Vera's Itch - Short Story

The full short story Vera’s Itch available for reading online.

Vera’s Itch

by G. M. Worboys


First published July-2015

Copyright © 2015 G. M. Worboys

G. M. Worboys has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work.

This story may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes provided that the story remains in its complete original form.


Vera’s Itch

Nice arse.

That was the first thing that caught Gavin’s attention as he studied the figure at the bar with an educated eye. Shapely legs and a good body, slender without being anorectic, and that left a chance she’d have a nice rack when she turned around. The chic evening dress definitely stood out in this place, it looked new but of an old style, very old. It was strange but it suited her. The shiny, slippery material moved over her skin in a way that was very sexy. Thick dark hair hung to just below her shoulders. Very nice arse.

But the question was: would she be a disappointment when she turned around? So far he hadn’t seen her face. He hadn’t seen her arrive, which was a pity, he thought she would be nice to watch move. None of the bar flies were bothering her yet, that wasn’t a good sign, but perhaps they thought she was out of their class – and they’d be right.

Gavin turned back to his beer and took a long drink, his first of the evening. It was barely dark outside yet, which made the evening dress on the woman all the more unexpected. He wondered if it was worth giving her a tug. She had to be waiting for someone, no lady of her class came into a bar like this one without company. Then again, Sophie was out of town so if he got lucky he wouldn’t have to rush away. It could be worth a try.

Someone was standing near him. His eyes were already looking down, so they swung to the floor. Elegant shoes, they matched the dress. She was standing only a few feet away. Pleasing, rounded calves, the dress hid her knees. The material of the dress clung to her skin and offered an enticing hint at the what lay between her hips. Her stomach wasn’t the flat hard surface of a model, but the gentle roundness of a real woman. And breasts proudly pushed out at the plunging neckline. “Oh yes, thank you God,” Gavin murmured under his breath. When he finally reached her face he was already expecting the perfection that lay there. It occurred to Gavin that he could be dreaming, reality was rarely this good.

The most surprising thing was that she was smiling at him.

“Do you like what you see?” she asked.

Even her voice was perfect, the sultry disdain of an actress from one of the movies that Gavin liked to watch.
“Oh yes,” he replied.

She swung herself smoothly into the seat across from him. “Then maybe you would buy a lady a drink?”

“Sure thing. What would you like?”

She leaned forward. Gavin liked that.

“What do you suggest?” she asked.

Gavin pulled his eyes back up. She was still smiling. “Somewhere better and I’d suggest a martini, but in this place I think a G and T is a safer bet, they can’t screw that up.”

She nodded.

Gavin went to the bar and ordered. The barman was quick for a change and Gavin turned back. She was still there. Her legs had swung out from the booth and crossed. She was smoking. The night just got better and better.

He strode back and slid into his seat. Her fingers touched his as she took the drink. He watched as she took a sip. Nice lips. He couldn’t make out her eye colour in the dim lighting.

“That dress is like something out of a fifties movie,” Gavin said, and then added quickly, “One of the good ones, you know, classy.”

She smiled.

“I got a thing for the fifties,” Gavin continued. It wasn’t something he talked about with the guys, they’d think he was strange, but he loved old fifties stuff, especially movies and the better class of music from those times. “Not the cheap kitsch they sell these days,” he explained, in case she got the wrong idea. “The good stuff.” He was not yet ready to admit that she might be out of his class too.

She asked about his favourite movies from that time, so he launched into his love of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Cary Grant. He stayed clear of the actresses, it seemed safer. He didn’t want to get carried away. She smiled at some of his references.

He looked down and saw that her glass was empty. “Want another?”

“Would you see a lady home?” she asked him.

Gavin gaped for a moment. In the back of his mind he’d been wondering how to work around to whose place they might go back to, but it was still very early, it seemed too quick. But if the woman was in a hurry then he wasn’t going to argue. “A lady shouldn’t go home alone,” he told her, feeling clever and smug.

They stepped outside and there was a cab right there in front of them. Its light flickered on as it prepared to pull back into the traffic. Gavin called out and the driver waited for them. Gavin couldn’t help grinning. It was all going so smoothly, it was like he’d planned it this way.

The address she gave the cab driver was in an affluent area of town, he’d been right about her being classy. Gavin tried to sit up close to her in the cab, but she nodded meaningfully toward the driver. Not into public displays, Gavin thought, and backed off. The warmth from their brief contact continued to burn into his thigh and arm.

When the cab stopped, Gavin got out and assisted her from the car.

“Coffee?” she asked before Gavin could open his mouth.

A strange time of night to be settling in for coffee, most people weren’t even on their way out yet, but Gavin nodded, and then he leaned in to pay the driver.

“If ya not gunna be long, I cud wait,” the cab driver said.

It was an unusual offer, but Gavin wasn’t paying attention. “No thanks.”

“Gunna strike lucky?”

“I think I already have.”

“Dun wanna count ya chickens,” the driver warned.

“Thanks for the advice, but I think this one’s hatched already.”

The driver shook his head but accepted the money and turned away.

Gavin saw that the woman was holding the door open, waiting for him. She was looking even better now than when he first saw her. The apartment building seemed to be built for someone just like her, elegant and stylish, and probably something like the era of her dress.

The inside reflected the graceful lines of the exterior. It was clean and sparse with the faint odour of wood polish. There was an alcove to one side where once there would have been a doorman, now replaced by the impersonal electronics of a modern security system.

A small lift carried them to the top floor. Gavin tried to kiss her, but she pushed him back firmly. “Not yet,” she told him, but she smiled.

The lift stopped and the doors opened, and she pulled him gently out by his hand. There were only four apartments up here. He followed her to the nearest.

Gavin waited for her to close the door behind them and then he moved in and pushed her against the wall. He ran his hands over the silky smoothness of her dress as their lips touched, parted briefly, and then touched again. His pulse was quickening and he was already breathing harder in anticipation of what was to come.

She pushed him back and their kiss broke. She placed her fingers on his lips to stop his question. “I need to freshen up,” she said quietly. She took his hand and led him further into the apartment.

The size of the place was extravagant even for this part of the city. Like the building and the woman’s dress, the furniture was all period stuff, nineteen-fifties or very expensive replicas.

“I won’t be long,” she told him. “Make yourself at home. Take a look around if you like, I don’t mind. The drinks cabinet is over there. Make mine a martini.”

She smiled, kissed him briefly and then left him. He watched as she walked across the room. He was right, she did move well. She gave him a last brief smile and then the door to the bathroom closed with a click.

Gavin went to the large glass doors and stepped briefly out onto the balcony. A nice view of the city, this was definitely a premium property. The cooler air helped to revive him, and to convince him this wasn’t a dream. Not that he hadn’t done this sort of thing before, but it had never gone so smoothly. Not a step wrong, not a thing out of place, and the woman and the apartment were perfect. He turned back and looked over the room from the balcony door. It really was. It was everything he could imagine as ideal. He frowned briefly at that thought, and then the drinks cabinet caught his eye. He went to it and ran his hand over the varnished wood, this was seriously good stuff.

He could hear the shower running, she was going all out to be fresh for him. He did his best to make a good martini, and then poured himself a whiskey from a bottle of single-malt. He could get to like it here.

He sipped at his whiskey and considered that. What were the chances that this woman could get serious, that she might invite him to live here? Life with Sophie was good, a warm bed most nights, when she wasn’t away with work, and a nice flat that she worked hard to maintain. Gavin was virtually a kept man, his own work was intermittent and didn’t pay well. But life with Sophie wasn’t in this league. This would be living.

He crossed to another cabinet and opened the doors. They hid a modern music system, there must be small speakers around the room that he hadn’t noticed yet. The array of discs was a bit surprising, mostly modern stuff. Except there. To one side was a collection that suited this place better. He thought about putting something on but changed his mind, he wanted to hear when she came out.

In fact, maybe he could go in there and get fresh too. No. She seemed fairly definite about wanting some woman time, best not to fool with that.

He went to the bedroom and looked in. Another piece of perfection, exactly as he’d have it if this was his apartment. The bed was large, but not out of place in a room of this size. Again he frowned. It was perfect and yet there was something wrong. How could that be?

He heard the shower go off. It wouldn’t be long now. Where should he be? Should he get undressed or would she see that as too presumptuous? Back in the lounge with her drink ready seemed like the best bet. Casual and confident had worked for him so far, and he didn’t want to screw it up at this stage of the game. Sophie flashed through his mind again, but he pushed the thought away.

As he was walking back he heard something. He looked across to the bathroom expecting to see the door opening, he wondered if she might appear naked. Then the noise came again, a rattle of keys. The apartment door!

Gavin stood there stunned. Why would someone be coming in here? She would have said something – wouldn’t she? Should he tell her? Should he confront this intruder and turf him out? What if it was a husband or something?

The door opened and a man came in, his back was turned as he locked the door behind him. He was big. Turfing him out got relegated to the back stalls.

“Who are you?” Gavin asked.

The man turned in surprise. Gavin guessed the man was in his forties somewhere. He was tall, and the muscles showed clearly on arms exposed by the short sleeve shirt. The close cut hair was dark. The man looked Gavin up and down and visibly relaxed. Gavin tried not to take offence at the casual disregard this represented.

“I take it Vera brought you home,” the man said.

Gavin did a double take. Vera? It only just dawned on him that he hadn’t asked the woman her name.

“And let me guess: she hasn’t told you yet.”

“Told me what?”

“She’s not real.”

Gavin decided that wasn’t worth responding to. He walked across to the bathroom door and knocked on it. “There’s someone out here,” he hesitated before adding, “Vera.”

“She’s not there.”

Gavin knocked on the door. “Vera?”

The man had followed Gavin. He reached past, turned the handle, and pushed the door open.

Gavin watched as the door swung in. The brightly lit bathroom confronted him. Some steam still drifted in the air, but that was the only sign that anyone had been in there. The mirror was clean and clear, the shower stall was mostly dry.

“She’s very tidy,” the man said from beside Gavin. “I keep telling her not to bother, that I’ll get around to it eventually, but still she goes ahead and tidies up everything anyway.”

“Where is she?” Gavin asked.

“Gone. My fault, sorry about that.”

Gavin looked behind them. There was no one else there. He walked into the bathroom and looked around for a second door.

“She’s gone,” the man repeated.

Gavin finally looked back at the man. “Who the hell are you?”

“Cooper, but most people just call me Coop – as in flown the—”

“What are you doing here?”

“Well this is – was – my place. It’s yours now. Vera has given it to you – for safe keeping until you move on.”


“This is your place now. Gorgeous, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Gavin admitted.

“It comes as you see it. Fully furnished, the works. The ideal bachelor’s penthouse, set up and ready to go for any man.”

Gavin nodded with slow understanding. Not that Cooper was making any sense, but Gavin now understood what was wrong with the apartment. It was set up for a man. There was no sign that a woman lived here – except that it was very tidy.

“Just move in and enjoy it,” Cooper was saying.

Gavin pushed past Cooper and made his way to his drink. He knocked it back and then poured himself another. Cooper joined him there and picked up the martini.

Gavin objected, “Hey, that’s for …”



“I’ll make her another one when she comes back.”

Gavin stared as the man took a sip of the martini.

“Not bad,” Cooper said, “for a fifties martini. In some ways Vera was ahead of her time. Next time shoot for the sixties and you’ll get the mix about right.”

A joke was a joke, but this was getting creepy. “I’m out of here,” Gavin said.

Cooper grasped him by the arm. It was a strong grip. “Wait.”


“Part of the deal is that I have to tell you everything. It doesn’t work if I don’t.”

“What doesn’t work?”

Cooper pointed to the sofa. “Sit down. Relax. You’re not going to get laid tonight, I apologise for that, but you only get the apartment if you agree to the rules.”

“I’m not looking for an apartment.”

For the first time Cooper looked genuinely surprised. “You’re not?”

“No. I have a place, well, my girlfriend does. And not even Sophie could afford a place like this, I wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“Twat,” Cooper said softly.


“Exactly. What?” Cooper recovered himself. “There’s nothing to afford. Everything is covered.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will. Here, I’ll pour you another and tell you all about it.”

Gavin sat on the sofa and tried to compose himself. The man was right, whatever had happened to the woman, Gavin wasn’t getting his leg over tonight. There wasn’t anything better on offer; Sophie wasn’t keeping his bed warm tonight, and the whiskey was good. This Cooper might be a bit crazy, but he was friendly enough and didn’t seem dangerous. Besides, Gavin was curious now – about the woman and the apartment.

Gavin accepted the large glass of whiskey from Cooper and watched as the man settled himself at the other end of the long sofa and raised his glass.

“To Vera,” said Cooper.

Gavin raised his glass in return and sipped at the whiskey – it was very good.

“So how much did she tell you?”

“Nothing about herself,” Gavin said, “she didn’t even tell me her name.”

“Vera! You always leave it to me,” Cooper complained loudly.

“Who is she?” Gavin took another, larger, sip of his drink.

“She owns this apartment. Well, technically, it belongs to some big name solicitors, but they just handle the money, it’s Vera that selects the tenants.”

“But who is she? Where did she go?”

“She’s still here somewhere, we just can’t see her. She’s a ghost.”

Gavin snorted into his glass. “Yeah, right. Pull the other one, it plays Jingle Bells.”

“I’m serious. She haunts this apartment,” Cooper insisted.

Gavin wondered if he should have walked out after all. He wasn’t interested in ghost stories, no matter how elaborately it had all been set up. He thought about it, but his legs didn’t feel up to moving, so he took another sip of his drink instead. “Spin the yarn,” he told Cooper.

Cooper gave him a calculating look, apparently decided it was safe to continue, and started the story. “Back in fifty-two or fifty-three, I was never clear on the exact date, Vera got engaged. The problem is that she has disastrous taste in men – no offence.”

Gavin inclined his head. He knew he used women for whatever he could get, he didn’t pretend otherwise, except to women.

Cooper continued, “But this guy was a genuine psychopath. We’re talking the real deal. They got kicked out of a hotel because this prick started a fight. Vera was upset, they had nowhere to sleep that night. When she complained, the prick of a boyfriend slapped her – which is guaranteed to help the situation, right?”

Gavin blinked. This drink was good stuff, strong.

“Anyway, a nice old guy saw Vera was in distress and offered to let them use an apartment in his building.”

“This place?” Gavin asked. He wasn’t totally out of it yet.

“You guessed it.” Cooper took a small sip before going on, “The psycho even tried being rough with the old man as they were shown up here, but Vera managed to smooth it over. Almost as soon as the door closed the prick started ranting. Vera tried to soothe him. She told him how great it was to have such a nice place, that they should imagine it was their first night together, that first nights are special.”

Gavin nodded, he agreed totally. That was why he sought out as many as he could get.

Cooper went on in an angry voice, “But this prize prick of a fiancé chose their first night here to go totally ape-shit.” Cooper paused to calm himself, and then continued, “Vera doesn’t remember what flipped the last switch. One moment it seemed to be working, he seemed to be listening to her, the next he was attacking her. He killed Vera and also a man that came to the door in answer to her screams. Only then does the prick himself jump off the balcony and finish the job. Why he couldn’t have done that first and saved everyone else a lot of grief is beyond me.”

“And so Vera became a ghost.”

“Yes, but the story doesn’t finish there. After the grisly murders they had trouble letting this place out, as you can imagine, so the old man moves in – it’s his building after all. Vera had been wandering around the empty apartment as a ghost, getting more and more uncomfortable and not knowing why. But when the old man moves in she suddenly feels better. That’s when he discovers Vera, and she discovers that she can be real, physically present, on the first night that a man spends in the apartment.”

“With the old dude?” Gavin asked in disbelief.

“It wasn’t like that. He was a true gentleman, Vera assures me, though I’m not sure she would know what one looks like.”

“What then?” There wasn’t much left in Gavin’s glass now.

“The old man has to go away for a while, not sure why, but Vera doesn’t want to be left alone.”

“But she’s a proper ghost by now?” Gavin checked. He wasn’t sure he was keeping up, his mind felt fuzzy.

“Sure. The physically present thing only happens on the first night, and only if and when she chooses. After that she can show herself and talk to you, but you can’t touch her.”

Gavin felt there was something he was missing here, some question he should be asking, but he couldn’t make his mind work.

Cooper kept talking. “Anyhow, the old man is only gone for a night when Vera gets this uncomfortable feeling, she says it’s like an itch you can’t reach. And that’s when she realises that the first time wasn’t a fluke. When the apartment has been vacant for a time she gets this itch and she can make herself physically present. And more than that, she discovers that she can actually walk out the door. She goes out and this itch leads her to a guy that is desperate to find a place to stay, and she brings him back here.”

“Does she do him?” Gavin asked. His tongue seemed to be having trouble getting the words out.

“Let’s just say that this guy was another in a long run of bad choices for her. He really tears up the apartment. The old man’s solicitors get called and the guy gets chucked out. The place is fixed up and Vera stays lonely until the old man comes back.”

“Does she do him?” Gavin asked, vaguely aware he was repeating himself.

“What—?” Cooper cut himself short. “No. The point is that she can only go out when she gets this itch, and that only happens when the apartment has been vacant. Are you still listening to me, Gavin?”

Gavin nodded. He was still hearing, not that it probably mattered, it was all nonsense, but he was incapable of speech now. He realised his eyes were closed, and wondered how long they had been like that. He had a feeling he should be concerned, worried even, but couldn’t work up to it.

“Okay, I’ll hurry it up,” Cooper said. “Vera and the old man get along really well, and when he dies he leaves her this apartment and a bundle of money with solicitors to keep it going. With me so far?”

Gavin nodded slowly. Maybe it was all a dream and now he was waking up. It was a pity, he’d been hoping for another look at that woman in her dress from the fifties. Maybe he’d buy one like that for Sophie. They could live in this apartment and pretend to be in the movies. He was vaguely aware that even he wasn’t making much sense now, but it was a nice thought.

Cooper was still talking. “So the apartment is all paid for. When Vera gets her itch, all she has to do is find the one that scratches it and bring him home. He stays for a while but eventually leaves – like I said, she’s got disastrous taste in men. The apartment lies vacant for a time and then Vera gets her itch and it starts all over again.”

Gavin’s mind faded out the drone of Cooper’s voice. He was dreaming. Gavin was dancing with a beautiful dark haired woman in a fifties evening dress on the balcony of the apartment. He called her Sophie and frowned slightly … that wasn’t the right name.


“He’s out,” Cooper announced to the room.

Vera appeared, leaning elegantly on the drinks cabinet. There was a subtle shifting of her stance that Cooper recognised as Vera taking on her physical presence. It was always a relief to see that it was working again. He went to her and they shared a long kiss.

After a time she pulled away from him and retrieved the glass from Gavin’s limp hand, she didn’t want the last dregs of the doped whiskey to spill and stain the sofa.

“You cut it fine tonight, Coop, he almost slipped away before you could finish,” Vera said. She returned and poured them both fresh drinks.

Cooper nodded. He would have to be more careful not to let his impatience get the better of him. He should know better, given his line of work. It had taken them a long time to work out just how much dope it took, and just how much of the story they had to tell before the victim passed out. If you didn’t give them enough of the truth then it, whatever it was, didn’t take. Vera would fade and you had to start all over again with another one, and sometimes it took a month or more before the itch would come back.

“This one said he didn’t need the apartment,” Cooper said. He stroked Vera’s fingers before he took the glass from her hand.

“He did,” she said confidently. “He likes the fifties, this place was some sort of heaven for him. He probably went to sleep dreaming that he was living here.”

“But is dreaming about it enough? The others have all needed a place to stay.”

“It’s working isn’t it?” Vera stroked Cooper’s face as proof of her presence. “Anyway, Gavin does need a place, he just doesn’t know it yet. Sophie found out what he was really like. When he gets back to the flat he’ll find the locks changed and all his stuff outside the door with a threatening letter from a lawyer telling him to keep away.”

Cooper was impressed. “Your itch told you all that?”

“It was a good itch this time. Would you like to scratch it for me?”

“Don’t you want to go out first?”

“Maybe later. I missed you, Coop.”

“I was only gone one night.”

“It was a long night. Besides …”

She didn’t need to finish. It had been a long time since their last physical contact. As they talked their hands kept moving, gentle wandering caresses that just wanted the reassurance of touch. For the moment that was enough.

Cooper looked across at Gavin sprawled uncomfortably on the sofa. The guy would probably wake with a crick in his neck, but Cooper made no move to try and make him more comfortable. “The guys will be here just after sunrise to pick him up,” he reminded Vera.

Someone in Cooper’s line of work knew people that would, for a small fee, happily pick up an unconscious man, take him somewhere, and douse him in cheap whiskey. When Gavin woke up he was in for a very bad day. He would find himself in a strange place with a patchy, unreliable memory, and a headache so bad he would be convinced he had been very very drunk. When he finally did get home he would find himself locked out of his now ex-girlfriend’s flat and in need of a place to live. Cooper wondered if Gavin would remember anything of this place then, some did. Too bad; if he tried knocking at the door the police would soon deal with him. Cooper had a lot of respect for the police, they could be very helpful.

“I don’t want to think about tomorrow,” Vera said, and hugged Cooper tightly.

Cooper continued to study Gavin, and his expression turned sour as he recalled what little he had learned of the man. “You really can pick them, Vera.”


“That wasn’t a compliment.”

“Gavin wasn’t so bad. He liked my dress, he liked the apartment.”

“He liked what was under the dress.”

“Don’t you?”

Cooper ignored that. “Arse-holes, weirdos and psychopaths, every one of them! One of these days you’re going to pick one I can’t handle so easily.”

“I picked you, didn’t I?”

“Which proves my point. I’m a con man and a thief, Vera, you know that.”

“You’re the best pick I ever made, Coop.”

“That’s not saying much. You really do have lousy taste in men.”

Vera kissed his neck. “You stayed,” she said softly, “and you worked out the loophole in the curse.”

“Which only proves I’m good at my job. And it’s not a curse, Vera, it’s a blessing. That’s the way I count it. You could have been all the way dead, or you could have been a ghost with no chance of us ever touching.”

Cooper glanced at Gavin again. “Dun wanna count ya chickens,” he told the inert figure. Cooper didn’t like Vera to be out of sight for too long, though she was never in any danger, and he enjoyed giving his marks a warning, a chance to think it through and back out, even when he knew they would never take it.

Vera pulled Cooper away. “It’s a shame he has to be here all night. It always feels strange when there’s someone else in the apartment, even when they are unconscious. Come on.”

Cooper allowed himself to be led through to the bedroom. He was a talented con man and a successful thief, but this gig was something else. He loved the time he spent with Vera, even when they couldn’t touch. But both of them wanted more. So Cooper had set his mind to the task. Each man was supposed to have just one first night in Vera’s company, but Cooper had found a way to steal those special nights for himself.

He grinned as he closed the door on their sleeping guest. That was enough time thinking about the mark, it was time to enjoy the spoils. Cooper and Vera only had until dawn before she faded back to her insubstantial ghostly form, and she would stay that way until they could go through this again.

# # #

gmw 14-Aug-2013

(Back to the Vera’s Itch book page.)