“What now?” Sheila thought to herself, standing rigid and immobilized in the darkened room, unable to lift a finger on her own. Helpless, frustrated, she tried to will herself into some kind of movement. “What are they going to do to Shane?” she thought, not knowing that her husband had profited enormously from her ending up in her present dilemma. Von Strasshavenburgstein had said something about a work of art. “What did he mean by that?”
She found out the answers very shortly afterward as she heard what she thought to be the three evil men re-entering the room, turning on the light. Soon they came into her line of sight. The twins were rolling a large oblong box up to her. It looked almost like a coffin. It really was a coffin!. “Oh no; Shane,” she thought. She felt like crying but even her tear ducts were paralyzed as she stared blankly ahead, dry-eyed.
But then she could glimpse out of the corner of one eye that the coffin was empty and felt a brief moment of relief until one twin picked her stiffened body up like cordwood. Quickly she was lifted and placed inside the coffin, her arms folded across her chest, legs together. Just like a corpse. The cover was closed, she heard it latch, and then she felt the coffin being rolled along after being carried over some steps. Sheila convinced herself that they wouldn’t have gone through all of this effort to kill her now, so they must just be using this coffin to transport her.
“But, to where?”
And she was correct, as the coffin was transported first to a moving van and then to a small jet, which in turn flew for hours to a private airstrip and, upon arrival, the coffin was put back in a moving van. Soon they arrived at their destination, Von Strasshavenburgstein’s country estate. The coffin was brought in to the expansive ballroom, where its still contents were at revealed.
Sheila’s motionless figure was gently removed and stood up on a small pedestal near the main entrance of the room (no difficult feat for a pair of 400-pound men). Once again her hands were clasped behind her back. Her chin was slightly raised, and her feet were moved to be shoulder width apart. She continued to wear the blouse-and-trousers ensemble she had on when walking into that knick-knack shop with Shane what seemed like an eternity ago.
Then Von Strasshavenburgstein was able to stand back to admire his lovely acquisition; finally realizing his life’s work of perfecting the process to suspend a human’s animation had paid off. She was completely aware, yet motionless, her beauty intact, ageless; a truly unique work of art.
Sheila became accustomed to her new daily life as a living statue in his gallery of fine artworks. The best part was that every morning a woman came in, stripped Sheila’s costume from the day before, gave her a sponge bath, washed and styled her hair, then dressed her again. Every day Shelia’s, posed stiff as a mannequin, modeled a new outfit from a seemingly endless number of sexy garments and accessories.
There was an equestrian day; as she wore a tight white blouse, tan jodhpurs and shiny black knee-high riding boots. Another day she was a gymnast, clad in a sleeved leotard, her hair done up in a bun; on the next a figure skater, then a ballerina posed on pointe, contrasted the next day by a Hooter’s Girl outfit with the famous white midriff-baring tank top, tight orange shorts, shiny tan pantyhose, bulky white socks and tennis shoes. Then, in a couple of scenes out of her past, she modeled as a cheerleader in a green and white tunic top and pleated skirt, and on the next day, as a candy-striper with a pink and white striped vest over a white nurse’s dress, white tights and white tennis shoes.
Sheila counted the days, having nothing else to do as she stood frozen in place on her platform, and it turned out that once a week, right before her bath, she would be taken to another room, placed into a large cylindrical tube, and again be exposed to the green paralyzing gas. “Does that mean the paralyzing effect might wear off if I wasn’t being re-exposed at least once a week?” This tempting thought gave her hope that, one day, her bizarre ordeal could end.
Every day, often multiple times per day, Von Strasshavenburgstein came by to admire his work of art in her latest getup. She had no reason to think the day she had been dressed and posed as a French maid, stiffly holding a feather duster in one hand, would be any different. But then during that day, many people came in and out of the ball room. There were decorations being put up, along with tables and chairs. Food was brought in, and then guests started to arrive.
It was a lavish costume party; the main focus of attention, even more than the garish outfits, the opulent food and the wonderful music, was the unbelievable life-like female statue that Von Strasshavenburgstein had acquired. She held a place of honor at the event, displayed on her platform in a flood of dazzling lights. Many guests inquired as to its origin but he was deftly vague on that point.
He even received a few offers to sell the piece, but he announced that this statue could not be bought – for any price.
After the party was over, as the clean up crew was doing their meticulous tidying up afterward, Von Strasshavenburgstein still could not take his eyes off the beautiful mannequin-still brunette. All of sudden, a member of the cleaning crew snuck up behind Von Strasshavenburgstein. Sheila could see this happening; of course she could not have uttered a sound even if she had wanted to, but Von Strasshavenburgstein was unaware. All of a sudden he felt a sharp pinprick in his neck and a brief instant of disorientation before he crumpled over onto the parquet floor, unconscious.
On cue, the rest of the cleaning crew moved over to the living work of art. A tall cart was brought up. All of sudden Sheila was being grabbed, this time by two Asian men. She was placed in the cart, which was quickly covered with a moving blanket and then wheeled out of the mansion. The cleaners’ truck was already running when the cart was lifted up in to the back. Moments later the remainder of the cleaning crew departed in a hurry. No one reported the crime until the next morning; by then it was too late to trace the vehicle.
Many museum-worthy pieces were passed by in this robbery, and actually the only thing taken was the priceless living statue. The truck drove to the air field where a private jet awaited the arrival of this precious cargo. Within minutes, the plane was in the air, destination unknown.
The flight lasted until the next day. This transport routine was becoming too familiar for Sheila. Plane lands, she’s loaded in to a van, van drives, she’s taken out of the van.
The crew’s talk was again all in some foreign language, maybe Chinese this time, she thought. When she finally was taken out of her shipping container and stood upright once more, the room she was in was much different than Von Strasshavenburgstein’s ballroom. It had more of a dungeonesque feel to it, being very dark, with rough stone walls and lit sconce-torches being the only illumination.
Soon after she was placed in this room, an older man entered. He was Asian; wearing what seemed to be traditional robes. He had a white goatee and a mild demeanor. He moved his head close to Sheila’s frozen countenance and looked longingly in to her eyes. It seemed he too had acquired his life’s ambition. He said something to the men in Chinese and they exited. He spent the next few hours looking over the work of art, taking the view of her in from every angle. Finally he too left the room. Sheila remained posed elegantly still; that part never changed.
Unlike Von Strasshavenburgstein, the man did not come in every day. She did not receive a bath or change of clothes either. She was still wearing the French maid’s outfit, with the short black dress trimmed in white lace, black pantyhose and heels. Her chestnut hair was pulled up in to a ponytail and she wore a little lacy ruffle on the top of her head.
A few days after her arrival, Sheila felt something very odd. It felt like her finger had twitched. “I must have may have imagined that,” she thought. But then she felt it again. And then again, as she realized something else: She hadn’t been exposed to the paralyzing gas for many days. “Did this mean it’s starting to wear off?” Sheila grew excited with anticipation. Each time she heard a noise close by; she hoped the men weren’t coming into the room. Over the next few hours, she started to get more and more feeling back each minute as she planned her escape. Finally it felt like she popped. She stumbled and fell forward on wobbly legs, then found her balance again. She held her hand up to her face, that seemingly unbelievable dream of being able to move again had finally been fulfilled. Her heart started pounding as she realized she had to get out of there before someone found her, gassed her, and put her back on that pedestal as a living artwork.
Obviously these men were thieves too, so she couldn’t trust them to help her. She had been standing still in those heels for so long that she removed them and rubbed her black stocking-clad feet. Then she decided to move out, tip-toeing along, carefully staying close to the stone wall and listening closely for any sound she could hear. She quickly found a circular stairway, which she ascended into the darkness. Then at the top, she slowly inched her way out in to a wide hallway.
The building was quiet and dark so she concluded it must be night. She moved along the hallway until she found a large wooden door. With all her might she pushed on the door and was greeted with something she had been craving, a big gust of fresh air and a night sky overhead. She quietly moved out through the door and down a garden path. She emerged from the garden into a great field. She had done it. She had escaped!! Now she had to find someone to help her return home so she could find Shane and restore her previous life, or so she hoped.
With all these thoughts swirling in her head, she didn’t notice the four-legged brown shapes coming at her from the left. All of sudden ….. WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF. A large Doberman was blocking her way. She nervously started to turn around. Oh no, more of the guard dogs behind her. Then more appeared in front and she found herself quickly surrounded by the pack of dogs all barking as loud as they could at her. Then suddenly two figures approached, one with a flashlight, the other with a rifle aimed right between her eyes. They were of the same men who had brought her here. Thinking quickly, she chose the only action that might confuse them. Freezing in place, Sheila didn’t move at all as they came closer and the flashlight shone in her face.
The Chinese equivalents of “What the Hell” and “Oh my God” were repeated numerous times. The tugged on her to make sure she wasn’t the statue moved there as some kind of joke. When she fell over and then got back up on her own, they finally realized she was alive and moving. The gun was placed in her back and she was marched back from where she came.
When they got back to the stone building she was brought back down the circular stone staircase. A few torches were lit, but they passed by the area that had been her standing place the past few days. Instead she was prodded so she was pressed face first to the wall. Out of the corner of her eye she saw one of the men move to another torch. But instead of lighting it, he pulled on it. The torch moved, and them so did the entire wall in front of Sheila. It opened up to a hidden room, which was completely bare. She turned around to face the armed men but they prodded her backwards until the back of her head hit another stone wall.
The man with the gun excitedly said something to her in Chinese, which she could not understand. He gestured with the gun but she didn’t move. He mimicked raising his arms, which he gestured for her to do. She reluctantly followed. “Is he going to shoot me?” she thought, after she had been so close to freedom? But he didn’t. The other man came and took her raised right wrist and clasped a metal chain around it. She hadn’t noticed the chains sticking out of the wall. She instinctively lowered her left wrist, but it was swiftly and quickly raised again, and also clasped. The men backed away and the one again moved the torchlight. The fake wall then closed, leaving Sheila in total darkness.
After what seemed like an entire day of hanging around, she heard the wall start to move again. The two men were back, this time accompanied by the older man. He approached Sheila and held her chin in the palm of his hand. He spoke in broken English.
“What kind of black magic do you perform, where one minute you are unmoving statue, and the next you are out roaming my grounds?”
Sheila hesitated before deciding to plead with the man. “Please, please help me get back home. The man whose house you took me from, he gave me some horrible gas that left me paralyzed and he was going to keep me forever there as his work of art. Then you; you, your men took me away from there and now I’m here and I just want to go home.”
“This is unbelievable, you poor woman. I feel bad for you. You are too young and beautiful to have gone through all this nightmare. My name is Khan and I thought was just acquiring another priceless perfect statue. I have no idea you alive.”
Sheila nodded knowingly. “Alive, but I couldn’t move a muscle. You saved me!”
Khan hesitated. “However, you must to understand that I have to test if story you are telling me is true. Or if you and one of my associates, who have brought you, create some tricky plot to sneak you inside and then overthrow me. I have ways to make Von Strasshavenburgstein tell truth. Will return when I get to bottom of this. But for now you must remain confine here. So sorry for the inconvenience.” He bowed to her and left, the hidden door closing behind him.
Again, Sheila was left hanging in the shadows. But at least now there was hope, she thought.
A few days later, under the guise of night and moving like shadows, two of Khan’s men incapacitated the twins and injected Von Strasshavenburgstein with truth serum. They learned the secret of the amazing living statue and relayed the information to Khan.
The next day the wall opened again, to Sheila’s relief. Two of the men released her from the chains as Khan entered, looking more relaxed than before.
“You must have found out the truth?” she said, massaging her wrists.
“Yes, we did. We also found that Von Strasshavenburgstein had already procured another statue for replacement. We think she went through the same ordeal as you. That gas must have been terrible to inhale; who knows what long-term illness that could cause you. You should not worry any longer, about him. The authorities there have been alerted and arrangements have been made,” he informed her.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” Sheila said.
“Well, there is one way,” Khan replied.
Puzzled, Sheila asked how.
“If I could just ask you to pose for a final photograph so I have something to remember the beautiful statue you once were.”
“I suppose that’s harmless enough.” Sheila straightened her maid’s costume as best she could, putting back on her high-heeled shoes that were nearby.
Khan’s men moved an old-fashioned tripod holding a flash camera into the room.
Sheila looked curiously as one of them put his eye to the lens, focusing it, adjusting the shutter.
“Do you mind posing as you did while you were ….” Khan paused.
“Frozen? Yes I think I can remember how that was like.” She said ruefully, not wanting to remember that portion of her life ever again. Reluctantly, she moved her hands behind her back, spread her feet apart, looked vacantly past the camera, and smiled slightly.
The bulb flashed and a certain eeriness came over her. She anxiously tried to look around as the men resumed moving but she felt very heavy, lethargic; almost solid. Then Sheila realized she couldn’t budge. “Oh, No! Not again…..” her thoughts wailed. She had been so close to escape; how could this be happening now? If she had been physically capable of tears they would be flowing now. But she was helpless to do anything other than stand stiffly in place once more.
Khan came back up to her, smoothing her brunette hair back into place, caressing her hardened cheek. “I’m truly sorry my dear, but your exquisite beauty is one of a kind. It needs to be preserved for the rest of time.”
He turned to one of his men. “It was brilliant of you to locate this magical camera among the artifacts that Von Strasshavenburgstein had obtained; it functions most excellently. By the way, in the outfits that you brought back from the estate, was there by any chance a school girl outfit in that collection?”
Shelia was once more a living object of art.
To Be Continued?