Mock Rape, Inc.
Claire returned to her table to find the check laying in its usual spot. She picked it up to look at it. There was a white business card concealed beneath the check. She turned it over.
Mock Rape, inc.
Dark Fantasies Fulfilled
There was a phone number and logo which pictured a pair of feminine hands bound at the wrists. Claire stared at the card for a few moments in shock and puzzlement, then laid it face down as she had found it. She flagged down the waitress.
"Janet, did you leave this here?"
"No, what is it?"
Claire turned the card over.
"Oh, my god! Where did that come from?"
"I don't know. It was under the check when I picked it up. I thought you might have put it there."
"No, I've never seen it before. It's sort of scary. You want me to call the manager?"
"No, don't. I'm not sure I want anyone else to see it. You didn't see who put it there?"
"I wasn't watching. This is lunch hour and it's pretty busy. I can't imagine who would have left it."
"Have you ever seen one before?"
"Never. You want me to throw it away for you?"
"I think I'd better keep it. I want to see if I can find out where it came from. Would you watch to see if any more turn up?"
"Sure, I'll keep an eye out. I'll let you know if I see anything."
"Thanks." Claire paid her tab and left. As she went out the door, she couldn't help the feeling that she was being watched. She scanned the room but no one was paying any attention to her and she didn't see any unfamiliar faces. She decided she was being paranoid and returned to work.
At work, she found it difficult to concentrate. On two occasions she took the card out of her purse and looked at it, then hurriedly put it back for fear someone else might notice. As the afternoon wore on, Claire's agitation increased. Finally, it was time to leave. Claire looked around as she left the building, but didn't see anything unusual.
Claire warmed up some leftovers when she got home and tried to sort out her feelings as she ate. She was annoyed at the impact the card had on her equanimity. She was in an emotional uproar although nothing had actually happened. If she looked at it logically, nothing was likely to happen. The import of the card was that the next move was hers.
Nonetheless, she was disturbed. How had the card come to her? Was it random, or had she been selected to receive it? Was someone watching her? If she was a specific rather than a random target, why had she been selected? She felt insulted, frightened, and intrigued all at the same time. What made `them' (whoever `they' were) think she was interested?
Was she interested? That was perhaps the most disturbing question. She supposed that most women had some sort of rape fantasy. Of course, no one wanted to be raped, but the idea of a man taking control of her, having his way with her, did have it's erotic aspects. There was a reason for the popularity of the bodice ripper genre. She had even read a few herself. Nevertheless, Claire found these sorts of feelings embarrassing, although she had to admit to herself that suppressing them only increased her turmoil. Maybe she should call the number on the card. She could at least try to get some of her questions answered. But it was scary. Receiving such a card was not normal. It could be dangerous. And even scarier was the possibility that she might surrender herself to the sorts of feelings that the card inspired. She decided to ignore it. After a day or two she would forget the card and things would be normal again.
Claire's next day at work was even more miserable than the previous one. She had brought her lunch and ate at her desk. She was afraid to go out-well, not really afraid, she told herself, just appropriately cautious. The day dragged on. She tried to bury herself in her work, but all she could think about was the little white card. She felt her coworkers were becoming aware of her agitation. She got almost nothing done. Finally, she made an excuse and left a couple of hours early.
At home, Claire made some tea. This was driving her crazy. She was angry that her life had been taken over like this. It made her even angrier that she allowed it to happen. It was just a stupid white business card. It wasn't doing anything to her. She was doing it to herself.
"Stop it!" Claire shouted. Getting angry seemed to help. She knew she had to call the number. The shot of adrenalin provided the necessary resolve. It was the only way to take back control of her life. She didn't have to subscribe to or purchase whatever it was. What she needed was a confrontation with these people. She would tell these people what she thought of them. She dialed the phone.
"Hello, Ms. Dunbar. I'm glad to hear from you. My name is Malcolm."
"You know my name! Who are you? What do you want from me?" Malcolm had shattered Claire's aplomb before she had even spoken a word. She wanted to hang up, but that would only make things worse. She would have to talk to Malcolm.
"Relax, it's only caller ID. My phone tells me that I'm being called by `Dunbar, C.'. You must be Claire."
"You do know who I am. Oh, god, I'm being stalked."
"Hardly. After all, you called me. So, what can I do for you?"
"I got your card. Where did it come from? Why did I get it? Was it random, or was I supposed to get it?"
"The card was intended for you. Targeted marketing is essential in our business. Soliciting the wrong person can be embarrassing for all concerned."
"But how... who... why me?"
"As I said before, you called. Someone who was uninterested would simply have thrown the card away. She would never have called. You called."
"But I just called to find out what this is all about. I didn't call to hire you to do whatever it is you do."
"So wouldn't you like to know about what it is we do? As long as you're on the phone, you might as well find out what it is you're so frightened of."
"I'm not frightened. I just want to know what's going on."
"As much as I hate to contradict a customer..."
"I'm not a customer."
"Well, potential customer. Regardless, right now you don't sound like a woman who's cool, calm, and collected."
"Who can be cool and calm when they're being harassed? You don't..."
"Claire... Claire, relax. Take a deep breath. Again. Once more. Good. I hate to keep repeating myself, but you called me."
"But you started it. You gave me that card."
"You could have thrown it away. You didn't have to call. Now, wouldn't you like to hear what we have to offer?"
"Alright. Tell me. Get it over with."
"As you wish. We provide a service. We will fulfill your darkest fantasies. All you have to do is fill out a form, outlining your fantasies in as much or as little detail as you like. We will make them come true with no real danger to yourself. You will survive the experience unharmed and free of any diseases you do not already have. Once you receive the form, just fill it out and send it in with your payment and we'll do the rest."
"I'm still not sure exactly what you do."
"You tell us. You're the customer. Shall I send you a form?"
"I don't think so. This doesn't sound like my sort of thing."
"If you say so, but it won't hurt to look over the form. There's no obligation and nothing will happen unless you send it in with payment."
"So what do you charge for this `service'."
"The cost is $1500 with a $500 rebate if you complete the fantasy. You can cancel at any time, even during your experience"
"I don't understand. Why a rebate?"
"The rebate functions as coercion. You will be given a code word. If you say the word at any time, the fantasy is over in that instant. Many of our customers are turned on by the element of coercion. Since that's lost if they can stop any time they want, we have provided an incentive not to use the word. If you use the word, you lose your rebate. Use of the word will cost you $500."
"Either way, that's a lot of money."
"And what price would you put on fantasy? Think of it as a vacation. Surely you'd spend $1000 on a vacation."
"Yeah, but a vacation would be a week or more, not an hour or two."
"Typically, our fantasies take 24 to 48 hours. Consider it a weekend vacation. You couldn't get an individually tailored vacation for that amount of money anywhere."
"What if I didn't like it?"
"Just say the word and it stops. Shall I send you the forms?"
"OK. Send me the forms. You don't do anything unless I send them in - that's for sure isn't it?"
"That's for sure. This is a commercial enterprise. If you don't pay, you don't get a fantasy."
"I'll look at the forms, but there's no way I'm doing this."
"That's quite alright. It's your decision. Thank you for calling, Claire. Goodbye."
Claire felt better. She still had mixed emotions about the whole thing, but at least she had some idea what it was all about and felt reasonably sure nothing would happen unless she sent the forms back. She slept more soundly that night than she had since the card had first appeared.
The next day she came home to find an envelope in the mail with no return
address. She opened it to find a cover letter and several pages of forms.
She read the letter.
Thank you for considering our services. MRI hopes to provide you with a fantasy that you will find fulfilling. In order to design an experience that is suited to your desires, please fill out the attached forms. Put an `X' next to the items you wish to exclude and an `O' next to the items you would like included. All other items will be optional at our discretion. We suggest you mark as few items as possible, since the essence of this experience is the surrender of yourself to your guide. Most of our customers find they enjoy the experience more when they don't know what is going to happen.
After you finish, return it in the enclosed envelope along with $1,500. Personal checks are accepted, but your fantasy will not take place until the check has cleared.
Your code word is `consanguinity'. This is not a word you are likely to use in normal conversation, so there will be no doubt as to your intent should you use it. Remember that there is a $500 charge for use of your word. If you complete your fantasy without using the word, you will receive a rebate of $500.
After receipt of your payment and paperwork, we will begin work on designing your fantasy. Your fantasy will take place anywhere from 2 days to 2 months after payment clears. You will not be informed when it will take place. It will simply happen to you. The timing may or may not be convenient, so you may want to make preparations to be gone for a day or two without notice to anyone. We trust you will not disclose the true nature of your absence.
Thank you for considering MRI. We look forward to serving you.
Claire looked over the forms They listed a wide variety of sexual activities. She started filling them out. She had no intention of mailing the forms, but there was a certain vicarious thrill attached to the process of filling them in. She listed her name and put her code word in the appropriate blank.
She browsed the lists. Oral, anal, and vaginal penetration. She put an `X' next to anal. She almost marked out oral. She'd never done a blow job. She was mildly repulsed by the idea, but left it in anyway. She also marked out `gang bang' and `lesbian experience'. Her fantasies were usually more private, one-on-one. She went on down the list. Vibrators, dildos, autoeroticism. Leave it up to them. Bondage, spanking. Spanking? Well, maybe. She could always stop if it was too much. Water sports, piss drinking. Both out. She didn't put any O's on the sheet. It would be more fun if left up to them. Piercing, branding, tattoos. No, no, and no. This part was getting scary. Servitude, obedience training. Another maybe. She could always stop it. She finished the form, then put it in the return envelope, then secreted the envelope in her jewelry box. She didn't want it lying around where someone might see it.
Claire was nearly back to normal the next day at work. She still felt some anxiety, but she was no longer troubled by the white card. Its place had been taken by the envelope. She kept thinking about it. It didn't upset her the way the card had, but neither could she get it out of her mind.
At home that evening, she took the forms out again and looked at them. The thought occurred to her that she had not given Malcolm her address. She was not in the phone book. Nevertheless, the envelope had arrived, correctly addressed. These people had known where she lived. Malcolm had also avoided the question of how and why she had been chosen to receive the card, but had made it clear that there was nothing random about her possession of it. And how had the card been delivered? Claire began to feel that her original fears had been justified. What had drawn their attention to her?
Claire threw the forms in the trash then pulled them out again. In spite of the apprehension she felt, she was drawn by what the forms represented. She thought about calling Malcolm again, but decided not to. The result of her last attempt to give Malcolm and his people a piece of her mind was the envelope in her hand. What would Malcolm talk her into if she called him again?
Tension built up in Claire over the next several days. She continued taking her lunch to work so she wouldn't have to go out. She was suspicious of any strangers who looked at her. She could find no real sign of anyone watching her, but she felt as if she was being stalked. The envelope was always in her thoughts. It frightened her, but it excited her, too.
Increasingly, the envelope preyed on her mind. One evening several days later, she couldn't stand it anymore. She wrote a check and dropped the envelope in the mail. She still had a couple of days to stop the check, she told herself. What was odd was the sense of relief she felt. The problem was now out of her hands. At the same time, she was appalled. She had just paid someone $1000 to rape her. Claire was pretty sure this was not normal behavior. Why did she feel relief after mailing the envelope?
Claire went to bed and slept fitfully. The next day she was as troubled as ever. Finally, late in the day, she called the bank to stop the check, but it had already cleared. Claire couldn't believe it. They shouldn't even have received it yet. How could she have been such an idiot? Her money was gone and they were going to do god only knew what to her. She could always use the code word, but that would cost her $500 and she was not altogether convinced they would honor it.
When she got home, she located the white card and called Malcolm's number. It was disconnected. Now she was really frightened. She considered going to the police, but no crime had actually been committed. Besides, Malcolm had her check and the forms she'd filled out. She could imagine how embarrassing it would be if they should be produced.
A nervous month went by and Claire had nearly convinced herself that it had all been a con and nothing was going to happen. As she left work one evening, there was a van she'd never seen before parked next to her car. She was suspicious and walked up behind the van, peering through the windows. It was dark in the van, but it appeared to be empty. She walked to her car and fumbled with the key. It didn't seem to want to go in the door lock. Claire looked closely and realized something was jammed in the lock, preventing her key from going in. About this realization dawned the van door was flung open. A canvas bag was pulled over her head and tied about her neck. Claire was pulled into the van and her wrists were tied behind her and her ankles bound. Then she was laid in one of the seats and fastened down with seatbelts. The van pulled out of the parking garage into traffic.
Claire considered her predicament. She was bound and uncomfortable, but not unbearably so. For a moment she panicked, unable to remember her code word. Consanguinity, that was it, consanguinity. Claire clung to the word. It was her life buoy.
The van continued its journey. Claire was trying to decide if there were one or two abductors. She had never actually felt more than one pair of hands on her at any one time, but her ankles had been bound so rapidly after her wrists, she suspected there were either two men or one very fast one. There were no sounds in the van. No conversation, no radio, nothing to give her a sense of time.
After what she guessed was more than thirty minutes and less than two hours, the van stopped. She heard only one front door open, then the side door opened. Claire's ankles were untied and she was pulled from the van and set on her feet. The bag was removed from her head and a blindfold quickly tied into place.
Claire had gotten only a brief look at her surroundings before the blindfold had cut off her sight again. She was in a garage. It was large enough for two or three vehicles in addition to the van. She had been unable to see her abductor.
A choke chain collar was looped around her neck. She resisted the first tug, but a sharp snap of the leash closed the chain tightly about her neck. Claire gurgled and stumbled forward. She was led through a door which was closed with a heavy thud, then locked. The echo of her heels clicking on the hard floor told her she was in a corridor. She was led down the corridor and through another equally heavy door. The floor here was thinly carpeted. After a few paces, the leash went slack and Claire stopped. She stood waiting for whatever was next. Bound and blindfolded, there was nothing else to do. Claire's emotions were conflicted. She didn't feel particularly aroused. Apprehension and curiosity predominated. After what she guessed was several minutes nothing had happened.
"Hello," she called. "Is anyone ..."
"Silence. You have not been given permission to speak."
Claire jumped. The voice was almost in her ear. She hadn't realized anyone was standing so near. The voice was a clear baritone with just the hint of an accent she couldn't identify.
The chain choker was removed and something buckled in its place around her neck. From its feel, Claire guessed it was leather. She felt it being gently tugged and heard the snick of a small lock. Her hands were untied. She stood rubbing her wrists for a moment, still blindfolded. Then she reached up to feel the collar she was wearing, but a pair of hands seized her wrists and pulled then back down to her sides.
"I was only trying... Ow!" She had been slapped sharply across the cheek.
"You were told not to speak. Any further disobedience will be met with more severe punishment."
Claire was frightened now. This was not quite what she had expected. So far her adventure had proven to be anything but a turn-on. She thought about using the word, but didn't. It would cost her $500 to use it, but there was a greater fear. As long as she held the word in reserve, she could use it as a security blanket. If she used it and it was ignored, she was left without anything to which to cling. As long as she didn't use it, she could pretend there was an escape.
The command shocked her back to consciousness of her surroundings. She hesitated and felt the sting of a switch across the back of her calves.
"Oww, that hurt."
"This one will hurt even more."
"Do as you were ordered."
Claire began unbuttoning her blouse. She slipped it off and held it out tentatively.
"Drop it; then continue."
Claire let the blouse slip from her fingers then began on her bra. She dropped it on the floor on top of the blouse. She stepped out of her shoes and unfastened her skirt. When she had removed everything except her panties, she hesitated.
"Oww!" The switch struck the back of her thighs.
"You were told to undress. Are you undressed?"
"No, sir." Why had she called him `sir'? It made her angry, but she felt the need to appease. She didn't want to be switched again.
"Then get that way."
Claire pulled down her panties and stepped out of them. She stood naked except for her blindfold and collar. Nothing happened for several minutes. She was pretty sure her captor was inspecting her. Then her arm was seized. Something was buckled snugly around her wrist; then she heard the snick of another small lock. The process was repeated with her other wrist, then her wrists were pulled behind her and fastened. Cuffs were then locked on her ankles.
Her ankle cuffs were fastened together. Then her wrists freed, fastened in front, pulled overhead and fastened. Claire was now standing with her arms over her head so that her body was drawn taut. Hands cupped her breasts, then she felt the fingers on her nipples. Claire moaned softly and then screeched as something clamped down on first one nipple then the other.
"Don't," she pleaded. "Take them off."
"Open your mouth."
Against her better judgment Claire complied. Something was jammed in her mouth and held in place by a strap buckled behind her neck.
"You probably thought your silly code word would save you, didn't you."
Before Claire could react to this remark, she felt a sting across the small of her back. It was quickly followed by another and another. Claire was lashed from neck to ankles. Each blow hurt but was bearable; however, the cumulative effect soon had her sobbing softly. She was being whipped. She couldn't believe it. And what was worse, she had paid them to do it. It wasn't just the pain that made her cry; she felt like such a fool.
After she had been thoroughly worked over, her arms were taken down and fastened behind her. Claire yelped as the clamps were removed from her nipples. She was bent over a table or bench and her collar fastened to the surface of it. Her ankles were spread and locked in place. Then she was fucked. Claire reflected that this was an accurate description of her situation on a number of levels. She was being fucked. Nonetheless, Claire experienced a surprisingly healthy orgasm. She was embarrassed and ashamed that she could have an orgasm under such conditions. It was all so mechanical. Do this... stand there... silence... obey. She started to cry again. She felt so humiliated.
Claire felt her gag being unbuckled. It was pulled out and she closed her mouth, the ache in her jaw intensified by the unaccustomed motion. She tried to speak.
"Consequent... ow!" She had been lashed across the small of her back.
"You still don't have permission to speak," said the voice.
Consequently? She had tried to use her word, but had gotten it wrong. Consignment? Containment? Consecutively? Conserv... "Gachh!" Something had been shoved in her mouth. It took Claire a moment to realize what it was. She raised her head, trying to clear her mouth of the thing that was relentlessly thrusting itself into her.
"You've never done a blow job, have you."
Fingers laced themselves into her hair and pulled her head back down, then up again. Claire let her neck go limp as her head was bobbed up and down on the shaft.
Claire made a half hearted effort to comply, then yelped as she was lashed again.
"Try harder," said the voice. "You're going to keep doing this until you get it right."
Claire increased her efforts. After a bit, her captor grunted and the back of her throat was spayed with a warm liquid.
Claire gulped and swallowed, then the rapidly shrinking member was pulled out. Claire's attempt to speak was interrupted as her stomach heaved and she threw up on the floor.
"Damn," was all the voice said.
Claire was unfastened and pulled to an upright position. She groaned as her muscles uncramped themselves. Something was held to her lips.
Claire drank. As near as she could tell, it was water. Her gag was replaced and then her wrists fastened overhead again.
This time she was whipped on her front side: thighs, stomach, breasts. Claire jerked and struggled. Her captor would simply wait until she stopped moving then land another blow. After a while it stopped. It had been more intense than her first whipping, but had not lasted as long.
Claire's hands were tied behind her again. Then she was picked up and carried to another room and deposited on a soft surface. Covers were pulled over her. She realized she was in a bed. Someone climbed in beside her. His body covered hers and pressed it into the mattress. She was fucked again. Claire fell asleep.
Sometime later she awoke. Her head was pulled beneath the covers and she was given another blow job lesson. This time she managed not to throw up. She fell asleep again. The pattern repeated. Fuck, nap, blow job, nap.
When next she awoke, she was picked up, placed on the floor and hogtied. Her collar was attached to the floor. Claire remained uncomfortably bound for an indeterminate period of time, after which she was untied and helped to her feet. She did not try to remove her blindfold. Her hands were pulled behind her and locked in handcuffs. She was gagged and led from the room.
Claire was placed in the van and secured in the same way she had been when she arrived, except this time she was naked. After a trip which seemed similar in length to the previous one, the van stopped. Claire was unstrapped and her ankles freed. She was helped from the van and stood quietly on what felt like pavement while her wrists were freed and then locked in front of her. A light chain was threaded through the center link of the handcuffs and locked around her waist, pinning her wrists to her stomach. A small object was placed in her hand. After a moment, the van door slammed and she heard it drive off.
Claire had no idea where she was. She was standing naked, handcuffed, gagged, and blindfolded. She thought she was outdoors. She could hear traffic and feel a breeze. She felt more vulnerable now than at any previous time in her captivity. She couldn't hear anyone around and hoped she was alone. She feared she was on a street corner. Claire took a tentative step and stubbed her toe. She had to get the blindfold off, but couldn't reach it with her hands chained to her waist.
Examining the object in her hand, she realized it was a ring of keys. There were three of them. She fumbled for a considerable period of time, trying to unlock the handcuffs. She dropped the keys. Claire extended one leg and swept the ground with her foot until she located them. She squatted, but was unable to reach the ground. Finally, she was forced to kneel, then lie down and roll around until she got her hands on the keys. She found the keyhole on her left wrist, and after more fumbling, she was able to unlock it with the second key she tried. She reached up and tried to remove her blindfold, but it was buckled tightly in place and locked. She unlocked her right wrist. With both hands free, she was able to unlock and remove her blindfold.
Claire blinked and looked around. She knew where she was. She was just inside the entrance to the parking garage where she parked every day. She could see traffic passing on the street. It was dark out, and the garage was apparently deserted. Running across the lot to the elevator, she pushed the button and waited forever for it to arrive; afraid someone would come in and see her. Finally, it came and she got in and pushed the button for level four. The elevator rose, then stopped on level three. She huddled in the corner, terrified. The door opened, but no one was there. The elevator continued to level four.
Exiting the elevator, she saw her car across the empty lot where she had left it. She ran to it. Her keys! She didn't have her car keys. She tried the doors. Locked. In a panic, she tried the trunk. It opened; her keys were lying inside. Claire opened the car and got in. It started easily. As she started to back out, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. She was still gagged. In her panic, she had forgotten the gag. She fumbled with the keys again and unlocked it. She also removed her collar. Only one more problem. She was still naked. She got out and opened the trunk again. She kept a blanket there for emergencies. She wrapped it around herself like a bath towel and drove home.
Her clothes lay neatly on her sofa. She saw them as soon as she opened the front door. They had been in her house. For a moment she was frightened again. What if they were still in the house? Claire got hold of herself. It wasn't likely. Why would they bother? If they wanted her, they wouldn't have released her. Just the same, it troubled her that they had been in her house. She took a shower and went to bed, but slept fitfully.
Claire was not pleased with her purchase. It was Sunday morning. She had been abducted on Friday afternoon and released Saturday, sometime after midnight. She was trying to sort out her feelings about the whole thing. It had not turned out to be the thrill that she had secretly hoped for. She felt so used. She had been grabbed, bound, whipped, fucked, fucked some more, then dumped naked in a parking lot. Nothing about it conformed to her idea of a romantic interlude. Snatched, forced to perform and then cast aside. The orgasms she had experienced caused her only anger and embarrassment. It had not been as traumatic as a real rape, but neither had there been anything erotic about the episode. She only hoped she would get her five hundred dollars back. As it was, she was going to have to take some money out of savings to make it to her next paycheck.
On Monday, Claire went back to work. She did feel a certain relief in having it all over with. She resumed having lunch at her usual place and her work habits returned to normal. By the end of the week, she still had not received her refund. She tried Malcolm's number again, but it was still disconnected. Although she was still angry about the money, she was otherwise pretty much over it.
Friday evening, as she unlocked her car to go home, an arm encircled her and a hand clamped itself over her mouth.
"Not a sound. Do as you're told and you won't get hurt."
Claire recognized the voice. It was Malcolm. But if this was Malcolm, then who... what... Claire was so confused, she hardly noticed she had been blindfolded, bound, and placed on the floor in the back of a car. If this was Malcolm, then who was... Oh my god, she'd been raped! She became frightened, but not of her current predicament. She was frightened by the previous one. It had been real. Claire was so agitated that she completely ignored the fact that she was currently being abducted. She lay in the back of the car, bound and quivering.
Wait a minute. Her previous abductor had made reference to the code word. If he knew about that, then he was part of it. Was she getting twice her money's worth? For the first time in her life, Claire wasn't exactly sure she wanted a bargain.
The car stopped. Malcolm picked her up and carried her through a door, then set her on her feet. He untied her hands, then pulled them above her head and tied them to some sort of bar or rail. He unbound her ankles, removed her shoes, and then tied her ankles to another bar about three feet apart. Claire was now tied in a vertical spread eagle. She was about to say something when Malcolm place a hand on either side of her head, tilted it back, and kissed her. This was something her previous captor had never done.
Malcolm began a slow exploration of Claire's body. He unbuttoned her blouse and unhooked her bra. He kissed her again and ran his thumbs lightly over her nipples. He worked his way up and down her body, looking for the things that would make her gasp or moan.
It was Sunday night and Claire was back home. She had been Malcolm's prisoner for two whole days. She had not seen Malcolm, having been kept bound and blindfolded the whole time. This incident had been much more erotic. Malcolm seemed to delight in wringing major orgasms from her. They seemed to be amplified by her helplessness. For meals, she had been tied to a chair and Malcolm had fed her spoonful by spoonful. Even the spankings she had received, although painful, had somehow excited her. When it was over, she had been transported bound and blindfolded like before, but this time, when she got her blindfold off, she was in her living room. Her car was in the driveway.
Several days later, Claire's phone rang.
"Claire, this is Malcolm."
"I wasn't sure I'd ever hear from you again."
"Well, you did. I called for a couple of reasons. First of all, you have a rebate coming. You'll get it in the mail shortly. Secondly, I called to see if you enjoyed your experience."
"I guess I did. The second one anyway. I wasn't that thrilled about the first one. There was a certain intensity about it, but ..."
"First one? What first one?"
"You know, the one the week before. The second time I knew it was you because I recognized the voice, and for a few minutes I thought the first one had been real, then I remembered the first guy mentioned the code word and I realized it was part of the deal. You didn't tell me there were going to be two of them."
"He mentioned the code word?"
"Yeah, he told me not to use it. Then he gagged me. I'll bet he wasn't supposed to do that, was he."
"Uh, no, he wasn't. So tell me about this first one. What was it like? Did you see him?"
"No, I was blindfolded the whole time. The setup was a lot like the one you did, but it was more brutal, more mechanical. He didn't seem interested in whether I enjoyed it or not. He made it clear I was there to please him. I think you need a new assistant. When you did it, even though I was tied up and got punished and everything, I didn't feel threatened the way I did with him. You made me obey, but I wasn't frightened."
"Well, I'll certainly look into that. I'm sending you some stuff with your rebate. The first thing is a customer satisfaction survey. I hope you'll fill it out and send it back. It helps us fine tune our service. The other thing is a new set of forms and an envelope in case you would like to make use of our service in the future. Just send them in with a check and we'll arrange a new adventure for you."
"What happened to your phone? I tried to call you, but the number was disconnected."
"We change phone numbers once a month. We find it a prudent thing to do. Should you need us again, just send in the form with a check. You'll be contacted. I can't guarantee you'll get two adventures next time, however."
"You're really sending me the rebate?"
"Of course. I said we would."
"You're welcome, Claire. Goodbye."
Claire was perplexed. She had gotten the distinct impression that Malcolm had been unaware of the first abduction. But if that was true, that meant... But the guy had known about the code word setup... Maybe Malcolm was bluffing, but she didn't think so. He sounded more like he was trying to cover up his ignorance of the first incident. Maybe the company hadn't told Malcolm about the first one, but that didn't make any sense. Besides, she had a feeling the company consisted of only Malcolm, but if that were true, then the first guy hadn't been part of it, but he'd known about the code word. Claire was confused and worried.
Malcolm was confused and worried. This wasn't the first time one of his customers had reported a previous experience. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he didn't like it. He had found the perfect niche business. He could indulge his fantasies and make a living at the same time. He didn't want it ruined. Nevertheless, it appeared someone was raping his customers under the guise of fulfilling his contracts. Claire had told him the guy had mentioned the code word. Whoever it was knew too much about his operation. It was clear that it was his customers that were being targeted, rather than random people. Malcolm was a one-man operation. How was it possible for someone to know who his customers were?
At first, Malcolm tried to decide which of his customers was leaking information to someone. It just didn't make sense. None of Malcolm's customers had any contact with each other. Malcolm worked as an office temp. This was how he found potential clients. He would look for likely prospects in each new place he worked, but he never solicited any of them until six months to a year after he had left. There was just no way any of them could know each other. He couldn't imagine one of them telling someone about her experience, especially before it happened, which would be what was required for whoever it was to get to his customers before he did. Malcolm was forced to conclude that the most likely source of the leak was himself. He was the only point where all the information came together.
But how? Malcolm never discussed his little enterprise with anyone. Only he and his selected customers knew of its existence. Nonetheless, somebody knew. That was certain. Whoever it was knew who his customers were. How? Someone had gotten access to his customer information on an ongoing basis. Malcolm corresponded with customers by mail and phone. Mail did not come directly to his apartment, however. The return envelopes he sent to customers were sent to a mail drop across town. Malcolm did not pick them up there. He had them forwarded to another mail drop in another city, then back to yet a third in his own town again. He picked them up there. In the case of Claire, he hadn't even used the mail drops. He'd cruised her house and, seeing the outgoing mail in her mailbox, had simply picked up the envelope and cashed the check. It seemed unlikely anyone was intercepting his mail.
Malcolm didn't keep his mail around for anyone to find. He typed the information from his mail into his computer then burned the source documents. His computer was a possible vulnerability, but it was password protected and the files were encrypted. The decryption key existed only in Malcolm's head. Neither his apartment nor his computer showed any signs of unauthorized entry. Perhaps it was possible, but whoever it was would have to be quite skilled to get into both his apartment and his computer without leaving footprints. The computer in question was never connected to the internet, so that wasn't a possibility either. The computer seemed such an obvious choice, but there just wasn't any way.
The other conduit was the phone. Malcolm's phone was unlisted and he changed numbers on a monthly basis. He didn't subscribe to call waiting, call forwarding, and other such services because they could be potential security problems. He didn't use a cordless phone, so there was no danger of anyone picking him up on a scanner. Could someone have tapped his phone? It didn't seem likely. He hadn't heard any mysterious clicks or beeps on the line and he did make a point of being alert to such things. So it didn't seem like the phone was all that likely either.
That left nothing. If he ruled out the mail, the phone, and his computer, there wasn't anything left unless someone was reading his mind. It had to be one or more of those possibilities. Malcolm flipped on his computer. He looked at the most recent access date for his encrypted files. Nothing looked suspicious. The files he could remember accessing had dates that matched his recollection. He poked around elsewhere in his system, but nothing seemed amiss. This didn't completely exonerate the computer, but the likelihood of it being the problem was diminished.
He considered the mail. It seemed to him that it would be hard to compromise. Since he had burned all the relevant mail, he couldn't examine the envelopes for signs of tampering. He couldn't do much more with the mail until he received some more.
That brought him back to the phone again. He disassembled the wall jack where the line entered his apartment. Everything looked normal and there was nothing extra there that shouldn't be. He took his phone apart with the same result. It looked perfectly normal inside-no extra parts. There was one other possibility. Malcolm grabbed a few tools and headed for the basement.
In the basement, Malcolm removed the cover from the phone patch panel that served the whole building. All the connections were neatly labeled by apartment, a red and a green wire connected to each. Malcolm quickly found his own connection. There was an extra pair of grey wires attached to Malcolm's line. They ran out the top of the box and disappeared in a mass of wiring. Malcolm painstakingly traced them to the opposite end of the building. Here they departed the main mass of wire and led to a ledge up next to the ceiling. Malcolm got a ladder and searched the ledge. A small tape recorder lay there. Malcolm examined it. It was battery powered and input activated. Malcolm realized that the machine sat inert unless a call was in progress. The batteries could easily outlast the tape. Malcolm looked at the tape. It was set at the beginning. The tape had been rewound or changed recently. The machine ran at half speed and the tape would hold 90 minutes of material. It would take him quite a while to fill a tape of that length. That meant the tape could be changed quite infrequently, although it might be changed more often to provide current information. That left a wide window for tape changing schedules.
Malcolm started to remove the recorder, but then stopped. He wasn't sure he wanted to announce his discovery to whoever had placed it there. Best to leave it. He returned to his apartment.
At least he knew how. There was still who and why. Most disturbing was the fact that they knew where he lived. How had they found him? He always struck randomly after receiving a contract and never took his clients to his apartment. It would take some doing for one of them to track him down. Even if one of them succeeded, the result was decidedly odd. Why would a customer track him down and then make arrangements for someone to rape his other customers, all of whom had so far assumed it was part of the deal. It made no sense.
Malcolm was absolutely certain no one knew what he did except for his customers. One of his customers had to be the source of the problem. There just weren't any other possibilities. But it still didn't make sense. Malcolm's customers were women. His adversary was male. Even if one of his customers had told a boyfriend or husband about her experience and he had decided to get in on the action, it would require collusion on her part to locate him. It just didn't feel right. But what else was there?
Returning to his computer, Malcolm perused his customer list. Nothing jumped out at him. There was one other approach. He had to find out when the tapes were changed.
Claire was filling out the survey she had received from Malcolm. It had arrived promptly, enclosed with a cashier's check for $500 and a new application form for a future adventure. She finally was getting around to it. Normally she hated surveys, but this one provided the opportunity to relive her experience. It asked a number of questions about the specifics of her experience. Claire concluded that either Malcolm did exactly the same thing with each customer or he had tailored this questionnaire specifically to her. She decided it must be the latter. The questions were essay type rather than multiple-choice. Claire liked that. It was nice to be able to say what she thought for once, rather than circling a bunch of numbers. When she finished, she put it in the return envelope, applied a stamp, and set it next to her purse to be mailed in the morning.
The survey caused Claire to examine her feelings once again. She had enjoyed what Malcolm had done to her, but that was also what troubled her. It had been done to her. She had been tied up and not an active participant. Maybe, she thought, it was the same attraction as going to a restaurant, where you sat down and everything was done for you. No, it was more than that. She longed to call up her best friend and discuss the experience, but she was way too embarrassed to do that. There was no way she would tell anyone she had paid to be abducted, tied up, fucked, spanked, and everything else. She couldn't even think of a good way to bring it up as a hypothetical situation without Melissa asking where she was going with this. It wasn't anything she would want to do everyday, but it did have its attractions. She wondered if she could afford to do it again.
It was Saturday morning. Malcolm was just returning from the store. As he entered the building, he passed a phone company guy who was just leaving. Phone company? Saturday? He glanced over his shoulder, but didn't see a phone company truck in the lot. He dashed up to his apartment and grabbed his binoculars. The guy in the phone company uniform was just getting into a green Toyota.
Malcolm went to the basement. He had checked the tape machine every evening. The tape in the machine was a different brand than the one that had been in it last night. He returned to his apartment. Perhaps next Saturday he could accumulate some more information.
On Thursday, Malcolm got Claire's survey form in the mail. She had mailed it the previous Thursday, but it had taken a while for it to wend its way through the byzantine mail system he had set up. He examined the envelope under a strong light and a magnifying glass, but could detect no sign of tampering.
After opening the envelope, he read Claire's survey form. She had been pleased with her experience and had even made a couple of constructive suggestions. He felt fairly certain he would be hearing from her again. Experience told him that her desire for a repeat performance would grow rather than diminish with time. She should be good for another $1000 and a couple evenings of entertainment. It was just a matter of how soon she could scrape up the money to do it again.
On Friday afternoon, Malcolm went to a theatrical supply and obtained a beard and a wig. On Friday evening, he rented a car. Saturday morning found Malcolm sitting in the rental car about half a block from his building. He had a good view of the parking lot through his binoculars. Malcolm glanced at himself in the rear view mirror. The combination of wig and beard was a bit much and he considered removing the wig, which was nearly as uncomfortable as the beard, but decided to keep it. The change in hair color it afforded was worth it. No one was going to look that closely and he was certainly unrecognizable to the casual observer.
About ten a green Toyota pulled into the lot. The telephone guy got out and went into the building. A few minutes later, he came back out and drove off. Malcolm followed.
Malcolm's plan was to simply follow the guy home. He didn't intend any contact at this point, but finding out where the guy lived would be an important step. Malcolm memorized the license number on the Toyota, but didn't really have any way to follow up on it. He didn't have any friends at the DMV or on the police force.
After about three miles, the Toyota pulled into the lot of another apartment building. The guy went in and returned a few minutes later. Malcolm wondered if the guy had stopped off to buy drugs or something. A mile further and it happened again. Malcolm was now truly puzzled.
When the Toyota stopped a fourth time, Malcolm pulled up next to it, got out and looked through the window, then drove off again before the guy returned. He stopped again at a safe distance.
Malcolm was amazed. What he had seen on the seat of the Toyota were two boxes of tapes labeled `in' and `out'. This maniac was spying on a bunch of people. This cast things in a whole different light. Could it be that he had somehow been chosen randomly and that none of his customers was involved? There was no way to know, at least not yet, but Malcolm would never have guessed that he was a random target. Now it seemed a distinct possibility. He continued following the Toyota.
After a stop at a fast food drive through, the Toyota stopped at a small ranch style house in a slightly shabby neighborhood. A van was parked in the driveway and there was a large cinder block garage out back. The guy carried the fast food sack and both boxes of tapes inside. Malcolm hung around and watched for another hour, but nothing happened. He was pretty sure he'd found where the guy lived and was afraid he himself would arouse the neighbors' suspicions if he sat there too long.
Malcolm returned home and put on some coveralls and a toolbelt; he kept the beard and wig on. He returned to each of the buildings the guy had visited and examined the phone lines. In each building there was a pair of grey wires attached to one of the lines. In two of them, the lines were labeled with apartment numbers and one of them was even labeled with phone numbers. Malcolm took down the information in his notebook and then returned home.
Malcolm changed to regular clothes again and drove to the library. In the reference room he looked up the address in the cross reference. Manfred Mann? Diddy dum diddy doo? Well, at least he had a temporary name. He might be able to find out the guy's real name later. He also now had a phone number. He called the number from the pay phone on the first floor, but there was no answer. Just as well. Malcolm didn't want to arouse any suspicions at this point with a strange phone call. Besides, Manfred might recognize his voice from the tapes.
So now what? Malcolm returned home and pondered the situation. He was making progress. He had found out how and had a handle on who. He still didn't know why or what to do about it. He decided more surveillance was in order.
About noon on Sunday, Malcolm packed himself a lunch and drove over to Manfred's. The green Toyota was parked in front. He drove around until he found an inconspicuous vantage point and watched. It was becoming apparent why private detectives charged so much. This was really boring. By seven in the evening, Malcolm couldn't take it anymore. He started his car and headed for home. Just as he passed in front of the house, Manfred came out and got in his car. Malcolm circled the block and followed at a discreet distance.
Manfred drove to the second apartment building he had visited yesterday and went inside. Malcolm noted he was not wearing the phone company uniform. He also carried a small valise.
Malcolm sat and waited. An hour later, he had not come out. Three hours later, he had not come out. He considered going in and nosing around, but was unwilling to risk contact at this point. He didn't know enough. Malcolm waited some more. He got out of his car and stretched and walked around. More waiting. Finally, at 3:00 AM, Malcolm gave up and drove home. It looked like Manfred was pulling an all-nighter. At home, Malcolm set his alarm for 5:30 and went to bed.
When the alarm went off, Malcolm got dressed and drove to the building where he had left Manfred. It was 6:00 and the green Toyota was still there. At 6:30 Manfred came out of the building and drove away. Malcolm didn't follow him. He had another idea.
Malcolm knew the apartment number of the phone that was tapped in this building. He pressed the buzzer next to the door.
"Wait," a female voice shrilled from inside. "I'm not ready. I didn't know you were coming back. Please, give me just a minute. Please."
"You're not... Who are you?"
"You don't know me, ma'am," Malcolm called. "I'd like to talk to you."
"No! Go away."
"Please, I think I could help."
"No, you can't. Just go away."
"You're being blackmailed, aren't you."
"What do you know about that?"
"I have a similar problem. We should talk."
The door opened a crack. A face peered through the crack. "Who are you?"
"As I said, you don't know me; nor do I know you, except that you and I both have a problem named Manfred."
"Is that his name? I never knew."
"Whatever you do, don't let him know you know it. He'll want to know how you found out. That's why I'm not going to tell you who I am. May I come in?"
"Might as well. You couldn't be any worse than him."
The door opened and Malcolm stepped inside. He was confronted with a middle aged woman who would have been quite pretty under normal circumstances. At the moment, she appeared rather disheveled. She looked haunted. She wore a clingy long sleeved robe and stockings with no shoes or slippers. It didn't look like she had much on under the robe.
"I won't ask you what he's got on you, since I wouldn't answer that question myself," Malcolm said. "But I would be curious to know how much you're paying him."
"I don't give him money. I pay in other ways."
"So I see. The straps of your gag are still imprinted in your cheeks."
"It was very tight. He doesn't like for me to make a lot of noise when I'm being punished."
"How often do you see him?"
"I've never actually seen him. He calls me before he comes over. Then I have to stand with my back to the door, put on a blindfold, and wait. The things he does to me!"
"How frequent are his visits?"
"Once or twice a month. It varies. He doesn't keep a predictable schedule. I'm forced to adapt my life to his visits. What about you? What's your problem with him?"
"He represents a threat to my business. I'm looking for a way to put a stop to it."
"How did you find me?"
"I followed him here."
"What are you going to do about him?"
"I'm still working on that. I thought I'd see what I can learn from you. How did all this happen?"
"I got a phone call one day. This guy told me what he knew about me. I asked him what he wanted. When he told me, I told him to go to hell and hung up. An hour later my doorbell rang. When I answered it, a guy in a Halloween mask burst in and put a canvas bag over my head. I screamed and threatened to call the police. He said that would be fine, he'd like to talk to them about me. Then I was tied up and given a very painful education. Since then, I've done whatever he says. I'd do almost anything to make him stop, but I'm afraid, too."
"When did it start?"
"About nine months ago."
"What do you know about him?"
"Nothing. I don't know what he looks like, where he came from, how he found me, or anything. All I know is the voice. He does seem to have a slight accent."
"That's not a lot of help. I need to discover his vulnerabilities. He knows how to get to each of us. How can we get to him?"
"I don't really know anything you could use."
"Well, pay attention during future visits. See what you can learn."
"I don't want any future visits. Can't you stop him before he comes back?"
"I'll stop him, but I don't know how soon. You can stop him any time you want. Just call 911."
"But you don't know... He could destroy me."
"It sounds like maybe he already has. Anyway, you'll probably have to put up with him a few more times. See if you can get him to talk about himself, but be subtle. Act like you're trying to ingratiate yourself rather than pumping him. Try flattery."
"OK. I'll be in touch."
"How can I reach you?"
"You can't. He can't make you tell him what you don't know. But that won't stop him from trying."
"Oh my god."
"Exactly. That's why I'm not telling you anything. It shouldn't be a problem unless you let slip something you aren't supposed to know. Goodbye, Grace."
"You know my name."
"It's on your mailbox."
Malcolm's encounter with Grace was not as productive as he had hoped it might be and he wasn't sure it had been worth the risk. Grace wouldn't be able to tell Manfred much, but she did have Malcolm's description. That would probably be enough for him to figure out who it had been. It was probably only a matter of time until Manfred realized he was being pursued. Malcolm hoped to put that realization off as long as possible. Grace probably wasn't that great a risk. If she screwed up, Manfred would undoubtedly try to extract more information than she possessed. She was obviously frightened by that possibility. She would be discreet.
Today was Monday. Malcolm didn't have a temp assignment today, so he had time to make further inquiries. He called the phone company and asked for installation.
"Manfred Mann, please."
"I'm sorry, sir. He's out of the office." The receptionist didn't seem to regard the inquiry as a prank. "May I take a message?"
"No, I'll call back."
The call yielded two pieces of information. Manfred apparently really did work for the phone company and they knew him by that name. Perhaps it really was his name."
The mail arrived about ten. He scrutinized it for tampering but didn't find any evidence. He returned the rental car and then went by his business mail drop. There were two envelopes. They also revealed no evidence of tampering. Each contained a new contract from a prior customer. Malcolm began planning two new abductions. Since there had been no phone contact, he didn't expect any interference from Manfred in either case.
Malcolm had temp work the rest of the week. He drove by Manfred's on his way to and from work each day, but didn't learn anything new. He needed to be more careful driving around Manfred's house in his own car, so he didn't linger.
Friday night, Malcolm rented another car, a different kind this time. He drove over to Manfred's, but the Toyota was gone. He hung around until after midnight, but nothing happened. Malcolm got bored and went home.
Saturday, Malcolm followed Manfred around again. The routine didn't vary. Manfred swapped all the tapes, then picked up some food and went home. Malcolm retraced Manfred's steps and checked all the phone taps and machines. The last one had been moved. Malcolm double checked his notes, but there was no doubt. Last time the tap had been on apartment 316. Now it was on 317.
That provided another large piece of the puzzle. It was now obvious to Malcolm how it worked. Manfred would tap a phone, listen for a week or two, and if nothing interesting turned up, he would move on to the next line. That was how Manfred had found him. The process wasn't exactly random, but neither had Malcolm been singled out. Manfred had simply stumbled on to him. The first tape from Malcolm's had probably knocked his socks off.
Sunday, Malcolm kept vigil on Manfred's from about 3:00 to midnight. Nothing happened. Malcolm went home. Malcolm was annoyed. This surveillance crap was boring and slow. It would be more expeditious to set Manfred up. The only question was how.
He thought about having someone call him using someone else's name. Bad idea. It would not only result in Manfred abducting some woman who couldn't identify him, but would make it clear to Manfred he had been set up. If Malcolm used one of his real customers for the purpose, she would probably think it was part of the package.
If possible, it would be better for one of Manfred's other victims to nail him. The problem at the moment was that he didn't know which of Manfred's taps were active blackmail and which were merely exploratory. The only one he knew for sure was active was Grace.
Grace was a weak reed. If Manfred suspected anything whatsoever, he could easily extract from her everything she knew. Making her part of a plot would be asking a lot of her. He suspected she might not be up to it.
It was now about 3:00 AM. Time for Malcolm to go to work. He had the next two days off from temp work and there were women to abduct. He drove to the house of one his customers who had recently sent in a contract. He had copied her keys on their last encounter. He let himself into the house and crept silently to her bedroom.
Melissa awoke suddenly, but not suddenly enough. By the time she gathered her wits, she was bound, gagged, blindfolded, and being carried off on someone's shoulder. Then she was stuffed in the trunk of a car. The car drove off.
Malcolm drove to the loft apartment he had rented for the purpose. It was the only occupied space in a large old industrial building, so no one noticed or cared that it was also unoccupied most of the time. This part of town was mostly deserted at night. Malcolm pulled up to the loading dock, opened the trunk, and carried Melissa inside.
Once inside, Malcolm dressed Melissa in her slave outfit and locked chains on her wrists and ankles. He donned his mask, then removed Melissa's blindfold.
"Prepare my breakfast, slave," Malcolm instructed her. He smacked her sharply on the butt with a crop. Melissa squealed and hurried off to her task.
Malcolm was familiar with Melissa's tastes. No matter how well she performed, he would find fault and poor Melissa would have to be punished. Melissa would become increasingly aroused through several repetitions of this cycle until she was ready to burst. Malcolm would then assign her some particularly onerous task which would take her several attempts to accomplish. She would become a little more desperate with each failure. When she finally succeeded, Malcolm would tie her down and fuck her. Tying her down was essential. Melissa would go crazy and even bound it was all Malcolm could do to keep her impaled.
In spite of her final exertions, Melissa was one of Malcolm's less taxing customers. She would do most of the work herself. Malcolm would simply assign tasks, punish her when she botched them (which was always the case), then step in at the end and finish her off.
Malcolm always came back well fed from his sojourns with Melissa. She was an excellent cook and he took full advantage of the fact. He always felt like a jerk finding fault with what she had prepared, but that was the game. It was not lost on Melissa that her punishment was delayed until Malcolm had eaten everything in sight.
Tuesday night, Malcolm returned Melissa to her house. Both were well fed, well satisfied, and generally enervated. Malcolm wondered if he could get arrested for getting paid to have this much fun. Yes, he probably could. The government wasn't all that thrilled with the whole idea of sex, and getting paid for it was just more than they could stand. Actually it wasn't sex per se that bothered them. What pissed them off was other people having sex.
What pissed Malcolm off was Manfred. The couple of days with Melissa had reminded him what a wonderful deal he had going. Manfred was not going to be allowed to screw this up. But short of knocking the guy off, he didn't have any good ideas. He briefly toyed with the idea of doing Manfred in, but he just didn't see himself as the sort of person who killed people. Besides, no matter how careful he was, there was the chance it would be traced back to him. Even if he felt so inclined, it wasn't worth the risk.
Malcolm worked the rest of the week at his temp job. Friday night he took possession of Cindy, the other contract he had pending. Cindy's thing was being tied up. She spent the weekend tightly bound in one position or another. Malcolm would add some little irritant to each situation to make her squirm. This emphasized her helplessness and drove her crazy. Malcolm liked to tickle her. She hated that, which was why it was so effective. He would tie her down and tickle her until she nearly lost her lunch. At that point merely running his hand up between her legs would send her into screaming fits. A good fucking would leave her gasping and nearly unconscious. It had taken a number of attempts to find the right combination, and Cindy had to be brought along in just the right way. It had finally all come together when he had realized that what worked was what she objected to most strenuously. She not only had to be stringently bound, but she had to be made to experience her helplessness by being subjected to things she didn't like but was forced by her bondage to endure. In Cindy's case, `no' usually meant `yes'.
Malcolm took Cindy home on Sunday night. Monday, he was at a new temp job. He still didn't have any good ideas about Manfred. Tuesday evening he paid a visit to Grace. She hadn't had any further contact from Manfred, but invited Malcolm in for coffee. She seemed desperate for company and reassurance.
Grace's phone rang. "Hello. Yes, sir... yes... alright, I will... yes, sir." Grace had turned white, her face completely drained of color.
"It's him," she said to Malcolm. "He's coming over. You've got to go."
"Maybe I should stay."
"Are you crazy? You can't imagine what he'll do to me if he finds someone here. Now go." Grace pushed Malcolm out the door and then ran to the bedroom.
Malcolm walked down to the first floor, then thought better of it and returned. He opened the door to find Grace in the middle of the room. She wore only stockings and panties. Her back was to the door. She was blindfolded and stood stiffly erect with her hands clasped tightly behind her. She stiffened even more when she heard the door. Malcolm simply stared.
"It's me," said Malcolm.
"Oh, god, no. He'll be here any minute. Get out, get out, get out, get out," she screamed. Grace attacked Malcolm furiously, pushing and pummeling until he was out the door. She slammed and locked it.
Malcolm left. He pulled his car to the far end of the lot and waited. A few minutes later, the green Toyota pulled into the lot. Manfred got out and went inside.
Malcolm realized that he knew where Manfred was going to be for the next few hours. He cruised over to Manfred's house and walked up to the front door. There was a keypad next to the door. Malcolm didn't know enough to defeat the alarm, so he left. Setting it off would alert Manfred to the fact that someone had been there. Malcolm went by his mail drop. One of his return envelopes had arrived.
Once again, Malcolm could find no evidence of tampering. He opened the envelope to find a contract and a check from Claire. He was surprised to have heard from her this soon. She must have gotten a promotion and a raise in the year since he'd worked at her place. He looked over her form. Except for her name and code word, it was blank. No X's or O's. She was leaving it completely up to him. He started planning her fantasy. It might help keep his mind off whatever was happening to Grace.
It wasn't working. He was trying to design a delicious little interlude for Claire, but he just couldn't get Grace out of his mind. If he continued under these conditions, Claire might receive a considerably darker fantasy than was appropriate. Malcolm was feeling guilty about having left Grace. It had been her choice, and she had been adamant in that choice, but he still felt like he should do something. He knew better. Even if he stopped Manfred this time, there would be a next time. He couldn't watch Grace 24 hours a day. If Manfred was thwarted this time, he would take it out on Grace next time. His interference would only make Grace's situation worse. The best thing he could do for Grace was put a permanent stop to Manfred's activities.
Malcolm was still clueless. To stop Manfred, he needed to know what Manfred's vulnerabilities were. Manfred was a major slimeball. He actively sought out people's weaknesses and exploited them when he found them. Malcolm wondered if that was any different from what he himself did. Was catering to people's desires any different from exploiting their weaknesses? Weren't all desires weaknesses? And wasn't he himself exploiting them? Malcolm decided that there may be a fine line between exploiting weaknesses and catering to desires, but he and Manfred were definitely on opposite sides of it. Malcolm went to bed.
After work the next day, Malcolm went to visit Grace. She looked haggard and had been crying. She was wearing the same robe she had had on when Malcolm had first seen her. She appeared utterly defeated.
"Grace, what's wrong? What happened?"
Grace let her robe fall open. There was a heavy gold ring through each nipple.
"Those weren't there last night, were they?"
"Not when you were here."
"Well, they're very pretty," Malcolm lied, not knowing what else to say.
"Yeah, right. He didn't put them there to look nice. He put them there so he can use them to hurt me."
"What brought this on?"
"I forgot to put away the coffee cups. He saw them and wanted to know who I'd been seeing. I told him it was none of his business, that I was entitled to have my friends over if I pleased. So I was punished."
"And he put rings in your nipples."
"Among other things."
"What other things?"
Grace turned her back and winced as she let her robe slide off her shoulders. Her back was a mass of welts, some scabbed over. She had been savagely beaten.
"You need to see a doctor. Those could leave scars."
Malcolm made a few comforting noises, then left. Being around Grace was just too painful. It also made Malcolm feel guilty. He should have done something, should have stopped it. Still, it had been Grace's choice. Malcolm couldn't imagine what Manfred might have on her that would make this preferable to having her secret revealed.
It was obvious Manfred's behavior was becoming increasingly extreme. Malcolm had stopped soliciting new business for fear of what Manfred would do to his next new customer. What to do, what to do.
Manfred was a bully. Malcolm was familiar with the personality type. The way to deal with a bully was a good hard punch in the nose. Most bullies were cowards and would back down in the face of a credible threat.
Thursday, Malcolm dropped by one of the dinner theaters in town and found an actor with a particularly nasty voice. Malcolm hired the man to make a cassette recording. Then he dropped by an electronic supply house and purchased a lineman's hand set.
Then Malcolm turned his attention to Claire. Claire's new fantasy would take place tonight, and he needed to make plans for it. Claire was a new customer and he hadn't yet found out exactly what she liked. Her application forms hadn't been all that informative. She seemed to like nearly everything he'd done the last time, but last time had been the first time. She hadn't known what it would be like, so everything was new and exciting. As time went on, he would need to discover and focus in on the things that turned her on the most. He decided to take a page from Manfred's book.
It was nearly midnight on Thursday when Claire's phone rang.
"Hello, Claire. This is Malcolm. Your adventure has begun. Follow these instructions precisely and immediately."
Claire was standing in the middle of her living room. She wore only panties and stockings and her back was to the front door. She had tied a scarf over her eyes and her hands were clasped tightly behind her. She waited.
Claire was startled when the front door opened. There had been no preliminary sounds. No car or car door. The front door had simply opened. She felt her wrists being lashed together, then nothing. She waited.
Malcolm was admiring Claire. She stood there silently, waiting for him to do something. She was so beautiful, just standing there. Malcolm was torn between wanting to pounce on her and wanting to spend the rest of his life just gazing upon her like this. He circled her slowly. Then he stepped close and kissed her.
Claire was mildly disappointed with her fantasy. She was kept bound most of the time, but other than that, Malcolm had been very gentle. It had been very nice, even sweet, but it didn't touch the things in her that had been touched when she first received the card.
Malcolm had been more deeply affected by his last encounter with Grace than he had realized. He couldn't bring himself to be anything other than gentle and solicitous with Claire. He was fairly certain she had enjoyed it, but it was hardly a dark fantasy.
"Claire," said Malcolm. "I know this wasn't quite what you were expecting, so I'm going to give you a repeat encounter at no charge. But I do have a favor to ask. I need you to make a phone call."
Malcolm hurried home. It was past midnight on Friday, and the call needed to be on the tape that Manfred picked up on Saturday.
Malcolm had Monday off. He made the rounds of Manfred's wire taps with his lineman's phone and a cassette machine. The lineman's phone had a wire that terminated in a pair of alligator clips. He simply clipped them on to any pair of terminals in the building's junction box and the phone was connected to that line. There were five active taps including his. Three of them had been moved since he had first seen them. They were all obviously exploratory. The only ones Manfred was acting on were his and Grace's.
Malcolm connected his phone to each tapped line and played the cassette into it. He could have connected the cassette directly, but he wanted it to sound as if the message had come in over the phone. The message was simple, but the voice was deep, nasty, and threatening.
"Hello, Manfred. We know who you are, we know what you do, and we know where you live. By the time you hear this message, it will be too late."
It was Friday night. Claire sat in her living room in the dark. Malcolm sat in a chair by the door. Claire's phone call to Malcolm had requested another fantasy, but specified a very narrow time window. She had said she would be out of town all week, home for the weekend, then gone again the next week. She would be in town Friday afternoon, but could he please make it Saturday or Sunday? This would give Manfred only Friday night in which to act.
The front door eased open. It had been unlocked. Manfred stuck his head in, but didn't see Malcolm behind the door. As Manfred stepped in, Malcolm punched him in the face as hard as he could. Manfred was slightly larger than Malcolm, but Malcolm had the element of surprise and just kept punching. Malcolm's sense of fair play was not in the least offended by blind-siding Manfred. Not knowing who or what he was facing, Manfred turned and fled.
"I'll get you, you bitch," he yelled as ran toward his car.
"Malcolm, you said there wouldn't be any repercussions," Claire complained.
"There won't. Wait till he hears those tapes tomorrow. Right now he thinks the problem is here. After tomorrow, he won't be able to identify any single source."
It was nearly midnight when Grace's phone rang. She had been expecting it. Malcolm had warned her that after his encounter at Claire's, Manfred might want to take out his anger on her. After she hung up, she made a phone call of her own. She let it ring twice and then hung up.
During the week, Malcolm had contacted each of Manfred's victims, shown them the taps on their phone lines, and explained some of what was going on. The other three besides Grace and himself had been an elderly couple, a young couple, and a rather large single man named Mike. They had all been incensed by the invasion of their privacy.
Malcolm had taken Mike to meet Grace. After some coaxing, Grace had removed her blouse and shown Mike her back. Mike had given Grace his home and pager numbers. His building was only a mile from Grace's and he had instructed her to call him any time of day or night if she heard from Manfred.
Grace was standing blindfolded in her panties and stockings as usual when Manfred entered. As Manfred stepped toward her, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
After giving Manfred a thorough pounding, Mike had wanted to throw him out the window. Grace had talked him out of it and Mike had had to content himself with tossing him down the stairs. Manfred had painfully limped and crawled out to his car and driven off. Mike returned to Grace's apartment. To his disappointment, Grace had put on her robe. He was, however, pleased when she offered him coffee. Grace was happy to be able to offer coffee to whomever she pleased, and she did find Michael pleasing (although after Manfred, just about anyone would be).
Malcolm followed Manfred the next day as he collected his tapes. Manfred was running a little later than usual and limped rather painfully. Today he was wary, and looked around as he entered and left each building. He failed to recognize Malcolm in his rental car and disguise.
Malcolm thought Manfred would be surprised when each of the tapes he had collected contained a threat from the same unknown person. Considering that he had been attacked twice in the same evening, maybe he wouldn't be all that surprised. At this point, the threat was universal. Manfred would be unable to fix blame on any one individual.
Manfred received an additional surprise on Monday when he was fired from the phone company. The elderly couple had called the phone company and raised hell. They had also filed criminal charges. The following day, Malcolm saw a report in the paper that a green Toyota had been riddled with bullets. No one knew who had done this. Malcolm had checked with all the others and learned they were all at work when it had happened. They all had solid alibis and had assumed Malcolm had done it.
The following week, Malcolm drove by Manfred's house. There was a realtor's sign out front and the place looked deserted. Malcolm called the realtor. She didn't know the owner, but reported he was out of the country. Malcolm knew that in certain circles `out of the country' was a euphemism for `in jail'. Malcolm was unable to verify this. He was simply glad Manfred was gone and hoped never to hear from him again.
Claire was on her way to lunch. She was wondering how soon Malcolm would provide her new fantasy when a hand encircled her throat and pulled her into the shadows of an alley. A canvas bag was pulled over her head and tied at the neck. Then she was tied and locked in the trunk of a car.
Sitting in his living room, Malcolm decided to get busy. He still owed Claire a fantasy and he hadn't even started figuring out what he was going to do. He didn't want her new fantasy to be as saccharine as the last one. He decided to wait a few days before her abduction. Let the suspense build a bit, he thought.
"This is more like it," Claire thought as she lay bound in the trunk of the green Toyota. "This will be a dark fantasy."
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