Post Number: 34
|Posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 - 07:14 pm: ||
This story was inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story: “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.” Those familiar with the works of Mr. Ken Follett will immediately understand why I named my villain Augusta, instead of Charlotte.
Miss Augusta is a blackmailer. Perhaps the Victorians had an euphemism for the female of that species, but we live in the age of equality, and no better epithets are merited. She would buy information at anytime, receiving callers even into the small hours of the morning, while wearing only her nightclothes; her semi-revealed beauty would unsettle them, even as her dishabille conveyed her disdain.
I, who scoffed at deadlines, had run out of both time and money. The sum was almost trifling: five thousand dollars, but there was no money left; she had taken it all. The sum was due by midnight, and there I was in her hallway, hat in hand, foolishly hoping for an extension, knowing as I arrived that the situation was hopeless. During the three years I was her slave she had granted mercy just once, and had regretted it almost immediately.
The sudden scent of chloroform assailed my nostrils. I looked behind me frantically, thinking I was being assaulted. But no one stood behind me. When I looked back, a tall thin man embraced Augusta from behind; his arms pinned hers to her side; his hand held the odorous cloth under her nose. As she began to lose consciousness, he guided her to the couch, laying her carefully supine so her breathing would be unobstructed.
Clearly, he knew his way around her house. Unerringly, he went to a closet door, and soon returned with a folded apparatus, which he began to erect. A whipping bench began to take shape, a well-made frame with soft, luxurious pads for the knees and torso. He lifted the sleeping form of the blackmailer – it was but the work of a moment to divest her of her gown – and placed her naked on the cushions of the whipping bench.
When she awoke, she was facing the fireplace, with her wrists held by sturdy padded leather cuffs. A wide belt was around her knees, and another around her waist, which had been cinched tight to bring her bottom up into prominence. Even her ankles had been cuffed and tied – no kicking for our Augusta this night!
He gave her plenty of time to recover her senses. He proved to be a gentleman: solicitous of her comfort, he eased an overly tight strap, and knowing that chloroform leaves a dry mouth, he periodically held a glass of water to her lips.
Finally, he took a low chair and sat before her in front of the fire, giving her ample time to study his features. “Well, Augusta?” he asked, “Do you not know me?” She shook her head, whether from defiance or ignorance it was not yet possible to tell. He stood suddenly: “Perhaps this will help to remind you!”
Walking behind her, he took up a cane, and taking his time, he made four livid welts on the alabaster skin of her bottom. She and I gasped in unison, as memory dawned upon us both: that pattern of weals – marking an X on each cheek – had figured prominently in the tabloids a decade ago. So this was the man, whose pictures she had sold!
“I see you remember me now!” he exclaimed. “I assure you, Miss Augusta, you will remember me better after tonight, and you won’t soon forget me, that I trust.”
“I’ll remember you long enough to swear out a warrant for your arrest,” she muttered.
“Oh, I do hope so, Augusta. Really, I hope so. And do you be certain to show them the evidence; there’s a good lass.” Smiling, he added: “I’ll take my chances with a jury.”
Her teeth gnashed, and her little fists clenched in sheer frustration. She knew, as he knew, there was no possibility of keeping the evidence photographs from the press. They always got out, sooner or later. She tried a different threat.
“You know, that yours are not the only photographs I have. There are many people in this city who would do me any favour, including eliminating you, to keep from being exposed. I have only to dial the phone ……….” She let the silence linger, perhaps with an eye to her eventual release.
His weary sigh showed that he was not impressed. “I know all about your little safe, Augusta. I know where it is, and what is in it. Do be a good girl and tell me the combination, please?” Knowing surely that she would defy him, he did not even bother to take out a notebook. Her withering glance told him, better than any words, that he would need to apply the cane again.
There are some canings, which are done for the pleasure of both parties; this was not one of them. This was punishment: justice, retribution, deterrence, and persuasion. I could see Augusta’s face reflected in a mirror over the fireplace; as the stripes decorated her lovely bottom, and the pain cut through her like a knife, her emotions ran an entire gamut: one could see in her eyes first defiance, then anger, then uncertainty. Soon there were cries of pain, then the pleading began, and after every cry for mercy, her punisher asked for the combination to the safe.
She stood it as long as she could, even when he whipped the tops of her thighs. Her skin began to give out; I could see by where he chose to place each new stroke that he was reluctant to draw blood. But as each place in the conventional areas became more livid, he finally shrugged his shoulders, took up a thinner cane, and placed one wicked stripe on each of her calves.
The new shrieks were monumental in volume. Knowing that he would need no more, he returned to the empty chair in front of her, and took her face almost tenderly in his hands. Whispering, almost like a lover, he asked her: “Please, Augusta, tell me the combination. You know I cannot let you continue your blackmails. Tell me, Augusta, ……… tell me.” He crooned her name, he caressed her back and shoulders, he wiped her tears with a tissue, and turned her head to look at the cane. That broke her: all three of us knew she could stand no more. He took out his notebook.
She whispered to him – he wrote it down – he made her tell him again, several times, rapidly. The numbers were the same, every time. Turning his back to her, he stooped down, and kindled a fire. Augusta felt the heat on her face and looked up in alarm; his face was implacable.
“Look to the fire, Augusta, and prepare yourself. I give you five minutes to pray; then will I feed you to the flames. And may God have mercy on your soul.”
Augusta was helpless and she knew it; I was not. She was blackmailing me; I now had five minutes to decide whether I would see murder done in my presence.
He returned well before the allotted time, with his hands full. Two more trips he made, from the safe to the fireplace, amassing evidence of every kind: photographs, letters, computer discs, bank records. All this he gathered before her, and then with a sudden rush it was all in the fire. He reached for the gas valve, to help turn the records to ashes; the flames leaped higher and she felt the heat on her face drying her tears even though her weeping had renewed. He stood; she trembled in fear at last as he walked behind her.
He patted her bottom, almost fondly. “Your life is over, Augusta. All that you are, and all that you were, has gone up in smoke. You, who would demand money or obedience at the snap of a finger, have lost all your power.” He smiled indulgently, with his hand still on her flaming bottom, “I suspect your bank records are also now ashes. You’ll need to find useful work before you’re turned out of this house.”
He made ready to leave. Augusta, fully aware of her dire situation, was so astonished that her mouth could only work inarticulately. She was still tied to the whipping bench – no one would enter the house without a direct invitation – she might never get up again. He chuckled as he appreciated her predicament. “I’ll telephone someone in the morning; they’ll come and let you out.” He paused for a moment in thought, murmuring, “I almost forgot,” as he took a small camera from his pocket, snapping pictures from several angles while Augusta cringed in her shame. He smacked her bottom a last time, one sharp slap followed by several soft pats as a warning and as a farewell.
The door clicked softly behind him. Listening for the elevator, to verify we were alone at last, I too snapped a few photographs of my former mistress lying naked in her punishment, letting the camera flash tell her what had been done. As I walked forward, into her range of vision, she said: “you wouldn’t …” and I assured her, “no, ‘Mistress,’ I would not.” I couldn’t help rubbing it in: “That’s the difference between us.” She asked, of course, to be released, but very nicely, and only once; the lesson of the evening had already made its impression on her.
But she still looked at me with pleading in her eyes. Her frantic squirming spoke of something other than pain: I fastened her ankles with a two-foot chain between them, and led her to the little room. My sensibilities wanted to offer her privacy, but my good sense over-ruled that; who knows what weapon she would have found had I left her alone.
As I fastened her back into the whipping bench, there to await the coming of morning, I found her handbag and let her see me take the key-ring. I had been her errand boy, once; I knew where her banks were, which keys opened which boxes, and which boxes held duplicate evidence.
She knew where I was going, and why; she begged me to leave her some money in one of the deed boxes. I agreed, with good humour: reminding her that she had demanded five thousand dollars from me earlier that evening, I told her she could expect that exact sum. She was aghast. “You know I can’t survive on that amount of money!” she cried. I patted her bottom gently, just as my predecessor had done.
“I know. But it will be fun to watch you try.”
© Hardwood 2008