Patriotic Pulcritude on Parade!  SAM's WAR-II Web of the Spider Lady  by Van ©2013


 Chapter 2



The Tillingham Theatre was indeed in the East End, on the edge of what was commonly referred to as Chinatown.  Aside from superficial damage to its façade, the building had been missed by German bombs; however, many of the neighbouring structures had not been so lucky.  The Blitz had been unkind to the Port of London and its surrounds.  Damage and destruction were everywhere, although the streets and sidewalks had been cleared and traffic was flowing freely.  The result was strange, something Sam might characterize as "tidy devastation."  The bustling streets were safe, but many of the ruined buildings were clearly not.  In any case, rebuilding would probably have to wait until after the war.  Also, and it was an important point, if Hitler and Göring thought they were going to break British morale with this sort of villainy, they had badly miscalculated.  Sam was saddened and angered by what she saw, but was also more determined than ever to do her part to defeat the Nazis.

The theatre itself was a little threadbare.  Nothing a little paint and a thorough cleaning couldn't put right, but the place was somewhat shabby.  Sam and Diana's reserved seats were on the left of the centre aisle, a few rows from the stage, and were among the best in the house.  They sat down, Diana on the aisle and Sam on her left, and waited for the show to start.  The place was more or less full, and most of the audience were soldiers on leave.  Spirits were high, probably thanks to many of the Tommys and Joes having come to the Tillingham by way of one or more public houses, but by and large they were a well-mannered lot.  The pair of Military Policemen with billy clubs strolling up and down the isles may have had something to do with that, but Sam suspected only a little.

Finally, the house lights dimmed, the band began to play, the curtains opened, and the show began.

About half the acts were Chinese in theme and with Chinese performers.  The other half, were, of course, British.

The British entertainments were mostly singers, male and female, and enthusiastically or dramatically belting out the standards of the day, including There'll Always Be An England, When the Lights Go On Again, and There'll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover.  The rest were pratfall comics.

The Chinese acts included a truly amazing troupe of acrobats and "Mongo, the Chinese Samson," as promised in the Tillingham's advertising flyer.  All the acts included patriotic elements, and the Chinese acts were no exception.  The finale of the acrobats' routine consisted of several young women in Chinese National Army uniforms delivering a balletic drubbing to three comically inept Chinese men in Japanese, Italian, and German uniforms, complete with national flag armbands so there would be no mistaking who was thumping whom.  After much swing-kicking and body flipping, the Chinese "soldiers" posed heroically atop the unconscious bodies of the Axis "soldiers" and waved to the cheering audience.  The finale of Mongo's act featured the same Axis fake soldiers wrapping the six foot something, two hundred fifty pounds plus Mongo in chains and engaging in a three-on-one tug of war.  Not only did Mongo win the contest, but he burst his chains and knocked his opponents' helmeted heads together with a resounding clang.

The final act of the evening was the Sorcerer Chang-Chen, Master of Ethereal Magic, and in Sam's opinion, he was a master.

Chang-Chen was dressed in flowing, peacock-blue silk robes, embroidered in Chinese characters with gold thread.  His assistants, all attractive Chinese maidens, were also dressed in silk, but their robes were decidedly skimpy and revealing.  The soldiers in the audience didn't seem to mind.  The act was the usual slight-of-hand, fluttering scarves, disappearing and reappearing doves and rabbits, as well as one of the assistants being sawed in half.  Finally, one of the assistants called for a volunteer from the audience.  A spotlight played across the crowd... and the beam came to rest on Diana!  One of the magician's assistants appeared at Diana's side and began to applaud.

"Oh, no!" Diana sighed as the audience clapped and cheered.

"Better you than me," Sam said with a grin, taking Diana's black and white uniform hat from her lap and placing it atop her khaki cap on her own lap.

Diana sighed again, then climbed to her feet and smiled.  The applause redoubled as she was led to the stage by the assistant.

Meanwhile, a vertical wooden cabinet decorated with Chinese dragons had been wheeled to the centre of the stage.  Chang-Chen opened the cabinet's twin doors with a flourish and a gibbet-like steel cage vaguely in the shape of a standing human was revealed.  The assistants rolled the cage from the cabinet and pulled its two halves apart.  Then, Chang-Chen took Diana by the hand and led her towards the cage.

Still smiling, Diana allowed herself to be positioned inside the cage with her arms close to her sides.  The assistants closed the cage and made a show of using five large padlocks to secure a row of hasps down the front.  Diana's neck was now locked in what amounted to a steel collar, and from throat to ankles she had no more than an inch or two of room in any given direction.

Next, Diana and the cage disappeared under a shroud of red silk and were wheeled back into the cabinet and the doors closed and padlocked.  Half the assistants danced and the other half slowly spun the cabinet in a full circle.  While that happened, Chang-Chen pulled a scimitar-like sword from a rack and began to dance, brandishing the weapon and weaving in and out of his prancing assistants to the accompaniment of a cacophony of drums and cymbals.  Then, with a flourish, Chang-Chen turned and thrust the sword through the side of the cabinet!

The audience gasped and the assistants spun the cabinet, again.  The magician flourished a second sword... then thrust it into the cabinet as well!  This continued until a total of twelve swords—three swords on each of the four sides of the cabinet—were embedded in the cabinet to the hilt, their tips protruding from the far side.

Sam was anxious for her friend.  She didn't really believe Diana had been impaled by the twelve swords, but the illusion was remarkable.

All the lights on stage dimmed except for two spotlights, one on the cabinet and one on Chang-Chen.  The sorcerer waved his arms, the long silk sleeves of his robe weaving and flapping like the wings of some absurd bird.  Finally, he struck a pose, there was a blinding flash, and the cabinet disappeared in a cloud of white smoke.  The smoke dissipated, and the cabinet was exactly the same as before.  The band played, the assistants resumed their dance, and Chang-Chen pulled the swords from the cabinet, one by one.  Next, an assistant stepped forward and made a show of unlocking the padlock securing the cabinet doors.  Then, with a flourish, two more assistants opened the cabinet, pulled the cage from within, and pulled off the red silk shroud.

The audience gasped!  Diana was gone!  The five padlocks securing the two halves were still in place, but the cage was empty!

The assistants gave the cage a slow spin, just so everyone could see that it was truly empty, then wheeled it back into the cabinet and closed and padlocked the doors.  Chang-Chen danced and waved his arms, again, and there was another flash and puff of smoke.  The assistants unlocked and opened the cabinet doors... and Diana stepped from the cabinet, smiling at the audience with both arms raised!

The band played a fanfare and the audience gave Diana and Chang-Chen a standing ovation.  The band transitioned to the song Run Rabbit Run and all the entertainers—British and Chinese—singers, comics, acrobats, Mongo, and Chang-Chen and his assistants—waved at the audience and took bows.  Meanwhile, the performers and the audience sang the song together, but using the wartime version of the lyrics.
Run rabbit—run rabbit
Run! Run! Run!
Run Adolf, Run Adolf, Run, Run, Run,
Now that the fun has begun, gun, gun;

P'raps you'll just allow us to explain,
What we did once, we can do again.
We're making shells by the ton, ton, ton.
We've got the men and the mon, mon, mon.

Poor old soul, you'll need a rabbit-hole,
So, run Adolf, run Adolf, run, run, run!
The song ended, performers blew kisses and wished the audience good night, and the curtains closed. 

While the audience filed out, Sam stood in the centre of the isle, waiting for Diana to appear... and waiting... and waiting.  The theatre slowly emptied, and still Sam waited.

A couple of minutes passed and now almost no one was left but a couple of old men pushing brooms.  Even the band had finished packing their instruments and sheet music and were filing from the pit.

Still no Diana.

Finally, Sam decided she could wait no longer.  She placed her cap firmly atop her head, tucked Diana's hat under her left arm, and walked towards the curtain-covered door to the right side of the stage.
Web of the Spider Lady—2
Spooky place, Sam.Sam parted the curtains and peered into the backstage area.  She could hear people talking and moving about, but no one was in sight.  She stepped through the curtains and let them close behind her.

The ambient lighting was low, probably so light wouldn't spill onto the stage from the wings.  Countless vertical ropes were secured by belaying pins to horizontal racks affixed to the brick wall.  Overhead, sandbags dangled from a myriad of pulleys attached to an elaborate scaffold.  Sam surmised the sandbags were counterweights, allowing the rapid raising and lowering of the various curtains and screens, but to her untrained eye the system was nearly incomprehensible.  It was something like all of the rigging of a large sailing ship crammed together into a small space.

"Hello?" Sam called out.  No answer.  Ahead and to Sam's left, the curtains swayed in the distance.  "Is anyone here?"  Still no answer.  Sam took a cautious step forward.  She could still hear people talking and moving about, but the sounds were muffled by the curtains and screens.  "Hello?"

Suddenly, as if it was one of Chang-Chen's magic tricks, an old Chinese woman appeared at Sam's side.

"Oh!"  Sam flinched in surprise, then managed a chagrined smile.

"You look for friend?" the old woman asked with a wrinkled smile.  "You look for Navy girl?"  She was short in stature and quite elderly.

Sam drew Diana's uniform hat from under her arm.  "Yes, my friend.  Do you know where she might be?"

"You come," the old woman said, then turned and walked away.

"Oh, uh, very well.  Thank you."  Sam hurried after the old woman.  She was certainly spry for her age, whatever that might be.

Sam followed the woman through a veritable maze of heavy curtains, making right and left turns.  She suspected she was being led towards the back of the centre of the stage, but was by no means certain.  They entered a small open area surrounded by curtains on all sides and the old woman pulled back a curtain to reveal a battered wooden door set in a brick wall.  She opened the door and beyond Sam found the top landing of a set of wooden stairs leading downward.  The old woman smiled and started through the doorway.

Sam frowned.  "Wait, are you telling me my friend is—M'mmpfh!

Sam had been seized from behind!  And a huge, strong hand was clamped over her mouth!


Sam kicked and squirmed, but her arms were pinned and her fluttering feet were off the floor!  Eyes wide, she struggled and fought, but her captor was as strong as a gorilla.  The arm pinning her arms to her sides seemed as big as a normal man's thigh and the silencing hand covered her lower face from just above her nose to under her chin.  Sam could barely breathe!  She glanced down and recognized a very large pair of rather flamboyant boots with upturned toes—and realized she'd been grabbed by Mongo the strongman!


Still smiling, the old woman picked up Diana's hat and Sam's cap, both of which had fallen to the floor as Sam struggled, then turned and started down the stairs.  Mongo followed, with Sam still squirming, kicking, and mewling through his hand-gag.  A Chinese maiden, one of Chang-Chen's assistants, stepped from the curtains and followed Mongo, pulling the door closed behind her.

The curtains swayed... and swayed... then all was still, as if nothing had happened.
Web of the Spider Lady—2
The stairs led to a large space cluttered with crates, trunks, and what were probably old props covered with dust cloths.  Mongo carried the still struggling and mewling Sam towards what she thought was probably the area directly underneath the centre of the stage.  There was some sort of mechanism present that raised and lowered a small platform to the level of a small trapdoor.  The arrangement was quite clear from below, but the trapdoor was perfectly concealed from the audience in their seats in the theatre.  Off to one side was the gibbet-like cage from Chang-Chen's act, open and empty with the padlocks dangling from its five hasps.  There was no sign of Diana or the magician and his assistants—then one of the assistants stepped from behind Mongo.  Sam watched with wide eyes as the old woman handed Diana's hat and Sam's cap to the scantily clad maiden, gave Sam a final smile—which to Sam now seemed to be a quite evil smile—then turned and disappeared into the shadows.

The assistant barked a few words in Chinese, then spun on her heel and walked in a different direction.  Mongo followed, carrying Sam with no more effort than would be required to control a squirming toddler.

Darkness closed around them as they passed more crates and old props.  Then, they came to a small door.  The assistant lit the wick of a small lantern, pulled the door open, and another set of descending stairs was revealed.  The stairs led to a brick-lined tunnel.  Sam could hear dripping water and what might have been the squeaking of rats echoing from the surrounding darkness as she was carried along.  The tunnel split and the branch they took angled down a slope to join a somewhat wider tunnel.    A string of weak, widely separated electric bulbs provided some light, and the walls glistened with moisture.  Sluggish water flowed in a channel off to one side and a foul odour hung in the humid air.  It was more the scent of a wet cave than a sewer, thank goodness.

Sam continued struggling as she was carried deeper and deeper into the subterranean maze, but it was hopeless.  Mongo was simply too strong.  Nonetheless, she had to try.

Finally, they came to a door.  The assistant knocked three times and a small hatch in the door snapped open and a pair of almond-shaped female eyes appeared.  Then, the hatch snapped closed and the door opened.  Beyond was a large chamber lit by electric lamps with multicoloured Oriental shades.  The walls and arched ceiling were of ancient stone.

Several Chinese women were present, a handful of the female acrobats and Chang-Chen's remaining assistants.  Also, and the sight immediately seized Sam's attention, Diana was seated before a make-up table with a brightly lit mirror!  The American was still in uniform, the same uniform she'd been wearing all evening.  Her back was turned, but Sam could see her face in the mirror.  As Sam watched, Diana removed her glasses and placed them on the table, then removed her hair!  This revealed a thin, tight stocking cap covering a head of tightly coiled blond hair!  Next, Diana peeled a pair of thin, flesh-coloured pads from her cheeks, then applied cold cream and began scrubbing her face with a white cloth.  She used a towel to wipe herself clean—and Sam realized Diana wasn't Diana!

The Spider Lady! {*Gong!*}Just then a woman entered the chamber.  She was dressed in a white silk robe over a long dress of dark red silk.  Like her costume, she was Chinese.  She also radiated the aura of command.  This was evident not by her beautiful, unsmiling face, but by the reactions of the others in the room.  Her robe swished as she walked to the table and placed her hands on the false Diana's shoulders.

The woman and the false Diana locked eyes in the dressing table mirror, and the white-robed woman spoke.  "Thank you for your assistance, Miss..."

"Smith, Madam," the false Diana answered.  Even at this distance Sam could see fear in the blond's eyes.

The woman smiled.  "Miss Smith."  She turned and focused on one of the acrobats.  "See that she is paid, generously."

The acrobat bowed.  "Yes, Madam."  She then took the blond by the hand and led her from the chamber. 

"Thank you, Madam," the blond said as she left.  She very carefully kept her gaze away from Sam.  The door opened and closed, and now Sam was the only person in the chamber who was not Chinese.

Madam—whatever her name actually might be—turned and walked towards Mongo and Sam.  Unsmiling, she gazed at Sam for several heartbeats.  Sam noticed a silver or platinum jewelled pin in her hair.  It took the form of a chillingly realistic spider.  Its legs were encrusted with diamonds and its abdomen was one large, red ruby.

Finally, Madam took two steps back and rattled off what was unmistakably a command in Chinese.  The acrobats and magician's assistants converged on Sam and at the same time she was released by Mongo.

"W-what's the meaning of this?" Sam demanded.  "Where's Diana?  M'mpfh!"  Mongo had taken a few steps back, but now the Chinese maidens had her under control—their complete control—and they were strong.  A wadded rag was stuffed in Sam's mouth and a second, narrowly folded cloth tied across her mouth and between her clenched teeth to keep it there.  "Nrrr!"

Somewhere behind Sam a low-pitched male voice rumbled a few Chinese words.  Sam's female handlers giggled and tittered and Madam's smile returned, but not to her eyes.  Her eyes were cold.  "No Mongo," she said, "you may not have her.  Perhaps the other one."  Her smile was disturbingly evil.  "Perhaps later."  She made a dismissive gesture and Sam heard the door open and close.

Meanwhile, nimble fingers were unbuttoning and removing Sam's uniform jacket, blouse, and skirt!  "M'rrrf!"  Despite her most enthusiastic resistance, Sam was stripped to her bra and knickers and her uniform shoes were unlaced and pulled from her feet.  Coils of rope appeared and loops tightened around her upper body, passing above and below her breasts, pinning her upper arms to her sides, and yoking her shoulders.  Next, Sam's wrists were lifted, crossed, and lashed together and to the other ropes, against her spine and just below her shoulder blades.  The maidens released their holds and Sam twisted and struggled, but found she could no more escape the ropes than she'd been able to squirm out of Mongo's grip.  Her fingers fluttered, uselessly.  It was hopeless.

"M'mmmfh!"  Sam's hair had come somewhat undone and several auburn strands were falling across her gagged, grimacing face—but the state of her hair was unimportant.  She was the bound and gagged and nearly naked prisoner of Chinese criminals!

Madam continued smiling.  Clearly, she was enjoying Sam's predicament.  "I am Madam Fah lo Shuee," she said, "but you may call me 'The Spider Lady'... when you are not gagged and I give you permission to speak."  She spun on her heel and walked away.  "Bring her," she ordered, and Sam was hustled in her wake.

In the back of the chamber was another door, half-hidden between a pair of stone pilasters.  A maiden opened the door, the Spider Lady passed through, then the other maidens dragged Sam after, into a long, dark corridor.  On either side stood heavy wooden doors bound with iron straps.  The stone floor was cold and filthy under Sam's bare feet.  She wanted to be brave and defiant, but was quite frightened, of course.  How could she not be?  For the moment submission was the prudent course.  Sam shuffled along in the grip of her handlers, not giving them any trouble.
One of the acrobats stepped past her mistress to open a door.  The Spider Lady entered, then Sam was dragged across the threshold.

The room beyond was smaller than the chamber they had just left.  Wooden cabinets lined the stone walls and a bank of electric lamps with stainless steel reflectors were mounted in the ceiling, as in a hospital operating theatre.  Directly beneath was a heavy wooden table, and on that table was—"M'mmpfh!"—Diana Prince!

Sam struggled in her handlers' grips.  Her friend had been stripped to her underwear, like Sam, and appeared to be unconscious.  Diana was on her back on the steel surface, her hair a dark, tousled mass, her eyes closed, and her angelic face totally relaxed.  Next to her head was a rumpled rag and a metal canister with a screw-cap and the label "Chloroform."

"She is beautiful for a round-eyed barbarian," the Spider Lady said as she strolled to the table.  "Don't you think?"

The question was rhetorical, of course.  Sam watched as the Spider Lady delicately teased wispy strands of Diana's dark hair from her face.

"Her skin is smooth and her muscles strong," the Spider Lady continued.  "Yes, very beautiful.  I shall have her carefully trained.  At the very least she shall be a lucrative whore.  At best, a concubine and useful tool... if her mind can be turned."  She continued combing Diana's hair with her fingers.  "We shall see."  She took a step back and barked a command in Chinese.

Four of the magician's assistants stepped forward and began stripping away Diana's underwear.  Her arms and legs were lifted and her limp body rolled as needed.  First, her bra was unclasped and pulled free.  Next, her garter belt was removed and her nylons peeled down her long, firm legs.  Finally, only her lace-trimmed knickers remained.  The maidens tugged them down her hips and legs, and Diana was nude.

Diana's voluptuous, athletic, perfectly proportioned body and exquisite face were still completely relaxed.  Her firm, large breasts, flat, sculpted tummy, strong thighs and legs, and bare feet were the feminine ideal personified.  A knot of despair formed in Sam's stomach.  Her unconscious, newly met, American friend had never looked more beautiful—or so totally vulnerable.

"Do you wish you had stockings, like your Yankee friend?" the Spider Lady asked Sam with a teasing smile.  It was another rhetorical question.  "A pity that they are now so very rare and expensive on this island, the material needed to make parachutes rather than to clothe feminine legs."

Only the very well off wore stocking in wartime Britain.  Some girls used mascara to paint a line down the backs of their legs to simulate stocking seams, but Sam considered the practice somewhat silly.  In any case, at the moment the impact of rationing on female fashion was just about the last thing on Sam's mind.

The Spider Lady smiled down at Diana's naked form.  "Exquisite," she sighed, then stepped back.  "Bind her," she ordered.

Two of the acrobats opened a cabinet and began carrying coils of brown rope to the table.
Web of the Spider Lady—Chapter 2

Chapter 1
Chapter 3