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Chapter Three: Opportunity Knocks
Keith Hynde sat in the lobby of Cain Consulting, idly flipping through a magazine, more to give his hands something to do as he waited than out of any interest in the contents. He was early by a good half-hour, though the wait wasn’t cutting into his busy social schedule. When you’re unemployed, there always seems to be more time than you could possibly need. He checked his watch for the hundredth time that afternoon as Petersen, the HR contact at Cain Consulting, appeared from an elevator bank.
“Ah, Mr. Hynde—good to see you again! Come with me.” Keith followed him, dropping the magazine on the chair. This was his third interview at Cain and he was hoping his last. So far, so good. All he had to do was get through this one and he was sure he’d get an offer. And, incredibly, nothing had yet come up regarding his tenure at Morgan & Company.
“You’re going to be seeing Mr. Klaw today,” Peterson told him. “I’ve told him about you and he’s quite eager to meet you.” The two men entered a large waiting room—the executive reception area. “Please sit here. Christie will take care of you.” Petersen left him in the foyer.
A tall, bighaired blonde in her forties approached, a wide accommodating bright pink lipsticked smile on her long, narrow face. Hynde frowned—she looked vaguely familiar to him, but... he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Mr. Hynde? Mr. Klaw will be right with you. Will you take a seat, please?”
Hynde’s puzzlement increased. The woman’s voice was tired, educated, sophisticated but her appearance was straight of Central Casting—as if someone had asked for a homewrecker secretary. Starting with the pink seamed stockings, that made male eyes naturally want to travel up the long legs to see what secrets she had to share, to the pink miniskirt that was too short and too tight, the fortyish dish was dressed to tease. Not to mention the form fitting pink sweater that accentuated the already bulging healthy chest up top. Pink high heels and the too-blonde, tousled, teased Farrah Fawcett style hair completed the look. Framed around a face that might be a touch plain, the nose too long and bony and the lips too thin, she had that lean and hungry look some still-sexy women approaching middle-age got.
Keith found it attractive in the extreme.
Lucky man, this Mr. Klaw.
“May I get you some coffee? A soft drink?” She was solicitously craning down, her long neck dipping to meet his ear, awaiting his answer.
She smiled, her lips curving into a charming bow-shape, revealing perfect white teeth. “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call for me.”
In a reflex action, he glanced down at her left hand—bare. Hmmm. Kind of old to be an unmarried secretary.
Had he seen her before?
That horsey-cute face was so familiar. He picked up another magazine but before he turned a page, the statuesque blond had returned.
“Mr. Klaw will see you now,” she informed him.
He followed her, enjoying the slight, sexy sway in her walk. He was taken into an office and deposited into a chair facing Mr. Klaw, the man who hopefully would soon be his employer. Klaw was a vigorous man in his early fifties, with a full head of iron gray, salt and pepper hair and a lantern jaw that was constructed for issuing orders. Keith took the proffered hand and answered the firm grip with one of his own. For a moment the overhead florescent light glinted the businessman’s eyes with a strange, violet hue. Then the hawk-like gray-blue eyes returned, meeting his own with approval.
“Sit down, Mr. Hynde.” Klaw’s voice was deep and steady. “I apologize for the delay—a call from Singapore. Has Christie been taking good care of you?” The boss and secretary exchanged glances, the secretary fluttering her eyes briefly, then casting them floorward.
“Y-yes, just fine, sir.”
The executive’s hard smile returned to Keith. “Good. She’s a good girl, my Christie. Takes good care of me, don’t you honey?”
The sophisticated, throaty voice responded quickly. “Yes Sir—I try.” With a blush, Keith noted.
“You may go Christie.” The two men watched the handsome woman take her leave.
“Now,” Klaw was all business, “let’s get acquainted, shall we?”
That they did for the next thirty minutes. It seemed the older and younger man had much in common, including undergraduate experiences at the same Ivy league school and stints in the ROTC programs there. Klaw seemed impressed with Keith’s credentials and his scores on the firm’s aptitude and screening tests. For his part, Keith found he enjoyed the older man’s ease with his own authority. He was neither self-impressed or self-effacing, but a man comfortable with being in command—a man you could have confidence working for.
The two laughed easily over a joke Keith had made in reference to a notorious fraternity at Cornell when Klaw dropped the bomb.
“So, Keith, there’s this matter of your work at Morgan.” Keith tensed up. The guileless expression held no clue as to where he was going with this reference.
“Yes, Sir. I was with Morgan for six months and recently left.”
“Left a year ago.”
Keith swallowed hard. “Well, ah—yes. The break was mutual, but it is true I’ve been, uh... consulting since then.”
“Consulting.” Klaw chuckled, tapping the resume. “A wonderful euphemism for unemployment. What happened at Morgan? Please—the details.”
Keith considered leaving right then and there. He knew from experience what was going to happen. Well... what the hell. “I was accused of sexual harassment. Completely unfounded, but there it is. There’s hardly a defense for that kind of charge in a company run by a woman.”
Klaw’s eyes reflected a profound disgust in disgust. “Joanne Morgan. A terribly annoying woman, wouldn’t you say, Keith?”
Keith started. Maybe the interview wasn’t over. “I’d say so,” he answered. “I brought in over five million in billings in the time I was there. Frankly, another consultant was starting to look bad and that’s where the problem began. When it was clear I was outperforming her, that I should assume more of a management role, she torpedoed me. Claimed I made tasteless jokes—ridiculous stuff like that. But it suited Joanne Morgan just fine to believe her over me, not to mention the HR woman. I was out, she was in and that was that. “Damn...” Keith was a bit surprised at his own anger, after all this time. “...and I had just brought in the Jackson Organization too!”
Klaw nodded gravely. “Yes, we were actually after that business ourselves. The Jackson Organization is a terribly promising scientific concern—helping them re-engineer would have brought equity to our firm and a say in future product development. It was an unpleasant blow to our efforts when you wrested that one away. You see, Cain Consulting is built on alliances with major corporations, alliances that give us a voice in their most strategic planning. A competitor like Morgan & Company, simply after short term profit, muddies the waters.”
Keith shook his head. “I don’t understand, Sir. Isn’t the bottom line the thing?”
“No, it isn’t,” the older man answered. “Power is. The power to affect change. The world is filled with danger to our nation. Cain works closely with certain policy makers to reduce the threat of danger.” Klaw’s blue-gray eyes were tracking Keith’s every change of expression now.
Keith wasn’t stupid. “CIA,” he half whispered to himself. What had he gotten himself into?
Klaw smiled. “Not exactly, but it’s necessary to get into detail. At least not for now. Suffice it to say that, in addition to being a successful business, Cain Consulting is a most patriotic organization. One that is in constant need of a few good men.”
“Or women,” Keith joked, instantly regretting it as Klaw’s smile dissipated.
“Let me tell you, Mr. Hynde... women, like my little Christie out there, are best employed in purely support roles, such as secretaries, stenos or office girls. You won’t find one female executive here at Cain.” Klaw was deadly serious. “Do you have a problem with that philosophy, Mr. Hynde?”
Hynde saw his future job slipping away. “No Sir! Obviously not, Sir!” he exclaimed, anxious to get back on Klaw’s good side.
It worked. Klaw grinned, his lantern jaw relaxing. “I didn’t suppose you did. Tell me, what is your opinion of feminism?”
Like many men, Hynde was ambivalent about feminism. In theory, he had no problem with it; women should have more freedom and, if they can get the job done, more power to them. In practice, however, he did sometimes find it difficult to deal with women executives. And female superiors. However, by now, he knew what was expected of him. “Please don’t insult me, Mr. Klaw. I was just beginning to like you.”
“And I you. Fair enough. Tell me, have you wondered about what you’ve seen at Cain over the last couple of visits?”
“A lot of pretty women being bossed around by a bunch of men—not a bad thing in my humble opinion,” he admitted.
“Wonder how we manage to keep them in line, Mr. Hynde?”
Keith frowned. He had wondered. The last time he had been here, he had seen a male middle manager screaming at a trembling young woman, obviously an intern, about her inappropriate outfit. She had been wearing pants. An hour later, he had spotted her in the hallway on the way out—wearing a miniskirt. How DID they get away with it?
“Yes, Mr. Klaw. Yes, I have, now that you bring it up. Great pay, benefits?”
Klaw’s eyebrows rose in comedic exasperation. “Please! Why, the girls all get minimum wage at base and work their way up. My Christie barely makes seventeen thousand a year—and she’s the most highly paid girl here! No, not pay or benefits.”
He leaned forward momentously: “Conditioning.”
Klaw leaned back, all business again. “What I’m about to tell you remains classified. You are in the Reserves so you realize what that means.”
Hell, yes! He knew. Breaking classified material was a one-way lifetime trip to the bowels of Leavenworth. A thin line of sweat appeared on his upper lip. Tasting his own tongue, he mumbled that he understood.
Klaw began to speak.
“As I mentioned, Cain is a business consulting firm. Not as widely known as others, but more specialized in scientific and defense-related companies—those critical to national defense. Just as it is important to protect our borders, so too is it important to protect our business’s—a task increasingly difficult in an age of globalization. Why steal technology or scientific breakthroughs when you can buy them on the NYSE outright? Cain was founded in 1973 to meet this new challenge.
On the surface, and to be honest 95% of what we do is no more cloak and dagger than what McKinsey or Bain do, is work with companies to achieve their market potential. Sometimes that means acquisition, other times strategic partnering. As you know, it is a competitive field. You need all the advantages you can get.
One of our earliest acquisitions was Mentrix, a firm working on medical imaging technology applied specifically for military applications for use in the Vietnam conflict. It was a subject near and dear to my heart—as I mentioned I was in Vietnam in the mid 60s when that cause was still considered politically correct—” he spat the phrase out venomously—“by the young men and women of this country. The end of the war made further short-term development pointless and the project was put on a back burner. Nevertheless, one by-product of the research was the accidental discovery of the Conditioning Process.
The Conditioning Process was initially overlooked because of its complete lack of effect on males—the primary focus of the research being espionage-related activity. Early experiments, involving male test subjects, failed to reveal any effect whatsoever. Quite by accident a female lab assistant, a grad student, was used as a voluntary subject for the Process when no male was available. She was immediately affected and her mental activity impacted by the Conditioning. The results were noted, the woman de-Conditioned and removed from the project—as were all other female personnel.”
Keith shook his head in disbelief. “I don’t follow. The Conditioning Process? Are you talking about a device of some kind? And what is the effect?”
Klaw tapped his temple. “The mind is the operative device, Mr. Hynde. The male central nervous system unconsciously captures snapshots sent by the female brain which are basically blueprints of their personalities, histories, and proclivities. The Conditioning ability allows males to resubmit these blueprints to their original female owners altered in any way they see fit—all through a vestigial telepathic suggestion ability as old as Neanderthal man.”
“My God—mind control!” Keith gasped.
The older man nodded. “Quite. We lost the collective need for it as women depended on us for protection, then the desire for it as we decided it was better off for the species to have more independent women.
Unfortunately, there are so many chemical inhibitors that the Conditioning ability has only limited applications. First, it only affects females. In that grouping, because it is hormonally-based, it only has an affect on females in the period between their first period and menopause, after which its effects are nullified. Nor does it affect pregnant women, women in the same family, or women conditioned by other males. Likewise, when in use, it makes males temporarily sterile. Still, Conditioning has it’s uses.”
It couldn’t be true. Keith looked over Klaw, perfectly composed in a thousand dollar suit. If he was a nut, he was concealing it magnificently to the rest of the world.
“I wish I could believe you,” he blurted out point-blank, “but I don’t.”
Klaw nodded as if he had expected such a comment a bit sooner. He hit the intercom button on his desk. “Christie, be a doll and join us,” he instructed over the phone, “and bring your purse.”
A moment later, his personal assistant presented herself as ordered. He turned to Keith and smiled. “Christie is a marvel—ever such an efficient girl. A good thing too—my work demands that I have a lass absolutely suited to office work. Which she is. Christie has experience working in very important offices.” He turned to the blonde woman. “Don’t you?”
Christie smiled her bow smile in embarrassed gratitude—more with embarrassment than gratitude. “Yes, Sir.” Then she added humbly, “Please, Sir?” The blue eyes and long nose pointed down after an unpleasant grimace by Klaw.
“Tell Mr. Hynde what office you worked in before I took you on, Christie.”
“The Governor’s Office, Sir.” The cultured voice was reduced to a whisper.
“And what did you do there, Christie?”
“I was the Governor of New Jersey, Sir.” That this was humiliating to the woman in the extreme was clear. That Klaw was enjoying the mortified woman’s admission was obvious. That the woman claiming to be Christine Todd Whitman was who she said she was—that was debatable.
Keith nodded, angry. “Cute, Mr. Klaw. Christie Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey, is your personal secretary. This has been interesting, I can’t say it hasn’t been. Next time you want to jerk someone off, pick out another resume, ok?” He rose to leave.
Klaw was unperturbed. “Christie? The man doesn’t believe you. You’d better show him some proof.”
Reluctantly, the woman reached into her purse and handed him a license. Keith read it. “Christine Todd,” he read in amazement.
“I advised her to get a divorce. I only hire single, unattached girls,” Klaw explained blithely. “Just as I instructed her to have those implants put in and for her to dye her hair that color. Isn’t she sexier as my secretary than she ever was as governor?”
Keith didn’t sit back down. He fell into the chair. Yes, the blushing woman was Christie Todd Whitman. He saw it now—the hair had camouflaged it, as had the bigger breasts. Not to mention the deferent attitude, the sexy walk and her incredible obedience to Klaw.
She had been Conditioned.
Klaw put a possessive hand on his secretary’s pink miniskirted backside, smiled and gave her a playful smack. “She’s a very good office girl,” he repeated. “Does everything she’s told, don’t you Christie?”
“Yes, Sir,” she murmured. She looked very tired now and very aware that her boss had his hand openly on her ass. Keith didn’t notice any anger—just embarrassment at being fondled this publicly.
“Be a pet and give me a massage.” His smile was devastating as he took off his suit jacket.
Her blue eyes seemed ready to fill up with tears. She didn’t exactly shake her head, but the beseeching look was pathetic. “Please?” she begged.
Klaw was having none of it. “Go on, Christie. Or do we need another reminder over my knee of how disobedient secretaries learn to do their boss’s bidding?”
She pursed her lips and shook her head wildly, her eagle-ish eyes dilating. Then, without another word of protest, began, incredibly, to remove her top.
“I like her to strip down to her pretty things when I have her do this,” Klaw explained. “I’ve never had her do this in front of someone other than myself. But she ought to learn sooner or later that she may be told to do so any time I wish.” He looked at his assistant, now stripping quite efficiently down to her panties and bra. “You may begin.” The proud fortyish woman, now more than nude in a pair of expensive pink silk bikini panties and fetching underwired bra, placed herself behind her boss and began to knead his shoulders. She avoided Keith’s stare, her small, thin-lipped mouth tightly clamped as she serviced her superior.
Klaw sighed. “Just the thing, isn’t it? Nothing like having a woman strip at the snap of a finger.”
Keith nodded, in stunned agreement. “How? The Conditioning? Is she in a trance or something?”
Klaw laughed. “No. She’s no zombie, blindly obeying my commands. Not much fun there. Of course some of the less experienced boys handled their first girls that way. Some never move beyond it. Fairly tiresome, though. No, the Conditioning is less a manual override of their brains than a re-setting of the options available to them. Take Christie for example. We met at a business summit in Trenton, held regularly for scores of top echelon decision makers. At that time, a casual encounter gave me the opportunity to catch a prize trophy.”
“Tell me how it works,” Keith demanded, anxious to the point of rudeness. “How you did it?!?”
Klaw took no offense. “Certainly. During my first encounter with our delicious former Governor, I suggested we meet again—a reasonable suggestion, since I was a major contributor to her last campaign. From that point on, over time, she became more... accepting of my suggestions. Even our most successful Conditioners aren’t the Mandrakes who can immediately command a subject to perform ridiculous acts that are antithetical to their basic character. It takes time and real effort.”
“Like making someone bark like a dog or something like that?”
“Exactly. Oh, you CAN make them do things like that. If I wanted to, I could have Christie do things that would make your hair stand on end—pleasurably so. But, on a daily basis, her ability to absorb that kind of manipulation would burn her out fairly quickly. No, better by far to mold over time and use the essential elements in place. Search for the nuances that give a personality its true shape and flavor. Change those gradually and you can effect semi-permanent change in how someone views the world. You see Hr. Hynde, the true artist works with the material he’s given.”
“And how have you specifically done this with... Christie?” Keith felt self-conscious about the almost naked woman some fifteen years his senior, now massaging the amazing Mister Klaw. But it was a sight he was enjoying—especially the way the former Governor’s eyes looked down or away as he surveyed her pert ass, her generous breasts so finely displayed in the pink silk bra.
“Well, first I suggested she indulge in certain indiscretions while in office—ones guaranteed to offend her husband and the voters should they become public. It wasn’t too hard—she had vivid fantasies to work with. I don’t want to get into details—let’s just say Bill Clinton isn’t the only governor who’s gone off the deep end with subordinates while in office. Divorce and a promise not to run again gave her a clean break and the opportunity to disappear.
My,” he paused to gaze at her brassiered breast and she shivered a bit, “suggestions made her invisible unless you are looking hard for her. All that was left was to give her the chance to interview for the position of my personal secretary—one she worked hard to get, I assure you.”
With that, apparently bored with his executive office toy, he leaned forward in his chair. “Back to work, my pet. Go do your nails or something.” The former Republican governor, now redfaced, reached down and pulled on her clothes clumsily and quickly. She smiled limply and scampered out on the room on her high heels. Even now, Keith noted her backside swaying seductively and that her bra strap was peeking out from underneath her blouse.
Klaw noted the errant strap as well. “Christie always leaves my office looking a little flustered, Mr. Hynde. I like having the other girls know she’s been... busy with me. It keeps the former governor from getting a swelled head. Ironically, I liked her policies. But politics is far too serious a matter to allow women a role in. Don’t you think, Mr. Hynde?”
Hynde opened his mouth to answer, but Klaw moved on.
“Now, Keith, I need a man who’s conversant with the Jackson Organization—immediately. We’ve been watching you for a while and I think you’re precisely the man for the job. Given what I’ve told you about the nature of our company, would you be interested in working here at Cain Consulting?”
He did. But he had to ask: “And if I’m not, Mr. Klaw? Then I disappear, don’t I?”
Klaw looked apologetic. “Nothing so dramatic, I assure you. But given your military status, you might be reactivated from the Reserves. Then, who knows what might happen? Do I take it then you’re not interested?” There was a hint of astonishment at the thought.
Keith offered his hand, shaking his head. “Just establishing the ground rules, Mr. Klaw. I’m your man. When do I start? Conditioning, that is.”
Klaw rose, put his jacket back on, and waved toward the door. “Let’s do that right now—a quick procedure really. Like undergoing a dental x-ray. Then I’ll have Petersen begin your training. I’m glad you’re on board—we’ve much to do.”