Cambridge U.K., Wednesday, June 13, 1979
“What the fuck?” Deanna shook the satiny bathrobe Michael handed her after she’d set her purse down and taken off her jacket.
“Can’t have you spoil the illusion by ‘in off the street to nude’ in front of everyone.” He put a hand between her shoulder blades and gave her a gentle shove toward a DIY four-panel room divider made of old doors. “Did you get my message about loose clothes, no underthings?”
“Yes, but…” She turned around and had to walk backwards because he was right there and kept coming. “But I hate braless, all bouncing around and cold and everything. Unless I’m just home or something. And no panties? I mean how gross is that? I mean it, what the fuck, Michael?”
“Tight clothes and elastic leave lines where a discerning eye would rather none.”
“So? I’m not a nude model.”
He pulled one of the end screen panels almost to the wall in front of himself to enclose her, stuck his head in. “You are tonight.”
“I am not! I don’t do the nudist thing. I did that once on accident water skiing and lost a sixty-dollar bikini. And six weeks of a summer with someone I was in…who was important.”
He pulled the screen panel open, stepped right into her face. “Shut it. Now. You took the forty. To model. What did you think they wanted to see? A skinny yank in out-sized clothes? You’ve nothing special to keep hidden away. On a right day you’re no more than a knackered mop stood on end.” His scowl intensified for a few seconds before it vanished when he glanced at the clock on the far wall. “They’re setting their places. Clothes or no clothes, on the stand or down the stairs, as you will. Six minutes.”
At seven-thirty she stepped around the edge of the screen of doors in the satiny robe, scared, timid, shaking and determined. Knackered mop? Insulting her pride to get her naked? Another gamey asshole trick. Mother fuc— she flashed the Miss Popularity smile that she had resurrected by necessity, stepped up onto a homemade riser covered in a worn-out oriental rug and topped with a faded Victorian bench. She slid out of the robe in a move she’d seen in some old black and white movie. Godammit, she couldn’t smile like this all night, and big-bottom Michael needed to turn the heater up. Way up. “Summer” in England was a lie.
Cambridge U.K. 9:30 PM Wednesday, June 20, 1979
A room full of male and female pensioners, the mildly sadistic pervert professor Dr, David Childs and Michael had enjoyed spending three hours spread over two ninety-minute sessions with a bit too thin, starkly attractive, non-speaking naked young girl so frightened that you could see it in her eyes. She’d presented them with a vulnerability rarely seen in nude models, something Michael had captured with a camera so that he could paint her himself when he had time, and sell the snaps around a small network of dirty old men, other painters and a few women who were into that sort of thing. The perv professor had logged that child-like fear as well.
While easels were cleared, paintings stored in racks, brushes set in jars of water or solvent Michael caught Dr. Childs attempting to slip away.
“No, David. Not yet” Michael shook his head slowly and spoke like he was dealing with a four year-old. “You knew the deal. The Fifty is for the ring to come and have a look, the forty covers what I’m out for getting her here and I’ll have it now.”
“You are aware of my delicate financial situation, Michael. Couldn’t we —”
“Ninety, David. Or I call Lady Childs for it and your financial situation will indelicately vaporize.”
David counted out the ninety, slapped it into Michael’s outstretched hand. “Beastly excuse for a man you are.”
“Comes with the under compensated instructor’s crown, you know that well enough.” Michael folded the bills and shoved them in his front pocket.
“She’s a bit of Bohemian, that’s something different. But I have several on my list ahead of her. You will keep her just between us?”
“Our own private Bohemian rhapsody, David. I’ll let you know how she goes.”
Michael put his hand on David’s shoulder and ushered him out of the doorway he’d blocked with his lingering, said “Good Night” to his last pensioner and locked the door from the inside. Unlike Dr. Childs, he didn’t have a rich wife, a title, or a list of girls to work his way through before he got to this one.
“Michael?” Deanna tossed the robe over the top of the screen in another old movie move. “Are we going to talk about the cross curriculum symbolism? I made some time for us, and a list.”
He unzipped his baggy cords, shoved the room divider open. “Knob bob time best served before wordplay, Miss Collings. I’d ask to have at down below but that’s a right lion’s head you’ve got between your legs.” He reached for her, the cords hit his ankles. Her jeans were only halfway up when she let go of them to slide out the backside of the screen. She shuffled to grab her purse, book bag and coat. Michael almost tripped backing out of the screen. He grabbed the back of a chair, hop danced his feet out of captivity, lunged and caught her. She spun away from him but her feet, still bound by her jeans, didn’t follow. He caught her by the upper arm, dragged her to the riser and tossed her like a rag doll onto the ratty upholstered Victorian bench she’d modeled on. She bounced off the bench onto the riser, rolled to its back edge feet first then off. She tried to stay up but her momentum, balance and sock feet were at cross purposes. She clutched at an easel for balance. When she knew it was hopeless and she was on the way down, with or without it, she heaved it at one of the tall glass windows in the second story studio. The sound of the window shattering seemed to last for hours.
Michael picked her up, propped her on the riser. “Are you done?”
“Yes. No! I’m finished, not done. I’m not a fucking cake. Are you?”
“A cake? No, I’m not a bloody cake. Well done I am, thanks to you.” He looked through the hole where the window pane had been. “Shit.”
The approaching doo-dah doo-dah of sirens signaled the imminent arrival of the police. He pulled on his baggy cords and reloaded his shirt tail, shook himself out lke dog. Maybe it was an artist thing, but Deanna had never heard so many different emotions in the word shit.
She looked around the room while she pulled on her jeans. The glass shards, the mess of spilled brush cleaning jars, the collapsed room divider, the satin robe. Her lack of undies. She knew from her studies and old presentations how this sort of thing, tagged to nude modeling, usually ended up being the woman’s fault.
“‘Shit’ is right, Michael. No shit right.”
“No ma’am. Really. I mean it, I didn’t ‘fancy’ him. At all.” Deanna had been through the interview six times and wanted to go home. She leaned her head next to the police woman’s and lowered her voice. “He’s got a big butt, for a guy, you know? I don’t know about you, but my dream guy isn’t shaped like a pear.”
The WPC taking Deanna’s statement snorted into the back of her hand so hard she dropped her pen. “Very well. You’re not being formally charged with anything, Miss Collings. If you change your mind about him,” she tilted her head slightly in Michael the horny goateed art teacher’s direction, “give us a ring.”
“I’ll change my mind if we can lock him in a room with ten or twelve other girls he’s pulled this on.”
“Arrange it, I’ll stand watch on the door to see you’re not disturbed.” She handed Deanna her business card, checked in by eye contact with the Officer in Charge who nodded. “Pick up your things, Miss Collings. You may go. Mind you, quietly.”
Deanna draped her red London Fog over one arm, glared out the crazy assed vagina pelt hunting art pig before she shouldered her way around the swearing, red-faced and demonstrative arm waving lorry driver whose windscreen had gotten smashed by the easel she’d sent through the second story art class window. She turned and slid sideways between two bored uniformed policemen talking soccer, slowed a beat as she passed a no-nonsense looking man in a lightweight tan jacket leaning the door jamb. He reminded her of someone, vaguely.
Michael said “Good night” again, this time to the police contingent, found himself alone with the no-nonsense man who had volunteered to help tape cardboard over the broken window.
No-nonsense used his teeth to tear a piece of duct tape from the roll he was holding, held it up to the wall while Michael pushed the cardboard into place. “Busy night for an art teacher.”
“Bloody stupid, skinny fucking cow. Forty pounds to stand about naked, not a thank you of any kind. And I’m done for the window.”
“Insurance will have the lorry’s windscreen, Cambridge city fathers will have this all under the rug to keep you from being the big bad wolf on their payroll, and unless there’s a copper with their hand out to the morning press you’re off light I’d say. For chasing a lass about, trousers around your ankles and all, who wasn’t up for being your Wednesday’s casual. I’ll have the film roll, if you don’t mind.”
“Meyers.” He ran the strip of tape down the side of the cardboard in a quick, smooth motion.
“Well, Meyers,” Michael held the right side of the cardboard up, watched his helper eyeball and tear the tape a perfect length and swipe it across the top in the same smooth motion. “I do mind. I shot it, it’s mine and I’ll have my forty again and more out of her, one way or another.”
“Or…One way or another I’ll have the film. Day’s end, Michael?” He turned from the window, one hand still on the wall. “This window of yours is all needs breaking on a Cambridge summer’s eve.”
Michael took in Meyers out the corner of an artist’s eye. A deceptively offhand, nonchalant, Marlboro man sort. Sandy hair, hard, gray eyes that could have come from Michelangelo’s David set in an outdoorsy tanned face and whose deft economies of movement snapped Michael to the fact that nude photos of the girl, and possible extra income from them, weren’t worth a trip to the A&E. Michael patted down the dozen or more pockets of the paint splattered hunting vest he wore in place of a smock. Nothing. They swapped out holding the cardboard and Michael took a couple of steps to a cluttered desk where he rummaged around, located his camera, popped the film and tossed it to Meyers.
“She was just another nude model who turned out to be a bit of bad idea. Who is she to you?”
“I’m told someone across the pond has concerns. Wasn’t sure I wanted the job at first, seemed like babysitting.” The film disappeared into Meyers’ pocket. “That said,” he tore another piece of tape with his teeth, offered it with a mildly amused expression. “So far she seems a girl who can turn a bit of bad idea into a right shit grenade, eh? Tape?”
Edited to remove references to people and events not in evidence