The Living Statues

Prologue - The search for perfection

by Bill Shakespeare

Mitch's brow wrinkled a bit. The look was all wrong. Emily looked fabulous, but it was like a Frederick's model had gotten lost in a department store intimates layout, he thought.

"When I said to look alluring, I didn't mean, uh, quite that alluring. A bit more daring housewife, and a bit less Times Square, okay?"

Emily pouted. She had a great pout, he thought. She stood fully upright and stretched, the cotton and Lycra lingerie straining, then relaxing.

"Mitch, I'm beat. I just don't have what you want today."

Mitch took a deep breath, trying to find his center, or whatever crap his shrink was always spewing. "Just because I have five grand riding on this shoot, and another ten grand of work down the line, doesn't mean I should be upset right now, does it?"

Emily sighed, and stepped away from the backdrop, grabbing a terry robe and sliding it on. "Look, it's just not happening. Let me get a glass of water and some feeling back in my legs, and we can try it again, okay?"

"Yeah. Fine. Whatever you need."

He wasn't finding his center, that was for damn sure. He looked over his lighting, decided to switch to off-white diffusers and a natural light level. The stock fashion look wasn't cutting it. He moved a prop dresser to the right side of the set, then slid the corner of a prop bed into the left side of the shot, finishing just as Emily came back.

"Wow. That's different."

"We need to shake things up here, try to fake that real life look a bit. Now, you just ... come right over here ... no, no, right there - there, that's the spot. Now just lean back on the dresser a bit ... don't lay on the goddamned thing ... yeah, like you're almost sitting against the edge. Perfect ... naw, something's missing. Wait a minute. Relax..."

Mitch ran to the other side of the room, where Emily's athletic bag was setting on an end table. He looked for ... there it was. He tossed her the plain white blouse.

"Okay, kind of half on, half off, you know ... no, not like ... that's a little better. We don't want to sell the shirt, just trying to get that fresh, dressing in the morning look. Damn."

She pouted again. "What's wrong now?" That expression was getting less cute as the evening wore on, Mitch thought.

"Your hair. It flumped. Jeannie, get over here with the curling iron." Mitch's hair and makeup assistant ran in front of the backdrop. "Just get the ends ... bangs look fine to me. We're after the morning look, remember? What woman in America curls her hair before she gets dressed ... okay, fine, what OTHER woman in America? Perfect! That's it!"

The simple shirt prop and switch in mood clicked on his creativity like flipping a switch. He slid into that timeless mode, taking shot after shot. Emily had finally found just the right facial expression, approachable but sensuous. Perfect for Venture, and it was turning him on a bit, too.

"Lift your chin JUST a little ... not quite that much. Perfect! Now hold that, and don't move for anything!" He snapped furiously, from two dozen slightly different angles. He picked up his second camera, and kept snapping, when Emily's nose wrinkled. He stopped, scowled. Her nose wrinkled again, and her eyes snapped shut as she sneezed furiously, twice. The white blouse went askew, and her long dark hair flew forward.

"That's it. At least I got a couple dozen shots. That's enough for a circular, anyway."

Emily didn't pout, she frowned. "Jesus Christ, Mitch! I had to sneeze! If you'd get rid of that fucking cat, I wouldn't sneeze!"

Mitch put his index fingers in his ears. "I haven't had the cat for months, and I'm not listening! We're done with this shoot, anyway. Forget it. I've forgotten it. Have you forgotten it?"

Emily walked over to her athletic bag, stripped off the Venture bra and panties, and started digging out her clothes. She turned around, and Mitch was putting away lenses.

She stood up, and put her hands on her bare hips. "Forgotten, my ass. I'm standing here naked, and you're ignoring me. I can't believe you're pissed off about a little sneeze."

He looked at her and smiled coldly. "Good night, Emily. I'll send the check."

She finished dressing, and gave the requisite slam to the elevator gate as she left.

"Mitch, that was a bit over the line, don't you think?"

He turned to shout at Jeannie, then thought better of it. She had a way of disarming him. "This business is all about perfection. I can't work with a model that doesn't understand that. You understand that, don't you?"

Jeannie sighed. "The presentation has to be perfect, but the people never will be, Mitch. I wasn't perfect when I modeled for you."

"Maybe not, but you could hold a pose better and longer than any model I've ever known. If you'd just reconsider..."

She smiled. Jeannie was a very attractive 38, but past her modeling prime, and she knew it. "Mitch, I'm almost old enough to be some of these models' mother. I don't think your clients would be as appreciative as you are."

"I do appreciate you, you know."

"I know you do. Sit down, Mitch."


"Just sit down, will you?"

Jeannie and Mitch had been more than model and photographer, employer and employee, on more than one occasion. He knew her well enough to understand what was happening.

"Who offered you a job?"

"Versace. They need some more support people for the runway shows. Mitch, I like working for you, but it's not very regular, and they can use me full time. I'm sorry, but ..."

He smiled. "You have to take care of yourself. Go. Get out of here before I beg."

"You don't have to beg." He looked up, to see her open the front of her blouse. She had the most unnerving habit of going without a bra, despite having fairly ample breasts - she had specialized in swimsuits during her model days.

"I meant before I beg you to keep working for me."

She laughed. "Well, that won't do you any good, but you don't have to beg for this." She ran her hand along the inside of his thigh. The film and the search for a new assistant could wait, he decided.



Mitch slammed back his second Sam Adams. It was going down a little too easily. "I'm telling you, everything's falling apart on me."

"I don't get it, Mitch. You've got solid, long-term contracts, a good location, a solid portfolio. What else do you need to make things work?"

Allen Byrne was one of Mitch's oldest friends. He'd even been in the business for a time, right out of law school, doing contract work for Elite. That wasn't why he had gone to law school, and as soon as a position opened with the Feds, he jumped. Five years later, he was back in New York, attached to the Patent Office or something. When Mitch needed grounding, he always went to Allen.

"Look, it's just ... it's like this. I'm a perfectionist. I mean, you know that."

Allen laughed. "I remember when we were in Little League, and you used to critique the guy laying down the baselines. 'That's crooked, mister. Can't you do better than that?' I never understood why he didn't kick your ass."

"Well, it's the same thing with the fashion shoots. I know exactly how everything should look. When I get exactly what I'm looking for, everything falls into place. I'm the best in the business, period. That's how you get the client list I have. Problem is, nobody else gives a shit."

"Come on, that's not true. What about your assistant, Joanie? Jennie?"

"Jeannie. She quit on me. Can you believe that? 9 years, and she just quits."

"I hope you got laid, at least."

"Well, yeah. I mean, of course."

Allen shook his head. "You know, you've fucked some of the most beautiful women in New York. Hell, on the face of the earth. Somehow, it seems wrong to hear you feeling sorry for yourself."

The guy on the barstool to the other side of Mitch got a wicked grin on his face, leaned in a little.

Mitch ordered a third Sam Adams, to Allen's chagrin. "If you're going to drink like that, and we're going to have a conversation like this, maybe we should get a table, huh?"

"A capital idea. Barkeep, move our tab to a table please."

They found a table in the back corner of the pub. Mitch slouched in his chair, nursing the third beer. "So I'm feeling sorry for myself, huh? I didn't say that. I said everything's falling apart on me."

"I heard you the first time. I'm still waiting for a compelling reason you think that, besides having to find a new assistant."

Mitch sighed. "I just can't find the right models anymore, or get the right poses out of them. Maybe I'm losing it, but Jeannie used to be able to hold a pose for... well, for hours sometimes. I had two or three other models on the hook that could do that, too. These new models, though, no discipline whatsoever. Always bitching."

Allen got a light-bulb look in his eye, but Mitch's brain was too fizzy to catch it. "So the problem's continuity, huh?"

"Continuh... yeah, you could, uh, yeah. That's the problem. I've had too much beer, my friend."

"You need your models to hold a pose for a long time. That it?"

"Innnn a nutshell, Al. Exactly it."

Allen looked around nervously. "I came across something that might help you out, just a couple days ago. Kind of hush-hush stuff, though."

"At the Patent Office? What the fuck would you come across that would make a model hold a pose. Super Glue?" Mitch laughed; a little too loudly.

"Will you hold it down? Jesus, I'm serious. Look, let's talk about this when the beer wears off, okay?"

"A case of Super Glue. What's that cost, anyway? Ha!"


-- Cloak and Dagger Stuff --

"I can't believe I let you talk me into this. If this is like the time you tried to get me to invest in those Dick Tracy wristphone things, I swear to God ..."

"Keep it down, will you? And if you'd invested, the principal would have rolled into digital cell phones, and you'd be rolling in it."

Allen looked left, then right. "He should be here any minute."

Mitch stuck his hands in his jacket pockets. The morning was cool, by Manhattan standards. "I oughta have my fucking head examined, sitting on a bench in Central Park at three in the morning."

"Relax, I'm packing a taser. It's in my shoe."

"Great, I'm in the middle of Central Park in the middle of the night with fucking Maxwell Smart. Got a phone in there, too?"


Mitch sat silent for a moment, then heard what sounded like a howl. "What was that? You know, there are wild animals in this park, Al. Somebody the other day saw a coyote or something."


A figure approached from the right, bundled in a long grey coat. After what seemed like an hour, the figure stopped at arm's length. The man was sixtyish, with glasses twenty years out of date and a grey Lenin beard, his face drained of all color. He looked Mitch and Allen up and down, then said to Allen in heavily accented English,

"The rain in Spain is mainly on the plain."

Allen cleared his throat. "The weather is especially lovely in Barcelona. Roses are in bloom, and the moon is full."

Mitch stifled a laugh, and said under his breath, "Jesus Christ, you are Maxwell Smart."

The grey man's brow furrowed. "You should instill a sense of proper protocol in your comrade, Mr. Byrne. This is the gentleman interested in the merchandise?"

Mitch extended a hand. "Mitch Kirkland. And you are?"

The gray man didn't take Mitch's hand. "Yes, a sense of proper protocol would be welcome. Have financial terms yet been discussed?"

Allen cleared his throat again. "We would prefer a demonstration of the merchandise prior to settlement on terms."

"Bah! You are not prepared to deal with me seriously."

"We are quite prepared to deal with you seriously. Just because other Federal offices have been less accommodating..."

"Mr. Byrne, I could have sold this technology to your enemies. It would have been most welcome in Tripoli, or Baghdad. Or Beijing."

"Sir, you know that the DOD is prepared to purchase rights in order to..."

Mitch stood very still; it suddenly wasn't a game any more. Every last trace of the beer's effects washed right out of him. Defense Department?

"Yes, yes, to quash the technology. This device was meant to be used..." The grey man stared right through Mitch. "...even if I disapprove of such a petty, decadent use. The potential uses in space travel alone ... well, it is no matter."

"In any case, this gives you an unexpected opportunity to derive additional income from your work, sir."

"Well, we shall see about that. You wish a demonstration, then? We will need to find a subject, then. Promptly."

Mitch scratched his head. "Well, I could probably talk one of my models into it tomorrow."

The grey man developed a trace of a smile. It took Mitch a split second to realize it was lacking humor. "Unacceptable. The demonstration must be now. I have no time to waste on idle curiosity."

"Well, where'm I going to find somebody willing to try this harebrained idea? At three in the morning?"

Allan sighed. "Mitch, quiet."

The grey man shook his head. "In my country, when we needed a volunteer, we had a volunteer."

Mitch was just enough intrigued with the grey man's invention to put his mind to it...
"Al, how much cash do you have on you?"


-- Test Shots --

She looked around cautiously as she entered the hotel room. "Nice room. What'd you have in mind?"

Mitch went over to his bag, on the floor under the window. "Well, I'm a photographer. I want to take a few pictures of you."

She sat on the edge of the bed. "Sure thing. I've done a couple photo shoot fantasies. I'm good with that."

"No, really. I'm a photographer. You've probably seen some of my work. I'm going to be shooting an... uh, electronics layout for one of the men's magazines. I wanted to get some test poses before I go out to California. Anyway, it's hard to find somebody comfortable in front of the camera without the clothes, on short notice anyway."

"Huh. What kind of electronics?"

He looked at the bag, thought a moment. "Walkman."

"A Walkman?"

Mitch took out his Hasselblad, and some lenses.

"I'll be damned. You really are a photographer. Mind if I clean up?"

"Uh... sink's okay, I guess. I'm in kind of a hurry."

"No time for a shower? I'd kind of like to look good, you know, for a real photographer and all."

Stall, he thought. "I've only got 30 minutes. Standard day's shoot pay in it for you, five hundred dollars."

"Five... hundred? For 30 minutes? Maybe I'm in the wrong business. How do you want it, then?"

"Well, I figured lying on the bed, with the Walkman on, and I'll let you use your imagination."

She laughed. "Well, I am the professional in that area." She slid out of the tight, stretchy black minidress she was wearing, revealing her bare breasts and a skimpy black G-string. She slid off the G-string without a second thought. She was probably about twenty, and her slim body was firm and muscular. The closely cropped brownish hair between her legs contrasted with her blond hair, but matched her dark roots.

"Okay, where's your Walkman?"

Mitch opened a small bag, and took out a flat black box. A six-foot long black cord extended from one end, dividing into two thin wires for the last foot or so. On the end of each wire was a C-shaped grey clip, about two inches long.

She looked at it curiously. "That's the strangest looking Walkman I've ever seen. How do those things fit in your ears?"

"They don't actually. They slip over and behind them, like the arm on a pair of glasses. It's a new kind of headphone, uh... cartilage conduction." Bullshit's flowing tonight, he thought.

"Oh, yeah. I think I saw something about that in a magazine at the beauty shop. Got a tape?"

"A tape?"

"For the Walkman. It'd be easier to get off to some music."

"Oh, a tape. Uh... well... this is only a prop from the manufacturer. It's not actually a working model of the Walkman. Uh... they're still gearing up to make these. In time for Christmas, you know."

"Oh, okay. Why don't you turn on VH-1 or something on the TV, then."

He picked up his camera and walked over to the television, so he could breathe a less conspicuous sigh of relief. When he turned around, she turned her head away from him, so he could see the back of her head. "Like this?"

"Almost. Here, let me get those." He carefully placed the silver clips, just like the grey man had instructed.

She lay back on the bed. "Would it look better if I pulled back the covers. You know, against the white sheet instead of this thing?"

He smiled. Everybody's a fucking artist, he thought. "Sure. That'd be great."

She lay down, her head back against the pillow, as an Elton John video started in the background. "Where do you want the Walkman at?"

"Hm. How about right next to you here, where it'll show in the shot. You just get warmed up, and I'll position you, okay?"

"Okay." She closed her eyes, and slowly ran her hands along the contours of her torso, then down between her thighs. "Mmmm. Whenever you're ready." He set the black box next to her, and pressed a small switch on the side, making a small red light blink twice. He felt in his front pocket, where a small box with a single button waited.

"Okay, bend your left leg at the knee, left foot flat on the bed. Then move your right leg out to the side, so I can get everything in the shot. I don't have much foreground to work with in a room this size."

"Like this?"


She exhaled forcefully. "That's a little uncomfortable, but I can do that for a while. Do you want my right leg out further to the right? I mean, I can only do that for a couple minutes."

"Okay, out as far as you think. I'll trust your professional judgment."

She laughed, then ran one hand through her hair, tracing circles around her left nipple with the other. It hardened and rose, the red-brown aureole contracting. She did the same with the other before drifting down to the ringlets of brown hair between her legs. She began to writhe, all the while keeping her leg out and to the right, leaving a clear view of her dampening crotch. Her eyes were closed, occasionally tightening and releasing. He was impressed at her ability to hold the pose - not bad, he thought.

Her breathing deepened, became more labored, as her fingers probed deeply, first one, then two and sometimes three, and her other hand clutched at her breast. He waited for that picture-perfect moment, when her back would arch slightly, her breasts protruding up and out, head back, mouth slightly open. Now! He reached into his front pocket, brushing at his raging erection, and pressed the button.

She moaned a little more intensely, and was suddenly quiet. Then, the hand probing between her legs slowed abruptly. The other hand clenching her breast stopped moving. Her back remained uniformly arched. Her outstretched right leg stayed in place. Her breathing appeared to stop completely! The reflectance of her skin changed, subtly. He couldn't put his finger on the change for a moment, then he decided it had somehow hardened!. He moved closer, and she remained still.
"You okay? Hello - Angela? You can relax now."

Nothing. She remained exactly as she was, two fingers thrust deeply inside her sex, one breast clenched, the other thrust forward, arched in the beginning throes of climax. But she was rigid.
Not a sound. Not a flinch. Not a breath. It was like she was a statue.

"Jesus H. Christ!"

A door opened behind him, and Allen and the grey man came out of the bathroom. Allen gawked, and the grey man again showed just the slightest hint of a smile.

"Allen, look at this. Look at this! She hasn't moved in..." He looked at his watch. "Hell, I don't know. A minute, maybe more?" He looked back at the grey man, still nameless. "Hey, you, she's not breathing, either. This can't be right. I mean, what the hell's going on here?"

The hint of a smile went away as the grey man crossed the room. "The, ahem, lady is unharmed. Some of our subjects have spent more than a year in this condition without harm. She has been placed in a state of neuroelectrically-induced suspended animation, that's all."

Mitch scratched his head. "Neuroelec... Talk to me like someone who hasn't had a science class since, oh, high school."

Allen peered more closely at the motionless callgirl. "CIA calls it the 'cosmonaut sleep'. The Soviets came up with this for a Mars shot they planned for years. When perestroika came along, the space program was gutted, and our ... uh... colleague here was left with some new technology and nowhere to go with it."

Mitch raised an eyebrow. "CIA? Al, what the hell..."

Allen's voice was firm. "Another time."

Mitch was too distracted to press the issue. His mind raced. The callgirl remained motionless, frozen in exactly the same position as minutes before.

The grey man scowled. "You don't believe me? Go ahead, touch her. Do it."

Mitch slowly reached out, expecting the unmoving girl to jump. His hand made contact at her midriff, moved up over her exposed breast, to the side of her face. Nothing. Not even a blink.
She felt odd, somehow, almost artificial.

"Push against her skin."

He brought his hand back to her stomach, pushed down. There was no give, none at all. It was like pushing on a wooden store mannequin. A tingling sensation played through his fingertips, like wintertime static charges. "What's that feeling? The electric charge?"

The grey man was silent for a moment. "With deference to your science education, it is the boundary of the energy field generated by the device. Can you feel your fingers?"

Mitch moved his hand. "They're a little tingly, but yeah."

"Then the device is working optimally. The field does not extend beyond the contours of her body, and should not in proper operating conditions. You can determine that visually. If the field begins to variate, however, it can engulf other objects directly in contact. You must take care in handling the subject, in general."

Mitch was enthralled. He was struck by an image from that last high school science class, of ancient insects trapped in amber, preserved, forever motionless. "So it happens instantly? Push the button, and BAM?"

"No. The field takes 20 to 30 seconds to fully develop. Did you not observe her motion slow before stopping? Consciousness continues slightly longer than that. It takes approximately one minute for all movement to be fully conserved. After that, the subject is in a deep dream state. Bodily functions are slowed to approximately one-thousandth of normal rates. This device is less powerful than the prototype unit."

Mitch lifted his hand from the still body. "Prototype unit. That's what we're discussing here?"

"Correct. It was designed for the Mars vessel, to immobilize eight cosmonauts. The prototype uses wireless field transmission, with a single probe behind one ear."

Mitch's mind continued taking it all in. "Movement conserved, what does that mean? Does that mean a person could be repositioned during that one minute? Sort of... I don't know, fine tuned?"

"That is correct. Not big movements, but fine adjustments."

Allan's eyes grew bigger every moment the young callgirl remained totally motionless. "Sheez, I really thought this had to be a lot of crap, Mitch. I... I don't believe it!"

Mitch ran his hand along her rigid thigh. The slight tingle of the field thrilled him to the core. This was the most exciting thing he had ever seen - perfection! Then, his brain caught up again.

"How do you get someone out of this?"

The gray man's smile came back, ever so slightly. "You turn it off, of course. By pressing the button again. We had to estimate the young woman's weight, to determine the field intensity. The amount of time the field takes to wear off depends entirely on the accuracy of that estimate. Underestimate the weight, and the field may never properly develop to begin with. Overestimate, and the field can take hours to wear off."

Allen said, "Well, we glanced at her driver's license while you had her distracted earlier."

Mitch covered his mouth with his hand. "Jesus, Al, it could be days. What were you thinking?"

He turned to the grey man. "You have a deal. I don't care what it takes, I want this. Half the profits from additional business, anything. Now get back in the bathroom, so I can try to bring her out of it."

The grey man looked at him, even more seriously if that was possible. "There's a lot to be wary of, a lot to monitor with this device. I hope you are ready to be a very, very thorough pupil." Then he scurried back through the bathroom door, and closed it behind him.

This changes everything, he thought. He realized it would take a whole different kind of model, exclusive, willing to make a long-term commitment, willing to be frozen and stay frozen, no attachments. He chuckled to himself at the thought of trying to work with those stuck-up little supermodel-wanna-bees. He knew this would be his last photos in New York.

Mitch picked up the Hasselblad, took a few pictures from differing angles, wide and close angle, high and low light levels. His model was perfectly composed. She did not blink; did not sneeze. After a few minutes and almost a roll of film, he pressed the button. There was a humming sound from the black box, and a brief, vague impression of bluish energy discharge. The driver's license suddenly seemed very accurate.

Slowly, inexorably, the woman's right hand began moving again between her legs, her chest expanded with an interrupted breath, her left hand squeezed more tightly. She shuddered for a moment, and then came, suddenly and explosively. After lying quietly still for a few moments
-- to Mitch, she seemed vibrant with motion the whole time -- she opened her eyes.

"God, that was the strangest feeling... It was like I was stuck totally in the dream. I haven't come like that... Wow!" She reached up and took the silver clips from behind her ears. "That's the best five hundred dollars I ever made. Can you send me a picture?"

Mitch smiled. "I'd be happy to. Very, very happy."

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Author's Notes:

Here's my $.02 on the Living Statues exercise - a prelude, to be placed before Part 1. It ends up creating a few twists in Mitch's behavior in Parts 1-3, clears up a few things, confuses a few others.

This occurs approximately two years before the start of Part 1.

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