Grey smoke curdled in the air like the ghosts of tortured children as it strained through the green light above the pool table in The Fool's Card. It curled up from a cheap off-brand cigarette, a cigarette tucked improbably into the extended slit of a heavily tattooed and pierced man's mouth. He focused a yellowed eye down the length of his pool cue before firing the eight ball into a corner pocket with a satisfying crack.
"So, did you hear? Zag's back in town." Timmy said as he pumped more quarters into the rickety billiards table.
"Zag? You mean Zag Maya Zag?" the disfigured man asked quizzically.
"That's the only Zag I know," the effeminate man clarified. "I mean, how many people do you meet named Zag?"
A sick parody of a human smile crossed the scarred man's face. "Fucking finally. Do you have any idea how much more I had to pay for a brick after that guy left?"
"Of course I know," Timmy quipped waspishly, leaning against the table where Thug had first seen Caroline. "As I remember, your twenty packs started tasting like baby laxatives."
"Hey fuck you! I don't fucking step on my shit!" the scarred man snapped. Rumors like that fucked with his money, and he'd stabbed men for less. Much less.
"Hey, hey, you know I was just kidding!" Timmy placated, although it was the god honest truth and they both knew it. "Anyways, I was out with Berry shopping for those hot stilettos she just bought, and she mentioned she was going out to see Zag. Apparently he's living with his uncle."
"Shit... I haven't seen her since..." the scarred man drawled.
"Last week, remember? We bought an eight ball." Timmy filled in.
"Oh, yeah, right," the dope-dealer recalled. At the time he'd been on two footballs of Xanax and had been more concerned with how much weight he was moving than who he was selling it to. "You got her number?"
"That depends. Are you going to give me a break on this bag?"
Caroline gritted her teeth as she stared Dom straight in the eye. "I did NOT spend the last two YEARS studying Mrs. Black's library to be Pedro, Rodney, or anyone else's victim. The Mayas aren't the only ones with a couple of tricks up their sleeves goddamn it. I'm gonna find who stole from me, and I'm gonna FUCK their shit UP."
She tilted her head to the side, and evil glint in her eye. "And Dom, I'm going to do it MYSELF, so I'd appreciate it if you gave me some room."
Dom was a mixture of proud and scared. What was Caroline going to do? He knew, however, until she had a chance to test her abilities, she'd never be fully mature. "You do what you have to, just know I'll be there for you if you call me."
Caroline softened a bit. "Thanks for everything, Dom. I need to do this for me. I'm not the punk they think I am, and they're about to find out just exactly what I am the HARD way."
With that, she gave Dom a hug and gently pushed him out of the door.
Cars rushed past the upscale downtown soul food café just as they did everyday, seven days a week, thirteen lunar cycles a year. A deceptively rundown sign read "Jimbo's Butter Fried Catfish," complete with rust stains applied by a vegan painter with a master's degree in graphic design. Row after row of expertly stained and scratched tables reflected the dying rays of the sun through floor to ceiling windows, windows no legitimate soul food cook could ever afford. In the kitchen, pasty white chefs ordered oppressed Mexican day laborers around like slaves, not a single ebony face to be seen.
At one of the tables sat the immaculate form of Rodney Cunningham, grinning at the sick juxtaposition as he watched the door. Outside, a gnarled black man in second hand clothes, his back bowed with age and years of honest work, was being pushed back out of the door by a polite but strong-armed maitre de. Rodney savored the injustice of it, his bright blue eyes twinkling before he finally spoke up.
"No, it's ok. He's with me," he shouted, waving his hand towards the table.
Reluctantly the maitre de backed off, letting the gnarled old man through with a suspicious glare.
Peter Stallings hobbled towards the table, putting the hassles of small-minded people behind him. Unlike the maitre de, he knew this place would be closed in the next six weeks, belied by the rows of empty overpriced booths. He chose this form for a reason, and he had every intention of enjoying this restaurant's slow downfall. Famine's vengeance was always slow and excruciatingly painful.
"I hope you don't mind; I ordered you a plate of fried catfish." Rodney smirked.
"Much appreciated," the old man wheezed.
It was an old joke. Peter hated rich, greasy food; he preferred an honest meal of collard greens or red beans and rice to a plate of deep fried lard any day, two entrees the white management didn't even offer at the so-called soul food restaurant.
The old man eased behind the table as the wait staff pointed and whispered in the background, the original waiter attempting to slough off the table on a newer employee now that he knew the race of his client. Peter stoically ignored them, just as he would ignore their prolonged suffering and poverty in the not too distant future.
"I noticed you been triflin' with Caroline Parker." Peter stated bluntly, his leathery face tight with irritation.
"I haven't done a thing to the girl!" Rodney defended, his hands spread open innocently.
"Bull. Just because you did it so slick you even got Mrs. Agnes to let you do it doesn't mean you got away with it," Peter drawled in his heavy accent.
Rodney's eyes opened wide with false transparency, "I have never had any contact with Mama Agnes, you know that. She's yours, and totally off limits."
"Like she didn't know. I ain't no fool, Rodney, and I don't appreciate you treatin' me like one. Now I ain't one for threats, but you and I both know Mr. Borden ain't gonna be pleased with that. Look here, I got one of mine all sideways with Mr. Borden, and she's a good one too. I'm gonna ask one time, nice and easy like, that you lay off of men and mine. We done some good work together in the past, ain't no reason to go muckin' that up now."
Rodney's ever present smile tightened with the memory of the Irish potato famine. Good times, good times, he relished, thinking of all the emaciated bodies of those redheaded vermin.
"Now now, Pete, you know I'm just setting up Pedro for the crimes he's committed." Rodney oozed greasily.
"That line might o' worked on Mrs. Agnes, but I ain't lettin' you piss down my leg and tell me it's rainin.'" Peter warned, "This is straight talk. You leave my family alone, 'cuz you and I both know Ms. Madison couldn't handle the wrong side of me any better than Mrs. M'buto did. It wouldn't be nothin' for me to nip this thing in the bud. Ain't nobody fooled by your line." Peter said calmly, meaning every word.
"Whoa there!" Rodney placated dramatically. He'd planned for this reaction, and he had no intention of breaking his old alliance. Peter had come through for him on things not even Nate would touch, and both of them enjoyed making work for Dom. "Again, I never talked to Mama Agnes; you know that. She chose to let me get M'buto back on her own."
"And you don't think she ain't gon' suffer for that? I don't like letting mine suffer, unlike you. You mess with Nate and Dom all you want; they're big boys," Peter stuck out a crooked finger to emphasize his point, "But this is ME, and this is the line, and I ain't standin' for it. Open or secret, you leave mine out of your monkey business. You think I don't know you instigated this whole Pedro mess from the jump? I'm here to tell you, you ain't slick. Don't think I don't know what you're plannin'."
"Touché brother, touché," Rodney conceded, "But you have to admit, you DO want me back around. Otherwise, you would have stepped in before this."
For the first time since he arrived, Peter displayed his eerily perfect set of pearly white teeth, remembering how he and Rodney had played the tribute paying farm nations and barbarian hordes against Nate's elitist Roman aristocracy. If he had one vice, it was his love of watching the arrogant and self-righteous get a taste of what those they condescended to suffered.
"Ya got met there, brother," he laughed.
Caroline rested her hands lightly on the steering wheel, her eyes closed suicidally as she zipped down the open road, wrapped deeply in the trance. She didn't need her eyes to sense the dangers of the road; she could read all that and more in the patterns found in the seemingly random rainbow static that lived in the darkness behind her eyelids.
Every other car, every inch of road, all of it added intricate elements to the static, elements a trained mind such as hers could easily read. It had all started when a demon known as The Glass had used that very same static to enter her mind, leading up to the intervention of Mrs. Black.
It was from The Glass directly that she'd learned her first lessons on reading the patterns in the static, patterns even normally people see when they close their eyes, patterns caused by the background radiation of the universe firing across the rods and cones that make up the human eye. The trick was not in knowing what to look for, but knowing what to exclude. It was almost algebraic, finding the value for an unknown by determining what it could not be.
Since Dom had detected Maya blood magic through the simple matter of noticing the bloodstains on her doorknob, the culprit was obvious; only Pedro Maya could do such a thing. Caroline wasn't stupid enough to warn Pedro by having Thug call Zag, either. She relished doing this for herself.
Cars whizzed around her, but she maintained perfect control of the vehicle despite having her eyes shut to the scenery around her. The other drivers were oblivious; as long as her car stuck tight to lane and speed restrictions, they had no reason to suspect a thing out of the ordinary. Every car on the road disturbed the cosmic radiation she was interpreting, each speck of gravel in the asphalt with it's own specific signature of disturbance.
Because of this, Caroline was actually more aware than the drivers around her; she had a three hundred and sixty degree view in her mind's eye. Off in the horizon of the dreamscape, a tiny speck of yellow that signified Pedro's soul acted as a homing beacon to her destination.
Marcia M'buto was no demon, despite the reputation she'd garnered for herself over the millennia. She'd studied demons, though, and the technique of possession was new concept for her, not by a long shot. In fact, in her direct training from Ma she'd learned the rudiments of the technique from exorcism. The trick to a successful exorcism wasn't the banishing of the spirit so much as it was the use of a second spirit to use as a lever to push the old one out, just as the original soul had been. Normally the original host soul was used, but in extreme cases where the host soul was terribly weakened or destroyed an exorcist would use her own soul for such a task, particularly in the face of a very strong demon.
It was this technique, of using her own soul to enter another person's body that she prepared to use on the willing mind of Berry Madison.
However shallow it sounded, there was still an element of ... style.. she wanted to incorporate. Power wasn't enough; she'd learned that while ruling the M'buto Empire. It wasn't enough to rule, to control, the greater power lay in the mastery of the subject's desires, not just her fears.
The true master understands that a beaten slave will never work as hard as an eager one. Regardless of the circumstances of service, there has to be at least a token level of consent. This subtle truth defines the line between the gutter rapist and the dominatrix, between the queen who spends all her time eyeing the shadows for assassins and sending her food off to the tasters, and the queen who walks proudly half-naked down the main street, adoring followers strewing flower petals beneath her feet.
To truly master a slave, then, is to make a possession, just as a pet is property. A pet owner takes pride in a show dog's lustrous coat, on its sunny disposition and playful antics. If push comes to shove, euthanasia is an option, but then the master is deprived of valuable property. It is not enough to own the slave, then, but to seek true mastery of the slave, being just as demanding of your own skills of management as you are upon the labor of your property.
What then would this perverted little girl want most?
...Ah. Of course....
Berry sulked. Her last bump of coke was wearing off, and M'buto just stood there, wearing that stupid serene expression. Couldn't she see the sun peeking in the window like a nosy old lady? What the hell was she waiting for?!
M'buto's expression soured, turning pouty, and her words took on a fragile edge. "Mistress Berry... don't you want your property? Am I not... am I not good enough for you?" she stammered, nearly pushing the performance to crocodile tears. C'mon you spoiled brat, take the bait...
Berry's painted on eyebrows twisted into an irritated v-shape. "What are you talking about? You're the one with all the powers." Already her nose itched for another bump of sweet powder. This sleep deprivation was making her cranky.
M'buto's full African lips formed a perfect "o" of surprise. "You mean you don't know? Why do you think I never appeared to Caroline? She's not...special, like you. My power would never be able to transfer to someone like her."
"JUST SPIT IT OUT!" Berry snapped. All this mystic mumbo jumbo was giving her a headache.
M'buto schooled the face of her avatar to hide her irritation. To think such a pretty body was wasted on this uncouth little trollop. Apparently she was too stupid to take a hint. Left-handed, M'buto reached behind her and unhooked the golden clasp around the chain holding her purple gown on. The soft fabric dropped slowly, revealing perfect black breasts, each one topped by a magnificent peaked nipple. The cloth continued to fall, sliding sensuously past her hips, her perfect stomach tapering down between her hips, finally resolving at an engorged pick clit dripping with delicious feminine juices.
"You have to take me," she whispered, her eyes locked onto Berry's aggressively.
"Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!" Berry spurted eagerly, already snuffling white powder into her nose as she approached. She recapped the vial and tossed it casually behind her, stalking up to M'buto before suckling her tit hard enough to bruise. She grabbed the apparition behind the left knee, slamming the goddess down onto Mark's couch. She dribbled a trail of saliva from her breast down the black marble washboard of her abs, farther down between legs painfully stretched apart by tiny eager fingers. Berry's little pink tongue darted between those perfect vertical lips as she kept one dark leg held high, pulling the other down to mount it wit her own moistening heat.
They ground at each other, teasing, toying, a small knife appearing in Berry's hand as if by magic. She slipped the blade into the waist of her Capri pants as M'buto's bare right foot slipped out of her sandal to caress her back behind her head. Berry jerked the blade savagely away from her hip, releasing the cloth with a jagged rip. The coke rushed through her veins, making her more frantic and desperate to be naked as she tore at the fabric. Finally, her left leg felt the glorious tingle of cool air, and she took a brief moment to pull M'buto's hips hard into her lips.
She plunged the knife into her waistband again, peeling the cloth back to her thigh before making the cut. M'buto wrapped both perfect legs around Berry's head as she worked, crushing her face into her warm dark crevice. Berry worked frantically, nearly suffocating in the sensuous embrace before being deliciously naked from the waist down. Finally, Berry thrust a hand in front of her face, squirting up through M'buto's legs as the dark woman's vagina left a trail of juice down her body.
The red head straddled the dark goddess, whipping her shirt off to reveal her own painfully erect nipples, her thighs rubbing against the bottoms of M'buto's breasts as she ground her clit onto that ebony skin.
"You want me to take you?" Berry whispered hoarsely, pinning M'buto's arms above her head.
"Yes mistress." M'buto answered submissively.
Using her left hand to keep M'buto's arms held in place, Berry delivered a resounding right-handed slap to the witch-queen's jaw.
"DO YOU WANT ME TO TAKE YOU?!" she bellowed abusively.
"YES MISTRESS!" the dominated woman screamed, her face burning from the ringing blow.
"That what I THOUGHT!" Berry cried victoriously, finally straddling M'buto's face. She plunged both hands into the apparition's intricate braids, delivering face-crushing blows from her engorged pussy. She rolled onto her back for more control, her abs flexing with the force of driving her pelvis into M'buto's face.
M'buto worked her tongue masterfully, doing her best to hasten Berry's climax. That was her weakness, the involuntary convulsions of orgasm the ultimate sign of an ego incapable of self-control, incapable of self-defense. Berry's grunts became audible, louder and louder, changing to screams of ecstasy as she neared her limit, waking Mark from his troubled sleep.
The sound of Mark's door opening excited Berry more, the danger of being caught, the...
"OH GOD!" she screamed, gushing hot juice all over M'buto's face.
Black and white skin tangled in a yin-yang of orgasmic bliss. The lines between the women blurred, their bodies fusing into one in the moment, the specter of M'buto finally absorbed in that simple moment of release...
And then Mark walked into the room.