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By Aleksandr Voinov, Gordon Warnock
Riptide PublishingCopyright © 2014 Aleksandr Voinov
All rights reserved.
The enemy was swaying on his feet, but Brooklyn kept pushing him into a corner. Eight rounds in, he was tired and yet buzzing, high on adrenaline and sheer, uncontrollable rage. He threw low punches into the enemy's sides, felt the man's solid resistance like a wall he wanted to tear down with his bare hands.
Under the onslaught, the enemy squirmed, rounded his back, and stumbled away, but there were only the ropes, and beyond them, the baying mob.
Brooklyn kept swinging, connecting, and then noticed the enemy had lowered his guard to protect himself. He took a half step back and delivered a straight punch with the right and a cross with the left. As if in slow motion, the power from that hit threw the enemy's head to the side. His yellow gum shield flashed, and the man went down as if struck by lightning.
No, not yet.
Before anybody could interfere, Brooklyn caught him by the throat, pushed him up against the ropes, and kept pummelling him. His rage knew no bounds, roaring in his veins, turning exhaustion to ashes, drowning out the shouts from the mob.
The enemy's arms flopped wide, grasping towards the ropes, and for a moment, he was spread open in a T. Unguarded, unprotected, throat bared, head rolling back. Unconscious, dead, or simply knocked out, that strange stage when every ounce of strength and endurance had been beaten from the body, leaving only leaden indifference—or readiness to die.
And it was a mercy to be killed on his feet, in the ring.
Brooklyn felt a hand on his left arm, and he snarled around the plastic in his mouth, freed himself with a shrug. The first few rows in the audience were on their feet. Jeering, applauding, or just shouting, he didn't notice the difference through the haze as he strained to finish the enemy off, there on the ropes, ready to go.
Ready for redemption.
Suddenly there were three more men in the ring, invading the space he'd owned just a moment ago. One pushed between him and the enemy, who crumpled in the corner, ignored, while the three men circled Brooklyn, tonfa sticks ready.
Brooklyn could take one, but not three. Fuck. Now it was he who was still on his feet, and the impulse to lift his hands and lash out very nearly overwhelmed him. Fuck them for challenging him in the ring. He took grim satisfaction from how the eyes of the guards widened. They knew.
His ring. His space. His fucking time.
The end of a tonfa tapped him lightly on the knee, hard enough to hurt, but not enough to send him sprawling. We could have, that said. Give up.
Brooklyn cast another glance at the enemy. Done. Over. He looked at the guards, knew the other two would be on him if he attacked their comrade. He turned, his gaze sharpening. Applause. Light sparked off diamonds and teeth, expensive women jeering at him, their companions grinning with red faces. A minuscule dog was yipping at the end of its pink leash. Applause.
How would it look if the guards beat him to a pulp?
Not good. He raised his fists high over his head, taking the applause while the guards stepped smartly back. Not their crowd, and the bitches knew it. He almost laughed.
He hadn't come so close to laughter in months. It didn't matter what scum was cheering him, but it mattered that all of them—apart from a few companions, he assumed—were born free and were still free.
Applauding a slave might be an indulgence—might be, in truth, nothing but scorn—but right now, it didn't matter that he wasn't one of them. He'd bet the women in the audience wanted him rather than the suit-and-tie-wearing sugar daddies they'd come with. And he knew the men all wanted to be him, even if they were pimps and CEOs and MPs and two-bit VIPs from Big Brother. Right now, they were off their fat arses and applauding him.
Fuck them all.
* * *
When Brooklyn returned to the dressing room, Les was leaning against the wall, arms crossed in front of his chest, a white towel draped across his neck. Brooklyn wanted nothing more than to get out of the fake silk robe clinging to his sweaty skin.
"What was that out there, Brook?"
"Get my gloves off." Brooklyn felt sweat beading on his face and running down his temple. Tickling. He wanted to shower. Jerk off. Fall into bed. But looking at Les's face, that seemed pretty unlikely. Well, except the shower.
"That's a 'please, sir.'"
You fucking bastard. I won that bloody fight, didn't I? Brooklyn clenched his teeth. "Please. Sir." It still felt like choking on a toad. After two years, the words barely made it past his lips. He wasn't the sir-ing type. Now less than ever. But he wanted that shower and couldn't chew through the duct tape wrapped around his gloves. And Les wasn't the worst guy to have to "sir."
"Sure. No problem." His trainer pushed away from the wall and began opening the glove at the wrist, strong fingers deft and knowing.
Brooklyn looked to the side. Right after a fight, having another man so close was like an unbearable itch that triggered all kinds of aggressive responses.
And he wanted something to fuck. That counted as an aggressive response, right?
"That last bit, where you thought about killing him? Don't do it, Brook. Just. Don't."
Brooklyn shrugged. "Too expensive, I know."
"It's not just that. It's not worth it. How's Cash going to arrange you a championship bout if you kill the other fighters?"
"All right." He was relieved when Les pulled off the gloves, and he wiggled his fingers in the sweaty red wraps. His knuckles would swell, but they always did. They'd be fine before the fight next month.
He freed the end of the bandage and began to unwrap his hands, the left one first, and then the right, and tossed the sweat-soaked cotton bandages into the laundry bag. "Can I have a shower, sir?"
Les studied his face for a moment. "Five minutes. I'll pack your stuff."
"Are you supposed to do that, Mr. Freeman?"
"We're on a tight schedule."
"You have an appointment."
"Exactly." Les smirked. "So keep that charge. Can't have you fall asleep on this one. She paid good money to get what you're bringing from that fight."
Brooklyn groaned but bent down to untie his boots. He pulled them off along with the wet socks, which went into the laundry bag too. He straightened slowly, gaze lingering on Les's long, muscular form. He couldn't help but grin at his coach's exasperated sigh. "Into the shower, Brook."
"I know exactly what you're doing here. And it's a 'no.' It's been a 'no' for two years."
Brooklyn huffed and plucked the towel from Les's neck, delighting in his trainer's sharp intake of breath. Oops. He might have brushed him there. "Shower. Wet skin. Me steaming from the fight. What's up, coach?"
"Go." Les shoved him away, took the towel from his grip, and swatted him on the arse with it. "Get showered, Romeo."
"And no wanking. Understood." Brooklyn headed off, noticing, as always, the bars fastened to the window in the shabby little group shower. No group here. He wondered for a moment about his opponent, but he assumed a shower was the least of the guy's problems.
Gym shower, not much different from the one in the place he'd begun boxing as a freeman. The gym he belonged to now was south of the river and nestled in the arches of a Victorian brick bridge that had trains rumble over it every fifteen minutes.
Footballers got the nice locations. Boxers fought amidst crates in the yard behind a supermarket in the nasty part of London if need be.
Les opened the door and dropped off a pair of jeans and a shirt, no shorts, as he wouldn't need them. Socks, trainers, and a hooded sweatshirt to keep his body warm. Brooklyn towelled himself down and assumed his "date" liked the thug look.
"Well, beats moo-ing to turn them on," he muttered and dressed. He stood in front of the mirror for a few moments, then pulled the hood up and lifted his hands, lightly curled into fists. Yeah, like a Lonsdale ad.
He lowered his hands when the doctor came in for a quick check, asking him if he felt all right, not dizzy, and peering into his eyes with a penlight. All routine. Health check before and after the fight, and constant monitoring in between.
"Car's waiting," Les said, opening the door. "You ready?"
"Got something to eat?"
Les offered him a protein bar and led him out, hand between his shoulder blades. For "not interested," Les did touch him an awful lot. Those hands had been everywhere on his body but where he wanted them, and Les never batted an eyelid.
"What about Cash?"
"Schmoozing the contacts, arranging the next fights."
Which tended to involve expensive clubs and lots of booze. Being a promoter certainly had its perks. "Tell me he's talking to the editor-in-chief of Boxing Weekly?"
Les laughed. "I'll mention it to him. Thought you don't like the media?"
"They can suck my dick, but they can also get me a title fight," Brooklyn said just as they were passing Curtis, who joined them. Sadistic bastard wore his wraparound sunglasses even indoors. Brooklyn had once mentioned it made him look like a twat and received Curtis's tonfa to both kidneys, hard enough that he'd pissed blood for five days. Taught him not to flirt with the guard, as Les had called it.
He got in the car between Les and Curtis and peered out the window as the car zipped through the streets, going east.
"So what's my gig?"
Les hesitated, and Brooklyn wondered if it was because he disapproved or because he was trying to sell it to him. "She's one of those who likes it really rough."
"I'm not trained to dominate. You know that."
"But you can rape the bitch, can't you, slave?" Curtis turned his face, and his lips barely moved as he spoke. "Rip her clothes, tie her up, fuck her in every hole, call her 'whore,' and she'll get off on it."
Brooklyn glanced at Les. His trainer shrugged. "That's about the extent of it."
Thug kink, indeed. He could do that. After a fight, he was capable of just about anything. Not that he had much of a choice. The lady had paid for it, management had accepted, and he'd do what he'd been ordered to do. Rough sex would definitely scratch the itch.
It didn't even matter if she was attractive. His standards, never the most refined, had adjusted to his new status these past two years. Alcohol used to get him in trouble during his misspent youth, when just about any hole would do, but these days he did what he was ordered to. The fact that there were no alternatives helped. It was either his hand or somebody who paid for the pleasure.
The car stopped outside a dingy hotel in East London. Not quite an area of burning rubbish bins, but close enough. There were no women out, and the few men cast furtive glances at the traffic, like they were keeping watch just before trouble went down. It made Brooklyn's fingers itch.
Curtis opened the door and followed Brooklyn into the hotel. Les stayed in the car. A huge guy behind the desk merely glanced up as they walked into the foyer.
"We're on honeymoon," Brooklyn began, just to get a rise out of Curtis, but the big guy behind the counter just said, "Room 202," and turned his head back towards the TV.
"You gonna watch?"
"Want me to?" Curtis asked, blank-faced. "Can't get it up otherwise?"
"If she's into that?"
"My dick's not for sale." Curtis knocked on a door marked "2 2." "Ma'am. Your delivery. Call me if you need anything else."
The door opened. The woman behind was pretty, maybe in her thirties, statuesque in high heels, a knee-length grey skirt, and a silk blouse. She looked up into Brooklyn's eyes and, with a smoky voice, said, "He'll do nicely."
* * *
Brooklyn picked up the pace once they were farther into Hyde Park and out of the throng of Japanese tourists. God alone knew what they were looking for. The statues? Or just to tick a box on their I Was Here list before they hit London? Yes, by all means, but at seven in the morning on a Sunday?
Les's steps were synchronised with his, but Les carried a good thirty pounds less weight. On the other hand, he was almost twenty years older. That had to count for something too.
"You going to talk about it or not?" Les matched his new speed without any problems. Racing ahead was not a good idea. Curtis had set up his slave bracelets to shock him stupid if he moved farther than fifty metres from Les. Brooklyn had once tried to find where the sender was that triggered the shock, but it could be anywhere. It could even be a chip in Les's wallet.
That wasn't something anybody would let a slave know, and with good reason. Brooklyn had tested his limits extensively when he first became a slave. He'd found out the hard way how much electroshocks hurt.
"Talk about what?"
"I could have killed him."
Les scoffed. "You know what I mean. About the woman."
"What? You now reporting to management on whether I hit my performance goal? If you need to fill in a customer satisfaction report, give her a call."
"Brook." Brooklyn fucking hated it when Les used his "we're friends here" voice. It was worse than the "you can trust me" voice. "You're not talking to anybody else. If you want to talk about it ..."
"I don't." Brooklyn glanced to the side. "I'm not talking because I don't want to."
Les didn't say anything for a mile or so. Brooklyn began to hope his coach had dropped the issue, and ideally, the whole conversation. He was still choking on it all—not on the woman, more the circumstances and all the rest—and he needed his breath. He couldn't get too emotional while he was running. Anger would just burn him out faster, and pacing was important. He needed to last longer than one circuit.
"Why do you want to know, anyway?"
"I need to know how it affects your performance when they send you out. Can't have you distracted from your training. Like you are now."
"The fuck I am." He had to remind himself to not run faster, stay where he was, and that grated. He wanted to run, to race as fast as he could. At least get to the point where Les had no breath left to level accusations against him. "I guess it's a nice chunk of money. How much is slave dick worth?"
"I wasn't there when they negotiated that," Les said, as if that explained anything. Or made him less complicit. Les wasn't one of the guys; he wasn't a slave, for one, and he was employed by the management. Which made him just as complicit as Curtis or a pair of fucking shock bracelets. But Brooklyn had learnt to keep those thoughts to himself too. The hard way.
"Listen, if it doesn't serve as a vent, I can recommend they put a stop to it."
"Vent?" Brooklyn almost laughed. "No, whatever. Prefer that way to getting fucked up the arse."
"What? You think there's a freeman out there who will let me top him? Maybe. But he hasn't plunked down the cash for it yet. Tends to be wankers who get off on topping somebody like me. Somebody strong."
"And that you are," Les said, almost under his breath.
Those words deflated the anger, turned it into cold, bitter spikes sitting low in his guts, a feeling like tears tightening his lungs. He felt almost like crying, just from those words, out of nowhere. Unsettled, a low blow to a part of him he thought he hadn't exposed. A weakness he thought he'd covered well. And fuck Les for finding that weakness.
Hold me down, babe. Love me rough.
Anything but thinking of his wife.
"We should be lovers," Brooklyn said, grinning when his coach groaned. "We already quarrel all the time."
"It's banter." Les touched him on the shoulder—fucking again—and dropped onto his hands and feet to put in a few push-ups. "Gimme fifty, champ."
* * *
Brooklyn was doing some light bag work late one Monday morning when he noticed one of his fellow slaves had stopped his rope-skipping. He paused to reach for his water bottle and half turned when the front door opened.
Suits. Here, they stood out like accountants in the jungle. A tax raid? That would just be too ironic, but he really couldn't afford to hope for the worst. Slaves tended to be the first things sold when somebody hadn't paid their taxes or couldn't afford some fine or other. They were the most movable of assets.
Les led the suits to the side of the ring, explained something about the sparring going on there.
Visitors? Prospective buyers? Why was Les doing that and not Cash? He was the money man, after all.
"Oi, I believe you're here to work, slave." Curtis drew close, hand on his tonfa.
"Wanna hold the bag?"
Excerpted from Counterpunch by Aleksandr Voinov, Gordon Warnock. Copyright © 2014 Aleksandr Voinov. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
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