The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Quest for Tamsin.

Six. Strange Fruit

She heard a gong. Deep and portentous, the sound swam down down down through the water toward her, so slowly she could almost see the waves that carried it. It tormented her; it called her up to the surface—through layers of azure and green and toward the world above of white and yellow, of light and sound, until she came up gasping for breath and found herself stretched out on the white sectional sofa in the living room of her house (or her husband Travis’s family house, or, as she called it to herself, The House, or The House on the Hill).

She was Bobbie Joe McDonald. This was not her beautiful house. Or was it?. The room was in shadow, lit only by the 55″ LED screen and a small lamp in the corner. The TV was playing a nature special about sharks. The screen showed them tearing into a school of fish, bubble rising all around them.

The gong sounded again, sounding much less dramatic this time. It was the front doorbell.

Why had it sounded so terrifying, so unworldly, when she heard it in her dream? Or had she been dreaming? For that matter, was she dreaming now? When had the doorbell ever rung before?

She was being silly. Of course the doorbell had rung before. Family and friends came to visit. They rang the doorbell. They brought news, they shared joys and sorrows the way family does.

Didn’t they?

Surely sometimes they did, though at the moment she could not remember who they were or when they came.

The doorbell rang again.

She should answer. There was no one else to do it. Travis would be up in his second-floor “study” (read mancave) watching golf or Premier League soccer on his own 55″ LED TV, and the servants were gone. He couldn’t hear doorbell; he never did.

For that matter, what time was it? It was pitch dark outside. Perhaps it would be safer not to answer. Perhaps she could sleep again…sleep…

GONG! Just as she was slipping back under the waves, the sound became louder, more urgent. Maybe it was important.

Maybe something had happened. That thought, surprisingly, did not scare her; instead, she was intrigued by the notion of things happening. How often did happenings happen? Had anything happened in the past five years, since Travis’s father had died, leaving them the House? Did anything ever happen in this House?


Fine. Fine! She would get up. She pushed herself to her feet, remembering how easily she did that when she had been the captain of the Puységur Falls Varsity Dance Team. She was older now, but she didn’t feel heavier. If anything, the reverse, so light that she could spring up from the ground and into the air, above the clouds… .


Her mind tumbled back to earth. The gong was not going away. She had to answer it.

It seemed like a long way to the front door. She looked through the peephole and saw an unfamiliar form—an old woman who looked like some kind of road company Calamity Jane, just off the trail, rode hard, as the country music song went, and put up wet.

Don’t answer it! A voice shrilled in her head. But her hand moved inexorably toward the doorknob, as if detached from the rest of her, and pulled the door open.


“Miss,” the old woman. “Miss, please help me. My car—it broke down—I need—I need… help?”

“Stay there,” Bobby Joe said. “I’ll call for help.” She started to close the door, to keep the stranger waiting outside while she summoned the police. That’s what the police “bite out of crime” announcements said she should do.

But before it closed, the old woman collapsed inside and fell to the floor.

Cursing, near tears, Bobby Joe checked for a pulse. She was breathing; her heart was beating; she saw no wounds, no blood. She seemed to be asleep.

Bobby Joe touched her face. Her eyes fluttered, then opened; she reached up with one hand and touched Bobby Joe’s face lightly. “Nice girl,” she said. “Nice girl. Taking care of Tommie.”

“I’ll call the paramedics,” Bobbie Joe, but as she turned the old woman clasped her blouse by the collar.

“No, dearie, no, I’ll be all right. I just need—I just need a glass of water.”

On an odd sudden impulse, Bobbie Joe said, “Would you like some coffee, too?”

“Oh, bless you, dearie. I would love coffee. Cream and sugar, please. But water first.”

Bobbie Joe went back to the kitchen, slipped a coffee pod into the Keurig and brewed a cup of dark-roast Colombian coffee. She dosed it with milk and sugar, then carried it back to the hall. The old lady, seemingly quite recovered, was sitting on the floor with her legs tucked under her. “Bless you,” she said again, taking the coffee.

“Wait that’s ho—” Bobbie Joe began, but the woman (had she called herself “Tommie”?) drank half of the steaming liquid down as if it were ginger ale.

“What? Oh, my god—” Bobbie Joe said, expecting her to scream in pain. But the old woman broke into a merry laugh. It was, Bobbie Joe thought, the first time she had ever heard anyone in real life actually say, “Hee hee!” The old woman drank the rest just as fast and said, “Don’t worry, dearie, on the trail you get used to drinking hot drinks right down. My old gullet is made of cast iron, I think.”

Relieved that Tommie was not doubled over in pain, Bobbie Joe turned back to the kitchen, where the wall phone was. “I’ll call the paramedics.”

“Oh, no,” Tommie said. “I’m going to be fine in a moment and I’ll be on my way.”

“You can’t just walk away,” Bobbie Joe said. “It’s late—you were hurt—”

“Not hurt, dearie, just …. hungry. You don’t have something like … a ham sandwich, do you?”

“Ham?” Bobbie Joe gagged a little. She couldn’t remember having hog meat in the House in years—ever, maybe. “I have some . . . goat cheese…?” Her head was swimming. This woman should be on her way to the hospital now—or to jail—instead of ordering a sandwich. But something stopped her from calling the cops. Her voice—it echoed in her mind as if she had been hearing it all her life, as if it were the voice of someone she knew—she couldn’t quite break free of the sound. Feeling as if she was slipping back beneath the waves, she glided to the kitchen, sliced tomatoes and a pickle, then put them between two slices of flatbed with a layer of chevre.

“Oh, bless you again, bless you again, darling lady,” Tommie said. She took the cheese sandwich in her hands and—wolfed it down, eating as if she had been lost and starving for days. “Oh, that’s good. That’s good. You’ve brought me back to life. I’ll be on my way.”

Now as nimble as a cat, the old woman—who’d seemed half dead a few minutes ago—sprang to her feet and turned toward the door. Bobbie Joe watched in gaping amazement. But as she reached the door, the old woman turned back to her. “Here, dearie,” she said. She reached into her rucksack and pulled out an apple. “Take this. I grew it myself.”

She pushed the apple into Bobbie Joe’s hand. It almost burned her skin. What was going on? Tommie had been starving a moment ago—now she had this apple. It was a beautiful apple, one of the plumpest and shiniest Bobbie Joe had ever seen—it seemed not just to shimmer from the light from to glow from within itself, and Bobbie Joe found herself imagining the juice under the skin, how it would taste.

“Look at it, darling,” the old woman said, her voice now sounding lower, more confident—more familiar—“It’s just for you, I grew it myself—not one of your new type industrial apples, this is old-style, from out West—just take a bite, dearie—”

WHAT WAS SHE DOING? Her hand brought the apple closer and close to her mouth. DON’T EAT IT! said a voice in her head. DON’T—Her teeth broke the skin and the juice flooded her mouth and my God! Was it the best apple she had ever tasted, the taste was so rich, she felt its sweetness rushing down into her throat, into her stomach, into her limbs, it was so rich it was as if it that sweetness was closing over her head, she was sinking back under the ocean, azure and yellow and blue …

Sometime later she came back to herself. She’d been in the hall but now she was on the sectional sofa again. The screen was blank; the sharks had silently swum away.

“Feeling better, dearie?” said a familiar voice.

A very familiar voice. “Tommie?”

“Over here,” said the voice.

She pushed herself up on one elbow and squinted at the face beaming at her from the beanbag chair across the room. “Tom—Tomm—Oh, my God, is it—Tamsin, is it really you?”

“In the flesh, Bobbie Joe, dearest,” said her long-lost red-headed girlfriend.

And then she winked.

Bobbie Joe, head reeling, thought for a moment about what this meant—the reappearance of her long-lost…love? Yes, her long-lost love, whom she had banished from her life and without quite meaning to from the universe of everyday life—she was now sitting before her looking barely older than she had 15 years ago—looking—looking—

Looking sexy as hell. Bobbie Joe suddenly remembered how it had felt to be with Tamsin when she was a teenage lesbian—how the redhead had sounded, smelled, felt—

Oh, God, how she had …


“Tamsin,” Bobbie Joe began, not know what came next but thinking it was important. “Tamsin,” she began again.

“Yes, Bobbie Joe?” Her tone was not unfriendly, exactly, but it was direct and a bit skeptical. Bobbie Joe felt she should explain.

“Tamsin—I—want to say—”

“BJ!” said another voice, a loud male voice. “BJ! Where are my damned golf clubs?”

Into the room stumbled Travis McDonald, wearing a bathrobe, boxer shorts, and a tattered MIZZOU FOOTBALL tee-shirt. What was Travis doing here? Did Travis LIVE here? Was he—her HUSBAND? She had a husband? She was married? To a … man? Really?

“They’re in the closet by the patio door,” she heard herself say. How did she even know that? “That’s where they always are, Trav.”

“Ok, whatever,” he said, and turned to go—then he paused and turned around. “Wait, is that—Tabitha?”

“Tamsin,” Tamsin said in a level voice.

“Tammy, yeh, right. Where you been? You and BJ were like asshole buddies and then you kinda dropped out of sight. Like, wasn’t there something on UNSUNG MYSTERIES or something like that?”

“Long story,” Tamsin said.

“I need my clubs to play tomorrow,” he explained to no one who had asked. “Do we have any beer? I’m gonna order some pizza and wings. Some reason I am fucking starving.” He shambled out of the room.

“Bobbie Joe,” Tamsin said. “You had something you were about to say.”

“Yes, well,” Bobbie Joe began. “I guess I—” Then something Travis had said hit home. “Tamsin, did he say ‘pizza’?”

“Yes, he did. That’s what the man said.”

“Goddamn, I’m hungry. Do you think there’s a place that delivers?”

After a moment, Tamsin broke into a smile that made Bobbie Joe’s heart flutter, a smile she remembered well—so full of mischief and affection, irony and good will, self-satisfaction and desperation all at once. No one else—God knows not Travis—had ever made her feel like that with one twitch of her lips—what was Tamsin doing here? Why wasn’t she with Tamsin? What had she done to Tamsin? What had she done to Travis, for that matter? To herself?

“I doubt there’s pizza delivery here this time of night, baby cake,” Tamsin said. “How about we head down to Trilby’s for some real food?”

“Trilby’s?” Suddenly her mouth was watering like Puységur Galls as she remembered teen-aged late night feasts of cheese fries and chicken and waffles and huge puffy omelets and patty melts. “Trilby’s is still there?”

“Yes, sugar babe, it never went anywhere. All we need is a way to get there.”

“Trav?” Bobbie Joe shouted at once—her own voice seemed unfamiliar to her and to the walls, as if she had never spoken at that volume here, in this place. “Trav, Tamsin and I are heading out for a while. We’re taking the Durango.”

“Whatevs, babe,” came Travis’s voice. He seemed to be talking on the telephone. “What do you mean too late? I’ll give your $100 for a large pepperoni and a case of PBR—Hello? Hello?”

“By the way,” Tamsin said to Bobbie Joe. “We need enough room for four. I have a couple of friends waiting outside.”

Half an hour later, Bobbie Joe was in a booth in Trilby’s shoveling chicken and waffles into her mouth as fast as she could. It had been a long time since she had felt hunger, true hunger—and she had never felt quite as hungry as she did right then, as if she had been starving for weeks, months, or even years.

Joan had taken one look at her old friends and closed the diner to devote the kitchen entirely to feeding Bobbie Joe. Now Bobbie Joe was trying to talk and eat at the same time, producing a disjointed narrative of the gradual contraction of her marriage and her life until she had felt as if she were living in an airless, silent box, stooped and cramped and locked away from the outside world. Tamsin was sitting next to her in the booth, regarding her old lover with rapt attention mixed with a certain wariness. Bobbie Joe was sneaking looks back, seemingly mixing amazement and terror. She finished the waffle but immediately pointed at Joan’s Double Trilby Burger and said, “are you going to finish that?”

“Joan,” Tamsin said. “Can I steal a cigarette?” She took one from the pack and let herself out the front door.

After a moment, Elle followed her. The redhead was leaning against a column, smoking and directing a distinctly moody gaze at the gibbous moon hovering about the treeline.

“You just came back to life and the first thing you do is smoke?” Elle said with a raised eyebrow.

“Baba Yaga’s is strictly no smoking, Elle. It’s not a rule—it’s that matches actually won’t work there. For fifteen years I could only smoke if I turned into Tommie and came back into this world,” Tamsin said. “I couldn’t do it that often and mostly it wasn’t worth it. Anyway, you smoke too.”

“You’ve been away a long time, Tamsin. I haven’t had a cigarette since my freshman year in college.”

“Really? You just … quit? Cold turkey? That would drive me crazy, I think.”

“Maybe. You can substitute other things, you know—not other drugs, other thoughts, other feelings, to satisfy your craving for a cigarette. I was in Psych 101 when I trained myself to quit.”

“Really? You really did the shrink thing, didn’t you, doll? And you shrank yourself out of smoking?”

“Yes—I just looked around and saw, really saw, the world—how many there are in the world without cigarettes and I trained my mind to think of those things when I thought about smoking.”

“‘Things in the world’? What does that even mean, Ellie?”

“Tamsin, you told me you were trapped in that Baba Yaga house most of the time for fifteen years—that’s a pretty small world. Didn’t you ever try to remember the things you’d left behind?”

“Yes, of course—I would try to bring up my memories of my parents’ house, or of Puységur High, or of the falls and the river, or even of the night sky.”

“The sky full of sights like that moon up there?”

Tamsin looked up and smiled. “Yes, I didn’t see the moon from year to year. I used to remember the face—there is no face, but we all imagine there is one, each one our own version of the face—”

“Oh, Tamsin, don’t take away my illusions like that! There is a face on the moon, it’s the face of a girlfriend, I see her face every time the moon gets close to full—I can look at her for hours at a time when I have something to think through, she’s like a friend I know so well I don’t even need to speak to—look, can you see the eyes over there—they always look a little puzzled to me, as if she can’t really believe what’s going on on earth—and there’s her mouth, it’s kind of drawn up in a little pout, as if she’s trying not to laugh, and then sometimes I can see other features, maybe those are bangs falling across her face, but other times I can’t see them because she shines too bright, like a friend who is happy, or who’s fallen in love, who lights up everything beneath her, people see her from all over the world—from mountain tops, in cities, or in ships all alone at sea where the light makes a path on the water that looks so bright and solid that you think you could really walk on it, over the water and into the sky, up and up, above the earth, floating in orbit, reflecting her light, in a place where it’s quiet and warm and there’s nothing to worry about, no need to plan or think and you can just float forever if you want. Float there, Tamsin, as you answer my questions. You know you can tell me your secrets because I was a psychology major, do you understand? Nod.”

Without looking away from the moon, the little redhead nodded.

“Good girl,” Elle said. “Now tell Elle why you’re out here when the love of your life is in there.”

Tamsin spoke clearly, slowly, in an even tone without any hint her usual undertone of irony. “Elle, I spent 15 years in… nowhere…nowhere at all…thinking of one thing…always thinking of one thing… Bobbie Joe…she was all I thought of, she was all I wanted, she was my best friend and she was my lover, and she left me behind, she was the world I couldn’t live in any more, she was the life I would never have, she was the love I didn’t deserve, and if she would take me back I would be complete and if not I would live my whole life—years, decades, hundreds of years maybe in that strange witchy unreal space—never again feeling whole, or happy, or good…”

“And now she’s back.”

“Is she?” said Tamsin, her face still turned to the moon. “What if—what if she doesn’t want me anyway? What if she’s not who I imagined? What if I’m not what she remembers? What if I never was who she wanted? What if I don’t even know how to be whole anymore? What if I never was whole and I just imagined that she loved me? What if this is the end of my story and it’s not a happy ending?”

Elle put a hand on her friend’s shoulder and bent down to whisper in her ear. “Tamsin, listen carefully. In a few minutes I am going to snap my fingers, and when I do you are going inside and you are going to … sweep Bobbie Joe into your arms. Bobbie Joe is your true love. There is nothing to stand between you and her and you are going to take joy in that moment because whatever comes next is a thousand miles away and all you have, all you need is this moment to hold her and treasure her and liveca happy story whatever comes. Nod your head if you understand. Good girl. Now listen. Give me your hand, that’s right.” Elle took Tamsin’s hand and placed it firmly against the column that held up the portico. “Feel your hand there against the column. Feel the column. Feel that your hand and the column are becoming the same thing, you are the column, the column is you, you can’t pull your hand away, it is stuck to the column, go ahead and try.”

Listlessly Tamsin tried to move her hand and discovered that it was fixed in place. The fact didn’t seem to make much impression on her; she was still gazing at the moon, seemingly unable to look away.

“Now, Tamsin, in a minute I will say wake up, and you will look away from the moon and feel wide awake, totally clear—but here’s a funny thing; your hand will still be stuck to the column until I snap my fingers, and as long as it is stuck there you will listen to everything I tell you and you will believe and obey because every word I say is the truth, do you understand?”


“Good. Now wake up.”

Tamsin looked down from the moon and blinked. “What—what happened?” She turned to face Elle and then suddenly turned back, a puzzled look on her face. “What the hell—” She struggled, and failed, to free her hand. “Ellie, God damn it, what did you do to me?”

“Shh, darling, don’t fight it. I hypnotized you, of course. I can hypnotize you any time I want and because I say so, you feel grateful and happy that I can. You’re hypnotized still and you will do whatever I tell you and think whatever I tell you and feel whatever I tell you and believe whatever I tell you. You and I need to have a little talk before you go back inside. I want to know why you cast that spell on Louis and me and had us mating on the cabin floor like lab rats. That was very wrong! You were always a jokester—was it just your idea of a laugh?”

“No, Ellie, of course not! I am sorry I had to do this but my only chance at freeing Bobbie Joe was to cast a very powerful spell, to make a magic potion—and to make the potion work, to give the apple its power, I had to have the hair of two true lovers, and I needed to know—I needed to know you and the Incredible Hunk there really were true lovers, I needed to see and hear you together because if you weren’t—if you were just playing at love—then the spell would be loose and it would be very dangerous. That’s why I called you with your mind from your house that night, I planted the idea of camping here and sent you on your adventures to find me. I’m—I’m sorry, I guess—not sorry that I am free, but I wish there had been some other—”

“Hush, sweetie,” Elle said, laying a finger across Tamsin’s lips. “I get it. I thought it was something like that but I needed to hear you say it. I forgive you. But I am going to tell you some things that are very important, and they are true because I say them. And you’re not going anywhere until you hear them, understand?”

“Yes, Elle,” Tamsin said.

“Good Tamsin, wise Tamsin, clever Tamsin,” Elle said. “The first thing you are going to learn right now is that you will never—ever—put any kind of spell on me or Louis again, in fact you will never even think of putting a spell on either of us, that idea is drifting away to the moon and you will never see it again, it’s gone now, am I right?”

“Yes, Elle.”

“Good girl, get used to saying that, because the next thing you need to learn is that my name is ‘Elle,’ not ‘Ellie.’ And you know now that I am your alpha, I am boss bitch around here and you will obey me and follow me and you will never think of defying me, or tricking me, or going behind my back. You and I are pack mates and I am the leader of your pack, do you understand?”

“Yes, Elle.”

“Good girl. Now the next thing you need to learn is that you enjoy being hypnotized, you love the way it feels, it feels so natural to follow any suggestion I give you, when you see me or hear my voice you immediately hope I will hypnotize you because you have dreamed of a woman who could take control of you and show you your own best interest, and so whenever I look into your eyes and snap my fingers you will want me to tell you to go to sleep and when I snap my fingers you will at once return to the deep place of relaxation and obedience I send you to ready to obey my every suggestion in deep hypnosis, do you understand?”

“Yes, Elle.”

“Good. Now the last thing you need to learn is my husband’s name. His name is not ‘Man Candy’ or ‘Calendar Boy’ or ‘Dreamsicle,’ it is ‘Louis’ and from now on you will call him ‘Louis’ and you will never flirt with him or even think about him as a man, he is my property and you would never dream of even fantasizing about your alpha’s mate or trying to attract his interest. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Elle.”

“Good. In a moment I will snap my fingers and your hand will come loose. And when it does, all memory of our little conversation will drift out of your mind the way the moon sets behind the mountains until everything is dark, just easily and naturally, andl there will be no memory, only darkness and silence and stars. But my suggestions will sink in deeper and deeper and take hold and become part of who you are and you will never question them because you know they are for your own good and obeying me makes you happier and healthier. Now I am going to snap my fingers. When I do—Go. Get. The. Love. Of. Your. Life.”

Elle snapped her fingers. Tamsin started, then shook her head as if dispelling a daydream. “Oh—I spaced out there for a minute. Ellie, listen, do you mind—is it okay—if I go back inside—I kinda have to talk to Bobbie Joe right now, if that’s all right?”

“Yes, sweetie, that’s fine. Go!”

Tamsin was almost running by the time she got to the door. Elle followed at a more leisurely pace. When she got there, Tamsin was standing next to Bobbie Joe, who was now murdering a plate of chili cheese fries. Tamsin tapped her on the shoulder; the taller woman looked up, and Tamsin, with a laugh, wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Sugar booger, you need to get rid of the chili for a minute. That’s better, isn’t it? Now come here!” She tugged Bobbie Joe to her feet. Standing, Bobbie Joe towered over Tamsin. Back in high school, Bobbie Joe had turned strangers heads by just walking, and random photographers had asked Bobbie Joe to become their model (at least that was what they said they wanted, but everyone believed that she could be and probably would be one of those tall, slender, dark-eyed goddesses that appear in fashion magazines) She was still gorgeous—tall and straight and graceful with deep mysterious eyes and razor-sharp cheekbones—even though she was, after years of magical starvation, painfully thin. She looked down at the redhead quizzically. “What do you need, Tamsin?” she said.

“This,” Tamsin said. She put her hand gently behind Bobbie Joe’s head and pulled her down until their lips met. Elle found herself noticing what a long and graceful neck the taller woman had, like a swan’s, bending down to kiss the tiny redhead who had spent so many years trying to break through the worlds and find her. Elle began to think about the swan as a sexual metaphor—in Greek mythology Zeus became a swan and took Leda with his beak and powerful wings, and then she thought that the thermostat was set too high, the room seemed awfully warm all of a sudden, and she noticed that, without thinking, she had begun to stroke herself from chin to neck, each time reaching down just a little more on a course that was going to take her hand in short order all the way to her nipple. She shook herself slightly and looked over at her husband, who was sitting in a booth and seemed as absorbed as she was in the kiss that was going beyond any reason.

Then Tamsin came up for breath. She tried to step back, but Bobbie Joe grabbed her and pulled her closer. “Thank God, Tamsin!” she said. “I thought maybe you didn’t want me any more.”

“You’re kidding,” Tamsin said. “Let me show you how wrong you are. Hey, Joan, do you still have that cool couch in your mother’s—I mean your—office?”

“Yes, Tamsin,” Joan said. “I figured you’d ask. I even cleaned up the office a little.”

Tamsin took her lover by the hand. “Come on, cupcake. We have some lost time to make up for.”

“Yes, Tamsin,” Bobbie Joe said in a dazed tone, and the two of them exited in a rush.

A silence followed as the three people remaining tried to find their way back to ordinary reality after watching that kiss. Elle sauntered over to the booth where Louis was sitting and planted herself across from him.

“Well, that was dramatic,” Louis said.

“Ye-es,” Elle was toying with a sugar dispenser. “Say, tell me Louis,” she said in a casual tone. “You’d heard us talk a lot about Tamsin. When you met her, was she as attractive as you thought she’d be?”

“Oh, gosh,” he said. “I hadn’t given that a lot of thought. Attractive? I, well, I don’t know—I suppose if you like that type, you know, petite, athletic, toned, perky, vivacious, sexy—”

“That will do, Louis,” Elle said. “I understand you perfectly. Come with me.” She stood and led her husband out of the dining room and down a hall that led past the kitchen to the back door. The geography of Trilby’s had not changed since her teenage years; she knew exactly how to find the large supply closet, jammed with towels, napkins, containers of spices, huge vats marked “Mustard” and “Ketchup”—but with plenty of floor space.

Elle turned, pushed Louis up against a wall, and gave him a kiss designed to outdo the performance they’d just witnessed. Elle wasn’t sure it was that good a kiss, but Louis certainly seemed to respond. She reached down to stroke him between his legs. He groaned slightly. She could see him losing focus; good—that was just the way she liked him.

“Louis, look at me,” she said with another light stroke. “Look into my eyes. See what you see there—deeper—that’s it, Louis, my will is stronger than your will, my will is your will, you have no will, my wish is your command, every word I say to you is true—feel it! Go deeper!”

“Yes,” he said faintly, his eyes fixed on hers.

“Good boy,” she said. “Now close your eyes.”

He did.

“Good boy. Now I want you to picture Tamsin in your mind, look at her carefully, see everything about her. Can you see her?” A nod. “Good boy. Now look closely because you are going to have a moment like a moment in a dream, a moment when you look at someone and realize you’ve never really seen her before, she doesn’t look quite the way you remembered her—she’s taller, thinner than you remembered—she looks familiar, in fact, you realize it now, she looks just like Miss Grundy in the old Archie comics, remember her, she looks just like that, can you see it?” Another nod. “And whenever you see Tamsin it’s going to seem hilarious that she looks so much like Miss Grundy, so funny that you need to look away to keep from cracking up, it would be impolite to laugh in her face and you will need to get away as soon as you can. Nod.”

Louis nodded—and his face lit up with a smile, a smile he covered with his hand.

“Good boy,” Elle said. “You know that when you submit to my will it feels … so good that the suggestion just sinks in so deep you don’t remember hearing it, you just know it’s true. And I am going to make you feel … so good . . . right now.”

Elle dropped to her knees and unzipped his trousers. His erection sprang free. “Oh, Louis, that must be a little painful,” she said. “Elle is going to make it all better.” She reached up and took him in her hand. His eyes closed and he groaned again. “Now, tell me, Louis, who is your true love?”

“You are, Elle.”

“Right answer.” She opened her mouth and took him in, running her tongue up and down him, and then leaned back and said. “Tell me again. Who do you belong to?”

“You, Elle.”

“Right answer again.” Again she took him in her mouth, feeling him strain against her.

“Who do you obey?”

“You, Elle.”

“Yes. I could just eat you alive.” Again she took him in her mouth and felt him quiver. His helpless ecstasy was delightful, as was the feel of his erection against her tongue, and so was what might have been a submissive act for him but that, as played out between her and Louis, simply symbolized her domination of her hypno-husband.

“Say my name, bitch!”

“Elle! Elle! Elle!” And with a groan, he came into her hand. After a dazed minute, she handed him a towel. “Clean up, Louis, we are heading out in a few minutes.”

When Elle came out of the ladies’ room, Louis was standing in the hall looking delectably confused. Next to him was a teenaged boy in a VAMPIRE WEEKEND tee-shirt. “Elle, do you remember—”

“Jerry Wilmon,” Elle said, taking his hand. “The young man who tried to kill me. It was an experience that’s hard to forget.”

The boy’s face turned bright red. “I—I—I am so…”

Elle put a hand against his cheek. “Shh, shh, darling, Elle is going to let you make it up to her, do you understand?” She handed him a set of keys. “Go open up the black Durango in the parking lot, darling. You’re driving us home.”

“Yes, Ms. Murphy.”

“And then we are sending you to Laramie to pick up our car and drive it home.”

“Yes, Ms. Murphy.”

“And after that we will find other things for you to do.”

“Yes, Ms. Murphy.”

“You’re going to serve me until I tell you you’ve made up for being naughty.”

“Yes, Ms. Murphy.”

“If I do ever let you go. I think I will like having a driver. Well, what are you waiting for? Scoot!”

The boy dashed off. “Come, Louis,” Elle said. “I need you to navigate, so you’ll ride in the front seat, go to sleep, and tell Jerry which roads to take.”

“Yes, Elle.”

“I’m going to stretch out in the catbird seat.”

They moved to the door but before they reached it a voice called out, “Wait! Elle! Let me say goodbye!” Tamsin, her clothes sweetly disarranged and lipstick fetchingly smeared, came running out of the back office. She ran to Elle and hugged her. “Elle, thank you for everything! What will I do without you?”

“No need to worry about that, darling. You and Bobbie Joe and Joan—the whole gang—are coming to our place for hypnosis training in three weeks.”

“We are?” Joan said.

“You are,” Elle answered.

“Oh, wow, you’ll teach me hypnosis?” Tamsin said, her face seeming gleeful once again. “Oh, imagine what I can do with that! Oh—I mean, if it’s—okay, to think about that, Elle—is it?”

“Yes, Tamsin, dear. I’ll show you.”

Tamsin turned to Louis. “And you, Man C—Hun—I’m sorry, Louis, I’ll see you soon. What’s so funny?”

“I’m sorry,” Louis said, doubling over in an unsuccessful effort to hide his mirth. “It’s nothing, I just thought of something else—” with a visible effort, he composed himself, then nearly doubled over.

“That will do, Louis,” Elle said, and he subsided.

“All right, ladies,” Elle said. “In three weeks the whole coven meets at my house. Bring your grimoires.”

“Coven?” said Tamsin. “You mean—”

“Oh, yes, Tamsin,” Elle said with a wink. “The witch is back.”