Prologue - The Search for Perfection
Mitch's brow wrinkled a bit. The look was all wrong. Emily looked fabulous, but
it was like a Frederick's model had gotten lost in a department store intimates
layout, he thought.
"When I said to look alluring, I didn't mean, uh,
quite that alluring. A bit more daring housewife, and a bit less Times Square,
Emily pouted. She had a great pout, he thought. She stood fully
upright and stretched, the cotton and Lycra lingerie straining, then
"Mitch, I'm beat. I just don't have what you want today."
Mitch took a deep breath, trying to find his center, or whatever crap
his shrink was always spewing. "Just because I have five grand riding on this
shoot, and another ten grand of work down the line, doesn't mean I should be
upset right now, does it?"
Emily sighed, and stepped away from the
backdrop, grabbing a terry robe and sliding it on. "Look, it's just not
happening. Let me get a glass of water and some feeling back in my legs, and we
can try it again, okay?"
"Yeah. Fine. Whatever you need."
wasn't finding his center, that was for damn sure. He looked over his lighting,
decided to switch to off-white diffusers and a natural light level. The stock
fashion look wasn't cutting it. He moved a prop dresser to the right side of the
set, then slid the corner of a prop bed into the left side of the shot,
finishing just as Emily came back.
"Wow. That's different."
need to shake things up here, try to fake that real life look a bit. Now, you
just ... come right over here ... no, no, right there - there, that's the spot.
Now just lean back on the dresser a bit ... don't lay on the god-damned
thing ... yeah, like you're almost sitting against the edge. Perfect ... naw,
something's missing. Wait a minute. Relax..."
Mitch ran to the other
side of the room, where Emily's athletic bag was setting on an end table. He
looked for ... there it was. He tossed her the plain white blouse.
kind of half on, half off, you know ... no, not like ... that's a little better.
We don't want to sell the shirt, just trying to get that fresh, dressing in the
morning look. Damn."
She pouted again. "What's wrong now?" That
expression was getting less cute as the evening wore on, Mitch thought.
"Your hair. It flumped. Jeannie, get over here with the curling iron."
Mitch's hair and makeup assistant ran in front of the backdrop. "Just get the
ends ... bangs look fine to me. We're after the morning look, remember? What
woman in America curls her hair before she gets dressed ... okay, fine, what
OTHER woman in America? Perfect! That's it!"
The simple shirt prop and
switch in mood clicked on his creativity like flipping a switch. He slid into
that timeless mode, taking shot after shot. Emily had finally found just the
right facial expression, approachable but sensuous. Perfect for Venture, and it
was turning him on a bit, too.
"Lift your chin JUST a little ... not
quite that much. Perfect! Now hold that, and don't move for anything!" He
snapped furiously, from two dozen slightly different angles. He picked up his
second camera, and kept snapping, when Emily's nose wrinkled. He stopped,
scowled. Her nose wrinkled again, and her eyes snapped shut as she sneezed
furiously, twice. The white blouse went askew, and her long dark hair flew
"That's it. At least I got a couple dozen shots. That's enough
for a circular, anyway."
Emily didn't pout, she frowned. "Jesus Christ,
Mitch! I had to sneeze! If you'd get rid of that fucking cat, I wouldn't
Mitch put his index fingers in his ears. "I haven't had the cat
for months, and I'm not listening! We're done with this shoot, anyway. Forget
it. I've forgotten it. Have you forgotten it?"
Emily walked over to her
athletic bag, stripped off the Venture bra and panties, and started digging out
her clothes. She turned around, and Mitch was putting away lenses.
stood up, and put her hands on her bare hips. "Forgotten, my ass. I'm standing
here naked, and you're ignoring me. I can't believe you're pissed off about a
He looked at her and smiled coldly. "Good night, Emily.
I'll send the check."
She finished dressing, and gave the requisite slam
to the elevator gate as she left.
"Mitch, that was a bit over the line,
don't you think?"
He turned to shout at Jeannie, then thought better of
it. She had a way of disarming him. "This business is all about perfection. I
can't work with a model that doesn't understand that. You understand that, don't
Jeannie sighed. "The presentation has to be perfect, but the
people never will be, Mitch. I wasn't perfect when I modeled for you."
"Maybe not, but you could hold a pose better than any model I've ever
known. If you'd just reconsider..."
She smiled. Jeannie was a very
attractive 38, but past her modeling prime, and she knew it. "Mitch, I'm almost
old enough to be some of these models' mother. I don't think your clients would
be as appreciative as you are."
"I do appreciate you, you
"I know you do. Sit down, Mitch."
down, will you?"
Jeannie and Mitch had been more than model and
photographer, employer and employee, on more than one occasion. He knew her well
enough to understand what was happening.
"Who offered you a
"Versace. They need some more support people for the runway shows.
Mitch, I like working for you, but it's not very regular, and they can use me
full time. I'm sorry, but ..."
He smiled. "You have to take care of
yourself. Go. Get out of here before I beg."
"You don't have to beg." He
looked up, to see her open the front of her blouse. She had the most unnerving
habit of going without a bra, despite having fairly ample breasts - she had
specialized in swimsuits during her model days.
"I meant before I beg
you to keep working for me."
She laughed. "Well, that won't do you any
good, but you don't have to beg for this." She ran her hand along the inside of
his thigh. The film and the search for a new assistant could wait, he decided.
- - -
Mitch slammed back his second Sam Adams. It was going down
a little too easily. "I'm telling you, everything's falling apart on me."
"I don't get it, Mitch. You've got solid, long-term contracts, a good
location, a solid portfolio. What else do you need to make things work?"
Allen Byrne was one of Mitch's oldest friends. He'd even been in the
business for a time, right out of law school, doing contract work for Elite.
That wasn't why he had gone to law school, and as soon as a position opened with
the Feds, he jumped. Five years later, he was back in New York, attached to the
Patent Office or something. When Mitch needed grounding, he always went to
"Look, it's just ... it's like this. I'm a perfectionist.
I mean, you know that."
Allen laughed. "I remember when we were in
Little League, and you used to critique the guy laying down the baselines.
'That's crooked, mister. Can't you do better than that?' I never understood why
he didn't kick your ass."
"Well, it's the same thing with the fashion
shoots. I know EXACTLY how everything should look. When I get exactly what I'm
looking for, everything falls into place. I'm the best in the business, period.
That's how you get the client list I have. Problem is, nobody else gives a
"Come on, that's not true. What about your assistant, Joanie?
"Jeannie. She quit on me. Can you believe that? 9 years, and
she just quits."
"I hope you got laid, at least."
"Well, yeah. I
mean, of course."
Allen shook his head. "You know, you've fucked some of
the most beautiful women in New York. Hell, on the face of the earth. Somehow,
it seems wrong to hear you feeling sorry for yourself."
The guy on the
barstool to the other side of Mitch got a wicked grin on his face, leaned in a
Mitch ordered a third Sam Adams, to Allen's chagrin. "If you're
going to drink like that, and we're going to have a conversation like this,
maybe we should get a table, huh?"
"A capital idea. Barkeep, move our
tab to a table please."
They found a table in the back corner of the pub.
Mitch slouched in his chair, nursing the third beer. "So I'm feeling sorry for
myself, huh? I didn't say that. I said everything's falling apart on me."
"I heard you the first time. I'm still waiting for a compelling reason
you think that, besides having to find a new assistant."
"I just can't find the right models anymore, or get the right poses out of them.
Maybe I'm losing it, but Jeannie used to be able to hold a pose for... well, for
hours sometimes. I had two or three other models on the hook that could do that,
too. These new models, though, no discipline whatsoever. Always bitching."
Allen got a light-bulb look in his eye, but Mitch's brain was too fizzy
to catch it. "So the problem's continuity, huh?"
"Continuh... yeah, you
could, uh, yeah. That's the problem. I've had too much beer, my friend."
"You need your models to hold a pose for a long time. That it?"
"Innnn a nutshell, Al. Exactly it."
Allen looked around
nervously. "I came across something that might help you out, just a couple days
ago. Kind of hush-hush stuff, though."
"At the Patent Office? What the
fuck would you come across that would make a model hold a pose. Super Glue?"
Mitch laughed; a little too loudly.
"Will you hold it down?
Jesus, I'm serious. Look, let's talk about this when the beer wears off, okay?"
"A case of Super Glue. What's that cost, anyway? Ha!"
-- Cloak and Dagger Stuff --"I can't believe I let you talk me into
this. If this is like the time you tried to get me to invest in those Dick Tracy
wristphone things, I swear to God ..."
"Keep it down, will you? And if
you'd invested, the principal would have rolled into digital cell phones, and
you'd be rolling in it."
Allen looked left, then right. "He should be
here any minute."
Mitch stuck his hands in his jacket pockets. The
morning was cool, by Manhattan standards. "I oughta have my fucking head
examined, sitting on a bench in Central Park at three in the morning."
"Relax, I'm packing a taser. It's in my shoe."
"Great, I'm in the
middle of Central Park in the middle of the night with fucking Maxwell Smart.
Got a phone in there, too?"
Mitch sat silent for a
moment, then heard what sounded like a howl. "What was that? You know, there are
wild animals in this park, Al. Somebody the other day saw a coyote or
A figure approached from the right, bundled
in a long grey coat. After what seemed like an hour, the figure stopped at arm's
length. The man was sixtyish, with glasses twenty years out of date and a grey
Lenin beard, his face drained of all color. He looked Mitch and Allen up and
down, then said to Allen in heavily accented English,
"The rain in Spain
is mainly on the plain."
Allen cleared his throat. "The weather is
especially lovely in Barcelona. Roses are in bloom, and the moon is full."
Mitch stifled a laugh, and said under his breath, "Jesus Christ, you
are Maxwell Smart."
The grey man's brow furrowed. "You should
instill a sense of proper protocol in your comrade, Mr. Byrne. This is the
gentleman interested in the merchandise?"
Mitch extended a hand. "Mitch
Kirkland. And you are?"
The gray man didn't take Mitch's hand. "Yes, a
sense of proper protocol would be welcome. Have financial terms yet been
Allen cleared his throat again. "We would prefer a
demonstration of the merchandise prior to settlement on terms."
You are not prepared to deal with me seriously."
"We are quite prepared
to deal with you seriously. Just because other Federal offices have been less
"Mr. Byrne, I could have sold this technology to your
enemies. It would have been most welcome in Tripoli, or Baghdad. Or Beijing."
"Sir, you know that the DOD is prepared to purchase rights in order
Mitch stood very still; it suddenly wasn't a game any more. Every
last trace of the beer's effects washed right out of him. Defense Department?
"Yes, yes, to quash the technology. This device was meant to be
used..." The grey man stared right through Mitch. "...even if I
disapprove of such a petty, decadent use. The potential uses in space travel
alone ... well, it is no matter."
"In any case, this gives you an
unexpected opportunity to derive additional income from your work, sir."
"Well, we shall see about that. You wish a demonstration, then? We will
need to find a subject, then. Promptly."
Mitch scratched his head.
"Well, I could probably talk one of my models into it tomorrow."
grey man developed a trace of a smile. It took Mitch a split second to realize
it was lacking humor. "Unacceptable. The demonstration must be now. I have no
time to waste on idle curiosity."
"Well, where'm I going to find
somebody willing to try this harebrained idea? At three in the morning?"
Allan sighed. "Mitch, quiet."
The grey man shook his head. "In
my country, when we needed a volunteer, we had a volunteer."
just enough intrigued with the grey man's invention to put his mind to it...
"Al, how much cash do you have on you?"
-- Test Shots --She looked around cautiously as she entered the hotel
room. "Nice room. What'd you have in mind?"
Mitch went over to his bag,
on the floor under the window. "Well, I'm a photographer. I want to take a few
pictures of you."
She sat on the edge of the bed. "I've done a couple
photo shoot fantasies. I'm good with that."
"No, really. I'm a
photographer. You've probably seen some of my work. I'm going to be shooting
an... uh, electronics layout for one of the men's magazines. I wanted to get
some test poses before I go out to California. Anyway, it's hard to find
somebody comfortable in front of the camera without the clothes, on short notice
"Huh. What kind of electronics?"
He looked at the bag,
thought a moment. "Walkman."
Mitch took out his
Hasselblad, and some lenses.
"I'll be damned. You really are a
photographer. Mind if I clean up?"
"Uh... sink's okay, I guess. I'm in
kind of a hurry."
"No time for a shower? I'd kind of like to look good,
you know, for a real photographer and all."
Stall, he thought. "I've
only got 30 minutes. Standard day's shoot pay in it for you, five hundred
"Five... hundred? For 30 minutes? Maybe I'm in the wrong
business. How do you want it, then?"
"Well, I figured lying on the bed,
with the Walkman on, and I'll let you use your imagination."
laughed. "Well, I am the professional in that area." She slid out of the
tight, stretchy black minidress she was wearing, revealing her bare breasts and
a skimpy black G-string. She slid off the G-string without a second thought. She
was probably about twenty, and her slim body was firm and muscular. The closely
cropped brownish hair between her legs contrasted with her blond hair, but
matched her dark roots.
"Okay, where's your Walkman?"
opened a small bag, and took out a flat black box. A six-foot long black cord
extended from one end, dividing into two thin wires for the last foot or so. On
the end of each wire was a C-shaped grey clip, about two inches long.
She looked at it curiously. "That's the strangest looking Walkman I've
ever seen. How do those things fit in your ears?"
"They don't actually.
They slip over and behind them, like the arm on a pair of glasses. It's a new
kind of headphone, uh... cartilage conduction." Bullshit's flowing tonight, he
"Oh, yeah. I think I saw something about that in a magazine at
the beauty shop. Got a tape?"
"For the Walkman. It'd
be easier to get off to some music."
"Oh, a tape. Uh... well... this is
only a prop from the manufacturer. It's not actually a working model of the
Walkman. Uh... they're still gearing up to make these. In time for Christmas,
"Oh, okay. Why don't you turn on VH-1 or something on the TV,
He picked up his camera and walked over to the television, so he
could breathe a less conspicuous sigh of relief. When he turned around, she
turned her head away from him, so he could see the back of her head. "Like
"Almost. Here, let me get those." He carefully placed the sliver
clips, just like the grey man had instructed.
She lay back on the bed.
"Would it look better if I pulled back the covers. You know, against the white
sheet instead of this thing?"
He smiled. Everybody's a photographer, he
thought. "Sure. That'd be great."
She lay down, her head back against
the pillow, as an Elton John video started in the background. "Where do you want
the Walkman at?"
"Hm. How about right next to you here, where it'll show
in the shot. You just get warmed up, and I'll position you, okay?"
"Okay." She closed her eyes, and slowly ran her hands along the contours
of her torso, then down between her thighs. "Mmmm. Whenever you're ready." He
set the black box next to her, and pressed a small switch on the side, making a
small red light blink twice. He felt in his front pocket, where a small box with
a single button waited.
"Okay, bend your left leg at the knee, left foot
flat on the bed. Then move your right leg out to the side, so I can get
everything in the shot. I don't have much foreground to work with in a room this
She exhaled forcefully.
"That's a little uncomfortable, but I can do that for a while. Do you want my
right leg out further to the right? I mean, I can only do that for a couple
"Okay, out as far as you think. I'll trust your professional
She laughed, then ran one hand through her hair, tracing
circles around her left nipple with the other. It hardened and rose, the
red-brown areola contracting. She did the same with the other before drifting
down to the ringlets of brown hair between her legs. She began to writhe, all
the while keeping her leg out and to the right, leaving a clear view of her
dampening crotch. Her eyes were closed, occasionally tightening and releasing.
He was impressed at her ability to hold the pose - not bad, he thought.
Her breathing deepened, became more labored, as her fingers probed
deeply, first one, then two and sometimes three, and her other hand clutched at
her breast. He waited for that picture-perfect moment, when her back would arch
slightly, her breasts protruding up and out, head back, mouth slightly open.
Now! He reached into his front pocket, brushing at his raging erection, and
pressed the button.
She moaned a little more intensely, and was suddenly
quiet. Then, the hand probing between her legs slowed abruptly. The other hand
clenching her breast stopped moving. Her back remained uniformly arched. Her
outstretched right leg stayed in place. Her breathing appeared to stop
completely! The reflectance of her skin changed, subtly. He couldn't put his
finger on the change for a moment, then he decided it had somehow hardened!. He
moved closer, and she remained still.
"You okay? Hello - Angela? You can
Nothing. She remained exactly as she was, two fingers
thrust deeply inside her sex, one breast clenched, the other thrust forward,
arched in the beginning throes of climax. But she was rigid.
Not a sound. Not
a flinch. Not a breath. It was like she was a statue.
A door opened behind him, and Allen and the grey man came out
of the bathroom. Allen gawked, and the grey man again showed just the slightest
hint of a smile.
"Allen, look at this. Look at this! She hasn't
moved in..." He looked at his watch. "Hell, I don't know. A minute, maybe more?"
He looked back at the grey man, still nameless. "Hey, you, she's not breathing,
either. This can't be right. I mean, what the hell's going on here?"
The hint of a smile went away as the grey man crossed the room. "The,
ahem, lady is unharmed. Some of our subjects have spent more than a year
in this condition without harm. She has been placed in a state of
neuroelectrically-induced suspended animation, that's all."
scratched his head. "Neuroelec... Talk to me like someone who hasn't had a
science class since, oh, high school."
Allen peered more closely at the
motionless callgirl. "CIA calls it the 'cosmonaut sleep'. The Soviets came up
with this for a Mars shot they planned for years. When perestroika came along,
the space program was gutted, and our ... uh... colleague here was left with
some new technology and nowhere to go with it."
Mitch raised an eyebrow.
"CIA? Al, what the hell..."
Allen's voice was firm. "Another time."
Mitch was too distracted to press the issue. His mind raced. The
callgirl remained motionless, frozen in exactly the same position as minutes
The grey man scowled. "You don't believe me? Go ahead, touch
her. Do it."
Mitch slowly reached out, expecting the unmoving
girl to jump. His hand made contact at her midriff, moved up over her exposed
breast, to the side of her face. Nothing. Not even a blink.
She felt odd,
somehow, almost artificial.
"Push against her skin."
his hand back to her stomach, pushed down. There was no give, none at all. It
was like pushing on a wooden store mannequin. A tingling sensation played
through his fingertips, like wintertime static charges. "What's that feeling?
The electric charge?"
The grey man was silent for a moment. "With
deference to your science education, it is the boundary of the energy field
generated by the device. Can you feel your fingers?"
Mitch moved his
hand. "They're a little tingly, but yeah."
"Then the device is working
optimally. The field does not extend beyond the contours of her body, and should
not in proper operating conditions. You can determine that visually. If the
field begins to variate, however, it can engulf other objects directly in
contact. You must take care in handling the subject, in general."
was enthralled. He was struck by an image from that last high school science
class, of ancient insects trapped in amber, preserved, forever motionless. "So
it happens instantly? Push the button, and BAM?"
"No. The field takes 20
to 30 seconds to fully develop. Did you not observe her motion slow before
stopping? Consciousness continues slightly longer than that. It takes
approximately one minute for all movement to be fully conserved. After that, the
subject is in a deep dream state. Bodily functions are slowed to approximately
one-thousandth of normal rates. This device is less powerful than the prototype
Mitch lifted his hand from the still body. "Prototype
unit. That's what we're discussing here?"
"Correct. It was designed for
the Mars vessel, to immobilize eight cosmonauts. The prototype uses wireless
field transmission, with a single probe behind one ear."
continued taking it all in. "Movement conserved, what does that mean? Does that
mean a person could be repositioned during that one minute? Sort of... I don't
know, fine tuned?"
"That is correct. Not big movements, but fine
Allan's eyes grew bigger every moment the young callgirl
remained totally motionless. "Sheez, I really thought this had to be a lot of
crap, Mitch. I... I don't believe it!"
Mitch ran his hand along her
rigid thigh. The slight tingle of the field thrilled him to the core. This was
the most exciting thing he had ever seen - perfection! Then, his brain caught up
"How do you get someone out of this?"
The gray man's
smile came back, ever so slightly. "You turn it off, of course. By pressing the
button again. We had to estimate the young woman's weight, to determine the
field intensity. The amount of time the field takes to wear off depends entirely
on the accuracy of that estimate. Underestimate the weight, and the field may
never properly develop to begin with. Overestimate, and the field can take hours
to wear off."
Allen said, "Well, we glanced at her driver's license
while you had her distracted earlier."
Mitch covered his mouth with his
hand. "Jesus, Al, it could be days. What were you thinking?"
to the grey man. "You have a deal. I don't care what it takes, I want this. Half
the profits from additional business, anything. Now get back in the bathroom, so
I can try to bring her out of it."
The grey man looked at him, even more
seriously if that was possible. "There's a lot to be wary of, a lot to monitor
with this device. I hope you are ready to be a very, very thorough pupil." Then
he scurried back through the bathroom door, and closed it behind him.
This changes everything, he thought. He realized it would take a whole
different kind of model, exclusive, willing to make a long-term commitment,
willing to be frozen and stay frozen, no attachments. He chuckled to himself at
the thought of trying to work with those stuck-up little supermodel-wanna-bees.
He knew this would be his last photos in New York.
Mitch picked up the
Hasselblad, took a few pictures from differing angles, wide and close angle,
high and low light levels. His model was perfectly composed. She did not blink;
did not sneeze. After a few minutes and almost a roll of film, he pressed the
button. There was a humming sound from the black box, and a brief, vague
impression of bluish energy discharge. The driver's license suddenly seemed very
Slowly, inexorably, the woman's right hand began moving again
between her legs, her chest expanded with an interrupted breath, her left hand
squeezed more tightly. She shuddered for a moment, and then came, suddenly and
explosively. After lying quietly still for a few moments
-- to Mitch, she
seemed vibrant with motion the whole time -- she opened her eyes.
that was the strangest feeling... It was like I was stuck totally in the
dream. I haven't come like that... Wow!" She reached up and took the silver
clips from behind her ears. "That's the best five hundred dollars I ever made.
Can you send me a picture?"
Mitch smiled. "I'd be happy to. Very, very
[ < Previous | Top | Next > ]
Here's my $.02 on the Living Statues exercise - a
prelude, to be placed before Part 1. It ends up creating a few twists in Mitch's
behavior in Parts 1-3, clears up a few things, confuses a few
This occurs approximately two years before the start of Part 1.