sergeant?” he prompted. DS Cohen was about to start her explanation when there was another knock on the door.

“Must be the other one,” the DCI grunted. “Come in!”

A spectacularly beautiful young woman of Indian appearance walked in, with the grace of an athlete or a model, with a beautiful woman’s simple acceptance that she would turn heads of men and women alike.

“DC Sharma,” she announced. The DCI grunted his way through the introductions and named the newcomer as DC Sunita Sharma from Bocking Hall Road, an adjacent station.

“O.K.,” said DS Cohen crisply, “Let’s get down to business. You may have heard of Warboys Personal Services, here in Ipswich?” That meant nothing to Vanessa, but Sunita Sharma nodded.

“My brother’s boss used them,” she mentioned.

“They’re an escort agency,” the older woman continued. “Beautiful girls to go out with men who want to impress people, maybe old friends, maybe a boss or a business contact, maybe even a jealous or cheating girlfriend. Sometimes gay men who haven’t come out find them useful too.”

“Isn’t that all a cover for prostitution?” Vanessa enquired.

“Not as far as we can tell,” Bakker replied. “The girls are real class, no druggies and that. We did suspect it was a high-class mobile knocking-shop, so we sent in a couple of our lads as clients. DS Purewal tried the nod-and-a-wink routine, a little bit extra, you know what I mean, flashing his money. The old boot – older woman – at the desk almost threw him out! DC Bryce tried it on with the girl he was given and she gave him a little lecture and no tai…sex. They have a little booklet which sets out what the girls are and aren’t allowed to do. Intimate dancing OK, but absolutely no groping! Kiss on forehead but not on the lips!”

“It all seems too good to be true,” DS Cohen resumed, “but as far as we can tell, it really isn’t a cover for prostitution. What’s more, the girls aren’t illegals (except one, and she was a Paraguayan who’d told them she was Spanish) and aren’t trafficked here. So we’d have no problems with the outfit at all, if it weren’t that twelve girls have disappeared.”

“TWELVE?” said Vanessa.”How can that happen? In Ipswich?”

“It is a port,” the DS pointed out.

“It took us longer than I like to admit to realise there was a pattern,” Bakker added. “They were none of them local, all footloose and not near to home, so it wasn’t obvious right away they’d disappeared, not how it would be if I or you vanished. Two Australians, one American, two Nigerians, two Poles, one Spanish, one German, one Lithuanian, one Chinese, one Scot, and there may be more we haven’t identified. On the other hand, we can’t be sure one or two of the eleven won’t turn up with a new boyfriend in Newcastle or New York or doing something shady in Norwich. Too many attractive young women have disappeared, though, and all after working for Warboys Personal Services.”

“So you want us to go in and see if we can spot anything?” Sunita Sharma asked. “Without disappearing, presumably.”

“As you imply, there is a risk,” DS Cohen responded, “but you’ll have hidden position-giving devices and we’ll be watching the outside of the place closely – roadworks, delivery vans, that sort of thing.”

“Gosh, this is a huge responsibility. I’m proud you trust me to do it,” said Vanessa.

“We knew there was an element of danger when we joined,” said Sunita crisply. “We’ll find out what’s going on and what’s happened to those poor girls.”

“Best bet is they’ve been trafficked to another country, which is why I’m involved,” DS Cohen said. “Probably drugged, so watch out for that and activate your alarms if you feel groggy. Good luck.”

Bakker gave them a few more details and then they were dismissed. As they walked out together, DS Cohen was busy checking some note in a file and he let himself take a long look at their retreating forms. The fair-haired white one had the bigger arse, definitely plenty there for a man to get hold of, but it looked like in a less tight skirt it might be just a fraction floppy. The brown bird, though, was wearing grey, mannish trousers in which her supertight medium-sized arse pulsed and rippled. She had longer legs too, but of course the Wright bird had big tits, which counted for a lot. Without a doubt they were entirely suitable for the roles they had to play at Warboys Personal Services. They were both well-spoken too, capable of being polite and making intelligent conversation. The hook was baited and now they just had to see if the big fish swallowed it.

The Cohen woman was watching him now with a quizzical expression.

“Let’s not be too formal about this, Sergeant,” he said generously. “My name is George. What’s yours?”

“Valerie, sir. Those young women are attractive enough and have the right manner, but are they streetwise enough? This could get nasty.” He thought about his reply.

“Wright’s a sensible girl but not exactly cunning. The best thing is, she’ll play the part of a rather innocent girl very well. The Sharma bir…officer isn’t from my patch, of course, but I hear she’s pretty savvy for a University of Kent graduate.”

Two days later Sunita and Vanessa were approaching the front door of the Warboys office. Their cover story had the distinct advantage that it made them friends, so it would be perfectly natural-seeming for them to talk together, leave work together and so on. They would also use their real first names, which made the deception much easier, but false surnames. They were two trainees from a local travel agency that had just gone bust. They’d become friends there and Vanessa had heard about Warboys from a man in a pub. Now they were unemployed and reluctant to go back home (Peterborough for Sunita and the Hyde in Cheshire for Vanessa) they were seeking new employment.

The door had a friendly hand-written sign that said, “COME IN!” They came in.

They found themselves in a small office attractively presented in polished pinewood with a few small pictures on the walls, four well-padded matching armchairs and a kind of little counter. Behind that sat a pretty young woman with short spiky hair dyed blonde with black bits and a quizzical, restless expression.

“Hi, guys!” she said. “Can I help you?”

Sunita and Vanessa both spoke at once, causing confusion. They looked at one another and giggled. Vanessa spoke for both.

“Um…we heard that Warboys Personal Services might have some work going…”

“You want to join us? Interested in jobs? Cool! I’ll call a bigwig.” She spoke into the phone at her elbow: “Is Richard or Mavis free? Yes, two job applicants. Yes, Personal Service Assistants, I suppose. Mavis? Cool. Bye.” She smiled at the pair. “Mrs Mavis Summerbee is Director (Human Resources). I always think that sounds like she’s in charge of liver transplants or hair jobs or something. She’ll be with you in just a moment.”

Vanessa thought uneasily that this did not seem like a shady operation at all. The girl at the counter seemed genuinely nice.

“Oh, by the way, I’m Debbie.” The girl stuck out her hand, revealing a small tattoo on her wrist and also that she was left-handed. Sunita and Vanessa shook her hand and gave their first names. “Perhaps you’d like to go through the door on the right marked STAFF and someone will take you to the interview room,” Debbie added. “Good luck – though I’m sure you don’t need it!”

Through the door a pallid, slightly hunched young man, tobacco on his breath and given to sidelong glances, was waiting. Vanessa thought he was much more the kind of person she’d expect to find at a place involved in people smuggling or something of that sort. She felt his eyes on her tits and saw him sneak a good look at Sunita’s.

“Thank you, Keith,” said a plump, homely fiftyish woman with a broad smile. “Hello, both! Sunita and Vanessa? I’m Mavis Summerbee. Do come in.”

The interview room was small but comfortable. Mrs Summerbee’s questions were exactly what could have been expected, plus a few friendly enquiries about family and interests, and she explained very clearly that the job involved going out with men and a few women, not agreeing to “any impropriety” with them. Any attempt by a client to bend the rules should be reported. She checked they were happy with irregular hours and a certain element of an unhealthy diet (“but we do buy in advice from a dietician if you want it”) and finally offered them both jobs, which they accepted. Mrs Summerbee asked when they could start and appeared delighted to find it could be almost immediate. They settled on the next day but one, when they would be put through Induction. Debbie at reception waved and grinned and the two officers walked out smiling.

“Well, Vanessa Virgin, how do you reckon that went?” Sunita asked.

“Actually, Sunita Sukdev. I thought it went brilliantly except for just one thing.”

“Which was?”

“It all seems genuine. Most disappointing if that’s true.”

“Just what I was thinking, except that a few weeks going out with rich men and having a wild time seem quite attractive, a bit different from the daily grind. I might even find one I fancied!”

Vanessa giggled, but privately thought if that happened, it would be awkward, given the company’s strict instructions. It would also be embarrassing if a client turned out to be someone she knew, a relative, say. If that happened, she’d have to, well, vanish.

Induction was immaculately organised. An impressive blonde called Susan introduced herself as “one of the girls” and talked about the job as she experienced it. Debbie nipped in and gave them a few minutes on admin things. While she was finishing the door had opened. As Debbie left, the two newcomers found the Director (Customer Services), Mr Richard Woodward, was already in the room.

He was a tall, rangy, rather pallid man with rimless spectacles and receding brown hair – a rather ordinary man physically, but with a certain presence. They looked at him in silence. He took his time.

“Welcome to Warboys Personal Services, Miss Virgin and Miss Sukdev! Richard Woodward. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time with us. Now – a little about professionalism and standards…” He was an assured, even smooth speaker. What he said was entirely in line with all they’d been told before. It was just, Vanessa thought, that there was something indefinably creepy about him.

At the first opportunity, a toilet stop, she shared this with Sunita.

“Check. I thought the same. But he’s probably just a peeping tom or a groper. No surprise in his line of work,” Sunita replied. “Actually, he quite reminds me of one of my uncles – except the skin colour, of course.” Vanessa was too diplomatic to ask if the uncle was a groper. As they came out they almost collided with two young black men in overalls, carrying a bucket, a ladder and a toolbox. One eyed Vanessa and the other eyed Sunita. They both smiled while trying not to appear to give a come-on message.

For all of two weeks Vanessa and Sunita were kept busy escorting businessmen, politicians about whom there were rumours, footballers and media personalities about whom there were no recent rumours, two lesbian ladies of standing and one young gay man whose homophobic parents were about to give him a lot of shares. Keith chatted up both of them and got nowhere, though in turn they did not learn much from him: he was not a great communicator. The two builders (for so Debbie explained them) were around from time to time, working on an extension at the back of the building where the staff car park was bigger than needed. The staff had nicknamed them Bill and Ben.

The two officers saw nothing whatsoever suspicious and were both beginning to wonder when the Chief Inspector would pull them out. Eventually Sunita threw caution to the winds and asked Debbie about the missing Scottish girl, Fiona Jardine, saying she was an old friend and she’d thought the girl was working at Warboys.

“You don’t know where she is now, then?” Debbie shot back. “She just didn’t turn up for work one day. We knew she hadn’t gone missing after a date with a client, because her last engagement was a lunch thing and we saw her afterwards. It was a bit worrying. But we do have quite a high turnover because girls often choose to do this to fill in between other things, or they get a man who doesn’t approve, that sort of stuff.” It seemed an entirely natural reaction and Sunita decided to look for opportunities to pump Debbie a bit more. Very likely if anything sinister was going on, Debbie was innocent; but she was an intelligent girl and must surely notice things.

Before Sunita could find an opportunity to work on Debbie, though, a dramatic event occurred. The two undercover officers had of course made a point of getting to know the other girls. One of them was a nurse from Sierra Leone filling in after a private nursing home where she worked had closed. Ruth was one of those quiet, self-assured beauties who seem to other to glide through life. Her skin was rather light for an African, her features delicate, her curves neat and subtle, and her almond-shaped light brown eyes caught everyone’s attention. Vanessa, nipping back to the office to change and freshen up after a trying evening with a client who had not wanted to respect the boundaries, almost bumped into her.

“Done for the evening and home to a nice warm drink and nice warm bed!” Ruth smiled. “Just got to see Mavis. Hope it’s praise!”

The next day Ruth was absent and when Vanessa asked Debbie about her, she replied,

“Mr Woodward said she’s handed in her notice. She’s got a nursing job again. Well, no accounting for taste. I’d prefer going out to cool places with boring men to mopping up pee and sticking needles up old women’s bums.”

“Oh, right,” said Vanessa, hoping she was revealing nothing.

“She’s not left for another job, she’s been abducted!” said Sunita with certainty. “Mrs Summerbee and Mr Woodward must be in on it. We’ve got to search the place. Otherwise, we call in the big-boot mob who won’t find anything and’ll blow our cover – or we hang around and wait for one of us to get vanished.”

“Or maybe we should come clean to Debbie,” Vanessa suggested.

“Good point – but we can’t hang around. I should be finished before nine tonight. Are you working tonight?”

“No.”

“Let’s say it’s, um, your birthday, and invite Debbie for a drink after I come back.” And so it was agreed. Debbie delightedly agreed. At eight minutes to nine Sunita returned to Warboys’, waved to Debbie, and phoned Vanessa.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” The grinning Debbie produced a card with a flourish. Vanessa smiled a little self-consciously and thanked her.

“Enjoying the work?” Debbie enquired.

“Yes. You?”

“It’s a good place to work.”

“How long have you been here?” asked Sunita. A few drinks and a lot of chat later, they had wormed out of Debbie an admission that she was a bit bothered about the way some of the girls had vanished. She thought it might be a rival outfit snapping them up, but no such outfit had appeared locally. She’d even wondered about Richard Woodward because of the odd way he looked at some of the girls. She spilt her pint of Stella Artois and was grateful when Vanessa brought her another.

“Actually, it worries me a lot, but I just don’t know who I could talk to about it,” she admitted.

“Talk to us. We’re concerned too,” said Sunita softly.

“But what can you do? And I’m really sorry, but what if you reported me to Richard or Mavis? I’d be TOAST!” Debbie wailed.

“We CAN do something and we won’t report you. Look!” said Sunita, showing her the police I.D.. Debbie stared at her.

“Are you…?”

“Yes. Vanessa too. We’re investigating the disappearances. You can trust us and we’ll protect you.”

“You don’t have any idea at all what happens to the girls, do you, Debs?” Vanessa asked.

“No! Well, except I think Mr Woodward’s mixed up in it somehow, and there’s one room he keeps to himself. He calls it the Games Room, but he never lets anyone else in it, even Mrs Summerbee as far as I know. He says he relaxes there. He goes in there for half an hour or an hour sometimes, and maybe longer because he’s often last one in the office. I’ve heard strange knocking sounds coming from it, sort of rasping too.”

“Vanny, we’re going to break into that Games Room!” Sunita declared.

“You don’t need to. I know which key opens it. It’s labelled CLEANERS’ STORE,” Debbie offered. “Wait till tomorrow when I’m on late and I can let you in just as I’m closing up.”

Debbie had given the two officers a conspiratorial wink as she let them in. She seemed to have recovered quickly from her anguish the previous night and to be treating the whole affair as a bit of a game. Sunita nodded but did not return the wink. This was serious business and it was even possible they might find evidence that the girls had been murdered.

The key tagged “Cleaners’ store” did not work very well and Vanessa was just about to come to the conclusion that it was the wrong key when there was a click. She opened the door and faced darkness. She and Sunita waited a moment, checking for any sounds, before creeping into the room. Sunita closed the door so that anyone prowling around outside would see nothing unusual. They moved very slowly, feeling for a light switch, not daring to use their torches. First, however, Sunita collided with something hard at about knee level, teetered horribly while trying to keep her balance, and crashed to the floor, knocking something over. Horrified, Vanessa stood still and listened for any reaction. There was none. She switched on her torch and almost immediately found a light switch.

Sunita had fallen over a long wooden bench which she had upended together with a small plastic bucket containing bits and pieces – paint brushes, metal clamps, bits of sandpaper and a dirty rag. There appeared to be no-one else in the room. It looked like some sort of craft workshop: in fact, there were many signs that it was used for carpentry. Vanessa screamed.

Between a filing cabinet and a sink stood a motionless human figure. Another look, though, made her blush at her own silliness: it was a life-sized carving of a curvy naked young woman, her full breasts thrown out as her head stretched back, her fingers arranging her hair. The artist had obviously enjoyed carving her full, plump, deep-parted bottom, but also her classically beautiful face with regular features, high cheekbones and big eyes. Vanessa turned away from the figure and pulled at the filing cabinet, only to find it was locked; but Sunita, coming from rummaging about in a cupboard, examined the striking figure more closely.

“Vanny, this looks a whole lot like Agniesza Trawinska, the second Pole to go missing, five months ago,” she said.

“Well, yes, but all that shows is that this Polish girl modelled for Richard Woodward or whoever did the carving. I suppose modelling could have been a way of getting them alone, but if it was a trick, it was a very realistic one because he completed the carving and that must have taken ages,” Vanessa responded.

“I suppose so. There don’t seem to be any more full-size human figures around here, just a few sort of African masks, a couple of birds and I suppose that’s meant to be a monkey.”

“Sod. I nearly tripped then. Ridge in this crummy carpet.”

“Bit odd having a carpet in a workshop, isn’t it?” Sunita mused. “What’s it here for?” Vanessa stared at her.

“Sunny, it’s just possible you’re a genius. Let’s look under the carpet,” Vanessa replied.

Parts of the carpet were held down by substantial wooden or metal objects, but they moved what could be moved and bit by bit explored under it. They found a 2p piece, several paper clips, a cheap watch with a broken strap, a kitchen knife with glue on it, a paper tissue...and a trapdoor cleverly disguised to fit in with the pattern of panels in the floor. At first they could not see a handle, till Vanessa spotted a slight bump which turned out to be a handle that could be rested sideways or pulled up. She pulled hard but it did not budge. She tried sliding it sideways with no more success.

“Perhaps it’s something really old and out of use and it’s rusted or something,” she suggested.

“Let me try,” said Sunita. After pulling and pushing for a minute or two, she pushed down on the middle of the door and immediately yanked the handle towards Vanessa. It slid open, revealing further darkness. They shone their torches into the darkness but could distinguish little, except for some kind of ladder. Sunita descended it first and found a stone floor not far down. She waited while Vanessa followed.

“What now?” asked Vanessa.

“This!” said Richard Woodward as the space flooded with light. Above them the trapdoor clanked shut. Richard, Mavis Summerbee and Debbie stood watching them from near the other side of what looked like some kind of small factory, with large steel containers on wheels, rails they could run on, pipes and what appeared to be a small furnace.

“Richard Woodward,” proclaimed Sunita, marching towards him, “I arrest you for the kidnap of Gracious Ironsi, Agniesza Trawinska, Jennie Ell…IAAOW! Ung.” Debbie had whipped a lasso from behind her back and had neatly lassoed Sunita, tightening the noose under her breasts to cut off her proclamation. A vicious tug on the rope had Sunita stumbling forward, overbalancing and falling, to be dragged along the floor towards the waiting three.

Vanessa’s instinct was to rush to help Sunny, but she realised without a knife there was nothing she could do to release her. The trap-door had closed and if she made a run for it she would be easy meat for another lasso or anything else they’d got. No, she had to run at them and take them on. Debbie was busy with Sunny and that left two middle-aged people, against whom she had her CS spray and her baton. She charged.

Debbie swiftly tied her end of the lasso to a rail, freeing her own hands. Vanessa gave her a blast of the CS gas. Then the canister was knocked out of her hand. To her surprise, the arm belonged to Mavis Summerbee. That was fine, Vanessa thought: with Debbie choking and crying from the gas, the probably most dangerous opponent was out of action for a minute or two, and there was now an opportunity to sort out the easiest opponent before tackling Richard Woodward. She aimed a punch at Mavis’ stomach. Somehow, though, her arm rocketed past the plump woman’s body, held by one pudgy hand, while the other clinically punched her in the lower belly. Vanessa’s last memory as she fell was of Mrs Summerbee’s smiling face. Sunita, meanwhile, had managed to untie the end of the lasso from the rail, just in time to be lifted up with surprising ease by Richard Woodward, who whirled her round and threw her towards the nearest truck on rails. She landed heavily in the truck, which was jolted into action and rumbled along the rails to deliver her back to Woodward, who hit her on the head with Vanessa’s baton.

When Vanessa woke, she saw Richard Woodward’s face staring down at her with the expression of a scientist conducting an experiment. She tried to move and found her wrists were secured behind her back with her own handcuffs, while her ankles were tied together with cord. The soft thing beside her was Sunita, unconscious or dead. No, she could feel her colleague’s shallow breathing: she was alive.

“Hello, PC Plod,” said Richard Woodward, “you didn’t do very well, did you?” Although Vanessa was still groggy, she was feisty too, and angry.

“We found out who was responsible for the disappearances!” she pointed out.

“Only because we wanted you to. Now who are you going to tell about your discovery?”

“Our senior officers know we’re here. If you do anything to us, you’ll have the whole of Suffolk police on your backs!”

“What – all seven of them? Actually, I think I’d rather have us on their backs. I am referring to the female officers only, of course.”

“Ungg. Um…what?” said Sunita.

“Anyway, the behaviour of you two young women really has been most disappointing. Believe you me, Mr Woodward is going to do something about that!” said Mrs Summerbee.

“Bitch! You gave me a dose of your foul gas! You’ll pay for that piece of stupidity!” Debbie hissed at Vanessa.

“Leave us alone! We’re police officers!” said Sunita. Her words were immediately repeated mockingly by Debbie. Mr Woodward coughed.

“You two interfering busybodies don’t deserve this, but since you’re so full of curiosity about young ladies who vanish here, I’m going to explain all about how and why they vanish – so that when we vanish you, you know what’s happening and understand the reasons for it,” Mr Woodward lectured.

“You should be grateful to Mr Woodward for taking the trouble to explain all this!” Mrs Summerbee scolded.

“In the large containers you see stacked around the walls,” Woodward continued, “you would find copious supplies of a special treated clay – we call it Warboys Special Clay - soft before exposed to the air, but becoming very hard and heat-resistant. The tall metal container over there with pipes running in and out is for molten bronze. When we want to make a bronze figure we select the model and pour Warboys Special Clay all around it so we have, in effect, a cast of the shape we want. In a conventional process, the hardened clay would be separated into two halves and the model would be removed before molten metal was poured in. In our process, though, the clay is not halved and the model remains in place while…WHAT…”

The trapdoor had been pulled open and two figures jumped down through the gap. Sunita and Vanessa had to crane their necks to see, but what they saw left them overflowing with joy and relief. The two figures were Detective Sergeant Cohen, dressed in a long, peasant-type wraparound skirt, and a big, muscular, thirty-something man in jeans and hunter’s jacket.

“Just all stay where you are,” said the Detective Sergeant crisply. “We do have backup. You – the young woman – free our officers.”

“No!” said Debbie. The two newcomers advanced slowly – and stopped rather quickly as the trapdoor was thrown down on their heads. The man being taller, it struck him hard and he promptly crumpled; but Valeria Cohen was caught only a glancing blow by the door, though that knocked her off balance and her falling colleague completed the process. She got up quickly, assessed the situation and turned to run for the steps just as shambling Keith and big, black Ben jumped down from the hatch. Keith tried to catch her but merely caught a clinical punch in the mouth which sent him sprawling. Ben grabbed at her but gripped thin air as she jinked past him like a rugby player. Now Woodward and Debbie were chasing behind Ben, but the police officer ran faster than any of them and reached the steps. She started to climb. Ben plucked her off as a bird might pluck a spider from a leaf, as a man might pluck a plum from a tree. He hugged her round the waist till she bucked and jerked and gasped vainly for breath. He shifted his grip to her ankles and whirled her round like a Scotsman preparing to throw the caber, high and low, faster and faster, till her skirt came unfastened, its folds unwrapped, flapped in the wind and wrapped around her breasts and head. Packed in neat, tight, plain pale pink panties, her surprisingly plump bottom wobbled subtly as it whirled around. Vanessa, watching with horror though unable to suppress a flirt of interest at the unexpected colour of her superior’s panties, feared the big thug might let her fly free, perhaps to strike some hard object and die. Instead, artistically, he let the revolutions slow down gradually and her body slowly approach the floor, until he laid her down, still holding her ankles. She panted and stared at the ceiling.

“Bitch! You don’t hit men!” Keith rapped out, hitting her in the mouth.

“That’s enough, Keith. We don’t want her damaged!” Woodward instructed. “Now I must admit I was rather irked by this young woman’s aggressive and judgemental attitude. What did you think, Mavis, dear?”

“Absolutely!” Mrs Summerbee declared. “No manners at all!”

“Can I strip them?” Debbie pleaded.

“Of course you can!” Woodward confirmed.

And so it was that the horrified Sunita and Vanessa watched as their fellow-officers were stripped – revealing impressive capabilities in the man and a black frilly bra on Detective Sergeant Cohen – by the obviously joyful Debbie, with Keith and Ben enjoying the show. Their only comfort was that reinforcements – the backup DS Cohen had mentioned – were surely on the way.

Just when Valerie Cohen’s bra was being unclipped, Woodward took a call. After a brief conversation, he turned to Mavis Summerbee.

“Bill says there’s no sign of any other coppers,” he announced. “This one was bluffing. I don’t like liars.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more!” said Chief Inspector Bakker, appearing from a complex of aluminium pipes.

“Boss! Fantastic!” Vanessa cried.

“Helloooo, Jimmy darling! I wondered where you were hiding!” cried Mavis Summerbee.

“Must say you dealt with this nuisance very well. I did enjoy that,” Bakker said, nodding towards DS Cohen. “The wretched girl had the nerve to suspect me – to put that hayseed plod on my tail, even!” He indicated the unconscious officer. “I spotted him, of course. Now, Richard me old mate – you’re in charge.”

“Well now, I was just in the middle of explaining to our two new models how the process worked that would turn them into valuable pieces of art when this stupid woman and her dull sidekick interrupted.”

“The dull sidekick has just woken up, dear,” Mavis Summerbee pointed out.

“’Sallright, boss, I’ve got him handcuffed with his own cuffs,” Ben reported.

“It is irritating to have to start from the beginning again, but I’ll be as brief as possible. The model is encased in a special clay. That’s not unusual for some processes, but they involve the cast being in two halves so the model can be removed and then the cast is filled with molten metal. We don’t bother with that. The model – I may not have mentioned there’s an injection involved to reduce mobility and allow us to position her in a suitably artistic pose – is surrounded with clay except for a small hole. The molten metal is poured in, melds with the material already inside the clay and cools. The clay is removed and we have a very nice figure. If you went round and looked at our figures, which of course you won’t now, you’d find their mouths are always closed, for technical reasons. We then sometimes copy them in wood: I’m a rather good carver and so is young Susan. The artist is supposed to be a secretive Uruguayan living in Ireland, name of Mauricio Leon. He has been praised for his extraordinary life-like accuracy of physical portrayal. We normally use bronze, but we have done a couple of silver figures for a special commission, and we’ve recently heard that a gentleman in New Jersey would like his ex-girlfriend commemorated in gold. Clients do send us models occasionally, but mostly we pick them up ourselves. I hope that’s clear.” He paused as if waiting for questions.

“You sick bastard!” said Valerie Cohen.

“Shuddup!” said Ben.

“Ben, that is not necessary,” said Woodward. “I do intend to teach this small nuisance some manners before she becomes an exhibit.”

“Much overdue!” Bakker grunted.

“You IDIOT!” Valerie spat back. “Four officers disappearing while investigating this place – do you think that won’t get half an army down on you?” Bakker patted her cheek and tweaked her ear hard.

“I’m afraid you’re underestimating me again, Sergeant Cunt. There’ll be no record of these two dumbos being sent here at all. If punters identify them, it’ll just be a case of shock, horror, scandal; two sexy coppers were working as high-class call-girls on the sly. As for you and Robocop here, you told me you were looking into something very interesting happening down at the docks – and that’s where your car will be found. The boys and girls in rubber will be searching for your bodies for ages! I know just what you recorded on the computer and I also know what I changed it to.”

“You can’t...” Valerie persisted. “Ooooof!” Keith had neatly cut her protests short.

“Sir, you can’t just let them do this! You’re still a police officer, whatever you’ve been doing!” Sunita appealed to Bakker; but he merely grinned and replied,

“Oh, yes – I can let them do it – and they will.”

Dancing and waggling her hips, Debbie took her lasso to Valerie Cohen, with Keith’s help forced her on to her hands and knees, and dropped the noose round her head, tightening it around her slim neck. Mavis Summerbee, smiling broadly, produced a whole range of slim, whippy canes from which she, Woodward and Keith all selected one. Then Debbie pulled her captive along round the room while the others, dancing and making dramatic gestures, sliced pitilessly into her plump bottom. The Detective Sergeant had probably not squealed repeatedly since she was a small girl. As Debbie tugged, the noose tightened further till the captive’s face went red and her mouth opened wide. That was the signal for Debbie to stop, but not for the caning to end.

Valerie Cohen was dragged back to join the others. As she came near Vanessa and Sunita, they were amazed to realise that the tough Sergeant was weeping.

“Richard – a small word,” said Bakker. The two men whispered together for a couple of minutes. Woodward clapped his hands for attention.

“Models and operatives!” he started, “I would just like to confirm that all four models will be converted to works of art according to the process I’ve explained. The Chief Inspector here did raise an alternative in respect of the faintly olive-tinted model, and I was quite attracted. It would be highly amusing to traffic the anti-trafficker and my friend here assures me he has contacts who would pay good money; but her also admitted they would pay well for her bronze figure from life, if not quite so much. There are two additional benefits from sticking to the original plan: a beautiful work of art is created; and there is no risk of her telling tales. Now – if the ladies here will indulge us, the gentlemen have become quite excited and for health reasons we really ought to take the obvious steps to calm down before the means of doing so are no longer available.”

“What the hell is he talking about?” Vanessa whispered to Sunita.

“Raping us,” her colleague replied. “All four of them.” This proved correct except that Bill made a timely entry, making it five. Moreover, Mavis Summerbee and Debbie also busied themselves sucking and biting the officers’ breasts and in other attentions, and after the men had finished, Debbie returned to Vanessa the blast of CS gas she herself had received, only lower down. Finally Debbie triumphantly massaged the male officer’s cock till it was ready for her to bounce up and down on.

“Very well,” said Woodward loudly, “that was all very entertaining, but we must get on with the process. The olive one first. The injection, Debbie?”

Smiling, the very picture of dutiful professionalism, Debbie sank a hypodermic needle in their victim’s arm.

Exhausted by her treatment, broken and free from pointless struggles, Detective Sergeant Valerie Cohen, scourge of people traffickers and pimps, was dragged to a large metal tray on wheels where she was laid face up with Chief Inspector Bakker smiling down at her in triumph. The tray was pushed up to a tall container with a big spout. Smiling blissfully, Mavis Summerbee pulled a lever and brown sludge poured out over the slim body, covering the neat breasts, covering the flat stomach and curly scribble of public hair, covering the limbs and the sharp, intelligent face. At that point she began to struggle, to kick and writhe, to gasp for air, but there was too much sludge. It poured into her gasping mouth and closed over her face. Nothing could be seen of what was a human being, though the rough shape of a female body persisted under the solidifying sludge which was convulsed by occasional convulsions of the captured body. Still smiling, Mavis pushed the tray on to its next stop, where Richard Woodward, braced dramatically like a High Priest ready to make a sacrifice, stood tall. It appeared that the thing in the clay had stopped moving, or maybe the clay had hardened so much no moves now disturbed the surface. Woodward bored a small hole in the clay with a metal spike around where the thing’s forehead had been. Then he coaxed a long metal tube into position from a large container and into the aperture of the hole.

“Ready!” he announced. A grinning Debbie pulled a lever and there was a sound as of rushing water, hot, bubbling rushing water cooking all in its path. A few dribbles of dark brown metal coalesced on the surface by the hole. A mechanical sound came three times, a light flashed twice and the flow stopped. Woodward pushed the tray so it rolled into its final position to cool.

“Darling uncle, can we do the stud next?” asked Debbie. Woodward smiled indulgently.

“Of course, favourite niece. Set him up, please.” The male officer struggled much more and had to be restrained – in Debbie’s unique way, with thin wire around his testicles so his struggles brought him much pain. He too was injected, positioned in a tray and put through the process.

“Hmm…the white one or the brown one? What do you think, ladies?” Woodward mused.

“The brown one. She shouldn’t be in this country anyway,” Mavis Summerbee suggested.

“The white one. She did something horrible to me with her crap fucking gas!” Debbie said. Woodward sighed and addressed the two remaining captives:

“I’m sorry, ladies: we have a disagreement which is delaying you being immortalised. We’ll just have to toss a coin.” He produced a £2 piece. “Heads or tails, Mavis?”

“Tails.” He span the coin and caught it again. He waved the two women over to see the result. “Tails it is.”

“Fuck!” said Debbie. “Still, she gets it next.”

Then Sunita became noisy.

“Please, no! No! Not that! Please! I was only doing my duty! Please! Anything else! You can rape me! No! No! I haven’t done anything wrong! I don’t deserve this! Please! Help! Please! I want to live! Help! My poor mummy and daddy! Nooooo!” This was the more logical output, for she was sobbing and groaning too.

“BE QUIET!” Woodward rapped, slapping her face; and she was quiet. She was, however, quivering or shivering, though less so after the injection. When the clay began to cover her, she screamed – not so much a series of screams as one long, desperate scream ending in a dull sound as the clay filled her mouth. Her long legs kicked convulsively, but less and less. She was still – still till the molten bronze rushed in.

Vanessa had a horrible feeling in her stomach, as if it had turned to sludge. She tried very hard to believe this was a bad dream. She was not going to scream and plead like Sunita. But halfway to the tray, she cried,

“Oh, no! Shit!” She had indeed shat.

“You DIRTY slut!” yelled Mavis Summerbee, slapping her hard four times.

“Never mind – we have hoses,” Woodward commented. They threw her in the tray. Debbie came and stared into her eyes as if she was drinking up her lifeblood through a straw. She stroked her victim’s arm before injecting it - a sudden, sharp pain which made Vanessa jerk. She felt a dull heaviness spreading through her body, a numbness which affected her eyes and mouth less than the rest of her. She seemed to have lost contact with her legs. She saw her arms being arranged as they chose, but could not feel it. There seemed to be a slight delay before the murderous sludge oozed out. She stared at the hole. Then it spewed out around her, on to her stomach, her legs, her breasts. It was colder than she’d expected, and heavier. A dollop closed her left eye. It seemed to be all over her now, pressing in, deadening. As she fought for breath an avalanche of wet clay plugged her mouth and pressed down her throat. She tried to scream. Her right eye closed up. Lines of fire ran through her brain. Something was bursting. She felt dizzy. Then her brain and senses fell silent.

She had one last instant of consciousness, though, as molten metal seared through her skull. All that existed of her, all that had been born, grown up, run, laughed, thought, dreamt, was melded into metal.

She was replaced. She was immortalised.

Bill, Ben and Keith chipped away at the hardened clay until they reached dark brown material with a faint gloss. With wooden chisels and scrapers and finally with small brushes they revealed bit by bit four beautiful bronze figures. The one that had been a man would, when upright and secured in a concrete base, be standing legs braced, arms on hips, meaty cock erect. The short-haired female one did not need such a base: she was on hands and knees with her plump, well-parted rump stuck up. The tall, long-haired one would stand with her hands manipulating her rippling hair, her neat breasts stuck out proudly. The remaining one would also be standing, but with her hands in that so familiar feminine gesture of fear and modesty, one failing to cover her fine breasts and the other protecting her genitals.

Richard Woodward watched, a proud and fulfilled man.

“Excellent! So much better than the originals, especially the Cohen bitch,” said DCI Bakker. “Any idea where they’re going?”

“I rather fancy we’ll carve wooden versions of all four of them to mark an exceptional day,” Woodward replied. The one in the doggy pose wouldn’t be suitable for a public park, say, but there’s an American billionaire who’d love to have her and a gentleman in Sicily who might put in a bid for her too. The other two female figures could go almost anywhere – a park or a top-of-the-market brothel. The male one is, well, a little indelicate, but I’m sure we’ll find a home for him. Now – a decent champagne is upstairs.”

The American did indeed acquire the bronze of Valerie Cohen for his private collection, where she served to help ageing friends to excite themselves to action. The bronzes of Sunita and Vanessa graced the entrance to the most distinguished and expensive brothel in Bangkok; and that of the male officer was acquired by the national museum of Uruguay, where it amused visiting school parties of both sexes. As for the wooden copies, all except Valerie Cohen’s found their way to public parks, where Sunita and Vanessa were soon enhanced with carven rude remarks and Sunita’s breasts were spray-painted. A worse fate befell their wooden male colleague, whose member was lopped off to grace a party. Valerie Cohen managed to be in two places at once, her front half coming to thrust out from the bows of an eccentric Arab’s yacht as a figurehead, while her rear half comically projected from a Russian millionaire’s dining-room wall, the figure appearing to extend from it on the other side of the wall, in the games room, being the stuffed head of a red deer.

Mauricio Leon continued to produce the most beautiful and intricately accurate bronzes, his growing fame leading to higher and higher prices. When he died, tragically disappearing while swimming off County Mayo, the art world was overjoyed by the discovery of a cache of previously unknown figures and the news that his lover and collaborator, Debbie Makin, would continue to work in the same style.

End


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