THE MEETING


BACKGROUND

On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Madeleine witnesses the accidental death of her mother.  Left without family
or friends, she goes in search of her father.  All she knows is his first name, that he works in a circus and that there
is something special about him.  She also carries with her a locket containing a blurred photograph of him.

Madeleine follows clues through the labyrinthine underworlds of her home city, Paris, and on to London.  As she
progresses, she discovers the special world her mother had alluded to.  It is a secret, night time world of blood
drinkers and donors. Madeleine also hears about the Paracletus, a select group of helpers who straddle the gulf
between the universe of the blood drinking Peregrini and the mundane world.  One in particular, Horse, might be able
to help her find her father.

She has heard that Horse works at the Seventh Circle, a members club in South London.  As we join her, Madeleine
has infiltrated the club and has made her way down to the basement.  Reaching the foot of the stairs, she finds
herself at the entrance to a dark corridor.

Madeleine could hear someone in the room at the end of the long, blue corridor.  It was a man’s voice.  He seemed to
be delivering orders in a voice that was low and compelling.  Madeleine started towards it.  She had gone only four
steps when she heard a cry.  The voice of another man, muffled and indistinct, but certainly a cry.  Of pain?  Of
surprise?  Of something else?  It wasn't clear.  Madeleine stopped.  She was breathing fast and she could feel her
heart rattling against her ribs. 

She again heard the first voice low, calm and authoritative, almost reassuring.  Maybe there wasn't really any danger.

Madeleine unstuck her legs and started again towards the room at the end of the corridor.  She was taut and alert,
every sense straining to detect any small sign of danger that would tell her to get the fuck out of there.  Fast.  She
walked with small, careful steps, not daring to make a sound.   The corridor seemed to go on and on.

As she finally reached the door she could see that it was slightly open.  Through the crack a soft, yellow light seeped. 
It danced and flickered.  She caught the familiar, herbal smell of marijuana, mixed with something sweet and exotic. 
Incense.  She could hear the mesmeric drone of new age music, both alien and soothing.  The music of the spheres or
the lullaby that an unborn baby might imagine as he floats, weightless, in the soft, dark cave of his mother’s body. 
She could also hear another sound.  An insistent buzz punctuated by sharp crackles.  It was a clinical, impersonal
sound that reminded Madeleine of a dentist’s drill.  It did nothing to settle her.  Slowly, carefully and holding her
breath, she brought herself up to the crack in the door.  She looked inside.

The room was lit by constellations of candles.  The walls were painted glossy black and the light glided off its slick
surface and cast eerie shadows in the corners.  At the far end of the room were two figures.  The one nearest had his
back turned to her.  It was a solid back, broad-shouldered and muscular, and he was dressed entirely in black; a black
leather biker’s jacket, black leather jeans and a black leather kilt.  Against the smooth, oily surface of the leather
shone bright points of silver; gleaming buckles, zips and studs.  He was a monolith of leather and steel.  His hair was
cut into a Mohican of snaking, bleached blond dreadlocks and in his hands he held two implements.  One of these
implements was a bright bunch of silver tinsel, gaudy and festive, like a cheerleader’s pom-pom.  It sparkled merrily in
the candlelight.  In his other hand, he held a glass tube, about eight inches long and attached by a long black cable to
a box.  The implement gave off a soft, violet glow.  And it buzzed.

The blond monolith ought to have looked sinister.  Threatening.  Instead, there was something about his calm
authority, his quiet implacability that made Madeleine feel safe.  Whatever mysterious piece of work he was involved in,
it was important and it was for the best.

Standing in front of this man and facing him was another.  He was as dark as the first was fair.  He was half in shadow
and Madeleine struggled to make him out.  He had long, black hair, parted in the middle with straggling wisps curving
across his forehead.  He was bare-chested and his skin was a translucent, milky white and basted with sweat.  The
yellow light glinted off steel nipple rings and the intricate tattoos on his arms appeared to writhe in the semi-darkness. 
His face was upturned and his eyes were shut.  It was the most compelling face Madeleine had ever seen.  His high,
sharp cheekbones, long, straight nose and curled, full lips gave him the look of someone at once aristocratic and feral,
male and female, boyish and deadly dangerous.  She had seen this face somewhere before.

The man was spread-eagled.  His arms were raised and his wrists secured by leather cuffs to an X-shaped scaffolding. 
His legs were spread with his ankles similarly bound.  Across the lower half of his face he wore a black leather bridle.  It
held a red ball that filled his mouth.  His teeth were clenched tightly around the gag and his eyes were shut.  By the
heaving of his chest, he appeared to be panting.

As Madeleine watched, the blond man spoke again in his low voice.  He spoke too quietly for Madeleine to be able to
make out the words but, from the intonation, it appeared to be a question.  The dark man sucked in a breath around
his gag and let out a long, low moan.  He slowly tilted head back.  Apparently the answer was "yes".  The blond man
lifted the bundle of tinsel slowly, holding it where the dark man could see it.  The dark man watched through dreamy,
half-closed eyes, breathing hard.  His hands clutched the chains that held him and his back was arched against the
scaffold, his body taut.  Blondie began to stroke the tails of tinsel slowly across the belly of the restrained man.  To
and fro.  Back and forth.  For each stroke, there was a sizzling crackle of discharged electricity and, for each crackle,
the man on the cross moaned and writhed.

Madeleine wasn’t born yesterday.  She knew the score.  Although she didn’t recognise the implement that Blondie was
using, she knew that what she was watching was two poofs getting their jollies with some pervy BDSM crap.  So why
didn’t she leave them to it?  She wasn’t disgusted or shocked.  Her life with her mother had long since taught her not
to judge the foibles of others.  She just had no use for it.

But she couldn’t take her eye away from the crack in the door.  Watching this scene, she was again struck by the
combined vulnerability and power of the restrained man.  Bound and helpless as he seemed, he looked as though he
were playing a game.  If Blondie were to put a foot wrong, she believed that she would see the dark man burst the
restraints and tear him to pieces.  It was like watching a lion tamer put his head inside the steaming jaws of the beast. 
You are compelled to watch in the dread expectation that something truly awful could happen.  Something that both
participants accepted could happen but that neither wanted.  It would be the betrayal of a special trust that exists
between a beast and its master.  She could not look away.

Blondie continued to stroke the implement across the body of the restrained man.  He kept talking but now it had
become a languorous sing-song exchange.  A question posed by Blondie and a response grunted by the dark man.  As
it continued, the exchange became louder and more urgent until Madeleine could make out the words. 

“Is that what you want?”

“Uhh!"

“Is that really what you want me to do?”

“Uh Uhh!”

"Is THAT what you want?”

On this last question, the blond man slowly raised the glass wand, making sure it could be seen.  He brought the wand
slowly forwards and drew its tip across the exposed right nipple of his captive.  An arc of purple light burst down the
wand with a clean “crack!”.  The restrained man cried out and bucked, arching his body and throwing his head back. 
His face was transfigured into an expression of transcendent agony; lips pulled back and mouth open, eyes glazed and
unseeing.  Then Madeleine saw his teeth.  Against the black leather of the gag, she could see his canine teeth; long,
white and sharp.  He was Peregrini.

Involuntarily, Madeleine let out a gasp and stepped back from the door.  The noise she had made was small but, in that
close, intense space, it was loud enough.
The blond man turned to face her. At the same time he moved his body between her and the man on the cross, as
though to protect him.  He stared at her and she was caught in the glare of his scrutiny.  His face was calm and
intense.  His light blue eyes piercing.  He stood silently, waiting for her to explain herself.  Madeleine knew she had to
speak.  She opened the door a little further.

“I’m…I’m sorry.  I was just…”  She felt as though this man could see through to all her small, secret places.  It would
be pointless to lie to him.  And it would be an insult.  In a way that she had not experienced before she trusted this
intense, leather-clad man with the electrode in his hand.  She fell silent and waited on her fate.

Behind Blondie, Madeleine could see that the restrained man had lifted his head and was lazily watching her.  He didn’t
appeared to be surprised or even particularly interested.  He was just waiting for her to go.  But Madeleine stared. 
Those pale hazel eyes with the tiny flicks of green, framed by long black lashes.  So piercing and intense.  That hair. 
That look of defiance.  So familiar.  So like herself.  There was no mistaking him.

As though moving in a dream, Madeleine pushed the door open.  Taking a deep breath she tossed back her glossy,
black hair (so like his) and stepped into the room.

“Hello Dad!” she said.
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