The house was on Union Road, one block from the town square. A white frame bungalow. Nicely kept. Windows trimmed in green with matching shutters. Railed front porch with bench swing and glider and bright green floor. Latticework festooned with ivy at one end of the porch, a wall of lilac bushes at the other end. Brick walkway with borders of marigolds on each side. A white ceramic birdbath ringed with petunias. According to the sign that hung on a decorative lamppost at the end of the walk, the house belonged to “The Macklins.”
At one o’clock that afternoon, Salsbury climbed the three steps to the porch. He was carrying a clipboard with a dozen sheets of paper fixed to it. He rang the bell.
Bees hummed in the lilac leaves.
The woman who opened the door surprised him. Perhaps because of the flowers that had been planted everywhere and because of the pristine condition of the property that seemed the work of a singularly fussy person, he had expected the Macklins to be an elderly couple. A skinny pair who liked to putter in their gardens, who had no grandchildren to spend their time with, who would stare suspiciously at him over the rims of their bifocals. However, the woman who answered the bell was in her middle twenties, a slender blonde with the kind of face that looked good in magazine advertisements for cosmetics. She was tall, five eight or nine, not delicate but feminine, as leggy as a chorus girl. She was wearing dark blue shorts and a blue-and-
white polka-dot halter top. Even through the screen door, he could see that her body was well proportioned, firm, resilient, better than any he had ever touched.
As usual, confronted with a woman like one of those who had peopled his fantasies all of his adult life, he was unsettled. He stared at her and licked his lips and couldn’t think of a damned thing to say.
“Can I help you?”
He cleared his throat. “My name’s—Albert Deighton. I’ve been in town since last Friday. I don’t know if you heard .
I’m doing some research. Sociological research. I’ve been talking to people—”
“I know,” she said. “You were next door at the Solomans’ yesterday afternoon.”
“That’s right.” Although the sun was hot and the air heavy, he hadn’t perspired during any of the first three interviews of the day; but now he felt beads of sweat spring up on his forehead. “I’d like to talk with you and Mr. Mackin, if you can spare me the time. Half an hour ought to be enough. There are about a hundred questions—”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “My husband isn’t home. He works up at the mill on the day shift. He won’t be home till five thirty.”
He looked at his clipboard for something to do. “I can always catch him some other time. If I could interview you and the children now, get that out of the way—”
“Oh, we’ve only been married a year. We haven’t any kids.”
“Just about.” She smiled. She had dimples.
He felt as if he were being dragged along in a dangerous current, swept inexorably toward a decision that could destroy him. “Is there anyone else living here? A relative?”
“Just Richie and me.”
“Richie’s your husband?”
Last Friday, in Ultman’s Cafe, he had risked exposing the entire project by using the code phrase to play with that waitress who looked like Miriam. He had gotten away with it, but he
knew he was a fool to allow his emotions to overwhelm him like that. As penance for his behavior, he was far more cautious on Saturday and Sunday than he needed to be. He used the code phrase two dozen times, interviewing the subjects in detail, searching for weak spots in their obedient mode; but he never approached one of them if there was the slimmest chance of discovery. Some of the women had been attractive, and he could have used them any way he wanted. But he had restrained himself. Having tasted total dominance when he opened Alice, that bitch waitress, with the code, he was anxious to make one of them undress and get down on the floor before him. Damned anxious. And this one, standing there in shorts and halter, seemed to radiate heat that evaporated his will power and his caution. He wanted to believe that, unlike the episode at the café, this situation contained no threat; and wanting to believe was the first step toward convincing himself.
“I am the key.”
“I am the lock.”
Relieved, he wiped his brow. “Are you alone?”
He began to tremble, not with fear but with excitement. “Are you expecting anyone?”
“No. No one.”
“Is anyone expecting you? Were you planning to go visiting?”
“Let me in.”
She pushed open the screen door.
He stepped past her into the air-conditioned foyer. There was an oval mirror and accessory table on the right, a small painting of a storm-tossed sailing ship on his left. “Close the door. And lock it.”
She did as she was told.
A short corridor, containing two more paintings of sailing ships, led from the foyer to the kitchen.
On the left the living room opened to the hail through an archway. It was neatly furnished. An oriental carpet. Two Crushed velvet sofas and a slate-topped coffee table arranged to
form a conversation corner. Matching crushed-velvet drapes at the three windows. A magazine rack. A gun case. Two Stiffel lamps. To harmonize with the carpet, the paintings were of Western sailing ships docked in Chinese harbors.
“Draw the drapes,” he said.
She went from window to window, then came back to the center of the room. She stood with her hands at her sides, staring at him, a half-smile on her face.
She was waiting. ‘Waiting for orders. His orders. She was his puppet, his slave.
For more than a minute he stood in the archway, unable to move, unable to decide what he should do next. Immobilized by fear, anticipation, and the grip of lust that made his groin ache almost unpleasantly, he was nevertheless sweating as if he had just run the mile. She was his. Entirely his: her mouth, breasts, ass, legs, cunt, every inch and fold of her. Better than that, there was no need for him to worry about whether or not he pleased her. The only consideration was his own pleasure. If he told her that she loved it, she would love it. No complaints afterward. No recriminations. Just the act—and then to hell with her. Here, ready for the first time to use a woman exactly as he wanted, he found the reality more exhilarating than the dreams he’d had so many years to elaborate upon.
She regarded him quizzically. “Is that all?”
“No.” His voice was hoarse.
“What do you want?”
He went to the nearest lamp, switched it on, and sat down on one of the sofas. “You stand where you are,” he said. “Answer my questions and do what I say.”
“What’s your name?”
“How old are you, Brenda?”
He took his handkerchief from his hip pocket, wiped his face. He looked at the paintings of sailing ships. “Your husband likes the sea?”
“Then he likes paintings of the sea.”
“No. He doesn’t care for them.”
He had only been talking to pass time while he decided how he wanted to proceed with her. Now, her unexpected answer confused him. “Then why the hell do you have all these paintings?”
“I was born and raised in Cape Cod. I love the sea.”
“But he doesn’t care for it. Why does he let you hang these damned things everywhere?”
“He knows I like them,” she said.
He wiped his face again, put the handkerchief away. “He knows if he took them off the wall, you’d freeze him out in bed. Wouldn’t you, Brenda?”
“Of course not.”
“You know you would, you little bitch. You’re a pretty little piece. He’d do anything to keep you happy. Any man would. Men have been running to do your bidding since you were old enough to fuck. You snap your fingers, and they dance. Don’t they?”
Puzzled, she shook her head. “Dance? No.”
He laughed bitterly. “A game of semantics. You know I didn’t really mean ‘dance.’ You’re like all the others. You’re a bitch, Brenda.”
She squinted. Frowned.
“I say you’re a bitch. Am I right?” Her frown vanished. “Yes.”
“I’m always right. Isn’t that true?” “Yes. You’re always right.”
“What am I?”
“You’re the key.”
“What are you?”
“I’m the lock.”
He was feeling better by the minute. Not so tense as he had been. Not so jittery. Calm. In control. As he’d never been. He pushed his glasses up on his nose. “You’d like me to strip you na*ed and screw you. Wouldn’t you like that, Brenda?”
“You’d like it,” he said.
“I’d like it.”
“You’d love it.”
“I’d love it.”
“Take off your halter.”
Reaching behind her back, she slipped the knot, and the polka-dot cloth fell to her feet. The flesh beneath was white, in stark and erotic contrast to her dark tan. Her br**sts were neither large nor small, but exquisitely curved, upthrust. A few freckles. Pink ni**les not much darker than her untanned skin. She kicked the halter out of her way.
“Touch them,” he said.
“Squeeze them. Pull on the nipples.” He watched, found her movements too mechanical, and said, “You’re horny, Brenda. You want to be fucked. You can’t wait to have me. You need it. You want it. You want it more than you’ve ever wanted it in your life. You’re almost sick with wanting it.”
As she continued to caress herself, her ni**les swelled and turned a darker shade of pink. She was breathing heavily.
He giggled. He couldn’t suppress it. He felt terrific. So terrific. “Take off your shorts.”
“And your panties. You’re a real blonde, I see. Now, put one hand between those pretty legs. Finger yourself. That’s it. That’s good. That’s a good girl.”
Standing, her feet wide apart, masturbating, she was a stunning sight. She threw back her head, golden hair trailing like a banner, mouth open, face slack. She was gasping for breath. Shivering. Twitching. Moaning. With her free hand, she was still caressing her breasts.
The power. Good God, the power he had over them now, would always have over them, from this day forward! He could come into their homes, into their most sacred and private places, and once inside do whatever he wished with them. And not just with the women. Men too. If he ordered it of them, the men
would mewl and crawl to him on their hands and knees. They would beg him to screw their wives. They’d give him their daughters, their girl children. They wouldn’t deny him any experience, however extravagant or outrageous. He would demand every thrill, and he would enjoy each of them. But on the whole, he would be a benign ruler, a benevolent dictator, more like a father than a jailer. No jackboots in their faces. He laughed at that last thought. Ten years ago, when he was still conducting lecture tours and writing about the future of behavior modification and mind control, he was subjected to extensive ridicule and vehement condemnation from some members of the academic community. In lecture halls, all but forcibly detained at the end of his speeches, he had listened to countless self-righteous bores droning through homilies about invasion of privacy and the sanctity of the human mind, They quoted hundreds of great thinkers, epigrams by the score—some of which he remembered to this day. There was one about the future of mankind amounting to little more than a jackboot in the face. Well, that was crap. Jackboots, and the cruel authoritarian state they symbolized, were only a means of keeping the masses in line. Now, with his drug and the key-lock program, jackboots had become obsolete. No one would have a jackboot pushed in his face. Of course, for selected women, he had something else to push in their faces. Massaging himself through his trousers, he laughed. The power. The sweet, sweet power.
Shuddering, gasping, her knees bending slightly, she cl**axed as her index finger worked industriously between her legs.
At last she looked up at him. She was beginning to perspire. Her hair was dark and damp at the brow.
He said, “Go to that sofa. Kneel on it with your back to me, and brace your arms against the pillows.”
When she was in position, her white butt thrust up at him, she looked over her shoulder. “Hurry. Please.”
Laughing, he shoved the coffee table out of the way, sent it sliding off the carpet, across the hardwood floor and into the
magazine rack. He stood behind her, dropped his trousers and his yellow-striped shorts. He was ready, the veins about to burst, hard as iron, bigger than he’d ever been, big as a stallion’s gun, a horse cock. And red. So red it looked as if it had been smeared with blood. He ran one hand over her buttocks, over the golden hairs on her back, along her side, under to the swinging breast, pinched the nipple, smoothed her flank, pinched her ass, slipped his fingers between her thighs, to her pubes. She was wet, dripping, far more ready then he was. He could even smell her. Giggling, he said, “You’re a bitch in more ways than one. A regular little bitch dog. A little animal. Aren’t you, Brenda?”
“Say you’re a little animal.” “I am. I’m a little animal.” The power.
“What do you want, Brenda?”
“I want you to screw me.”
“How bad do you want it?”
Sweet, sweet power.
“What do you want?”
“I already said!”
“Say it again.”
“You’re humiliating me.”
“I haven’t even begun.”
“Listen to me, Brenda.”
“Your cunt’s getting hotter.”
She groaned softly. Shuddered. “Feel it, Brenda?”
“Hotter and hotter.”
“I don’t— I can’t—”
“You can’t stand it?”
“So hot. Almost hurts.”