Safe Word


The handcuffs were slicing into my wrists, threatening to cut me past the point of needing to be restrained. Mariel was striding around her makeshift dungeon, pouting her blood red lips, smiling her predator smile.

The smile that says you’re totally fucked. The smile that says you’re mine until you’re not.

Under normal circumstances, as normal as circumstances get when you list bleeding through restraints as a hobby, I would have smiled back.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been able to trace a line from the gun against my forehead to the overweight Hispanic holding it.

“Bet you like this, don’t cha. Freak,” said Diagur.

I looked at Mariel for any sign of recognition, but she was lost in the game. Queen Mariel was holding dominion over her basement kingdom, reigning over men with a predilection for pain. Her regal attire was more than enough to keep her subjects in line: Black lace panties that let her ass cheeks slide out, ripped stockings, heels that were basically knives.

I wanted to marry her once. Mom said she looked like trouble.

Diagur’s gun found my jaw, rattling fillings that had been rattled loose before.

Guess Mom was right.

“I ain’t playing with you, vato,” he said, pulling the safety back for punctuation. “You’ll cough up that vig. Or I’ll do something you regret.”

Mariel offered her gloved hand, the Queen gracing Diagur’s sexless existence. He met her with a wet, animal kiss.

Hombre, over here,” I said. “Remember me, the guy who owes you money?”


“Well, I don’t really … ya know … have it. So if you could shoot me already, that’d be great.”

“You’re funny, maricon. You in a rush? Got some place to be?”

“You’re a busy man, Diagur. Figure if you kill me now, then you can go ahead and fuck my girlfriend,” I said. “Then, poof, 16 seconds and you’re onto the next thing.”

The gun came to rest on my forehead again.

“Would those be your last words?”

“Well, I have this speech somewhere,” I replied, spreading my legs. “If you could just reach down and help me find it.”

“Goodbye, Anthony.”

I closed my eyes and waited for the bang. It came, but I was still packing a pulse when the noise faded. Diagur hit the ground clutching his throat, trying to find the syringe full of Phenobarbital in his neck.

“Goodnight, princess,” I said.

Mariel collected the needle and fell into my lap. When it was over, she loved to watch our victims dream. Some would wake up down a kidney. Some wouldn’t wake up at all.

It was the perfect trap. I’d built a healthy list of enemies. The kind whose property you need to pay to work on. The kind we could easily turn into patients.

The people on this list were incredibly lucky. They always lost track of me. They always seemed to find Mariel sobbing in a diner or a bar, looking for someone to teach her abusive ex-boyfriend a lesson.

You’d be amazed how high you get with a little sense of power and a little more trust in the wrong woman. No one ever saw her coming.

Funny thing is, Mariel was raised on enough church to know it was wrong. Every now and again she’d beg me to stop, that pesky southern conscience rising past the lace and leather.

Sweet girl, my Mariel, but naive to think I’d walk away from paydays like these. Sometimes I had to convince her to stay. Sometimes I had to be less than chivalrous to be convincing.

I tugged at my wrists, waiting for the false link to drop out of the cuffs. The fakes were her idea. That way we could play with no safe word. That way I had an emergency exit.

Except I couldn’t move the damn things.

“Babe, you used real cuffs?”

Mariel pushed her poison apple red lips into mine. I closed my eyes, ready to enjoy the sin-soaked woman I created.

I opened them to find Diagur’s gun against my chest. Mariel flashed her predator smile again. The smile that says you’re totally fucked.

Like I said, it was the perfect trap.

~ fin ~

James Queally has worked as a crime journalist for the past six years, and he currently wanders around Southern California where he has been knocking on murder suspect's doors, chasing graffiti artists and arguing with luchadores inside warehouses for the Los Angeles Times. He writes crime fiction because sometimes, facts and attribution aren't any goddamn fun. His short fiction has appeared online and in print for Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, Dark Corners and Out Of The Gutter's Flash Fiction Offensive,.