Toronto Pearson International Airport
Jane Rizzoli, Maura Isles,
and Susie Chang were cooling their heels in a boring,
modern-style interview room just off Immigration Processing in
the airport's international terminal, and had been for several
minutes... going on half an hour. Their only company was a
female Immigration Service officer. She was in uniform, in
her late twenties or early thirties, with brown hair and eyes
and was by no means unpleasant looking. She had been
courteous and professional the entire time, but the three
Americans had no doubt whatsoever that would change in an
instant if they did anything but sit compliantly in their
"Look," Jane said, finally, "don't you at least have to tell us
why you pulled us out of line?" It was a stupid question,
of course. As an experienced Boston P.D. Homicide
detective, she'd used the interrogative technique of letting the
subject stew many times herself, but enough time had passed that
her protest might get the ball rolling.
Both Maura (Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts), and Susie (Senior Criminalist at the Boston P.D.
Crime Lab) turned and stared at Jane with wide eyes, visibly
Jane just managed to not roll her eyes in response. Smooth,
Maura, she though. Way to go, Susie. No
way we look suspicious. Their Canadian watchdog
might have been stifling a smile, but it was difficult to be
sure. She had an excellent poker face.
Just then—Right on cue, Jane mused—the door opened and a
thirty-something woman in a smart business suit with a file
folder in one hand entered the room. Her thin, straight
blond hair was cut short, pixie-style, and her girlish face was
quite attractive. A badge was clipped to her jacket
pocket, and Jane realized the newcomer was a fellow cop.
The blond nodded and the IS officer left, closing the door
The pixie smiled—and she had a nice smile—and extended
her hand to Maura. "Dr. Isles." She shook with
Jane. "Detective Rizzoli." And finally with
Susie. "Ms. Chang. Welcome to Canada. I'm
Detective Constable Ainsley Elwood of the Ontario Provincial
"Thanks," Jane huffed. She wasn't smiling. "Why are
Ainsley smiled. "In Canada? I believe you told
Immigration you were on vacation."
"Why are we in this room," Jane muttered.
"Jane," Maura whispered, "be nice." She then focused her
best mega-watt smile on Detective Elwood. "We're going to
the Moon River Colony in the Muskokas District. Have you
heard of it?"
"Yes," Ainsley nodded, "a lovely place, completely within the
borders of the Wahta Mohawk Territory." She opened the
folder and began perusing its contents. "And, as I've been
reminded by my superiors, it's an excellent source of jobs and
revenue for the area."
"Territory. That's like a reservation, right?" Jane
"Similar," Ainsley nodded, "and it's politically sensitive for
the OPP to do anything within the Territory other than routine,
community-based law enforcement." She closed the
folder. "As for American police nosing around the
"We're on vacation," Maura said brightly, which Susie confirmed
with enthusiastic nods and an equally bright smile.
Jane and Ainsley shared a knowing glance. Maura and her
subordinate weren't exactly being subtle. Jane struggled
to control the smile quivering on her lips, and Ainsley was
smiling back, particularly with her eyes. She might have
just met the Canadian cop, but she seemed competent and
friendly, despite the current interrogation setting.
"And speaking of political sensitivity," Ainsley continued, "it
would appear certain prominent Bostonians, including a judge and
a City Councilman, have contacted certain prominent Torontonians
and revealed the true nature of your 'vacation' in Canada."
Maura and Susie exchanged a horrified look, then refocused on
Ainsley. They were still smiling, but their smiles were
now visibly forced.
"We don't know what you're talking about," Maura stated, and
again, Susie supported her mentor and boss with enthusiastic
"Smooth, Maura," Jane huffed, then smiled a genuine smile at
Ainsley. "Okay, you got us. How much do you know
about the case?"
"The 'Boston Bondage Bandit,' as the press calls her," Ainsley
replied, "has struck at least seven times in the last three
years, in and around the Boston area. She ties up her
victims in their homes—and all agree she is a she, although
she's always masked—and cleans them out."
Jane nodded. "Until recently, the only things in common
between the individual cases were that the victims were rich and
the perpetrator used the same type of rope—"
"Six-millimeter, conditioned, twisted hemp," Maura interrupted.
"We suspect from different manufacturers," Susie added, "but
it's quite difficult to trace a specific sample to its precise
"They all use the same raw materials and manufacturing methods,"
"And we believe it's conditioned after purchase," Susie
"With the same widely available commercial detergent," Maura
"Tide Original," Susie said, "with an eighty-seven percent
Jane gazed at Maura and Susie with a neutral expression for a
few seconds, then sighed and turned back to Ainsley. "Do
you have a geek problem with your crime techs?"
"The Toronto Forensics Identification Laboratory is quite
professional," Maura stated.
"They are," Susie agreed.
"In a word, yes," Ainsley said, sharing a commiserating smile
with her Boston colleague.
"Anyway," Jane sighed, "the bandit also uses what consultants
tell us are Japanese bondage techniques. Apparently, some
of them are into that sort of thing, supposedly as art."
"The practice is called Kinbaku," Maura interrupted
(again), "which means 'tight binding.' Also, Kinbaku-bi,
which means 'the beauty of tight binding.' The word 'Shibari'
is also used. It means—"
"Stop interrupting," Jane muttered.
"No," Maura said seriously, shaking her head, "it's a verb,
meaning 'to tie' or 'to bind,' and despite the grammatical
incongruity, Shibari is widely used as a synonym for Kinbaku
in the West, outside Japan."
Jane and Ainsley shared another commiserating smile.
"Anyway," Jane continued, "there were no real leads until the
latest robbery. Susie discovered something new, a spot of
massage oil on a length of the rope used to bind the victim."
"Jojoba oil," Susie explained. "Mainly jojoba oil,
but blended with cocoanut, almond, and rose oils, with trace
amounts of ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla. And it's
"Senior Criminalist Chang knew this because she already had a
sample of the exact same oil," Maura said.
"From the Monponsett Resort and Spa," Susie nodded, "of which
I'm a member."
"We tried for a warrant to search the spa," Jane said, "but..."
"Politics?" Ainsley suggested.
Jane nodded, "probably the same Judge and Councilman who tipped
you off that we were coming to Canada. Anyway, the oil on
the rope led us to look at other spas and resorts, and suddenly
we had a link between all seven victims. Not a strong
link, as all the victims visited different spas at different
"With no significant correlation to the timing of the respective
burglaries," Maura interrupted.
Jane favored her smiling BFF with a dark stare before
continuing. "But it was a link.
Circumstantial, but a link. And after digging further, it
turns out each of the spas have something else in
common: at some point they've all played host to a 'Shibari
Meditation Instructor' by the name of Giselle Pierce."
"Who is based out of the Moon River Colony in Muskokas," Ainsley
said. "Your information request to the OPP landed on my
desk. Giselle Pierce has no police record, none
"None in the states, either," Jane sighed, "but the coincidence
is too good. Whenever she visits a Boston area spa,
somebody gets tied up and robbed."
"I agree," Ainsley said, "too much of a coincidence. I
tried looking into it, but..."
"Politics," Jane muttered.
Ainsley nodded. "No warrant. Too many prominent
citizens enjoy the Moon River Colony's amenities. One
question: why is a Homicide detective investigating robberies?"
"Susie found the clue," Jane explained, "Robbery and Special
Cases wouldn't touch it—"
"Politics," Maura and Susie said in unison.
"So Maura, I mean Dr. Isles, asked me to help," Jane
continued. "Officially, there is no investigation and
nobody is going anywhere, but... that doesn't mean we can't take
a vacation in Canada."
"And Jane needs a vacation," Maura stated. This
elicited an eye roll from Jane and smiles from Susie and
"Well," Ainsley said, "there is absolutely no way the OPP is
going to allow a Boston police officer, the Massachusetts
Medical Examiner, and a Forensics Officer to nose around the
Moon River Colony."
"Susie is a Senior Criminalist," Maura corrected Ainsley, "not a
"Maura," Jane said, perfectly deadpan, "please shut up."
Maura looked slightly wounded, but did, indeed, shut up.
"However," Ainsley continued, "it turns out I'm also in
dire need of a vacation."
Jane saw the implicit offer. "By all means, the more the
merrier." She focused on Susie. "You set this up, so
you think you can call and make it a reservation for four?"
"No need," Ainsley said. "Already done. By the way,"
she said to Jane, then opened the file folder, once again, and
shuffled the papers. "I see you have an approved temporary
registration permit for your sidearm. I've arranged to
have the fee waived as a professional courtesy."
"Thanks," Jane said.
"However," Ainsley added, "when your luggage clears, you'll find
your handgun case has been sealed with OPP evidence tape.
If you find occasion to break that seal before leaving Canada,
I'll require a full and complete explanation of the
"We're walking on eggshells here," Ainsley explained, "political
eggshells, and we don't have a warrant. If there is cause
for an arrest, I'll make it. And if I need you to back me
up, I'll tell you."
"Well," Jane shrugged, "when you put it that way, okay."
"So," Maura said, smiling her bright, dimpled smile, "we're all
going to Moon River!"
Susie was also smiling. "Yea, this'll be fun!"
Jane was smiling, but with decidedly less enthusiasm. "You
do know that the Moon River Colony is clothing free,
right?" she asked Ainsley.
"I do," Ainsley said, the merest hint of a blush coloring her
cheeks. "I've packed light."
|SKIN IN THE GAME
Moon River Colony
Wahta Mohawk Territory
Muskoka, Ontario, Canada
The structure might be
called part Quonset hut, part Japanese tea-house, and part
Mohawk communal lodge. It was a somewhat squat,
rectangular half-cylinder, with its thick, bow-shaped, laminated
roof beams spaced several feet apart and solidly anchored to
exterior concrete footings at ground level. The interior
ceiling was quite high in the middle, about fifteen feet, and on
either side it curved down to seven-foot vertical walls covered
with wood paneling and interrupted by sliding glass doors.
The Japanese elements came from the tatami-style carpet and the
plain white soji screen panels that could slide to cover the
glass doors. The Mohawk elements came from the subtle,
stylized carvings decorating the roof beams and eight vertical
support columns evenly spaced around the large open space.
Skylights and the glass doors provided abundant light during the
day. After dark, LED spotlights provided task lighting
over the main floor and indirect fixtures cast a warm glow
across the timbers of the curved roof. It was a nice
It was also a cozy place, even in winter. The walls and
ceiling were well-insulated, there was radiant heating under the
floor, and the sliding glass doors were tight-fitting and
double-paned, with the frames foam-insulated.
The soji screens were open, and through the doors to one side,
beyond a stretch of well-manicured lawn and framed by alders and
willows, there was a pleasant view of the Moon River. To
the other side was an equally pleasant vista of climax deciduous
Inside were hints of the building's use.
Against the end walls stood cabinets decorated with Mohawk
carvings. When open, they revealed neat rows of wooden
pegs holding coils of hemp rope and cord of various lengths and
diameters, shelves with woven baskets of steel rings, large and
small, single and double pulleys, and shackle-bolts. Heavy
eye-bolts marched in neat rows across the undersides of the
Any doubts of the room's use were dispelled by the current
activity of the building's two occupants. Both were female
and blond, with shapely, feminine, athletic figures, and both
were undeniably beautiful.
One was tall, over six feet in height. Her eyes were blue,
her complexion fair, and her hair cut short in a low-maintenance
pixie. The other was shorter, but by no means short, with
brown eyes, tan skin, and long, wavy hair. Both were
naked, of course. At the Moon River Colony, guests and
staff never wore clothing. Neither woman had tan-lines,
or, in the case of the tall, pale blond, sunburn-lines.
The short blond was bound with hemp rope, and in a somewhat
unusual manner. Technically, it was a hogtie, but instead
of the traditional hands-behind-the-back, the captive's arms
were raised, then folded back behind her head, her wrists bound
together, then linked to her bound ankles. This pulled her
entire body into a stringent, arched bow, leaving her balanced
on her taut stomach with her breasts and thighs lifted off the
carpet. Additional ropes lashed her upper arms, bound her
pointing feet, and linked both her upper arms and feet to her
wrist-ankle bonds. More ropes periodically encircled her
entire body from shoulders to ankles, then traveled up to a
series of linked pulleys near the ceiling.
The tall blond began pulling on a rope. Ropes rattled and
slithered, pulleys squealed, and the bound blond lifted into the
air. The tall blond continued pulling, and the shorter
blond continued rising. Her bonds evenly supported her
weight, and despite her hogtied pose, she appeared to be
comfortable. Either that or she was maintaining a very
Finally, when the hemp-bound captive was dangling about five and
a half feet above the carpet, the tall blonde wound the rope
around one of the support columns and tied a doubled
slip-knot. She then sauntered over to stand before her
"Are you sure about this?" the tall blond asked.
"Yes, Mistress," the shorter blond responded.
"This is a difficult meditation pose, Kate," the taller blond
said. "I won't think less of you if you decided you are
not ready for this test."
"I'm ready, Zelle," Kate answered.
The tall blond smiled, then heaved a rather theatrical
sigh. "I've told you, don't call me Zelle, or Giselle, for
that matter. Don't call me anything but Mistress,
not in this room."
"Yes, Mistress," Kate answered. She was also smiling.
Giselle strolled to a cabinet and returned with a two-inch ball
of dark gray, medium-density rubber foam and a panel-gag of
brown leather, with brass hardware. "You're a very good
assistant, probably the best I've ever had."
Kate's smile widened. "I'm the only assistant
you've ever had."
"But," Kate continued, ignoring the interruption, "you have an
unfortunate habit of trying my patience." Giselle gently
pushed the ball of foam into Kate's compliant mouth, then placed
the gag's front panel over her lips, pulled the main strap back
to the nape of her neck, freed her long, tousled hair, then
tightened and secured the buckle. Next, she crossed a
thinner, secondary strap under Kate's chin, stretched the two
ends back, also to the nape of her neck, and secured its buckle
as well. The captive's raised and bound arms complicated
the process, but Giselle was a world-class expert in such
matters and overcame the challenge with ease.
The chamois-thin panel of the gag pressed against Kate's
lips. Expelling the ball filling her mouth was patently
impossible, as impossible as freeing herself from Giselle's
ropes. She watched as her tall, fair-skinned, Norse
goddess of a Mistress strolled back to the cabinet, selected one
more short coil of conditioned hemp, closed the cabinet doors,
and returned. Kate felt her Mistress carefully gather all
of her hair into a loose ponytail, loop and tighten the doubled
rope around the blond mass, fold it back on itself, then loop
and tighten the rope over the result. Her head was already
severely restricted by her upper arms and their lashings, but
when Giselle threaded the remainder of the rope through her
other bonds, pulled out the slack, and tied what she knew would
be an elegant and elaborate knot, she found she could no longer
lower her head. Wiggling her fingers and toes and batting
her eyes were all that Mistress had left her.
Giselle stepped to the front, gently cupped Kate's hanging
breasts, gave them a light squeeze, then kissed her
forehead. "Aside from your mischievous attitude, you
really are an excellent assistant, Kate," Giselle purred.
"All preparations for tomorrow's class are complete, you're
placed the required reading material in our prospective
students' assigned cottages, and you've earned your
three hours of meditation." She kissed Kates gagged lips,
then smiled. "In fact, you're such a good
assistant..." She gave Kate's breasts another squeeze and
the hanging prisoner shivered in her bonds. "I've decided
to afford you four hours."
Kate controlled her reaction, just barely. Three hours was
a significant challenge, but four hours? She
wasn't sure she could do it... not that her opinion really
mattered. Kate thought she might be ready to enter
the meditative state required to endure three hours locked in
such a challenging pose; but if it was to be four hours,
she better damn well be ready!
Kate watched Giselle stroll to a small door set between two
cabinets and in the end wall directly in front of her rather
limited field of vision. Mistress made her exit without
looking back, and Kate heard the click of the
cypher-lock engaging when the door closed.
Kate was alone... alone and helpless.
Two years earlier, during Kate's first extended endurance test
in a challenging position, Giselle had bound her in a suspended
post-tie with her wrists and ankles behind the post. A
web of ropes supported her naked body and allowed significantly
more wiggle-room that her current predicament, but it was not
a comfortable pose. Kate rolled her eyes at the
memory. I was such a wuss. Today, it would
be a piece of cake. Back then, not so much. Less
than half an hour into the test, Kate panicked, mewling through
her gag and struggling furiously against her bonds.
Mistress had appeared as if by magic, untied her, and held her
in a gentle embrace until she stopped crying and her heart rate
and breathing returned to normal. And then, Mistress
insisted that Kate repeat the test, and this time she stayed
with her the entire two hours, talking her through the
meditative exercises she'd already been taught but had
Arrogant novice that she was, Kate had assumed being in good,
limber condition would be enough, especially since Mistress was
an expert rigger and never let the ropes press against any
nerves or blood vessel with excessive force, never over-stressed
any of her joints, and always evenly distributed the pressure of
the ropes, especially during a suspension. Kate had been
wrong. The test was carefully crafted to cause distress,
distress that only meditation could defeat. Only by
entering the required trance would Kate be able to relax into
the cradle of her Mistress' ropes. Only meditation would
let her drift effortlessly in what, for the uninitiated, would
be a cruel web of torturous restraint.
I was such a fool, Kate thought, but not now.
Kate closed her eyes and cleared her mind. Best to find
the required calm as soon as possible. If she continued
wasting time basking in the memories of challenges past, the
ropes would assert their authority, making finding the required
calm to begin meditating all that much more difficult.
Kate knew she'd survive the four hours, regardless. She
knew that Mistress' ropes were precisely placed and expertly
tightened so as not to do her harm. But if she didn't
enter the required trance state, when Mistress returned and
released her, she'd be stiff, sore, and exhausted. If she
did succeed, when the ropes were peeled away she'd be covered
with rope-marks, but be no more spent than from an hour of
Unseen by Kate, thanks to the severely restricted field of
vision imposed by her stringent bonds and immovable pose,
Giselle emerged from the forest and settled to the grass in a
semi-lotus. She was on the side of the building away from
the river, and had with her a book, a thermos, and a stopwatch
on a lanyard around her neck. Giselle poured herself a cup
of tea, took a sip, and settled in to wait for the conclusion of
Kate's test. She had a perfect view of her assistant's
dangling silhouette through the glass door. She'd
purposely left the soji screens open on both sides, so she could
both keep watch over Kate and enjoy the vista of the river
|SKIN IN THE GAME
Trans Canada Highway
Ontario Highway 400
Near Port Severn
Ainsley was driving the
rented SUV and Jane was riding shotgun. Maura and Susie
were in the backseat, and much to Jane's annoyance, they were
"Moon River, wider than a mile,
Jane rolled her eyes and focused on Ainsley. "Please...
I'm crossing you in style some day."
Ainsley smiled, but her eyes were on the road. "My weapon
is in my luggage, like yours. Besides, the rental company
would complain about blood-splatter. And just imagine
"I'd be beyond caring about paperwork," Jane countered.
"Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
"Actually," Ainsley chuckled, "they're getting pretty good."
wherever you're going I'm going your way."
"Seventh time's the charm," Jane muttered. "Maybe we can
find earplugs at a truck stop." Jane had already tried
telling the backseat chorus to shut up, with no success.
She'd also tried threats of bodily harm.
"Two drifters off to see the world.
Ainsley smiled. "I put some napkins in the armrest," she
said, "from lunch." They'd paused for take-out burgers at
a Wendy's in Barrie.
There's such a lot of world to see."
"Oh, thank you!" Jane sighed. She opened the armrest,
pulled out a paper napkin, ripped it in half, and started
stuffing the soft paper in her ears.
In the backseat, smiling broadly, Maura and Susie exchanged
winks as they continued singing.
"We're after the same rainbow's end—
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me."
|SKIN IN THE GAME
Moon River Colony
Guest Cottage #17
Maura gazed at her
cottage-mate with an expression of profound disapproval.
"Jane," she intoned, "the rules, as listed in the welcome
folder, are quite explicit. No clothing of any kind is to
be worn anywhere within the confines of the Moon River Colony at
any time, not even in the cottages."
"They can't tell me what to wear in my own frickin' cottage,"
Jane huffed. The cottage came with a luxurious bathroom
equipped with fluffy towels, all dyed a pleasing shade of
saffron-orange. One such towel was wrapped around Jane's
torso, but she was otherwise naked, with her hair pulled back in
a tight ponytail enforced by a black, fabric-covered
elastic. "If I want to wear a towel sarong, I'll wear a
Maura was completely nude, as the Colony rules required.
She was comfortably reclined in an easy chair with her legs
demurely crossed, her arms resting on the chair's armrests, and
beaming her usual dimpled, dazzling smile. Watching Jane's
antics was one of her favorite pastimes. "The sarong is a
long, usually printed cloth wrapped around the waist and worn as
a kilt or skirt by both sexes in Malaysia, Indonesia, and some
"Whatever," Jane huffed. "Toga, okay?"
Still smiling, Maura shook her head. "A proper toga
requires much more fabric, as does a sari. We've been to
spas before, Jane. What's the problem?"
Jane rolled her eyes and heaved an exasperated sigh.
"Getting naked for a mud bath or a massage or to take a
sauna or steam makes sense. Walking around naked for no
good reason?" She tugged the towel tighter and made sure
the side tuck was as secure as possible. "That's just... unnatural."
Maura giggled, and decided not to point out that nudity was, in
fact, the natural state of the human body. "You have a
beautiful body, Jane," she purred. "Don't be ashamed."
"I'm not ashamed," Jane muttered, glaring at her
infuriatingly chipper best friend. "You're baiting me,"
"Yes, I am," Maura chuckled.
Blushing furiously, Jane jerked off the towel and tossed it
away. "There, happy?"
"Very happy," Maura chuckled. She gazed at her friend's
tan, slender, perfect body, not with prurient interest, but with
clinical objectivity. Jane Rizzoli did, indeed, have a
beautiful body. Granted, Maura's breasts were larger and
her figure more Junoesque, but Jane was all athletic
grace. In a nutshell, Maura was all feminine curves and
Jane was the goddess Diana in human form.
Just then, there was a knock at the cottage door. Maura
went to answer and Jane lunged for her towel. "Don't you
dare!" Maura chuckled as she opened the door.
Susie and Ainsley entered the cottage. Both were
completely naked, not counting Susie's glasses.
Susie was her usual smiling, bubbly self. She had an
exquisite figure, more or less a blend of Maura's femininity and
Jane's athleticism. She also had a deep, allover tan,
without the bikini tan-lines evident on Jane and Maura. As
she was the groups' veteran "naturalist," and thus their in with
the nudist community, this was hardly surprising.
Ainsley was beautiful, clothed or nude. She was stamped
from the shapely, Maura Isles mold, approximately, but her
complexion was more fair. She was doing her best to "wear"
her nudity in a nonchalant manner, but wasn't being entirely
successful. The blush Jane had noticed back at the Toronto
airport was now something more than a hint. Like Maura and
Jane, Ainsley had tan-lines.
"Are you ready for dinner?" Susie asked.
"Certainly," Maura answered. "I've been reading the menu
in the welcome folder. Vegan cuisine!"
Jane rolled her eyes. "Just great. A week of being
naked and hungry."
"There's also a non-vegan menu," Ainsley reassured Jane,
"probably a consequence of being in the Territory."
"Traditional First Nations cuisine is quite healthy," Maura said
with her usual nerdly enthusiasm, "but is not vegan."
Jane focused on Ainsley. "You mean the Mohawk chefs won't
let the New Age wacko chefs serve nothing but weeds and bark?"
Ainsley grinned. "Venison burgers."
Jane rolled her eyes to the heavens. "Thank you!" she
sighed, and started for the door. "Beer?" she asked
Ainsley nodded. "Local craft brews, Molson, Labatt,
Moosehead, the usual," she answered as they crossed the
"She's going to be fine," Maura whispered to Susie as they
followed the detectives. She was referring to Jane, of
course, which Susie understood perfectly.
|SKIN IN THE GAME