The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 66

“Your favorite client is waiting on you,” Madame Mataxis told Kemper as she entered the rear door of the Beauvirille Bathhouse in Little Mille.

Kemper eyed her boss wearily, wishing the twelve hours had already ended, though her shift had just begun. “Please tell me it’s not that pompous asshole.”

“Now now,” simpered Mataxis, a rotund Feline with large yellow eyes and matted, graying fur. “That’s not how we should refer to our customers.”

A frown crossed Kemper’s face. She was one of the few Hume bathers in the establishment and was therefore much sought after from the more wealthy clientele. Long ago she had resigned herself to the selling of her body to bring food to her table. The path was not one she had blindly been led to, nor was it something she regretted. She owned it as best one could and would not be brow beaten by a client or her boss. Kemper could turn her simpering until knife wielding fury in an instant, and had done so on three occasions. But he was different. He was another thing entirely.

He was a stately, older man, a war hero, celebrated across those that still gave a damn about what had happened when the Empire was overthrown. She was too young for that but could feel his importance just by the way the older Mataxis held herself in his presence. The foolish old feline always cooed about how brave and handsome he was, how noble and honorable he was.

The truth was this: Vice Chairman Schmitt was a boring dominator in her workplace. He paid well but insulted her with every command he threw her way from the bath to the bed, his tone was degrading, demeaning, and his actions beyond stale. Had he been of any interest to her, maybe she could have handled the tone of his bed talk. But no, it was insulting. He was the boring one. Not her. Asshole.

“He’s waiting dear. Move on along.”

Kemper sighed and ducked into the changing room to get kitted out. Bathers wore specially rigged towels that hid the important bits but let the rest hang out in the open. For those that just bathed there, it was a good tease, something like a little extra cream on their ironcake. But to those that paid for more personal service, the outfits were appetizers.

Knowing what was ahead of her, she tightened the two towel straps as loosely as she could. She could care less if a bit of Schmitt’s money would be wasted on free peaks for other clients. Kemper just wanted it to be over.

Her long walk began. She exited the changing room, slid through a small off-set doorway, and appeared in the dim, moonlit bathing floor. The bath itself was multi-tiered with multiple waterfalls cascading between large Imperial-themed columns. Most of the water only reached ankle level, so walking was easy to accomplish. In the very middle of the bathing area was a stepped square where those without bathers assigned to them could simply wade in the Bathhouse’s naturally warm water.

Behind each waterfall was a bathing station where premium clients got the personal touch of a contracted bather. The bather was usually female, though male bathers were not rare requests. These bathers, based on the client’s wishes, would either partially or completely bathe the client by hand and use the same soaps and oils that were popular with the average citizens in the Cobble district. It was expensive but a luxury many of the Machine workers without families could afford.

Then, along the back walls of the square bathing area were dark curtained areas that led to the VIP rooms. The rooms themselves had a clear floor elevated just a few inches above the water, beds, small sofas, and perfumery. It was in one of these expensive VIP areas that her clients usually waited. She was good at her profession and proud of her body of work.

As Kemper neared her assigned work area, she could see the curtain parted. He was already standing in her room, waiting, just as Mataxis had said. She felt his eyes move over her as she entered.

“Would you like to bathe before or after?”

“Whore,” he greeted her in his usual way. “I will bathe after.”

She nodded and worked at the fastener at the back of her towel rig.

“No,” he said, voice commanding, deep, full of authority. “I will take you with it on. Bend over the edge of the bed.”

She did as she was commanded, making sure she turned fully from him before rolling her eyes.

“Do not bore me as you normally do. I am under high tension. I expect a snappy release.”

She had no idea what to say to that. What an absolute bore.

His hands grabbed her hips firmly, nearly too hard, and threw the towel up over her head. She couldn’t see but didn’t mind. This way, he couldn’t see her exasperated expression as he once again began a weekly struggle with his own ineptitude.

“Move,” he commanded, pulling at her hips. She began to sway them side to side.

“Faster,” he commanded, working at her with a stoic, passionless motion that was more mechanical than anything.

He grunted. Warm, heavy droplets splashed across her back. Had he finished already? She was good but...he’d never...

She felt him slip from her and heard him crumple to the ground.

“Chairman?” she asked, trying to pull the towel from over her head.

A firm hand landed on the back of her head, pushing her down onto the bed. She started to thrash. What was he doing? Was he going to punish her for being too good?

Kemper growled and kicked to the side, where weight had slowly begun to bend her bed down. Her foot connected with nothing.

The hand was gone. She leaped up, the towel falling over her body. She turned.

Vice Chairman Schmitt was lying on the ground, his throat open, blood pooling beneath him. His eyes were open, wide, unbelieving. A small part of her was thankful, keeping the panic at bay for the moment.

She looked around the room and saw nothing different, no hidden killer. Who had done this? Had the hand been Schmitt’s? Somehow she doubted it.

Then it dawned on her.

“I’m going to get the blame for this,” she whispered.

The panic finally set in.

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