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James Richard Larson

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The Wife Beating LIterary Agent - Part 3
By James Richard Larson
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rated "R" by the Author.

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Literary Agent Arthur Brent meets Mr. William Bagnold of Two Ravens Publishing Company, London.

Excerpt from my novel, The Right Thing.

Chapter 18

An hour and a half after he’d arrived at the agency, Arthur Brent keyed in Ms. Sander’s office extension. Her car hadn’t been in the lot as it usually was. He rang Ms. Olson.
“Ms. Olson, has Ms. Sanders arrived yet?”
“No sir. She’s not here.”
“Did she call?”
“No sir . . . ah, wait—she’s just coming into the office now.”
“Tell her I want to speak with her. Send her in, if you please.”
“Yes sir.”
Gladys was conservatively dressed in a gray business suit. She entered the office and sat down without being asked.
“Ms. Sanders, you’re late.”
“Oh Arthur, come off it. Who the hell do you think you are?”
Arthur returned her stare. Finally, Gladys looked away. She didn’t like it. She didn’t like it one bit.
“Ms. Sanders, If we plan to continue our . . . relationship, we’re going to have to get one thing straight. When we’re at work, we’ll do things the way we always have, won’t we? That is if you still care to remain employed by the Brent Agency. What that means is unless either Ms. Olson or myself informs you otherwise, you’ll be expected to observe our regular starting time. Are we understood on this concern? You’ve always been punctual.”
“Arthur, are you serious?”
“Yes I am.”
“Okay. I understand. I didn’t presume to . . .”
“That’s fine. As long as we understand each other. I do have a business to run and I’d like to avoid any . . . distractions. As to the times when we’re not working . . . well then—then we’ll let things follow their natural course, won’t we?
“All right, Arthur. We don’t have a problem here. But do you mind if I ask you something?”
“Go ahead.”
“Will you come over tonight? I liked it. I liked it very much. I want us to be together again. Because I have something special planned. Something really special.”
The last night’s events flashed through Arthur’s mind. He’d never in his life experienced anything like the excruciating painful orgasms ministered by this woman seated before him. His organ swelled with the thought of what was to come. Gladys had unleashed something in him that he wanted to, had to experience again.
The gift-wrapped box caught Arthur’s eye.
“I can’t tonight. I promised something for my son this evening. Besides, I think I need a day to recuperate.”
“That’s fine, Arthur. It’ll give me a little more time to prepare for you.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Gladys flashed her predatory smile. “You should be.”
“Okay. That’s settled. So, do you plan on calling the client? Glenn Marshall? An American Patriot?”
“Yes sir, first thing this morning. And I’ll draft the letter and send it out right away. That’s assuming he wants to deal with us.”
“Oh—I think he will. Please let me know what Mr. Marshall has to say. It’s going to be a good one for us, I think. You did well, Ms. Sanders. That’ll be all for now.”
“Very good sir.” Gladys smiled. When she closed the office door, she thought you’re going to pay bigtime for this one Arthur. Cause like the song says, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Last night was just a little dress rehearsal for the main event.
Later that morning, well satisfied with the possibilities after speaking to Mrs. Heckert at Tarpon Publishing, Arthur took a call from Ms. Sanders.
“Mr. Brent, I finally connected with Mr. Marshall and he said he’d be delighted to work with us on An American Patriot.”
“Very good! I just got off the phone with Heckert over at Tarpon. I told her about the book, and she reiterated that she trusts the agency explicitly. She should. We do her well enough. She wants to see the manuscript as soon as you’re able to get it prepared. Send it first class mail. Can you get it together today, do you think? Regular format? Hard copy?”
“Should I send a copy of the manuscript e-mail?”
“No. Heckert’s an editor. Old school. She likes hard copy. Did Marshall send a CD?”
“Yes sir he did.”
“Make a copy and send one along.”
“Very good, sir.”
Arthur Brent leaned back. Fingers interlaced behind his head, he rocked back and forth in his comfortable leather chair. The instinct inherited from his father worked well the majority of the time. He may have let the novel Private Property slip through his hands. Carolyn was to blame for that oversight, a golden opportunity missed. Well, he wasn’t going to miss it this time around. Arthur could smell it. An American Patriot was going to be a winner.
After work Arthur intended to give Jeremy the gift. The plane was a replica of a German World War Two fighter, gas engine powered and remote controlled. It was expensive as hell, a real gem, the man at the hobby shop had told him, and he was right. The kid was going to love it. Arthur knew the perfect place to take Jeremy to fly the model. Arthur could sense it. The boy was coming over to his side. No one was going to turn his son into a mama’s boy. In time the boy would learn what Arthur already knew, what Arthur had learned so well from his own father. Women were there to be used. It was as simple as that. And uppity women? Uppity women needed to learn their place. They needed to have their faces pushed in it, as dear old dad used to joke to his friends. Only it wasn’t a joke at all to mother, was it? In private, it was never a joke. There were rules. Rules needed to be obeyed. Arthur intended to see that Jeremy learned his lessons well.
The phone beeped. “Mr. Brent?”
“Yes, Ms. Olson?”
“A Mr. Bagnold is here to see you. Two Ravens Publishing. London.”
“Two Ravens Publishing? I wasn’t aware of any appointments, Mrs. Olson. Was Mr. Bagnold scheduled?”
“No sir.”
Arthur thought Two Ravens Publishing? Founded, let’s see, 1850 or thereabouts? The only publisher I’m aware of by that name went out of business in—what was it? 1943? 44? Well, new ones are popping up all the time. And she did say Bagnold, didn’t she? No. Must be a relative of William Bagnold. Have to take a look.
Arthur said, “Ms. Olson, would you ask Mr. Bagnold if he wouldn’t mind waiting just a few moments? I’ll call you when you can send him in.”
After a few seconds, Ms. Olson said, “That will be fine, sir. He’ll wait.”
Arthur accessed the internet and keyed a search engine. Typing Two Ravens Publishing brought up what he was looking for. Two Ravens Publishing had gone out of business toward the end of World War Two after a Nazi rocket attack on London. The story related that the building had been completely destroyed and the fires had obliterated the bodies. There was no current listing for a Two Ravens Publishing.
So, Arthur wondered, who the hell is this guy?
Arthur keyed in Publishers England. Again, there was no listing for Two Ravens Publishing.
He checked other databases and lists. There was no listing for the publisher anywhere.
Arthur picked up the phone, hit a key and said. “Ms. Olson, would you please show Mr. Bagnold in now?”
“Yes sir.”
When the door opened Ms. Olson entered followed by an elderly man, hat in hand. He was bald on top with a tuft of snow-white hair over each ear. His salt and pepper bushy eyebrows seemed to cover half his forehead. Dark eyes accented his chalk white complexion. The ancient face frowned as if frozen in that expression.
Arthur stood. He came around the desk.
Ms. Olson said, “Mr. Brent, may I present Mr. William Bagnold?”
The old man’s eyes twinkled for a split second when he saw Brent’s reaction to the mention of his name.
Brent shook hands with the man. The man’s grip was like a vise. Arthur tried not to wince. It hurt. In an eyeblink, the old man sneered his amusement again. Brent withdrew his hand. It still hurt.
“Mr. Bagnold, would you like to have a seat?”
“I would, thank you.” The voice was reedy, sharp, high English.
Deciding to humor the man for the time being, Arthur returned to his chair. He’d send him out on his ass soon enough. The old man must have lost his wits along the way, but there was no threat here. The man must be in his mid-eighties.
“So,” Arthur said, “What can I do for you, sir?”
“You represent American authors.”
“I do.”
“I have a client. She wishes to be represented by your agency.”
Arthur made up his mind. He did not like this man, or his attitude. Not at all. He would make quick work of him, and send him on his way.
“And why should I do so?” Arthur said.
“Because, sir, that is what my client wants.”
Arthur barked out a laugh. “Because that’s what she wants? Is that right?”
“You’re a publisher sir? Two Ravens Publishing, is that not so?”
“Then why not publish your client? Why do you come to me? Wait. Allow me to guess. Because that’s what your client wants! Do I have this right so far?”
“You do have it right, yes.”
“Does your client have a name, sir?”
“She does.”
“Splendid! Would you care to enlighten me? Does your client want that as well?” Arthur barked another laugh.
Unfazed, the old one said, “Her name is Mrs. Elsbeth Malone. The book is titled The Circle of Light.”
Arthur thought for a moment. I know that title. I think I have a copy of the manuscript out back on the reject shelves. I’m sure of it. Maybe this old fool isn’t a crank. Then who is he? Whoever he is, he sure as hell isn’t William Bagnold from Two Raven’s Publishing.
Arthur said, “I know of the book, Mr. Bagnold. I’ll take a look at it. I have a copy of the manuscript in my rejection files. But tell me, sir, should I decide to represent the book, where shall I send it for publishing?”
Bagnold said, “To Two Ravens, of course.”
“Mr. Bagnold, allow me to put my cards on the table. I happen to know for a fact that Two Ravens Publishing no longer exists. Not in England. Not in the United States. Not anywhere. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a Two Ravens Publishing at one time. They were literally bombed out of existence in 1944 London. So, Mr. Bagnold, I'm afraid I don’t believe you are who you say you are, and I don’t believe that you represent anyone. In particular I don’t believe that you represent a publishing company. And the name William Bagnold? There was a man by that name associated with Two Ravens but he died in the bombing. In 1944, sir! And now? Now I’ll show you out of my office, and you can go back to wherever you came from. I must say it’s been entertaining, but now I have to go back to work. Oh yes. There is one other thing. My time is valuable, sir. Please don’t call on me again.”
“But I will pay a call on you again, Mr. Brent,” Bagnold said.
“Well, sir. I’ll tell you right now, again, so it you might save you some time. I won’t see you again.”
“Are you so sure of that, Mr. Brent? Very well. I do have just one last question.”
“Mr. Bagnold, you try my patience. But go ahead. What is your question, sir?”
“You will do the right thing for my client, won’t you, Mr. Brent?”
Arthur thought this old coot had better check himself back in to the nearest skull ranch.
Arthur said, “Our meeting is over, sir.”
He held the office door open for the old man.
“Ms. Olson?”
“ If you please, show Mr. Bagnold out.”
“Yes sir.”

Chapter 19

After the old man who called himself William Bagnold was out of the building, Arthur went back to his computer. If he remembered correctly, there was more information on a Mr. William Bagnold. Searching the databases, Arthur found what he was looking for. The real William Bagnold had died in the 1944 bombing nearly sixty years ago. His family had owned Two Ravens Publishing and Bagnold himself had been the author of several books on the occult. There were even a few pictures of Bagnold as a young man. Arthur studied the grainy photo recreations carefully. It was too difficult to judge. There was a slight resemblance but it was impossible to tell. The old man must be just another crackpot.
His curiosity up, Arthur went to his library at the back of the offices. It only took a few moments to find the manuscript for The Circle of Light by Elsbeth Malone on the reject shelves. Arthur opened the file and looked at his mark on the top left side of the first page. The negative sign in parenthesis showed Arthur that the manuscript had been unsolicited. A copy of his rejection note was paper clipped to Ms. Malone’s query letter. The note had been short, sarcastic, and suggested that Ms. Malone’s work needed serious editing. Arthur closed the folder and put it back in its place on the shelf. When he got to the door, he stopped. Something made him change his mind. He went again to the shelf, retrieved the manuscript and took it back to his office.
Arthur opened the folder and turned the pages to Chapter One. Later, engrossed in Elsbeth Malone’s story, he didn’t hear the beep until the third time. He glanced at the phone. Inside call. Setting the folder down on the desktop and reaching for the receiver, Arthur thought Damn. I wonder why I didn’t go with this one. It’s actually pretty good—there’s potential here. Should have gone with it. Too bad the old man wasn’t legit. Would’ve saved me looking for a publisher.
“Mr. Brent, I just wanted to let you know that I sent the manuscript and information for An American Patriot to Tarpon. It’s on its way—I mailed the CD as well.”
“Very good. Thanks Ms. Sanders.”
“You’re welcome, sir. Ah . . . you know . . . Arthur . . . the invite for tonight is still open. I can promise you won’t regret it.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted, Ms. Sanders, but as much as I’d like to, I can’t. Tomorrow night for sure, though. I’m kind of busy at the moment. I’ll talk to you later.”
Before she could answer, the connection was broken.
You prick! Gladys thought. Just for that I’ll make you scream, you filthy little prick.
About to put his nose back in the manuscript, out of the corner of his eye Arthur saw the business card at the edge of the desk.
Funny I didn’t notice it before. The old man must have put it there.
Arthur reached for the card. It read:

Mr. William Bagnold
Two Ravens Publishing

He flipped the card over. On the reverse side was a printed phone number. Arthur keyed in the London number.
“Two Ravens Publishing, may I help you?” the woman’s voice said.
Disoriented, Arthur could not answer. When he tried, no sound issued from him.
“Hello? Hello? Is someone there?” the Englishwoman asked.
He stared at the receiver. When he put it back up to his ear, the woman had hung up.
Arthur put the card in the long top drawer. On the computer, he navigated to the top search engine and typed in Two Ravens Publishing. Scanning and gathering information, Arthur learned for the second time that there was no active publisher by that name. There hadn’t been for decades. Then whom had he just called?
Just what in the hell is going on here?
Arthur glanced at the wall clock. Five-thirty already? Where the hell did the time go?
When he opened the office door, Ms. Olson was gone. It looked as though everyone else had left for the day. Why hadn’t she said anything? Ms. Olson always let him know when she was leaving. Arthur felt the blood pounding in his ears. Looking back in the office, he noticed the gift-wrapped present for Jeremy. As the surrounding room turned shades of gray the wrapping paper appeared to burst with color.
Man I feel weird. Just . . . weird. Time to get out of here.
Arthur snatched the airplane box and left the office. On the way out of the building, he passed through the library. He paused to turn the light off. Arthur turned. Something glowed with a faint light, on the shelf where he’d removed Elsbeth Malone’s manuscript.
What the hell? Now I’m seeing things? That’s it—I’m out of here.

Arthur Brent parked his Jaguar in the driveway.
The front door to the house was locked. He fumbled for his keys, opened the door and went inside.
The house was quiet.
“Goddammit! Carolyn where the hell are you?”
He went through the kitchen to the hallway and opened the service door to the garage. Her car was gone. When he went to the living room, Arthur glanced out the front window. He saw Mrs. Friede, the neighbor woman from across the street. She was standing at the end of his driveway. She waved.
NOW what the hell!
Arthur went outside. Mrs. Friede met him half way up the driveway.
“Mr. Brent—is something the matter?”
“Why would something be the matter, Mrs. Friede?”
“I only thought something might . . .”
“Mrs. Friede. I’m rather busy right now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Brent. It’s just that when I saw that man watching your house I thought that something might be wrong. Never mind.”
Turning to leave, the busybody said, “Sorry I bothered.”
“Wait, Mrs. Friede. You say there was a man watching my house?”
“Uh huh. Yesterday. He was in a truck. At first I didn’t know which house he was watching. But I kept a good eye on him. Turns out he was watching your house. Then today when Mrs. Brent was putting suitcases in her car I thought . . .”
“Suitcases? When did you see her?”
“Why, about quarter to ten this morning. She opened the garage door and then I saw her doing something there. It looked like she was putting suitcases and stuff in her trunk. After she pulled her car out and she closed the garage door it looked like she was going to leave. But then she didn’t. She went back in the house and came out a little later with another suitcase and put it in the back seat. It was a blue suitcase, I could see . . .”
“Mrs. Friede. Do you know what kind of truck the man was driving?”
“I couldn’t tell but it was one of them big SUV’s. A white one. That doesn’t matter though.”
“What do you mean?”
“They said there was a pervert living over on Hill Lake Road and I thought it might be him trying to abduct a kid or something so I took down his license plate number. I got a copy of it here if you want it.”
“Thank you Mrs. Friede. Thanks for keeping an eye out. The guy might be a pervert or a murderer or something. You never know.” He took the folded paper. “Thanks.”
“Should I call the police, Mr. Brent?”
“No, no that’s okay. It’s probably nothing. But if I find out anything I’ll let you know. And thanks again, Mrs. Friede.”
“Glad I could help. I do watch what’s going on around the neighborhood, Mr. Brent.”
“I’m sure you do. Thanks.”
Brent turned and walked up the driveway. Mrs. Friede was still babbling about the neighborhood watch when he got to the front door.
I don’t know anybody with a white SUV. I wonder if there’s a connection? There has to be. Why would someone be watching the house? And where the hell did the bitch go? When I get her home there’s going to be hell to pay.
Brent looked at the license plate number scrawled in Mrs. Friede’s small script.
How the hell am I going to find out whose number this is? How am I . . . Gladys! Her brother is a cop. Cops can get a plate number no problem. She’ll find out for me.
At the kitchen table, Arthur keyed in Gladys’s number.

Chapter 20

“Hi, Gladys. This is Arthur.”
“I figured. Changed your mind about tonight, did you?”
“Well, not exactly. I have a favor to ask.” Arthur eyed the gift box in front of him, with the gas engine powered airplane inside. He said, “I’d like to come over if it’s okay.”
“I can’t wait. I miss you. There’s a parking spot open next to mine. You’ll see it. Just come right on up. Okay?”
“Okay. I’ll be over in a little while.”
The dominatrix voice said, “Make it snappy. Don’t keep me waiting, Arthur.”
Arthur checked every room of the house, thinking Carolyn might have left a note. There was nothing. He checked the closets and her vanity drawers. She’d taken a lot of her clothes. His checkbook was missing from the chest of drawers. His spare credit card was missing also. He’d never let her have one.
Arthur looked in Jeremy’s room. Most of his clothes were gone. She’d taken the boy with her. Must have taken him out of school if Mrs. Friede saw her leave before ten.
Oh bitch you’re gonna pay you’re gonna pay you are going to fuckin’ay pay.
He moved the big box from the upper shelf in the master bedroom closet. Then he took the shoebox from its place and put it on the bed. When he opened the cover, light from the bedroom fixture reflected on the chrome finish of the loaded .32 caliber revolver. He put the gun in his back pocket.
Next, Arthur opened the hallway closet. He unfolded the stepladder. Standing on the third step, he reached up and removed the attic access panel. When he stood at the top of the ladder, the attic floor was a few inches over waist high. Reaching over and probing under the insulation, he felt for the big wooden box. He’d always been very careful. There was no way Carolyn knew about the tens of thousands in hidden cash, no way, but he thought he’d better check to be sure. He opened the clasp on the box and pushed the cover back on the hinges. His stomach bile rose to his throat. The box was empty.
I’m going to strangle that bitch. She’s dead. I swear it. This time she’s dead.
Arthur locked the door to the house. He walked to his car.
Be calm. Be calm. Get in the car, go to Gladys’s, and find out who the son of a bitch is. She’s with whoever owns the white SUV. I know it. I knew all along that she was cheating on me. You bet your sweet ass I knew it. Well Carolyn wherever you are you’re in for a great big surprise tonight! You and whoever he is.

Gladys held the door open.
“Took you long enough,” she said.
His twisted expression changed her attitude.
“Arthur, what’s wrong?”
“I got a big problem. My wife left me. A neighbor woman saw her loading suitcases in her car. She took my son too. She took the checkbook and credit card and some cash I had hidden. A lot of cash.”
“Are you sure there’s not another explanation?”
“Dead sure.”
“Why did she leave?”
“I think she was cheating on me. I can’t understand it. I treated her like a goddam queen. We were so good together. I can’t believe she left me.”
Gladys said, “Do you think she found out about me—about us? Could that be why?”
“No. Impossible. We were only together one time. There’s no way she could know. No way.”
“You said you think she was cheating on you? Do you know it for a fact?”
“I can pretty well figure it out.”
“Do you want a drink? I think you could use one.”
“Yeah, thanks.”
“Whiskey and soda okay?”
“Light on the soda. Make it a strong one.”
“Will do. I think I’ll have one with you.”
Gladys went to the kitchen. After icing the big rock glasses, she went to the bathroom medicine cabinet, this time removing three red and blue capsules from the pill bottle. Over Arthur’s glass, she emptied the capsules one at a time over the ice cubes. She poured two stiff ones with a splash of soda.
Arthur accepted the drink, took a sip and said, “Whoa . . . did you put any soda in it?”
“There’s soda in it. You said you wanted it strong.”
“I did, didn’t I?” He gulped a pull from the glass.
“Arthur, when you called you said you wanted me to do you a favor. What do you want?”
“Your brother’s a cop, right?”
“He’s a cop, yeah.”
“That means he can access license plate numbers, right?”
“I think so.”
“I got a number. I want to know who owns the truck. A white SUV. Think you can get your brother to find out for me?”
“Jeff might not want to do it. He’s a real straight arrow with it comes to police work. Who’s car do you think it is anyway?” Gladys said.
Arthur exploded, “If I knew whose fucking car it was I wouldn’t be asking for your fucking help now, would I?”
Anger flashed in her eyes. She held her tongue. She’d never seen him under this much stress. You’ll pay for that one, Arthur.
The room was quiet for a few moments. Arthur drank the rest of his whiskey. Finally he said, “I’m sorry—sorry I blew up. I didn’t mean it. Just the other day someone was watching my house. Some guy in a white SUV. The neighbor woman took down the plate number. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one day some guy is watching my house and the next day my wife leaves me.”
“What’s the number?”
He handed Gladys the slip of paper.
She said, “Jeff’s on duty right now. I’ll ask him. Might take a while to connect, though. Depends on who’s in dispatch tonight.”
Gladys went to the kitchen. Arthur could hear her talking on the phone. She came back into the living room with fresh drinks.
“They’ll see that he gets the message. I told them it’s not an emergency. He’ll call back.”
Minutes later the phone rang. Gladys picked up in the living room.
“Hi Jeff. Sorry to bother you. Can you do me a little favor?”
Arthur heard Gladys give him the number. After making some small talk and thanking him, she hung up.
“He’ll let me know in a couple of minutes.”
Five minutes later the phone rang. Gladys picked up.
“Yeah, uh huh, okay. Yeah. Got it.”
Gladys wrote the name down on the notebook by the phone.
“Thanks Jeffy—I owe you one. Uh huh. Hey! Who loves ya? Okay Jeffy. Bye.
“The SUV is registered to a guy named Michael Allen.”
Arthur’s expression told Gladys everything she needed to know.
“That son of a bitch. I should’ve figured.” Arthur said.
“Who is he?”
“Carolyn’s old boyfriend. I married Carolyn right after they broke up.”
“Well? What are you going to do now?”
“I know where he lives. I’m sure she’s there. They don’t think I know where she is. You ask what am I going to do? I think I’m going to kill the bitch. She doesn’t leave me. I might just put one in his head too while I’m at it.”
“You plan on shooting them? Arthur get real! They’ll throw you in jail. You want to spend the rest of your life in prison for murder?”
“I have a gun. I’m going to use it.”
“Where is it? In your car? Arthur you better not do anything stupid. Maybe you’d better stay here tonight. You’re upset. You can do something about it in the morning. Give her a call then, maybe. Talk to her. Maybe she’ll come back.”
“I’m going there tonight,” Arthur said.
“No, Arthur. That’s the worse thing you can do. If you show your face there they’ll call the police. They know your car. Do you think they’re not watching? Just in case you did find out about them? And you want to go over there with a gun? You can’t do that. You can’t. Where is it? Where’s the gun?”
Arthur stood. He reached into his pocket. Losing his balance, he nearly fell. He pulled out the .32 and put it on the end table. His hand shook. The drugs were starting to take over. He staggered to the side, and then lurched to the couch. Wheezing, exhaling, he put his head back on the cushion.
“Arthur. Are you all right?”
Her voice sounded like it came from the end of a tunnel.
“I don’t know,” he slurred. “I feel dizzy. Tired all the sudden. I can’t . . .”
His head felt as if it were unattached to his neck.
Arthur’s chin dropped to his chest.

Chapter 21

Sluggish, Arthur emerged back into consciousness, his first awareness behind closed eyes. The throbbing in his head felt like a steam engine, screaming, hissing. He cracked his eyes open a slit. At first the points of light made no sense. Arthur opened his eyes further. He realized the light was from candles. It seemed every candle in the room was lit, and the flickering reflections from the mirrors made Arthur feel as though he floated in a sea of stars. But for the pain it might have been beautiful. The pounding headache started over his left eye and made its way over the top of his head to the back of his neck. It wasn’t until he reached to rub his head that he realized he was seated, wrists and elbows duct taped to the hi-backed heavy wooden chair. A full-length mirror was placed on a stand in front of him, and he saw that he was taped to the chair at the ankles and under the knees as well. Gladys, it appeared, had stripped him naked before seating him.
Arthur tried to call for her. The sound from his vocal cords was muffled by the round object she’d placed in his mouth, attached to leather straps buckled behind his head. He detected movement in the mirror, out of the corner of his eye. Gladys was seated in a chair behind him, watching, wearing a different outfit this time.
“Coming to, are you? Good. Just relax, okay?”
Arthur tried to speak.
“Oh my. Cat got your tongue, boss? We’ll have to do something about that, won’t we? Here, let me help.”
Gladys unbuckled the two straps and pulled the ball from Arthur’s mouth.
Arthur gasped, “What the hell are you doing? I can hardly breathe with that fucking thing on.”
Gladys came to stand in front of Arthur’s chair.
When her slap came out of nowhere, ringing against the side of his face, his head felt as though it split down the middle. A vicious backhand followed.
“Did I fail to mention that there will be no talking, boss?”
“What did you do to me you . . .”
“I said no talking!”
This time the slap was harder, the pain excruciating.
“Well, well. And just what do we have here?”
Gladys reached between his legs and kneaded his erection, gently, expertly.
Arthur moaned with the pleasure of it.
Gladys said, “I’m going to give you something to make you feel better.”
On her way to the kitchen, she turned.
“Don’t run away, now.”
She returned with a glass of water and set it on the end table. She held something in the other hand.
“I’m going to give you a couple pills. They’ll make you feel a whole lot better. Open. Say ahhh.”
“I don’t want to take . . .”
The hard slap came unexpectedly, but it came. Arthur’s head felt like an exploding pipe bomb. When he was able to breathe again, he opened his mouth.
“That’s better. Here.” She held the glass to his lips. “Drink now.”
After Arthur drank, she returned to her chair. He caught her reflection in the mirror. She kept her eyes on him, watching. After about thirty minutes, seemingly hours to Arthur, the pain began to subside. Whatever the drug was, the headache ebbed until it was almost gone. The anticipation of coming events caused his pulse to accelerate. He realized Gladys was in front of him again, bare nipples jutting through the leather halter. She held his chin up and looked into his eyes.
“You’re looking better.”
Quick as a cat, she strapped the ball harness over his head.
“It’s playtime, Arthur. Ready?”
Arthur looked at her reflection. He didn’t respond.
Gladys reached between his legs. “Are you ready for class? Are you?”
Arthur moaned with pleasure. He nodded. Then his eye caught movement from across the room. He turned his head and tried to see. It was nothing. Must be the candle flame he thought.
Then the feeling struck him as sure as another slap from the dominatrix.
Somebody’s in here with us.
Arthur looked at the mirrors, first on one side of the room, then the other. He trained his eyes back on Gladys. If someone were in the room she’d give it away. She’d have to look in their direction.
Maybe someone’s waiting in the kitchen.
Arthur craned his head to the right to see if he could tell if anyone was in there. He saw a shadow move. Was it a reflection from a candle? No!
Somebody’s in the kitchen.
He felt the dull pain slice against his shoulder. Gladys held the crop with the small weight at the end. She worked his body, stopping every so often to fondle him. Again he sensed movement in the kitchen.
When Arthur tried to speak the garbled sound incited Gladys to wield the crop harder.
“I told you to be quiet.”
Gladys put the crop on the table and reached for a black silk cloth. Wild eyed, Arthur watched her reflection place the hood over his head. Then came the sound of retreating footsteps as she left the room. Arthur listened as hard as was humanly possible. He detected no sound, no contact between Gladys and whoever was in the kitchen.
He heard the footsteps come into the living room. He felt the collar placed around his neck. He heard Gladys speak.
Who is she talking to?”
Arthur felt someone’s breath between his legs. Someone began to minister to him. It continued for some time, and when he felt as though he must surely explode, the ministrations stopped, followed by a biting pain in his right nipple.
The hood came off. Even the candlelight was bright after being blinded by the hood. When his eyes adjusted, Arthur saw that Gladys was standing behind him. There was no one else in the room.
“Did you like that, boss?”
The feeling that someone else was in the room faded away. Arthur relaxed. He nodded his head.
“I thought so. Now for something really special.”
He felt the collar tighten. The ends of the leather loop around his neck passed through a hollow wooden cylinder perpendicular to the back of his head. A wooden tee bar completed the choker assembly. Gladys gave it a half twist. She held it there for half a minute. Arthur could feel his air supply cut off. Gladys relaxed her hold on the twister. Arthur took in a deep breath.
“One more time and maybe I’ll turn you loose.” Gladys said, her excitement building, anticipating her own pleasure. Seeing Arthur’s reaction, she knew he was ready.
We’ll just give him one more time on the choker.
Gladys reached between his legs. Moaning again in pleasure, he closed his eyes and turned his head to the side. When an overwhelming, all encompassing feeling of another presence washed over him like a tidal wave, Arthur opened his eyes. In the kitchen doorway stood the silhouette of a man.
Who in the hell? Who is he? I’ve seen him before. I know him. What was it he said?
Arthur felt the choker tighten. Gladys stood behind him. He saw her in the mirror.
No! Not now! Can’t you see him? He’s coming into the room! Look for God’s sake!
Gladys ignored Arthur’s muffled screams as he struggled in the chair. He tried to catch her eye in the mirror. She didn’t see. As she bent to her task, Arthur felt his air supply close off completely.
Gladys! Look at me! He’s closer! He’s coming closer! Look!
When she relaxed the choker for a moment, Arthur shifted his weight enough to move the chair forward an inch. When he caught Gladys’s eye, he screamed again around the ball.
She’s looking right through me. She doesn’t . . .
She turned the choker again. Arthur’s eyes came to rest on the man, the man that he recognized. What was it he had said?
But I will pay a call on you Mr. Brent. I will pay a call . . .
Gladys gave the choker a savage turn. After too many seconds, Arthur forgot about the man in black. His self-preservation instinct kicked into overdrive. Gladys took no notice of the racking, shaking masochist seated in the chair. His head slammed from side to side, tongue pressing against the ball, lungs screaming for air. Bordering in the blackout zone, Arthur felt the neck strap loosen. He realized that his eyes were closed.
I don’t want to look I don’t want to look I don’t . . .
The slap in the face opened his eyes for him.
The old man had taken off his hat.
The man smiled. “I told you, Mr. Brent. Didn’t I tell you that we’d see each other again?”
Arthur, eyes round in fear, viewed Gladys behind the chair, her reflection multiplied again and again in the candlelight and mirrors. She reached for the choker.
Arthur tried to speak, to beg, but the ball garbled his voice. The old man turned his head to the side, and put his hand behind his ear to listen.
Eyes pleading, Arthur looked at the old man. Their eyes locked.
Mr. Bagnold. Please. Stop her. She’s going to kill me. Don’t you see? Please . . . Mr. Bagnold? Oh my . . . oh my God he has no reflection . . . no reflection in the mirror . . . no, no it can’t be . . . it . . . can . . . not . . . be . . .
Among the many visions of Gladys stood a solitary man in black. With a horror known only to the hellhound, Arthur understood. When Gladys gave the choker two full turns; the old man’s terrible smile accompanied Arthur Brent on his passage from the world of light into the darkness.

       Web Site: The Right Thing

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