Chapter 17

A Question of Restraint

It was six o’clock when the disappearance of one of the slaves was noticed. Tsai Linn had been sent to collect two slaves for kitchen work and realised that one of the cages was empty. The unfastened padlock lay on the floor beneath the open cage door.

Whack! Bernard was startled awake by a cane slamming against the door of his cage. “Where is your friend, stupid round eye? You think we can’t count up to four?”

“I – I – I don’t know,” stammered Bernard with some degree of truth.

“Cha!” Tsai Linn exclaimed. She checked the padlocks on the other cages and then stormed out of the room, only to return a few minutes later with Madame Chao, Liu Wei and Mary Tang.

Madame Chao looked at the open door and shook her head. “Stupid boy. No sponsor. Fugitive. How did this happen? Who locked them up?”

“I got one of the trainees to do it,” Liu Wei volunteered. “The thin girl, Fara. She must have not fastened the padlock properly. Look, it is here…”

“You,” Madam Chao snapped at Bernard through the bars. “Did Mistress Fara lock you in here earlier?” Bernard nodded. Madame Chao rattled the lock on his cage. “Well, this one secure. Pity this one not go walkabout — maybe get a better replacement. Liu Wei, call police, tell them there is runaway. Which one was this? Ha! Anyway, file on my desk. Tsai Linn, you need to talk to Miss Dangerfield. This is most unfortunate incident; she must learn from her mistake. I shall call Ms Daniels. She must be told and we will need new training boy. Mary, please see what could be done to stop this happening again.”

“I could have a talk with the others,” Mary said, giving the three remaining occupants of the locked cages an appraising look. “I am sure,” she paused to flex her riding crop threateningly between her hands, “they will be happy to provide every assistance in discovering the whereabouts of our missing friend.”

Bernard gulped. Mary Tang’s enigmatic expression hid, he was sure, a determination to discover what had happened. He was certain that the fact that he had no idea of where the fugitive was wouldn’t prevent a distressing interrogation. The idea of a talk with Mary Tang and her riding crop did not appeal.

Madame Chao shook her head. “Do not trouble. Police either catch him or not. Not our problem. We need to get on with training programme.” Bernard was relieved.

A few minutes later, Tsai Linn confronted Fara. She was distraught at the thought that her carelessness might be the cause of the escape. “I can’t have left the lock open. I am sure I checked. He was the first one I put into a cage. One other slave was already in a cage and then I went back and checked all the locks.”

“I think, Miss Fara, you didn’t push the hasp home quite tight. Then the slave could have opened the lock.”

Fara looked devastated. “I’m so sorry. I can’t think how it could have happened.”

“We all make mistakes. Trick is only make them once. We will have to postpone yellow qipao test, though. You are not ready yet, I think.”

Fara looked tearful She had been anxious to progress as quickly as possible but she could see that this stupid mistake was going to set things back quite a bit. “Of course,” she said, biting her lip. “I understand.”

“No worry, you soon bounce back. Slave probably bounce back, too, once he find out how tough it is outside no-sponsor.”

Fara smiled, but she didn’t feel any happier.

The next morning, Liu Wei and the four trainees were sitting in the small lounge at one end of the training room discussing the planned morning’s class. The four girls were enjoying cups of coffee. Liu Wei looked disapprovingly at the cups as she sipped her own delicately-scented jasmine tea. “I don’t know how you stand the smell of that in the mornings,” she said shaking her head. “Still, no matter. Today we try ways to keep slaves restrained. Why we do that?”

Liu Wei’s question was met with blank looks. “Isn’t it obvious?” one of the girls asked.

“Maybe, after last night,” Liu Wei responded with a sneer directed towards Fara. “If so – quick lesson; we all go shopping in Oxford Street! I think it’s more difficult than that. Remember: thought makes good deeds.”

All the girls except Fara laughed. “All right, how about to keep them in one place?” one of the girls volunteered. “I mean, if you wanted to make sure they stay somewhere, then you could use something to do that. I mean that’s the obvious one; what else is there?”

Liu Wei nodded in encouragement.

One of the other girls leant forward. “Well, I saw your demonstration at the station where you were using those wooden things, what were they called?”

“Cangues?” a third answered.

“Yes, those. Well, they made the men look pretty silly. So perhaps that’s another use, humiliation.”

“Very good. See, when thought is given, new ideas appear.” Liu Wei clapped her hands together encouragingly.

“Oh, I know,” the girl who had suggested “cangues” leapt in again. “You could use it as a punishment – making them unable to move or tying them in an uncomfortable position because they’ve done something they shouldn’t.”

Liu Wei nodded. “Any other ideas?”

“Oh yes – so you can make use of them. I mean, like if you wanted a seat or a table or something like that. You’d have to keep them in the right shape or it wouldn’t work.”

“Excellent! All good ideas. But be careful. No matter how clever the idea, you have to make sure the knot is tied or the lock is shut.”

Fara blushed at Liu Wei’s reference to her own stupidity.

Liu Wei went on with the lesson, taking the girls through into the classroom and encouraging the girls to try various methods of restraining the males. Colette proved herself capable with ropes, demonstrating her skills with a cruel hog tie. Daphne experimented with cuffs and chains, securing her male in a way that meant he could move about, but only in a crouched position. Anna concentrated on lacing her man into a long leather body suit, carefully tightening the ties and straps until he was completely unable to move, blindfolded, deafened, and silenced by the leather enclosing him.

Fara tried to help Colette, but seemed to be having difficulty with each task she attempted. Finally, she broke a finger nail attempting to knot ropes around the chest of the man. “I can’t do this!” she sobbed, throwing down the rope and running from the room.

As Fara burst from the training room, she almost collided with Mary Tang. Although Mary’s face remained as expressionless as ever, she sounded concerned. “Miss Fara, you seem upset.”

For all Mary Tang’s cool exterior, Fara found her a sympathetic figure. It was easy to talk to her. She sank down in a chair and looked up at Mary disconsolately. Mary Tang took out a cigarette and lit it, letting Fara answer in her own time. “Yes, the runaway. How could I have done that? I cannot concentrate on anything after that stupid mistake.”

Mary placed a compassionate hand on Fara’s shoulder. “Let me tell you a story. It is about a young girl in China. She was very poor, from a simple farming family. She went to work in house of pleasure in Shanghai. She try to learn Kòngzhì Rén. Start off white qipao, just like you. Many girls in her house much better than she. They have many customers, she has to take what she can. But she study hard. Soon she earn yellow qipao and then green. But she make many mistakes. One time she forget man locked in box for three days. He not happy. He say he submissive, but turn out not to be so! Girl was very upset but she learned to keep her feelings hidden. In time, she know how she feels matters only to her. Mistakes are to help you learn. Outside, she learn to show no emotion. Turns out this is great asset for student of Kòngzhì Rén. – many men like that, others just get confused and so easier to train. Example of Path of the Look, I think?”

Fara smiled at Mary’s encouraging words. “So, in spite of that, she went on to win her black qipao?”

“What you think?” Mary responded, taking a final drag on her cigarette.

“I think I might try again,” Fara said as she headed back to the classroom.

The man that she and Colette had been binding looked up as she entered. Ignoring Liu Wei and the other trainees, she snapped at him, “Don’t gawp!” She looked down at him for a moment and took a short length of rope. Making a noose, she slipped it over his head and positioned it across his mouth as a bit gag. Tying the free end back to the rope linking his elbows behind him, she pulled on it to force him to arch his head back. “There,” she said, “I think that improves it, don’t you?”

The man gave a groan of discomfort. Collette clapped her hands in approval. “That’s really the cherry on the top!” she exclaimed.

Even Liu Wei had to admit that Fara’s addition turned a competent tie into an exquisite punishment for the poor captive.

……………………………………………………………..

Bernard and the two other men being used for the training course were spending the evening working. After the class had finished with them, the men were required to help out with the chores around the Tea Parlour. They’d been assigned to laundry, one of Bernard’s least favourite tasks. Dealing with the Sunrise girls’ uniforms meant ironing an endless series of yellow shirts and blue skirts. The tedium was only relieved by the need to deal with the trainees’ qipaos, with their fine silk and carefully stitching. With these, though, the slightest mark or crease from incompetent use of the iron showed and earned a crack of the cane and order to “Do it again, round-eye!” from their supervisor.

While the men kept working, the supervisor slipped out for a cigarette. “Keep working, I soon see if you been lazy when I come back!” she had warned.

For the men it meant a few moments escape from the relentless oversight of one or another of the Sunrise girls.

“Have you heard anything about Ned?” the man carefully putting the girl’s uniform skirts on hangers asked Bernard.

Bernard was puzzled. “Ned who?”

“Ned who did a runner.”

Bernard hadn’t known his name. He had been just the man in the cage above him. He shook his head.

The third man chipped in. “I reckon he’ll have got help from one of those Male Rights groups. They can fix you up with an Ident Card that makes it look like you’re sponsored. He must be doing all right otherwise he’d have been back here by now. I can’t see Madam Chao and the rest of these yellow shirts being pleased at him legging it.”

Bernard wasn’t so sure about Ned’s likely success. He didn’t have a chance to reply though. They heard their supervisor returning. All three got back to their tasks to look busy when she came back in. She looked at them all with suspicion. “More work, you three,” she chided. “You no finish laundry, you no get supper.”