Fraudster's Folly : An Extract
By hilary west
Betty de Torro stood by the ornate, marble fireplace of International College. The fact that such a high-faluting sounding place was located in Poppleton, a small town south of Westbridge, didn't seem to bother her. Dressed in a smart, acid yellow suit with a navy trim and gold buttons, she seemed to be the model professional. Owner of the language school, she was a woman of means. Her hair, chestnut, and well coiffured, was swept back from her not unattractive face. It was the face of a forty-five year old woman - mature, yet still vibrant, a woman who it would seem, still had a lot of living to do. Her father had been a Spaniard, hence her rather romantic name, conveniently gving her flair and panache in her role as principal of her own school. Ben wondered if this woman was really important or did she just look it. Certainly the more timid the nature the more intimidated they would be by Betty de Torro. Ben was rather pleased to meet her. She'd interviewed him a few weeks ago and now here he was on his first day at the college.
"I speak to all my pupils individually on the first day," she began. "I like to get to know them and they me. I will be taking some of the classes myself, aided by most able assistant Trevor Minchin. I do hope you will approach me if you have any difficulties of any kind."
At this point there was a knock on the door and at Ms. de Torro's bidding a servant girl entered and placed a silver tea tray on the highly polished wooden table in the window. In the middle of the table was a crystal vase filled luxuriously with red carnation, deep blue iris and golden rod. The vivid primary colours were vibrant and vital and somehow suggested money was not lacking in this establishment. Pained with the solid silver tea service, when he realised there was no invitation to partake, Ben thought if she has a lot of money she isn't one to share it. Somehow Ben felt distanced from her. She wasn't one to include, rather she was a peacock splaying her plumage proudly unmoved by the common man who must only look on.
The first day at International College was fairly hectic. After a lot of form filling and introductions to the two main tutors, as well as to the students, classes commenced. Trevor Minchin, a man of about fifty years of age, Ben would estimate, was to all intents and purposes, someone the students could laugh at. For Ben, and some of the other students, his rather camp demeanour could mean only one thing. Trevor was effeminate. He flapped about in the first lesson giving a brief adumbration of what was to come. Ben's heart sank. There was so much to cover in the time. Surely it would not be possible to do it justice. A friend Ben had made straight away on arriving at the college was Sophie Carr. Sophie, with her long blonde hair trailing in the wind, had stepped out of her small car with some elegance, even cachet. Ben, right from the start, had wanted her. Dressed in black with a short skirt and knee length boots, Sophie looked the sort of girl you could interest. Ben would certainly try his luck once the course was underway, even if, as students, they were snowed under by coursework. Sophie smiled from her desk in the classroom over to where Ben was sat. It was obvious Sophie was going to put up very little resistance. Trevor Minchin intoned somewhat nasally something about the importance of phonetics in language teaching to foreign students. A master of linguistics, Trevor knew his stuff, but when he made a flounce from the podium to the blackboard an older woman tittered in the background. Sophie seemed somewhat amused too. Ben, knowing Trevor was going to be something of a clown in all of this, was relieved. If the course was intensive at least it was going to be a bit of a laugh too.
There were eight students altogether in the class. Some of them seemed rather old; Ben thought they were ready to retire, rather than anything else, but said nothing to anyone. Maybe they were on the course for leisure. It seemed strange, but whereas the youngsters needed to assimilate as much of this education as possible, the older members of the group seemed more relaxed. Trevor Minchin said something about the foreign language they were going to learn as a model, to give the students an insight into learning a language from scratch. It was to be Afrikaan. A black woman was on the staff at International College - she would be giving the lessons for an hour a day for the next four weeks, starting tomorrow. Now it was time for a lecture by Betty de Torro. Betty had the last slot of the day, three to four.
Some poet said October is marigold. Outside in the college garden the yellow and orange of the common marigold proclaimed the month quite gloriously. Rain had started up again, and, as the pellucid drops dashed against the clear glass window panes of the classroom, the flowers were being tossed and turned before the rolling spread of the lawns. In contrast to these autumnal colours, Betty appeared in a different outfit to the one she had greeted Ben in this very morning. It was a satin, lilac suit with broad indigo stripes. Her jewellery was a pearl choker with an amethyst clasp and the brooch she wore on the suit jacket was matching of course. The glossy, indigo shoes were striking and a finishing touch to her outfit. Ben wondered if Betty was more interested in fashion than anything else, but as owner of this college, maybe she just liked to show her wealth. There were pupills of school age in the main part of the college and all would be paying quite hefty fees. Betty was cashing in; there wasn't much doubt about that. Her school was for the offspring of the affluent. Foreigners who appreciated the importance of the English language in world affairs wanted their children well taught by Betty, and Trevor Minchin. By sending them to International College certain standards would be met, not least in the ladylike appearance of Betty, who had a reputation to keep up. Obviously she wanted all that foreign lucre to just keep on rolling in.
Betty's first lecture was competent and comprehensive; basic techniques in teaching foreigners were covered in some detail. Ben and Sophie took notes furiously. Betty de Torro looked over at them approvingly - a smug grin punctuating her intellectual paragraphs. The older people in the group took notes somewhat half-heartedly, Ben noticed, and really he wondered what their motives were. How could a seventy-year-old use this knowledge? Anyway that wasn't his problem: all he wanted to do was assimilate this instruction so he could fly off abroad. The south of France beckoned; Ben just wanted to get his head down. If anything Sophie would be the distraction. Lecture over, Betty swept off the podium with elegance and aplomb. Ben was looking forward to the evening meal. He wanted to find out if it was a culinary delight here or a disaster. The route to the dining room was through narrow corridors, quite dusty and dark. It was one of those old buildings of undoubted charm but really quite outdated. The stone arches and the old, oak doors spoke of the faded portals of academia. Ben quite liked the atmosphere really, but thought he was paying for it. If he was getting a piece of old England it came at a price. Obviously these foreigners had fallen for it. When Ben got to the dining hall it was obvious this school was quite big. There were a lot of students, all of them boarding. The children seemed to range in age from about eight to eighteen. A table at the top of the dining hall was set aside for masters. There were about twelve people sat there, including Trevor Minchin. Ben took his place in the queue and surveyed the meals on offer. He decided on the pork chops, followed by baked apple and custard. The meals, he decided, were very average, but he would only be here a month. He did not care too much. Ben fancied himself as something of a student of physiognomy, and as he looked deep into the eyes of some of the older children he became quite perplexed. He almost fancied he could perceive something criminal, something dark and delinquent. Where on earth had Betty de Torro got these children from? What sort of homes did they come from? Ben thought it was typical of the times we live in; there has been a terrible corrosion of moral standards; so much so that fee paying students of the affluent looked like common or garden roughnecks. Really, thought Ben, what is society coming to? Ben realized what it was coming to when he left the dining hall and found under the stairs a boy of about sixteen all over a young girl. Really, she was too young, for this boy to be fondling and kissing. It didn't seem right. That girl can't be more than twelve, Ben thought to himself. For the first time at International College, Ben was shocked.
CHAPTER THREE : Goings-On
Ben wondered if he should say something to Betty de Torro. Did she realize what was going on under her very nose? He doubted it. The children he had seen were immoral. When he told Sophie she laughed.
"Oh, Ben, you are so stuffy. Children are more mature today."
Ben decided to forget it, after all he had immoralities of his own to consider. He desired with a passion to get Sophie into bed. Sophie, relaxed and at ease with most members of the opposite sex, was tempting indeed. Four days into the course, Ben thought he would make a move. Dinner had just been digested in the dining hall and now, thought Ben, maybe Sophie will be willing for me to accompany her back to her room. As it turned out, Sophie made no attempt to decline his offer. The pair, obviously both quite besotted, made their way to the student teachers' part of the college. Men had their rooms along the ground floor, ladies were upstairs. On opening the outside door, which had a fulsome light shining through its diamond-shaped leaded lights, they looked around to see if anyone was watching. The coast was clear. The stairs up were immediately to the right of the entrance hall. Straight ahead was an old oak door leading into the corridor for the men. Ben played with Sophie's hair on the first step of the staircase, teasing her ever so slightly.
"It's breaking all the rules, Sophie," he said, You know what Betty de Torro said the first day."
"It's your idea, Ben. I am sure it won't hurt to see my room."
"No, Sophie, but I was hoping for more than a peak at your text books and the layout of your room."
No more was said. Sophie was full of pent up desire, just like Ben. Ben took Sophie's hand and the two made silent progress to the first floor bedroom. Once the door was closed behind them, Ben wasted no time. He pushed Sophie onto the bed and his hard body pressed against hers. Already he was excited. She unbuttoned her cream blouse and Ben's hands found their way to the clasp of her bra. Her ample breasts were like ripe fruit just waiting to be tasted. Ben's lips soon found the soft flesh and his tongue darted rapidly over and around the snow-white mounds. They seemed to kiss like this for hours. Their suppressed desire was finding satisfying expression at last. From the very first day they had wanted each other, and every hour they had waited had been a torment. Now it was such sweet pleasure; the nectar of the gods was coursing down their throats like a delicious elixir. It was a drug they could not deny themselves, and as the night wore on, Ben and Sophie made love with a terrible passion. But what if someone were to find out? Both students knew that if it did come out they could be asked to leave - for they had broken the rules of the college. Ben was mature about the studying, he wanted to succeed at it, but he could not say no to Sophie. He only hoped he would not have to explain himself to the grand matriarch herself, Betty de Torro.
"Are you going to stay all night?" Sophie asked at about eleven o' clock.
"Really the bed isn't big enough for the both of us, Sophie. I like room to move when I'm sleeping."
"OK then, I'll make a coffee and then you can go."
It was midnight when Ben slipped out of Sophie's room. He was convinced no one had seen him. The next morning the cleaners descended on the students' rooms. While Sophie and Ben listened intently to the pedant Trevor Minchin, something was being discovered. A silver pen with Ben's name on it had somehow made its way to beneath Sophie's bed. Mrs. Collingwood was distinctly suspicious. As chief chambermaid and head of domestic staff she felt it was only her duty to inform Betty de Torro of her find. By lunchtime the principal of International College was fully in the picture. There had been a raging sex orgy in Sophie's room the night before. Betty wanted to see them both, now, before they could concoct a story. Ms. de Torro in a voluminous, biscuit-coloured dress of crepe de chine startled everyone, including Trevor Minchin, when she halted classes and asked the two offenders to her dignity, and the dignity of her college, to accompany her to her office. Immediately, Sophie and Ben knew what this was all about.
"We are not children," said Ben, once they were safely ensconced in Betty's office.
"That's not the point, is it Mr. Westbrook? It's the reputation of the college I am worried about. And as for you, Sophie Carr, I thought you came from a good family. I didn't expect to find you dropping your knickers at the first opportunity that presents itself while on my campus. It is a disgrace."
"Look here," said Ben, becoming quite infuriated. "We've paid the fees for this course. And we are adults. I've seen children at it in this school."
"Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Westbrook, calumniating my pupils won't help you one little bit. These are decent children and I don't want them castigated by the likes of you. You can't keep your mind off sex for two minutes."