By J. P. Moore
A Cheshire smile hovered in the dark. A short time later her eyes adjusted and she could see the faint outlines of a face in the candle light. The full length, oak mirror showed a feminine body in the darkness. She locked the shackle on her left arm and then lifted her right hand and pressed. A loud click ensued as the spring lock clamped down savagely—she was a captive until released. Angela looked like a medieval prisoner on a stylish, strangely shaped, rack.
She couldn’t see a clock from her position, just the mirror overhead, artfully attached to the ceiling. The room had no windows; only illumination from the candles provided her with any sight. She was waiting for him—her online savior.
“Late.” She said to her reflection.
If Martin stood her up, Angela would have to suffer for two days until the maid arrived. The maid was used to it, and was paid well to maintain silence regarding Angela’s sexual habits. The thought of dying locked to her table, should some ill fortune befall the maid, brought another smile of pleasure to her lips.
“You stop that racket!” He said as he staggered toward her.
She grew quiet and hoped, hoped, hoped, that Uncle Bill would forget her and return to the bottle.
Her hopes were futile.
“Come here girl!”
The drunkard dragged Little Angela by a small white hand that compressed under the assault. She knew better than to object, or cry out. They arrived, as always, at a weathered shed. The shed door was gray, with rusted nails protruding from a moribund surface. The interior was dark, but she could see swirls of whimsical light peeking through shrunken slats of gray pine.
“You like that?” Bill yelled as he struck out. “Fucking whore!!!”
Little Angela felt like curling into a ball, but past experience advised against anything except complete submission. She lay straight so that the lash could find her at will. The sounds of torture faded as she retreated to a quiet place filled with sunshine, laughter, and the absence of pain. She remained here for a timeless moment until Little Angela felt wetness on her body and returned from the safe place to the shed’s interior. The sounds of punishment were momentarily silent.
She looked up and saw Bill shirtless and covered with sweat; his breath puffed in and out like an old steam train. Eventually, his breathing quieted, a sneer returned, and he lashed out again. The crack of his belt drove her back into serenity. Uncle Bill’s sweat mixed with Young Angela’s blood creating strange fractal patterns on the floor.
The fully grown Angela’s eyes flickered as she remembered the angelic vision. Her hips responded with a mind of their own. Angela opened her eyes and looked up at the mirror.
“Beautiful,” she said with a breathy sigh. “Stunning.”
Her full length reflection showed perfect white skin meeting angry red scar tissue at knees, elbows and neck. There wasn’t an inch of her torso that wasn’t affected. Even her nipples were casualties of the struggle—the left was completely gone; the right was healed into a tattered unrecognizable lump. Through chance, and later design, Angela’s lower arms, lower legs, neck and face were pristine; it was only her core that resembled a war torn landscape. Her appearance required some modification of dress, long skirts or pants, long sleeves, and no low cut dresses.
Memories ended at the sound of the front door opening. She heard the door close, then the click of a deadbolt sliding into place. Confident footsteps made their way through the large house. He must be wearing heavy boots.
Her breath quickened.
His truck shuddered as he pressed the accelerator further toward the floor. Shapes in the fresh darkness flew by the black truck. The occasional underpass made large vacuous sounds as multiple wheels and seventy plus feet passed over asphalt which matched the color of the sky. The truck was a lone traveler on an empty interstate. Vague signals from the radio faded and grew. He looked at the time on the console and cursed incomprehensibly.
Martin accelerated yet again, and the expected exit appeared before him. He signaled and turned glancing up. The sun-visor framed a picture of his wife—at least that’s what Martin assumed she was. The woman was wearing a white dress and holding a bouquet of red flowers. There was nothing else in the picture to indicate when or where it was taken. He didn’t know why he kept the picture, but it intrigued him. Martin pondered the picture on occasion, touching it to feel its essence, to try and pierce through to memories that would reveal his essence. He knew the woman was dead, but he didn’t know how he knew that. Martin had no past, only a direction and a duty to fulfill, yet again, tonight.
A gas station appeared before him like a desert oasis and out of necessity, pulled in. A gentle sea breeze and the strong smell of petrochemicals comforted him as he stepped out of the truck. The ocean always filled him with peace, even when he was late. After an expensive fill, he left his truck unlocked; should someone steal it they would only get his assumed wife’s picture, the skull of an unidentified dog hidden under the seat, and a wireless laptop.
He paid cash to an attendant who was probably 25 but looked like 65. Years of probable methamphetamine abuse left the woman with pitted teeth and brittle hair. Martin was attractive, and as he guessed, she made a pass at him. The pick-up line was clumsy, and Martin was forced to take valuable time to correct her blunder. He looked at the clock in the middle of his lesson and saw that it was 10:00 p.m., much too late.
At 10:10 p.m. the black truck pulled onto Highway One with the station attendant’s body in the passenger seat, and Martin driving with a can of Protein Plus gripped between his legs. The radio played classic rock while Martin sipped chocolate flavored protein and the dark miles thundered by.
“I can’t remember.” He told the dead station attendant.
It bothered Martin that he didn’t have time to learn her name, or to instruct her properly, given the time, so he thought perhaps a casual chat would even the score. “You know…” He trailed off as Nazareth sang to the two travelers about love. He tapped his foot in rhythm with the beat.
Yes, he mused and nodded his head, love does hurt.
A bright moon appeared in front of the truck and its occupants. The night was with Martin; darkness was a part of him and the winds of fortune blew his way. He winked at his companion, and they rode the rest of the way in silence.
Angela watched his outline in the doorway. He looked wide, but his clothing hung on him oddly. One hand held a large athletic bag; the other was curled into a fist. She couldn’t see his face.
“Hello Angela.” A surprisingly gentle voice said.
Angela was still excited, but disappointed at the tone. Her online chats with the stranger had drafted a portrait of him as powerful, violent and sadistic. True, amoral sadists were very hard to come by these days regardless of all the media fear mongering. Angela’s decade long search had yielded only one promising, and ultimately disappointing, prospect; the rest were either discarded at the outset, or after a short time. She had faith in this one—faith ran eternal in Angela’s atheistic heart when it came to sex and pain.
He entered the room and into the flickering light. Dark circles of the chronically sleep deprived ringed crisp, blue eyes. Harshly clipped brown hair matted his face nicely, yet he was thin—much thinner than she imagined. Her hopes dropped when she realized that his shoulders were padded and his clothing was baggy; the only thing heavy on Martin was his boots. Her sadistic savior was just another in a long line of disappointing pretenders.
“You lied.” She said.
His eyes were impassive. He stood unmoving in front of her.
“You said you were strong….more….”
Still the silence.
“Martin the great sadist!” She spat.
“I didn’t lie.” Martin whispered, and then smiled.
He paused at the table and examined black leather straps and bright stainless steel restraints. He turned his back on her and looked around the room.
Perhaps I can still salvage something, she thought. Maybe I can enrage the boy, and get a bit of pleasure before I throw him out. Angela, as a student of the human condition, knew exactly where she would place her first banderilla.
“I just assumed I would be visited by someone a bit more masculine.” Her eyes came alive as she began to play.
“Angela. Sweet Angela.” He stepped forward and leaned over her taking in a deep breath.
She felt herself take a step closer to sexual release. Yes, she thought. Do it.
Again Martin paused. “Tell me you love me.”
Angela thought for a moment. This wasn’t the usual S & M dance that she was used to. Angela wasn’t worried yet, just disappointed. She was supremely confident, even when restrained: Angela, masochistic tendencies aside, was a predator.
“It’s very late Angela, so I must make my intentions clear. We’re on a time-table. Tick. Tock. Tick. One moment my love.” He leaned over her and she could see beard stubble on his neck, and could smell unidentified but obviously cheap cologne. His hand came down on the side of her face. Angela felt a burning sensation and instantly recognized the feeling of cut flesh.
“Hey!” She screamed. “You fuck! Nothing on the face …”
She stopped when Martin held out what looked like a severed ear in front of her. Angela felt a warm stream of blood soak the back of her hair. Her head swam and she retreated to the place herself and Uncle Bill had built so many years ago.
A timeless moment later, Little Angela felt a tapping and heard a sound. She was underwater and someone was splashing rhythmically in the pool. Angela could taste salt. Pain returned and she realized that her nose was bleeding and probably broken. Sound and light returned to her, as Martin continued to strike her head and face.
“..ela…. Angela…. Come back to me. Ahhhh.” He stopped and stepped back. “There you are.”
“We don’t have much time.” Martin said as he walked away.
“Wait….Martin. Martin? Martin?”
For the first time her pleasure mattered less than her safety. Angela turned her head trying to follow his footsteps. The lights to the room sprang on. After a moment, the footsteps returned. Martin placed an expensive armless chair in front of her, straddled it, and sat down. He smiled with nicotine stained teeth.
“There’s so much to go over, but first you must tell me you love me.” Martin said. His eyes burned with something Angela had seen before, but never felt herself—love. Angela’s fear deepened.
“Why?” Angela said, trying to buy time.
“I don’t know my love, I wish I did.” He said stroking the side of his face.
Angela evaluated her situation while maintaining a poker face. The sting and burn of cut flesh was strong, but she’d spent more than one day with the feeling before. Martin rose and walked to her.
“Do you love me?”
Angela batted defiant eyelashes at him.
“Martin. I think you are a fucking nut job. I don’t love anyone—especially you.”
He reached into the bag he’d brought and pulled out a large roll of black duct tape and a blue towel. He wiped her face gently. Dark blue so that blood won’t stain it. Angela thought.
“Wait. We can tal…” His hand covered her mouth and he bent so close to her that she could only see burning blue orbs surrounded by blackness.
“No we can’t Angela. No talk. Time is short. You need to listen, understand, and tell me you love me.” He fixed several long strips to her face cutting off her only means of protest.
Same shit as before, do you have another line? Angela watched closely for anything that might extricate her from this situation. She tried to breath through a broken nose and taped mouth.
Martin opened his eyes and looked around the room. “Usually we have more time, but as the poet says, ‘to know me is to love me’, so let me tell you about myself.”
Martin ran his hand up the oak surface next to Angela’s nude body.
“This table you’ve had fashioned, I’m sure you think it resembles a rack, but it doesn’t, not a true rack. It's actually based on the Scavenger’s Daughter…opposite of the rack, compress, not stretch and dislocate...different name though...it was first called a….” He paused and closed his eyes.
“Skevington’s Irons…you see I remember all of that. I remember how to do a number of things. I don’t have any memories of using a sword, but I know I am an expert swordsman.” He smiled and looked down at himself. “I’m a swordsman in that respect as well.” A wink at Angela who was laboring to breathe with her mouth covered.
“It’s all a matter of declarative versus procedural memory. I can remember how to do anything….procedural memory….but, my declarative memory—who I am—isn’t there.”
If Angela had any doubts about Martin’s sanity, they were dispelled by his speech.
“The…” Martin paused again as if words escaped him. “...someone…asked me to contact you, which I did. It asked me to come here, which I did. It asked me to break you, and I will. Most importantly, you first need to love me, which you…will.” Martin stated this with effort and then smiled like a barracuda.
“I’ve done my part, all that’s left is your role Angela.”
His left hand brushed the hair from her forehead and cupped her face as a mother would. “It is destiny, little Angela.”
Angela’s nose was still leaking and swollen; she gulped for air and her eyes bugged out. Panic gripped her. Suffocating wasn’t one of the things that she was prepared for. Martin watched her for a long moment before removing the tape. It pulled back with a loud sticky sound.
“You’re….” She panted. “You’re fucking crazy.”
Martin bent down to pick up the athletic bag again. Angela cursed herself for being excited by the thought of what else might be in Martin’s toy box.
“You won’t break me.” Angela said. “I’ll never love you!”
Martin glanced at her, and then into the bag. His eyes danced with glee as a stained scalpel appeared in his hand.
Angela thought about pleading, but rejected it outright. Then another more strategic idea occurred to her.
It’s probably domination, that part is real. He’s obviously crazy…but can he be manipulated? Angela felt her strength return as a plan of action crystallized. He doesn’t like to be called weak….dominate women, how does he like to be compared to a woman? He’s excited too. She looked at the crotch of his jeans.
“Hey Marty.” She lifted her head up and spit in his direction. The aim couldn’t have been better. A wad of blood stained mucous arced and landed on the bulge under the zipper of his Levi jeans.
“Can’t control it?” She smiled and showed teeth stained pink with blood.
The fire raged behind Martin’s eyes. He lunged forward; his hand followed. Angela knew this was coming and braced. There was a crash of sound in her head and white spots danced. But she still wasn’t afraid. Not yet.
“Why don’t you let me up Martin? We can settle this one on one, unless you’re afraid of women.” Angela thought about spitting again, but saw the effect of her words on the reddening face of Martin Holland. One last thrust will seal the deal.
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you let me up? I’ve got a strap-on in the drawer over there. I’ll bend you over, fuck you, and let you go…..we’ll just call it even. What do you say?”
Martin’s left hand gripped her throat like a vise and his right went up with the scalpel. Too much, at least he didn’t break me. The stroke downward was savage. Angela heard a metallic snap as the scalpel broke off next to her head. Martin took a deep breath. His composure seemed to flow back into him.
“Alright Angela.” He flashed his teeth. “Let’s do this your way. There’s never been a woman that’s bested me…..ever.”
Martin ran a finger over the hole in the side of her head. He drew it back, dripping clotted blood, and licked it. “That I do know.”
He unbound Angela's gleaming shackles, and then he released the dark leather straps. Angela swung up into a sitting position. Her back peeled up from the table as dried blood tried to hold her down. A missing ear doesn’t matter. Just grow my hair longer and I’ll look better than ever. But her plan depended on one last item, one more important deception to guarantee her escape. Patience is always a virtue, she remembered Uncle Bill saying as his belt cut into her flesh. Fuck you Uncle Bill…and fuck Martin Holland too.
“Hey Marty, why don..” She stopped as Martin’s hand rained down again. Her head rang after the impact.
“The name is Martin.”
“Whatever.” She said shaking her head. “You’re wearing clothes. I want mine. Over there in the drawer. I’d like to be wearing something when I drag your sorry ass outside and stomp it before I send you on your way. The neighbors you understand.”
Martin gestured. “Be my guest.”
Angela slid off the table, her feet hit the floor with a quiet slap, and needles shot through her feet and legs. Can’t run until I get some circulation back. She heard Martin laugh quietly. Angela hobbled forward, circulation returning slowly. She stood in front of the small dresser where she had ceremonially placed her clothes several hours before. Angela grasped silver inlay handles and pulled open a drawer. She clumsily put on black panties, midnight black jeans, and a black Tyra camisole which wouldn’t show the blood still leaking from her head. She turned without closing the drawer and backed up.
“What do you think Marty? My taste in clothes suit you?” She discretely removed a sharp, antique Damascus knife, and then backed up quietly closed the drawer. The knife was worth several thousand dollars, but it wasn’t the cost Angela was interested in, it was the sharp tempered blade, used, on occasion, for solitary sexual pleasure in her private dungeon. The blade was an eight inch long masterpiece of rainbow colors. More than long enough.
Angela walked forward with her hands behind her back and a knife, of Persian origin, gripped tightly in her right hand. She hoped it all looked very innocent.
“What do you say Marty, let a girl have the first swing?”
Martin smiled and closed his eyes.
Her hands were dry. No different than a day at the office, going to be difficult to explain to the police though. The two would be lovers were separated by approximately three feet of wooden floor. Martin stood in front of a black painted wall. An oil painting of a naked woman, covered in blood, smiling, sat alone on the wall. Angela griped the knife feeling the comfort of its heft. She took a step with her right foot and thrust forward with her right hand as if Errol Flynn were alive again. Mirth loitered on Martin’s face. There was a flash of movement and Angela’s hand was shackled again. Angela realized, all at once, that the ‘shackle’ consisted of Martin’s right hand. His eyes shuttered open with the silent fire of love still burning.
“Did you really think you could win Angela? I’m not crazy or deluded…even though I don’t know my real name.” He pulled her hand toward him. The knife pierced his torso just below the solar plexus. It was a long ride to the decorated pearl handle with his hand guiding hers like an expert lover. He grimaced slightly as it entered, and his breathing sped up slightly. Angela could feel the knife edge grate along his lower sternum as it widened from tip to shaft. “Do you believe Angela?”
Angela felt herself start to slip away again.
“I knew you would be difficult. We haven’t known each other long, but it doesn’t take long to smell an alpha female. To break one of those, you have to take all hope away.”
Martin reached up with his left hand and grabbed a length of hair on the side of her head and twisted it. Angela grunted as he pulled her a few inches closer until she could smell him again.
“You can’t harm me. You can’t escape. I hope you realize I haven’t had to go this far…in..” He frowned and rage danced in his eyes again.
“Say it!” Martin howled. “Tell me you love me!”
Martin shoved Angela’s hand back roughly and he released her hair; the knife exited his body with a sucking sound. She stumbled back one step, knife still in hand. She was free, and she had a blade. Hope sparkled once more.
“It’s over girl.” He turned his back on her looking to the clock sitting the dresser to the back of the room. “We’re almost out of time.”
This act of complete disregard brought Angela fully alive. Hate displaced fear and forced action. She didn’t like losing; she didn’t like being ignored; she really didn’t like being called “girl.”
“Say it. Tell me you…” Martin turned back toward Angela. Suddenly he screamed. The beautiful antique Damascus blade was buried in Martin’s left eye socket where Angela’s rage, and a bit of luck, had placed it. She didn’t wait to see what happened next. Her legs threatened to buckle, but that small fact didn’t stop her from making record time to the front door. She flung it open and she heard glass break as it slammed into the wall. Angela’s feet pounded across well kept grass and onto a freshly paved driveway.
Angela reached the road and stopped. A full moon illuminated the scene as she stood, gasping for breath, in her quiet gated community. Angela knew time was precious; she made a command decision and headed for her closest neighbor’s house—Mr. Wilson.
She ran. Angela didn’t feel her bare feet crossing well watered grass, or onto carefully swept paving stones. Her feet stopped when she stood in front of his door.
She grasped the knob and turned. Locked. She banged on the door with the heel of her hand and the door swung inward easily. Angela, not questioning fate, stumbled into the room and slammed the door behind her. An attempt to turn the deadbolt was stymied. There were fiddles, grunts, and then she noticed that the doorjamb was a myriad of bent metal and shattered wood.
“Mr. Wilson!” She’d never bothered learning his first name and his mailbox only contained a first initial: ‘T.’ Angela didn’t care for Mr. Wilson. She knew he was weak, and nothing was more reprehensible than weakness. Silence engulfed the house.
Angela turned and her view rotated. The doorframe gave way to wood paneled walls. A group of pictures indicated that Mr. Wilson was a fisherman whom either had many grandchildren, or enjoyed hanging out with young boys. Leather furniture and a mix of black and white porcelain lamps finished the picture.
“You’re being very difficult.”
Angela jumped as the voice filled the room. Martin was sitting, quiet as a statue, to her far left, seated in a black leather recliner. Brown thinning hair attached to an unmoving Mr. Wilson lay on the floor next to the recliner. Mr. Wilson didn’t move, but moaned slightly. Martin reached down and patted Mr. Wilson’s head like a favored old dog. The knife still protruded from Martin’s left eye like a piece of extreme jewelry.
Martin stood up. “Come to me Angela. Now!” He looked to the clock ticking merrily on the mantle.
Angela stood her ground.
The police combed through Ted Wilson’s house dressed in white jumpsuits collecting evidence in small and large bags. The lead detective, Marcus Davis, watched as pictures were snapped of the victim’s face. He looked away involuntarily.
Angela Coburn’s eye sockets were ringed with ragged tissue. Her fingers were missing and her clitoris had been removed by a pair of pliers. The bloody pliers were showcased in the middle of the floor.
“My God.” Whispered one of the evidence technicians.
“Pervert.” Said Detective Davis answering an unasked question.
The detective pursed thin lips and ran his fingers through thick black hair.
Senior lab tech Steve Evans stooped over the body of Mr. Wilson like a vulture. “Ahh there we are….”
“What?” said Detective Davis.
“Wilson appears to have been force fed the missing…..pieces.” Steve said.
Davis looked at him for a moment then said, “I’m going outside for a smoke, care to join me?”
“What’s up?” said Steve looking up from the crushed face of Ted Wilson. He followed the detective outside.
“So what’s up?” Steve said for the second time as both men took the long walk out of the crime scene to the detective’s new Ford Charger. Steve favored Marlboro Reds and Davis preferred Camels; however since quitting he’d developed a taste for juicy fruit gum.
“This is going to keep me awake for a month.” Davis said as he chewed.
“Our third body is likely Martin Holland missing truck driver with a murdered wife. Any chance we can pull prints off him to verify the ID?”
“None, he’s been dead at least six months. Need dental records.” Steve opened his mouth, then snapped it shut.
“Spit it out.” Davis said.
“Alright. You’re not going to like it though.” Steve watched Davis grunt with annoyance.
“I don’t like anything about this case. I need a multiple murder like I need a hole in the head.” Davis chewed like a man possessed.
“OK. Our third body, Holland, has been in that living room decomposing for the past six months. I’d stake my career on it.” Steve said and looked for some reaction from Davis.
“Holland’s body was growing into the carpet. Fibers embedded in the flesh. Fluid in the carpet. Everything says he died there. Even though—”
“Even though the housekeeper comes in once a day. The gardener once a week. And who knows else coming in and out of the house.” Davis finished for Steve. “And we have the clerk’s body from last night. Shit!”
Detective Davis looked out his car window and spoke. “I want a print, DNA, a hair, a fiber, a license plate number, something…fast. Before we both lose our jobs.”
“You got it boss.” Steve said getting out of the car and beginning the long walk back to work. He stopped, paused, and walked back quickly. “You know maybe it’s a seasonal thing. Might have a year to catch him…or her.”
Detective Davis looked at him with a blank expression.
“Ohh I get it. Wonderful.” Steve said throwing his hands up. “You’re married and you don’t know; me I’ve got a girlfriend—I have to know. Do you realize the irony—”
“Just tell me what the hell you’re talking about.” Davis said.
“Valentines day.” Steve said. “Yesterday was Valentines day.”
Both men stared at each other.
“Whatever. Just finish and get Holland, Wilson and especially Coburn out of here. The smile on her face is…just finish it.” Davis said.
He closed his car door as Steve turned and walked up the driveway again and back into a mystery.
It was silent in the car. Davis turned off the police radio and closed his eyes for the first time in twenty four hours and the last time for a while.
“Valentines day…” He whispered.