It was a glorious morning to drive up to the Hudson Valley. Traffic was light as he swung out of Manhattan and hopped onto the Taconic Parkway. The clear, crisp winter air concentrated the various vistas of valleys with razor-sharp contrast. Each twist and turn of the pavement revealed another picturesque village or the patterned fields of a farm. The glinting light etched everything into a fineness of resolution which took his breath away.
Or would have, if he hadn’t been so preoccupied with trying to figure out just what that minx Suzanne was up to. He knew he’d blown it fairly seriously by even letting her have the disc. How was he supposed to know the surprisingly foxy member of the maintenance staff would know enough to not only recognize a tritium mark 4 storage cube for what it was, but know enough to steal it. Figured. Really though, when was the last time you saw such a hot cleaning lady? In hindsight, it should have been obvious to him, yet his only thoughts at the time had been, “Hmm, cute. Maybe I’ll arrange to let her catch me surfing for porn after hours. ‘Dear Penthouse’ indeed!” Would have saved him a world of trouble if he’d let his mind do more of the judgement than his dick.
The bad news was she had possession of possibly the only extant copy of his plans for the cold fusion energy device. The good news was that the key info was heavily encrypted. He figured she’d have been able to see enough to realize what was there, but not enough to build the thing or sell the plans. Without the passcodes which lived only in his head, she’d never be able to crack the heart of the device.
And yet, she had the goddamn disc. His disc. The only copy. Fuck! Her message on his voicemail had sounded playful, petulant, girlish. As if what they were dealing with was a game, and not in deadly earnest: “Hello. (pause) It’s me. (longer pause) I’ve got something of yours (giggle.. pause for a drag on cigarette, sound of ice clinking in a glass in the background) It’s pretty neat. I was thinking pf selling it on Ebay, then got to wondering if you might want it back. (long pause) I guess you probably do. I thought I might help you out of this jam if you, uh (giggle) help me with a few things. I’m faxing you some directions. Wednesday morning. See you then.” What the fuck? Help her with a few things?! As if she was suggesting he come over and help her move some furniture in exchange for few beers. He guess she knew enough to know he’s skip out of work in a heartbeat to retrieve his plans. Weekday or no, she was right, she would see him then.
What could she possibly have in mind? Maybe “help her with a few things” was a euphemism for money. Like help her with the rent to an apartment in the city, help her get a new car, that sort of thing. Somehow though, he knew that wasn’t it. It wasn’t money. What could motivate someone like that? Was she acting alone? Was this all part of a play. Or just an opportunity that presented itself? Who was this smart, sexy ”cleaning lady” who’d managed to steal possibly the greatest invention of all time, right from under his nose? And if it wasn’t money that she wanted, what the hell DID she want? His mind was spinning, yet it was as if his car was in the middle of a lake of ice; every way his thoughts twisted the traction slipped out from under him and he was left spinning out of control.
The task of following her directions and the faxed map focused his thoughts and brought him back to earth. He headed through the small town, hooked a left at the gas station, then passed right back out of it into a heavily wooded. wild-looking area of hills and timber. Watching the odometer crawl by he came to the orange mailbox and turned up the dirt road. The road got worse as the distance from the pavement increased until he was glad for the four-wheel-drive of his truck. He negotiated a final turn on the drive opened into a parking area. There were no other cars there, odd, but the directions had been both explicit and correct so he figured he was in the right place.
It seemed weird to him that she wasn’t there to greet him. Maybe she wasn’t sad, but it wasn’t the kind of place you could walk to. He got out of the car, admire the view, and check the place out. It was a grand old Victorian, which had obviously been treated to much love and care recently. The grounds were neatly trimmed, and it looked as if the owners had just left for a quart of milk. Definitely swankier digs than those of any cleaning lady he’d ever heard of. It was then that he spied the note.
Find, thick paper, the kind you just needed to touch. Beautiful handcrafted envelope, florid yet composed calligraphy, his name scripted in blood red ink. After the practical thoughts of getting himself there, the note pinned on the back of the door sent his mind right back to the spinning lake of ice. He pulled it out of the crack it was secured in and pulled it open, subconsciously careful not to tear the luscious paper. Inside was a matching hand -deckled leaf of notepaper, covered in the same neat calligraphy.
“Well I must say I’m impressed you made it all the way up here to Dutchess County. Guess you have more spine than it appears. That, or you just really, really want your disc back. I know you want it back. The question is, how badly? Badly enough? I wonder. We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Leave now and I’ll destroy the disk. Stay, and act like a good boy, and you might get it back. Might. Enter the house through this door. Proceed”
Proceed? What the fuck does that mean? His emotions were changing from puzzlement at not being greeted so they could resolve this thing once and for all, to anger at the tone of the note. It never occurred to him that the appropriate emotion might have been fear. Plenty of time for that.
He looked around again, as if somebody might be watching, as if Suzanne might be merely pulling some twisted Candid Camera stunt. His truck was the only thing he could see other than trees. He looked around the side of the house, reread the note another three times and finally stomped himself a stop outside the door. Angrily he shoved the note in his pocket and tried the knob. To no great surprise, it turned. It opened into a small utility room. He noticed it was warm. Rather, he noticed he was sweating, despite the cool air outside. The carpet muffled the slight sounds from outside completely, enclosing him in a warm cocoon. He began to get creeped out as if he was breaking and entering or something. Whose house was it? Maybe it wasn’t even Suzanne’s house, maybe she was setting him up for breaking and entering rap. No, too weird, didn’t make sense. Frozen lake again. What did that woman want? Chills ran up and down his spine, causing him to wonder how one could shiver and sweat at the same time.
“Proceed, ” the note had said. Hmm, looking around the neatly maintained space he spotted another envelope, perfectly matching the first. “Curiosity killed the cat…” he hummed under his breath as he sliced it open. He was getting the feeling that he might not actually want to read this one. And he was right: “Leave your clothes here. All of them. Through the door on your right. Proceed”
What the fuck? A sex thing. For all the scenarios that had gone through his head on the way up here, he never considered a sex thing. Even with the first note, he been so enraged he missed the sexual overtones. And now, “Leave your clothes here, all of them…” Damn, spinning on ice again.
Hit almost left right there. Even headed towards the door, but didn’t even make it across the room. Again, he looked around with that feeling he was being watched, but saw no sign of anybody, nor any video cameras or two-way mirrors. He was just in a normal laundry room in the suburbs of Poughkeepsie. Yeah, really normal, he was instructed to get totally naked and “Proceed”. What could you do? How bad could it be? Even if she intended to kill him and abscond with the plans, she still needed his pass codes to get at the crux of the matter. He’d have preferred not to negotiate naked but hey, whatever floats her boat, right? She was pretty damn hot, maybe this would be fun after all.
Right. Being naked in some anonymous person’s laundry room isn’t really what most people would call fun. And it was warm in there, he found himself sweating still, even as he started removing his shoes. He folded and piled his clothing neatly on the counter. Stood there nude for a few moments, wondering just what he got himself into. Took a deep breath, and proceeded.
Padded through the door, and heard a click shut behind him. He turned on an impulse and panicked as he realized it had locked and his clothes, car keys and any possibility of backing out of this absurd situation vanished in an instant.
He found himself in a large empty room, carpeted like the anteroom period Tastefully lit: tiny track lights grazed the brick walls, highlighting their texture, while pools of soft spot light broke the space up into areas and of course sitting in its own brilliant little pool of light, another matching envelope, but this one sat atop a rather large box, wrapped in paper to match the envelopes. Well, what else would he do? He shook himself to shake off the tremble he developed, gritted his teeth and grabbed the envelope. “Open the box. Two sets of handcuffs. One set goes around your wrists of course, behind your back, please. The other set, put one end around your cock and balls (careful, we wouldn’t want to cut off any circulation) then cuff the other end around the pole in the corner. Blindfold. Face into the corner. Wait.”
God dammit! He had said to himself, in for a dime in for a dollar, but still, this was getting seriously weird. He wasn’t sure exactly what he would do if he wanted to back out. Wait here for Suzanne and try to talk her out of the disc? He doubted she’d be much in the mood to negotiate after he followed her perverted plan thus far. Yet here he was, nude in some anonymous basement and God knows where Upstate New York, preparing to handcuff and blindfold himself. How bad could it be? He just that she’d have already killed him, if that was what she had in mind. Perhaps she figured on letting him starve himself to death cuffed here to the water pipe. But that just didn’t figure. Maybe she even go so far as to whip him or ass fuck him or enact some other sexually humiliating scenario. It might hurt, maybe even badly, but ultimately, did it matter? He could nurse his sore ass on Montserrat, sitting the top his pile of cash. Grin and bear, he thought. Tearing open the box he realized he would indeed follow this game through to its end, no matter the consequences.
Hmm, how to rig this? He cuffed his privates first, as gently as possible. Yet no matter how gently and loosely he tightened the cuff there was no escaping the iron grip, and the fact that he had no idea where the key was. Taking a deep breath, he’s snapped the other cuff around the pipe with a terrifying and final ratcheting snik. He arranged the blindfold around his head and quickly and surely snapped the manacles on his wrists. And begin to wait.
Aside from the never entirely receding fission of fear, he kept thinking over and over, “why did I do this?”, and reworking the entire scenario in his mind. Where could he have bailed? Should he have turned and walked at the first note? Escaped when he had the chance, before he left his clothes locked in the gardening room? Going to the police in the first place?
The wait stretched into it seems like hours. Despite (or because of) his inability to escape, he felt his senses enlivened and charged. Every draft (there was only the occasional per of the climate control system), every creek of the house above and around him, drew his attention. Yet always, the quiet returned, and the quieter it got, and the longer he hung there, tethered like he’d never even imagined in his wildest fantasies. However, this was no fantasy, he was actually pinned here, nose and a corner, hands help with behind his back, most cherished possessions in exorbitantly and inextricably bound it to the unyielding iron pipe
Suzanne smiled to herself, and actually licked her lips in anticipation. She had of course watched every movement it made since entering the house. What modern is state is complete without discrete video surveillance? She finished her leisurely bath, and completed her unhurried toilette. All the while watching him enter, follow her increasingly strict and bizarre notes, strip and finally hobble and bind himself.
She would admit to getting a bit aroused herself while he was stripping and especially while he was deciding to offer himself abjectly and without recourse. “Hunger is the best appetizer” … she silently misquoted Lao Tzu while dawdling at her tasks. Everything had long been ready, but he would soften up as he hung there, and there was no sense in hurrying. Suzanne could finally take it no more. Snagging a quick glance at the video monitor to determine the fly was still caught firmly in the spiders net, she began descending the staircase.
Meanwhile, he was alone with his racing thoughts, swirling endlessly and frantically around his mind. These thoughts were so powerful that he didn’t realize he’d forgotten to pay attention to surroundings. He got so wrapped up in trying to follow the myriad pathways and forks in his internal road that he didn’t even hear anyone enter the room. He didn’t have any idea that he was being stalked like a butterfly pinned to wax. He twitched and squirmed, unconsciously telegraphing his terror and frantic thought pattern on his masked face.
(This delicious tease was penned by one of my favorite playthings a long time ago but I came across it recently and decided to share it with you. What do you imagine happening next??)