Chapter 5 - New people, works and schemes
"......are the sweetest man I ever knew! An original ' lifestyle' work from that renowned Artiste fellow! Gosh, she looks so incredibly real.....her boobies are so....so....wow!!!" a red haired woman gushed as she watched two delivery people wheel in a blonde haired female figure dressed in a shiny red swimsuit.
"I'm glad you like it, Julie. It wasn't easy for me to get and that Artiste guy seemed reluctant to part with it but nothing is too good for my little darling," a dark haired mid 40's man replied as he watched the workers carefully place the figure atop a pedestal located near the back of what looked like a private gallery the couple.
"Geez, you are so special to me, Jack! Hmmmm..... I didn't think displaying something like this would involve instructions. You'd think it would just need to be dusted or something like that every so often," Julie muttered softly as she started to leaf through a brochure titled ARTISTE ART - CARE AND MAINTENANCE.
"Well, I'm sure you'll figure it out, honey. If you like, think of this as something similar to the preparations you make for a runway show in New York or LA," Jack muttered before wandering into an adjoining room.
Julie silently agreed as she leafed the pages back and forth. "Hmmmm.... avoid touching the art with your bare hands at all times.... for keeping dust from accumulating on your purchase, remove dust with new duster or lightly brush with dry cloth.... DO NOT use cleaning fluids or any other liquids in cleaning your work..... blah...blah....blah....." she thought while glancing at the swimsuit clad figure and the book in a back and forth manner.
"Be sure and tell me what the Jacksons and Beaumonts think about it when I get back from my trip," Jack called out with the sounds of shuffling papers audible as he spoke.
Julie put the pamphlet down on a nearby table and walked quickly into the room where her husband was. "A trip? Another god-damned business trip! How the hell are we going to get to know the neighbors when you keep taking off on business trips? Can't your managers look after the hotels and other properties until after the party we're hosting is done?" the redhead snapped as she stood in front of her husband with her hands, curled into tiny fists, planted on her hips.
"Look, honey, we've been down this road before. As the owner of Comfort and Leisure Hotels, not to mention other properties, I have to take an active hand in the operations of these businesses on a regular basis. I promise, after I get back, we'll arrange another party to do some meeting and greeting with the people in the area. Ooops, gotta take this!" Jack said before turning and pulling out a cell phone that was ringing.
"Ohhhh, you just don't give a shit!!!" Julie snapped and stormed out of the room as she knew her husband would be totally distracted by the call. Figuring she would take this time to prepare herself for an upcoming show she was doing down in Miami, the redhead headed upstairs with her newest display figure receding from her thoughts. If she had stuck around to look closer at the swimsuit clad figure, Julie might have noticed that the artwork bore a striking similarity to Wonder Woman and that the swimsuit's straps seemed to be made of metal that were faintly glowing.............
"........can't believe this!! All my hard work getting my exhibits ready and some thief sneaks in here and steals my masterpieces without anyone noticing. This is catastrophic!!!" Art exclaimed as he leaned up against a gallery wall and pounded on it with his fist. The villainous artist's distress was compounded by the fact that he had planned to use the missing live artworks to frame his grand piece: an ode to the heroines in the world.... an exhibit that was to grow quite large if he had his way.
"Should I postpone the next part of your plan?" Karla called out from the opposite end of the gallery.
"No, I can't afford to do that. Get ready for your part while I make sure that the gallery is ready for opening!" the Artiste called out as he busied making minute adjustments on the figures on display. As he adjusted the wetsuit-clad figure dressed to resemble Wonder Woman of the TV show era, so that she was slightly facing any onlookers, the villain artisan's mind wandered to the other plan he had in motion. He knew it was a risk selling Wonder Woman, disguised as a beach lifeguard, to that rich businessman but it had dawned on him that it was a way for him to bankroll his future works as well as other galleries he might want to use. After all, the IMD devices, if used in a careful and judicious way, could yield many more living works.
"Well, boss, do you think I'm ready to carry out your plan now?" Karla called out as she walked into the Artiste's line of sight to hear his approval.
The Artiste took one look as his obedient helper and a smiled crossed his face for the first time in a long while. "Well, that is truly excellent! I think you'll play your part exactly as I have figured out!" the man crowed out loud to an audience that was silent for the most part.
That night........ elsewhere...............
With Jack leaving on his business trip, Julie was left alone to her own devices. She had debated going out on the town with a few friends but figured to stay home instead and watch a few movies and such. After watching a dreary Canadian documentary on the history of curling followed by half of a sequel to some horror movie remake, the red haired woman snapped off the TV and decided to call it a night.
Slipping into a pink baby doll nightie that barely covered her physique, Julie slipped under her bed covers and quickly fell asleep. The house was completely silent with only the flickering of a light on the home alarm system that had been activated giving any semblance of activity.
Roughly an hour or so later, the straps of the swimsuit Wonder Woman was wearing started to glow bright white in color. After ten seconds of this flashing, the glow ceased and the woman's eyes started to flutter as if she was just waking up. However, her eyes had that vacant look that had present when she first fell under the influence of the sinister Artiste. With a somewhat stilted movement, the heroine stepped down from the pedestal and silently made her way upstairs to where the master bedroom was.
By now, Julie had fallen into a deep slumber with her eyes starting to slightly twitch as if she was enjoying a very pleasant dream. Standing in silence next to the sleeping woman, Wonder Woman gazed briefly at Julie before taking hold of the red flotation device under her right arm. Opening the item up, she withdrew a jeweled necklace from the interior that looked similar to the one the Artiste had draped around the heroine's neck earlier.
Reaching down to the sleeping woman, Wonder Woman draped the necklace quickly around her neck before standing still once again. At the instant that the jewelry clasp closed, Julie's eyes flickered open and there was a brief moment of resistance in her eyes. However, as was the case with all the women before who had worn the sinister necklace, that resistance faded quickly away and the blonde stared upwards with no sign of conscious thought visible in her face.
A second or so later, Wonder Woman bent over close to Julie once again with her mouth fairly close to Julie's right ear. The heroine seemed to start whispering words into the transfixed woman's ear though they were only audible to the two of them. When she finished, Julie sat stiffly up and moved to the edge of the bed where she slipped on a pair of slippers. With a walk that was more robotic than her normal gait, Julie walked downstairs followed closely by Wonder Woman, whose focus was trained on the woman in front of her.
Julie moved toward the front door of the mansion and opened up the panel for the home security system. A series of beeps later, the alarm was deactivated and the woman moved silently to a side door that led to the garage that housed the three cars Julie and her husband owned. Slipping into the passenger side of the mini van parked on the far left, Julie waited silently for someone to join her.
A short time later, the mini van pulled out of the garage and went down the driveway towards the deserted road in front of the property. For both of the occupants, they were heading into town and whatever future the Artiste had planned for them............
"..........we get a signal from Wonder Woman to meet us here. I tell you, there's something weird going on!" Supergirl muttered as she settled down on the deserted street with her fellow heroine firmly in her grasp.
"I think you've been watching too many of those late night TV movies where there's always some sinister man lurking in the shadows waiting to ambush two lovely women trying to solve a mystery. Let's not look for problems where they don't exist," Batgirl replied as they walked towards what looked like an apartment building that was under construction. With her many years tackling crime in her native Gotham, the red haired heroine tended to air on the side of caution.
"Maybe you're right but still....... where did Wonder Woman did say she wanted to meet us?" Supergirl said as she ran her right hand through her blonde locks.
"I think she said the seventh floor but I wonder why she would pick such a location for an important meeting," Batgirl said as she gazed around for any sign of the legendary Amazon warrior.
"Hola, sisters! I hope you both are doing well this evening!" Wonder Woman exclaimed as she descended from a ladder attached to the invisible robot plane she flew from time.
"We're fine, Diana. What's this big emergency that you needed to speak to us about? " Batgirl asked the legendary heroine as she cast an inquisitive towards their colleague.
"It's an important manner and one that I need to talk to both you separately first. Barbara, wait here and I'll be back in about 5 or so minutes," Wonder Woman said to the darkly clad crimefighter before nodding towards the Kryptonian heroine. With that, the Amazon heroine dashed off in the direction of the apartment building leaving the two superheroines scratching their heads.
A minute or so later, Supergirl followed Wonder Woman into the building and up the stairs to the seventh floor. Looking around, Supergirl saw that the floor was about 95% done though there was no new tenants moved in yet by the looks of things.
"Sorry for being mysterious but there was a matter I wanted to talk to you privately about. I think Batgirl, as well as other heroines, may have taken over by an alien intelligence that controls their thoughts and movements. I think I've discovered several pieces of ancient jewelry that appear to block the the alien's control. If you don't mind, could you put a piece on so I can be sure that you're not under the alien's control?" Wonder Woman asked while extending to Supergirl a necklace that looked be fairly common in size and shape with her right hand.
Her right eyebrow slightly raised in puzzlement, Supergirl briefly touched the necklace with her hands before looking at Wonder Woman. "Ummmm, I'm not doubting you or anything but how do I know that this piece of metal and jewels won't put me under the alien control you're concerned about," the heroine said with some uncertainty.
"How can you suggest such a thing? I wouldn't ask you two here if that was the case...... an Amazon warrior is honorable above all things. Please, I implore you, put the necklace on so we can both move on and tackle this problem together," Wonder Woman replied imploringly.
After another moment or two of hesitation, Supergirl picked the necklace up and gingerly fastened it around her neck. The two heroines stood in silence for thirty seconds or so before the Kryptonian crusader broke the silence. "Well, I feel no different than before. Shall I go and ask Batgirl to come up here now?" she asked her fellow heroine.
"Not yet. The necklace might take a little longer to adjust to your physiology and deactivate your neural impulses," Wonder Woman said solemnly.
"Good. That means.... huh... what do-?" Supergirl started to say before falling silent in mid sentence. With a strange smile appearing on her face, Wonder Woman leaned forward and snapped her fingers in front of the rigid heroine's face. When she was satisfied that the heroine was fully under the influence of the Artiste's necklace, the enthralled Wonder Woman quickly stripped the heroine of her top, skirt and boots. Throwing the clothes in a heap near a window at the end of the hallway, Wonder Woman picked up the rigid Supergirl carefully and carried her down the hallway to what looked like a maintenance closet. Opening the door to the closet, Wonder Woman carefully placed Supergirl inside with her back leaning against the wall. After making sure that the immobile woman wouldn't tip over, Wonder Woman spent a minute or two rubbing water from a nearby dirty mop bucket on her face, arms and shoulders. After a few adjustments to her costume, Wonder Woman grabbed a mop and stepped back into the hallway. Closing the closet behind, the heroine, reacting to unspoken commands received through her necklace, raced to the far end of the hallway and stopped in front of a large window. Rearing back, Wonder Woman hurled the mop through the window and in a skyward trajectory. With shards of glass falling around her, the woman slumped to the floor as if she was hit by an invisible blow and failed to rise immediately.
A minute or two later, the sounds of footsteps could be heard echoing from one of the stairways leading to the seventh floor. With a flourish, Batgirl arrived on the floor and immediately looked around for any sign of her fellow heroines. Upon seeing Wonder Woman lying in the far corner, the red haired heroine dashed over to see if she was all right.
" I'm fine, Barbara. Things happened so fast when Supergirl and I arrived here. A monster of incredible size and strength jumped us from behind and knocked Supergirl out. When I tried to stop it, it tossed me around like a rag doll before tossing me into a corner. After that, I must have passed out because I vaguely remember our attacker taking off through the window with Supergirl in his arms," Wonder Woman murmured as she looked up into the concerned woman's face.
"I'm glad you're ok, anyway. Did you see which way he went or...... geez, your attacker even took Supergirl's costume off! Very strange, very strange indeed," Batgirl said before pausing momentarily upon seeing the Kryptonian crusader's outfit nearby. She was going to pick it up to look for any clues when her eyes spotted something that interested her even more.
"You seem to be wearing a quite bit of jewelry tonight, Diana. In fact, you're wearing some under your bracelets. Is there a reason for this change I should know about?" Batgirl asked with a puzzled look on her face.
"Actually, there is. You'll be wearing something similar a few minutes after THIS!!!!" Wonder Woman exclaimed as she unleashed a powerful right cross at Batgirl's jaw. The Gotham based heroine, caught by surprise, took the full force of the blow and slammed into a nearby wall. Before Barbara could regain her equilibrium, Wonder Woman grabbed hold of her right wrist, retrieved a small, silver bracelet hidden under one of her own and snapped it on the heroine's wrist!
Barbara's eyes widened and she started to mouth a protest over Wonder Woman's strange action when the life seemed to drain from her eyes and her body froze in place. As with all the women that had been the target of the villainous Artiste, the lithe redhead was now nothing more than a living statue with no conscious thought whatsoever.
Wordlessly, Wonder Woman picked up Batgirl in her arms and swiftly carried her down the building stairs and out to her waiting airplane. After securing the immobilized heroine in the back part of the plane, the enthralled heroine returned for Supergirl though she made no effort to retrieve the woman's uniform at all. Once the two mindless women were inside the plane, Wonder Woman got inside and, with a quiet roar, the plane took off into the sky and the destiny that awaited the women.
Elsewhere at that moment..............
The gallery was silent with the lights mostly dimmed and the front door secured for the night. At the back of the building, in the area set aside for preparing future exhibits and accepting daytime deliveries, a man and a woman were busy getting items ready for the upcoming week.
"Geez, Chantelle, are you sure it was a smart thing to hire a couple of thugs to steal these artworks from the Artiste's gallery? He's got a reputation in the community as being eccentric AND a hot temper," an overweight man in his late 30's said with a worried expression on his face.
"Oh, Gus, you worry too much about little people like the Artiste. He thinks he is a big man and has the artistic vision for now and the future. I think he'd be better off drawing pictures for children's video games than trying and posting exhibits that show talent he doesn't have," Chantelle replied as she bent over and examined Toni's face more closely. The immobilized woman was wearing what looked to be a costume from the European middle ages with plunging cleavage and tiny waist. However, for Toni and Jill, the owner of their new 'home' had yet to realize the true nature of their existence or the jewelry draped around their necks.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Should I take the costumes off these statues so we can have them up on display ASAP?" Gus called out as he opened up a wooden crate nearby and started to pull out what looked like a costume worn by saloon dancers in the mid 1800's old west.
"No, not yet, Gus. I want to make sure those neanderthals that I paid off have left town like I instructed and the police don't start sniffing around here for the missing figures. I'd say that, after seven to ten days, things should be settled enough that we can set up our new display figures in a magnificent setting!" Chantelle exclaimed as she stood up and walked over to the door leading into her mostly empty gallery.
Gus nodded slowly and let the costume in his beefy hands slip back into the crate. "Ummmm, I don't mean to question your plan, Miss Dubois, but if you have such a low opinion of this Artiste fellow, why did you arrange to steal his works? I mean, for the amount of money you paid, you could have..... OOOOWWWWW!!!!!" he started to ask before being interrupted by a hard slap across his face from Chantelle.
"I don't need to have my decisions questioned by people who work for me! If you're having doubts of what I'm doing here, you can go back to pumping gus at the local service station or whatever menial job you had before I retained your services. Otherwise, put these two figures under a wrap in the back of this room right away and follow me out into the main gallery. I need to get the 'People of the World ' exhibit ready for tomorrow's visitors at my gallery," Chantelle snapped at her employee before turning and walking out into the main gallery area.
Mentally grumbling, Gus nodded even as he walked over to one of the nearby shelves and pulled out a folded clear plastic tarp to drape over the two figures. "She talks about her 'artistic ability ' and she's getting me to set up a display case that is half filled with cat litter painted green and brown. In the middle of the litter, she's sticking popsicle sticks painted a bunch of different colors in various spots with a half eaten egg sandwich in the middle of it all. Artists....sheesh!!! " he muttered as he tucked Toni and Jill away on a shelf and hastened to fulfill the whims of his employer.
Across town......at another gallery.........
With the lights dimmed, the Artiste's gallery had closed for another night and the patrons were abuzz about the new exhibits they had seen as well as speculating on what his new exhibit would be composed of. As it happened, the owner of the business was busy contemplating the composition of his newest work and how to best work in his newest 'pieces '.
"Supergirl and Batgirl!!! Ooooh, this is just like Xmas and my birthday only better! In fact, considering my gifts usually consisted of deposits into my bank accounts or clothes to be stored away for a future day, this is far better than those occasions!" Art proclaimed as he ambled back and forth in his gallery.
The objects of the eccentric artist stood rigid and unmoving in the center of the gallery as he wrung his hands in delight. For Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl, the fact that they were standing naked in the middle of the gallery seemed unimportant to them. The pieces of jewelry that hung around the heroine's necks and wrists were responsible for the blank looks and rigid postures of the three beautiful women. Batgirl's costume lay in a heap near a raised platform at the back of the gallery while Supergirl had been stripped of the few garments left on her when she was abducted. As for Wonder Woman, her conscious thoughts had been turned back to a blank slate with her red, white and blue costume, modifications and all, wrapped around a dressing dummy in the storeroom.
"They do look very attractive, Artiste. Do you have something specific in mind for the trio or should I make preparations for them to go into temporary storage?" Karla asked as she walked behind the immobile women and briefly ran her fingertips along their toned buttocks as she did.
"No! If I'm going to get my exhibit ready, they need to be set up for the exhibit right away. Did you have the hooks and wire installed as I suggested earlier today?" Art snapped as he unfurled a banner with HEROISM IN THE SKY AND ON EARTH written on it.
Karla nodded and moved to the center of gallery where a stylized model of half the earth sat on the floor. "They're all set according to what you wanted. If you want, I can go with you to the new place you've purchased on the town's outskirts and put our newest figure in place," she said hopefully to her employer/master.
"After we get Batgirl and Supergirl set up on my display, I'll instruct you on the disposition of Julie. She might prove to be a very lucrative investment in the long term especially if the public proves to be unappreciative of my genius. Karla! I thought I told you to leave the answering machine on for after hours calls!!" Art said calmly before his voice jumped noticeably in volume when the sound of the gallery's phone started to ring.
"Sorry, boss. I'll see who it is right away," Karla replied as she turned and hurried off in the direction of the ringing. Shaking his head in frustration and mentally wondering how it was so impossible to find good help these days, Art retrieved a box from a nearby chair. Opening it, he took what appeared to be two sets of nipple clips that were painted black and blue and respectively. As if he was about to apply a delicate paint stroke to a canvas, the eccentric artist gently attached the clips to the heroines breasts before going around the corner and returning with two large metal cans that were marked LATEX on the front.
Opening up the first can to reveal dark blue latex contents, Art took a nearby roller and started to apply the substance to Supergirl's limbs. He was about to remove the blonde heroine's remaining garments as well as her mound of pubic hair when the sounds of Karla returning interrupted his work. Lifting his head up, he saw that the crestfallen woman was holding a piece of paper that was probably from the computer printer out back.
"What's wrong? Who was on the phone?" Art asked his assistant as he put the small roller in his right hand down for the moment.
"Ummm, the phone was just someone asking about the gallery's weekend hours. However, just as I hung up, I noticed there was a new email alert flashing on your computer screen. When I saw the contents, I, uh, I, mmm, read this......" Karla said haltingly as she handed Art the paper.
Art unfolded the note and his eyes widened as he read the contents:
I visited your gallery when you weren't around and borrowed a few things that
I'm sure you won't miss. If you'd like them back, drop by my gallery after it
has closed this coming Saturday and we discuss the items.
P.S. Happy 10th anniversary!
"What's wrong, boss? What did that last part mean? Is there anythingggggg......" Karla started to ask before her words ended suddenly as a result of the IMD device she was wearing being activated, freezing the assistant in her tracks. With that, the gallery was silent save for the sound of Art crumpling the paper into a ball and throwing it towards the other end of the gallery.
"This 'Chantelle'.....is my ex wife!!!!!!!" Art exclaimed out loud with his yell reverberating off the walls of the gallery that housed an increasing number of immobilized heroines.
To be continued....................