The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive


Chapter Thirteen

Hounds and Hare

“Aisle or window seat, Mme.Cournoyér?”

“Il est sans importance,” I replied evenly, my eyes sweeping the nearby ticket counters, automatically registering every face that they encountered. “Mais je voudrais être près des toilettes, si possible, merci.” It was not my bladder I was thinking of, however, when I made this one request regarding seating assignment. I unsnapped and tugged off my white kidskin glove, and slid my passport and ticket across the marble countertop to the young woman. She smiled at me warmly. I returned her smile noncommitally, my eyes hidden by my wraparound Oakley’s.

“Porte douze, Madame. Ayez un vol plaisant.” She handed my ticket and papers back to me. I smiled aloofly and tucked them into my shoulder bag, then turned away and started down the concourse toward the sign marked Gates 1-16 in Greek, French, and English. As I passed the plate glass fronts of the shops lining the walkway, my eyes were drawn almost hypnotically toward the reflection dogging my footsteps. I couldn’t say with complete certainty that I recognized this woman any longer.

The young matron who had stepped so naively through WISDOM’s doors close to two weeks earlier was scarcely discernible in this sophisticated woman striding purposefully toward her appointment with almost certain oblivion. She was nearly ten pounds lighter, with a new firmness about the jaw line, and just a hint of new resolve and determination to her full-lipped mouth, a determination that was echoed in her confident, almost arrogant demeanor. Dressed in a red-on-black hibiscus print sleeveless silk dress, cap-sleeved white linen bolero jacket, broad-brimmed white Françoise Javits sun hat and white wrist gloves and ankle strap heels, she looked every inch the fashion model being whisked away to Tenerife or St Bart’s for the cover spread of next month’s Vogue. I wondered if she knew where she was really going. And if she did, why she wasn’t running, just as fast and far as those beautifully toned legs would carry her.

I wanted to scream at her to do just that.

I sensed, more than felt or heard, the faint whispering chime, like tiny carillon bells. I turned reluctantly away from the image in the windows, my eyes clouding over slightly, all of my attention focused on the boarding gates now, and the mantra echoing within my body as the exquisite little golden rings brushed softly between my thighs.

Fifteen minutes into the flight I was propped against the door of the first class lavatory, my dress bunched around my hips, my fingers frantically kneading my denuded sex, sobbing silently, cursing the rings and chain that denied me access to my own body, and momentary escape from this nightmare I had tumbled into.

I bit savagely into the white glove clenched between my teeth, and battered my clitoris until I nearly fainted. I heard voices laughing derisively at the spectacle I presented; the prim young American matron abusing herself in the toilet of an A320 as it sliced impassively throught the dusk gathering over the eastern Mediterranean.

I knew that those voices existed only in my mind, but that did not prevent fat tears of shame, and despair, from spilling down my cheeks as I clawed mindlessly at myself.

* * *

Métis Faroda looked up in amazement as the doors to her private office suite banged open, and Beatrix Mackay sailed through them like a man-o-war secured for action. She strode to the startled woman’s desk and slammed her palms down furiously on its polished surface.

“What the Hell’s going on here, Métis?”

The flustered Egyptian woman rose hurriedly, running a nervous hand over her shining dark mahogany hair. She cleared her throat uneasily.

“Dr. Mackay, I ...that is, uh, we had no idea... I mean...there were...”

“I know what there ‘were’, Métis. Now I want to know ‘how’. I want to know ‘how’ our key operative in the region could be rolled up less than thirty-six hours before the biggest heroin shipment we’ve ever targeted for interdiction moves. I want to know ‘how’ a college girl coming to work on an internship could disappear less than six hours after she sets foot in Alexandria, before the opposition has had time to get a goddamned picture of her. I want to know ‘how’ six years’ hard work and meticulous planning could be put in jeopardy virtually overnight.

“But most of all, I want to know ‘who’, and I want to know ‘why’ And I want to know NOW!”

Beatrix Mackay paused for a moment, letting the full extent of her rage wash over the thoroughly nonplussed woman, before she continued.

“I want every intelligence communication that’s come through this station in the last seventy-two hours, and I want them ten minutes ago. And I want everything, and I mean everything on the Jamaah ‘al’ Islamiyah’s known informants’ activities for the same period. Anything and everything we have on the Hizb‘ i‘ Islami shipping channels, both through Turkey and Kenya, every shipment that’s moved in the last two weeks and the movements of every, and I mean every operative in those networks, right down to the last strung-out bimbo mule turning tricks for dime bags in Mombasa.”

Beatrix Mackay paused again for a breath, and to gather herself. Never let your subordinates see you sweat, she reminded herself.

“Also give me a complete rundown on the whereabouts and movements of that little Yemeni whore that Brie Analeiou has been sleeping with. That,” she paused for emphasis, pinning Métis Faroda in her icy glare, “was a royal screw-up...”

“But Dr Mackay, you know Brie...trying to tell her who she may and may not go to bed with is like trying to make Madonna take a vow of celibacy. We tried to...”

Mackay cut her off with an impatient gesture. “Don’t tell me what you tried to do, Dr.Faroda. I’m only interested in what you’re going to do now. We’re on the edge of having our entire operation in the Golden Crescent rolled up. I want to know how, and I want to know who, and I want to know immediately—that means, for your information, now.!”

Beatrix Mackay spun on her heel without waiting for the thoroughly intimidated woman to reply, and stormed angrily from the suite. Dr Métis Faroda watched the woman’s retreating back until her secretary looked in nervously as she closed the door to the suite. Then Métis Faroda grabbed her cell phone and mouse simultaneously, and went to work. But the first number she dialed was not on her speed dialer.

She knew that one by heart...

* * *

Zahra al’Ajii gave a little tug on the bindings, satisfying herself as to their integrity. She hadn’t risen to the rank of full colonel in the Pakistani army, or deputy chief of field operations in the Horn of Africa for the ISI by being careless, or leaving small details to chance.

Jolie looked sullenly at the woman as she drew up another chair, identical to the one she was bound to, and seated herself in it. She fussily arranged several sheets of vellum notepaper and a fountain pen on the wooden table next to her. Jolie watched with feigned indifference for a moment, then found her eyes wandering of their own accord to the heavy wooden door across the room, and her mind shied again from the horror she had seen behind it. She was suddenly all too aware of her nudity, and her vulnerabilty beneath this woman’s watchful gaze.

Colonel Zahra al’Ajii cleared her throat.

“And now, Ms Bennett...a few minor housekeeping details to dispose of, and then we can chat at our leisure.” Colonel al’Ajii slid the papers across the table a bit closer to the girl’s chair. “We need you to compose a few quick notes, if you would. Just to reassure your friends, and loved ones that you are perfectly all right, and enjoying your little ‘tour’ of the exotic Middle East.”

“Like I could, even if I wanted to,” Jolie retorted, flexing her purpling fingers for the benefit of her captor. The vinyl covered cords securing her wrists to the arms of the plain ladder backed wooden chair were sufficiently snug to make her wonder if she would ever regain the full use of her hands again. More of the damnable clothesline was wound about her upper arms, just above the biceps, digging deeply into her flesh, binding them to the back of the chair. Her ankles were bound to the chair’s legs by more cord, as were her thighs just above her knees. Jolie was beginning to think that plastic clothesline cord was either Egypt’s main import, or chief export good.

Zahra al’Ajii nudged the small table closer to Jolie’s left hand, so that her numb fingers were just brushing against its surface. Then she gave a quick, curt nod to the man standing just behind Jolie. He leaned forward and slid the tip of a six-inch stiletto beneath the cord on her wrist, severing it in a single swift motion. Jolie felt the tiny hairs on her arm rise in response to the cold touch of the steel on her skin, and then it was gone, like a vague premonition of some impending catastrophe. She flexed her fingers more vigorously, and made little semi-circular motions with her wrist, attempting to get the blood flowing again through the constricted blood vessels of her left hand.

“My penmanship might not be all that it should, given the circumstances,” she said sardonically. “I hope you grade on the curve.”

“No matter, it will suffice,” the woman replied tersely. “Address the first one to Dr Beatrix Mackay, if you would, please...tell her that you became bored waiting around your hotel, and decided to do a little sightseeing, take in the pyramids...that you’ll be in touch with her in a day or two.” Colonel al’Ajii slipped the fountain pen between Jolie’s still-magenta fingers.

“Not even signed up for the 401k yet and already taking a vacation,” Jolie drawled. “They oughta love this.” She twirled her wrist a last time, and began scratching at the sheet of vellum with the golden nib of the pen. Zahra al‘Ajii watched her hand closely as the pen moved across the paper.

“Now just one more, if you please,” she said, slipping the signed note from beneath Jolie’s pen, and replacing it with a fresh sheet.

“This one is for your friend, Mrs.Worth...”

Jolie’s hand froze in mid twirl.

“Van...why on earth do you want me to write to Vannie? She’s six thousand miles aw...”

A dawning awareness slipped slowly into Jolie’s bruised-looking eyes. The pen slid from her suddenly bloodless fingers, falling to the table with a soft ‘thuunk’.

“No,” the girl whispered fiercely, her face suddenly ashen. ‘I won’t do it. You can’t make me...”

Now it was Colonel al‘Ajii’s turn to cut her eyes meaningfully toward the door, her good one glittering like obsidian in the lamplight, nearly as black and unfathomable as the patch covering her other.

“Oh, I think we can, Ms Bennett...

“In fact, I’m quite certain of it...”

* * *

Métis Faroda studied the stream of disembarking passengers closely, looking down every now and again to check the small black-and-white photograph in her gloved hand. When her eyes were arrested by the broad brimmed white hat and wraparound shades, she knew immediately that she had found her quarry.

The picture doesn’t begin to do this woman justice, she thought to herself as she slipped the photograph into her handbag, and began to manuever expertly throught the throng of people between her and her prey, gliding through them like a soft breeze through a wheatfield. She reached the woman’s side, and touched her arm gently.

“Madame Cournoyér?”

* * *

“But it’s so dangerous!” Métis Faroda protested again, gripping the phone so tightly that her knuckles paled beneath her golden skin. “What if Dr. Mackay finds out? What will happen then?”

“She’s expecting to be contacted upon her arrival anyway...we’re simply going to make that contact under other auspices, shall we say,” the voice at the other end of the connection said reassuringly. “If you do this properly, Beatrix Mackay will never know, until it’s far too late for her to do anything about it.”

Métis felt the dampness forming beneath her arms again, and swore silently. First Mackay, and now this one...her life was becoming entirely too exciting lately.

“But what if she recognizes me? Or wants to know why she’s not being met by someone from Wisdom?”

“Your photograph was carefully removed from the bureau dossier that was given to her, so you need have no concern on that account. As for WISDOM, it’s perfectly all right for you to imply that you are with the org, darling,” the voice continued soothingly, as if speaking to a backward child. How had this one ever reached the position of number two in the Middle Eastern operational sphere, she wondered. “In fact, it’s far better if she does think that you are an ‘unofficial’ contact from us. Just don’t let her know who you really are, or your true position with the organization. And above all else, keep her occupied until the reception at the museum tonight. Do you think you can manage that?”

Métis bit her lower lip savagely. She was not cut out for all this cloak-and-dagger nonsense that seemed to be swirling around her recently. When she had gone to work for Wisdom, fresh out of Cairo University, she had been filled with an altruistic zeal to transform the face of Egyptian society. She had hoped to be doing ground-breaking work for the women of Egypt, and the Muslim world at large. Instead, she found herself enmeshed in subterfuge involving international drug cartels, laundered money, and now kidnapping. She wanted to scream. How had she let this woman get such a hold over her...

But that was a foolish question, of course. Visions of her two younger sisters, drugged mindless and splayed naked on tick-infested mattresses in an Istanbul brothel reminded her instantly of where her allegiances now lay.

“Give me that flight information again, please,” she sighed resignedly, reaching for a pen.

* * *

I felt the light touch on my arm distinctly as opposed to the general jostling that I was receiving in the swarm of passengers as we disembarked into the waiting crowd. I was very pleased with my sang froid, as I made no noticeable reaction to the contact, only turning my head very slightly to my left, and raising an inquiring eyebrow in the direction of the owner of the hand upon my arm. I encountered a lovely, light olive-complected face, wreathed in a mane of nearly coal-black hair. Her eyes were hidden, as were mine, by oversized Raybans.

We exchanged polite, insincere smiles.

‘A thousand pardons, Madame Cournoyér,” she murmured to me, slipping a small buff-colored business card into my right hand. She linked her left arm through my right, and began guiding me expertly through the mob of swarming humanity, her head constantly moving, as if on a swivel. This woman is frightened of something, I thought to myself as we were swept along in the tide of rather fragrant bodies heading for douanes. I glanced down quickly at the card.

Sabra al Sayyid
Dealer in Rare and Unusual Antiquities
10 Tareek Elgueish Pasha

Whoever she was, she seemed to have clout. I was waved through customs and immigration with barely a glance at my papers, and my bags completely untouched. I glanced at her again, trying to put a name to the face as we passed through the automatic doors from customs out into the blazing Egyptian noonday sun.. The heat struck us all at once, like a blow from a huge searing fist, immediately claiming all of my attention. It nearly took my breath away. She steered me to a small Mercedes limo waiting at the curb, and politely but firmly guided me into the passenger seat, then slipped behind the wheel herself. We drove for several minutes in silence through the crowded airport, then into the bustling streets of Alexandria proper.

“This is very kind of you, but I’m afraid I can’t repay the service,” I said at last. “I am not in the market for ‘rare or unusual antiquities’ this trip, alas.”

“I am not offering to sell you any such antiquities, Madame Cournoyer,” she returned, her eyes still fixed on the teeming mass of cars swerving seemingly randomly about the road.

“But I believe that I can put you in touch with something that you are seeking.”

I eyed her more closely now, my gloved hand finding the door handle, and resting on it tentatively. “And what makes you suppose that I am seeking anything, Mademoiselle al’Sayyid, beyond a hot bath, and a relaxing dinner?”

“Ah, but Madame, we have a saying...’Allah distributes His gifts equally among His children’. To some He gives great ambition, and the ability to rule over men. Others,” she gave me sudden, disarming smile, “He favors with great beauty.”

“To still others, He gives the gift of wisdom...”

Something gave way inside of me, like taking a misstep in a dream, and feeling that sudden stomach-churning plunge as one’s foot encounters the void where it had expected solid ground. My grip tightened a bit on the Mercedes’ door handle.

She seemed to sense my sudden disorientation, and my tension. Her lovely face softened, her mouth twitching into a uneasy smile as she studied the traffic ahead of us.

“We are a predominately Muslim culture, as I’m sure you are well aware, Madame Cournoyér. WISDOM finds it useful to employ several front organizations, through which to make approaches and contacts that would otherwise be too indiscreet, if not impossible altogether for an organization such as ours to make, given the strictures and constraints placed upon us in even so modern a metropolis as Alexandria.”

“A small, but unfortunately necessary concession for the furtherance of the foundation’s aims in this portion of the world,” she concluded, returning her full attention to the more immediate problem posed by rush hour traffic in Alexandria.

My mind was feverishly processing the woman’s face against the virtual file cabinet of photographs that had been burned into it, but I could come up with nothing but the face of an actress from several foreign films I had seen. She had the lovely, raptor-like profile of the classical Semitic beauty, cheekbones that seemed chiseled from warm golden cypress, framed by that nimbus of jet hair, which in this light refracted deeply polished mahogany highlights as well. Her hands on the wheel were beautifully manicured, long-fingered and graceful. The swell of her bosom strained the button holding her taupe linen jacket closed. I licked my lips unconsciously, and shook myself mentally to keep my mind from wandering again into that all-too-familiar territory that seemed to preoccupy it so frequently these days.

“I’m gratified to learn that ambition, and intelligence are rewarded here regardless of gender,” I replied at last, an impersonal little smile fixed to my own lips. “I’ll be certain to give you a glowing reference, should I come across anyone in need of the services of your... ahh, ‘foundation’.”

She gave that enigmatic little smile again, no more than a slight rearrangement of certain fine lines around her mouth, and eyes. “They told me that you were a cautious, and clever one,” she said. “In any event, my duties are explicit, and shall be executed precisely.”

I arched a brow, my smile widening in genuine amusement. She glanced at me again, a slightly challenging look on her own face now.

“Something amuses Madame?”

“No, pas du tout,‘Sayyid,” I said, turning my attention back to the exotic urban landscape crawling slowly past my window.

“Just having fun trying to figure out what your ‘duties’ might include...”

* * *

I lay naked on the bed, coated in a humid, greasy sweat.

The tendons stood out in my neck, and in little knots at my jaw as the next orgasm took me and shook me like a kitten in its mouth. I bit down ferociously on the folded brochure that the woman had slipped between my teeth (’Exotic Egypt’) to keep from crying out, or making God knows what other noises, sounds that would undoubtedly have turned out to be more apropos of a Turkish brothel than a suite at the Mercuré. I arched my back, my fingers scrabbling frenetically at the coverlet beneath them. The Egyptian woman had had just enough self-control left to honor my request, and had bound my wrists loosely behind my back with a scarf when I had felt that inexorable itching beginning again between my legs, as if an army of hot velvet ants were marching through my vagina. I had no desire to mutilate myself permanently in the throes of my passion by tearing off the tiny golden hoops that pierced me, sealing my vulva.

She pressed the length of her dusky body, redolent of sandalwood and musk, against my own, our breasts slipping wetly over each other, rigid nipples clashing en passant as we ground our bodies urgently together. Her tongue was busily exploring my ear, while the index and second fingers of her right hand were buried in my anus to the third knuckle. Her thumb toyed carelessly with my clit beneath the tiny hoop that sealed the fold of flesh over it.

Pictures kept flashing through my mind like a bizarre, dirty kinescope at some perverts’ arcade. Parted thighs framing smoothly shaven mounds beckoned to me like moist pink mouths; smooth, wet limbs reflected golden lamplight as they tangled and twisted in an obscene carnal ballet; all interspersed with darker images of pain, and suffering, and still others that weren’t even discrete images at all but only vague, unsettling shadows, that pierced me like hot knives being twisted in my viscera. These were the ones that always tipped me over into the next orgasm, swirling down and down into that dizzying black emptiness that had once held the woman called Evangeline Worth.

This shouldn’t be happening, a small whispering voice nagged at me between convulsions. You shouldn’t be doing this; you shouldn’t even be ABLE to do this...

I shuddered as she brought me to climax again, letting my body eclipse the thought, sweep it away, and replace it with the one image that was a constant, recurring theme in these dirty picture shows that my mind was putting on for my benefit with increasing regularity. A blonde, gamin face, with startling light gray eyes, and lips created to suck cock, or drive a woman to the brink of madness.

Sabra al‘Sayyid did something clever with the fingers of her right hand, and my eyes rolled back in my head.

God in heaven, I breathed. Please make it stop...

Mistress spoke again, and another word of control was seared into my subconscious, forever.

I moaned, and writhed ineffectually against the ligatures that anchored me spreadeagled to the tubular metal slant frame. My lips twitched soundlessly, silently imploring Her not to hurt me again; I was a good girl, I would remember my lessons oh God please Sister I would I would only no more hurting, no more pain oh please Sister please no more...

I felt Her cool hand on me now, vague and evanescent as a dream, touching my right nipple, which flared at the slight contact, sending little frissons of exquisite pleasure shooting through me.


Another touch, this one at the tender fold of flesh where my thigh joined my sex, made my knees buckle and stretched my arms even more tautly above me, causing my shoulders to howl in protest. I panted harshly, eyes wide and imploring.


“And here...”

My hips tipped up, and thrust forward toward her touch, brazenly joining my frantic eyes in their desperate wordless entreaties for release. I no longer cared if I tore my arms from their sockets, if only I could get to that hand, and have it possess me, rape me. I jerked and bucked as if in the throes of a gran mal seizure, sweat coursing down my naked body. She leaned more closely to me, capturing my unfocused eyes in the hypnotic emerald vortex of Her own. She whispered another word, sending it like a poisoned dart into my hippocampus. She touched me again, lewdly, familiarly.

“And here...”

This last caress nearly made me yearn for the pain again...

I rolled onto my side on the sweat-saturated coverlet, wondering muzzily where the Egyptian woman had gone. The light had faded from the windows, turning the sky framed in them a deep, velvety blue. I had no recollection at all of her leaving. Such lapses would have frightened me a month ago, set me to worrying about premature menopausal onset, or some still-darker madness taking root in me. Now I scarcely noticed them.

I worked my wrists free of the scarf wound loosely about them, then stood and wobbled unsteadily toward the bath in the deepening twilight that filled the room. Snatching a thick Egyptian cotton bathsheet from the rack, I began toweling myself distractedly, swabbing the perspiration, and the more intimate secretions from my body. I stared at the woman in the full-length mirror across from me, and the tiny golden circlets and fine chain that twinkled like a new constellation in the smoothly shaven pink galaxy of her sex. I let the towel slip from my hand, and brushed them lightly with my fingers.

“Hey, pretty...don’cha wanna take a ride with me...”

The resonance that they set up within my body nearly brought me to my knees...

“...they’ll think she’s just a drone, a shock trooper. They won’t expect her to have any conditioning keys. They know enough about our methods to know that we wouldn’t use such an obvious form of control with our more valuable assets—it makes them too readily identifiable, too vulnerable to kidnappings, and extortion.”

Mistress’s voice floated somewhere above me, and I struggled toward it like a drowning swimmer, as consciousness slowly returned. I was still hanging limply in the metal frame, the pungent smell of my own body filling my nostrils, making me tingle softly between my legs again, even as it shamed me being displayed like this before these women. Fingers pulled at me, stretching my vulva. I groaned as they pinched me more firmly, distending my inner lips. I was vaguely aware of a high-pitched whistling noise, reminiscent of a dentist’s drill.

“Almost finished, my pet,” Mistress breathed to me, stroking my damp hair back from my face. I stared at Her wildly, no longer capable of anything resembling human speech.

The first set of perforations made me wet myself, fragrant piss splashing down on the floor between my widespread legs. My eyelids fluttered, and my eyes rolled back into my head but I made no sound other than one short, guttural grunt. I was so proud. Mistress leaned in, and whispered in my ear softly again. I felt the muscles surrounding my sexual organs ripple and contract, as the needles plunged into me again.

She whispered ceaselessly to me now, as the piercing continued, and I hovered in twilight between this world and some other wilder, more savage one. She spoke in words that I should never have comprehended, in a strange tongue, about a universe filled with pain and arousal, betrayal and obedience...

Above all else, obedience...

I captured my hand between my thighs, and pressed the heel of it against my sex, grinding it into myself, moaning like an animal as I began to sag against the doorway. With a nearly superhuman effort I tore my fingers away from myself and retrieved the towel from the tiled floor. I finished wiping myself off, and stepped toward the shower, then abruptly changed my mind. Stepping instead to the Pullman, I took the fogged glass stopper from my Isabeau, and dabbed it in my armpits, then stroked it twice lightly between my thighs, shivering as the cool glass touched my hot folds, setting the hoops to ringing sympathetically again.

If the hare was going hunting, she might as well put down a strong scent for the hounds to follow.

I slipped the black spandex/poly blend cocktail dress from its plastic covering, regarding it with a vague sense of uneasiness. Spaghettini straps and slutty little latitudinal ruffles warred for attention with a hemline that was a full hand span further north of my knee than anything I had ever dared wear in my life. I had the feeling that this little number exposed a good deal more of both my bosom and leg than Van Worth would have dreamed of displaying a fortnight ago. I wriggled the thing past my hips with some difficulty, and tugged it up over my breasts, slipping my arms through the slender straps. I struggled with the zipper in back for several moments more, cursing enthusiastically, and wondering where a man was when you needed one.

An unusual choice to say the least, even for a city as liberal as Alexandria, I thought. I imagined that the selection of my traveling attire, and the conspicuous omission of undergarments of any description, had something to do with getting me noticed as well,. but I didn’t waste much time or effort worrying about that either. I took a last look in the dresser mirror, surveying the results. If amateur night at Heidi Fleiss’s was the look that was required, I thought that I had hit it dead on.

My gaze drifted away from the tart in the mirror, and fell across the card Sabra al‘Sayyid had left on the dresser. I picked it up, and flipped it over, reading the short scrawl on the back.

Alexandria Museum of Fine Arts

Nine PM. We’ll send a car for you


I frowned. None of this seemed familiar, or right. But then, none of it was really my concern at all. I was simply another piece on the board now, being moved by unseen hands, toward unknown ends. Pawns are not supposed to concern themselves with the final denoument of the contest. They exist for one purpose, and one purpose only: to be sacrificed.

All I had to worry about was getting in the same room alone with Brie Analeiou for ten minutes. And as quickly as I could.

* * *

Chapter Fourteen

Final Interviews...

Beatrix Mackay tapped impatiently at the ‘Page Down’ key, scrolling through screen after screen of files covering the activities of the Hekmatiyar cartel for the last fortnight. She was going through the blizzard of communiques, IO memos, and agents’ reports on her laptop for the second time, having found nothing unusual, or unexpected in them on first viewing. Still, a nagging doubt gnawed at the edges of her consciousness, one that she could not quite put her finger on, nor dismiss. It put her in mind of Conan Doyle’s famous dog.

The one that didn’t bark.

She was just about to give it up for the evening when her attention was drawn almost subliminally to the ‘Date’ column on the left of the screen. She stopped abruptly, then scrolled back, her forest green eyes narrowing, their color deepening to almost jade as the flickering LCD screen reflected in her half-height reading glasses. A smile spread slowly over her classically beautiful porcelain features as she reached for her cell phone.

So, Métis...I think it’s time that you and I had another little talk, darling...

* * *

Jolie wondered why she hadn’t heard the maddening metronome-like ticking of the ancient pendulum clock earlier. She shouldn’t have been able to miss it; it was nearly driving her insane now. Her mind wandered hazily to an old film she had seen once, that had included a scene about brainwashing. There had been an old clock in that as well, she remembered... ticking, and ticking, getting louder and louder, driving the poor woman who was being tortured almost had all seemed kind of hokey, and far-fetched to her at the time.

She didn’t imagine she would find it so now.

She twisted helplessly on the rough surface of the low wooden table, tugging ineffectually at the leather thongs that bit into her wrists, anchoring them to the corners of the table above her head. Sweat slithered off of her body in little snake-like rills, dampening the splintery wooden surface beneath her. That’s a break, at least, she thought; less chance of getting another fucking sliver this way. Several large, painful pine splinters were already lodged in her ass, and another in her left shoulder blade. She thought that she should probably try to be a bit more still, to try and lessen the chance of getting any others, but her current circumstances were militating against that just at the moment.

That warm, wet tongue slid into her again, like an exotic sea creature, and she jerked spasmodically, gouging another thin shaft of wood into the tender skin of her buttock. She hissed in pain, and then again in startled pleasure as the clever oral appurtenance traversed her slippery crease, and insinuated itself beneath the little fold of flesh that now scarcely served to conceal her distended clitoris. The tongue’s tip began making lewd little circuits at the base of her engorged lovebutton, lifting at each pass near twelve o’clock, in order to avoid the small wire and clamp that were affixed to it.

Each time that tongue lifted, the antique Regulator clock on the wall clicked another second of her life away.

Jolie shivered in apprehension, and sheer sensory overload at the same time. Her skin began to buzz, and tingle, and felt as if it were too tightly stretched, and incapable of covering her body any longer. She struggled frantically to stave off the orgasm that had her in its headlights again.

Love hurts, she thought dizzily, but THIS is fucking RIDICULOUS...

Then the tongue made a long, slow flat pass, roughing her clit from root to tip, almost against the grain, and Jolie began to hitch and gasp, her soft buttocks beginning to lift and fall back rhythmically against the damp wooden planks with a wet, slapping sound...

“God no, oh God no no no NO...”

First she heard the current, like a loud humming in her blood, rushing through her head, an invisible conch shell pressed to each ear. Then she smelled it, a sharp tang of ozone just at the edges of her senses.

Then she felt it.

It hit her like a blow, a fist to her body’s nexus. Her back and her hips arced clear of the table, and she drummed a little tattoo on it with the back of her head while she shuddered and shook through her climax. She screamed, whether in release or agony she could never have said. The electrical current pulsed in counterpoint to her spasms, and the clock ticking her sanity away, all blending to form cunning little triplets that trilled across her body, and her mind. Somewhere in the dim recesses of her brain she heard Brenda Carlisle singing moronically that ‘She had the beat, she had the beeeeaaatttt...’

Jolie took a short sabbatical from her body again.

She knew she hadn’t been gone very long, and her messages were waiting for her when she returned. She could still smell the blue haze of electricity around her like a fog, mixed with the scent of her own arousal just underneath the harsh smell of the ammonia popper being waved beneath her nose. Her eyelids fluttered as her soul floated gently back down from the ceiling to settle into her nearly spent body. Her limbs still tingled from her body’s temporary employment as a high-tension line. She woozily raised her drenched head an inch or two clear of the table’s surface, and gazed down her body to the platinum head floating just above her crotch in the dimness. She thought disorientedly of a Dali painting.

Jolie’s knees were elevated, and bent at a ninety degree angle, so that her lower body had assumed a seated attitude while lying on her back. Leather thongs digging deeply into her legs just above and below each knee secured them to metal posts extending vertically from the lower corners of the table to a height of almost three feet above its surface. Her hip flexors ached from the strain of her legs being drawn so widely apart. None of this physical discomfort held her mind for more than a fleeting moment or two, though. Her full attention was riveted on the blonde woman’s head hovering between her legs.

She could only see the woman from just below her collarbones up; she must have been kneeling or squatting somehow at the foot of the table. Her arms were splayed wide, in spreadeagle fashion above her, her wrists lashed with leather thongs to the same vertical posts that Jolie’s knees were bound to. Jolie could see at a glance what a torment it must be for the woman to get her mouth down to Jolie’s sex. She shuddered softly, not wanting to think about what they must have done to her to induce her to do so.

Her pale face was visible now, though, a wan moon rising over the dark-auburn furzed curve of Jolie’s groin, framed by Jolie’s naked thighs, and a quaint pageboy bob of nearly white platinum blonde hair.There was a dazed, far away look in her unearthly light-gray eyes, or the one that Jolie could see at any rate. Her left was puffed completely closed—in fact, the whole left side of her face was swollen grotesquely and covered by a huge, purpling bruise, giving an odd, harlequinish look to her startlingly youthful features. Her chin was speckled with rust-colored flecks of dried blood, overlain with a glaze of rapidly drying come from Jolie’s pussy. Her lips were swollen outrageously, the lower one split nastily in the center, and still oozing a drop or two of fresh blood. But what struck Jolie so forcefully was how thin the girl looked. Not thin in the physical sense of the word, but stretched, somehow, almost translucent, like a skin stretched too tautly over a drum head; one that might break at the next blow of the sticks.

Jolie shuddered reflexively again.

“Oh, but she is enjoying this, Ms Bennett. Nearly as much as you are. You might even say she was ‘bred’ for it.”

Jolie turned her head lethargically toward the voice that had answered her unspoken question

“You could think of all this as a sort of hybrid parlor game, in fact. A combination of ‘Twenty Questions’ and ‘What’s My Line’, if you like,” Colonel Zahra al‘Ajii continued matter-of-factly.

Jolie’s cactus-dry tongue flicked uselessly at her lips as she tried to focus on the shadowy figure seated just to the left of the table she was bound to. She squinted against the glare of the harsh white light suspended directly above her, but could make out no more than the woman’s glittering coal-black eye, and one gloved hand that rested quietly on the handcrank of a small, crude electrical generator at her side. Jolie tried to speak, but retched instead, a small stream of clear fluid dribbling from the corner of her mouth. The gloved hand moved, and a small cloth dabbed at her chin, and her mouth almost tenderly, cleaning up the vomitus.

Jolie sighed, closing her eyes as she nearly gagged again on the bitter, acid taste of her own reflux. Her overtaxed synapses were calming now, and the slow cadenced throb of pain reasserted itself on her consciousness again, almost comforting as it moved in and out of sync with the infuriating ‘tock tock’ of that damnable clock.

“There is really only one question that you need to concern yourself with, though,” the voice purred, closer now. She sensed rather than saw the woman at her side, leaning over her almost solicitously. “How much ‘discomfort’ are you willing to endure to keep from supplying me with a simple invitation to your friend.” Jolie felt the cool touch of leather clad fingers on her trembling body, tracing little whorls in the perspiration oiling her skin.


“Just a sentence or two, so absurdly simple.” The fingers were busy now, affixing something soft, and cool to her left breast, just above the nipple. They moved to her other breast, pressing the white self-adhering electrical contact pad in place over the nipple there as well.

“But Ms.Analeiou does seem to be enjoying herself with you, Jolie...I think we might even be getting close to a breakthrough with her, though I would frankly be surprised if a simple act of same-sex cunnilingus would be the key that opens up her particular little bag of tricks.”

Tick-tock...Jolie’s feverish skin blossomed in goosebumps...

More pads, each successive application soft and derangingly sensual now, as they were smoothed into place on her; one pressed firmly into each armpit, and others affixed to the sensitive skin of her inner thighs. She squirmed as little jolts of her own self-generated sexual voltage raced through her body in spite of her terror, converging on her still-twitching sex. She felt herself moistening again; indeed, she wondered if she had ever stopped lubing herself.

Tick-tock... the sound was like a hatpin in her eardrum now, nails on a chalkboard. Jolie ground her teeth, making a little gurgling noise in the back of her throat...

Zahra al’Ajii’s face loomed suddenly into her view.

“Well, Jolie? Feel your writer’s block lifting at all, or do we need to provide you with a bit more inspiration?” She stroked the girl’s flushed cheek softly with the back of her gloved hand.


“Guh...go fuh... fuck yourself, you one-eyed cuh...cunt,” Jolie husked.

“Oh, but I’d so much rather fuck you, Ms.Bennett...”

Zahra al’Ajii smiled, and made a gesture of almost infinite grace at the blonde stretched between Jolie’s splayed thighs. The woman’s blank expression never changed as she suddenly dove at Jolie’s crotch, snarling in pain as the muscles in her shoulders bunched, and tore. Her arms were nearly dislocated as she fastened her bleeding mouth onto Jolie’s cunt, and buried her searching tongue in the girl’s delicate folds.


Jolie convulsed, her body already anticipating the agony that it would so shortly own. She heard the mechanical whisper of the handcrank, and rolled her hips lasciviously at the blonde woman’s mouth, no more able to control her own body now than she was the current that began to dance teasingly over it. She sobbed as the voltage randomly reawakened the nerve endings in her nipples, her armpits, her thighs, while the elfin-faced blonde chewed mindlessly at her sex ...


When the screaming began, she was at first confused, uncertain as to who was being hurt, who was making these soul-wrenching sounds.

Too soon she found herself wishing that she had never found out...

Tick-tock... Tick-tock... Tick-tock...

* * *


The tapping was so tentative that had she not been listening for it, Beatrix Mackay would surely have missed it entirely. She crossed to the door and, after taking a quick look into the spyhole, slipped the chain and turned the lock. She swung the door open and stepped aside as Métis Faroda slipped apprehensively through it.

“Come in, Métis ...”

The woman looked as though she had spent a very rough night, and the ensuing day had probably not been very conducive to her composure, either. Her thick, deep mahogany highlighted hair was disheveled, and her lovely olive complexion had a pasty, unnatural undertone to it. Her sand-colored skirtsuit looked as if it might have been slept in. She hazarded an uneasy sidelong glance at Dr Beatrix Mackay as she entered the room timidly, taking up a position in the center of the suite, shifting her weight nervously from one high-heeled foot to another. She looked around uneasily, and was just about to settle in a small upholstered chair when the snap of Beatrix Mackay’s fingers and a quiet, monosyllabic utterance brought her rigidly to attention. Her eyes glazed over at once, staring and vacant, fixed on a spot on the wall just above Mackay’s left shoulder.

Stupid this one ever got past pre-conditioning screening was just another in an increasingly complex sequence of mysteries to her. She struggled to keep her temper in check as she circled the unresponsive woman slowly.

“Remove your jacket, Métis.”

Métis Faroda’s fingers moved woodenly to the closure on her suit coat, opening it and shrugging the linen garment from her shoulders, letting it fall in a careless heap at her feet.

“Now your blouse, please...”

Métis fingers moved expertly, but indifferently along the front of her blouse, then she let it slip from her arms as well. Her skirt joined it almost immediately, leaving the woman wearing only her thigh-high black lace top nylons, Charles Jourdan pumps and a dazed, vacant look.

Beatrix Mackay stepped closer to the woman, close enough to feel the heat pouring off her nude body, and smell the fear oozing from her pores. She reached out with her right hand, and pressed the ball of her thumb against the hard pebble of the woman’s erect left nipple, simultaneously slipping her index finger into the humid warmth of her armpit, and applying a gentle pressure there as well. The woman’s legs buckled as if she had been poleaxed, dropping her to the plushly carpeted floor of the suite in the universal posture of submission—on her knees, head bowed, thighs parted slightly and hands resting limply upon them, twitching now and again like soft, pale crabs.

The woman’s breathing came in shallow, rapid gasps now. Beatrix Mackay frowned slightly. She detested doing things this way, but she hadn’t the time to spar with this woman, and cut through her lies and obfuscations to get to the information that she possessed.

The golden glittering of tiny hoops, and a delicate chain winked up at her from the woman’s shadowed crotch. Beatrix Mackay insinuated the toe of her pump between Métis’ copper colored thighs, and ran it lightly along the length of her seam, setting up a soft, all but inaudible chiming between the girl’s thighs. Métis’ shuddered, and the scent of her arousal rose up around them like a fog. She spread her thighs further still, and laced her fingers in her thick hair at the nape of her neck. She arched her back, lifting her heavy, large-nippled breasts, thrusting them almost obscenely at Beatrix Mackay.

Beatrix Mackay gave a soft snort of disgust. This one should have been turning tricks in Lahore. She made a mental note to herself to speak again with Ardeth Eriyenouk about her sexual proclivities, and mixing same with business in the future.

She crouched down before the glassy-eyed, heavily sweating woman, and tethered her with her verdant stare, whispering to her softly and urgently. Now and again the girl cried out in despair, her fingers clawing at her darkly stubbled mons, tearing at herself with polished nails in a frenzy of unrequited need. She retained just enough awareness to keep from ripping the hoops from her genitalia, as she answered Beatrix Mackay in a tremulous monotone. Her narrative was only interrupted when her body was wracked by the choking sobs of still another orgasm...

As the glabrous light of dawn gilded the walls of the suite, Beatrix Mackay slipped quietly out, leaving the empty husk of Métis Faroda crumpled on the floor in a wet, twitching ball.

* * *

I held the rim of the chilled glass against my lip, and pretended to swallow as my eyes swept the room once again. Elegantly dressed gentlemen and fabulously turned out women gathered in small bejeweled knots, then swirled and drifted apart in colorful swarms, to reform again in new constellations of exotic beauty and glittering opulence. If there were international terrorists or drug cartel overlords in this aggregation, they were at least very cultured, and well dressed ones.

“Good evening, Mme. Cournoyér,” a woman’s voice like watered silk murmured at my elbow. I knew that the voice had come from outside of me, but it made me feel as if its owner had her tongue in my ear.

“Ardeth Eriyenouk, Director of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern bureau of WISDOM,” she smiled, extending a hand. I took it automatically, my brain doing its new parlor trick, comparing the face before me against the database of photographs now evidently permanently etched into it. Glossy dark black hair, slightly almond-shaped hazel eyes that hinted of Oriental blood, prominent model’s cheekbones in a pale, cream colored complexion that was somewhat shocking for this climate, and full lips painted a pale ruby. Fifteen-hundred dollar puce silk brocade suit with a jacket whose neckline plunged precipitously enough to reveal a generous expanse of rather breath-taking cleavage. I was reminded of Hamilton Jordan’s impolitic comparison of Jehan Sadat’s assets to the pyramids.

“Isaulteé Cournoyér,” I replied, a small, cautious smile on my face. This one was a match. The feeling of recognition was not necessarily reassuring, somehow. I extricated my hand from her strong grip.

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to meet you personally this afternoon, Mme Cournoyér. Things have been rather hectic around here recently, as I’m sure you know. I hope that your accommodations are comfortable?”

“Yes, very.” I smiled noncommitally at her again, waiting her out, trying to move her, make her take the first gambit.

“I’d like very much to speak with you in my office tomorrow, actually,” she said at last, a new glimmer of respect in her jet eyes. Whatever she had been expecting, I evidently had given her something new to factor into the equation. “Things are moving quite rapidly now. We need to coordinate our next moves as soon as possible. My number one is in conference with Dr Mackay right now, in fact...”

I tried to keep the shock of surprise I felt at this revelation from showing in my face by raising my martini glass to my lips again and lowering my eyelids. What was Beatrix Mackay doing in Alexandria? Had something changed, something in the plan been altered? I counted ten before I replied.

“What time would you like me to come to your office tomorrow, Ms Eriyenouk? I have an errand to run in the morning, I’m afraid, but any time after noon would be fine for me.” My heart was pounding so violently that I thought it must be visible beneath the ridiculously inadequate scrap of black spandex covering my breast. But my eyes never wavered from hers, and she knit her brows in the barest hint of a frown, considering me carefully again.

“How would one be for you then, Mme Cournoyér? We could perhaps get a bite of lunch, and talk at greater length in a more private setting.”

“Fine,” I answered.

I was just raising my glass again when I was jostled rather roughly from behind, and a hand grasped my arm while another thrust something into my hand. I turned, startled, just in time to see a woman in the full abayah and hijab retreating across the floor, melting into the throng of people. I stared after her as Ardeth Eriyenouk stepped to my side.

“Are you all right?” She asked, looking at me with concern. “I wonder how she got in here...certainly not an invitee of the gallery, to judge by the look of her...”

I nodded a mute ‘yes’ to her inquiry, discreetly slipping the envelope the woman had placed in my hand into my clutch. “Such an interesting looking could you tell it was a woman?”

Ardeth Eriyenouk laughed huskily. ‘Oh, my dear, only women are obliged to hide themselves from tip to toe in an Islamic society...and many are learning to discard that particular form of subjugation. Still, if you encounter a walking beyt in Egypt, it will undoubtedly be an as yet unenlightened member of our sex, I’m afraid. But come, let’s get another drink, shall we, and I can tell you a bit more about our host country...” She took my elbow in her hand, and was about to steer me toward the open bar when I stopped, and gently extricated myself from her grasp.

“Excuse me a moment, Ms Eriyenouk...”

“Ardeth, please, Mme Cournoyér...”

“Ardeth...I need to use the little girl’s room for a moment, if you’ll pardon me...”

She smiled and gestured toward the far end of the gallery. “Over there, Mme Cournoyér...I’ll get this freshened up for you while you’re gone.”

She took my glass from my hand. I smiled in return, and began working my way through the crowded space toward the foyer, and the restrooms. Before I had traversed half the distance, I had learned that Arabic men had at least as many hands as western ones, and were if anything much less inhibited in their use of them on any stray female’s anatomy that happened to wander within range. I slipped gratefully into the ladies’room, leaning my back against the door, and took the small envelope from my bag.

It was addressed simply to ‘Vannie’, in ink, in a woman’s hand. I frowned slightly. The handwriting was vaguely familiar.

‘Vannie’. Who knew that ‘Evangeline Worth’ was in Alexandria? And who would address her as ‘Vannie’? I tore the envelope open. There were two notes inside; one on beige vellum, the other, smaller note on simple rag notepaper. I opened the larger sheet, and hastily scanned the note.


Hate to bother you like this, but I’ve gotten myself into a little bit of a jam (I know, I know...again?!? I can hear you saying). No biggie, but I need to see you soonest. The people whose hospitality I am enjoying right at the moment are quite adamant on this point.

Come as soon as you can, Vannie. I think it might be important for my health and well being.


‘Jolie’... I pursed my lips in a frown of concentration, trying unsuccessfully to access the area of my thoroughly disarranged brain that was resonating to that beat.


I looked at the other note, much terser, and scrawled in a hurried, almost masculine hand, but one that I knew instinctively was a woman’s.

Silver Lexus limo, in the street, 11.45. Your friend will be counting the seconds...

‘Jolie’... ‘your friend’...

I frowned again, putting that nagging connection aside for the moment. Whoever this ‘Jolie’ was, it seemed more than likely that this was the contact I had been waiting for...the snare that I had been so meticulously conditioned to slip my head into. I washed my hands at the sink, drying them carefully as I stared into the haunted eyes of the strange woman in the mirror.

What are you trying to tell me? I asked her wordlessly.

I took the most circuitous route possible to the hatcheck counter, taking care to avoid anyone that I had met so far this evening, anyone who might know me, and most particularly Ardeth Eriyenouk. Explaining to the Director of the Middle Eastern bureau that I was skipping out to keep an appointment with I-don’t-know-who on behalf of a ‘friend’ that I had absolutely no recollection of was not part of the program that I had been so scrupulously schooled in over the last several days. I reclaimed my thin shawl from the attractive young woman at the check counter, and hurried through the ballroom’s archway, and across the lobby.

I rushed down the steps, and spotted the silver Lexus limousine at curbside immediately. I strode toward the door of the Lexus with a display of casual complacency that I was far from feeling. A swarthy visaged Semitic man held it open for me. As I settled back into the gloriously cool leather seat, I had the most unnerving, almost out-of-body sensation, as if I were somehow observing myself go through the motions of a pre-scripted, prearranged stage play, whose ending was already foreordained. The car pulled away from the curb, and I leaned toward the window, watching the dark Egyptian night flicker by. Occasionally a light fell obliquely across the interior of the car from outside, illuminating my stranger’s face in the safety glass, ambushing me with that disorienting sensation of duality, of otherness.

As if I were a figment of my own imagination.

The pale reflection’s lips twitched. Or a ghost that doesn’t know that it’s dead.

The car sped on, deeper into the impenetrable night...

* * *

Chapter Fifteen

Communion of Demons

Cassandra Betancort smoothly downshifted the Hummer and slid it expertly into the next series of blind, treacherous turns on the steeply descending grade. She smiled coldly to herself as she recalled the man at the agency nearly refusing to give her the keys to the vehicle, threatening to tear up the rental contract if she insisted on taking it through the Wadi al Hizaj in the dark. She had rather easily overcome his concerns for her, and his vehicle’s well being, by simply shoving several more wads of Egyptian pounds into his moist, pudgy palm. Cassandra was unused to being told what to do by any man, least of all a man as soft and useless as this one had been.

After all, she was defying a direct order of Beatrix Mackay’s by being in the country at all.

Her distaste and suspicion of the entire operation as it had been laid out for her by Mackay had grown by the hour as she had paced the veranda on Calypygnos like a caged panther, recalling their last conversation.

“You’re a fool to send this woman into this situation, Bea,’ she had fumed, heedless as always of the protocols of their official working relationship. “She’ll fail, and then she’ll die; probably after burning down the rest of our organization in the horn of Africa, maybe in the entire Middle Eastern Ops region.” She shook her head in frustration and anger, just bordering on open rebellion.

“Precisely the reason that I am sending her, Cass. She can’t possibly compromise us anymore than we are already. She knows nothing of the operations here, or anywhere else for that matter. She meets the classic definition of the deep plant: She has nothing to tell anyone, should she be taken by the opposition.”

“In fact,” Mackay went on, “that’s precisely the have her taken by the opposition.”

“You hope,” Cassandra Bétancort retorted, her voice dripping with irony. “You also think that she is conditioned to respond only to the visual cues you’ve implanted, that her routine will only be triggered by seeing Brie Analieou. But I’m warning you, this woman’s a ticking bomb. We didn’t have enough time, or enough resources to break her down, wipe her clean and re-program her properly ...”

Beatrix Mackay waved a dismissive hand at Cassandra. “We’ve been through all this, Cass...I know your reservations, and I’m confident that what we have done is sufficient for my purposes.” This last was said with an air of finality, as if to say that the subject was now closed permanently.

“And what about this other little tart, the cheerleader, or whatever she is...was having her abducted before she’d had a chance to get a layer of dust on her Adidas part of your plan too?” She held the International Director’s eyes challengingly in her own midnight blue orbs.

Bea Mackay frowned slightly, an obviously foreign activity for her incredibly smooth, unlined face. “No, of course not. But it has turned out to be at least as helpful as harmful, so far at any rate.”

“And that would be because...?”

Beatrix Mackay simply gave a small shrug of her slender shoulders. “In good time, good time...”

Cassandra seethed with frustration as she recalled the conversation. Bea obviously hadn’t trusted her. She couldn’t really blame the woman, though; so much had gone amiss in the last month that she herself had taken to watching Hekate, Sabrina, and the other trainers and ancillary personnel at the island facility with a new, and more jaundiced eye. There was no doubt that someone was leaking, giving information to the Hekmatiyar cartel and God knows who else; the Jama’a, the AIG, perhaps even the Muslim Brotherhood itself. That was the reason she was slaloming through the desert in the middle of the night herself, in fact; she had no doubt that whoever the mole in WISDOM was, she was not through sabotaging the organization. And she had no intention of letting Bea walk into whatever snares this person had laid alone. She’d had a strong and growing premonition about Bea, that she was heading into enormous personal danger.

And like her namesake, to her sorrow, Cassandra’s premonitions were seldom heeded, and seldom wrong.

* * *

“May I offer you something, Mme Cournoyer...or should I call you Mrs Worth?”

I smiled noncommittally at the faintly piratical figure seated across the bare wood plank table from me. “No, thanks...I’m fine. And it’s Mme Cournoyer. I very nearly disposed of your note unopened, you know. Or turned it into the information desk at the was obviously given to me in error.” I smiled blandly at the woman again.

“And yet you came anyway,” the dark-haired woman smiled faintly now herself, as if at some inner jest. “I wonder why you did that?”

I gave my best impression of a Gallic shrug. “Curiousity, I so seldom has the opportunity to have a real adventure like this in exotic lands...a note slipped into one’s hand by a mysterious veiled woman in the midst of a cocktail party at the Alexandria Museum of Art and Antiquities...”

“Ah, yes, the museum. And you are a...what, a purveyor of artifacts, and relics, Madame Cournoyer?” That just faintly predatory smile still played across her lips as her single eye bored into me. I found myself unable to tear my own gaze from the patch covering her other one.

“Yes, as a matter of fact. Although it happens I’m here strictly on pleasure, this time. I simply attended the party at the museum as a favor to an old friend, the assistant curator. Monsieur Soroosh? A lovely man, so sweet, and very helpful in my business. Do you know him,, Colonel...?”

“Please,” the woman said. “Call me Zahra. And no, I don’t,” speaking as though we were two young mothers meeting for the first time over coffee at the local PTA conference, rather than in a dirty, mud-walled hut somewhere in the Egyptian desert. That coal black eye continued to drill into my skull.

“And you know of no one named ‘Jolie Bennett’, I assume, is that also correct, Mme Cournoyer? Or Beatrix Mackay?”

Again I shook my head in the negative, trying on a befuddled little frown. “Sorry, no. As I said, my curiousity was simply piqued by the mystery of it all...and since I really had nothing planned for my time here in Egypt outside of the fund raiser at the museum, I thought, ‘why not see what this is all about?’ I have made some of my most important buys in just such unorthodox encounters. I must tell you, it is very mysterious, and most exciting, I think. I’m so glad I decided to follow my impulse, and come...” I favored her with my best witless, idle-rich American-in-the-Exotic-East smile.

Colonel Zahra al‘Ajii nodded her head almost imperceptibly, the smile on her thin, pale lips dropping just a degree or two closer to freezing. “Then I’m afraid I must apologize for having wasted your time, Mme Cournoyer.” She rose from her chair, as if to indicate that our little interview was over. I was genuinely surprised to feel strong hands close over my biceps from behind me, and lift me bodily from my own chair. Although I shouldn’t have been. Zahra al‘Ajii nodded curtly toward a door just behind her, and the man began maneuvering me toward it. She pushed it open, and stepped aside as he thrust me into the dimly-lit room beyond.

My head swam, and for a moment my eyes lost focus altogether. But not for the reasons the Colonel suspected; not at the sight of the younger woman—‘Jolie’, I assumed—splayed naked on a simple wooden table. I had a brief pause as something about her registered, but it just as quickly receded into the dim recesses of my mind. It was the other woman, hanging semi-comatose between her thighs that made me sway slightly, disoriented, and momentarily stunned.

Brie Analeiou.

Connections began to close in my mind. I could almost hear the click of synaptic switchs being thrown in my brain, and a host of shadowy images and unrecognizable emotions began to roil within me. I had always known that I was here to find Brie Analeiou. I had never had the slightest inkling of why. Now that ‘why’ was asserting itself within me subliminally, taking control of my mind. I could feel it happening, feel the ‘me’ inside of me slipping, as if down a steep incline, descending into complete and utter darkness, and desolation. I had a last fleeting conscious image, as dark and nebulous as all the others, but shockingly clear at the same time.

It was an image of my own death.

Fingers snapped somewhere in the darkness, and a woman’s voice drifted eerily out of the shadows, a different voice. “A chair for our guest, Zahra...she looks overtired from her journey.” I heard the scrape of chair legs on the hard-packed mud floor, and hands guided me peremptorily into it. It was very hard, and the back very upright, forcing me to sit quite rigidly at attention.

“But forgive me, Mme Cournoyer...the young woman you know of course, but the other I believe is a stranger to you, is she not?”

I turned my eyes dully toward Colonel Zahra al‘Ajii again. Her eyes were fixed upon me intently now, almost rapaciously, watching for my slightest reaction to the situation, and the woman in question. I shook my head lethargically... no, I didn’t know who either of these women were, I hoped my entire demeanor suggested to her.

“I see...very well...”

There were more whisperings in a corner behind me, and to my right; and then the muffled sounds of something being moved, or arranged. The squeak of unoiled casters announced the arrival of a small steel cart at my side.

“Get her on her feet, Mustafa, and get her ready,” the other woman’s voice snapped impatiently. Hands took control of me, raising me from the chair again as if I were a sack of damp laundry. I stood unsteadily, my eyes fixed on nothing, my mind struggling to keep from being sucked into the maelstrom that had enveloped it. I was dimly aware of something cold, and hard slipping along my shoulder, sliding beneath the slender strap of my dress. It was deliciously cool on my skin, and I shivered just slightly as the man turned it, severing the inconsequential strand of nylon effortlessly. Another chill caress of steel along my collarbone and the other strap parted. The man’s hands peeled my dress down my body, and I was left in a state of complete deshabille, clad in only heels and hose.

“You salops of Mackay’s,” Zahra al’Ajii laughed derisively, shaking her head. “You’re all alike...lingerie seems to be a concept that is more than you sluts can manage.” There was a sudden sharp intake of breath, as I twisted slightly in the man’s grasp, and the lamplight picked out a glimmering of golden hoops and chain sewn into the pale shaven expanse of my womanhood.

“Merde,” Zahra al’Ajii hissed. “This one’s tricked out too! Another fucking brainless bimbo savant!” The woman rose, drawing her nickle-plated nine millimeter automatic from the holster on her hip. I looked impassively at the empty black bore staring back at me, the twin of her eclipsed eye, and seeming to me the size of a manhole. I was astonished at my utter indifference to it, and the overall lassitude that gripped me in the face of my imminent death.

“Wait, Zahra!” The other voice rose slightly, but was still calm and business-like. I heard footsteps, and a figure emerged into the light before me, reddish-auburn hair shining, her rather unremarkable face deferring to a mouth that men would kill for, probably HAD killed for...

The woman called Jolie voiced the name before my numbed brain could make the connection.


A tiny stab of electricity tingled in my nether regions. At first I thought that it had something to do with the subliminal image that had flashed like heat lightning across my mind, of those lips wrapped around one of my nipples. Then I felt something click into place, something cold, and hard...much colder and harder than simple animal desire.

Erica Galloway. Beatrix Mackay had known. This woman was part of my conditioning, she was an integral part of the task that I had been programmed to complete here. I shook my head in confusion, my eyes clouded, and unfocused. How do I know that, I thought blearily. WHY should I be aware of that at all? My head suddenly felt as if it were being crushed within a huge vise. I began to perspire, not a dainty ladylike glow but rivers of salty fluids literally cascading down my torso, my arms, my thighs, dripping onto the floor in an ever-widening puddle of my own terror.

“It’s a ruse, a trick of Mackay’s, to throw us of the scent,” Erica Galloway snorted disdainfully, as she looked me up and down with an expression of utter contempt. “She wouldn’t bother to send a mere pawn into this, to try and rescue her bishop.” She smiled slowly at me. “Or liquidate her, for that matter.”

She made a curt gesture with her chin at me, and I was shoved roughly back down onto the hard chair. Buckled leather straps were wrapped around my wrists, securing them to the flat wooden arms. More leather straps were used to bind my ankles to the legs of the chair. Another was passed round my throat, jerking my head back against the hard wood, and securing it implacably. A flexible black accordion-like tube was passed around my torso, just beneath my arms and above the beginning of the swell of my bosom. A small thimble-like sheath was placed on my left index finger, with a coil of thin wire attached to it. Colonel al’Ajii pressed soft cotton electrode pads with slender green wires dangling from them onto my temples, and at my carotid arteries, and over the femorals in my inner thighs as well. I smiled to myself.

This woman is a fool, if she thinks she’s going to solve my riddle with something as crude as a simple polygraph machine, I thought.

Erica Galloway seemed to read my mind.

“Not at all, Mrs Worth. I don’t want any answers from you at all, you see. I know that any I would receive would be useless, or worse than useless. No,” she continued. “This is more along the lines of a reverse polygraph...a lie manufacturer, if you will...”

She retrieved another handful of slender wire leads from the cart herself, and began attaching tiny padded clamps to my nipples, then dipped her fingers into my shaven seam, and teased my clit out of its nest, clipping another to it. I gasped softly, and stiffened, hoping that these were simply more biomonitoring leads. I wasn’t very confident of this, though.

She bent to the console on the cart, and began plugging the leads from the various paraphernalia that had been placed on my body into it. I blinked stupidly, trying to clear the stinging salt sweat from my eyes, and to master my breathing, and heartrate. No matter how many times one has been tortured—and I had been attended to by geniuses in the discipline over the last month—there is invariably that same physical response when the actuality of physical and mental maltreatment is first introduced into a situation. The accelerated heartrate, increased respiration, clammy hands and a general feeling of almost giddily nauseating euphoria as the adrenal glands begin to function in earnest, pumping their powerful hormones in response to the body’s fight-or-flight impulse. Usually in these situations, however, the individual is restrained from exercising either option, as I was now; leaving a surfeit of adrenalin coursing through the body. Thus the heart-fluttering, tremblingly moist palmed, sick-at-the-stomach syndrome of the captive butterfly, pinned to its black velvet killing board. I swallowed hard, and hoped the scent of my own fear was not as strong in their nostils as it was in my own.

“If you’re looking for my recipe for saddle of lamb in filo pastry, I’ll be happy to give it to you without all this fuss. If you’re looking for something more obscure, however, I’m afraid I really won’t be able to help you at all, either way.” I marveled at the steadiness of my voice, the tone of almost casual indifference in it. I probably wasn’t going to fool these people, but I was proud of myself nonetheless.

Erica Galloway smiled at me mirthlessly.

“We could tap dance around each other like this for hours, Mrs Worth. It might even be fun, if I had the time...unfortunately though, I don’t.” She gave another curt nod of her head, and the man called ‘Mustafa’ and another man moved to the crude table, and began loosening the other two women’s bonds.

“Whatever your time constraints are, I can assure you that you’ll only be making them worse by wasting any of it on me. As I told your friend here,” I attempted to gesture with my chin in Zahra al‘Ajii’s direction; “I simply was following a whim, and a misdelivered message in coming here. Had I dreamed that it would cost me my five hundred dollar cocktail dress, I would never have come at all...” I glanced ruefully at the ruined scrap of black metallic-ruffled spandex and nylon puddled on the floor, as though its loss was the greatest problem that confronted me at the moment.

The stinging slap that she dealt me had been unseen, but not unanticipated. I knew that my only chance to fulfill my task now lay in making one, or both of these women angry enough to lose their head, to lose sight of their own best interests in the heat of battle, as it were. Angry people often made mistakes. I smiled up into her glittering eyes defiantly, my cheek buzzing.

“Have a care who you conjure with, my little amateur,” she hissed into my face. “If you think Bea Mackay is going to do anything other than cut you loose to die the most hideous sort of death imaginable, you have placed your wager on the wrong number.” I watched her nostrils flaring, and the flush of anger staining her cheeks.

“All women are conjurors, Erica,", I smiled placidly into her reddening face. “But it’s dangerous when the conjurer begins to believe in what she conjures...”

She raised her arm to strike me again, overcoming the impulse only with the greatest of difficulty, I could tell. Instead, she reached down behind her to the floor, retrieving a soiled scrap of pale pastel material. Bunching this in her fist, she crammed it into my still-smiling lips, poking it back nearly down my throat with her fingers, all the while holding me by the hair, twisting it cruelly. I gagged on the scrap of cotton, and a musky tang invaded my nose, and of the other women’s panties; probably Jolie’s, though I couldn’t have told you why I thought so. I retched against the cloth stuffing my mouth and throat, my eyes filling with tears that spilled down my cheeks.

Erica Galloway smiled.

“That’s better,” she breathed. “As I said, no verbal input is necessary from you for this next phase of our little ‘project’.” She turned away from me suddenly, and began directing the men quietly as they repositioned the other two women for what was to come.

I closed my eyes, and tried to remember my Novenas, praying that that new coldness and sense of purpose so recently sown in my soul would take root, and reach up to engulf me quickly...

* * *

Chapter Sixteen

Killing Ground...

Cassandra Betancort doused the lights on the Humvee, then killed the engine, slipping the transmission into neutral and letting the vehicle coast down the last gentle incline toward the cluster of small, mudwalled huts on the floor of the dry wadi. She let the Hummer roll to a scrunching halt in the loose gravel of the broad ravine, and sat motionless for a few moments, allowing her eyes to adjust to the moonlight, and assessing the lay of the land.

The killing ground...

MY killing ground, she thought to herself.

She was unbuckling her seatbelt and harness when the first of the screams split the darkness, shrill and unexpected as a train whistle in this arid, desolate waste: thin, piercing, almost inhuman.

Someone’s in hell already, she thought grimly to herself, sliding silently out of the Hummer onto the still-hot desert floor..

Cassandra sat on the running board of the Hummer and began unlacing her boots, peeling off her thick cotton socks and placing them inside the boots. She wriggled her toes in the warm, pebbly sand, luxuriating for a moment in the sensual feel of it between her bare toes. She stood, and quickly unbuttoned her khaki cargo shirt, then unzipped her shorts and stepped out of them, throwing the garments carelessly onto the back seat of the HumVee. She stretched like an animal, a graceful jungle panther, her skin already shining dully in the silvery light with a thin matte finish of perspiration in the hot, still night air.

She liked to be naked when she hunted.

She quickly checked her Glock, then re-holstered it and buckled its webbing belt around her hips, and strapped the eight-inch commando knife and sheath to her bare thigh. The nine-millimeter was strictly for backup—Cassandra preferred to do her wet work in close, where she could see her prey’s eyes as she dispatched them. That look of almost blissful adoration, as if they were seeing the last love that they would ever experience in their lives. Cassandra liked to think they were.The kill was an act of love for her, as well.

She gave a last check of the vehicle, and her ordnance, then slipped skintight wrist length pigskin gloves over her hands, flexing her fingers once or twice to seat them like a second skin. She glanced back down the wadi, then crouched and began to glide across the shimmering desert floor like a wraith, all but invisible in the unearthly silver moonlight as she floated from rock to rock, approaching the closest hut in which a pale yellow light illumined a window. The scream had come from here, she was certain.

Her midnight blue eyes were fully dilated and her nostrils flaring, her head moving slightly from side to side as if casting about for a scent on the dry desert air. She had broken a full sweat now, and moved with an easy, supple grace from the concealing shadow of one rock to another. When she was less than ten yards from the lighted window, another marrow-chilling scream ripped through the stillness of the desert night, trailing off into gurgling, hiccoughing sobs.

The familiar taste of adrenalin began to fill her mouth, and a small, hard smile crept across her lips. She wrapped her strong fingers around the bone handle of the hunting knife, and slipped like a ghost toward the door of the hut.

* * *

This is probably the most disgusting movie I’ve ever seen in my life, was all that I could think.

Then why do you feel as if you are about to wet yourself, honey? My little voice answered with a sly, nastily insinuating chuckle.

The woman called Jolie opened her mouth again, and another of those unearthly noises issued from it, more like a badly dubbed sound effect from a Japanese movie than a woman’s scream. I tried to concentrate on her, on her agony, on how I might stop it, but I was continually being distracted by the grainy black and white image flickering over her suspended body. Her frantic writhing made the woman’s face being projected on her skin waver and ripple surrealistically, as if I were viewing it from underwater. But it was still the most lovely face that I had ever seen, and I wanted it so badly. I knew that I wanted it, because the voices told me so, in the pauses between those punishing shocks that were being administered to the softer portions of my anatomy.

“Mistress,” I murmured, my voice thick, and slurred with my arousal.

And the drugs, of course.

Beatrix Mackay’s phantom lips parted, directly above Jolie’s glistening, shaven mons, and I groaned in something like real agony myself now. My ache for the woman was a stab of fire in my genitals, a need that shamed me, and drove me at the same instant.

Someone did something to the young woman suspended by her wrists, and she screamed again, a heart-wrenching sound, the cry of a damned soul in hell. I cringed, and my stomach turned over in revulsion, at the same moment that my vagina began to spasm around the tongue twisting within it, probing my sexual defenses like a sly, licentious serpent. My thighs shook convulsively against their restraints, and I bucked and thrust my pelvis at the woman’s face pressed between my legs, hearing the banging of the chair legs on the floor, only vaguely aware that I was lifting them in my feverish attempts to entice the woman’s tongue more deeply into my slit.

‘Mistress,’ I moaned again, not caring who heard, not caring what they did to that poor young girl whose pussy Beatrix Mackay’s celluloid lips were caressing while she screamed. Tiny pulses of electricity tickled at my nipples, and my clitoris. I sighed shudderingly again, the burning intensifying in my thigh at the site of the IV needle. I licked my dry lips, and slowly began rotating my hips at the gamin blonde’s knowledgeable mouth.

Brie Analeiou had talents that had hitherto not been disclosed to me, I reflected dazedly.

A hand moved with a feather-like touch across my naked thigh, checking the IV tubing, while a woman’s voice floated out from somewhere behind my chair.

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to use such a concentrated dosage, Zahra? After all, the deep programming is still in place, and she’s liable to...”

“We don’t have time for any of that ‘deep programming’ bullshit now, Erica, " the woman closest to me retorted, turning the valve on the drip IV again, increasing the flow of solution into my burning, tingling thigh. “We need this cunt’s mind wiped, and pristine or this’ll never take, and we haven’t got all week to do it. She doesn’t have to be able to do anything other than dress herself, and remember a name and an address...after that, they can find a bed for her in some nice institution for the criminally insane, with all the rest of the veggies...”

The rest of her thought was subsumed by my next orgasm, surging through me like molten metal, frying my mind, my flesh, my soul...I dimly imagined that I could hear my nerve-endings sizzling as they were cooked in my body’s own fires...the girl’s screams were almost constant now, and seemed to rise and fall in nearly perfect synchronization with the undulations rippling through my sex... I dug my nails into the hard wooden arms of the chair, and filled my lungs, then screamed in unison with that poor helpless girl who was being tortured to death before my eyes, while Beatrix Mackay’s beautiful, malignant countenance danced across her lovely, savaged body...

Mistress...I breathed again, in an ecstasy of dissolution...

* * *

“All the arrangements have been made, Doctor Mackay, just as you requested,’ the obese, lightly perspiring man intoned unctuously.

Beatrix Mackay gave a terse nod of her head, sweeping the sheaf of papers and tickets from the desk into her Coachman leather carryall. She rose peremptorily, the man rising as well. “One last thing, M. Havaal,” she said, turning back toward the man. “I may be needing a boat charter, to Istanbul, on rather short notice...can you arrange it for me, should it be necessary?”

The man beamed, still flattered beyond belief that the famous American lecturer and philanthropist had chosen to come to him. “Mais certainment, Madame Docteur,” he babbled foolishly, wringing his hands in an almost comic parody of servility. “I am at your complete disposal, Madame. You have only to ask, and Havaal will make it so...”

The Madame Docteur favored the sweating man with a tiny smile. “Merci beaucoup, Monsieur... Je suis beaucoup endetté à vous.” She offered her gloved hand to be slobbered over by M Havaal, then turned and walked slowly from his office, making certain that he was afforded a stunning view of her rear as she undulated pneumatically toward the door. One could never tell when someone even of this person’s limited abilities might be needed.

“Yes indeed, Madame Docteur, anything at all, anytime at all. Why, just yesterday I was honored to provide land transport for a colleague of yours, service can be too great, or too trivial, for Monsieur Havaal to provide for your illustrious...”

Beatrix Mackay froze, her hand on the doorknob. She turned slowly back toward the blathering travel agent.

“Colleague? Which colleague, M Havaal?”

“Why, Mademoiselle Bétancort, of course...she required an all-terrain vehicle, Madame. Said that she was going to meet you, in fact, Madame. That is why I was so surprised when you called this morning. I had assumed that you must have...”

Beatrix Mackay waved her hand dismissively, cutting him off. “Of course, M. must have slipped my mind, what with all these other preparations that I’ve had preoccupying me.” Her luminous green eyes narrowed slightly. “Tell me, Monsieur, did Mlle. Betancort happen to mention where she was heading when she left? I assume that you filed an itinerary for the vehicle, per state policy when renting to foreign nationals...”

Havaal blushed furiously now, eyes lowered, hands fidgeting nervously like a small boy caught rummaging through his father’s naughty magazines. “But Madame, you see...she was most insistent, Madame, and used your name most specifically...said in fact that she was acting in your stead. Of course, I filed no document with the constabulary, Madame. I never do when I am doing business with the Madame Docteur, as you are well aware...” He trailed off into an awkward silence.

“Of course, Monsieur...and you were quite right not to do so. Please don’t give it another thought. Good day again, Monsieur...”

Back in her suite at the hotel, Dr Beatrix Mackay bathed, shaved her legs, and changed into a dark navy lycra bodysuit, black linen slacks and jacket. Almost as an afterthought, she opened her lingerie drawer, and delved beneath the neatly folded silken underthings. She slid the gunmetal gray Beretta mini635 from beneath them and clipped it into the elastic waist band of her slacks at the small of her back, swearing softly under her breath. Forty-eight hours ago she had hoped to rectify a few simple operational glitches, and put her organization back on line. Now, she was hoping simply to salvage the remainder of her network before it was completely incinerated.

At this rate, she thought bitterly, there would soon be nothing left to salvage, but dead bodies.

* * *

I was drooling again, and could not stop.

I looked lethargically down at my body, still securely strapped into the heavy wooden chair. The clips had been removed from my nipples, and clitoris, and a thick, greasy ointment of some sort had been haphazardly slathered across the superficial burns on them—whether to ease the throbbing pain, or increase the conductivity when the clips were reattached was a question completely beyond my ken at the moment.

I watched entranced as the long, silver strand of saliva bobbed from my mouth, nearly but not quite making common cause with the unguent smeared on my right nipple. My body shone softly with perspiration, adding to the sparkling carnival of lights that held my attention so hypnotically. I was so very sparkly...

I began to giggle insanely.

A groan, sounding more like a wounded animal than a human being, drew my eyes reluctantly away from the colorful rainbow of my own body, to the woman twisting slowly in the air a few feet in front of me. I blinked stupidly, trying again to place her. I might have known her at one time, it was almost impossible to say. She certainly would not have looked like this then if I had. Some part of my mind had sealed off, or I would have gone mad simply at the sight of her.

She hung by her wrists, arms about shoulder length apart, swaying softly, her toes just brushing the ground. Her fingers were nearly black, and swollen to almost twice their normal size. A thin ribbon of rusty-reddish fluid ran down her left arm from beneath the thongs biting into her wrist. Her puffy, bruised face was pressed against one sweaty arm, her mouth agape, panting softly. She was drooling as well, the saliva depending from her own slack mouth tinted a rosy pinkish color. I winced as my eyes traveled lower, down below her collar bones, to the nightmare that was her body.

My mind balked at imagining a person capable of inflicting such brutality on a fellow human being. The girl’s body was a wild chiaroscuro of contusions, burns, and lacerations, criss-crossing her full breasts, and slender waist and abdomen, forming imbricate patterns on her hips, thighs, and calves. Barely a square inch of her seemed unmarked, unviolated. I watched her as she drew another long, shuddering breath, a respiration that put one in mind of a death rattle.

‘Jolie,’ I whispered.

Her eyelids fluttered slightly.

Something moved within me, like a fetus moving in a mother’s womb.


I blinked again, shaking my head softly, trying to get in touch with anything that might remain of the woman who had known this girl. Whoever she had been, whatever she had done, no person deserved such treatment.

And suddenly, with perfect clarity, I knew why she was being abused this way, why she had been brought to the very brink of death.

It was because of me. And something that I had done. Or had yet to do.

I tried to focus, think of what it could be, bring what was left of my mind to bear on this question that suddenly seemed the most important in the world for me, the ONLY question in the world. My head ached miserably, as if a steel wedge were being driven into my skull just above my eyes, driving any possibilty of coherent thought from it. My own wounds, though superficial in comparison to the girl’s, throbbed distressingly enough to make concentration on anything for very long all but impossible. I shifted uncomfortably on the hard wooden seat, and stared again at the blonde draped across my thighs, her head immersed in my crotch. This one I did know.

It was Brie Analeiou.

Something moved inside of me again, this time something colder, and more sinister. I fell back at once into the reassuring routine of the rote task or pattern that had been drilled into me, so deeply that I was unaware at a concious level of what I was doing at all. My eyes moved mechanically about the room, sweeping it, burning every detail of it into my mind. I fixed my stare on the wooden door in the opposite wall, and listened, holding my breath, willing my very heart to beat more quietly. I heard voices engaged in sporadic, but animated conversation, somewhere on the other side of the door.

We were alone.

I looked down intently on the sweaty, filth-encrusted golden head in my lap, and began bouncing my thighs gently under her arms, whispering her name softly, but firmly, over and over.


A low moan, and just the slightest of movements of the head against my groin. I fought down the immediate wave of almost bestial heat that surged through me down there, and simply repeated her name again, and again, jouncing her lightly with my thighs. She was on her knees between my legs, her wrists tied to my ankles, and her upper arms knotted cruelly to my knees, the cords all but disappearing into the soft, bruised flesh of her biceps. She groaned again, more loudly this time, and I lifted my hips, crushing my pussy to her mouth, muffling her somewhat.

“Brie...Brie...look at me, Brie...look at me...”

She lifted her golden head, eyes searching out mine, gray and dead looking. She’s nearly finished, I thought to myself. Have to hurry...

I bent forward, and whispered to her, a word I did not know, had never known; a word I longed to forget. She nodded her head torpidly, and turned it slightly to her left, craning her neck, stretching painfully toward my right wrist, and the strap binding it to the chair. Her teeth found the leather, and bit and tore at it, like a puppy playing with an old slipper. Several times her teeth found my skin, tearing it open, and my blood flowed freely into her mouth as she chewed away at the restraint holding my wrist. The blood worked as a lubricant, loosening the strap, allowing her to get more purchase with her teeth. Suddenly my right wrist was free. I moved my hand, and spoke again to her, a single whispered word of command.

Then I touched her, and spoke again. Touched her again, in another place. Spoke again, words I would never have understood, uttered in a flat monotone, as the fingers of my right hand danced over her body. She breathed more quickly, her eyes clearing, flashing with sudden understanding, giving glimpses of the woman that had once inhabited this ruined shell. She began to speak, softly and steadily, without pause. I cleared my mind and listened, shutting out everything, everyone else in the world, but those slate gray eyes, that glittering blonde head, and the torrent of words pouring from her broken, bleeding lips. At last she finished, and lowered her head exhaustedly into my lap again. I stroked her hair tenderly, instinctively regretting what I had just done to her, without understanding in any wise what it was that I had done. I began to cry, silently, for her, and for Jolie, and for myself.

Then there was a sound like thunder from the other room, and the world exploded...

* * *

Two voices. Both female. Cassandra pressed against the mudwalled hut beneath the unglazed window, listening intently. Only the two voices, but she could hear other sounds within the room that indicated at least two other occupants, probably males, judging from the heaviness of their movements. Four in all, at least. She slipped the safety off on the nine-millimeter automatic, altering her plan on the fly. I’ll have to take the two men down first, and quickly, she thought to herself. She hoped that she wouldn’t be forced to take the women out as well; there were things she wanted to learn from them before they died.

She was just tensing the muscles in her legs to vault through the window when a gloved hand closed around her bare bicep. She froze as another went over her mouth, cursing silently at the ease with which she had been taken. She closed her fingers on the bone handle of her combat knife, and cut her eyes sideways.


Beatrix Mackay gave a short, sharp shake of her head, then slowly removed her gloved hand from Cassandra’s mouth, gesturing toward the doorway. Cassandra nodded her head curtly, and moved toward it like a cat. When she was in position, she looked back at Bea, crouched, pistol in hand. Their eyes locked, then Mackay gave a quick nod, and dove for the window, as Cassandra drove her foot into the door, slamming it open.

* * *

The door burst open, and Erica Galloway and Zahra al‘Ajii tumbled through it, as deafening explosions rang out in the room they had just vacated. Zahra raced behind my chair, and seized me by the hair of my head, jerking it up and back, bowing my neck as she pressed the keen edged hunting knife to my larynx. Erica simply shrank into the shadows against the far wall. The reek of cordite drifted through the opened door, followed closely by a pale, disembodied head and a naked, flame-haired apparition, each holding a smoking pistol. The red-haired woman smiled grimly, and slipped her pistol into the holster on her hip, raising the knife in her left hand slowly, so that it caught the lamplight, reflecting it across my face. The other woman disappeared into the shadows near Erica Galloway.

“Another twitch, and I slit this cow’s throat,” Zahra hissed near my ear.

“Be my guest,” Cassandra Bétancort smiled, tossing the heavy knife expertly from her left hand to her right. “It will save me the trouble...”

There was a short, high-pitched scream, followed closely by a wet bubbling noise, as if someone were gargling with warm maple syrup. Then a heavy thud, and Erica Galloway’s twitching body was thrown to the floor almost at my feet, bleeding profusely from the grotesque new mouth that had been sliced into her throat from ear to ear. Zahra tightened her grip on my hair, and pressed the knife into my neck, breaking the skin. I felt warm wetness trickling down my neck. I would surely have peed myself, had there been any fluids left in me.

“You still have an opportunity to walk out of this wadi alive, if you use your head, Colonel...”

I froze, and my stomach knotted in fear. That voice. That voice...

Beatrix Mackay’s pale, moon-like face floated into my field of vision again; expressionless, emotionless, pistol vanished now, those cold green eyes boring into the face of the woman holding me. I could feel the blade of the woman’s knife wavering against my larynx as she was pulled into their vortex, feel her hand begin to tremble in my hair.

“I swear I’ll kill this woman if you make another move,” she hissed, her voice faint now, and tremulous.

“You’ll kill no one, Colonel,” the woman replied reasonably. “Killing is such a sloppy and unsatisfactory way to resolve situations like this. Not to mention unprofitable...”

She nudged Brie Analeiou with her toe, then made a nearly imperceptible gesture toward Cassandra. The naked amazon moved with catlike grace, crouching behind Brie and slipping her blade beneath the cords that bound her to my legs, then pulled her gently away from me. Zahra pressed the blade more firmly against my throat. I could feel her heart pounding against the back of my skull. I nearly wet myself from fear.

“I’m warning you...” she rasped. I felt the blade opening another slim wound on my throat, sticky warmth crawling down my neck.

Beatrix Mackay smiled faintly. “There’s no need for us to threaten one another, Colonel al‘Ajii, or indulge in any more pointless bloodshed here. Our interests may coincide much more than you might imagine, in fact.”

“How?” I felt the woman holding me swallow, with some difficulty.

“Just let me clear away a few untidy loose ends here, Colonel, and then we shall have a nice leisurely chat...Would that be acceptable to you?”

Without waiting for her reply, Beatrix Mackay reached into the pocket of her linen jacket, and produced a small black case. She flipped it open, and removed the already filled syringe from it. She gestured questioningly at me with the needle, her eyes fixed on the woman holding me. I felt her nod her assent.

I threw myself wildly against my bonds, thrashing and moaning, gibbering incomprehensibly as that hated face moved toward me, smiling almost reassuringly. Death suddenly seemed like a pleasant alternative to falling into this woman’s hands again. She reached out and gripped my arm in that cold, lifeless-feeling talon, and I felt a sharp stab in my bicep. My head began to swim almost immediately, my vision darkening as I drooled out a few last imprecations at her. I rolled my eyes in the direction of the unconcious girl hanging behind Beatrix Mackay, and mumbled an apology to her, for something that I could no longer remember having done...

* * *

Chapter Seventeen

Queen’s Gambit

I was awakened by a hot band of gold creeping across my face, turning the insides of my eyelids a liquid crimson. I threw an arm across them, trying to block out the intrusive sunlight that was making my aching head pound even more sickeningly, and was almost overwhelmed by a rank animal musk that seemed to envelop me like a shroud. I groaned aloud, and shifted on the damp sheets.

It was then that I realized that I wasn’t alone.

I gave a little cry, and rolled away from the darkly furred hand resting with almost casual familiarity on my bare crotch. I scrambled off of the sodden, filthy mattress, and crouched trembling at the edge of the bed. The man rolled over himself, and gave a stertorious snore.

I gagged, and covered my mouth with a hand as I lurched toward the bathroom, only just making the scum-encrusted toilet before I launched the contents of my stomach into it. I finished up with a gut-wrenching series of dry heaves, clinging to the filthy bowl as if it were a life preserver in a typhoon-maddened sea.

When my retching had resolved itself into a manageable set of rolling swells in my belly, I dragged myself shakily to my feet, and leaned on the sink, staring at the apparition in the clouded, cracked mirror. The creature in it stared back at me with haunted eyes set in deep, dark-rimmed sockets. Her cheeks were sunken, almost gaunt. A fading purplish-yellow bruise covered half her forehead, and her lower lip was scabbing over where it had been split open. Her body was varnished with a sickly, feverish sweat. I swallowed the scream I felt rising in my throat.

My God, I whispered to the reflection. What have they done to me?

The door to the tiny bath banged open, and I turned to face a swarthy, mustachioed man, completely naked as well, with an enormous purple erection that I could not tear my eyes from. My roomate, I thought deliriously, as he reached out with a fist the size of a small ham, and wrapped his fingers around my throat.

Without a word, he dragged me from the bathroom, and across the few short paces to the bed. He threw me down face first upon it, and entered me from the rear, with all the consideration and delicacy of a butcher spitting a prize lamb for the roasting pit. The smells of our previous ruttings assailed me as he drove his huge member into my tender anus, and I balled my fists in the soggy bed clothing as he rocked into me, the bed squealing in shrill protest. He began to curse me beneath his breath in Arabic, rhythmically driving away at me as his cock swelled in my rectum. I felt as if I were being split two.

I nearly fainted from the pain.

‘Salope,’ I caught; my new lover had a smattering of French, at least...

‘Sharmuta’...and I had enough Arabic to understand the commonly used appellation for a street whore...

I would have screamed, but it hardly seemed worth the effort, somehow.

He came mercifully quickly, his log exploding in my rectum like an overripe melon bursting, coating my insides with his sticky seed; I envisioned several days of the runs in my future...Charming, I thought woozily. Such an innovative way to contract Delhi belly...

He slid his cock out of me with a grunt, leaving me panting and limp on the bed, alone. I heard sounds of him dressing, and then a shower of crumpled banknotes rained down on my body, and around my face pressed into the reeking sheets. I heard the latch on the door, and the creak of ancient hinges as he opened it, then slammed it behind him. His steps echoed down the hallway, and faded entirely as he descended stairs. I would have been utterly incapable of explaining the sense of loneliness that overwhelmed me at the abrupt departure of my rapist.

I lay numbly on the bed, my fingers slowly relaxing their grip on the soggy sheets, my rectum spasming already, expelling some of the viscous semen from itself, to drip stickily along my perineum. I felt as one with filth, and utter depravity. My mind turned over feverishly, trying to remember something, to grasp some shadowy construct...

The door...

There had been no sound of the lock turning after the animal had left.

I pushed myself up weakly, my arms trembling, the sheet still clinging to my sticky breasts, and belly. I jacknifed up from the bed, wrapping the foul-smelling thing loosely around me as I moved to the door. I reached out an unsteady hand, hesitating a moment before closing on the chipped, painted brass knob. I turned it slowly, eyes closed, breathing a prayer to myself...

The door opened silently. I closed it almost immediately, turning the key in the lock on my side.

Not a prisoner, I thought...What, then?


I looked aimlessly about the dingy room, taking in its sparse, cheap furnishings, its general air of desperation, the smell of the thousands of nameless, faceless couplings that seemed to permeate it. One needn’t have been in a brothel before to recognize this room instantly for what it was. I wrapped my arms around myself, shivering in spite of the heat that was already building in the room, though the sun was just barely clear of the eastern horizon. I stumbled to the single, tall window set in the mud brick wall, and leaned against its casement, shading my eyes with an arm against the hot glare of the morning sun. A single droplet of perspiration trickled from my unshaven armpit as I took in the minarets across the Bosporous, silhouetted against the blazing morning sun. I heard the lilting musical cries of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

Istanbul. I was in a whorehouse in Turkey.

I shuddered, and my lower intestine loosened sickeningly. Again, I just made the toilet.

Half an hour later, I was zipping the skirt of the rumpled black suit I had found hanging in the tiny closet. I had managed to clean myself as best I could, using the tiny ceramic basin filled with tepid water, scrubbing myself furiously with the small piece of pumice stone that served in lieu of soap. I thought that perhaps I might pass for a normal American or European tourist, if no one got close enough to get too good a sniff of me.

I pulled on the wrinkled linen jacket, and buttoned it up. The top button fell distressingly short of covering me, as I had no blouse nor undergarments. I stepped into my shoes, clutching the lapels of the jacket with my hand, and stealthily turned the door knob.

I put my eye to the crack, and surveyed the dim, dirty hallway. Satisfying myself that it was deserted, I crept quietly through the door, closing it softly behind me. To my right the hall ended rather abruptly in a staircase that descended to the left.

I turned, and started carefully down the hallway to my left.

I paused outside the first battered, scarred wooden door, and pressed my ear to it, holding my breath. Hearing nothing, I tentatively turned the knob. It yielded, and I pushed it slowly back, slipping around its edge as I did. I closed the door, and leaned back against it.

The room was the twin of the one I had just abandoned, right down to the rank, animal smells pervading it. Draped across the bed was an olive skinned, mahogany haired woman who had undoubtedly turned heads wherever she went once upon a time. She was nude, and her body was splayed across the bed in an attitude that was half-repose, half-wanton offering. Her skin was splotched with patches of drying, crusted semen, and her thighs lay open in an almost casual invitation to any passerby who might be inclined toward carnality at six am. I moved closer to the bed, watching her face closely. She stared back sightlessly with glazed, dark hazel eyes. Only the slight rise and fall of her breasts gave witness to the fact that she was alive at all. I had the unsettling feeling that I had seen this woman before.

It was Sabra al‘Sayyid.

I took another step toward the bed, surveying her more closely. Her left cheek was swollen, and she had the mate to the purple-yellow bruise that I wore on my own forehead. There were nasty scratches on her ample breasts, and on the insides of her thighs as well. My eyes traveled down her legs, to her slender ankle, and the old-fashioned iron ring and chain that held it fast to the bedstead. I shivered violently.

Not just whores, then, I thought numbly. Slaves.

I threw a last horrified look at the poor, drugged woman, and bolted for the door, flinging it open with a crash, not caring who or what saw me now. Now my only thought was running. I raced down the hallway, and plunged headlong toward the stairs, nearly going head over heels and breaking my neck, thus ending my troubles once for all.

I flew down the dark, narrow flight of steps that opened directly out onto the dusty street, and stood panting for a moment in the glaring sun, trying to get my bearings, and praying that a policeman did not happen by. I had no desire to make acquaintance of the Turkish harlot’s second home, a jail cell, now. Clutching the lapels of my jacket across my nearly bare breasts, I stumbled down the crowded streets, and lost myself in the bazaar.

Breakfast was an impossibility, but I forced myself to choke down some dried dates, and a few mouthfuls of flat bread that a kindly, sympathetic woman at one of the stalls forced into my hands. God knew how long it had been since I last had eaten; I knew I had to get something in myself if I was to have the strength to finish what needed to be done.

I only wished that I knew what that was.

I felt drained, emptied. Bereft. Of what, I couldn’t even begin to articulate. Just an overwhelming sense of loss, and abandonment that filled me with a nameless dread.

I staggered into the US Embassy just before noon, distraught and all but raving. The young, attractive consular attaché blanched at the sight of me; they had obviously never covered half-naked women who smelled distinctly like prostitutes, clamoring for asylum, in her diplomatic protocol classes at Georgetown U. But she took my all but incoherent statement without comment, and then found me a cot to collapse on while she set the bureaucratic wheels in motion. By two the next afternoon, in clothes that she had loaned me, I was on an Airbus320, winging its way westward across the Mediterranean, staring unseeingly at an Inflight magazine as I chased the sun toward...toward what? Home? Husband? Children? My life? What life? I tried to conjure up the image of my children’s faces, closing my eyes tightly, willing them to appear in my mind. Nothing. I cried for them then, tears running silently down my cheeks, and for myself too. Not for the last time.

The stewardess came down the aisle, offering me a hot towel and a double Glenlivet rocks, on her. I smiled my thanks, and she smiled warmly back at me. God only knows what she must have thought of this strange, pale apparition with the purple-rimmed, haunted eyes. She was kind enough to keep it to herself, whatever it may have been. I drank the scotch gratefully, and pushed aside for the moment the impossibly snarled skein of my old life that awaited me on my return.

Like Katie Scarlett O’Hara, I would think about that tomorrow.



I should have been more surprised, I suppose, when I was served with the divorce papers. But I wasn’t. After all, there weren’t many venues left in this country that would consider a woman’s desertion of her husband and babies for nearly two months without a word as anything other than a breach of her marriage contract.

Brian had actually been very understanding. He packed some things and moved out of the house, leaving it to me until the divorce settlement could be worked out and finalized. Pride, and my somewhat ridiculous sense of amour propre kept me from pleading with him to take me back, and telling him how much I truly loved him, and my babies. I told him instead that I had no intention of contesting the action, and would sign any settlement agreement that he submitted to me. All I asked was that he be generous with the visitation rights to my children. He grew silent at this, and I could tell from his expression and his body language that he had serious misgivings about my having any contact with my babies at all. He plainly thought that I was an unfit mother, unstable, perhaps even mad. I doubted that he would have much trouble convincing a judge of the same thing. I couldn’t even muster the energy to dispute him on this point myself.

I visited my children at my sister-in-law’s, and a good deal of crying was done, on all sides. But my little boy and girl were obviously still hurt and bewildered by my sudden abandonment of them, and again I had great difficulty summoning the emotional energy to overcome their reticence, and my own sense of guilt that I had somehow betrayed them. Sarah, my husband’s sister, was as cold as ice, and made it more than clear that while she couldn’t prevent me seeing my children, she considered my presence in her home an outrage, and a detriment to their emotional well being. She did everything but use the word ‘whore’ in reference to me. After leaving her house, I slumped over the wheel of my car, and sobbed as if my heart would break.

I called Jolie’s parents, but they had not heard from her since she had taken the position with Wisdom. Eileen Bennet didn’t seem overly concerned; after all, her daughter had always been a free-spirited, independent girl, and they had always given her lots of space, and freedom. I was on the verge of voicing my misgivings, of telling her all that I feared and suspected, everything that had happened since her daughter had fallen under Beatrix Mackay’s spell. To her, and to me as well. Some last lonely voice of reason in my head overruled this suicidal impulse, however. The last thing in the world I needed was someone else whispering about ‘poor Van Worth—the woman has gone completely mad, you know.’ I wished her well instead, making her promise to get in touch with me when she heard from Jolie.

If she heard from Jolie...

There were very few nights that I slept through. My dreams were jumbled, chaotic horrors, filled with unspeakable vileness that I could not remember after screaming myself awake. Drenched in perspiration, tears streaming down my face, I would nonetheless assault myself furiously with my hands and fingers until I came, sobbing in disgust, and despair. After, I lay numb and empty on the soaking sheets, fingering myself absently, finding the few ragged little tears in my vulva, where the rings had been. It was all that I had left to convince myself that the last two months had been real, and not simply the fanciful hallucinations of a madwoman.

I found myself wandering downtown one afternoon near the university district. I strolled past the building that housed the offices of Wisdom, Inc., and before I knew it, I was standing outside the frosted double glass doors on the sixth floor, without quite remembering how I had gotten there. The door yielded to my pull, and I entered, feeling like a somnambulist in someone else’s dream.

Cardboard filing boxes were stacked everywhere; the reception lobby was otherwise empty. A young woman sat in a folding chair at a Samsonite table, methodically ticking off entries on a computer printout stretched out on the table. She looked over the top of her reading glasses at me as I entered, a polite smile of inquiry on her lips.

“May I help you?”

“I...I’m not sure. I was looking...I was looking for...for...” I passed a hand over my brow, my head suddenly swimming, my face flushed, and hot. I swayed dangerously, and the young woman rose quickly from her chair, and helped me into it solicitously. She disappeared for a moment, and returned with a paper cup of cool water, which she pressed to my lips. I drank gratefully, my respiration returning to some semblance of normal, and my vertigo of the moment before receding.

“Th...thank you,” I mananged at last.“You’re very kind.”

“Not at all,” the young woman replied, pressing my hand warmly. “If you’re looking for Wisdom, they’re no longer at these offices. They’re closing a lot of their offices in fact, I understand. A consolidation of some sort, I think they are calling it. Ever since Dr Mackay’s accident they’ve been busy rearranging...”

“Accident?” I interrupted, stiffening slightly. “What accident? Is Dr Mackay all right?”

The girl gestured placatingly with her hand. “Quite all right, as far as I know. But she’s had to curtail her schedule for a bit, as I understand it, and is taking the time to do some reorganizing of her business interests.” She paused, smiling helpfully at me, as if inquiring if there were anything else she might assist me with.

“But I’m sorry, I’m interrupting your work here,” I said, beginning to rise from the folding chair.

“Not at all,” she said, taking my arm, and steadying me as I got to my feet. “I’m just waiting for the van to take the last of these things away. And waiting around is so deadly dull, don’t you agree?”

“Then you don’t work for Wisdom?”

“Oh, no. They just hired me through an agency to help finish closing the office, make sure that all the lights are out, and the doors locked and so forth, that sort of thing.”

I stared at her searchingly for a moment. “Then you don’t know how I could get in touch with Doctor Mackay, I don’t suppose.”

“Well, there is a forwarding address for mail and such,” she said, her pretty, unlined face doing its best to form a frown. “I guess I could give you that, if you want to try and get in touch with them...” She bent to the table, and began scribbling on a small memo pad with Wisdom’s logo emblazoned across the top.

“Yes, I’d appreciate that, very much, thanks...” My palms began to sweat lightly, and I felt my lips buzzing, going numb, as if I’d been injected with novocaine. I ran my tongue over them as I watched her finish writing the address on the slip of paper. She tore the sheet from the pad and handed it to me, smiling.

“There you go...”

“Thanks so much...” Our fingers touched briefly. I felt the tingling sensation moving down my neck, spreading over my chest, making my nipples harden beneath my blouse. The girl’s smile faded, and her eyes narrowed, homing in on mine with a new intensity, almost a hardness, that had not been evident before.

I heard someone speak, a single word. The word made no sense to me, but the voice sounded so familiar.

It was my voice, I know now.

The girl’s hand moved slowly to my blouse, her fingers brushing the rigid pebble of my nipple tenting the sheer fabric at the tip of my breast. Another word was spoken, by her this time, I think, and my eyelids fluttered tremulously as I felt her fingers glide beneath the hem of my skirt. I began to feel thin, stretched, as if I were fading, or somehow becoming transparent. Her hand slid up and up along my bare thigh, encountering my unencumbered sex. When she touched me in that place, I disappeared altogether.

* * *

I came to myself standing on the sidewalk outside the office tower. My inner thighs were cool, and sticky-feeling where they pressed together beneath my skirt. My face was flushed, and my blouse was soaked in my own perspiration, and transparent where it clung to my breasts, and nipples. I pulled my jacket tightly about myself; it was then I noticed for the first time the damp piece of paper crumpled in my moist palm. I unfolded it, and stared dumbly at the address written on it, the ink already beginning to smear on the soggy scrap of paper.

I shook my head sharply, like a woman awakening from a bad dream. I wadded the note in my fist, and tossed it at the wire trash basket nearby as if it had suddenly been transformed into a poisonous spider in my hand. It sailed cleanly through the air, settling into the receptacle. I fastened the single button on my jacket, ran my fingers shakily through my hair, and began walking unsteadily up the sidewalk toward the taxi stand at the corner.

As I walked, I could not hear my own footsteps on the pavement, though the street was all but deserted.


© MEB, 2002