There’s never peace. Moments, maybe, when there’s less pain. But never real peace. Storm winds whip through my hair and tug at my dress, teasing me with release. But I know better. I look up at the dark sky and sigh, glaring at the heavy clouds that linger out over the ocean. They threaten to charge ashore and bury me beneath the weight of the Atlantic Ocean. But it’s all for show. I’ve lived here on this sandbar between the Atlantic and Pamlico Sound for too long to lend these punks any credence. They’re whispered promises on a pillow. I won’t be drawn into the depths. No release for Billie.
Thin sheets of mist and rain drift in from the ocean, wafting over me, over the house, and, I imagine, across the road and the bar & grill on the other side. I don’t want to go just yet. If I take a deep breath and stand very still, somewhere out among the gusts of wind and splatter of rain I can hear the soft sigh of my missing soul. It’s the only part of me that’s still free. It always lingers there, just out of reach, waiting for that mythical “someday” when we might be together again. Sometimes it’s enough to know that it’s out there, playing with the winds. Most times it’s not.
Thunder rumbles from somewhere out over the ocean. I take a deep breath, let it out slowly. I’m stalling. I’m always stalling. Not to think about distant memories, though. That always goes badly for me. Makes it all that much harder to do what I do. Better to put my head down, grit my teeth, and just let my body do what it knows how to do. Besides, if I take much longer, Chaney will come looking for me. That always goes badly for me, too.
“Get on with it, Billie,” I hear myself say.
I take another deep breath, scan the skies, glaring my disappointment at the punk clouds out over the ocean, and walk on down the steps from the deck. I follow the path around the house to the road and stop there, staring at the bar, breathing deep the sharp sting of the steam that rises from the asphalt as the rain bathes the road. I look up and down the long, straight, empty road, pausing as I always do on the off-chance that the angel Gabriel might drive up and take me away. As usual, he doesn’t show. Punk-ass.
I walk on across the road into the gravel parking lot. The familiar cars are here. Regulars. Everyone who‟s required to be here. Poor souls who haven’t found their release, either. They come here because they have to. There’s nowhere else on Earth they could go. So here they come to drink themselves into oblivion, to quiet the voices that linger on the winds, whispering of pasts that held hope and promise, tormenting them with hints of what they could have been versus who they are.
I hear my own familiar sighing on the winds and shake it off. I know what I have to do. Everyone here does. They’re all here for the show. Waiting for me. I look at the new car. A filthy Porsche 911 convertible. Red, I think. It’s hard to tell, even with the rain eating away at the dust and grime. Ray something. Charnell. I’ve read his dossier, but I don’t really remember any of it. It’s been decades since who a person is mattered to me. They’re all just clients. Targets. Chancey might give a damn. But I don’t. I don’t have to.
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I’m stalling again. It’s not like I can stand out here in the parking lot all night. I pull my dress down tight over my hips. Adjust my breasts to maximize the cleavage. Ray’s eyes will be drawn where they’re meant to be drawn. It only takes the first bread crumb to lead him deep into my web.
I drag myself on over to the big, oaken doors and push my way inside, stepping into the relative darkness. Musty funk washes over me; centuries of tobacco smoke and spilled beer, cheap food and sweat, with a hint of urine. No amount of cleaner could chase away the familiar smells of home.
Every eye turns in my direction. I smile at some of the patrons. Acknowledge others. Some smile, warm and friendly. Some glower at me, still smarting from recent slights. Half of them are stuck here because of me, passing their days as the background chatter in other people’s lives, hoping to someday settle their tab and be allowed to move along and get on with their lives. No one will say anything. No one will approach me. They all know why I’m here. They all sit at their tables and booths, playing their roles and sipping free beer to drink away the ghosts, careful to give the new stranger a wide berth. They all know he’s the reason I’m here. And whether he knows it or not, I’m the reason he’s here, too.
I glance over the faces of the patrons, looking for Jessica. I finally find her in the back corner. She’s squirreled herself away in the shadows, as far away as she can get from what I‟m about to do. She doesn’t look at me, but she has to know I’m here. I could use a smile. Or a wave. But I understand. I know how I feel when she‟s working a client.
Chancey clears his throat. It’s a not-so-subtle prodding. I glance over at his immense bulk behind the bar. He’s watching me with a raised eyebrow, cleaning glasses with a cloth. I glare at him my symbolic defiance, which makes him grin.
Ray Charnell sits on a stool across the bar from Chancey, nursing a beer. He doesn’t look up. Chancey gives him a moment, then, as if just noticing me, looks up and smiles.
“Evenin’, Billie,” he says to get the ball rolling. “You’re looking mighty fine tonight.”
I grin. “Thank you, Chancey,” I reply, trying to sound pleased. My voice is whiskey and smoke. Bedroom whispers. Wild abandon. Men die to hear such voices speak their names in that breathy crest just before orgasm.
Ray Charnell notices. He looks up and follows Chancey’s gaze to me. I smile at my target and wink an acknowledgment to Chancey, who fades into the background with a grin. Rain water drops from my hair, so I step beneath the neon beer sign to shake it out. It’s a nice effect. I’ve used it so many times that it’s a joke here. Everyone knows how my red hair shimmers in the soft light. Tongues of flame come alive. I linger just long enough to make sure Ray Charnell is watching. He most certainly is. His eyes haven’t left me.
I drift across the cool, tiled floor on bare feet. Ray watches me as if taking inventory, starting at my feet, working his way up my legs to firm, young hips, to the soft silhouette of the muscles of my belly, to breasts which move but don’t jiggle. I know all-too-well how the sun dress looks on me; the magic it creates beneath the fabric, with ever-evolving hints of moving muscle, and shadows creeping into every curve and crevasse. The dress is soft. Feminine. The merest hint of modesty that leaves it all-too-obvious that naked wonders exist just beneath the fabric.
Ray’s gaze moves up to my lips; the soft, full pink kind that will never need lipstick. I lick them. Nothing too obvious. A natural reaction. One that seems so only because of years of practice. Ray finally locks into my dark, green eyes. He holds my gaze. Interested, if not smitten. Which means he’s mine. Once they’re hungry, they’re mine. Ray Charnell is hungry.
I look over his hairy arms and suppress a shudder. Being with hairy ones is like humping a farm animal. I’ll need help with this one. I glance over at Chancey, who‟s lingering close by and practicing his disinterest. He notices my hint, nods to himself, and fetches my chilled bottle of rum. He brings it to me along with my favorite brandy sifter. Chancey raises an eyebrow, but I shake my head. No chaser tonight.
I look over my new prospect. Ray’s the military type. I’d have known that even if I hadn’t read his dossier. He‟s one of those career men, with hard-set blue eyes and a stern face. Handsome, but wiry. He’s used to giving orders and having them followed without question. The kind of man who has led other men to their deaths. Ray sips from his beer, watching me watching him. It’s an interesting exchange. A challenge, almost. I like a challenge, and I won’t be the first one to blink.
“I was about to ask,” he says, finally breaking the silence, “what a beautiful woman like you is doing in a place like this,” tosses Chancey a smile and raises his mug, “but I wouldn’t want to offend the proprietor.”
Chancey shrugs and say, “No offense taken.” He frowns comically over Ray’s shoulder, arches his eyebrow at me and slides the man another beer.
Ray Charnell continues, “Figured you‟d heard that one before, anyway.”
I grin and pour a little rum into my sifter. “I’ve heard a few,” I tell him. I lean in close to him and pretend I’m not repelled by his scent; a mixture of cheap cologne and sweat. Then I sip some rum, watching him over the rim of my glass. Men can’t ignore the hungry look. It’s a test, mostly, to see if Ray will play by the rules at any point. So far he’s seemed mostly amused. Not at all the effect I was going for.
“What’s your name?” he asks, grinning.
“Billie,” I reply simply, and wait for him to take the next step.
The stranger laughs. “Billie? Or should I say Bill?” He looks at my bare feet again, works his way up to my crotch, where his gaze lingers for a long time. “No,” he muses, seemingly to himself, “you’re definitely not a Bill.”
I resist the frown. If that was a come-on, he‟s an idiot. If it was an attempt at humor, he‟s an asshole. I can’t stand the assholes. They always have something to prove; some deficiency they’re trying to compensate for. Sometimes they prove themselves men by knocking around the hired help. I’m not in the mood for that tonight. Not that I ever am. But especially not tonight. It’s been a rough enough day as it is.
Ray chuckles. “Billie, as in Billie Holiday? You don’t look like a Billie. More like a Selena. Or a Sasha.” He grins. “No. You’re a Candy. Definitely. Yeah. You look like candy to me. Nice wrapper and all. I can’t help wondering what kind of sweetness you’re hiding beneath that wrapper.” For just a moment the smirking Marine facade drops, and Ray tells me honestly, “You have the sexiest voice I have ever heard.”
I grin and let the terrible “wrapper” line pass. The comment about my voice is what I’ve needed. A genuine moment that makes him seem less of a target and more like a human being. That’s all I really need to be able to commit.
“You hairy all over?” I ask him, switching up the rhythm. I sip more rum and watch.
“Mostly,” he replies. “You like hairy men?”
I nod, lying. Sip more rum. I can handle the spit, the sweat and the semen. But when some hairy man climbs on top of you, it’s like being fucked by a bear. Skin on skin. Much nicer. Who wants to cuddle with a cardigan sweater? But I smile serenely, with just enough mischief in my eyes to let him think it turns me on. Business is business.
He takes another gulp of beer and turns to face me. He studies my faces for a long moment, then chuckles to himself.
“Well,” he muses, “enough of the small talk. Billie, if I ask you a straight question, would you give me a straight answer?”
I nod. “Sure,” I tell him.
His face lights up again with that big, boyish grin. He asks me, “Are you just plain horny, or are you a hooker lookin’ for a john?”
I take another sip of rum and watch him, whatever sympathies I had for him evaporating. It’s a hard sip, which doesn’t want to go down. Ray’s more than an asshole. He’s a crude, arrogant bastard who’s never happier with himself than when he’s demeaning another person. I’d begun to hope that we might pass the evening as two human beings, sharing a moment, even if one was paying for it. But Ray just reduced it to a business transaction. Not sure what I expected, really. Testosterone poisoned grunt.
I glance up at Chancey, who’s watching me closely. He knows my temper. Knows I might blow it. Instead, I smile and laugh at Ray with a girlish giggle. The giggle always works.
Ray Charnell grins. “Sorry,” he says coolly, “but I’ve learned from hard experience that it saves headaches to get to the point. I think we both know this isn’t just natural attraction going on here.”
“I agree,” I say in the same cool tone of voice, “and it’s ‘yes’ all around. I’m horny, alright,” switch gears and turn more business-like, “but I’m not into community service. I’m much more than a hooker, though… Ray.” I finish off my glass and sit it on the counter.
Chancey fills the glass and sits and empty one next to it. He glares at me. I shouldn’t have used the name. But Ray Charnell is an asshole. He didn’t notice the slip, anyway.
“I prefer to think of myself as an artist,” I tell Ray. “I’m very good at pleasure.”
Ray laughs. “I suppose you charge for your… art?”
“Of course. Doesn’t everyone, in their fashion?”
Chancey wanders over to us and leans upon the bar, looking the Marine in the eye until he gets his attention. “Billie’s amazing,” he tells Ray.
“Oh?” Ray says sharply, annoyed at the interruption. “You her pimp?”
Chancey shrugs. “Not like you think. I make sure no one gets hurt around here. But,” he adds, grinning and glancing at me, “I know talent. There are whores, and then there are artists. If a man is lucky enough he might come across a woman once in his life that he’ll think about for the rest of his days. The one you couldn’t take home to mother.”
Ray smiles and watches Chancey fade into the scenery again. He turns to me and studies my face for a moment, that asks me flatly, “You that good?”
I nod, lean over, hesitate, then kiss him softly. I run the tip of my tongue along his lips. Warm, moist and inviting. Then I sit back and smile, sip some rum to mask the sickening taste of his cheap beer. He could at least drink a decent beer. But he doesn’t smell as bad as I thought he would. The cologne is heavy, but the sweat is more subtle. He’s not averse to hygiene. He’s just a man, and men like to sweat. Makes them feel like men.
“I’m guaranteed,” I tell him. I pour some rum into the empty glass and push it to him.
Ray shakes his head. “I never touch the hard stuff. Thanks.”
I lick my lips. “If you can’t handle that, Marine,” I tease, “you can’t handle me.”
“Oh!” he laughs. His eyes light up. I like that. He picks up the glass, downs the rum in a gulp, and pops it back down on the counter. “I can handle you.”
“Good,” I purr, brushing my fingers across his crotch. I stand up and step in close to him, giving my body heat a chance to seep into him. “Let’s not ruin the moment,” I tell him. “Have a chat with Chancey while I freshen up. If you’re interested, we can have some fun.”
I brush past him, letting firm breasts press against his arm. I walk slowly to the ladies room, taking my time so he can study the soft swells of my ass and the exposed, muscled back. I glance back at him, to make sure he’s watching, blow him a kiss, then slip through the bathroom door, giving Chancey his cue to wander on down and negotiate prices.
The door closes behind me. I let out a deep breath and force myself to relax. In the sudden stillness, away from the general buzz and hum of the bar, I find myself alone. I stare at the woman in the mirror. Nausea washes over me. I shiver and rush to the sink, turn on the faucet and run sweet, cool water over my wrists. The chill spreads through my veins in a rush. I cup my hands together and sip. It’s clean. Soothing. I breathe deeply and get my bearings. The nausea goes away. But I find myself staring into the sink, avoiding the piercing green eyes of the redhead in the sun dress. You’d think after all this time it would get easier. But it never does. Some part of me is repelled by the things I do. Some part is still human, aching for the simplest of human connections. But all I ever get are the assholes. To them I’m a masturbation aid. A hole they can stick their dicks into.
The door bursts open. Right on cue. Jessica. It’s our little ritual. My calm before the storm. She walks up behind me and slips her arms around my waist. She lays her chin on my shoulder and watches me in the mirror.
“Hi, Billie,” she says sadly. Sweet Jessica. My very own little succubus.
“I thought you were mad at me,” I tell her, smiling and turning away from my reflection. I turn to face my love and soak up her beautiful blue eyes. “Hi, Jess.”
She presses her body against me. “Another knuckle-dragger?”
I nod and sigh. “Chancey picks „em. Not me.” Then I grin. “I thought you weren’t watching.”
She shrugs. “I don’t need to watch to see him for what he is. He gave me the creeps when he came in.” She smiles wistfully. “I just wish it was me, and not him…”
I slip my arms around her waist, brush her blonde hair away from her face. Once I thought she was the most stunningly beautiful woman I had ever seen. Before Chancey made me into what I am. I‟m not sure what beauty is anymore.
“You have to quit being so jealous,” I tell her. “I wish it was you, too. It’s just business. You know that. I get jealous too, you know.” I kiss Jess’ soft lips. She kisses me back. My fingers drift down between her breasts, trace the soft curves. Jess’ fingers play across my ass. “We’ve got the weekend,” I say softly, disappointed. The weekend seems a lifetime away. First I have to climb a hairy mountain. Chancey won’t give me peace until he’s filled his quota. Ray will do that for him.
“We’d better,” Jess warns me, pulling me tight against her and resting her head on my shoulder.
“Still jealous, huh?”
I smile. “I’ll make it up to you, Jess,” I promise, pulling away from her and straightening my dress. “I’ll make it up to you.”
“I know you will, Billie.”
I look myself over in the mirror, avoiding my gaze. Make a few needed adjustments. There isn’t much that needs adjusting. I take another deep breath and release it slowly, letting the calm fill me, shuffling my thoughts. I need to be a blank slate. It goes better if I’m just an empty vessel awaiting input.
I rest my hand on Jess’ belly for just a moment, and turn and walk out the door, back into the bar. Chancey and the Marine are having a drink together. From the way they both glance up at me with smiles on their faces, I’d say they’ve reached an agreement. I ease on up to Ray Charnell and slip under the grunt’s arm, kissing him softly on his sweaty neck.
I ask, in my deepest, sexiest voice, “Done talking?”
Ray grins and nods. “Yup. I sure hope you’re worth it.”
I glance at Chancey. “Oh? And what might I be worth?”
“A hundred’s a lot for a one-shot.”
What? A hundred? I fix Chancey with a stern, wounded look. It‟s only part show. A hundred? I usually get five times that. He’s taking no chances with this one. Making sure the bait gets taken. I’m a little insulted. No. Shut it down, Billie. Let it go. It’s not your concern, is it? My job isn’t to make the deal. My job is to see it through to its logical conclusion. Business is business.
I shut off the offense; rub my hand across Ray’s ass, and get down to the real business. “By the time I’m done with you,” I purr, “you’ll know you just made a hell of a deal.” Then I grin at Chancey, and toss his favorite catch phrase back at him. “Pardon the pun.”
“Jesus Christ!” Ray gasps, catching his breath and shuddering violently.
He looks down at me, sweat dripping from his chin onto my breasts. He’s going limp inside of me. I squeeze and pull him deeper, squeeze and pull, squeeze again, milking him of every last drop. He shudders, but doesn’t go completely flaccid. I could get him going again if I wanted. Which I sort of do. For a moment I was somewhere else. Someone else. I forgot what I was doing. Who I was doing it with. For a brief moment I was lost on that mystical plateau, riding wave after wave of sensation, climbing to that peak where nothing exists but that blinding, gasping and heaving animal intensity just before orgasm. I almost came. Almost. Just a minute more and I would’ve. I stare at Ray’s sweaty face, trying to see a human being. But the only part of him that’s real is the six inches that are inside of me. I squeeze him again.
“Oh, God,” Ray groans. “Don’t. That hurts…”
He eases out of me and collapses on the bed by my side, panting and covered with sweat. I lay on my back, very still, staring at the ceiling, sinking down through layer after layer of soft, wonderful fantasies, sinking rudely into the reality of the moment. The stench of his sweat. The acrid odor of his semen, which burns inside of me. I’m hot and feel like I’m covered in filth. More than a little nauseous. The cool breeze wafting down from the ceiling fan and over my skin helps a bit. It’s better just having his hairy body off of me. I close my eyes and listen to the rain pattering on the window. My heart breaks. For just a moment I was somewhere else.
“I’ve never felt anything like that in my life,” Ray chuckles. “How does a hooker stay so tight? That trick with your muscles… like sucking…”
Asshole. Just give me a minute. Shut your fucking mouth for a just a little while. Why do men always have to talk about it?
Out of habit, I say, “I told you. I’m an artist.”
He’s laughs. “An artist? You’re fucking Da Vinci. Jesus…”
I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. Slip a night shirt over my head. I’m dizzy. Need some water. Don’t think of the reality. Hang on to that
wonderful place. Don’t lose it. But the warm fantasy is slipping away from me. It’s like grasping for wisps of smoke, or squeezing to keep the sand from slipping between my fingers. I can’t ignore the reality. Warm, friction heat burns inside of me. My legs are sticky from his fluids. Jesus. A shower. A glass of water and a shower. Maybe some sand blasting. That’s all I want. Fuck the deal. Fuck Chancey.
“Where you going?” Ray asks me.
I don’t look around at him. Couldn’t bear it right now. Instead I slip open the nightstand drawer and reach around inside until I find the audio recorder. Chancey won’t be happy that I’m only just now switching it on. But we haven’t reached the moment of truth yet. I may avoid the beating. I feel my fingers across the other odd shapes in the drawer. Metal boxes. Candles. Brushes. Vibrator. Hand lotion. Where the fuck is the revolver? A rush of panic sets in. But then, there in the back, I find the barrel and work back to the grip. Anyone else would have planned this better. My fingers slip around the pistol grip. My index finger slips across the trigger.
“I need something to drink, Ray,” I say softly. Truthfully. Water might not do it. Hopefully there’s rum in the house.
“Oh, don’t go,” Ray whines playfully. “Let’s do it again.”
I shake my head. “Time’s up,” I say coolly. Preliminaries, anyway. Now it gets interesting. “You got a hundred’s worth. And more. Believe me.”
“Aww. Come on,” he groans, putting his big, heavy hand on my shoulder. “Just once more, Billie. I thought you liked me.”
“No. Sorry, Ray. Rules are rules.”
“Rules?” he laughs, his voice taking a dangerous edge. “You fucking bitch.”
I start to push to my feet, but Ray’s big fingers dig into my shoulder and keeps me from rising. Right on cue. Men like Ray are nothing if not predictable.
“Let go of me,” I say calmly, tightening my grip on the pistol.
“Whore bitch,” Ray growls. “You think you’re better than me? Think it’s funny to make me pay for it? Fucking shit!”
He jerks me back onto the bed and launches his hairy, muscled body on top of me. He pushes my night shirt up to expose my breasts. His penis swells against my inner thigh.
“You’re gonna do me again,” he hisses in a hard, dangerous voice, holding a clenched fist near my face. “You’ll do what I tell you, and you’ll like it.”
Right. I grin. I swing my arm up and rest the .357 against his throat. Ray stiffens, but he doesn’t react otherwise. Oops. Missed that little detail, didn’t we? Ray‟s military instincts kick in. He knows full well the situation, his position within it, and he isn’t going to do anything rash.
“Shit,” he says to himself, more frustration that concern.
Not so tough now, are you? No one ever is in his position. It’s easy to be a big man when you’re twice someone’s size. Not so much when the gun shows up.
“Nice and easy,” I tell him calmly. Maybe that shit works in the real world. Here you’re just another asshole that’s way out of his element. “This is what you’re going to do,” I tell him in an even voice. “First, you’re going to roll off of me. Slowly. And don’t get any ideas. That’s a hair trigger, and I’m just a weak, little woman whose hands might shake from the terror of it all. I mean, you’re such a man and all. “
“Christ,” Ray stammers. “Easy now. Easy.”
He carefully rolls off of me, in extreme slow motion, onto his back on the bed. I follow, keeping the gun barrel pressed hard into his flesh. I sit on top of him, straddling his hips, and search those big, brown eyes for signs of what might be going on in that pea brain of his. His eyes are hard, but there’s no real fear. He’s in a situation, but he’s confident he’ll find a way out of it. Little does he know that my job is to make sure that he doesn’t. Of course, our perceptions of his predicament are vastly different.
“Put your hands behind your head,” I tell him.
“Jesus, Billie. Take it easy. That’s a big gun for a little…”
“Shut the fuck up!” I roar and jam the gun barrel into his neck. For effect, I add, “Oh, it’s Billie now, is it? I was a whore bitch and a fucking slut a minute ago.” I cock the hammer of the revolver with my thumb. “Now you’re going to do what I tell you. Put your fucking hands behind your fucking head!”
Ray’s hands leap behind his head. Good. That’s all I really wanted. The concession of control. He’s my bitch now. I wait for him to settle into the situation a bit. Wait for his body to relax. Just so I know he won’t be trying anything stupid. Chancey wouldn’t like it if I shot another one. Ray stares at me with hard eyes for a long time, but he finally relaxes a bit. I haven’t shot him yet. The immediate threat must be passing. Except for the potential “bad” of the gun, there’s a naked woman sitting on top of him. However his conscious mind might process the situation, his subconscious is fine with the naked woman part. I’m reasonably confident that he’s not going to get himself killed. I move the gun down and jab it into the hard muscles of his belly. That gets his full attention.
“Here’s the deal,” I state, moving so that his penis rests against my vulva, ever so slowly so he feels how moist I am. “No more he-man bullshit, Ray. If you want me… there’s a price. Just like before. So… the question is… how badly do you want me?”
“Jesus, Billie. Put away the…”
I press the revolver harder into his belly. “No chit-chat. Just answer the question. Do you want me or not?”
He licks his lips. Glances around the room. “You know I do. Fuck, Billie. Is this how you get off?” His face twitches nervously. “I can’t afford another time. Just put the gun away. Let’s call this even, huh?”
I shake my head. “Your money’s no good to me now. Just answer. You want a deal? Say the word, or there’s no more pussy for Ray.”
He nods. Unconvincingly. His penis thickens a bit. “Sure. Sure, lady. Whatever you say.”
I grind against him just a bit. “You like hearing me say ‘pussy’, don’t you Ray? There’s nothing sexier to a man, is there? ‘Oh, yeah. Lick my pussy, Ray’. ‘Finger my pussy, Ray’. ‘You feel so good in my pussy, Ray’.” I grin. He’s watching me with bewilderment. It’s enough. I have full control. I pull back the gun and rest it in my palm at shoulder level, pointing at the ceiling. “If you want my pussy, Ray, you have to pay the price. You ante up and it’s yours for the night. But the second time is more. I don’t know why, buy Chancey cut you a deal for the first time. From here on out, it’s full price for full service. All you’ve had so far was a taste. Time to take it to the next level.”
“Sure. Sure. Anything. Just put away…”
“You want my pussy, Ray?” I ask him in my sexiest voice. I know he does. He’s already swelling beneath me. “I’ll whisper it in your ear all night. ‘Pussy, pussy, pussy’. Tell me you want my pussy.”
“Yes,” he groans finally, going fully erect with the release. He presses against me. “Goddamn it. Yes. Yes.”
“You willing to pay the price?”
“Yes. Anything. I’ll give you whatever you want.”
I smile, and move my hips back and forth, rubbing him against me but not letting him in.
“It’s going to cost you your soul,” I tell him.
Ray stops. He stares at me. “What?” he asks with an uncomfortable chuckle.
“Your immortal fucking soul, Ray. That’s my price. You can only buy me now with your soul.”
He stares at me. The faintest shadow of fear crosses his face. What has he gotten himself into? Then he grins. We’re at the razor’s edge, and he likes it. His erection grows rock hard beneath me. Then he laughs. He guffaws so hard I can barely stay on top of him. Ray must like crazy bitches.
“My soul?” he chuckles. “Shit, girl. I’m a Marine. I don’t have a soul.”
I smile serenely. “Then you have nothing to lose, do you?” I trace the swell of my breasts with the gun barrel, brush it against erect nipples. I run the barrel along my lips and kiss the tip, letting it slip just into my mouth. “So… what do you say, Ray?” I rub against his penis, which is already moist from my juices. “You want to be inside me again? Just commit and I’m yours for the night. And I will do whatever you want me to do. All night long. No matter how depraved or twisted.”
“This how you get your kicks?” he asks me, grinning.
I nod, still tracing my lips with the revolver.
He chuckles. “Kind of a high price to pay for ass you’ve already had, isn’t it?”
I sigh and move like I’m getting up. “You’re boring me, Ray.”
He grabs my hips and holds me in place. His penis throbs between my legs. We both know what the answer is going to be.
“Sure,” he says.
Finally. But he hasn’t gone all in. I have to hear it. “Sure what?”
“We have a deal.”
I shake my head. “I have to hear you say it.” Ray chuckles, but I move slowly back and forth, caressing his penis with my mound. “Say it, Ray.”
“Christ! This isn’t fair. My soul? For a night with you? Whose pussy is worth that?” He laughs nervously, but his body language betrays him. He’s already moving with my rhythm. “I don’t believe any of this shit, anyway. Sure. Why not? We got a deal. My soul for a night with you. There. Happy now?”
I nod. “Very,” I purr, and kiss him. I ease off of him, retrieve the digital recorder from the nightstand drawer, fetch a fresh night shirt from the dresser, and back slowly to the bedroom door, still holding the pistol in my hand.
“Where you goin’?” Ray groans, leaning up to watch me, his throbbing erection seeming to search the air, as if sniffing for me.
“I have to tell Chancey our engagement has been extended. I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry back,” he says, laughing. “I miss you already, darling.”
I step outside the door and into the hallway. I close the door behind me and lean against the wall. The revolver suddenly seems immense in my hand. I begin to shiver. Fucking shivering. Ray laughs inside the room and says something to himself about a crazy bitch. Yeah. I’m the crazy bitch. I’m the one stuck halfway between a dream and nightmare. But Ray will remember this night for the rest of his life. He’ll never forget me. When he lies on his death bed, the last word on his lips will be “Billie”. Yeah. He might have other pussy in his life, but mine will always be the last that mattered. From here on out his life will be defined by the life he had before he met me and the life he had after.
I remove the bullets from the gun. I glance at the pit etched into the tips of the bullets. If I’d shot Ray with hollow points, it would have made an ungodly mess. I’m glad I won’t have to clean it up, but I’m not exactly happy about what comes next. A deal is a deal. For the price of a man’s soul, he gets to do whatever he wants to me, and I’ll do whatever he wants me to do to him, no matter how perverse, depraved or debauched. That’s the deal.
I look down at the gun. I could always put the bullets back in. Put the gun beneath my chin. Or my temple. Splatter brains all over the wall. But I sigh, and brush away the fantasies. Chancey would just put me back together again. He‟d skull fuck me and stick his fingers in my wounds. Death is no release. Not for me. Not for Ray. No. I made my deal. Kept my soul. There’s no way out but through.
I take a deep breath, pull off the tatters of my night shirt and slip the fresh one over my head. The bullets are dropped into the shirt pocket. I wander the length of the hallway on feet of lead, toss the gun onto the couch in the living room as I pass through, and I head on out the front door. Clutching the recorder tight, I head across the road to the bar.
“Sure?” Ray’s voice squeaks out of the tiny digital recorder. “Why not? We got a deal. My soul for a night with you. There. You happy now?”
I shrug. “There,” I say flatly, and stop the playback. I sit the recorder down on the bar. Recording is just a formality, in the event someone claims he was misquoted or didn’t say the words. Then Chancey can play it back and let them hear it in their own voice. He has such a flair for the melodrama.
Chancey grins, picks up the recorded and drops it into his pocket. “Record time, too. Nobody brings them to their knees like Billie. Pardon the pun.”
Jessica huffs. “You’re a bastard, Chancey.”
He laughs. A Deep, booming laugh. “Poor Jessie. You should be proud, Billie. She’s been inconsolable all day. No doubt thinking about her true love.”
“Shut up, Chancey,” Jessica growls.
“Yeah,” I tell him, and glance at Jessica. “Everybody likes good pussy, eh, Chancey?”
A shadow crosses Jessica’s face, but it passes quickly. She knows that I was taking aim at Chancey, and not at her.
Chancey shrugs and guffaws. “Pussy, pussy, pussy,” he says, mocking my most famous phrase. He knows all of my lines. He should. He came up with most of them. He sits a cold bottle of rum on the bar and uncorks it. “Here’s to the best soul-catcher I ever had,” he says, taking a deep drink and passing the bottle around. We each take a drink. Then Chancey looks at me with that amused grin of his and nods toward the front door. “You better run on over, Billie. Make old Ray’s last night a happy one. I’ll be up in the morning to finalize the deal. With a hell of a lot of fun.” He grins. “Pardon the pun.”
I nod and take a second sip of rum. And a third. I start to slip away, but Jessica catches my hand. She pulls me back and kisses me.
“Think of me?” she asks.
I shake my head, thinking of the hairy, sweaty Marine. I shiver. “Not on your life.”
The sky is still dark and overcast. The angry clouds still linger out over the ocean. Winds are picking back up. It’s raining harder. It always seems to rain when I’m hurting. But I can never remember. The last one was just a few days ago, and already I can’t remember if it was raining. I can’t even remember his face now. I‟m sure he was sitting in the bar somewhere, watching me as I came in. But I didn’t notice him. Nothing is ever quite real in this purgatory. Nothing is worth remembering. My existence became a blur long, long ago.
I stand by the two-lane highway for a long moment, staring first in one direction and then the other, wishing I could just disappear on the lonely road. But even that seems like a memory. In all these years, I’ve never once seen a car on the road but the targets who stop at the bar. Not one family of tourists. Not one delivery truck. Not one state patrol car. Only my targets. Although, really, I’ve never seen one arrive. They just always seem to be waiting for me. I always seem to be trundling across this damned road. Either to the bar or from it.
No. As much as I’d like to think that nothing is keeping me from walking away, the nearest city is at least twenty miles away. Somehow in my deepest, darkest despair I suspect that even if Chancey didn’t catch me, when I reached the nearest town I’d just find myself walking into the first parking lot and discover that I was right back at the bar, and yet another target was sitting at the bar, nursing a beer and waiting for his pussy. The thought triggers some distant memory of walking down that lonely road before, but I never know if it’s a memory or a fantasy. What’s the difference, really? Besides, there’s no telling what Chancey might do to Jess if I ever tried. I couldn’t do that to her.
I sigh. I’m stalling again. I force myself on across the road and trundle up the walk and back into the house.
It’s cold in here. Like a tomb. I wander back through the living room, down the hallway, and stop with my hand upon the bedroom doorknob. I take a deep breath. Hold it. Let it out slowly. My hands are shaking. I’m nauseous, thinking of the deal and what I have to do. With him. For him. To him. There’s a horny fuck in that bedroom who’s about to indulge in the wildest night of his most feverish dreams, and Chancey’ll charge him his soul for the experience. What will I get for my services? A quiet weekend with Jessica and maybe a little time in the sun on the beach. Somehow the balances aren’t working out on this one. Not that they have for any of the others.
Ray will take his place in the bar with the others, waiting for Chancey to let him back into the world on some errand or another. He’ll forgive me for what I’ve done. Eventually. Just as I forgave Jessica. Maybe he’ll find a way to break the never-ending banality of it all. Maybe in the arms of someone else who‟s equally desperate to break the monotony? But he’ll never again think of such archaic concepts as fairness and right or wrong. He’ll do what he’s told. Whether or not he likes it will never enter into it. He‟ll do what he’s told.
I’m stalling. There’s a sickening hole in the pit of my stomach. If I were a stronger person, or a better person, I’d pass on this, no matter what Chancey might do to me. Better to die than to live knowing I’ve led so many people to Hell. But if I was a stronger or a better person, I wouldn’t be here in the first place, would I? I sigh and straighten my night shirt, shaking it all off. This feeling will pass. Once I get started. Once my imagination kicks in and I’m somewhere else with someone else. It‟s time to give Ray what he’s paid for.
I turn the doorknob and canter into the room. My nostrils fill with the sharp odor of sweat and sex. Ray’s face breaks immediately into a broad grin. Bastard.
“I was beginning to wonder,” he says.
I start to roll my eyes, but instead flicker that high-wattage, well-honed million-dollar smile. “Couldn’t stay away from you, sugar,” I purr in my low, sexy voice.
I inch the night shirt slowly, dramatically up and over my head so that he can take in the full glory of what his soul has bought for him. I’m the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. We both know it. I stand at the foot of the bed. Naked. Smiling. Letting him admire me. Building the tension. Then I climb onto the bed, on top of Ray, and trace his hard, slimy lips with my tongue. I fix him with my best hungry stare.
“I’m all yours,” I tell him, but have barely gotten the words out before he’s grabbed my hips and forced himself inside of me.
I sit as close to the edge of the bed as I can, my back against the headboard and my knees pulled into my chest. I lick my lips and try to shake the nightmares out of my head. They’re worse than usual. Not that I ever sleep peacefully, exactly. My hands tremble, so I lace my fingers tighter together. My neck is one long cramp and my back is stiff from sitting here like this for so long, waiting for the night to end; watching Ray sleep and envying him for so doing so.
The room smells… bad. Sweat. Semen. Urine. And faintly… shit. I’m way beyond dirty. Beyond filthy. I hurt. Bruises. Scratches. He bit me. Pissed on me. The stench of each depravity lingers like a physical presence. I shift my weight uncomfortably again. My asshole’s sore. Why do the military types always want it up your ass? Fond memories of boot camp? Warm, fuzzy memories of being properly broken in by dear, old Sarge?
I rock myself, listening to the gentle rain falling against the windows, while the thunder rumbles out over the ocean. I want to run outside and cleanse myself in the rain. Or throw myself into the ocean and let the salt water purify my wounds. Instead, I listen to the inky silence of the house, broken only by the soft hum of the refrigerator, and subtle ticking of the clock in the living room. It’s just before sunrise, early morning, and I’ve been waiting here for a long, long time. I’m supposed to wait. So I wait.
Finally, I hear a shuffling on the front doorstep and the jingle of keys. A weight lifts from me. It’s about time Chancey got off of his fat ass and came over to close out the deal. He clears his throat. I wait impatiently for Chancey to let himself in. But he doesn’t. The son of a bitch knocks instead! The whole house reverberates with the pounding of his first upon the door.
“Dammit,” I grumble softly to myself and leap from the bed, gliding down the hallway as Ray murmurs something behind me, gliding quickly to the front door. My heart is in my throat. Hopefully Ray didn’t wake up. I have nothing to do with this part. This has to end quickly. I’d rather not deal with Ray again.
I fling open the door to curse at Chancey, and instead gulp in surprise. A demon stands on the landing, smiling! Fangs puff out his lips. His nose is flat and gorilla-like, with a wicked point at the end. His eyes glow red, like two burning embers. Stubby horns jut out from his forehead. All that’s missing are the cloven hooves and a pointy tail.
“Christ, Chancey!” I hiss, choking on the stench of sulfur and poking him in the chest. “You scared the shit out of me.”
But I look him over. I cover my mouth, giggle, and look away, stifling a laugh. He looks scary, I guess, but in a B-movie kind of way. Anyone but Chancey would have shown up in a business suit carrying a briefcase. Which I’d think would be much more terrifying.
Chancey frowns. “Too much?” he asks, genuinely offended.
I nod, grinning. “A bit.”
He sighs and takes a deep breath, then lets it out slowly, like a balloon deflating. As he does the horns shorten and disappear. The nose tapers off and narrows. The fangs recede into his gums. All the remains are the glowing red eyes.
“Give me that,” he says, pointing to the eyes, “at least.”
I shrug, smiling, and step aside. “It’s your show.”
Chancey steps through the doorway, ducking his head. He’s a good two feet taller than usual. He grins. “How’s lover boy?”
“Sleeping,” I reply quickly. “No thanks to you.”
“Good! Good! I like wakin’ ’em up.” He glances down the hallway, then back to me, looking over my scratches and bruises. He sniffs me. “You okay?”
I shrug. “I’ve been worse,” I tell him truthfully. For all of his desperate debauchery, Ray wasn’t nearly as out there as he thought he was.
Chancey nods. Thoughtful. Preoccupied. Then he shrugs, too. “Did he hurt you? Knock you around or anything?”
I shake my head. Chancey’s taking inventory, so he’ll know what to do to Ray. I think of all sorts of things that Ray did to me. I’m sore all over. Achy from being held down. Bruised from being grabbed. I have a headache and will have lumps from where my head was repeatedly slammed into the headboard while Ray was pounding me in the ass. I think of him holding my head face down into the pillow until I almost passed out. But I can muster only pity for Marine. Whatever he might have taken from me, it hardly balances what I’ve taken from him.
“No,” I finally tell Chancey. “He choked me a little. Was kind of rough. So I’m sore. Mostly bruises from where he held me down. Fucking me in the ass was the kinkiest thing he could come up with.”
Chancey grins with mock wistfulness. “Ah, to be that innocent again, huh?” He looks toward the bedroom, and then back at me. He steps close to me, seeming almost sad. “I’m sorry for this one,” he says in a serious, fatherly voice. “I let you in here with him, expecting that he’d be much worse. I thought he could seriously have hurt you. I’m sorry for putting you at risk.”
I watch Chancey. He’s making me nervous. Acting like he has a conscience doesn’t suit Chancey. It’s like watching a buffalo fly. I’ve never seen him act so… human. He looks my body up and down, as if he can sense the bite marks on my breasts and belly, or the cigarette burns on my inner thighs.
“Why are you telling me this?” I ask him.
“You’ve been with us for a long time, Billie.”
I nod. “Yes, I have. Nearly fifty years. So…”
He nods exactly like I did, as if mocking me. “Well, I have a surprise for you.” He looks me over again, pauses, and says, “You won’t like it at first, but it’ll grow on you. I promise. You’ll like the hell out of it later.” He grins. “No pun intended.”
A weight falls on my shoulders. “Can it wait?” I ask. I’m tired and filthy. I’ve done my part. All I want is a shower. I want every last trace of Ray Charnell washed from me. I want to be clean again.
“No,” Chancey says flatly. “This can’t wait.”
He lays his heavy hand upon my shoulder, turns me around to face him. He smiles warmly. I sigh. Nothing is ever easy with Chancey. Just once I’d like to be able to wander away without being fucked with. I’m not in the mood for head games. But I smile. Best to let him get it over with. Maybe I can get on with my life at some…
Chancey grunts. He punches me in the stomach! Lifts me up off of my feet! I crumple to the floor, wheezing. Gasping for air. What the fuck? What the fuck? I raise my forearm to block the next blow. He kicks me in the chest instead! I sprawl backward and crash against the wall.
“Sorry, Billie,” Chancey says calmly. “Guess that hurt you more than me, huh?”
I lay on the floor. Face down. Wide-eyed. I’m not sure what just happened. What I should do about it. What I could. I… can’t breathe. Locked. Can’t move. The carpet fibers are inches from my face. I start at the carpet. Try to relax. Try to breathe. My body spasms. Try. Try to breathe. Try… then… finally… the spasms pass. My body convulses, devours great gulps of air. Which I choke upon. Muscles relax. I reel back and push myself onto my knees, gasping for air, grateful for breath, and prepare for the next blow. But it never comes.
I look up at Chancey, teetering just on the edge of consciousness. My arms shudder violently beneath me. The sharp, metallic taste of blood is in my mouth. I bit my lip. Chancey watches me without any real interest for a moment. I try to glare my defiance at him, but the room is spinning around me. I vomit. Once. Twice. My abdomen cramps. Muscles in my crotch cramp. Did Ray hurt me? Heat washes over me. Through me. Wave after wave after wave. I vomit again. And again. Each wave comes with an intense heat, followed by bone-numbing chill.
Then, as suddenly as Chancey’s attack, the rush subsides. I crawl to the couch and sit with my back to it, shaking. Lean heavily against it. I’m sweating. Hot. Waves of nausea roll across me. But I don’t vomit again. I won’t vomit again.
Chancey shakes his head, turns and walks down the hallway. He quietly enters the bedroom. There’s a long silence. I hear only the pounding of my heart. The hum of the refrigerator. The soft, distant hiss of the ocean surf.
Then Ray screams. I jerk upright. It’s a terrible, animal scream. I’ve never heard this part. Never been here before. Chancey’s informed Ray that the deal was no joke. Probably in some melodramatic and painful way. Despite myself, there’s a morbid curiosity. I sit quietly and listen. Ray cries like a little girl and pleads for mercy. He screams. Cries some more. Begs pitifully. But mostly he screams. Not much of a Marine. Even the biggest badasses scream when Chancey starts showing them all the faces of Hell. I did. Chancey goes for that sort of thing. Cecil B. DeMille meets Stephen King. I begin to wonder how long it will last, finding myself bored by Ray’s unimaginative, one-note screaming style. He could at least mix it up a bit. By this point I’m usually sitting across the road at the bar, being comforted by Jessica. From the sound of it, I haven’t been missing much.
I want to hate Chancey, trying to imagine him dying a slow, agonizing death. He’s just put me on the floor with two hard blows and he’s torturing a man. But there’s no hatred in me. No real animosity. Chancey is what he is. Chancey does his job. It’s not the first time he’s beaten me. This one doesn’t even rate next to the other ass-whippings. But usually I’ve done something. What did I do this time? Take too long? Too much attitude? What did I do? No, if I feel anything, it’s annoyance, not hatred. If a few blows are all that will be coming my way, I’ll take my lumps and keep my mouth shut. However much Ray might scream now, he has no idea what Chancey’s capable of. He can’t be hurting too much. His screams are still in the range of human hearing.
Fuck. I’m sick, after all. The heat crashes back into me. I vomit again, terrible dry heaves, and sit back, panting. Oh, to rest in Jessica’s arms. To forget. Clean and free. Why won’t Chancey let me leave? I’m just tired, and I’m glad that it’s Ray, and not me, in there being stripped of my soul. I was smart. Took the the deal. Even if it meant whoring for the Devil. At least I kept my soul. At least there’s a chance at redemption. I might be forgiven for what I’ve done. The whoring. Prostitution. The soul-stealing. Well, maybe not that. But I bought I bought some time. If I go to Hell when I’m dead, it’ll be God’s choice. Not Chancey’s. I kept my soul. What little is left of it.
Chancey steps out of the bedroom. I look up and nod as he grins. It’s his way of clearing the air for whatever’s next. No hard feelings and all. I realize that Ray has been quiet for a long time.
“That was quick,” I tell him, and cough. My voice is rough. Hoarse. It cracks. I feel my throat. It’s swollen. Fuck. Did Chancey hurt me? I don’t remember him punching me in the throat.
“I offered him a deal,” Chancey chirps, beaming. He looks back into the room and motions for Ray.
Ray stumbles out into the hallway. His eyes are wild. Fuck. What game is this? I watch Chancey, who just stares at me, smiling. Ray staggers and bumps into the wall, looks out over the living room with a vacant stare. After what he’s just seen, a living room with a couch and a television must seem like the strangest place in the world. He looks around through a haze, focusing on photos and paintings, on the light fixtures, on the coffee table, searching from high to low. His eyes finally come to rest upon me.
“You,” he says in a low, animal groan.
I resist the urge to wave, and instead watch the range of emotions that dance across Ray’s face. The one that wins out furrows his brow and causes him to clinch his teeth. Not good. I glace at Chancey, who pats Ray gently upon the shoulder.
“Go ahead,” Chancey says softly, in a fatherly voice.
Ray stumbles a few steps in my direction, trips, then leans into his momentum and runs full-tilt toward me. Fuck! I scramble forward, trying to get my feet under me, and am just moving when Ray crashes to the floor where I was. He claws at my feet, hissing like a dragon, his face red and twisted up like a fist.
“You fucking maggot!” he roads. “I’m gonna tear you apart!”
He grabs my ankle. I kick his arms. Kick his face. Again and again, until he lets go. I push away from him, crab walking backwards, trying to get some space between us. He scrambles after me, an animal swept up in rage and pain, lashing out at the source of his agony.
“Chancey!” I yell, scrambling and getting nowhere.
Chancey laughs as Ray grabs my ankle, grabs my calf, grabs my knee, climbing toward my face, his eyes locked into mine. I kick him with my free leg. I flail wildly at him with my fists. But he doesn’t feel any of it! He pulls on me. Climbs my body. His face is twisted with hatred. His lips are swelling from my blows. Spittle drips from his chin. He climbs on top of me. Reaches back. Punches me! I slam my fist into his chest. My vision blurs. I can’t see! He punches me again! And again! Stars explode in front of me. He’s going to kill me! I hit him. Flail wildly. My only chance. But I’m trapped. I connect, and he grunts. He hits me. I hit him. His weight is heavy on top of me. Fucking bastard! I hit him. And again! Knee him in the stomach. He might kill me, but he’s going to know he was in a fight!
Ray hits me again, but not as hard this time. He’s weakening. And I’m angry. So I hit him hard in the face. Lips give. Teeth bite in my knuckles. I hit him again and again and again. Harder each time. He reels. Reels! I push him off me and leap on top of him. Fucking piece of shit! I should gout out your eyes! I jam my knees into his belly, knocking the wind out of him. I punch him in the face. Once. Twice. Three times. Four. Blood squirts from his nose as it gives beneath my fist. His head bobs about on his neck like a piñata.
Just as I’m winning, Chancey’s big, muscled arm snakes around my waist. He lifts me into the air and tosses me against the wall. I crash to the floor in a explosion of pain and sparks before my eyes. I collapse here, wheezing and trying to catch my breath.
“That’s enough,” Chancey says flatly, turning his words into a warning with a glare.
I lay here with my back against the wall. Gasping for air. The room spins. Nausea washes over me. The smells. Blood. Sweat. Urine. Chancey comes and stands over me, holds out his hand to help me up.
“Fuck you,”I spit at him.
He slips his hands under my armpits, lifts me to my feet, and looks at me hard.
“Calm down,” he says.
“Calm down? You prick! He could’ve killed me. I knew you liked to watch, Chancey, but this is fucked up even for you.”
“Calm down, Billie.”
“Why’d you stop it when I was winning? I was kicking his ass. That not what you wanted to see? Were you losing your hard on? Fuck you. I’ll calm down when I’m good and god-damned…”
Chancey slaps me hard across the face. I stagger from the blow, my head snapping around. But I take it. I turn back and face him. You’ll have to do better than that. But I don’t say anything else. I’m back in reality, and Chancey’s huge shoulders tower over me.
“Now,” he says calmly. “You feel okay?”
I shrug. I nod. “I guess.” How am I supposed to feel?
“Feel any different?”
I shake my head. “Sick. Gonna puke…”
“Come here. Have a look at Ray.”
He steps aside and sweeps his arm toward the figure in the floor. I glance at Chancey, waiting for the punchline. He doesn’t do anything unless it’s for dramatic effect or there’s some high, or lower, purpose. He smiles and cocks his head toward Ray.
“Go on,” he says.
I stumble past Chancey. Ray’s laying on his side now. His back is turned. He seems smaller somehow. He cries softly to himself. Chancey bends down and pulls Ray over onto his back.
“Jesus!” I hear myself say.
Where Ray had lain… there’s a woman now. A pretty woman. Blonde hair. Nice figure. Her face is spattered with blood. Her nose is broken. She keeps her eyes closed tightly and cries. She murmurs something to herself. The Lord’s Prayer, maybe.
“Chancey?” I ask. “What’s going on?”
Chancey steps in front of me so that he’s the only thing I can see. A wicked grin spread across his face. He reaches under my night shirt.
“This is what it’s all about.”
Chancey’s cold hand closes upon my… penis! Penis?! I jump. From the cold hand or the penis I just don’t know. I teeter against him. He puts both hands on my shoulders to steady me. Pulls up my chin. Chancey suddenly seems shorter. Much shorter. My stomach rumbles. Bile rises in my throat.
“As much as I’ll miss you,” Chancey says, walking away from me, “our deal’s off.” He leaves me standing there, staring at the woman at my feet, and goes into the bedroom. He returns with Ray’s clothes and tosses them to me. “Put these on.”
I nod blankly, choking back vomit and in shock. I pull the tight night shirt over my head and slip into the blue jeans. The cloth is rough against my… penis. Against my testicles. I adjust the balls so they aren’t being pinched and pull up the zipper. I pull the shirt over my head, east it down over my flat chest. My breasts are gone.
“What have you done to me?”
“I told you. Deal’s off. You can go.”
“Chancey… I don’t understand…”
Chancey laughs. “Ray’s been a bad boy. Off the charts. A real bastard. Murder. Rape. Extortion. Treason. Trafficked young girls out of the Middle East. Sold ’em as sex slaves. He sold pirated weapons to terrorists. Was headed south to arrange the sale of a nuke. He’s wanted by a handful of countries. Our kind of guy. A bigger asshole than you ever were.” He pats my shoulder and shrugs. “Boss wants him bad. Bad enough to waive your contract.” He motions to the woman on the floor, the ex Ray Charnell. “Ray’s going to take your place. I figure there’s no worse Hell for a guy like him than taking it up the ass for penance.” He grins broadly. “I’m sure you can relate.”
“But…” I grasp at straws. “I don’t understand, Chancey. Why let me go? All the other souls I got for you… why is this the one?”
“Fuck,” Chancey chuckles. “You know the rules. One Soul Stealer at a time. Once in a generation someone comes along who’s the worst humanity can offer. He’s the one we want. You were the one we wanted. Now Ray’s the one. It’s just his time.” He grins. “Besides, you worked off your debt two preachers and a general ago. You’ve earned this.” He takes my hand and places car keys in it. “There’s a suitcase in the Porsche, full of money. A million or so, I think. Ray won’t be needing it. I’d advise ditching the car.”
He motions toward Ray. “You can fuck her if you want, for old time’s sake. Give her a good ass-reaming. Return the favor, as it were.”
“No… I… no. I couldn’t.”
“No? You sure? Virgin territory there. We gave you a mighty fine dick, too. A lot more than you came here with. Believe me.”
I shake my head, even as my penis swells a bit against my jeans. I wouldn’t mind being the one to break Ray in. Do to him what he did to me. But the thought… frightens me. Penis. Erection. Penetration. Everything I’d do to Ray… I’d know how it feels. No. I need time. I’ve been a woman for longer than I was ever a man. Haven’t had a dick in fifty years. Much less an erection. No. I wouldn’t know where to begin.
“No,” I say again. “I’m good. I just…”
“Then leave,” Chancey says flatly. “Just leave. Now, I mean. You’re beginning to annoy me, and I have work to do. Say ‘thank you’ and get the hell out of here.” He grins. “Pardon the pun.”
Chancey shoves me toward the front door. I look back at him, watch as he pulls the woman up and onto his shoulder. I can’t think of her as Ray. That was me, once upon a time. A brand new woman in Chancey’s clutches, with nothing to look forward to but the torment of rape and torture, and brands of debauchery most human minds never conceive of. If Ray’s taking my place, I know what he’s in for. In spite of everything, what he did me and what he might have done to the world, I pity him. I truly do.
“Anything else?” Chancey asks me, his lips setting hard against his teeth. My cue to fuck off.
“Does this mean,” I stammer, not wanting to have to ask it but needing to, “that I keep my soul?”
“Such as it is,” Chancey replies, nodding, “but you’re a long, long way from redemption, if that’s what you’re thinking. Don’t go thinking you won’t see me again. You have a long life ahead of you, and a big dick that can get you into all sorts of trouble.” He grins. “But yeah. For now it’s yours.”
“Thank you,” I hear myself say.
Chancey steps toward me and grows, “Get the fuck out of here, Billy boy! Your debt’s been paid. Don’t push it!”
I stumble back against the door as Chancey advances toward me. His eyes are flashing red again. Horns are sprouting from his head, and he gets larger with each step. The stench of brimstone stings my nostrils. He’s going to show Ray his real face. I fumble with the door handle and trip backwards out onto the porch. Chancey winks as he slams the door in my face.
I blink a few times. Take a deep breath. I step back and turn, step off the porch onto the walkway and into the sunlight. The storm has lifted. The sky is cloudy, but bright. The air is cool. It’s so quiet. So still. The wind sighs as it brushes through the reeds on the sand dunes. The ocean waves crash onto the beach on the other side of the house. It’s peaceful and calm, and decidedly unsettling.
I feel my muscled chest. Run my hand across the bulge in my jeans.
“Christ,”I mutter to myself.
In the parking lot across the road, the red Porshe convertible gleams in the sun. The top is down. Someone washed it. Or the rains scoured it clean. Jessica stands beside it. I guess to see me off. She watches me intently as I walk clumsily down the walkway on big feet and hips that move all wrong. I walk across the road and up the car. Everything feels wrong. Walking. Breathing. Swallowing. I’m not remotely the same person.
“Wasn’t sure I’d recognize you,” Jessica says as I approach, grinning. “It’s been a long time since I saw that face.”
“You were the last one to see it, too.”
A shadow crosses her face, but she brushes it away. “Chancey said I can go with you if I want. If you’ll let me. Two for the price of one, or some other such bullshit. Charnell was a war criminal or something.”
She presses up agains me. She seems so small. Fragile. She feels my crotch. Grins. Kisses my neck. Rubs the bulge in my jeans. I swell to her touch.
“God,” Jess says, “that feels strange.”
“You’re telling me?”
She kisses me again. “Can I go with you?” she asks. Her eyes are full of doubt and fear. “I mean, I know I’m the reason you’re here to begin with, but I… if you’ll…”
Jessica reaches into her pocket and takes out a small, leather choker. I know immediately what it is. She lays it in my hand, along with a small, flat key.
“If you’re going to leave me here, please… just go. Let’s not…”
I press my fingers to her lips. Too much is happening too fast. My mind is reeling. But if I’m leaving and they’ll let her go with me, there’s really nothing to think about. Succubus or not, Jessica is the only comfort and peace I’ve ever had here. There’s no way I’m leaving her behind.
I slip the collar around her neck and fasten the clasp in front. But as I take the key between my fingers, Jess stops me.
“You know what this means,” she says.
I do. She knows I do. A succubus can only be loosed into the world if it’s bound to a master. It’ll mean that I own her. It’ll mean that I’m responsible for her.
“Geez, Jess,” I groan melodramatically, “I’ve only been a man for ten minutes and you’re already pushing me for a commitment.”
Jess’ shoulders sink. Humor has never been her strong point. “I understand.”
“I’ve only known you,” I say, stepping up close to her, “for around fifty years.” I slip my hands under her long hair and bring her face up to look at me. “But I guess If I was going to take a chance on someone, it might as well be you.”
I slip the key into the slot. But before I can turn it, Jess stops me again.
“You know what this means.”
I nod and smile. I turn the key and lock the clasp. “Forever.”
Jessica throws her arms around my neck and drops her head onto my shoulder. She takes a few deep breathes. It’s the closest she’s ever come to crying. Then she steps quickly away from me, a big grin spreading across her face.
“If you think,” she snaps, “that we had fun as women, you just wait. The things I can do to a penis…” She squeezes my crotch, run and leaps into the passenger seat of the Porsche. “Come on! Let’s get out of here!”
I drift over to the car and slip into the driver’s seat. I fumble with keys, drop them, curse, drop them again, and finally jam them into the ignition. My hands shake. I half expect Chancey to come roaring out of the house at any moment, laughing about the best practical joke ever. But he doesn’t. I put my foot on the brake, push in the clutch, put the shifter into neutral, and turn the ignition, every movement taking an eternity. The engine roars to life. I stare at the dash for a long time. A lot has changed since I was last in a car, fifty or so years ago. But a lot hasn’t. There’s a shifter, a clutch, a throttle and a steering wheel. That’s all that matters.
I back the Porsche out onto the highway, slip it into first gear, and bark the tires. But for some reason, I stop. I look over at the house, at the southern-most window on the right. My bedroom window. The window I stared out of for so many decades, watching as each new target pulled into the parking lot of the bar, knowing what I would soon be doing. Knowing what it would cost someone. What it would cost me.
From that very same window, a small, frightened woman now watches me. Her palms and face are pressed against the glass. Yesterday this car belonged to her. Yesterday she was a free man. She’s talking to me. Shouting, even. Scratching at the window, screaming out her pain and rage. Chancey looms up large behind her. He’s naked. He jerks her away from the window. After all this time, I half expect him to wave at me, to wish us goodbye or something. But he doesn’t. He wouldn’t. He closes the curtain. I don’t want to think about what he’s going to do to her. I know all too well.
“Billy?” Jess says softly, her voice laced with concern.
I nod. There’s nothing to see here. No point in lingering. I should just be grateful for my good fortune and make tracks before Chancey changes his mind. I ease out the clutch and drive away, more than a little doubtful of my ability to drive the Porsche. I smile at Jessica. Beautiful Jessica. Sweet, soft, warm Jessica. She stares at me, smiling, her fingers playing along her collar like a new bride who can’t leave her new wedding ring alone. Some day I’m going to get her to teach me to say her real name. Some day. Right now I can’t keep my eyes off of her long, tanned legs, which the sun is kind enough to shine upon. The penis is such a novelty that I have a semi-permanent erection. I’m already savoring what it’ll be like to have my penis deep inside of her. Whatever complications there might be, soul wise, from binding a succubus to myself, I’m willing to risk. Some habits are hard to break.
Jessica turns around in her seat and looks back toward the bar and house. “Wow,” she says. “They’re fading. The bar. The house. It’s all fading. Like it was never there. I always wondered…”
“If it was real?”
“Well, if it existed, when there were no souls to take. Like if it waiting for certain people. I guess it does.”
I shrug. I’d never thought about it, really. Not once, in almost fifty years. But it would explain why there always seemed to be a new client pulling into the parking lot. The closest I ever came to wondering about it was asking myself why there was so little traffic on the road. I glance back in the mirror, but there isn’t much to see behind us. The bar is already gone. The house is little more than a fading shimmer. The sunlight on the ocean waves behind it shine through its fading shape already.
I should feel happy. Or elated. I should feel something. But the wind is in my hair and the sun is on my face. That’s enough for me. Maybe you don’t just turn off the horror and turn on the happiness. It’d be nice if it worked like that, but it isn’t so far. For lack of a better idea, I wave in the general direction of the house and the Marine who set me free.
“I’ll be seeing you, Ray,” I say aloud. Then I grin at Jessica. “Or should I say Renee?”
Jessica grins. “Maybe he’ll be a Rachel. Ray-chel. That would work.”
“Well, we’re talking about Chancey.”
If memory serves, we’re about thirty miles north of Buxton. Fifty years ago on this same stretch of road I’d planned to stop in Buxton for a meal before taking the ferry over to the mainland and heading on down to Wilmington. For some reason I stopped at a bar instead, where I almost traded my soul for a night with the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I intend to have that meal, even if it is fifty years late. I’ve earned it. Then I’m going to rent a hotel room. I’m going to have my way with my succubus and test her skills with a penis, which, if memory serves, is considerable. Maybe we’ll invent new kinds of perversion. And tomorrow morning? Who knows? Maybe we’ll have breakfast and then take the ferry to the mainland. From there, who knows? From what I hear, there’s a new Interstate that starts in Wilmington all the way to Barstow, California. I sure wouldn’t mind finding out if being on the opposite coast felt like it was far enough away from Chancey. And a million dollars should get us there just fine.
“Yeah,” I say softly to myself from behind the wheel of Ray Charnell’s Porshe 911, feeling not a pinch of regret or guilt, with my still sore ass leaving me wishing I had returned the favor when I had a chance. “Thanks, Renee. Thanks a million.” Then I grin, hearing Chancey’s voice in my head, and add, “Pardon the pun.”