Vicky's, Los Angeles, California
December 2008, 7:00 AM
A tip was given to the cab driver as a brown-haired man with a goatee in a black suit exited the orange vehicle, a large black-wheeled case at his side. The cab quietly pulled away and the man quietly hung up the cell phone he'd been holding to his ear, slipping it into his suit pocket and looking up at the boutique. Vicky's, so the proud sign read; the shop appeared to mostly sell business attire for women, and with the December holidays upon the western world it meant Christmas decorations, from holly to piney trees, too many lights, fake snow, and plenty of red and green. A sign on the window indicated the boutique was having a holiday sale starting that day at eight in the morning, which was why Darren Le Braun had shown up at this, for him, unholy hour. He'd been contracted by Vicky Sandrosi over two months ago to help bolster sales.
“I should be able to work fine,” nodded Darren, glancing outside. The boutique was quite a bit wider than the average shop on the block, which meant a lot of floor space. There were two large display windows to either side of the glass-doored entrance where abstract featureless plastic mannequins showed off several styles of office wear. Darren had only brought his CD and light apparatus, Vicky having told him they had enough platforms and such in the boutique already so they would just display people on them. After some previous frustration over convoluted contracts, Darren was pleased he was now getting a job with someone who had seemed enthusiastic about his work from the get-go.
It was still early, the boutique not set to open for an hour, so Darren quietly went up to the door and knocked. At first there was no response, but eventually a cute blonde stuck her head out from behind the red curtain covering the door and unlocked it, then opening up for the hypnotist. “Hello... I'm sorry, do you have an appointment?” asked the woman, a curly-haired blue-eyed blonde in a red V-cut top and black dress pants, her hair tied back in a half-ponytail. A nametag on the woman's blouse said 'Franie', thus supplying Darren with a way to be a bit more formal.
“Hello Franie, my name is Darren Le Braun, Vicky arranged for me to come in today,” replied Darren, flashing the cute blonde a smile and trying not to admire how nice her red lips looked.
“Vicky?” remarked Franie in surprise, frowning before nodding. “Okay, you should come in.” Perplexed, Darren nonetheless walked into the boutique, Franie closing the door behind him. The floors and counters were hardwood, the walls were papered blue and there was a lot of red furniture around, fitting rooms visible in the back. The cash register was on Darren's immediate right as he entered and, in the distance, he saw what looked like a full tailoring alcove. Unlike Franie, the other three women in the store Darren could see were all in business attire, the African-American woman behind the register in red while one was in black and the other gray.
“Franie, who is this?” asked a brunette with long, straight hair. Darren was fairly certain she was Latina but not one hundred percent. “What's going on?” The woman speaking looked younger than Franie but appeared to be in charge, wearing her powerful black business dress with a sharp skirt and jacket, a white blouse underneath. Her nametag read 'Carla.'
“I'm sorry, I'm Darren Le Braun, Vicky hired me to do my show?” explained Darren, now raising an eyebrow and beginning to curse his earlier assumption that this job would be easy.
“Your show?” scoffed the other brunette in the gray, her hair similar to Carla's but not nearly as long, Darren also now correcting himself, as she was a strawberry blonde. “What, did Vicky hire a freaking magician?” Darren eyed the woman's name badge and saw it said 'Wanda,' and also noted the woman had to be the same age as Carla.
“Mr. Le Brown,” announced Carla, seeming to purposely get Darren's name wrong, “Vicky's is under new ownership: mine. Whatever contract you had with her has been terminated.”
“New ownership, why?” questioned Darren, trying not to groan out loud. The contract he'd agreed to with Vicky had been lucrative, and she did mention she sometimes-got clients with a bit of a Hollywood reputation, he hoped they might elevate his own fame.
“She disappeared, not sure why or how, but I bought the place,” shrugged Carla, crossing her arms. “I doubt we'll be needing your services...”
“Hang on, I'm actually curious; just what kind of show do say you do?” interrupted Wanda, looking a bit smug as she asked the question, an eyebrow raised and her arms crossed like Carla's were. Franie had quietly stepped away but seemed to give Darren a sympathetic glance.
“I'll tell you what, I'll make you a deal: I'll set everything up and run my show for an hour past opening time, and if by then you aren't sold on it, I'll pack up and leave, no fuss, no fee,” offered Darren, having not come all the way to Los Angeles just to be told he wasn't needed, never mind a possible pay dispute. “If you bounce me now, I'll find out who is in charge of Vicky's finances and get my contracted pay through them.”
“This is a big sale...” mused Carla, glancing around. “What would you need?”
“Some floor space, and access to your sound system,” explained Darren, indicating his case. “It'll be a lights and audio show. I've gotten some strong reviews, and for what it is worth Vicky was very keen to have me perform when we first made the deal. I'm sure you can Google my history.”
“Wanda?” asked Carla, glancing over at her employee, whom Darren by now had figured out was also her best friend.
“Why not, no one important should be here until 10 at the earliest,” shrugged Wanda. Darren managed not to grin. “What's the name of this show, anyhow?”
“The Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Experience,” announced Darren, certain there was a twinkle in his eye as he spoke.
* * *
Darren took what he figured would be his third last drag of his cigarette as he stood out back of the boutique, Franie having come out to join him for a smoke. After setting up his equipment, namely the light show and the audio, Darren had decided stepping outside might be easiest as more than once he'd had people mock him at first before they truly listened. Franie was apparently a smoker too and joined him, the pair chatting a bit. Franie had revealed she was indeed Australian, Darren picking up the twangy accent but not quite placing it. Franie had also told a few horror stories about the boutique, namely since Vicky had vanished that the other tailor had quit and that the remaining staff was pretty much who was there now. Franie even mentioned a weird experience back before the summer had ended about having apparently lost a few days worth of memories and completely unsure how.
“Weird, that's really all I can say,” shrugged Darren, taking the second last drag of his dwindling cigarette. “But in general is Carla a decent boss?”
“I'm not sure if she's better or worse than Vicky, really,” confessed Franie, shrugging and tossing her own cigarette. “Vicky had a way of making people feel welcome and then crushing their spirits somehow... Carla is just a bit of an elitist bitch.”
“She had the whole head cheerleader vibe going on with Wanda too, like Wanda was her flunky,” noted Darren. “Two women who just never realized you can't keep up that kind of attitude in the real world... Not that anyone they care about has actually told them that, naturally.”
“Pretty much,” sighed Franie with a shrug, Darren finishing his cigarette and flicking it away. “Well, we should probably go inside... God, it’s probably been fifteen minutes!”
“Sounds about right,” agreed Darren, trying not to grin as he a good idea of what would be waiting inside. Franie used her employee key to open the back door and led Darren inside, the pair passing through the storage room and out to by the fitting rooms.
“You may worry that you'll fall over, but you don't as you remain perfectly at rest...” came Darren's calm, even, voice over the boutique speakers; the hypnotist held his grin in as best as he could as she saw what had transpired in the boutique, just as predicted.
“What the hell?” muttered Franie, having stopped to look around in shock. Wanda, the closest to them, stood frozen in place, a suit hanger in her left hand while her right rested on the bar it would go on, but Wanda's gaze was off into the blank distance; there was a slight parting to her lips. Near the shop windows, in fact near a few of the white headless mannequins the shop normally used, stood Carla, who'd gone further and actually taken up a pose! Carla remained motionless with her left wrist pressed against her hip, her hand horizontal and open as if holding an invisible cup, her right arm up at head level with her hand shaped the same way while away from her head, her elbow and arm forming a V-shape. Carla's legs were spread and her head was tilted lightly to the right, no sign of breathing as she appeared to be only using her nose. Over by the cash register Hilda, who'd earlier been leaning against the counter looking bored, now stood upright, more or less at attention save for her hands resting on the counter. She also did not move a muscle as the seconds ticked by.
“Hey is this... part of your show?” asked Franie, walking over to Wanda and waving a hand in front of her face. “This is crazy...” Franie examined Wanda a bit more and then turned to look at Carla, a small distance away, hooking her thumbs into her pockets. The lights were now dancing across Franie's face and she suddenly seemed to start to listen to the CD.
“You sure you wouldn't enjoy being stuck here as a mannequin?” Darren suddenly asked Wanda, her ears appearing to perk. “In fact, I think you want it so much, to be able to continue to feel that comfortable sensation as you feel your body becoming even more stiff and rigid. Your muscles are locked in position; completely stuck in place. The stiffer you become the more peaceful and enjoyable it is for you; as long as you remain motionless the tranquil feeling will never end as your body is becoming hard and rigid as stone while I count backwards from three. When I reach the end you will be completely solid as a perfect mannequin and you will not want to move in the slightest way even when you are picked up; your entire body, head to toe, is stiffening as you hear the sound of my voice: Three; you are frozen in place, carved from stone, timeless and serene: Two; your body cannot move as you feel only pleasure at being so still: One; You are now becoming a perfect, beautiful, mannequin and cannot move in the slightest way as things around you seem to stop at: Zero!”
Darren's little speech seemed to send sparks in Wanda's eyes, and then there was nothing. Wanda's breathing from her slightly parted lips stopped, her nose appearing to take over, and the occasional blinks ceased as well. After a quick glance at Franie revealed to Darren that she was definitely getting sucked in too, he decided to act a bit bold, first wiggling Wanda by her shoulders. Wanda remained rigidly upright as if she'd turned into a solid wax mannequin, her hair being the only part of her that showed any signs of disturbance. Going bolder, Darren slapped Wanda right on the ass, but again got no response. Finally Darren leaned in and gave the strawberry blonde a peck on her inviting lips, not getting so much as a tut in condemnation, never mind a slap in the face. “Marvelous,” chuckled Darren, pleased Wanda had so agreeably walked into his little trap. It wasn't the first time he'd hypnotized the staff of a location he was running his show at and, if history proved to indeed be like a river, it would happen again.
“And how are you...?” whispered Darren, turning his focus to Franie. Franie did not as much as flinch, her gaze still locked onto Carla, her thumbs still in her pockets.
“You are feeling what it might be like, rooted to the floor, stuck there in a mannequin's pose; your whole body becoming stiff and motionless and you find that sensation very enjoyable and comfortable to you . . .” continued Darren's prerecorded voice. Darren smiled and headed more into the center of the boutique.
“Listen carefully and follow my every instruction,” commanded Darren, focusing on Hilda and Franie. “Hilda, Franie, you will obey my every command as it is vitally important. Remain still but answer with your mouths if you understand.”
“We... understand...” breathed Hilda and Franie, practically in unison.
“Hilda, I will need you to work the cash register,” ordered Darren. “You will stand up, be alert and enjoy it, smiling at the customers. You will obey any orders I give you but otherwise act naturally, and always reply to me by calling me 'master.' Do you agree?”
“Yes, master,” managed Hilda, sounding almost asleep.
“Franie, you'll be working the floor,” Darren told the blonde. “It will be your job to make space for the new mannequins and redress them in the back. You will stay in the back when you aren't needed, frozen and standing at attention until I give you a new order. You will obey any orders I give you but otherwise act naturally, and always reply to me by calling me 'master.' Do you agree?”
“Yes, master,” confirmed Franie, sounding like a video in slow motion.
“Hilda, move freely, Franie, move freely and start moving the usual mannequins from the windows into the back,” finished Darren and it was done. Franie quietly walked by Carla, grabbing one of the white mannequins without a head and starting to carry it into the back while Hilda remained more or less as she was, though she was now standing at attention and didn't appear frozen.
“I guess that just leaves my first mannequins for the day...” noted Darren with a smile. He looked over at Wanda, eying her business suit; it wasn’t tailored to fit her but it fit well enough and was rather plain he concluded. He turned the back of Wanda’s jacket collar up, the woman remained perfectly still and unmoving her eyes staring blankly ahead. As he suspected the label revealed the suit to be an off-brand something that was most likely sold in one of the bigger department stores like a Super Senter. “Well this won’t do my frozen love; you’re going to have to wear something more representing…” Darren said just as Franie walked past with one of the headless mannequins that had stood in the window. The fiberglass figure was dressed in a purple two-piece suit with a double-breasted black, buttoned, jacket. The suit looked to fit the figure perfectly but the display figure itself was smaller than Wanda. Darren stopped the blonde, “Do we have more suits like that in the back?” he asked, gesturing at what the headless mannequin was wearing.
“Yes, master,” Franie answered in dreamy voice.
Darren glanced back at the immobile strawberry blonde, “It looks we need to upgrade Wanda’s look,” he concluded, turning back to Franie, “I think I’ll check out the back, but hang on for one moment.” The hypnotist returned his attention to Wanda and gave his muscles a stretch before he leaned forward and lifted the store clerk up from her mid-section onto his shoulder. Wanda held her pose, rigid as stone, still clutching the hanger in her left hand as Darren balanced her stiff form on his shoulder. “Alright, I think we’re good…” he grunted and added with a nod, “lead on, Franie.”
The back room, unlike the front of the store, looked more like a warehouse, with racks upon racks of clothing, chaotic but neatly organized. The walls were lined with shelves that contained shoeboxes, dress cartons closer to the size of a person and rolls of assorted fabrics. At a corner of the large space there was a workbench that had two industrial sewing machines sitting atop it along with scissors, tape measures, pins, and other tools of the tailor’s art. Another corner held a group of unused mannequins, which were white, faceless and some even absent of limbs. Near the mannequins were unused shelves, hangers, stands, and other equipment that included a hand dolly.
Darren placed Wanda down, the woman only wobbling a bit but remaining in her pose. Franie placed the headless mannequin down next to the cluster of unused ones. She then began to remove its clothing. “When you finish that Franie, wait a moment,” Darren ordered.
“Yes, master,” the blonde tailor replied.
Leaning close Wanda, Darren spoke calmly, “Wanda you will remain in the peace of mind you're currently experiencing, feeling like a mannequin in a store, feeling very relaxed... I want you to become less rigid, allowing me to pose you, as a mannequin can be posed while remaining still, silent and stiff. Please, just relax a bit, let me guide your body and increase your comfort even more...”
Wanda remained how she was, staring blankly ahead, left hand clutching a coat hanger while her right stiffly suspended in front of her. Darren took hold of her right and hand lowered it to her side, bringing a smile to his lips. She was a little stiff but he could now more or less pose her. He removed the coat hanger from her grasp next and lowered that arm. Standing in front of the clerk, the hypnotist moved his hands over the woman’s face and gave her a nice smile though her eyes still carried an emptiness to them that gave her that mannequin look. There wasn’t much he could do about that since she had been instructed to look like a mannequin, after all.
The figure that Franie had been working on was bare and added to the collection of other unused dummies. The blonde tailor now stood by idly at attention as ordered. “Franie, remove all of Wanda’s clothing and take measurements,” Darren ordered and stepped back to enjoy the show.
Franie casually made her way over to her co-worker and started to unbutton and remove the suit jacket. Wanda remained frozen and silent, oblivious that she was being undressed by another woman. Under the jacket, Wanda wore nothing but a simple black satin bra that soon followed the suit jacket, leaving the strawberry blonde utterly topless. Wanda’s breasts were on the small side but they still had a pleasing shape to them, being perfectly round and capped with dark nipples that seemed to be erect as soon as the bra was removed. Franie knelt down, unzipped, and pulled down Wanda’s skirt, revealing the nude pantyhose that the clerk wore underneath. Through the nylon material Darren could see that the black lace thong that covered the saleswoman’s sex. A moment later the hypnotist could feel some stirring within his trousers as Franie removed the pantyhose, thong and finally Wanda’s heels, rendering her stark naked. Her sex was covered in with dark hair but was neatly trimmed at the same time, giving her womanhood a neat look. Franie moved over to the workbench and retrieved a measuring tape before heading back to the suspended woman.
Darren got closer and walked around Wanda, checking out her naked body in detail. She was very attractive and looked righteous in the buff. Unfortunately this store sold business attire not bikinis thought the young man as he took in Wanda’s bare backside, which had an odd tattoo of a skull. He chuckled at the thought, thinking up a story behind the strange piece of body art. Seeing Wanda in the nude perked up his curiosity, “Franie, dress her up in that purple suit that was on that mannequin…Wanda’s will be fitted of course. Let’s get some dark printed hosiery and purple ankle heels too,” Darren instructed as he headed towards the door that would lead back to the front of the store. “Let’s get Carla in here… I think she needs an upgrade too… Oh what the hell I just want to see her naked,” he added with a chuckle.
“Yes master,” Franie simply replied as she spread Wanda’s arms wide to measure the woman’s bust.
He had stepped out of the door when he remembered something. Heading back into the room he grabbed the hand dolly. Looking at Wanda’s blank smiling face, he commented, “You’re lovely but you nearly broke my back… I think I’ll use this for your boss,” he said with smile as he wheeled the dolly out of the room.
* * *
Carla was beaming bright toothy smile, her vacant eyes covered by a pair of thick-framed fashion eyewear. Her head was bent back slightly as if looking at someone who was taller than her, her left hand rested on her hip while her right arm was outstretched in front her, as if reaching to shake the hand of an invisible person before her. The Latina boutique owner was clad in a white pants suit with faux leopard trim and matching white heels. The suit hugged her body tightly, showing off her curvy frame. The jacket had one button that kept it closed thus revealing some of her midsection and decent amount of her cleavage. To her left was Wanda, decked out in the double-breasted purple skirt suit that Darren had envisioned her in since setting eyes on the outfit. The strawberry blonde stood with her hands behind her back while her face bore the empty smile that Darren had given her. Darren stood off to the side of the display window, admiring his work. Both women made great mannequins and he was sure they would draw a crowd too, once the day really got started. He eyed Carla up and down once more, remembering how the woman had looked in her matching pink lace undergarments. He wished the shop sold lingerie.
His thoughts were diverted as she spotted a woman dressed in slim fitting jeans tucked into black leather knee high heeled boots. The woman’s top half was clad in simple gray hoodie sweatshirt. She had dark hair under the plain blue baseball cap that she wore and while her eyes were covered by a pair diva-style sunglasses. Darren could see that the woman was a looker. She carried what looked like a designer bag in the nook of her right arm as well that cued the young man that she had some wealth to her. The woman paused in front of the main window and stared up at the two women on display, not even noticing Darren looking back at her. The woman remained looking at Wanda and Carla for a bit, taking in their looks before moving on towards the boutique’s entrance. A moment later he heard Hilda’s cheery voice, “Welcome to Vicky’s – how are you this morning?”
“Good morning; I’m fine thank you,” the dark haired woman replied with a slight smile and moved towards one of the racks of suit jackets. Darren, from his position next to the display, watched his first customer carefully, his eyes growing wide as he studied her features and realizing that he had seen the woman somewhere before.
She wasn’t wearing any make-up today but this woman was a natural beauty and didn’t need any to catch the attention of any man or woman if they were in to that sort of thing. There was no mistaking it; the woman that was shifting through the suit jackets was super star Megan Wolff. Darren had just watched Roboforce, which was the in-flight movie for his trip to California, and was just thinking how hot the actress was. Now she was standing before him. Darren gathered himself and controlled his breathing, calming his nerves as he made his way towards the starlet.
“Excuse me, Ms Wolff?” Darren asked with a smile. The brunette turned to face him and smiled, the smile nearly melting him.
“This disguise sucks…” she muttered.
“It’s not too bad... I almost didn’t recognize you if it wasn’t for the fact that I just watched Roboforce last night.”
“So, I’m not a total failure at going incognito,” Megan chuckled, removing her glasses and placing them atop her baseball cap, revealing her deep blue eyes. “My agent told me about this promotion today… I have series charity events coming up, the kind where I have to look more like a grown-up so she suggested I get a suit or two. I don’t like crowds; that’s why I’m here so early and this seemed like a good idea for a disguise. It was until I met you, Mr.?”
“Le Braun, Darren Le Braun, I’m the manager,” Darren introduced with a bow.
Megan giggled, “That’s quite a name; you should be a stage performer.”
“I get that a lot. Well, Ms. Wolff, feel free to browse and I will let you enjoy your peace… Don’t mind the lighting and odd sound track…”
“I was about to mention,” Megan said, looking around. “What is up with that?”
“It’s supposed to be relaxing for shopping…”
“I see,” Megan said with a nod. Darren only smiled and backed off, letting his lights and prerecorded voice work their magic.
* * *
Darren couldn’t stop grinning as his eyes wandered over his latest model. The one and only Megan Wolff stood before him in her birthday suit with her arms raised overhead, their having yet to be lowered since Franie had removed her sweatshirt and bra. The tailor was at Megan’s naked feet, measuring them for a shoe size. Darren enjoyed the wisp of dark hair that covered the actress’s sex and her breasts were perfectly rounded, capped with dark nipples. With closer examination he found that they were also real. Megan herself stared blankly ahead with her lips slightly parted, that being the same look that she had when she was inducted and Darren found it extremely hot. It was simple but on her face it was also alluring as well.
Darren was circling the actress for the tenth time with Hilda entered the room, “Master…someone would like to speak with you,” the dark-skinned woman said, standing at attention at the door.
“Me?” Darren asked, pointing to himself.
“Yes Master,” Hilda replied, oblivious of the rhetorical question.
Darren shrugged. “lead on,” he simply said and followed the cashier back out to the sales floor.
Back in the front of the store, Darren was welcomed by a lone woman that was standing at the display window, looking over at Wanda and Carla. “May I help you?” Darren asked as he approached the woman. She was a brunette, her hair pulled back in simple business bun. She was clad in a navy pants suit with a white top underneath.
“Oh hi!” she greeted cheerfully, walking over to meet Darren the rest of way with her hand extended. She spoke in nice Italian accent but her English was clear and easy to understand. Darren shook the woman’s hand; still unsure what this was all about. “You must be Darren Le Braun,” she said, not making it a question.
“I am… and you?”
“I’m Adele Oriolo,” the woman replied, digging into her purse for her card. “I work for VIP Promotions, I’m the publicist for Vicky’s… I used to work for Vicky and now for Carla,” Adele explained and gestured over at the still Carla. “Wow you’re really good, and, ah, between you and me, Carla is much better staying like that!”
“You know of my work?” Darren asked.
“I do, I have a friend in Houston…”
“Yeah, so I suggested you to Vicky before she skipped town and I thought you were perfect to help generate some business. I was hoping to get down here before you arrived to give Carla a heads up… but I guess you beat me. Not entirely upset that you did, either...”
“Indeed, Carla wasn’t so convinced of my talents…”
Adele looked back at the frozen woman once more. “I bet she is now!” she laughed.
Darren couldn’t help but share the laughter too and then asked, “That’s a really nice suit, did you get it here?”
Adele looked down at her suit, “As a matter of fact I did! Since I promote the boutique Carla gives me a great deal on work outfits. What can I say, perks of the job!”
“Indeed… Would you like me to show you how I made Carla a mannequin?”
“Oh my gosh I would! I love this hypnotizing stuff. I went to this Odette Glover show once… before she became a famous talk show host. Do you know who she is? Now that’s a hypnotist: she got me thinking I was naked!”
“I’ve heard of her… if you like her you’ll really like this.”
* * *
Adele stood on one of the center platforms that slowly rotated, showing all aspects of her attire to everyone. She was still dressed in what she came in, but her hair had been let down now to give her a more relaxed look. She stood in a traditional mannequin’s pose, with her hands on her hips; her left leg slightly forward of her right. A closed lipped smile was molded on her face while her expression carried a cute wink. Darren, using the knowledge that the promoter had been under before, used a rapid method to induce her and it had worked out flawlessly. The hypnotist looked up at the stock-still woman and nodded in approval. “You’re going to really help promote this place today.”
At the front of store, behind the right display window, the last spot was now taken by Megan Wolff, who stood between Wanda and Carla. For the movie star, Darren had personally posed her to stand with one foot in front of the other as if she was walking. Her right hand held a brief case at her side while her left held her actual cell phone to her ear. The starlet was dressed in a simple but sharp black sharkskin skirt suit that included a slim-fitting mini-skirt. Her slender legs were sheathed in sheer black pantyhose and she stood on a pair of shiny black spiked heels. Her face still bore the same blank look with her mouth slightly open; the look didn’t work with the pose but Darren felt it was too hot to change.
* * *
Claire Cook pulled her Vespa into the small parking lot, her hair streaming out from under her helmet as she did. The scooter stuttered to a stop and Claire closed her eyes for a moment, sighing at the fact that she was even riding it. When Claire's editor Sunny had been passing out assignments at Main Street earlier she'd been expecting to get sent to the set of Paragons, given she'd written about the show before, but instead she'd been assigned to cover a promo event at a boutique. Sunny had spoken highly of the place, noting that quite a few starlets shopped there for business attire, and then pretty much insisted Claire dress the part. Giving in to her boss's suggestion Claire had gone home and changed into her summery pink, white and black plaid pleated skirt dress, whose hem fell just above her knees. Claire wasn't necessarily opposed to wearing dresses on principle, just in practice, but she couldn't wear one and ride her prized CBR600 motorcycle, meaning she'd had to take her scooter instead.
“This is such a waste of time,” muttered Claire, securing her helmet to the scooter and pulling off her riding boots to swap for pink satin three-inch heels. Replacing her fashionable retro style but delicate wire-framed pince-nez glasses atop her nose, Claire caught a glance of herself in the side-view mirror and wasn't shy about thinking that she looked good, despite not being the girly type: sinuous figure, slim legs, and a square jawline framed by wavy dark chestnut hair that reached down past her shoulders. Seeing her reflection did also remind Claire once again of what a terrible assignment she'd gotten, resulting in her nearly kicking her vehicle in frustration before recalling she had heels on, not her boots. Pulling out her CyPocket computer, Claire opened up her blog and decided to write an opening post rather than resort to violence.
[Girl-Versus-LaLa here, to cover the super-important zenith of promotional hype events in West LA. Redundant you say? My point on the nose peeps! Someone thought other someones would care, so here this reportrix stands, facing an off-trend dress shop that might have been popular with their fracking *mothers* but hey. Call this a post for my... older... followers. Oh, ho! What's this? Stay tuned as we interrupt this banality for possibly some real news...]
As Claire stepped onto the sidewalk she looked up the street to spot a stretch limo pulling up out in front of the very boutique she was there to cover. A driver exited first and went to open the passenger door, which revealed an older blonde woman Claire immediately recognized as being Ingrid Stone. Ingrid's hair was hanging free and she was squinting as she pulled down a pair of oversized sunglasses from up on her head to down over her eyes; the woman was looking elegant in a white pants suit with a black with white pinstripe blouse underneath. Another woman known to associate with Ingrid, Carol Wilford, emerged behind the mother of the Stone Enterprises CEO. Carol was clad in a green sundress and had her hair up in a beehive, which caught Claire a bit off-guard, but the silver sunglasses on her eyes weren't fooling the journalist. The boutique story was dull, but an interview with Ingrid Stone could change everything.
“Ms. Stone? Claire Cook here, from Main Street; a brief moment of your time?” Claire began, activating the video on the pocket computer and imaging the elder Stone as she strode purposefully towards Vicky's, but the taller Claire matched pace easily. “Can you tell me anything about the rumored Stone Networks project your company is working on?”
Ingrid Stone gave the barest glance in Claire's direction, stating, “No Comment,” as she continued walking.
“What about the recent incident in which an entire cargo ship was apparently bought in error?” Claire asked next.
The elder Stone paused briefly as Claire overshot her and stumbled slightly before recovering. “Miss Cook, you are beginning to become an annoyance,” hissed Ingrid. “No Comment!”
“And the allegations from former interim CEO Patricia Mero about Erika sleeping with Canella Kim...” Claire shot back, sensing she was losing her chance.
“No Com...” Ingrid started to say, then instead glaring. “... My daughter is one of the most capable women I know, a possessor of amazing capabilities, and she has no need to do any of the things she's been accused of by scandal-mongers such as yourself. She became CEO of Stone Enterprises because she was the most qualified to lead it. Period. Now, please let me have a quiet day of shopping...” Taking the last few steps to the entrance door, which Carol was already holding open, Ingrid left Claire outside as the reporter frantically typed:
[There you have it, kids, straight from Mama-Stone's lips. Viddy to follow, and maybe something more after the break...]
Claire waited a few minutes, then a few more, but Ingrid Stone hadn't emerged from the shop, nor had her companion. Trying to look nonchalant while pacing back and forth, the young blogger's patience was wearing thin and at the same time her 'news vibe' was tingling. Casually glancing in through the front display window Claire could see Ingrid was still inside, seemingly very intent on her reflection as she stood in front of a tri-fold mirror while some clerk smoothed out the suit she wore. Her friend, Carol Wilford, stood nearby, not moving a muscle as she gazed blankly into space while holding an empty hanger in her right hand. “Something's wrong...” Claire said to herself as she activated the video camera function once more and captured some seconds of the unusually static scene inside. Turning the camera up at the window, Claire then realized for the first time that the mannequins in the window looked like real people, the most striking part being that the one Claire had somehow ignored looked exactly like movie star Megan Wolff.
[Peeps, I may have just stumbled across what Megan Wolff does when not on the set of Savior or filming another movie...]
* * *
Darren thought he saw someone lingering outside, but he was unsure as at the moment he was more focused on the small collection of mannequins he'd managed to already assemble. Three college girls, who'd actually said they had more friends coming, had all quickly fallen prey to his prerecorded stimuli and were now back on the show floor, Darren not thinking any of them quite belonged in the show window though they were all striking. Thanks to their answering questions while being inducted, plus their IDs, Darren knew all three by name: Casey Jackson, Skyler Tannen and Maxine Reed; students of Decker State College.
Casey Darren had decided was a good 'every girl' mannequin, despite being quite hot as she carried a cute toothless smile, her brown hair up in a high ponytail. Casey stood in the middle of the boutique near where Adele was; up on high, frozen at attention with the smile on her face while dressed in a black with yellow lining skirt suit, pantyhose and black platformed heels on her feet. Skyler was tucked away on the opposite side of the register, near the window, Darren having been unable to get her to produce a smile that didn't look plastic-y, so he'd settled for one that showed off her perfectly white teeth. Skyler's blonde ponytail was low and rested on her right shoulder, her left hand was on her face while her right was pressed just above her chest, making the girl look like she was embarrassed to be seen. A dark gray pants suit had been selected for Skyler, with a black satin blouse underneath having a bit of extra cleavage showing, as while her breasts were 30Bs they were nice. For Maxine, Darren had left her hair down and put her in an outfit that wasn't strictly a business dress, namely an outfit that featured a turtleneck and a pencil skirt, all as one piece of dark red material. Maxine's face was blank, having been told to become a mannequin with that being the result; her hands were raised in front of her with her fingers outstretched.
“Take the brunette first,” Darren told Franie as she came walking past with the dolly, seeming to head to where the recently arrived Ingrid Stone was standing in front of the mirror before instead heading for her companion, whom he'd learned while smoothing out Ingrid's attire and talking to her was Carol Wilford. Darren thought Ingrid was a complete MILF and was keen to check her out later, though Carol wasn't so bad herself.
The door to the boutique opened and Darren decided to make himself scarce, seeing the young women entering were twin blondes. One of the twins had straight hair and the other had a weaved half-ponytail, the first in black shorts and a white tank top with a Decker State College orange logo on it while the other was in a navy pleated skirt and an orange tube top; both wore running shoes. Darren was hiding from sight, thanks to some mirrors in the shop, but he was still able to hear the twins chat, having trained himself to tune out his own voice.
“What's going on with this place?” asked the one in the tank top, who Darren thought looked a bit more muscular than her sister. The girls did look identical but Darren couldn't help but think the other one in the skirt was a bit hotter.
“Check it out, Casey's on display,” observed the other one, pointing at the girl who was the current center of attention.
“The lights, this weird audio... Is this like that video you showed me on Youtube?” asked the first sister.
“The one Brit linked to me?” asked the second sister in clarification. “Yeah, I think that was in Houston though...”
“You know the voice is... Kind of relaxing,” remarked the sister in shorts. “I kind of want to just, stand here and see where it goes...”
“Go for it, I'm going to find whoever is in charge, I would prefer if we didn't skip lunch for whatever this is,” commented the one in the skirt, apparently leaving her sister alone as she wandered over to the counter. The first twin remained where she was, starting to stare off into space with her hands on her hips, her lips slightly parted. Franie, meanwhile, had taken away Carol. With just one sister not currently under his spell, Darren decided to approach her and change that.
“Can I speak to a manager, or someone?” the blonde twin was asking Hilda, who was dusting the counter as Darren approached.
Hilda was about to answer the girl when Darren interrupted, “You rang?” grinning a bit as the blonde turned and gave him a bemused look.
“This is some kind of hypnosis show, right?” asked the blonde. “Look, I know places need to market for Christmas sales, but could we maybe-”
“You know you'd make a good elf?” interjected Darren, starting to wiggle his right fingers as he spoke with his arms slightly crossed, maintaining eye contact. “I'm sure you get that a lot, but elf ears would really suit you. You are right this is a hypnosis experience, where everyone has a chance to be a mannequin. What about you, would you like to be a mannequin?”
“I—” began the blonde, but Darren had her already.
“Freeze!” ordered Darren, suddenly and rapidly putting his hand on the girl's forehead. “Relax now, frozen in place, very comfortable...” Darren continued to mutter as the blonde remained fixed, her left hand raised as if to make a point, the index finger extended, her eyes glazed over and her mouth open. The blonde twin wobbled a bit but as Darren whispered to her quietly she locked up further, quickly becoming a living statue.
“Okay, while remaining frozen like a perfect mannequin, please tell me your name, as well as that of your sister,” requested Darren, his hands on the blonde's shoulders.
“Julie... Vaughn...” droned the twin, her mouth moving slowly. “Kat... Vaughn...”
“Thank you Julie, now I want you to close your mouth and go really stiff, be as rigid as a mannequin,” commanded Darren, moving his hands under her armpits. “I want to be able to lift you and you won't flinch, just breathe through your nose.” Darren repeated himself once more before doing as planned, lifting Julie up and moving her slightly to the left so she wouldn't be in front of Hilda.
“You did very good Julie, now remain here and let yourself be dressed up, after all a mannequin should look the part,” finished Darren, touching the girl's cheek before moving away, with no sign of a response.
“Hello Kat, you're comfortable, feeling rigid, like a piece of molded plastic,” Darren whispered into the ear of Kat Vaughn as he approached her, putting an arm on her shoulders. Kat's expression was glazed, her eyes glassy, yet Darren could tell visually that she was still breathing primarily though her chest. “You need to be a good little mannequin, so try to breathe through your nose, as your chest won't rise so much.” Darren observed Kat carefully as he surmised that she was completely under, the position she was standing in actually her preferred mannequin pose apparently, just resting her hands above her hips.
“Twins...” grinned Darren as he moved away from Kat, only to then be surprised as a familiar face walked through the door. Jody Bisette, a woman he'd once inducted when doing another show in Los Angeles, had shown up and was smiling in his direction. Jody was in her mid-thirties, a blue-eyed woman who'd apparently gone a bit more strawberry blonde since their last encounter, as Darren remembered it being ash. Jody was wearing a loose deep-cut spangled black top that barely covered her crotch, gray tights below as well as black high-heeled ankle boots. Gold accessories covered the woman, including thin chains that reached down to her navel, bracelets and large looped earrings; her hair was in an asymmetrical bob cut with a stripe of her old ash blonde color draped across her right eye.
“Jody!” greeted Darren, walking up to his former subject. “I thought you were in Atlanta...”
“You come out this way and don't think to tell me you're in town?” griped Jody, frowning. “Come on, Darren, I emailed you a while back to tell you I had moved to L.A.! I had to doll myself up and come down in person just to make sure your show has a real star...”
“The experience that managed to snag actress Megan Wolff?” shot back Darren, smirking as he crossed his arms, his right fingers once again moving subtly.
“Oh please, she's as vapid as a plastic mannequin,” declared Jody, shaking her head. “I'll knock them dead... You know there's a reporter outside filming what's going on? Put me in the window and I'll trend worldwide on—”
“Freeze!” Darren suddenly commanded, snapping out and gently pulling Jody towards him, his subject obeying without resistance. “Well, let’s see if you're right...”
* * *
[ Girl-Versus-LaLa update: Mama-Stone still living up to the family name inside. I've seen maybe another six ladies go in, and it looks like the window just got a new addition. Might be time for this reportrix to take a looksee inside... ]
Taking a deep breath, Claire Cook put her mini-computer down by her side and cautiously entered the boutique. To her immediate right was the new mannequin, a strawberry blonde in a colorful dress, standing almost like she was going to curtsey, save for the lack of her hands holding any part of her skirt; she had a big grin on her face. The human statue was wearing a maxi-skirt dress what looked like a white canvas splashed with specs of black, green and orange paint, her hair was up in an elegant bun, a streak of ash blonde hair visible within it. There was no sign of the twins Claire had see go in, but Carol Wilford, her hair now down and dressed in a purple business dress with her right hand on her swayed hip, was up on a platform near where Ingrid Stone was still standing. Claire was aware a strange light-show was going on, and that there was a voice coming over the boutique speakers, but she ignored them in favor of focusing on Ingrid.
“Miss Stone?” called out Claire as she got closer. “Claire Cook again. I was hoping we could maybe talk about some of the strange events that have happened since your daughter became CEO of the family company...” Arriving at the blonde, Claire put her hand on the older woman's shoulder but elicited no response.
“Crazy,” breathed Claire, turning away from the woman and looking around for any employees. Spotting the woman at the cash register Claire decided to head in that direction.
“How may I help you, Miss?” came a sudden greeting from Darren, flashing his best smile at the comely young lady as he approached her from her left.
“Cook. Are you the owner?” questioned Claire, skipping the pleasantries.
“Not at all; I'm merely here to assist with today's event. For you, though, I'd be ready to battle wild zebras barehanded..” Darren quipped.
Claire kept smiling while thinking, What a load of crap! This guy's another pretentious sleaze-bug, like my ex-boyfriend James, except this one makes all the other pretentious assholes look good. What I gotta go through to get ahead in this business... “That's not necessary, Mister...”
“Braun, Darren Le Braun,” the man replied in the cadence and a slight hint the character James Bond's high-class British tone.
Without hesitating, Claire fired back, “What have you done to Ingrid Stone and her associate? They've been standing motionless for like half an hour! Mrs. Wilford is even dressed entirely different! It's like they're both...”
“...mannequins?” Darren supplied, completing her sentence. “Quite so, for that's the theme and the essence of today's event. Giving patrons of this humble establishment the opportunity to experience the freedom of timelessness while knowing what it is like to be truly an avatar of ultimate beauty and poise.” he continued. “With my guidance, patrons can set aside their day-to-day concerns and bask in the bliss of simply existing. There are some who...” he droned on.
Claire found herself thinking, Pretentious much; you're so full of yourself it's a wonder you don't collapse inside yourself. God dammit Sunny, its because of you I'm stuck here... I can't believe I'm still listening to this malarkey, as if he's ever going to say anything with any meaning to it; just keeps on going and going, spouting his nonsense words over and over and... her mind drifts for a moment as Claire thinks of new ways to describe this loser's pathetic patter...
- - -
“How are do you feel?” Darren asks, snapping his fingers, drawing Claire's attention back to him.
Claire blinks briefly, then shakes her head for a moment to clear the fuzziness. “Sorry. You were saying?”
“I'd just offered you the chance to join the other patrons here in the boutique. Sample the peacefulness?” Darren recapped with a slight grin.
“Nope. Not my thing. How long do you plan to keep Ingrid Stone here? I have some—” Claire began to say.
“Pausa,” Darren stated, clearly, pronouncing it almost as two words: 'Pow Zah'.
Claire instantly froze in place mid-word, like a still frame in a human DVD. Her body was posed stiffly; the reporter did not blink as seconds tick by.
Darren grins more broadly as he waves his hand in front of Claire's blank gaze. She'd gone under almost instantly and was easy to implant with a series of post-hypnotic suggestions. Claire Cook was going to become a big help to Darren; she just didn't know it. Consciously, that is. “Anima” commanded the hypnotist, breaking the syllables into 'Annie Mah'. The result was instantaneous.
Claire came back to life, completing, “—thing to ask her that's very important,” with no sign that she'd even noticed the gap in time. “Can you wake h—”
“Pausa,” Darren repeated and once more she became an instant statue. Or, with not much imagination required, a gorgeous living mannequin. “Claire, listen to me carefully. When you resume anima (this time he did not emphasize the pronunciation) you will forget about Ingrid Stone and the woman with her until this evening. You will instead feel a desire to find out more about the show here at Vicky's and listen to the recorded interview you will find on your voice-mail, but you will not remember hearing these instructions. Anima!”
“—er up so I can talk with... hmm, er; I just drew a blank; must not have been important. What were you saying about this experience?”
Darren smiled once more. “I'm glad you asked... Please, come with me.” Darren indicated behind him, and after raising an eyebrow Claire shrugged and started walking. Darren got the urge to leer out of his system as the pair walked towards the back of the store, then indicating the door to the stairs, which took them up to a small office space. Two couches, a coffee table, a potted plant, a large desk with four chairs around it and an empty fish tank decorated the private office, Darren sat on one couch while Claire took the other, putting her miniature computer down on the desk between them.
“So what can you tell me about your career so far, Mister Le Braun?” asked Claire, crossing her right leg over her left and putting her hands on top, leaning forward.
“I got started doing small shows, high school graduation parties and the like,” revealed Darren, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head. “I eventually started getting work at clothing stores in cities like Atlanta, and then Houston, and now most recently Vegas and here in Los Angeles.”
“What inspired it, the Volunteer Mannequin Experience?”
“The Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Experience,” corrected Darren. “As I got better at setting up ways to hypnotize groups of people at once I wondered if there was a way to help it with marketing. I was walking by a boutique one day and it just came to me as a neat way to help promote sales after seeing some bored hired models standing in some windows.”
“You thought it would be a good way to prove how easy it is to hypnotize suckers?” smirked Claire, starting to lean back herself. “I bet—”
“Pausa,” interrupted Darren, watching Claire freeze in her seat. The reporter sat with her upper back leaned towards the cushion behind the couch, her arms raised up in front of her and a smug look on her lips, which were also pursed due to being caught in mid-sentence. Chuckling to himself, Darren sat up and moved to sit next to Claire.
“You really are something,” whispered Darren, brushing a few locks of Claire's hair behind her ear. “Okay Claire, I need you to listen and obey. When you resume anima, you will not notice or care that I'm now sitting next to you. We'll just continue the interview as if nothing has changed. Anima!”
“—you've never managed to hook someone with an IQ over 120,” continued Claire, finishing reclining and flopping her arms beside her, glancing to her left at where Darren now sat. “So how long have you spent honing this craft of yours?”
“Nine years,” confessed Darren. “It was rough for a while... Probably worst was a time my girlfriend broke up with me over the phone because I was out of town.”
“Hey, my last boyfriend tried to dump me via a text, so I know how it goes,” grinned Claire. “Okay, that's the good intro. If you don't mind I'll just blog this and upload the audio file to go with it.” Claire reached for her CyPocket as Darren realized, much to his error, he hadn't thought to manipulate the reporter's mini-computer so that it wouldn't record what he said when he was controlling her.
[Chatting now with the man behind the madness, the wizard of words, Darren Le Braun. Peeps, this guy isn't half bad, though I think its safe to say our fair young reporter extraordinaire isn't about to fall prey to his little party tricks. Interview to be-]
“Pausa,” Darren interrupted as Claire rapidly typed, suddenly stopping while looking down at her computer with glassy eyes. Reaching over Darren was able to carefully pry the device from Claire's stiff grip, putting it back on the table. Examining the machine Darren was able to pick up that the audio file had stopped recording, but he wasn't sure off-hand how to edit it as the smallest computer he'd ever used was a laptop.
“Damn new tech,” grumbled Darren, leaving the device alone for the moment and instead focusing on Claire. “Okay Claire, I'm now going to stand you up, so relax your muscles just a bit, but remember, you're frozen in time, between ticks of the clock, so you're not aware of anything.” His orders given, Darren got up in front of Claire and slowly pulled her up by her arms, managing to eventually get her upright while her arms were still extended as if holding her computer.
“Good, now stiff as a statue, except your neck I think,” continued Darren, carefully using two fingers to tip Claire's head up. “Okay now, frozen solid, like a bronze statue in a museum, silent and unaware. Nothing fazes you...” Wanting to test his command, Darren leaned in and gave Claire a peck on the lips. Claire's lips were soft and warm, but she didn't return the gesture or fight it in any way.
“Oh we are going to have some fun... But that comes later, after I justify my fee,” declared Darren, stroking Claire's face before bending down and managing to lift her up on his shoulder. Darren hadn't planned to carry anyone else, but the upstairs lacked an elevator and he wanted Claire downstairs until he could find someone to help him with his little recording problem. True to his instructions, she remained as stiff and rigid as an actual fiberglass figure. Claire's dress and hair swayed but the rest of her didn't, her arms still out in front of her with her elbows now digging into the hypnotist's shoulder as he escorted her out of the office and down the stairs.
“I think you should go right here,” declared Darren moments later, arriving beside the dressing rooms and finding an empty space. With Claire's arms out the way they were he thought they'd make great improvised clothing hangers if needed, plus he had no problem with her wearing such an interesting dress near the back of the store.
“What a cute mannequin, she looks like a real geek girl,” commented someone several feet away, making Darren turn. An attractive redhead in her mid-twenties wearing an olive-green business dress was standing there, a tag still visible on the outfit as it was clear she was trying it on. Darren noted it fit very well. Not far away, leaning against the wall outside of a change room, was an unmoving Korean girl with dyed hair, a yellow belly shirt, a short black skirt, leather jacket and long black leather boots. The girl with the dyed hair, Darren noted, seemed to have fallen for his little show, as her face was glazed over and her crossed arms looked overly tight, as if she was rigid.
“Thank you, Miss...?”
“Mosley, Jamie Mosley,” introduced the redhead, offering her hand.
“Darren Le Braun. It looks like you've found a winner.” Darren shook Jamie's hand in return. He contemplated hypnotizing her, but he thought he'd wait until he saw what happened with her companion, there already several women either ready to go or on display with hardly any sales to speak of.
“Yes, I think I'll take it and another one in purple, I do love power colors,” remarked Jamie. “I'm also thinking I might let my employees know about this sale... I need to get back to the store though. Chloe?” Jamie turned to look at her companion and frowned, then reaching out and pulled on her arm. “Hey come on, I'm ready to go pay.”
“... Huh?” managed Chloe, blinking rapidly as she jolted sideways at Jamie's tugging. “Oh, okay, sorry, zoned out there...”
“You should get some sleep,” warned Jamie, leading the Korean away. “Have a good day, Mr. Le Braun!”
“And you two as well!” called Darren.
* * *
“Now that’s a bountiful bevy of blondes!” Darren remarked as he wheeled the dolly containing a stock stiff Ingrid Stone into the back room. Julie Vaughn stood at attention with her arms raised above her head. Franie had just removed the tube top and stood behind the twin, working on the simple white strapless bra that covered her perky breasts. Standing nearby was Julie’s twin Kat, who still stood with her hands on her hips. Both sisters bore identical blank expressions on their faces that looked even odder, being that they were twins. Julie Vaughn’s tresses were removed from its ponytail, giving her a similar look to Kat though Julie’s hair had more bounce to it. “Franie, I want you to strip both sisters completely before measuring and dressing them,” ordered Darren.
“Yes, master,” Franie replied from in front of the now topless Julie, the blonde tailor then kneeling down to work on Julie’s skirt.
With Franie working on the twins, Darren turned his attention back to Ingrid Stone, who was currently living up to her last name. From what Darren knew Ingrid was about fifty but her looks barely showed it, plus she was the mother of perhaps one of the most powerful women in the world, which made her all the more attractive. He wrapped his arms around the older woman and removed her from the dolly before moving it aside for space. Ingrid stood with her hands over her crotch, her blue eyes empty as she looked straight ahead while her lips sported a slight grin. That suit she wore actually came from this same store and it was also tailored most likely by Franie to fit the blonde very well. Unlike Adele, Darren wanted Ingrid in something else; something appealingly more revealing as far as business attire went. “Franie is a little busy now…” Darren said as circled Ingrid. “So I guess you’re stuck with me,” he added with smile.
Nearby Julie Vaughn stood in the nude with her arms raised about her head. Her sister Kat now also stood with arms overhead. Her tank top and the simple black bra she had underneath were removed. Kat’s shorts, along with her pink boy shorts, were around her ankles, Franie was at her feet working at removing them along with her sneakers and socks.
Darren separated Ingrid’s hands and then opened up her suit jacket. The blouse underneath was unbuttoned and both jacket and blouse were slipped off her stiff shoulders. Ingrid had a black lace bra holding soft breasts. Leaving the bra on for later, he moved down to Ingrid’s hips and unbuckled her belt and then unbuttoned her trousers before tugging them south. A pair of white lacy granny style panties covered up the woman’s sex. Though the style of undergarment was unattractive, Ingrid Stone was able play it off well, so Darren concluded. The trousers were removed the rest of the way as well as the black and white heels that were worn on her feet. Finally Darren removed her undergarments and relished Ingrid Stone in all her nakedness. For a woman her age her breasts only showed minimal sagging and her nipples, which Darren guessed were once bright pink during her younger years, was a nice rose color. Her womanhood was a little unkempt but he guessed she wasn’t showing it off that much either so she had no reason to keep it groomed.
Ingrid was added to stand next to the now naked Vaughn twins so Darren could have a good look at the newest mannequins. Julie was defiantly the more attractive twin, though both girls shared the same features, Julie’s were softer in general. Kat had rounded shoulders, defined arms and legs, her midriff showed a slight four pack. Julie had a cleanly shaven womanhood while Kat had a neat landing strip. Darren found both of them hot. Franie finished measuring the twins and was working on Ingrid currently as the hypnotist circled the trio, thinking of what to dress them in and where to pose them. “I love my job,” smiled Darren.
* * *
Lida Wilkins had taken the day off in order to attend the Vicky’s promotion. She needed a new suit and plus there was a good chance that she was going to meet some celebrities. It was still pretty early but she thought there would be a little more people at the boutique. In any case she glad there wasn’t as the last thing she wanted was to wait in line to just get into the place. All in all it just felt good to be away from work for the day. Lida was the senior manager of The Coffee Pot in downtown Malibu and often worked long hours with little time off. This was her first day off in a long time where she didn’t spend it at home resting. She paused outside of the boutique and noted how the display mannequins looked like real women, two of which looked like celebrities. Lida was sure the dark-haired one to the left of the main entrance was Megan Wolff while a redhead at the end and to the right of the entrance was Ginger Cladwell. Lida had seen Ginger on a few dancing TV shows; she was crowd favorite and though she was fun and friendly on TV Lida heard in real life the dancer was a bit of diva.
The redhead was dressed in green skirt suit that was a contrast to red hair, which was up in a bun. Her hands were at her sides at shoulder level with her palms up fingers pointing outward. The dancers face bore an open mouth smile that made her look like she was laughing. It was a look that her fans often saw when she joked around on the shows. It was generally the look that drew Lida’s attention to redhead. The suit was nice too, as were the matching heels that the dancer stood in. Lida eyed the suit up and down making a mental note to ask about it.
Standing next to the redhead were two mannequins that looked as if they were twins. Lida examined them closely see that they were identical but she could see that one looked a little bigger than the other. It was odd; she didn’t know they made figures like that. Like the other figures in the displays, they looked pretty life-like. The twins looked familiar too, but she couldn’t place them at the moment. The mannequin pair were both blonde, their hair let down free and they stood back to back with their arms crossed over their chests. Their heads were turned to so they were looking at the windowpane. Their blue eyes looked far beyond at some unknown point. The twin that looked to be a little bigger was dressed in black slim skirt with a sleeveless purple top, her muscular legs covered in nude hosiery while she stood on purple heels. The smaller of the two was dressed in white wide legged trousers and black heels, while her top half was covered in a cropped pink jacket. Lida eyed the jacket and made another mental note. As she headed towards the entrance, she noted the strawberry blonde figure posed next to the twins. Lida wasn’t too interested in what the mannequin was wearing but thought it odd that she was in a curtsey pose.
Entering the store, Lida was greeted by a woman behind the counter before she spotted more life-like mannequins except now seeing them without a window between them she was almost certain that the mannequins were actual women. She recognized three of the women off the bat as they were regulars to her shop. Then it hit her, and she realized that the twins were customers too! Lida’s mind raced, trying to think what was going on, feeling horrified but at the same time something was keeping her calm. She looked around the shop at all the women on display, dressed in fitted fashionable business attire. There was a strange light show going on and she could hear a man’s soothing voice being played through the boutique’s sounds system. The coffee shop manager suddenly couldn’t move her legs yet she felt strangely relaxed. It was most relaxed she had ever felt in a long while. She looked at the woman that was posed in the middle of the shop on rotating pedestal and suddenly she wanted to be like her. Lida smiled at the thought as her breathing slowed and she started to inhale and exhale through her nose.
* * *
Darren had just finished putting up Ingrid Stone. The socialite was now dressed in a black ribbed turtleneck, her hair tied up in a bun. A leather leopard-printed skirt covered her lower half while her shapely legs were clad in fishnet pantyhose. She stood in brown leather knee-high heeled boots with a black fur trim. She was posed with one foot in front of the other and her left hand resting on her hip. She was leaned back slightly with her right hand outstretched as if pointing or directing something. The ribbed top was a bit tight on her and her nipples were clearly visible, a fact Darren loved as he smiled and looked her over one last time.
A woman entering the store turned his attention from his latest work of art. The woman was dark skinned with heavily curled brown hair. She had cute round face and was dressed in an open neck violet flora top under a denim jacket. Her legs were covered in gray leggings and she walked on ankle heels. A brown messenger bag slung over her shoulder completed her look. Darren observed the woman as she entered the store and noticed all the models. He watched as a look of horror flashed across her face before it quickly faded and her expression went from relaxed to a dreamy look with smile. He waited a little while longer, letting his recorded voice work. The woman stood in the middle of the main aisle with her arms slightly bent at the elbows.
Whistling, Darren dragged the dolly that he had used to unload Ingrid towards the woman. He moved the dolly behind the woman and then slid her on to it; she was stiff as board and the fact only made him smile. Once she was loaded on to the dolly, Darren waved his hand in front of her vacant eyes. She only continued to smile and stare on. He then rummaged through her bag and found her ID, finding out that her name was Lida Wilkins. “Welcome to Vicky’s Lida,” Darren said copping a feel between Lida’s legs. He smiled a little bit more noting that the woman had gone commando. “Lida, Lida; didn’t your mother ever teach you to always wear underwear,” he chided, shaking his head as he wheeled Lida towards the back.
As Darren emerged from the back he was surprised once more, now finding two young women in the store. One was a what he thought was a redhead with brown eyes, but as she approached Darren noted the hair was just reddish-brown, more auburn than chestnut, and the eyes were actually dark green. With the girl was another who appeared to be Japanese, possessing fair skin and long straight brown hair. The first woman was standing next to Claire, giving her a look over while wearing her hair straight, a black tank top and purple knee-length shorts on her body, gaudy yellow sandals on her feet. The second woman had a smart phone in her hands, Darren fairly certain its was the GV Blueberry due to its blue color, and she was in a red soccer uniform shirt and white shorts. Darren wasn't sure but he was fairly certain the uniform belonged to a British soccer club. “I'm so chirping about this!” exclaimed the second girl, typing away at her phone.
“Oh hey, Yumi, get a photo of me with this one!” begged the girl with the auburn hair, putting her left arm around Claire's stiff shoulders and flashing a bright white smile.
“You got it Tracy,” nodded the woman apparently named Yumi, who raised up her phone and snapped a picture of Tracy with Claire. Darren quietly watched and noted that even after Yumi lowered the camera and began to type again Tracy didn't move. Darren saw the brunette's eyes had gone rather glassy, which meant she was probably now under his spell.
“Nice, I'll chirp this too,” commented Yumi a moment later, fiddling with her phone. Yumi then stopped and looked up at Tracy and Claire, smiling softly. “You know, it looks so... Soothing, standing still like that...” muttered the young woman, and sure enough moments later Yumi's eyes glazed over as well, rendering her a human mannequin as well.
“Hmm... Someone seems very active on their social media,” noted Darren, moving over to Yumi, gently placing his hands on her shoulders. “Yumi, I want you to listen, but not speak, since you're a mannequin right now, and mannequins don't talk. I'm going to count down from three to zero. When I reach zero, you will wake up, feeling great, and decide to chirp about how awesome the sale at Vicky's is. You will remember Tracy said she was going to volunteer to be a mannequin here for the day and be okay with it, since its just for today. Three... Two... One... ZERO!”
Darren let go of Yumi's shoulders as she blinked and casually walked away, typing away at her phone. Darren looked at Tracy and decided he liked her where she was, so he moved over to her and just whispered some words of encouragement for the moment. Darren planned to check in on Lida and then move her to beside the register opposite Skyler, figuring it would be a good home for her.
* * *
Erika Stone walked down the street, fully blocking polarized aviator sunglasses over her eyes and her hair in a ponytail, a simple pink tank top and denim skirt on her figure as well as three-inch white heels. Erika's usual companions Mary Hamilton, Caitlin Trafford, and Monica Stein were all busy; Mary and Monica were at work while Caitlin was getting work done on their shared penthouse. With her usual entourage out, Erika had instead invited along Tasia Spiro, who was staying in her apartment building with her while serving out a suspension from the ITEA, and Kylie McBride, the junior partner at Foster & McBride, the law firm that represented Stone Enterprises and her personally. Tasia had her naturally somewhat dull yet still vibrant red hair enhanced with fresh blonde tips and was wearing a multicolored spaghetti top with several splotches of color on it in shades of blue and white. Tasia's nice legs were clad in knee-length Lycra pink shorts that were effectively spray-on and casual white running shoes with red tips on her feet. Kylie had her red hair shoulder-length in an up-do and was wearing a dark green business dress with a gold trim, the lawyer having announced she wanted to buy a similar one in a different color due to the sale at the boutique the trio were headed to, Vicky's.
“Mom sent me a text about the sale, but wow, it looks like the place is really starting to jump,” commented Erika as they got closer to the boutique, spotting a couple of people leaving and a small handful of people outside taking pictures of the windows.
“I think that was Madison who just left,” pointed Kylie, indicating a short dark-haired woman headed in the same direction as the trio, but further away. Madison Yen was a member of Kylie's firm and one of Erika's personal lawyers.
“A shame, would have been nice to shop with her too,” shrugged Erika, considering using her special ability to stop time to and catch up with her lawyer. Erika ultimately decided against the use of her power this time, and instead looked at the window that the small crowd was gathered. Standing in the window appeared to be a mannequin of actress Megan Wolff, but a quick double take showed she looked too real to be some imitation display piece, and instead must be the real person. Surrounding the famous actress were two more ultra-realistic mannequins that Erika quickly recognized as the shop owner and one of her clerks, respectively.
“This seems weird... Should we put out an alert?” whispered Tasia to Erika, referring to contacting the International Temporal Enforcement Agency. “I know Monica had booked a team to fly to Chicago just a couple of days ago...”
“No, I don't think this is anything sinister... Yet,” replied Erika, emphasizing the last word.
“This looks really cool; let’s go check it out!” exclaimed Kylie, leading Erika and Tasia into the boutique. Erika smiled at her friend's energy, Kylie was actually the oldest of the trio at thirty-three, but her smile quickly faded as she stepped inside and got a good long look at one of the mannequins in the middle of the store. There was one on a rotating platform that had a cute wink, another one standing at attention with a cute wink, but the third, pointing at what appeared to be nothing, was her mother.
“Mom!” exclaimed Erika, hurrying over to the middle of the boutique. There were no shoppers currently nearby on the show floor, just several human mannequins and the cashier, though Erika did spy activity in the back that indicated that the fitting rooms were getting quite a bit of use. Erika quickly climbed up onto the platform and felt her mother’s wrist, detecting a pulse, which was a good sign.
“I don't think this is Type-7,” observed Tasia, glancing around. Erika noticed that there was some strange narration coming over the audio system and that there were colored lights dancing around the area.
“I need to find whoever is in charge,” muttered Erika, stepping down from the platform.
“Yeah, lets just- Kylie?” began Tasia, then focused on their companion. Kylie's eyes were transfixed on the rotating mannequin in the middle, her breath only coming from her nose as she stood idle, her right hand partially raised as if about to point up at the display that had caught her eye.
“Kylie?” repeated Erika, waving a hand in front of her friend's face. Letting out a growl of frustration, Erika felt herself stopping time, even though ideally grabbing Tasia so she wouldn't freeze along with the rest would be ideal. Soon enough the sound was gone, the lights were fixed in place and so was Tasia, her hands resting on Kylie's shoulders with a show of concern on her face.
“Sorry, please watch them for me,” Erika told an unhearing Tasia, pushing a few of her locks behind her right ear and giving the frozen woman a big kiss on the lips. Erika then began to walk the boutique, searching for signs of anyone who looked like they were in charge. The cashier had barely batted an eye at them, so she doubted it was her; everyone else on the show floor had appeared to already be a statue so she doubted it was any of them. Erika did spot a couple of familiar faces, namely Carol Wilford and Lida Wilkins; the latter Erika remembering from a time she'd stopped for coffee at a cheap cafe in Malibu. Lida looked to be in some kind of extra sexy red skirt suit, the jacket barely reaching past her full breasts and the skirt very short, with fishnets underneath and the heels basically telling the world that she wanted some love. Lida's hands were behind her back, resting just on top of her butt cheeks if Erika was right, and the woman's smile was very seductive-looking, with a raised eyebrow and a confident smile.
Deciding to go upstairs first, Erika passed an auburn-haired girl posing with a woman who looked like a hipster torn away from her precious video game and took the steps. Peeking into the office, Erika discovered a nattily dressed man in a suit sitting behind a desk with his eyes glued to the flat-screen computer monitor, his fingers on the keyboard. Growling to herself, Erika marched over and grabbed the man by his tie, spinning him to face her as time suddenly resumed. Erika's power worked by focused attention, and grabbing the man had made Erika lose concentration due to how much anger she was processing.
* * *
“Hello?” greeted Darren with uncertainty, curious how the gorgeous but very annoyed blonde woman in front of him had managed to grab his tie without his even noticing her entering the room. Darren had been trying to use the office computer to see if the boutique was now 'trending' on the Chirper program he'd heard some bloggers and the like talk about earlier when he'd suddenly found himself face to face with this beautiful woman. The blonde pulled off her glasses and Darren quickly recognized her as celebrity CEO Erika Stone, having seen her featured in a couple of magazines and newspaper articles over the past year or so. Having Erika's mother on static display downstairs, Darren quickly guessed what Erika was angry about before she started speaking.
“What the hell did you do to my mother!” yelled the blonde billionaire, yanking at Darren's tie. “Why the fuck is she downstairs dressed like some kind of hipster whore?!”
“That is a terrible way to describe her stylish outfit, but fair enough,” offered Darren, raising his hands and locking eyes with the blonde. “She’s part of the Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Experience, Miss Stone. People who are open to it are hypnotized and become mannequins for the boutique, just for the day or however long they want to stay that way. It's simply hypnotism, Miss Stone.”
“So she decided to dress like that willingly? I don’t think so!” scoffed Erika, thankfully letting go of Darren's tie, which he took a moment to adjust while wiggling his fingers extra dramatically. “I mean I've heard that's how hypnotism works, it’s all about being open to it...”
“Right; total skeptics are immune, though if you work a subject subconsciously, say through my experience, you'd actually be surprised how many end up being willing,” continued Darren.
“So there's nothing sinister going on here?” confirmed Erika, Darren noting there was a hint in her eyes that she wasn't quite ready for him to put her under. It seemed Erika Stone was subconsciously open, if only a bit.
“Not at all, you can never truly hypnotize someone to do something they aren't comfortable with,” acknowledged Darren, and as he spoke he saw Erika was now ready. “Freeze!” Darren suddenly shouted, quickly standing and placing one hand on Erika's shoulder while the other went to her head. Erika Stone didn't quite live up to her surname as she stiffened, wobbling a bit. “Deeper now, frozen, perfectly still...” whispered Darren, continuing to speak to the billionaire.
“Okay Erika, I want you to answer some questions for me, so you can think of the answer and move your lips, but otherwise remain still,” ordered Darren a minute later, having quietly spoken to Erika to get her fully under. Erika stood with her arms crossed, her eyes half-open and her lips parted, still a little breath traveling through her mouth, though her legs were now solid. “Did you come here with anyone?” asked Darren.
“Yes...” whispered Erika, remaining unblinking.
“Where are they?” Darren asked next.
“With... my mother...” managed Erika, Darren nodding in satisfaction.
“Okay, now I want you to let yourself become very tranquil and still; remember you're just a mannequin, so you can't be seen moving, and if you think too much you might move, so just relax, maybe slip into a more comfortable pose, but slowly as you don't want people seeing you move,” commanded Darren, stroking Erika's shoulder as he spoke. When he was sure Erika wasn't going to snap out of it, Darren quickly hurried downstairs, calling for Franie in the back as he did.
“Bingo,” spotted Darren, seeing two new women standing near the trio of Adele, Casey and Ingrid. A redhead was looking up at Adele and seemed stuck in the middle of an action while a second redhead with some blonde highlights was standing in front of her companion and looked like she'd posed herself. Walking up to the pair, Darren saw that the second woman had her left hand raised up to around head level, her palm out and flat as if looking for a high five, a big white grin on her face as her head and hips were learning slightly to the right.
There were only a few platforms left in the store: two by Maxine, who was on her own, one near Carol, and two with the trio he was currently in front of, Adele being in the middle with Ingrid on one side and Casey the other. Darren liked Adele rotating in the middle but thought the other two would compliment her well, the dyed redhead going in front as if to greet people as they entered the store while the other would go behind.
“Take this one into the back and change her shoes, then put her in front here,” ordered Darren, indicating Tasia to Franie. “When you're done with her take this one and put her behind the rotating platform.”
“Yes, master,” agreed Franie, starting to load the beaming redhead onto the dolly she'd brought with her while Darren quietly talked to the second redhead, learning her name was Kylie. Darren had Kylie's head lowered to an even level and straightened her arm out at the elbow, making it so she was pointing straight ahead. Darren thought the pose might grab the attention of anyone at the back of the store, maybe coming out of the fitting rooms, and that would snag some stragglers.
Heading back upstairs, Darren considered what to do with Erika. While he was happy with Carla and Wanda in the window and out of the way, they were totally hypnotized, so Darren knew he could just make them model employees for the rest of the day. While he had a celebrity dancer and an A-list movie star in the window already, Darren did want Erika to join them, yet he'd had too much fun posing the twins to move them. Jody also a non-starter since he'd effectively promised her the place she was in. “I guess I'll swap you with Carla,” decided Darren, letting Erika's hair down from the ponytail. Since he'd left, Erika had moved her arms from being crossed to resting on her hips. Her mouth was also opened wider, apparently not quite at the level of a big smile but slowly getting there; her legs were also spread and her head tilted slightly upwards.
As he gazed at Erika, Darren realized his member had gone really hard and he needed a release. “Your knees are flexible, if I pushed your shoulders you would drop down onto them and lock up, as if made of stone,” Darren whispered into Erika's ear, giving her neck a quick kiss as he did. Soon enough Darren managed to get Erika onto her knees and she locked up, but her mouth was still a bit flexible. Unzipping his pants Darren inserted his member into Erika's mouth and he managed to get it to fit without having her teeth scrape his manhood. Loving the sensation, Darren began to move back and forth, having to be careful not to shake Erika too much or she'd snap out of it.
“Now this is how you make a living,” gasped Darren as he felt himself nearing the station.
* * *
Darren, after finishing with Erika, had taken her downstairs to Franie and stood her up, ordering her to find the woman a better skirt before swapping Wanda out for her. The hypnotist had managed to avoid having an orgasm in Erika's mouth and gotten her to finish her bright smile. Wanda was now working the floor, helping the now decent amount of customers that were still moving to find purchases. Darren had gotten Hilda to report on the receipts so far and it was already a bit above average for sales at the boutique and the viral marketing still wasn't quite at full force yet, despite the growing number of bloggers and the like starting to show up.
After having a quick five-minute smoke, Darren returned inside and discovered that once again Claire had people hanging out next to her. Tracy was still in her normal clothes with her arm wrapped around the reporter, who continued to look extremely cute in her dress and pose. Standing in a thinking pose was a blonde with curly hair and blue eyes in a brown V-cut sweater and rich blue jeans. Darren could see the blonde was starting to drift under his spell, but her companion, a redhead, was a different story. The redhead had green eyes with smoky eye shadow around them and was wearing a dark blue tank top with a gap around the lower back, essentially a reverse V-cut that, thanks to some low-hugging gray spray-washed pants, showed a lovely bit of ass cleavage. The redhead was pressed against the wall of the first fitting room, glancing down the row. Darren noted it looked like another customer was frozen in front of the big tri-fold mirror but for the moment he wanted to focus on the striking pair in front of him.
“I dunno Amber, maybe it wasn't her,” commented the redhead, apparently talking to the blonde, who was standing with her left hand on her chin and her right cradling her left's elbow, a blank smile on her lips. Amber, it seemed, wasn't quite under, but close.
“I... think it was... Jaki,” managed Amber, speaking slowly and in a hushed voice. Darren cautiously approached but quickly saw he didn't need to be worried, Jaki wasn't looking up and Amber's eyes had just gone glassy, a sure sign she was fully under his hypnotic spell.
“What's with the robot voice?” Jaki finally said, turning to look at her companion. “Ah, checking out the mannequins, huh? Yeah, these are really...”
“... Striking, aren't they?” offered Darren, quietly slipping in to stand next to Jaki as she stared at Claire and Tracy. “They looks so peaceful, relaxed... Not a care in the world, they just have to stand there and let the world see them for the beautiful creatures that they are...”
“Must be nice...” breathed Jaki, and Darren could tell without looking she was starting to get sucked in.
“You could join them, doesn't that sound fun?” asked Darren. “Totally relaxed, no need to move or do anything... Just be the center of attention with no effort required...” Darren had noticed on Amber's pocket of her jeans were a set of keys that included a key-chain with Greek letters on it, making Darren peg the pair as sorority sisters.
“That does... sound good...” gasped Jaki, and Darren could see through his peripheral vision that Jaki was starting to silently sway a bit, as if her body was emptying out so all that remained was a plastic mannequin. Jaki's breathing slowed and while she was more or less standing at attention there was a sort of relaxed state about it. Jaki started leaning to the right, raising her hand on that side to make a finger gun shape that ended up pointing next to her. A smile with a hint of teeth emerged on Jaki's lips.
“Freeze for me Jaki, now!” ordered Darren, and Jaki went as stiff as a rock. Darren was going to go get Franie when suddenly a woman came out of the changing room and he stopped, though he tried not to gawk. Lindsay Yari, a fairly popular pop music singer, had emerged, wearing a pink with black lining business dress the store carried, a white frilled blouse underneath and black stiletto boots on her feet, her straight black hair framing her face. Darren saw Lindsay glance at the mirror that another woman was frozen in front of, frown and then head right in his direction.
“Hi, the mirror's occupied so I need your honest opinion: you think the color distracts enough from the boots?” asked Lindsay, waving her hands up and down to indicate her outfit.
“Yes, it all seems very you,” nodded Darren approvingly.
“Ehh... It's just, well, I assume you know who I am since you didn't try too hard not to stare, but anyhow I wanted to try and dress a bit more professionally while still not looking like some corporate skirt,” explained Lindsay, talking very fast. “Hey wait, these are the two that followed me in here... And now they're mannequins?” Lindsay had indicated Jaki and Amber, smirking.
“Yes, it's all a part of the experience I do,” confirmed Darren, not having eye contact with Lindsay but still crossing his arms and wiggling his fingers, as they were in the corner of her eye.
“Oh man, I need to learn how to do this, get some annoying fans to take a time out,” laughed Lindsay, clapping her hands together and then gently poking Jaki in the back, getting no response. “You know I've always wondered what it would be like to be a statue myself... Peaceful, I'm sure.”
“I could help you out with that,” offered Darren, Lindsay now turning to look at him.
“I'm sure you could... I am pretty open for today, but I did want to shop more...” mused Lindsay, her gaze casually focusing on Darren's fingers as she spoke, her hands behind her back.
“Freeze!” Darren suddenly ordered, putting a hand on Lindsay's face as he grabbed her shoulder. Lindsay rocked backwards slightly but was otherwise instantly fixated, as if turned to stone. Lindsay's face showed confusion, her hands clasped behind her back with her chest sticking out slightly.
“Now my dear Lindsay, you're a mannequin on display, so you need to be smiling,” whispered Darren to his latest celebrity subject. “Be a beautiful, silent and relaxed mannequin, but give us a smile.” Lindsay's face slowly contorted into a bright smile while the rest of her body remained perfectly rigid. Lindsay, unlike Amber and Jaki, wouldn't need changing.
After ducking into the back to order Franie to grab and change both Amber and Jaki, Darren left with the dolly, approaching behind Lindsay and, after some words of encouragement to her, loaded it up with the pop star. It was clear to Darren that Lindsay had to go in the window, but that meant he'd have to replace someone again. Still feeling loyal to Jody's wishes and liking the twins where they were, Darren decided it was Carla's turn to be moved. Carla had been a major pain earlier though so Darren wasn't keen to get her moving again, even if she was hypnotized, but he did need to deal with Claire at some point so he thought having the store owner replace the reporter in her spot would be the way to go.
Darren watched the audience outside a bit as he moved Carla’s stiff figure out of the window spot, noting a few onlookers seemed very curious. Camera phones and other such things quickly started snapping image after image as the hypnotist deposited Lindsay into her new setting, angling the smiling half-Asian woman so her left shoulder was closest to the window. One guy in the crowd outside started a slow clap, another pointed and said her name, but no one else partook.
“The window really pops now, huh Wanda?” Darren said to the hypnotized clerk as he passed her. Wanda currently wasn't helping anyone as no one had asked for anything, so she was essentially standing still near a row of belts, looking very relaxed.
“Yes, master,” breathed Wanda as Darren continued past, smiling as he pushed the dolly with Carla on it.
Darren had to squeeze a bit to get Claire free of Tracy's arm, turning the lovely young reporter mannequin sideways and nearly falling over with her in his arms. During these contortions, her loosely fastened glasses fell off, clattering on the floor, but fortunately they didn’t break. Darren pocketed them for now, telling himself to remember to put them back later. Carla, luckily, was shorter than Claire, so slipping her next to Tracy resulted in the college girl's arm being on the Latina's shoulder. Darren considered loading Claire up on the dolly but then decided he'd just carry her back upstairs, realizing he'd been a fool: Darren could just order Claire to edit the sound file for him. “A hypnotist forgetting he can hypnotize,” chuckled Darren, marveling at just how thick he'd been on the subject, but after glancing at Claire again he realized why.
“Okay, just need to get the three newest girls in place, and then you're all mine,” declared Darren, taking a moment to stroke Claire's right breast through her dress before grabbing the dolly and heading over to the tri-fold mirror. Jaki and Amber, Darren figured, could join Maxine on her side of the store; a brunette, a blonde and a redhead in a three person cluster made sense to him.
“Hey there,” greeted Darren to the obviously frozen Chinese woman standing in front of the mirror. The woman was young, probably mid-twenties Darren figured, and possessed long hair with trimmed bangs. The woman was standing with her hands delicately placed on her hips, the gap between her thumb and index finger not touching anything, her knees swayed to the right and touching. The woman's lips were quite thick and her face was a bit round, but even with a sort of blank, open-mouthed look on her face the woman was fairly striking. The Chinese customer was wearing a store product, indicated by the tag, an elaborate orange dress that seemed to wrap around her like a snake. The dress started on her right leg, seemed to go up around to her left before reaching the middle with the second wrap, then showing bits of stomach before covering her chest, all with no straps.
“The snake dress might be a good name,” observed Darren, walking up behind the woman and gently putting his hands on her shoulders. “Hello my pretty mannequin, I hope you're feeling relaxed and comfortable. I need you to free your mouth for just a moment and tell me your name, but let all other thoughts leave you, feeling more relaxed as you do.”
“Mei... Lueng...” the new mannequin barely managed, speaking very softly.
“Okay Mei, frozen in time, a mannequin now,” commanded Darren. Glancing around Darren figured Mei opposite Carol would work, as the pair would sort of form a gateway into the fitting room area. The stand for Mei wasn't far away but Darren loaded her onto the dolly all the same, then placing her up top once he'd reached his destination.
“Franie, when you're done changing those two I want you to put them on either side of the brunette on the right hand side of the store,” ordered Darren as he entered the back room, dropping off the dolly. Jaki was currently naked, Franie having started with her. Darren was getting good at instilling a state in which the subjects would be fine being stripped, not needing additional orders to temporarily be more flexible. None the less Darren moved over to quickly have words with the two sorority girls, wanting to make sure Franie wouldn't accidentally snap one of them out of it.
“So... Shall we return to the interview?” asked Darren as he emerged from the back once more, focusing on the silent Claire.
* * *
Claire blinked twice, looking at the CyPocket in her hands and the words she had just typed a moment ago. “Sorry, Mr. Le Braun; must have lost my train of thought. Where were we?” She deleted the incomplete sentence with a few quick taps, and then sent the posting.
“Quite alright, Miss Cook,” Darren replied with a wry smile, noting that the pretty reporter had also lost around three and a half hours of her day spent posed as a living mannequin, along with her now-vanished panties. “You had asked me about my career and this amazing hypnosis event you’re covering.”
“Right. I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘amazing’ though; all I’ve seen so far is a few simple stage tricks, along with a generous amount of media hype. Are you—”
“Pausa,” he replied, almost indifferently. She was a frozen statue once more. “Claire, listen carefully to what I’m about to say, then type those words as part of your story, remembering only that you wrote them yourself. Then ask your last question again. Blink if you understand fully.” She did. “Anima,” he offered. Claire typed furiously:
[Oh, Gosh! Just saw that hot starlet whose fiery series got extended for another year –again- trying on a dress that is SO her. Today, Vicky’s Boutique is the hopping place to be, not to say a super chance to see what Megan Wolff looks like as a mannequin; that is when she’s not acting like one onscreen. Come on by and take a look. The place is offering 25 percent off for anyone who participates in the Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Experience, today only. See you here, peeps!]
Claire pressed ‘send’, shook her head briefly, focusing her attention back on the huckster. “Are you saying you’re doing anything different than any of the other charlatans claim?”
“Oh, I’d say my skills are unusually effective, but then you’d have to had experienced them to understand fully, and as you say, you’re immune to this kind of persuasion. Fortunately, for many of my subjects, they find they enjoy the chance to explore the mysteries of their own minds. You’ve seen many of them downstairs.”
“Um hmm...” she mumbled while typing.
[Am finding out more to this story than first blushed. Hypnotist is the gen-u-wine article, and a mesmerizing artist on top of charming. This reportrix may be a smidge smitten, methinks.]
“So,” she continued, “what’s in it for you? Why do you do it?”
He thought for a moment, smiled and replied, “For the usual reasons at first: Fame, profit, and the chance to advance my craft. It wasn’t until I started doing the Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Experience that I found that what I was doing was highly stimulating erotically, too.”
“Huh?” She glanced up, taken aback by his candor, “Come again?”
“Certainly; that too. Hypnosis gives me a certain power, a dominance if you will, to be able to take over control of someone’s thoughts and have them say or do things they could never do if conscious of what was happening to them. Downstairs you’ve seen a roomful of women that I’ve convinced are nothing more than motionless mannequins to be posed or undressed and played with at my command. I can even have sex with any of them and they won’t be able to remember a thing!” he boasted.
“That’s... incredible,” she gasped, her eyes widening in the surprise and realization that an actual news scoop had dropped into her lap for the picking. To hell with Stone Enterprises, I’m gonna expose this demented pervert to everyone... her thoughts flew. “How?... Why?...” she bumbled.
“Why am I telling you this?” He chuckled, knowing she, too, did not remember. “My secret has been bottled up inside, and it’s starting to eat at me. I know this kind of manipulation is wrong, but I find myself unable to stop. What scares me is finding out if I can impose my will on larger numbers of people. Hypnotic subliminal commands broadcast within sitcoms and vampire dramas. They’ll never know what’s happening. Hollywood: It’s not what you know, but who you know. And one of those stylish human mannequins downstairs is an award-winning producer with many movies to her credit. I’m going to have a long talk with her, later tonight. You’re a smart cookie; connect the dots.” he concluded smugly, leaning back with his hands clasped behind his head.
“You can’t!” Claire blurted, losing her reporter’s detachment. “You won’t...”
“Oh? Who’s to stop-”
Darren’s reply was interrupted as a the store tailor poked her head into the office and announced, “Master, there is a Ms. Hawthorne here to see you?”
“Thank you, Franie, show her up,” he decided. Turning to the astounded young reporter, he commented, “Perhaps a small demonstration is in order first....” Claire quickly made a short post while Darren's attention was stolen from her.
[Stand by, kids, big things afoot at Vicky’s!]
Darren watched the door expectantly. Less than a minute later DiAnne Hawthorne entered with a radiant smile on her expressive face. She was dressed casually yet voguishly in a loose silver spangled blouse under an open long-sleeved woolen jacket and matching bell-bottom slacks; the tips of silvery high heels peeked out from under the cuffs of the pants. Her auburn curls were tucked casually into a floppy oversize postboy cap and she wore an ornate necklace of brass medallions looping down to her cleavage. DiAnne was from Houston, where Darren had done a show in the past and taken to calling her Anne for short.
“Darren, it’s been too long! Wonderful to see y—” she greeted just as the hypnotist shouted, “FREEZE!” stopping the aspiring model in mid-step.
“Oh!” gasped Claire. “Is she...?”
“...under my power? Clearly, and I haven’t seen her in person for months. As you can see, Anne is one of my best mannequins. She’s been a part of my success all the way from back east.”
Claire stood, approaching the motionless newcomer cautiously, as if the living mannequin might suddenly jump out at her. This was the first of this madman’s hypnotized victims she had gotten this close to. “Can she hear me?” she ventured, waving her hand timidly in the gaze of DiAnne’s unblinking vacant eyes. “Huh, she reminds me of one of my relatives...”
“Not unless I allow her to. Right now, her mind is telling her that she is nothing more than a display dummy, standing as a beautiful mannequin, waiting patiently for someone to pose her and change her clothes. Would you?”
“Would I what?”
“Pose her. Go ahead; she won’t bite...” he prodded.
Warily, Claire grasped DiAnne’s right arm, the one not holding the strap of her leather handbag, and raised it a few inches, rotating her hand so the fingers pointed inward. When she let go, DiAnne remained stiffly in position. Next, Claire grabbed the floppy hat and placed it on her own head as she ruffled out the living mannequin’s rumpled hair so it flowed smoothly to her shoulders. There was no reaction whatsoever.
“Try removing her jacket now,” Darren suggested, nodding.
“I don’t think-” Claire objected.
“Pausa!” was his only word; she instantly stopped with her arm outstretched. “Claire, when you reanimate, you will continue to completely undress DiAnne as you see she is the hottest-looking woman you have ever met and that you must make love to her without hesitation. Blink if you understand,” he ordered, getting the confirming action from the otherwise motionless reporter.
“Anne, when you unfreeze, you will see the young woman that appears in front of your eyes as incredibly beautiful and desirable. You will immediately start tearing her clothes off so you can make love to her without hesitation; right here; right now. Blink if you understand.” DiAnne ‘replied’ after a long enough delay that he wondered if she was still entranced. She was.
He leaned back, wondering if and when he should ‘cut in’, and decided to just enjoy the show for the moment. “Anima! UNFREEZE!” he commanded with a salacious smile.
* * *
Darren stirred, enjoying the warm cushiony bodies he nestled against, half-awake as he took in the exotic blend of smells their perfume along with aromas of sweat and desire had created. Both Anne and Claire were naked as they spooned him on the floor. Before dozing off, he recalled giving them freeze commands in case they woke before he did.
Woke. What time is it? he wondered, sitting up with a start. It took a minute to find his watch in the heaps of clothing, then another few minutes to pull his own clothes on, comb his hair, and make himself presentable. Gad, I need a cigarette! he thought, but knew there were some things to take care of first.
“Anima!” he intoned and immediately saw Claire start to stir.
“MMMmmmm...” she cooed, her eyes still closed, as she reached out and, upon finding DiAnne, cuddled once more with her, not noticing the other was as stiff as a board. Claire’s mind was in a very suggestible state.
“Claire; hear only my words and obey them as you find yourself falling deeper into a pleasant, warm, peaceful, hypnotic sleep. You have no desire to open your eyes; you’re listening only to the sound of my voice. You may speak when I ask you a question. Do you understand, Claire?”
“Yes...” she murmured, her fingers playing over the nipple of DiAnne’s ample breast.
“Now, Claire: Open your eyes and stand up straight while remaining in a deep hypnotic sleep.”
She did as commanded and soon stood in front of him, looking still sleepy with her hair mussed and smudges of DiAnne’s lipstick on her face.
“Claire, I’m going to count to zero and then say the word pausa; at that point you will erase everything on your computer since you came upstairs to resume our interview and then forget our conversation as well as your... meeting... with Anne and myself. The story you post will cover the events of the day in a positive and upbeat manner, not saying anything about what has happened in this room. Do you understand? Nod if you do.” Claire nodded.
“Now you will become a still, silent, living mannequin until you are released. You will obey these orders but not remember hearing them even though you will not think such hypnotic control is possible. Three... two... one... zero: Pausa!”
Claire stiffened ever so slightly and several seconds passed before it was clear she did not blink.
Darren bent over the second naked figure. “Anne: Three... two... one... zero: Awake!”
There was only a moment of disorientation as her eyes popped open and she looked around to find herself naked on the carpet with a nude mannequin as well as her employer standing above.
“You did it again, didn’t you?” she purred, redundantly, stretching before standing up.
“Did what?” Darren replied in an innocent tone.
“Oh... you...” she said in an irritated voice tempered by her wide smile as she moved to hug him and plant a heavy kiss on his lips. “Did we at least have fun?” she chuckled.
“Most definitely,” he smiled back. “And my young acquaintance here,” Darren continued, angling his head to take in Claire standing stiffly nearby. “She’s going to be a big help for me in social relations and marketing. Plus, she doesn’t look too bad in a window either...”
“I can see,” Anne agreed, taking a long look at the frozen reporter. Does that mean I’m out of the job I came here to do?” she continued thoughtfully.
“Not at all; in fact time is a-wasting. Are you ready?”
She glanced down at her naked body, then commented wryly, “Moreso than I expected, but yes.”
“Anne: Display Time!” he commanded without hesitation, watching as she flowed into an elegant, almost Grecian, pose before freezing in place. Yes, Anne is one of the best.... he reflected for a few seconds.
“FRANIE!” he yelled out the office door.
“Yes, Master?” her voice replied a few seconds later from the bottom of the stairs.
“I need you to dress these two mannequins and get them into displays downstairs. Pose them together; I rather think they’ll like that. Pick a new outfit for the reporter as her dress became... damaged... and is unwearable,” he commanded, lifting up the torn scraps of what once had been a pert pink-striped pleated summer dress. “Find her some nicer heels, too!”
* * *
The rag-tag team that was Epsilon had only just arrived in Chicago when they learned they were needed elsewhere, thus their stay had only lasted thirty minutes, just along to get their Lear jet refueled. The International Temporal Enforcement Agency team's original orders had been to follow-up with the Interpol team in Chicago, but as they landed they got news from headquarters in London about an event that was going viral online. As Epsilon was the closest and the incident was top priority, the team was immediately ordered to Los Angeles.
Feeling a bit annoyed and jet lagged, the four-person ITEA team sat in their rented black Chevy Tahoe and eyed Vicky’s curiously. The team was missing its leader as Ivan Popov was out sick, having managed to catch a bad flu. Sophia Katsopolis, normally a member of Alpha, was acting as team lead. Nessa Kelly also joined her, alongside Epsilon regulars Makeda Getachew and Malai Kasem. Makeda, who was the second-in-command of Epsilon, currently acted as Sophia’s number two. Both women were veteran Interpol and ITEA agents. They were seated in the front of the SUV with Makeda in the driver’s seat. In the back were the younger agents Nessa and Malai.
“Are those mannequins?” Nessa asked, looking over Malai’s shoulder, who sat on the side of SUV that faced the business in question. The Irish agent was dressed in a worn brown coat over a purple top. Khaki trousers and old brown-heeled boots covered her lower half. Her brunette hair was tied back in ponytail, showing off her cool blue eyes.
“They look more like frozen people to me,” Malai commented, frowning at the thought. The Thai woman was clad in a light khaki jacket with a red spaghetti top underneath along with worn jeans and sneakers. Adding to her already un-cop like looks was an old baseball cap that covered her dark hair.
“There is something odd going on here,” Makeda added as she looked at the shop from behind her big sunglasses. The Ethiopian ITEA agent was dressed in a dark top under a thin leather jacket while her bottom half was covered in dark trousers and black heels. “What’s the plan, Sophie?” she then asked, turning to the Greek agent that sat next to her.
Sophie was occupied looking down at her CyPad. The senior agent was clad in gray tailored skirt suit with pantyhose and dark heels. Her brunette hair was tied back in simple loose bun. The content on her handheld computer contained images posted up by patrons of the boutique that featured seeming immobilized women acting as mannequins, some of whom where big name celebrities, such as Megan Wolff and Lindsay Yari. Other celebrities included Erika and Ingrid Stone. Their images alone most have gotten the home office curious, being that Erika was a financial supporter of the agency, and her assistant Monica was the one who tended to handle their travel arrangements. Sophia scrolled through some more images, looking up to match the figures that were currently on display in the window to confirm that the CyPad feed was up to date before replying after a sigh, “Let’s check it out.” She put the small computer aside and looked around at her mixed team. “The sidearms aren’t loaded yet… I don’t think we will need them. I think this whole thing is a marketing stunt. But the home office wants us to be sure that darker purposes are not at work here. In either case we should be ready though; since Nessa and Malai can conceal them, I want you ladies armed with the Type-7 Glocks, and carry some counter-agent too.”
The two ladies in the back nodded and then got to work on retrieving their needed gear from the cargo area of the SUV. “I want you ladies to check the floor out once we get in, talk to the staff and check on the VIPs, essentially anyone you recognize as being famous, plus the Stones. Makeda and I will interview store management and see what’s going on,” Sophia concluded, then opening her door with her team following suit.
“Wow, we’re going to stick out pretty bad…” Nessa muttered as she looked at Lindsay Yari dressed in the dark business suit and then down at her street clothing. The four agents were standing just outside the boutique and were examining the window displays up close.
“We’re not trying to fit in, just chat with the staff and check on the VIPs,” Sophia reminded Nessa as she looked at Erika Stone. The blonde was smiling brightly and clad in pink tank-top and white skirt that didn’t really match the fun looking top. Regardless of that fact the blonde looked stunning and Sophia could imagine the tank-top look becoming a trend in the work place next week.
“They're real people for sure!” Malai exclaimed, her voice being a little louder than it needed to be as she pressed her face against the glass to take a close look at the twins. “I can see them breathing!”
“Malai!” Makeda scowled and pulled the Thai girl from the glass. “I think that’s been established. Let’s get in there and find out what’s going on,” she then said rubbing her shoulders. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling pretty jet lagged right now.”
“Right,” Sophia agreed, massaging her own shoulders. “I don’t think there is anything nasty going on so let’s get this over with so we could give the home office a report and get some rest.”
Entering the store, the agents were greeted by two women, one standing behind the cash register counter while the other a brunette dressed in sharp looking double breasted purple skirt suit. The store had only two other active patrons in it at the moment, who were browsing the racks. The other people, who were all women, were on display in various parts of the sales floor where normally mannequins would have been placed. A voice could be heard over the store sound system and lights spiraled around the room but the agents ignored them. Malai and Nessa split away from the two senior agents to begin their check of the sales floor. “How may I help you today?” the brunette asked the two remaining agents.
Sophia looked at the woman’s nametag, admiring her suit at the same time. It read 'Wanda' on the tag. “Wanda, we would like to talk to the manager.”
“Oh, Carla is unavailable at the moment, she is actually modeling today,” Wanda replied and gestured toward the back of the store at two women. One of the women was dressed in normal street clothing and had her arm around the other who was dressed in a nice pants suit. The two looked as if they were posing for a picture in front of the dressing rooms.
Makeda and Sophia both looked at each other and then back at the two mannequins. They assumed the older woman of the two, which was also Latina and dressed for business, was the manager. “We can’t talk to her?” Makeda clarified.
Wanda shook her head and replied with a polite smile, “I’m afraid Carla won’t be available.”
“I think we have a problem…” Makeda whispered to Sophia.
The Greek agent ignored her subordinate and asked, “Is there someone in charge we can speak to?”
“Of course there is, if you’ll wait right here I’ll go let him know you wish to speak to him,” Wanda replied with smile and nod before heading off. She strode off towards the back of the store and vanished through an open doorway.
Sophia turned to Makeda and grinned, “No problem.” They were standing in the middle of the floor. There was a large display that the noticed when they walked in but didn’t really look at until now. The display was essentially made of four raised platforms surrounding a higher rotating platform. All of the platforms were in use at the moment, and while three of the women Sophia didn’t recognize, two of them she did.
“Oh, I think we do have a problem,” Makeda sighed as she looked at one of the women that the two ITEA agents recognized. Though Tasia Spiro was suspended from duty at the moment, she was still one of them, being Team Alpha's leader. Tasia was posed with her left hand raised up at head level, her palm out and flat as if looking for a high five. A big toothy smile was on her face as she looked on blankly, leaning slightly to her right.
“Tasia?” Sophia called out, nudging the younger Greek but getting no response.
Makeda moved around to Tasia’s right to look at the other woman they had recognized, Ingrid Stone. Though they had seen photos of the elder Stone on the web seeing her unmoving in person was shocking to say the least. Makeda poked the woman, getting no reaction. “This isn’t Type-7 they’re still breathing… there’s something else at work here. You still think we don’t have a problem?”
Before Sophia could answer, a man’s voice interrupted her, “Hello ladies, Wanda said you wanted to speak to the person in charge?” Both agents turned to see a brown-haired man with a goatee in a black suit standing before them, his hands behind his back and a smile on his face. “Darren Le Braun, at your service.”
“Agent in Charge Sophia Katsopolis, Interpol,” offered Sophia, extending a hand, which Darren took. The ITEA was technically their own agency but Interpol was their cover identity, given very few people knew they even existed and for good reason.
“Interpol?” echoed Darren, looking surprised. “Oh dear, is something wrong?”
“Agent Makeda Getachew,” offered Makeda, simply waving in greeting. “We discovered this... marketing ploy online, and we have some concerns...”
“Ah I see, the cost of sudden fame, people always want to make sure you're not being naughty,” chuckled Darren, seeming to ignore the fact that neither Sophia or Makeda were echoing his amusement. “Well right, I can assure you there's nothing sinister here. This is all simple stage hypnosis, nothing more, nothing less.”
“I see,” nodded Sophie, glancing around and noticing that the voice coming over the audio not only sounded like Darren but was what she could describe as 'hypnotic' in sound. “So everyone is here of their own volition?”
“Well hypnosis never forces someone to do something they're not truly interested in doing,” pointed out Darren.
“Right, like how you can't hypnotize someone to death,” added Makeda, nodding. “I remember hearing once about a guy who tried to defy that fact: instead of getting his subject to jump out the window he ended up getting thrown out himself. Nasty business.”
“Indeed, and I can ensure you this is all harmless, well, for lack of a better word, fun,” declared Darren, clapping his hands together. “If you want you can come upstairs, ask me more, I could even show you some recordings I made earlier of inductions.”
“That will be fine, thank you,” agreed Sophia, gesturing for Darren to lead on, which he did.
“Keep your eyes on Tasia over there,” Makeda whispered to Malai as she and Sophia passed her and Nessa, heading towards some stairs. “Nessa, maybe watch the register?” Both agents nodded and Makeda took a moment to look up over at a trio of girls who all looked to be college age. A brunette in a red dress stood in the middle, while on her left was a blonde and her right a redhead. The blonde looked like she was sending a text with one hand while her other hand cupped a phone, her blue eyes looking down at the device while dressed in a tight white skirt suit that had a zebra-patterned blouse underneath. The redhead was in a long-sleeved yellow blouse with a black neckerchief around her collar, a white A-line skirt with green leaves on it around her waist. The redhead's left hand was shaped into a finger phone, her right index finger pointing at her face from below and sultry look on her face, her eyes half-closed.
“Up here,” indicated Darren as he led the two ITEA agents to some stairs; each side of the entrance featured another living mannequin. One on side was a woman in a wool coat and bell bottoms, her left hand behind her head and her right down at her side as she gazed up and to her right, her chin up. On the other side was a cute brunette in what looked like black but was really more dark blue leather, a strapless dress with a matching formal-looking coat on top. The younger-looking brunette had her left hand deep against her lower back while her right gestured towards the ground as if flicking a cigarette, her gaze mirroring the first mannequin's.
Upstairs, Sophia and Makeda found a comfortable office with a coffee table between two couches, a laptop and a CyPocket sitting on said table. Sophia and Makeda took a seat on one couch while Darren typed a few things on the laptop before turning it towards the agents. “This should show you what I do,” declared Darren, leaning back on the other couch.
* * *
The open laptop on the desk had put Makeda to sleep; she was slumped back with hands limp on her lap. She slept comfortably with her mouth agape, even snoring slightly. Sophia was sitting with her back straight, still staring at the laptop; a blank look now occupied her face. Darren chuckled to himself as looked at both women, knowing that they were both under his control. “Now to test this out…” he said, standing up and waving a hand in front of Sophia’s face. He chuckled again at seeing the woman only continue to look on blankly. The video playing was Darren explaining what he did, so he had lied to the agents when he said he'd made it earlier, but the real trick was that even as Darren explained his techniques in the video it was actively inducing any who watched, thus why Makeda and Sophia were now hypnotized themselves.
“Sophia stand up,” Darren ordered. The Greek agent did as she was told, standing up at attention. “Sophia I want you do anything I ask of you do you understand? Acknowledge by replying yes master if you understand this.”
“Yes master…” Sophia replied in a dreamy voice.
With the leader of the group under his control, Darren moved over to Makeda and leaned over the sleeping woman. “Makeda, when I count to three and snap my fingers you will awaken and stand perfectly still as if you are a mannequin. In this state you will feel as if you sleeping and allow yourself to be manipulated, finding it enjoyable and relaxing. One… two… three!” Darren counted and snapped his fingers. As if someone had flipped a switch on, the agent opened her eyes and stood up at attention next to her co-worker.
Darren looked at both women and tried to decide what to do with them, as they were cops and he didn’t want them out on public display. If word got out, surely their friends would come as backup and though he was good, he wasn’t that good. He definitely wasn’t a fan of going to jail but the women were attractive… and he was in control of them… He smiled to himself as an idea came to him. “A little private fun wouldn’t hurt… but let’s first get the rest of your team.”
He took Sophia downstairs with him, since she had told Darren she was the one in charge. The first woman they came upon Sophia introduced as Malai Kasem. The young Thai woman stood frozen in front of Tasia, giving the Greek a prolonged high five. A big open-mouthed smile was plastered on the woman’s face. The next agent was a gorgeous brunette, who they found frozen next to Lida with her arms crossed and curious frown on her face. Sophia introduced this woman as agent Nessa Kelly. Both seemed to be locked in a deep trance.
Since these women weren’t going to be used as models, Darren had them follow him back upstairs. Once there he had all four stand before him in a row, leaving Makeda as she was since she was already frozen. He looked them over, enjoying their blank looks and the power rush he felt. The fact that these four women would probably kick his ass if they were aware of what was going on just made the hypnotist all the more aroused. “Who should go first…” he thought aloud, looking at the four entranced beauties. “Wait; you’re not going to be posed, so… ladies, strip naked!” he ordered, opting to go the easy way.
The three non-mannequin agents stared emptily ahead as they begin to remove their clothing without hesitation, the hypnotist doing the same. Darren was surprised to see that the only undergarments that the Sophia had were her pantyhose and she was the first one to get in the buff before him. Nessa finished next, the brunette having hot pink undergarments and was packing a menacing-looking Glock that Darren didn’t want anything to do with; he promptly placed it well away from him. Finally, Malai finished; the girl also armed with a Glock, but what made her be last was the expensive and complex lingerie that she wore, which consisted of a lacy garter belt with attached sheer-thigh stockings. Darren knew his undergarments from experience and figured the girl’s lingerie to cost well over a hundred bucks. Even in her hypnotic state, Malai removed her expensive lingerie very gently.
“Okay, now I want the three of you to strip Makeda,” commanded Darren as he himself quietly moved over to the office door, deciding to close and lock it. It was soon revealed Makeda wore the kind of undergarments that Darren would associate with someone's grandmother, a fact that greatly amused him.
“Okay, time for you to pair up... Nessa, Malai, when I snap my fingers you will look at each other and be incredibly turned on, finding each other to be the hottest woman alive and wanting to immediately have sex, damn the consequences,” declared Darren, then snapping his fingers. Malai and Nessa spun to face one another and immediately locked lips, pressing hard against each other as Malai led her partner to one of the couches.
“Okay, now Sophia, when I count down to zero from three you will become a perfect display mannequin, able to be posed and enjoying every shift in position,” continued Darren, glancing down at his manhood for a moment as he spoke. “You'll feel relaxed and in a state of bliss. Nothing will wake you from this state except for my voice. Three... two... one... zero!” Sophia had been more or less standing at attention, though kind of slackly since she was a in a dream-like state, and at the word 'zero' she went totally rigid.
“Okay, time for a double dip,” grinned Darren, ignoring that it was technically his second of the day. Darren got up close and personal with Sophia, not caring that they were cops and there was a chance he'd get caught; fact the risk just drove him harder as he kissed and groped the frozen Greek. As he began to feel sufficiently aroused, Darren decided to not go in the front, instead bending Sophia over with her hands on the coffee table and going in front behind. At first everything was going fine but at the fifth thrust Darren heard Sophia moan, certain it wasn't Nessa and Malai since they were muffled due to kissing while touching each other.
“Whoops, hang on,” panicked Darren, standing Sophia back upright. The Greek wasn't falling out of her mannequin-like trance but she was clearly a bit flushed. “Frozen in time, perfectly relaxed, absolutely still and in control, you are just a beautiful object in a store...” Darren whispered into Sophia's ear to deepen her hypnotic spell, then decided to move over to Makeda.
Changing methods, Darren groped and kissed Makeda from behind before posing her to sit on him and his manhood, then wiggling her stiff body a bit to get the motion he needed. Soon enough Darren felt himself ready to go and quickly stood up, pulling out just in time but at the cost of leaving a sticky mark on the floor. “I'll bleach that, I think,” frowned Darren, patting Makeda on her well-formed rear as he spoke. Glancing over at Nessa and Malai, Darren saw they were coming close to orgasms themselves, so he decided to step in. “Nessa, Malai, freeze!” commanded Darren, the pair promptly doing as they were told, becoming an erotic pair of entwined statues in a second. Malai was on top, her left hand in Nessa's womanhood, her right running through the Irish girl's hair, eyes closed as their lips met. Nessa, meanwhile, had both of her index fingers inside Malai; her eyes were also closed as she was down below.
“Nice tableau, but they need some company,” he commented. Placing his hands around Makeda, Darren quietly moved her over to the other couch, laying the agent down. Malai's left leg was hanging over the side of the couch so Darren placed Makeda with the Thai girl's left toe in her snatch, her hands holding the other’s foot. Darren then opened Makeda's mouth before going to get Sophia, having her sit on the Ethiopian's face, her toes pointed away from the second-in-command's body. Shaping Sophia's face so it looked like she was having an orgasm, Darren used his laptop to take a quick photo of the stationary scene before saving it deep within his hard-drive under a false name, the only really 'advanced' thing Darren could do with a computer.
“Well ladies, you really put the 'serve' in 'serve and protect,'” laughed Darren, deciding to start getting dressed and work on cleaning the floor.
* * *
Darren yawned and glanced at his watch, only to discover the boutique was now closed for the day. The last customer had left two minutes ago, so it was easy enough for Darren to find Wanda and order her to lock the front door, turning off the sign that indicated the boutique was open as well.
Walking the floor of the boutique, Darren tried to decide whom to speak to first. It had been a very profitable day for Vicky's; Darren had Wanda dig out the sales receipts from the previous year a few minutes ago to reveal they'd at least doubled last year's one-day take. The staff seemed a likely and obvious place to start the wrap up, so after Darren finally turned off his CD and lights he ordered Hilda, Wanda, and Franie to all join him with Carla. Given that he had special instructions for a few women, especially the ones upstairs and by the stairs, Darren figured he'd start clockwise, assuming the entrance to the back was twelve o'clock.
“Franie, I want you to use the dolly to move Megan Wolff and Jody Bisette so they're standing by the stairs, and then come back here,” commanded Darren, then watching as the blonde went off to do as she was told before focusing on his next subject. “Wanda, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will not remember a thing about today except that hiring me was a great idea. You will then clean up the store and, after everyone has left, go upstairs and fall asleep on one of the couches until morning. When you wake up tomorrow you will feel great, not remember hearing these instructions, yet you will suggest to Carla that she pay me a bonus. Three, two, one, zero!”
Wanda blinked three times and silently began to move around the store, focusing on some clothing racks that had been nearly pilfered. Darren turned his attention to Hilda; Franie was not back yet. “Hilda, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will not remember a thing about today except that hiring me was a great idea. You will go back to the register and help the last few people with their purchases. You will then go home for the day as you normally would, and when you next come to work you'll suggest to Carla that I should be hired again. Three, two, one, zero!”
Hilda only blinked once before quietly walking into the front of the store, oblivious to everyone around her. Franie had now returned, so Darren focused on her next. “Franie, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will remember everything prior to seeing Wanda and the others frozen, and nothing after that, recalling that the sale day was hectic but uneventful. You will have the urge to keep in touch, either by email or phone, both of which you'll find on the card I'm placing in your hand.” Darren paused for a moment to slip his business card into Franie's hand before continuing. “You will forget everything else about today and go home, as you normally would. When you next come to work you'll suggest to Carla that I get a bonus for all work I did today. Three, two, one, zero!”
Franie seemed to lurch for a second before leaving through the back, leaving Darren with Carla and Tracy. Ideally Carla would go first, but since Tracy had an arm around her he picked the college girl first. “Tracy, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will not remember a thing about today except that it was a lot of fun to be a mannequin. You might even find yourself practicing some poses when you're alone. You will just quietly leave the store and go home. Three, two, one, zero!”
Tracy let out a small giggle before removing her arm from around Carla and heading towards the front door, quietly exiting the boutique. Darren turned towards the store’s owner. “Carla, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will not remember a thing about today except that you were dead wrong about me and should consider hiring me again. You'll have...”
“Pardon me?” a voice behind Darren’s back startled him.
“Franie?” he turned, confused. With the post-hypnotic suggestions she’d been given he hadn’t expected to see the cute seamstress again. “What can I do for you?”
She blushed, then handed him a tiny flash disk drive for a computer. “Well, it’s just that I was doing my closeout for end of day and was clearing out the security camera footage and... I think you should take this.”
Darren felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He’d almost screwed up, bigtime! “Cameras? I didn’t see any around.”
“Yeah; new and very micro. After a robbery attempt, Carla almost had the place coated with them. They’re pretty much everywhere except the can. Anyway, take the chip; I’ll tell Carla it got lost somehow. I, er, didn’t see anything though...”
“Are there security cameras in the office, too?” Darren stammered, on the verge of losing control.
The young tailor nodded with her eyes closed. “I especially didn’t see anything from any of those...”
“Franie, thanks a bundle, you don’t know what this means...” he assured her, shaking her hand and placing his other hand on her forearm. A slight tug and a quick command of “sleep, now!” was enough to slip her back into her trance. “As you slip deeper into hypnotic sleep, you listen to my voice once more and are very soothed by my voice. You will forget about these security camera videos and any scenes you may have glimpsed. You feel a warm glow at having done a good deed and earning my admiration. Now when I snap my fingers, you will awake, forgetting that you were hypnotized and going about the rest of your day as I have instructed you. Ready?” he than snapped his fingers lightly. Franie blinked and said. “It was nice meeting you, Mr. Le Braun; I hope we can see each other again sometime...”
“Me, too, Franie,” he promised, waiting the few seconds until she had walked out of hearing and he could give his full attention to the woman standing mannequin-still next to him.
“Carla, listen only to my voice; I’m going to count down to zero and then you’ll wake up, forgetting the events of today, but have the strong urge to pay me the full fee that Vicky agreed upon and even a bonus. You'll go upstairs into your office and fall fast asleep on one of the couches, perfectly relaxed until morning. In the morning you'll wake up feeling amazingly refreshed and then become a nicer person to your staff and friends. Three, two, one, zero!”
After Carla, things went a bit faster for Darren, as many of the women he basically gave the same orders to as Tracy, though those wearing new outfits were encouraged to buy them and collect their original clothes from the back before leaving. Mei was just told to go home after buying her dress, and like Tracy, encouraged to perhaps practice some poses when alone, while Carol was told to wait by the front of the store until Ingrid joined her. Lida and Skyler got the Mei command, while the twins Darren decided to leave his number with. The twins also ended up quietly standing and waiting by the door of the boutique, Julie making a phone call as the pair were oblivious as to what was going on around them. Ginger also got Darren's number and was encouraged to invite him to a future dance show, especially if she thought someone studying under her could use some mental discipline.
After the one window was done, Darren focused on the center of the shop before bothering with the other one. The rotating platform was stopped and Darren decided to begin with Adele. “Adele, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will not remember a thing about today. You will go home, taking my card with you, and tomorrow you'll email me your contact information in case I ever need you to promote an event for me. You'll have really found me interesting and be eager to participate the next chance you get. Three, two, one, zero!”
Adele looked a bit woozy, possibly from rotating all day, but slowly got down from the platform and headed for the front door, palming the card she'd been given. Casey was given the same command as Mei while Kylie was just told to go home.
Ingrid was Darren's next subject. “Ingrid, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will remember nothing about today except that you met a very handsome and charming man here at the boutique. You'll take my card and be interested in taking me out to dinner sometime soon, flattered that a younger man would be so interested in you. You will pay for the outfit you're wearing, collect the clothes you came in with from the back, and then go and take Carol home before going home yourself. Tonight you will have the best sleep of your life, waking up tomorrow feeling amazingly refreshed and eager to call me. Three, two, one, zero!”
Ingrid seemed to beam the entire time, from stepping down from the platform to heading into the back area. Only Tasia remained, and Darren decided he couldn't leave Erika entirely alone. “Tasia, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you will awaken feeling amazing, having loved playing a mannequin today and not finding anything weird about it. You'll wait for Erika by the door and leave with her, going wherever you two want to go, not worried about Kylie as you know she will get home safe. You'll later encourage Erika to call me if she ever needs the help of a hypnotist for anything. Three, two, one, zero!”
Once Tasia started moving, Darren headed over to Erika, who stood elegantly in the window. “Erika, when I reach zero after counting down from three to zero, you'll awaken remembering how much fun it was to be a mannequin for the day and not at all freaked out by anything you saw. You'll take my card, pay for your clothes, get your other clothes out of the back and then go wherever you want with Tasia.” Darren paused, tempted to mention something about him, but he knew the billionaire was a lesbian so decided not to risk it, as encouraging her to fool around with a man in any way remotely romantically might break the whole thing, that being something she'd never do. Darren could make someone defy their sexual identity for a couple of hours, but not for longer. “Three, two, one, zero!”
After Erika, Lindsay, Maxine, Amber and Jaki were the last four before the special women needed to be addressed. Darren didn't do much special with Lindsay, though he did give her his card and encourage her to call him if she ever felt any anxiety. For Maxine and the sorority sisters, Darren decided to just stick with what he'd told Mei, and finally that just left DiAnne, Claire, Megan and Jody, plus the women upstairs. Darren returned to the four by the stairs and eyed them, smiling to himself.
“Okay, who to start with...”
* * *
“Man, I can't believe we lost a whole day to one boutique,” muttered Amber Prescott as she walked back in the direction she parked her car, which was another four blocks from where she was at the moment next to Jaki Newborn.
“Got some nice outfits out of it though,” noted Jaki, admiring the clothes they'd been allowed to leave the store with. The sorority sisters had still been required to pay for the clothes but they were nicely discounted so neither cared.
“This is true,” chuckled Amber, then stopping herself as she realized she sounded a bit like Susie Kim, another member of Phi Sigma Delta, and thought it was weird.
“Still, I'm just glad not to have anyone else messing with my head,” remarked Jaki, giving Amber a wry smile. “I mean, hypnosis is cool, but it’s a bit freaky at the same time, letting someone control you.”
“Dunno, getting to play mannequin was kind of hot...” smirked Amber, stopping for a quick second to imitate the pose she'd woken up in before continuing. “But yeah, nice to have our heads clear.”
The two sorority sisters continued to walk for half a block when suddenly a familiar face walked out in front of them, her arms crossed. “Amber, Jaki, you two said you'd be back for dinner...” chided Susie Kim.
“Susie, what-” began Jaki, only to immediately freeze in place along with Amber.
“No excuses,” chuckled Susie, her right hand fiddling with her magic necklace as she spoke, transmitting its power into the rings the girls wore. “I've booked a nearby hotel room for the night under Amber's name. We're going to use your credit card and check into an awesome suite, where we'll have a nice time and you can think about what you've done.”
Jaki and Amber promptly unfroze, walking up to Susie with big smiles on their faces and wrapping their arms around her. “Anything you want, Susie,” the pair said in unison.
“Merry Christmas to me,” chuckled Susie once more.
* * *
Sophia glanced around, suddenly feeling a bit off. The Greek ITEA agent was sitting at a desk in a hotel room that for a second she didn't recognize, only to then remember it was the Soft Blue Loft Inn and that she was in the room she'd decided to split with Makeda, there being two queen beds. Malai and Nessa had a room next door, but all four of the agents were currently in the room, Malai and Nessa each sitting on one of the beds while Makeda had just emerged from the bathroom.
“Well today sure was... Uneventful,” commented Makeda, touching her head. “Anyone else got a bit of a headache.”
“We ah, opened the mini-bar,” revealed Nessa, indicating a table in the corner of the room where there was open liquor. “Now if you're done I need to use the bathroom.”
“I gotta go first!” exclaimed Malai, jumping off of one of the beds and quickly beating Nessa into the bathroom. Makeda just shrugged and moved to stand beside Sophia at the desk.
“You finish the report?” asked Makeda, indicating the CyPad sitting on the desk Sophia had been typing away on. Glancing at it Sophia noted she'd just sent an email of her report to headquarters in London and had a copy open. The report said that it was just volunteer hypnosis, nothing illegal, which Sophia did agree with, yet she was just having trouble remembering everything she wrote.
“I guess,” nodded Sophie, leaning back in her chair. “I guess we decided to fight the jet lag with liquor... Ah-” The room went suddenly silent and still. Sophia had started to gesture up at Makeda, who was to her right, her right hand up and pointing at the woman, her mouth open. Makeda meanwhile had her right hand on the desk, her left on her hip, and was looking down at Sophia. Nearby Nessa was looking up at the bathroom, her face a bit flushed, while Malai had just opened the bathroom door and looked like she'd just breathed a sigh of relief, her eyes closed.
The hotel room's closet door opened and out emerged Erika Stone and Tasia Spiro, the pair surveying the scene. “I was worried she'd never finish that report,” muttered Erika, stretching. “How long as it been since they checked in? An hour?”
“Just over,” nodded Tasia, glancing at a clock on the wall. “Okay, so who do you want to play with first...?”
* * *
DiAnne Hawthorne blinked twice and realized she'd just swallowed something that tasted delicious. Looking around, she found herself still wearing her own clothes, minus the postboy cap, which she saw next to her plate. The table was big, easily able to seat six, and made of polished wood; on her plate Anne could see Tuscan Chicken on a bed of fettuccine in a cream sauce. A glass of white wine was also on the table and, across from her, Anne saw Darren Le Braun, who was eating a similar meal. Seated at the table with the pair were, to Anne's surprise, Jody Bisette, a woman she'd remembered seeing on Le Braun's fan site, and more surprisingly, Megan Wolff. Megan and Jody both sat perfectly still, their hands in their laps and their faces blank.
“So this is new,” Anne remarked dryly. “Where are we?”
“Soft Blue Loft Inn in Venice; California, not Italy,” revealed Darren, casually taking a sip of wine. “Executive suite. I asked Megan to book me a room here and she didn't see a problem with it... I then had you join me for dinner, as well as Jody here... Are you familiar with-”
“Yeah, she's on your fan website,” nodded Anne. “So you got a big name movie and TV star to buy you an expensive hotel room for the night... Should I be impressed?”
“Who was the most famous person you had dinner with before tonight?” asked Darren, smiling.
“Winston Churchill,” joked Anne, letting her sarcasm fade as she offered a genuine smile. “Okay, I'm impressed... You happy?”
“Not really,” shrugged Darren, but Anne saw through the thin lie.
“So what's the plan, you going to try and make Megan another member of your entourage?” questioned Anne, leaning back in her chair, which turned out was a leather executive type.
“I'm more interested in getting into TV,” revealed Darren. “I've wondered what would happen if I hid my induction technique in a television show, something people all over the country watched... I don't think anything would happen, but imagine if it did?”
“Going power mad, are you?” laughed Anne, then glancing at Jody. “So I get Megan, but why is she here?”
“Jody really likes being hypnotized, I figured I'd humor her a bit longer,” nodded Darren. “As for being power mad... I've got a compass; I'm not going to lose myself. Well, I think I've got a compass...” Darren paused, glancing at Anne with sincerity. Anne couldn't help but grin.
“You just might,” admitted Anne, then leaning forward, her arms resting next to her plate. “One question... How sturdy is this table?”
* * *
Claire quietly exited the boutique, feeling physically great but emotionally annoyed. Darren Le Braun had ended up being less of a pretentious twit that she'd initially thought, and her boring day had passed quickly, with the assignment ending up being more fun than she'd expected. But she was still really angry that Sunny had given it to her in the first place. The dress she'd picked out for the assignment had also been ruined, thanks to some clumsy blogger with an extra-large coffee, but on the plus side Claire had discovered a fitted leather outfit that worked for her, and was curious if the place had anything for the motorcycle rider types.
“Still bullshit,” decided Claire to herself, pulling out her CyPocket to put a coda on the day. She smiled as her fingers touched her prized glasses tucked inside the purse where she figured she must have left them.
[OMG, tots awesome day, but still needs to get my reporter on. Hopefully I'll get the hot stuff now, but it wouldn't be LaLa Land without something crazy happening, so woe is me. Woops! What’s this... snow in the Land of La? Must be part of that freaky...]
Claire was going to continue typing when suddenly she froze, as did the few flakes of falling snow that were in the air. Footsteps approached, but Claire remained frozen in place, time itself apparently standing still.
“Check her out,” commented Tucker Holmes, admiring the motionless woman in the form-hugging leather outfit before him as he pocketed his magic wand. “She looks a bit grumpy, don't you think, Mags?”
“Oh big time. I think she needs some yuletide cheer, Tuck,” giggled Maggie Yen, glancing at the boutique. “Boy, never thought I'd be here again...”
“It's where Julie told me she was, and she wanted the trip back to our place to be a bit faster,” reminded Tucker, digging into his jacket and pulling out a Santa hat, which he slid on the unmoving brunette's head.
“Much better,” clapped Maggie. “I'm going to go check inside.”
“Yeah, be right there,” nodded Tucker, letting Maggie head into the boutique. The woman was really cute, so Tucker couldn't help but put his hands on her frozen cheeks, turn her head to face his, and give her a big kiss on the lips.
“Merry Christmas,” smiled Tucker, letting go of the brunette and heading into the boutique. Claire, off balance after Tucker let go, slowly tipped sideways before hitting the ground, completely oblivious and as frozen as a snowman.
Darren Le Braun – Derren Brown
Franie Motek – Emilie de Ravin
Hilda Jones – Drew Sidora
Carla Gomez – Sandra Echeverria
Wanda Beck – Mandy Moore
Megan Wolff – Megan Fox
Adele Oriolo – Carla Gugino
Claire Cook – Carly Foulkes
Ingrid Stone – Kim Catrall
Carol Wilford – Melinda Clarke
Casey Jackson – Jaimie Alexander
Skyler Tannen – Julianne Hough
Maxine Reed – Emma Roberts
Kat Vaughn – Katrina Bowden
Julie Vaughn – Katrina Bowden
Jody Bisette – KaDee Strickland
Jamie Mosley – Kendra James
Chloe Noi – Jang Nara
Lida Wilkins – Genelle Williams
Ginger Cladwell – Anna Trebunskaya
Tracy Summers – Jennifer Tisdale
Yumi Motochika – Yuriko Yoshitaka
Erika Stone – Blake Lively
Tasia Spiro – Doukissa Nomikou
Kylie McBride – Alicia Witt
Amber Prescott – Brittany Snow
Jaki Newborn – Emma Stone
Lindsay Yari – Olivia Munn
Mei Lueng – Nan Zhang
DiAnne Hawthorne – Anne Hathaway
Sophia Katsopolis – Sofia Milos
Nessa Kelly – Olivia Wilde
Malai Kasem – Pumwaree Yodkamol
Makeda Getachew – Paula Patton
Susie Kim – Kim Hyuna
Tucker Holmes – Drake Bell
Maggie Yen – Yin Chang