The tall, imposing Russian stubbed out his cigarette. “You must forgive me, Doctor. In my career I have heard many claims, and have learned not to trust any of them. Perhaps you can do what you say, perhaps you cannot.”
“Well then, I suppose a demonstration is in order. It usually is with these sorts of things, don’t you agree?” The Doctor pressed the intercom button. “Trudy, I believe that Miss Jenkins is waiting to see me? Please send her in now. Thank you.”
The office door opened, and a beautiful young woman entered. She gave the two men a confused smile. “Hi, Doctor Franz! I’m, um, here for my two o’clock appointment, but if you’re busy I can always come back.” She nervously brushed a loose strand of light red hair from her face.
“No, this is fine, Miss Jenkins. I’d like you to meet my colleague, Gregory. Gregory, Amanda Jenkins. He stood back as the two shook hands. “Amanda is one of the best students in the program,” he added, watching the young woman blush with modesty. He turned to face her. “Amanda, beneath the ice, the stream runs deep.”
Her nervous smile faded immediately. Her lips parted slightly as her face became calm and blank. Her green eyes seemed to stare right through him. Of all of the things the Doctor enjoyed about his work, watching a young beauty fall under his hypnotic spell was the part that never failed to to impress—or arouse—him. He watched as she blinked and returned his gaze.
“I await my orders,” she said, her voice flat and emotionless.
“Amanda, please remove all of your clothing.”
“Yes.” Her hands went to her blouse, slowly and mechanically unbuttoning it, as if in a dream. Her long thin skirt followed, joining the blouse in a heap on the floor. She began to reach for her bra when the Doctor stopped her.
“On second thought, Amanda, it is cold in here. You will stop undressing now.”
Gregory was unimpressed. “A nice party trick, Doctor, but I have seen better work done by stage hypnotists.”
The Doctor smiled. “Ah, but this is just the start. I would be a poor salesman if I did not show you the full package, Gregory. Perhaps something more… explicit?”
He turned to the young redhead, watching her pert breasts slowly rise and fall with each calm, measured breath. “Amanda, our friend Gregory here would very much like a blowjob. Please give him one.”
She blinked, and her green eyes focused on the Russian. “Yes, of course.” She moved closer to Gregory and sank to her knees. She reached for his pants, but came up empty as he backed away from her. Undaunted, she began to shuffle forward, trying to follow him, her arms outstretched.
Gregory continued to back away. “I am a married man, Doctor. A married man who is growing tired of games.”
“Now now, my friend,” said the Doctor, “No need to be angry. Amanda, stop.” She instantly froze, arms still in front of her. “You do not need to pleasure Gregory. However, after he has left the room, you will very much want to pleasure me instead.”
She remained on her knees. “Yes, of course.”
Gregory crossed his arms. “I apologize. You are a better hypnotist than I gave you credit for. Or, at the very least, a talented pimp with some very loyal girls. But this mission does not require a sex slave. I need—“
“Oh, I know what you need, Gregory. And I can provide it for you. Amanda, on my desk is a handgun. Please get up and bring it to me.”
“Yes.” She slowly made her way over to the desk and returned, carrying a silver revolver in her small, delicate hands.
“Doctor…” Gregory stared down at the gun. “What are you doing?”
“Just demonstrating the depths my programming, my friend.” He took the gun from the entranced girl and loaded it with a single bullet, spinning the cylinder. “I’m sure that you are quite familiar with your country’s national sport, as it were. Let’s see how well our young friend here is at playing it. Amanda, listen to me and obey.”
“Yes. I’m listening.”
He handed her the weapon. “When I count to three, you will point this gun to your head, and pull the trigger exactly once. Then you will point the gun at the wall behind you and pull the trigger five times. Then you will place the gun on my desk and await further instructions. Do you understand?”
Her face showed no emotion. “Yes, I understand.”
Gregory reached out, intending to pull the revolver from Amanda’s hands. “I did not come here to witness a bloody mess, Doctor. I’m sure that we can trust you without resorting to violence.”
The Doctor laughed as he grabbed Gregory’s arm, pulling it to his side. “Amanda, one, two, three.”
“No!” Gregory yelled.
The gun went straight to Amanda’s temple.
Without saying a word, she spun on her toes and aimed the gun at the office wall.
Finally the weapon fired with a sharp report, causing Amanda to jerk backwards from the recoil. Bits of shattered drywall and insulation hung in the air around the ragged bullet hole. Strands of hair fell in front of Amanda’s face, but she no longer noticed them. She aimed the gun at the wall again.
The Doctor admired Amanda’s sexy ass as she walked to the desk. She carefully placed the revolver in the same location she’d found it. Her hands fell to her sides, and she stood with her back to the two men, staring at nothing.
“You see, Gregory? She will obey any command that I give her, with no thoughts of morality, or danger, or consequences. She is a perfect, beautiful robot. Had I given her a fully loaded revolver she would have happily killed herself with it. Or you, or Trudy, or her own mother. She is perfectly capable of any crime, any misdeed, any betrayal. And she will leave this meeting with no memory that she came within inches of death. And with no memory of your presence here, Gregory. I know how secrecy is important to you.”
Gregory uncrossed his arms. “Doctor Franz, you have convinced me.” He moved to the desk, standing just inches from Amanda, who ignored him. He snapped open the briefcase. “Here is the very substantial down payment for the service, information on the target, and pictures.”
The Doctor examined one of the photos, a headshot of a glamourous-looking blonde woman. “An actress?”
“Yes. And Senator Miller’s unofficial lover. Our agents report that the two of them see each other on a very regular basis. Once he has been properly disposed of, the peace talks will collapse, and our country’s future will be preserved.”
“Hmm,” the Doctor said, glancing at the thick volume of notes that Gregory had brought with him. “She will not be as good as one of my assassins. I will only have time to lightly program her, barely more than a deep hypnotic suggestion, really. I am not sure how malleable she will be. She will certainly do the job, but it may not be neat and simple.”
The Russian shook his hand. “Doing the job is what is most important. I place the trust of my countrymen in your hands, Doctor. Do not fail us. When next we meet, Senator Miller will be dead, and his blood will be on Anna Foster’s hands!”
“A seductive jewel thief. A street-savvy con artist. A brilliant computer hacker. Fate brought them together, and now they fight for justice! No job is too big, too dangerous, too challenging for these lethal ladies of law. They are—The Action Force!”
The glamorous blonde shifted nervously in her chair as she recounted her harrowing story. “And I realized that this was probably my only chance, so I kicked him right in the balls, and I made a run for it. Thank God that cop just happened to come down the street at that exact moment! He called it in right away, but they didn’t find the van or those guys. I haven’t slept a wink since.”
Anna Foster finished the glass of water, and set the empty glass on the coffee table. “Wish you guys had something a little stronger,” she said, forcing a nervous smile. The three women sitting across from her gave her encouraging smiles in return.
“Oh, we’ve got the top shelf stuff,” said the tall brunette to her left, “and we can all drink that to celebrate once we catch these goons.” She pushed back her chair and stretched her long legs over to the nearby desk, balancing a notepad on her stomach. “So let’s try to figure out why someone is trying to pull you into the Free Candy van. Enemies? Stalkers? Criminals?”
“Well, Max, I think… wait, it’s Max, right?”
“Maxine, if you want to be formal about it,” said the blonde woman perched on the other side of the desk. “But the last guy to call her that is still trying to regain the use of his arms, so there’s that.”
“Okay, Olivia,” Max replied, throwing her pen at the blonde. She turned back to a very confused Anna. “You can call me Max, you can call her Livvie, and Sierra here is just Sierra.” She pointed to the redhead to Anna’s right, who responded with a goofy wave. Max rolled her eyes. “New girl, what can you do?”
Livvie hopped off the desk and walked to the window. “About those kidnappers, Anna.”
Anna shook her head. “If I had to guess? Well, I’m sure that you’ve read all about this movie. Every actress in Hollywood wants to work with Jack Springer. Every actor, too. I beat out two hundred girls to get this part. You can probably guess that a lot of them didn’t take it well. I’ve gotten death threats.”
“We’ll want to get copies of those, Miss Foster,” said Sierra. “Let me work my magic on them and we’ll see what kinds of prints we can get. Could be a solid lead right off the bat.”
“In the meantime,” said Max, “you’ll need protection from the goon squad. Every up-and-coming actress needs a couple of assistants.” She gave Anna a broad, winning smile. “Max Taylor and Livvie Roberts, at your service!”
Livvie huffed as she dragged her suitcase up the stairs to Anna’s second-floor apartment. She dropped the luggage onto the living room floor with a satisfying thud. “Okay, we’re all moved in. Looks like you got yourself two brand new, fun-loving roommates, girlie!”
“One of whom has a serious overpacking problem,” said Max, eyeing her partner’s three suitcases.
“Anyway, from here on out, one of us will be with you 24/7, camping out on your couch, driving you around town, and generally making life difficult for any creeps and kidnappers. Max won the coin toss, so she’s got the first shift. Sierra and I are going to spend the afternoon down at the studio, trying to dig up some good leads on those death threats.”
Anna raised an eyebrow. “Winner gets to guard me? Now I feel special.”
Max threw her arm around the actress. “Well, you’re paying our salary, so heck yes, you’re special. And besides, spending time here means that we can kick back and eat ice cream while Liv and new girl do all of the hard work.” She winked at Livvie. “Isn’t that right, boss?”
“Be a good guest, Max. Otherwise you get to call Jack Springer and tell him that his lead actress is in a food coma.” She turned to Anna. “Don’t worry. Between the two of us, we probably know sixty different ways to kill a guy. You’re in the safest hands in town. See you tomorrow!”
Max watched from the window as Livvie’s BMW pulled away from the curb. “She’s right, you know. We’re the best detectives in town. And the hottest, the smartest… blah blah blah, you know all of this already. Otherwise you’d have one of the competition’s greasy gumshoes sitting here instead of us, telling you boring stories about his fishing trips and his stamp collection.”
Anna dropped into a leather armchair. “So how does a girl like you get into this business? Wait, let me guess. You went to the police academy, got assigned parking ticket duty, and then a guy named Charlie offered you a job…”
“Ha, no. Let’s just say that my path to this job was a little more… complicated. In fact, you wouldn’t… believe…” Her voice drifted off as she moved closer to the window, frowning.
“Max? Is everything okay?”
Max watched as two men emerged from the white van parked on the street below. They were clad in white overalls, like painters, but the van had no lettering or advertising on the side. One man carried a small canvas bag; the other carried nothing at all. For workers, they seemed lightly equipped. Too light. “Looks like your building has some visitors,” she said, as the two men disappeared into the front entrance. “They do a lot of repair work around here after hours?”
Anna shook her head. “Not that I’ve ever heard of. Maybe if the sink leaks or something but… oh my God, Max, do you think?”
A knock on the door. From the hallway came a gruff voice. “Maintenance.”
Anna’s face turned white. She bolted to her feet. “I didn’t call in any maintenance requests. There’s nothing wrong with my apartment.”
“Stay back,” said Max, as she moved to the door. “Do whatever I tell you to do when I tell you to do it. Okay? Okay.” She pretended to fumble with the door lock and chain. “Yeah, yeah! Hang on… sorry, I’m not good with door locks. Just a silly girl, all alone in this apartment!” She pulled the door open while flattening herself against the wall.
As expected, the goon walked right into the room. “Yeah, we got a report that… hey, where? Ooof!” Before he could react, Max’s foot connected with his right temple, sending him stumbling backwards through the open door. Max followed him, delivering a flurry of blows to his face and upper body as he made a panicked retreat.
Max sensed motion behind her in the hallway. She spun to find the second goon creeping up the back stairs. In an instant, she had the Beretta drawn and pointed directly at his face. He responded by throwing his hands over his head and scurrying back down to the ground floor. Behind her, the first goon lay groaning at the top of the main staircase. She moved back into the apartment and shut the door.
“Okay, we gotta move,” she said, grabbing Anna by the arm. “One’s down for now, the other’s still in circulation. Stay close to me and we’ll try the stairs. Don’t run unless I tell you to.”
Anna was shaking. She swallowed, hard, and looked Max in the eyes. “Okay. Let’s go.” She took the brunette by the hand.
From the living room came the sound of shattering glass. “Down! Down!” Max yelled, pushing her charge to the floor. On their hands and knees, the two women made it to the kitchen as white smoke began to fill the apartment. Max stuck out her tongue and sniffed the air. “Gas. They’ll be coming in soon. You need to move. Out the window and hit the ground running. Do NOT stop. Run like hell and I’ll catch up.”
“But Max, what about you?”
“Go! Window! Now!”
Max watched as Anna awkwardly climbed over the kitchen sink and forced her way out of the little window feet-first. She began to cough as the smoke grew thicker. There wasn’t much time, but if she could get a towel over her face, maybe lay low… she could use to the smoke to her advantage. She’d trained for tear gas and… oh shit, the knockout stuff. Got to… got to… to… Her eyes rolled into her head and she slumped to the floor.
Ten minutes passed before the two goons cautiously entered the kitchen. The taller one bent down to examine his unconscious target. “Think this is her?”
“She’s the only one we’ve got, so let’s hope so,” replied the shorter man, peering through the open kitchen window. “Boss doesn’t take kindly to mistakes.”
Slowly, Max opened her eyes. Within seconds, they were closed again, as she tried to make the spinning go away. Behind the lids, her brain turned in sickening circles. Unpleasant childhood memories of carnival rides and vomiting came to mind. With a groan, she forced her eyes open again.
She was in a concrete room. A basement, maybe, or a garage. Clean, polished concrete walls, white plaster ceiling. The air was cool. She looked down at her body. Naked, strapped into something. She tried wiggling an arm, a leg, a fist, trying to work free, but every strap was tight. Her head was surrounded by some sort of padded pillow, and someone had placed headphones over her ears. From the edge of her vision, just beyond her feet, she could make out a wall of blinking lights. She closed her eyes again, struggling to suppress her rising panic.
A man’s voice. Detached and clinical. “This is very much an unexpected turn of events, my dear.” The owner of the voice appeared at the foot of the table. Tall, white-haired, vaguely handsome, lab coat and glasses. “Rest assured that the dimwitted stooges who got you into this situation have been properly dealt with.”
“Well, that’s good to hear,” said Max, trying to sound conversational. “I’d be even happier if you could please get me out of these restraints, though. And if you could call the police.”
He chuckled. “My dear, I think we both know that these restraints are my idea. But I’ll give you credit. Winning my trust is one of the first things they teach you about handling kidnappers. You’ll be pleased to know that I have no interest in kidnapping you.”
She struggled to move, and grunted. “Seems like you’re very interested in kidnapping me, mister…”
“My name is not important. You won’t remember it, anyway. What I find important is you, and what you were doing in Miss Foster’s apartment. A relative? Hmm, not likely, although you are quite beautiful yourself.” His eyes roamed her naked body, and Max instinctively shuddered. “Please tell me the truth. It will make things go more quickly. A friend?”
“I’m Miss Foster’s assistant,” said Max with practiced confidence. “I work for Windsail Agents. She hired me to handle her affairs. She’s very busy working on a movie, and she has me handle all of her phone calls and mail, keep her schedule, that sort of thing.”
The Doctor smiled. “So interesting that Miss Foster hired an… assistant… so quickly after my last attempt to capture her.” He paused, looking back at her with pride in his eyes. “Yes, my dear, that was me. You see, I have been trying to bring Miss Foster to this room for some time now. It would only be logical for her to seek outside help. Are you with the police? A private detective, perhaps? Paid bodyguard? Please be honest with me.”
“No, I’m just… please, I’m just an assistant. This is just a job. I don’t know anything.”
The Doctor smiled. He casually strolled over to the wall of blinking lights. “We will soon see about that.”
Deep and relaxed. Deep and relaxed. Deep and relaxed. Deep and relaxed. Deep and relaxed.
Colored lights danced over her wide, empty eyes. Her breathing was calm and regular. She blinked once, slowly. Her lips parted and she let out a soft exhale. The soft voice coming from the headphones continued without pause. Deep and relaxed. Deep and relaxed.
“Now, my dear, you are in a hypnotic trance. The lights, and my voice, are all that matter to you. Are all that exist to you. The lights, and my voice. Do you see the lights?”
“What is your name, my dear?”
“Max… Max Taylor.”
“You’re feeling very relaxed, Max. Is that short for Maxine, Max?”
“Very good, Maxine. You’re very relaxed, and safe, and comfortable right now. I’m going to help you feel wonderful. Would you like that?”
She smiled. “Yes. I would like that.”
“As you answer my questions truthfully, you will feel more and more wonderful, like a peaceful Christmas morning, like a relaxing day curled up on the sofa. Answer my questions, and feel wonderful. Who do you work for, Maxine?”
Another dreamy smile. “Arcadia Investigations.”
“Tell me why Miss Foster hired you, Maxine. You can speak clearly as your body sinks deeper into this wonderful hypnotic trance.”
“Mmmm. We were hired to investigate the kidnapping attempt. Find out who was behind it, and why.”
He paused. “Maxine, how many of you are working on Miss Foster’s case? Please tell me their names.”
“There’s… Livvie and… Sierra. And me. Three of us.” She closed her eyes. “I think I love you.”
“I’m very glad to hear that, Maxine. Can you tell me where Miss Foster might be at this moment?”
“I sent her out the window,” Max purred. “She… mmmm…. she would have gone to Livvie and Sierra for help. Let them know what happened, and… ohh… what happened to me.”
“I see. Very wonderful and deep now, Maxine. Any police involvement?”
“Mmmmmmaybe. She doesn’t want the publicity, though. Oh yessss. It would hurt her career, and the movie is so important. Ohhh…. I love you so much. So wonderful.”
The Doctor frowned. His bumbling kidnappers had ruined everything. The Foster woman would be guarded at all times now, by at least two professional bodyguards. There was no way to get her into the lab without making a tremendous scene and involving the police. He would have to improvise another solution. He looked at the hypnotized brunette lying before him. “Maxine, please open your eyes, and watch the screen. Let yourself go deeper.”
Her pale green eyes locked onto the screen in front of her face. “Much, much deeper now, Maxine. Beyond thought, beyond will. Beyond thought, beyond will. Beyond memory. Deeper and beyond, now. Deeper and beyond, as my words flow into your mind. Sink even deeper now, deeper into the lights, deeper into my voice, deeper into trance. There are some things I need you to do for me…”
Slowly, Max opened her eyes. She was lying on her back. Her jeans and t-shirt were cold and damp. The smell of flowers surrounded her. She glanced at her feet, a vague and distant memory of… something… passing at the edge of her brain.
She sat up and took in her surroundings. She was in a field, surrounded by trees. No cars or buildings in sight, or any signs of human civilization, for that matter. Her head was pounding. The gas. She’d been drugged and dumped into a field somewhere. No bruises, no cuts, no pain down… there, thank God, just some faint marks on her wrists and ankles, as if she’d spent some time tied up.
She wobbled to her feet. From her higher vantage point, she could make out a highway in the distance. “Maxine, you never fail to amaze me,” she muttered. “The scrapes you get into.” Her hands balled into fists. Those goons were going to pay dearly for dragging her out here.
“I’m guessing that once they figured out that I wasn’t a soon-to-be-famous actress working on the summer’s biggest blockbuster, they decided to get rid of me,” said Max, easing back into her chair. “Unfortunately that’s all I remember. I was out cold before I ever got a chance to see their stupid, ugly faces.”
Sierra spread a map onto the desk. “Look at this. You were taken here, and dropped off here.” She traced her delicate fingers over the map. “Both spots are only five minutes off the San Marco Freeway, here and here. Whoever grabbed you probably picked this spot out in advance, and probably travels this highway all the time. I’ll see if anyone has picked up reports of white vans along the San Marco picking up parking tickets, or speeding, or acting strangely.”
“Max…” Anna began, but the brunette cut her off.
“Anna, for the millionth time, it’s okay,” said Max, reaching out to take her hand. “This is what we do. We fight bad guys. Sometimes the bad guys get the upper hand. Then we beat them up and save the day. The important this is that you’re safe with us. It would be way worse if you were the one all tied up and knocked out in the back of that van right now.”
Livvie looked up from her notebook. “I hate to bring this up, Anna, but you’re going to have to find another place to stay for now. Your apartment is totally off-limits. If you need anything from there, Max and I can get it for you, but you’re not allowed within a mile of the place. Understood?”
“Okay, Livvie. Alton has a place up in the hills that I can crash at. It’s huge and out of the way, and I hardly ever go there. He’s out of town right now. It should work.”
Max leaned forward. “Alton?”
Anna sighed. “I should have told you this before, but we try to keep it secret. I’m dating Alton Miller. We’ve been seeing each other for about eight months. Nobody knows. At least, I don’t think so.”
Sierra’s eyes grew wide. “Senator Miller? He’s one of the most powerful men in Washington! There’s been a lot of talk about his divorce and the aftermath and who he might… and it’s you?” She squealed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’m just so… wow.”
“Anna.” Max’s eyes narrowed. “Do you think he has anything to do with your kidnapping? Any of his enemies? Guy’s a politician, he must have loads of them.”
“No no no.” Anna waved her hands furiously. “No one… look, no one knows about me and Alton. We’ve been very careful. Not a peep in the press, and you know they’d run it as front-page news if they knew about it. If anyone asks, Alton is happily divorced and taking a break from dating, and I’m far too busy with my movie career to even think about a man right now. This, all of this… it can’t be that. Please, leave that part of my life alone. Alton is what I need right now.”
Livvie rested her hands on Anna’s shoulders. “Okay. We’ll keep chasing down movie set leads. In the meantime, you and Max and I have some more moving in to do.”
“And I’ve already got a couple of leads on that white van of yours,” Sierra beamed. “Alton Miller! Okay, okay, I’m sorry, I promise that will be the last time. Promise!” She tuned back to the computer, quietly giggling to herself.
“Thank you so much for being here tonight, Max. I can’t tell you how much better I feel having you around.” Anna sat cross-legged on the enormous sofa, looking like the lone plane on the deck of a carrier. She wrapped a pink blanket over her pink shorts and t-shirt and laughed. “You hear that? That’s the first time I’ve genuinely laughed in like, six months. Maybe I’m just going crazy.”
“For someone who’s just survived two attempted kidnappings, I’d say you’re handling it pretty well,” said Max, sprawling out on the other enormous sofa. “It helps that you have access to some sweet digs. I really need to hang out with your politician friends more often.”
Anna laughed again, and shot Max a sly smile. “Land a major movie role and watch the perks come in, Max. With a body and a face like yours, you won’t be hurting for roles.”
“Sorry, Miss Hollywood Starlet, but the only movies I’m interested in are the ones I brought with me for us to watch.” Max reached into her bag. “Okay, romance? Action? Action romance? Monster movie? We’ve got choices, by which I mean, action romance first. Just sit right there while I get this set up.”
Anna stretched and reached for the empty movie case. “Treasure in Paradise? Ohhhkay, I think I’m going to need some wine to get through this one.” She pulled off the blanket and sat up. “One red or two, Max?”
“No no, stay put. I’ve got everything covered. You get the full service treatment with Arcadia Investigations.” She gave Anna a wink as she padded down the hall and into the spacious kitchen.
Hollywood life. She looked down at her bag, wondering why she was carrying it around with her. From the living room, Anna called out. “Hey Max, hurry up! The movie’s coming on!”
The room began to spin. Max looked at the bag again. Why do I?
She stopped thinking.
She placed the bag on the countertop and reached inside, withdrawing a smooth, silver cylinder. Wordlessly, she returned to the living room, where Anna was sitting on the edge of the sofa, her mouth hanging open, her body slack and limp. The blonde stared at the spiral on the TV screen as it slowly turned in never-ending circles.
“Mmmmaxxx…” Anna slurred. “Sommmmethingsss wrong with the mmmmoooviee…”
Max looked down at the cylinder in her hand. Without thinking, she pulled the cap loose. Underneath was an aerosol spray head. Taking aim at the helpless actress, she began spraying a fine mist over Anna’s face.
“Maxxx? I…. can’t…”
Max climbed onto the sofa and straddled the entranced blonde, her hands gently massaging Anna’s neck and shoulders. Her mouth opened, and words fell out. “Watch the spiral, Anna. Watch the spiral. You can’t look away. You don’t want to look away. It’s so pretty, Anna. So pretty and beautiful, like my voice, so pretty and beautiful. Watch, Anna. Watch.”
“Max… spiral… watch…” Anna’s body sagged against Max, her head wavering as she struggled to follow the screen.
“That’s right, Anna. Watch the spiral. Watch the spiral spin round and round. Pulling you in. In and down and deep, deep into the center of the spiral. Deep into the spiral, Anna. So deep. So deep. Deep into the center. Deeper, and deeper, and deeper. Let your body relax. Let your eyes relax. Your pretty eyes, relaxed and sleepy. Your pretty eyes, watching the pretty spiral. So heavy now. Heavy and sleepy. So sleepy, Anna. Close your eyes for me, Anna. Close your eyes, and sleep. Sleep. Sleep.”
Max watched as Anna’s head fell forward to her chest. She felt something click in the back of her mind. Lowering her lips to Anna’s ear, she began to whisper more words.
Livvie looked up just in time to see Sierra drop a fat stack of paperwork onto the desk. It landed with a dull thud. “Welp, that’s everything,” said the redhead, resting her hands on the desk. “Every report and source I could track down on possible kidnappers.”
The blonde eyed the thick bundle of reports and printouts. “What’s the scoop? Or do I have to read through everything first?”
“Nope! I’ve got you covered,” said Sierra. She held up a thin folder. “Here’s the best part. White van clocked by the State Patrol for speeding, on the San Marco, right around the time that Max was waking up in the middle of that field. The van is registered to MBS Academy. They’re an old business college that’s recently jumped into training assistants and translators for the international business community.”
Livvie took the file from Sierra, and sifted through it. “So why are they out driving around in the middle of nowhere? Could it just be business as usual?”
“A field trip to the woods, you mean? Just what every girl needs for a career in Hong Kong? Well, there’s also this. And this. And this.” Sierra spread out more file folders like a skilled blackjack dealer. “This place is super shady, Livvie. Girls sign up for these courses and they just… vanish. Off the face of the Earth.” She tapped the folders. “Janice Jones, 23, last seen in September. Jamaica Phillips, 24, last seen in October. Lisa Kwan, 27, last seen in December. All full or part time students at MBS.”
“And the van caught for speeding right down the street from a kidnapping is owned by a school where girls might be getting kidnapped.”
“Exactly! I don’t know what they have to do with Anna, but I get the feeling that they really want her one way or the other.”
Livvie smiled, the old con artist in her relishing another chance to role play. “Guess I’d better make an appointment with them, then.”
“This is more uncomfortable than getting knocked out by kidnappers,” said Max, crossing her arms. Beside her, the young actress smiled.
“That bikini fits you like a glove, Max. A really perfect, silky smooth glove. I mean, you’re beautiful, but… wow. And the green really brings out your eyes.”
“Harumph.” Max wrapped a towel around her waist.
Anna took her by the hands. “C’mon. A day by the pool will help me get my mind back into this movie. I’ve got an entire script to digest and make my own, you know. Last night’s movie marathon got me all fired up and inspired.”
“Nothing like a low-budget cheese-fest to bring out the inner muse, I guess,” said Max. “I’m glad that you liked my movie choices. Even the monster one. And speaking of monsters, if I don’t call and check in with Livvie, she’ll stomp on me faster than Godzilla. Be right back.”
“So? Any more snatch and grabs?”
“Sorry to disappoint you Liv, but the only thing up for grabs last night was the cold popcorn at the bottom of the bag. It’s still yours if you want it.”
“Har-har, Max. So listen, I think I’ve got a new lead. There’s a place down by the beach called MBS Academy. It’s run by this Doctor Karl Franz. Sierra did some research on him. Turns out, he snuck out of East Germany back in the day. Big score for the good guys, was an expert in psychology, mind stuff. Now he’s running a business school for young women, except that his students seem to have a nasty habit of vanishing without a trace.”
“So what’s a fancy doctor doing running a business school, and what does that have anything to do with Anna?”
“Guess who owns the van that was used to kidnap you?”
“So what, are they tired of new recruits and looking to branch out more? Selling Anna off to some harem on the other side of the planet? I don’t get it, Liv.”
“Neither do I, but it’s got to mean something. Look, can you babysit Anna for another day? I booked an appointment with the school today. I’m going to take a look around and see if I can sniff anything out.”
“Oh, Anna’s already dragging me off to the pool today. Listen, be careful. There’s something not right with that school. Gut feeling, but you know how good my gut is.”
Livvie laughed. “Oh my God, Max. Did Anna talk you into wearing a bikini?”
Max stared at the phone, and glared.
“Oh… my… God. Maxine Taylor, I am going to have to see this with my own eyes. Be sure to keep it on until I get back. Ha ha, I can’t wait!”
“You know Liv, on second thought, maybe don’t be careful today. Tell them you’re there to snoop through their files and dig up the bodies in the cellar.”
“Thanks, love you too! See you later, bikini girl.”
Max hung up the phone. It rang again, and Max, feeling annoyed, picked it up on the first ring. “Windsail Agents, Max speaking! Livvie, if this is you—“
“Hello, Maxine.” A man’s voice, calm and confident.
Distant alarm bells sounded in Max’s head. “What is… what can I…”
“Beneath the ice, the stream runs deep. So very deep, Maxine. So very deep.”
“So deep,” she whispered. The phone hung inches from her face, suspended in her hand, as if dangling from a string. “I await my orders.”
“You will place Miss Foster into a trance and bring her to me. You will obey without question, Maxine. Listen and obey without question.”
The phone went dead.
“Hey Max, are you ready? The pool’s sunny and warm, and I can’t wait to try this little number out.” Anna turned in a circle, a blur of tanned skin and neon blue fabric. “I can’t decide if this bikini shows too much skin, or not enough. What do you think? Max? Hey, Max?”
“Anna,” said Max. “The crystal dragon slumbers.”
Anna’s spin slowed to a halt. She turned to face Max, her blue eyes wide and empty. “Yes, Max. I understand.”
Max picked up the Mustang’s keys. “Follow me, Anna.”
“It is not every day that two beautiful, mindless bikini girls walk into my laboratory, Maxine,” said the Doctor, his eyes running up and down her toned body. “Not every day, that is.”
Behind them, Anna lay strapped to the table, the colored lights washing over her blank features. Her lips parted and she began silently repeating the words that came to her through the headphones. I will obey without question. I will obey without thought. I will obey without memory. I will obey without question. I will obey without thought. I will…
“Soon, Miss Foster will bend to my will, Maxine, just as you did. Completely and utterly under my control. Just as you are totally under my control, aren’t you, Maxine?”
“I am under your control.”
“That swimsuit is quite lovely, my dear, but I’d like to see a bit more. Remove it.”
“Yes.” Her hands reached behind her back and untied the bikini strings, causing her generous breasts to fall free. She slid the green bottoms down her legs and over her bare feet, exposing her neatly trimmed bush. Without a word, she resumed her upright stance, her posture perfect, her breathing slow and steady.
“You’re very beautiful, Maxine. I suppose you have been told that many times, haven’t you?”
“So cold, my dear. So robotic. A very good trait for one of my slaves, Maxine, and you are an excellent slave. But for now, while we wait on Miss Foster, let us try something else. Listen and obey. When I snap my fingers, you will be consumed by lust and passion. I will be the only man who can satisfy you, Maxine, the only man who can make you orgasm. You have never desired a man or a woman more than you will desire me, when I snap my fingers. Do you understand?”
The Doctor smiled. He walked over to the control panel and entered some new programming for the motionless blonde on the table. The colored lights on the screen changed to a shimmering pattern of gold lines, and her eyes widened even more. She whispered her new instructions back at the screen. “…blank and obedient… I am blank and obedient… I am blank and obedient… I am blank and obedient…”
He looked at her with a tinge of regret. She was proving to be an excellent subject, but it would be impossible to use her on any future missions. “Such a waste, my little Anna-bot. I would have enjoyed using your services in the future. Thankfully, I have other options.”
He held his hand in front of Max’s face, and snapped his fingers.
She blinked twice and shook her head, before resting her gaze on the Doctor’s chest. Her lips broke into a wicked, lusty smile, and an instant later her arms were wrapped around him, pulling him in for a long and passionate embrace. She caressed his face and pulled him in for another deep kiss as he reached down and cupped her firm ass. She let out a moan. “Mmmmm, yessss, so good.” She slid her hands down his chest and into his pants, quickly finding his erect cock waiting for them. Her left hand curled around it as her right hand went to work on his belt and zipper. He ran his hands through her luxurious brown hair and stared into her dazzling green orbs.
Belt, pants, and boxers fell down around his shoes. He shuffled out of them as he maneuvered the hypnotized brunette over to the desk. With a wink, she turned around and bent forward, her beautiful tits pressed against the polished wood, her ass lifted into the air. She shuddered as he placed his hands on her hips and entered her from behind, his rod sliding in and out with practiced rhythm. She moaned again, louder this time, as he plunged into her again and again, faster and harder. Wave after wave of pleasure coursed through her, reaching every corner of her body. Behind her, The Doctor’s breathing became short and rapid as he built to climax. “Maxine,” he gasped, “you will only come… when I tell you… to do so…”
“Yes,” she moaned, her body slick and wet, her eyes closed. She let out a soft cry with each powerful thrust. The sensation seemed to go on and on, building, then somehow building even more.
Finally, he spoke. “Maxine… come… come now…” He groaned as he climaxed inside of her. She let out a primal, passionate scream as the orgasm overtook her. Her hands grabbed the sides of the desk as her body shook and convulsed over and over again. Her breasts ground against the polished wood as she let the incredible feelings wash over her like a warm tropical ocean. He stepped back, and her breathing began to return to normal.
She rose from the desk closed the gap between them, hips swaying seductively as she eyed his crotch. She sank to her knees and pushed him back against the metal table, reaching for his cock, still wet with cum. She slid her hands up and down the shaft, slowly bringing it back to fullness. As her mouth closed over the tip, he leaned back over the table, lost in pleasure. Beneath him, Anna whispered. “I am blank and obedient… I am blank and obedient… I am blank and obedient…”
Max and Anna lounged by the pool, their wet, naked bodies slowly drying in the warm afternoon sun. They gazed at the Doctor with dreamy, puppy-dog eyes. He sat across from them, comfortably reclined in a beach chair, drink in hand. “Now ladies,” he began, “before I bring you out of trance, we will need to discuss a few minor things. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Doctor,” they replied in unison.
“Good. Good. I do enjoy hearing that. You have both done quite well today. But the sun is very warm, and very relaxing. Soft and warm, and very relaxing. Safe and calm, and so relaxed now. Relax, and drift. Drifting deeper, deeper into sleep now. Relaxed and asleep, hearing only my voice. Relaxed and asleep.” He watched as their bodies sank into their chairs, their hands brushing the cool tile of the patio, their chests slowly rising up and down. “Just a dream now, slipping away. A dream of a lovely pool, of the warm, clear water, washing away now, the memories of today washing from your sleepy minds. Blank now, and empty, and ready for new dreams, new memories, as you sleep, and listen to my voice.”
The Doctor finished his drink, trying and failing to avoid poking himself with the tiny umbrella. With an annoyed grunt, he waved his free hand at the assistant waiting by the patio door, beckoning him to come closer. The young man made his way to the Doctor’s chair, trying not to make any noise, cringing at the rustling of the heavy paper shopping bags he carried. With another wave, the Doctor sent him away.
“Now ladies, listen carefully, and remember…”