Authors: Ian Whates
First edition published April 2015
by NewCon Press
Pelquin’s Comet copyright © 2015 by Ian Whates
Cover Art copyright © 2015 by Jim Burns
All rights reserved, including the right to produce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Also available as:
ISBN: 978-1-907069-77-2 (hardback)
ISBN: 978-1-900679-78-9 (softback)
Cover illustration by Jim Burns
Cover layout by Storm Constantine
Text layout by Storm Constantine
eBook design by Tim C Taylor
Maurice Hoffman the Third relaxed for the first time in several weeks. He knew himself to be a fortunate man living a privileged life – one which suited his sensitive nature – but of late financial concerns had overshadowed his affairs, bringing with them unaccustomed levels of stress. A temporary situation no doubt, one which would be alleviated in the fullness of time if only the banks – those cursed pecuniary vultures – could be held at bay for just a little while longer, allowing recent speculations to bear fruit.
It was a huge relief to forget about these matters for a while. All such worldly concerns were shed as soon as a patron set foot inside the grandeur of the Lexington Grove Pleasure Palace, abandoned at the door like tainted footwear set aside before stepping onto the tatami flooring of a traditional Japanese teahouse.
Wearing a deep blue silk yukata draped around his otherwise naked body, which was freshly bathed in waters scented with lotus blossom, he stood for a moment, curling his toes and luxuriating in the soft, deep pile of the carpet, before strolling into the bedroom. The whole suite was suffused with mellow light which had no obvious source, promoting a sense of tranquillity and relaxation, while harp music rippled quietly in the background, adding a subtle aural texture to the ambience. He pushed apart the silk veils that artfully hid the four poster bed and smiled on seeing who waited for him there. Annette and Aidan, his favourites.
Both were completely naked. They rested on their sides facing each other, Aidan nearest to him. Neither spoke, the young man – a muscular Adonis – not even deigning to look up, though the glaze in his eyes suggested that he might not actually be focusing on anything at all. Annette, though, smiled; a coy shadow of an expression which immediately brought a reaction as Hoffman felt his manhood stir. She knew exactly what she was doing, the little minx, as she languidly lifted a leg to drape it over Aidan’s immobile thigh – her tanned skin several shades darker than his paleness – and brought her hand up to run well-manicured fingers slowly through the lad’s golden hair.
Hoffman felt himself stiffen fully as the girl’s gaze met his.
She rose from the bed sheets, a sensuous movement that saw her upper body flow into a sitting position. Her hand moved, slowly reaching towards him. A shrug of his shoulders sent his kimono sliding to the floor. He took a step forward, his breath catching in anticipation. His gaze never left her eyes.
The moment was shattered by the rasping sound of someone clearing their throat from behind him.
“What the hell?” Hoffman whipped around to find a tall, elegantly dressed man of thirty or so standing there – though rejuve made such assessments uncertain. The intruder was holding the drapes aside and peering in. His face was striking. Dark hair worn slightly longer than current fashion dictated, though still impeccably neat, framed darker eyes. Well-defined cheekbones and a smallish mouth, which appeared to be no more than a twitch away from either a pout or a sneer.
None of which made Hoffman any less indignant. “Who the fuck are you and how did you get in here?”
This space, this time, was supposedly inviolate. Lexington Grove guaranteed its patrons’ privacy and interruptions were theoretically impossible.
Hoffman scrambled off the bed, half-bouncing to his feet as the mattress pushed him upward, his fury rising as swiftly as his manhood deflated. The intruder stepped away, allowing the drapes to fall back into place, and was waiting for him in the centre of the room as Hoffman pulled the veils aside and strode out, not deigning to retrieve the kimono. “Well? Start talking,” he demanded.
The smug bastard just stood there, one hand nonchalantly resting on the silver handle of a polished rosewood cane, his finely tailored grey pinstripe suit making Hoffman abruptly conscious of his own nakedness. The man looked completely at ease in a situation where he had no right to be present. Hoffman suddenly remembered himself, realising where he was and what he could do about this. He reached up to his own forehead, grasped the pads he knew to be there, and wrenched them free of his skin.
The scene vanished. The bed, the deep piled carpet, even his nakedness – all were gone. He tugged off the state of the art visor and was already struggling to sit up – his physical body being a deal more corpulent than the virtual one he occupied in the Pleasure Palace’s fantasy scenarios. In place of the idealised bedroom with its two young and pliant occupants, he found himself in the familiar plain walled room. He levered his body upright on the black leather couch, fumbling to rearrange his clothing and blinking at the sudden return of light. Only the gentle strains of harp music and the subtle fragrance of lotus blossom remained: sensory triggers designed to reinforce the mind’s acceptance of the fantasy immersion.
Sven, his muscle-bound steroid-guzzling bodyguard, lay supine on the floor, either unconscious or dead, his head propped up against the wall as if pillowed. The intruder, this dapper stranger who had so outrageously interrupted his pleasure, stood at the foot of the couch, cane in hand, staring down at him with a supercilious air.
“To answer your question, Mr Hoffman, my name is Corbin Thadeus Drake, registered agent of the First Solar Bank.”
“The bank?” Hoffman spluttered. “The
bank? And you dare to accost me
“Need I remind you that you do owe my employers a considerable sum of money, Mr Hoffman?”
“I don’t care how much frigging money I owe them! You can’t just barge in here and interrupt a man’s legally paid for pleasures. This is Lexington Grove for God’s sake. It’s sacrosanct, it’s world renowned, it’s a byword for discretion, it’s…”
“…largest single shareholder is First Solar Bank, Mr Hoffman,” Drake interrupted. “To all intents and purposes, we own this establishment.”
“You own…?” No wonder this arrogant son-of-a-banker had been able to invade his private fantasy world.
“Now, I have no interest in your sordid little diversions,” the man continued.
“Fantasies!” Hoffman snapped. “They’re harmless
“Quite. As I say, not my concern. However, your recurring inability to meet your financial commitments is. With that in mind I am instructed to accompany you immediately to the bank’s head office, just a few minutes from here, where you can have a cosy chat with a certain Terry Reese, one of our senior officers. There you can explain which assets you intend to liquidate in order to reimburse First Solar as swiftly as possible.”
“I can do
?” Hoffman felt his cheeks burn with rage. “I categorically refuse, you posturing jackass. The only person your precious bank will be hearing from is my solicitor!”
Drake’s answering smile was as cold as ice-snake venom. “Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear, Mr Hoffman. I wasn’t offering you a choice.”
Unfailingly polite, but then the truly dangerous ones often were. The man’s calmness was unnerving. Recovering a little from his initial shock, the businessman hesitated, deciding on a new strategy. All Hoffman had to do was keep this Drake talking for a little while longer. He’d spotted something which the banker evidently hadn’t. Sven was waking up.
“Now look,” he temporised, “there’s no need for this to get unpleasant. I’m a reasonable man who prides himself on always honouring his commitments. There’s no question of my
paying First Solar, it’s just that now has proved a somewhat difficult time and…”
“I’m sure all of this will be taken into account, Mr Hoffman, along with the fact that you’ve already reneged on two agreed repayment schedules.”
“Unfortunate oversights,” Hoffman said quickly, willing the man not to look around and determined that his own gaze should not flicker down to where Sven was now gathering himself into a crouch. Just a few seconds more… “Quickly corrected,” he added.
Mercifully, that was all it took. Uttering a roar that a wild bear would have been proud of, the burly bodyguard sprang at Drake’s back, barrelling into the startled banker.
Drake was far slighter than the bodyguard and clearly outmatched, but Hoffman had no intention of waiting around to see the outcome of the tussle. He was already sidling past as Sven’s massive arms engulfed the banker’s frame. A few hastily shuffled paces and Hoffman was able to wrench the door open and dash out into the corridor beyond. If he now went to his left he’d be heading towards the front, the main body of the Pleasure Palace: reception area, bar, restaurant – places designed for patrons to gather and relax in the afterglow of their climactic fantasies. Instead he turned right, not knowing whether Drake had come alone and not wanting to run into any other agents of First Solar who might be loitering near the entrance. Ahead stood a large cream-coloured door, which flickered with the ghost of virtual flames as he drew nearer. Presumably this was for the benefit of anyone who couldn’t read the words emblazoned upon it at around head height: ‘Fire Door’. Perfect. Hoffman hurried up and thumped it with both open palms. Nothing happened. He tried again, harder, and this time the door responded, swinging ponderously outward as it was designed to when any anxious or panicked souls beat against it from within.
The full glare of daylight caused him to squint as he stumbled outside, looking right and left, trying to get his bearings. He was in an alleyway, at the back of the Pleasure Palace by the look of things. Tall walls faced him, while from the left the sounds of traffic drifted to his ears. The mouth of the alley was some distance away but beyond it he could see the blur of vehicles racing past. That had to be the main street. He headed in that direction, anxious to be gone as soon as possible, just in case, despite appearances, the banker somehow prevailed against his bodyguard.
He had taken no more than three or four steps when something gripped his arm, yanking him back. A loop of mottled green cable: thick, insulated, rubbery; it almost looked to be alive. These impressions barely had a chance to register before he felt a similar hold around his waist, this time gripping so tightly it was physically painful. His free hand automatically reached for the constriction, finding a muscular… tentacle? Before he could process the implications of that, he was pulled backwards and up, causing him to tip helplessly forward. He felt certain that his head was about to be dashed against the ground; but it wasn’t.
Hoffman was hoisted into the air, dangling upside down, legs kicking impotently, blood rushing to his head, body wanting to right itself – gravity pulling at his well-padded posterior as if determined to tear him apart at the waist. He screamed. Not to attract attention, not for help, just in pure terror. The tentacle continued to draw him upwards.