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The last thing Leah had heard had been her murderer laughing. This sound is what she was to carry with her into the abyss of the unknown-her afterlife, a dark place made even darker with the addition of such a black heart laden with hate and vengeance. Frightened, as anyone would be, not to mention a freshly slaughtered child, she had flailed about in an eerie place somewhere between life and death. Rather than succumb to the pull of her intended, wholly predetermined destination, she had resisted. Leah had even defied the malevolent, shadowy figures who had attempted to draw her here , usher her there . Utterly poisoned with bitter loathing, Leah had maintained her focus with unyielding determination, not unlike a fighter who, when knocked to the ground, scrambles quickly to his feet again, lest a final blow be delivered. She wasn't finished. Leah needed to get back up. She had a point she needed to make.
Home Sweet Home
From the outside, Leah's rather grandiose home would have suggested she'd been a child who had wanted for nothing. On the inside, however, the illusion would have been quickly shattered into a million pieces. Her home had been nothing more than a long-conceived, high-end bordello, fashioned by a transatlantic madam known by many as the Countess.
To say this Georgian mansion accommodated an enterprise well below its station is just a matter of perspective. When the Countess had arrived in America touting an ambiguous, ever-changing Parisian bio, she'd had with her enough money and self-appointed clout to get things done. As a result, the two-story, eight bedroom manor had beenconstructed with few questions asked.
Largely symmetrical in design, it offered an elegance usually reserved for the most prominent of citizenry. A column-flanked doorway, framed in leaded-glass transoms, gave entry to a grand vestibule. Tasteful blends of Khorasani rugs had been used to protect the mahogany hardwood floors and majestic fireplaces were found in each receiving room. Ornate pelmets, above all the first floor thresholds, stylishly hid the origins of the magenta and crimson swags that had softly suggested a mystery was waiting at every turn. Most furniture pieces were upholstered in silk, cream-colored damask, and a wrought iron chandelier, containing numerous beeswax candles, set off the center hall staircase nicely. The upper hallways, amid walls of amber cherry, were lit dimly with ornamental wall sconces, so gentlemen wishing to be discreet might not recognize one another.
Empirically, the home had been designed to suit its purpose, and it did so quite well. It was a place where dreams died and fantasies came true.
Mommy & Daddy
The man and woman responsible for creating Leah had done so amidst the most peculiar of circumstances.
One evening, the Countess had escorted a painfully particular customer upstairs, a pirate by the name of Shadrach. Seamen represented a large percentage of the house's clientele. Many were of an unruly disposition and, as a result, were not permitted in the establishment in groups numbering more than three. Shadrach, however, was not like the others. He was quiet and deliberate.
On this particular night, the Countess had needed only to point out the room for the tall stranger, Kamala's bedroom. Kamala, a most prized and gifted prostitute from a far-off land, some said Bengal others, Bahrain, had been one of the home's most sought after ladies. Even more than her exotic features, it had been her ability to understand, adapt and conform to the often bizarre desires of men that had heightened her popularity far above the others. So it had been no surprise that the Countess, in her unflagging intuition, had seen Kamala as the perfect girl for Shadrach.
Shadrach had clearly approved, for without hesitation, he marched down the hall in long, decisive strides, his dark eyes fixed on the girl waiting by her bedroom doorway. The pirate's scabbard had clacked against the stair banister spokes in staccato fashion, announcing his determination every step of the way. Entering the room, he immediately refused the mug of grog Kamala had offered him, preferring to get on with the business at hand.
An odd man, completely festooned in tattoos exhibiting cipherlike symbols, he had insisted on an elaborate placement of candles situated in a strange, yet purposeful, manner about the room. Many of these candles had encircled the bed, which was located in the very center of the bedroom.
The eccentric stranger's feverish preoccupation with this arrangement of candles had obliged Kamala to put at peace his troubled mind. Sitting next to him, she fingered through his thick brown hair, stroked his lean, hardened body, a seaman's physique, and gently pondered the curious symbols that covered him like so many insects. Though a two week old beard covered his face, it had done little to hide the harsh effects stemming from years of near constant wind, sun, and sea spray.
As Kamala stood and slipped out of her silk evening robe, her hypnotically charged beauty had quickly overtaken the sailor. Her raven hair, reaching the small of her back, and toffee-tan skin had not been at all lost on him. Also not lost on him had been her long, stallionesque legs that promised to ensnare him in a trap from which he'd wish never to be freed.
A savage union it had been, complete with chants and beckoning in a language long dead. At times, Shadrach's voice had sounded more animal than human, much like how a beast's caterwauling can sound more human than animal. It had given Kamala the eerie sense that she was in the company of something wicked, something wrong.
The room's large windows, looking out to sea, had allowed the howling wind entrance, billowing the thin curtains high. Kamala's body, when atop, moved like a love song, daring to tame the wild beast beneath her. Shadrach, nearly lulled into her trance of ecstasy, had resisted becoming lust-drunk by flipping her over as if she were a rag doll and pinning her in place.
Kamala had a difficult time sustaining a playful demeanor. He was strong, much stronger than any man she'd ever been with. She had wished to push him off and away but had been fearful that resisting him would only result in her being physically harmed. In fact, it had been that very moment when she thought she detected subtle changes in some of the symbols upon her lover's skin-wormy movements that slightly altered only select runic characters. His tattoos had seemed to be…coming alive. She dismissed it quickly, blaming candlelight play for the tiny, phantomlike ripples. What she had not been able to dismiss, however, was the mighty gale's inability to blow out any of the candles. A wind strong enough to knock over bottles of fragrance from her vanity table had not been able to extinguish even one single flame.
With the deed done, the nomadic warlock departed, never to be heard from again. Afterwards, Kamala had looked long and hard at her reflection in her baroque wall mirror. Her normal air of arrogant self-assuredness had been replaced by a weighty sense of foreboding and uncertainty. She was a little girl again, a little girl who had done a bad thing.
The fact that Leah had been permitted to be born in the first place had been a bone of contention among the ladies of the night. Kamala, however, stubbornly insisted, and as a result, had been allowed to go full term. Her motives, though, had little to do with maternal pining.
It'd become apparent to Kamala that there would be high-paying customers who secretly longed to lay with a woman heavy with child. For this, she'd been all too willing to oblige.
This hadn't sat well with the other girls, for even they, as hardened as they were, felt it an abomination to use something so beautiful for something so ugly. Consequently, Kamala had been shunned. Still, this had little effect on her, for the demand for her company had been so unrelentingly high and consistently frequent, she'd chosen to focus on the admiration she received from her many clients, and had held herself in the highest regard-no matter what the others thought. After all, it had been the "freak charmer" in her, as the other girls had taken to calling it, which had gotten Kamala impregnated in the first place. In her eyes, she'd merely been living up to her pet name.
So Leah, having been born outside the kind of innocence and frailty normally found when children are brought into this world, had a very short fall into what would become a nightmare twelve years in duration. In a back bedroom of this sizable Georgian home of ill repute, the screaming whore would push her out. For hours, Leah lay on the bloody floor, taking with her more blood than her dead mother could obviously afford, until the other girls finally came upon her.
Thus, Leah's short and twisted life had begun where Kamala's had left off.
Copyright © 2006 by Joe DiFrancesco