Katrina Monroe's The Rack
I had the table specially made. Dark cherry wood with iron fixtures. I call it The Rack, and it sits at the center of the library at DCP Headquarters. I doubt the others know about the room, considering the dust on the shelves. I don’t mind. It’ll be our little secret.
My latest vic—er—subject on The Rack is a tall woman with legs for days. Even with the extra length, her feet dangle over the side of the table. I’ve taken her shoes off for comfort. I’m not a monster, after all.
Her wrists and ankles are bound at the corners with black, nylon rope. My cabinet of curiosities stands open beside me, a collection of whips and paddles and a few shiny sharp things I keep around for special occasions.
It’s not often I get a woman on my table—I’d say that’s pretty damn special.
The woman—a writer by the name of Renee Miller—sighs. She struggles half-heartedly against her bonds and I can tell she’s anxious to begin.
I slip on a vampire glove—covered in tiny spikes—and grip her forearm. She winces.
“A little birdie tells me you’re a writer,” I say. “Why?”
She yanks hard with her right hand and the knot at her wrist loosens. “I don’t think this strappy thing is tight enough. Look. I can almost slip my wrist right—oh, there you go. Why am I a writer? I can’t draw. I suck at housewife-type shit. Wasn’t born into royalty or even a bit of wealth, so I thought, fuck it. Why not be a writer?”
I get the feeling she’s not being totally honest with me and turn the crank on the rack, stretching her arms and legs.
“Hey, that smarts a bit. Fine. I love to entertain myself and I find it amusing to entertain others. Writing lets me do both. So there you have it.”
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Renee rolls her eyes.
I turn the crank again and continue with my questioning. “We all have hastily-written spank fests we call first novels. Of your cast-off bastards, which is your favorite?”
Her eyes sparkle. “The porn is my favorite. I love me some porn. But you know that.” She winks.
Another two cranks and her elbows are tucked tight against her ears. I resist the urge to stick something up her nose.
“Least favorite?” I ask.
“A little piece of nasty I like to call “Happiness Hills.” It’s my least favorite because it’s terrible. On the other hand, I often feel the most fondness for it, because it was the first, and the worst, and it reminds me I’ll never be that bad at this again.”
If I know anything about writers, it’s that there is no greater torture than waving about their terrible beginning work. “Can I read it?”
“You already did. Seriously, you need to lay off the booze. Do you even know what day it is?”
Smart-ass. I drag the palm of my glove along the inside of her arm.
“Ouch! No need to draw blood.”
“I feel like you’re not listening to me.”
I tear off the glove and throw it into the cabinet. This isn’t the first time I’ve underestimated Renee’s tolerance for pain.
I snatch a pair of ball-peen hammers from the cabinet and climb on the table. Straddling her waist, I hover the hammers over her reddening wrists. “Let's say tomorrow I break your hands. Calm down, it's only a hypothetical. You can't write anymore. And don't get cheeky with the voice recognition software or writing with your tongue or whatever. This is my hypothetical, goddammit. What would you do instead?”
Is that sweat on her forehead? I smile.
“Since you broke my hands, my second choice is out. I guess I’d work on winning Netflix. When my hands heal, as you’ve only broken them, not cut them off, I will write again.”
I knew I should’ve grabbed the machete. It always yields better results. Live and learn and such.
She’s got a hard shell, this writer. Violence won’t crack her surface. I climb off the table and position myself at the crank. No. For Renee, I’ll have to go old school. I turn the crank twice and giggle at the pop from her shoulder.
Renee is quiet, but she won’t be for long. I’ll pull her ends like a Christmas Cracker.
I continue the interrogation. “Guilty pleasures. I've got 'em. The Pope's got 'em. The higher ups at the DCP headquarters have 'em--Susan, I'm looking at you, you naughty little minx. A writer's guilty pleasures sometimes include reading (and enjoying) trashy, awful fiction. What's the last piece of crap novel you read and didn't hate?”
Renee’s gaze flicks around the room. Silly girl thought we were alone, but I never work without an audience. The camera’s blinking red light is like a demon’s eye.
The corner of her mouth twitches. “Sacrificial Lamb Cake.” She cackles. “You didn’t see that coming, eh?”
At the mention of my latest novel, I lunge for her throat.
“What’s that? I was joking. Come on. No—Katrina!”
Her throat constricts and a satisfying gurgle comes from her mouth. With my pulse hammering in my ears, I tear myself away.
“Bad form, getting personal like that,” I say.
She swallows a few times before responding. “I don’t remember. I was just reading Charlaine Harris’s latest, because I loved the Sookie Stackhouse novels, even though I know I shouldn’t love them. However, I never finished it, because Eric Northman wasn’t in it, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care without Eric.”
Another two cranks and Renee groans. She still hasn’t given me what I need. I eye the fireplace. I left the poker in the flames earlier—a happy accident, or my subconscious at work.
I retrieve the iron poker and use it as a cane as I cross the room. “What do you think the worst part of being a writer is? The best?”
“I’m not answering until you put that hot poker away.”
I shrug and lean it gently against the crank. The end glows against the metal workings.
“Okay, worst part about being a writer: Editing. I hate it. If I could just write the perfect novel in one pass, that’d be awesome. Best part is that it allows me to spend far more time inside my head than is probably healthy and I get to share that with strangers when I’m done.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
“Is there a scene or character in any of your books you wish you could change?”
“All of the endings. I’m terrible at them. Each book I write has a bazillion endings and I’m never sure I chose the right one.”
I smile. I have done the impossible—gotten Renee Miller to admit fault. And they said The Rack was useless.
Renee’s elbows and knees quiver. Her fingertips are a delightful shade of purple and her cheeks are red and splotchy. She can hold in the scream all she wants—that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for answers, and I’ve gotten them.
I do have one more question, though. Just for fun.
I tuck a strand of hair, damp with sweat, behind her ear. “E.L. James asks you to ghost-write her next abortion of a novel for an obscene amount of money. Do you accept or tell her where to shove it?”
Her mouth is dry. “I’ll take her money. Obscene is my middle name, after all.”
I shake my head. So disappointing. I throw the crank one final time.
“Ouch! Okay, it’s Annette. Don’t tell anyone.”
Renee ANNETTE Miller lives in Tweed, Ontario. She's a control freak who writes in multiple genres due to her total lack of self-control. Miller frequently indulges an addiction to cake (all the baked things, really) and potato chips, and has inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.
If you or someone you know needs The Rack treatment, email Katrina at authorlady22(at)gmail(dot)com. She promises to be gentle. Kind of.