Jessica counted herself lucky… relieved and very lucky. She was at work and back to being and adult again. Mostly. She still had the stupid pacifier in her mouth that it seemed she could only do without for so long… as long as she was around other people. When she was alone she couldn’t seem to go without the darn thing again. She was stuck in wet diapers still and had no idea in the world when she was going to wet them. She was still worried about what would happen when she needed to mess them as well. She hadn’t had to deal with that today yet at all… but she knew she would eventually. But at least she could think and communicate and do everything else perfectly… as long as she wasn’t home and was working. She dreaded what would happen after work again – but she also knew there would be no avoiding it.
She had woken up after sleeping on the floor… again. She couldn’t blame her sister for leaving her there, besides, if she had somehow made it into her bed, she might have fallen out of it. Not to mention how nasty her bed would be if her diaper leaked. Her brain had come a bit more back to life after she had woken up. The only thing on her mind then had been getting ready for work. After crawling into the bathroom, she discovered that she was able to stand again once she got there. Her balance seemed to get better the longer she continued to get ready for work. By the time she managed to get out the door, she felt almost human again… human, but wearing diapers and unable to remove the stupid pacifier from her mouth. She had packed a bag full of baby supplies to get her through the day.
As soon as she had gotten to work, she had met with her staff. She had told them all that she might be acting a bit… off… for a few weeks, but they shouldn’t worry about it. She had also decreed that any calls from a Roger or Candy Brinkley should be handled as quickly and as politely as possible. She had told everyone that he… or she… was to be treated like royalty by everyone. Anytime he wanted to come was just fine. Arrangements would be made to take care of him. And as soon as he got to the office, he was to be taken to an exam room right away and that she needed to be notified. Her staff was quizzical as to why, but she told them to just do it and not worry about the whys. By the time that little meeting ended, she had to get back to the privacy of her office to spend five minutes sucking on her pacifier again.
As soon as she had been able, she phoned her sister and thanked her for taking care of her all weekend. Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell her exactly what had happened to her last week, other than it was going to last for two weeks like she had already explained Friday night while she had been driving around. She promised she would make it all up to her… somehow. But for now, she still needed all the help she could get. Her sister hadn’t been very polite in the things she had to say back. Jessica couldn’t blame her at all.
With that phone call taken care of, she spent a few more minutes sucking on her pacifier, readying herself to go and meet with her first patient of the day.
Susan knocked on her father’s office door.
“Come in, daughter,” Mr. Wu called.
Susan opened the door and entered. “Welcome back father,” she said as she closed the door behind her. “Did you have a good trip?”
“Very successful,” Wu replied as he got up from behind his desk and headed for the sitting area in his office. He motioned for his daughter to take a seat.
They discussed business for a few minutes, before Susan said, “I had a chance to witness Janice Stokley in action.”
That earned a raised eyebrow from her father. “And?” he asked.
“She relented and decided to do a woman this time… at her request. It seemed, the woman in question really angered her.”
Wu nodded. “That is surprising, given her penchant for supporting women and not liking men. But still, how did it go?”
Susan took in a deep breath and let it out before answering. “It was… amazing!”
Wu smiled. “How quickly do you think you can learn her methods?”
Susan shook her head. “I don’t think there’s another person on the planet who can do what she does.”
“That is… unfortunate,” replied Wu.
“Yes,” Susan agreed. “I have video of all of it. You can watch it if you like, but I strongly warn you to view no more than a few minutes of it at a time… and even then, have someone else to make sure you’re not watching too closely.”
“I had one of our tech men sit and watch one of the videos. I left him and came back forty minutes later. He was almost as mesmerized as the woman Janice was working with. I myself was feeling some of the same affects the night she did it. If it wasn’t for her daughter snapping me out of it, I don’t know what might have happened.”
Wu thought about that for a moment. “It sounds… quite powerful.”
“It is,” Susan agreed. “But I think we’re missing an opportunity to make far more money with her than we thought.”
“Oh?” Wu said again, clearly interested.
“She plants the ability in their minds to make them do whatever she wants, and also fixes it so they can’t tell anyone what she doesn’t want them to ever say. We could sell that ability alone to customers who would only want someone with certain knowledge to either totally forget it, or to never be able to mention it to anyone else again.”
Wu considered that. “Yes, I can see where that could be quite… lucrative. And if she is indeed the only one who can do this, then I am even more glad we didn’t kill her.”
Susan nodded. “She could be a huge asset.”
“We must make sure though that the asset belongs to us, and us only,” Wu said.
“Of course, father. I’ve already thought of that.”
“Good! Any other news?”
“Only that I questioned Halifax. The report is on the computer for you to see when you get to it.”
“Thank you daughter. I will be sure to look through it as always. And is your… pet, once again your pet?”
“For now,” she replied. “I’m afraid that Xiang and I are now in the process of changing his situation.”
Wu smiled knowing his daughter’s often cruel interests. And that didn’t even bring into play the interests of Xiang that he was also very familiar with.
Janice drove slowly past Ted Jacob’s house. She never stopped her car or slowed down too much, but her eyes tried to grab everything she could possibly see about the house. She continued on to the end of the block and turned the corner, seeming as if she was just passing through on her way to somewhere else.
As good as the pictures were that Susan had sent, they were nothing like seeing everything in person. And they weren’t as good as what she had been able to pull up on Google Earth either. That had been most helpful. As she drove, her hand reached down into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. She turned the corner, and stopped for a moment since there was no other traffic on the residential street. She set her camera on video and rolled the windows down in her car. She started driving and videoing everything she could see – on the street behind Jacob’s house. She turned the corner, went to the next block, and turned again back onto the street where Jacobs lived. Once again she drove past his house, this time videoing his side of the street. Again she never stopped, she just kept going and turned the corner. She drove until she found a small parking lot where she pulled in and parked. She spent a while reviewing the recordings she had just made. She put her phone in camera mode to take some still shots, then she again started with the street behind his house, taking picture after picture of everything she could from that angle – before going back to his street to do the same thing.
Only then, did she head home. She had been there and seen it all in person. Now she had to decide on the next step. But she already had a good idea of what that step was going to be. All the way home, she thought more about Jacobs and what she would need to do, than what she would be making for dinner that night… which she also needed to think about.
After school, Roger didn’t even get a chance to get into his room to change before Janice came to him. “Mr. Brinkley,” she said to get his attention.
“Yes?” Roger asked.
Janice held out a piece of paper. “Here is the phone number of the doctor’s office we were at last week. Please call them immediately and make yourself another appointment. See if you can get in tomorrow if possible.”
That surprised Roger. “Are you sure? It didn’t sound like she wanted us back last week.”
“I wouldn’t be telling you to make the appointment if I had any doubts about it. I think you’ll find that the doctor has had a sudden change of heart.” With that, she turned and headed back to the kitchen to continue making dinner for her daughter and… Candy.
Since Janice had told him to call immediately, Roger’s phone was quickly in his hand and he dialed the number on the sheet. “Yes… hello. My name is Roger Brinkley and…”
“Oh yes, Mr. Brinkley,” the receptionist on the phone replied. “The doctor said to expect your call. You can come anytime you like. We have standing orders to work you in immediately.”
Roger was surprised. “You do?”
“That’s what the doctor said. Are you coming today?”
“Um… no, I don’t think so. Um… would it be possible for me to come in sometime late tomorrow afternoon instead.”
“Of course. As I said, we’ll work you in whenever you like.”
“Okay then. Most likely, I guess I’ll be there sometime tomorrow. I can’t leave here until after school, and then it’s going to take me about an hour and a half to get there, so it will be late in the afternoon before I can get there.”
“That’s fine, Mr. Brinkley. We’ll be expecting you.”
Roger hung up the phone. They would work him in anytime he liked? It seemed that the doctor did indeed have a sudden change of heart. And he could only think of one reason for such a reaction. Janice! He remembered the little trip she and Carol had made last Friday night. Where did they go? Did Janice meet with Doctor Parker? He was suddenly betting on it. But he also remembered Janice mentioning pictures being taken. That didn’t sound like what he would have thought had happened. Bottom line, he just didn’t know… but he was still betting that Janice had a lot to do with the doctor’s change of heart. He headed for the kitchen to tell Janice about his upcoming appointment.
It was shortly after dinner when Roger was startled by his cell phone ringing. Hoping it was someone calling with another job for him, he rushed to grab his phone and answer it. “Hello?”
“Yes,” the voice on the other end replied. “Is this… Candy?”
It felt like an electric shock running from the top of his head down to his toes to be called Candy on the phone. “Yes,” he replied hesitantly.
“We met at Cass’s party yesterday. I’m calling about the damage to my house that I’m hoping you can fix for me.”
Roger now remembered it clearly. “Oh yes!” he replied happily. “You said a tree fell on it.” Three minutes later, he ended the call and went to find Janice. She and Carol were still in the kitchen working on dishes together. “I got a call for another job,” Roger replied.
“Wonderful,” Janice exclaimed as she dried one of the pots that Carol had just washed.
“This one came from someone I met at the party yesterday. When she called, she asked for Candy.”
Janice smiled broadly. “I think that’s a very good sign. Don’t you?”
Roger wasn’t sure about that at all. Instead of replying to it, he said, “At the party, several people mentioned that they wanted one of my business cards, but I don’t have any. All I could do was to hand out my phone number.”
“Don’t worry your head one little bit about that,” Janice exclaimed. “I’ll handle that little chore for you myself.”
Roger nodded. “Yeah, I remember you mentioning your idea for the cards when Stan and Jennifer were here.”
“And it looks like you’ve already reached the point where you need those cards. I can’t tell you how pleased I am by that.”
Roger only nodded again. “Yeah. Thanks,” he replied… although he said it somewhat disheartened. As he walked away, all he could think about was that it felt like another major change had just happened to his life… when he wasn’t looking.
“It’s time for Ben-ben to be human.”
Halifax’s body went from a dog sitting position to writhing on the floor as his human brain tried to kick in again. As his senses started to register things, he found himself on the concrete floor, this time surrounded by several of the very large oriental men. His eyes didn’t miss the oriental woman either. It was a moment before he could dredge up her name. Susan Wu!
Before he had time for any other reaction the men were on him. He was quickly pushed face-down into the floor where the goons held him fast, nearly crushing him into the concrete. He felt someone grab his right leg. He kicked it free, only to have it captured again and held all too firmly. He kicked with his other leg, but someone grabbed it and held it out of the way.
He felt, whoever was holding his right leg bending it back at the knee, bringing the lower part of his leg all too firmly up against the upper part. He felt some struggling as someone was doing something, then he felt a strap of some sort being tightened around his bent leg, holding it in that position so he couldn’t straighten it. He desperately tried to struggle, but all his efforts were in vain.
His right leg was released from their grip and he immediately felt someone bending his left leg the same way. He struggled again, but his body had less now to struggle with. Faster than before, he felt his left leg strapped as well. But it seemed that whoever was binding his legs wasn’t finished yet as he felt him moving between his legs. He heard someone speaking something he couldn’t understand… Chinese most likely. Then he suddenly felt whoever was behind him pushing down hard on his bent right leg, crushing the two halves of his leg together. He screamed in pain as the straps binding the leg were tightened firmly again. Despite the size of his calf muscle, he could literally feel the heel of that foot touching the top of his leg just under his butt. And once that leg was done and secured just that tight, his left leg was crushed and fastened the same way.
Whoever was behind him moved away. He heard unintelligible words commanded, and the men holding him all too tightly released him. Halifax struggled, but even with his arms free, with his legs painfully bound as they were, he couldn’t move much at all. He tried to look around. His eyes locked on the woman. Her gaze scared him. “What do you want?” he screamed in fear. But all he saw was the woman ignoring his question and turning to talk with someone else… another man he now noticed. And the sight of that man made his blood run cold. It was the same man who had tortured him before. The same one who had taken such delight in ripping out his fingernails. Was he the one who had bent his legs so cruelly? He had no doubt that it was.
“Are you done?” Susan asked Xiang in Chinese.
“Yes,” Xiang assured her. “You can string him up now.”
Susan gave the command to her guards and they grabbed Halifax’s hands and pulled them forward. They bound his wrists together with strong rope and attached a hook from his bound hands to a chain hanging from the ceiling. Another of the guards pushed a button on the wall, and the winch slowly began raising Halifax’s arms… and eventually his entire body off the floor until he was hanging waist high in midair.
Xiang went over to the helpless man and examined the bindings on his legs again. Satisfied, he picked up a steel bar from the floor. Motioning to one of the guards to help him, he began tying the bar just above Halifax’s bent knees, spreading his legs as wide as he possibly could… rendering him totally helpless to move his legs in anyway at all.
Susan handed him a wide strip of very thin leather. He wrapped it around Halifax’s leg, just at the thinnest part of the ankle which was now pressed firmly into the largest part of his leg, further binding that area together. The leather was held together with a simple piece of tape. Another piece of leather was attached the same way to Halifax’s left leg as well.
“What are you doing?” Halifax asked in fear. But as before, he was ignored. His arms and especially his wrists hurt badly from supporting all his weight as he hung in the air.
Xiang double checked his preparations, then turned to Susan. “We are ready,” he said.
Susan turned to another Chinese man who had been seated in the back of the room waiting for Halifax to be readied. He got up from his seat and went over to inspect what had been done. With a nod of satisfaction… not that it would have mattered anyway… he went to the far wall where he picked up a steel bar from the floor. The piece of steel was a quarter inch thick. Not strong enough for some tasks, but far more than would be needed for this one.
Grabbing his hammer, the man set the bar on an anvil and began pounding on it. The quarter inch steel gradually gave way under the powerful blows of his hammer, and little by little a u-shaped curve was formed in the bar. He brought the steel over to Halifax and measured it against his leg where the leather had been wrapped. Then he carried it back to his anvil to continue working. It took a long time, but eventually the steel was shaped to where he needed it. Then he built another piece matched against Halifax’s other leg.
“What are you doing?” Halifax kept asking, his arms and wrists in such pain that he nearly passed out from the strain. But his questions were always ignored. His legs had gone numb from the lack of circulation in them. That too was its own torture.
Eventually, the man put down his hammer and nodded toward Susan who had been watching in the background. “I am ready,” he announced.
“Go ahead,” Susan told him as she approached Halifax.
The sweat was streaming down off of Joseph Halifax’s head as he watched Susan Wu approaching him. The questions he had eternally asked and gotten no answers for died on his lips. Her words were the first English words he had heard since he had woken up.
“You had my best friend in the world killed, Mr. Halifax,” Susan said. For that, I could have easily had you killed as well… and very painfully I might add. But I’m afraid that killing you for it would be too easy. Escaping into death wouldn’t bring you the amount of suffering I want you to endure for what you’ve done.
“You’ll notice that your legs have been bound back,” she said. “As the first part of your punishment, I’m depriving you of the use of your legs. But I’m not going to have them simply cut off. I don’t want anyone to look at you and feel that kind of sympathy for you whatsoever because you can’t walk since your legs are missing. No. Instead, I’ve arranged for something else. You’ll always be able to see your legs. You’ll always be able to feel them. They’re always going to be there. You will simply never be able to use them again.
“I will make sure there will be no sympathy for you Mr. Halifax. None at all!”
With that, she nodded to the man with the steel in his hands and stepped back out of the way.
The man with the steel pulled the specially shaped piece around Halifax’s leg. He had one of the guards hold it in place right over the thinnest part of Halifax’s ankle. The steel band, like the strip of leather, wrapped all the way around both parts of his leg. The man grabbed a clamp from his working supplies and with it, began tightening the steel band until both ends of it met right at the center of the inside of Halifax’s bent leg. The steel was even tighter than the straps used to bind his legs and Halifax screamed at the added pain.
The man left the clamp in place to hold the ends of the steel together. He went back to his tools and grabbed a helmet, and gloves. He adjusted the valve on a large tank and walked back over to Halifax with his welding equipment.
Halifax began screaming as he saw the welding equipment. But as with everything else, nobody paid the least bit of attention to his screams. Chained and bound as he was, there was no way he could defend himself… no way he could get away or even move enough to prevent what he knew was now inevitable. The pain he felt in his wrists and shoulders from hanging in the air, was soon nothing compared to the sudden awful heat as the metal, wrapped all too tightly around his leg, heated up as the ends were welded together… permanently. He was still screaming in pain as the man finished… and grabbed the second piece of steel to bind his other leg the same way.
Ten minutes later, the deed was done. The man took his equipment back over toward the wall, and Xiang and Susan moved in close to inspect his work. The welds were flawless… as Susan expected they would be.
Xiang removed the tape holding the leather together, and began the difficult process of removing the leather out from under the steel bands. The leather had helped protect Halifax’s legs from burning too badly. What burns he had been left with would heal… eventually.
With the leather finally pulled free, they could see that the steel bands were tight enough to almost cut cruelly into Halifax’s flesh. Even with time and some degree of muscle degeneration, those bands would forever hold his legs in their unrelenting grip.
Satisfied, Susan had her guards lower Halifax to the floor where he passed out as soon as his arms no longer had to bear the strain of his body being suspended for so long. The guards pulled him into the little cell and locked the door. The room was cleared of tools and cleaned long before Halifax awoke.