The Horse Girl
Living in horse country had its advantages. The horses, for one.
But that was just the start of it, especially for someone raised in the suburban sprawl of Phoenix. There were rolling green hills here, hills becoming more and more mottled with reds and purples as November approached. Chirping birds greeted her each morning, and the air on cool days like this smelled positively amazing.
And then there was the silence, a golden hush broken only by the wind, jets passing high overhead, and occasional cacophony drifting over the hill from McNulty’s not-quite-legal lumber yard. It was the blissful bubble one got when one lived a half mile from the nearest neighbors, and a good more than that from what passed for a town in these parts. A silence so complete that when it was rudely broken, she noticed it immediately.
Not that the idiot coming up the south drive—after a week of rain, no less—had any chance of being stealthy. The numerous potholes and ruts she’d dug into the road ensured that. Among the many charms of Ashva Farms was its long, ruinous, and noisy approach, especially when it came to big-city interlopers used to smooth roads and automatic transmissions. Especially when it came to Them.
Which ‘Them’ is it gonna be, Karen? She tried guessing the odds. Another lost Amazon delivery driver, most likely. Commission goons? She could always haul ass back to the house, grab the Colt out of its safe. But it was even easier to strip a goon’s gun out of his own dumb hands, and that required much less running. She leaned against the fence and waited. She’d know soon enough. Ooh, I hope the laptop got shipped early!
A black SUV crested the hill before half-sliding, half-lurching down the other side. Karen sighed heavily. Whoever was behind the wheel, they weren’t here to bring her a new Lenovo. Their SUV bobbed to and fro as it fell into one muddy hole after another, groaning as its shocks—and ball joints, and struts, and just about every other expensive part Karen could picture—filled with grit and then crunched down hard. A Lexus—it looked more and more like a Lexus—in pickup country was amusing enough; the local doctor trying to show off his meager wealth, or a snot-nosed city hedge funder out to inspect a property he’d never seen outside of a balance sheet. But she knew—could just feel who was behind the wheel this time, and it wasn’t either of those two. No, this was even more ridiculous.
After coming this close to sliding clean off the road and into Lewis Creek, the driver correctly decided to gun the engine and stagger up the other side of the hollow. They nearly put themselves into a ditch again when they hit the brakes too hard, sliding to a crooked stop in front of her. Karen watched and waited. Tinted windows made it hard to see who was inside, but if she had to guess, it was probably...
She waved, switching out her knowing smirk for a shit-eating grin, the kind you gave a working stiff when you were on your day off. It really wasn’t far off from reality. “Well well well, what a surprise! Howdy, stranger!”
The driver swung his legs out and braced his arms on either side of the door before reluctantly plunging his expensive loafers into the muck. They sank out of view with a delightful squishing sound that Karen secret wished she’d been able to record. Something to replay over and over again after he was gone. The boys down at the feed store would howl their heads off if they could see this. “Careful,” she said, grin still firmly in place. “It’s a little muddy today.”
“Nice weather you have out here in Bumfuck.” Tom ignored the mess below his ankles and instead brushed a few stray snack crumbs from his otherwise crisp black trousers. Like the Lexus, the trousers made him look ridiculously out of place. Karen couldn’t recall the last time she’d seen a pair of pants that were clean, much less ironed.
He looked around, unimpressed, and sniffed the air. “I never figured you for a horse girl.”
“I never figured you for a sucker. Did the Old Man send you all the way out here to bother me? Surprised it took him this long. Six whole months and—”
“Karen,” he began, holding his hands up.
She was prepared for that. Expected it. “The answer is no, Tom. I’m retired.”
“Retired.” He sniffed the air again, and wrinkled his nose. “You say that like you’re a little old lady. You’re twenty-eight, for fuck’s sake.”
“So? I’m twenty-eight and I’m retired. It’s a pretty sweet deal. My dad had the farm, my uncle had the money, and the Old Man gave me the option.” She took a long deep breath and exhaled with a dramatic aaaah. “That smell you’re smelling, Tom, is the smell of financial security.“
“Smells like horse shit.”
“It is horse shit. And so is the Old Man, if he thinks I’m going to give this life up after what happened. No, Tom. He made a deal. We made a deal. No take-backs.“
“Karen...” His tone turned towards pleading, and he tilted his head as if to say just hear me out, will you? “C’mon. I drove all the way out here from D.C., so could you just give me five—“
“The answer,” she said sharply, “is no.”
“We need you. I need you, Richards. The war’s not over and the Commission is getting stronger every day.”
“Big surprise there, huh? Maybe if we hadn’t been so fucking careless...”
“...about letting those two Commission assholes just walk into that safehouse and do what they did... maybe if the Old Man was better at keeping turncoats protected instead of getting them killed alongside our own people... the hell, Tom? Do you really think I want to go back to that?“
He had no response to that. She pressed further. “Anna was our friend, Tom! Not just a colleague, a friend! And so was Charlie! How can you go back every day and look that old bastard in the eyes?“
“Because it’s my job,” he said. His chest puffed out accordingly. “Because it’s my duty. Did you forget about that? About your oath?”
She threw her head back and laughed. God, this was even more pathetic than she’d imagined it would be. “Oath? Fucking oaths? You’re still selling that to the kids, huh? Hey, get your student loans paid off! See the world! Serve your country! Watch on a live feed as your best friend gets a hole in her fucking forehead! Fuck yeah!” She slapped the fence rail hard enough to make it vibrate. “Fuck you all, okay? I. Am. Retired.”
“I’m sorry about what happened to Anna. We all are.” He approached her, his shoes still making the same wet squick with each muddy step. Karen didn’t find it nearly as amusing now. “And for what it’s worth, those two assholes were third-party. Real Commission agents don’t leave bodies behind.“
“Does it make a difference? Do you think she cares? She’s still dead.”
“You were just doing your job, Karen. We all were. We all have a duty to our oath.”
That same word again. Oath. Oath. It had taken months of horse-grooming and long rides around the farm to exorcise that little demon. You have an oath to keep. Loyalty and duty above all. Above self. Remember that, Agent. Always remember that.
“Bullshit,” she spat, as much to herself as to Tom. “My duty is to get the barn rewired and to fix the gutters on the house before winter. And to get Mrs. Morrigan to pay me at least part of her boarding fee. And to sit down and finish writing my novel. You and the Company are not part of that world, Tom.” She pointed to her left. “Take the north drive, then hook a right onto Wheeler Road. It’ll bring you back to the highway.”
Tom did not leave. He took another squishy step forward. “This isn’t just business,” he said. His eyes matched his tone. “I miss you, Karen. I miss us. Those cold nights in Maine, the warm fire... it wasn’t all about the Company. It’s still not.” He looked over her head and sniffed the air again, like a hunting dog. “Do you really want to shovel horse shit for the rest of your life? Alone? Come on, Karen. You’re too smart and too beautiful for that. I’ve... just seeing you here, it’s... it’s amazing. I missed those eyes so much.“
She could feel his arousal. That sense of want and need in the back of his voice, a please Karen, take me back that part of her wanted to accept wholeheartedly. That badly wanted to accept. Their first night in Maine, snuggled under a huge flannel blanket... the rapturous moment when he finally entered her for the first time, the way her cunt ached for days afterwards... the warm kisses he would always plant on her neck as he stepped into the shower... I love you so much, Tom. Always and forever. She felt warm and fuzzy. She was also horny, and wet. Dammit, he’s making me wet, the fucker! The Old Man knew exactly who to send to haul me back in.
Of course he did. Just like he’d set her up with Tom in the first place, and Tom with her. Two little fuckpuppets too in love to see or care about what was going on around them. Moral ambiguities, crossed lines, needlessly dead agents... who cares when you can fill your holes with that magnificent dick every night? Tom was still under that spell. God, was he under that spell. Even now his eyes were tracing her body, peering at the hint of cleavage over her tank top, following the swell of her great tits down to...
“Tell me the truth, Tom.” She shoved Lovey-Dovey Karen into a mental closet. Hard. “Did you come out here because you need me, or because you miss fucking me? Because if it’s the latter...” Her eyes drifted to the barn on the horizon. “I’ve got a hay loft. Otherwise, you can slip and slide your way back to D.C.“
It was a blow, a nasty one, and she could tell that it landed. He winced and sighed. “Like I said, the Commission is winning and we need you on our side. If I thought I could let you go, I’d do it. You want to stay here in Mudville with Mister Ed for the rest of your life? If it were up to me, I’d let you.”
“Now me? If I were going to retire? I’d pick out a nice tropical beach with a tiki bar, sit a hot piece of ass in my lap, and watch the sunset. We all have our dreams, Agent. But this is reality, and the reality is that we tried giving it a go without your help. I pushed hard to keep you on the bench. I really did. But this decision comes from the top. So don’t shoot the messenger, okay?”
Her eyes narrowed. “If you’re going to start threatening me, shooting you is going to be an act of mercy. Do you know what the boys around here would do to a city-slicker like you if I gave them the good-to-go?”
“If the Commission wins...”
“If the Commission wins, then a bunch of fat old ex-KGB spooks can go run whatever criminal empire they want in Eastern Europe, or Mexico, or wherever. I don’t care. They can have whatever they want, Tom, because I couldn’t give two shits. I have what I want right here.“
“They can’t win without your help, Agent.”
Something about him changed. His face. His body. His posture. Suddenly he seemed much taller, much bigger, much more threatening. “Too many Commission agents have been slipping through our fingers since you left. We can’t risk letting the Americans get a chance to mount a comeback. They’re on the ropes, Karen.” His eyes turned mischievous. “Natasha.”
Her blood ran cold. “You’re a fucking turncoat. You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Suddenly the barn and its hay loft seemed far, far away. So did her neighbors. She was very, very alone. “Have you been one this whole time, Tom? What happened to your precious oath?“
“Our oath, Natasha. The oath we swore to the Commission. To serve and obey. The last word struck at her like a snake. “The real Karen Richards would have understood that. Hell, she probably did. It’s why she went into that Commission lab by herself in the first place. Loyalty and duty above all.“
Loyalty and duty above all. “I have a gun,” she lied. “You know that I know how to use it. Now get back into that car and get the FUCK off my property.“
“Do you remember the little poem they taught you in Voronezh, Natasha? While you were forgetting who you really are?” He looked her over again, in the same way that she looked over her thoroughbreds. “You really are a perfect match for her. Probably one in a billion. No wonder Kosolov was so pissed when I let you quit.”
She let her left hand drop to her jeans, as if preparing to yank out her non-existent sidearm. “I don’t know who you’re talking about, and I don’t want to know. This is your last chance to walk away from this, Tom. I don’t want to kill you.”
“And I don’t want to do this. The doctors said that it might scramble your brain if I tried. But since you won’t listen to reason, Natasha...”
“It’s Karen.” Jesus, has he fucking lost it?. She needed to get away, and fast. His fancy loafers were no match for her boots. A kick to the groin, a vault over the fence, a sprint to the treeline... she could follow Lewis Creek all the way down to Owen’s Corner. By the time Tom got back down the road, she’d have a cop waiting for him.
“Wait, wait,” she said, trying her best to look harmless. “I’ll come quietly, Tom.”
He shook his head. “Too late for that. Listen carefully, Natasha. The lullaby is sweet. Noche prishla, tyemnotu privyela.”
Her head filled with sand. “I... what’s... shto ti syeychas gouvorishe...”
“Vishla manyenka...” His voice was smooth, deep, calm.
So deep. So very deep. Sleep, Natasha. Watch the spiral, and sleep. Sleep and obey. Always obey. “Zakrila stav yenehki,” she mumbled. Her eyes glazed over. Her mouth didn’t seem to want to close again, so she left it hanging open. She could feel her arm sliding off the fence rail and dropping to her side as she stood at attention. Pay attention to the voice, Natasha. Tee podchinyayeshsia. Sleep.”
“Bahyo bay, Natasha.” His voice sounded like angels. Sexy, beautiful, luminous angels. “Zasipay. Zasipay. Zasipay.”
The ground opened up, and Karen sank into it. Deep. So very deep. Deep into the blackness of sleep. She was asleep. So deeply asleep. Deeper than ever before. “Sleep. Da. Moi glaza otkryty, no ya spliyo.”
“Yes, Natasha. In English only now. Your eyes are open, but you are asleep. Your eyes see only mine, and you hear only my voice.”
“Who are you loyal to, Natasha Ivanov?”
A paddock gate opened in her mind. “I am loyal to the Commission. Only to the Commission. The Commission owns my mind and my body. I exist only to serve their will.”
“Natasha is mindless and obedient.”
Another paddock. Another horse led to pasture. ”Yes. I am ready to receive my commands.”
“I want you to contact the Old Man first thing tomorrow morning. Tell him that you have changed your mind. Retirement isn’t working out for you. You’d like to come back, rejoin the team.”
“I’d like to come back.”
“I am your controller. I am your handler. I am you Master. Your trance deepens as you obey.”
The hole that swallowed up Karen Richards now claimed her as well. It felt nice. Sinking into the cool, wet earth, feeling it press against her skin, embracing her like a lover. “It is my purpose, Master,” she droned, and sank ten times deeper.
“Natasha will recall her primary mission now.”
Watch the screen. See only the screen and its words. Your name is Karen Richards. You were born on July 4, 1992, in Phoenix Arizona. Your parents are Hank and Eileen Richards. You are an only child. “Yes. I am to hack into any and all Company databases. I will pass along any information I find regarding the whereabouts of defectors and the security that has been arranged for them. I will do so without memory.“
“Very good. Natasha will recall her secondary mission now.”
Sex is wonderful. You love it. You crave it. You love being fucked. Over and over again. Just thinking about sex makes you wet and horny. “Yes. I will use my body as the Commission sees fit. I must remain in peak condition at all times. I must learn and master as many sexual positions as possible so that I may serve the Commission’s will. I will become wet and horny for any man or woman who speaks my activation code.“
“Dvenadsat Apostolov Tashkent, Natasha.”
Loyalty and duty above all. “Yes. Code received. Activating.” Life flowed back into her face, and she leaned back against the fence. She hooked a finger into her tank top and pulled it down, showing off her boobs. I will always keep my body in peak condition. She shot Tom a sultry, smoldering wink. “There’s a hay loft nearby, Master. Or we could start right here.” She sank to her knees, ignoring the squish and the cold mud that soaked her jeans. They were already soaked, anyway. “Would you like me to suck you off, Master?“
“You really are a country girl, aren’t you?” He laughed to himself. “Take me back to your house. I’m going to fuck your brains out.”
“Yes, Master.” She climbed to her feet. “You’re going to fuck my brains out.”
“Karen is going to fall madly, hopelessly in love with me. She’s going to come back to work because she couldn’t stand to be without me, all alone here on the farm. Her father will understand. The Old Man will, too. Everyone knows how love works... at least, they think they do. Isn’t that right, Natasha?”
She made her way to the Lexus, leaning over the hood so that she could slip around the front without falling into the ditch. She was giving Tom a great view down her shirt, and she loved it. “She will love and obey you, Master. She will do whatever you ask of her.“
“You’re a great fuck, Natasha. Probably better than the real Karen. Do you still keep your pussy shaved, or did you let that go rural, too?”
She reached the passenger door and heaved it open. “I keep it shaved, Master. The Commission demands it. Loyalty and duty above all.” She climbed into the passenger seat. After a moment, she reached for her seat belt. The south drive was in rough shape.
He joined her in the Lexus as she was closing the passenger door. Their joint motion caused the SUV to slide further towards the ditch. “Whoa!” he laughed. “I can’t wait to get you back to civilization, honey. Kosolov upgraded my digs to a penthouse in exchange for bringing you in. You’re going to love it.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I’m going to love it.”
“Get yourself ready for me, Natasha. Do I drive straight down this road to get to your house?”
Her hand disappeared into her pants. “Mmmmm. So hot. So wet... I want you to fuck me, Master.” The second command took hold, and she paused. “Drive straight down the road and turn left at the gate. You’ll see it come up on the right.”
“Good girl. You can go back to fingering yourself.”
“Nnnnn...” Her eyes rolled into her head. “Yessss....”
“You know what’s funny, Karen?” He gave her a moment to respond, before remembering that he’d left Karen behind. “I honestly tried. I really did. I told Kosolov and the rest of them to leave you here in blissful ignorance. ‘Let her be Karen Richards, Boris! She’s done enough for us. We have other agents! We have other sleepers! The girl’s been through some serious shit, let her go.’ You know what he told me?”
“Wanna... fuck... Master. Fuck me.” She ground her palm into her crotch. “I need it. Crave... crave it...”
“In a sec. Hold on. This the gate?”
Her eyes opened briefly. “Yes. Turn left.” Then they were closed, and the smile returned to her face. “Mmmm.”
“He said to me, ‘what if I gave you a new Lexus, Agent Coffman? A nicer apartment? A little vacation time?’ I’m a sucker for bribes, Agent Richards. I guess if you’d know that, you could have bought me off the second I got here. But... hindsight is twenty twenty.”
“A month off. It’s going to be great. Vicki’s one of us; she’ll take over for me. She’ll probably keep Brad or Sarah tranced until you get back. They’re not you, but... ah ha! So this your humble little country shack. Very nice. It’s even got a tin roof!” The Lexus stumbled its way up the driveway. “Anyway, it’s gonna be great. A whole month at a beach resort, all inclusive. They’ve even got a tiki bar right on the beach. And a hot piece of ass all my own. It’s going to be so much fun!”
“Yes. It’s going to be fun.”
He put the Lexus in Park and took her by the hand. “It’s so good to have you back, Karen. I really missed you. Honest. I really do love you, even if… you know.” He turned the ignition and pocketed the keys. “Let’s go inside and get warm. Do you have any of that Kentucky whiskey?”
She opened her eyes, and gazed into his. “Yes, Master. I made it myself.”
The earnest aw, shucksness of it struck him as hilarious. “Ha ha! You can take the Russia out of Natasha, but you can’t take the Kentucky out of Karen.” He opened the door. “Alright, horse girl. Get ready to be ridden hard.”
“Yes.” Loyalty and duty above all. “Anything for you, Master.”
He smiled. “Welcome back, Agent.”