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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

I asked a close friend who isn’t a sex worker to be my safe call.  Initially she agreed, but now suddenly she said she doesn’t want to hear about it, because she disapproves of my work and does not want to support it in any way.  There’s no one else I trust enough, so I’m hurt and feeling let down by my friend.  We’ve always been honest with and accepting of one another before, so why is this different?

medieval torture devicesStigma is an awful thing; it tempts otherwise-good people to shun or mistreat the stigmatized individual, encourages the weak-minded to view her as subhuman, and provides an excuse for evil people to harm or even kill her.  Perhaps at some point in our evolutionary history, “othering” fulfilled some useful function by allowing a band of proto-humans to exile or kill an individual who somehow imperiled the others’ survival, but nowadays the capacity for disconnecting one’s empathy and seeing another as a thing rather than as a brother or sister human is a dangerous atavism exploited by rulers as a tool for persecution of despised minorities.  Once the hatemongers succeed in convincing the masses that some real or imaginary group – Jews, aboriginal people, black people, the mentally ill, immigrants, homosexuals, “addicts”, “witches”, sex workers, clients, “sex offenders”, etc – is a threat to Our Treasured Way of Life, the majority will support denying members of that group even the most elementary level of decent treatment.  Though we all carry this nasty ability to dehumanize other humans in our brains, it’s far nearer the surface in some individuals; they’re the ones who can always be counted on to turn in their neighbors and family members to the secret police or Inquisition.  I don’t think they’re necessarily bad people; they’re just extremely susceptible to suggestions that some individuals need to be ostracized or even “punished”, personal affection notwithstanding.

I suspect your friend may be one of those individuals; she has bought in to the lie that compensated sex is a Great Social Evil that Must Be Stopped (for the children!), and your willing participation in it marks you as a Them who doesn’t deserve to be treated with the basic consideration one gives one’s friends.  She may believe that she’s demonstrating “tough love” by denying you safety, in the hopes that you’ll be scared out of what she views as unhealthy or “bad” behavior (despite the fact that you aren’t her minor child); if you get killed it’ll serve you right and teach your ghost a lesson, by golly!

Obviously, you can’t trust this friend to help you; I think you have every right to feel hurt and let down, and I wouldn’t blame you if you decided her friendship was insincere.  But while you’re wrestling with that question (and believe me, I don’t envy you the struggle), you still have the practical concern of finding someone to monitor you while in session with clients.  Are you friendly with any sex workers online?  With modern technology there’s no real need for the two of you to be in the same city; after all, she wouldn’t go to investigate in person if you failed to call in, now would she?  A lady in the UK, US, Australia or any other place could call for help just as easily as one in your own country, provided she was supplied with whatever emergency numbers you feel necessary.  And you could even perform the same service for her in return.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Sex work is the most pervasive profession for a reason: acquiring human connection is essential for life.  –  Jerome NicholsEric Mischel

Droit du Seigneur

Most cops think they’re nobles, but this one thinks he’s King David:

A Cowetta County, Georgia District Attorney, Peter Skandalakis…has said that his office will not pursue charges against an officer who used his special badge powers to have several men arrested and thus detained while he dawdled their romantic partners.  Luthersville Police Department Officer Eric Mischel became involved in several affairs with women in relationships with men whom he violated…Even though an investigation has revealed a mountain of unscrupulous and unlawful behavior, he will not be charged because D.A. Scandalous says he was unable to find evidence that he broke his oath of office…

The More the Better

A few of my favorite lines from “6 Reasons to Hire a Sex Worker“:

…a good sex worker will do their best and that’s more than you can expect from a lot of volunteer sex partners…Pros are professionals; they know what they’re doing and make more money when you have fun.  The better sex they offer you, the more likely you are to return…Sex workers have experience and wisdom to share with you.  They can offer you lessons in an afternoon some people take years to acquire…You’d never say no a driving lesson before getting your license…

The Last Shall Be First

Somehow I doubt this will stop morally-retarded politicians (pardon the redundancy):

…OSHA now requires all employers under its jurisdiction provide employees with restroom facilities…According to the new guidelines, “Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety.  Bathroom restrictions can result in employees avoiding using restrooms entirely while at work, which can lead to potentially serious physical injury or illness.”  The new memo states employers must accommodate their employees based on which gender that employee identifies with…

For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea (#34)

millions of…sex workers…[are] anxiously waiting for [India’s] highest court to hand down a ruling which they hope will finally clarify the age-old profession s legal status.  Soliciting is illegal in India along with running a brothel and pimping, but the law, an archaic throw back to British colonial times, is vague on prostitution itself.  Sex workers are hoping the Supreme Court’s ruling will force the government to decriminalise the industry.  They say they are tired of being randomly targeted by police and sent to correction homes where they say conditions are worse than jails…

With Friends Like These…

Please, David Rosen, become a prohibitionist; if your attempt to hurt us is as totally wrong as your attempt to “help”, it’ll be a great pro-decrim argument:

…The real victims of commercial sex industry are the women, girls and some young men who are forced (or “choose”) to work in the sex trade.  These people most often live in poverty, have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse, lack affordable housing, have limited education, [and] have few job opportunities…The decriminalization of prostitution can help bring sex workers — the real victims of this “victimless” crime— out of the social shadows so they could secure labor rights, unemployment benefits, health care and life insurance…sex trafficking has reached epidemic proportion, with between 100,000 and 300,000 people annually at risk.  The Department of Homeland Security reports the average age for a girl sex worker at between 12-14 years and 11-13 years for boys.  The decriminalization of prostitution can help contain sex trafficking…

Science!

Another entry in the “climate change causes ‘sex trafficking’!” genre:

Pope Francis said he…believed the United Nations needed to play a central role in the fight against global warming…“the trafficking of human beings…has been created by climate change,” the pope said.  The remarks followed a day-long meeting of mayors from around the world…hosted by the Vatican…and…began by hearing [lurid tales] from two Mexican women who [claim to be] victims of modern-day slavery…

Unfortunately, this Pope seems to have completely swallowed the “sex trafficking” myth.

Policing for Profit

Just in case you don’t believe cops & politicians are completely out of touch:

An assistant district attorney in…Oklahoma lived rent-free in a house confiscated by local law enforcement under the practice of asset forfeiture.  His office paid the utility bills.  He remained there for five years, despite a court order to sell the house at auction.  Another district attorney used $5,000 worth of confiscated funds to pay back his student loans.  These are just a few of the gems unearthed during a recent hearing on Oklahoma authorities’ liberal use of asset forfeiture to take property from suspected criminals and spend it on personal enrichment…State Sen. Kyle Loveless…has sponsored a bill to…prohibit asset forfeiture unless a suspect was actually convicted of a crime, and stipulate that the money go to the state’s general fund…Unsurprisingly, cops are desperate to preserve the practice…We can’t stop people from having drugs unless we are allowed to steal more money has to be one of the least-convincing arguments for maintaining the drug war…

Hall of Shame (#428) 

Your periodic reminder that Dennis Hof is a revolting excuse for a human being:

…Dennis Hof…has started an exploratory committee to pursue a run for US Senate in Nevada, and created a plan to end sex trafficking…he plans to run on the libertarian ticket…Sex trafficking is an American epidemic far more dangerous than Ebola…and…the third biggest black market industry after drugs and arms trafficking…Hof…believes his experience with legal prostitution proves that decriminalizing the oldest profession would end one of the world’s biggest human rights issues…

Hof has never spoken in favor of decriminalization; he speaks in favor of legalization, and regularly implies that women are too stupid and weak to have sex for our own reasons without crony pimps holding our leashes.  He’s a “libertarian” like I’m a socialist.Hanna Fanni

Whore Detection

It isn’t only in the US that black women are routinely profiled as whores:

…on July 8th…the hotel staff at [the] five-star…Mövenpick Hotel [in Dubai] refused to serve [a Nigerian woman named Hanna Fanni ]…when she visited the hotel’s popular West Beach Bistro & Sports Lounge with her black American friend…“They suspected us of being prostitutes…solely because of the colour of our skin.  I have lived here for 10 years and have never been treated in such a disrespectful and despicable manner…First the waitress refused to serve us and then a security guard ordered us to leave the hotel.  At one stage he was ready to engage with us physically…he kept telling us that the bar didn’t allow unaccompanied women…[but] there were several tables occupied by women.  When I pointed to them, he said he was merely following orders…I showed [the bar manager] my business card…his face contorted in panic as it dawned on him that they had racially profiled the wrong people.  But instead of making amends, he said the security guard had asked us to leave as some black women had come in earlier and solicited their guests”…the hotel tried to make amend but they were so humiliated they had to leave…

Repeat Offenders (#449) 

Prohibitionists cut into street workers’ income by hanging around them:

They are a band of Christian soldiers who walk Akron’s streets looking for prostituted women.  Their sole goal is to pray that the weighty chains that bind these women to their lifestyles will be severed.  To tell them that there is a God who is mightier than their pimps.  And to say that He loves them for who they are — not because they can turn tricks.  The men and women who make up this army are part of RAHAB, a nonprofit ministry of hope.  To make themselves more accessible to those who are forced to sell their bodies, they work out of a house on the east side of Akron.  They say the girls who have been coerced onto the streets…are victims. And the…mission is to help them recover from the atrocities of human trafficking…

Seizing Power

Backpage.com is suing the sheriff in Chicago over his successful campaign to urge credit card companies to cut ties with the classified ads company…[the] lawsuit…[alleges] that…Thomas Dart…[is] censoring the company and its customers’ right to free speech…“Sheriff Dart’s actions to cripple Backpage.com and all speech through the site are an especially pernicious form of prior restraint,” the complaint says.  “He has achieved his purpose through false accusations, innuendo, and coercion, whereas, if he had brought suit directly or Cook County had attempted to pass a law to shut down the website, Backpage.com would have had a fair opportunity to respond and defeat such efforts, given well-established law”…

The Scarlet Letter (#553)

Unfortunately, the writer felt compelled to counter SWOP’s statements with anti-whore propaganda:

…”I’m a sex worker.  I’m not coerced.  I’m not trafficked.  I’ve been a sex worker my entire life,” [said Liz] Coplen…of the Sex Workers Outreach Project in Tucson.  Coplen said many women enter…sex work to make money.  The women on these sites range from college students, to single moms, to professionals with a side job.  Their clients also run the gamut, from police officers…to doctors, lawyers, soldiers and college professors…

Ashley Madison (#557) 

News that hackers are threatening to expose the personal information of the affair website AshleyMadison.com’s 37 million users undoubtedly has its members panicking.  The rest of us, though, are thinking, “Thirty-seven million?”  That is a whole heck of a lot of people who are looking to have affairs—roughly equivalent to the entire population of Poland.  But…only 2.3 million of those members are active users…(Think:  The population of Queens, New York.)  Disparities between total members and active users are typical with dating sites.  PlentyOfFish boasts 100 million registered users…but 3.6 million active daily users…OkCupid has 10 million active users…one in 10 dating profiles…are fakes made by scammers or spammers.  The rest are users who joined a given site and are no longer active—maybe they found love or just gave up on the whole proposition…

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I knew he was there to kill me.  –  the woman who stopped Neal Falls

lady who took out Neal FallsI’ve written a number of times about “NHI” (“No Humans Involved“), the informal police policy that (in the absence of some sort of public outcry) violence against sex workers is to be ignored and left uninvestigated.  Even a serial killer preying on whores is usually allowed to continue the slaughter unimpeded by police action unless he mistakenly includes an amateur in his spree, and even then you can be sure the cops are going to let everyone know that the reason they’re taking action is to protect the “good” women and not the harlots.  Sometimes, the cops even go as far as to deny that there’s a serial killer in the first place, to cover up for him or to announce more persecution of potential victims, just so everyone knows they’re no friends of dirty whores.  So generally, the killing will continue until the murderer widens his appetites to include amateurs, or the cops catch him for something else (and then pretend it was part of their “investigation”), or he stops on his own, or someone else takes him out.  Remember the serial killer operating in Chillicothe, Ohio?  Well, he was stopped in nearby Charleston, West Virginia, by a woman he tried to add to his tally:

Neal Falls, the man shot to death by a prostitute after he attacked her on Saturday, had a cache of weapons and a list of online escorts inside his vehicle…police…suspect he may have been involved in other unsolved crimes.  “He had a machete, shovel, two axes, a bunch of knives, a double-headed ax, a bulletproof vest, numerous sets of handcuffs, as well as the firearm used to kill him,” [said] Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston, West Virginia, police…”Nearly immediately after he stepped into her apartment, he said ‘live or die’ and a struggle ensued,” Cooper said. “[Falls] laid his gun on a counter so that he could get a firmer grip around the victim’s throat with both his hands and she was able to scoop that weapon up and fire one round, killing Mr. Falls.”  The escort, who has not been identified, was hospitalized with multiple injuries, including broken vertebrae.  Authorities have determined the shooting was a justifiable homicide…

The Daily Dot had more detail:

When Falls began to strangle her, she…reached for a nearby rake.  Falls put down his gun to try and wrestle the rake out of her hands—that’s when she grabbed the gun and shot him.  Falls died from the gunshot wound, and she ran outside to get help…police…found an extensive “kill kit” in the trunk of Falls’s Subaru…[including] knives, a shovel, a machete, several axes, a sledgehammer, a pair of hiking boots covered in dirt, trash bags, and cleaning supplies.  In Falls’s pocket, said police, they found a list of names of future targets:  all sex workers who advertised on Backpage.  Police have not released the names, or the exact number, of women on the list…Falls…previously worked as a security guard in Oregon, and may have been living “off the grid” out of his car…

Besides the murders in Chillicothe, he may have committed four in Las Vegas:

…according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal…Falls…has been linked to the deaths of four young women:  Lindsay Harris, 21, Jodi Brewer, 19, Jessica Foster 21, and Misty Saens, 25…Harris, Brewer and Saens…were found dead near highways.  Foster has yet to be located…

Neal FallsMaybe, or perhaps cops in various parts of the country are just going to try to pin unsolved murders of sex workers on Falls so they don’t have to waste their time on “NHI” crimes; after all, time spent investigating violence against whores is time they can’t spend harassing, raping, robbing or brutalizing us.  One has to have priorities, after all.  But for now, the as-yet-unnamed sex worker is a heroine to her sisters all over the US, and if she reads this I ask that she let us show our gratitude to and solidarity with her.  She’s an inspiration to all of us, and I hope the next sex worker to be threatened by a monster like Falls is able to follow her example and do for herself and the rest of us what the cops can’t and won’t.

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burgundy chairA lot of things have changed in my life in the past year or so, and foremost among them is the abandonment of anonymity.  Of course, my legal name isn’t known, but then that brings up absolutely nothing interesting on Google anyway (unless you get a secret thrill from perusing the public land records of largely-rural counties).  But as Maggie McNeill I’m known and recognized, occasionally even in public, so it was really a bit naive to think I’d be able to maintain a separate escort persona for very long.  I therefore recently decided (with the help of several sex worker activist friends) to abandon that second persona and just do everything – speaking, writing and whoring – as Maggie McNeill.  My website logos, text and url have been changed, and I’m in the process of switching all my advertising accounts to “Maggie McNeill”.  I’ve built up quite a reputation over the past five years, and it seems silly not to use it to attract clients; I’d rather monetize my work in that way, indirectly, rather than by polluting this website with a bunch of ugly blinking, flashing, jumping, wriggling banner ads offering “free” sex with “horny housewives” and “barely legal nymphos”.  In these times of aggressive “end demand” pogroms, that reputation may prove a vital lifeline to nervous clients; when a gentleman calls me there will be no doubt in his mind that I’m the real deal rather than a honey trap, and a referral from me should be good with the majority of escorts in any English-speaking country.  Of course, my high-profile name may also attract unwanted attention of the dangerous kind, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take; I’m sure you’ll understand if I’m especially diligent with my screening now.  It’s also true that some potential clients will be turned off by many of the opinions and truths I’ve expressed here; frankly, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone that insecure anyhow.  So drop me a line, guys; little Maggie’s back in the saddle again, and this time she ain’t even wearin’ a mask.

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The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.  –  “Magdalene’s Day”

Today is the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, who was almost certainly not a whore; however, as I’ve explained before, that hardly matters.  Most people raised in the Christian tradition think of her as the patroness of whores, and that’s more important than any official designation.

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All the News That’s Fit to Print.  –  motto of The New York Times

The 24-hour news cycle made possible in the late ’80s by the popularity of cable TV is a veritable tortoise in comparison with the speed with which a story can break, develop and be over on the internet.  On cable, it was only possible to report the news within hours; feedback still largely progressed at the speed of snail mail (and a few phone calls).  But on the internet, a story once broken is within hours linked from many other places; it is then spread and critiqued on social media, and if the response is negative enough the original publisher may try to cram it down the memory hole.  From start to finish, the whole process can be completed while a third of internet users are asleep, depending on which time zone the posting site calls home.  A particularly striking example started last Thursday, and it was made all the more startling by the fact that it should never have been published in the first place.Brodie Sinclair

At 20:26 PDT Thursday, a rather nasty gossip post went up on Gawker:

David Geithner, brother of ex-Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, is currently the chief financial officer of Condé Nast.  This past weekend, he’d planned to go to Chicago—where he planned to meet a gay porn star and escort for “2-3 hours” at a cost of $2,500.  But…the escort—who does not want to reveal his identity for professional reasons, but whom we will call Ryan—says he bailed on the date with the married (to a woman) father of three because Geithner declined to use his influence to help with a housing dispute…

That’s right, Gawker outed a non-politician who has no record of public statements attacking either gay people or sex workers.  And that’s not all:

…The escort then went to Gawker’s Jordan Sargent, who gleefully carried out the blackmail threat by publishing the story and (presumably) outing Geithner…Gawker’s commenters—and nearly all of Twitter—seem to agree that ruining Geithner’s life was excessively, baselessly cruel.  Geithner is not a government official; he is not running for office; he does not have a record of hypocrisy on gay issues.  The usual excuses one could propose to justify such treatment don’t really apply here.  Some Gawker writers are defending the story; others are not.  Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a writer for Gawker affiliate Jezebel, wrote: “Stories don’t need an upside.  Not everyone has to feel good about the truth.  If it’s true, you publish…I’m EXTREMELY suspicious of those who do not want press to have an antagonistic relationship to people in power.”  That’s a fair point, but it doesn’t come close to justifying the decision to turn a family’s struggles into front page news.  There’s just no compelling public interest here whatsoever…

By Friday morning, “Ryan” had himself been outed as Derek Truitt, whose stage name is Brodie Sinclair:

…regardless of how you feel about outing a public figure who’s attempting to break the law, the bigger and more important question for Gawker might be this:  What the fuck were they doing using a batshit insane conspiracy theorist as the sole source and entire catalyst for their story?…Brodie Sinclair, it so happens, is an absolute nut with a Facebook page that might make Alex Jones blush.  The even nuttier part?  Gawker acknowledges having looked at Sinclair’s Facebook pagecrazy truitt, which means they saw all of his insanity and still trusted him with his Geithner story anyway…

And by 18:04 EDT Friday, less than 19 hours after it started the whole debacle, Gawker tried to shove it down the memory hole:

Gawker.com said Friday afternoon it was removing an article about the CFO of Conde Nast allegedly soliciting sex from a gay porn star.  The decision came after the news and gossip site drew heavy criticism Friday for revealing life-changing details about a private individual’s life, for no clear social purpose…

But even while doing so, Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read tried to defend the original decision to publish the article:

the justification for this story offered by Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read is utterly laughable, and it’s grounded in a premise that is very common when people want to wallow in others’ private lives, yet incredibly toxic…Gawker is simply on the prowl to locate and punish adulterers who are vandalizing the sanctity of their marital vows.  It’s just about solemn retribution for sinners…the wife of this CFO is a victim.  Read is posing as her chivalrous defender:  he only published this article to avenge the wrong done to her.  There’s even the strangely sexist formulation to his vow: Gawker, he declares, will always “report on married [] executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives.”  What about when the cheating executives are women and the spouse is a man?  He doesn’t say.  His self-proclaimed mission is to protect this little lady from the harm that has been inflicted on her…But…Max Read has absolutely no idea what this CFO’s wife knows about what her husband does, nor does he have any idea what agreement or arrangement they have governing their marriage.  Nor should he know, because it’s none of his business…It’s possible the wife is a victim of his private behavior, but it’s also very possible there are no victims and he did absolutely nothing wrong…

As of this morning, the dust has yet to finish settling; it’ll be very interesting indeed to see the ultimate effect of the fallout.

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When I published “Empathy” three years ago this month, I was confronted in the comments by the dumbfounding realization that some otherwise-intelligent people do not understand that the protagonist of a story need not be good, morally-upright or even admirable in the author’s eyes; she is merely the person the story follows, not some moral exemplar.  Marilith is a courtesan on an Earth very different from the one we know, who has used her paranormal ability to excel in her profession and climb the social ladder.  This tale takes place three years after the first, and if you haven’t read that one yet I strongly suggest you do so before embarking on this one…but do yourself a favor and skip the comments.  You’ll be glad you did.

decanterMarilith’s guest was ten minutes late, and even the aftereffects of the laudanum could not calm her agitation.  It was not the disruption to her schedule that upset her so; Prince Jamal was her only client scheduled for the day, nor were any set for the next.  The disquiet was at least partly due to the empathic focus she was struggling to maintain in the face of nearer, stronger voices, but the rest of it…

“Mistress, please,” begged her handmaiden; “let me bring you something to calm you.  I have never seen you in such a state.”

“No!” snapped Marilith.  “It’s too late for that, Cynthia; he’s long overdue already, and I’ll need all my willpower for this.  I’ve done all I can do, and now all that remains is to wait.”  As if in punctuation to her sentence, the soft gong which signified a new arrival on the landing stage sounded in the antechamber.  And yet Cynthia hesitated with uncharacteristic inefficiency until her mistress ordered her to go.

The trip to the roof and back was not a long one, yet today it seemed interminable; by the time the Prince was announced, his hostess felt as though she was about to scream.  But luckily for her, the emotional communication enabled by her psychic gift was unidirectional; he had no idea of the turmoil which raged behind her penetrating purple eyes and her soft, enigmatic smile.  “Welcome back, Your Highness.  It has been too long.”

“Lies do not become you, Marilith,” he said, and a wave of panic engulfed her; did he know what she was planning?  How could he have discovered…”You would be just as happy if you never saw me again, except for the fact that you would then be cheated of the ridiculous fee I pay you.”

“Your Highness does me an injustice; surely you don’t believe I could hide such unkind thoughts without wearing them on my visage.”

He laughed, an especially unpleasant laugh even by his standards.  “You must think me a very great fool, woman; even a common whore knows how to disguise her true feelings for the men who pay her, and you are no common whore.”

“As you say, My Lord.  But if you believe this of me, perhaps you should find another courtesan more to your liking.”

He pulled her up against him, and the wave of anger and hatred which engulfed her almost drowned her doubts and fears.  “I would, if there were another fit to wash your feet,” he said in a tone which weirdly mingled resentment with admiration; “besides, you know very well I couldn’t trust anyone else.”

“So you have said, My Lord,” she said, suppressing a shudder as his right hand moved down from her waist, “but I fail to comprehend what makes me especially trustworthy.  I can sense your feelings, not the other way around.”

“You do more than just sense feelings, witch,” he spat; “they become a part of you and overwhelm your own.  I had prepared quite a dossier on you ere I approached you the first time; my advisors feel you would be incapable of violence because your victim’s terror would overwhelm you.”

“That is true, My Lord,” she whispered in his ear, “but I am not the only one here.”

weaponized nailsThough she had experienced it many times, Marilith never failed to be astonished by the incredible silence with which Cynthia could move when necessary.  And though she had been fully apprised of her attendant’s capabilities before she even purchased her, the reality was more terrifying than she could have dreamed.  Two extra pairs of arms shot forth from her gown with the speed of striking cobras; six sets of razor-sharp fingernails glinted like gems for only an instant before they were coated in blood; thirty powerful digits ripped out the princely entrails with the ease and energy of a child scattering shredded paper from the interior of an eagerly-awaited package.  And Marilith was not sure if she would ever stop screaming, much less sleep again.  She drew her ornate dagger and plunged it into her servant’s body over and over and over again; for her part Cynthia quietly accepted the attack, each wound closing instantly as though the blade had been plunged into water rather than flesh.  And when the hysterical girl finally collapsed into wracking sobs and let the blade drop from her nerveless fingers, the dispassionate handmaiden gathered her up as gently as one might handle a sleeping kitten, and bore her toward the bath after stepping through the gore that had until recently been a human being.

Once she had pressed the prepared wine to her mistress’ lips, bathed her tenderly and tucked her exhausted body into bed, Cynthia returned to scrub the carnage from the other room; she was unsurprised to find another man waiting there, surveying the scene with satisfaction.  “So it’s done?” he asked unnecessarily.

“As you see, Your Highness.  My mistress’ plan worked perfectly; she was able to remain focused on your emotions and thereby exclude Prince Jamal’s, at least until I could strike.  The kinsman who so troubled you is no more.”

“Good, very good.  And my other operatives have informed me that all of his precautions have been foiled; he will not return this time.”

“Forgive my boldness, Your Highness, but are you absolutely certain there is no chance my mistress will be implicated in this?”

“None whatever.  Once you physically clean the area with the fluids you have been provided, my people will arrive  before morning to remove the more intangible residues.  If the investigators come here at all – which I doubt – they will find nothing.”

“She has done you a great favor this evening, Mighty One.”

“I am aware of that, Cynthia, and she will be handsomely rewarded as we agreed.”

“You know that she will never be the same again.”

“Indeed she will not; her patent of nobility is already in process, and once that’s done it will be a small matter to negotiate an advantageous marriage for her.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.”  Before she rose from the deep bow, the lifelike image had faded from view.  And as she began the arduous process of cleaning, Cynthia thought to herself that though it might be disrespectful, she was very glad indeed that she was not human.

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