“Welcome, Mr. Irving. Will Miss Kensey be joining you at a later time?”
“No, she’s opening for The Underground Aviators until February.”
“It’s going to be an extensive tour, if I recall correctly. It must be awful to think of your fiancée being away for so long.”
“I’ll find a way to make the time pass by.”
The finely dressed doorman waved me through into the building. The interior of the museum was dimly lit to preserve the colors of the classical paintings. I could already tell a few of the pieces would fetch high bids, but those weren’t to my taste. The particular kind of artwork I was looking for today would have long legs, silky hair, and full, plump lips. I just had to sort through what was available until I found the perfect piece to “bid” on.
It took about 20 minutes to find her. I was placing a cursory bid on a Mesopotamian cylinder seal when I glanced her standing at an exhibit for a jade pendant a few tables to my right. She fit all my criteria and then more. Her short black hair emphasized the pleasant shape of her face. She was taller and had slightly darker skin than my fiancée. She had more curves too, but not excessively so. This one was the best I’d seen yet and a better one wasn’t likely to come along. Time to place my bid.
As I approached the exhibit I made sure to make eye contact and nod at her. She smiled back, and watched me as I neared her. Her dress was simple but elegant, and draped her in the most flattering way. Her jewelry had similar qualities, and included one of those miniature portraits of a Catholic saint.
“The jade is stunning. Do you have an interest in ancient Chinese artifacts?” I asked.
“Not really. I am more taken with the materials used. I prefer jade, opals, and turquoise to precious metals and gemstones. They are elegant without running the risk of being flashy. Not that I could wear a necklace made before the birth of Christ.” She sipped her champagne lightly and turned her eyes back to the display. “Looks like this is outside my price range anyway.”
“But not mine. A woman with such refined taste should have something appropriate to display in her home.” I checked the amount required for a guaranteed bid. It was a bit inflated but worth it if events panned out with this one in the way I planned. I signed for it, carefully using my body to block her view of my signature and phone number. “And what does the new owner of this remarkable artifact call herself?”
“My name is Pia. And who are you, my benefactor?” she said with a smirk and a playful bat of her eyelashes.
“Robert Daniels.” A fittingly generic nome de plume and one I used often. I noticed she offered no last name, but that didn’t affect me one way or another. I am a gentleman, and understand the value of anonymity and privacy. “And it would be my pleasure if I could take you to dinner tomorrow, maybe at a place with a bayside view?
“That’s rather spur of the moment for me. My day tomorrow already looks booked.” The woman took a moment to explicitly run her eyes over me. All well and good if I can run my hands over her later. “However, I don’t see any reason why we can’t keep each other company now. Later, I might need help transporting the jade pendent you’ve graciously gifted me to my car. I arrived here late and had to park in the back of the lot. Do you volunteer?”
The sultry and suggestive tone of her voice aroused my impatience for the end of the auction.
“Pia, I volunteer for anything you want.”
When she opened the back hatch of her SUV for me, I immediately noticed a strong smell of bleach coming from within. I carefully loaded the box into the back of the SUV while my date held the door open. The back seats had been removed, giving me plenty of room to strap in and secure her precious cargo. Her vehicle was not what I had expected: a black Chevy Suburban with tinted windows.
As I climbed into the front passenger seat, I asked, “Where’d you get this ride? Surely it isn’t your usual date night choice.”
“I was planning for cargo, not a date. I borrowed this from the limousine company I work for because the back seats can be removed.” The woman turned the key in the ignition as she said, “We’re going to travel northwest, into the woods. My parents own a cabin out there. It’s really luxurious and private, just perfect for couples.”
“Oh,” I replied, rubbing the back of my neck, “I’ve never spent a night outside of the city.”
“It might be jarring to you at first, being out in nature and looking into the horizon at the city,” she said, “there’s a feeling of otherworldliness about the experience. But it calms restless, unsatisfied souls like yours.”
“About how far outside of town is it?” I tried to keep my tone conversational, but I hoped this cabin was not too far. The sun was beginning to set, turning the sky dark yellow. I didn’t come with her to experience a nature hike or amateur psychoanalysis.
“A half-mile from Lake Jasper. So not very far at all.”
The radio was low and turned to a smooth jazz station. My date had grabbed her jacket from the coat room on the way out and hung it on her shoulders. She had left it partially open and her cleavage and the saint occasionally peeked out. She hummed along with the music and I tried to disguise my impatient rapping on my knees in the rhythm. I didn’t want to go to her stupid backwater cabin when a hotel would suit things just fine. But I shouldn’t upset her, even if I can’t call a taxi a half-mile from Lake Jasper.
I glanced at her again at a stop light. She winked at me and patted my thigh before turning her eyes back to the light. I smirked. She’d be worth some inconvenience, even if my initial excitement was starting to fade. Patience was never a virtue of mine. Some distraction would be nice, so I asked a question I had been holding back. “Why does this SUV have such a strong smell of bleach?”
“Because of drunken teenagers and frat boys, mostly. Both the stain and the smell of alcohol-based vomit are hard to get rid of. This particular limo has just been cleaned. It’ll fade with time.”
I suppose that explanation made sense; the smell of the bleach was beginning to become less noticeable anyway. . What did bother me, more than I wanted to admit, was the idea of being in the woods for the night. The idea of leaving the city for an untamed, uncontrolled world was wholly unappealing, and I didn’t care to associate with those types who preferred such a setting over the conveniences of urban life. However, I was not going to let a bit of discomfort keep me from that woman’s striking face and perfectly formed body. I just had to think of it as a new challenge, and hope the physical experience waiting in that cabin is worthy of her allure.
The sky had morphed from yellow to a maroon hue. The city was losing ground to nature, and the trees were only going to get thicker. This night was going to be darker than any I had ever spent in the city, where even the seediest alleyways housed light escaping from streetlights and windows. Maybe when we got down to it, the setting would be erotic, but for now, I felt ill at ease. I checked my iPhone. My suspicion that it would have low reception was confirmed. Fantastic. Everything familiar was being stripped away from me. Even the ceaseless crunching of the gravel road underneath her Suburban’s tires reminded me that I was out of my element. I didn’t like it. Unknowingly, this woman had the upper hand in the situation, and that was unacceptable.
I was about to suggest that we stop and get down to business next her cargo, but then she spoke up.
“You look anxious. I hope I’m not being too pushy. If you would rather just trade numbers then that’s fine. I can drive you home after we drop off the jade.”
“No, please don’t misunderstand me. I want to spend the night with you. Who wouldn’t? I just wish this cabin wasn’t so far.” I wasn’t about to admit the nighttime woods made me uneasy. Only insecure little boys are afraid of the dark. I just had to get the situation back on track. “So, how experienced are you about matters of the bedroom, dearest?” I began stroking the small of her back. If I get the conversation going in the right direction now, she would be less inclined to waste time once we arrived.
She responded by laughing in a low tone. “I have had more partners than I can count on two hands. I had a steady boyfriend three years ago, but he and my sister Valerie had a …..disagreement. Valerie made it clear I had to make a choice. I chose her. Since then, I’ve only had casual single-time partners.”
A sister, huh? “How’s Valerie doing now?” I moved my hand to gently rub her neck, and she leaned back slightly into my massage.
That bit of news was delivered in the same casual-with-a-pinch-of-flirty tone she’d been speaking all day. Only a brief tightening of her face betrayed any change in her emotions. Disturbed, I stopped caressing her neck, only for her to give me an aggressive, demanding look that I gave into reflexively.
I turned my face away from her while my hand resumed massaging her neck. A change of subject was needed.
“Who’s the saint on your necklace?”
“Saint Rita,” she said in a tense tone, like I’d just asked about her age or weight.
A strange feeling was creeping up my spine. A sensation that was unfamiliar and paralyzing. However, I couldn’t focus on it, as the Chevy took a sharp turn and slowed. I looked out the windshield to see a two-story cabin with a veranda and balcony getting closer and closer until I could make out the pleats in the drapery. I heard her pull up the parking break, and in the next second her hands were on my shoulders. I turned toward her again only to feel her soft lips give a little against mine. What a mood swing. My eyes closed and I wrapped my arms around her. My hands enveloped her buttocks and squeezed them gently, and she broke away from my lips with a satisfied sigh.
“Let’s go inside. The jade can wait for morning,” she said in a breathy, intoxicating voice.
The woman had been partially right. From this distance, the lights of the city shone like illuminated pearls against the darkness of the ocean floor. It was beautiful, but not calming. I felt isolated and cold, although I suppose that last one is my own fault for standing at a cabin’s open window in my boxers letting in the chilly November night air. I closed the windows and curtains while wondering what was taking her so long.
She had good taste. The room was appropriately lit. A few jasmine-scented candles complemented three dimmed wall lamps that gave the room an atmosphere of rustic, natural grace. One of the two nightstands had another portrait of that saint she seemed attached to. The bedposts were carved to look like thick columns of vines holding up the mattress, which was covered in leaf-yellow and white sheets. There was even a matching wooden bar with an empty shelf behind it.
Only two objects in the room disrupted the decorative cohesiveness. The first was a heavy mobile workbench with a large desk lamp standing in the far corner away from the bathroom and bed. The second was a photograph blown up to the size of a painting and hanging above the headboard. It depicted my date smiling and waving at the camera, with her other arm around a younger girl in graduation robes. I had a suspicion that this was the deceased sister, whose name I can’t recall. What the lovely hell was that photograph doing there?
My thoughts were then drawn in more carnal directions as the door opened and she emerged from the bathroom in a dark red chemise that hemmed at the upper thigh. It was bewitching, and her legs were damn near perfect. I was so fixated on those legs that she had to pick my chin up to speak to me.
“I asked if you wanted a drink, Robert.”
“Then brandy will have to do, because that’s all my father left here.”
“That’ll be fine, Mia.”
“It’s Pia.” She kissed my forehead and went to the empty bar. While she retrieved the brandy and a glass from underneath the bar, I turned to sit on the edge of the bed. This girl is odd. I mispronounced her name and she barely noticed.
As the ice chimed in the glasses, she asked the usual questions: what I did for a living, what my father did, what kind of drugs I preferred, my taste in music. I answered them with my usual “Robert Daniels” portfolio. When she finished with my drink, she sat in my lap rather than hand the drink over.
Curious, I asked, “Are you drinking, or do you expect us to share one glass?”
“I don’t drink before sex. Alcohol makes me sleepy.”
She motioned with the glass and I let her pour some of the brandy in my mouth. She pulled the glass away and kissed my neck as I swallowed the brandy. The glass was placed on the nightstand as our hands became otherwise occupied. Her skin felt like fine velvet underneath my hands and mouth. After a few minutes, she pushed me into the center of the bed, straddled my hips, and used her tongue to explore my mouth. I lifted my arms to grasp her closer to me, but for some reason, my hands wouldn’t latch on. I fumbled like an awkward teenager. I moved to kiss her shoulders, but my arms fell flat onto her back like lengths of heavy rope. They didn’t want to cooperate with my brain. They only half-responded to my mental command, and were feeling heavier by the second. The woman then shrugged my immobile arms off of her.
“What’s the matter, Robert? Lost your nerve? Your confidence? Or is that just the muscle relaxer in your drink?”
My heart shuddered. It seemed to be the only part of me that could still move rapidly. What was she doing? I appreciate a certain degree of kinkiness but she didn’t ask permission! Who the fuck did she think she was? If she knew who I really am, she would not have dared!
Her…Pia’s silk fingers turned to claws as she tore my boxers off roughly, and dropped them to the floor. She got up from the bed, leaving me lying there as motionless as a dead fish. I heard the nightstand drawer open and some metallic clinking I tried to move my neck, but I couldn’t do it fast enough to follow her. Suddenly, my ankle was dragged toward the end of the bed and I felt cold metal wrap around it. I cried out, demanding that she stop, but she acted like I didn’t say anything. From the sounds I heard, I realized she had just handcuffed my ankle to the bedpost. As she approached my other foot, I tried to kick with all my might, but the drug, this muscle relaxer, turned my attack into a pathetic flop.
Pia repeated the process with my wrists and the top bedposts, humming one of the jazz songs we’d listened to on the way through the woods. I only saw her handcuff me when she had to move into my field of vision. Anger was starting to boil hotter in my chest, overtaking the confusion.
“Hey! Bitch! This is assault and unlawful restraint! If you don’t release me right now, I’ll send you to the worst hole of a prison I can find. I’ll sue every living family member you have for every cent!”
I was interrupted by shuddering and scraping on the wooden floor. Concentrating my efforts, I moved my head over to the right, where the workbench had been moved closer to the bed and the desk lamp turned on. Still humming, Pia reached under the bed and then placed the container she found there on the bench. My eyes adjusted to the light as she opened the….toolbox? I saw a glint as she took out a pair of scissors and placed them on the bench.
“So, Robert Daniels, you can drop that generic name.” She placed a pair of pliers next to the scissors. “I know you’re Nathan Irving.” Next she placed a wrench set next to the scissors, keeping everything in a neat row. “Such a showing of Saint Rita’s grace that you would wander into my net, a blue marlin of male sin.” A cigar cutter was next in the row. “I am a fisher of men, cleansing God’s ocean of disease like rapists, entitled pricks, and emotionless reptiles who can only interact with lost women by way of casual sex. By getting away with it, they spread their disease and corrupt others. But you, Nathan Irving, are celebrated despite the fact that you use women and throw them away like paper cups.” Out of the box came knife after knife. “How many of your father’s employees or their family members have you raped and paid off that didn’t try to tell the press?”
My anger tried to boil over, but the sight of those tools on the bench was turning my bones into frost. “That’s none of your business. Women will claim anything for a piece of my wealth, and I’ve settled my debts. How much are you thinking of demanding in ransom for my life, by the way?”
“Sad excuses from a mud-crawling toad. I can’t imagine what you have over Amelia Kensey that got her to agree to marry you.”
“Leave Amelia out of this, bitch.”
“Don’t worry, I have no intention of threatening her. I love her and want to help her. After tonight, she’ll be free. The problem is I have now is that I don’t believe your flesh can handle the punishment needed, the punishment God demands of you. If I were to remove all your teeth, it would not account for all the women you’ve wronged. If I were then to remove all your fingers and toes, it would still not be sufficient for all the women you’ve defiled. If I were then to break all your bones, it would again fall short of what you deserve for all the women you’ve used.”
“Stop deluding yourself, little girl. This isn’t about punishment or whatever you think God wants inside your twisted brain. Look at yourself! You’re in lingerie, your skin is flushed, and you’re breathing heavily! This is about sex! You get off on torture and justify it to yourself by claiming the moral high ground. If I’m a toad, you’re just a snake.”
I barely got the word “snake” out before Pia’s hands were around my throat. She wasn’t very strong; I could still breathe in short, sputtering gasps. Noticing this, she started kneeling on my chest. It felt like my ribs would cave, and I found myself wishing they would so that this nightmare would end and I would wake up next to Amelia. At this point, I was exhaling more bravado than air. As my vision started to blur, that sensation that struck me in the Chevy came back exponentially. This must be what being threatened, seriously threatened by someone who can carry their threats out feels like. My date was going to kill me. I was going to die like a whore in the middle of the woods at the hands of some woman. It was absurd and unfair. I couldn’t even struggle.
Before I could black out, the hands retreated and I saw Pia move to sit on my waist rubbing her temples. I grabbed as much air as I could.
“You almost got to me. You almost got away.” The woman got a small key and something else from the desk. A few seconds later I heard a click as my left hand was freed. She grabbed my chin and manually turned my head toward her. Then she held my left hand in hers. The cigar cutter was in her right hand. “Pray and prepare yourself.” She slid the cutter over my left ring finger and pushed down. My finger fell off and blood from the leftover stump stained the sheets. The pain was sudden and unrelenting. I barely felt her drop the finger on my chest. It rolled off to somewhere unknown as I screamed and writhed in agony. Bile began to fill my throat, but before I could vomit, unconsciousness overcame me.
I jolted awake painfully. A sour-tasting shock was pounding in my head and burning in my nose. The tall, lithe, now-very-snake-like woman pulled what I think were smelling salts away from my nose. I tried to struggle and yell at her in anger, only to surprise myself by producing a mournful mewling instead.
Pia caressed my face. “Wake up, Mr. Irving. We have a full night ahead of us.”