Chapter 9: Caught on Tape
Lisa had been acting weird all night, ever since he got home from work. She had arrived home first, which was rare, and had stopped for a ready-to-bake pizza on her way, which was definitely out of character.
Things had been a little strained between them for a few days, in fact. Keith wasn’t sure who caused these occasional bouts of tension between the two of them. Early on in their marriage, he had learned that asking her about it, trying to find out what was bothering her, was futile; if anything, it made the mood worse. Eventually he had learned just to accept these periods, as he would accept bad weather: try to be cheerful, and stay in shelter until the worst of it was past. Lisa would get over it and things would be back to normal soon enough.
“I had a real hankering for pizza today,” Keith said as he sat down. “You read my mind.”
“I sliced some olives on top,” Lisa said glumly, pulling a piece of the pizza onto her plate. “We don’t have black olives though. I’ll have to pick some up.”
“Green olives are fine,” Keith assured her as he took a slice for himself. He much preferred black olives, really, but it didn’t seem like something worth mentioning at that point.
“I think my tires are going,” she said. “They’ve started squealing a bit when I go around corners.”
“I’ll take a look after.”
They went back to eating silently for a while. The pizza could have done with a few more minutes in the oven—the middle was soggy and the cheese hadn’t fully melted—but it wouldn’t be worth complaining.
Lisa was looking at him. “What’s up?” he asked.
She went back to her pizza. “Nothing.”
Well, he had tried.
After supper, Keith tidied up the kitchen while Lisa went out to the drug store. Not all that long ago, she would have stopped at the video store on her way, too, and picked up a movie for them to watch that night. That used to be one of their main weeknight occupations, watching movies together on the couch in their basement apartment. When they moved to the little townhouse and work started to get busier for both of them, movie nights migrated to the weekends. From the point when they made the offer on this house, they had stopped altogether.
When the kitchen was in a passable state—clean by Keith’s standards, though probably not by Lisa’s—Keith went outside and tugged the lawnmower out of the shed. He glanced quickly down the side of the shed: nothing, which is what he expected. He yanked the cord a few times, dragging the engine to life at last, and began to pace the back lawn.
The grass could have gone a while longer without being cut; in some patches, where the sun fell throughout the day, he couldn’t even see if the lawnmower had had any effect at all. The canvas bag on the back of the mower remained slack, the dried up grass Keith was collecting making little impression.
It didn’t take long to finish the lawn, but Keith didn’t feel like dragging the mower around the other side of the house and cutting the front lawn too. He had done enough for now; Lisa couldn’t claim he’d been lazing around all night. He emptied the clippings into a garbage bag, put the mower away, and went inside.
He was opening a beer when Lisa returned. “How many is that?” she asked.
“Just one,” Keith said. “I just mowed the lawn. I figured I earned it.”
“Who said you didn’t?” she replied, but Keith didn’t rise to the bait. He went into the living room and turned on the TV.
Lisa went upstairs, to Keith’s relief. He flipped around for a while, finding nothing even slightly interesting. Why did they pay for cable, anyhow? There was never anything on, whether you had seven or fifty-seven channels.
He was staring disinterestedly at a baseball game when Lisa came back down and flopped onto the couch beside him. “Anything else on?” she asked.
Keith braced for it. Another lecture. What would it be this time? Money? Housework? His drinking? The last one, probably—it was her favourite sermon.
“I found something weird,” she said.
Instantly Keith knew, but decided he should play it cool. “Where—in the house?”
“No.” He looked, and found she was blushing slightly. “In the back.”
“What is it?”
She was really blushing, now. She almost said something, stopped.
Keith was actually starting to enjoy this a bit. “What, did those people leave something behind?”
“No, it’s—here, I’ll go get it.”
She was back in seconds, clutching a black VHS tape, as Keith had expected.
“What is it?”
“A video tape,” she said peevishly.
“No, I mean what’s on it?”
She pushed her hair back behind one ear. “I think you’d better see for yourself.”
Keith took the tape, turned it over. No labels or marks. It wasn’t rewound all the way.
He turned the VCR on. It was slow, ponderous, took forever to start up. The TV screen gradually brightened and filled with now.
He fed the table gently into the slot. The VCR greedily took it from him and swallowed, and the screen went blank.
Then, in an instant, there they were—Stand and Marie. She sat on the edge of their bed, one hand working furiously between her legs, the other working Stan’s cock with vigour. As they watched, Stan placed his hand on the back of her head and guided her mouth onto him.
“That’s Stan,” Lisa said. “Two doors down. Right? Stan and...”
Keith swallowed hard. “Marie,” he supplied.
The sound on the TV was turned down, but the wet, slurping, sucking noises now seemed to boom from the speaker, filling the room, filling the space between them.
After a minute—was it just a minute? How long had he been watching?—Keith looked at Lisa. She had been watching the screen too, but hastily met his eye.
“Well?” she said.
“Well.” He turned and hit the pause button. “It’s Stan and Marie, all right.”
“But—why? What was it doing on our back step?” She looked at the screen, where Keith had frozen their slightly distorted image, Marie’s head stuck in mid-bob, Stan just reaching down to grab one of her nipples.
“I mean, is it a prank? Was it stolen? What—why would this be on our step?”
She was starting to shake slightly. “And who would have left it there? Did someone—is it a warning or something?”
“What if there’s a tape of us?” she went on. “If some pervert is going around taping—taping people in their own homes—but why was it there? Who would leave it for us?” Tears were starting to well up in her eyes.
“Really,” Keith said, maybe more sternly than he had meant to sound. She was starting to put him on edge. “It’s okay. No one’s going around—I know Stan and Marie made that tape themselves.”
“How do you know?” She was suddenly composed—suddenly Lisa again.
Keith watched closely, waiting for a reaction. Lisa had barely said a word while he told the story, while he described Stan’s other tape, his talk with Darrell, his talk with Zsolt. Her silence was ominous, as was her inscrutable expression. Had he left anything out? Only one thing, that he could think of.
“So that’s it,” he said.
“I don’t get it.”
He waited, but that was all. “Don’t get what?”
“Any of it.”
“Well, I guess—”
“I especially can’t believe that any of their wives agreed to it.”
Well, that was it, then. So much for joining the circle.
“Apparently it was Doreen’s idea in the first place,” Keith ventured glumly.
“Who’s Doreen?” Even Lisa’s simple, factual questions made Keith defensive.
“The woman who used to live in this house.”
“Ah.” She was still frowning. “Why would she want to be seen, though? No even having sex—I mean, even naked. Who would want something like that in their neighbour’s hands?”
“I guess it was, you know... a turn-on for her.”
“I guess so.” She frowned at the TV screen, which had reverted to static and snow. “But to think that your very own neighbours are watching you, seeing you in...” She thought about it some more. “I don’t know how they could ever look each other in the eye again.”
“Well, I’d just feel so vulnerable. And what if someone gave the tapes away—with the kind of copying equipment they have nowadays, someone could make a dozen copies of the tape in their basement in a week, then sell them in a mail order catalogue. It’s not like it used to be—people can watch smut in their own homes, and a VCR doesn’t cost much any more.”
“Yeah, but who would do that to their own neighbours?”
“We don’t know these people. They don’t know us. What if one of them—I don’t know—had gambling debts? Or a drug habit?”
“This doesn’t seem like a street where people like that would live.”
“It doesn’t seem like a street where people would make and exchange sex tapes, either.”
“Well, that’s true.” She had a point, but he was still skeptical. Would Zsolt do something that underhanded, or Darrell? He didn’t know them well enough to be sure, but thought probably not. Or Stan? Well, maybe Stan...
“It doesn’t have to be a vast criminal enterprise or anything. Guys would bring these kinds of thing into my place all the time if I didn’t put a stop to it.”
“Really?” Lisa was an assistant manager at a company that did some kind of chemical refining—it was never clear enough to him what they did, but she had only been there a few weeks and he figured he’d figure it out eventually. But sex tapes? “Right in the office?” he asked.
“No, in the warehouse. I started locking the VCR cabinet in the training room last week. One of the girls from the line told me the crews were putting stag films on during lunch breaks.”
“Well, I don’t know for sure.” She shook her head. “Anyway, that’s not—my point is, if people make tapes like this, god only knows what will happen to them.”
“The way Darrell described it was that it was a matter of trust,” Keith said. “People who participated liked making and watching the tapes, and only people who made tapes were allowed to see everyone else’s tapes.”
“So mutually assured destruction, then.”
“In a way, I suppose.”
“It works until it doesn’t—isn’t that what you’re always saying about Reagan?”
“Yeah—I mean it’s basically true.”
She stopped stood up, took a step back—her jaw hanging open, her eyes wide.
She remained there, suspended in mid-sentence, mid-though.
“What is it?” he asked, not meaning it angrily, but the words went harsh and strained as they passed through his throat.
He got up, but she put up her arms to keep him away. “Don’t—”
“There’s more to this,” she accused. Her eyes were flaring now.
“What—no. I’ve told you the whole story. Look—”
“Don’t you come near me!” she shrieked, stunning Keith and making him stop.
She took several panting breaths. “You—you—”
Keith tried. “Honey, listen—”
“No,” she said. Keith had seen her like this before only once or twice, on the verge of hysteria, and it scared him.
It took her a while, and a number of heaving breaths, to get it out. “If—if—you have to be part of—of—” She pointed to the Kleenex box on the coffee table, and he pulled out two and handed them to her.
She blew her nose, wiped her eyes. Her face was a mess already, red and puffy and damp with tears.
“Why are they giving you tapes, then?” she demanded in a sudden moment of clarity.
The idea of telling her flitted through his mind for the briefest instant, then was gone.
“The first one was left here by mistake,” Keith said. “It was apparently—”
“This one.” Lisa pointed to the TV. “You said there were others. Why are we suddenly getting these? What did you do?”
“They—well, Darrell—they want us to join.”
“This... circle, I guess.”
She was stone-faced. “And you’re not in any of these tapes.”
Keith laughed. “What? No, of course not.”
“No!” He grabbed her hands, laughing again. “Is this—no, no, I’d never do that.”
She was crying again. “This isn’t funny.”
“No, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to laugh. I just didn’t expect—”
“It’s just that you keep disappearing these days, and come back and say you were just hanging out by the pool or something and I never know—”
“I’m not sleeping around with the neighbours.”
“You have to admit—”
Not this again. “It’s nothing like that. But I wanted to know why my neighbour’s sex tape was in our backyard, so I talked to Darrell and got the whole story.”
“And Zsolt? You left with him the other week—”
“He actually wanted to give me a couple of his tapes, too. He wanted us to join as well.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, reaching out and clasping him tightly in her arms.
She held on for a while, sighing into his shoulder.
“I don’t know why they want us to be a part of all this,” she said after a while, her voice muffled in Keith’s damp shirt.
She lifted her head. “Yes, really. Why?”
He smiled down at her. He loved looking at her like this, her peering up at him through her eyelashes.
“What. Tell me.” She shook him a little, for emphasis.
It was a risk. Worth a try, he decided.
“I think they want to see you,” he said.
She thumped him with her hands. “No.”
“Of course they do.”
“But—no. I’m too fat, too—”
“Nonsense. You’re beautiful.”
“And you’ve got an amazing rack.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on.”
“What? You’re beautiful.”
“Enough.” She put her head back on his shoulder.
“It’s not just me who thinks so.”
She didn’t say anything, just leaned on him.
“Did they—” she started, in a small voice, then stopped.
Keith waited. “Did they...” he prompted.
“Never mind,” she said quickly.
“You want to know if they actually said that?”
“No, no, no—” She was much louder now.
“Yes, they did,” he said.
“Really?” The small voice again.
“Both Darrell and Zsolt said so, when they said they wanted us to join in.”
“What did they say?”
Keith thought about it, choosing the words carefully.
“Both of them said that they would like to see us together,” he said, to start.
“Well—really? I mean, they’ve both put themselves out there, too. And their own wives.”
“I think that makes it even more true.”
Keith laughed. “That’s fair.”
“Well... Darrell said he thought you were pretty. And Zsolt...” How to put this judiciously?
“Go on,” she prodded. “I can’t wait to hear this.”
Well, she asked for it. “He said you looked like you’d be a lot of fun in bed.”
“And you said?”
The whole conversation had been a minefield up to this point; now Keith felt the click under his foot, the spring giving way, the fuse about to be primed.
“I said he wouldn’t believe what he was missing.”
She looked away, biting her lip. Keith glanced down. Her nipples were standing up, straining through her cotton t-shirt.
Without a word, she sat down, reached over and picked up the VCR remote control and restarted the tape. Stan and Marie were back, bouncing in rhythm. She watched it for a while, critically, studiously. Keith slowly sank down to the couch as well, keeping his eyes on her, glancing at the screen only when an unexpected sound came from Marie, drawing his attention involuntarily.
Finally, Lisa sat back, uncrossing her legs and letting her arms fall to her sides. One hand landed on Keith’s knee, and he gladly left it there.
“I guess it’s the taboo angle,” she said after a while.
“Why people do—that. The idea of people watching.”
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
“It’s like—have you ever had sex while someone else was in the room?”
“What, like an orgy? No, of—”
“No, I mean—” She hesitated, then sighed. “There was this one time at university. I was in bed with my boyfriend late one night, and his roommate came in. We pretended to be asleep, and he was pretty drunk or stoned or something, so he passed out in about a minute, without saying a word.
“But the two of us were both really in the mood, and once we realized we weren’t going to wake him up, we started again. And it was so, so hot, just knowing that if he turned his head, he’d get a real eyeful.”
“Did he wake up?” The story was unusually exciting—Lisa rarely said anything about her lovers before Keith, and had never given him any details about the sex she’d had.
“I doubt he would’ve remembered anything anyway. He was really drunk. It was like high school again, trying to get laid without your parents hearing you.”
Keith had been a virgin until university—well into university—but he didn’t want to interrupt her.
“After a while, it became a game, not to see how quiet we could be, but how much noise we could make and not wake him up. It was mind-blowing. Probably the best sex of my life.” Her eyes were half-closed, fixed on the long past memory. “Up to that point.”
He appreciated that she added that last bit. He had always shied away from learning too much about her sex life before they had gotten together. He knew she was a lot more experienced than he was, and when they had started dating, she was the aggressive one. Somehow the sexual revolution they were all talking about when he started high school had passed him by, but not Lisa.
“Okay, I’ll be honest,” Lisa said, snapping him out of his thoughts. “The idea of making a tape is getting me really, really hot.”
He looked at her. She was watching the screen, but her hand slid from his knee to his thigh, and then to the inside of his thigh.
“We do have a camera,” Keith said, unable to make his voice louder than a whisper. She looked at him, not saying anything for a while.
“Where is it?” she asked at last.
“Upstairs,” he said. “Do you want me to go get it?”
She smiled, one eyebrow cocked. “Were you—was this all a plan?”
“To get me to make a tape with you. Did you put the camera in the bedroom to try to get me to—”
“Oh, no,” he said. “Not at all. I didn’t think you’d want to.”
“Were you ever going to ask? You could’ve just asked, you know.” She threw her leg over him and was suddenly straddling him. her elbows resting on his shoulders. “I might’ve said yes.”
“I thought you’d be mad if I even suggested it.”
“Silly.” She leaned into him, squeezing his hips with her thighs. “You should just ask about that kind of thing. We’ve got to be honest with each other.”
His heart beat furiously. He started, stopped, started again. “Honest,” he said.
Over the cliff. “Last time we had sex, I left the camera on the chest of drawers and taped us.
She leaned back and looked at him closely. “Really?”
It was impossible to tell whether she was angry or not. “Yes.”
Her body pressed closer, and her hips moved slowly, gently, up and down. She leaned in and whispered in his ear.
“I want to see that tape.”
He was too slow. He hadn’t expected to admit to taping them. A few excuses flitted through his mind—he had erased it, thrown it away, destroyed it. But before he could select one, she put it together.
She leaned back again, a horrified look on her face.
“You didn’t,” she said.
He didn’t reply, and she hit him, hard, right across the face.