The John Harper Series: Poisoned Web (3)

For this Guest Photographer & Short Story Series project, the guests were asked to submit three sets of photographs, the choice was entirely theirs and were not confined to any particular genre or theme. The short stories that ensue are based on the set of photos submitted, and the title of the photograph is imbedded in the story. The project has been dormant for a while but it is back with the Class of 2020, as a tribute to the outstanding work of the photographers and a celebration of enduring friendship!

John Harper is a portrait, wedding and family photographer based in Wiltshire, UK with a passion for street photography. His signature poignant black and white photographs that always capture expression, emotion, and thought in a single image have a haunting beauty about them that leave a lasting impression, inviting you to return to the moment time and time again. Visit John Harper Photography to view more of his work and read the delightful Leica Biker Blog.

Driving down the motorway back to the hospital was normally something Jakob did mechanically, not really paying much attention to the rolling landscape on either side. This particular drive, however, was bordering on the uncomfortable, as all his clothes clung to his raw wounds and tender skin. His body ached with a twinge of pleasure in the pain that had been inflicted on him for the past two hours. Xavier had outdone himself this time, tightening the chokes and pulling the ceiling chains further up than usual. The hooks Xavier had attached to his chest, back, and thighs were reserved for special occasions or days when Jakob needed to release anger and frustration, not seek pleasure. They usually dispensed with the masks but because he had to return to work for another 24-hour shift full with back-to-back surgeries, Xavier insisted on the mask so as not to leave any traces on the neck and face. 

Their relationship was not the run-of-the-mill BDSM. There was bondage, but no submission; sadism but no masochism, and both of them were dominants. At first Jakob had been skeptical whether this would work at all, given his special requirements, preferences, and strict conditions of secrecy. Noah Hamilton, the underworld’s pimp and dealer of preference if you could afford him, had assured Jakob that Xavier was a master at what he did, and had an impeccable track record in addition to an exclusive clientele who paid a lot of money to remain anonymous. “That Xavier, he only fancies the rich pigeons, doesn’t bother much with the local crowd” was how Noah had introduced him during one of the coke drop-offs, which then prompted Jakob to use the code name Pigeon Fancier for Noah on his phone. 

Stourhead ©John Harper Photography 

They never used the same venue twice for their sessions. This was something Jakob insisted on, which was always a bit of a challenge, but so far he had not been disappointed. As he drove over the bridge and Stourhead Mansion faded into the rearview mirror, Jakob contemplated the exorbitant fees that Xavier charged and the fact that it was worth every cent. No strings  attached, no conversation other than the bare minimum to agree on equipment, no small talk over a joint or drink afterwards. It was a pristine business deal with surgical precision. Neither man wanted friendship or emotional intimacy, nor did they care to even know each other-backgrounds. The chemistry worked like a charm from the very beginning, and unspoken trust that guaranteed silence, privacy, and an endless supply of perversion. Jakob almost swerved to the middle of the road when his phone rang. Assuming it was the hospital, he didn’t even bother to look at the screen for the caller ID, which was a big mistake in this case. 

“I have a shopping list for you.” Jakob slammed on the brakes, pulled over to the side of the road, and felt the blood drain from his entire body. This was a voice he had hoped never to hear again in his lifetime, and was bitterly disappointed that Herman Schultz* was still alive. 

“I thought we agreed that what I did for you in Hungary and Bulgaria was the last of it” Jakob replied coldly. “I wanted out of the brotherhood, and that meant permanently out.” 

“Ah, but you failed to read the fine print of your contract, like everyone else. This is a lifetime commitment, and there is no exit strategy other than death. Otherwise I would have bowed out a long time ago as well. So shut up and listen carefully. When you return to Bournemouth, don’t go to the hospital… “ 

“But I have a surgery scheduled in… “ 

Frascati Igor ©John Harper Photography

“No, you don’t. I cleared the board for the next three hours. That patient was bumped down to an evening schedule, and the rest were re-assigned.” Retorted Herman impatiently, to which Jakob stiffened, the first tingle of fear creeping up his spine. Nothing never really prepared him for the murderous coldness of Herman, and his lack of scruples was like a punch in the stomach each and every time. “As I was saying, head towards the Bournemouth Oratory on Albert Road but park along the Post Office Road. Go up the stairs, knock on the red door to the left and ask for the bag of Frascati Igor. Go back down to your car, and drive back to Albert Road. Leave your car at the Oratory, and cross the street to the tattoo shop, use the back entrance. I will meet you there in one hour.” 

People ©John Harper Photography

As Jakob got out of his car in front of the Oratory, he scanned the street for anything or anyone out of the ordinary, but nothing caught his attention, quite the opposite. There were a lot of People out and about, strolling, running errands, headed to the pub, and a handful were making their way to evening prayers at the Oratory. “Hi Dr. B! Fancy meeting you here! Are you here to pray for guidance or get a new skateboard?” Jakob turned to smile brightly at Fiona Jenkins and Pamela Beechwood. His guess was that there was at least a 60-year gap between the two women, with Fiona being young, stylish, and barely in her 20s, but strolling arm-in-arm with Pamela, whom he had operated five years ago and given a new lease on life. She had taken up ballroom dancing, nordic walking and swimming ever since, and switched her social circle to the young university crowd, most of whom were her classmates in Forensic Psychology. It was an odd choice for a women of Pamela’s generation but Jakob admired her attitude and loved listening to her anecdotes after his lectures. Ordinarily he would have invited the two ladies to the coffee bar for a drink but they could not have chosen the worst moment to socialise with him. 

“If I told you I would have to kill you afterwards!” He winked at Pamela and smiled as broadly as he could. “Am so sorry ladies but I am terribly late for an appointment already.” 

Fiona pulled down her sunglasses over her nose and said “She better be worth it to ditch us!” 

Window Man ©John Harper Photography

Jakob waited until the women were a safe distance away before he pulled out his mobile phone. He had recognised the Window Man inside the Oratory when the doors had opened and a few more people rushed in for the services. Herman was waiting for him to cross the road. He took three deep breaths before dialling Noah’s number. “I require the special party service. Tattoo shop on Albert Road.” And hung up before the Pigeon Fancier could ask any questions. “Just as well that you are in a church Herman. I hope you made your final confession.” 

To be continued… 

*NB: The character of Herman Schultz was introduced in The Kevin Haggith Series: Once Upon A Train.

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