The A-to-Z Challenge was a blast, and you can even hear it read, all twenty-six posts, by one of the sexiest voices out there on the Ropecast.
But the fact is it was a distraction. It’s a way for me to ignore the writing I should be doing – erotica, non-fiction, essays, I got a head filled with ideas. Including a full-length novel, roughly set in the same universe as Nawashi and Jujun, which is in need of some editing.
So I’m going to let you, dear readers, put the pressure on me. I’m going to release the chapters as I edit them, serially, here on this blog. Absolutely free. Oh, if you want to tip me some over there on the sidebar, I won’t turn you down, but I promise I won’t leave you hanging. Over the next few months, once a week, a chapter will be revealed here on the blog right up until the bitter end of the ambulance lights driving off into a snowy night (yeah, I gave it away a bit there, but what do you expect for free?).
At the end, the book will be released in actual print form, probably with some additional edits, one or two expanded scenes, maybe a little additional erotica just to make it worth your while. One of the nice things about self-publishing is that you have options.
However, letting the story languish is not an option. So let me invite you into a somewhat decrepit corner of Detroit – not the current city-in-rebirth, but the city when it looked like it was dying. Sit down, grab a coffee, and let me tell you the story of the Kumir.
Chapter 1: Brown Leathers
The pure black of the night sky was grudgingly giving way to a gritty gray dawn as the small motorcycle purred into town. The rider was petite, slender, tight brown riding leathers clinging to her gamine form with the intimacy of miles and time. Her eyes were protected by dust-covered goggles and a dark brown aviator’s cap cupped the graceful dark curve of her skull . She rode down St. Antoine St. in the early morning, purring the bike to a slow stop under the green neon coffee cup flickering an uncertain welcome.
Several sets of dark eyes watched her from the shadows of the alley next to the shop as she kicked the stand down and lifted her leg over the seat. Vague faces were lit by the chiaroscuro glow of cigarettes mingling with the rumble of men’s voices, but the rider ignored them with a relaxed wariness. She unstrapped the large rucksack from the back of her bike with quick, efficient movements.
“Hey, pretty pussy, why don’t you give up that little Hitachi bike and come and ride on a real machine?” A man’s lewd voice was followed by one of the shadows pushing away from the wall and moving down the alley towards the leather-clad woman. “C’mon, you, sweet thing, …you can’t tell me that little food processor is doin’ it for you. Lemme give you some real power between your legs!”
She continued to ignore him as she slung the bag over one shoulder and started to walk away from the alley with an unhurried stride. Behind her, more shadows were coming out of the alley, converging on her bike. As she walked past what looked like a pile of rags and wet cardboard, an arm suddenly shot out, grabbing at her leg. Her body reacted with a fluid sinuous counter, avoiding the grip without difficulty. What little tension there was drained out as she realized it was a homeless man, gums smiling blackly at her. His eyes held wild chaotic hope as he waved a small tin cup in his other hand.
“Sparr chanjeh?” he growled, and she looked at him a moment before digging under the chaps into the tight pocket of her jeans and clinking a few coins into the cup. The clear metallic ring cut through the night, incongruous to the growling mutters of the growing crowd around her bike and the distant roar of morning traffic. For a moment the woman looked down at the cup through her dusty goggles, seeming to read something in the dirty hand clutching it. Then her gaze lifted and she continued out of the alley.
The first catcaller was still sauntering towards her, buoyed by the chorus of chuckling grunts from his friends. “Fuck, what are you, a dyke? You must be, riding a little toy like this. Tell you what, baby, you come back here to me, I’ll give you something you can really ride.” As she neared the coffee shop and reached for that door he raised his voice, desperate to get a reaction. “You know you want a taste of a real piece of man-meat in that hot little mouth of yours, bitch!”
The woman froze with her hand on the door, and her head slowly turned, like a strange mixture of insect and pixie, goggles regarding the man with a dark sheen that made him shuffle uncomfortably. She smiled a little, and he saw a pink flash of tongue as she thoughtfully touched her lips for a moment. “You know, you’re right.” Her voice was confident and clear, silencing the murmuring chuckles of the crowd. “A nice big piece of man meat is just what my pussy needs right now.” With a sudden sharp movement that made the man jump she lifted her goggles, her sharp blue eyes devoid of any humor even as she continued to banter. “If you ever find some, be sure and let me know, ok? Don’t take it all for yourself.”
She disappeared into the coffee shop, leaving the man and his friends stunned for a moment as her words gradually filtered through their early-morning drunk . The homeless man on the ground suddenly let out a high phlegmy chortle. “Man, she own your ass! You been served!” A moment later the crowd began laughing, first uncertainly, then with more confidence as friends explained the insult. The man who’d called out to her scowled, silently boiling with rage.
“Fucking cunt!” he roared suddenly, and kicked out at her bike with no effect. Taking more careful aim, he slammed his heel into it and slowly it toppled over, shattering a side mirror. “Riding a fucking piece of shit Honda, you think you can come in and talk to me like that?” He kicked at the bike some more, but didn’t seem to get any satisfaction – if anything, his friends were laughing at him harder as he took out his anger on an inanimate object. With a final “Fuck!” he walked back up the alley, occasionally cuffing the others when their chuckling came too close.
Inside the coffee shop the woman had slumped into a booth, some of her bravado gone in the vinyl-and-formica haven of the shop. She was the only patron, and a solitary barista looked at her with a token of interest as he lackadaisically wiped a rag over the counter.
She ignored him at first, peeling off her goggles and aviator cap to reveal a maelstrom of short blond hair spiking out in every direction as she rubbed her scalp vigorously. It seemed to revive her a bit, and as she took off her gloves and unbuttoned her jacket, she finally glanced up at the barista with a wary smile. “Don’t suppose you have coffee-flavored coffee in this joint?”
The man snorted in amusement, his smile growing under the lush handlebar moustache he sported on an otherwise hairless pate. “That’s about all we’ve got, young lady, but you’ll have to settle for the bartime brew. Can’t afford that ‘new pot every hour’ crap, what with things being so busy and all.” He nodded towards the empty chairs in the café as he filled a plain porcelain mug. “Room for cream?”
“No, thanks, I like my coffee like I like my women,” she smiled at him, and her smile grew as he reached towards a silverware tray on his way to her table. “With a spoon?” he inquired archly.
She ruefully shook her head. “No, actually, I was thinking ‘on the house.’ I just gave my last three quarters to that homeless guy in your alley. Don’t suppose I could have a tab?”
“Hmmmph,” he grunted, darkly. “So. That’s how it is, then?” She gave a non-committal shrug, and he scowled down at her with an evaluating gaze. She returned his look eye to eye, and it was he who broke the gaze first, looking back down at the steaming mug. “Bah. It was just going to be thrown out anyway. Your last three quarters, you say?” She nodded as she spooned sugar into the brew. “Hmmmph. I suppose that sort of counts as a widow’s mite.” He proffered a hand. “Jason.” She took the hand and shook it gravely, not saying anything.
“Ah,” he said. “That’s how it is. Thought so.” He abruptly turned and went back behind the counter. “Well, Miss Silent-but-Pretty, that coffee is on the house along with some advice. You don’t want to hang out around this neighborhood too long. It’s bad, and not getting any better.”
Her brow furrowed as she sipped the coffee. “Yeah, what’s with that, anyway? I mean, Detroit’s not the most happy place, but this neighborhood…feel’s more sick than the rest.”
“You ‘feel’ that?” Jason asked, with a sardonic grin. Her face abruptly went neutral, and she didn’t elaborate. “Well, maybe you ‘felt’ it due to the warm welcome that the Incubikers gave you out there. Or maybe it was that pile of former human you gave your last few coins to.” He grunted and angrily picked up another mug. “Fucking porn mongers…” he muttered.
“Porn?” The woman laughed suddenly. “The – what was it, ‘Incubikers’ – make porn?”
Jason nodded. “Yes, they do. The Doukas brothers – Michael and Theodore – run the gang, and they have a studio set up right down there next to the church. Kind of an old-fashioned set up – cameras, lights, sets, everything. The sets also serve as a place for their pro-doms to work – dominatrixes, that is.”
The woman smiled sardonically. “Thanks, I’m familiar with the term. They do all this next to the church? The priest can’t be too happy about that.”
“Padre Innocente?” Jason made the final –te into a derisive, hard spitting syllable. “No, he’s none too happy about it, but not for any Godly reasons. That beautiful cathedral he’s got there? It’s mainly through the ‘donations’ of Tony Nesmith and his ‘Toy Shoppe.'”
The woman interrupted with a surprised look. “Nesmith? Of Kitty LaBelle’s Toy Shoppe?” The barista nodded slowly, mouth a disapproving hard line. “I always thought they were Australian.”
“Yes, well, the fact that you know who they are at all makes me want to charge you for that coffee after all. He is Australian, but he lives here on St. Antoine Street, probably because the Aussies couldn’t stand him. He and Kitty ship out their sex toys from that warehouse across the street from the Doukas – notice how there’s no windows? Most people don’t realize that second floor is all for web porn – camgirls, live sex shows, the works. He’s got it all high-tech, and then instead of paying taxes he launders the money through the church, which makes the Padre – ” again he made the name into a spitting sound “- really happy.”
“Just because I know about the Toy Shoppe doesn’t mean I’d use anything they sell. My delicate unmentionables don’t need those kinds of chemicals anywhere near – ” she broke off, as if realizing something. “Wait…the warehouse across from the church…” the woman’s eyes looked distant, remembering her ride down the street. “…next to the Juvenile Detention Facility?” Her tone sounded incredulous, but her eyes didn’t look surprised.
“Yes, convenient, eh?” Jason slammed another cup down angrily, and picked up another, already clean, and wiped it furiously. “Which is why Nesmith and his darling Kitty want to keep their web operation as quiet as possible. I’m sure they pay a tidy little sum to the correctional officers to look the other way as the young ‘uns walk out of one prison and into another.”
The woman sipped her coffee thoughtfully. “Two porn producers on one street. Well, there’s certainly no shortage of demand. What’s the problem with them?”
Jason laughed bitterly. “They hate each others’ guts, that’s what the problem is. ‘Live and let live’ is not a concept they understand. The Doukas brothers want in on the high-tech web porn that Tony Nesmith has, but they don’t have the smarts or the staff to build it. Nesmith doesn’t have the infrastructure of the Incubikers to get his shipments over the river safely, and can’t stand the fact that they tend to get better ‘talent’ than he can. Both of them have this starvation mentality that they have to annihilate the competition, and so they go out of their way to sabotage each other.” He slammed down another mug and leaned on the counter, face dejected. “And the result is the neighborhood you see – dying, nobody working on anything but porn, porn, porn. They both use up the kids until they’re hollow shells, and dump them in that free clinic across the street.” He nodded towards the window and beyond to a dirty white building with a broken neon red cross symbol hanging on the chipped and crumbling wall. “And what’s worse – ” he looked up at her, his eyes almost comical with sadness over the curling moustache, ” – it’s not even very good porn.”
He’d timed it to her sip of coffee, and she barely controlled a spit-take, setting the cup down carefully. “I see. Well. That is a crime.” She looked up at him speculatively. “If Nesmith’s operation is such a secret, how come a coffee barista knows so much about it?”
Jason grabbed a rag and started wiping the counter again. “The webmaster for the Toy Shoppe – Alex Inamorato – is one of my few remaining customers.” He laughed bitterly to himself. “And when I say ‘customer’, I mean that I give him his coffee and pastries for free. He takes them upstairs to his little boy – there’s a couple of rooms I rent up there.” He stopped wiping, suddenly, and pointed a finger at the woman in the booth. “And that’s why you need to be on your way, Miss Woman-with-No-Name. This neighborhood is dying, and you don’t need the kind of trouble you’ll find here.”
She smiled, looking down at the table. “Oh, I don’t know about that.” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a cel phone, scratched and battered but with a functional look to it. She laid it flat on the table, antenna pointing to the left. “On one side you have a bunch of testosterone-filled old-school pornographers running their own little brothel.” She flipped the phone with her finger, and the antenna suddenly pointed to the right. “And on the other side you have an over-the-hill porn starlet and her overcompensating control-freak husband, using the wonders of technology and the grace of God to pull in the cash.” She gave the phone a harder flick, watching it spin around and around on the cool formica. “I believe there’s some money to be made here for a girl like me, Jason. I might be able to pay for my coffee after all.” They both watched as the spinning phone slowed and finally stopped, antenna pointing to the left. “Hmmm,” she said, thoughtfully. “So. Incubikers it is.” She got out of the booth, buttoning up her long brown leathers again.
“What?” Jason looked disbelieving at her. “Are you crazy? They already wrecked your bike. What do you think they’ll do to you? I’m telling you, you want no part of them! They will fuck your shit up!” He sounded angry and desperate, and she could tell he wasn’t used to speaking like that, using the profanity to try and get through to her.
“Mmm, yes, that’s right, they did mess up my little shliukha, didn’t they?” She put on her gloves deliberately, fitting the dark kidskin leather around each finger. “Thanks for reminding me.”
“Shloo-khaah?” he asked. “What the hell is that?”
“Shliukha,” she corrected his pronunciation. “It’s a Russian word meaning ‘whoreslut’. One of many that my lover taught me.” The woman smiled, tucking her cap and goggles into a pocket. “In return for the many things I taught her.” Her hand came out of the pocket, this time holding a coil of braided leather that gleamed like a red and silver snake. She loosened her fingers, and Jason’s eyes widened as he saw the whip uncoil to the floor. “Keep the coffee hot, willya?” She smiled mischievously at him and went out the door.