Marius Quayle leaned insolently against one wall and studied Jennings
coolly. He was a short, slim man of about 30; his dark, untidy hair and
his small, pointed black beard giving him a slightly Satanic look—as
if he had stepped out of a medieval print that depicted the devil in
one of his most cunning and dangerous moods. His lips were thin and
pale, his sharp features chalky and drained of blood so that he
resembled a thirsty vampire at full moon; seeking a new victim to
satisfy his insatiable desire for blood...
And yet Marius had proved to be a generous friend when Jennings most
needed one: offering him not only encouragement and sympathy, but also
providing him with the intellectual companionship which the young man
had been deprived of for so long. There could be no doubting Marius
Quayle's intelligence. He possessed an enquiring mind of the first
calibre—was able to discourse on subjects both esoterical and
political; both philosophical and mundane. It had been a chance meeting
that brought them together. One of those fateful coincidences, a table
shared in a crowded Chelsea coffee bar—an overheard conversation, a
prickling up of ears, a discovery that in some respects they were
Jennings formed the opinion that Marius was willing to embark on any
project that offered him the chance of a new experience. He was a
dilettante—a restless searcher after novel kicks: unperturbed by moral
scruples or risk as long as the stakes were high enough. And in this
case, the kidnapping promised a kind of excitement that required no
monetary reward to make it a worth while venture. The idea of a
helpless, captive young woman... entirely at his mercy and cut off from
every form of assistance appealed to his cruel nature. Marius had
decided to bide his time, however. There was no point in unnecessarily
antagonising Jennings. Like Suzanne, he had a certain amount of respect
for the young man who had organised this little adventure. Iago-like,
Marius Quayle preferred not to make his schemes known; understanding
only too well the advantage of deception, stealth and intrigue...
“You needn't worry about Mrs. Stafford", he told Jennings with a
smile. “She isn't my type, even if I did happen to be the kind
of man who would force himself on a woman. And George has his new toy
to play with... I can assure you that our hostage won't be manhandled
by either of us.” He cocked a thumb at Suzanne. “All the same, I think
you're wise to be wary about our bitch friend here! George and I heard
some rather interesting sounds in the night, didn't we, George? Those
bed springs were pretty busy, weren't they, old friend?”
George Burke blushed and stared down at his shoes. He shifted his
feet awkwardly, a large and not unhandsome young man, but painfully shy
and acutely conscious of his speech impediment: a terrible stammer
which caused him to remain silent rather than risk embarrassment.
“Mind your own godamn business!” Suzanne snapped angrily. “You're
jealous because the only way you can get a girl is by—”.
“Shut up!” Jenning's voice cracked out the order like a whiplash..
Sulkily, Suzanne bit back the accusation which was on her lips, glaring
at Marius and defiantly taking Natalie's hand again. All through this
scene, the young woman had sat silently on the bed; watching these
people and listening to their arguments as if she was simply an
impartial observer and not the subject of their disagreement. She had
dressed in her robe but hadn't had the opportunity to wash yet—and
under the scrutiny of their eyes, Natalie became shamefully aware that
her face and body urgently needed attention...
This dilemma was unexpectedly resolved by Robert Jennings.
“You've yielded to temptation, Suzanne—that's obvious! And it seems
that I can't trust you alone with Mrs. Stafford any more. I suggest you
go down to the village and get her some fresh underwear and new
clothes: meanwhile, while she's gone, you can take a bath and soak some
of the tension out of your system, Mrs. Stafford. I have to make a few
Natalie sighed with pleasure at the thought of relaxing in a tub of
hot water. But Jenning's absence from the cottage was disturbing to
her, especially since it meant that she would be left alone with the
two men, Marius and the moronic-looking George.
“Please!” she said in a pleading voice, half-rising from the bed.
“Don't leave me with them! I know I'm not in a position to make
demands on you, but—”.
“You're perfectly safe", Jennings told her. “They both know that it's
in their own interests to see that you don't suffer while you're with
us. And I feel a lot happier, knowing that Suzanne isn't scheming with
you.” Turning to the girl accomplice, who was now bristling with
indignation, he said: “It appears that I made two mistakes, Suzanne;
one, I should have realised that a lesbian can't be trusted to keep her
hands off a pretty girl—and, two, I foolishly believed that Marius and
George might be the traitors to our enterprise. After your actions last
night I can see that you're the nigger in the woodpile, Suzanne.
O.K.! From now on, Mrs. Stafford isn't to be left alone with you for a
single minute. And I don't intend to let you out of my sight,
either—just in case you're stupid enough to ruin everything and inform
the police of our hideout!
“You seem to be treating this as a holiday, as an excuse to start a
romantic little affair!” Bitterly, Jennings reproached the girl with
his blue, accusing eyes. “If only I'd had the sense to realise that
this should have been a one-man operation! Well, it's too late for that
now. You're all involved as deeply as I am. And if anything should go
wrong—you're all equally guilty in the eye of the law!”
“Nothing will go wrong, Robert", Marius soothed him, a placating,
almost wheedling tone in his voice. When he wanted to, the sly and
Machiavellian Quayle could lace his words with syrup; making them so
charming and apparently guileless that he could deceive practically
anyone. Jennings, greatly troubled both by the confusion in his own
mind and the threat to his plans which loomed up if his aides became
too rebellious, was convinced by the man's innocent, disarming remarks.
“George and I are professionals. This isn't the first kidnapping
we've carried out successfully. I assure you, you have no reason to
doubt either our competence or our good sense. I think that your own
intelligence will confirm that we can be trusted, that we
are aloof from stupid temptations—and that Suzanne is the greatest
danger so far as the welfare of Mrs. Stafford and our enterprise is
Jennings had already made up his mind. Above all, he mistrusted
lesbians. They belonged to neither sex: psychologically speaking, they
were neither man nor woman-and it was impossible to predict whether
Suzanne cared more for the pleasures of her perverted sex urge or for
the success of their kidnapping. In short, he was faced with the choice
of leaving Mrs. Stafford largely in the care of a girl who might help
her to escape or with two men who might rape and physically harm their
captive. Jennings wasn't a cruel man. But he wanted more than anything
in the world to prove that his audacious plan could succeed. And if,
through no fault of his own, this entailed hurting their victim...