In Pleasure Model, the first book in the Netherworld trilogy, down-and out police detective Rook gets a big break when he's assigned to a bizarre and vicious murder case. The clues are colder than the corpse and the case looks like it'll remain unsolveduntil an eyewitness is discovered. But the witness is a Pleasure Model, an illegal gene-grown human. Plesur's only purpose is to provide satisfaction to her ownerin any way. When the murderer targets Plesur in order to eliminate the one witness, Rook takes her into hiding to protect her. Thus begins a descent into the dark world of exotic pleasure mods and their illicit buyers and manufacturers. Rook frantically looks for clues, struggling to stay one stop ahead of those looking to kill them both. But is Rook falling under Plesur's spell….?
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The man was a massive specimen. Heavy shoulders, powerful arms, solid delts and lats. The deeply lined face was hidden in shadows, the head bowed with pain, but it was a strong face, brutal even, or so Mistress Julia thought.
She had finished. One hundred strokes with the single-tail whip, following on eighty with the number three rattan cane. All delivered quite slowly, ten seconds apart, stretching the ordeal out to an hour. Blood ran from several welts on his back and buttocks. His head, shaved to the skin, glistened with sweat.
He dropped to his knees and kissed the feet of the Virgin Mary. The statue stood, smiling serenely in the living room. Blood smeared the polished marble floor as he swayed.
He was mumbling, as he always did. She heard the words, though she scarcely understood them.
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
please behold your evil child
all with bloody scourges rent;
For the sins upon his nation
save him from the desolation
that awaits him down in hell.
Mistress Julia kept her distance. Clients usually groveled before she beat them. With her ash blond hair slicked back in a ponytail, she was dressed in her most "severe" mode, black patent leather bodysuit, high boots with four-inch heels, gloves, and mask. But this client was never actually involved in a sexual scene. Other than kissing her boots and begging for the whip, he asked for nothing that was normally part of her practice. This one just wanted to be punished.
And punished severely.
She had never beaten a man who simply took it the way this one did. Never a murmur, a groan, a cry, a tear, nothing, until she was done and he fell down before the six- foot marble statue and wept as he mumbled his prayers.
She turned on her heel and stalked away. What ever Mr. Sangacha’s problem was, she had done her part. Another four hundred New Dollars waited in the envelope on the glass table. She picked it up as she headed for the bathroom.
Prostrate before thee, I make this humble act of
for the outrages which thou hast received from me....
He was still praying, the fervor thick in his throat, as she closed the bathroom door.
Mistress Julia— real name Angela Bricken— normally worked with her clients at her specially equipped basement dungeon in a nice modern house over in Ramapo. However, Sangacha had insisted from the beginning on being visited in his own home. It was not her favorite mode of operation. In the dungeon she had her security set up, with various technologies that could rapidly immobilize a man if he turned violent during a session.
But Sangacha had never given her the slightest trouble. He never deviated from the scene and he always paid in full, on time and without complaint.
The one problem, of course, was the surveillance. Cams were everywhere, and for her own good reasons Angie Bricken didn’t care to be lensed too often in any one place. So she had to take precautions.
She rinsed off the whip and the cane as she got the hot water running, then peeled off her boots and unzipped her suit. Some clients begged for these tasks, and some were rewarded with them, and other things too, but only after they’d paid their dues. Mistress Julia had learned a lot of things about men over the years.
Whip, boots, and suit went into her bag as she stripped down. For a moment she looked at herself in the floor-to- ceiling mirror. Still desirable, she thought, even at fifty. Intensive antioxidant treatments, strict diet, and rigorous exercise were partly responsible. Her extended medical program with monthly checkups and prevention-interventions took care of the rest. Only the most careful examination of her face could reveal that she was anything but a day over thirty.
The shower was good. Sangacha had a real high-tech unit, with jets at three levels that pulsed on a cycle of different frequencies. She enjoyed the hard- driving water, surrendering to the heat, feeling cleaner by the second.
Angie never scheduled anything else on Sangacha days. She realized she was hungry, so she broke out of the Julia construct and pressed a fingertip to her right ear, where her phone chip was lodged.
"That organic place, down in Tarrytown. Book me in for lunch."
A massive thud shook the shower.
"What the fuck?" She turned off the water and pulled back the curtain, which probably saved her life. The next blast was unmistakable— shotgun. A scream followed, and cursing, and then a rapid thud- thud- thud that she knew had to be some kind of automatic weapon equipped with a silencer.
For a moment she stood frozen, terrified and astonished. Then the shotgun went off again and something or somebody slammed into the bathroom door.
That got her moving. She swept her bag off the floor, stuffed it into the dirty towel bin. It fit, just, and she shut the lid. Then she spun around and switched off the lights. Rubbing the foot towel over the floor to mop up the drips, she yanked open the door to the cabinet under the sink.
A tight fit, but she could do it. She had to do it. She was certain of that, if she wanted to live.
There were some more thud- thuds, and a lot of loud cursing. A man was whimpering in pain.
She scrunched her body down under the sink, got her legs up into the space on the other side of the pipes, pulled her head inside, stuffed the foot towel under her ass, which helped to cushion her hip against the metal drain, and tugged the door shut. It did so with a plastic click that left her briefly wondering if she could open it again from inside, or if she’d be stuck there until who knew when.
Which was fucking absurd, because what ever was going on out there in the duplex, it involved guns and that meant only one thing: death.
She waited, shivering, fear coiling inside her like a cold dark creature.
The last twenty- five years had been like this, since the day she’d gotten the personality modification program and become Mistress Julia. One minute she was a dominatrix, afraid of nothing, in command, and the next she was helpless little Angie, drowning in her own fear, praying for Julia to save her.
"You stupid fuck!" There came a loud moan of pain and, she imagined, the sound of something or someone being dragged.
There was a crash, then silence.
Her mind ran wildly though scenarios. She didn’t know who Sangacha was. As was often the case in her business, she didn’t want to know that kind of thing.
Was it a mob hit? Was he some kind of crim? She had wondered about that. His habit of praying for forgiveness when she’d laid into him had the sound of a man who’d done terrible things in his life.
Then she heard the door to the bathroom open and a heavy tread on the tile floor.
"Where the fuck is she?" asked a male voice.
"Must’ve gotten out just before we arrived," said another.
"Check the parking. Hurry."
Boots retreated. She stayed where she was, the fear now like a sword of ice running up her guts. The bathroom door slammed.
What the fuck was going on?
The footsteps had ceased. Still she waited. Had they gone? Were they playing games? She kept as still as she possibly could, though the diffculties of her confinement were now making themselves apparent. Something was digging into the small of her back, and her head was crushed in between the side of the sink and the side of the cabinet.
She wanted to get to her car and put as many miles as she could between herself and this complex as quickly as possible. She’d go straight up to the woods and hide out. Up there she was somebody else, a whole other ID.
She was about to open the door when she heard a sudden rush of footsteps go by. Then the bathroom door banged open and the light went on, sending a gleam through the crack at the edge of the door to her hiding place.
"She ain’t here," a voice groaned. "I’m fucking bleeding!"
"Here’s a towel," drawled another. "Try not to bleed all over the truck."
Footsteps retreated, another door slammed, and everything was quiet again.
Fuck indeed. Fuck, fuck, fuck, she’d almost gotten herself caught there.
Time passed. The thing digging into her back turned into torture. Angie tried not to let it all get to her. She had to stay calm. But Mistress Julia had other ideas.
Take a rest, Angie. Take your nerves and your weaknesses and your hunger for a piece of dark chocolate and shut the fuck up. It’s time for iron control. Time to stay alive.
Julia took back the reins with the familiar sliding sensation. The dominatrix persona started her life on an A2 chip that Angie plugged in and out of the microsocket behind her right ear. At first, Angie had been terrified of Julia, afraid one day she would completely dominate her life. But Angie had learned the hard way— she needed Julia. Now, the stern alpha female was always there, waiting just below the surface. Angie didn’t even need the plug-in anymore.
Minutes crawled by. Julia counted seconds like whip strokes. When the count reached a hundred she pushed hard. The door popped open with a bang and she fell out onto the bathroom floor.
Right before her eyes were huge, bloody boot prints, leading in and out of the bathroom.
She pulled her bag out of the towel bin and hurriedly got into her Zipdex bodysuit. Now she pulled out two face-cloths and wiped everything she might have touched with her bare skin, working quickly and, she prayed, effectively. She mopped out the shower, did her best on the curtain, and ran some more water to be sure while she worked on the space under the sink. Everything went into her bag.
Done, she slung her bag over her shoulder and padded into the hall. Bullet holes riddled the wall. It looked as if someone had tried to mop up a quart of blood, and hadn’t done a very good job. She went the other way, through the kitchen, and came out in the dining area. Another couple of steps and she saw him.
Sangacha lay on his back. There was a sawed- off shotgun lying close by. A pool of blood spread beneath him, washing over the feet of the Virgin Mary.
At the front door she put on her sneakers, her big mirrored sunglasses, and her pink and white Yankees cap with the bill pulled down low over her face. There wasn’t time for makeup to disguise herself any further. Any images caught by the cams at this point were going to be studied intensively, she knew. She attached a little distortion box to the right side of her sunglasses frame. The box was expensive, and illegal, but it would blur her features, even her outline, to any ordinary camera.
Mistress Julia opened the door and peered both ways before bolting for the stairs. Because there’d been a work crew painting signage on the main parking, she’d gone around to the ser vice worker area. It was smaller, even the spaces were narrower, but she was very glad she’d used it since the killers wouldn’t expect her to have parked there.
She cracked open the blue door to the parking and paused. Had they left someone here to take care of her, just in case? Working methodically, she looked down the aisles and into the corners.
With a deep breath, she headed for her car, prepared to run at the slightest sign of someone waiting for her. The car door opened for her and she slid inside.
"Ridgetop," she whispered, and the car slid out with the soft whine of the electric engine. She knew there were cameras at the exit ramp, so she kept her head down, letting just the pink Yankees cap be seen. A few moments later she was on the access road and the car began to accelerate. As she started to breathe normally again, questions and answers, most of them terrifying, boiled to the surface.
Shit. She really liked this town. But now she had to run again. There were some problems not even Mistress Julia could handle.
Excerpted from Pleasure Model by Christopher Rowley.
Copyright 2010 by Heavy Metal.
Published in 2010 by A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.