A Tangled Web Ch. 01

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Anyone who knows anything about the British presence in the Far East at the turn of the twentieth century will soon realise that I know practically nothing. The following story is pure fantasy and has as much historical and geographical accuracy as, for example, Pirates of the Caribbean, possibly less.

So, where is it based? Hong Kong? Malaya? Singapore? Well, none of the above, it’s just somewhere ‘east of Suez, where the best is like the worst’.

If you’re one of those who find historical bunkum off putting, who can’t or won’t accept it for the twaddle it is, then please don’t bother contacting me to point out that, for example, that my Chinese characters would speak Cantonese, not Mandarin because (a) I’ve already warned you and (b) I’m not that interested.

Once again I’ve had problems with the Literotica categories. It might have fitted under ‘Interracial’. The background to the plot is the tension between the British and the Asian locals, and I won’t gloss over the racism of the period although I’m a firm believer that the content of the heart is more important than the colour of the skin. It might also have been posted under Non Consent or, at a pinch, BDSM. Although there are no whips or chains, well, not in the usual sense, the reader should be aware that our heroine is in for a hard time along the way. Her trials and tribulations are very much part of the story. But, in the end, it’s a love story and a lesbian one at that. As such it belongs under Lesbian Love and that is where I will post it.

Finally, of course, all characters participating in scenes of a sexual nature are over eighteen.


This story is gratefully dedicated to my two greatest assets,

Estragon – the ruthless eliminator of the cliché and punctuator in chief who has put much unsung effort into making this as good as it can be.

OneWhoAdores who has pulled me out of more plot holes than I deserve and whose moral compass always points due north.

Without either of them this tale would never have been told.

Thanks guys

And so, on with the story…


The sweat fell down in rivers as Jenny McTavish, a young journalist working for the Gotham Times, pushed on through the jungle. Was she letting herself get carried away, in more senses than one, or was she onto the scoop of her young lifetime? While on a stop-over in the Far East she had approached in a bar by someone with a story, and not just any old story. It would seem that, living close by, there was a Western-born woman who had been involved in the rebellion back in the twenties. Now, fifty years later, if Jenny was interested, she was willing to tell her story.

Was Jenny interested? Of course she was! But first she had to get properly briefed. She dashed back to the local office and spent the day on the phone. Pulling every favour she had owing to her and making promises well above and beyond what she would normally do, she managed to get the Gotham archivist to search their library and send her the relevant cuttings using their new fangled fax machine. Did this woman, this Jun-Nui, really know the legendary Madam Hong? If so, this was going to be something very special and, pertinently, something to show all those male chauvinist bastards that the girls could play just as tough as the boys.

The following morning, at the crack of dawn, she had been met by a guide who led her, mounted on a mule, deep into the jungle. The guide insisted that Jenny should be blindfolded so all she could do was hang on to her mule to stop herself from falling. The farther they went the more they climbed until, high in the hills, the guide told her that she could remove the blindfold. They had reached a house and there, on the stoop, was an elderly woman. Her hair, although grey, was fair and her facial structure was European, not eastern. Her name might be Chinese but this was no Chinese woman, clearly a Westerner.

“Jun-Nui Hong?” Jenny enquired.

“That’s me,” the woman replied in perfect English. “And you must be Jenny. I hope your journey hasn’t been too hard. Look, it’s far too hot to go inside. Why don’t we talk out here?”

“Is it true?” Jenny couldn’t hold herself back. “Did you really know Madam Hong? She’s bit of a heroine of mine.”

“I’m surprised an American woman has even heard of her. An obscure rebel in an obscure war.”

“Hardly ‘obscure’,” Jenny retorted. “She’s an important icon of the modern feminist movement. That’s why it’s important that the rest of the world hears her story.”

“An important icon of the modern feminist movement, eh?”

“Because she fought for sisterhood, she fought for freedom,” Jenny insisted.

“Yes, she did,” Jun-Nui conceded, “but let’s not rush things. Sit down and I’ll fetch you a drink. It’s quite a long story.”

Jun-Nui went to fetch the drinks and Jenny sat herself down, pulled out her notebook and turned Anadolu Yakası Escort to a fresh page.

“So what’s a European woman doing out here? You are European, aren’t you?” Jenny asked once Jun-Nui had returned, handed Jenny her drink and sat down beside her.

“Ah, that’s all part of the story. I came out East in 1920. I wasn’t Jun-Nui back then, my name was Vera, Vera Talisker…”

Prologue – 1919 – the Officers’ Mess, somewhere in a far flung outpost of the British Empire.

“Ah, Jenkins. Glad you could come, old boy.” Colonel Fortesque welcomed his junior officer to the bar at the mess. “Pink gin, isn’t it?” He nodded at the steward, who reached for the optics and started to mix the drink. Once the drink was poured they both raised their glasses to the portrait of King George that hung over the bar. As colonial administrators out in the tropics it was important not to let standards slip even if the aftermath of the recent war in Europe had left the world going to rack and ruin.

“That new girl, the one in the typing pool,” Colonel Fortesque continued, “bit of a trouble maker, I gather.”

“Yes, slipped past the vetting, I’m afraid,” Jenkins replied. “I don’t know what the Foreign Office is coming to. Damn girl’s a suffragette, keeps banging on about votes for women and other such nonsense. She’s as bad as those Pankhurst girls back home. I’m having quite a time maintaining discipline.”

“Can’t have that. Bloody bolshies! Look what they’ve done in Russia. Can’t we give her the push?”

“Turns out she’s related to Lord Harbury, apple of his eye or some such,” Jenkins said with a sigh. “Can’t make a move without upsetting the powers that be.”

“So, damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Bit of a puzzler, this one. Let me think it over for a while. See if I can come up with anything.”

“Thank you, thank you, Sir,” Jenkins said, relieved that the problem was no longer his.


Vera Talisker had all the arrogance that goes with a good education wasted. Her mother had died when she was still a baby and her father, Lord Talisker, had kept her with him as he traipsed around the Far East in his role as trouble-shooter for the Foreign Office. He had been far too busy to attend to her upbringing personally and her care had almost entirely been delegated to her Chinese nurse. Here she had acquired what little education she had got as well as a fluency in Mandarin and some obscure dialects that would have amazed her father. At thirteen she had been packed off to Cheltenham Ladies’ College, where she had spent most of her time getting into trouble. At the age of sixteen she had read about the suffragettes and, with all the passion of a rebellious teenager, had taken the cause to heart. Here was an excuse for all her troubles; it wasn’t laziness, it wasn’t the product of parental neglect blended with parental indulgence, it was men!

By the time she was eighteen, Lord Talisker, at his wits’ end, had appealed to his brother in law, Lord Harbury, for help with dealing with Vera’s increasingly embarrassing outbursts. Between them they had come up with a scheme. Vera was to enroll in the Foreign Office and he would ensure she got an interesting posting. With her head full of visions of exciting freedom, Vera had agreed instantly and booked her P&O tickets with glee. She was back, back to the haunts of her childhood, back to the Far East.

As with so many things, when she arrived the reality failed to live up to expectations. Vera was assigned to the typing pool where she spent her day on the most menial of clerical duties, sifting through dull reports of dull meetings about dull nothings. Furthermore she found that, as a single woman, she was strictly confined to the compound unless she found a suitable chaperone and, except for the heat, she might as well be back in Surrey. The high spot of the week was the regimental dance where she would be pestered by spotty young officers desperate for female company. As if she’d stoop so low!

Then, one day, came the summons. She was required in the Colonel’s office, right away.


“Ah, Vera,” Colonel Fortesque said as the young woman was shown into his office, “thank you for coming.”

“I didn’t think I had much choice in the matter, seeing as how it was a direct order,” Vera replied curtly.

“Well, that’s as may be,” Colonel Fortesque continued brusquely, not used to back-talk. “Now take a seat.” He picked up a file and flicked through it. “I gather you’re some kind of suffragette, some kind of Bolshevik, that you consider mere typing to be somehow beneath you.”

“It’s not like that… ” Vera spluttered, appalled at the demonisation of her politics.

“I should damn well hope not. Our duty is to serve King and Country in whatever way we’re asked to; do I make myself quite clear?” Colonel Fortesque was suddenly quite angry.

“Of course, sir,” Vera replied meekly. She knew better Anadolu Yakası Escort Bayan than to argue the toss here.

“However, I might just have a solution to both our problems.”

“Problems, sir?”

“Yes, problems. You think the typing pool is beneath you; I don’t want some sort of bolshie troublemaker in my midst. I can’t sack you, although heaven knows I’d love to, so I’m going to reassign you. Something a bit more… interesting. I gather you speak Mandarin.”

“Yes, sir. My nurse was Chinese and I picked it up from her,” Vera replied, wondering where this was going.

“Good. In that case I’m going to send you out on a fact-finding mission. There’s a group setting up in town that’s causing HMG some concern and we need to find out everything we can about them. Of course we have plenty of trained experts who I would normally call on but in this case… well, let’s just say that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

“You want me to be a spy?” Vera asked in amazement.

“A spy! Certainly not! HMG does not, repeat not, involve itself in espionage. It’s simply not done,” Colonel Fortesque replied sternly. “On the other hand if HMG is to act on information received then our job is to gather information for it to receive. We do not spy; we gather information. Do I make myself quite clear?”

“Yes, sir, very clear sir.” Vera was agog. “But why me? Why would you trust a, what was it you called me, a ‘bolshie trouble maker’ like myself to do something like this? First you say you’d like to sack me and now you want me to… to….” Vera wasn’t quite sure how to finish the sentence.

“Because you’re the only Mandarin speaking woman I’ve got and, whatever your rather juvenile politics, I’d like to believe you’ll put King and Country first, or am I wrong? “

“No, sir. Of course not.”

“Very well then. Now here’s what I need you to do. We’re pretty sure these troublemakers are gathering in a bar in the docklands area. It’s slant eye, of course, but you shouldn’t have too many problems.”

“You want me to go to a bar, a Chinese bar, a bar down in the docklands, unaccompanied.” For all that Vera thought that she was the modern miss this was unheard-of. “What sort of woman do you think I am?”

“One that obeys orders!” Colonel Fortesque barked. “Anyway it’s women only. That’s the point, that’s why I’ve got to send you. Go down there and talk your bolshie politics and you’ll fit right in. Then find out who the ringleaders are, what they’re planning and maybe, if you’re a good girl on this one, I’ll see what I can do about making your re-assignment permanent. Do you think you can manage that?”

“Yes, sir. Of course, sir. I won’t let you down,” Vera said enthusiastically.

“Right, here’s the file. I can’t let you take it out of this office so you had best sit over there whilst you read it. Don’t bother returning to the typing pool afterwards; I’ve already informed Mrs. Wilkins that you’ll be reporting directly to me, for a day or two at least.” Colonel Fortesque indicated a spare desk in the corner of his office and Vera took the proffered file and went over to the desk, sat down and started browse through it. Whilst she did so, Colonel Fortesque watched her out of the corner of his eye. She was a pretty little thing with a well-turned pair of ankles but he really couldn’t be doing with her politics. As far as he was concerned women belonged in the bedroom, the kitchen or the nursery; anywhere else was an abomination. Ever since the war they had got above themselves and only last year they had been granted the right to vote, well, some of them had. If this carried on, next they’d be drinking at the bar of the golf club. Whatever was the world coming to?

He knew that sending her to the Pussy Cat Club was sending her into danger but it did rather solve all his problems. If she made it, well, he’d get the information that Whitehall were demanding so vocally. If she didn’t he’d still be seen as having made the effort and he’d be rid of a major source of trouble in the ranks. How could this possibly go wrong?


Vera was as intrigued as she was excited. This was beyond her wildest dreams; at last she was going to escape the drudgery of the typing pool, at last someone had realized her potential. This was the excitement, the adventure she craved. In her mind she already saw herself as the femme fatale, going deep undercover to secure dark secrets that would, one day, be the saving of the empire. She imagined herself receiving her first medal from the King, under an assumed name of course, for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. She read through the file again and again but, at the end of the day, there wasn’t much in it. There seemed to be some group of women who were causing trouble, stirring up unrest and preaching freedom from British rule. Apparently a known meeting place was The Pussy Cat Club deep in the docklands but all attempts Escort Anadolu Yakası to get any further had been stalled by the simple problem that all Colonel Fortesque’s agents were male. Almost giddy from an over-inflated sense of self-importance, Vera just knew that this was the job for her. She wouldn’t let them down; neither King nor Country would find her wanting.

It was all very different when, in the early evening, Vera nervously made her way through the streets towards the docklands. Despite her ‘modern’ outlook it still felt deeply wrong to be going out alone, especially to a bar in the wrong part of town. It wasn’t long before she was the only ’round eye’ on the streets and an urchin called out from the gutter asking what a ‘white girl’ was doing in this part of town. Trying to attract as little attention as possible she pressed on deeper and deeper into the docklands.

Finding the Pussy Cat Club was none too easy; it lay down a side alley and had only the smallest sign outside. The door was closed but, as she watched from the other side of the street, she saw two women approach and, after being scrutinized through a small shutter in the door, they were allowed entry. Struggling with her nerves she went over and knocked. The shutter in the door slid back and two eyes stared out.

“What do you want?”

“Err… I was told this was a good place to get a drink,” Vera tried.

“This is a Chinese place. Go away, round eye.”

“But… but….” Vera stuttered as the window slammed shut again, leaving Vera feeling more than a bit stupid. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy, she’d have to find some ruse, some ploy, some reason to get inside. Not sure what to do next Vera just stood there and she was still pondering what to do when a tall elegant woman approached. Just behind her stood four female guards dressed in black and wearing long daggers, or possibly short swords, in their belts. The woman looked down at Vera and her eyes seemed to bore into her.

“My, my, my, someone is in the wrong part of town. What brings a round eye down here? ” she asked, in perfect English.

“I was told… I was told this was a good place to get a drink.” Suddenly Vera’s cover story seemed very thin.

“Go home, round eye. Go back to your husband,” the woman said sternly.

“I haven’t got a husband,” Vera replied. “I don’t need one.”

“You don’t need a husband? Well, well, well, so you thought you’d come down here, all alone and in the wrong part of town. Go home, go home little girl.”

“But I need… I need…” Vera started before she realised what she was saying.

“What do you need? Tell me, tell me what brings you here.”

“No one in the compound understands.” Vera decided to play the rebel card. “They think I should settle down, find a husband, just be a good little wife. I can’t do that, I can’t, I can’t. I’m a woman and I want to be all that a woman can be.”

“And you think you’ll find that here? Was that what you were told?”

“Please, let me come in. I’m one of you, really I am.” Vera sounded as desperate as she felt.

Xui-Li Hong took a long hard look at the girl, for that was all she was, that was standing before her. She must have sought the bar out; there was no way a round eye girl would be out alone in this part of town otherwise. What on earth could she want and why did she seem so desperate? Deeply suspicious of her motives, Xui-Li decided to have a little fun, to play a game with her, to see just how desperate she was. If this girl was to gain entry she would have to pay for it and pay with her dignity; heaven knows the Chinese community had had to grovel before the English interlopers often enough, here was the chance for a little revenge and a little fun in the meantime. She’d see just how far she could go before the girl cried off, before she ran away with her tail between her legs. She wouldn’t actually hurt the girl, well, not much, but it would be nice to see a round eye lose out for once.

“So you think you’re ‘one of us’?” she said, talking as haughtily as possible. “Maybe if you ask nicely, maybe if you beg. On your knees, round eye!”

Vera was completely taken aback, but there was an air of menace coming from the guards and she was in far too deep to back out now.

“On… on my knees? Here, here in the alleyway?” Vera asked as she looked around her. Xui-Li merely nodded.

Despite the enormity of what she was demanding Vera realized that without this woman’s help there was no way she would gain entrance into the club and to deny her would be to have to return a failure, confirming Colonel Fortesque’s low opinion. Feeling that she was being brave and daring she decided to play along. Her heart pounded in her chest as she gingerly lowered herself to her knees. An earlier shower of rain had left the streets puddled with water and the gutter ran foul so there was no way she was going to avoid ruining her best pair of stockings.

“Please… please…” she began.

“You address me as Madam Hong,” Xui-Li snarled. “Because of your impertinence, your lack of respect, you’re going to lie on your belly. Now get down in the gutter like the round eye filth you are.” Xui-Li watched as the girl hesitated; had she already found her limits? It seemed that the English overlords had no taste for the gutter.

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