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My friend Dan Shoemaker made his first million when he was twenty-four. He used to joke that he'd have enough money when he could go all day without seeing anything he didn't own. He went bankrupt when he was twenty-six; by thirty he had emigrated to the US and started new companies selling pensions, life assurance and investments. Ten years later, he was slightly richer than Croesus.

Dan certainly hadn't made any friends on his way up, and hadn't kept any from his days at Cambridge University either. Or at least, none but me. Even though I hadn't seen him for ten years, when Dan decided to get married, he wrote to me inviting me to be his best man. He enclosed an apology for the short notice, the address of the Savile Row tailor he'd paid to make my suit, a plane ticket for Houston, and directions to his new chalet where I'd be staying with Dan and his fiancée.

Like most things Dan organised, the flight went exactly according to plan. I got a first class seat with hot and cold running waiters. At Houston I found he'd hired me a Maserati for the duration of my stay. It was British racing green with cream leather seats; the mileometer read "134". I signed for it, sank into the driving seat, programmed Dan's chalet's address into the Satnav, and gunned the engine.

Driving that car was better than sex. Well, nearly better than sex.

An hour and thirty-eight minutes later I swept up the drive to Dan's chalet and parked the Maserati between a Rolls and an Aston Martin. "Chalet" didn't really do it justice; this was eight thousand square feet of luxury mansion set in fifty-nine acres of mature timber. Dan stood on the steps wearing a white suit, a deep tan, mirror Ray-bans and a huge grin.

"John!" he beamed. "Fantastic to see you, mate. It's been way too long!"

"Nice to see you too. Doing well for yourself, I see."

"Mustn't grumble. Come on in! Want coffee?"

"Cream but no sugar, please," I said.

Dan led the way into a sumptuous lounge with a glass coffee table and a plush leather sofa. Sitting on the sofa was a sensational pair of breasts bursting out of a white silk dress. There was a girl attached to them.

"John, meet Alison, my fiancée. Alison, this is John Shipman, a very good friend of mine from university. Make him some coffee, would you?"

With a slight effort, I shut my mouth and looked up at her face. Alison seemed about nineteen. Pink lipstick, slightly upturned nose, chestnut curls.

"Great to meet you!" she said. She turned around in a swirl of skirts and a gust of perfume, and headed for the kitchen.

"She's really something, isn't she?" said Dan.

"A stunner. You're a lucky man."

"You know," drawled Dan, "I find the harder I work on things, the luckier I am. Isn't that strange?"

"You got engaged to that sexy little piece by hard work?"

"She has expensive tastes."

"Well done, then."

"You know, I've never asked you. What have you been doing with yourself since Cambridge, John?"

"This and that," I replied. "But I've been meaning to say to you. I'm not really all that well prepared for this. I have no idea what to do for your stag night."

"Don't worry about that, it's all arranged."

"You arranged your own stag do?"

"Yeah. Sorry, I probably shouldn't have, but you know how I am about being in control."

"What's the plan, then?"

"You'll see tomorrow," he said with another grin.

I couldn't talk any more after that because Alison came back in with the coffee. I could see her nipples through the silk, and I spent the next hour mesmerised by her tits.

* * *​

That evening Dan showed off his wine collection. Everything in his cellar seemed to be a Grand Cru. I refused a glass and chugged mine straight from the bottle. Dan frowned a bit at that, but Alison laughed.

Dan hadn't changed. He still had to try to keep up with me as I drank, so he began to snore halfway down his third bottle.

"Oh, how embarrassing," said Alison. "Wake up, Dan!"

"It's okay," I said. "He always used to do that at university too. I would just put him to bed and leave him a pint of water. I never mentioned it in the morning and he'd pretend it hadn't happened."

"Maybe that's best," she replied. "Uh—I probably can't carry Dan by myself. Would you mind?"

"Sure." I picked him up.

"My, you're strong," murmured Alison. "Er, upstairs, first door on the right."

I carried him up and put him on the bed. He didn't even stir. Alison slipped his trousers off and tucked him in, smoothing down the coverlet with a cool hand.

"So how did you two meet?" I asked her.

She looked at me directly. "Er—can I trust you?"


She laughed. "No, probably not. But it isn't a secret really. Everyone around here knows."

I nodded sympathetically.

"I'd run away from home because Daddy was mean to me," she said. "But I didn't really know what I was doing. I did try to be careful with my money. I mean, the house I rented was quite small compared to Daddy's, and I only had the cleaner two days a week. And I did look for a job, too. But the only jobs I could find weren't really very suitable and the salaries were awfully low and my credit cards were adding up. So I thought I'd have to go back home, even though I didn't want to.

"Then I met Dan and I told him how it was and he offered to bail me out if I'd, er..."

"Sleep with him?"

She nodded. "And I said no, but a few days later I did, and he paid off my credit cards. So I said thank you and then it all happened again, only this time he wanted me to do some other things as well."

"I know about those," I said. "Dan used to have the bedroom next to me."

"I didn't mind," said Alison. "He didn't hurt me and it was such a lot of money. Does that make me a, well, a working girl?"

"So it carried on until he wouldn't bail you out any more unless you married him?"

Alison nodded again. Her eyes were round.

"So do you think I'm a working girl?"

"Depends," I said. "Would you go to bed with me for a thousand dollars?"

She'd obviously never heard a certain Winston Churchill quote. She stared at me for a moment, then laughed.

"I'm serious," I told her.

"I couldn't," she said. "What if Dan found out?"

"How will he know? I certainly won't say anything to him."

"Well," she said. "I did buy some things a few days ago... dresses, perfume, that kind of thing. Dan doesn't give me enough money to live on really. I haven't dared tell him yet. I could really use a thousand dollars."

"Then it's a deal. Tomorrow, I'll make sure Dan's away from home and get a thousand dollars for you. And you can earn it."

* * *​

The next morning Dan's stag party began. Five or six young men showed up in expensive cars and we went clay pigeon shooting. Dan shot first and scored thirty-three hits out of fifty, so I decided to score thirty-two. One of the others managed thirty, and the rest were completely hopeless.

"Say, John," said Dan. "Looks like I've got some competition! Another round?"

"Sure," I said. Dan looked around at his little crowd of toadies, who obligingly retired in search of a bar.

"You go first," said Dan.

This was trickier. I played it safe and hit thirty-one clays.

Dan frowned. "So it wasn't just a fluke. Pull!"

He started so badly I feared he wasn't going to beat me, but he did—just. Concentrating hard, taking long pauses between each clay, he managed thirty-two that round.

"Well played, Dan," I said to him. "I can see you're good at this."

"Thanks," he said.

"Say. I meant to ask you. I got a phone call yesterday and I have a chance to do a deal."

"Really?" Dan's nose twitched. "Something I can help you with, buddy?"

"I hope so," I replied. "Can I borrow a thousand dollars until Tuesday?"

"That's all?"

"Yes, I shouldn't need more than a thousand dollars. I'll pay you interest, of course."

"Don't bother," laughed Dan. "I'm not worried about small change. Here you are." He pulled out his wallet and counted out a thousand dollars in cash.

"Thank you, Dan," I said.

"Don't mention it. Can you tell me what it's about?"

"Not right now, I'm afraid."

Dan shrugged and walked off to the bar. I made two mobile phone calls before I followed him.

Dan's toadies and hangers-on stayed in the bar until about eleven o'clock that night. Dan wasn't drinking much after last night, but then neither was I, so we were both nearly sober when we left. In the taxi on the way back, Dan's mobile phone bleeped.

"Blast," he said. "Something's come up at the office."

"At this time of night?" I pretended to be surprised.

"Yeah. I ought to go take a look. Will you be okay back at my place?"

"I imagine so."

* * *​

I've got to say, that night with Alison was special. The night before her wedding to Dan Shoemaker, she did exactly what I wanted her to do for me, and I did exactly what I wanted to do to her. When I'd finished, I put down a thousand and two dollars on the pillow.

"Why the extra two dollars?" she asked me.

"Don't worry about that."

I left her sleeping, and went downstairs to wait for Dan. He wasn't long.

"Bloody false alarms." He was in a foul temper.

"Thanks for the thousand, Dan," I said. "Deal's done."

"No problem. You said you could pay me back on Tuesday?"

"I can pay you back already. In fact, I have. I gave it to Alison earlier."

to be continued/...


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