It is a scientist’s fate: to be obsessed with the inextricable relation between cause and effect. With the hypnotizing cadence of the train accompanying me like a ticking clock, I contemplated the journey that lay behind me. The grief that had crippled me at the onset of my travels had vanished, but I continued to search for causality, for the venomous variables that had ripped her out of my life. I was looking for a Law of Wrath, for a Guilt Formula. I am not going to speak about her now. She had gone and was never to return. I had kissed the clouds and had been thrown back to earth with a bang.
I stared out of my compartment’s window. That afternoon we had left Istanbul, where I had arrived a couple of months earlier, penniless, following a journey throughout the Far East. In the Turkish capital I had found a job as a private teacher of a young girl with a talent for science and maths. Her father bestowed me a generous fee and as a bonus he booked me onto the Orient Express for my trip home. During my year in Asia I had gotten used to travelling in third-class carriages and run-down buses, surrounded by obtrusive passengers and the smell of their livestock. Now there was the distinguished distance of wealthy travelers and the scent of Chanel. I felt melancholic. Abundant luxury, it seemed, will never fill the emptiness in one’s heart.
As darkness fell over the landscape outside I rose, checked the copper-plated lock of my compartment and got ready for the night. It must have been a few hours later when a subdued scream woke me. Motionlessly, I listened. There was a cry, and another one, and moments later another one. I was alarmed, on the verge of checking what was going on when it occurred to me. I relaxed and smiled. These were not cries of anguish; this was ecstasy. In the compartment next to mine, love was being made and my next-door lady – for it was unmistakably a woman – did so wholeheartedly. An uninvited guest to her passion, I listened and remembered Agatha Christie’s novel, in which Samuel Ratchett’s dying scream interrupts Poirot’s sleep. Eventually, silence returned. The only thing I heard was a door opening and closing again, and footsteps in the aisle dissolving in the quiet of the night.
No murder had been committed, for as I left my compartment the next morning on my way to breakfast, the lady next door also stepped into the aisle. I glanced at her, maybe just a fraction of a second too long, a stylish brunette with her hair pulled back. We nodded politely, walked to the restaurant carriage and took our seats. To my surprise she was unaccompanied. Was she travelling alone? As I enjoyed my breakfast, I automatically slipped into my role as a detective, carefully watching my fellow passengers and looking for clues. Who had been with her last night?
In the back, there was an elderly couple. British, no doubt.
Out of the question.
On the other side, a middle-aged man, well-dressed, deep in thought over a notepad, with the grim seriousness of a writer.
Then, there was a young blond woman, alone at the table, donning a notable tattoo of the Horus-eye – the Wedjat – on the inside of her lower arm.
In the back, two young, bearded men with expensive watches, engaged in business talks.
One of them? A threesome?
Then of course, there were the members of staff. I watched how my handsome neighbour was served coffee by an equally handsome waiter, and only then I noticed that she was watching me. She took her cup, rose to her feet and approached me.
“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked. Her lilting accent betrayed a French descent.
I made an inviting gesture and she sat down.
“You are an observer. You are looking around, taking mental notes of everyone and everything. I wonder why,” she said with a playful smile. I decided to play along.
“Can you keep a secret?” I rhetorically asked. “I am a detective trying to figure out who did it.”
“Mon Dieu!” she giggled. Who did what? Nothing grave happened, I hope?”
“Only strange nocturnal sounds so far,” I replied.
“You don’t say. I do hope I am not a suspect! I am Julie, by the way.”
“Not a suspect, possibly a victim. Oscar, pleased to meet you.”
From the sparkle in her eyes I could tell that she knew exactly what I was talking about.
“If ‘strange’ is your description of those sounds, I feel a bit sorry for you, Oscar.”
“Well. It has been a long and lonely journey.”
I put my investigations aside and told her about the past year. How I had tried to kill the demons in my head. How I got stranded in my search for causes. Julie carefully listened. It was a relief to finally be able to share my thoughts and my doubts with this charming and rather beautiful woman. Julie, in turn, did not reveal much about herself. She was well-to-do, so much was very clear to me.
“The protocol in Paris is suffocating,” she said. “Now and then I spit out the city’s venom and I run. Like now.”
As we got up from the table, she kissed me on the cheek.
“I would be delighted to continue our conversation over dinner. And of course I expect a full report regarding your investigation, monsieur l’inspecteur,” she added with a smile.
For the remainder of the day, I stared at the letters in a book and at the rain outside, my thoughts constantly wandering off to beautiful Julie.
I had done my best to dig up something decent from my worn-down backpack for dinner, but it contrasted sharply with the elegance of my table companion. The food was refined, our conversation lively, and plain flirtatious due to the excellent wine.
“So tell me, have you made any progress investigating that hideous crime?” she asked.
I noticed how Julie’s fingers gently touched the soft white landscape between her neck and her cleavage.
“I am following the standard procedure to look for motive and opportunity,” I answered. “Which in this case is not very easy.”
“I am slightly disappointed in you. Let me help.”
She took my hand and with her slender fingers molded it into a fist. Then, she dipped a finger into a drip of olive oil that had remained on her plate.
“First clue: the perpetrator is here, on the train.”
She gently smeared the olive oil over the top of my clenched fist and firmly looked me in the eyes.
“Second clue: the opportunity also remains, in the shape of my compartment.”
When she spoke these words, she slowly let her oily finger slide into my fist.
“Third and final clue: the motive never vanishes. It is called lust.”
We stopped talking and looked at each other. I felt warm. The mileage of my trip had blurred my memories of physical contact; her touch and her words now woke them with a shock. I clenched my fist more firmly and seized her slippery finger.
“Give me a moment to freshen up,” she said. “Come to my compartment in half an hour. We shall solve this mystery together.”
At the agreed time I knocked on her door. She opened, astonishingly beautiful, wearing a black satin negligee with a hem of white lace. Her locks rippled around her delicate face.
“I am sorry,” I muttered. “You are not ready yet.”
“Oh yes I am, Oscar. Come in and sit down. Champagne?”
As I stepped into her compartment there was another surprise. The blonde woman with the Horus-eye tattoo was sitting on one of the benches, nipping from her glass and looking seductively at me.
“Oscar, please meet Daphne. We have been dear friends for years but – how shall I put this? – social conventions prohibit us from spending much time together. A short yearly holiday is the only fuel we can add to the fire of our friendship.”
I shook Daphne’s hand as Julie nestled beside her. I sat down across the two women and Julie handed me a glass of champagne.
“Oscar is a physicist, traveler and detective who has racked his brains all day about what happened in this compartment last night, ma cherie. What do you think, shall we show him?”
I almost choked when Daphne replied by putting her hands on Julie’s knees and forced her legs open with a short and sudden tug.
“You are an observer, aren’t you? Then watch,” Julie said in a coarse voice.
As their tongues met in a moist dance, I saw how Daphne’s fingers found their way, up along Julie’s thighs to the spot that opened before my eyes and glistened of desire.
Daphne got up from the couch and kneeled between Julie’s spread legs, her bottom in my direction. A sigh escaped Julie’s moist lips as Daphne started licking her. Julie’s eyes remained fixed on mine.
I lost all hesitation, lifted Daphne’s skirt and pulled her string of black lace down to just above her bent knees. The sounds and scent of the two women stirred something in me that I had not felt for a long time.
While I showed Julie how I masturbated, the sweet duet of the two women continued. Their game of chess was tender and rough at the same time. Before I knew it they tasted each other and reminded me of the French origins of soixante-neuf.
Daphne reached out for me.
“Join us, Oscar.”
Of course I was excited, but the fact that these two women, without hesitation or ratio, invited me into their warm circle also moved me. I got rid of the last clothes I was wearing and kneeled astride Daphne’s face. Julie spread her legs further, in anticipation to receive me. Daphne grabbed my dick and steered it purposely along Julie’s clit and labia, as an artist colouring in wet paint, and led me to Julie’s glistening heart. Then she placed her hands on by buttocks and started pushing. She didn’t utter the words, yet I heard them: fuck her, fuck her now!
I firmly grabbed Julie’s hips and thrusted my lower body forward. She received me with a scream of pleasure, a scream I recognised. This time, the perpetrator was me and I was happy to be guilty. As I felt Daphne moving her fingers frantically up and down along Julie’s clit, I fucked Julie.
The ultimate excitement is not a woman’s beautiful body, but the look in her eyes when she surrenders her soul to lust. When she turned her head around, her mouth slightly open and her eyes widened, I let all restraint go. Burying her brown hair in my fist, I pulled her towards me, and echoing her scream I came deep inside her. Daphne led me out of her, and quenched her thirst with the saline-sweet mixture of our juices between Julie’s thighs.
A few hours later I woke up, the silken-soft skin of two sleeping women against my body. I carefully disengaged from our sweet entanglement, put on some clothes and quietly stepped out of the compartment. In the aisle, I opened a window and breathed in the cool air of dawn. More than ever I realised that I had spent my entire life looking for predictable certainties, whereas beauty had always been waiting in the embrace of coincidence. I was done with my research into the cynical script writers of my fate. Melancholia is the corpse of a dream deceased, Daphne had whispered as the three of us lay and she had kissed a tear from my cheek. I was never to find a Guilt Formula, and decided that I should let bygones be bygones. I was on my way home.
This is a translated version of the award winning story I submitted for the final round of EWA Nederland’s ‘Erotic Writing Marathon’. Many thanks to Marie Rebelle for editing!