Late. She was never late. What could possibly make her late? Especially today.
Eda Chang sat alone at a table at the outdoor cafe and watched the pedestrians and traffic pass. Twenty minutes late. She should have been here by now. Eda needed her final instructions. If Mira Kim weren't the consummate professional she would have thought that she simply had lost track of time or been distracted by a handsome man. Or an attractive woman. Eda herself would have liked to experience Mira's charms. But Mira was too professional to mix business with pleasure. Eda had once hinted, subtly she hoped, that she found Mira attractive. Who could not? Eda closed her eyes better to hold Mira's face in her mind. [see Mira Pic] But if Mira had understood Eda's intent, she had ignored her. Too damn professional. Or maybe just not interested. After all, while Eda was the same age as Mira ... well, actually a year older ... and not unattractive [see Eda Pic] ... well, perhaps a bit too thin -- she certainly didn't have a body like Mira's.
So why wasn't she here then? Especially today. She'd never been late before. A minor accident perhaps on her way. A need to assist another after witnessing an accident. If Mira weren't so damn punctual she wouldn't worry about her being a few minutes late. But, how do they say it sometimes? Time was ... of the essence, yes, that's how they say it. The final plans were to go into effect tomorrow. Had to go into effect tomorrow. So she needed to get her instructions from Mira today.
But what if it wasn't an accident? What if their plans had been discovered? But how? There were only three of them involved. Well, there might be one or two more that Eda didn't know about, since it was Mira who was in charge, and it might be best if Eda didn't know about the others ... in case of capture. Eda shuddered involuntarily. Better not to think of that.
Eda relaxed a bit. There were certainly a lot more possible ... and plausible ... explanations of Mira's tardiness that were wholly innocent than the one explanation that could mean dire consequences for Eda and the others. And that meant immediate dire consequences for Mira. No. That wasn't it. Mira was very capable of taking care of herself. Strong physically. And even stronger mentally. Mira was all right. Eda laughed to herself to think that she had been worried about Mira. Mira didn't need her concern.
Best now just to wait. They had never before used this cafe to meet. Best for Eda just to wait. She hoped that her conservative business attire would not attract any attention. Black skirt and heels. White top. Black jacket. God she looked boring. But that was the idea. Blend in.
She called over the waitress and asked for a refill of her coffee. After Mira arrived, and explained the cause of her delay, Eda would learn her final instructions. And she had no doubt that they were going to lead to a very long, dangerous and exciting 24 hours. The coffee would help. She needed to be ready.
* * *
Jessica Mareu glanced across the street to the cafe. The intelligence was correct. Eda Chang sat alone at the outdoor table, waiting for her contact. Poor Eda. The contact who would arrive -- Jessica herself -- would not be the one whom Eda expected. No, Mira Kim was already safe in the confines of Jessica's immediate boss, Serena Lopez, delivered by Jessica personally earlier that day. Jessica laughed to herself -- "safe" was definitely not the right word to describe Ms. Kim's current situation, she thought.
Eda Chang would certainly not be as valuable to her superiors as Ms. Kim. But it would still be another feather in her cap.
Jessica strode confidently to Eda's table. "Mira's been delayed. She sent me in her place. I'm Jessica." Eda looked up and stared at Jessica without a word. "You can trust me or not," Jessica continued, "but if you do not, then you'll probably be dead within five minutes."
Eda did not appear moved by this woman's dire prediction of her fate, but looked at her calmly. Another woman dressed in a conservative business suit who was obviously not a conservative businesswoman. Sure, they were businesswomen, in a definite sense. But not conservative.
Determining that she should play out the scenario for a few minutes to see what this woman was up to, Eda slowly rose, and dropped a few dollars on the table to pay for her coffee before finally speaking. "Walk 10 feet in front of me," she directed Jessica.
"All right." Jessica turned and led the way, reaching into her pocket to grip the firearm that she always carried, glancing first down the street to confirm that her backup was in place, then toward the buildings across the street.
Suddenly, she saw the gleam of a weapon from the roof of the building across the street. And a red dot flicker between her breasts. Jessica quickly dropped to the ground, as two bullets whizzed just over her shoulder into the fascia of the building behind her. She immediately returned fire toward the metal flash, then raced back to a startled Eda and grabbed her arm. "There, have I proved myself to you?! Now let's get out of here !!"
* * *
"You missed her," Jana Shi screamed through her com line from three buildings down from where her partner, Gwen May, had taken the shots. Gwen heard her loudly in her earpiece and cursed.
This was not supposed to be happening. Mira had asked Jana and Gwen to provide routine back-up for Mira's meeting with Eda. But Mira hadn't shown. Jessica Mareu had. They couldn't let her get Eda. It was bad enough that Jessica's appearance meant that she might already have Mira. Damn. They should have grabbed Eda two minutes after Mira had failed to show. Now it might be too late.
"I'm going down," Gwen yelled through the line to Jana. "If she moves your way, kill her!" Gwen dropped her rifle and tore the automatic from her thigh holster as she raced down the steps to the street, cursing that she had to wear black -- a black Lycra bra top and long pants - in such heat.
When she reached the street, Gwen glanced around, but could see neither Jessica nor Eda. She figured that they must have cut down the alley on the far side of the cafe. Away from Jana's position. It was up to Gwen to stop them alone. Gwen headed down the parallel alley on the near side of the cafe, and scaled the 5-foot wall at the alley's end. She was right. There was Jessica at the end of the next alley, helping Eda up onto the far end of the same wall.
Gwen couldn't risk a shot with Jessica and Eda so near each other. But as soon as either Jessica or Eda leaped down from the wall, there would be enough separation to give her a clear shot at Jessica.
But just as Jessica jumped, Gwen felt a searing pain in her right leg. She looked around to find a small dart buried in the back of her thigh, and turned to see two men racing toward her. Damn. Why hadn't she realized that Jessica too would have backup. Backup in better position than Jana. Gwen felt herself drop to her knees and her body begin to lunge forward. She was unconscious before her stomach hit the ground.
Jana too had raced down into the street, but from much farther from the action.
Jessica Mareu. Jana and Gwen knew all about her from their days with CIA special services. That her moral values were simple: whoever offered her the most money had right on his side. Which always made it hard to know who she was working for. But usually it was for the side that left the most dead bodies.
"Shit. This is fucked." Jana saw Gwen run down the alley, trying to cut off Jessica's escape with her prey. Jana ran after Gwen, then heard the quick pop just as she reached the cafe. She raced down the alley to the wall and pulled herself up onto it ... in time only to see two men dragging an unconscious Gwen face down by her shoulders to a waiting van. Glancing left, Jana saw Jessica halfway to the van trying to coax Eda to jump down and come with them, but Eda appeared frozen after witnessing the strange scene. Finally, Eda jumped back to the other side of the wall and out of sight. Jessica cursed, then took a step toward the wall before seeing Jana. Jessica cursed again, then fired off a quick half dozen rounds in Jana's direction to force her to lie flat on the top of the wall while Jessica made her way to the van, which sped off with its captive, though not the one she had come for.
Jana returned to the street by the cafe. Now deserted. It was a wonder that the police hadn't yet arrived, but they certainly would soon. Time to get away. But not without Eda. Jana glanced around ... and caught a glimpse of a door swinging closed three buildings down. An empty warehouse. Jana moved quickly toward it. Hoping that Eda did not come armed to her meeting with Mira, Jana burst through it.
A large, dim space, with rays of dusty light streaking through greasy windows. A few crates piled near the far wall but otherwise empty. Abandoned.
Then suddenly Jana felt a strong kick to her right cheek, spinning her, but, trained in the martial arts, Jana maintained her balance, and quickly assumed her fighting stance. But another kick quickly followed, this one to her rights side, its power knocking her to the ground. As she quickly rose, Jana screamed: "You crazy bitch!! I work with Mira Kim. We're on the same side. I'm here to protect you!!" She looked up to see Eda eying her carefully, shifting her weight, ready to strike again. "No," Eda shouted back, "you're here to sell me and my information to the highest bidder."
"That's what Jessica wanted to do!" But Eda again attacked. This time, though, Jana was ready. She spun to avoid Eda's kick, then jabbed her fist solidly into Eda's side, and followed with a kick into Eda's right kidney.
As Eda fell to her knees, Jana approached. "Now are you ready to --" But Eda swept her leg through Jana's ankles, and Jana too fell to the ground, Eda leaped on top of her. Eda had removed her heels before the fight began. Now her white blouse was disheveled, her black skirt torn, as she tried to pin Jana to the ground and pound her with her fists.
But Jana was the stronger and better-trained fighter. She gained leverage on Eda and twisted her until Eda suddenly found herself on her back, her wrists pinned to the sides of her head by Jana's hands. Eda tried to buck Jana off of her, but Eda was simply too small and light to free herself from under Jana's well-developed muscular body.
"Now, Eda Chang, you and I are going to have a civilized conversation."
"You have no idea what's going on, no place to turn, no place to go, do you, Eda Chang?" Jana's tone was firm.
She knows my name, Eda thought. "Oh, I have a choice. I can trust you or just pretend to trust you." Pinned to the ground by the stronger Jana, Eda remained defiant.
"That's fair. I'll gain your trust, because we ARE on the same side." Jana moved off Eda's chest, then sat on the floor, folding her legs in front of her. "I'll start this way. My name's Jana." Jana reached into her belt and pulled out a handgun. Eda cringed, but Jana immediately handed it, barrel first, to a stunned Eda. "Now. Let's talk. Do you want to know what's going on?"
Eda sat up across from Jana, and handed the gun back to her. Jana had made her point. "Yes."
"I don't know how well you know Mira, but she's a person who generally gets what she wants," Jana began. "And she usually wants a lot. Oh, and she's dangerous. And ruthless." That certainly described Mira, Eda thought.
"So here's what I think happened," Jana went on. "Mira decided to sell some valuable business information that she had acquired, most certainly illegally. Maybe to a foreign government. Or a private competitor. Or a terrorist group. She knows that she has to be very careful. So, after meeting with her buyer, they decided to work through intermediaries."
"Us?" Eda asked the obvious.
"You, me and Gwen," Jana responded. "She's worked with me and Gwen before."
"The woman who just saved your ass, and got herself captured in the process, or have you forgotten her already?" Jana's voice displayed a definite touch of anger. "We both used to work as government agents. But Mira pays better. So we've been working for her for awhile now. One of the buyer's intermediaries contacted me. Another contacted Gwen. I assume a third contacted you." Eda nodded.
"In this first contact, each of us got a clue to where the buyer had delivered Mira's payment. And today Mira was to give us her clues to pass on to her buyer's intermediaries to let them know where they could find her information. My meeting with Mira was scheduled for two hours after yours and Gwen's two hours after mine. At different locations."
Jana paused. "But, as we know, Mira didn't show for your meeting. And we're now very sure, given Jessica's sudden appearance, that she won't be showing for ours. Which means that, by tonight, when we fail to pass on the clues where Mira's information is, her buyer is going to get rather upset. He's going to think that Mira double-crossed him. Do you know how much money is involved?"
Eda hesitated. "Twenty million. Three for me. Eight for Mira. And three each for three others in roles like mine, two of whom I assume are you and Gwen. That's what she told me."
Jana laughed. "You made a bad deal. Mira told us 40 million. Six each for the three of us. There's no fourth one of us. And the rest for her. I guess she planned to make an extra three million from your share."
Eda smiled wryly. "So there's really 60 million, and Mira's planning to take 45."
"Greedy, just like I said," Jana nodded. "She arranged things so that she would be the only one who was ever told all three clues needed to find the payment. That's why she brought you in. Because you didn't know Gwen or me. And wouldn't be talking to us outside her presence. Or so she thought. Now tell me what you know."
Eda reflected, then spoke. "I was instructed to look for a newspaper ad that started 'QE7.' When I found it, it read "04140641 Baker." The first two numbers meant Wednesday, the 4th day of the week. The second two meant 1400 hours. 2 p.m. And the last four, reversed, meant 1460. 1460 Baker Avenue. That's where I was to go."
Jana nodded. "Our ads ran on different days, but we all made our contacts on Wednesday."
"It was a small boutique," Eda continued. "After I browsed for a minute or so, a man approached and said 'QE.' I said 'seven.' He gave me my clue. I repeated it to him to make sure I got it right, and then he left. It took 15 seconds."
"My contact gave me a single word," Jana said. "'Re-masticate.' And Gwen was given the one word, 'Noel,' along with a key. We passed on our clues and the key to Mira last night. But first I made two copies of the key. Fortunately, I hadn't yet given Gwen hers, so at least Jessica doesn't have one." Jana was again reminding Eda that Gwen was Jessica's captive only because she had tried to save Eda from the very fate that Gwen herself now faced.
"Want to know what I think the words mean?" Jana resumed. Eda, however, for the moment the only person knowing all three clues, was absorbed in her own analysis. "Well, do you?" Jana asked again, breaking Eda's concentration.
"Of course," Eda answered.
"The key obviously opens the box holding Mira's pay-off," Jana began. "It has to be too small to hold cash, so it probably holds instructions how to get the cash. Maybe Swiss bank account numbers. And the clues tell us where the box is. 'Masticate' means 'chew.' It's what cows do. And cows regurgitate their food, meaning that they chew it more than once. They 're-masticate.'"
Jana looked for a reaction, but Eda, once again absorbed in her own thoughts, gave none, so Jana, disappointed, continued: "And 'Noel.' It's a Christmas carol. 'The first Noel was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.' So we have Christmas. The Manger. Shepherds. Cows. Fields. I think the box is in a barn. Does your clue fit with that?"
Pain took from us, redoing births," Eda said.
"That's my clue," Eda replied.
"Hmm. I thought it would be one word." Jana thought for a second. "Maybe there's a cow about to give birth in the barn where the box is. Maybe that is the clue that will help us find which barn."
"No," Eda replied. "You're treating each clue as a riddle. But at least one clue has to be a code, not a riddle. And neither side would make the code too complicated because both had to figure it out quickly to get what they bargained for. Otherwise one side might feel betrayed and neither side would want that."
"So what do you think then?" Jana's tone was even. She didn't believe her own theory, either, so she was not bothered that Eda had immediately rejected it.
Eda looked squarely at Jana. "Give me one of the keys to prove that we're in this together. Give me the key and I'll tell you what I think. And I think I'm close to breaking the code."
Jana fingered the key on the chain around her neck, then reached into her pocket, pulled out a second key, and handed it to Eda. "Another show of my faith." Eda reached to the chain around Jana's neck, and satisfied herself that the two keys matched before dropping her key into the pocket of her shirt.
"What does re-masticate mean?" Eda asked Jana.
"Chew again. I said that already." Jana answered.
"Now say 'chew' again."
"Exactly. And what does that tell you?"
"What does 'chew -- chew' tell me?" Jana looked puzzled, then her face brightened. "Chew. Chew. Choo. Choo. Re-masticate is a fucking train!! The key is for a locker at the train station !!"
Eda nodded. "Now we need to know which locker."
"There are thousands of lockers there." Jana realized.
"Yes. That's why the other clues have to be codes. To give us specifics. Now, my first thought when I hear the word 'No-el' is that it's the answer to the old joke, 'What Christmas song do you have when you have I J K M N O?'"
"No L." Jana quickly responded.
"Right. But no L is what you DON'T have. What DO you have when you have no L?" Eda instructed.
"Every what else?"
"You have every other letter."
"Exactly. You have ..."
"Every other letter." Jana, ecstatic, quickly completed the sentence. "The code is to take every other letter! Eda, you're a genius." Jana promptly took out a small pencil and scrap of paper from her pocket.
"Unfortunately not," Eda quickly demurred. "That code doesn't get me anywhere. You get real words, but they make no sense." Eda saw that Jana was scribbling. "I'll save you time. It spells 'pit of our digits.'"
Jana finished writing. "Yes. 'Pit of our digits,'" she read slowly. "Well, our fingers are digits. Our toes are digits. So 'our digits' must mean 10 or 20."
"Pit of 10? Pit of 20? What does that mean?" Eda shrugged. "Figure it out and we're millionaires."
"I need to go back to my place and get what I need so I don't have to go back again," Jana suddenly explained to Eda. "I think it soon will be too dangerous to go back, especially if Mira or Gwen talk. You might do the same."
"My place is safer than yours, since none of you know where I live. I'll wait here."
Jana nodded, then held out her hand. "Even split, no matter how much there is?"
Eda took Jana's hand. "Sure. That's a better deal than I made the first time."
"But Gwen and Mira get their shares ... if they survive. Not that there's much hope for them." Jana dropped her eyes, then looked back at Mira. "Listen. The woman who tried to grab you. Jessica. She works with a woman named Serena and a man I've only heard called The Oppressor. You can imagine how he got his name. Gwen and I faced off with them a few times when we were working for the government. With no success. They usually work for themselves, but I don't know if they're in it for Mira's money or her information or both."
"I don't mean to be cruel, but it's not really in our interest to rescue Mira or Gwen, is it? That would only reduce our own shares."
Jana looked hard at Eda. "Gwen is my friend. Don't forget that. Understood?"
"Understood." Eda made a mental note of Jana's strong reaction, realizing that, even if she and Jana were on the same side, Jana still regretted that it had not been Eda who had been the one captured by Jessica.
Jana got up. "I'll be back in an hour." She walked to the door, opened it and vanished into the street.
Now this was a very complicated situation, Eda thought. Three distinct groups. Mira's. Mira's buyer's. And Jessica's. With three distinct interests. Mira wanted the money. Her buyer wanted her information. And Jessica probably wanted everything. Maybe even a second payoff for the information from another buyer. Shit. Were Gwen and Jana really working for Mira now? Jana admitted that they were former government agents. Maybe they still were. Maybe they had infiltrated Mira's group and were working to break up the whole exchange. Which would be a fourth interest then, wouldn't it? Maybe Jana and Gwen themselves had captured Mira. Maybe Gwen's capture was a ruse. Maybe Jessica was really just another government agent. Eda was amazed at how unsure she still was about everything.
Well, almost everything. One thing she was certain of. Jana's clues fit perfectly with her clue. If Jana had still been a government agent, she would not have given Eda the real clues, and there was no way that any false clues that she gave would have fit so nicely with Eda's clue. So Jana and Gwen probably did now work for Mira, as Jana claimed. Which meant that Mira's payoff really was in the locker.
"The train station. That's what I didn't know," Eda murmured to herself. "For that information and the key I traded the locker number. Wish I hadn't had to, but I needed to give Jana something in exchange, and appear to do it willingly. But 'pit of our digits'?" Eda smirked. "At least I led her down the wrong path with that. Still, Jana's smart. She'll figure it out soon enough. So I need to move fast to make sure there's no need to share. What do they call it? Yeah. The lion's share. Which means everything. Because lion's don't share." Eda walked toward the door.
"'Pit of our digits'?'" Eda repeated. "What the hell could that ever mean? Now 'Pi to four digits,' that's a different story." Eda laughed. "3.141. Fortunately, I studied in math class. No need to wait for Jana. Or ever see Mira or Gwen again either. Sorry for your fate, dears, but when you play in the big time ... Especially sad about Gwen, I guess. She did save me. But fucking Mira tried to cheat me out of half of my share or more. Oh, how I'd love to see that body she'd never share with me undergoing some hideous torment. Probably at this very moment. Maybe stretched tightly on a rack. But I cannot risk running into Jessica or Serena or The Oppressor. The only thing that I need to run into is Locker 3141 at the train station. Then to the airport. I am soon going to be very rich."
"Strange how fate can be, isn't it Mira?" Eda said aloud to no one but herself as she reached the door, made certain that Jana was no longer in sight, and headed for the train station.
Jana, however, had not been fooled by Eda's "pit of four digits." She had figured out right away that the riddle meant "pi to four digits," that the locker number was 3141 and that Eda was trying to screw her out of her share at the same time that she had agreed to an even split. So Jana moved quickly to the train station, knowing that Eda would not be far behind her. Since Eda did not want to share, Jana would gladly oblige her.
When Jana reached the train station, she headed immediately to locker 1314. Finding it empty, she took the key from it and wrote the number -- 1314 -- on a small piece of paper. It might come in handy later if ...
Jana next looked for locker 3141 in the crowded station. Her search moved her away from the activity in the center of the station into an area with very few people and then with none, at the far end of the station.
As the numbers of the lockers began to approach 3141, she noticed a man seated on a bench near where locker 3141 must be, but, confident in her back-up plan, she decided that she could ignore him. Pretending to search for her locker number, and holding both the scrap of paper and key to locker 1314 in her hands, she moved slowly down the row of lockers until she reached 3141, continuing all the while to stare back and forth between the locker numbers and her piece of paper. Finally, she raised the key to the locker.
At the same time, the man walked up behind her. "Is this your locker?"
Jana tried to sound confused. "No, I don't think it is. I don't remember it being in this part of the station. But it says that it is." She showed him the paper. "I'm dyslexic and I sometimes have trouble with numbers. Is this right?"
By now two uniformed men appeared out of nowhere. "Security, ma'am. Is this man bothering you?"
"Oh, no. He's trying to help. I'm looking for this locker." Jana took the paper from the first man and gave it to the second. "I'm dyslexic, and ..."
"That's way around the other side of the station, ma'am. Let us help you find it."
The two men took Jana by the elbows and headed down a corridor that led to the loading dock. Jana protested that she could just retrace her steps, but they reassured her that, given the shape of the station, this was a shortcut to her locker.
Jana saw a taxi at the end of the loading dock. As one of the men put his hand over Jana's mouth, another lifted her off her feet. She tried frantically to resist, but with no success. They lowered her horizontally onto a blanket, gagged her and handcuffed her wrists behind her, then cuffed her ankles. The men's hands roamed her body until they found the other key that they knew must be somewhere on her person. The key to 3141. When one of the men found it in inside pocket of her commando pants, they both smiled knowingly. There would be a nice reward for them.
They rolled Jana up in the blanket and threw her into the trunk of the taxi cab. As soon as they slammed the trunk closed, the cab sped off.
Feeling the cool air outside the warehouse, Eda realized that her torn skirt made her attire just a bit too revealing, so she stopped at the first bench and pinned it back together as best she could. Wearing heels did not help her speed, but she was lucky to have removed them before her fight with Jana, so at least they had not broken. That would have slowed her down far more.
Eda glanced at her watch. She was still well ahead of Jana, she thought. Plenty of time to find the locker, open and remove its contents, and hail a cab before Jana figured out what had happened. Even if Jana could not decipher the clues to learn the actual locker number -- how many women knew pi to four digits? -- she knew that the locker was in the train station. When she returned to find the warehouse empty, Jana would know that Eda had betrayed her and would race to the station to try to find Eda there. Eda had to make sure that she was long gone by then.
The station was about a dozen blocks from the warehouse. With the traffic, Eda thought it fastest to walk. Even with her stop to fix her skirt, and walking in heels, she arrived in 15 minutes.
The station was crowded near the entrance. Eda glanced at the number of the closest locker. 211. Damn. 3141 was probably all the way on the other side. Eda headed down a long row of lockers, watching the numbers rise slowly while, at the same time, the number of people in the vicinity decreased. Occasionally the numbers skipped past 3141, and Eda had to turn down an intersecting corridor where the numbers continued sequentially. Thousands of lockers.
By the time Eda reached 2500, she was in a far nook of the station with no one else in sight. Eda was grateful. This was going to be easy, she thought. Just before 3000, Eda turned down another corridor, where the lockers ran not only down both walls, but also back to back down the center.
"Shit," she muttered under her breath when she looked up after confirming that she was headed in the right direction, "she wasn't as stupid as I thought." There, about 20 yards ahead of her, in front of what certainly was locker 3141, was Jana, talking with three men. Eda moved to the other side of the center lockers before any of them saw her, then crept closer, stopping about 20 feet from them at a spot where she could see them, through a small crack in the lockers, without herself being seen. Jana seemed to be explaining something to the men, whose backs were toward her. She could not hear Jana's words distinctly. No one else was in sight. It did not appear that the locker had been opened or anything removed from it.
After a few more seconds, Jana and the men walked away from the locker down another corridor. Eda moved quietly to watch them. As they made a right turn down yet another corridor, she saw that the sign above them that indicated that they were heading to the "Loading Dock."
As soon as they were out of sight, Eda moved back to the locker in front of which they had been standing, making sure that her heels did not click against the floor. Yes. It was 3141. She took her key out of her shirt pocket, raised it to the locker, held her breath and slowly pushed it into the keyhole. It fit. She breathed a sigh, turned the key, and opened the locker door as quietly as she could. Inside was a briefcase. She reached inside, slide the briefcase out, and closed the locker.
"Funny. We have a key for the same locker." The voice behind her startled her. An arm grabbed her shoulder and spun her around roughly, her back slammed against the adjoining locker. Two men. They must have turned back nearly as soon as they left Eda's sight, she thought. Just her luck.
Then Eda saw the third man approach from the direction of the loading dock and knew that she had to think fast. Because the third man was the one who had given Eda her clue in the boutique. And he recognized her.
With the first two men holding Eda firmly by her elbows, and wrapping their legs around her ankles to prevent her from trying to kick, the third man moved in front of her. "I didn't expect to see you so soon, love." Eda struggled, but she was held firm. "So I'll ask you the question of the day. Have you betrayed Mira or has she betrayed my boss?"
"Neither," Eda responded quickly. "Mira sent me. Just to make sure that we had solved the clues correctly." Eda tried to gauge the men's reaction. There was none. "I was just making sure that the key fit. I was not going to take anything."
Clue Man laughed. "I see. And that's why you were taking the briefcase just when we arrived?" He pinched her face between his thumb and fingers, forcing her to look at him, his face inches from hers. "Let me tell you, miss, Mira knows the cardinal rule. Neither side goes for the goods until both have delivered. And Mira's delivery isn't for a few more hours. So all we've learned is that you are not an honest person. Which means that we will need to question you in a more private setting to learn the truth."
He released his grip on her face, took a step back, and then whirled and punched her hard in the stomach. The men holding her released their grip. Eda fell to the floor, moaning, her arms clutching her stomach. The man on her right removed a small vial of liquid, and poured a bit on his handkerchief. He grabbed Eda by her hair and forced her head up, then covered her mouth and nose with the handkerchief. He released her hair. Eda's face dropped to her chest and her body relaxed as it fell to the floor.
With the Clue Man leading the way, the two other men grabbed Eda's upper arms and dragged her face down toward the loading dock. It was time for a second delivery to The Boss.
Gwen balled her fists and clenched her eyes shut, hoping that, if she could not see the light bulb swaying above, it would not flicker, its signal to her that at least some of its electrical current was being rerouted through her wired body, sending more agony than they thought she could bear. [see Gwen pic] No, this time there was laughter. Gwen forced her eyes open just a slit. She could see that a woman had joined the two men who had tortured her body the past several hours. Although standing in darkness, Gwen knew that it must be Jessica. [see Jessica pic] And that now things would get even worse, although she could not image how. That little bitch Eda. This seat had been reserved for her, not me, Gwen thought. But I had to try to be a hero. What for? Greed. The same greed that had gotten Mira into whatever mess she was now in. I'm no better than Mira, Gwen thought. Fucking Mira. And fucking Eda.
"You should leave the professional work to, well, the professionals, my dear Gwen, now shouldn't you?" Jessica's hands checked the wires taped to Gwen's flesh, making sure of their connections, gently pulling. Bare copper ends wrapped and taped around each nipple. To the sides of her navel. Inside her thighs. "Oh, I'm sorry. How could you answer me?" Jessica removed the gag covering Gwen's mouth.
Jessica strode back to the console facing the chair into which Gwen was tied, her legs to the chair's legs, her wrists to the sides of the back near the seat. Jessica stopped for a moment to stare appreciatively at the sweat-drenched, panting body before her, glistening and naked, her black pants and panties tossed to the floor in front of the chair. Gwen's body twitched instinctively as Jessica grabbed the knob on the console with her right hand.
"My men tell me that you've told them nothing. Not because you're brave and defiant. No. They said that you broke very early in the questioning. Hours ago. But that you claim that you know nothing except that your boss was involved in the sale of some kind of information. And that she was going to pay you millions of dollars. But that you don't know anything more. Not very believable, I'd say. For millions of dollars, you really must know something."
"You fucking cunt!" Gwen spat back, grunting as she wrenched against the ropes binding her wrists tightly. "You know I don't know anything. You know that's not how these things work."
"Gee. I'm just not sure of that," Jessica smiled wryly. "How can I be sure?" Her smile quickly became a laugh. "Oh, yes. I remember what Serena told me. I set the initial voltage cycle." Jessica's fingers turned the knob slowly several clicks. "And then I make sure I don't set it so high that I stop your heart." One more click. "And then, for variety's sake, I set the initial cycle to jolt irregularly so that you can't know when it's coming. How does that sound, Agent May? I mean, former Agent May. Seems that you've decided to work for the highest bidder, too, now. So why do you give me grief when you're just doing what I'm doing?"
Gwen tried to summon all of her strength. She knew that she would need it. Now with Jessica in charge of her interrogation. If there really would be interrogation ... or just plain torture ... since Jessica knew that Gwen had no useful information.
"Two minutes. That should be about right, wouldn't you say." With the settings now all in place, Jessica fingered the master switch. Gwen closed her eyes and bit her lip hard. She heard a creak, but nothing more. She opened her eyes slowly. A third man had entered the room through the heavy wooden door, and handed Jessica a note. She read it slowly, then put it into her pocket and turned to Jessica.
"A reprieve? Not exactly. It seems that the valiant Mira has decided to talk, and my presence is required. So I shall be leaving you. But first ..."
Jessica flipped the master switch. The light bulb above Gwen's head flickered, then dimmed as the crackle and snap of high-amperage electrical current coursed down the wires taped to Gwen's flesh. Her body jerked instantly from the chair as if yanked by an invisible puppet master; she screamed as her lips flared around her clenched teeth. The search of current was stronger than before. And Jessica was letting it surge longer. Through the bloodshot haze and the stabbing pain behind her eyes she could make out the console's voltage meter bobbing in a yellow-marked region more than two-thirds across the dial.
Jessica watched her struggle. Gwen thrashed left, then right, as every muscle in her body throbbed with electromotive force pulsing through her. She could feel the ropes holding her arms and thighs stretch as she pulled against them with all her strength, trying vainly to free herself from her agony.
"Did I say that I would soon be leaving you?" Jessica's voice rose above Gwen's screams. "I meant that you would soon be leaving us." She paused to see if her words had penetrated through Gwen's pain.
Gwen was screaming. It was impossible to know if it was from the physical pain, or Jessica's frightening words, or both. Gwen wrenched madly from the chair and howled at the ceiling. The light bulb above Gwen dimmed further, barely casting garish shadows of her bucking figure against the wall.
Her screams were even louder now.
Tendons, ligaments, cartilage stretched and popped as the current tore muscle from bone. Beads of sweat rolled down her neck, over her heaving chest that gasped for air. She could smell her nipples searing as the current knifed through her breasts, the sickening odor of electricity and roasted flesh curling into her nostrils, barely registering in her universe of pain. How she hated Mira Kim and Eda Chang and Jana and Jessica and the whole bunch. She left the government for money. But all she got was pain. Unbearable hideous pain.
Because she had missed her target, her target was now frying her nipples off! One mistake was all anyone got in this business. And Gwen had made hers. Jessica was right, Gwen thought. Gwen was a fucking cunt. A fucking cunt who was now paying the price. The ultimate price.
"Good bye, dear." Jessica laughed and turned the knob all the way up. Gwen body lurched even further out of her chair, as far as her bonds allowed. Her bowels and her bladder released their contents. Her mouth opened, struggling for air. And then her body crashed back down into the chair with a final thud, her eyes wide and opened, her tongue protruding from her open mouth. Her legs twitching involuntarily. The wires attached to her burnt and disintegrated nipples pulling free when there was nothing there left to hold them, finally breaking the current.
Jessica leaned down and lifted Gwen's chin, stared into her open eyes, then leaned over and kissed her on the lips. "It's a shame when a fine piece of ass has to end this way. But you're not my first. And you won't be my last. In fact, at this very moment, I have bigger fish to fry. Literally." Jessica's hideous laugh filled the room as she headed for the door.
Eda revived in a dim room about 15 feet by 15 feet, lighted on its stone walls by flickering lights resembling torches, its stone floor damp. She had no idea how long she had been unconscious.
She felt a tremendous pain in her shoulders, and tried to move her limbs, but immediately realized that she could not. She looked up to see that her wrists were manacled to chains hanging from the ceiling, her ankles to manacles chained to the floor. Spreadeagled. She tried to reach her toes to the floor, but could not. Somewhat to her relief, she was still fully clothed. To her horror, though, she smelled a strong odor of burning coal, and, glancing to her right, located its cause -- a brazier filled with burning coals and at least four metal irons. Her body shuddered involuntarily.
Eda wondered whether the time had passed for Mira to deliver her clues, and wondering if she might have set their delivery in motion before she was kidnapped. Eda doubted it. Mira probably would have used her to deliver one of the clues. Maybe that's why she had been brought here.
A door creaked behind her, and she twisted to see Clue Man. He -- and probably others -- must have been watching. "Well, love. I see you've rejoined us. For your sake, I hope that this time you answer my questions truthfully, because this time ..." He walked over to the brazier, grabbed its handle, and rolled it in front of Eda, no more than six feet away--she could feel its heat even at that distance, "... I have help.
Eda stared at him, her jaw tight. "I tried to tell you at the station. But you ..."
"At the station you told me lies. I'm giving you another chance. Now ... did you betray Mira or did she betray my boss?"
"I told you. Mira sent me to make sure that we had solved the clues," Eda repeated her prior explanation.
Clue Man sighed. "Very well. Each time you lie to me, I will bring you pain," he told her in a low even voice. He knelt and removed Eda's right shoe, tossing it near the brazier. Then he reached under her skirt, unclipped her right stocking from her garter belt, pulled it down and off, and flung it near her shoe.
Eda pulled at her chains. "Yes, do that," Clue Man smiled, "I like that rattling sound. It confirms my power over you." He stepped back and picked up one of the heated irons, examined it, and moved back toward Eda. The iron was round, about 18 inches long and an inch and a half in diameter, with a long rubber grip of about 12 inches to protect its holder's hand. Its last six inches were metal, glowing red.
"We like to work on one side of your body so that you can compare what we've done to the undamaged side." He knelt again, and, without another word, rolled the heated metal across the bottom of Eda's now bare right foot from its ball to its arch and then back again.
Eda was startled by the sudden pain, and tried to hold in her scream, but could not. Her stomach tightened and quivered. She tried hopelessly to pull her foot away. After five or six seconds, Clue Man pulled the iron back and stood up. "I don't think that you'll be doing much walking for the next few days. So if you were planning to escape ..." He laughed. "Now, do you wish to replace your prior answer with, say, the truth? Mira didn't send you, did she?"
Eda shook her head no. Why suffer more pain repeating a lie that was not believed? Maybe Jana's torture had progressed further than her own. Maybe Jana had already told Clue Man everything. Maybe she should just tell the truth.
"Good. That's better. But that was just a test. Let's move on to what we really want to know. Where is Mira's information?
Eda's eyes opened wide. "I ... I don't know that. That's not something Mira would share with me."
Clue Man shook his head. "You don't learn, do you?" He put the iron back in the brazier, then moved back to Eda, and tore open Eda's skirt, the pins that she had used to fasten it flying off. He took out a small knife from his pocket, cut through the waist band, and yanked the skirt off completely, tossing it toward her shoe and stocking.
Clue Man picked up the same iron again, his eyes looking into Eda's to enjoy her terror. Then he suddenly swung his hand around her body, and jammed the iron flush against the back of her right knee. again rolling it up and down before pulling it back. Eda's body lunged forward as she let out a more painful scream than the first.
"So once again, where is Mira's information?"
Eda's chest now heaved, sweat forming over her body, as she struggled to regain her breath to try again to explain that she didn't know. "I ... I ... I ... told you .... I .... I told you ..."
"What you told me didn't answer my question. Where is Mira's information?"
"Please. Please. Let me explain. I need to explain."
Clue Man watched Eda's body continued to shake, her muscles twitching, spasming uncontrollably. She had a nice little body, he thought. He would have liked to fuck her before he destroyed too much of it. But the Boss was watching and wouldn't approve of that -- the Boss just wanted information. Now what kind of priorities were those, given that he had such a helpless cunt in front of him? Clue Man made a mental note to request this additional perk in his next contract negotiation with the Boss.
"Then explain." Clue Man put the iron back into the coals.
Eda closed her eyes and sighed in relief. She allowed herself several more breaths before she began. "Mira didn't show up at the cafe. To receive my clue about the locker. We think she was kidnapped. Maybe for her information. Maybe for ransom. We don't know."
"That's nice," Clue Man responded, "but I don't care about Mira. I care about her information."
"She didn't tell me!!" Eda screamed. "Maybe she would have given me a clue to bring to you if she'd come to the cafe. But she wouldn't tell me where the information was! She wouldn't trust anyone!"
Clue Man shook his head. "And obviously she was right not to, wasn't she?" He gripped the sides of Eda's shirt with both hands and tore it open, then pulled out his knife, cut it off her shoulders and tossed it into the growing pile of Eda's clothes. He stared at her white lace bra, then moved back to the brazier. This time he chose a different iron. One with a glowing red C on its end, about two inches high and two inches wide. Eda screamed as he approached. "I'm telling you the truth! I've told you!! I'll tell you everything I know, but I don't know where Mira's information is !"
"Then I'll just have to encourage you to think harder. Personally, I think that this letter ... " Clue Man jabbed the C hard against Eda's flesh, just to the right of her belly button. She rasped in pain. " ... lets everyone know that you are a Cunt." He pulled the iron away after five seconds. "Some of my friends, though, think," he returned the brazier, put down the iron, and pulled out another, this one with a letter T of about the same size, "that the C stands for Cock. But since you don't have a Cock ..." he jammed the T an equal distance to the left of her belly button. Eda's screams were shorter now, as she gasped for breath. "... I have to add this T, for Teaser, to please them." He pulled the second iron away. "But your not really a tease, are you? Why, I bet that you open your legs for any man who smiles at you, don't you?" Eda's watery eyes glazed, and her mouth hung open, emitting gurgles of pain with each breath. "And that you'd do it for me right now, if I asked, wouldn't you?" Clue Man moved back to examine his work. And to stare at Eda's sweating heaving chest. "Now, I want Mira's information."
Eda's head slumped at hearing yet again the question she could not answer. Then, slowly, she raised it, and, through tear-stained half-closed eyes tried again to explain. "The woman who captured Jana's friend outside the cafe. That woman. Jana said that she kidnapped Mira, I think. That's why ..."
"I didn't ask ..."
"Stop it. Stop it," Eda shouted at him. "I don't know where the information is. I'm trying to tell you what I do know. Why Mira didn't show up."
"All right," Clue Man responded. "Tell me who kidnapped Mira."
Eda started to sob. "Jana told me a name." Eda started to panic when the name did not come to her. "But I can't think of it," she finally screamed in exasperation.
"Don't worry. You will soon." Clue Man moved closer, reached around Eda's body, and this time unfastened her bra, freeing her breasts. He cut the shoulder straps so that the bra fell into his hands. Instead of tossing it with the other clothes, he put it into his pocket, then stepped back for a better view of Eda's naked heaving breasts.
He again selected the first iron, turned it lengthwise across Eda's body, and rolled it from just under her right breast up the curve of its underside and then back down. Eda's scream was long and continuous, until she was forced to inhale just to get the air to scream again. But before replacing the iron in the brazier, Clue Man moved to Eda's left side, and rolled the iron up the underside of her left breast as well. Eda's screams continued until they became gurgles and grunts. Her body continued to spasm and convulse, even after her head slumped to her chest.
"Guess I didn't keep my promise about just working on one side, did I? Seems we're all liars, huh?" Clue Man laughed, returned the iron to the brazier, and then moved back to Eda, grabbing her hair to force her to look at him with her barely open eyes. "Now," he said more firmly, "you can see where this is leading, can't you? And you don't want that to happen, do you? You enjoy the benefits of being a woman, I assume."
He removed her left shoe, left stocking and garter belt, tossing them into the now large pile of Eda's clothes behind him, leaving her only in her thin white panties. He paused for a few seconds before slashing them at her right hip. They wrapped around her left thigh. He grabbed them in his hand, cut them free, and put them into the pocket where he had put her bra. Then he stared at Eda's total nakedness before moving back to the brazier.
"This really is it, my dear." He picked up the first iron again, with the 12 inch rubber handle and six inch glowing tip. "Because, if you don't tell me everything right now, I'm going to run this between your cunt lips and then jam it up into you. And, unless you have the deepest cunt in history, you can imagine what will happen."
Exhausted, Eda began slowly again, her voice barely audible. "Jana said that Mira was kidnapped by a woman named Serena, I think. Or Jessica. It ended with an 'a.' They worked with a man with a scary-sounding name, she said. The Destroyer. The Oppressor. Something like that. They tried to kidnap me. They kidnapped a woman named Gwen, I think was ... is ... her name. Jana was the one in the train station before me. We were trying to steal the money. We were betraying Mira. That's all I know. Please. I don't know where Mira's information is. I've told you all I know."
Eda was sure she would soon feel the heated iron against the most sensitive area of her body. But Clue Man just smiled. He put the iron back in the brazier. "There, now that wasn't hard. I don't think it's all you know, but it's a good enough start that I'll give you some time to think some more about what else you need to tell us. And I'll make sure that you have no interruptions."
He walked behind Eda, who could hear him open and then close a drawer. He pushed something into her left ear, then her right, and she could no longer hear. Wax obviously. He moved back in front of her, and pulled her bra and panties out of his pocket. He stuffed her panties deep into her mouth, then forced her bra between her lips to secure the panties, and tied the bra behind her neck. Next he blindfolded her, and then pulled a black hood over her face, securing it at her neck. A few small holes. Just enough to prevent suffocation.
Eda's world was now silent. No sight. No sound. No taste or smell but that of her panties. The only sense left to her was the sense of touch. More accurately, the sense of pain, as her body remained consumed by the pain from the burns on her feet, her knees, her stomach and her breasts. And she wondered how much more pain might still be in store for her.
But for now she was left in her dark silent world to contemplate how, in such a short period of time, her world had changed from one of soon-to-be riches to one of total helplessness, hopelessness and pain.
Eda lost track of how long she had hung by her chains, spreadeagled, naked, burned, and literally senseless. The cold air made her body shiver. Or was it the terror of her situation? She could feel the heat pouring out of the burned areas of her body. Her right foot, the back of her right knee, her stomach and the underside of her breasts. Her throat still ached from her screams. She trembled at the thought of what Clue Man had threatened to do to her next.
And then ... a touch on her arm. Eda's entire body convulsed in fear. Who was it? Clue Man again? To finish the job? To jam that horrid iron into her as he threatened, without warning?
A touch on her side. She could not stop her body from quaking. Panic. Sheer panic. Every muscle in her body twitched in anticipation.
A touch against her face through the hood. And then the hood was removed. But still blindfolded. She groaned through the gag.
Then a touch behind her head. And the blindfold was pulled off. Eda closed her eyes, then opened them slowly. The room was still dim. Her eyes adjusted quickly. The person standing in front of her was not Clue Man. No. It was ... Jana. Dressed in her commando outfit. Every stitch in place. Not a mark on her face.
Eda stared at Jana. "I .. I can ..."
Jana pushed her finger against Eda's lips. "Oh, there's no need for you to explain. You played me for a fool. Except you proved to be a bigger one. I thought of an excuse that let me leave the warehouse first, after I realized that you were trying to set me up. "Pit of our digits"? Do I look like an idiot?"
"No, but I just wanted ..."
Jana gripped Eda around her neck. "I told you to shut up. Stupid and weak. That's why you're chained in the dungeon and I'm not."
"How can you call me a traitor? You're the one working for Mira's buyer. You're the traitor."
Jana laughed. "No. Just like you, I tried to steal the money for myself. And I was caught by the same men who caught you. They chained me in another dungeon down the hall. And do you know how they chained me? They chained me up by my fucking nipples so that I had to stand on my tiptoes to keep from tearing them off." [see Jana pic] She rubbed her left hand over her nipples, trying to ease the pain, mostly mental now, that she still felt.
Jana moved back to the brazier, and examined each of the irons as she continued. "But, unlike you, I didn't whimper and plead and sob. And I didn't tell them everything I knew to try to save my tits." Jana put down the last iron, walked back to Eda, and examined Eda's breasts. "Which I see you didn't do a very good job of saving anyway. Mine? Well, my nipples are sore, but they'll recover."
Jana continued to examine the burns on Eda's body. "You talked and they tortured you. I didn't and they stopped. So who's the traitor? And who's the foolish one?"
"I don't believe you," Eda challenged. "You betrayed Mira. You gave them Mira's information. I didn't have it. That's all that saved you."
"Girl, we both betrayed Mira when we went to the train station. But I didn't have Mira's information, either. I just showed them how tough I was. And then they decided that they could use someone like me. So they released me before they did any real damage. I mean, they wouldn't want to hurt their own, would they?" Jana again moved her hands to her breasts and rubbed her nipples through her shirt. "Damn, though, that was exciting. After that, I made my deal. A shame you weren't smart enough ... or tough enough ... to do the same."
"I don't believe you," Eda charged. "They wouldn't take you in. They couldn't be sure you weren't just trying to save yourself, ready to betray them at your first opportunity."
"Funny," Jana smiled, "I told them the same thing. But they came up with a way to ensure my loyalty. In fact, that's why I'm here."
"What do you mean?" Eda asked warily.
"Well, they explained that, to ensure my loyalty to them, I needed to give them something that they could use to blackmail me. And do you know what we decided on?" Eda did not respond, as Jana moved behind her, and Eda could again hear the sound of a drawer open and close. When Jana returned, Eda watched as Jana moved to the brazier, and picked up the six inch circular iron with the 12 inch rubber handle.
Jana pushed a small button on the side of the handle and the iron and half of the handle collapsed into itself so that only about six inches of the rubber handle remained visible. Then Jana walked directly in front of Eda, and snapped the rubber handle into ... a strap-on belt around her hips.
"What are you doing?" Eda stared at Jana as she checked to make sure that it was secure.
"Well, I started to tell you. You know that they have cameras in this dungeon, don't you? They film everything that happens here. Kind of perverse, but kind of a turn on, too."
Eda's eyes darted around the room, but, in the dim light, she could find nothing. Maybe the cameras were behind her.
"So, we agreed -- and I'm proud to say that it was my suggestion -- that I would be the one to continue ... and finish ... your torture and they would film it." Eda immediately started to protest and pull at her bonds. "Don't worry, though. It won't take long. I mean, I'm not that other guy. No, I just want ..." Jana stood directly in front of Eda know, her hands resting on Eda's shoulders, " ... to make love with you." Jana positioned the rubber handle upward between Eda's legs, and then slowly began to thrust it into her. Eda could feel the hard rubber push deeper into her, opening her up, easing nearly out and thrusting again.
Then, Jana eased it out fully, held the handle down, and pushed a button on the side. The six inches of heated metal jumped out. Jana moved closer to Eda so that the iron did not enter her, but thrust lengthwise between her labia. Just as Clue Man had threatened.
"Good-bye, traitor Eda." Jana allowed the iron to rest between Eda's legs for ten seconds as Eda screamed with strength she did not know she had.
And then Jana grabbed the handle and positioned the iron up into Eda, thrusting just far enough that all six inches of metal found their mark. In and back out. Again. Again. Eda's mind was crazed, consumed in pain.
Jana pushed deeper into her until half of the exposed handle joined the iron. Jana stared at Eda's contorted face. Having destroyed her rival's womanhood, Jana reached down a third time and pushed the button yet again. The entire handle now pushed out, and Jana thrust her hips forward until they met Eda's. With all six inches of the iron and 12 inches of the rubber handle in her, Jana knew that she had pierced Eda's cervix and internal organs, possibly even reached her heart. Eda's screams were replaced by gurgles, as blood began to pour from her mouth, confirming that her organs had indeed been pierced by the hot metal. After one more firm thrust, Jana reached around Eda and held her tightly for a long time,e then pulled her rubber and metal penis out, the iron caked with flesh and blood, and unstrapped it from her hips.
Eda's head immediately dropped to her chest. Jana walked to the side of the motionless Eda, put her arm around her shoulders , and lifted Eda's head by the hair. "Smile for the camera, dear." She held the pose for several seconds before letting Eda's head fall back on her chest.
Jana's loyalty to her new group could no longer be questioned. That loyalty was now assured. Jana's strength -- and brutality -- had given her a new life, she thought. And at the same time destroyed the life of one who had attempted to betray her.
Walking out of the dungeon room where she had introduced Gwen to her doom, Jessica was surprised to find Serena. All six feet tall of her. Jessica was glad that she and Serena were on the same side. Well, at least working for the same cause, which was to be paid as much money as possible for doing others' handiwork. Like dispatching the hapless Gwen.
"Boss wants to see you," Serena's voice was gruff and matter-of-fact.
"What? Now? No. He can't want to see me. I'm supposed to be questioning Mira Kim and nothing will stop me from that very great pleasure."
"Your choice," Serena shrugged. "But when he asks if I told you, I won't lie. I'm not going to take your place in his shit house for disobeying his order. He ordered me to tell you he wanted to see you right away. I obeyed my order." Serena turned and walked down the hall and up the stairs, leaving Jessica to decide whether torturing Mira immediately was worth the risk of the consequences of disobeying her employer, Christopher Price, better known as The Oppressor. Finally realizing that she didn't even know if Mira was actually down here in one of the dungeon rooms belows Price's headquarters, all of which were certainly locked in any event, Jessica slowly followed Serena's path down the corridor and up the stairs.
She knocked at the door to Price's office and entered without waiting for a reply, as was his preference. He was seated behind a large desk, staring at a computer screen turned away from Jessica's view as she sat in the chair on the other side. He didn't look up.
"You know that I should have you take Ms. Kim's place downstairs, don't you? After what you just did." He didn't raise his voice. Jessica stared at him, her jaw dropping, but she said nothing and he still did not turn to face her.
"You killed a source of information before she told you all that was useful." He finally raised his eyes from the screen and looked at her, his face as calm as his voice. "Why should I tolerate that?"
Jessica leaned forward in her chair. "No, sir, I did not. I would not. I'm better trained than that."
"Yes, sir." Jessica tried to hide the fear in her voice. Once upon a time, his outward demeanor had fooled her, but not any more. This was a brutal man. She knew that. She had seen him in action. No conscience. No moral code, unless getting what you want at whatever price to anyone else could be considered a moral code. But he was a very well paying man. She had weighed the risks and rewards. "She told me all she knew before she died. You and I both knew before I even began to question her that she would not have much information."
"Did we?" His eyes now stared directly at her, no, through her. Jessica could feel a chill race down her spine. Cold pale blue eyes. Ice. "So tell me then, dear sweet Jessica ..."
She saw his eyes drop to stare at her chest, and felt her nipples instantly harden. He was a passionate and considerate lover. But an even more heartless torturer and executioner. Was he thinking what he would do to those breasts if he found her answers wanting? His wrath had never yet been directed at her, but she knew that, if this was going to be the first time, it might also be the last.
"Did your guest tell you where her partner lives?"
Jessica hesitated. "No, sir. I did not ask her that. Why would that be of use to us?" Her words came out sounding more defiant than she had intended, and she immediately wished that she could take them back and repeat them with more deference.
"You think that there is no chance that there might be something of value in Ms. Jana Shi's living quarters? Or might there be just a small chance that there is?"
"I can find Jana Shi and where she lives if you feel ..."
"What if I feel that I want to know ... now?"
"I said that I could ..."
"I don't want to know if you could ... I want to know if you did."
Jessica took a deep breath. He was still staring at her chest, and she was feeling very vulnerable. There was a knock at the door, and Serena entered and stood with her back against the wall. Jessica's eyes darted to Serena and then back to Price, who remained staring at her chest. She hoped that she was hiding the fear that was growing inside her. He hated fear.
"No. I did not." Sometimes the truth appeased him. Sometimes it just confirmed his disillusionment.
He finally raised his eyes to look into hers. "You let your emotions get to you, didn't you? You killed her too quickly. You enjoyed it too much. Because you and she had been enemies for a long time. Am I right?"
Jessica wanted to look back at Serena, but knew that she mustn't, that it would show weakness. "You are right, sir. I erred. I am sorry. Very sorry." She figured the odds of his forgiveness were about even money. About the same as her odds of finding herself soon chained in the dungeons downstairs to face unspeakable horrors for her error in Gwen's interrogation.
He looked at Jessica for what seemed to her a very long time. She could feel that she was about to begin to shake when he finally spoke. "Fortunately, I have obtained Ms. Shi's address from our other guest, Ms. Kim." Mira had talked?! Jessica could not believe it. He nodded toward Serena. "Some of us know how to conduct a proper interrogation." Jessica fumed inside. She had always played second fiddle to Serena, and that was not a good position in this hierarchy. Those at the top sometimes liked to thin the ranks from potential competitors for their envied position. And Price didn't seem to mind, as it helped sustain his own position when those under him kept their eyes on each other, never able to build up a conspiracy against him.
He took out a small piece of paper and handed it to Jessica. On it was an address no more than three miles from where she now sat. "Go home," he instructed Jessica. "Rest for an hour. Get back your composure. Then go to the address. The apartment should be vacant. Find anything of interest and report back to me. Do not spend more than 30 minutes in the apartment. If she returns, kill her. Understood?" He didn't wait for her to nod. "And don't fuck this up !!"
Jessica looked at the paper and breathed a sigh. She had been spared. Probably just this once. She vowed that she would not screw up again. And she knew that she better not.
As Jana walked slowly down the street, her thoughts returned to her recent encounter with The Boss. A close call. But she had survived. And now she had support in her search for Mira. And for Gwen. The price had been Eda. Hardly a steep price to pay. In fact, given Eda's betrayal, Jana had rather enjoyed the turnabout. That look in Eda's eyes when she realized what Jana had intended to do. That Jana had won their private little battle. And that the price was ... rather steep. And very final.
Now Jana had been accepted by the powerful Boss, and had a fighting chance of rescuing Gwen. What happened to Mira, well, that didn't really matter much anymore. Mira was no longer a player, having betrayed The Boss, at least in his mind, when Eda and Jana tried to open the train station locker a bit prematurely. The Oppressor and Serena could do with Mira what they wanted. It didn't really matter. In fact, Jana hoped that they did. And had a very good time doing it.
The Boss had arrived minutes earlier and instructed her to get her things, destroy anything that might compromise her new position with his organization, and move into his complex. She was rising fast.
But as Jana reached the second floor of her apartment complex, and looked down to her apartment unit on the second floor, she noticed light escaping from under the door. She approached cautiously, and, turning her key soundlessly, opened the door. The light was coming from the inside bedroom. She saw movement. There was only one person it could be, Jana thought. She would have her revenge sooner than she had hoped. Her prey had come to her.
She drew her revolver and moved just outside the bedroom, hidden by the portion of the wall next to the door. She could make out that the light was coming from behind the bathroom's door, which was a few inches ajar.
Jana moved quickly and quietly into the bedroom. The contents of the dresser and night table had been spilled in disarray onto the floor. But the room was empty. Jessica -- it could be no one else -- had moved her search into the bathroom, and that search would take no more than a minute.
Jana steadied herself in front of the bathroom door, her revolver, held in both hands, drawn and aimed. She kicked the door back, nearly knocking it off its hinges. But, to her surprise, the bathroom was empty.
"Did you forget that you have a closet in your bedroom?" Jana could feel the press of cold circular steel against the back of her neck. The voice was indeed Jessica's. "As they say in the movies, Ms. Shi, drop that gun or I'll shoot. And, with the silencer, I'm not afraid of drawing any attention." Jana had no choice but to obey. Jessica's foot kicked it away.
"Now we're going to make some good use of your bed. I understand from a friend of yours whom I entertained recently that it has some special design features that we shouldn't let go to waste." Jessica forced Jana's body around to face the bed, then pushed her down on it, and moved against the wall about eight feet from the foot of the bed. From here, Jessica could best keep Jana in direct line, while, at the same time, staying out of the range of Jana's infamous karate kicks.
"Those are nice fatigues you're wearing," Jessica noticed that Jana's outfit -- loose fitting khaki pants, t-shirt and sneakers -- was similar to her own. Jana had turned around and was now sitting on the bed. "Since I'd hate for them to get torn or bloodied, you better take them off. Then turn around and lie flat on the bed with your arms and legs spread."
Jana looked at Jessica coldly, moved her body to the edge of the bed, so that her legs hung over it. She reached down, unlaced and removed her sneakers. She wore no socks. "Kick them to the side." Jana obeyed. Then she reached to her waist, grabbed the sides of her shirt, and pulled it over her head, confirming -- as if it needed confirming -- that she wore no bra. She tossed the shirt to the side, near her sneakers.
Jana stood up at the foot of the bed, and pulled down her pants to her ankles. "The panties, too." Jessica ordered. "Cunt," Jana swore. "No, dear. It's yours we're going to work on."
Jana reached up and pulled her panties down to join her pants at her ankles, leaving her completely naked. She then stepped her left ankle out of them, and, with the pants and panties both wrapped around her right ankle, raised her leg and flung them directly into Jessica's face. The size and weight of Jana's khaki pants completely blinded Jessica for a second and she stumbled back against the wall, firing two shots at where Jana had been. But Jana had quickly moved to her right, and closed the distance between them. As Jessica flung the pants out of her face, Jana stiffened her fingers and jabbed them hard into Jessica's solar plexus, knocking the wind out of her. Jessica's mouth opened and she gasped for air, her eyes finding Jana's. Jana grabbed Jessica by the throat, spun her around until Jessica's faced the bed, and toppled down on her. She then scrambled to sit on Jessica, her knees pinning Jessica face down on the bed.
Jana reached up and pulled a metal cuff resting against the top left post of the bed, attached by a retractable metal wire, and secured it to Jessica's left wrist. "You wanted to try out my new bed, you said, didn't you?" Jana quickly secured Jessica's right wrist to the cuff at the right post. "Well, be careful what you wish for, I've often heard."
"Seems that someone missed the class where we were taught that you tie first and strip second." Jana continued, moving off Jessica. Jessica tried feebly to kick at Jana as she secured first Jessica's left foot to the corner and then the right, leaving Jessica chained and spreadeagled. "There are other features of this bed, dear, dear Jessica, and I'll try to make sure to show you at least several of them." Jana walked to the side of the bed to examine her handiwork, and then slowly dressed.
As Jessica struggled, she realized that, with every few movements of the bed that accompanied her struggles, the wires holding her cuffed limbs retracted a notch toward the bed posters, stretching her further. Jana watched the realization come over Jessica's face, and smiled slowly. "When I use it on myself, I shorten the stretch by about four chain links on each limb. Gives a nice pull, but keeps everything attached. In my haste, however, I forgot to add those links. What a pity ..."
"You mother fucker," Jessica screamed at her.
"Aw, c'mon, Jess. Is that the best that you can do? It's not very original, you know." Jana moved toward the bed and pressed down on it hard. As it shook back up, the four cuffs all retracted. Jessica's spreadeagled body was now completely taut. "Oh, in case you're wondering, there's a way to release yourself from it. For safety. But, well, if someone doesn't tell you the trick, you'll never figure it out on your own. So fear not. You're not going anywhere. Not soon. Maybe not ever."
"Pretty neat, huh, don't you think?" Jana was obviously pleased with the turnabout in the two women's fortunes. "Now watch this." Jana sat back down on Jessica's back and placed a leather collar around her throat and neck, then pulled the chains attached to the front of the collar, jerking Jessica's face forward, and securing the chains to the posts at the head of the bed, holding Jessica's face in place. "When the bed moves," Jana gave it a small push, "and your limbs are pulled farther apart, the collar will be pulled also, which will tighten it around your throat. So the question becomes whether you'll asphyxiate before the chains pull your limbs apart. What do you think?"
Jessica could already feel the collar pressing against her trachea, beginning to restrict the airflow to her lungs. She grit her teeth, and struggled not to make any movement that would further retract the cuffs. But she couldn't resist displaying her own past power for a brief moment, no matter how it hurt her throat to speak. "Your heroics are too late, Ms. Shi. Ms. Shi-t. Your friend has already departed this world." Jessica's voice was raspy, but her meaning was clear. "Most unpleasantly, I might add. In fact, you might say that she got a real charge out of it. And Ms. Kim is next, even if you've deprived me personally of the pleasure." She couldn't turn to look at Jana's reaction, but she could hear the intake of Jana's breath. Her words had served their purpose. "C'mon. Gwen didn't know anything of value. So what would have been the point of keeping her around?"
Jana moved to the bed and grabbed Jessica's hair, thrusting her face close. She knew from Jessica's smirk that Jessica was telling her the truth. Jana released her grip, took a step back, then sat on the floor. "You god-damned mother fucker."
"Not very original, Ms. Shi. But, if you must know, I did fuck your bitch. I let my men fuck her, too. And she said we were all better than you ever were. She begged for more, in fact. Now go ahead. Do me so I can see that she was right about what a lousy lay you are."
Jana stood up and tried to control her rage. She didn't want to end this too quickly. No, that would be too easy. She walked behind the bed, pulled out a small knife, sliced through Jessica's pants upward from the bottom of the left leg to the waistband, then down from waistband to the bottom of the right leg. and pulled them off. She then grabbed the back of Jessica's shirt cut through it from the neck down, slashed the sleeves at the shoulders, and pulled it it out from under her, leaving her wearing only her boots and her panties. "The better to see you with, my dear Jessica."
"I'm going to give you five minutes to think about what's going happen next, when I come back with my whip. I don't think you're going to be able to keep still as the whip cuts through your flesh. So the question remains: Will the bed pull your limbs apart before you asphyxiate? I'm betting that it will, but that will depend on how strong your lungs are. Either way, though, I'll make sure to tell everyone that you died with your boots on." Jana gave the bed a push, and the cuffs retraced another notch. Jessica felt the pain in her limbs grow and started to scream, but caught herself. She would not give Jana the satisfaction. Not yet. Not until she had to. Which, she knew, would be soon enough.
Jana walked out of the bedroom, through her living room to her kitchen at the other side of her apartment. Before opening the closed door, however, she sensed that something was out of place. Something was wrong. She turned slowly to look back across the living room toward the bedroom. And she realized what was different about the room. There, seated casually on her sofa, facing her, were two men. They looked like the two men who had provided back up for Jessica at the cafe when Jessica had tried to seize Eda, but she wasn't sure. And whether they were the same two men was not really of immediate concern to Jana. No, what was of immediate concern to Jana was that each was pointing a 22 caliber handgun fitted with a silencer directly at her.
"What are y...?" Before she could finish the third word, Jana heard two quick pops and felt one bullet rip into her left side, the second directly above her belly button. These, she knew instantly, were no tranquilizer darts. Their power flung her back against the closed kitchen door, and, as her knees buckled, her body slid down the door until she was sitting on the floor, her back against the door, her hands trying to stem the flow of blood from the wounds in her midsection.
Jana's eyes darted from the blood filling her hands to the two men, as they rose from the sofa and walked calmly over to her. She opened her mouth to speak, but could only gasp for air. One man knelt in front of her and looked in her eyes, then back at the other man standing behind him.
The closer man reached down and grabbed the bottom of Jana's shirt with both hands, then pulled it up over her head. Jana could offer no resistance. The movement forced her hands up and away from her wounds. When the man pulled the shirt free of Jana's body and tossed it behind him, Jana's hands, powerless to control their actions, fell limply to her sides.
The man then leaned over and whispered in Jana's ear. "You shouldn't have switched sides so quickly to save yourself. It was not a healthy thing to do." He then moved the gun to the middle of Jana's chest, turned it to aim at her left breast, and, a second later, Jana heard another pop as the bullet ripped through her breast and exited into the wall at the side of the door. She watched helplessly as the man then moved the gun to her right breast, and, with the next pop, she felt the pain in her right breast as the bullet ripped through it. She refused to look down, not wanting to see how much ... or how little .. of her breasts were left.
As the man rose to examine his work, Jana's body slowly fell to its side. She could not move her hands to try to staunch the flow of blood from her body, although, now with multiple wounds, it would have done little good even if she could. All she could do was watch with open and gasping mouth as the entire front of her body turned red.
The man now grabbed her legs and pulled her face up toward the center of the room. He then moved his hands up to her pants and panties and pulled them off together in one motion. She could do nothing more than stare up at him, her armed now splayed above her head. He put his foot between her legs, kicked them apart, and shoved the barrel of his gun up between them. Jana immediately remembered that she had dispatched Eda in a not dissimilar manner not too many hours earlier. Was Jana -- whose fortunes, like Eda's, had turned back and forth so drastically so quickly -- doomed to suffer a humiliating death similar to the one she had inflicted on Eda?
"Rodney, don't," said the other man. "I still may want to fuck this one, so don't ruin her like that." Jana felt mild relief. She could feel her mind fogging from the loss of blood. It would not be long now. But she preferred further violation after her death to further violation causing it. Rodney pulled out the gun and unscrewed the silencer. He looked back at this partner. "You know what, Herm?" He again pushed the gun up inside Jana. "I think that her legs will act as a silencer, don't you?"
The sound of the two shots was only partially muffled. Jana felt the bullets penetrate her organs. So this must be what Eda had felt when ... but Jana's body, and with it her mind, was gone before she could finish her thought.
Rodney removed the gun from between Jana's legs, wiped the blood off of it with Jana's discarded shirt, and checked Jana's neck for a pulse. Finding none, he stood up. He pushed his heel under Jana's back and rolled her body onto its stomach. Then he pushed the tip of his shoe up against Jana's buttocks, and looked at his partner. "I guess you'll just have to fuck her in the ass, Herm, what do you think?"
Rodney walked to the bedroom where a spreadeagled Jessica, not sure what she was hearing, was using the little air available to her to scream. Herm took a sad look at Jana's mutilated body, shook his head, and followed Rodney into the bedroom.
"Well, well. Looks like someone needs our help, doesn't it?"
Rodney moved to the bed, examined for nearly a minute the post that held Jessica's left wrist, as Jessica warned him not to move the bed. Finally, he pushed a small metal circle inside the chain holding Jessica's cuffed left wrist to the post. The stretch on Jessica's body lessened just a bit, but that was enough to ease much of the pain in her limbs and tightness around her throat. She let out an audible sigh.
Though still chained and spreadeagled nearly naked, Jessica immediately resumed her perceived role as the leader of this threesome. "What the fuck took you so long? You were supposed to be right behind me. I ordered you to take her out if she returned. Where the fuck were you?"
"Well, interestingly, our orders from the boss were not the same as your orders to us." Rodney sat down on the bed. Jessica gasped involuntarily, fearing that the movement would stretch her body. But Rodney's action had apparently taken care of that danger, and nothing happened. "Now, who should we listen to, you or him?"
"What are you talking about? We are a team and you know the drill. Nothing has changed." Jessica pulled at her bonds, which, though no longer stretching her taut, held her firmly. And she noticed that neither man had made any effort to free her.
"The boss told us that he had warned you."
"What do you mean?"
"Didn't he tell you not to fuck up again? That you had fucked up when you killed your captive. Before getting all of her information from her?"
"That's between him and me. It doesn't involve you."
"Well, it didn't until he gave us our orders. He told us that you were on your own. That we were not to assist you, but only to make sure that your foe did not escape. Which, as you might by now have figured out, we did."
"I could have handled things without you," Jessica offered meekly.
"Oh, right. I guess you've forgotten that that dead woman in the other room -- yes, she's dead, those were our instructions -- was about to allow you to tear yourself limb from limb while you choked to death at the same time, but you could have handled it." He paused for a second, then turned to Herm. "You know what? I think that our dear Jessica just issued us a challenge. She says she can handle things from this position, and our instructions are not to save her. In fact, we've completed our assignment, so I guess we're on our own time now."
Rodney moved back to the bed's headboard, and flicked the metal circle back to the position in which he had found it. Jessica's body immediately stretched back to where he had found her, the leather strap around her neck again tightening to the point where it began to cut off her air supply, stifling her scream from the pain in her limbs. "You know what edge play is?"
Rodney grabbed two pillows from the head of the bed and pushed them under Jessica's hips, careful to stretch her further only to the extent that the pillows raised her hips. Then he moved to a chair by the side of the bed, and motioned to Herm. "Maybe you prefer this one now to the other."
Jessica could feel Herm cut off her panties and then move his knees up onto the bed. She waited to hear the click that would stretch her further, but it did not come. Had Rodney reset the device to stretch her more slowly? She wasn't sure.
Herm's hands circled Jessica's body, and crossed to grab her breasts firmly. He moved his body on top of hers. He was already erect. She knew that she did that to men, which would be a compliment except that it also meant that they seldom lasted long enough to satisfy her. Now he positioned himself to thrust into her doggy style.
She was surprised, though, at how excited she too already felt. She knew that "edge play" meant engaging in sexual activity with less than a normal amount of air. And here she was, hardly able to breath, helpless, being humped like a piece of meat. As she gasped for each breath, she could feel her body begin to explode. Was it the combination of her struggle for air and her overall helpless situation that she found doubly stimulating?
Finally, she felt her body shake like she could not before recall, stronger than any orgasm that she had ever experienced -- and she had never had trouble reaching orgasm, although more frequently with a woman partner than with a man. Because men just could not last for as long as she needed. So she had basically given up men, but, well, this time she had no choice. And, to her amazement, she was not regretting it.
The sound coming from her mouth was strange. Shouts of ecstasy that the leather strap would not let fully escape. But this was exhausting. Her heart was pounding. Her mind was exploding. And, as Herm continued to pound deeper into her, she realized that she had no air. That she could not suck in enough air for a full breath no matter how deeply she inhaled. And that her orgasming body would not let her conserve her air, but was demanding more and more that she just could not get into her lungs.
And then she heard the click and felt her limbs stretch, completely sucking the last bit of air out of her. Her mind and body were both quickly brought back from the wonderful edge where they had been, and she now felt only the pain from her dislocated shoulders and knees. Flat on her stomach, stretched too far, with Herm still pushing in and out of her, his weight on top of her further denying her the air that she needed.
He released into her just as Jessica heard the fateful sound of another click and felt her body pulled again. This time she felt as soon as she heard the snaps that meant that her hips and elbows had joined her knees and shoulders in dislocation. Her torso continued to twitch involuntarily. The separated limbs no longer joined in, however, but lay sprawled immobile on the bed. As Herm got up off of her, Rodney moved to the head of the bed to stare into Jessica's bulging eyes and gaping mouth. Her face would have fallen to the bed if not restrained by the collar and chains. Rodney moved his hand to Jessica's left breast and felt for a heartbeat. There was none. As Jana had predicted, Jessica had died with her boots on ... and only her boots.
"Go wait for me by the other one," Rodney directed Herm. "I'll be just a minute." Herm obeyed. Rodney released Jessica's neck from the collar and chains, allowing her face to fall to the bed. "I always hated you, you bitch. So now I have one thing left for you."
Rodney moved to the foot of the bed and mounted Jessica as Herm had done moments earlier. He unzipped his trousers and pressed himself against her buttocks, then forced himself into her anus. "You ... were ... a ... mother .... fucking ... bitch ...." He screamed one word with each thrust, held the last one, and was spent. He then rose, zipped his trousers, and gave the bed one last huge downward shove before turning to the door. He smiled as he heard the now familiar click. Only this time it was not followed by a scream.
Rodney moved into the living room, where Herm was waiting. They lifted Jana's body and carried it into the bedroom. Rodney removed the two pillows under Jessica's hips, noting that the last click had left her limbs totally separated from her torso, and deep purple in color from the internal bleeding at all the separation points. The two men slid Jana's body face up under Jessica's, stopping when Jana's mouth rested between Jessica's legs. "Let's leave them like this," Herm smiled. "No, all the way," Rodney replied, and they pulled Jana's body up until she was spreadeagled directly under Jessica, Jessica's unmutilated breasts pressing against what was left of Jana's.
"What a waste of ass," Rodney looked at Herm. "But the boss told me that these two were the ones who killed the other two against his orders, so, well, that sealed their own fates, now, didn't it? The one thing that the Boss won't stand for is disobedience, right Herm? Especially not from beautiful women."
Christopher Price put the phone back into its cradle and nodded to the woman seating opposite him. "Now what?"
"We agreed on five, didn't we? Three of mine and two of yours. You've met your end of the bargain. I still owe you one to meet mine."
He stared at her, noticing that, sitting with her legs crossed, her black skirt rose high on her upper thigh. Why didn't more women dress like this, he wondered. So professional looking. So sexy. He could see the outline of her white bra through her white blouse. Black and white. So basic. He hoped that he hadn't stared too long, but she hadn't seemed to notice. Or to mind if she had noticed.
"Such a complicated scheme," Price offered.
"Again, to distance ourselves."
"Go ahead. Do it. Finish it. She's downstairs. But who are you going to use?"
"I'm going to do it myself," the woman smiled. "We've moved up the ladder. We used Ms. Shi and Ms. Mareu to take care of Ms. Chang and Agent May. And then Ms. Shi and Ms. Mareu took care of each other pretty much, I would say, with a bit of assistance from you."
"Me?" Price looked at her quizzically. "You mean two of my men."
"And how did Ms. Shi and Ms. Mareu happen to find themselves together at Ms. Shi's apartment?"
Now Price smirked. "Well, in my role as the ... what did that group call me? Oh, yes, the Oppressor ... I directed Ms. Mareu to search Ms. Shi's apartment."
"While at the same time, in your role as the Boss of the group trying to find the valuable hidden information ..." the woman laughed, "you ordered your new associate, Ms. Shi, to go back to her apartment, where they both conveniently met their demise."
"Yes, that was very efficient. Two birds with one stone, as the British would say."
"So now I'll finish things myself." She walked over to where he was sitting and kissed him on the mouth. "And then we'll start over stronger than ever. And unified." She kissed him again, her mouth open, her tongue searching, and held it for a long time. She was getting exciting thinking about the task at hand for her ... and the future wealth that would certainly come her way from her new association with Price. With no more threatening underlings trying to take their places. Yes, those women were good soldiers. But they were becoming too powerful. Too threatening. Especially this last one downstairs. "Do you care to watch?"
"I'll be down before you're finished. But no, it won't be to watch. Just to confirm that the job has been completed."
"You needn't have doubts." The woman rose and left the room. Price sighed, then picked up the phone.
The woman descended several flights of steps until she reached the row of dungeon rooms under Price's mansion that he used for interrogation of those whom he thought had betrayed ... or might think to betray ... him, even if he had the thought before they did. She passed the room where Agent May had met her fate, then, two doors down, where naive Ms. Chang had breathed her painful last. And now it was time, in the last room in the row, the largest, to bring the final chapter of the "cleansing" to a close.
The woman entered the room. Her female subject remained in the exact position where she now been for several hours. But that was not surprising. How could she not be? Her body was arched around the curve of a thick large wooden wheel, her wrists chained to the wheel above her head, her ankles chained below. She wore nothing but a thin white chemise. And a black blindfold tied behind her head.
The woman approached the wheel and caressed its occupant's stomach, which immediately tightened. Releasing a wooden peg that held the wheel firm, the woman now sent her subject briefly upward to face the ceiling, then downward ... into a long trough of ice water below. She held the wheel in that position for twenty seconds, feeling the wheel shake from her subject's struggles. When she finally turned the wheel back up, her subject coughed and gasped for breath, having had no warning of a need to prepare herself before her frigid dunking.
"So you thought that our situations would be reversed, I'll bet, when you so bravely captured me," Mira sneered toward the still dripping Serena, who continued to gasp for air. "And you certainly were looking forward to torturing me in the most painful ways imaginable, weren't you?" Serena turned her head toward Mira's voice, but could see nothing through the soaked blindfold.
"No. No," Serena finally caught enough breath to respond. "I was only following my orders. It was Price who ordered me to capture you."
"And you did so with relish. You and Ms. Mareu, was that her name? Yes, was. She's joined Agent May and the others in the land faraway. And not very pleasantly either. Whose turn do you think it is next?"
Mira watched Serena's chest heave. Was it fear? Need to expel water from her lungs? It didn't matter. It was a beautiful chest and a beautiful sight. Through the cloth she grasped Serena's left nipple between her fingers. Fear or excitement or cold or all three were making her nipples very hard.
"This time get a good breath." Mira spun the wheel down again, this time holding it there for thirty seconds. When she brought Serena back up, Serena was gasping less than the first time. Obviously she had followed Mira's instructions.
Mira pulled off the white cloth that was now clinging so tightly to Serena that it seemed more to be part of her skin than a separate garment. The Mira removed Serena's blindfold so that she could observe her naked body and helpless situation. Finally, Mira stared into Serena's eyes. "It's Price who wants you gone. Says you're getting too powerful in his organization. That's why he got rid of Ms. Mareu also."
"You're lying," Serena spat back, the restoration of her vision seeming to give her some fire. "You are the one. You tried to steal his information without paying for it."
"No, actually he and I planned that together to get rid of you and Ms. Mareu, as well as a few of my own operatives with whom I was no longer ... comfortable, shall we say. I mean, why do all the work myself and then have to cut them in on everything?"
Mira yanked the wheel down again, and this time made sure that it stayed down 45 seconds. Serena obviously had a strong set of lungs, to judge from the size of her chest. But when she pulled her back up this time, Serena was panting for air.
"So, where were we? Oh, yes," Mira continued, "I was telling you how wrong you are. You see, there was no information, no money. Just a plan to get his operatives and mine fighting each other, and, better, killing each other. And we made sure that no one escaped her fate, even if it did require some assistance from us. And now we're left with only you ... the powerful Serena, the most threatening of all. Number 2 in Price's organization. Now he can't have you plotting to be Number 1, can he? And I certainly can't let you remain Number 2, since that's my new position. So what do you think now? About how misguided you were in thinking that you had captured me to eliminate me. Nope. Sorry. My capture was just the first step in the plan. It seems to have worked, wouldn't you say? Wait. Hold that thought for a minute."
Mira yanked the wheel down. This time, after 45 seconds, she could feel the wheel's shaking increase. She was apparently getting close to the limits of Serena's lung capacity. When her watch showed that a minute had passed, Mira turned the wheel. Serena's gasps were now desperate and wheezing. Mira stared at her heaving chest.
"And now the authorities will find enough bodies -- murdered in such a hideous fashion -- to realize that its just a private feud between two private organizations. And they'll figure that there's no point for them to get involved. Let them kill each other. The more the better. Why stop it? Why investigate?"
Mira heard the creak of the heavy wooden door and turned to find Price standing there with Rodney and Herm. Mira nodded to the men to show her appreciation for their recent work. "You're just in time." Then, turning to Serena, "There. Now do you believe me?"
Serena screamed at Price. "Why? Why? I've been loyal all these years. Why? Why?"
"Because Mira gives better head," Price responded coldly.
Mira looked back at Price, saw him nod, and pulled the wheel down again, but this time did not look at her watch. Instead she stared at the backside of the struggling body and watched the air bubbles. Serena's lungs were stronger than she had imagined, but, after a minute and twenty seconds, the bubbles started to diminish. Without waiting for them to stop, Mira pushed a button on the side of the post near the wheel, and a metal plank slid neatly over the water under the wheel, and over Serena's now barely moving body.
Mira walked to the door of the dungeon and tossed a key at Rodney. "Whenever you have time, I trust that you will dispose of this one in a manner that directs suspicion in the same direction as the others."
"I will, Madam," Rodney responded, catching the key, but then he stepped in front of the door, blocking Mira's exit. "But there is just one more thing," he said, as he dropped the key into a pocket.
"And what is that," Mira leaned over and kissed Rodney on the cheek. "You did good work today. You want a bonus? Perhaps a physical one?"
"Actually, I was told to come here to finish one more assignment," Rodney replied.
"You were, but, as you can see, when you were delayed a bit in finishing your previous work, I took care of that other assignment myself." Mira nodded in the direction of the wheel. "That was going to be your next assignment. I'm sorry that I couldn't wait."
"No. Not that assignment."
Mira looked puzzled, then turned to Price. Price shrugged his shoulders. "We've eliminated all of these threats. But who is the greatest threat to my position?" Mira felt Rodney and Herm grab her by the arms, as Price moved to make sure that the door was closed and secured.
It took Mira a few seconds before she realized what was happening. Then she tried to struggle, but she was no match for Rodney and Herm. "Why you son of a bitch. After what we .... I can't believe that you would ...."
"You can't believe that I would do to you what you would do to me if I didn't act first? Is that what you can't believe?" His voice was firm now.
Rodney and Herm dragged a kicking Mira between two poles near the far side of the room. When she continued to struggle, Rodney hit her hard in the solar plexus, and she doubled over in pain. Before she could recover, he chained her wrists to a bar running between the tops of the two poles, and her ankles through hooks in the floor, her toes unable to touch the floor to relieve the pressure on her shoulders.
"Now, dear Mira," Price began, "you're going to have to forgive us, but we haven't used this device before so we're not sure how well it will work. But, if you look to your left and right, you will see that, attached to the middle of each of the two poles is a square piece of metal." Mira quickly glanced to her left and right and saw the metal squares, about 18 inches on a side.
"Since you can't see what's on the other side, let me tell you that there are eight metal spikes on each square, and, when the squares are released, they will curl around the pole with great force in a sweep of 180 degrees -- you do remember your geometry, don't you? -- ripping into anything in their path. Which, in the present case, will be your beautiful body. From your hips to your shoulders. At least if it works."
"You are a sick man. A sick man," Mira protested.
"Well, actually, I'm a bit sicker than you think," Price laughed.
Rodney pulled two retractable metal handles attached to chains running down the inside of the poles on the side over the center bar on the top, and then put one handle into each of Mira's hands. She grabbed them instinctively. Then he released her wrists from their chains. Mira immediately felt her arms straighten and her body stretch tight as the handles pulled to retract.
"As you can see, these spikes will remain locked as long as you hold the handles. Should you let go, well, I told you what will happen." Price nodded across the room, where Herm was standing near two similar poles, holding the handles. "That was our prototype." In Mira's place, Herm had placed a life-sized wooden figure shaped like a woman. Herm released the handles. The metal squares swung around the poles and smashed loudly into the wooden figure, its long thin spikes easily jabbing completely through their target. Mira screamed.
"Now, dear. There's no reason to scream. You are stronger than that wooden woman. You can hold the handles much longer, can't you?" But Mira could already feel her arm muscles beginning to tire. It would be a horrific death, but at least it would be a quick one.
Price nodded to Rodney, who walked up behind Mira. "Now don't get ideas. If you let go, your body will shield me." He took out a small knife and cut through the back of her white blouse, then through the shoulders. The blouse dropped to the ground. Next he cut through her skirt, up to its waistband, and it too dropped to the ground. Mira continued to struggle to hold the handles.
Then he unhooked the back of her bra, allowing her breasts to fall free, cut through the shoulder straps and let the bra drop next to Mira's blouse and skirt. "Boss wants a clear view of your body. You can understand that, can't you?" Finally, he cut through the sides of Mira's panties, sniffed them, and put them into his pocket. "We all like souvenirs, don't we? I won't tell you what I kept of Ms. Shi's. But she wasn't using them anymore."
Rodney pressed his body against Mira's backside before he stepped away to stare at his handiwork. He could see that Price and Herm were also staring at her nakedness. Smooth flesh. Firm breasts. Pert small nipples. Flat stomach. Why exactly did Price keep insisting on wasting such beautiful female flesh? Oh, well, his not to reason why. No, his just to do ... and they die.
They could all see that Mira was already struggling to hold onto the handles, and that her body was now fully stretched and glazed in sweat, the handles having slid from the palm of her hands to the middle of the second joint of her fingers. Price wished that he had not set the tension on the retraction so high. He wanted to enjoy this for much longer. The straight lines of Mira's taut body. The curve of her breasts. The thin line of hair rising from between her spread legs. He wanted to touch her, to take her. But he could not. Not now. Maybe he could order Rodney to double lock the release so that Mira could let go without releasing the spikes, and then he could reset the release after he was finished with her. Maybe she would think that he had changed his mind and show her extreme gratitude. That might be a real treat.
Then he looked into Mira's eyes. He could see that they were filled with panic. Her knowledge that she could not hold on much longer. Her recollection of what had happened to the wooden figure. That soon her body would be as disfigured as she had helped make certain that Eda's and Gwen's and Jana's and Jessica's had been. That now it was her turn. That she too had fallen victim to the evils of Christopher Price and must pay the price to Mr. Price. Who had taken her own plan just this one step further. Why had she ever trusted him? Had this been his scheme all along? To take over her operation?
And Price realized that this look of terror in Mira's eyes brought him far more pleasure than anything that her body could do for him. He remained motionless, staring, knowing that very soon she would break totally. He could feel the movement in his loins. A very strong erection. Oh, yes, this was true pleasure.
"Please. Please. Mercy. Have mercy. I'll do whatever you want." Yes. Right on cue. Mira ... the strong implacable Mira ... was now babbling. Using her last words to beg for the kind of mercy that she had never shown anyone. Price smiled. He lived by the Golden Rule. "Do unto others ..." And he was just doing to Mira what she would have done to him.
Her sweating hands struggled to hold onto the handles, but they had now slipped to the first joints in her fingers. "Please. Mercy. Pleas ..." Now she was holding on by just three fingers, then by only the final joint of her middle fingers. Her eyes widened. She knew that this was the end.
The three men heard the sound of the swoosh from the metal square on Mira's left before they even realized that Mira had let go of the left handle. The spikes swooped around in their deadly arc and struck Mira on her left side with a sickening thud, all eight finding targets between her hips and shoulders. She immediately released the right handle, and the metal square on that side swung into her now more than two seconds after its counterpart, all eight of its spikes also finding targets between her hips and shoulders.
The spikes had swung around and embedded so quickly into Mira's flesh that two -- one on each side -- had pinned her upper arms in nearly the upraised spreadeagled position in which she had been at the time that she had released the handles.
Price could see that the spikes on the two sides had been calibrated very accurately, as the wounds on her body were nearly symmetric. Four spikes had penetrated Mira's breasts, but none deeply enough to pierce her heart. Two pierced her rib cage and two the sides of her belly button. Two had pierced just below her pubic bone and two her upper thighs.
Twelve of the sixteen -- all but the four that had struck her breasts -- had penetrated through her body. Most appreciatively from Price's perspective, his designer had shortened the four spikes that were potentially lethal on impact ... the ones aimed at her breasts .. and, as a result, though her wounds would obviously soon prove mortal from loss of blood, Mira, for the moment, remained alive, the loss of blood staunched some by the spikes embedded in her.
Price led the three men up to Mira's spasming body. She was taking quick short breaths. Any deep breath would drive the spikes in her chest deeper into her. Price could see that each breath, each movement, was horrifyingly painful for her.
She looked at Price, her guttural screams continuing, her breaths growing even more shallow. She watched Rodney and Herm walk to the water wheel, push the button that slid the metal top open, and release and pull up Serena's lifeless body, dragging it over to under Mira's own pinioned form.
"You will make these two also look like part of the gang war, I trust," Price instructed them. He glanced over to Mira, and noticed that she had lost control of her bladder. Her eyes stared back at him, her mouth open, her screams now soundless.
"Good bye, love," Price moved toward Mira and kissed her open mouth. "We'll have to do this again sometime, won't we? I'll have my people call your people. Oh, wait, that's right. Your people now are my people."
Price walked to the door of the dungeon. He turned just in time to see Mira's head fall to her chest, as Herm held her body while Rodney pulled back and reset the metal squares that had been holding it upright. As Herm dropped Mira's freed body to the floor on top of Serena's, their chests pressed against each other, Price left the room, and headed for the stairs to begin his new position as the head of a larger, stronger organization.