Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 65: Runaway Ambition.
“Chris!” Wade’s voice bellowed from downstairs. “I told Andrew we’d be there at one!”
I jogged down the stairs buttoning my shirt. “I know, I know. Scott had to stop at his apartment anyway.”
And thank God Scott had left when he did. Since Scott and I had gotten together my sex life had begun setting new endurance records. Last night had become an acrobatic event. I realized Scott was a man of action long before I knew he was a federal agent, but at this rate I was going to have to join a gym to keep up with his athletic nature.
I paused in the foyer and realized I was alone. Wade had gotten it into his head that the four of us going to brunch would be a nice way to do something normal. Apparently he had decided we needed more normalcy in our lives. I also suspected a double date had been a way for him to nail down plans with Andrew. He hadn’t specifically said anything more about his lack of time with Andrew, but I knew it was bothering him. Wade’s usual exuberance had dimmed a bit this past week. I did feel a little guilty—I had been preoccupied with my own issues and not as supportive as I should have been.
I found him in the kitchen. Wade was dolled up in his best black pants and a long-sleeved white shirt.
“You look handsome,” I said.
He grinned, holding his arms out on display. “You think?”
“I do.” I looked at the clock. “We’ve got a few minutes, despite your rushing me.”
Wade smiled at me innocently.
I walked over to him and held him by the shoulders. “How’s it going?” Boy that was deep.
He gave a facial shrug. “Okay.”
“We haven’t really had much time to talk this week. Classes are good?”
He nodded. “I really like my lit prof. And of course my psych prof.”
I squeezed his shoulders and released him. “I’m glad to hear it. I know you’re a lot busier now with work and classes. I just want you to know I always have time for you.” I felt my face flushing. “I’m not saying this well.”
Wade shook his head. “Yeah, you are. I just kind of figure you have enough to deal with without my drama.” He turned away from me and busied himself sorting through a stack of newspapers on the counter.
I had so many thoughts but none of them seemed right to express. Not that that’s ever stopped me. “Wade, seriously, I want you to know that no matter what’s going on you take precedence. You’re probably the most important person in my life. And it’s obvious to me something’s been on your mind this week. Now, sit down and tell me what’s up?”
I saw his eyes drift to the clock.
“We can talk about it later.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “If we’re a few minutes late I’m sure Scott and Andrew can entertain themselves.” I gestured to the table. “Have a seat.”
Reluctantly he sat, crossing his arms on the table and leaning forward.
I slid into the chair across from him and waited, but he didn’t say anything. “Wade?” I prodded.
He sighed. “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Again I waited.
“I thought Andrew and I had a really good thing. It was fun and we spent all our time together. And now I can’t even get him on the phone. He doesn’t answer emails. He says he’s just busy, but I think there’s more to it.” Wade’s eyes brimmed with tears. “I thought everything was so perfect. I mean, you, and Scott, and work and school and Andrew. And now it’s all a big mess.”
Aw, hell, I thought, surprising myself. That was one of Scott’s phrases. I moved around the table and put my arm around his shoulders. What had I done? And, more importantly, how could I undo it?
“Wade,” I said, “I have a feeling I can help you with this one.”
“What do you mean?”
Damage control. “Well, you hadn’t said much and I didn’t really realize the extent of all this. You know I’ve hypnotized Andrew.”
“Well, I, um,” Stop stammering, Chris! “I made him more ambitious this time and it sounds like maybe it’s gone on too long.”
Wade blinked back his tears. “You made him more ambitious?”
“Andrew chooses the basic personality changes. I just help him implement them.” That was true; I just left out that technically he hadn’t asked for more ambition this time. I hadn’t really known what to make of his choice of running shoes. Obviously I had erred.
“So he wanted to move on without me?”
“No!” I softened my tone. “No, not at all. I think that was an unfortunate side effect of his excess ambition. But I think I can fix things.”
“How?” I repeated. How? Hmmm. I could make him more ambitious in his wooing of Wade. I suddenly flashed to Andrew in a crazed stalker kind of mode where he was obsessed with spending every moment with Wade. I shook my head. That wouldn’t do.
“How?” Wade repeated, this time more insistent.
“Well, I’ll just tweak his personality a little.”
When, huh? I frowned. “Today. Before brunch. Call him right now and tell him we’re going to pick him up on our way.”
Wade’s eyes returned to the clock. “He may have already left.”
“Try him,” I encouraged.
Andrew had been still at home when Wade phoned. He was happy to wait for us—he had some reading to do for one of his classes and he said he could use the time.
In all the time I had known him I had never been to Andrew’s apartment. I wondered what to expect. I was well aware that Wade had spent considerable amounts of time there, however.
Wade knocked on the door and we waited for Andrew to open it. He looked at Wade and smiled, displaying his dimples. He hugged Wade and nodded a greeting to me over Wade’s shoulder.
I was torn. I hadn’t really wanted Wade to be present when I hypnotized Andrew.
Andrew stepped aside and we entered. The apartment was small but comfortable, and furnished rather well for a college guy supporting himself as a shoe salesman.
“Andrew,” I said, “Can I have the five cent tour?”
“Sure!” He led me to the small kitchen and gave a game show hostess gesture, then I followed him down a short hall to a bathroom and a bedroom.
I leaned toward Andrew’s ear and whispered, “Shine your shoes.”
He slid under immediately and stared vacantly at me.
Wade had remained in the living room, so I called, “Wade, give us a minute, okay?”
“Okay,” he replied, sounding unsure.
I focused my attention on Andrew. “Sit on the bed, Andrew.”
As he did as he was told I quietly shut the door.
“Andrew, I screwed up this time. I allowed you to run amok with unchecked ambition. I should know better. This was completely irresponsible and we’re both lucky nothing too disastrous happened. Now, I want you to remove you running shoes. As you take them off you will assimilate all of the lessons you’ve learned from these suggestions into your personality, and your ambition will return to a more manageable level.”
Andrew reached down and flipped off first one shoe, then the other.
I glanced at his white-socked feet. This was a problem. Usually he had a new pair of shoes to guide our sessions.
I opened his closet door and found rows of shoes lined up. There were his construction boots, military boots, brown suede cowboy boots, black biker boots, and skater shoes. Shoved in the corner, nearly hidden by a pair of oxfords was a pair of broken-in but new-looking docksiders that I couldn’t recall ever having seen him wear. I picked them up and set them beside him on the bed.
I took Andrew through our usual routine when he changed shoes—he would dress, walk, talk and act in the manner he envisioned a person who wore docksiders would. Once he had them on his feet I began to wrap up the session.
“Andrew, your studies and your job are both important to you, and they should take priority. But you shouldn’t neglect your personal life either. You need to find balance in your life—then maybe we can stop these hypnotic alterations.” I counted to three and he awoke.
Andrew looked around, looked at his feet, then hopped off the bed. “Ready for brunch?” he asked.
He checked his reflection in the mirror which hung on the back of his bedroom door. He popped the collar of his polo shirt, opened the door, and strode to the living room.
I followed, and was as surprised as Wade was when Andrew pulled him into an embrace and kissed him deeply. Andrew pulled his head back and stared into Wade’s eyes. “Have I told you how incredibly hot you look?”
I felt my eyes widen. Somehow I had a feeling this was a whole new side of Andrew Brooks’ personality.
My cell phone rang and I flipped it open. It was Scott.
“Hey, where are you guys?” he asked.
“On our way.”
To be continued in Part 66…
Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 66: Magic.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror for what seemed like ages. God, my hair was platinum blonde. Why couldn’t I stop myself from following Master’s instructions? Why did I feel compelled to change my appearance just because he said to? Why was I standing here knowing what I had done and knowing I had most decidedly not wanted to do it?
I knew the answer. Because I was a slave again. But this time I didn’t see a way out. I didn’t think I would ever get the chance to hypnotize Master like I had Chris.
I frowned at myself. Master was expecting me at the Club. I didn’t want to be punished for being late. I could barely sit down today as it was. I was just heading for the bedroom to get changed when the telephone rang.
“Craig, do you know who this is?”
I knew. “Yes, Master.”
“Did you dye your hair?”
“Good boy. I knew you would. I’m pleased you were still in. I’ve arranged for you to meet Brian at your apartment.”
Oh, thank God, I thought. It was freezing out and Master only allowed me to wear cutoffs and boots to the Club. But how could he have possibly convinced Brian to come here? Was he already hypnotizing Brian? Was this some sort of test of my obedience instead of my hypnosis ability as he had said?
“I told Brian you’re trying to work up a stage hypnosis act for the Club and that if it flies you’ll both get a bonus. Brian’s weakness is his need for ready cash. He is currently working two jobs in order to afford school. It will be up to you to exploit that weakness. He will arrive at your address at six pm. Don’t disappoint me, boy.”
“No, Master,” I said, but he’d already disconnected.
Six pm. Alan would be home from work by then, I realized. Or would he? Master obviously controlled Alan too. That had finally hit me—better late than never—last night when we got home from the Club and Alan didn’t look at me or touch me in bed.
I couldn’t stop thinking this was all somehow a punishment for what I had done to Chris. He always talked about karma. Maybe this was my big karmic payback. If I hadn’t left Chris for Alan I wouldn’t have been with Alan and Alan wouldn’t have let me be a slave again. I didn’t remember everything, but I was pretty sure that when Alan was tying me up was when Master was taking control of me.
I took a deep breath and picked up the phone. I dialed the seven digits. I was shocked when the phone began to ring. After five rings voicemail kicked in: “You’ve reached Dr. Christopher Boldt. Please leave your name and number and I’ll return your call at the earliest opportunity.”
The machine beeped.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. Please, God, I prayed. But I couldn’t say a word. What had Master done to me? Why couldn’t I talk to Chris? Had I told Master about Chris? What if Chris was now in some kind of danger because of me? What if he was a slave now too?
I threw the phone at the wall, knocking a picture frame loose. It fell to the floor and shattered; splinters of glass flying.
I dropped to my knees to pick up the frame and sliced my finger open. I cried out in pain. My eyes watered. “Chris,” I sobbed.
I wrapped my finger in my shirt and scrambled for the phone. I hit redial. Again I got voicemail. Again I could say nothing.
I disconnected and dropped the phone. Then I cried.
Once I was cried out I realized Brian might be a way out. Master has said if I proved myself and my abilities I could have a boy of my own. But I had another chance. What if Brian could call Chris for me?
Filled with new hope I busied myself cleaning up the mess I’d made. I probably could’ve used a stitch or two in my finger, but I didn’t currently have any health insurance and I had to just do the best I could with a big band-aid.
Alan didn’t come home from work at the usual time. I didn’t even pretend to be surprised. I was sure Master had arranged that. I wondered what else he had arranged. I wondered if he had been hypnotizing Alan all that time that Alan was tying me up. I thought I had been the reason Alan got into bondage. I had been blind and stupid.
And who could I tell this realization to? The only person it might matter to I couldn’t talk to.
A couple of minutes before six the bell rang and I buzzed Brian in. I waited at the door for him to walk up.
He came around the corner dressed in a shirt and tie. I had only ever seen him when he was working at the Club and I was surprised to think his second job was probably respectable.
I held out my hand and he shook it. Once I closed the apartment door he asked, “Did Mr. King tell you I was coming?”
Mr. King? That must be Master’s name. Mr. King. I had never heard of him before. “Yes, he called. Can I get you anything to drink?”
He shook his head. “Nah, I’m probably not staying long. He said I could get a cash bonus if I helped you out, but you know what they say about no free lunches….”
And they, like he, were right. This was no free lunch. I felt kind of bad for Brian. He was about to sell his soul for some quick cash.
Shit, that sounded like something Chris would’ve said.
“Have a seat and I’ll explain,” I said, already beginning to craft a lie.
Brian sat on the couch and I sat gingerly on the ottoman across from him. He was tall, with long legs. He crossed his left ankle over his right knee, and I could see he was wearing black socks with a red design running up the sides that tied in with the colors in his tie. Chris would’ve totally been into Brian.
I had to stop thinking of Chris. I had to convince Brian to let me hypnotize him. I felt a twinge of guilt. I was going to do to him what was done to me and it was gonna be bad. I shuddered. I didn’t know Brian. Maybe he was a total fuck-up and deserved it? Sure!
But I didn’t believe it.
“So what exactly was Mr. King talking about?” Brian asked.
I leaned forward. “What did he tell you?”
“He said he’s the new owner of the Club and that he’s making some changes and that you pitched doing some kind of magic act where you hypnotize people at the Club and you need an assistant to be hypnotized first so that you can get volunteers. He said if the crowd likes it he’ll pay us both extra—and I can use the money. I can barely make my rent this month and I’m going to have to eat a lot of ramen to pull that off.”
“Sounds like he told you most of it. We’d have to practice an act and you’d have to let me hypnotize you and then we can do it at the Club and get paid for it.”
“You mean you want me to pretend to be hypnotized, right? And then what? You make me quack like a duck or something?”
“You wouldn’t make me do too much embarrassing shit, right? I need the cash, but I don’t want to go out and make a fool out of myself in front of half the hot guys in town.”
I grinned. “I get it. You’re not into humiliation.”
Brian looked at me, surprised. Then he grinned too. “Yeah.” He stopped and looked at me, thoughtful. “How come you never said anything to me at the Club? Mr. King called me into his office and all and I thought he was going to fire me. You could’ve talked to me. I saw you dancing—I thought you were good. One of the bartenders said he thought that other dancer was your boyfriend.”
I shook my head. “We’re just roommates. Alan lives here too.”
That lie wasn’t far from the truth. I didn’t think Alan and I would be dating anymore. Master would see to that, if he hadn’t already.
“Well, so how does all this work? You swing a watch in front of my face like in those bad old Mystery Science Theater movies?”
I shook my head again. “No. It’s much easier than that once you get going. The first time can be tricky though and I need a little more practice before I start pulling people out of the audience.”
“So you mean you really like want to hypnotize me? Not just pretend?”
I nodded. “Is that okay?”
He grinned, but it was a kind of nervous grin. “I don’t know, man. I was thinking I’d play along and pick up some money on the way out. Do you even know what you’re doing?”
“Yes! I was taught hypnosis by an expert.” I thought back to the stuff Chris used to say about hypnosis. I had only one chance to talk Brian into this and I couldn’t blow it. “Really all hypnosis is kind of self-hypnosis. You have to go along with it and you have to trust the person who is hypnotizing you.”
Brian uncrossed his legs and moved to the edge of the couch. He looked ready to get up and leave.
“And you know you really can’t make somebody do anything under hypnosis that they wouldn’t do anyway.”
He leaned back a little. “You can’t?”
“Of course not. I mean, I wouldn’t try anything funny with you or anything if that’s what you’re worried about. If you’ll let me I’ll just take you through a little induction to get you relaxed right now and then I’ll wake you right back up. And if you don’t like it or you want to leave you can just get up and walk out and don’t worry about it.” God, I was lying through my teeth. I was hoping I wouldn’t be struck dead right then and there.
“And you swear you won’t make me cluck like a chicken or something…?”
“All right. I guess it can’t hurt to try it. So what do I do?”
“Nothing. Just sit back on the couch and make yourself comfortable.”
Brian leaned back on the couch and settled himself a little.
“Before we start,” I said, remembering that Chris always said the best way to put a man at ease was to get him talking about himself, “what’s your last name?”
Brian Wolf. Sounded a little dangerous. And he looked hot. And I was going to screw him over bad. I had to stop worrying about him. I had to worry about me. If Master found out I didn’t put Brian under he’d probably put him under himself and then Brian would still be fucked and I wouldn’t even have a shot at getting away from Master.
“What do you do during the day? These aren’t your Club clothes.”
“I work in a hotel. Front desk. I have a jacket I have to wear over this stuff.”
“And you work at the Club on weekends?”
He nodded. “And I do night classes. And I still have to write a paper tonight. I don’t mean to rush you, man, but I have like no time.”
“Okay, let’s get started then. I won’t do anything fancy even, just a real easy straightforward kind of thing. Why don’t you loosen your tie?”
He shrugged then loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top button.
He looked at me. “I guess.”
I smiled. “Good. Now don’t worry. No clucking like chickens or quacking like ducks. Just take a deep breath and hold it. Now let it out. Feels good, right? Kind of relaxing? Let your feet relax. That’s it. Let it travel up your ankles to your calves. Now let your thighs relax. Let everything below your waist just feel kind of light and relaxed, like you’re floating a little bit.”
The changes were subtle but he was going with it. His breathing was slowing down some and his legs went a bit slack. I lowered my voice a little and kept talking.
“That’s good, you’re starting to feel very relaxed just listening to me. My voice is leading you and you want to follow. You want to keep relaxing. Let the relaxation move up your body through your belly on up to your chest. Let your breathing relax. Just breathe in and out nice and slow. You feel good. You feel relaxed. Breathing in and out nice and slow. And the relaxation moves on up to your shoulders. Let your shoulders go limp. Let all the tension from work just drain right out of your shoulder. Let it run down your arms and drain right out through your fingers. Your arms and hands probably feel a little light, like they could start to float away. That’s good. Just listen to my voice and keep relaxing. Your neck still looks a little tense. Let the relaxation move on up through your neck. Let it move through your face. I bet your eyes feel really tired. I bet they could close right now. Just go with it. Let your eyes close. Listen to my voice and feel relaxed.”
I watched the muscles in his arms twitch slightly. Brian’s eyes closed. He sat there breathing slowly and evenly. I thought it was working, but I had to be sure. After all, he had thought he had to play along and I didn’t want to find out he was just pretending.
“Brian, every time you breathe in and out you feel more relaxed. Just the sound of my voice makes you feel relaxed. You like the sound of my voice. You like to listen to it. You want to do what it tells you to.”
If he was faking he was doing a really good job.
“Brian, I’m going to ask you some questions. And you can answer them. You will answer them. And you’ll tell the truth. Because you can’t be relaxed and lie. You have to tell the truth to feel relaxed. Understand?”
“Yeah,” he said softly.
“Brian, how do you feel?”
“Do you feel relaxed?”
“Are you pretending to feel relaxed?”
“Are you sure?”
“Good. You like feeling relaxed, don’t you, Brian?”
“Hey, how old are you, anyway?”
“What’s your major?”
I think my eyes probably widened when he said that. I wondered if he could sue me for this. “You said you have a paper to write. Is that true or did you just want to get out of here?”
“I have a paper to write.”
“Okay then I’ll finish up for tonight. You like being relaxed and you like being hypnotized, Brian. You want to practice with me so that we can put together an act for the Club. You said you need the money and this is a way we can make some money. What time does your class get out tomorrow?”
“Okay, so after you get done with class you’ll come over here so we can practice our act. You want to come over and practice, don’t you?”
“So then I’ll see you tomorrow night after your class.” I needed to give him a trigger phrase. What could I use? He was pre-law. Sue me? No, too common. He might get accidentally triggered. Law words… Litigation, torte, briefs? Law stuff wasn’t gonna work. Stupid. “Okay, Brian, you feel nice and relaxed now and you like how you feel. You want to feel like this or even more relaxed next time you come here. Don’t you?”
“So every time you hear me say Magician’s Assistant you’ll feel relaxed just like you do now. Every time I say Magician’s Assistant you’ll feel relaxed again. Understand?”
“Okay. Then I’m going to count to three and you’ll wake up and you’ll feel really good and you’ll want to try this again. But you won’t remember what happened when you were hypnotized. You’ll just want to come back here tomorrow night after class to practice again. Understand?”
“Okay. 1…you feel really good and really happy. 2…you’re starting to wake up. 3…you’re wide awake. How do you feel?”
Brian blinked his eyes a couple times and sat up straight on the couch. “What happened?”
“I hypnotized you!” I said with a laugh.
He looked skeptical. “You did?”
I nodded. “Sure. We need to work on it some more and all but I think we can make a lot of money doing this. If we’re a hit at Leatherman’s I bet we could find a couple other clubs who would let us do an act.”
“Woah! Slow down. Craig, I don’t know what just happened, but…” He looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes went by? No shit, you hypnotized me?”
“Did I do anything embarrassing?”
“No, I told you I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“I didn’t think this stuff even really worked.”
I shrugged and tried to look really innocent. “It does. So do you want to keep working at it ‘til we get an act?”
Brian gave a sort of half-smile. “I guess I could come over after class tomorrow—if you don’t mind working late.”
I stood up. “Sounds great!”
Brian stood, too. “I can’t believe you hypnotized me.” He shook his head. “Weird.”
I offered my hand and he shook it. “I think we might make a good team.”