Richard stands in all-black, his back against the unlit street wall, his breath misty in the night air, and watches her.
She's across the adjoining street, walking on the footpath on the other side of the junction, the clip-clop of her stilettos reverberating off the houses. When she walks past him, a few metres away, Richard's lust overwhelms him.
Who wears a denim skirt that short, he thinks, on a night like this? Are you serious, woman?
He finds himself following her, a few paces behind on the other side of the road. He clenches his fists. He can't make himself stop what he's going to do. There were times when he couldn't stop himself before. Tonight is no different. Hands shaking, he rolls down his balaclava.
And that's when she turns and looks right at him.
His heart leaps. Decision time. Walk away now? She's not got much to tell the police. Act on instinct?
She looks nervous, which excites him more. He has made up his mind. She trots on a few more paces, quicker now, her wrists out for balance, and stops at a door. She fumbles in a handbag, shakily drawing out a key. Then she bends forward, checking the lock with a strange intensity, and pushes the key in slowly, her butt stuck out.
When she's got the door open, Richard is already running at her.
She walks in and doesn't even put her hand on the door to close it. Richard has already darted across the road and slammed his way into her corridor, breathing heavily. She has turned to face him, waiting, standing very still, her chin down, her breath shaky.
Then Richard dives at her. He drops to one knee and grips the back of her ankles, taking her legs out towards him. It's a move he'd planned beforehand. She lands on her arse and Richard scrabbles forward, panting, out of control.
“No,” she whimpers, terrified. “No.” Then, in a strangely authoritarian voice, like a mother disciplining an infant, “No. You've got to do it from behind.”
He takes his hands off her skirt, fingers twitching. What? he thinks.
“Look,” she says, gripping his hands and impatiently pressing them on her hips. “Turn me over. I don't want to see you.”
Richard still doesn't move.
Richard turns himself- they are both facing the door, and the figure in the corridor.
Hey, thinks Richard. His balaclava's just like mine.
“What the fuck is this?” asks The Figure. To the woman, he says, “The dating agency said it would just be me and you!”
There's a second-long silence in the room, but in Richard's brain there's a whirring sound, as if an old projector and its audio have just been kicked back into life.
“That's what they told me too,” Richard says, although he has no idea what he's talking about himself.
“For fuck's sake,” says the woman. “All right. Shut the door. We'll talk this through.”
Richard's lust has drastically ebbed. She sounds bored, like most women did when he could be bothered to actually date them.
“Listen,” she says, rolling her skirt back down. “You're gonna have to tell me your names, so I can straighten this out with the agency.”
“No!” barks The Figure. He's nervous. “I'm not telling you my name; I'm not taking my balaclava off.”
“Why not?” She asks.
He sighs, looks at the bottom of the room, as if he'll find the answer there. “I run an accounts business in town,” he says. “I've got adverts all over the place with my face on. No way.”
“Fair enough,” Richard says quickly, feeling claustrophobia kick in. He just wants to get out of there. He thinks of an advert he saw in a bar above a urinal:
RAPE: SHORT WORD, LONG SENTENCE.
“Just... so we don't cross paths”, the woman says, turning to Richard, “you go out the back door.” Turning to the figure, she says, “You, out the front.”
The Figure stands, staring at them both.
Richard guesses that The Figure is thinking he's being ripped off, that Richard is getting more out of this than him. Well, he thinks, Maybe I kind of already have. Under his balaclava, he smiles to himself.
“Fuck!” The Figure turns marches out of the front door and slams it, hard, behind him.
The woman steps to Richard. “Stay for a drink,” she says, a hand on his chest.
He smiles. What a dumb bitch, he thinks, and starts to wonder when's the best moment to pounce.
She walks him back to the couch. He steps back until his heels hit the seat and he falls back into it.
“SoCo and Coke?” She turns, looks at him over her shoulder, smiling, flirting.
“Yeah,” he says, thinking it's weird that she actually wants him here.
She walks into the kitchen, out of sight.
Play along, Richard thinks to himself. “Gonna have to have words with that agency,” he says. I didn't even know there were places that set up deals like this, what, rape fantasy? I wish I could ask her. I'd love it.
“I bet you are,” she says, and because she's raising her voice there's something that sounds like sarcasm in her tone.
He doesn't question it, though, as he realises he wants to play along, to consent. He can't remember the last time a woman did.
She steps back into the lounge and hands him the fizzing, black drink.
He takes a big gulp as she sits down next to him. This is going to be easy, he thinks.
“It's been kind of a strange night, hasn't it?” she asks, stroking his thigh.
His skin tingles, and he can't figure out if it feels good or not. One thing he has figured out: bad people get what they want. He's proved it before with women, and he's proving it again.
“You could say that,” he says, smiling to himself. You have no idea, woman.
He takes another sip as her hand slides up to his crotch. Something is wrong, though. He can't get hard, and his stomach has started to hurt.
“Come here,” she says, and starts to peel back his balaclava.
He lifts his hand up to stop her, but it feels heavy. He realises he can taste something dusty on his tongue. His face feels moist and cold, exposed to the room's air, as she throws the balaclava on the carpet. He's slumped, exhaling shallowly through his nose.
“I know you're not from the agency, boy,” she says, still flirting.
Richard recognises something sinister. This isn't just a come-on.
“I asked for a man in black. Those trainers aren't black.”
He looks down, cursing his white Nikes, then looks up to his glass. Dusty residue has gathered on the surface where his lips were. That's what I can taste, he thinks. “Bitch,” he mumbles, and lifts his arm to throw the glass at her. It bounces off her bare legs, soaking the carpet.
“Correct,” she states, turning, and unzips her denim skirt and pulls it down. She walks away.
Still leaning forward after the throw, his balance is off and he lands on his hands and knees, panting. He can see her at the back of the room, bent forward like when she unlocked the door. She's looking in a cupboard, reaching right to the back of it. She pulls out something purple and long, with straps hanging off it. She lays it on the linoleum, the dildo pointed at Richard's grounded face, and steps into it. His lips, squashed between the floor and his teeth, look like they are puckering up for a kiss.
As she fixes the straps around her waist, he growls in frustration and tries to lift himself up.
“You've brought this on yourself, boy,” she says, and he recognises lust in her voice.
I couldn't stop myself, he thinks, balancing on his knees.
She walks past him, the dildo eye-level to him, her heels clip-clopping on the linoleum, sounding like when he first saw her. Then he feels one of those stilettos dig into his spine, forcing him face-down again, and her firm hands grip his hips.