Shiny fuchsia curtains draped over the archway – an arch formed by a pair of bracket-shaped ridges. A clitoris flashed in hot neon at the apex. Through this vaginal opening, Lucinda Crow made her bombastic birth to the world.
“THE CROW HAS LANDED!!” she roared through lips as rouge as those she had burst through.
Lucinda strutted down a half-dozen steps and spread her arms wide, echoing the open-legged mural behind her. She hooked a hand vauntingly on her hip, scarlet nails clawing leather trousers encasing long, lean legs. A matching leather jacket was the sole garment to adorn her upper half, halfway unzipped to reveal the edges of her D-cups and a sharply defined valley between them. At thirty-five years, Lucinda’s attractiveness had yet to peak, and likely wouldn’t for a good decade yet.
“Christ, you’re a sorry bunch of slags!” she said of the audience, once they’d finished clapping and cheering. Iron-grey eyes scrutinised her subjects from beneath a crown of gelled black spikes. “Some to be sorrier than others!”
The seated spectators fidgeted through their laughter. When you visited the Crow’s Nest, you either got a front-row seat at a sloppy spectacular… or a very front-row seat. The show was the Noel’s House Party of the post-compassion era. The faux-Tudor panelling was out; strip-club chic was in. Dead was the bumbling Britishness with which Edmonds had teased his houseguests; in its place spewed crude, caustic Crow. Having cut her teeth on fringe programmes such as the Gooseberry, the Tuition Free Show, and Dish the Dirt, Lucinda had not only scaled the heady heights of humilitainment, she’d wrapped her thighs around them and rubbed her fanny in their face. Her name took centre-stage in the show’s title. She had full creative control. She was top dog.
“Later on, we’ll meet heptathlete Cassidy Sparrow, and follow my exploits in Tenerife in this week’s ‘As the Crow Flies’,” she announced. “And someone here will find themselves in the dock at Crow’s Court!”
Hundreds of hands wrung in prayer: let it be some other poor sod. But the viewers at home were spared such suspense. A camera discreetly zoomed onto a girl of about nineteen or twenty, constricted in a beige turtleneck concealing all flesh up to her chin. Her unmade-up face, sheltering beneath a mousey fringe, was strained with unease at her surroundings, though nothing like if she’d known what awaited her.
“Oh yes, I’m looking forward to that!” Lucinda cracked her knuckles with leisurely deliberation. “But first, we have an exclusive interview with pop tart Jaydee G!”
That bitch be having a Facebook crisis,
Couldn’t be more shunned if she joined ISIS,
The singer breezed through the vulva curtain. In an inversion of Lucinda’s lack of undergarments, Jaydee appeared to have forgotten her outer layers, with polka-dot undies hemming in her abundant assets and only a black fishnet body-stocking on top. Her hair, whitish-blonde with strands of green and pink, skewered the air in an asymmetric style.
Thinks if she plays sweet she’ll win me,
I’d rather hang with Myra Hindley,
Lucinda greeted Jaydee with a kiss and a buttock squeeze, and guided her to a sofa. She took her own place in a throne-like armchair.
“So those are the new boobs?” came Lucinda’s overture.
Not everyone applauded. Less than a hundred yards away, Rachel Silverstein curled her thin lip as Lucinda beamed sardonically from a giant screen. Walnut eyes bored out from her long, angular face, determined to stare down this supersized reproduction of the manic presenter. The thirty-six-year-old perched haughtily on the “funky” seating of the TV studio’s lobby – feet together, back straight, fists balled against her pleated black skirt. Butterscotch blonde draped with exacting straightness behind her padded shoulders, like a wheatsheaf down her back.
“What garbage is this?” she growled.
Helvetica Baines turned her head in mild surprise. “It’s the Crow’s Nest, Ms Silverstein,” she said. “Presented by Lucin—”
“It was a rhetorical question,” Rachel cut in. “I know full-well what it is, and who she is. And I’ll be damned if I have this tripe on any media outlet of mine.”
“Oh, but it’s very popular,” Helvetica ventured helpfully. The twenty-year-old PA consulted her tablet, as was her habit in times of tension. Her beige trouser-suit – warehouse-outlet cheapness all too stark beside Rachel’s D&G – accrued static as she shuffled, furnishing further frizz to her already mutinous bird’s-nest of light brown hair. Helvetica (“Vet”, as she preferred to introduce herself – it suggested her name was something normal like Yvette) was one of those poor souls who carried a “kick me” sign visible to everyone except her. Strangers and acquaintances acted on the invitation alike, as did children and animals, inanimate objects and the weather. A series of such kicks had booted Helvetica off her university course six months ago; another had delivered her onto Rachel’s parsimonious payroll. She took them all with the wistful resignation that befitted someone whose parents had seen fit to christen after a typeface.
“It has the highest ratings of any programme on this channel,” she gleaned from the device. “And the ninth-highest among all post-watershed shows in the UK. Alright Magazine recently described Crow as ‘more hyperactive than Davina McCall, more withering than Anne Robinson, and more heartless than Katie Hopkins.'”
“I don’t care if she’s more legendary than Elvis, more lucrative than J K Rowling, and more infallible than the Pope!” Rachel snapped back. “I don’t want her kind on my channel!”
A clipped cough echoed across the lobby. Facing the pair stood a girl of Asian extraction, not much older than Helvetica. She wore a burgundy blazer with peppermint piping – the corporate colours of the TV station. A pair of side-sprouting ponytails compounded the schoolgirl look, but the demeanour was authoritative, dark eyes coolly composed above prodigious cheekbones, lips straight in perfect neutrality. She possessed a stature uncommon of her ethnicity, and high heels lent it a bonus boost.
“Ms Silverstein, sorry to keep you waiting,” the Asian spoke. “I’m Amanda Tang. Allow me to show you to the boardroom.”
The interview proceeded through the lurid details of Jaydee G’s aforementioned augmentation, her fling with an Arsenal reserve, and vomiting five-figure cocktails in the toilets of Claridges. Lucinda had no personal interest in any of these subjects – she snubbed sauce, scalpels and sausages (the latter in favour of artichokes) – but she patronised the popstar with a lightly-sweetened sarcasm that glided right over Jaydee’s pink and green hairdo.
“Now I suppose we better talk about music, seeing as that’s what you’re supposedly famous for. You’ve just released your debut album, ‘Instagasm’. I listened to it in the car coming here. It has all your singles: ‘Facebook Crisis’, which we heard on your way in, ‘Sexting Shocker’ and ‘Unfriend me, unfriend you’. But I took an especial fancy to the last-but-one track: ‘Skool Daze’. Can you tell us a bit about that?”
“Basically its about the total dross of a teenage I spent in school,” yawned Jaydee, sprawled with one fishnet-clad ankle over the sofa’s arm. “The pointless lessons, the teachers…”
“There’s a line in it that goes…” Lucinda read from a card: “‘Crab-Pants droning her boring crap, flaking faster than a leper.’ What’s that about?”
Jaydee tilted her head back and laughed. “Crab-Pants was my English teacher; Miss Craddock was her real name. Atrocious dandruff, dressed like something from the nineteenth century. Said I’d never achieve anything cos I ‘didn’t my apply myself’,” she quoted in a croaky voice. “Now I’m eighteen and I’ve made more money than she’ll make in ten miserable, dandruff-ridden lifetimes.”
“Is that so?” Lucinda stroked her chin. “Well there’s two sides to every story, so let’s bring on Miss Crab-Pants, I mean Craddock!”
Crab-Pants droning her boring crap,
flaking faster than a leper
The lyrics rang in Miss Craddocks’s ears as she made her entrance. The teacher’s light-grey jacket made Jaydee’s dandruff claim hard to verify, but together with the blue knee-length skirt, woollen white tights, mid-brown bob and circular glasses, it was hard to dispute the sartorial assessment. Already dour, Craddock frowned all the more when she ascertained the body part she’d just emerged from.
Jaydee’s jaw plummeted. She glared daggers at Lucinda. As Craddock approached, Jaydee sat up straight, pressing herself to the arm of the sofa. Craddock adopted a similar posture at the opposite end. The pair didn’t make eye contact.
“Now then, Miss Craddock,” spoke the host. “We’ve heard what Jaydee has to say about you, what beans do you have to spill on her?”
“Georgina was a terrible pupil, perhaps the worst I’ve ever had,” said Craddock. “And judging by the standard of English in her songs, little has changed.”
“Georgina?! That’s your actual name?” Lucinda scoffed at a glowering Jaydee.
“Her behaviour was an equal disgrace – always talking in class, answering back,” Craddock continued. “She wrote obscenities in my copy of Jane Eyre. I couldn’t prove she’d done it, but I know she did.” Craddock turned her head to Jaydee. “Go on – own up!”
“Alright, it was me,” muttered Jaydee, scowling straight ahead.
“Mmmm, clearly some skeletons that need to be buried,” mused Lucinda, reaching down the side of her chair. She placed a mortar board on her head and armed herself with a slender cane. “It’s time to settle this with a special segment of the show called ‘Teach Her A Lesson!’ On your feet, you two!”
Craddock swiftly rose, but Jaydee dug herself into the sofa. “What’s going on here? My agent didn’t mention this! If it’s not in the script, I’m not do—OWWWW!!”
Lucinda’s cane sliced the air, stinging across Jaydee’s thighs. “I said ‘on your feet,'” she repeated calmly.
Jaydee stared up in incredulity. “You whipped me!!” she hissed. “You psycho bitch, you just whipped me!”
“Whipped?” snorted Lucinda. “That was a mere lick, Princess. But I’ll move on to whipping if you don’t cooperate.” She tugged the body-stocking with the cane tip. “And you have a lot of bare skin to work with.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are!? I don’t take threats from a jumped up game-show host!” fumed Jaydee, though she complied while she ranted. “You’re trash, Crow – trash! You were nothing when you were my age, and you’re nothing now! Yeeeow!!”
Saying nothing, Lucinda flicked the back of Jaydee’s legs to keep her moving. Craddock looked on, smugly and serenely, while the diva tantrum unfolded.
“How the fuck did you get on Saturday night telly!? You should be doing remakes of Call My Bluff on Challenge! OWWWW!!”
The trio arrived at a corner of the studio where a Victorian-style wooden school-desk was stationed. “Take a seat, Miss Craddock,” Lucinda instructed. Craddock obliged. “And Jaydee, you come and stand over here by these levers.”
Levers? Concern flickered across Craddock’s face. Anxious, she tilted her head back. A ring of harsh steel gawped down at her – a chute straight above her head! Panicking, she attempted to get up, but her knees jammed under the diminutive desk.
THWACK!! Wood met wood millimetres from her fingertips. “Stay in your seat, Crab-Pants!” barked Lucinda. “It’s school dinner time!”
“W-what’s going on?” stammered Craddock. “I’m s-supposed to g-gunge Georgina!”
“Whatever gave you that idea?” Lucinda crooned.
“You did!” cried Craddock. “That’s why you asked me on here!”
“I lliied!!” Lucinda’s voice dripped like poison sap. “You think you’re so smart but you walked straight into my trap! I’m with Jaydee on this one. I suffered my share of petty, puritanical teachers. It’s payback time!” She flicked Craddock’s bob with the cane, inducing a dancing dust cloud. “My word, Jaydee – you’re right about the dandruff! We’ll have to do something about that.”
“Oh yes!” Jaydee beamed, the threats and insults melted in an instant, even as the swipes shone scarlet on her legs. She looked fit to bound over and hug Lucinda like a long-lost cousin.
Devastated at the double-cross, Miss Craddock took another glance at the chute above, then leant forwards and wrapped her arms around her head. Again the cane swished, this time smarting knuckles.
“SIT UP STRAIGHT! HEAD UP! HANDS ON THE TABLE!!” roared Lucinda.
The whimpering teacher complied, shoulders tense, mouth clamped into a grimace.
“That’s better.” Lucinda stroked the cane tip against Craddock’s cheek. Dermatological issues notwithstanding, the educator had a demure attractiveness that nicely kindled Lucinda’s libido. Her years were fewer than the attire implied, her hair naturally free of grey, her bust as tautly sprung as her teacherly manner. The cane snagged the top of Craddock’s starched blouse, and Lucinda teased it down to reveal the porcelain skin at her collarbone. The presenter’s beady eye caught the beginnings of a scar above the left breast – faint and inconspicuous, but she identified it immediately: the ghost of an erased tattoo.
Not just a frump, but a fraudulent frump, Lucinda thought. She wondered if Craddock’s contempt towards Jaydee stemmed from anguish and regret at a wayward teenage of her own. The old-fashioned garb, the owlish specs – they had struck Lucinda as over-the-top, parodical. Now she understood: they were Craddock’s attempt to obliterate her past, just as lasers had seared away the tattoo. Who knew what acts of vulgar stupidity lay cloaked in that sober grey jacket. Lucinda wished she’d had a researcher dig into Craddock’s history, but it was too late now.
She turned to the popstar, who grinned from ear to ear. “Jaydee, in your own time, sweetie.”
“Bon appetite, Crab-pants!” Jaydee ripped down a lever labelled “starter”. A batch of bright green goo spurted from the chute at high pressure, as if ejected by a mechanical sphincter. Craddock screeched as the cold, lumpy slop engulfed her. It blanketed her prim bob and coated her spectacles, turning them into big green circles. Large lumps crawled down the lapels of her jacket.
The audience whooped and Jaydee cackled with laughter. “Ah, pea soup for starter!” chortled Lucinda. “Let’s see what the main course is!”
The popstar eagerly pulled the next lever. A greyish yellow-brown paste, dotted with carrots and peas, gurgled and spattered down on the bleating victim.
“It’s a school canteen favourite – instant mash and gravy!” enthused Lucinda. The lumpy mixture piled up on the teacher’s head and shoulders, the chute spitting at irregular intervals. Craddock cowered over the desk, ruined hair draping like curtains.
“What do you not understand!? SIT! UP! STRAIGHT!!” The cane tip lashed the gunge-splattered desk in time with these last three syllables.
Shakily, Craddock straightened her back. Her upper face and glasses were ensconced in the nasty mash, but Lucinda sensed, with a pang of arousal, that tears were forming beneath.
“Of course, the best part of any school dinner is the pudding. What’ll it be? Custard?”
Jaydee’s final lever unleashed a deluge of coarse, greyish-white slop. Great dollops slapped wetly against the mash, further caking the distraught teacher.
“Oh, it’s rice pudding!” Lucinda laughed, jabbing the cane under Craddock’s chin. The lip was quivering now. An elated Jaydee stood behind the desk, posing with fingers pointed at her crushed nemesis.
“To be a fly on the wall when she takes the register Monday!”
Jaydee’s remark hit home to Craddock the enormity of her humiliation, sure to persist long beyond this horrendous evening. Everyone in the school – from the youngest year-seven to the gin-soaked headmaster – would see this. Jeers would haunt her in the corridor for years to come; classes would greet her orders with derision. Still blinded by the nasty muck, Craddock began to sob. Her ruined jacket rose and fell as she heaved.
“Pathetic,” Lucinda remarked coldly. “Take her away!”
A section of flooring began to revolve, transporting table and teacher to a concealed backstage area. Finally permitted to collapse, Craddock’s gunky form slumped over the desk, as she blubbered off into the darkness.
“And with those administrative niggles dealt with, let’s move to the principal item of the agenda: to welcome our new stakeholder.” The chairman, bald and portly, peered genially at Rachel over his snowy moustache. Good-evenings were nodded around the heavy oak table – two thirds male, one third female, mostly middle-aged, largely upper-class. There were sirs and dames, OBEs and CBEs, even a viscount. Rachel – the youngest and least decorated in the room, Helvetica excepted – was familiar with this kind of staid, self-entitled organisation; she’d devoured a few of them.
“Ms Silverstein,” the chairman continued in his somnolent tone. “We’d be most interested to hear your ideas for taking the company forward.”
“Thank you, Lord Wetherby” said Rachel smoothly. “There needs to be a structural shake-up to improve efficiency. I’d recommend out-sourcing administration and catering. On the programming side, I’d like to see a push into quality documentaries and current affairs.” She paused and smiled. “And the franchise for the European Tiddlywinks Championship should not be renewed.”
The genteel board members murmured their agreement. Rachel readied her bombshell.
“I also want Lucinda Crow cut loose.”
A display of polite amusement ensued. “We never really managed to tie her down in the first place,” Wetherby remarked with a dry chortle.
Rachel’s gaze hardened. “This isn’t a parlour joke. I want that woman out. Terminated. Sacked.”
An awkward hush swept the table. The board members looked at one another in puzzlement. At that moment the door opened and Amanda Tang wheeled in a drinks trolley.
“Ah, the sherry!” Wetherby announced, glad of the intervention. While the Asian girl proceeded to serve slender glasses of vintage Fino, the chairman cleared his throat. “With every respect, Ms Silverstein, you must be labouring under a misapprehension. Lucinda is a valuable asset. The Crow’s Nest is our highest grossing programme.”
“Maybe, but the revenue gets more than swallowed up by the woman’s ludicrous expense account. Foreign travel every week, extravagant stage props that get used once if at all… and the mind boggles at the items she orders for her dressing room.” Rachel halted in annoyance as Amanda proffered a sherry at her shoulder. “I’ll take a decaf coffee,” she snapped. “And as for the show itself, it’s crass, asinine, and built entirely around humiliation.”
“Indeed it is,” nodded Wetherby wryly. “That’s why it’s so popular.”
Amanda took her time over pouring, stirring and serving Rachel’s coffee.
“Not among anyone with a brain,” Rachel argued. “Have you looked on Twitter recently?”
To most of the assembled gentry, twitter was something a pheasant did before they shot it.
“It hasn’t escaped anybody’s attention that 95% of Crow’s victims are female,” Rachel explained. “A show dedicated to humiliating women. Aren’t you concerned for the company’s reputation?”
“It’s what the public want,” Wetherby insisted. “And it’s what this board wants.” The ladies and gentlemen were swift to back up their chairman.
Helvetica eyed the sherry, eyed her increasingly exasperated boss, and requested a mineral water.
“It’s not what I want.” Anger crept into Rachel’s tone. “Without my injection of capital, you wouldn’t be broadcasting at all. It’s my money that keeps the lights on in this white elephant of a TV studio, that pays for the overpriced sherry you’re quaffing!”
The contentious apéritif went up Wetherby’s nose. Mutters of disdain rippled from gentleman to lady to gentleman. It rankled right down to their blue-tinged bone-marrow to have this Nouvelle Riche (young, state-educated Nouvelle Riche, and a Jew to boot!) address them with such disrespect. They wished to stamp her away like dung from their Wellingtons.
Amanda, drinks dispensed, loitered in a corner. “That’ll be all,” Wetherby gruffly waved her away, dabbing Fino from his moustache. She wheeled her trolley through the door, but made its closing as glacial as she could get away with.
The chairman met Rachel’s glare across the polished oak. “Grateful as we are for your investment, Ms Silverstein,” he said through gritted teeth, “be reminded that you do not hold a majority stake. This is still our company. We’re here to stay, and so is Lucinda Crow.”
The show progressed through its usual segments. “As the Crow Flies” was a prerecorded piece in which Lucinda pranked unsuspecting Brits at a tourist hotspot. There then followed “Three in a Crow”, a noughts-and-crosses quiz in which the noughts and the crosses were two groups of friends plucked out of the audience (all-female parties of course). The winners won a holiday; the losers had their grid-squares collapse beneath them, dumping them into a pool of green slime.
Next came “Crow’s court”, to which an unsuspecting audience member was summonsed to stand trial for an alleged misdemeanour. Naturally, Lucinda acted as judge, jury and executioner, passing an invariably messy sentence (a ‘not guilty’ verdict would see the set-up backfire on the plaintiff). Lucinda rarely based her decisions on the balance of evidence; she cared only whose humiliation would most sate her sadistic lust. She enjoyed meting out justice and injustice alike; to be arbitrary was the ultimate expression of power.
This week’s defendant was Heather – the young woman earlier espied in the audience. She’d been set up by her younger sister Iris, who alleged that Heather had dinged her car while parking but blamed it on vandals. The pair, while bearing a notable physical resemblance (though very different dress-sense), clearly had inherited different personality genes. Heather proved a real church-mouse of a girl: abashed under the scrutiny of the TV cameras, mortified at the motoring misdeed levelled at her name, terrified at the prospect of a punishment gunging. Iris came across mouthy and self-assured, eschewing the norms of familial loyalty in a quest to ridicule and humiliate her sister.
Five minute’s interrogation left Heather’s innocence in little doubt (Iris had most likely done the dinging herself). Lucinda seriously entertained putting the bitchy younger sibling in her much deserved place – the disbelief on that cocky face would be quite something – but ultimately she opted to make life suck for poor Heather. Those startled rabbit features, the good-girl haircut, the chaste turtleneck were too much an invitation to pass up. And so a guilty verdict oozed from Lucinda’s capricious lips. The sentence was an “oil change” – a gunge tank primed with black-brown sludge.
Beneath tight leather, Lucinda’s pussy swelled at the sight of the shy, sweet girl shrivelling with shame on the seat; her tits tingled as she tugged the tank’s chain. The presenter would have readily fingered herself to climax while the murky goop smothered its devastated victim, but that would have been most unbecoming on live TV, and her self-restraint remained as steely as her grey eyes. Satisfaction could wait for the replays and Amanda’s tongue.
Delivering a harsh quip to complete the crushing of the church-mouse, Lucinda swaggered away to announce the show’s final guest: “It’s time for the Crow to meet the Sparrow – Commonwealth silver medalist, Cassidy Sparrow!”
The twenty-one-year-old emerged through the giant snatch, her toned and stocky figure sporting a Union Jack two-piece. Her complexion was freckled and ruddy, her autumnal locks balled into an aerodynamic back-of-the-head bun. Miss Sparrow embodied fitness and organic good looks, though maybe not glamour.
The interview underway, it soon became apparent that while fiercely focussed and competitive on the track, media engagements did not lie in Cassidy’s comfort zone. Any personable, humane talk-show host would have softened their manner accordingly, but Lucinda latched onto this social maladroitness like a shark to blood. Relentlessly she mocked the stammering sportswoman, whose cheeks grew ruddier by the minute, until even the more misanthropic viewers felt embarrassed for her.
“Now, you’d think running and jumping would be pretty cheap to do,” Lucinda interrogated, “but I’ve heard that attending these sports events is a real shocker in the price department. And there’s only so much you can leech off the taxpayer and lottery player, am I right?”
“Well, er, y-yes, there are qu-quite a few, um, costs—”
“Maybe we can help you out with that.” Lucinda ordered the bewildered girl to her feet. “It’s time for another special segment, called ‘Fall at the Hurdle!'”
Lucinda gestured to two polystyrene panels, mounted near the back of the set, a springboard in front of each. They bore the labels “TRUE” and “FALSE”.
“You see Cassidy, behind one of these panels lies a nice dry ball-pool and a cheque for ten grand towards your sporting fund!”
“Oh, er, that’s v-very k-kind…” Cassidy reacted with more apprehension than excitement.
“But in athletics there’s no hope of gain without risk of pain, so behind the other panel lurks a pool of thick, cold mud” – Lucinda rolled each monosyllable off her tongue, savouring the widening of Cassidy’s eyes – “and sweet f.a. in the kitty! I’m going to ask you a true-or-false question, and you have to dive through the panel you think is correct. And I do mean dive – head-first with a good run-up. Any winnings will be null and void if you pussy it.”
Cassidy squirmed on the spot. She couldn’t bear the thought of being humiliated in a pool of mud. But she desperately needed the funding, and besides, what Lucinda might do if not obeyed didn’t bear thinking about.
Lucinda took out a card and recited an obscure statistic pertaining to the 1964 Olympics. Cassidy had not the faintest inkling as to its veracity or otherwise. Her sport was something she trained for, not swotted up on. She stood immobile, her eyes flipping between the two panels.
True or false? True or false? Behind Cassidy the audience hollered the options with equal vigour, their yells merging into “TRALSE!! TRALSE!!” Were they genuinely conflicted, or deliberately goading her?
“We ain’t got all night!” Lucinda snarled. “RUN FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!”
Cassidy compelled her leg muscles into action. She plodded shakily, in a style far removed from her medal-winning sprints, heading for the panel marked “TRUE”. The statement seemed plausible enough. But then again, it was easy to make it sound plausible, wasn’t it? Indeed, there was only one true statement for the given fact, but many possible false statements.
Stick or switch? The big black letters loomed large. Stick or switch? Switch. Cassidy veered, homing in on the “FALSE” panel. Her soles hit the springboard; she was committed. Lucinda’s glare burning into her back, she obediently thrust out her arms and lowered her head, arcing her body in a dive. Cassidy was not religious; she never prayed before competing. But now the voice in her head implored whichever transcendental powers that cared to listen: let it be right. Oh, let it be right!
Her arms burst through. The panel shattered in its entirety, and the audience immediately saw the brown that stretched beyond. Cassidy saw it too; it extended to the peripheries of her vision. She could make out every lump glistening on the mud’s surface as it swooped up to greet her.
Every muscle in Cassidy’s body fought against her fate. Her torso bucked, her arms flapped, her legs pedalled behind her. But for all her strength, all her dexterity, all her drive not to lose, she could be no match for Isaac Newton. She could not parry her fall by pushing against thin air. She was going in.
SPPLLEEUUCCHH!! The athlete ploughed lengthways, front-down, into the mud. Momentum carried her a few feet post-immersion, and a silty wave sprayed sidewards in her wake.
For several seconds mud lapped the sides of the pool, waves dancing from the disturbance. Cassidy would have hidden herself indefinitely if not for the pressing need for oxygen, but eventually her head emerged, shoulders raised on elbows. Her once auburn hair glistened an uneven chestnut, her bun a lumpy blob at the back. The mud had got in her eyes, ears and nose, muffling the hubbub of this spiteful circus in which she played the unwilling clown.
She wiped her eyes clear, but soon wished she hadn’t. Leather thighs towered at the pool’s edge, leading up to Lucinda’s immaculate cleavage, terminating in that sardonic grin. Grey eyes glinted with delight at Cassidy’s miscalculation.
“It was TRUE!!” leered Lucinda. Cassidy had gathered that. Lucinda retrieved a giant cheque, now mud-splattered, from the adjacent ball-pool and tore it up in Cassidy’s spluttering face. “That’ll save us a bit of dosh!”
Cassidy didn’t know how to react, how to respond, how even to exist. The cameras crawled all over her. She attempted a half-smile, thinking she’d come off better playing the “good sport”, but only made herself more pathetic.
Lucinda strolled to the front of the stage. “Well there’s a Sparrow who can’t fly!” she chuckled. “Anyway bitches, it’s almost time for you to leave the Nest. Here to sing us out, it’s Jaydee G with her new single, Facebook Crisis!”
Lucinda stepped aside to give Jaydee the floor. Grinding to a generic R&B backing track, the starlet manipulated her microphone in a suggestive manner.
That bitch be having a Facebook crisis,
Couldn’t be more shunned if she joined ISIS,
Behind Jaydee, Cassidy clambered to her feet, her muddy ignominy amplified by the presence of the pristine popstar. Her plastered figure exhibited no hint of the two-piece; she could well have been naked, the gentle curves of her breasts and mound glinting under the spotlights. Dripping, calf-deep, she scanned her surroundings, expecting a staff member to step forth with a towel and directions to the showers. Wasn’t that how it worked on these shows? None came. She tried to catch Lucinda’s attention, but the host had others matters at hand.
With a wink at the audience, and a contemptuous glance towards Jaydee, Lucinda shoved a large red button that was mounted into the wall. A yelp and a puff of smoke, and the scantily-clad teen was gone. The vocals continued for a few seconds – it was a mime, after all – but the strutting singer had vanished. Only when the smoke cleared did the audience see the open trapdoor.
Somewhere in a concrete basement, a screaming Jaydee whizzed off a slide, splashing arse-first into a dumpster of grey-green grime. Her head and shoulders resurfaced slathered, unrecognisable as the sexy starlet. Spaghetti and spinach draped from her flattened hairstyle, and a fishbone had hooked itself, most aptly, in her fishnet body-stocking.
“So who’s trash now, Georgina?” Lucinda boomed over a loudspeaker.
Bobbing in the dumpster, Jaydee could only gape as more garbage rained on her from some unseen outlet.
Back in the studio, Lucinda grinned at the cheering audience. “Nobody, absolutely nobody, disses the Crow and gets away with it. So long suckers; swoop in next week if you dare!” Ignoring Cassidy’s pathetic pleas for assistance, Lucinda signed off with an obscene gesture and slipped between the colossal labia.
She swished up the red-lined corridor and through a discreet doorway at the cervix. Her dressing room formed the uterus – a plush and spacious abode in which luxurious furnishings mingled with eyebrow-raising restraining devices. Ropes and chains hung casually from the ceiling. Racks and pillories stood at hand. The upholstery was vinyl for ease of washing, the walls soundproofed, and a fine griddle floor allowed drainage. It smacked of an axe-murderer’s lair, but it wasn’t blood that was spilled here.
With impeccable timing, Amanda stood pouring green tea into a bone-china cup on Lucinda’s dressing table. The suit-clad Asian pulled out a padded stool from said table, then went to close and latch the cervical doors, shutting out the echoing cheers. Lucinda plonked herself on the stool and kicked off her demi-stilettos, letting them fall where they fell.
“An excellent show, as always,” Amanda said robotically. “Your finest yet.”
“I did rather enjoy it,” Lucinda smirked as she brought the cup to her lips. “The double-cross on that teacher! The splash when that athlete ploughed into the mud! The utter mortification of that shy drip of a sister!” She slid a hand along a leather-clad thigh. “And best of all, I put that talentless guttersnipe Jaydee G where she belongs.” Lucinda pawed at her crotch, then stopped herself. “But business before pleasure. What have you got for me?”
Proudly, Amanda took out her phone and initiated playback.
“With every respect, Ms Silverstein, you must be labouring under a misapprehension. Lucinda is a valuable asset. The Crow’s Nest is our highest grossing programme.”
“Maybe, but the revenue gets more than swallowed up by the woman’s ludicrous expense account…”
Lucinda’s cheeks puckered with the bitterness of the tea as she listened to the boardroom dispute. “As I thought,” she said when the recording finished. “The snooty, starchy, PC little bitch. Not changed a bit since Oxford. Did she come alone?”
“No, she had an assistant of some sort. Twentyish girl – rather harried,” Amanda reported, before offering in reassurance: “Silverstein may have it in for you, but she has no chance of getting her way. The faces round that table! She might as well have shat in the snuff box.”
“She’ll buy them out,” Lucinda brooded. “Offer them silly money if she has to. They may have their plum-throated pride but they also have stately homes to keep from falling down. She only needs to win over a few to get majority control. And then…” Lucinda brought the cup clattering upon the saucer.
For a few minutes the vixen sat in silence, the corners of her pursed lips gradually rising as a scheme formulated in her brain. “It’s time Silverstein paid a visit to the Nest,” she eventually spoke. “I’m going to humiliate her. Demolish her on live TV. Then we’ll see which of us walks.” She grinned acidly. “Why not next week? Sooner the better! Ask Production to fill the gunk tank with the vilest, smelliest gunge they can muster.”
“Somehow I doubt she’ll accept an invitation,” Amanda pointed out.
“That’s why I need your help to lure her in.”
Amanda returned a wan smile. She hesitated, then piped up: “Lucinda, about that slot on your show you promised me…”
Lucinda waved a hand. “You’re far too useful as my eyes and ears elsewhere.”
“But that’s not the deal!” flashed back Amanda. “I’ve kept my side of the bargain; I serve you in every way.” She glanced embarrassedly at Lucinda’s crotch. “In every way. And you dangle fame and fortune like a carrot to a donkey. Well I’m not having it anymore!”
Lucinda feigned hurt. “There’s no need to sulk, Amanda. Look, successfully deliver Silverstein into my clutches, and I’ll consider a five-minute segment for you.”
“No ‘consider’ about it!” Amanda pressed. “I didn’t come here to be a tea-lady all my life! I want what I’ve been promised, or else…”
“Or else what?” Lucinda unfurled a concealed hose from the dressing table and pointed it at Amanda, her steely glare parallel with its aim.
Amanda gulped and raised her palms. Lucinda stood up and advanced upon her skivvy.
“No no, please!” Amanda quailed. “I spoke out of turn. I’m sorry Lucinda!”
Lucinda undid the buttons on Amanda’s blazer and the top two of her shirt. Cleavage beckoned between sprightly C-cups. “Or else what?” Lucinda repeated, inserting the nozzle into that enticing gully.
Amanda gasped as the cold steel grazed her breastbone. Her breath came in short starts. In appearance, and at present moment in demeanour, she reminded Lucinda of the Asian girl on MTV’s ‘Kidnapped’ series – a so-so “tarring” and feathering, but with a build-up that was out of this world. How Lucinda adored that clip of the oriental cutie, vulnerable in her blue sports bikini, the lithe abdomen clenched, the shoulders hunched, the hands all aquiver – every nerve-ending piqued in anticipation. How Lucinda had studied, frame by frame, that butchered 240p video (despite her contacts in stateside broadcasting, a better copy remained elusive). How she had drunk the girl’s dread, the panic, the total loss of composure in front of a nation.
“You should consider yourself fortunate to be a tea-lady,” Lucinda murmured, fixing Amanda’s Chinese eyes. “Without my string-pulling to cover up your criminal record, you wouldn’t be employed here at all.”
“Yes. I know. I’m s-sorry L-Lucinda.” Amanda’s chest was heaving now, her firm breasts bobbing against the nozzle.
“I’m not sure sorry is good enough.” Lucinda’s index finger stroked the trigger. “This isn’t the first time you’ve shown ingratitude towards me, and a little punishment is in order.”
“Please.” Amanda hyperventilated. “I’m begging you…”
Lucinda shook her head and pulled the trigger. Amanda screamed. But no mess spurted forth to fill Amanda’s blouse. The nozzle remained dry – a dud.
Lucinda had never gunged Amanda, nor even furnished her face with a pie. She preferred to maintain the fear of the unknown. Even if a first gunging proved thoroughly unpleasant, the prospect of a second could never evoke quite the same terror. Anticipation, Lucinda lamented, always held the edge over actuality, just as in that ‘Kidnapped’ clip.
The presenter hit a button, retracting the hose into the table, and reseated herself. “Kneel,” she instructed Amanda.
Awash with relief, Amanda knelt before her mistress. Lucinda raised and pressed her right foot into her minion’s face, heel against chin, toes curling into black hair.
Amanda puckered and smacked her lips on Lucinda’s sole. The penance was repeated with Lucinda’s left foot.
“Apology accepted.” Lucinda spread her legs. “Now, let’s proceed to the main course.”
Amanda unbuttoned Lucinda’s leather trousers and pulled them down to the ankles. Lucinda’s powerful thighs glowed a healthy pink, neither pallid nor tanned. This was a weekly ritual: Lucinda would retire off-stage, horned up by the humiliation she had just dealt out, and it would fall to Amanda to gratify her cravings. Amanda hooked her fingers into the waistband of the black lace panties.
“You know better than that,” scolded Lucinda.
Repressing a sigh, Amanda utilised her teeth to remove the undergarment. She knew full well what would greet her, but Lucinda’s profuse muff made her heart sink all the same. Deep and springy, a lighter brown than her dyed hair, it all but carpeted Lucinda’s lips from view, even in their present swelled and slightly parted state. Never did a single scissor-snip curb Crow’s curls, nor any product save the harshest soap cleanse them. Far from demonstrating neglect or uncouthness, this was a very deliberate badge of Lucinda’s dominance. A bald pussy was a sad plea for attention, and even trimming showed a will to be accommodating. Lucinda wanted her callers so anxious to ring her bell that they would beat a path through her overgrown garden to reach it.
“Let’s have those hands on my arse to keep them out of mischief,” demanded Lucinda. “In fact, I want a middle finger up my arsehole.”
Amanda obliged, wrapping her arms around Lucinda’s supple abdomen. Lucinda’s eyebrow rose a little at the insertion of the requested digit. She closed her thighs against those high Chinese cheekbones, purring as Amanda nuzzled in. Over the past few months, Amanda had become an expert at pleasing her mistress, proficient in the wheres and whens and hows of the TV star’s buried treasure. But to Lucinda she was but a mechanical expedience – an anonymous mouth that went through the motions. It was the big screen opposite that would provide the objects of Lucinda’s arousal.
With one hand Lucinda unbuttoned her jacket and began to caress her boobs; with the other she picked up a remote control.
“Teacher, sister, popstar, athlete?” mused Lucinda, as if intoning a traditional ditty. “Athlete. I haven’t seen the face-on view yet.”
Lucinda summoned a replay of Cassidy Sparrow’s muddy miscalculation, captured by a camera behind the ill-fated panel. Aiming the remote, she zoomed in on the face. At one frame per second, a whole carnival of emotions played out on Cassidy’s freckled countenance: hope, registration, horror, a flicker of denial, deep dismay, and lastly a melancholy acceptance. It was exquisite.
Lucinda panted with increased fervour at each twist and turn of this sadomasochistic roller-coaster. Her torso bounced, tits flapping as she mauled them, nipples fully hard. Rhythmically she thrust her groin, forcing a whole wad of damp pubes into her underling’s gob. Amanda submissively took it, sucking on Lucinda’s twat in time with her thrusts.
“SQUEEZE MY ARSE! WIGGLE THAT FINGER!!” Lucinda bellowed.
Amanda complied, likening herself to a one-man-band. Lucinda’s pants progressed to moans when, on screen, Cassidy’s face disappeared into the mud. The toned torso followed. Now those powerful buttocks. A body that competed for Queen and country, that won medals in far-flung lands, claimed inch by inch by thick, cloying mud. World champion reduced to prize chump – and all by Lucinda’s own malevolent design. Sometimes she couldn’t love herself enough.
Amanda upped the stimulation, hammering Crow’s clit with her tongue. Lucinda knew she would climax when Cassidy’s face re-emerged from the mire – brown, dishevelfled and defeated.