The article went out in “Ripper” magazine. Yes (it said, but certainly not in so many words) -- it’s so damn easy, it’s almost legal. Come! Come! Come! Bring money, take a vacation. Your Ripper inside knows what you want and the perfect place to get it. Listen up; take advice; get dirty; get satisfaction.
Money changed hands. Receipts and bills of lading were conveniently destroyed. The box was propped, the stick was wedged, the string was tied, and the trap was set. “Ripper” was happy to comply and the “editor,” an asthmatic man with bright bulging crepuscules where his eyebrows should be, was happy not to have his name released to the general public.
Planes flew day and night. The first hit came within the week. An alarm went off at the airport and the scramble and scrum rippled from the security epicenter like an underwater tuba blast. Action!
Data came into the station on an old dot matrix. Wheee-wheee-wheee, whirka-whirka-whirka. This businessman, Breugel, had a farrago of dangerous magazines crumpled in a brown paper bag (Ripper -- with margin notes!), a length of rope, and odd screw-together knives that slipped into the joins of his expensive, custom luggage. He had already booked a hotel room from home. His glossy photograph, culled quickly by the nimblest fingers of agents in the International Records office, revealed a man with more jaw than hair. Blue eyes. Tall. He was a good driver -- or, at least, a lucky one. He had no tickets. No accidents. No record.
Breugel the Businessman was not delayed. In fact, if anything, impediments were plucked from his path like lint from a lapel. He didn’t notice. After all, Breugels were used to preferential treatment. The car he ordered actually arrived early.
What a wild country, he thought to himself, peering over his sunglasses in the cab. The cabman took him up and down busy streets at the man’s insistence, wasting time. Sight seeing. The streets were strange: crazies and transients huddled around campfires next to massive high-rises and expensive boutiques. When the cabman finally dropped him off at his hotel, it was nearly sundown.
“Pardon me,” asked Breugel the Businessman, clutching his suitcase and leaning into the cab window, one suited elbow on the door ledge, legs crossed. “Could you tell me why all the people in this country wear numbers?”
“What?” barked the cabbie, cocking his head.
“Numbers,” said Breugel, “You all wear numbers. You, for instance, are wearing a number -- around your neck, on a chain -- right now. It says 2000. I don’t get it. It isn’t in my travel manual.”
“Government,” said the cabbie, firing up his pink-and-tan hack and spinning the wheel. As the car pulled away, Bruegel’s elbow slipped snake-like from the window, and his dangling briefcase was wrenched from his grip. It clattered impotent to the sidewalk. But Breugel was not annoyed. Quite the contrary. What a wild, senseless, godforsaken country, he said between his teeth.
The concierge didn’t even look up as he slipped Bruegel his room keys and ran his credit card. Who knows if he even spoke English?
Breugel took his own bag up to his room and masturbated twice, the second orgasm coming like an attention starved child running back into the party after being sent to bed with a stern warning. He took a long, invasive shower. Then he picked up the phone.
He had a whole list of numbers to dial. He picked the one at the top. Not that it mattered: his phone line had been hijacked almost immediately.
The phone rang twice and then clicked into an automated transfer.
“What language, please?” asked a friendly female voice in the local dialect.
Breugel told her in his own tongue. It was a small triumph for Queen and country and diplomatic relations in general, no doubt, that such a process had the trappings of full linguistic access.
“Please stay on the line,” said the woman.
Breugel waited. After several interminable seconds, he made his connection.
“Hello?” asked a man in a high pitched snarl. He had a slight accent, but Breugel couldn’t place it. “How can I help you?”
“I need a girl,” said Breugel.
“Yes,” said the man, annoyed. “That’s how this works.”
“She should be tall,” said Breugel. “And local. Not an import. If you know what I mean.”
“You want a standard or an automatic?” said the man, chuckling through his teeth. “Good seat? Power windows?”
“I need a girl,” said Breugel. “Someone young. I won’t say expendable. I won’t say it.”
“But that is what you mean?”
“I want a good one, but not your best. I will pay for her COMPLETELY. I have money. I am in business.”
“You are here on business?” asked the man.
“I am here for a girl,” said Bruegel.
“You are looking for good stock? Someone we can forget?” said the man with an insinuating whinge.
“If that is what I am looking for,” said Breugel.
“We don’t forget easy. It is very dear, and you must do all your own cleaning,” said the man. “Put the mess in the bathtub and no funny questions. And you leave in the morning, end of story. We will take care of the rest. We will be watching. Where are you staying? What room?”
Breugel told him. He told him about the money he would give up front, and the money he would give afterwards. The man coughed, rustled paper, gave him a range of time, and then hung up.
Breugel sat on his hands. He arranged pillows and luggage into cabbalistic shapes, and then moved them back again, all at right angles to the only shuttered window. He tried reading an airport novel, but he was much too excited to parse the paragraphs. He began tying knots and nooses into his rope, making adjustments and getting the lengths just so. He unstrung all of the knots and then tied them again. And again.
He hoped they would remember to send him a tall girl. Although, he would be happy with whatever showed up. Perhaps, with time and experience, he would grow more particular. But not yet! His first! It was too much. Too much fun. Would he have the same tickles afterward? Would this cure him? Did he want to be cured? Would it ever be as exciting again?
There was a knock at the door. Breugel leapt to his feet and began pushing his instruments under the bed, coughing and knocking into the walls.
“Just a second!” he shouted.
He checked his appearance in the mirror and straightened the lay of his tie. He stroked his balding pate with one of his leathered palms, plastering his hair into a helmet of chemical suet and shallow, straight trenches.
With a sweeping, awkward bow, he opened the door and flashed his biggest, sharpest grin.
“Hello,” he shouted.
“Hello,” he said again quietly, once he had gotten an eyeful. The woman behind the door made his shins go numb. As he swayed, swooning, on the balls of his feet, she simply smiled dreamily and stepped into the threshold. The door closed behind her, as if by its own accord. It clapped to the frame like the shivering hands of an apocalyptic preacher, his flat preacher paws slapping together to sanctify the holiest stab of his sermon.
She wasn’t tall. That much they had gotten wrong. She came up to Breugel’s shoulders or thereabouts. But Breugel didn’t even notice. To his mind, she was perfect. Was this really this country’s gift to him? This mad, lawless place was willing to pin THIS rare flower into his buttonhole?
She was blonde, first thing. Her hair was cut at her shoulders at a slanted angle to her jaw line. She wore a floral print dress that snugly fit her tight body like a wet sock, hugging her hips at the bottom and lifting both sets of her hanging globes – tits and ass—up like fresh fruit sacks on a scale. And what measurements! She had a body that mortals could only see or feel in magazines. But no glossy impossibility here: she was real, ripe, and standing inside his room with the door shut. She had a small, primrose mouth – or at least, she was tightly holding it closed. Good. Her cheeks and forehead held only the slightest trace of powder, adding a gentle snowdrift to her pale pink plateaus. She balanced well. Brown eyes, but Breugel was certain she was a natural blonde anyway. Something about the baby fine hairs that salted her neck just said natural blonde.
He sat down on the foot of the bed. Watching her move, he could feel his undershirt stick to him as he began to perspire like a faucet. He remembered to smile again. His brain started back up.
“Good evening,” said Breugel. “I’m so glad you came. Do you speak English?”
“A little bit,” said the girl.
“What are you called?” asked Breugel, rubbing his knees and twisting at the fabric on his thighs.
“I am called Minuet. Minnie,” she said, tossing her handbag onto a svelte, velvet upholstered chair.
“It’s nice to meet you, Minnie. You are very pretty,” said Breugel. “Very beautiful, I mean.”
“You like the young girls?” she said, sitting next to him. “I am not very old. Not at all. Some are disappointed. Some want experience. I HAVE experience, I say. Some are disappointed.”
“I am not disappointed,” said Breugel. “You are perfect.”
She smiled happily, planting the hot bloom of a kiss on his cheek and leaving him with the extended tip of her hard, slinky tongue.
“Good,” she said, “I like being liked.”
“Are you hungry?” he asked. “I was thinking about ordering something for us to eat.”
“I will do anything,” she said, laying down on the bed and curling her legs up underneath her. With trembling hands, Breugel picked up the phone again and ordered a plate of Ova’d Femme. You couldn’t get such a delicacy anywhere else in the world. Not hardly. He wanted to take advantage of all of the strange freedoms in this country while he was here, since he would have to leave in the morning.
“Do you eat Ova’d Femme?” he asked her.
“Eat it? I have made the sale before,” she said. “They pay very well. It is a good thing to do. My little children have made men very happy.”
“Eggs, not children,” chided Breugel. “They say they are best from young girls. I bet this hotel has very good taste.”
“It is true,” sighed Minnie. “The younger the better. Experience counts for nothing on a plate.”
Minnie sat up and hugged her knees. She showed Breugel nothing underneath, as much as she teased. Such long, shapely, glistening legs. Such life.
“How come you aren’t wearing a number?” asked Breugel.
“What?” asked Minnie.
“Around your neck. Everybody else here wears a number.”
Minnie frowned at him, searching his eyes, trying desperately to understand. Breugel mimed a chain around his neck, comically inspecting the invisible placard. He made numerals in the air with one stubby finger until the light of understanding dawned as crystal in her eyes.
“Government,” she said finally with a shrug. Breugel had to take it. Her tongue was in his ear.
FROM “RIPPER” MAGAZINE
No country in the world has more lax prostitution laws than the microstate of Lusha. Such a loose and freewheeling sexual culture is bound to have its dark side, and while responsible entities in Lusha have tried to downplay the morbid yins that coalesce from such libertarian, libidinous yangs, danger nevertheless exists inside Lusha’s massive flesh trade.
For instance, for the past ten years, prostitutes have been the unfortunate victims of countless gruesome murders that have started to become alarmingly commonplace. Police agencies have even declared that they will no longer dedicate full investigative strength toward such crimes, instead resigning themselves to a policy of institutionalized education and warning programs. Hook at your own risk, is the name of the game in Lusha. Citizenry who would otherwise be up in arms about the contemptible deaths of so many young women are nonplussed at best, and self-righteously vindicated in more extreme cases.
“Whores get what they deserve,” said one local official, under a condition of anonymity. The prevailing opinion is that these murderous “market-forces” will slowly erode all glamour from this, the world’s oldest profession.
But has this climate of murder and moral decay given birth to an underground world of niche sexual predation? Are the world’s most deadly creatures journeying to Lusha to practice their unholy hobby? Neighboring countries are alarmed, but not alarmed enough to do anything yet.
There have been no convictions to date, an utterly amazing statistic. Somewhere, there must be local complicity. Through forensic reconstruction, top criminologists have reconstructed how typical murder enthusiasts in Lusha are doing their dirty secret deeds, and routinely getting away with total impunity. Ripper has the inside scoop…
Breugel started rubbing Minnie’s shoulders, working his hands underneath the fabric of her dress. An empty plate of Ova’d sat on the dresser. Classical music played loudly on the hotel’s complimentary CD player. Minnie put her finger on Breugel’s throat and then slowly moved it up his craggy face. She tweaked his nose and then giggled. With one swift motion, she unzipped her dress from the side, pulled off her clothes, and moved into his lap -- kissing him deeply, one hand fumbling at his pants.
“I think I am in love,” said Breugel.
“Do you think I could tie you up?” asked Breugel conversationally. He turned red as the wallpaper, his voice stretching at the end of his sentence like the wheeze of a busted tire.
“Nothing would give me more pleasure,” said Minnie, smiling knowingly.
“And do you think you could call me sir?” asked Breugel, biting his tongue and wincing.
“Nothing would give me more pleasure, sir,” said Minnie, working her hands further down into his fly.
“Great,” said Breugel, pushing her away. “Why don’t you lie down?”
Minnie did as she was told, stretching across the bed while Breugel began to remove his tools from underneath. His hands moved over his knives. Not yet. He kept them hidden in a neat little pile and patted them with love. Soon, now.
Evidently, Minnie had done this before. She even helped him by showing him the best way to twist her arms to keep the circulation going. It was sort of embarrassing, but Breugel did his best to stay in control. He wanted the ropes on first before he started cutting. Minnie looked amazing there on the bed, with every limb pulled out tightly and every trough and valley of her slender body pulled taut like the skin of a drum, or the seat covers of an amateur taxidermist. Breugel admired the scene for a few a minutes, kissing her belly, kissing her thighs.
It was time.
He put the gag on, making sure it was tight and then giving her an experimental squeeze to make her squeal. You could barely hear her tiny voice. He had requested and received a top floor corner room, so there shouldn’t be any problem, but it was good to be safe.
“I’ve always had a problem with all of this sex business,” said Breugel, bending down under the bed to retrieve his toys. “But I think I know what is finally going to make me normal again.”
He found a good short scalpel. One that would barely graze the surface. Lots of blood, lots of pain, but no real damage. Perfect for starters
He popped his head back up, ready to surprise her. Ready for that beautiful terror.
But it was Breugel who was shocked. He dropped his scalpel. Bars slid shut in front of his eyes. He was staring right into the barrel of a gun and right into the mirror of a police badge. Minnie was sitting cross-legged on the bed, unfettered, leveling a revolver in his face, a silver badge in her other hands.
“Surprise,” she said. “Sir.”
“What?” he shouted. “But, the ropes…”
“Are you kidding?” she said with a snort, “My grandfather used to tie better knots than that. And he was in his eighties and only had the one hand. I won’t tell you what he did with his stump.”
Breugel jumped at her. She shot him in the foot. Right between the toes. Just enough pain to make him fall to the ground and start howling.
“It’s okay,” shouted Minnie, “You can come in now.” A troop of vested, booted police officers stomped into the room from the door and bathroom, all holding rifles. Some of the cops wore numbers. Some did not. Minnie yawned big and then put her dress back on.
“Well, that was much easier than we expected,” said Minnie. The cops all agreed, slapping each other on the back. Breugel just lay on the floor clutching his bleeding shoe and howling for somebody to put a bullet in his brain.
“We’ve got you on attempted murder here, Mr. Breugel,” said Minnie in clean, precise English. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”
“But how? Who told you?” he shrieked.
“Never mind that,” said Minnie. “There’s only one punishment here in Lusha. Naturalization.”
“What?” said Breugel, frowning. “What are you talking about?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, meet Lusha’s newest permanent citizen,” said Minnie, hauling Breugel to his feet. He frowned in incomprehension as the troupe of cops began clapping and whistling for him.
“You see, Mr. Breugel, we do things a little bit differently here in Lusha. We don’t have the tired old sexual prejudices and mores of your Anglo countries. EVERYBODY in Lusha has a price. Except for those of us who were born here, of course. The rest of you are our toys. Some of you are more expensive than others.”
Minnie walked over to a burly cop with a handlebar mustache and cupped his chin in her hands. He leaned forward slightly against her elegant fingers. The placard around his neck said 10,000.
“I’m a married man,” said the cop in Lushan, embarrassed.
“I know, I know,” she said. “But it’s worth it. I’m just waiting for a raise.” The rest of the cops giggled.
“What’s going on?” asked Breugel. “What are you people talking about?”
Minnie whirled on him.
“The laws are very strict in Lusha, and we have an exceedingly difficult time finding new ladies and gentlemen to fill our bottom echelons. Every year you live here, your price will go up $100. After five years, you have the option to pay into your own freedom. It’s a fair wage system, and most people come to enjoy it. After they’ve done their time in the trenches, of course.”
Everybody but Breugel laughed.
“All crimes committed by foreigners are met with naturalization. There is no extradition from Lusha, and I think you will find our police and surveillance forces more than adequate to deal with the likes of you. Any attempt at escape is met with punishment of a most cruel and unusual nature. If you refuse sexual service to anyone who is willing to pay your price, your price will be capped at whatever rate you have attained, barring adjudication. I’m sure you know that Lusha has never been admitted into the UN. Such a position allows us a great many freedoms regarding how we dispose with our own.”
Breugel couldn’t think of anything to say to this.
“Ordinarly, we wouldn’t go to such elaborate lengths to catch a person and make him ours,” said Minnie. “But, like I said, the lower classes are demanding cheaper rates – threatening to turn the whole system over. The only crime that fairly allows such a devalued enumeration is murder. Of which you would have been more than guilty, had we let things carry forward to their only logical conclusion. Am I right? Do we have sufficient video and circumstantial evidence?”
The cops all grunted assent.
“So I hope you enjoy your stay here in Lusha. It will be permanent. You will get to keep the money you make, and you will need it. I’m afraid the cost of living here is dismally high. Maybe someday we will meet again, but I think not. I don’t care for perverts, Mr. Breugel.”
Minnie walked over to a nylon bag that one of the cops had brought in and pulled out a chain and sign. She handed it to the cop with the handlebar mustache.
“How’s his foot?” she asked.
“Nothing,” said a cop who was bandaging the wound. “A scratch.”
“Give him his number, and then send him on his way. We’ve got work to do. We’ve had three more hits from the airport, already.”
Minnie gave Breugel one last peck on the cheek and then walked to the door.
“Viktor here will be your parole officer for the next few weeks,” she said, gesturing to the cop with the handlebar mustache. “He will set you up with an apartment and a day job. I understand you are in business. That’s good. We need more business here in Lusha.”
She swept out the door, waving behind her.
“Goodbye, Mr. Breugel. Happy hooking.”
Viktor smiled and picked Breugel up with one hand. He slung him over his shoulder and carried him into the elevator. All Breugel could do was whimper. He checked the sign around his neck in the reflection of the elevator’s mirrored wall. It said “5.”
Viktor carried him through the hotel lobby, down the street, and down to a shabby, boarded-up bar on the corner. The crowd inside were milling around like tigers in a cage. Men, women, and children. All of them were clutching small bills.
“Alright, you lot,” said Viktor in Lushan, tossing Breugel to the ground. “Here’s your bauble. Play nice, and don’t wear him out too terribly. There’ll be plenty more to go around soon.”
Viktor sat down in a chair by the door and took out a magazine. As the people started pushing forward, he looked at Breugel and grinned.
“You will find the people of Lusha do not like the murdering,” said Viktor in broken English. “I would be surprise if you survive the night. The psychic hurt will be big. I know I couldn’t handle. I started out at 2000. They got me on a bounce check.”
Breugel reached up to Viktor with a trembling hand. The cop just shook his head, chuckling. And then Breugel felt bills stuffed into his pockets as his clothes were torn away and he was dragged into the jeering, shrieking, heckling mob.