Tapping her glossy red finger tips impatiently on the plush arm of a large sofa in the lounge of The B Bar, a members only bar that belonged to a sophisticated and expensive hotel hidden in a secluded court yard near Piccadilly Circus, Susie, a thirty five year old working mother with two gorgeous children kept her sharp brown eyes on the antique revolving door.
‘She’s late again,’ remarked Flick, a redheaded wonder who was vibrantly decked out in a green tartan Vivienne Westward dress.
‘I don’t know how you put up with her, I really don’t’ pouted Bebe as she tapped her perfect domed afro with her long slender £10,000 worth of jewellery gold encased hand.
‘Nor do I ladies but business is business.’ Susie agitatedly sipped her glass of Clicquot champagne and glanced down at her watch. She hated people being late. Especially when it was costing her money.
‘Oh look, here she comes,’ said Flick, noticing a harassed looking woman clacking across the marble floor in her Christian Louboutin six inch stilettos.
‘You’re late,’ hissed Susie. ‘When I say 3pm I mean 3pm, not a quarter past three.’
‘Sorry Susie but the taxi was stuck in traffic,’ gasped Sasha, a fresh looking blonde beauty as she slumped down in an empty chair.
‘No excuses Sacha. You have been warned about your lateness on many occasions. I cannot have people working for me who are constantly late. I have a reputation to maintain. Do you understand?’
‘Yes Susie. Sorry. It won’t happen again.’
‘No it won’t happen again. Now, do you have something for me?’
Sacha reached into her Prada handbag and pulled out a thick, long white envelope. Without looking at its contents, Susie placed it in her sleek black clutch bag along with two other full envelopes and then lifted her champagne flute.
‘Well ladies. Here’s to another successful week,’ she smiled at the three, groomed goddesses. ‘Cheers.’
‘Cheers,’ they all said in unison, clinking their sparkling filled glasses over the vintage table that they sat around.
‘Now to business. Please make sure that your mobiles are switched on at all times so that I can get in touch with you,’ she looked at Flick, who sheepishly brushed a red bang away from her face. ‘Unfortunately we had an incident where we lost a considerable amount of money and I don’t like turning customers away. Also check your calendars as I’ve booked a weekend away next month for training and for you to have new photos taken for the website. No one’s replied back yet. I need to confirm with the hotel, the photographer and our little guinea pigs.’
All three ladies flicked through their mobiles.
‘Sorry I can’t make it,’ said Bebe. ‘I will be in Dubai that week on business.’
‘Ah yes I remember now. That’s ok. Anyone else can’t make it?’ Susie asked. Flick and Sacha shook their heads. ‘Good. That’s sorted.’ Susie knocked back the rest of her champagne and smoothed away a stray brown hair back into her pleat. ‘I know I may come across as a heartless bitch at times and don’t always show my appreciation, but I’m really impressed with you all. Even you Sacha who drives me mad. Keep up the good work.’
‘Thank you,’ they all said.
‘Now any other business?’
‘Are we still meeting up with the other girls here next week for the fittings?’ Bebe asked.
‘Yes. I have arranged Michel to bring over a selection of ball gowns and cocktail dresses for you all to try on. It should only last about an hour or so. We need to get in early before anyone else takes the best gowns. I don’t want those grubby little East End paws getting first pickings,’ reluctantly acknowledging her so called competition. ‘My girls deserve the best as you are the best.’
The ladies smiled.
‘Right. I’m going to have to leave you lovely ladies to finish off your drinks. If you want a snack then add it to our bill at the bar. I will send you a text reminding you about the fittings and I will see you here same time next week and on time. I believe we’re going to have a busy week ahead.’
Flick, Bebe and Sacha got up and kissed Susie goodbye.
Scooping up her glossy designer shopping bags that sat patiently next to her, Susie left the hotel bar and slipped into her silver Porsche.
Mission one done. Tick. Mission two was now under way. And that was to bank her weekly takings in one of her many secret security boxes that she used across London where she could safely hide away her true earnings. By using this system for storing her cash, Susie knew it was the perfect way from any paper trails. Only she knew exactly how much money she earnt. And by scraping off her twenty percent commission, she would deposit a certain amount of money into her legitimate business account just to keep the Tax Man happy.
And she certainly knew how to keep the Tax Man happy. Especially in other ways!
Crimson Lake closed her eyes tightly underneath her tatty blindfold and listened to the hushed voices that circled her. Unable to move her hands as were tied to the back of her chair, Crimson silently prayed for her freedom.
Releasing all the day’s dirty negativity, tension and stress, Melody Starr gently reclined her precious pampered body onto a bundle of fluffy white towels that were sprawled out across the hot damp pine bench in one the hotel’s large private sauna cubicles, reserved only for VIP’s.
Still groggy from the mass intake of the brain numbing neat vodka that she drunk earlier that day, which helped her to block out the loneliness and bitterness that gnawed away inside of her, Melody closed her contact free weary eyes, took a deep breath through her parched mouth and began to unwind as the lavender fragrance steam gently pummelled and delved deep into her clogged pores, sucking out the hidden dirt, the grime and gunge as it carefully evaporated the impurities from her young, delicate skin.
Enjoying the deep detoxifying treatment, which was pure hell but someone had to do it, Melody wrapped her black lank hair up in a towel turban and gently lowered her vodka laced head on a pile of towels, trying not to make the room spin even more.
Desperately trying to calm herself down from a stream of incubating ideas that spun about in her hazy head like a top loaded washing machine whipping its contents around on its spin cycle, Melody allowed to set those thoughts free for now and just relax for a few precious minutes.
With the lavender essence performing its calming job, at last she had control over the situation and finally allowed herself to relax and let her spirit run free within the confines of the large sauna. Within minutes she felt at ease. Totally relaxed and one with the World.
But this didn’t last long.
Just as she was declining into a state of liberation, easing her tensions away from the harsh realities of her hectic life, the warm bubble suddenly burst. The protective atmosphere she had just got accustomed to suddenly changed.
Instead of the sensual, caressing fragrant mist twisting its silky slithers of cleansing clouds around her aching lithe sweaty body, she suddenly felt a cold breeze creeping up on her, enveloping her and pawing her with its icy fingers. An uneasy feeling engulfed her still body. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up on end as the sinister glacial prankster played with her soul, selfishly ripping away the warm blanket of steam and replacing it with a chilly coat of ice. It disturbed her peace and she didn’t like it at all. Not one bit.
Still half asleep and not taking any chances, she immediately sat bolt upright and peeled opened her misty brown eyes. Clutching the soggy towel, which just covered her glistening ebony body, she grappled with the task of peering through the burning aromatic steam.
Melody sat still, her breath heavy with fear. Her acute hearing picked up every sound as she thought that she could hear footsteps creeping about, gradually getting closer and closer, louder and louder. She was right. Managing to decipher her fuzzy gaze, she saw a large silhouetted figure obstructing the rays coming from the gymnasium’s harsh white lights as they poured in through the open door.
Transfixed to the spot, she watched in horror as the menacing shadowy figure advanced through the cleansing mist, disturbing the tranquil atmosphere.
‘Who’s there?’” she croaked to the mysterious figure as she clung onto her towel enwrapped body.
The figure didn’t answer.
He just stepped closer and closer.
Letting her imagination run riot as she grappled for her glasses, she thought that her crazed stalker had tracked her down and was going to kidnap her and kill her. Realizing that this was about to come true, her heart leapt up to her throat, pounded her vocal cords and strangled her perfect voice. She tried to scream but nothing came out of her dry mouth. Only silence.
Instead of lashing out at her attacker and going for the jugular, just as she would have normally done, the once tough little cookie Melody Starr, unexpectedly shed the thick outer layer of her psyche and let the presence of the little girl that was locked within her suddenly burst through and eclipse her, over shadowing her strong personality.
Screwing up her brown eyes, Melody tucked her towel wrapped head between her slender hunched up legs to protect herself like a tortoise popping back into his shell, hoping that her actions would magically make the monster vanish, as if any action like that would help.
Curled up on the bench, she felt a strong dark presence bearing down over her terrified body. Her moist flesh crawled as the sour smell of death hovered above her, ready to take away her young life. A life that was just blossoming and starting to grow.
Melody gasped as she felt the shadowy figure’s Herculean hands encase her sodden shoulders, tightening its powerful grip. Terror flowed through her as the shadowy figure violently shook her lithe body as if to wake her up from some terrible nightmare.
But this wasn’t a nightmare. This was real.
She knew this was the end. She knew she was going to die. If only she’d been good in the past. If only. But ‘if only’ wasn’t going to help her now.
No one could help her.
No one would!
She had been a bitch to everyone and no one would be prepared to save her or even raise their little finger to help. She was alone. Alone to face the scales of judgment and only she could tip the balance in her favour and make amends.
Melody was sorry. Truly sorry. If she could turn back the time right now, she would. But her life would soon to be over. To be murdered in a public sauna with no one wanting to save her, that summed up her pitiful life.
‘It’s time to go,’ the shadowy figure’s low husky voice boomed as its deep melodic tones bounced against the wooden walls of the sauna, beckoning her to follow his commands.
Facing death head on was not what she had planned to be doing at such her early age, though realizing that her time was up, Melody undertook an enormous amount of courage, lifted up her tired, heavy head and peered at her murderer, taking one last look before she made her journey to the eternal recording studio in the sky.
Slowly she opened her petrified eyes and froze her glare in disbelief. She instantly recognized the shadowy figure.
‘It’s you!’ she croaked with relief.
Then darkness fell upon her.