Authors: John Crandall
“Maybe she is at a friend’s home or still
hiding somewhere. That dead man didn’t hurt anyone and we’re still trying to piece
together his murder. Maybe we can find a few clues to your daughter’s
whereabouts there. We can only hope that she wasn’t involved somehow. She
probably saw it and is now all shook up. I suspect she will return home soon,
but we will stay in touch, nonetheless. I urge you to do the same if you learn
anything.” Constable Mason wheeled around and sauntered off, knowing there was
nothing else he could tell her; nothing else he could do: and he did not think
Darcy would be found, at least not alive.
Mason did not like it. This was the
third mysterious disappearance of a girl or young woman in his jurisdiction,
and also the fourth bloody murder there in the previous few months. There were
at least two dozen murders overall, but this one matched just three others in
its ferocity and lack of clues and motives. Besides Darcy, two other young
women had disappeared. It wasn’t uncommon for people to come up missing, but
these earlier two did not fit the classic mold. The ladies were not associated
with the seedier dissidents of the city, so it was unlikely that they had been
taken or killed in some underworld deal. They also left valuable possessions
behind, so they were not murdered or kidnapped during a burglary or robbed for
their money, nor did they leave town unannounced. One had disappeared from her
bed, which showed both signs of having been used as well as having been a scene
of a struggle; the covers torn halfway off of the bed and blood smeared
everywhere. The other disappeared while traveling from her home to that of a
friend one evening after midnight.
These were related. Mason could not
prove it but he felt it. And it was bad. All this took place just in his
district alone. He had talked with the head constables from the other eleven
city districts, and they had been experiencing similar disturbances. Some of
the more inexperienced called them coincidences or said that it was just a ‘bad
season.’ Mason and the other few with as much experience as he knew it was
much more than that and they too were worried: the murders would not stop of
their own accord.
Cinder walked into the store, pausing to
let her eyes adjust to the darkness she experienced after the bright daylight
outside. “Hi,” she said to the girl at the counter near the door.
“Can I help you?” the clerk replied, looking
Cinder up and down, showing a clearly false smile.
“Yes. I need a wardrobe. Can you help
me?” Cinder replied sweetly, seemingly oblivious to the woman’s rudeness.
“I’m sure we can do
you. Go all the way to the back, through that door...that’s where the
furniture is. I’ll send someone back.”
Cinder walked down those vast aisles with
goods and articles and merchandise stacked all the way to the twelve foot
ceiling overhead, and in the back she found the wardrobes. Cinder eyed a
particular one, this piece made of expensive dark wood from the jungles of the
south, with a mirror along the back of its inside and mirrors on each door so
that when opened one would get a three sided view of him or herself. When Dirk
came to her, Cinder’s jaw fell open.
“Hi,” she said slowly, swaying over to
him. “I’m Cinder,” she said brightly. Though Dirk recognized her beauty he
thought that she was just another irritating tramp.
“Can I help you?” he asked with an
impatience no one hearing it could deny.
“Mm-mm,” Cinder affirmed without insult.
“I want that,” she said pointing at the wardrobe. Dirk didn’t realize that
Cinder was actually pointing at the three reflections of Dirk she viewed in
those three mirrors.
“Well, let’s go pay out front and I’ll
deliver it for you,” Dirk said, and he led Cinder back to the desk where she
promptly paid her expensive bill with shining gold coins, not the more common
silver or copper pieces of the realm. “I’ll bring it sometime today,” Dirk
said, turning to leave the gorgeous woman alone and away from his tortured soul:
had Dirk not recently met Melissa and found someone so close to his heart, he
may have been much more interested in Cinder. As it was, he only saw the
Cinder he disliked.
“I will not be there later. Could you
bring it now...please?” Cinder whined, unsure why this man, of all the men she
had met, seemed to not be attracted to her. How was that possible, she
“I guess I can. I’ll be out front in ten
minutes,” Dirk sighed. He turned and went again to the back of the store,
looking to be in no hurry at all. Cinder stood out front, kicking her heel
with both eagerness and impatience on the corner of the step, watching for her
deliveryman to appear. Momentarily, Dirk pulled around the corner, the
wardrobe loaded in the back of the wagon; Melissa had gone on her own delivery
and so was not there to help, nor stop Dirk from going, which she certainly
would have if she had seen the half-elf with her own eyes.
Dirk came to the front of the store and
stopped the wagon. Cinder stepped down to the street. Dirk looked at her to
which she replied simply with a spry smile. He sighed, tied off the reins and
jumped down, getting behind Cinder to assist her up into the wagon, but he
could not find a suitable handhold: she was built much differently than the
wardrobe, than any furniture, and his conscience would not let him simply grab
her anywhere and hoist her aboard.
Cinder looked back over her shoulder at
him, peeking past her mass of jet black hair, and Dirk put his hands gingerly
on her waist to lift her, but eased his grip, almost dropping her, when he felt
how delicate and tiny her hips were. Despite his initial timidity, Dirk
managed to raise Cinder with ease and place her in the seat without incident or
undue embarrassment to himself; though her dress was so short he could see the
garters of her thigh-high stockings and black lace panties as he lifted her
up. Though this attired on a woman was nothing new to Dirk, he thought how
different she was from Melissa. He climbed up and drove stoically on, her
smell obvious to him. The scent, that of perfume and one much more faint and indescribable,
was pretty and, for what he thought her type to be, none too strong.
“I’m Cinder,” she said again, bending
forward to intercept Dirk’s sight, grabbing his attention. He, in turn, simply
glanced at her: she was smiling innocently, her long shapely legs crossed.
“What?” Dirk asked, seeing her smile.
“I’m Cinder,” she repeated, holding out
her hand. Dirk shook it, half wondering if he should kiss her appendage.
Cinder’s hand was so gentle, so delicate, that Dirk was astounded, especially
when the forbidden thought crossed his mind of how sweet the rest of Cinder’s
body must be. Dirk had never touched a woman so tender and the uninvited idea
continued to invade his mind, one in particular of how careful he would have to
be to avoid injuring the delicate woman if Cinder ever granted him favors.
“I’m Dirk,” he answered, forcing the
carnal thoughts from his mind and wondering why, for the first time in his
life, such perversion was now dancing in his head; a head that seemed swimming
from too much alcohol. “I think it must be too warm,” he sighed, feeling a bit
“It is hot, no?” she asked. “See.”
Cinder took a handful of her luscious curls and pressed it to his face. The
dark locks trapped the sunlight, making her hair warm, if not hot. “I think
maybe I will cut it soon.”
“That would be a shame,” he said. “I
mean...it’s pretty...long like that.”
“I know. I like it too. The heat
doesn’t really bother me. I work inside all day and only go out at night
usually, anyway...except...except on my day off,” Cinder said as if offering up
proof for her time there with him.
“Oh you work?” Dirk pried, thinking that
he already knew what it was she did when she went out at night. Nearly the
entire populace of Andrelia, if not all of Mendanar and the rest of the world,
found prostitution a necessary and hardly-evil occupation, officially supported
by at least one temple and regulated like any commercial industry. Dirk stood
in the minority in his shyness and condemnation toward the ladies of the
“Mm-mm. I work at
The Winds of Spice
You know? The perfume place? I keep the books and work the counter, too.”
Dirk perked up, pleased in knowing that Cinder was not a prostitute, at least
by main trade. If she sold her services after hours, she would not be that
different from many of the harlots in the city. It was, as in any time in any
world, a sordid but easy way to supplement one’s income.
“Oh, you sell perfume?”
“Yes. You should stop in and buy
“I don’t make that much money,” Dirk
chuckled, guiding the wagon past an argument between two merchants, whose goods
were scattered over the street and whose wagons lay partially wrecked from an
“Well, you could stop in and see me
anyway,” Cinder gleamed. The wagon hit a rut just then and Cinder grabbed
Dirk’s arm for balance. She liked it for its size and she squeezed him hard.
Then harder. But Dirk did not flinch. Cinder smiled and laid her head upon
his shoulder with a sigh. Dirk tried to pull away a little; he was perspiring
and Cinder was so fresh he did not want to taint her. Perspiration was a
particularly human thing, and smelled so to Cinder. It was manly and not
unpleasant, the kind of sweat raised on a clean man used to hard work, not the
nasty pungent odor of a someone who so seldom exerted himself that his body
seemed to be ridding itself of a fester. Soon, too soon for Cinder, they
reached her apartment.
Dirk locked the brake, tied off the reins
and got down while Cinder stood up and, before he was ready, jumped toward him,
giggling. He caught her under the arms, his thumbs under her breasts, and he
set her down gently, almost hurriedly as he tried to free his hands from her
feminine parts. Cinder looked up at him, batting her long, thick lashes and
Dirk was entranced by her eyes; their size, their violet-blue color, and by the
irises. He thought for an instant, just an instant, that they looked
oval-shaped, just slightly longer up and down than they were from side to side,
feline in a way.
He stepped back and walked to the rear of
the wagon, giving the woman a wide berth. Cinder watched him flip down the
tailgate and leap up into the back. “Why don’t you open up?” he asked and when
Cinder giggled, he added, with a blush: “Your doors?” he asked without looking
at her, sliding the wardrobe toward the open back end. She stepped up into the
covered doorway and opened the portal.
Cinder was leaning on one foot against
the wall, her other leg back, knee bent and foot against the wall as well, and
she watched Dirk jump back out and pull the wardrobe, its mirrored and
expensive doors tied shut, down onto his back. Dirk’s muscles bulged as he
held it there, his back hunched over. He trudged around the wagon and stepped
up onto the walkway, his pant legs so tight, they looked as if carved in marble.
Cinder bit her lip, thinking how perfect he was: quiet, handsome, sexy, and
strong; very strong. She put her foot down and moved inside just ahead of
Dirk, emphasizing the swing of her hips as she went.
“First door on the right,” she said.
Dirk went inside the building, trying to keep his eyes from her. A hallway lay
ahead, extending clear to the back of the building where it branched left and
right. There were two other doors on the left wall, and one on the right
standing open, Cinder just beyond it. Dirk heaved the wardrobe inside the
room, just clearing the doorframe.
“Where do you want it?” he asked, and her
playful mind clicked.
“Any where you want to put it,” she
quipped, raising her brows. The room was dominated by, actually built around,
a huge fireplace. To the left was a way around the hearth to a small kitchen.
Directly ahead and to the right was the largest area of the apartment: the
living area. Past that, to the far side of the fireplace, Dirk could see a
large bed covered in a rich black fur. The gigantic piece filled most of the
niche in which it sat. Scattered throughout the living area and on the bed
were garments, all over, as if what had held them had erupted, spewing forth
clothing instead of some molten dredge. Dirk crossed to the middle of the room
and put the wardrobe down against the right hand wall, that wall to the front
of the building. He blew out his breath, his face red from exertion and beads
of sweat streamed down his face, dripping onto his shirt.
“Would you like me to wet your shirt for
you?” Cinder asked. While Dirk liked the idea of having a cool, damp shirt on
his body, he thought it highly improper. “Come on,” she pleaded. “I don’t
mind. You’ll feel much better. And I will feel much better, after making you
come and deliver that during the hottest part of the day.” Dirk shrugged his
shoulders, brushing off Cinder’s request as he untied the doors, opened them,
and examined the mirrors for any shipping damage. When he turned around,
Cinder began to untie the strings securing his shirt and he did not stop her.
Her breath was cool against his sweaty chest, and when his shirt was
unfastened, he lifted his arms out and Cinder took it through the hallway and
into the small kitchen beyond.