The Kat Came Back
Marisa spooned some Cheerios into her mouth, and gave Kat a level look. “What does Calliope have planned today?” She asked.
Kat also had a bowl of cereal in front of her, but she paid it no mind. Her eyes were open and glassy, staring at nothing. “I don’t know,” she said in a distant voice.
Kat was deep in the Sapphire Void. Marisa had decided last night to take Kat down there the following morning, to see if Kat’s responses in the Void were any different after a good night’s sleep than before. So far, it seemed like the answer was about the same.
Marisa asked, ”How do you feel about the undercover?”
“We’re going to get her,” Kat said, in the same tone of voice she might use if a stranger asked her for the time.
WE’RE going to get her, Marisa thought. Not I’M going to get her. That’s a good sign. “How deep are you going to go into the dream?”
“Still on the roof,” Kat droned. “String her along.”
”The roof will wake you up,” Marisa said. “Nod your head if you understand.”
Kat’s chin lowered, then rose. Marisa thought she might have been bopping along to a Gregorian chant, then had to cover her mouth to stifle a giggle at the thought. So strange, the times when you could have funny thoughts.
Marisa studied her lover for a few minutes more in silence, having an internal conversation. We’re not fucking this up, right?
Well, she feels good about it.
She felt good about getting Hallam, at first. That didn’t work out so hot.
But it worked out in the end, didn’t it? Be optimistic for once.
Look, if there’s one lesson we learned from The Thing, it’s that we should hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Well, she’s in control of herself. ‘The worst’ doesn’t look to bad.
Marisa sighed, and said, “Up, up, up.”
Kat’s eyes fluttered and blinked. When they were fully open after a second or two, she frowned. “What’d you just say?”
Marisa gave her an innocent look. “Huh?”
”Were you saying something, Ris?”
”Nope,” Marisa said. “Better finish that cereal. You got a long day ahead.”
”Oh, yeah,” Kat said, and began to have her breakfast. “Wow, these get soggy fast.”
Marisa made a non-committal noise.
David Cates stood on the sidewalk on Twenty-Seventh Street, sipping his morning coffee. High-rise buildings loomed all around him, the morning sun already starting to cast long shadows.
On the twelfth floor of the building across the street was the yoga studio where Melanie Pursell was recruiting her marks for the Church of the Divine Passion. Cates had had his eye on this building for the past three days. Today was the payoff.
Cates’ phone vibrated in his jacket pocket. He tapped his earbuds to answer. “David Cates.”
“I got something good for you,” Marisa Ivan said.
Cates thought about ending the call right then and there — politely, of course, this woman was helping him make a career-advancing bust — but as his backup had not yet arrived, he decided to humor her. ”You have more?” he said. “I’m already about to get Melanie Pursell. I’m right outside her building.”
Marisa asked, ”You’re only just getting her today?”
”You sound like my boss,” Cates said dryly.
“It’s just, you said you had her dead to rights days ago,” Marisa said.
“She dropped off the grid,” Cates said. “Probably was at the CDP compound, but I couldn’t follow her. I’d stick out like a sore thumb up there.”
“I have someone you don’t know about yet. Another recruiter for the CDP.”
”Well, I haven’t flipped Melanie yet,” Cates said. “Haven’t even arrested her. So your new thing is going to have to wait.”
”Believe me, you’re gonna want this one,” Marisa said. “She’s got a phony hypnotherapy thing down on the Lower East Side.”
”Being a bad hypnotist isn’t illegal,” Cates said.
“She’s also the big brainwasher for the Church of Divine Passion,” Marisa said. “Handles all of the problem cases.”
”And you can prove this?”
”Kat will be able to prove it. She’s, um, undercover right now.”
Cates sighed, loudly, intentionally, so that Marisa would hear it over the phone and know how frustrated he was. “If you’re not a cop, it’s not ‘undercover.’ You’re just a citizen lying about shit.”
”Kat will be able to give you the whole recruitment chain,” Marisa said. “All of the fraud Pursell is about to give you, Kat will corroborate it.”
”She’s not doing something stupid like going to join the CDP upstate, is she? She could fuck up my investigation by doing that.”
”No, no, she isn’t,” Marisa said. She hoped the quick response did not give away what she was thinking: I sure hope it doesn’t go that far, because we didn’t plan for that. “We’re not that crazy.”
”You’re not that crazy,” Cates said. “I’m not so sure about your business partner, there.”
”The woman calls herself Calliope,” Marisa said, and recited the street address where Kat was sinking into the lounge chair at that very moment. “Pick her up as soon as you can. Kat will be there, she’ll give you everything.”
Hey, you don’t get to tell me who to pick up and when, Cates almost barked into the phone. But at that moment a large black SUV with a flashing siren light in the windshield pulled up in front of him. Cates swallowed his emotion and put on his game face.
”First things first,” he said into the phone. “Time to go to work. I’ll call you back.” Then David Cates broke the connection.
The thing about first things first, Marisa reflected, is that it implies second things will come second. But was Calliope the second thing on Cates’ plate?
She hoped so.
Kat arrived at the door to Calliope’s office. She reached up to knock, but the door opened as her hand was moving forward.
”Katherine!” Calliope gently caught Kat’s knocking hand, guiding it down and forward. “So good to see you. Punctual as always.”
Because you gave me a suggestion, Kat thought. ’Ten o’clock SHARP.’ Then she realized she was three steps into the office, with no memory of having taken them.
”You’re looking so much more comfortable, Katherine,” Calliope said. She maintained eye contact while holding Kat’s hand. Was she holding with one hand or two? “Don’t you feel so much better?”
Kat said, “Much better.”
“I’ll just need a moment,” Calliope said. “Just keep holding my hand.”
Calliope turned away, retrieving her notebook or some such thing from the shelves. Kat had a moment of disorientation, knowing that it was impossible to keep holding the older woman’s hand, but then she felt the gentle touches on her hand, sending her deeper.
Calliope walked over to another shelf, saying, “You’re still holding on to my hand, aren’t you, Katherine?”
”Y-yeah.” Kat’s tongue was leaden. She could still feel the light, ambiguous touches on her palm and knuckles. On some level she knew what was happening to her, but she allowed it to happen anyway. She had internalized that decision days ago. Instead, the thought drifted through her cloudy mind: Gotta remember this induction... to use on Marisa...
“I’m letting go of your hand now, Katherine. It seems your hand is so light, my touch was the only thing stopping it from floating up in front of your face.”
Kat’s hand slowly rose into the air. It was pointed to the side, as though she were about to lift it to her brow and salute a military officer. There was another moment of disorientation, as Kat wanted to be focused on Calliope, but her own hand was in the way. Then Calliope said, “Concentrate on that hand, Katherine.”
The knuckle of the first finger on Kat’s right hand came into sharp focus. There was a small scab from where she had nicked it while slicing a chicken breast. How many days ago had that been? Didn’t matter.
“That’s right,” Calliope said. Was her voice closer? Didn’t matter. “Just completely focused on that hand. You’re almost there.”
Kat no longer asked herself Almost where? when Calliope said this. Didn’t matter.
”And sleep.” One of Calliope’s hands pushed down on Kat’s floating hand; ther other circled around Kat’s head and pulled her close. Forward and down Kat went, forward and down, her knees buckling, knowing on some level that Calliope would catch her and guide her into the lounge chair, knowing this so deeply that there was no need to think about it or anything else.
Kelly Allen finished yet another fast dance, and as the next slow song started, she pushed Jimmy away. “Not now,” she said.
”Come on, Kelly,” Jimmy complained. “I haven’t done a slow dance yet.”
”I need a break,” Kelly said.
”You never need a break!” Jimmy reached out and grabbed her wrist.
”I need a BREAK, I said!” Kelly yanked her arm away from Jimmy, so hard that her wrist corsage went flying. She ignored it, staring down Jimmy with fire in her eyes.
”Fuckin’ fine,” Jimmy said as he turned away.
Kelly went over to the refreshments table and poured herself some punch. It might have been spiked by now, but she didn’t really care. Maybe getting drunk would be worth the trouble she would get into if her parents smelled it on her. Anything to get that fluttering sensation out of the pit of her stomach.
(Somewhere nearby, Calliope Peters was taking notes. Something gnawed at her: the way that ‘Jimmy’ had spoken just now. Did teenagers say fuck like that in the 1950s? She didn’t think so. She thought that had come later, after characters in popular movies started saying it in the 1970s. Sometimes modern details would bleed into a regression trance like that; but other times, it was a signal that the subject wasn’t as deep as Calliope wanted or was trying to come out of it. She made a note of this with “S/N,” which in her shorthand meant maybe something, maybe nothing.)
”Wow,” a voice said very near by. Kelly turned and fell into those green eyes again. She barely smelled the cigarette smoke on the beatnik girl this time.
”What,” Kelly said vaguely. She could not muster the voice inflection to make it into a proper question.
”You were really going for it out there,” the beatnik girl said.
”It’s a dance,” Kelly said. In her mind she was saying the words with insolent sarcasm, but they came out sounding flat. “I was dancing.”
”But you skipped the slow dance,” the beatnik girl said quietly. It should have been difficult to hear her over the music, even for a slow-dance ballad, but it was not. “Again.”
“I needed a break,” Kelly said. She felt like she was speaking only to those green eyes.
”Of course you did. You look tired. You needed rest.”
Boy, did she. Kelly thought that her legs were made of rubber. She couldn’t think of anything to say but, “Who are you?”
Above the brilliant green eyes, one eyebrow cocked wryly. Only then did Kelly realize that her question had been more than a little rude. “I mean...” she started, but needed a moment to think of the right question. Her thoughts moved as molasses does. “What’s your name?”
”Melissa. Melissa Isaacs.”
“Kelly Allen,” she told the eyes.
The green eyes dipped slightly. Maybe Melissa had given a small curtsy. Kelly barely noticed. ”Isn’t it a pleasure to meet you, Kelly?”
“I...” Such an odd thing to say. The other woman hadn’t said, It’s a pleasure to meet you, but it didn’t exactly seem like she was asking a question, either. Finally Kelly murmured, “Charmed.”
The eyes changed slightly, in a pleasant way. Kelly somehow knew that the other girl was smiling. “Yes,” Melissa said. “Yes, I think you are.”
(Somewhere else, Calliope Peters furrowed her brow. She had never worked with such a case before. There had been one young man who she suspected had developed a sexual addiction to being tranced during their time together, and he had gone up to the CDP compound to actually get his rocks off, but no one had ever gotten as turned on as fast as this one had. She wrote hypnosis fetish? in her notes and circled it.)
”I wanna show you something,” the young woman named Melissa Isaacs said. “Come on!”
Kelly started; the other’s voice had suddenly become louder, like the chirp of a cheerleader. She became aware of how long she had been quietly staring into Melissa’s eyes, and felt herself start to blush.
Melissa turned and tried to run to one of the exits, but pulling Kelly along behind her slowed her down at first. Soon, Kelly matched her pace without even thinking. She felt dazed, as though she had been hit in the head with a pillow.
They burst through the gymnasium doors, dodging other students entering and leaving the dance space. Turning right would have taken them to the main parking lot exit, that kids without cars used every day to board the buses to take them home. Instead, Melissa turned left, heading deeper into the school.
Kelly followed on instinct. She did not bother to wonder where they were going. All she took notice of was how warm and soft the other woman’s hand was. What is she doing to me? Kelly asked herself. Never felt like this with any of the boys I danced with...
A left turn and a right turn, and they were among the shop-class rooms, a part of the school Kelly never had cause to visit. Melissa abrupty turned on a dime in the middle of the hallway and barged through a door. Kelly found herself in a dingy-looking stairwell.
”Aren’t the service stairways ... locked?” Not that the answer would have mattered, she supposed, since she was following Melissa up the stairs anyway.
At the first landing, Melissa looked back with a wicked grin. “Don’t worry about it!”
The school building was only two stories, but it seemed like they climbed at least one story more. Kelly’s thighs were starting to burn and her breath was getting short — all of the steps on top of the dancing was more than she was used to. Yet Melissa, who had not danced that night and was a smoker to boot, did not seem affected.
They went through a door at the top of the stairs and were on the roof of the school. The roof sloped away sharply to the left and the right — the building had been a mansion for some Gold Rush millionaire, before it became a school — and the two young women were standing in a walkspace only about two yards wide.
”How ... how are we up here?” Kelly gasped. “The doors are supposed to be locked. It’s the Herlihy Rule.” The titular Herlihy had been a shell-shocked Normandy veteran who had thrown himself off the roof of the school a decade before. Upperclassmen would often tell ghost stories about him to incoming freshmen.
Melissa looked at her. Somehow the eyes seemed even brighter green in the moonlight. “Does it matter?”
”Y-yes,” Kelly managed. She was worried, as much due to the height as the rule-breaking. “We could get into trouble.” But did she really believe that? Looking into the green eyes seemed to make her anxiety melt away with every second.
”’Trouble,’” Melissa said, her tone of voice putting the scare quotes around the word, “is just a thing they use to control us. We’re already adults in the eyes of the law. We have jobs. The kids who are going to college are already gone, in their heads. They have nothing to threaten us with, isn’t that right?”
The cheerleader chirp with which she had said, ‘Come on!’ was gone. Her voice had gotten quieter and softer, until she had said ‘isn’t that right?’ in a near-whisper. Kelly looked into the green eyes and heard herself speak without knowing what she was going to say.
”Yes,” Kelly murmured. “They have ... nothing.”
”I love it up here,” Melissa said. “It’s so calm and peaceful.”
It was indeed. Kelly could hear no fragment of the organized chaos of the dance. An eighteen-wheel truck rumbled past on Highway 15 a quarter-mile away, but she did not notice it. Kelly said nothing, not wanting to disturb the quiet.
”I’m so happy to share this with you,” Melissa near-whispered.
”Me too,” Kelly heard herself say.
”Do you trust me?”
”Yes,” Kelly told the green eyes.
”Look at the door down there,” Melissa said.
She moved around Kelly, until she was standing behind. Kelly was disappointed not to be looking into those green eyes again, but she did as she was bid. She saw a door, maybe a hundred yards away. Probably at the top of another service stairwell on the opposite side of the school. “Okay,” she murmured.
”Do you see the window in the door?”
The small glass square caught the moonlight just enough to distinguish itself from the black metal door. “I see it.”
Melissa put both of her hands on Kelly’s shoulders. Kelly was struck, again, by how warm and soft they were. “In a moment, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes, then open them again. When those eyes open again, imagine that the glass is the color of my eyes. Do you understand?”
”Then close your eyes down. Close those eyes down and let them open back up.”
The sensation was like blinking in slow motion. When the door came back into focus, the glass had changed. Kelly murmured, “Wow.”
”Tell me about the glass. What color is it?”
”Green,” Kelly said. Somehow it was even more soothing than looking into her eyes. “Bright green, like grass after a rainstorm. So beautiful.”
”It feels warm and safe, doesn’t it?”
”Imagine that warm, safe feeling flowing into my hands,” Melissa said. “Wherever that safe feeling was before, it’s flowing into my hands, gathering there, like pools of warm water.”
Now the brilliant green was in Kelly’s eyes and her shoulders, gathering on both sides, like a shawl wrapped around her head, keeping her warm. She said nothing; no question had been asked of her, and it was so peaceful to remain quiet.
”Feel yourself being pulled toward my hands,” Melissa said. “Feel yourself drawn deeper and deeper into the warm green.”
The hands were gone from her shoulders then, but somehow Kelly knew that they had not moved far. She swayed backward, each inch leaving her sure the hands were just another inch away, another inch, another inch. There was just the briefest moment of vertigo, where her balance seemed to be on a knife’s edge, and perhaps in another time she might have been afraid of the forty-foot drop that was a yard away on either side. But before the fear could become a real thing, arms were under her armpits, pulling her back into a green embrace as Melissa said, “Sleep.”
Kelly closed her eyes, the colors behind her eyelids a warm and friendly green, as she went down and down and down. It was that moment in bed with the light off and your eyes closed, but somehow persistent; she never actually went to sleep, but simply floated in that about-to-drift-off place as Melissa lowered her limp body to the ground.
Melissa said cross-legged with Kelly’s head pillowed on her calves. She placed the tips of her index fingers on the soft flesh of the temples and traced small, almost imperceptible circles. “That’s right,” she said. “Sinking deeper and deeper as you listen to my voice. I’d like to ask you some questions, Kelly. It would be so relaxing to answer my questions, wouldn’t it?”
”How do I make you feel, Kelly?”
”I don’t know,” Kelly murmured. God, that sensation on her temples was so nice. “When I look into your eyes...”
She trailed off, her breathing slow and shallow. Melissa’s patience was infinite. “How do you my eyes make you feel, Kelly?”
”Perfect,” Kelly said, the word coming out like a sigh of contentment.
”Do you love me, Kelly?”
”I...” Kelly’s brow furrowed. “I told my mother I’m going to move to San Francisco and marry a lawyer.”
Melissa, who knew a fair bit more about downtown San Francisco than Kelly seemed to, smiled. ”Your mother doesn’t get to make that decision for you, does she?”
”Your mother doesn’t know your deepest heart, does she?”
”What would happen if you went to your mother and told her that you loved me?”
The brow furrowed again. “T-trouble.”
Melissa’s fingers never stoped tracing those gentle, gentle circles. “Trouble is just a thing they use to control you,” she said. “You know this.”
Kelly knew. The words were warm and familiar, said by someone who cared. “Yes.”
”They’ve been putting you to sleep, Kelly,” Melissa whispered. “The parents and the teachers and the football players and their girlfriends. Day after day after day, whispering about trouble and how you could avoid it. Now, as you sleep for me, you know that this is what they have been doing to you. You know this.”
Kelly did not precisely remember their conversation about The Crucible from earlier that night, but some part of her knew that this had been a topic of that conversation. “Yes.”
”The difference, Kelly,” Melissa said softly, “the difference is that I want you to be awake. I’ve brought you into this deep, comfortable sleep so that you can understand what it means to be fully awake. Do you understand?”
”I...” Kelly’s mind was cloudy. The wonderful green sensation enveloped her, but outside of that... what? “I’m asleep.”
”Yes, Kelly. But in a moment, I’m going to count to three, and on three, you will be fully awake. All of the things they’ve been saying to keep you asleep will be gone from your mind. You will be wide awake and ready to tell me how you feel in your deepest heart. One, two, three.”
Kat opened her eyes. She knew that she was in Calliope’s basement office, but it seemed wrong somehow. “Whoa,” she murmured.
”You’re awake, Katherine.” Calliope’s voice floated across the room, from somewhere to the side and behind Kat. The words were a statement, not a question, but Kat answered her anyway.
“Yeah,” Kat muttered. It required unusual effort to rub her eyes. I think I woke myself up? I don’t remember her doing it.
After rubbing her eyes, Kat realized what had seemed wrong about the room: the light had completely changed. Her last clear memory was of morning, but this was the afternoon. Or evening, perhaps. “What time is it?”
“Dinner time,” Calliope said. Kat could hear in her voice that the other woman was smiling, but she did not look over. Craning her neck in that way would have been too much work. “I imagine we’re both quite hungry. We went straight through lunch.”
If Kat had looked over, she would have seen Calliope’s mouth set in a grim line. The older woman was frustrated. Getting Kat to move forward in the story of the dream was like pulling teeth. Previously there had been three days in a row where Kat had awakened during the dance to jill herself off to the thought of those green eyes; now two days in a row where waking up from a trance in the dream had awoken her in real life. Calliope had never had a subject so stubborn about waking up whenever they felt like it.
Kat tried to think of an in-character thing to say. It was getting tougher. The first session, she had stayed in character both in trance and awake, but now she had to search for the right question. She landed on, “Is this hypnosis, um, dangerous? That did not feel like five or six hours passed, you know, in my head.”
”Well, the interesting thing to me was how much hypnosis imagery was in your dream,” Calliope said. “Our dreams often fall back on pop culture as a frame of reference. Have you struggled with a lack of control in your relationships recently?”
For a moment, Kat felt like she should just tell Calliope everything. What the hell, she thought. It was only when her voice of reason spoke up, sounding just like Marisa, that she caught herself: No, that’s a terrible idea!
Still, she had to tell half the truth, or Calliope might think her hesitation was caused by coming up with a lie. “I knew a man who was ... very controlling,” she said, looking at the floor.
“But you felt that you had to be with him, that it was required,” Calliope said.
”I suppose,” Kat said. The fact that he was trying to brainwash me sure had something to do with it.
”Your past life may have been trying to offer you guidance,” Calliope said. “Using the imagery of hypnosis to tell you that it’s all right to submit to someone. But it has to be someone who cares deeply about your well-being.”
Kat was nodding along to this analysis before she had the vague realization that her original question (Is this hypnosis dangerous?) had gone completely unanswered. “And it has to be a woman, maybe,” she said, thinking of Marisa’s green eyes.
“Sure, maybe,” Calliope said. “But not necessarily. We’re getting more and more movies and TV shows that present the universality of love regardless of the genders of the characters involved. You might have seen one of these, and are applying its lessons to the man who tried to control you.”
Kat said nothing, thinking, I guess my cover identity is straight? Or maybe bisexual. This is getting too complicated.
”But we need to go deeper still,” Calliope said. “You woke yourself up again. We need to go so deep that you can uncover the truth.”
“You mean another session?” She hasn’t tried twice in one day yet, Kat thought. I guess that’s probably the next step.
”Katherine, a friend of mine runs a sort of retreat at a church upstate,” Calliope said. “They do a number of different therapies, taking advantage of their remoteness to remove you from your daily routine and hit your mental reset button.”
Kat was listening to this so intently that it took her a moment to understand what was being pitched. She wants me to go to the Church! This is the whole deal here, kid. Focus.
”You mean, like ... more hypnosis?” Kat hoped her performance was convincing. She knew she wasn’t over-acting; she was too drained, physically and mentally, from the lengthy trance.
“Not exactly,” Calliope said. Kat wondered if that phrase had been carefully chosen to avoid legal trouble. “They do work therapies, meditation, all sorts of things.”
The phrase work therapies caused Kat to become more alert, shaking off the grogginess. That was the essence of Cates’ case against the CDP: the work was essentially slave labor, as it was unpaid and the Church made it so difficult to leave. “Work therapy? I’ve never heard of that.”
”We’ll look into it tomorrow,” Calliope said. “You’re too groggy for today.”
Kat finally managed to crane her neck to look over at Calliope. “No, I’m okay. I think I can keep going. I have the time.”
“Well...” Calliope seemed doubtful, but Kat thought otherwise. She thought Calliope was trying to string her along, the same way she was trying to string Calliope along. “We probably can’t introduce the whole idea today.”
“Then how many more sessions will it be, do you think? It’s been...” Kat realized, vaguely, that she had lost count of the date. How long had it been, since her planning session with Marisa? “...a few days. After a while, the money adds up.”
“But you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep, can you?” Calliope was taking a large brass bowl down from a shelf.
”And once you have explored your dream to its deepest, then you’ll be able to sleep peacefully, won’t you?”
Kat’s eyes drooped. She no longer noticed the covert suggestions in the same way she had on the first day. “Yes.”
Calliope began running a wooden handle around the edge of the bowl. It produced a low, metallic tone, like the background music in an indie horror film. “Katherine, this is a Himalayan prayer bowl,” she said. “They’re made specifically to produce this sound in this way.”
”That’s ... interesting,” Kat murmured. She had heard of trance being induced with prayer bowls, but had never done it or seen it done. She knew that was coming next, and could already feel it in her eyelids.
”The sound is so powerful, isn’t it? Some people say they can feel it on their skin. Like a massage, just causing every bit of tension in the muscles to evaporate.”
Kat could not keep her eyes open, and her head was beginning to nod. “Uh-huh.”
The bowl’s low ring filled the room for a minute or so, with no other sounds. Once Kat could no longer open her eyes and her head lolled back onto the lounge chair, Calliope said, “Tell me about her eyes, Katherine.”
She did not have to specify whose eyes. They were the same eyes in the real world as the dream, anyway. “God, they’re so green,” Kat muttered. “People say they have green eyes but they don’t really look green. But hers...”
”How green are they, Katherine?”
”Like the grass at the White House,” Kat said. The words came out of her slowly, almost like a moan. “Like an Expressionist painting.”
”Listen to the sound of the bowl, Katherine,” Calliope said. “That sound is the sound of green. As the sounds wash over you, it becomes so easy to get lost in the green.”
”Yes,” Kat said. Now there was no question that she was moaning.
”When I strike the bowl, the sound will change,” Calliope said. “And when the sound changes, the green will penetrate you. The green will slip into you like a gentle lover, and you will feel everything that you wish you could feel in the dream. Nod your head if you understand.”
Kat’s nod in that moment was more vigorous than anything she had ever done in trance in her life. The green was all over her, fingers flicking her nipples and hands caressing her calves at the same time, mouths kissing her lips while simultaneously nibbling at her earlobes.
Calliope tapped the rim of the bowl with the handle. A low sound gonged through the room, an old clock hitting the hour on a sleepy afternoon.
”Oh my god!” Kat came with more force than she had done since before The Thing. Hallam had caused her to orgasm with his brainwashing, and it had been powerful. Here she saw only Marisa’s eyes, felt only her touch, and knew on some level that this orgasm was coming from a place that The Thing could never touch.
By Calliope’s reckoning, Kat bucked and shuddered on the lounge chair for more than two minutes. Two minutes is a much longer time than it seems like it would be when one says two minutes out loud. Finally Calliope said, “How are you feeling, Katherine?”
Kat swallowed, hard. On top of all the effects of trance, her tongue had gotten quite dry. “Glowing,” she managed to say at last. “Green glow...”
”That’s wonderful, Katherine. But you have made rather a mess on the chair.”
”Uh...” Kat had never said such a thing to someone in trance, nor had it said to her, in her life. She was nonplussed, and just wanted to relax.
“It would be so relaxing to clean up the chair, wouldn’t it, Katherine?”
Eyes closed, limp in the chair, Kat beamed. “Oh, yes,” she said.
“Excellent,” Calliope said. “Let me tell you how to do that.”
Kat was so deeply relaxed that it took her some time to get moving, but mentally she took to the work therapy like a fish to water. Within a half hour, she was on her hands and knees before the chair, scrubbing away with a sponge.
”On each downward stroke, the eyes close,” Colleen Peters said for the third or fourth time. As the sponge moved down, Kat’s eyes did not merely close; her entire body sagged. At the bottom of the stroke, Kat’s arms barely supported her, and her forehead nearly touched the floor. After a second or two, Kat opened her eyes again, picked herself up, and resumed with the next scrub.
At this rate, covering the entire chair would take a while. Calliope turned and went through the beaded curtain, to check her purse in the next room.
Her phone’s lock screen was lit up with message notifications. Phone messages, texts, Instagram DMs, too many different forms of contact to show on one screen.
”Shit,” Calliope muttered, swiping and tapping at the screen. A crisis must have happened with the Church, a high-level defector or something like that.
She checked her texts first; that was how the highest-level people in the CDP communicated. The earliest text was from Melanie Pursell.
The number was a warning, police are at right at my door, and the only Stacy the Church had ever had was Stacy Kellner. The other messages were all just variants on OMG Melanie got arrested today!!!
Calliope frowned. Stacy Kellner would have been a great get for the Church; play her correctly and the CDP could have ended up with its own cable TV show. But she had also been resistant to the spiritual fundamentals of the Church, meaning that she would have to be conditioned with work therapy, except that Stacy’s high-society-brat upbringing had left her cold to physical labor. Calliope had estimated that it would take more than a year at the compound to get Stacy properly dedicated to the CDP, and during that entire time she would be a risk to leave.
Even though they did end up getting some money out of her over the course of a few months, Stacy should never have been brought out to the compound, and that was Melanie’s fuckup. As far as Colleen was concerned, Melanie getting arrested was good riddance. Melanie had struck her as the sketchy type who might have gotten on the wrong side of the law before; the arrest might not even be related to the Church.
And yet, a new client. Willing to show up every day for five days in a row. Concurrent with a police raid.
”No way,” Calliope whispered aloud. If she were in the cops’ sights, they would have picked her up at the same time as Melanie. Couldn’t risk one of them tipping off the other.
And yet, the weird fetish behavior in the trance. The S/N in her notes.
”Not possible,” she whispered. This one was not acting. Not even Meryl Streep could simulate the physical indicators of trance that she had shown, from the fluttering eyelids to the limp, heavy limbs. Plus, an undercover would not have even known what to fake; in her experience, cops were stubborn-assed types who tended to think hypnosis was fake.
Calliope turned and passed through the beaded curtain. She watched Kat make the final scrub at the foot of the lounge chair, after which her arms buckled and she flopped to the floor, on her side, with a soft thump.
Calliope stared at the limp body lying there for a full minute. No one could fake this. But it wouldn’t hurt to be safe.
”Feeling so wonderful, Katherine,” she cooed. “I have so many more chores that can make you feel so wonderful.”