Katrina Monroe's The Rack
There’s something about old German music that really puts me in the mood. It blasts through the library—all that clarinet with its minor notes and OOM-pa OOM-pa tuba—and I can’t help but dance a little jig.
Quiet little Elizabeth Corrigan is on the Rack today, her arms and legs already tied. She’s in for a special treat and she doesn’t even know it.
I love surprises.
Bunny stands behind the wheel, readying it for the first spin since my…funk. But I wave her away. “Not today, dear.”
“Don’t argue.” I withdraw an ornately carved box from beneath the table. The lock is broken—I got it for a bargain—but the contents inside more than make up for the outside’s faults. “Remember how I said I needed a hobby?”
I open the box and reveal a hundred or so acupuncturist’s needles. Some are rusted and others are bent, but for what I have planned, they’ll do nicely.
I set the box on the table next to Miss Corrigan’s face. Her eyes dart between me and the box. I stroke her cheek, brushing away any stray hair. “Shall we begin?” I ask.
“First and foremost,” I stroke her forehead with one of the needles, leaving white streaks in her skin. “Are you a natural ginger?”
Just above the eyebrow, I dig the needle in and twist.
“—Ow! Hey, no need to torture for that one! I'm not vain! Nope, not a natural ginger at all. My hair is naturally brown. I was dying it red for a while, but not anymore. I've got this ombre thing going on where it's grown out, and it kind of works. Ow, ow, ow! So you disagree! That's okay! No need to.... AH!”
A shiver of pleasure snakes down my spine.
I withdraw two needles and hover them just above Miss Corrigan’s eyes. Her pupils shrink and sweat beads on her forehead. “There are few book ideas I'm jealous that I didn't come up with. Oracle of Philadelphia is one of them. What was your inspiration for the novel?”
She cringes. “Okay, this one is a little embarrassing. Owwwwww. Okay, okay, I'll tell you! I was obsessed with Supernatural back in the day. Yes, yes, I know it's still on. I stopped watching after season 5.”
I jab the needles in and out of the corners of her eyes.
“Ow, stop! That was the way it was supposed to end! Anyway, after season 2, I spent the summer months trying to figure out what Dean would do to get his soul back, and I came up with the idea of an oracle in a crappy diner. My story bears little to no resemblance to Supernatural, but the reason it takes place in a crappy diner is that, in Supernatural, the world's most powerful oracle would totally work at a crappy diner.”
Pushing past the resistance of dull tips, I stab three more needles around her nostrils.
Her jaw falls open in a silent scream. “I assume that is for the lame cause.”
I grin. “You assume correctly.” I turn to Bunny. “The clothespins, please.”
Bunny hops over carrying a grocery bag filled with clothespins in various stages of ware. A few are stained red (hand to God, I have no idea what from), but they work just fine.
I roll up Miss Corrigan’s sleeves, relishing the flinch of her muscles. “Is Urban Fantasy your first love?”
She tries to pull away, eyes glued to the bag. “OMG, that's like asking me to say my age. Okay, okay! You've got me! Urban fantasy didn't really exist as a genre until I was in college, when Laurell K. Hamilton started writing the Anita Blake series.”
I snap one of the clothespins once to test it and then pull the skin closest to her armpit, latching the pin.
“Ow, ow, ow, don't judge me! They weren't porn at first! I did love the genre as soon as I started reading it, and I immediately wanted to write a "supernatural detective story," though that didn't come to pass til my book "Catching a Man." But my first love was... Okay, I'll admit it! YA! And I still love YA!”
“Dirty, dirty,” I mutter as I latch another pin next to the first.
Tears trickle down the sides of her face.
The skin around the clothespins purples. I consider placing a third, but instead reach for a needle. “Who’s your favorite author? How do they inspire your work?”
“Favorite author? That is tough. I like so many authors. In the last couple of years I listened to Simon R. Green's Nightside series and remembered that a lot of what was in there influenced my attitudes on angels and demons.”
I plunge the needle into the purpling skin.
“Owwwwww! Okay, I deserved that. My answer was half-assed. Sorry I don't have a better one.”
“You’ll learn,” Bunny says.
Miss Corrigan lifts her head to look at Bunny, but I shove it back down. Her legs tug at the bonds as I withdraw another clothespin. “Stop kicking. It only makes this harder. Did you have any characters make your life hell while writing Oracle of Philadelphia?”
Her body stills. “I don't WANT this to be easy for you, and now you've given me a way to make it harder! Bwahaha! But to answer your question and forestall the pain, Gabriel gives me the hardest time. I created him as the perfect boy, but when I started writing him, I found I didn't understand him at all. Except that I'm pretty sure he's not perfect.”
I snap my fingers. “Bunny, dear? I’m thirsty.”
Quick as a, well, you know, she delivers a glass of blood-red wine. I lift the glass to Miss Corrigan and sip. “Why Philadelphia? Why not Oracle of Miami Beach? There's better booze there.”
She shifts on the table and flinches when the clothespins yank on her skin. “It's a play on "Oracle of Delphi."”
Unable to stop myself, I grab the clothespins.
“Ow, stop twisting! That's not that lame. Plus, I've been to Philadelphia. Never been to Miami Beach. Don't actually like booze. If it helps, Carrie goes to the beach in book 2.”
“Well I was going to offer you a sip, but…” I drain the rest of the glass—delicious—and hand it to Bunny. “Do you have any hidden talents?”
“Hidden from whom? I try not to let the people at work know that I'm a good organizer for fear they'll make me do organizey work. I also sing decently.”
Refreshed from the wine, I pinch the soft skin beneath Miss Corrigan’s arm and clip a clothespin to it. She yelps, so I attach another. And another.
With all this writhing, it’s near impossible to twist a needle between the pins, but I’m a professional, dammit.
“What's the worst book you've ever read?” I ask. “Don't be afraid. We're all friends here.”
She chokes out her answer between small sobs. “Oh, God. Oh... So, I used to review self-published books. And I am not dissing indie authors, because a lot of the books I read were REALLY GOOD. But some of them were REALLY BAD. I think the worst one I read was called "Neiko's Five Land Adventure," but there was also one called "The Four Elements," that I wanted to make any sense at all. Go ahead and twist. Nothing you can do here is worse than the pain of remembering those books.”
I check to make sure all of my well-placed clothespins are secured before positioning myself behind the wheel. Half a rotation is enough to pull her arms up—she bites back a scream—and her skin around the pins becomes angry and swollen.
“Is there more in store for Carrie?” I ask.
Miss Corrigan’s face pales as one of the pins falls away, taking a bit of skin with it. “Of course. Owww, stop. I'm not lying. It's just... Carrie's going to take a back seat in the next couple of books, which will be narrated by Bedlam, Gabriel, and Michael.”
“Shame.” I spin the wheel and her ankles crack.
“Wait, what? Owwwwwww. You may not think you want to hear more from Michael, but you do. I promise you that you do.”
I yank the wheel, hard. “What are you working on now?”
“Hm. That actually popped a kink in my back. What do you know? This session may end up helpful in the long run. Progress on Earthbound Angels Book 3 is going veeeeery slowly, but I hope fans will see it someday.”
I frown. “Well, dear, let’s see if I can motivate you.”
She shakes her head and mutters a silent plea. My frown lifts. Slightly.
“Scream for me.”
I throw the wheel; pins pop from her arms and the needles in her face quiver as she lets loose a scream to rival the clarinets in my music.
I grab Bunny and dance through the library to my new favorite tune.
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