Chapter VII


“It’s good you remember my name. That’s a start.”

Only he could affect such commanding airs while dressed as he presently is. In Mewsy’s best leatherette armchair he sits in his fullness — not nude, in the true sense, since one of her scented kerchiefs is draped over top of his staggering masculine trait. The effect is of clouds which, obscuring the peak of a mountain, enhance its majesty. Mewsy falters and drops to a footstool.

“So, you’ve come,” she says softly. She’s tearing her eyes from his Power, but they shirk from his smouldering gaze.

“Not for months,” he says, fixing her all the more steelily. “Not while I wait on my woman’s caprice.”

“You’re a no-account cad, and you’ve not been invited.”

She stands up to rummage a cig from her hold-all, which lies half-unzipped on the portable bar.

“Sit back down,” Tybalt orders her smoothly. She wheels on him, clutching a Slim and a matchbook, and pauses for only a moment before she obeys.

“No,” says Tybalt, “Not there. Come sit here.” He gestures to one of his massive spread thighs.

Across from him Mewsy Fran Stone meets his eye. She tears off a match, which she lights between two polished nails. She rises — quite steadily, given the circumstance. Holding the flame between finger and thumb, she advances and drops it between Tybalt’s legs where it sizzles a scar in her best leatherette and expires.

Mewsy sits where she’s told, and says, “Whoops.”

“I’d kill for a cigarette,” Tybalt says quietly.

“Down to my last,” Mewsy says. She lights it and takes a long draw before handing it over. He pulls her in tight. Her backless chemise leaves a tender expanse unprotected, which thrills to the hair of his chest.

Caught in a cage of hot beef, Mewsy heaves and then softens. Matter-of-factly she whispers, “Well, take me, then, Tybalt, if that’s what you’ve come for, just take me and get it done.”

“Mewsy,” he growls in her ear — and the heat of his breath makes her quiver — “You’ll want to be nice to your man just this once.”

“Do go on!” she says lightly, “Explain to me all about what I want. Ah — the masterful Mr. Onan-Stahl. So thorough. So roundly informed.”

He moves her hand back, to his fiercely distended Excitement. Her fingertips flutter: a butterfly perched on the trunk of an oak.

“You want to rekindle your early acquaintance. You want to give in and be handled. You want to slide down the volcano, and swallow it whole.”

Mewsy shudders and barely restrains a cry. That pumpjack — how deeply it knows her.

“I’m not coming back to Triolay,” she says hoarsely.

Tybalt traces her collarbone and closes his golden paw around her throat. “You needn’t,” he says. “Triolay has come to you.” He stubs out the Slim on the lip of her gilt bronze spittoon.

“Don’t ruin my teddy,” she simpers, “Be gentle.”