The voice from the intercom froze Tina in the act of adjusting her garter belt. It wasn’t the information the voice relayed, for in truth she had been checking the digital readout (half concealed by condom packets, jars of lube, whips and furry handcuffs) every few minutes and knew that the time was fast approaching, but rather the source of that voice.
It wasn’t Mandy the Check In Operative’s slightly sardonic maternal tone, but the clipped schoolmarmish one of the new girl: ‘Client 7 will be with you shortly.’
Tina broke a nail as she smoothed her stocking down with a vicious swipe; it lay in red acrylic glory on the white shagpile like a frozen bloody tear. She had instructed Mandy (on the hush hush, of course, can’t let the other girls think she had a favourite) that Client 7 was never to be sent to her room again. But the new girl (colder than a witch’s snatch) was not the type to relax the rules and, as Tina watched her own startled face reflected endlessly in the many mirrors (meat portals, the girls called them) adorning her cell, she heard Client 7’s familiar heavy tread approaching her door.
Maybe he’d just be looking sex this time; as old and repulsive as he was, the thought brightened her for a moment. God knows, she had lain under worse – money was money – and, fingers crossed, he would take a heart attack through and she would be shot of him once and for all. But as the light went on above the door, and the locks opened with a sensual hiss, she knew Client 7 had only come to talk and her shoulders slumped and her décolletage deflated.
There were always talkers; the guilty husbands and lonely child-men who couldn’t go through with it but just wanted to look, and to talk and talk. Normally she greeted these limp confessors with enthusiasm, grateful for the easy cash and the rest-bite for her burning groin, but Client 7’s topic of conversation was not the usual merry go round of self pity and loathing of the terminally repressed.
Client 7 had only one topic, one single subject that he liked to gnaw on like a decrepit old dog gumming on a powdery bone – his daughter, the one Tina reminded him so much of.
There were plenty who came in, spouting things like, ‘You look so much like my wife, my daughter, the girl who shunned me at college’ it was as much a part of her job as the sucking and the faking. Tina had long ago resigned herself to being a lump of human Play-Doh, capable of being moulded into whatever shape the clients wished, to answer to whatever name they called her by; a receptacle for their thin gruel sperm and their emotional hang ups. She did it all with an indefatigable smile breaking through the clown makeup on her face.
But those people merely wanted to hug her, or hold her hand and pretend for a moment that a much missed loved one was still alive. The hardest thing, Tina found, was to listen to the inevitable lecture on the nature (‘You’re too good for this’) of her profession that invariably followed.
Client 7 did not miss the daughter he claimed Tina reminded him of, however – no, not one little bit. All he wanted to do was jaw on about her death, and to talk of how he had killed her.
Of course, after his first visit, she had gone straight to Mandy at Registration and complained but Mandy had toed the company line; there was no way they would want the police sniffing around. Deliteful Dolls was a clean, discreet business and that’s the way they wanted it to stay.
‘He’s just a fantasist,’ Mandy assured her; ‘Creepy to be sure, but you can spend his money as easily as the nice college boys. At least he doesn’t want anything freaky – remember Client 23 and his penchant for candles? Just humour the old bastard and he’ll soon tire of the charade, move on to some other scenario.’
But after his fourth visit she had managed to extract a promise from Mandy never to send the old goat to her room again. ‘Spread him round a little,’ she’d pleaded, trying to sound weary instead of scared. ‘Let some of the new bitches put up with his bullshit for a while, it’ll be good experience for them.’
‘You’re turning down easy money, Hon,’ Mandy warned, but assented nonetheless.
Part of the problem was that Client 7 was such a non-assuming, avuncular looking man; the kind who would have sweets in his pockets for the grandkids and sage advice on his tongue for everyone else. Tina knew her repulsion of him stemmed chiefly from the knowledge of the ideas that festered in the rancid toadstool of his mind, hidden away beneath that respectable disguise.
The only flaw in his carefully constructed look were his teeth; they were bright yellow, as if stained by the toxic words that gushed out over them – words as sharp as the cleavers he habitually used, for Client 7 was a butcher by trade. How could anyone trust a man, regardless of his dimpled smile and twinkling eyes, who was so desensitised to slaughter?
Yet Tina had fallen for his disguise first time round; had even laughed to herself, thinking he’ll squirt before he got his britches down or that a quick hand-job would set those blue eyes a twinkling even more. Then he brought up his daughter and she realised she had a Talker on her hands and began spending his money in her head as he prattled on and on.
A single sentence stopped her mental shopping spree and made her look askance at the beaming little man on the heart shaped bed beside her. His grin now seemed demonic rather than kindly; reflected endlessly in the meat portals, Tina felt surrounded by a pack of slavering wolves all dressed up in grandad’s clothes. She felt exposed under his gaze – the miniscule amount of lace and silk that she wore had always felt like armour before, but now she had never felt as vulnerable.
‘I said,’ he repeated slowly, enunciating each word as if he were honing their edge on the whetstone of his tongue, ‘you remind me of my daughter. She was a filthy slut, just like you.’
Tina felt gooseflesh prickle her thighs as she inched away, but the room was too small and she succeeded only in moving closer to his leering reflection.
‘Oh, she wasn’t a professional, she never got paid. I’m sure you’ll tell me the job is a necessity; times are hard, blah blah blah. Her? She just loved to spread her legs; spread them as easy as butter left on a summer sill. She loved her sex. Like I say, a total slut. I can see it in your eyes too.’
‘You’ll have to leave now,’ Tina said, ‘or I’ll press the panic button and Security will –’
‘Oh, they don’t care!’ laughed Client 7. ‘Why should they? If I buy a can of dogfood no-one cares if I eat it myself, or smear it on my loins and have Fido lick it off. I bought it; it’s mine to do with as I please.’ He gave her a watery grin. ‘And that’s all you are when you think about it, my sweet smelling little whore…dogfood.’
He was right, she thought: The bosses hated it when Security was buzzed, hated the rows that made their twitchy clientele baulk at the thought of returning. And if they knew she’d summoned the heavies because some old codger was flinging a few insults to get himself hard, what then? She would find herself back hustling on street corners where the money was slim and there were worse things than foul mouthed old men on the prowl.
An image of Millie – her beautiful little pigtailed girl – flashed in her mind: what would become of her daughter if she had to go back out there?
‘My girl smelt sweet like you too, once, long ago,’ mused Client 7, ‘until I chopped her up – then I could smell the very shit inside of her, just like a pig. Shit and piss and everything else that little girls are made of.’
‘You’re sick,’ Tina said. ‘If this is the only way you can get your wrinkly old rocks off then –’
The old man chuckled. ‘I wouldn’t touch you with the proverbial barge pole,’ he said and Tina relaxed, thinking – he just wants to yammer on and scare me, well, the going rate’s the same for scare or sperm and his time’s almost up.
‘Of course, when she disappeared the cops started sniffing around. After a while their sympathy turned to suspicion. We’ve thin walls and nosey neighbours and the arguments we had were common knowledge. They ended up tearing the shop apart but they found nothing…and I made them compensate me.’
He laughed again, the sound of thick effluent clogging a drain. ‘She was right under their nose the whole time. I chopped her up, you see, put her on display with the sheep hearts and pig livers – even gave the D.I. a nice little package home with him, no hard feelings kind of thing, y’know? They say human flesh tastes like pork, but she tasted of rancid fish.’
‘You’re lying,’ Tina said; but his twinkling eyes were bottomless pits of cruelty, and she could imagine only too well those sharp little teeth sinking into flesh and rending. ‘You’ll have to leave now.’ She stood, turning her back on him but keeping her eye on his reflection, watching him ogle her ass. She had never felt so cheap, never felt so much like…meat.
‘I’m going, Honeybuns,’ he drawled contentedly, like a man after a fine meal, ‘but I’ll be back. I’ve a feeling I’m going to enjoy our little chats.’
He had returned twice more before she could convince Mandy to send him to some of the other girls. Each time the same old pantomime, each time a little more detail, each time a little more believable. And here he was at her door again. Soon that door would slide open and (he’d be standing there with blood on his lips, strips of skin dangling from his mouth) she would be trapped alone with him in her tiny cell.
She had no way of barring the door from this side. As soon as Client 7 pressed the flashing heart shaped keypad he, and his vicious tongue, would be right here beside her and eager to finish his tale; his story was building to a climax, of that much she was certain.
The door slipped into its recess with a silent swish that fluttered the lace hem of her panties and Client 7 stood revealed like a prize on some hellish game show, grinning wickedly, clutching a stuffed penguin toy that looked sinister in its cartoonish incongruity.
‘Hello, Slut,’ he cooed, ‘Daddy’s come for a little chinwag. Sit down a while and give your yin-yang a well earned rest – I swear, I can almost see it steaming!’
Tina backed away as far as she could. ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to book another girl, I’m not feeling so well.’
‘Oh dear,’ leered client 7, ‘swallowed something that disagreed with you?’
‘Listen, you really have to –’
‘No, you listen, you little bitch! I’ve paid my money, you have to hear my confession.’
‘This isn’t a church.’
‘Then why are you praying for me to go?’
He entered the cell, the door swishing closed behind him: it would not open again until his allotted time was up or she hit the panic button; her thoughts hovered over it even if her finger did not. Pushing it would probably cost her job (the best, the safest, she’d ever had) – the playbacks would show only a lonely old man yammering on, and she’d be back on the streets hustling for a tenth of the cash at ten times the risk.
Client 7 plopped down on the bed and patted the pink sheets with the beak of the stuffed penguin; ‘Come, sit awhile.’
It was more of a command than an invitation. Tina stood her ground, feeling more exposed than ever as his eyes travelled up her legs (and it’s a rare man can make a Pro blush, she thought), until her unease forced her to sit down with her knees tightly clamped. She hugged her chest and hunched over, giving him a smaller target to salivate over.
‘So,’ he smiled, ‘what time do you clock off at?’
‘None of your business.’
‘Business – it’s always business with you cum-buckets.’
Tina bristled; she had been called worse, but it had always seemed a kind of role-playing before. Client 7’s contempt was tangible. He radiated disgust. He sat on the bed judging her like he was her father – a father who would, without question, chop up and kill any daughter who displeased him.
‘No matter,’ he was saying, ‘I’ll just wait outside your house for you to come home. We can talk properly there. No camera, no time limits, no boundaries or safe words.’
‘You don’t know where I live,’ Tina said, delighted to find a chink in the old bastard’s armour and happy to call his bluff.
‘Oh really? I haven’t stood peering through your tacky yellow curtains? I haven’t watched you play with your daughter, your little apprentice slut in waiting – Millie, isn’t it?’ He proffered the stuffed penguin. ‘I thought she might like this. A little present to keep her occupied before I eat her. She’ll make an excellent hors d’oeuvre before I tackle the main course – or should that be pronounced ‘Whore d’oeuvre’?
Something dissolved inside her at the sound of her daughter’s name; a capsule filled with ice cold water, its numbness seeping outward in a freezing web that stung her fingers and stopped her heart. Hearing Millie’s name pushed out over those tombstone teeth and through those bloodless lips was the worst kind of obscenity; he had defiled her, as surely as if he had taken her daughter right there on the bed in front of her.
She uttered not a word. Her jaw locked, her throat constricted with images of Millie displayed in pieces on a butcher’s counter. She turned to her table, scanning it quickly, inventorying its contents for possible weapons: cuffs, butt plugs, love eggs, clamps.
She reached out and grasped the shaft of the unfeasibly large dildo the other girls named ‘The Reamer’ as soon as her eyes alighted on it. In one fluid movement she swung it around and landed it squarely on the bridge of Client 7’s nose. She heard the bone break with a satisfying crunch as she drew her arm back for another blow, and another.
She was good at this. She’d had enough practice on Client 16 to firm her muscles up, for Client 16 loved a good beating – sometimes with a whip, more often with a studded paddle he brought along specially; once, he had even paid her to take a cheese-grater to his scrotum and he had howled in agony, but underlying his screams, laced through them like worms through an apple, were gasps of pure ecstasy, and Tina found she enjoyed it too.
But not as much as this.
Client 7 made no move to defend himself. He sat motionless, his shoulders heaving with sobs as the blood gushed from his nose. Tina drew back the Reamer to deliver the coup de grace when all the power ebbed from her at the sudden realisation he wasn’t sobbing at all.
He was laughing, his mirth causing fat mucus bubbles laced with blood to pop from the end of his ruined snout.
She let out a moan that was drowned out by the hum of the cell door as it swooshed open to reveal Pavel, the security guard with the unblinking piggy eyes. Behind him was the new girl, Sophie, with a look on her face that suggested she was ready to wrestle Christ from the cross.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’ Sophie yelled, as Pavel took the dildo from Tina and gave it a tentative sniff.
‘He threatened me,’ protested Tina, hysterical now she saw the blood on her hands, ‘he –’
‘Really?’ asked Sophie, nodding to Pavel who quickly discarded the Reamer and gripped Tina by the shoulders. ‘You were being monitored, remember? He never so much as laid a finger on you. It’s all on tape. Mandy warned me you had a thing about him; you may start praying he doesn’t press charges.’
‘But he …he threatened to…’
‘Take her away and clear out her locker,’ said Sophie. Pavel steered Tina deftly past Client 7, who was staunching his nose with one corner of the pink silk sheet, past his quiet laughter that caused tears to well up in her eyes. The doors swished closed on his giggling; and on my career too, she thought. If he reports this to the police, if Sophie reports this to the owners, if the owners decide to –
‘You can collect your things at the front desk tomorrow morning,’ Pavel said in his unfeeling robotic voice.
‘You okay, dad?’ Sophie asked, putting a hand on Client 7’s shoulder, ‘I came as quickly as I could. I didn’t think she would… I had no idea she’d get so violent.’
‘I’m fine,’ he smiled up at her through swollen lips. ‘You did your homework well. Besides, it had to look convincing.’
Sophie knelt to help him up. ‘There’s a First Aid kit at reception. I’ll patch you up before you leave, though I think you might need stitches.’ She kissed him tentatively on the forehead, wincing whenever he did.
‘Anything for my little girl,’ he said, regarding himself in the mirror. ‘It’s all superficial anyway; wash the blood off there’ll hardly be a bruise I reckon.’
‘But your poor nose…’
‘It was always wonky, pet, and a small price to pay for my Princess to land her dream job. I’ll sleep soundly, broken hooter and all, knowing you’re off the streets and operating from a lovely little den like this. You have a word with that Mandy first thing mind, now that a new vacancy has popped up.’
‘I put my name down weeks ago.’
He smiled, kissing her full on the mouth: ‘And, my beautiful little slut, don’t forget my discount.’