Posted by Barbanne on April 25, 2002 at 23:43:41:
The India of the British Raj.
The hot weather before the monsoon rains begin. Heat, dust and humidity pervade the still darkness of the purple night.
A room richly furnished with patterned Persian carpets and intricately woven silk drapes and throw overs.
A girl, a beautiful girl, her face heavily made up, kohl lined eyes and rich red lipstick. Her body scented with the delightful odour of her own sweat mingling with the musky aromas of floral Indian perfumes. She is wearing a gold bra and a gold g-string and an over gown of diaphonous muslin. Her neat feet are encased in gold sandals, her toenails painted red. Her body is richly adorned with bangles, rings, chokers and pendants.
She is braiding her long brown hair, her fingers working nimbly through the thick tresses.
Behind her a dark man wearing a white cotton dhoti enters. In his hand is a long silken scarf, knotted every few centimetres.
She does not see him. She is unaware of his presence.
Twitching the scarf in nervous fingers he crosses the room in a second and with a practiced flick, his scarf is around her slender, white throat. He jerks it tight.
Taken completely by surprise her fingers scrabble futilely at the scarf.
Already it is too late.
She is a Ranee, an upper class woman.
He is a worshipper of Kali. A thugee, the stranglers of Bombay.
The struggle is violent but brief.
Gripped in his huge hands the knotted scarf is superbly, efficiently lethal. It bites into the woman's windpipe. She twists and turns and her fingers scrabble and her tummy ripples and her breasts thrust forward and her eyes bug out and her mouth opens and shuts like a dying fish and her tongue unravels and hangs wetly down her cheek.
He tightens his grip.
She shudders and writhes.
A last sharp tug on the scarf, a horrible creaking sound and she sags limp and dead in his grasp.
Laying her on the bed he quickly ransacks her drawers of anything of value. He strips her corpse of her jewellery and then of her clothes. Everything goes in a hessian sack.
He ties the sack to his belt and drags the naked dead body over and dumps it on the floor.
He slips silently away.
Actually, the exotic Indian setting was our warehouse studio dressed up with carpets and drapes and stuff.
The loot was junky jewellery donated by everyone. The dead Ranee now stretched out on the floor was Anne and the villainous thugee was my sweet, gay friend Josiah. We'd had to give him a turban to hide his frizzy Pacific Islander hairdo.
Alex was shooting and Mandy was assisting and Josiah, with whom Alex never seemed quite at ease, now strangled, robbed and stripped, Laurise playing an English memsahib, Judith playing a fortress guard and finally me playing a nautch girl.
When it was all over we three together with Anne lay piled up in a corner of the room, all naked, all dead and all pretty sexy.
Alex shot our little body heap from every angle he could think of.
"Strangler of the night," the photo set was to be called.
"Strangler of the night" was a story idea of mine. More and more since I had come to live at the warehouse I was writing the story lines for Alex's sets. I still occasionally did the photography and my sets were very recognisable being maked by lots of frame filling and closeups and unusual camera angles aimed at showing the recumbent female body to advantage. But mostly nowadays Alex was doing the camera work. I also modelled as I had done in "Strangler of the night," playing one of the thugee's victims, but I wasn't pushing to do this either. Knowing that the other girls felt my enthusiasm for dead play was out of the ordinary and knowing also that Alex agreed with them, I had become my usual pig headed and stubbornly self destructive self. I thought, "OK if you think I'm enjoying this in some perverse way then let the other girls do it and stuff you." Of course I never expressed this thought but was reluctant to offer myself for any modelling jobs that came up.
So when Josiah asked me to have lunch with him after the strangler photo set, because he had a proposal to discuss with me, I readily agreed. I asked Alex to join us but he declined as I knew he would. I love Alex but he is strangely distant with other men who come to Playdead. We don't have many and they only stay for a short time when they do come, just long enough to provide a hand or some other body part or themselves as required by a script, but whenever another guy is on set I have noticed my darling becomes strangely remote. I noticed it first with Josiah and wondered if maybe my Alex was just a tad homophobic, but it happened with all men and without understanding it I accepted that that was how he was.
Josiah and I went to a coffee shop that did light meals nearby to Playdead and when we had demolished some healthy food, mine was sort of mixed weeds on foccaccio, we sat companionably with a latte and I said, "OK Jos what's the story?"
"Hey what happened to skinny white girl?"
"Serious today Barb."
"OK." I put on my serious face.
"Barb are you happy doing what you're doing right now?"
"I am Jos."
"You're fond of Alex Barb?"
"Very fond Jos."
"That's nice, he's a good guy although he doesn't take to me much."
"He's like that with all the guys I really don't understand why."
"Whatever, anyway are you sure you're happy being at Playdead full time."
"Well yeah, I really like it but I would be happier if I got paid more. Why do you ask, where are we going here?"
"I know of a job that would suit you that's all."
"Like nine to five five days a week?"
"More or less."
"And I could do this?"
"You'd be perfect."
"Where's this job?"
"At a small publishing house. The office is in the warehouse factory and they want a receptionist gofer with enthusiasm and a love for working with words."
"Hey that's me but all I've ever done so far is wait tables and sell stuff."
"Barb I've told the guy who owns and runs the place all about you and he says you sound like just what he wants."
"Is he a friend of yours Jos................"
"Do you mean is he another gay? Well he surely is."
I didn't mean it like that mate."
"I know you didn't Barb and I told the guy this babe is the one for you. I'm not ignorant of your proclivites Barb and I've often thought about telling you to come right out and join the gay community but I reckon its something you've got to work out for yourself and anyway I can see from the thing with Alex that you are still deciding which way you're going to swing."
"Jos I love you mate and except it would make you puke I'd take you to bed and show you how much. I'd love to see your friend and let him see me. And Jos thanks for thinking of me."
"Good girl Barb. You'll thank me. You need a job with some challenge."
"I won't leave Playdead Jos and I won't leave Alex. I'll just go back to being part time. Anyway I haven't got this job yet."
"You'll get it and as for Playdead you keep that if you want and anyway I gotta come over every now and again and kill your skinny white ass."
We both laughed.
The Publishing house was small and boutique oriented and was way over on the other side of the town. I drove my wagon over that afternoon and met Julian the owner and as predicted by Jos he offered me the job, immediate start.
I accepted and went back to tell Alex.
He took the news non commitally and listened while I bubbled out how good it would be for me to have an income and how I still wanted to be involved with Playdead and write for him and everything.
He said he was very happy for me and if I had to model at Playdead he'd just have to schedule me on weekends.
I was so happy not to be a burden anymore that I ignored the signs my antennae were picking up that told me Alex was not exactly bowled over by my news.
I got on like a house on fire with Julian.
He was a tall thin guy with curly brown hair and he was the most gay guy I ever knew. He took me under his wing and taught me everything there was to know about his publishing business so that within a few weeks I felt as confident going to work there as if I had been doing it for years.
And he made me laugh.
Funny, that man was hilarious and he was soooooooo bitchy. I giggled myself red in the face whenever he filled me in with the gossip of town. And when he went to town on some of our female acquaintances well, he was more fun than any girl I know.
I fronted the office and did all of the general office work and ran messages and did the deliveries and made our lunch and morning and afternoon teas. I know what you are thinking. Why did we have the womens' revolution if I was being the classic doormat? The truth was I liked making meals and especially for Julian although I suspect he could have cooked the pants off of me if he had tried.
The place was gloriously casual and not at all up itself although when he wanted to Julian could perform like he only skimmed the very upper crust of society. Most of the other five employees worked out the back in a sort of workshop and I would breeze through that at least once a day to say Hi to everyone. Our main tasks of printing and binding etc were contracted out so our in house people only did tests and art work and stuff like that.
My work outfit consisted of a short tight black skirt with slits up the side and a variety of sleeveless tops and footwear. This particular day my top was a light mauve colour and I was wearing my Darth Vader boots over ankle socks. Of course I always wore my wire framed specs to work too. (no need for vanity here)
I also read voraciously of everything I could get hold of and had even started writing a bit myself.
It was a Friday and after lunch on Fridays I always went to the bank with our takings, cash and cheques in a canvas bank bag, and did the deposits and got the wages and some money out for Julian. The girls in the bank always wanted to know anything they could about Julian and without betraying his confidences in any way (I would never do that) we still had a bit of a giggle when I relayed his latest outrageous comments.
This day I saw the kids as soon as I got out of my car.
There were three of them, two boys and a girl and they were all in their late teens and looked wasted and I thought "Here's trouble."
I looked away from them and walked quickly toward the car park door into the bank hoping they would go away.
Suddenly one acned boy was in my face.
"Give me the bag bitch."
No way. I grasped the bag tightly to my chest and said, "Piss off kid, out of my way."
Then things happened in a mad blur.
One of the other kids, I think it was the girl shoved me from behind and the acned boy grabbed the bank bag. I hung onto it for dear life and started screaming out. The second boy hit me from the side with something hard and the girl kicked my legs and I went down clutching the bank bag with a grip that only killing me would have loosened. I was screaming for help and just screaming and the first boy, the one with acne, was fighting me for the bag and he hit my face and my nose went pop and I felt blood leaking out and then the girl, I think it was the girl, kicked me again, this time in the shoulder and I bounced sideways and my head hit the concrete kerb and I saw stars and felt more hot wet blood flowing and I was stunned and hurt and just gripped that bag like mad determined not to lose Julian's money.
By now people were running out of the bank and a security guard had grabbed the girl and the two boys were running away and people were chasing them and one of the girls I knew from the bank was bending over me saying, "Are you alright? Are you alright?" over and over. I tried to sit up and I could see that my mauve top was soaked in blood and my left eye was blocked and my glasses were gone, knocked off in the struggle.
The manager was bending over me saying, "Are you alright Miss? Here give me that."
He tried to take the bag which was also drenched in my blood but I gripped it relentlessly.
I was stunned and in shock and felt cold and groggy and finally let them help me up and take me inside where they took me into the staff room and one of the girls dabbed at the cut in my head with a wet cloth.
I hung onto my bag with the grip of death although the bag and my top were both blood soaked and my skirt was torn right up one side.
Time lost all meaning and then there were ambulance people and Julian was there and I let him take the bag and the ambulance man cleaned up my cuts and then they said I had to go to emergency and I said no but Julian said yes and he rode with me and off we went.
They kept me at the hospital for about two hours.
I was patched up by two nurses and a lady doctor came and saw me and then they let me go.
Julian helped me as I limped outside. I had skinned my knees and torn the skin on one hand. I had a torn flap of flesh up near my hairline which had been stuck back together with those little plasters they use to hold cuts together. It was this wound that had caused most of my bleeding. The acned boy's first blow had rearranged the cartiledge in my nose and had made that bleed too. The doctor had straightened that out. I was bruised and sore all over. A policeman had come to the hospital and told me the three kids were in custody and they would want to interview me as soon as I felt up to it.
I hurt everywhere.
Julian hailed a cab and we went back to the publishing house.
I was still wearing my torn and bloodied clothes and looked like a bomb survivor.
In the cab I started to get a headache and nausea and then I got cold and shivery and felt utterly exhausted. Julian opined that I was suffering delayed shock and as soon as we got back he helped me out of my ruined skirt and top and lay me on a lounge in the staff room and dug up blankets to cover me.
I felt like shit!
Julian said he would ring Alex and when I protested feebly he poo poo-ed me and said Alex could bring me fresh clothes and take me home. After a while he came back and said that Alex was coming right over and what clothes did I want.
I told him to tell Alex to get Mandy to pick something out.
He left and despite feeling awful I went almost immediately to sleep.
I woke to find Mandy bending over me and Alex standing behind her and Julian hovering.
"Oh Barb, this is dreadful," said Mandy.
I smiled a weak smile and said, "Anyone get the number of the truck?"
Mandy shooed the others out and handed me fresh underwear and my track pants and top. Painfully and with her help I got dressed. Alex reappeared and took me in his enfolding embrace and squeezed me. Gently but it still made my body scream and I groaned.
"Come on, let's get you home," said Mandy.
Home. I hadn't thought of my billet as home but that was, I realised, what it was. Home. My home and what made it my home was that Alex lived there too. I hugged my arm around him and swallowed two aspirin that Julian gave me and tottered out with them.
"Get better Barb," said Julian, "don't come back until you do."
I staggered over and kissed him.
Back home Mandy gave me something to eat and after she had gone Alex spent the time with me ignoring his work and when I said I'd like to lie down he told me I was not sleeping downstairs again until I was better and even then maybe not.
I smiled wearily and we went to bed together.
He held me until I slept.
The next day the police came and interviewed me and after that I healed.
I went back to work at Julian's about five days later.
My bruised and battered body was improving daily.
My mind was not.
My confidence was gone and my nerves were shot and my ego had shattered like broken glass. But the worst of all was that I had slowly realised that my sex drive was gone completely.