The doors to Sodom open once a week. But an invitation, once received, isn’t for keeps – it is for one night only. Attendance isn’t mandatory; you under no obligation to be there. But entering those discreet doors once is no guarantee you will ever enter again. And receiving a heavy vellum envelope one week does not mean you’ll get one for the next.
There is no obvious rhyme or reason why some guests are invited week after week; while others only sporadically. Why some come through the doors once in a very great while and yet others visit once and then never again.
Only the owner knows the answer. And they’re not telling.
“So, my pet. Care to tell me what you managed to see with your eyes closed?”
Caroline’s eyes shot open, startled out of her reverie. “Sir! I … I …”
“Stammering does not become you, Caroline.” Linus let go of her chin, and watched her reaction. As he expected, she was flustered, and colour rose in her cheeks as she took in his tone along with his unimpressed look. “So tell me,” he continued. “Who was it conversing with you just now? Were they polite enough to introduce themselves before they smacked your arse without asking my permission?”
Whatever answer he might have been expecting, it certainly wasn’t the one he got. Caroline dropped her head, looking at the floor of the cage, and that smile again teased the corners of her mouth.
“I … well …. they said this was their club, Sir.”
Jake watched everything from behind the bar. He was ideally placed to see occurrences on the main floor – the bar was situated just that way for a reason, with good line of sight for the cage, sofa and chairs, and the stocks. So when Linus had moved swiftly across to the cage, unhappiness marring his features, Jake had murmured a message through the discreet headset to Theodore out on the main floor, giving him a quiet heads-up on the situation.
Now, it looked like that wasn’t needed. If anything, Linus looked like he could do with another one of those Coronas. But he was looking to his partner first – Jake watched as the padlock was removed from the cage, and Caroline given instructions and feedback as she slowly shuffled backwards out of the cage, her steel buttplug winking in the light. Linus helped her to find her feet on the ground, and to stand safely. And then – yes, he was right – they were both heading toward the bar.
“Another drink?” he enquired when they were close enough for him to be heard.
Linus placed the padlock, with the key in the lock, back on the bar. “This comes back to you, I believe?” He looked somewhat shaken. “And yes, another Corona would be lovely. Let me just get my drink ticket out.” He fished in his trouser pocket.
Caroline stood beside him, head turned towards Linus. “Sir. May I have one of my tickets please? And my glasses?”
He paused in his fishing expedition, then resumed, and pulled out two tickets. ”Make that a Corona, and … ” His eyes cut over to Caroline. “A gin and tonic for my pet. No ice.” Linus then lifted her glasses out of his shirt pocket, and, opening them, settled them on her upturned face. As he took these small measures of control, he seemed more comfortable, his stance relaxing.
Jake busied himself, getting the Corona from the fridges below the counter, placing the wedge of lime in the lip on the bottle; pouring the gin and the tonic into the short glass and then putting their drinks in front of them, swapping them for the proferred tickets. He noted that Theodore had managed to wander casually over to this side of the floor, but a quick tilt of the head was all that was needed to reassure him that everything was fine.
He questioned his judgement when, a minute of silent sipping later, Linus quietly asked, “So, Jake. Was it the owner of Sodom who slapped my Caroline, then?”
Jake was wiping the counter when Linus asked that question. He looked up, startled. It was a question that could be taken quite the wrong way – but the look on Linus’ face wasn’t one of anger. No, there was curiosity there. And that made sense, Jake thought. While this was Caroline’s first visit, Linus was an ‘irregular regular’: one who’d been invited a good thirty or so times over the last two years. Certainly not an every week guest, but one who was invited at least monthly, if not more often.
A favoured guest, if not a weekly one. And all guests were curious about the owner of Sodom. Very few had seen them, met them, or knew anything about them. Caroline – as one who’d been spoken to – was greatly favoured. Whether she realised it or not.
Jake made a decision. Not one made lightly – but one that was, in all probability, the right one. After all, Linus was Caroline’s partner. She had been invited, probably, because of him. Why introduce yourself to Caroline, and then leave Linus out of the loop?
“Yes,” he said, speaking to both of them. “Caroline has met the owner. She was greeted, personally, by the Doyenne.”
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