"ARTFUL CRIME" -- by Deirdre Hanson (I invite others to continue this story, which was inspired by an old "Wonder Woman" episode. I would love to read more stories about men being turned into statues, wax figures, and mannequins.)
Spencer Clark strode purposefully through the large gate in the high wrought iron fencing surrounding his Silver Gardens nursery and out into the bright and cool early morning air, just as the sun cleared the hills, a few minutes past seven. Adjusting his crisp tan Stetson, gently brushing away the light dirt dusting his white T-shirt and neat khaki shorts, Spencer confirmed the large order which he had just finished loading into the back of the delivery truck, then got into the driver's seat and steered into easy traffic. Fortunate, he thought, that he had decided to head in to work early that morning, hours before any of his employees were due to arrive and the nursery was set to open, so he could get some long overdue paperwork out of the way; he hadn't even told anyone about his early trip in, and now he was about to deliver quite a hefty sale just about equal to a good spring day's take. Yes, he had mused to himself when he had first arrived at work, this is going to be my lucky day...something special...something amazing is going to happen to me...I can feel it. Spencer was very seldom wrong about his hunches. And, sure enough, just as Spencer had seated himself down at his desk, none other than the distinguished sculptor, Henry Roberts, telephoned.
Spencer had read in the morning paper the announcement of the opening of a two-month exhibition of Roberts' work at the Gotham City Art Museum. The attendance for the engagement was expected to be particularly high due to the nature of Roberts' art -- uncannily realistic statues. It was the color photograph accompanying the article which had caught Spencer's eye; it showed one of Roberts' newer figures completed since the last Roberts exhibits -- a handsome fly fisherman dressed in full gear and casting his line -- and it had fooled Spencer: he had thought that the photograph accompanied an article about fishing, one of his favorite pastimes. During the last several years, Roberts' statues had become world-renowned for how life-like they were, and Roberts had both his fans and admirers, who regarded him as a sculpting genius who pointed out and captured the artistry of the ordinary and everyday, as well as his detractors, who insisted that art seeks to and is meant to interpret life, not merely imitate it.
After he had finished reading the article and swallowed the last of his morning coffee before heading out, Spencer stared at the photograph for a moment. Hmm, the picture's a little bit grainy, he thought to himself, but take away some of that hair and that mustache, and that fisherman statue looks a lot like it could be a statue of Harris...haven't seen or heard news of him since he disappeared from Gotham about four months back; it's a close resemblance...hmmm...it really looks like Harris could have been the model for it.
In addition to the fisherman, also to be featured in the exhibit were, among several other figures, life-like statues of a baseball pitcher, a policeman, a firefighter, a postman, baseball legend Babe Ruth, and an old west marshal. Wish I had nothing to do but stand around fishing all day like that statue, Spencer mused as he looked at the photograph once more, or play an old west marshal...I could see myself doing that for quite some time; he grinned at the thought, curious to see what that old west marshal statue looked like. He checked his own handsome, boyish face and smart mustache in the rear view mirror one last time, as was his habit, as he approached his destination.
Spencer pulled into the long private driveway and stopped the truck at the side entrance to the secluded house and workshop, just as he had been instructed by Roberts. Rapping lightly on the gate, he soon saw Roberts himself come out to greet him.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Clark. I'm sorry to call you over on such short notice and at such an early hour," Roberts said, firmly gripping and shaking Spencer's hand. As he did so, he noted that the nurseryman was not wearing a watch.
"Good to meet you, Mr. Roberts. It was no trouble at all. I'm glad I was in when you telephoned. I'm not usually there that early...I just happened to go in to get a head start on some work."
"How fortunate. Thank you for coming. I very much appreciate it. Only this morning I realized that I had forgotten to arrange for some greenery at this afternoon's preview."
"Well, it's all in back of the truck." After several trips back and forth, Spencer had set all of the various plants by the back entrance to Roberts' workshop.
"I could've delivered them to the museum," Spencer said as he followed Roberts into the workshop.
"My men will be installing two newer figures in the museum shortly. They'll take care of the plants then."
Spencer nodded and looked about the room. Various tools, paint cans, plaster molds, and other assorted equipment lay on the shelves; sketches covered the many tables; and in the middle of the room stood a lone draped figure the size of a medium-built man. "This is quite a workshop you've got here."
"Thank you. It's a nice base of operations, a convenient location, but set back from the road for some privacy...a good arrangement." Roberts went to his desk and shuffled papers about until he found the forms he needed. As he turned back toward Spencer, he noticed the nurseryman's interest in the figure underneath the cloth.
"I saw the article and the photograph in this morning's paper about the exhibit. How long does it take to complete a statue like the fisherman?"
"My statues don't take as long to complete as one might think. However, sometimes it does take several months to secure just the right statue materials, but I think it's worth the wait, don't you? As for my fisherman, with that particular statue, I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted him to be...a horseplayer deciding on a thoroughbred and calculating his wagers, a handy man, a carpenter. I finally settled on a fly fisherman. He was prepared four months ago. He turned out rather nicely, don't you think? He makes quite a fine statue."
Spencer nodded. He noticed that the sculptor had referred to the statue as "he" and "him." "Is this one of the statues for the show?" Spencer gestured toward the draped figure.
"I put the finishing touches on him this morning, a moment ago, just before you arrived." Roberts lifted the white sheet to reveal a handsome uniformed postman sorting a handful of letters. Spencer was amazed at how realistic the statue looked. He wanted to reach out and touch the figure, to convince himself that it was not just one of Roberts' men posing and standing still. Sensing this, Roberts coaxed, "Go ahead, Mr. Clark...touch him."
Spencer, a little embarrassed at first, hesitated, but then couldn't help himself. Reaching out, Spencer ran his hand along the statue's arm and carefully touched its face. The figure felt quite cool, solid and hard, like a store mannequin, but it was surprising and astounding how life-like the statue was...the appearance of its skin texture, the proportion of the body parts, the curve of the face and muscles, as if it were a real man standing before him. If the figure hadn't felt so rigid, cold, and firm, Spencer would have, based on its appearance, found it difficult to believe that the statue wasn't a real, living man standing motionless before him. Little did Spencer know that people would be saying the same about him in just a few hours.
"Amazing!" Spencer remarked enthusiastically. "I look forward to seeing the show."
"You'll be there, I assure you, as my personal guest," smiled Roberts. "As a matter of fact, as I said, I have to arrange for one more statue for the preview, one I've been trying to secure for four months, so if you'll just take this pen and the paperwork for your signature, I'll be able to complete work on the last figure and finish things up for this afternoon's reception." Roberts pulled a pen from his pocket and offered it, along with various forms, to the nurseryman. Spencer had noted Roberts' peculiar and odd phrasing, but he took the pen to sign his name to the purchase order.
Meanwhile, in the back room, Fulton, kept his eye on a large computer console and a video screen monitoring the workshop. The moment Spencer gripped the pen, the computer sparked to life and began its series of swift computations. The computer monitor displayed a number of wavy, jittery lines, which indicated Spencer's physical and brain activity. There also appeared a three-dimensional outline of Spencer's body which mimicked Spencer's position and movements. In seconds, the computer accurately and thoroughly recorded all of Spencer's physiological information, and, based on that data, calculated, in a just few seconds more, the proper electronic signals and frequencies which, when sent streaming through his body via the Neural Impulse Modulator attached to the pen, would effectively and very precisely turn him off, literally transforming Spencer from a living human being into a mere inanimate object, converting him into something resembling a very life-like mens' shop mannequin or a waxworks figure or, in this case, transforming Spencer simply and quite easily into a new Henry Roberts statue, the final statue Roberts had planned for the exhibition preview. In the suspension induced by Roberts' device, the subject's body ceases all of its functions. Not only is animation suspended, but everything is placed in complete stasis, with no breakdown or decay.
Now, the necessary readings and calculations complete, a green light on the console blinked, signifying that the computer was ready to perform its statue-ization process on Spencer. Fulton, just as he had done several times before, pressed the button marked "0 Animation." The green light turned yellow, and the computer began transmitting its special mannequinizing signals silently coursing through Spencer's body. Watching the monitor, Fulton could see Spencer's movements slow. In just a few moments, the handsome man would become nothing more than a piece of fine life-like statuary.
Spencer bent over the table to sign the forms. Roberts could see the distinct outline of Spencer's briefs pressing through the seat of his shorts. Spencer felt a warm and pleasant tingle sweep up his arm and quickly spread throughout the rest of his body. As he straightened, he felt his muscles tightening and stiffen, but dismissed the sensation as fatigue. He looked to Roberts and grinned. Spencer wanted to extend a handshake, but he suddenly found that he could no longer move: His arms remained at his sides, and even his face remained frozen with its smile. As hard as he tried, he remained motionless and soon felt like the statue of the fisherman in the newspaper photograph and the postman statue standing less than a foot away from him; he couldn't help but feel a strange kinship with them.
Spencer began to panic and tried to concentrate, but found that he could not focus his thoughts. He found it harder to breathe, but oddly felt that he would soon no longer need to. As his eyes became fixed in their sockets and glazed over, a curious thought began to repeat in his mind -- "...statue...Henry Roberts statue...I am a Henry Roberts statue" -- the computer transmitted this message, via the NIM unit, through Spencer's body, and into his brain, strangely soothing and calming him. Spencer then relaxed and let the process take control of him. Indeed, he had no choice.
The last image he saw was Roberts smiling at him and nodding. Then his mind went blank, and the computer registered no brain activity or physiological functions. Fulton had watched the lines on the monitor grow less jagged until they lay completely flat across the screen. Less than a minute following the push of the computer's "0 Animation" button, the process was complete, and a blue light burned on the console, indicating a successful transformation. Spencer had effectively undergone the most important phase in becoming a Henry Roberts statue.
Fulton entered the workshop as Roberts studied what would soon become his latest completed work of art. Spencer stood completely still beside the table where he had signed his name, the pen still gripped in his hand. Standing there just as he was, Spencer was a perfect statue of himself, but Roberts had something else in mind for him. A moment later, Edwards entered through the side door.
"Help Mr. Clark onto the worktable and out of his clothes." Fulton and Edwards stood on either side of the stiffened form and tilted it back, one taking hold of the legs and the other supporting the head and shoulders. Spencer's body was now quite rigid and locked into position. Carefully lifting him so as not to knock the pen loose, they carried Spencer over to the main table and gently laid him down on its smooth surface. Roberts placed his hand on Spencer's chest, as if feeling for a heartbeat. Nothing. Roberts knew that there wouldn't be, but he had made a habit of this after each transformation.
Fulton and Edwards then began stripping Spencer -- removing his Stetson, the gold wire glasses from his face, cutting away his T-shirt, taking off the tennis shoes and socks, and loosening his belt and shorts - - until the handsome man lay on the table in only his white briefs. Even these were pulled down the stiffened legs, and Spencer lay completely naked. Roberts looked admiringly at the handsome face and the muscular, fit body, still positioned exactly as it had been when the NIM unit had taken control of it. Even his penis remained in position, just as Spencer's briefs had held it: close to his body, angled upward, and slightly erect.
Roberts ran his hand over the skin and could feel Spencer's body already firming up. Spencer's body was still warm, but it was quickly cooling. In a few hours, by the time of his unveiling as a Henry Roberts statue at the exhibition preview, Spencer would be nicely hardened and be nearly as cold as the rest of the Roberts statues on display in the exhibit and even the marble statues standing on pedestals in the museum's other rooms. Anyone who touched him would believe the same about him as he had about the statue of the postman.
Roberts had done this to several dozen men since the start of his "sculpting career" eight years ago, stocking exhibits with men statue- ized by his ingenious device, but each time he saw the results, he felt a thrill, that he had invented a mechanism that could effectively transform a living man into a perfect mannequin and, if desired, back again.
He looked up from the newest figure on the table and over at the postman standing rigidly nearby, a statue which, as he had told Spencer, he'd completed only moments before Spencer's arrival. Michaels, one of Roberts' men, attempted to blackmail Roberts, threatening to inform the police about whom was responsible for countless disappearances and about what had happened to those missing men, if he did not receive a larger bonus for each man he brought in. But Michaels was careless and didn't notice the NIM unit secured to the wire-rimmed frames of his eyeglasses. The moment Michaels slipped them on, Fulton pressed the button, and the computer did its work. Fulton and Edwards found Michaels stiffened in his home, standing rigid and motionless, dressed in only white briefs and sorting through his mail. They placed a sheet over him, lifted him into the back of the van, and presented him to Roberts back at the workshop. They had secured Michaels and statue-ized him days ago, but had only just finished costuming him when Spencer rapped at the gate. Chris Michaels, a man who had assisted Roberts in transforming so many living men into statues, had been transformed into a perfect statue himself.
Roberts also thought about the statue of the fisherman. Indeed, it was Spencer's friend, Harris Kent, whom Roberts had spotted in a bookshop one night while scouting for potential statues. Kent had the face, build, and bearing, like a young Jack Nicholson, that Roberts wanted for his collection of mannequinized men. With Harris in the store at the time was Spencer, whom Roberts envisioned as a statue of a rugged, weathered cowboy. Roberts waited and caught Kent as he closed shop the next night and left by the back entrance. Fortunately, the entrance opened onto a quiet alley, so no one was around to witness or interrupt Harris's transformation into a statue. "So easy," Roberts said to Michaels as he stepped from the van.
"Excuse me, sir...I understand that you buy antiquarian books. I know you've just closed, but could you take a look at what I have?" Roberts had placed books from his own collection in the back of the van.
"Sure, let's see what you have." As Kent leaned in to read the titles, Roberts could see the outline of Harris's briefs through his corduroy pants, but also noticed that Harris wore a metal watchband.
"You've got some nice things," Harris finally said, "but the deposits have already been sent to the bank, so I can't offer you anything tonight. If you come back tomorrow, we could make you a good offer."
"Unfortunately, I need to take care of this tonight." Roberts offered his hand to Kent. "But thank you for your trouble."
"Not at all," replied Harris. As they shook hands, Roberts, well-practiced, easily attached an neural impulse modulator unit to Kent's watch. A warm tingling spread from Harris's wrist almost immediately after Roberts had gripped and shaken his hand.
"Fortunately, you are going to help me in another way, Mr. Kent. You see, I also collect statues...that is, I collect men, like you, my friend, whom I transform into statues, and you will make quite a fine statue." Before Harris could respond, he felt a tightening throughout his body as it stiffened into place: his arm remained slightly raised, as if still waiting for a handshake, and the small smile Kent gave Roberts was fixed on his face. As Roberts stepped back, Harris's body locked into position, and just as Spencer would experience four months later, Harris found it hard to concentrate, and his breathing slowed. As he tried futilely to move, his eyes became fixed, staring straight ahead, and he could only see Roberts smiling in front of him and nodding and Michaels getting out of the front of the van and stepping behind him out of view.
Kent thought of men's shop mannequins in windows down the street; I want to be one of them, he thought as, soon, the computer transmitted its message into his brain: "I am Harrison Ralph Kent, and I am a Henry Roberts statue...I am a Henry Roberts statue." As he stiffened, he felt Michaels take firm hold of him from behind, lift him, and carefully set him in the van so that he lay next to the books that he had just examined. A sheet was thrown over his rigid body, and Harris felt a sense of calm as his mind went blank. Back at the console, Fulton had watched the monitor with its flat lines and bright blue light.
Roberts and Michaels drove with Harris's statue-ized body back to the workshop. As they did with each man, Michaels and Fulton placed Harris on the worktable and removed his clothes, until Kent lay in only his blue briefs. Roberts smiled at Harris's athletic build and handsome face. In less than an hour, Harris became a perfect Henry Roberts statue, an NIM unit of his own slipped over his penis and scrotum and held securely in place by his new grey briefs. His brain reprogrammed, Harris was costumed and repositioned as a fly fisherman, and put into long term suspension, then placed in quiet storage, where, over the next four months, he patiently waited for his museum debut as a Henry Roberts' statue and was joined by other local men who had disappeared and had been statue-ized: Harris's friend, James Edwards; Thomas, James's brother; Lee Matthews, a local actor; Tom McArthur, a Gotham attorney; and Peter Forester, a professor at Gotham University, among others.
As his latest art piece lay on the worktable, Roberts scanned the computer files for the measurements of Spencer's body: the reach of the arms and legs, the expanse of the chest and size of the waist; everything, even ring and hat sizes, the length and bulge of Spencer's penis and scrotum, had been recorded by the computer at the time it had performed its mannequinization process on him. Edwards hung a suit of old west marshal clothes on a rack next to the worktable as Fulton sat at the console. Edwards handed Roberts a pair of special tight-fitting briefs. Roberts pulled them up Spencer's legs until the distinct impression of his stiffened penis and scrotum pressed against the cloth. A snug, neat fit. Edwards then placed a smooth, oblong metal dome in Roberts' hand. Roberts carefully reached into the briefs and slipped the shield over Spencer's crotch. The NIM unit cupped the penis and scrotum perfectly, effectively concealing them and leaving a smooth bulge through the material of the grey briefs. Fulton activated the new NIM unit in Spencer's new briefs; Roberts gently slipped the pen from the statue's fingers and smiled as Spencer remained motionless, the grin still fixed on his face.
Roberts had not always affixed the NIM units so securely to his statues. He displayed men kept in suspension by NIM units attached to rings, wrist watches, and the like, and there were no incidents of tampering during the first exhibitions of the statues. Six years ago, however, after a gallery exhibiting his men had just closed after a busy weekend, Roberts was speaking with the curator when a guard entered the office and handed him a ring. Roberts recognized it as the NIM unit regulating the condition of a studio executive he had transformed into a statue of a house painter. The guard said a woman had turned it in, apologizing for her daughter, who had slipped it off the statue's finger a half an hour earlier.
Roberts excused himself and quickly made his way alone to the statues. The statue of the painter, originally fashioned nearly a year earlier, had been posed leaning on a long roller, a look of comic frustration fixed on his face, as if he'd been ordered to repaint a client's living room over for the fourth time. Now, the roller had fallen away and lay on the floor. Roberts found the painter swaying slightly, its head nodding and its left hand, which had been placed on its hip, hanging loosely at its side. The legs were positioned awkwardly, as if the statue had tried to step off the platform. Its eyes blinked, and the look of frustration had been replaced by an expression of struggle, as if the man were fighting off the NIM unit's effects and trying to return to a human state, now that the ring had been dislodged. Roberts looked at his watch: nearly forty-five minutes since the NIM unit had been removed. Based on experimentation with statues whose NIM units had been removed without treating the body to proper reanimation procedures, he determined it took the average man approximately one hour for every year spent in statuary suspension to regain normal animation. In fifteen minutes, this man would have found himself locked in a museum, unable to remember what had been done to him, and Roberts' secret would have been discovered.
"Time to get back to work, Alan," Roberts chided softly. "You've had your little break, and now it's time to assume your position." He took hold of Alan's left hand and felt the warmth and suppleness returning to the body. There was a slow, but distinct, pulse. Roberts was about to return the ring to the statue's finger when, suddenly, Alan's hand tightly gripped Roberts'. Startled, Roberts let go and could see Alan blink more rapidly and take in a few deep breaths.
"Uh...wh...where am I? What happened?" Alan looked about the dim room and raised his hands to rub his face like one who had just woken from sleep. "Henry," he said, recognizing Roberts, "...I feel so strange, so stiff." Alan stepped from the platform.
Roberts regained his composure and smiled. "Alan, we're at the museum."
Alan was thoroughly confused, his mind still foggy. "I don't remember coming here. How did I get into these clothes?" Alan asked, looking down at the painter's uniform. Looking about again, he suddenly noticed the other figures in the gallery. "Who are all of these men?" He caught sight of a familiar face across the room. "Is that Jess? Jess, what's going on?" he waved to a statue of an old-fashioned milkman. Nothing. Puzzled by his friend's silence, Alan stiffly walked over to him, ignoring the other figures in the gallery. "Jess...what's wrong?" He touched Jess' arm, nearly knocking the figure over, but the statue merely teetered stiffly and remained motionless. Alan looked into the milkman's handsome face. "What's happened to him?" He reached up and felt Jess' face. It was hardened, firm and cold. "He's like...a mannequin."
"He is a mannequin...as you were and will be again in just a moment, Alan. You see, Jess is now one of my statues, just as you have been for the last year." Alan continued struggling to understand what was being said and what had happened to him and his friend. "Now it's time for you to rejoin your friend in a state of suspended animation. It's simple really." Roberts held up Alan's ring. "I just slip this onto your finger, and you'll become a statue again, just like your friend, Jess. Now, concentrate...you are a statue...you are a Henry Roberts statue."
Alan did not fully comprehending what Roberts said, but felt compelled to obey. As he held out his hand and let Roberts take hold of it, the odd, yet comforting phrases surfaced from somewhere in the back of his mind, and Alan softly repeated it -- "I am a Henry Roberts statue...I am Henry Roberts statue..." -- and it began to loop through his brain. Roberts then slipped the ring back onto the man's finger. Alan gasped softly and instantly stopped moving for a few seconds. His face then gradually grew expressionless as his body readjusted itself to the signal generated by its NIM unit. Then, slowly and smoothly, Alan's body repositioned itself automatically into the pose programmed into his NIM unit.
Roberts picked up the paint roller and pressed it into Alan's curled fingers so that his right hand gripped it firmly. Alan raised his left hand and rested it back onto his hip; his legs shifted and stiffened underneath him, and the look of frustration molded itself onto his face once more, and Alan, back to being a living, breathing man for a short moment just a few seconds earlier, was a handsome statue of a house painter once again, looking exactly as it had for the last year. Already the warmth that the reanimated Alan figure had generated during the last hour was quickly dissipating.
"Very nice, Alan." He patted the painter's arm and could feel the hardness quickly returning to the body. "Yes, that's it." Roberts firmly gripped Alan's now properly posed and stiffened form from behind and carefully stood it back onto its pedestal. He adjusted the painter's uniform and cap and made certain that the ring was snugly in place on the statue's finger. He noticed tiny beads of sweat on the forehead and temples and reached up and touched Alan's wet skin. Roberts took out his handkerchief and carefully mopped the perspiration from the statue's cooling brow. He then realized that he'd been perspiring as well and dabbed his own forehead and smiled. As he stood admiring the figure, the guard stepped into the gallery.
"Everything okay in here, Mr. Roberts?" he asked as he stood next to the sculptor.
"Yes, as you can see, the statue is fine...no harm done...no harm done."
"Glad to hear it." The guard looked up at Alan. "He looks like he could walk right off the platform any second."
"I'll be getting back to Mr. Bedford. Thanks for calling this to my attention." Relieved, Roberts returned to the curator. With the museum closed the next day, Roberts spent the morning fixing the NIM units more securely to each statue. In a few days, he devised the NIM shield and spent another Monday slipping them into each statue's briefs and over the penis and scrotum. Alan was the only incident of tampering. Since then, no man Roberts had statue-ized had ever been reanimated without his authorization. The NIM unit's placement was ideal, held securely in place by each man's briefs, so there was little chance of its displacement, and its position over the crotch protected the penis and scrotum, preventing anyone from feeling them through the clothing.
With the transfer of suspension complete, Fulton pressed another button, and Spencer's body became pliable, so it could easily be costumed, but all physical and mental functions remained in stasis. Roberts lowered the arms and legs onto the table, and Spencer's face lost its grin and became expressionless, the eyes staring blanking into space.
"Help Mr. Clark finish dressing. We can't have our marshal standing around in his underwear. Use the antique glasses with grey lenses, grow the hair a bit longer, and add a stubble beard to the face. That should help safeguard our statue's identity while it's here in Gotham City." Fulton and Edwards went to work on Spencer, just as they had done with the others...shaving James Edwards' beard, or darkening Lee Matthews' hair. Other features could be altered by computer, such as stimulating miraculous and quick growth to fill out Kent's thinning hair and to give him a mustache in a half an hour, just as they would have the computer lengthen Spencer's hair and stimulate stubble growth on Spencer's face. The computer was even able to soften Thomas Edwards' age-worn complexion and to give Peter Forester an even greater resemblance to Babe Ruth.
Roberts sat at the computer console and looked at a three- dimensional image of Spencer's body. As Fulton and Edwards dressed the body that lay on the work table, Roberts pushed a series of buttons on the console and manipulated Spencer's computer image into a variety of positions until he settled on a stance and pose which befitted a dignified old west marshal and would best show off Spencer's rugged masculinity. Then, once the subject was ready, a simple push of a computer button would activate "the marshal" program, which would manipulate Spencer's limbs into the pose that the computer image of him held.
By the time Roberts' men had finished costuming Spencer, the program was ready for transmission through his NIM unit. Fulton and Edwards carefully lifted Spencer from the table and steadied him on his cowboy-booted feet. Roberts pressed the program button, and Spencer's body smoothly moved into position -- shifting its legs and placing its right hand upon a holstered gun, the other hand raised to the brim of his own Stetson, as if in greeting. The head was cocked slightly to one side, and the lips spread into a boyish grin. The movements reminded Roberts of automated mannequins in store windows and Disneyland attractions. In fact, Roberts had just completed such a figure. A few days earlier, he had secured Steve Phillips, who now already stood motionless and smiling at the gallery entrance, dressed in formal attire. Roberts had programmed very simple movements and gestures. When activated, Phillips would stiffly and repeatedly greet people as they entered to view the Roberts statues.
Once Spencer's body was properly posed, the computer again transmitted its "0 Animation" impulses, and Spencer again stiffened. Fulton and Edwards let go of Spencer, and the now newly-completed statue stood on its own in a perfectly stable and balanced stance. Although it had only been under "0 Animation" less than an hour, Spencer's body was becoming more accustomed to this state and firmed up more quickly. It wouldn't take long for the mannequin state of any man Roberts transformed to become that man's more natural condition. Indeed, if a man were kept in suspension long enough, the transformation becomes permanent. This had first happened to James Martin, one of his graduate student assistants at the University when Roberts conducted research in the effects of electricity on the human body, and one of Roberts' colleagues at the University, Dr. Sam Barrett.
To keep permanent statue-ization from occurring, Roberts devised a program whereby the computer periodically sent special electronic impulses through each man's body. These impulses allowed each man to emerge briefly from suspension before returning him to a statue-ized state once more. For a few seconds, each man's bodily functions are set into motions...he can hear, smell, and see, and take in and expel a breath, and his heart beats momentarily. But at the threshold of movement, the "0 Animation" impulses again stream through the body, and each man is turned off.
Roberts looked over at the computer console's blue light and smiled. He walked up to Spencer and put his hand on his new statue's shoulder. The transformed man felt pleasingly solid and firm. Roberts was more than satisfied with his newest figure. "Marshal, I've had my eye on you for the last four months. I'm so glad you could finally join my collection of statues. You make an excellent addition." With the programmed boyish grin fixed on his face, Spencer seemed pleased with Roberts' assessment of him, now an exquisite cowboy mannequin figure, standing stiffly and motionless and staring into space. "There are some people who would like to meet you this afternoon. As you know, your arrival has already been announced in this morning's paper. You've joined the other men just in time."
Roberts had nearly finished gathering all of the men whom he had wanted statue-ized for the new show. Only two other important men remained to be secured and transformed into statues for the official opening, one week away...plenty of time, he thought.
Roberts looked at his watch. Only an hour ago Spencer had been a living, breathing, functioning man, rapping on the gate; now, transformed into a piece of fine art, he stood proudly as a Henry Roberts statue, and his wish had come true -- Spencer would have the chance to simply stand around and play an old west marshal for quite some time. Something very special had happened to him after all. Fulton draped a sheet over the new figure, and he and Edwards carried the statue out and placed it in the van next to the postman statue that Michaels now was. The plants that Spencer had brought would remain next to the workshop entrance. Kent, the Edwards, Matthews, McArthur and the other statue-ized men had already been transported to the museum, and Fulton would take care of Spencer's truck later. The preview would begin in three hours. Everything was going perfectly.
Roberts arrived at the Gotham City Museum shortly before the preview. Arranging the statues about the main gallery, Fulton set the statue of the old west marshal in the middle of the room, where it would act as the centerpiece of the preview, until the two final statues, yet to be secured, were unveiled at the official opening. Meanwhile Edwards adjusted envelopes in the postman's stiffened and motionless hands. These two additions rounded out the show nicely, thought Roberts. In one corner stood the fisherman perpetually casting his line. The statues that had once been Harris Kent and Spencer Clark now stood only a few feet apart from each other. The last time they had been together was the evening before Kent was statue-ized. These and sixteen other male figures, ranging from a college student to a golfer, comprised the bulk of the exhibition, titled, "Here We Stand." The Phillips statue stood near the entrance.
Edwards straightened the cap on his father, a statue of a distinguished, aging police officer with graying hair and a walrus- mustache, the final figure to be inspected before letting in the crowds. Seeing to each detail, Edwards tapped the crotch of the statues, making certain that the NIM shields were securely in place within each man's briefs as they monitored the suspension of the men, as he was doing now with his father, feeling for the NIM unit in his father's briefs.
Finally, Roberts stood before the tuxedoed figure at the entrance and pulled a small control box, labeled, "Phillips," from his pocket. Pressing the button marked, "Automation," he set the statue into motion. Phillips tipped his hat, bowed slightly, and straightened. After a moment's pause, the figure repeated the simple movements and would do so precisely and continuously until Roberts pressed the "0 Automation" button. When Phillips bowed, Roberts could see the outline of his briefs pressing through the seat of his trousers; he smiled, knowing that it was Phillips' briefs that held the NIM unit snugly in place, keeping Phillips under Roberts' control.
Dick Grayson stepped into the gallery as the doors opened for Roberts' preview. Like others, he was intrigued by the article and photo in the paper and wanted a close-up view of the statues. In the main room, he saw several figures draped with cloth. After a few minutes, Roberts appeared.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I do want to thank all of you for attending this preview of my upcoming show. Actually, I do prefer to call it a 'reception,' because, as you can see, there are some people who have just arrived, and I do want you to meet them. Now it is quite possible that you have met some of them before, at one time or another, because they come from all walks of life, all marches of time. They are those members of humanity at perhaps whom you have always wished to stare or examine or scrutinize in an attempt to experience what it's like to live their lives. Ladies and gentlemen, now you have that chance, so may I suggest, `Here We Stand.'" Roberts motioned to Fulton and Edwards, who then unveiled the statues. The crowd gasped in amazement and moved closer for a better view.
Dick, too, was surprised at how life-like the statues appeared. "Bruce should have come," he thought; "This is incredible. He's a genius...the man's a genius." He moved slowly through the hall, examining each statue closely for several minutes before moving onto the next. He had just turned his attention to the statue Spencer had become a few hours before when someone tapped his arm. He turned to find Roberts himself standing beside him.
"Enjoying yourself, Mr...?"
"Grayson...Dick Grayson. Yes, Mr. Roberts. It's an honor to meet you. Your work is fascinating. This marshal...the details...the hair, the fingernails, the wrinkles.... How do you do it?" he asked.
"I'm afraid I have got to keep that a secret, but I do thank you for coming." Roberts looked closely at the young man for a moment and smiled. "I know I'll see you here again." He shook Grayson's hand and made his way to Fulton, who stood near the entrance, watching the crowd.
"It seems everything is going our way," Roberts whispered. "The young man standing in front of our marshal statue is Dick Grayson, ward of millionaire Bruce Wayne...the man we hoped to use to lure Batman and Robin into our collection. Mr. Grayson himself, however, will do just as well for the time being. He'll be our next subject. You and Jack know what to do. I'll meet you back at the workshop in an hour." Fulton nodded, and Roberts rejoined his guests. Fulton kept an eye on Grayson as he wandered from statue to statue. When Grayson finally headed from the gallery, Fulton and Edwards followed.
Dick had parked in the garage beneath the Wayne Foundation Building, whose lower floors housed the Gotham City Museum. He thought the bottom levels were deserted as he approached his car, but as he unlocked the door, Edwards quickly grabbed him from behind, gagging him with one hand and holding him fast with his other arm. As Grayson struggled, Fulton quickly loosened Grayson's belt and pants and grinned and nodded to himself when he saw Grayson's choice of underwear. From his pocket he pulled out an NIM unit and a small control box. Fulton reached into Grayson's white briefs and positioned and secured the unit over the young man's penis and scrotum. Grayson's briefs held the unit tightly in place, and Fulton pressed a button on the box. Grayson felt a tingling from the cold metal.
"It's no use struggling, Mr. Grayson," Fulton said with a smile. "We'll take care of you. In fact, we're going to let you experience first- hand how Mr. Roberts makes his statues, and you'll be back here at the museum in just a few days, my friend, as part of the exhibit." In seconds Grayson's struggling subsided as the computer signals streamed through his body, stiffening him, slowing his bodily functions and suppressing his brain waves, until they effectively turned him off completely, leaving him motionless. One moment, Roberts' men were struggling with a live, human male; the next they were merely holding up an inanimate object shaped like and resembling a young human male. Edwards slipped the car keys from Grayson's grip and unlocked the trunk. Together, he and Fulton lifted Dick in and then drove back to Roberts' workshop.
By the time Roberts returned to his workshop, Fulton and Edwards had laid Grayson out on the work table on which all of Roberts' many other subjects had lain as each was crafted into a Roberts' statue. Within an hour, he, too, would become a completed, perfect statue, a fine work of art. Dick lay naked and stiff, the NIM unit placed over his crotch. Dick body was frozen in a position of struggle, an expression of surprise fixed on his face. His clothes had been thrown onto a chair -- a navy blue suit and slacks, white oxford shirt, smart silk tie, socks and shoes, and a pair of white briefs.
"Okay, what's this all about?" asked Batman as he looked about Roberts' workshop at the statues that had just come to life.
Moreau sat in the back room and watched Batman over the video monitor. "It's about your demise, Batman, your carefully planned, eagerly anticipated demise," replied Moreau coolly, his voice over an intercom.
The workshop door slid open, and Henry Roberts stepped into the room. "Welcome to my museum," he greeted with a smile. "So, you lured me here purposely. It was all a plan...the thefts, the riddles...," Batman said as the men circled him.
"All were part of an intricate choreography. You see, we knew that if we involved the Gotham City police, you would ultimately be involved," Moreau answered.
"Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara warned me that there was more to this than met the eye."
"Which is why, upon their inability to solve our riddles and crimes, they sent for you. How boringly predictable," Moreau said haughtily.
"Speaking of boring, why am I here?" demanded the caped crusader.
Roberts stepped forward and smiled. "You are about to become my latest work of art."
"Several people know that my friend here plans to open his Gotham City exhibit tonight by unveiling statues of Batman and Robin," Moreau explained. "I shall be there for the unveiling, as will you, Batman, delicately frozen by a minute stream of electrons controlled by a neural impulse modulator, developed by that brilliant neurophysiologist, Robert Henderson."
"Presently known to the world as Henry Roberts," said the sculptor as he slipped a new NIM unit for Batman from his pocket. "This, once cupped over your penis and scrotum and held in place by your bat-briefs, will produce an electrical signal which will place you in a state of suspended animation and transform you into a perfect statue...forever."
The three men who had been reanimated swiftly took hold of Batman. Roberts smiled as he approached the super hero with the NIM unit in his hand. Suddenly, Batman whirled about, knocking the men off balance, and quickly grabbed the unit from Roberts' hand. "After I neutralize this," Batman said to the voice over the speaker, "you're going to tell me who you are and where you are." Had Batman been barehanded, Moreau could simply have pressed a button and added Batman to their collection of human statues at that moment. But he was patient. A few moments more and they would have him.
"Wait, Batman. Perhaps you'd like to see our most recent acquisition first. Henry...." Roberts smiled and gestured toward a draped object in the corner. Two of the men carried the figure to the center of the room. With one motion, Roberts lifted the cloth. Dick Grayson stood motionless in a Robin costume.
"No, Batman, just an amazing simulation," said Moreau. "You see, this is Dick Grayson, ward of millionaire Bruce Wayne. He attended last week's preview of Henry's exhibition and graciously consented to fill in for Robin until we're able to secure and transform the Boy Wonder himself into a statue. Had Robin accompanied you here this evening, you and Robin could have undergone the statue-ization process together, and we could have restored young Mr. Grayson back to his living, breathing, functioning, mobile self. As you can see, however, Mr. Grayson is doing a rather fine job standing in for Robin; he makes an excellent statue of the Boy Wonder, don't you think? But he's unable to answer you at the moment. In fact, Mr. Grayson is unable to do much of anything."
Batman looked incredulously at his stiffened, mannequinized friend. Now he understood what had happened and why Robin had been missing for the last several days. "Let him go," ordered Batman.
"Only after the NIM unit has been secured in your Bat-briefs."
"Right now," Batman demanded.
"Right now, I can push a button that will make Mr. Grayson's statue-ization permanent. He might as well spend the rest of eternity as a mannequin, standing in a men's shop window modeling sport coats and jockey briefs. Would you like that, Batman?"
Thousands of thoughts and the image of Robin posed stiffly in a store display window whirled through his brain as he stared at Robin, but he couldn't think logically. Finally, Batman offered the NIM unit back to Roberts. "You win."
"I won the day I planned this," gloated Moreau. "The rest was simply a matter of time." Roberts grinned as he took the NIM unit back from the caped crusader's hand.
Batman unbuckled and loosened his utility belt and laid it across his shoulders. Then, with both hands, he slowly pulled down his blue bat-briefs and waited. Roberts gently positioned the NIM unit over the caped crusader's penis and scrotum. The unit cupped them perfectly; Roberts had made a fine estimate. A shiver ran through Batman's body as the cold metal was pressed against him. The NIM unit in place, Roberts nodded, and Batman pulled up his briefs and fastened his belt. The unit was held snugly and securely in place. Batman looked down. He was used to seeing the distinct outline of the head of his penis pressing through his bat-briefs, but now the bulging impression of his crotch was quite smooth. Already he felt artificial.
The moment the NIM unit came into contact with Batman's penis, a three-dimensional image of him appeared on the computer monitor, and computer sparked into action, calculating the electrical signals that would turn him off, transforming him into a Henry Roberts statue. As with all the other men, it took the computer mere seconds to record all of Batman's physical data and to devise the precise statue- ization frequencies. Almost immediately, the green light blinked on the computer console. Moreau was just about to press the "0 Animation" button when Batman spoke.
"May I take a closer look at Dick Grayson? I'd like to see what I'll be like...what I'm going to become."
Moreau grinned and seemed pleased. "Of course, Batman, I don't see why not."
Batman stepped up to Robin and examined the statue closely. He looked at Robin's young, boyish face and saw the eyes staring off at nothing. He slipped off his glove and gently ran his hand over Robin's arm; it was locked into position. Then he gently touched the face; it felt cold and firm, as if he were touching a plastic mannequin. Finally, he looked down at the Boy Wonder's briefs and saw the smooth mound which his own crotch now resembled. He reached down and placed his palm over his friend's penis and scrotum. Through the cloth of Robin's briefs, Batman could feel the cold hard metal of the NIM unit that had transformed Robin into a mere statue. Then he placed his hand over his own crotch and realized that in just a few minutes he would be like Robin, no longer a man, but a statue. As he stood there for a moment, he felt a mix of emotions: helplessness, sadness, anxiety, fear, and, oddly, fascination and exhilaration. At last, Batman slipped his glove back on and turned to Roberts.
"I'm ready for my statue-ization. How would you like me to stand?"
Although they had already pre-programmed the coordinates for their Batman pose into the computer, Moreau relished the control that he and Roberts now had over the crime fighter. "Let's see, now, hands on your hips, I think." Batman did as he was told and raised his hands to his hips. "Yes, that's it. Well, now smile. Smile the smile you would like to wear through eternity, because wear it through eternity you shall." There was something sinister in Moreau's voice, but Batman was strangely comforted, too. Already he perceived Roberts and Moreau as his masters and owners. Slowly, Batman's lips spread into a smile. "In a moment, your transformation will be completed. You may even enjoy it. You will be a perfect and magnificent statue, Batman, preserved forever as a splendid work of art, my masterpiece. Then you won't have to worry anymore about fighting crime and dastardly villains," Roberts said in a coaxing and soothing voice as Moreau activated the computer.
>From his penis, Batman felt a warm tingling gently grow and quickly spread outward to the rest of his body. "They don't know Dick is really Robin," thought Batman. "Once I've been turned off, once I'm one of their statues, they'll reanimate him, and he'll...wait...no...what a fool!" Batman suddenly realized his mistake. "Once I'm a statue, they'll have no reason to return Dick to normal." The sight of his friend statue- ized had caught him off-guard and had kept him from thinking logically and rationally, just as Roberts and Moreau had hoped.
Batman immediately tried to fight the electrical impulses of the NIM unit, struggling to reach a button on his utility belt that he thought might be able to neutralize its signals. But it was too late. Roberts and Moreau saw Batman's struggle, but they were unconcerned. After only a few seconds, the computer was already well into finishing its task. Within his body, several of Batman's physiological functions and systems were already shutting down and going into stasis as the computer continued to transform the man into a statue. Batman could just barely raise his right arm a few inches before he felt his entire body lock into position. As hard as he tried, he could no longer move, his finger just touching the button. He tried desperately to concentrate, but the computer began to transmit its usual message into his brain, effectively scrambling his own thoughts -- "a Henry Roberts statue...I am a Henry Roberts statue...I am a Henry Roberts statue ."
Once the message flowed freely through his brain, Batman began to relax, quite willingly and eagerly abandoning his struggle, and, in the few seconds before its completion, he did find his transformation pleasurable and felt as if he were going to be taken care of. Suddenly, he felt his body shift more precisely into its programmed position: his right hand was returned to his hip, his legs spread apart slightly, and the false smile he wore shaped itself into a more confident and convincing grin. Once the computer had properly posed him, it fed the final signals through his body, stiffening and statue-izing him, and the blue light burned on the console. The computer added another perfect display figure to Roberts' amazing collection. Batman ceased to exist except in the form of this statue.
"Henry," said Moreau triumphantly, "say `good-bye' to one of the key people who stand between us and everything in the world we're stealing." Roberts stood for a moment staring proudly at his latest creation. The process had gone perfectly, as it always had, and now Batman, too, was a motionless, perfectly preserved Henry Roberts statue. As he did with every man he chose to undergo this special transformation, Roberts pressed his hand upon Batman's large chest. Nothing. Then he ran his hand over Batman's penis and scrotum and smiled as he felt the NIM unit cupping them and holding Batman captive in its statuary grip.
"Henry," began Moreau, "let's take a look at the face beneath the cowl, shall we?" Roberts smiled and nodded. He loosened Batman's dark blue cape and draped it over a chair. He then lifted the caped crusader's mask. He and Moreau were amazed.
"So...Bruce Wayne is Batman, which means that Dick Grayson must be Robin. It seems, Henry, that we have the complete set after all. The Dynamic Duo is Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Well, this saves us the trouble of hunting down the Boy Wonder and finding another use in our collection for Grayson. It was so simple," said Moreau. "Have the men take our new Batman and Robin statues over to the museum, and I'll see you at the gallery shortly." Roberts replaced the cowl on the statue's head and refastened the cape.
Without warning, Fulton pressed the statue-ization button for each of the three other men in the room, and the workshop was filled with statues once more. Fulton and Edwards then brought in two large wooden crates and set them near the figures. First, they carefully tipped Robin back and gently laid him onto a cushion of straw in the crate. After packing in more straw, they replaced the lid and secured it. Then they did the same with Batman. The Caped Crusaders deserved special handling, for they were now the most valuable statues in Roberts and Moreau's collection of mannequins and statues.
"Ladies and gentlemen. I am so deeply honored that so many of you have chosen to attend this formal opening of my new show. So, to honor you, my latest and hopefully my best creations. Gentlemen," he motioned to Fulton and Edwards, "if you please." The two stepped over to the far end of the gallery and drew aside a screen to reveal the new Batman and Robin statues. The crowd gasped. "Oh my, they look so real!"
After a few minutes, Moreau stepped before the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, as some of you know, I have supported Henry's work for several years now, helped him monetarily and spiritually as he struggled to perfect his technique. But whatever debt he may have incurred is now forgotten, for I, through him, have created a pair of masterpieces. His statues capture the very hearts and souls of the great men they depict, as Batman and Robin themselves would have to admit." The museum patrons, which including Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara, applauded. As Moreau spoke, he had thought to himself and had actually wanted to say, "Henry's statues truly and quite literally capture the very hearts, souls, and bodies of the Caped Crusaders, as Batman and Robin themselves would have to admit, if only we hadn't transformed them into mere statues and they could move and talk." The museum crowds pressed in for a closer view of the two statues.
"I had hoped that Batman and Robin would be here for this honor," said Chief O'Hara.
"Chief, the Dynamic Duo are too modest for such affairs. They are excellent likenesses though, aren't they? If I didn't know better, I might have mistaken these statues for the Caped Crusaders themselves. I'm a bit surprised that Bruce Wayne isn't here. He told me that young Dick Grayson was very excited about seeing the Roberts statues and had tried to talk him into attending the show's preview last week. Well, he's a busy man, too."
Many had expected the Caped Crusaders to attend the unveiling of their statue counterparts. Little did they suspect that Batman and Robin were, indeed, in attendance, that it was the Dynamic Duo themselves at whom they stared as they marveled at what they thought were merely statues of the superheroes; that what they were actually looking at were Batman and Robin perfectly controlled and preserved by small, but powerful, metal domes in their briefs, holding them in statuary suspension; that it was real flesh standing behind the red velvet museum cord. In fact, in the case of Batman, if they had been allowed to touch him, they would have felt a body still warm and supple, for Batman had been transformed only an hour before, just in the nick of time for the official opening of the exhibit; his body was still in the process of steadily, yet quickly and thoroughly, cooling and firming. For the opening, the cord had been raised to keep the crowds from touching the Caped Crusaders, but it would be removed in the morning, when Batman's body would be nicely and properly cool and rigid that no one touching him could believe that he was, indeed, once a real man. In fact, in a mere two hours, by the end of the gala evening, the statue that Batman now was would be sufficiently hardened and cooled.
Robin, on the other hand, had been a statue for several days now. Anyone touching him would have no doubts that what they were touching was a statue, Robin's body now quite cold and firm as any plastic store mannequin. But it seemed only appropriate that he should stand beside his stiffening mentor behind the cord. The people were not prohibited from touching the other statues in the exhibit, for all of those figures -- Spencer, Kent, Phillips, Michaels, the Edwards, McArthur, Forester, Matthews, and so forth -- were just as Robin was, like store mannequins, hardened, firm, and cold, no longer men, but works of art, perfectly crafted Henry Roberts statues, fashioned from living human men.
Roberts and Moreau wandered slowly through the deserted gallery. The show had had a successful run, and now, after three months -- one month longer than originally scheduled -- the statues were to be packed up in the morning and shipped to Washington D.C.'s Putney Museum for six weeks. In Washington, they would add Wonder Woman to their collection of superhero statues. And after Washington, the exhibit would move on to Metropolis, where Superman waited for his transformation into one of their statues as well. It had become a tradition for Roberts and Moreau to take a last tour of the figures before the exhibit moved on to its next site. They started near the gallery entrance and stood in front of a deactivated Phillips. Moreau pressed the automation button and set Phillips into stiff motion. "He was quite wooden and stiff even as a man. I think he was born to be one of my statue," said Roberts with a laugh.
They then moved on and stood before the Kent statue. "Henry, you do know how to pick the right men." Moreau carefully removed the sunglasses that hid the fisherman's eyes and looked closely at his face. "Excellent...Mr. Kent is a fine statue." He reached up and ran his palm down the side of the statue's hardened handsome face and replaced the glasses.
Next, they moved on to the two Edwards men, Thomas and James. "They do make a nice display pair, don't they?" asked Roberts. It was Jack Edwards who was responsible for the statue-ization of his father and uncle. Thomas Edwards made quite a handsome old policeman, and James was now a statue of a handsome fireman. Then Roberts and Moreau turned to Lee Matthews, who stood motionless before a top hat resting on a table...a statue of a magician. Next to him, Tom McArthur had been immortalized as a baseball player, his NIM unit held in place by a jock supporter. Soon, Roberts and Moreau stood admiring Spencer.
Henry, we've received an offer on our marshal. The National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City has made a bid of $250,000. They seemed very intent on acquiring him," Moreau continued, "so I asked for twice as much. They agreed immediately."
" Roberts seemed pleased. "I'll take care of it. While the rest of the statues are being shipped to Washington, Fulton and I will make Mr. Clark's condition long term." Roberts looked up at Spencer's handsome face. "I'm going to miss him."
Finally, they stood before Batman and Robin and smiled. "Well, Henry," said Moreau, "here they are...Batman and Robin, the Dynamic Duo, the Caped Crusaders, and now, for all time, the Henry Roberts statues. You are a genius, Henry." With the grins fixed on their faces, the Batman and Robin figures seemed pleased that this had been done to them, that Roberts and Moreau had chosen them to be turned into statues. They had stood absolutely motionless in the Gotham City art museum for the last three months, unchanging perfect statues, unaware that they had become the main attraction of the season and quite oblivious to the crimes committed in the city and equally oblivious of the crowds of people who came and saw them, even touched them. Roberts and Moreau had received several offers for the statuary pair, but all bids were refused...Batman and Robin statues would always remain under their control as part of their private collection.
Moreau and Roberts congratulated themselves as they walked back to the gallery entrance. Then Moreau pressed the other button on Phillips's control box. The Phillips animated mannequin finished one last tip of his hat and polite bow before straightening and then standing completely still, like the other men in the room.
Fulton and Edwards set Spencer down on the workshop floor as Roberts sat at the computer, programming the electronic signals that would effectively place Spencer under their control and prepare his body for long term statue-ization. Fulton pushed the yellow button on the console, and the computer transmitted the reactivation and animation signals into Spencer's rigid body via the NIM unit. Slowly, the flat lines displayed on the computer screen began to register activity as the electronic signals gradually set Spencer's metabolic and physiological functions back into motion. In just a few seconds, the lines indicated normal activity for all of Spencer's systems. Roberts looked at Spencer and smiled.
With the grin still fixed on his face, Spencer drew in a few deep breaths through his nostrils and exhaled. After a few seconds, he slowly blinked three or four times as if waking from a deep sleep. Then his face relaxed its programmed expression, and Spencer stiffly lowered his arms. He squinted and looked about the room, looked down at the marshal uniform, and then up at Roberts. Just as Spencer looked as if he might speak, Roberts, for his own fun, pressed the "0 Animation" button once more. Spencer suddenly gasped and stopped moving. Smoothly his body posed itself once more, his arms and legs shifting back into their proper mannequinized positions, and his face took on its smile and warm expression, and Spencer looked exactly as he had for the last three months while on display in the museum. Again, Roberts pushed the yellow computer button, and Spencer took in a few breaths and slowly emerged from suspension. And again, Roberts re- mannequinized him, as if Spencer were a toy for his pleasure. The body once more shifted its legs and placed a hand upon the gun holster on the right, while the other hand was raised toward the brim of the hat. Again, Spencer cocked his head, and his lips turned up into a boyish grin. Finally, Roberts pressed the animation button one last time. Spencer blinked, took in a few breaths, and his body relaxed its pose. Looking around the room, he saw Roberts, then looked down at his clothes.
"Wh...what happened? What did you do to me?" he asked softly.
"We suspended your animation, Mr. Clark, electronically and most effectively turning you off and transforming you into a statue."
"The last thing I remember is signing some papers and suddenly finding it harder and harder to move. What am I doing in these clothes?"
"For the last three months, you have been on display in the Gotham City museum as one of my statues, as a Henry Roberts statue, along with the statue of the fisherman and the statue of the postman and several other men whom I have turned into statues. You see, all of my statues were actually flesh and blood individuals like you, men who underwent the same statue-ization procedure that you did when you dropped the plants off at my workshop. In fact, your friend, Harris Kent, was transformed into the fisherman statue."
Spencer moved his body stiffly, taking small steps and turning his neck. He ran his hand across his chin to feel the stubbly beard on his face. Suddenly, he moved his hand down to his crotch and pressed on the NIM shield.
"What you feel is a neural impulse modulator that has been placed in your briefs and over your penis and scrotum. It is that unit by which the computer sends the statue-izing signals through your body."
Upon hearing this, Spencer quickly reached for his belt and loosened it. He had just untied his chaps and unzipped his pants when Roberts pressed a button on the computer. Spencer had gripped the waistband of his grey briefs and was beginning to pull them downward when he suddenly found that, although he was still able to think, see, hear, and breathe, he could not move. His chaps and pants fell down to his ankles, but the NIM was still snugly in place in his briefs and over his crotch, still in contact with his penis and scrotum. Spencer looked like a beefcake statue of a modern-day cowboy getting dressed or getting undressed.
"Uh uh uh, Mr. Clark," chided Roberts, "we'll have none of that." Fulton stepped up to the immobile man and loosened Spencer's grip on his briefs so that its band snapped back against his waist. He pressed against the NIM unit to make sure it was secure, then pulled up Spencer's pants and chaps and fastened his belt. Roberts then pressed another computer button, and Spencer could move again.
"You won't get away with this."
"I've gotten away with it for the last eight years, turning men into statues, into works of art," Roberts said smugly. "For the last three months, the police have been investigating your disappearance, and yet no one suspects a thing. In fact, your friend, Commissioner Gordon, attended my exhibition opening and pointed you out as his favorite statue from the show. Even the police commissioner himself didn't recognize you."
"But I'm also a friend of Batman," Spencer began. "He'll...."
Roberts laughed. "Neither Batman nor Robin is in a position to help you." Roberts looked at his watch. "As a matter of fact, the Dynamic Duo should be arriving in Washington, D.C. within the hour."
"Washington, D.C.? Why are they going there?"
"They're going to be part of the main attraction when my exhibition opens there at the Putnam Museum later this month."
"You mean...no...it can't be...," Spencer said incredulously, his voice almost a whisper.
"Yes, Batman and Robin have also been transformed into a pair of my statues. You see, the position they're in is quite permanent. They were a tremendous hit when they went on display at the Gotham Art Museum. For the last three months, you have been standing just a few feet away from them."
"Why are you doing this?" said Spencer, his voice soft with resignation.
You should be quite proud, Mr. Clark. An official from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum in Oklahoma City came to the show and was very impressed with you. He said that as a statue, you seemed to embody the rugged, courageous spirit of the west. As a representative of the Cowboy Hall, he made a bid of $250,000 to acquire you for the museum's permanent collection." Spencer seemed impressed, almost pleased. "We turned down their offer, but they returned with a bid of $500,000, which we accepted. Shortly, my men will take care of crating you up, and you will be shipped to Oklahoma this afternoon. You should arrive at the Cowboy Hall of Fame sometime tomorrow, and you'll go on permanent display in the museum's main gallery a day or two after that. I'll see to your proper installation myself."
Spencer stood silently for a moment, contemplating the prospect of standing as a statue in a museum, where people would come to see him, look at him as if he were just an object, not knowing that he was once a living, breathing man. He turned to Roberts. "Why did you reanimate me then? Why didn't you just pack me up and ship me out?"
"Scattered here and there in various museums, galleries, and even a few private homes are some of our 'assistants,' who periodically procure art pieces for me and my associate. The National Cowboy Hall of Fame has several works of art which we are interested in acquiring. With you installed in the museum, we will be able to take possession of them."
What...you expect me to steal for you?!"
"Yes, and you will. You see, the NIM unit is not only able to control your body, but it can control your mind as well. In just a moment, the computer will reprogram your brain waves and mental patterns, and you, too, will become one of our assistants. However, before the computer is able to effectively alter your thought processes, it was necessary for it to analyze how your mind works normally, which is what it has been doing during our little chat.
"Now, Mr. Clark, if you are ready for your modifications, we'll begin. First, concentrate...what are you?" Spencer was puzzled for a moment with the question. Then, from the back of his mind the phrase surfaced. Hesitantly and against his will, he softly whispered the phrase. "I am a Henry Roberts statue." Roberts smiled. Then, without further prompting from Roberts or the computer, Spencer, as if he had suddenly had a revelation and had come to a special realization, repeated the statement, more affirmatively and proudly. "I am a Henry Roberts statue...I am a Henry Roberts statue...." The constant signal from the NIM unit during his suspension had indelibly written the statement and his statue program into his mind. As he continued to utter the phrase and it looped through his mind, he mechanically repositioned his body and limbs into the pose he had held as a statue for the last three months -- shifting his legs slightly, raising his left hand to the brim of his hat, his right hand gripping a holstered gun, cocking his head and grinning boyishly. When he had made the final adjustments to his stance and position, Spencer stopped moving and stood silently. Although the NIM unit in his briefs was not activated, Spencer stood perfectly still. Anyone looking on would have taken him for the statue that he had been in the museum.
Roberts approached Spencer and nodded. He put his hand on Spencer's chest and felt it rising and falling ever so slightly as the immobile man breathed slowly. There was the calm beat of the heart pumping. But there was no reaction from Spencer; he remained motionless, and his gaze was a thousand miles away. "Very good, Spencer...very good," Roberts said proudly. Roberts returned to the computer and pressed another button on the console. The computer, having noted and analyzed the workings of Spencer's mind, now sent a series of special signals through the NIM unit and up into his brain, swiftly altering the way he thought and effectively placing him under Roberts and Moreau's complete control, making him one of Roberts' men, like Fulton and Edwards.
The Henry Roberts statues were a tremendous success, and now, after a six week run at the Putney Museum and an unprecedented six month installation at the Metropolis Art Museum, the figures were being packed up for storage until the next Roberts exhibitions, in perhaps two or three years. During that time, a whole new set of unsuspecting men would be prepared and transformed into statues. In Metropolis there would have been record crowds to see the Kent, Edwards, McArthur, Forester statues and so forth, but so many others had come to see Roberts' masterpieces...Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Superman...even the critics had hailed them as such.
As well, Roberts and Moreau had added to their holdings considerably over the last year and a half. Not only had they acquired and secured such men as Harris Kent, Spencer Clark, James Edwards, and Tom McArthur and transformed them into some of the finest statues in their collection, but they had also succeeded in turning Batman and Robin, Superman, and Wonder Woman into Henry Robert statues as well. In addition, they had added a few more figures to their collection. In Washington, D.C., while in the process of securing Wonder Woman, they had successfully turned government agent Steve Trevor into a fine and handsome statue of an airline pilot and Harold Farnum, Senator Farnum's son, into another statue of a baseball player, and in Metropolis, Daily Planet editor, Perry White, became a statue of a farmer, and Planet photographer, Jimmy Olson, was now a statue of a college student sitting stiffly at a school desk, and both were used as bait to capture Superman.
Also, they had accepted on offer of $350,000 from "The Magic Shop," a prestigious nightclub featuring illusionists and other performers of mysterious feats, for Lee Matthews, their statue of a magician. When it came time for Matthews' statue-ization program to be renewed, he was instead removed from the program run, and his statue-ization became permanent, since the Magic Shop had no valuables worth stealing. Before Matthews was delivered to the club, he was returned one last time to Roberts' workshop, where his crotch was fitted with a permanent casing, to conceal his very life-like penis and scrotum, and his body treated and sealed with a special protective coating. This sale was in addition to the purchase for the statue that Spencer had become by the Cowboy Hall of Fame, where Spencer had already stolen several pieces for Roberts and Moreau. Every few weeks, Spencer would be animated and step down from his platform and swiftly and efficiently secure the desired art object before taking up his pose and stiffening again into a perfect Henry Roberts statue.
To be Continued?