THE LICENTIOUS LYCANTHROPE
Maureen Branson loved wolves.
Wealthy through inheritance, the pretty, twenty-five year old redheaded
woman had used her fortune to establish a Northern Arizona haven and breeding
center for the vanishing wolf population of the world.
Since the Arizona Gray Wolf teetered on the brink of extinction, she began
by importing Russian wolves from the Cossack Steppes. Using this hardy
and intelligent breed as a genetic base, she then assembled a staff from
among the most successful scientists in the field. Together, they bred
and set loose a new and thriving line of the intelligent predators.
Now the fruits of their labor would be studied.
She rose early, careful not to awaken her bedmate, and began gathering
the last of her things, packing the small case which would soon join the
stack of other bags already by the door.
"I wish you could stay here with me, Mo."
Maureen looked over at the bed. Her current lover, Beatrice, lay propped
up on one elbow, her dark eyes puffy from sleep.
"I'm just packing the last bag, Bea. I thought we'd settled all this
"Settled? No. We didn't settle anything. You just told me you're
Maureen sighed, then moved over to perch lightly on the edge of the bed.
"Now don't be angry. I don't want to leave on the heels of an argument."
Maureen lay on the bed and snuggled up behind the other woman.
"I'm afraid I'm losing you, Mo."
"I never made any promises, Bea. You knew I was bi right from the
start. What happened between us wasn't planned."
"But it did, happen, Mo. How can you just walk out on me like this?"
"It's been good, honey, but it isn't love. We . . . console each
other, I guess." She placed a finger on Bea's lips, cutting off and
reply. "Shush, now. I left us this time together so we could say
our good-byes. Shall we spend it arguing?"
The eager look on Beatrice's face hurt much more than her impending departure.
Why is it that all relationships are so alike? thought Maureen. They all
want to control me, manipulate me, own me.
Two hours later, Maureen found herself listening to the steady whup-whup-whup
of the helicopter as it took her, and two assistants, into the mountains.
When the chopper had settled in the clearing, they unloaded the tent and
"Are you sure you want to go through with this, Maureen?" asked
Jack Lambert, the taller of the two men. "The pack is thirteen strong.
They could be very dangerous."
"Of course I'm sure," she answered impatiently. "How else
can we study them now that they run free? Look," she said in a conciliatory
tone. "We've been planning this all along. You knew I intended to
come out here. They've had a chance to adjust now and the hunting in this
area has been good for them. They certainly aren't starving. I should
be in no danger."
"I don't like the idea of your being out here alone, Maureen,"
She sighed. "Just help me pitch camp, guys. I'm not changing my mind.
I want everything set up in ten minutes. Then I want both of you back
aboard the chopper and on your way out of here. It'll be a couple days
before they'll venture close as it is."
The team had tracked this group for weeks, mapping out their hunting territory
and cataloguing their social interactions. Now, the second phase of her
study would begin in earnest. Jack and Greg would return to the compound
leaving her alone. Of course there were risks, but she had thought it
all through carefully. The theory she proposed, and sold to the rest of
the team, was that a single female observer would not be considered a
This pack was her favorite. She had never been particularly close to the
pack leader--at the start of the project, he had been deemed too dangerous--but
could not help admiring his strength and intelligence. She had kept a
special and close watch on them since their release. The Russian had quickly
taken leadership, dominating the other males and claiming the females.
He was a handsome, sleek, powerful gray, with a ruff of fur around his
neck that made him look almost lion-like.
When the supplies had been unloaded and the tent set up, Jack and Greg
climbed back aboard the chopper. Maureen stood in the clearing and waved
good-bye as the aircraft rose and dashed off toward the compound some
forty miles away.
"They mean well," she said aloud. They are so typically male,
she added mentally.
She shrugged. Looking around the campsite, she moved to complete her preparations.
Though she had not yet seen any of the wolves, she proceeded carefully.
When she unpacked and tidied up her camp, Maureen avoided loud noises,
sudden movements, anything the animals might consider aggressive or hostile.
She took the precaution of building a fire. She prepared a meal.
Despite the pack's natural skittishness, curiosity worked its magic. Within
hours, they had discovered her presence and come to investigate.
Maureen sat quite still by the fire, watching them through field glasses.
This program of study could not be rushed. For two days, Maureen watched
as the pack grew bolder, approaching her camp, standing in plain sight,
observing curiously. Perhaps taking their cue from her behavior, they
remained passive and unaggressive.
The wolves had still not come any closer than the edge of the clearing.
Maureen thought about it, then came to a decision. "The way to do
it," she said aloud to herself, "is to be as much a wolf as
Over the next few days, she observed and imitated.
She saw them mark their territory with urine. She marked hers the same
When they hunted, she hunted. And, when her knife or her snares provided
largesse, she left what she could not use, an offering and an overture.
The leader accepted the gifts, approaching cautiously, keeping to the
shadows, and exhibiting an intelligence she found exceptional even for
these remarkable creatures.
Despite having raised this group, Maureen held their leader in considerable
awe. He evidenced no fear. He watched. By the end of the week, he stood
at the edge of the clearing and sang to her--a mournful serenade which
seemed to herald the coming of the full moon.
Around her camp, the first major storm of the winter raged mercilessly.
Even now, drifts of snow shifted under the impact of high winds. The full
moon should have risen high in the night sky, but, at least until she
retired, hid behind threatening clouds.
The wolves had howled earlier in the evening, but quieted around midnight.
Her unhappiness with her life weighed heavily as she lay restlessly in
her tent. If only I could meet someone who wouldn't see me as a checkbook,
possession, or a sex toy, she thought longingly. A stranger---someone
who can love me with no strings attached.
Restlessly, she pulled aside the tent flap and looked out at the Arizona
night. The snow had stopped falling--in fact, the sky had cleared--and
the moon lit the pine forest like a grand stage, but the wind coming off
the mountains still gusted, swirling a fine mist of snow, almost like
a cloud of steam.
Suddenly, even over the roaring of the wind, she heard something like
a moan, and turned toward the sound. As she watched, a tall figure staggered
out of the wood and collapsed at the edge of the trees. Alarmed, she reacted
immediately. Grabbing a blanket, she raced across the clearing.
As she drew closer, she heard him moan again. He struggled on hands and
knees for a few yards, then fell again. The snow immediately caught in
the hollows of his body and, though she hurried to his aid, he had almost
disappeared from view by the time she reached his still form.
My God! He was naked!
Kneeling beside him, she lifted his head into her lap, clearing snow out
of his eyes and nostrils, struggling to wrap the blanket, still warm from
her fire, around him.
The blowing snow kept her from seeing him clearly, and the shock of running
from her warm tent into the ten degree weather, set her shivering even
as it caused her skin to go numb. She bent closer to look into his face.
He was undeniably male, but perhaps the most beautiful male she had ever
Snow caught in long, perfect lashes below heavy arched brows. His nose
looked as finely sculpted as Michaelangelo's David. His mouth, wide and
framed by perfectly defined lips, looked sensitive and balanced above
a strong, cleft chin.
Maureen's gaze travelled from the chin down across the broad, hairy chest,
washboard tummy, and over slim hips. He genitals should be shrunken from
the cold, trying to climb up inside, yet her eyes widened slightly as
she noted that, despite being slightly blue, he seemed exceptionally well-endowed.
She tucked the blanket under him and tried to figure out how she could
get him back to the tent. His breathing sounded harsh, and strange whimpering
sounds came from his throat. She shook her head. He could not be carried.
She would have to drag him back. Maureen did her best to shift him to
the center of the blanket, then took the end and began pulling him through
* * *
She awakened when she heard him moaning again. The moon had set and it
remained dark. The wind in the pines had settled to a steady rustling.
She sat up and crawled to his side.
He had kicked away most of the covers and sprawled half-under the blanket,
his muscular frame bathed in a thin sheen of sweat despite the chill.
Guiltily, she found her eyes drawn to his genitals, once again exposed
but now red and tumescent, throbbing with warmth and life.
Rampant, she thought suddenly. That's what they used to say about animals
with erections drawn by classic artists. She felt her pulse quickening
and looked him over carefully. God! He's a healthy beast!
His eyes snapped open and she averted her own in embarrassment. Great,
she thought. He awakens to find me studying his penis. You really know
how to create a first impression, Maureen!
"Where am I?" he asked in heavily accented speech. Looking around,
he said, "I remember being out in the cold."
"Your in my tent," she answered, backing away. "I found
you nearly frozen to death in that clearing near the trees. What were
you doing in the woods without clothes on?"
He shook his head, his eyes fixing hers in a sharp, penetrating stare.
"I don't remember."
Golden eyes, she thought. He has golden eyes.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"My name is Nicholas," he answered in a well-modulated voice.
"Nicholas Illyanovich." His gaze held her imprisoned. "And
"My name is Maureen," she answered self-consciously. "I
. . . uh . . . I'm studying the wolfpack that runs here." God, I
could get lost in those eyes.
"I owe you my life, Maureen," he said simply.
"I just happened to be the one who saw you, Nicholas." God,
the name feels sweet on my tongue. "Anyone would have helped under
"But it was you, Maureen," he said. "And I will not forget."
There was something about the way he said her name--his mouth wrapped
around it in a sensuous, promising way.
She knelt there, uncertain--like a deer ready to take flight.
He held out his hand. "Come here, Maureen. Come sit by me and tell
me about yourself."
Helplessly, she moved to him, seating herself at his side. This is stupid,
she thought, but she did not pull away.
He took her by the shoulders and turned her slightly, so she leaned back
against his broad chest. Propped on one arm, he drew her closer with the
She breathed deeply, trying to control her nervousness, and his scent
filled her nostrils. He smelled earthy, heady, with the pungency of perfume.
She could not decide what it was like--not unpleasant, but vaguely animal.
She breathed again, and found she like it--no, more than that. His smell,
his touch, excited her.
"You have been lonely," he said in a whisper. "I envy you."
"What?" She felt disoriented, confused. "How could you
"I am almost never alone," he said with a sigh. "I was
once, but no longer."
His warm breath caressed her shoulder and she shivered involuntarily.
"Yes," he continued, "I envy your loneliness, but you need
not fear it will last."
She had leaned back into him, hugging the arm around her, feeling the
strength. Turning slightly, she looked into his face. His eyes had softened,
still golden, but hooded by a sense of peace. His beautiful face hovered
over hers, his brows slightly raised as if asking a question. Slowly,
his head lowered, and his lips brushed hers.
She sighed. This is crazy, she thought, as her chin strained upward. She
returned his kiss, her heart thudding in her chest. Her lips parted and
her tongue gently teased his mouth, which opened slightly.
"I don't even know you," she whispered.
"You are about to," he said softly, and then he lay back and
pulled her to him, his mouth full on hers, flicking the blanket over both
She was lost then. Everything became a blending, a merging of heat, need,
passion and ecstasy.
* * *
She awakened late in the morning. The storm had passed, the wind only
a gentle whisper. She stretched languorously, opened her eyes, and saw
that the blankets contained no one but herself. Sitting up, she searched
for his presence, but the tent was empty. The flaps had not been fastened.
She rose and crawled toward them, not alarmed, but curious.
Suspicion became certainty as she saw that the snow lay like a white blanket,
undisturbed, except for a single set of large paw prints leading away
from the campsite.
Dreamily, she pulled the flaps together and returned to the warm blankets.
His scent hung in the air, a gentle perfume. She could still taste him
on her lips. When she closed her eyes, she could see him clearly.
Her life would be different now. She would not have to surrender her independence
to have a lover. No man or woman would ever again use her only as a toy,
or fortune hunters pursue her for her money alone. She was free at last.
Casually, she reached over to the knapsack beside her blankets and pulled
out a small paperback book. She hummed as she turned the pages, consulting
the almanac for the date of the next full moon, and reflected that one
thing would not change . . . would never change.
Maureen Branson would always love wolves.
The silence reigned in the dark chamber--a silence which had been disturbed
for nearly a quarter century only by the quiet hum of machinery. Within,
the sleeper struggled to force the gibbering fear back into the farthest
recesses, into the small, secure room in the mind built for it years ago.
Clawing up mentally from the deep, nether regions of dream, he searched
for anything familiar, for even a single point of reference. Vague memories
of why he had been consigned to this place flitted elusively through his
* * *
Harsh floodlights lit the airborn dust, creating a red and orange scene
which might have been lifted straight from Dante's Inferno. The rumble
of earth moving equipment and the chatter of workers banished silences.
The massive excavations had continued night and day for months.
Albert Wagner, still spry at fifty-five years of age, crept stealthily
into the valley accompanied by his son Kurt. The steady tread of his old
army boots on the desert sand kept pace with the rhythm of throbbing machinery.
He avoided stops for rest, even when he saw the younger Wagner could barely
Twenty-two year-old Kurt followed too slowly. His labored breathing and
wheezing reflected the relaxed attitudes of his postwar birth. "Wait,
father," gasped the younger man. "I know you are impatient,
but we will do no one any good if we die of exhaustion or heart failure."
Though a mute, the elder man could hear well. Albert did not stop, but
turned and indicated his disapproval, hands and fingers moving rapidly
and as he emphasized his impatience. We have no time, he signed. All the
years of preparation, all the dedicated service, will have been wasted
if I fail. The punishment would be unthinkable!
Kurt watched his father's hands through the night-vision goggles and understood.
It had always been so, from his earliest childhood memories. If only the
old iron man was less perfect, less . . . Indestructible, he thought.
"I'm going as fast as I can," he said quietly. "Whoever
awaits us has waited all these years. Surely he will wait a little longer."
Despite the loss of his tongue in the war, Albert had never had difficulty
communicating his attitudes or desires to his son. His craggy, granitelike
face might be unreadable behind the night goggles, but his hands and fingers
had made signing an expressive art. I have no choice in this, my son.
You should not even be here. Go back, and let me do what I must alone.
Kurt wasted no time in argument. Albert had tried to send him away from
the beginning. He followed stubbornly.
The mystery of why they were here, sneaking like thieves into the Valley
of the Kings, remained unsolved for Kurt. Just yesterday, his father had
been sitting in the living room, listening to television news, when he
had heard a news report and become agitated.
I must fulfill a promise, the old man had signed, and then instructed
Kurt to call the airport and arrange the flight to Cairo. Albert must
be meeting someone here, though the younger Wagner had no idea who. The
elder Wagner had always kept secrets. His son knew better than to pry.
Still, worried about the old man, he had booked two seats on the flight
and insisted on accompanying him.
Albert peered over the rim of the valley and pointed. Their destination
apparently lay close to the valley floor, hidden in even deeper shadows.
The dark will be our ally, Albert signalled. Without further delay, he
climbed over the edge and began making his way down the slope.
* * *
The sleeper's mind asked, What . . . am . . . I?
Automatic systems activated and everything physical erupted in searing
What seemed eternity--but may have been only moments--crept by as billions
of cells became conscious again, clamoring stridently in protest.
A rattling sound startled him. It brought awareness to a new part, yet
another which made him want to screech as it tore through his body. It
tensed, released, waxed and waned, providing the first tangible proof
that he did not still languish in dream. Breathing. His . . . chest? .
. . rose and fell.
* * *
Once they reached the valley floor, Albert stood still, his gaze searching
for the landmarks he had committed to memory so many years ago.
Much had changed. The volume of equipment used in the project had physically
transformed the site. Temporary roads, retaining walls, piles of discarded
debris--all seemed intruders in this ancient place. In moments, however,
the elder Wagner had located the boulder at the base of a sharp vertical
rise. This way, he signed.
Kurt wondered who would meet them in such a desolate place, risking discovery
by the security forces less than a half mile away. He moved up beside
Albert and watched in amazement as the old man, without hesitation or
explanation, squeezed between the boulder and the cliff, finally disappearing
from view entirely.
What the hell? "Father?" There was no answer, of course, which
left him no alternative to following. He tried to think himself thinner
as he edged into the narrow gap.
The agony of the rhythmic expansions and contractions gradually lessened,
but the silence in the otherwise still chamber was shattered by a growing
rumble of machinery, accompanied by a strange hissing sound. Suddenly,
the confining walls of the pod shifted into motion, sides falling away
and the lid rising above him. Though his eyes remained closed, he became
aware of sudden light--bright, harsh and glaring--which turned his eyelids
Muscle and sinew responded. He shifted to his side, covering his head
with arms that felt like lead. Peering from the shadow, he saw that tubes
and steel made a nest around him.
He reached out and grasped the edge of the container that had housed and
preserved him. Concentrating, he willed his arms to draw him forth. His
body, weak and trembling, obeyed. He dragged himself to the edge and forced
his legs over it.
He levered himself upright, feet dangling inches above the floor. Resting
a moment, he looked curiously around him. Shadows hid the walls of the
large chamber, but the sides of the pod in which he had lain now formed
a kind of pedestal on which he and the remaining mechanisms lay. Beyond
their dull metallic edges, the floor was stone.
Impatiently, he ripped at a ganglion of tubes connected to his flesh.
They fell to the cold surface and he was free of them.
Memories returned, hazy and elusive at first, but gaining in volume and
clarity. He remembered the gray-faced, uniformed men, the air of desperation.
He recalled the flickering lights and the tremors caused by the shelling.
He remembered . . . the plan to flee in the night, two transport planes
without insignia, flying to . . . Egypt.
Details presented themselves for his inspection. A daring plan. The technology
had been in place, the small group of loyal scientists, the cryonic equipment.
Then the setback as their enemies captured the shipment only a week before
they were to depart. That had necessitated the second plan involving the
Romanian peasant. They had lost one of the aircraft during the escape.
Arriving in the dark of night, landing in the desert, he had already begun
the metamorphosis. They worried he might not survive as his body struggled
with the transformation.
Fools! Struggle had never been a stranger to him. He valued it. Only strength
enabled the superior to triumph over their inferiors. Suddenly, he doubled
over, nearly falling. He recognized the hunger.
* * *
Albert led his son through a torturous, winding tunnel. On hands and knees
they crawled in silence disturbed only by their own labored breathing.
Then, through his night vision goggles, Kurt detected a change. The tunnel
roof above them rose and became dressed stone. His father stood and turned.
We are here, he signed. You should go now and let me face this alone.
"I'm going with you, father." Kurt looked around. "Where
are we? Is this a Pharaohs tomb?"
The old man signalled, In a way.
His father led him between two huge columns into a large chamber. The
walls were limestone. The center of the room was illuminated, so Albert
stripped off his goggles.
Kurt followed suit. Before them lay a mass of steel and tubing on a dais.
The elder Wagner expelled a harsh breath and moved quickly forward.
The nest within was empty.
Even as he spun to sign a warning, he saw the figure detach itself from
the shadowed back of the room and lifted Kurt in a powerful grip. In horror,
he watched as the sleeper ripped his son's head from his body, then buried
its face in the spouting neck.
Too late, he thought. It is my fault. I did not realize he would act so
Albert sank down and stared despondently at the floor. He had forgotten
the cruelties, the strange feeding habits, the superhuman strength. They
had run out of options when the equipment was captured. The only way to
save him had been to initiate the change. At the time, Albert Wagner would
have been willing to die to feed the monster they created, but, now, he
could not watch as his master drained the blood from his son's corpse.
"Who are you, old man?"
The voice was the same. Fear and awe mingled in Albert's mind. Unthinking
he signed his name.
Though he could not read the gestures, the sleeper suddenly came closer,
peering in disbelief at his features. "Albert? Albert Sprecht? Is
If the master had learned signing, they could have communicated more easily,
but accommodating a servant would have been beneath him so he had never
The old man nodded.
"I will leave here tonight." The sleeper's voice still conveyed
arrogance and disdain. The face under the coating of blood was pale, but
the well remembered features stood out in the old man's memory. Age had
not touched him--not in all these years.
Albert looked at his son's headless corpse discarded so casually by his
master. He remembered now the fear of those earlier days. He made a decision.
"Is there anything I need to know, Albert? Have you come to brief
The old man shook his head deliberately. No.
"You were wise to bring me blood."
"Why do you tremble, old man? When the equipment was captured, there
was no alternative to my becomming one of the undead. You knew what that
entailed". The sleeper tilted his head as the thought struck him.
"Did your companion mean something to you?"
The old man shook his head. Even had he been able to explain, he would
not. He glanced at his watch. No, he thought. I am glad that I cannot
speak to you. I do not believe I would have the strength to resist your
"I am still hungry, Albert. Come here to me."
Wagner stood and was amazed to find his legs remained steady. He lifted
his eyes and stared, unafraid, at his master.
Face still stained with his Kurt's blood, the creature looked back and
grinned. "I will make it painless for you, old friend, but I must
have strength. Come to me."
Albert moved forward, eyes held by the sleeper's gaze. He entered his
master's embrace and felt the fangs enter his neck.
When it was over, the sleeper let the lifeless husk of his servant slide
to the floor. He stretched and moved back to the dais.
He had plans and preparations to make. He sensed the night outside and
longed to walk free in it again. He gloated. Let the world be warned.
He would be unstoppable this time.
A loud roaring, rushing sound began in the distance and the very walls
rumbled as it grew in volume. Alarmed, he stood and moved toward the entryway.
"What is this?" he asked aloud.
Suddenly, he was knocked off his feet by a blast of water which drove
through the archway and swept him to the rear wall of the chamber along
with both corpses. They reached out and embrace him as the water level
Flinging them away, he struggled to his feet and attempted to move toward
the passageway but the incoming torrent grew stronger.
"No!" he shouted as he thrashed about. "This cannot be!"
He had, of course, no way to know about Aswan and the decision to flood
the Valley of the Kings.
The limestone ceiling rushed toward him as he rose on the flood and Adolf
Hitler was entombed forever on the morning of his resurrection.
The new mosque had been built atop the rubble of an ancient ruin. The
Imam had selected the site himself, a stone plaza called The Place of
Wrath. The proud and beautiful place of worship rose in a tapering spire
and looked out over the old square stones that made up the ruin, a vast
expanse broken here and there by piles of rubble that once must have been
the structures comprising a great city.
The Imam held the morning worship, prostrating himself and facing toward
Mecca, the home of the Prophet. After chanting the prayers, he stood on
the parapet and surveyed his surroundings.
There was little evidence of the great Gulf War here in Yavusa. The battles
had raged to the east during the six months of the air war, but the western
part of Iraq held little that would attract the attention of the high
flying coalition air forces.
Saddam had called for a Holy Jihad, and the glorious army of Iraq had
been claiming victories for weeks, but the Imam knew in his heart that
such claims could only be lies and propaganda. The President of Iraq had
propelled his nation into a great sacrifice for no reason other than his
own delusions of glory and personal intransingence.
Then, only days before, the coalition ground attack had begun, and the
borders of Iraq had shrunk to the Tigriss and Euphrates. A hundred thousand
men lay dead in the deserts. The Mother of All Battles turned out to be
little more than a regional mop-up. Now, the victorious infidels waited
in the desert for what remained of the Iraqi military leadership to accept
their terms, and the cities lay in chaos.
Nothing of the war had touched the Place of Wrath for two days. Even theh,
it had only been the annoying roar of high flying aircraft passing too
far overhead to be seen. The Imam bowed his head and thanked Allah for
sparing his beautiful new mosque.
As he looked down at the plaza, the Imam saw a strange sight. A large
stone had risen from its place and pivoted to the side, exposing a round
opening that looked to be at least two meters in diameter.
A linen swathed head appeared and looked all around before the rest of
the robed body followed. A tall, gaunt, mysterious man climbed out and
stood atop the stone, gazing quietly into the distance.
Though he might have remained unobserved where he stood on the parapet,
curiosity gave voice to the Holy Man and he called to the one below.
"Who are you?" The stranger did not start, but turned calmly
and looked up to where the Imam stood.The face, too, had been wrapped
in linen, but the eyes were dark fires. The voice was pleasant when he
responded, "I am one of the Bonds of Wrath."
The Holy Man looked down, and was suddenly stuck by an eerie feeling of
unease. Something unearthly about the one he watched caused him to shudder.
The man below turned and continued his perusal of the surrounding desert.
The Imam asked, "May I come down and speak with you.?"
The other did not immediately reply. In fact, he sighed and gestured at
the sunlit expanse before him. "In the face of all this, what could
we have to say to one another?" he replied at last.
"Perhaps we can discover it," answered the Holy Man. He made
his way around the slim spire and down the delicate staircase. When he
arrived at ground level, however, the opening had disappeared and so had
the mysterious figure.
Though the Imam searched, and then had his minions search, they found
no trace of the one he had spoken to. It troubled the Holy Man deeply.
The next morning, he climbed again tot the parapet and led the morning
prayers, but could not keep himself from continually glancing down to
see if the stranger would reappear.
He did not.
After the services, the Imam descended the staircase and went into the
plaza. He stood near the spot he had observed held the opening, and waited.
He stood there for two hours.
Finally, just as he was about to give it up, he heard a grinding sound
and the stone rose again, this time directly before him.
There were not supposed to be any military bases in the area, certainly
not in the Place of Wrath, yet who but the generals could have built an
underground installation so perfectly hidden from all eyes?
The linen swathed head appeared again, and, as he climbed forth, he saw
the Holy Man.
"What years is this?" asked the stranger.
The year 1991, as the world reckons time," replied the Imam.
"And you are the Blessed One who watches over this mosque?"
The stranger bowed courteously.
"I am the Imam Youseph," answered the holy man. "I have
been given that privilege."
"I have heard the thunder and felt the trembling of the ground for
days now. Is this the final war of which the prophet spoke?"
The Imam shrugged and bowed his head. "It may be, my son. Our leader,
Saddam, has declared a holy war that the heathens and unbelievers may
"Ah," sighed the stranger, "then it is time." He bowed
again. "May I tell the others?"
"Time for what?" The Imam tried to imagine what kind of weapon
might be hidden beneath the plaza.
"Time to loose the bonds," replied the man. "Our task must
"What is your task?"
The linen wrapped stranger stood looking into the distance. "Many
years ago," he answered thoughtfully, "the Prophet Mohammed,
may Allah bless His Name, gave up His anger at the infidels and learned
to love all men as he loved God."
When the man did not continue, the Imam spoke. "And your task?"
"Four of us were chosen," said the stranger. "It was a
great honor, but it meant we had to give up all worldly things."
He sighed. "I had a new wife, Imam, and we had followed the Prophet
together, gladly giving up the pleasures of the flesh to better serve
the Great One."
"Chosen for what?"
"Chosen to guard the Wrath of the Prophet, of course," answered
the stranger. "It is a terrible beast, Imam. Mohammed, bless His
name, had rage welling within him for the infidel that threatened to overwhelm
him. It was great thing, a miracle really, that he was able to give it
"The Wrath of Mohammed," said the stranger. "It lies beneath
us even now, chained and imprisoned, guarded by my three brothers and
"Here?" asked the Holy Man. "Beneath my mosque?"
"Even here, Imam." The stranger loosed his veil and looked full
into Youseph's face.
The Imam could not repress a gasp as he backed away. The visage of the
creature facing him was a linen wrapped skull.
"How long," asked the holy man, "have you been below?"
"Since the Prophet ordered us there," answered the stranger.
"You mean blessed Mohammed himself?"
"Even as we stand here now, I tell you He placed his hand on my shoulder
and bade me take my place as one of the Bonds of Wrath," said the
grim specter. "We are to hold it chained below until the Holy Jihad,
then the beast may be set free to wreak havoc with those who have spurned
the ways of the Prophet."
"What will happen when it is loosed?" asked the Holy Man.
"It will sweep across the land and seek out the worst of all the
unbelievers, rending him to pieces."
"And then?" Youseph felt frightened.
"Why then it will return whence it came," said the Bond. "It
will return to Allah."
The skull-faced man bowed his horrible head and sighed deeply.. "It
has been many years, Imam," he said. "I will go at last to my
reward and dance with the houris in Paradise at the feet of the Blessed
One I serve."
"I see," said the Holy Man. He turned away and looked out over
the desert. He thought of all the dead--a hundred thousand of his own
people, the suffering in the cities, the roar of coalition aircraft overhead..
He thought of Saddam in his bunker below the streets of Baghdad, of the
burning oil fields of Kuwait, the polluted waters of the Gulf. He thought
of his once mighty nation, now pounded by bombs of the foreign infidels.
"Perhaps," he muttered under his breath. "Perhaps it is
He turned to speak to the Bond, but the figure was gone.
The enormity of what he had done struck him then. "No, wait!"
But it was too late.
A large section of the stones in the plaza began to sink and he heard
the clanking of chains, the roaring of some large creature, the laughter
of four men who had finished a task well begun.
A great red cloud--red as rage--rose from the yawning pit and began to
run swiftly across the desert sands. It would seek out the greatest infidel
of them all, the unbeliever who had doomed so many to death.
The Wrath of the Prophet sped swiftly across the sands toward Baghdad.
The hooker watched the quiet man on the corner with a suspicious eye.
Delmar, her pimp, had complained only an hour before about how little
business Brenda had been doing, but, though she knew he could be rough,
she would not permit her man to stampede her into dangerous situations.
Though relatively new to the streets, Brenda Beauchamps thought of herself
as nobody's fool. Possessing the conceit of her years, the seventeen year
old believed she had seen and done it all. She would not stay in the life
for long. She had a plan.
The man on the corner appeared casual and unhurried as he lounged on the
bus stop bench. She judged his age to be about twenty. His clothing, while
not expensive, looked clean and stylish. Clean-shaven, muscular and athletic,
he fit her requirements perfectly.
Brenda looked at her watch. Two-forty-five. The afternoon sun shone down
from a cloudless sky.
She bit her lip, indecisive.
Just two years before, Brenda had still been a virgin. Her pretty mouth
sagged into a frown as she remembered how Brad, Captain of the football
team, had approached her at halftime of Homecoming and asked if she wanted
to party after the game. Naively thinking he meant a date, she had accepted
and waited outside the locker room for him after the victory.
When he finally emerged twenty minutes later, the stadium lights had been
switched off and the crowd had dispersed. He had looked at her appraisingly
and said, "Come with me. I want to show you something."
Brenda had followed as he led her back to the playing field where the
darkness and silence transformed the scene from garish to mysterious,
from public to private.
Once through the gate and on the darkened field, he had grabbed her roughly,
ripped her clothing, and hurled her to the ground. When she tried to protest,
he struck her hard and she blanked out.
When she awakened, she found herself naked and spreadeagled on the turf,
held in place by rough hands.
During the next two hours, she had sex for the first time in her life--sex
with multiple partners, in multiple ways, multiple times. The team celebrated
its homecoming victory and Brenda provided the entertainment. Eventually
she had stopped fighting them.
To make it really memorable, someone had brought a polaroid and they took
lots of pictures.
When it ended, they ran off bragging and congratulating themselves, leaving
her there bruised, in shock, and dripping with the aftermath of their
ejaculations. Someone had returned a few minutes later and thrown her
clothing at her from the dark, then left giggling.
It took hours for her to make her way home. Her parents had not waited
up. She snuck in, retreated to the bathroom, ran a tub of hot water, and
tried to soak herself clean.
By Monday morning the pictures had begun to circulate.
Boys who had never spoken to her before began calling her "Blowchops"
and taunting her with threats of a repeat performance. Within hours, she
had been summoned to the dean's office. Someone had anonymously delivered
a set of the pictures.
How could she protest innocence when confronted with a close-up of her
own face stuffed with two penises at once. How could she claim rape when
the next snapshot revealed her with two boys drilling her behind and a
third in her mouth. All the shots were as graphic--dozens of them. In
every picture, only she could be recognized.
Expelled from school, she had not even tried to explain things to her
parents. She went to the bank, closed her account and took the first Greyhound
to the city. Delmar had been at the bus station.
Now Brenda eyed the John on the bus bench and decided. "Hi. I'm Brenda.
The man replied shyly, somewhat taken aback by the directness of her approach..
"Uh . . . how much?"
"Depends on what you want, baby." Comfortable now that her decision
had been made, she talked him through the preliminaries, screening him
to ascertain he wasn't a cop, and made the deal.
Brenda's screening process lacked sophistication, but always proved effective.
She made him show her his penis. Cops couldn't expose themselves as part
of a bust. That made it entrapment.
Satisfied, she led him across the street to her ground floor apartment.
Once inside, she collected the agreed-upon sum and sealed it in an envelope
for delivery to Delmar. He cared about nothing but the money. She then
mixed them each a drink and invited him out onto her patio. Tall trees
screened them from all eyes. The windowless and silent space above served
as a storage unit for the complex. While the John sipped scotch, she flirted
and teased, removing her clothing slowly and sensuously.
Down to bra and panties, she unbuttoned his shirt, straddling his lap,
moving her hips invitingly.
When she had him stripped down, she removed the last of her garments as
well, leaving only a fine gold chain hung around her neck, from which
dangled a small key.
"What's that for? he asked.
"It's the key to my toy chest." Brenda smiled. "I have
lots of fun toys."
The John's eyebrows raised. "Adult toys?"
Brenda laughed. "I suppose you could say that."
He reached for her, but she danced lightly back.
The John rose and closed in on her. She backed up to the shed door and
then waited passively.
His eager hands reached out and fondled her breasts. She responded by
grasping him and sinking to her knees.
"Oh, baby," he said. "That's it. Do it, baby. Do it."
She looked up, her eyes wide. "Want to reciprocate, or is this solo?"
The man looked down at her and shook his head. "Let's see how good
you are first."
Brenda chuckled and bent to her work.
He did not last long. Legs no longer able to support him, he lay supine
under her. After he stopped twitching, Brenda stood, turned and unlocked
the shed door, using the key on the chain around her neck.
"My toy chest," she said as she swung the door wide.
Carefully, she hung the John's genitals on a hook next to the others.
She counted them again. "That's ten. One more and I'll have a complete
defense," she muttered.