An erotic friend fiction by J Fitzpatrick Mauldin
My Dearest Everbloom,
It is hard for me to say, but the love in my heart is a stillborn hope with no place before me.
I have departed from our drafty home on false pretenses. I am sure you know by now as to why father’s saber is missing from the hall closet along with his brace of pistols. There is no job in Omaha. No prospect of marriage. Do not go looking there. Perhaps I should have chosen a different city, but I dared not have my lie stretch too far south and east. The American war of the slaves would have put too many holes in my tale. You would have been in grave danger should you follow.
Three years have I been consumed with sorrow over the death of father. He was taken from us one fateful night, bludgeoned to death in the face among his many grand clockwork designs. I was not in the kitchen as I have always said. No, I was there with him, in his shop, casting brass cogs and flywheels when his killer appeared. A shameful coward, I followed father’s request and hid in a cabinet, knees to breast, body curled up like a coil of rope. I heard father’s last words, “Please, for my daughters. Please…” and then a choking death rattle.
Father was no more; his soul had departed on the devilish winds of a madman’s cruelty. And for what? For what purpose does this great pain serve?
Oh, sweet Shawn has done what he can, sitting as father’s apprentice and being close all our lives. He has pitched woo like a Shakespearean archetype, and been quite the romantic, but no love, not even this sublime, can break through the stone that has become my heart. After mother passed from the fever, father was everything to me. And you, sister, you have brought back God and prayer and spirituality. You wish to quell the fires of hateful rage, but I cannot see past the fury that burns within me like a distant star. Not yet.
I’m sorry, sister. Father was murdered by the one-armed man. I cannot let that go. I cannot simply fall in love, become dulled headed and fat with children, rich with the responsibilities of home and hearth, and just forget. I will never forget.
I have made an inquiry over the months through the Clockmaker’s and Alchemist Guilds, caught word of a man that works as a machinist in the Mormon town of Salt Lake City, Utah. He constructs great mechanisms, mills and generators and time pieces just as father had, powering them with hot steam and the swift currents of the Colorado river. Folk say he is a good man, one who pushes humankind into a new age of enlightenment. A man who, despite his hosts of Latter Day Saints and their none-so-scientific ways, is allowed to pursue research in all its facets with a plentiful supply of eager patrons.
But that’s not all.
This man, this tinkering soul I have caught word of is tall, and has a scar across his left eye like the slash of a falcon’s claw. Great plugs of wood, painted in dark colors, fill the holes in his earlobes. He favors loose trousers with snake-skin boots, linen suits with contrasting cravats stuffed about the collar, and one of his legs is longer than the other. He smells of musty cologne and sweats coffee, toils endlessly with his devices and is madly jealous of all others in his craft. Since word arrived, these details have bedeviled me night and day, for I have seen them before. All these and one more.
The man has only one arm.
Rachel, if I have ever been your good sister, please do not follow. I do not require a chaperone, I have father’s pistols and blade to see me safe and keep me warm at night. For the love of Christ almighty, remain at home with our aunts and care for the house. I will return to you soon enough, and with a gift. A burlap sack burdened with the head of our father’s killer.
All my love,
P.S.: I promise to repay you the bills I liberated from your childhood dolls. Yes, I am aware of your hiding place. But are you aware it is the same place the hero of our favorite penny serial, Riha the Paladin, hid her treasures as a child? Your use betrays your interest, my love. We have always shared the best times, have we not? Yet I pray we do not share in our troubles.
Erin folded the letter and sealed it with a healthy measure of black wax. There was no more time to write. She had said all that she could. The rickety dirigible she’d secured passage upon, The Marquis, was coming to land on the outskirts of Salt Lake. Plumes of steam obscured their visibility the lower they fell, until a series of burning barrels guided them through the pall into a square area marked for landing. Back on solid ground, Erin knew she’d miss the wind as it blew through her long, brown hair, the whip of her heavy duster as they soared over the Rocky Mountains, a vast expanse of snowcapped peaks and hidden, crystal lakes rolling out beneath their passing. Travel by airship had been only a distant hope until now. Riha the Paladin had always traveled by airship. It was another dream fulfilled, a silent event always waiting in hope.
She adjusted her wide brimmed hat, intending to conceal her hair, along with gender, tossed a satchel over her shoulder and stepped into Utah. Her shapely breasts had begun to go numb where they were tightly bound by leather straps threaded with silk beneath her shirt. No one could see the red, lace trimmed bloomers she wore beneath her pants, scandalous even back home, but they made her feel stronger, walk taller. She was angry she couldn't take this journey as she was, display her beauty and wit as a woman raised to be powerful. But the world was a cruel place, and if a man were to take her into the throws of passion and dominate her, it would be on her terms.
It was no shock to find the disembarking area was crowded. The men were dressed in high pants and suspenders, long sleeved white shirts and simple hats, and their women, formless dresses which climbed to a whisper below the chin, long hair braided and covered by frilly bonnets. She passed the occasional negro accompanying them, no doubt having escaped the war in the far east, and not in chains. Though Brigham Young, founder of Salk Lake, might not have been an abolitionist, it seemed that converting to Mormonism rapidly changed his views on skin color and social status. He welcomed all into his faith. All who would wear the blessed underwear of Joseph Smith’s divine chastity.
“Howdy, sir,” Erin said to a dapper gentleman in a courier’s uniform with a shoulder burdened by a satchel of mail. “How much to send this letter back to the Dakotas?”
“That’ll be a dollar.”
She reached into her duster, around her weapons and watch, took three bills from a hidden wad, and handed him the letter.
“And how long will it take?”
He smiled. “About a week. I’m setting off by airship, just the way you came. No more than a few hours, the coal reserves topped off, and I’ll be skyward.”
She put a hand on his shoulder, squeezed, and made for the city, pistols and sabre rattling reassuringly against her legs. They would come for her, she knew, but this would give her the time she required. The killer would be dead before they even set off.
Without first finding a place to operate out of, a place that she could lay her head after dark, she set off into the city. Nary a woman was not accompanied by her husband or what she took for a brother. Erin was glad for her hat and duster. Glad for the fact that she had a touch of a cold and her voice was somewhat deep, like she’d swallowed a frog and it was desperate to escape.
She flicked open her pocket watch. Father’s pocket watch.
She made her way up and down the dusty streets lined with wood slat homes and various businesses. Steam powered contraptions, wagons stacked with goods that didn’t require mule or horse as draft, made a great nuisance. On more than one occasion, Erin nearly found herself beneath their grinding tracks. Despite the ruckus they made in their coming, they were too quick for her, blowing past at excess of fifteen miles per hour.
“Howdy, sir,” Erin addressed a man loitering outside city hall. “Do you know where a gentleman by the name of Wilcog might be?”
The man shook his head.
She asked someone else. “Howdy, sir. Mad’am. Would you happen to know a mister Wilcog?”
They said nothing and scurried along, mother urging her many ducklings to avoid such a stranger and keep their little traps shut.
“Sir! Excuse me, sir. Name Wilcog mean anything to you?”
He turned around, glanced up and down the street, then smiled. “It might.” For an instant, she saw features in him that reminded her of Shawn. Gentle eyes, dark hair, a shade of a beard and easy stature, a hint of the limber fingers of a deft artist.
Erin felt her heart skip a beat. “That so?”
“Yeah. Here, come this way. I need to get myself out of the sun. It’s a real scorcher today.” He led her off the porch of a General Store into its shady alley space. “Over here. Nice and cool.”
She followed him into the quiet alley, stepping around the usual detritus. As she reached the end, she became acutely aware of her grave mistake. Not only did the man block the far exit, leading out into an open green, but at her back, someone else had locked into place like an iron gate.
“Wilcog you say?” a man in a long coat and cowboy hat asked, face hidden in shadow. “Can’t say that I know a Wilcog. I will, however, take anything of value you might be carrying on your person. I’d hate for you to carry on being burdened with riches of any sort. They do say the root of all evil is money, so they do.”
“Sir,” the first man said. “I’d listen to him if I were you.”
So this was how it would go. Not even a day off the airship and everything was done.
“Respectfully, I shall not.” Erin took a stance, holding her ground like the great warrior Riha. She would not let them rob her. She had a mission. A purpose.
“Well, Bobby,” he said, and spat on the ground. “I guess there’s nothing else to say.”
For a moment, she wished that she hadn’t traveled alone. For a moment, she was afraid. Not of death, but of not seeing her task through. She was afraid that if she failed here, now, her father’s killer would go unpunished. She was afraid that her sister might follow her and meet the same end. She was afraid of never having experienced—no... Love was not for the likes of her. Not even Eros. Perhaps, one day after father’s killer was dealt with.
Love was for the weak who’d never tasted sorrow.
The muggers closed on her, and in a flash a pistol appeared in her left hand, a saber in her right. One of the men took a swing at her and she stepped to the side, kicked him in the crotch, then pistol whipped him on the back of the head. The man crumpled to the ground. The other man rushed in and she slapped him across the face with the flat of her saber, leaving a dark bruise and a thin red line across his forehead and the bridge of his nose. He put his hands over his face, screamed, and dropped onto his ass.
“Agh!” the man writhed, clothes soiled from dirt. “What have you done to my nose? God, I can’t see!”
She put a boot to his balls and pressed him back, the tip of the saber resting against his naked Adam’s apple. It felt good to be in control. She could end all hope he would sire children with a single twist of her heel. A mercy to the world, as she saw it. “I have spared your life. Do you wish that I use a pistol instead? Doubt the law would side with you, all told.”
“No. No. Please. Put away your irons.”
“Tell me where Wilcog is.”
The man trembled. “I don’t know. He’s a local legend of sorts. People are afraid of him, of his machines. But I know where to look.”
“And where is that?”
“Blackwell’s. Go to Blackwell’s whore house.”
“A whore house in Mormon country? Do you take me for a fool, sir?”
“Yes. Yes. I mean, not a fool. I promise this is true. Men need release now and again, even holy men. Wilcog has connections to that place. Please. Please don’t kill me.”
“Fine.” She removed the boot from his chest and returned her weapons to their lodgings beneath her duster. As she made for the end of the alley, she removed her wide brimmed hat and let her brown hair tumble onto her shoulders into full view.
“I just thought you should know,” she growled.
Through the haze of his pain the man raised a fist, blood filling his face. “We were bested by a woman! A God, damned woman! You bitch!”
“In the flesh, sir.” She put the hat back onto her head and grinned, tugging once more at the brim. “You have a good day now, ya here?”
It was far easier than she had expected to find Blackwell’s House of Peace and Harmony. It was a simple, wooden building sandwiched between a vacant law keeper’s post and clothier on the east, less crowded, end of town. The dust covered streets were cleaner here than the rest of Salt Lake. Peace however, should not have been part of its title. As she threw open the batwings and entered the saloon, a raucous din of shouting men, laughing women and honky-tonk melodies greeted her. It was familiar. After mother’s passing, some six years back, her sister Rachel and she had removed their father from a place similar to this on more than one occasion.
Folk could get lonely. Even a palace of sin can seem quite nice in the darkest moments.
Unlike the house of ill repute back in the Dakotas, this one was painted red and black, with velvet booths and lamps shaded with cranberry glass. None of the lamps were gas burning, but rather, had some sort of white-hot light contained in a clear, glass bulb. The low hum of a nearby steam engine thrummed and vibrated the floor, ever present over the music. Behind the mirror backed bar, a series of glass tubes bubbled, pushing fluids of many colors around in circles, through curly cues and sections of relief. A well-dressed man attended their terminus, drawing short glasses of fogging libations from their taps and distributing them to women with nothing but a rumor of cloth to cover their breasts. Not a one of them were hard on the eyes. Erin felt uneasy, out classed, homely. Her sister would have called them penis fly traps, and oh would these whores eat well.
“Evening, mister,” the barkeep, a relaxed man of dark hair, dark beard, and serious eyes, said. “Can I serve you an Emerald Miasma?”
Erin flicked the brim of her hat with an index finger, bringing her face into view. “My apologies but, sir, what in the hell?”
“My own special recipe. I shan't give you the answer of its make, but it requires great amounts of steam and advanced machinery, leeching of chemicals from nature and distillation.”
“Does it have alcohol in it?”
“And what would be the point if it didn’t? Its base is moonshine. I make it myself out back.”
She chuckled. “Then I do believe you can serve me a double.”
He took a clean glass from the shelf and shook his head. “Best start you off with a single.”
As she waited on her drink she surveyed the room. Ladies of the night prowled tables of card playing men who drowned in the company of warm drinks in the hopes of finding company in a warm bed. Johns were led upstairs and down, into back rooms and over to private booths where groups sucked on slender hoses that spawned like the tentacles of an octopus from great, burbling hookahs. She even found a few choice men pairing up with other men. This was indeed a strange place.
“I mean no offense,” she said. “But some of your patrons flaunt their homosexual ways openly.”
The back of his shoulders lifted. “And why not? Are we not all God’s children?”
“But is that not a sin, as the preacher says? I wish no ill on any man, no matter his sexual desires, but what does the good word say on the subject?”
A rough smile split the barkeeper's beard. “What does the good word say about men visiting whore houses to bury their wicks in moist places?”
“Case and riposte. Very good, sir.”
“Here you are, mister.”
Erin lifted the small glass and sipped, a sudden, bitter wave of euphoria rolling over her lips and into her throat. She was suddenly aware of her body in all its facets, but more than anything, of her sexuality. A heat burned between her legs and in her belly. Her neck yearned to be caressed. Her breasts cried to be cut free from their bonds, her clothes cast aside like nothing but worthless, inconvenient garbage.
She licked her lips and let out an involuntary moan. She needed time alone… And with…
“You see.” He wiped the bar top down with a wet cloth. “A single will do it. I don’t make a thing that’s weak.”
“What… what is…”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. Name’s Blackwell. This is my establishment.”
“Splendid.” Her mind continued to float, strange ideas vacillating in and out of existence. She found herself thinking of Shawn, of the last time she had seen him in person. If he was here now she would kiss him, her mission be damned. She would show him things she should have shown him before. Take him to places he had never been. She would…
“Mister?” Blackwell asked. “I eh—Are you? Where—”
Her eyes fixed on a man sitting within one of the semi-private hookah booths, a buxom blonde to his left, a ginger reed to his right. He was not smoking, and had a short glass of whiskey that looked as if it had not been touched. Paper and pencil were before him, a half-finished sketch of a union soldier with a black cat standing on a field of dead bodies. He was impossibly familiar. There was no way for her to reconcile her sight against what she knew in her heart to be true.
She approached the booth, ignoring the barkeep as he called out, her boots clicking against the wooden slats, the fire between her legs intensifying with each heartbeat. Was she hallucinating? Had she lost her mind? Had all the emotions since father’s death been bottled up only to explode at a peculiar time like this, fracturing her mind? She had to know for sure.
“Shawn?” she ventured. “Shawn Noble?”
The man’s casual conversation with the redhead halted. He put down his pencil, face as white as if he’d seen a ghost. “Christ! Erin, is that you?”
“Who’s this floozie?” the redhead asked, irritated. “I never.”
“Yes, lover boy, who is she?” the whore’s buxom companion grilled him next. “Look, I’m sorry, ma’am, but it will cost double if you want to play with all this. Not sure he has the scratch neither. I prefer it when things enter me and slide around for a bit, not when I enter them. Dixie knows how to play it right. But you? I don’t know you.” She took a hold of Shawn’s arm and nuzzled up beside him.
Erin shook her head, the arresting effect of the Miasma losing a fraction of its hold over her. She was momentarily shocked that they could tell who she was beneath her thick disguise. But of course they could. A woman knows another woman.
Shawn pushed the ladies away, making space. “Erin, why are you dressed like that? You look like a damn gunslinger.”
“So, it is you.”
“Yes. And you’re here, dressed like a—like a cowboy.”
“Don’t be dull, Shawn. It’s safer this way.”
He gave a short nod. “So it seems. I’m sorry, I didn’t expect… I… Christ, Erin.” A smile broke his face. “You’re here! I’m so relieved.” A black cat lept onto the table and he began to pet it. It really was him, Enzo, his cat, was here too.
She resisted the urge to pet the cat. “And look, I came just in time to catch you mixing it up with a couple of whores as well.”
His excitement faded. Enzo hopped down into the booth and found a corner to curl up in. “You think I was?” Shawn took a sip from his unattended whisky. “Come on—I wouldn—no.”
“Whores?” The reed threw back her head. “At least we get paid for spreading our legs. More than most wives.”
“And we aim to please,” her friend added. “We aim to be free souls. This is my choice.”
Shawn ignored them. “Please, have a seat.”
Erin took a high-backed chair from a nearby table and pulled it up to the booth, sitting down in it backwards. The heat beneath her lacy red bloomers renewed. After a moment, she found herself rubbing her hips gently against the chair, the crotch of her trousers going tight as it brushed her moistening slit. It was difficult not to reveal how good this felt, how much she wanted it to build to a deafening crescendo. Whatever Blackwell’s drink had been, it was perfectly suited for this establishment. It made her want to rip Shawn’s shirt in half and pin him to the floor.
She could keep it hidden. She could do it. She’d played poker enough to learn to win. It was the same. Just a game.
After a hard swallow, she asked, “How did you end up here? I’ve only been here a few hours. I just touched down.”
That’s it, she told herself. That’s it. Her breathing became shallow, and the whores across from her started to grin. She was not as good at hiding this filthy action as she had thought. Shawn kept his eyes fixed on his whisky.
Through the crowds of intoxicated patrons, a woman approached their table, clothed in a wide black dress with far too much lace and far too little bodice. Her breasts burst from their shelf, a furrow of cleavage front and center as deep as the Grand Canyon. If not for having grown up with her, Erin might not have even recognized her sister beneath the strange clothes and layers of bright lipstick, rouge, and shadow. Might not have known who she was past the gradiated dye job of orange, burgundy, and violet that shifted in her hair. But the eyes never lied. These were the eyes of a clockmaker’s daughter, an alchemist.
Erin ceased her rocking hips and felt a wave of embarrassment crash over her. If she had kept this up for just another moment she would have howled with a sweet, quivering release that no one could have denied.
“Rachel,” she gasped. “But how? You and Shawn are here. I just wrote you a letter on the airship telling you not to come. This doesn’t make sense.”
“Doesn’t make sense?” Rachel crossed her arms beneath her breasts, eyes narrowing. “You weren’t the only one angry over father’s death. Both our lines of reasoning led us to the same place. You followed the clock maker’s guild, and I, the alchemists. Two sides of the same craft.”
“We left three weeks ago,” Shawn supplied. “And you didn’t even notice?”
“I thought you were off visiting a sick uncle in the city.”
He shrugged and drained his whisky. “Only long enough to get what I needed to escort your sister safely.” He smiled up at Rachel for a long moment, and then, the unthinkable transpired. The two of them reached for one another’s face and kissed, lips and tongues tangling like sail line.
Erin rose from her chair, steaming with fury. “Get off him!” she shouted, and pushed her sister down. “Get off him!"
Rachel bounced off of the booth and sprawled onto the floor, petticoats flying high. After a moment of stunned shock, she shouted back, “Erin! What the hell is wrong with you?”
Erin stared at her trembling hands, then between Rachel and Shawn. “I—I—”
“No fightin’ in here!” Blackwell shouted from the bar and produced a blackjack. “You want to scrap, I have no care, but take it outside.”
“We’re fine, sir.” Shawn raised a hand. “My apologies! No love lost! I have very passionate women in my company.”
“So it seems, sir. So it seems.”
The whores laughed at the exchange. “I see jealous lovers.”
“We are not lovers,” Erin growled. “I have not once lain with him in the Biblical sense.”
The buxom whore fanned her sweat kissed breasts and frowned. “So sad. A missed opportunity.”
“Ladies, please. Leave us,” Rachel said, and the whores bid their farewell.
“There,” Shawn whispered. “Look.”
Erin gathered herself and pivoted as Shawn’s attention shifted across the room. A man of dark complexion had entered with a pair of twins in tow. He was not like the others Erin had seen upon the airships’ disembarking area. No. This man had three features she recognized immediately. There were plugs of wood in his ears, a scar down his face—and only one arm on his person.
The one-armed man and his entourage strolled into a dark doorway and descended a flight of stairs with the words, Dungeon, written in block letters above. Around it, steam pipes fell from the ceiling and traveled into holes in the walls next to the frame. There was serious machinery down below. Unspeakable machinery strange enough to make even Riha’s blood cold.
“That’s him,” Erin whispered. “That’s father’s killer.”
Shawn nodded, and felt for the pistol at his hip. “Then it’s time. We have to enter the dungeon. Get him down there where we can go unwitnessed.”
“What? What’s down there?”
Rachel let her response come out as a sigh, “Dangerous pleasure, kid.”
They got up from the table, Enzo the cat following behind.
“Into the dungeon I see,” Blackwell said as they stood upon the threshold. “Be sure to check your belongings with the clerk.”
Erin blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
“Rules are rules, mister.” He offered them each a short glass of Emerald Miasma, for which Erin only took reluctantly. “No guns. No knives. No boots. And absolutely… no clothes.”
“Rules are rules,” Rachel echoed with a sly wink.
Filled with a fresh wave of euphoria, Rachel led them down the stairs into a small room with a counter, clerk, and cubbies running along one wall. Steam filled a doorway on their right. A sign was mounted beside it stating, No clothes No morals Beyond this point.
“We get it,” Shawn grumbles. “You wanna see our fruits and jewels. Geez.”
“Your threads. Your weapons. I’ll keep ‘em back here,” the stunningly gorgeous, Adonis of a Clerk said. “Don’t be shy, I’ve seen it all. Big ones, small ones, round ones, wet ones. All of them. No need for changing rooms when you’ll be buff.”
Rachel glanced at her sister, then back to Shawn. Erin found herself becoming angry again, though she wasn’t entirely sure why. What had they been up to since her becoming consumed with anger over avenging father’s death? It was clear now, Rachel had been playing footsie.
Shawn unbuttoned his shirt and watched intently as Rachel started to work out of her dress.
“Help me with the ties?” she asked, and he obliged.
Erin tossed her duster on the counter and seethed. “When did this happen?” She kicked her boots onto the floor and added her hat to the pile.
“When you were too busy being an absent bitch,” Rachel replied. “We needed your help around the house. When things got hot, you evaporated like the morning dew.”
Her pants came unfastened and fell to the floor. Shawn blinked at her bottom half now that it was revealed, the red, lacy bloomers in full view. She shook her head and pressed on, “A bitch? How dare you. The day after he passed I needed a shoulder to cry on, but you remained locked in your room. Locked away from my grief.”
“Room? Lab? Whatever…”
“Time was of the essence. If Victor Franco’s book was correct, and I’m still not convinced it wasn’t, I might could have restored father with alchemy. Brought him back from the other side.”
“With snake oils and witch work? Father’s head was a bloody pulp, Mr. W—” She lowered her voice and leaned towards her sister. “He brained father. There was nothing left to save. Nothing left of his head at all, as if someone had blown the back out through the mouth.”
Rachel’s lips formed a straight line. “But I had to try.”
“Ladies,” Shawn interjected, now in nothing but his bulging undergarments. “You are sisters. Don’t fight like this. Please.”
Erin scowled at him. “But that’s exactly what sisters do.”
“Damn right,” Rachel replied, and tore away her bodice, petticoats, and bloomers, leaving nothing but the air to wrap her naked form. It was no wonder Shawn had preferred Rachel’s company to Erin’s. She was the pretty one, so Erin thought, firm breasts with pink nipples and perfect curves, and a shapely backside that any man would want to spank with hand or paddle.
A flask was in Rachel’s hand. “Share a drink?”
“Sharing is caring,” Erin said, glad for the chance, and they drank.
“Now, sister, let’s get you out of those floozie’s bloomers. You might just be mistaken for a whore down here.”
Erin glanced down and her face felt hot. She let the last of her clothes slip to the floor. And there she was, naked, ass exposed to open air, as well as Rachel and…
The Miasma hit her again, this time twice as hard for being in the presence of such a gorgeous man. He might not have been muscular like Todd, the farmer boy from over the hill at Crossroads, but it was more than enough to hold her tight. The rush growing in her belly affirmed that her garden was in sore need of tending, and he was the one she wanted doing it.
Dig my Shawn, she thought. Dig deep.
Only one thing remained. Her breasts needed to be set free. Shawn came forward, pulled on the silk ties, and the leather bindings went loose. Cool air rushed around her liberated breasts. She stared into Shawn’s dark eyes, longing to draw him close.
“Erin,” Rachel said, and broke her from a deep reverie. “Gear on the counter. Eyes up here.” Shawn was on the other side of the room with a bundle in his hands, became aware he was erect, and adjusted the location of his effects accordingly. He had not been the one to pull the silk ties, her sister had.
“Of course,” Erin conceded. She set her clothes, duster, guns and saber down on the counter. If not for the warm waves of pleasure granted by the Miasma and Rachel’s whiskey, there was no way she could have felt so free. She was a modest girl at a heart, not even showing her ankles to anyone but a possible future husband.
Rachel then set her dress, a series of vials, three knives, a derringer, a shaving razor, strips of leather, a cat-of-nine-tails, and other things Erin did not recognize, before the Clerk to collect.
“My word.” The clerk pushed the torturous whip back to her. “You can keep this if you like. It’ll be five dollars for the ladies, twenty-five for the man.”
“What?” Shawn’s face went blank. “Seriously?”
“We have plenty of men in there, but we sorely lack in… feminine assistance. I’m afraid that without different rates our ladies would find themselves unable to sit after each evening.”
Shawn forked over the bills and paid for the three of them. “Highway robbery.”
“Mmm. Well, sir, you tell me that again after you’ve spewed your seed onto these young misses, and I might issue a refund if you still can’t smile.”
The three of them entered the steam filled door, naked and unarmed. Revenge would be hers.
The steaming dungeon room was filled with the sounds of carnal pleasures, moans and cries and the shouted names of lovers, the sight of its patrons oscillating in and out of view. Dozens of men and women lay on cushions and benches, their glistening bodies—big, small, beautiful and average, homely and godly—pressing against one another in rhythmic time. Oral fixations were common in their number, lengths shoved so deep into women’s maws that they should have been choking on them. Devices were also in use, winding, clockwork mechanisms that vibrated and throbbed, entering the various places God had named either entrance or exit on the human form.
Erin felt the need to put a hand over both her personal entrance and exit, having a sudden concern that one of these devices might go flying through the air and find purchase of its own free will.
Rachel was far more confident, striding ahead of them, back straight, breasts forward, unconcerned for propriety. “Act like we’re supposed to be here.”
Shawn was pushed between them. Rachel took his arm. “Follow my lead, sister.” Erin sheepishly took hold of his elbow. “No. More than that. Here…” Rachel began trailing her fingers up and down Shawn’s body, dancing them over his belly and nearly brushing his alert manhood.
He swallowed. “Yes, sir. That’s right. I have two ladies with me. Two… Can you count them? Two!”
Erin pinched him in the side. Hard.
“Careful, sister,” Rachel whispered, and nodded ahead.
Through a cloud of steam, a furious group of lovemaker’s appeared, Wilcog at their center. The man was on all threes, one of the twins whipping him over while the other coupled him repeatedly from behind, using a sort of clockwork rod fastened to her pelvis to enter him.
“Play along,” Rachel whispered, and started giving Shawn deep kisses. “Oh, sister. Do you want a taste of him? Mmm yes. Please, I insist. Please.”
She played along. “Of course, love. We do always share, don’t we?” And with all the courage of the Miasma, put her lips to Shawn’s. He kissed back with such a fury, such a passion, she had never known. This went on for several seconds, and only ended when Erin suddenly felt a sting on her backside. Rachel had spanked her open handed. “Sister!”
It was clear she wasn’t happy. “Save some for me,” she said through gritted teeth.
They found a bench and exchanged their oral fluids. Rachel made the occasional move on Shawn’s manhood and Erin slapped it away. Erin let the Miasma get the best of her, and Rachel did the same, but with another slap. The spirited lovers in the center of the room found their climax, and repaired to other, more private places, in search of refreshment. Love making was hard work, after all.
It was just the three of them in their awkward tangle and one panting Deon Wilcog.
Rachel urged Shawn’s hand between her legs. “Oh, Shawn!” she shouted, faking a great tidal wave of orgasm. “Shawn!”
Erin grasped his other hand and played along. “Oh, Shawn!” But hers was not so fake. It was a sensation the likes of which she had never experienced, and was sorrowful she had turned it down many times. Though this time, she led him through the gates of her womanhood, allowing his fingers to enter her two and three at a time.
Shawn’s face split in two as if eating shit. He was loving every minute.
Wilcog took a bench and started to towel off as best he could with only one arm and a stub. Beside him lay a gilded arm covered in gears and pipes and dials. Once he was dry he started to affix it to the stub of his missing arm.
“Deon Wilcog?” Erin asked, standing. Despite how great the pleasures of Shawn’s flesh had been, she had work to do. Her father had always urged her to put work first. Work, then pleasure.
“Yes, miss?” he asked, the baritone reply shaking in her chest.
“We have business to settle.” She stepped closer to him. “A debt to be paid?”
He looked her up and down, unintrigued by her naked form. “I’m sorry, ma’am. But I don’t know you, and I don’t think you can give me what I need. My lovely twins, Cindy and Crawford, do that well enough. So if you will…” He took a drink from a bottle labeled, Old English, and let out a sigh.
Rachel spoke up, “Not now, Erin.”
“Shut it, Rachel.”
Wilcog frowned. “Erin? Rachel? Oh you can’t be.” And he began to chuckle under his breath.
“Son of a bitch. I should have known the clockmaker’s daughters would come someday.”
“The cubs have come to take the lion. But I must ask, have you ever tried to put the wings of flies upon a rat? Perhaps then, they shall fly?” He started to cackle. “Have you ever bound buttered toast to the spine of a cat, and tossed it down onto the ground. A cat always lands on its feet. Bread always falls butter side down. Perpetual motion, my ladies, spin and spin and spin! Free energy not bound to coal! Breed the cats! Toast the bread!”
“He’s mad,” Shawn commented, and he was right.
“All these ideas and I must come first! Mine will be. I must save the world by understanding everything. Technology in the hand of evil will bring only evil. But I know my evils, I know what is wrong with me.” He tapped his temple and grinned. “I know that I cannot be last in this arm’s race. Your father knew things he had no right to. He was naive, too afraid. He would have given his knowledge to anyone who asked! And so that’s why I had to do it! I had to kill him. And I knew, yes I did, that when I pounded in your father’s face,” he raised his steam driven mechanical arm, “with my little friend here, that there would be some price to pay. But the world. The air is changing. So much smoke, so much heat. The sun is trapped, trapped in a layer of dust and haze. Oh the gore it will bring, I had to do it!”
She’d heard enough.
Erin lunged at him, naked and unafraid. He wrenched one of her breasts with the mechanical hand and squeezed like a twisting vice. Pain shot through her chest, forcing her muscles limp. Rachel and Shawn rushed in. Shawn was batted away like a buzzing fly, tumbling to the feet of a thin woman holding a dog collar and lead.
Mr. Wilcog folded for an instant, Rachel’s fist throttling him in the gut like a steaming locomotive. Recovering, he scratched at her face with his mechanized arm in response and she spun away. The woman’s twin appeared at her back and wrapped the cat-of-nine-tails around Rachel’s throat, but it wasn’t there long. A vial slipped from Rachel’s exit, the darkest, tightest hole of her body, and she threw its contents over her shoulder into the twin’s face. The woman shrieked.
Rachel stepped clear. “Sulfuric acid does wonders for your complexion, bitch. Exfoliate!”
Against a bench, Erin struggled to get up, but the pain she felt was as terrible as twisting one’s spine through a lock. Out of reflex she reached for her weapons but found nothing but steam slick skin.
Shawn worked his way back onto his feet and clicked his teeth in a call. An instant later, through the clouds of white shot a small, black blur. It lept into the air two strides before the dominatrix, clawing its way up the woman’s tender flesh, trailing ribbons of scarlet, and buried its teeth into her nose. She screamed as blood poured onto her lips and down to her stiff nipples. While Enzo kept the twin busy, Shawn took off, running away from the scene only to vanish behind a shifting wall of white. Erin gaped. She had not thought him a yellow belly coward.
Erin’s anger was enough to get her off the floor. She rushed at Wilcog, grabbing him around the chest, and threw him over the bench. The air wheezed out of him. She punched him in the face and he spat blood onto her feet. An instant later, her left leg was swept out from under her, vision swinging up to the wooden rafters above. Deon Wilcog took off running.
“Come back, you bastard! Our business ain’t concluded!”
She chased him through a series of winding corridors, past moaning lovers making use of strange, auto-erotic devices, into several portals with large iron doors mounted with wheels, until they reached a hall lined with pipes of steam so hot it would sear flesh at the touch. The pall of vapor became so thick she could hardly see two feet ahead. Shawn had fled the scene and Rachel was now alone, but she couldn’t let Wilcog escape. He had to die. They were on their own.
The fog cleared of a sudden and Erin found herself in a massive room filled with clockwork machines, rows of spinning gears and chalk boards scrawled with complex diagrams. Every manner of peculiar device appeared spring loaded or had pipes connecting to pistons that were designed for steam. Everything was brass and copper, iron and gold. Upon the table to her left were watches and coo-coos, sundials and timers. Another table had a basin of water, painter’s brushes and jars of liquid metal.
“So glad we could do this here,” Wilcog said, and appeared from a recess at the back of the room. “Don’t you see? I am keeping everyone safe! Me! If not for me, the splendid evil your father would have unleashed would have destroyed everyone. I know my evil! I know my sins! But what if he sold to the south? What if his ideas fell into the hand of the Confederates?” Erin noticed that something was in his hand, but what, she could not tell. “Now then, let’s get this unpleasantness done. After I’m done giving you the best head of your life, my dear, I’ll go back for the rest of your group. No one should live.”
Wilcog raised his mechanical arm and screwed something onto the end. Around his waist was now a belt, a tiny barrel on the right side spewing excess steam. Tubes ran from the belt up to his prosthetic, where brass pipes connected to a series of pistons and flywheels. He turned a dial and the pistons sped up, making a massive phallus mounted at the end of his mechanical arm, larger than a horses’ member, jackhammer with the force of a roaring train.
“Ma’am, you sure have a pretty mouth,” he leered, and came at her.
She twisted out of the way, but even still, the hammering phallus struck her in the shoulder. The sundials on the left table crashed to the floor, her fingers slashed with bits of spare cogs, tongs and tools slapping her in the face. He struck again, arm arching in an uppercut, the tip of the monstrosity throttling her in the muscle beside her most sensitive places before hitting her in the stomach, sternum, and chin. She fell on the floor and cried out. Her ankle was twisted, and something sharp was stabbing her in the back.
“You will die just like your father,” he said, standing in triumph with the hammering phallus vibrating at the end of his arm. A foot was on her chest, a swinging cock dangling in her vision. He aimed the tip of his weapon at her mouth.
“Don’t gag, sweetie. It’s not very lady like. Ladies swallow.”
“Erin! Take this!” A saber slid across the floor and up to her hand. “Now!”
She clasped the hilt and drove deep, the blade sinking into Wilcog’s groin like a spoon through pudding. He shouted and reeled back, spinning around and around until he tripped and fell into a bin of scrap metal. There was a twitch in his living arm, and Wilcog was no more, puffs of steam from the portable furnace shooting away from his bare ass.
“Shawn?” Erin gasped. “I thought you a coward!”
“A coward?” he replied, and looked a touch angry. “Not at all. I went for the weapons.” But upon seeing her injuries, the cuts and blood, all that changed. He needed to help her.
Rachel shot through the door. “What happened?”
“I killed him. It’s over.”
Her sister nodded, glanced around the room, and came to a quick decision. “One detail had been bothering me. What he said just didn’t make any sense at all. The intensity of it. There were other reports of his genius as well, walking upon the parapet of a madness where a small slip could make a man a demon, and land him in hell.”
“Sister, what are you driving at?”
She nodded at the table with the jar of the metallic liquid, unspilled. “He was fire gilding down here. It’s no wonder Wilcog was mad as a hatter.”
Shawn helped Erin walk. “Mercury poisoning,” he said.
“One in the same.”
Erin approached Wilcog’s body, Shawn carrying most of the weight of her bruised and naked form. Though she was in great pain it was nice to feel his skin against hers. After a long moment, she decided that the sight of Wilcog’s broken form was more than enough she needn’t any souvenirs. Now that it was over, she wasn’t sure how to feel.
“There’s a fine line between cuck and kek,” Shawn commented, lips pursed.
“Nothing. Just… Nothing.”
Erin buried her face into his shoulder. “Come on, let’s get out of here. I’ll feel a lot better when I get my bloomers back.”
Blackwell wasn’t happy with what had happened to his dungeon, and inventor, but he let Erin, Rachel and Shawn leave unmolested. Pistols had a fine way of shutting up decent men.
They made for the airships, thankful to be clothed once more in public.
Erin closed her eyes and bared her heart. “Shawn, I love you. I’ve always loved you. You are the moon to my tides.”
“And you are sunlight of my dawn.”
“Then what do we do? My sister loves you, I can see it in her eyes. You have hung the stars, dazzled her heart and swept her from her feet.” She placed her open palms against his chest where he clasped them tight.
Rachel came back to them, her head hung low. “This wasn’t intentional. I do love him. And he loves me.”
“But he also loves me,” Erin pleaded, and immediately felt foolish for doing so. “This isn’t fair. All I wanted was to see father’s killer dead. But now… now there is nothing. Nothing but darkness. No love. No pleasure in Wilcog’s death. And no father. My happiness is damned.”
Shawn and Rachel exchanged a glance.
“Are you so sure?” Shawn asked.
“We have talked about it.” Rachel took her sister’s hands and peered into her eyes. “You and I have always been able to share. Why not now? Why not share in our happiness?”
Erin stared at the both of them, eyes wide, blinking. “Share? You can’t mean—”
And the two of them put their arms around her. “We love you, Erin,” they said as one.
And yes, now that her heart was no longer stone… Yes, perhaps she could share. Perhaps she could make time enough for love.