The Competition - A Tale of the Wizards
(chapters 8 thru 15)

by Anthyrax

(Continues from Part 1, to read the beginning, click here.)

Chapter 8: Taking Precautions


Wes popped into the room he had left over an hour before, looking tired but pleased.  Sarah, Cindy and Beth were ready to greet him, and all three ran over and gave him a hug.   A flurry of questions came with them, and Wes kissed all three girls, then raised his hand and asked them to wait a moment while he caught his breath. 

“Everything went well, we got both of the women we were looking for, and both are resting safely in the case with Kristi.”  Wes smiled as he spoke, but fatigue was clear in his eyes.   “But we have to move quickly still, for I can foresee that Mr. Baldwin will not be pleased by what happened to his house and Tom Bradley might be in danger.”

Setting down the briefcase, he asked Beth to bring in the other dolls from the glass case in his study, while asking Sarah to bring him something to eat and drink and sending Cindy to call Tom and check on him.    Wes sat down, and turned on the television, deciding that a few minutes of relaxation were needed while he thought about what he would do next.

Flipping through the channels, he paused when he saw a breaking news bulletin on the local station.   The report covered a home explosion and fire in nearby San Luis Obispo, and suddenly Wes new that Tom wouldn’t be answering the phone.   In confirmation, Cindy walked in, looking concerned.  

“I can’t get Tom on the phone, it rings and rings, but no answer, not even his answering machine is clicking on.”  

“I don’t think he will be answering Cindy,” Wes said, pointing at the television.  Cindy gasped, and then broke into tears. Beth came in, with the first two dolls, and looked at the television with a frown.  Sarah returned with a tall glass of lemonade and a sandwich, and looked as well.   She paled, bit her lip and then pulled Beth with her to get the rest of the dolls. 

“Cindy, go help them, we need to make some quick moves now,” Wes said grimly.   Anger surged through him, he was ashamed that he hadn’t thought to make a more serious effort to protect Tom.   “Damn it, I didn’t think they would move that fast, serves me right for getting cocky.   I am sorry Tom, I should have remembered how rough things could get,” he thought to himself.   He looked down at Vanessa and Cheryl, still posed rigid in their doll state, both looking beautiful and oblivious to the goings on around them while in their extended dreams.   “Looks like its time to get you two and the rest of the ladies somewhere safe.   A duel is no place for innocents,” he said quietly to himself. 

He began visualizing the safe house he had farther up the coast at Half Moon Bay.   It would serve for the short run and he could reach there without too much strain, and rest after he got the girls there safely.  Then he would have to hunt down Mr. Jones, and kill him. No, not just kill; much more than killing was necessary. Jones had to be obliterated from existence so he could not ever return. Wes steeled himself to take no half-measures this time.

In a few minutes, all of the dolls where in his study, and Wes quickly changed each one into durable obsidian, in order to better protect them during the move.    He asked Sarah get on the phone to call the temp she had placed in Baldwin’s office, who would also need protection. Wes in the meantime posed Beth, then Cindy, and transformed each of them into 12-inch obsidian statuettes, just like the other dolls stored in his case. 

When Sarah returned, looking anxious, he listened as she told him that Baldwin’s office reported that the temp had left early for the day, feeling unwell, and when she called her house, there was no answer there. Barbara had a dangerous role in their plan, and she may have been found out already.

“Damn it, I think she is gone too Sarah,” Wes said.   Guilt and anger surged through him, for he could see now that he had completely underestimated Jones and the depth of his evil intentions.  He would have to try to rescue Barbara too if he could, if it wasn’t too late.    “I need to move quickly sweet heart, and I need you to become a doll for me too darling. Things have gotten a lot rougher than I was bargaining for.”  Sarah nodded somberly, reached over without saying a word and kissed him deeply.   She was afraid for him, more so than for her own self, and she knew how upset and ashamed he was about Tom getting killed.  She would do what he wanted, as always, but she was sad that she couldn’t have helped more. 

Wes kissed her deeply and passionately, wrapping his arms around her, then letting his hands roam underneath her blouse to her bare skin.   She was kissing him back hard, and he could feel her heat as the obsidian shard cupped in his hand touched her bare skin.   He felt her stiffen, then cease moving altogether as the wave of the spell surged through her, changing her very essence into something else.   Sarah was awash in longing, and she wanted him at the same time she also feared for him.   She felt the spell move through her body, felt her limbs go leaden, felt her body freezing into position, then felt herself slipping away into a dream.    As her mind and body went into timelessness as they solidified, she felt her love for him surge through her and into the infinite as she completed her transformation into a life-size obsidian statue.  

Wes stepped back, then after looking at her longingly for a moment, shrank her down to transportable size as well, and placed her in the case with the other motionless statuettes.   A moment later, Sarah's shrunken clothes joined her, and he closed the case.   Taking another moment to look around, he then cast a number of spells around himself.   All through the house, doors closed, then locked mysteriously, and began to glow.   Down below, in the strip mall, the sales clerks, office staff, hair stylists, and other employees who worked for his girls in their businesses suddenly realized that it was closing time; they shut down the businesses, shooed away or rescheduled customers, and went home for the weekend, absolutely certain that they had a full week's paid vacation and weren’t about to return for a few days.   Satisfied that all the loose ends were now secure, Wes walked into the center of his pentagram, and disappeared, his briefcase in hand.

An instant of time later, Wes popped into existance in the living room of a large house overlooking Half Moon Bay and the marina.   He felt the fatigue of transport washing through him, and staggered a little.   So many spells in so short a time were exhausting him, and he knew he needed to rest soon   He sat down for a few minutes and pondered the way things were going.   Teaching some of the girls the basics of wizardry, and teaching them to cast spells was his ace in the hole.   An ace Jones would never have thought of.   All he had done was cast a powerful spell on each girl that imbued them with spell ability, something foreign to this world.   Their own minds determined how much they could handle after that.  Some of the brighter girls, such as Sarah, Cindy, Michelle, Brandi, Beth, Kristi, Vanessa, Kim and Jennifer, could with some further training, become fairly powerful eventually.   Not ever in his league, to be sure, but strong enough to handle any of the natives of this world.   Now all of them could at least handle some of the wands, rings and other enchanted items he had made.  

Kristi and Beth had proven how helpful already that expertise could be, on the trip to Palm Springs.  And their little adventure in Malibu had proven that further. 

Cheryl was one of his aces, and he needed her now.    He pulled her beautiful doll figure out from the briefcase, then placed it in the center of the room.   He cast a restoring spell, and suddenly a life-sized statue replaced the little statuette.   Walking over to the sculpture, he kissed it on her still lips; suddenly Cheryl came alive as she returned to flesh and blood again.  

She awakened out of her dream, still feeling the bliss floating through her, when she realized Wes was kissing her and so she kissed him back.   After a moment, she felt his fatigue and pain, and realized that she was indeed needed.   Cheryl could see that he was on the edge of complete exhaustion, and she helped him over to the couch to sit.   Only after he was sitting did she look around to find something to wear.   She found a towel, then wrapped herself up in it and then went back into the living room and sat down next to him.  

Wes filled her in on what was going on, and Cheryl reacted levelly.   Realizing that Wes needed rest foremost, then food and drink, she helped him into the bedroom where he told her to let him sleep for a few hours.   She lay down next to him, and held him close until he fell asleep.   As he slept, Cheryl cast a couple of healing and restorative spells Wes had taught her on him, then went to explore the remainder of the house and turned on the news and the computer to catch up on events.   Spending most of her time as a doll always meant she was always behind on the news.

Wes had also taught her how to awaken the transformed girls from their doll forms, and she carefully brought around Kristi, Cindy, and Beth to help her with preparations and information gathering, and Jennifer as well to get things ready for Wes when he awoke.  After briefing them on what was going on, she then went back to the bedroom and laid down with him to comfort him while he slept deeply and regained his needed strength.


Chapter 9: Jones deals with problems

Jones rested too, in his hotel room, pondering his strategy when his cell phone rang.  Baldwin was on the line, and he was angry.   Apparently, his beach home in Malibu had exploded and the police had called him asking uncomforatable questions.   Jones could feel the underlying nervousness in Baldwin’s voice, and calmed him and told him he was on his way.  

“Isn’t that interesting, apparently my opponent has been busy too,” Jones thought with a smile to himself.  Jones got in his car and drove back to Santa Cruz, deciding that a couple of hours on the road would allow him to think better and save his energy reserves for more practical uses.   Whatever Wes had done was over now, and he had time to think about his next move.   Carefully.

Jones arrived at Baldwin’s office three hours later as the sun set over the Pacific.   He walked into the office, nodded briefly at Charlie, caressed the decorative marble statue that he had created from the woman who had been spying earlier and enjoyed the shudder of fear that he saw in reaction. Without being announced, he stepped on into Baldwin’s private office and closed the door.    Baldwin was sitting at his desk, drinking a martini; looking angry and nervous.  

“What kept you, Jones?” he snapped.

Jones looked at him levelly, his eyes cold, and after a moment, Baldwin nervously averted his eyes and looked back in a more subdued way.

“I took care of loose ends with Mr. Bradley, just as you requested.” Jones replied blandly.  “However, I didn’t find the statue of his wife there, apparently Bradley had a powerful friend just like me.”

Baldwin looked at him, stunned, and took a large swallow of his drink.  “There are more like you,” he asked nervously.   "God help us all," he thought.  

“Of course there are. Not many of us to be sure; for only the strongest of us can reach your world. But, yes, there are more of us,”  Jones smiled blandly, “although most of them are more -say- conventional in their moral flexibility than I, naturally.” 

Baldwin shuddered to himself.  “My Lord, it’s bad enough that there is someone like him running around loose, this one wizard is frightening enough,” he thought to himself.  “What have I gotten myself into?”

Baldwin composed himself, then spoke again as Jones waited expectantly.  “We need to go see what has happened to my house, and my staff.”

“Ok Baldwin, we can do that, but I will also need to visit that Temporary service that sent the spy to us,”  Jones smiled coldly, “I need to pay them a visit and find out more about her origins and motives.   Perhaps I can find my opponent, before he finds you.”   Jones watched as Baldwin’s eyes widened, chuckling to himself as he watched the impact of his statement settle into Baldwin’s narrow mind.  

They talked for several more minutes, and finally decided to fly down to Malibu and look over the house, then Jones would return up here to deal with Wes.   Charlie quickly provided them with the location of the temp agency, and Jones decided to first see what happened at Malibu to get a measure of Wes' powers, then return for a confrontation.  He looked forward to meeting this Sarah; from the description he had gotten from Barbara before he finished with her, Sarah sounded very interesting indeed.   It would promise to be an interesting and busy night Jones decided. 

As Wes slept and recovered from his exertions, Jones and Baldwin flew south to Los Angeles.  By midnight, Baldwin and Jones were walking around the firehoses and police tape, bodyguards and assistants in tow. Baldwin managed to convince the Police on the scene to let him inspect the damage. 

Jones was worried now, for the first time.   With the police involved, other outside powers might step in if knowledge of his and Wes’s existence threatened to come out.   He had to act now.

Jones cast a number of spells, and within a few minutes, took control of the situation.  He persuaded the police and arson investigators with some deft magic, that the fire was accidental and was in no way connected to the coincidental fire and explosion further north that resulted in the death of Baldwin’s rival.   Once the police and fire department officials left the scene, Jones went to the spare car parked a distance away from the ruined house and burned out cars near it, and found a personal item belonging to one of the men left to guard the scene.   He knew they weren’t dead, as the police indicated that no one was in the house when it went up.   It was just a simple matter of summoning them here. 

Jones set up a pentagram, and cast a spell.   Within a moment, a frightened Basset Hound popped into being, shivering with fear as it looked up at the wizard.   Jones smiled, and called Baldwin over.

“Well, it would seem that my competition found your guards easy to deal with.” Jones cast another spell, and the guard suddenly reappeared in his human form but without a stitch of clothing on. 

Sam was frightened.   It had been the worst day of his life.   First, somebody kissed him and he passed out before he could enjoy her.  Then he awoke, and after a few disoriented moments, realized that he was a dog.   Which was so completely insane that Sam’s mind was beginning to crack under the strain.   Then the house exploded for no good reason, so he ran away with three other dogs he was moderately sure were the other guys he worked with.   Now, suddenly, instead of hiding in some brush, he was here, and that scary bastard Jones was asking him questions.    Questions that he could only respond to without hestiation, as if he no longer controlled what he said. 

Jones interrogated Sam at length for several minutes, and after learning what had happened, Baldwin told Sam to find the other guards and bring them here.   Jones chuckled, and informed Baldwin that there was no need to act, as all three of the other guards who had been turned to dogs would return to human form in a little while on their own.   Apparently, this Wes fellow had a wicked sense of humor. 

“Wes is similar in powers to myself, Baldwin,” Jones said levelly, his eyes cold and with his usual bland smile on his lips.  “Your guards didn’t stand a chance against him.”   Looking pointedly at the burned wreckage of the house, he continued. “You had best stick close to me for now.”    Jones spent several minutes walking around the grounds, then walked purposefully over to a clump of trees just up slope from the house.   Casting a spell, he saw two sets of ghostly footprints reappear in the ground and head off towards the residence. After a few minutes more he was satisfied.   “This is were Wes appeared, then he cast some spells and moved against your house.   He had a woman with him, probably an apprentice, and he spent about two hours in this vicinity, I would guess.   Any secrets you might have hidden in that house are now discovered I would have to presume.” 

Baldwin shuddered, but hoped that his computer system was secure.   Jones had a weakness with computers, as apparently they seemed to short out whenever he tried to use them.   He hoped that this man Wes had the same problem.   For now it was time to leave, as apparently Wes was back up north near where Tom formerly lived.  

They drove back to LAX, and then boarded his plane once again.   Within an hour, they were once again on the ground in Santa Cruz.   During the flight, Jones decided that it was time to retire in his hotel room for some rest; it was a good place as well to stash Baldwin and a couple of bodyguards and assistants for the time being.   They were clearly tired, and he needed them fresh and rested if they were to be of any use to him in what was coming.

This was no longer simply a matter of helping out Baldwin in exchange for money and perqs.   Now it was a matter of survival.   Wes was clearly strong enough to be a real threat to him, and Jones decided that this threat had to be dealt with quickly and carefully. 

They arrived at the gaudy hotel in San Luis Obispo around three in the morning, diverting to the small regional airport after summoning a car and driver from Santa Cruz shortly after takeoff.   As they walked through the lobby, Jones looked over at the dress shop and smiled inwardly as he noticed the mannequin he had created earlier was still exactly where he had left her.   She had a perfect plastic smile, and the dim lights reflected in her now plastic eyes.   “She makes a really fine mannequin now,” he thought.  

Baldwin arranged for a couple of rooms next to the room Jones favored, and eventually all settled in for a rest.  Jones knew he had a couple of hours, but decided that it would be enough for now.  He could always get a quick recharge from someone if he needed to later.



Chapter 10: Preparing for Battle


Wes slept through the late afternoon and well into the night, finally awakening at 4 AM.   Cheryl was still sleeping next to him, curled against his back like a very sexy spoon. He stirred; she stroked his hair and he reached over and kissed her.   He got up, and after taking a few minutes in the bathroom; he laid back down with her and they made love, slowly and tenderly until they both were fulfilled. 

“Thanks sweetheart, I needed that.  I guess yesterday bothered me more than I thought.”

“You seem better now. I was worried about you,” she said sweetly.  

“Yes I am, much better, did you work on me while I was sleeping?” he asked with a smile.

“Yes, just a couple of the spells you taught me to restore energy, I hope they worked but they just wore me out, especially after I woke up the other three.” She said with a yawn. 

“You did just great Cheryl, I am proud of you.” With that, he kissed her deeply and long, and she responded.   “When this is all over, I am going to make sure I show you how much I appreciate you.   Right now though, its time to eat and for me to get to work.   Do you think you can awaken Sarah now?  I need to save up my energy for the rest of the day, and I need her help now.”

“Of course, darling,” she said.   She got up out of bed, put on a short little silk robe and walked over to the briefcase, still sitting on the table where she left it, and pulled out the statuette of Sarah.   Taking a few minutes, she then restored Sarah to normal size, then back to life, holding her hand as she did so.  

Sarah awoke, and was at first worried to see Cheryl, then relieved when she saw that Wes was awake and looking much better.   She hugged Cheryl, then went over and kissed Wes, before pulling on her clothes now laid out next to her. 

“Sarah, I want you to help Cheryl get some rest,” Wes asked, looking over at Cheryl, who seemed like she was ready to fall asleep on her feet.  “After that, I need you to awaken Kristi, Brandi, and Michelle.   We will all have a busy day ahead of us, and I will need everyone's help before its done.”

Sarah smiled at him, and then at Cheryl.   She could see that Cheryl was worn out, though Wes was looking much better than yesterday.   She led Cheryl to the bed, and helped her lay down as Wes left the room after he kissed them both again. 

The two women talked quietly for a few minutes, whispering to each other and occasionally looked at the door.   After a few minutes, both seemed satisfied and Cheryl rolled over to sleep after giving Sarah a quick hug. 

 Wes walked into the living room and saw Beth and Cindy busy at the computer.   They looked up and smiled at him and he smiled back. 

“I am glad Cheryl woke you two up, have you learned anything new I need to know?” he asked after kissing them both.  

Beth replied, “We have learned quite a lot; that download told us everything we needed to know about Baldwin's businesses, along with all his hidden accounts and passwords. There were also some good leads about where the mysterious Mr. Jones likes to stay in town.” 

Cindy interrupted, “Baldwin’s company credit card accounts show that Jones roomed at a hotel in San Luis Obispo the same night that he took Sabrina and transformed Emily. Wes, I just hacked into their system," she hesitated, "he's staying there right now with Baldwin and four others.”

Jennifer, who had been dozing on the couch, awoke at that point. Sensuously, she got up and kissed Wes too. 

“Would you like something to eat, darling?” she said with a warm smile.

“Yes, please — for everyone I think, if you don’t mind.”  Wes squeezed her hand, and then told the girls that he needed a shower.   He asked Jennifer for some eggs, and asked Cindy to go check out the garage and make sure his car was ready.   Grasping Beth by the arm, he led her into the second bedroom and into the bathroom suite with him.

“I need you to give me a short summary about what you learned while I shower and shave.” he ordered.   She did not complain in the least.

As he showered, Beth filled him in on Baldwin and his empire.   Focusing on his weaknesses, Beth told him how she figured out a way to return Bradley’s money to his wife, as well as everything else Baldwin owned too.   When she finished, Wes smiled, and then unexpectedly pulled her into the shower with him.  Within a moment, she was undressed and kissing him passionately; they made love in the shower fiercely.   Both came quickly, and they slid down to the floor of the large shower together, letting the water run over them and Beth giggled, while he smiled.   He was indeed feeling much better today, he decided.   But then, his girls always made him feel that way.

After a few minutes, Beth got up and put on a robe, while he shooed her away with a kiss and a smile, and he began to dress.

Meanwhile, Sarah had left the room where Cheryl was sleeping and gone into the den just down the hall from the kitchen.   She could hear Cindy and Jennifer talking in low tones, and could smell the food that Jennifer was making.   The smell of eggs, ham, hash browns and the incredibly wonderful biscuits that she always made filled the house now.   Sarah then pulled out the statuettes of Kristi, Brandi, and Michelle, and restored them to their human form again.  

After more greetings and a quick briefing, all four left the room and went into the kitchen were they gave Jennifer warm hugs, and Sarah took a moment while Jennifer’s back was turned to filch a biscuit.   Beth came out of the guest bedroom, gave everyone a bright smile and came in to help Cindy set the table.    A few minutes later Wes came out, now fully dressed and the girls could see, much to their relief, that he looked 100% better than he had in the last few days, fit and rested. 

They all sat down around the big table and dug into the huge breakfast that Jennifer had made for them.   Wes asked Kristi to tell everyone about the trip to Malibu, and he enjoyed listening to her enthusiasm as he ate three helpings of breakfast.  The girls enjoyed the story, and all smiled not only at how well things went, but Kristi’s obvious excitement about the whole escapade.    Brandi told a few jokes and teased Kristi a bit, which made Kristi blush and everyone else smile.  

After a while, long after the girls were done, he finished eating and pushed aside his plate.   Most of the girls just shook their heads, amazed as always at how much he could eat and not have any of it show. 

“Sarah, Cindy and Beth, I want you three to get some sleep right after this and be awake and ready to help me again around ten AM.   Michelle and Jennifer, I want you guys to keep things going here and take care of them in case anyone comes around.   Cheryl is asleep for now, let her sleep until she awakes on her own; I might need her later too.   Kristi and Brandi, you and I have work to do, so go ahead and get everything out of the briefcase and get everything we need to fight with together.”  

Sarah smiled to herself as she considered what she and Cheryl discussed and decided to bring in Michelle on their little secret when she had a chance.   She was not about to let Wes go into this kind of danger without more help.   Wes missed her little smile as he was looking at Kristi and Brandi, but Michelle and Beth saw it and wondered what she was up to.   She did not like this situation one bit, and the thought of anything happening to Wes frightened her.   But she knew that the other girls would be worried if she let her fears show through, and she needed for them to be strong, too, just as Wes did. 

Wes looked around, all the girls seemed satisfied with their tasks, and everyone looked a little nervous but ready to go.   Which was good enough for now, he decided.  

“One more thing, Beth and Sarah, you two know what to do if things don’t go well.  I trust you all to take care of everyone in that case.   Sarah, walk with me a bit.”

Wes and Sarah left the room and walked outside on the deck.   Sarah held his hand, and tried to keep the fear she felt for him from showing.  The events of yesterday preyed on her thoughts and she and Cheryl had discussed them for a while after Wes had left the room.   They had come up with a plan to help him.

She knew what Wes would be facing today was extremely dangerous, and she also felt guilty and angry about Barbara's fate.   She knew now that it was possible that Barbara was dead, or worse, and she could only hope that Wes could save the woman who had put her life on the line for them.  

Wes turned to her, looking very resigned. “Sarah, I want you to do something for me.   If anything happens, and I don’t come back, I need you to hold everyone together until they are able to go on without me.  You and Beth can run things as well as I can; just keep them all safe and secure if you can.   Jones wants me; you guys are not important to him except as a means to get at me. So if I lose, you shouldn’t be bothered.  You and Cheryl, with Emily’s empathy, should be able to restore Sabrina to normal again, and hopefully you can do the same for the other three we rescued.   But if you can’t, take care of them afterward; you will have all the money and resources you need for that.   Just make sure no one ever finds out what really happens, or the Auditors will come.”

Sarah, her fears brought into the open, fought back tears, clutched him close and kissed him fiercely.   “I will” she managed to whisper, her throat tight with emotion, “I will do anything -everything- for you.   But damn it, Wes, you are coming back to me.   To all of us.” She smiled bravely and they kissed once more.

A few minutes later, Wes, Brandi, and Kristi drove away, down Pacific Coast Highway into the indigo predawn twilight toward San Luis Obispo and a showdown with Jones.    All the other girls watched them from the deck as they drove away.    Sarah, dry-eyed now, watched stoically knowing that the others, except maybe the sleeping Cheryl, had no idea how dangerous things were really going to be for Wes.   As soon as the car was out of sight, she took Beth and Michelle aside, and they began a whispered conversation after Jennifer and Cindy went back into the house.  



Chapter 11:  Move and Countermove

Brandi drove, while Kristi and Wes planned as they arrived into San Luis Obispo a couple of hours later just as the sun was finally up.   It was a typical California day, brilliantly sunny and cool on the coast, but the mood of the three was not upbeat.   Wes smoked as he talked, while Kristi nervously held his hand.   They pulled into town and drove over to the estate where Tom used to live.   The well-heeled and expensive subdivision was quiet this early on a Saturday morning, with only a couple of joggers in sight.   They drove by the ruins of Tom’s home, and saw the police crime scene tap surrounding the yard, the wreckage of the house and garage, the debris charred and strewn about the yard.   Wes cursed under his breath, and they drove by without stopping.  

A few minutes later they pulled into the hotel parking lot and stopped.   The long drive down had given them enough time to plan, and now they were ready.   The two that stepped out of the car looked nothing like their normal selves now, as both had magically altered their appearances with different hair styles and color, some changes in height or weight; Kristi no longer looked quite so perfect, merely pretty instead of breathtakingly beautiful.   They got out of the car and walked into the lobby, passing by the dress shop.   Brandi then drove off toward Morro Bay to get things ready there.  

As they walked by the closed store, Wes suddenly stopped.   Something about the mannequins troubled him, and he took a moment to check the posed display figures for any signs of magic.   Sure enough, one glowed slightly and he recognized that she had been altered slightly, but the other mannequin glowed brightly of magic to his trained eye and the powers of the spell he had cast.   Casting another divining spell upon her still body, he determined that this had once been a living person, and that person could never be restored to life because her manna had been completely drained away.   Wes cursed to himself again, recognizing that Jones must have sucked her life energy from her, much like using a battery, and nothing now remained.   She was nothing more than a beautiful, but empty, shell.

“Nothing I can do about the poor girl now,” he thought with anger, “just will have to add her demise to his bill to be paid, in full.”

Kristi noticed him stop in front of the display and waited patiently.   She looked at him curiously, and he nodded. “This one was another victim of Jones' evil, and there is nothing we can do for her, either.”   

She paled, swallowed, and they moved on to the restaurant. 

The pair sat down and ate, taking their time and letting over an hour pass as they waited and chatted.   Wes figured that at least Baldwin’s assistants or guards might show up here, maybe even Jones himself; the pictures and other information Beth and Cindy had obtained from the computer download yesterday would allow him to spot their enemies before they were spotted by them. 

Baldwin woke up around eight AM, hours later than was his habit, but it had been a long night.   He was hungry, and he decided that he and his assistant, along with a couple of bodyguards, needed to get out of the room for a bit of fresh air and maybe a bite to eat.

“There is no way anybody is going to find us here, even Jones thinks its safe here, or he wouldn’t have brought us,”  he decided.   “It won’t hurt to go get something to eat at the restaurant.”

Sending one of his guards, Bruce, to let Jones know where they were going, Baldwin and his three henchment went first to the lobby, then into the restaurant.

Wes spotted them as soon as they came in.   He couldn’t believe his luck.   He figured that Jones would have at least have insisted that Baldwin stay in his room.   He had just about decided to proceed with the primary plan when they just ambled on in, like sitting ducks. 

Kristi spotted them as well, and after glancing at Wes and getting a nod, she went to the bathroom so she could become invisible without being observed and causing a stir.    Wes checked his pocket with his hand, and felt his wand and pocket watch, just to make sure.   Picking up the bill, trying to act casualyy, he paid the check, left a big tip, and then walked outside to have another cigarette.  

Baldwin never noticed Wes in the disguise, and he and his henchmen quickly ordered and waited for their food.

Jones received the knock on his door with ill grace.   He was tired still, with only a few hours sleep, and he was beginning to think he might need to find someone to recharge from.   He let the thug inside, listened to the explanation of where Baldwin had gone, and asked him to wait as he went to the bathroom, thinking about how foolish his employer was being.   “Going into the public, what an fool! It's possible that Wes could have traced us here,” he speculated correctly. 

Well, he needed to recharge now, he decided.   The bodyguard Bruce was looking out the window and wasn’t paying much attention when suddenly he felt decidedly odd.    Then blackness took him and he felt no more.   Jones walked over to the now still and lifeless plastic form on the bed, picked up the mannequin that used to be Bruce, then sent it somewhere else with a quick spell.   A store in the mall he had visited a couple of days ago would suddenly have a new male mannequin in its men’s department.   He felt the surge of energy now available to him and smiled. 

A few minutes later, Kristi was quietly walking shadow behind Baldwin and his henchman down the hall.  She was invisible now, her feet silent on the deep carpet; they never noticed her presence as they walked toward their room.  They stopped as Jones walked up the hall to greet them.   With that, she fingered a little charm bracelet, alerting Wes to begin making his move. 

Jones felt something unusual in the vicinity, and pulled out a pair of special glasses to replace the ones he was wearing.   He immediately saw the outline of a girl standing behind Baldwin, the faint aura of magic showing where an invisibility spell was active.   Some defensive magic emanated from a locket she was wearing as well; clearly she was well prepared and seemed protected.   He also realized that she was unaware that he had seen her, so he pretended he hadn’t as he ushered Baldwin and the bodyguards back to the room. 

Just as Baldwin and his henchman walked into the room, Jones suddenly opened the door again and cast a transformation spell blindly into the hallway.   Kristi was right in the middle of noting the room number when the door suddenly reopened and she saw Jones.   She realized instantly -but too late- that she had been spotted, and as she was reaching up to touch her charm to teleport away, the spell hit her full force.   A blue light engulfed her body, and she had only a moment to react before she immediately felt heavy, unable to move.   A moment later, she fell backward woodenly, as pain and lust rushed through her; the invisibility and disguise spells that were protecting her were stripped away.    She couldn’t move a muscle; Kristi could only watch helplessly as Jones walked over and pulled her into the room. 

Jones looked at her closely, and then cast a spell, and the locket around her neck flared into a bright orange glare then vanished, leaving only some melted silver droplets to fall on the floor.   He was impressed; apparently Wes had good taste in his assistants, and she would make excellent fuel for his needs.    He reached over to kiss her essence away.   Within her rigid body Kristi cried out in horror inside her mind as the locket was destroyed, and looked on in helpless and terrified amazement as he reached over and kissed her.  

She felt his magic power surge into her, overwhelm her; then she suddenly began to feel weaker.   She tried to fight, but was helpless and could only scream inside her mind as she felt herself slipping away.   Her eyes lost their focus and gradually a weary blackness swept her into oblivion.  Her last thoughts were "Oh, bother..." then Blackness took her; she lost consciousness as she completed her transformation.

Baldwin and his henchmen watched in horror and fascination as Jones kissed the paralyzed beautiful woman, and she gradually changed into soft plastic.   Charlie and Baldwin had both seen his work before, but one of the henchmen, Rick, went into the bathroom and began to throw up.   The others watched as her bright blue eyes became glassy, while her perfect figure and skin took on a glossy smooth appearance.   Her limbs stiffened and her face fixed into a blank smile as she transformed.  Within a moment, she had taken the appearance of a Real Doll, a perfect sex toy.   No longer able to stand upright, the loose figure slipped to the floor when he finished transforming her.  But this time, unlike Pam and Sabrina, but sharing the fate of Barbara and Valerie, Kristi was dead inside.   Her life force had been stolen away, and only beautiful but now permanently lifeless form left behind, almost in mockery of her former vivacious self. 

Jones left her limp and lifeless body on the floor, staring at the ceiling, then looked at Baldwin.   “He will be coming now, so we need to go.”

Baldwin and his two assistants gaped at the girl, now a rubber, plastic and latex doll, in disbelief, stunned by how fast she had appeared and been transformed.   Baldwin quickly recovered, and ordered his subordinates to grab bags as well as his and to move quickly.  Charlie tapped the shoulder of the sickened Rick, who wiped his mouth with his hand and followed them out, shaken and horrified.  Seeing the transformed girl lying discarded on the floor, he could not take his eyes off from her.   She was so beautiful, even as a plastic doll.

“Where are we going Jones?” Baldwin asked. 

“I think it's time to take the offensive.   I suggest we go to the temp office that sent the spy, as a first stop,” Jones replied evenly. 

They moved out of the room in quick strides. "What about her?" Rick asked.

"Leave her remains there, as a warning," Jones said with finality.


Meanwhile, Wes was moving quickly.   Striding down the hall, now disguised as a short Mexican janitor in hotel uniform, he moved quickly.   Stopping a moment to cast a couple of protective spells, he reached the room just after Jones and Baldwin and the others disappeared around the far corner.   He quickly saw with his enhanced sight that Kristi was not in the hall, but the after affects of a powerful spell were lingering there.   A quick entry spell on the door, and he walked in to find the life-sized doll that was now Kristi lying still on the floor, her protective locket missing except for its melted chain. 

Quickly scanning her, he determined that she was gone, her life force sucked away.    Anger filled him, and now he hated Jones deeply.

“You bastard! I will destroy you utterly — as if you had never been, you son of a bitch.”  Tears welled in his eyes for a moment.

He bent down and cradled her lifeless body in his arms. “Oh Kristi, I've failed you, my dear love.”  Her lifeless eyes stared up at him, reflecting the light, while a blank smile was fixed on her gorgeous face.  “I will get him for this; forgive me, wherever you are now.”   His tears fell on her face and he choked back more.   Picking her up, her hugged her close, then set her on the bed.   Looking at her one last time, he sighed and then cast another spell which shrank her plastic body down to a portable doll size, and he placed it in the briefcase he carried.   It was time to move out for him as well.   There were things to do and scores to settle. He stepped out of the room and raced to the parking lot. 

Jones and Baldwin, with the three others, quickly got in their car and drove away.     Wes got outside just in time to watch them escape the parking lot at a fast speed.  They had a head start.

“Damn it, chasing them isn’t going to work. They may be expecting that. I need to find out if they said anything in the room,” he muttered to himself.

Moving quickly back to their now empty room, he stood in the center of the room and cast another spell.   After a moment, he began to hear the last few minutes of conversation play back in his mind.   Noting the lingering traces of the dimensional doorway Jones had used to reach Tom’s house, he then quickly drew a circle on the floor of the bathroom. 

After a moment, he muttered a spell and teleported home.  He knew that his last spell would cover up all evidence that he had been there and in some ways be a little send off for Kristi’s spirit.  A few moments after he was gone, the room suddenly burst into flames and fire alarms went off throughout the hotel, while guests and staff hurriedly left while the blaze was contained by the sprinklers.

Wes reappeared in the study of his home in Morro Bay and quickly strode out of the house toward his strip mall a few hundred yards away.   Brandi was waiting for him, and she looked relieved when he appeared, followed by concern when Kristi wasn't with him.   Giving her a quick kiss, he had her grab a couple of things, and follow him.  He knew that he had maybe twenty minutes before they could get here and he needed to take up a good ambush position.    Luckily, all of the employees of the hair salon, staff office, medical clinic and fashion store were gone, and the little restaurant didn’t open until lunch time.   No one was around to get in the way or become potential hostages or victims. Or, he thought grimly, be used as an energy source by the evil wizard.

It was approaching nine in the morning, and now he needed the help of some of the other girls.  He picked up the phone and called the safe house.   Michelle answered the phone, her voice sounding innocent and sweet to him.

“Michelle, get Beth for me.” He ordered urgently.   Michelle walked into the guest room and roused her, then Sarah.   Within a moment, Beth was on the phone.

“Beth, its time to get to work.   You and Cindy get on the computer and start moving on your end, and have Michelle wake up Cheryl.   I will probably need her soon.   Get Sarah up and have her make sure everyone has their lockets on.   I will be summoning her to me in just a few minutes. 

Sarah and Beth looked at each other as they heard him speak, hearing the edge in his voice and the hint of pain deep down. Something terrible had happened.   Sarah nodded, and began to dress while Beth and Michelle looked at her anxiously.   They weren’t sure about her idea and plan, but they felt that she was right.   He would need more help than he was asking for. 

A few minutes later, Wes summoned Sarah, who appeared in a circle he had previously set up for just such an emergency in a little stand of trees.   She was dressed for action, wearing boots, jeans and a tee shirt, and had a windbreaker for the cool breeze.   The coastal fog had moved above ground level, but the air was still gloomy under the low misty gray clouds.   Sounds were muted and it was still early on a Saturday, so traffic was light on the street near the strip center.

Wes had Sarah cast a few spells to prepare the area for the coming fight, then in spite of her protests, he ordered her to teleport home.   Sarah was angry, she thought to herself that Wes needed her here, how was she going to stand with him if she wasn’t around?     He sensed her thoughts, or guessed at her emotional turmoil.

“Look honey, I can’t protect you and Brandi and take these bad guys down at the same time.   And you just did your part, you won’t be able to do anything else until you recover from everything you have done so far,” he said reasonably.   “I've lost Kristi, her life force was sucked away by Jones; the locket didn't protect her.   I can’t lose any more of you to this fiend.” 

Brandi and Sarah looked at him, horrified.  They could see the pain and anger in his eyes.   Their close friend, someone who was practically their sister, Kristi, was dead!?       

Sarah realized that arguing with him would just make things harder, and she decided that she was going through with her plan anyway.  The shock of what he said was awful, but she struggled to put it away for now.  It felt wrong for her to leave.   But she had to. Speechless, she nodded, and then she kissed him, hugged Brandi, and then stepped into the circle.   A moment later she was gone.

“Ok Brandi, I want you to stay here.  If anything goes wrong, I may need help in a hurry.   I've cast a misdirection spell on this circle. Jones will not be able to find you here, but I can.   You will be able to see everything happening in this crystal ball.   Just think about seeing me and you will.  If he takes me out, and you can recover my body safely, take me home afterwards.   Otherwise, if I get him, I will call your name when I want you with me.” 

Brandi looked at him long and hard, then nodded as she fought to keep her composure.   She was scared, mostly for him, but a little bit about the coming fight as well.   Kristi had been strong, stronger than herself, and she was gone. She envied Sarah, who she knew was tougher than her emotionally, and she hoped she could do everything that was needed.  She grieved for Kristi and worried about him now, and, and as she watched him walk away, she cried for him and Kristi both. 

Back at the safe house, Sarah appeared.   She felt the shock, grief and exhaustion weighing her down, along with effort of the spells she had cast. That combined with the little sleep she had the night before was wearing on her too.   Cheryl and Jennifer quickly moved to her as she stumbled forward and kept her from falling.

“He is so stubborn, he sent me home after he had me do some spells.   But I think he will need more help Cheryl.  Just like we talked about.   I don’t think Brandi is up to this,” she said, her voice ragged with fatigue.  "Kristi certainly wasn't!"

Michelle asked, “Where is Kristi, anyway? She is pretty good, his favorite when it comes to magic.”

Sarah looked at the women, and the tears she was fighting back escaped at last.  “Kristi is dead dead; Jones killed her somehow in San Luis Obispo.   Wes didn’t say how, but it must have been something he couldn’t have stopped.”

Cheryl shook off the shock and thought to herself, “Sarah was right, like always; I need to be there.”   She was afraid, but she knew she had to be there.  She was impressed about how well Sarah thought through things this morning, and she knew that the little plan she and Sarah had come up with was the right thing to do now.    She had sufficient power to maybe help him, and she couldn’t stay here, just sitting around waiting for the fight to play out. 

Michelle was shocked to her core.  She had known Kristi for years, working with her at the strip joint, and then for the time here with Wes when they were both his favorite dolls.  For her to be dead, just like that, was awful.   She wanted to go too, but she knew she could only transport one person.   And as much as she hated to admit it, Cheryl would be more helpful there than she would.   She looked over at Sarah, and said, “You were right, he will need us won’t he?”   Sarah nodded, slowly.

Looking over at Jennifer, then Sarah.  “Can you put her to bed?”

Jennifer nodded in agreement.   Michelle walked over to Cheryl.

“What are you thinking, Cheryl?” She asked, but she already knew.

“I need you to send me there; can you do it, Michelle?”

Michelle knew she had just enough knowledge to do that, and she knew it was the right thing to do, but wondered if she was strong enough in the magic force to accomplish the task. Botched transport spells were not pretty.  She could take care of Sarah, who would be all right after some rest and food, and Cheryl would be there to keep Brandi ok, and be there in case anything went wrong. 

Sarah saw what was going on, nodded at Cheryl and Michelle and gave them both a wan smile and decided that it was time for the girls to take the initiative.   They all hugged, then Cheryl stepped into the circle, and Michelle cast her spell.   As expected, she vanished into thin air with a barely audible 'pop'.   Just after Cheryl left, Michelle collapsed to the floor, faint from the sudden exhaustion caused by casting such a powerful spell all by herself.   Jennifer put both Sarah and Michelle in bed.   Sarah hugged her close, then kissed Michelle on the cheek.  

“She did good, didn’t she, Jennifer?”

“Yes, she did; you all did.   I wish I had done as well.   When did you and Cheryl decide all this?”

“Weeks ago, we knew that one day he would need us.   And we knew he wouldn’t think or want to ask.   After all, wizard or not, he is a man isn’t he?” She said with a slight but tired smile.

Jennifer, smiling back in agreement, covered her with a sheet.  

Picking up the cell phone, she called Brandi, and then sat down with two exhausted women, singing softly to them until they were in a deep sleep, then used the little magic she knew to place them into a restful dreamless slumber.   She thought about brave Kristi, and about Cheryl and Brandi were risking themselves with Wes.   Then she lay down to cry for a while. 

Meanwhile, unaware of how things were going, Beth and Cindy busily worked on the computer.    Bit by bit, they were shifting money and stock around, stealing from Baldwin using his very own passwords and accounts.   Soon, Baldwin would be a poor man, and Emily would be a much richer woman when she was awakened.   Beth got up for a few minutes, checked on Jennifer, Sarah and Michelle and saw that Jennifer was the only one left awake.  

“Did they do what they planned?” she asked anxiously.  Jennifer nodded, unable to speak, and Beth held her close.   Beth looked over at Sarah and Michelle, both peacefully asleep.   She looked at Jennifer, who was clearly terrified for everyone, and decided that she needed sleep too.   She cast a little spell, and gently laid the now sleeping Jennifer next to the others.   

“I will worry enough for all of us Jennifer; rest now, angel.”   She kissed Jennifer on the cheek.

Casting a look of respect and admiration at Michelle and Sarah, she blew them both a kiss and left the room.    It was time to continue working, and maybe, while she was busy, the waiting would be more bearable. 


Jones and Baldwin sat in the back of the Mercedes as it drove down Pacific One toward Morro Bay.   Charlie drove, while following behind in a pickup truck were the other two henchmen.  Baldwin was troubled, as he realized that Jones had done something to Bruce, just like he had done to the woman at the hotel, and he knew that Rick and John in the truck were bound to figure that out eventually.   As they got closure to the coast, the sunny day became overcast as the coastal fog blocked out the sun.   The air outside was becoming chillier as well.   Baldwin wondered if he had not made a huge mistake getting involved with Jones, but it was too late now. 

Jones carefully planned his next moves.   Clearly, the first step was to find out what he could at the Temp agency.   It was a Saturday, so it might be closed, but he could get in the door, and Charles could find out what he needed inside.   He needed to find out were Wes lived, and fast, because Wes could find him easier than he could find Wes at the moment.   Leaving the dead body of his apprentice back at the hotel had been a good idea, slowing pursuit, but Wes would be along soon enough. 

Thinking further though, Jones realized that Wes might have expected an ambush on the highway, and might even now be racing to meet them.   Jones chuckled inside as he realized that a duel at the temp agency was the most likely result of that.   He would use Rick and John for fuel or as shields as needed, while keeping Baldwin alive and Charlie available until he was no longer needed for his computer skills. 

In a few minutes, they pulled off the highway and into Morro Bay.  It was a picturesque little town, kind of like a New England fishing village transplanted to the California coast.   The big rock at the entrance of the bay was shrouded in fog, and the air was chilly and damp in spite of it being a midsummer’s day.  It was still early, not even ten AM yet, but tourists were starting to trickle in as people from the interior of the state rushed to the coast to escape the vicious July heat found elsewhere.

Jones realized that he would have to be careful, as too flashy a spell might create entirely too much attention, even if it did finish off Wes.   And covering it up would be all the more harder.   It remained vital to ensure that no undue attention resulted, as an intervention from the Auditors would be disastrous.   Magical explosions and strange light shows would be fun, but surely even the locals would notice that.   Unusual events like that were sure to bring the Auditors to investigate. 

Wes took a moment to look over at Morro Rock, the Gibraltar like rock at the entrance of the bay, from his vantage point.   The morning fog, created by the Alaskan current just off the coast, and the warm air from the baking heat of the interior of California, was just starting to lift.   It was still cool and damp, and he was ready now.   He had a nice over watch position that gave him a good view of the parking lot of the strip center below, his driveway leading up to the house, and a partial view of the grove of trees where Brandi was waiting.   The parking lot was still empty, and he knew that the first employees of the little grill would not arrive for at least an hour.   He expected Jones to show up any time now, and sure enough, he spotted a luxury car and a large pickup pulling into the parking lot below. 

Cheryl popped into the study at the house at that moment.   She looked around, and realized that Michelle had sent her to the house instead of the circle at the grove.   Such were the perils of using an inexperienced spellcaster, but at least she had arrived in one piece.  She would have to move quickly and carefully to reach the grove in time.   As she left the house, she stopped and grabbed her spell book and some other useful things from her room, placing them into a knapsack and slinging it over her shoulder. 

Brandi sat in the grove of trees, watching Wes intently on the crystal ball.   The cell phone rang, and she answered.   It was Jennifer.  “Brandi, Cheryl is on her way to see you.   Michelle sent her to the house, because Sarah and Cheryl thought that you and Wes could use some help.   Just in case.   Keep an eye out for her, ok?” Jennifer said in a rush.   Brandi was confused but happy to hear she wasn’t going to be alone.   She knew that Wes might be mad, but Cheryl and Sarah were pretty strong willed and they generally got him to change his mind when they really wanted him to.   Truth be told, she was terrified out here alone, and could use the company too.   

The sun burned through the fog just as the cars pulled to a stop in front of the temp agency office.   Jones smiled his bland smile as the car stopped.


Chapter 12: The Duel


Wes watched as both cars stopped and men began to get out.   He could see 'Jones' clearly for the first time, and immediately recognized him from encounters in the past when they both were in their own world.   Jones was a sorcerer, and was powerful.   However, he had fewer spells than Wes and was not as experienced or powerful.   But he was powerful enough to be a threat.   Wes was a wizard, and knew more spells, but some of his had ethical limitations that Jones' did not have.   As a result, they were unsettlingly well matched.   Luckily, he had loyal friends to help him, and he knew Jones did not.  

Wes, now invisible, drew a small doorway in the air, and popped out behind the truck.   All of the men were looking at entrace to the temp agency.   Jones, Baldwin and another man walked up to the door, while the two men in the truck waited around, watching for anyone to appear.   Wes watched as Jones opened the door to the locked office with a wave of his arms, and all three men walked in.   Wes smiled for the first time.   Taking a moment, he put both men outside to sleep, then quickly shrank both cars and pocketed them.  

Another quick spell, and both of the sleeping men where suddenly laying on a beach at the entrance of Morro Bay as a wave hit them both, awakening both men with a start as freezing cold water from the Pacific washed over them.   Both looked around, confused and disoriented, and then they fell to their knees as pain smashed them down.   They felt sick, and then fell into spasms, their bodies shifting and transforming.   Within a couple of minutes, two relatively small seals lay on the beach, the waves washing over them.   Their minds were panicked for a while, but as the shape of their new brains took over, they lost their ability to reason and think, and within a few minutes would be just another couple of seals lazing on the California coast.      

Wes quickly returned to his vantage point after drawing another door in the air, and waited for Jones to come back out.  

Baldwin, Jones and Charlie walked into the deserted office.   Everything was shut down, so Baldwin turned on the lights as Charlie turned on a computer at the desk marked by the nameplate “Sarah”.

Jones looked around for anything that looked promising on her desk, looking for a personal item so he could summon her.  He saw a hairbrush, with some hair on it and reached over to get it when he suddenly felt something, the ghost feeling he got when powerful magic was used in the vicinity and happened to glance out the window as the two men disappeared abruptly.

“He is outside,” Jones warned, and began striding toward the door, dropping the brush on the desk.

“Keep looking for information, Charlie,” Baldwin ordered as he walked to the window.   He was interested to see what Jones was talking about.   Baldwin stopped abruptly when he realized that both of the cars, and both Rick and John, were nowhere to be seen.   He knew he would have heard the cars drive off, so he was a little nonplused at seeing them gone.  

Jones walked outside, and felt a spell go off as Wes teleported back to his hiding spot.   He knew instantly that Wes had left the scene, and probably had them in view.   Jones quickly turned and ran back to the building.   He couldn’t go invisible, but he could make the weather work for him, he just needed a couple of minutes to do that.   The air was sufficiently moist that a little rain and more fog would be just the thing to conceal him some, while making it harder for Wes to stay invisible.  

“Watch the door, Baldwin,” Jones instructed as he ran inside. “If it opens, tell me instantly.”

Baldwin was confused, but turned to watch the door.   How could it open without someone there to open it?

“He is out there all right; I just can’t see him yet.  I need to make a couple of things happen to make it easier for us to hide out and harder for him to be hidden.”

Brandi watched all this on the crystal ball, feeling useless, and wondered what would happen next.   She heard a twig snap, and looked quickly, her heart racing, fearing she was about to be turned into a statue or something worse.   Just then, Cheryl walked out of the trees, looking a little sheepish for making so much noise.   She pulled a wand out of the pack and gave it to Brandi, who took it and nodded.

“What’s going on?” Cheryl whispered. 

“Its started, Wes just took out their cars and two of the bodyguards, it looks like,” Brandi replied.  Cheryl smiled.  Both gave each other a hug, then turned to watch the events shown in the ball some more. 

Wes reappeared at his vantage point, and his vision cleared just as Jones came outside and gestured quickly, casting something.   Wes quickly began his own spell, but Jones dashed inside before he could complete it. 

“Damn; I just wasted a spell,” Wes cursed to himself.  “Oh well, at least I still have the energy available.”

Wes figured that they would be trying to get the computer up now, so it was time to take care of the electricity.   A quick spell, and a transformer that supplied the electricity to his twenty acre estate, plus the strip center and a gas station down the street, exploded with a loud bang.   The lights flickered out.

The fog, which had burned away sufficiently for the sun to come out, suddenly began to strengthen and sink back down to the ground.   It was become cooler, and noticeably damper and after another minute or so, it began to drizzle.   “That’s odd,” Wes thought, then he checked for a magical cause, and sure enough, the weather had been altered.  “Clever, Jones;so much for invisibility spells,”  he muttered. 

Wes took a minute to picture Kim’s hair salon in his head, fixing its location clearly in mind, then teleported himself there.  

Inside the temp agency, the men heard a loud bang outside and suddenly the lights went out, and Charlie cursed.  Jones looked out the window as he completed his spell and he could see the fog begin to strengthen and knew that his first effort had paid off.   Jones smiled as it began to rain. 

Meanwhile Charlie cursed some more.  “Damn it, I had just found her address book too; she lives just up the hill at the house above us, looks like.   There were some other names, too, and before it went dark, it seemed like they all had the same address.” He pointed up.

Baldwin looked over at Charlie, then Jones.   “Bingo!  Does this Wes guy have a staff or something?”

"Or a harem..." Jones shrugged then added, “Well, we now know were to look, don’t we?”

The men stepped out of the office and turned on the covered porch towards the end closest to the driveway they had spotted when they pulled in.   It was a couple of hundred yards or more directly up the hill to a large house perched on the crest, and would take them a few minutes to walk it Baldwin decided.   He pulled out a gun, and so did Charlie.   Both had large revolvers, and both pulled the hammers back to prepare them to shoot.   Jones looked at them, then the pistols, and with his bland smile managed to make them both realize how potentially useless these weapons were against wizards.   But, being armed made them feel better. 

Wes was watching out the window of Kim’s shop as the men stepped out of the office next door and, turning their backs to him, started walking towards his driveway.   He quickly walked to the back of the shop, pulled out a cloak and some soft high boots from his pocket, which otherwise looked like it was way too small of a pocket to hold anything so big, and pulled the cloak on and put on the boots, leaving his sneakers in the shop.   Wes stepped out the back, closed the door carefully, and began walking as quietly as he could along the back of the center.   The gray hooded cloak helped in blending into the fog and gray paint of the back of the building and to most observers he would have been almost invisible anyway.  

He stopped just before reaching the end of the building, and waited for the men to come around on the drive a few feet below and out from the grass lawn separating the strip center from the driveway.    Momentarily, he considered using his time stop spell, but decided that Jones would just ignore it, and Brandi wouldn’t be able to help him at all if she was frozen in time too.    Maybe later, if needed. 

Jones turned the corner first, and carefully looked all around.   The fog was rather dense now; it and the rain made visibility impossible beyond a few feet, except for his special sorcerer's sight. 

Unless Wes was within a few feet, he would not be able to see them from any vantage points he had above. Cautiously, they walked out onto the drive and began trudging up the hill, not noticing the gray-cloaked shape crouching behind a dumpster.  

Wes watched them pass, and then he quietly slipped in behind them.    Jones was in front, with Baldwin right up next to him.  But the third man was trailing a bit, and was clearly barely able to see the others.   Wes continued to walk behind them as they went up one switchback, then another.  He knew it would be another ten or so minutes at this pace before they reached his house.  

They hit a denser patch of fog, and Charlie momentarily lost sight of Jones and Baldwin.   As he was about to speak, he felt something wet and plastic-smooth touch his cheek.   Instantly he felt strange.   A warm fuzziness crept through him, and he couldn’t move.  He suddenly felt somehow empty -hollow- inside; then as his eyes glazed over and he faded into unconsciousness he felt a massive surge of peacefulness overwhelm him as he slid into the infinite.  

Wes tapped Charlie on the head, felt the hard plastic of the assistant's now mannequinized body, and stepped off the drive to the right.   Another one out of the fight, he reckoned, and one who could be questioned carefully later.  

Jones suddenly felt another spell going off behind him, and turned suddenly.   He could see Charlie transforming into a plastic statue, and quickly began a spell as he saw Wes move into the trees. 

Cheryl, watching the scene in the crystal ball, suddenly realized that Jones could see Wes.   She picked up the cell phone and hit the speed call.   Brandi realized they were just below the pair, and she dashed quickly to a spot were she could see what she wanted to do.

Things happened quickly from that point on.   Wes felt the buzz of the cell phone as it vibrated at his side; he picked it up to listen.   Jones was just letting go a spell when Brandi’s smaller but less complex spell hit the tree just next to the drive between him and Wes.   The tree cracked with a loud bang at the base of its trunk and began to fall.   Wes saw the tree falling out of the corner of his eye, then saw Jones staring directly at him and preparing a spell; he quickly jumped to the side.   Jones lost his concentration for a moment as a branch of the tree hit him as it fell, knocking him askew just as he was completing the incantation.  

The full force of his spell went off, but since he lost his concentration for a moment, the focus of the magical energy shifted and Baldwin, firing his gun in the direction of where Jones was pointing, mistakenly stepped in the way.

A blinding green wave of energy engulfed the industrialist, and pain and strangeness filled him.   Baldwin fell to the ground, twitching and moaning.    The green energy surrounded him, and then faded.   A few seconds later, a relining statue of sandstone was all that remained of Baldwin, while inside his mind, the phrase repeated over and over: “You are a rock, just a rock; nothing but a garden decoration.   Forget what you were, for this is what you will be.  Forever. You are a rock. . .”  Inside his mind, Baldwin screamed and fought the voice, but gradually lost the battle and slid into passiveness.  He became a rock.

Jones cursed as he saw the spell consume Baldwin.   “Damn it, I knew that man was a stone fool.”    However, the shot that Baldwin had fired continued straight and true, reaching its target a fraction of a second later.

Wes felt a burning pain in his side as a heavy bullet from the 357 magnum grazed his ribs.   He knew that at least one was broken, and he felt the blood trickle down his shirt.   “Damn; a lucky fucking shot,” he cursed.   He had to move though, because apparently Jones could see him.   Twisting a ring, he suddenly disappeared, and was instantly standing in the circle next to... Cheryl.   ”What are you doing here, damn it,” he whispered, pain clearly written on his face.

“Trying to save your miserable life, damn it; don’t you know we all love you too much to lose you?” She replied as she ripped open a gauze bandage, pulled open his cloak, and ripped his torn shirt to get at the wound. Her triage training as a nurse took over and she was relieved to see no vital organs had been hit. First priority was to stop the bleeding. She stuffed a wad of bandage in the wound and started to wrap his torso.

Wes grimaced, and asked, “Where is Brandi?”   They both turned and realized she wasn’t by the crystal ball and both looked in unison towards the road. 

Jones glanced up at the same instant and saw Brandi looking at the fallen tree below her, swaying with fatigue.   He smiled, and cast another spell.   Instantly, Brandi stopped moving and seemed rooted in place.    Jones walked up the slope to her.

“My, aren’t you a prize?” He said, looking her over appraisingly.   The motionless young woman was indeed beautiful; perfectly so.  He knew now whom he faced, because he remembered there was another man -a wizard too- from the home world who liked to collect women and 'improve' them, before setting them free eventually.   So, he concluded, that guy is Wes.  If this lovely lady was an example of his handiwork, then there might be more prizes to be won.   

Time to have fun with her later, assuming that he won, he thought, but for now just get her out of the fight.  Yanking off her protective locket, he stepped back from Brandi, who remained frozen.   He cast another spell, and a wave of energy engulfed her.   She could only watch as she felt the wave of the spell engulf her.   Pain and pleasure overwhelmed her mind, and a voice inside her head demanded that she remember only: “You are a trophy; a beautiful trophy, and will remain a showpiece always.”  She tried to fight it, but her mind gradually lost itself and was overwhelmed.   Within a few minutes, her mind was convinced that the voice was right.  

Jones watched appreciatively as the spell overwhelmed her, taking a moment to enjoy her transformation from a living and vital woman into a perfect ivory statue.   Her skin paled, then became reflective and hardened, while her eyes glazed, then a film covered them before they became just orbs of white along with the rest of her.   Her beautiful hair changed to individual strands of ivory, breathtakingly beautiful, while her red lips faded into white.   Her clothes fueled the spell and disintegrated, leaving her an astonishingly beautiful nude statue of ivory, glistening as the damp drizzle fell on her. 

Cheryl, busily dressing the wound and casting a quick spell to knit the damage, missed seeing this turn of events on the crystal ball.   But Wes saw and anger surged through him.   Another one of his girls, attacked and injured by this man, and he had failed to stop it.    But he had to wait another few moments for Cheryl to finish healing him if he wanted to still fight.   Cheryl concentrated, tears in her eyes, on healing him.   Wes realized that the gunshot wound had surprised him, and almost ended the duel.   Unbelievable luck by Baldwin, who, it would seem, would not be around to enjoy it.   “Taken out by his own sorcerer, isn’t that ironic?” He thought to himself.  Cheryl had finished her task, and looked back up at him.  

“This should do for now; go get that bastard, would you please,” she said, anger and anguish etched on her face. 

Wes looked at her. “It's ok, she isn’t dead; I can do something for her soon enough.”   Watching her questioning look, he explained. “He did something different to Kristi, so I know that Brandi will be ok after I kill him and have the chance to restore her.”

Cheryl smiled back wanly.   She could feel his fatigue, and the pain was obviously going to be a problem.   Summoning all of her reserves, she healed the wound with a spell, and then with another spell restored some of his energy.   She sagged in fatigue when she was done, but Wes helped her pull a little bottle from her pack, and she drank it.   Within moments, she was feeling fresh again, although she knew that she could only do one or two more spells now unless she got some real sleep. 

“Wait here, my love,” Wes said, kissing her deeply, which she returned tenderly, he got up and left her.  “Time to end this.”

Below them, a few yards away, Jones looked around.   The battle had taken its toll.   He could see the plastic mannequin that used to be Charlie, standing with a surprised expression on his rigid face a few yards down the drive.   The stone statue that used to be Baldwin lay on the ground, its face showing the surprise, pain and shock of its transformation.   A beautiful stone statue of a nude woman, Brandi, was nearby, her face showing surprise and shock as well.   He looked around with his mystic sight, looking for traces of Wes.   He figured that transforming another of 'his' girls should bring him along shortly.   He leered at her posed a few yards away, grinned, and walked over to Baldwin, intent on changing him back to human. 

Then Jones heard Wes’s voice a few yards uphill, turned toward the sound and said to himself, “Yes, it is time to finish this.  My way.”



Chapter 13: Only One Remains


The fog lifted a bit as the amount of moisture in the air lessened after raining for several minutes.   Wes and Jones could now see each other, standing less than 50 yards apart.   Cheryl, safely in the magic circle of the grove, could not be seen by Jones; she quickly summoned Brandi to her side, figuring that a immovable statue was definitely not a good thing to be during a wizards duel.   

Both men quickly released short little spells almost as one.   A blazing bolt of lightening smashed into Wes, while a storm of ice smashed into Jones.   Both men should have fallen, but a faint invisible wall could just be seen around each of them and neither was injured.   Anger filled them both now, and for a few minutes, they attacked each other with blue lightening and waves of ice.   A few cracks of thunder were heard throughout the area, and locals in the town looked up and scratched their heads.  

Several trees had been blasted to pieces by lightning, while several birds and a couple of squirrels now lay frozen solid by the spillover and splash from the spells.   The two men were surrounded by globes of purple energy, and spells smashed against them only to be turned away like the ocean waves crashing against Morro Rock a couple of thousand yards away.    One blast of fire, splashing away from Jones, engulfed the mannequin that was Charlie, leaving just a pool of melted black plastic residue in its place.   Another spell hit a tree, which fell towards the road, smashing directly into the statue that was Baldwin, knocking off both of its arms and the left leg. 

Eventually, after several minutes, both men, now much more tired, regained control of themselves and began to think more clearly.

Jones realized that a direct attack was not working.   Something different was needed. He threw another lightening bolt at a tree near Wes, which began to topple.   Wes realized the same, and drew another doorway in the air and stepped through it, reappearing an instant later a few yards away and now behind Jones.   The tree fell with a crash, but not the expected crushing blow; Jones turned quickly, looking for Wes.  

Wes could see Jones clearly now, and pulled one of the little cars from his pocket.   Protected as the other wizard was, direct spells were not working, but something different just might.   He threw the car, uttering a rapid command as he did so.    Jones turned as he felt the spell go off, just in time to see a little toy car change in mid-flight back into its original form of a two-ton pickup truck headed straight at him.

Jones fired a spell, and the truck disintegrated into dust in mid-flight.  The dust was quickly dissipated by the light breeze now blowing in from the ocean.   Wes cursed, then pulled out the other little car in his pocket and threw it too, conjuring it back to normal size.

Cheryl, watching in the crystal ball, ran to the edge of the grove.   She could just see Jones, and could see him casting another spell.   She fired off a quick spell of her own, and suddenly the ground at his feet became sodden and soaked with water.  Jones slipped just as he was casting another disintegration spell at the approaching car.   A tree disappeared in a cloud of dust instead, and the Mercedes landed just as he tried to jump out of the way.   But not fast enough, and his right leg was pinned beneath the left front tire.  Jones felt the agony of his leg snap under the weight of the car as it shattered his bones in his lower leg.   He fell face first into the ground, mud getting on his glasses, already wet with the rain.  

Both men were now approaching exhaustion, as they had cast many powerful spells.   But the anger each of them felt for the other forced them on.   Jones, with a mighty effort and another spell, managed to raise the car off of his leg but could not make it disappear.   He stood up, spitting out mud from his mouth, looking around quickly for Wes.    Wes, meanwhile, had moved closer and was almost within touching range.   Taking a moment when Jones was dealing with the car, Wes uttered another spell and suddenly Jones no longer had his protection.   The purple energy field surrounding Jones evaporated, and was replaced immediately by something that looked just like it, but wasn't.   Wes grinned slightly, as he knew Jones would be convinced he was still being protected, for just long enough.

Jones spoke directly to Wes for the first time.  “Why not end this, you and I,” he said, smiling blandly. “You and I don’t need to fight, for both of us no longer have competing business men to work for.” 

Looking down toward the drive, at the shattered statue the was Baldwin, Jones continued, “Mine is clearly in no position to argue, and neither is yours, as I recall.”

Wes just stared daggers at him, and stepped forward.   “You turned this into something personal, Jones, and that's how I'm going to end it.”

Jones knew the final moment had come, but why not try one more distraction, he thought.   “After all, are we not so different you and I; we are both strangers here, and we both find the female natives most enchanting in our own different ways.   Why not end this disagreement and agree to coexist?”

"Never!"  Wes reached over, and to the complete shock of Jones, the little glass doll in his hand actually came through his magic defenses and touched his skin.   Jones cast his last spell too, using up his remaining energy, both enchantments went off simultaneously.

A powerful wave of energy engulfed Wes, and he felt waves of magic battering him.  He fell back to the ground, fighting its effects mentally.    At the same instant, Jones stopped moving; his face, with a look of shock, ceased to move.   A wave of golden energy surrounded him as well.

Cheryl, summoning every last bit of her own strength, dashed down the hill the few yards to Wes, watching Jones as she moved.   She saw him change.   The energy forced his features and body into a different shape.   He was changing, morphing into glass as she watched.   In fact, he was changing into an exact replica of the little glass doll that Wes kept around.   She turned to Wes, and throwing all of her energy into it, she cast a spell that she had learned on her own and never told him of.   A spell of redirection.   The black energy that was encircling Wes shifted, and she saw it leave him.    Then she realized it was going to engulf her and she took her last moment to look at Wes one more time, then at Jones. 

Jones had now completed his transformation, and was a laying on the ground, unable to stand.   His upper body was now hardening, his skin changing color and composition and becoming clear as it changed into crystal.   She turned one more time toward Wes, looking at him, her love for him filling her heart, when the black energy engulfed her.    She had time for one last spoken “I love you Wes,” when she lost all consciousness.

Wes managed to look up just then.  Jones had almost gotten him that time, pain had engulfed him and in another moment and whatever Jones had cast would have broken through his defenses.   He knew he had not been able to stop it, somehow his defenses had either outlasted it or something else had happened.   He looked over at Jones and saw that his spell was almost done, the wave of energy was fading now, and a clear life-sized crystal statue had replaced the bland little man who was there before.   But then he heard Cheryl’s voice call out, her words of love suddenly cut off and he looked over to her.

Just in time to watch the energy engulf her and snuff out her voice.   In an instant, she froze, her skin turning a dull gray and Wes focused all of his remaining energy in a quick spell.   The black energy was engulfed in gold and Wes saw them combine just as he passed out from exhaustion and pain.

Wes awoke a few minutes later.   He was cold, wet, and exhausted to the bone.   But he was alive, and he decided that was definitely a start.   He lifted his head off the wet ground and looked around.   Cheryl stood frozen, a solid granite statue; but with his special sight could see that she still lived inside there.   His counter spell had at least prevented her death and hopefully she still had a mind left.   Getting up from the ground, he saw the crystal statue that used to be Jones lying on the ground.   Nearby, the statue of Baldwin, with his shattered leg and arms, lay on the ground too.   Staggering a little, he started walking toward them.   He needed food, and he needed the other girls to come back.   Then he needed rest.

But first, he needed to ensure that Jones was gone for good.   He walked over, picked up Baldwin’s gun, and fired all five remaining rounds at point-blank range, shattering the crystal statue that had been Jones a few minutes before.    The statue broke into hundreds of pieces, and Wes was waiting, his wand in his hand.   Only the head and chest remained intact, just as he hoped.   The hate he had been feeling welled up, the memory of Kristi as an empty lifeless toy stung in his mind and he chose then to bring the statue back to life.  

Jones awoke, and Wes was kneeling next to him, his face next to his.   He knew he was doomed now.   He tried to speak, and his voice came only weakly.   “Well, so you have won after all,”  Jones said, a bland smile on his face again.

Blood poured from the shattered body, pulsing from the shattered limbs and smashed abdomen.  Wes looked at him, his eyes full of hate and anger.  “Yes, I have won.   You are going to die now, and may your soul find its way to hell were it belongs.”

Within a moment, Jones was dead as his blood flowed and pooled around him.   His cold eyes stared at nothing and his bland smile remained fixed on his face.  

Wes spat on the body, and cast another spell, replacing the corpse of a man with a large patch of dead slime.   He watched as a gray cloud lifted from the slime, and he waited a moment.   Sure enough, a black man-shape appeared, and Wes shuddered.   The shape collected the cloud, then looked at Wes.   Swallowing his horror, he felt his hate and anger slip away and be replaced by a feeling almost like pity.

“Have the rules been followed adequately enough for you?” Wes asked, swallowing a little fear in his throat and feeling sweat run down his back.  

The shape nodded, and then disappeared, and with it, the fog cleared as well.    Sunlight illuminated the area, and Wes felt relief pour through him.

Wes stood up and staggered to the grove.  He reached into Cheryl’s pack and pulled out another vial, and a ring.   He drank the potion, and some vitality seeped back into him, enough to keep him going a while longer.    Then he walked over to Brandi, standing nude, a beautiful ivory statue with the rain dripping from her.   He twisted the ring, and touched her.  

Brandi awoke with a start as the effects of the petrification ended, and then snapped awake when he used the last spell on the ring to dispel the mind control placed on her.   She sighed in relief, grateful to be alive, and grabbed Wes in a huge hug.   They stood together for a long time, holding each other in relief, sadness and love.  



Chapter 14: A Tempting Offer


A few days later Emily and Cheryl sat out on the terrace, looking down at the timeless bay and sea.  

Sabrina, her daughter, was back home in LA now, convinced that she had been hurt in the fire that had killed her father.  She was with her boyfriend, her memory purged and modified to come up with a believable story about the death of her father and erasing all knowledge of Jones and her kidnapping.  

“You’re sure she will never remember any of this?” Emily asked.

“Yes, I am sure, Wes and I spent hours with her.” Cheryl replied with a reassuring smile.  “She will be fine, just the normal grief at losing her father, which is bad enough by itself at her age.” 

“And you’re sure the tampering you did at the hospital and police stations will hold up?” 

Cheryl looked over at her, and squeezed her hand.  “Yes, I’m sure. You can trust Cindy and Sarah with these things.   It will be fine and I handled the hospital.”

Emily thought about what had happened with her daughter.   Wes and Cheryl had spent hours with her after they returned her to normal.   A story had been created, where her father and three of men had been killed in the accidental explosion at the house, and Sabrina had been hit by debris while she was outside watering the yard.   Sabrina, hopefully, would remain convinced of this for the rest of her life, and would never remember her abduction by Jones.      

They looked down at the town below.   It was a clear afternoon, the fog having burned off early today, and they could just see the park about a mile below.   Sarah, Michelle, April, Vivian, Vanessa, Jennifer and Brandi were down at the park, along with Wes.   They were laying some flowers at the statue of Kristi.   A statue that actually WAS Kristi.   Nearby, two other statues, of the sales clerk Valerie and the secretary Barbara, were displayed as well.    The two women could just barely see their cars in the parking lot.  

“Jones really killed them like that?”

“Yes, the bastard did.”  Cheryl frowned, “Sarah was pretty upset about Barbara, and the other girls, well, they knew Kristi long before they came to be with Wes.” 

“Wes couldn’t do anything for them could he?”

“No, we brought them back to flesh, but they were dead.   Jones had sucked their life energy away.   The best way I can describe it is that, well, they suffered a massive brain embolism that destroyed most of the vessels in the brain when he sucked out their life force.” 

“What about their families, will they ever know what happened?”

Cheryl looked sad, and dried a tear.  “No, we can’t allow them to be identified.   How could we?  How can the fact that those two women were so completely changed in appearance instantly be explained?   No, better that they end up this way,”  she sighed, “better for us all that their memory remains alive.”

Cheryl stood up, and walked over to the rail, looking down at the park below. 

“We will always think about them, and I know Wes will never forget.   In the park, people will see them and admire their beauty, and maybe, their deaths won’t be a complete waste.”

Emily sighed as well, and thought about the three heroic women.   At least Kristi had known what had happened to her, although from what Beth had told her, Emily wasn’t sure that was a good thing either. 

Thankfully,  the three girls from the detective agency were safe and at home.   Beth had explained what happened to them.   More mind tampering and memory alteration by Cheryl and Wes, but they were alive, and back home.   She thought about Joe, whom she had met once when he worked on something for Tom.   Such a nice man, it was too bad his heart hadn’t been able to stand the strain of the transformation.  

Emily sipped her coffee, then asked Cheryl another question.

“What happened to Baldwin, Beth never said exactly.   She said that he surrendered everything of Tom’s back, and she implied that Wes owned everything else now.   But where is he?   Did Wes kill him?”

Cheryl looked out toward the sea for a few moments, and when Emily was just beginning to think she might not answer, she finally replied.

“Well, he isn’t dead, although he probably he wishes he was.”  She turned and looked levelly at Emily.   “After what he ordered done to your family, we made sure he paid the price.   Wes and I fixed him up so he wouldn’t die after his leg and arms were blasted off during the duel.   When we were done, Sarah and Beth left him on a street in Los Angeles.   Penniless.

 No one will ever believe him, and we fixed his fingerprints so that he won’t be recognized, along with his face.   If anyone listens to him, they will just think he is another crazy derelict.”   She looked back toward the house.  “It’s the worst thing we could think to do to him, given his greed and lust for power.”

Emily was shocked, but she saw the justice.   He had lost his power, his wealth and was crippled forever.   And would be alive to think about it too.   She decided Tom would feel better if he knew, which was something she guessed.

Emily again looked over at Cheryl, who, as always, was breathtakingly beautiful.   She still wondered about a couple of things and decided to ask.

“Why do you stay Cheryl; what makes you and the rest of these girls want to stay here?”  She asked.   "Wes may be a good person, but he turns you into his magical playthings. How can you stand being transformed into dolls or statues most of the time?" Emily was curious, and she wanted to understand.

“Well, at first, it was because his magic made us want to,” Cheryl said, looking at her and back at the house. “In some ways, I guess you could say he stole us away.  None of us expected what happened the first time he touched us with a shard of marble or plastic, either,” she chuckled.

“But the magic eventually wore off.”  She turned back toward Emily and looked her in the eyes.  “And along the way, I discovered that I didn’t want to leave.   He has taught us so much after all.”

She paused for a moment, took another sip of her drink, and then continued.

“ I can heal people I never could before, even when I worked in the ER.   He gave me that.   He gave the others gifts too, amazing things to you and me, and they make our lives something we never could have dreamed of before.” 

Cheryl sipped her drink again, and leaned against the rail, “I mean, look at me, I had never imagined I would ever look like this.”  Emily looked at her again.  Cheryl’s red hair shown like gleaming copper in the sun, her perfect skin and tan contrasting beautifully against the white sundress she was wearing.  

“Ok, I can understand that, but what about other things.   Children; a man that you don’t have to share, all of that?”

Cheryl sat back down and looked pensively out to sea for a moment. “Yes, all of that.   Well, one day I will have it, but for now, I’m in no rush.   I think it’s like that for all of us.”  She smiled again.   “Some of the girls have left, you know, before all this happened; more of us will go not too soon from now, I think.    After all, Sarah wants her kids back, some of the others want what you said.   But for now, we are all content.”  Cheryl looked at her seriously, and then added, “Besides, we all fell in love with him along the way.   And we all know he loves us.   He is powerful, but in his way, he treasures us and loves us completely.   Some of the girls have never had that, and the rest of us, well, it doesn’t happen that often.”

She looked Emily in the eyes, smiled again, and said “You could join us if you wanted, you know.” 

Emily looked at her, and for a moment, again considered it, “No, I want a normal life now I think.   I want to be a grandmother, and not have to worry about people looking at me strangely.   I am content to age and look as nature wills it.   More or less,” she laughed, “I don’t want to share my man.   I have done that before, and it hurt me too much.   You have your paradise here, but it’s not for me.” 

Emily looked down the hill toward the park. “And what about Kristi, what happens if Wes runs into another duel like this one?”

Cheryl looked down the hill, sighed a little, and then turned again toward Emily.  She thought about how close it had been, the spell had nearly destroyed her, but somehow Wes had brought her back.   She remembered just how close it had been, shivered a little and answered Emily.

“Yes, what happened to Kristi could happen again.  It almost did to me, after all.”  She shivered again slightly, “but he saved me.   And I know he will again if it comes to that.   If not, well, I could die in a car accident just as easily tomorrow.   What he has given me makes up for all of the risks, and Kristi and I both chose to be there.   We didn’t have to go and help him, you know.”

Emily looked at her.  She could see that Cheryl knew what she was talking about, and was content.   In a way, Cheryl’s offer was very tempting, but Emily was certain about her own mind.  It was time to go back to a normal life.    It had been tempting when Wes asked her, and was again.  But Emily stood up, and took a last look around.

Cheryl saw that she was ready to go, and she stood.   They hugged each other, and Emily said her goodbyes.

“I will always be glad I met you Cheryl.   Can we remain friends?”

“I would like nothing better Emily, I will be here whenever you want.   I will even come visit you in LA for a while sometime soon.” 

“He lets you do that?”

“Of course he does,” she smiled.  

Emily left a few minutes later.   On the car trip back to LA she thought about everything.   She was amazed at what happened, but although she had lost her husband, she had acquired not only more wealth than she knew what to do with, but also some very good friends.   She missed Tom, but not his philandering ways, and although she mourned, she knew she would move on with life.   The attraction to the life with Wes had been strong, but she was happy enough for now.

Cheryl watched her drive off.   “At least she got a new life.   One thing about Wes, he definitely changes our lives.”   She smiled, her eyes glinting with mischief.  “Time to get back to ours, I think.”   It was her night with Wes, and she looked forward to it.  



Chapter 15:  Life Goes On

Weeks later, in an office in Palm Springs, Paula sat at her desk on a quiet Saturday evening.  Everyone else was out of the office, and she sat in the slowly darkening room, drink in hand, mulling over things in the peaceful office.

 Strange dreams had been troubling her.   She had dreams of being unable to move, of being posed in a window as a display dummy, a mannequin, and of a strange evil man that had somehow made her that way.   Other dreams, too, of a beautiful red-haired woman with a soft voice and gentle spirit, and a different man with brown hair and deep brown eyes, both of whom were talking to her after freeing her, had been occurring more frequently.    It worried her that she occasionally had the strange urge to stand and pose, and she wondered why she felt the need to change her look after she had returned home.   It felt like a basic part of herself had been changed, then hammered back together by someone who didn’t know her well.  .  

She looked down at the case file.   She wasn’t satisfied with what it held.   There were some strange things about the death of Tom Bradley, her boss’s friend, that bothered her.   There were also strange things about the disappearance of Baldwin that were troublesome as well.    She wanted to know more.    How come Pam didn’t want to know more?  After all that had happened?

Further to the north, it was a fine afternoon.   Wes sat on his terrace, enjoying the beautiful and cool summer day on the coast.   Michelle sat with him, curled up on the couch, her head leaning against him.    They had been reading the paper, and laughing, about the mysterious disappearance of two male harbor seals in a local aquarium, and the arrest of two befuddled men found in the tank.   

“Aren’t you worried about them Wes?”  Michelle asked. “I mean, aren’t you supposed to keep strange things like that from occurring so the Auditors won’t come?”

Wes smiled. “Well, it’s nothing you wouldn’t see in a scandal sheet anyway, the Auditors won’t find it troubling.”  He grinned, “all they can remember is standing in a parking lot and then waking up in a fish tank.   It’s not as if they can complain about what they were doing before that.”   He sipped his drink, and leaned over and kissed her.  “I don’t think they want to admit to being accessories, as your people say, to murder and kidnapping after all.”

Michelle thought about it for a minute, and decided he was probably right.   It amazed her how well he understood how things worked here.   It wasn’t as if he grew up with it or had even been here that long.   She looked up at him, as he looked out over the ocean and watched the sun go down.   Love and admiration swept through her and she reached up and touched his face.

She stood up, and touched his hand.  “Come inside Wes.   I want to be yours as always.”  Her eyes sparkled, and pulled his arms until he smiled and stood up.  

They went inside, and Michelle took her clothes off as they went.   Soon she was nude, her perfect beauty displayed by the setting rays of the sun coming through the window.   Wes knew what she wanted, and had palmed an ice cube from his drink while she had been pulling her blouse over her head.  

He went to her, and kissed her deeply, touching her lightly with the ice as he did so.   Instantly, she stopped moving, and he pulled back from the kiss to look in her eyes.   He could see the lust, and the excitement in them.   Her blue eyes shown with it.  

Michelle reveled in the feeling.   She was turned on, and she wanted him.  Thoughts raced through her head, feeling the excitement of being his, and she saw the look of pleasure, excitement and almost giddiness in his face.  Her skin began to flush, as she grew more excited. 

Wes undressed himself, and then began to stroke her, caress her and kiss her lightly everywhere.

Soon, he was kissing her down at just the right spot at her sex, and waves of pleasure begin to wash through her.   Her mind began to drift as the pleasure surged through her and just as began to climax, he sat down on the couch, lifted her up and placed her on his penis.  

“Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.” she cried out in her head, and she climaxed in an overwhelming orgasm as he came inside her.  

He kissed her, and she could suddenly move again.   They both fell together on the couch, sated for the moment.   Michelle smiled as she looked over at the cabinet.    All the girls where there,  ten little dolls made of  plastic, ceramic, marble, and ivory and posed in a variety of positions and degrees of dress.  Some smiled, some had looks of bliss or even lust on their faces, but all were breathtakingly beautiful.  Even though she knew that they would only vaguely notice, she winked at them with a smile.   “Your turn will come soon enough” she thought with humor.  

Life was back to normal for Wes and his girls. 


The End

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