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Lester's Keeper

 

[Lester’s Keeper
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By George Holm
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© 2016 George Holm. All rights reserved.
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[[++
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Also by George Holm]]

Solonik’s Game

 

For all the Lesters out there – G.H.

 

This was to be the last night of Lester’s relationship. It was time for him to move on. Almost time. One last piece of business remained. First, there was the matter of the wager.

He glanced at the rearview and gunned the Mercedes. It glided through the gears and the countryside blurred by. The engine noise was damn smooth, like butter. He figured very few things in life sounded so good to the ear. Maybe a classic record came close. Or perhaps the sound of his voice in a girl’s ear when he was in the zone. The latter likely sounded better if he was honest.

“Doesn’t that sound sweet, Babe?” he said. “I’m never going back to a Beemer. This thing is so much more me.” He threw a sideward glance at Maggie and showed her his smile.

“It’s beautiful Lester,” Maggie agreed. She was staring out the window with bright, wide eyes, seemingly distracted. She nibbled delicately at the corner of her lip, a gentle stroke of coral pink amidst an alabaster complexion.

The car cut through the evening traffic, sleek and new. Dusk had come and the world had a delicate tinge like tangerine.

“How much further?” he asked, weaving amongst cars.

“It should be pretty close,” she said. “Exit 16.”

“Place must be in the middle of nowhere. You excited?”

She glanced downward. “A little nervous,” she said softly.

He straightened in his seat and gave her his softest eyes. “You don’t have to be nervous Maggie. I’m gonna be right by your side. You’re gonna kill it.” He smiled, all teeth.

She offered a delicate smile.

“The only people who need to be worried are everyone else,” he said. “Worried you’ll put them to shame cos you’re so damn hot.”

She snickered gently and turned her gaze to the scenery.

They continued along the highway for another few miles, him putting the car through its paces and her staring gently out the passenger’s side window. The sun hung on the horizon, illuminating the skyline like a slowly spreading blot of watercolor.

“This is it,” she said. “Exit 16.”

He floored the accelerator and crossed lanes between two cars, pulling the car onto the off-ramp. One of the cars’ horns blared in protest.

“Fuck you buddy!” he called, flipping the bird over his shoulder.

He turned a double right and the car glided into an empty car park overlooking the highway. It was a carpooling lot, all but empty at this time on a Friday evening.

“Shit, we’re parking here?” he asked. “My so-called mother will soil her pantyliner if the car gets stolen again.”

“They told me it was a safe place. There’s a twenty-four hour restaurant just over there. Park close to it.”

He pulled the car into a space under a street lamp by the fast-food place.

“I hope so. I don’t want to have to listen to her bullshit if I interrupt her dirty weekend with whatever his goddamn name is.”

He pulled on the parking brake. Behind them the evening traffic continued to make its way along the highway, their lights blinking in the darkening evening, like shoals of luminescent marine life. The car purred idly about them.

He looked at the car’s clock. “Six fifty-five. They said pick-up at seven, right?”

“Seven sharp.”

“Cool.” He powered on the overhead light and inspected himself in the rearview. My hair okay?”

She nodded. “Perfect.”

“Teeth?”

“Dazzling.”

“Eyebrows?”

“Meticulous.”

“Good.”

She waited in silence. “And?”

“Huh?” His eyes widened. “What?”

“How do I look?”

She was wearing the dress he had once said he liked. He could smell the perfume that had been his favorite too. Her hair was carefully styled, makeup careful and striking. He had to give it to her, she had always made an effort for him. He almost felt a little bad for her. Not quite though. The fact was that being a man sometimes resulted in collateral damage. If you couldn’t deal with it then you weren’t a goddamn man anyway.

“Like you even need to ask?”

“A girl needs reassurance in strange situations.” She regarded him mildly from beneath her eyelashes.

“Smoking,” he said. “Head to toe. Smoke.”

“And you promise you’re not going to feel different afterwards?”

“Are you crazy?” he said. You know what’s so scary when a guy like me falls so hard for you?”

She shook her head, waited for him to continue.

“It’s because I know how hard I’ve fallen. How you’re the one.”

“So what’s so scary?”

“Cos I know how hard I’ve fallen. I don’t know for sure that you’ve fallen as hard as me.”

“But I tell you all the time.”

“Yeah I know. But Babe, girls can be cruel. Especially with guys like me. Guys who have money.”

“Go on.”

“They’ll say anything to make me believe that they’re the real deal, when all they’re really after is a meal-ticket. Words don’t mean anything. It’s actions that talk in this world.”

“And my actions?”

“Well, when I suggested this thing you didn’t seem keen. You had fears, right? Suspicions?”

“I guess.”

“Just like any high caliber girl would. The fact you didn’t jump in straight away is evidence itself. But you know what the clincher is?”

“Tell me.”

“That you agreed. Once you knew it was important to me and I was on-the-level, you cast aside those fears, for love. That’s what a keeper does Babe.”

“Sometimes I think your tongue’s made of silk Lester.”

“That’s God’s truth Babe. That was my sign. You put me first. Just like I’ll put you first, forever.” Or until tomorrow. Six months had been enough relationship for Lester. In fact, five months had been enough, but the sixth had been necessary for making tonight happen. That sixth month had been a productive one. It was amazing how much more easily you could bend a woman to your will when you were no longer restricted by emotional investment. Tonight was evidence that he had her in the palm of his hand. She was a nice girl, just a little too vanilla for a guy like Lester. What you saw was what you got with Maggie. Maybe she could have held his interest for longer if she was a little tougher to figure out, a little less nice, a little more complex.

She was still talking. “And what if I feel different? About myself?”

An engine sounded and a pair of headlights glared in the rearview, dazzling him. Lester watched in the rearview as a limousine backed up and aligned its broadside to their rear.

“Rain-check, Babe. Is this our ride to the party?” The timing couldn’t have been better. She was navigating the conversation into choppy waters. She was going to feel different alright. He would too, but he was pretty sure they’d be occupying opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.

“Must be. Time to go, I guess.”

He killed the engine and they each stepped out of the car. He stood tall and self-aware, shoulders high and chest out. Her posture was delicate and unimposing. He armed the car’s alarm and proffered his keys and cellphone. Without speaking she accepted them and placed them in her purse.

The driver of the limousine was already outside of the vehicle, uniformed and standing stiffly by the open rear door of the vehicle. “Mr. Latroy?” the driver asked.

“That’s me. How’s it going man?” Lester clapped a hand one of the driver’s broad, solid shoulders.

“Woman,” the driver said.

“Excuse me?”

“I am not a man,” the driver said without humor.

Lester paused, eyes wide and leaned close to the driver, tilting his head to maximize the illumination from the light overhead. “Holy shit! Sorry man… ma’am. I didn’t know women came in your size. You play football?”

“No,” she said. “Never.”

Her voice remained even but he detected a flicker of the skin beneath her eye. Lester had touched a nerve, he realized. He figured if a woman looked like that it was either due to emotional baggage, or she picked up the baggage as a result.

Lester cupped a hand over his mouth and snorted laughter. “Shit. I’m sorry Ma’am. No offence intended.” He turned to Maggie with a broadcast expression of mock exasperation and slid into the rear seat of the limousine.

Maggie looked at the driver apologetically. “Sorry,” she mimed.

The driver nodded. “Ma’am.”

Maggie climbed into the back of the limo and took a seat by Lester. The driver closed the door behind them and took her place in the front. “Journey time will be approximately fifteen minutes,” she said. “Water and soft drinks are in the refrigerator by your feet.”

“No booze?” Lester asked over the driver’s shoulder.

“Water and soft drinks,” the driver repeated, and pushed a button that raised a tinted window between driver and passengers, with a faint hum.

“I guess I didn’t endear myself with him,” Lester said with a grin.

Maggie shushed him. “She can probably still hear you. Don’t be mean.”

“Oh, he’s a big guy, he’ll be fine. You always were too soft for your own good.”

The driver navigated the limo out of the parking lot and they set off into deepening country in the darkening night. Lester grabbed a cola from the car’s refrigerator and passed Maggie one when she asked for it. There was an excitement building in him and he sat restlessly, humming assorted tunes and bobbing his head in time to them. Maggie was still and watched the night pass by the car as the limo cut smoothly through the countryside. Occasionally she touched her wrist to the coolness of the window before delicately transferring the chill to her cheek.

“So,” Lester began after a few minutes in the car, “Is your friend going to be here?”

Maggie turned to him and appeared confused. “My friend?”

“Yeah. You know, the sexy slut who told you about this place.” His head continued to bob to the beat of some private tune.

Her mouth hung open. “Sexy slut?

“You know what I mean.” Lester laughed. “The attractive, empowered lady who told you about the place.”

“Good recovery,” she said with a wry expression. “I doubt she’ll be here. She didn’t say she was a regular or anything.”

“Shame. She sounded fun. How did she know about the place anyway?”

“I guess she and her boyfriend found it together,” she said.

“And she recommended it?”

“Highly.” Maggie offered. “She said you’ll never experience anything like it again.”

Lester’s eyes were wide and a flush was rising on him. “This is going to be great.”

She returned her attention to the passing countryside. Her gentle gaze and features suggested introspection. He wondered if she was freaking out. His smile broadened at the thought. That just made things even more exciting.

Of all the boastworthy experiences he had talked himself into in his 25 years, this had to be the best. He truly was a smooth motherfucker. Maggie was usually so square, too. Talking her into this had been elite persuasion. It was probably time he had a nickname to reflect his abilities with the ladies. The Bitch Whisperer? He nodded to himself. Not bad. He would drop that one in front of his boys and see how they responded, maybe when they were paying him his winnings tomorrow.

For a moment he wondered if his success in convincing Maggie was in any way influenced by damaged self-esteem? Since her father died, the comfort eating had been slowly taking its toll. She was a little loose around the middle now that he thought about it. Was it possible that her willingness was a matter of lowered self-regard and not the direct result of his skills? His face dropped in the darkness of the limousine’s back seat. He didn’t like that idea at all. No. She was still the same girl and her self-esteem was fully intact. The fact was he had played her like a maestro. He nodded to himself and the smile began to creep across his face again.

The Bitch Whisperer

It really did have a ring to it. He put an arm around Maggie’s shoulder. She turned to him and he threw her a wink and a smile.

“Love you, Babe.” He had to keep her confidence up, tonight of all nights. Just another couple of hours and his work would be done.

“Love you too Lester.”

“Lester glanced at his watch and remembered it didn’t keep time. “What time is it? We should almost be there, right?”

The window separating them from the front seat’s hummed and lowered a couple of inches.

“Two minutes Mr. Latroy,” the driver said. The window hummed and slid closed again.

“Holy shit.” Lester smiled. She really could hear me.”

A chesty laugh sounded through the partitioning window.

Maggie shook her head. “Told you so.”

A few minutes later, the car turned off the narrow country road and onto a gravel lane. They were travelling through fields now and the gravel beat a metallic chatter on the car’s underside. Across the dark fields the moon hung low and red in the sky. Lester craned his neck looking for their destination and soon caught sight of lights emanating from a farmhouse in the distance to their left. The driver slowed the vehicle and took them down another, smaller lane that appeared to lead to the house.

“A farm?” Lester said, his face contorted.

Maggie shrugged. “What were you expecting? A mysterious gated mansion?”

Lester chuckled unconvincingly. “Well, actually yeah.”

“Life isn’t a movie Lester.”

He looked at her inquisitively and paused, then laughed. “No,” he said, “I guess not. I just hope the animals don’t join in the party.”

As the house began to grow in view, Lester cast a glance over his shoulder. The red glow of the limo’s taillights appeared to ignite the dust cloud they left in their wake. He felt somehow sandwiched between that cloud and the low moon that seemed to rest in the fields before them. For the first time he had a moment of unease about the new territory he was crossing into tonight. He glanced at Maggie, almost hoping that she appeared fearful or uncertain, but she continued to gaze out the window with apparent quiet calm. He searched his mind for some thought that would bring reassurance and spike his confidence once more. You’re Lester Latroy, he thought. The Bitch Whisperer. He smirked. That was more like it.

Lester peered out at the dark fields and could vaguely discern hulking cattle grazing through the wire fences.

“A ranch?” he asked aloud.

They drove between a pair of lighted pillars and the sound of gravel was replaced by the distinct whisper of rubber on cobblestone. The driveway dovetailed into a circular courtyard whose intricate stonework glistened opulently beneath moon and classically styled black cast iron street lamps. Ahead, the farmhouse was similarly styled. Spot lamps about its perimeter underlit the building gently. It was an old and grand stone structure with painstakingly maintained brickwork. Dense patches of climbing ivy ascended about its edges, diverting laterally at the roofline, underscoring it in rich green. Light emanated from a number of curtainless windows but Lester saw no one move within.

“A little more like I expected after all.” Lester said.

By the time the driver pulled up alongside the farmhouse and killed the engine, Lester had forgotten his moment of irrational doubt. He sat straight in his seat and there was a sparkle in his eyes once more. Maggie turned to him and he returned her gaze with a wink.

“All good Babe?”

“All good.”

The driver went to the rear door on Maggie’s side of the car and held it open. Lester elected to exit through his own door just in case the driver had taken his earlier comments personally. He leaned on the roof and called across to her.

“So,” he said. “Are you coming with us beautiful?” He flashed her a grin and gave her his playful eyes.

She smirked. She couldn’t help herself, he thought. He was likely forgiven.

“Maybe later Mr. Latroy. I have some driving to do first.”

“I’ll keep you a seat on my lap.” He laughed.

“I’m sorry,” Maggie said. “He’s incorrigible.”

“He must be compensating,” the driver said, looking him in the eye.

Lester pointed a finger. “Don’t make me show you.”

“Yes, yes Mr. Latroy. This way please, both of you.”

Lester started toward the foliage-lined path that led to the house’s front door. The driver stopped. “Not that way Mr. Latroy. The gathering occurs in the barn.” She turned again and crossed the courtyard, headed for a second path that led past the house and toward its rear.

“The barn?” Lester looked at Maggie, face crumpled. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”

Over her shoulder the driver called, “Don’t worry Mr. Latroy. This isn’t the kind of barn you’re thinking of.”

Lester leaned over Maggie’s shoulder. “How many kinds of barn are there?” Maggie shrugged. She hooked an arm through Lester’s and they followed.

The night was still and the air fresh. He could smell the aroma of newly cut grass and heard the distant rumble of some farmyard machinery beneath the occasional call of a night owl. Crickets sang from their places amongst the growth beyond the path. After they had walked a while the gentle sound of orchestral music reached their ears. They crested a hill and beneath them the path fell downward to a large wooden structure. It was the barn, perfectly maintained, painted in red, with a black sloping roof and gentle light visible emanating from a round window in its front. Small spotlights dotted the ground in front of the building and a sliver of light escaped from the behind the leading edge of the large entry door.

The driver continued down the path in silence while Lester and Maggie followed behind. When she reached the doors she stopped and turned, waiting for them to catch up. “Why so slow Mr. Latroy? You’re not going to chicken out are you?” She laughed her chesty laugh.

“Just taking in the air,” Lester offered, regarding the barn with uncertainty.

“You’ll be fine. Your girlfriend can protect you.” She laughed again and drummed on the door. The music was discernible now. It was something classical. Lester didn’t know the names of any of that stuff. It was low and moody though.

The door swung open and Lester’s eyes widened. He leaned forward in surprise for the woman who emerged through the door was physically identical to the driver.

“God liked you so much he made two of you?” Lester grinned at the pair.

“This is my sister. She’ll take you both inside.” She clapped a heavy hand on Lester’s shoulder. There was some venom concealed in the action and it stung. Lester disguised a wince. “You better hope I don’t take you up on that offer of a warm spot on your lap Mr. Latroy,” she said, setting off back in the direction they had come.

The door-lady was dressed like her sister had been, formal and masculine. “Good evening,” she said. “Before entry I have to ask that you surrender any cellphones or cameras you have on your person.”

“You are fucking kidding, right?” Lester said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re about to walk into a barn. And you want us to hand over our phones?”

She regarded him patiently. “The phone isn’t the problem Mr. Latroy. It’s the camera that almost invariably goes with the phone nowadays. I’m sure you can understand that people value absolute privacy on matters such as these?”

Lester paused and looked at Maggie. She appeared calm.

“It’s obligatory Mr. Latroy. It is not too late to catch my sister if you would prefer to leave.”

Lester contemplated a moment. He reminded himself of why he was here and the skills of persuasion he had employed to be here. He remembered his pride was at stake. He listened to the music being carried out through the open door and thought about what awaited them inside. He regarded the calm and professional, although in his opinion hideously masculine demeanor of the woman in front of him. He remembered who he was. The Bitch Whisperer. He smiled. “Give her our stuff, Babe.”

Maggie regarded him oddly as she unclasped her purse and handed their phones to the door lady. He wondered what that look had meant. Had she thought he would back out? Hoped he would back out? Was that why she had agreed in the first place perhaps? This idea tickled him. He hoped it might be true. She clearly didn’t get the memo regarding who she was dealing with.

Lester pulled Maggie tight to him. “No turning back now.” He grinned. “Let’s do it, Babe.”

The door-lady stood aside and pulled the door slowly open, the music’s volume gradually increasing with its outward swing. “Mood music,” he whispered to Maggie, pulling her with him.

They crossed the threshold into the barn and his eyes widened. Once inside, the place transformed. It was completely repurposed, a jarring contrast to the rustic exterior in both styling and apparent utilization.

Before them was an open floor upon which he could make out a number of couples moving amongst the shadows in a display that formed a dark mosaic of frank and explicit sexuality. The sounds and sights and smells were unfamiliar and arcane. Lester’s wide eyes darted about the scene, hungry to absorb what he could from it. The floor was carpeted in something dark and soft and luxurious. Atop this inviting layer, various stations were set up to facilitate coitus. Each had its own illumination from gently glowing bulbs or chandeliers that fell down from the darkness of the rafters. The dim lighting generated islands of illumination that fell quickly into darkness beyond their narrow radii.

The closest and most discernible station consisted of deep shag-pile rug upon which a young and sculpted lady rested, fully naked, legs in the air, head tilted backwards with the eyes staring directly at the new arrivals. Her lip curled upward in a feline growl of pleasure. Before her, wearing her legs over his shoulders and bathed in shadow knelt what appeared to be an older gent. He was similarly disrobed. His hands gripped her waist and he thrust at her rhythmically. The warm smacking of his hips against her spiked and fell amongst the sounds of the music. They went about their work oblivious to the intrusion of the world around them. A grin broke out on Lester’s face.

At another station, a woman was bent woodenly over a chair with her dress pulled up about her waist while a middle-aged lady in high-heeled shoes and ill-fitting lingerie paddled her pallid behind with something resembling a table-tennis racquet. The recipient appeared still and silent while her dominatrix grunted with each connection of the paddle and barked occasional obscenities into the air as she grasped roughly at her own breasts using her free hand, angry nail marks standing out upon them even despite the dim illumination. One wayward swing of the paddle struck the cast iron of the overhead chandelier and set the light into chaotic rolling motion, like some Gothic version of dance floor lighting. It was only the shifting of the light as it arced slowly back to rest that revealed the paddling victim’s hand protruding from beneath her, wrist cocked, fingers grasping the scrotum of an intimidating rubber member, deftly driving it into herself as the paddle’s action sent her fanny quivering.

At a third visible position, a dark-skinned woman lay on the floor, her legs pulled high in stirrups that hung from unseen fixings above. Another female participant kneeled upon the floor, buttocks high in the air exposing sanguine, gaping and glistening womanhood as her arms locked beneath and through the bent legs of her partner. Her head was buried in the other’s crotch, shaking in a furious blur as the recipient tore frantically at her hair, forcing the face deeper between her thighs and emitting breathy wails of pleasure that crescendoed and were absorbed by the room.

Lester realized his heart was thumping and he had forgotten to breath. He hungered to unearth more of what the shadows hid. He felt like an intruder upon the scene. A peeping Tom. A voyeur. It was as if he gained some power through his observance. The ability to point, to degrade, almost.

“Holy crap,” he said to the room. He realized that he was salivating, the words coming out thick and laden. He looked at Maggie, mouth agape but she only offered her quiet smile.

To either side of the entryway, polished steps led up to a raised wooden platform that ran along three sides of the building’s perimeter. The door-lady leaned to them and gestured to the steps. Please find a booth and make yourselves comfortable. View until your heart’s content. Mrs. Knight will be along to introduce herself any minute now, so don’t join the floor until then.”

The raised perimeter of the building sat perhaps eight feet above the main floor. It formed a kind of balcony that surrounded the floor and created a viewing platform for other revelers. Each of the viewing sections contained a number of seating booths. These were wooden structures, high-walled and horseshoe shaped. The open front provided access to users and a view of the floor, while the closed back and sides created both seating and seclusion. Steps led from each booth to the main floor and a single light hung behind each, providing meager illumination and casting the booths in shadow. Lester could make out unidentified individuals occupying a number of the booths.

The first of the booths they reached appeared unoccupied and Lester approached it, pulling Maggie alongside him. The structure appeared to be a single piece of wood with a small table within. They slid around the bench style seat and looked out upon the floor before and beneath them. There was a single candle on each of the tables. Lester allowed his eyes to wander about the main floor, taking in the sights and peering to see more of what the shadows held. All about them were the scenes and the sounds of sexual acts performed openly and casually. He made out groups of twos or threes or sometimes more being penetrated, devoured or ravished by one another. He noted with approval that females appeared to outnumber males quite favorably. It was unlike anything Lester had ever seen or even imagined. The scene possessed a dreamlike surrealism with its unfamiliar juxtaposition of sights and sounds playing out within touching distance.

Even in the presence of such exotic sights, Lester did not forget the evening’s ultimate goal. He pulled Maggie close in a reassuring embrace. “Told you that you’d be the hottest one here,” he whispered to her. He was readying to deliver another carefully crafted line of reassurance when he was interrupted.

“Mr. and Mrs. Latroy,” a voice said. “Welcome to our little club.”

Lester turned to see the owner of the voice enter their booth. She was a woman of perhaps fifty, striking in features and beauty. Her eyes were the first thing he noticed, piercing and alive and perhaps even dangerous. They were a pale blue, like something sun-bleached. The candlelight reflected in them giving them an ethereal quality as they sparkled above her high cheekbones. She appeared to come from money, or good breeding, or both. The dark hair was tightly tied back and secured in a bun, her makeup minimal but effective in enhancing her best features. She stood tall in a black evening dress, the plunge front revealing a high and taut bosom. She had a presence that made Lester feel intimidated in a way he liked.

“Not Mr. and Mrs,” Lester said. His arm loosened around Maggie.

“My mistake,” she said without missing a beat. The eyes and the smile remained fixed on them. “Not yet, you mean?”

Lester paused, stuttered and turned to Maggie with a smile. “No… well… of course. He removed his arm from about Maggie and put a light hand her thigh. “Mrs. Lester to be,” he said.

Maggie smiled softly. “We have talked about it.”

“And what a fine union it will be,” the woman said. “Both so young and in love.” She smiled and looked at each of them, her gaze absorptive. “First things first, however. Tonight is a night for fun.”

Lester grinned.

“First let me introduce myself,” the woman said. “I am Katarina Knight.” She spread her arms. “My family owns the establishment you find yourself in.” Her movement accentuated the exposed flesh of her cleavage and Lester found himself staring.

“Yes, Mr. Latroy,” she said with a smile. “Those are mine too, I assure you.”

Lester diverted his eyes to her face. He felt himself flush a little in the darkness. He laughed and glanced at Maggie who seemed unphased or unsurprised.

“Oh, no need for embarrassment Mr. Latroy,” she said. “Like your phone, it is something of a necessity that we check our inhibitions at the door, wouldn’t you say?”

Lester ran a hand through his hair and attempted to recompose himself. “I’m not embarrassed.” He smiled and realized his eyes had wandered to her cleavage again. He shook his head and looked at the table.

“You’ll get the hang of it Mr. Latroy.” She smiled. “Do you mind if I sit?” She gestured at the space beside Lester.

“Please do,” Lester said. He shuffled himself around the bench toward Maggie but created less space than he could have. He found he wanted Mrs. Knight to squeeze herself into the seat. There was a predatorial instinct in him and she stoked it.

She moved with quiet confidence. As she turned Lester saw the candlelight glistening on the flawless skin of her back and shoulders. The dress plunged dangerously to waist level and the curve of her spine stopped frustratingly close to an ass that Lester found he wanted very much to see. He felt like a teenager being schooled by an attractive teacher. She dropped gracefully into the chair beside him and he felt her body brush against him. Her hand paused briefly on his thigh and then went to the tabletop. Sweat pricked his back. He felt blood rush to his face and to his loins all at once.

She turned to face them and he could smell her perfume. It was something delicate but intoxicating. It was a scent that conjured in him thoughts of mysterious femmes and exotic lands.

“It is your first time at a soiree such as this?” she asked.

“Yes,” Lester responded. He turned to Maggie. “First time for both of us.”

“How wonderful,” she said. Her accent was not one Lester could place. It sounded European maybe. “A very exciting time for you both, yes?” She regarded them both carefully.

“Very,” Lester said. “Right Babe?” He turned to Maggie who nodded and smiled but said nothing.

“You don’t seem sure, Miss…?”

“Marshall,” Maggie said.

“So how did you come to embark on this adventure together?” Her eyes remained on Lester.

“It’s something I wanted to try. Maggie was a little unsure to start with, but she’s a keeper.” He turned and smiled to Maggie. “She was willing to try for me. What a gal, huh?”

“She sounds like a keeper, Lester. Hold onto a girl like that. A man needs a woman who will be cognizant of all of his urges, correct? Not just the ones she enjoys.”

“That’s what I told her. She’s not the kind of girl who only thinks of herself. That’s the kind of girl you want to keep close.”

“Very wise thinking Mr. Latroy. My husband would say you are a man after his own heart.”

“Is he around?” He hoped not.

“Oh of course. You may even have seen him. He never misses one of our little gatherings. If you haven’t seen him, you will before the evening ends.” She paused and her expression became businesslike. “You say that this was something you always wanted to do. Might I ask exactly what it is you came to do? As you can clearly see, there are many different tastes catered to.”

Lester paused and looked at Maggie. She dropped her eyes. “Well,” he began. “I wanted to see Maggie… you know.” He shifted uncomfortably. Her gaze was intense upon him. He felt like a plant under desert sun.

“Come on Mr. Latroy. Don’t be shy.” Her voice softened. He felt intoxicated by her.

“I uh…” He paused, and looked into the eyes that remained fixed on him. “I wanted to see Maggie with another guy.”

“Wasn’t that easy?” she chided. She turned to Maggie. “A very common request, Miss Marshall. Many men feel this way. You can handle it, can’t you?”

Lester turned to look at Maggie. She shrugged. “What can be so difficult?”

“Exactly, Miss Marshall,” she said. “You will go far in life with an attitude like that. And I mean it when I say you should be grateful.”

“Grateful?” Maggie asked.

“Oh absolutely. You’re not a virgin, are you?”

Lester chortled.

“No,” Maggie said.

“And Mr. Latroy isn’t your first?”

“No.”

“So, frankly what is one more penis?” She grinned widely. “Once you’ve taken one, you can take a hundred. And believe me when I say there aren’t any around here that you need to fear in terms of their size.”

She laughed and Lester followed. He turned to regard Maggie. She was smiling too.

“In my time I have heard of much more outlandish desires. Much more uncomfortable fantasies. This will be very easy. Hence, I say you are lucky. Don’t worry at all. You’re ready? You don’t want to wait a while or anything?”

Lester’s eyes widened. It was really going to happen so easily? It was like she was asking for a glass of water.

“Lester looked at Maggie. He was half expecting her to balk. Perhaps to panic or cry, but she agreed quietly. “I’m ready.”

“Wonderful,” she said. “A keeper if ever I met one. Now, each of you watch this.”

On the table by the flickering candle were two small cylindrical pieces of glass standing abreast of one another. She stood and lifted one glass cylinder and slipped it over the candle, which began to glow blue. She took her seat again and pointed across the room toward the other booths. The candles within them glowed the neutral color of flame and appeared to float in the layer of darkness above the relative light of the floor, like stars on the edge of space. They waited and watched.

“What are we waiting for?” Lester asked in a whisper.

Her eyes remained fixed on the glowing candlelight before them and she held a finger to her lips. Then she smiled, and pointed to their left. Before them, one of the points of flickering flame turned from the color of flame to green, silently before them.

“What the…” Lester began.

Again she motioned to him to be silent as the candlelight in the booths began to change color in perfect sequence, like some strange light show, in time to the classical symphony that floated on the air. Red, yellow, green, amber, pink. They each gained their own unique hue until finally she smiled and pointed. At the far corner of the room, another candlelight blinked blue in the darkness above the joining of flesh on the floor beneath.

“Your match has been found.” She smiled and turned to look at Maggie. “Good luck Miss Marshall. My daughter will lead your way and perform the introductions. You will of course have the opportunity to converse as necessary before visiting the floor. Perhaps you will even get the juices flowing in the privacy of your booth. Make sure to save some for our eyes though.” She smiled at Maggie, who nodded back meekly.

“You are quite sure you want to proceed?” she asked.

Maggie looked at Lester expectantly.

“You can do it, Babe. You’ve come this far.” He smiled but his eyes regarded her with a certain intensity. Surely she wouldn’t shit the bed now that he was so close to his victory?

Maggie’s eyes appeared to search his face for something momentarily before she smiled and nodded slowly. “You’re right Lester. I can.” She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the cheek. He saw something strange in her expression. She had acted oddly tonight, but he supposed it was to be expected considering the circumstances. As long as she went through with things, her behavior ultimately didn’t matter to him.

“Knock ‘em dead, Babe.”

The heavyset door-lady appeared at the front of the booth, by Maggie. “It appears you have been summoned.”

“Lester,” Maggie said, standing. “Mrs. Knight. I will see both of you later.”

Lester laughed. “We might see you first.”

Maggie simply smiled at him and turned to be led away.

“My darling,” Mrs. Knight called after the door-lady. “Can you please bring Mr. Latroy and I two coffees when Miss Marshall is settled in?”

“Of course.” The heavy-set woman nodded and turned and was gone into the shadows with Maggie at her side.

Mrs. Knight removed the blue glass from the candle and one by one, the other blots of color about the room returned to their native states again. Beneath them upon the floor, the acts continued, seemingly oblivious to the silent activity above them.

“No booze here either?” Lester asked.

“Oh no Mr. Latroy,” she said. “No alcohol here ever. Alcohol has the tendency to turn men to pigs. And of course, then there’s the ever-present danger of the dreaded Whiskey Dick, isn’t there?”

She smiled and regarded him intently as she reached beneath the table and took a firm hold of him in her hand. Lester gasped. Her grip was welcome but unexpectedly strong.

“As I thought. No Whiskey Dick down there Mr. Latroy. The coffee will keep it that way.” She released her grip and pulled back to regard him. He smiled and flushed. “Do you have to stop?” he asked with a lopsided grin. The presence in his pants seemed to provoke him. He wanted to silence it.

“What ever happened to conversation Mr. Latroy? Even in a setting like this, a little familiarity can make a pairing more pleasurable. You don’t think so?”

“Maybe. There’s something to be said for just fucking though, isn’t there?” He didn’t want to wait. He wanted to establish dominance and take her now.

“I wasn’t aware you came here to fuck Mr. Latroy. I thought your fantasy was solely voyeurism? The penetration of your future wife by another?”

“Well, yeah but – “

“ – but what?”

“If she can do it, so can I, right?”

“But she’s doing it for you, isn’t she? It wasn’t something she asked for? It sounds to me like you want to have your cake and eat it, Mr. Latroy.”

She regarded him intently with those desert-bleached eyes.

“So why grab my dick, if you don’t want it?” A frustration was beginning to flare in him. Was this old bitch trying to play him?

“Oh, don’t get defensive Mr. Latroy. I’m just conversing. Men like to have their cake and eat it. I wouldn’t expect anything different. I can tell you’re very much a man. I’m sure you’ll provide me with even more evidence before the night ends.”

She allowed her hand to glide along the length of his thigh and over his crotch before retracting it. The frustration was rising in his loins and he gave a minute thrust at her hand as it passed, stabbing at the softness of her palm with the hardness of his manhood.

“You remind me of my husband. He always liked to have his cake and eat it too. We started this place together you know? It was his suggestion initially, but he talked me round eventually and I have never looked back.”

He decided to go with the conversation. Perhaps if he gave her a minute he could turn on his charm afresh. Look at it as a challenge, he thought. “Why the barn? I expected something else.”

“A mansion and masquerade masks perhaps?”

“No. Just a house I guess.”

“Oh, it started that way. But there are only so many times one can tolerate finding a wet spot on their pillow or spunk in their favorite armchair. This was so much easier to control. So much less messy.

“It must have cost.”

“Money was never an issue in the Knight family Mr. Latroy. This was a large and profitable ranch once. Now, the operation is a smaller one. Still profitable though. People will pay a pretty penny to consume our beef.”

“What’s so special about it?”

“We keep a very small number of animals and this creates a demand. Furthermore our animals are mollycoddled. Only the best food, no antibiotics, back and shoulder massages.”

Lester laughed. “So where do the cattle become steak?”

“Right here on the farm of course.”

“Are you the executioner?” he asked with a smile.

“Sometimes. The whole family shares the responsibility.”

Lester’s brow furrowed. “I can’t imagine you doing that.”

“But why not, Mr Latroy?”

“You seem too… ladylike I guess.”

“I appreciate the compliment of course, but you seem to assume that it requires a certain kind of person to kill a living creature.”

“It doesn’t?”

“You have never killed, Mr Latroy?”

“Insects maybe. And I ran over a squirrel once.”

“Nonetheless, killing is in each of us from the church organ player to the big game hunter. The ability is hardwired.”

“But not everyone does it, right?”

“The ability only awaits the appropriate trigger. It could inspired by self-defense, hunger, or simply a desire for the pleasure elicited by the act. Regardless, the act is performed and the person remains the person, whoever they might be.”

“I guess,” Lester said absently. The current direction of the conversation was unlikely to be aphrodisiacal. How to shift topics to something more favorable?

“Who would have thought you could be so beautiful and intelligent.” He looked softly into her eyes and smirked. Conversation back on track.

She smiled back at him. “I apologize, Mr. Latroy. You have gotten me started on something of a pet topic. This is not the kind of thing we should be discussing.”

The door-lady reappeared carrying a tray.

“Ah, my dear,” Mrs. Knight said. “Thank you so much. I was just boring Mr. Latroy with my philosophizing.”

“And telling me about the spoon-fed cattle,” Lester added.

The door-lady placed a cup of coffee before each of them. “Spoon-fed,” she mused. “They are certainly spoiled.”

“Like your father.” Both Mrs. Knight and her daughter laughed.

“I don’t think he could ask for a more reasonable wife. He has quite an appetite for the women.” The younger Knight lifted the empty tray and regarded them both. Is there anything else you need?”

“I don’t think so my dear. Mr. Latroy?”

“I’m fine.”

“So leave us to it then. We’ll see you soon.”

She nodded and was gone into the shadows once more.

“Drink up now Mr. Latroy. The night passes us by. After coffee, I will see how much of a man you are after all.”

“Is that a challenge?” Lester asked.

“Does a challenge bring out the best in you?”

“Always, but especially from a woman.”

“In that case, consider it a challenge Mr. Latroy. I want to learn more about what that this competitiveness brings out in you.”

“Accepted.” He regarded her with determination and sipped the steaming coffee.

“Tell me something about your past conquests Mr. Latroy,” she said. She sipped on her own coffee and regarded him.

“Like what?” he said. “Numbers?” He smiled.

“Oh no. Numbers are somewhat meaningless here as you might imagine. Something out of the ordinary.”

He pondered. “I don’t know what you’re looking for. I was with a couple of girls one time.”

“This sounds interesting. Go on. Miss Marshall and a friend maybe?”

“Shit no. Maggie is a square. Just a couple of girls I knew once.”

“And how did you talk them into it Mr. Latroy? You strike me as a sweet-talker.”

“Oh, I can pretty charming guy when I want to be.”

“So you charmed them into it? Not surprising. And what was special about this ménage a trois? Anything?”

“Well, it was pretty cool I guess.”

“Just pretty cool. Nothing spectacular? Memorable.”

“We taped it.”

“You taped it. They didn’t mind that? Most people I encounter value the privacy of even their exhibitions.”

“They didn’t seem to mind too much. They were pretty slutty I guess.”

“Yes. Girls can be slutty. Well you know the rules here of course. No taping. Nothing like that.”

“I know. You have my phone. You’re safe.”

“And Maggie. Is she safe?”

“Of course. This is between consenting adults.”

“Good. And the other two girls – do you still speak to them? The relationship is still ok?”

“Oh yeah, we’re good. We don’t talk much with Maggie and all.”

“Oh. She’s jealous?”

“Well I can’t tell her stuff like that.”

“Isn’t that what people who are serious about one another do Mr. Latroy? Tell the truth.”

“To a point maybe. No need to spoil all the mystery.” He noticed that the candle on the table was once more glowing behind the blue glass. Had it been all along? He didnt think so. Had Mrs. Knight just moved it there? It didn’t matter. Eyes on the prize.

“Oh of course. A relationship needs mystery. Spice. And what other types of secrets do you keep from her? Anything else? Anything juicy for me?”

“I have something juicy for you, but it’s not a secret.” He drained the cup of coffee and leaned forward, pushed a hand along her thigh and beneath the hem of the skirt.

“You may have to wait a little longer Mr. Latroy.”

“Jesus! What now?”

She pointed across the room to the table whose owner had summoned Maggie. “It appears your paramour is about to visit the floor.”

Lester followed the direction of her outstretched hand and vaguely made out twin silhouettes descending the steps before it.

“Damn,” he whispered

Good timing you stupid bitch.

He stood and approached the railing that ran along the seating area. As he strained his eyes to better make out the pair, he saw them make their way toward a station on the gloomy floor. He cast a glance over his shoulder at Mrs. Knight. She smiled and regarded him intensely.

“Watch,” she said. “This is why you came after all”.

Lester turned again to the floor and glanced at his watch. The hour and minute hands remained at the same positions they had occupied two hours earlier in the car. Between the two still hands rested a tiny lens. God bless the Chinese, he thought as he leaned on the balcony and allowed his hands to hang limp over it. Tentatively, he reached across with his index finger and pushed the button on the watch’s side.

Let’s get on with it.

The twin silhouettes increased in clarity until he could clearly make out Maggie, blank-faced and staring upward and across the floor at him. He raised a hand – Smile! – but she remained expressionless and staring. The dearth of expression seemed an active thing, crafted and broadcast. Her look seemed to urge him to intervene, but interruption was not an option. He had worked too hard to get her this far. He had endured too many days of insincere affection, too many evenings of counterfeit passion. He was treading the home straight now. His reward was in sight.

The dimly lit station consisted only of a large ottoman. A single bulb glowed weakly before it. The figure behind Maggie became only sufficiently visible for Lester to see that he appeared morbidly obese. Lester’s eyes grew wide and he snorted laughter. “Holy shit.” He turned again to look at Mrs. Knight but she only continued to stare at events on the floor.

The overweight figure approached Maggie and placed a hand on her shoulder, reaching for the base of her neck with the other. The hand dropped to her waist and the shoulders of her dress fell limp. As the figure retreated a step once more and began to work at his own clothing, Maggie allowed her shoulders to slump and the dress fell free about her feet. She stood now, topless in the gloom, plump breasts hanging and still before him.

As the person behind her revealed his own flesh, the light caught him. His gut hung and sagged about misshapen thighs and above it the chest drooped like something melted. Lester continued to watch with morbid fascination as the figure approached Maggie again from behind and jerked her underwear down and loose. She stepped out of the laced garment, leaving her clothing abandoned in a wrinkled pile. He pushed her forwards and she fell onto the ottoman.

She climbed onto all fours and now the glowing bulb lit her face sufficiently for Lester to clearly see the stillness of her features and the blankness in the eyes. He shook his head in disbelief. He couldn’t have dreamt it could be this good. Maggie dropped to her elbows and raised her plump behind in the air. The figure pushed forward. He had to reach beneath the folds of his gut to retrieve a penis that remained unseen with darkness and distance. He shuffled forward on unsteady feet and Maggie winced. The thing released the hold on his flab and Lester saw with perverse delight that the bundle of fat was resting upon Maggie’s buttocks as he began to thrust at her, sending her and his own breasts and stomach fluttering amongst the gloom.

Lester stole another wide-eyed and smiling glance at his watch before returning his eager gaze to the dark scene of degradation unfolding before him. The thing behind her continued to thrust and Maggie appeared stoic as her breasts danced and shivered, framed by her tensed arms.

There was no enjoyment in it, he was sure. Not for her at least. For him, it was wonderful. This footage would be priceless. The thrusting gained pace and the figure began to groan loud enough that he could be heard above the others on the floor and above the gentle classical symphonies.

Lester realized his prick was solid, throbbing in his pants. Another minute or two for this to end and Mrs. Knight was going to have to take it, he thought. If she was lucky maybe he would even vary up orifices. Don’t mention it. The pleasure’s mine. As if seeking confirmation, he turned to look at her, pelvis thrust forward to broadcast the sight of the pulsing bulge pulling the fabric of his pants leg tight.

His display was cut short. Suddenly a painful cramp flared through the muscle of his neck. He grimaced and began to roughly massage the knotted flesh with a stubborn hand. As the bolt of pain began to subside he lifted his eyes to Mrs. Knight.

Her eyes were wide and fixed on him, observing him with hungry curiosity. Lester regarded her demeanor with budding confusion. He began to open his mouth to ask her what she was looking at but his jaw locked hard. The beginnings of panic began to bloom in his knotting stomach and accelerating heart.

His wide eyes absorbed the image of her as her hand went to the table and then to the candle that burned upon it. His legs began to tremor beneath his weight and he spun to the railing at his back for support. Before his head could turn back to the floor, he saw that the candle on the table now burned red within another of the glass cylinders.

Suddenly, Lester’s head felt leaden. It dropped forward hard, like a hinge had been released between his upper vertebrae. A tremor coursed through the muscle of his neck and sent the head bobbing as it rolled loosely and erratically atop his body. He perceived a disproportionate weight bearing down through his forearms and the thin railing they rested on. It felt like an unseen load had been slung roughly across his shoulders. The metal railing cruelly resisted the bones of his arms and set bright bolts of acute pain through him. His balance was maintained only by inertia. Any movement threatened to drive him either backwards into the floor or face-first into the railing.

Oh Jesus, I’m having a stroke!

He fought to move but his body was paralyzed. He strained to scream but his lips only parted for his failed calls to expel between them in a silent gust.

His wide eyes rolled upward, darting about the floor before him, desperately seeking the sight of anyone who noticed his plight. He summoned all the strength in his failing muscles and tried again to scream but only a dense string of saliva spilled from him and hung, viscous in the air.

His desperate eyes continued to flick about the distorted scene they conjured at their extreme angle, and within the alarm of his mind Lester became aware of a changing of the view before him.

One by one, the candlelights floating in the layer of darkness above the floor began to turn red. Then came the sound of her voice in his ear, close enough that he could feel the warmth of her breath settle upon him.

“Mr. Latroy,” she whispered. “You confused me when you put up so little fight over your phone. For a moment I even thought there might have been some decency in you.”

She laid a hand on each of his shoulders and gripped him hard enough that he felt her nails in his flesh. She jerked him backwards with surprising force and his limp body crashed heavily to the floor. Bright white light flashed in his vision as his head connected with the unforgiving wood beneath him. She glared down at him. Her eyes were wild, the face contorted in a mask of rage.

“It was your wristwatch all along. You are a man alright. A pig, bastard, man.

Panic exploded within him. She knew. How the hell had she known about the camera? And what had they done to him?

“Good thing we don’t serve alcohol Mr, Latroy. It seems you can’t even handle a good cup of coffee.”

The bitches drugged me!

The wild figure towering above him beckoned to someone in the direction of the main floor. She turned her attention skyward and above them he heard the undulating metallic whine of a pulley being released.

Something emerged out of the blackness above them, swaying as it descended, glinting as it neared. As she reached for it and pulled it to her by the chain it hung from, Lester realized with growing terror that the thing falling from the ceiling was a honed and rugged meat hook.

What the fuck?!

She knelt at his feet, heavy hook in hand. He felt his pants being pushed up roughly about his shins. She pulled his shoes and socks free and tossed them aside, cupped her left hand beneath his calf and pushed it upward off the floor. His leg stretched out limp before him and he watched in terror as she brought the hook close and placed its point gently against the delicate indented flesh between his Achilles and his ankle. The tough steel was cold and its point brought pain even without pressure. She looked up at him from her position with a smile. “I should stop Mr. Latroy. You’ve learned your lesson, right?” He tried everything to call out that he had.

Yes! Stop please!

Only a low guttural groan would come. Surely she would stop. She had scared him enough, embarrassed him enough.

She smiled. “Don’t worry about speaking Mr. Latroy. I know the answer. You had chances to turn back tonight and you took none of them. The fact is that pigs like you don’t change. Not ever. I consider myself an expert.” She steeled herself.

Oh Jesus, FUCK! Please, no!

She jerked the hook laterally. It glided through the skin behind the tendon and emerged smeared and bloody from within his torn flesh. Agony flared along Lester’s leg and warm crimson began to stream from it. His groans were greeted by renewed momentum but they only grated through his vocal cords, barely carrying. She regarded him with wide, excited eyes and reached across for the second foot.

Please no. Oh God, PLEASE!

He sent panicked pleads to the muscles of his leg, implored his foot to retract from her hold but it hung lifeless before him. The helplessness and the fear overpowered and nauseated him. He was dimly aware a spreading warmth about his crotch as his bladder released.

She tensed and pulled and the hook ripped through his leg birthing a fresh round of failed screams to collapse within his throat behind its scaffold of standing tendons. A layer of sweat had risen all across him, soaking the fibers of his clothes and rolling from his still, strained face.

She regarded him with a look of mock regret. “If you think that was painful, I have some very bad news for you Mr. Latroy.” She turned toward the floor and beckoned once more to an unseen party. Whatever was happening was far from a joke. Far from simply teaching a lesson. She had to be insane. What would she stop at? His mind swirled.

For a moment there was silence, and then ballistic pain filled him. The sounds of the pulley called from above them, drowning out the dry, guttural roar within his throat. His feet and legs jolted upwards and he slid across the floor by an inch. The sound and the agony came again and his feet rose higher, pulling him across the floor in another increment.

When the pulleys sounded and the pain erupted for the third time, his vision jerked violently and the world was inverted as his head dragged across the floor and he was pulled into the air by his punctured ankles, the pain searing over and through him like all-consuming flame. He swung and spun as his body blazed pain and then her hands were on his legs and the pulleys above were moving and she was pushing him outwards, guiding him with her as she descended the steps and joined the other figures upon the exhibition floor.

Agony tore through his ankles and legs in waves and his vision spun and swayed as he swung at the chain’s end. Indiscernible figures stirred in the gloom. Others appeared in sporadic islands of dim illumination, naked, sometimes glistening, always turned and silent and staring like curious animals. Would they try to stop this insanity? Surely someone would step in? One of the men perhaps?

The chain whipped in fine arcs as it bore him, sending fresh bolts of pain coursing through him with every movement. At the center of the floor she stopped suddenly and roughly gripped his belt with both hands to brake him. She stepped back, allowing him to rotate and sway in open space at the mercy of momentum and gravity.

His eyes darted about the scene before him, craving any sight that might enable him to make sense of the dire scene. It was the women that he noticed first, abandoning the stations or cubicles they had occupied and slowly advancing toward him. There appeared to be no urgency in them. How could they not be shocked by this? They disappeared and reappeared from the dappled gloom of the place, each partially or wholly naked. Their eyes remained fixed, their features still, their voices silent.

Before the advancing line of women he saw two individuals at opposing outer edges of the room. Each stooped and worked at the floor then stood and advanced a few steps at a time. He strained to discern the purpose of their movement and then saw the floor covering they lifted and pushed. As they moved, the carpeting gathered before them in a growing roll, revealing harsh grey concrete beneath.

As the advancing line of women reached him the roll of floor covering disappeared behind him, opening the floor beneath him, industrial and cold, a shining chrome grate covering a drain beneath him. The women surrounded him.

He saw their toes, painted and manicured in the low light. In the interstices between the naked figures he saw something else approaching from the gloom. He heard the fleshy footfalls on the hard concrete as they approached and he squinted to make out the approaching figures. Something was wrong with the image before him, although he could not identify the exact source of the growing dread in him.

Sweat, rolled into his eyes and he blinked furiously to clear his vision. The picture before him, already dark, became blurred and kaleidoscopic. As he fought to clear his vision, he saw the figures bearing down on him, closing in. His eyes rolled in their aching sockets. His eyes worked to gain acuity and suddenly he saw the approach of the men.

They moved clumsily as if weighted by sodden garments, but their flesh was bare. He saw the obese one who had been with Maggie minutes earlier, gut bulging and hanging over elephantine legs. Three others approached, each slimmer than the first, yet their skin appeared loose and stretched. They seemed to ooze toward him. A fear ballooned in him.

The men won’t help. They’re going to rape me!

Except they were not men, were they? As they grew close the fear of sodomy was replaced with something new, for he saw that their bodies were beyond wrinkled or obese. Their ill-fitting skin hung and trembled, deformed and lax like flesh that had been boiled from the body.

The skin shone, waxen in the occasional light that struck it, and above it stood their body hair, dry and depleted and wild. Their genitals were barely recognizable, shrunken and withered like stale old fruit. And there was something more. Something in the expressionless faces and the lips frozen still, and the eyes that somehow did not seem part of the faces.

He hung, surrounded by the ghoulish man-things and women, every private piece of them revealed. Even above the pain in his legs and the panic in his heart, something about the things around him set his skin on edge. The mute women stared in relaxed silence. Perhaps they would stop after all. Perhaps they had scared him enough. They would release him. Make him promise secrecy. And he would agree. Of course he would!

The hostess reappeared with a roll of what appeared to be canvas in one hand. She knelt and regarded him intently. “You would have been quite content to ruin dear Maggie’s life just like you ruined the lives of those other two girls Mr. Latroy.” She stood before him, handed off her package to one of the onlookers and began to pace a small circuit before him. “The two sluts you drugged and videoed. One is dead you know? Driven to overdose by a shame that you created Mr. Latroy. It took a week before someone finally broke into her apartment and found her, purple and swollen and bleeding from her eyes and mouth.”

That wasn’t my fault! She was always a mess!

“Your other victim fortunately is still with us, for it was she was able to warn Maggie to exercise caution around you. It was this caution was what enabled her to intercept your sordid little wager. It was her interception that led her to us.”

That interfering bitch!

He groaned desperately and tears streamed from his eyes. “You should be very proud of your girlfriend Mr. Latroy. For such a meek girl, she proved incredibly devious. To think that all this time you thought you were setting her up for humiliation, she remained ahead of you.”

Mrs. Knight stepped backward, placed a hand on the shoulder of one of the men. “I did say you would likely meet my husband, didn’t I Mr. Latroy?” She stepped forward with the misshapen creature at her side. “Do say hello.” He looked at the thing in confused horror. Mrs. Knight absorbed his confusion and then, grinning widely, her hand went to the back of the ghoul’s neck where she took hold of the flesh of the neck and tore it upward and forwards with a series of jerking motions in an act of near effortless flaying.

He could feel his heart palpitate in his chest as he stared upwards with mounting incertitude. The loose flesh of the face and scalp hung everted and shining upon the thing’s chest, hair protruding from within it.

Atop the shoulders now rested the face of a young woman that stared back at him from within the misshapen body. The woman began to pull the rubbery flesh from about her. It stretched and peeled and fell limp about her on the floor just as Maggie’s clothes had fallen. The woman stood in its place, naked and normal, the discarded suit a wrinkled pile before her. His mind swirled in a mire of pained confusion. What did any of this have to do with her husband?

“I told you my husband never missed a party Mr. Latroy. It has been quite some time since he was alive at one though.” She kneeled and lifted the wrinkled suit of skin from the floor. She placed one hand on the shining, bulging outer surface, turned the outside inward as if it were a sock, and pushed her own face inside it. She leaned close to him, wild eyes dilated and glistening inside the loose-fitting head. Dry, old hair hung about the face and her tongue protruded through preserved, rubbery lips. It could not be! It had to be a sick joke, gone too far. It must be!

“Very glad to make your acquaintance Mr. Latroy,” she falsettoed from within the mask of dead flesh. “You are a man after my own heart.” She pushed the thing’s frigid lips upon his own in a grotesque kiss and realization and acceptance dawned in him, the crippled attempts at roars within began afresh within the raw flesh of his throat.

“Someone please take this little bastard’s watch and destroy it,“ Mrs. Knight said, retreating from him. “His clothes too.” As she stood and pulled the head of the suit free from her face, the man-ghouls about her began to peel the flesh from themselves, revealing the women within the necrosuits. One of them dropped to her knees and pulled the camera watch from his wrist.

“Each of us has been a victim of men like you Mr. Latroy. These skins are what remain of some of them. I didn’t lie when I said you reminded me of my husband. He was a pig too. Pigs. Humiliators. Liars. Men. As much as I hate them, it’s always nice to gain a new member such as yourself.”

All around him now, the women were working at his clothes, tearing them from him. He heard their breaths as they pulled. He could smell the musk of their old sex from their mouths and fingers and engorged pudenda as they swarmed about him. He felt like something dead being picked apart by buzzards.

“Maggie says there was a thousand dollars at stake Mr. Latroy? A man of your wealth doesn’t need a thousand dollars, but you were willing to lie and perhaps destroy the life of this young woman of whom you had grown tired.”

It was Maggie who stepped forward now from the shadows with the long blade in her hand. He groaned and prayed that she would relent. He was paralyzed but he still had his looks and his eyes. If she would just look at him she would relent and turn her back on whatever craziness had gotten into her. She had always been powerless against his looks.

Look at me Maggie!

She regarded him with indifference as she moved casually behind him, relaxed, almost graceful. He felt pressure at his waist, moving downward to the neck as she drew her finger along the length of his exposed spine.

“My husband had needs Mr. Latroy. I was permissive. But when my daughters became the target of his perversions I had enough.”

Now the daughters appeared naked amongst the gathering crowd. Their physical similarities were fewer now for they had developed their own distinct patterns of alternating musculature and swathes of dimpled cellulite where the muscle had been neglected or genetics overruled. A faded love heart was tattooed at the edge of one’s unkempt mat of tawny pubic hair. Surely they could stop this madness? Hadn’t he charmed them both despite a rocky start?

He stared desperately at them but there was no familiarity in their eyes. No acknowledgement of either his earlier insults or his humor. They seemed to regard him with the indifference they might reserve for a animal.

“My husband always wanted to be inside others Mr. Latroy. Occasionally he wanted others to be inside him.”

A woman was kneeling and unrolling the canvas on the floor. Within it was a collection of identical blades that gleamed dangerously. One by one they knelt and retrieved a blade and stood again.

“I thought it was fitting that after he was gone he could still have others inside him each time we gathered,” she said, motioning to the pile of skins that had been assembled to one side of the encircled clearing. “The skins are in his honor. And of course, he has also been inside us in a way. You know, cattle are herbivores, but they’ll eat anything if it’s presented to them appropriately. You will get your chance to be in us all too Mr. Latroy. A fitting end for a man of your tastes.”

There was an unreality about it all. How could it be? How could he find himself in this situation? It could not be a joke but it simultaneously must be. Things like this did not happen. This could not be how it would end. Only two hours ago he had been driving the new car, swollen with pride at the act he had talked her into.

He stared about him in panic. He saw their eyes upon him and the glinting blades held close to themselves, cradled. He knew all at once that neither his features nor his body would move them them now. He saw in their eyes that he was as meat.

Knight took a step back and watched calmly as they swarmed him.

The first incision came at the waist, the blade drawn around it like a belt. His eyes closed and his raw throat and head ached with the pressure of his failed screams. He could only pray now that it would end quickly. He swayed violently on the chain. His chest bucked as they began to push and pull and cut and tear at him.

For a series of moments the pain became everything. The world disappeared and with it time and matter. There was only endless space and universal pain swelling to fill it like some catastrophic supernova. It filled the void before him and then retreated, pulsed like something living.

Suddenly he was aware of his held breath and when it released he could again see and feel them moving about him, working with ruthless efficiency to separate his outer layers. Cut and pull, cut and pull. He felt the pressure of their sawing and their pulling and he heard the fascia surrender under the pressure of hand or blade. He closed his eyes and tried to send his mind into the infinity of the blackness from which a hundred colors swirled and exploded with every cut.

There was no escape from it, not until they stopped and his eyelids fluttered open weakly and erratically like the final beating of the wings on a dying moth.

His mind held onto consciousness as the world took on an ethereal hue. His torso glistened above him like red-painted canvas. His arms hung beneath him under the effects of the same crimson brush. In the floor beneath him the chrome drain glared upward, blood-spattered, it’s slats appearing as the mutant chops of some monster, his reflection upon them red and only red.

Before him Maggie stood by Knight, a bloody pile in her hands. A fine mist of blood had settled upon her unfurrowed brow. Knight took the package from her and began to manipulate and evert it, and he saw then the horrifying volume of dark tacky fluid that coated Maggie’s breasts and arms and legs, matted her sparse pubic hair, turned her into a terrifying image of consciousless brutality. The image said to him, no way back, only death.

The world faded in and out of focus before him. In time unknown to him Knight held the thing before her with a smile and beckoned Maggie closer to her as she raised it aloft.

Maggie approached and pushed her hands and arms inside it, carefully navigated her fingers into its limp endings. Then she was pulling it over her as he had seen her pull sweaters onto her naked body after sex, in a past ever more infinitely beyond reach.

“And of course Mr. Latroy,” Mrs. Knight rasped, as she turned Maggie to face him and he saw the eyes of his once girlfriend regard him indifferently from within the blood speckled, ill-fitting an expressionless features of his own pallid, dead face. “We will all have our opportunity to be inside you.

The world disappeared. He felt the blades enter him again and again. A thousand stars exploded cataclysmically in the infinite darkness of his inner space.

A yearning rose within the remnants of conscious thought. It buoyed through and above any thought of demise. It momentarily raised its presence above the barbed spikes of agony, the crushing waves of nausea and the smothering undercurrent of panic and fear.

It was a simple desire, instinctual and familiar, denied and buried until his moment of desperate helplessness. It was the comforting embrace of his mother that his dying mind cried out for. It was the desire for soft whispered words of comfort, the need for her effortless reassurance.

 

It will be ok, she would say.

 

The worst is over now.

 

Don’t try to fight it.

 

You are being so brave.

 

Go to sleep, my Sweet.

 


Lester's Keeper

  • ISBN: 9781370624966
  • Author: George Holm
  • Published: 2016-10-21 23:50:09
  • Words: 12526
Lester's Keeper Lester's Keeper