Being a girl in a mob family really SUCKS.
My name’s Carla. Carla Antonia Rossini. Yeah, of THAT Rossini family. I’m 22 years old, 5-foot-9 with a 38-22-36 figure, nice long legs and long wavy black hair. For my chest, and my pretty face, I gotta thank Dr. Serengetti. He did them both for my 16th birthday. That’s the way things work in the business. You do a favor for someone, they do a favor for you. A few years earlier, Dr. Serengetti got into some trouble with the law, and my uncle Snake made the trouble go away.
Sounds pretty good to you, right? After all, I had just about everything I wanted when I was a little girl. Even if it wasn’t my birthday or nothing. If I asked for a new TV, I got a new TV. Of course, the shipment to the appliance store was minus one TV, but I was happy.
So what’s so bad about my life, you may ask? Well, the fact that everything was based on who owed who what. Nobody ever does nothing for you just to be nice. And you can never trust nobody. And the business ALWAYS comes first.
Like when I was nine years old and wanted a horse. So I got the horse, even though we didn’t really have anyplace to keep it in our split-level. And after a couple of years, I got more interested in clothes, and boys, and....other things, and less interested in Windy (my horse). That still doesn’t excuse what daddy did with him! “Sorry, little girl, but sometimes your daddy hasta send a real clear message to people who try to mess with him,” he said. I cried for a week, at least.
And I couldn’t even THINK about having a boyfriend, unless he was Catholic, Italian, and a likely prospect to join the business. I couldn’t even get close to too many girls. They might hear or see something they shouldn’t, and then.....
I thought it was going to be different when I went to work at the department store last year. It’s still called “Houghton’s” after the old blue-blood family that started it, but it’s been in control of our family for a long time now. Seems like old Mr. Houghton the second or third had a gambling problem he couldn’t control....
Anyway, I’m a mannequin model. A living mannequin. I just stand there for six hours every day, wearing the latest fashions, doing my best to look like I’m just a hunka plastic.
Yeah, I know. You’re probably thinking its a kinda weird way to make a living. You know what? I don’t give a fuck what you, or anyone else thinks. I like it. I know who I am, and what I’ve got going for me. What it amounts to, is I’ve got my looks, and not a hell of a lot else.
I don’t have smarts, or sophistication, or any of those other things you need to be a success in most jobs. This is a hell of a lot better, and sure pays better, than flipping burgers or wiping up snot-nosed kids in day care.
I get fussed over, pampered, I get to wear beautiful clothes, and I don’t have to think about nothin’ or do nothin’ all day long. It, like, works for me! Sometimes, I get a little tired, standing there all day in four-inch heels, and sometimes, I really wish I could slip away long enough to go pee or have a cigarette. But the most part, I just kind of zone out for the whole time I’m on display. Almost go into a trance, or something. I might spot a real hunky guy and imagine that I was a real mannequin; he would steal me from the store, carry me off to some secluded, romantic spot, and with his kiss, turn me into a human; we would make mad, passionate love for hours, and when he was finished, I would turn back to plastic.
It’s kinda weird, but imagining myself as a real mannequin was usually even more of a turn-on than the sex. There I would stand, frozen, unable to move. Not a pimple, not a pore, not a blemish of any kind would mar my perfect plastic skin. Although my eyes were glass and my head was solid, I could somehow still see and hear. And even though there was only a stretch of smooth plastic where my pussy should have been, just a touch or even a cool breeze right there was enough to send me into endless orgasms.
Sure, it’s a lot more expensive for the store to have live dummies, instead of real dummies. But it’s something they’ve been known for a long time. And it’s one of the things that makes Houghton’s stand out from the other stores.
One of the things I liked about the job at first was making new friends. But now..... now, damn it, I told myself I wasn’t going to cry about this again! Now, damn it, I don’t even have that. I can’t ever let myself get close to any of the other girls again.
Lemme go back in time a bit to explain what I’m talking about. It was middle of last summer. This girl from the Midwest, name of Heather Michaels, shows up. She was everything I wasn’t. You take me, you’ve got a dark, big city eye-talian girl who’s probably too street-smart for her own good.
Heather on the other hand, was this nordic blonde, who I swear, really did come from a dairy farm somewhere in Wisconsin. Talk about opposites attracting! We became pals right from the start. She was so damn naive, I was afraid she was going to get swallowed up like a bug here in the big city. And she couldn’t believe how cynical I was. But we were good for each other. I introduced her to some of the fun of life in the city, and she.... well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but she got me going to Mass again for the first time in almost five years.
God, I wish she had been a little less trusting.
Anyway, we were usually displayed together. I think the VM’s (visual merchandisers) liked our light/dark contrast. We modeled everything -- bathing suits, bridal wear, sportswear, formal wear, career wear, you name it. This past Monday found us both tired and a bit crabby. Heather had had a big fight with her boyfriend, and I was getting my period.
Dianne, who was head of VM, was really fussing over us that morning. She told us that a crew from one of the local TV stations was going to be there to film a feature about us, the living mannequins.
“Great,” I muttered. “With me retaining more water than fuckin’ Lake Michigan.”
“Now Carla,” Dianne said with a sarcastic smile. “If you’re not happy here, maybe we can find another attractive girl who wants to earn lots of money for just standing around all day.”
I would have normally had a snappy comeback for her, but since she was married to my Uncle Carmine, I figured I better let it ride. Uncle Carmine has a way of making things very unpleasant for people who cross him or anyone in the family -- as I was to soon find out.
Imagine my surprise when I happened to see Uncle Carmine in the store that very day. He was there along with some guy I didn’t recognize -- although he was quite a hunk! He and Carmine were sort of on the edge of the entourage of television people. Heather and I were both dressed as upscale career women -- silk blouses, knee length wool skirts. I had a wool blazer on and knee-high spike heeled boots, while Heather was in pumps and suntan pantyhose.
I was starting straight ahead, so they had me in sunglasses to cover up any eye motion. No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid blinking. Heather’s head was turned down and toward me, so it wouldn’t be too noticeable if she blinked. We were both slathered in the heavy concealer makeup we usually wore on the floor.... it helped cover up any little scars or blemishes, and make our mannequin faces look a little more realistic.
When the television crew came to film us, I thought it was going to take forever. Normally, I never sweat, no matter how heavy the clothes I’m wearing. But the combination of the wool and the hot TV lights were really murder. I was afraid my face was going to melt! But finally, they got everything they wanted, and they left. But Dianne, Carmine, and the hunk stayed. I could see that Dianne was really upset about something. I hoped to hell she wasn’t going to chew me out, or Heather. I thought we had done great while under the microscope.
Well, it was more like we weren’t even there! As they moved closer to us, I could hear everything they were saying. It seems that a truckload of furs that were due to be delivered to our store had been hijacked outside of Gary, Indiana, and its contents delivered to another Chicago store instead -- the flagship store of our top competitors! This wasn’t the first time this had happened... but I could see from the look in Carmine’s eyes it was going to be the last. He started talking very excitedly to the hunk, who had broad shoulders, wavy black hair, a strong chin and kind of a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes.
“Tony,” cousin Carmine hissed. “It’s time for Mr. Goldberg to have an accident. A permanent accident, if you get my drift. One that won’t leave any doubts in anyone’s mind about our message.” The hunk -- Tony -- just nodded and smiled a sly little smile.
My mind was racing like crazy at this point. What the HELL were they doing? They could talk about family business around me, and not have to worry, but it sure as hell wasn’t very smart to do that a couple of feet from Heather. God, I found myself praying for her sake that she wasn’t paying attention, or if she was, that she’d think it was some kind of joke or something.
When we were cleaning up after getting off shift, all Heather talked about was getting home in time to see us on TV. “I don’t usually watch the news,” she said with a shy giggle, “But I guess I can make an exception for this.”
“Yeah,” I said, preoccupied. I hoped she was so wrapped up in the TV thing, that she would forget about all the talk about the hit. Maybe think it was some kind of a game, or joke, or something.
Back at my apartment that night, I made sure to watch the news. The feature on our store was about halfway through the hour-long report. Lots of shots of me and the other girls, both getting ready to go out on the floor, and on display. Plenty of closeups of us on the floor, evidently to see how well we’d captured the look and feel of mannequins. They talked to one of the customers, a sharp looking woman in her mid-40s, who said the live mannequins were great; she loved seeing how an outfit looked on a real woman. Then they had a clip of a girl, who looked to be about four, who wouldn’t believe we were real.
They had set this up in advance; at the right moment, I reached up, took off my sunglasses, bent forward, and said “Hi” to her. The look on her face!
I was still laughing about that, when they switched back to the studio. All of a sudden there were the words “Breaking News,” over the anchorwoman’s shoulder, and she was giving details of the police discovering a prominent businessman found behind the wheel of his Mercedes, shot dead.
I almost choked on my gin and tonic. They switched to a live helicopter shot; I could see they were on the south side, among the ruins of abandoned warehouses and factories. There were police cruisers, a couple of ambulances, and all of a sudden when they switched back to the studio, I knew the worst was true; there was a picture of Moses “Tiny” Goldberg, president of Goldberg Department Stores.
“Police say the mob-style slaying--” were the last words I heard before I shut off the set. I took the phone off the hook, fearing that Heather would be calling.
I downed the rest of my drink and went to bed.
I was early for work the next morning, which is pretty rare for me. Even though I don’t have to do anything to get ready; hair, makeup, dressing is all done for us. I just wash my face, pin my hair back, throw on a T-shirt and jeans...but anyway, I was worried about Heather. I wanted to see what she was going to do about what she heard.
I was having a cup of coffee and a smoke, watching “Regis and Kelly,” when Heather came in a few minutes past nine. I saw the haunted look on her face. “What’s the matter, kid?” I asked, fearing the answer. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” I glanced at the clock on the wall. “And this has to be the first time in memory you’ve been late for work.”
She smiled weakly. “Or that you’ve been on time.” Her grin quickly faded. “Oh, Carla,” she said. “Didn’t you watch the news last night, or read the paper?”
“I--I turned off the TV as soon as the story about us was on. Why?”
“Oh, it’s so terrible! Remember those men who were hanging around yesterday, talking about having a Mr. Goldberg killed? Right after our story was on, they had a report about the head of Goldberg department stores being found shot dead in his car.” I could see she was starting to get all teary-eyed.
“Oh, you don’t think those guys had anything to do with it?” I said, forcing a laugh.
“Well, I don’t know,” Heather said. “But just in case, I went to see the police this morning, and let them know what I heard. You should too, Carla.”
The door had swung open, and Dianne had walked in with some guy I didn’t recognize. “Carla should what?” Dianne asked with what seemed like unusually false enthusiasm.
“She’s found a new water pill that’s great at emptying the bladder, fast,” I said, trying to cover. I shot Heather a look that I hoped would shut her up. At least Dianne didn’t seem to want to pursue the subject.
“Ladies,” she said, “I want you to meet Conrad Jareth. He’s going to be with us for a few days, and we’re going to be trying some new things.” I immediately got a VERY creepy vibe from Jareth. First, there were his looks. Nothing was wrong with them, in fact, he was quite handsome. But there was something -- something almost TOO perfect about him. Not a hair out of place. Not a wrinkle in his clothes. Not a freckle, blemish or scar anywhere. Then there was his smell. My first thought was of formaldehyde; but then I thought, no, that’s not quite it. Maybe a mixture of Lifebuoy and mothballs.
“Jared’s been a specialist in our kind of work for a long time,” Dianne said.
I stubbed out my cigarette and didn’t try to hide my puzzlement and annoyance. “We’ve done pretty good on our own for quite a while here, like the story on the TV pointed out,” I said. “Why do we need outside help all of a sudden.”
He smiled, exposing two rows of perfect, pearly-white teeth. “Now, dear, I don’t blame you for being skeptical, not one bit. But this is the nature of the fashion world, you know. You can’t ever sit still. That TV story was wonderful, but it also proved my point.”
“Which is?” is asked, eyebrows arched.
“Which is, you’ve been doing the same thing here for years. It’s time to turn it up a notch.”
“What do you mean?” Heather asked, the picture of innocence.
“New equipment, new makeup, that will take it all to another level, ladies,” he said. “Right now, like the TV report proved, you’re only fooling children. When I get through with you, adults won’t be able to tell whether you’re real or plastic.”
“Sounds a little creepy to me,” I muttered. Dianne gave me an angry look, but didn’t say anything.
Jared removed a cloth that was covering a series of items on a table in front of him. He made a sweeping gesture with his hands. “Behold, ladies, some of the new tools of your trade.”
The things he had! Plastic half globes to cover our tits, so that our nipples would just look like painted red circles..... some kind of spray that would keep the eyes from forming tears for hours, and special contact lenses to give a glassy-eyed look..... a smooth patch to cover the pussy, and a special dildo to go inside to keep us entertained while we worked. “I assure you, you’ll love your jobs as never before,” he said with that same, perfect smile.
He also had a big jar of makeup. “This is similar to what you wear now, only an even better cover up. Now, to make it work, you’re going to have to shave all your body hair, except on top of your hair. That includes your pussies and eyebrows.”
I was about to shout “No FUCKING way!” when Dianne jumped in. “Now, we’re only trying this out, but I have every confidence in Conrad and his methods. Tell you what, why don’t we have a volunteer to try the process first today.” I could see her eyes boring in on Heather. “How about you, dear? I think you’d look just wonderful!”
She smiled nervously and nodded. “Wh-whatever you say, Dianne.”
Heather went into the shower area to shave, while Dianne and Conrad wandered away for a whispered conference. I had an awfully uneasy feeling about things.
Oh, how right I was.
Heather came out a few minutes later, without a hair left anywhere on her body except her scalp. “This feels odd, especially the eyebrows,” she said. “What if they don’t grow back?”
“Oh, honey,” Conrad said. “Did you know Lana Turner shaved off her brows for one of her early films, and they never grew back? It’s no big deal to paint them on every day, really.” While poor Heather was still trying to absorb this, Conrad had once more reached into the big black bag he had carried into the room. He took out what was, I swear, the biggest goddamn syringe I’ve ever seen. You could see the fear in the poor girl's eyes; but once again, Conrad had a slick answer all ready for her.
"Oh this?" he said with a small, evil chuckle. "It's nothing, really. Just a very mild tranquilizer that will help you to feel relaxed and keep your pose." Before she could object, he had swabbed a spot on her upper arm and emptied the fluid into her veins. It seemed to have an almost immediate effect, as her whole body seemed to go limp. A blank look washed over her face, and her eyes became fixed in a glassy stare.
"Very, very good," Dianne said with a chuckle. "I assume we won't be hearing any more arguments from her."
Conrad seemed to ignore the comment, as he produced a clear piece of plastic that appeared designed to fit over Heather's chest. "What's this?" Dianne asked. It finally hit me, what it reminded me of -- Jane Fonda's breast plate from "Barbarella."
"Watch," the mannequin master said, slathering some kind of goo over Heather's breasts, and then fitting the plate in place. "See, nothing uneven, no teardrop or other odd shapes; just two perfect half-globes."
"What about the nipples?"
"We just paint them on, love."
Now Conrad had moved close to Heather's face, and was using a tweezers-like tool to fit special contact lenses over her eyes. "These will prevent her from blinking, allow moisture to slowly escape, and give her the proper, glassy-eyed look."
By now, Heather looked more like a life-sized doll than a living human. Any rise and fall of her chest was now hidden beneath her plastic breastplate; she was silent and motionless otherwise. A sick, hollow feeling began to well up from the pit of my stomach.
Dianne had settled back to watch. Now, Conrad was reaching for a large tub of what looked like cold cream. He began to smear it onto her shoulders, arms and upper torso. As he smoothed any streaks and bubbles out of the substance, it quickly began to dry in what looked like a dull flesh tone. He positioned one arm in front at Heather's side, the other was held outward, as if reaching for something.... help, perhaps.
By the time he had finished Heather's upper body, except for her
face, Conrad Jareth was ready to take a break. He stepped back from his newest
creation-in-progress, smiled slightly and nodded. "I'm really carrying
my art to a new height with this one," he said.
"Modest, aren't we?" Dianne said, arching one eyebrow. Conrad ignored the comment and went searching through his gear, finally putting his hands on what I correctly guessed was a specially-made dildo. "Now, Dianne, uh....." I could tell he was searching for my name. "Carla," I snapped.
'Yes, Carla," he said with that sinister-looking half grin. "I was just wondering if you were paying attention earlier when I was talking about this little beauty." He cradled the dildo in his hands gently, like a mother holding a newborn babe. "Thanks to this item," he said, shoving the device into Heather's crevice, "The days will pass like hours, the hours like minutes, the minutes like seconds." He quickly hid her hairless crack with a sheet of clear plastic; over that, he slathered more of the goo that covered her upper torso. I looked at the now-dried areas on her arms, shoulders, chest and tummy; it looked just like flesh-colored plastic, absolutely perfect and flawless.
The rest of the process seemed to go pretty quickly after that. I thought Conrad was a major fucking control freak, so I was plenty surprised when he showed Dianne how to use the goo. Together, they quickly finished off her hips, butt and legs. But when it came to completing her face, Conrad shooed Dianne away. "You're a fine apprentice, dear, but not an artist in my league.... at least not yet."
The goo quickly dried, and Jareth reached for his mannequin paint kit to add the final touches. The circles that passed for nipples, the red paint for her nails, lips and cheeks, a slash of bronze above each eye with a little glitter added.... and she was done.
"Beautiful," Conrad seemed to be saying to himself. His right elbow rested in the palm of his left hand, his right hand was curled under his chin. "Absolutely stunning." He broke out of his reverie and reached for what I recognized as a Polaroid camera, and handed it to Dianne.
"What's this for?" she asked.
"To take our picture, of course," he said, putting his hands on Heather's plastic shoulders and holding his head next to hers. There was a flash and a whirring sound as the camera spit out the picture.
Dianne began dressing Heather in a short skirt and sleeveless mock turtleneck, both in gray. It was a very revealing and very form-fitting outfit that seemed to emphasize her... plasticness, if that's a word.
I was so worried about what was happening to Heather I don't remember much about getting ready for the floor myself that day; I wore a similar outfit from the same designer, but the skirt was longer, and the top had short sleeves. with my sunglasses and the addition of a big, floppy hat, I looked like I was afraid of the sun, while Heather was ready to soak up as much of it as possible.
All of this had taken maybe 45 minutes. I couldn't believe it. The store was still half an hour away from opening, plenty of time to place the two of us on the floor. As much as I wanted to say something to someone, I knew that I couldn't. All I know is that was the longest day of my life.
We were positioned at right angles to each other, so we could see each other fairly well. I waited all day for a blink, a slight movement, a sound.... anything that would tell me that Heather was still alive inside that artificial shell they had crafted around her! But there was nothing.....
I almost broke pose a little after the noon hour when a child and her mother stopped to look us over. "Are they real, Mommy?" she asked.
The mother, a somewhat plain looking woman of about 35, looked us both over. First, she stared at me, and said, "I think this is a real lady, dear." Then she turned to Heather, and stared for a half minute or more. "But not this one, no." She shook her head. "God doesn't make anyone that perfect."
Maybe God couldn't. But Conrad Jareth could.
As scheduled, I was carried off the floor at 3:30, my shift over. As soon as I was in the prep room, I lashed out at Dianne and Conrad. "Why did you leave Heather out there?" I was greeted with silence, and that creepy grin of Jareth's.
"It's because she's dead, isn't it? You've changed her into a mannequin for good, haven't you, you bastard?" I slapped his face with a force I didn't know I had. Jareth's chair toppled over, spilling him onto the floor.
He sat up slowly, rubbing his cheek, which was already turning red. "No, she's not dead, I can assure you of that. Her metabolism is slowed to such an extent that she'll have almost no need for nutrition, or to excrete wastes. Her sight and hearing are still functioning, as are her sexual organs. Oh, she won't live forever, but she'll have a hell of a good time as long as her heart's still beating....and her clit's still getting tickled."
Dianne helped Conrad to stand up. "That wasn't very smart, dear girl, and if you weren't part of the family, you'd never get away with it. In the meantime, let me remind you, in case you get any crazy ideas about avenging that poor girl you thought of as a friend..... Conrad always loves a new subject to work with."
I thought long and hard about what Dianne said as I sped home that night.
I presented myself at the police station the next morning.
What the hell, I thought. Maybe they can protect me; and if they can't, well, I always said I wanted to live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful corpse. And I couldn't imagine anyone being able to fashion a more beautiful corpse than the master mannequin molder, Conrad Jareth.