He smiled. “Now what do you want?” “I want you to screw me.”
See, Miriam? I am somebody.
“What are you, Brenda?”
“I am the lock.”
“What else are you?” “A bitch.”
“I can’t hear it often enough.”
“Yes, yes. Please!”
Poised to enter her, dizzy with excitement, demoniac, electrified by the power he held, Salsbury had no illusions that his orgasm, deep within the silken regions of this woman, was the most important aspect of the rape. The spasmed outpouring of a tablespoon or two of se**n was only the punctuation at the end of the sentence, at the conclusion of his declaration of independence. During the past half hour, he had proved himself, had freed himself from the dozens of bitches who had messed in his life all the way back to and including his mother, especially his mother, that goddess of bitches, that empress of ball-breakers. After her came the girls who were frigid and the girls who laughed at him and the girls who whined about his poor technique and the girls who rejected him with unconcealed distaste and Miriam and the contemptible whores to whom he had been forced to resort in later years. Brenda Macklin was only a metaphor, written into his life by chance. If it hadn’t been her, it would have been someone else this afternoon or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. She was the voodoo doll, the totem with which he would exorcise some of those bitches from his past. Each inch of prick he jammed into her was a blow to the Brendas of years gone by. Each stroke—the more brutal it was the better—was an announcement of his triumph. He would pound her. Bruise her. Use her until she was raw. Hurt her.
With every blade of pain he sent through her, he would be cutting each of those hated women. By mounting this lean blond animal, by battering relentlessly into her, tearing her apart, he would be proving his superiority to all of them.
He seized her h*ps and leaned close. But as the tip of his shaft touched her vagina, even before the head of it slipped into her, he ejaculated uncontrollably. His legs gave way. Crying out, he fell on her.
She collapsed against the pillows.
Panic took him. Memories of past failures. The sour looks they gave him afterwards. The contempt with which they treated him. The shame of it. He held Brenda down, weighed her down. Desperately, he said, “You’re coming, girl. You’re cl**axing. Do you hear me? Do you understand? I’m telling you. You’re coming.”
She made a noise, muffled by pillows. “Feel it?”
“Do you feel it?”
Raising her head she said, “God, yes!” “You’ve never had it better.”
“Not ever. Never.” She was gasping.
“Is it hot?”
“So hot. Oh!”
“Coasting now. You’re coming down.” She stopped squirming under him.
“Drifting down. It’s almost over.”
“So good . . .” Softly.
“You little animal.”
With that the tension drained out of her.
The doorbell rang.
“What the hell?”
She didn’t react.
Pushing away from her, he swayed to his feet, tried to take a step with his trousers around his ankles and almost fell.
He grabbed his shorts, jerked them up, then his trousers. “You said you weren’t expecting anyone.”
“Then who’s that?”
She rolled onto her back. She looked sated.
“Who’s that?” he asked again.
“For God’s sake, get dressed.”
She rose dreamily from the couch. “Quickly, damn you!”
Obediently, she scuttled after her clothes.
At one of the front windows, he parted the drapes a fraction of an inch, just enough to see the porch. A woman was standing at the door, unaware that she was under observation. In sandals, white shorts, and a scoop-necked orange sweater, she was even better-looking than Brenda Macklin.
Brenda said, “I’m dressed.”
The doorbell rang again.
Letting go of the drapery, Salsbury said, “It’s a woman. You better answer it. But get rid of her. Whatever you do, don’t let her inside.”
“What should I say?”
“If it’s someone you’ve never seen before, you don’t have to say anything.”
“Tell her you’ve got a headache. A terrible migraine headache. Now go.”
She went out of the room.
‘When he heard her open the door in the foyer, he parted the velvet again in time to see a smile touch the face of the woman in the orange sweater. She said something, and Brenda replied, and the smile was replaced by a look of concern. Filtered through the walls and windows, their voices were hardly more than whispers. He couldn’t follow the conversation, but it Seemed to go on forever.
Maybe you should have let her come inside, he thought. Use the code phrase on her. Then screw them both.
But what if you let her come in and then discover she’s got a weak spot in her program?
Not much chance of that.
Or what if she’s from out of town? A relative from Bexford, perhaps. Then what?
Then she’d have to be killed.
And how would you dispose of the body?
Under his breath he said, “Come on, Brenda, you bitch. Get rid of her.”
Finally, the stranger turned away from the door. Salsbury had a brief glimpse of green eyes, ripe lips, a superb profile, extremely deep cl**vage in the scoop-necked sweater. When she had her back to him and was going down the steps, he saw that her legs weren’t just sexy, as Brenda’s were, but sexy and elegant, even without nylons. Long, taut, smooth, scissoring legs, feminine muscles bunching and twisting and stretching and compacting and rippling sinuously with each step. An animal. A healthy animal. His animal. Like all of them now: his. At the end of the Macklin property, she turned left into the searing afternoon sun, distorted by waves of heat rising from the concrete sidewalk, soon out of sight.
Brenda came back into the living room.
When she started to sit down, he said, “Stand. The middle of the room.”
She did that, her hands at her sides.
Returning to the sofa, he said, “What did you tell her?”
“That I had a migraine headache.”
“She believed you?”
“I guess so.”
“Did you know her?”
“Who was she?”
“She lives in Black River?”
“Has most all her life.”
“Quite a looker.”
“She was in the Miss USA contest.”
“Oh? When was that?”
“Twelve, thirteen years ago.”
“Still looks twenty-two.”
“Came in third.”
“Big disappointment, I’ll bet.”
“For Black River. She didn’t mind.”
“She didn’t? Why not?”
“Nothing bothers her.”
“Is that so?”
“She’s that way. Always happy.” “What’s her name?” “Emma.”
“Thorp? She married?” “Yes.”
He frowned. “To that cop?” “He’s the chief of police.” “Bob Thorp.”
“That’s right.” “What’s she doing with him?” She was baffled. She blinked at him. Cute little animal. He swore he could still smell her. She said, “What do you mean?”
What I said. What s she doing with him?
“Well. .. they’re married.”
“A woman like her with a big, dumb cop.”
“He’s not dumb,” she said.
“Looks dumb to me.” He thought about it for a moment, and then he smiled. “Your maiden name’s Brenda Thorp.”
“Bob Thorp’s your brother.”
“My oldest brother.”
“Poor Bob.” He leaned back in the sofa and folded his arms on his chest and laughed. “First I get to his kid sister—then I get to his wife.”
She smiled uncertainly. Nervously.
“I’ll have to be careful, won’t I?”
“Careful?” she said.
“Bob maybe dumb, but he’s big as a bull.”
“He isn’t dumb,” she insisted.
“In high school I dated a girl named Sophia.”
She was silent. Confused.
“Sophia Brookman. God, I wanted her.”
“Love’s a lie. A myth. It’s bullshit. I just wanted to screw her. But she dropped me after a few dates and started going with this other guy, Joey Duncan. You know what Joey Duncan did after high school?”
“How would I know?” “He went to junior college.” “So did I.”
“Took criminology for a year.” “I majored in history.”
“He flunked out.” “Not me.”
“Ended up with the home town police.”
“Just like my brother.”
“I went to Harvard.”
“Did you really?”
“I was always a better dresser than Joey was. Besides that, he was as dull as a post. I was much wittier than he was. Joey didn’t read anything but the jokes in Reader’s Digest. I read The New Yorker every week.”
“I don’t like either one.”
“In spite of all that, Sophia preferred him. But you know what?”
“It was in The New Yorker that I first saw something about subliminal perception. Back in the fifties. An article, editorial,
maybe a little snippet at the bottom of a column. I forget exactly what it was. But that’s what got me started. Something in The New Yorker.”
Brenda sighed. Fidgeted.
“Tired of standing?” “A little.”
“Are you bored?”
She looked at the floor.
“Get your clothes off.”
The lovely power. He was filled with it, brimming with it— but it had changed. At first it had seemed to him like a steady, exhilarating current. Part of the time it was still like that, a soft humming inside of him, perhaps imagined but nevertheless electrifying, a river of power on which he sailed in complete command. But occasionally now, for short periods, it felt not like a constant flow but like a continuous and endless series of short, sharp bursts. The power like a submachine gun: tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat . . . The rhythm of it affected him. His mind spun. Thoughts adance, no thought finished, leaping from one thing to another: Joey Duncan, Harvard, key-lock, Miriam, his mother, dark-eyed Sophia, breasts, sex, Emma Thorp, bitches, Dawson, Brenda, his growing erection, his mother, Klinger, Brenda, cunt, the power, jackboots, Emma’s legs— “What now?”
She was naked.
He said, “Come here.” Little animal.
“On the floor?”
“On your knees.” She got down.
“Beautiful animal.” “You like me?”
“You’ll do until.”
“Until I get your sister-in-law.”
“I’ll make him watch.”
“That dumb cop.”
“He isn’t dumb.”
“Lovely ass. You’re horny, Brenda.”
“I’m getting hot. Like before.”
“Of course you are. Hotter and hotter.”
“You want me more than you did before.”
“Do it to me.”
“Hotter and hotter.”
“No. You aren’t.”
“You don’t look at all like Miriam.” “Who’s Miriam?”
“The old bastard should see me now.” “Who? Miriam?”
“He’d be outraged. Quote the Bible.” “Who would?”
“Dawson. Probably can’t even get it up.” “I’m scared,” she said suddenly. “Of what?”
“I don’t know.”
“Stop being scared. You aren’t scared.” “Okay.”
“Are you scared?”
She smiled. “No. You going to screw me?” “Batter the hell out of you. Hot, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Burning up. Do it. Now.” “Klinger and his damned chorus girls.” “Klinger?”
“Probably queer anyway.”
“Are you going to do it?”
“Tear you up. Big as a horse.” “Yes. I want it. I’m hot.”
“I think maybe Miriam was queer.”
At five o’clock Monday afternoon, Buddy Pellineri, just out of bed with seven hours to pass before he had to report to work at the mill, went to Edison’s store to see if any new magazines had been put on the racks. His favorites were the ones that had a lot of pictures in them: People, Travel, Nevada, Arizona Highways, Vermont Life, a few of the photography journals. He found two issues that he didn’t have and took them to the counter to pay for them.
Jenny was at the cash register. She was wearing a white blouse with yellow flowers on it. Her long black hair looked freshly washed, thick and shiny. “You look so pretty, Miss Jenny.”
“Why, thank you, Buddy.”
He blushed and wished he had said nothing. She said, “Is the world treating you right?”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“How much I owe you?”
“Do you have two dollars?”
He thrust a hand into his pocket, came out with some change and rumpled bills. “Sure. Here.”
“You get three quarters in change,” she said.
“I thought they cost more.”
“Now, you know you get a discount here.”
“I’ll pay. Don’t want special treatment.”