Strangers | Chapter 44 of 53 - Part: 1 of 2

Author: Paul Finch | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1166 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER 1

Barrie and Les saw customer care as an essential part of their role as porno merchants.

Some might laugh at that notion, given pornography’s normal place in the world. It was all very well people pretending it was near enough respectable now, but the reality was that even if you used porn, you tended not to talk about it; that you weren’t generally interested in building a rapport with the providers – you just wanted to acquire your goods and go (said goods then to reside in a secret compartment in your home where hopefully no one would ever find them). No, one wouldn’t normally have thought this a business where the friendly touch would pay dividends, but Barrie and Les, who’d jointly and successfully managed their street-corner sex shop for twelve years, didn’t see it that way at all.

Certainly Barrie didn’t, and he was the thinker of the twosome.

In Barrie’s opinion, it was all about improving the customer’s experience so that he would happily return. Happily … that was the key. Yes, it was about providing quality material, but at the same time doing it with a smile and a quip or two, and being helpful with it – if someone requested information or advice, you actually tried to assist, you didn’t just stand there with that bored, bovine expression so common among service industry staff throughout the UK.

This way they’d more likely buy from Sadie’s Dungeon again – it wasn’t difficult to understand. And it worked.

Even in 2015, there was something apparently disquieting about the act of buying smut. Barrie and Les had seen every kind of person in here, from scruffy, drunken louts to well-dressed businessmen, and yet all had ventured through the front door in similar fashion: rigid around the shoulders, licks of sweat gleaming on their brows, eyes darting left and right as though fearful they were about to encounter their father-in-law – and always apparently eager to engage in an ice-breaking natter with the unexpectedly palsy guys behind the counter, though this was usually while their merchandise was being bagged; it was almost as if they were so relieved the experience was over that they suddenly felt free to gabble, to let all that pent-up tension pour out of them.

It was probably also a relief to them that Sadie’s Dungeon was so neat and tidy. The old cliché about sex shops being seedy backstreet establishments with grubby windows and broken neon signs, populated by the dirty raincoat brigade and trading solely in well-thumbed mags and second-hand video tapes covered in suspiciously sticky fingerprints, was a thing of the past. Sadie’s Dungeon was a clean, modern boutique. Okay, its main window was blacked-out and it still announced its presence at the end of Buckeye Lane with garish, luminous lettering, but behind the dangling ribbons in the doorway, it was spacious, clean and very well-lit. There was no tacky carpet here to make you feel physically sick, no thumping rock music or lurid light show to create an air of intimidation. Perhaps more to the point, Barrie and Les were local lads, born and raised right here in Bradburn. It wasn’t a small borough as Lancashire towns went – more a sprawling post-industrial wasteland – but even for those punters who didn’t know them, at least their native accents, along with their friendly demeanour, evoked an air of familiarity. Alright, it was possible to overegg that pudding. It didn’t exactly instil what you’d call a family atmosphere in Sadie’s Dungeon, but it meant there was something a little more welcoming about it, a little more wholesome.

‘Fucking shit!’ Les snarled from his stool behind the till. ‘Bastard!’

‘What’s up?’ Barrie said, only half hearing.

‘Fucking takings are crap again.’

‘Yeah …?’ Barrie was distracted by the adjustments he was making to the Christmas display.

It was early December, and though it might seem incongruous for a sex shop to stick holly over its autographed porn-star wall-posters, and even stand a large Christmas tree in one of its corners (hung with miniature sex toys instead of ornaments), Barrie held a different view. As far as he could see, hardly anyone believed in God anymore, but that didn’t stop the entire population of the town getting embarrassingly pissed on Christmas Eve, unwrapping a pile of prezzies on Christmas morning, and stuffing themselves to the gills with turkey and plum duff at Christmas teatime. How was this any more hypocritical? Besides, Barrie thought this particular display one of the better ones he’d constructed. It was located right at the front of the shop, at the top end of the central aisle so that it would strike the punters as soon as they walked in. It consisted of a life-size cardboard cut-out muscle man, laughing and naked, with a fake white beard glued on, and a metal peg pushed through at his groin, over the top of which a Santa hat had been draped to create the impression it was concealing an upright member. At his feet, a large red bag trimmed with white fur spilled out a heap of newly-imported American DVDs, all at special holiday prices. Above the muscle man’s head hung a bunch of mistletoe, and over the top of that a row of flashing fairly-lit letters read:

CHECK OUT SANTA’S SACK

Of course, Les had a point. Even the rapid approach of Christmas was no real consolation when the shop’s takings were consistently poorer than they’d used to be. When Sadie’s Dungeon had first opened, sales had initially been great, but ever since then – thanks mainly to the internet, and despite the lads’ conscientious customer care routine – business had declined.

‘We’re not beaten yet,’ Barrie replied, determinedly relaxed about it. ‘The new rules will level the playing-field a little. Let’s just see how it all pans out.’

He was referring to recent legislation aimed at internet porn producers, which abolished the depiction online of certain ‘extreme’ sexual activities, and thus pulled them into line with those BBFC prohibitions already in force where DVDs were concerned, so though porn fans the country over were outraged that their private recreation was yet again being meddled with by government, it was actually a positive where the shop-counter trade was concerned,

Or so Barrie said. And though Les wasn’t entirely sure the benefits from this would feed through any time soon, he tended to listen to Barrie, who was undoubtedly the brains behind Sadie’s Dungeon, and in Les’s eyes a very smart cookie. He was also a grafter, getting stuck in wherever needed. Even now, though it was past seven o’clock, Barrie wasn’t finished. All across the shop, the product was marked and racked in easy-to-find sections: Bangin’ Babes, Horny Housewives, Glamour Grans, Tearaway Teens – Barrie sidled from one to the next, fastidiously checking that everything was as it should be after the usual day’s fingering and fondling by the customers, and swiftly rearranging stuff where it wasn’t.

‘Sonja, we’re almost done!’ Les shouted down the corridor behind the counter.

‘’Kay … getting dressed,’ came a female voice.

Which was when the bell rang as the shop’s outer door was opened. The icy December breeze set the ribbons fluttering as a bulky shape backed in, lugging something heavy behind him.

‘Sorry, sir … we’re closing,’ Les called.

The customer halted but didn’t turn around; he bent down slightly as if what he was dragging was cumbersome as well as heavy. They now noticed that under his massive, silvery coat, he wore steel-shod boots and baggy, shapeless trousers made from some thick, dark material.

‘Sir, we’re closed,’ Barrie said, approaching along the right-hand aisle.

Where Les was short, stocky and shaven-headed, Barrie was six-three and, though rangy of build with a mop of dark hair and good looks, his background was not the best – he knew how to use his height, how to impose himself. ‘Hey, excuse me … hey mate!

The figure continued to back into the shop, the door jammed open behind him, letting in a steady waft of wintry air. When he straightened up, they saw that he was wearing a motorcycle helmet.

‘Shit!’ Les yanked open a drawer and snatched out a homemade cosh, a chunk of iron cable with cloth wrapped around it.

Barrie might have reacted violently too, except that as the figure pivoted around, the sight froze him where he stood. He wasn’t sure what fixated him more, the extended, gold-tinted welder’s visor riveted to the front of the intruder’s helmet, completely concealing the features beneath, or the charred-black steel muzzle now pointing at him, the rubber pipe attachment to which snaked back around the guy’s body to a wheeled tank at his rear.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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