by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 27

Hercules was writing the daily events on the blackboard. 'You've nothing for twenty minutes when you pose for the artists. Then at four thirty you've a half hour of Swedish exercises.'

'I believe I have you to thank for my invitation to dinner last night with Don and his partner.'

'Yeah, I couldn't make it.'

'Don said you didn't want to see Procura. Why not?'

'That was my excuse. I knew you'd do a better job. But first tell me what happened.'

Mort left no detail undescribed.

Hercules laughed in delight.

'Now tell me about you and Procura.'

'I worked for her from when I was your age till I came here.'

'You're joking! You were a rent boy?'

'Escort, stripper, peep-show performer... you name it. I guess that's when I learned to hate the lack of tenderness and affection in commercialised sex. It's really bad for boys and girls to watch it, they get the wrong ideas and risk missing out on the chance of good, loving sex lives.'

'Yeah, I agree. I asked her if I'd be any good and she said I wouldn't because I wasn't indifferent to people. But you don't suffer fools gladly do you?'

'I can close off my mind; stop thinking about what a slob I'm with; you can't. If the person you were assigned to was imperfect, you'd be rendered impotent.'

'Yeah. And that leads me to a serious problem. Don walked me home and asked me to do something for him, and I agreed. But now I don't want to. I now know I wouldn't even be able to. What should I do?'

'What did he want?'

'I promised I wouldn't tell.'

'That means he wanted you to come to his room, tell him he is sexy and fuck him.'

'How on earth do you... Were you listening in the bushes last night?'

'He was an occasional client when I was a rent boy. It was a bit of a shock when he came to live here. Fortunately, I'm too old for him now.'

'But what must I do?'

'Go and see him or give him a ring and say that after thinking about it, you don't feel comfortable with it. He'll just say, fine, and it'll never be mentioned again. He's used to rejections.'

Mort hesitated.

'Go on, do it now. Here's his number.'

Mort put the phone down with a grin. 'He just laughed and said he thought it was too good to be true. And thanked me again for last night.'

'See? He's not a bad man. But there's something else bugging you, isn't there?'

'I know it's none of my business, but if you're into love and tenderness, why were you screwing Calumnia?'

'She's blackmailing me.'


'I'm thirty-three, Calumnia is twenty-two. When I was twenty-six, she was fifteen. I was doing a bit of freelancing to make up for the relatively low pay I was getting here at the time, and went to a hotel room on the Esplanade to service two females.'

'Two? Isn't that stretching your prowess?'

'I used injections. Lots of young women prefer to have a friend with them for safety. They were made up like sophisticates and looked nineteen or twenty. She recognised me when she married Arch and came here to live. About six months ago she demanded I fuck her. When I refused, she produced a video her girlfriend had taken. I have to admit she did look pretty young, especially with those flat tits. But at the time I just wanted to get the job over and they were definitely not virgins! I've worked with whores who were more restrained. Anyway, she threatened me with denunciation to the cops for child sexual abuse unless I screwed her. You know what the courts are doing even with cases from twenty or more years before. I wouldn't have a chance. It'd be, "You should have checked her age, Hercules Buff. You are sentenced to fifteen years in prison for the psychological damage." "But Sir, she's been blackmailing me!" "Add another ten years for perjury. This young woman is deeply traumatised by your callous disregard for…" and so on. So I fuck her once a week, which seriously cuts me up because Arch is my best friend; he rescued me from Procura and gave me this job, which I love.'

'He's also hurting, you know.'

'I know! I just can't face him.'

'Tell him.'

'I can't! I'm too ashamed.'

'Herc, he wouldn't care! He hates her.'

Hercules shook his head and looked at the clock. 'Thanks for calling me Herc, but I don't feel I deserve your friendship.'

'You do. Come on, time to go.'

Arch and Calumnia were sitting at the dining table when Mort came in after a punishing half hour of swinging arms, squatting, twisting and bending. They looked up as if relieved to be interrupted.

Pretending not to notice the strained atmosphere and Calumnia's sneer, Mort greeted them enthusiastically, then turned to his hostess with an innocent smile. 'That was some show you and Hercules put on this afternoon, you looked great together. But you're noisy when he rams it into you. For a minute I thought you were in pain, but then you yelled at him to shove it in deeper.'

Calumnia seemed lost for words. She took a deep breath, looked as if she was about to say something momentous or stab her guest in the throat, then simply looked away as if uninterested.

'I remember Calumnia's enthusiastic love making from when we used to do it' Arch said quietly. 'I'm sorry we no longer do it, Calumnia, but I'm pleased you've found someone.'

His wife's head snapped to attention. 'You're kidding me, right?'

'Arch shook his head and frowned. 'No. No I'm not. I'm honestly pleased. I'm stupid and useless, I know that, but I'm not mean or jealous. You couldn't have picked a nicer bloke.'

Calumnia's face was a picture of uncertainty. 'Arch... that's... that's very generous. If you mean it. But I think you do. Although I should be offended that you're not jealous.' She gave a wry smile. 'Will you be in for a meal?

'Sorry, I've a client waiting in town. I'm just going to my office pick up some papers.' He turned to Mort on the way out the door. 'A letter arrived for you today. Come to the office and I'll give it to you.'

'And I won't be here, Calumnia, because I've been invited to dine with Doug Verdi,' Mort said with a bright smile.

'You were trying to land me in it, weren't you, you little shit?' Calumnia whispered venomously. 'Well, that backfired, Mr. slimy queer. And I don't like your chances of staying around here when your cousin discovers what a little arse fucker you are. Get out of my sight!'

Mort ran as if terrified, then poked his head back around the doorway. 'Will you show me your falsies some day, Cally? They're extra good, I never guessed you're a titless wonder.' Giggling he skipped to Arch's office where he was handed an envelope. He tore it open and scanned the enclosed paper. 'Yes!' he hissed, 'Yes, yes, yes.' Eyes moist, he grabbed his father, wrapped his arms around him and they hugged for a long time.

'I'm your father.' Arch whispered as if frightened it wasn't true.

'And you're much, much better than the fantasy father I used to imagine when things got miserable.'

'And you are way beyond my wildest hopes when I dreamed of finding a son. Do you want to celebrate?'

'I am celebrating. Inside I'm bubbling as if I'm going to burst from happiness. It's impossible to celebrate more. But if you want to?'

'No. This is far too wonderful to cheapen with what others would call a celebration.' Arch's grin widened. 'We share the same DNA.'

'Yeah! Part of my first cells were manufactured in your testicles and shot through your penis into Perdita's womb. Isn't that romantic? I'm beginning to like the horrible cow. She understood what a great guy you were, so she can't have been totally evil.'

'Do you want to tell everyone?'

'That I'm the accidental by-product of a fuck by a couple of fifteen year-olds? It wouldn't worry me, but I can't see the point. What business is it of other people?'

'None that I'm aware of. We know, and that's the important thing. As cousins we'll attract less attention.'

'And that is important. Well, dearest papa, now seems an appropriate moment to inform you that I've fallen in love with Zadig Verdi, and his father has invited me to dinner, so wish me luck.'

'I didn't know you knew him.'

'We met in the forest about six hours ago. I know it's crazy but the second I saw him something flipped in my chest and brain. I wanted to eat him on the spot. And then he spoke and he's funny, and witty and we seem to be on the same wavelength, and he took me home and his father likes me and warned me not to break his heart and he stood in the middle of their room naked and he is the beautifullest perfectest sexiest person on the planet.'

'I'm pleased you're keeping a cool head and not rushing into things.'

'I'd never do that; he'd think I was desperate. But it's several hours since I saw him and I don't want to give him a chance to forget me, so I really must run.'

'Leaving me already! Some son you turned out to be.' Arch couldn't stop grinning. 'You've your mother's good taste when it comes to men, I see. By the way, thanks to your revelations back there, I'm going to visit my best friend and tell him to stop feeling guilty. I've been wondering what was wrong, why he stopped…' Arch frowned as if unable to find the words.

'Stopped what? Inviting you around for a kiss and cuddle? You're my father, you can tell me everything. Actually I couldn't help wondering on my first day. You two are, or were, lovers — right?'

Arch took a step back and frowned. 'Not physically. Herc has been my best friend since university. He paid for his studies by being a rent boy and escort, then after a couple of years decided he wasn't interested in architecture and worked full time for Procura. When I bought this place he'd had enough of the sex trade so jumped at my offer of employment. He reckons he's never married because he's screwed too many women to want to be screwed by them. And I didn't marry until a couple of years ago because I told myself I was too busy. Too late, I've learned it's because I don't really like women that much.'

'So you're not in love with him?'

'I love him, but we're not and never will be lovers. There might have been an element of sexual desire in my initial friendship with him, but it never developed. The friendship developed though, until we're more like brothers than friends. He warned me against Calumnia when I introduced them. If only he'd told me then that she'd been screwing around since she was fourteen I'd probably not have married her.'

'He kissed me in the pool after I saw him with Calumnia.'

'He kisses people he likes; it isn't sexual. It's fun. He kisses me occasionally. Now, take a shower. You can't go to dinner smelling like a ferret.'

Doug Verdi was an excellent cook, but Mort tasted nothing. All his senses were focussed on the man he desired more than he had ever wanted anyone in his life. With scarcely concealed impatience the two young men offered to do the dishes, telling Doug he mustn't overdo things.

'I do feel a little tired,' he said with a grin. 'Are you sure you don't mind if I go to bed?'

The dishes were washed and put away in record time and seconds later they were up the narrow stairs to the attic bedroom with its double bed and probably lots of other things which failed to attract Mort's attention.

They stood and gazed at each other, then tentatively touched shoulders, chests, bellies. Gazing into each other's eyes, both frowned.

'It's never seemed serious before,' Zadig said thoughtfully. 'I don't want to get this wrong.'

'I'm the same. I realise now I only cared about getting my rocks off with the other guys.'

'How many?'

'Three. But not buggery. Just mutual comfort, you might say. You?'

'Four girls and two boys.'


'The girls, yes. The boys no. Only lots of groping sucking and jerking off.'

'Why girls?'

'If I'd said no, they'd have told everyone I was queer.'

'Did you enjoy it? Did it feel strange?'

'Not strange. Sex is sex whoever you do it with. But it was about as exciting as fucking a cushion. I felt nothing. I did it with four different females in the same week and told everyone about it so the girls would get pissed off at my lack of discretion and infidelity, and not bug me again.'

'Very smart.'

'What about you with Romola. I nearly came in my trousers watching you. You won't believe how jealous I was. Went home and cried all night.'

'That is sweet. But like you, it was only acting. There was no feeling. I prefer wanking. Whereas looking at you I want to press myself into you so we can become one person. You are soooo handsome.'

'And you're soooo beautiful. So smooth.'

'I'm sick of looking prepubescent. I want to look like you; a real male.'

'You don't look prepubescent, you look like a strong young man who waxes. And I don't want competition in the hair stakes, so stay smooth as long as you can so I can lick you all over without having to pull hairs from between my teeth.'

'Mmm... smooth talker, but now…'

Like all lovers who want to love and not just orgasm, they explored, investigated, touched, stroked — with fingers, toes, lips, eyes, their entire bodies, as if determined to meld with the other. To become one whole being in which the tension that normally exists between the two halves of a human couple have been eliminated.

'I feel as if I've found what I've been searching for all my life.' Zadig said dreamily.

They were lying on their sides, pressed tightly together, foreheads, noses lips, chins touching.

'Me too. I'm at peace and I haven't even cum yet. Why do I feel like this? It's not just because you're utterly gorgeous, intelligent, smart, witty, tall dark and handsome... there's something else.'

Mort stopped talking while Zadig found other uses for his lips.

'Something else? You mean this isn't enough?'

'I can never get enough of you. It's… how can I say it? I know in my bones I can trust you.'

'Even with your pin number.'


'Is it worth knowing?'

'No, but it proves something, doesn't it?'

'Yes, that when we're sharing everything I'm going to be in charge of our finances.' Zadig took a deep breath. 'I wonder what I can say to prove I trust you? I know; I trust you not to laugh when I tell you I fell in love with you the first day you arrived; when you wandered round the place with Arch. I've followed you everywhere, keeping out of sight, admiring the way you react so normally and naturally to the crazy people in this place. I haven't slept properly for ages. I watch for you and watch over you and have been neglecting my work so if the slightest danger arrives I will be there to save you. I followed you to Don's place and hid in the bushes. I saw you on the verandah, but couldn't make out what was happening. But you laughed so it was okay. At the slightest cry from you I'd have been up there like the Avenger. Then I followed you home with Don. But you talked so quietly I heard nothing. I was literally going mad and Dad was so worried he was on the point of talking to you about it when I discovered you in the forest.'

Mort hugged Zadig to him but couldn't speak. Tears streamed down his cheeks and onto his lover's neck and back. 'That is the wonderfullest thing anyone has ever done or said to me, and also the stupidest!' He pushed Zadig away, held his head in his hands and kissed his nose, eyes and forehead. 'Why oh Lord of the Forest, were you too frightened to tell me?'

'Because you are the good friend of my boss, who is the owner of this place. You are physically perfect. Every inhabitant of this enclave of insanely wealthy people dotes on you. You are their naked god sent to make them feel special. And you do. Everyone you teach or help or watch or even speak to feels blessed, just as I do at this moment. Why would a young god with long, glossy black hair even look at me, let alone want to be loved by me?'


Mort sniffed. 'Yeah, you've got a point there. Why would he indeed? But what if this young god was a fake? What if he was an illegitimate bastard of a random teenage fuck whose mother became a prostitute, who didn't complete Year Ten at high school, who hasn't any marketable skills apart from being able to maim anyone who approaches? Would you then dare to approach him?'

'Can you really maim on demand? I've watched you give those idiots self-defence lessons. They'll never be able to protect themselves.'

'But they'll look as if they could, and that's usually enough. Which brings us neatly back to my problem. Like those guys, I only look like what you said; I'm not like it in reality. In fact I'm so different that I have fallen head over heels in love with a simple woodsman.'

'You mean you're a fake! Well, that does shine a different light on things. Tell you what. Let's just continue what we've been doing until we fall asleep, then in the morning we'll decide if we want to stay lovers for ninety-nine or only seventy-seven years.'

'Sounds reasonable, although I think I know my answer already.'

The following morning after a healthy breakfast, Mort and Zadig were standing outside the house wondering if it was safe to kiss goodbye when Hercules bounded down his front steps and came across.

'Zadig, I see you've finally found the courage to follow your lusts.'

'It's more than lust, Hercules.'

'And you, my lowly minion, is his lusty love reciprocated?'

'That's for me to know and you to find out, exalted chief, 'Mort stated cheerfully, planting a noisy kiss on Zadig's lips. 'See you soon, lover.'

Zadig's eyes glowed but all he could manage was a husky, 'Lunchtime,' before grabbing a bag of tools, mounting his bicycle and pedalling off into the forest.

'I can't believe Zadig kept himself hidden so long, Herc. Why didn't you tell me?'

'Never interfere in other people's love affairs.'

'If you'd interfered more, Calumnia might not be living here.'

'I suspect it was the other way round. I warned Arch against her, so he dug in his heels. He can be a stubborn prick. That's how this place got built. I couldn't have done it.'

'I think Arch would like to see you.'

'He came last night. Thanks for telling him. I was stupid not to. We're back to normal again and it is such a relief. He's my only real friend and the only one I want. It's really funny that you thought we were lovers, I wonder how many other people have that idea.'

'What do you think of me and Zadig?'

'You are the perfect friend and lover for him, and he for you.'

'And what would you say if I told you I'm Arch's son?'

'I always thought you were. You are like him in so many ways. It's why you and I get on so well. But we have to make up a four for tennis with those athletic retirees from number twenty-seven in five minutes, so lets go.'

The days and weeks flitted by. School holidays ended, and a meeting of residents decided Mort was too valuable to lose so his position was made permanent. At the suggestion of Arch, Zadig, who had remained an elusive, shadowy figure since his arrival three months earlier, was officially confirmed as the permanent forest ranger/groundsman/caretaker of everything outside the Piazza, with a hefty increase in salary and elevation to a the same status as Hercules, with identical clothing requirements.

To Zadig and Mort's astonishment, the disclosure of their status as lovers was welcomed with unrestrained relief. Ever since Mort's arrival, despite their affection for him, parents of both boys and girls had been sorely worried their offspring would be seduced by someone of inferior financial and social status.

Their pleasure was such they invited Zadig to partake of all social activities in which Mort was involved — there being no parental concerns now he was an 'open book', like Mort; easily recognisable as not really 'one of them.' As several mothers wisely observed, a naked young man will find it very difficult to conceal nefarious intentions from a vigilant parent.

Zadig's offer to build a rickshaw in which he could pull elderly couples on silent tours through the forest, endeared him to them, in the same way as Mort's carefully planned exercise classes had won their gratitude by increasing their joy in life. They became Oasis' most desirable couple, receiving so many invitations they rarely ate in their own home.

On days off they explored up and down the coast and throughout the hinterland in Hale's van, sleeping in the back and becoming increasingly emotionally entwined with every moment shared.

And then an email had Mort driving the van to the airport to pick up Hale, who, Arch and Mort had decided, would stay in Mort's room because Mort was moving in with Zadig.

Calumnia's pleasure at getting rid of Mort was soured by the prospect of yet another house guest. Oasis continued to bore her so she continued visiting her friends, playing the pokies, exposing as much of herself as possible on beaches and swimming pools, screwing any healthy young man prepared to pick her up, and seeing every change of film at the cinema complex in the city.

Arch was quickly seduced by Hale's wit and charm, and never tired of watching him practise his acrobatic skills, gasping as he flew effortlessly around the frame that had been erected on the lawn near the pool. He even attempted a few tricks himself, earning praise from his tutor who had discovered an intense interest in architecture, going with Arch to every site, following discussions, keeping notes for him, photographing sites for later reference and making himself so useful Arch asked him to stay on permanently as his personal secretary.

In the evenings they looked at Hale's videos and photographs of his South American trip, discussed the art and architecture, the customs... discovering in the process that every utterance of the other was profound, intensely interesting and indicative of a noble character.

Lying on their bellies one evening on Hale's bed, cheeks almost touching as they looked again at a stack of photographs of beach scenes and scantily clad young men, they happened to turn towards each other at the same time. Lips brushed and somehow glued together. As if controlled by an exterior force their hands began removing each other's clothes and then nature took over and Arch's bed remained empty that night.

Calumnia's displeasure with her life increased manyfold when she discovered her husband's un-slept-in bed the following morning. Furious, she telephoned her mother on whose advice she had based her entire life. 'If a man stops screwing you, dear,' her mother had warned at the age of thirteen when she first opened her legs to men, 'or his cock takes too long to get fat and hard, that means he's screwing someone else. Rekindle his lusts, then find the bitch he's shagging and ruin her reputation, her job, her marriage! Destroy her future! Anything less and you will never feel you've been avenged. And then dispose of him!'

Calumnia's mother was well aware and proudly delighted that her daughter had arranged for her husband to be labelled a criminal wife-beater on false evidence, so when she learned that Archibald had not learned his lesson, but was insulting her daughter by sleeping with his male assistant, she decided enough was more than enough and advised Calumnia to get Arch to take her on holiday to a luxury hotel, and while there ensure that her husband beat her, so her wounds could receive the widest possible audience, because the more witnesses the better and newspapers are always interested in the scandals of wealthy people. Then, when Archibald was convicted and imprisoned for twenty years or more, she would get a much better divorce settlement than currently on offer; possible his entire fortune. 'That place is worth millions,' she gloated, 'especially if you cut it up for development.'

Calumnia drank deeply at the fountain of her materialistic mother's womanly wisdom and planned her snare with care. A different place, different air, different people, would rekindle the flames of passion and they'd cuddle beside the pool in front of everyone, then they'd go back to their room and a few minutes later she'd run out screaming covered in blood and blame Arch, just like last time. She took a deep breath and smiled in anticipation.

With something so positive to look forward to, Calumnia felt drenched in happiness. Alone with Arch after dinner, she smiled sadly and in the pathetic little-girl voice that usually proved successful with the horny brute males she had always preferred since her first foray into the world of man-trapping, she simpered, 'Archie, sweetie-pie. I know I've not been perfect, and I'm really and truly sorry and I really, really, really want to repair everything and wouldn't it be super if we could go for a teensie weensie holiday together?'

Arch, whose reaction to that babyish voice had always been to concentrate on something else to quell the urge to vomit, missed everything except holiday together. He gazed at her in astonishment, which his spouse interpreted as amazement at her honesty and sweetness.

'Holiday together? Us? Where?'

Calumnia presented three brochures. 'Any of these would be wonderful.'


'As soon as possible. I want us to get back to being the same as before.'

As that was the direct opposite of Archibald's plans, he decided to be honest. Looking his wife in the eye he watched a bright little tear tremble on a mascara laden eyelash, then tumble onto her cheek leaving a grey smudge. He took a deep breath and said firmly, 'I'll look at them tonight and tell you which I prefer in the morning.'

'Oh, Archie!' she squealed in genuine excitement. 'I love you so much. I'm going to phone Mummy immediately and tell her how lovely my hubby is.' She raced from the room before her spouse could recover his wits and say what he really meant.

Later, in Hale's bed, after explaining that female tears unmanned him and that's why he didn't say what he intended, Arch gazed at his lover in despair. 'I'm a wimp, Hale. I can't say what I want. I can't stick up for myself. I feel sorry for her even though she's an utter whore and is threatening Hercules with the cops to make him screw her. She won't divorce me unless she gets everything, so I'm stuck with her. I'll understand if you don't want to hang around.'

'I'll give you ten years to get shot of the bitch, then I'm on my way.'

'I'd do it tonight if I only knew how.'

'You've a very fine pool on the patio in which it would be easy for a drunken whore to drown. She could try climbing on my frame and fall and break her neck. She might lick the hot water jug cord and electrocute herself.'

'If I wasn't already on the police list of wife-beaters, I'd be tempted. But it can't happen here – I'd be accused of murder.'

Increasingly frustrated, the two men browsed the brochures while dreaming about a future without a scheming, vicious, lying termagant of a wife. After several hours, the germ of a plan put down tentative roots and, after looking again over the brochures, they decided on a hotel at which Hale had performed several times. He knew the manager and reckoned it would be ideal. It was also the most expensive, so the clientele would be mostly middle-aged or older. Too many curious, bright young things would be an added risk. And being a popular hotel there would be scores of guests, assuring anonymity. Best of all, it was situated in a small bay surrounded by rocky cliffs. Sharks, stingers and crocodiles in the sea were added attractions. With a bit of luck, a scatty woman might go for a walk and fall off the cliffs, get lost or abducted, eaten by crocodiles, raped and left for dead. The possibilities were legion, but if they were honest, not something either of them felt capable of doing anything about.

'Arch, you've an exceptionally intelligent son and a brilliant friend in Hercules, let's go and see what they think.'

Despite the lateness of the hour, Mort and Zadig dragged themselves from bed and joined Arch and Hale in Hercules' immaculate sitting room.

Arch laid his cards on the table.

When Mort heard about Calumnia's accusation of domestic violence using self-inflicted wounds, and the police response, he was all for strangling her on the spot. But that wasn't an option. Neither was their planned skulduggery at the hotel. In those places security cameras and gossipy eyes were everywhere. In the absence of a better idea they decided Arch should make a renewed offer of a divorce with a fifty-fifty split of assets.

'Will you be able to keep Oasis then?'

'Of course not. Oasis is my only asset, so it'll have to be sold.'

'What's it worth?'

'Many millions. It's old growth rainforest in a prime location near the city. Developers have been hounding me ever since I bought the place. They'd cut it up into half hectare lots and triple their money.'

'That's not going to happen!' Mort was adamant.

'She may settle for less.'

'Her mother has consistently instructed her to settle for the lot or nothing.'

'I've an idea.' Zadig was nervous. 'She's cuckolding you, has denied you sex, there's no child, and she's contributed nothing. You might get off scot free with a divorce.'

Excited by the idea, they discussed it in detail.

'She'll lie in court, so we need to find some weakness we can play on.'

'And I know how to find them,' Zadig said quietly. 'I've several movement-triggered video cameras I use for checking on the habits of wildlife. Let's set them up all over your house and monitor her for a few days. We'll be able to hear any telephone conversations too.'

'Yes!' Mort agreed with an evil grin. 'We'll bug the place tomorrow when she's visiting her fellow witches in town, then after dinner you put the new divorce proposal to her, Arch, and eight independent eyes will observe and look for chinks in her depravity.'

'Humans can't use their eyes independently like chameleons.'

'Thank you, Zadig. Four pairs of eyes attached to four independent and intelligent and dispassionate observers' visual cortices will... what I said before.'

And so it was decided.

But it rained so Calumnia spent the day inside putting together a wardrobe suitable for holidaying in a luxury hotel. At lunchtime she cornered Arch and demanded his decision. Trapped, with no surveillance cameras watching, he reluctantly discussed the different hotels, easily convincing Calumnia to accept his preferred one by mentioning it was the most expensive and exclusive.

'When? Arch. When can we go? Soon?'

'Today's Friday, the weekend will be busy, so let's go on Monday.'

'Oh Arch! Phone now? Please? I couldn't bear to miss out.'

Arch phoned. Was there was a vacancy for a double room for one week from next Monday? There was? Good. Reserve it for Mr. and Mrs. Lintel. No, he wouldn't give his credit card details over the phone; he would use the Internet to pay the deposit immediately after the call ended. Yes, he would be driving up, arriving on Monday afternoon.'

Shaken by the mere thought of spending a holiday with his wife, Arch retired to his office and used telephone banking to transfer the deposit, hoping he'd get a refund if they didn't have to go. His wife retired to her den to phone her mother and friends; boring them with details of dates, times, plans and what she intended to wear.

'That went well,' Hercules sniffed when Arch confessed.

'What'll I do? I've booked the bloody hotel!'

'We will modify our plan slightly.'


'Plan B.'

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead