The Caribbean Caper – Incredible Impromptu Mannequins

by Zero and Dmuk

This story takes place after the LA show in the Tuckerverse time-line, January 2009-ish, and while it features many characters from the ITEA and other origanizations, it is not part of the Tuckerverse canon.


Stilton Hotel Miami

Penthouse Suite

            The vista of the blue ocean from the rooftop sundeck was truly spectacular: an azure sky tufted with lacy clouds that drew one’s vision out to the horizon; an equally blue ocean dotted by white triangles of multimillion-dollar racing yachts. Sounds of the city far below seemed just as far away. Away was someplace that looked much better than here and now.

         Darren Le Braun swirled the ice in his tumbler, taking another long gulp of the premium single-malt Scotch, letting the growing numbness in the pit of his belly absorb the dreadful events of the dismal day’s debacle.

            Things had seemed to be going perfectly at the start of today, the latest staging of the hypnotist’s signature ‘Incredible Impromptu Mannequin’ promotional event at a trendy South Beach boutique. His lighting and sound system were in place to convey subtle yet irresistible suggestions to the customers; his best freeze model DiAnne Hawthorne had flown in with him to initiate the presentation. She had dressed impeccably in a gauzy sundress and was posed motionlessly in the showcase window by the opening hour. A crowd of intrigued customers had already gathered outside as the doors swung open.

Then, it had all gone wrong.

            For some reason, his normally compelling hypnotic words did not seem to have any effect on the boutique’s comely female staff. Normally they would have also quickly succumbed to the subliminally persuasive commands to find peace in stillness, becoming living display figures, compliant to the hypnotist’s guidance and commands. As the opening minutes passed, the clerks and store manager remained unaffected; they were merely amused by the few customers that came under his influence and began to stand rigidly in place.

            That is, until a cute but clumsy salesgirl had tripped over an exposed extension cord, bringing several of his lights crashing down and startling the would-be impromptu mannequins out of their trances; soon they drifted away from the store, when they should have been already getting clothed in the latest fashions and positioned among the actual mannequins. Then, for some reason, his hypnotic induction CD began skipping tracks; the same ‘helpful’ clerk replaced it with a collection of island jazz tunes that she insisted on playing. After that, no more customers or employees became entranced and the remainder of the showing fell flat. The day’s sales were up slightly, but nowhere near where they would have been given his subliminal directives to buy the most expensive garments in the boutique at seemingly a deep discount.

            Then there was Claire Cook. The fledgling Internet reporter had also accompanied him from L. A. following his not-so-subtle posthypnotic suggestion; she was a striking beauty when not in geek mode and had unwittingly enhanced his show at Vicky's boutique by becoming another of his enthralled living mannequins for most of that day. Today she had been of no help either; insisting that she interview the store’s customers and staff for an in-depth article she was writing on the ‘alternative marketing wizard’, as she had christened Darren.

            His watered Scotch had evaporated, he strolled back to the full wet bar in the suite to replenish it, without any ice this time, reflecting on the one good thing that had happened today: He had easily been able to ‘convince’ the hotel manager that DiAnne was in fact a famous Hollywood starlet prepping for her latest role; the Stilton had ‘comped her entourage the full penthouse without a moment’s hesitation. DiAnne hadn’t needed any hypnotic help to pull off a convincing act as a pampered diva. The “star” herself was presently lounging in the sun-room enjoying a deep tissue massage, judging from her frequent gasps of surprise and pleasure. Claire was hunched intently on the couch over her laptop, having swapped her stylishly torn jeans and flower-print poncho for a figure-hugging pink one-piece maillot with the intent of taking an afternoon swim but never having yet actually reached the private pool. She looked up briefly from the computer as he passed by.

         “You ever get back to that guy back about the new job? He’s been calling everybody, including me, the whole day. Seemed kinda pushy... ”

         “I don’t want to talk to anyone right now; I just want to forget this day ever happened. ” Darren grumbled in return, sounding just as cross as his face appeared.

            Claire didn’t pick up on his body language and tone. “You might wanna book your next job quick, before word gets out... ”

         “Whaddya mean?”  He turned to face her, massaging his temples with one hand.

         “You’re making quite a splash with the local bloggers, but not quite what you had hoped for... ” she continued perkily. “... least they spelled your name right!”

         “Oh?”  He took another full swallow in anticipation of more bad news and was not disappointed.

            She quoted in a mock TV reporter’s cadence: “FashionMaven pronounces today’s showing ‘a travesty’ and goes on to say you’re ‘yet another left coast huckster’ – that’s probably the best you’ve gotten. Larkling labels you a ‘cheap hoax’; Yelp is skewering the show too and even the Herald has picked up the downtrend. Their story for tomorrow’s Style section reviews the boutique event as ‘unimpressive’ and ‘lifeless’... Not in a good way, either. ”

         “Ugh. No kidding. Wait a minute; how did you get a hold of tomorrow’s article?”  the hypnotist asked, stepping towards her and taking another long drink.

         “Please!” she grinned slyly. “I have some skills, after all... Not just a pretty face y’know... ”

         “True ‘nuff,” he agreed, taking in her sinuous figure as Claire leaned back to stretch catlike. “So, what do you really think? You were there,” he probed.

         “Honestly?” she replied, standing as she looked out towards the infinity pool.

         “Of course. ”

         “You’re losing it. ”  Claire winced slightly as she delivered her judgment. “Now y... ” she continued.

         “Pau-sa,” Darren commanded, cutting her off mid-word, then turning to face the young reporter who had suddenly frozen statue-still. The breeze from the open door blew her long dark brown hair around her shoulders, but otherwise Claire Cook did not move a single muscle. “Ha! I can still do that!” he boasted, slurring his words slightly as he gazed into the young woman’s unblinking hazel eyes. “Call me a has-been, will you?” he taunted.

         “Still shooting the messenger?” came a different female voice from across the room. DiAnne entered, wearing a fluffy white bathrobe with her wet hair wrapped turban-style in a towel, having just emerged from the shower.

         “You got something to say, too?” he seethed, knowing he could effortlessly turn her back into a motionless mannequin with his next words.

            She knew it too. “Relax,” DiAnne smiled, stepping slowly towards him. “You had a bad day, that’s all. Don’t kick yourself, or her. Put it behind you... ”

         “I suppose,” he allowed.

         “Surely you can think of better things for us to be doing?” she purred, untying the sash of her robe and letting it fall open to reveal her naked body.

         “Now that you mention it,” he mumbled as he stepped closer to her with growing arousal.

            Their lips met moments before his hand caressed her breasts, and....

       Bzzzt! Bzzzzzzt!

            Stepping back, he seethed, “Now what!” as he looked accusingly towards the entry hallway to the suite.

            A faint voice on the other side of the door cheerily announced “Room Service”, then repeated, followed by an eager “Compliments of the Management... ?”

         “Just a moment,” Darren called, stepping towards the door as DiAnne shrugged and tied up her robe again. Opening the door, he mumbled, “you could have picked a better time,” to the bellhop as the hotel employee entered, pushing a service cart in front of him.

         “Sorry, sir, for the intrusion. The Management of the Stilton Hotels Miami would like to offer this complimentary gift to Ms. Beckinstaff during her stay here.

         “OK, thanks,” Darren acknowledged, “is there anything else?”  He rummaged in his pockets for any loose bills to give as a tip.

         “Just this,” the bellhop stated, dropping his cheerful tone as he reached under the loose tablecloth to pull out a large-barreled pistol. Before Darren could react, the gunman fired a dart into the surprised hypnotist’s chest and in a flowing motion, shifted targets to the startled DiAnne and fired another dart into her midriff. She only had a moment to gasp “Oh... ” before her body stiffened into position with her arms raised in a defensive stance.

            The gunman looked back at Darren, who had been similarly immobilized, and then stepped further into the suite, where he found Claire already standing mannequin-like at the glass doors leading outside. “Hmph,” he muttered, before putting a freeze dart into her shapely ass too for good measure. She did not flinch at the impact, and then was utterly unable to move anymore afterward.

* * *

            An unknown time later, Darren blinked his eyes and found himself laying on a narrow bare bed in what looked at first glance to be a guest cabin of some kind of boat. The door was locked, but he rattled the latch anyway. “Hey, what’s going on?” he yelled.

            A few moments later, to Darren's surprise, the door opened and the bellman from the hotel entered. The man had traded in his uniform for a black wool coat and a cream scarf, but the dark brown hair and slightly smug look on his face was the same. The gun also looked familiar, but Darren wasn't very good with guns. “Step back, unless you want another taste,” warned the man, waving Darren towards the back of the small cabin. Not wanting to feel the impact of another bullet or whatever had hit him, Darren obeyed.

            “Cirino means well, Mr. Le Braun,” came another voice, one much sexier-sounding than the gruff young man's. Despite having a gun still pointed at him, Darren's jaw dropped as a stunning fair-skinned woman with practically black brown hair entered the room. The woman's hair was cut mannishly short but she really made it work; her skin was a consistent tone and her dark eyes were very alluring, even though she was wearing a preppy Yale-blue blazer and pleated dress along with sky-high matching blue heels. Darren was confident this beauty couldn't be older than thirty, but she carried herself with the haughty bearing of someone much older and long used to being in command. “My name is Leocadia Braga, and I find myself in need of someone with your particular skills,” declared the woman.

            “I do have a contact number on that website of mine,” pointed out Darren with a bit of bluster, having hired someone to make him a website soon after his success in Los Angeles. “Why so much effort to have your gun-toting goons abduct me for just a simple chit-chat?”

            “Some people require more encouragement than others,” Leocadia replied obliquely.

Darren continued his banter, looking for the right opening to put her under. “Still, are you sure you need a hypnotist? You don't seem like you need to lose any weight and I doubt you're a chain-smoker... ”

            “It isn't that kind of service that I require from you, Mr. Le Braun,” smiled Leocadia icily, glancing at her assistant. “Lower the gun, Cirino, but watch him closely. Mr. Le Braun is known to be a master of the rapid-induction technique... In fact I've been told you're much better at it than almost any other mesmerizer in the world. ”

            “Most of them usually have to tell the subject to sleep, or bore them into distraction; I don't, and with many subjects it’s easier than counting to ten,” admitted Darren, glad to not have a gun pointed at him at the moment and enjoying the ego-stroking, despite having been kidnapped. “So what are you looking for?”

            “I represent... An organization,” confessed Leocadia, moving to sit on the edge of the cabin's bed but not crossing her legs. Darren noticed there was a table, one effectively meant for playing cards, and sat on the chair next to it. He was at eye-level now, an arm’s reach away. She seemed not to notice. “Recently an... opportunity to secure a particular prize has appeared, one I intend to claim. I'll spare you the particulars for the moment but my – business - would benefit a great deal from having it, to the point that I have already spent a significant sum just to have you fall into my hands... ”

            “Fall into your pretty hands?” repeated Darren, not yet entirely getting it. “Getting the hotel suite? I did that. ”

            She chuckled musically without smiling. “I'm talking about your arrival into Miami in the first place, Mr. Le Braun,” corrected Leocadia. “I purchased that boutique engagement, and even arranged a few challenges for you, to see what would happen, how you would react. While the boutique’s staff was unaffected you did manage quite decently... If nothing else it was a pleasant distraction for some of the shoppers, I'm sure. Then, I spread the news of your... difficulties to the local press. ”

            “I knew something was off about that gig... ” gasped Darren, shaking his head. “You lure me to Miami, then put me through hell and damage my professional reputation... Why?”  Leaning towards her, he knew he could shake her shoulders and have her in a deep trance in an instant. Then he remembered the man with the big gun standing too far out of reach.

            “Well, I am... hounded... by those who think, foolishly, that I am some kind of criminal,” smiled Leocadia, shrugging. “I needed something more elaborate, more convincing. And even yet you did not contact me. So, other measures are required,” she continued, glancing at Cirino for a moment. “It has been expensive, yes, but as I have said, the prize I am pursuing will more than compensate me... and my business. However, my plan demands a unique ally to succeed: You, Mr. Le Braun. Ironically what I want to claim will also make me not require your skills, but given what little of the prize I already have, well... ”

            “Okay, just what is this prize?” demanded Darren, uncomfortable already, given who this Leocadia woman appeared to be, but as he had resorted to some questionable methods in the past to keep himself going he wasn't entirely disgusted by what she might be planning. Guns, however, were not his thing.

            “Let me demonstrate, I think you'll then better understand,” decided Leocadia, nodding at her associate. Cirino turned around and opened the cabin door, making a gesture. A few moments later in walked an anxious Anne and Claire, blindfolded, their hands bound behind their backs, with a second armed man trailing behind them. The new man had lighter brown hair and was wearing a leather jacket, also possessing large bangs and a gun similar to Cirino's. Anne was still wearing her robe, minus the towel, and Claire had on her maillot; both appeared unharmed. At a nod from Leocadia, their wrists were untied and blindfolds removed.

            “Darren, thank God you’re okay!” exclaimed Anne, suddenly moving towards Darren. She covered only a few steps before Leocadia commanded “Ahora!” and the second gunman casually raised his gun, firing on Anne, the weapon made an oddly muffled ‘chuff’ sound at close range.

            DiAnne stopped, frozen instantly in place at mid step, a half-smile mixed with a brief expression of surprise still on her lovely face, her glassy green-hued doe eyes had remained wide open. As the seconds passed she did not move in the slightest way; her arms remained rigidly stretched towards where Darren stood. He kept his face impassive, aloof, despite his churning emotions.

            “Behold, the effects of my prize,” Leocadia gloated, standing up from the bed and taking the few steps to stand in front of the motionless young woman, waving her hand in front of DiAnne’s vacant eyes. After a signal to Cirino, the gunsel lifted the frozen young woman at her waist, carried her a step closer to Darren, then set her upright again as she wobbled slightly in place. Leocadia then continued, “Your lovely ‘associate’ is now completely immobilized; unconscious, barely breathing, stiff as one of your impromptu mannequins. Yet she is unharmed in any permanent way. That is, for the moment... ”

            “No!” yelled Claire, breaking free and stepping out towards Anne. “You can’t do that to... ” Her voice suddenly cut off as she was also shot by the first gunman. Claire was likewise frozen in position with a word still on her lips. She had her mouth open in horror, her right arm raised and her fingers spread. Darren had less trouble remaining impassive; while Claire was cute enough, she was also an enormous pain in the ass. Which, he reflected she would also be having, as the dart from the gun was embedded in her shapely backside.

            “Show him, Reinaldo,” Leocadia instructed the second gunman, who smiled and reached over behind Claire. A moment later he displayed the dart he'd pulled from the unmoving girl. It was a pen-sized cylinder, about a centimeter long, with a protruding needle half its length. “That, Mr. Le Braun, is a hollow dart loaded with a special tranquilizing drug called Type-7. Well, it was loaded; your companions have now been injected with a small amount and the continuing paralytic effects can clearly be seen. I sadly have only a limited amount of this substance... But the prize I'm after will yield me a great deal more. ”

            “An instant freeze drug... ” breathed Darren to himself, relieved that Anne and Claire were apparently okay but now he too was in awe of the prize Leocadia sought. He quickly understood why having a large supply would mean Leocadia wouldn't need him, but if she was limited in how much she currently had, it did kind of make sense to recruit him, or at least he thought, since he still didn't know what she wanted him to do exactly.

            “Now, you can agree to help me, Mr. Le Braun, or your two charming assistants can remain as statues forever,” threatened Leocadia, standing and placing a hand on Claire's rigid shoulder. “I alone have the power to restore them... And if you try to use any of your hypnotic tricks on me, my men are authorized to shoot you too. Be a bit of an ironic fate for you, wouldn't it?”

            “How do I know you can return them to normal?” he countered, more upset now.

            “Ah, very quickly then, a further demonstration,” offered Leocadia, gesturing to Reinaldo. The man produced from his jacket two darts, one with a green tip and the other a red tip, both of which he handed to Leocadia. Holding the green one aloft, Leocadia then jabbed it into Claire’s spandex-sheathed torso.

            The result was equally instantaneous. “... Anne!” suddenly exclaimed Claire, completing her interrupted shout. She quickly turned around in confusion, noticing Leocadia had been leaning on her. As Claire raised her arms to resist, however, Leocadia struck her with the red dart, once again rendering the lovely young reporter a mute and motionless mannequin.

            “That is a standard dosage, which immobilizes a person for a few hours. However, a much larger amount, an over-dose, can also be given and the unfortunate receiver will remain frozen indefinitely, or so the rumor has it. None of my previous colleagues has yet to awaken from their Type-7 overdoses so you’ll just have to take my word on that. Or, would you prefer I demonstrate further, on them?”  She glanced back at the two immobilized young women.

            Darren let out a sigh, leaning back in his chair. He did care for Anne and Claire, DiAnne in particular since her affection for him had very little to do with his abilities making her like him. Darren also valued his own life and would hate to see it cut short by some smuggler, albeit a sexy and apparently ruthless one, though the jury was out on her intelligence level. He let out an audible, almost theatrical, sigh. “What do you need me to do?” asked Darren, resigning himself to the situation. For now.

            “I assumed you'd like some kind of reassurance, Mr. Le Braun,” remarked Leocadia with a smile. “Now then... The prize? A shipment is being guided as we speak by an international super-model... It seems like Meaghan Mason, that hot new talent from the UK if you've never heard of her, has gotten her hands on a lot of Type-7. By 'a lot' I mean enough for its sale to pay for more than fifty times what this venture has cost me so far, and still have enough left over for me to freeze half of Barcelona. ”

            “That is... definitely a lot,” grinned Darren. “So where do I come in?”

            “Mason is going to appear at a private ‘fashion expo’ at the Fortune Sea Resort in the Cayman Islands,” revealed Leocadia, moving to sit across from Darren at the table, turning her back on the two frozen figures in the room. “We want this to go off perfectly, with Meghan having no memory of the incident... And to avoid complications, we'd like to strike when the models, designers, and guests are all in one place... ”

            “So you want me to hypnotize the entire fashion show into becoming mannequins,” realized Darren. “Cute. Creative... I'm sure there are probably easier ways... ”

            “The Type-7 drug may be better at freezing people than you are, but as I have said, I possess only a small amount. Not to mention... complications... of dispensing a precise dosage. When it comes to controlling large groups of people, I need the best,” insisted Leocadia, extending a hand. “You hypnotize everyone so they will be unaware of our actions, we ‘acquire’ the Type-7 and you then adjust Meghan Mason’s memory to remove any knowledge of the shipment. Once we're off the island we'll let you do what you want. I've even arranged for your hotel room at the Stilton to be extended for a whole month. Deal?”

            He said nothing, weighing his options and what he could possibly do to get out of this situation. Leocadia took his silence to be refusal.

            “Or, you can watch as we inject your beautiful associates with an overdose and my organization places them in permanent positions elsewhere. I understand there is a great desire for western-style mannequins in the Middle East right now, despite the political unrest and frequent bombings there. The choice, their fate, is yours. Do we have a deal?”

            Darren glanced at Leocadia's slim, manicured hand, feeling like he was about to shake hands with the devil. “Deal,” breathed Darren.

* * *


Fortune Sea Resort

Room 248

            Darren was broodingly quiet as he watched the bellhop unload the luggage cart inside the room, which was gorgeous to say the least. The lush blue carpet was so thick Darren practically lost sight of his feet in it, the walls were a tasteful ivory shade, and the oval bed seemed far bigger than a king. The sheets looked to be silk, the mattress was some sort of memory foam, and the furniture all appeared to be fine teak. Darren hadn't had a chance to peak in the bathroom yet but it looked like it had white marble counters with a black tile floor.

            Anne and Claire were just as quiet as Darren was when he slipped the bellhop his tip and sent him on his way. Darren was wearing a fine dark blue pinstripe suit, a midnight blue tie around his neck and a French white shirt underneath. Anne was amazing in a peach sundress, her hair in a ponytail and polarized sunglasses up on top of her head. Claire was decked out in a pair of white short-shorts and a shockingly gaudy purple and white Hawaiian shirt, her hair loose and her hipster glasses over her eyes. The women were wearing sandals while Darren had gone with black leather shoes.

            “We can't just do this,” began Claire as soon as the door was closed and Darren had locked it behind the departing bellhop. “We're going to be working for a crime syndicate!”

            “Technically only I am; you're simply hostages,” corrected Darren, smiling a bit at the dark humor.

            “Right, and I don't buy that they're just going to let us free when this is over!” insisted Claire, continuing to pace nervously while Anne quietly sat down at the foot of the bed, its dark red sheets contrasting against her dress. “They had to have spent tens of thousands of dollars just to arrange to get us this far! We could be talking about millions of dollars in illegal drugs! They won't let us go after that, knowing what we know!” Claire paused for a moment, glancing at the bed while holding her hands behind the back of her head, looking incredulous. “Wait, why only one bed?”

            “Pau-sa,” stated Anne, causing Claire to immediately go rigid. “That would be why. ” Darren couldn't help but smile a bit more, pleased that Anne had such good control over Claire's triggers. After taking a moment to change Claire's hands so they were resting on her ass rather than behind her head Darren went to sit next to Anne, who quietly took his hand.

            “I know it's risky, but they were prepared to just freeze us all permanently right there and either sell us or maybe even dump our bodies overboard,” pointed out Darren. “This Leocadia woman; she knows a lot about how I operate, but she can't be expecting everything. She'll slip up... And when she does, that will be our ticket out of this in one piece. ”

            “I believe in you,” offered Anne, using her other hand to touch Darren's face. “Remember, what happened in Miami wasn't your fault. You can do this performance, effortlessly... We'll come out on top. I know we will. ”

            “Thanks,” muttered Darren, not focusing so much on his words as on kissing Anne. The two were soon in each other's arms and fell back onto the bed, kissing more and more passionately. Darren ended up with his head against a pillow and Anne had him between her legs, pulling off her dress to reveal she'd gone without underwear. Anne began to fiddle with Darren's belt...

Knock! Knock!

            “Son of a... Anne, freeze!” ordered Darren, causing Anne to lock up with her hands on Darren's buckle. “Completely frozen, unaware of what's going on around you... ” whispered Darren as he slid out from under Anne and got off the bed. Pausing only to give the equally still Claire a quick peck on the lips Darren reached the suite’s door and opened it.

            “I hope you're enjoying the room so far, but we require your complete attention for the moment,” declared a tanned woman Darren didn't recognize as she casually entered the room, stopping and glancing at Anne. “Hmm... You really don't waste time. Good. ” The woman had dark brown hair and looked to be in her late thirties, possessing a certain Spanish quality to her. The woman's hair was in a half-ponytail and she was wearing an orange business dress over a yellow turtleneck, pantyhose on her legs and red heels on her feet. Darren thought the woman would make a great Halloween decoration.

            “I'm sorry, you are... ?” asked Darren.

            “Teresita Zuniga, personal assistant to Ms. Braga, and a fan, actually,” revealed the woman, offering a hand that Darren reluctantly took. “I commented on your show under the alias 'FashionMaven' actually. ”

            “Figures the nicest comment was by someone in on what was really happening,” sighed Darren, smiling wryly. “So what's this about?”

            “Well, despite the impressive skill you've used with your companions here, Ms. Braga was hoping to test your ability a bit,” explained Teresita, once again glancing around the room. “Not on me, of course. Wouldn't matter. I cannot be hypnotized... ”

            “Bold claim,” smirked Darren, half-tempted to try anyway but deciding against it, wanting to have some time to make sure he'd met all of Leocadia's people first.

            “True claim,” insisted Teresita with a smile. “In any event, there's a model staying two doors down. We'd like you to hypnotize and induct her into a frozen state. She's only been on the major fashion scene less than a year, hence not really an international name though she's starting to get fame in the US... Haley Leone?”

            “Doesn't ring a bell,” shrugged Darren as Teresita handed him a photo of the subject. The woman was an attractive and somewhat-curvy blonde who looked like a bit of a girl next door while still having a little something extra. Darren doubted the woman was much older than twenty-four, and even then he was fairly certain she was around twenty-one.

            “In any event, we were thinking you'd dress up as a bellhop, approach her and then induct her into a frozen trance... ” continued Teresita. “We know she's got a laptop in her room with a web-cam so you can take a photo with her as proof using that and then email it to the address provided on the back of that picture. ” Darren turned the picture around and saw there was indeed an email address on the back.

            “I'm not that skilled with... computers,” confessed Darren. “Are you sure this is the best way?”

            “You can just have her do it when she's hypnotized, but make sure the evidence is totally erased from her computer,” warned Teresita. “Anything else?”

            “Save the bellhop idea, I don't think I'll need that,” declared Darren, moving towards the door. “Which room?”

            “242,” answered Teresita as she began to pass through the door that Darren opened for her. “You've got two hours. The show starts in four. ”

            “Plenty of time,” chuckled Darren, trying to mask any worries he had as he closed the door behind Teresita.

            Darren didn't have far to walk to reach the nearby room and, much to his delight, the hallway was clear. As one would expect, there was peephole in the door so Darren placed himself in front of it, knocking twice and then taking up a crossed-arm pose, his left hand's fingers starting move and wiggle.

            “Who is it?” came a voice on the other side of the door, sounding a bit sweet yet brusque.

            “Good evening, my name is Darren Le Braun, I represent the show,” lied Darren, not really caring if she believed him or not. “I was hoping I might have your attention for a moment so I could see if you needed anything to help you relax before the show. We'd have to have anyone not be at peace and without stress before going out there... ”

            “I'm... Fine... ” came Haley's voice, but Darren knew he had her already. Darren had been using slight inflections on certain words, and combined with gazing straight into the peephole and his finger movements he was actually managing to rapidly-induct her through the door.

            “Well good, we don't need you to... freeze! On stage, we need you able to obey instructions... Like opening the door right now and letting me in,” finished Darren, waiting as he stopped. Moments later the door slowly opened and he was allowed into the room, Darren trying his best to hide his massive grin.

            Haley closed the door behind him and Darren got a good look at her. Around average height, Haley's blonde hair went past her shoulders; she had dark green eyes and a nice pair of C-cup breasts. Haley was currently wearing a dark blue spaghetti-strap top and designer blue jeans, her feet bare and her toes freshly painted a pale red. “Very good my dear, I need you to obey my every command, be my happy little puppet, finding that very desirable while falling deeper and deeper into a restful dreamlike state,” Darren told Haley, putting his hands on her shoulders. “I'm going to give you an email address... you are going to set up your laptop so I can take a picture of us using your web-cam and then send the picture to that account. You may respond if you understand. ”

            “I... Understand... ” Haley slowly nodded, looking very mesmerized. Darren showed Haley the email address on the back of her photo and she slowly moved over to the computer, the hypnotist following. Typing as if sleepwalking, moving her fingers over the laptop, she soon got a moving image of herself with him in the background to appear, or at least Darren thought it looked like that, as the program Haley used was one he was unfamiliar with. “To send the screen cap, tap the space bar... ” she said dreamily.

            “Very good, now stand and face me, while remaining perfectly relaxed... ” ordered Darren once Haley was done, the blonde doing as she was told. “I want you to respond honestly... When are you needed backstage for the show?”

            “Three hours... ” replied Haley, a bit faster but still clearly under Darren's spell.

            “Good, now I want to take up a comfortable pose, one you might have seen in a boutique once,” commanded Darren, having spent over two minutes with the young woman and feeling his crotch bulge. “You'll hold this pose and slowly feel yourself drifting deeper and deeper into a peaceful state, ignorant of everything around you. You'll be just another mannequin in a store... Silent, beautiful, unaware of your surroundings, breathing only through your nose, not reacting to anything that happens around you... ”

            Haley slowly swayed her hip to the right and placed her hands on them, turning her fingers to be out in front of her, tilting her head back slightly. Darren waited a few moments before taking Haley's shoulders and trying to wiggle her, at which point he discovered she was perfectly rigid as if she'd been frozen before then and she was used to it. Noticing Haley had actually managed to avoid blinking for over a minute, an impressive feat since a person on average blinked around twenty five times a minute. Feeling confident, Darren leaned in to steal a kiss and, getting no response, decided she was ready for her close-up.

            Turning the laptop so the camera reflected Haley’s mannequin-like pose as he stood in the background, Darren reached down and tapped the keyboard. Nothing seemed to happen, but the computer made a chiming sound after a few seconds. He figured the email was sent. Looking back at Haley, he knew there was plenty of time left and dived right in.

            “Screw it, I'm getting laid at least once today,” declared Darren, quickly opening Haley's pants and pulling them down to around her ankles. Opening his own trousers, Darren quickly began to thrust while standing, able to compensate for the height difference fairly easily. Haley, shockingly, didn't so much as begin to breathe hard, making Darren realize just what a natural hypnosis subject she was.

            Thanks to the tease he'd gotten with Anne a few minutes ago Darren had already been decently aroused and it didn't take long for him to finish, though not wanting to leave a trace as he climaxed he pulled his underwear back up, planning to just change it when he got back to his room. “Oh, you are just magic,” breathed Darren, giving frozen Haley another kiss after he pulled his pants back up. “Okay, in one hour you'll start moving, feeling as rested as if after a full night’s sleep, while not finding anything strange. You will not remember seeing my face or hearing these commands or anything else that has happened since you met me though you will remember every command I have given you. You will however find yourself eager to become peacefully motionless as a mannequin again, maybe even practicing when you're alone. You'll also be ready to obey any order I give you when you hear the phrase 'wooden duck' coming from my mouth. Remember, after I say 'wooden duck' you'll obey any order I give you until I tell you to stop obeying. Nod if you understand... ” Haley replied back with the slightest nod.

            Knowing he should probably head back to his room sooner rather than later, Darren pocketed his stained underwear, at the same time wondering just how he might be able to use Haley. She would be backstage with the other models, so Darren might be able to control her to somehow thwart Leocadia's group, assuming that they were only the four he'd met so far. Haley suddenly springing to life after apparently being hypnotized into becoming a statue, grabbing a man's gun and shooting him with his own freeze dart appealed to Darren, but he knew he'd need something more solid. Just as Darren was trying to figure out what that plan might be there was a knock at the door.

            Glancing out the peephole, Darren saw two women, both fairly attractive. One looked to be in her thirties and appeared Korean, her hair pinned up at the back but with bangs in the front while clad in a white skirt suit with a pale mauve blouse underneath. The woman's associate had black hair and looked Caucasian, she was wearing a gray pants suit with a white blouse, her hair in a low ponytail. The Korean woman was holding up an ID to the peephole, which Darren noted said 'Interpol' and 'Janice Wang. ' “Perfect,” smiled Darren, now thinking he had his chance. Darren figured he could hypnotize the pair, maybe get them to arrest anyone guarding Claire and Anne later so he could get them to safety and then even possibly capture Leocadia.  He turned the knob, flashing his best smile.

            “Good afternoon, I'm agent Janice Wang, this is agent Kathleen Rudd, we're with Interpol, and we're looking for a Haley Leone?” offered the Asian woman as the door opened, sounding very friendly with a soft voice.

            “I'm her agent, funnily enough, so that makes three of us I guess,” chuckled Darren as he started doing his finger trick, managing to get Kathleen to smile slightly, though Janice didn't seem to care for the joke. “Miss Leone is just now, well, meditating I guess I could call it... What is this—?”

            A room door slamming open across the hall interrupted Darren, but not as much as Cirino and Reinaldo appearing in the doorway with raised pistols, both firing without hesitation at the agents in front of the hypnotist. Janice and Kathleen had both just started to turn around and were thus facing each other; Janice's arms were crossed while Kathleen had her hands more or less at her sides. The pair had instantly frozen upon impact from the darts.

            “What... ” muttered Darren, all he was able to do as the two men quickly ran across the hallway and dragged the two immobilized women into their room with them, Darren noting that fortunately no one had come out into the hallway. As the men disappeared with the stiffened agents, Leocadia appeared in the doorway, quietly gesturing for Darren to enter also. Not wanting to risk getting shot himself, Darren agreed, letting Haley's door close behind him.

            Leocadia's room was like his and the others on the floor that Darren had seen, though there were more people present. Cirino and Reinaldo had quietly stood Janice and Kathleen up by the computer desk, while near the closet on the other side of the bed there was a human-sized figure shrouded in a white sheet. Leocadia meanwhile was standing in front of her bed with her arms crossed, a small smile on her lips. The door, with no one holding it, quietly closed behind Darren. “Naughty boy,” chided Leocadia, shaking her head with her eyebrows arched.

            “What do you mean?” asked Darren, feigning ignorance.

            “Mr. Le Braun, do not take me for a fool, I watched you hypnotize Miss Leone through her locked door, as well as what you did after, so I know what you were trying to pull off with those Interpol agents just now,” revealed Leocadia, shaking her head. “We did pick Miss Leone for a reason, you know. ”

            “So sending the email... ” began Darren.

            “Was just a ruse, in case you did your job behind closed doors, yes; we have our own surveillance in the room. ” nodded Leocadia. “I see you are indeed one of the best... and quickest. Certainly better than any would-be conjurer I've tried to hire in my home country. However I've now been forced to capture two meddlesome Interpol agents... Which is very risky. My old Interpol nemesis actually followed me here... And she brought support. ”

            “You have a nemesis?” commented Darren, not terribly surprised in retrospect.

            “None of your business,” insisted Leocadia, moving away from the bed and towards the shrouded figure. “Now... To discourage you from unnecessarily hypnotizing or taking advantage of anyone else before you're needed, I think I'll now show you someone we also arranged to attract here... I happen to know you've met her before.... ” With a dramatic gesture, Leocadia pulled back the sheet to reveal the still female figure underneath.

            “Debbie?” whispered Darren in surprise. Debbie Richardson was a young woman from Houston, the same place as Anne, and had been engaged to some hotshot lawyer. Since then Darren knew they'd quickly gotten divorced, but not before Debbie had taken her fiance to the cleaners and made off with several million. Darren also knew Debbie had done some past modeling so he wondered if that had something to do with how she'd been lured to the resort.

            “Yes, Debbie Richardson, and I'm sure her ex-husband, despite probably wanting to see her suffer, would happily go after any man blamed for something bad happening to her,” suggested Leocadia as she walked around the immobilized figure. Debbie was still very young, barely legal drinking age, and possessed gorgeous blue eyes as well as fair brown hair. The frozen woman had her hair up in a loose bun and she was wearing a two-piece white and yellow bikini that left nothing to the imagination, erect nipples visible underneath. Debbie was posed as if frightened, eyes-wide and lips parted, her arms hugging her sides.

            “Okay, no more hypnosis hanky-panky unless ordered to do so, or else I not only face your wrath but her ex-husband's,” nodded Darren, throwing up his hands. “I was just being pragmatic. Those agents could have been trouble. ”

            “All you needed to do was lie and tell them Miss Leone wasn't available,” pointed out Leocadia, shaking her head. “I know you can be very charming when you choose to be. No. Unnecessary. Hypnosis. Now go back to your room and wait; we'll retrieve you later. ”

            “Alright,” nodded Darren, quietly taking his leave after glancing at Debbie once more. Darren had never had a relationship with Debbie or anything of the sort but she had been a good model of his and she was an innocent, so he didn't want to see her get hurt.

            Returning to his room Darren found Teresita had gone, leaving just him with his female companions. “Anne, unfreeze,” ordered Darren as he headed towards the bed, but to his surprise she didn't do so. He repeated the command, to no effect. Anne hadn't moved since Darren had left but, as he approached the bed, he noticed a handwritten note placed next to her rigid body. Darren quickly read it.

            We perm-froze your lover too as a reminder not to cross us.
               If you play nice we'll unfreeze her later.

                                                                                    ~ T

            “Crap,” muttered Darren to himself. Scrapping the paper, Darren kicked off his shoes and climbed onto the bed, getting a better look at Anne. There were absolutely no signs of life, not even a hint of breath as Darren gently stroked Anne's gorgeous face. “Don't worry, I'll make sure we can finish this where we left off,” the hypnotist whispered to his still and silent lover, proceeding to give her a kiss on her large, rigid, lips. Unlike someone he had hypnotized, Darren couldn't feel Anne's personal warmth, yet her utter immobility was somehow strangely erotic, as if she'd achieved something he'd always wanted his subjects to reach.

            Deciding to make the best of the situation, and with plenty of time to spare, Darren stripped down and managed to pull DiAnne under the bed's covers, posing her stiff body with her arms up at her sides and her legs straight. Darren's worries for his lover's well being vanished in the wake of discovering just how wonderful it was to not have to worry about reinforcing the trance or jolting someone too much and thus making them snap out of their mannequin-like state. The sex that resulted from the encounter was a bit cold for Darren, but it was still very effective and after finishing with Anne he considered falling asleep on her chest, but then he remembered Claire.

            “I'm going to need a plan,” realized Darren, sliding out of bed naked, leaving Anne’s form uncovered, and approaching his other companion, who was only frozen through hypnosis. He hoped. “Anima?” Darren said to Claire, who after a moment blinked and moved her hands away from her backside.

            “Happy to see me?” asked Claire nonchalantly, noting Darren's current state.

            “You could say that,” smiled Darren, then immediately frowning and nodding over at the bed. “Our captors aren't messing around. I took one small amount of initiative and they freaked out and froze DiAnne. Permanently. She seems okay physically, but she’s now a living statue. ”

            “Yes; I see you checked her very closely... ” Claire replied with a grin.

“I needed to relax so I could focus... ” he mumbled. “I think I can get us out of this but I’ll need your help. ”

            “Well as much fun as being a mannequin for a little while is, I'd rather not end up as one forever, so what's the plan?” asked Claire, casually walking over to the bed and sitting on the foot of it, ignoring Anne, unbuttoning her shirt.

            “It’s clear they don't trust me, so they'll probably have some kind of defense set up to make sure I don't hypnotize them too when they need me, which is precisely what I want to do... ” speculated Darren, pacing the room. “I'll probably... You know what, I'm really not sure yet. I just know you're the only person here I can really trust right now. ”

            “Nice to feel needed and not just window-dressing,” grinned Claire, and Darren realized she's just stripped off her shorts and shirt to reveal a striking pink two-toned bikini.

            “Pink, so very you,” smiled Darren, approaching his companion, noticing how the contrasting black sides of the suit flattered her already striking figure.

            “It's not pink, its fuchsia!” insisted Claire, frowning right before Darren moved in to kiss her. Darren soon guided Claire to lie down on the bottom part of the large bed, away from Anne's feet, but the blogger stopped Darren at one point, blocking his lips with her finger.

            “You sure they don't have us bugged?” whispered Claire.

            “Not really, but I am certain they're watching the inside of this room,” commented Darren, very softly, hovering close to her to hide his words. “If they were listening in they'd probably have interfered before now... ”

            “Good enough, because I just had... a marvelous idea on how... I might be able to help us... out of this mess... ” revealed Claire, between brief soft pecks on his lips. “But if we've got some time... Sex first. ”

            “Unhh?” grunted Darren, taken by surprise. “I didn’t think you... ?”

            “Cared?” she smiled back. “Even after you hypnotized me to be irrepressibly infatuated with you and all? It wasn’t all your mad skills, Kreskin; I went along, too!”

            “Even the freeze trigger?” he whispered.

            “That was a surprise,” she admitted, “But I found out that standing motionless as a mannequin for hours at a time makes me really horny. ”  Claire kissed him again, drawing him closer. “Now, are we going to yak away our time or are you going to agree to my terms?”

            “You drive a hard bargain,” sighed Darren drolly as words became unneeded.

* * *

            “You look comfortable,” came a dry, sarcastic remark, causing Darren to stir from what he realized had become a nap. The hypnotist had somehow ended up on the floor, still in the buff, while up on the foot of the bed Darren could see Claire was stirring with her arms hanging over the end. Teresita and Cirino were both standing over him, the lavishly dressed woman holding a dry-cleaning bag with a freshly pressed tuxedo in it.

            “How long until the show?” asked Darren dreamily, noting he must have somehow rolled off the bed and yet not woken up as he felt a bit more sore than a person would be sleeping on a plush carpeted floor.

            “Just over under two hours, but we'd like you up and dressed within half an hour,” revealed Teresita. “You have strange methods of preparation. ”

After having fun with Claire, they'd chatted a bit before nodding off as she revealed her well-conceived scheme, so he'd only slept an hour or so. Claire had awakened upon hearing the strange voices.

            “Shower and change then; no problem,” nodded Darren, Cirino offering him a hand up. After a moment of hesitation Darren decided to accept the help, though he noted the man didn't seem pleased to be able to see the hypnotist's exposed crotch.

            “We'll wait out here, but the bathroom is all yours,” declared Teresita, moving to sit on the couch after handing Darren the hanger part of the bag. “Do be quick... ”

            “Right away,” offered Darren, and much to his delight he watched Claire gather up her bikini and hurry into the bathroom with him. The door closed behind the two and Darren saw there was a spacious bathtub, so he hung up the suit bag on the door and starting running the water. With luck, that would mask any conversation from planted bugs.

            “Good thing we had a chance to talk earlier, between courses, so to speak,” Claire giggled. “I guess if we're going to run the plan, now is the time to do it,” she added, placing her bikini on the toilet tank before moving over to Darren naked. “Do what you need to do. ”

            “With pleasure,” agreed Darren, putting his hands on Claire's shoulders. “Pau-sa. ” Claire froze while standing more or less at attention, looking into Darren's eyes with slightly parted lips. “When you wake up, you'll respond to my order of saying your name and then the words 'freeze solid' by becoming a rigid human statue, as stiff as cast bronze, frozen in time and unable to move, think or notice anything around you, breathing only through your nose. You will however only remain as a statue for exactly five minutes before unfreezing, then feeling refreshed. ”

            Darren was about to unfreeze Claire but then decided to experiment a bit. Gently placing his hands under Claire's armpits, Darren lifted her up and managed to place her in the tub, then joined her. A spray of warm water struck Claire but she remained perfectly frozen and unmoving. A bit exhausted from having gone from having no sex to nailing a model, his lover, and his latest lover multiple times, Darren simply enjoyed taking a bar of soap and tenderly running it over Claire's sculpture-smooth body, taking great delight in particular when it came to her breasts. In the end the ‘quick’ shower took at least ten minutes.

            “Anima,” Darren said after the shower had ended, leaving a wet and very clean Claire looking at him in surprise.

            “I would have thought water of all things would make me snap me out of it, but I guess not,” commented Claire, a bit bewildered as she stepped out to towel off. “Are we set?”

            “Yes, I just hope I'll have a chance to indicate more of what you can do to help before I go. Worst case is you’ll just have to make it up as you go along,” advised Darren, toweling himself dry as Claire rolled her eyes in mock (mock?) frustration. Despite the pair both being a bit aroused the tension of their situation was getting to them, so both dried themselves separately, Darren then set to work at putting on what had turned out be a black tie tuxedo in the dry-cleaning bag.

            “Look, just... If things get bad, I want you to get out of here, don't worry about me,” Claire finally told Darren a few minutes later, as she helped him adjust his bow tie while he finished putting the tux jacket on. She had wrapped the towel around her midsection yet it barely covered her either on top or bottom; the effect was more than slightly distracting.

            “Nonsense; no way in hell I'm leaving without you,” Darren told Claire, and the pair shared a look before sharing one more kiss. At that Darren headed for the bathroom door and strolled back out into the room. Claire followed a few seconds later, trying to be discreet.

            “Sharply dressed, mmm; I hope the woman in the control room will approve,” remarked Teresita, standing up from the couch. “I need you to hypnotize a few people and then preset the show's audio controls in the back, before appearing onstage... You will have everyone’s attention for a few minutes. Won't be for long though, the plan is to strike almost right away. You'll need to leave your companion here though... Either our way or yours,” Teresita noted casually, producing a small hypodermic syringe from the inside of her gaudy purse.

            “Fair enough,” nodded Darren, suppressing a grin and turning to face Claire, who looked back at him with innocent eyes and the tiniest wink before he spoke. “Claire, freeze solid!” Claire stiffened in place yet again, her arms crossed and emptiness on her face. Darren just only hoped Claire would now be bold enough to do what was needed when she unfroze in a few minutes time. “OK; she thinks she’s a marble statue until I say otherwise. ”

            “That must be fun, chuckled Teresita, pausing for a few seconds. “However, we should make sure,” she added, approaching the motionless young woman.

Darren felt a wrench in the pit of his stomach, fearing Claire was going to be injected too, before Teresita pulled her arm back, unloading an open-handed slap across Claire’s cheek. The deep hypnotic command held true; Claire did not so much as blink as the force of the blow toppled her stiff and rigid body over sideways, where a surprised Cirino turned around quickly to catch her before she fell hard onto the floor like an actual statue. “Very well,” Teresita commented. “Lean that one in a corner for now; we’re wasting time. ”

            “I figured,” grunted Darren. “So in about an hour and forty minutes we start the real show, I mesmerize the audience, and then you can grab that precious cargo of yours. ”

            “Yes, but once the show has started we'll need you to join us, just in case we encounter any surprises,” added Teresita. “You'll have an earpiece to contact us... But before you get any shrewd ideas, it'll be a different type than our headsets so we’ll be able to block out your little act. As you can tell, our leader has planned very thoroughly. ”

            It had taken all of Darren’s considerable willpower to not rush to protect Claire and idly watch as she fell. Teresita couldn’t suspect there was any connection between them. The plan was now clear in Darren's mind; he just had to trust that Claire would be intuitive enough to cope with the inevitable surprises.

            Teresita indicated the door. “Lets go – showtime!”

* * *


Audio/Visual Control Room

            Darren noted that Teresita had taken a more 'scenic' tour of the resort’s pathways, possibly just in case someone happened to be following them, but Darren knew a map of the resort was in the room with Claire so she'd be fine. Cirino kept his hands buried in his pockets and Teresita simply smiled the whole way; Darren was not sure which he found more unnerving. Finally they arrived outside what appeared to be, at least from the hallway, the entrance to a storage closet. The trio was on the second floor and Darren remembered there being a space for something like dance lessons and such right near where they were, so he assumed the room would be overlooking it in some way.

            “We did take the liberty of having your lights placed amongst those on the special rig that was set up for tonight's show, by the way,” clarified Teresita as they hovered outside the door. “All you need to do right now is go in and hypnotize the girl they've got staffing the equipment. Some outside “temp” agency has their person doing it instead of a regular specialist, but its apparently mostly automated. They're also using her to coordinate the efforts between her people and Interpol. ”

            “So she's key to covering up the disappearance of those two agents I met earlier,” realized Darren, nodding. “Okay, stand back, give me some room, and watch a pro at work. ” Teresita and Cirino both stepped back, giving Darren a chance to quickly compose himself. Placing a hand on the handle to the room, Darren took a breath before stepping inside.

            “Pardon; hello?” came a young woman's voice as Darren entered, and her striking appearance and lilting voice almost made him pause. The woman was maybe twenty-five at best and had gorgeous blue eyes and very light blonde hair, not to mention a very nice tan. This dazzling beauty was definitely the kind of woman Darren would love to see become a mannequin at one of his experiences. The blonde's slightly wavy hair was currently down and she was wearing a blue leather jacket over a red tank top, stonewashed jeans on her legs and on her feet were a pair of white and green running shoes. “You should not be here... ” she questioned; her voice held the hint of a very sexy accent.

            “I'm sorry, I don't think we've met,” offered Darren, lying his ass off as he began to move his fingers. “Resort security, undercover as talent. I understand you're in charge of the audio, radios, and lighting for tonight's show?”

            “Music too, though that's going to cycle a predetermined play-list, I just need to press a button,” smiled the woman, crossing her arms and then frowning. “My name is Colette Landry, agent for the ITEA. You want to explain that whopping lie you just pulled out of your butt?” Darren thought for a panicked moment he was going to start sweating, but then he noticed that for all her bravado Colette was becoming fixated on his fingers, and she seemed to almost sway a bit. The acronym of ITEA also sounded vaguely familiar to Darren, but for the moment he couldn't place it.

            “I'm sorry, agent Landry; I can explain everything in a jiffy,” he covered, stepping closer. She was watching him intently, wary, which was almost ideal as a distraction:  “... it's just that I'd really like it if you would... FREEZE!” Darren suddenly shouted, moving to grab her, placing a hand on Colette's shoulder and another over her eyes. She did not budge. “You are frozen in time, completely relaxed, letting your mind go blank and your body go stiff... ” Colette was still frowning, but now she showed no signs of movement as her muscles locked her body in place; her eyes were slowly blinking. Darren didn't need to tell the hypnotized agent to breathe through her nose; she was doing it naturally already.

            “French, I love it,” smiled Darren, taking a moment to glance around the room. There were a dozen TV monitors set up around the room, each showing a different part of the fashion show that Darren could also see through a tinted one-way window. The room had a projector unit that was currently retracted to the ceiling, so he figured there were times when movies or presentations were shown in the main room. A large device to the right seemed to be the audio controls as Darren recognized CD players and other such equipment, while to the left was a shelf full of manuals. Next to the monitors was a big control board that Darren noted seemed to have both controls for the cameras and lights.  A hand-held radio and a small earpiece both sat on one of the consoles next to an open box of Pepper Jack Cheez-Its.

            “I just realized I am starving, I should see about getting a sandwich... ” muttered Darren before focusing back on Colette. “Okay, Colette, I want to you slowly stop blinking now, as you become frozen in time, remaining completely motionless, at absolute peace and willing to do whatever I tell you. Blink twice if you understand. ” Colette blinked twice, and then Darren noted she then stopped blinking for over twenty seconds. “Very good... ” Realizing he didn’t have much time, he dialed the house phone and left a brief message. Darren was tempted to do more but knew Teresita would be getting jumpy, so he quickly went back to open the door.

            “All done,” announced Darren as he let the woman in, with Cirino electing to stay outside. Teresita walked past Darren and casually stepped up to the immobilized Colette, gently poking her in the breast and getting no reaction.

            “You really are good,” observed Teresita, a confident smile back on her face. “Okay, you can tell her to do whatever you want, right?”

            “I can,” confirmed Darren with a nod.

            “Good, I’ll need you to have this woman radio Sonia Castillo and ask her to come meet here,” explained Teresita. “Sonia's the head of the Interpol team that's here... Apparently they let agents from other organizations work the AV system because their agency mostly knows Type-7. ”

            “So this ITEA bunch she mentioned covers rare and illegal drugs?” speculated Darren, based on what little he knew.

            “Don't know, don't care; we do know they've got three more agents, and Interpol's also got three, not counting the ones we captured earlier,” shrugged Teresita, waving off Darren's thought. “These ITEA people we can probably leave alone... Just lure Sonia here and we'll take care of her and her other two agents. We managed to find out what room they were booked into and set up a bug in there; we know the two organizations don't always play well together and that Sonia's team was going to work outside the show while the ITEA will cover the inside of it. ”

            “So if we take out the rest of the Interpol agents, that ITEA team should just fall for my presentation like everyone else,” realized Darren. “So freezing those two women earlier wasn't inconvenient!”

            “I’m not apologizing for making your girlfriend worthy of belonging in a museum,” chided Teresita, assuming what Darren's point was. “Now get this French bitch working... After we've dealt with Interpol, Cirino will keep you company until the show's underway. ”

            “Looking forward to that,” remarked Darren dryly, letting Teresita leave the room, having decided to not risk attempting to hypnotize her here since that if it took too long or Cirino picked up on the ploy, he'd be screwed.

            Left alone, Darren quickly scanned the room and saw there was a notepad and pen sitting around, so he got a good idea of what he'd do. “Okay, Colette, I need you to keep your mind blank, but I want you to let me guide you,” whispered Darren into Colette's ears as he put his hands on her shoulders. “I'm going to slowly turn you around and lead you back towards your chair. I want you to slowly walk as I push, but remain perfectly calm and relaxed... ” It took a bit more coaxing but soon Darren was able to get Colette moving, turning her around and slowly getting her to stand in front of her chair. Darren then guided the blonde to her seat and moved her hands to the armrests.

            The radio was ready to be used but Darren decided to delay just for a moment, writing a quick note on the pad and then tearing it off, carefully stuffing it in between Colette's breasts. “Those look like 36Cs, nice,” smiled Darren, pinching Colette's left nipple for good measure. “I bet your ass is a wonderland too. ” Hoping the note was hidden well enough that only Claire would find it, Darren leaned in and began to whisper into Colette's ear again, giving her slightly different instructions in addition to Teresita’s scheme.

            After a few moments Colette slowly reached up and picked up the Interpol radio, holding it to her lips. “Chief Castillo, I need to see you right away,” announced Colette into the radio, sounding a bit off but not enough so she seemed to be under duress, or at least Darren hoped.

            “Understood, we'll be there shortly,” came a sexy voice; confident, yet sultry, or so Darren thought.

            “Good, now Colette, freeze,” ordered Darren, leaving Colette to again go rigid, now holding the radio in her right hand while her left rested on the side of the chair. “Excellent, totally relaxed, unaware, at peace... ” Darren continued to whisper to Colette but kept his voice low.

            A couple of minutes later Darren was still reinforcing his words of instruction to Colette when the room's door suddenly opened and in walked a rather sophisticated woman who looked to be around forty. The woman was around average height; she had short brown hair whose longest tips barely touched her shoulders, striking dark brown eyes that seemed to smile brightly regardless of her expression and a fine looking-body that was neither too round nor too thin. The woman was dressed in a crisp navy-blue skirt suit, black heels on her feet, dark pantyhose on her legs and a white blouse under her jacket. Under her coat was the outline of a waist holster for a gun and what looked like the tip of a laminated ID badge. Darren was fairly confident this woman was Sonia Castillo.

“Who are you?” demanded Sonia, being rather blunt.

            “Darren Le Braun, I'm assisting with the show tonight, and I wanted to speak to you briefly about some worries I have regarding security,” lied Darren glibly, walking forward and moving his right hand out as an offer to shake, his left meanwhile, hovering just inside Sonia's peripheral vision, began to do his special finger motions.

            “Agent Landry, did you clear this man?” demanded Sonia, ignoring Darren and starting to walk past him. Colette remained frozen and said nothing.

            “Chief Castillo, I assure you I am very legit!” exclaimed Darren, a bit over-dramatically but enough to keep Sonia's focus on him, and thus he didn't lose her. Indeed, despite her looking annoyed Darren was fairly sure there was a flicker in her eyes.

            “What are your concerns, and make it quick,” sighed Sonia. “Is it the dressing rooms?”

            “No, those have very little to do with what I do, obviously,” pointed out Darren, wondering if the odd question was just to see if his claims weren't paper-thin, or at least if his skill at lying wasn't. “There's this big moment I have planned... Haley Leone is going to come on stage and then become stock-still, rigid, frozen in place... She'll be like a mannequin, so at peace, relaxed, not having a care in the world... I even mean that she will not be aware what is happening. I want to really create a visual atmosphere that makes the audience believe she's just a mannequin in a store, a simple dummy without a thought in her head, as if frozen in time... She'll just step out there, strike a pose, and FREEZE!”

            A hand was placed on Sonia's shoulder as Darren finished, and the shock did it. Despite seeming engaged in Darren's speech, Sonia had appeared a bit more bored than entranced, but luckily with everything working to his advantage but despite the distracting sounds of the room Sonia had become his. She was standing still with her hands on her hips, her eyes glazed and her lips parted to breathe, her shapely body swaying slightly. “Easy now, you're now a statue, carved from stone, frozen perfectly, no blinking, no large breaths, no flinching... You will breathe through your nose,” Darren told Sonia, trying to deepen her trance to become more rigid. The words slowly had an effect and soon Sonia was rock-steady.

            “Perfect, remain as my beautiful peaceful sculpture, until I release you,” whispered Darren as he quietly headed for the door. Opening it up, Darren saw a pair of tallish people standing there motionless, posed more or less at attention in black suits. One was a man and the other a woman; the man having darker hair while the woman’s was fair brown. The pair looked like they were both in their thirties and despite not looking much alike, Darren got the feeling that they were related somehow.

            “Mister Le Braun, meet agents Ian and Alexandra Blake of Interpol,” offered Leocadia, who had suddenly appeared next to Darren as he leaned out of the door. “Forgive them if they don’t offer a greeting; they’re taking a little time-out. Reinaldo and Teresita were just going to convey them to join agents Wang and Rudd... Care to tag along too and check on Miss Richardson?”

           “I'm good,” smiled Darren, Leocadia coolly smiling back as Teresita and Reinaldo both began to drag their respective targets away on their heels, Alexandra was luckily wearing what looked like black slip-ins. Cirino was still nearby, watching Darren like a hawk.

            “I see you've easily dealt with my old friend Sonia,” observed Leocadia, moving past Darren and entering the A/V control room to glance at the two entranced women inside. “Tell me... Can your hypnosis enable me to release her and then freeze her again with a simple word?”

            “Shouldn't be hard to do,” nodded Darren. “She was quite receptive to being put into a trance. If you want, I can even make her obey everything you tell her to do, if you preface it with a certain word... I just need one you like. ”

            “Oh I have the perfect word,” chuckled Leocadia. “'Marioneta. '”

* * *


Room 209

            Leocadia held open the door to her private suite to allow Sonia to obediently follow her inside. Sonia entered the room with a blank face, in what Leocadia had dubbed 'puppet mode' so that she'd obey everything asked of her as if she had no mind of her own. “Stop,” Leocadia told Sonia once she reached the middle of the suite. The crime lord then went to sit at the foot of her king-sized bed and crossed her right leg over her left. “Marioneta: Unfreeze. ” The first word made Sonia stop doing whatever she was told and just be frozen at attention, but the second word released that restraint as well. Sonia blinked and looked around in confusion at her altered location as Leocadia just smiled, resting her hands on her right knee.

            “How did... YOU!” exclaimed Sonia, upon seeing Leocadia sitting there. “I'm going to-” began Sonia, taking a step forward and reaching for her holster.

            “Freeze,” commanded Leocadia, causing the agent to lock in place, her right hand pulling back her coat while her left reached for her weapon. Leocadia took a moment to admire the pose before getting up, approaching Sonia and touching her face. “Oh Sonia, you seem to have gone very stiff... ” chuckled Leocadia, stroking Sonia's cheek with one hand while the other pulled out her sidearm.

            “I don't think you’ll be needing this,” declared Leocadia, placing the weapon into the drawer of the right bedside table. With the Type-7 dart gun dealt with, Leocadia returned to her seated position but put her left leg on top of her right. “Unfreeze. ”

            “-arrest yo— what?!” continued Sonia, unaware that she'd just been frozen. Looking down, the Interpol Section Chief noticed her empty holster and her missing weapon. “How did... ”

            “Freeze,” laughed Leocadia as Sonia again became a statue. Sonia now stood rigidly in mid-blink, her lips pursed and her left index finger pointing at Leocadia. Continuing to laugh, Leocadia stood and walked up to Sonia, taking a moment to tickle her puckered lips.

            “I would never kiss you... I'm just too good for you,” insisted Leocadia, instead raising Sonia's right arm and gently removing her jacket, not wanting to risk an abrupt action causing her captive to unfreeze. Le Braun seemed to be very good at his craft, but Leocadia didn't want to take chances. Returning Sonia's right hand to her side, Leocadia quickly threw the jacket under the bed and sat once more, right leg over left again. “Unfreeze. ”

            “-you take my... Wait, your legs,” observed Sonia, then looking at down at her chest as she realized she wasn't wearing her jacket. “My coat! Are you us-”

            “Freeze,” managed Leocadia, stopping Sonia yet again as she began to have a fit of hysterics, having far too much fun manipulating her longstanding adversary. Leocadia took a couple of minutes to catch her breath before getting up and looking at Sonia, who remained posed with her hands on her hips as she was trying to look tough, her teeth now flashing while clenched.

            “You need to lose some dignity,” decided Leocadia, walking closer to the frozen agent and dropping Sonia’s skirt and pantyhose to around her ankles. Seeing just plain black panties around Sonia's waist, Leocadia frowned and decided to strip the underwear too, revealing Sonia's bush.

            “Not bad; fluffy but well-kept,” observed Leocadia, not overly surprised by the dark curls she saw. Sonia was, at least in Leocadia's eyes, one to keep her things under control, but she didn't go all out. Leocadia couldn't remember the last time she'd heard of her nemesis even going on a date, despite being a very attractive woman and barely hitting forty. This time Leocadia didn't sit back down, she just took a few steps backwards. “Unfreeze. ”

            “-ing that Type-7 drug AHHH!” continued Sonia, only to suddenly topple over as she tried to step towards her enemy and getting tripped by her fallen clothing. Leocadia smirked and applauded as Sonia flailed on the ground.

            “You bitch, I'll make you-” threatened Sonia.

            “Freeze!” cut off Leocadia, Sonia stiffened on her hands and knees, frozen while glaring up at Leocadia. The smuggling queen knelt down and got to work on Sonia's blouse, managing to remove it after standing Sonia up so she was just on her own knees. A black satin bra was revealed, as was a chain around Sonia's hips; a small gold one.

            “Weird, I didn't think you were the kind for... what's the word... bling,” observed Leocadia, playing with the chain for a moment before deciding to ignore it. Off came the bra, revealing rosy nipples that, were Leocadia of the sort, ones she'd probably want to suck. “And the bra's a size too small, you clever bitch!” laughed Leocadia as she examined the lacy lingerie. “Oh... I really think I'll have to keep you as my trophy... ”

* * *


Room 248

            Looking to a casual onlooker much like an unwanted silicone sex doll, Claire had been leaned into a corner of the room, still locked into her arms-crossed pose as she gazed unblinkingly at the blank ceiling of the room. Her towel had slipped from around her slim figure and lay heaped on the carpet. She was frozen solid, rigid as carved marble, seemingly for all time.

            The seconds ticked by, until six hundred or so of them had evaporated into the past, then Claire seemed to thaw as she started to slump down before catching herself and remaining as unmoving as she could. She didn’t hear any nearby sounds, but couldn’t know if that hyena Teresita was lurking around or she had left one of the goons behind to guard. Relaxing slowly, Clare began to carefully check the suite, moving on tiptoe without a stitch of clothing on.

            It took several minutes for her to clear the rooms before returning to the bedroom, where an equally still and mannequin-like DiAnne remained crouched on a nearby sofa. “Definitely a hard-R sort of display,” chuckled Claire as she approached the naked statue and snapped her fingers in front of DiAnne’s blank gaze. “Whatever they did to you is way more than Darren’s kind of hypnotic-freeze; you’re barely breathing. But, hey, you’re still flexible enough to pose!”

            Claire was experimenting by moving DiAnne’s arms around, placing the frozen woman’s hands on her head or poking herself in the nose. With effort, the reporter was able to lift her up into a standing position and keep her balanced upright. All the while DiAnne didn’t so much as blink, even when Claire got busy with an eyebrow pencil and added a cartoon mustache to her lovely face, along with some additional beauty marks. She wrapped of Darren’s ties around DiAnne’s head like a bandana and posed one hand holding an umbrella. Claire had never been one to play with dolls when she was growing up, but having a life-sized one was kind of fun, she thought while drawing a swirling sunburst pattern in red lipstick centered around the unaware mannequin’s navel. Rosy-red nipples soon followed, as Claire found that DiAnne’s boobs were the only part of her that didn’t seem stiff as plastic. Well, not quite the only part, she discovered as her fingers probed lower to the warmth between DiAnne’s rigid legs. Claire blushed at her audacity; she didn’t usually go for women but wasn’t a prude, either. Having a living love doll opened up a lot of interesting possibilities and she began to realize why Darren had gotten so good at what he did...

            Claire was deeply absorbed in possibilities when the phone rang briefly; it was enough to startle her and break the moment. Looking over, she saw that the red message light had started to blink. “Ah, the game is starting!” she said dramatically as she picked up the receiver to listen. Afterward, she realized there wasn’t any more time to fool around.

            Starting for the bathroom and her discarded bikini, Claire then had an inspiration as she looked back at the still frozen DiAnne and then over to her collection of designer dresses hanging in the closet. “Not like you’re going to need those anytime soon, dearie!” the reporter confided to her as she started to look through the elegant clothes. “But go ahead and stop me at anytime... speak up... ?” Silence. “Yup; didn’t think so... ” she grinned; picking out one that was definitely not pink, or even fuchsia.

*  *  *

            Minutes later, Claire emerged from the suite, shutting the door quietly behind her and glancing both ways down the hall before stepping away. She had been able to accomplish some minor feats of magic herself, as she was now dressed to the nines in a shimmering silver and teal sheath that somehow had become painted onto her curvaceous figure, reaching barely to mid-thigh of her shapely legs. Matching pumps decorated her feet and she had even managed in the short time to pin her dark-brown hair into a stylish up-do. Borrowing several flashy pieces of DiAnne’s collection of jewelry, Claire finished off her new persona. She reckoned that the best way to be inconspicuous at a fashion show would be to look the part of a model; it was a role she hadn’t had much practice at. Her style was more along the lines of jeans, loose pull-overs, and hoodies. Waiting for the elevator, she took a glance at her lavishly made-up face in the mirror and almost didn’t recognize herself in the stunning reflection that looked back. “Mwah!” she mimed a kiss at the image, just as the door opened and a hotel maid gave her an envious glance. “Now, which way to the ballroom... ” Claire muttered to herself as she rode downward, remembering Darren’s whispered guidance.

* * *


Dressing Area

            Theres no time! Beth Behrlin thought to herself as she dithered around her five models, trying to get them ready for the show. Second runner-up in a TV designer competition, finishing out of the money and the media attention, Beth was struggling to make it on her own. This private invitational showing was her best chance yet to get her big break. Her designs had an easy, flowing, casual style, leading naturally to beach-wear and thus to the tropical paradise she found herself in with not enough time to be ready in time...

“Shouldn’t you be lining up with the rest of the models?” one of the headset-wearing stage managers urged Beth anxiously.

“No, I’m a designer, but thanks,” she smiled perkily, thinking it was cool to be mistaken for one of the talent. Approaching her twenty-eighth year, she had kept her trim figure by frequent runs and workouts with her trainer; that is when she could afford Toby. Beth had a slender physique with smallish breasts; careful clothing and lingerie choices emphasized what curves she did have. She had always thought her best feature was her squarish face, large blue-gray eyes, and a patrician nose that had never seen the hint of a surgeon’s scalpel. Swooping arcs of pale straw-blonde hair that turned inward at the ends framed her jawline and made her long neck look slimmer.

            Beth's collection would be one of the first to walk and to her annoyance she couldn't find Meaghan Mason. That ditz! Thought Beth, deciding she needed something to calm her down. Putting on her headphones Beth cued up some Inuit dub-step music on her player as she hunted for the British model she was half-considering never hiring again. Beth was annoyed enough that Miss Zoe's pet model Haley Leone had seemed so out of it when she'd showed up, and there was only room for so many annoying airhead blondes in one's life.

* * *


A/V Control Room

            “Hello?” greeted Claire cautiously as she entered the control room to the ballroom's audio and visuals. Darren's message had told her to ‘get the note between the blonde's breasts’ in the control room, which was a puzzling one to say the least. Taking the orders to heart nonetheless, Claire approached the unmoving blonde who was sitting silently in the control chair. The young woman was quite attractive and despite sitting comfortably she held a vacant stare that Claire took to mean she'd been frozen, most likely by Darren's hypnosis since that had been the plan.

            Glancing at the controls, Claire noted that the audio in the ballroom was currently tuned to actually broadcast over the entire resort. Looking at one button that indicated the room she was currently in, Claire decided to turn it off; glad the controls appeared to be idiot-proof. Looking at the still blonde, Claire sighed as she casually reached in between her pert, firm, breasts and pulled out a note.

Her name is Colette. Say Colette, Obey and she'll do what you ask. She's got a freeze dart gun, have her use it to take out the bad guys.   xoxo Darren

            “Colette, obey,” Claire read out loud, then glanced at the French beauty, who remained idle. The girl's eyes seemed to flicker for a moment.

            “Colette, get your gun out,” ordered Claire, and watched as Colette stood up, walked over to a small nearby lock-box the reporter hadn't noticed, and opened it with a tiny key. The box, Claire noted, claimed to be for first-aid. Inside the box Claire saw a large-bore gun, plus a few random objects like a couple of bottles, some syringes, copper jewelry and what looked like a pen. Colette pulled out the gun, loaded a clip of ammunition into it, and then slid a second clip into her pocket, holding the gun at her side.  She paused then, waiting for orders.

            “Whoa, she's like my own personal kill-droid,” remarked Claire to herself while glancing at the video monitors in the room. Claire noticed that several lights were starting to cascade, and heard what seemed like a shift in the audio.

            “Hmm; show must have started,” Claire realized, looking at the ballroom monitors. “Okay... Colette Obey; here's what I need you to do... ”

* * *



            “Thanks,” offered Palmira Tiago as fellow ITEA agent Kioni Abasi handed her a cup of coffee. The Brazilian agent was in charge of a rag-tag version of Team Alpha, Sophia being out with an injury and Tasia still suspended from the force, so Kioni was filling in. Palmira had decided to not dress to blend in, today wearing a striking red pants suit with a white blouse, her hair however down and shimmering in all its glory as she rested on her mauve four-inch heels.

            “They even had dark roast,” smiled Kioni, who had her hair up in a high ponytail. The rookie agent was dressed in a pants suit as well, Palmira figuring she liked to look professional; hers a dark purple and her blouse black along with her flat shoes. Kioni also had a cup of coffee, though Palmira noted it seemed to have a lot of cream in it.

            “Still no word from Sonia, so I guess everything's fine outside,” commented Palmira, still a bit shocked at how territorial the Interpol section chief had gotten. Palmira's team was just there to find the Type-7 smuggler, while Sonia was tracking a wanted criminal named Leocadia Braga, but Palmira hoped to snag both and get one over on her old agency.

            “They're still going at it,” announced Jelena Hendraille, arriving to join the pair at the far end of backstage, just outside the dressing area where models were lining up backstage. Jelena had her dark hair loose and was wearing a black T-shirt with a tan jacket, practically white jeans, and black running shoes down below. The bored-looking marks-woman pointed her thumb behind her, where two older women stood gesturing at one another. The music backstage had muffled their conversation, but it was clear the pair were arguing.

            “What is the deal with those two?” asked Kioni, indicating the pair of older women. One woman had short blonde hair and looked to be right around fifty; she was wearing a black one-strapped dress that weaved around her neck and hugged her nice hips. The second woman had pretty much black hair with a frosting of gray and seemed also to be in her early fifties; she had dressed in in a black skirt suit with a teal blouse underneath.

            “Zoe Hollander, better known simply as Ms. Zoe, and Cordelia Hutcherson,” revealed Palmira knowingly, taking a sip of the fragrant coffee before continuing. “They head up the two biggest modeling agencies for the US. Both had been rivals too, I believe, back when they modeled themselves... ”

            “Ugh, it is so distracting to hear those old hens squawk,” came a new voice, a striking tan woman with very blonde hair who was wearing a yellow dress with drooping shoulder straps and silts up the side of her nearly ankle-length skirt; she wore thin-strapped silver heels on her feet. The woman was Colette's cousin Ariel Landry, whom the team had met before the show and who seemed very interested in the whole spycraft business. Colette had actually shown Ariel the names of registered guests before the show and she'd pointed out a few people who seemed unusual to be attending such an event.

            “Well relax, it sounds like the show is beginning,” observed Palmira, noting the audio had changed tempo to something a little slower. The lights backstage then seemed to adjust as well. The ones that were motorized started to sweep around, unleashing colorful patterns that seemed almost soothing. A barely audible voice seemed to be speaking within the music.

            “That wasn't on the program,” muttered Ariel, looking up in confusion. Palmira shrugged, figuring it was some sort of cool new form of audio entertainment she knew nothing about, or perhaps the words she wasn't really listening to were a pre-recorded introduction. In any event Palmira was feeling slightly tired so she focused on her coffee, taking a nice long sip that drained her mug.

            “Ah... ” breathed the Brazilian, stretching out the serene sensation, glancing at the women around her, who seemed equally lost in the moment. Kioni stood with her right hand on her hip, her right holding her mug up to her lips, but her gaze seemed unfocused, her body still. Jelena had her hands in her pockets and was glancing up at the lights, equally motionless. Ariel had placed her right hand on her hip and moved her left hand forward after having touched her chest, with palm partially open, but the gorgeous blonde was posed unblinking, as motionless as the other two.

            “Type-7?!” questioned Palmira immediately, but she then noticed Kioni seemed to be breathing through her mouth, but she was visibly breathing. Glancing around to the back area, Palmira noticed Zoe and Cordelia had also stopped talking. Zoe was standing upright with her hands pressed against her back while Cordelia held her hands on her hips with her head tilted to the right. Past that pair of sudden statues, Palmira could see a few runway models that also were standing motionlessly in elegant poses. They looked almost like mannequins; so composed.

            “Not Type-7, or I'd be frozen too, surely... ” muttered Palmira to her silent colleagues, hastily putting her mug into Ariel's rigid hand and grabbing her radio. “Colette, report!” yelled the team leader, but there was no response.

            “Crap; I need to check everyone,” realized Palmira, moving towards Zoe and Cordelia. As Palmira walked along however, she suddenly realized how much the voice she wasn’t quite hearing was suggesting for her to relax, and the Brazilian thought it might be a good idea. With each step Palmira hesitated more and more before taking another one, and eventually she just stopped with her right foot forward, forgetting about the gun she'd thought about pulling out and letting her arms just hang, feeling at peace, knowing she looked really lovely showing off that pantsuit and heels.

* * *

The Hallway

            Rounding a corner, looking down a long walkway, Claire was starting to see the full effects of the hypnotic soundtrack as she came upon random people standing still, seemingly paused for no particular reason, who were posed stylishly as if in standing in a display window. Most were young women, with the occasional man or couple that had joined Darren’s cadre of impromptu mannequins. She walked past the motionless inductees cautiously, taking care not to jostle them and somehow disturb their trances. That was important, she remembered, without knowing quite why.

            Coming upon another attractive young lady who had become mesmerized while glancing at herself in one of the mirrored wall panels, Claire took a moment to check out her own appearance before entering the ballroom where the fashion show was taking place. Her quick attempt at pinning up her hair was starting to come undone, with a couple of loose strands messing up her look. In the middle of resetting, distracted by concentration, she suddenly realized how pretty she looked all dressed up and realized that she actually could appear like a model, almost a mannequin, beautiful and still. Watching her reflection, she lowered one arm to rest her hand on her hip and twisted a little, emphasizing her boobs. Thats right, youre almost a natural, so beautiful, without having to move at all... Claire thought to herself, breathing more slowly, her mind starting to shut down; then she realized with a start that those beguiling words weren’t hers. She had almost gotten herself trapped – again – by Darren’s trick hypnotic induction.

            Shaking her head to clear it, dislodging those errant locks of hair once more, Claire reminded herself that she needed to find Darren to tell him something, though for the moment she could not remember what.

* * *



            “You have to DO something!” Leocadia seethed after seeing the entire audience hadn’t fallen under the subliminal suggestion to become human mannequins. That wasn’t quite true. Several had; they stood out by being the few motionless figures in the rows of energetically chatting, gesturing, and mobile-phoning fashion elite that made up the viewers of the show. “There are only a few minutes remaining. ”

            “I thought you had everything planned out?” Darren asked wryly.

            “This is your failure – you said your tricky recorded audio and soft lights would put them all into a trance,” she shot back.

            “The subjects’ minds have to be open and receptive for the induction to work, Ms. Braga; this bunch of egotistic sycophants is clearly more distracted than usual. The hypnotic spell worked on the professional models, just as planned. ”

            “True. Yet they are not so different than mannequins to begin with, I suppose. Though you still need to finish the job. Let me remind you that the fate of Miss Richardson and your statuesque lover depends on your success... ” she threatened.

            “OK. Ok... ” Darren mumbled, thinking quickly, discarding his initial idea of quick-inducing Leocadia to free his companions and just walking away. The stakes were already too high. This isnt the way I end a show, he thought. “Give me a microphone!” he decided, straightening his tuxedo jacket.

            “I have none; perhaps she could assist,” Leocadia suggested, pointing to the stiffly posed figure of one of the hypnotized hostesses nearby, who continued to stare expectantly at the empty runway as she held a wireless mike in her rigid fingers, looking a bit like she might break out into song.

            Stepping away from the smuggler, Darren quickly extracted the mike from the lovely statue and made his way to backstage along the side curtains as Leocadia fidgeted impatiently. After what seemed like only moments, jaunty music replaced the quiet background sounds of the hypnotic track as Darren Le Braun stepped through the lighted portico into the center of the long runway. The random murmuring of the audience soon quieted down as they gave their attention to him. This was an unexpected turn of events, some noticed, glancing scrupulously at their program notes. Leocadia Braga crossed her arms peevishly and wondered if Cirino had been able to locate the stash of Type-7 they had come for.

            “Welcome! Welcome, everyone, to a very special showing,” Darren began, “one that will surely enthrall everyone here. ”  He smiled at his glibness, while Leocadia snorted in contempt.

“For this is a unique opportunity for you all to participate in a truly exclusive fashion statement. A testimonial... nay, a proclamation... that stems not only from the magnificence of the visions that you are here to experience, but also from the beauty in those who are presenting them along with everyone who has inspired and brought these creations forth here today. ” 

            He turned to face the entrance, just as Haley Leone stepped into the blaze of lights, wearing... nothing at all! She stepped boldly forward, taking swift high-heeled strides to the middle of the long swath of runway fabric, then struck a sexy long-legged pose with one hip jutting out. She paused for a moment that stretched into a freeze. In the blaze of lights, her pale skin resembled chiseled alabaster.

            “Behold, a statuesque vision of beauty; a lovely sculptured avatar of loveliness that appears for just a moment and then is gone in the next. But, just as she is standing absolutely still right now, you can hold that frozen image in your mind, recalling the handsome elegance and timeless beauty everyone carries within their minds, a place where you all can become the finest statues the world has ever known by letting that instant stretch out like infinite taffy into an endless moment simply by knowing that it is possible; that each of you possesses an inner beauty that is truly timeless. Let yourselves recall or imagine what that sense of supreme self-happiness is like for a moment, forgetting all the cares of the world around you. ”

            Leocadia was becoming more intrigued now, not quite knowing where he was going with this. But he certainly has their attention! she realized as silence lingered for a few seconds.

            “You can effortlessly celebrate that magnificence by holding it in your mind and allowing time to stand still; you will want to preserve that moment by focusing your thoughts on the timeless ideal, that perfect statue that you realize is concealed within you, then freeze it forever as I count down, feeling your chaotic thoughts settle into serene stillness – an endlessly exquisite eternity:  Three... Two... One... NOW!”

            He paused a beat, scanning the extremely quiet audience. The group induction had worked! All were now transfixed as they gazed at the center runway, not noticing as he stepped off then side and walked up to and equally statuesque Leocadia Braga, who had also become trapped in her own endless beauty.  The criminal stood with her arms crossed, her gaze straight ahead and her breathing shallow, coming through her nose.

            “You’d be quite a catch, if you weren’t such a bitch,” he remarked as he set about deepening her trance and adding some compelling post-hypnotic commands to her unconscious mind.

While Leocadia's headset would have blocked out anything Darren tried by his earpiece or the audio track, it hadn't blocked out his spoken words. The fact that Leocadia's agents were mostly running silent probably hadn't helped. In any event Darren soon had Leocadia firmly under his absolute control and she began to do exactly what he wanted.

            “Cirino... Reinaldo... ” hissed Leocadia into the radio, a bit slowly but Darren was confident she sounded fairly natural. “Change in plans. I want you two to check the audience; pick up anything that looks flashy. I see some nice jewelry out there... ”

            “And my instructions?” asked Teresita through the radio, Darren having leaned in and lifted up one earphone to listen.

            “Continue to look for the prize,” ordered Leocadia, speaking a bit less slowly. “I have LeBraun with me, we're going to interrogate Mason. ” The voices on the radio acknowledged, Darren figured they were used to following her orders. Leocadia had followed him to the curtained side of the runway and thus was out of sight, but they were not yet in the backstage outfitting area where Teresita most likely was, so the chances of an encounter were slim.

            “You now feel yourself becoming perfectly still and at peace, nothing but a motionless mannequin on display, in a place where all can see your beauty... ” whispered Darren as he carefully removed Leocadia's headset, hitting the switch to turn off her microphone before he began speaking. “Your mind is blank, you don't notice things around you; you are feeling stiff and at peace... ” Placing the deactivated headset on the entranced leader once more, Darren smiled and tested Leocadia's resolve. A light pinch to the Spaniard's rear indicated she was indeed a perfect statue, so much so Darren got a bit of revenge by stealing a kiss.

            “I'll come back for you, but I need to check backstage,” whispered Darren. Going past the frozen hostess, Darren found a row of eight models, all frozen by his words into a lovely diorama of would-be mannequins. Beyond the eight Darren also saw two older women who looked familiar, and then three that looked like security, who also had succumbed.

            The first model was Amy Spring, one of the many representing Models Inc, whose originality seemed to have stopped before the name. Spring, normally a brunette, had red hair for once, cut shoulder length and straight aside from a basic wavy pattern in it. The blue-eyed model with the pale skin was wearing a gray dress that had a hint of teal in the color and resembled a toga. The material was partially see-through but layered so to not actually reveal anything, and the skirt likewise was layered into four sections, the last one stopping at her knees. Amy had put her left hand on her stomach and her right on her hip, parting her lips and gazing straight ahead.

            The next model along was Diedra Sawyer, a somewhat tall Models Inc African - American model who was strikingly thin and was styled with big, curly hair. Diedra's outfit was a sleeveless dress that looked almost like a skirt suit, being black with a large white collar. The unmoving model had her hands touching her matching shoulders with her right foot forward, apparently a comfortable pose for her.

            The third one was famous enough that even Darren recognized her: Evelyn Mero, formerly Miss New York 2008, and now a member of the egotistically named Cordelia Modeling Agency. Evelyn had a very nice light tan and blonde hair with a bit of curl to it, though her killer feature was her almost-gray blue eyes framed by her large eyelashes. Evelyn's dress was yellow and stopped at the knees, fairly conservative aside from a small opening down the center that showed just a hint of total cleavage. The thin gap was also decorated with a frilly yellow lining. The model held both hands on the front of her body, her right grasping just under her breasts while her left touched just above her crotch, an intense look stayed frozen in her eyes while her lips were just slightly parted.

            The fourth model was Lola Mateo, one of the famous supermodels in the world at the moment and easily Models Inc's biggest single star. A Brazilian with some French ancestry, Lola had naturally red hair that shone, some had mistaken it for a really light brown, as well as striking blue eyes. Lola was also decently tall, around that of the average man rather than a petite woman. The Brazilian was wearing a long and flowing white dress that looked rather like some sort of robe, but the sides of the dress were done up with lace. Lola's hair was also up in a big, loose half-bun, making her almost look like she was some sort of ancient European goddess. The model stood statue-still with her right hand on the side of her hair, her left at her side but away from her body with her index finger extended, her face blank.

           The next model along was Tal Reubenstein, another Cordelia model who'd been rumored to be appearing in a big Super Bowl commercial that year. A bit above average height, the shapely tan blue-eyed Israeli’s light brown hair was gathered in a low ponytail. Tal's outfit was a turtleneck dress, one lacking sleeves and having one of the shortest skirts of the lot. A wide silver belt with large circled studs on it was around Tal's waist and her right knee was bent to the side, her hands both resting on it as she smiled and gazed blankly ahead.

            Darren also knew Meaghan Mason, the smuggler whose hidden Type-7 stash Leocadia had come to recover. A blue-eyed blonde with big lips and a British nationality, Meaghan was quite striking, as well as one of the youngest models present along with Evelyn and Haley. Meaghan's hair was in a half-ponytail and she was wearing a left-strap only red-sequined dress, whose skirt stopped halfway down her thighs. Meaghan had put her hands behind the back of her head and thrust her chest out, smiling slightly and spreading her legs a bit; a youthful yet provocative stance that could easily appear in a trendy boutique window.

            The seventh model in line was international sensation Devon Von Krieger, representing the gold standard when it came to European models. The svelte German blonde was wearing a powder blue dress whose straps wrapped around the back of her neck, the skirt having a bit of frill to it and stopping just above her knees. Devon's hair was hanging low around her shoulders and she was resting her chin on her left fist, her right fist pressed against her waist as she smiled brightly in her frozen pose.

            The remaining model in the timeless tableau was another European supermodel: Hilda Krum. Like Cordelia and Zoe before them, Hilda and Devon had also once been rivals before the former had retired from modeling full-time to become a spokesmodel for cosmetics, a designer of clothes and accessories as well as hosting a reality show. The curvy blonde German with the brown eyes had her spun-gold hair styled in a French twist and was wearing one of her own designs, a gold-sequined creation whose bodice dipped well below her cupped breasts, with the front of the skirt stopping halfway to her knees while the back nearly reached her heels. Hilda now held herself in a simple bright and smiling pose, her hands on her hips as she looked straight ahead, unblinking. She was another picture-perfect mannequin on display.

            “Oh my dears, we shall play soon enough, but first I need to speak to Meaghan,” commented Darren as he glanced at the progression of motionless models. Walking back to the entranced Brit, Darren put his hands on her shoulders and leaned in close to whisper in her left ear. “Meaghan... I want you to stay relaxed, feeling perfectly still and at ease, but let your mind open just a bit... Let your lips feel life for just a few moments... I want to know where you've hidden your secret drug stash... ” Darren paused, forgetting the name of the drug for a moment. “Type-7 is its name... ”

            “I... ” began Meaghan, sounding really stiff, Darren spotting that her nipples had gotten hard, “... Don't... know... what... you... are... asking... ”

            Darren changed the question slightly, “Along with your wardrobe suitcases, tell me where there is a large case that you have not opened yet?”

            “I don’t recall... any such... case?” The hypnotized model seemed completely confused.

            “Odd... ” muttered Darren, before focusing on his subject again. “Okay Meaghan, you did well, now rest; let your mind go blank, your lips again becoming as stiff as the rest of your body... ” As the British model went utterly rigid again, Darren frowned. Leocadia had been convinced Meaghan had been the one in possession of the Type-7, but if the model didn't know what he was asking about, something was very wrong.

* * *


Ballroom Audience

            Claire had managed to slip inside right after Darren had apparently finished inducting the room, as she'd watched him go backstage, leading what looked like the ringleader along, leaving Haley Leone posed naked on the runway stage. That had been distracting, but Claire had watched Darren moving away, seemingly in control of the situation, so she knew he was okay for the moment.

The huge crowd, meanwhile, had been utterly petrified, most merely standing in an assortment of relaxed attention poses with their legs apart and their arms slack, their gazes focused on the nude model. A scattered few were standing in mannequin-like poses, but no one moved so much as to lift a finger. The frozen scene almost looked like a staged photo clipped from a fashion magazine’s coverage of the event.

            Scanning the stock-still audience, Claire spotted someone she remembered writing a blog post or two about: Kristin Colt. A wealthy socialite in her late thirties, Kristin Colt was still something of a notorious party girl. A fairly attractive brunette with big lips and large breasts, Kristin was the owner of the private insurance giant Colt Brothers Financial. Claire's blogs however reminded her readers that Kristin technically didn't run the company or had anything to do with its operation; she had just gotten wealthy off from its success since she was an heiress. Her grandfather had done the hard work. Claire tended to think of women like Kristin as lucky bimbos, effectively what society expected of women like her. Kristin Colt stood out in the crowd as she displayed herself in a brief red strapless dress, her hands holding the upper liner around her breasts as she grinned and looked almost serene; her hair was styled in a half-bun. A ruby necklace looped around Kristin's neck, several gold rings were on her fingers; her designer-label purse was resting on her seat behind her. Claire even spotted a brand-new Blueberry GV phone lying on the ground next to the heiress’ feet, most likely dropped after she'd been hypnotized.

            “I should really ask Darren to teach me some attention tricks that would make my interviews easier,” mused Claire out loud as she looked at Kristin acting as a mannequin. Then down the aisle Claire saw movement out of the corner of her eye, so in a panic she sat down in Kristin's chair behind her. Wanting to hide her face, Claire bent down as if to pick up Kristin's fallen phone and stayed there holding herself still, her face not directly visible. Able to look along the aisle, Claire saw that the people approaching were Leocadia's two cronies, Reinaldo and Cirino. Both men held what looked like plastic bags that they were quickly and carelessly filling with stolen jewelry and money pulled from wallets.

            “This is so much easier, making me feel not so bad of being petty thief!” laughed Cirino, Claire noting his English was a bit flaky.

            “Just imagine what it will be like when we get lots more Type-7 and don't have to rely on parlor tricks to rob roomfuls of people,” reminded Reinaldo, grinning nonetheless. Cirino was leading the way closer; between them and Kristin were four fairly unattractive older men. Claire wanted to curse when she saw Cirino make a V-line for the sexy heiress frozen in front of her.

            “Check this one out, she got huge boobies!” laughed Cirino, poking at Kristin's breasts. Claire had it on good authority they were 38Ds, which were certainly quite large for her height.

            “Hot-looking one, but she looks like she could be your aunt,” pointed out Reinaldo as he approached.

            “I not mind, with the chest like that,” shrugged Cirino, Reinaldo meanwhile reaching out and removing Kristin’s diamond-encrusted necklace. “She more real than them skinny models backstage. Makes me want to see what she looks like out of that dress... ”

            “Focus; check the one on the chair too,” ordered Reinaldo, still smiling regardless. Claire wanted to scream as Cirino started to bend over, about to discover who she was. Luckily it was then that Claire's back-up finally arrived.

            Into the ballroom stepped Colette, walking stiffly like a movie robot, though with a consistency of motion. In Colette's right hand was her gun, which she quickly raised and fired upon seeing the mobile targets Cirino and Reinaldo. Cirino froze first, his hand stiffening near Claire's face, while Reinaldo had taken a step back and dropped his bag before being hit too, a confused look on his face. Claire said “hi, Colette, you’re just in time,” as she sat up slowly, glad she was now free to move, and was amused to noticed Colette had actually fired four shots, the third was embedded in Kristin's shoulder and the fourth had hit the chair in front of her but still looked intact.

            “Oh well, you were already a statue to start with,” shrugged Claire, deciding on impulse to pull the unbroken dart from the padded fabric of the chair before heading over to greet Colette. Claire had given Colette an order to shoot anyone who was moving that didn't say her name, which is why the hypnotized agent hadn't just frozen her as well. Still standing with her gun arm fully extended, Colette was scanning the room suspiciously, not seeing anyone moving. Claire then remembered what she needed to tell Darren: to speak Colette's name before she would shoot him.

* * *


Dressing Area

            There were many people crowded backstage in the dressing area, including designers, assistants, make-up specialists, models in various states of dress or undress, and what looked like hotel security. Nearly everyone had stopped what they were doing at the moment to stand like mannequins and gaze off into the distance, while a few had actually been frozen in mid-action. He recognized Svetlana Frisk and Yvette Belrose, both famous international models that he’d seen images of before; they looked as if they had always been posed in a display.  Darren knew that how a person froze generally depended on how comfortable and relaxed they were feeling when he gave the commands. These two were naturals...

           At first Darren didn't see any movement, but he swore he could hear a voice coming from one of the many side-rooms. Stepping cautiously inside, Darren spotted Teresita, who had already spun around to face him. The room itself held racks of dresses and a couple of large wardrobes as well as a few scattered stools and make-up kits. Teresita had her back to the main rack, and as it happened was holding a gun against another woman's back. The woman, a slim pale blonde who looked fairly young, was wearing earphones, Darren figured that was why she hadn't fallen under his spell like the rest. “Back off, con man!” yelled Teresita. “I don’t know what your game is, but one wrong move and this bitch dies!”

            “Whoa, hang on, lets just slow down here,” insisted Darren, taking a few steps to the right and raising his hands. “Is there any need for this? You already turned my precious Anne into a permanent statue... And you've also got Debbie as hostage. ”

            “Nah; that’s was for later. Yet, if you're back here alone it means you made the jump on Leocadia and the boys!” deduced Teresita, Beth remained silent, shaking as the muzzle of the gun was ground against her back. “Now, unlike those pop-toys you saw earlier, this gun's the real deal, see. So back the hell up or you'll have her blood on your hands. ”

            “Please help me... ” whispered the terrified blonde, looking a bit teary-eyed. Darren tried to get a glance at the gun, not knowing much about them but remembering the dart weapons had larger barrels, but unfortunately the woman’s body was in the way.

            “It's okay, I'll watch out for you,” Darren promised the blonde. “What's your name?”

            “Beth. Beth Behrlin,” whimpered the blonde, while Teresita looked very annoyed.

            “Cute act, but I feel the need to tell your would-be hero the truth,” snapped Teresita. “Turns out that Mason bimbo isn't the smuggler we thought she was... This one here is the real mastermind. I was just trying to find out where her stash was hidden when you walked in. ”

            “I don't-” began Beth.

            “-save it!” yelled Teresita, then glanced over at Darren. “What's your play, wizard? You know you can't hypnotize me... ” Darren watched Teresita and knew she was probably right at that instant. While Darren was sure even the toughest of subjects could be inducted, her adrenaline was too high and she was too jumpy, she could fire her weapon at the slightest provocation. Even if her line about the gun being real was a bluff, Darren would still have to risk ending up being frozen himself, and he worried if that happened Leocadia might just drop him over the side of a boat when she came to her senses.

            “Darren, watch out!” suddenly came a new voice off to the side, belonging to Claire. Turning to his left, Darren saw Colette enter the room, her gun arm swinging in his direction, as Teresita glanced over at the new threat. After a moment that seemingly took forever, everyone acted at once.

            “Colette!” called out Darren as he tried to duck. Claire came into view as she ran in and bumped Colette's extended arm, pushing it away so it fired too high. Teresita spun, pulled her gun out from behind Beth's back and fired it at Colette, hitting her once in the chest with a distinct lack of blood following, the gorgeous blonde instead going rigid with her arm stiffly extended. Beth reacted by snapping up an elbow and hitting Teresita in the gut, knocking her away, and then dashing towards the exit. Teresita recovered quickly and took aim at the fleeing designer as Claire, still moving forward, palmed something in her hand and then dove at Teresita before she could get a shot off, striking her in the shoulder. Teresita had only a moment to grunt “Unhh?” before Claire ran into her. The whole episode lasted only a few short seconds but time had seemed to slow down for Darren as he watched it unfold.

            “I've got you!” exclaimed Darren, quickly moving over to grab a shaking Beth. Claire meanwhile had gotten up from the fallen Teresita, who looked stiffly surprised as she lay against the floor face-up, a dart now in her left shoulder and her mouth frozen open in mid-shout. He imagined her for a moment as a discarded action figure with terrible fashion sense. Colette was likewise a statue, her weapon pointed up forty-five degrees and her face a cool blank. Beth was shaking and breathing hard as Darren put his arms around her; he could feel her racing pulse.

           “Oh God, I've never had a gun pointed at me before!” gasped Beth, taking a moment to return Darren's embrace before gently breaking it. “Okay, that’s good. I'm okay... Whew... ” Turning to Claire, Beth extended a hand. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what... ”

            “It was nothing,” smiled Claire, shaking the blonde's hand. “You look kinda familiar; didn't I see you on a reality show recently...? I swear I remember you getting robbed of your rightful prize by some punky kid... ”

            “Oh my God, yes, that’s me!” exclaimed Beth, nodding excitedly, still on an adrenaline rush. “This fashion event was supposed to be my big chance to get past that miscarriage of fairness! This show would have been the perfect setting for my designs. ”  She put a hand on her chest and sobbed, “Now... my comeback is ruined!”

            “Yet, according to Teresita here, you’re doing a little side business by smuggling illegal drugs?” Darren prodded wryly.

Beth blurted out, “That shipment is just to... Um... Oops?” then looked sheepish as she incriminated herself. “It was just this one time, I swear!” she recovered, glancing around to see if she could get away quickly.  He’d never catch her, and the other cute girl looked like she couldn’t run in heels. Beth looked down at the woman he’d called Teresita; she hadn’t so much as lifted a finger or blinked at all.  Clearly, these meddlers had gotten their hands on some Type-7.  “What’s really going on here?” she asked, with a hint of doubt in her voice.

Darren realized his audio was still playing, even there in that very room. Beth was wearing her headphones, and Darren became determined to get them off her. Luckily all he had to do was make a simple gesture and Claire seemed to pick up on his plan.

            “Hey, I don’t care about that; I’m here under pressure too, from those people,” she glanced over at Teresita’s still figure, shes out of it for now. “I think you need to just take a minute, maybe take off those headphones and chill out,” suggested Claire, even going so far as to remove the buds from Beth’s ears. “The music they're playing is a relaxation thing for the models. Helps them focus... Might help you too. ”

            “Right, I guess personal relaxation is kind of useless now though since it looks like that overdressed bitch froze everyone with Type-7... ” noted Beth, naming the drug in question. Darren figured Beth didn't understand that his hypnosis is what had actually frozen nearly everyone, despite the obvious clues. “You know, I thought that track was annoying earlier, but it is kind of soothing... I do sort of want to relax, find a peaceful place... ”

            “Hey, tell you what, while you’re relaxing we can help you hide your smuggled goods, make sure those people can’t find them,” offered Claire brightly. Darren realized she was probably lying since he knew she was a moral person, generally. She continued, “Maybe tell us where they are and we can move them to our room, keep ‘em hidden?”

            “That doesn’t sound... ” began Beth, sounding like she was going to object, but Darren noticed she was looking at Claire; the web journalist was doing something familiar with her right fingers while her arms were crossed. The blonde designer seemed to be losing her resolve. “... Okay... They're in... that... dresser... ” Beth began to speak more slowly as her right arm went up, her finger curled, pointing behind her. Beth's eyes then began to defocus and her lips parted, a smile forming on her face. The designer's right arm came down, but was still raised up ninety degrees with an extended finger, her left hand slowly moved up to rest on her hip as she twisted her waist slightly.  “Peaceful... still... ” she mumbled as she trailed off into a trance.

            “Deeper now... feel yourself becoming ever more peaceful, going perfectly stiff yet perfectly relaxed, your thoughts on nothing more than how to appear as a care-free display mannequin,” suggested Darren, chiming in. “Just let yourself be utterly at ease, your mind blank... When I count down from three to zero I want you to become a mannequin worthy of showing one of your designs. Three... two... one... ZERO!” At the final moment, Beth went completely still, the hypnosis having done its job.

            “Nice trick with the fingers there,” commented Darren, turning his attention to Claire. “Now whom did you learn that from?”

            “The best,” confessed Claire, winking at Darren. “You know I was a skeptic about all this hocus-pocus, but now... Ah, save it for later. We need to clean up this hell of a mess we've made. People standing around, thinking they’re display dummies, others frozen by some super drug, a secret agency no one knows about, smugglers, Interpol, not to mention DiAnne... ”

            “I take it those two goons have been dealt with?” asked Darren as he bent down to search Teresita’s rigid body. A quick examination of the woman's pockets turned up three more clips of ammunition, two loaded with green-tipped darts and the other with red ones.

            “Oh yeah, the French agent took care of them,” confirmed Claire, angling her head to where Colette stood stiffly. “Not the best shot when under hypnosis; she hit someone in the audience and missed a couple a times... Then again, she fired so fast and was following orders, maybe she's better than I'm giving her credit for. Only reason I had that extra freeze dart was from a missed shot, anyhow. ”

            “Quick thinking, by the way; thanks,” he acknowledged.

“Just doing my part. I’m not only here for decorative purposes, you know?” Claire chuckled, recalling her time frozen in their hotel room so DiAnne and he could use the bed.

“Okay, so I’m going to unfreeze Colette and have her help you wheel them back to their room?” proposed Darren, carefully prying the loaded dart gun from Teresita's rigid grip. “When I was giving Leocadia her post-hypnotic suggestions, I got a room number out of her: 209, though they're also in 241. I even stole her key.”  Reaching into one of his pockets, Darren produced the key-card in question. “Actually I think this is a master room key... No idea how they managed to get one.  You alright with doing that?”

            “You know what, I think some good old-fashioned solo work will suit me fine for now,” insisted Claire, nodding to herself. “There are carts back here; I'm sure I can find one to move those gunsels back to their room. Anyone else I should grab?”

            “That woman in the audience who was hit with a dart I think, and Teresita here, of course,” confirmed Darren. “I'll deal with Leocadia and Beth, as well as locating the drug stash. “Lets go with putting them in 241, I think that's where they moved all the Interpol people already, plus that's where Debbie is. I'll check 209 on my way back. ”

            “Okay, I hope you've got a masterful plan for getting us out of here, Kreskin,” agreed Claire, taking the key-card Darren produced for her. The pair held hands for a moment and shared a quick kiss, but after that Claire hurried out of the room.

            “Where to begin... ” wondered Darren, glancing around the room as he held a real gun for possibly the first time in his life. Finding the safety, Darren clicked it on and tucked the gun into his jacket pocket; instead opting to pull single darts from the clips of ammunition he'd retrieved. First came a green dart for Colette.  He poked it into her shoulder gingerly.

            “Colette!” Darren quickly said again as the blonde came to life and her gun arm moved. “Colette, obey. Put away your gun and stand by for instructions. ” Colette did as she was told, silently holstering her weapon. Given a reprieve, Darren moved past the mannequin-still Beth and examined the wardrobe she'd indicated before going under. It was more of an armoire than anything else, having a main cupboard and then lower drawers. Inside the cupboard there appeared to only be cardboard boxes, but Darren quickly moved them aside to discover they were just pieces of boxes that hid a pair of massive thermos bottle-shaped containers. The drawers, meanwhile, had several large bottles of what appeared to be drinking water nestled underneath a thin layer of clothes.

            “Not a bad cammo job,” noted Darren, deciding to pull out two bottles from the drawer, rearranging the clothes to cover any empty spots. The wardrobe did have a tag on it saying it belonged to Meaghan, but Darren quickly stripped it off along with the ID tags on everything else in the room.

            “Okay, now for you, my thin criminal,” Darren told a silent Beth, leaning in close to her ear. “When you next see sunlight you will awaken from your frozen state, feeling rested and great. You will know your smuggled drugs were seized but that you managed to get away, with no one knowing you were behind the crime. ” A plan had formulated in Darren's mine; he wanted to punish Beth for being the entire reason he'd been abducted in the first place and Leocadia took his lovers hostage. Taking a red dart, Darren jabbed it into the blonde's back; there was no reaction since she was already frozen by hypnosis. After Darren was sure the dart was empty he removed it, and a quick shake confirmed Beth was now very stiff.

            “Colette, go get me a cart of some kind and wait outside this room,” ordered Darren. Left alone with the slender blonde, Darren took a moment to feel her body, noting muscle, curves and hints of moles. Before Darren fully realized what he was doing he was feeling Beth's firm chest from behind, taking in her somewhat lanky but nice form.

            “Ah, the things I miss,” came a sarcastic remark, and Darren saw that Claire had returned. “I just came for Teresita. ” The hypnotist quickly jumped away from Beth.

            “Pausa,” Darren quickly said, freezing Claire in mid-step as she headed for Teresita. “Claire, you will completely forget seeing me feeling up Beth and continue normally. Anima. ” She instantly resumed moving towards the frozen criminal, the amused look on her face fading as Darren helped her roll Teresita over on one side and straighten her pose.

            “You know she did have a point,” commented Claire as they stood Teresita up so she remained at attention.

            “What do you mean?” asked Darren as he pressed Teresita's left arm down against her side. She still held the expression of surprise from the moment she had been frozen.

            “You never did hypnotize her,” pointed out Claire, smiling as she put her arms around Teresita’s waist and dragged her out of the room. Outside, Darren saw Claire had found a cart with a rack on it that looked like it was meant for moving dresses or mannequin figures around, but in this case Teresita had been stood up on it, leaning against one support rod. Claire offered a friendly wave as she wheeled the motionless criminal away. Moments later a second such cart appeared, this one pushed by Colette.

            “Well, here's your ride,” announced Darren, managing to lift Beth up by her long legs and carry her out of the room on his shoulder. After Beth was stood up on the cart, Darren placed his two pilfered bottles of what he figured was Type-7 on it, only to then quickly run back inside and steal one more. Darren was an unparalleled hypnotist, at least in his own opinion, but the instant-freeze drug did seem like it might come in handy and he never knew when he might encounter it again.

          “Colette, after you place this mannequin figure in the room, I want you to go find your teammates from the ITEA and stand next to each of them,” ordered Darren, and the blonde promptly started wheeling the cart. Darren followed, watching in case Beth or the bottles should fall, but they seemed fairly stable, even though the frozen designer did wobble slightly.

            Exiting from the dressing area to backstage, Darren followed Colette past the row of eight models from earlier. Colette ended up stopping next to a brunette that looked Brazilian to Darren; the beautiful woman was dressed in a pants suit and standing with her right foot forward, frozen in mid-step. The she had an ID clipped on that read 'Palmira. ' “Go find the next one,” commanded Darren to Colette, who began to walk away with the cart. Darren took a moment to check Palmira’s figure out and quickly found himself becoming aroused, the woman maybe not have possessed the incredible body of a model but she was definitely someone who could appear in some sort of magazine. Darren was going to consider exploring Palmira right there when he heard Colette's cart stop a short distance away. Glancing up, Darren saw Colette standing near two additional women, and since he knew the ITEA only had four agents at the event he figured that it was it for them.

            “Okay Palmira my dear, I want you to remain perfectly at ease and relaxed, but answer me honestly,” Darren whispered to the entranced woman he was standing next to. “Just confirm this for me... Your team consists of four agents, yes?”

            “Yes... ” whispered Palmira in response, Darren barely hearing her as she'd hardly moved her lips.

            “And Interpol had five?” continued Darren, wanting to be absolutely sure he hadn't missed anyone. “Don’t worry, they’re all hypnotized like mannequins now; no one will hear you. ”

            “Yes... ” confirmed Palmira, even more hushed. There was a hopeful tone to Palmira's voice, something familiar. Palmira was still standing very rigid so he risked a glance inside her top. The Brazilian's nipples were rock hard. Further intrigued, Darren reached a hand down Palmira's pants to feel her crotch. The first thing Darren noticed was that Palmira had stayed true to the grooming cliches of her nationality, and the second was that she was indeed a bit moist.

            “Palmira?” asked Darren. He got no response, no flutter of lips, nothing. Palmira didn't even seem to have blinked in the last minute or two, which was impressive as some hypnotized women still tended to blink all the time. Darren could only imagine that being turned into a mannequin was the woman's secret fantasy, or something along those lines.

            “I... hmm... ” muttered Darren, glancing around. Darren knew Claire wouldn't wait forever, but he was very keen to test Palmira's limits. Thinking quickly, Darren decided to leave Palmira for just a moment. Hurrying over alongside Colette, Darren quickly injected the other two ITEA agents with red darts and loaded them onto Colette's cart as they were already standing, only having enough time to learn they were named Kioni and Jelena from their ID badges. Nearby, Darren also drifted past Zoe Hollander and Cordelia Hutcherson, two of the biggest names at the event, and decided to slip both of them one of his business cards in their underwear. Darren wanted to do more than that, but Palmira sounded incredibly alluring, her response to being frozen unprecedented.  He returned to the entranced agent, his mind made up.

            “Completely frozen, a total mannequin,” whispered Darren into Palmira's ear. “You're the center of attention in a boutique window on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles... People are flocking to see you there. Not what you're wearing, just you... You're simply a beautiful mannequin, one who will allow herself to be posed, but only by the most delicate of touches... ”

            Experimenting, Darren began to remove Palmira's jacket. The blazer came off her shoulders smoothly, Palmira not so much as flinching. The blouse was next, and it equally slid off easily, revealing a red bra that looked fairly ordinary, though the open front clasp indicated she was still a bit playful. Not even losing the bra woke Palmira, Darren knowing from one particular incident that it could. “Let me guide you to the floor so I might better re-dress the most beautiful mannequin in the world. Remain stiff and rigid, since you are a solid plastic mannequin,” whispered Darren, moving behind Palmira and, holding her shoulders, lowering her to the ground. Palmira was laid down flat, her arms just away from her sides. Off came the pants, shoes and the red panties that weren't truly a thong but weren't conservative either. Deciding to take off his own pants, Darren let his erection ride free as he knelt on top of Palmira, his knees on either side of her. Palmira's crotch had gotten very wet, and Darren had to admit that seeing her so aroused while hypnotically frozen was getting him going too.

            “Feel your every muscle becoming as solid as stone, your body as hard as plastic,” whispered Darren, watching now as it became clear Palmira was practically ready to orgasm. “Your motionless body is perfectly at peace, your mind blank, you feel like you are the most beautiful thing in the entire world... ” Darren's final words did it; he could see Palmira's crotch twitch but nothing else. There wasn't even a blink as Palmira climaxed, and something about that made Darren nearly do so himself without any stimulation. The hypnotist carefully opened Palmira's mouth and raised it to work his member, but it took less than a minute for him to be done.

            “Oh God, I need to make sure you have my card,” gasped Darren, carefully lowering Palmira's head back to the ground. After taking a moment to compose himself, Darren got up and pulled his pants back on, then stuck a red dart into Palmira’s backside as well. While Darren had carted around hypnotized people before, he figured since he had the darts he might as well use them to help make transporting these agents easier.

            “Colette, obey; come here with the cart,” called Darren, and the French woman did as she was told. By the time Colette arrived, Darren had stood Palmira upright, tipping her forward for a moment to let the loose body fluids drip out, and promptly added her to the collection of motionless women on the cart. Palmira's clothes were also placed on the cart and Darren turned his gaze to the line of gorgeous models.

            “Not yet, though maybe before we leave,” decided Darren to the frozen girls, though as he had another eighteen business cards he slipped each woman one between their breasts, which wasn't easy given Tal's high turtleneck dress.

            Returning to Leocadia, Darren leaned in close so his chin was on her ear. “You may speak only to answer my questions, just for the moment,” the hypnotist quietly instructed the fully hypnotized criminal. “How many rooms did you rent at the hotel, and what are their numbers?”

            “Three... 241, 248, and 209... ” confirmed Leocadia quietly, speaking but not moving.

            “How did Debbie Richardson come to the resort?” Darren asked next.

            “By her personal yacht... ” revealed Leocadia.

            “Does she have anyone else with her, a crew maybe?” was Darren's next key question.

            “She... navigated... herself... ” announced Leocadia, surprising Darren as he hadn't pegged the Debbie he knew from before as the sea-worthy sort.

            “Okay, now, you’re becoming perfectly still, once again, posed elegantly as an ideal mannequin for all to see and appreciate,” Darren guided Leocadia into a classic display stance. After that command, Darren used yet another red dart to freeze the smuggling queen, loading her afterward onto the cart with the frozen ITEA agents and Beth. His collection complete, Darren could now go check on Claire, though he planned to come back to deal with Haley and her comely coworkers soon after.

* * *


Room 241

            In the hallway Darren had passed a few attractive entranced women but decided not to take the time to find out who they were, choosing to hold on to his remaining ten business cards for the proper opportunity. Finally Darren, with Colette behind him pushing the cart, arrived at the designated room. The door had already been propped open using the latch trick, so Darren was able to slip right inside.

            “Hell-oh!” greeted Darren, surprised when he saw the room and occupants in its entirety. Besides Debbie, the four Interpol agents besides Sonia were present, plus Teresita, Cirino, Reinaldo and an unknown brunette who stood with a purse hanging around her neck. Checking the rest of the area, Darren saw Claire standing idly in the bathroom and frowned, as she hadn't seemed to so much as flinch or make a snappy remark when he came in. It was then that Darren noticed even inside the guest rooms, he could hear his audio playing and realized what might have happened to his accomplice.

            “Poor baby; mirrors are like Kryptonite to people who try to resist my induction,” mused Darren, walking into the bathroom to get a quick glance at Claire looking at herself while seeing a mannequin. The journalist was lost in her own gaze, her left hand was on her hip while her right was pressed against her waist with her palm bent outwards. Having had more than a little previous practice, Claire had effectively become a perfect display figure; Darren barely noticed her breathing through her nose.

            Darren considered trying to turn off the room audio but then realized it might be an asset later, so he let it go on. Leaving Claire to her trance for the moment, Darren made his rounds about the room, first placing the two male criminals in the bathroom with Claire and closing the door. Next, Teresita was moved onto the bed, and after that the four frozen Interpol agents were relocated outside for the time being. The brunette was the last one left besides Debbie, so Darren decided to just get her out of the way, though looking at her impressive cleavage he was more than a little interested in seeing her naked. Raiding the purse around the brunette's neck, Darren discovered her name was Kristin Colt, and a quick check of her damaged phone found she had quite the contact list in Los Angeles.

            “I think you need my card,” decided Darren, slipping one of his personal cards into Kristin's purse with her phone. While deciding not to strip the busty woman naked, Darren did take the time to steal a kiss and a lingering feel before moving Kristin outside, placing her on Colette's cart. Kristin was in fact swapped out for Leocadia, who was brought inside the room. Thinking for a moment, Darren leaned back outside and called Colette in, asking her to then wait for instructions.

            “Okay, lets have some fun,” grinned Darren, quickly stripping himself, carefully placing his clothes on the computer desk, and then pulling out a green dart. Darren stuck the green dart into Leocadia’s midriff, quickly unfreezing her from the Type-7's paralyzing effects but not his own hypnotic commands.

            “Leocadia, you will continue to see yourself as the perfect mannequin: rigid yet flexible; silent and still; tranquil in your immobility yet easily able to be stripped,” Darren told his new-favorite subject. “Your limbs can be guided to a different position, allowing your pose to change, but once there you will remain as still a perfect, beautiful mannequin in a shop window in Madrid. Everyone will be jealous of whatever you wear, as it will suit you perfectly. You will remain frozen and content, perfectly at peace thanks to your trust in your own beauty. ” His reinforcement words done, Darren tested out the result by moving Leocadia's crossed arms to be raised out in front of her. True to his words, Leocadia remained perfectly rigid, the distinguishing signs between his hypnosis and Type-7 immobility almost non-existent.

            “Colette, I want you to strip the woman I'm touching completely naked,” commanded Darren, resting his hand on Leocadia's head where Colette could see it. The blonde silently went to work, starting with the jacket. Darren meanwhile, got onto the bed and watched Colette slowly strip Leocadia while he began to strip Teresita, unsure of which he was getting more pleasure out of. As Darren got down past the garishly hued dress to Teresita's oddly bland black underwear, he rubbed his crotch in her face, but the more welcome vision was seeing Leocadia's bra being removed. The hypnotized crime boss was standing now with her arms stretched out at her sides, her wonderfully white skin and pink nipples on full display. When Colette finished, finally removing the thong underwear one leg at a time, she took a step back and stood at attention herself.

            “Leocadia, I want you to unfreeze but obey my every command, your mind staying blank,” announced Darren, sitting down on the edge of the bed while pulling Teresita up in front of him. “I want you to get down on your knees in front of me and wrap your lips around my penis. You will then freeze again, with your hands also around my shaft. ” Leocadia suddenly began to move and, thankfully, she hadn't come out of the trance. Leocadia gradually got down on her knees as Darren finished positioning Teresita so her hands were resting on his head, her crotch level with his face. Leocadia wrapped her cool lips around Darren's member and then froze as commanded. Wanting double-action, Darren wrapped his left hand around Teresita's backside while his right began to rock Leocadia back in forth, allowing him to both lick Teresita's womanhood while Leocadia worked his manhood orally. As the act began, Darren tried to think if he could somehow integrate Colette but decided against it, those two being enough as he soon discovered.

            It took Darren a little while to orgasm, a bit spent now that the day had worn on, but luckily the abundance of new opportunities was taking care of any exhaustion issues. Stopping his movement with Leocadia, Darren used both hands to lift Teresita up and over his head, making her face-plant on the bed. “Leocadia, unfreeze and obey,” ordered Darren. “Stand up and spit everything out of your mouth, preferably onto the floor. ” The Spanish criminal did as she was told, getting upright and ejecting the remnants of Darren's climax onto the carpet. “I need you to answer me another question... How much Type-7 would a person need to be given to remain frozen for about a week?”

            “Roughly one-hundred-fifty milliliters of the pure liquid,” revealed Leocadia, with no pause between words but her voice still a bit stiff and robotic. “More if the solution has been watered down. ”

            “Do you have a measuring cup somewhere in this room?” Darren asked next, kicking himself for not expecting some exact measurement.

            “I do not know,” replied Leocadia. Finding nothing suitable in the bathroom cabinet and after a brief but increasingly frantic search of the room, Darren found a marked cup in a desk drawer that topped out at two-hundred milliliters, and next to it was a bottle of water that Darren was pretty sure wasn't actually water. Despite it looking full, the seal was broken.

Deciding to test the liquid, Darren opened the bottle, then commanded, “Colette: Obey, please come over here and take a sip of this. ” She did as instructed, but didn’t swallow more than a few drops before her body quickly stiffened and her hand froze in place. “Thought so,” he commented as he twisted the bottle out of her rigid fingers and carefully filled the glass measure to the desired amount. Going over to the bed, Darren rolled Teresita over and poured the liquid down her throat, deciding not to risk trying to hypnotize her after all. Darren then quickly poured a second measured glass and took it outside to give to Beth, then returning and filling the glass one final time. The bottle was almost empty.

            “Okay Leocadia, I want you to listen carefully... ” Darren whispered into the woman's ear. “The next time you see sunlight you will awaken with no memory of being hypnotized by me or my fooling around with you. You'll think that I somehow outfoxed you but you aren't sure how. You'll also decide to just leave me alone and not contact me or seek revenge, as I've become more trouble than it is worth. You'll emphasize this to your employees and associates. You'll also choose to have Beth Behrlin and Meghan Mason left alone as well since they are no longer worth extracting revenge on either. You'll just cut your losses and go home, completely forgetting that I gave you these instructions. ” Satisfied that she wouldn’t be bothering him anytime soon, Darren slipped the dazzling criminal beauty her measured amount of Type-7 and that was that. Impersonating a mannequin came so naturally to the smuggling ringleader that she didn’t show any visible sign as she turned statue-stiff once more.

            Leocadia and Teresita were both moved out onto the trolley, but Darren then took the time to bring the ITEA agents inside. Debbie was then promptly moved outside, leaving only the four ITEA agents and the trio stashed in the bathroom. Darren inspected all four closely, even Palmira one more time, and elected to slip each one a business card in their clothing pockets. Darren then went around the room, giving each one a green dart to revive them, as well as one for Colette. The whole ITEA team needed to hear what he had to say next.

            “Palmira, unfreeze and obey; please get dressed,” ordered Darren off the bat; the lovely Brazilian blinking and doing what was asked of her. “All four of you will forget anything about a hypnotist being present at this resort, along with the name Darren LeBraun and my appearance. You'll also forget anything about Leocadia Braga or her gang as being part of this assignment. You will recall that you have apprehended two suspicious-acting men, who you promptly froze in this very room, and then found a portable wardrobe full of stolen Type-7 in one of the dressing areas backstage. The wardrobe has two large containers in it as well as several smaller bottles. You won't suspect Debbie Richardson of being an accomplice in any illegal goings-on, or Beth Behrlin of having smuggled Type-7.” Darren paused, thinking of any more loose ends to cover, taking in Palmira's shapely backside for a moment as she pulled up her pants. “You will all find yourselves being very interested in the idea of being hypnotized, maybe even suggesting to your superiors that you invite a hypnotist in for a demonstration on advanced hypnosis techniques that you might one day encounter. You'll not be surprised to find my business card amongst your belongings and then feel that you should some day invite me to come see you, or perhaps for a party or to recommend me to a friend who owns a boutique or salon that would like to host an Incredible Impromptu Mannequins event.”

            Palmira was fully dressed by this point, so Darren didn't see any point in delaying. “Alright ladies, your complete attention please! I'm now going to count down from three to zero. When I reach zero you will all be frozen in time, completely relaxed and unaware, remaining frozen until you hear the alarm clock in the room go off. When that alarm sounds, you will all awaken, again not remembering my being here or my giving you these suggestions, but you will then feel a compelling urge to search the wardrobe cases backstage for smuggled drugs. Three... two... one... ZERO!” For emphasis Darren snapped his fingers, but upon seeing Palmira and Colette stiffen a bit more while standing at attention he knew they were under his spell. Before he had a chance to forget, Darren headed over by the bed and adjusted the alarm so it would go off a few hours from now, which would most likely be before the darts wore off, since Darren estimated they held around a tenth of what Leocadia said would last a week.

     “Whew... So that's them,” breathed Darren, starting to feel a bit worn out but aware he still had more to do. Checking in the bathroom, Darren whispered a little encouragement to Claire and decided to just carry her out of the room like the rigid mannequin she imagined herself as, not quite ready to have her fully awake just yet. Outside of the room Darren had placed the cart now carrying Beth, Leocadia, Teresita, and Kristin. Debbie was also standing stiffly outside with the four immobilized Interpol agents. He stood up Claire for the time being next to Debbie. Finally, Darren quickly grabbed his loose clothes and the master key Claire had put down in the bathroom before closing up room 242 entirely.

            “Collette: Obey; locate the security office of the resort, then go there and erase all surveillance tapes recorded since our arrival.  Disable the recording equipment so no new images will be captured.  Do not harm the officers; they should be still under control.  Then, go to the A/V room and await my instructions.  Avoid talking with anyone else you encounter. Take these stolen items with you and leave them in the security office. Then wait silently at the harbor gate for further instructions. Do you understand?”

            “I understand,” she replied slowly after a pause.

            “Collette: Obey; go now!”  Darren watched Collette’s shapely backside as she turned and quickly walked away on her appointed task.

            Realizing he’d made a planning error and should have asked for Collette’s help first, Darren loaded the Interpol people onto the large cart before focusing on Debbie. The hypnotist was still naked but he remembered the woman was a good subject, so he wasn't worried as he jabbed her with a green dart. “Oh!” exclaimed Debbie after a few seconds; suddenly looking around in surprise she took a step back from Darren. “What the... ? What's with.... Where... Ah!”

            “Hey, it's okay; remember me, Darren Le Braun? From Houston?” offered the hypnotist, putting his hands on Debbie's shoulders as her heart seemed to race. The touch, however, seemed to instantly cause a flicker in her eyes, and Darren knew despite the less than ideal circumstances her state of mind was where he wanted her to be.

            “Ah yeah, the tricky hypnotist... ” smiled Debbie, nodding and glancing down his naked front with a raised eyebrow. “Going for the aggressive route to win me over now that I'm a free woman again? Because I have to say I'm-”

            “Freeze!” interrupted Darren, moving his right hand from Debbie's shoulder to her forehead and gently pushing it. Debbie's head ended up back at eye-level and her body went stiff, so rigid and so fast it was like she'd never left his control. “Debbie, you feel yourself falling deeper and deeper asleep... Relax and be at peace... So comfortable, so restful... ” Leaning in, Darren experimented with a kiss, and Debbie didn't react at all.

            “Okay Debbie, I want you to listen and obey,” whispered Darren into the brunette's ear. “You're going to unfreeze and answer my questions while staying perfectly under my control, obeying my every word and keeping your mind free. ” Darren waited, saw Debbie blinking more regularly, and knew she was ready to receive instructions. “Okay, what is your room number?”

            “244,” revealed Debbie, speaking very naturally for someone who had been hypnotized. Darren almost wondered for a moment if Debbie was faking, but a pinch that would have made a lesser subject snap out of it proved she was indeed still under.

            “Do you have a key-card for it?” Darren asked next.

            “In my thong,” confirmed Debbie without hesitation, seeming to almost smirk for a moment. Curious, Darren reached inside the front of Debbie's thong and discovered, to his amusement, she did indeed have her room key in there.

            “Where is your yacht and what is its name?” was Darren's last important question.

            “My Tri-Star is docked in slip fifteen of the main marina,” answered Debbie; Darren quickly committed the name to memory.

            “Very good Debbie, now I want you to push the cart next to me down to room 209 and wait for me outside,” ordered Darren. Debbie moved without any hesitation, taking the reins of the trolley and turning it around to head back in the general direction of both the lower 200s and the ballroom. Darren hadn't planned on the Interpol agents all still being in 241 but realized it shouldn't have surprised him, and luckily he could adjust.

            “Okay Claire, ani-ma,” Darren told the journalist, who was now the last person present besides him outside of 241. Claire blinked twice before rolling her shoulders.

            “Ugh, I guess I ended up listening to that stupid subliminal voice of yours again,” realized Claire, glancing down yet appearing not to be fazed in the least by the fact that Darren was naked. “What's the plan, Houdini?”

            “Take this key-card to 244 and grab all the bags, garments, computers; everything that doesn't look like it belongs to the hotel,” instructed Darren, handing Claire the key he'd gotten from Debbie. “When that's done, go clear out 248 in the same way and move everything down to the main marina, which I believe is where we first came in. We're looking for slip fifteen; a personal yacht called the Tri-Star. You think you can move Anne out that way too? Use one of the resort’s golf carts if there’s too much to carry. ”

            “Yeah, I got it,” nodded Claire. “Just don't take too long, okay?” she smirked, looking down at his manhood. “I just might leave without you. ”

            “Not if you don’t know how to drive a multi-engine boat,” reminded Darren; Claire grinned back before heading a short distance away to 244. Darren, meanwhile, turned right around and headed for 209.

            Debbie was waiting outside of 209 and Darren told her to freeze while still holding the cart. Peeking inside, Darren discovered Sonia, who was naked save for a strange chain around her waist. Sonia was down on all fours, her head buried in a saucer that was filled with dirt. The clothes Sonia had been wearing earlier were scattered all over the room and Darren took a moment to make sure one of her pockets would contain his card. Following that, Darren started off by carrying each of the Interpol agents inside, deciding to place them all in one corner, posing Janice and Ian to be embracing and lip-locked while Kathleen and Alex were touching each other's breasts and smiling seductively. Darren then carried Kristin Colt inside, having come up with an idea of what to do with her, also bringing in a dart.

            After being given the Type-7 antidote, Kristin didn't move a muscle, proving to Darren she was still hypnotized. Darren had placed the brunette next to Sonia and personally gone to sit on the foot of the bed. “Sonia, marioneta,” Darren told the Interpol agent. “Stand up. ” The hypnotist was pleased to see the Interpol leader's head slowly rise, having apparently not been given Type-7. Darren had to admit the woman looked very good naked, and if he wasn't a bit spent after everything he might have considered having a go.

            “Kristin, I want you feel free to move but continue to obey my every instruction,” Darren next told the rich woman. “Your clothes feel constraining... Take them off, feel free. ” Kristin moved fluidly, seeming very comfortable, and quickly removed her clothes, underwear and all. The brunette then began to stroke her body as she finished, seeming to smile in enjoyment.

            “Sonia, Kristin, I want you each to turn to look at the woman next to you,” ordered Darren, and the two brunettes did as requested. “You find the other person unbelievably attractive... You want to have sex with them right now, on this bed... They're everything you could ever want in a lover. ” It was a risk, Darren knowing that strong sexual preference would deter such a command, but it seemed Sonia and Kristin were both good subjects as they quickly grabbed one another and began to kiss, Sonia actually guiding Kristin towards the bed where Darren was sitting. The hypnotist got up and out of the way, wanting to let the two women continue their surprise romantic encounter.

            “Oh yes... ” gasped Kristin, ending up on the bottom as Sonia took up what appeared to be a cowgirl position, though leaning down and gently stroking the rich woman's breasts. As the pair began to reach for their crotches however Darren noticed something was off, a sign that perhaps if they kept doing they might snap out of the trances they were in.

            “Sonia and Kristin, freeze!” Darren quickly ordered. Kristin had her back against the bed board, her right hand reaching towards the joint crotch area while her left was lifted up and touching Sonia's right breast, a big smile on the millionaire's face. Sonia's left hand was resting under Kristin's chin while her right was just touching the hairs on the slightly younger woman's crotch. “You will remain perfectly frozen, unaware of anything that is going on and completely relaxed, until you hear a voice that does not belong to me. At that point you will awaken, remembering nothing of the previous night except that you both met a charming young hypnotist you think you should contact sometime... Luckily he gave you his card. ”

            Satisfied he'd set up a trigger that would give him adequate time to get away, Darren quietly slipped out of the room. Outside Darren took a moment to get dressed before moving to send the cart downstairs, after which he'd make a quick run back to the ballroom.

* * *


The Ballroom

            Darren arrived back in the ballroom after making a quick stop in the A/V control room, instructing Collette to restore the sound system to normal and to get his audio and light configurations deactivated and removed. Following that Darren grabbed a sheet to cover up the cart Debbie had been pushing around, and glanced out at silent show room, It was as if time had stood still; everyone remained frozen in their faux mannequin stances, the pretty hostess hadn’t budged, and Haley was a exquisite nude statue posed in the center of the long runway.  He led Debbie up onto the catwalk where Haley was posed after once again grabbing the microphone from the host. “Hold this,” Darren whispered to Debbie, giving her the microphone for a moment. The hypnotist then stood in front of Haley, placing his hands on her cheeks and leaning in so their eyes were inches apart.

            “Now my dear, I want you to remember that you are gorgeous and entirely confident,” Darren told his gloriously nude subject. “You can be one of the biggest names in the world, so you will act like you already are known to millions. Also, remember just how good it feels to be frozen, on display for all to see... After I finish counting down to zero you'll be given a microphone. I want you to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances Beth Behrlin will not be able to present her designs tonight. However, the fashion show will go on. You will then go backstage and dress yourself, without having any concern that you are not wearing anything at all.” Darren smiled as he felt Haley's face, promptly stealing one last kiss before stepping back.

            “Thank you,” Darren told Debbie, taking the microphone from her. “Until I touch your right shoulder, ignore everything I say.” Darren was about to give the crowd commands and he knew filtering people could be tricky; luckily he only had Debbie to worry about.

            “Ladies and gentlemen, you've all done a magnificent job,” Darren told the audience, feeling very proud. “For you here, no time at all has elapsed... Now, when I count down from three to zero, there are a few things you must do for me. First, I want you to remember how good it felt to still, frozen, mannequin-like... I want you to also remember the name Darren Le Braun, who I'm sure you'll be able to find online if you look hard enough. If you ever feel like you have a problem or are need of entertainment, consider looking me up... Again, when I finish counting down from three to zero, you will realize that some time has passed but not find it odd. You'll remember the first hour of the show was decent yet slightly boring, but you also know there is still much more to go. The show will continue as normal.”

            Darren paused, trying to think of how to pull the next part off. “Also, you will see Haley Leone, but if she is naked, you will not notice her being naked. Instead, you will see Haley Leone as dressed in a fine black evening gown, stylish and elegant and perfect for her form. You may also see a man with a goatee in a tuxedo who sounds like me... If you see this man, you will ignore him. He isn't invisible, just unremarkable; not worth your time to remember. The same can be said of his blue-eyed female companion in the bikini. You will give them space and not pay attention to them unless they speak to you. Now... I'm going to count down from three to zero, and when I reach zero you will no longer be frozen; you will feel rested, wonderful, and you will obey every command I just gave you. THREE... TWO... ONE... ZERO!”

            As the murmur of voices rose within the audience, Darren and Debbie slipped behind the curtains to backstage, where they crept silently away, carefully avoiding the Haley Leone as she stepped back on stage to begin her announcement.

* * *


The Tri-Star

       “What...?” muttered Anne, blinking and looking around in confusion while Darren simply smiled. The pair were in the master bedroom of the yacht, whose main colors were white and beige. The room had thick carpets, a king-sized bed, a small fireplace and two sets of drawers as well as a computer desk and a walk-in closet. Darren was lying atop the bed along with Anne, dressed in a bathrobe he'd stolen from the resort. Anne in turn had been reposed to be on top of him, naked, the green dart just being removed from her hip after it had been jabbed in.

            “For a moment I was worried you might not wake up,” whispered Darren, putting his hands on Anne's shoulders. “I'd have hated for you to remain frozen forever, even if you would have been a radiant statue...”

            “Where are we?” asked Anne, smiling nonetheless and giving Darren a kiss before glancing around.

            “On a private yacht headed back to Miami,” explained Darren, shifting a bit as there was a bulge growing under his robe. “I managed to hypnotize our host, then nabbed her, the drug supplier and her stooge. All taken care of. Claire's in another room blogging...”

            “Whose boat is this?” Anne asked next, sliding off the bed. “A bit dull in the color, but fancy...”

            “You remember Debbie Richardson from Houston, one of the mannequins from when we first met?” Darren told Anne, stepping off the bed as well. “Turns out Leocadia tracked her down, was holding her as extra insurance. This is her yacht. I gave her the usual induction... She's driving.”

            “So you've got yourself a sugar momma,” chuckled Anne, Darren unsure if the chuckle was entirely amusement or also masking some annoyance. “That will come in handy. So we're in the clear?”

            “The show’s audience shouldn't remember a thing if I did my job right; Interpol and that ITEA group who were also there have the two henchmen in custody and have recovered basically all of the smuggled drugs,” cited Darren. “Nice and tidy. I even gave a few select people my card to help get some new business and make up for what a wash this has been.”

            “And I'm guessing you kept some of that Type-7 drug too?” noted Anne, shifting a bit when Darren started caressing her shoulders from behind, but not fighting it.

            “Just for emergencies; that stuff is a bit too ordinary, despite its effectiveness; doesn’t take any talent at all to freeze someone.” insisted Darren, kissing Anne's neck. “The drug may be the platinum to my gold, but it just doesn't have the shine.”

            “Alright...” nodded Anne, guiding Darren's arms to go lower and wrap around her waist. “I admire your ambition, your skill... Everything, really. Drugs though, they make me nervous.” She remembered, or rather, didnt, the time she’d spent permanently frozen as a statue.

            “Yeah, though in this case they also helped make our escape work,” mused Darren, nuzzling against Anne's shoulder. “I should probably go find out what our ETA is... I have some special cargo to unload when we get back to the US.”

            “Go ahead, I need to freshen up,” whispered Anne, turning around and given Darren a kiss before slipping away. The walk-in closet also connected to a bathroom; Anne quickly figured that out after opening the door. Giving Darren a quick wink, she disappeared inside.

            Leaving the master bedroom, Darren decided to go check on Claire before going to see Debbie. There were a total of four guest cabins on the yacht, one of which held the still figures of Beth, Leocadia and Teresita. Claire had been given another stateroom but it was near an office and Darren figured that's where he'd find the journalist. Cutting through the Tri-Star's sunken kitchen, Darren slipped into the office, which was sparsely furnished; just a computer desk and a bookshelf. Claire was sitting at the computer, wearing a pair of fuchsia shorts and a black tank top, her hair in a pinned-up ponytail. Claire was typing furiously away at a computer, which Darren noted had a high-speed Internet connection though he had little understanding of how such things worked. “Hey there Shoyfet,” greeted Claire, who went from typing to mouse-clicking.

            “Hey, you doing okay?” asked Darren, closing the office door and slowly approaching. “You've been a bit quiet since we got on this thing.”

            “Sorry, just, a few things have been bugging me,” explained Claire, leaning back and letting out a sigh, placing her hands around her nose. “This Type-7 stuff, this ITEA... There's barely a blip on it from any search.”

            “Well, with some kind of miracle drug like that, no wonder it's being suppressed,” commented Darren, shrugging. “Same thing with this mystery agency... They have catchy initials, badges, and a charter, but they could still be secret.”

            “The thing is, there have been whispers on the ‘net about some kind of ‘instant statue’ miracle drug going back to at least 2007,” insisted Claire. “Stories of cover-ups too... What we've stumbled on – well, into– could be a huge scoop.”

            “You sure that's wise to blow their cover?” warned Darren, sitting down on the edge of the desk. “I mean, we don't know much about them... And after our encounter with Leocadia, I'm wondering if this might be a bit risky to keep looking at.”

            “Hey, this isn't all I'm now obsessed with, thank you,” declared Claire, spinning in her chair and standing up, getting in Darren's face. “The stuff you can do... Okay, I knew you were good, but last night was nuts. You froze a whole resort! You have such talent, and I want to get in there, figure it out...”

            “Are you proposing I teach you my technique?” scoffed Darren, grinning. “A good magician never reveals his secrets...”

            “Oh really, not even if I do this...?” whispered Claire, moving her right hand up to touch Darren's manhood. The touch was soft and electric, though Darren was already a little aroused after reviving Anne.

            “Pau-sa,” was Darren's response, leaving Claire stiffened in place with a sultry look on her face and right hand touching nothing after he moved away. “You... Never mind.” Darren was tempted to discourage Claire's inquiries, but he had to admit he wanted to perhaps know more about the whole new aspect of the world he'd just been brought into. Claire's interest in learning his techniques also intrigued him, so he decided he wasn't going to mess with her mind again just yet. 

            Heading upstairs after leaving the office, Darren passed the indoor Jacuzzi before making to the captain's quarters. The adjacent bridge offered the boat's navigator a full 180-degree view, plus there were security cameras set up outside above decks that enhanced the existing sights. Earlier Darren had asked Debbie just how much the yacht had cost and been stunned to hear it was under one million, deciding the low price must have been due to the soft economy. Debbie was at the controls, having produced a white captain’s outfit, which included a scrambled-egg decorated hat. “How long until we reach Miami?” asked Darren, coming up behind Debbie.

            “Several hours, we still need to circle around Cuba,” explained Debbie, her voice more natural though she was still under Darren's spell. “I would estimate at least ten.”

            “God, glad I was knocked out for the trip in,” groaned Darren, rubbing his forehead before approaching Debbie from behind. “Debbie, do I make you feel good?”

            “Yes,” was Debbie's automatic reply. Debbie was under hypnosis but not compelled to answer one way or the other, Darren was testing her current trust in him.

            “You'd like to see me again after this?”


            “So if I were to ever need anything... Like a place to stay, you'd be willing to help with that?”

            “Yes,” nodded Debbie, and Darren couldn't help but chuckle.

            I really might be that good, realized Darren.

* * *


The Emporium, South Beach, Miami

            Darren had questioned the wisdom in coming back to the boutique, but now he couldn't help but beam as he looked at the elegant female figures on display in the shop window. The boutique was right near the beach and standing in the window were three gorgeous new mannequins. The boutique owner, Victoria Montgomery, had been skeptical given her recent experience when Darren had arrived, but he'd convinced her soon enough, with only a little of his special persuasion.

            On Darren's right stood Teresita, still frozen into silent loveliness by Type-7, posed with her right hand touching her brow, her left on her swayed hip while beaming a cute smile. Teresita was wearing a sleeveless midnight blue top with rhinestones on it, a very short brown skirt over her high-heel-contoured legs; her freshly highlighted, straight brunette hair rested comfortably on her shoulders.

“Turned out pretty good, huh?” remarked Claire as she brushed the last tiny motes of dust from the frozen villain's garment and smoothed the still figure’s hair back into place. “All she needed was someone with a smidgen of any fashion sense to style her properly... that, and burning that hideous pumpkin dress of hers!” she added.

“Oh, and where did you find that someone, miss pink-party-dress?” Darren joked, in a good mood after their ordeal.

“Fuscia!” Claire shot back, sticking her tongue out playfully at him.  The hypnotist thought for a moment about causing that expression to stay on her face for a while, but thought better of it.  For now, she would stay anima.

That could not be said of Beth Behrlin, standing stiffly in the middle of the grouping, looking very statuesque with her right hand on her hip while her left was raised up as if to greet someone across the street. A big bright smile was frozen on Beth's face and the svelte blonde was wearing one of her own creations: a strapless golden yellow sundress wrapped with a veil-sheer three-layer skirt. Wedge-heeled sandals were on her feet, giving her a ready-for- the-beach look that was very appealing. Darren had handled her presentation, and for a guy, did a reasonably good job, though Claire noted that the mannequinized designer was showing quite a bit of cleavage and leg to the passers-by.

Next to Beth was the third living mannequin, exquisitely embodied by the Type-7 dosed crime boss Leocadia Braga, who was posed rigidly as if looking at the fancy silver watch she wore on her upraised right wrist. Leocadia's top was white with red horizontal stripes; she also modeled a military green skirt that stopped four inches above her knees and wrapped around her slim legs. Even though the outfit had come from the boutique’s clearance rack, on Leocadia these clothes looked fabulously sexy. Darren knew that allure was mostly due to the smuggler’s own alluring attractiveness; she had barely any changes to her make-up or hairstyle and the stiletto shoes she wore were hers from the resort.

“Hey, Claire: Where’s ‘Anne?” He asked, since she was the one who he’d asked to prepare Leocadia for display.

“Oh... around,” the young reporter evaded as she busied herself with Teresita’s bangle earrings. “She said she wanted to check out the swimsuits.”

He found DiAnne standing motionless on a low platform in one of the floor displays, dressed now in a barely-there thong bikini that seemed more string than fabric. The shimmery silvery-white hue made her all-over tanned curves look even darker than she had managed to generate during their brief yacht voyage back to the city. Her pose was as dramatic as her appearance; she stood with legs apart, left foot forward and both arms raised akimbo as if she had been dancing at the moment of her transformation into a mannequin.  “’Anne?” he queried, getting no response whatsoever until he came closer and whispered “Unfreeze, my beauty,” into her ear.  That did the trick in an instant.

“Wha? Hunnh...” she muttered, blinking and coming back to life. “Where...?” After feeling a draft and a quick look down at what she was mostly not wearing, DiAnne’s confusion turned to annoyance. “Why, that little imp!  She did this to me?  I’m gonna get..”

“Hold on; I’d say turnabout is fair play,” Darren chuckled as his reanimated companion extracted herself from around the actual mannequin she had been posing with.  “After all, you have been ‘pausa’-ing her quite a lot recently.

“That’s different; I just wanted some time alone with y...  Wait a minute! How did she figure out my freeze triggers? Did you...?”

“Nope,” he pleaded, not entirely truthfully. “Claire’s a smart cookie; and, yes, I have been giving her some tips on performing hypnotic inductions...”

“Hrmph...” DiAnne fumed.

“Wow!” Darren exclaimed, trying to change the subject. “You look so marvelous in that itsy bikini you’re wearing – it really flatters your eyes.  Pick out a cover-up so you can walk outside without stopping traffic and I’ll buy the whole outfit for you; we’re almost done here anyway.

“You really think I look OK in this?  Not too risqué?”  She did a little model’s twirl in front of a three-section mirror, making him wish for a moment she were triplets.  He hadn’t fibbed about her dazzling appearance in the least.

“Absolutely!  Now, don’t forget the clothes you came in with; we’re going to be leaving soon...” Turning away, the harried hypnotist breathed a silent ‘Whew!’ at yet another girlfriend crisis averted, or maybe just delayed.

Stepping out onto the sidewalk to view the display grouping as prospective customers would, Darren was truly impressed. The three frozen women now looked so much like actual mannequins that he had no doubt they wouldn’t be discovered before their heavy Type-7 doses wore off.  By that time, he’d be long gone and nobody would be able to ask any uncomfortable questions.

            Darren grinned to himself as he walked back inside the boutique, where Victoria was waiting patiently. It was early, before opening, and she was the only worker in so far. The proprietor was around forty and apparently had some money, as she'd moved here from the UK to open a boutique in Miami, Darren figured it was for the weather. Victoria had very uniform golden blonde hair that went just past her shoulders; she also possessed a strong nose and chin as well as tanned skin, proving she didn’t spend all her days indoors. She was wearing a zip-up white jumpsuit-like dress that seemed ‘young’ for her; the outfit had long sleeves but a short skirt. She also wore loose golden bracelets and a matching necklace. “I have to admit, you've made up for last time,” commented Victoria as she appraised the three still figures. “These new volunteers are smashing in display! I don't think I'll need you to stick around though; you said their impressions will wear off after a little while?”

            “I’m not planning on staying, believe me, they'll eventually wake up and leave on their own,” declared Darren, starting to wiggle his fingers as he approached Victoria. “Tell me, though, you do like having them around, right?”

            “Well I-” began Victoria, but Darren struck.

            “Freeze!” shouted the hypnotist, giving the blonde Brit a jolt as her mind was focused on answering his question. Victoria went rigid with her arms crossed, her head tilted slightly to the right with her lips parted. “Frozen stiff, you’re just another mannequin in your boutique,” whispered Darren into Victoria's ear, deepening her trance as the boutique owner stared unblinking into the distance. For a moment Darren considered putting Victoria on display in her own shop window too, eager to get payback after the insults she'd thrown his way last time, but he knew that was a bad idea.  He needed to cover his tracks on this caper...

            “Victoria...” murmured Darren into the Emporium owner's ear. “Listen very carefully to my every word: When I finish counting down from three to zero, you will unfreeze and feel great. You'll regret everything you said about me, but decide not to call me back for any reason. You'll find nothing odd about the three mannequins in your window and you will tell anyone who asks that you hired them for a few days and only you can deal with them. When they finally start moving again you'll instantly forget that they were ever posed as mannequins or how long they were here for. Treat them as wealthy customers who have become somewhat confused. Three... two... one... ZERO!”


The End


Darren Le Braun – Derren Brown
Claire Cook – Carly Foulkes
DiAnne Hawthorne – Anne Hathaway
Leocadia Braga
– Morena Baccarin
Cirino Casas – Mario Casas
Reinaldo Azorin
– Eloy Azorin
Teresita Zuniga – Kate Del Castillo
Haley Leone – Kayley Cuoco
Janice Wang – Grace Park
Kathleen Rudd – Danielle Vasinova
Debbie Richardson – Denise Richards
Colette Landry – Laura Vandervoort
Sonia Castillo – Catherine Zeta-Jones
Ian Blake – Alex O'Loughlin
Alexandra Blake – Claire Van Der Boom
Beth Behrlin – Beth Behrs
Palmira Tiago – Jennifer Lopez
Kioni Abasi – Zoe Saldana
Jelena Hendraille – Briana Evigan
Zoe Hollander – Ellen Barkin
Cordelia Hutcherson – Janine Dickinson
Ariel Landry – Maryse Ouellet
Amy Spring – Emily Blunt
Diedra Sawyer – Yaya DaCosta
Evelyn Mero – Barbara Blank
Lola Mateo – Adriana Lima
Tal Reubenstein – Bar Rafaeli
Meaghan Mason – Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Devon Von Krieger – Charlize Theron
Hilda Krum – Heidi Klum
Kristin Colt – Karen Jarrett
Svetlana Frisk – Emily Baldoni
Yvette Belrose – Marguerite Moreau
Victoria Montgomery – Gabby Logan