Thursday, October 25, 2012

Witches and Halloween

Did you know that the Halloween witch is still one of the most popular costumes chosen by young girls and adults each year? It's amazing. And one needs to ask... what is so fascinating about witches and witchcraft? Well, here's a little bit of history behind real witches, not the Hollywood variety that we so like to copy.
First, something that needs to be made clear is that the word 'witch' is derived from the old English word 'Wicce' (meaning wise one) - and 'Wicca (meaning healer). The witch was considered a wise-woman who lived in harmony with nature and the seasons. They were skilled in the use of herbs and were often called upon to cure the ill. Essentially, the "Halloween witch" of centuries ago was a homeopathic healer.
Being a wise woman and a healer, the witch had an assortment of special items that she utilized.
One of these specialized items was the Athame. This was the witch's personal steel knife and was used in most rituals as it was believed to have been imbued with magical properties. The knife itself was double-edged and often had a black handle.
The broomstick was symbolic of magical powers. Its real purpose? To cleanse the area where magical rituals were performed. So how did the belief arise that the Halloween witch rode a broomstick and flew through the sky?
On All Hallows Eve, witches would often anoint themselves with a "magical" ointment. The ointment made the skin tingle and gave the illusion of being very light, perpetuating the belief that they could fly. A witch walking through the woods on her way to the festival would often use the broom as a means to help jump over a brook or stream. Hence, they were believed to be flying. It's amazing what the imagination can dream up, isn't it?
Of course, we've all seen witches standing over bubbling cauldrons and drinking from large chalices in the movies. The cauldron was a pot used for concocting magical potions and for scrying (looking into the future on the water's surface). The chalice was believed to be a receptacle of spiritual forces. Remember, we're talking ancient witchcraft history here... most beliefs were rooted in supernatural and spiritual powers.
The wands that many witches carried were made of hazel wood, crystal, carved ivory or ebony, silver, or gold. It was believed that these wands were extensions of the life force of the witch herself.
By themselves, each one of these symbols alone wouldn't create much of a stir, but when combined, all these ritualistic items and beliefs in mystical, magical powers would soon convince the general populace that witches had abilities beyond what the normal person should have. Add in the ability to create "magical healing potions" to cure the sick, then superstitions would quickly grow and soon you have tales of witches being able to turn themselves into cats and doing all sorts of strange things.
In conclusion, Halloween is one of the four highest holidays of the pagan celebrations and is often considered the greatest of the four, sometimes called the Great Sabbath. This is when the "Halloween witch" takes the time to observe the supernatural powers of this world and otherworlds, and ponder the mysteries that lie in both. It is a night for honoring ancestors, celebrating the harvest, and ringing in the New Year (which begins on November 1st). Perhaps we should take the opportunity to do the same.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Wedding Nite-L Redd

            Merelda opened the plush curtain from her five star honeymoon suite.  The day had been as she had always imagined.  Gill was the man of her dreams and would make a wonderful life partner.  She could hear him in the background putting away the last of their luggage and making sure everything was in place.  The flight over had been long and exhausting.  There were a couple of layovers, but they finally reached the London airport.  The car was waiting to take them to their castle get away.  It was a place that his bride had discovered while surfing the net for the perfect location to begin their lives.  Gill wrapped his arms around her while she stood at the balcony looking out on the waves from the sea.  She took a deep breath and kissed his hand.  He had prepared a bubble bath for both of them to enjoy. 

            Her mood was quiet and almost somber.  Gill thought that maybe she was upset.  He knew the preparation had been long and the flight not one of the best.  So he asked his new bride what was the matter.  She quickly assured him that it was the length of the day and horrible food on the plane that made her mood less than festive.  She was tired but happy that things had gone the way she had planned and now she was with the love of her life.  Gill smiled at his new bride and gently kissed her soft pink lips.  He ordered room service and began to prepare the bedroom for their first night as husband and wife.  

            Merelda’s thoughts were filled with the visions of her lavish nuptials.  They had been married in a large cathedral in New Orleans.  A few hundred of their closest friends gathered for the reception at a local casino hotel.  Their guests would have the luxury of fine wines and 5 course meals and enjoy the many slot machines and texas hold ‘em tables.  Their guests would spend the afternoon dancing to 80s tunes and emptying their wallets and purses.  The wine flowed freely and their laughter filled the halls.  It was an event like no other and as their limo pulled away from the hotel, she smiled as a tear ran down her perfectly polished cheek.  She was finally a bride and that meant life would take on a new meaning.  By morning she would regain her strength and be on her way to the next chapter of her life. 

            Gill worked steadily.  His plan was to prepare a series of pamperings for his new bride.  He would start with a soothing massage using the lavender oils that one of the guests had purchased as part of gift set.  The combination bath and hot tub bubble lightly with the claming scent of lavender as well.  He had placed her favorite lotions and body sprays on the counter.  That way she could have her pick once he had bathed her from head to toe.  He wanted to make sure that this night, her first night, would be special and magical.  She had confessed to being a virgin so he knew that whatever transpired that night would set the tone for their lovemaking for the rest of their marriage.  He did not want to spook her. 

            After an elegant dinner of lobster, steak and salad, the couple took a moment to stand out on the balcony and feel the cool breeze coming from the north.  The wind was filled with the spray from below as a wicked storm brewed on the horizon.  Gill motioned for his bride to join him in the bath.  He washed every inch of her and was a slave to her needs.  He combed through her long dark hair and tied it gracefully behind her neck.  He caressed her arms and moved his hands along her hips.  She was so beautiful and curvy that he could feel his mouth begin to water at the thought of making love to her.  But he waited and began to gently dry her with a large towel.  When he was done he dressed her in a long white gown.  It was silky with lace on the bodice.  It draped over her shoulders and hugged her hips gently.  When she moved, she looked like and angel as the fabric glided over the floor beneath her footsteps.  Gill marveled at the woman and kissed her feet.  He stood before her and stroked her shoulders.  He eased her over to the bed as he dimmed the lights.  He kissed her gently as he ran his hands gently around her thighs while lightly squeezing her soft, succulent thighs.  He could feel her giving in to his touch quite easily.  He was pleased and continued as he wanted to make love to his bride. 

            Merelda turned the lights off and responded to her new husband's touches with kisses and soft moans.  He was pleased with her and had waited for that moment as she had wished.  She knew that they could not be as one until they were married, she was from an old family and that was the only way it could have been.  But as he drew closer to his conquest, she drew closer to her own dark reality.  She knew tonight would not last long and that by morning things would be very different.  So she began to talk to her lover about the day they met at Mardi Gras.  She had to come back to her reality and not let his magical moment take her over. 

            They had met when she was bartending at a local pub.  He and some college buddies had come in for a drink.  Merelda had served them.  She and Gill had instant chemistry.  They talked for most of the night while she continued to wait on the many drunken customers that drifted in and out.  From that point, they were rarely seen apart.  They attended church, shopped for gifts and other everyday necessities together and bought furniture for their new home.  They were truly happy and everyone around them could see it. 

            Listening to her and hearing her relive the happy moments of their life made Gill proud.  He had finally found the one that most people can only dream about.  For a moment, he stopped his crusade to bed his bride and listened as she recalled their romance.  Her tone during the tale soon changed.  She grew distant as she began to speak of her past and where she came from.  Of course she had given him some idea, but there was much more.  More than the small town and private education that she had spoken of in the beginning.  This time she would have a more indepth tale to tell.  This tale would not end in a happy ending.  She told her new groom that she was cursed and that it happened before she was born. 

            Gill did not understand where this was going.  He wanted to stop her but she immediately interrupted him.  She continued with her story. 

            “Mother cursed me but she did not know.  You see, all off of my mother's children died young.  They were either stillborns or died before birth.  She was desperate to have children and none of the doctors in town knew what was wrong.  She finally went to a local mystic for help.  The lady, Clauadette, was known to have special potions and supposedly powers that could heal the sick and raise the dead.  When my mother went to her she quickly mixed a potion.  She asked her did she really want children and my mother replied that it was the one thing that meant more to her than life itself.  So Claudette gave her the potion and the instructions.  She had to take it at the dawn of the full moon.  She would need to bed a man that night in order to conceive.  But she would also have to send him on his way once the deed was done.  He could not stay and he could not be there at the stroke of dawn.  If he came back it would mean his ruin and her never ending suffering.  My mother, so anxious quickly took the potion and listened to only the good part of the warning.  She paid the woman and rushed home.  The next full moon was that night.  She prepared herself for the man that she would call my father.”  Gill was captivated by the story.  It shook him that her mother was such a woman.  All he knew was that she had died a long time ago.  For her to believe in such madness intrigued him but it also gave him warning.  Something in his bride’s tale and tone was ferocious and forth coming.  He was not sure if he wanted her to continue.  He asked her to stop, but she continued on.       

            “My mother did as she was told.   And as the moon rose and began to glow in the dark Louisiana sky she quickly swallowed the potion.  It was sweet and had a peculiar twang in its end.  She then dressed in her loveliest garb and headed for a local tavern.  It would be her lucky night.  She found a young man home from duty.  He was a sailor.  He was tall and strong.  He had dark hair and piercing green eyes.  He was creole and carried a thick french accent.  My mother chose a seat at the bar and waited for him to make a move.  Sure enough he offered to buy her a drink.  She had been a bartender for years so she knew what she liked.  It wasn’t hard for her to make conversation and men home from the sea are so easily bedded.  She took him back to her home where they made love through out the night.  She had completely forgotten the end of the instructions and let the young man fall asleep.  The sun would rise on a horrific scene as my mother realized what a mistake she had made.  The next morning she awoke to find the young man mutilated and lying next to her.  She screamed as she was covered in his blood.  She did not understand what had happened.  She quickly jumped in the shower and went to visit Claudette.  But as she opened the door to leave, Claudette was standing there.  From the look in my mother’s eyes, she knew that she had not sent the man home.” 

            “I told you to send him on his way.  You were so anxious to have that child that in your misadventure you have now cursed it.  Where is the body?  He must be disposed of as people will be looking for him.”

            “My mother and the mystic buried his corpse deep in the garden.  All evidence of the crime were burned.  But there was still one more task.  Claudette had to abort the pregnancy.  She told my mother that there was no other way.  If she did not abort the child born would be born out of blood and the need for blood.  My mother would not give up her unborn child.  So she and Claudette fought until only one of them was alive.”

            Gill was stunned and horrified at the tale.  He told her to stop immediately that he did not want to hear anymore.  But she assured him that the last part was the most important.

            “My mother buried Claudette next to the young sailor.  And within 9 months I was born.  I lived for fifteen years with no effects from the curse.  But it was when I started my first period that things changed.  My mother thought she had gotten away with murder but little did she know her good luck had its end.  You see I was conceived from a need.  The need of a daughter and blood.  If she had done as she was told things would not be this way.  But I cannot change the past.  It is my destiny that every year I must take a mate.  And on the night of consummation he must cater to my hunger.”

            Gill replied, “But we have already had dinner.”

            “Yes and now I need so much more.”  His beautiful bride replied in such a manner that sent chills to the top of his skin.  In the moonlight he could see her outline and something wasn’t right.  She quickly turned to him as a burst of light entered the room and that was when he truly saw his bride.  Her hands were like claws and her teeth were sharp and pointed.  Her skin was dark and her eyes were a dark emerald green.  But before he could scream for help, she tore through his throat ripping out veins and muscle.  She pounced on him and drank from the pulsating flow.  He tried to scream but all that managed to escape were empty motions from a dying mouth.  He tasted his own blood as she fed on him. 

            For the remainder of the night she continued to feed.  Before dawn she threw what was left over the balcony.  The sea would claim the rest.  The next morning, there was a knock on the door.  The maid entered and upon seeing the blood soaked linens went straight to work.  She and her daughter prepared their story and removed all evidence.  The authorities believed the distraught new bride and her loss of her husband to a misguided need for an early swim.  The current dragged him out and every sea creature known to man had nibbled on his corpse.  For now, Merelda was appeased and the family curse would sleep.  But it could not stay this way.  They only had a year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Day at the Office-L Redd

Short story from the Hot Cauldron, enjoy
                So today here I sit.  I have been up for some time as sleep is something that I don’t need much.  I have the usual number of pick ups today.  My orders were quite simple.  I am awaiting my last appointment for the day, seems there is some problem with this one.  So I have to await further orders before pickup.  So, you wanna know more about me?  Where do you wish me to start?  I have lived a long time and seen the world you know go through countless changes.  The wars, evolutions and revolutions of your era are but a page in my book of life.  From the very beginning, I was there watching and waiting quietly, as I do now.  Each of you will have a chance to be in my presence or in the presence of one of my staff.  We are regional you know.  Excuse me, I just got a page.  It is confirmation of the pick-up.  He should be here soon.  And there he is, everyday kinda guy with family and friends.  Mr. tall, dark and handsome wearing a custom pin striped suit and highly polished stacey adams.  Hell, I can take him like he is, he’s already dressed.  But before I go there, let me tell you how this works.  He is going to have a seat and order his usual afternoon coffee.  He will sit and go through his daily work log to make sure that he has covered everything for the day.  He will call his wife and tell her that he is on the way and to kiss the boys for him.  Then he will turn on his laptop and follow up on the final emails of the day as he sips his dark mocha.  That’s when I will intervene.  I won’t have to say a word.  My mere presence will draw him in.  We will have casual chat and I will play along all the while knowing that he is just another day at the office and my final job for the day. 

             Dillan sat quietly thumbing through his laptop and tying up his loose ends of the day.  He wrapped up the final emails and reports and left strict instructions for upcoming meetings.  He was going to be away for two weeks on vacation and wanted to make sure that nothing was out of place.  His plans were to take the family on a historical tour of Savannah, Georgia and from there hit the condo on the beach in St. Augustine, another historical city.  He had been planning this getaway for months and he knew his family needed a break.  They had been through enough.  The economy had dealt them a few hard blows and after losing one car and almost losing their home, they could start to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  Allie had been laid off from her teaching job due to cut backs.  She had her nursing career to fall back on and was able to secure a job working nights in the hospital ER.  For the past two years they had not taken any vacation time.  Their time was spent in front of the TV or in the backyard camping.  It wasn’t the same as going away to a resort hotel and being waited on hand and foot, but it made for interesting conversation and cheap family fun.  The boys loved making smores and taking in the sounds of the country.  They had not realized how much wild life was right outside their very door until they camped in the backyard.  But just as things were starting to look up, Dillan had to take a 5% pay cut at work.  The firm did not want to lose its cleaning staff so everyone pitched in so that their salaries could continue.  It made things a little more difficult but it was still manageable.  The pile of bills was slowly diminishing and things were getting back to a more normal pace.  The bill collector’s had stopped calling and now they felt as if they could breathe.  That was when Dillan sat down and planned the two week getaway.  He surprised Allie with the reservations on her birthday.  She was very excited.  He knew the break was well deserved and needed and now he could relax with his family and begin to breathe a lot easier.

            Dillan had just finished tapping in his last email when he noticed a gentleman sitting quietly looking at a picture that was hanging on the wall of the establishment.  What caught his eye at first was the clean cut appearance of the man.  He wore a crisp white v-necked t shirt and black jeans.  He wore a single ring that caught the afternoon sun and sparkled like nothing he had ever seen before.  He smiled at the stranger as he caught his gaze.  He motioned with his hand a simple gesture in hopes the stranger wouldn’t think him rude or interested in other things.  He simply smiled back and continued to sip from his cup.  Dillan looked up at the pic on the wall.  It was a large picture of a graveyard with a woman standing in front of one of the tombstones.  It was just a few days before Halloween so the coffee shop had changed its d├ęcor to match the season.  There was something beautiful about the dark message given off by the picture.  Was she standing there in mourning or was she a recent occupant?  Just as he was about to stand to get a better look, he bumped into the stranger.  He had wanted a closer look at the macabre image as well. 

            “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”  He offers his hand.  “Dillan, Dillan Godfrey.”

            “No problem, Dillan, I’m Chase Goodwin.  Just had to get a better look at this photo.  It’s amazing.  I love pictures such as these, they could mean anything.  What do you think?”

            “I think it is beautiful.  I was going to get a better look.”  Dillan stands and moves in closer.  “She looks like she is waiting for something or someone.”

            “She might be.”  Chase’s words were low and uttered in a single light breath.  It was as if he were making a prophecy.  He offered Dillan a refresh on his coffee, Dillan accepted.  As they both refilled their cups, they sat and began to find out more about each other.  Dillan was working his way around to asking about the brilliant piece of jewelry.

            “So what cha doing? I noticed you here with your lap, you some kind of data guy?”  Chase was very down to earth.  Dillan had pegged him for blue collar.

            “I’m an attorney, a prosecutor for the state of Florida.”  Chase was smiling at him. 

            “Well, I was way off.”  Chase laughed at his own misjudgment.

            “So I look like a data guy?  I think that’s cool.  I often find myself looking quite confused when I have to work on some of the cases I get tossed.”

            They both laughed as Dillan responded with his question.

            “What do you do?”

            “I’m a delivery guy.  I work for a company up north.  They send me some of everywhere meeting clients and customers.”

            “Sounds interesting, what do you deliver?”

            “Nothing you would really want.”  He stopped for a moment and then stated simply, “funeral supplies.”

            “Oh, I don’t know what to say.”  Dillan was quiet for a moment.

            Chase could sense the uneasiness in the man and quickly attempted to make him comfortable.

            “It’s ok.  I am used to the quiet when I tell people what I do.  It’s just a job.  A little odd, but a job.”

            “Sorry for clamming up.  I couldn’t imagine working in death.  How did you get into that business?”  Dillan was sipping his coffee and was interested in how one gets into such a morbid line of work.

            “I was born into it.  My father was also a delivery guy and his father before him.  I have an inside joke.  I say that we are recruited from birth.  The minute we can walk we are handed a catalog and sent on our way.”

            “So it’s a family business?  Well at least you know you will never be laid off.“  Dillan raise his cup and sipped down the last of the black liquid.

            Chase replied with a smile, “This is true.”

            “So I have one other question, probably going to find out something even more strange, the ring you wear, it is quite an eye catcher.  Is there a story behind it?”  Dillan had finally gathered his nerve to ask.

            Chase happily replied this time. 

            “Yes, this ring has been in my family for about one hundred years.  It is a raw diamond, very old and ancient.  One of the grandfathers, I don’t know which one had it placed in this setting.  It’s passed down by the men in my family.”

            Dillan remarked, “It‘s brilliant. I noticed it from across the room.  It caught the falling of the sun and just brought out this light that was like fire.”

            “It’s quite an eye catcher for sure.  I am glad you like it.”  

            The conversation grew quiet once again.  But Dillan was quick to recover.  He asked about the supplies that Chase delivered. 

            Chase looked down at his coffee as if he wanted to clam up.  But he continued slowly.  The inlays for the casket, final prep supplies, the caskets themselves, stuff like that.”

            Dillan could sense that he had brought up more than the stranger had wanted to divulge.  Dillan’s time with the kind stranger came to a close.  He kindly thanked the stranger for his hospitality and conversation.   

            “Well, it was nice meeting you.  Take care and I am sorry if I got too nosey.”  Dillan smiled.

            “That’s ok.  I enjoyed the conversation.  Refreshing meeting someone with such curiosity.”

            The two men bid each other good- by as Dillan heads home to his wife and kids.  Chase quietly moved along and found himself at his hotel room.  He could not take his mind off the kind man and his family.  It seemed unfair that their lives would intertwine again and that meeting Dillan would be one more supply on Chase’s list.  Chase laid back on the bed and began to drift.  He felt his body give in to a deep sleep that only he knew.  He could see the family packing and moving their luggage into the SUV.  He saw them having dinner and laughing as they relived the better times.  His boys were quite handsome.  They looked just like their father.  They had his dark curly hair and his loving brown eyes.  They were going to be strong and tall.  They were confident and full of joy and smiles.  He could see their every move.  He saw the joy in his wife’s eyes as she buckled up in her seat and smiled lovingly at her husband.  Dillan rushed to the other side of the car getting in and cranking up for the rest of the journey.  He kissed his wife for a moment as the boys gagged in humor.  It was a picture perfect moment.  The picture continued to unfold as hey drove away and headed for Jacksonville towards Savannah. 

            Chase arose from his slumber around 4am.  He had heard the bell in his head and knew it was time.  In a moment he was at the sight of the accident.  It was a five car pile up.  A fella driving a semi had fallen asleep and plowed into two cars sending them into two more.  Dillan’s SUV was in the path of the massacre.  He had been spun around by one of the cars as the semi plowed into the driver’s side.  The highway had been cut off by cones and policemen redirecting traffic towards the previous exit or placing travelers in a holding pattern.  Chase stood calmly by the road.  He could see the mangled cars and the souls of those who would not make it.  There were others there like him collecting their quota for the day.  They knew each other by their demeanor.  They simply nodded once their pick up was done and moved along.  No one else could see them just their client.  Chase looked closely as the paramedics continued to work on Dillan and his family.  They were weakened but strong enough to survive.  Dillan suddenly sat up and looked around.  He saw Chase and smiled for a moment.  In his mind he was back at the coffee shop.  But there was something odd in his appearance.  He could see him shake his head slightly as he reached out his hand.  He stood and walked toward his strange friend as flashes of their conversation began to replay in his head.  It was the remark about the funeral supplies that brought him to reality.  He looked around as his family was being piled into an ambulance.  His lovely wife unconscious but holding on.  His boys groggy but showing great improvement.  He then looked at one last figure.  It was being covered with a blanket.  He heard the men say that there was nothing more they could do.  It was then that he knew he had not made it and that Chase was more than just a mere delivery man.  He was death and at that moment he had become his final delivery for the day.

            “They can’t see you, no one can.  It is best that you come along.”

            Dillan felt a sadness that he had never known.  It cradled him and destroyed him to the core.  . 

            “What will they do without me, what’s going to happen to them?  Why must I go now?  We were just getting back to life.”

            It wasn’t the first time that Chase had heard these words but it was the first time that he had felt so much pain for the client. 

            “Your family will be fine once the pain has passed.  I will not lie, it will take time but they will recover and move on.”

            “Can I see them again?”  Dillan was grasping at straws and anything that would keep him in the life that he had created.  But Chase knew the tactic and could only respond as he had done so on those many occasions.

            “No, it is best that you move on.  If you linger, you become an apparition and that only makes thing worse.  It is best to say good- by.”

            Dillan walked slowly towards Chase. 

            “Funeral supplies, huh.”  Chase’s look was somber.  He felt like the butt end of a bad joke.

            “Yep, pretty much.  I didn’t mention the most important supply.” Chase looked at the man.

            “So what happens to me now.”  Dillan’s soul filled with questions.

            “I don’t know, Dillan.  It’s not for me to know.”

            “Will I see you again?” Dillan feared the unknown and wondered had he made a friend.

            “You may, but you might not remember me.”  Chase held out his hand as they strolled away into a memory.  As Dillan disappeared into his next room, he turned and looked one last time at the man who had delivered his final client for the day.  He took in a deep sigh and disappeared as a fog on the morning horizon.  Chase lowered his head as his pain began to subside.  For now he would rest until the new pick up list would be delivered.   


Thursday, October 11, 2012

At The End of Her Whip-L Redd

From my short story series, The Hot Cauldron.  I hope you enjoy.

Detective Gray had been called out of deep sleep at 2am.  His pager and phone were both chiming to separate tunes and annoying his slob filled slumber.  Detective, he heard the man on the other side begin, it appears we have a  jumper.  Gray crawled out of bed and into a quick shower as he contemplated what he was going to see.  He thought of many instances where this had happened, from jilted lover to drug overdose.  There were infinite possibilities and only the clues would give him the final answer.  He dressed himself and with a quick swig of gas station coffee, he eventually arrived at the scene.  It had been taped and secured.  The initial witness was sitting on the curb finishing his story. 

            It seems the first person on the scene was college kid, Timothy, coming home from a frat party.  He had been drinking large quantities of vodka and rum so his friends had taken his car keys.  He was way too drunk to be operating a vehicle.  Apparently he had not liked their intervention and started acting out yelling at his buddies and calling names.  They retaliated to his foolishness and made him walk back to the dorm.  It was the events of that night that sobered him enough to dial at least one of them so he could get home.  As he was walking to his dorm he followed the traffic through downtown Jacksonville. The large buildings and a pizza parlor caught his eye.  He decided to grab a bite to eat to soak up some of the liquor.  Little did he know he wouldn’t be holding it in for long.  After his post drunken feast, he continued walking until he reached a tall office building.  That’s when Jake Killyam became a part of his life.  Timothy, Tim, as he was called by his friends was about to cross the street to board a bus when Jake fell 35 stories onto the concrete sidewalk, naked as the day he was born.  The kid loss his snack and his buzz.  He dialed 911 from his cell.

Detective Gray, now at the scene, was in the middle of a what appeared to be a suicide.  But it didn’t make any sense.  Why this building, why now and why was he naked?  This was one of the more prominent areas in the city.  The well to do had created their own little Brigadoon in the middle of a bustling, crime ridden town.  The man event looked to be well off.  Although the file had taken its toll, immediately there were no signs of drug use but there was one thing that caught Gray’s eye.  He would examine it more during the read through.  But the fall had taken its toll in other ways.  The scattered bits of skeleton and brain were now floating into the drainage system because of a misty rain that started to lightly drench the crime scene.  Forensics technicians scurried to collect all the evidence they could before it washed away.  The body’s impact against the concrete had totally obliterated most of the sturdiness at the skeletal structure level.  As they attempted to lift the body, it sagged over like a sack of broken glass.  They could hear and feel the bones creaking as the skin literally held the structure together.  Once in the bag it would be easier to examine later.  For now he traded his nice BMW and restored vintage home for an ambulance and a large metal storage at the county morgue. 

As sunrise began to dawn, even more bits of the puzzle came to light.  Jake was not only ketchup on a one sided concrete sandwich, but he was also a successful real estate broker for Morrison and Company.  He could sell a cardboard box to a millionaire for top dollar.  He was friendly, handsome and very well educated.  He had been hand picked straight out of college, a hot shot with a GPA and a killer smile to match.  He worked hard and sometimes late into the night to assure that deals went as planned and that top dollar was achieved at every deal.  Detectives Gray and Parker had been assigned to this case.  They started interviewing his coworkers as they arrived for work trying to make heads or tails of his life. 

            Grey was let into the deceased’s office.  As suspected, it was also the best room in the office.  Not only was it on the top floor, but everything about it said “top achiever.”  From the large cherry wood desk and matching bookshelf, oversized flat screen TV and stand to the large leather chair and Italian suit.  He loved himself and his way of life.    Even his wall was covered in the many accolades he had accomplished in his 10 years at the job.  No family pictures, no wife and kids, just friends and a string of ladies that were simply a body for the lonely.  But none of them offered any answer. 

            Grey sat in the comfy chair at the massive executive desk.  It shined and sparkled under the recessed lighting.  It had been cleaned and polished recently.  They had a cleaning service that they contracted with to do the job of straightening up the day’s lot.  There was laptop in the middle of the structure.  It was placed just so and the leather desk calendar blended in with the furniture as if it was molded into it.  Gray carefully perused the pages trying to find some reason or clue.  He asked Parker to carry on with his most recent appointments to see if there was anything there motive or otherwise.  They came up empty. 

            The interviews with the partners and coworkers were repeats.  Jake was a fun- loving extreme sports kinda guy.  He hung out with guys and chased after a number of girls.  He never tied down with one, but he bedded as many as he could.  But about 6 months ago things changed.  He stopped hanging out as much.  Sometimes he seemed to be in a lot of pain and moved slower.  There were other days when he avoided phone calls and any other contact.  His absence was noticed at work.  He used a number of sick days and was had started taking off early on Fridays.  He would even be gone for days and no one would know where he was.  He would of course return with a doctor’s note for an ailing back.  Some of the team noticed he him stooping when he walked, but he would recover in a few days and be back to normal.  The team simply added it up to too much of the good life taking its toll on the young exec.  Detective Parker was still unimpressed.  He secretly harbored bits of jealousy for such a lavish lifestyle.  He felt that some white collared work was just spoiled rich kids who fell in with a certain crowd and were handed their lives on a silver platter.  As far as Parker was concerned he was another spoiled brat with a possible drug problem and gambling debts.  But Grey thought differently, he saw a man who had a life and somehow was pulled into a different world that eventually killed him.  The key was what happened 6 months ago.  Gray sat at the desk with no new answers and a ton of questions.  He decided to go to the morgue to see if there were any answers there, but what he would find would make his case even more interesting.  He left Parker to find and question the members of the cleaning crew. 

            Kelly had been prepping the body since it arrived.  Jake’s body was being held together by the skin that surrounded it.  She had to be careful in the movement and cleaning of the body.  She carefully made the “Y” incision and began to remove the internal organs. 

            “Amazing what the pressure of such a fall can do to a body.”  She spoke softly as she conducted her dictation.  The organs had been jolted about and now delicacy was needed in order to collect samples.  Most of the brain had been smattered about on the ground but what remained was taken and samples were drawn for further testing.  But there were two other interesting pieces of information that was gathered.  The first was the penis.  It contained seminal fluid that was filled with sperm.  Apparently he was in the middle of intercourse or had been stopped suddenly causing his ejaculation to cease.  Then there was his back.  When Kelly and her assistant turned him over the real story was about to be told.  There were scars, plenty of scars and all in different stages of healing.  He had no defense wounds, no marks on his arms no skin under his nails, but his back was marred with marks as though he had endured constant beatings.  Grey had not seen anything like this on a man.  He had seen women beaten to within an inch of their lives, but never a man.  His ankles were scarred as well with a square shaped purplish mark.  It appeared that he had been shackled and later released. 

            “So, this young man was into pain and lot so of it.”  Kelly remarked.  “We will run toxicology tests to see what turns up.”

            “Is it possible that someone beat him and then threw him from the office building?“  Gray asked quietly.

            “No, he jumped.  There are no signs of thrashing, no defensive marks.  Go find me the reason and we can finish piecing this together.”

The toxicology tests would be released later that week.  He had a small amount of codeine in his system.  This had been prescribed by his doctor for back pain.  But it wasn’t a lethal dosage and there were no other findings. 

            Parker interviewed everyone in the building and met with the cleaning crew.  Everyone checked out.  The cleaning crew was more tight-lipped, but he equated that to their position.  They were not as close as the immediate office workers, besides none of them really talked with the office staff.  They were hired help and treated as such.  But those that knew Jake said that he was a nice person and that he would at least acknowledge their work and leave little thank you notes from time to time.  But there was something off about the arrangement.  Jake‘s office was on a separate cleaning schedule.  The office manager said it was because he was in the office so little that it did not require the every other day cleaning like the others.  Plus he was very neat person.  Gray‘s instincts were telling him that there was something he was missing. 

            After completing another long day on this case, Gray finally attempted to get some sleep.  It was midnight on what was approaching day three.  He did not dream but tossed and turned through most of the night.   When he finally dozed off, his sleep was filled with images of the dead man and the scars.  He dreamed of a woman they had found in that similar condition.  She had been hired as a dominatrix but the job was to be a submissive.  The police had been called to her aid when she arrived at the emergency room in bad shape.  Gray awoke the next morning as though he had not slept at all.  But there was something new nagging at him about Jake’s office.  He got dressed and headed over to the scene.  He arrived there around 10am and immediately began going over every book and DVD.  There was nothing there.  He sat at the desk once again.  He had been granted access to his desktop and all his files.  Everything seemed to be in order.  But after taking a second look, he noticed that his calendar on his computer did not match the one on his desk.  Every other week there was one appointment extra, but it had no name, no number and it was always on a Friday afternoon.  It was simply marked as “DATE.”  Grey looked through the thick leather padded calendar again but he was right.  Whoever or whatever “date” was, it was not listed for everyone to see.  He moved the massive phony schedule and was once again surprised by what he found.  Carved deeply in the top of the cherry desk were two words, “the whip.”  He could tell where someone had tried to cover it up with a marker kit, but it was too deep.  The detective now had his start.  But when he approached his captain, he did not share his enthusiasm.  No defense wounds, no drugs, just a lot of bruises and scars.  He was a troubled rich kid who committed suicide and did not need to take up any more of the department’s time.  The case was boxed up and labeled “solved.”  This didn’t sit well with Gray but he had to go with it.  Months passed and the travesty of Jake Killyam would be reduced to office gossip and water cooler chatter.  A new hot shot was hired in his place and the inscription on the desk had been sanded away, but Gray had taken pictures with his digital camera and the words were etched in his head.   

            Grey had moved on to other cases but this one seemed to stay in his mind.  The pictures would play over and over again with the words captured in bold letters.  He went to the evidence room and gathered the box and took it to his home.  He quickly opened it and rummaged through the contents.   At the very bottom was a paperback book.  It had been recovered from his home.  It was the only thing that tied his death to something sensible.  It was the story of a man and his lover whom he shared a very special relationship.  He picked up the small paperback and began to read.  The words glided over his tongue and into his memory.  He was able to complete it in one night.  He read it cover to cover and in the wee hours of the morning he understood.  He had to find Jake’s Venus.  He took a picture of Jake out of the evidence box.  It was a picture from the annual company luncheon well dressed and clean shaved.  He was in the midst of friends, who had no idea of who the real Jake was or his temptation.  With the new evidence and renewed steam, he looked at everyone in a different light.  He looked deeper into their personal lives.  His first run through had been very standard.  But when the case was forced to close there was no more to be done.  But still everyone seemed pretty normal.  But then there was Jake’s best friend, Kent.  He seemed to be mimicking the same actions as his friend.  Gray followed him around for a couple of weeks and uncovered some strange behavior he also felt that Kent was protecting someone. 

            Kent had sat on the front row at the funeral and cried for the loss of his friend.  He had an alibi and was nowhere near, but was very evasive about the new Jake.  All he said he knew was that he had gotten quiet and just pulled in.  He wasn’t talking about it and that was that.   But Kent had another story and it was told on Friday nights.  Gray trailed Kent late one Friday afternoon.  He went for dinner and later his home.  But around 10pm he left his home with a black tightly packed duffle bag.  He jumped into his beamer and headed south.  He took I95 to St. Augustine.  He would reach his destination in about an hour and a half.  He maneuvered through traffic quickly as if on fire.  When he arrived at the beach house he moved quickly.  Gray trailed him and parked up the street.  Kent jumped out of the car and moved quickly inside the lavish beach home.  He ran a check on the address and sure enough it had once been owned by Jake Killyam.  It was later purchased by Kent Romoloff.  Kent entered the house and went on about his business.  The detective crept around to the back side of the house.  Through the dark curtains he could see shapes and here the muffled sound of a voice.  Kent was on the phone with someone and he seemed frustrated.  He was starting to get loud and begging.  He seemed to calm down and hung up the phone.   As Gray moved in closer he was able to find a break in the material.  Kent was in a black robe sipping wine and sitting on a bar stool.  But what caught his eye was the large black leather table with shackles built in for the hands and feet.  The opening for the face was small and cushioned.  At that moment he realized that Kent had not told them what he really knew.  The doorbell rang and Kent rose quickly to meet his guest

            Gray moved closer to the window to get a look.  His heart raced and mouth began to water with anticipation.  He had to see her, well he presumed it was a her.  When she stepped into the light she was like nothing he had seen before.  Her face was painted elegantly, she was tall and slender.  The fur coat she wore slipped easily to the floor to reveal a leather corset and thigh high stockings.  From her head to her toe she was sensual and sexy, even her footwear seemed to beg for his attention.  She wore 4 inch patent leather, steel reinforced heals shined to a high gloss.  They were the perfect finishing touch.  He took a deep breath and moved in closer. 

            Kent produced the black bag to her as he laid down on the leather bed of torture.  She strapped him in and immediately pulled a long black whip from the bag.  Gray dropped to his knees in the sand as the he watched the whip break the air and then Kent‘s precious skin.  He flinched and screamed in agony as he begged her to strap him again and again.  For the next twenty minutes he watched as Kent was beaten by the stacked beauty.  He felt himself aroused and shamed by the event.  When it was over she helped him out of the contraption and dressed his wounds.  He lay on the sofa face down and completely drained.  She would watch over him for the rest of that day.  Cleaning and dressing his wounds and administering the codeine to comfort and ease the pain.  Gray had continued his stake out from the safety of his car.  It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that Kent left the house and went back to Jacksonville.  Gray had ran the woman’s license plate and got a name and address.  Once again another clue was revealed.  What caught his attention this time was her name, Kimaya Sutton.  He raced back to Jacksonville to review the employee list.  He knew he had seen the name somewhere but she was not on the employee list.  But she was one of the custodial staff for the cleaning company.  And she was assigned to clean Jake’s office as he requested.  She still received full pay but he would request her and only her to clean his office.  Since his death, she had been pulled to clean Kent’s office at his request.  She was due to work on that Wednesday.  Gray decided that he would be waiting for her.  He did not want to see Kent.  He knew he would lie.  The real truth rested with Kimaya. 

            Wednesday night she went about her business cleaning Kent’s office.  She polished and vacuumed and disinfected the space as she had done with Jake’s office.  When she finished, she worked her way through the building spot checking the work of other custodians.  She reached the elevator and whizzed down to the parking garage.  As she loaded her twin cab truck, she heard heavy footsteps behind her.  It was Gray.  She was startled and asked what he was doing there.  He told her what he had witnessed and that he needed to talk to her.  At first she did not want to say anything to him.  He begged her for a few moments.  He really needed to know what had happened the night of Jake’s death.  She finally agreed but wanted to be in a place where she felt safe.  He agreed and took her to a nearby all night restaurant.  When they arrived he bought her a coffee and a slice of pie.  She was so different from what he had seen the other night.  It was like she was two different people.  Just moments ago she had been vacuuming floors and dusting desks and counters and a few days earlier she had commanded a man’s attention via a long black whip and corset.  Tonight she was dressed in a beige pant uniform and wore orthopedic shoes.  Her hair was pulled back in a ball and she wore no make- up and carried no method of torture. 

            His hands were shaking as he asked her the first question.  “Why? What did you do to him?”

She knew instantly what he meant as she forked away at slices of the delicate apple pie.  She began to answer. 

            “You said you watched me, so you should know.  Some people have so much control that they have to lose it every once in a while.  All that feeling of power and responsibility is too much for some.  Then there are people like me.  There is no control, my life just rolls along and I am stuck watching it happen.  My job is dead end and my life is pretty boring.  I want to be more.  And he gave me that.”

            “So you beat men?  Where does that come in?”  Gray asked.  “I saw you with his best friend the other night.  I thought he knew more, I was right.  I now know it was you he could not live without.  How does that happen?”

            “I have to take you back to the beginning to get to the end.  We met at a company function at the beginning of spring.  It was a barbeque.  I was sitting at one of the tables that we the “undesired” occupy.  At these events we really don’t mingle.  No one cares to talk to the hired help.  So this time, I had brought a book, Venus in Furs.  Well, Jake was different.  He came over and started talking to me.  I mean really talking to me asking me about my life and if I went to school, if I had family.  Some said he was just being nice because he wanted to screw me.  Kent told me that he talked to every girl like that so he could fuck her.  If he did, it worked.  We talked about the book I was reading and he asked if he could borrow it.  Within the next few days after finishing the piece he asked me out.  We became lovers within a few weeks.  Kent was growing a little jealous.  He did not like the idea of Jake getting so close to the “help.”  But it wasn’t what Kent thought.  You see, Jake wanted his own Venus.  The first time he approached me about dressing up and beating him I said no.  I was so afraid that something would go wrong.  But he was persistent.  He had bought the beach home in St. Augustine and prepared everything so I could feel safe.  The first time, I was so afraid.  His thin white skin cracked and bled beneath the whip and I stopped and cried, but he wanted more.  I continued and soon I craved it just as much as he.  When it was over and his cries died down, I cleaned his wounds and tended to him.  Once he had a night or two of sleep, I would go back to my real world.  He would pay me in cash so there was no paper trail.  He hid the transaction through a dummy account.  He wanted to make sure we were both kept from the scrutiny of others.  It was the perfect setup and no one knew. But Kent, like you, got curious and followed him one night.  He waited in the bushes after I had left and confronted him about the meeting.  He saw the marks and begged Jake to tell him the whole story.  And he did.  Then one day I got a call from Kent.  He wanted to hire me but I said no.  He got pissed and told Jake all kinds of lies about me and that I was a whore.  They got in a fight.  It was more verbal and no one knew about it.  And no Kent didn’t kill him.  I met with Jake the night he died.  It was my night to clean his office.  He had wanted to see me before then, but the confrontation with Kent was so ugly that I had just steered clear.  He wanted me to move in with him and start a real relationship, but I said no.  Knowing where we had begun in this thing and where it was going, I could not see it working out.  He grabbed me and kissed me and began to work on me so he could make love to me.  We almost did.  But I pulled away and left.  I couldn’t be with him.  All I could see was Kent making his life hard and mine hell by spreading lies.  I had finished cleaning so I went home.  The next morning I found out he had jumped.  The next night I got a call form Kent and this time I said yes.  I beat him for Jake, to remind me of Jake.  It was my revenge.”

            Gray’s mouth was open and he was speechless for a moment.  He now had his answers and could finally lay this case to rest.  But he was one who too had so much responsibility that he felt the need to ask her yet one more question.  Would she take another customer for Saturday night?  He had been drawn in by the whip just like the others.