Iron Rose Bleeding

Chapter 1

Anne Azel

To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.

The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at

Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.

These are the events as we know them.

We recorded them factually and objectively.

And now we report them to you.

Taylor Alexandria Punga was an enigma. Courtney Hunter had worked for her for almost two years now and she had seen her only twice and knew nothing about her. That is, almost nothing. Courtney's job was to archive the material that flowed in from Punga's busy schedule. In a way, she knew all and understood nothing. And finding out what motivated and financed Punga's life had become an obsession with Courtney Hunter because Punga was an enigma that Courtney Hunter had to understand.

From the moment she had met Punga, she had been fascinated by the tall, striking woman. Courtney had to admit that part of the attraction was the woman's strength. Punga simply radiated confidence and energy. If energy was strength, Taylor Alexandria Punga was very strong.

She was beautiful too, not in a pretty way but with the sort of beauty generated by the danger. Punga was mesmerizing; dark, gracefully, lethal in her movements and very mysterious. That flame of deadly energy attracted Courtney until she fairly buzzed with need.

Who was Taylor Alexandria Punga? She seemed to have incredible power, yet she had no title and no office. She was immensely rich and yet had no visible source of income. She was present at every significant meeting in the world - it seemed - and yet never spoke or presented at them.

Taylor Alexandria Punga had become Courtney Hunter's project. And that was why she was at Punga's residence that day even though it was her day off. It would be a day that would change everything and so it is a good place to start. It was not the beginning of the story, which had been going on for some time and was near to reaching a climax. It was, however, when Courtney Hunter entered the story.

She parked her old car in the parking lot allotted to household staff that was discretely hidden behind a neat box hedge. She parked in the same spot she always did because her car's oil pan had a slow leak and she didn't want to ruin anymore of the parking area than she already had. She headed over to the security gate and punched in her personal code. A small screen glowed green and she stood straight in front of the camera lens and held up her I.D. tag with her picture. She did not feel the picture did her justice and was always mildly annoyed when the security system accepted the photo ID as her.

Electronic squeals and bleeps came softly from the speaker. " are scheduled for time off,"came a mechanical voice. "Indicate reason for access."

Courtney tapped in number 24. The code for required overtime. More squeals and bleeps. Then,

"Access granted."

Courtney placed her hand over the red hand that now glowed on the screen beside the gate. She heard the power switch trip and the metal cover over the key slot slide back as her hand print was read and accepted by the security system. Courtney inserted her card-key and removed it again when the screen turned green. The security door slipped open and Courtney entered standing in the box formed by white lines painted on the cement until the door had slid closed behind her. The mechanical voice came again. "Access has been granted to It is now safe to step forward. Do not step back. Proceed forward." Courtney did so. She knew that she crossed a laser beam when she did. Anyone following would trigger the elaborate security system.

She walked up a fieldstone path that was bordered by a high cedar hedge that hid the security fencing on each side. It was a prison walk disguised in country attire. At the guard house, she once again showed her I..D. card. "Hi Ian,"she said to the serious looking man dressed in the black jump suit.

"Hi Court. The system is showing you as having today off but it has cleared you for entrance anyway," Ian Philips informed her. "I bet you were called in because she is coming," he stated almost managing a smile.

Courtney's heart skipped a beat but outwardly she gave no indication that she was unaware of this information. She took the green security tag from Ian that would allow her to move freely about the green zone sections of the house and estate. "Have a good day,"she smiled, with no further explanation and waited for Ian to punch in the code that would open Taylor Punga's world to her. It was also the moment when everything changed.

Punga was coming to the estate. That might change Courtney's plans but it might also give her the rare opportunity to see her boss. Access to the house was through a maze created by dry-stone walls that edged high beds of flowering trees and plants. Here and there, water danced down garden rocks or gold fish flashed in a still, silent pool. Courtney promised herself every time she walked through this beautiful area that if she ever had a house of her own it would have a mysterious and beautiful entrance like this.

She came on the house suddenly, reaching a stone wall and then having to turn to follow it in a curve to the brass front doors. Once again, she stood on the white box painted on the flagstone. The tag that Ian had given her and that was clipped to her pocket, automatically fed data into the security system and the brass doors clicked open.

Courtney pushed on the one on the right and entered a quiet lobby beautiful in its simplicity. A floor of black tile was divided by a rectangular pool of water. A rough cut slab of granite was the only means across the water. The walls on each side were polished teak and on the other side of the bridge a glass wall allowed a view of an interior courtyard of thick vegetation.

Courtney knew that turning left once she crossed the pool would take her into the green zone of the elaborate house. These were the public areas, the library, banquet hall, kitchen, conference room, and staff rooms. Going right would take her to the red zone areas. The private chambers of Taylor Alexandria Punga.

For a minute, she stood on the bridge steeling her nerve, then she crossed and walked to the right over the black tiled floor. Taylor's quarters were separated from the rest of the house by another set of brass doors. Courtney swallowed hard and wiped the sweat from her hands. She had no idea why she was doing this. If she got caught, she suspected that the consequences would be swift and serious. She had hesitated for over a year, her common sense and need for self-preservation over ruling her compulsive need to know who Taylor Punga really was.

She slipped from her pocket the red tag that she had picked up and kept after it fell from one of Punga's coat pockets last winter. She took off her green tag and clipped on the red. If this didn't work the security system would automatically sound an alarm and pin point her location on monitors. Then security personnel would literally come from everywhere and she would be carted off. She had witnessed practice drills many times. If the red tag didn't work, then the next intruder alarm would be for real and it would be her that was carted off, goodness knows where.

She stepped into the white box, the doors slid open and Courtney stepped into Taylor Alexandria Punga's very private world.

It was disappointing. There was a very conventional lounge area consisting of over-stuffed, distressed-leather chairs and sofa around a fireplace. The fireplace was made of natural stone, the walls silk, in soft, warm tan. The original art on the walls was an eclectic mix of well known twentieth century artists. Over the fireplace was a Jackson Pollack. There were several oils by the Ash Can School and a sketch that Courtney suspected was by Picasso.

Everything was neat and tidy and devoid of any personal items. Nothing was worn or scratched. The room looked as if it had just been set up by an interior designer for show. Everything was perfectly placed, even the stainless steel briefcase with the initials TAP on it was placed with deliberate casualness on the granite block that acted as a coffee table.

TAP! The implications of the briefcase being there exploded on Courtney's mind and left her feeling faint with worry. She turned to beat a hasty retreat and found, to her horror, Punga standing right behind her.

"I can explain,"stammered Courtney, looking up the lean, muscular body dressed totally in black, to the hard, classic features, and the startling, aqua eyes.

"I doubt if you can,"purred the deep, liquid voice.

We warned you.

She is the weak link.

This is a problem.

Courtney looked around startled. Had she heard voices? There was no one in the room only her and the towering Punga who looked down at her with angry, curious eyes. Someone touched her hair and she jumped and turned around. No one was there.


How can this be?

This development is puzzling.

Courtney looked around in annoyance then spun on the tall silent woman behind her. "What the hell is going on?"she demanded.

Punga raised an eyebrow and looked at her condescendingly. "I believe that should be MY question. You will come and sit in the chair over there," she ordered, pointing to one of the leather chairs near the fireplace.

"No I won't. I'm leaving," Courtney responded firmly, trying to brush an invisible hand from around her arm.

"That would be unwise and futile." Punga shrugged. "You really have no choice but to stay."

Courtney felt her hackles going up. "I apologies for being in a restricted area. I shouldn't have been." She took off her red tag and pulled the green one from her pocket. Lifting Punga's hand, she dropped the tags onto Punga's up turned palm. "There are your tags back. I found the red one when it fell out of your coat pocket last winter. I guess I am fired but you certainly don't have any right to hold me here. What the hell is that?!" she finished in frustration, pulling away from the unseen hand.

She hears.

And she feels.

She can not see.

Taylor nodded. "Yes. This is unexpected and most interesting."

Courtney could feel herself starting to panic. Outwardly, she forced herself to remain calm. This was not the time to show fear. "What's interesting? And would you please let me go!" she demanded, pulling violently away from the invisible arm. Released suddenly and unexpectedly, she stumbled against the tall frame of Taylor Punga. Her body was unnaturally warm. Like touching the hot sides of a tea pot.

"Oh shit," Courtney whispered, as strong hands took her shoulders and strange aqua eyes burned into her own.

"I would prefer for us not to have a scene, Ms. Hunter. I repeat, please sit down."

Courtney nodded, backing away in shock. She swallowed, pulled herself together, and slowly turned to survey the room. No one. She went over and sat down on one of the leather chairs with as much defiance in her walk as she could muster.

Chapter 2

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