~~~

Diane quickly rose from the couch. If not for the coffee table between herself and the despicable man, she believed she would’ve closed the distance between them, broke his scotch glass, and then jammed a piece of it into his throat. Fortunately, she reined in her temper before losing control.

Candyman hadn’t even flinched as he stared across the table at the angry woman, an amused expression painted on his face.

Diane’s one hand was balled into a fist. She stared defiantly into the lowly creature’s face, trying to get her breathing under control. Settle down, she reminded herself. He’s pushing again… and it’s working.

Candyman leaned back in his chair, his hands folded over his lap with a devilish gleam in his eyes. “Well… I’m waiting.”

“You seriously expect me to strip naked and carry on a civil conversation?” she said. “Especially after threatening my friends?”

He shook his head at her as if dealing with a child. “I don’t expect anything, Diane. I demand, and then there’s compliance with said demands. I’m tolerating your insolence only because you’re still so very new here and have yet to understand the way things work. But… I am encouraged by this honest exchange between us. I suspect that from here on out, we will establish a better understanding of our relationship.” He took another sip of scotch, then put the glass down. “Now, take off the fucking gown. I won’t say it again.”

“No,” she said. “I won’t. You want to talk, then fine, let’s talk. But save the perverted games for your bitch upstairs.”

He laughed at her. “Oh, please. Do you really believe this is sexual? I find you only as attractive as the control I maintain in this room, which, I feel I must remind you… is absolute.”

“I’m not taking off this gown,” she challenged, glaring at the man. “You’ve pushed me as far as I’m going to allow with all this bullshit. Understand that.”

Candyman’s face looked like a tempest about to explode behind his amused expression as he gave her an equally challenging glare and folded his hands beneath his chin. “Let’s talk about… Nine… is that right? What a peculiar name.”

Diane stumbled. “What… what about him?”

He looked away and continued. “I’ve been informed that he is currently in the service of John Harper, a well-respected businessman in our community. Quite honestly, I’m surprised he hasn’t ended up in one of our murder shops by now—truly horrendous places, so I’m told—but, as luck would have it, your friend was purchased at auction by some very bad men and then sold three times, until finally landing under John’s… protection. I’d say that your friend has done rather well for himself… considering the odds.”

Diane said nothing.

Candyman leaned in and continued. “If I were to tell you that I’d… interfered… with the auction in question, allowing your dear friend, Nine, to end up in John’s employment, then that would be very naughty of me since my involvement in the auctions is not permitted.” He paused and poked fun at Diane. “Kind of reminds me of another situation currently.” He added a wink.

She said nothing.

“Anyway, back to your friend. Hypothetically speaking, of course, since John Harper and I have a very mutually beneficial business arrangement in town, he might have been persuaded to purchase your friend, Nine, as a favor… to me. Which, in turn, would be a very big favor that I performed for you, would it not?”

Diane looked toward her feet, feeling defeated. “Yes. That would be.”

“That is just a story, of course,” Candyman said, waving a dismissive hand in the air. “There’s plenty of stories in this town, some true, some not so true—thus is the nature of stories. But, for the sake of the story I just mentioned, it is not out of the realm of possibility for your friend to find himself back under the ownership of some truly horrible people. Are you understanding that, Diane?”

She stared at him. “Yes,” she hissed. “Loud and clear.”

“Then are we going to continue wasting words and time over trivial matters such as clothing, or do you still consider that silly silk gown, and whether it’s on or off your trembling flesh, worth Nine’s current protected position?”

Diane closed her eyes and let her shoulders slump. He’ll keep going, she thought. That fucker will keep reminding me of all the cards he’s holding over my friends and how easily he could change everything. And in the end, he’ll make it my decision and not his as to how they all end up mysteriously dead by tomorrow. She opened her eyes and stared less defiantly at the monster. “Is it that important to someone like you to flaunt your position of power just to get the girl in the silk dress to do what you say? Are you that petty?”

He smiled. “I’ll counter with an equally perceptive question: Is your warrior pride worth the same? I mean, seriously, what does it matter if I see you in your birthday suit… hmm? I practically have you there now and I’ve seen better.”

“Fuck you,” she added exhaustedly.

He laughed. “I could bed any woman in this town, including you. This is not about sex… it’s about control. It’s about compliance, plain and simple… and I will have it… or I’ll have Nine’s head delivered to me after I’ve arranged the murder shops to purchase him, and then I’ll have you stripped naked and paraded around New Cleveland on your next shopping errand as an example to others like you.”

Diane’s defiance blazed up briefly. With eyes full of hate aimed at the despicable man, she said, “I’ve seen things out in the real world… monsters… that pale in comparison to you.”

Candyman’s eyebrows shot up.

“But I also know what happens to monsters eventually,” she continued. “Sooner or later, more monsters come along that are much worse—me and my friends have already seen them—and they’ll take you, your shit-hole town, and your worthless control away right before they bite your fucking head off.”

Candyman unconsciously stared down at his gloved right hand. She’d been referring to the dead army of yellow-eyed haters out at Mosquito Creek, but Candyman had other monsters in mind. Without realizing it, Diane had struck a nerve.

“More threats,” he said. “How cute. Shall we move on now, or will I need to do something ‘monstrous’ to remind you who is in control? All things considered, you’re getting off easy tonight. All I’m asking for is silk, the blood is up to you.”

“Fine,” she said. “You win.” Diane raised her shaky left hand toward the thin straps over her shoulders. She moved each one down over her arms until the silk top dropped over her exposed breasts. For a moment, she stopped, her humiliation complete as she tried to cover her chest with her one arm, the other, entirely useless.

Candyman sat back in his chair with his gloved hand over his mouth, staring at the woman’s flesh as if studying an old shelf full of books he’d read a hundred times. “Keep going,” he said with disinterest. “Remove the rest of it.”

Diane shook so fiercely it took incredible effort to get the silk gown down over the rest as she had to bend over to get it down past her legs. For the first time since wearing the whore’s clothing, she felt like one, and hated herself for feeling so helpless to stop it.

When the deed was done, she stood up straight, leaving her chest exposed but covering her lower area as best she could. Diane refused to look at the man, choosing to stare at one of the city scene pictures on the wall, instead.

“The arm please,” he said with annoyance.

Diane let her arm fall until she was completely exposed. She made a fist so tight her nails were digging in, as blood trickled to the floor.

“There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

She refused to speak. In her mind, Diane envisioned her own brand of murder shop, picturing the numerous ways she wanted to make this pig suffer. You’re doing this for Nine, she thought. For all of them. Whatever it takes to keep them alive a little longer… to keep the plan alive. There are far worse things you’ve done to protect the ones you care about. But in truth, she was having trouble believing that in this moment.

“Now, look me in the eyes,” he said, “and let me see all of it.”

She turned her fiery gaze upon him.

Candyman stared into her eyes, troubled by what he found there. “This is unacceptable,” he said, his irritation evident. “You are still not getting this… at all.”

“What more do you want?” she hissed. “Isn’t my complete humiliation enough? I would have killed anyone else ten times over for even suggesting what you’ve just made me do.”

He pointed accusingly at her face. “It’s all right there,” he said. “Your eyes, your face… your fucking mouth full of bile! I thought this little demonstration might break that contemptuous attitude of yours… but your defiance is… tiresome.”

Diane raised an eyebrow. He was hoping I’d bend like a little girl, crying in the corner after assaulting my dignity. Guess I’m not like the girls he’s used to dehumanizing in here. She took extreme pleasure in that fact.

Then she made a fatal mistake.

Diane smiled at him. It wasn’t a seductive smile, a sheepish smile, but a taunting one.

One that clearly told the leader of New Cleveland who still had control.

Candyman rose up out of his chair, stood eye to eye with the naked woman, then put his arms behind his back, shaking his head. “No, no… NO!” he snapped. “This is unacceptable!”

“What’s the matter?” Diane pushed, unable to stop herself. “Not the broken girl you expected? Are my tits not round enough? I always felt that one was slighter bigger than the other. Or maybe my nipples aren’t standing at attention enough for you?”

“Stop it,” he said.

“Too much bush down below? I know I haven’t shaved in a while, but I thought it went well with this whole ‘70’s vibe you’ve got going on in here.”

“Enough,” he cautioned.

“Come on,” she taunted, reaching her one arm across the coffee table and touching the man’s robe, causing him to flinch and step back. “I know the other arm isn’t much to look at, but my left arm’s super strong now… I could probably jerk you off in ten sec-”

He backhanded her across the face with surprising force, knocking her back down on the couch.

Diane reached up to the corner of her mouth, felt the blood, and stared back in surprise. She spat a wad of crimson-colored saliva onto the floor, leaned over and laughed, “Who’s in control now, bitch!”

Candyman stared threateningly down at the woman, out of breath. He looked like he wanted to jump over table and strangle Diane.

She dared him with her eyes to try it.

Sensing he’d crossed some line he wasn’t willing to cross, Candyman immediately regained his composure, straightening his robe and running a hand through his silver hair. “This was a grave miscalculation on my part,” he said more to himself. “I’ve clearly shown you too much tolerance.”

“What’s next,” she said, completely losing her shit. “You going to fuck me now? Go ahead, asshole. I’ll even act like I’m enjoying it, if you want. Maybe I’ll make all those loud moans and groans Nadia’s always doing to make you feel like a real man! She’s quite the actress as I’m sure you already know.”

Candyman smiled at her and shook his head. “You just don’t know when to quit, do you?”

“You started this, asshole.”

“Yes,” he said. “And I’m ending it… now.” Candyman started pacing around the room. “After I’ve summoned half a dozen of my Lunatics to come in here, I’ll sit back down with my drink and watch them penetrate you repeatedly… and you will scream… no acting. Then, after you’re so raw you can barely sit on that couch, we will continue our discussion, while you try to bite back all the pain you’re about to receive. Let’s see how much defiance I discover in your eyes then… hmm?”

Diane closed her eyes. I’m not leaving this room alive. She made peace with the thought, understanding that she’d pushed this real lunatic too far. She opened her eyes, smiled at that madman, and said, “Well… you better pour yourself a tall damn drink, you sick fuck, and then double the number of goons you’re sending in to break me, because after I’ve fucked them all to death… I’m going to do things to you, you can’t imagine… and I’m not talking about anything sexual, either.”

Candyman stared at her in disbelief, trying to understand this strange creature. “As amusing as this has been, I grow tired of your company this evening. I think I’ll just let my men play with you for a while, and then we’ll see what remains of that warrior spirit come tomorrow evening.” He was about to call the Lunatics in.

“What’s taking you so long?” Nadia said, surprising Candyman with her unannounced appearance near the end of the long bar.

Candyman turned to scold the woman, then stopped.

Nadia stood naked, leaning against the bar while gently stroking the space between her slender breasts with her free hand. “All this time you spend down here, talking with… her… leaving me alone upstairs. Now I see there’s something more going on than talking.” Nadia stared at Diane’s naked body. “If I didn’t know any better, I might have cause to be jealous. Should I be jealous?”

The leader of New Cleveland was clearly thrown off-balance by the attractive blond woman. “There’s nothing to be concerned about, dear. This matter doesn’t concern you. Please, return to our quarters and wait for me to join you.”

“Join me now,” she teased, moving her hand slowly down toward her well-trimmed lower area. “That worthless woman can wait. But I can’t. Hasn’t that bitch taken up enough of our time together?”

Candyman laughed. “You make an excellent point, especially now.”

Diane could clearly see the arousal in the man’s eyes as he stared at his favorite whore. Thank God for scotch and tall blonds, she thought, feeling like she might have been rescued, for the moment, from her own stupidity.

“You look tense,” she told him, strolling over with a seductive walk. “I don’t like it when you’re this tense. It’s not good for you.”

Candyman looked embarrassed. “I… well… I guess a break from business down here might be in order.”

Nadia wrapped her arms around his shoulders, letting her firm breasts brush up against his partially exposed chest while pushing her hips against his groin. “I know what’s good for you,” she teased. “Leave the little twat down here. She’s not going anywhere, right?”

“You are correct,” he said. “I just need to-”

Nadia placed a long finger over his mouth while reaching for his other hand and placing it between her legs. “You were saying?”

Candyman smiled. “What was I saying?”

“You were saying,” she teased, “that you’re coming upstairs now so that I can take care of you proper. I can think of far better ways for you to release that tension.”

“When you’re right, you’re right,” he said with a laugh. Candyman glanced over at Diane and said, “We’ll have to continue our discussion another time. Have them escort you back and we’ll talk again tomorrow. I suggest you use the time to reconsider the many things we’ve discussed and change your attitude.”

Diane simply nodded.

“Let’s go,” Nadia said, pulling the leader of New Cleveland toward the bedroom stairs. “Fuck with the new girl later. You’re fucking me now.”

And just like that, Diane was left alone.

She stared toward the empty stairs in shock and disbelief. It took her five long minutes to move from the couch after she stopped shaking and calmed her nerves enough to believe that the Lunatics weren’t about to burst into the room and gang rape her.

Nadia had just earned a whole new level of respect from her, perhaps risking her own life to intervene on her behalf.

Are men really that easy to manipulate? she wondered. Nadia had taken control of the entire situation in seconds. It must all be in the hips. I’ll get her to explain that one to me. Diane looked down at her awkwardly shaped body, compared to Nadia’s perfect-ten figure, and slowly started putting the silk gown back on. As she dressed, she half-expected to hear a voice boom down from upstairs to remove the clothes.

Diane was shaking again.

He’s fucked you up, a little bit, she thought. Get over it quickly.

It was a nerve-wrecking walk back to her trailer in the dark. She still expecting to be jumped by her two-man escort, or worse, to get back to her trailer and find a Lunatic sex party waiting to receive her.

When she was finally alone, Diane removed the hideous silk gown and put on a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. The hunter reached beneath her mattress and removed the homemade knife—a jagged piece of metal with a sharp tip, three inches long, with a taped-up handle at one end. It wasn’t much, but it offered some small comfort.

Diane crawled into her bed and buried herself in blankets, keeping the crude blade firmly in her hand. She stayed awake for a long time, staring at the trailer door, waiting for the assault that never came. The damage had already been done.

Eventually, she relaxed a little, and finally removed her warrior armor. She wept in the darkness, longing for Nine’s comforting arms to keep her from shaking.

~~~

Next Episode 50-9

Previous Episode 50-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 50-8: Amusement” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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