Author: David Shaw
We arrived at the riding school on a bright summer’s morning, Sandra, Melissa and myself, Kate. We’re all instructors at the school but we had no pupil appointments that day because the local hunt was meeting, and we were riding with it. In England, horse riding and fox hunting are so intertwined that not riding to hounds would cut us off from most of our business contacts.
Sandra was driving a Landrover and I had my old Landcruiser because we needed to tow two horseboxes to take our three horses to the hunt rendezvous. Nothing had seemed unusual until we opened the stable door. Inside, hanging from the wooden beams, was a long banner with hand painted red lettering on it: “THE LEAGUE AGAINST BLOOD SPORTS”.
“What the hell is that doing here?” Sandra had demanded angrily. Tall, strong, and always the dominant one, she led us inside the stables.
We all knew about the league. They’re violently opposed to fox hunting and game bird shooting. We also knew they’d been active around the district for a while, mainly spreading false scents for the hounds during the hunts. That wasn’t something which bothered us personally, but what had upset us was finding some tripwires tied between trees where the fake scents had been laid. It seemed strange behavior for so-called animal lovers to set traps to kill and injure our horses, let alone the people riding them.
So that was why Sandra was so concerned about finding the banner in our stables. It wasn’t the league’s attitudes towards fox hunting which worried us, it was the fanatical and dangerous lengths some of them were going to in promoting their cause. If the ones who had broken into our stables overnight were as plain nutty as the wire riggers there was no telling what damage they might have done. But somehow it never occurred to us that maybe they hadn’t gone away after putting up their banner. I suppose we were too concerned about what might have happened to our horses.
It wasn’t until we were well inside the stables that we realized our mistake. Somebody shouted out, the top and bottom doors of the nearest loose boxes were thrown open and a whole crowd of people came charging out, each of their faces hidden by a party mask shaped like a fox’s head and all of them wearing identical blue overalls as if it was a kind of uniform. They looked — and acted — like a bunch of bank robbers working to a pre-arranged plan. As they surrounded us they grabbed our arms, dragging us towards the tack room. I could hear Sandra shouting with anger and Melissa squealing as well, but none of our assailants took any notice.
It seemed there were perhaps eight or nine of them altogether. Most of them were males, young strong ones, but at least two of the blue overalls were also covering what were obviously girls’ bodies, though they seemed to be holding onto us just as tightly as the boys were. At any event the three of us were completely surprised and overwhelmed by the totally unexpected assault. It just seemed so organized that it was unbelievable — right down to the odd fact that each of the overalls had a number painted on the front and back, numbers which seemed to have been put on with the same paint and brush used to write the banner.
We were pushed and shoved towards a big table which had been moved to the middle of the room and now had some horse blankets spread out on top of it. The gang clearly intended we should bend over the table, but we finally started resisting as much as we could. Sandra was making the most determined efforts to get loose, aided by her height and strength. She’s almost six foot tall, a horsewoman so good and so athletic she has a genuine chance of riding in the next Olympics.
One of the men, taller even than Sandra, appeared beside her and did something which made her yelp.
“Bend over you stubborn bitch” he snarled. Sandra whimpered and then leaned forward over the table without the slightest sign of any further struggle.
It seemed incredible to me to that she could have been dominated so easily. Then I saw the shiny pair of pliers in the hand of the man standing next to her. The kind of pliers with long thin pincers that electricians use. The man was gripping Sandra’s left earlobe with them and that was why she’d had no choice but to obey him. I soon found that out for myself, because one of the anti-hunting people next to me held up another pair of pliers and pinched my own earlobe with them.
“Bend over the table, you fucking apology for a human being.” The sheer venom in the voice was almost as shocking as the steel biting into my flesh. Perhaps even more unsettling was that the voice was feminine.
Having no choice I did as Sandra had done, lowering myself beside her with my forearms resting on the coarse blankets. The table creaked under our weight, then again as Melissa leaned over it as well. Another pair of blue overalls came close to me at the side of the table as the female behind me let go of my ear. It made no difference to the situation though, as yet another pair of the pliers was immediately applied to my left earlobe by the other thug.
Although I wasn’t in much pain right then any real pressure on the pliers handles would certainly cause me instant agony. And I’d seen three pairs of pliers already, each apparently brand new, as if bought especially to use on us. Was everybody involved in this lunacy carrying them? What the hell did they think they were going to do, and how many real crazies were standing around us right now?
I was frightened, badly frightened, and I wanted to look around yet I couldn’t move my head because of the grip of steel on my ear. From the corners of my eyes I could get a glimpse of Melissa’s face. She’d lost her riding hat in the struggle and some of her dark curls were sticking to her sweat streaked forehead. She also looked as totally shocked as I felt, and no wonder. We couldn’t have been more knocked out if the roof had suddenly fallen in on us.
“Good morning, girls,” a jeering male voice said. It was coming from behind us, close behind. A sound of a sharp slap came next, with Sandra gasping and cursing.
“Tut, tut, well bred young ladies like you shouldn’t know words like that”, the man answered. Presumably he was the one who’d just slapped Sandra’s bottom and I’d have bet he’d never have dared to do it under any other circumstances, for all his contemptuous attitude.
I tried to see Sandra’s face by squinting sideways in the other direction but my view was blocked by the body of the man – woman? – holding the pliers on me and standing close to the table.
“Before we go any further, perhaps I’d better tell you that I phoned the Hunt Master’s house this morning and apologized on your behalf for not being able to attend the hunt today. Apparently some of your horses aren’t feeling quite the thing, so you’ve got to baby sit them until the vet arrives. I think I sounded convincing enough to be sure that nobody is going to come looking for you when you fail to arrive at the meet. Oh, and we’ve padlocked the road gates to the stables as well.”
Like everybody else in England, I can usually tell pretty closely from the way another English person speaks what class they belong to, what education they’ve had, even what income they earn. If some working class yobbo with a back streets accent had phoned a message like that through to Sir Roderick’s house it might not have been believed. But this guy talked as if he was out of the top drawer. With a sinking heart I had to accept that such a message would almost certainly been taken at face value.
Even as I was trying to think this through I felt a hand stroking the bottom of my tightly stretched jodphurs, and the same voice said: “What extremely big arses you riding ladies do develop. Most enticing. You’re Kate, aren’t you? Kate Mowberly?”
With those pliers still nipping my earlobe the only response I could possibly make was to admit to my name.
“How nice to meet you, Kate. And this must be Melissa Winton.” I felt the table move under my arms as somebody resting on it stirred and I was certain that the guy was rubbing Melissa’s bottom as well. “And of course, the other one is Sandra Keating, the local Olympic hopeful.”
The drawling insolence in the way he said it produced some chuckles amongst the rest of the gang standing around the table.
“Sandra, whatever your hopes for an Olympic medal, you’re certainly our best hope for a very nice little publicity stunt we’ve got in mind. It may offend you quite a lot I’m afraid, though I don’t know how much it takes to upset somebody whose idea of recreation is watching a live animal being ripped to pieces by a pack of hounds.”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” I answered loudly. “We’re only members of the hunt because we run a riding school and we get most of our pupils from the families of those people. It’s a business thing for us, not a sport we enjoy!”
“Well, that’s alright then, Kate, isn’t it? I’m sure the innocent animals you torture to death would feel a lot better about things if only we could explain that so many of you hunt supporters don’t really enjoy it at all. But we’re going to do something about the whole horrible business today and I think we might certainly enjoy what we’re going to do.”
I could hear several chuckles and a bark of laughter. The anti-hunters seemed to think that he was making a great joke.
“It’s what we call the Lady Godiva project. As you know, that good lady wanted her cruel husband to abate his taxes on the townspeople of Coventry and to prove her sincerity offered to ride naked on horseback through the streets of the town. In turn, to show their respect, the townspeople shuttered all their windows and refused to look at her. Except, according to legend, one evil little blighter called Tom who took a peek and was promptly struck blind by heaven in retribution. Hence the term, ‘Peeping Tom’.”
A pair of legs had moved round in front of the table, walking up and down, or rather strutting up and down as the smug voice continued lecturing us.
“Despite that awful warning there’s never been any shortage of dirty minded peeping toms. They can provide a very useful source of cash and publicity, and what better way to sell into that market than to offer some nice shiny pictures of another totally stripped down Lady Godiva? Especially if she’s quite a famous horsewoman in her own right.”
Sandra screeched with anger, then abruptly stopped with a gasp. It seemed that she was still being held the same way that I was. Again I tried to look sideways at her and again all I saw was blue cloth but this time it wasn’t quite as loose fitting as it had been before. There were two things I now knew for certain. One was that my own particular captor at that moment was definitely a male, and I also knew he was getting excited by what was happening.
“You know, it’s a shocking thing, the number of publications there are nowadays which would be only too happy to publish those sort of filthy snapshots, especially with a well known face in them. They’d pay the league excellent money for them, nor would they mind if our publicity banners were in every photo, giving us lots of free exposure – though obviously not as much exposure as you’d be showing.”
More chuckles; oh, he was a real comedian, this one. Absolutely and totally self assured though, I had to give him that. He was laying his spiel on us like a professional actor.
“It would ruin my career, my business,” Sandra protested, much nearer to begging than I ever imagined I could ever hear from her.
“Ah well, in the pictures the pliers won’t be visible. They’ll still be there of course, either holding a sensitive part of your anatomy or very close at hand ready to be used if you decide on some foolish resistance. But to all outward appearances you won’t seem to be being forced to do anything. So I think your best way out of it would be to say you volunteered to take part in our little photo session as a way of registering your personal protest against hunting. At least that would give you a little undeserved moral stature. As for your business, I’m sure that the publicity will bring you plenty of eager new clients — all men, of course.”
“The Olympics!” Sandra wailed desperately.
“Oh, I daresay the national selection committee will be broadminded about it all. There’s hardly a good looking woman of any sporting ability anywhere who wouldn’t happily strip down to the buff for a centerfold shot. At the right price, of course. The only drawback for you, Sandra, is that you’re not going to get paid for your raunchy pictures. Still, it’s all in a good cause, so there’s your consolation. Now, look over against the wall.”
“Lift your head up,” the guy next to me said, relaxing his hold a little. His voice sounded husky.
I raised my head and looked towards the wall. The row of pegs where the saddles hung were empty. Except for three left there, side by side.
“That’s where we’re going to perch you, ladies. Sandra in the center, and Kate and Melissa on either side to add a touch more excitement. You’ll be put on wearing your boots, your caps, and carrying your riding crops. And for your first shots you’ll also be wearing your underwear. By the time we lift you off you’ll have nothing on but your boots and hats. That’s when we take the riding crops off you, bend you back over this table and give each of you enough of a spanking to make sure you won’t want to sit on another saddle for a day or two.”
There were mocking cheers in the background for that announcement and it was clear that the guy next to me was getting even more excited about the situation.
“And afterwards we’ll all have a nice cup of tea.”
An outburst of ironic catcalls and mock protests came from the mob: “What, you guys want more? Oh well, I suppose we might get around to taking some even more interesting pictures later on. The ones we really can make a few quid with. I believe there’s a thriving market for that sort of thing in places like Soho.”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing this.
“On the other hand, if you ladies don’t make any stupid attempts to bring the police into this, we’ll probably keep those particular snap-shots as souvenirs for our own stud books.”
The voice continued rolling on, unstoppable in its self satisfied gloating: “Let me explain the ground rules for what happens next. Each of you is going to be taken away by a group of escorts who will get you ready for the first photos on the saddles. They’ll tell you what to do, and any of you hunting girls wants to put up a fight you’re welcome to try, even though you’ll have about as much chance as a fox cornered by a pack of hounds. Incidentally, we’ve got some of our own girls here to help take the photos we want. They may introduce themselves later on, while the gentlemen will eventually make themselves known to you in the usual way.”
More good humored shouts and cheers. The last time I’d heard anything like it had been at a hunt ball where four young members of the peerage had decided to pull the panties off an elegant mid-forties divorcee. The only one who hadn’t realized what was being planned was her, not until she’d been lured into the billiards room and snookered behind the eight balls. The shouts of triumph which had come out of that room were just like the noises we were hearing now.
“OK, gentlemen, please come and collect your baggages from the table and start unpacking them.”
God, he was loving this, the sarcastic bastard. Now I was being held by the right ear again, and given a tug to make me get up. The pliers on the other side of my head were slow to release me and I yelped in protest as my ears were stretched between them. Then that pair were removed and I able to push myself back to my feet.
“This way, Kate.”
Somebody was standing close to me, the one holding the pliers. There were two other people nearby, and a tall figure beckoning me towards him. The plastic mask on his head was perched up at an angle because of the beard jutting out underneath it and the overalls were stretched tightly across his arms and shoulders. The impression I got was of being confronted by a Viking in fancy dress. He signaled in my direction again and walked towards a corner of the room. An old kitchen chair was set in it, close against the two walls.
“Sit on that.”
Continually in the grip of the pliers, there was again no choice, with my keeper gyrating around me like an fixed attachment as I turned around before sitting down. For some crazy reason I remembered a job description I’d seen on countless movie credits and never understood the meaning of: ‘Key Grip’. There seemed to be a lot of key grips in this production and by now I understood exactly what their function was.
The big man was standing in front of me now, watching through extra large holes cut in the mask, probably because of the problem with fixing the mask over his beard. The figure 1 was painted on the front of his overalls.
“OK, Kate, I’m going to tell you what to do and I also say what happens to you. Are you going to give me any problems?”
How could I argue in the position I was in? “No,” I said, trembling. “No.”
“Good. 2 and 3, get her boots off.”
I guessed they were talking to each other as numbers so they wouldn’t use any names I could remember and tell anybody about afterwards. 2 was nearly as tall as 1, slimmer, almost bobbing up and down on his feet in excitement until he swooped down onto his knees to pull one of my riding boots off. 3 was stocky, chunky, probably the one who’d been standing by the table, and he was just as quick to tug away at my other boot. On my side was the gripper, much the shortest of them all, with small breasts just visible underneath her coveralls. If she’d been the one who’d snarled at me before in such clear anger she was somebody to be careful of.
“Start undoing your shirt, Kate,” 1 said. Something odd occurred to me, even in that situation.
“Weren’t you the guy who was talking to us just now?”
“I thought Sandra was the one you were really interested in? Why aren’t you with her?”
He laughed at my ignorance: “Why aren’t I supervising Sandra? Ah, yes, it’s Sandra I want pictures of. On the other hand, Kate, when I saw the three of you riding at the gymkhana the other week it was you that had far and away the best bounce on your tits every time you went over a jump. I decided there and then I was going to handle you personally as soon as the chance came.”
More sycophantic laughter from 2 and 3, but no response from the girl holding me. 1 reminded me of those old war films where the Gestapo officer taunts his victims for his own gratification, continually showing off his own cleverness and their helplessness at every chance.
“Oh, God!” I said and stared down at the red brick floor as if I was frightened now to look into his eyes.
With my mind finally starting to work again I’d decided the best thing I could do was to play up to this man’s self satisfied ego. As long as he was getting the responses he wanted he might be a protection against any of the anti-hunting fanatics who really wanted to hurt us. There might be somebody around in this gang like that, perhaps the girl next to me, judging by the way she’d spoken.