Simply_Cyn, Amanda G. Moon and Miriam Belle
"There has been some concern from, well, one reader about the category of this story. I consider it to be erotic horror simply because the evil and horror of everyday life is more profound and closer to home than any werewolf or vampire or ghost ever could be. Violence between men and women is what scares me the most of all, so here the story rests in the comfort of erotic horror. If there are any typos, please let me know as a few always seem to slip through... Cheers!"
Mandy Fisher sat her heavy black suitcase down on the flowered comforter of the queen-sized bed. It was a gaudy, unbelievably happy floral arrangement dyed into the cloth, consisting of red roses, blue posies and white daisies. As her eye was drawn to the design (in the same morbid way one has to look at a car accident on the expressway) she thought she saw yellow sunflowers lurking behind the green leaves. She rubbed her eyes, feeling fatigued and overwhelmed with her day. It was going on nine in the evening, the worst day of her life coming to a slow but eventual close.
She opened the curtains of her seventh story hotel room and looked out across the glimmering nightlife of Sacramento. The lights of cars passing in the street below seemed blurred to her. The muted sounds of bumper-to-bumper traffic and horns blaring seemed to be a thousand miles away. Mandy sighed and shook her head, letting the thin, vaguely transparent drapes fall back into place. In the dim light of her room, she felt tired and alone.
The flight here from New York had been long and filled with enough turbulence to make her teeth chatter even now. Her stomach still hadn't forgiven for the ride across the country. The bitter taste of bile was strong in the back of her throat despite efforts to hide it with several sticks of Winterfresh gum. She had never given much thought to the airsickness bags during her previous flights. But after she managed to eject half her breakfast into one of those small bags (only after the initial wretch had landed on the woman next to her) she had a whole new appreciation.
"Oh God, just shoot me," she breathed as she opened the suitcase.
In a direct contrast to the busy comforter on the bed, the bathroom was elegantly simple, colored in tones of beige and loaded with complimentary soaps and shampoo. She turned the light on and looked at herself in the mirror. Circles of dark exhaustion shaded her normally bright blue eyes. Her hair was looking limp and worn out, the midnight black locks losing their curl and hanging lazily at her shoulders. Her black business jacket had been taken off and tucked away after her vomiting on the plane (she didn't know what was worse, cleaning up in the small airplane bathroom or walking back to her seat as people snickered and looked at her doubtfully).
With a sullen sigh she unbuttoned her blouse and pulled it away from her body. She didn't want to look at her chest. If she did, she might have had to look at the large bruise above her right breast, blooming like a purple and green explosion on her milky flesh. If she looked, she would have to remember how that bruise had gotten there. And that would require recalling her husband, Carl, and right now he was the last person on Earth she wanted to think about.
Once she had stripped down and placed her clothes on the toilet seat (always in a neat pile, starting with her skirt, shirt, panties and bra) she looked in the mirror anyway. At the age of forty-one, she was still looking as good as she had when she was thirty-one. Life hadn't graced her with many blessings, but she had been given a youthful attractive body. Her full breasts, still pear shaped and perky, rested down from their long confinement in her bra. The bruise was still there, ugly and misshapen. Part of her had hoped it would simply vanish, like some special effect in a Hollywood movie. But it hadn't.
Along the side of her left thigh were several marks, all of them matching in color to the bruise on her chest. She looked at them and felt angry. She felt like a boiling cauldron of water, rising in temperature under the intense heat of relentless flame. She had hidden her feelings for a long time, placing the lid over the cauldron so to speak. She would steam and she would whistle and even rattle as the heat rose, as her insides boiled. But in the end, the lid stayed on.
Mandy kept it on now, as much as she wanted to scream, she kept it on.
Under the name of Amanda Moon, she had written about women like her now, battered women who had to find the courage to stand up to their oppressors. She wrote about women who took that lid off the rage, women who weren't afraid to let it boil over and burn anyone foolish enough to touch. She had made a lot of money as Amanda Moon, writing about that deep well of courage to stand up and fight for one's self. Her many readers enjoyed the truth and honesty of her characters, the intensity of the sex and quality of the stories. But most of all, they enjoyed her vision and courage.
'No,' she thought, 'Amanda Moon's vision and courage. Not mine.'
Amanda Moon would never have put up with Carl's bullshit.
She knew better.
For a long time, she had wondered if Mandy Fisher and Amanda Moon were even the same woman. Late at night, usually after finishing one of her many one-sided sexual encounters with Carl, she would hear Amanda speaking in her mind, chastising her for being so malleable, so easy to bend. The idea that Amanda was always a part of her gave her hope. Amanda was the voice of reason when all else failed. She was empowering and gave Mandy an outlet for her repression.
But now, after many hours flight time and a continent's worth of distance between her and the man she used to love, Mandy was beginning to believe Amanda was no more than a mask she wore. Would her readers have bought a book from timid, normal shy Mandy Fisher? Would they have paid the $29.95 to read a story from her? She doubted it. They craved the power of Amanda's words, not the uncertainty Mandy basted in everyday.
She was afraid to rock the boat, to face her problems.
How could such a starkly contrasting personality truly be a part of her own?
Mandy wondered how her readers would react to know she was a fraud? All good writing was about truth in the end. What was the truth about her as a person? Instead of beating Carl to within an inch of his life with the hand blender or grabbing a vase and smashing his thick head with it, as her alter ego would have done, she had run. She had waited until he went to work this morning and then slipped out the door with only her suitcase and the discs on which she saved her stories. She had run from one end of the country to the other, from sea to shining sea to avoid him.
"Jesus," she shook her head, "Where are you?"
The shower felt good and reinvigorated her enough to shave her legs and crotch. She washed herself thoroughly, not only trying to remove the funk of the day but also the essence of her fear and of her shit-kicking husband. She looked at the rings on her finger, a simple gold band behind which was an elegant engagement ring, mounted with a diamond the size of a pea. When she had first worn it, she loved it as she loved the man who had given it to her. Now, her resentment and hate was equal in intensity and scope.
Mandy stepped out of the shower and pulled the two rings off her finger. She stood there, naked and dripping wet as she held the rings out in front of her. She angled them in the stark light, watching them flash and glitter. With one hand, she opened the toilet lid and with the other she positioned the rings over the bowl. She bit her full bottom lip slightly between her teeth as she debated.
"You asshole," she said through clenched teeth and dropped the rings into the bowl. They splashed and then scraped down the porcelain incline to the mouth of the outlet pipe. The bands glittered there under the water, distorted by the ripples radiating on the surface.
Amanda Moon would have been proud.
Mandy wrapped the plush towel around her tired body and stepped out of the bathroom. With another towel she dried her hair, vigorously working the strands back and forth. She turned to face the bed and then froze.
A man was sitting there by her duffle bag facing her. He was dressed in black, a smart set of slacks with matching shirt, tie and jacket. His shoes were shined and impeccably clean. Later Mandy would think it crazy she noticed his shoes with such detail, especially when just after that observation she noticed the solid looking gun resting in his left hand, a shadow against the floral bedspread. The stranger had dark features, his hair equal to his clothes in color and as neatly kept as his shoes. His dark blue eyes looked to her with a quiet amusement, the kind of stare a shark might give a floundering fish as it spasmed in a cloud of it's own blood.
"Please," the man said, his deep voice slightly on the graveled side, "Don't speak."
Mandy dropped the towel from her hair, eyes wide and her heart thundering in her chest. She looked at the gun again.
"I'm going to ask you a few questions. Is that okay, miss?" the man looked at her expectantly, his tone kind and oddly concerned.
"What's your name?"
"Amanda Fisher," she whispered, her legs feeling like hot rubber.
"Mandy for short?"
"Is this your room, Mandy?"
The stranger looked perturbed by this, but his demeanor did not shift from the polite courtesy he projected so easily. He asked, "What do you do for a living?"
"Write what, Mandy?"
"Romance novels," she croaked, "Mostly."
"That's nice," he nodded amicably "Make any money at it?"
"Yes. A little."
The man stood up, asserting his full six-foot height and towering above her. His shoulders were broad and he seemed muscular, though she could tell he carried a little weight around his midsection. He reminded her of Alec Baldwin very, very much. The gun remained firmly in his hand, his finger resting on the side of the trigger easily. She knew enough to see that the safety catch was in the "off" position. He smiled genially at her as he looked down at the gun and then back at her again.
"Would you like me to put this away?" he asked.
Mandy nodded, her fingers digging into the tie of the towel around her body so furiously that her knuckles had turned white.
"Before I do," he said quietly, "One more question."
"Do you have any idea how much fucking trouble you're in?"
Mandy was ready to cry now. No, more than that she was ready to break down into hysterical sobs. Her mind entertained horrible visions of being raped and killed by this man right here in this hotel room. She had fled the east coast to escape a sex maniac and now she had run right into another, only this one had a gun. How's that for irony, ladies and gentlemen? Her throat tightened painfully as hot salty fluid burned her eyes.
"Are you going to hurt me?"
The man cocked a quizzical brow, his head tilted to one side, "You mean am I going to rape you?"
She couldn't move.
"No Mandy," he shook his head, "I'm not going to rape you."
"Are you going to kill me?" she asked
He looked at her for a long moment, as if though debating the question with all the thought and careful deliberation of a Rhodes scholar. Finally, with an uncertain look in his eyes (a state of mind that seemed to be completely alien to this man by Mandy's brief assessment) he said, "I hope not."
Mandy took a deep, staggering breath as she held back her fear. Her towel dropped a little and revealed the ugly bruise on her chest. The man in black looked at it and frowned, his face surprised and concerned. He motioned to it with his chin, "What happened?"
"I-" she started and then after a quick pause, "-I fell against my fence this morning."
"Your fence?" he repeated with a sad little smile, as though he had heard that excuse more than once before.
"Yes," she insisted. God, why was she lying to cover what Carl had done?
"You know," he opened his jacket and slipped the sleek gun into his shoulder holster, "I know something about inflicting pain, hurting people and such. I know what a bruise from a punch looks like, what wounds come from what weapon..."
Mandy looked away.
"How hard did he hit you?"
She said nothing.
The man in black nodded, "Okay. Fair enough."
Mandy focused on keeping her hands from shaking.
"Everyone has got to have secrets, right?"
Mandy was beginning to feel extremely vulnerable as she held her towel in place. The stranger seemed to notice this and asked, "Would you like to get dressed?"
"By all means," he stepped aside from her suitcase and then added, "But please, dress in here."
Her heart froze at the idea of being naked in front of him, even for a moment.
He smiled reassuringly, "I will look away."
The stranger turned his back, but something told her he could still see her every movement. The towel fell to the floor and she rooted through her suitcase, quickly grabbing her white t-shirt, a pair of wrangler jeans and her white bra and panty set. It took only a few minutes to finish, and when she did she looked up from buttoning her jeans she saw that he was still turned, facing the wall. She said, "I'm done."
"Good," he nodded and then turned to face her. He looked her over and said, "Beautiful even with clothes on."
She wondered if he had peeked in on her while she had been in the shower. It was possible, she supposed. If he had been able to sneak in undetected, somehow managing to crack an electronic lock and make himself comfortable on her bed all without her knowledge then he could have easily engaged in a little voyeurism. Mandy sat down on the edge of the mattress, eyeing the door to the hall. She wondered if she could move fast enough without getting shot?
"What do you want with me?" she asked.
"Nothing really," he rested on the corner of the desk just beyond the bed, "Not a damn thing."
"Then why are you here?"
"Because you and I have a real problem, Mandy."
"And that is?"
"You're in the wrong room."
The stranger nodded, his blue eyes locked with hers, "You see, someone in the management here fucked up and put you in a room that was already reserved, specifically for tonight."
Mandy felt a sudden burst of hope, "If this is your room I can move."
"I'm afraid not," he said grimly, "You see, if you leave here now you could put us both at unnecessary risk."
"I don't understand."
The stranger sighed and rubbed his right temple while looking at his silver wristwatch. From out of his right jacket pocket his pulled a small white bottle. He popped the cap open and shook four small tablets into his open palm. They went into his mouth and he dry swallowed them. He looked at her and said, "Mandy, you've stumbled into the middle of a professional hit."
Mandy asked, "Like a mob hit?"
"No," he smiled, "Just good old fashioned contract killing. You see, I'm supposed to kill someone here tonight. He's a very rich and powerful businessman from the east coast. I reserved this room a month ago for him, and he should be here within the hour. The problem is, you're here now. If I let you go, the seven men he has watching this room will know something is wrong and warn him off."
"But if they're watching the room, don't they know I'm here already?"
"Well," he scratched his chin, "They know a woman will be here waiting for, shall we name him Mr. Bannon? Mr. Bannon knows me as a contact for his, to put it mildly, more exotic fetishes."
"I don't understand."
"Of course not," the man said, "And you don't have to. But Mr. Bannon is expecting a woman to be here tonight who will engage him in his sexual perversions, Mandy. And as I cannot have two women here, you're in the aforementioned serious fucking trouble."
It took her a minute to grasp the reality of the situation. As she realized he was suggesting that she take the place of a hooker in his murderous plans to a man she didn't even know, Mandy felt that panicked fear grip her soul again. She shook her head, her eyes wide and hand to her chest, as she said, "No I won't do that."
The stranger laughed. "I'd never subject you to Mr. Bannon's twisted sexual needs, Mandy. But since we are in a jam here, maybe we can help each other out."
"I won't sleep with him," she cried out, "Let me go please!"
"Mandy," he raised a finger to his lips, "Please, keep your voice down."
She looked at him, her eyes brimming with tears.
"I'll be honest with you. Normally, I would kill you just for being here," he said matter-of-factly, "You're a complication to my plan, and I don't suffer complications. But I don't want to kill you, okay? You seem like you're a good person, and good people are hard to come by these days."
"The killer with morals?" she heard that part of herself that was Amanda Moon, fearless bitch and writer ask.
The man in black smiled, "A job is a job, Mandy. But I'm not indifferent to the suffering of the innocent."
Mandy wanted to look away from him, but she couldn't help it. His eyes were almost hypnotic as he spoke. He continued, "So I'll make you a deal. On the other side of this bed is a duffle bag containing three sets of lingerie, a whip, two dildos and a bundle of cash amounting to no less that twenty thousand dollars. If you help me tonight, that money is yours to keep."
She looked up at him.
He added with an amused grin, "And anything else in the bag you may like."
His attempt at humor was lost on her as she listened, her mind swimming in and out of the surreal turn her life had taken. She looked down at her hands. They were still shaking. She thought of Carl and how he had hurt her. The memories of the last few weeks came crashing down again on her, threatening to break down the walls she had built for herself. Her luck had gone from incredibly bad to completely fucked.
She didn't want to be a part of any of this. She wanted to scream and yell and strangle the desk clerk who had given her this damned room. She wanted to tell the man in black he could take his sex toys and money and shove it all right up his ass. She just wanted to run again, to escape. But her roots in reality would not allow for any of that. She knew that escape wasn't going to be an option. As she looked at him, there wasn't a doubt in her mind that he could shoot the fleas off a dog's back at three hundred yards in a windstorm.
Even Amanda Moon knew that.
"I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
The stranger replied, "No, you don't."
The truth of the matter was that she was over a barrel and they both knew it. Even if she escaped him, the men outside might finish the job. But then could this stranger be trusted? Were there even men outside to begin with? She shook her head, abandoning her second guesses and submitting to the truth at hand. With a resigned nod, she said, "I have two conditions then."
The man in black looked mildly surprised, "Okay."
"First," she took a deep breath, "No matter what happens, you protect me."
"Second," Mandy looked at him, trying to read his powerful eyes, "What's your name?"
The stranger graced her with one of the sexiest half grins she had ever seen, which to her confusion made her feel strangely at ease. He said, "Perry. My name is Perry."
Mandy nodded, "Okay Perry, what's next?"
"I don't have a lot of time to give you all the details," Perry said as he sat the duffel bag down on the bed and opened it, "Suffice it to say that you're now a high class, very well paid 'escort' that has been hired to indulge Mr. Bannon's fantasies for two hours tonight. I'm your protection, to make sure Mr. Bannon doesn't get carried away."