This story is a fantasy based not too loosely on fact. Like the lives of most of its readers, it contains no sexual acts. When the story stops, you are allowed to carry on thinking. If you are incapable of thought, go and find some pictures of women with computer-aided tits.
It was late afternoon when I rang the doorbell of Naismith's period cottage in Sussex. His battered and dusty four-wheel drive vehicle was outside, negligently parked with one wheel run up on to the rockery. For a long while there was no reply, although the bell jangled loudly enough to rouse the dead. I was preparing to scribble a note and shove it through the letterbox when a door slammed somewhere in the house. A few seconds later the front door opened and a rumpled Naismith stood there, blinking at me. It seemed to take several seconds before recognition dawned.
"Vincent! I'm so sorry. I wasn't expecting ... I was asleep. Just flew in this morning..."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise..." I made as if to leave but he stepped back, holding the door open, and I walked through, stumbling through a clutter of junk mail and newspapers just inside the doorway. "Been away long?"
"Couple of months." Naismith was striding down the hallway into the room he used as his study. It had always been my favourite room, with its views across the rolling close-cropped lawn to where the yellowing sun had already dipped behind the South Downs. "Been down under. Australia. Coffee?"
His voice drifted through from the kitchen as I strolled over to the window. Someone had been looking after the garden all through the early part of the summer. "No Mrs Thing?" I asked. Naismith was more or less helpless without his housekeeper. To judge from the domesticated sounds reaching me, he seemed to have discovered the art of making instant coffee; or perhaps not, as he came in carrying one mug and one bone china cup and saucer, which he offered to me.
"Had a bit of an accident earlier, this is our last mug. Cheers!" He raised the mug in a toast. "What time is it?"
"About six. Maybe a bit later."
"I'm still operating on Aussie time. Just about ready for breakfast. Well, what brings you out to Darkest Sussex?"
"I was just passing really. Made a slight diversion when I saw the signpost." We both knew I was lying.
"It's great to see you, even if it is through bleary eyes. We'll have to get together one of these days when I'm up in town." It wasn't quite a dismissal, but it wasn't far off it.
I took a sip of coffee. Naismith seemed to have the uncanny knack of turning instant coffee into industrial slurry. "Two months down under? Anything interesting?"
"Half a dozen assignments. Officially I was covering the end of the Ashes Tour. Not just the cricket, more a bit of background. A different angle on things. But before I went out I had a word with my other Editor; you know, the weekend mag? He suggested I might like to do a spot of investigative journalism."
"Hardly your line, I shouldn't have thought... ?"
"Not really, no. But this involved an Australian TV soap."
That sounded more like Naismith. "Earth-shattering stuff?"
"Fairly, yes. You know that soap, 'Visitors?'" I knew it - another of those indistinguishable Australian soaps beloved by schoolchildren and out of work ne'er-do-wells. It seemed to be broadcast five or six times a day. He droned on: "It's on our TV at lunchtimes and it's repeated again at four fifteen in the afternoons. Apparently at the moment we're running about two years behind the Australians with the episodes, but here it's on every day instead of three days a week, so we're gradually catching them up."
I could feel my eyes starting to glaze over. "And your assignment was to find out the alleged plot?"
Naismith looked puzzled. "Not really. The paper knows that, although it only leaks what's due to happen when it's absolutely necessary. No, the thing was, a couple of years ago, there was a bit of a disturbance down under when the show's ratings suddenly rocketed for no reason. A whole bunch of kids, hundreds of thousands of them, were rushing home from school specially to catch the show."
"Oh, really? Good news, surely?"
"There was a good reason, it seems. Not a very PC reason, unfortunately. It was a girl."
"One of the cast. Dawn, her character's name, although she was played by a young actress called Maybellene McKendrick. She suddenly achieved remarkable popularity." He drained his mug and put it down. He seemed not to notice the appalling taste, although he did have a pained expression as he picked several scraps of grit off his tongue. "Apparently, this young lady - she was sixteen at the time, but her character was supposed to have been eleven - was a bit of a late developer. She..." He indicated what he meant with his hands in front of his chest. Now, being two years behind, we're just about to reach that point in the story over here, which is why the Ed sent me off to find her. His idea was that he would be able to whip up a bit of interest in this country; get people interested. If he could help turn Visitors into a cult thing in this country, he could get a few pictures of Maybellene on to his Page Three, wearing not very much."
"And your part was to find her as she is now, and get an interview and a picture."
"More or less. So that's what I did."
"You found her, of course? Not too difficult, I'd imagine?"
"Eventually. It wasn't easy. But I found her, all right! Oh, yes, I found Maybellene!"
I was interested despite myself. Perhaps it was because Naismith seemed suddenly so animated. He jumped up and opened his briefcase, producing a fat scrapbook or photo album. And there, among dozens of clippings from papers and magazines, were literally hundreds of photographs of an extraordinarily pretty young girl.
"These were taken before she joined the cast of Visitors. She was just sixteen when she got the part of Dawn, and as you can see, she fitted the role really well, as Dawn was supposed to be about eleven." He pointed to a shot of Maybellene standing next to a much taller girl. "Maybellene plays her younger sister in the show, you see, although actually she's a year older. Anyway, she got the part, and an excellent contract built-in. She was assured of a job for a number of years, personal appearances, a singing career, the lot. All she had to do was avoid doing anything outrageous."
"You know the sort of thing ... she was supposed to be eleven, in a fairly high profile TV soap, so she couldn't really be seen to have boyfriends in private life. For quite a few years, she wouldn't be able to go to nightclubs, drive a car, get married ... In return, though, the rewards were quite substantial for a young actress at the start of her career. Unfortunately, nobody even thought to mention the most outrageous thing she could have done." He turned a page. "It happened quite quickly." Another page. "That was in August, this one was two months later."
"Let me see those," I said, studying the pictures closely. Without a word, Naismith handed me a large magnifying glass, a sort of Sherlock Holmes kind of thing. It helped. In those two months, the girl had developed a quite remarkable bust. "It must be the camera angle," I said.
"That's what I thought. It isn't." He flipped over a few pages. Every picture showed Maybellene as a extremely shapely young woman. "These were all taken during October. It was around this time that Australian males started to take an unhealthy interest in Visitors! And other males around the world, too. The producers managed to disguise things as well as they could, but it wasn't all that easy. They couldn't wrap her up like an Egyptian mummy, after all. Not that it would have made much difference if they had. She was still growing. Here she is in the Christmas Special."
"Hmmm. I see!"
"Exactly. She was supposed to be eleven, but suddenly she needed ... apparently ... an E cup brassiere."
It was a meaningless code to me. "Is that big?"
"It's rather bigger than average, yes. You know about vital statistics?" I nodded dumbly. "She's less than five feet tall, and not really at all plump. Just well-built. She measured 41-24-35 by Christmas. That's quite chunky for such a short girl. Her 'sister' in Visitors wasn't at all happy about the situation, naturally. From being a flat-chested baby-face, in just four months, Maybellene had turned into a voluptuous and very attractive young woman. By the February, she looked like this!" He turned the last page with a flourish.
Clearly, Maybellene was by then wholly unsuitable for the role of an eleven year-old. Although I am no expert, I'd guess her bosom wasn't forty-one inches any more. "What happened?"
"They wrote her out. Sent her off on a long holiday with her aunt Clara in the story. Of course, the punters went mad. Kids had been rushing home from school, dads were making an excuse to get home early from work, sales of blank videotape cassettes had doubled. The Japanese went barmy. Visitors was very popular there, and once Maybellene started developing, they loved it to bits. Then she was gone ... Of course, this was all two years ago. My assignment was to find Maybellene. And as I say, I found her."
.... There is more of this story ...