The IT Files: Palmira’s Addiction
“This is Charlotte Lune with a special report on the latest underground club that’s got the city’s nightlife talking,” declared a black-haired woman with piercing green eyes, holding a microphone near her lips as she stood in front of the camera dressed in an expensive-looking dark blue business dress, her blouse buttons opened low enough to show generous cleavage. The woman’s hair was perfect, not a strand out of place in what was a mix of a bob cut and shag style, the hair barely touching her neck and shoulder area. At thirty-six many in the French news world thought the woman was at her peak and would soon falter, but her consistent solid stories and constant youthful appearance which was nearly entirely natural save for the frequent massages and lump removals that ensured she would most likely get the role of anchor before long.
Charlotte’s camera operator, Clair Romain, stood with her as together they were in the heart of an unusual new night club that had apparently been operating for several months. The club didn’t rely on music, banking on being a conversation club; thus it had a great deal of social space with more tables and couches than one would expect as well as several games including a pool table and a punching bag machine. The club also had several miniature bars scattered throughout as well as having four regular ones in the three level building. Levels 2 and 3 were merely elevated above the main floor of the ground one, with openwork railings allowing people to observe below as usual as well as allowing for smoking areas. Floor 3 did however have staff areas and floor 2 had something even more unique: an exclusive section known as the Vault.
“This is Club Mannequin, a building no one save those with informed friends can even find, due to its back-alley location,” explained Charlotte, beginning to walk around the interior, followed by her steadyhanded cameraperson. It was past midnight so the club was in full operation, with waitresses in two-piece bikinis of varying colors walking around with trays of drinks, most of those holding several martini glasses that had exclamation points painted on the side. “The club offers many unique services, including the lack of extra-loud music to discourage conversation and brighter than usual lighting. But it is the drinks these women in bikinis are serving that many people argue are illegal that are the reason why the club has its distinctive name.” Charlotte ended up pausing a short distance away from a handsome young man in a fine suit who took one of the special martini glasses from a waitress and drank it down quickly. The reporter and her camera operator watched as the man finished the glass, stood up and put his hands in his pockets. Several seconds passed, then the waitress then returned and poked the man experimentally but he did not respond with so much as a blink. The staff member then waived to an interior bouncer, a typical tall and muscular bald man who was most likely an ex-con or former professional fighter, who came up with a dolly.
“The club offers a pair of exclusive drinks called the Mannequin Special and the Sweetest Dream,” explained Charlotte in voiceover as the camera followed the bouncer as he placed the immobile patron on the dolly and proceeded to wheel him towards the staff elevator. “Both of the concoctions feature a unique mixture which causes the drinker to freeze in place, as you can see, as they’re put into a sort of statue-like coma. The Special only immobilizes a person for a few hours while the Dream, which that man just consumed, has effects that last nearly a day. Those that drink the Dream are placed in a special room known as the Vault by the staff where they’re said to have the greatest rest they’ll ever obtain.” Continuing to walk, Charlotte and Clair discovered over two dozen young men and women, most of them rich, standing and sitting frozen solid around the club. One notable woman was Maris Stilton, daughter of hotel-owner Richard Stilton and known for doing modeling work, who stood posed with a short blond woman; the duo had been apparently engaged in conversation when their drinks had kicked in. Now they formed a still-life tableau like a pair of exquisite waxwork figures.
“I see you’ve spotted a few of our more infamous guests,” commented a man with a sexy voice, appearing beside Charlotte from seemingly out of nowhere. He was decently tall and had shag-cut styled blond hair which he’d pushed to the side. The man was dressed entirely in black with a dark dress shirt and pants as well as shoes that had no shine to them. A pair of silver chains were around the man’s neck; their tips not visible due to the reporter, being tucked under his shirt.
“Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is Xavier Alberic, the owner of the club, who was kind enough to let us come by this evening,” explained Charlotte, looking at the camera for a moment before returning her gaze to the club’s manager. “What can you tell us about your more famous patrons?”
“Well Maris, we provide is a distinctive ambiance that tends to bring in a lot of socialites and models from all over,” remarked the somewhat youthful man who was easily five years Charlotte’s junior. “Devon Von Krieger and Eva Hallowell are two models in particular that we see here often. The rumor that Carla Sparks comes here as well is just not true, much to my own dismay.”
“What can you tell us about your signature drinks, why do they have that immobilizing effect on your patrons?” Charlotte asked.
“They’ve been given a special blend of what I like to call anti-caffeine and some special herbs that stiffen the muscles,” explained Xavier as the bouncer from earlier returned, his dolly empty. “The result is a coma-like deep sleep while the person remains motionless, almost as if they fell asleep with their eyes open. Unfortunately, due to the helpless state the drinkers are placed in there’s a serious trust issue with so many valuables around; we’ve also heard the drug enforcement agencies would probably want to shut us down for serving unapproved substances. That’s why this location is a secret, and will remain as such.”
“Wait; if you wanted it to remain a secret, why did you let me come here to do this story?” asked Charlotte, now confused.
“Oh, because your leaving would not be an issue,” grinned Xavier, scratching his ear oddly. Immediately two waitresses, who were standing nearby, casually shuffled close and brushed against Charlotte and Clair; the pair ended up with two small darts jabbed into their backs, which took effect instantly. Clair had lowered his camera and looked alarmed while Charlotte continued to hold her microphone to her mouth, a large smile remaining on her face as she faced her host silently. Both media people were now frozen stiff, just like those that had consumed the club’s specialty mixes.
“Lovely,” noted Xavier as the bouncer with the dolly came over and quickly placed Charlotte’s stiff figure on the transport. Another bouncer in turn arrived and collected Clair’s camera, turning it off, handing it to a passing waitress and then lifting the cameraman up onto his shoulder. “Deliver her to my office please, I’ll be up later,” instructed Xavier to the bouncer who’d collected Charlotte.
“This place feels like Atlantis,” groaned Jean-Baptiste Odilon, better known as JB or Odie, as he sat at the laptop he’d set up on the desk in his hotel room. The handsome thirty-something Frenchman rubbed his temples and leaned back, letting out a sigh. A high-ranking agent with the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, better known as ITEA or just IT, it was his job to track people who exhibited the ability to bend time as well as traffickers of the illegal drug known only as Type-7. JB’s latest assignment was to investigate Club Mannequin, a secretive establishment he was having trouble just locating.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve had to find an underground club,” pointed out Cassandra Flick, JB’s partner and lover, who was sitting on the nearby queen-sized bed with her own laptop. Cassandra and JB went way back, having met during their time with Interpol, but had only begun dating a bit less than a year ago. The Brit was barely JB’s junior in terms of age but was his superior in many aspects of their work, his only edge over her in terms of combat being his hand-to-hand skills.
“Have you seen the list of people suspected of being patrons?” asked JB, unbuttoning his striped shirt, having worked up a sweat. “Models, socialites, fashion designers, actresses, writers… there’s even a couple of politicians on here!”
“From what Palmira’s managed to gather it sounds like everyone’s doing their part to look the other way, given that nothing blatantly illegal is going on,” mused Cassandra, putting her laptop aside and stretching, the sexy female agent was clad only in her underwear and a half-buttoned black blouse. “While Type-7 is a controlled substance and doesn’t have any formal approval, it isn’t being falsely advertised and isn’t seemingly being used for any criminal purposes, despite the potential. This is just another case of consented recreational use, even though it’s tied in with this mysterious club. If it wasn’t for their suspected crime syndicate ties, the potential size of the supplier and the rumors of possible kidnappings, Lucienne probably would have buried this further down in the pile.” Lucienne Christophe was the head of the ITEA and the third member of the trio that JB and Cassandra had been a part of back during their early Interpol days. The duo normally worked alone, being highly-skilled agents and not requiring serious back-up, but due to the nature of the case Palmira Tiago, the assistant director of IT’s corporate espionage department, had been added to their team. Palmira was currently out at other social clubs, trying to gather information and find out where Club Mannequin was located.
“Stick a fork in me, I’m fried,” grumbled JB, looking at his computer again. A picture of Maris Stilton standing beside an unknown but young-looking man was currently displayed, the man’s identity a crucial part of the case. The man, whoever he was, was suspected of being the operator of the club. Palmira had taken the picture two days ago at another club in south Paris.
“Funny, doesn’t feel like you’re quite ready to me,” remarked Cassandra, having silently walked up on her partner and placed her hands on his shoulders. A shiver went up JB’s spine and his pants instantly bulged as he leaned back to see the smiling mouth of his lover, which then moved lower, brushing against his lips.
“Yeah, well, you could always have a more thorough inspection done,” remarked JB with a classic grin.
“I would love to, but you know how it is in the field,” sighed Cassandra, moving away. “We need to stay alert in case Palmira calls. Until we're in a more relaxed stage of the operation, no sex. You know that.”
“I know, but when the world's most beautiful woman is so close to me, I tend to forget about rules,” offered JB, his grin fading to a soft smile.
“Nice try, I'm still not stripping for you,” countered Cassandra with a wink. “Still, at last check-in Palmira said she'd met a few interesting people. We might finally be catching a break.”
* * *
“This place is getting pretty weak,” muttered a bored petite blond named Arlette; Palmira was doing a mental translation of the woman's native French to her own first language of English. Trained in espionage by some of the best, Palmira knew four languages and had a solid grasp of at least nine, able tell the difference between most Asian dialects though she couldn't speak any of them particularly well. Palmira Tiago was currently undercover more or less as herself, though instead of being the daughter of two intelligence officers from Brazil she was the daughter of two immigrants to France and the heiress to a consulting firm. Her cover story had been set up back when the ITEA had first opened up shop, creating dummy companies that were low-key enough so that no one would care if they'd never heard of them but justify covers for roles requiring people with money.
It was her daughter of millionaire’s role that had allowed Palmira to even approach Arlette, the heiress to Chocolat Bouchard, a large candy company. Arlette was currently sitting on a couch in a now-quiet club in southern Paris, dressed to kill in a white and silver outfit that could have been a dress if not for the fact that it was a two-piece ensemble. The silver top hugged her breasts enough that Palmira was surprised they hadn't popped out while her skirt was more conservative, going down nearly to her stiletto-covered feet but with a crease on the sides to allow for flexibility, as well as showing off her legs. For Arlette hair was important, so it looked practically perfect, cut at the same length around her head so it was just touching her shoulders, there also being a lack of visible dark roots in spite of the questionable color.
“Shall we go see what the boys are doing tonight then?” asked Palmira in French, smiling. Like her new friend the IT agent was dressed to kill but not wearing a dress, instead a red tube top and a black mini-skirt with stiletto boots like Arlette, though her boots were white instead of black, plus she was carrying a white purse while Arlette just had a small gray hand bag that she could hook to her skirt.
“No, they're probably watching the strippers, or worse,” sniffed Arlette, knowing her male friends too well. “I know a place, a place that's... different. Tell me Palmira, can you keep a secret?”
Palmira smiled, suddenly thinking she was about to break the case she was working on wide open, but made sure to make her coy smile look like an innocent one. “Of course, my dear little angel,” replied Palmira, still speaking French.
“Good, then let me take you a place where all it takes to have an orgasm to last for hours is a single drink,” grinned Arlette, taking Palmira by the hand and leading her towards the current club's exit. Impressively, Arlette's private car was waiting outside, her driver Pierre having seemingly known she'd be leaving. The Frenchman, tipping the red fedora that went with his suit, proceeded to hold open the door for both women before closing it and heading around the front.
“So what's this place called?” asked Palmira, faking casual curiosity.
“They call it Mannequin, because of that drink,” explained Arlette. “Maris showed me. Their house special drinks are, ah... well, all you need is one and you’ll have the greatest time ever, even if it goes by in an instant to you. I always wake up feeling like I made love for hours.”
“Wake up?” asked Palmira, knowing the answers to her questions but asking anyway to maintain her cover and possibly learn something new.
“Yes, the drink makes you sleep, except instead of falling over, you just stand perfectly still,” explained Arlette, looking more and more excited as Pierre buckled up in the front. “I think that's why they call it Mannequin, because you end up looking like one. A window figure that is, not a runway model. I know that sounds unusual, but it works. Trust me, you'll love it.”
“Works for me; lead on,” agreed Palmira.
“Pierre, you know where to go,” Arlette announced, getting a nod from the driver as the car began to move. Following the order the French woman fell back and shut her eyes, something Palmira had come to know about the young woman who was barely her junior. Arlette was all of twenty-seven, was worth roughly two-hundred million in terms of trust funds and stock investments, loved ice cream, enjoyed just sitting at clubs as opposed to dancing, closed her eyes as if sleeping while riding in a car and never ever turned down the offer for a free drink, that being how Palmira had first met her. Arlette had been at a trendy bar in west Paris, sitting by herself after shooting down ten men who'd tried to hit on her, only welcoming Palmira since she'd come with a drink for her in hand. All it had taken was half an hour of sitting in an unnoticed corner of a bar, watching how Arlette acted, and then Palmira knew how to approach and befriend her. These were skills she'd learned from years of espionage.
Sitting back herself, knowing that Arlette wouldn't talk during the drive, Palmira thought back to the assignment. It had been confirmed that a few well-to-do people in the rich kid club of Paris had suddenly disappeared, plus there were rumors of an underground social scene known as Club Mannequin. After video journalist Charlotte Lune had recently gone missing during her investigation into the club, IT had taken notice and sent in Cassandra and JB. Palmira was soon assigned to join the pair, it being decided they'd need an expert to crack the mystery. After tracking certain people in the rich kid group Palmira had chosen Arlette and begun going undercover, quickly befriending her and others soon afterwords. Besides Arlette, she'd also become acquaintances with Maris Stilton, daughter of hotel billionaire Richard Stilton; Lindsay Yari, a popular pop star; and Christine Huart, a more-or-less A-list film star. Together the five women were now popular sights at the Paris clubs, forming a sort of entourage, though Palmira was still new to the group.
After a few minutes of driving through the twisty streets of Paris, Palmira noted they'd arrived in a back alley a bit over a kilometer from where they'd been earlier. A single man dressed in dark leather was standing out in front of a lone unmarked door to their left. Pierre exited from the front and came down beside Arlette's door, opening it so the young heiress could exit the vehicle, Palmira following close behind. The man watching the door, a typical shaved head type with large muscles, glanced at the pair and nodded. “Good evening, Miss Bouchard,” greeted the guard in German-accented French. “Who is this lovely woman with you?”
“Palmira Tiago,” answered Arlette flatly, the bald man merely nodding before opening the door he stood next to. Upon the door’s opening, hushed music could be heard and a red carpet glimpsed on the floor of the large hallway inside, which was flanked by two enforcers in suits. “Come on, I'll give you something like you've never experienced,” declared Arlette, leading Palmira down the hallway and into the club.
It took Palmira only a few moments to be certain that the club was indeed employing either Type-7 or something similar, given the many groups of people standing and sitting around like they'd suddenly turned to stone. Every club patron was dressed like they were worth hundreds of thousands or more and most of them were holding or sitting next to foggy martini glasses, some of which still contained liquid though most were empty. Women in bikinis also dotted the area, some working as waitresses with trays, while others had been painted gold and were standing as rigid as most of the patrons, posed to act as human art. Other patrons milled around the living statues as if that was nothing unusual. “Isn't this just surreal?” asked Arlette with a grin as she led Palmira over to the booth where Christine, Lindsay and Maris were already seated. Lindsay was dressed in a white sequined dress and she was leaning back in the corner of the quarter-circle area the women were taking up, her blond hair in waves, which Palmira had learned she liked to do when she wasn't set to perform. Christine was dressed more casually, wearing dark jeans and a light brown T-shirt with a band logo on it, her hair loose but looking extremely silky. Maris was in a white dress with black polka dots, a retro kind of look she was constantly trying to bring back, her hair was held back with a matching headscarf, thus forming a sort of ponytail. In the small table in front of the three celebrities were five martini glasses, all filled with what Palmira identified as Sweetest Dream mixes, each somewhat lighter in color than their Mannequin Special equivalents. Palmira had been briefed on nearly all the details of the club before through former patrons, though she'd never learned the location of the place or the name of the suspected owner.
“Palmira, so nice to see you,” greeted Christine, nodding but not smiling. Maris and Lindsay nodded as well, though only the former cracked a real smile, the latter giving a grin that looked like it had been created by a plastic surgeon. “And you, of course, Arlette.”
“Likewise,” nodded Arlette, smiling widely as she sat in between Lindsay and Maris and immediately grabbing a drink. “These are fresh?”
“They just brought them over a minute ago,” confirmed Lindsay, sitting up and moving to take up her own. Christine and Maris followed suit, Palmira doing the same after a moment's hesitation, not having even sat down.
“So how does this work?” asked Palmira, playing her part even though she thought she knew what would happen as soon as the liquid touched her lips.
“You fall into a sort of trance, it's like a deep sleep you take and you don't even remember falling asleep,” explained Maris, fumbling over her words much like one would expect with a woman who's education was bought, not earn Just stand there and let the world pass on by…ed. “It's a great way to skip a boring day if you don't have anything going on.”
“And since none of us have anything going on for like a week, we can handle the Dream,” added Lindsay, raising her glass while standing, the others rising to join her. “After you drink it, you've got five seconds before you can’t move a muscle; make them count!”
“Cheers, girls!” exclaimed Arlette, then repeating the words in French. The five women clicked their glasses together and promptly began drinking. Palmira hesitated again, especially when she noticed Lindsay doing the same. Both were holding the glasses to their lips as the other three finished theirs and put them down. Maris went first, having turned around to reach for her leopard purse and promptly freezing in place. The blond billionaire's daughter was leaning over at the hip, her right fingers grasping the sling of her purse while her left reached in vain for the zipper, her face oddly neutral. Christine had moved to sit down and was doing so, her right leg crossed over her left with her left hand running backwards through her hair, a faint smile held on her lips. Arlette looked concerned, glancing fixedly at Palmira as if she was suddenly worried about her friend, her lips parted and her arms raised as if about to talk emotively.
“You sure you’ve never done this before? Don't worry, I usually wait a minute myself before going under,” Lindsay told Palmira with a sly wink, putting her glass down. “We still need to drink or they'll never let us live it down, but I like to mess with them a bit first.” Grinning, Lindsay moved over to Maris and stood her up straight, then moved her hands so that they were touching her breasts.
“Nice,” laughed Palmira, then looking at her own drink. As Lindsay moved to pose Arlette Palmira was overcome with the desire to drink her own cocktail and did so, downing the beverage before she'd realized it. As Palmira put down her glass she recalled her past experiences with Type-7, especially when Ashley Tisdale had attacked her organization as she'd been overdosed, and realized she had missed the rush of becoming a human statue, smiling to herself as she decided to take up a mannequin-like pose. Palmira's mind then promptly faded as the drug took effect.
* * *
"The fabulous four are now five, I see," noted Xavier as he looked at the surveillance video, sitting at his desk in his office with Roch Chevalier, his right-hand man, and Pierre Gaudet, Arlette Bouchard's driver, both sitting across from him. The office was large, taking up a good portion of the upper area of the club, and with good reason. Xavier's office included a private bedroom with a connecting bathroom in the back, hidden behind the media wall at the back of his office. Additionally Xavier's desk was one of the largest Ikea carried and flanked by two more that were grafted on with great care, giving it the appearance of a C-shaped surface instead of three straight ones put together. If that weren't enough Xavier's office also contained three couches, five lounger chairs, four coffee and end-style tables, three large shelving units and nearly everything he needed to have a proper club bar of his own. The floor was hardwood, like the rest of the building, but he'd also had a few shag carpets placed around. Finally if that decoration wasn’t enough, Xavier had four women posed like statues in the back corners, all of them naked, painted gold and overdosed on Type-7 so they would remain frozen. Xavier had spent nearly a month finding them, a quartet of similar appearance who'd all managed to stay the same slender weight and who wouldn't be missed if kidnapped, as the four had worked for a local pimp. The four women were now posed with their arms behind their heads, their chests thrust forward and their faces contorted to appear seductive. Since the immobilized women were in no place to object the insides of their mouths had also been painted and coated to hide traces of saliva; their eyes were also given special golden contacts. If would take an actual touch to confirm that the four statuesque figures were actually human women and not well-crafted statues, though they certainly didn't look like real gold, but rather waxworks.
"Palmira Tiago, one of Arlette's new friends," sniffed Pierre, seemingly in disgust. An older man, Pierre was clearly frustrated that he was now forced to wear a bright suit and drive around a spoiled heiress. Pierre had been in Xavier's pocket since before he'd even opened the club.
"Anything odd about her?" asked Roch, leaning back in his own chair. Roch was pushing forty but was a good-looking man and could be quite witty when he wanted to be. Roch had been assigned to Xavier by his employer to make sure any venture he undertook ran smoothly, being the Yang to Xavier's Yin. Roch was a valued friend to Xavier, finding his assigned ally being more trustworthy than some people he'd known for years.
"Not really, she just seems inconsistently ditzy," grunted Pierre, looking down at his removed fedora in disgust. "Sometimes she's as dumb as Maris, other times she seems like she's got a good one on her shoulders. She's mature and young at the same time."
"Doesn't sound like she's a spy then, just someone who decided to stop growing up so fast," noted Roch, leaning forward and scratching his chin. "Still, rumors of this shadowy group that's hunting Type-7 distributors are very serious business, Xavier. We should keep our eye on every new face."
"You're quite right," agreed Xavier, who'd turned to look at the camera’s view of the frozen five down on the first floor. "Roch, do me a favor and bring her up here. I want to examine her… personally."
"Xav, you just kidnapped that reporter, do you really need another one?" warned Roch as he stood, Pierre doing the same and quietly leaving the room.
"I'm not going to take her," insisted Xavier, turning to face his lieutenant, "I'm going to meet her. Make sure the other four get a little extra juice in their system and tell them they accidentally ordered a double when they eventually wake up."
"Nice one, and Pierre?" asked Roch, nodding towards the door that the driver had just exited.
"He's fine for now, but have Mathis lean on him about his gambling habits, hey?" suggested Xavier, getting a smile of approval before the dark-suited man took his own leave.
* * *
Palmira's senses and consciousness came back in an instant as she awoke; the Brazilian beauty then immediately noticed she'd been stripped down to her ordinary but playful red underwear, the teeny panties not quite a thong but close. Palmira also noticed she was now standing in a white-carpeted bedroom, a king-sized bed with dark red sheets and a deep purple blanket in front of her where a handsome man sat on the edge of it with a glass of wine in his hands. The man looked to be around Palmira's age and was practically sweating male pheromones, his black buttoned shirt open save for two buttons near the middle which revealed a smooth chest with perfect dark hairs, though his head hair appeared be naturally blond, though it had been highlighted. "Good afternoon, Palmira Tiago, welcome back to the living," greeted the man, his French words sounding as smooth as anything that ever came out of the mouth of an actor who'd played James Bond.
"Hello, uhh..." managed Palmira, immediately feeling excited and worried, not having expected the change but extremely enticed, finding herself in the sexier side of undercover work.
"Xavier Alberic, the owner of this club," explained the handsome man, brushing his hair with his right hand and flashing a brilliant smile. "I'm sure you're wondering why you're not standing in the Vault with your four companions, or downstairs for that matter, but I can explain."
"I would hope so, otherwise this situation really wouldn't make sense," smiled Palmira, crossing her arms as she grinned. Doing a quick scan of the room she noted what appeared to be a large closet on one side with what was clearly a bathroom door on the other, though the exit was most likely behind her. There was a large dresser in one corner as well as a desk in another but other than that there was little furniture save two Chinese end tables on either side of the bed and what was most likely a corner lamp behind her, that seemed to be the main source of light in the room as the desk lamp and ones next to bed weren't on. The walls were covered in prints of famous paintings, all of them French, and there was a large window looking out on the street below, though it was tinted which meant no one could see in.
"Well, I make it my business to know every patron this club has, to avoid the wrong people getting in," offered Xavier, standing and moving to the dresser, atop of which sat a bottle of wine and a second glass, which he promptly filled. "Your circle of friends alone gives me good reason to accept you, but I must be thorough."
"And the reason I'm nearly naked?" Palmira asked as Xavier held out the second glass to her. The IT agent hesitated for only a moment before taking it.
"Well, I am a fan of art," grinned Xavier, taking a sip of his wine. "I of course admire the great works of this country, but you, well, you have quite the international flavor... and I like it."
"You know, you could just say you think I'm sexy and drop that whole suave social god thing you've got going on," remarked Palmira, grinning right back as she sipped her own drink.
"Very well," nodded Xavier, promptly placing his free hand on Palmira's chin and leaning in, kissing her full on the lips. At that moment Palmira nearly lost herself, the rush of the man's lips meeting hers being unlike any she'd felt before. It wasn't long before both wine glasses were simultaneously dropped, neither shattered though the wine did spill forth, and the pair were edging towards the bed. Best assignment ever, thought Palmira as Xavier moved to undo her bra's clasp.
It had been a bit over a week since Palmira had met Xavier and her undercover life was at an all-time high. After one of the fastest seductions in history the pair had become an official couple of sorts, giving Palmira access to nearly the entire club through her new boyfriend. Since Xavier was almost agoraphobic, given his worries of someone trying to arrest him for dealing in his unique drinks, the couple spent most of their time at the club itself, though he'd taken Palmira out for dinner twice. Palmira's new circle of friends were also treating her with a greater respect since she'd caught the club-owner's eye, Arlette even admitting at one point to being a bit jealous. If that weren't enough, the investigation was going well, Palmira having planted a handful of bugs in the club already, including one in Xavier's office. Nothing valuable had been recorded yet, but Palmira was sure it was just a matter of time and, even if this affair was just an undercover fantasy, she wouldn't be that sad to see it end. Palmira had made the hard choices in the past, once even getting engaged to a man she'd then had to kill when he'd attempted to evade arrest. Palmira wasn't a covert assassin, being in law enforcement rather than black ops, but she had several skills and traits needed to be one.
The evening was crisp when Pierre dropped she and Arlette off at the club again, the pair exiting arm in arm, something they'd just started doing. The evening's bouncer, a Chinese man the girls only knew as Wong, nodded and smiled, his eyes lingering on their rears as they entered the secret club. Arlette was dressed to kill once again, wearing a vibrant red dress that hugged her breasts but had a cleft down the middle, thus allowing for nearly full cleavage to be viewed. Arlette's hair was also done in a low braided ponytail while Palmira had simply used a couple of extra products to give her own hair more bounce. The undercover IT agent was wearing a dress, like her friend, only hers was a deep violet and required a black leather belt as it was loose around the shoulders and waist, thus allowing for comfort and maneuverability, two things Palmira always needed if things went bad.
"A shame the others couldn't make it tonight," sighed Arlette as she surveyed the club scene, noting some interesting groupings of statue-like patrons. "Still, I'm surprised your new boyfriend doesn't mind you indulging so often. It must make things a little complicated."
"No, he actually likes the fact that I'm into it," remarked Palmira, heading towards the bar while Arlette moved to take their usual spot in the club. The bartender, Henri, nodded knowingly at Palmira and immediately began making a pair of Mannequin Specials, Arlette not having enough time to indulge in a Sweetest Dream tonight due to an appointment in the morning. As Palmira watched the bartender pour she began to anticipate her future time as a human mannequin, now relishing every time she drank Type-7. Palmira smiled at the thought while she casually slid a new listening device under the counter, anchoring it in where a bolt would be. The drinks arrived as she was placing the device so Palmira quickly finished and claimed the two glasses, carrying them away from Henri and over to Arlette, who was standing by.
"See you in the morning," giggled Arlette as she took a glass from Palmira, the pair clinking their glasses together before drinking. The sweet shimmer ran through Palmira's body as the liquid flowed down her throat, giving her a shiver of ecstasy before the freezing sensation took over.
* * *
Xavier was as happy as could be as he wheeled his girlfriend out of the staff elevator and into his private office, Palmira remaining as rigid as a true mannequin while he moved her on a dolly. The club owner had come in twenty minutes after opening time to find his new lover and her best friend both already frozen, Palmira immobilized while leaning back with her eyes closed, her hands at her sides with her fingers spread in apparent ecstasy. After wheeling Palmira inside his private area, Xavier closed the door behind him and locked it, proceeding to unstrap the woman and then tip her forward so he could lift her off. Palmira now firmly in his arms, Xavier took a moment to kiss the stiffened woman before moving around behind her to then start dragging, pulling her towards the entrance to his private bedroom.
As Xavier moved his phone beeped, causing him to sigh in frustration and stop, standing Palmira upright before going to answer it. "This better be important," Xavier warned.
"I just thought I'd let you know someone planted a listening device under the bar earlier," announced Roch on the other end of the line.
"What?!" exclaimed Xavier, now somewhat alarmed. "Do you know who?"
"No, but it is quality work," commented Roch, sounding relaxed. "We can trace where this thing was transmitting to, but it will take time. Good news is whoever planted it is terrible at hiding the bug, so while they've got good hardware I'm wondering if they're any good at all."
"Do what needs to be done, my friend," Xavier told Roch before hanging up. "Ahh... shit," breathed the club owner, closing his eyes and sighing once more before turning to look at Palmira and smiling.
Entering his bedroom, Xavier continued dragging Palmira before stopping at the foot of the bed and promptly circling around in front of her. "Down you go!" laughed Xavier, pushing Palmira over and causing her to flop onto the bed while as stiff as a board. Continuing to laugh, Xavier moved on top of his frozen lover, proceeding to stick his tongue down her throat.
* * *
Palmira blinked and smiled, feeling the warmth of Xavier working his tongue around her crotch. "Oh Xavier... yes!" Palmira screamed almost immediately, all of her boyfriend's earlier stimulation coming in all at once. The Brazilian moaned in pleasure as Xavier finished up, wiping his face before coming up to Palmira's eye-level.
"Good to hear you," smiled Xavier, giving Palmira a kiss she returned. "What do you say I grab a shower and then we go for dinner?"
"Sounds wonderful," gasped Palmira, smiling as Xavier nodded and got up, sliding away from the bed and heading towards the bathroom, all while not looking away and glistening with his own sweat.
Palmira breathed heavily and leaned back in the bed, contemplating her situation. The agent knew she'd have to betray Xavier soon, but the romance was really good, almost feeling real to her. Thinking about what would happen as soon as JB and Cassandra collected the data they needed, Palmira considered suggesting he go into protective custody or even some sort of witness protection, thus allowing her to continue a relationship of sorts with Xavier, even if she's violated his trust. Still there was the matter of him having questionable security, making Palmira worry he'd actually killed someone himself, plus the possibility he, like many other Type-7 users, was turning people into permanent statues for his own enjoyment. Palmira had noticed the four golden women in Xavier's outer office, but she hadn't been able to inspect them properly to know if they were alive or not.
Frustrated by how complicated the assignment was getting, Palmira glanced over at the side of the bed and noticed a bottle with a label that read 'Mannequin' on it, meaning it was a Type-7 mix. Wanting a break from the heavy thinking, Palmira barely hesitated before reaching for the container, paying no mind to the sound of the shower in the background.
* * *
"I have concerns," announced Cassandra as she sat across from JB in their new hotel room. Now the pair had moved to a new location three blocks from Club Mannequin, Palmira having reported in two days later than expected with the place's address. Since then the pair had spent the past two weeks acting as a home base for Palmira's operation, monitoring special bugs their undercover agent had been placing around the club. The hotel room was not very impressive, having simply a queen-sized bed without a box-spring, a small table for two and a closet of a bathroom, but the operation hadn't been designed for comfort. Four laptops also dotted the room, Cassandra and JB each currently manning one while in their underwear as they'd just woken up an hour ago.
"I figured, so do I," agreed JB, nodding. "We've learned a great deal about how Xavier moves and how the club works, but aside from the blatant Type-7 use and how he approached Palmira he isn't really doing anything questionable. We don't know his supplier, we know almost nothing about his employees except that the main one is named Roch something, and we don't know if he ever leaves that club."
"Not to mention Palmira's spent most of her time there either on the drug herself or nailing that French prick," added Cassandra, disgust in her voice. "I know how undercover works, I did it once myself, but come on. I think she's enjoying this assignment too much."
"She's trying to get close to him, learn his secrets," insisted JB, shaking his head. "The drug use is a problem though. She used twice before she'd had a chance to plant a new bug. If Xavier had searched her purse we might have lost her. Oh, and no offense taken on the French thing."
"She doesn't even want to admit that those statues in his office are real women," sighed Cassandra, leaning back in her own chair and shaking her head, almost mirroring her lover's earlier action. "We need to confront her, love. Oh, and sorry about the French thing."
"I'd be happier just calling in back-up," remarked JB. "A shame Miranda and Hui are off on assignment and Tasia's still suspended. They'd be helpful right now."
"I know what you mean," agreed Cassandra, then hearing a knock at the door. "That will be breakfast. I'll get it." Cassandra stood up slowly, giving her lover a bit of a show as she did. The British operative's body almost shimmered in the faint sunlight that was creeping through the closed windows, her body clad in big-covering, small-strapped underwear that was jet black, just the way JB liked it. The garments covered Cassandra's naughty bits perfectly without really covering anything else, giving JB the wildest PG show one could get. The Frenchman frowned a bit when his lover put her green robe on as it ruined the show.
Cassandra opened the door and her eyes went wide as she was facing the dark-haired, dark-suited form of Roch, Xavier's trusted aide, who had a silenced pistol in one hand, a small black object that looked distinctly like a grenade in the other. "Today's breakfast is brought to you by the fine makers of the Beretta PX4 Storm, and the featured course is forty-caliber bullets," grinned the intruder, immediately gesturing for Cassandra to step back, which she promptly did. JB saw what was happening and stayed where he was, slowly raising his hands.
"What is this about?" asked JB in his native tongue.
"Don't give me that, you're both eloquent speakers of my native tongue," chided Roch, shaking his head. "I'm actually American, by the way, not that it matters. I just like sharing. Since we're doing that, why don't you tell me who's been planting your listening devices in my club?"
"I'm sorry?" asked Cassandra innocently, but Roch simply scowled and fired his pistol, just once, into the empty bed. JB stood but kept his hands where they were, knowing he wasn't nearly fast enough to outmaneuver the weapon pointed at the woman he wanted to marry.
"Don't be cute, we found a couple last week and traced the signal to here," hissed Roch, his voice carrying a metallic edge. "You guys are good, so you can't be cops. Since you're British and he's not, you must be... Interpol?"
"No; good guess though," smiled JB, getting the gun pointed at him for his efforts.
"I guess this means you're the people who've been hunting down Type-7 distributors," announced Roch, getting wide-eyed looks from the two agents. "Yes, that's it, isn't it? Yes, we know about you. We know about the incidents in Hawaii and the Fortune Sea Resort, the science kid in LA, even that you've had contact with Erika Stone but she's remained out of jail for some reason. Granted we don't know who you are and I probably missed a few details, but I don't think we're doing too badly on the intelligence side of things. Now, I want you two to step into the bathroom."
"Alright," agreed Cassandra, moving to stand next to JB. In unison the pair carefully shuffled into the small bathroom, barely having enough room due to how much space the shower took up.
"Good, now catch!" exclaimed Roch, throwing the grenade-like object in his left hand at the pair. JB, his eyes wide, tried to catch the object but with the pin released the process was started and white smoke began to discharge from the object. Roch smiled and quickly slammed the bathroom door shut, promptly bracing against it as he felt someone try to move it. The sounds of a struggle lasted only for a few moments before there was silence. Pleased, Roch slid his gun into his waistband and, taking his time, closed and locked the door to the room before returning to the bathroom. Opening the door Roch found Cassandra standing frozen with an arched back, her hands holding empty air that had mostly likely been where the knob was when the door was closed while JB stood likewise still with his right side flat against empty air as well, mostly likely the one that had been putting most of the force on the door. The Type-7 gas had been quick and effective.
"Smoking really is bad for you," laughed Roch, producing a hypodermic needle from his coat pocket as well as a vial of Type-7, which he promptly used to give both an extra-large dose of the drug. Following this Roch stripped them both naked, taking his time with Cassandra, and placed them in the shower, deciding to pose them with JB's member in Cassandra's mouth, the Brit on her knees and her hands clutching his buttocks. Pleased with his little piece of performance art, Roch then shut the bathroom, remembering to set the handle so it would lock from the inside when closed, and threw the collected clothing into a corner. "Now lets see what you've been learning," declared the American, sitting down at JB's laptop.
* * *
Palmira came to in Xavier's bed, her hands having been behind her head as she'd imitated the pose of his statues before her last Sweetest Dream had kicked in. As usual Palmira was naked and she felt the familiar sensation of having been slept with meaning Xavier had been having fun with her again. Palmira didn't mind, considering Xavier to be one of the most attractive and passionate men she'd ever known, even wondering if she could continue her assignment as it was. Feeling groggy, Palmira got up and wandered into Xavier's bathroom, proceeding to shower.
As Palmira exited the shower a few minutes later she was greeted by the sight of her lover who, like her, was stark naked, leaning against his black marble counter with a smile on his face. "Hello my pretty Spanish flower," greeted Xavier, moving in and giving Palmira a long kiss.
"And hello to you my sweet French cherry," offered Palmira after Xavier broke the kiss, leaning back in his thin but soft arms.
"I still think you can do better than cherry," giggled Xavier. "Now, come and get dressed, your friends will be here soon." With that Xavier slipped away, wrapping a towel around his waist as he did. Palmira smiled, so happy with her current assignment that she didn't care that she was being highly unprofessional and would most likely get chewed out by Cassandra and JB later.
After spending a few minutes drying off and applying make-up, Palmira quickly pulled on some jeans and a black short-sleeved blouse before exiting into Xavier's office. It was there that her heart skipped a beat, for Xavier was standing by with a surprise for her: her four friends, all naked and on dollies, a suited bouncer behind each one, a twisted pile of plastic sheeting on the ground next to them and finally Xavier himself, still wearing only the towel but with a gun in his right hand, a silencer on the end and the barrel pointed at Lindsay. "Sleep well, love?" asked Xavier, no hint of emotion in his voice, just a relaxed demeanor.
"What's going on, Xav?" asked Palmira, panicking when she realized the lump in the plastic sheeting had to be a dead body that Xavier had most likely just shot moments ago. Xavier's office was sound-proof and that plus the silencer, not to mention the small caliber of the gun, meant she wouldn't of heard a thing.
"This morning Roch traced a signal being emitted by several spy devices that been placed around the club," explained Xavier as the four men with him drew their own weapons and trained them on their respective women while Xavier turned his own gun to point at his lover's heart. "Turns out this organization called the ITEA has been watching me, trying to figure out who supplies me with my special drug. Oh, and I found out you're working for them."
"What, that's..." began Palmira, but Xavier moved his gun slightly and fired, causing a bottle of expensive gin to shatter behind the undercover agent as she jumped in shock.
"Don't play that game with me; I saw the files," explained Xavier, indicating the laptop at his desk. "Roch sent me everything. Now I'm going to have to kill you and three famous women just to show your organization that I don't take kindly to spies. I understand you wanting to bring me down, but having an agent seduce me? That's just low."
"I wasn't..." attempted Palmira, but another bottle exploded behind her as she tried to continue.
"Still not done," warned Xavier, his voice still calm and collected in spite of his violent actions. "I could keep you, make you a statue, but no, I need to send the damn message. I've already had to terminate poor Pierre, I'm sorry to say. Tomorrow's headline will speak of a driver found murdered by gambling types while four women are fished out of the water in a car wreck, having to drive themselves while drunk due to Pierre's disappearance. Arlette will be behind the wheel, but you'll be beside her. Lindsay and Christine will have to go too, but lucky for her I can't risk Maris vanishing."
"Why are you telling me this?" asked Palmira, almost in tears. As an Interpol agent she'd been tough, unshakeable, but now Palmira was reduced to being just an ordinary women terrified of death due to the silent rage of a man she'd genuinely developed feelings for.
"So you'll know why I had to kill the woman I loved," explained Xavier, finally a hint of emotion coming through as his lip wobbled. "Take the glass on the desk and drink it. If you don't I'll just shoot you and leave you mutilated with Pierre's body."
Turning, Palmira saw a glass of what appeared to be water sitting on Xavier's desk. With tears starting to flow and her eyes focused on Xavier, Palmira slowly walked towards the desk and proceeded to pick up the glass, raising to her lips. "I'm sorry," whispered Xavier as the liquid fell down Palmira's throat, after which there was only darkness.
* * *
"Palmira, can you hear me?" asked junior ITEA agent Marcus Corrado, holding a pen up in front of Palmira's hazy vision. "Follow the pen if you can." Palmira blinked and attempted to do as she was told but found it difficult, trying to focus too much on the world around her. There were flashing red lights, a dark sky and a great deal of loud discussion going on around her, not to mention the feeling of dampness all over her body and the warmth of a rescue blanket that rested on top of her.
"What..." gasped Palmira, promptly gurgling up water. The liquid splashed down in front of Marcus but he barely flinched, instead smiling.
"Good, you're back with us," noted the younger man. "Look, you've been through a lot, I know. Okay, we estimate you were in the water for maybe ten minutes before the tow truck arrived and managed to pull you out. Only you and your companion were fully submerged, but the other two still got pretty wet. If that driver had gotten stuck in traffic you might of drowned."
"I was... underwater?" coughed Palmira, still confused.
"Marcus, go check on the others," came an authoritative voice. Marcus looked up and to his left, nodded, and hurried away. Moments later Cassandra Flick stepped into view, dressed in a powerful dark green business dress, her hair up in a tight bun. "Palmira, good to see you. It seems your boyfriend caught on to our operation and nearly killed you, along with three celebrities, except we caught them in the act."
"Then Roch didn't..." puffed Palmira, less confused now but finding it hard to talk. She remembered everything in Xavier's office, including how he'd learned about the ITEA.
"He ambushed us, but Marcus and Nessa showed up on Lucienne's orders to give us some support on the assignment," revealed Cassandra. "They managed to take that scumbag down and use the emails he'd sent from our laptops to find out where they would be dumping you and your new friends. Alberic and Chevalier are both on their way to the airport with Agent Kelly right now, from where they'll be flown to London before anyone can be the wiser."
"Cassandra, I'm sorry," offered Palmira, her voice now raspy.
"Hey, for now, we're just glad everyone made it out alive," sighed Cassandra, glancing over her shoulder. In the distance Palmira could make out Arlette, who was batting her eyes at Marcus while he spoke to her, he himself grinning a bit too much.
"At least someone doesn't seem to have been shaken up by this," noted Palmira, managing to smile.
* * *
Sitting in the back of the black SUV as it drove along, Xavier Alberic smiled to himself. The French businessman was ruined, his secret club being shut down as he rode by the police and ITEA joint effort, his staff all being arrested, and he himself facing several kidnapping charges as well as drug law violations, the murder charge on Pierre Gaudet most likely to come when they discovered the body. His trusted aide Roch Chevalier, whom he'd just learned wasn't French like him but an American and thus a great liar, was next to him, the man's arm broken and in a sling which made his handcuffs no doubt very awkward. Driving the SUV was a a brown-haired Irish ITEA woman in a gray suit who'd only spoken enough to tell Xavier he was about to go through hell. In spite of everything, Xavier was still smiling.
The SUV pulled into the airport, coming through quickly to the private airfield where the special jet was waiting. One would expect agent Nessa Kelly to smile, given that she had successfully just delivered two prisoners to her companions, but she instead frowned, as Xavier observed in the rear-view mirror, when she saw two unknown men step out from behind another black SUV next to the airplane and raise their guns, firing special darts which penetrated the windshield and struck the agent in the upper chest, freezing her in place as she'd attempted to claw at her own weapon. Silence followed, a white-haired man exiting the airplane with two women holding his arms. The man, looking old but spry, came up next to Roch's side of the SUV, the woman holding his right arm promptly opening the door.
"Hello Roch, Xavier," greeted the man, who was smiling and wearing a black tuxedo. On his left was Maris Stilton, who was wearing a red rhinestone dress that went down to her knees, her hair in a weaved bun. On the man's right was Charlotte Lune, dressed the same as Maris with the same hair style as well, her face as blank as that of Maris.
"Hello sir, I see you've employed your newest toys," noted Roch, smiling as he exited the SUV, Charlotte having unbuckled him.
"Yes, reverse-engineering the chips I bought from Paradise wasn't easy, but it seems we've more or less got it now," confirmed the well-dressed man as he moved to circle around to the other side of the SUV, the women and Roch following. Xavier's door was then opened, the Frenchman now facing the man to whom he'd answered.
"So now what, you kill me for failure?" asked Xavier, a smile still on his face in spite of his words.
"Of course not, you did well my boy," insisted the older man. "You and Roch are a great team, though I apologize for having him lie about his nationality. You see, he's skilled at impersonations and I found it valuable for him to not have a proper identity."
"He calls me No Name," explained Roch with a smile.
"Well, I guess that's all I needed to know," shrugged Xavier, his smile fading as he exited the SUV. "Thank you for using your new chip on Charlotte, sir. Might I add that using one on Maris also is quite wise?"
"Yes, well, she's been quite troublesome," agreed the ringleader as the five headed for the airplane, the two suited men with guns returning to their own SUV. "Don't worry, after the flight you'll have your precious Charlotte to do with as you like, but Xavier, don't even think about playing with my daughter. No Name does have the right as a husband to beat you if you do."
Palmira Tiago – Jennifer Lopez
Cassandra Flick – Emily Deschanel
Jean-Baptiste Odilon – Edward Norton
Xavier Alberic – Chace Crawford
Roch Chevalier – Nolan North
Arlette Bouchard – Kristen Bell
Charlotte Lune – Charlene Amoia
Christine Huart – Kristen Stewart
Maris Stilton – Paris Hilton
Lindsay Yari – Olivia Munn
Pierre Gaudet - Larry Miller
Marcus Corrado - Alessio Sakara
Nessa Kelly - Olivia Wilde
Richard Stilton – Malcolm McDowell