The Scam

By Rotwang

"It's our newest model. Back in Europe stores like this fight to get one." The salesman said.

Mr Wilson rubbed his mouth thoughtfully and eyed up the tall woman standing on a circular pedestal. It was obvious that it was a very good-looking mannequin. Especially her eyes and face were well captured.

"We use latex exteriors which give a much suppler look than the usual hard-cast dummies, don't you think ?"

Wilson nodded slightly and hummed.

"Decorators like these for bathing suit showings and lingerie, even for skimpy summerwear, because it has no seams on the arms or legs, which sort of gives it a distinguished look."

Wilson got up and grasped his hands behind his back while circling the mannequin. Pursing his lips in deep thought.

"I don't quite get it, even though it's high quality, it's no that different from the ones we've been using up till now."

"That's when I show you what the attraction of this model is ..." The salesman walked to the pedestal and popped it open. He took out a small laptop computer, with several cables connected to it, disappearing into the pedestal.

"Look at this !" He said, while typing frantically at the keyboard.

There was a slight electric buzz and the mannequin's head cocked slightly up before lowering and twisting to its left, seemingly following Wilson with its eyes.

Wilson let go of his hands and waited for a moment. Then quickly took off round its back. The mannequin responded by stopping its head and quickly twisted it to his right, all the while lifting its right heel off the pedestal and putting the left hand on its hip, staring down at Wilson.

"All the electronics runs through the left foot, which is placed on this rotating disk." Wilson said, while typing further.

The mannequin remained motionless as it spun round the small platform underneath the left foot.

"And it can do this..."

It put its right foot down again and slipped it sideways, spreading its feet and pulling up the other hand onto its hip. There was some further rattling of the keyboard and the mannequin bent over cocked the head slightly down before raising it horizontally, while putting its hands on its legs. The salesman tapped the return key and the right leg went up. He pressed a few keys and hit return again, which made its leg lower again, cocked and moved back onto to its toes. It straightened its back and pulled the hands together, cocking its head almost dreamily to the left.

"You can program the routines and work with it, the only limitation is the fact that the left foot is anchored into the pedestal, although you can remove it to dress it."

"Now I understand why your prices are so high !"

"I'm willing to lend you this one for a day, you supply me the clothes and put it in your shop to see the reactions. And it won't cost you a cent."

"I'll have someone prep up a display..." Wilson said, but was cut short.

"I'm sorry, there's just one problem. We're launching this mannequin in several stores around the country in their window displays. That's an agreement we made with them, so you may put it on display, but only if you do it inside. Besides, you'll be able to see the people's reaction, rather than go and stand outside in this rain."

"I guess you're right, I'll have some people prepare appropriate clothes."

The salesman poked a few keys on the laptop precariously balanced on top of his trembling raised knee. He lowered it and put the laptop down as the mannequin raised both hands up alongside the its head. The salesman fumbled with the blouse and pulled it over the arms and head, leaving the assistant to finish the job.

"Thanks, I couldn't reach it myself." The woman said.

"How's the contraption coming together ?" A man suddenly said.

"It's going fine... I think." The woman said, looking back at the salesman. "Meet my husband Frank, he's the head of security, mr..."

"Barkley, Todd Barkley, nice to meet you, Frank !" The salesman answered cordially.

"Every few years I hear that robot mannequins are taking over. I've heard this about ten times in as many years as I work here. But you know what the problem is ?"

"No ?" Asked salesman.

"It kinda scares people. It's what's called the Frankenstein syndrome, it's the fear of the artificial human."

"I doesn't look scary to me !" Todd said.

"Well, there are even people who are sort of turned on by them, I sometimes see guys with cameras taking pictures. And a few ask if this or that particular model is for sale." Frank said, grinning slightly. "Hey, I don't have a problem with them, it's their problem." He quickly added.

"Yeah, I heard about it. It's some kind of what you could call a "Barbie syndrome", no ?" Todd said.

"I think it goes much further than dressing one up." Frank said.

"Frank !" His wife protested. "You've got nothing else to talk about ?"

"Hey ! I was just trying to be friendly... Besides I'm being expected. See ya."

"There, that should do it !" Helen said, while fluffing up the long blonde curled wig.

"It looks good to me." Todd said, admiring their work.

Before them, the mannequin wore tight black pants, emphasizing its long, sleek legs with a high-up waist, a white ruffled shirt and a short, stylish leather jacket, with golden buttons. It stood casually with its hand on its hip.

Todd walked up to the pedestal took the laptop and hit the return key.

The mannequin lifted its right foot up, twisted and put it down on a raised block. Bent over and put its elbow its leg, cupping its chin slightly. Then the head cocked ever so slightly to the right and turned to the left. Paused and continued to the left and paused again. The right hand dropped as the left hand went back onto the hip and resumed the original position.

"Houston , We have liftoff !"

By noon, two men had finished putting the mannequin in a central aisle in the store. There it performed its routine flawlessly every ten minutes or so. Every few hours, Todd came back to check the inside and went off to dinner with mr Wilson.

Helen picked up the ringing phone.

"Yes, mr Wilson's office..."

"It's me, Helen, Todd's going straight to his hotel, he'll come round tomorrow to pack the mannequin. I've signed the contract for twenty models and everything. Just pull the plug on the pedestal when you leave and it'll stop, okay ?"

"Yes, mr Wilson, I was just about to leave."

"Are you ready to spend another evening alone at home ?" Her husband asked.

"Like your presence brightens it ! I just have to unplug the mannequin and I can go."

"Be careful about it, You don't wanna short out the new alarm system."

"That's been bothering you ever since they installed it, right ?"

"I don't know, this stuff with an "impenetrable web of sensors" covering the outside of the building... I dunno... I prefer the old ways, with a few night-watchmen, cameras and a big red button you hit when something happens..." He said stuffing his hands in his pocket.

"Like you ever liked doing nights !" Helen teased him.

It must've been about an hour after Helen had left, that in the darkness of the store something moved. High above the central plaza, overlooked by balconies, the huge bay window let pale moonlight in faintly lighting the central aisle of the large department store. Again there was a movement. And a figure slid in front of the mannequin.

Frank smiled and looked up at the regal woman.

"Ooh, baby, looking good !" He said while turning to look about himself looking for something. He picked up a stool from behind a counter and climbed on it, while dropping his pants. He kissed the mannequin's soft rubber lips.

"Baby, you feel a lot warmer than these old, cold plastic monsters they used to keep here. I'm ready for your sisters to come here..." He said licking his lips and savoring the moment. There was the faint buzzing sound as the head suddenly turned and the torso slipped down.

Frank pulled his hands back from the rubber breasts he had been stroking and jumped off the stool, struggling to put his pants back on. He reached down to pull them up when he felt something hard hit his head. The blow was enough to stun him, but not to knock him out. Just as he looked up, he could see the mannequin with the block in its hands coming down on him.

The next morning Frank woke up. He stared straight up at his wife's angry face and a handful of personnel.

She looked very angry. "What happened ?"

The barked question made him cringe in pain as the bump on his head sent waves of pain into his brain. Then he noticed his pants and shorts were clinging around his ankles. He put his hands onto his organs to notice someone had put a towel over them.

"I don't know... "

"They robbed the jewelry department !" Said a woman's voice some distance away.

"Look, sir, I'm positive, the mannequin hit me !" Frank said frantically.

In the office Todd, Helen and Mr. Wilson silently stared at him.

"The mannequin hit you ?" Wilson asked, while geometrically rubbing his fingers over his desk.

"I'm not crazy, the thing came to life and attacked me."

"That's impossible." Todd, said. "It wasn't plugged in and the computer was off line."

"Frank, nobody is going to blame you, the thieves just attacked you from behind and ..." Wilson tried to calm him down.

"No way, We've got to examine this thing, it's dangerous ... Perhaps it stole the jewels !" Frank suddenly exclaimed frantically.

"Sounds like Frankenstein syndrome to me." Todd mumbled.

"This is crazy, how could it get off its pedestal ?" Wilson said.

"Perhaps it's somebody in disguise ?" Frank said.

"Look, I'll prove to you what it really is made of, okay ?" Todd said.

The group walked to the mannequin's position. Todd pulled off its wig and went to the toolkit nearby. He pulled out a sharp craftknife and stabbed it straight into its naked skull. Cut the rubber skin open , pulled it down and revealed the plastic head inside. He cut the left leg open and showed the electronic circuits and cabling underneath.

"Doesn't look to me like there's a thief in there."

Frank looked suspiciously at the grey plastic head and tapped it.

"I think you owe mr Barkley an apology." Wilson said.

A few hours later Todd stopped his van on the parking on the outskirts of town. He removed his mustache and crawled to the back of the van towards the mannequin. He removed the plastic sheet around it and pulled what was left of the mask off its head. He pried his fingernails underneath the rim and the head popped open. A dark woman's face appeared, eyes opened and a smile formed on the black woman's lips.

"We did it !" Todd whispered and smiled at her. "For a black American you sure made a pretty blonde."

The woman removed the breathing tube from her nose and spat out the tube in her mouth. With the help of the craftknife, he carefully cut open the tight rubber skin that had been sealed around her, freeing her lean, sweat-covered body. Her chest and arms were imprisoned in an incredibly tight suit of plastic armour, covered with electronic parts in strategic places. Then, with the help of a pair of medical scissors, he freed her from the cast around her left foot which she began to rub.

Todd bent down and opened the service door of the pedestal she was sitting on and popped open the fake electronics. Removed the empty bottles of energy drink and produced the bag of jewels.

"We did it !" Todd repeated himself. "You did it, you beautiful artist. I bless the day I met you on a street corner dancing like a robot with your friends..."

The woman smiled and let gold chains slip through her hands. "It cost me about five years of my life when I saw him come up to me, I thought he had seen me move or something."

"And then he dropped his pants ?"

"Yeah, I just went limp to scare him off. That's when I thought about hitting him, nobody would believe a mannequin had hit him..."

"And the cops won't be none the wiser for it either."

"Say, do you want me to show you how it all went tonight ?"