tagRomanceHaunted Fate

Haunted Fate


Laura knew something wasn't quite right the minute she entered their apartment. The upside down coffee table and a scrawled sign on the television that shouted, "WATCH THE TAPE", tipped her off.

'Oh, brother. Must be time for another mission improbable.'

Grabbing the remote control, she turned on the TV and pushed play.

The screen filled with the dim shape of a man lying face down with wrists bound behind his back and his ankles tied together. The lifeless hands frozen in a claw shape and the painted on hair looked familiar. Laura moved closer to the screen.

She laughed. 'That's Tom's old G. I. Joe.'

The picture suddenly blurred until the camera stopped and focused on a man wearing a pantyhose mask. Tennis balls, stuffed inside the feet, made the springy legs dangle onto his shoulders. He looked like a hard court jester with Wilson pom-poms.

In a falsetto voice, the taupe crotch spoke. "If you want to see your husband again you will follow my directions -- precisely. Don't talk to the police. You are under constant surveillance. Don't try anything funny," and he shook his head, putting the tennis balls in play. "Now go to the bedroom."

The video changed to Sunday's taped episode of "Alias", signaling end of message.

'Oh, poor Tommy is feeling insecure again.' She turned off the TV and hurried to their room -- grinning.

Atop her pillow lay a small box wrapped in gold foil. She shook it. Nothing rattled. Ripping it open exposed a peppermint Altoids tin -- their flavor.

Laura popped the top and lifted out a folded note.

"Go to Luigi's restaurant on Second Street," the message read. "Tell the hostess you are Celia Fate. Ask for Major Kissling. He will give you further instructions. You must arrive before 5:30. Wear the red dress and dancing shoes. Bring a large purse."

It was only four o'clock.

'I have time for a shower!'


Thursdays are slow at Luigi's. The man sitting alone and facing the back, his features indistinguishable in the wall mirror, caught Laura's attention.

"Hi, Hon," said the svelte hostess seated at the register. "Wow, you look nice. Happy Halloween."

"Hi, Becky. Thanks. Same to you."

"You guys are crazy."

Laura smiled. 'Can't argue with that.'

Becky stood up. "First, you gotta say it."

"I'm Celia Fate -- looking for Major Kissling."

Rolling her eyes, Becky said, "Follow me." At the table, she announced, "Hey Major, your Fate's here. Dinner is almost ready."

Kissling's gray fedora hid his growing bald spot. His eyes were focused on the nearly completed Times crossword puzzle. "What's a five letter word for sex appeal? Both 'Laura' and 'Celia' fit but they don't work."

Sliding into the booth, Celia whispered, "We can't keep doing this," but she would if role-playing was the only way to save her marriage. "Why don't you trust me?" There was a prolonged silence before Celia finally answered. "Charm."

Penciling it in, Kissling smiled, "You should know." His shadowed eyes wandered up from the newspaper, pausing on her deep cleavage.

"Here's your rabbit food," said Becky, obstructing his view while placing two salads on the table. "Anything to drink?"

"Just cold water -- no ice, please," answered the Major, stabbing lettuce with the anger of a ravenous carnivore on a diet.

Becky smirked. "Do you want that shaken not stirred?"

Celia said, "I'll have a Sprite, please."

After Becky left, Kissling declared, "Celia, you're my best courier. I can't lose someone so intelligent, gifted and… beautiful." His stare warmed her from the inside out until her cheeks burned. Then he continued, "Besides, I'm hoping you will make a mistake and you'll be rid of that dweeb you call a husband." Pointing the fork at her, he said, "You deserve a lot better."

"Shut up! He's a wonderful man--"

"Put your purse on the table."

Celia knew arguing was pointless.

The Major reached into his suit coat and retrieved another gold package. Slipping it into her purse, he said, "You have until 6:30 to meet your next contact." He stood and dropped a hundred dollar bill. "Enjoy the meal. It's your favorite." Winking, he added, "A New York strip -- well done."

Clenching her fists under the table, she squeaked, "I only stripped to get out of debt after the divorce. That was five years ago… and I said I was sorry for not telling you. Now please, let it go."

"Gotta run. The 'Grim Ripper' has work to do," said the Major over his shoulder. On his way out he stopped and tipped his hat to Becky and then kissed her cheek.

Celia smiled. 'Ya gotta love a man who respects his mother.'


It was seven o'clock and Celia was tired of waiting at the smoky bar -- tired of the come-ons from ghouls and drink offers from vampires. The past revisited was not a pleasant reunion. All her efforts to restore respectability in her life unraveled with one stranger's bold comment in a restaurant. "Didn't you dance at 'Diamonds and Pearls' a few years ago? Baby, you're one sweet piece of ass." Tom flipped out and punched him.

She worried.

Someone tapped her shoulder as Billy Joel began to play.

"Celia, let's dance."

A man with an eye patch took her hand and led her onto the floor.

"Crusher?" she grinned.

"Not a name to instill confidence while dancing -- is it." He held her close as they glided in slow circles.

"What took you so long?" she asked. "I was afraid something happened."

Lifting the patch, he said, "I've had my eye on you. Made sure you weren't followed," and then bent to whisper, "You certainly draw men's attention."

With crimson lips brushing his neck, she answered, "I only want yours."

They drifted through a string of ballads -- dancing with him always an uncomplicated pleasure.

His teasing fingers made designs on her back. "Mmm," She cooed, "that feels nice."

"Just checking for a wire."

She giggled.

The music changed tempo and Crusher led Celia outside to her car, while instructing, "Go to the bookstore, Bound and Bagged, over on Avery. Tell the man behind the counter you're there to pick up a copy of 'The Human Comedy' by Balzac for General Anxiety. Don't open the book until you've driven to the Riverside Mall. Inside there'll be two boxes. Only open the gold one."


The sweaty bookstore clerk gave Celia the creeps and she was glad to be driving away -- fast.

Five minutes later she opened the hollow book to see a gold box and a green box. A note inside the gold one read, "J. C. Penny's swimwear department is holding a suit for Mona Wanamaker. Make sure it fits. Drive to the downtown Sheraton. Take the book and the suit inside. Ask the desk clerk if there's a message for Lucy Ripanski."

Swimwear is not a big seller in October and finding a salesgirl took time. Mona was anxious to leave until the woman appeared carrying a flowery swatch of cloth.

Laughing, Mona said, "I'm not wearing that!" And spent another twenty minutes picking out something that covered more than three daisies worth.


"Is there a message for Lucy Ripanski?"

The phone rang and the desk clerk answered it while handing Lucy an envelope. Excited the endgame was near; she ripped it open and removed a room key and a scrap of paper with the number 427.

Entering room 427 Laura thrilled at mission complete. There was champagne on ice and long stem roses, but no Tommy. Laura opened the book and inspected the green box. 'This has to be an early anniversary gift,' and began pulling at a loose corner. When the tape popped free she put it down.

"Where is he?"

Next to the bathroom sink was a note. "Laura, thanks for playing along. I hope you had fun. I know I did. Put on your swimsuit and meet me at the pool," signed, C. U.


'No more games,' thought Laura, diving into the deep end and swimming the breaststroke to Tom; sitting with his feet in the water, watching her approach, and sporting the smile that melted her heart every time.

Helping her up beside him, Tom said, "You saved me again, Sweetheart," and kissed her fully in appreciation.

Laura held his face close and purred, "It's the least I could do. You saved me first."

Disbelief clouded his eyes. "How'd I do that?"

"You gave me asylum."

"Asylum, that's a good codename for our apartment." Tom's eyes drifted down and he chuckled, "You didn't like the swimsuit I picked out?"

Grinning, she declared, "Cool off, Mulder, this isn't the triple x files," and pushed him in. Then followed after for some submerged counterintelligence and found a nightstick hidden in his trunks.

Laughing and splashing was fun, but they soon craved the privacy of their room and left a marked trail of damp footprints.

Tom cornered Laura in the elevator and slipped his hands underneath her towel. "I'd like to begin the debriefing."

The ride turned into a playful display of veteran defensive maneuvers.

Safe inside the room, Tom's interest switched to the hollow book. He removed the green box and handed it to Laura. "Happy anniversary, Honey," and kissed her cheek.

Moving to pour drinks, he stopped to push aside the curtain and briefly looked outside. "I think you'll like it."

Laura turned the package over, hoping Tom wouldn't see her hand's trembling. Every corner was now tightly sealed. 'This can't be the same box,' and realized how close she'd come to failing his trust. 'Life would be a lot less complicated if Tom hadn't found out about the past' -- it seemed a lifetime ago and unimportant.

Beneath the green foil was another Altoids tin.

"Go ahead, open it."

"Sorry," Laura said, returning from troubled thoughts. "I'm just enjoying the moment," and popped up the tin top. A diamond bracelet twinkled inside. "It's beautiful, Tom." Then sighing, she added, "Isn't it a little extravagant, considering you're just starting the business?"

Tom wrapped her in his arms and whispered, "Sweetheart, you'd be surprised what some accounting firms will pay to have the 'Grim Ripper' appear with his truck at odd hours to shred a few hundred pounds of inconvenient files. But it's worth the risk to make you happy."

With panic in her voice, she asked, "You're not breaking the law are you?"

"No Honey, I'm just providing a service with a 'don't ask, don't tell' customer relations policy."

Her bathing suit top fell free as Tom untied the straps, and said, "Now that the mission is complete, Agent Fate, you know what comes next."

"We both come next, I hope," she smiled, running her hands down into his trunks and squeezing his ass.

Squatting, he pulled on her waistband. "First, I have to perform a cavity search. You never know where the enemy might bury a tracking device," Tom said, dragging the damp panty down to her ankles.

Laura stepped out, laughing. "Oh, you're right, we can't be too careful," and messed his hair.

Standing, Tom said, "Give me your mouth."

She leaned forward and his tongue slid between her lips as he pressed against her. Her cool skin began to warm from the full contact. The kiss lingered well after a thorough inspection. Their hands massaged the other's back and moans were exchanged.

When she slipped her hand between their bodies and palmed his groin, Laura was surprised and disappointed. "What's wrong?" Fondling the limp penis, she asked, "The little soldier doesn't want to salute me?"

Tom pushed away, saying, "I'm sorry," and rushed into the bathroom.

'What just happened?' Laura placed an ear against the bathroom door and heard the shower splash. It sounded like fun, but the door was locked. Pounding, she yelled, "Hey, let me in! I'll wash your back!"

"No! I want to be alone. I need time to think."

Heartbroken, Laura left the door, raised the thermostat up to 75, and wandered naked around the room with arms folded across her chest. She didn't want to put the red dress back on while her skin was covered with chlorine, so dry underpants would have to do. Sitting down at the desk, Laura doodled on the hotel notepad, wondering if her new marriage was over.

When the bathroom door opened, and Tom, wrapped in a towel, finally came out, Laura pushed by and locked the door. 'Two can play the disdain game.'

Adjusting the water to first-degree-burn, she tried to scrub off the guilt of the past. But it never worked. Tears washed the sadness down the drain until, emotionally spent, she toweled off and stumbled out, too tired to argue.

Tom, wearing only his pants, sat at the desk writing. He turned to ogle her with a look of renewed want and the energy seemed to transfer. Her skin tingled.

"Do you like looking at your naked wife even if a thousand other men looked before you?" By the pained expression on his face, Laura knew the words stung and she felt both mean and powerful.

"Honey, I'm trying to get a grip on this -- thing. But it's eating me alive." Tom stood and walked to the window, parted the drapes and stared outside. "The old adage, 'Men use money to get sex and women use sex to get money' keeps running through my head." Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he paused and seemed to be gathering himself. "You've used sex to get money -- a lot of money I'll bet. How can I compete with that?"

Laura walked to the desk and tried to think of a convincing answer. A list of questions lay written on the pad and she quickly scanned them. "Well, Tom, first you should realize I love you. And what other men paid to see, I give to you for pleasure."

"For how long." He spun around and grabbed the small roll of fat above his belt. "I'm not exactly Adonis now, am I? And I'm not getting rich."

"Hey, I'm not getting any younger either, ya know." Lifting her breast, she jiggled them, saying, "Gravity's pulling on these too!" Before he could respond, she continued, "Let's go over your list of questions and see if I can ease your mind enough to win back some trust." The list was short but direct. "Okay, the number one question: Did I have sex for money? No, I did not. Was I propositioned? Of course. But let me clear up a general misconception about exotic dancers. The vast majority are not hookers. They are hard working, adventurous, liberated women. Most of them have college plans and career goals and only use stripping to get what they want. They all know their dancing days are limited to a few good years, but try to find another job that pays $2000 a week. Why shouldn't women take advantage of men's prurient desires? They've been taking advantage of us forever." Laura began pacing at the foot of the bed. "Next question. Did I like it?"

While she thought how to simplify the complex answer, Tom sat down in the desk chair. "You must've been a superstar. You're beautiful and charming. I almost wish I'd seen you… perform."

"I was talented," she said, stopping in front of him. "At first, I was scared, like everyone else. But I love to dance and most of the men are very courteous and appreciative. It didn't take long for me to settle into the routine." Putting her hands on her knees, Laura bent and dangled her breasts in his face. "To get the big tips you have to know how to tease."

Grinning, Tom said, "You're definitely good at that," and reached for a handful.

Laura backed up. "Uh-uh. No one's allowed to touch the dancer." Her hands glided up her stomach and made circles around her breasts. The circles became smaller until the fingertips orbited the areolas. Each nipple began to swell. "When I started dancing I hated men -- for what my ex put me through. I got my revenge by teasing them and taking their money." She straddled his knees, and said, "Put your hands behind your back."

He did.

"Good boy." Their eyes locked in a stare down. She squatted. "A lap dance gets real close and personal, like this." Holding her breasts, Laura offered each one for appreciation, rolling the nipples. "They are so sensitive. Wouldn't you like to suck on them? That would feel soooo gooood." The old sense of supremacy rose inside. "I loved doing this for money, but you know what was wrong with it?"

"It was all fake and you wanted the real thing."

Unbuttoning his pants, she smiled, "That's right, Major Hardon. Now you understand. I wanted the full monty, the spend-the-rest-of-our-lives-together devotion." Boldly, she tugged down his pants, sat on his lap, and ground herself into his erection. His chest hair teased her distended nipples. She felt his hands squeeze her tush and lift. The tip of his cock pressed into her wet folds. She hovered on trembling legs, saying, "I only want to do this with you," and then sat on him. The swift fullness was always a thrill. She began massaging his shaft with internal compressions as their tongues danced the tango and their hips danced the rumba.

Grabbing Laura's legs, Tom rolled them both onto the bed. Braced on straight arms, he looked down into his wife's doe eyes. "I love you," he whispered, pumping slowly.

"I love you too," she smiled back. "You know how to make every day an adventure."

"And you're up to the challenge," he said, then quickly sucked and released a nipple, "aren't you?"

"Mmm." Arching her back with the titillation, she said, "If your up for it. I'm on it," while her hands slipped down to feel his penetrations and toy with her clitoris.

Tom rested on his elbows so his fingers were free to tease swollen nipples and increase her arousal.

"I'm close," she moaned.

His hips became insistent. Each thrust ended in a grunt from both, each harder and louder and faster, until she clamped her legs over his back and bowed into her release.

One final jab and Tom pulled her tight, kissing her throat.

Laura tickled his ear with a red fingernail.

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