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Authors: Graham Masterton

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The Sphinx

BOOK: The Sphinx
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The Sphinx










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he lighted window was now only two or three feet away, and he could
hear voices more distinctly and the creak of floorboards as someone walked
around in the room.

It happened at the very
instant he was stepping on to the guttering. There was a loud, hair-raising
snarl, and something immensely powerful and heavy leaped up at him from the
ground and tore him bodily down from the creeper. His fingers and face were
lacerated as the beast’s weight dragged him straight through branches and
leaves and brought him to the grass with a back-bruising thump. Then the thing
rolled on top of him, slavering and snarling and tearing at him with vicious
claws. Gene smelled a rank animal odour that was anything but dog, and he
screamed in desperation as his sweater was ripped away from his arms, and
guzzling jaws bit into his shoulder muscle to tug the flesh away from his


e could always remember the first time he caught sight of her. Later,
he used to joke about it and call it “love at first bite.” It was at the
Schirra’s cocktail party for Henry Ness, the new Secretary of State, to
celebrate Henry’s inexplicable engagement to that very raucous and very
ambitious Caldwell girl As usual at the Schirra’s, there was plenty to drink
and nearly as much to eat, and Gene Keiller was right in the middle of talking
to a Turkish diplomat with appalling dandruff, simultaneously sinking his teeth
into a fresh crab
hadn’t eaten all day), when the glittering dresses and black tuxedoes parted
like the Red Sea and Lorie Semple walked in.

Gene wasn’t yet
blasé about beautiful women. He hadn’t been working for the State Department
long enough to get sick to his stomach of all those fawning, crooning, elegant
young ladies who cling around the perimeter of Washington society life with no
panties on and an unquenchable thirst for any man who might have been mentioned
by William F. Buckley, even if it was only once. Gene’s immediate boss, Walter Far-lowe,
had a nose for political groupies and called them the Prone Department. But
when Gene looked up with a mouthful of puff pastry and a shred of crab hanging
from the side of his chin, he couldn’t have cared “Whether Lorie Semple was a
camp-follower or not.

“Hey, Gene,”
said Senator Hasbauro, -leaning over.

“That’s one
hell of a piece of ass. Take a look at that goddam frontispiece.”

Gene nodded,
and almost choked. He reached for his napkin, and patted his mouth, and the
vol-au-vent went down his throat half-chewed. All he could say was, “Arthur,
for once you’re damn right.”

She didn’t seem
to have anyone with her. She was tall–taller than every other girl in the room
and most of the men. Gene guessed five-foot-eleven, and it turned out later
that he was half an inch on the short side. Her height hadn’t made her retiring
or timid, though. She stalked into the center of the room, under the twinkling
chandelier, with a straight, arrogant back and her chin lifted.

whispered Ken Sloane. “Did you ever see a girl who looked like that before?”

Gene said
nothing at all. Even the Turkish diplomat, who had been explaining at great and
tedious length his absolute commitment to MARV missiles on Turkish soil,
couldn’t help noticing that Gene was no longer with him and was staring at
Lorie Semple like a man who had just seen a religious vision.

“Mr. Keiller,”
he said, tugging, at Gene’s sleeve. “Mr. Keiller, we must talk warheads!”

Gene nodded.
“You’re absolutely right. That’s all I can say. You’re absolutely damn right.”

Lorie Semple
had a mane of brushed-back tawny hair that fell over her bare shoulders. Her
face was classically beautiful, with a straight nose, a wide and sensual mouth,
and up slanted eyes.

Around her neck
she wore a three-strand choker of emeralds, and nobody in the whole room
believed for one moment that they were green glass. She was dressed in a
clinging, low backed, empire-line evening dress of flesh-colored silk, so
gleaming and tight around the bust that when you first glimpsed her you had to
look again, because she looked as if she was topless.

Her breasts
were enormous and she obviously wasn’t wearing a bra. Her nipples raised the
silk into softly shadowed peaks, and when she walked the bouncing of each bosom
was enough to quiet the conversation and have even the few faithful Washington
husbands glancing surreptitiously over their wives’ shoulders.

He never knew
what impulse really made him do it, but as she stood there, with her straight
back and her supercilious look, Gene Keiller stepped forward and held out his
hand. It was unnerving, stepping up close, because this tall girl had the kind
of green eyes that seem to stare at you heartlessly, like a cat, and Gene had
already downed three vodka tonics and wasn’t at his best.

“I don’t know
you,” he said, with a lopsided grin.

The girl stared
at him. She was at least as tall as he was, and she was wearing some strong,
musky perfume that seemed to fill the air around her like a haze.

“I don’t know
you, either,” she replied, in a deep voice that was heavy with some European

“Well,” said
Gene, “maybe that’s a good reason to introduce ourselves!”

The girl stared
at him. “Perhaps.”

“Only perhaps?”

The girl
nodded. “It we don’t know each other, perhaps it is better that we remain that
way. Strangers.”

Gene gave Ms
little diplomatic laugh. “Well, I can see your point But this is Washington.
Everybody has to know everybody around here.”

The girl still
kept staring at him, almost hypnotically, and the more she stared the more he
found himself thrown off his pitch, and shuffling his feet and staring at the
carpet He hadn’t felt like this with a girl since he left grade school, and yet
here he was, rugged Gene Keiller, with the Florida tan and the wide white
smile, the curly-haired Democratic champ who used to Jciss all the babies and
make Jacksonville housewives swoon with delight, simpering and bumbling worse
than Charlie Brown.

“Why?” she
said, parting those moist pink lips.

“Er… excuse me?
Why what?”

The girl kept
staring at him. She didn’t seem to Wink at all, and that disconcerted him.

“Why does
everybody have to know everybody?” Gene fingered his collar. “Well... I guess
it’s a question of survival. You have to know who your friends are and who your
enemies are. It’s kind of like the law of the jungle.”

“The jungle?”

He smirked.
“That’s what they say. It’s a tough life, you know, being a politician. It
doesn’t matter how low down the gum tree you happen to be, there’s always someone
who’d like to climb higher, who’ll stand on your head to do it.”

“You make it
sound... very aggressive,” she said. He noticed she was wearing earrings made
of small curved animals’ teeth set in gold. .He was gradually managing to
overcome his nervousness, but all the same he was conscious that she had the
upper hand in this conversation and that all the other guests were watching him
out of the corner of their eye and sizing up his performance. He coughed, and
waved towards the bar.

“Would you,
er..., care for a drink?” She looked at him. There seemed to be long pauses in
their conversation, and he got the impression that she was weighing him up with
considerable care.
Stalking him, almost.

“I don’t
drink,” she said simply. “But don’t let me stop you. You seem to be enjoying

He coughed
again. “Well, I, er..., like a drink just to unwind. It kind of relaxes the
nerves, you know?”

“No,” she said,
“I don’t know. I’ve never taken a drink in my life.”

He blinked at
her. “You’re kidding! You didn’t even have the cherry brandy in your old
woman’s kitchen cupboard?”

With a
long-fingered, long-nailed hand, she brushed tack her tawny hair and shook her
head seriously. “My mother is not an old woman. She is really quite young. And
she has never, ever, had alcohol in the house.”

‘I see,” said
Gene, embarrassed. ‘I didn’t mean to imply...”

“No, no,” she
said. “Don’t worry. I know what yon meant”

For a while,
Gene stood there with his empty glass in his hand, giving the girl little
smiles and saying “well” and “uh-huh,” but not daring to leave her in case any
of the other unattached men In the room horned in. There was something about
her that frightened him but at the same time was extremely fascinating–apart
from the fact that she had the biggest pair of tits he had ever seen.

He finally
said, "I haven’t introduced myself. That’s pretty dumb, for a politician!
My name’s Gene Keiller.”

They shook
hands. He waited expectantly for the girl to introduce herself, but she said
nothing, simply smiled faintly, and kept on looking around the room. “Aren’t
you... going to...?” She turned back and smiled at him. “Gene Keiller,” she
said. “I’ve heard of you.”

“Oh, really?”
he grinned. “I haven’t had too much publicity lately. These days I’m a working
politician, not a campaigning one. Promises are one thing, you know, but
carrying those promises out is a whole different ballgame.”

She nodded. “I
thought you were a politician. You talk in such old clichés.”

He stared at
her. He wasn’t sure if he’d heard her correctly, because Senator Hasbaum had
just laughed loudly next to his left ear.

“I’m sorry?”

‘That’s all
right,” she said, graciously. “All politicians do it. It must be an
occupational disease.”

He rubbed the
back of his neck, which he always did when he was irritated. “Now, wait a
minute,” he said, in a half-jokey, half-steamed-up kind of voice. “It’s all
very well for people like you to say that politicians are riddled with clichés,
but what you have to remember is that most political situations are...”

“There are
none,” she said, in that rich voice of hers.

He was about to
carry on, but then he looked at her, puzzled. “What?”

“There are no
people like me,” she said simply.

He frowned, and
examined his empty glass again.

“Well,” he
said, “what kind of people are you?”

She stared at
him as if she were trying to decide whether he was worthy of such a valuable
piece of knowledge. Finally, she said, “I am half-Egyptian and half-French. I
am one of those people that are known as Ubasti.”

“And is it too
much to tell me your name? Or is that a clich6 question too?”

She shook her
head. “You mustn’t let my shyness put you off,” she said. “When I am shy,
people always seem to think that I am frightening. I can see it in their eyes.
Fear and aggressiveness are very similar emotions, don’t you think?”

“You still
haven’t told me your name.” She tilted her head to one side. “Why do you want
to know? Do you want to seduce me?”

He looked at
her, questioningly. “Do you want to be seduced?”

“I don’t know.
No, I don’t think so.” He said bluntly, “You’re a very beautiful girl. You know
that, don’t you?”

She lowered her
eyes for the first time since they had started talking. “Beauty is a matter of
opinion. I think my breasts are too big.”

“I don’t think
the consensus of American male opinion would agree with you. If you want to
know, I think they’re stunning.”

A hint of color
touched her dark-tanned cheeks. She said softly: “I think you are probably
saying that to flatter me.”

He snorted,
“You don’t need flattery. You’re too good-looking for that. And apart from
that, you’ve got something that every other woman in this whole goddamn room
would like to have but never will... not in a thousand years.”

She looked up.
Her green eyes were lambent and fascinating. One moment the pupils seemed to be
tight shut, and the next moment they opened out wide like dark flowers.

“You’ve got
mystique,” Gene told her. “The moment I laid eyes on you I said to myself,
Gene, that girl has mystique. Look at you now, we’ve been talking all this time
and I still don’t know your name.”

She laughed.
The cocktail-party guests standing close by noticed her laughing and Senator
Hasbaum whispered to one of his friends, “That Gene Keiller’g done it again! By
God, I wish I was twenty years younger! I’d show that broad what a Tennessee
boy can do!”

The girl said,
“Why is my name so important to you?”

BOOK: The Sphinx
7.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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