A cold, sterile light fell on Frank’s visage, illuminating a contorted grin marred by specks of dry blood. He was still wearing his Sunday best, a brown plaid tweed three-piece suit with a pocket square and peak lapel double-breasted vest, but the clothes had been ruined by the beating from two hours ago. Mama Hardy’s goons weren’t known for fooling around when it was time to collect, and neither was her. The pain he was experiencing at that moment was but a fraction of what she had planned, he was sure.
Frank took a deep breath and squinted under the beam of light to examine his surroundings. It was a metal warehouse, probably close to the docks. The pungent smell of decaying fish infiltrated his nostrils, coming from a window to the right. Also to the right, he could see a large door locked tight. Standing in front of it was Sam “Egg Man” Kaminsky, Mama’s favorite boy who had earned his nickname by cracking skulls as if they were eggshells with his steroid-pumped arms. On any other day, he wouldn’t have been so gentle with him, but Mama wanted a present, and he was it.
The former nightclub owner turned Mafia’s punching bag sat on the floor, sore from head to toe. He tried to get up, but Sam immediately talked him out of it with a piercing stare.
“You don’t deserve to do that. Not in her presence.”
“She will be, soon. Until then, stay quiet.”
“Or what? You’ll break me another rib?”
“How about your feet?”
“Okay, okay... chill out.” Frank groaned. They say in times of distress, it’s usual to examine one’s poor life choices. He didn’t for they were too many to go to all the trouble. Mama’s marker was just one more.
The sound of screeching tires reached his ears, followed by dark stilettos outside. She was here.
Mama Hardy had yet to complete twenty-five Springs and yet it was as if she was in the business for twice that period. Money laundering, murder, bribery, and bootlegging were some of her favorite hobbies, but there were other stories going around, some that involved sex trafficking and mind-controlled slaves. He didn’t believe them, but there was more than enough time to reconsider.
The warehouse door opened and she walked in. Five nine, auburn hair with pink highlights, upturned aquamarine eyes, and a black sequin wrap dress, a perfect party outfit. The third in her lineage to inherit the “Mama” title, she was also the cruelest of them all.
“The Ice Queen arrives.” Frank mocked, pushing his luck to the limit. “Forgive me if I don’t bow, Your Majesty, but I can barely move.”
“You can still talk, which is quite unfortunate if you’re keen on using your lips for that.”
“Would you rather I use them to kiss your shoes and beg for forgiveness?”
“It would be an improvement, but no... you know what I want.” Mama looked down, disdainfully.
“I don’t have your money.” He spat red at her feet. A loose tooth wobbled under his tongue.
“Who said anything about money?”
“You did when you gave me that marker.”
“I also said you would pay me one way or another. I choose another.”
“And what way is that?”
Mama looked back and beckoned a thin man in. He looked like a walking corpse from his emaciated face to the pale blue tone under his fingernails. He held a small leather briefcase. Inside, wrapped in a glowing plastic sheen, laid a pink-gem encrusted collar with a D-ring in front.
“You’ll find this one surprisingly comfortable to wear.” She replied.
“Sorry, it doesn’t really match my outfit.”
“Where you’re going, you won’t be needing any clothes. Or thoughts.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have your kinky mind. Forgive me, but I really have to decline your ‘generous offer’, whatever it is.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sam, will you please be so kind to give our guest another taste of your expertise?”
“Gladly.” The yes-man moved from his station, cracking his knuckles. “Do you want the left foot first or the right one, Frank?”
“Neither, please. On second thought, that collar doesn’t look so bad, Mama.”
“I knew you would come to your senses. Not for long, though.”
She removed the collar from its protective wrap and a supercharged jolt ran through her fingers. It wasn’t electricity but something dark, the secret of her family’s unyielding authority. With a smirk, she tightened it around his bruised neck.
His response was immediate. He trembled when the stitches pressed against his skin and the gems flashed one by one. The chromatic spectacle was short-lived, but not without its effects. A honeyed veil descended upon his senses and thoughts, dulling the former and blanking out the latter. As the ecstatic submission intensified, he happily committed to perpetual silence.
“Much better.” She said as she kicked his limp balls. “One of my business associates has had her eyes on you for a while now. Once you’re fully recovered from your injuries, you will keep her pleased in any way she desires. And if you think I’m a bitch, wait until you cannot carry out one of her commands. Come along now. I hate this place.”
Blind to everything in the world except her radiant will, Frank crawled behind her, eager to start his new life as a mindless fucktoy.