“Hello . . . ? I’m, ah, calling to confirm my appointment this afternoon, with Michael. At 1:00 p.m.?”
Sherry sounded nervous on the phone. She must really be needing it bad, Lori thought.
“Just a moment, please,” she said, smirking. “I’ll be right with you.” Lori paged through a magazine on her lap. The appointment book was open on the desk in front of her. I’ll let her sweat a minute or two. They were always so easy to play with after their third treatment. Lori grinned at the thought of Sherry sitting there by her phone, or, better yet, standing there and sweating, praying there hadn’t been a mistake.
They were always so needy.
“Ma’am? Ma’am . . . ? Are you still there?” The voice was timid, almost childlike.
Better get used to standing, dear, Lori thought mischievously. You’ll be doing enough of it soon enough. She glanced at the clock on the wall. Ah, well, enough with the suspense. Don’t want to make trouble for us later.
“Sherry, is it? Yes, you’re confirmed for this afternoon at one.”
“That’s great!,” Sherry exclaimed. “Ah, ah, thank you, thank you very much.” She hung up the phone hurriedly, as if not wanting to give Lori time to change her mind. The receptionist could just hear the slut’s relief, though. There was no nonchalance in her voice at all anymore.
Lori got up from the front desk and poked her head into Michael’s office.
“That was your one o’clock calling to confirm,” she said innocently.
Michael snickered. “They always do that.” He finished up the last few notes in his journal, closed it, and put it next to the VCR tape already in the safe. He then walked over and joined Lori in the front room.
He came up behind her, put his arms around, and pressed up close. “Make sure after we do Sherry that you take the tapes and journal to the bank. I want ‘em in the safety deposit box before tonight when I see him.”
Lori turned around in his arms to face him. Michael put his hands comfortably on her bottom. “Is this really a good idea, Mike? You’re always talking about how strange Dr. Carnelian is.”
He gave her a good squeeze, and she dug in a little closer into his chest.
“Hey, don’t worry, baby. Everything’s set. I got all the evidence. He can’t do nothin’ to me without doin’ it to himself.” He removed one hand off her butt and lifted Lori’s chin with it. “He’ll see reason.”
He met her eyes with his.
“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
Sherry could hardly wait until one o’clock. She had paced her apartment all morning after calling in sick to work. And, she reflected, she was sick. She really was.
She felt stiff all over. If she stood still for more than just a few minutes at a time, her joints would begin to freeze up, and it would be almost impossible to unlock them again. She also felt, well . . . well, needy, she supposed. All Sherry could think about lately was Michael touching her . . . touching her there, and then there, and then . . . . She shivered all over, shaking her long blonde hair over her face.
She looked up at the clock. It was only 10:45.
“Oh, to hell with it,” she said. She’d go early. Maybe . . . maybe Michael would take her in early. Sherry picked up her keys and purse and left.
The drive over was interminable. Traffic was bad in the city this time in the morning, and Sherry’s jerky movements were no help at all. Her arms and legs would stiffen up at the longer stoplights. Even turning her head on two or three occasions was difficult. She drove slow to avoid an accident.
Man, do I need a massage bad, she thought.
She pulled into the parking lot after about thirty or forty minutes of being honked at. She parked in a handicap space right in front. “Heavenly Fingers,” she sign read, and oh, that was so right.
It took Sherry about five more minutes to get to the door of the massage parlor. Sitting in the car for so long had frozen her hips and back, and she moved up to the glass door like a woman who had been dipped in clear plastic.
She went in and immediately went to the pretty-looking redhead behind the desk.
“I know I’m early, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry. I need to see Michael right away.” Sherry knew how desperate she sounded, and she hated it, but she couldn’t help it, either.
The receptionist looked at her sympathetically. She got up and helped Sherry walk in the direction of the therapy rooms. “I’m sorry, Sherry, but Michael’s with another client right now, and all our other therapists are out today. You’ll have to wait at least, oh, let’s see . . . an hour, I suppose.”
“An hour!” Sherry exclaimed. Then, more quietly, she asked, “Could you ask him to hurry, please . . . please?” Tears welled up in her eyes.
She’s so pathetic, Lori thought, excited. She helped the woman hop up onto one of the therapy tables. “I’ll see what I can do. Would you like a magazine while you wait?”
Sherry whimpered and shook her head.
“Then just try to lie flat on the table.” If you can, Lori added mentally. “Michael will be in to help you when he can.” She closed a curtain over the room’s entry on the way out. She pretended to walk away but then waited for a moment and peeked back in. Sherry was slowly taking off her clothes. Her movements were stiff and jerky.
Lori smiled again and tiptoed back to her desk. She removed a blank tape from a drawer, reversed the sign on the front door saying “Heavenly Fingers” was open, and then went into her boyfriend’s office. She flipped on the VCR and monitor and made some adjustments. Soon an aerial shot of Sherry in her therapy room showed on the screen.
The video camera was hidden in the ceiling and couldn’t be seen from inside. Sherry had finished with her clothes and was slowly wrapping a towel around herself. Lori watched as she stretched out on her back on the table, the view staring straight down at her.
This is going to be good, she thought. Lori laughed and switched channels. The screen now showed Michael finishing up with old Mrs. Trent, rubbing her feet and starting to oil up her plump, unattractive legs. Lori switched back to Sherry and put the tape in the machine. Let her stew for a while.
A little later, after seeing Mrs. Trent to the door (“I’ll see you next week at your regular time,” he said to the old biddy), Michael joined Lori in the office.
“I see our client’s here early. We all set?”
“Yup. We have no other appointments today, and I’ll lock up in a minute. You got all the time in the world.”
Michael smiled. “Great.”
He went to his safe, opened the combination, and took out a large, exquisitely carved ebony box. Her carefully put it on the desk, opened it, and began taking out the “special” oils Dr. Carnelian had given him. There were six large jars, each neatly numbered in order. In her previous visits, Sherry had already received treatments with Oils One, Two, and Three. Now it was time for good ‘ol Number Four.
Lori looked at them. Under the bright office lights, the liquid seemed almost alive. It shimmered inside the jars as if it was moving around by itself.
“You have any idea what’s in those, Mike?” she asked, a little nervously.
Michael removed a small hypodermic needle and a smaller medicine vial from the box next. He started preparing his shot. “Not a clue. I only know if I didn’t take this before putting ‘em on my hands, I’d be in a real world of trouble.” Lori turned away as he injected himself in the arm. “After all, look what it does to them.”
He put the vial back in the box and stood there a moment. Then he rubbed his hands together and picked up the oil jar labeled “Four.”
Lori turned on the tape. She watched the screen, and a minute later she saw Michael walk into the therapy room and greet Sherry. “And how’re we doing today?”
The relief on the woman’s face was unmistakable.
Oh, thank God, Sherry thought. She felt so stiff, so very ready. She sobbed. “I’m sorry if I made you hurry, but I need . . . I mean, I want . . . .”
Michael told her it was all right. Sherry was a special client, and so on. “Let me roll you over, and we’ll start with your backside, shall we? I know that’s a problem area.”
He carefully put his hands on her sides and slowly eased her around. “My,” he said. “You are a little stiff today, aren’t you?” Though not as stiff as you’re going to be, he thought privately. Not by a long shot.
“Yes, I am . . . could you, please, you know, do what you did last time . . . I mean . . . .”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head at all, Sherry. I know exactly what you need.” He began preparing his oils over by the sink. “I think you’ll like today’s session even better than yesterday’s.”
Sherry laboriously turned her head and watched him. God, he’s sooo good-looking, she thought. She stared at his thick chest and wide back, the muscles straining beneath his white shirt. He had such strong arms. A bad scar ran down the length of one of them, but somehow it didn’t detract from his appearance. If anything, the scar added character. But it was his hands that Sherry liked the most . . . oh, his hands truly were heavenly.
The things they could do to her. The way they could make her feel.
Sherry had only been coming to “Heavenly Fingers” for a week now, but she was already completely in love with its owner. She would do anything for him. Anything.
He turned around and stepped over to her. He held a jar of oil in each hand.
“No fair peeking, Sherry, you naughty girl. Put your head straight down in that little rest there. There, that’s it.” He opened the first jar. “Well, I think we’re ready to go.”
At last, Sherry thought. She was already wet between the thighs. I’m ready, let me have it. I need it so bad.
Michael undid Sherry’s towel and fold it out, exposing Sherry’s entire backside.
Beautiful, he thought. The stuff really clears up the blemishes. He looked her over with a professional eye. There wasn’t a mark on her. Not one mole or imperfection.
He poured a stream of lightly heated oil all along her spine, enjoying the little gasp of pleasure she gave. He dribbled a few more drops over her buttocks. It wasn’t the good stuff yet, but that would come soon. He dipped his fingers in a small bowl beside him, coating them with fragrant oil, then reached down and touched his client’s shoulders. He worked his fingers down her back, and Sherry arched in response and released a low moan of contentment.
Michael let his hands flow automatically over Sherry’s body. He pressed his thumbs deep into the thick knots in her shoulders, arms, and thighs, slickening the flesh and kneading it like hard dough. Sherry grunted with pain but mewled with pleasure at the same time. The warm oil slid down her spine.
Michael didn’t say a word. His callused palms did all the speaking Sherry needed. Every once and awhile he would wet his hands again with more oil, switching between cool liniments and coconut smells. He reached down to Sherry’s right foot and pulled it up level to her knee, the joints popping audibly. He then popped her toes one at a time and rubbed oil down the instep, working down the ankle and up along the leg and thigh.
He did the other leg the same way, finishing by cupping his hands under her thighs. He put pressure on the most sensitive part of Sherry’s anatomy. Her breath began to come in gasps, muffled somewhat by the hair falling forward past the edge of the table.
I can’t believe how smooth she feels, Michael marveled as he reached for the Number Four. It’s more than just the oil already covering her. She’s changed over the last four days. He snorted. Hell, she’s changed since yesterday. Sherry’s skin was definitely firmer, tighter. There wasn’t a wrinkle anywhere.
Michael coated his hands with the special oil and started at Sherry’s feet again, working up. His palms began to tingle. It felt nice - warm and soothing, almost electrical - and that was with the neutralizer in his system. Michael could only imagine what the oil felt like for Sherry, unprotected as she was.
Sherry moaned like an animal in heat, not caring or embarrassed in the least. A warmth was settling into her skin, from her feet and her legs (It’s so delicious, she thought), from her butt and her back (He’s right, it’s even better now!), from her shoulders, arms, and hands (I’m gonna scream if he doesn’t turn me over soon!), and everywhere in-between. She hissed with the intensity of the sensations building up between her thighs.
It feels like I’m on fire, she thought.
“I’m going to turn you over now, Sherry.”
She didn’t respond. She couldn’t respond. All Sherry could do was rock her hips in time with the energy now flowing within her.
She felt Michael’s strong hands caressing her breasts. He stroked along the outer swell and put his thumbs over each nipple, working them in little circles. She could feel how painfully erect they were, and soon that same delicious warm-electricity was settling into them, too. Michael’s hands pressed into her abdomen next, spreading the feeling there. She kept her eyes closed; the pleasure she was feeling was so great.
She knew what was next.
Oil poured down her pelvis. It was followed by the touch of those incredibly strong and firm hands. The warmth-electricity seemed to shoot right through her nervous system. Michael’s hands brushed her clitoris, his fingers lightly inserting into her vagina, stroking lightly. Her legs spread wide. He began to put even more pressure on her sex, building Sherry up and then slowly taking her down . . . building her up, and then taking her down again, deliberately teasing. Michael could feel the tremors running through her body.
His technique by now had gone far beyond conventional massage therapy. He smiled knowingly up at the camera overhead.
He was rock-hard, and he needed satisfaction.
From the other room, Lori could feel her own thighs getting wet. Go on, Mike, she urged silently. Take her! This was such a turn-on she could barely stand it.
Besides, she reasoned, it wasn’t as if Sherry were a human being anymore. She was little more than a lovedoll now. Lori watched as Michael stripped off his pants and climbed onto the table. Sherry had felt the loss of contact and had opened her eyes, begging, pleading for more. Her arms and legs wrapped around Michael’s body as he slowly pushed his penis past the outer lips of her sex.
Sherry screamed in pleasure, and Lori herself rocked in a sympathetic orgasm.
Michael slipped all the way inside and ejaculated uncontrollably. His body shuddered atop Sherry’s. It was fantastic how tight she was, how slick and smooth . . . and yet how strangely hard, too, like he was body-thumping a lovedoll filled with liquid metal.
The sensation was incredible, and he knew it must be even better for her.
Indeed, the orgasm that finally ripped through Sherry’s body felt like a super-nova. The world spun, and she blacked out. Michael staggered off, reached for the Number Four oil again, and bent down to finish her coating.
He slowly did Sherry’s face, then following directions mixed the oil with a little water and ran it through her hair. Shortly enough, there wasn’t a part of Sherry not covered in the good doctor’s formula.
The oils worked in stages, and in the three years Michael had worked for Dr. Carnelian, he had done eight women just like Sherry. Each was a beautiful young woman who deserved to have her beauty preserved forever. More importantly, each was a woman who wouldn’t be missed in society. They had no close connections to trace them back to “Heavenly Fingers.”
The procedure was simple. They would come in for an innocent massage, and Michael would use the first special oil to prepare them. The women would invariably come back for more, usually the very next day. Each time a slightly stronger oil would be employed, the combination having a cumulative effect. The women’s bodies would firm up; their breasts would tone and cease sagging, if they had ever done before, and their thighs and abs would turn rock hard. Their legs - Michael paused in delicious memory - their legs would become dreams of silken perfection. Simultaneously, their skin would clear up, and by the fourth or fifth visit at the latest, each of the women would have the same unmarked complexion of a supermodel. It truly was supernatural.
Of course, Dr. Carnelian’s oils were also sexually addicting as hell, and they did make the women increasingly stiff and immobile as they settled in, but, hey, Michael reasoned, everything in life had a price. Even if they hadn’t volunteered for the process, they would have done so anyway if they’d been given the choice.
Or so he believed.
Lori came in while he was finishing up. He kissed her, careful not to touch her with any of the special oil. “Was it as good for you as it was for me?” he teased. This was the first time she had seen the whole process in action.
“Oh, yeah.” She sat down in a chair opposite the table. “Almost like the real thing.” She gazed at Sherry lying comatose there. “Must’ve been real exhausting.”
“Yeah,” Michael grinned. “Real strenuous.” He toweled himself off, then met Lori’s stare at Sherry’s still-glistening form. Her eyelids were beginning to flutter.
“She’s starting to wake up,” Lori observed.
“Good.” Michael threw the towel into a basket. “You take care of her. She outta be pretty suggestible about now. Some kind of hypnotic deal, only stronger.” He moved to the shrouded entry. “I’m gonna go take a shower and get this oil off me.”
“Sure, go ahead. I like giving orders.” Michael chuckled as he left.
Lori turned back to Sherry and saw that her eyes were open. The look of bliss was still etched on her face.
Lori snapped her fingers in front of the hapless woman’s eyes.
“Okay, slut, get up.”
Sherry silkenly tilted herself off of the table. Her movements were smooth and normal; the current oil hadn’t soaked all the way through yet. In her mind, the world was glowing and warm. Everything was good. Everything was delicious.
“This is what I want you to do,” Lori said. “Listen carefully. I want you to get dressed. Don’t worry about the oil staining your clothes. You won’t be needing them after tomorrow anyway.” Sherry nodded, feeling naturally submissive now.
Lori went on. “Then I want to call your boss at work and tell him you quit. Call up anyone else you can think of who might miss you and tell ‘em you’re going out of town for awhile. Can you do that?”
Sherry nodded. Her oil-soaked, glistening body fairly glowed under the therapy room lights.
“Answer up, slut,” Lori said viciously. She really did enjoy giving orders.
“Yes, ma’am,” Sherry replied softly, her eyes downcast. The oil was not dripping. It was being absorbed slowly but surely through every pore in her body.
“Good.” Lori threw the girl her clothes. “After you make your calls, I want you to just go to bed. Oh, yeah, leave your door unlocked, too. You got all that, sister?”
“Sure.” The world was so good and warm.
“Then what’re you waiting for? Get going.” Sherry dreamily began to put on her clothes. Later, after she was gone, Lori went in back to talk to Michael.
“Are you sure you got the goods on Carnelian?”
Michael was dressing, and he looked at Lori in annoyance. “I said I’m sure, I’m sure.” He put on his shoes. “He’ll deal,” he said softly. “He’ll have to.”
Lori shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She still looked pensive. “Then I’m going to go down to the bank. I’ll see you tonight.”
Michael got up and gave her another kiss.
“It’ll all work out the way we want it. Trust me.”
Carnelian had Michael enter his house through the servant’s entrance.
The massage therapist was met at the door by the doctor’s butler, who, short of Carnelian himself, was the strangest guy Michael had ever seen. The man’s skin was as pale as milk, literally bone white, though his hair and beard were solid black. He had no pores. He didn’t seem to be breathing. He frankly looked unreal . . . and he moved just like one would imagine he would, like an automaton. Each movement of his arms and legs was mechanically precise. He was graceful, which was a term Michael had never thought he would use to describe a guy, but there it was. It was also distinctly nonhuman.
The butler reminded Michael of a wind-up toy. He half expected to see a large key sticking out of the man’s back.
The butler closed the door after Michael (shift, relay, click, Michael imagined he heard) and escorted him to a fancy sitting room. It was furnished in velvet accouterments, French windows, and antique furniture. A large painting dominated one wall; it showed a young woman carrying a lantern in the foreground.
Carnelian stood before the painting examining it. Michael’s lips suddenly felt dry.
A pretty Asian woman was sitting beside the painting’s owner. She wore a silk cheong-sam, the kind of dress waitresses in Chinese restaurants always wore, though this one had a higher slit up the one-piece skirt than was usually considered fashionable. Michael thought he could see the woman’s dancer legs all the way up to her thighs.
The girl’s skin looked as artificial as the butler’s did, only hers was an unusual yellowish-beige color. Michael couldn’t help but stare at her.
Carnelian turned and greeted him, motioning for his butler to leave.
“Mr. Offens. To what can I credit this unexpected visit?”
Michael shivered. The doctor was pale, though not as unnaturally so as his servant. Michael still hated being in the same room with him, though, despite what the man had done for him. He had saved his life, stitched him back together again after his accident, but still . . . . The thing about Carnelian was his eyes. They were so deep, deeply green, it was as if they could look right through you.
Michael could never entirely return the man’s gaze, and his own eyes brushed the floor uncontrollably. The doctor’s accent was equally strange and unidentifiable.
With an effort, he pulled himself together.
“Can I sit down? We need to talk.”
“Certainly, sir. Please.” Carnelian gestured to a nearby chair. The Chinese beauty hadn’t moved once yet since Michael had come into the room. Her face stared forward into nothing like a mannequin’s.
“You are here on business, Mr. Offens?” Carnelian prompted. He indicated a tea service that had been set up for them. Michael shook his head and instead told the doctor about Sherry and how she would be ready for tomorrow night.
Then, nervously, Michael told him about the tapes he had made.
“I have recordings of you and your butler picking up the last four women. I’m shown too, naturally, but I’m a nobody. I just run a massage parlor. I can go anywhere.”
He coughed, cleared his throat, and continued. “You, though, you can’t. People know you. You have lots of important patients, or so I hear. You don’t want to have to leave town, do you?” Michael steeled himself and tried to look the doctor in the face.
Carnelian helped himself to one of the teacakes. “Indubitably. Pray continue.”
Michael leaned forward in his chair. “Hey, it doesn’t have to be bad, man. Like, I’m sure you could pull a disappearing act of your own real well, cops would never find you. I know you can do that. But you don’t want the hassle, right?” Michael spread his hands in front as he spoke, palms out. He tried to sell the doctor on his idea.
“You’re loaded, and all I want is $250 G, that’s all.” He paused. “And the formula for the oils. We can still do business together, too, if you want.”
Carnelian merely looked at him. Michael couldn’t read his face.
“Let me see if I understand you, Mr. Offens,” the doctor finally said. “I have paid you for your services, and paid you well. I have also treated you for injuries. You recall certainly the night we met, that time you and your motorcycle came to a parting of the ways so disastrously. And now you wish to go into ‘business’ for yourself.”
Michael settled back in his chair. “Yeah, that’s right.” His voice hardened. “And don’t get any ideas, either. The tapes and a very damning confession are already in safe storage. Anything happens to me, and you’re history here.”
He tried to appear confident. He failed.
Carnelian’s expression was still unreadable. “Oh, I never threaten, Mr. Offens. It’s rude, and if there’s anything I dislike more, it is rude behavior.”
The doctor paused for a moment, and as he did so, a chambermaid walked into the room carrying a featherduster and began to dust some of the bric-a-brac. Michael jumped. The maid was incredible looking. She was dressed in a classic French maid’s outfit, a short-haired brunette with an hourglass figure and stockinged-legs that went on forever. She was as pale and robotic as the butler, too . . . and suddenly Michael wanted her so badly it hurt.
“May I have some time to consider your offer, Mr. Offens? I can let you know of my decision tomorrow night.”
Michael turned and said, “What? Oh, yeah, sure, that’s fine. Say, is that your . . ?”
Carnelian stood. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow at your fine establishment. Ann will see you out.” He waved his hand in the direction of the door.
Michael got up and followed the sweet-figured little maid. “Uh, yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He stopped when he reached the doorway and looked back. “Think about what I said. It could work out for both of us.”
“I’m sure it will, Mr. Offens. I’m sure it will. Good evening sir.” Carnelian had approached the Asian beauty and was helping her to her feet. She moved just like the maid and butler, Michael briefly saw, and then he was being escorted to the backdoor again. It opened out into an alley.
The maid held the door open for him. Trying to reestablish himself in his own eyes as well as hers, Michael stepped up close and boldly put a hand on the woman’s behind. Was she really a woman, though, he thought, or a machine?
“When your boss sees reason, you and I can maybe get together. Your name’s Ann, right?” He smiled, rubbing. “You know, you and I could . . . arggh!”
The maid’s hand had flashed down faster than Michael could see. She grabbed his offending paw and squeezed. Michael yelped in pain. No expression crossed the maid’s mannequin-like features. She guided him outside, let go of his wrist, and closed the backdoor in his face.
Michael back up against the alley wall and winced. Christ, she’s strong. Feels like she almost tore it off. After a while, he gathered up the rest of his pride and slowly walked back to his car.
Things will work out, he thought to himself as he drove off.
They had to.
Back in the house, Carnelian walked downstairs to his vault, his companion Lin Yua following the traditional four steps behind, her every movement a machinist’s dream.
They stepped into a large, high-ceilinged basement. The doctor walked past the entrance to his Gallery and stopped before a large metal door set flush into the wall. He turned a combination, opened it, and stepped inside.
Rows and rows of custom-made dolls lined the inside walls. Each was about two feet in height, each perfectly proportioned, male and female set alternately beside one another. A small nameplate hung before each. Carnelian soon located the one he wanted and lifted it up. Lin Yua stayed outside in the hall.
Her master turned and looked at her.
“I did myself a disservice with Michael, I believe now,” he said reflectively. “I underestimated both his greed and his stupidity. Careless of me.” He glanced at the doll in his hands. “He had such good taste, though. Pity.”
He stepped back out of the vault and handed the small wooden doll to the servant.
“Come,” he said, and she followed dutifully. “I have many preparations to make for tomorrow night.” He closed the vault door, then said to Lin Yua on their way back up, “This is the problem with being a physician. Your hours are never your own.”
They walked upstairs.
Sherry could barely move the next day. She remained in bed, stiff everywhere. It was even worse than yesterday. Things were such a blur; she could hardly remember anything. She knew she shouldn’t leave the bed, but she wasn’t sure why.
She wasn’t even if sure if she could. There was no pain in her body; it was just so strangely rigid! It was a chore just to move her arms and legs from side to side, and they had developed a disturbing tendency to freeze in whatever position she left them in.
To put it another way, Sherry found she could move, but only with great deliberation, and when she stopped, she really stopped. She found she could hold any position for as long as she wanted . . . and sometimes for as long as she didn’t want. She remembered waking up that morning lying flat on her back, her arms upraised in front of her and her right knee turned and raised so that her foot rested flat to the bed too. She had slept like that the whole night, yet it hadn’t been uncomfortable at all.
In a way, in fact, it had felt kind of natural.
Now, though, she was starting to get a little scared. She had almost no voice anymore at all. She could only talk in a whisper. The muscles in her throat had apparently completely stiffened up. She couldn’t call for help, and the idea of her getting out of bed and out of her apartment under her own power was ridiculous. Not that she would go to the hospital even if she could. All she thought about was “Heavenly Fingers.”
If she could drive, if she could get up and walk around, Sherry knew the place she would go. She needed Michael so badly. Just the thought of him touching her, stroking her body with those warm and electric hands of his, coating her up and down with that luxurious oil, was enough to make her shudder with the half-memory of her powerful orgasms. Sherry knew she would beg, plead, or do any disgusting thing Michael wanted if he would only deign to touch her one more time.
Outside her bedroom she heard her front door open, and then, miracle of miracles! in walked Michael! There was another woman behind him, but that didn’t matter. She was so hyper-aroused, the receptionist was practically invisible.
Michael was here! In her apartment!
“She looks like a department store dummy . . . or a lovedoll,” Lori said, laughing. This was the first time she had gone with Michael on a pick-up. Usually he did all the work himself.
Michael sat down on the bed beside Sherry. She would have squirmed around for him if she could, but in her excitement she had forgotten how to move her so incredibly rigid limbs, and so she just lay there, begging with her eyes.
Michael moved the covers away to expose Sherry’s nakedness completely. He touched a breast. “She feels like one, too. Here, see for yourself.”
Lori touched Sherry’s face, then ran her fingers down her chest. “Wow,” she said softly, impressed. Sherry did feel like a department store dummy. She tapped her nails across the girl’s flat stomach. They clicked as if on plastic.
Lori met Michael’s eyes. “She’s as hard as a rock.”
“Not yet.” Michael stood up and put one hand behind Sherry’s head and the other on her hips. He folded her upwards and let go. She stayed in position.
“Is it my imagination, or is her hair longer?”
Michael twisted Sherry around so that her legs stretched unbending off of the bed. Her bottom slid across the bedsheet like plastic. There was no friction at all.
“No, you’re right,” Michael said, grabbing his client’s shoulders and pulling her forward. He planted her feet on the floor. Sherry was now standing, so to speak, with the top half of her body folded forward at a nearly ninety degree angle. Her long blonde locks fell nearly to the floor. “Her hair’s grown at least a foot from yesterday. It always does.”
“That’s neat,” Lori said. “That’s really neat.” She helped Michael straighten the nearly petrified woman by standing on her toes while Michael pushed upwards on her breasts. Sherry felt no pain; she was just excited that Michael was touching her so intimately.
“Please, please,” she whispered. “I need you sooo much.”
Neither heard her. “How do we get her outside?” Lori asked.
“Simple,” Michael replied. “We put her in a long coat. You get on one side of her, I get on the other, and we carry her downstairs like she was a drunk. We go down the back way, we move quickly and like we got every right to do what we’re doin’, and nobody’ll pay any attention to us. It’s easy.” He had done this seven times before.
“Just move like we got a purpose,” Lori translated. “That nothing’s out of the ordinary.”
“That’s right. It’s the best trick in the world when you’re doin’ somethin’ criminal and you don’t wanna get caught.” Even before he had met Carnelian, Michael had had experience in this sort of thing. It was probably the reason the doctor had hired him.
“I’ll go find a coat, then.” Lori went to Sherry’s closet.
Michael looked at Sherry in arms. “We’ll have you down to the store in twenty minutes,” he comforted her. “You won a free massage.”
The rigid girl slowly reached out to him, tugging with easily apparent difficulty at Michael’s belt and zipper. He laughed. She moved like a slow-motion film.
“I need it now,” Sherry pleaded softly. “I can’t wait.”
Michael bent down and whispered in her ear. He made sure she could feel the bulge in his pants against her sex. She moaned.
“You’ll just have to wait, Sherry. But I promise, I’ll make you
feel like you’ve never felt before.” Lori came back with the coat,
and five minutes later they were all in his car and driving back to “Heavenly
Sherry was picked up at her apartment around 9:30 that evening. By eleven, Michael was finishing putting his final touches on her, literally.
Sherry was in heaven. The Number Five oil was spread over every inch of her body, from heel to crown. It even coated her hair. She glistened. The lights in the therapy room reflected gorgeously off of her shiny, incredibly smooth surface. Michael couldn’t resist the picture. He mounted the slick, vinyl-like living statue Sherry had become and began rubbing against her, inside of her. Had she still a voice to do so, Sherry would have screamed in ecstasy at his penetration.
Lori watched the whole time, her hand inside the front of her panties.
She gave voice to what Sherry could not.
Later, after they had taken a long shower together and had finished their own bout of lovemaking, Lori and Michael returned to the therapy room to put Sherry back to her feet. The Number Five oil had soaked in much more quickly than the others. By the time they got back, Sherry was completely dry.
She could also no longer move on her own at all. Even the tiniest of gestures were beyond her now. Her body was completely frozen, and Lori took glee in arranging a pose for her. Afterwards, the receptionist admired her work.
Sherry stood with her legs apart and her arms splayed out in a V-shape. Her head was turned slightly to the right. Her face was absolutely splendid; the look of utter contentment made her even more beautiful than she normally was. It was a perfect mirror to the feelings she had inside her immobilized exterior.
“You do pretty good work for an amateur, lady,” Michael said to his girlfriend, coming up behind her and wrapping his big arms around her waist. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a mannequin.”
“What will the next oil do to her?” Lori asked softly. A hungry light gleamed in her eyes as she spoke. She very much wanted to see what would happen next.
“It’ll turn her to stone,” Michael said simply. He had told Lori this before, but he could see she was only now really coming to believe it. “I mean, not real stone. She’ll look perfectly normal. But she’ll be as hard as stone. Forever.”
He would have explained more - that he thought the hair growth, for instance, was some kind of Grecian thing Carnelian preferred, with the hair falling down past the shoulders - but that’s when they both heard a vehicle pull in behind the building. Michael pulled away from Lori and looked out a window.
“Okay, that’s Carnelian and his butler. You go hide in the office while they’re here.” He hesitated, then said, “There’s a gun in my desk if things don’t go right.”
Lori nodded and hurried down the hall. Michael knew she would watch over the monitor. She and the tapes at the bank were his insurance.
There was a polite knock on the backdoor. Michael opened it, and a moment later Carnelian, his butler, and his maid were all inside. Michael was surprised to see the woman; he rubbed his wrist unconsciously where she had grabbed him.
Carnelian was wearing a long gray coat and a very fashionable evening suit. His servants were dressed in more casual clothes, though in fact there was absolutely nothing about them even remotely casual. They both looked like life-sized dolls brought to life.
The doctor said nothing to Michael initially. He simply walked over to Sherry and began examining her. He put his hands on her flanks and ran them up and down, obviously testing her development. Oddly enough, though, Michael felt Carnelian’s handling of the girl was not in the least sexual. The man looked as passionless as, well, a statue.
Finally, he spoke. “Excellent work, Mr. Offens, as always. I’m impressed with your selection and diligence. Would you please tell me this young lady’s name?”
Carnelian always wanted to know the names. “Sherry Barnes.” Michael made sure he wasn’t within grabbing distance of either of the servants. “Have you made up your mind about our deal?”
“Yes,” Dr. Carnelian said, not turning around from his perusal of the immobilized Sherry, “and I’ve decided that there is no deal. Our relationship, as you know it, is now terminated.” His voice held no emotion beyond courteous regard, and, perhaps, slight boredom. Michael turned absolutely cold.
That wasn’t what he had expected the man to say.
“That’s a mistake,” he said. “You don’t want to leave this town and the good life, do you? You can be ruined here.”
Carnelian wasn’t even facing him. The back of his coat obscured his figure as he spoke.
“You overestimate your importance in the greater scheme of things, Michael. And you very much underestimate me. I actually feel somewhat insulted.”
“I have the tapes. Anything happens to me, you’re history.” He glanced at the door.
“You’re not going anywhere, Michael,” Carnelian said. “And neither am I.” He turned around at last, and Michael saw that he held something in his hands.
It was a doll.
And it looked remarkably like Michael.
Its face was carved into an almost perfect reproduction of his own features. It was also wearing pieces of a blood-stained leather jacket, the same sort of blood-stained leather jacket Michael had been wearing when he had first met the doctor so many years ago. He had been in a bad motorcycle accident - Michael had been running from the police at the time - and a common friend had introduced them. The little doll was wearing pieces from that jacket, he saw. One of its arms had a scar just like his, too.
Michael tried to laugh, but what came out sounded more like a cough.
“What . . what’s that supposed to be?” he asked. “Me?”
Carnelian sighed. He seemed almost unhappy . . . almost.
“You’re a fairly literate person, Michael, for a thug, and I’m sure you know what voodoo is.” The doctor indicated the doll he held. “It’s a fascinating religion, and though I myself do not practice it as such, I have adapted certain of its techniques in my own medical practice.”
He smiled gently. “I have a doll for each of my patients, you see. They’re so much easier to treat that way. All I have to do is repair the dolls, maintain them, and my patients enjoy perfect health and serenity.”
“No way,” Michael said. He was getting ready to run to his office. “There’s no way you can convince me . . . .”
“I don’t see a need to convince you of anything, sir, not when a demonstration is so readily at hand.” Michael’s doll still had its nameplate hanging around its throat.
Carnelian snapped it loose.
Instantly, all of the muscles in Michael’s body seemed to unhinge. He didn’t even have time to cry out. He fell to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. He lay in a heap completely unable to move but perfectly aware of everything going on around him.
Carnelian said nothing as his two servants carried Sherry to the car. They lifted her up effortlessly and with identical robotic grace. As they took her away, their master came and stood by Michael’s head.
“I’m surprised you didn’t think this scheme of yours all the way through, Michael. You might have avoided this situation.” All Michael could do was roll his eyes in reply.
They both heard a noise from down the hall. Carnelian’s other servant, Lin Yua, arrived after her mission in Michael’s office. She carried, half-dragged a struggling Lori in her arms, one hand clamped tightly over her mouth. Lori could no more break the iron grip holding her than she could fly to the moon.
“I see you did have a compatriot after all,” Carnelian observed. “I had my suspicions that you were trying to impress a lady.” He examined Lori much as he had examined Sherry earlier, the only expression he wore being one of polite interest.
“And such a lovely compatriot she is.” He looked down again at Michael. “I’ve always admired your aesthetic sense in regard to beautiful women, sir. It was one of your few saving graces. I had just been thinking of adding a nurse to my little group.”
The doctor motioned for Lin Yua to take the woman to the car. As they went, his maid and butler came back in. Carnelian handed the doll over to Ann. He then handed the small brass nameplate to the butler and instructed him to tie it around Michael’s neck.
“I dislike inducing pain in others, Michael. I could have used your doll in any number of ways to discomfort you, but I prefer this method. In time, you may appreciate the gesture.”
A wave of incredible vertigo swept through Michael as the butler finished his task. The room spun, and for a moment the therapist was unsure where he was. Was he moving? Was he lying still? He couldn’t tell. When he recovered, things looked very different. The perspective had somehow . . . changed. He could see his own body slowly starting to rise! He could sense (not feel, it wasn’t a sensation of touch) two very strong vises (hands?) holding onto his middle. His whole being felt wooden, remote, cottony . . . .
He was inside the doll, he realized, panicking.
No, it was more than that.
He was the doll.
He couldn’t speak. He had no vocal cords. He couldn’t move. He had no muscles. He could see somehow, and he could hear, but that was it.
No, no this can’t be happening! Let me go! Let me go!
He dangled from the hands of Dr. Carnelian’s maid, reduced to a plaything, unable to do anything as his body rose from the floor and received instructions from its new master. Carnelian told the mysteriously animated body to go to its bank first thing in the morning and collect the contents therein from its safety deposit box.
That’s my body! The doll has my body! He saw his body move to obey, and then the maid turned and the scene shifted sickeningly. He saw as he taken to Carnelian’s car, a vintage Rolls Royce, and he saw a box lying on the seat . . . a carrying case.
His carrying case!
There was nothing he could do. The maid put the little doll inside its carrying case, and everything went black.
That’s my body! He’s stolen my body!
The darkness lasted for hours.
Back home at his three-story brownstone residence, Dr. Carnelian instructed Lin Yua to take Lori to the Asia Room and to the ancient device known only as the Hei-pi Cabinet.
The maid forced her inside after the doctor successfully navigated its complex opening.
“Let me go! I swear I won’t go to the police!”
“I’m sure you won’t, my dear,” Carnelian softly replied, and closed the hinged doors in her face.
He had taken the liberty of having read her driver’s license from her purse. He now knew her name and address, and sometime soon he would make the necessary arrangements for her complete disappearance. In the meantime, Lori continued to struggle and pound against the inside of the Hei-pi. The racket went on for a good three minutes according to Carnelian’s pocket watch before slowly coming to an end.
Then, for some time, all that emerged from inside the box was silence.
Later, downstairs in the Gallery, Carnelian said hello to Sherry again.
“I know this has been confusing for you, Ms. Barnes, and for that I do apologize sincerely. I would rather have made this transition in your life less . . . burdensome.”
He instructed George, his butler, to finish the job Michael had started. They arranged Sherry in a more graceful and artistic pose than the one Lori had put her in, and then quickly and efficiently the butler lathered her up from head to toe.
He didn’t bother injecting himself with the oil’s neutralizing agent.
The same erotic sensations of warmth and indescribable pleasure Sherry had felt previously came back, only now even moreso. George’s hands were unpracticed but even stronger than Michael’s. The oil settled in deeply, and Carnelian stood back and watched the process unfold. The cumulative effect of the six ointments worked quickly now that they were all present in her system. Her flesh paled slightly, then hardened to the consistency of solid marble. Her hair fused into a graceful shower across her bare shoulders. Her eyes glazed behind their closed eyelids and became mineral.
Sherry was captured in the reclining pose of a nude still half-asleep, perhaps still dreaming of the lover from the night before. She rested on her side, her head propped up by her right hand, the elbow resting on a sculpted bed of marble. The other arm was settled across her outstretched legs, crossed slightly at the ankles.
Her face was turned toward the light above her. The lips remained partially opened, caught in a moment of transcendent happiness. The unearthly pleasure of the petrification flared in her soul, and then her consciousness faded.
All that was left was the statue.
The doctor allowed his hands to explore Sherry’s liquid curves while George washed up. He ran his fingers over her already chilling form, from her tight bottom to the upraised globes of her frozen breasts. He touched lightly her open lips and dreaming eyes.
He nodded in satisfaction . . . and some slight annoyance.
The things he had to do for Art! And he still had one more
task to see to completion.
Lori came into Carnelian’s study for inspection.
Ann and Lin Yua had helped her dress. She wore a white traditional nurse’s uniform, circa the 1960s - short sleeves and even shorter skirt, so short that Lori’s lovely and firm upper thighs were clearly exposed. She wore white stockings and garters, and her shoes, white FM-pumps, added a good four inches to her height.
A nurse’s cap topped her brilliant red hair. The hair had been red before, of course, but before her transformation it had been a much lighter shade. Now, as a product of the Hei-pi, it was much more dark and luxurious. Lori’s skin was almost as bloodless white as her uniform. She was simply porcelain in her perfection . . . poreless, blemishless, and unbreathing, completely and utterly a thing of artificial beauty.
The eyes of Dr. Carnelian’s new nurse were distant as she posed for him. There was not a hint of the natural world left in her.
“Very, very good, Lori,” Carnelian remarked. “You are an unexpected bonus to this sad affair, but a welcome one nonetheless. You will make an excellent assistant.”
He knew the very first task he would set her to do.
“There’s a package for you, Mom!”
Mrs. Trent came to the door and picked up the delivery. There was no return address, but just before the car drove off, she thought she recognized the receptionist from the massage parlor at the wheel. Sure enough, when she looked down at the package, she was an envelope from “Heavenly Fingers.”
She read the enclosed note and learned that the shop was going out of business.
That’s a shame, Mrs. Trent thought. Her back had been giving her so much trouble lately, and Michael had had such good hands. She had been his best customer.
He must have thought so, too. Inside the package was, of all things, a wooden doll with Michael’s face on it.
“How sweet,” she said. “He’s such a nice man.”