This novel is pornographic, with graphic scenes of sex and violence.  You must be over 18 to read Random Sacrifice.









Timothy Herrick



Copyright 2013-2019, held by author


This novel is pornographic, written in an intentionally pulpy style. It was and I guess still is the first of a planned trilogy, loosely based on actual satanic cults. I’ve only outlined the two subsequent novels. I relegated this piece of erotic horror to Wattpad, but a chapter was so offensive they took it down. I decided to put this up on www.Timhrklit.com.


Proceed at your own risk.


 Warning, there will be scenes of explicit and graphic sex and violence. This is adult material, not suitable for younger reader. You must be over 18 to read Random Sacrifice.










Tell them Satan is real too, and Hell is a real place, full of everlasting punishment – Ira Louvin





Grief. Only grief. Grief defined him long after the accident.

Then one day it just didn’t seem to be there. The moment he realized that it wasn’t there, the grief reappeared immediately—but it was less intense. When he noticed the grief was less intense, it didn’t re-intensify. Time heals all wounds the hackneyed phrase goes—he sure heard it enough times, whispered to him through his sobbing—and now, about seventeen months since Gloria died, he had to agree. He was healing.

So, this it what it felt like for scabbing to form over a wound.

Gloria was thirty years old, he was thirty two. They were two years in their Condo which had an extra bedroom—perfect for a child—when they began the effort to make Gloria pregnant. A few months of trying and she was, finally. It was a relief, because they had started to discuss fertility clinics, now they were talking about what suburb to move to when their child was ready for pre-school. They were planners. Life had started to make sense. He liked feeling like an adult. Work was good, it paid well, he was a professional. He loved his wife. Being a father, having a child to care for and hang out with, he was looking forward to that, planning for it.

Two months along at the time of her death, the morning sickness had faded away, they were looking at cribs in stores and were referring to the spare room as the nursey and deciding what color to paint it.  Her accident happened on Halloween.

Bad thunder storm, Turnpike slick as ice—the wheels of the tractor trailer locked, skidded into a Hum Vee. The Hum Vee rear ended a Lexus. The Lexus spun out of control into the next lane and smashed into the side of Gloria’s Honda Civic. Her vehicle slid into the lane of the oncoming Tractor Trailer Truck. The last thing she saw was the headlights of the truck. Half her skull was crushed. He had to identify her managled body. Her face gone, her right hand partially severed off and one of her legs no longer looked like a leg. It was flat as a plank The woman he made love to, held in his arms, by whose side he slept—her devastated corpse and his imagining of the pain she went through, now forever burned in his memory.

Her accident should have turned him against religion. How could a loving lord allow such a terrible thing to happen? He should have hated God or be an atheist, at least for a few years before coming to grips with a tragedy. But, he came to grips with the tragedy aspect relatively quick. He didn’t blame God. The world was random. If you accept the random nature of the world, you have to accept everything as God’s will. He couldn’t conceive of anything more overwhelming than Gloria’s death, but because it was so overwhelming it was easier to accept as part of God’s plan, something beyond understanding.

Gloria was the Mass goer. He only went on holidays before they began dating. She had made it a habit for him. After her death, he continued to attend Mass on Sundays and gradually, he started attending daily Masses. Not every day every week, but more days a week than not. Besides, reciting the prayers, going through the ritual—they were basically the same from his childhood and the same as when he and Gloria married and went to Mass together. Belief never seemed as important as the comfort the sameness gave him. His life had become subject to irrevocable change—first marriage than a widower, new tax laws every year, new stocks to buy and sell. The liturgy, the consecration of the hosts, the prayers, the reflection, were unchanging. That stability pleased him, he needed it

He was alone a lot now, but being alone in church, alone among the congregants during Mass, the loneliness never stung. The solitude there had a definitive and satisfying purpose. He believed God loved him and Mass made it easier to love God in spite of the fact it seemed that God’s love flushed everything he lived for and found happiness in down the toilet.

Gloria died in agony. He wanted there to be a Heaven because he wanted Gloria to be somewhere she would never again suffer, somewhere he would be with her again. Gloria may have first initiated his appreciation of the Catholic Mass, now being in church was one of the few times he didn’t tangibly miss her. He thought about her there, even prayed to her there, but he wasn’t wracked with guilt about him living and her not, or angry about her misery, or catatonic with grief.

When he knew he could live with missing her, the relentlessness of missing her faded.

With his mother gone, and a brother who lived in the northwest, the only family he had was Gloria’s brother, who was married. He spent Christmas with them after the accident. Just a blur of sadness for everyone involved. The following Christmas he also spent with Roy and Carol. No breaking down with weeping, just a dry pot roast and bourbon spiked eggnog and Christmas DVDs—Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life and Rudolph the Red Nose Rain Deer—pleasantly boring.

A few months after her accident, a friend from college, Jerry, helped him pick out new furniture for the condo. He had to live somewhere and the real estate market was on a downswing. He was too professional an accountant to sell it at a loss. He kept only a few of their things—the lamps and bookcases. All the large ticket items—couch, chairs, table, bed—he replaced. He may not have been ready to move on completely, but as he discussed with his therapist, moving on would be a process. Redecorating was a difficult decision to make and inconvenient to see through—shopping for furniture, getting it delivered, workers round the place painting walls and replacing carpets. The accomplishment made him happy, an emotion he thought he may never experience again. He wished he had new friends to have a house warming party, but they all had known Gloria and he didn’t want to be sharing old, all too familiar memories.

The life insurance money took about two months to be paid, and it was sizeable, several hundred thousand dollars and a five year annuity paying $30,000 per year. There was some money left from his mother’s will—she died five years ago, his father fifteen years before that—and he had a nice size 401 K.

Gloria and Joe had been members of Sal’s Fitness Club. They rarely went together so being there was not a reminder of her. Working out became an important part of his life, an essential daily routine. Its montony another refuge from grief. In the morning he went to the gym—at first for an hour, but as he kept getting in better shape, he would stay longer, lift more weights, do more cardio. He was in better shape than when he was in college. He rarely drank, he ate healthy. He usually went to the noon Mass at Saint Anne’s, then had lunch. Jerry had moved to Los Angeles, his social life was pretty much nonexistent. That was okay, being bored was okay.

Joe had been a Director of Finance at Geoff, Inc. but after her accident, as one month folded into another, eventually he had to leave the position. They called him a consultant, and worked there on a part time basis, usually three days a week. He attended the occasional accounting seminar or the various association and professional meetings in New York or New Jersey. Every other week, he would have a beer and a hamburger at the Ale House. Severe loneliness was kept at bay.

* * *

After Ash Wednesday Meridia appeared. Her eyes were green. Bright green. Shiny eyes. Her eyes of course were not what he first noticed, nor was it her jet black hair or her sharp chin and hooked, curved nose—slightly out of place on her face. The imperfection enhanced her prettiness. What he noticed first was her body.

She was at the gym in a skin tight unitard. Her firm breasts bounced with her exercise, her stomach was hard and flat and her ass was round, heart-shaped. Her body curved into an archetypical hour glass. Just about perfect. She knew it too. This woman was well aware of her beauty and appreciated the effect her body had on men.

Winter had been mild, most days were in the 60s during its final weeks. New faces were in the gym. There were always these spikes. The post holiday resolution people, the post labor day summer is over people, and the spring time to get into a bathing suit folks. Most don’t sustain commitment.

Merely another new face at the gym, a seasonal occurrence like leaves turning green in spring and brown in autumn. The hottest body he ever saw there for sure, but otherwise, he didn’t give her much thought the first time in her unitard on the treadmill.

* * *

The church was across the street from a park. The park took up a city block, a gazebo in the center, a basketball court and tennis courts closer to the perimeter, cobblestone paths, maple and oak trees and a weeping willow.

She sat on a bench, smoking a cigarette when he strolled through the park after Mass. They noticed each other and a smile was exchanged. Or maybe it was the next time a smile was exchanged, or was it the next time he saw her at the gym that she nodded with friendly recognition. Soon he was seeing her every day, at the gym and/or in the park. The new extra in the movie of his life.

* * *

Sal, a former body builder, was outgoing and overly friendly. When he was at the front desk he greeted and engaged in conversation with everybody who came into his gym. Joe liked him.  “I saw your fliers in my building.”

“Good. At least I know my marketing company is doing their job.”

“Nobody uses the gym there anymore, even though it’s free. There’s nothing there.”

“People know that summer’s coming. Some of regulars complain about it, Not everybody likes change or meeting new people.”

“I like the new faces,” then whispered, “especially the hot chicks.”

“There’s been a good crop this year.”

* * *

A local news story made national headlines. An infant was found, skinned alive in an abandoned warehouse near the river. Candles and what looked like an altar were found on the premises. Satanic Cult Infanticide. Real life horror movie. Tailored made for the tabloids, the internet and cable TV news.

Everyone in the neighborhood was talking about it. Four or five television news vans were parked around town for days. Theories multiplied about the perpetrators. Heavy Metal fanatics. Meth addicts. Gangs involved in Santeria. There was what they called a “Botonica,” a store that sold items like candles and incense and statues of saints and various incarnations of the Virgin Mother. The owner was interviewed on CNN. The old woman pleaded, in broken and heavily accented engilish, that her customers and the products she sold were innocent of evil.

“My wife’s real upset,” said Sal.

“Well, a child murdered like that.”

“She’s upset because she’s  Puerto Rican. She’s afraid of some kind of backlash. You know how everybody thinks Italians are in the mafia. That prejudice? Santeria is the stereotype for Puerto Ricans. She thinks people are prejudiced against Puerto Ricans, but she says that the Santeria is just an extension of Catholicism, first God then the saints. She says it’s not Evil. It’s the Haitians who are into voodoo curses, the devil shit. And all the Haitians live in Newark, not around here.”

“It’s pretty awful to think about.”

Meridia walked in wearing a designer running suit and a red cap, her black hair in a pony tail. Sal said, “Good morning, Meridia.”

She said high back and smiled at Joe, hung her coat on the rack, went to a tread mill, took off her the nylon pants and jacket. She wore nylon red shorts and a tight, bright yellow, sleeveless top.

“She’s new to the neighborhood. She joined a few months ago, but only came in at night. I guess something happened with her job or schedule, because now she does mornings. She told me that the people seemed nicer than at night. She’s not married. She sort of mentioned you.”


“Well, we were talking. I talk to everybody. She was saying how there was less people during the day than at night, and how she said how nice everybody seemed. Then she mentioned the guy in the baggy shorts and Yankee T-shirt. She noticed you. I said you were a good guy, an accountant, church-going.”

“Great.” He rolled his eyes, said good bye.

A few months after Gloria’s accident, a young couple in Edison committed suicide by laying down on the train tracks and getting run over by an AMTRAK going 75 miles per hour. Their lives had turned hopeless—destitute, addicted to heroin. The media spent several days sensationalizing the tragedy.

He thought about the couple being torn apart by the train wheels for weeks, even crying when he read follow up articles in the newspaper. Picturing their bodies prompted his memories of Gloria, mangled on that slab in the morgue. Everything was grief then. The baby incident didn’t remind him of Gloria’s death, didn’t revive intense grief. A baby skinned alive just seemed like some weird shit that happens in the news that people obsesses on instead of worrying about the real problems in society or their own lives. Either it was too weird to remind him of Gloria, or he was making progress in getting on with his life.

As he walked home he was thinking about her body underneath her gym clothes and the fact she expressed what might be interpreted as an interest in him. What’s next, passing notes? High school never ends. Gloria dies, and I’m back in high school and that was what made him sad. Even if she was still alive, though, he would have noticed that body striding on the treadmill, perspiration soaking through the yellow fabric clinging to her back.

* * *

There she was again, on the park bench. After Mass. She put out her cigarette as he approached. He said, “hi.”

“How you doing.”


“Nice day.”

“Wonderful, isn’t it?”

“Sure is. My name’s Joe. I know your name’s Meridia, I heard, Sal, you know, at the gym. I just feel weird, me knowing your name and you not knowing mine.”

She slinked to her feet and held out her hand to shake. “Nice to meet you, Joe. Why don’t you sit down on the bench with me.”

They talked weather. Seems they both liked Spring. They agreed it would be here soon. They agreed it felt like Spring now.

* * *

He spent an afternoon at his brother in law’s house to watch a Yankee spring training game. They sat on the couch drinking beer and after trading assessments of the potential of the season’s bullpen, Roy cleared his throat. “Carol wanted me to say something to you. I agree with her. It’s not easy for me to say this…anyway… I just want you to know that it is okay, way okay, for me, if you date.”

Joe’s burst of laughter spewed beer. “I wasn’t planning to ask your permission.”

“I feel like a douche bag saying it. Shit, it’s my wife, okay. You know how they are. They worry if some guy is single. I’m never going to stop thinking of you, as family.”

“You know, I’ll always love Gloria,” he sighed. “When I’m ready, it will happen. I’m happy. I mean, I’m sad but, not as sad.”

“Gloria would want you not to be sad.”

“Look, I know. I appreciate your, uhh, concern, and Carol’s of course.”

“Good. She wanted me to say this to you so I said it. Let’s drop it, cause I’m uncomfortable.”

Joe smiled. “What I would like to know, what makes you more uncomfortable, thinking about me having had sex with your sister or thinking about me having sex with someone else.”

Carol came into the room. “What are you two finding so funny?”


After Mass she was on the park bench and he asked her to lunch. He told her his story. His voice didn’t break once, eyes stayed dry. “I’m not over it fully.“

“You won’t ever really get over it fully.”

“I know that. I also know. I am getting over it, I have been moving on. I haven’t moved on, entirely yet, but I’m in that direction, definitely.”

“The Mass going,” she smiled. “That’s part of getting over it?”

“How did you know, oh that’s right, Sal told you.”

“I like that park, it’s right by the church. I always see you around twelve thirty every day. The sign outside the church that has the Mass times says there is a Mass daily at noon. Two and two. Four, right?”

“Does it bother you?”

“Bother me? Why would it.”

“Just asking. Most people I know don’t go, or at least as much as I have been. My wife and I went. We weren’t holy rollers, that’s for sure. We were both pretty liberal. I always vote democratic. I just like going I guess.”

“Did you go, when you were young, college and all that?”

“Just holidays with my mother. I was raised that way, Catholic grammar school. Now I like the routine of it. The service gives me a good feeling.”

“I can understand that, so much of the art is exquisite. Influential. It’s repressive, sexually though, isn’t it?”

“I wasn’t a virgin when I married if that’s what you mean. I had my fun. But when there was a real chance to settle down I knew that was what I wanted. I liked being committed. The sexual repression, the right wing politics, it’s easy to shut out. The rules are not all there is to it. Exactly what is wrong and what is right is open to personal interpretation.”

“Besides, you always have confession. All sins washed away. Or, what do you call it, the Act of Contrition?”

“Just as effective. How about you. Any religious feelings?”

“My grandparents were religious, on the Venezuelan side, but I didn’t really know them very well. On the Romanian side, not at all. The best I can muster up is an indifference to a belief in God. He seems kind of indifferent to us, with disease and earthquakes and terrorist attacks. I guess I’m just into trying to get on with my life, what matters to me…” she sipped her iced tea. She blinked a few times. He couldn’t stop watching her eyes, shiny green, thick black lashes and the stern expression slipped back into a smile, very sexy, very pretty, thick red lips, dimples in her cheeks. “I do like the idea of an unseen world. That’s on to something, you know, something more to life, special powers and otherworldly beings. The existence of angels, for instance, seems very logical to me.”

“The supernatural element to the faith is very appealing.”

“I like wearing this.” She jerked the gold chain around her neck to show off the strange pendant, which was also gold and nestled at the upper edge of her cleavage. “It’s a gargoyle, which keeps demons away from churches, if I remember my art history, and this is a crystal, what looks like his erection, which is for good luck, phallic nature or something and those are rubies, in his eyes. I think that’s for positive energy or something.”

She held out the object for his inspection. “N-nice. I-it looks European.”

“A dear Japanese friend of mine gave it to me.” She leaned back into her chair, he was still staring as she traced her finger around the top of her cleavage and up her neck, drew a small circle around her chin then slipped her fingertip into the side of her mouth. “So, how often do you go to the gym, your body looks in great shape.”



They now seemed to be in the gym at the same time almost every day. Some days they worked out together, running side by side on the treadmill. Sal had put up green garland and cardboard Shamrocks. “What’s with all that,” she asked.

“Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s tomorrow.”

“Of course. I forgot.”

“I guess you’re not Irish?”

She laughed, then said, “The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.”

“Yeats. Very cool.”

“I have a feeling old William Butler wouldn’t know passionate intensity if it him on the head with a shelaly. I forgot how big a deal it is around here, there’s a parade too isn’t there.”

“New York will be a zoo.”

“Are you Irish?”

“Some, but the family has been here so long and mixed with some German and Scottish. I just feel American.”

“Irish Catholic, though.”

“I thought it was Roman. I will have corn beef and cabbage and beer. Some Irish Whiskey. It’s on a Friday.”

“I saw the article in the paper, dispensation by the Arch bishop allowing the consumption of corn beef on a Friday during Lent. Are you looking forward to eating meat?”

“It’s so fatty I rarely eat it, but it is good. I have to say I’m looking forward to eating some corn beef. The Ale House usually does a good job.”

“I’ve never been there.”

* * *

They met at six o’clock. Every seat at the bar was taken and the crowd was standing two, three people deep. They found a table for two in dinning area. The chatter and laughter was loud. U2 blared on the sound system, loud. They had to lean close to talk. The waitress had temporary tattoos of glittering shamrocks on her cheeks and forehead. Meridia asked Joe what he was having. “Pint of Harp and a Jameson on the rocks.”

Meridia grinned, those dimples again. “I’ll have the same.”

“I didn’t do this, last year, but I always used to. My wife and I went to the parade a few times. She was really Irish. We always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.”

“Is that how you celebrate. Party? Drink.”


“Saint Patrick supposedly, and I do mean supposedly, converted the Irish from Paganism by driving the snakes out of Ireland, You honor this by getting drunk. You’re not bothered by the hypocrisy.”

“The hypocrisy is why it’s fun. It’s the Irish pride nonsense that I can do without.”

The waitress brought their drinks and promised to return soon. They clinked their beer glasses and as he sipped she picked up the whiskey glass and drained it one long swallow, arching her head back. He watched the flesh on her neck ripple. The gargoyle trembled at the apex of her cleavage. The whiskey glass clanked when she put it down.

“You’re supposed to sip that.”

“Isn’t everybody Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day?” She wiped her lips with her hand, her cheeks flushed bright red. “Aren’t you going to keep up with me, laddie?”

He sighed, picked up his glass and downed it, then reached for his beer. “We better order some food.”

The corn beef and cabbage came. Curling strips of marbled, dark pink, steaming clumps of pale yellow. She poked it with a fork,

“You’ve never had it.”

“If I did I’ve forgotten.”

He was several bites into his food. “God, it’s good. I don’t think I really like it. I suppose. It’s like Turkey on thanksgiving. It’s traditional, and you get used to the tradition, an order to the year. Comes near Thanksgiving, I crave turkey. Winter begins to end and I crave corn beef.”

“I believe in giving in to all cravings.”. She stabbed the meat with her fork and apprehensively bit off a morsel. “It’s not bad. Has a salty, vinegerary flavor. The whiskey I could get use to. Let’s have another, I haven’t gotten drunk in a while.”

“You’re very beautiful.” She nodded at this. “You could be a model.”

“Well, I tried, but I just can’t take a good picture. I photograph horribly. Even when you just do runway shows, there’s always photographers. Most models are prettier in pictures. I’m the opposite. That’s the way it goes. I use to do some life art modeling.”

“Life art?”

“For art classes. You stand there nude and students draw you. They were just as bad as the photographs but you can’t tell who it is and they don’t get published on the internet. What? What’s the matter. Are you thinking about me being nude in a room and dozens of people looking at me?”

“It must be weird.”

“I’m comfortable with nudity, how my body looks. I did some stripping too, I used to like to dance. Does that bother you?”

“I’m not a prude you know, just because I attend Mass.”

“That’s good to hear. I didn’t like it. I like the dancing part, and it’s nice be watched, admired really. I still have some friends from those times. But most of the women there, they’re fucked up. Hard drugs. The club owners are shits. I didn’t like the game. The lifestyle is quite unhealthy.”

“I never liked strip clubs. I’ve been once or twice. Bachelor parties, or on a business trip—salesmen would drag you there. I don’t think of it as particularly wrong. It’s not for me.”

She was sipping her whiskey now. “I didn’t want to tell you this. I’m like you, technically that is. I’m a widow. It was different though, I wasn’t half of a young golden couple. He was much older, he was a friend of my father’s. I was young, nineteen.”

“How much older?”

“He was sixty when we married. He was very wealthy. I admired him. There would be security. I was too young to see beyond the security at first. I had my own chauffer, use to drive me to university. I felt so superior to the other students. Then I wanted to be like the other students. He wasn’t as controlling as it would seem, encouraged me to work, as long as it was within the oil company. But he had a difficult personality. I guess there was some father daughter wish fulfillment going on psychologically. Electra complex. Whatever, right? Fun for a while though. We were separated, not officially, not legally, when he died. He said he changed and we were going to give the marriage one more try. But like I said, he died.”

“I’m sorry.”

She shrugged. “It was four years ago, his kids from his first wife are still contesting the will. It’s in the courts. They’re horrible people, really. Entitled creeps, never had to work, never had to worry about fate. It’s all tied up with the corporation and a foundation too, all this money. Serious, serious money. Hundreds and hundreds of Millions. Four years in court. We’re hoping for some kind of decision, at least a settlement, soon. It’s in the hands of the lawyers and a judge now. All the depositions and testimony, that’s been taken. That’s why I moved here and took a secretarial job. Keep a low profile and wait.”

“You have some story, Meridia. I guess we’re both waiting.”

“What are you waiting for?”

“I thought I would be moving to the suburbs and raising kids by now, going to church with them and my wife. Mowing the lawn. Now, I’m waiting for the sorrow I feel about losing my wife to disappear enough for me to decide what’s next.”

“Maybe you could have the kids and the lawn with somebody else.”

“I don’t know if I want that any more. I don’t know what I want. It’s enough just to get through every day.”

After the waitress cleared away the plates and brought another round, she went outside for a cigarette. More people were coming in than leaving, everyone was speaking loudly, more than a few were singing along to Van Morrison. Gloria liked this day. It was just about having a good time, partying. Reminded her of college keg parties and the appeal of those gatherings was that everybody was young and everybody was finally free of parental supervision. The freedom of self discovery.

Alcohol changes behavior, accentuates a mood. Charley, a friend he hadn’t seen in years, would always want to fight somebody when he drank. The most gentle guy sober, unfailingly polite. After one beer, the curses would come, racial slurs, every woman was a bitch and every man a faggot. Gloria wasn’t like that. Her mood always got better. She became love dovey, keeping her arm around his shoulder, asking for a kiss, whispering I love you in his ear.

Inebriation unlocked the flood gates. Suddenly, no time had passed, no healing had been accomplished—missing her became brutally poignant. He had to wipe away a couple of tears by the time Meridia weaved back to the table. “I’m drunk. Do you want to take me home.”

“Of course, I’m going to make sure you’re going get you home.”

She leaned forward and suddenly her lips pressed against his, her tongue charged into his mouth and her hand was on the back of his neck. Without warning, his first post Gloria kiss materialized. But the mix of whiskey and memory was stronger than desire. He pulled back, breathed, then held her hand. “Look, I think you’re great. I think you’re a friend. I just can’t though. I want to be with you but I don’t want to feel guilt and I know it’s not right that I would feel guilt but it’s the way I feel right now. I still miss her too much.”

“It’s not the same for me with my husband. I hope you understand.”

“I’m going to be really busy for the next month. Tax time. I have some private clients and I do their taxes.”

“You’re good at taxes?”

“It has always come easy. Personal taxes are a snap. Some own small businesses, so there is that. What I’m saying is, for the next three weeks or so, I’ll be working pretty hard. Then there’s Easter, which I’ll spend with some family. But after that, okay, can I call you? Do you think that’s okay? I know I’ll be in a better frame of mind and I know I won’t stop thinking of you.”

“That sounds like a plan. Let’s have another whiskey so we can stay in a good mood, but then you walk me home.”

* * *

“Thank you for seeing me father. You know I had a shrink to help me through, which he did, you know, after Gloria died. I was never a big fan of confession, so I don’t know what it is I’m trying to accomplish here.”

“You have something you want to tell me.”

“I’ve sort of met somebody and I just don’t know what to do with these feelings. I don’t feel they are sinful. I mean, I haven’t committed anything that has made me feel guilty. I am not so neurotic that I think thoughts should be confessed. I haven’t had a life since the accident. I go to the gym, I attend Mass, do work. There’s not much opportunity to commit a sinful act unless I need to count how many times I pleasure myself.”

“I prefer not to hear a number.”

“Well, it’s probably not as much as you think. I’ve been too sad, mostly. If there was like a set time that was given you know, to wait, that would be easier. You know how in some countries when a leader dies they declare a thirty day morning period. That would be easy. For most people though, the leader is just somebody they see on television and read about in newspapers. She was my life though, I loved her so much and I told her so when she was alive but I realize now that she is gone, that no matter what I said it never even came close to truly expressing how much she meant to me. I needed her. I still need her. This woman though, she is really hot, I mean pretty. She is interested in me, sends the signals, which is always flattering and she seems nice, nice enough, you know? An interesting woman. I am thinking about her. But I am also thinking of Gloria, I still love her and miss her and I can’t do anything about it. I would never have cheated on her, she was all I needed and wanted but the thing of it is—am I cheating on her now? It’s crazy.”

“You know it isn’t. Now, you and I both know the church’s teachings about,” he whispered, “sex outside marriage. It’s a marvelous ideal, but there’s life. Modern life has so many wonderful things to offer—technology, education, art, culture—and a lot of temptation and false aspirations that we usually find out are false after the fact. You were true to your wife, and that is something to be admired. I admire it. God loves you for it. Your wife is with God, now. You will not be able to replace her, but you have your life to live. I am not advising you on what you should do. Take your time and take it slow seems reasonable, but I don’t have to tell you that, you’re already doing that.”

He started crying. “I just miss her and I don’t want to disrespect what we had just because I’m… so fu-fu-friggin lonely.”

“Isolation is not good. He doesn’t want that for us. It’s okay to have these conflicts. You suffered a great tragedy for somebody your age and dealing with it is not meant to be easy. But you are dealing with it and that is admirable. However you deal with it is not disrespecting her. You are just beginning to be part of the whole world again and meeting new people, new friends that’s all part of life. If you are going to be with someone, be with that person. You will always have your memories, you just don’t have to think about them so constantly. You are not somebody who uses people and you are not somebody who is going to be with someone if you don’t care about that person. I’m not getting into the sin part of it. The caring part though, that’s the important part, and you already have that.”

He was wiping his eyes, calm. “Thanks Father.”

“Consider yourself absolved.”

“No penance?”

“Go light a candle and say a few Hail Mary’s. You’re going to do that anyway, might as well be penance too.”

* * *

Sal kept a magazine rack so people could have something to read while on a bicycle or treadmill. The subscriptions were deductible. He was reading a Newsweek when early one morning Joe came in. “Did you see this.”

The magazine cover had a picture of a pentagram, a baby and a silhouette of a man in a horned hat that reminded Joe of a Viking. Joe had forgotten about the dead baby in the neighborhood story and he thought the rest of the media had moved on as well. There was a corruption story about a governor that involved a prostitution ring that currently dominated. “Come on, Sal.”

“This is true shit. There are satanic cults. These nutballs are making sacrifices to Lucifer and they skin their victims.”

“Why do they skin them?”

“Ritual sacrifice. They say the baby’s skin was probably used for a cover to one of their books of rituals. The books are all hand written, copied over the centuries, never printed. They came before the printing press. They make vestments from the skins of their other victims to wear while conducting their Black Masses. It’s sick stuff, man. Goes back centuries.”

“Some people are messed up. Shit happens. That’s all there is to it.”

“This article is really good. These cults are very secretive. They have members from gangs and they have members from Fortune 500 companies. They’re as bad as terrorists.”

“I don’t know about that. They’re not into suicide bombings and killing thousands. Course if they were, it wouldn’t be secretive.”

“It’s just scary.”

Meridia came through the doors and said, “Morning boys.”

“Hey Meridia, what do you think of these satanic cults?”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Sal’s still obsessing about that baby they found last month. It’s just sick stuff that happens, gave the neighborhood its fifteen minutes of fame.”

“The news has nothing to do with my life.” She walked briskly to the treadmill.

Sal whispered, “I didn’t mean to piss her off. I should apologize.”

“What you should do is just drop it, Sal or you’ll lose another member to the Equinox that opened on Varick.”

* * *

The tax season was the distraction he needed from Meridia. There was Jamie who owned Dowtown Cameras, Sal of course, about a dozen others. He knew the tax code, purchased the latest software. Even when he was at Geoff, Inc., it was easy, extra money. His clients were all friends of his, and last year, when he did their taxes, his grief abated. John, another friend who ran a store front tax accounting franchise in the neighborhood called to see if he was available for extra hours. An accountant he hired quit on him, he was in a bind. Joe figured why not. It was easy money. Put in a few hours sitting at the desk, and taking in walk ins, looking at the W2’s, asking the same questions, any outside income? Do you own your home or rent?” Tedium was just the balm he required.

Jamie’s store was profitable. In addition to the full inventory digital cameras and related equipment, he sold vintage film cameras, developed black and white film photography for the few old school, non-digital photographers still working with film. Nearly half the store was for frames and related objects, like acrylic cubes and snow globes that could hold photos. He catered to the casual camera user, the hobbyist and the professionals and he offered tips too that made the casual customer and the dedicated hobbyist feel like a professional photographer.

Jamie was clever and creative. Art was his first calling, and even though his last gallery show was more than five years ago, he still dabbled. He gave one of his photographs as a present. It was the shape of a post card. A young woman in a red bikini was at the centerpiece of the shot. She seemed to be power walking. The ocean was behind her and it was raining, on the periphery there were blurred images of a family running from the ocean, holding a soaked towel over their heads. The beach sand looked brown, muddy. The ocean water was a different shade of brown, the waves jagged. In the background and foreground, rain fell in sheets. Everything surrounding the woman was nasty and grim. Her tan seemed luminescent and her bikini shimmered like a Christmas ribbon. The photograph was rectangular, not in a frame, but pasted on a thick sheet of cardboard, with a glossy sheen like a post card from a bygone era.

“Very cool,” said Joe.

“I call it Beach Rain. I’m thinking of selling them, doing a series, but in this postcard format. Artistic, but still that ‘Greetings from Asbury Park’ thing, you know, that old Bruce Springsteen album cover. Kitsch Aesthetic.”

“Retro’s always big. She’s pretty hot looking too.”

“I get it from the wife all the time. There are always pretty women in the artistic pictures I take. She calls me a suppressed pornographer. She still ranks on me when she’s mad about the nudes I used to shoot, but that was before I opened the store or we were even married. Oh, she said to say hello to you. She wishes you were Jewish so she could find a nice girl for you.”

“Jewish woman can be beautiful and interesting. I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

“She would. I don’t know what happened to the hippie chick I fell in love with. She’s getting like all super Jew, you wouldn’t believe it. Oh shit, where I did I put my yarmulke.” This wasn’t a joke, it was folded by the phone. “Wearing this damn thing is frigging annoying, but I can’t go home without it. She’s joined an Orthodox temple, she had friends there. She wanted to buy another refrigerator.”

“Cause of that dairy/meat separation thing?”

He used a bobby pin to affix the yarmulke in the area of his ever expanding bald spot. “Our kitchen isn’t big enough for two. Special plates are enough, but even that was a negotiation. I say no comprende when she starts speaking Hebrew with me. I meet these guys from Temple, they talk Hebrew to each other, give me all this attitude cause I’m not fluent. Ever try speaking Hebrew?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“There’s a lot of spittle. It gives me a head ache. But she wanted Josh and Emily to have the religious training.”

“That’s good.” Joe was still looking at the bikini girl.

“I agree. It’s certainly not bad, and even though I whine about it and make sarcastic remarks, I do get something out it. You go to Church, right.”

“Sure. I like religion. It helps, sometimes, you know.”

“She says that there’s so much evil in the world, you need religion just to protect yourself and endure. She has a point. I can’t say it’s out of the blue, but I am not as into it as her by far. I know my father put Sandy Koufax on a far higher pedestal than Moses. When I was a kid though, my parents did the same thing, but after the bah mitzvah they just went on the holy days and not even then so much. I just lost interest. The next time at shul for me was the wedding. That’s enough, but she’s getting all observant, setting an example. Candles on Friday night. The whole deal. She’s become a born again Jew! She got a sheet.”

“A sheet?”

“For Saturday nights. After Sundown on the Sabbath. You heard about that Orthodox sheet with the hole in it? The Saturday night shtup.”

“Shtup? Is that like schlep?”

“Only sometimes.” He turned his palms up then made fists, pushed his waist out and his elbows back. “Doing it.”

“With a sheet? Like between you?”

“Yes. The hole’s for your schlong. Every Saturday night. That’s the weird thing, her religious fervor, it has gotten her interested in sex again. Every Saturday night. It’s like mandatory. She’s forcing me to have sex more than when we were trying to conceive our children.”


“These orthodox are crazy.”


“Ha! How can you know that and not know shtup. Apparently it’s observant to do it after the Sabbath. She’s even taking a milk bath during her periods. No sex during the period, which is fine by me. They do it through a sheet but no parting of the red sea.”

Still studying the picture, he asked, “Have you ever heard about a beautiful woman not being able to take a good picture.”

“Yes. The camera doesn’t love everybody. Shamans, in certain tribes, would not be photographed. Witch doctors, you know, the occult people in aboriginal cultures, where known to put curses on anthropologists who took pictures of them. Even murder them. They were probably bad pictures, uglier than the reflecting lagoon or whatever they used to shave or pluck eyebrows. Either bad photographers or simply not being loved by the camera were the reason for these superstitions. There are stories of photographers in Africa and South America being murdered because they carried a camera. I remember one of my photography professors in college talking about how some primitive cultures believe cameras steal souls and he taught some theory that it was probably they just weren’t able to look good in a picture.”

“I know this woman, beautiful. I mean, one of the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. If there was anyone I ever met who could be a model, it’s her. But she told me she can’t take a good picture. I don’t know if she was too vain or just had lousy photographers, but she said she tried modeling, just didn’t work out because of that.”

“You’re dating a hot chick? I think that’s great.”

“Not dating, it’s… I’m talking about photography.” He looked at his watch. “I better get going.”

“If you need a sheet, I’m your man.”

* * *

He spent two days consulting with the booking keeping staff at his old company. John’s store front accountancy was busier this year than last and he promised to spend all of fourteenth and fifteenth there—another accountant never showed up for the season and he was in a real bind. Joe put in as many days as he could. He liked the grind of it. The work could be mind numbing, it wasn’t exactly challenging. But interacting with people from all walks of life was enjoyable. There would be artists just above poverty or immigrant families whose young children had to interpret for the bread winners. The office closed at ten, but it was really like last call, never leaving before midnight. Then it was over. April fifteenth. That was fun, having a goal, seeing how much you can do, how many forms you can complete by then, knowing you would not have to fill out any more of these personal tax forms from people whose finances were completely new to you after that inescapable date.

His last private client of the season was Edwin, a trainer he knew from Sal’s. Edwin itemized, had declared income and a variety of part times gigs at gyms throughout the area and of course, he had failed to pay taxes for the second two quarters, which meant he had to pay those installments as well as what he owed now. Same story every year. Joe gave his accountant advice, went through the explanations as Edwin chained smoke cigarettes. He told him again how he used to weigh 300 pounds and smoked three packs a day. Now the smoking only took place when he started getting his income statements and deductible receipts together on April 1st. Cigarettes helped ease the terror of having something on his return that could trigger an Audit or not declaring enough deductibles so he would have to pay the IRS more than he could afford. He quit tobacco on April 16th, or said he did—it wouldn’t be good for his trainer business if he was known as a tobacco user. Joe agreed to a few training sessions in lieu of payment for his services.

Her voice sounded frantic over his cell phone. “I need your help. I hate to impose on you and I’m looking forward to seeing you, after your Easter, but a friend told me it would be easy to do. I can’t figure it out.”

“Your taxes?”

“Yes, yes, yes. It’s just for this stupid job. I used to have accountants do it, but this year things are messed up, because of the court stuff and my lawyer called me to remind me to file because if I don’t, it will mess up any settlement down the line, the payment of it.” She sobbed. “I don’t understand this form.”

The vulnerability in her voice astonished him. She had revealed only irrevocable self assurance.

“You have your paper work?”

“Yes. I know you’re busy. I can do this whenever is convenient to you.”

“I’m going to at John’s office until at least ten tonight.”

“I was thinking of going to one of those places. I’m just so worried, Joe.”

“It will be easy for me just to do yours by myself. I’ll be at your place between eleven and midnight. Stop worrying, Meridia, it will be all right.”

“Thank you, thank you.”

Edwin said, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop dude, but was that Meridia, from the gym.”

“You know her?”

“I know only that she’s way friggin hot.” He whistled. “You’re doing her taxes?”

He shrugged. “Seems so.”

Edwin exhaled cigarette smoke, muttered something in Spanish and waved his fingers beneath his chin.

* * *

He was at her apartment just before eleven thirty. The last client at John’s office was just a simple W2, so he was able to leave, promising John he would be there by mid-morning and stay until closing.

Her hair seemed unwashed, pulled back in a pony tail and she wore a sweat suit—baggy sweat pants and a hooded sweat shirt zipped up to her neck. She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek and asked if he wanted something to drink. “I didn’t know what you wanted, I have some white wine I think… no beer or whiskey. I also bought some coca cola, red bull and I have bottled water. I could make coffee.”

“I’ve been drinking coffee all night, some water would be great.”

Her apartment was small and depressing. A studio. There were two windows on the far wall, the bed was there, a queen sized, which took up most of the space, a small couch, an upholstered chair in front of a television, a couple of book shelves and a folding table with two chairs. She was using the table as the desk,. Her W2’s and some other statements were there next to some pens and pencils and a yellow ledger pad and an ashtray stuffed with cigarette butts. The tobacco stench was mixed with honey and lilac. On the bureau in one corner was a candle in the shape of a hand, a burning wick on each finger.

“That candle has an interesting shape which I suppose has a meaning.”

“How would I know what the meaning is? The store has a lot of weird candles. I go for scent,” she said as she handed him a small bottle of Poland Spring Water. “The aroma is supposed to be energizing.”

He put down his brief case, and took his laptop of out its case and placed it on the folding table, drank half the bottle and yawned.


He squinted. “A little bit. I’ll get my second wind.”

“I’m just so nervous. I sometimes wait to the last minute when I want to avoid a responsibility.”

“Most people do. Besides, waiting to the last minute would be if you called me tomorrow. You waited for the next to the last minute”

He asked her the questions. Her income wasn’t that high, only in the 30s but she had only worked about ten months. “I’ve spent savings to help make ends meet. Do I have to account for that?”

“No, but you might want to declare any interest, if it is significant.”

“Most of the money is in tax free shit I can’t even touch.”

“It’s up to you what you want to declare. Then it’s up to the IRS to agree or not.”

“The income. The salary. Just that. I want to declare just that. The income on those statements.”

He was too burnout to pry. It took about an hour, they got into a discussion about going to the gym, exercise stuff then it was back to the figures. She would be getting back $75. The return would be filed electronically tomorrow with all his other returns of the day. He took out the vouchers, state and federal, explained how she had to sign these and mail them tomorrow, using the same words he had said all night, afternoon, and the day before that and the day before that. Memorized and said without reflection or feeling—often like the responses at Mass.

He went to the bathroom. He was completely bored, drained of any thought or worry. Tonight could be a sure thing. Kiss her. The bed was right there. No, he told himself. That would be too casual. He should keep to the plan. After Easter.

He turned off the lap top. She said. “That’s it?”

“We’re done here. I told you not to worry. Feel better?”

“Much better. I can’t thank you enough. I want to pay you.”

“I’m not going to have you pay me. We’re friends. Take me to dinner.”

“I have a better idea. Let me give you a blow job.”

“What?” She snickered at the expression on his face.

“You heard me.” She unzipped her sweat jacket, she wasn’t wearing a bra. God, they were magnificent. “It will be worth a lot more than your fee, I promise. Take your pants off and lay down on my bed.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“You’re right, it’s not a good idea. It’s a great idea. I know you’ll like it. I know you’ll like it a lot. And we both know you could use one. I owe you. Get on the bed.”

“Meridia, it’s really not the way to pay me.”

“Suit your self.” She knelt in front of him and to his surprise but not hers, he didn’t resist when she unbuckled the belt and unzipped his pants.

“You’re really hard,” she giggled, squeezing him. He didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no. Her eyes looked up as she licked the tip and fondled his testicles. In less than a minute he said maybe they ought to get on the bed.

Afterwards, they lay next to each other, he wearing a shirt and she sweatpants and they soon fell asleep. When he woke, he wondered what would Gloria think about this act of casual sex. But Gloria was not here now. She was not here anymore at all. He stifled a sob, then pondered ways he could leave quietly. But Meridia was awake and watching him and he did not know if she had been awake before him or not.

“I better get going, it’s a busy day for me.”

“Thank you again for helping me out.”

“We’re friends, Meridia.”

She caressed him. “You’re so strong, you’re in such good shape. Especially him.”

“I have to go.”

“He wants it.”

She pushed her sweat pants off and straddled him. She kissed him forcefully on the lips, grabbed his wrists and placed his hands on her breasts. “You handle these, I’ll handle you.” Her palms were flat against the mattress and she moved her ass up and down, faster and faster. “Fill me,” she moaned. “Fill me.”

He was still panting when she found her cigarettes on the folding table. She lit one and said, “Now, you can go.”


The waiting area of John’s office held only a dozen people and by noon. John had to give out numbers and tell people to come back in an hour. Joe asked the questions, entered the data on his lap top keyboard, uploaded the returns to the IRS website.

He called her in the afternoon.

“Real good, and you?”

“Real good too. Busy today though. Thought I would call and remind you to mail those vouchers.”

“I’m glad you did and yes I did. I also liked your cock very much. I could have painted my bathroom with what I swallowed. I wish I had more book keeping to do.”

Her sultry laughter didn’t pause when he said good bye.

It was after midnight when he was home and didn’t remember falling asleep and the next day he went to the gym and then to Mass. It was a good bet she would be at Sal’s or in the park. If they talked and one thing led to another, he wouldn’t feel that he broke the edict of waiting until after Easter. It would be spontaneous. But she was not at the gym or at the park. She wasn’t in either place the next day. He wished she would call him and let him invite her over, get take out, watch a DVD, have sex. Perhaps a proper date. He went on the internet looking for plays. She was pretty intelligent, well read. There was a revival of some Beckett play that would pretty intellectual, maybe reservations at some expensive French restaurant. That might impress her. He could buy a new jacket. He could take her out to dinner and a play and then have sex. He wondered if she would enjoy a baseball game.

Two days later was Palm Sunday and he wasn’t thinking about calling her or her not calling him. He was thinking about Gloria. Gloria was loving even though she would take her mouth away before he came. She never spoke explicitly. It was more coded like missing you or needing you. Having a sexy woman desiring you was incredibly confidence building, ultimately enticing. That trashy talk though, the bawdiness of it, was that what sex would be like now? Tawdry? Was tawdry a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe tawdry was inaccurate—maybe Meridia just had a pragmatic attitude to an inevitable human function.

Maybe sex with Meridia was just sex, and that, sex, was just another station of the cross along the way to completely getting over the grief. Why read so much into it. Just enjoy.

The priest processed up and down the aisles of the church, waved the aspergillum which sprinkled holy water on the congregation and the palm leaves they held aloft. Jesus was on the white ass heading into Jerusalem to his death and resurrection. The citizens praised the homecoming with celebration, a few days later they would cry for his blood. No king but Caesar! Gloria loved this time of year. On Palm Sunday she would always say, it’s time to get the eggs and dye. That Monday, instead of the hanging around the neighborhood hoping to accidentally on purpose bump into Meridia he went to Geoff, Inc., to help with any post-Tax Day Book Keeping loose ends.

On Tuesday, he bought a dozen roses, drove to Gloria’s grave. Beloved wife, daughter and sister. He sat there for over an hour, and most of Wednesday he spent the same way he spent much of Tuesday, weeping. These weren’t relapses, it was just the way it would be. Most of the time, life would go on, the same routines and some new experiences. But sometimes the memories would get the better of him, the grief, pure and unabashed returned. He could deal with these spells. Roy called. Yes he would be coming for Easter and be there in time to go to Mass together in the morning. Carol was baking a Virginia Ham. The Yankees were playing at one.

The day after Easter, she came into the gym a few minutes after he arrived. He was warming up on the treadmill, before hitting the weights. She stepped aboard the treadmill next to his and soon trotted at a medium pace. “How are you feeling?”


“Miss me?”

“Very much.”

“Did you have a nice Easter?”

“It was nice.”

“What are you doing today?”

“Twenty minutes here, then some upper body weight training.”

“I’ve been thinking about you as much as you have thinking about me.” Sal was at the desk. There only a few other people in the gym, nobody else using the treadmills and they spoke just above a whisper. “I want to know what you’ve been thinking about when you think about me. Do you want to know what I’ve been thinking about when I’ve been thinking about you?”


“Then let me come home with you after we work out and I’ll show you.”

He looked at her with a grin and she opened her mouth and slid her tongue along her upper lip then along her lower lip and repeated this until he turned away and she laughed loud enough for Sal to stop reading his morning emails and glance up from the computer screen.

Very little was said. They avoided each other during their work outs. “I shower at home,” he whispered as they left. At his place they kissed for a long time and didn’t make it to the bedroom, didn’t bother with much fore play, off with their clothes and right to the intercourse. They both knew they had to get that out of away. What was there to discuss? Why prolong?

“Very wonderful, Joe.” She grabbed her pocketbook. “I hope you don’t mind if I smoke in your home.”

“I guess since you’re naked and look so good naked I don’t mind. I’ll see if I can scrounge up an ashtray.” He walked into the kitchen, which wasn’t a separate room but an open area adjacent to the living room. She followed him.

“I’ll use the sink.”

“Sure. Want a protein shake? I usually have one right after I work out.”

“Okay,” flicking her ashes in the general direction of the sink. “Protein drink, huh. That helps your muscle growth.”

“So they say. I add pears and yogurt to water and two scoops of the powder. It’s not bad, I’ll just make extra.”

As he put the ingredients into the blender, she turned on the faucet to put out her cigarette and threw the butt in the garbage pail beneath the sink. She hugged him from behind. “You smell good sweaty.”

They drank their shakes and talked about the weather and took a shower together and lay down on his bed and he took the initiative and kissed her all over. They made love leisurely with slow and extensive oral sex and related foreplay.

She put her gym clothes back on and left, he dressed, went to Mass, came home, ate a tuna fish sandwich. There were no distinct plans to call again. Around ten o’clock that night she called him on her cell phone. She wanted to come over and he said when and she said, buzz me in I’m down stairs. Thus they had sex for the third time that day and fell asleep together and in the morning she woke him with fellatio.

* * *

It was a couple of days later that they saw each other again. She said she had to go to work, that her hours were about to get more regular, that the company was starting a new project, doing better than they had did in January when she was laid off. “I guess they were telling the truth when they said it would be temporary. Who could know?”

He saw her once, near her apartment, talking with a man, He wore a black fedora. He was a big guy. Tall. They weren’t speaking English. The conversation seemed tense. Joe turned a corner. Maybe he would ask her and maybe he wouldn’t. It wasn’t his business, yet. Yet! When would it be—yet? No, he couldn’t get hung up like that again. It was just sex, mutual, consensual, exciting sex. No commitments. Just enjoy it.

She came over on May 1st and they watched a DVD of a Shakespeare play, filmed on a London stage. They ate take out Tai food and drank a bottle of wine. He had been hanging out most of the afternoon, doing stock trades on his computer and consulting with a new client, a florist who was a friend of Jamie’s and was opening a second location. They were on the couch and kissing and soon her top was off and then his pants were off and she caressed his erection. “Can we take this up later. I sure would like to take a bath.”

“Sure. We have all night. Whatever you like.”

He watched a baseball game, trying to ignore some of her sounds coming from the bathroom. Then the sound of the water. When she finally opened the bathroom door, a towel was wrapped around her head and she wore his terry cloth bathrobe, which was baggy and reached the floor. Her feet were not visible. She moved like an apparition floating across the carpet. “I brought a candle, mind if I light it?”


The television was off, all the lights. The candle was in the shape of a person. One side was a woman, breasts sticking out, a navel apparent, a v-like indentation near the waist, accentuating the womanly flow of hips. The other side was a male, no indentation but a little penis—actually, considering the size of the candle, proportionally he was rather well hung. He had a long erection. She got a plate from the cabinet, put the candle on the plate and the plate on the coffee table and lit the wick. Honey and lilac and musk wafted through.

“That’s one strange looking candle.”

“I think it’s cute. It’s May Day, you know. You’re supposed to light a candle on May Day.”

“So, you are religious after all.”

“In a fashion.” She fished around her pocket book, came back with her cigarettes (he had bought her an ash tray for his apartment) and two dollar bills. She gave one to him. “Light it.”

“Burn money?”

“It’s just a dollar, and it’s my money. It’s for luck for the year.”

“Isn’t that sort of Pagan?”

“No. It’s utterly and completely pagan. Is eating corned beef on the day of St. Patrick really any different.”

They watched the flames curl the bills and when it reached their fingers they dropped the ashes on the dish. She lit a cigarette, smoking with one hand and the other stroked his erection. “Is that it for the rituals?”

“We’re not going to slaughter an infant if that’s what you mean. But I would like that hard on of yours up my ass. Don’t worry. I like it like that once in a while, and I did an enema before I took a bath. You have to be careful about infection with sodomy. Why are you looking so shocked. Haven’t you ever?”

“No, actually.”

“Nobody on you?”

“Of course not!”

“Don’t get mad, you might like it.”

She took a small of bottle of baby oily from her pocket book, she put some her hands, rubbed her hands together than rubbed the greasy substance over his cock. “You have such a nice one I think about it all the time.” Words like this removed any defenses, any objections. Her skin was so soft. Kissing and sucking on her hard nipples filled him with immense desire. He would do anything.

She got on her hands and knees on the floor, the gargoyle pendant dangling between her tits. She arched her ass up and he got behind her.

She groaned when he entered her. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Don’t worry about hurting me. Don’t stop for anything. Just fuck me in the ass. It’s May Day. I’m begging you to fuck me in the ass like a worthless slave.”

He held on to her hips, easing himself in. “I don’t like the word worthless. Or slave.”

“If you don’t fuck me in the ass I’ll kill myself. I’m begging. Please Joe…”

The tightness of her anus surprised him. He had thought about doing this but it never happened and it was not exactly a high priority aspiration but he never expected the snugness. Pornography made it seem so simple. The sounds she made between her words sounded more pain than pleasure, they didn’t sound like pleasure at all in fact. Could the neighbors hear? His shushing her only made her laugh at him which only increased his anger. He shoved into her and she cried out in pain.


“Don’t stop, just don’t stop.” When he finally came—a relief on many levels—he pulled out immediately. She collapsed on the floor, heaving for breath and went over to his penis and sucked him until he was flaccid in her mouth. He asked her to let go several times before she did, laughing like a thoughtless child when he pushed her away.

He went to the bathroom, took a shower, then went to the bedroom and lay on the bed wrapped in a towel. She came in and lay next to him, asking, “Are you okay?”

“Fine. Are you okay?”

“A little sore,” she laughed then realized he was not in a laughing mood. “Are you mad at me?”

“I just never have done anything like that before.”

“You didn’t like it?”

“I felt like I was hurting you.”

“It hurt, but it was really hot for me.”

“May Day. What nonsense.”

“Whatever, Joe.”

“All we have been doing is having sex. We’ve never been to even the movies together.”

“How conventional.”

“What is so bad about conventional?”

“It’s an illusion. If life was meant to be conventional you would be in the suburbs with your lawn and Christmas decorations and going to Mass on Sundays with your wife and kids and I would be… oh I don’t what I would be, sitting on charity boards and designing uniforms for the help.”

“Maybe this has been going too fast.”

The room was dark and there was no sound but her tears. “Do you want me to go?”

“I don’t know what I want. I know I don’t want to upset you.”

“Maybe I came on a little strong. I wanted to give myself to you, and I haven’t done that in a while. I want to please you.”

“You’ve been pleasing me all right. That isn’t an issue.”

“I just feel such a connection to you and that doesn’t come along very often and I want to make it last as long as it can. You are such a strong man. I love making you hard. I love making you come. I love your taste. I need you.” She sobbed a few times and he held her closer and she said. “No matter what happens, I am sorry. You’re a good man. I love you.”

He didn’t know what to say but was compelled to say something—although that something was not going to be I love you. Before he could speak, she lightly kissed his lips and said go to sleep. He obeyed.

* * *

In the morning she was gone. There was no note. He did not remember her leaving and when he walked through his apartment, calling her name once or twice, it occurred to him to check his belongings—but the stereo was there, the television, lap top safe on his desk and the two thousand dollars in twenties and fifties rolled up in a faux Campbell’s Tomato Soup can in his cabinet was undisturbed. There was no way she could have known about that. What was he doing?

The bathrobe and towel were still strewn on the floor near the plastic bottle of baby oil. The man/woman candle was out, burned down three quarters of the way, stopping at the navels.

She wasn’t at the gym. She wasn’t at the park. He called her and she didn’t pick up. The next day he phoned her again and this time left a message. The next day he went to Geoff, Inc. The CFO took him to lunch and he said he understood his needs and said he would like him to continue his consultant work, but on a more consistent basis. In other words, more hours. Joe said he would think about it.

The voice mail message tone beeped when he got off the subway. She called when he was underground and out of reception range. The number she called from was blocked. “I have to go away for some court stuff, but I’ll call you soon as I can, promise.”

Was that that? You can go about your business so easily, work and whatever and his whatever was mainly Mass or the gym and even when it wasn’t a distraction, you just continue your whatever no matter what your reverie may be.

A couple of days later his maid service called. “We are going to get somebody new for you,” said Cheryl, who was the maid dispatcher. “The woman quit suddenly. I don’t understand why. We’ve seen some things and these women just ignore stuff. But there was some kind of candle.”

“A friend brought it over.”

“She saw this candle when she was cleaning your unit. She left right away and called us. Freaked her out, something about voodoo. I always thought she was a little weird. I wasn’t happy with her. I wanted to tell you and I apologize. We’re short staffed right now so it will take another week. If you could sort of make the place presentable so someone can get an idea of what your account will require, we can have you back in the system within a month. I’ll put a deduction on your next invoice.”

* * *

Still no answer, a week went by. He passed her apartment, her windows were dark. She called him finally, from the noise in the background he guessed she was at an airport. “I’m sorry, but something came up. It really means a lot of money. I have to be here.”

“I could come down if it would help.”

“That’s sweet. You’re a good man. Stay up there and do your thing. Go to Mass. I never told you but I really respect that, it makes me so horny. I have to go to a meeting now. I should be back sometime mid-June. I promise to make it up to you.”

The hurdle had been cleared, the dwelling on Gloria was gone. That night he masturbated thinking not of a time with his wife, but with Meridia. The weather turned very warm. Maybe he could get an apartment at the shore for a week, spend some real quality time with her, walking on the boardwalks, watching sunsets, making love. Having breakfast in bed. Days of wine and roses—songs played on mandolins and concertinas—nights filled with intimate passion. She said she would return. He believed her. He needed something to look forward to.

He called up Edwin and started the training sessions. With Meridia gone, he seemed to have more time on his hands. Might as well be spent constructively.

Edwin focused on the core. One hundred crunches forty five minutes of cardio every day. Working out with the bells, which were iron 20 pound weights shaped like a bell which you swung around. He started doing biceps and triceps on different days. At night, he rode his bicycle around on the walkway by the river for an hour. He decided to follow a stricter diet. No bread. Lunch was a can of tuna fish and salad. Dinner was grilled chicken or salmon, a baked potato and salad. Breakfast was two eggs soft boiled, an orange and a banana. He drank four protein shakes a day, two with creatine. He went to Mass at noon or when he had to go Geoff’s, a 5 30 service in the city.

“Motivation and guidance, that’s why folks use trainers,” said Edwin. “You have the motivation, man. Every time I push you, you don’t just do as I say but you go an extra mile.”

“Well, you still provide guidance. I’m not bored with it yet, so why not give it your all.”

“You are looking buff. You’re benching twice your body weight! You arms are huge, your chest hard and defined, there are even squares forming on your stomach.”

Sal waved him over one day, he was reading the National Enquirer, the supermarket tabloid. “My wife got me into reading this, she loves to keep up with celebrities. Is this Meridia?.”

“Judge Rules Against Florida Family, Ex-Stripper to Inherit One Hundred Million.”

The woman’s name was Miriam. She was walking out of a courtroom, the black ribbon dangling from her hat obscured part of her face. The woman didn’t look attractive. You could never recognize Meridia from the photo. She looked fat. Her nose was long and she had a lantern jaw. But he knew it was her. The headline said it all, the story was short and glib and had little substance, it was the final appeal, she won. Family was devastated. It seemed so unreal to him though, somebody he knew in the news, not to mention in tabloid news. This was serious money, not just for now, but forever. No one in your family would have to work for generations.

“I don’t know.”

“I haven’t seen her in the gym for weeks. You were friends with her, weren’t you?”

“Sal, I don’t know.”

“The picture is terrible, but there is a resemblance, you have to admit.”

It was easier just to walk away.

* * *

It was June 19th, the weather had turned hot and humid. His cell phone rang in the morning. She was coming into Newark at three. “Pick me up.”

“I would like to, but I have an appointment and have to be at the office. Let me hire you a car and I’ll meet you at my apartment.”

“Forget that darling. Don’t you want to see me?”

“More than anything.”

“I heard I might have made the news. There was some horrible things said about me. I was afraid you might hear something.”

“Your real name is Miriam?”

“I changed it years ago, Meridia was my Romanian Grandma’s name. I like it better. What the newspapers wrote about me is not true. I hope you believe that.”

Suddenly he felt that one more day of loneliness would kill him. “I love you.”

Her sigh sounded glad. “Come pick me up at the airport. I want to celebrate, I want to celebrate with you. I have this place we’re going to stay at, it’s way in the boondocks, up in the mountains. I thought it would be nice, just you and me. We will have the place to ourselves.”

“It’s a hotel?”

“No, that’s the beauty. It’s a private residence, secluded. It has a heated pool and a Jacuzzi, sauna. There will be a Masseuse there, a private kitchen with our own chef. I’ve set it all up, just you and me. Don’t you want to relax with me? Talk? We can spend tonight thinking of ways to make each other come. Just pack a toothbrush, we can go shopping for clothes tomorrow. Seriously, I’ve made arrangements. Everything you need will be there. You can go home whenever you need to.”

She didn’t give him a flight number, just the terminal and told him to meet her at the bar. He was fifteen minutes early. She was waiting outside the bar, and didn’t hug or kiss him, ducked his attempt to greet her. She wore a thin silk jacket and jeans, big Jackie-O sunglasses, a red cap and her hair was tied back. She looked incognito. She carried only a small satchel. She said she hated airports and she wanted to go.

“No luggage?”

“I’m going to buy a whole new wardrobe.”

In the car, where no one could see, she kissed him passionately. They traded I’ve missed yous and I want you so bads and rubbed each other through their clothing.

The drive took five hours, the house was in the Pocono mountains and every time he asked about it she changed the subject, which she also did whenever he asked about her court appeals, what she was doing while she was away, Florida. She asked about him and he talked about his work outs and training. After the highways they were on local roads that seemed to get more narrow and the last hour the road was winding up a mountain—his ears popped—there were only trees, forests robust with summer—no cars passed on the other side, no buildings of any kind, then she told him to turn off and stop in front of a gate. It was part of a fence that ran alongside the road as far as the eye could see, disappearing into the forests. The fence was about ten feet tall, razor wire on top, the gate was a little higher, but all metal, a solid array of imposing poles. She got out, tapped a sequence of numbers on a the small keyboard and the gate slid to the right as she got back in the car.

“We’re here.” she said.

“Where’s here?”

“Oh this is just the driveway.”

The house was enormous. Made of redwood, two stories and sprawling— Spectacular. “Joe, I do believe you’re agog. Just park in the front, leave the key in, one of the girls will park it in the garage later. We’re the only ones here.”

“The girls?”

“Oh, you’ll love them. We have this place to ourselves. They’re here to serve. They are so nice, really pretty too.”

“Okay. Do you mind if I check my messages? I kind of left the booking keeping department hanging.”

“Silly. There’s no reception up here. We’re totally secluded. We can do whatever we want.”

They walked up to the doors of the house and they were opened by a tall woman in a maid’s black dress, cut short, high on the upper thighs of her long legs. The top buttons on the dress were unbuttoned revealing her cleavage—one more button undone her bra would be visible. Her blonde hair was tied in a braided pony tail. Her nose was small, pointy. She was absolutely Nordic and beautiful. She would not be out of place in the alps, he thought.

Meridia was happy to see her, exclaiming, “Gertrude” and she gave her a hug. She introduce her to Joe and the woman bowed and in a German accent said, “Anything you desire, Master Joe, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Meridia handed her the satchel and Gertrude said, “Permit me to show you to your room.”

Gertrude opened the doors and an air-conditioned blast hit his face. The room was large, dark wood paneled walls, upholstered chairs in the corner, a large vanity on the other side, an oval mirror about three feet high, a shelf of books, three bureaus. The bed was a round, a large circle, at least as big as two king size beds.

“Some bed,” he said. “Wow.”

“Silk sheets too, wait untill you feel them against your skin,” said Meridia, pulling down the large, thick quilt. The sheets were bright scarlet. Meridia sat on the bed, bounced a few times, then she held her legs out straight so Gertrude could remove her opened toed high heels. “Let’s have a drink.”

“I’m pretty thirsty but I sure could use the bathroom.”

Gertrude gestured. “Through there, Master Joe.”

Meridia held her arms up and Gertrude was taking off her thin summer jacket.

Even the bathroom began with a short hall. It was the biggest, non-public bathroom he had ever seen. The toilet seat was gold, or at least gold plated. A few feet across from the toilet was the bathtub, which was round and big enough for more than one person—at least four people could comfortably bathe in it. The faucets were gold and there was a gold hand-held shower head in a rack with the faucets. The tub was sunken into the floor, like a built in pool. The tiles on the floor were also gold colored. The sink, which was shaped like a clam shell and attached to the wall, was also gold, as were the faucets on the sink. The walls were covered with the same gold tiles as the floor. Except the gleaming white of the commode and the inside of the sink and the bathtub, everything he could see was gold.

He came back into the bedroom. Gertrude was guiding Meridia ’s arms into the sleeves of a plush bathrobe. He flinched when he glimpsed her naked body. He had thought about that body for weeks now. She had even shown up in a couple of dreams. He needed to touch that body again, feel it against his. That need suddenly seemed overwhelming. She turned around so Gertrude could tie the belt

Gertrude cleared her throat and repeated herself, “sit down please, Master Joe.”

He regained his composure and sat in a nearby chair. Gertrude knelt down and began to unlace one of his sneakers. “Oh, no, no.. I-I can.”

Meridia kissed his cheek. “Relax, honey. She’s here for both of us.”

Meridia snickered at the embarrassed expression on his face as the woman removed each sneaker and each sock. “Please stand sir.”

She pulled his polo shirt off him as he held out his arms. Meridia nodded in admiration. That nod made all those tedious, sweaty hours at the gym and the near tasteless food he had been eating worth it. Gertrude knelt in front of him and undid his chinos and pulled them down and he stepped out of the pant legs. He noticed another bathrobe folded on the bed and was about to reach for it before she had a chance to insist on removing his boxer shorts but Gertrude was too fast. The underpants were around his ankles with one quick tug. His face could not get more red than it was.

“Forgive him Gertrude, he’s from New Jersey. He’s very uptight.”

“We can fix that,” said Gertrude. As she picked up his clothes from the floor, her head brushed against his erection. She held the robe behind him and he slipped his arms into the sleeves, then she stepped in front of him to tie the bathrobe closed. His erection protruded through the flap. She chuckled, “Master Joe is very muscular.”

“Yes, he is. Your body looks awesome, Joe. Have you been living at the gym, darling? You are much more ripped than the last time we were together.”

Gertrude smiled, bowed and left.

He laughed nervously. He was about to say how embarrassed he felt, maybe even slightly reprimand her but she immediately embraced him. Her body pushed up against his and they kissed. She touched his cock. Then he wasn’t thinking about anything except that he needed her body. She was wet and moaned and he licked and kissed her tits then kissed down her stomach and sucked her clit and licked her vagina, kneeling by the bed, her knees draped over his shoulder. He stood up grabbing her waist and pulled her to him and went inside her and she wasn’t saying anything, just moaning loudly. Nothing was on his mind but that moan. No memories, just the urge to please her and please himself. Every muscle in his body clenched with this task. He was in the best shape of his life. He had total control. She held on to his shoulders and lifted her self up to kiss him and his hands shifted to her ass and he moved her up and down, her legs wrapped around his waist. He eased her back to the bed keeping his penis inside her, then kneeling on the bed, her shoulders and back on the mattress and she pushed into him, arching herself up, jerking her waist, taking all of him inside. Perspiration slicked their skins. No stopping, no pausing, no words—just garbled syllables of effort and release. Flecks of salvia flew from their lips. They rolled over, his cock inside her, her knees alongside his waist. She squeezed her breasts together, pinching her nipples, announcing with a loud sigh another orgasm. He grabbed her waist again, pushing her up and down as fast as possible until thick spurts of semen coated her vagina.

They separated, lay on their backs, gasping for breath. A black woman was by the bed holding two large metal goblets.

“Good lord!” he exclaimed sitting up and covering his loins with one of the fluffy round pillows.

“Oh please!” she declared, throwing the pillow to the floor. “Don’t be mortified. It’s just Esmeralda.”

“Your drinks, Miss Meridia.”

The goblets were cold. They looked like chalices. Meridia insisted on clinking the goblets together. “I think you will like this.”

He was very thirsty. The drink tasted sweet and he gulped it down. “It’s good.”

Esmeralda was back again. She was young and beautiful too, her skin was very dark. She wore the same maid outfit as Gertrude, but was not as tall and had wider hips and bigger breasts. She now held a small sliver tray with cigarettes, Meridia picked one then the woman lit the cigarette with a silver cigarette lighter. She placed a silver ash tray by her side. Gertrude came in carrying pillows which she placed behind both them, then moved the ones on the bed to the pile so they could lean back.

The goblet was engraved with naked men. He noticed hers had naked women. He asked, “what is this?”

“Just a concoction. It’s healthy, except for a dash of Rum. It’s chilled vanilla soy milk and some vitamins and other things in it too, like herbs and Amino Acids.” She exhaled a cloud of cigarette smoke. “I’m starving, are you hungry?”

“I could eat.” Being naked and watched by the two women with matching outfits caused him anxiety.

“Draw us a bath first, Gertrude.”

“Yes, Miss Meridia,” said the German.

“The table is already set,” said the Jamaican. “I’ll send up Neoki.”

“Two more drinks, Esmeralda.”

A few minutes later, Gertrude announced the bath was ready.

They tied up their robes and followed Gertrude into the bathroom. The lights were dim, candles, in the shape of men and women burned on a small table near the toilet. Meridia said excuse me and sat on the toilet and peed. Gertrude removed his robe then took his hand and led him to the tub, said to put his foot on the step which was underneath the steamy sudsy surface of the water which smelt of honey and lilac. He thanked her.

“My pleasure, Master Joe.”

Then an Asian appeared, petite, also young, also quite beautiful, holding a tray with the goblets.

“Neoki! It’s so good to see you.”

Her black-as-ink hair was cropped, like a crew cut. She wore a black velour running suit and black rubber sandals. “It’s good to see you again, Miss Meridia.”

“This is my friend Joe,”

The Asian woman knelt by the side of the tub. She leaned over so she could lift the brim to his lips, gently pressing her other hand against his forehead, tilting his head back, whispering. “Drink, Master Joe.” Her accent was thick.

After a long swallow, she placed the goblet in small round indent on the rim of the tub. Then she went over to Meridia, holding her hand as she stood up from the toilet, which she flushed for her. Neoki took off her robe and after Meridia was in the tub, water up to her neck, held the goblet to her lips.

“Be a dear and get me a cigarette.”

Neoki came back with the silver tray and lighter. Meridia was holding her hand up, which the woman dried with a small towel, then she placed the cigarette in her mouth and lit it. The woman went over to Joe, took the goblet from his soapy hand and held it to his lips. “Drink, Master Joe.”

“You have to admit,” she said, smoking. “This is the life, Joe.”

“It takes some getting used to.”

“Let yourself get used to it. For me.”

“How many young sexy women do you have working here?”

“Just these three. Three women and me, don’t you think that’s enough women?”

“You’re quite enough woman for me.” He looked at Neoki. “Please just call me Joe.”

“She won’t. Think of them, as attendants. They’re here to attend to our every need.”

“Wash now?” said Neoki.

“Good idea.”

She unzipped her jacket and took off out the pants and folded them. She was naked. “Neoki, get rid of this for me.”

“I’m sorry I forgot ashtray.” She seemed genuinely upset as she took the cigarette from her hand, dropping it into the toilet.

Neoki stepped into the bathtub and knelt in front of him and fed the goblet to him sip by sip until it was empty. Her mouth seemed tiny. He let an impulse to kiss her pass. He wanted to touch her breasts—dainty, bright skin, red, taut nipples.

“Stand please, Master Joe.”

“Do as she says. Go with the flow.”

The water came up to his knees. She smeared a shower gel on his back and arms, then rubbed the gel over his skin.

“Neoki, have you lost weight? You’re body looks amazing.”

“Thank you, Miss Meridia, maybe a few pounds.”

She knelt in the water to the water, squirted more liquid on him, rubbed it arcoss his thighs, crotch, ass.

“Hey!” he said, her finger sliding in and out of his anus.

“Joe, she’s been trained, she knows what she is doing.”

Neoki ignored him, and covered his chest with the soap, then asked him to raise his arms and soaped his pits. Then she rubbed gel on his erection. “Oh so nice. Miss Meridia must like this a lot.”

“Isn’t she something, Joe.”

“Please, back in water,” she knelt behind him and rubbed shampoo into his hair, told him to close his eyes then scooped water into a silver bucket and dumped the water over his head. After dumping another bucket, she ran her fingers through his hair. “Now you, Miss Meridia.”

He was feeling dazed. Meridia was standing right in his line of sight, Neoki behind her. Meridia raised her arms were raised so Neoki could apply the soap all over the front of her body. Neoki crouched down and smeared her legs with the gel. Then she got to her vagina. They were expert hands all right. She slipped three fingers inside her, pushing them in and out. Then she gently tugged her clitoris. Meridia shivered with an orgasm, her eyes slits. “Tell me you like what you’re seeing, lover.”

He was too aroused to answer. He could barely even nod.

The Asian woman laughed. “Back in water now, over here.”

She moved Meridia towards Joe, knelt down and grabbed his cock. “Drink working,” she laughed, holding his penis, guiding him inside Meridia as she lowered her self into the water. Meridia hung her head back and softly sqealed, her mouth opened wide.

Neoki was behind Meridia, holding her waist, moving her up and down. “Now let me shampoo.”

With him still inside her, the woman rubbed shampoo into her hair, the bit with the bucket too. She grabbed her waist and rocked Meridia back and forth, reached up and pinched Meridia ’s nipples, gently twisting them. Meridia shuddered with pleasure.

“Save for later. Me rinse you now, Master Joe.”

Meridia leaned over and kissed him, holding his hand as he stood up. Meridia rubbed them both with a wash cloth. Suds covered their skin.

Meridia stroked his penis. “Having fun?”

Everything was suddenly hilarious. His head felt warm inside, his eyes were wide, and the light from the candle separated like rain. Finally, he was able to cease laughing and say, “Go with the flow.”

The water was draining out the tub and Neoki was rinsing their bodies with the golden hand-held-shower head, slapping Meridia ’s hand off his penis. The water spraying him was soothing. Meridia ’s hand was back. Neoki smiled and laughed. Now two hands were stroking his cock and another was caressing his testicles. He giggled, leaned his head over and kissed Meridia. He had his arms around both of them, but Neoki moved away from his arm, slightly to his side, slipped a finger into his ass and massaged his prostate. His cock quivered. “You are big and strong, Master Joe.”

“Let’s go eat and while we eat you can think of ways we can get rid of that.”

Neoki was out of the tub, laid a large white towel out on the floor for them to step on. She dried their bodies with a plush white towel.

Gertrude stood by. Meridia and Joe followed her into the dining room, where they sat at facing each other at the ends of a long wooden table, Their places had been set, a plate of salad and a tall glass of ice water and empty wine glasses. Long, thin candles burned in a silver, elaborate holder. They were both very thirsty. As Gertrude poured wine into the glasses they were guzzling the water. Gertrude was back with a pitcher to refill the glasses. “Might as well bring in the steaks now too.”

“Very good, Miss Meridia.”

“Did you enjoy your bath, Joe.”

“I never had anybody bathe me before. I felt… I don’t know.”

Gertrude picked up the cloth napkin under his forks. There were no knives on the table. She unfolded the napkin and laid it over his curved erection.

“Felt what?” Gertrude unfolded Meridia ’s napkin and placed it on her lap and walked out of the room.

“Pampered. I’ve never been pampered. Maybe I was when I was an infant but I don’t have post-natal memories, or pre-natal for that matter.” He burst out laughing at his joke.

“We all need to be pampered once in a while.”

“I’m feeling really happy,” he snickered.

“You’ll be feeling even better in an hour. We put ecstasy in that drink.”

It took a moment to understand what she said. “I’ve never taken drugs.”

“It’s just to elevate the mood. Think of it as a boost, like caffeine. There were also some vitamins, aphrodisiacs. In yours, we added Viagra.”

“You’ve drugged me.” He knew he was annoyed and even angry. He knew he should be expressing that annoyance and anger. Instead, it was the funniest thing in the world.

“I just want to give you a night you will never forget. I want to thank you Joe in a special way because of how much you mean to me.”

“You mean a lot to me to Meridia. I’ve missed you.”

Gertrude placed a plate in front of him. The steak was cut into chunks, blood rare, next to a small pile of pesto laced pasta. The food glimmered. Suddenly his hunger was excruciating. He impaled a piece of steak with his fork and put it in his mouth. He never tasted anything so delicious. He had drank most of his wine and as he ate another piece of steak, Gertrude was already refilling the glass, which made him laugh inexplicably.

So this is what it’s like, being stoned, he thought, not bad. He was having fun. They both ate quickly, Gertrude standing attentively in the corner.

“Want to go for a swim?” Her eyes gleamed green. The gargoyle pendant seem to glow. “Before desert.”

“I didn’t bring my bathing suit.”

“Joe!” He was giggling. Kidding her made her smile. He drank his glass of wine empty while Gertrude was clearing away the plates. She came back with a new bottle of wine and refilled their glasses. He did a double take. She was no longer wearing the maid uniform. A wave of euphoria warmed him and he laughed. Meridia did not acknowledge her nudity, just held up her glass. “More water, dear.”

Gertrude picked up the pitcher and filled it.

Esmeralda walked in with the cigarette tray. “Dinner was wonderful, Esmeralda.”

“Thank you Miss Meridia,” she said holding the flame to the tip of her cigarette.

“It was the best steak I ever had.”

“You flatter me, Master Joe. Will you be wanting desert? Brandy?”

“Later,” said Meridia. “We were thinking of going for a swim.”

“It’s a fine night for a swim. The water is perfect, I’ve turned on the heater.”

“The wine’s delicious, too,” said Joe, finishing the glass.

Esmeralda nodded, turned and walked away.

Gertrude refilled his glass. She asked, “Master Joe likes the wine?”.

“Master Joe likes the wine very much.” He reached over and squeezed her ass. He couldn’t help himself, he had to touch it. His hand was on her ass before he decided to touch it. Meridia stood and he finished off the wine with a few gulps and got up. He was buzzed. He liked it.

Gertrude stood between them, holding their hands and walked them to the pool. The sun had set and the night sky was a mix of fading red and cobalt blue with thousands of iridescent stars. The moon was full. The pool glowed light blue. Moonlight glinted on the surface of the water. Lights were on in the pool, as well as spotlights from the house. There were kerosene torches burning around the perimeter in the pool. The busy flames looked shiny, thin streams of black smoke ascended off the orange and blue fire. Music played. Brazilian, a rapid beat, a lot of different drums and a loud bass, blasts of horns interspersed.

Gertrude took their robes and they dived into the warm water. They swam to the far side and kissed each other and she wrapped her legs around him and his cock was inside her. They splashed together in the warm water. They swam back to where Gertrude was sitting with her feet in the pool.

Meridia, her back braced against the wall, put her arms back and as Joe fucked her, Gertrude leaned over and tongued kissed Meridia. The pool was only a few feet deep, and when they separated they stood with their backs against the wall of the pool. Gertrude dangled her legs over his shoulders and he turned around. She was shaved completely. Pink and moist. Glistening. She wiggled her hips in time with the music.

There were large pads, four inches thick on the cement around the end of the pool where Gertrude was lying down, her legs on his shoulders. Neoki was in her black running suit, placing air mattresses and inflatable pillows on the pads.

Meridia was beside him, kissing his ear and stroking his cock. She whispered, “Taste her Joe. I want you to. Go ahead. You want to. Anything you want I want, tonight.”

He grabbed her right above the knees and slid her close and kissed her pussy, which was dripping wet. As he ate her out, Meridia went under water and sucked his cock. When she came up for air, Gertrude’s ass was in his hands, her legs against his back, holding on to his head as he licked her. He soon fell backwards in the water, pulling in Gertrude and all three of them were hugging each other. Neoki watched them, sitting on the pad, her legs folded.

The women pressed their breasts against his face and he moved his mouth from nipple to nipple, then kissed Meridia, grabbing her by the waist and entered her, pushing her to the side of the pool. When her back was pressed against the side, she held on to the edge. Gertrude’s hands shoved his ass in and out. Meridia moaned, “That feels so good, Joe.”

As a naked Esmeralda helped Meridia out of the pool, Gertrude was now in front of him, took a breath and went underwater to suck his cock. In front of his face again, she untied her hair and ran it through her fingers, pulling it behind her ears. She bit her lower lip. Then, she wrapped her arms behind his neck, hoisted herself up and he slid his cock inside her. He leaned his head forward and kissed her nipples. She was against the side of the pool now, her arms outstretched, the back of her head against the cushion as he pushed into her. Esmeralda lay perpendicular to Gertrude. They tongue kissed each other. Esmeralda then squatted on her face and he watched Gertrude, her head moving with his thrusting, hold on Esmeralda’s thighs as she licked her clit.

Esmeralda was in the water and Gertrude waded away. He was fucking Esmeralda while kissing her breasts, which were the color of coffee. The two women helped Esmeralda out of the pool, then they helped him out and went to their knees. He stood dripping on the pad, all three of them licking his cock. Then one mouth was on his tip, one his balls, a tongue was in his asshole. He howled with delight, ejaculating into Meridia ’s mouth.

Neoki handed them all towels and small bottles of spring water, which they gulped. Meridia stroked his cock, “you’re still hard honey.”

“We can take care of that, Master Joe,” said Gertrude and kissed the tip.

“I usually have to rest,” he laughed, kissing Meridia.

She said, “let’s have some brandy. Brandy break!”

Gertrude scampered back to the house. Meridia lay on down and Esmeralda put a cigarette in her mouth and lit it. Gertrude came back with glasses and a bottle on a tray, and soon everyone was drinking from sifters.

Then he was kissing Esmeralda and Gertrude was sucking his cock and Meridia was fingering them both. Esmeralda rolled on her back and Meridia was on her knees, her face buried between Esmeralda’s thighs, and Gertrude guided his penis inside Meridia ’s pussy. She put her face underneath them, licking at his balls and massaging Meridia ’s clit. Then he was on his back and Meridia was on his face. He was insatiable. His cock was being sucked by two mouths. Then Meridia was moving up and down on his cock and Gertrude was sitting on his face, and Esmeralda was resting the side of her head on his stomach. Esmeralda pulled his cock out and sucked and then slid it back into Meridia. Then Gertrude got off him and he was fucking Esmeralda who leaned forward and kissed him. She got off, Gertrude got on, and Meridia sat watching, smoking a cigarette, leaning against Neoki who was rubbing her shoulders. Then Esmeralda, then Gertrude again. He rolled away from them, he was still hard. He drank another bottle of water and jumped in the pool.

“The water nice, Master Joe?” asked Esmeralda who began to snap her fingers and dance to the music. Esmeralda’s ass moved with a mind of its own, as if the bottom part of her body was out of sync with the top her body, also vibrating at a rapid pace. He watched her as he got out of the pool. Neoki dried off his back and legs with a towel.

He sat down and Meridia and Gertrude took turns sucking his cock. Esmeralda accelerated the shaking of her ass, then stuck her ass at him, moving just the upper portion. Suddenly, there was nothing more important in the universe than that ass. He wanted that ass to be his universe. He crawled towards that ass, pushing his tongue into her anus and his fingers into her vagina. Esmeralda knelt down, leaned forward on her hands and he planted his mouth on her cunt licking inside as far he could, licked up to her asshole then back again, then flipped her over and lapped and sucked her clit. He was kneeling and her shoulders were against the pad. He had to fuck that pussy now. His cock glided in and as he pounded away, Gertrude licked his asshole. Neoki pulled Esmeralda from him and said, “Get on knees. All fours.”

She ordered Joe to come closer. Gertrude and Meridia were on at the side of Esmeralda’s rump. Neoki ordered, “spread her cheeks.”

The women exposed her dark, puckered anus. Neoki smeared the ridges of the circle with oil, then did the same to his cock. She slapped Esmeralda’s rump. “Ass higher.”

Neoki guided his cock into the asshole and she laughed harshly when Esmeralda screamed. All he could smell were these women, their sweat, their cunts. He grunted and pushed into her, then growled when he came, stood up and beat his chest, stoned on the ecstasy, his cock still erect from the Viagra. He dived into the pool, swam to one side and when he swam back Meridia, Gertrude and Esmeralda were in the pool. They kissed his face and each other.

Later, he sat with Meridia and Getrude in the hot bubbling water of the built-in Jacuzzi, which was on a small hill near the pool. Esmeralda carried a tray of two silver bowls of ice cream. Meridia ate hers, laughing as Gertrude and Esmeralda fed him— Gertrude spooned a small amount of ice cream on one of Esmeralda’s nipples and he licked it off quickly, the steam from the water melting it. Then he sucked on her tit like an infant, then did the same with her other breast and then Esmeralda spooned ice cream on Gertrude and he licked and sucked her nipples and they repeated this until the bowl was empty, then the two women took turns riding up and down on his still erect cock.

Meridia climb out of the tub him as Gertrude bobbed in front of him.

“Neoki is going to give me a massage, come in when you want.”

The Massage table was in a large tiled room adjacent to the sauna. Meridia was on the table on her stomach as Neoki kneaded the muscles in her back. Gertrude and Esmeralda sat with him in the sauna, where they chatted, giggled, drank spring water from small plastic bottles. First the water from the hot tub dried off, then soon their bodies were covered with perspiration from the heat. The moisture on their skins enthralled him, the wetness of their breasts. Licking off their sweat, his tongue had discovered a new country of the tactile.

Neoki opened the door to the sauna, “you now!”

First he lay on his back and Neoki traced a finger along his shoulders and collar bone, lifted up his arms and felt up and down his sides. He told him to turn over, scrutinized his back muscles for several minutes, touching here and there, pinching the skin. Then she hopped on the table, sat on his lower back and kneaded him with her small hands. He turned over again and she massaged his chest, then his legs, bending them, her hands traveling up his calves and thighs with tiny, deliberate squeezes.

She slid two pillows beneath him, elevating his rump. Her hands covered in massage oil, she fingered his asshole, lubricating it. From a drawer near the table she removed a red scarf made of silk. The scarf was three feet long. She poked it, inch by inch, into his rectum until it disappeared into the cavity and only a corner of the silk was visible. He grunted as his penis responded by hardening and twitching. The three women watched intently. Neoki said, “jerk him off now.”

The three women reached for him but Neoki said, “Only Meridia.”

Her grasp slid up the slippery firm shaft. Esmeralda and Gertrude rubbed his chest and arms. A moment later, Neoki ordered, “faster.”

She seemed to be studying Meridia ’s greasy strokes. She suddenly pushed Meridia ’s hand away and grabbed his shaft at the base and squeezed, then violently pulled out the scarf. He groaned loud. His hips bucked on the table. As a small dollop of sperm spat out his cock, wet feces spurted out of his ass. Neoki cursed in her native language, went over to the sink to wash her face and hands. Gertrude and Esmeralda were laughing and Meridia kissed him on the mouth while he still was gasping for air.

* * *

Eventually, they all went to the round bed, he was still stoned but tired. He may have fell asleep for an hour or so and woke up and nuzzled breasts and he seemed to remember fucking Meridia one more time, but he wasn’t sure and couldn’t remember exactly how the night concluded when he was awake again, in the morning, alone. He called out, “Meridia,’ but there was no answer, no sound and he went to the bathroom, weaving as he walked and a headache pounding in his brain. His penis was sore, there was a discomfort as he peed. He washed his face, then drank water out of his cupped hands.

He needed coffee.

He smiled when he saw Neoki, Gertrude and Esmeralda sitting on the bed, wearing black gym suits. “Good morning.”

They were silent, their faces expressionless. Neoki was up, made a stance leaning forward on her left foot, her right foot behind her. He went to hug her. She punched him twice in the face. He cried out, putting his hands to his bloody nose. Then her fingers, straight out and rigid, jabbed him just below his throat and he couldn’t breathe. She punched him hard in the stomach before he collapsed. Gertrude was now holding his arms as Esmeralda stuck a hyperemic into his buttocks. Neoki kicked him in the face. He was unconscious when the women carried him to another part of the house..

* * *

Now, he was in a different room. He was tied to a cot. Meridia was in a chair, watching him, smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of water. The inside of his mouth was parched. It was hard to breathe. There was a severe ache in his jaw. He could not form thoughts at first, and when he was able too, a few minutes after realizing he was awake again, they were not complete and even to manifest a partial thought required significant strain.

He could not breath out of his nose, it was broken. Caked blood blocked his nasal passages. Besides blood, there was sodium pentothal and other drugs they injected him with that left an acrid, disgusting taste. He wanted to say, water. He tried to say, water. He uttered only an arid wheeze.

Meridia filled her mouth with water, leaned over and drooled it into his mouth, most of it landing around his lips and his tongue hungrily licked around his mouth, trying to find the moisture. He whimpered.

“They say you gave a fight, at first, but then crumbled like a boy. Sort of disappointing, Joseph. I thought you were more of a man.”

Flashes came back, the big man held him upside down with his head in a large bucket of ice until he was conscious. He was in a room with a computer. Neoki was there. They had all the files of his accounts open. They wanted his passwords. Desperate, he gave false codes at first and Neoki had her knife out as Gertrude and Esmeralda held his wrist still.

“They say sodium pentothal is the truth drug, but nothing beats pain, does it. Neoki is something, isn’t she?”

He looked at his hand. Only the thumb and four charred stubs remained. She cut each finger slowly, knuckle by knuckle. After each dismemberment, what was left was soaked with kerosene then ignited to cauterize the wound.

“Neoki’s a woman of many talents. I guess four shows some will power. No worries, though. You gave us all the codes we needed. Everything you owned has been transferred to off shore accounts. We have all your money, everything you got from your sweet wife’s death.”

“You have millions.”

“Yes, I do. But we can always use more. Your money, it wasn’t a lot, Joe, about a million. You did well in the market. You’re smart, about accounting at least. We’re going to use your money for the group, there are expenses you know, paying off FBI agents, changing identities. We’re getting a lot of unwanted attention now, that baby being found and all.”


“Satanists. We worship Satan, the lord of the Earth.”


“Why do we worship the devil? Power. Protection. You see, you believe everything is God’s plan. That explains fate and you accept all the random occurrences in the world as just that, God’s plan, something you don’t understand. You just hope for the best. Hope is weakness. God plans nothing. Everything random is the work of my lord, Satan. The lord of the earth. He causes all the evil to happen. It pleases him. Soldiers in some African country decide to massacre villagers who just happen to be born into a different tribe, Satan did that just like he caused a truck to plow into the car of a young pregnant woman who lived only to love God, her church, her country and her husband. I killed my own baby Joe, we used its skin as a book cover. I loved that baby, but I loved money more. Both loves could not exist together. The love for my baby was an insult to the lord of the earth. My baby was an offering for a petition to Satan. He granted my petition. Now I’m disgustingly rich. I must give thanks. You’re my sacrifice of thanks.”

She drooled more water, this time right into his mouth, her lips less than an inch away from his.

“I love you, Joe. I do. I am telling the truth. He does not abide love, the lord of the earth. You can’t feel love if you follow him. But now I’ll be protected from any random misfortune. I’ve sacrificed my love, abandoned it for Satan. You’re such a good sacrifice too, you can take pride in that. You were a good man, faithful to your wife, received regular communion. An observant Catholic. I hate Catholicism, but I hate it because it’s not bullshit Joe, it’s real. The one true faith. What you believe is true, Joe. You just didn’t have the will power to resist your lust. You failed to serve the will of your God. You abandoned your faith for your sick lust and now you are going to Hell. We’ve given you some more drugs, notice how your brain is mush. Try to remember my name, say it. See, you can’t. You wouldn’t even know your name if I hadn’t been using it, would you. You can’t even say a prayer, much less think one. The Act of Contrition? Try.”

He was unable to concentrate. “Partly sorry… truths that are self evident…trespass against us.”

She laughed, lit another cigarette. “There is no way you can ask forgiveness. How can you say it without being able to think it. Your mind is useless to you now. Last night, you sinned. A lot. The way you used me and my friends. Just for our flesh, just for your sinful lust. You didn’t care about us, just about our tits and our holes. You were wonderful, Joe, seriously. You have an excellent body. I’ll probably not have as good an orgasm again, although believe me I’ll try very often. But you have mortal sin on your soul— not just your dirty fornication, but you’ve disgraced the love your dead wife had for you. You’re an obscenity to your God. An abomination to your faith. And, you can’t ask for forgiveness or redemption or penance or any of those silly words you might use. By dawn you will be in Hell. You will not see your wife for all eternity. In a few decades you will see me, but it will be after a long life of wealth and pleasure.”

He was heaving now, too dehydrated to even form tears. His breathing stung the parched tissue of his tongue and throat. The rope cut into his skin. He was unable to articulate anything resembling a coherent sound. His fear was immense and absolute. She unscrewed the cap of a silver salt shaker and dumped its contents into his mouth.

* * *

Two men held his arm and they brought him to the outdoor Jacuzzi, they pushed him in and held him submerged in the water, which was literally simmering until Neoki finally ordered “enough!” They carried him into the pool, now empty—except for about a dozen people, maybe twenty, illuminated by the torches at the edges of the pool. Some of the people were naked, but most wore robes. Some were black robes, made of cloth, while others were a dark peach color, and stiff, not cloth at all, more like very thin leather.

He realized these robes were dried human skin. The cloth robes looked liked graduation gowns. The others though looked more like shawls or ponchos or a priest’s chasuble. Manacles were placed on his wrist and ankles and the chains attached to the manacles were pulled taut until he was suspended a few inches above the floor of the pool, his arms outstretched and his legs wide apart. Men carried in the massage table and placed it in front of him. A man wrapped in a vestment of dead skin and a fur turban with goat horns son his head stood near the table. Esmeralda and Gertrude wearing black robes held tall candles alongside the man, who read from a book covered with human skin.

“Welcome Satan,” the man intoned.

“Welcome Satan,” the crowd repeated.

“We praise you, lord of the earth,” he read aloud. “We abjectly beg you accept this sacrifice to your greatness and enrich us with your power.”

“Allow us to please you oh lord of darkness.”

“We live to hate you, son of God.”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse your Nativity!”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse your Ministry.”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse your Resurrection.”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse your Ascencion.”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse your miracles.”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse your Virgin Mother Mary.”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse Joseph and the Apostles and all the Saints!”

“Hail Satan!”

“We curse the love of God, Your Father.”

“Hail Satan!”

Two men dragged Meridia to the area in front of Joe. She was naked and seemed crazed. She writhed like a rabid animal, her face contorted, wiggling her tongue, foam dripping from her mouth as she clawed at her crotch and breasts. Dressed in a skin-tight black leotard and holding a thick whip, Neoki walked out of the shadows . She raised her arm, snapping the whip. In a blink of an eye, the lash curled then uncurled around Meridia ’s stomach, leaving a bright red welt.

“Hail Satan!” cried the crowd. Neoki raised her arm. The crack echoed in the pool. Each time the whip snapped against Meridia’s skin, the crowd cried out their response. “Hail Satan.” Stripes of blood shimmered across Meridia’s body. A woman in a black robe came out,  a ciborium in her hand. She strew hosts over the Massage table. Then four men came forward, grabbed Miridia’s arms and legs, and carried her over to the massage table and lowered her upon the communion wafers. A naked boy came over to the big man and took the book from him.

Two women, also naked, removed his robe. His cock was huge, painted red, sticking out straight like a spear. Two naked men held her shoulders down, two others held her legs apart. That obscene crimson rod went into her cunt and the crowd cheered and praised Lucifer, The brute pushed against her, his head and the horns swaying with each lunge.

Then the four men raised her from the table, hosts falling off her back. She knelt on the floor of the pool, her buttocks resting on the back of her heels, hands folded in front of her, her head bowed. The men pushed the table closer to him. Neoki jumped on the bed, faced him, a long silver knife in her hand. She sliced first straight across the chest just below his neck, then from the shoulders to his stomach.

He was crying and coughing. He pleaded for his life. Neoki’s eyes were clear, oblivious, unblinking. Her face focused with determined concentration. He was trying to say his wife’s name but he couldn’t remember what it was. Around the area of his collar bone, Neoki pressed the knife into his skin and carefully cut across, avoiding any veins or arteries. The blade eased the skin away until it hung like a flap. She clenched the handle of the knife between her teeth, grasped the edges of the flap. He heard a soggy rip as she peeled his flesh from his muscles. The skin easly separated at the seams she made with her initial incisions. He begged Neoki to kill him

The crowd was chanting, laughing with glee. The muscle tissue was now exposed, dripping blood. Neoki carefully handed the fragile sheet of skin to a man, hopped off the table and sliced at his buttocks and thighs. He was no longer able to remember anything, not Gloria, not his childhood, not God. He felt no sorrow. Just pain, only pain.