I was getting ready to quit for the day when Dan Baldwin phoned and asked me to stop by his office. Dan's the feature editors on the 'Record' and writing features articles are the kind of job that a cadet reporter loves to get. So, I went to see him.
"Hi, Judith. Sit down. Are you still eager find a good story all to yourself?"
Dan's a nice old guy, well into his thirties, but I'm sure he moves the chair in his office before I go in there to get the best possible view of my legs. Not that I mind. Firstly because I quite like Dan; secondly, because he sometimes does me favors; and finally, because I became leer-proof after my first week in the newspaper business.
"Sure. Have you got something interesting?"
He shrugged: "I've got something that I'm about 99 per cent sure is a waste of time. But there's still that one percent of possibility in it. I can't spend money following it up, there's too many more important things to do. But I thought I'd mention it to you and see if you wanted to check it out in your own time."
"OK, what's the story?"
"It's not really a story, just an odd situation. There's a place up in the mountains called Lake Constitution. I had an email a couple of days ago from a guy called Scott Schneider who runs the local store up there. He says a mansion at the lake has been taken over by some kind of religious studies group. They keep themselves very much to themselves, right down to high security fences and guard dogs in the woods.
"In fact the place they have is called 'Hyde's Island' and the mansion is a miniature castle built by a gangster back in the thirties. Jake 'Toe Cutter' Hyde that was, from New Jersey. He was in retirement then but it seemed he wasn't retired enough to suit some people. Anyway, that's ancient history now. What's sparked my interest is the possibility that this religious group at Lake Constitution might be another sect in the making. They certainly seem to have something to hide."
I wasn't sure what to say, so I scratched the back of my calf. That was enough to keep Dan quiet and contemplative as I tried hard to think of an intelligent comment and as he tried hard not to let his eyes roam too obviously over the same area as my fingers.
"What's Scott's interest in this, Dan? These people aren't bothering him, are they?"
He shrugged: "Oh, I guess he's hoping we'll run with the story the way he's giving it to us, play up the mystery angle and maybe get a few more tourists visiting the Lake out of curiosity. But I want some hard facts before I publish anything."
"Do we really want to know about a bunch of religious maniacs anyway?" I asked.
"Judith, sect stories are a journalistic minefield. Most of the time they're as boring as hell and then you suddenly find yourself with a Waco on your hands and everybody wanting to know how come the local press completely missed out on what was brewing up in their own back yard. I'd certainly like to know a little more about these people on Hyde's Island but I can't afford the time or the budget to send anybody up there on what information I've got right now."
"So, if you should develop a desire to spend a day or so sightseeing around the Lake, and you should happen to find out something which would develop into a real story, maybe you can get to write it. But right now, the paper won't give you a dollar or a minute of company time to dig any deeper. It's up to you whether you bother to take a look."
"OK," I stood up. "Perhaps I can go out there this weekend."
I noticed that Dan was fiddling with his marriage ring, as if hoping it would suddenly disappear -- for a weekend, anyway.
"If you want to, Judith, that's fine, but this has nothing to do with the paper yet, so don't go getting us involved. No fronting up to the local law waving your press card around, and definitely no contact with this religious studies group on the basis that you're representing the 'Record' in any way. You drift in, you drift in, and coax the information out of the locals the easy way."
"And what's the easy way?"
"In your case, finding the local bar and then sitting on the highest stool in your shortest skirt. Then just let your legs do the talking while you listen to the local guys and see if you can pump them: or vice versa, if you're in the mood."
"Dan, that's a very sexist remark." I leaned far enough over his desk to let him catch a glimpse of my tightly packed bustier. "But since I'm a pretty sexy lady I won't complain."
Dan gulped, looked away and flicked his hand at me: "On your way, gal. Go and dangle your lures up at the Lake. And listen, make sure you keep your cell phone handy and call me if anything at all happens. Anything, anytime at all." Dan twisted his lips in self depreciation, as though the idea I might ever need him was only a joke. "It's just that I always get nervous whenever any of our people get within any distance at all of these religious types. You never know when they're liable to turn violent."
"You mean like Pope Urban's speech which began the First Crusade to the Holy Land?"
He smiled and ran his hair through his close cropped hair. He has a nice smile sometimes, our Mr Baldwin, even for smart assed history grads.
"Let's just say I'd be happier if you took one of your boyfriends with you."
I looked back around the door: "Do you want me to take all of them? I could save you a seat at the back of the bus, if you'd like."
He shook his head, grinning again: "I'm not a team player, I guess."
"Not even if I wear my cheerleader's outfit?"
"One day, Judith, it's a remark like that which is going to get you into serious trouble."
I grinned and left Dan stewing nicely. If only I'd known how good a prophet he was I'd have been hiding underneath his desk, screaming.
The Saturday morning started as roughly as my car. The old Civic coughed out black smoke when it finally started, then settled for an interesting shade of gray emissions to match the weather. Rain leaked down from clouds pressing against each other for room in the dim sky. My head ached, I hadn't had enough sleep and for two pins or a pair of strong arms I'd have stayed in bed. Since nobody was around to offer either pins or a pinfall, I settled for a flask of black coffee and Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on the CD player as I left the city behind.
Most times I like the mountains, especially when I can get to see them. This time they were all above the clouds. It was more like instrument flying than driving: regular bursts of raindrops splattering across the windscreen, shiny wet tarmac continually disappearing around hairpin bends and dripping tree branches clawing at the mist patches sliding down the steep slopes. I wondered if I could get a egg-and-bacon burger somewhere in lieu of breakfast.
By the time the 'WELCOME TO LAKE CONSTITUTION' sign sidled up out of the damp vapor I definitely had a grumbling stomach to match my discontented mind -- this was all a waste of my time and my money. A row of mock log-cabin type frontages appeared, most with verandahs and all of them heavy on well trimmed lawns. Holiday homes, resort homes, retirement homes, and many of them providing homes for garden gnomes with fishing rods. About as peaceful and dull a community as you could find this side of the pearly gates.
Scott Schneider matched his community. He was probably the most unstressed man I'd met in months. Mid forties, square-shouldered, trim waistline, neat mustache, casual clothes, faded tattoos on his arms and pleasant manners. He came across to me as the sort of guy other guys would call for good advice if their wife had just left them or they had a chevvy engine they wanted to rebuild. His own wife matched him in quiet good looks and self confidence. Dark haired, wide around the hips, a smile of welcome as genuine as Scott's, introduced as Diane. One of the first things I found out about Diane was that she cooked an excellent burger. I felt a lot better about things by the time they both sat down with me. Scott poured out the coffee and I got out my notebook.
"OK, Scott, maybe you could set the scene by telling me something about these religious studies people?"
He reached over to a stand which had some tourist maps on it. It also carried a lot of postcards with mottos like: "Old fishermen never die -- they just smell that way" and "Old golfers never die -- they just lose their balls". Lake Constitution was that kind of a community.
Scott opened the map and turned it around to show it to me. He rested a finger on the village and then moved it around the edge of the lake, to where a blob of land stood almost clear of the shore, connected to it only by a thin strip of land.
"This is what we call Hyde's Island. It's about a mile and a half north east from here. It's not really a island as you can see. There's this tongue of land to it across the lake. A private road runs over it to the island, with a high security fence which has been put across the tongue at the narrowest point, where it's about two hundred yards wide."
"A high security fence?" I asked. "How secure?"
"Very secure. Ten feet high, bent over at the top, and covered with razor wire," Scott replied. "It stretches from one side of the peninsular to the other, right down to the shorelines, and the only break in it is the gate where the road goes through it. The gate is permanently locked and with a sign on it saying the whole area is the private property of the Priscillian Religious Studies Group."
"Spell that, please," I requested and Scott took a piece of folded paper from his shirt pocket.
"It's on there."
"As soon as that sign went up, a month ago, I typed 'Priscillian' into an internet search engine. This is what I got back."
I felt a bit chagrined. At one time it was the reporter who had the facilities to do the research which impressed the reportees. Now everybody knows everything. So I read the printout myself:
'Priscillian:- Born 340 AD, died Spain 385, Trier, Belgica, Gaul [now in Germany]. Early Christian bishop who was the first heretic to receive capital punishment. A rigorous ascetic, he founded Priscillianism, an unorthodox doctrine that persisted into the 6th century. Priscillian taught that angels and human souls emanated from the Godhead, that bodies were created by the devil, and that human souls were joined to bodies as a punishment for sins. He was executed in 384 AD by the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus on grounds of sorcery. Thereafter Priscillianism as an organized cult disappeared.'
I put the paper down and sipped on my coffee. "So we're talking about somebody setting up a center to study a set of religious beliefs last heard of over fourteen hundred years ago. That's a hell of a long time to wait for a comeback -- or even a second coming."
"Maybe somebody left them some money over the centuries at compound interest," Diane remarked. "That island and the house on it are worth millions and I've heard said that it was a cash down sale, no haggling."
I felt I was having difficulty in touching bottom on this one. "So how much contact do you have with these Priscillians -- you and the other locals?"
"None at all," Scott said. "They don't shop here, they don't drink here, they don't visit here and they don't even hire anybody around the Lake as cleaners or gardeners. All we see is an occasional vehicle going out or coming back from the island sometimes. But where they're from and who they are, we don't know."
"Scott, could I go and take a look at this island without making myself too noticeable?"
"Sure. Just follow the road around the lake until you see the Hyde island turnoff -- it's sign posted. There are pine trees on both sides of the road right up to the island. You can walk through them as far as the fence line. Then you won't be going any further, I guarantee that."
"Yes ... " I kept on looking at the map. "Just suppose I got hold of a boat and landed on the island itself? As anybody else done that recently?"
"Nobody has landed on the actual island from the lake since about 1933, when Toe-Cutter Hyde turned it into a small scale Alcatraz. The walls all around the shoreline are twenty feet high and topped with broken glass. He was a man with a lot of enemies. Most of them nicknamed 'Lurch'."
"Mmmm ... OK, but what about the piece of land on the other side of the fence? Between the fence and the house. Is there anything to stop me from going ashore there?"
"Only the pack of very shy and sensitive Rottweilers that run loose in that area."
I was stunned: "You're joking!"
"Nope -- and neither are those dogs."
"What the hell is it with these Priscillians? Are they expecting the FBI to come around with tanks?"
"That's what I was trying to explain to your newspaper, Judith. There's something heavy going down around here but we can't get a handle on it. Maybe you can."
Well, it was a pious hope but I couldn't see any chance of it happening. If the locals couldn't find out anything about the Priscillians I couldn't see any way I could turn up something fresh in one day. Certainly not as a mere cadet reporter under orders not to make any fuss.
Then, as I was driving along the road around the lake, I had an idea. I'd never yet heard of any company doing any kind of major work without leaving some kind of advertisement on it -- a company name and contact number at least. If I walked the length of the fence I might be able to get a lead on the construction company that had put it up. It wouldn't be much but at least it would be something to take back to Dan.
I found the turnoff easily enough, drove on a little further and parked the Honda away from the road, carefully checking the ground first to make sure I wasn't going to get bogged down. Then I put on a old windbreaker and slung a pair of mini-binoculars around my neck, trying to look like a member of the Audobon Society. As a matter of fact I am a wild life observer in my spare time. I often use the glasses on the beach for hunk-spotting and butt-rating. Then I put my Nikon Coolpix in my pocket and the ace reporter was ready for anything. Or so she thought.
I walked back to the turnoff and followed the road through the pines, fifty yards over on the left from the tarmac. It was still a gray day, still overcast, with droplets of water ready to fall off the branches and bushes at the slightest disturbance. There were plenty of fallen branches as well, so I had to keep zig-zagging to get past the obstacles. Whenever possible I favored my left side, until I saw the surface of the lake and knew I was out onto the peninsula. Then I swung left again until I was against the water's edge. The peninsula curved over towards the side I was on and Hyde's Island was clearly visible about a quarter of a mile away. I looked at it through the binoculars.
Scott was quite right in his description. The whole island covered about ten acres and as far as I could see it had a wall right around that would have done credit to Berlin at the height of the cold war. Behind the wall were the upper windows and steep roofs of a mock Gothic monstrosity adorned with turrets and domes. Most incredible of all, the whole place was a weird pink color. Xanadu meets Rosebud -- Citizen Kane would have loved it. Personally, I thought it looked like a Disney World version of Herman Goering's hunting lodge.
How the hell had Hyde gotten permission to build such a monstrosity? I guessed that a few county officials had been offered a choice between picking up some easy dollars in bribes or getting on the wrong side of a man called the Toe-Cutter. It's amazing how influential some nicknames can be. Well, if all else failed maybe the US government could be persuaded to bomb the place flat on aesthetic grounds -- it didn't seem as if the Priscillians were committing any other offences against the public weal.
I started walking again, following the side of the lake as closely as I could, knowing the fence couldn't be far away. I certainly wasn't likely to miss it, not from Scott's description. Nor did I, the silver strands showed up well before I got to the clearing which had been cut across the peninsula with the fence in the middle of it. About five yards of forest had been cut back on each side of the row of concrete based steel posts. In between the posts were panels of steel mesh with strands of razor wire woven through them like grapevines growing on a trellis. The whole thing looked strong enough to stop a herd of charging elephants and vicious enough to keep out a crowd of rioting South American soccer fans.
Being conscientious, I started my inspection at the shoreline, surprised to find that the fence extended well out into the lake waters. No expense spared here on security. What the hell, maybe it was a recovery clinic for Hollywood stars. Even the paparazzi would have a tough time getting in here. Already I was sure my bright idea had turned out to be a dumb one. The people who'd organized this place wouldn't have left any useful phone numbers lying around. But here I was, so at least I'd go through the motions.
I walked alongside the edge of the cleared area, following the fence towards the road. And then I walked straight into a miracle.
The thing was, I had to keep looking down at where I was putting my feet because of the old branches and puddles that I was stepping around. And just before I put my foot down on a patch of bare mud I noticed there were footprints already in it -- and the first one was only an inch or so away from the fence. Just as if somebody had walked through a gate which wasn't there!
Well, you know how it is -- whenever you need an Indian tracker pronto you can never find a Tonto. So I did the best I could myself in trying to make sense out of it all. Some things I could make a rough guess about. The foot prints had been left by somebody wearing trainers, apparently brand new ones. The feet inside them seemed about the same size as mine. The prints were slowly dissolving back into the mud, but they surely hadn't been there very long to be still visible. They must have been made the day before at the latest, or so I figured. And, most interestingly, the first set of prints were no deeper in the mud than the following ones. No indication at all of an impact landing.
An impact landing! I looked up at the top of the fence and laughed at myself. A kangeroo on steroids couldn't have leapt over that obstacle. So there couldn't possibly be any matching footprints on the other side of the fence, could there?
Well, of course there couldn't be, but I had a look anyway, standing as close to the fence as I could with each of my feet astride the footprint. The mud patch extended back underneath the fence, a tiny trickle of water as wide as a fingernail running underneath the mesh, and within stepping distance, another footprint right up against the fence!
A joke! It had to be a practical joke by somebody with the strangest sense of humor in all the world!
I was so absorbed in trying to make sense of this that I never even saw what was happening, not until I heard a threatening growl from somewhere around my knees. I looked up and on the other side of the fence a set of pure white teeth snapped together in a bite big enough to have taken my hand off in one go. The black eyes above the killing machine jaws were as merciless as a shark's. The Rottweiler was sixty pounds of bristling aggression, desperate to haul me down as prey for the rest of the pack bursting out from under the trees. I shrieked and fled for my life, fence or no fence.
It's strange how things come together though, because that was also the same moment that I'm proudest of in my life. Although I was terrified I kept my wits enough to thoroughly trample over the trainer prints before I turned and ran into the trees. If somebody came along to investigate the barking dogs at least they wouldn't see anything but my footprints. And with any luck at all the pack of Rottweilers now jumping up and down by the fence would mess up the prints on the other side as well. I didn't know if those things mattered, but I suddenly thought they might.
I also kept enough of my senses to know that I must try to follow the footprints as far as I could. One look at all the pine needles on the forest floor and I was downhearted. It didn't seem like much of a chance.
Yet I was wrong. Whoever had been wearing the trainers, they seemed to walk this way a lot. Enough to make a faint path anyway, and, thank God, one which travelled in a dead straight line. Because of those two pieces of good luck I was able to keep moving in the right direction. Not very quickly, but staying -- literally -- on the right track. Until I saw a mound of earth dead ahead, well overgrown with bushes and clumps of grass.
About ten yards long and three wide, obviously man made, though many years ago and long abandoned. Then it crossed my mind that perhaps it was a pre-electric ice house, dug out as a store for lake ice during the summer. That was why the earth was piled on top of it like a wartime bunker, to provide the maximum of insulation, here in the shade of the deep forest. So could somebody have an interest in coming here nowadays?
It seemed not, for I could find no sign of an entrance, not when I walked around it. But a casual look wasn't enough for me, not with the memory of those footprints tormenting my curiosity. And when I started probing the ground around the mound with my pen, I soon found that at one end there were a layer of planks covered over with leaf mould and fallen needles. I had to dig at the planks with my fingers, ruining my nails doing it, but I eventually managed to lift three out, making a big enough gap to drop into. It was like going into a tunnel and I cursed because I'd have to go back to my car to get a torch. But then I found a big upright neon-tube torch, apparently brand new. It was standing at the corner of the entrance and it proved beyond doubt that somebody came here regularly. I switched it on and crawled inside to explore.
The first thing I found was that there was room enough to stand up in. The walls and ceilings were made of planks, still in reasonably good condition. They seemed to be anyway, and I sure hoped they were, because I didn't want to get buried in a collapsed dugout. Then I moved around with the torch and found old plastic crates turned upside down for seats, a couple of stained mattresses and a rickety old fold up table covered in stacks of magazines. Porno magazines, very well thumbed magazines, and when I opened the pages I found out that the mattresses weren't the only things in the ice house which had had bodily fluids spilt on them.
It seemed that what I'd found was a kind of clubhouse for adolescent boys, and all of them obviously obsessed by the usual obsession of adolescent boys -- sex. Another plastic crate had piles of cutout pictures in it of assorted fucking and there was another table at the end of the room, a whole lot of crumpled tissues dropped around it onto the dirt floor. Scattered across the top of the table were sheets of newspaper sprinkled with specks of soil freshly fallen from between the overhead planking. I held the torch over the table and my eye was caught by a small article which had been highlighted with slashed textra marks around it. The article was brief and concise, about a very, very famous Hollywood actress and country singer who'd had to cease work suddenly because of high stress levels. Which sounded familiar enough because I'd handled exactly the same news release at the 'Record' only three or four days ago. And when I checked the date on the paper I was right, it was only three days old.
I couldn't understand the way the evidence was pointing. This particular lady's main attribute was the biggest set of tits in Hollywood but the mere mention of her name in a newspaper didn't seem enough to motivate a circle jerk.
I shuffled the newspaper pages around and suddenly found a picture underneath them, a very high quality color A3 printout secured to the table top with pieces of ducting tape. And in the center of the photo was the very same actress that the newspaper article was written about. The last time I had seen her she'd been hosting a top music award show on TV in a low cut dress: Robin Williams had described the view it provided the drooling males of America as the grandest canyon of them all. The audience had applauded madly and the singer -- let's call her Ms X -- had coyly pretended she hadn't realized she was displaying more tit flesh than a queue at mammography clinic.
That time she'd been perfectly in control of the situation. This time she wasn't. This time she was lying on her back on top of a padded bench, her hands behind her head, each wrist held down. And if the expression of horrified surprise on her face was make believe then she had far more acting ability in her than she'd ever shown in any of her movies.
And I'd been thinking about papperazzi! This shot alone would stiffen every prick in the country, if only somebody was game enough to publish it. It couldn't be real though; it had to be a masterpiece of digital fakery. A product of the same mindset which had set up those footprints at the fence to make it look as if somebody had walked through the mesh and razor wire where there was no opening.
I kept on saying that to myself as I looked at the photograph. The detail was so fine I could see faint wrinkle lines around Ms X's eyes which made her look a lot older than she did on the movies or on a TV screen. Probably covered by makeup whenever she appeared in front of a camera.
Then I realized the implication of what I was thinking: nobody making up a fake face on a graphics program would bother to invent a detail like that. Which meant ... it was real? For God's sake, could this really have happened? But how could a gang of young boys have gotten these pictures? Unless they had taken them themselves? Which was impossible, they'd never get past her security protection: not unless they could walk through walls and fences ...
My mind seized up like a locked computer program, going through the futile routine of looking at the article again and again even though I knew exactly what it said.
Then, slowly, almost reluctantly, I went back to the picture and picked up on the details. It had come off a top quality printer, I was sure, so the original shot had probably been taken with a digital camera. The hands holding down Ms X's wrists were certainly male, though the fingers appeared remarkably long and tapering. The padded bench top the actress was being pinned down on looked like a massage table. A detail which seemed confirmed by Ms X's dress and appearance. She was wearing some kind of an exercise suit, a light red colored track suit with darker red stripes patterned vertically into it and a belt tied with a knot around the waist. A full length zip secured it from neck to crotch, although the zip was pulled down far enough to reveal a hint of Ms X's huge teats. The hood on top of the suit was also pulled back to reveal a damp mass of wet hair and lines of sweat trickling down the sides of her shocked face. Which at least explained the lack of makeup over those wrinkle lines.
At a guess, I'd have said that the exercise suit was rubberized and Ms X had been working and sweating away in it, fighting the daily battle to keep her superb figure when she'd been rudely interrupted. Well, if it wasn't a rude interruption yet I was certain it soon became one. Held down and heaving like a stranded whale as she was, it was highly unlikely any bunch of guys lucky enough to have a tight grip on one of the most wanted bodies in the world would pass up the chance to fulfill the ultimate wet dream.
Oh, but hell, that was what it was, surely? A horny dream. Just a piece of wishful dreaming by some young guys playing computer games with a hard core porn picture and a movie star's facial image?
My brain cells were short circuiting every which way but my eyes were still working and no way could I not have lifted the sheets of newspaper from the table top and looked underneath them.
There were three rows of the same kind of color printouts, all taped to the table top. Each of them featured X's face and, increasingly, her figure. Judging by the number of hands on her there were four guys around the table grabbing at whatever they could, plus whoever was using the camera. Somebody with shaking hands, anyway, because some of the pics were blurred. But that was no surprise, because what had been going on in front of the lens was every high school boy's wet dream come true.
Especially like a dream in that things didn't seem to happen sometimes the way they should in real life. But those aberrations were later on in the sequence. At first, what I saw is what I'd expected. The long fingers pulling down the zip on the front of the exercise suit, then easing the thin rubber covering away from the white cups of a sports bra with thumb width adjustment buckles on each wide strap, like a parachute harness -- and apparently built to the same strength specifications. And no wonder, because these cups started out where DD size finished: I'm a big girl myself and proud of it but as far as this woman's bosom was concerned God had shown a total lack of artistic restraint.
The impression from the photos was that the boys themselves couldn't believe that the cups were for real. Their fingers stroked the massive cones, heads bent low over them for closer looks. And then I began to get an even clearer understanding of the singer's totally dumbfounded expression. It wasn't only the assault, it was the appearance of the boys. They all looked different, yet somehow very much the same.
Light skinned, dark skinned, three Caucasians, one Hispanic, an African. But the faces were all triangular shaped, with hooded eyes and high cheekbones. Not peculiarities enough to stand out in a crowd, not if each boy was alone, but together they told an unmistakable story of a shared parent -- a father, it must have been, because they all seemed about the same age.
I pinched the palm of my hand and looked around the scummy interior of the ice store to get back in touch with reality. At least I could explain the gang's obvious relationship easily enough. These boys must be Priscillians and Dan Baldwin's suspicions about it being a sect were probably right. And all these religious sects seemed to center around the male founder's divine right to bed as many of the female members as he wanted to. It looked like this sect must have been around for at least fifteen years and that whoever started it was a man with a lot of sexual drive. Overdrive was probably a better word, judging by the size of his family, and it seemed to be an inherited trait.
And then, suddenly, from one shot to the next, the exercise suit disappeared. In one picture it was there, unzipped all the way, but still on Ms X, her arms and legs inside it, the belt knotted around her waist, ends hanging free. In the next shot the suit had gone and all that was left on her body was a tiny pair of blue panties and the sports bra -- and the belt that was still tied around her waist.
I couldn't understand it. With that belt left in place it would have been twice as difficult to peel the exercise suit off Ms X's body. Taking the belt off first would have been the logical way to start stripping her. So if they did take the belt off, why would the guys bother to put it back on again? And would they knot it again with exactly the same kind of knot?
Then I noticed that her exercise shoes are still on her feet as well. Yet dragging the close fitting suit down over them must have been almost impossible. They'd taken her shoes off and then put them back on again? Just to see how they looked on an otherwise naked movie star? No way!
Again and again I looked at the two shots, comparing them. Then I noticed the large bead of sweat close to Ms X's right eye in the last shot with the suit on. In the first shot without the suit that same bead of sweat was still there, in almost exactly the same place. And Ms X's mouth is gaping open in astonishment. So is mine. Because in the next shot a forefinger reaches down and touches the top of the left bra cup -- in the next shot another finger from a different hand rests on the other cup -- in the third shot the bra has also disappeared and the two finger tips are gently rubbing the singer's bared nipples!
When I saw this I almost dropped the torch. Compared to what I was looking at here those Rottweilers back at the fence suddenly seemed like playful puppies. For either I don't know Jack or else this is heavy, heavy duty shit, and no wonder Ms X is being treated for stress, never mind what else has happened to her. Just looking at the shots I've seen so far has put me on the edge of a nervous breakdown of my own. I ran my fingers over the camera in my pocket and knew I would have to use it to photograph these photographs. Without that proof to keep looking at I'd be doubting my own sanity as soon as I'd left this crazy place.
On the next row of shots groups of faces came together again, meetings of brothers -- half brothers. Not only are some of the facial expressions shared, there even seems to be a kind of empathy between them as they handle the massive bared udders, squeezing each one so the nipples are held high for waiting mouths to eagerly suckle. One of the boys has a length of elastic which he keeps snapping against the swollen nipples whenever he gets a clear shot: it's a hell of a way to treat a pair of tits insured for a million bucks apiece. For a crazy second I imagined the scene at Lloyd's of London when the underwriters read the insurance claim on this incident. I'm even giggling at the thought but I stop it when I think I hear something moving outside the ice store.
I waited and I waited, but I didn't hear anything else except my pounding heart, and finally I looked at the shots again. They're as unreal as ever. These dudes aren't worried about being caught, they're cool, they're so cool they smile at each other like they're smoking behind the gymn at school instead of mauling a major film star. How can that be? If these pictures are for real then this woman must have had security guards nearby, and if they come storming in these young delinquents will be hamburger meat.
But it's Ms X's biggest assets which are the fast food item here and she's not getting any help from anybody. None of the boys seem at all sympathetic to her. It's that kind of shared mindset again that I sense between them: they're in the groove, they're doing exactly what they want to do and nobody else matters at all. Instead of being frightened of being discovered they seem to be doing everything they can to make their victim yell out at the top of her voice!
It's power I'm seeing here, and the power of a pack of young males over one trapped woman is only the least part of it. Either I'm mad enough to be institutionalized or these guys seem able to make things disappear -- and re-appear too, maybe, because there sure wasn't any hole left in that fence where the footprints had crossed it. Not one big enough for a Rottweiler to get through, anyway.
I shook my head as if I'd been punched, trapped in a contradiction between plain sense and plain sight. Things couldn't be the way they looked, so these photos must be faked. And this whole setup must be some kind of strange joke staged for anybody who comes snooping around the Priscillians. But if it's a joke, how did this group of religious nuts arrange that report about Ms X in the paper? I know that's not a fake because the Record itself ran it -- for Christ's sake, it was me that took it off the wire!
I can't find a way through the mental maze my logic is hopelessly lost inside. I don't know whether I've stumbled into something a quantum jump beyond incredible or whether maybe somebody is watching me on a surveillance camera and laughing fit to bust. And then I realized my arms were crossed in front of my body and I was gently rubbing my own nipples. I also realized I was more turned on by the pictures on the table than just about anything I'd ever seen in my life.
Maybe it was because I was inwardly convinced now that it really was Ms X I was looking at on the shots. How often you get to see a movie star being set up for a real live gangbang? And every girl wonders about how she'd feel if she was in that kind of a situation: suppose it was me on that bench, suppose it was me that was held down and stripped off, suppose it was me who was having her tits played with and sucked on, being made hot and ready for the first of her impatient lovers?
Yes, for me that was a turn on too, but what was absolutely grabbing me was a fantasy I'd had ever since I reached puberty. A fantasy about the Greek myths and about how Gods like Zeus had come down among mortals to pleasure himself with their woman. What must it have felt like for a beautiful Greek girl to suddenly find herself being a fuck toy for a bunch of pleasure seeking immortals visiting from Mount Olympus? To be the slave of demi-gods with divine powers who could punish or pleasure beyond limit at a whim?
Yes, it was a dream because there are no gods in real life. Some good looking guys sure, a few I'd even gone down on my knees for, but none I'd ever felt like worshipping. Perhaps I hadn't found the right sect myself to join, or the right leader. But maybe that was changing, because either I was a total moron or here was a gang of teenage boys with genuine supernatural powers.
OK, maybe it was a crazy thought but I had enough evidence on those shots to make the idea seem plausible, and how much more evidence does anybody need to justify a sexual fantasy? True or faked, I wanted time to study all the photos for every detail in them. Even if they were digital trickery they were still an incredible discovery. If they were true ... if they were true then fate had handed me a chance that would never come again in a thousand lifetimes. Overnight I could become the most famous journalist in history!
But this wasn't a place I should be lingering in. It seemed like I'd been here for hours already, and what if somebody had come to check on those noisy dogs, or saw my car near the road? Yes, it was time to be out of here. I needed time to think and plan. After I'd done what I needed to do.
The first chores were the easy ones. Taking flash photos of the inside of the ice house, then checking if there was any other photos anything like the ones on the table. If there were, I couldn't find them, everything else was strictly commercial type porn. Then I picked up a few of the crumpled tissues off the floor. If these guys were anywhere as near as strange as I suspected their DNA should be real interesting. The thought did cross my mind that I'd collected sperm samples before, but this was the first time I'd ever carried them home in my pocket. Maybe I should tell that to Dan and watch him start panting.
The hard part was trying to photograph the shots of Ms X with my camera. As good as it was, and even with the flash and the macro lens setting, when I looked through the display screen I knew that what I was getting was well below the quality of the originals. So that left me staring down at the table with a multiple choice question. Take none of the below? Take one of the below? Take all of the below?
Take none of them and nobody back at the Record would believe what I was telling them. The second hand shots out of my own camera would never carry the conviction that one of the originals photos would.
Take one of them and my story would be more convincing, but then the owners of the pictures would know beyond doubt that somebody had been here. Somebody who had been here and seen all the pictures. Somebody who'd also picked up the tissues with the traces of cum from their own cocks which linked them straight into a rape case guaranteed to send the media totally apeshit if word about it leaked out.
Which meant at least that the jerkoffs couldn't be anymore upset if I took all their pictures instead of just one. And not only would I have all of them to prove what I was claiming, I might even be able to do better. I might be able to use the shots of Ms X's ravishment and the used tissues as payment for hard information. Information which I could use to write and authenticate my own story, whatever the hell it eventually turned out to be.
Oh yes, who could resist trying for a deal like that? And as for the mightily endowed and muchly abused Ms X, well, fuck her again as far as I cared. She'd made enough money to buy half the real estate in Tennessee by cock teasing millions and millions of guys with her bustline -- if she'd finally ended getting bust for it herself, that was her problem.
What with my shaky hands and broken fingernails it seemed to take forever to peel the pieces of tape away from the pictures and put them in my pockets. I didn't waste time looking at them closely, but although they weren't any great displays of photographic talent they were brilliantly graphic in content. Ms X had been totally fucked every which way and it seemed that the usual opening routine was to have her holding her tits together -- with a lot of other helping hands -- for a guy to rub his cock between them while she licked his ass. No doubt about it, when I had all the shots of her performance stowed away in my pockets I had the makings of a real X file. More of an XXXX file, really.
The one problem left, of course, was that I had no way of getting in touch with this gang. And they had no way of getting in touch with me either. And I sure didn't intend leaving them my phone number or address.
OK, that was easily solved. In the old days it could be a bad move to give your phone number to a guy: he might be great to look at but a pain in the ass if he turned out to be a loser and wouldn't leave you alone. But give him an anonymous email address and he can pitch his woo as much as he likes without knowing a thing more about you than what you look like. Which is how come I can pick and choose my guys like Britney Spears; it's because I hand out f-e-mail cards to anything in pants which takes my fancy. Collecting men for fun and profit at two cents a shot is a great hobby once you learn to be one of the hunters instead of the hunted, but I never thought I'd go trawling for mutants -- well, not outside San Francisco, anyway.
I left one of my cards on the middle of the table, with my first name written on it and one of my Hotmail addresses. Then, on impulse, I picked it up again and scrawled a few words on the back: "What you people need now is a real woman!" I put it down again and secured it top and bottom with pieces of tape I'd lifted from Ms X's photos. In one of the dark corners of the ice store I could almost imagine the ghostly figure of Dan Baldwin shaking his head sadly at yet another example of my impudence and inprudence. The poor old guy was right: I am a born prick teaser.
So, it was time to go. I'd done everything my sense of journalistic duty had ordered me to do and now I was off duty and out of here. Maybe Scully would have handled the situation better but I'd done the best I could. At least I was careful enough to remember to wipe my fingerprints off the torch before I put it back. Then I replaced the planks and covered them up again.
The dripping forest was darker than I expected, as though I'd spent hours inside the ice store. When I looked at my watch I was shocked to realize that the waning daylight was no passing illusion. I'd spent over two hours down in the dugout, and the one thing you could surely say about them was that I hadn't been bored, not once. Frightened yes, but not as frightened as I was now, feeling like Little Red Riding Hood scurrying away from a B&E job on the Wolf's den. If ever I came back here I was coming with some serious back up, and I'd never before been so glad to see the Honda.
Even when I was inside the car in familiar surroundings my nerves were stretched taut in case I got bogged in the wet ground. But it didn't happen and very soon I was driving back the way I'd come. Driving dangerously, to be truthful, because my mind was so full of what I'd found that I could hardly spare the attention needed to steer safely along an empty road. Not only was I excited, I was tired, more tired than I'd been for a long, long time. If I tried to make the long drive back down out of the mountains right now I was going to be a major danger to myself and anybody else on the road.
There was a motel in the middle of the township with the "VACANCIES" sign illuminated. I booked a cabin and hit the bed for a late siesta. But first of all I put all the photos and tissues in an envelope and made sure the receptionist locked them in the motel safe. My last thoughts before I dropped off was that I'd better find time to say goodbye to Scott and Diane before I left -- I might need their help again. But I certainly didn't want to spend much time with them: the temptation to talk about what I'd found might be more than I could resist.
Two hours solid sleep and I felt fine again. Well, physically I felt fine. Mentally, I was still off balance. A great big crack seemed to have opened in the way the world was supposed to be and that was hard to accept. In many ways I'd be happy to be proved a fool and have done with it, but those photos took more explaining than I could come up with. I guess I must have stood underneath a hot shower for about ten minutes just thinking about alternative plans. Call Dan now? Put the photos on his desk on Monday morning? Tell Scott and Diane? Hire some muscle and stakeout that ice store?
No, all those gallons of steaming water didn't wash away my previous decision: keep the evidence to myself, stay quiet and let the gang contact me quietly through the untraceable email back-channel. The one thing I was sure of was that they would contact me and that they would have to do a deal in return for the evidence I had on them. The greatest story in history and mine, all mine!
I was as hungry as a fashion model and eager for the one stiff drink I could allow myself before driving -- and that wasn't the only stiff thing I would have welcomed. Ms X's enforced dancing-with-cocks routine was still stirring up my basic instincts, not to mention the excellent chance that I was likely to be a millionaire very, very soon. Any good looking guy who made a pass at me tonight might be luckier than he expected. And since there was a bar and grill complex in the motel it was time to open the emergency allure kit.
Of course I'd only bought the bare necessities into the mountains with me. Just a simple silver and sequined mini skirt and matching top with plenty of bare midriff on show and high heeled shoes. That outfit and a generous splash of Fleur D'Rocaille should keep the wolves at the door. I squinted into the mirror with half closed eyes as I applied my makeup, trying to convince myself yet again that I really do look a lot like Lauren Bacall. It would be nice to find a guy who'd tell me that but none of the boys I date have ever heard of her.
I'd thought Lake Constitution was a quiet place but there weren't many vacant slots in the parking lot outside the bar and grill. And the waitress's smile flickered like a power outage when I asked for a non-smoking table for one. I could see why, the bar room had two big TV screens in it and one look at the crowd in there was enough to remind me it was Super Bowl Saturday. She asked me if I minded sharing, I said 'no' and ended up sharing a booth with two other new arrivals. Two powerfully built Rhine maidens who politely switched from German to near perfect English as I joined them.
Well, both of them were from Berlin really, on holiday and driving a hired Winbago around the tourist areas. Hanna and her sister, Muni. They looked more Spanish than German, both wearing stretch pants over muscular skiers' legs which neatly connected their taut butts to two pairs of high heeled boots. Each sister had wavy dark hair and brown eyes. Muni was wearing a light sweater but Hanna had accentuated her cowhide boots with a frilly white shirt. She gave the impression she would be out on the dance floor at the drop of a sombrero, clicking her heels and clapping her hands above her head. Perhaps they thought they were in Texas. Anyway, the three of us together were soon getting as much attention as each of the six foot by six foot TV screens. Something we were well aware of as we chatted over drinks, examined the menu and looked around the room.
It was a nice old fashioned sort of place. Dark green floral wallpaper offset by dark wooden paneling with highly polished brass light fittings. Waitresses in green shirts and khaki slacks weaved their way around the tables with piled up plates and platters. Plenty of hunks over in the bar room as well, munching wings, knocking back brews and getting cricks in their necks from trying to divide their attention between the NFL and our table. A couple of the guys deserved second looks themselves, but first things first. A healthy girl has healthy appetites, and one of them is eating. In exchange for a glass of Merlot from the German girls' bottle I helped them through the intricacies of an American menu. We'd just about agreed on Manhattan Frisbees for the entree course when I noticed Muni was looking out of the booth, half smiling but in a puzzled manner. I turned my neck: two boys were standing close to the booth, staring intently at us as if we were museum exhibits.
One Caucasian, one Hispanic. Triangular shaped faces, with hooded eyes and high cheekbones. Watching us: watching me. I can't help giving an involuntary start. Then I looked down at the place mat, my stomach churning. I scrabbled for the menu and pretended to be reading it again. For the first time I was suddenly very aware of my broken nails. I'm even more aware of the boys stepping up close to the booth. I looked up again. They were both lean, middle height, moving gracefully, smiling. Looking at my hands. It's useless to try to hide them under the menu, useless and much too late.
"Well, Ms Judith Stynes, I do believe. And so this must be your property."
It was the Caucasian one speaking to me. He sounded as self assured as he looked. I stared at him and at the envelope he handed to me. I took it and saw that it looked exactly like the one that should be in the motel safe. I looked again and read my name and room number written on it and the attached receipt and date stamp. It was without doubt the envelope I'd seen locked away in the massive old fashioned safe behind the reception desk.
"Take a look inside, Judith. Let me know if everything's there."
He tipped the envelope over the middle of the table. One end had already been ripped off and the photo's of Ms X spilled out over the place mats and the cutlery. The photos, but not the tissues. The German girls are trying to understand what is happening. Each of them picks up one of the photos and Muni says something in her own language which indicates astonishment as she recognizes the female face on the pictures.
Hanna answers: "Ja, Hollywood gruppenfick!"
Then she points to a male face on the photo she holding and tilts it over so Muni can see. It is the Hispanic guy. He grins, bows slightly, then sits down beside her. Hanna's face began to look as startled as Ms X's. My own must have been very much the same as the Caucasian sat down beside me, squeezing me up against Muni.
"What are your friends' names, Judith?" he asked me. His voice is almost quiet, no sign of any emotions. As though we're not worth any.
"Hanna and Muni. We've just met."
"Are you telling me they weren't with you this afternoon on your little fact finding expedition?"
It's like an old man talking to a slightly naughty child, a bored old man inside a young boy's body. My skin creeps.
"From the way they're staring at those snap shots I can believe they've never seen them before. Hey, Hanna, Muni."
The Deutsch Madchen were comparing photos and giggling. Then they looked at the guys with obvious respect. "Ladies, hi. I'm Alpha and this is Delta. Over there are the rest of the gang; Beta, Gamma and Epsilon."
We all look. It's true. From different directions three other boys are slowly making their way towards us. Boys with faces we can see on the photos dropped across the table. Faces suckling on the biggest pair of tits ever half seen on the Grand Ole Oprey show. Muni and Hanna exchanged sentences in words I didn't understand but which I can easily translate -- what the fuck is going on here? It's about as far as my mental processes have gotten as well.
"Alpha, Delta?" Muni asked. "Is that not Greek letters -- the Greek alphabet?"
"You're a smart girl, Muni. But I think we can do without you two for a little while."
He nodded over the table to his friend again and suddenly I'm slumping sideways, into the empty space where Muni was. I'm sitting in the booth with two guys and nobody else. No Muni, no Hanna, but a picture that Hanna was holding in her hand flutters down onto the table. And now I know for sure I've gone mad. Especially when I hear the slap of imploding air as it rushes in to fill the empty voids where the girls' bodies were. Alpha smiles at me.
"Nice to meet you, Judith." He takes out the card I left on the table in the ice-store and pushes it between the cleavage at the top of my halter as if he was dropping a postcard into a mail box. "You're right. We do need a real woman -- again. And now we've found you we can put on a real show between us, right here, right now."
I didn't know for a fact that I was in deeper shit than I could ever imagine -- but that's the way I'd have bet.
"Who -- who are you guys?"
It's dark skinned Delta who answers -- with a grin: "Us? We're the boys from Belteguese."
By now a lot of diners have totally lost interest in the big game on the two giant TV screens. They're staring at the boys with the oddly alike faces and going through the same kind of reasoning I've already experienced when I saw their photos. Well, that's what most of them are doing. There are a couple of tables nearby where the occupants are desperately trying to believe that somehow they weren't watching us when Hanna and Muni got up and walked out. Even though they know they saw two human beings suddenly and quietly stop existing, their minds refuse to accept it -- and I know exactly how they feel.
"It's a star -- Alpha Orionis. In the Orion nebula. An orange supergiant. One of the brightest stars in the sky. Four hundred and twenty five light years away. The Arabs call it the hand of al-jauza -- we call it home."
"Home? You're aliens!"
Delta is enjoying himself: "Well, personally I was born and raised in Nebraska, which is pretty well off the planet, I admit."
He waves his hand around to indicate the other boys sitting down at the booth. They're taking up all the seating space on the three benches around the table, pushing me into the middle of the center one, Alpha beside me on one side, Delta on the other. I suddenly realize one of the white dudes has a face I haven't seen before: he must have been the one pointing the camera at Ms X. There's always one in every group, the poor schmuck who does the chores first and gets to the fun last. Even when you're a superman you can still be small potatoes. But this is no time for philosophy.
"Nebraska? Then what the hell is this talk about Belteguese?"
"Well, we think that's where Dad came from. You've heard all the talk about crashed alien space ships?"
I nodded, dumbly.
"It's a load of crap. All the government has ever found is one alien body underneath a moving glacier on Ross island in the Antarctic. A body that had been under the ice for maybe a hundred and sixty thousand years. Nobody would ever have known it was there except for a huge magnetic anomaly it was throwing off."
"A magnetic anomaly. Like in ... "
All the boys around the table grin at me. "That's right. If the geophysicists at McMurdo base had never read '2001' they might not have taken much notice of that anomaly. I think Mr Clarke would be very pleased to know his story was a direct lead in to the discovery of an alien artifact. Even if it was only some kind of bracelet with the ability to twist magnetic lines of force and an engraved star chart with Belteguese in the center of it."
"But ... ?"
"Oh yes, and there was the body I mentioned. Wearing the bracelet. One well preserved body that certainly wasn't homo sapiens but wasn't so far away that cloning was impossible. Our father."
"You were cloned?"
"I told you, Judith, we're the boys from Belteguese. The ice boys."
I'm stunned, I'm blown away -- and I was thinking I was maybe onto a big story! Jesus Christ!
A real big fellow with lots of muscle underneath his casual shirt came over from a table across the walkway.
"Who are you guys, and where the hell are the two girls that were just here? What's going on?"
He's staring at the photo stuck halfway down my cleavage. He knows it's been put there to humiliate me and he can't understand why I'm so frightened that I'm afraid to remove it.
The Afro boy sitting at the end of the table looks up at the intruder and points a finger at him: "You've heard of David Copperfield? Well, we do a magic show like his. The girls are part of our act and they're rehearsing right now. But you can have a sneak preview of what we do."
The big guy gasped and grabbed at the top of his pants as they started to slip down. The belt loops are empty. A key ring that was hanging from his belt fell down, hit his knee and dropped to the floor. As suddenly as it had disappeared the belt is back. The guy's hands jerk away from it as though he's had an electric shock. The Afro boy picks up the keys and gives them back to the big guy.
"Here, stick around and watch the rest of the show. It's real cool, I promise."
The guy took the keys as though he'd never seen them before, then shook his head and backed away as if he was a dog encountering a rattlesnake. Whatever happened to me from now on I knew this was one knight in shining armor who wouldn't be coming back on another rescue mission.
"How can that be?" I ask. I'm asking anybody who is willing to answer me and I desperately need some kind of an answer.
"You want to write our story, Judith?" Delta asks. "You really want to know it all? Because you must have figured out by now that we're government property. All that shit about Priscillian studies is just a front for the organization that's been hand rearing us ever since we were born. Hell, our mothers are on bigger pensions than the President gets when he retires. And we're supposed to be the biggest secret there ever has been."
That statement knocks me flat: "A secret! Is this the way you keep things secret?" With one hand I hold up a photo of the Queen of the rednecks getting it up her big red ass and the other hand I wave towards the crowd of people staring into our booth.
Delta grins: "I guess we've finally decided to come out of the closet. There comes a time in a guy's life when he needs to cut loose and there isn't much in the way of good looking girls on Hyde's Island. See, what the government geeks never really understood was that dear old Dad might have looked halfway human but he must surely have had some abilities that you humans don't."
'You humans' -- I didn't like the way Delta had said that.
"They've spent billions of dollars looking for his ship but we're beginning to think that maybe Dad somehow got here without one. We've been thinking that ever since we found that the five of us could play with quantum mechanic rules up here in the big world. We don't exactly know how we do it, but we can, and that's good enough."
"Yeah," Delta said. "They raised us separately, then decided to put us all together in one place to see what happened. But they didn't realize we could talk to each other in a way their bugs couldn't pick up."
I scrabbled for my bag and pulled out my notebook and pencil: God, it was like being caught in a shower of gold bricks -- I'd probably get hit on the head real soon but look at what riches were lying around waiting to be picked up!
"You only found out about each other recently?"
"Yeah, a couple of months ago. When they brought us all here," Alpha explained. "We've each of us lived like choirboys ever since we can remember. No contact with outsiders: it was the same here. Locked up and treated like rats in a lab experiment. But when we came together things began happening that those government assholes didn't know about. We found out things from each other. Like that we could just switch things on and off when we wanted to."
"Like Hanna and Muni you mean? And like the fence? You could make it disappear and then come back? How is that possible?"
Delta chuckled as he watched me scribbling frantically in shorthand. "You know anything about quantum mechanics, Judith?"
I shook my head: "I don't even read Popular Mechanics." It didn't get a laugh.
"OK, imagine a radioactive atom decays and emits an electron. Down at the quantum level a wave representing the electron spreads out in all directions, like ripple in a pond. As a quantum effect the electron can be considered to be anywhere on that wave, although up here in the real world it's impossible to have something in more than one place at any one time. But when the wave reaches an atom which is hit by the electron the quantum effect wave collapses like a pricked soap bubble and all the other possibilities of the electron's existence disappear at the same time."
I'd stopped writing because I was totally confused. The Afro guy cut in: "It's like throwing a brick in the Atlantic ocean at New York and the brick disappears, but there's a wave made in the sea which keeps going. Someplace, maybe in Spain, the wave hits the beach and the same brick re-appears on the sand over there on the other side of the ocean. When it does the wave disappears. What we're saying is that everything at all exists because the probability wave around it stays collapsed. We've found a way of recreating any object's wave and just shunting it away out of existence, until we bring it back again -- if we want it back, of course."
His hands held up a knife and fork, crossed. "See, I'm going to shove these back in the sea." He tapped the implements together and before the noise had died away the knife and fork were gone. Not in a shimmer of light, not like in a Startrek transporter, but just plain gone. My stomach felt like a vat of acid.
"And the government guys who are supposed to be looking after you. They don't know anything about this?"
Delta grinned, displaying pure white teeth: "How could they know? They're not around anymore."
Somebody had started churning that acid up with an egg beater: "You mean ... you pushed them back into the sea as well?"
Alpha shrugged his shoulders: "It's cool -- we feed the dogs and wash our own dishes. But I guess we won't want to stick around here much longer."
I began scribbling again, and asking questions: "So what happened once you'd got rid of the guards?"
"We found a CIA security map of the area. The ice house was on it, together with a note that a bunch of local kids went there sometimes. Seeing as the scientists used to call us the ice boys as a joke we thought we'd take a look at it as soon as we were free to go for a walk. We sure got a surprise when we found out what the kids had stashed away in there. We read the magazines and looked at the fucking and suddenly we realized there was a lot more interesting ways to have sex than cloning. So we took the ice house over for our own use."
"Oh God! The kids?"
"Are fine. All we did is to frighten them off with a few harmless little tricks. They won't come back again."
All of the dudes around the table smiled briefly. It's uncanny, like a collection of puppets being worked by a master controller. I wonder if they've got genuine telepathic powers. Another of the white ones taps the back of my hand. "What are you thinking, Judith? That when any of us is fucking you, the others will be along for the ride?"
I'm dumbfounded, stunned, my throat is as dry as centuries old dust, and the guy who's just spoken hands me a glass of water as though he knows about my thirst as well as I do: "I'm Beta, in case you're getting confused."
The black one grins: "I'm Epsilon, and I've got the biggest cock here, but you'll have to wait for it, Ms Reporter. Gamma was the last one to get his turn with our star turn, so he goes first with you." He points at the guy with the face that wasn't on the pictures. The boy is looking me over as if I was a second hand auto with a bad paint job and a 'Dirt Cheap Today!' sale sticker.
I swallow half the glass of water in one gulp and see that the big guy and his girl are whispering to each other, heads close together over their half eaten food on their plates. They both appear very nervous and keep glancing at our table.
"Not taking notes, now Judith?" Alpha mockingly asked. "Well, we'll save you some research time in case you're wondering about these snapshots. The singer has a little private hideaway out in the woods where she gets away from it all. Just her and a boyfriend and a couple of bodyguards. It was all written up on the CIA security zone map because her place was near to Hyde's Island. So we went and paid her a neighborly visit last weekend. Just her though -- she sure didn't need her boyfriend while we were there and we certainly didn't want her body being guarded. I guess there was a lot of confusion afterwards though, when we brought her guys back. They didn't know any time had passed at all, not until they saw the mess we'd made of their Hollywood legend and looked at their watches."
"But ... but the government still don't know that you've started busting loose?"
Alpha shook his head: "We bring the head honcho back every day to make his regular phone calls to his bosses. The day he tries anything funny we'll pop him like a soap bubble and don't bring him back again, not ever. And he knows it -- it's a kind of difficult situation to be in. Like yours, Judith."
"Well hell, we've told you a lot of our little secrets. Maybe we'd be smart to send you where your friends have gone -- into limboland."
"No! Please!," I begged: I knew now for sure that any one of them could snuff me out like a candle if he wanted to.
"Well, you have been a naughty girl. And that remark you left on your card, that wasn't really nice. You're a tease, young Judith." Alpha's fingers tapped the scattered photos on the table top. "Like this big titted show off was. But it's time the world found out about us and you may as well tell the story as anyone else. But there's a price to pay. I guess you can guess what it is?"
He holds up one of the photos, and so do each of the others, as if on signal I can't detect. Every face is smiling at me over the images.
"You're all going to fuck me, aren't you?"
"Here and now, Judith, here and now. In front of everybody in this room." Delta confirms my fears without seeming to care much one way or the other. The other boys are still smiling. All except the black, Epsilon. He turns and flicks a picture of Ms X's gangbang like a playing card onto the big guy's table.
"There you go, folks. Send it to the lady and maybe she'll autograph it for you."
The couple stare at the photo for a second, astonished, before getting to their feet as nervous as deer seeing a lion padding towards them: they're getting set to do some serious running and I wish I was going with them. Gamma sniggers and looks around at the watchers at all the other nearby tables. He goes through the stage magicians' routine of pulling his sleeves back from his wrists to show there's nothing hidden up them. Then as the big guy's partner stands up, he flicks his fingers at her, twice, like a kid playing at being a conjurer. The well rounded blonde gives a little shriek and suddenly her figure doesn't look nearly so good. Her boobs are sagging, her hips seem wider and her hands are patting at the side of her tightened dress like a man suddenly missing his wallet.
Only I and her know for sure that what she's suddenly missing is all her underwear -- well, her, me, and this bunch of superpowered assholes sharing a quiet joke at her shock and embarrassment. Already I can see my dreams falling into ruin. I was going to be the reporter who told the world about first contact, but instead I'm slated to tell the human race we're going to be ruled by a bunch of power mad teenagers happy to rape and hurt for the fun of it. These aren't visiting Gods from Olympus, this bunch are going nowhere and they're five little monsters rapidly turning into uncontrollable Caligulas and Neros. And if you don't know anything about history you've no idea at all how bad that can get. But it looked like I was going to become one of the early object lessons.
Gamma opens his mouth for the first time: "Let's get on with it. I want to teach this little slut her lesson about stealing other people's property."
Alpha shrugs his shoulders: "Sure, but there's no rush. I think we could use a couple of good stage assistants. How about making some room here?"
There was movement around the table, though Alpha and Delta stayed where they were, on either side of me on the back seat. Epsilon stood up. Beta and Gamma slid down the side benches leaving two empty gaps at the inside corner seats.
"One more question," I asked quickly. "How did you know I was around, and how did you follow me?"
Alpha sniggered: "Half the trees in that piece of forest have got motion detectors and video cameras on them. But none of it meant shit -- as soon as you saw these pictures we heard you coming on heat. Boy, you were sure getting steamed up, hey?"
"You -- what?"
It was like one of those silent drill movements that military display teams use: each one of them reached up at the same second and tapped their forehead. It wasn't a silent movement though, it was communication on a level where I couldn't operate. Not wittingly, anyway. But the deal seemed to be that whenever Judith felt like getting her ashes hauled every male Belteguesian within miles could hear her libido howling for sex. So much for personal privacy: no wonder the alien bastards were smiling like lottery winners all the time.
"We had the road blocked both ways long before you drove away. But when you stopped off in town we decided to let you freshen up and relax before we dropped by. But the receptionist told us about your letter -- if she hadn't we'd just have kept fading more air out of her lungs. So then we faded her and the safe. And here we all are together."
"Not quite all," Delta said. "Let's have the side dishes back again."
He clicked his fingers and Hanna and Muni were sitting in the places that had been empty. It took both of them a second or two to realize that somehow they'd been moved around the table without knowing how or remembering a thing about it.
"It's OK, girls," Delta said. "We do a magic show and we just made you disappear for a while. But we can make other things disappear as well. Like this."
He nodded towards Hanna and she gave a little shriek before her hands flew underneath the table as she stared down the side of the table, totally bemused. Muni asked something, in German, and Delta laughed. "Your sister's problem is that she's just found out she's naked from the waist down. Like you are now."
Muni's generous mouth opens in a rictus of disbelief at his statement. And then she too has her arms pushed down between her body and the table top as she slaps her palms on her naked cunt. I can see the whites of her eyes as they roll back.
"Mein Gott! Only in America could this happen!" she gasps in awe. Meanwhile Beta and Gamma are sliding underneath the table like seals off a rock.
"Put your hands back on the table, girls, both of you. Hands on the table and legs wide apart. Otherwise the rest of your clothing will go as well."
The Germans do as they're told. They put their hands on the table top and stare at each other's disbelieving faces, then gasp as the boys do whatever it is they're doing. If they're licking Hanna's and Muni's pussies I'm surprised -- it's more consideration from them as lovers than I'd expected.
A couple of crowd controller types are starting across the room to our table, eager to show off their strength to these smart assed school kids causing a disturbance. Delta sees them and his thin lips sneer: both hulking men are suddenly gone as if they were figures on a whiteboard which has just been wiped clean. And about the same time as they vanish so does my mini dress, tights and panties.
Everything underneath the table has gone except my shoes. I remember how the gang left Ms X's shoes on as well. But I'd have happily changed her predicament she was in for the one I'm stuck with right now. Alpha's left hand is on my right leg, Delta's right hand on my left leg, their fingers rubbing and moving higher. Epsilon grins at me and ducks down out of sight. I wonder if he'll be able to squeeze between the other two boys to give me head. I've never been licked by a black guy before but it looks as if that's going to be the least of my new experiences tonight.
I reach out and lightly scratch the two boys at the backs of their necks as I feel their fingers start stroking me. Resistance or shyness is not an option -- like every girl in ancient Greece knew, you don't try and argue with the Gods, especially when they want a fuck. All the people who can see into our booth are watching, getting a good idea of what's happening, the men mostly grinning, some of the women pretending to be offended but none of them able to conceal their interest.
I wonder what Dan Baldwin would say if he could see what was happening to me -- and then I wonder what happily married Dan Baldwin would do to me if he had the power that these boys have? Well, I know what he'd do, he'd screw me, just like these guys are going to. Only he probably wouldn't do me by the numbers in front of an audience like a whore in an Amsterdam live sex club.
I feel more skin brushing between my opened thighs, skin and hair, and then a warm, wet tongue slurping away at where the other guys are holding me open. I show my appreciation at Epsilon's skill: it seems as if it's not only these boy's fingers which are long and tapered, and the sounds I'm making are echoed around the table as Muni and then Hanna also start quietly grunting. What they don't know is that they needn't have bothered because these guys are hot linked straight into our minds: they're feeding off our fears and rising sexual excitement like leeches growing fat on stolen blood.
One of the waitresses has stopped in her tracks next to our table. She's good at her job, strong and skilful, carrying three full plates at once, though this time they're swaying around a lot more than they usually do as she stares at us, her mouth agape. She's pretty old, mid-thirties maybe, with tied back blonde hair and a tired look on her face, but with a figure that should please any man looking for comfort instead of speed. She's clearly angry at the way we're messing up the restaurant's well oiled routine. The boys smile at her while I moan like a trainee ghost as Epsilon really rattles my chain with his licking. That guy can use his tongue like a hundred and twenty pound hummingbird -- I think I could get to like being alienated. The waitress walks towards us, red faced as she gets ready to tell us off.
The lights go out, for a second, flick back on again and the waitress is still there and the plates are still swaying in her hands. They're not the only things that are swaying too, because her shirt and bra no longer exist -- not in this universe, anyway. But her sagging tits are still alive and well tanned on top, white below, speckled with moles and with extra large nipples on them. She gasps and the plates wobble around wildly as those big pink tips nearly land in the gravy. Give the girl her due though, she has enough respect for her employer's carpet to keep hold of the plates and carry them with her as she rushed back towards the kitchen. A bunch of guys further down the room whistled and cheered in appreciation as she went by with her appetizers on display and all ajiggle. Delta and Alpha chuckled, the first genuine laughter I thought I'd heard from either one of them. And then Alpha slapped his hand on top of the table.
"OK, show time!"
The guys begin emerging. Epsilon clasps his hands together over his head in a boxer's salute as some of the watching guys cheer him. None of them understands what's happening but as entertainment value it looks like we're stomping all over the Super Bowl. Epsilon grabs Hanna by the hand to fetch her out of the booth and she cowers back in fear until she realizes she's suddenly fully dressed again.
"Don't worry about it, girls, it's all part of a magic show we're putting on and you're going to help us -- come on."
As I stand up it seems like the room is as big as Central Park and has a million pairs of eyes in it, all concentrated on us. There's a small dais at one end of the room, a bandstand maybe. It's only a few feet across and as we all step up onto it seems crowded. But the boys are standing in a line at the back, except Alpha. He watches as the guys line up like a barber shop quartet with us girls in a line in front of them. Most of the diners haven't yet seen the crazy things that have been happening; they're looking at us like we're the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and we're going to be coming around for donations after the performance. I envy them their last brief moments of happy ignorance
"What's happening?" Muni asks me in a dazed whisper.
I have a good memory for languages: "I'm going to be gruppenficked."
She gasps: "Here?"
"What about us -- we can run away?"
"I don't think so, Muni"
Alpha stands up in front of us, as casual in his public appearance as a professional actor. Just as casually, he waves a hand at one of the TV screens and it goes blank, with play right on the ten yard line. There are yells of protest from the bar, renewed in numbers and strength as the boy repeats his hand movement and the second set goes down. The loudest and angriest NFL fan gets up on a chair and shakes his fist at the dais. One of the legs on the chair disappears and the protester jumps down quickly from the wobbling piece of furniture looking bemused. So do the rest of the crowd at the bar and the catcalls suddenly stop. Alpha calls out in a high pitched and clear voice
"Ladies, Gentlemen and Beings, we are the Ice Boys, and we can put anything we like into cold storage. We hope you enjoy the little show we're going to put on for you tonight. First of all, I demonstrate to you the truth of the old Chinese saying that many hands make light not work."
Again, it's like a drill movement by soldiers, Alpha clapping his hands at the same split second as all the boys behind us do the same. Every light in the room goes out and it's as dark as the bottom of a disused coal mine. Then the lights spring straight back to life again, and I'm naked from the waist up. It happens so fast that the cheers are already coming out of the bar before I can get my hands over my nipples -- and that fucking photo is still sticking to the sweating skin in my cleavage. An embarrassment which is driven lower on my priority list as I'm pinched extremely hard on both cheeks of my ass from behind.
I yelp, I instinctively put my hands down and behind me and there are more cheers, not just from the bar but right around the room now as I find I'm shaking my uncovered boobs at the crowd. At least I have the satisfaction of seeing one guy at the back leap up with a yell and begin furiously mopping his crotch. Somebody must have spilt something hot on him: 'Waiter, I've got soup in my fly!'
It's odd what you think about as the roof falls in on top of you. But before I could get my hands back up again there was another synchronized clap from the Belteguese and it was dark again.
Not only was it dark but I was decent again. The lights came on again and this time I had my hands up but it was Hanna and Muni who were huddling up with their hands raised over their uncovered tits. Both of them seemed determined to hang onto them as well, until the lights flickered on and off in a second, and came on to show the sisters now dressed from the waist up but with only their boots on from the waist down. Not that I was able to sympathize much because all I had myself was my top; everywhere south of that was pure skin, shoes excepted. My hands were flailing around like a stockmarket trader in a sharply rising market.
The way it was going, you'd think we'd all rehearsed this for months. The boys were beating out a regular rhythm with their hands, the room lights going off and on with an almost strobe like effect, and clothing vanishing, re-appearing, vanishing again. Then we ended up mostly naked, with our panties springing back into existence around our ankles, so we were effectively hobbled, and with hands delivering stinging slaps from behind in each of the dark seconds, so that Hanna, Muni and I have our hands rubbing our bottoms whenever the light shines again.
The cheers have stopped now, even the dumbest guy in the room has realized that this isn't any kind of an act and that something very, very weird is occurring. This feeling is reinforced when Alpha begins selecting tables at random and displaying the diners around each one stark naked during each of the quick bursts of light. None of the customers wants to move while they're nude and nobody else wants to do anything to draw attention to themselves. They all sense that uncontrollable and uncaged evil is flapping its black wings and the cops who can stopi it haven't even been born yet.
Then the lights come on again and stay on. I'm wearing nothing but my shoes. These guys have a real footwear fetish. Of course Hanna and Muni still have their boots on, and, to surprise, their complete set of underwear as well. Our wrists are all behind our backs, being held there by the boys. Alpha makes a mock bow to the crowd.
"Folks, a big hand please for Ms Judith Stynes. Girls, bring her out."
He beckons to Hanna and Muni. Both of them are so frightened now they'd jump off a cliff if he told them to. They take my arms and walk me forward to the edge of the dais. My bare breasts flop around as I move and I feel as if they're as big as Ms X's -- hell, they feel as big as camel's humps.
"Folks, Judith is a hot shot reporter from a big city paper, 'The Record' and later on she's got a big story to tell you all, the biggest you'll ever hear. But right now she's going to put on a little cabaret show, with some help from the audience. Let's see, now."
Alpha walked along the nearest tables, and then waved his hand over it. Everything vanishes; cutlery, place mats, plates, tablecloth. The group sitting around the table gape at the bare wooden top.
"Don't worry, folks, it's all done with mirrors. Now watch what happens."
I'm grabbed by the boys and put down on the table on my back. There are three middle aged woman and two men sitting at the table, each of them staring down at me. They're well dressed professional types, bewildered and frightened. The boys are standing behind them, their hands resting on their shoulders, defying them to do anything at their peril. One of the women seems to be collecting her courage to say something, but there's nothing useful to be said. Except what I whisper to her, and her friends.
"It's OK, it's OK.! Do whatever they tell you and keep quiet."
"Listen in, folks," Alpha calls, "I want a nice big crowd around this table to watch the action and anybody with a camera had better get here fast. I'd be real disappointed if nobody has a video. There's going to be a lot more scenes here tonight nobody will ever believe unless they see them."
The boys whisper to Hanna and Muni. Epsilon and Gamma help the girls lift up my legs and then leave them to keep holding them apart. The Germans press up against the back of my knees and hold my ankles over their shoulders as fresh faces appear around the table, all looking nervously at each other. It's as if they're all passengers on the Titanic and nobody is really able to believe the sight of the rising seawater.
Hanna and Muni keep looking at each other. Maybe they're not telepathic and neither am I, but I know they're thinking that once the gang has gotten bored with me they're soon going to consider the amusement value of fucking two sisters side by side and up and down.
My skin is sticking to the table. Alpha laughs and tells the men sitting at the table to suck my nipples. He stands close to my legs and starts rubbing his long fingers against my cunt. The women are watching what the men are doing to me without protest, although one of them is holding my hand as if to comfort me. I can't believe that asshole walking sideways around the chairs with a video camera has the nerve to be grinning at me as he swings the lens up and down my body. Maybe he won't be smiling before the night's over, no human here is any safer than a puff of wind in a gale.
The other halfbreed aliens gather alongside Alpha, he kneels down and starts licking me again and my tips harden inside the mouths of the two respectable gentleman who are having me as their unexpected entree. The German girls are also getting close attention from the two boys each has close behind her, especially from the hands roaming over their trim Teutonic tails. They both keep holding me tightly as the hands move out all over them. Alpha stands up. Only now he's naked and his cock looks totally human -- and he uses it like every other male I've ever met in a close encounter of the usual kind. The head thrusts into me, further and further, and my muscles are gripping it as it spreads them open.
I call out to the watching faces, to the camera, to the men sucking me, to the woman holding my hand, but really to Alpha. Every other face is a blur but not his, each detail of it is getting etched on my memory as he makes me his. It looks like poor old Gamma is at the back of the queue again, and in the meantime I'm being fucked by a young God who holds the world in his hands. Suddenly I can feel his mind plunging as deeply into my inner being as his shaft is into my loins: it fits as smoothly as his cock does in my cunt and all I want to do forever more is to worship him body and soul.
But even as I blissfully submit to my lord's power I can't stop wondering how many more clones the government geeks made from that frozen Belteguese body. And whether the rest of us are all going to be slaves for ever more.