It wasn't entirely Rory's fault that she was something of an unemotional sociopath. She'd been born to a wealthy Irish family, and grown up hopelessly spoiled on a lavish estate in the countryside. A beautiful child, with bright green eyes and rich red hair, she'd had praise and affection lavished upon her almost since birth.
Nothing was too good for her, and all wishes and wants, all problems and annoyances were quickly dealt with by her parents or servants to her satisfaction. So much so she came to expect this as a matter of course. Life was truly all about her, and her parents had not been inclined to try and give her a broader outlook on life.
And then had come the fire. The old estate had, it turned out, been something less than the fantasy castle she had imagined at the time. It had an enormous number of issues, starting with, and eventually ending with the ancient wiring which had burned it to the ground killing everyone there but one little girl rescued by late arriving firefighters.
Rory had gone to sleep one night secure in the perfection of her world, and wakened a week later in a hospital as an orphan. A penniless orphan at that, since it emerged the estate had been mortgaged to the hilt and her father had been having financial difficulties.
From there, her life had, of course, taken a radical turn for the worse, through a series of foster families, none of which had been inclined to put up with the anger and frustration of a child in the midst of a deep and bewildering depression.
Government psychiatrists and therapists had not exactly helped either.
Once she hit adolescence, Rory found an outlet for several of her problems in sex. Boys wanted her – badly, for she was quite an attractive girl, and they could be manipulated into showing her the kind of fawning affection and admiration she had known as a child.
That gave her some emotional (though not really physical) satisfaction, but she came to feel contempt for them and their weakness, however good she got at exploiting it. As far as other girls, they tended to loath her for sleeping around. Which was only a problem insofar as Rory began to suspect she might be a lesbian. She took no pleasure in her sexual relationships with boys, after all.
Understanding how she was to behave around people was a frustrating problem to Rory. No one had ever taught her, after all. No one had ever explained the rules because the rules as a child were that whatever Rory wanted, Rory got. Lacking confidence in her ability to function among others – other than seducing and taunting boys who she was coming to feel more and more contempt for – she became more and more withdrawn.
She got tired of boys salivating after her and began to dress in shapeless black, ignoring them as much as she ignored the sneers of girls. Then she met Ara – or more properly A ra, a Korean woman three times her age who ran a martial arts academy in Belfast.
Rory experienced sex for the first time with a woman, and it was far and away more pleasurable than she'd ever felt with any boy. It was odd in that Ara liked tying her up. But once tied up the woman would then make her writhe and twist and buck and cry out in helpless carnal heat before bringing her to a shattering orgasm.
Rory was in love, after that, or thought she was. A ra began to teach her Taekwondo, while also “letting her” do odd jobs around the academy. Rory did everything from washing the floors to washing A ra's outfits, and was a fixture there for several years, moving into a small room in the back, and easily graduating to her black belt.
When A ra began to involve other women in their lovemaking – while Rory was tied up helpless, she was at first disturbed, but the raw heat A ra and her friends invoked in her was just as powerful and her orgasms just as intense.
Besides, Rory didn't know the rules, so she didn't quite understand that she was being treated in any way which might violate them. When Ara and her friends began to teach her a deeper form of submission involving discipline and pain she simply accepted it with the same equanimity she had the lessons in Taekwondo – as what she was required to do.
If being whipped was a necessary prelude to orgasm, and it was what Ara wanted, then that was what she'd have to endure.
And then to her astonishment, Ara left one day, without even informing her she was going back to Korea. Apparently she had overstayed her visitor’s visa, worked illegally, and was about to be deported.
It was only then that a bewildered and heartbroken Rory realized that she had meant nothing to the woman other than as a sexual plaything and free servant, and this caused her to become even more withdrawn.
One of the things Ara had left her, though, aside from a belief she was a lesbian, and her black belt in Taekwondo, was a straight A average at school. Koreans were fanatics about education so Ara had insisted. Besides, with no friends it wasn't exactly hard to find time to study.
Alone and homeless once more, but no longer a child, Rory pondered her prospects – which were few. She had a black belt and a high school education in an era of high unemployment. She had no social skills to speak of, nor any job history to provide.
But she had developed into quite an attractive young woman, who, with her softly sculpted, elfin face, icy green eyes and her now very athletic and attractive young body, would, if properly used get her what she wanted. That was on longer affection, but money. She sought out, through the internet, a relationship with an older, wealthier woman to provide it.
The web site in question arranged for tuition and other college fees to be paid by wealthy men (usually) in exchange for sexual favors on an ongoing basis. Rory took Law – because she wanted to know what the rules were, and applied herself with single-minded determination, ignoring all social aspects of college, studying whenever she wasn't in class or pleasuring her 'sugar mommy'.
And once she knew the rules, she pursued them with an iron will. The best place to do that was the Public Prosecution Service. There she quickly gained a reputation both for her encyclopedic legal knowledge and memory, and as a tenacious and merciless prosecutor.
Jared Rose admired the former but despaired of the latter. He was her supervisor, and she became his project. He realized what a boon she could be to the department, but only if she could come to understand the difference between prosecuting a violent, lifelong gang member and prosecuting someone who got drunk and slapped his spouse.
For to Rory, any violation of the rules whatsoever demanded harsh retribution. Circumstances be damned. There were no excuses. While her nickname had always been Rory she came to be called the Pit Bull at the PPS.
“Miss O’Connor,” he said to her after calling her into her office for another talk. “You need to learn that the world is not black and white, but shades of gray.”
It was so very hard to read her, he thought unhappily, as she stood across from his desk. She stood ramrod straight, her face blank, without anything in her cool, emotionless eyes to indicate she even heard him. Her habitual clothing of black, single breasted suit almost seemed to throw her in a shadow, despite the coppery red hair.
“I've read your recommendation on the Simpson file. Asking for the maximum punishment is, as I've told you on previous occasions, not indicated here. There is a scale to punishment for assault for a reason, and that reason is to take into account the damage done, the outrage to public safety, as it were, the motivation and history of the assailant, and any other factors which throw the crime into context.”
She stared at him, blank faced, and he sighed.
“You have a brilliant grasp of the law, but no apparent understanding of the need to apply context to its violation.”
“The law is clear,” she replied, in her unusually low, contralto voice.
“No, the law is not clear. The law, as I said, gives a scale of punishment. That is to suggest that there are degrees of violation and that the punishment should be meted out accordingly.”
He knew she thought him soft, even though others considered him quite conservative. He did not understand why she was as quiet and unemotional as she was. He'd tried to involve her in conversations not related to work, tried to have her join he and other colleagues for lunch or tea, and been politely turned down. She had no apparent interest in any sort of relationship with anyone at work not related directly TO work.
As far as he knew she had no spouse or boyfriend (or girlfriend) and had shown no physical interest in any of the young men who, he'd noticed, occasionally tried, in subtle (or unsubtle) ways to impress her. She was a hard woman, and that was disturbing in one so young, one barely a year out of law school, in fact.
Her body might be draped in fairly shapeless black, after all, but there was no real disguising that she was lithe and slender, and of course, she was quite an attractive enigma with those thick bangs which almost reached her striking green eyes. Why was she so insistent on being left alone? What went on inside her skull?
He sighed and ran his fingers through his thinning brown hair.
“Look, I'm directing you to accept the plea bargain requested by his solicitor and move on. Here.”
He handed a file across to her.
“This is an annoyance which has been around for a while. It will require perseverance and determination to drag this one down to earth. God knows many have tried. But you're one who might well do it.”
If that piqued her interest or she was annoyed with him she gave no sign. But she never did. She took the file and opened it.
“What we have here, I believe, is a massive case of multi years long fraud. The police have finally run down who they believe is ultimately at the top of the chain of responsible – although I wouldn't be too sure of that. He's an Englishman named Lord. Smug bastard. Won't give us the time of day without a warrant to drag it out of him.”
“He lives in London,” she said, examining the file.
“He has a home in London, another in New York, one in Sydney, and another in Tokyo. Oh, and one here, of course, a chalet of sorts on Black Mountain. We're talking millions of euros in swindled investors here, not to mention over-billing on government contracts, bribery of public officials and tax avoidance. I hate rich people who sit at the top of the pyramid of benefits yet avoid their responsibility to society,” he said with a scowl.
“There's no picture of him?”
“He's never been arrested. In fact, precious little is known about him, for some reason. Clearly he's some sort of businessman, but you know how it is these days. Everything is done through numbered limited companies which are constantly being created and dissolved and passing things back and forth between them.”
Rory nodded then, waited for a signal to depart, and then turned and left, going back to her office.
It was a busy floor, but no one attempted to talk to her. She ignored other people and they had come ignore her. Some seemed fascinated with her, or at least curious, but her cool responses had managed to dissuade them from further attempts at expanding their knowledge about her.
Her office was Spartan and bare. It contained no personal possessions. Her desk was pristine. As were her shelves, files and drawers. Everything had a place, and everything needed to be in that place. She sat down, opened the file, and began to read, then turned to the computer, called up the on-line information and background cited and began to examine them.
She paid no attention to the passage of time. She ate when she had to, regarding it as little more than fuel for the engine. She took no pleasure in it. It was a task that needed to be done so she could continue on.
She left late. Her flat-heeled dress shoes (she saw no need or sense in high heels) clipped lightly on the granite floor as she exited the elevator and went to the desk to sign out. The security guard was familiar with her, of course, and made no effort to chat. He did, however, venture what she took as a normal “Good night, Ms. O’Connor” as she moved to the door.
Why he should care if she had a good night was beyond her. But it was a normal part of human society to use such trite phrases. Thus it was, in a way, a rule to reply in kind.
“Good night,” she said in return.
Had she been aware of the man's thoughts as she exited she would have seen less need to be polite. Her voice, in fact, excited him. He had said so to any number of other security guards, and had even considered putting a hidden microphone in her office in the middle of one night in hopes of catching her speaking longer phrases.
The few, occasional glimpses he had had of the shape of her body beneath her normal dull clothing, that lovely face, the long red hair and that soft, furry voice had somehow beguiled him, middle aged though he was, into any number of erotic fantasies over the past year, none of which, he knew, would ever come to fruition.
Rory's feet clipped along the pavement just as they had the floor as she made her purposeful way to her car. The car, of course, was Black, a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. It was sleek, powerful, and had a terrific sound system. Its leather seats were comfortable, and its heads-up display meant she didn't have to take her eyes off the road.
She got in and music began to play. It had a radio, though she'd never used it. It had a CD/DVD player, as well. She saw no need for them. She used a USB stick. It held the music she had chosen, and played it predictably and repeatedly.
There were no voices on any of the music, of course. It was all orchestra music, sometimes classical, sometimes string quartets, sometimes even a particular movie score she had come to appreciate, such as that from the Godfather.
She was fond of the Imperial March from Star Wars, too. It was nicely dark and menacing, and the Vienna Philharmonic played it to perfection.
She drove through the darkened streets, eyes flicking from side to side, careful and alert, which was what she believed the rules required of a driver. Twenty-five minutes later she backed into the single car garage of her walk-up condo, and the automatic garage door closed ahead of her.
She got out of the car and walked up the stairs.
The condo was a three level row-house. The first level were private garages and storage/laundry/equipment rooms. Above that were living room, dining room and kitchen, and above that, bedrooms.
If one entered and exited only by car, through the garage, it was entirely possible to never encounter any of one’s neighbors, and she never had in the year she had been living there. She liked it that way. People were an unnecessary annoyance and aggravation.
The condo was modern, with an open layout. The kitchen was along one wall, behind a glossy granite counter and island. The dining area faced it, and further along was the living area next to the window. A gas fireplace lay in the corner, which could be flicked on with a button.
The music which played in the house was of the same sort as in the car, coming from the same source, after all, which was her computer in the small den off the stairs, and linked to several speakers by Wi-Fi.
She went upstairs to the bedroom and stripped completely. It felt good to be free of the pressure of the heavy clothing against her skin, of the bra enclosing her breasts.
She went into the attached master bathroom and washed her hands carefully. She wasn't exactly a germophobic but she was determined to bring as little of other people's germs into her house as possible.
Walking back into the bedroom, she donned a black leotard. It was tight, with built in bra cups for support, and had a thong bottom. It had, of course, been a present, from Ara, who had loved looking at her bottom and complimented her on it numerous times.
She padded barefoot next door to the second bedroom, which was now her home gym, and began her hour-long routine of exercise, first doing her yoga stretches on the mat, then, after putting on athletic shoes, running on the inclined treadmill.
After that came the rowing machine, and some loose weights, and finally practice in the movements of Taekwondo which was the legacy of that same failed relationship as the leotard she wore. She did not think as she twisted and turned her body. That was one of the good things about pattern training. It became almost instinctive, and your mind could be empty as your body worked.
She was out of breath and sweating by the time she finished, chest heaving as she gulped in air. She reached up and removed the clip from her hair, letting it fall free. She'd told herself many, many times to cut it, for longer hair was impractical, but never gotten around to it.
It was especially impractical in the shower. She refused to go to bed dirty, and refused to exercise in the morning, wanting to be physically and mentally well-rested so as to perform her job to the best of her abilities. That meant washing her hair in the evening, and then wetting it down to brush it again in the morning – unless she pulled it back severely, which she sometimes did.
The bathroom was, of course, quite modern, like the condo itself, and had both a tub and a glass shower enclosure. Of course, standing in it as the water poured over her made her feel a bit as though she were in an exhibit – naked girl in box, as it were. But no one was there to see other than herself, when she turned to see the mirror across from her.
Her face looked younger, she thought, as she did turn, without the mass of coppery hair half covering it, hiding it, hiding her. It occasionally occurred to her that she ought to stop hiding, that perhaps she ought to take a chance and explore at least casual relationships with other people, but something inside her resisted.
She had come to enjoy sex with Ara, she remembered, as her hands slid over her soapy slick body, lightly kneading her breasts. She fingered her nipples. Ara had had them pierced, but she'd long since discarded the rings, and they had healed.
Bitch, witch, she thought, without rancor.
Sex would be good again – soft skin against soft skin. But all the emotional stuff around it – that was too dangerous.
After the shower she donned her black satin nightshirt. It was actually the top to a pair of pajamas, but she never wore the bottoms, seeing no practical benefit.
She had a very good wall-mounted flat screen, but she rarely watched it, except for while adding fuel to the engine. She turned it on and put the news on but it was filled with the idiocy of people. She instead called up recordings of business shows which reviewed the stock market and individual stocks, and played that while eating a TV dinner.
There was an odd sort of sense to the stock market, if you had patience. And it was one of the few legal ways, aside from a salary, to earn substantial amounts of money. Rory wanted money, for money granted freedom and security. And it seemed to her that the more of it you had, the less you had to care about what people thought of you.
So she had been experimenting with her disposable income, the past year, now that she had some, trying to select stocks which seemed likely to rise considerably higher. So far with mixed, but encouraging success. Her biggest problem was a lack of faith in the future. If a stock was disappointing her by falling she was more likely to cut her losses and dump it rather than patiently wait for it to reverse course.
This was, she knew, illogical, but she did it anyway. Which was... annoying. Rory liked to think of herself as a very logical person, unswayed by the emotions which caused most people to act like idiots.
After she'd finished eating she went to the den to look up more on Lord and his projects. He seemed to be something of an enigma: If he was a self-made millionaire there was no information on how he'd done it. If he'd inherited his money there was nothing on his parentage.
That suggested criminality to Rory. And she reviewed the evidence the police had gathered to date for more clues.
Her relationship with police, who were invariably male, was not exactly chummy. She regarded most of them as clumsy, mistake-prone oafs. She didn't know what they thought of her, nor would it occur to her to care.
In her younger days, she had spent many hours playing darts – by herself, of course. She would patiently throw the darts at the board as she thought things through, pluck them out, pace back, and throw them again – and again – and again, sometimes for hours.
It was peaceful, and helped her think. She got quite good, too, though she never played anyone. When she'd gotten (briefly) into her self-cutting phase she'd played around with sharp knives. And had come to replace the dart board with a larger, heftier version. Instead of darts, however, she had small throwing knives.
She threw them to think, however, just as she had the darts, carefully flinging them across the room at the wooden target, crossing to pluck them free, pacing back to her start position, and hurling them again. She never put faces where the board would be. The knives weren't a subconscious means of delivering vengeance to anyone.
That was what her job was for, after all.
People who broke the rules needed to be punished. She had certainly been punished by Ara for the slightest misdeed or lack of focus, and it had helped her become the self-disciplined person she now was.