The Chemical Dancers made their way to the Grand Facade.
Many of them arrived in limousines paid for by their wealthy Club patrons. Others took more conventional means of transportation, arriving at the casino entrance in cabs, private vehicles, and a handful even on foot. Some brought their servants along with them, but most arrived without companions or toys. Mrs. Paddockís summons had been urgent, and none of them wanted to be late.
Craig stood outside the private dining hall that had been reserved for them . He greeted each Cirque member individually. Most left an indifferent impression on him, which he felt was odd.
He couldnít get past how ordinary most of them looked. Three or four had amused him, and at least one had scared the hell out of him, but in the end they were just people. He tried to leave a good perception of himself with every one, though, not knowing yet who was in or who was out in Mrs. Paddockís good graces. He smiled and thanked God for deodorant; he was more nervous now than he had ever been in his entire life, including that time years ago when he had first been approached by G. Limited. His palms itched and sweated. It was the first group meeting of the Cirque de Artificiel in over a hundred years, or so he understood, and big things were obviously being planned.
He hoped his future was one of them . . . in a good way. Craigís ambitions were simple. He wanted to be made permanent manager of the casino, nothing more. It was little enough to ask, he believed, and if he just continued doing a better job than Gregor had, he felt he was a shoo-in for the position.
Craig saw another member approaching from the main hall. He put on his best smile, cleared his throat, put out his hand, and hoped he looked sincere enough.
It was going to be a long day.
Word came down from management to change the living mannequinís gown. No reason was given, and none was asked for. An announcement was made that Barbara was going on a temporary break, and a drape was pulled over the outside of her display window.
The platform she was posed on lowered. A pair of chambermaids waited in the dressing room below. They began at the top and worked their way down - the veil first, then the uncinching of her hair, and then the unlinking of the ties in the soft white material in back. The maids were careful not to disturb either the control collar wrapped around Barbaraís throat or to damage the soft satin and lace of her wedding dress. Both were valuable properties. They lifted the gown away and carefully arranged it on the stand next to them, leaving Barbara silently standing in her white panties and silken garters.
The maids didnít leave her unattended for very long, though. One of them came around to her back and outside of Barbaraís eyeshot and gently tilted her backwards while the other removed her white pumps. They left her underwear on, however. It matched the new slip dress they subsequently slid on her, a shiny costume that seemed composed almost of silken pearl. They attached fastenings in back and then stood Barbara to her feet again. They adjusted her pose, returning her bouquet, which had been the first thing they had removed. Barbaraís makeup was also touched up just a little bit before returning the headdress and veil. Her collar was hidden beneath a convenient necklace.
The platform rose again.
Stan later came by the outside window of the wedding chapel and looked in on Barbara. She looked exceptionally fine in the white silk. As always, he was impressed with the work the casino employees did. Barbaraís pose was lovely. Feet presumably together and hidden beneath a sequined gown, hands held in front with the bouquet, and her head just slightly tilted to the side, giving her that certain coquettish look he liked. The smile on her face was dazzling and shined through even with the veil in the way.
Were it not for the sign outside, Stan was sure the crowd passing in front of the window would have thought her a real mannequin. She was perfectly motionless, perfectly beautiful, and he was very glad he owned her.
If only he knew what he wanted to do with her.
"What do you think, Barbara?" he asked her, tapping on the window slightly. The security guard over by the corner started to move forward, then saw who it was and pretended not to see Stan interfering with the living mannequin. "Would you like to stay like this for eternity? It can be arranged." He thought Barbara would make a gorgeous mannequin. On the other hand, he had been with the Club for a long time, and he had seen and used a lot of its unique department store services.
Maybe he should think of something else, something more unusual . . . like maybe what had been done to her sister Alicia, for example.
"Maybe a poodle-girl instead, eh? Or a real pony-girl, complete with saddle."
There were so many choices available to him. It was hard to decide. He already owned a number of collectibles bought from G. Limited - one in stone, two in marble, and another two in metal, chrome and bronze - and he was running out of room to display them. Besides, he wanted something more animate for Barbara, he had decided.
"Mr. Lockridge, sir?"
Stan turned. A fresh-faced casino employee wearing the Grand Facade business blazer had come up to him. He wondered where the Cirque recruited its young men. "Yes?"
"I have a message for you, sir." Stan couldnít tell if he was one of the workers on the inside or not. "A package has been delivered to your room."
"A package?" He hadnít ordered anything.
"Thatís all I know, sir." The kid shrugged and left. Stan watched him leave and thought he was probably not a part of the casinoís inner circle after all. He barely seemed old enough to be working in a casino period. Stan tapped on the window again to say good-bye to Barbara and found the nearest elevator. He got in, dug his keys out, and punched for the top floor. A few minutes later he was inside his huge custom suite and staring at what had been left for him. Damn, he thought. Itís big.
He put his fingers to his lips and whistled. Sasha the poodle-girl scampered out of the sitting room and hurried to her master. She barked joyfully, her cute little puffed tushie wagging back and forth in glee, and put her forepaws onto Stanís stomach. He laughed and felt her up, running his hands over her furred body in a way she seemed to enjoy.
She licked at his face.
A box six feet or so in height stood in the middle of the living room. It was wrapped in green and red party paper and looked like a giant Christmas present. Little gold key designs covered the paper in a pattern, and a big red ribbon was wrapped around the sides. An envelope hung beneath the bow, and after a moment Stan pulled it free.
Sasha went back on her haunches and put her face to Stanís crotch. Her hot breath warmed him down there. He shook her off while he tried to read and told her to heel. She did, though she kept panting loudly and excitedly all the same. She was a good dog.
Stan, the letter inside read. Hereís something a little extra from the management. This is brand new, and we think youíll like it. It was signed from Craig.
A richly adorned clockwork key accompanied the letter. Its head was set with heart designs in filigree.
"Something new, eh?" Stan whispered, debated for a brief second, then pulled the ribbon. He gasped when he saw what was inside. Then he began laughing, and laughing still, he reached inside, found the proper key slot, and began winding his new toy up.
Violaís eyes clicked open.
Clicked? She blinked a few times slowly, and each time the motion was accompanied by a soft clicking sound, like a small door opening or closing. It sounded . . . mechanical.
Without thinking about it, Viola moved to fifth position, feet crossed underneath her, and then gracefully slid forward out of her box in a perfectly executed glissade. She raised her arms up over her head and rose en pointe, beginning her first piourette. She heard laughter and clapping a moment later. Then she saw herself in the mirrors.
The inside of Violaís box ("her box," as she naturally thought about it) had been lined with floor-length mirrors in the back and across its unfolded front. A light gasp escaped her small, rounded mouth; it carried with it a soft scent of roses in the air. Her face was pretty, pale, and blank, yet remained undeniably her own. Dots of red rested on the china-white cheeks. Her hair, shorter now and a brilliant red, bounced up and down in sausage curls as she pivoted on the tips of her toes. Without any volition, her movements automatic, the pretty little ballerina raised her left leg en líair and into second position. She completed the fouetté and then came to a rest. Her surface expression was calm; below the surface, Viola screamed in shocked realization.
Stan kept laughing and clapping. "Oh my," he said, breathlessly. "Oh my, how darling youíve become, Viola!"
The reflection in the mirror showed a doll-like figure much younger than what Viola remembered seeing the last time. Porcelain arms with just the lightest hint of pink extended from her like colored leotard. Her brief tutu bounced around her hips, barely there, her legs strong, slim, and athletic underneath. She rose to her toe tips again - she felt more comfortable standing that way - and as Stan approached she extended one leg out to him, battement, remaining perfectly balanced with hardly any effort at all. Her eyes clicked up and down like the shutters on a coo-coo clock. In the center of her back, just below the shoulder blades, a small key slowly rotated.
They turned me into a doll! Viola exclaimed beneath her emotionless face. Or almost emotionless. Her mouth was arranged in what appeared like an almost comic moue of surprise. Try as she might, Viola found she simply could not entirely close her mouth.
Stan stroked the lovely contoured leg offered out to him. Viola felt soft, like plush, and oddly chill yet comfortably warm at the same time. The doll closed her eyes and released another flowery sigh. At his touch, a sensation had immediately built up in Viola . . . a desire, really, to remain in contact, close proximity. Her skin tingled all over, and a pleasant feeling of airiness filled her being. She couldnít help it, and she couldnít keep hold of her anger or of her fear. It was hard just to think being touched like that.
Stan let go, and Viola resumed her resting stance. He raised his hand and lightly stroked her cheek. Again, that strange desire burned inside her, stronger than before. He laughed and stood back. "Dance for me, ballerina," he commanded. "Dance for me."
Slowly, her movement mechanically precise, Viola raised her arms again and seemed to gather herself. Then, slowly, she began a chainé, a supple circle of turns while standing nearly in place, her feet lifting from side to side, her weight shifting imperceptibly. There was no thought behind the actions, no consideration of what to do or how to do it. Viola simply did. She danced, automatically, her now willowy figure dexterous and agile. It felt . . . it felt good, the dancing, fulfilling somehow. Viola couldnít understand, didnít want to understand, but she was doing something she was born to do.
No, something she was built to do.
She began slow but steadily built up speed. Within a minute her feet were flipping back and forth so quickly Stan couldnít keep up with the motion. Viola seemed almost ready to take to the air. It felt so incredibly good to dance, to be in motion after so long being cooped up in her box. Eliciting a grunt of surprise from Stan and a startled yip from Sasha, the ballerina began a sudden run across the suite floor. She remained en pointe; she barely seemed to hit the carpet at all with her fast, blinding steps. Like a dove she flittered from one end of the room to the other, dazzling Stan with her deftness. The motions, the feelings, they all felt so incredibly erotic to the new Viola. Each movement was a seduction, each gesture an aphrodisiac. A warmth settled in everywhere, and especially down there. The dance was mindlessly blissful, and Viola gave into it quickly, hardly fighting the spell at all. All the while, the same blank expression remained on her face. Not a drop of perspiration fell to disturb her pristine beauty. Stan reached out behind him, his eyes not leaving the mechanical, and sat down in the nearest chair. He watched as Viola scampered around the suite all the world as though it were a stage.
Seeing an opportunity, Viola leaped across the room at Stan and before his startled eyes jumped completely over him and his chair, her legs in a wide passé movement. She landed on the other side, spun with one foot to the floor, and hopped gracefully to a nearby footrest. Stan became aware she was singing - her mouth moved not at all, but a light, trilling symphonic noise nonetheless emerged. The sound vibrated subliminally along Stanís bones; it was entrancing, intoxicating, and he began to shift uncomfortably in his seat, suddenly and completely aroused. Sasha noticed from across the room and made a plaintive whimper, but her owner motioned for her to stay heeled.
The ballerina began a circular movement of her outstretched right leg. Viola wasnít sweating, but Stan was. Heavily. She jetéd, abruptly moving from one leg to the other, and repeated the motion. The blankness of her expression never wavered.
He had to have her.
"Stop," he managed to croak out. He snapped his fingers and pointed, and Sasha the poodle-girl whined but returned to her room.
Viola did stop, instantly, one leg raised almost vertical again to the ceiling, her arms outstretched to either side. She didnít breathe, she didnít blink, she didnít speak . . . she simply stopped, proverbially on a dime. The key in her back continued to rotate.
Stan went over to the bar and poured himself a drink. He sipped it and admired the lissome curves of his new toy. It was hard to believe this was really Viola. He waited until his heart stopped beating so fast, then, putting the drink down, he deliberately walked over to her. Her position remained unchanged and unflinching throughout the wait. So much energy was pent up inside her, though, Viola felt like she might explode.
He approached her backside and parted her tutu out of the way. Stan felt between her thighs, stroked her smooth buttocks, and felt reassured that the casino had not forgotten that one little detail. Violaís passions raced with his cool touch. He took hold of the key in her back, gripped firmly, and began twisting, winding her up again. Each revolution increased the level of desire burning inside of the doll. One - an aching need. Two - a blazing void inside her. Three - impassioned hunger tearing at her soul. Four, five - endless, glowing fervor. Each revolution was accompanied by the clockwork sound of gears being primed, potential being harnessed. He twisted until he could turn it no more. He pulled the key out and tossed it to the coffee table.
The ballerina felt very distant from her previous life.
"Straighten up," he ordered. Smoothly, mechanically, Viola responded. Were it not for the iron controls implanted deep inside her psyche, she would have torn his clothes off to get at him. She was burning up! Her need was overpowering. She had to get him inside her now or she would die!
Her face remained calm and collected. She blinked once and filled Stanís face with the scent of flowers. He lifted his hand and delicately traced around her small, open mouth.
She needed to be filled.
Her heart cracked in desperation.
Stan gripped the doll by her shoulders suddenly and pushed her down to her knees. She understood immediately, and was grateful for it. She pulled away the front of his pants, ripping the fabric apart with hardly any effort, and sank her mouth around his eager member, pushing forward until her lips met his skin again. He moaned uncontrollably, and she applied the suction both he and she so desperately required. Her mouth and throat, shaped specifically now for this select purpose, fit him perfectly. Waves of pleasure coursed through her, both from the physical act of serving and the knowledge that she was giving her customer ("Customer?") pleasure. The taste of him was so incredibly delicious. She pulled, sucked, and, to their mutual surprise, felt him spasm but not weaken in the slightest.
Neither could have known at the time some of the improvements the Prodigal had made in her Violaís chemistries, or of the performance enhancing characteristics of her lubricating saliva. This was something of a field test, after all.
After nearly twenty minutes of luxuriating in her mouth, he had to pull away from her. She couldnít be satisfied, and he was, if anything, even more primed to go after that long, delightful treatment. Stan pushed Viola to her back and clutched at her leotard, pulling it away. One sudden jab later, he was buried inside her again, each stroke producing heightened pleasures for both, blasting into the otherís mind.
She smelled of flowers all the way into her skin. Her perfume was built in. His fingers traced slow circles around her nipples, and then his mouth was on hers. She was velvet smooth everywhere, and save for the red curls of her head hairless as well. As before when she was dancing, Viola began singing to him, a shrill sound boring its way into her customerís ears. She teased him, the techniques for it coming just as automatically as her dancing skills. She stroked his belly, his legs . . . knew where to touch him and how much pressure to maintain for maximum effect. He couldnít stop . . . didnít have to stop. Lubricants in the dollís custom-built avenues provided all the staying power he ever needed, and more. Viola used that, working with her tongue and her fingers and her hair to achieve his climax over and over again. White-hot explosions burst behind her vacant eyes with every success. His pleasure was her pleasure, and she used him to satisfy her every craving. She used him until he was begging her to stop, hoping all the while that she wouldnít. He clutched at her small, delicate breasts. They clung together for hours, her body continually opening for him, his ardor constantly regenerated.
She sang for him.
After he was asleep and lying in her plastic arms, Viola tried to think about her old life. It was hard. All that came readily to mind were ballet gestures - pas de deux, plié, rond de jambe - and ways in which she might give Mr. Lockridge even more pleasure. She realized at some deep level that something had been taken away from her, but she could no longer recognize it. And besides, she had gained so much! She could never have felt this way before, she knew that much. Never before had she felt so content, so well-pleased and comforted. Itís an honor to serve, she thought, feeling so good.
Her eyes blinked. There was a click.
No, some rebellious part of her still demanded. No, youíre better than this . . . youíre not a plaything . . . . But it was an easy voice to ignore, and, after all, she was a plaything, wasnít she? Every part of her burned and craved for physical contact.
It was her function to serve and obey.
Her philosophical debate, which was steadily becoming more and more one-sided, slowed down imperceptibly, and by the time Stan woke up, the ballerinaís gears had completely run down. He pulled himself up and gazed at her. The blank stare, the open mouth, arms upraised . . . Stan couldnít decide if she made a better lovedoll or a ballerina. She could serve either way, though, and that was the important thing.
He got up and went to the bathroom. Coming back he heard Sasha scratching at her door and felt himself becoming aroused again. He debated for only a second before returning to the living room, finding the key, and winding her up again.
And they had a sensational afternoon.
Mrs. Paddock was the last to arrive for the meeting. The Dancers grew silent as she entered the private dining room and made her way slowly to the head of the long table they were all gathered around. She didnít speak for a moment. Instead, she just scrutinized each Cirque member one at a time, as if she were peering into his or her respective soul. Fourteen sets of eyes looked back, some calmly and a little arrogantly, others shyly or apprehensively. The spinster laid her cane flat on the table in front of her and carefully sat down. The tension in the air was thick enough to cut.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she said, "shalls weís get started?" There were nods all around.
The elder held little respect for these pretenders. Most of them were merely descendants of servants she and Fip and a few others had long ago taken under their wing. They had no real talent or ability, just special tools handed down to them over the centuries, items originally created for the exclusive use of the real masters of the Cirque. They were little better than the Club members who paid for their wares.
Still, they would prove useful. Every lord needs a few vassals.
"These is a momentus occasions, wot? Weís about to takes the groupís into the nexts millennium." She tittered softly to herself.
"Whereís the Prodigal?" one of them asked, an influential woman from the fashion industry. No one in authority had yet connected her with the string of mysterious disappearances from her clothing shops. Probably no one ever would.
The illusionist Warren Dire spoke. "Heís playing with a new toy, I understand." There was general laughter. The Prodigal was an idiot savant; no one expected him to contribute much anyway. He was more a mascot to the group than anything else.
Paddock hadnít even found a doll for him in the Spokesmanís vault. The good doctor had never thought him that much of a threat apparently.
"And Viola?" A few others began laughing.
"Sheís beiní played with," Paddock said softly, and the room became quiet again. She clicked her nails across the polished table, then tapped the intercom next to her seat. "Letís us deal with the other oneís. Brings Ďem in."
The door opposite her seat on the table opened, and a pair of toyboy automatons came in carrying a man wrapped in a thick yellow robe. His skin was still blue-tinged from the freezer, and tiny ice crystals could be seen in his hair. He hugged the fluffy material to him and shivered uncontrollably. His teeth chattered as he stared around the room.
"Hello, Gregor," Mrs. Paddock said. Her false teeth gleamed.
The toyboys dumped the former casino manager at the foot of the table. He moaned, and the other junior Cirque members looked at each other nervously. Their eyes went everywhere except to the man in front of them. Paddock was making a point here, they all knew. Gregorís mistake had not really been all that serious compared to some of the things they had done, but if she could do this to him, then naturally she could do it to others. There was no mistake as to who was in charge now.
"Please," Gregor begged. "Iíll do anything. Just donít . . . donít do anything to me." He wiped at his eyes. "It was all Violaís idea," he added meekly.
"And sheís beiní reduced for its." Paddock leaned forward in her seat. "Just as youseíll be. I just wantsís the others to sees you nows, youseís pathetic thiní." She gestured, and the toyboys stepped up behind Gregor and lifted him to his feet again. Her eyes met those of the groupís. "Is there anyoneís here want to disputee his sentence?"
The Dancers received another view of her teeth. There were a few nervous rustles, but not one of them spoke up.
It was really too bad for Gregor.
Paddock had kind of liked him.
The customer took his drink and dropped a dollar bill on Gailís tray. She smiled at him and, bidden by the Controllers still out of sight beneath her brief uniform, performed a subtle curtsy in his honor. The motion was not yet automatic, and it wouldnít be until after she was programmed. Compared to her fellow cocktail waitresses, Gail performed the movement clumsily. The guy playing blackjack really didnít notice any difference, though. He simply went back to the table spread out in front of him and forgot her.
Holding her tray carefully in front of her, Gail navigated her way through the narrow corridor formed by the card tables. Most were occupied by the typically dismal looking poker players or blackjack fanatics. She looked around to see if anyone else would hail her for a drink before she got back to the change booth, and no one did. Everyone was too busy gambling. Whether they were putting their money coin after coin into the slots, laying it down in chips at the roulette wheel, or giving it over in tens and twenties to the gentlemen in the sportís book, they were all so intent on their business that eating and drinking were at best secondary propositions. It was the same in all the big casinos, Gail had found. It was remarkable how similar they all were in the end. Even the Grand Facade, for all its strange and sinister ways, fit the usual pattern. Most of the people who came to Las Vegas couldnít care less about Hollywood icons or Roman furnishings or medieval knights jousting for their amusement. They were there to gamble, period. Everything else was ignored.
Gail had been in Vegas for three years. She didnít find anything unusual in the fact that no one had noticed what the Facade was doing behind its closed doors. Provided they didnít cheat the customers, she imagined they could have started transforming people in the middle of the casino floor and still have gotten away with it.
A keno girl, dressed similarly to her, but with an even blanker expression on her face, passed by without a word. Gail got to the central change cage and exchanged her money with the worker inside. She dropped her tip in the slot provided. It was there solely for effect, just like so many other things at the Grand Facade were. Gail knew she would never see any cash from her job there; the showgirls and cocktail waitresses, at a minimum, were less employees of the casino than they were the casinoís property. It was just an exaggeration of what was otherwise part of the pervasive atmosphere of Las Vegas. What the other casinos just pretended to do, the Grand Facade did.
There was practically no difference at all.
"Gail." She turned and saw the floor manager standing there. He too had a fairly blank expression on his face; Gail wondered how many employees at the Facade were drones or merely just blind to what was going on around them. "Your shiftís over. Report to your next station."
Gail curtsied (Damn those . . . wonderful Controllers, she thought), and, guided by pleasuring pulses, went unerringly to the waitressesí changing room. It was set off on of the numerous utility corridors branching from the main casino floor. She opened the door and walked in. Aside from the central mirror along one wall and the cosmetic trays lined underneath it, the room was featureless. Soft muzak filled the air. Rows of simple plastic chairs lined the two side walls. Seated on them were the cocktail waitresses themselves, vacant faces staring dreamily forward. They said nothing, did nothing. A few had mild smiles, but that was it. One of them stood up when Gail came in and went out, presumably to take her place out on the floor. Gail found the nearest open seat and sat down. The Controllers began making slow, rolling pulses . . . very relaxing, incredibly fine, and alone among the women in that room, Gailís eyes fluttered in ecstasy. They felt the same thing, of course, but they were programmed.
Gail felt no hunger, no thirst, nor any other physical need. Her body, if not her mind, had been processed earlier. She didnít even feel tired.
All she did feel was pleasure, mounting slowly, endlessly.
It was a fine break.
When the Cirque told Gregor Andolin what they were going to turn him into, he screamed and tried to run away. The toyboys still had a hold of him, though, and lifted him up by his arms. They took him away. A machine was already waiting.
Paddock was disappointed none of the other major players had shown up for her meeting, but that was all right. She still had their dolls, and they would learn to cooperate, eventually. Let them think they were too big for her. In the meantime, she had the support of the Cirqueís bit players, and that was enough for a start. After Gregorís departure, they discussed what direction they would go in the next hundred years. Paddock told them her plans. Some of them shuddered, but more than a few liked what they heard, their eyes gleaming in anticipation.
The Grand Facade was only a start. The real empire had yet to be founded.
Another break for Barbara was called in the late afternoon. The platform came down, and the two maids carefully removed her slip dress. Instead of immediately redressing her, one of them told Barbara where the rest room was and gave her the appropriate instructions. The collar she wore prevented all voluntary motions and many involuntary ones as well; the relief Barbara felt almost washed away the anger she experienced at being so totally humiliated. She was given several minutes to refresh herself.
As she looked at herself in the mirror, Barbara couldnít help but think of how far she had fallen. She had been a prominent attorney once. It was a great law firm she had worked for. Such were the pains of her immediate situation, though, if not physical pain perhaps, then emotional, that she couldnít quite put a name to that great law firm.
Her eyes frowned. The collar wouldnít permit her face to.
Where did I work? she asked herself. For the life of her, she couldnít remember. It was like one of those things on the tip of your tongue - she knew it, but she didnít. She feared she was losing her mind. She couldnít even remember the name of that important client she had had before making this trip with Stan and the others. It was troublesome.
Barbara washed her hands and came back out into the dressing room. She had loved her sisters, too, once, but they could no longer remember her. They had been turned into toys, and their minds were too simple now to appreciate more complex thoughts.
Instead of telling her to mount the platform again, the maid in charge told Barbara to follow her. Helplessly, she did so, walking the inner corridors of the Grand Facade clad only in satin pumps, white hose, garters, and panties. The people they passed paid little attention to this marvel. It was not an uncommon sight to them, and despite the sheer awfulness of her situation, Barbara felt somehow they should be paying more attention to her, not treating her so cavalierly. It was . . . it was impolite, to say the least.
Oh, God, she thought. I am losing my mind.
She and the maid went up in a private elevator to the top floor. The level was so exclusive, it was all but deserted. No one saw Barbara or cared as she was directed to go to a certain door and knock. Her sister Sami opened the door.
Oh, Sami! Barbara tried to say, but her voice was as deeply controlled as the rest of her.
Stanís new maid looked at the woman standing there with no recognition in her eyes at all. "Come in, please," was all she said, and Barbara walked in. She had no choice.
"Hi, Barb," Stan called from over by the couch. Sasha the poodle-girl was servicing him on her fluffy-white knees, her poofed tail fluttering in the air in front of Barbara, and try as she might, she could not turn her head to avoid the grotesque sight. "Iíll be with you in just a moment." Stan closed his eyes and let himself be taken away.
A large, multicolored box stood open near the sofa. The insides of it were mirrored, and they reflected a view of Stan and the soft creature who had once been Alicia Carter that Barbara Carter could have done without. Standing nearby the box was a life-size mechanical doll . . . a lithe, exquisitely beautiful ballerina. It took several moments for Barbara to recognize that the doll had Viola Andolinís face. It was younger and more heavily made-up, but it was definitely her. Viola stood there as silently as Barbara herself did. She was bent forward partially at the waist, her derriere sticking up attractively in the air. A small key stood motionless in the middle of her back.
Sasha yipped cheerfully when her master was finished. He grunted in primitive satisfaction, and she began licking softly around his waist to ensure he was completely clean. He put his hand to the top of her furred head and scratched behind her ears.
She wagged her tail ever more eagerly.
"Itís been a helluva day, hasnít it, Barb?" Stan took a towel offered him from Sami and dried his brow. "You wouldnít believe me, but Iíve run the equivalent of a marathon today, I think." Finished, he tossed the towel back to the maid and roughly pushed his dog-girl out of the way. He walked up to Viola completely unclothed. He was flabby, hairy, and disgusting, and again Barbara wished with all her might that she could just turn her head and look away. But she couldnít.
Stan patted Viola on the ass. "Recognize her?" he asked Barbara, and she was forced to nod in reply. "She was good. I mean . . . she was really good today." He reached around and took the key out of her back, then walked over to where Barbara stood.
He dangled the key in front of her eyes.
"Itís too bad I canít keep her like I am you and your sisters, but," he said smiling, ". . . I think Iíve finally decided on what your new look is gonna be like."
Stan playfully reached around and poked Barbara in the back with the key.
"I think the hole should go right around here."