“In The Mouth Of Madness”: Masterpiece or Mess?

In-the-Mouth-of-Madness

The internet streaming service Shudder recently “Live streamed” (Their words of questionable accuracy) “The Last Drive In”, a 24 plus hour-long marathon of notable horror films chosen and with commentary by Joe Bob Briggs (The quasi-redneck crap movie reviewer persona embedded in John Bloom‘s body.)

I love (some) crap movies and Joe Bob Briggs so I navigated to the Shudder site a bit after the start time.   Shudder has a handy Xbox app and I was attempting to use that to view the stream.

The service seemed to be working fine.  Logged in, I navigated to the live feed.

Or tried to.

The feed just kept buffering and finally bailed with some arcane error. Another attempt caused the app to freeze.  I restarted it but couldn’t get it to connect.

I then tried visiting the website on my media computer.  The site would come up but just sat on a buffering screen.

Checking their Facebook page made it clear this wasn’t just my problem.  It seemed no one could get it to work.

Under normal circumstances this might have caused my head to explode.  But I had partaken of some really excellent herb and I was in a really nice place where these kind of frustrations seemed oh so very trivial.

It started working a few hours later and I enjoyed the marathon a little that Friday night and throughout the next day.

So what does that have to do with John Carpenter’s “In The Mouth Of Madness”?
Good question.

One of the movie’s streamed was Stuart Gordon‘s “The Reanimator”.  Mr. Briggs called this movie the best movie version of any H.P. Lovecraft story to date.
I really don’t have a big issue with that statement.  It is an excellent movie.  One might make a case for “Dagon”, also directed by Mr. Gordon, but overall “The Reanimator” is the better movie and is pretty damn faithful to the Lovecraft story.

But it did (for some reason) spur me to consider other movies, in particular movies inspired in some way by Lovecraft.

And that brings me to “In the Mouth Of Madness”.  Not based in any way on a Lovecraft story but obviously a homage to the Lovecraftian theme of old or elder gods banished from our world long, long ago and always searching, scratching, and clawing for a way back.

I’ve seen the movie at least twice before.  I remember liking but not loving it.
Seemed like a good time to give it another chance.

Through the wondrous blessing of the internet and various options I was soon watching a Blu-Ray quality digital copy of the movie.

(Full disclosure: I had again partaken of the excellent herb and I was in a great place to watch a scary movie.)

The premise of the movie is that a best selling horror author has gone missing just before his latest and greatest book was supposed to be completed and delivered. His publisher hires an insurance investigator to look for him.

Some movies, in particular horror or fantasy films, benefit greatly from viewing them not as a faithful reporting of actual reality but as a dream, vision, nightmare, or some other experience that isn’t necessarily grounded in objective reality. This perspective is extremely useful in the full enjoyment and appreciation of some movies and absolutely necessary for others. (“Videodrome” and “Suspiria” come to mind.)

“In The Mouth Of Madness” is best experienced using that perspective. It does have a strong story, but the things the viewer sees and hears, taken at face value, don’t seem to make a lot of sense.

But if you watch the story unfold as if it were a dream or vision from some reality only vaguely connected with our own it becomes something very effective and frightening.

Sam Neill plays Sam Trent, the insurance investigator. Mr. Neil portrays Trent as having an easy-going, almost playful attitude grounded in the belief that practically everything is a con or scam of one kind or another. He’s the perfect protagonist for this story as his seemingly firm grip on objective reality is called into question more than once.

The story wind through a changing landscape of the real and the unreal. It questions the nature of reality, it’s changeability and our ability to perceive those changes.  Trent’s grip on the real and the unreal is put to the test more than once.

Back to my initial question: Masterpiece or Mess?  I can’t really call it either.  It is a good movie and very much worth watching.  It’s not a mess as it really works very well.  The script, direction, acting, is all very good.  But I can’t really call it a “Masterpiece” for Mr. Carpenter.

Why not? Because it pales in comparison to Mr. Carpenter’s two actual masterpieces: “Halloween” and “The Thing”.  (One might make an argument for including “Escape from New York” as a masterpiece, but I can’t quite give it that high of a mark.)

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Reckless Rudy and the Slippery Truth.

Rudy normal

There was one very difficult task associated with writing this piece; finding a picture of Mr. Giuliani that doesn’t make him look batshit crazy.

Clearly the full-time job of spinning outlandish lies for the carrot-faced, morbidly obese, man-baby called Trump is taking Rudy away from his first love and true calling: making funny faces for the media

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just sit back and enjoy the hilarious train wreck that is the Trump Presidency.  But we can’t as there are thousands of people who face being hurt or destroyed financially by Trump’s incompetence. Or even worse, their very lives are in danger, like the people in Puerto Rio, also known as the place that doesn’t exist (at least in Trump’s mind.) You see, any place where the people aren’t rich and\or white is (according to Trump) a “shithole” country.

That’s what he said.

Of course he denied saying it but it was recorded, for all to see, again and again. What must it feel like to be from Haiti (the country to which Trump referred) and hear this asshole, the “leader” (and I use that term very loosely) of the free world talk like that?  I’m guessing it’s not very encouraging.

But I digress. Let’s get back to Rudy. Here’s a newsflash: Mr. Giuliani has a reputation for saying stupid stuff, no, I mean really, really stupid stuff.  Here are some examples:

5 Absurd, Deeply Racist Things Rudy Giuliani Said This Week

Rudy Giuliani Might Be the Next Secretary of State. Here’s What He Thinks About the World

Rudy Giuliani’s whirlwind 24 hours: The unusual comments he’s made to the press

Rudy Giuliani Quotes:The Dumbest Quotes from Republican Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani

That’s a small sampling on the brainless idiocy that is Rudy G.

He’s the guy that’s going save Trump from the mean, nasty, and evil Mr. Mueller.

Yeah, right.

 

The Hypocrisy of the Religious Right Political Movement.

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First and foremost, let me make it perfectly clear that I’m a hard-core atheist. Despite that, I find a great deal of truth in the (selected) teachings of Jesus.

Faith in Christ and in the Christian God were important parts of my life for over 10 years. During that time I spent a great deal of time and effort to read the Bible and learn it’s lessons both on my own and through group study.

The bottom line is  that I have more actual Biblical knowledge than most “Christians”.

This becomes very apparent when I observe the behavior of “Christian” political figures.

It would be easy for me to use my own Biblical knowledge to point out just how wrong headed, hypocritical, and outright wrong (in a scriptural context) most of the prevailing “Religious Right’s” views are.  But the words would be tainted by my own beliefs.

How fortunate that there are actual believers (and quite a few of them) who see the truth as plainly as I do.

Here’s one.  They see the sham that is today’s Christian Politics.

The Politics of Jesus by Harold Rhodes.

 

 

Simple Joys

beach

The Doctor is a member of our family. In my head, he’s the final incarnation of the time lord known as “The Doctor”.

In real life he’s a slightly-overweight Chihuahua.

I can’t begin to convey just how much happiness he gives me.

Right now I’m reclining on a couch in our TV room. He’s laying between my legs licking the couch. (He does that a lot. Must be a great-tasting couch.)

Just him being that close makes me happy. It gives me a sense of comfort and warmth.

Thank you Doctor, for being part of our family.

The Wellington Job

One

The place is called The Cactus Café. It’s about a mile from the motel. From the outside it looks like every other diner\bar in every other town.  Inside it’s the same; a bar on the right side with an open window to the kitchen.  The bar looks to seat about 15 people.  There are four booths along the left side.  A large plate glass window sits above the booths allowing the patrons to enjoy the scenic beauty of a seemingly endless vista of prairie.  I’m the only patron just right now.  Just me, Stew, the man working the bar, and a nameless cook, peeking out of the kitchen window every now and then. The view from my booth, the last one, briefly made me question if I were still on the Earth or had been magically transported to some other diner on some other planet. The illusion is broken by the growl and blur of a car speeding by on the highway.

This is Wellington Texas.  I’m here for a job.  I kill people.

On this particular day in this particular town I’m here to kill a man named James Horton.  He’s the back president of the Wellington State Bank.

That’s all I know.  All I need to know.

I’m staring at the remains of my lunch, a too-tough, too-dry chicken fried steak with matching too-tough, too-dry French fries. The only think not too-tough or too-dry was the beer.  It was wet, languid, and almost painfully cold.

When he had served the food, Stew had given a slight shake of his head as if to say “Sorry, I know it’s not very good.” But when he placed the sweating bottle of beer down, not to the side of the food but directly in front of me, he had stood there for a second until I looked up into his eyes.

The jovial, easy-going look on his face (that I had assumed was permeant) was gone, replaced by a look of serious intent.

“We take our beer seriously here.” He said, nodding.

I hadn’t been sure what to say. He had been standing there, seemingly waiting for something.

“Sure.” I had said, also nodding.

It must have been the right thing to say.  He gave a slight smile, nodded and turned back to the bar.

I’m on my third beer now, killing time.  I look up at the clock over the bar.  One forty-five.  The bank closes at 3:30.  Horton will stay till five or so.  His wife will pick him up and they’ll drive to Childress for dinner.

They won’t make it to dinner tonight.

I’d made the drive to Childress a few times earlier in the day.  It was a lonely, two lane road with very little traffic.  There was one sharp left turn overlooking a steep ravine.  The railing had been insufficient even before I cut through the rotting wooden posts holding it to the ground.  One little bump from a passing car and Mr. Horton, and his lovely wife, will take one last roll down to the rocky ravine floor. I lose the car in the Amarillo International Airport parking lot and I’m home by just after midnight.

I’m thinking of just how the Amarillo International Airport can justify that particular title when the bell above the front door announces another prospective customer.

She walks in, and without breaking her stride to the bar, glances at me, then looks back to Stew.

“Hello Mrs. Horton.” Stew says, smiling a little too big and nodding. He’s already reaching underneath the bar when he says “Your usual?”

Her smile and nod were somehow both cool and friendly.  “Yes please Stew.”

He places an expensive looking cut crystal lowball glass on the counter along with an unopened bottle of Johnny Walker Blue.  He opens the bottle and carefully fills the glass half-full.  She smiles at him as she takes it and in one fluid motion, raises the glass to her lips and drinks it dry, not too fast, not too slow.  Just right.

“Oh that’s good…” she sighs as she places the glass on the bar with a slight click.  She nods Stew half-fills the glass again.  She picks it up, glances at me, and turns the stool to face me.

Mrs. Horton I’m thinking, Might be more than one.  But part of me knows.  This is the Mrs. Horton. His wife.

She’s tan, with slightly dark blonde hair, softly curling to her shoulders.  Her shirt is a soft gold plaid men’s dress shirt, slightly too large. It’s open at the throat. Her shirt tails lie on loosely fitting, old and faded jeans.  Well-worn but highly polished boots finish the picture. Overall, everything looked very comfortable.

Her eyes were impossibly emerald green. They seemed to softly glow in the hazy light of the diner.

“You’re staring.” She says, breaking me out of my all-too focused attention.

“Sorry” I said, not looking away.

She smiles and cocks her head just a little to the right.

“May I have another glass Stew?” she says without breaking eye contact with me.  Stew looks confused and rattled. But then he reaches under the bar and puts another glass, a twin of the first down on the bar.  She takes the bottle and second glass in her left hand, slides off the stool and glides toward my booth.

She puts her glass, the bottle, and the other glass on my table, and then slides into the bench seat opposite me.

“Mind if I join you?”

“No.”

Her smile seems to blink, just a hint of confusion, uncertainly, then the confidence returns as she picks up her glass and slides the other one towards me.

“Please help yourself” she says, just before taking a sip. I reach for the bottle, fill my glass about a quarter full, and return the bottle to the table. I pick up the glass, nod and tilt the glass towards her.  She returns the nod and the glass tilt and sips again.

I sip the rich, brown liquid and gently lean my head back, letting the whiskey roll around in my mouth, like cool molten vapor.

“You like good whiskey?” she says, smiling and cocking her head to the left.

“I do.” Taking another sip and rolling it around in my mouth.

“I do too.” She says and takes another sip. She swallows and looks out of the window.  Her gaze plays across the desolate landscape.

“You don’t talk much.” She says, like a question, turning her eyes back to mine.

“I don’t” I say and take another sip.

She looks at me silently for a while.  Then she takes another sip, smiles, and says “Good.”

She looks through the window for a long time, the smile leaving her face.

I look too, trying to see what she’s seeing. The room is quiet.

“Do you have a room at the motel?” she says, not looking away from the window.

“I do” I say, looking back at her.

Without looking at me, she nods and says “Let’s go see it.” She gives me a quick smile, knocks back her drink, and slides out of the booth.  She keeps the glass.

“Bring the bottle.” She says, walking towards the door.

I do.

We walk from the dry summer heat into the too cool air of the room. It’s dark.  I put my glass and the bottle on the dresser and move to turn on a lamp.

“Leave it.” She says reaching down to slide a finger along the foot of the bed.

“Does housekeeping make the bed this early?” she says.

“I made it.”

She looks at me, gently puzzled.

“Habit”

She puts her glass down on a side table and walks towards me.

“Too bad.  We’re just going to mess it up.” She says, her eyes looking seriously into mine as she approaches.

“Are we?” I say as her hands go behind my head and gently pull my lips toward hers.

“Yes, we are.” She whispers just before her lips touch mine.

Her lips are warm, soft, and nearly liquid as they gently work mine. Her body seems to press into mine.  She takes one hand from behind my head and coils it around my back, pressing herself into me.  I envelop her with my arms and pull her even closer, feeling the heat and soft strength of her embrace.

Her lips pull away from mine to let out a whispered sigh.  Her lips return with renewed passion and not a little hunger.

I stop thinking.

 

Two

 

It’s dark and the road is empty.  I’m parked on the right side about two miles from the curve.  It’s 5:40.  They should be along soon.

The events of the afternoon play through my head like some sort of fever dream. There was a part of me that didn’t believe any of it had actually happened. Maybe it hadn’t.

A dot in the rearview mirror, quickly growing larger.  It looked like them.

It was.  I started my car as theirs flashed by. Just a blurred shadow, but I had no trouble seeing  It was her. My tires screamed as I power onto the highway, fishtailing slightly before the tires grip.

I’m about a quarter of a mile behind them, going about 80 and losing ground.  I punch it and speed up to 95, gaining ground now.

I’m close and I can see them now. Her attention is on the road.  She never looks back or at the figure next to her.  He’s just sitting there, his head lolling back on the seat; drunk or asleep.

I see the curve ahead and make my move.  Just before I pass, she quickly glances in the rear view mirror.  I see the green glow of her eyes flash at mine and then return to the road.

My car moves beside theirs, both cars speeding down the dark road.  There’s the curve.  I punch the gas and jerk the car to the right, hitting them hard near the driver’s door.  Their car lurches through the useless railing and disappears.

I turn around and make my way back, parking on the side of the road opposite the broken railing.

I look down the ravine and see the broken car sitting on its side, still and silent except for the hiss of the radiator.

I make my way down to make sure

 

Three

 

The plane back to Dallas was nearly empty.  I had plenty of time to think, to remember.

I remembered the way she smelled, the soft, unknown fragrance that she wore.  It seemed, even now, to linger.  Impossible as I had stripped, showered, changed my clothes and burned the old clothes.  The fragrance wafted through my memory, fresh and unencumbered by time.

But mostly I remembered her look.  I had seen it twice.  Once in the room just after we were finished.  I had gone to the head.  When I returned, she was lying on the bed, quietly looking at the picture on the back wall.  She had the look then.

She also had it the last time I saw her.  Just before my car hit, time slowed.  Her head turned and her emerald eyes locked into mine.  Her face was sad, lonely, and distant.

But the message in her eyes was emerald-clear:

Remember, they said Remember.

            I will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prudence and The Adventure of The Naked Man

(Another unfinished experiment. Surprisingly not porn.)

One expects many things from the Royal Suite at The Mandarin Oriental.  Self-indulgent luxury, the pinnacle of affluently-sensitive service from attractive, eternally-smiling staff members, food and drink of a quality and quantity that would entice the Greek and Roman gods to blush, and last but not certainly least is a final bill not significantly smaller that the GNP of several second world countries.

The one thing a guest might not expect is to open the door of their sumptuous suite to find a very attractive, very confused, and very naked man sitting on the extremely expensive Guiddenlott designer settee.  Prudence paused only a moment before closing the door, stepping to the antique side table beside the door, and depositing her handbag and keys. She then looked back to her unexpected guest.

Many possible statements, questions, and exhortations flitted through Prudence’s mind, but the most appropriate and safest seemed to be “Can I help you?” She said this with an open, caring smile with only the slightest suggestion of confusion in her eyes as she took two steps towards him.  Her very specific and carefully thought-out movement was for two reasons: one to at least give the appearance of not feeling threatened and also to allow herself some free space to the rear just in case she needed to make some quick yet extravagantly defensive maneuver.

She need not have worried. The man smiled and his face clouded with even greater confusion as he looked to his naked feet.  “I hope so.”  He said, raising his face to meet her eyes, which had only momentarily glanced at the gentleman’s extremely impressive six-pack and then to the even more impressive personal equipment below. “I really do hope so.”  His voice faltered and he slowly shook his head, as if he could not believe the words coming from his own mouth. “You see I don’t know how I got here, and worse, I have no earthly idea who I might be!” His gaze returned to her eyes, as if he they might hold the answers.

Prudence smiled her most encouraging and comforting smile.  For she knew exactly who the man was and had a fair idea of exactly why he was here.  Now, she thought, if only I could come up with some way to explain all this to him without getting us both killed.

The invitation had arrived at her New York apartment two weeks ago.  Davis, her butler, cook, chauffeur, maid, handyman, and occasional accomplice in various illegal but well-intentioned activities brought it to her breakfast room on a silver platter.   “Well aren’t we formal this morning?” She said taking the heavy envelope and examining it.

He nodded. “It seemed to be appropriate. Very heavy paper and elaborate calligraphy.  Someone knows how to send an invitation.”  Prudence pursed her lips slightly as she took the jade Faberge letter opener Davis had thoughtfully placed on the silver tray and carefully slid the blade under the envelope flap.  She paused a moment and glanced back at Davis.  “Hmm… No return address.  Care to make a guess as to who might have sent it?”

He smiled. “Certainly, whoever it is, they aren’t local. I’d guess European, probably British.  They do seem to have a predilection for formality.  ” She smiled and her voice took on an ever so slightly teasing lilt. “Predilection,  you’ve been working on your vocabulary.” He returned the smile with one as dry as a PJ Clarke’s martini. “I try to do service to my station whenever possible.”

She looked at the envelope and then back at him.  “Anything more specific?”  Davis sighed, glanced downward momentarily and looked back up.  “It’s probably your cousin Winston. It’s his style or what he might consider to be style.”

Her eyes narrowed slightly.  “His name’s not Winston” she said, rather unconvincingly. Another very dry smile from Davis. “It should be.  He thinks of himself as the next Winston Churchil.” He remarked.

Prudence shook her head, looked back at the smiling butler, opened her mouth, closed her mouth, frowned slightly, and then smiled.  “I suppose he does at that.” She said sheepishly.  “Ah well, nobody’s perfect.” She sighed, and then smiled. “Present company excluded of course.”

“Yes miss.” Davis said, nodding graciously.  “Would you care for more coffee?” She shook her head. “No thank you.  I’ll read the invitation, if that’s what it is.”  He nodded and turned to leave the room.

She removed the letter opener, placed in on the table, and examined the envelope one last time, turning it around in her hands, feeling its heft, even sniffing it.  “Can’t be too careful these days.”  She sighed, picked up the letter opener and slit the top of the envelope.

She was not gassed, poisoned, infected, exploded, or otherwise injured.  She was however, slightly disappointed. She withdrew another, very similar unsealed envelope nestled within the first.  It also had no return address.  Just her full name: Prudence Meredith Smythe, no address.  This envelope contained the guessed invitation, several sheets of protective tissue , and a round-trip, New York to London Virgin-Atlantic Upper Class ticket.  The ticket granted one Prudence Meredith Smythe chauffeur server to and from her apartment to either JFK or La Guardia and, in London, to and from Heathrow.  It also offered a phone number or weblink to arrange for any departure date in the next month.  “I’ll say this for Reggie.. he does know how to send an invitation.” She thought.

Next she looked at the invitation, printed in the same calligraphy as the envelope but with a much less common message:

Who: Miss. Prudence Meredith Smythe.

What: Is invited to a formal Costume Ball.

Where: The Carlyle Room, Royal Mandarin Hotel, London.

When: Whenever the fair lady desires within the month of August 2014.

Dear Miss Smythe, Please forgive the immediacy. But your attendance to this event is most important. Please reply at once via wire.

Yours Very Truly, Sir Reginald Davis Smythe, NH,TC.

Her forehead wrinkled with interest as her gaze rested on the curious letters “NH, TC” following her cousin’s name.  Most people would assume them to be certifications of some kind. She knew otherwise.  These was alerts. “NH” meant “Need Help” and “TC” meant “Take Care.” It meant that Reggie was in over his head (not an uncommon situation for him) and that Prudence should take extra care as the situation involved serious personal danger.

Not for the first time Prudence felt herself come alive with the electric mixture of anticipation, curiosity, and excitement.

She looked back to Davis and smiled.  “What do you think? Fancy a quick trip to London?”

Davis returned the smile and nodded. “London in the Springtime is always a pleasure. I’ll make our travel arrangements. Today or tomorrow? Prudence looked back at the invitation.  “Hmmm… tomorrow I think.  I do so hate to rush. Let’s get an early start.” Davis nodded and spoke.  “Considering Sir Reggie’s “Take Care” message, it might be prudent to travel separately. It seems as though he thinks someone nefarious might be watching.”

Prudence pondered Davis words.  “Probably a good idea.  Why don’t you go ahead and make my arrangements to depart tomorrow evening.  That way you can depart in the morning and have plenty of time to disappear. Use British credentials and fly into London City rather than Heathrow.”

Davis nodded, “Yes miss. I’ll reply per his instructions.” He bowed, turned and left. Prudence read over the curious invitation one last time, laid it down on the table, and then rose to leave the room.

She spent the rest of the day packing and making various other preparations.  Her luggage would contain none of the highly suspect and definitely illegal tools they would use.  She trusted that Davis would have everything transported and in place in his usual almost magical manner.  She had a late lunch and spent several hours with her personal Aikido trainer, honing her skills and pushing herself much harder than usual.  She had a light dinner and retired to her bedroom where she meditated for two hours before going to bed.  She slept fitfully, too excited to relax completely.

32 hours later, 8:16 AM London time, she was in Terminal 1 at Heathrow, looking for Clancy, Reggie’s personal chauffer. Normally she would spot his huge, 6 foot 7 bearlike figure moving through the crowd, his chauffer’s hat cocked just a bit to the right, beaming a welcoming smile. Today he was nowhere to be seen. Prudence felt silent alarm bells begin to sound in her head.  Something was wrong.

Through the crowd a young man pushed towards her.  He had a very welcoming smile and was dressed immaculately.  She recognized the singular cut of a Gieves & Hawkes suit.  The charcoal double breasted jacket and matching single-pleat trousers fit perfectly. She noted his black leather boots.  Gucci she guessed, and thought that odd. The alarm bells in her head rang a little louder.

“Miss Smythe?” he spoke as he approached her.  She nodded, smiled, and spoke. “Is Fred sick today? His face clouded slightly as he answered.  “You mean Clancy.  No, he’s fine.  Sir Reginald had him run a personal errand. Right this way please.” He said, reaching towards her.

Her internal danger sense was now ringing off the scale.  His Northern London accent was very good, almost perfect. But her ears detected the effort he made to mask his own true accent. Yet, her face was quite composed as she smiled and started to walk towards the young man.  She stopped suddenly. “Oh!  I forgot my luggage!  I’ll just run and get it.” He moved quickly, catching her arm with just a hint of force. She turned a surprised face first to his hand holding her elbow and then to his still smiling yet somewhat serious face.

“I’m sure Virgin has already arranged for your luggage to be transported to the Mandarin.  If you’ll just come with me I’ll have you there in a jiffy. “His grip on her elbow tightened just enough to be slightly uncomfortable.  The hold was expert, putting pressure on the two most sensitive parts of the elbow. She allowed herself the instinctive elbow hold break, twisting her arm first up and then under and around his, breaking his hold quickly and cleanly, while taking two steps back. “I don’t think so.” Her voice was low, but its steely tone carried well enough to startle several people standing or moving by.  Most looked, sensed a situation they wanted no part of and moved away.

The young man’s smile fell and was replaced with a determined blankness as he moved towards her.  “Please don’t make a scene miss Smythe.  If you’ll just..” his sentence was unfinished as he seemed to collapse, first backward, then forward, being held up by Davis, who had magically appeared from the crowd behind the man. “Sir!  Are you all right?” Davis said, his Northern London perfect, as he held the man up.  “Please help!  Can someone help?” Two airport police, their uniforms perfect, appeared, one from the left and one from the right. Both performed a quick, single nod to Davis who returned the nods and then nodded once towards Prudence. They took the young man off into the crowd.

“Are you all right miss?” Davis said smiling, his eyes darting first right then left, indicating caution.  He took her arm and seemed to steady her.  “I’m fine, thank you.  Although I do seem to have missed my chauffer.” She said, looking into his eyes for any other message.  Davis smiled encouragingly.  “Sorry about that miss.  Perhaps he’ll be along presently” he said, nodding twice. “Yes, that’s a very good idea. I’ll have some coffee and wait for him.  Thank you!” She nodded her understanding and thanks. “Don’t mention it.” He said, touching the bill of his hat and moving away.  “Enjoy your trip to London!” He said happily, moving into the crowd.

Prudence walked to the nearest AMT coffee, ordered a large cappuccino, and then returned to the arrival area to wait.

She was halfway through the coffee when she saw Clancy’s towering figure enter the terminal and begin to scan the crowd.  She rose and began to walk towards him. His face broke into a beaming smile when he saw her.

As she approached him she noticed a small plaster on his forehead.  She also saw some bruising around his left eye.

Prudence allowed her great affection for this gentle beast to overcome her.  She rushed into his arms and hugged him. Clancy was surprised and not a little embarrassed as he somewhat awkwardly patted her back. Finally, she let up her embrace and pulled away, holding fast to his hands.

“What happened to you? Are you all right?” she pleaded.  He smiled and shook his head. “It’s nothing miss.  Just a bit of a cock up, If you’ll pardon my language.” As he spoke he looked up and scanned through the crowd, taking her by the arm, and gently leading to the terminal exit. “Why don’t we get out of here?  Never did like Heathrow.  Just too fookin’ busy, pardon my language. “ Prudence smiled and shook her head.  One the things she adored about Clancy was his constant colorful swearing, followed immediately by an apology.

Clancy paused just before they exited the terminal, oblivious to the numerous irritated and frustrated people following behind them. His face clouded slightly as he spoke. “I have to apologize.  Because of the little incident this morning I’m not driving…” She saw his eyes shade with pain and half expected the giant man to break into tears.  He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and continued. “I’m driving a piece of shite, pardon my language, that they gave me.” Without another word he turned and guided her through the exit.

They walked briskly through the crowd to a waiting area marked “Busses Only – No Other Vehicles”. As they approached the car parked there, Clancy smiled and nodded to an airport policeman leaning against the vehicle. “Thanks Jaime.  I owe you a pint or two!” The policeman smiled, stood up, and raised his head in greeting.” “Anytime mate” He then looked to Prudence, nodded, and touched the bill of his hat. “Maam” he said as he walked away.

Prudence paused a moment to take a look at the “Piece of shite” as Clancy had called it. It was actually a Bentley Mulsanne, either a 2014 or 2015 model.  Prudence now understood the reason for Clancy’s distress.

Clancy, knowing Prudence’s preference for riding in the front seat, guided her around to the left side of the car and opened the door.  Prudence seated herself and Clancy closed her door.  She sat back in the seat, fastened her seat belt and waited for Clancy. He opened the door, seated himself, closed the door, fastened the seat belt, and started the car.  The powerful engine came to life with an understated but still impressive roar. Clancy snorted softly, looked to his right then pulled out into the lane.

Prudence waited until they were out of the airport chaos to begin to question him. “Tell me everything Clancy. Please.” He nodded and took a deep breath. She knew better than to expect him to spare her even the quickest glance.  Clancy’s gaze never left the road when driving. He sighed and began to speak. “I was on the way to the airport to pick you up. Traffic was crap o’course.” Prudence smiled.  Apparently “crap” didn’t quite rate an apology. “Anyway, I was comin’ down Stockley, about half a mile from Shepiston when it happened.”

Clancy shocked Prudence by actually glancing in her direction.  “Whoever they were, they were good. One came at me fast from a side road on the left.  I dodged him mostly. He clipped us a bit on the back left but I held it together.  We were ok.”

The big man steeled himself before continuing.  He took another deep breath and exhaled very deliberately. “The other one came from the right.  We were back in control but he hit us dead on in the front corner.  It spun us around and my blame head hit somethin’ and I went out.” She put her hand on the big man’s shoulder and squeezed.

He continued with a shake of his head. “It was nuthin’.  I’m ok. But she…” his voice began to break and his eyes filled. “She’s…. They… “ his voice choked away to nothing.

Prudence like hugging the huge man but could only squeeze his shoulder. “It’s all right.  I understand. Shawna.  How is Shawna?”

Clancy again took a very deep breath and exhaled slowly. He took several seconds to steel himself and continued. “My Shawna.   They hurt her bad miss Prudence.  Real bad.” His eyes filled again and his body shook in silent weeping.

Prudence squeezed his shoulder, then reached into her purse, pulled out a silk handkerchief, and handed it to him.  Clancy nodded his thanks, took the handkerchief, and wiped his eyes. Another deep breath and he continued. “She’s bad, but Sir Reggie has been great.  He’s promised me he’ll spare no expense to make her right.”  He nodded, as if trying to convince himself as much as Prudence. She continued to squeeze the huge man’s shoulder and shook her head as she thought about Shawna and how much any injury to her affected Clancy.

Shawna, the total and absolute love of Clancy’s life was a 1973 Bentley T1 Four Door Saloon. Clancy Emerson Chatwin III was a private chauffer, as his father had been, and his grandfather. All had driven Bentleys.  The first Clancy Chatwin had driven the 1947 Mark VI door standard steel sports saloon throughout most of his career. The second Clancy began his career with a 1962 Bentley S2 standard saloon and ended with the 1973 Bentley T1 that ultimately became known as Shawna. All three Clancys had served as the private chauffer to member of the Smythe family.

As the Smythe family seemed to be genetically inclined towards danger, intrigue, and adventure, so did the Chatwins. They demanded consistently exception performance from the vehicles they drove.

Shawna had served Clancy the second heroically. He had come to depend on and love her as much as any member of his family.  He had passed her on to Clancy the third which great trust and love.  He had trusted his son to take great care of his Shawna, and he had trusted her to take great care of his son.

“Anyway, I was out for a bit.  When I came to they were gone and the police were just arriving. The cops had already contacted Sir Reggie and he sent this monster..” waving his left hand in a circle, indicating the Bentley, “ as a stand in.” He snorted.

 

Invitation To Madness

(WARNING: This is porn, pure and simple. It was an experiment and is unfinished. It is explicit. Proceed at your own risk.)

 

Connor woke to the soft vague light filtering through the window blinds. He lay, eyes closed, enjoying the heaviness of the bedclothes, the subtle blend of softness\firmness of the mattress, and the cool air for a few moments.  Eyes still closed, he stretched, and then lay with his arms to his sides outside the bedclothes.  He took several deep breaths and mentally took a quick physical inventory. Right leg, left leg, midsection, chest, right arm, left arm. All ok. The head last. Ouch.  Just a shade, a hint of a headache, like a flimsy bad memory of the previous night’s excesses.

He swept the bedclothes back and vaulted out of bed.  He crossed to the left floor to ceiling window and opened the blinds.  The harsh morning light filled his eyes and head with momentary brilliant pain.  Shielding his eyes with his right hand, he squinted till the pain washed away. He then moved to, opened the middle window, and then the right. Lake Travis lay before him, quiet and serene in the hazy morning light. A clear blue cloudless sky topped the lake.  Another perfect Austin day awaited him.  He tried not to think of the cancer-like boredom that ate at his center.

Dropping to the floor, he began his exercise routine.  100 pushups, 100 abdominal sit ups, and ten minutes of leg lifts. He breathed deeply and regularly, slowing his heart rate as he put on running attire.  Dressed and ready to run, he stepped to the suite door, opened it, and stepped into the small hallway.  Eva, the resort’s owner and operator, looked to him, and smiled as she climbed the stairs in front of the entryway.

“Morning Connor.  Breakfast today?” she said, still climbing the stairs.

Connor shook his head.  “Not today Eva.  I’ll get it in town.”

“Have a good day then.  See you later.” She said, turning away.

Connor walked across the entryway to the front door.  He opened it and went outside. The warm, slightly humid August morning air flooded over and around him like just too warm bathwater. He stopped on the landing, closed his eyes, and breathed in the sweet smell of honeysuckle.  “Man, that smells good.” He thought and smiled. “But it always smells so much sweeter after my run.” He nodded, opened his eyes, and went down the short run of stairs to the paved road. He quickly went through his stretching routine and began fast-walking up the road’s incline.

An hour and twenty minutes later, covered in sweat, he walked back to the stairs and climbed them slowly.  His breathing was easy and controlled. Again he paused in front of the door, turned to the entryway rail, closed his eyes, and took in the sweet honeysuckle scent. He smiled as the wonderful soft fragrance seemed to fill his entire being. A thought, a nagging, dark spot on the otherwise perfect morning, intruded and nearly erased his runner’s high.

“Best part of the day and it’s over.” He thought, just the hint of a scowl washing over his face. He forced the thought away as if waving away a bad smell, took one more deep breath, let it out, and turned to the front door.

Connor Dain was 42, in excellent physical and mental condition (for a man of his age or otherwise), twice-divorced (both very amicable, still the best of friends), no kids (a little regret there, songs unheard), countless girlfriends, women, all affectionate, almost-loving, compliant, eager, and ultimately immaterial. He had many buddies, drinking, carousing, canoeing, cavorting, and not one true, good friend on whom he could depend. He was not overall happy.

A lifetime’s smart and hard work now afforded him the luxury of doing whatever he wanted to do, going where ever he wanted to go, with whomever he wanted.  Thus he wanted to go nowhere, to do nothing, with no one.

This place, this small piece of Italian hill country, somehow situated in the hill country just west of Austin, was his one and only, never-miss happy place.  When he was tired, spent, used up, unhappy, hurt, or lost he came here.  And it made him better.

Until this time. He felt better, but not healed. All this floated through his head as he opened the door and luxuriated in as the cool inside air flowed over him.  He stepped across the entryway towards his suite, his thoughts still dark and oddly anxious.

There was an envelope on the floor in front of his door. Curious, he reached down and picked it up. The address and return address were both done in what looked to be hand-lettered black florid calligraphy.

Connor Dain
4545 Outpost Way
Austin, Tx, 78732

The return address.

Club Qandisa

Nothing else.

“Something exciting I hope?” Eva’s voice broke through his rapt concentration. She was, as seemingly always, on the stairs, always going up or down, just in time to see him, and smile her knowing, yet distant smile, and say the oddly right thing.

“I don’t know.” He said, turning the envelope around, staring at the blank back.

“You weren’t expecting it?” she said, pausing as she came down the stairs.

“No. As far as I know, no one knows I’m here.” He looked up at her and reluctantly began a question, knowing the answer. “You didn’t by any chance….” He let the words fall off.

Her smile widened and somehow radiated both mischief and honesty. She shook her head.  “You know better.” She turned, conversation over and continued down the stairs.

He opened his mouth to offer an explanation, an apology, but the moment had passed. He closed his mouth, opened his door, and stepped into his room.

Inside his suite he stood, looking at the envelope. First one side and then the other, as if he expected the words to change, morph, or expand into details and explanations.  They did not.  He looked at the two word return address: Club Qandisa.  The database of his memory searching, searching, yet coming up with nothing.  The name, the words meant nothing to him.

It took every iota of self control and will not to rip open the envelope and plunder whatever waited inside.  Waited for him.

He dropped the envelope on the night table and walked towards the bathroom, his thoughts a rush of wonder and guarded anticipation.

Connor sat and toyed with his breakfast.  This was his favorite meal, the only one he had always preferred to enjoy without company.  Normally he feasted, slowly and intently, savoring each new bite, new texture, and new flavor.  Today it seemed none of the food had any flavor or fragrance.  He hurriedly tossed his knife and fork onto the table, roughly brushed the napkin across his lips, and scowled.  For the second time this morning Doris, his usual waitress appeared at the side of the table, bending over slightly.

“Are you sure there’s nothing wrong hon?” She said, her tender beauty roughened by the worry evident on her face. He sighed, looked up at her, shook his head, and smiled.

“Nothing wrong with the food.  Perfect as always. I’m just distracted.” She nodded, straightened up, a wide, radiant smile growing on her face.  She winked, somehow simultaneously suggestive and demure, turned and moved away with just a touch of wiggle in her stride.

He smiled and watched her walk.  “Someday.” He thought. “Someday I’ll accept that subtle invitation.” The smile left his face as he turned his attention to the envelope laying just to the left of his plate, protected from the rest of the room, secret, and waiting. He stared at it for several moments, his mind swimming with questions, hopes, and vague excitement.

He sighed and picked up the envelope, looking at both sides one final time before solving (maybe) the mystery that waited within.  He looked down to the table and picked up his knife from breakfast, examining it, he set the envelope back down, took his napkin, and carefully wiped the knife clean.  He dropped the napkin on his forgotten plate, picked up the envelope, and carefully slit the top part open. The knife, only butter sharp, moved through the paper with maddening resistance. Still, he refused to be rushed, even by his own anticipation.

He blindly dropped the knife on the side of the plate and looked into the envelope.

It contained a single item, what looked to be a business or calling card. He retrieved it and dropped the now forgotten envelope. The face of the card contained only the two now very familiar and insanely curious words:

Club Qandisa

He turned the card over and was rewarded with more, although precious little more information. A phone number, in the same florid script, centered on the back of the card, with more, slightly smaller, florid script below:

Text only: Yes or No
Voice calls will not be answered

He stared at the words for a long time, looked up, sighed and dropped the card on the table. “Enough mystery.” He thought. “Let’s find out what this really is.” He pulled his phone from his pants pocket and opened up a browser.  “Club Qandisa” he thumbed into the virtual keypad and searched.

No exact matches found, but there was a Wikipedia entry for Qandisa.  He pulled it up and stared and the words.  “Something here.” He thought, hoping. “Maybe something here.” The words, inviting and frightening, seemed to stare and challenge him from the tiny screen.

“Qandisa (Qandiša) is a female mythological figure in Northern Moroccan mythology. Known in folk tales either as a goddess of lust, or simply as a female demon.

Qandisa seduces young men and then drives them insane.”

Reading the words, the last line seemed to burn into his eyes, into his soul.

“Qandisa seduces young men and then drives them insane.”

He stared at the words, his brow furrowed, for several seconds. Then he sighed, closed the browser and opened up his VPN app to connect securely to his home network.  Data packets virtually flew across the state to Dallas and did their bizarre and particular secure dialog to ensure that whatever information he typed or saw, was for his eyes only.  His secure connection established, he reopened the browser, and typed in a cryptically long and elaborate web address.  A login screen was presented and he entered in his username and password, which were accepted.

Connor was now connected to the most elaborate, comprehensive, up-to-date, and highly illegal database on the planet. This particular and highly secret service advertised, discretely of course, and to a highly small list of clients, access to any and all information that exists on any and all databases on the planet.  It had never failed him.  The monthly fee he paid for access was more than most middle managers earned in a year.  He keyed in his search: Club Qandisa.

This particular service did not provide partial or inexact information.  It searched and found information directly related to only the exact words entered, excepting for capitalization.

The search displayed only three words:

No Results Found

Connor could hardly believe what he was seeing.  Never before had this service failed to find something, if even the most insignificant scrap of relevant information.

No Results Found

He closed the browser, the VPN app, and started to put the phone back into his pocket.  He paused and his gaze moved to the card, laying, waiting on the table. He picked it up, looked at the phone number on the back, typed it in, and texted a single word; Yes, and waited.

And waited.

He dropped the card onto the table and started to put the phone back into his pocket when it buzzed a reply.  He did not breathe as he read the words on the screen.

Tonight 9 PM
1005 Nile Street
Park bench north of Gazebo
Dress casual and come alone
Don’t be more than 5 minutes early or late

 

Connor was reading and re-reading the words, memorizing them, when suddenly they vanished, replaced by other words: Message expired.  He was momentarily terrified; afraid he had lost this one, uncertain, yet enormously exiting opportunity.  He closed his eyes and was relieved to see the message returning from his visual memory.

He wondered vaguely how he would spend the rest of the day.

Weeks later, when thought of the time, between receiving the message and beginning the adventure, he found that he had no concrete memories of how he passed the hours. It was as if they had vanished, erased from his life.  This did not bother him at all.

Connor sat on the park bench.  He had taken a taxi to the edge of park and waited there, checking his watch much more often than necessary.  He had arrived at the park bench at 8:56 exactly.

Now he waited.  It was now 8:58. The park was not really large or small and in the middle of a quiet somewhat upscale residential neighborhood.  The houses were very similar and all had green, even in August, well kept lawns.  He waited.

It was dark in the park but the street was well lit by street lamps at the corners and at regular intervals on the side. As he looked to the corner to his left he saw the lights of a car approaching from the distant darkness.  As it reached the corner, it came out of the fog of darkness into the light; a long black limousine, its windows blacker than any night. It pulled up to the curb and stopped, the sound of the engine little more than a whisper.  The whisper suddenly stopped and after a moment he heard the door open.  A tall man rose from the opposite side of the car, his head perfectly bald and shiny under the street lamp.  He looked both ways before closing the door and walking to the back of the car. Connor heard a soft click, the doors of the limo locking, he assumed,  but saw no keys or anything in the man’s hands.  The man was smiling as he slowly strolled closer. He was wearing a black suit, red and blue patterned tie with a dark blue pocket square.  He walked easily, unhurried, and relaxed.

Connor rose and began to walk towards the driver but was halted by the man’s right hand, rising slowly but deliberately, clearly meaning “Wait”.  The driver nodded once as he neared Connor

“Mister Connor Dain?” he asked, his tone somehow saying “I know, but I have to be sure.”

“Yes.” Connor involuntarily croaked, his voice strangled by nerves and tension.  As he cleared his throat the man’s smile widened and he nodded, as if to say “Don’t worry, happens all the time.”

“Yes.  I’m Connor Dain.” His voice now confident, strong, and certain. The man nodded and casually stretched out his right hand.

“May I see some photo identification please? Thank you. You understand.” His voice friendly and relaxed.  Connor fumbled out his wallet and offered the man his driver’s license and a debit card imprinted with a picture he hated. The man took the license.

“This will do just fine.” He smiled and nodded.  As he looked at the license, his eyes went blank and cold.  His left hand went inside his coat and retrieved what looked like a 3 x 5 glossy card.  He looked carefully between the two several times, his smile slowly fading. Connor felt a strange discomfort, an anxiousness that seemed to scream “It’s me!  It’s me!  It’s really me!” Time seemed to stop.

Finally the driver returned the card to his pocket, smiled, and handed back the license.

“Very good Mister Connor. Thank you very much.” He turned to his right and waved his hand towards the limo. “Shall we go?”  The driver then started walking towards the limo. Connor returned his card to his wallet and followed.

The driver walked to the back right side of the limo.  There was another soft click the driver opened the door, turning his head to smile back at Connor.  Connor nodded his thanks, entered the darkness of the back seat, and was about to additionally and nervously voice his thanks when the driver spoke. “You’ll find an envelope with instructions and other things in the seat facing you. I hope you enjoy yourself Mister Connor.  The door clunked shut. Through the dark windows he was the shadow of the driver walk around the car.  As he approached the door, he again glanced both ways before opening the door and sliding into the seat.  There was a dark glass barrier between the passenger area and the front.  Connor felt the vehicle softly rumble to life and pull onto the street. He felt only the gentlest of swaying as the car gained speed.

Connor took a moment to close his eyes and take a deep breath.  His heart was hammering and it felt like there was far too much blood flowing through his body.  The air in the limo was very cool and rich with the intoxicating smell of leather and something else, very faint.  He breathed deeply, working to identify the soft, sweet fragrance.  Finally, the answer moved into his mind’s eye: Honeysuckle.  Faint, so faint he wondered if it were simply a trick of his memory, an odd expectation.  No, it was there.  Faint but real and oddly disconcerting.

The rich cool air, full of fresh leather and soft honeysuckle seemed to calm him and slow his heart.  Within moments he felt relaxed enough to open his eyes and look to the seat in front of him.

He saw the envelope laying on the seat, a small basket just to the left of it. He picked up the envelope and opened it.  Inside, there was a single, silky piece of paper printed on one side with the same script as before.

 

 

 

Instructions
1. Please place all personal effects (wallet, phone, etc) into the envelope and seal. You must take nothing with you. Seal the envelope and leave it on the seat.

  1. Open the basket. Take the hood and use it to cover your head.
  2. Press the button on the arm of the door to indicate that you will follow all instructions.

If you fail to follow all instructions, the driver will stop, expel you from the car, and leave.

Club Qandisa

Connor didn’t hesitate to return the sheet to the envelope, his cell phone, and his wallet.  He sealed it and placed it back on the car seat.  Then he opened the basket.  The smell of honeysuckle flooded the air.  He smiled, bringing the hood to his face.  The scent was strong, but just shy of overpowering.  He closed the basket, slipped the hood over his head, sat back, and ran his right hand across he arm rest, searching for the button.  His fingers brushed across the smooth leather and then brushed a round, cold metallic ring with a smooth slightly domed surface in the center.  He firmly pressed the button and heard a satisfying buzz.  He released the button and almost immediately heard a clear, yet tinny sound; the voice of the driver over a speaker.

“Thank you Mister Dain.  Please sit back and relax.  We’ll be there in about 30 minutes.”

Connor laid his head back on the soft leather. He found himself dozing, almost sleepy. The rich sweet smell seemed to move through his body, ease, and erase every possible tension.  He let his mind wander away and dozed the rest of the trip.

He was nearly asleep when he felt the limo turn sharply, sliding him sideways to rest against the door.  Then the limo slowed and finally stopped.  He heard the low whine of a motor and a soft clanking sound, first above and then behind.  The crackle of the speaker and then the driver’s voice; “You can take the hood off now mister Dain.  Please just toss it on the seat.” As he straightened up and removed the hood he heard the driver open and then close his door.  He shook his head and looked around. Through the shaded limo windows he saw a dimly lit room, three bare white walls and a door to the front right. His door opened and he looked out and up to the driver holding the door. The driver smiled and nodded.

“Your things will be safe here. Please follow me.” Connor slid his feet around and exited the limo. The air in the garage felt dry and fairly warm. The driver jerked his head slightly down.

“The hood please.” Said the driver. Connor realized he was still holding the hood.  He tossed it onto the limo seat.  The driver closed the door and walked towards the door.  Connor followed.  The driver walked to the door, knocked three times, turned to face Connor, and stepped to the side. Connor paused, unsure of just what to do.   The driver bowed his head slightly and waved towards the door.  Connor stepped up to the door just as it opened.

Cool, almost cold air flooded out as the door was opened by a tall, slender, and smiling woman.  She had long red hair, bunched softly around the shoulders, and brilliant green eyes.  Her skin was surprisingly dark as if deeply tanned.  Her dress appeared to be very thin pleated black silk with a v-shaped neckline and thin spaghetti straps on the top of her shoulders.  The driver softly cleared his throat and spoke, jarring Connor from his momentary rapture.

“I’ll see you later mister Dain.  Enjoy your visit.” He then nodded and gestured for Connor to proceed. Connor smiled, nodded, and stepped forward.

The woman smiled and bowed her head slightly.  She spoke, her voice deep and rich, with just the hint of an accent, perhaps Italian, Connor thought.

“Welcome mister Dain.  Please come in.”She said, waving her hand to the entryway.  Connor smiled and nodded, stepping through the doorway, past her into the small hallway.  As he moved past the woman he caught just the hint of rose.  The soft smell was rich and warm. The hallway was about 15 feet long with a high ceiling.  He saw no visible lighting, perhaps indirect, he thought.  Every wall surface was covered in rich, beautiful tapestries, all depicting a different erotic tableau.

He turned to the woman as she closed the door then turned to face him, extending her right hand. “I’m Alicia. May I call you Connor?” she said, inclining her head slightly to her right with the question.

He smiled and nodded. “Very nice to meet you Alicia and please call me Connor.” He raised his hand to hers.  Her handshake was dry, firm, and warm.  She held his hand for just a moment after he had released his.  “Thank you Connor.  I’m so very glad you accepted our invitation. This way please.” She stepped past him and lead to the end of the hallway.  The rose fragrance washed over him as she passed close. There were three doors, one to the left, one to the right, and one in the center.  She strode to the center door and stopped, looking back to him with a soft smile.

As he followed, Connor saw that each door was painted white with a black lacquered plaque set at eye level.  Each plaque had a different word or phrase lettered in gold script.  The one to his left said “Sappho”, the center said “Teicu”, and the one to his right said “Tu Er Shen”.  As he stepped up to Alicia he gestured to the doors. “These are..” he said, letting his question trail off.

“Different persuasions, shall we say.” She said with a warm smile.  “This one is yours.” She knocked three times on the center door and stepped back.  Conner heard muffled steps and then the center door was opened.  Alicia gestured to the woman who had opened the door. “This is Luciana.”

Luciana had straight raven black hair, just topping her shoulders, dark skin, and pale blue eyes. Her dress was identical to Alicia’s except that it was dark red, a shade lighter than burgundy.  She was slightly shorter than Alicia with a much fuller, voluptuous figure. She nodded to Alicia and then to Connor, stepping back to allow him to enter.  Her voice was low and throaty, with the same hint of an accent, perhaps Spanish or Mexican. “Please come in mister Dain. “

Connor stepped into the entry way of a large suite of rooms.  As he passed her he noted the same rose fragrance. Looking ahead, he could see the open French doors of a large bedroom ahead.  To his right was a smaller room with several overstuffed wing chairs and couches set in a semi –circle around an octagonal coffee table.  There was a large fireplace opposite the seating area with a large fire set and burning.  At his left was an even smaller room with one small couch facing an ornately carved coffee table.  A bar stood against the wall to the left of the couch, a white closed door to the right of the bar, and opposite the couch was a large floor to ceiling window looking out onto a lush garden, now bathed in moonlight.  He looked back to Luciana, who had just shut the door and turned to him, extending her hand.

“Hello mister Dain.  I’m Luciana.  Very nice to meet you.” Again the firm handshake holding his hand for just a beat too long.  She inclined her head slightly to the side “May I call you Connor?”

He smiled and nodded.  “Very nice to meet you Luciana.  Please call me Connor.”

She nodded. “Would you like a drink?” Her voice was soft yet direct. He smiled and nodded.

“A drink would be great, thank you.” She nodded and spoke.

“This way please.” She waved her hand to the left room and turned to lead the way.  Connor followed.  As she passed the couch she spoke without turning around.

“Please make yourself comfortable.” He sat and looked out the window into the garden.

“MacAllen 25 on the rocks.  Is that right?” She said taking a lowball glass from the bar and turning to smile at him.

“Perfect.” Connor said, returning her smile.  She nodded and turned to make the drink.  She then turned walked over and leaned forward, offering him the drink.  As he took the glass from her hand, his gaze fixated on her cleavage.  The dress was just loose enough for the fabric to fall away from her body as she leaned forward.  She was naked underneath and her skin was dark everywhere he could see. She smiled and leaned back.  “Monica will be here shortly. It was very nice to meet you Connor.” She smiled, nodded and turned to the door next to the bar.

“Um…” Connor struggled to phrase the question, afraid to lose this perfect vision of woman.

Luciana turned back to him and leaned forward, putting her hand lightly on his shoulder.  Her squeeze was gentle but firm, encouraging. Her voice low and rich with promise. “I’ll see you later.” He looked at her face and noticed that she had a tiny piercing, what looked like a diamond in the lower right corner of her smile. She leaned back, turned and left the room.

He sat back, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply.  He took a drink and the shock of the strong smoky liquid seemed to center him.  He opened his eyes and his gaze wandered the room.  He noticed the low music, instrumental jazz for the first time and wondered if it has been playing the whole time.  The air was cool and still.

As he took another drink the door next to the bar opened.  Another woman walked into the room. He started to stand but the woman’s smile and raised hand stopped him.

“Please don’t get up. Hello, I’m Monica. Nice to meet you mister Dain.” Again the offered hand.

She sat beside him as she shook her hand.  Monica was tall, taller than Alicia and very slender.  She wore the same dress, also red, cut to hug her subtle curves perfectly.  Her skin was fair, almost pale.  Golden curls cascaded down to cover her shoulders. Her eyes were pale brown, almost tan. She sat back and nestled herself slightly into the couch, raised her chin a little and spoke. “I love this couch.  I have one just like it at home.  Oh, by the way, may I call you Connor?” She giggled and raised her hand to her face as if embarrassed by the question.  Connor’s face clouded with confusion and she sat up, moving her hand to lightly touch his lips.

“I’m sorry.  It’s just the …” She looked away her brow furrowing with frustration, as if searching and not finding the right words.  Then she smiled and her face brightenedent. She moved her hand to lightly grasp his shoulder. “It seems a bit silly.  To me at least.” She waved her right hand around. “All this formality.  Connor smiled and nodded. “You read my mind.  That’s exactly what I was thinking.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  It’s very nice here. But… at least..” his words fell away as he had the terrifying thought that the whole thing, the whole adventure was something else, something other than the sensual awakening and exploration that he was hoping for.

The beautiful woman smiled softly, looked into his eyes, and cocked her head slightly to one side.  The smile faded as her gaze dropped to his lips.  She leaned forward, closed her eyes, and kissed him, her hand reaching behind his head, pulling him close.  Her lips were warm, open, and wet, sliding over his.  The warm firmness of her tongue darted into his mouth, then upward, then sliding back, raking against the top of his palate and teeth.

They were both a little breathless when she pulled away, smiled, and demurely looked down.  She looked up and smiled, her voice soft, almost a whisper.  “Let me freshen your drink.” She took the glass from his hand, rose and crossed to the bar.  Connor smelled the same warm soft rose fragrance wash over him.  It seemed to scream sex and pleasure. He watched her fix the drink and turn to him.  She smiled shyly, stepped closer, and leaned down, handing him the drink. His eyes seemed fixed on hers.  She crossed in front of him and sat down, smiling.

“Thank you. “ he said, nodding.  He seemed incapable of looking away from her eyes and she met his gaze warmly.  She glanced down at the coffee table and leaned forward, reaching for a small ornate gold box on the coffee table. She opened the box and took a small red pill, one of many filling the box.  She closed the box and leaned back, raising the pill to his mouth.

Connor leaned back but she smiled, nodded, and touched his face.  “It’s ok.” Her voice was soft and assuring.  He let her put the pill in his mouth.  She then touched the hand holding the drink.  He took a sip and swallowed the pill.  She leaned back, her head resting against the couch.  She started to talk, asking questions about his trip. Connor answered and they fell into an easy conversation. Her laugher seemed like music and he felt himself smiling and laughing along.

The room seemed to become a little brighter and somehow clearer, more vividly focussed.  He looked around and everything, every object and surface seemed lazer sharp.  The various colors seemed filled with infinite shades and textures.  The air seemed to be filled with an infinite number of  different distinct smells, all blended and somehow discrete at the same time. Every note of the soft jazz seemed to leap out, presenting itself for careful examination.  He could feel the tiny indentations of the engraved glass in his hand.

The soft, warm touch of Monica’s hand on the side of his face jerked him back into awareness of her. He turned and she leaned towards him, not smiling, her gaze moving across his face and settling on his lips.  With her other hand she gently touched his drink and pushed down.  He lowered the drink to the table. There was a hunger and heat to her whisper. “I think we’re ready.” Her hand slipped to the back of his head as she leaned in and pressed her lips to his.

His eyes closed and all reality was filled with the hot, wet, simultaneously rough and smooth texture of her lips as they covered his and explored them completely.  Her tongue, rough and insistent roamed the inside of his mouth.  He met it with his own and they began their own maddening sensual dance. Smell, texture, heat, and taste seemed to come together as one explosion of pleasure after another, infinite and ongoing.

After an eternity of hot pleasure, she pulled away, breathing hard, placed both hands on his chest and pushed him roughly back against the couch.  Straddling him on the couch she leaned in, took his head in both hands, leaned forward, and pulled his lips to hers. The pressure of her weight and the rhythmical grinding of her hips seemed to light in him a fire of need.  He felt himself instantly and impossible erect. She pulled her lips away, breathless, and moaned in time to her determined grinding.  She again pulled his lips to her for one brief volcano hot kiss then leaned away for one low whisper before again leaning back into his lips.  “Touch me” she demanded.

His hands started at the back of her hips and slowly slid up the soft material of her dress, up to her shoulders.  Then they moved down her front. She pulled away and gasped as they moved over her hard nipples.  Her hands covered his and she pulled his hands close and squeezed.  His hands squeezed her firm breasts and she gasped again, almost swooning.   She rocked back and forth, grinding into him and pressing his hands across her breasts in time with her grinding.  Her eyes were closed and her voice a rhythmic ragged gasp. Connor could feel the rough heat and desperation of her rising arousal. The soft, musky fragrance of her sex seemed to mix with the rich rose fragrance, creating a heady scent that seemed to stoke the growing fire of desire within him. Her expression was almost pained as she suddenly stopped and pushed herself off of him.

She dropped, kneeling on the floor in front of the couch and began to fumble with the top of his pants.  He reached to help but she slapped his hands away, her face clouded as she gave an inarticulate cry.  She finally undid the snap, unzipped the fly, and reached her hands to the top of his hips.  Her hands firmly grabbed the top of his pants and boxers and roughly pulled them down to his ankles. She leaned forward, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath.  Then she opened her eyes, looked up into his, and gently took his penis in her hand.

Connor groaned, closed his eyes, and lay back. The soft, warm texture of her hand as it lightly touched, stroked, then gripped, and squeezed the head of his penis filled him with hot intense sensation.  Monica continued her firm squeezing as she leaned her head down, extended her tongue, and began to softly lick his testicles.  He turned his head from side to side, riding the rising wave of pleasure.  She slowly moved her tongue up, rising to lick the base, the shaft, and finally the front of his penis, just under the head.  Then she stocked her hand down and slid her open mouth slowly over the top of his penis.  Conner jolted upright and let out a cry, shocked by the flood of pleasure from the warm wet texture of her mouth.  He then lay back and softly put his hands on the back of her head, intertwining his fingers in her soft curls. She steadied his penis with her hand as she slowly took him deeper into her mouth. He moaned as the pleasure expanded and grew. His penis was rock hard and throbbing as she slowly moved it in and out, taking it just a little deeper with every stroke.  He jolted with jarring sensation again as she took him deep into the back of her mouth, tightened her lips and sucked hard, creating a maddening pulse at the top of his penis.  She released her suction and slowly moved her mouth up, over the top, and then back on.  Her back arched up, she straightened her throat and gently moved her mouth down on to the root of his shaft, taking his head just inside the tight, hot wetness of her throat.

Connor swooned at the edge of consciousness, the rising, explosive pleasure moving through him like a lava flow. She slowly moved her mouth up, opened her lips to breathe, then moved down again, pressing her lips into him and taking him even deeper into her throat. Again and again she repeated the delicious movement.  He felt the incredible pleasure build and build, closer and closer, till he was on the very edge of an explosive climax.  Monica sensed his tension and very quickly pulled away, gripped the head of his penis firmly, and squeezed.  He felt the climax fade away and realized he was panting, grasping for breath, covered in sweat in the almost cold room.

Panting, he looked into her eyes and she smiled.  Then she lowered her head and began the same incredible slow and intense pleasuring.  He leaned back and felt the heat and desire within him rising.

Again and again Monica urged his pleasure on, bringing him higher and higher, closer and closer, but not yet allowing the nuclear release.

At last the rhythm of her strokes slowed.  He felt the pleasure building more and more.  His hips involuntarily flexed in time with her strokes.  Almost, almost, and then yes!  Yes! Yes! White hot magma pleasure flooded through him as he exploded with the release.  He felt the muscles in his groin spasm with delicious pleasure again and again.  Monica sucked and swallowed again and again until the last spasm.  One last firm suck and swallow.

He fell back against the couch, covered in sweat, and gasping for air.  His fluttered open and he looked down to see Monica’s smiling face rising and she once again climbed onto the couch and straddled him.  Her smile faded, her gaze dropped to his lips, and leaned her head to the side.  Her hands slid behind his head and pulled his lips against hers.  Her tongue urgently moved into his mouth, met his, and they began their familiar fevered dance of need. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in, crushing her into his chest.  She broke their kiss to gasp a groan of pleasure and need.  She again began to grind herself into him. Amazed, he realized he was still rock hard and ready. She moved her head til they were nose to nose, eye to eye.

“The little red pills are pretty cool, huh?” She whispered.  “We can go as long as we want to.” Her eyes seemed to glow and her smile beamed wide. “And that’s going to be a long, long time.” She rose up slightly from him and reached down. The touch of her hand on his penis electrified him and he felt desire and need rage through his body.  She guided the head of his penis and he gasped as he felt the soft wet heat of her vagina.  She slowly lowered herself onto him, closed her eyes, leaned back slightly, and groaned as he moved deeper and deeper into her. He felt a delicious heat, pressure, and resistance as she moved up and down.  His pleasure began to build again with rising heat and need.  His hips began to flex timed with her movements.  She leaned in, her lips at his ear.  She gasped a whisper filled with need. “Grab my hips. Pull me into you.” Her head shook briefly. “Pull me close.  Hard. Pull into me.” Her breath was hot on his ear.  He placed his hands on her hips.  As she moved down onto him he flexed his hips up and pulled himself deeply into her.   “Oh God Yes!”  she whispered, her voice a gasp of intense pleasure. He felt the internal contractions of her vagina and they filled him with a pulsing, throbbing wave of growing pleasure and need.

Up and down she moved. He flexed and pulled himself into her, deeper and deeper, and their rising pleasure, a singular entity, grew larger, hotter, and more insentient. Her gasps of “Yes! Yes!” gave way to pants, faster and faster, and he felt the explosion, the coming climax nearing.

Again, she took him just to the edge and then stopped moving.  She put her hands on either side of his face, stared deeply into his eyes, and whispered. “Look at my eyes. Only my eyes.” he willingly complied. A small smile grew on her lips. “Good.  Now breathe deeply.  Like this.” She took in a slow, deep breath through her nose, mouth closed, and then slowly exhaled through her mouth.  She nodded and he mimicked her actions.  He felt the building climax subsiding, moving away.

Their breathing was almost back to normal when he saw her close her eyes, bow her head forward slightly, and concentrate.  She gently but firmly rocked her hips against him, pushing him inside. Her brow tensed slightly then relaxed.  Again.  He felt something remarkable. Pressure, a soft squeezing, almost gripping of his penis.  Her brow furrowed deeply, her concentration intensified and he realized she was willing her vagina wall to contract around him.  It caused a wonderfully hot tightness, a molten firm throbbing, and he felt his pleasure begin to slowly climb.  As her contraction became more intense she began to whisper, eyes closed. “Yes…Oh that’s good.  That’s so good!”

One final, tight hot squeeze and she opened her eyes, smiled and began to move up and down again.  She took his hands and pressed them into her hips.  They moved back into the delicious familiar rhythm again, slower this time, building more and more.  He felt their shared pleasure, a growing, raging beast of heat, and inevitable need, rising gradually through their slow steady movements.

Her voice became a low, whispered gasp of need. “Yes! Yes! Oh god!  Yes!”.  She thrust her hips against him and he answered by roughly pulling her hips down and thrusting himself deeper into her hot soft tightness.  Faster, deeper, their rough, desperate dance moved closer and closer to something new, something hotter and dangerously explosive.  He swooned again, his conscious thoughts swept away by a fierce, unstoppable need to get closer, deeper inside her, to meld the liquid hot, tight, secret place of hers to his magma, diamond, throbbing shaft.  To use the sun hot heat of their lust to momentarily weld their souls of pleasure together in one dazzling hot bright nova of need and desire.

Closer, closer, almost, almost.  Then the peak, the shuddering, gasping, explosion.  She cried out, her staccato screams announcing her mounting peaks.  He matched her cries as his body shook with the fierce rhythmic contractions of his groin, met and matched by the throbbing contractions inside her.  The wave of intense pleasure seemed to peak for minutes, hours, days.  Slowly it subsided and she fell into his arms, gasping for air, her silk dress drenched with sweat.

He held her closely and allowed himself to slide down on the couch.  She snuggled into him a moment and then rose, allowing him to stretch out on the couch.  She lay beside him and wormed her arms around him, pulling him close.  He embraced her, holding her as if to contain the fleeing heat.

They lay like that for awhile, exhausted, and spent, their sweat mixing and drying in the cool air.  Dozing, nearly asleep, they lounged in the wonderful glow of post coital languor.  Conner floated between consciousness and the quiet vagary of a dream, drifting through both realities freely.  Distant thoughts, memories, and visions floated in and out of his perception. He felt a distant and totally foreign feeling, like an old friend, long forgotten but newly re-discovered and welcome: peace.  He embraced and enjoyed this wonderfully old new-found friend.

He was awakened by Monica rising from the couch and padding into the bedroom.  The door closed and then opened again a few moments later.  She had changed out of her dress and now wore a long black robe.  It looked like silk, a bit thicker than her dress.  She carried another in her hands.

“My dress was still drenched.” She giggled. “I’ll bet your shirt is too.  Here..” She dropped the robe to his side as he sat up. She sat beside him, darted her head in for a teasing, giggly kiss, and then leaned back and began to unbutton his shirt. She leaned forward to slide the shirt off his arms and coming near him, pulled him close, sighed, and nipped at his neck. “I could just eat you up!”.  She leaned back, giggling and held his bunched shirt in her hands. “Again!” she giggled.  She tossed the shirt down with his pants and boxers, stood, taking the robe, and opening it for him to wear.  He stood, faced away from her, and slid his arms into the soft sleeves.  She enveloped him with the robe and hugged him close, sliding her hands down his front. She took one hand and led him to the sitting area.

“Hoo!  I could use a little snack!” She guided him to the couch opposite the fireplace, sat him down, and turned to leave.  She glanced back before leaving the room. “Back in a sec.” she said with a mischievous smile and giggle. Connor allowed himself to sink into the soft couch cushions.  He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.  The soft padding of her steps sounded as she crossed to the door on the far side of the garden room.  He heard the door open and close.

After only a few moments he heard the door open.  The same soft padding of steps along with the sharp clunk of heels moved towards him.  He turned to his left to see Monica followed by Luciana, both carrying large silver trays.  Luciana had changed from her red dress to an identical black robe. Monica’s tray was with covered with thin china serving plates filled with fruits, cheeses, crackers, small circles of sliced meats and sausages.  Luciana’s tray had three wine glasses, and three bottles, two of the bottles in metal cooling sleeves.  The women sat the trays down and sat on either side of Connor. Luciana smiled and touched his shoulder as she spoke. “Nice to see you again Connor.  I hope Monica has taken good care of you.” Her smile had a wicked twinkle as she snuck a quick wink at Monica, who giggled a wink back.

“Believe me she has.” Conner said looking between the two smirking women.  Monica darted herself to his lips for a quick kiss, then pulled away to grin at Luciana. “And he’s taken VERY good care of me!” She said with a giggle.  Luciana smiled and shook her head, then turned to look deeply into Connor’s eyes.  He looked deeply into her soft blue eyes, pale and endless.  Her smile faded as her gaze dropped to his lips.  She slowly leaned towards him, her hand sliding to the back of his head, pulling him to her.  Her face moved just to his right, her lips, gently brushing the side of his.  Her eyes closed, her mouth open only slightly, she brushed her lips softly around his, once, twice, three times before meeting them directly.  Her mouth pressed slowly, gently, with an underlying direct force. Her lips opened and began to move over and against his with more pressure and force, determined to experience every possible sensation the sliding friction and texture could offer.  He tongue, impossibly long and hot with rough need, searched the inside of his mouth, like a tentacle inside a hot wet cave. His tongue met hers and they began a rough, sliding, thrusting forward, then retreating lustful dance.

“Now, now Lucy..” Monica’s giggling voice broke their hypnotic kiss. Her hand was on Luciana’s shoulder, playfully pushing her away. “You’ll get your turn.  But the man need some food.” She giggled and looked at Conner like a very naughty imp. “You want him to be strong don’t you?” she said, laughing out loud.

Luciana ran tip of her tongue across her top lip and brushed her bottom lip with her fingertips, looking deeply and hungrily into Connor’s eyes before turning to Monica with a wicked grin.  “I suppose I do.” Her voice breathy and low.  She leaned back slightly, closed her eyes, took  a deep breath, opened her eyes, and smiled.  “Ok.  Let’s see what we have here.” She turned to the wine bottles, indicating one in a cooling sleeve. “We have a 42 Krug Brut, very cold, a 2005 Guiraud Sauvignon Blanc, also very cold, and a 2004 Cap De Mourlin Cabernet Sauvignon, at room temperature. “