The last time I saw Trisha we were supposed to get together for some noose-play. The format was usually the same. I’d go over to her place. She’d drag out in her slutty leather dress, black stilettos and rubber top. We’d smoke a joint then have a glass of wine and pretty soon the porn would roll out: Gallows Girls, Date with the Hangman or else some strangulation clips she’d pieced together from various horror movies and put onto a CD.
Once she got high she’d moan and that was my cue. I’d strip down naked and get on my knees. Trish would tie me up and walk around the room with her heels clicking on the hardwood floor. Then she’d examine my physique like it was a laboratory specimen, pull out the rope from her cedar chest and prepare the noose with painful precision. She was into detail. Either I’d end up by choking out right away or else she’d toss the other end of the rope over a ceiling beam. Either-or, it was lights and sirens all the way.
I’d been into asphyxia as long as I can remember, probably way back into childhood. My first memory of sexual excitement was watching the hanging scene in Cat Ballou when Jane Fonda gets noosed and then rubbing my crotch on the shag carpet of our living room floor.
Transsexuals were something I was never really into. Not that I knew of, anyway. Sure, I’d seen them in porn magazines but in small town Alberta we didn’t have many working in grocery stores. Finding women who were into kinky stuff was a pretty tall order and I was tired of dating columns, web sites and tennis games that ended in agricultural discussions. Beggars couldn’t be choosers. Pro dommes were okay, but you had to drive all the way into Calgary for that. They charged a lot of money and came with their own set of troubles.
On the last Sunday of every month the Black Rhino Pub and Western Grill had a costume night and most of the kinky folk in the Red Deer valley went there under the guise of “dressing up.” No one else drank on a Sunday night in our town so management posted a cover charge and let us do what we wanted. The owners begrudgingly enforced a dress code that kept the soldiers from Suffield at bay.
The first time I saw Trish I thought she was a girl. She leaned over the bar with a champagne cocktail and had on a black mini skirt, white blouse and blue wig. She was beautiful really, too much makeup, but stunning. Lithe, thick-lipped, something you’d expect to see on that old British television series UFO where all the spacewomen had big boobs, blue hair and Lycra spacesuits.
“That’s nice hair,” I said.
“Thank you,” she said back.
Up close you could tell: Adam’s apple, strong hands and a voice pitched halfway in the wrong direction, but by then I was already in far too deep to back out.
Talking kink to strangers was fair game at the Rhino. Essentially that’s why people went even though most of them were wannabes. Small talk was just a waste of time.
“What are you into?” I asked her.
“Role play,” she said. “Breath control, asphyxia. I like scenes with a beginning, middle and end. You know, narrative.”
Then she giggled and bit on her string of white pearls. If there had been a lightning rod outside, I would have been fried. This was the grand prize, the Lotto Max. Well, maybe the Lotto Mini Max because the pure gold would have been a woman, but what the hell this was good. What she had between her legs simply didn’t matter.
“Fabulous,” I said. “Do you like noose-play?”
“Oh yes. I used to watch westerns when I was a teenager. My mother thought I was into horses.”
“I think we’ll get on.”
Trish sized me up, considered her options then glanced around at the competition. The bar was filled with a number of overweight oil riggers, some obviously disturbed kinksters with prosthetic limbs and a few newbies who looked very nervous. The men outnumbered the women, the women called the shots and most people’s idea of kink in the Red Deer valley was doing missionary in the barn.
“You don’t mind?” she said. She held up her cocktail and stared at the olive so the sentence didn’t need to be finished.
Her eyelashes fluttered. Her gold fingernail circled the rim of her glass.
“You’ve done a T-Girl before?”
“Sure,” I lied. “Had playmates in Calgary. Pretty low-key there. You don’t see many cross-dressers at the stampede.”
She laughed. I got a drink. The bartender stood on the other side of his fence expressionless. He had been given strict instructions by the management to stay non-judgmental, shut up and collect the tabs.
“Have you played with anyone here?” she said.
Okay, I’d gotten to know a few friends here. Sal, the blonde who was drinking scotch at the One Armed Bandit, I dated but that didn’t work out. Sal liked ponies way too much. Jen, a tall brunette in her fifties, stood by the jukebox in her rubber suit. Architect by trade, she was into flogging, which I liked, but she was looking for a husband and I wasn’t. Tom and Terry were gay. Not that that bothered me. They liked to talk about rodeos and came to the club together because this was the only place in town they could act natural. Pam, a woman my age with red hair, walked past us and lifted her glass. She was athletic, into just about anything, but she was also the most sought after commodity in the circuit, knew it, and so I didn’t bother. I’d been down that road before.
“Nothing serious,” I said. “Pam’s okay to look at but that’s it.”
“I mean I’ve got nothing against her personally, but there’s a lot of estrogen flying around in that chassis.”
“Mmm,” Trish said. “Drama queen. The lengths she’ll go to are unbelievable.”
The evening wore on and somewhere around Tom Collins number four it dawned on me that Trisha’s real name was Tad and he worked in the Chamber of Commerce. Great looking guy but I’d only ever seen him from a distance and, besides, at the club you didn’t talk about what went on in vanilla life. Rule 1(a): No blabbing. I checked my watch.
“What do you think?” I said.
She bit her pearls again and stared at the ceiling.
“Do you want to go to my place?”
I waited the compulsory one-point-five seconds.
“All right,” I said.
“Me topping you. Me on top all the way since it’s our first time.”
This was an absolutely ludicrous thing to consent to. Going to a complete stranger’s house by yourself and being on the receiving end of some very dangerous technical work was not a street-smart decision. There are probably stats on how many people die each year with ropes around their necks, but I didn’t care. I convinced myself that her deference rendered her harmless. Saying I was so big and strong that I had to be on the bottom. And then it just didn’t matter. I took her hand and we walked to the front door. Her shoulder smelled of lime. All the would-be perverts in the bar eyed us with needy condescension and Trish gave someone in the corner a screw-you wave.
Trish’s house was a wartime bungalow on the industrial side of the tracks. Lots of creosote, railway ties and abandoned grain silos. The stucco was grey and the sidewalk patiently cracked. Out front there was a bed of weeds and a lonely thistle garden. She drove her truck around back and parked down the alley that was encased in caragana.
“Neighbours,” she said. “There’s just no point in parking out front.”
The inside of the house was sparse and lonely. A couch, a cold hardwood floor and a couple of black books on the shelf detailing public planning policy. We went straight downstairs. Downstairs was where the action happened. Downstairs was it. Teak floor, big screen TV, air ionizer, full spectrum lighting and a couple of telltale hooks hanging from the beams that couldn’t be used for potted plants. The door to the playroom had a window in it and also a lock.
“I cook upstairs,” she said. “This is where I live.”
She turned on the lights, closed the curtain and leaned back on her IKEA sofa.
“Joint?” she said.
Trish lit up. Hard to tell if her tits were implants or falsies. Didn’t matter. The cold hardness of desire swept over her face and she stretched her long legs on a pillow. Her makeup made her look Oriental.
“Strip for me,” she said.
Part of the kinkster game is you can do all kinds of over-the-top stuff and get away with it. Stuff that would get you thrown out of a grade eight drama class is prime time here. I stripped down and stood straight out, pounding, aching, stretching and making all the air in the basement reek of testosterone. Then I got down on my knees and kissed her shoes. The skin on her calf was tanned and amazingly smooth. Somewhere in the last thirty seconds she had lost her nylons. She got up, walked around behind me and tied my hands behind my back with a hair dryer cord. Then she pulled a thick cotton rope out from a cedar chest and bit on the end. I got all the technical details of the rope’s weight, diameter, hemp content and load limit. I’ll never forget her made up face absolutely perfect in want, the black pupils searching deep and insect-like into a need of mine no one else had ever seen. She fastened one end of the rope around the beam in a half hitch and the other around my neck. Then she pulled up her dress. Champagne bubbles burst in my head, my throat filled with salt and an alarm clock went off as my skull hit the floor.
“How was that?” she said after. She lounged on the sofa with another cocktail and her toenails had pink lilies painted on them.
“I think I’ll keep you.”
The next day, I saw Pam in the bank. I knew she was going to break a cardinal rule of the club but she strolled up to the cheque-writing counter and stood way too close to be anything but sexual.
“How did it go last night?” she said.
I gave her a blank stare. She had a yellow rodeo scarf wrapped around her neck like a lot of tourists did in the middle of the summer and cowboy boots that probably hadn’t been out of their box in years.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to you last night,” she said. “Didn’t want to interrupt. Got time for lunch?”
“Why have you been ignoring me?”
This seemed to be pretty much a law of the kink universe. You’d spend years looking for people in solitude, going to stupid socials, attending workshops, answering ads, and nothing, nada, nyet, then all of a sudden you got lucky and everybody wanted a chip of the action. We went over to the Big Horn for a Bronto Burger and got a booth. Pam smelled of lilac perfume, something French anyway. She had delicate features, a small nose, and in the daylight her hair was the same colour as a barn on fire. She held her fingers up in an okay sign as she ate so she wouldn’t get mayo on the table and quizzed me about my nocturnal encounter.
“I didn’t take you for the bi type,” she said.
She gave me a queer look and asked for another Pepsi.
“Please,” she said.
“Trish and I just had a lot in common.”
“She’s a nice lady.”
Pam raised an eyebrow and agreed on the pronoun according to protocol.
“I guess I just know the other side of her,” she said.
“The Tad side.”
I shrugged. Like I fucking cared.
“You’ve done the plastic bag routine with her?” she asked.
I dished out the “gentlemen don’t tell” smile.
Pam wasn’t giving up. She wanted content. Some of the mayo stuck to her chin and she made a point of shoving her index finger down her throat to clean it up.
“She likes the One Hour Martinizing bags because they cling,” she said.
“But she plays rough. Don’t get me wrong. I like rough.”
The words lingered for a dramatically long time. “In fact, I like almost everything. Watching, too. But look after yourself. Have a good fail-safe system in place is all I can say.”
She took a menthol cigarette out of her purse, tapped the end of the tabletop, but didn’t light up. A sign above the door said No Smoking. $200.00 fine.
“Are you a pro?” I said.
“A Pro domme.” Calling someone a whore was rude but a Pro domme had a ring of aristocracy. “I mean not at this minute, but at some time in the past? You just have that air about you.”
What I was actually saying in code was you are being a bitch, but Pam didn’t take the bait.
“Can you play tennis?” she said.
“Yes. Of course I can play tennis.”
“No, I mean can you really play? Are you any good? Not can you put on a pair of white shorts and look smart. It’s tough finding good players around here. All the guys want to do is cattle rope and they get their dicks stuck in the net.”
“I’m good,” I said.
“Up for a game some time?” She studied her unlit cigarette. Her red nails were perfectly manicured. “Just tennis. That’s all I’m looking for. I know you’re taken.”
“Sure,” I said.
“You don’t mean that.”
“Ten bucks a game?”
I went home and practiced against the wall. About three, the kink creep started inside me and all I could think about was Trish’s tanned legs and fake Georgian accent. She worked at the bank until four, but I knew I couldn’t go there. Didn’t want to show up at her place unannounced and most certainly didn’t want to wait until the end of next month to get done again. I wrote my name and number on a piece of paper and wedged it into her back door. Some hornets had made a nest beneath the soffit. By six the phone rang.
“Hey baby,” she said.
“Hey,” I said.
There’s a point in any conversation when it becomes all about sex and we had already reached that point.
“What are you up to?” I said.
“Waiting for you.”
“Give me half an hour. I have to get made up.” Then she paused. “Do you have a car?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Can you pick up a prescription for me at the drugstore?”
“Then park out back, okay?”
When I went downstairs the air already reeked of hemp. Fleetwood Mac was on the stereo and some very nasty porn was on the huge television. A nude man slicked down with oil was being garroted by a woman in a witch costume.
“Hey hon,” the voice said from the off-suite.
“Hey,” I said.
“What to wear to a hanging,” Trish said and came out of the room in five-inch heels and a fishnet body suit. She wrapped her fingers over the doorframe and I knew I wasn’t going to have much say in what happened next.
A lot of the times I’d wake up the next day with a searing headache. My right eye would go out of focus. Rope burns too. I took to wearing high collar shirts to work which was stupid in the middle of July and everyone just assumed it was a hickey. One of the girls in the office kept giving me knowing grins. My short-term memory faltered, I’d been choked out four times in the past two weeks and I got pretty sure that Trish was probably hot waxing me while I was under. I got used to the after effects, but from time to time things got scary. Loud bells would go off in my head during hangings, shapes would flit by in the room so fast I couldn’t make out what they were, and often I heard people laughing above me when I was collapsed on the floor.
“Was there someone else in the room last night?” I asked Trish.
“I have no idea, who?”
She shook her head. “I don’t do that.”
“I thought I could hear voices. Up above.”
“That’s pretty common,” she said. We were watching a video from The House of Gaspers where a pretty blonde from Toronto pushes a man off a stack of telephone books and strings him up while wearing lace gloves. “Do you want to stay the night?”
That came down like a thistle in a corn dog.
“Uh, no,” I said. “Thanks, but I don’t think so.”
Trish put her hand on my knee.
“Okay,” she shrugged.
Pam had beat me three sets in a row and it was thirty degrees in the shade, which there was none of. She had on a white tennis top, white dress and one of those sweatbands around her head that people wear on Viagra commercials. Basically she was a poster girl for any Ivy League college in the country and I owed her thirty bucks.
“Give up?” she said.
“No, but I have to go.”
“Got a date.”
I bent over to pick up a stray ball and she struck me on the ass with the racket.
“You two spend a lot of time together,” she said.
“You spend the night, don’t you?”
It wasn’t a question.
“Not often,” I said.
“That kind of stuff isn’t for me.”
“Don’t tell me,” she said. “You’re just in it for the sex.”
Pam went over and leaned against her red Volvo. Her skin was dark and covered in sweat.
“Yes,” she said. She opened the trunk and pulled out an ice sack. Inside there were two orange popsicles and she handed me one. “What’s on the agenda for today? If you can be so blunt.”
“Not sure,” I said. “Too rough for you, anyway.”
“No,” she said. “Call him.”
“She’ll say no.”
“He’ll say yes. He always does.”
She opened the car door, took out her cell phone and tossed it to me.
“I know what you do and I know Tad. Call him.”
I dialed the number and waited.
“Hey hon,” she said.
“Hey, listen. I’m running a bit behind. Got to have a shower.”
“Come over sweaty. I like sweaty hunks. We can do a medieval scene.”
“Not this sweaty. Give me half an hour.”
“I’ll be ready when you get here,” she said.
Pam examined the threads on her racket then looked up.
“Hey, listen,” I said. “Is it all right if Pam comes over?”
“She said she wanted to watch and that she knows what we do. I don’t know if you’d be into that or not.”
Trish thought for a long time.
“Whatever,” she said.
We had a shower at my place and Pam made a point of leaving the door open when she got wet. Everything that wasn’t freckles on that girl was red; lips, nipples, hair, even eyes when the bathroom light hit them the right way. Then she talked me into a scotch and soda and after we stuffed our tennis clothes into the trunk because she said she’d dry clean them for me. On the way over she gave me a litany of her asphyx experiences, which sounded canned, but the oil she’d smeared on her legs sparkled diamonds in the sun and I made a wrong turn at Trisha’s street.
“Better park around back,” she said.
“You know the routine, do you?”
I had this scene replaying in my head of Pam screwing me while I was choked out and knocked over a garbage can. The cottonwoods were drooping and covered in dust. The back alley hadn’t seen another car in days. We walked across the unkempt yard. The grass was long and yellow. A birdhouse once painted red was sun-worn to off-pink.
“She needs to do some yardwork,” I said.
“Too many hormones,” Pam said.
“They cut down on your desire to complete tasks.”
“Never had that problem with me.”
“Don’t shoot your load too fast, okay? I want to have some fun.”
We got up to the door and I had this bad feeling she might just mean screwing vanilla-style so I said, “Are you sure you’re into this?”
“Relax,” she said. “You have no idea. Don’t sweat it. It’ll all be good.”
But as soon as we got inside we both knew it wasn’t all good. A fan circling above the lonely dining room table made no noise. The air was stagnant. There was one plate, one teacup and one napkin. No stereo, no porn playing, no sounds of Trish clicking her shoes or buckling up the chrome latches on her leather corset.
“Trish?” I called out, no answer. “Hey hon, you ready yet?”
I realized I’d called her hon. Pam shuffled her purse between her palms checked the fridge and we went down the stairs. A newspaper from August, 1945 had been stuffed in the wall for insulation. At the playroom, the door was locked. Pam shot me a quick glance; I’d seen that glance on wheat buyers faces right before they knew the market was going to crash and I gazed through the window.
Trish was buckled down on her knees with the rope cinched around her neck. Her face was white as a mannequin and her dress was pulled down to her thighs. Something shriveled and pink had caught in the zipper.
Pam looked away for half a second and I panicked for a knife or anything to cut Trish down with. I was just about to pick up a screwdriver from the end table when Pam grabbed my arm.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“Cutting her down.”
“Don’t go in there,” Pam said. “Jesus, she’s been dead for an hour.”
Not much doubt about that. The face utterly plastic, bloodless and strangely masculine stretched beneath the blue wig.
“We’ve got to do something,” I said.
“Not here,” she said. She put a finger to her lip. “We’ll go down to the pay phone and call.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
Pam was whispering in a loud hoarse voice which was louder than if she’d been just talking.
“No, I’m very much in my mind. Not all my blood is in my dick. Listen to me and listen good. There’s no need for us to get tangled up here. She’s dead. I’m sorry for it but don’t want to spend the next five days answering a bunch of questions from the medical examiner and half-a-hundred cops.”
“We can’t just leave.”
“I am. You are too. Don’t touch anything. We’ll walk out the back door back to my car and leave. Nobody will even know we were here. Don’t be stupid.”
We walked out of the room, shut the door and walked through the caragana bushes. My mouth tasted of ash. In the small town dust bowl that was Trish’s neighbourhood only a magpie saw us ditch the screwdriver in a grain silo that had been deserted since 1953.
Pam stopped the car at the 7-Eleven because I was too shaky to drive. When there was no one around, she went to the phone booth and dialed the police non-emergency line. She took a piece of tinfoil from her purse and put it over the receiver.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m calling from out of town. I’m just in visiting. I got a phone call from a relative who’s got a lot of psychological problems. He didn’t sound right. Can you go and check on him? Nothing serious probably, but he has a history.”
She gave the address and then hung up. We drove to the tennis court and put on our sweaty, stinking whites and played tennis for the rest of the afternoon, and more than a few people saw us there batting the ball around and laughing and commented on what a handsome couple we were. »From issue #73