A Gathering of Clowns
Chapter 11 And The Mask May Hide Us From Ourselves
Ivy and Cecil Bennett.
Emily was busy at her computer searching records, but sometimes the internet can be only so helpful. It was good for Emily that people would help her. People had always been ready to help her, eager even, in her life. And now that she had resources, she didn’t need to just rely on people who wished to assist; she could hire them.
Today she was working both angles in her search for the two servants who were a big part of her early life and then disappeared so abruptly and mysteriously.
She had her pal Becky searching, but she also had an investigative firm, with professional staff, digging in. Emily closed up her laptop and got up; she needed a break; and a smoke.
Carman answered her phone to the pleasant voice of her lover and…mistress, “How are you my dear?” Folake asked.
“Good…Mistress.” Carman smiled. Saying that word made her smile for some strange reason; maybe embarrassment; maybe desire. “What is happening today? It’s decision day, correct?”
Folake paused, “Yes, but first I want to say I missed you last night. How was your time with, Emily?”
Carman related the lovely meal and the session afterwards.
“So you enjoyed the sex, my sweetness?”
Carman paused, “I did. Very much. But…”
“But it wasn’t you.”
Folake chuckled. “That makes me feel good.” She paused.
“So, yes, decisions. I am moving out of this place and I have secured a condo in Glendale, on Monterey Road, so it will be convenient, for us. If you want there to be, an us?”
Carman smiled. “What’s the address, Mistress Folake? Do you want me there tonight?”
Smiling at the impudence, Folake gave the address and confirmed that having Carman join her tonight would be perfect. “You can bring changes of clothes, my dear. You won’t need them for around the, um, ‘house’, but you will for work.” She chuckled.
“See you tonight.” Carman murmured, and the call ended.
“You know he’s, um, returned?” Melanie said, addressing Emily’s back as the girl stood, smoking and looking out over the railing of the balcony.
“Yeah. Saw him arrive. Made my heart go all crazy.”
Melanie snickered. “You are a goof.” She paused. “It’s funny, him being here or not being here is pretty much the same thing. He doesn’t do anything with us; it just means more work for Chantico at meals, ‘cause he’s so fussy.”
“He eats?” Emily deadpanned. “He doesn’t just swoop down and bite your neck?”
Carman was doing some searching of her own. As well as working through the rogue bank accounts and the passwords (she’d been successful so far connecting four; only one glitch, where after two tries the password still didn’t match. Carman had put that one off and felt a huge sense of relief when the next one matched. So far she had seen over fifty million in assets); she had been, with the help of an associate, checking the cell numbers form Emily’s phone. One was a burner and one was, as she figured, Tad Allan’s. But one belonged to a Raisha Douak, and she was of interest.
Douak had worked in ‘the industry’, both music and film, as well as that other industry, dancing (underage) in clubs. There was no doubt that meant the sex trade. She had also been arrested once for possession and once for intent to sell, which she had plea-bargained down to a year, serving ten months in a medium security prison at age eighteen.
She had been a busy girl in her twenty-one years, and Carman now quietly assigned someone to track her down.
“I have a number for you,” the voice on the other end said to Emily.
“Just a sec,” she replied, scrambling for a writing implement. “Shoot.” After jotting down the number she thanked the caller, one of the professionals she’d hired, and ended the call, to sit and stare at the digits. It was a San Francisco area code, so she wouldn’t be just charging over there. Checking the time; three-thirty, Emily decided to give the number a try.
It was three rings before a woman’s voice, with a mild English accent, said, “’ello?”
“Ivy Bennett?” Emily asked, working to keep the excitement out of her voice.
“Yes, ‘ow may I help you? This isn’t a solicitation, is it?”
“No, no,” Emily replied quickly. “No, Mrs. Bennett, this is Emily Hawkins. You used to live here, at my house, when I was little.”
There was a pause before the voice came back, a note of caution showing. “Who is this, really? Is this some sorta’ prank?”
“No, no Mrs. Bennett, please. I am just trying to find out more about my mother. I have become part of my father’s business and can do some research on my own. I’m just looking for information.”
There was a pause again, where Emily could hear the woman’s nasally breathing, before she came back on and in a rush said, “I’m sorry dear, I can’t ‘elp you. Good day to you.” And the call ended, with Emily staring at her cell phone with wonder and annoyance.
Downing, Ross and Da Costa were gathered again in Ross’s office. Da Costa convinced again that something was up with Downing, the man looked…odd. Ever since the arrival of Emily Hawkins. Odd.
“So, Mr. H. has asked me to go over a few things with the two of you after the recent activity. We three have all had a chance to meet and talk with, em, Miss Hawkins, any thing anyone wishes to share?” Ross began.
Carman had to stifle a giggle thinking of what she could share, but she said evenly, “I have offered my opinion to Mr. Hawkins that Emily is not planning anything drastic. My opinion is that he realizes that he, well, left the barn door open himself and the horse is out…”
“Or left the door open and the fox came in.” Ross added, grinning.
“Fine. You get my point. This isn’t something that just happened, Mr. Hawkins actually set the stage. But Emily, even with her degree, doesn’t want to actually run a business, I don’t believe.”
Downing, like Da Costa, stifled his ‘mirth’ at the thought of what he could add to the conversation, curling everyone’s hair, if Ross had any hair, that is. He too spoke in even tones. “I would agree with Da Costa. This is personal; between Emily and her father. It’s almost attention seeking on, well, steroids, but I don’t believe there are any plans to change anything. I believe Emily simply expects the three of us to carry on as usual.”
Ross scratched his nose as he pondered. “Well, her arrival has certainly prompted Mr. H to action. We have sold off a number of properties and assets, as Ms. Da Costa can attest, reducing the overall number of workers employed, but it hasn’t affected Documart or its subsidiaries at all, really.”
Downing looked at Ross thoughtfully for a moment. “Any idea where the cash is going from this activity? It isn’t showing up in any of the regular places.” Ross simply raised his eyebrows while Da Costa held her breath. Nothing, however, came of the comment and in a few minutes Da Costa and Downing were on their way back to their own spaces.
Emily took her boarding pass and lined up behind everyone at Gate 89, about to board the short hop to San Francisco and beyond. If Ivy and Cecil wouldn’t chat on the phone, she would see how they liked face-to-face.
Carman parked her car and looked up at the four-storey building where Folake now lived. It was apparently a furnished three bedroom unit on the top floor; Carman would soon see.
After buzzing and the brief exchange with the pleasant voice of Folake, Carman was on her way up in the elevator. Exiting on the fourth floor, she saw the woman standing outside her unit and waving. In a moment they were embracing and Folake was leading Carman into the living room, furnished tastefully. The room was open and attractive with one wall taken up with windows affording a striking south-facing view.
Folake sat herself into a leather armchair and said, “I want you to strip slowly; I want to enjoy this.” She had a wide smile on her attractive face. Carman did as directed and took extra time, teasing with her bra and panties, but eventually she was naked.
“Kneel on the coffee table (which at this point was bare) and face away from me.” Carman did this, feeling arousal already. “Finger and play with your pussy, and your ass. Ummmm, yes, oh I like that, my sweet. Finger harder, really pump. Be a slut for me.”
As Carman complied, head down, fingers probing aggressively, Folake came and stood beside her, resting a hand on Carman’s back, before slapping her ass hard. Carman cried out, but continued to pump herself, as Folake began to systematically slap her ass and stroke her thighs.
Like clockwork, the arousal built, moment by moment, slap by slap, all the while Carman’s fingers plunged and probed, twisted and pulled until finally, her hips bucking like a rodeo horse, Carman cried out her pleasure in a long, shuddering moan. Folake then took her and brought her to the couch to lie together, while kissing her face gently and lovingly.
The mistress announced she would allow no discussion until they had eaten; she had picked up some items and had cooked a chicken.
After their meal, they took their wine and returned to the living room, sitting pressed against one another on the couch again.
“So,” Folake began, caressing Carman’s face as she spoke. “I see you brought clothes. Do you wish to stay with me?”
Carman kissed the woman’s face and throat, before replying “Yes, I do.”
“As my lover and my…slave?”
Carman pondered, “May I ask, my mistress, what does, um, slave, mean to you. What would I be expected to, ummm, do?”
London, England, 1993
“So, are you excited, my precious girl?” Mekhn Ahmad asked his new bride, Folake.
“I am, dearest. Can you, oh, tell me a little of what may happen?” She asked, looking up into his handsome face, her dark eyes bright.
Ahmad chuckled softly, “But that would spoil the fun, my special flower.”
“Plll-eeeaaase, Mekhn, I need to know, something. Anything. Who are these people? What am I, your wife? Anything else? Someone has spoken of slaves, what can that be?”
“Who has spoken of this?” Ahmad asked, becoming serious. Although all the people who would be at this ‘party’ were connected, wealthy and influential, care was always taken to be extremely discrete. The club members never discussed these events with anyone when away from the party site. Yet someone had spoken to Folake.
Unsure if she had crossed some line, Folake thought quickly and quoted a magazine article. “That is what I am thinking of; and then you were speaking with that woman on the phone yesterday, and you said ‘slave’.”
Ahmad smiled then. “Yes, these are parties where we explore, um, our instincts, shall we say. What I want from you is to be alluring and desirable. You are those things without even trying.”
But Ahmad was not being totally honest. His desires had always been a little dark, and he was becoming increasingly frustrated that Folake had not opened up to his sexual pressures. He had refrained from taking her into his scene, one that involved masters and their slaves, before he felt she could handle it. The ‘party’ they were going to was to be her first full-on look at this lifestyle.
However, once at the party, things had not gone how he had wished, but they had gone on. Folake showed quickly that she was not slave material, but the experienced dominatrix who orchestrated these affairs recognized immediately her potential.
Because Ahmad respected and trusted this woman, he listened, and allowed Folake to go under her wing and to be trained by her; she proved to be a natural, taking to the administration of pleasure and pain like the proverbial duck to water.
It had been her life ever since.
Folake settled in. “That is the question, and there is no single answer, my…special flower” she smiled, remembering. “The relationship between slave and master is varied, so it is good you ask. I, myself, have had many submissive servants and partners over the years; but, I have had only one I called slave, until now.” She looked down with affection at Carman, cuddled against her.
“For me, the relationship is extremely personal; I could not have a slave I did not care deeply for, one that I did not have great affection for.”
Both women were silent. Carman finally, with hesitation, spoke. “But, Mistress, I need to know what I would be expected to do.”
“Do you trust me, Carman?”
Carman considered but a moment. “Yes, yes I do.”
“Then that is all that is required of you, at least for now and for me. When we are together, you are mine. I can do what I wish with you, to you, and you will be obedient and submissive. Because you have a life that I do not wish you to give up, I will not interfere with that. That is really all there is to it. Trust. Respect. Caring. Submission.”
They lay quietly for several minutes, before Carman said quietly, “I would be…happy…to be your lover and your…slave.”
Folake smiled and hugged the woman closely.
Ivy Bennett opened her door cautiously and then stared as if she were regarding an apparition. Before she could react, Emily spoke, “Please, Mrs. Bennett, I will not take up much of your time or hang around and bug, um, bother you. Please just answer a couple of questions and I will leave and you will not see me again.”
The woman, now in her seventies but still looking robust and healthy, stared up defiantly for a moment, and then relented. “You’d best come in, Dearie,” She said quietly.
Once they had settled and Bennett had brewed some tea and poured it out, she seemed to relax. “And no one knows you’re ‘ere?” She asked again.
“No way, Mrs. Bennett. I told no one, not even my aunt.”
“That would be, eh, Miss Melanie?”
“Yeah, that’s right. I don’t think you actually ever met her.”
Bennett shook her head, slowly, remembering. “No, no. We wuz gone before she arrived. Never knew ’er. Things happened so fast, eh?”
“Where is Mr. Bennett?” Emily asked now, thinking of the husband.
“Oh, my poor Cec has been gone these, oh, lordy, seven years now it’d be. ‘eart attack it wuz took ‘im. Like that.” She snapped her fingers.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Bennett.”
“Call me Ivy, love, and I must say, you wuz always a pretty little girl but you’ve grown to a beautiful lady, if you will. Except for the stuff on your face, o’ course.”
Emily grinned, knowing that her piercings and tattoos would be alien to the older woman. “Thank you, um, Ivy. But my question is simple. Why did you leave so suddenly?”
Ivy sat, looking like there was a great struggle going on within her. “If I tells you anything, Miss, you must promise not to let anyone know. Please.”
“I promise, Ivy. I wish you no, um, harm. Was it my father?”
She nodded her head slowly and gravely. “Wuz ‘im and that little lawyer fellow, the one with the bald ‘ead. He was the one that actually, um, arranged it all. Our payment, our move ‘ere. But it was your father’s say so. Couldn’t be any other way, could it now?”
Emily considered. “Ivy, and this is important. Do you have any idea why they made you leave?”
The woman suddenly looked old and sad, and then she began to shake gently, and tears, one by one, made their way down her wrinkled cheeks. “I know it was ‘cuz we ‘eard.”
Emily stared at the woman. “Heard, um, what, Mrs., er, Ivy?”
“Heard ‘em, we did. I said to Cec, they’s havin’ a row. An’ he says, ‘you never mind.’ But I ‘eard them. They wuz yellin’, or at least Mr. ‘awkins wuz. He had a voice I can never forget.”
Emily sat with growing excitement which she fought to contain; she didn’t want to frighten the woman. “Did you, um, happen to hear about what the, uh, fight was about?”
Ivy Bennett looked up, in a very innocent way, saying simply. “Well o’course Dearie; it was about Mr. Alex, it was. ‘Cuz they wuz in love, o’course.”
“Hello.” Carman answered. It was Friday morning and she was not expecting any business-related calls, not yet anyway. Maybe it was Folake calling to just touch base? But it wasn’t, it was one of the investigators hired to follow Douak.
The information he provided was interesting, because he had found where Douak was living and the woman’s life seemed to be very simple. It involved a man, a friend and a woman; and a fair amount of drugs.
Carman looked at the photos of the man, the friend and the woman that popped up on her cell. As the investigator explained, the woman shown did not have actual contact with Douak, which in itself was interesting. She would leave large envelopes in a P. O. box and Douak would show up every three days to pick them up.
While something about the man was familiar, it was the woman that caused Carman to sit up and shake her head in amazement.
Because the woman, and there was no doubt, was Emily Hawkins.
Emily took a long pull on her cigarette and let the smoke escape on its own, drifting off to the west. She was sitting in the back area of the house, on the small series of wood steps along one side of the banked, enclosed space. Down and to her right was the fountain with the clown. It still seemed bizarre to her, but no more bizarre than the thought her father had in a rage killed his wife; her mother.
But it really couldn’t have been a rage, Emily considered. As Ivy Bennett had explained, it was she who had found Sarah Hawkins in her bed, appearing asleep, although the half-closed eyes were alarming. From what Bennett could recall, and it was some-what of a blur, the coroner’s verdict was death by natural causes; whatever they might be. There may have been an argument but what Bennett discovered seemed completely non-violent. How had he done it?
Sarah was cremated a day later and then interred in her memorial, to rest from then until now. The explanation was never challenged; who would? Clearly Hawkins, aided by Ross, had cleaned up his mess. The loose ends, the Bennetts and Alex Vargas, had been sent or frightened, away.
Ivy said she had not talked with Vargas after the discovery of the body. He had already left for the day and simply never came back; and then they left, to start a new life in San Francisco, a hundred thousand dollars in their account to help them on their way.
How had she known about Alex and her mother, Emily had asked? Ivy had smiled then, a wistful sort of smile, then said, “Oh, but I saw them, Dearie, kissin’, you know. I was not so old to forget that sort of affection.” She had chuckled upon remembering. “They couldn’t keep their eyes off each other, when they was in the same room. Me ‘usband didn’t know a thing, but men don’t, do they? But women do, don’t we?”
She had smiled up at Emily and then they had hugged; and then Emily had left, but not before Ivy had given her a photo, faded now, of Sarah. “They went through our things, they did, wouldn’t let us take anything like this, but I hid that away. I don’t know why. Just a keepsake, I guess. But I’d rather you had it dearie. Your mother was a sweet soul, she was.”
And now Emily sat and thought, here in this space her father had created out of, what? Anger? Revenge? This sterile space with a clown taking the place of a cherub. His space; not her space.
Maybe that was the point. “Bastard,” she muttered under her breath.
Carman was searching again; who was that young man in the photos? Why did he seem familiar?
On a hunch she was going through the entertainment news involving Emily and it wasn’t long before the young man popped up, in relation to the movie Emily had funded. Or Emily and her father, more precisely.
There he was; Tad Allan, her cousin. So what was going on? Carman needed to satisfy her curiosity. She called the investigator back, quizzing him. He knew of the drug use because he had broken in to the place (it wasn’t hard at all) one time when the three occupants had headed off. The drug paraphernalia was evident and it included pills, coke and even heroin.
Heroin, mused Carman. This was more serious than she had thought. She texted Emily and then called Folake, making arrangements, and now she was on her way to the house in Adams Hill.
“So Ross, any explanation that comes to your mind?” Hawkins asked his lawyer.
Ross rubbed his nose absently. “It might just be as Downing and Da Costa said, sir. It’s just between you and your daughter. It is not a business thing at all; she is getting to you through what you own, the thing that matters to you.”
“You know that, my daughter is, em, digging around in old records and such, looking apparently for information on her, mother.”
“That is interesting, sir.”
“Is there anything to find, Ross?” Hawkins asked evenly.
“There was little to start with, sir. The young man has been, gone, for several years.”
“You are certain of that?”
Ross paused, remembering. “I, um, saw the body myself sir. I didn’t tell you for the reasons I have said.”
“To keep me clear of things.”
“To keep you clear of things. But there was no doubt it was Vargas. And of course, old Cecil Bennett kicked the can a while back.”
“His wife, what was her name?”
“Yes, her. What about her?”
“Gaga, as far as I know sir, at least that’s what the man I had tracking them said.”
“Well, good, Ross. But I want you to start tracking both Da Costa and Downing. Something is up, I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t think it’s just me being paranoid. See who they are meeting, if anyone.”
“Of course, sir.” Ross took out his cell and began texting right then.
Carman and Emily lay naked together on Emily’s large bed. Their time together had been, odd. Neither had experienced an orgasm, but both needed now to lie quietly, simply holding and caressing. Carman sat up, “I have something going on early tomorrow, so I need to get going.” She said quietly.
What she had going, was that Folake was taking her somewhere, but that wasn’t something she was going to share.
“I’m glad you dropped by, Carm. You should come out to the studio one day to watch a shoot. It’s interesting, as long as you don’t need to stay long. The filming is actually almost wrapped up.”
“So are you and your cousin, what’s his name again?”
“Yes, Tad, are you two sort of collaborating on this thing, or is he in charge?”
“Why are you asking that?” Emily asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. Just interested in this new direction your life is taking, completely away from Documart. I don’t think you really have any interest in the company do you, my sweet?” Carman smiled down at Emily, who laughed.
“You figured that out, Sherlock. But, yeah, I am kinda interested in ‘the industry’ as they say. Who knows, we’ll see how this plays out, with the money and shit. Yeah, who knows?”
They embraced and then Carman made her way out and to her vehicle, deep in thought.
Who knows? (End of Chapter 11)