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THE LOFT begins
The whole bizarre business began innocently enough. Erin and I had just finished our every-other-day (when we can make it) step aerobics class and/or Nautilus session, and were relaxing in our health club's steam room. Erin was stretched out, stomach down, on a towel on one of the upper benches, her long, copper-red curls hanging rather limp and auburn, and her lightly freckled, peaches-and-cream complexion rather more peaches than normal. (100% humidity and 105° F in the shade (with no shade) will do that to a person.) I was sitting in the corner with my chin on my knees watching the sweat roll down my legs and trying to think cool thoughts.
Erin and I have been roommates since University, first in a (loathsome) dorm, next in a series of low cost (meaning cheap—in every sense of the word) apartments, and for the last five years after graduation, in a rather eccentric loft in the big city. (More about the loft later.)
Erin is a successful information technology manager for a large clothing design house. She's less a computer geek (she certainly doesn't look like any kind of geek) and more a computer guru. She's there to insure the firm gets the most out of their computer hardware and software, and to help them plan for the future. They have other "info-tech" people who actually pull fiber-optic cable, install circuit cards in computers, and do the other hands-on technical work, (although Erin can more than hold her own with the pocket-protectors-and-tiny-screw-drivers crowd.)
Erin is about 5'8" and 101 lbs, with a slender figure, firm, conical breasts with small coral nipples, and a classically beautiful face: high cheekbones, petite, ever-so-slightly upturned nose, perfect teeth, and green eyes with flecks of gold. She's a Celtic Venus, a veritable Fairy Princess, graceful, poised, and alluring. I mention all this to illustrate my powers of observation and description, essential tools of my trade. I am a writer.
I'm several inches shorter than Erin, and while she has all those magnificent foxy red curls, my hair is black, straight, and I keep it cut in a rather short "wash-and-wear" bob. Our figures are similar (although in my size range, that sends me to the petite or even to the "Junior Miss" racks); however, I am rather better endowed in the boob department. Mine aren't exactly huge, and I'm certainly not what you'd call buxom; but next to Erin's pert little pair, my c-cup bazongas stack up very nicely, thank you (pun intended.) My face? I think of it as goofy, but Erin says I'm every bit as attractive as she. OK, my features are even, I've got killer dimples, hazel eyes, a lopsided grin that people tell me is sort of cute, and Mediterranean skin that tans up nicely; but as attractive as Erin?—NOT!
Oh yeah, my name is Brooke, or "Babbling Brooke," as my editor calls me. He thinks I go on and on and on, and over describe, and put in all sorts of excessive prose, and require too much blue pencil, and...(I'm doing it again, aren't I?) Anyhow, I've published seven short stories (and got paid for five of them,) and two novels, both mystery/adventures. It was my writing, or actually a discussion (argument) Erin and I were having about my writing, that caused the whole mess.
"Look," I said, "all I'm saying is good writing is based on experience, and at some point research and imagination have to be grounded in real life, or the whole thing rings hollow."
Erin took a swig from her water bottle and rolled over on her back. "No argument. The issue isn't experience or not, it's real experience or fake experience or not."
"I mean experience that matches what you're writing about, as opposed to experience that's only superficially similar to what you're writing about and doesn't give you a real, true-to-life link."
I stretched my arms and poured some of my water over my head, back, and breasts. "An example being...?"
"OK. Towards the end of Minoan Gold" (my last novel) "Mikos and his gang" (the bad guys) "keep Carrie" (the heroine) "bound and gagged for nearly 48 hours, and right after she gets free she runs three miles back to the village to alert Inspector what's-his-name and save the day. Have you ever been bound and gagged for anything like 48 hours?"
"Well, no," I frowned. "I was tied-up for about two hours back in my high school baby-sitting days," (which, by the way, got me fired when the little twerp's parents came home and found me tied to the living room sofa and their darling little "cowboy" overdosed on corn chips and root beer.) "Are you saying I've got to experience exactly what I want to write about, or I can't write about it?"
"No, but I'll bet you'd have written those two chapters differently if you'd ever been a real prisoner."
I turned in mock outage. "What was wrong with those two chapters? The book's selling very nicely, thank you very much."
"I said 'differently,' not better, but it probably would have been better. If you'd ever been a real prisoner I bet Carrie's thoughts and actions would have been totally different —and you might not have written them like the formulaic hack you are."
(She was teasing. We do this all the time.) "Formulaic hack is it?" I sneered. "Like I need writing advice from a whey-faced, orange-haired, techno-geek!"
"Like I care about being called a techno-geek by a nano-sized formulaic hack with boy-hair!"
I gave her my best wounded pout. "That part about the boy-hair hurts."
"The truth always hurts," she laughed. "Your hair is boyish, although no one would mistake you for a boy —especially not naked in the steam room."
"I'll take that as some sort of compliment," I answered primly. "Getting back to Carrie, the bad guys, and the bestseller list —repeat your point."
"You've never been a real prisoner is the point. Now granted, a writer can't go everywhere and experience everything for real —"
"Yeah. That would sort of eliminate the murder mystery as a viable genre," I observed.
Erin smiled. "—but what you can experience for real—you should."
If I had know where all this would eventually lead, I probably would have run screaming out of the steam room; but an intriguing (and rather perverse) idea was forming. I stood up and wrapped my towel around my upper body. "OK," I said. "Let's do it!"
Erin looked puzzled. "Do what?"
"Make me a prisoner for real. If you're right, I'll be a better writer. And if I'm right, I'll be…right. Let's do it!"
Erin stood and wrapped her own towel. We had reached our tolerance for the steam room. "The heat has melted your brain. How can I make you a prisoner?"
"I have a one month hiatus before I start novel number three and I told my editor not to call me or in any way bother me (unless of course he wants to increase my advance to six figures, in which case he's free to call me anytime) and you're forgetting one important fact."
"The vault!" I said evilly.
Erin smiled and rubbed her hands together, doing her best Boris Karloff. "Yes, my proud beauty, the vault. No one will ever find you in the vault."
We both laughed like demented villains and headed for the showers. (For some reason we got rather peculiar looks from the other occupants of the locker room.)
Our loft is located in a part of town undergoing what is politely referred to as "gentrification." In other words, a part of town that used to be on the wrong side of town, with the help of "urban homesteaders" and a little capital, was being dragged kicking and screaming to the right side of town. The loft in question occupied about half of the top floor of a nondescript brick edifice in a neighborhood formerly given over to office spaces, warehouses, and light industrial manufacturing. Our loft, in its former life, had been home to a small bonded courier service. Its 30,000 square feet of usable floor space had been subdivided into offices, barred security cages, and one large vault in the back of the complex. The other lofts in the building were reached by direct access off a common freight elevator, but on our floor the elevator opened onto a brick alcove facing a large steel door, a welcome remnant of security measures past.
Upon conversion to loft status the only major change on our floor had been the installation of a large tub in one of the small offices refurbished and redesignated as the new "master bath." The security cages and vault were left intact, any further renovation being left to the tenant. Eventually the landlord planned to gut the floor and subdivide into two or three small apartments, but for at least the next five years we were getting a lot of floor space for a reasonable rent. All the rooms in our loft (with the sole exception of the vault,) had either a skylight or one or more banks of narrow windows high in one wall, all with frosted, wire reinforced glass, and heavily barred. "Not much to look at in this neighborhood any way," Erin had observed. All in all, the loft looked like a cross between Alcatraz, Fort Knox, and a brick maze.
Aside from the obvious advantage of security, the loft offered total and complete privacy. The walls were thick and solid, and the floor was one massive reinforced concrete slab. You could have a full volume moshing party with a live band and a hundred of your closest friends and all the neighbors might hear would be a low (but no doubt very irritating) hum.
Erin and I had quickly adapted to the brick-and-bars ambiance of the place, and were putting off any major renovations into the indefinite future. We loved almost everything about "The Loft," (and of course the near meager state of our finances after closing the lease had nothing to do with our decision to leave all the security gates and doors intact.)
"The vault" was at the end of the central corridor that ran from the front door, and was secure behind a solidly framed inch thick steel door. Overall, the vault was about fifty by twenty feet, and was subdivided into five, ten by fifteen steel barred cages. For all the world it looked like the town jail set from an old Western movie. The landlord had given us the keys to the vault door and all the cage doors, and they all locked solid and tight. We joked that our Christmas decorations, out of season clothes, and suitcases had the safest storage in town.
That fateful day we returned from our health club and had a light supper. As it was summer, we were both wearing our usual casual-at-home uniforms: denim jeans, loose cotton blouses, and bare feet. (Bikini panties but no bras, for those of you interested in such things.) After the meal, we began making our plans.
"Obviously, we need some rules for this little escapade," Erin started.
"Rules, schmules," I rejoined sagely. "Just pop me in a vault cage, and lock the door. Presto! Instant prisoner."
"I think you're missing some of the subtleties of the situation. You and I have been pals for a long time, and I don't want any misunderstandings to get in the way of all that. If you’re to be a true prisoner, that means, I allow no escape and no parole, and you can't be imposing on our friendship by whimpering that you want to be set free and getting huffy when I refuse."
"Hence the rules," I said.
"Hence the rules," Erin agreed. She got out her PowerBook and began taking notes.
I made us some tea and laid some ginger cookies on a plate. "OK, rule number one. The imprisonment will be for one week."
"Correction," Erin said. "The imprisonment will be between three days and one month, and you won't know when it will end. The suspense will make it more real, and less of a lark."
"Oh, good one! You’re starting to get into this, aren't you?" I accused.
Erin smiled. "I'm only trying to make this work."
"And doing a fine job of it I might add. Rule two: I promise to be a submissive and compliant prisoner."
"Correction again!" Erin exclaimed. "You will try to escape every chance you get, and I will do my best to prevent said escape. You won't be playing prisoner—you'll be a prisoner. All prisoners have the right to escape."
A slight chill went up my spine. "You are getting into this," I accused.
Erin chuckled and continued typing. "I'm drawing this up in the form of a contract, so you can't sue me for false imprisonment and taking unauthorized liberties."
This time it was my turn to laugh. "Like that contract will really help you in a court of law. 'Your honor, it's all here in black and white. This is a case of true imprisonment and the taking of authorized liberties.'"
Erin smirked and continued typing. "A serious social experiment like this must have bounds; therefore, rule three: no whips, leather-clad Teutonic maniacs, candle wax dripped on naughty parts, or strange devices used by the Spanish Inquisition, medieval witch finders, or the Young Republicans."
I spat out my tea laughing and pelted her with half a cookie. "You fool—Agreed! Do your worst, ...excluding tattoos, brands, and ritual scars."
"Oh, good point. No tattooing, no ‘If found return to Erin’ brands, no blood-letting tribal rituals, and no sacrificial rites to appease angry spirits. Specifically, no being fed to hungry crocodiles, lions, leopards, tigers, hyenas, or badgers."
"Don’t stop me, I’m on a roll. No being torn apart between bent saplings, no being impaled (slowly or otherwise) on bamboo spikes, and no being buried up to your neck in desert sands with honey smeared all over your body and ant-sized signs reading ‘this way to free picnic’ all over the place," she typed.
I smiled indulgently and ate the last of the cookies. "How will the time element be handled," I asked as I started cleaning up the kitchen.
"I've got a little routine I wrote for my calendar program that randomly inserts a 'quote-of-the-day.' I’ll start a new thirty day calender and make one of the quotes 'today would be a good day to rescue fair damsels.' The day I boot up my calender and see that quote will be your last day of captivity. Pardon me while I go print this out."
I finished my cleaning and joined her in the den/computer room. I read and signed the "contract," and watched as Erin shut down her computer. "We might as well get started," I said nervously. "What do you want me to do?"
Erin opened the drawer in which she kept her tools and computer tinkering supplies and took out several plastic ties, the kind used to bundle electronic or optical fiber cables together and secure them to brackets and stanchions. These particular ties were each about a foot and a half long, and I had the uneasy feeling they were going to be used to secure me. "Point of no return," Erin said. "If you let me put these on you, you'll be my prisoner until I decide to set you free."
I swallowed and held out my hands, wrists together. I was breathing rapidly and my heart was pounding like I'd just run the 100 yard dash. I also noticed that my nipples had become very sensitive, and I was ever so slightly wet between the legs. I was getting excited?!? I'd never entertained any serious sexual fantasies of bondage or submission, and I'd certainly never done any of that stuff with any of my boyfriends. What was going on?
Erin stood and approached me, several ties protruding from her left hip pocket. She took me by the shoulders and spun me around. I closed my eyes as she gathered my wrists behind my back and encircled each of them with a tie. I heard a dry rattle as the ties were tightened, and felt them vibrate as they closed around my wrists. I heard two soft snicks and then Erin turned me around to face her. She had a small pair of wire cutters in one hand and the long, cut-off ends of two ties in the other. My throat was dry, but I could feel sweat beading on my forehead and beginning to soak my blouse under my armpits. This was getting embarrassing! If it kept up, I'd probably start staining my jeans.
I groped with my fingers, exploring my bonds. My wrists were crossed, and I could easily touch the interlocked bands with my finger tips—not that it was going to do me any good; there were no knots to untie. These plastic cuffs were on me until someone—until Erin—cut them off. The bonds were tight but comfortable, although they'd probably hurt if I started struggling really hard.
Erin pointed to the rug at our feet. "On the ground if you please," she said. I went down on my knees and then onto my stomach in the middle of the rug. Erin knelt and used two more ties to secure my ankles. She then used another tie to attach my wrists at the small of my back to the braided leather belt I was wearing with my jeans. She then rolled me over onto my back, tightened my belt a notch, and made sure it would stay tightened by lacing a small plastic tie through the leather braiding and the brass buckle, sliding it closed, and snipping off the end.
Erin stood and surveyed her handiwork. I was still breathing heavily, and for the first time, I noticed Erin was too. She was also slightly flushed, and the light sheen on her forehead matched my own. I looked up from my impotent state and gave her my most disarming grin.
"Hot in here, isn't it?" I murmured. Erin blushed, tossed the remaining ties on the desk, and left the room. Curioser and curioser. Not only was I turning into a cat in heat, but Erin was too.
It was then that I realized, this was my first chance to escape! All I had to do was get out of these pesky ties and the game was over. What to do? I could crawl over to the desk, use it to (somehow) stand up, open the tool drawer and find something sharp, cut my bonds, and bask in the thrill of victory! Fat chance. I was only halfway to the desk when Erin returned.
"Miss me?" she quipped. "You weren't trying to get away, were you?"
"Get away?" I asked innocently. "How can I further my experience as a prisoner if I get away?"
"I'll remove further temptation." It was then I noticed the coils of cotton clothesline in her right hand. Erin moved one of our hardback chairs from the kitchen to the middle of the den, hauled me up into it, and set to work. She pulled loop after tight loop of rope, securing me to the chair at knees, thighs, waist, above and below my breasts, and across my shoulders. By the time she was satisfied, I could hardly twitch. She even tied my ankles (already secured with plastic) to one of the chair legs. She then took a second coil of rope and began interlacing my bonds with various parts of the chair and each other. When the second coil was used up I was trussed, laced, and webbed into that chair so tightly I knew that no amount of twisting, turning, or struggling would result in one iota of slack.
All this time, with Erin pulling rope around me, tugging it snug, leaning over me, at times with her breasts almost in my face, at times with her rump in the air as she worked on my legs, I was aware that my excitement was building and building. I could smell Erin's perfume (or was it her natural musk) and I could see sweat stains on her blouse, between her shoulder blades and between her breasts. Finally, she tied a last, unreachable knot and stood, surveying her prisoner.
"That should hold you," she said.
"Understatement of the decade. This would hold Rambo and the Terminator, and wouldn't you just love that."
Erin smiled and combed her fingers through my hair. "Yes, but all I've got is you—and I will hold you."
I shivered slightly and could practically feel my juices soaking the chair seat. (Surely Erin could smell me. Surely she could see the state I was in.) Erin reached into her hip pockets and produced a large silk scarf. Before her intentions had registered in by increasingly fevered brain, and before any verbal protests could be registered, she stepped behind the chair, pulled my head back with one hand in my hair, and began stuffing the scarf into my mouth. The dry silk filled my entire mouth and trapped my tongue. Before I could spit it out, Erin began wrapping turn after turn of inch-wide adhesive tape between my teeth and around the back of my neck, compressing the silk wad and forcing it even deeper. She produced a new roll of much wider tape, and began plastering strip after wide strip across my lips, until my lower face was tightly and smoothly sealed from nose to chin. Without realizing what I was doing, I held my head steady for her smoothing hands, even turning it as needed to make her job of rendering me voiceless easier. When she was finished, I was as silent as I was still, able only to make small muffled moans, to flutter my fingers, toss my head, flex my ankles, to cause my ropes to stretch and flex—but never slacken.
I twisted in my bonds for what felt like several minutes while Erin watched. Finally, with somewhat forced nonchalance she walked to the door and turned.
"You can practice escaping while I'm gone. I've got some work to do, moving junk and rearranging the vault, making your new quarters ready. It shouldn't take more than a few hours, but if I don't get done in time to move you in before bedtime, I'll be sure to come back and turn out the lights. I can always finish preparing your prison in the morning. You certainly won't be going anywhere in the meantime."
She turned to leave, then paused. "Think about it. No one knows you're my prisoner. If anyone asks where you are, I'll say you took a little vacation and didn't tell me exactly where you were going. I think tomorrow I'll log onto some travel bulletin boards, using your e-mail account of course, and yes, I do know your password. I'll make a few inquiries, forge some reservations, lay a few false trails. How does Lake Tahoe sound? Alaska? Tahiti? Australia?" She snapped her fingers. "I know—a Mexican Cruise! I'll book you a suite on the 'Love Boat.'"
She put hands on hips and gave me a sinister smile. "I can keep you under wraps for as long as I want, and no one will ever come to your rescue—because no one knows you need rescuing." (We both knew this wasn't quite true. My editor would eventually come looking for either the first chapters of my next book or the return of the advance he'd given me.) It was all a game, and I wasn't really scared, but nevertheless I shivered in my bonds, embracing the delicious fantasy. I was Erin's prisoner, tightly bound and gagged, and about to be locked in an inescapable prison.
Erin blew me a kiss and winked. "Pleasant struggling...'Carrie.'"I watched her leave, wondering if I ever would get free, if I could get myself off by struggling against the ropes, and if anyone had ever died of sexual frustration.
| —Chapter 1