Deal of the Day by Sarah Dwyer

Must-Have Mary's job as a presenter on the shopping channel is as much about keeping lonely people company as it is about selling, but some of her fans take it too far; by Sarah Dwyer.

Here he comes again, Camp David, loitering in the studio wings before his grand evening entrance. What a drama! What a hoot! And how the ladies love him! David Price, fifty something shopping telly presenter, one-time children's TV 'character', but that was oh, over thirty years ago. To long ago for me to remember him, that's for sure. He's shopping telly to the core now. Cut him in half and you'd see 'Deal of the Day' imprinted in his marrow. There he is, rubbing his hands, smacking his lips, patting his side to make sure the mic pack is discretely fastened where it should be, brushing specks of imaginary dust from his beige jacket sleeves, eyes darting to locate the cameras.

Yes, David has an extra camera, while the rest of us make do with one and only. I sit here, 'Must-Have' Mary, looking straight at you, cheerful, one-of-the-girls, sharp make-up, polished nails, all set for another ladies' night in around the box. But David's the grand finale, late-evening company for all those lonely souls who have no one better to commune with on a Saturday night than a camped-up limp-wristed host behind a square screen. Push the buttons and turn him up. David's the man. He comes on like he's Larry Grayson reincarnated, all ready to play the Generation Game. Well! And his second camera, that's the deposit for all his subtle-as-shit innuendo.

Here's his dirty little story from last night:

'I have to say, ladies and gentlemen, that I won't be sitting down much this evening. [Look to second camera and mue]. I had to go to the hospital for a brief procedure [look to second camera, right eyebrow raised]. So I went in, all ready to lose my tonsils: they'd been playing up for months [second camera: no, not a hockey injury, haven't had a proper match in twenty years]. Came round feeling very strange down below [second camera, right eyebrow raised: Oh, stop it!]. Matron was there, holding my hand [second camera: very nice!]. Said "ooh David, you've got a tale to tell." Turns out the porters wheeled my trolley into the operating theatre the wrong way round [turn to second camera: both eyebrows raised, lips slightly pursed]. Well, I couldn't believe what I was hearing! "Thank goodness," says the Matron, "they noticed something was wrong before a single incision was made. [second camera: just as well, you know I'd hate to disappoint you]. But your extra local anaesthetic will take a while to wear off!" [second camera: eyebrow raised, lips pursed tight as a cat's bum, and top it all off with a nod and a wink. At least Our Lil won't be needing a headache tonight!] Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to tonight's show!'

Direct to first camera as second is finished for the evening. David sidesteps neatly towards the display units that are showcasing tonight's tat.

Our Lil, ah, that unnecessary fiction. As if anyone really thinks that he goes home to a little woman who makes his tea and warms his bed. In fact I find it quite hard to think of David at home at all; for one, he always seems to be here, preening and pouting and getting ready for his evening stage-strutting. For another, although I'm not likely to frequent the venues he favours, I can imagine his desperate need to let off steam, erotic and social, after his broadcasts; so I can see the streets of Soho, or perhaps some gentleman's bath houses as more his destination than a two-up two-down in the suburbs. Perhaps he changes his name, or Frenchifies it: Davide.

Ah, Davide. What a slimy git you are.

You know, some of the models are really alarmed by him. For all his campery, David can unsettle the girls. Janey especially. He's a bit tactile, although I daresay they've had worse getting their portfolios done. I fancied a bit of modeling myself a few years back so I know what creeps the photographers can be. I'm better off dolling myself up and using my gob to earn the pennies. Something I have in common with David, at least. But Janey flinches every time he pats her shoulders, forced as she is to flounce in front of him wearing the latest polyester creation. Makes you wonder whether he's one of those men who pretend to be gay in order to get the ladies off their guard, and then he pounces. Not that he's ever had a go at me. But he does have a sharp tongue, especially when he's about to go on air. I can imagine him making comments that might offend a sensitive person, doubly so if you make your living off your appearance. I must say Carla gets on with him pretty well - but she's older, tougher, stouter and altogether more grounded.

Me, I'm a mix of the sensitive and tough. Or am I? Mary Clunes, that's my name, but I have a stage name too, so you the viewer know me as Mary 'Must-have' Clooney. No relation to George of course but I like the suggestion. I do the afternoons in the week and then Ladies' Night of a Saturday, before Prince Priceless comes on stage. I do fashion, jewellery, boots, shoes and slippers, lotions and potions, candles and perfumery. Going down! Selling smells through sound and vision - ain't that the business! Mind you I'm not so gifted at that as Bruce 'the Nose' Hawker; he seems to have the magic touch when if comes to your faux French eaux de toilette. He really could sell you water from a foreign toilet. Here I am sitting on the swirly stool, cue cards discretely hidden from view, surrounded by headless mannequins and studio lights. I'm Mary, Must-Have Mary, your friend.

Call me sad but I quite like the Saturday slot. It's not as if I've got anywhere else to go. 'Welcome to Ladies' Night!' I say, as the producer waves his arms and I'm live after the shopping telly trailers all advertising shows which are of course themselves one long advert. 'Hope you've had a good week! Whatever your day's been like so far here's to some weekend R'n'R, a little bit of treating yourself! Hope the kids are in bed if you're a mum and the husband's behaving himself if you've got yourself a man! If you're a single lady like me, join in the fun with your glass of red, I guarantee I've got something to tempt you all tonight...' The camera pans over the line up to the tune of a jolly jingle: furry slipper boots, fleeces, bath oils and jumpers with cute bunnies on the front. Sheesh. I have to say, a glass of red is something I could really do with right now.

As the show warms up the punters start phoning in. It's part of my spiel to acknowledge them as their names and towns crawl across the bottom of the screen, like a parade of orange ants. 'Margaret from Liverpool, alright? Bruce from Faversham, you've a lucky wife! Linda from Macclesfield, hello love, glad you could join me!' Some friends ask me what I think when I'm on air; whether I'm intimated by the thought of being broadcast into thousands of homes simultaneously. But I don't tend to think of it like that. I'm like that radio DJ who said he was just one person speaking to another, a single other person in a room. Probably a lonely place, if he or she is watching us. In more ways than one. I mean, hours of shopping telly isn't really fun for the whole family, is it? Despite Davide's attempts at bringing back the Generation Game with his limp wristed witticisms. No, I tend to suspect I'm speaking to the person whose life has gone slightly off the tracks for some reason or other. Exhausted from everything else that has to be done and no one to chill with at the day's end. Or recovering from a break up; hiding from an uncomprehending other half; cowering from a bully. Then there's the unemployed, the unwell, the convalescent, the elderly. How awful to be old and feeling you have outlived your usefulness. I'd be wanting to treat myself off the telly if that was the only way to connect with a friendly face when you're sat there, on your tod. In fact I have felt like that myself, in the past.

And I have to say, mostly it's the ladies. Perhaps we're trained to nose out the bargains (non-stop deals here!) and enjoy the market stall patter. My evening shows are pretty much aimed for the female stay-at-homes. Well we get all ages, I know that, although the forty plus are the big buyers.

They certainly write in the most: emails, tweets, and good old letters-in-envelopes too. Tales of loneliness mingled with a strange concern for their favourite presenter. I've had all sorts of unsolicited advice, regarding wrapping up warm, taking iron supplements, putting an amethyst under my pillow. I could become a columnist, an agony aunt perhaps. Of course David gets all this too, probably more so than me. He seems to tickle a lot of viewers' fancies despite the Danny LaRue aspects. Perhaps because of them.

You do get the odd creepy one though. Last week I had a bit of a weird chill from a letter that really should have been weeded out by the production team if they'd been concentrating on their jobs rather than the latest product. Dear Mary, it went; I have watched you since your first show. You are a beautiful woman and when you point your finger at the price drop it makes me feel as though there is a spike coming out from the top of my head. The spike also goes down through my body and I think about your feet stopping it from splitting the earth in two. I would greatly appreciate it if you were to show your feet on air the next time you have a pair of boots or shoes to sell. You don't know my name but one day I will show it to you.

Yeah right. That's weird. I read through my mail in my dressing room before going on air, just in case there's the opportunity for a name check during the show. But this one gave me the chills, properly. In fact, I even showed the letter to David, just for a quick bit of support prior to facing the cameras.

He was in his dressing room: very sparely furnished I must say, a hundred times more organised than mine, with jackets hanging neatly from a brass clothes rail and manila folders of notes itemizing product details set out on the table - whereas mine's the repository for handbags, scarves, any old stuff I had rolled up with that night. His room had a nice scent too; citrusy and fresh.

'David, hope you don't mind me dropping in for a mo,' I said, sidling in from the corridor. 'I've had a really bizarre bit of mail and wanted to show someone.'

David was sorting out something in his briefcase and looked up at me, sans his screen foundation and hair lacquer. He looked tired. But he was a gentleman about me barging in, I must say. Even if he did try out one of his little camp responses: 'a bizarre bit of male! - I've heard myself called worse.' Seeing me biting my lip, he beckoned me in.

'Come and sit down Mary. You've got a couple of minutes and I'm pretty much set for later on. What is it?' I pulled out the letter from its innocuous white envelope. David read it, his lips pursed and right arm extended. 'My my. What a loony. Are you alright, Mary, my dear? People might find them funny but they're not funny when they're addressed to you and have just arrived in your pigeon hole, are they?'

I shook my head, strangely moved by his kindness. 'I'm fine, really I am. It's just a bit of a - a bit of a -' suddenly my lips wouldn't form around the words and I thought for a moment I might cry. How embarrassing! I'd never live it down. David being understanding somehow made the urge to weep all the stronger. I sniffed loudly and wiped my nose unprofessionally on our special offer fluffy jumper. David sensed the need for me to regain my dignity, patted me on the shoulder, and returned to his paperwork. 'Any time Mary; any time.'

Well I felt somewhat reassured that at least somebody hadn't mocked me. Off I went to go on set. And now I'm nearly at the end of the Saturday shift, with only one knock-off polyester scarf left to flog. I wouldn't even give it to my gran for fear she might go up in flames sitting by the bar fire. Never mind. Here goes. 'I absolutely love this, ladies and gents. We've saved the best til last. Beautiful scarf, totally versatile, will serve you well at work, in the evening, on the weekend. Light and easy to pop in your bag or coat pocket. Believe you me, this will transform any outfit, so who needs a whole new fancy wardrobe when you can get yourself a piece like this? Here's the blue, here's the green. And just look at this pink ladies! At this price you could treat yourself to more than just the one. They'd make beautiful gifts too, so you know your money won't be wasted. Just £5 per piece (plus your usual call charges and £7.99 p&p remember) and the price might drop even further! Just remember, everybody pays the final price.'

The sales are pouring in and the voice in my earpiece gives me a countdown while the producer with his greasy hair and grubby jumper gives me the thumbs up. I can see the ticker tape of names start to move across the monitor discretely positioned beside my (one and only) camera. 'Well done, Lisa in Newcastle; Tracey in Bristol and Maggs in Harlow. Great to have you with us. Jen in London, welcome! Briony in Lincoln. What a lovely name! Glennys in Sheffield, hello my lovely, well done. Rachel in Yarmouth, Tootsie in Kent. Forty-seven remaining at £3.50 per piece. Don't miss out now; you know you'll regret it if you do.' Ah me. Soon I can be out of this place, job done.

I smile at Becca, our model. She's doing a brave job with blue and green scarves intertwined round her neck and clipped to her jacket collar to stop them wafting over her face. You know, I try not to think of myself as a liar, a hypocrite. Some wouldn't let that title get to them, but I would. I like to see myself as an actress, channeling a character. Yes. Perhaps I could audition for something on a proper telly programme one day. Here's the producer stepping behind the camera for the wind up. David will be up soon - I doubt he agonizes over this. He's the grande dame of the channel, the queen of the games show. He's shuffling his shoes in the backstage alcove even now. And I'm off.

Hang on. Tootsie from Kent. That's a bit weird.

I emerge from my dressing room, blissfully dressed down in my jeans, boots and leather jacket. I've rubbed off my telly-tart make up with the remains of a pack of wipes from Tesco. My prep notes for next week's shows are shoved in my bag, where they'll probably stay for the whole weekend. I've ordered a taxi which will take me to London Bridge station. My mobile beeps. It's from David. Night night Mary, don't let the bed buggers bite! Silly sod. Nice of him though. He must have been twiddling his thumbs on the keyboard during a close up of the Deal of the Day.

Brrrrr! I shiver and zip up my jacket. Wish that cab would hurry up. Just called the one on the first card to come out of my pocket. Funny card: had a sort of trekking motif all round the border. Can't wait to get home: feet up, finally a glass of wine, a bath, a big dish of pasta and veg and settle down to all my pre-recorded favourites until I'm sleepy. No more selling on the telly! Cop shows, doc shows, I like them all. Mind you they seem to have a limited number of plots, as even I can work out what's going to happen next and who'd going to get it (whether that's a knife in the back or an infectious disease) nine times out of ten. Honestly, you'd think people would be more careful. Don't go down dark alleyways or kiss total strangers, folks! Me, I like to keep myself to myself. It seems to be my natural state.

Finally, a car drives up. The driver is bundled up in a big coat and even bigger scarf (not one of those flimsy things I was selling). It stops outside the TV centre. He doesn't roll his window down but it must be for me; there's no one else around this time of night. Great; I'll be in good time for my train back to Lewisham, and my dressing gown beckons. So I go round the back of the slightly shabby looking blue estate and hop into the door. Off we drive.

He's a bit glum, this one. I'm willing enough to chat away - that's one thing telly presenting prepares you for, you can waffle on at the drop of a hat - but I've not got more than a grumpy grunt from him so far. Wonder why he's such a grump. Trouble at home maybe? That's one good thing about living alone - you never go back to an 'atmosphere'; I've had my lonely moments, and of course my lovers too, but there's something priceless about the warm silence of your own place when you've been gurning in front of a screen for half a day. Especially on days like today, when you have to admit that not everybody who watches your shows is quite right in the head.

Hang on. We're not stopping at the station at all. We're out of central London, heading south. 'Driver?' I say, tapping the back of his chair. 'I asked for London Bridge. What's going on?'

At first I thought he wasn't going to answer. Why should he when he's ignored every comment I made so far? But this is stressing me out. I can feel my throat tightening and my hands gripping my slouchy leather bag. I try to catch his face in the driver's mirror but it's a tricky task with the low lights of the night and the flashes of other vehicles as they zoom towards us and fade to black behind. My mouth goes suddenly dry when I catch a glimpse of his eyes, staring gimlet-like at the road ahead. Then I hear a voice. A low, monotonous voice that's the last thing you expect from a late-night London cabbie.

'I thought I'd take you all the way, Mary. Sit back and enjoy the ride.'

Christ. I hate to say it but that sounded anything but comforting. Quick, Mary. Get your gob into gear.

'Oh. Well that's very kind of you but really there's no need. I have a monthly train ticket. And I'm really sorry but I've not got much cash on me.' Why am I apologizing to him? But perhaps this will make him change his mind, if he thinks he'll get an extra wad of cash out of a telly person, the idiot. Somehow, though, I have a horrible feeling that my reply won't resolve the situation.

'Oh no, Mary. I'm doing this for free. All the way to Lewisham.' The gimlet eyes in the mirror flash as a car behind pulls up close. For a moment I think he looks at me before his black pupils slide back to the road ahead. But I can't be sure.

How does he know that I live in Lewisham? Christ. But then I realize, I've mentioned it a few times on air, chatting in my faux friendly way about my weekend, the local high street (and how, of course, the prices there aren't half as good as what we can offer off the telly!), the celebrities I might or might not see when I'm out and about and whether they might (or more likely, might not) be wearing something from our latest 'fashion collection'. Oh God, Mary, does it really matter? He knows pretty much where I live.

'Harwood Drive. That's where I'll take you. What's the number, Mary?'

That's where he'll take me. Oh hell. What the hell do I do. Scream? Keep calm?

Keep calm, Mary. You don't want to make him angry. Can he hear me struggling for breath; can he hear my heart, pounding at my throat? You're a quick thinker - that's how you got the shopping telly job. Now think!

I decide not to say anything for a moment. I look down and see the shiny shape of my mobile in my bag. Soundlessly I slide my right hand into the bag and grasp the familiar object, tilting it slightly towards me. David's message is still on the screen. Huh. Little does he know.

I have an idea.

Again noiselessly, I press the call button. CALL DAVID PRICE? The message appears on the screen. I press again to confirm. Immediately the image of a phone linked to another phone appears. A moving line pulses between the two. I feel a stab of hope and connection with the world outside the ghastly prison of this cab.

The line pulses and pulses. My heart continues to hammer in my throat. Then the call attempt ends.

Now what. David's on air of course. My best hope is that the phone is in his pocket on vibrate. I'm sure he's made one of his dirty little jokes about it at the start of his shows. Of course he has. He must have. And he's not going to check the phone if it rings just once and one of his two cameras is on him. But surely, if it rings and rings... holding on to my shreds of composure, I press call again. CALLING DAVID PRICE. The pulsing lifeline starts up again.

'Mary.' It's not David. It's the control freak creep in the front of the car. It's late, it's dark. We're driving through badly lit residential streets I don't recognise. Then down a high street with a few scrappy looking shops. There are one or two lone men heading home from pubs or the late night supermarkets. I realize that my chances of getting help by screaming or bashing on the windows are pretty poor. I look down again, at my bag and the phone nesting inside, sending out my distress signal. I have to stop myself from gasping when I see the screen. I am connected. David is at the end of the line. And although I daren't speak to him, surely he must be listening.

Say something, Mary! Get the lunatic to speak up.

'I, er - have you been watching Lo-Price TV long? You seem to be a bit of a fan,' I manage to stutter. A bit lame Mary, but considering the circumstances...

'November 12th, 2012,' comes the startling reply, in that creepy, deadpan tone. 'It changed my life. You came on after Bruce Hawker, the one who still does all that perfume shite. I saw you with your long blonde hair and your shiny shoes. The way you moved your hips as you walked on set and pushed yourself up on that little swivel chair. God Mary, you were the one. I soon realised you were talking to me, with your foot circling round in your little black courts.' His voice is a slow monotone, as though he's taking his time with all these details, relishing their weight and taste on his tongue.

'I, err, am glad you enjoyed the shows.' I'm getting lamer. 'Won't you tell me your name?' Now that could be useful.

'Richard,' he says immediately. He laughs, a leery, forced sort of hacking. It's almost worse than him speaking. 'Call me Dicky. Or just Dick.' Ugh. I'm shivering and I can't seem to stop. 'You've read my name out over fifteen times, lovely Mary. Don't pretend you didn't realise it was me. You're a bit of a slut really, aren't you. That's why I thought it was time to pick you up.' A steely note of anger in the voice.

Oh God. Not just Tootsie from Kent then. I wonder if he's the only one, or if there are hundreds of pervy creeps getting their jollies from having their names in my mouth, my name in their mouths, night after night. I feel as though I'm seeing myself in a series of funfair mirrors. Distorted. Laughed at. Trapped. Street lights and traffic pass in a blur outside the car window. I'm reflected in the window glass too; wide-eyed, ghostly.

'And you've written to me, haven't you?'

That awful laugh again. 'You got them then?' Them? How long has this being going on for? No - I don't think I want to know that. Presumably the letters were wrongly addressed, or perhaps intercepted by some receptionist at work who clearly hadn't thought to call the cops. The cops - why haven't I called them! Mary-mud-for-brains. I quickly pull out my phone so I can jab 999 without further ado. But I'm so terrified I can't move my fingers. The only thing that consoles me is the open link to David's phone. I think I see the new text message sign too, but I daren't draw attention to myself by trying to check that either.

'Mary, I'm taking you home... and you're going to let me in. I'll find your home. Do you keep a tidy home, Mary? Do you lay your clothes out the night before your shows? I can help you. I want to see them. I want to see you.' With that, the car swerves off to the right.

I look out of the window and realize he's heading down Waterfields Road. At the end of the road is the right turn onto Harwood Drive. Surely he doesn't know my number though. He wouldn't go knocking on the wrong doors would he? As if he read my mind, he says, in the same menacing monotone - louder than before.

'Oh I'll take you Mary, I'll take you in your home. Ha! Ha! No neighbours go around comparing notes at this time of night.' His breathing has got very loud, as though the idea of cracking the last level of access to my life has over-excited him. We are in my street. The car purrs as it crawled along the pavement. I feel extremely nauseous. The car revs up and lurches along the road as though the brake's half on.

'Stockings or tights, Mary? I've never been able to tell.'

'I - I'll have to find my keys.' What a stupid thing to say. I hope my voice wasn't shaking as much as I thought it was. 'I might have left them at work.'

'NO! None of that crap.' The man half turns his head and for the first time I catch a definite profile: fat, pig-nosed. 'I'll break your door down if I have to. And don't even try to get out of the car, all the child locks are on.' I let my hand drop away from the handle. The phone is still hidden from his view inside my bag.

The car swerves and wrenches up against the curb. We're outside my house. Did he know all along? How horrible. Have I mentioned a lucky number or something on air? It's dark and I'm alone with a fetishistic lunatic fixated on my feet. I'm terrified.

We sit in the freezing dark for what seems like an eternity. All I can hear is his horrible raspy breath. There's a bad smell coming from him, fetid and sour. However could I have been so stupid as to get into the cab with him? For a horrible moment I imagine myself finally hitting the newspaper headlines for all the wrong reasons: beautiful blonde TV presenter raped and murdered in her own home. I think of all the things I've done in my life, the friends I should have made more effort to keep up with, the boyfriends I brushed off, my poor old mum. Is there anything I can do? I picture the inside of my house, imagine myself diving into the kitchen and grabbing a knife from the block on the worktop counter - but this is stupid. This man could knock me out the second we crossed the front door and there's nothing I can do to prevent him.

This is the end, then? Suddenly everything feels predetermined from choices I made a long time ago. I've had my chances in life and failed to take them. Now I'm paying the price. I hope whatever he does won't hurt too much. I'm a wimp when it comes to pain.

Suddenly, all hell - or, should I say all heaven - breaks loose. Lights, sirens, and a massive indistinct wave of activity surround us. My kidnapper swears and leans forward on the wheel, setting off a long carhorn cry that seems to encompass all my pent-up stress and terror. I know I should flee and it dimly occurs to me to slam open the passenger door and roll out onto whatever curb was near. I even forget that the door is locked. Yet I don't do it: I sit, instead, in a frozen funk, like an animal surrounded by threat on all sides.

I seem transported back to my first days at Lo-Price telly, where the headlights of the camera would dry my mouth of moisture and my head of ideas. I remember big Carla dropping into my dressing room with a monstrous mug of tea after I stumbled through my first, terrible solo hour which seemed to have lasted a million years. 'Good for you Mary love, you'll be thirsty after breathing in all those fluffy cut-price fumes out there.' Decent of her. She's a nice woman, Carla, kind of friendly and fearless at the same time. Unlike me, sat here: stupid, friendless, and scared witless.

With an almighty CRACK somebody wrenches the car door, opens it and pulls me out into the flashing lights and the shouting. I'm free! Dizzy, I stagger to the side of the road. Luckily no-one expects me to do or say anything, as I'm wrapped in a silver blanket and led a short distance to a waiting paramedic car. Carla hands me a cup of steaming tea. I grasp it shakily and wait before attempting to raise it to my lips. Wait. Carla? Surely I'm hallucinating? I see her, big as life, looming out of the chaos, as familiar and comforting as a family member - the sister I never had, perhaps. With a sudden fear I start to speak - 'my bag - I - I left it in...' I can't finish the sentence, can't say the words.

'Don't you worry my love. The police will pick it up and you'll be reunited shortly. Auntie Carla's here now.' I sip the tea and its sweet heat fills my body. At last I feel I can cry. 'You did the right thing love, getting that call through to David.' David. He got the call, must have listened and understood. He alerted the police, must have sent Carla along at the same time. As though able to hear my thoughts, Carla says, 'Smart man, our David. Always on the alert. Guess he's had to be, all his life. Got a soft spot for you anyway, he has. Can see that a mile off.'

'Where is he? I say, as I'm gestured onto a fold out chair. Suddenly I want to see him more than anyone on earth.

Carla smiles, her round face full of friendly warmth, framed by her messy brown hair. She seems unfazed by all the activity going on around us, which reassures me no end. Somewhere in the distance I'm aware of a figure being bundled off into a police car and the door slamming shut.

'Oh he'll be on his way. He had to finish his show. Said he had to shift a load of fold-up ladders by midnight.'


'Oh yes - he's a professional, haven't you noticed? Don't take it personally, love. Every break-up he's had, every death in the family, every threat, every quarrel, he goes straight to work and does a double shift. Keeps his head above water, he says. Bit like that for all of us, eh?' Carla chuckles conspiratorially, and her laughter blots out the memory of my would-be assailant's awful hacking. 'Mary, I do hope this bloody idiot isn't going to put you off working with us. Most of us have had a loony make an unwanted advance at some point, though this is a bit extreme, I'd have to say!'

'I - er, well I'd have to think about it,' I say. But where else would I go?

'It's a mad job we do. But it's a good one too, wouldn't you say? I like to think we do a bit of good, in a strange old way. Even if only to each other.'

I can't help but believe her. Everything is upside down; shaken up. Prices dropping and rising again. Bargains and knock-offs; risks and wins. For now though, I'm safe. Someone returns my bag and absently I fish out my mobile to find it silently waiting for me to answer a call. 'Oh, thank goodness!' says a theatrical voice. 'I've been gnawing at my knuckles waiting to hear your voice!'

'And I yours,' I say, managing a smile at Carla, 'and I yours.'


  1. Enjoyed reading this. The MC was quite relatable and amusing; with some delicious little quips. The foreshadowing as she told the reader about sleazy David was well-handled and I liked that it turned out to be the wrong impression. The world of shopping channels was the strongest element for me, I had a very vivid view from it.

    Thought towards the end the sentences could've benefited from being shorter and more 'hypen-friendly' to provoke the sense of stress and panic, but overall it was nice to see a story where a man, though still somewhat a gimp, was shown in a good, caring light without his sexuality ruining it. Also, sometimes it's easier and reads better by not explaining everything that's happening with your protagonist. There was a couple of paragraphs guilty of this.

    Other than that, great stuff. I'm intrigued to see more of work.

  2. very good story, and excellent change of gear when her predicament was revealed. you ratcheted up the tension very well. sorry to say, needs a bit of editing, and spelling check! but very well done
    Mike McC

  3. I enjoyed this story - starting with its rendition of a jaundiced world with apparently seedy characters and the hapless narrator. The move into real jeopardy and subsequent rescue was well-handled and the revelation that David was much finer than Mary had believed added depth. Many thanks,

  4. Thanks very much for the comments everyone - really helpful. Sarah D.

  5. Story with a difference, from the setting to the unexpected outcome. A positive ending with Mary realising her workmates are also her friends. Very entertaining.

  6. ...And the patter just keeps going on, making it all more creepy and frightening. I was in the taxi with my heart in my mouth. Clever David!
    B r o o k e