It was a wide room, the whole width of the house. It had a low beamed ceiling and brown plastic walls decked out with strips of Chinese embroidery and Japanese prints in black lacquer frames. There were low bookshelves; there was a thick pinkish rug in which a Venusian gopher could have spent a week without showing his nose above the nap. There were floor cushions, bits of odd silk tossed around, as if whoever lived there had to have a piece he could reach out and thumb. There was a broad low divan in rose tapestry, an old one, not animated. There was a big carved lamp on a pedestal, two other standing lamps with jade-green shades and long tassels. There was a black desk with carved gargoyles at the corners and behind it a yellow satin cushion on a polished black chair with carved arms and legs. The room contained an odd assortment of odours, of which the most emphatic at the moment seemed to be the pungent aftermath of small-calibre projectile propellant and the sickish aroma of a cocktail of drugs.

On a sort of low dais at one end of the room there was a large bench of black polished wood on which Miss Carmen Sternwood was lying. Her body was limp and her legs splayed, her wrists and ankles were bound with twisted hemp to steel shackles set into the corners of the bench. Her head lolled, her small bright teeth shining between her parted lips. Her eyes were wide open. The dark slate of the iris had devoured the pupil. They were mad eyes. She seemed to be unconscious, but she didn't have the pose of unconsciousness. She looked as if, in her mind, she was doing something very important and making a fine job of it. Out of her mouth came a low moaning noise which didn't change her expression or even move her lips.

She was wearing a pair of jade earrings. They were nice earrings and had probably cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars. She wasn't wearing anything else. She had a beautiful body, small, lithe, compact, firm, rounded. Her skin in the lamplight had the shimmering lustre of a pearl. Her breasts didn't have the raffish grace of Mrs Regan's breasts, but they were very nice.

Part 2