Monday, January 25, 2010
"First time?" asked the young girl in the tight silver Scirocco costume. I smiled at her and nodded.
"I thought so," she said, tossing off a healthy laugh. "My name is Miranda. If you don't mind my saying though, you seem a bit old for a costume player."
"Well," I stammered. "I'm Athena. I've always been fascinated by superheroes; but more on the fringe of my mind. But then one showed up in my home town recently and..."
"You're from Queen City?" she asked. I nodded.
"You have a good start on a White Owl costume," she said. "But the judges will look for detail and flash. How well do PORTRAY her? What little details are you missing?"
"What do you mean," I asked, suddenly self conscious that someone was studying me that intently. She stepped back a moment and and spread her arms.
"Look here," she said. "Scirocco is dazzling and fast. Its hard to get all the details of her costume right? But I've captured the silvery spandex, the little speed lines, and and here..." She pointed to her belt. "Most cosplayers show this as a solid blue band. But Scirocco has a sense of humor. As you see its a lightning bolt--or a..."
"A blue streak," I finished. I remembered Scirocco mentioning it to me when she mentored me during monitor duty. It was indeed a small detail, and I was impressed that this young woman had picked up on it. I found myself wishing some of the grad students I worked with on digs were as meticulous.
"Now take your costume," she continued. "White Owl has this all white leotard, like yours. But it's bulletproof. Yours is made of some silky fiber, so its not all that authentic. And I think you could have done more with your hair, to make it look like hers. But still its a fantastic start."
Miranda spotted another friend and said, "See you at the contest, Athena!" I smiled and waved as well. Two older teenage boys spotted me and said, "Smile White Owl!" I struck a tae kwon do pose and smiled. They laughed and shot a snapshot.
I was feeling excited. I hadn't realized looking like...well me...could be so different. I mean, I AM White Owl. And I am Athena too. But usually in this costume, well, Athena was left behind--it was almost like another aspect of myself jumped out. But it felt weird to be Athena and in costume.
I almost missed Virgil's show, but I stood in the background and listened to his talk. It was solid, gracious, warm and heartfelt. Virgil...Captain Valiant, was well received but the crowd was respectful. He posed for a picture or two on stage, then signed autographs for a long time. I saw the autograph rules... No more than two items, no personalizations, no skin. Seemed to make perfect sense to me. I paid the extra $10 and slipped into line. We moves swiftly forward and fifteen minutes later, I saw Virgil look up at me.
"Hi! Can I get a photo?" I asked. "I understand we're an item." I dangled a digital camera and smiled.
"I'm sorry ma'am but I can't. White Owl is a very jealous woman, as I'm sure you've heard." He took my photo and signed in a strong hand, "Heroically yours, Captain Valiant." I smiled and thanked him then made my way to the main ballroom for the costume contest.
What a sea of heroes villains and other assorted people there were in that room! I spotted at least ten White Owls, not counting myself, a few Sciroccos (Miranda's was the best costume) Pink Pussycats, Frosty Freds, Buffoons, and in the strangest twist, men and women dressed in some very stylish (and revealing) versions of Captain Valiant's outfit. The MC was funny and the judges tried hard to keep the contest moving. Several of the costumed people had acts and moves that coincided with their costumes. I looked up and down the line, and spotted one White Owl with blond hair, another with curly reddish hair. The woman with the curls looked familiar, then I placed her as having been at the dinner club the previous night with the Gentleman Bandit.
I kept my eye on her through the contest. She was several places ahead of me, and when she got on stage she announced, "I am White Owl, the worst heroine in the Guild. I get captured and have to wait for someone to get me free...and no one really likes me. Captain Valiant just thinks I'm easy." The voice and cadence were Midwestern and I suddenly realized...
"Melody!" I shouted, before I could stop myself. The girl on stage stopped and looked in my direction. She shrieked when she saw me then flung herself off stage, running out of the ballroom. I took off after her, at a sprint; but by the time I got to the door, she had been swallowed up in a heavy convention crowd.
I stayed away from the contest after that. I didn't want anyone to identify me, or to give away my identity. Later that night, back in his penthouse, I told Virgil what had happened.
"Are you sure it was Melody?" he asked, concern in his voice.
"Absolutely," I said. "Every gesture, every nuance in her voice screamed Melody to me. I'm afraid I gave myself away by calling her name."
"But did she see your id tag? Or anything like that?"
I shook my head. "I don't think so. I didn't spot her until we were in line at the contest, and she was several places ahead of me." I pummeled my forehead with my knuckles. "I should have realized last night, but her carriage was so different."
"Don't go there Athena," he said. "Remember, there is no such thing as 'what might have been.'"
I smiled at him. "I know. And thanks."
"Care to patrol with me tonight?" he asked.
"I don't think I should. I already have Melody suspecting I'm in town. It wouldn't do to confirm her suspicions. I'll just stay here with Sterling, if you don't mind."
Virgil nodded and a moment later he was gone. Sterling and I sat together in the study, playing chess and talking. Sterling was good at both.
The next morning, Virgil drove me to the airport, and saw me to the security area where we said our goodbyes. "Don't be surprised if I show up next weekend, cara mia," said Virgil. "Now that you know my deep dark secret, I can browse the Queen City Supercon for more collectibles. I got a really good deal on Techno's hoverdisk. Maybe I can get his Visor next."
"That's not funny!" I said. I kissed him and went through security, with no problems. I boarded my plane and flew west, depressed and concerned. But the flight was uneventful and Daisy was glad to see me when I walked through the door. She chased me to the kitchen, and I put down a can of food for her. She took two bites and purred, then rubbed my legs in gratitude.
Monday found me back at the museum, and to the surprise of Director Chatterjee, I stayed all week, even volunteering to help with the class from the Riverside Academy. The week went fast, and crime seemed to be standing still. I couldn't find any word about Melody. All the chatter in the streets dealt more with the Buffoon or the Glow Worm.
On Tuesday, I met with Josh briefly, and accepted the invitation. Or in his terminology, confirmed my appearance. By Thursday I was exhausted and dropped into bed early, wondering if Virgil was going to come. The answer to that was found Friday morning in an e-mail.
"Athena. I have had an unexpected business matter come up and will be unable to attend. I'm sure you'll wow the crowd, and it will be out of this world. Call me Monday or Tuesday and let me know how it went. Virgil"
I guessed (then confirmed with the Guild) that Captain Valiant was off planet for the weekend. I steeled my nerve and prayed for the best.
(to be continued)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
"C'mon White Owl," said Josh Bailey, my new publicist. "Its about your image; your brand recognition. You're hot among that demographic, and you really should go and show your appreciation..."
I cut him off there. Josh was everything Melody had been and more. Good looking, efficient, and hard working. But he also had a close circle of friends away from work and a slightly jaded way of looking at the world.
"Look," I said. "I'm a crime fighter, not a rock star. I don't do endorsements, or open trade shows, or pose for posters, or give media interviews. So why would I do an appearance at the Queen City Supercon?"
"Because that's your biggest group of fans. Even the police have mixed opinions of you. These people ADORE you. Don't you think you deserve a little positive feedback after all you give? And it's not like you don't do public appearances at all. What about the Children's Hospital Telethon last year?"
I sighed, trying to hide the sorrow of that night. "That was for Charity, Josh," I said. I squeezed my left arm, unconsciously, remembering the terror as Melody broke it that night.
"But that's the best part White Owl," Josh gestured wildly. "You'll be there! The Supercon can charge an extra admission for your appearance, and all of that money will go to the Burns Unit at Children's Hospital."
At the mention of the Burn unit, I felt my final resistance crumbling. "What would I have to do?"
Josh beamed with victory in his eyes. "Fly in, pose for pictures with fans, sign a few autographs, answer a few questions. Maybe ninety minutes of your life, and you're out."
I held up a gloved hand. "That's all good, except for personal photos. I want all cameras and cell phones checked at the door. I can provide photos. I don't need someone trying to use a flash ray device to try and control my mind."
"Lighten up, will you? We're not setting up a police state, White Owl. Security is already pretty tight at these things as it is, and you;ll be in a secure zone for your show. Haven't you ever gone to a comic book show?"
"No," I replied tersely. "It seems a bit--well geeky--to me. And I can't see anyone else in the Guild being caught at one."
"Are you KIDDING?" asked Josh. "Yes its a big Geek Show. But it's also fun! You'll see people dressed like Valiant, Danger Woman, and all the rest of you. As for the Guild, well, Danger Woman is a regular at the Supercon in Atlanta, and Captain Valiant will be making an appearance at EmpireCon this weekend.
My eyes widened. "Oh really?"
"Oh yeah, and the audiences LOVE them." Josh looked at his Rolex. "Wow! I need to get back to the office. Look, I don't have to know today; so you still have time to decide. Get back to me by say--Wednesday next week?" Josh stood up and extended his hand. I shook it and thanked him, then headed out into the sunshine of a Queen City January.
I flew home thinking Josh may have been right. Had I been shunning the people I protected? I had felt that I needed to be aloof, as an additional way to keep the citizens safe. In some ways I felt announcing my appearances was to paint a big target on the venue--in this case the Expo Center. It was a tough decision, so as I landed and got inside, I called Virgil for his take.
"Tell you what, Athena," he said. "Why don't you come out Friday and spend the weekend with me? You can be my guest at EmpireCon."
"As White Owl? Don't be silly--I wouldn't want to steal your thunder."
"No, as Athena and Virgil. When you get here Friday, I'll have to let you in on a deep dark secret of my dual identity. Only the Butler knows about it--so I'll have to swear you to secrecy."
"My word of honor Mr. Coleman. How does one dress for a Supercon?"
"Well if it's your first one, jeans, tee shirt and comfortable shoes. You don't have to look too nerdy. Unless you WANT to do the costume competition."
"That sounds like it might be fun!" I said. I wonder if I could pull off White Owl?"
"We'll see," laughed Virgil. "See you Friday."
Friday morning, I flew out of Queen City and landed two hours later in Empire. Virgil met me at the terminal and whisked me to his Porsche. We dined at the Coleman foundation, and took the elevator to the Penthouse on top of the building.
"Stirling! I'm home. And I've brought company." A slender but well-toned man in a butler's uniform stepped from the hallway and smiled.
"It's delightful to see you again, Ms Nikos," said Stirling. He stroked his mustache and harrumphed at Virgil. Taking my weekend case, he said. "I've put you in the green bedroom, Ms Nikos. As you recall..."
"It has a communicating door, with mine," finished Virgil. "You really shouldn't have, Stirling."
"But you're always so glad I did, sir."
I smiled at the two of them. Stirling knew his master's secret, and was pretty certain of mine. Not that I was worried, he was as loyal as the day was long. I followed Stirling to the green room and watched as he carefully unpacked my bag. "Will there be anything else, ma'am?"
"No thank you Stirling. I have work to do tonight."
"I hope not," said Virgil. "Because I had an evening of dining and dancing planned."
"But it's a grant proposal for a dig this summer," I protested. "I need to get it in."
"The Coleman Foundation will underwrite you, never fear." he said. "I have a little pull with the board."
I melted in his arms again. "All right, you win."
We spent Friday night in an exclusive restaurant, and I was amazed by the powerful men and women, on both sides of the law, who were in attendance. After he led me to the dance floor I hissed, "Is this a working dinner?"
"Yes, to an extent," said Virgil. He nodded over my shoulder, then spun me gently. I gasped when I saw the Gentleman Bandit dancing elegantly (how else?) with a woman with long rusty hair. She seemed familiar somehow, but I couldn't place her.
"The Bandit has a new trick," said Virgil. "He's been seen at several recent crime scenes with a woman no one can remember." Usually, he's seen the night before. But the crimes bear his hallmarks, without any other evidence of his being there."
"That woman? Is she?"
"Yes, she seems to be his latest moll. I haven't seen her up close yet. And no one in the Guild seems to know her. I think she's someone new on the scene. And probably nothing to worry about."
We spent the rest of the night dancing, then upon arrival at the Coleman Foundation, Stirling showed me to my room with the bed already turned down. I smiled at him and found out the communicating doors still worked. I felt bad to not take advantage of Stirling's handiwork, but Virgil's handiwork was every bit as good.
Saturday morning broke, and I slept in; rising to the scent of pecan waffles and bacon from the kitchen, along with the heady scent of Virgil's special coffee blend. I slipped beck into my room, and threw my robe around me, cinching it tightly. I padded into the kitchen and found Stirling, with an apron over his suit making breakfast.
"Good morning, Ms Nikos," he said, smiling. "Master Virgil will be in shortly. He had to handle a small crisis this morning." He nodded to the television and I could see a live feed of Captain Valiant bringing in a 767 jet to the DC airport. I heard the announcer say that the plane's landing gear would not descend and that the engines were out. Captain Valiant brought the entire flight down safely and gently.
"What a man," I muttered softly.
"Why thank you," I heard Virgil say, moments before I felt his soft lips on my neck. "But for which of my performances are you thanking me?"
I stopped and gaped at him. Virgil was dressed in a sweatshirt of the Fantastic Four, jeans and loafers. "Eat up," he said. "I still have the deep secret to share before we go."
Stirling's eyes rolled. "This is the secret that generally determines whether a woman stays or goes in Master Virgil's life," he confided.
I ate my waffles, intrigued. For most women, learning they loved a superhero would be the deepest darkest secret. So I really wanted to know. I stood up and took my coffee with me, following Virgil across the living room to a locked door. He held up a hand.
"Sorry, no coffee or other liquids in this room. You'll understand in a minute." He waited while I set my coffee down on the coffee table. In the meantime, Virgil unlocked the door and flipped a switch. I saw a light come on over a stairwell.
"Here, put these on," said Virgil handing me a pair of white cotton gloves. I followed him down the stairs to a dustless, near sterile environment. The room ran almost the entire length of the penthouse and all along three walls were shelves, lined with white cardboard boxes. The fourth wall had several frames. I stepped to the frames and found....
COMIC BOOKS? I burst out laughing. "This is your deep dark secret?"
Virgil looked a bit sheepish. "You don't think its a bit...geeky?"
I held my finger and thumb about an inch apart. "Maybe a little. But I know how passionate people can get about a lot of things. You don't seem to mind my Gems collection, so how could I get upset about this?"
"Good show sir, marry her immediately!" I heard Stirling say.
"We'll see, Stirling," replied Virgil. He turned back to me. "Well since its well established I'm a super nerd, shall we proceed to the Supercon?"
"Can you give me an hour?" I asked. "I need to shower and get dressed."
Two hours later, we wandered into Empire's spacious convention center. My jaw dropped when I saw how many comics, figurines, toys and more littered the huckster's area. But then I saw something really chilling. The Artifact Tables....
"Hey lady, you want a neuro dart from Quiver's crossbow? He shot it at the Golden Archer three weeks ago. Don't worry, the toxin's out."
"One of the Buffoon's rubber chickens..."
"I got pieces from Captain Valiant's costume here. Wrecker shredded it really well a few months ago."
"Storm Front's gauntlets. They don't work without the generators, but he had enough power to nearly fry White Owl."
"Virgil, did you see?" I asked, then stopped. Virgil was haggling with the vendor over the pieces of his costume. I walked away shaking my head. Virgil paid the vendor and came after me.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"That's so...morbid," I replied. "Selling pieces of costumes, weapons and so forth. People got hurt with those things...I got hurt with those gauntlets. And people collect and trade them?"
He put his arm around me. "Yes they do. In one way, its a way to honor us. In another, its a way of satisfying curiosity, or rooting for their favorites. By the way, White Owl is the most popular right now. Mainly because you don't LEAVE many artifacts."
"Really?" I asked. Virgil nodded.
We spent the day listening to artists, writers, buying comics (and I even got a few copies of Speed Comics, featuring the Black Cat) and enjoying ourselves. Deciding to spend the night, Virgil rented a room across the street in the Hyatt and we checked in long enough to dress for the night. Then we parted ways as Virgil was scheduled to make his appearance, and I wanted to enter the costume contest.
(to be continued)
Monday, January 11, 2010
(I apologize for the length of this story--but certainly not the quality. Thanks Trekker!!)
May I see your passport, sir?" the TSA Agent asked. I handed it to him while my bag was being X-rayed. "Welcome to America, Mr. Lacombe." "Merci." I say to the man, accepting my passport and suitcase. Stepping outside the terminal, I hailed a cab and stepped inside. "Queen City Marriot." I said to the driver. She switched on the meter and pulled out of the airport.Queen City. I hate this town. Four years ago, I called it home. Back then I was called Somnos. I had a thriving hypnotherapy clinic, lots of high end clients and could charge whatever I wanted to help them quit smoking, get off drugs or help them recall past lives. One had even told me she was abducted by aliens and wanted my help in remembering her experience. That was the easiest $75,000 I ever made. Since she believed she had been abducted, I implanted some false memories and she was satisfied. The human mind was a mystery, her mind was beyond the ability of Sherlock Holmes to solve. I was living my dreams. Fast cars, faster women and money to burn on them. Yes, I will admit I was not the most ethical practitioner in the world. While my wealthy clients were in a trance, I placed a suggestion that they would donate to a clinic I was building in Europe. There was no clinic, of course. But I was thinking about it. And why shouldn't a businessman have discretionary funds to spend on a special project?And then came White Owl. Why she paid me a visit was something I never discovered. I assumed that one of my newer clients was a friend or relative of hers. I made the mistake of hypnotizing her, ordering her to kill a private investigator that was looking into my affairs. It wasn't until much later that I learned that White Owl did not kill. Her moral fiber was stronger than my conditioning. She freed herself, had me arrested after a totally illegal interrogation and extradited to my home country of France. There I was tried for killing my wife and sentenced to life in prison.But there was no way I would live in a cell till I died an old man. Using my hypnotic abilities, I convinced the prison doctor and one of my guards that I was terminally ill. It took 3 years of waiting and arranging things on the outside to make my move. When the guards found me, apparently unconscious, in my cell, I was taken to the prison infirmary. There, I activated the doctor's post hypnotic suggestion. As I lay comfortably, he called the warden and announced me dead.I smiled as he filled out the forms that made my death official. As soon as he was finished, I broke his neck, killing him instantly. I took the clothes from his body, they were a little large on me, but his buff colored toggle coat covered up the excess cloth well. I placed his corpse in the body bag, placed my toe tag on his big toe and zipped it up. By the time the coroner discovered the murder, I'd be out of the country, courtesy of his cash and credit cards. Although the card use was easily tracked, I'd use them for two or three days at most, then use the cash till it was exhausted. But I had some hidden bank accounts that held sizable amounts of untraceable hard currency. Once those accounts were accessed, then I could go anywhere safely.
A few hours later, I was on a train heading for LeHavre. I knew a friend who owned a small shipping company. He could sneak me into one of his ships and get me to Spain in a few days. From there I had a few choices and a few favors to call in. I had never been aboard a freighter before and swore I would never do so again. It stank like rotten seafood, the food was dreadful, the crew surly and mistrustful of me. At least the French prison served decent meals. I wouldn't have given the swill the freighter cook served to a dying dog. But still, it was free and I was free from prison, if I were careful, I could get to America and start setting some plans in motion. But I had some changes to make, it would take time, but that was fine. The longer a search went on, the less motivated the searchers became. I planned on using that apathy against them.Four months later, I left a clinic in Borgos, Spain with a new face and identity. It gave me a shock to look into a mirror and see a stranger's face. But I was a wanted man with a large reward for my capture. If recaptured, I would be executed for sure. Yes, with ever passing day, my trail grew colder, but with my old face on databases all over Europe, why take a chance?I moved cautiously, accessing the hidden bank accounts set up years earlier. I began purchasing some electronic equipment. While in prison, I came up with a device that worked the same way as the white noise I used in my office. The difference is that instead of sound, it used specific light frequencies that would cause mental confusion and would leave the viewer very open to suggestion. The great thing about the device, that I called the Mesmer, named after a 19th century physician who made hypnosis popular, was it could be mounted inside an external camera flash and used the same way. It was a theory, of course, I wasn't allowed electronic equipment in my cell. But as soon as I was able, I built the device, it was even easier than I had thought.Testing it was fun, I used it on tourists, claiming to be a professional photographer and after using the Mesmer, made them to all sort of interesting things: Public strip teases, singing, dancing, I even convinced a British couple on honeymoon to have sex in a fountain, so I knew the Mesmer would work. At least it worked on humans, I had no idea if it would work on a metahuman. Only time would tell, Spain had no metahumans, at least none that were doing metahuman heroics.But finally, all the incisions healed and the swelling gone. I flew back to America, landing in New York, then took a shuttle to Queen City in March. No one questioned my false documentation anywhere along the line. I bought a small house and went on a mission to find everything about White Owl that I could. I soon discovered that she was not at all popular in Meadowbrook, Queen City's less reputable neighbor. The police had a dim view of White Owl and there was a rumor that there was an arrest warrant for her if she ever showed up in that town.Interesting, It just so happened that I had connections in Meadowbrook. There was a mental hospital there. The director of the facility was my younger brother, Louis. As I contemplated the facts, a plan began to form. It took several days to work out all the kinks, but if they worked out, I knew what to do to destroy White Owl forever.
Louis was different from me in many ways. First and foremost, he truly cared for his patients. As therapists go, he was very gifted and able to listen with his soul, which made him very effective. Second, he despised hypnosis, which led to more than a few glorious discussions over a good bottle of wine.Third, and most important, Louis was ethical. He never overcharged the state for his clinic's services. Yes, it was called Meadowbrook Asylum, but not by choice. Since several violent patients were housed there, government regulations forced him to change the name from "Mental Health Center" to "Asylum"I thought it best to call him first. He had no idea what I looked like since my surgery and I saw no reason to surprise him like that. I also knew he wouldn't call the police, he wasn't convinced I was guilty. To be honest, he never thought me capable of killing my wife. He was wrong, but why cause him any more pain? The old saying “Ignorance is bliss” was very true, especially in his case.It was a rainy day in Meadowbrook as I slipped a pair of quarters into a pay phone and dialed. It took awhile to get through to him, he had a very good secretary who kept me from speaking to him. But finally, after 10 minutes and another 75 cents, I was put through to his direct line. The call went as I expected, shock, astonishment, anger. I let him vent for several minutes, allowing the flood of emotions drain into reason again. "Where are you?" He finally asked. "A phone booth..." I started to say. "I know where you are. There's only one phone booth in Meadowbrook, I'll be there in 20 minutes." "Thanks, but I don't look like me anymore." A pause. "Alright, stay near the phone booth. I'm driving a silver Audi." "See you then." I said, hanging up. I was in for a long wait, and people lurking near phone booths attracted attention, especially in a city full of cell phone providers.Louis was always punctual, and this time was no different. He looked tired, but running an asylum would be a difficult job. After telling him my version of events, he took the day off, we went to his home and shared a bottle of wine and dinner. He was an excellent cook and really outdid himself providing a good meal for his long lost brother. After consuming the bottle and a goodly portion of a second, we began catching up with each other and before the night was over, I had a job in the asylum as a therapist. He examined my paperwork, “That's an alias.” He commented warily. “Yes it is, I hate not being able to use our good name. But until I can discovered who murdered Elaina, if she was murdered. You have no idea how despondent she was. I must keep my identity hidden.” Like your face, what would our parents say?” He said. “Dammit Louis, what choice did I have? If I'm arrested, I'll be executed for killing my wife! I'll die because she collided with a damned tree! Do you have any idea how that feels?”
“So all of this.” He tossed my documents on the table. “Are lies.” “Yes, I'm not proud of that. But I have nowhere else to go. Listen, if you don't want me here, say so and I'll leave.” He was referring to my properly forged credentials and references from overseas hospitals. Quality false documents took time and money to obtain, but it was worth every penny for they opened up the world to me.
He leaned back in his overstuffed chair, templed his fingers in front of his face, thinking hard for several minutes. I sipped the wine, then refilled mine, then his glass. “Here's what I can do. Let me take your information to the board. I'll present your case to hire you. If they ok it, then you have an interview with them. If they approve of you, then you can start at Meadowbrook. But I will not stick my neck out for you. It's totally up to them.” I smiled. “That's all I can ask of you, Louis. Thank you.” “It will take a few days, maybe a week. Until then, you can stay here.” He said. We stood, hugged each other then he led he to the guest bedroom where I promptly fell asleep, no doubt fron the wonderful food and wine.
Ten days later, I began my career at Meadowbrook Asylum. The board of directors loved the idea of a “European Worldview” that I would bring to the facility. The only problem I faced was the HR Director. I had a private, unscheduled meeting with him. Using the Mesmer, I put him in a light trance, then used my own skills to put him in a proper hypnotic state. I had heard that HR people were only drones in the grand scheme of an organization. It's true. He went under very easily and was easily coerced. I told him that my credetials and referencs were impeccable. He agreed and would notify the board accordingly.
The biggest part of my plan was to take charge of Meadowbrook Asylum. That meant that I had to move against my own brother. I wouldn't kill him, that would raise too many questions. But I knew that there were chemical agents that could render him helpless for an indefinite period of time. I called an acquaintance in Moscow, she knew some people who knew others who may have what I needed, but the amount of money needed to expedite the process would be high. Cursing mentally, I arranged to wire 5 million Euros to Svetlana's bank the next day. She called me back a day after that, pleased and promised delivery in 3 weeks. She was as good as her word, and the next day, I had a case of Carruades de Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1953 Pauillac sent to her.
I knew it would take a few months to fit into my position and to see who could be trusted when I made my move against Louis. I also found lots of interesting info on the town sheriff, a man named Randall Clayton, a small minded cop who, according to rumor, had his fingers into every illegal activity in town. He also hated White Owl after she broke up a gambling ring that was bringing in a million dollars a year to his personal coffers.Hatred was an emotion I could use. And his illegal activities and contacts gave me a lever to use in his mind. But I would have to be careful, making small steps, earning his trust. So when the time came to move against Louis, I would have a well placed and powerful ally. And when I offered him White Owl, he would do anything to get his filthy hands on her.
It was odd to work in a clinical setting. My patients weren't wealthy or powerful, just the opposite was true, they were delusional, psychotic, schizophrenic. But the criminal inmates were the most interesting. Child molesters, rapists and even an accused serial killer were in my care. He was faking insanity to stay out of prison. He was remarkably intelligent and clearly a sociopath. He could be a useful tool in the future.One person I met was an unabashed fan of Louis. A nurse named Gemma Laurence, a highly skilled RN. She had, until a year ago, worked in one of the biggest hospitals in LA until she was fired for stealing pain meds. She couldn't find work until she put a resume on an job site. Louis found her resume and offered her a job. Louis was somewhat of a romantic, a firm believer in redemption and second chances. Perhaps that was why he was such a good therapist, he never quit believing in his patients. Gemma was good at what she did and, and in her eyes, worshiped the water that Louis walked on. I would either have to find a way to get her moved out of the facility before I made my move against Louis or find her mental lever and get her in my control. With her being as attractive as she was, I would rather control her, her long curly brown hair and green eyes reminded me of my wife.About a month after starting at Meadowbrook, I had my first encounter with Randall Clayton. He had brought in a violent drunk for a psych eval. He was in his early 30's and heavyset. He was a man who enjoyed being in control of whatever environment he was in. I'm very much the same way, but I'm aware of that and can give others the illusion of control if I see fit. I saw his true personality as we were inventorying the drunk's possessions: We were going through his wallet and found $500.00 and 3 credit cards. Clayton pocketed the cash. He looked at me. "If anyone asks, he offered me a bribe to let him go." He confiscated the credit cards. "If anyone asks, we didn't find these cards. He probably lost them during his bar crawl." I had to smile. "What cards, sheriff?" I replied with a wink. He returned the smile. "Doc, you keep that attitude and I can promise you a lot more than what this job pays." "Sheriff, I believe in the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules." He laughed, slapping me on the shoulder. "You're a smart man, doc. I like that." He replied.With that exchange, I earned the favor of arguably the most powerful man in Meadowbrook. As expected, in the weeks and months that followed, we took in a fair amount of cash and purloined our share of valuables. Clayton was without scruples, he had several warehouses full of stolen merchandise taken by thieves who worked for and were protected by him.Finally, the time was right for me to strike. It was late summer, and I had spent 4 months making all the preparations and there was no any longer reason to wait. Every morning, I'd buy a cup of coffee for Louis and myself, we'd talk in his office This time, however, I added an extra element to his cup, a rarely used poison used in the old Soviet Union. If the Party needed to get rid of an opponent, that poison would be given. The reaction looked exactly like a psychotic break, which gave the leaders of that corrupt regime the perfect excuse to remove that opponent.I'm a firm believer in the evolutionary process "Survival of the fittest." Thus far, I have been stronger than only one opponent: White Owl. And if my plan works as devised, then White Owl will be an inmate in a very special cell undergoing a very special treatment that will leave her mind an empty shell that I could fill with any thought that I could come up with.But first, I had to order some special equipment and bring in Sheriff Clayton. He had a major grudge against the white clad heroine. His contacts and sources of illicit materials would supply me with everything I needed.But like with every plan, the first step was the most difficult. As we discussed the treatment plans of my patients, Louis drank his coffee. He began to blink rapidly, then perspiration began dotting his forehead. "Are you feeling alright? You look pale." I said, "You..." He gasped, then began screaming like a possessed banshee, the styrofoam cup disintegrating in his grip as coffee sprayed through his fingers. He began clawing at his face, his eyes. I had to hold his wrists while he fought like a madman, kicking and headbutting me, spittle flying from his mouth as he screamed, his eyes insane with rage and paranoia.Fortunately, his secretary heard his screams and called for help. It took 4 orderlies to hold down my 5'6, 155 pound brother down while I gave him a sedative. They were shaken, he was quite popular with the staff. "It's ok, take him to the infirmary. Make sure you get him in restraints..." My voice cracked, not just by design. "Tell Dr. Barrett to start him on Precedex. I'll be down shortly to look in on him. We need to call the board of directors."A gurney was quickly brought in and my brother was laid gently and strapped down, blood oozing from his facial wounds. "Don't worry, sir. We'll take good of him." The head orderly said, wheeling him to the infirmary. I stared after them, his secretary placing her soft hand on my shoulder. "Are you alright Dr. Lacombe?" she asked gently. "Yes, Tricia. Thank you."What happened?" she asked. "It could be a psychomotor epileptic seizure, a brain tumor or a psychotic episode." I answered quietly. "But right now," I said, turning to face her. "I need you to call the board and call an emergency meeting. Dr. Fournier is incapacitated and we need to have an acting director appointed." "Yes doctor, at once sir." She answered, moving to her phone."I'll be in my office if a statement is needed." I said as I walked away. I didn't hear her reply, I was lost in my own thoughts and feeling guilt, anger and shame. They were feelings I had thought far beneath my ability to sense. I was glad I could be alone, I needed to think, to compose myself and establish my self control. I meditated, crushing the negative feelings that weakened me.It took half an hour, but with my resolve restored, I called Clayton, informing him of the first stage of our plan. He congratulated me, assuring me that he would do whatever it took to keep me in charge of Meadowbrook Asylum. I thanked him before hanging up.Stage two would be easier: I needed to find White Owl and take her picture.
With everything ready, I didn't feel like driving around Queen City for days looking for White Owl. So I decided to bait her. All it took was a small fire in an apartment building. Fortunately, such buildings were prevalent and fires in such dwellings were easy to set. All it took were a few common household chemicals combined in a plastic bag. The chemicals would slowly warm to a temperature that caused combustion, giving me enough time to exit the building and get to my car, where I had my camera and the Mesmer ready. All I needed was my heroine.
It wasn't a huge fire, but it was smoky and that causes more panic than open flame. I didn't care about casualties, these simple people were merely bait, nothing more. I wanted their distress to bring White Owl. If she showed up, then their sacrifice was not in vain.
As expected, she arrived before the fire department. The third floor was now full of smoke and some flames were poking from blown out windows. Faint screams could be heard from within the structure. White Owl shot in through a broken window, the smoke parting around her. It only took moments for her to start flying victims from their apartments to a nearby parking lot as the fire trucks began to arrive. She made 7 trips, her white leotard darkened from the soot after she finished evacuating everyone on that floor. While the firefighters attacked the blaze, White Owl stayed with the evacuees, comforting them and hugging a few children who appeared to be crying.I made my approach, my camera at the ready. "White Owl!" I called out. She looked at me, her beautiful face glowing against her now-gray costume. "May I take a picture for the paper?" "Certainly, but make sure you get shots of the the firefighters who are doing the real work." I agreed, asking her to step clear of the victims, using the burning building and the setting sun as a backdrop.She took a moment to run her gloved fingers through her dark hair. "Don't worry, White Owl, it's impossible for you to take a bad picture." I said. She smiled, "Thank you, that's sweet." "That's perfect, keep that smile, please." I turned up the Mesmer to maximum and said "Here we go." I snapped the shutter, the Mesmer emitting it's mind numbing flash. Her face went blank, her eyes devoid of feeling. "White Owl. There is danger coming to Meadowbrook. You will receive orders tomorrow. Do not tell anyone, that includes the Guild. Only you can save the city. Do you understand?" "I understand." She replied, her voice flat and emotionless. "Good, you are no longer needed here. Go home and rest. You will need all your strength for tomorrow. You will forget we spoke." I will go home and rest. I will forget we spoke." She repeated and was airborne a moment later.The effects of the Mesmer were temporary. But the suggestion for her to go home was active, she'd wake up in a few minutes and not recall a thing. I called Clayton and let him know that White Owl was prepared. Now it was back to the Asylum and a special cell in the basement of the complex.
As I was returning to the Asylum, my pager went off. "Return to boardroom asap." the LCD screen read. I said something unprintable, then called Tricia, instructing her to turn on the air purifier in the boardroom. It was not what it seemed. It was actually a modified air purifier, the modification was a white noise generator, the same type I used very successfully on White Owl. As soon as the board entered, it would begin affecting them. By the time I got there, their minds would be putty in my hands.Still it was inconvenient, it had been nearly 10 hours since my initial call for the emergency board meeting. Granted, it gave me time to do my personal business, but their lackadaisical attitude was unprofessional, to say the least. I could use that to my advantage. As I pulled into the parking lot, I could see the board members cars in the lot. All of them were there, that was good. After a quick stop at my office to grab a jacket and tie, headed to the boardroom, preparing my mind for the combat ahead.
I entered the room to see a group of tranquil faces looking at me. I could hear the intonations of the white noise and I suppressed a smile. "Ladies and gentlemen, good evening." I said. Minerva Stark, the Chairperson of the Board, greeted me. "Dr. Lacombe. We received a report from Dr. Barrett concerning Dr. Fournier. He has suffered a severe psychotic break. We are aware of his personal issues with his brother. His reported death and later escape from prison must have caused severe damage to his psyche.” I was surprised they knew that much about his personal life. I feigned ignorance as they filled me in. I wondered what their reaction would be if they knew his brother was in their midst. “We will make sure he gets the best treatment available and also that his...difficulties will remain in-house. Do we have a problem with that?" "None at all. I think that is the best direction for everyone." I replied."Excellent, now there is the matter of his replacement. It is not a permanent appointment. We have compiled a list of professionals who would do nicely in that position." Rex Bridges, the CFO, handed me a folder, I perused the names and was impressed with those listed. "Do you approve, Dr. Lacombe?" Stark asked. I focused my gaze into her eyes. I knew she was in her late 50's, but due to botox, looked about a decade younger. Still, her bifocals and business suit gave her the look of a librarian. I lowered my persona of a clinician and changed into a predator. "With respects, there is one name missing. Mine."Now the game was changing. It was easy to hypnotize one person, but 7 is a challenge. One can do mass hypnosis, but in a group setting like that, where everyone wants to be placed in a trance, it's simple. But these people did not. I hoped my white noise had lowered their mental defenses enough for me to mentally dominate them. But I knew if I swayed Stark, the others would follow her lead. "Yours, doctor?" She said. "Yes, and if I may, I'd like to explain my reasons." I focused my gaze on her, into her brown eyes, I could see questions in them. But as our gaze met, I exerted my will. "Very well, doctor, you may proceed." Her fingers, intertwined on her desk, twitched as we connected."Thank you." I stepped forward, placing my hands behind my back, spreading my feet apart like a boxer. I knew I had to exude power and control. I could do that. These people were sheep and I was a very hungry wolf. That was my advantage. They had no idea who I was and they would pay dearly for that. "I have worked here for several months, I know the staff, I know the patients and their needs. And most importantly, bringing in an outsider will make it difficult to keep our present troubles private." Then I looked each member in the face, staring till our eyes met, making a connection with them. I could tell the white noise had done it's job. They looked sedate, pleased and willing to listen to whatever I said."That's what you don't want, an outsider. Am I right?" There were nods. "We trust each other, know each other." Jamie Ragland, the HR director, spoke "He's right, I know Dr. Lacombe's record. I've spoken to his employers and they each gave rave reviews of him. I think making him proxy director would be ideal. I hereby nominate Dr. Anton Lacombe as acting director. Do I have a second?" "Seconded." Bridges declared, smiling stupidly at me. I nodded, he looked like a pleased puppy. Stark raised her hand. "Members of the board. Those in favor of appointing Dr. Lacombe as acting director say aye." There were seven fast "Aye's" "Those opposed?" There was silence. "Motion is carried. Dr Lacombe, congratulations. I speak for the entire board in assuring you that you have our full support." I bowed. "Thank you. Your confidence is overwhelming."Ragland hadn't spoken to any of my employers. A few weeks ago, I had placed him in a trance and convinced him that he had. He had an easy mind to work with, I had learned all sort of interesting things and as a plus, could hire almost anyone I needed to. For instance, when White Owl arrived, the ordinary staff wouldn't do what I wanted done with her. So I hired some low level criminals and had Ragland bypass the background checks. Their main job was to ready a basement room that had been unused since the 1960's. It took a lot of cleaning, then I had hidden speakers and camera's installed. I even had a special straitjacket designed for White Owl, reinforced with kevlar straps and heavy duty buckles.But the item I was most proud of finding was Ibogaine, a powerful hallucinogenic. It would keep White Owl in her own world. As long as she was dosed, she be no danger to anyone. But White Owl was due in a few hours and there was much to go over before she arrived. Upon arriving in my new office, formerly Louis', I composed an encouraging, positive email to all staff members. I let them know that I was making a few changes, nothing dramatic but the basement area was off limits due to renovations and toxic mold removal. I figured that would keep curious souls away, the special employees I hired were hard at work with finishing touches on White Owl's cell. The heavily reinforced bed that I had ordered (with Clayton's connections to skilled craftsmen who didn't advertise in the Yellow Pages) was being bolted down and connected to the Asylum's power grid. The straitjacket was ready, it's wireless vital sign sensors were functioning perfectly. The carbon-titanium chains and locks were waiting. I had even ordered a special gift from a fetish site for her, it was in my briefcase, waiting for it's first use.And while this was going on, I was fielding phone calls from every department head giving me their wish lists of equipment and personnel. I told them that while the directorship had changed, the budget had not. But if some of the ideas I had came into fruition, there would be more income to play with. They seemed satisfied. There was a polite knock on my door, it opened to reveal Gemma Laurence, a dinner tray in her hands. "Director, I took the liberty of bringing you some dinner. I hope it's ok." She gave a nervous smile. I returned it. "That's very kind, Ms. Laurence. Please set it down." "Yes sir." She said. Gemma was beautiful, and there was something about a woman in a nurse's uniform that struck a chord inside me. She placed the tray on my desk and departed quietly. I watched her hips sway gently under her white skirt while I answered yet another phone call. It was Dr. Barrett, informing me that Louis' mental state was still unchanged and was in restraints and mild sedation. I knew that YKD-19, the drug I had given Louis, would work for days.
After 45 minutes of dealing with official asylum business, I called Clayton, who assured me that he was ready on his end to capture White Owl. I thanked him and told him to get some sleep, tomorrow would be a long day. He hung up. It was suddenly quiet in the office. I realized that I was hungry and lifted the lid off tray. There was a small salad, a bowl of chicken soup and a ham sandwich with Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato. A cup of coffee with a pair of sugar packets and two little cups of cream sitting beside it. The food was not standard cafeteria fare. I had a brief fantasy of Gemma in the staff kitchen preparing the meal for me.I cursed myself mentally for allowing my focus to drift away from my task. Still, the meal was welcome and quite good, it vanished quickly. Fortified, I stood and made my way to the basement. As I made my way down the narrow staircase, I found the steel bars set solidly into the walls, floor and ceiling, a small door the only way in and out of the cell. The bricks in the wall were an odd shade of light yellow, reminding me of the bacterial cultures we grew in medical school. I suppose it was an American idea to make bricks in that color.The bed was ready, one of the thugs was actually wiping it down. Still others were sweeping up the last bits of trash. I nodded and gave him a gentle slap on the back. He stood and looked at me. "We're ready here, doc. When does the superbitch get here?" "Tomorrow afternoon. You've done a great job in a short time. Take your people and relax for a few hours, have a few drinks but be here at 7 AM sharp." "You got it doc. See you." The men stood and made their out, one at a time through the narrow gap in the bars, laughing and making rude comments about White Owl and what they would do to her. I frowned, reminding myself to tell the men again in no uncertain terms that White Owl was not to be harmed.
I was alone in White Owl's cell. I checked the EKG scanner, making sure it was synched to the sensors in the straitjacket. I operated the bed's tilt functions, they were perfect. The Ibogaine vials were in the mini fridge, the cameras worked, the speakers worked. All I needed was a heroine and she would be here by this time tomorrow.When White Owl was safely ensconced in her bondage, then I could begin the process of destroying her grip on reality. She would tell me every secret, every dream she ever had. She would reveal everything she knew about the Guild and it's members. By the time I was finished, White Owl would be an empty husk. After that, Clayton would take the shell that had been White Owl and sell it to the highest bidder.Thinking about the beautiful heroine, I considered putting my own bid in. It would be poetic justice. She took everything from me. I would make her give herself to me in return. Everything was ready, I was tired so I went to my office and fell asleep in my leather chair, still in my jacket and tie. I didn't care, revenge was in my reach.
That night I had a very erotic dream. I was sitting on a throne wearing a royal blue robe and a small crown. At my feet were White Owl and Gemma, each wearing a red thong bikini and slave collars around their necks. Gemma's long hair was undone and almost dragging on the stone floor of my throne room. She was kneeling, my hand pulling the chain attached to her collar. She crawled to me obediently, lust gleaming in her eyes. White Owl was more defiant. A ballgag in her mouth, she was drooling on the floor, her hair hanging loosely around her face, her wrists manacled with an 8 inch chain between them. Her lovely skin was bruised and her back was covered with welts."White Owl, your pain can end. Simply lay at my feet and you will know pleasure beyond your wildest dreams as my concubine." She glared at me, her fists clenching. Without warning, she lifted into the air, pulling the chain from my hands, she roared with rage, biting through the straps of her gag, swinging the chain like a flail, my guards falling before they got close to her as the heavy chain ripped through them.Gemma rose to her feet, throwing herself at White Owl, their limbs entangled as Gemma pulled her to the ground. They wrestled briefly before Gemma wrapped her arms around White Owl, pinning her arms to her side, face to face. The two women stared at each other for a moment before Gemma leaned in, kissing White Owl on her full red lips...The damned phone rang, ending the dream. "Yes?" I bolted upright, then snapped”Yes?” into the receiver. "Mornin' doc." Clayton said "I just had my messenger take the note to the Queen City PD." I blinked the sleep out of my eyes. "You there doc?" he said smugly. "Yes sheriff, We're ready for her." I stretched my stiff neck. "Good deal, Hopefully by 11, she'll be in custody." "Sheriff, please remember that the less damaged White Owl is, the easier it will be to sell her later." I reminded him. "Oh don't worry. We'll be gentle with her. Just make sure the perverts you hired keep their pants zipped. That guy Forbes has a bad history with women. He's been in and out of Meadowbrook more times than I can count" "I'm fully aware of his background, Clayton. I have him firmly under control. He's very intelligent and can play the part of a therapist very easily. That is something I need for this operation."
There was a pause. "Ok doc, whatever you say. But if you mess this up, there's nowhere on earth you can hide." He warned me. "Don't you think that's a little bit over dramatic?" I said, pouring relaxing tones into my voice. "You can trust me, my friend. We've gone over every step in nauseating detail. Nothing can go wrong." "Nothing can go wrong." He replied woodenly. I smiled despite my sore body. "I'll see you when you get here, Sheriff." "Yes, I'll call you after we bag the Owl." He answered and hung up.
At last! We were close. At this moment, one of Clayton's deputies was delivering a request for White Owl's assistance. As a happy coincidence, Winslow, White Owl's police contact, was on vacation. The deputy, as instructed, showed the note to the desk officer, then retrieved it as the officer called to find out how to contact the Owl. As soon as things were moving, the deputy left, his job done for the day.I don't know how long it took to call White Owl, but about an hour after the deputy departed, I received a call that a white streak was seen heading out of Queen City across the river into Meadowbrook. Everything was falling into place. The warehouse she was headed for was one that Clayton used to ship contraband in and out of town. Today, there was nothing going in or out. White Owl dropped through a skylight and saw the large crate that supposedly contained a large bomb. I was shown the security video of what happened before it was erased. The crate fairly disintegrated as her gloved hands tore the wood apart. But there was no bomb, just hundreds of doses of heroin. As we hoped, she stared at the narcotics for several seconds, confused. As she stood there, six men charged at her from different directions. She whirled quickly, seeing the first man with a baseball bat. As he swung the Louisville Slugger, she didn't jump, she flew up, somersaulting in the air and grabbing the bat from the surprised man. She swung, still upside down, nailing him in the chest. He crumpled, hands grasping his ribs. But White Owl didn't bother with him, zooming to her right toward the second man wielding an ax. He swung, but White Owl used her bat to block the ax head, but the bat shattered. She dropped the splintered wood and ducked behind him, a swift kick to his knee dropped him, the sound of his kneecap letting go made everyone in hearing range cringe as he cried out, his ax falling away forgotten as he grabbed his useless leg, screaming in pain.But White Owl stopped, apparently to make sure that he couldn't grab the ax The third guard charged from her right, she landed gracefully, grabbing the guard's outstretched arm and pivoting on her heel, hurling him through the air. Apparently she used her superior strength because the poor man flew nearly 25 feet before hitting the concrete floor. But she made a mistake, she didn't look behind her. The fourth man, built slightly smaller than a gorilla, ran up behind White Owl and wrapped his huge arms around her chest, her arms pinned to her side as he squeezed, shaking her violently from side to side. White Owl's breath shot out, the expression on her face showing everyone she couldn't breathe. "Get her now!" He yelled as the fifth man, a large white chloroform soaked cloth in his hand, sped toward her. As soon as he got to within range, her long legs kicked out. The first kick nailed him squarely in the testicles, the force lifting him off his feet. But she wasn't through as her second kick caught him in the side of the head. He fell, twitching, his face pale. But she was still being squeezed by her personal gorilla and others said that her face was turning a nasty shade of red.But she didn't panic. To everyone's amazement, White Owl slid her arms inward and then brought them out fast, his grip breaking as if he were a child. But she held on to his right arm, twisting it as she flew behind him, dislocating his elbow since he couldn't turn fast enough to take the stress off his arm. He screamed and fell away from her, some said he was half running.But the sixth man was the ringer, the first five were cannon fodder, but of course they did not know that. The man fell to one knee in a shooter's crouch, his right hand reaching for a taser. White Owl saw him out of the corner of her left eye. She was too slow to react and paid dearly for it as he aimed at the heroine and fired.The darts impacted White Owl's right breast and neck. The current made her scream, her body convulsed. "Now!" he screamed and 4 other men appeared from their hiding places and fired their tasers at White Owl. Her screams intensified as her legs, arms and stomach were assaulted with electricity, her limbs flailing, her eyes wide but seeing nothing.For thirty seconds, they kept the current flowing, making sure that White Owl would be incapacitated completely. When the current finally ended, her body went limp, her eyes closed and her breathing was slow. But there was no time for high fives or congratulations, White Owl needed to be restrained. They moved quickly, removing her belt and rolling her over, using four pairs of handcuffs to restrain her wrists behind her and steel leg irons to hold her ankles.One of them grabbed White Owl, carrying her quickly to a waiting ambulance. They laid her on a stretcher, strapping her down securely. The doors were closed and the vehicle sped off, siren screaming toward the Asylum and White Owl's final torment. I was in my office, drinking coffee and eating a small breakfast as I waited for the phone to ring. It didn't make it through the first ring before I scooped up the receiver. "Mission accomplished, she's on the way." Was all I heard before the connection was cut off. I called my people, telling them to get White Owl's cell ready. To their credit, they had that part done. Forbes had his crisp white uniform on and had the straitjacket ready. I told Tricia that I would be working with a new patient and I was not to be disturbed for any reason. I looked at my watch as I made my way to the elevator. In 10 minutes, White Owl would be under my control.
I was in White Owl's cell when she was rolled in. With my penlight, I checked her pupils and didn't like I saw: She was coming around! That much current would put a normal human into a coma! After jabbing a sedative into her arm, I searched her thoroughly, finding a pair of lock picks, one in the left side of the neckline of her leotard and the other in the right leg opening, her guards made a few comments as my fingers searched the seams and openings of her costume. I pulled off White Owl's gloves and boots and discovered that some sort of adhesive kept her mask on. That was clever. But I figured that her skin oils would loosen that in a few days and her identity would be revealed.As soon as I was satisfied that White Owl was free of weapons, the new straitjacket was wrapped around her. The guards pulled the crotchstrap a bit tighter than I wanted, but it wouldn't do any harm. I had the basement divided into 3 rooms: Her cell, a small supply room and an exact copy of my office for "therapy." There was even a long hallway with fake cell doors. But inside my office there were a few additions, a modified map of Ohio and some commercial software that was modified."Take her to the office, she'll wake up soon." Two men grabbed her, one by the ankles, the other from behind her, using her ample breasts as a handle. He was grinning like a teenager in the bathroom with his first Playboy. I'd have to keep an eye on him, he could never be alone with White Owl. After a minute, I followed them into my office.
She was laying on a soft leather couch, breathing softly and easily. After dismissing the duo, I look at her. She was intensely beautiful, even in a straitjacket, she held an air of strength that was palpable. I was all too aware of that strength. I remember falling through the sky repeatedly, I remember the shame of wetting myself, of confessing every crime to that detective while being recorded. And the worst part was revealing my counter suggestion that broke my control over all my "clients."No, that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was extradition to France, that horrid orange jumpsuit, the manacles, that long plane ride confined in a seat that was probably used on a B-17 in WW2. Then the trial, so many charges, my belongings impounded, locked in a cell with common criminals. I was beaten, the prison guards looked on, doing nothing. Things didn't go well until I had a small heart attack, then I was moved to a more secure wing of the prison. From there I planned my escape.And now things had come full circle. As before, I had White Owl helpless before me, this time I had her body, next I would take her mind. I ran my fingers through her soft hair. Then my IM program chirped, I went to my computer and read the message. It was an inventory of White Owl's belt. I had no idea she carried so much. It was good info that I could use. I looked at my captive, planning my next move.A few minutes later, White Owl's breathing increased. Her head gently turned from side to side, she moaned gently, trying to move. I went to her side, pulling up a chair and sitting down. "White Owl, can you hear me?" I asked gently. She moaned again, louder. "You're safe, you're in a hospital. You were hurt but you'll be fine."
Her eyes opened beneath her mask. She tried to sit up, but began to cough. I placed my hand on her shoulder, gently pressing her back. "It's ok, sedatives can do that. Relax and take a few deep breaths, White Owl." She complied, taking a few moments to get fresh air. She looked at me, then at her body. "Wait a minute, where am I? Why am I in a straitjacket?" She demanded. "You're in the Meadowbrook Mental Health Center. You are undergoing a mandatory 72 hour workup." For what?" She demanded, trying to twist inside her jacket. "Please, it's just a formality while the police go over the charges."
"What charges?" She looked at me, shocked. "Please don't fight the restraints. I don't want to sedate you." She considered this and relaxed. "Thank you. I'm Dr. Lacombe, by the way. I'll tell you what I was told: Yesterday, you broke into a warehouse. Inside of that was a crate full of gold coins that was to be shipped to Denver. You broke into that crate but the six guards who were there tried to stop you. Allegedly, you assaulted them before you were stopped. But since you were injured and you seemed confused, you were brought here."
"Yesterday Doctor?" White Owl began quickly, "I was asked to go there." "By Whom?" "Sheriff Clayton, one of his deputies brought a message to the Queen City Police Department asking for my help." I was taking notes, discovering her perceptions and reactions. "Go on please." I requested. "I was told there was a bomb in the warehouse, that's why I went in. I opened the crate that held the bomb." "Was there a bomb?" I asked. "No, but there was no gold coins either. All I saw was a lot of small packages. I think it was heroin, but I'm not sure. The men inside attacked me and I defended myself." "Heroin? How do you know?" "I don't know. If any lab analyzes it, they'll see what it is. I saw a lot there, someone should call the DEA." White Owl said urgently."Let's go back to earlier statement. You said a message was brought by a deputy to the Queen City Police." "Yes." "Thank you. Would you mind if I called to confirm that?” “Please do.” White Owl said, a sense of urgency in her voice. I picked up the phone, pretended to call out. I asked about the note, pretending to listen for a few minutes. “Thank you for that information, Sheriff. Goodbye” I hung up. “White Owl, according to Sheriff Clayton, no message of any type was sent to Queen City." "But they called me!" She insisted. "First you say there was a message, then you say they called you. I'm confused." I stated. "Clayton sent a written message to Queen City, Queen City called me." "Why didn't they simply call Queen City. If there was a bomb, wouldn't sending a courier with a message waste a lot of time? And why didn't they call the FBI? They have a well trained bomb disposal team?" "Because..." She started to say, then cut herself off. "I don't know Doctor." She admitted."That's alright, White Owl. You can't know everything. You acted on the information you were given." She gave me a grateful look. "But Sheriff Clayton is rather upset. He claims you have no jurisdiction to act in Meadowbrook." "I'm not surprised. He doesn't like me." She admitted. "Why is that?" I asked. "A while back, I broke up an illegal gambling ring he was running." "An illegal gambling ring?" I wrote it down. "Yes, I heard he was bringing in a million dollars a year." "And after you broke up the ring, you went to the authorities?" "Of course, the state looked into it, I heard a couple of investigators vanished and nothing really became of the investigation." She concluded. "And you didn't see anything wrong about that?" "Of course, but I'm not a lawyer or police officer." She answered."But you claim to have the authority to break into buildings without a warrant." I said. White Owl replied quickly."If you look at the metahuman legal cases. I'm thinking specifically of Superman vs LexCorp, 1989. Lex Luthor took Superman to court claiming that an anonymous tip given to Superman did not give him the legal right to break into one of his labs. It went to the Supreme Court and they concluded that an anonymous tip given to a police officer gave said officer probable cause. And since Superman was deputized, that legal right was the same for him.""And you are deputized?" I asked. "In Queen City." she said a little defensively. "And you carry weapons in your belt. The report I saw indicated that there were explosives in your Bop Balls." I asked. "Right, Explosives, gas, net, and just the hard steel ball." White Owl answered "I see. Do you have a permit to carry those explosives or any training on how to use them?" She looked pensive as she replied "Um well...yes and yes, though no federal paperwork, after all, White Owl isn't my real name." "So you use an illegal alias to bypass Federal explosives regulations? Those are felonies, White Owl" I countered, trying not to smile as I watched my captive cringe. "No, as a Federally approved metahuman, I am allowed to carry my tool belt. The Guild functions as a Federal Law Enforcement group under Homeland security. We're deputized in the US." It was hard to repress my smile, she walked right into my trap.
Now I was going to make her squirm. "But are you an official member of the Guild?" I inquired. "Yes, but at present in the reserves, not active duty." "In the reserves. Are you not good enough for active duty?" I asked. "No, fit for duty, but still undergoing mandatory Guild evaluation...probationary status is reserve" She answered somewhat quietly. "Ah, evaluation, so you don't officially have legal status as a Guild member. And you say you're not fit for duty?" I was pushing her now." I AM fit for duty." She said, tension in her voice. I saw her arms tensing inside her straitjacket as I went on, "But you just said you weren't." She replied too quickly. "Just still on probation. I meant no, I AM fit for duty, just on probation, so I don't have full Guild status. Though I'm deputized in Queen City" "This isn't Queen City. In any police force, probationary periods are for screw ups, so what did you do wrong?"
I hate to say it, but I was enjoying myself. "NOTHING!" She yelled "Probationary period is one year in the Guild before full membership" I had just scored a major hit. "Why are you getting so upset? I'm simply clarifying some issues." I asked calmly. "I'm not upset!" Owl said through gritted teeth. "I am attempting to answer your questions..." "And not doing a very good job." I replied calmly.But then she turned the tables slightly. "You seem familiar somehow...do I know you?" She asked, looking intently into my face. " I don't think we've met. I would remember meeting a woman as lovely as you." I answered, appealing to her vanity. But before she could get her mental bearings back, I steered us back on course "You're on probation, you carry unlicensed explosives and you are in a city where you have no jurisdiction. And you seem rather upset and confused. May I ask you a question, White Owl?" She was defensive, her legs were curled slightly, her toes were clenched and she was shifting her torso, trying to get comfortable. "Yes, I think you just did!" She said a little too loudly.
"Why are so defensive? Are you keeping something from me?" "No, why am I here?" she asked, desperation tinging her voice "You broke into a warehouse. You told the owner there was a bomb inside. After tearing the place apart, you found nothing, but caused several thousand dollars in damages." She actually didn't talk to the owner, I put a false fact into her mind. She would try to remember that, but she wouldn't be able to. So she would begin to doubt her memory of the events, causing mental disorientation."But I had information regarding a bomb, it came from the Sheriff's office!" She exclaimed. "They have no record of any information sent to you. And since you are not deputized in Meadowbrook, there is no legal reason to bring you here." "Where is my belt?" She asked abruptly. "In the sheriff's office, with all the weapons inside, it was deemed to dangerous to keep here. By the way, the capsules we found, what are they for? Keeping unlabeled medications is dangerous" I added. "Capsules? I don't carry anything like that." "In the pouch next to your handcuffs. We found a bottle full of capsules." White Owl was very defensive now. "I don't have any capsules, I don't know what you're talking about." "So you don't know how they got into your belt?" I asked "No idea at all." She answered. "Do you think someone planted them?" "I do, but that would make me sound paranoid, wouldn't it?" She replied defensively. "Does sounding paranoid bother you?" "I'm not paranoid, I'm not crazy. I'm White Owl, and I need to get out of here!" "No one said you were." I said calmly.But White Owl was clearly upset and was trying to stand up, but in a straitjacket, that is almost impossible. "Please don't fight the restraints." I turned on the sympathy, "I think you're tired, White Owl. You feel like you carry the world on your shoulders." She looked at me, I nodded gently. "Yes...trying to protect them." White Owl said in a whisper. "Who are the "Them" you refer to?" I asked, knowing the answer but wanting to hear it from her. Perhaps I could learn what motivated her. I got more than I bargained for. "The people of Queen City, so many threats the police can't handle. Athena told me to protect them." I was confused on who Athena was. "Athena?" "The goddess--she made me her herald, gave me my powers." " Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom?" I asked incredulously. "Yes--she wants me to still the chaos and promote wisdom to the world."At this point, I had legal justification for an indefinite stay for this woman. She was delusional. Athena, goddess of wisdom? She was a myth.But where did her powers come from? I needed blood drawn, tests run, a CAT scan of her brain at least. There were other metahumans that could fly, but none of them claimed to get that ability from mythical demigods. I wondered if she had a very small brain tumor that gave her visions. It wasn't unheard of in medical literature. But she could fly. I knew that first hand. A small brain tumor can't alter a body's affect on gravity. As Sherlock Holmes once said "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." So there is a God, or at least a goddess...I told myself to think, time was passing and every moment I was silent gave White Owl a chance to mentally regroup. I couldn't allow that. So I fell back to Psych 101. "Have you lost anyone? Someone close?" Her voice held a noticeable chill, "Not recently." "And did Athena visit you after that loss?" I inquired. "No--several years later."
She had to know how, I hate the term but it fit perfectly, crazy her statements were. "Did you mourn them? Do you have unresolved issues?" Again, Psych 101. "Of course I mourned them. I'm not unfeeling. But I also dealt with the grief and moved on." "I didn't say you were unfeeling White Owl. You seem defensive about your mental state."Her response was a little surprising. "You seem determined to break it open...but I have secrets to protect--and my family's and friends' as well." "White Owl, I'm a physician, my oath says "Do no harm. You seem confused and defensive and you appear to be somewhat delusional." That upset her, but that was my intent. I had to keep her off balance, after all, she still had her powers. "But I'm not! how can I prove that to you?" She pleaded. "How can you prove that, White Owl. Perhaps if Athena could reveal herself, I could understand." "But she won't--she only speaks to me, oh I feel so confused." Good, that was what I needed to hear from her. "Is she here now? Can you see her?" I asked. "She's not here now--something seems to be interfering with my hearing her."
White Owl sounded nervous, almost afraid. I decided on compassion, "Perhaps you need some rest, to clear your mind of what's troubling you." "What do you mean?" She looked at me, an odd look on her face. "Do you have anyone that takes care of you, White Owl?" "No, I live alone." "So you give of yourself all the time, and get nothing in return. That's very noble." "That's not true--I have friends, rewarding work and the respect of the Guild."I came up with an idea. "Would you like me call the Guild?" White Owl's face lit up. "Yes! Let them know I'm here! Captain Valiant will come and vouch for me!" "That would help a great deal. What is their number?" It took a moment for her to think of it. "The switchboard is 909 555 4376. My access is 9695.”
I wrote that down. I didn't know how important that was, but to know White Owl's Guild access may be useful in the future. I looked at my watch. "It's 2:45 AM." I lied. I picked up the phone and dialed, it was an act. The phone wasn't connected to the phone system. I didn't want White Owl calling for help if she got free. I dialed the number. "It's ringing." I waited 6 seconds before speaking "Yes, I'd like to speak to Captain Valiant please. This is urgent." I waited, mentally listening to an imaginary receptionist "He's out the country?" "No! Anyone!" White Owl cried out, clearly upset. "This is Dr Lacombe. Please have him call me as soon as he returns." I waited, then gave my number. "Thank you, goodbye."
"Don't be upset, White Owl. He'll be back in 4 days. And as soon as he does, you can go home." But she was upset, almost ready to cry. I had offered salvation and ripped it away. White Owl was wounded now. "I need to get out NOW!" She cried out, nearing a panic state as she fought her straitjacket.
Opening the desk drawer, I grabbed a large syringe and hurried to her side. "White Owl, please don't fight." But she did, slamming her feet on the couch. It shook under the impact. I pulled the cap off the needle and jabbed it into her left thigh. "OWWWW!!!!" She exclaimed. ""Don't be afraid, this will help you to relax. White Owl, I believe you, but you need to rest."
I put my hand on her left shoulder comfortingly. "You know I can fight off a sedative, don't you?" She said. "Yes, but this is a very special one." Her eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?" There was concern in her voice. "It's a strong sedative, you'll have the most amazing dreams. Please don't fight it. It will just make it work faster." I stared into her eyes, getting her attention as I used my hypnotic voice. "Please relax, listen to my voice, you're safe here"Her head was rocking back and forth rapidly, she was really fighting the straitjacket but it was holding fast. 'Just a few more seconds...' I willed it. "You need to rest, to be taken care of. You need peace and serenity, to let go of your burdens and concerns." I said to White Owl.
Her body began, thankfully, to relax. "Need rest, peace, yes." She whispered. "Yes White Owl, please let me help you as have helped so many others. You are a hero, but even they get tired. Athena wants you to be healed, she needs you strong and sound of mind. I can help you if you'll let me." My voice was full of relaxants. "Yes." she murmured.
I could see her relaxing, her eyelids getting heavy. "You are so brave, so strong. But rest now. Let me carry your burdens for awhile. Rest White Owl, relax and be at peace. You are safe here, you are among friends. We admire and respect you. But now, just close your eyes and sleep. Have no worries. All is well because you are here. Sleep White Owl." I commanded her.White Owl closed her beautiful eyes. I knew from the literature that there was a kaleidoscope inside her mind. "Relax, White Owl, you are drifting in a cloud of peace and safety. No one can harm you." Her head turned toward me, White Owl was unconscious. I stroked her cheek before taking her pulse. It was slow and steady. "Goodnight White Owl." I said to the sleeping heroine.When she awoke, her condition would be much more uncomfortable.
From her expression, White Owl was wracking her brain. "I...I think so. You were kind to me. You helped me..." "That's what I do, help people. But I want to warn you, if you keep fighting, I'll sedate you again. I don't want to do that because you're detoxifying and adding more drugs into your system isn't helping you." "Detoxifying? From what?" "Tribolizine, it's an extremely rare, extremely addictive form of mescaline. It causes great increases in physical strength, but it also causes hallucinations and if used for an extended period of time, psychosis."
"I don't use drugs!" White Owl yelled. "I'm not hallucinating, I'm White Owl, a metahuman from Queen City..." Her voice cut off as she heard herself. " "A metahuman?" I said. "That explains your outfit. I assume, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that you see yourself as a super heroine?" "I don't see myself as a super heroine, I AM one." She shot back defiantly.I paused and looked at White Owl, her pulse rate was reading 99, her blood pressure and respiration was also up. Her straitjacket was reinforced, but I doubted it would hold her if she used her full strength. White Owl was agitated and ready to exert herself in a panic. "I'm sure you are one, White Owl."
I reached into the inside pocket of my lab coat, pulled out a portable Mesmer and aimed it at her face. "White Owl, look here." I ordered. She did and I discharged it, the light playing with her mind. "White Owl, can you hear me?" "I hear you." she said, her voice flat, her expression blank. "You have no powers. You are as weak as a normal woman. Repeat my directions." "I have no powers. I am as weak as a normal woman." she intoned blankly.I waited for several minutes, waiting for the Mesmer effect to fade. I could have compelled her to do more than believe she was powerless, but I didn't want to push her psyche too much. As the effect died out, White Owl began to become agitated again. "White Owl, what do you remember before you got here?" She looked at me, thinking..."Flying to the warehouse in Meadowbrook." "Flying?" I asked. "Yes, I have the ability to fly." "I see. You don't remember what happened inside?" "I stopped a drug deal--I was making the arrests--then something--funny--I don't remember the rest."
Her voice faded. "Do you remember seeing people inside?" "Five? No---six I distinctly remember six, not counting me." I began slowly, cautiously. "You are right. The three that are...resting, they weren't drug dealers." "No?" "The six were security guards, there was a shipment of gold coins being shipped. There were no drugs." "No I found heroin!" White Owl exclaimed. "Please White Owl, calm yourself. If you relax and listen to me, I'll let you out of the restraints. Would you like that?" "Yes, very much." She said quickly. "Good." I smiled at her. "You think you found heroin..." "I DID!" White Owl yelled. "It was all over...packets of it!" Her eyes were wide now. "The packets were chemicals that kept the gold from tarnishing during shipping." I explained. "But there wasn't any gold!" White Owl said, her voice rising. "The guards did their job to try to stop you..." "I had a tip off from...from...someone...There was heroin there!"This was interesting. There was no mention of the bomb. Perhaps the tasers scrambled her memory. But she was believing my lies and trying to defend herself against them. Things were working better than I had hoped for this early on. "Who sent you the tip?" I asked, genuinely curious. "I...I don't know--it was a man...his voice...sounded...sounded...sounded like YOU!" She stared at me as if for the first time. "You seem familiar..have we met before?"
This was interesting, and a bit unsettling. My face was unrecognizable, but my voice, my mannerisms, were unchanged. And if White Owl picked up on that, then I was in trouble. I had to play along with her, and divert. "We did, at the ER." I said calmly. "No--before then...I'm almost certain...maybe three years?" She sounded uncertain. I decided that some truth would work in this situation. I was living in France 3 years ago. Were you there?" Which was true, I was living in France, in prison, but that was something I didn't want to reveal. "No...but there was someone....you remind me of a man I sent to prison. He was extradited to France." "That is interesting, White Owl. I was a prison psychologist in France."I said, feeling more nervous.
I felt myself beginning to sweat as I remembered her strength and ferocity. "There was a man---called himself Somnos." She added. "That is a remarkable coincidence. Yes, I remember him. I helped treat him before he became ill." "You remind me of him... aren't you related to Dr. Fournier?" She asked. I was amazed, and frightened, of her perceptive abilities. White Owl truly was a worthy opponent, breaking her would be the pinnacle of my career. "No, my name is Lacombe, don't you remember? We met in the Meadowbrook ER, after you...hurt those guards."
As if she didn't hear me, White Owl inquired. "Why are you perspiring so Dr Lacombe?" I had to get her off this train of thought, NOW. "Why did you kill those 3 guards?" I fired back. " I didn't kill anyone! Life is Sacred to me!" She exclaimed in disbelief. "Of the 6 guards in the warehouse, only 3 are alive. There is security footage of you killing them." I knew that would distract her. I had to press this attack. "I don't believe you! White Owl doesn't kill--everyone knows that! I mean I don't kill" I almost smiled as I replied " Who is everyone?" "The police--the underworld--the Guild." I was playing White Owl like a violin as I replied "The Guild?" "White Owl sounded insulted as she answered. "The Guild of Superheroes! Captain Valiant knows I don't kill." "Who is Captain Valiant? And I've never heard of the Guild of Superheroes." I replied quickly.White Owl was nervous now. "You tried to call him when I first got her! Captain Valiant--the most powerful defender of Earth! Or Sirocco, the fastest woman? Dark Hunter? Danger Woman? Surely you've heard of them!" I shook my head as she mentioned each hero. "I'm sorry White Owl. I need you to listen to what I'm going to tell you. Don't take this personally. Can you do that?"
She nodded carefully. "Tribolizine, Those capsules you were taking, they caused hallucinations You've been taking them for some time, your blood tests showed a high amount in your system." White Owl opened her mouth, obviously to defy me and deny drug use--but closed it before saying anything. "In some cases, the user loses the ability to tell truth from hallucination. That is what we think happened to you." She stared blankly at me, clearly having no idea what to say."White Owl, before we go on, I need to get a sense of how much you remember. Can we do that?" There was a pause, then, "Yes, that would be fine." I smiled reassuringly now that I had control of the situation again. "White Owl, how long have you been here?" I asked. "I...I...I don't know." "You can take a guess." Now I had an opportunity to really alter her perception of reality. "An hour?" I paused as if debating whether or not to tell her, White Owl fell for it. "You've been here for 22 days." I said simply. "22....days? No I ...no that can't be right!"
She stared at me, horrified, not even wondering if I was lying as I continued. "Detox from drugs, especially hallucinogens, can alter your time sense. Do you remember our initial interview?" She shook her head. "From what you've said a few weeks ago, you live alone and you suffered some personal losses."
This time she nodded. "And instead of seeking help to deal with your grief, you started taking Tribolizine. And created a mental world that you could escape to. A world called Queen City..." "Queen City is my HOME! It's the next county over! " White Owl declared proudly. "You are it's defender, called by the Greek goddess Athena to bring peace and harmony to that place. Do you remember telling me that?" She gave a near imperceptible nod. "There is no Queen City. It exists only in your mind." I said gently. "Its ON the MAP of OHIO!" White Owl screamed, fighting the straitjacket and chains.
I grabbed a sedative syringe and hurried to her. I saw one of the buckles on her straitjacket had bulged outward. It wasn't surprising, panic can override a hypnotic suggestion, and the Mesmer, despite it's abilities, wasn't able to put someone in a deep trance that was more effective. But I had to stop her. Taking the Mesmer, I flashed her ""White Owl, can you hear me?" I asked her blank face. "Yes." "Whenever you struggle, you will feel pain. The more you struggle, the worse the pain becomes. Do you understand?" "I understand." She answered instantly. "Good, so don't struggle, I don't want to see you hurting yourself.""Do you want another shot?" I asked warningly. "No, please!" she pleaded, calming down slowly. "Thank you, as I said before, you've had too many drugs in your system. Now then, would you like to see a map?" Yes, please." I go to my desk, open a drawer, pull out a doctored map of Ohio. I took it over to her, spread it out so she could see it. "Can you see any place called Queen City? Take your time, White Owl. Look carefully." She spent several minutes staring at it, growing more confused by the second before declaring. "it's it's....Blues Landing? St Matthews? That's where Queen City and Zenith should be." She looked at me, fear in her eyes now. She was very confused and disoriented, just like I wanted. "What is the zip code?" I asked. "Queen City is 45244 and Zenith is 45011."Back to my desk again, picking up my laptop and booting an altered zip code program. "You've seen zip code look up right?" "Yes." White Owl answered. Holding the laptop in front of her, I entered 45244 and hit "Search." Almost instantly, "45244-No match found." Then I typed in Zenith's zip code, "45011-No match found." The look of utter bewilderment on White Owl's face nearly caused me to laugh.
I placed my laptop on the floor and laid my hand gently on her shoulder, "White Owl, There is no Queen City. It exists only in your imagination. The Tribolizine made it real to you." I said quietly. "What about the magazine? Chateau?" She asked. "You read Chateau?" I asked, surprised. "No, but I was on the cover--or rather a woman who looked like me."
She sounded embarrassed. "I can get an issue if you'd like to see it, and it would explain a lot about you." It looked like White Owl had swallowed a wasp. "No No No!" She exclaimed. Then her mind reasserted itself. "Wait, you said you knew Somnos?" "In prison, right before he died of cancer." I answered. "He came to the prison from the US, right?" She asked urgently. "No, he poisoned his wife." " And he tried to kill a private investigator!" White Owl interjected. " How did he do that?" I asked innocently. "
“He was here--in this country hypnotizing people and stealing their money." She told me. " Stealing whose money?" I asked her. "His patients--overcharging. I knew one woman who paid him 40,000 dollars to lose weight--two sessions." "What was her name?" I inquired. Her answer was brusque. " I..I'm not going to give away that information." "Did she live in Queen City?" "Yes--I'm related--that's why I won't give it away."Now I dug the metaphorical knife into her gut. "But Queen City doesn't exist." I told her. "It does exist!" "It has no zip code, it's not on any map." I said. "I watched a Cobras game on Sunday!" White Owl said fast. "Are the Cobras the Queen City NFL franchise?" "Yes, I even saw Rick Linseed get into the game--that's how I know the Cobras were winning." She concluded."If I showed you the NFL website and you saw that there was no team called the Cobras, what would you do?" Abruptly, tears welled up in her pretty eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked, getting a tissue from my desk, dabbing at her eyes. "What are you feeling?" "My world is falling apart." She said, infinite sadness filling her voice. I tilted her head back gently, looked directly into her eyes. "White Owl, just the opposite is happening. Your world is coming together. The real world." I released her head.But she was not defeated yet. "My real world is out there!" She gestured with her head. "Let me loose and I'll SHOW you." "If I let you loose." I warned her, "You'll be taken directly to the Federal Penitentiary to face murder charges. If you stay here, I can keep you safe." "I didn't kill anyone and I'm not crazy." She said stubbornly. "No one said you were crazy. That is not a word I accept. You are a hurting human being. It is my duty to help you heal the hurt." I answered. "I'm not hurting--I am a helper to those in pain." "A helper to a city that doesn't exist." I told her.
White Owl struggled, but I could see the pain in her face and she stopped. " May I make a statement? It's not an insult." White Owl nodded and I went on. "You thought you had superior strength, am I right?" "I do." She answered instantly. "But you can't escape from a standard issue straitjacket." I told her. "Sure I can. You've had me so doped up here I can't hardly tell which way is up." She said accusingly. "You been detoxing from the Tribolizine. That's why you're having pain. But you're eating now, sleeping 8 hours a night and can make a real conversation. That is very good progress, White Owl. You should feel proud of that." She didn't say anything, but I saw a lump in her throat.""May I ask a question, doctor?" "Of course." I smiled. "Why am I chained?" She asked. I looked embarrassed. "When you first arrived, you were extremely violent and strong from the Tribolizine You ripped the straps off of five beds. The chains are the only thing that kept you from rolling off the bed or hurting others. It's Sheriff Clayton's idea. I don't agree with it. But with three murder charges and felony assaults on three others on you, he sets the rules on your confinement." "But I don't remember killing anyone! I've never killed before!" "I've very sorry, White Owl, but there are security tapes of you beating those men to death." "No!" She screamed, despair filling her cry. She thrashed convulsively, weeping uncontrollably. I went to the storage room, grabbed a syringe and a vial of Ibogaine and quickly drew out 15 cc's.White Owl was near hysteria, just as I hoped. Moving to the fallen heroine, I held her left leg down and jabbed the needle into her thigh. She cried out in pain, then in 10 seconds, she relaxed, her eyes rolling back in her head. Her heart rate plummeted from 126 to 71. I knew White Owl was now in a altered reality of her own design. I wondered what she was seeing. White Owl was limp, a Mona Lisa smile on her face. I had her now and there was no way she would ever be free again.
White Owl was having an incredible experience. From beneath the gag, she made amazing noises, almost like a cat purring. I'd have given a million dollars to see what she was seeing in her mind. My captive's body was writhing gently inside her straitjacket. Could she be dancing? Or perhaps she was having a fantasy of her being a singer. Her pulse was rising near 90.
I wished I had some EEG readings of my heroine's brain, judging from the rapid eye movements from beneath her eyelids, White Owl was fully lost in her subconscious, her deepest, most hidden desires was being experienced, perhaps for the first time.
Again, I found myself wondering who this woman was, what drove her, what made her happy or angry. I recalled my dream about her and Gemma, even in my erotic fantasies, White Owl was a warrior, defiant and strong. Perhaps a part of my mind believed that she would never break. But no, that wasn't true. Even now, this heroine was powerless to do anything to help herself.Footsteps clicked down the staircase. "Is she comfy, doc?" Clayton asked. Annoyed at the interruption, I stood and unlocked the gate. He pushed me gently out of his path, making a course for White Owl. As I expected, he went to her face, trying to pull the mask off and failing. "What the hell does she use, crazy glue?" He said from behind gritted teeth. "Hard to say, I'd bet some sort of organic polymer that needs a reagent to cancel the chemical bonds..." "Doc, I'm a cop, not an egghead." "My apologies, sheriff. I'd bet that White Owl uses a type of waterproof glue that takes a special chemical to remove." I answered, dumbing down my reply to his level. "Any idea what it is? I'd love to have that mask in my office and her portrait in my bedroom." "It's almost impossible to determine, we need access to a major lab and several days to analyze the glue." I answered, lying to him.
A good lab could figure that out in a matter of hours, but science was Clayton's blind spot. "But don't worry, my friend. In a few days, White Owl will tell us her name, address, phone number and bra size." "Just by shooting her up with that Ivygain?" He asked. "Ibogaine." I corrected him lightly. “And it is the active chemical in the African Tabernacle iboga root. It use in Africa was for coming of age as well as religious rituals.”
“A small dose can give it's user a psychedelic experience lasting several hours. In some areas, mainly Europe, Ibogaine is used in drug rehab, there are some interesting studies that may indicate that Ibogaine cures narcotic addiction." I said. "Cures, you said." Clayton said quietly. I knew him well enough to know that when talked quietly, he was thinking about a new way to make money."It's still preliminary, sheriff, and Ibogaine is illegal in the States. It's said to be addictive so using it as a rehab method is counterproductive, to say the least." "And that stuff will make White Owl talk?" He asked. "In time, plus the fact that she'll get no food or water. That will weaken her body and the Ibogaine will weaken her mind.
We keep our Owl drugged to the gills for a few days, then let her come down fast..." "So when she comes to, she'll want the drug and will say anything to get it." I gave him a quiet round of applause. "Yes, that's exactly right sheriff. And after we learn everything, we sell White Owl to the Colombians..." If we don't want her for ourselves, doc." He said, staring at White Owl.
Walking down the side of the bed, he began stroking her thighs. He smiled as White Owl gasped. "She is a little bit slutty, isn't she?" He commented. "Not necessarily. People do stupid things when they're drunk, right?" "Oh yeah!" He answered. "A few years ago I caught the Mayor's 19 year old daughter driving drunk. She begged me not to arrest her or tell her daddy." He leered at the memory. "I agreed, but we discovered a whole new meaning of "Full body search." He winked at me.Clayton was not a stupid man. Unethical and a borderline sociopath, he had no business with a badge. He had regaled me with tales of his little empire called Meadowbrook, he had one rule: You could do nearly anything you wanted in his town, as long as he got a cut of the profits. And believe me, he was doing very well.
One of out first "agreements" was a new plan with psych workups. Normally, if a violent felon was arrested, he or she would have a mandatory 72 hour workup at a cost of $3000, paid for by the state. Before I arrived, the money would go into the asylum. After our "agreement" was made, Clayton would get a third of that cost as a kickback.
Soon he instituted a new policy: Anyone arrested would get a 72 hour workup, even for a minor violation like speeding. His reasoning was that speeding showed reckless disregard for the safety of others, therefore a speeder was mentally unbalanced and needed psychological intervention.The accused could, if they wanted to, have a private hearing with the sheriff. Invariably, if a "cash settlement" as he called it, I called it a bribe, could be reached, the case would be dismissed. But if the accused was someone with wealth or power, then their case file would be kept out of the public record as long as the "filing fees," aka blackmail money, was paid monthly. It was a very profitable system and since he was a cop, then any attempt to force him to stop only added more charges, both legal and financial, to said person.It was a wonderful arrangement for him and anyone he trusted. And he trusted me, albeit not implicitly. One of his maxims was "Trust is the main ingredient of betrayal." So he allowed people in to some extent, but not completely. Clayton was no fool. I admired that and made sure that I had a fast way out of town should anything go wrong.
I had no illusions that he wouldn't throw me to the wolves if things went wrong. And despite all our precautions, White Owl could find a way to escape. If that happened, her rage would know no bounds. I knew firsthand what that rage felt like, but this time, if she managed to get free, I doubted I would live through it."I hope you used rubber gloves, Sheriff." Was all I replied. He thought that was a great joke and laughed. "Rubber gloves, he said!" He repeated gleefully to White Owl, her head tilted lazily in the direction of his voice, her eyes unfocused. Clayton reached down, stroked her right cheek. Her purring sounds stopped. He pulled his hand back as if he had been shocked by a high voltage wire. "Is she waking up!" He asked nervously, his hand on his pistol. "Don't worry, my friend. Our captive Owl is still defenseless. Remember, her brain is hyperactive right now, your touch probably felt like a thunderbolt to her." I explained.
"Damn, think I could get some of your stuff for my girlfriend?" God, he was a cretin. "Check with me in a few days, if White Owl's brain is sufficiently fried, you can have some." He grinned. "Good enough doc, thanks." He caressed White Owl's breasts, even covered as they were with reinforced nylon and kevlar, she still responded, her back arching and her head rolling back and forth, her heartbeat increasing."Damn, this stuff is awesome!" Clayton said, astounded. "I got some stuff I have to take care of. Let me know if anything happens." "I'll keep you apprised, sheriff." I replied as he turned, leaving me with our prisoner. I decided that after she came down, the two of us would have our first therapy session. In the state that White Owl would be in, her mind would be easy to work with.
I went to my desk, called "Dr. Forbes" and had him take White Owl to my fake office while I went upstairs to get some coffee and make sure there was no pressing asylum business that needed done. Thankfully, it was all minor issues, budget requests, transfers, and 2 complaints about the psych workups. I handed them off to Legal and called Clayton, he'd speak to the accused personally, he assured me that the complainers would quit making trouble.
With a cup of coffee and an uninspired sandwich on my desk, I turned on the cameras and found "Dr. Forbes" escorting a very woozy, disoriented and straitjacketed White Owl down the fake hallway. I saw his lips moving so I turned on the mikes "...Don't you worry about a thing now, miss. After a few weeks of my treatment, you won't ever think you're White Owl again." I had to smile. He was playing his part perfectly, his hand was on her shoulder, guiding her carefully to her destination, looking and acting like a trained caregiver. I switched the camera in my fake office on in time to see them enter. With his hand on her elbow, he guided White Owl to the reinforced leather couch and helped her lay on her back. The chains went across her chest and hips.Then I saw something I did not like. As soon as she was restrained, his right hand slipped under the crotchstrap and her leotard, fondling her. White Owl moaned, her head tilting back as Forbes smiled, leering down at the helpless heroine. After a minute, he ceased, then kissed her on the forehead and left her alone. I would have strong words with him later, White Owl was never to be left alone, ever. And there was to be no sexual contact with her.
If she felt threatened, she may lash out and though my suggestions that struggling and using her metahuman strength would cause pain, her survival instinct may override that suggestion and cause her to try to escape. I tossed back the coffee and ate the sandwich as I hurried to the basement, angry at Forbes and worried that Owl would wake up alone and start thinking unguided thoughts.
When I arrived at her cell, White Owl, thankfully, was still drugged. But I knew from previous experience that she would come out of her stupor very quickly. But I wanted her to, I needed to shake her reality again. I removed her gag, noticing how dry her lips were, that was an early sign of dehydration. I knew she was hungry, White Owl hadn't eaten since her arrival and I wasn't going to nourish her until she was extremely weak.
I was curious to see how long her boosted healing abilities would carry her. But I was worried about her strength, while under the influence of the Mesmer, I had ordered her to be as weak as a normal human, but under stress, that order broke down. I was hoping that the new suggestion that struggling would cause pain would work.White Owl blinked her eyes as her respiration increased. "Daisy, need to feed Daisy..." she muttered. I wrote that down, putting "Pet" beside it. Interesting, she had a pet in real life. Since she lived alone, a pet would supply companionship that asked no questions, didn't wonder where she went for hours at a time at all times of day and night.
But White Owl said she had family in Queen City. Perhaps they would report White Owl's alter ego missing in a few days. I made a note to have Clayton monitor missing persons reports in Queen City. If a woman matching White Owl's description was filed, we would know her true identity."Can you hear me, White Owl?" I said gently. Her eyes focused, looking at me. "Yes...where am I?...Thirsty." She whispered. "We have to watch your fluid intake, your kidneys aren't working properly. How long have you been taking Tribolizine?" I asked. "Don't take it. Never heard of it." she answered weakly. "White Owl...do you know your name?" I asked gently. "Yes, but I'm White Owl, my real name is my secret." "Why is it a secret?" "I have enemies, I need to protect myself and my friends and family from them." "Enemies in Queen City?" "Yes." She answered petulantly.
"Do you remember the map we looked at a few days ago?" "I...think so." she replied, hesitating. "So you remember seeing no Queen City on the Ohio map?" "Yes, but that map was doctored." She announced. "Why do you say that?" I asked as gently as I could. "I'm from Queen City, I was born there, I remember growing up there. I remember school and work and happy times there. I'm being set up." "By whom?" "My enemies." She said. "From Queen City, that doesn't exist." I replied neutrally. "IT DOES EXIST! I REMEMBER IT!" She screamed. "Please be calm, I don't want to sedate you again." I told her.
She fought the straitjacket and the chains, but cried out. "Are you alright?" "Hurts when I move. What's wrong with me?" White Owl asked. "We went over this last week, don't you remember?" "No." she said quietly. "I'm afraid the Tribolizine has caused permanent damage to your nervous system." "What will it do?" She asked.
I fought back a smile. White Owl believed me about the Tribolizine now. "The neurologist that examined you told you that rapid movement of your limbs, in effect, over charges the nerves that control movement, that causes your pain." "Will it heal?" I paused, acting like I didn't want to tell her bad news. "I'm afraid not, you will experience pain for the rest of your life. I'm very sorry.""I don't remember any of that." She admitted, looking at the ceiling. "I can see that, it is possible that the nerve damage has spread to your brain, that would explain the memory gaps. But we can start some rehabilitation, teach the working parts of your brain to compensate for the damaged parts. I'll call your lawyer, he can use that information."
"My lawyer?" White Owl asked. "Yes, your defense attorney, he thinks he can keep you out of prison due to diminished capacity from the Tribolizine." "Prison?" I could see her searching her mind. "The charges." She said. "Yes, you remember that, don't you." She nodded, "You said I killed 3 people..." Abruptly she began to weep.
That was a good sign, she was rejecting her reality for the one I was feeding her. I grabbed a box of tissues, walked over to her, dabbing her eyes, the mask still adhering stubbornly to her face. "White Owl, can you tell me what you're feeling?" I asked gently. "Confused...scared...alone." she said between sobs. I placed my hand on her shoulder. "White Owl, as long as I'm here, you aren't alone. If you'll let me help you, I can walk with you through these dark times. "But they say I killed people!" "White Owl, I am your doctor, I don't care what you did. You are in my care now and I will do everything under the sun to bring you happiness and healing again."
"But I don't want to go to prison!" she wailed. "Listen to me." I said forcefully. "If your lawyer can convince the judge of your diminished capacity, we can keep you here indefinitely, perhaps even be sentenced here instead of prison. You and I can work together and together, we can find the truth that you are looking for."White Owl looked at me gratefully, composing herself. "But I don't know what is true anymore." "Right now, that is true. But in a few weeks, you'll begin to see the world as it is, not like you want it to be. You'll be able to accept that world in time, and later on, you may be able to walk in that world again." "But I killed..." She believed it!
"You allegedly...hurt people. That's up for the legal system to determine. But right now, that's not something you need concern yourself with." "Doctor, why am I still in this straitjacket?" "Unfortunately, Sheriff Clayton insists on that. We wanted you to wear a pair of pajamas instead of your...uniform, but you refused. So Clayton ordered us to keep you in the straitjacket till you agree to put on Clinic clothing. We're not sure how legal that is, but we have our lawyers looking at that." "Clayton's not very nice, is he?" she asked me. "He's a police officer, he sees things in black and white. He thinks you are a criminal and treats you accordingly.""Can I speak with him?" White Owl asked. I shook my head. "Your lawyer forbids contact with anyone involved in the case. But since we're on the subject, is there any family you'd like to contact?" The look of grief and anguish that filled her face convinced me of her confused state. "I don't know...my family is in Queen City..."
She began crying again. I patted her shoulder. "White Owl, we will sort through this, you have my word on that." I gave her a reassuring smile. "Doctor, I'd like some pajamas, please." She asked, smiling through her tears. I barely fought back the urge to pump my fist like an American football fan while screaming "YES!" I took a composing breath. "I'll call a nurse and the two of you can change." "No straitjacket?" White Owl asked. "Conditionally, if you don't get excited or violent again, then you won't need that again." I answered, hiding my nervousness at this change in plan.Leave it to a woman to mess up a perfect plan."I promise to behave, doctor. Thank you." White Owl told me, a brilliant smile on her beautiful face. I was floored. I hadn't expected this much compliance from her for several more days at least. Could the Ibogaine be that effective in altering her perception so quickly? That and my subtle attacks on her reality must be doing a job on her mind. I was pleased with her progress despite her throwing a wrench into my plan.
But White Owl was a heroine, and that was her job, after all. I IM'd Gemma, asking her to bring a pair of small pajamas to the basement. I wasn't happy with bringing her in to this operation, but she appeared to be very loyal while my brother was undergoing his treatment. But again, the propaganda about the deranged woman in maximum security was well propagated though the asylum staff. Gemma would be cautious and she was extremely good at forgetting what she saw if I asked her to. The Mesmer would see to that."A nurse will be down shortly with the pajamas. She can help you clean up too. But remember, you can only keep out of the straitjacket is if you do exactly what you're told. Is that clear?" "Yes, I understand that, doctor." she answered. Gemma returned the IM, saying she'd be down in 10 minutes. "White Owl, is there something I can call you other than that?" She looked uncomfortable. "I'm not sure what my name is...I have a name in Queen City, but if Queen City is fake, then that name may be fake too." She looked sad, confused again. "Ok, how about I call you Athena?" I thought it appropriate since she claimed that the Greek goddess was the source of her powers.She smiled again, "I like that, thank you doctor." "It's my pleasure, Athena." I replied, giving her a reassuring smile.All things considered, I was pleased with the progress. White Owl had willingly accepted my name for her, which meant she was in the process of abandoning the White Owl persona. As soon as Gemma helped her change into her pajamas, I'd have her give Athena an Ibogaine shot. When she woke up, she'd be the straitjacket again and I'd tell her that she hit Gemma. She'd have no memory of that, of course, but I'd tell her that she had another memory gap. That would confuse her even more.Yes, I could make this work in my favor. Revenge would soon be mine.
I had to admit, the PDA system we were now using sure beat the old intercom and phone system. I had just finished passing out the afternoon meds when I got an IM from Director Lacombe saying to bring a small pair of pajamas to the maximum security cell.
There were a lot of rumors floating around about that new section and it's mysterious new occupant. I heard everything from she was a junkie who killed 3 cops to a woman who fancied herself a superheroine and, after using magic mushrooms became psychotic. I wasn't too concerned, after all, I had been working here for awhile and had seen all sorts of violent types roll in.If course, Louis...I mean Dr. Fournier, had strict rules about female staff members having contact with violent or potentially violent male patients. He was always super concerned about our safety and we really appreciated all he did for us.
But now he was in isolation after his breakdown. There was a lot of talk about that too, this Lacombe character comes out of nowhere, sets up shop and is made director in under a year. It's not like I don't like him, but there's something about him that bothers me. Call it woman's intuition, but I knew that Lacombe was hiding something but unless I had solid proof, I dared not make an issue. If I lost this job, I'd never be able to get a job in health care again.I want to set the record straight, I worked in a hospital in California where I was accused of stealing pain meds. Yes, I did have a problem with them at one time. Three years ago, I was in a motorcycle accident with my boyfriend, he didn't make it. I spent 2 months in intensive care with severe abdominal injuries and a fractured left femur. It was hell for me, losing my love and enduring the agonies of multiple surgeries and rehab on my leg. Yes, I looked forward to taking the pain killers, it made me numb, both physically and mentally and I needed that. I missed Don, knowing I would never feel the touch of his hands again, see that smile that made me feel like a schoolgirl...But I went back to work, some said it was too early, but I needed to be useful, to bury the past in my work. Yes, it was a textbook case of how to become an addict and when I was caught, I was given the choice of going into rehab and resigning from the hospital or going to prison for 5 years. It wasn't much of a choice. I resigned, checked into rehab where I got clean, both mind and body. I stayed clean but could find no job in any hospital in America, there were lots of offers in Mexico, but I hated the idea of moving to a country that was bordering on becoming a third world nation.After a month, I found a low paying but very satisfying job in Denver, in a clinic operated under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Church. It was hard work, most of the patients were low income families or addicts like myself.
But I stayed clean and found a niche there. I even discovered that there was healing and forgiveness for even one like me. I found the mercy of a loving God and that forever changed me. I found a new strength and purpose in my simple faith and it led to an network of damaged healers seeking work. I wept the day I received an invitation to apply for a job as an RN at a asylum in a little town called Meadowbrook, Ohio. I had never heard of the place, but I had heard of it's neighbor, Queen City and it's heroine. Of course, after saving the world's coffee supply, everyone had heard of White Owl.So I packed a suitcase and boarded a bus for Meadowbrook. It was a long, boring trip, but I caught up on my journaling and wrote several letters to God. I was hopeful, even packing one of old nurse's uniforms even though I had no idea what the nurses wore there.
Since my funds were meager, it was arranged that I spend a day in St. George's Greek Orthodox church in Queen City to rest and prepare myself for the interview. The Pastor there, Father Tim, gave me a warm welcome and showed me to the small but comfortable room I would be staying in. After that long hot, sticky trip in that bus, the shower felt glorious and as the water ran over me, I envisioned the past and all it's pain and shame washing away, leaving me clean and pure to start walking a new path. After a nap and meal, I went to confession. I wanted my soul to be as clean and prepared as the rest of me.
After receiving forgiveness, I went for a short walk, taking pictures of the scenery. Having grown up in the hustle and bustle of large cities, Queen City seemed so calm and slow. Still, I found myself looking skyward, hoping to see a flash of white. As a little girl, I used to read comic books and loved Wonder Woman, I had quite a collection till I left for nursing school, I sold the whole lot and still regret that decision. I found myself wishing White Owl would swoop down and introduce herself. I'd love to sit down with her and ask a million questions, I bet I'd feel like a little girl in the comic book store, buying the newest Wonder Woman and wondering what it'd be like to be her and dreaming about my adventures if I was her.So caught up in my reverie, I lost track of my location. In a strange city, that is a dangerous thing for a woman walking alone. Trying not to look nervous or out of place, I turned around and started backtracking, my paranoia seeing shadows in every doorway and behind every parked car. "Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." I repeated endlessly to myself till I saw, with immense relief, a police car on it's patrol. Flagging it down, I told the officer what had happened. He was kind enough to give me a ride back to St. George's. I gave him a brief version of why I was here and how embarrassed I was. Sitting in a police car brought back some unpleasant memories. But at least I was in the front seat, I'd hate to arrive at the church and having to be let out of the back seat like a criminal. That would not bode well with a job interview the next day.
Fortunately, it was only a 10 block ride and the officer was thoughtful enough to let me out of his car 2 streets away from the church. Leaning over, I gave him a kiss on the cheek, he beamed as I got out. He was cute and very kind. It was the only thing I had to properly thank him with. As he drove away, I found myself giving him a shy little wave. I made a note of the car number: 27.
Tomorrow I would call the local precinct and give the officer a compliment to his chief. The day had flown by, the sun was setting already! Heading back to the church, I checked in and bade Father Tim goodnight. He said he would pray for me. I abruptly choked up, his kindness to a stranger touched me deeply. He stood and blessed me as tears streamed down my cheeks. "My child, you are never alone, never abandoned, never without purpose or value, never unloved. You are who you are because of the Artist who put you together. Go in peace." Later as I laid in bed, I wept in happiness, feeling a sense of safety and security that I hadn't felt since I was a child as I drifted off to sleep.The next morning, I woke early, showered and did my hair and makeup, dressing in a gray business suit and low heeled pumps. I was nervous but confident as I ate a small breakfast and was driven to Meadowbrook by a church volunteer, a retired woman who was the Norman Rockwell image of a grandma. I won't bore you with any more details, but I got the job and as I worked, became more and more impressed with Dr. Fournier. Truth be it told, I was attracted to him, but to act on it would ruin us both. But now, thinking he was laying strapped down to bed and sedated was very hard and shocking to accept. I wanted to see him, but that prick Dr. Barrett wouldn't allow him any visitors. I worried and prayed for him.I took the elevator down to maximum security cell. Dr. Forbes, who set off every alarm bell in my mind, was standing guard at the door. I was carrying a tray with a fresh pair of pajamas, a bowl of warm water, a small bottle of body shampoo, two washcloths and towel. Forbes gave me a very unprofessional look and as I walked through the door, he squeezed my butt! I felt like kneeing him in a prime area, but I settled for a "Eat-a-manure-sandwich-and-die" glare and said "Excuse me....doctor." between gritted teeth before walking down the narrow stairwell. There was no way I wouldn't file a sexual harassment complaint and take it to the nurse's union."Let me get that for you, Nurse Laurence." Dr. Lacombe said, unlocking the chain link gate that was the final barrier to the cell. "Thank you, Director." I said, walking through. He took the tray from me an placed it on a folding stand by the patient's bed. I was shocked! She was in a straitjacket with chains across her chest and thighs! There was even a ballgag in her mouth! No way that was legal! I looked at Lacombe. "Those are Sheriff Clayton's orders. I don't agree with them but the legal team is exploring all avenues. I share your anger, believe me." He said evenly. He could have fooled me but I kept my mouth shut. I knew all the regulations about patient restraints and this was so far over the top that if this woman filed suit, she could shut the asylum down and take every cent the asylum was worth.I wanted to complain and opened my mouth to speak, But Lacombe gave me a look that was almost predatory. "Do you wish to say something, nurse?" The way he stared at me, it was unnerving, like he was looking into my soul. I stammered, "No sir. What are your orders?" It was the oddest sensation, like he somehow canceled my desire to complain. "The patient needs a bath, Gemma, then help her into pajamas. She is dehydrated but she is still on a hunger strike. The legal team said we can't start an IV for several days. Until then, I'll leave her in your capable hands." He said, sounding utterly confident in my abilities. "I'll be close by if you have any problems." I nodded. "Thank you, Director." I wondered how this woman could announce she was on a hunger strike with that gag in her mouth. I watched him leave, walking up the stairs, giving us some privacy as I helped this woman into her pajamas.Wetting the first cloth, I squeezed a small amount of soap onto it and starting wiping her forehead and face. The straps of her gag was digging into her cheeks. This wasn't right. Something was going on here that I wasn't being told.
Leaning over, I whispered, "I don't know if you can hear me, but we want to help you." The woman made some pitiful moaning sounds from behind the gag. I got angry, no patient, no matter what they were accused of, didn't deserve this kind of treatment. "Can you hear me?" I asked, her eyes were glassy beneath her mask. Mask? What was going on? I stepped back, seeing the whole patient, not just the straitjacket and gag.
Her long legs were encased in nude tights, the muscle tone looked healthy. The mask looked familiar..."Oh my God!" I whispered. 'It can't be her.' I told myself. I had to think, I ran the cloth through her dark hair. She looked pale and weak, her eyes darted back and forth, looking at me, then at the walls and ceiling. Mild disorientation, I thought. I needed answers. Looking over my shoulder, I saw no one. I was scared but didn't know why. "If I take out the gag, you won't bite or scream, right?"Her eyes focused on me. I could see she was suffering and scared. Her head shook three times. It was hard to tell, but I thought she was trembling. "Ok, but talk quietly, if we're caught like this, we're both in trouble." I said, looking over my shoulder again. I took a deep breath, praying fast and hard. Then I reached behind the woman's head and started unbuckling the strap.
I knew who she was but I couldn't believe it. I rented a finished basement from a single mother in Meadowbrook. She had an 7 year old daughter who was a huge fan of White Owl. Anytime a picture or story was published about her, little Brooke would save it. I did some babysitting with her a few times, so I saw her White Owl collection quite frequently and knew what she looked like. Somehow, White Owl was now an inmate at Meadowbrook. If the charges against her were true, then I was putting my own life, as well as others, in grave jeopardy. But if she was being held against her will, then she needed my help. I was certain she was drugged. "If this hurts, I'm sorry. But these are really tight." I apologized as I pulled the buckle against her neck.
She winced, her eyes squeezing tight as the stiff buckle gave way and I pulled the strap away from the buckle. "Ok, I'm going to pull it from your mouth. Your jaws are going to hurt. Are you ready?" Our eyes met, she nodded once. "Ok, here we go." I said, gently pulling the hard red ball from behind her teeth, her jaws painfully distended as I worked the ball free. She made a "Foooo!" sound as the ball was removed. She licked her lips, I was alarmed to see how dry they looked. I looked around, there wasn't a sink or fountain here.
That was illegal, how was she supposed to get fluids? "Shhh, not so loud!" I hiss at her, looking over my shoulder again. Thankfully, no one was coming. "Th..thank you..." She whispered to me. I smiled at her. I dabbed the clean cloth in the water, starting dabbing her dry lips. "I'll get something to drink as soon as we get out of here, whoever you are." I whispered. "I'm White Owl--you have to believe me..." I dabbed her lips again. "Ok fine, you're White Owl. But I heard what you did to those guards. I thought White Owl didn't kill." I was suddenly confused, hesitant about my actions. Her face was hidden beneath a mask to hide her identity. Granted, this woman looked like White Owl, but there was that magazine that claimed to have her pictures...I stepped back from her, unsure of what to do next. I could claim that I took the gag out because I thought her breathing was labored."I didn't kill anyone..those reports are fraudulent." She stated matter of factly. "Can you prove that?" I asked. "Not from this cell." She answered. "The sheriff says he has video of the whole thing." I replied, thinking of all the stories I had heard about the attack. "Have you seen them? Sheriff Clayton would be the first to show them to Jackie Marks if he could get his ugly face on TV."
Jackie Marks was a tabloid-type reporter that would kill to get that footage. "That they haven't been on TV yet means they're being edited" She went on. It made sense, with enough time and equipment, you could alter a video to show anything... "No one's seem them. From what I've heard, he's keeping them under lock and key so no one can get them." I told her. "That's a great story." She licked her lips, I wetted them, wishing I had a bottle of water. "Thank you..." "Gemma, Gemma Laurence." I said, introducing myself.
"But have you heard anything about an investigation? Have I been Mirandized? Have I seen an attorney?" "I haven't heard about any investigation, but I work a lot and don't watch a lot of news. This is my first visit here. I have no idea." "I've been here for 22 plus days and this is the first nurse I've seen?" "22 days? Who told you that?" I asked. "Lacombe. He's been giving me shots of something, I don't know what." "White Owl, you've been here 2, 3 days at most." I answered, a million thoughts, none of them pleasant went through my mind. We weren't whispering now we were both trying to figure out what was going on."Can you walk? We're getting out of here." I asked. She nodded, smiling. I laid her bed flat, then undid the chains, reaching for the crotchstrap. "God, this is is too tight." "Tell me about it!" White Owl replied. I started pulling the strap out of the buckle when I heard a voice behind me. "Gemma dear. Please step away from the inmate." It was Lacombe! I looked at White Owl, she nodded. I did "Good, turn around please." He said evenly. I did, he had a gun in his hand. "Would you care to explain your actions, Nurse Laurence?" "Explain why you need a gun, Director." I said. "Slide your PDA to me." He ordered.
The predatory look was back in his face and it scared me. I did so, then I glanced over my shoulder at White Owl, waiting for her to do something. "Don't waste your time. White Owl isn't bulletproof. And besides, I've nullified her powers." He said smugly. "What do you mean? What did you do to me?" White Owl yelled. I heard her moving on the bed, then she cried out in pain. "You don't remember, White Owl. But I hypnotized you. The gist is that the more of your strength you try to use, the more pain you'll feel." "Somnos!" White Owl said. I had no idea what that meant. "Very good, my lovely captive. But before we get any further..."
He pulled out his own PDA while keeping us covered, typed with one hand, then pocketed it. "We need to make you secure, Gemma. Don't take it personally." "If you hurt her, Somnos, I promise you'll pay dearly." White Owl warned. "And what will you do, White Owl? And besides, Gemma is worth more alive." I stared at him, my mouth dropping open. "What?" I asked. "You'll find out in a few days, my dear." Lacombe/Somnos said smugly. There was a clattering behind him. I felt my face going pale as I saw Forbes and another man behind him, carrying a stretcher down the narrow stairway. No one said anything, I heard White Owl moaning and crying out as she tried to use her strength."That was fast, gentlemen, thank you. Set it up beside White Owl and make sure she can see everything.." I felt an icy ball of fear in my stomach. The duo unfolded the stretcher and rolled it two feet from White Owl's bed. "Now Gemma, if you'll be so kind as to remove your shoes and uniform."
The three men stared at me and I suddenly felt very small. "Somnos, don't do this!" White Owl warned. "If you don't Gemma, then my two friends will do nasty things to your heroine. You have 10 seconds." Forbes and his partner were leering. There was only one way out and it was blocked. "Five seconds, Gemma. Four, Three, Two..." "Alright!" I yelled. My heart was racing as I kicked off my shoes, then reached behind me, unzipping my white uniform and sliding it slowly, reluctantly, down over my body. Forbes whistled loudly. Everything seemed to go into slow motion, I wasn't aware of time, just the eyes that stared at me. "The slip too, my dear." Closing my eyes, I lowered the straps over my shoulders and the slip fell to the floor around my ankles."Quite lovely, Gemma." Somnos/Lacombe said. I blushed. "Now lay on the stretcher." He ordered. I was only in my bra and panties as I sat on the thin mattress, bringing my legs up and laying on my back. I tried to think of a way out of this. Some bit of reason to make these men see the wrongness of their actions. But I saw the three approach me and I shivered. Forbes had a pair of leather restraints in his hands and his partner had another pair. "If you resist at all, White Owl will suffer." I could hear her fighting, trying to escape before the pain got too great.
"Quite lovely, Gemma." Somnos/Lacombe said. I blushed. "Now lay on the stretcher." He ordered. I was only in my bra and panties as I sat on the thin mattress, bringing my legs up and laying on my back. I tried to think of a way out of this. Some bit of reason to make these men see the wrongness of their actions. But I saw the three approach me and I shivered. Forbes had a pair of leather restraints in his hands and his partner had another pair. "If you resist at all, White Owl will suffer." I could hear her fighting, trying to escape before the pain got too great.Forbes grabbed my wrists, pulled them up to the corners of the stretcher. I felt the thick leather wrapped around my wrists, then attached to the upper corners while the other pulled my legs apart, fastening my ankles to the lower corners. I choked back a sob as I felt my control over my body robbed from me. I felt the cotton fabric of the mattress cover against my back as the cool air in the cell blew against my exposed skin. I shivered again, not just from the cold as the men stared down at me, exposed and vulnerable. I swallowed, feeling a lump in my throat. White Owl cried out again, loudly, as she fought to free herself. I wondered how much pain could she take?Forbes moved toward the right side of the stretcher, his hand reaching down for my body. At that moment, every Wonder Woman story flooded into my mind. Even if she was in danger, she was brave and defiant. Looking at that pervert straight in the eye, I stared at him, forcing my fear away and, despite everything that had just happened, I snarled. "You can look, but don't you dare touch. I bite." Forbes' hand actually stopped it's motion and he looked at me, obviously shocked (I was too, for that matter.) But he gave me a wicked grin and I watched helplessly as his hand descended again toward my chest. My mouth went dry as I felt his fingers touch my bra cup...
I closed my eyes, steeling myself for whatever would happen next. But from my left, where White Owl lay, I heard the most wonderful sound: ripping cloth! "She's getting loose!" Someone, I think it was Forbes, cried out. The hand that was so close to molesting me was gone now. And as I opened my eyes, I saw White Owl begin to float off the bed, flashes of white cloth appearing from rents in her straitjacket.
But from the expression on her face, I could tell White Owl was in agony, but still she fought as Forbes reached for her leg, now 2 feet off her bed. As a result, she kicked, his head snapped backwards, several teeth went flying. he fell like his bones had dissolved.His partner had moved to the head of her bed, he grabbed her shoulders, trying to shove her back down. "Hold her!" Somnos/Lacombe yelled, reaching into his jacket pocket. "Look out!" I yelled to White Owl. He came to me, his left hand descended covered my mouth. I twisted my head frantically, trying to shake his hand off, but it stayed put.
My limbs flailed, rattling the frame of the stretcher, but the restraints held.. "White Owl!" Somnos/Lacombe yelled, he had an odd looking thing in his hand, oddly, I wondered where his gun was. I needed air, My eyes were wide, out of the corner of my vision, I saw White Owl look in my direction, the other man, I saw the name "Logan" on his name badge, fighting to get her on her bed. But White Owl was fighting, even though tears were running down her face. How much pain did it take to make a heroine cry?But even as White Owl looked out way, I saw a flash from Somnos/Lacombe's device. "You will not move." he called out. For a brief instant, I quit struggling. He pulled his hand back. But White Owl was frozen and Logan shoved her hard to the bed. "White Owl?" I called out. "She can't move, my dear. He pointed the thing at me I saw a bright white flash and he said in a commanding voice. "Black out." I knew nothing, as a white fog filled my consciousness.
My vision, my hearing, even my sense of smell and the awareness of my own body fled. I don't know how long I was away. But when I became aware again, I heard a voice calling me. It was White Owl and she sounded tired. "I'm here...I think." I felt funny, disconnected from my body. Sort of like coming down from a major high. "You ok?" I asked. I was very thirsty. "This isn't the Hilton, but I'm ok under the circumstances." She replied. I was still restrained and I craned my head to see White Owl and I gasped.
She had been wrapped in chains. A loop was cinched around her throat, then crossed between her breasts and wrapped under them, pinning her arms, which had, from what I could see, was behind her back. More chains were wrapped around her waist and pulled between her legs. Yet more chain was wrapped around her thighs above her knees and ankles. She looked very uncomfortable. I could only imagine how much.I licked my lips, wishing for a gallon of water. "What happened? What was that thing he used on us?" I asked. "Somnos called it a Mesmer..." "Who is this Somnos?" I interrupted. "He was someone I thought was dead." She went on to explain how he was a skilled hypnotist who used his abilities to manipulate and rob his clients. "He had me under his spell. He ordered me to kill an private investigator, fortunately, my moral code against killing kept me from fulfilling he orders. After I caught him, he was extradited to France, where he was tried and convicted of murdering his wife. He was supposed to get a life sentence, but he escaped. Whoever did his plastic surgery was very good. It not for his voice, I'd never had recognized him."
She admitted. I heard her chains rattling. She sighed in frustration. "And the Mesmer?" I asked. "Apparently he discovered a frequency of light that causes a trance state for a few minutes." "So he can hypnotize anyone..." "Yes, I'm sorry you got stuck in this mess. But thank you for helping me and believing me. I'm going to get us out of here." White Owl told me.I pulled at my restraints again, feeling the fear coming back. I hated losing control of my body, the looks on Forbes and Logan's faces as I undressed in front of them. I was cold. If not for White Owl, I could only imagine what they would have done to me. And Somnos/Lacombe just watched it happen. "Dr. Lacombe...I mean Somnos, runs this place...Oh my God!" "What's wrong? White Owl asked me "The director, Dr. Fournier had some sort of a psychotic episode. Lacombe, I mean Somnos was in there with him when it happened. If he did anything to hurt Dr. Fournier..." I started to cry. I didn't want to, not in front of White Owl, but the man that I loved was in a cell, tranquilized and in restraints. I stopped, realizing what came into my consciousness."Gemma, you're going to be alright." She said. "It's not that, I just realized something, that's all." I swallowed, forcing myself to be calm. "And what exactly did you realize?" Somnos/Lacombe asked, sliding the gate open. He wasn't alone. Sheriff Randall Clayton was right behind him, along with 3 other men, all wearing dark suits, ties and sunglasses, marched in a line behind them. I felt myself blushing, hating how exposed I was to them. "I told you Sheriff, she's restrained." Somnos said proudly. "And has a girlfriend." Clayton replied, looking down at me. He reached down and stroked the inside of my open thigh. I glared at him. "Who is she?" He asked, his hand rubbing gently. I squirmed, twisting my torso to shake his hand free. "She's one of our nurses. Gemma Laurence." How much are you asking for her?" He asked as if ordering a sandwich from the deli. "Why don't we ask Mr. Hedison." Somnos said."Fair enough." Clayton said, stepping back while the last man in the procession came up to me. He bent over, then undid my right ankle restraint. I tried to kick at him, but he gripped my ankle and squeezed it. "You will be damaged if you repeat that." He said in a monotone. I bit my lip as the pain in my ankle increased. "I'm sorry!" I yelled.
The pressure lessened, but his grip was still strong on my ankle. He lifted it, my leg nearly vertical as his free hand beginning an examination of my leg, from the sole of my foot to the hip. "Good muscle tone, adequate reflexes, sound bone structure." He lowered it quickly and restrained it again. He repeated the same on the left ankle, then my arms. He even ran his fingers through my hair, but there was no emotion, no passion. I was a slab of meat to him.
Even as he probed my breasts, ran his hands down my spine, he looked at me as if I was a thing. I hated him, hated his touch, hated his running commentary of my body. I choked back a sob, my fists clenched. He even pulled a penlight from inside his jacket, pushed the sides of my jaw till I opened my mouth. "Two fillings, otherwise her teeth are in fine shape." He withdrew the light, released my jaw. But he put his hand on my chin, tilted my head back and to the right and left, the light shining in my ears. His fingers stroked my cheeks. "Her ears are fine, her complexion is very good. You said she was a nurse? Hedison asked Somnos. "Yes, she's an RN., she's 27. But she did have a prescription drug problem, but she's been clean for 2 years." He replied.
Hedison gave me one last head to toe look before replying, "$300,000 minimum, although I'd estimate her actual selling price would probably be in the 400,000 to 425,000 dollar range. Also, start her on her habit again. I assume pain pills?" Somnos nodded. "That will make her easier to control down the line." "No, please. I can't...." I felt my composure slipping, remembering the things I had done to get pills before, recalling the shame of my actions of those dark days. I closed my eyes, despairing at my coming future. My thoughts raced uncontrolled through my mind.Selling price? $300,000? What were they talking about? "Not a bad price for a girl that pretty." Clayton remarked. "When you sell her, let me know, I'll put in a bid." I stared at him, shocked. My mind went blank. 'They're going to sell me!' I thought. Dark, lurid images filled my mind, comic book images of being kept in a cell, chained and drugged filled my imagination.
I went insane, screaming and pulling at the restraints till one of the men in suits bent over, grabbed my head and covered my mouth and nose with his hand. Instantly, my air was cut off! "Listen sweetie. I hate screaming women. They upset me. If you want to breathe again, shut up and relax before you make me do something to you that you'll regret." My heart was beating like a jackhammer, his eyes were staring into mine like a cobra staring at a mouse. I needed air, I nodded slightly. his hand pulled back slowly. I drew in a panting breath, then another. "It's me you want, let Gemma go!" White Owl demanded. She pulled at the chains till the pain cut in, she let a small moan escape her lips. At that point, I knew we were doomed. White Owl couldn't escape. They were going to sell us to the highest bidder! White Slavery, here in Meadowbrook. I wanted to scream, my mind demanded it, to release my fear and anguish but I didn't dare.Clayton sauntered over to White Owl. I wanted at gun, I'd kill him, all these monsters. White Owl was trapped and helpless. "Hi White Owl, long time no see." I looked over at them. He had a handful of her dark hair. "Clayton, now I understand what's going on, you found a new fool to use. But I never thought you'd sink to human trafficking. That's low, even for you." She grunted as he pulled her hair. "Actually White Owl, I don't do trafficking, too much infrastructure, too many people to monitor and it's too hard to cover up in a small town. But I am going to sell you, it's too bad for this pretty little nurse that she got involved. But how does that old saying go? If you want to make omelets, you have to break a few eggs" He looked at me and winked. I felt sick. "Clayton, if you harm her, you will pay dearly for it, I promise you." White Owl warned. "And just how will you to that, birdie?" "Just wait!" she said as he pulled her to a seating position by her hair.It happened so fast that I almost missed it. His left hand holding her hair, his right hand made a fist and he punched her square in the jaw. She cried out but couldn't fall over due to his hand holding her hair. "Stop him!" Hedison yelled. His two men ran over, grabbed his arms and pulled him away, but not before getting a second punch in. White Owl slumped as her hair was released. She lay on her back, limp, I saw a trickle of blood running from the corner of her mouth, her eyes closed. "Get him out of here!" Hedison yelled, moving to White Owl, pulling out his light and checking her pupils, then her face. "Is she alright?" I asked. "Yes, no concussion, no permanent facial damage." "Gee, I'm so happy that you're so concerned." He looked at me like I was a 2 year old, "All I care about is that's she looks good for the sale." I stared at him, completely shocked at his attitude.Somnos came to me, a glass of water in his right hand and something in his left. "I have this for you. 40 mg of Oxycontin." "Please, doctor. Don't do this!" I pulled at the restraints in vain as he bent over. I was frantic, I knew what that pill would do to me. I clamped my jaws as tight as I could as he held the pill to my lips.
I was shaking my head rapidly, struggling maniacally. "Hold her nose, please." He said to Hedison. The monster grabbed the back of my head with his right hand, holding it still while pinching my nose shut with his left. I stared at them, my eyes wide, pleading with them. They were patient, they could afford to be. They knew as soon as I opened my mouth to breathe, Somnos would give me the pill. I felt tears forming, I was trapped now, it was no use fighting them.
My captors held all the cards, had all the control. As my breath ran out, I opened my mouth, drew in a breath. Instantly I felt the pill on my tongue and then cup was tipped into my mouth, the water flowing, washing it into my stomach. Hedison put his hand on my lips, making sure I didn't spit it out, but it was too late, I had already swallowed it. In a few minutes, I wouldn't care about anything.But when I came down, I knew I would want another pill. As mentally and physically tormented as I was, the warm numbness of the Oxycontin would provide release. And after my long abstinence, the pill would hit me like a hammer. I was crying. Hedison pulled back his hand, scowled at me. "You are weak." He turned, walking up the steps. Somnos was there with us, watching intently. I fought the restraints, short violent pulls that did nothing.
A few minutes passed, then I felt a warmness in my stomach. "NO!" I screamed, knowing the pill was dissolving, starting to spread through my bloodstream. More time passed, the warmth spread through my body. I quit struggling, I felt content, safe. I didn't care anymore, I wasn't afraid, wasn't happy. I was just...there. Time ceased to exist as my thoughts receded into a pink cloud of narcotic stupor. I was getting sleepy, I heard music playing in my mind, then the notes became distorted, far away. I was floating in a warm ocean of pink, I had no feelings, no sense of humanity. I was part of everything as my eyes closed, my body limp.Chaos! Utter, unmitigated chaos. Things had gone very, very bad. White Owl had nearly escaped, I had a nurse who now had to disappear without questions being asked. Forbes was in the infirmary with a concussion and a fractured jaw courtesy of White Owl. Clayton had physically assaulted White Owl in front of the buyers. The intricate plan I had to ruin White Owl's mind was in itself ruined. All Forbes had to do was give a shot of Ibogaine to her. Instead, he felt her up, forgetting that her boosted immune system would burn through any drug very fast. A $40,000 straitjacket, another $10,000 for the wireless EKG system, never mind the almost 12 million dollars for her cell. It was all wasted because of one man's sexual desires.I should have taken more time to find the special personnel. That much is clear now. but hindsight is 20/20. Now I had to figure out how to fix this mess, White Owl knew who I was and that I was conspiring with Clayton to sell her. Any attempt now to convince White Owl of her murder charges and delusional state had absolutely zero chance of working. Hedison had called me two hours earlier, privately letting my know he was not pleased with the situation. He thought Clayton was a boorish thug. I agreed with him, but I intimated that I was hired to care for White Owl, Clayton was the man in charge. I thought he believed it.
He also let me know that he had contacted his bosses and they decided that if White Owl was not ready for sale in three days, they would leave without her. But they would take Gemma as a "consolation prize" to let Clayton know there was no hard feelings. I could imagine his reaction to that and me caught in the middle of two hostile parties.Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!White Owl was sedated again, no doubt having splendid hallucinations. I had dosed her about 1 minute after I gave the Oxycontin to Gemma. Both women were now controlled. I knew Gemma had family, albeit distant. Her files said she hadn't spoken to her parents since she went into rehab. But that didn't mean Gemma vanishing wouldn't create questions. As soon as this was over, I would have to vanish. I hated running, it meant that I was always on the defensive, always looking over my shoulder. That was no way for me live. I was too smart, too cunning to live like a rabbit in a field of wolves.I had to turn this around, make all this work to my advantage. But I needed time, and that was something I had very little of. Hedison and his people were nervous. They wanted Owl ruined quickly now. I wasn't sure how. Certainly, I could give her a 200 cc dose of Ibogaine and fry half the synapses in her brain. But I wasn't sure that they wouldn't regenerate. In a normal human, brain damage was final. But there were metahumans who could recover from almost any physical damage. And I wasn't betting against White Owl being in that category. That's why I was working at altering her sense of reality, make her doubt her own perceptions. Once I did that, White Owl would defeat her own mind, once that occurred, I could program her into believing anything.And what was so maddening was that I was making progress. I even had her believing in Tribolizine, a drug that didn't even exist! But now, it was all ruined. And now she had Gemma to protect, that would give her even more resolve to resist. I looked down at Gemma, tracing her face with my hand. She was incredibly beautiful. I was concerned with her breathing, it was only 7 respiration's per minute. I had given her too much Oxycontin. Another mistake. If she died, White Owl could fly into a rage that could override her pain suggestion.And if that happened, I wanted to be very, very far away. I knew all too well what her anger looked like and it was not pleasant. Taking an oxygen tank from the supply closet, I slipped the mask over Gemma's pretty face and turned the valve. Pure oxygen flowed into her lungs. Soon her breathing was up to 12 per minute. I had to think now, figure my next step.Then I realized my problem. I was making things too complicated. I needed to prepare White Owl for sale. That was it. I'd get half the profits from her sale and I leave the country forever. Shipping and delivery was not my problem, preparation was. As for Gemma's reasons for disappearing, that's not my concern. As long as Gemma's buyers kept her in Oxycontin, she'd do whatever they asked of her. I saw her arrest record, Gemma may look like a nurse, but she had done some degrading things to feed her habit. And if Clayton bought her, I could only imagine what he'd make her do for her next pill. It was a pity, Gemma had conquered something very few people had done. Now because of White Owl, she had fallen back into her self made dungeon. But no one ever said the universe was fair.
I IM'd Logan, giving him a list of drugs to get from the pharmacy. If Hedison wanted White Owl ready sooner, I could accommodate him. It probably wouldn't be permanent, but by the time White Owl was out of the country and in other hands, I'd be in Europe, starting over again. And if White Owl recovered and escaped, then Hedison's group would come for Clayton for revenge.That is, if White Owl didn't get him first.Logan came down with a small box of drugs. I had requested psychotropics, hallucinogenics, barbiturates, anything that caused an adverse mental reaction. White Owl would be a wreck for days, maybe weeks. There was a small chance that she'd recover, but as I said before, by the time that happened, I'd halfway around the world..I started filling syringes, jabbing them into her right arm. As expected, White Owl began seizing, her chains rattling, tightening around her throat, pulling into her crotch. I could almost smell her neurons burning. I took the ballgag, slid it into place to protect her from biting her tongue or lips. Her breathing increased and decreased dramatically, her heart rate did the same, depending on the drug I gave. I found myself smiling as I watched White Owl writhe and suffer.
"What...are...you...doing?" Gemma asked weakly from behind the oxygen mask. "Revenge, my dear Gemma, is a dish best served cold." I said. "You...bastard!" Her voice was stronger so I took off the mask and shut off the oxygen. "Be careful, my dear. Make me angry and you won't get your pill. I bet you want it, don't you?" Gemma told me where to stuff the pill. "Fair enough, I'll be back in a few hours, I know what you used to do for your fix. I don't think it's unreasonable to want that same...transaction again." "I'd rather die!" Gemma said defiantly. "I'm sure you say that now. But in a few hours, a day at most, when your addiction screams for it's need. You'll sing a different tune. But since I don't want you so upset, here."
I took an Oxycontin, slipped it into her mouth, my hand over her soft lips. There was no water this time, but by the expression on her face, the bitter pill dissolved on her tongue and she swallowed reflexively. She glared at me, but I didn't care as I pulled my hand back. I smiled at her as she pulled at the straps that held her. "Go ahead and struggle, get your heart rate up, make it work faster, my dear."It didn't take long for her head to start rolling back and forth slowly, her eyelids fluttering. Her body relaxed, her breathing slowing. I heard White Owl ratting her chains, moaning, I turned around, checked her pupils. They were huge, unseeing, her pulse was erratic, she was perspiring, her skin cool. "Who's in control now, White Owl?" I asked, feeling a smile on my face.I had arranged to have an EEG brought down here. It was an oversight I made earlier. How could I not have realized that I needed to know how this heroine's mind was working?. Now that mistake was remedied. I could see White Owl's brain activity and the show her brain was putting on. Her brain waves were dancing like a seismograph mounted on a bed of jello. The readings were off the scale, completely contradictory. If White Owl could speak, she would sound deranged, but speech was beyond her for the time being. I was happy despite the previous events.Gemma was still out, a cute little smile on her face. She was wearing the most feminine lingerie, white, lacy and most flattering. I stroked her stomach, enjoying the softness of her skin, she never moved. I picked up my phone, called Hedison, telling him that White Owl was mentally neutralized. He sounded pleased, then I called Clayton, gave him the same message. Gemma never came into the conversation. He said he would bring Hedison and his ilk back to the asylum, they would bring some video cameras to connect up to our computer network.
Then secure messages would be sent to her buyers and one hour later, the auction for White Owl would begin. They had originally planned the auction for next week, but since the reversal of our original plans and White Owl's current mental condition, Hedison thought it prudent to get the process started before anything else could go wrong. I couldn't agree more. After hanging up, I made another call, someone in Queen City who owned a small aircraft charter service. I told him to start getting a plane ready. As soon as received I my share of White Owl's proceeds, I was leaving.Yes, I know I said previously that I hated running. But in this case, I had good reasons to. First, Clayton was almost pathologically greedy. If we did sell White Owl, I would almost certainly be a liability, one who knew too much and, more importantly, had half of a sizable fortune. No, Clayton would have me killed, both to silence me and take my half of the profit of White Owl's and Gemma's sale.Secondly, I wanted to be half a world away when my fortunes expanded considerably. I would make a lot of people angry with me so seclusion and invisibility would be vital.It didn't take long for Clayton, Hedison and his cronies to arrive with a case of camera equipment in Halliburton cases. I was impressed as they quickly tied their secure computers into the asylum network, attached small high definition cameras to the computers and booted everything up. The first image broadcasted over the secure network was the chains crisscrossing White Owl's breasts, the silver accenting her white costume perfectly, the beads of perspiration beading on the metal.Hedison took a microphone as the camera panned back, framing White Owl's chest and face. "Yes my friends, what you are seeing is the heroine from Queen City, the infamous White Owl. As you can see, she is undamaged save her mind, which I can assure you, is severely damaged by potent doses of mind altering drugs. She'll never play chess with whatever buyer is lucky enough to purchase her. But I doubt that her mind is what you would like to play with." He gave the heroine a wink and a leer. It was a very different role from the man who gave Gemma such a dispassionate buyers inspection.The camera started at her head, slowly scanning down her body, slowing on the chain looped tightly around her throat, her arms behind her back, the chains digging into her skin. Then it panned down her torso, showing her narrow waist, her spectacular hips and legs. The camera zoomed in on the chain that dug into her womanhood, the image so clear that the mysterious, bulletproof fabric of her uniform was magnified, showing the structure of the cloth. If Clayton was smart, he'd have removed that uniform and sold it separately. I bet there were a lot of groups that would be very interested in a thin cloth that was bulletproof. In certain circles, that uniform would be worth more than she was.It was a mistake that I wouldn't mention to Clayton, perhaps someone else would later, or after some party reproduced the cloth and started selling it. That loss of profit would no doubt infuriate Clayton, perhaps make him lose face in the eyes of some he'd wish to deal with in the future. Then the message came from a woman in India: "Prove that this is indeed White Owl. " The shorter of Hedison's men opened a small case, producing White Owl's utility belt, displaying it almost proudly. The the other crony pulled out a 10mm Glock pistol, chambered a round, flipped off the safety and fired into White Owl's stomach from 2 feet away. She groaned at the impact, but the round clanged as it hit the floor. He picked it up, rotated it slowly under a lens. One end was mushroomed as if hit by a hammer. It was impressive."I bid 7 million." the Indian woman said. I could see her in a monitor. She appeared to be in her late 40's. Her hair pulled back, a purple sari draping her thin figure. "I hear 7 million from Madam Chandra." Hedison said. "Do I hear 8?" "8 million." A man with a Russian accent said quickly. "Nine million." An Arab said, dressed in the traditional Thoub and Ogal. "12 million!" A man with a Spanish accent added. "12 million dollars going once, twice..." "15 million." A man with an French accent interjected. "Fifteen million dollars. Going once, going twice...Sold to Monsieur Roux for 15 million dollars. Congratulations." Hedison said, smiling.
"And for an extra bonus, we have an American woman, 28 years old and a Registered Nurse. She has an Oxycontin habit but is otherwise healthy. Notice the girl-next-door face combined with the cheerleader body. She'll be a worthy addition to anyone's collection. I personally inspected her body thoroughly and found no defects. She'll provide much pleasure to her new owner. I start the bidding at $400,000." Roux started the bid at $400,000. Chandra went to $425,000. The Arab bid 500,000 after Hedison opened Gemma's bra. "I assure you, sheik. They are 100 percent real." Hedison said.A few seconds later, the Arab was the proud owner of a beautiful, drug addicted nurse. In the next few minutes, the payment's went into the proper accounts. My 7.5 million went to the Bank of Kuwait account I had set up a few weeks before. As each man entered their bank information into their laptops, I repressed a smile as Hedison's men took down their equipment, storing it expertly in their cases. Hedison spoke into the last camera. "White Owl and Gemma will be delivered via my private jet. I will meet you both in Marseilles in 2 days. Monsieur Roux, Sheik, I bid you adieu." He shut off the camera, then looked at his captives and gave a feral smile
I knew Hedison and his ilk used electronic transfers for their purchases. Anonymous and almost impossible to follow, it was ideal for moving large amounts of cash quickly and covertly. But to transfer their data, they had no use the asylum computer network. A network that I controlled, a network, that as I watched, was copying websites, usernames and passwords. In an hour, I'd be stealing every cent of that $15,250,000 and hiding it overseas.But first, I had to deal with Clayton, Hedison and his cronies. As the men congratulated each other, feeling the captive's bodies, exulting in their helplessness, I excused myself, went to the storage room, picked up my camera case and returned to the celebrating group. I assembled my camera, making sure my flash was fully charged."Gentleman, let me be the first to congratulate you on your magnificent achievement. White Owl has been conquered! I applaud you, sirs. In celebration, would you pose for a few photographs as a memento of your success?" "Hell yeah, I like that idea. Hedison, why don't you and your guys form a line over here." He pointed to a spot 3 feet from Gemma's stretcher. Dutifully, they lined up. I was surprised, one would imagine that Hedison was walking around free because no one knew what he looked like. But hubris is a powerful foe. And giving into that foe would cost him dearly.As Clayton went to the end of the line, I focused on the middle of the group. Double checking the flash, it was on maximum. "Smile gentlemen." I said. They did. I snapped the shutter, the Mesmer flared brightly. The four men stared blankly. "They're going to kill you." I said simply.It was a devious suggestion. As I expected, Clayton drew his service pistol, fired point blank at Hedison. He fell, a hole where his heart used to be. The sound of the gunshot was horrific in the cell. Hedison's man, the tallest of the two, drew a silenced Beretta pistol, fired once into Clayton's head, he fell, the back of his skull bleeding profusely. The second man drew his silenced pistol from inside his coat, he looked angrily at his partner. Both men fired at the nearly the same instant. Both men fell, blood running from chest wounds. They weren't dead, but would be soon enough.But what to do with the captives? I called my man at the airport, asked him if there was enough room for two more passengers. He said yes, but that meant at least 2 fuel stops. I said that would be fine and hung up. I took Hedison's laptop, accessed the asylum network, wrote down his account info and passwords and logged into his bank. I was amazed how much he had. I transferred 45 million dollars to my Kuwait Bank account, leaving the remaining 15 million intact. I could live quite comfortably with that much money. But Clayton's laptop I would keep for myself. From our conversations, I knew he had a lot of info on a lot of people. It was why he wasn't in prison or worse. If he was ever arrested, the dirty laundry of his enemies would be exposed to the world. And now that Clayton was dead, he had no need for that data. But I may someday.I looked at White Owl, her EEG readings very erratic, Gemma was breathing softly, her breasts rising and falling gracefully as her lungs filled and emptied. I went to White Owl, she was totally helpless. I could do anything I wanted to. I reached into my pocket, pulled out a key ring, walked to White Owl. I slapped her face gently, trying to rouse her. But she was trapped deep in her mind. It was doubtful she even felt my touch. That was fine. I unlocked her chains, freeing her stunning body from her bonds. I stroked her gently, caressing her face before placing my hands on the shoulder straps of her leotard. I started to pull them down, revealing her soft shoulders, White Owl's arms now pinned to her sides.Then we weren't alone. I don't know where she came from. I spun around to see. It was a woman. She was tall, impressive looking. There was a helmet on her head, it reminded of the ones I saw in Spartacus and Ben Hur. Roman helmets, but much more ornate...No, that was impossible! The shield in her left arm was huge, there was a long, shiny double edged sword in her right. A metal breastplate covered her torso and the anger in her eyes were palpable. "Step away from my herald, cowardly dog!"
The tone in her voice was full of menace. Her presence was terrifying! She gave off an aura of utter power and I found myself stepping away without a thought. "Who...who are you?" I asked, my voice was trembling! I had never known the fear I felt at that moment. Even falling through the sky as White Owl dropped me was nothing compared to the terror I knew at that moment. "I am Goddess Athena. White Owl is my herald. You will not harm her further." "That's not possible! You are a myth!" I exclaimed, backing further away from this presence. My heart was pounding. She was giving off a glow of something...radiant energy that made me feel like an ant.She moved to White Owl, but I never saw her legs move. She pulled her straps back over her shoulder and glared at me. "Your potions have injured her. Your spells have crippled her. I will heal her. Interfere and I will cut you down where you stand." The radiance flared, I closed my eyes, shielding my face with my arms.It only took a few seconds, but I heard White Owl say weakly. "My goddess!" The flare subsided. I lowered my arms carefully to see White Owl bowing to Athena! Gently, she lifted White Owl. "Stand my child. You are healed. Who is this woman?" She looked at Gemma. "She is a friend, she tried to help me but was captured. She needs help. That man...poisoned her. He can control your mind, make you do things..." Her voice trailed off. Athena looked at at Gemma, then placed her hands on Gemma's temples. "So much pain, yet so much goodness and strength." She spoke gently to Gemma. "Return and be free." Then Athena looked at me, her eyes becoming flame. "Your cruelty is an offense to me." Athena said, her voice rumbling. "You will harm no one, ever again. Look into my eyes, conjurer!" I looked, I stared. I couldn't help myself.The fire reached out, I felt agony consume me, my eyes burned, my mouth felt seared as the flame flared into absolute brightness. Then I saw only darkness and knew nothing.
I woke up in sunlight, but I couldn't see it. I felt it's warmth but saw darkness. I placed my hands to my eyes. Instead of feeling my eyeballs, I felt nothing! I had no eyes! I was blind! I tried to scream, call for help, but my mouth felt different. I tried to feel inside with my tongue but it wouldn't move. Then I realized why: My tongue was gone! I was blind, couldn't speak. "This is a good spot for you. Many will take pity on you." There was hands on my arms, guiding me. "Sit, don't be afraid. You are in Pompeii, a city of goodness and kindness." 'Pompeii?' I tried to speak, but only guttural sounds emerged. The voice was familiar. It was Athena, she was human? Where is this place? Where is White Owl, Gemma? I was helped to sit down, there was a small cushion, the pavement warm under my bare legs."My clothes, where are they?" I tried to ask, but the sounds I made were unintelligible. "You are in beggar's rags. Your finery is gone, you will never see, never speak. You will live on the kindness of others for the rest of your life. You called me a myth, conjurer. Now you will see what a myth can do do you." Athena said. The ground rumbled under me. I went pale as I remembered the fate of Pompeii in 79 AD. "Yes, Vesuvius is about to erupt. If you have any God, appeal for mercy soon. Time is very short."Then I was alone. I could hear people walking around me, the language strange. Someone pressed something hard and round into my hand, said something in a kind tone. The earth rumbled, harder. I heard a scream, then another as the city shook violently. There was an explosion. My ears were filled with a stabbing pain. People were running away, the sounds of footsteps pounding away from me rivaled the shaking of the ground. There was another explosion. Vesuvius was erupting! I couldn't escape, ask for help. But I rose to my feet but was knocked over by someone. I felt feet stepping over me, on me, I couldn't stand. I felt my right tibia break under a stampede as the people screamed in panic. I smelled something like rotten eggs as I cried out in pain, but no one cared, I was pummeled, feeling bones breaking, blood in my nose. The pain was more than anything I ever felt and I tried to scream.Then I heard a roaring sound, the screams of the citizens of Pompeii grew dim as I felt a rush of heat, then something obscenely heavy covering me. I knew from history what that was. It was a pyroclastic flow, a superheated mass of ash and gas that traveled several hundred miles per hour. The smell of rotten eggs was unbearable as a hell wave of heat washed over me. I was burning alive, I remembered the pictures of the victims encased in stone, frozen in place, forever in their death pose. I breathed, but it was fire. My lungs scorched, my throat searing shut. I was on fire, but the heavy layer of ash kept me from moving, I found myself folding into a fetal position as the heat incinerated me from the inside out...Then I was alone. It seemed like this was familiar somehow. I could hear people walking around me, the language strange. Someone pressed something hard and round into my hand, said something in a kind tone. The earth rumbled, harder. I heard a scream, then another as the city shook violently. There was an explosion. My ears were filled with a stabbing pain. People were running away, the sounds of footsteps pounding away from me rivaled the shaking of the ground. There was another explosion. Vesuvius was erupting! I couldn't escape, ask for help. But I rose to my feet but was knocked over by someone. I felt feet stepping over me, on me, I couldn't stand. I felt my right tibia break under a stampede as the people screamed in panic. I smelled something like rotten eggs as I cried out in pain, but no one cared, I was pummeled, feeling bones breaking, blood in my nose. The pain was more than anything I ever felt and I tried to scream.Then I heard a roaring sound, the screams of the citizens of Pompeii grew dim as I felt a rush of heat, then something obscenely heavy covering me. I knew from history what that was. It was a pyroclastic flow, a superheated mass of ash and gas that traveled several hundred miles per hour. The smell of rotten eggs was unbearable as a hell wave of heat washed over me. I was burning alive, I remembered the pictures of the victims encased in stone, frozen in place, forever in their death pose. I breathed, but it was fire. My lungs scorched, my throat searing shut. I was on fire, but the heavy layer of ash kept me from moving, I found myself folding into a fetal position as the heat incinerated me from the inside out...
Then I was alone. I knew this place, but how? I could hear people walking around me, the language strange. Someone pressed something hard and round into my hand, said something in a kind tone. The earth rumbled, harder. I heard a scream, then another as the city shook violently. There was an explosion. My ears were filled with a stabbing pain. People were running away, the sounds of footsteps pounding away from me rivaled the shaking of the ground. There was another explosion. Vesuvius was erupting! I couldn't escape, ask for help. But I rose to my feet but was knocked over by someone. I felt feet stepping over me, on me, I couldn't stand. I felt my right tibia break under a stampede as the people screamed in panic. I smelled something like rotten eggs as I cried out in pain, but no one cared, I was pummeled, feeling bones breaking, blood in my nose. The pain was more than anything I ever felt and I tried to scream.Then I heard a roaring sound, the screams of the citizens of Pompeii grew dim as I felt a rush of heat, then something obscenely heavy covering me. I knew from history what that was. It was a pyroclastic flow, a superheated mass of ash and gas that traveled several hundred miles per hour. The smell of rotten eggs was unbearable as a hell wave of heat washed over me. I was burning alive, I remembered the pictures of the victims encased in stone, frozen in place, forever in their death pose. I breathed, but it was fire. My lungs scorched, my throat searing shut. I was on fire, but the heavy layer of ash kept me from moving, I found myself folding into a fetal position as the heat incinerated me from the inside out...Then I was alone. No, no again! Was this my fate, to endure these minutes for eternity? To die horribly, then relive it over and over? I could hear people walking around me, the language strange. Someone pressed something hard and round into my hand, said something in a kind tone. The earth rumbled, harder. I heard a scream, then another as the city shook violently. There was an explosion. My ears were filled with a stabbing pain. People were running away, the sounds of footsteps pounding away from me rivaled the shaking of the ground. There was another explosion. Vesuvius was erupting! I couldn't escape, ask for help. But I rose to my feet but was knocked over by someone. I felt feet stepping over me, on me, I couldn't stand. I felt my right tibia break under a stampede as the people screamed in panic. I smelled something like rotten eggs as I cried out in pain, but no one cared, I was pummeled, feeling bones breaking, blood in my nose. The pain was more than anything I ever felt and I tried to scream.Then I heard a roaring sound, the screams of the citizens of Pompeii grew dim as I felt a rush of heat, then something obscenely heavy covering me. I knew from history what that was. It was a pyroclastic flow, a superheated mass of ash and gas that traveled several hundred miles per hour. The smell of rotten eggs was unbearable as a hell wave of heat washed over me. I was burning alive, I remembered the pictures of the victims encased in stone, frozen in place, forever in their death pose. I breathed, but it was fire. My lungs scorched, my throat searing shut. I was on fire, but the heavy layer of ash kept me from moving, I found myself folding into a fetal position as the heat incinerated me from the inside out..."God, let me die!" I prayed, but I was in Pompeii again, knowing what would happen, knowing how I would die. It would never end! I screamed incoherently as the coin was pressed into my hand...
"Gemma, can you hear me?" I heard White Owl ask. I opened my eyes slowly, seeing White Owl doing closing my bra. "I'm sorry, it was open." My limbs were free. I felt tears in my eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder. "Gemma, I know how you feel right now. But we're not safe yet. Can you keep yourself calm for a little while longer? "Yes." I choked, then swallowed hard as she released my bonds. I grabbed her, hugging her tight, feeling tears on my cheeks. "Don't move yet." White Owl told me, slowly releasing me.
I laid there, resting. my eyes closed. I heard her moving. Then I smelled blood and realized something very bad had happened. "Here are your clothes." White Owl said, handing my uniform to her. I looked at her. She looked tired, but there was determination in her eyes, she wasn't done, not by a long shot. I stood and dressed slowly, hungry and weak, but it had never felt so good to have clothes on in my whole life. I noticed she had her gloves, belt and boots on. I guessed that our buyers wanted her in her complete ensemble. Buyers, I thought with a shudder. This is the 21st century, I was amazed that such things went on. I turned toward the gate, looking at shapes on the floor.I saw sheets covering 4 bodies. I lifted the sheets and found Sheriff Clayton, the guy who examined me and his two goons. "Where's Somnos? I asked her. She gave me a strange look. "It's complicated. But I promise you, he'll never hurt anyone ever again. "But you said you didn't kill." I objected. "I didn't...a friend took care of him for us. I'll explain later."
She looked so pensive, then a flash of memory came. "Did that woman take him?" "You saw her? White Owl asked. "Just some flashes. She said something to me...that's it, she said 'Return and be free.' Who was she, she was so beautiful. When she looked at me I felt so safe." "When this is all over, I'll explain everything. But we have to get out of here now." "All right." I told her. White Owl didn't walk to the gate, she flew, gliding gracefully to it. Then she landed, took a grip on the gate and pulled. It came off in her hands with a shriek that grated like nails on a chalkboard. "That felt so good!" White Owl said over her shoulder, a smile on her face. "Stay here, I'll be right back." I nodded, amazed at what I just saw.She glided up the stairs, a butterfly made more noise. It was unreal. A human being flying. I wondered what it felt like, it must be fun. Despite everything, I felt a sense of wonder that made me feel like a little girl again. I wished again, for the millionth time, that I could go back to that innocence and start my life over again. So many mistakes I've made, so many bad choices. I wondered if White Owl had ever been deeply hurt. But she must have, she cared so much, gave so much of herself for strangers. That kind of sacrifice isn't given without a reason.There was a loud thud, a man crying out, then a series of thudding sounds as he bounced down the stairs. It was Logan! The SOB who watched me undress! I could still see his leer as he pulled my legs apart to restrain them. I whirled around, looking for something...There, a pistol on the floor. Must have belonged to one of the goons. But it was mine now! I picked it up. It was cold in my hand, heavier than I thought it would be. But it didn't matter. I felt rage, the need to make him suffer, to make him as afraid as I was. 'Power comes from the barrel of a gun." Mao Tse-tung once said. So I had power now. Logan was at the bottom of the steps, his body twisted awkwardly, a trickle of blood from a cut on his forehead stained his face and shoulder of his uniform. He saw me as I raised the barrel of the pistol, slowly, deliberately. He groaned, stupidly raising a shaking hand as if it would block a bullet. "Please, no. I'm sorry!" he said, moaning through gritted teeth. I had fired handguns before. Growing up in Montana, my dad was an avid hunter and gun owner."Tell it to God!" I yelled, pulling the hammer back. "Gemma, no!" White Owl said, drifting down the stairs. "I know you want revenge, that's normal. But taking his life won't take away your pain. You want him to be afraid? He is, believe me. He's hurt and can't hurt you now. You are stronger than he is, you always were. Gemma, please. Give me the gun." Her right hand was extended toward me, palm up. "Gemma, I know your heart, you're not a killer. He's no threat now. If you kill him, it's not self defense, it's murder. Can you live with that?" "If I shoot, he can't hurt anyone again." I yelled. "Yes, that's true. But you'll still be a murderer. I don't want you to have that on your conscience. Gemma, please trust me when I say that revenge is a cruel and ultimately useless. If doesn't make the pain go away and this man." White Owl turned and looked at Logan, his eyes clouded with pain and confusion, his hand still raised. "He'll never experience mercy. That will be a powerful lesson he needs to learn. Please, Gemma, I'm begging you. Please give him a chance to be better than he is now." White Owl implored.
I looked at Logan, then at White Owl. Then I remembered something that was told me in rehab. "If you can't forgive, you will never be clean. Hate is the cancerous acid of the soul. Hate keeps you stuck in the past, where your addiction is. If you forgive, then the past is released and you can start living in the now. That's how you get clean. Let go of the old hurts, forgive those who hurt you. Hating them doesn't hurt them at all, all it does is make you bitter and unloving."Taking my finger off the trigger, I placed the gun in her gloved hand. "Thank you Gemma." She turned to face Logan, "She gave you your life back. Second chances are rare, don't screw it up." He nodded fast, then relaxed slightly, groaning. But she wasn't through yet. Grabbing his lapels, she dragged him into the cell. "How many guards are there?" "None." He whispered hoarsely. "The doc told us all to vanish, paid us 10 grand each." "Why did you stay?" White Owl asked, still holding him. "I work for Clayton, thought he and the others were setting him up." "He's dead."White Owl told him matter of factly. "Figured that since you're flying around. What are you going to do with me?" He asked, swallowing audibly.
White Owl thought about it. "Go to Queen City and turn yourself in. Ask for Detective Winslow. If you're not there in 12 hours, I'll find you and make you regret living. Is that clear?" To add weight to her words, she hovered off the ground about 7 feet up, still hanging onto Logan's shirt. "I hear you!" He said, looking down and seeing nothing under his feet. She released him. He crashed to the floor, landing on his butt. He groaned but said nothing.She looked at me. "We're out of here. Are you ready?" "I thought you'd never ask." I smiled at her, she smiled back. "Come on, let's go." White Owl said. We ran up the stairs. White Owl leading, making sure there was no other guards. Logan told the truth, there was no one watching the entrance to her cell. "Come on, I can get us out of here." "Wait, who can we trust?" She asked. "White Owl, if I know them, you can trust them. No one but the idiots that Somnos hired even knew you were here. He had a lot of work done down there, we were told that a maximum security cell was being built. We weren't told that anyone was coming, just that the state mandated it." "That makes sense." White Owl commented. "Okay, I'll take your for it. Let's go, I know where to take you that's safe."We took the elevator up to the 2nd floor. The door slid open revealing an aide pushing a food tray. "Hi Jeremy." I said. He stared at us, his jaw dropping. He saw White Owl, then turned, heading for the panic button on the wall. If he pushed it, the whole facility would go on lockdown. "No, wait a sec!" I called after him.
But White Owl was already airborne, intercepting him. "Please, I'm not going to harm you." She said gently, landing between him and the button. He turned on his heel, looked at me. I stepped out of the car. "Listen, we've been lied to. This is White Owl, the real one. She was kept prisoner here. Clayton and Somnos were going to sell her." "Who? He managed to say. "Somnos, I mean Lacombe. It's a real long story but I need you to trust me, she's not dangerous." He looked at me, then over his shoulder at White Owl. She hovered there, smiling. "Gemma, this is crazy. Selling White Owl?" "It's true, Jeremy. I swear." White Owl said gently. He thought for long seconds, he wasn't the smartest guy in the world, I hoped he wouldn't do anything stupid."Alright, Gemma. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that she's the real McCoy. But I have a lot of questions." "I know, I do too. But we need to get out of here before anymore of Somnos...I mean Lacombe's friends get here." I said. "Alright then, go ahead." He concluded. I relaxed. "Thank you so much, Jeremy." I said, giving him a quick hug. He returned it awkwardly. We released each other. "How's Dr. Fournier?" I asked quickly. "He's doing better, he's out of restraints, thank God. But the sky in his world ain't blue. If you know what I mean." He told me. I looked at White Owl, smiling widely, a weight lifting off my shoulders.I hugged Jeremy again, then we left him, a confused look on his face. We rushed down the hallway. "Where's the nearest exit?" She asked me. "I need to see Louis...I mean Dr. Fournier." She stopped me, looked into my eyes. "You care for him, don't you?" I felt a lump in my throat. "Yes, I need to see how he is, please." She considered this, a slight frown on her face. "Where is he?" "The last time I heard, he was in Isolation. That's on the other side of the building." I answered quickly. "Gemma..." She began so say. "White Owl, I just need to see him for one minute, that's all I ask." I placed my hand on her upper arms. "Please, one minute, then we can leave." "Let's go then, but you have one minute with him. I'm still not certain of our safety." "White Owl, I am." I released her arms and we set off.Apparently Jeremy got on his PDA and texted the staff. We got into the main hallway and saw a group waiting for us. White Owl went for her belt. "Wait!" I said, stepping in front of her. "Who's in charge now?" "What do you mean? Dr. Lacombe is. What happened to you, Gemma?" One of the other nurses, Emily, asked me.
"You have a board of directors, right? White Owl asked. "Of course." Emily replied, sounding a little confused. "Call them now, Lacombe is a criminal I had arrested a few years ago. He came back to get rid of me. He was holding both of us captive in the Maximum Security cell." "Where is he now?" Someone asked. "He's gone. Now call the board and the state police in that order. Sheriff Clayton was working with Lacombe. He's dead, so are the ones who were going to sell us." The group looked at each other, talking amongst themselves. One of the aides ran to the nearest phone, started making calls.
"We're going to see Dr. Fournier, please don't interfere." White Owl warned. "We understand, White Owl, but he's had a massive psychotic break." "He was poisoned." White Owl said. "You need to get him to a hospital now!" "Poisoned? By who?" Someone asked. "Lacombe, he needed Fournier out of the way to take over." White Owl said. "The board members are on the way. You sure you want the cops involved?" She glared at him. "There are four corpses in the basement, call the cops NOW" White Owl said, her voice brooking no argument. He saw the look on her face and dialed 911.It took almost forever to reach Isolation, everyone was asking questions. I left White Owl to answer them. All I wanted to do was see Louis. Dr. Barrett was overseeing him, he looked tired. "Nurse Laurence?" "You need to call an ambulance. Dr. Fournier has been poisoned." "I ran every blood test available, there's no trace of any toxin in his system. Besides, the board of directors insisted that he gets cared for here, in house." He looked down his nose at me, like a high school principal. I lost my temper, grabbing the lapels of his lab coat and pushed him against the wall. "Listen to me, you supercilious twit, down that hallway is a pissed off superheroine who will break you in half if you do not call an ambulance right now!"He looked down at me, and I do mean look down. I'm 5'4" and Dr. Barret was 6'1" but at that moment I felt 8 feet tall. He opened his mouth, saw my expression then changed his mind."Fine, I'll do that, but if the board asks me why, I'll tell them you threatened me. I'm sure Director Lacombe will find your conduct worthy of immediate dismissal."
"I think you'll find the director indisposed at the moment and will be for some time, doctor." I heard White Owl say from behind me. "But I suggest strongly that you call for an ambulance. And tell the lab to check for psychotropic proteins." She suggested. "You expect me to take medical advice from a layperson?" Barret asked smugly. "Gemma, my friend, please release the good doctor." I complied, stepping back. "Thank you. White Owl." "You're welcome." She said with a dazzling smile. "Doctor Barrett, just so you know, Director Lacombe is a wanted man. He lived in France where he murdered his wife. He left the country and ended up in Queen City, where he ran a hypnotherapy clinic under the name of Somnos. I arrested him, he was extradited back to France. He escaped from prison, had extensive plastic surgery and returned here to take his revenge on me.” She paused to let that soak in.
Then she continued “He poisoned Dr. Fournier to get him out of the way so he could take over this asylum. Nurse Laurence and myself were held captive in the maximum security cell in the basement. If you go down there, you'll find four bodies, all murdered by your esteemed director. The police are on the way as we speak. You may want to meet them before they get down there."Barrett looked like he had a colonoscopy without a local anesthetic. "Nurse, call for an ambulance. Tell them to have their labs check for psychotropic proteins. Call the board and have them meet me here as soon as possible." He was nearly running now. "Make way! Make way!" I heard Barrett yell.
Iopened the door to Isolation and went in. Louis was a wreck. Whatever Somnos gave him was potent. He was pale and sweaty, looking nothing like I remembered from just a few days ago. I took a washcloth, dampened it and wiped his face and neck. "Director, can you hear me?" His eyes opened, I gave him a sip of water. "Gemma..." I had never felt so happy to hear my name. "Yes, it's me."
"Lacombe...drugged me." "I know, White Owl is here. It's alright, you're safe. We're sending you to a real hospital." He smiled. "I called for an ambulance. It'll be here soon." White Owl said. She looked at Louis and paled. "That answers that question." She said weakly. "What question?" I asked. "He looks like Somnos before his surgery, a lot like him." "What are you saying?" I asked her. "Is Somnos your brother?" "What?" I exclaimed. "White Owl, you're way out of line, that monster couldn't be related to Louis...I mean Dr..." She's right Gemma." Louis said softly. "He is my brother." I looked at him. "He set you up." White Owl told him. "I know. Did you stop him?" "Forever." She said coldly. "Good." He closed his eyes, drifted off to sleep."Gemma," White Owl said gently, "you need to rest. I know someplace where it's safe." I nodded. I went over, gave him a quick kiss. "We'll talk later." He smiled. White Owl and I went outside, somehow avoiding the staff, I was glad. "Are you afraid of heights?" She asked me. I looked at her, hoping she was going to do what I wanted to do. "Come on, White Owl Airlines is departing." I must say it was sort of weird to be cradled in her arms like a groom carrying his bride. But we took off silently, my eyes taking in everything.
About 100 feet up, we came to a hover. We saw a bunch of police cars and ambulances. "Shouldn't we give our statements?" I asked her. "We will later, I don't know about you. But I need some food, a hot bath and a hug." I burst out laughing. "And by the way, 'supercilious twit?' she asked. I smiled. "When I was in rehab, there was an annoying guy who used to call us that in group." "Did he make it through? She asked. "He graduated, but he OD'd about 3 months later." "Too bad." White Owl commented. "It happens. You have to make a choice not to follow that path." We flew upwards. It was morning. "What day is this?" I asked her. "A new one." It was a feeling I can't describe, I was flying! The only sound was the wind. I was sitting in the arms of a heroine, safe and utterly secure. The horizon was ahead of us, the sun rising. It was glorious and I never wanted it to end.As we slid through the air, I felt like a new person. I had no worries, no responsibilities, I was a dove, with the sky as my home and my companion. I watched the world beneath us, the cars and the people walking, trapped on a solid dimension. We were over Queen City now, it looked so different from up here. "Wave, Gemma." White Owl said, turning to the right. There was a traffic helicopter, we avoided it, but we both waved as we passed under it. We looked at each other and giggled like kids.We began to slow, to descend from the vibrant morning sky. "There's no place safer in Queen City." I heard her say, landing gracefully in front of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church. "I know this place!" I exclaimed happily. I recounted my earlier visit before starting at Meadowbrook. "Sounds like Father Tim, let's see if he's awake."
We walked up the steps, I was feeling very tired all of a sudden. I felt a sick emptiness in me. I knew what it was and without thinking, turned around and looked at the pedestrians, disappointed that no one had what I needed. Realizing what I had just done, I began to weep. "It's ok, we're here to help you." White Owl said, her gloved hand cupping my chin gently.
We made it inside the beautiful old church. "Good morning White Owl!" Father Tim said, a big smile on his face. "Good Morning, Father. I have a friend who needs a haven." He looked at me. "My child, you are safe here, your Father will meet your every need according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus." "Thank you, Father Tim. We met a few years ago, I'm Gemma Laurence." He thought for a moment. "Of course, the nurse from Denver. Welcome home, my child. You look like you need a good meal and some rest." The weeping, that I had just got under control, started again. White Owl and Father Tim helped me to his office. White Owl explained what happened. It took nearly 3 hours, some hearty sandwiches and a pot of coffee to get the whole tale out.Father Tim leaned back in his chair after we finished. "Part of my ministry is listening to those who have been hurt by others. But I don't recall anything approaching the level of cruelty that you just recounted. Gemma, you are free to stay as long as you wish. You are in need of healing, which I offer you in the name of our Lord. Being forced back into addiction is a cruel, heartless act. But I know how strong you are and I know you will get past your forced fall into your past. White Owl, your resilience and bravery has brought you through another horrible experience. I know your duties keep you from a long rest. But you know the doors are always open."
She smiled at him warmly. "I know, Father. But I am going to go home for a few hours. Gemma, the police will want a statement, call them and let them you'll be in as soon as you're able." She smiled at me. I stood and held her. "Thank you for saving me." She whispered. I was astounded, but I managed to say "You're welcome, but you saved my life, thank you for everything!" We parted, White Owl bid goodbye to Father Tim and myself, then walked out.
Six months later, Louis and I married at St. George's. It was a beautiful ceremony and I was happier than I had ever been before. The day was a blur, full of smiles and laughter. In the reception hall, a wonderful buffet was laid out for us. Louis and I were served by a lovely woman, her name tag read "Athena" I had seen her in the church before but we had never met until now. "Congratulations, Mrs. Fournier." She whispered to me, a big smile on her face, refilling my glass. "Thank you so much, this is more wonderful than I had ever dreamed." "It's our pleasure, weddings are sort of a specialty here." She said proudly. "I can tell." I took Louis' hand and held it. He looked at me, smiling, and I wanted to melt."May God bless and keep you both." She said. I felt my eyes welling up. She dabbed at them gently, then left us.The trials and hearings were atrocious. But that was life, times of great joy tempered with periods of pain. But it's the pain that makes the joy feel that much better. But as time passed, the attention grabbers got bored and found fresher prey to feast upon. Meadowbrook was slowly transformed, starting with a new police force that weeded out the criminal element. What was really nice is that people stopped moving out of town. They felt safe living in Meadowbrook again. And occasionally, when I visit Queen City, I see a heroine clad in white, flying over her city. Ever watchful, ever caring. I owe so much to her and I'll never forget that amazing heroine.