Authors: Randall Farmer
“Do you promise to keep quiet?” I asked.
“Okay.” I put the juice down and untied his gag.
The first thing he tried to do was talk, the idiot. He
whispered, thinking Keaton wouldn’t be able to hear his voice. “What’s going
on here? What…”
I put a finger on his lips and stopped him.
“Nothing,” I said. “No talking at all.”
He stopped talking and drank the juice. When he
finished, he mouthed a silent ‘thank you’.
I put the gag back on him, put the blanket over him and
left him to sleep.
I was bullshitting the man the entire time, of course. He
toy. I could have untied his hands, ungagged him, and even talked
with him. I could have given him more than one mat to sleep on, or a thicker
blanket, or any of a number of other things to make him more comfortable.
Doing so would have been counter-productive. I didn’t
want him to be comfortable. The more frightened and uncomfortable he was, the
more he would appreciate whatever tiny kindnesses I chose to give him. When I
spoke to him, I didn’t use a flat voice, a conspiratorial voice, or even a
seductive voice. I used a sexually repressed voice, a
put-upon-by-my-lord-and-master voice, one that fit with the Catholic schoolgirl
uniforms I wore. He would trust me and depend on me in no time.
It doesn’t matter what’s really happening. It only
matters what a person thinks is happening.
After I put Joe to bed, I got some late dinner for
myself. I cleaned up the kitchen until Keaton interrupted me by turning out
the lights. I went to bed and thought about my plans with Joe.
I always tried to keep myself distracted and occupied
with other things when low on juice. Always, eventually, I would fail.
Low on juice, in the dark, with Keaton only yards away,
the demons always came. My head pounded and my body ached and I couldn’t get
comfortable. The juice monkey tore through all my defenses and I couldn’t keep
the fears away. Keaton might kill me any time she wanted to, and nothing in
the world could stop her.
She would kill me, someday, in one of her psychotic
rages. One day she wouldn’t stop at cutting my throat; she would finish the
job and behead me. She would pickle my head in formaldehyde to serve as a
reminder to the next Arm she decided to own.
I shivered, and tossed on my cold mat.
I needed juice. I
it. My head pounded
with need for it. I swore the blanket felt rougher than before. My skin
sensitivity was kicking in.
Tomorrow would be worse. I needed the juice. The
craving burned inside of me. When I closed my eyes, I saw my previous kills
waiting for me. Waiting to supply me with the ecstasy. I felt the surge as
the juice washed through me, burning me with the intense, overwhelming thrill.
Another shiver went through my body and I rolled over.
If I didn’t stop thrashing, Keaton would get pissed.
She would kill me some day. Catholic schoolgirl uniform
or not, official hunting territories or not, I still squatted on her turf. She
Maybe she was lying in her bed, listening to me thrash,
and planning how she would kill me. I nurtured no illusions she would be
gentle. She would want to extract as much pleasure from me as possible. She
could make me last for days. That was probably why she wouldn’t let me hunt. The
abuse always hurt more when I was low on juice. She would want to be as cruel
I took a breath and told myself to calm down. I wasn’t
thinking rationally. I went through these fears every time I got low on juice.
I took a deep breath and tried to blank out my mind. I
concentrated on my breathing. Out in the gym, I heard Joe snoring again. I heard
Keaton’s breathing. Awake.
Between Joe and me, we kept her awake and pissed.
Don’t think about it, I told myself. Just keep still. Think
The past intruded again. Odds were I screwed up when I
declared my independence and negotiated for a graduation requirement. I should
have stayed broken, humble and stupid.
I was always stupid. Whatever I tried to do on my own
was stupid. I never got anything right. I screwed up my hunting. I couldn’t
even do robberies because I couldn’t get my voice to sound like a man’s. I
screwed up anything and everything I did. Keaton should have killed me
Damn, low juice is a bitch.
Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. In. Out…
Keaton left the warehouse at about 8:00 in the morning.
She had me blindfold Joe when we did our exercises, but otherwise we ignored
him. I didn’t turn my attention back to him until Keaton left. I took a deep
breath and tried to calm myself. I didn’t need any low juice stupid mistakes.
Damn, but I wanted to be out hunting.
Joe still wore the blindfold. His heart beat fast and
hard as he heard my steps coming toward him. His body went stiff and alert,
his breathing faster than normal. Once I removed the blindfold and he recognized
me, he relaxed and his heart slowed.
He feared Keaton. He didn’t fear me.
Fine. I would have more luck reading him if he didn’t keep
his defenses up around me.
“Mph. Mm-mm-gmph,” he said through his gag.
Well, I did need to talk with him. I squatted down by
him and took the gag off. His stench almost knocked me over, the smell of old
alcohol and dried sweat a fog around him. He didn’t smell like fun. The reek made
“What’s going on here? What are you people doing to me?
Who was that man? You can’t just kidnap me! Who are you? Why are dressed
like a little schoolgirl?”
“Joe, calm down…”
“I’m not going to calm down! You crazies
Hasn’t anyone ever told you morons you can’t just pick people up off the
street and carry them off? Untie me, and get me loose of this chain.”
I sat back on a weight bench a few feet away from him
and didn’t respond.
“Untie me, I said! You and your boss are in a lot of
trouble for this. The police
for kidnapping. If you
untie me and let me go, it’ll go much easier for you. You weren’t involved in the
kidnapping. If you let me go now, you probably aren’t in any trouble at all. It’s
just your boss who’ll be in trouble. You don’t have to let your boss get you
in trouble, too.
“Hey, are you listening to me? Hello-o. Is anybody in
there? Untie me. I said, ‘Un. Tie. Me.’ Come over here and undo the knot
on my hands. Come on, you can do it. Just come on over here.
“Untie me, I said.
“God damn it. I’ve been kidnapped by mental retards!
“Are you going to do anything over there, are you just
going to sit there?”
I responded this time, my voice carefully meek. “Actually,
sir, I was taking mental bets as to how long it would take you to burst a blood
He took a long breath and struggled for control. I
wasn’t much better. My head pounded, my temper was shot from lack of juice, and
I was about ready to teach that man some manners with a club. Keaton was
damned right when she hinted he would be different when the alcohol wore off. He
had turned into a raving jackass.
I don’t like raving jackasses.
I hadn’t had any real sleep in days. I needed juice. If
I got some juice, this would all be better. Killing him would be an act of
kindness to the universe.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rude. I haven’t
ever been kidnapped before. I let my temper get out of control.” He tried a
smile, watching me to see how I would react.
“Hmm,” I said, noncommittal. Me the meek.
“So what am I doing here? Can you fill me in? I can’t
see any reason someone would want to kidnap me.” Still a raving jackass.
“Hmm,” I said again. “For that, you’ll have to ask
With the word
, I flashed ‘predator’ at him for an instant. His
heart skipped a beat.
“Her?” He blanched. “My kidnapper really is a woman?”
“Who is she? Who are you, for that matter?” he said, a
“That’s not something I can tell you, sir,” I said,
careful. “I think that’s enough questions for now.”
“What? You haven’t answered anything!”
“Shhh. If you can calm down a bit, sir, maybe I can do
something about your hands.”
He tilted his head up and took a breath. Yes, he wanted
his hands untied. He sat still as I untied the rope on his hands. He rubbed his
“Thank you,” he said.
“I think I can do better. If you promise to be very
good, sir, and promise you won’t try and run away, I might be able to unlock
He looked toward me and his eyes shifted slightly to the
right before his eyes turned to meet my gaze. His breathing altered slightly
and an almost imperceptible tension grew in the muscles around his eyes.
“If you would unshackle me, I would very much appreciate
it. I promise I won’t try to get away.”
He lied. I took careful notes about what his lies looked
like with all my Arm enhanced senses. Satisfied, I took the key and unlocked
the ankle shackle.
He didn’t run. Color me shocked.
“Come with me, sir,” I told him. “You can use the
bathroom back this way.” I turned my back to him, almost ordering him to run.
I let him go for a second. He sprinted about halfway
across the open area before I started after him. I caught him just before he
rounded the boxes to the entry, knocked him to the ground, and came down on top
of him. I got my arm around his neck, put it in a lock and began the yank that
I stopped myself. Crap. It’s so hard to control
yourself when your prey runs. My head pounded. I wanted to kill this jackass.
to kill him. Killing him wasn’t my job, though. I relaxed the
tension in my arms and let go of my lock around his neck. Slowly, practicing
my self-control, I got up.
He turned over and looked at me anew. He breathed in
quick pants and the smell of fear rolled off him like San Francisco Bay fog on
a warm night. He saw the predator in me now.
“Shit,” he said.
“I apologize for my actions, but what you did was
stupid, sir,” I forced out, my voice hoarse and unable to hit the same level of
meekness I earlier managed. My hands itched for his neck, and the need to kill
him burned bright inside of me.
“Yeah.” He still whispered. He watched me warily, his
heart still pounding in terror. His fear smelled different now, and I
cataloged the difference as I forced myself back under control. Almost a
minute passed before I found a way to make my body relax and give up the stalk
posture. Once I did, Joe’s heart slowed, and he went from petrified to merely
“Get up,” I told him.
He got up, as slowly as possible, favoring a new
collection of bruises.
“Don’t do that again, sir. You’re not going to leave
that way. Don’t even try. You won’t survive.”
He nodded, still watching me with care.
“Go take a shower.”
I collected myself again while he showered. He wouldn’t
ever consider me ‘safe’, but I needed to let go of the predator.
My plan worked better than I expected. Joe thought me crazy,
but he preferred me to be a calm and restrained crazy instead of a predatory
and dangerous crazy. He would put a lot of work into keeping me happy.
He thought he manipulated
Actually, his actions might even have been funny, if I weren’t
so short on juice. His choices reminded me of the choices I made in managing my
relationship with Keaton. Mirror, mirror on the wall…
I decided to get some use out of him and his delusions,
so I had him do dishes and help me with the cleaning. While we worked, we
talked. He tried to lead me into giving him information. I lied and learned
his reactions, all in a way I would be able to explain to Keaton. I hoped.
I succumbed to a momentary flash of weakness and told
him my name was Carol. It had been so long since anyone had called me that,
and Keaton said he would die anyway. His name wasn’t really Joe, of course; Keaton
called all her toys ‘Joe’. His real name was Tom Lehy. He was only
twenty-three, he worked as a clerk at a plant down by the river, and he lied
when I asked him if anyone would notice he was gone.
Tom was young and innocent; by the end of the day, he
trusted me again. Since both of us were under Keaton’s control, we were
natural allies. From his perspective. I didn’t try to convince him otherwise.
I chained him back up before Keaton came home, and tied
his wrists again.
After dinner, Keaton grilled me about Tom. I gave her a
complete run-down, mimicking Tom’s reactions in myself as I explained. Keaton
nodded and mentally took notes; I had a strong feeling I did better than Keaton
However, when I finished my lecture, a cold expression
settled on her face. “So, did you try your predator tricks while I was gone?”
Damn, I thought she gave me permission to use my
predator if she wasn’t here! She said so! But, dammit, she did like to change
the rules without warning. And go after me for ‘screwing up’. I needed to
come up with an answer that would keep her off me. My eyes flicked a little
and my breath caught, and I felt the tension around my eyes.
Keaton she smiled her sardonic smile as she watched the
realization on my face.
Keaton loved to toy with me. She had just been yanking
my chain, mirroring my playing with Tom.
That night I went to Newark to hunt. I found nothing.
The next day I went back to working with Tom. I was too
low on juice, my temper shot, for my best work. Tom treated me with exquisite
care. I tried to dig deeper into his reactions, trying to get a handle on his
deeper motivations, but I did a lousy job of it. At least I kept enough control
over my temper to keep from killing him.