Madame Colti

Standing outside the door, around the corner from Mornington Crescent tube station, Colin Babb checked the address on his phone once more. The map showed that he was in the right place, but there was only this door, wedged between a bicycle repair shop and fast food outlet. By the pictures on Madame Colti’s website, he’d expected somewhere with a touch more grandeur. Black flakes of paint were peeling from the door, with shards of the grey undercoat attached, revealing splits in the wood beneath. The octagonal brass centre door knob was tarnished to dirt-brown. Looking down, Colin saw woodlice crawling in and out of the door sill. He looked around the frame of the door, at the many spider’s webs captured with dirt, so many smears of grey silk. Peering closer, he noticed the little brass plaque, covered beneath the gossamer shroud. He brushed a finger over it, the webs sticking to him, revealing the engraved text. He was in the correct place.

Before leaving his flat in Belgravia, Colin had showered. The warm late-afternoon journey, combined with the heat stored within his skin from the shower, had made him perspire heavily. His shirt was sticking to him; he was sweating from the bottom to the tops of his legs within his chinos. Beneath his thick curly mop of hair and his Homburg hat, the finer strands were sticking to his wet forehead. The intention had been to present himself as washed and clean, as he usually would for this kind of tryst. The heavy sweating made it feel like dirt was pouring from every pore in his body. He had worn a blazer, by smart habit. From the inside pocket, he removed a handkerchief and dabbed himself over. Like mayflies hatching, the stored water quickly emerged to the surface of his skin.

Colin Babb was a single man by choice. He enjoyed his opulence and had never wanted to share a single part of it, with anyone. As soon as he had finished university, he had skipped to the city from the home county of his youth and had rarely since left, and then usually only for corporate days. Colin had refined the limits of travel further: in the morning he travelled by cab to The Square Mile; in the evening, by cab, back to Belgravia. To find himself in the north part of the city was a rare journey taken. It was curiosity that had driven him there. Usually girls came to him, and then left at a time of his choosing, substantially wealthier. Most nights, any nights, a girl would arrive by prearrangement for him to do as he pleased with them. But Colin Babb felt now that he had tried everything that could be telephone ordered. Perhaps it was the very fact that no voluminous reward could convince Madame Colti to travel to him that had encouraged him to make the journey. The email sent on her behalf had told Colin that “Madame cares not for money.” A whore playing hard to get, Colin had thought, reading the email. And not just role play, either. Very high class. And very confusing that she should be holed up between a bike shop and take away.

Wiping the webs from his finger onto the soot-covered wall, Colin pushed the brass buzzer. It was so old and worn that it resisted, leaving an impression of the rough surface of the button on his finger. He had heard bells clanging from the other side of the door but could hear no movement. He pushed the button again.

‘Keep me waiting, eh?’ he muttered, feeling vulnerable out on the street. He wished that he’d paid the cab driver to ring and wait for him. He didn’t do standing outside doorways. At the places that he visited there were men in dress suits waiting to open doors for him. The traffic in this part of town was noisy and smelly. People were passing by. It wouldn’t do to be spotted in this part of town. This woman, whoever she claimed that she was, had better be ready for some serious Babb action. He would show her to not care for his money. Moving his weight from foot to foot, he was preparing to push the buzzer again when he heard locks being unlocked and chains being unhooked. The dirty door opened inwards, revealing a dark corridor.

The woman who looked down upon him was more fitting to the building’s situation than the raven-haired, pale-skinned beauty pictured on Madame Colti’s website. Her mostly-white hair was pulled back into a bun, the sides fastened with clips. The lines around her mouth spiked into her pinched lips. On her blue cardigan she wore a silver broach of some intricate mandala pattern within a square, with what looked like flames spouting from the centre. Her eyes were as blue as water in a chalk lake, matching the neck scarf that she was wearing.

‘Look, if I’ve been duped into –’

‘Mister Babb,’ the lady said, opening the shabby door wider. ‘How do you do? Please. Come in.’

She stood back from the door, against the wall. Colin Babb stepped over the two concrete steps – worn from years of use – and entered into the dark hallway. It smelled musty, mouldy like a basement. The smell covered him, as if poured over him. Immediately he felt even less clean than he had. The bottom of the walls were cladded with wood, stained dark; the top part of the walls were adorned with deep ruby-red wallpaper. Halfway along the hallway was an old chandelier, covered with further cobwebs. Even though all of the bulbs were alive, it offered only scant light. Underfoot, from what he could discern in the dimness, the long, patterned rug covering the wooden floor – also stained to the deepest burnt-brown – was thinning, almost fused to the floorboards by age, dirt and dust. The hallway became darker still as the lady shut out the light of the day.

It was cool. Very cool. The sweat shrunk to his gooseflesh skin. Where his shirt and trousers were in contact with his body it turned to ice. The ruby wallpaper and stained wood had turned to black. The little bit of light from the chandelier reflected upon the glass in frames hanging further along the walls. Colin eyed the darkness with suspicion. He turned on his heel.

‘This isn’t what I was –’ Colin jolted backwards. The lady was standing right behind him, her hands held together in front of her long, pleated skirt. In the dark, the shine in her eyes lost none of its radiance. The lines around her mouth smoothed a bit as her smile raised, and by the depth of the darkness. As his eyes adjusted, she seemed to grow out of the shadows.

‘Come,’ she said, and breezed past him through a whisk of the dusty air.

Following the lady as she floated down the corridor, Colin looked at the framed pictures. They each depicted scenes of ancient battles: armed cavalry men thrusting pikes forth; men atop horses brandishing swords and fierce faces; a figure in a chariot twirling a spiked ball on a chain. The last picture was not of a battle, but of a woman being burnt alive. It was only then that he realised that the subject of the men’s attack in each one of the pictures was a woman. Light illuminated the burning woman. Colin saw that the expression on her face was of serenity. He also noted the wings folded around her, which he assumed were her own.

‘Please,’ said the lady, holding another door open for Colin, ‘do come through.’ She extended one arm in his direction, across the corridor, inviting him. Again she closed the door behind him.

This room was large and bright, daylight pouring in through the large bay window on the back wall. Little of the musty smell had polluted this room. He could hear the clunking and gasping from the extractor fans of the fast food outlet, some noise of the day going on outside. There were no more pictures in this room, just one mirror, and he could see his reflection in it. He removed his hat and rearranged his flattened hair into its usual state of disarray. The only furniture in the room was a huge desk in the centre, facing him, and a burgundy chaise longue in the window. Colin noticed that there was a book on it. Feet clopping on the floorboards – varnished oak – he walked over and placed his hat on the chaise, glancing at the cover of the old hardback. Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’.

A chair scraped over the boards. Turning, he watched as the lady sat down, folded some papers over on the desk, adjusted her scarf, and then looked up at him. She looked different yet again: just another lonely spinster working in a counselling office, perhaps, rather than whatever she was. Madame’s madam, perhaps. Although on the phone she had described herself as an agent.

She looked at the seat on the opposite side of the desk – a tall-backed, burnt-red leather Chesterfield. Colin obliged.

‘Now, then, Mister Babb.’ She folded her hands, one over the other, on the desk. ‘So you’re here to see Madame Colti.’

‘I thought I was, yeah.’ Colin crossed his legs. Despite the cooling that he’d received in the hallway, around his crotch still felt a little damp and uncomfortable. So he uncrossed them and sat with his hands on his thighs.

‘No need to feel nervous, Mister Babb,’ the lady said slowly.

‘I’m n –’

‘Are you new to this?’

‘Well, no. Like I said in the –’

‘Because there really is nothing to be afraid of,’ the lady said, nodding slowly at Colin. ‘Well . . . not really.’ The lady glanced at the door behind Colin. ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Margaret and I run all of Madame Colti’s administration: bookings, and so forth.’

It was curious, again that feeling of being in a counsellor’s office. By the soft, polite and reassuring way that Margaret spoke, her voice reminded Colin of anyone of the middle-aged women from the town that he was originally from. She could easily have been a friend of his mother’s from church. Or one of the older primary school teachers he’d had. She turned over one of the papers on the desk and plucked a pen from a stand.

‘How did you find us, Mister Babb, if you don’t mind me asking you?’

‘On the internet,’ he said, leaning an elbow on the arm of the chair and plonking his head on it.

‘Oh yes. On. The,’ Margaret repeated as she wrote. ‘Internet. Good.’ Her bright eyes looked up at him again. ‘So you’ve read about what you can expect from your visit?’ The octave of her voice rose throughout the sentence.

‘Yeah,’ he replied, his jaw attached to his hand. God, it was so much simpler when a girl just came to the apartment. “Champagne? Here. Knickers? Off.” Unless the girl was playing the role of a girl seeking sanctuary from an attacker, banging on the door and in tears, or pretending to be an inspector from HMRC, or something. One role that he liked to play, and did regularly, was James Bond. He thought that his Roger Moore impression was fierce. “I don’t suppose you’d care for a nightcap?” They loved it. Well, he loved it: they loved the healthy wodge of cash.

‘Good,’ Margaret said again, ticking something on the paper. She carefully placed the pen on top of the paper, once more folding her hands and smiling. ‘A little bit of background for you. Madame Colti was born in Louisiana in nineteen twenty-seven to a farm labourer and a poor working girl.’ Colin’s brow lowered. Perhaps he should have actually read more on the website. He thought that he was buying time with a twenty-five year old, not a ninety year old. His spare hand was dancing over the metal studs in the dimples on the other armrest. ‘But Madame Colti was reborn in nineteen forty-three. Madame had lived a simple life, working on a farm in her youth, and then later on a steam paddleboat. And it was there, one late night, that a Romanian immigrant, one the jazz musicians on the steamer, captured to the shadows on the dock and gave her the bite that would change her life into one immortal.’

Colin grinned. This woman was setting the scene for him. A little bit of terror-inducing. Good stuff. If only she’d hurry up with it. He listened as Margaret told him of Madame Colti’s feeding habits thereafter. How she could not initially bear to take a life, but just enough of one to keep her fed. That she had found a great sexuality in being undead, and had always associated rampant feeding with like copulation. How she craved strong and healthy men. Men who’s blood pulsed through their veins like galloping stallions.

This build up to the event, unlike any of the tepid plays that he’d ever encountered, had achieved its aim of making his blood flow. From her picture that he had seen – tall, pale as the moon, a sharp jaw, dimpled chin and aquiline nose, straight black hair framing her face – he could imagine such a woman with animal lust; frenzied to take from a man as much as he was willing to give. Frankly, Colin couldn’t wait to meet her. She would meet her match this night.

Margaret pulled open a draw and withdrew another sheet of paper. ‘Now, Mister Babb, I’d just like to ask for you to fill in a few details on this form here, if I may?’ She slid the paper over the desk. Dragging the chair forward, he leaned one arm on the desk and looked at the form, saw the diagram of a figure. ‘It’s just a simple disclaimer that we ask clients to have a quick read of before they go for their session. Just a waiver that confirms acknowledgement of the risks involved.’

Colin’s eyes skipped to the line that read: In case of death, next of kin whom you would like to be contacted. He supposed that if Madame Colti was as rampant as she sounded, then the odd client might be liable to the old cartwheel in the chest. He hoped that she was covered, with what he had planned for her. The rest of the form was simple check boxes next to lines such as

 Have you ever:

Contracted hepatitis – Yes / No

Been diagnosed with blood disorders – Yes / No

Had any illness of the blood at all, including haemophilia – Yes / No.

Mostly blood-related questions. And a strange one:

Recently been bitten by a tic – Yes / No

Colin ticked No next to all of the boxes. He glanced over his markings one more time. Weird as it was, he didn’t want to miss anything. He could sense Margaret looking at him. ‘One thing,’ he said, meeting her eye, tapping the pen against the desk. She looked down at the pen, her eyes lingering and looked back up at him. He stopped tapping. When he pointed the pen at her, she looked at it in the same accusatory manner. ‘I’m not certain of my blood type. Does that matter much?’

‘Not really, Mister Babb,’ Margaret said, reaching a hand over the table towards the form.

Colin stabbed the diagram of the figure with the pen. ‘What’s this about?’

‘The diagram is for office use only,’ she said with a smile, and a look that said If I may . . . ?

Colin lifted the pen and watched as the form disappeared over the table, where Margaret gave it a quick appraisal, with a slight cock of the head. He watched her scanning it. She cocked her head in the other direction and hovered the form back over the desk.

‘You have not signed, Mister Babb,’ she said. ‘It is important that you do so.’

With a quick look and a scribble, Colin signed his name on the solid line next to text that read

I understand the risks that I might encounter in my session with Madame Colti in full.

All of the information supplied is true and absolute. [signed]                                             

When done, after another quick scan, Margaret slid the form out of view, into the draw. She was staring at the pen. Colin rolled it over the desk. Now she was looking directly into his eyes. He felt a flutter of unease, but wasn’t sure why. The thought of Madame Colti spread out on bedsheets, wearing silky red drawers and suspenders flitted into his mind. His discomfort was batted away.

‘Do you have any questions before you meet with Madame?’ Margaret asked, playing with a loose piece of her scarf.

Pouting his bottom lip out, Colin began to shake his head, becoming more rapid. ‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘Oh.’ Reaching into his blazer pocket, he withdrew a brown envelope. ‘Here. Two thousand pounds.’

Margaret frowned at the envelope; did not reach for it, even though it was being proffered. ‘Two thousand pounds, Mister Babb? But the price was only one thousand. And Madame Colti –’

‘Yeah, I know,’ he said, pushing the envelope towards her. ‘Madame does not care for cash.’ He grinned. ‘We’ll consider it a down-payment on future sessions. Or perhaps a taster for what Madame can come to expect should she ever venture to the Kensington area, eh?’ His entire face was smiling. He could scarcely contain the laugh that was bubbling in his stomach. His cheeks were bulging like the envelope. They deflated when Margaret yet refused to even touch the envelope.

Linking her fingers together, she leaned forward slightly. Now she was smiling – Colin didn’t like that. She should be gasping, eyes wide. ‘The extra money is really not necessary, Mister Babb, because Madame Colti does really not care for money. I have explained already: she will get as much of a thrill by your visit today as you yourself. She is insatiable for men such as you.’ Colin did like that. ‘But Madame does not do personal visits, I’m afraid, so –’

‘Keep it,’ Colin said, showing Margaret his palm. She stared at it until he lowered it. There was a power battle here, and he wasn’t sure if he was really competing. ‘Please consider it a gift, if nothing else.’

Margaret pushed the envelope to one side. ‘Very well.’ Rolling the chair backward, she stood up. ‘Now. It is time for you to meet Madame Colti. She is waiting for you.’

‘I bet she is,’ Colin muttered. Margaret smiled. She plucked an imperial mint from a small glass bowl on the desk, which Colin hadn’t noticed previously, and popped it in her mouth. ‘Would you like one?’ she asked. Colin said no, even though he did want one really. He smiled at Margaret’s back as he followed her to the door.

With the door open, Margaret stood back in the same manner, gesturing the way with one hand, the other on the handle. The dark, dank hallway had been the last thing on Colin’s mind. Stepping into the dinginess, he looked back at Margaret. Now the gesturing hand was pointing down the corridor.

‘Just follow the corridor and then the stairs. You’ll know where to go.’ Colin watched as she rubbed a thumb over the heart of the brooch. Peering around the door, she stared out into the darkness. Colin began to walk, beyond the pictures and the chandelier.

He heard the click as Margaret closed the door to the office. Glancing over his shoulder, she was not following him, had retreated into the room, closing off the bright natural light. He was standing in a dim oblong of light, his shadow facing into the darkness. At the top of his shadow, he noticed that he had a cowlick sticking out from the side of his head, appearing like a horn.

The corridor was long. As he slowly left the periphery of the light cast from the chandelier, he noticed a weak light ahead. The soles of his shoes tapped against the floor with each step, emitting a damp echo that died just beyond his feet. The frames of more pictures were catching the light, too weak to reveal the images in full. He could imagine the macabre scenes. The current setting was fitting. It reminded him of when his father had taken him around Dover castle when he was a child. It had been large, creepy, and the most boring trip of his life. This was creepy, alright, but she was here, somewhere. The pale, dark-haired beauty from the internet who claimed to be a vampire prostitute. He could sense her. The darkness hid his grin. Having had all of the schoolgirls, headmistresses, secretaries, dominatrixes and rogue doctors until each new visit just ended up feeling like a bland relationship, he had never felt this excitement before a session before. Dim terror had never made him feel horny before.

Just before he reached the lights, he noticed that there were stairs. They went down, though, not up. He looked around, for any doors, any other stairs, anything. There was only the walls and the thin electric candlelight. The stairs spiralled down, more of the muted lights on the wall leading the way. A chilling draft was drifting up towards him. A reedy sound of music carried to him: solo violin in a minor key. It was melancholic; long, drawn out notes that whished past him. Colin put his hand down his trousers, removed it and sniffed. Vinegary, but not too bad.

With a hand running against the wall, he descended. The feel of it was cold, a forgotten passageway of a busy city. There was a slight feeling of being in a Haunted House at a funfair; that at any moment some spook might jump out at him. His vision had adjusted as much as it would, where shadows in the dark became deeper darkness, hidden blackness. His foot landed on the solid concrete floor past the bottom step. He looked back up the stairs, where the light ended. Ahead of him were no more lights, but for the cerise velvet light billowing from under a door at the far end of the passageway.

As Colin moved closer, a part of him expected it swing open on its own. The light grew, beckoning. Welcoming. Enticing. In this underground passage, the smell of damp was even more enveloping. By the look of the pictures on the website, he had expected Victorian facades, thick carpets and crystal chandeliers. Maybe even handmaidens to act as his guide, wearing see-thru gowns, who would then sit by and watch – until he threw another envelope at their feet. He had imagined a corridor lined with walnut doors, full of the sounds of men experiencing the best sexual encounter of their lives. Behind and within the subterranean walls, Colin could hear only scratching claws. And the mesmerising sound of violin.

Despite the disappointment, his stomach was alive with fear and excitement. Blood pulsed in his ears. He tapped on the door.

‘Please come in,’ a voice answered after a moment.

Colin reached for the handle, but couldn’t find one. He put both hands against the door and pushed. Nothing happened.

‘Come in,’ the voice said again, soft, American. Sexy as hell.

‘I, uh . . .’ Colin eased a little more weight against the door. He stood with one foot behind him and pushed with all his might. He felt around again for some way of opening it. ‘I can’t seem to open the door.’

‘Slide it,’ the voice cooed. And then laughter, humiliating laughter. This bloody place. That woman upstairs and this stupid door. And that laughter, rapturous. So enthralling. With his hands still flat against the door, Colin applied pressure in one direction, and then the other. The door slipped over the runners and inelegantly clanged to a stop. Colin was bathed in an ethereal pinkish glow.

Mister Babb,’ the voice cooed. It echoed around the chamber, coming from one corner then another. ‘I’m so glad that you . . . came.’ The voice sounded like a yawn, seductive and seducing. The laughter was low now, coming from the floor. A groan sifted from the ceiling. Colin could see no woman, no lady vampire of the night. He stepped inside the door. ‘I’ve been . . . waiting for you. Mmmm.’

Colin’s eyes peeled around. The room was alive with yellow light, with what must have been a hundred pillar candles dotted around the room, with more in holders on the dark, wooden side tables. In centre, beneath the ceiling painted black, was a four poster bed, the red drapes tied to the wooden frames but in such a way that the thin fabric was still covering most of the sides. He could see sheets, red silk, a comforter folded back at the foot, lined with a gilded tapestry. The bed was standing upon a rug, decorated with complex patterns that echoed the fiery mandala pattern on Margaret’s broach. This basement room oozed luxury. Another groan came from his left. There was no one there.

He noticed that the walls were billowing, breathing, alive. They pulsed, a ripple of a wave travelling around the room. He saw the rails at the top of the walls. The wall decorations were hanging rugs, catching a faint breeze. He could see no heat source, but the temperature was perfect as a summer morning, a contrast to the passageway, to what it should be like down here. And the smell, it was a scent that was not entirely sweet, slightly metallic, but utterly intoxicating; as comforting as the smell of pine needles and as alluring as rose petals, but tinged by their decay.

‘Where are you then?’ he said. Taking a step further into the room, hands in pockets, towards the bed. The closer he moved towards it, the further into the bed he could see. The sheets were smooth, flat, and empty. He adjusted his blazer. The room was large, but mostly empty, except for the candles, bed, and a few bits of furniture. There was nowhere else to hide in here.

A gentle click from a behind him. He turned. The door had closed. The light showed a pattern upon it: a simple cross, but with a loop at the top, like a key. He was looking at the table by the door, piled with red handtowels, when – ‘Ouch!’ He felt a sharp pain at the back of his neck, beneath his ear. His hand reached up and he felt a finger, a long nail. And then the kiss. And another. A hand across his stomach. Caressing. It was irresistible. The other hand at his chest, fingering between his buttons, inside his shirt, teasing his nipple; another long nail scratching against the fabric. It felt like floating over gentle waves. Her hair was against the side of his face. He reached up, to touch. His hand was taken before he could, down to his side. He was turned around.

She was just as in her photographs, but tall. Very tall. A head clear of him. She was looking down on him, her body moving slightly, as if woozy. The whites of her eyes were bright, the iris so dark that it seemed to be all pupil. Dots of the reflections of candles shimmered within the pools of them. Her lips were full and bright red. She was smiling from one side of her mouth, a slight dimple in her cheek. She was just like in her portrait on the website, her sharp features. Only better. Pure sex. With a trace of masculinity.

Colin looked down at her body. She pulled back her open kimono, for him to see, one knee crossing over the other. She was wearing black silky underwear, nothing else. Her bosom pressed hard against the balconette bra with each fervent breath. She was riding each breath, her tight stomach pushing outwards, as if being massaged by invisible hands. The shape of her legs, her hips, her waist, her slender shoulders: she was the perfect model of a woman. Her skin was so pale, white as paper.

‘You’re incredible,’ he said. He stared into her eyes, her smirk yet lingering. ‘I . . . I’m in love.’ He couldn’t recall if her had ever spoke those words. He couldn’t fathom why he did then.

She laughed, her kimono flapping around her like bat wings. Colin noticed her perfectly white teeth – in the city, all of the girls drank so much tea that their teeth were a bit more earl grey. Mostly it was the dagger-sharp cuspids that drew his attention. And more, when she stopped her laughter and closed her mouth, they stuck out over and into her bottom lip, really adding beauty to her smile.

‘You say that to all the gals,’ she drawled in her southern lilt. ‘You’ll tell ‘em whatever they wanna hear.’

‘Not at all,’ he said with a huff. ‘Your accent. Your beauty. You’re just so . . . God!’ Colin attempted to put his hand to the back of her neck, to draw her close for a kiss. Instead she caught his hand and led him towards the bed. She sat down, grabbed him by the love handles and drew him forward, into the drapes, to stand between her open legs. He could feel himself breathing as she had been, was still. He had never even seen a woman such as Madame Colti before, let alone be touched by one. Let alone be alone in a hidden basement with one. He watched as she unclasped his belt and pulled the leather through the loops in his chinos. Allowing it to drop, she placed her hands on her thighs, lightly rubbing.

‘Whadda you like?’ she asked with her sexy little half-smile. ‘Whachu normally do?’

‘Anything!’ he replied almost before the words had left her lips. ‘Anything and everything. I don’t mind if you want to tie me up, tie me down or throw me around.’ He felt a pulse in his forehead and in his neck. And from where the little blue pill was doing its work. ‘And I do usually insist upon a finger up my arse.’

Colin watched as she licked her lips and bit the incisors coquettishly into her lip, chewing lightly.

‘I was hopin’ you’d say that you’d allow me to do anything,’ she said. ‘Promise?’

‘Oh yes indeed,’ he said. Leaning forward, he again reached to touch her, and again she stopped him and lowered his hand.

When she popped the top button of his chinos, he gasped. He hadn’t reacted that way since he was fifteen and his first sexual encounter had pretty much been over in that very slight act. The clouds of pink and yellow light in the room added colours to her skin, softening her features. He almost felt fifteen again when she stood up and slid the blazer from his shoulders. Both of them were breathing heavy, passionate breaths. The violin played on, a mournful concerto. Colin’s shirt joined his blazer on the floor beside the bed. His breathing was making his belly and saggy pectorals wobble. Madame Colti’s breasts continued to heave. She sat back down on the bed and pulled down Colin’s trousers and pants, looking at his body, covered from ankle to collar in thick dark hair. Colin trod off his shoes and waggled his ankles free of his clothes, her half-smile returning as she pondered the winking face of his pink pickle dancing atop the bulging nest of his balls. Taking his hand, she slid backwards on to the bed, inviting him in.

She guided him towards the pillows. The feel of the velvet sheets against his skin served only to turn Colin on more. He usually insisted that his paid lover was naked long before he was, that he was calling the shots. That was the beauty of not having to leave his flat: his turf; his rules. Now, as she ran a few of her long nails over his chest, he could barely find the air to even speak. He had been with plenty of beautiful women, but no woman quite like Madame Colti. She wouldn’t have it all her own way, of course. He was paying, though, so she could could earn her money first.

‘For ninety years old, you look amazing,’ he said on jittery air, putting an arm behind his head. His hand caught at the scratch beneath his ear, a dull tingle of pain shooting through the area. ‘I read it on your site.’

‘Thank you,’ Madame Colti replied.

‘I mean, you’d look good for twenty.’ Madame Colti just smiled. She was watching her nail tracking through his hair, an owl over a field at night. Her lips were parted slightly, the red tongue occasionally plugging the gap. And then her head snapped forward and clamped onto his nipple. Her back arching like a hyena, moving forward, up, back.

Kicking his feet, disturbing the comforter, Colin howled. ‘Aaaarghyes! Yeah.’ His eyes pinched shut. He gritted his teeth together. ‘Aw. Ooo-ooo.’ Biting. He knew that he could expect biting. Of course there would be biting. But the pincer grip that she had on his skin was like hot needles between the ribs. It was excruciating. Even so, he felt tingles all through his crotch – not entirely enjoyable; an unusual pleasure. His eyes shot open. ‘Uhm – aw! –uh, I –’ Colin attempted to lift his head from the pillow, to see what this wild animal of a woman was doing to him. Madame Colti pushed him back down by the neck, her nails pinning him to the pillows, one deep in the suprasternal notch of his collarbone. He lifted a hand, to stroke her kimono-covered back. Before he could touch, she grabbed his hand, nails jabbing into the veins of his wrist.

‘Listen,’ he said, wincing. ‘I’m not sure that I . . . I mean, do you have a safe word for if I burb-burba –’

Madame Colti had slipped a finger into his mouth. Before Colin knew what was happening, her silken hair was caressing the tops of his legs. Her head bobbed up and down and she worked him back up from semi-softness. One hand was rubbing his belly. Pinching. Grabbing wads of flab.

‘More like it,’ Colin yelled, his arm returning behind his head. ‘Oh that’s more like it. Oh yeah. Oh! Yeah . . .’ In half-time to her, in pace with the violin, Colin moved his hips up and down. Madame Colti once more grabbed his hand as he reached, to touch. And then he gasped as she began to probe inside his sphincter.

‘Like that?’ she mumbled. ‘You said you like that?’

‘Do I?’ he said, grinning. A long nail was scratching a bit inside him. Going deeper. Two nails. Ceaseless. The red fabric above the bed was dancing, and Colin watched it. Breaths caught in his throat and then raced out on moans. It felt like this woman was eating him alive whilst tearing him apart. Sensational sadism. If he was still in one piece and in working order, he couldn’t wait until . . .

‘Arrrrrrrgggggh! Bite! Why are you so bitey? That huuuuuuurrrghhhts.’ Madame Colti’s nails were again at Colin’s neck. As he squirmed, her nails tore little lines along his collarbone. The nail in his suprasternal notch dug into his throat, restricting his cries.

After a long, hard suck, Madame Colti slowly turned her head, her hair half-covering her face. Her lips were curled back, blood dripping from her fangs, over her chin. Colin saw a glimpse of his penis – covered in blood, like a tiny newborn thing – and began to cry. ‘Why do I bite, Mister Babb? Because I am a vampire,’ she explained with honest simplicity. ‘You said that you read the website.’ In a blur of blood and tears, Madame Colti sprang forward and was upon Colin’s neck. She sank her teeth into his jugular and fed from him.

*

The basement room was in semi-darkness. No candles were alight, just one lamp in a far corner. Madame Colti picked up the used, red hand towel and slipped it into a laundry bag, which she threw down by the door. She walked over to the bed and ran a hand over the sheets, ironing out of the last of the crinkles. A nail left a line drawn on the silk. With the pad of one finger, she rubbed and it vanished. She went to the record player, lifted the arm, placed it in the rest, and turned it off. With her arms above her head, she stretched her back. After looking around the room one more time, she walked out through the open door. Sliding it closed behind her.

Margaret was behind the desk in the office, reading a couture magazine. ‘Oh, hello, Madame,’ she said. ‘I didn’t hear you come in. Although I did hear plenty of goings on. Here.’ Margaret walked to the curtains and drew them, shutting off the last light of the day.

Tightening the waist band of her kimono, Madame Colti smiled. She had brought with her the sweetish scents of her basement boudoir. She looked up at the mirror across the room from her, seeing only the door and the wall behind her. ‘Thanks.’ She stepped into the room, towards the chaise longue. ‘Yep, he sure was a screamer.’

Margaret sat back down behind her desk. ‘He left in rather a hurry,’ she said with a chuckle. ‘In such a hurry that he forgot his hat.’

Madame Colti was already holding it, twirling it around by the rim. ‘He’ll be back, that one,’ she said, and flung the hat at the coat stand, where it caught a hook and settled next to Margaret’s neck scarf. Madame Colti picked up the copy of ‘The Master and Margarita’ and laid back on the chaise longue.

‘So it went well, then?’ Margaret asked, her hands in their folded manner.

‘It is Saturday night and I am well fed,’ Madame Colti replied with a flourish of her arms. ‘Although, by his taste, he drinks too much, has a terrible diet, and masturbates a lot. But now I just want to read and relax.’

‘Good good. Just before you do,’ Margaret said, slipping a couple of pieces of paper in front of her, ‘we’ve had couple of enquiries. There is a new gentleman, who goes by the name of Lee Cushing, who would be interested in booking a session. Also, the eminent leader has been touch.’ Margaret raised her eyebrows.

‘I thought she would be,’ Madame Colti replied, smiling, patting the book on her thigh, ‘with the time that she’s had lately. Let her come; whenever she wants.’

‘Yes, you made quite an impression. I’ve seen the high collars that she’s been wearing in interviews recently,’ she said, writing, and stroking the scars of the puncture marks on her neck.