Remembering was the worst part.
It was worse than being made to forget. Worse than the after-pain from the surgeries to repair her abused body. Worse even than the abuses themselves.
There had been moments in that shadowy time, like daggers spearing into her brain, when she tried to fight the inevitable. Feeling memories of who she was spilling out like blood before she went completely under again and the fresh wounds to her mind were cauterized. Then nothingness. Months of nothingness.
Awake, she could barely recall anything but blank, white walls, empty corridors, the nothing-dreams she had once passed through. Days upon days when she no longer had the self-awareness to tell the difference between a kiss and a slap.
Asleep, however, it was all too vivid.
He was hypnotizing her more often now, peeling back the layers as gently as he could, then urging her unconscious mind to strip away at the blank, white walls herself to expose the horrors hidden behind them.
She understood it was necessary. Until the walls were torn down she was never going to be free. She had to remember. Everything. That was the worst part.
“Good morning, Leigh,” he said with a prepared smile. “How did you sleep?”
She sighed. “You keep asking if I’ve had any nightmares. I’ve told you I don’t remember what I dream.”
Dr. Ben Carnegie slid the chair forward and sat down, flipped open his notebook and clicked his pen before looking at her again.
“I have to keep asking. If I don’t, you won’t tell me.”
It was meant to come across as a joke, but both of them knew it wasn’t.
He always asked the same few questions, as if meant to be small talk before the session started. Leigh knew it already began the moment he walked into the office to gauge her expression.
The few times he’d seen her smile usually grew from sarcasm or self-pity. But it was a beautiful, winning smile nonetheless. He had given up trying to make her laugh. Today, however, she had that guarded look she clung to the first few weeks after he was assigned to care for her.
“It’s fine. I’m catching up. It’s good to have something to look forward to every day. Grades are okay.” Her mouth jumped sideways. “But you know my grades.”
He nodded in a way that made his youthful, mid-30s face look paternal.
“I talk to your folks,” he said, stating the obvious. “They tell me what you won’t. Although I suspect they don’t want to know much. For that, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. They split because they didn’t want to be together and wanted to restart their lives. Neither of them wanted me in their new one before all this happened. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.”
“Making any friends?”
“Not really. I just go to class. And I don’t mind making sandwiches to pay the rent. I’ve gotten very good at doing things without thinking.”
The self-pitying smile peeked out, and he tried to make her hold it, smiling broadly. But it evaporated.
“Ready to start?”
She looked at him, really, for the first time. “Has anyone seen her?”
Carnegie knew which her she was referring to. He gave her a tight-lipped frown. He pulled the pocket watch from his jacket.
Rea took the rigid cock into her mouth and forced it down her throat. There were times when she enjoyed this, but those times were jumbled together with the times she didn’t and did it anyway. She was no longer able to separate out wanting to with needing to, doing it now because she had to. She had been commanded to suck him and she always obeyed.
She pursed her lips around it, trying to hold him still as it moved forward and back above her face. There were grunts, male and female, as she rolled her tongue across the soft skin, then raking it with her teeth.
The nameless voice cracked, betraying his inability to forestall the impending tidal wave.
“Shut up, slave,” the woman barked. “Don’t you dare cum or I will cut that worthless pecker off and make you a eunuch.”
Rea heard the familiar, derisive laugh above her and reflexively tightened her grip on the round cheeks of her Goddess.
The slave arched his back, trying to escape the relentless sensations the girl beneath him was supplying. Rea raised her head and sucked him deeply into her mouth again. Rea knew what Goddess wanted. She wanted him tortured. He was desperate to shoot yet even more desperate to hold off and do as Goddess wished. Rea sucked harder.
“Please … Goddess …”
Goddess huffed with distain and lunged into him again, forcing the cock deeper down Rea’s throat, pinning her tongue. Rea felt a hand fumbling between her legs and the sharp jab of the dildo wedged in her pussy.
“Good girl, Rea.”
The command, the signal, and Rea hummed a moan onto the swollen cock as she climaxed. She knew Goddess was cumming now, having tied the hypnotic suggestion for her pet to her own orgasm.
The rod Goddess drove in his ass went deeper, the precum bathing Rea’s throat as he struggled to hold off until he was told. Rea felt Goddess’ knees shaking against her thighs, anticipating their stillness before allowing him to finish.
“You can come now, slave.”
He pulled back as he gushed into Rea’s expectant mouth, washing over her tongue, and she swallowed hungrily as she had so many times before with Goddess’ other playthings. He popped out of her mouth and collapsed. The sweat drops from his stomach splashing against her forehead.
Rea breathed easily. Goddess swung her leg off the bed yanking both phalluses out, which caused pet and slave to gasp. Rea then heard the loud smack-smack on the male slave’s ass.
Rea had been emptied and filled, then filled and emptied. She thought of nothing. She awaited new commands.
The routine of going to work and school was just routine enough for Leigh to daydream at times.
She didn’t retain much about what she was recounting to Dr. Carnegie while in trance, but the weekly therapy was helping her reflect on her old life—before she was hypnotized, kidnapped, brainwashed and sold as a selfless slave.
She couldn’t yet bring herself to return to the Southern California beaches she loved. What used to be a calming oasis to Zen-out and relax and enjoy life’s wonders was only a reminder of pain and loss. Yet she still allowed herself to daydream about cool ocean breezes and sparkling waves—the pleasant memories before the shadowy time. She took in a deep, mournful breath as she walked casually across the Quad.
A round-faced, blonde-haired girl juggling a pile of books crossed her path and Leigh stopped abruptly. She knew that face.
The girl looked up as she slid a thick textbook back under her arm.
“Denise! Oh my God!”
The tide of memories washed over Leigh and it made her smile brightly, the first one to find her face in ages. The blonde smiled back—but only out of reflex.
“Ummm … do I know you?”
The girl’s eyebrows climbed wondering which party it had been, if she had been too drunk to remember.
Denise had been one of “the gang.” Leigh’s closest friends. She was there—that night—when they were taken. But Leigh could see in her eyes that she no longer remembered, maybe would never remember, just as Leigh had been made to forget until she was found battered and bleeding and hypnotized on the beach.
Leigh’s shoulders sagged. There was so much she wanted to say, but Leigh realized immediately it was pointless. Denise didn’t know her.
“Oh, you know. Around. How are you doing? How’s Erik?”
Denise’s polite smile dropped. “Erik? We broke up months ago. He was an asshole. You friends?”
“No. Not really.”
Just mentioning Erik’s name turned Denise cold.
“Well, I gotta run to class.” Denise clutched her wayward books to her chest. “What was your name again?”
Leigh started to answer, but stopped. She could imagine how it was. The questions from mutual friends who asked her what happened to Leigh. And Clara. And Rea. And Denise’s stunned reply: Who?
The police probably asked her the same confusing questions after Carnegie told them what happened, as best he could. How bizarre it all would have been for Denise and Erik. They had been allowed to escape. Leigh wondered why, as the blanks filled in, but now wasn’t the time to find out. Denise didn’t recognize her at all.
“Oh, doesn’t matter. See ya.”
The naked girl spun on her toes, round and round and round. Tight circles, like a robotic ballerina in the corner of the room. Her head snapped around with each revolution, sending her blonde pigtails aflight.
Rea knew she was there. She seemed to recall them making love, but it was just another memory that had long ago dripped off her mind and pooled with the others like melted ice at her feet. She had twin moles on her left thigh. Rea licked them then, and the image held stronger than all else they had done before the gloating presence of Goddess. Rea didn’t need to turn for confirmation. It wasn’t important.
Goddess sat comfortably on the sofa clicking away on her phone. She hadn’t looked up for a long time, not acknowledging the existence of the spinning girl or of Rea, who knelt in front of her with Goddess’ feet on her shoulders.
Rea could do this for hours, had done this before for hours on end like a piece of furniture in Goddess’ spacious house. She knew there was another girl—somewhere—handcuffed to a bed or a bathroom fixture thinking the same nothings Rea thought now.
The flickers of reality—the spinning girl, the unpleasant scent of Goddess’s skin, the darkness beyond the windows—sped through her conscious mind like passing cars. Momentary blurs of color and then vanished from her vague perception.
“Ten-thirty, Goddess,” came the voice from across the room.
With an irritated sigh, Goddess lifted her legs off Rea and sat up, giving one of Rea’s nipple bars a tug. Rea’s eyes met hers.
“Time for your evening chores, pet. Then I want you cleaned up and in bed when I return. I want you awake.”
“Do you need … reinforcement?”
Goddess’s smile was never a happy one, although Rea could tell the differences. This was the smile of satisfaction. Rea had seen it more often lately. Goddess squeezed her cheeks.
“I figured I would have grown tired of you by now, pet,” she said, running her other hand across Rea’s ribs. The smile turned lusty. “Perhaps I will tomorrow.”
The threat was lost on Rea.
She was cleaning the kitchen when Mistress returned from the bedroom fully dressed. She was again busy texting on her phone when the distant “Eleven o’clock, Goddess” chimed from the living room. Another disagreeable sigh.
Rea was wiping the countertops moments later when she heard a girl’s squeal and the muffled buzzing of a vibrator turned on high. Then the door slam.
“Leigh? There is someone I want you to meet. This is Det. Wallace. Helen. She’s with the police.”
“Dr. Carnegie has told me some of what you’ve been telling him. About your … experience. I’d like to talk to you more about that. Is that okay?”
“You told him about Mr. Yamamoto. Do you remember Mr. Yamamoto?”
Helen had expected to see a change of expression. Perhaps a look of anger or pain or fear. But Leigh’s expression didn’t change. She stared at her chin … where moments before Carnegie’s pocket watch had swung before her eyes.
“Mr. Yamamoto is back in Japan. We won’t be able to extradite him without hard evidence. If you could tell—”
She stopped, feeling the grip on her shoulder. Carnegie shook his head, his eyes closing for emphasis.
It was directed to him, too. Helen’s eyes were on Leigh. The pretty girl staring blanky ahead. Sorry for what she was about to do. Sorry for what they had done to her. Sorry for what they had wanted her to do—obediently walk into the ocean and drown herself to erase their sins.
She saw the healed cuts on Leigh’s forearms below the rolled-up sleeves, the hint of a deep scar between the buttons of her blouse from the God-knows-what they did to her when they had her.
Helen took another deep breath as she decided which Helen to be—the determined detective with three murders to solve or the woman who could almost feel the pains the girl in front of her couldn’t remember on her own.
Carnegie had told her what he knew, the bits and pieces of the crimes inflicted upon Leigh Cranston and no doubt countless others. Helen needed to find them, find her. She wanted to rush ahead, possibly prevent another girl somewhere—a less lucky girl?—from drowning merely because her hypnotized mind had allowed it. Yet she knew this was a process, and needed to take things slowly.
“Uh … umm … Let’s … let’s take you back, Leigh. Back to that day on the beach. You were with your friends, remember? Do you remember that day?”
“Good.” This was unusual. Like a cop interviewing a witness who didn’t have to ask for a lawyer. Didn’t need to be prodded. A witness who couldn’t even remember what she saw unless she was tranced out. Yet whose mind was spread open before her. “It was a fun day at the beach.
Denise. The party girl. The images and memories clicked into place in Leigh’s mind. The one who always got “the gang” to go out even when they didn’t really want to. She had the car. She loved Erik. She didn’t remember Leigh.
Leigh could see his tanned abs. He flirted with her often, hoping for something. He liked playing the protector of Denise and her girlfriends. He lied a lot.
Rea, the cool one. The artist. The one she tried to get close to. Not enough time. Was she my best friend?
Leigh shuddered. Carnegie stepped forward seeing Leigh’s reaction. There was a slow-motion fear on Leigh’s face.
Clara. The smart one. Smart the way Leigh wished she was. But … there was something else.
The momentary fearful look gave way to a soft smile. Carnegie and Helen watched as Leigh’s hand slipped down off the armrest and pressed between her legs.
Making love, again and again. Her mouth and tongue. Her first 20 times with another girl. The singsong voice that led them on. Made them want it. Has anyone seen her?
“You may stop touching yourself, Leigh.” That came from Carnegie. She stopped.
“And Venus. Tell me about Venus, Leigh.”
Leigh had told Dr. Carnegie the whole story of that first night under hypnosis more than once, but Helen wanted to hear it from her. Venus’ mesmerizing looks, her voice, her disarming manner. How she had lured them all back to her condo. It was going to be fun. A game. Leigh didn’t want to play. But Venus entranced them all. And the nightmare began.
“It’s that one.”
Leigh pointed to the two-unit building on the Malibu beach with its wraparound decks and perfect view of the ocean.
Helen flipped through the pages in the folder containing all the owners’ names down the shoreline for miles in each direction.
“A married couple and … Vanya Flink.” Helen looked up. “I can see why she goes by Venus.”
“What’s the next step? A search warrant? Do you have enough to arrest—”
“Hold on there, doctor.” The stiff breeze almost pushed her back as she stepped forward to face him. “We have no evidence. About any of this. What might or might not have happened. It’s Leigh’s word against theirs. And to be honest, testimony from a girl who can’t even remember much about it herself unless she is hypnotized won’t work in court. Besides, we’re not completely sure what she’s been telling you is the truth or some wacked-out fantasy.”
“She’s telling the truth.”
“Prove it! That’s what we have to do!”
“You’re telling me those scars on her body—”
“Hey! I’m on your side! On her side. Remember? But we can’t just go marching over to … Venus’ condo and throw around a bunch of wild accusations, true or not. If anyone in this chain … Venus or that Liz woman or Yamamoto get wind of this, that we’re closing in, they will shut everything down, move away. And we’ll have shit. Who knows how many girls like Leigh are out there!”
The look on his face brought Helen’s arms down. She had been ranting, and he—ever the good psychologist—let her rant until she not only realized how she was saying what she said, but why. She wanted to punish those bastards. Not for justice. But for revenge.
She blew out a long exhale, lost in the breeze. She paced around him, trying to figure out what to do next.
“Okay,” she said. “They’ve been smart about this. It’s not the kind of thing where you can get much from phone records or follow an email trail. Or have solid dates or times or places here.“
“We know the place.”
“We can’t be sure, doctor. From what you’ve told me Leigh got passed around quite a bit and … Vanya Flink wasn’t doing the passing. She just … pulled her in. And her friends. She can just say, ‘Yeah I gave these kids some wine underage and never saw them again.’ We need to know exactly how things went down. And Leigh … well, she’s just not reliable. You know that as well as anybody.”
Leigh had turned away from them, not bothering to listen. It was nearing sunset, and she loved the way the low sun sparkled off the water. The warm glow and bright sand. A thousand lights.
She felt the pull … hearing the waves rush onto the shore, over the rocks, and another wave behind it. Again and again. She was closer now … bright and warm and soothing. She wanted to lose herself in the peaceful rush of water, the blue-green blanket that folded over itself with a momentary fizz of foam.
It was cool on her feet. The wind whispering in her ears to let go, relax and leave everything behind. Plunging into the depths.
She felt the pull …
Carnegie turned her and shook her. He was angry, and she had never seen him angry.
“I … I’m sorry. I was just … I miss the ocean.”
Leigh was hysterical in the car.
Carnegie tried to calm her the first time, when the realization that the old suggestions, the impulses, were still strong. The call of the ocean to walk into it and breathe deeply once she was submerged. And die.
The wailing, hopeless cry he couldn’t prevent. It was only after she had Helen’s shoulder to bury her misery into did she eventually stop.
Now, she was crying in panic.
“No! You can’t let her do this!”
“It’s all right, Leigh,” Helen said, patting her arm from the front seat. “I’ll be okay. Won’t I, doctor?”
Carnegie let his hands slip down the wheel. Would she?
“Honestly, Helen, I’m not sure.”
“I can’t go into a trance unless I let it happen, right? They can’t make me do things I don’t want to do?”
“Technically, yes, but—”
“Helen!” Leigh jumped forward. “I didn’t want to be tranced that first time. I didn’t want it at all. But I still was hypnotized. Every day! You can’t do this!”
“Leigh, honey, they took you by surprise. I won’t be.” She looked at Carnegie. “And you can put … what is it? Safeties? You can give me safeties, right?”
Carnegie took his eyes off the road to look at Helen with a sternness she didn’t expect. “You’ve been reading up. But this isn’t textbook stuff. Helen, I’m a hypnotist, yes. But it’s therapy! I try to open doors. Not force my will upon anyone. I can try to give you suggestions to block whatever someone may want to make you do, but I have no idea if that would work in this case. These aren’t hypnotists, Helen. They are mind controllers.”
Mind controllers. Leigh slumped back in her seat. Yeah, they were. And that control still held, compelling her to walk into the ocean and drown, even months later. The car was silent. Carnegie ran a yellow.
“That … that doesn’t change anything!” Now it was Helen who was agitated. “We’re running out of time! Who knows what’s going on over there! There’s only one way to know for sure. And that’s to set me up as a ringer.”
Carnegie tried to keep his cool. “Does your boss know what you’re doing? Do you have back-up or whatever it is? Your people know what’s going on?”
“Yes, yes.” She waited for him to agree. Was desperate for him to agree. “What? You think I’m not attractive enough to get her attention? Put me in a bikini and Venus will notice.”
Leigh stared at the back of his head. Maybe this was the only way. She needed to find her, save her. Something in the way Helen pleaded gave her hope.
“I’ll do everything I can,” he said, “but I want to make sure you don’t get in over your head.”
The pocket watch began swinging.
Carnegie held it loosely at his hip before sitting down. Helen wasn’t sure if she should start staring at it or not.
“I wonder if you are the kind of person who goes into hypnosis easily, Helen? Most people are. Especially those who think they won’t be.”
She smiled at that. She didn’t really think she was. But she needed to try. Leigh was in another room of his apartment. She couldn’t watch. She was already too susceptible, and he didn’t want her under too.
“I am fairly sure that you have the type of mind that goes into trance quickly and easily.” Carnegie’s voice was usually deep, but his near-whisper lightened it. She began to relax. “So just settle yourself down, get comfortable ... and we’ll begin.”
She wiggled her ass on the chair, dropped her shoulders a bit and looked at the watch.
It read 10:13.
“I am going to hold up my watch ... and I want you to look at it ... and I want to you keep your eyes on the watch ... follow it with your eyes ... never take your eyes off the watch.
“Do you think you can do that, Helen?”
She was already doing it.
He held out the watch on the end of a long, gold chain two feet before her face. He then started the watch swinging slowly from side to side in front of her. His hand was steady.
“Relax and loosen your arm now, Helen.”
The watch hung tautly on the chain. Her deep brown eyes fixed on it. They were pretty eyes, he thought. She won’t have any trouble catching Venus’.
“Now, focus your attention on the watch. Really concentrate on the weight at the end of the chain, Helen. Keep your eyes on that weight.
“Now, as you focus you find the end of the chain moving. The watch … swinging. Back and forth. And the more you focus, the more the watch wants to swing on the chain.
“Now, just imagine as the watch begins to swing, is swinging … that it is starting to follow your thoughts ... as you visualize it ... the watch swinging more and more... responding to your thoughts ... moving as your mind moves the weight on the end of the chain.
“Watch now, Helen, as the watch begins to sway and swing ... sway and swing ... back and forth... back and forth ... that’s right.”
Helen was relaxed and let the rhythm and the weight of the watch carry her. Back and forth. The room around her grew fuzzy, then disappeared. His hand … then no hand. All she saw was the watch. Ten watches, twenty watches swinging back and forth.
“Just let it happen. Swinging more and more. And now imagine the watch slowing down ... slowing down now.”
Her breathing was now in synch with each swing. He studied her face carefully.
“The watch is slowing down ... coming to a complete stop. And now, Helen, imagine the watch beginning to swing the other way ... side to side ... or in circles.”
How easy it was. How easy, to let everything fall away. She listened and wasn’t listening, concentrated and wasn’t concentrating. There was only the movement, the flow. She was safe and relaxed and following his instructions. Oh, how easy it must have been for her, time after time after time.
“Round and round,” he said softly. “You may be surprised with what it does, Helen.
“And as that circle goes round ... round and round ... follow it with your eyes ...and as that circle is going round ... those eyes are getting heavier ... getting tired ... and as the circle continues to go round ... your eyes are blinking more ... getting more tired ... tired and heavy ... and the watch is getting heavy ... the weight of it getting so heavy ... it is slowing down, Helen ...
“And as it slows down ... your eyes are going down ... the watch is heavy ... your eyes are heavy ... your eyes are closing ... your fingers are opening ... the watch is getting too heavy to hold ... as your eyes are getting too heavy ... closing down ... the watch is getting heavy too ... and you are losing control of those fingers ... and fingers are opening ... eyes closing ... relaxing ... letting everything go.”
Carnegie dropped the watch on the carpet and Helen’s head flopped forward.
Rea was alone. Goddess had been gone most of the day, again. Out late into the night, again.
She was feeling disconnected somehow. As she lay in bed, Rea stared at the ceiling awaiting the commands to pleasure Goddess. Or to amuse her. Or to sleep. Yet the inactivity of her mind—to keep it and hold it steady—was becoming more difficult to sustain.
Don’t think. Only obey.
Don’t … think. Only …
Her name was Rea. She had seen other pets come and go. She heard crying. The June gloom had passed. It was summer. Three months? Had it been three months or four or five? Her chestnut hair was past her shoulders now; she never left it that long. She looked at the clock … after 2.
Time. She wondered how long the other pet had been sitting there, cuffed to the pipe below the sink. How long? Was the spinning girl still spinning, calling out the time? She thought she had heard “One-thirty, Goddess.” She had two moles on her left thigh. It was after 2 and silent.
She was wide awake, Goddess had commanded. Would she be hurt this time or would her tongue be all that was needed by Goddess this night? Did it matter? She had pulled her knees up, cradling them. A thumb was in her mouth.
Her name was Rea. She stared at the print on the wall in the near-dark of squares inside squares and bursts of color. Oh, how it would feel to create that. To feel. Anything. To wait until Goddess returned and have something to obey. Anything. She would do it.
Anything was better than this.