Illustrated by Michael Paul
Lisa flipped on the switch and blinked as the dungeon flooded with light. The smell clogged her nostrils, musty with a reek of chlorine, and she set the air-con to low. Clear out a few cobwebs, like. She checked her watch. Plenty of time for the room to freshen up. She exhaled with relief, hated rushing when she wanted it all to be just right. It had been her idea to make the room like a Barbarella-esque dungeon, something she’d seen in a Vogue fashion layout.
She crossed the dungeon floor, bending to unbuckle the leather straps and checking for any signs of wear and tear. Sometimes they pulled too tight, wrecking the whole evening’s entertainment, and she was in for it then.
All five were good to go for tonight. Lisa set up the video equipment, breathing on the lenses and rubbing them squeaky clean with her t-shirt. One camera for each harness. Logging on the computer to their account, she scanned the rows. Good. They’d paid up and filled in their preferences. It was a crowd tonight, but all wanted variations pretty much on the same thing. She printed out the orders and slipped the paper into her Gucci knock-off, grabbing her gloves before she flipped off the light.
Leaving the house, she whistled and a caramel-coloured Maltese Shi-Tzu shot out from the bushes at the side of the driveway, tripping her up. Lisa laughed, and bent to lift the dog, stroking it and pressing it to her cheek. “Mitzy, Mitzy,” she cooed. She opened the door to the black SUV and tucked Mitzy into her dog box. Both the SUV and the dog were presents from Steve for being a good girl. She knew how to satisfy him and his friends.
Driving down the back streets of the suburb, she fiddled with the FM radio stations until she heard Taylor Swift. “I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake,” she sang, shimmying her shoulders as she slowed round the corner.
The Martin Bennett Memorial Playground, she read. One of the most popular parks in the area, judging from the number of strollers parked around the benches and mothers sitting in huddled groups over their smart phones.
She found a parking bay and tucked Mitzy under her arm. The lure of the trees to piss against and other dog bottoms to sniff proved too much and Mitzy squirmed, wanting to jump free from Lisa’s arms.
“All right, steady on.” Lisa clipped the lead to her collar and set her down, the dog pulling away, her tail wagging.
Lisa wandered past the slide just as two stockinged feet followed by legs and a hot pink skirt emerged.
“Hi-ya. Do you want to see my doggie?”
The little girl – about four years old – nodded, shuffling her bottom off the slide to kneel beside the Maltese Shi-Tzu.
She stroked the dog. “What’s her name?”
Lisa looked down at the girl and across to the group of mums at the benches. “Mitzy. I’ve got more doggies in my car. Do you want to see them?”
The girl nodded and stood, holding out her pudgy fingers for Lisa to take.
Lisa enclosed them in her hand.
The beat started her fingers tapping on the steering wheel and Lisa leaned over to turn up the volume on the car radio. She glanced in the rear view mirror – the girl slumped on the back seat, her wrists bound with tape.
“Smells like trouble to me,” she sang.
Just as the last strains of Iggy Azalea played out, slides and swings came into view. Lisa pulled the print-out from her bag and shook it from its folds. Next: a boy, preferably under three.