Rebecca giggled as she played with her closest friends, Harriet, Diane and Rick. The long school year was finally concluded, so instead of project deadlines and final exams, thoughts of reckless abandon filled her once troubled mind. With summer in full bloom, all four giddy graduates bounced around in pure merriment, barely able to contain their exuberant anticipation. As they sat within Rick's new apartment, they each pondered how they should spend the first day of their final summer together.
"We could go to my cousin's cabin upstate," offered Harriet with a grin. She coyly spun her blonde ringlets with her slim index finger as she studied the glorious sunshine streaming in through the open window. Pleasant thoughts of running through the lush forest and skinny-dipping in the crystal clear waters of Lake Dulcimer filled her mind for a blissful moment until Rick broke the momentary silence.
"Well, I don't know about you guys, but I've love to visit the art museum today," coaxed Rick with a hint of longing in his voice. True to form, Rick picked a place well suited for his most intense passion, the arts. All of the girls knew he had been accepted by The Elam School of Fine Arts in New Zealand to study fine art, so none of the young ladies were surprised by his suggestion. In fact, all of Rick's gorgeous friends had grown quite weary of hearing about Rick's plans to travel to Auckland to study, yet they all shared his excitement and wished only the best for their adored high school chum.
Diane immediately chirped up, saying in a bubbly tone, "I wanna go shopping at the mall. I could really use some new summer clothes." She stood up and began strutting around the small living room like an experienced runway model, even pivoting with confidence before returning to her original position. As she sat back down with her friends, she added, "Besides, I heard they're looking for catalog models this week, and I'd love to get my foot in the door."
Rebecca smiled as she leaned back in her seat. While she was truly excited about her newfound freedom, she hadn't really imagined how she wanted to spend the time off with her friends. After mulling it over, she said, "I don't know about you guys, but I want to have some fun! I say we should hit every roller coaster and thrill ride this city has to offer. We desperately need to unwind. Let's go to the Adventureland theme park, guys!"
The four friends argued for a few minutes, each stating their case with determination. Finally, they all agreed to let fate decide, so they threw each of their respective ideas into a hat. Rick reached into the hat as the others looked on intently, each hoping for him to pick their favorite.
Hot damn! Diane shouted, as Rick turned the card around for them all to see. It read simply The Mall. Were going shopping, Diane teased her friends. Were going shopping! Resigned to their fate, her three friends nodded.
A half-hour later, they all went through the front entrance to the local mall. It was a sprawling complex, full of stores of all types, arcades, art galleries, fast food places, and even a mini-amusement park. So, Diane, Rebecca asked in defeat. Where do we go first?
"Before we scatter all over, please let's stop in at the mall office; just for a sec," she wheedled. "I really want to find out if I could model for their catalog. OK?"
The three others gave her a pained look and reluctantly followed her eager footsteps. Little did they know the adventure that would await them there...
The Gunmen in the Management Office
Upon arriving to the Management Office, they discovered that the entrance was open, so they walked in. No sooner than the four of them entered the office did the door slam shut. The four of them turned around and found three men wearing ski hats with guns pointing at them.
"Hand over everything you got!" said a gruff masculine voice.
Rebecca and Diane screamed.
"Shut up!" said another voice, "Or we'll shoot."
Getting Stuck in a Stick-up
"Wait a minute!" Rick blurted, "What's going on here?" He turned back to look in the office and noticed something very unusual — no one was moving! At first he had thought it was just a fleeting impression that he glimpsed before being distracted by the robber's demand, but as the seconds continued to tick by it was clear that the employees of the office were all frozen in mid-action.
In the middle of an adrenaline rush, he was able to take in the rest of the tableaux before the thieves reacted to his outburst.
The young receptionist continued to look at the door with that corporate greeting smile and a little wave that left her hand poised in mid-air while a word remained still on her lips. There was just a hint of surprise frozen on her features; whatever had happened to her had been lightning quick. Behind her, clerk typists were paused in the middle of a transcription, eyes focused on the page in front of them. Rick wondered if they even knew what had happened to them. One was stopped in the middle of speaking on the phone and he could faintly hear the yells of the person on the other end of the line saying "Hello... hello? Sharon? Are you there??" Holding the phone rigidly in against her shoulder, the dark-haired Sharon was just as much a statue as the rest of the workers.
Along the row of filing cabinets stood, or rather teetered, a tall girl in a miniskirt and heels who was stretching on tip-toe to reach a file on the top shelf. Her position had pulled her skirt up to the point where Rick could just see the cheeks of her nicely shaped tush. His eyes followed the silky gleam of her pantyhose down her well-turned legs to the smart black business pumps she wore before glancing back up at her narrow waist and full chest. He thought for a second that she had missed a career in modeling since she looked so much like a mannequin standing there so still, perched on top of a low stool that almost could be imagined as a display platform.
At the back of the office was a large walk-in vault that stood open. Inside Rick could see bags of cash and other valuables. Probably why these guys are here...
"I said," the first robber repeated as he came up in front of Rick, "give us your stuff!" He brandished his weapon, and Rick saw that it, too, was odd. The barrel was very large, but a metallic disk blocked most of it, leaving an open circular gap about 3mm wide at the very rim of the barrel. Instead of a revolving receiver or clip, there was a small pressure cylinder screwed into the handstock.
"We don't have much," whined Harriet, "we're students. Can't you just let us go?"
Diane did her best to try and hide the expensive wristwatch she wore, while at the same time edging imperceptibly towards the door.
"Didn't you hear me!" the other one bellowed, "Hand it OVER!" He, too, carried one of the strange guns.
"Let's just pop 'em and get on with it..." said the third robber.
"Nooo....." begged Harriet.
Quick Decision, Long-term Consequences
Suddenly, with a burst of speed, Rebecca turned and sprinted for the door. She had gone out for track so it did not take her long to reach full dash. Only a few feet separated her from outside, and freedom. After taking a moment to react, the robber's response was decisive. Shouldering his weapon, the man nearest her took quick aim and fired. The sound was surprising — instead of the loud bang that caliber would normally produce, there was only a hollow 'chuff' as a violet-colored smoke ring flew from the muzzle. It traversed the distance to the fleeing Rebecca instantly and dispersed into a cloud that surrounded her tall frame.
In the blink of an eye, her movement slowed and then utterly stopped, leaving her holding perfectly still in a graceful position mid-run like a stop-motion replay. Another shot from a different weapon enveloped her as well but Rebecca had already turned stiff as a board.
"Shoot them all; we're wasting too much time with this..." The third robber urged. He was the only one unarmed, but he carried a large backpack.
"Your turn, toots!" The gruff one declared, turning his gun on Diane and firing before she could react.
"Oh!..." is all she gasped before freezing in place as she took a slight step back in self defense. Rick could see her clearly as the immobilizing gas turned her into another living statue. The effect was really almost instantaneous; she only blinked once before her gaze turned blank and glassy. Hearing another series of 'chuff's behind him, Rick knew that he had been shot too as a cloud of lilac scented vapor settled around him and he felt his muscles lock in position. It was almost like having a muscle cramp, but all over his body. He knew he was just as stiff as the others, and probably Harriet was too standing to one side out of his now static field of vision. In front of him he could see Diane and most of the back office, including that leggy honey on the stepstool. Well, as long as I'm stuck here, might as well enjoy the view!! he thought.
Time seemed to stand still, because nothing moved. Even the clock seemed to have stopped.
Realizing he hadn't passed out took a few stretched-out seconds; clearly the gas was affecting his mind, too, but not to the same degree. When one of the thieves passed in front of his vision, the man seemed to leave a blurred trail that took a few moments to clear away. Noises were also smeared too, and there was a strange echoing of the thieves' voices.
"Getttt the the wallll lletttt." One of them seemed to say as he stripped Diane's watch off and spent a couple of seconds gazing at it. Rick felt a hand slipping into his back left pocket and extracting his billfold before Rick knew what was happening; not that he could have done anything about it in his current paralyzed condition.
"Hey, that's a pretty fancy watch this one's wearin'. She looks like the high maintance type. HA, HA!" the robber said, staring at Diane's helpless frozen body. His eyes slowly surveyed her figure.
"She just might have some more money or valuables on her," the other one said.
"Yeah, guess I'd better check." The robber ripped the bottons open on Diane's blouse, revealing her rather magnificant breasts.
Rick and the others could only watch in horror as Diane's bra was removed and her lovely chest was completly exposed. Diane silently gasped, What will they do to me? Oh, NO! she thought as the robber began to slowly massage her left breast; to Diane's suprise, it felt pretty good. Her nipple began to tighten and become erect. The robber soon moved to her right side, repeating his "search."
"Well, nothing here, better check down below," he smiled lustfully. Unbuckling her designer belt and unclasping her pants, he let them drop to her ankles. The robber reached inside her silk panties and began to explore. Soon Diane was overcome, more by pleasure than with fear. Her motionless body ached to move. The searching, turned to caressing of this man turned her on in a way she couldn't explain! As his motions continued she began to reach her point of ecstacy, even though no one would have known it from her glazed, frozen look. Soon the man moved his hand to her shapely ass and explored more. It was all Diane could take! Her frozen body flooded with pleasure. If only she could move. . . But by then she didn't want to. The wonderful feeling was continuing, as much suspended in time as she was.
The man seemed to have to pull himself away from her, as the others called for his attention. Poor Diane was left standing motionless, with her pants around her ankles, her blouse hiked up to expose her breasts, and her poised body pining for more. Soon the men had gathered the loot that they were in search of and were preparing to leave. The robber who had fondled Diane, turned to look at her and then back at the others. "I'm takin' her with me," he stated.
The Plot Thickens
Out of seemingly nowhere, a musical female voice is heard, saying "Vhat is goingk onn here?" At the sound of it, the three thieves pick up their heads to look at the source. One of them raised his weapon to the ready.
"Put that thingk down!" the voice commands, "You vhant to make me a zhstatchoo?"
"No, ma'am," the cowed thief replied, lowering the odd gun.
"Vhy is not the door locked?" The voice had moved closer while she was speaking; now Rick thought she was close behind him. His hearing remained good enough that he could make out the sound of the latch being thrown back at the entry. One of the robbers told her it was done now, somewhat redundantly.
"Ond who are zese people?" Judging from her voice and accent, Rick concluded she might be foreign and he whimsically imagined she would be exotically beautiful, but nothing had prepared him for how she actually looked. Stunning was too weak a compliment; as she stepped into his field of vision he would have been frozen speechless if he hadn't already been. The woman was tall and blonde, with nordic cheekbones and platinum blonde hair cut into a 'bob' that curved in right at the ends of her lips. She had greenish eyes, very wide set, and a generously proportioned mouth. Her figure was incredible; slim yet curvy in all the right places, a lush physique only emphasized by the skin-tight Lycra catsuit she had been dipped in. Black, of course, but shiny enough to gleam enticingly in the light. Her waist was cinched by a wide patent leather belt and she wore matching knee-length boots with what looked to be at least four-inch heels on them. Elbow-length opera gloves protected her fingers from leaving prints. Rick was still memorizing the view of her shapely wagging behind when the woman stepped out of his line of sight. It almost caused him physical pain to lose sight of her, she was so totally babe-a-licious.
"They wandered in just as we were getting started, Inga," the robber continued his explanation. "We were going to shake them down when one of them made a break for it and we had to freeze them all."
"I am zhure you did. Always so rapid to use your toys..." She passed back into Rick's vision, walking leisurely from right to left, and he lost track of the last part of her sentence. It was amazing how her every movement syncopated her voluptuous body into a symphony of visual delights. Even the way her blonde hair sprung up and down with every step and her hoop earrings caught the light. For Rick, it was clearly a case of lust at first sight; he felt a growing hardness in his crotch and realized there was at least one 'muscle' that the gas had not affected! Inga; her name is Inga. I wonder if she'd make love to me? he daydreamed.
"Now, zhey are a part of zhis," Inga continued, pausing to reflect while putting her satin-sheathed index finder on her red lips. "Ve musht not leave vitnesses; zhey have zeen me..."
...and I'll never forget you! Rick panted silently.
Inga paused when she sighted Diane. "Ah," she breathed. "Vhat a zhtatuesque beauty zis one is!" She ran her black-gloved fingers down Diane's sides in a playful way, then cupped her breasts in her hands. "Zho round! Zho ripe!" Rick could only stare — as the rest of them could only stare — as Inga's gloved fingers pushed under the elastic of her panties and burrowed deep into her crotch. Gently, almost reverently, Inga pulled down the silk undergarment, exposing Diane's groomed, moist sex to the air and to all their eyes. "Boys, zis one is a keeper!"
"We haven't got time for that, Inga," one of the thugs said impatiently.
"No time? You are telling me zhere iz no time?" Inga swung her platinum-blonde head around to pierce him with a glare, leaving Diane to stand there, half-naked and completely helpless. "I zay ve haf plenty of time. Do not interrupt me again. You vill make me very angwy."
She turned her attention back to Diane, noticing her exposed nipples were hardening again very quickly. "Tut, tut, tut," she clucked. "Naughty girl. Getting zho turnt on by naughty Inga!" She tweaked the errant nipple between her fingers, then applied her mouth and lips to it briefly and vigorously. "You like zhat, I can tell! Though you cannot move or shpeak, the flesh betrays. It is my pheromones zat have zat effect on you. Pheromones invented by mein vater, Professor Hans von Strudelheim of the German Nationalist Party!"
She's a Nazi? Rick thought in a daze. A super-hot daughter of a Nazi? His mind spun. What is she doing here? Why rob a... tacky suburban mall in the middle of nowhere when there must be bigger fish to fry? Though he literally couldn't keep his eyes off Diane's exposed breasts and crotch. It's those pheromones, he thought. Inga's genetically altered scent. I mustn't give in to it. His thoughts fell apart again as he lustfully pictured Inga in the nude. I wonder if she'd let me be her slave? he thought wistfully.
"Ve vill take zese two, zey haff zeen us close-up," Inga announced, gesturing at Rick and Diane. "Zose others — zhey are nothingk. Leave zhem."
Rick could only stare as the thugs dosed him again with the gas gun, rendering him, if anything, more stiff and motionless than he already was. Then the thugs quickly undressed him and removed the rest of Diane's clothes. "Wrap zem in ze plazhtic," Inga ordered, pointing to a large roll of vinyl sheeting in the corner. "If anyone asks questions, ve vill say we are merely transzhvering two mannequins from vun store zu another."
Do'in That Thieving Thing They Do
"So they've seen you — but so have the others," one of the robbers responded, cocking his head at the motionless office scene. "Are you going to take them too?"
Her laughter was like a crystal waterfall. "No, zhilly man. Zhere are ozzer vays of handling zis." She reached into a pouch on her belt Rick hadn't seen and drew out a filled hypodermic syringe, the needle protected by a plastic cap. "Vee can plaze zhem on display, permanently! My vaxvorks alvays has need of new figures. Does not have to be decided now..." She put the syringe away. "Clean out zee zafe ond zhen vee can releaze zee gaz in wentilators!"
"OK, Inga, you're the boss..."
"Do not forgess zhat." Having dismissed her henchmen, she proceeded to the vault just as one of the other robbers was lifting out a frozen clerk, posed stiffly while holding a clipboard on one arm and writing on some papers with the other hand. There were already some black sample cases and trash bags strewn on the floor. Inga made a mental note to spend more time on training before the next job; this was almost a botch up they had created. Too many loose ends, like those four.
Rick, by concentrating hard, was able to keep his attention on the luscious woman even though she was standing up and to the right of where he was forced to continue looking. Even angry, even when she threatened to leave him as a statue forever, he still loved her.
Diane had noticed Rick's intense erection and realized the arousing effect the woman was having on him, partially because she had felt some twinges of desire too, despite the fact she normally liked only guys. There was something magical about Inga that way. She wondered if she'd look that good in an outfit like that and if Rick would drool over her just as much. Concluding it couldn't hurt to try, if she ever got the chance, Diane almost didn't hear the faint whisper to her right. More like a mumble, really, yet she could make out the slurred words with difficulty.
"Di... ane.... I... can.... wiggle... my... toes....!" Harriet's slurred, slow voice. "Wait.... minute...." Spurred on by her friend's words, Diane tried to move also, but found her muscles were still locked solid. Maybe Harriet hadn't got as much of the gas, she thought, or maybe she'd had enough warning to try and hold her breath when they shot her with the strange gas guns. Whatever reason, their hopes were now pinned on the one member of their group most easily dismissed as an airheaded bimbo. "Better, now." Harriet said eventually. "You wait; we'll surprise them."
Great! Diane thought, she's going to expect help from a statue...
Waiting for the Cavalry? Quit Horsing Around!
Under the not-so-gentle proddings of Inga, the three robbers are finishing up with the contents of the vault and carrying their trove up towards the front of the management office. All around them, Rick and his friends along with the office staff stand as still as statues. But everything is not as calm as it seems...
Harriet has almost completely shaken off the paralyzing effects of the immobilizing gas and is actually having trouble staying still. The pose she has been frozen in turns out not to be the easiest to hold, and she begins to sway slightly, imperceptible to anyone but another stiffened victim. At the same time, she begins to see signs of movement in the gassed office workers. The receptionist seems to be coming out of it very slowly and manages to blink a few times, but she remains rigidly posed. Toward the back of the office, the man that had been in the vault when the robbers burst in stands quietly to one side. He, too, is biding his time.
Passing close to Harriet's 'frozen' form while returning from the door, one of the thieves decides to have a little fun and gooses Harriet on the ass. It takes all of her inner strength not to cry out and remain motionless. "How you doing, honeybunch?" the man says directly to her face as his hands stray onto her pert breasts. "You're sure a cute one — how 'bout a nice kiss..." She can smell the garlic and cheap liquor on his breath as he comes closer. Closer still.
"Not in a million years, bub!" Harriet whispers. His eyes go wide with surprise a fraction of an instant before her knee in his crotch made them almost bug out. With a grunt, he sags in place. Harriet snatches up his freeze gun and wonders how to work it before realizing that it's a gun; just point and shoot. She gets off a chuff that misses the next thief by a couple of yards. Oh, yeah, I gotta aim, too, she tells herself in disgust. Even so, the close shot causes the robber to take cover behind one of the desks and ruins his own return shot. Her second try catches the third thief squarely in the face and he immediately freezes in position, gun held to his shoulder, finger on the trigger. The second one is taking aim again when someone grabs him from behind, spins him around, and wallops him across the jaw.
It's the guy from the vault to the rescue, at least momentarily. A few punches later the front of the robber's ski mask is moist and bloody and he's out cold. Making the mistake of looking into the vault, he's hit in the face with flying kick by Inga, who has been hiding there until the right moment. The guy reels backward, off balance, giving her enough time to pry the gun from her other accomplice, aim and fire. He too stiffens in place once more.
Harriet has drawn a bead on Inga and is squeezing the trigger when she feels her arm being pulled down; the paralytic smoke ring catches Diane instead. Since she's not moving anyway, there is no outward effect. No sign she's screaming You Idiot! under her breath. Struggling with the wounded but aggressive thief distracts the blonde for long enough. Soon afterward an incoming shot reaches Harriet and she becomes another statue with a gun. Prom Queen Goes Berserk! thinks Diane sarcastically as she sees their chances evaporate into thin air.
"Zo! It iss finished...." beams Inga triumphantly. Hearing a groan from her accomplice in pain, she silences him with a chuff from her weapon. She had planned on leaving those two bozos behind sooner or later anyway; it was just turning out to be sooner. "Now, vee make schure..." Pulling the syringe from her belt, Inga removes the cap and begins walking towards Harriet. "Zince yhou haf defied me, you will be the first. I zink I vill put choo in zee disco zscene..."
Intent on her revenge, Inga does not see the outstretched foot of the receptionist until it trips her as she passes by. An involuntary "OoooFFfff" escapes from her mouth as she falls into the edge of the computer monitor and grabs it to steady herself. It is then she feels a tiny pain, just a pinprick really, in her side. Glancing down, she sees the syringe sticking into her ribs, plunger pushed all the way in. Though there was no way to actually do so, she could feel the petrifying potion coursing through her body. The potion she herself had created; the potion that had no known antidote. "Chit!" As much as she knew what was going to surely happen, she knew what she had to do.
Standing upright, she posed herself in a super-heroine stance with hands on her hips and head held defiantly high. It was a good thing, too, since the stiffness had already started to creep into her body — a stiffness that would soon convert every molecule of her being into a permanent waxy plastic. "Display me vell!" were her last words before her voice was stilled and her eyes glazed over into absolute immobility. Seconds later, it was over. Inga had petrified herself!
"Damn. She was fine...." Rick had finally found his words again as he again became able to move. Both he and Diane quickly dressed themselves before checking on their frozen friends. Slowly the others in the office returned to life; the police came, took the remaining members of the gang of thieves into custody, and departed. More time passed before the van came to collect the mannequin-like figure of Inga. By then, Harriet was the last to return to normal as the four friends sat on the couch, sipping water and trying to collect their thoughts. Diane was fussing with her torn blouse; by buttoning it unevenly she didn't feel so exposed and violated.
"Hey, why did we want to come here in the first place?" Harriet wonders.
A Bittersweet Victory
Rick, sitting on the couch in the waiting area of the office, stared at the floor despondently. The pattern of color splotches in the vinyl tile seemed to blur before his eyes. He felt utterly drained; either from the effort of standing rigidly in place for what seemed hours when overcome by the immobilizing gas or from the despair of watching helplessly as the woman he loved with every fiber of his being was turned into a plasticized statue by her own potion. When he closed his eyes, Rick could replay the symphony of sensual movement that was Inga's slinky stride, the way the light gleamed off the curves of her Lycra catsuit, and the delightfully musical accent to her voice. It had been an accident. She had stumbled; now she was gone. Forever beautiful, yet forever still and alone within the prison of her own body.
One of his friends was saying something to him, asking why they had come here in the first place. Rick wanted to come back with some snappy reply, but his mind was blank. Inga's achingly lovely face and aroma haunted his memory. "Whatever it was, I've completely forgotten. Let's get out of here... back to the mall... something!" Cradling his head in his hands as he leaned forward, all he could see were memory's fading images of his lost love.
"Maybe a minute or two more," Diane requested softly. "I'm still a little dizzy." She had gotten hit with a multiple dose of the lavender-colored vapor when caught in a crossfire and had only recently been able to relax from her stiffly held pose. Along with a frozen file clerk, Diane had been the very last to shake off the paralysis. Lifting a paper cone full of cool water to her lips, she could still feel how taut her muscles were. Sitting next to her, friends Harriet and Rebecca also were quietly recovering from their recent ordeal.
Sitting with his head down, eyes closed, Rick only heard the brisk click-click of someone walking towards him, heels echoing on the tile floor. His mind's eye supplied the image of Inga's tightly zipped leather boots to go along with the sound. The clicks stopped in front of where he sat.
"Wouldja like anything else, mistah?" The voice wasn't Inga's lyrical soprano, but a more nasal contralto. Rick opened his eyes, glimpsing at first a petite pair of pantyhosed feet wearing off-white business pumps. His eyes were naturally drawn upward to her very trim ankles and shapely legs made even more elegant by the smooth caress of the cream-colored hose she wore. Almost perfect in proportion he thinks, following the delicate compound curves of her calf muscles, sleek knees, and firm lower thighs. Recalling from some bygone class or film the measure for perfect legs that one should be able to place a silver dollar between the knees and ankles while the calves are touching, he realizes the owner of this pair of gorgeous gams has passed the test. Rick's gaze continues up past the mid-thigh hemline to appreciate her narrow waist, well-proportioned chest, and lissome neck. Her face is familiar somehow; pretty with dimples as she smiles at him, framed by a mass of curly raven-colored hair. On her nose perch a pair of designer wire-rimmed glasses that seem to improve rather than distract from her striking deep blue eyes. "Some more water, mebbe?" Her pursed lips are full, drawn into a bow, and made up with a unusual and striking berry-colored lipstick that finally brought Rick's thoughts back to where he had seen her before. She was the girl at the front desk, frozen as she leaned towards the entrance. Yes! He snuck a glance at her engraved name badge: Jessie A.
Rick found his tongue. "Ah, sure. Yeah; more would be fine." She had looked so lovely as an unmoving figure it was hard to believe she was even sexier as she pivoted and walked back to the cooler. Definitely a dancer, he surmised, gauging her catlike stride and grace.
Jessie handed him the water and had another cup for Harriet, who smiled back as she accepted it. For a moment, their hands touched and Jess squeezed Harriet's warmly. "I really hope that you... you all... are OK. That was really something, being turned into, like, living statues or something!"
"Yes, it sure was, Jessie. I feel fine, now." Harriet responded, getting to her feet. She was only slightly taller than the perky five-five receptionist as she looked into those azure eyes. "Thank you for asking. It was certainly an — interesting — experience I have to say."
Jessie chucked. "In a way, it was kinda nice, in a strange sort of way. Y'know?" She avoided saying that the feeling had brought an unexpected arousal, but her body language and blush spoke the words that she had silenced. Less than a meter separated them; it would only take a moment to lean over and plant a kiss on Hari's moist lips. Why not?
"Uhh, could you get me some more of that drink, hon?" Diane picked that moment to teeter to her feet and interrupt them.
"Yes, of course. One moment please!" Somewhat miffed, Jessie made another round-trip to the water dispenser. By the time she returned, all four of them were on their feet and getting ready to go.
The athletic-looking redhead seemed especially impatient. Maybe she didn't enjoy being a statue as much as I did, Jessie thought cattily.
"There's a few hours left in the day, right?" Becky said. "I certainly don't want to spend the rest of my time in here." Bending down spontaneously, she did a couple of sets of limbering-up stretches that also managed to display her own slender physique before Rick's appreciative eye. She turned towards the door, and the others did likewise. Opening it a crack let the bustling din of the main collonade intrude into the quiet of the office space. The four started to leave.
"Wait! Just a moment..." Jessie called out to them, while dashing back to her desk to pick up something. Returning, she passed out an engraved document to each of the four friends. "Complements of the Mall. For, you know, the inconvenience you've experienced. They are for one hundred dollars each, good at any of the stores or concessions."
"Why, thank you!" Diane beamed, already thinking where she was going to spend it. Mason's, or the big Gilbert store? Maybe she'd get a massage?
"Can I cash this in?" The redhead Rebecca proposed. Jessie's slight frown was enough to tell her 'no'.
"If you don't want it, I'll take it." Harriet reached for the piece of paper, but Becky held it out of her reach.
Always the mediator, Rick tried to calm them down. "Come on, girls. Don't fight. Haven't we been through enough excitement today?" Turning to the trim figure of Jessie, he was surprised to see her pert features morph in his imagination until he was again looking at the glacial beauty of Inga in Jessie's face and realized that while the receptionist was back to normal, the plasticized mannequin of the woman he loved would never be normal again. Passing through the doorway, he hoped that something would happen to take his mind off her.
Film at Eleven
Rick, still in a daze, turned at the sound of the voice and did not see the blaze of lights or the microphone until it was too late.
A very attractive mid-30's woman stood next to him, doing an introduction as she gave a 3/4 profile to a video camera pointed at them. Belatedly, Rick realized the red light was on. Is this a live segment? he wondered as he tried to keep his eye from straying from her perfectly made up face down to the impressive cleavage at the front of her tailored, tight-fitting, wine-colored pantsuit.
The woman had an extremely melodious speaking voice; deep in timbre with an unusual accent. In a serious tone, she said "Monica Sleet, reporting at the Crystal Hills Mall with a witness to what is reportedly a very odd robbery attempt earlier today. Sir, can you describe for our viewers your experience?" Suddenly, the microphone bobbed in his direction, as did the reporter. What seemed like minutes flew by in dead air as Rick tried to find something to say.
"Well, it was rough going there for a while; but we waited for our opening and we took it, as any red-blooded American would do. Fortunately, Lady Luck was playing on our team today and things worked out for the best. Monica." He smiled weakly at the camera, recalling a speech by his old football coach.
What a dork, she was thinking behind her plastic smile. Maybe one of these other chippies can say something intelligent. "Thank you, Mister...?"
"Chest... er...ford. Richard Chesterford," Rick lied. It must have been the lights, because suddenly it had gotten very warm around him. He could feel sweat starting to form on his brow. He worried that she was going to ask him another question. But luck really was shining on him.
The reporter turned to the prettiest one of the three women with Rick. Well, at least we can score some ratings points with the teenagers. "Miss, can you tell us more?" she said to Diane. The microphone swung away from Rick, who breathed a not-quite-invisible sigh of relief.
"Certainly, Ms. Sleet; we had entered the business office to ask about a catalog photo opportunity. I'm a model, you see; Diane Galindo. That's G-a-l-i-n-d-o." Diane said, flouncing her hair and turning a little so the camera could show her good side. "But we were surprised by men wearing ski masks. They shot these weird guns at us, and..."
"That's when you realized you could not move?" Monica interjected.
"Right! It was some kind of paralyzing gas or something. They had already shot everyone in the office already and everybody was stuck there like in a music video; us too. Nobody could budge at all, not even a little bit. While we stood there, the guys started to clean out the safe and talking about releasing more of the gas into the air vents. Maybe to cover their tracks, I dunno. Whatever."
"Go on," The reporter urged, intrigued on several levels. Here was a human-interest hook, and a notion that sent a thrill through the control-freak side of her psyche. I'd heard about stuff like that in TV shows, can't believe it's become a reality; wonder what it would feel like? She tipped the microphone back to Diane and arched one of her carefully penciled eyebrows at the young girl.
"Well," Diane began, but she was interrupted by a mousy-looking blonde standing next to her.
"See, they didn't get me full on, and I was able to move after just a little while, and I faked it, until after the leader came in, and I was able to grab one of the guns and zap them! And froze one of the guys good — right in his tracks — and was getting ready to put the chill on the boss lady when she tripped and froze up herself, stiff as a board. It was something to see, let me tell you, and..." All at once the mike was no longer pointed at her and Harriet trailed off as the reporter spoke directly to the camera.
"Channel 9 News has learned that the ringleader, known as Inga Thorssen, has been taken into custody along with the other four assailants. Sources have identified her as the proprietor of a local wax museum, but can give no motives for her actions here. Since her arrest, Ms. Thorssen has remained uncooperative and silent."
Harriet piped up. "That's because she's a freaking statue!" as the reporter ignored her.
"This is Monica Sleet, reporting from the Mall, for Channel 9 News." The red light on the camera went out, followed shortly afterward by the bright spotlight, and then the cheerfully earnest expression on Monica's face. "God DAMN it, Rudy! I've told you a hundred times - keep the key light on ME!" She patted the pockets of her pantsuit, and soon found a cigarette to light up. Without paying any attention to Harriet, Diane, or the others she pushed past them towards the office. "Maybe we can get a statement from the director of this dump... how long before the cutoff for the six?" It did not seem to bother her that nobody ever answered.
"Excuse me, Miss Sleet?" It was Rick, following along behind, as the reporter and her cameraman descended on an unsuspecting Jessie. "Where did you say that Inga had been taken? Please...?"
"I don't have time for this, kid. The bimbo's on her way downtown, what good it'll do them. We saw her when we came in, being wheeled towards the paddy wagon. Shot some cover too; but you're friend's right. She didn't ever move a muscle. Cops said she was hard all over, like a window dummy. Too bad, in a way. Now, run along. I'm on deadline." Don't blow my investigative piece, she was thinking. I want to find out what that museum really is...
"Uh..." was all Rick managed to say at the reporter's shapely, receding backside. He turned back towards his friends.
"So much for your fifteen minutes of fame..." Rebecca stated sarcastically.
"I've got to find her." Rick said, intensely, still under the grip of Inga's magic pheromones. It was as if he was being drawn by some sensual gravity.
"Oh, no. You don't want to get mixed up in that," Rebecca shot back. "I can smell trouble a kilometer away and that woman is trouble with a capital T."
"...that rhymes with P, that stands for..." Harriet sang softly.
"Shut up, Hari."
"Don't tell me to shut up. I can say anything I want!"
"But do you expect us to listen? Forget it; I saw how you hogged all the credit with the TV. You didn't say anything about my escape?"
'That's because you blew it, track star. You were as stuck as all the others in an instant. Would have wound up in some display if it hadn't been for me!"
"Oh, you think so? Let me tell you..."
"Becky - Harriet! Hey, can you stop bitching for a sec?" Diane finally got between them. "I don't know where Rick went off to..."
On a Mission from....?
"I see him!" Harriet cries, hopping up and down, 'he's over by the service entrance..." The blonde points excitedly, and then sprints off in that direction.
"He's infatuated with that lycra babe Inga!" Diane says. "We've got to stop him before he does something stupid." She starts walking briskly towards Rick's position, her long legs making distance rapidly. In her wake, several young men cast lustful glances in her direction.
"Stupid-er, you mean," grumbles Becky, who begrudgingly follows the other two in the chase. We're never going to get out of here, she laments to herself as she jogs easily ahead the others.
They catch up to Rick just as he reaches the doors marked 'Employees and Staff Only'. Harriet is a bit out of breath, so the redhead gets in the first words.
"What do you think you're doing? Stop right there." Becky admonishes him. "You're acting ridiculous."
"I know...." Rick says, turning towards his friends. "But I love her. I've got to rescue her!"
"Who — Inga? The one that froze you in your tracks? The one that was going to make you into a waxwork? You're not thinking straight." Becky argued, thinking Why doesn't he ever get hung up on me that way?
"Yeah, her. I can't explain it, but..." Rick began. Then, they all heard something that got their attention.
It was a muffled soft 'Boom' that seemed to come from somewhere overhead, or at least an echo of it did in the hollow plenums; sounding almost like distant thunder, except for the fact that the sky visible thru the faceted windows was clear and blue. Other shoppers looked up for a second too, then went about their business.
"Look!" Diane's voice seemed to echo in a lull in the noise of the busy mall. Three heads craned upward to follow her outstretched finger. From one of the grates on the wall, a faint purplish tendril curled lazily in the air stream. Only a second passed before the friends recognized it, but only one of them had any idea what to do about it.
"Follow me! Cover your mouth and nose; try not to breathe in," Rebecca commanded as she started walking very quickly towards one of the stores. The rest of them trailed behind, trying to keep up and at the same time not draw attention to themselves. Becky led them into the back of the StreamRock gadget store, past a perky but confused young clerk.
"Can I help you folks? Anything in particular you're looking for?" She kept up her best greeter smile, not knowing quite what to make of this group of customers. The handbook didn't have a recommended phrase to deal with such lack of manners. What a rude bunch of people, she thought, while keeping up the corporate face. They seem to be in such a hurry, as if they were running from something. It was then she glanced back at the central dome of the mall and saw something that made her gasp in surprise. "Hey, look at that — what's going on? Everybody's stopped moving. Wait! There's something...." her voice faded off.
Standing with their backs to the clerk, Rebecca had just finished tearing the wrapping off four small packages and handed the contents to each of her friends after taking one herself. It took only a twist to activate the RescueOXpak and slip the cone-shaped mask over her nose and mouth and pull the elastic strap behind her head. Only when she smelled the cool, slightly oily-smelling gas did she relax. Counting the seconds and waiting for a telltale stiffness in her body that never came. Around her, Harriet, Rick, and Diane had all gotten their masks on in time too, it seemed. At least none of them had frozen into place yet. The instructions said it gives a five-minute supply; I hope they weren't being too optimistic, Rebecca thought, all the while cursing what might be a cruel twist of marketing hype.
"Everybody OK?" she said, voice muffled by the plastic mask. Giving a thumbs-up sign, she waited for the others to respond likewise before venturing back towards the mall gallery and its now motionless occupants.
The first statue they encountered was the young clerk, who managed to look perky even while frozen stiff. She had been instantly immobilized with a very surprised expression on her overly-made-up face and a word — 'wrong', probably — still on her ruby lips. Diane recognized the big-chested girl as an underclassman from the school, one with a reputation for being 'easy' with the boys, and did not want... Pamela?... to get in trouble on what was probably her first 'real' job. Taking a couple of twenties from her wallet, the last cash she had, Diane slipped the bills into the tight breast pocket of the girl's store apron and said slowly, "I know you can hear me. You'll be OK in a few hours, but there is nothing I can do for you now. We'll be back later to pay you the rest of the money." It was strange talking to someone who did not blink or move, or react when touched. Hmm, maybe there is something I can do for you, Diane realized. Reaching under the girl's chin, she pressed upward with her hand lightly until the girl's jaw slowly closed. Now you won't be catching flies.
"You want to move it along, Di, or we'll be joining her if the oxygen runs out before we can leave." Rebecca prodded.
Diane wanted to say 'Yes, Mom!' but knew her friend was right. Together they walked out of the store and into an amazing tableaux of suspended motion. It was as if they had stepped into an immense still life painting.
Everywhere they looked, people were frozen in mid-action, stopped exactly as the had been when tetanizing gas had taken them unawares. Kids playing in the fountain were a grouping of statues, overseen by appropriately concerned looking statue moms. Many of the shoppers had been walking when the sudden paralysis occurred, and most had stayed upright though a few had toppled over like wooden soldiers in mock battle. One couple was posed stiffly as they window-shopped for what looked like a prom dress for her. She gazed into the window with frozen rapture while he was caught slipping his hand over the firm curve of her denim-clad ass. A knot of teenagers in a circle, all on their cell phones, halted in mid-giggle. Passing close by, Harriet could hear the sound of a guy's faint voice saying 'Heather? Say something! Why is it so quiet — cat got your tongue?' She had an impulse to answer him, but thought better of it. There were other pranks she could pull....
For Becky, the silent scene looked like a freeze-frame in a sports video or one of those special-effects scenes where everyone was frozen except the heroes. That's us, this time, she realized. Somehow Inga or her henchmen must have gotten loose and released the gas — that means they'll be coming around to burgle the stores! She started to think of a plan, then heard a grunt and pivoted around to see Harriet lifting the frozen body of a fifty-ish matron into position in front of the dressmaker's window and carefully move the young stud's hand so he was squeezing the old lady's bottom instead. She "Tsk'ed" at her friend and got back a giggle in return. Sometimes I'm the only one who acts like an adult around here, she fumed. Even so, she took some time to people-watch, too, picking out the little moments in everyday life that went by so fast they were never seen, until now when that moment was stretched out into minutes. Two young lovers, locked in a fleeting kiss that they maintained in frozen silence. The longing gape of an older man leaning against the railing as he watched a sexy young woman in a tight blouse, very short skirt, fishnet stockings, and black screw-me pumps stride by in front of him. The girl was almost unbalanced because of her long steps, but she somehow remained upright. A silvery shopping bag from the lingerie store dangled from one slim arm and Becky could imagine how the man was undressing her with his eyes and thinking how she would look in those sheer undies.
Diane saw the frozen victims as display models in a mall-wide fashion show. No longer confined to the store windows or runways, the mannequins were all around her. They displayed a wider variety of clothes and accessories than she'd ever seen. She focused on some individuals and how they chose their outfits; it was easy to pick out the ones who were experimenting or flaunting their physicality; the 'rebels' in their all-the-same protest getups, be they skater baggies or bimbos in spandex. Older folks were already dressing in boring business clothes with only the occasional fitted suit or raised hemline to break the monotony. There was the occasional standout, like the leggy woman — a model, maybe — being drooled over by all the guys and knowing it and playing up to that atmosphere of desire that followed her around like an expensive perfume. Paying the most attention to the motionless figures that were her own age, she recognized several others who had gone to the same school and were likewise setting out on their careers. Comparing herself to the girls (young women, she reminded herself) Diane knew she was prettier than most of them and dressed a lot better than nearly anyone else in the whole mall. Why, the only ones that look prettier than me are the window mannequins, and they are made to be impossibly beautiful. Even so, Diane held herself up to their standard and was not too disappointed.
Rick found himself as a kid in a candy store, surrounded by gorgeous motionless babes just waiting for him to appreciate them. Between the jailbait-young tarts in their slinky stretch bell-bottoms to the career women in their calculatedly-sexy attire he was in heaven. Wanting to take it all in, he wandered in ever widening circles from the center of the mall, occasionally pausing to appreciate a particularly fine frozen femme. He also saw the fellow gazing at the fox in the miniskirt and recalled how arousing, how joyful, it had been to watch as Inga pranced around in her skin-tight catsuit. Now she was something else... Inga! I've almost forgotten her, he realized with a start. He headed back to meet with his other friends so they could all help him out. But they weren't where he'd left them... "Becky? Diane? Where are you?" For an instant he worried that the gas had overcome them and they were standing as stiffly silent and the rest of the statued shoppers, then he heard their laughter from over on the other side of the central sculpture. A piece of ironmongery that had always seemed to him like an explosion in a pipe factory, it revolved slowly as it hung from the ceiling.
"Over heeere!" Harriet called and he homed in on their voices. "We've found your hottie friend from before!" she yelled out for all to hear. Apparently she'd forgotten that the frozen people all around them could hear and see just fine; they simply couldn't move.
He reached them as they stood in a semi-circle behind a motionless scene illuminated in the harsh glare of television lights: Monica Sleet captured in the middle of interviewing Jessie from the mall office. It looked as if Monica had just asked a question and Jessica was smiling ever so slightly as she thought about her reply. Both were stiff as statues, however the strong lighting made them look more like mannequins in some window display. Rick could see the light on the reporter's boobs was just right, though the contrasty spill on Jessie's legs made them look even more luscious, which of course reminded him of Inga's even-sexer gams and that his love was still waiting, very still, to be rescued. Even so, he decided to help out Monica's Q rating a little by adjusting her décolletage. Why shouldn't she make a clean breast of things? he thought, chucking at his own witticism. Rick reached towards her.
'Ix-nay" hissed Rebecca, sotto-voce. When he turned to look at her, she pointed very distinctly at the red glowing light on Rudy's camera. They were broadcasting live! Rick nodded, edging out of the shot quickly, then stepped away in a direction that would keep them out of the background. He wondered what the technicians back at the station were thinking and whether they had figured out that something had happened. Probably they think someone is playing a gag on them. Well, that's sort of true... 'Freeze Frame'!
Halfway back to where they had started, Rebecca started to feel a stuffiness in the air she was breathing in. Oh, shit! The oxy's running out... True to the manufacturer's claims they had more than five minutes by her judgement, but they had dilly-dallied the time away and were no closer to outside then they had been at the start of their escape. Maybe the gas is affecting us somehow, scrambling our brains a little. She dreaded taking off the mask as she looked at all the immobilized people around her. I don't want to end up like them, again. I was supposed to be the one to sound the alarm. Now I'll be trapped like all the rest. There was no more air; her last breath sucked in only the smell of the rubber mask. Here goes, she thought as she stripped off the mask in a swift motion. Breathe deep — it's either going to get you or it isn't...
"Becky! What are you doing?" Rick was the first to notice.
"No-ooo! You'll become a statue again..." Harriet almost sounded hopeful.
She had taken in her third lungfull of mall air when she felt confident to say anything. "It's OK... The gas has dispersed. It won't affect us. Remember, when Inga was walking around after we'd gotten stiffed before? Besides, your emergency air's going to run out too, pretty soon. Go ahead and take your masks off."
Hesitantly, the three lifted the plastic cones from over their noses and breathed normally. There was no sign that any of the immobilized victims were ready to revive yet, however. They remained as stiff and rigid as ever.
"You know, we really should get out of here before the thieves find us and zap us with the stuff again." Diane offered.
"Right, and I know just the place to go." Rick said confidently, and started off towards the door marked "Employees and Staff Only". On the way there, they observed yet another of the stiff tableaux that populated the enstilled mall. At the entrance to Maxwell's, the aging proprietor was engaged in an animated-looking but utterly motionless argument with a stern man holding a clipboard. Behind him, two workmen in overalls carried a large antique case between them. Both looked extremely bored and counting every second until the end of their day when they could settle onto their favorite barstools. Their poses and expressions were so stereotypical the scene looked like something that Norman Rockwell might have painted.
It was practically ageless if one did not include the pair of cheerleaders, dressed in school colors and frozen as they stood to one side and made catty remarks to each other. They must have come from practice, Rick surmised, or just taking a break, for they wore their full uniforms of pleated skirts, letter sweaters, hairbands, and fluffy pom-poms hung from wrist straps. He took in the sexy look of their shiny suntan hose, bobby sox, and pure white sneakers that completed their outfits. One of them looked familiar from behind; he had once bragged he could have picked out her tush from a line-up. Jolanda Reyes. She had dumped him, and now it was time for a little payback. Moving quietly behind the immobilized girl, he slowly lifted up the back of her skirt, felt upward for the color-coordinated satin panties he knew she would be wearing, and pulled them down to just above her knees. Jolanda didn't move a muscle; not that she could.
Tip-toeing back to where the three girls stood, frowning at him, Rick smiled sheepishly and shrugged a little as if to say 'Hey, you could have stopped me...'
Pushing through the double-doors at last, they walked along a corridor that was almost deserted, save for a glum-looking workman who might have been pushing a flatbed filled with paint cans. It was not clear from his stance if he had been moving when the gas had struck or was merely resting there. Beyond the following set of doors was the underground loading area for the mall. Parked in the dock was a blue-painted van with a 'P O L I C E' sigil on the sides and back. Off to one side near the freight elevators was a pay phone. Rebecca headed straight for it, all the while cursing Diane for letting her cell phone battery run down. Harriet hung close to the bossy redhead, and Diane was sitting on the steps looking somewhat tired out.
That left Rick to explore on his own. The paddy wagon had no windows in back, but the driver was frozen at the wheel as he held a cigarette in mid-puff. Luckily for him it had slipped out of his stiffened fingers and fallen, smoldering, on the pavement before it had a chance to burn down any further. Hmm; I wonder, Rick thought as he went over the events of this eventful day. Walking around back, he tried the rear door and found it unlocked. Without hesitation, he lifted the handle and swung the bifold doors open to reveal four motionless black-clothed men in handcuffs sitting dejectedly on the floor. Steel cables running from their cuffs would have held them in place; the fact they were also frozen stiff did not have anything to do with keeping them from running away. Behind the four was a standing figure, shapely in silhouette, crowned with a helmet of platinum-blonde hair that seemed to glow in the half-light...
"Inga!" Rick spoke her name as if it were a prayer. My love, you stayed for me! his thoughts and spirit flew.
"Did you say something?" Diane said from over on the kerb.
"Nothing... I'm alright," Rick replied to her as he stepped up into the van. Inga stood exactly as he had seen her last, bolt upright, arms akimbo, a haughty expression of defiance chiseled into her supermodel features. Her figure was everything he had remembered it to be, if not even more voluptuous. He drew close to her without hesitation or fear, knowing in his heart that she would never move from that pose. His first touch was hesitant, surprising, as he caressed her full bosom and found her breasts were hard as... stone... or plastic? Her whole body was firm like a statue, so stiff that any movement caused her to wobble in place; a single solid sculpture from head to spike-heeled toe. Even her once springy hairdo seemed subdued, cemented in place. Letting his hands explore her lithe figure, he could only imagine what it must have been like to caress her as a lover would, in the privacy of a boudoir instead of a police van. Rick held her rigid body close to his, feeling the sensation of her unnaturally stiffened nipples press into his chest, the supple muscles that formed her shapely wagging derriere. Bending towards her, he held her slim waist in one hand and placed his soft lips on her hard ones in a long-awaited kiss; a kiss of true love....
"What the FUCK are you doing!" The shouted expletive was so loud that the sides of the van vibrated.
Rick sprang back, away from the petrified Inga, so quickly he bounced off one wall of the van and almost tripped over the rigid leg of one of the robbers. Framed in the open door was a tantalizingly familiar hourglass shape. He said nothing, having almost swallowed his tongue.
"Get your hands off of her," the woman waved what looked like a handgun in an obvious gesture. "Leave my mother alone!'
"Mo.... ma... wha?" Rick stammered.
"You heard me: Out Of There..." The commanding woman backed away from the doorway to give him room, and Rick almost fainted as he got a good long look at his captor. A look that quickly turned into a gawk that turned into an open-mouthed stare, for standing in front of him was a stunning woman who looked almost exactly like Inga. She had the same va-voom physique, the same refined cheekbones, the same (he hoped) wag in her walk. She was dressed almost identically too, except the dark fabric of this catsuit was embossed slightly in a swirl pattern that caught the light in an enticing manner. The only difference Rick could see was this dazzler had flaming red hair instead of ash-blonde, worn in a loose topknot ponytail that swirled around her with every movement she made. That was another thing that seemed identical. They looked more like sisters than — what had she said — mother and daughter? And she was moving and breathing!
Rick's love faltered in that instant, as his body decided what his mind had not. He wanted this woman, in the most profound and fundamental sense, as his manhood responded with a growing fullness.
But she's going to kill me before I can make love to her... "Ah, OK. Don't shoot, please." he managed to blurt.
"Why shouldn't I, you pervert!" She said this with a little less spittle, so she might have been calming down. "Get over here and stick your friends into the van; I'll decide what to do with you, later."
Edging along the rear of the van, Rick came back in sight of his three girl friends and saw in an instant they had once more been fully immobilized. Diane stared into space, a little girl lost. Standing over by the phone, Rebecca and Harriet made a scene as Becky was posed as if holding the handset up to her ear and Harriet had her mouth open, making a point that had been interrupted mid-way. Someone, this copper-topped beauty no doubt, had replaced the handset so Becky held and talked to empty air. Rick wondered if she had gotten through to the police.
"Hurry up, there. It's not as if you've never seen an immobilized woman; you've just spent the last five minutes fondling one!"
"Uhh," Rick begins...
It's All in the Genes
Rick's thoughts became a total haze as he stood there staring at the immobilized figures of his three closest friends. Impatiently, the strikingly beautiful yet threatening criminal rolled her eyes as she pressed her finger towards the trigger. "Time's up," she announced.
"Okay," stammered Rick, "I'll help you."
As he wrapped his arms around Rebecca's firm waist, he wondered whether this would prove to be the right decision. Not wanting to act on pure libido, he pondered at length what this mysterious woman's plans would be for his friends. Yet, after a bit of thought, he concluded that for them, being loaded into a police paddy wagon (which under normal circumstances would be a major calamity) would prove to be the safest place for them to be housed at this moment, since Rick assumed that the redheaded bandit didn't intend to plow through town in a police vehicle.
His elementary assumption proved to be accurate. For as he lifted the muscular figure of Rebecca with a grunt, he could see the stranger attending to her mother, delicately removing the cables that secured her beloved matron's plastic body in place within the van. "Do you need help moving Inga?" asked Rick as he migrated one step closer.
"I think you've groped her quite enough for today, thank you very much!" replied the sultry woman with much scorn. With skill and grace, she lifted her prone mother's figure, cautiously tilting the tall, mannequin-still likeness sideways as she stepped out of the van one step at a time.
Rick attempted a futile recovery, saying in a breathy voice, "I didn't mean to offend you earlier. From the moment I laid eyes on Inga, I felt compelled to be... closer to her somehow. I'm truly sorry for your loss."
As she deliberately and carefully placed her mom's body to the asphalt, she shouted out in surprise, "Wait! You know my mom? From where?"
Rick immediately worried that he may have revealed too much and put his friends at greater risk as he placed Rebecca down inside the black and white van. While stepping out, he added meekly, "I ran into her earlier as she tried to take down the mall office. It was simply a fluke that I was even there to begin with," finished Rick, proud of himself for not letting her know that the girls were also there with him during the botched heist.
Before Rick could continue his involuntary labors, the seductive woman reached out to him, grabbing his arm with uncanny force. "So, you saw what happened to her, then," said the woman in a whisper as deep sorrow washed over her face. A somber nod was all Rick could muster as a response. "And you actually feel bad about what happened to her?"
Rick looked the stranger straight in the eye, then said, "Of course. Even though I knew I was in danger, even though I was frozen by her only moments earlier, I still felt grief when I saw her trip, sending that needle into her ribs."
In astonishment, the unknown woman almost smiled as she studied the forlorn expression on Rick's sweaty face. With a sly lift of an eyebrow, she muttered, "So, ya wanted to jump her bones, didn't you?"
"Well," stalled Rick in shock. "I wouldn't have put it so bluntly, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel an immense attraction to her." As Rick shifted his glance shyly downward, he added, "Now I meet her perfect daughter, and I'm feeling these intense urges all over again. Please tell me your name, miss, so I can link that precious face to a word once and for all."
What a romantic dolt, thought the perplexed woman as she eyed him up with a paranoid eye. Deciding to play her hand to the fullest, she batted her long eyelashes at him before replying, "Ilse. My mom named me Ilse Hauptmann."
Rick boldly reached for Ilse's dainty wrist as he planted a tender kiss. In response, the woman lifted her freeze weapon in defiance, nearly halting the Romeo until she realized his polite intentions. "It's truly a pleasure to meet you, Ilse. I can see you share your mother's haunting emerald eyes, yet you don't share her exotic accent. Where have you been all my life?" asked Rick with a sly wink.
"I've traveled all over the world during my short life," replied Ilse with a rosy blush. Suddenly, she snapped fully alert as she shouted, "Hey! We don't have time for pleasantries right now... Fetch me Inga's henchmen, Rick, so we can fulfill my mother's ultimate plan."
Rick moved quickly, like a tiny toy wound up to full capacity. Ignoring fatigue and weakness, he lifted the four thieves from the paddy wagon, placing them down directly in front of Ilse. "Don't worry," added Rick with a twinkle in his eye, "I'll finish moving the other two girls, now."
"How efficient," toyed the voluptuous vixen as she turned her attention to her stilled co-conspirators.
Why the hell are you helping them, Rick? thought Harriet in a rage as she felt herself being hoisted up, her heels just inches from the pavement. Have you lost your freakin mind? Come on, Rick, snap out of it! Unfortunately, Harriet's frantic thoughts never had a chance of reaching Rick as he plopped her down within the police vehicle. With almost cruel proficiency, Rick returned this time for Diane, wasting no time in securing her as well within the cramped van.
In a hushed tone, Rick spoke to the motionless figures, "Don't worry, ladies, you should be safe in here. I've got to go with Ilse to find out what they're up to."
As he popped his head out of the doorway, he could see the four burly men sputtering to life as Ilse hovered over them. "We don't have much time!" urged the confident leader as she pointed to her wristwatch. While glancing at Rick, she added...
to be Continued...?