The man was a massive specimen. Heavy shoulders, powerful arms, solid delts and lats, and despite his years he was not fat. The face was hidden in shadows, the head bowed with pain, but it was a strong face, brutal even, or so Mistress Julia thought.

She had finished. One hundred strokes with the single tail whip, following on eighty with the Number 3 Rattan Cane. All delivered quite slowly, with a ten second count between them and rest periods every so often, stretching the ordeal out to an hour or more. The bulky body, the hair on his chest and back greying with age, was covered in welts, blood ran from several of the deeper ones on his back and buttocks. His head, shaved to the skin, was beaded with sweat, the only sign of the pain he'd suffered.

He dropped to his knees, bent his head low and kissed the feet of the statue of the Virgin Mary that was set up in this room. The blood on the polished marble floor smeared here and there as he moved. He was mumbling, as he always did. She heard the words, though she scarcely understood them.

"Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
please behold your evil child
All with bloody scourges rent;
For the sins upon his nation
Save him from the desolation
That awaits him down in hell."

Mistress Julia kept her distance. The client only grovelled to her before she beat him. She was dressed in her most "severe" mode, black patent leather body suit, high boots with four inch heels, gloves and her Catwoman mask. Her ashblonde hair was tied back in a pony tail, and while the look was sexy, she had never felt that this client was actually involved in a sexual scene. Other than kissing her boots and begging for the whip he asked for nothing that was normally part of her practise. She had had men ask for just about everything imaginable, over the years, always with a sexual twist. This one just wanted to be punished.

And punished severely.

There was something very strange about the whole scene. She had beaten pain-sluts, and made them bleed, but she had never beaten a man who simply took it like this one did. Never a murmur, a groan, a cry, a tear, nothing, until she was done and he fell down before the four-foot-high marble statue, so calm. so cold, and wept as he mumbled his prayers.

She turned on her heel and stalked away. Whatever Mr. Sangacha's problem was, she had done her part. Another four hundred New Dollars was waiting in the envelope on the glass table. She picked it up as she headed for the bathroom.

Mistress Julia, real name, Angela Bricken, normally worked with her clients at her specially equipped basement-dungeon in a nice modern house over in Ramapo. She didn't live there, and she rented out the upper floors to a single mother and her two daughters. The mother understood what went on in the basement, even though it was heavily soundproofed, but the rent was low and it was a nice house in a great neighborhood and the woman knew she had a great deal. Certainly, Angie had never heard a complaint from her tenant. There were two separate garages, one for the tenant on the western side of the house, and a second one dug down on the other side, with a door leading to an internal stair that went down to the basement. Clients could drive in with no risk of being seen. It was a popular aspect of her business.

However, this client, Sangacha, had insisted from the beginning on being visited in his own home. It was not her favorite mode of operation. In the dungeon she had her security set up, with various technologies close to hand that could rapidly immobilize a man if he turned violent or weird during a session. She had learned her lesson on that score many years ago, in a city on the far side of the continent and she still had the faint mark of the scar that ran down the side of her face from one terrible moment when she'd lost control of a crazy man.

But Sangacha had never given her the slightest trouble. He had sent her a written description of what he wanted, the scene had never deviated from that script and he always paid in full, on time and without the slightest complaint.

"Prostrate before thee, I make this humble act of reparation for the outrages which thou hast received from me...."

He was still praying, the fervor thick in his throat, as she closed the bathroom door. A strange case, but relatively easy to deal with, and as regular a bit of business as she could want. Two hours every two weeks, what could a Domme ask for that was better than that?

The other problem, of course, was the surveillance. Cams were everywhere, and for her own good reasons Angie Bricken didn't care to be lensed too often in any one place. So, she had to take precautions, like many people, and that took a certain amount of time and energy too.

She rinsed off the whip and the cane as she got the hot water running. Then peeled off her boots and unzipped her suit. Some clients begged for these tasks, and some clients were rewarded with them, and other things too, but only after they'd paid their dues, and then some. Mistress Julia had learned a lot of things about men over the years. They were a strange species, somewhat distinct from the human norm, and they always had to be kept under control. Keep them begging, that was her first principle.

Whip, boots and suit went into her bag as she stripped down. For a moment she looked at herself in the floor to ceiling mirror. Still looked good to the eye, she thought, even at fifty. Intensive anti-oxidant treatments, a very careful diet and an hour a day exercise and weight training were partly responsible. Her extended-medical program with monthly checkups and prevention-interventions took care of the rest. Menopause was "decades away" in the words of Doctor Theresa. Only the most careful examination of her face could reveal that she was anything but a day over thirty.

"You can keep it this way until you're seventy," was the Doctor's judgement. "Stay away from alcohol, keep exercising every day, keep to the regimen with the light weights and do your push ups. Hell, with the right combo of Nutraceuticals your tits won't even sag."

Doctor Theresa Blanchflower was something of a character. She knew Angie was in the sex trade, and probably understood what she did, but there were no moral judgements there. Doctor Theresa saw all kinds of people, she had insights too, into the convoluted human psyche. Sometimes, Angie thought, she and Doctor Theresa should sit down somewhere over coffee and chat. They could probably talk for 24 hours straight, just exchanging information from their chosen careers.

The shower was good. Sangacha had a real high tech unit, with jets at three levels that pulsed on a cycle of different frequencies. She enjoyed the hard driving water, surrendering to the heat, feeling cleaner by the second. It was something she regarded as essential, especially after a session that involved either blood or saliva.

As she turned about under the hot water she was thinking of what to do with the rest of the day. She never scheduled anything else on Sangacha days. So it was perfect for a quick getaway to her country place on the ridge. She hadn't been there in a week and she was hungry for peace and quiet, with birds and deer and maybe the howl of the coyotes when the moon rose.

Plus, there was the chance of shopping at the organic supermarket in Woodstock if she wanted to drive the extra distance. For some reason that market was always better supplied than the local one in Ramapo. They said it was in their genes up there, they'd been into organics since the 20th century and all that. Of course, she could always take the LTR into Manhattan, but that meant carrying stuff back, and somehow, she'd lost the habit of doing things that way.

As this plan took shape she wondered about stopping somewhere for a bite of lunch, perhaps that new place down by the bridge, it said organic and vegan specialties on the sign outside and she'd been meaning to try it. To check she pressed a fingertip to her right temple where her internet chip was lodged.

"That organic place, down in Tarrytown. Book me in for lunch."

Her service would take care of the details. She took an internal scan of messages in her inbox. Something from the plumber about the leak in the upstairs bathroom. She would be coming over to take care of it on Tuesday. Something from old friend Jenny, down in the city. "Please come to dinner party on the 16th. The old Chelsea crowd will be there."

That sounded like fun and it had been months since she'd seen Jenny.

"Okay," she murmured and her service sent her response.

She rinsed off the bathgel and was just about done, when there was a heavy deep sound outside, a kind of massive thud. Instinctively she turned off the shower and pulled back the curtain. Which probably saved her life. The next blast was unmistakeable,-- shotgun--, close by. She'd heard the sound often enough out in LA. It was followed by a scream, and cursing, and then a rapid thud-thud-thud that she knew had to be some kind of modern advanced weapon equipped with a silencer.

For a moment she was frozen there, dripping water into the shower, terrified and astonished in equal measure. Then the shotgun went off again and something or somebody slammed into the door to the bathroom.

That got her moving. She swept her bag off the floor and stuffed it into the dirty towel bin. It fit, just and she shut the lid. Then she spun around, rubbed the foot towel over the floor to mop up the drips and yanked open the door to the cabinet under the big sink on the far wall.

A tight fit, but she could do it. She had to do it, she was certain of that, if she wanted to live.

There were some more thud-thuds, and a lot of loud cursing. A man was whimpering in pain.

She scrunched her body down under the sink, got her legs up into the space on the other side of the pipes, pulled her head inside, stuffed the foot towel under her ass, which helped to cushion her hip against the metal drain and tugged the door shut. It did so with a plastic click that left her briefly wondering if she could open it again from inside, or if she'd be stuck there until who knew when.

Which was fucking absurd, because whatever was going on out there in the duplex, it involved guns and that meant only one thing. Death.

She waited there, shivering, but not from the cold, while listening with every fiber of her being. At one point she distinctly heard a voice say..

"You stupid fuck," and there came a loud moan of pain and, she imagined, the sound of something or someone being dragged.

A little later there was a crash, then silence.

She waited, shivering, her mind running wildly though scenarios. She didn't know who Sangacha was and, as was often the case in her business, she didn't want to know that kind of thing. It was better not to.

Was it a mob hit? Was he some kind of crim? She had wondered about that. His habit of praying for forgiveness when she'd laid him open with a few dozen welts had the sound of a man who'd committed some terrible acts in his life.

Then she heard the door to the bathroom open and a heavy tread on the tile floor.

"Fuck!" said a male voice close by.

"Gone?" said another, at the door, she judged.

"Must've got out just before we arrived."

"Go look in the parking. Hurry."

Boots retreated. She stayed where she was, the fear now like a sword of ice running up her guts to her heart. The bathroom door slammed.

They were looking for her, and she knew they weren't looking to book a session with Mistress Julia.

She waited, the ice hardening in her heart, breath coming short and shallow. What the fuck was going on?

The footsteps had ceased. Still she waited. Had they gone? Were they playing games? She kept as still as she possibly could, though the difficulties of her confinement were now making themselves apparent. Something was digging into the small of her back, and her head was crushed in between the side of the sink and the side of the cabinet., keeping her neck twisted at an angle that would produce mews of sympathy from her chiropractor.

She wanted to get out of there. She wanted to get to her car and put as many miles as she could between herself and this complex as quickly as possible. She'd go straight up to the woods, and hide out there. Up there she was somebody else, whole other ID, and only Jenny and Tony in the city had ever been to visit her house. With a little luck these people would never find her.

She was about to try and open the door when she heard a sudden rush of footsteps go by. Then the bathroom door banged open and the light went on, sending a gleam through the crack at the edge of the door to her hiding place.

"This is just fucked-up," said a voice.

"You might just be right about that," drawled another, with a distinctive southern accent.

"What the fuck do we do?"

She didn't catch the response to that because the door had slammed shut.
Footsteps retreated, another door slammed and everything was quiet again.

Fuck indeed. Fuck, fuck, fuck, she'd almost gotten herself caught there.

She waited.

Time passed. The thing digging into her back turned into torture. She tried not to let it all get to her. She had to try and stay in control. Now, more than ever, it was time to let Mistress Julia's persona take over.

Take a rest Angie. Take your nerves and your weaknesses and your hunger for a piece of dark chocolate and shut the fuck up. It was time for iron control. Time to stay alive.

Mistress Julia was easy to summon up. Most of her constructs resided on an A2 chip that Angie plugged in and out of the micro-socket in her right ear. When she needed Julia, she was always there, a stern, alpha-female, with no pity in her heart for the male client. Or anyone else, for that matter, Mistress Julia was perfectly contoured for her role in the world.

Minutes crawled by. Julia in command now, she counted seconds in a calm and level way, crossing them off in thirties rather like whip strokes. When the count reached eight hundred she started pushing on the door. It resisted at first, and she began to fear that she might be trapped there, for who knew how long, so she pushed harder, though it was tricky with one arm stuck on the far side of the u-bend. She twisted around, it was excruciating for her neck, and got her right shoulder up against the door and her left leg bent back enough so she could get some leverage there and push hard on the door with her shoulder. She pressed, there was an uneasy moment or two and she began to think it wouldn't work and then the door popped open with a bang and she fell out onto the bathroom floor.

Right before her eyes were huge bloody bootprints, quite clear, leading in, and then out, of the bathroom.


The word went off in her head like a bomb. She pulled her bag out of the towel bin and hurriedly got into her zipdex body suit, black with white vents. Over the top she wore an all weather track-jacket. She kept her sneakers in the bag for the moment, but put on her foam-thread sox, the most comfie sox she'd ever known, and cheap too. Now she pulled out two facecloths and wiped surfaces. She wiped everything she thought she might have touched with her bare skin, working quickly and, she prayed, effectively. She mopped out the shower, did her best on the curtain, ran some more water to be sure while she worked on the space under the sink.

Done, she put the cloths in her bag and tip-toed into the hall. It was very quiet. There was a big bloody mess where the hall opened out into the lounge area and she had to take careful, giant steps around it. The wall there had a bunch of holes in it too. It looked as if someone had tried to mop up a quart of blood, and not done a very good job. She went the other way, through the kitchen and came out in the dining area. Another couple of steps and she saw him.

He was on his back at the feet of the statue of Mary. She drew closer. There was a sawn off shotgun lying close by, pump action, laser sighted Remington. She was familiar with those, everyone had one in LA for home defense. He'd been shot several times. There were small entry wounds in his chest, shoulders and the left side of his face. There was a spreading pool of blood underneath him and she could imagine what the exit wounds were like.

The oddest thing was she felt no nausea. Fear, yes, she was exquisitely frightened. Her nerves felt as if they were stretched tight over bobbins on some terrible machine of human torture. But sick, no, perhaps she was too scared to feel sick. Perhaps that would come later. Mistress Julia was used to the sight of blood, after all.

She looked around the room, he'd blasted a hole in one wall, and there was all that blood by the hall doorway. He'd definitely made them pay, whoever they were.

She felt a twinge of sadness, even sorrow, perhaps. A strange man, but she'd grown to respect him, if nothing else. Men that squealed in pain and begged her to go easy on them were the norm. Sangacha had never made a sound. She hoped his prayers for forgiveness had earned him some respite wherever it was his spirit had gone.

She started to turn away and noticed that the head of the Virgin Mary had been shattered by a bullet. The left side of her face had been blown away.

Angie shivered. Not religious in any real way this desecration still unnerved her. She turned and tip-toed out of there, being very careful to avoid stepping in blood.

At the front door she put on her sneakers, her big mirrorshade sunglasses and her pink and white Yankee cap with the bill pulled down low over her face. There wasn't time for makeup to disguise herself any further. Any images caught by the cams at this point were going to be studied intensively, she knew. So she attached the little distortion box to the right side of her sunglasses frame. The box was expensive, and illegal, but it would blur her features, even her outline to any ordinary camera.

She took a deep breath. Mistress Julia still in control, then she opened the door very carefully and peered both ways before bolting for the stairs and jumping down them two at a time. Because there'd been a work crew painting signage on the main parking she'd gone around to the service worker area. It was smaller, even the spaces were narrower, but she was very glad she'd used it since the killers wouldn't expect her to have parked there.

Mistress Julia slowed her steps. Angie was ready to spook, to panic, to run around in circles. Julia had steel in her coding and fortunately enough of that transmitted itself to Angie.

She cracked open the blue door to the parking and paused to scrutinize the space. Was there anyone waiting in the shadows? Had they left someone here to take care of her, just in case? Working methodically she looked down the lanes and into the corners.

Somewhere behind her in the building she heard a door slam. Someone might come down here at any moment. One thing she was emphatically certain about was that she didn't want to meet anyone on her way out.

With a deep breath, she headed for her car, prepared to run for it at the slightest sign of someone with a gun. Every step seemed to take an age, but the thuds didn't come and then she'd opened the door and slid in and the engine started and she whispered, "Ridgetop" and the car slid out with the soft whine of the electric engine. She knew there were cameras at the exitramp, so she kept her head down, letting just the pink Yankee cap be seen. A few moments later she was on the access road and the car began to accelerate and she began to breathe again.

[ Ch 1 | Ch 2 ]