Authors: Richard Laymon
Climaxing under water.
Sure we’re not talking masturbation here?
We’re not? Er, well, Miss O’Neill. Must admit your problem is er ... rather unusual, to say the least. But hey. People get their kicks lotsa ways these days.
Maybe we should edit all of this down to one root cause. In your childhood, you were deprived of nice hot baths and have felt guilty about enjoying them ever since? A classic example of the “naughty but nice” syndrome!
It’s not uncommon for people to become addicted to things they like, things with forbidden connotations. Things which are often socially unacceptable. Such as alcohol, drugs, certain foods. Shopping.
But hot baths... ?
Mmmm-huh. I think we’ve found the answer to your problem, Miss O’Neill. Deprived childhood and no mistake. Good day to you. Oh, and please leave your check for $3000 with the clerk on your way out ...
Of course, she hadn’t seen a shrink. First off, her little jaunts had not only “forbidden” connotations. They were illegal. Her intrusions were a criminal act. But she’d been addicted to them for too long to stop now. She knew that. This thing will be with me forever, she told herself. Like some kind of disability
She’d tried to put a stop to it. Seriously. For weeks at a time she’d abstained. Then, like a reformed junkie offered a free trip, she’d feel the old familiar sequence moving neatly into action. Just like a clockwork train.
It was all there. Again. The adrenaline rush as she eased open the front door. The sweats, the soaring, nerve-wracking excitement, wondering if the house owner really was home. Upstairs taking a nap? On their way to the Speed-D-Mart for Aspirin? Or Pizza Hut for a takeaway?
Or would she be met in the hallway by the occupant? Fearful, trembling, finger poised. About to dial 911.
But she knew that, cool as ever, she’d pass off her intrusion by saying she’d mistaken the house number. She’d express frustration at her own stupidity. I’m sorry ... Whatever must you think of me?
Yes, she was plausible, she knew that. She had her performance down to a fine art. After all this time she could play to packed houses. Fill theaters up and down the country. Her sudden warmth, charm, ingenuousness, would have people eating out of her hand in no time at all.
But it hadn’t ever come to that.
So far, so good.
But only because she did her groundwork like a true pro.
Yeah, sure. She was good. Just as well, since her intrusions were food and drink to her now. A major part of the thrill was paying minute attention to detail—at every stage of the game. The reconnaissance, the illegal entry.
Then, the prize.
Eating and drinking their food. Watching their TV. Sleeping in their bed. And the kick of it all—entering their private domain. Their inner sanctuary.
Unknown to them.
She used their bathroom; their tub; their toilet. And they knew fuck all about it. She invaded their most private places without their knowledge.
That was the kick.
Gillian smiled softly. She didn’t need the help of an expensive shrink to work that one out.
She got off on it is all.
Hey. Tubs she had known ...
About sixty-six in total?
She could write a book.
Or a screenplay.
Miss 0’Neill, talented winner of the Golden Goblet Screehwriter of the Year Award, please tell our viewers—your fans—which, in your experience, has been the most fascinating tub of all?
Her camera and notebook were ready. But instead of taking shots of Fredrick Holden’s artifacts, as planned, she returned to the concrete sundeck and flopped back onto the lounge chair.
So, which was the most fascinating tub? Gillian thought hard about that one. But, damn it, she decided, she didn’t need to give herself such a hard time. Because, like a flame among dying embers, one occasion stood out from all the rest.
Yeah. That one on Silverston. West of Studio City.
No shit, that’s been the most fantastic tub so far.
She’d done her routine check. No one around. No snoopers. No dog-walkers. No mailmen ...
The absence of human life, or of any other type of life on that street, come to that, was in itself unusual.
The house fascinated her from the start. The neighborhood was maybe too upmarket for her liking. But, in some strange way, she knew that the old place needed her.
And Christ, she knew about need, all right. She was here, wasn’t she? Cruising around, searching for places to satisfy her need.
Looks like I’ve found it ...
Too upmarket? Okay, Miss O’Neill, so break a few rules.
This one’s going to be your special treat!
It was as if that lonely old house, set back against dark shadows, was crooking its finger and beckoning to her. She imagined its whispering voice, mingling and swishing with the windblown palms lining its path.
Hey, girl. Come on in. You want tales? I got tales a-plenty to tell—and a thousand secrets to share ...
That clinched it. The white stucco house, detached and with around two, three hundred yards of driveway leading up to it, was her target for tonight. Tall, dark palms ran either side of the driveway. The rustling trees almost blocked out all of the remaining daylight until they looked like one long, dark, moving tunnel.
Leading to what?
The house. Secreted away in the background. Looming like a forgotten ghost; silent and forbidding.
I must be nuts.
No possibility of nosy neighbors. Unless they used a pair of step-ladders, the tall yew hedges either side would obscure the driveway from view. And when she’d driven past earlier, she’d seen a For Sale sign sticking up out of next-door’s front lawn. That house had looked dark and empty too.
The gravel leading up to number 1309 crunched loudly under her feet. This place, with its flaky, white-painted exterior, exuded an air of loneliness.
But not emptiness.
The driveway, the gardens, the long green lawn in front of the house, were neat and well-kept. A sure sign that a gardener or handyman had recently been at work. By the time she reached the three shallow steps curving up to the arched front door, she knew there was no one around to halt her progress.
In some strange way, this knowledge was a certainty.
The house was hers.
Yeah. Alarm system ...
She looked around for tell-tale electronic devices. Wires. Anything.
Crazy, but true. There were no alarm devices that she could see.
So, go for it.
Gaining access was easy. In the studded dark wood door a rectangular window gleamed. It was small, narrow and about two thirds of the way up: a nice stained-glass affair showing a white, stylized lily, cupped by two long green leaves. The background was bright blue. A quick glance around assured her there was no one immediately in sight. Taking her small leather tool satchel from her purse, Gillian paused for a moment, head tilted, listening intently to sounds from within.
Like someone running to open the door.
The click of a telephone being lifted off the book.
She stretched out a length of duct tape and stuck it around the window. She stuck a circle in the center of the window to use as a handle. It’s an old window, she thought with satisfaction. Should drop out okay.
She set to work with her glass cutter. When she’d finished she tapped the glass. It came away in her hand.
Easy as drawing breath.
She reached her hand through the space and felt around with her fingers. The door handle was just below the space. It was large and heavy and she could move it up and down with her fingers. But the door wouldn’t give.
Yeah. She reached inside, felt below the window space and found the bolt.
Slid it back.
It moved smoothly, in double quick time.
Especially for her?
The door swung open.
Briskly, and with a pounding heart, she returned her tools, and the small piece of window, to the satchel, slid it into her purse and picked up her suitcase. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her.
Taking her tools out again, Gillian worked quickly, replacing the window in the door and returning her tools to the leather satchel. She placed the satchel into her purse.
Then looked around her.
Thirties Hollywood. That was her first impression. Maybe not so big as some of those deco places out in the hills. But in its own faded, still glamorous way, this one was just as tasty.
White marble entrance hall. Light streaming through looped drapes at the long windows either side of the tall white studded door. A white staircase rose before her. It branched off, right and left, each section winding upward and then back on itself. Both sets of stairs met on a white and chrome balcony, the entire width of the house. Just like the prow of a cruise liner.
The Busby Berkeley Babes.
Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.
“Yessir,” Gillian breathed. “The place has style, all right.”
She shivered. It was this air of loneliness, inside the house as well as out. It hung about the place like some longforgotten melody. It made her want to cry, it was so sad.
The emptiness made her think that maybe this house, too, was up for sale. But once again, she had this deep down certainty that it wasn’t.
A quick check on all the rooms told her that the house was lived in. It was tidy; not a magazine out of place. Garden flowers were still fresh in the tall white vases.
Black and white studio shots of a blonde with cupid bow lips and provocative, dark-lashed eyes smiled archly from the walls. In one photograph, she was dressed up like Heidi, complete with pigtails, accompanied by a mustachioed guy in Bavarian fancy dress.
Gillian recognized the woman—though from where, she couldn’t say. Some all-time movie star. All alone with her memories. Alone, except for a maid coming in twice a week to keep the place straight. ...
She inspected the first bedroom she came to. White quilted satin on a large, circular bed. Flimsy white drapes drawn aside from the heart-shaped quilted satin headboard. Flimsy white drapes at the windows, too. Built-in wardrobes. A curved white dresser covered in glass gewgaws and perfume and stuff. Matching nightstands stood either side of the bed.
A movie set from years ago.
Gillian stepped inside the adjoining all-white bathroom. And gasped with pleasure as her eyes took in the round sunken tub and ornate gold taps shaped like dolphin heads. Slender bottles filled with colored oils and unguents were set neatly at intervals around the rim.
Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra.
Only thing missing was a Nubian slave girl.
Excitement stirred, touching her spine with soft, seductive fingers. The tingly feeling teased her stomach and goosebumps rose on her skin. She couldn’t wait to undress.
But first off, had she missed anything? Like some vital clue telling her that the owner was home, after all? To be safe, Gillian called out, “Hello? Anybody home?”
If somebody answered she could always say ... hell, what could she say? The usual excuses, like she’d been asked to call around, to check on ... who? That she was a relative come to stay? All seemed woefully inadequate.
An escapee from the local psychiatric unit seemed more plausible, she remembered thinking.
Okay. Weak wasn’t the word. Especially if she was discovered upstairs already. She’d have to come up with a pretty good answer. Bluff her way out of a tricky situation.
Or just make a break for it.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
She was safe. Although ...
Do it now. Do it. I dare you ...
The short hairs on the back of her neck began to rise.
Hey. Live life on the edge, Gilly baby. Why not?
She cocked her head. Listening for sounds. Any sounds.
The familiar tingle of excitement teased her center. Her pubic mound throbbed until the ache became unbearable. A low giggle burst from her lips. She slipped off her shoes and undressed.
A flicker of fear came and went. Wait, a small voice whispered. Forget the tub. Go explore. Make sure it’s safe ...
Against her better judgment, she ran water into the tub. Steam curled into her face, making her gurgle with excitement. Selecting a long-stemmed container of bath oil, Gillian took off the stopper and poured it into the tub. Fascinated, she watched the amethyst fluid flow into the bubbling torrent.
The delicate scent of lilacs met her nostrils. Mmmm ... Stepping into the fragrant water, she hummed a tune:
“Keep young and beautiful ... ”
Yeah. That was the most fascinating, the most luxurious, most memorable tub she’d ever taken.
All round, her most fascinating, memorable intrusion so far.
And the briefest, so it turned out.
Bert wasn’t in the tent. Rick told himself there was no reason to worry, but he scurried out of his sleeping bag, needing to see her, needing to banish his sudden fear. He swept aside the tent flap.
She was nowhere in sight.
The fire crackled. Its pale flames fluttered in the morning sunlight. A distance beyond the fire were their packs. The ponchos had been removed and the red nylon top of Bert’s pack was open.
Rick sat down just inside the tent and pulled on his running shoes. His fingers trembled as he tied the laces.
She’s all right, he told himself. Probably down by the stream.
On her back. Wearing one knee sock.
Rick shook his head sharply to dislodge the thoughts, and winced. His head had a dull ache, thanks to the bourbon. He got to his feet, looked around, and walked across the campsite.
She’ll be down by the stream, he thought. When I get to the top of the embankment, I’ll see her. She’s fine.
God oh God, why had he let himself remember all that last night? Over the years he’d become talented at turning his mind away from the memories whenever they started. But lying there in the dark tent, he’d dwelled on them, wallowed in them. He hadn’t even tried to fight the memories.