Chapter 7: Torture is not confined to first dates
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
Five of them come for me about an hour later. I’m sitting in my living room when they enter. Four are just run-of-the-mill Enforcers. But the fifth, well, I guess what I did to the first one made a point. The fifth one is Vesta Fox. She’s a full goddess, sits on the Council, heads up the Enforcers, and reports directly to All-Father. I’ve seen her twice before, not up close. She carries herself in such a way that it’s easy to imagine her wearing a Nazi swastika armband with her uniform. Fits her reputation, too.
Vesta’s in the lead, of course. “Daphne Vane, you are under arrest. No opposition will be tolerated. Stand up.” I notice she’s careful not to establish eye contact with me.
I stand. The other Enforcers bind my hands and my legs. They are about to cover my face with something when Vesta tells them to stop. She steps up until she is only inches away from me. And then she slaps me so hard on the face that I lose my balance and go slamming into the floor. I can taste blood in my mouth.
They pay no attention to my cries of pain, but gag me and cover my head with a hood. I’m carried out of my apartment and taken to a vehicle someplace nearby. We travel some distance. Now in clever novels, the spy or kidnap victim works out exactly where he is being taken by listening for sounds and memorizing how the car turns. Me, I’m waiting for my head to stop ringing from when it hit the rug on my living room floor after Vesta Fox slapped me. So when we stop, I have no clue where we are. I’m hauled out of the vehicle, carried into a building, and sat in a chair. The hood’s taken off.
It takes a few moments for my eyes to adjust. I am sitting in what is clearly meant to be an interrogation room. It is dark, apart from a single light, a lamp on a desk in front of me. The four Enforcers remain around my chair. Not that I’m going anywhere, what with my legs bound together and my hands tied behind my back. Maybe I can escape out of here by hopping.
Vesta Fox is sitting behind the desk. I start to say something and she orders me to shut up. I shut up.
I hear a door open behind me. Four guards come from that direction, with a prisoner between them. It’s my Mum. Despite the lateness of the hour, she’s dressed. Trust Mum to look her best even when being interrogated. The Enforcers take her behind Vesta Fox’s desk, force Mum’s upper body down onto that desk so she’s facing me and less than two feet away. And then one of them grabs her arm and twists it behind her back until she screams. Only at a gesture from Vesta Fox does the guard relax his hold just a little. My Mum’s straining against the pain and pressure.
Fox turns to me. In harsh tones, she says, “I will ask you questions, Daphne Vane. You will answer them fully and succinctly. If at any time I think you are not being cooperative and frank with me, I will have them break your mother’s arm. That will be the first time. I leave it to your imagination what they will do on subsequent failures. Do you understand?”
The point does not admit of much discussion. “I understand. I will cooperate.”
“You encountered Maria Tarretti two days ago. What did you do to her?”
I figured this was coming, so I have my answer ready. “I used my power of mind control to release her repressed feelings. She was so caught up in the subsequent emotional turmoil that she no longer seemed aware of the world outside her mind. I left her in that condition.”
Fox looks back over her shoulder. “Push it almost to the breaking point.” For the next fifteen seconds, I hear my mother scream. Fox makes a gesture, and they stop hurting her. Fox turns to me again. “Do you know why I did that?”
“No.” I start to say something more, and then figure I’d better shut up.
Vesta notices. “No, but?”
“I can guess.”
She smiles at me. It is not a kindly smile. “Guess, then.”
I think fast. “My answer must fit with whatever happened to Tarretti. But I’m not supposed to have that sort of power.”
“You make good guesses. So what is my next question?”
What is it? What am I, a mind reader? Think, Daphne. Oh. “Who helped me.”
“Correct. Who helped you?”
Shit. She’s not going to like this. “No one. I did it myself. It surprised me. I didn’t think I could do that to a demigoddess”
I have not convinced Vesta Fox. She turns to the other guards. “Break her arm. And,” and she turns to my guards, “break one of hers, too. I tire of this nonsense.”
I hear my mother scream. It makes me so mad I try to get up. The Enforcers push down on my shoulders, holding me in my seat.
The chair shatters beneath me.
My mother’s scream abruptly cuts off. Vesta Fox spins around, a look of amazement on her face. Me? I’m sitting on the floor, and for the moment no Enforcer is actually holding me. I contemplate trying to kill Vesta Fox, but it’s only a momentary impulse. I’d never get to her before the Enforcers overpowered me.
For whatever reason, what just happened has shaken up Fox. She orders me picked up and taken away to a cell. At least they cut my bonds once I’m in the cell. And there I sit, no idea of how much time is passing, wondering what just happened. Why is a chair shattering a big deal?
The Enforcers return, release me out of the cell, tie me up again, including the gag and hood, and drive me back to my apartment. They release me and speed off before I can ask them any questions. So I just go back to my apartment and open the door.
There’s someone in my apartment. Again. Sitting in the same chair Pedro was in last night. And then I realize it’s my Mum.
We both give cries of relief and run to each other and hug each other for all we’re worth. My Mum steps back, sees my face, and tells me she’s going to get some ice to put on it. So we go sit in my kitchen nook, me with a plastic bag of ice resting against my face, my mother making up some tea.
It’s only when she remarks how I seem to have got the worst of it instead of her that I realize something is wrong. So I say to her, “I thought they broke your arm.”
My mother gets a furtive look on her face. “Oh, it’s a bit sore from the twisting they gave it, but broke it?” She sees I’m not buying it and looks down into her lap instead. She practically mumbles the rest, “When they tried, we broke the chair.”
It makes no sense. “What do you mean, we broke the chair?”
My mother fidgets a bit before looking up at me. “We. You. Me. The Enforcers started to break my arm, and you tried to stop them, so we transferred the effect to the chair. It broke.”
“You want to explain that, Mum?”
“What’s to explain?” My mother gives me her most guileless look.
I’ve been through this before. There’s something my mother doesn’t want to tell me. But I’ve just been attacked and interrogated by Enforcers. I’m too tired for this fencing. “When you’re ready to tell me, Mum, let me know. I’m going to bed.” I get up and head to my bedroom, make sure the alarm is set, and fall asleep almost immediately. My mother is gone, with no explanation left behind, when I wake up in the morning.
Wednesday goes by in a blur. I tell people I was almost mugged; that explains the bruises on my face. No new packages from suitors turn up on my desk. That is a relief. No message from my mother, either. That is a disappointment.
I go home, contemplate committing suicide, and get ready for my first date with a demigod instead. Conservatively cut clothing, flats (to make me look shorter and even more unattractive to him), minimal jewelry, no perfume. I aim for the spinster librarian look. I don’t achieve it. Maybe if I dyed my hair gray instead of blue?
My date drives up in a convertible. He looks to be a bit younger than me, maybe not even 20. Weak chin, poor attempt at a moustache. Hey, but looks aren’t everything. I get in, we shake hands. His name is William Flynn.
We’re driving out into the suburbs for dinner at a place Willy knows. He begins by raving about the food. He then goes on to brag about himself. He is 19 years old, and thus a dynamo in bed, as all the college girls know, so he assures me. He attends a local college best described as being very unselective in their admission. He explains to me how elite colleges are all a fraud, really not good for an education at all. It then occurs to him to ask me where I go. “I graduated from Swarthmore two years ago,” I reply. I get the impression he’s not really sure what kind of place Swarthmore is, so he shuts up for a minute or two.
He glances over uneasily at me a few times. “What happened to your face?” My make-up doesn’t quite hide the bruises Vesta Fox left.
I decide to tell him the truth, just to see how he reacts. “The Enforcers roughed me up a bit.” I almost break out laughing from seeing the look on his face. Clearly, I have fallen several notches in desirability. Boo hoo.
There’s another silence between us for a bit. I am sorry I didn’t go whole hog on the spinster librarian thing and bring a book so I could hit Willy in the head, repeatedly. Then Willy starts bragging about his family. So-and-so is a Council member, they live in Dover, and so on. He finally gets around to asking about my family. I tell him my father is a normal human (which is still the official story). I can see my desirability drop even further in his eyes.
Forget bringing a book. I wish I’d brought an entire encyclopedia set, one of the kind with thirty-six volumes. That way some would still be undamaged after I bludgeoned Willy to death with them.
We arrive at the restaurant. Willy uses his powers to make the staff very attentive to our needs, including serving him alcohol despite his being underage. The food is good, at least. Eating gives me a reason not to talk much. Pity it does not have the same effect on him. He talks endlessly. Mostly about himself at first. Then he shifts to his sexual conquests, a major mental jump for him, which he describes in some detail. Call me old-fashioned, but this seems a gauche choice of topic on a first date, unless one of the parties has a very unusual sexual preference and needs to make clear what the other party must agree to if the relationship is to get physical. That’s not Willy’s thing. Willy is trying to make me realize just how lucky I will be to serve as a sperm depository for him.
Dinner is cleared away, and without my saying a word, Willy orders dessert and after-dinner drinks for us. Clearly, I am to think him a masterful man. I don’t. Ding-ding, Willy, this is the ATM machine telling you your sperm deposit account at this bank is closed, permanently.
Turnabout is fair play. Well, actually it usually isn’t, but I’m not much for moral scruples at this point. He wants to be a masterful man. Let’s see how he handles a masterful woman. I cough, get his attention, and then when he’s looking right at me let him have it with my eyes. In seconds I have him under control. It’s disturbingly easy. Maybe Agatha’s right, and somehow I am a late bloomer.
Now, what to do with him? Well, first I’m a bit curious. I know what I think of him. But what does he think of me? So I ask him.
“You look like us, but you’re just a disgusting animal. If I didn’t want to get laid tonight, I’d dump you right now.”
Well, that is illuminating. Because I love hearing people talk about me, I ask him, “So I’m not much better than a cow, am I?”
He sneers at me. “Cows are probably cleaner.”
I am enlightened. I didn’t realize someone under my control could sneer. Knowledge is a good thing. So is experience. Why, just in the last two evenings, I’ve been manhandled and insulted. I can’t get back at the Enforcers, but boy, oh, boy, Willy, it’s your turn. I stick a command in his mind. If he’s willing to have sex with me but thinks farm animals are cleaner, then he should go copulate with a farm animal.
I break eye contact with him. Before he can sputter out anything like an apology, I get up and leave. I walk a block away and call a taxi.
It’s only once I’m in the taxi that I cool down. I regret doing what I did to Willy. Not because of him, no, the bastard deserves it. I’m feeling unhappy that some poor cow or horse will suffer. Maybe my command won’t last. They haven’t in past when I used them on regular humans if they ran against the individual’s inclinations. But Willy’s inclinations . . . ah, forget it.
I get home, unlock my apartment door and step in. The light is already on in the apartment. And there yet another someone sitting in a chair in my living room, the same chair Pablo and my Mum occupied.
Oh, it’s Vesta Fox. She does not look happy.
I wonder if she’s actually going to break my arm this time.