"THE VISCOUNT'S COLD DISH"
A Lupin III fanfic
by Bill K.
Thanks to the artist of the D2 Girls site for inspiring this story.
Lupin III, Fujiko Mine and all related characters are ©2005 by Monkey Punch, licensed in Japan by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. and Tohan Corporation, and in North America by Tokyopop Manga. These characters are used without permission, but with respect. Story is ©2005 by Bill K.
At a private airstrip just outside of Munich, Germany, two men of less than sterling repute arrived at an airplane hangar in a rented van. The driver, Henri DesChamps, was a veteran of the french mercenary trade. He cut a rapidly fading roguish figure at forty-four. His black hair was only now beginning to recede ever so slightly. His hard jaw and steely deep brown eyes were just starting to dim with age. His body was still hard and muscular, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep things from sagging and softening. He knew he wasn't long for this trade: a gun and a strong arm for hire who knew his business, had few morals and could keep his mouth shut. However, with his limited training and growing police record, there wasn't much else he could do. Such realizations had him searching for "the big score", a job or jobs that would allow him to retire to an old age he didn't envision having twenty years ago.
In the passenger side of the unmarked white van sat Luis Del Toro, DesChamps' partner. An expatriate of Spain, Del Toro was twelve years DesChamps' junior, but had just as extensive a criminal record. No longer welcome in three countries in Europe, the squat, muscle-bound bruiser was working on making it four. He had thick black hair, thick dark features that glowered with menace, and a thick trunk with thick arms and legs attached. Del Toro liked to use those thick arms to get what he wanted, often by force. He had no aversion to violence and no qualms about violating the law so long as it paid well in the end. He followed the money wherever it took him, content to take orders and assume the risk others shied from so long as it paid. It was the first job he and DesChamps worked on together. There was little byplay between them in the truck. They were professionals and it was just a job.
The van came to a stop at the back of the hangar. Inside the hangar was a single engine Piper Cherokee. It was an old plane, but expertly maintained and perfect for small, anonymous airfields such as this one. As Del Toro got out of the van, he flashed back to other events in his life that had resembled this one. Countless times before he'd driven up to lonely airstrips like this one, met small planes like the one in the hangar and off-loaded whatever illicit cargo it had just smuggled into Germany or France, Italy or Spain. One more lonely airstrip - one more bundle of goods - one more payday. DesChamps glanced at him. Del Toro nodded he was ready. They were both veterans of such milk runs. Nothing more needed to be said. They headed in the door.
Inside was the pilot, a German from the looks of him. He had that classic Aryan cut to him. Both men noted he seemed agitated. They each looked around, but saw nothing amiss. Each one assumed that the pilot was new. New people were a pain to deal with. They got nervous or excited, made mistakes and didn't know how to handle the mistake once made. They were bad news. Del Toro scowled.
"Ah, you're here!" the pilot exclaimed, tossing a cigarette to the floor. It was a dangerous thing to smoke in an airplane hangar - one more example of how dangerous the new ones were.
"Where's the cargo?" DesChamps asked, impatient to collect and get away from this man. He made them both nervous.
"In here," the pilot said, pointing to a storage closet off to the side. He eagerly moved toward it while the two runners followed at a slower pace. "I couldn't believe it. I still don't believe it! You won't believe it either, not even after you see it!"
Unimpressed, the two runners moved past the hyperventilating pilot and opened the door. It was little more than a small storage room about a meter deep and two meters wide. A wooden crate took up the near part of the floor while two empty aviation fuel drums occupied the far portion. It was what was nestled in between that was unexpected, at least from Del Toro's point of view. It was at that moment that he learned the cargo was a woman.
Oh, and what a woman! Thick light brown hair fell just below elegantly sloping shoulders and dangled from an impertinent left hand part over glaring copper eyes. Her mouth was obscured by the thick white cloth tied over it, but he could tell it was packed with something to keep her silent. Her pink cotton blouse was pulled and tugged every which way by the heavy cord circling her torso above and below her breasts. It bared her left shoulder, revealing tantalizingly creamy skin, and strained to keep her bosom covered, although it would have been a strain regardless given the generous bosom it was covering.
Delicate hands were bound horizontally behind her back. She was tethered to a water pipe running through the closet, a single cord tied to the pipe and loosely circling her milky throat. That and the smallness of the room forced her to sit with legs doubled up against her protruding chest. They were magnificent legs bared by a tight blue-violet skirt with a short hem that framed her hourglass hips. With her legs drawn up, the skirt rode up to reveal even more of the bared limbs. They were the finest Del Toro had ever seen, ending with tantalizing grace in cherry red pumps.
"Isn't she the most magnificent woman you've ever seen?" exclaimed the pilot. He was giddy as a high school boy and now they understood why. Each of them had seen women, each had had women. Women were a pleasure to be taken, nothing more.
But she was different.
"She looks familiar," Del Toro commented, his eyes riveted to the bound goddess glaring back up at him.
"She should," DesChamps commented, for he had been taken into confidence. "That's Fujiko Mine."
Del Toro's eyes widened imperceptibly, but enough for Fujiko to notice. THE Fujiko Mine? The most accomplished female thief in the entire world? A thief second in reputation only to the legendary Lupin III himself? But once he got over his surprise, Del Toro realized it had to be her. Even bound and gagged, there was still an air of danger to her.
He noticed her squirm in the tight coils around her torso - more so, he noticed the way her chest jiggled. Instantly he recognized it for what it was: an invitation. She was telling him in the only way available to her that he could have her if he freed her. Del Toro thought about it. Ordinarily women were nothing more than distractions from boredom, but this was no ordinary woman. She was nirvana in a tight skirt. Del Toro thought about it.
"Here's the password to the Swiss account," DesChamps said, handing a card to the pilot. The pilot took it and absently shoved it into a pocket. Del Toro could see he was still entranced by Fujiko's allure. She'd probably made the same silent offer to him and he was regretting now that he didn't take it. What was money - next to her? "Let's get her in the van."
Del Toro shoved in and freed the tether from Fujiko's throat. Bending down, he hooked his hands under her arms and hoisted her to her feet. Fujiko made one last silent appeal with her eyes. Her scent wafted up into his nostrils and it smelled of jasmine and honey. She took an expectant breath and the buttons on her blouse quivered.
With a gentle shove, Del Toro sent her forward. She may have been more woman than anyone he'd ever seen before, but she was still just a woman - and what was a woman next to money?
DesChamps caught her around the arm and led Fujiko to the door. Del Toro peered out to see if everything was clear. With no witnesses save the despairing pilot, they forced Fujiko to the rear of the van and inside the back. Once she was on her side in the van's metal bed, DesChamps climbed in next to her. Taking some waiting rope, he bound her ankles crossed, then drew the cord back to her wrists. As Del Toro kept a lookout, DesChamps tied the rope to her bound wrists. Fujiko grunted with exertion as the hogtie bowed her body and put uncomfortable drag on her wrists, back and hamstrings.
Finally a line was secured to one of the ribs of the van, then tied in another loose tether around the prisoner's throat. Seeing she was secure, Del Toro closed the back doors of the van while DesChamps climbed into the front cab. He waited only long enough for his partner to reclaim his passenger seat before engaging the engine and driving off. The van exited the airstrip at a quiet, even pace so as not to attract attention.
And as it drove off, the pilot stood and watched - and ached as he fantasized about what could have been.
As the van continued to drive, Fujiko tested her bindings again, searching with mounting urgency for some flaw in her imprisonment. The cord bit into her wrists, chafing the delicate skin beneath. The fact that it was heavy cord gave her some hope. Thinner cord really bit into wrists and was harder to slip. The thicker the cord, the less it bent and the more chance she had to wriggle loose. However, she was grasping at straws and she knew it.
She had already given up on reaching the razor blade secreted in the waistband of her skirt, a precaution she always took. In her profession, getting restrained by angry victims, jealous competitors or zealous policemen was a hazard she'd encountered more than once. It was the judicious survivor who kept a blade, lock-pick and wire tucked in an easily reachable place - and Fujiko Mine was nothing if not a judicious survivor. Experience had taught her what she hadn't thought of on her own or picked up from her times with Lupin. But the man who tied her up was experienced, too. The way her forearms were tied facing opposite and the placement of the loops binding her wrists kept her hands far enough away so she couldn't reach her skirt.
Undaunted, Fujiko looked around the van for sharp metal edges to saw with. The few glances she'd gotten of her surroundings she recognized as near Munich. That wasn't a place she wanted to be at the moment.
As she looked, she reflected back on how she got caught. Over-confidence was occasionally a weak spot with her and it had once more led her astray. She had been in Leone, running a confidence scam on a local insurance company. The adjuster was a career middle manager, bored, beaten down and at the right age where a nubile, willing young thing could get him to ignore his better judgment if she wore her skirt tight enough and hooded her eyes just so. It was too easy, but easy money was still money and Fujiko didn't give it back. The ease of the job put too much of a sense of invincibility in her, though. She was so busy basking in the triumph that she didn't think of protecting herself.
Reflecting back now, she recognized the ploy. The older man, still somewhat attractive, sitting next to her at the café. He refilled her glass of wine as he pleaded his case, trying to entice her to run away with him. It happened so often. She didn't think anything of it then, but now she knew he'd slipped something in her drink. When she went limp five minutes later, he was by her side in a second, picking her up as he mouthed phony expressions of concern, offering to take her to a doctor as he spirited her out of the café and down to a waiting car. Fujiko had been conscious the entire time, but unable to function. At that moment she knew she was in trouble. When the car stopped in a secluded section just long enough for the man to climb into the back seat, bind and gag her, she was already searching for a way out. She thought about it all the way to the airstrip. But her abductor was good. Just as the drug began to wear off, Fujiko was bundled into the back of the Piper and sent to Germany.
The van came to a stop and Fujiko wondered if they had arrived at her final destination. She squirmed one last time as her abductors climbed into the van to get her. The hogtie was released and her ankles were unbound. Removing the tether, the pair hauled her out of the van. With a hand of each one on one of her arms, Fujiko was brought from the van, which was parked in front of an ornate 18th century carriage barn, and taken up a stone walk to the back of an old money estate. Glancing around surreptitiously, Fujiko instantly recognized the mansion of Viscount Kurt Edelmann. She sighed through her gag.
One of her many sins had come back to haunt her.
They were greeted at the door by a woman before they even had a chance to ring. It was as if she'd been waiting for them. The woman stood five feet ten with imposing broad shoulders and a sleek, fit frame. Though she weighed one hundred sixty pounds, it was spread over her tall frame in elegant proportions, giving her a sense of power to go with feminine grace. She wore a maid's uniform consisting of a simple black dress with long sleeves and a high collar, white cuffs and a white apron gathering the dress at her waist, and black pumps. Her features were Prussian, beautiful but cold and hard, and her golden blonde hair was cut short and sculpted to frame her head. Fujiko didn't recognize her, but recognized her as one of the Viscount's "types".
Without speaking, the maid invited them in, then escorted them downstairs. Below the mansion, a portion of the wine cellar had been sectioned off. That was new, too. Apparently Kurt had been busy since she'd last seen him. Suppressing her trepidation behind a mask of indifference, Fujiko allowed herself to be led into the room.
Once inside, the maid walked up to Fujiko, a box-cutter in her hand. As Fujiko kept her eyes on the box-cutter at all times, the maid began to cut away the woman's clothes until nothing was left to her but a pair of silky lavender french cut panties and a matching bra straining to hold her most famous assets. Fujiko glared over the gag. It wasn't that she minded being seen in so little - nudity meant nothing to Fujiko, as her body was one of the things she used to get what she wanted out of life - but losing her clothes meant losing the many things she always kept in her clothes to help her deal with problems like this.
When her eyes met the maid's, Fujiko realized that's why she did it. This wasn't going to be easy.
The maid gestured to the far corner of the room. As her captors led her there, Fujiko spotted steel manacles dangling from the ceiling on forged steel chains. Once she was in place, the two men held her while the maid knelt down. Manacles on shorter tethers of chain were embedded in the stone floor. One was affixed to each of Fujiko's ankles, spreading her legs over three feet apart. Once she was chained to the floor, the burning cord finally came off from around her wrists and torso. It was a welcomed respite, though a brief one. Each man took one arm and forced it over Fujiko's head, locking each wrist in one of the dangling manacles. She didn't resist - there was no point. Better to be docile and bide her time.
The chains pulled Fujiko into a spread-eagle with little play. Dangling helplessly, her heels slightly off the floor, Fujiko could only watch the maid hand bank cards to DesChamps and Del Toro. With a last admiring glance at the spread-eagled beauty, the two professional criminals walked out, escorted by the maid. The door shut behind them, plunging the room and Fujiko into complete darkness.
Moving her hand around the manacle, Fujiko got an idea of the type of manacle it was and the padlock that held them shut. It was a sturdy shackle, brand new, as were the chains. Unless they were defective they would hold up against any pressure she could mount. The padlock was simple enough to pick, but her closest lock-pick was in her bra. She still had her red pumps and the pick hidden in the heel of the right shoe, but that was even further out of reach for her. Being spread-eagled neutralized just about any means of escape she could try. That left being released as her best option.
Recalling when she was here last, Fujiko inventoried the members of the household. There was the Viscount Edelmann himself, a cook, a chauffeur and several housekeepers, plus an accountant who visited three times a week to keep Edelmann apprised of his business ventures. Plus the amazon in the maid's uniform who helped shackle her. She was new. The chauffeur and the cook could easily be seduced - they were men, after all - but how likely was it for one of them to come down to this holding cell? If they were in on whatever Edelmann planned, perhaps. The maids were even less likely.
That left Kurt, and she was pretty certain he wouldn't be receptive - not after their less than amicable "breakup" - though she would keep her options open. If her freedom meant it, she'd do it. If her freedom meant seducing the entire German police force, she was not above doing it.
The door's rattle alerted her that someone was entering. It swung open, allowing the first light in a while to flood into the room. Through her squint, Fujiko saw Kurt Edelmann framed in the door. He hadn't changed much. The forty-six year old man still had thick blonde hair and a not unglamourous face. He was six foot one and a trim one hundred ninety pounds, dressed elegantly in a silk long-sleeve shirt, tailored charcoal slacks and black Italian shoes. Kurt walked up to her slowly, stalking her, enjoying what he saw as his triumph. The amazon maid was behind him, awaiting his command. Fujiko studied him. His pale blue eyes stared at her as he approached. His hatred of her was clear, but not unexpected.
"So my dear," he said, savoring his power over her. "Returned to the scene of the crime."
Kurt came right up to her, pressing his body up against hers to emphasize his power over her. The manacles didn't allow Fujiko to back away, so she endured it while trying to conceal her discomfort. He reached around her head and loosened the knot on the gag. It fell away, allowing her to expel the packing from her dry mouth.
"You're looking well, Kurt," Fujiko whispered neutrally. "Life hasn't been too unkind to you."
"No," he replied, "life ceded that aspect to you." Her chest and stomach continued to rub up against his.
"I see you're still carrying a grudge," Fujiko said with feigned indifference.
"Yes," Kurt answered, almost laughing at the absurdity of her response. "A deep one."
"Look, we can make a deal," Fujiko attempted. "I can give the money back . . ."
"The money means nothing to me," Kurt cut her off. "Even a sum as large as six hundred and fifty-five thousand Euros. I have money. I lose money. I make it back. It's really quite inconsequential. No, what you took from me was far more important!"
"I can get the necklace back," offered Fujiko.
"TO HELL WITH THE NECKLACE!" Edelmann roared, leaning into her even more. "You made me a laughing stock! You lied to me! You seduced me! You led me around by the nose like a teenage boy! You soiled my reputation! You humiliated me before my peers! My wife left me! My daughter disowned me! People snicker at me now! You used me - and I would have given you the world! I was in . . .!"
Edelmann pulled back, gasping for breath, quaking with rage. For her part, Fujiko hid behind her mask of indifference. Nothing she could do now would placate him, so she chose the pose that would goad him the least.
Suddenly he lunged forward. Grasping her behind her head, Kurt jammed his lips to Fujiko's and kissed her. It was a savage, bruising kiss, meant to communicate contempt rather than love. Fujiko endured it because she had no choice, but her mind raced to try to think of some way to extricate herself from what was quickly becoming a worsening situation. Finally he pulled away, staggering back several steps, glaring at her all the while. Fujiko took a few moments to recover her breath.
"So what happens now?" she asked in as neutral a tone as she could manage. "Torture, or worse?"
"No, you don't die," he sneered. "That would be too quick. As for torture - well that all depends upon how cooperative you are. The thought of harming that magnificent body - well, you don't destroy art. It just isn't done. But if you force me, I will."
Fujiko studied him. It was a fine line between love and hate, after all.
"You once promised to stay with me forever, Fujiko," Edelmann continued coldly. "Well I intend to see that you keep that promise. You will stay, be it forever or until I tire of you. And you will have ample time to reflect upon your wicked ways." He stared, waiting for her reaction.
"So when's dinner?" she replied, unable to conceal the contempt in her voice. Edelmann's jaw tightened.
A sharp backhand blow spun Fujiko's head on its axis. At a signal from Edelman, the blonde maid circled behind Fujiko. Stunned and surprised by the blow, Fujiko offered no reaction. A strong feminine hand forced her jaw open and its mate forced a large red ballgag into her mouth. Once in place it was tightly strapped in place, eliciting a muffled grunt from the victim.
"Remember, the severity of your stay here depends solely on your attitude," Edelmann scowled. "To reinforce this, I think you can do without supper tonight. Anise will check in on you periodically - as will I. From this moment on, she and I will be the only people in contact with you. You see, she is quite immune to your obvious charms - thanks to you."
Edelmann walked to the door, then paused and turned.
"And now, so am I," he added.
The door shut, plunging Fujiko into darkness again. The soft hint of moving air passed over her bared stomach. Her shoulders began to ache from being held away from her. She wanted to despair, but didn't allow herself to do so. That wouldn't find the way out of this. There WAS a way out of this. She just had to find it.
The rattle of the door lock woke her up. So it was possible to sleep while held in a standing spread-eagle. Amazing the things one learns. Her last memory was of stopping to rest for just a moment from trying to wriggle her left wrist through the shackle. She thought at least the pain of the shackle edge gouging into the flesh of her lower thumb would have kept her awake. Fujiko turned her head stiffly, enduring once again the protest of her aching shoulders. The door swung open.
Anise walked in, carrying a tray of food. Fujiko bit down on the ballgag in her mouth. The smell of the food brought her hunger pains back. And it brought back the anger and despair she'd experienced the previous night as her hunger grew. She'd been hungry before. Being hungry was one of the things that had shaped her into who she was today. However, it was a memory she didn't need to experience again. Fujiko's eyes followed the statuesque blonde in the maid's costume as she circled around behind her. The pressure in her mouth slackened. Soft hands gently eased the gag from her mouth. Fujiko exhaled a sigh of relief.
"Drink first?" Fujiko wheezed.
Anise crossed over to the tray and picked up a glass of water. She held it to the captive's lips. Fujiko forced herself to take measured, controlled sips to keep from choking. The trickle of the water down her throat was a welcome sensation, as was the wetness on her lips. But as she sipped, Fujiko came to lock eyes with the maid. Anise seemed to stare at her with an unexpected intensity. When she realized Fujiko was staring back, her eyes darted down coyly.
"You're new," Fujiko ventured softly as the maid exchanged the glass for a plate. "I don't recall seeing you - when I was here last."
The maid spooned nourishment into the captive's mouth.
"And yet, Kurt trusts you with this," Fujiko determined, "where he doesn't trust other servants, servants who have been with him much longer."
Fujiko accepted another spoonful. As she chewed, she noticed Anise seemed hypnotized by the movement of her mouth.
"Why is that?" Fujiko asked. "If you don't mind my asking."
"You don't recognize me," Anise said, her voice a soft whisper barely audible, "do you?"
"Have we met?"
"I was younger then," she continued.
Fujiko seemed puzzled.
"You probably didn't notice me," Anise went on, her voice still not above a whisper. "You were more interested in Dad."
A connection in Fujiko's brain brought back a flood of memories. A chalet in southern Sweden; a widowed man with a daughter, a big husky girl even at thirteen who suffered from permanent vocal cord damage that left her voice a whisper. Fujiko had taken a job as a housekeeper in order to case the place and had made off with three thousand in loose cash, a fortune in heirloom jems and enough stock certificates to feather her nest for a long time.
"You're little Anise?" Fujiko asked. The maid nodded solemnly. "Adulthood's been good to you - probably better than I was." She considered the question for a moment, but decided to venture it. "And how is your father?"
"Dead," Kurt's voice rang out through the room. Fujiko took another spoonful of food and glanced over at the Viscount. He was still smugly enjoying her captivity. "Herr Orlosky killed himself out of shame over no longer being able to care for his daughter."
Fujiko glanced back to Anise.
"Surely you don't blame me for that?" Fujiko demanded. Anise dropped her gaze.
"Of course you are innocent," mocked Edelmann. "If the tree withers and dies after you pluck all of its fruit, surely the blame cannot go on you."
"Any tree that dies when all its fruit has been plucked isn't a very healthy tree to start with," countered Fujiko. Edelmann merely smiled confidently.
"Did you know abducting you and keeping you here wasn't my idea?" he put forth. Fujiko listened as impassively as she could mimic. "Anise came to me with it. She was aware of my anger over your betrayal and proposed the plan. She's quite brilliant, you know."
"I always thought so," Fujiko replied, glancing back at Anise.
"That's why I said last night that she was immune to you, Fujiko," Edelmann chortled. "You ruined her life, too. She hates you as much as I do."
Fujiko studied Anise as he spoke. For her part, Anise consciously avoided Fujiko's eyes and seemed uncomfortable with the entire exchange. Clearly some emotion was motivating her. But she wasn't sure exactly what it was.
"So I remain in this cell for what, ten years? Twenty?" Fujiko told him. "A fantastic plan, but hardly practical. Look, I know when I'm beaten. What will it take to get me out of here?"
"You're not bargaining from a position of strength," Edelmann told her with silky smooth glee. "All I wanted was you, humbled and back in my home. And now I have you. There's nothing you could give me that would make me let you go now."
There was an undercurrent of emotion in his voice that instantly made Fujiko uneasy. Realizing there was no negotiating with Kurt, Fujiko turned to Anise. Silently the same offer was made. The two women locked eyes once again and Fujiko sensed hesitation.
Then Anise looked back at the bowl of food. She dipped the spoon into it and offered Fujiko another bite.
"Your desperation is so entertaining," Edelmann chortled. "Face facts. Your wayward past has finally caught up with you. The bill has come due and you start paying now."
Fujiko ate the rest of her meal in silence. Kurt watched her with triumph, which made her increasingly angry. When she finished, Anise gently wiped her mouth and then brought up the ballgag again.
"No, please," Fujiko ventured anxiously. "You don't have to do that. No one will hear me."
"I doubt anyone would," Edelmann nodded. "Do it anyway, Anise."
"But why?" groaned Fujiko.
"Because you wish me not to," Edelmann said with a mirthless grin.
The ball forced its way into her mouth. Fujiko tugged against the manacles holding her as the buckle tightened. Once it was in place, Anise picked up the tray and followed Edelmann out the door. Once more the room plunged into a lightless state, and once more Fujiko began trying to work her hand through the manacle, now with renewed purpose.
Time dragged on. Fujiko occupied herself with trying to force her left hand out of the manacle. She worked her left hand because, to squeeze a hand through a steel manacle you had to either be double-jointed or willing to endure painful injury.
And Fujiko wasn't double-jointed. If one of her hands was going to be injured, better it be her left.
She did this as long as she was able, finally conceding to physical exhaustion only when she had no choice. The darkness left her no way to determine how long she'd been here. It could have been minutes or hours. Lack of hunger was her only way of knowing that it wasn't longer.
The room was drafty. The air seemed cool, which was natural under ground. Wine cellars were designed to keep away heat. Given her state of undress, it wasn't the most comfortable spot to be in. However, it did have its advantages. While sweat might have lubricated her hand and allowed her to slip the manacle more easily, the cool air wouldn't sap her vitality like hot, oppressive air would and allow her to work for longer periods of time. It was a trade-off..
Oh, but what she wouldn't give to be luxuriating in a hot bath right this moment.
The rattle of the door caught her attention. Once again light flooded into the dark room, forcing Fujiko to squint. Identifying the black shape as Anise, Fujiko relaxed.
Anise stood just inside the doorway, observing her. She didn't come close. Fujiko recalled the girl was always a shy child. Her husky frame, coupled with her vocal injury, had made the girl think she was unattractive. Obviously the notion lingered into adulthood, and not even her blossoming into an imposing beauty could dispel it.
"Mmmm," Fujiko grunted through her gag, trying to draw Anise closer.
But the maid lingered back, content to observe from afar. Perhaps she was even still intimidated by Fujiko. The woman was grateful for it back then - it gave her room to work when she was planning her burglary. But now it was a hindrance. Anise only continued to look at her.
"Mmmm!" Fujiko repeated. "Mmm nngh hnngh!"
Adding a nod, Fujiko hoped to communicate that she wanted to talk. Reluctantly the woman approached. Her hands reached around and began working the buckle loose on the ballgag. Fujiko noticed a slight tremor in the hands. The woman towered over Fujiko and only her fawn-like demeanor kept her from physically dominating her prisoner. Anise may have grown in stature, but there was still a great deal of that timid teen in her. The ball pulled away and Fujiko sighed in relief.
"Did you want some water?" Anise whispered.
"That would be nice," Fujiko answered.
In response, Anise brought out a small flask from the pocket of her apron. She opened it and put it to Fujiko's lips. Disappointed it was only water, Fujiko nonetheless drank from it.
"Why a maid, Anise?" Fujiko asked. "I always thought you had the potential to be so much more."
Anise looked down. "It's just a blind," Anise replied meekly. "It keeps the rest of the staff from questioning my being here."
"Why not pretend you're the Viscount's mistress?"
"I," she began. "Herr Edelmann is obsessed with you. Everyone knows it. No one would believe he could fall for anyone else - especially someone like me."
"Why not? You've become a very beautiful woman, Anise."
"You're just saying that," Anise scowled. "He warned me that you'd try anything - say anything to get what you want."
"He's right, Anise. I will say anything to get what I want," Fujiko replied. "Even the truth."
Anise looked at her. There was a tiny spark in her pale blue eyes that said she desperately wanted to believe. But she couldn't, and that was a product of her own lack of confidence as much as it was Fujiko's reputation. Fujiko pulled at the chains holding her as frustration mounted.
"Kurt said it was your plan to trap me like this," Fujiko ventured. "Do you hate me that much?"
"It wasn't my plan to keep you shackled like an animal," Anise whispered. She looked away in shame. "That was Herr Edelmann. I only wanted to lure you back - keep you here - so you wouldn't harm others. I-I never wanted this. But he insisted."
"You don't have to go along with him," Fujiko told her.
Anise dropped her gaze again.
"Does he have some hold over you?"
"Ah, there you are," they heard Edelmann say. Both women turned and spotted the Viscount standing in the doorway. "And is the prisoner all right?"
"Yes," Anise whispered, her cheeks flushing involuntarily.
"You haven't been listening to her lies, have you Anise?" Edelmann asked. He closed the gap between them with a quick, even stride. "You know you can't trust anything she says."
"Kurt, there's no need to . . ." Fujiko began, but her statement was punctuated by another vicious slap.
"When I wish to hear your voice, I will address you!" Edelmann snapped.
He snatched up the ballgag. With a rough tug of Fujiko's hair, he forced her head back and jammed the ball into her mouth. Fujiko fought to expel it, but the strap pulled tight and was buckled in place. Her teeth sank into the ball bitterly.
"Do not vex me, Fujiko dear," Edelmann said, his finger lightly tracing the line from her clavicle to her navel. "I have a long memory and what you did to me is permanently burned into my brain. I do not know how much longer I can - restrain myself."
Turning to Anise, Edelmann took on a more conciliatory manner.
"Do not let her fool you, Anise," he told her. "Do not make the mistake your father made. Do not make the mistake I made. Trusting her will be your downfall."
Anise kept her eyes cast downward.
"Come," he said and escorted her out. The door closed behind them, leaving Fujiko alone with her thoughts - and her chains.
Passing her left hand through the manacle was more difficult than Fujiko had imagined, even though she imagined it would be very difficult. Safely shifting her thumb in order to narrow the width of her hand without dislocating the joint was tricky. She knew she'd failed when the sharp jabbing pain shot through her arm. At best the joint was dislocated - at worst, ligaments were torn. But immediately her hand began to slide through the shackle. It wedged to a stop nearly halfway through, friction of the metal against her skin holding her hand in place. Fujiko fought down a moment of despair and panic. It would come. She just had to keep working it through little by little. Her thumb throbbed in protest, but Fujiko ignored it as best she could.
The lock rattled and Fujiko froze. Someone was coming to check on her. What if whoever it was saw she was wriggling out of her shackle? If it was Kurt, he'd destroy all of her progress - perhaps devise a more difficult trap for her or punish her at the very least. If it was Anise - well, Fujiko wasn't sure how she'd react, but she didn't want to risk it.
The door opened and Kurt stepped into the light. He was carrying a tray. Fujiko stiffened. She began praying that he didn't look up at her hands.
"You don't look pleased to see me," Edelmann smirked. Fujiko tried to maintain eye contact with him, hoping to hold his gaze at eye level or below. "I don't know why. I imagine you're beginning to get hungry."
Edelmann set the tray down. It was then that Fujiko noticed he was carrying a steak knife with a wooden handle - and he still had it.
"I thought I would bring a few table scraps for my new pet," Edelmann continued. He touched the blade of the knife to Fujiko's collarbone. Fujiko watched it the entire time. "Does this make you nervous, Fujiko?"
He drew the flat of the blade down along her sternum. The point dragged along her creamy skin, but didn't press in hard enough to cut.
"Why Fujiko, do you think I would harm you - this early?" Edelmann asked, toying with her. "Don't be silly. That would be a waste, for I have so much I still want to do to you."
Suddenly the knife was palmed. Kurt reached behind Fujiko's head and freed the ballgag from her mouth. He pulled it away slowly, then pocketed it. The man stood there for a moment, as if he was waiting for a reaction from Fujiko.
"It smells delicious," she whispered cautiously.
"I still employ the same cook," Edelmann told her, bending down to retrieve the plate. "He chose to remain loyal to me during the last few difficult years. I reward him when I can."
On the plate was an expensive cut of steak and some sliced potatoes. Jabbing the knife into a piece of the steak, Edelmann brought it up to Fujiko's mouth. Her mouth opened and carefully enveloped the meat, then slid it gently off the blade. She chewed while watching her captor. He never took his eyes off of her.
"He hasn't lost any of his skill," Fujiko said after swallowing. Kurt jabbed a piece of potato and offered it to her. "Do I get an exercise period?" she asked, then took the potato in her mouth.
"It would be a shame to see that magnificent body lose it's wonderful tone," Edelmann answered slyly. "But circumstances demand that some things be sacrificed. And there is that wonderfully despondent expression on your face."
"You're taking this very personally," Fujiko replied between bites. "Is your ego that important?"
Edelmann responded by holding the blade of the steak knife to Fujiko's throat.
"You should control that sharp tongue when talking to your betters," rumbled Edelmann.
"You know how little class we thieves have," Fujiko whispered, trying to hide her fear and diminish his anger.
"Yes," Edelmann nodded. The blade fell away, then stabbed a piece of steak. "For if you did have class to match your fabulous beauty you would have recognized what I could have offered you. You would have seen how much more you could have benefitted, instead of settling for stolen money and some trinkets." He held the meat to her mouth and Fujiko carefully took it. "I'm sure you regret that decision now. I'm sure you wish you hadn't sold your future for immediate gain."
"I've never been one to dwell on the future," Fujiko said. "Or the past." She accepted another piece of potato. "So Anise devises a plan that delivers me into your hands and you make her a servant? Is this a proper reward? "
"It's a disguise to avoid suspicion," Edelmann huffed. "I intend to reward her in the future. For now, your humiliation will have to suffice. I'm sure it will be enough for her."
"She's an interesting woman, isn't she?" Fujiko continued. "She's certainly grown into a beauty, too. Knowing you, I'm sure you've noticed."
"She is quite charming," Edelmann said. "Not in your league."
"But she has an endearing demure quality that you lack. She's farsighted enough to see the reward of loyalty and service. One day, when I've properly dealt with you, I will reward, of course, reward her - in the manner she deserves."
He smiled to himself. Fujiko looked at him curiously.
"Well, your meal is over," Edelmann announced. He put down the plate and pulled the ballgag out of his pocket. "Open your mouth."
"You can accept it or I can force it in," Edelmann told her. "I'll enjoy it either way."
Reluctantly Fujiko opened her mouth and accepted the ballgag. It strapped in place, causing her to flinch. But Edelmann's hand lingered, cupping Fujiko's jaw.
"So beautiful," he sighed softly. "But such a waste. You could have been a queen, my dear - instead of a prisoner."
Retrieving the plate, Edelmann exited the room. The door closed behind him, leaving her once more in utter darkness. But this time Fujiko was grateful.
He hadn't looked at her hands.
Not much time had passed before Anise ventured back into the cell. Fujiko was still trying to work her throbbing hand out of the manacle and was forced to stop when the door opened again. Timid as a mouse, she scurried up to the spread-eagled prisoner, glancing over her shoulder as she went. Fujiko studied her in enforced silence.
Anise stopped within a foot of her. Without comment she looked Fujiko up and down, searching for something. For a moment the thief feared she'd discover her left hand half way out of its manacle.
"Mmmm?" Fujiko murmured through her gag, trying to get the maid's attention.
For a moment, Anise reached for the gag, then pulled back. She seemed to be battling conflicted emotions. Finally the woman decided and leaned in, reaching around Fujiko's head to undo the buckle. Moments later the ball slid out of her mouth, to Fujiko's relief.
"Checking up on me?" Fujiko inquired.
"I," Anise began, then self-consciously stopped.
"Go on," prodded Fujiko.
"I wanted to see that he - Herr Edelmann - that he," and Anise swallowed, "hadn't hurt you."
"It's too early for that," Fujiko replied. "He hasn't had his fill of humiliating me first. That won't happen until he decides he's tired of the superior feeling it gives him - or until I slip and fail to be humble enough to suit him."
"How can you be so calm about it?"
"I don't have a choice. I have to get out of this alive, so I do what I have to do." Fujiko continued to stare and eventually forced the shy woman to look away. "It will happen if I'm here long enough. Kurt has a Prussian temper and it will flare up eventually - if I'm still here. But that's something you probably wouldn't mind seeing."
Anise looked up at her, stricken.
"Revenge is a cold thing, Anise. I know. I've done it and I've it done to me. But you can't do it and keep your hands clean. You're tainted forever. And it's usually not the final act. It always seems to breed more of itself."
The woman looked down, her features crumpled in sadness and shame.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry if I harmed you," Fujiko continued. "It was never personal, just like it wasn't personal with Kurt. I only cared about the money. If someone got hurt along the way - well, I just don't dwell on those things."
"I'm," Anise began timidly. "I'm sorry, too - for a lot of things."
"Are you in here again, Anise?"
They whirled and found Edelmann standing in the doorway. Instantly he stormed over.
"You're listening to her again, aren't you?" Edelmann demanded. "I warned you, Anise! Her lies are like honey! They lure you with their sweetness until you're hopelessly trapped!"
"Relax, Kurt," Fujiko said. "She was just watching me suffer."
"SILENCE!" Edelmann roared. He delivered a backhand to Fujiko's mouth. "I've warned you not to speak to me unless spoken to! I warned you that your fate depended upon your behavior!"
And he cuffed her again with his open hand. Blow after blow rained down on Fujiko's mouth and cheek. Helpless to fend the open-handed slaps off, the woman could only endure them until his rage spent itself. As he stared at her, furious, chest heaving and eyes blazing, Fujiko could feel her cheek and mouth burn from the repeated blows. Tasting copper in her mouth, the woman let her retort die in her throat.
"Give me the gag!" Edelmann demanded, holding out her hand. When Anise didn't comply fast enough, he lunged and snatched the ballgag out of her hand.
Whirling on Fujiko, Edelmann grabbed her by the hair and pulled her head back, forcing the gag into her open mouth. None too gently he buckled it in place, eliciting a groan from his prisoner. Once she was gagged, Fujiko was dismissed from his consciousness. He returned to Anise.
"Unless she is being fed, she will remain like this from now on. AM I UNDERSTOOD?" Edelmann demanded.
"Y-Yes," Anise trembled, "Herr Edelmann."
Upset by Anise's reaction, Edelmann walked to the door, expecting her to follow. Naturally she did so, but glanced back at Fujiko just before leaving. Fujiko could see she was upset.
Undaunted by the new pain, Fujiko resumed working her hand out of the manacle as her world was once again plunged into darkness.
With a final cry of pain that the ballgag couldn't quite stifle, Fujiko's left hand pulled loose of the manacle. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say "most of her hand". The throbbing pain in her thumb joint reminded her that the bone was dislocated, while the warm trickle she felt on the skin of her upper arm was evidence of bleeding. Fujiko couldn't worry about that now, though.
Reaching down while trying to stifle the trembling in her hand, Fujiko felt along the seam of her right bra cup until she felt the lock-pick that was sequestered there. Bitter experience had taught her to keep multiple picks on her, among other things, and this situation had proved her right.
Gingerly she plucked the pick out with the first two fingers of her left hand. Her thumb wouldn't move, making it that much harder to grip things, but it wouldn't do to fumble the pick now. Braced between her first two fingers, the pick eased up toward the lock on her right manacle. Still in complete darkness, Fujiko ran her hand along her right arm until she reached her wrist. Finding the lock in pitch dark was a more exerting chore, and once that was found it was even more work to find the keyhole. And all the while Fujiko didn't dare hurry. She had to be slow and methodical, handicapped as she was. To make a mistake could doom her efforts.
As a cold sweat coated her entire body, Fujiko felt the lock-pick ease into the lock cylinder. She barely breathed. Sweat stung her eyes, so she closed them. They did her no good at the moment. Picking locks was a touch skill. The best ones did it by feel rather than sight. Patiently Fujiko felt around with the lock-pick for the tumblers. She was fighting fatigue, fighting despair, fighting the gnawing fear that she would fail, that she would be discovered, that she would be doomed to spend a lifetime fettered and forgotten in this dark hole. This - this was worse than prison. At least you had light in prison. At least you had hope of an end to your sentence.
The tumblers clicked into place and the lock popped open. Unsure of what she sensed, Fujiko probed around the lock with her bent fingers. The lock was opened. Her hand darted down to place the lock-pick in her cleavage - it would be safely held there - then up again to pull off the padlock. The shackle opened instantly and her hand fell down. Muscles finally allowed to return to normal complained bitterly to her. It was nothing compared to the pain she felt when she grasped her left thumb with her right hand and jerked it back into place. The hand continued to tremble afterwards. Amid the screaming protests of her shoulders, Fujiko retrieved the lock-pick. Fatigue slowed her, but Fujiko had her ankle shackles off minutes later. Finally the hated ballgag was removed.
Ignoring her body's pleas to sit down and rest, Fujiko trudged over to where she thought the wall was, then felt along it until she found the door. Using her right hand, she probed for the lock with her fingers. There was no lock. She felt a door handle, but there was no keyhole, no lock mechanism beyond a bolt that retracted when the handle was turned. Fujiko sagged against the door. It must be secured with a hasp and padlock on the other side. There was no way to reach it and no other way out. The cunning thief's mind raced, trying to find a solution and quickly. Kurt or Anise was sure to check in on her soon. Once they found her free of the chains, her bid for freedom would most likely be over.
The rattle of the lock in the hasp sent a chill through the worn down woman. Someone was entering to check on her. Her mind racing, Fujiko settled on a plan. She crouched near the door. At the first sign of light, the woman sprang up and lunged, shoving the door forward. Instantly she felt it impact with the person behind it. A pleasing roar of surprise and rage told her it was Kurt. The door flew opened, revealing a reeling Kurt and a startled Anise.
"She's loose!" Kurt cried. Instantly Fujiko tried to push through him, to run, to escape. Quickly he grabbed her. The two wrestled for a few moments. "Anise, the gun!" he cried.
Fujiko saw Anise produce a .20 caliber pistol from a thigh holster under her maid's dress and instantly froze. The gun came up, ready to fire. She stared at Anise. The woman seemed distressed at the thought of shooting at her, but Fujiko couldn't read whether she would or wouldn't. Kurt's grip closed on her arms.
"You're even more resourceful than I thought," he gloated. "Remarkable. I'm going to have to devise an even more inescapable cage for you. There's no way I'm going to ever let you escape me again."
And then a shot exploded. Fujiko felt the impact and froze, dazed and stunned. She couldn't believe it.
Anise actually shot the Viscount Edelmann.
They both stared down at Edelmann as he sank to the floor and lay bleeding to death at their feet. As one they looked to each other, silently questioning if what they saw had just happened.
"I couldn't take it any longer," Anise whispered, staring at Fujiko with eyes that begged the woman not to hate her. "The thought of him having you - mistreating you . . ."
At that moment, Fujiko's survival instincts kicked in. Quickly she leaned in, caught Anise behind the neck with her right hand, and planted her lips on Anise's mouth. She kissed Anise passionately for several moments. Stunned at first, the blonde warmed up and began kissing back. That's when Fujiko pulled away.
"That shot's going to attract the rest of the staff," Fujiko suggested. "Perhaps we could, well - discuss things - somewhere else?"
Anise took a moment to decide whether she had heard Fujiko correctly. Then she nodded excitedly and led the former captive toward the garage. When the Viscount's body was finally discovered, Anise and Fujiko were speeding toward Munich in his red sportscar.
"Tell me something, Anise," Fujiko ventured when she had regained her voice and treated the ugly scrape on her left hand. "Kurt thought you hated me. I suppose he had reason to think that," and she looked straight at the woman driving, "given it was your idea to snatch and imprison me."
Anise glanced down uncomfortably. "It wasn't supposed to go this way. He wasn't supposed to torment you like he did. I - intended to get you away from him sooner. But I never got the chance."
"A curious attitude, given what I did to your father."
Anise clouded up. "I hated my father," she declared. "He couldn't accept me for who I was. He was always critical - always disappointed."
Fujiko studied her with a sympathetic ear.
"And then one day I found someone in the world who completely captivated me," Anise brightened. "She was bold. She was daring. She was beautiful. And she struck a heavy blow against my father." Anise blushed over her excitement. "From that day, I wanted to - be with you. But I didn't know how. Then the Viscount contacted me. He was researching you. He was obsessed with you. It's not hard to see why. And I realized that, through him, I could find you. I played along, suggested the entire scenario of abducting you. Once he got you, I was going to get you away from him."
Anise dropped her gaze again, chagrined and embarrassed.
"I thought," she whispered, "you'd be so grateful - you might consider - loving me."
Fujiko studied the woman. She made no attempt to respond. Anise grew uncomfortable.
"I'm sorry," Anise whispered. Her hand dropped to the stick shift.
Fujiko's hand suddenly covered it.
"I think we could both use some - rest," Fujiko said. Her voice had a low, seductive quality to it. "I know a hotel in Munich. We could stay there." She paused meaningfully. "It's only one bed to a room, though. That wouldn't be a problem, would it?"
Anise seemed to flower before her eyes.
"I'll have to steal us both a change of clothes first," Fujiko added, glancing down at her body still clad only in bra and panties. "They're not THAT liberal."
Anise nodded happily. The woman seemed ready to burst. And Fujiko had to admit that she looked even prettier when she smiled.
Anise was awakened by a pounding on the hotel room door. Her return to consciousness was jarring, made even more so by the sudden realization that Fujiko wasn't in bed with her.
Had last night been a dream? Anise smiled. No, more like a dream come true.
The pounding resumed and she pulled herself out of bed. Annoyed, Anise donned a robe and stalked to the door, all the while wondering where Fujiko was. She opened it and found a man in a suit flanked by two Munich police officers.
"You are Anise Orlosky?" the man asked. Stunned, Anise nodded. "I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Viscount Kurt Edelmann. Please do not resist."
Sitting at a table in the hotel restaurant, Fujiko looked up from her morning tea and observed Anise being led off in handcuffs by the Munich police. Fujiko glanced at her watch. They made good time - only forty minutes from when she phoned in the tip. It must have been because she dropped Viscount Edelmann's name.
In moments breakfast was done. Now that she was free again, Fujiko's first inclination was to get out of Germany as quickly as possible. That would take money, though, and at the moment she didn't have nearly enough.
A flash of green in the corner of her eye drew Fujiko's attention. Across the restaurant, an American businessman was pulling money from a larger store in his wallet to pay his check. Fujiko smiled a predator's smile. That was the thing about being broke - it was so easily remedied.
"Man, you are one cold . . .," Jigen began.
"You're hardly one to judge," Fujiko huffed. She, Jigen, Goemon and Lupin were relaxing in Lupin's hotel suite in Milan, enjoying a few of the spoils of their latest partnership.
"The woman rescued you," scowled Goemon, "and you repay her with prison?"
"I was protecting myself. She's proven she can kill," Fujiko responded, absently rubbing the wrapping on her healing left hand. "Her infatuation with me was as potentially unhealthy as Kurt's was. There was no telling how she would have reacted if I rejected her and I had NO plans to settle down with her. This way she's in custody and I'm safe to resume my life."
"You possess no honor," Goemon sneered.
"Well if you're so far above us, why are you here?" Fujiko sneered back.
A loud sniff resonated from Lupin's direction. They all turned to find the thief struggling with bitter tears of disillusionment.
"Oh, Lupin," cooed Fujiko.
"It's bad enough you betray my undying love for you," he wailed melodramatically, "but to betray me with another WOMAN?"
Fujiko leaned in behind Lupin. Her lips caressed his ear, her arms draped over his shoulders and began caressing inside his jacket, while her breasts pressed into his back.
"Oh, Lupin, you know you'll always be first in line with me," she whispered, then pecked his ear. "Surely you know that when I was making love to her, I was thinking of you."
"Heh," Lupin grinned, lost in the intoxicating proximity of Fujiko Mine. "I know how you can make it up to me."
"Oh, but Lupin," she said coyly, drawing up and seductively backing to the door. "If I give in now, what will you have to look forward to in your life?"
"I'll take that chance!" Lupin leered. He lunged for Fujiko, but she danced out of his reach and to the door.
"Someday, Lupin," she giggled. "I promise." And out the door she flew.
"After a performance like that, you better check to see if you still have your wallet," Jigen chuckled.
"Jigen," Lupin sighed, "you have no appreciation of the finer things."
Outside the hotel, Fujiko paused and brought Lupin's wallet out from where she'd palmed it. She'd drop the wallet off at the desk - once she got the magnetic keycard that opened the storage facility holding Lupin's cut of the loot. However, her expression of amused triumph changed to anger and frustration when she opened the wallet and found a different card.
Furious, she took the card out and read it.
U owe me one roll in the hay. Redeem at any time.
Fujiko's ire melted into a cynical smirk. They really were two of a kind. Still smiling, she slipped the card into the pocket of her blouse. Some day, when the time was finally right, she'd redeem this card.
But only when it benefitted her.