Saturday rolled around, another dull Saturday in Spearfish Lake – but at least this Saturday, Brenda had something to do besides spend the whole day on the computer. She allowed herself the luxury of sleeping in, but after a light breakfast of toast, fruit, and coffee, she pulled on shorts, T-shirt, and a jacket, and walked briskly through the cold wind and rain the few blocks to the Women's Fitness Center. She figured on getting in a session, then doing her laundry, then, if she felt up to it, maybe doing another session.
"Back for more?" Connie grinned as Brenda walked in.
"It was either this or watch the clothes tumbling in the dryer," Brenda laughed. "What do you think I should do today?"
"Just what you did yesterday, but add a few reps or a couple more laps, if you can," Connie told her. "Like I said, we've got to get your body used to its new regimen."
Brenda headed out back to discover a number of women working out. Deciding to let the running go for a while, she headed over to a Nautilus and started in.
With the aches from yesterday, it wasn't any easier, and halfway through the session, she began to wonder if it was worth all the self-torture. She hit her goal on the exercise bike, and was about ready to take ten, if not call it a day, if not forever, when she saw Carole Carter working out on a Nautilus – working hard. Brenda looked for a moment and realized that she didn't know anything about self discipline, or self torture, if that was what it was, at least in comparison to the woman in handcuffs. She brushed back a hair, and headed over to the running track. She went slowly; she just wasn't capable of anything more, just then, but the track took her close to Carole every lap. What was going on in her head, anyway? It gave her something to think about, not that she was capable of thinking very hard just then.
Lap after mindless lap went by. As they did, Brenda kept wondering how she would be able to go on. Maybe she shouldn't have pushed quite as hard earlier. Finally, a lap went by when Carole wasn't on the Nautilus, and Brenda was just too tired to even think about wondering where she had gone.
"How you doing, Brenda?" she heard a voice beside her say.
She looked up to see Carole jogging alongside her. "Just beat to shit," she puffed.
"How many more laps till your goal?"
"Eleven, I think,"
"Don't give up! I'll be happy to run with you if it'll help," Carole grinned. "I'll even keep count."
Brenda had serious doubts that she could make it through eleven more laps, but her curiosity was just strong enough to make her want to try. There wasn't much talking in those eleven laps – well, there was, but it was Carole doing the talking, just lending some encouragement, counting off the laps; Brenda didn't have the breath to talk. Everything was going toward getting the last laps in, and she was staggering and going slowly when she finished. As soon as the last one was finished, she stopped, put her hands on her knees, and just breathed heavily. Paying only minimal attention, she saw Carole reach down and take one of her wrists, to get a pulse rate, obviously. Absently, Brenda wondered why she was bothering; her heart was beating so hard the whole building must be shaking. "Made it," she finally puffed.
"Yes, you did," Carole beamed. "That's something to be proud of. You know you can make it, now."
"I don't know how," Brenda said.
"Prove it to yourself," Carole told her. "Look, just stand there and catch your breath, then let's just do another couple, just to prove to you that you can."
"Carole, did anyone ever tell you that you're crazy as hell?"
"All the time," the handcuffed woman smiled. "But you can do it. Come on, let's just walk for a lap, then jog a couple, then walk it off."
It was a slow walk, but after half a lap, Brenda found herself catching her breath a little, and, with Carole's encouragement, at the end of the first lap they started to jog through another couple laps, then slowed and walked one. "See, I told you that you could do it," Carole told her.
"I didn't believe you, but you were right. Thanks, Carole."
"Oh, no problem," Carole grinned. "Your body was just protesting, and your mind has to tell it where to go. Let's walk another lap, just to help you get your heart rate down without stiffening up."
"You sound like Connie," Brenda said.
"I've heard that from her a lot," Carole said. "Although, I had to learn it for myself before I ever met her. You're doing all right, Brenda; you just have to learn how to do this, just like learning anything else. And, you're learning. Was that your workout for today?"
"No, I've got a rowing machine to go yet."
"Then maybe you'd better take a breather," Carole told her. "Make your goals. Don't disappoint yourself."
"It's hard," Brenda protested.
"Of course it's hard," Carole told her. "It wouldn't be worth it if it wasn't hard. Look, I know we talked about this a little the other day, but why are you doing this?"
"It's a long story," Brenda protested.
"So, we've got time for a long story," Carole smiled again. "Come on, I'm a psychologist by trade, I'm used to listening."
"You know Sally Szczerowski? Works down at the Record-Herald?"
"Sure, known her all my life, if not real well," Carole said.
"Well, a couple weeks after I got here, she invited me over to dinner one Saturday night. It gets lonely up here by myself, you know? I'm a loner anyway, I guess, but there can be too much of it. So, it was real nice of her to ask. Well, anyway, I got over there, and had a nice dinner with the family. Well, her daughter, Nicole, and her boyfriend, Randy, were there. You know them?"
"Pretty good. Not close friends, but I know them."
"I was real impressed. Nicole's a sharp girl, good looking, athletic. And Randy, let's say that I don't know how he keeps women off of him. Good looking, smart, nice guy, and I've been told there's money in the family."
"All true," Carole smiled. "I'll tell you what, if I was just a few years younger and a couple other things, I'd be tempted to try to get in line for him myself."
"There's apparently quite a line," Brenda said. "I mean, I wasn't being snoopy or anything, but just from hearing them talk, Nicole is one of three close girlfriends he has."
"Still true," Carole grinned. "And, they're all good friends with each other, which is even more amazing. I've met the other two, although Crystal only once. They're both from out of town, but they're both something else. I mean, I like to think I'm in shape, but I could train 24/7 and never be in the shape Crystal is in. She did the Appalachian Trail this summer, and Myleigh – she's the third girlfriend – told me that Crystal has been asked twice to get on tracks for two different Olympic teams, and turned them down. Crystal is nothing like you could call pretty, but take Connie, blow her up by about ten percent, twenty percent across the arms and shoulders. Impressive athlete. Myleigh is totally different. Small, cute, talks like a dictionary, not very athletic, smart as hell. Working on her doctorate in English literature, and for a hobby she plays the Celtic harp like nothing you've ever heard. But yes, very impressive girls, all of them. If you were thinking about getting in line for Randy, you better believe the competition is tough."
"That's the point," Brenda said bitterly, a tear running down her cheek. "I mean, I don't want to take away anything from Nicole. I'm not looking to get hooked up with anyone right now, anyway. But, I went back to the apartment, took off my clothes and looked in the mirror, and wondered just how in hell a fat slob like me is ever going to score on a guy half as good as that."
"So you decided a change was in order."
"Right. Look, I've worked for years to get my degree, get a job in journalism. It wasn't easy, and I busted my ass doing it. It's not the greatest job in the world, but it'll do for a start. But when I leave here, if I haven't done something about it, I'll be just a fat slob with a line on my resume and a none-too-impressive college, and I don't stand a chance against some cute blonde right out of State with no experience and no dedication."
"You made the decision to do that," Carole smiled. "It sounds like you're pretty well motivated in a macro sense, but it's hard to do day to day, right?"
"Damn right," Brenda said, still bitter, but with determination returning. "Carole, could we do another few laps?"
"Of course," Carole smiled. "What do you say, ten, then we hit the break room?"
"Works for me," Brenda said, picking up the pace.
"You know, Carole, I'm around cops and the jail and the courthouse a lot," Brenda said as she sat across the table in the break room, water bottle in hand, "But I don't think I've ever seen handcuffs quite like those before."
"They're pretty rare," Carole said, extending her hands so Brenda could have a closer look. She knew that most cops carried handcuffs that were pretty flat, mostly sandwiches of several layers of fairly thin metal. These, however, had a solid flattened oval bar, over an inch wide, that extended around Carole's wrists. Both ends were fixed into a cylindrical lock cylinder on the outside of the wrist. One end of the bar was hinged; the other fit into the other end of the cylinder. "They're Soliel Lightweights, made of stainless steel," Carole continued to explain as Brenda carefully studied them. "They're what's called a modified Darby style. They're made by a little company in Belgium whose main business is making machine gun parts. They only make a few hundred pair a year, but they're absolutely the best in the business for long-term wear."
As Carole continued to talk, Brenda looked more carefully. The handcuffs were pretty in their way – highly polished, with a lot of smooth curves that flowed into one another, almost like Art Deco, or Bauhaus. They fit loosely on Carole's wrists, and as Brenda looked, she could see that the inside of the band was lined with something. "Is that liner leather?" Brenda asked.
"Neoprene," Carole smiled. "They do come either way, but I know a woman who wore a set with leather liners for a couple years. She said leather is actually a little more comfortable most of the time, but when it gets wet it feels grubby. And, the leather doesn't wear as well, so when she had them relined, she switched to neoprene."
Brenda reached out and put her hands on the handcuffs, lifting them up enough to be able to get a feel of the weight. "They don't seem as heavy as they look," she commented.
"They're heavy enough that I know I have them on," Carole smiled. "But your body soon adapts and you don't notice it."
"You know, this is going to sound like a stupid question," Brenda asked as she let go of the handcuffs. "But how do they lock? I don't see any place for a key."
"That's one of the neat things about these," Carole explained with a grin as she twisted her wrists so Brenda could get a look at the bottoms. "You see that circular disc, a little smaller than a dime, with a shallow slot in it?"
Brenda looked carefully, and yes, there was one on the bottom of each of the cylinders. "Down here?" she pointed.
"Yes," Carole grinned. "That's actually a keyhole dust cover. It keeps dirt and crap from getting into the mechanism and possibly jamming it. It takes a special tool to take them off, but they just unscrew. Then, there's a key sort of like a house key to open the mechanism. It's a much more serious lock than you see on police handcuffs. Those have a pretty simple lock, and it's no great trick to pick them. These, well, you know Gil Evachevski?"
"Spearfish Lake Appliance, right?"
"Yeah, Gil is as close to a real locksmith as anyone we have in this town, and he asked to play with my spare pair once. He did finally manage to tickle them open, but he had to open them with a key several times to get a look at the mechanism."
Everything Carole was saying gave Brenda several more questions to ask, and there were several good ones. "You have another pair of these?" Brenda asked, as one of the more obvious ones.
"Oh, yes," Carole smiled. "The lining does give out after a while, so every so often I have to send them in to the factory for cleaning, inspection, relining and polishing. This is actually the original pair, and they're due for maintenance in another year or so. When that happens, I'll have the other pair put on, and then these taken off. It takes about six weeks to get the maintenance done, but when they come back they positively sparkle."
"Who do you have change them?" Brenda wondered.
"Oh, whoever happens to be around," Carole said. "It's no big deal. My mother did it the last time."
Brenda shook her head and laughed. "I can just imagine asking my mother to do that," she said. "I mean, she would absolutely blow a fuse if the idea came up. Of course, there was a time I figured she'd be happier if she could have kept me in handcuffs, anyway."
"Well, if you ever do decide to wear handcuffs for a long period, don't consider anything less than Soliels," Carole grinned.
"Not much chance of that, I think," Brenda laughed. Hell, even the thought gave her chills, and the laughter helped cover it up.
"You know, back when I first was considering this, I had Chief Novato put a regular pair of police handcuffs on me for a few hours, just to try it out. He told me that police handcuffs aren't designed for this, and he was right. They're very uncomfortable, and I knew it wouldn't work. He told me that I ought to find some Darbys. A collector pointed me at this shop in Chicago that stocks Soliels, and the first time I tried them on, well, it was a different world. They really were designed for long-term wear; they never were intended to be police handcuffs. The original design goes back to before they had tranquilizers in mental institutions, and some mental patients had to be restrained for long periods. They could only keep someone in a straitjacket for so long."
"Yeah, that makes sense, I guess. But do they still use them for that?"
"Not that I'm aware of. Soliel is just a little shop, and they quit making these back in the twenties, I guess. Original model Soliels are worth a couple thousand bucks to a collector, if you can find them. About twenty years ago, some English guy approached Soliel to see if they still had any of the old ones laying around unsold. He figured that he could make a mint out of them if they did. They didn't, but they still had the patterns and dies and stuff. I guess it was a little slow around there at the time, so they ran off a few, with some modifications like the keyhole cover and the lining. One thing led to another, and now they turn out a few hundred every year."
Brenda shook her head. "It seems hard to believe there's that big a market," she said.
"Think about it," Carole laughed. "There's actually a lot of handcuffs made each year around the world. Out of that, there are enough people interested in long-term wear and willing to pay for quality to make it worthwhile."
Brenda knew she was getting near some potentially very sticky ground, but there was no turning back: "You mean like an S&M thing?"
"I suppose," Carole grinned, apparently not offended in the slightest. "I know a few people like that, and some of them are pretty weird. Of course, they consider me pretty weird since I'm not wearing them for some bondage thing."
Brenda grinned and shook her head. "Look, there's no way I'm into that scene," she said. "But, I've got to be honest and say that I think it's a little weird, too."
"I can't blame you," Carole laughed. "At least you'll admit it to my face. A lot of people won't. That gets a little irritating, sometimes. Look, a lot of people want to know why I'm wearing these. You want to know why?"
"Of course." It was the question that had burned at her from the first moment Brenda had seen Carole out jogging.
"Brenda, I'm wearing them because I want to," Carole said lightly.
That wasn't much of an answer, Brenda realized immediately. Why in hell would she want to? It had to be deeper than that. But what to say? "Well, if you want to, I guess," she said with a shrug. It was as stupid an answer as Carole's statement had been. "It doesn't have to make sense, I guess."
"Brenda, I'm a psychologist, and that was the first thing I really learned about psychology," Carole laughed. "In fact, that's what it's all about in the first place."
"What is it exactly that you do?" Brenda asked, wanting to pull away from the subject a little. "I mean, out there running a little while ago, I realized I was being manipulated by a professional."
"Not manipulation," Carole said. "Just helping you to bring a little strength into play that you didn't know you had. I didn't really say much of anything. All you had to do was to remember what you were doing, and why you were doing it. Once you touched that anger, you found the motivation, right?"
"Yeah, I didn't think I could do it, but it was easier than I thought."
"Anger is a good tool," Carole smiled. "It can be very powerful if it's controlled. It's often one of the better tools I get to use. See, Brenda, what I mainly do is counsel people who have had some major life-changing trauma, like an accident or an illness that just wrecks their whole lives. Sometimes that can make them suicidal, and it's hard to make the adjustment. It isn't what I got into psychology to do, and it can be terribly wearing, but it sort of fell out of my master's work and what followed, and, yes, the handcuffs were involved, too."
"Is there much call for that around here?" Brenda asked.
"More than you might think," Carole told her. "But my main work is down in Camden. I'm usually down there three days a week, but they're long days. That gives me more time at home. Usually it's just Monday through Wednesday, and I've got a place I stay down there, but occasionally I have to shift things around, like I didn't have to work Wednesday, and did have to Friday. But anyway, we're just sitting here gabbing, now. Let's do another machine or two, then maybe go get a cup of coffee and a sandwich or something."
"Sounds good to me," Brenda said. She was only looking at a couple hundred reps on the rowing machine, there was even a counter, and it was mindless enough that it gave her a chance to think. There was a lot to think about.
One thing that seemed perfectly clear was that Carole was thoroughly comfortable wearing her Soliels, and didn't expect to take them off anytime soon. In fact, if anything, she was enthusiastic and proud of it. That just didn't make a heck of a lot of sense. Brenda didn't have any difficulty imagining someone wearing handcuffs for an extended period because someone else wanted them to, a bondage thing, like Carole had intimated – but to do it to yourself, voluntarily? More and more, Mike's theory that Carole had a screw loose seemed likely. It certainly seemed the simplest possible answer. But, damn it, Carole was a psychologist – didn't she realize that this was pretty obsessive? Brenda was no expert at psychology, but she'd taken a couple of classes back at Riverside. Takes one to know one, she thought.
In any case, screw loose or not, she was an interesting person, and like everyone said, a nice one, very friendly – and with a gift, too. Brenda had been close to giving up the exercise program that morning as too impossible, but with just a few casual words Carole had firmed up her resolve to carry it through. Manipulative or not, those words had made a hell of a difference. Brenda realized that it probably wouldn't be the last time a crisis like that would come up, and just the possibility of more friendly encouragement made getting to know Carole worthwhile. She was very friendly, whether it was professional, or not. And besides, sheer curiosity about this interesting person made Brenda want to get to know her better.
Brenda finished her reps on the rowing machine before Carole was finished with the Nautilus, so threw in fifty more for good measure. To kill time – surprising herself in the process – and then further surprised herself by getting up, shaking her arms a bit, and slowly starting to jog around the running track some more. Eventually, Carole came over and joined her again. "Wow, you're really a glutton for punishment, aren't you?" she smiled.
"Hey, I might as well do it while I can," Brenda smiled. "Later today, tomorrow for sure, I'm going to be one big ache. Odds are I won't be able to get out of bed tomorrow, but I might be able to stagger into work on Monday."
"Ibuprofen, and lots of it," Carole told her. "This place is closed tomorrow, but get some exercise to loosen up, even if it's just walking around the apartment, or going up and down some stairs. You probably can stand a day off, but it'll be best if you don't take it all the way off. You about ready to do some lunch?"
"Ready if you are," Brenda said. It really was hard to quit; this session had gone really well, once Carole had helped her over the tough part. "I'm all sweaty and stinky, and I really should get a shower and change."
"Oh, let it go till later," Carole smiled. "We'll just go over to Rick's Cafe. He makes a pretty good tuna salad, but there's all these guys coming in from the railroad all covered with grease and smelling of diesel fuel. Nobody's got any room to complain about a little honest sweat. We probably smell better than most of them, anyway."
"Well, if you say so," Brenda laughed. "Right now, I smell bad enough to kill a dog downwind at twenty paces."
It was still pretty rainy and nasty outside. Brenda had left her jacket in the locker room. Once again, she wondered about Carole – every time they'd met, she'd been wearing something different. How the hell did she manage to change clothes? She'd intimated that it was a fairly big proposition to get the handcuffs off, one she needed help with, yet she wasn't just going to go outside in a T-shirt and shorts, was she?
It turned out not. Brenda watched unobtrusively, trying not to stare, as Carole pulled a light nylon pullover out of the locker. She took a sleeve, fed it through under the handcuff from her elbow side on one wrist, and pulled it down over her hand until she could get her hand inside, then pulled it back through the handcuff, around her arm. Son of a bitch, Brenda thought. That's how she does it! It's so simple it's obvious, but I never thought about it! She sat down to check how tight her shoes were tied, but glanced up once or twice as Carole went through the same process with the other arm. It only took seconds longer than if she didn't have the Soliels on at all! It obviously wouldn't work with anything that was real heavy, but that must be why Carole let the handcuffs fit loosely. I'll bet she has all sorts of little tricks like that! She'd have to have, to wear handcuffs for over five years!