The automatonesque maids began dragging Barbara over to the iron-barred cage. She had witnessed it with her own eyes, the transformation of Chuck into Jojo, unbelievable though it was, and now it was going to happen to her!
Barbara never struggled harder in her entire life, but the maids, robot-like and with impossible strength, held her firm. There was no way to break free.
The cage door was suddenly in front of her.
There was the sound of a dog bark, sharp and toylike. Sasha, thatís Sasha, Barbara thought. Sheíd forgotten about the dog in all the confusion.
Gregor Andolin had stepped into the basement. Stan was behind him holding the fancy black-and-white poodle in his arms. He was stroking it like he would a cat. They both stood near where the other maids held Barbaraís sisters.
"Bring Ms. Carter back over here, please," Andolin ordered, and the maids moved to comply.
Viola Andolin put a hand on her new petís broad shoulder. Jojo mewed softly, and guided by her hand he went to all fours and began licking gently at her shoes. The maid who had serviced him stood behind them both. She was still licking her lips slightly.
"Whatís the meaning of this, Greg? I thought we had agreed Barbara was ours."
"I think it would be a waste of material to send any of these young ladies to your kennel, my dear," Mr. Andolin said to his wife. "We already have a new recruit waiting to be picked up. Besides, it appears our Mr. Lockridge has had a change of heart." He made a grand gesture with his arm.
Stan looked smug. "I want Barbara. You can keep Alicia." Alicia, still held by two of the maids, gave a muffled shriek.
Viola looked put out. She didnít like having her plans interfered with. "And why is that, Mr. Lockridge? I was under the impression you were with the girl."
Stan shrugged. "Iíve already had her," he replied coldly. He looked at Barbara. She would have scratched his eyes out if she hadnít been held back. "Alicia was good, but I want to try the other two. An opportunity like this may never come again."
"And we do need a new maid," Gregor added nonchalantly.
"We already have a dozen, Greg," Viola replied icily. She glanced at Stan. "You, sir, are crude." She indicated Barbara. "And I find your last minute decisions inconvenient. According to our original deal, Barbara was ours to do with as we pleased. And Iíve needed a female primeval in stock for years."
Stan put the dog down, and she ran over to her Alicia. The poodle huddled as close to the captiveís feet as Jojo was at Violaís.
"Letís compromise," Gregor said. "Weíll trade you. You already have one new pet. Take Alicia, and Iíll give you one of my maids to use for your kennel. Like you said, we have a dozen or more. Itís more than fair."
Viola appeared about to reject the offer for a moment - her temper was terrible - but then she relented. It did sound like a fair offer, in a way. "Which one?" she asked.
Gregor pointed to the girl behind her. "Miriam will do, I think." Viola nodded, and Gregor gave the maid her new commands. "Miriam, remove your clothing and step into the Primeval Cage. I will no longer be requiring your services in the casino."
"Yes, Mr. Andolin," the girl replied and began disrobing.
This is insane, Barbara thought, held in an iron grip. This simply canít be happening. Iím hallucinating. Iím in a hospital somewhere and Iím hallucinating all this.
It was the only explanation.
Hallucination or not, the former maid and cocktail waitress Miriam demurely undid the white bonnet in her blond hair, then began unbuttoning her black and white-trimmed blouse. She shrugged out of her uniform and laid it gently to the side, then unfastened her gartered stockings. When she was completely bare, she curtsied one final time and stepped into the cage. Viola closed it behind her.
The vibration started again, and the low humming. Miriam stood stock still in the middle of the tall gridwork, and within only a few moments her transformation began. Barbara judged the girl to have been in her early twenties maybe. She had been beautiful, her blonde hair long and straight, and she had cute little dimples in her cheeks. Soon, though, that all changed. Her limbs thickened and fur sprang out everywhere along her body . . . whitish fur, like an albino gorilla. She developed a hunchback, and as she leaned forward her breasts enlarged and hung outward like two oversized melons. Her long straight locks lengthened, thickened, and her face flattened and became as simian as Jojoís. She slowly became proto-human.
Sami groaned. She was starting to come around. "Stan," Gregor said and patted his evening suit. "Her husband has left her. It would be unfair to leave Mrs. Davis in her grief, I think. Shall I?" He removed a gold medallion from inside his jacket. There was an emerald in its round center, and it gleamed in the basementís low-level lights.
Barbara caught just a glimmer of it and felt immediately disoriented.
Stan nodded. "Iíll see you later." He walked out of the room.
"Hold her up," Gregor told the maid beside Sami. She untied her from the chair and brought her to her feet. She followed orders conscientiously, and as a result the first thing Sami saw when she opened her eyes was the twirling ornament Andolin clutched. "Thatís good, hold her just like that."
"If you donít mind, darling, Iíll go and take Miriam to the kennel." Viola unlocked the cage door and let the ape-woman out, who immediately went down to all fours and began making low grunting noises. "Fido and Rex will be so happy."
"By all means. Would you take the other two girls with you please and secure them in their rooms for later? We can discuss plans for them this afternoon."
"Of course." Mrs. Andolin gave the appropriate commands to the maids, and the last sight Barbara saw of Sami that morning was of her standing in front of Mr. Andolin, the other maid directly behind her, staring blankly into the gold charm he held.
Then Barbara was dragged away.
* * * *
"Hello Sami. Can you hear me?"
"Yes." Her voice was dreamy, unfocused. At a glance from Gregor the maid released her grip. Sami continued to stand unsupported now.
"What is your full name, dear?"
"Samantha Carter Davis."
"And your age?"
Andolin nodded, satisfied. She was a beautiful girl. All of the Carter girls were. She and Viola had been lucky. Sami stood about five foot nine. She was thin, but athletically thin, like she worked out often. Lovely and thick brown hair, green eyes, good figure.
She was a splendid choice for a new maid.
"Good. You are young and beautiful, and you will remain so for a long time in Mr. Lockridgeís employ. Do you understand?"
"Then repeat it," he instructed.
"I will remain young and beautiful for a long time in Mr. Lockridgeís employ," Sami responded.
Gregor nodded again. Through his connection with the medallion, he could feel some slight resistance to his will, but it was nothing he couldnít overcome. The emeraldís glow increased in intensity. "I am going to change the way you think now, Samantha. I am going to remove all doubts and resistance from you."
Samiís eyes widened. The pupilís contracted. The emerald was the whole world.
"Yes, what?" Gregor made his voice stern.
A slight hesitation. "Yes, sir."
Gregor motioned for the other maid to leave the two of them alone. "I am going to turn you into a servant, Samantha. Our servants are special. They are very loyal. You do want to be a loyal servant, donít you, Samantha?"
"Yes, sir," she replied. No hesitation at all that time.
"Then listen to what I have to say and continue to stare into the bauble, please."
Samiís eyes sparkled with the image of the medallion and its emerald center. Her nod was barely perceptible. Her vision never waved.
"You exist only to serve. Repeat that."
"I exist only to serve."
"It gives you pleasure to serve. Not giving service makes you unhappy. It is painful."
"Not serving is painful," Sami replied. "It gives me pleasure to serve."
"You are a toy, Samantha. A plaything. A pet and a slave with no will of your own. It gives you pleasure to acknowledge this."
"I am a toy. I am a plaything. I am a pet and a slave."
There was no more resistance. Gregor could feel Samanthaís memories burning away one by one, like leaves cast into a fireplace. Each second that passed increased the plasticity of her mind. Her world focused along a very narrow path.
"Now, Samantha, weíre going to start searching through your past and begin removing all those annoying little memories that will distract you from your service."
Samantha listened intently.
It gave her such pleasure to serve.
* * * *
When she had moved into her new apartment, Gail had had three locks put on her door. She didnít consider herself paranoid or anything - nobody was out to get her, after all - but this was Las Vegas, she was a girl living more or less on her own, and it was better to be safe than sorry. She turned the last key in the lock and walked in.
She thought the interviews had gone well. There were no immediate bites, but she felt pretty good about the job at the Grand Facade. She would like working there, she thought. She wasnít really into old movies, but at least the place had a theme she could appreciate, not like ancient Rome or Egypt or Camelot or something.
On the other hand, the guy taking applications over at the New York, New York had seemed interested, too. Gail wouldnít have minded working over there either. She had never been to New York, nor Hollywood for that matter, but at least they were both in the here and now. She put her purse down on the stand by the door and flipped on the lights.
They didnít come on.
Ah, shit, not again. Gail flipped the switch up and down again to no effect. Goddammit, she thought. She hated this apartment, but it was the only place she could afford. She closed the door behind her and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness.
There was something in the middle of the floor, she noticed after a few seconds.
It was a large crate.
Gailís eyes widened, frightened, and she started to turn back to the door behind her.
A sudden, brilliant burst of light filled the room, leaving a reddish negative image of the apartment behind Gailís eyes. She opened her mouth to scream and then . . . stopped.
Everything stopped. Her muscles locked.
She couldnít move!
Gail tried to lift her arm, move her legs, scream for help, but she was stuck, totally stuck. Nothing would work. She stood there in the darkness like a fly in amber, unable to budge an inch, not even to blink her eyes which were still smarting from the flash.
She was completely paralyzed, turned into a living statue.
A large man flipped on a flashlight. Gail saw the image of him still reflected in red standing behind the crate. The image was slowly fading, but for the time being she couldnít make out what was happening in front of her now. All she saw were shadows.
Ohmigod, she thought. Theyíre going to rape me!
Again she tried screaming for help.
"We have about twenty minutes, Les, I think," a voice said in the darkness. "You get the crate, okay?" More shadows moved around the apartment.
"No problem." That was the big man. Gail could see just enough to determine that.
Then there was a face right in front of her own, within kissing distance if she had been so inclined, or capable. He was a blond man, mustached, with a ruddy, Californian beach complexion. "Hi, Gail. My name is Craig. You and I are going to get to know each better."
Gailís vision was improving. She both heard and saw Craig open up a large plastic bag and put it on the floor next to him. Then he put his hands on her (No! No! she cried inside) and lifted her over to the crate.
Delicately, he began with her blouse and quickly began stripping her. She couldnít move at all to stop him. First her blouse, then her bra and shoes, then finally her jeans and panties, all went one by one into the plastic bag. Gail felt like she was a doll.
"She has potential," she heard the other one - Les - say.
"Yeah, I think so." Craig finished undressing her and then laid Gail out flat on the floor on her back. He straightened her limbs and arranged them at her sides. Her felt her breasts, and inside Gail sobbed in humiliation. Please God, Iíll do anything, she cried. Donít let them rape me. Please, please get me out of here.
"Yeah, a lot of potential," Craig repeated. "Help me, would you?" Les crouched down beside his partner, and together they began positioning Gail. They sat her up, tucked her knees under her chin, and wrapped her arms around the front of them. They arranged her like she was getting ready to cannonball into a swimming pool. Then they lifted her up and put her in the crate. The inside was padded and equipped with thick cloth straps, which they immediately began attaching to her.
She was packaged and ready to go within minutes.
Whatís happening to me? Gail screamed inside. What are they doing, where are they taking me? The padding and straps had her well-secured inside. The lid was put back on the top of the crate, and she felt it being lifted.
Where you are taking me?
* * * *
Barbara and Alicia were carried upstairs and ensconced in the same room. It was a different suite than from before. The bedroom, instead of having one large bed, held two smaller ones. The maids had specific instructions. The Andolinís didnít want their guests hurting themselves or otherwise getting into mischief. Each of the sisters was firmly tied to a separate bed, wrists and ankles wrapped in cloth and tied around the bedposts. They were gagged to prevent them from annoying other guests.
Alicia seemed to have gone into shock. She didnít make a sound the whole rest of the day. Barbara could just barely see her if she turned her head to the furthermost right. Her little sister wasnít asleep; she was just staring up at the ceiling blankly.
She wasnít even crying anymore. That scared Barbara more than anything else she had witnessed.
Please God, please let this be a dream, she prayed. We donít deserve this. We were just going out for a weekend trip. This is . . . monstrous. Unreal.
She didnít understand how the Andolins could do the things they did, either physically or emotionally. OK girl, get a grip, get a grip. Otherwise youíre going to space out just like Licia did. That was an attractive idea, though, part of her mind admitted, just zoning out and not thinking about the unfairness and impossibility of it all . . . but if she did, she would lose whatever opportunity for escape that might arise. So . . . so think. Put your mind to use. Use logic. Barbara took several long, deep breaths, closed her eyes, and began concentrating. She tried listing the points off as if she were preparing a brief.
Itís magic. It was the first thing she could clearly think of.
Not stage magic but real live, Arabian Nights-style magic. The kind you read about in storybooks. Or in the movies. Barbara didnít even pretend to understand how this was all possible, but she knew if she were going to survive she would have to just get past it.
But that proved difficult to do. Barbara felt like she was on a teeter-totter. The idea that these people could literally transform her family into . . . things . . . it was . . was . . . . Itís magic. OK? Get past it. So theyíre magicians. Forget the what and think about the how. How they are doing this? Whatís the mechanism? If you know that, girl, youíre halfway to getting it yourself. So, think.
They called it the Primeval Cage. It turns people into apes.
Useless. Barbara wasnít planning on going back there.
She instead focused on the maids.
Their "maids" are mind-controlled slaves . . . hypnotized or something. Theyíre doing it to Sami right now. Andolin was using a pendant of some kind, like a villain straight out of a comic book. Iíll bet if I got hold of it I could turn things around here.
Good. She now had a goal.
Like her sister, Barbara didnít go back to sleep that long day.
She stayed awake planning instead.
* * * *
Gregor and Viola chose to sleep in separate bedrooms.
Each was on an opposite end of the hotel.
Viola lay back on her bed and let Jojo work. His tongue had become quite long since his transformation, though not as long as that other piece of his anatomy she was interested in. He showed great promise. "A little lower Jojo. And press harder." She hissed suddenly and arched her back.
Yes, Jojo was definitely showing great promise.
Viola wondered what she should do with Alicia. Not that she had thought about it, Gregor had been right. Using one of the Carter girls for her kennel would have been a waste. They were raw material, untouched, so to speak. On the other hand, if she let her husband have his way, heíd turn them all into maids . . . and again that would be a waste. His tastes were so mundane. It was a wonder she was still married to him after all these years.
She let her hand wander down to Jojoís thickly matted head. She scratched behind his ear, and he grunted in simple pleasure. He had finished with his licking chores and was getting ready to use that other piece of anatomy Viola favored.
It was the only part of him now left unfurred.
Of course, Viola thought. The dog. How perfect.
Then she was distracted for a time.
* * * *
Gail had fainted at some point while they were moving her, so she had lost track of time. The first thing she was aware of was when the top of the crate was lifted away again, and then hands reached in to lift her out. Feminine hands.
Her eyes stung and watered uncontrollably. The light inside the room she was in now was bright, and it took a few moments for her vision to clear enough to see what it looked like. There were mirrors everywhere. Gail still couldnít move, but she got a clear look around as she was lifted out of the crate and straightened up into a standing position. The room was hexagonal, and in the middle of each wall was a large floor-to-ceiling mirror. Another mirror lined the ceiling itself. She was stood near the open crate and a waiting tray of equipment. A porcelain bowl sat nearby, and inside it what looked like bandage wrappings soaked in a clear liquid.
Craig and Les were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the room was full of uniformed chambermaids, all young and beautiful . . . and absolutely silent. They moved in a brush manner that reminded Gail somehow of robots. Their faces were blank and expressionless. They smiled, but theirs were the blank smiles of automatons.
Gail felt more frightened now than she had in her apartment.
Her paralysis was so complete she couldnít even shiver.
The maids put Gail into a position of almost military attention. One of them took a strip of cloth from the bowl and wrung it out slowly. Another replaced it with a dry one from a stack from the tray. Gail saw what was going to happen and again cried silently. An observer looking in on her, though, might have remarked about how calm she looked.
The maids began wrapping the bandages around Gail. Each was about two feet long and about one inch wide. The women were careful and used safety pins when they had to, but for the most part the wrappings stayed where they were placed. The liquid tingled on Gailís skin, not unpleasantly she observed, though still frightened. It kind of felt like a muscle relaxant, a kind of heating rub, though without the stinging heat. The maids wrapped her up like a mummy. They started with Gailís hands and arms, then worked their way to her upper chest. They strapped her breasts in tightly, then her abdomen, then finally her thighs and legs. They saved her head and face for last. Her hair, already short and bobbed, was pressed in close against her skull as the wrappings crossed over the back of her neck. Gail could feel the solution they had been soaked in tingling everywhere.
It got her feeling very hot, almost giddy.
Stop it, she cried, stop it! She tried to ignore the pleasant sensations, but it was difficult.
The bandages were porous. The maids wrapped her head up completely, but Gail found she could still breathe normally. The tightness of the wrappings restricted her breathing somewhat, like a tightly fastened corset might, but not uncomfortably so. She wouldnít suffocate. In fact, the tightness combined with the tingling sensation made Gail feel . . . feel rather sexy in an obscene sort of way. Again, she tried to resist the feelings, kept telling herself she was being kidnapped and tortured, but it was becoming harder and harder to do. She found herself getting sleepy.
The last bandage went over her eyes, shutting the room back into darkness, and shortly afterwards Gail followed.
The maids left her to set, a mummy standing alone in a room full of mirrors.
* * * *
Samantha came to help with the Andolinsí houseguests that afternoon. She arrived in Barbara and Aliciaís room with the other maids and was dressed as they were. Her expression was blank and smiling, a very accurate reflection of the shallow surface of the mind underneath. She had spent much of the morning getting "acquainted" with Mr. Andolin, a friend of her new master. She had pleased him, he had said earlier.
It gave her such pleasure to serve.
The six maids helped get the houseguests ready, undoing their bonds, removing their clothes, and cleaning them up in the bathroom. Then they took them downstairs.
Barbara tried to get her sisterís attention, but Sami just kept on smiling and working. The maids didnít say a word either to her and Licia or to each other.
They were brought into a sitting room on the same floor as the Andolinsí grand dining room. It had large French windows, and outside it Barbara could see a truly magnificent view of the Las Vegas Strip. A plush sofa filled one wall, and the central table in the room was solid mahogany. A painting of the Hollywood sign in California hung over an unlit fireplace. The setting was somehow inappropriate in a casino; the room might have been taken whole out of some New England mansion back east.
A cage sat in the middle of the room next to the table.
Naked and defenseless, gags still tied in their mouths, Barbara and Alicia were thrust to the floor in front of a waiting Gregor and Viola. Jojo sat at Violaís heels, a studded collar round his neck and a leash held in her hands. Sasha rested in Gregorís. The little dog gave a sharp yelp of greeting when she saw the sisters. She started squirming a little in the casino managerís arms, wanting to go to her mistress.
"Which one you two girls owns this fine puppy?" Gregor asked pleasantly. He chuckled a bit under his breath, bent, and let Sasha to the floor.
The poodle ran straight to Alicia.
A dreadful premonition filled Barbara. No, no, not Licia, no! Barbara screamed inside. Oh please donít let them do anything to her!
"I think sheís made her choice, Greg," Viola commented. "What should we call her after the procedureís done?"
"Oh, I think Sashaís a fine name for a poodle. Weíll stick with that."
The maids picked up Alicia and her dog and carried them over to the cage. It wasnít the same one, Barbara noted. This one was smaller, barely large enough to hold one person, and definitely not standing. An intricate design had been worked into the bars, too, a complex lacework of black and silver. One of the maids, a pretty redhead, unrolled a long sheet of plastic that had been laid at the cageís side and spread it over the tableís shining surface. Barbara tried to get to her feet but was held down by Sami and another maid. She was held immobile.
Gregor reached by the chair beside him and picked up another collar and leash. This one was fancier than the one around Jojo. It looked older, and its links were made from some precious metal, silver or platinum.
"Itís been decades since this cage has been used, Vi. Do you really think itíll work after all this time?"
She took the leash from him and gave him hers. "Who gave us the Cages, Greg?" she derided him. "Donít be dense. Itíll work, just like the Cage downstairs still works. Honestly, I canít believe you sometimes . . . ."
Viola went to the table and undid the collar she held.
Greg pursed his lips. He wasnít sure about this. He would have preferred something, well, less hairy.
Alicia was placed gently but firmly inside the cage. Only now was she beginning to struggle and whimper. Another maid took Sasha and with a pair of scissors began cutting off a few snips of puffy hair. Viola and the redheaded maid attached the collar around Aiciaís throat. She then took the proferred dog hairs and slid them underneath the collar before tightening it.
"Make yourself useful, Jane," she said to the maid holding Sasha on the table. "Get rid of the dog."
"Yes, maíam." The maid curtsied and walked out with the poodle. Another maid undid Aliciaís gag, and Viola herself closed the cage door.
She still held the other end of the leash.
No, no, Barbara cried. Itís not fair. The cage, like its predecessor down in the basement, began humming slightly as soon as it was closed. Alicia continued to whimper softly and cry. Viola and Gregor watched the process intently. The maids, including Sami now, stood by impartially, smiling and blank.
Aliciaís short brown hair began to darken. It curled and seemed to expand slightly. She shifted positions in the cramped confinement, and the links holding her jingled softly against the bars. She stopped crying. She fell down to her hands and knees, with her head moved closer to the floor. A light series of gurgling sounds, and the occasional gasp, now emerged from her throat. It took Barbara a moment to recognize what it was.
Alicia was being stimulated by her transformation.
"You see, Greg," Viola said. "I knew the Cage would work."
Aliciaís hindquarters raised. The sudden look of bliss on her face was unmistakable. Bands of feather light white fur sprang out along her otherwise smooth body, drawing up from below her skin. Her ears started to lengthen, stretching to a point. Her facial features became angular, and the tip of her nose darkened. It was an unearthly show, like Alicia had been the subject of a nature documentary where portions of it had been filmed earlier using time-lapse photography. The transformation appeared paradoxically both fast and slow at the same time. Barbara again tried to break free of her sisterís iron grip, and again she failed. All she could do was watch helplessly.
The hair on her sisterís head turned into a black puffball. It was what an Afro might look life if it had been drawn by an untalented artist. It was big and round and springy, just like a toy poodleís.
Just like Sashaís.
Two smaller puffballs grew to either side of Aliciaís now completely doglike ears. A fourth emerged at her tailbone right above her now furred bottom. She began panting, her tongue lolling slightly out of her mouth. Aliciaís eyes became black and shiny. Her skin overall paled. Her nose was now black and wet.
She had become a poodle-girl.
Gregor congratulated his wife on her keen perception. Even he had to admit he was impressed. In association with the fur growth, Aliciaís body had become slimmer, leaner through the metamorphosis. She was now covered in fine white fur. Her breath was rapid, just like what an excited little dogís would have been.
The cage ceased its hum.
"Here, Sasha," Viola called. Barbara was enraged. "Here, Sasha, little girl, come to momma." The lovely creature inside the cage turned her head in the direction of the voice. Viola threw her a dog biscuit.
Alicia, or Sasha now, gave a joyous bark in reply. Barbara sobbed. The poodle-girl went to work on her treat.
She was very happy.
One of the maids unlocked the cage door and let the cute black-and-white poodle-girl out. She sniffed at the servantís leg for a moment before receiving a slight tug on her leash. This brought her over to sit at Violaís feet. Jojo sniffed at her from where he sat by Gregor. The new pet licked at her mistressí feet.
"Oh, look at that Gregor," Viola beamed. "She already knows what I like." She ran her hand through the poodle-girlís fur and scratched. Sasha gave another short, happy bark.
Barbara just cried. First Chuck, then Sami, now Alicia . . . everyone she had loved was gone, turned into freaks by these monsters. The idea that she could have grabbed Gregorís medallion seemed ludicrous to her now after what she had just witnessed. They were never going to let her get that close to them . . . at least, not until after shee too had been transformed into something loyal and sweet and absolutely mindless.
Gregor must have heard her sobbing. "Donít be impatient, Barbara. Iím sure weíll find something to suit you." He walked over to her and Sami and took Samiís chin in his hand, tilting her face up. "And youíll be happy, Iím sure, just like Samantha here is happy in her new role. Isnít that right, Samantha?"
"Yes, sir," her sister replied. "I am very happy with my new role."
"You see, Barbara. Youíll like it, I guarantee it."
"Oh, stop playing with her Greg," Viola scolded from across the room. She had been instructing some of the other maids in removing the cage from the drawing room. Sasha followed at her heels, tongue wagging. "Itís unseemly."
Gregor shrugged. "If you say so, dear." He released Samanthaís chin, then examined her again. "You know, itís a real shame weíre not keeping Samantha. Iím beginning to get attached to her. Maybe Stan can be persuaded to trade one of my others for her."
Or maybe, he thought, maybe that new girl weíre processing. Gail something or other . .
Viola came to stand next to her husband. "Why bother? Just tell Stan weíre keeping her. What can he do?"
Gregor looked at his wife. "But we had a deal with Lockridge . . . ." he started.
"So what? Heís nothing to us, just one more member of the Club, one of a dozen." Viola handed him the poodle-girlís leash and went to stand by the French window.
She turned around slowly.
"We are the Circo Posticcio!" she suddenly yelled. "We can do anything!"
Gregor stuttered, "Our reputation . . . our reputation will suffer if we go back on the deal."
Viola looked at him with contempt. "Let it. Stan Lockridge is a tool, as much a plaything as your Samantha is, or my Jojo, or even Barbara over there." She glanced back out the window. "And Lockridge can be easily gotten rid of."
Barbara struggled to get up, but Sami and the other maid still held her down. Gregor walked up behind her. "All right," he said, coming to a decision. "All right, maybe if we just do it. I still donít want to lose Stanís patronage, but all right . . . . What do you want to do with Barbara here?"
Viola didnít turn around. "I can have a petrifying solution brought up in ten minutes, and we can have her installed outside in the lobby before dinner. She has a good body. It will look good in white marble."
Gregor sighed. "All right, dear . . . if you say so." He gestured to one of the maids.
He stepped away from Barbara, whose heart was now fluttering madly. White marble! Petrifying! No, nooo! The manager instructed Samantha to take her sister to the foyer. He, personally, would have preferred having Barbara as a maid, something soft and malleable under his thumb, but he also had to live with Viola, and when she got something in her head to do, it was altogether easier just letting her do it.
Besides, he thought, I now have Samantha. She had proven earlier exactly how soft and malleable she had become. He wouldnít be bored with Samantha for a long time.
And, he decided, Barbara would look good in white marble standing out in the lobby.
Whatever else he could say about his dear wife, she did have excellent taste.
And, like she said, what could Stan do?
After all, they were the ones in charge.