Fortunate Inheritance - 1: A Fortuitous Visit

by Q

Author's Note: I would like to thank first Dmuk for his editing and additions to my story to allow it to be much better then I thought it ever could be. In addition, I'd like to especially thank cmq for his wonderful story "Just Another Hard Day at Work" for providing the inspirations for my story and also the people who added to the Living Statues storyline who provided many inspirations for the freeze process. Q

David Brighton felt a bit odd as he stood before the doors of the massive building. It would not have been the first time he went into a Winson's, but it was the first time he had been there without a girlfriend dragging him in.

Winson's Fashions was a renowned specialty store catering to ladies, dedicated to upscale and fashionable women's clothing at reasonable prices. There was more there, including a well-stocked sporting goods section, but it was still a store most men don't bother going into unless they had to.

Still, the current owner of the chain, and also Dave's uncle, had asked him to drop by when he was in town on leave. And since Dave admired his uncle greatly, and had promised, there was no reason to wait so he headed through the doors into the store despite feeling vaguely uneasy about it all.

Walking through Winson's unaccompanied was an interesting experience. The store itself was more like a small mall, with a wide range of other activities like a café and a restaurant within the store. A nice place to shop, Winson's always had a lot of people within the store in addition to the staff, either customers or just those enjoying the place.

The "big" other things which made Winson's special were its mannequins and elaborate displays. The displays were fantastic, located in the front windows, in alcoves, and throughout the store itself. Usually very elaborate scenes and situations, they seemed like moments in time captured out of any place in the world; a street corner, apartment, gym, park, beach, or an office. All the little details in the dioramas were complete too, down to watches on the display figures' wrists, leaves or sand on the ground, papers on desks, even fake yet real-looking food on tables. There was even some sort of liquid or glossy material that, when applied, made mannequins and other items look wet if needed.

Above everything else, it was the incredible mannequins that were the most important and striking part of the Winson's displays. They were all amazingly realistic; so much so people said that they could have been living women, stopped in time and put into the store. They were all dressed with clothes and accessories fitting each display, and posed like they were actually doing things. Even those figured placed in standing poses throughout the store outside the displays had the same attention given to their detail and posture.

Here, a display was set like a beach, complete with water, surf and sand. A number of lovely mannequins dressed in sexy swimsuits populated the display, some sunbathing, some swimming (how they appeared to be floating in the water was clear when Dave saw the wire-like contraptions holding them up), some standing, and some positioned while playing at volleyball. Just above the net, the ball was hung in mid-air on wires. It slowly rotated; the only motion in the entire static scene. A few were even in the poses magazines loved to picture, lying on the ground, arms back, head and back arched off the ground, one leg bent with the feet flat on the sand.

Another display showed a gym, with women apparently working out at the different machines. A diorama of an aerobic class was in progress, and Dave marveled at how they could make mannequins stand while so unbalanced. In the corner, there was even a locker room where women where changing, with a few wearing just towels as they came out of the shower or sauna. Here, too, the attention to detail was astounding as he could see clearly how their hair appeared wet and their skin moist and slickened. Other displays showed women in a city street in mid-walk, at a slumber party in an apartment, and other such frozen moments in time with an incredible realism that Dave had never ever seen before in any other mannequin display or store. He kept on telling himself to close his mouth and not to gape.

There was a picnic scene in progress on one display, which caught Dave's attention. There were a number of female mannequins, dressed in shirts and shorts for summer, but one figure in particular caught his eye. It was a tall, lithe, brunette in a pair of white shorts and red-on-white striped shirt, her beautiful face appearing to talk to another female mannequin as she leaned over the table. Brighton looked, and noticed somebody had added SWEAT on the lady's brow. Somebody must have put a lot of attention into all of the displays to add details such as that.

As he walked down the aisle, he saw that besides the displays, there were mannequins sitting casually on furniture or posed standing on pedestals or metal bases with support rods, all around the store. Most were simple; a mannequin in a silver evening gown standing on a transparent pedestal at an intersection here. A bench with two female mannequins engaging in a stilled conversation there, the tall, leggy figure of one dressed in a golden miniskirt dress, which matched her hair; the shorter, darker-complexioned brunette counterpart wearing a dark pant-suit.

Some of the larger dioramas were very complex, like a mini-set in the lingerie section where two athletically posed mannequins appeared with only a bra and panty on. One was on the mat, her left leg bent forward at the knees with the lower part lying flat on the floor and her thigh held in a slight angle up from the knee into her torso. Her right leg was bent behind, with only the knee touching the mat, and the lower leg and foot posed straight up. Her torso was straight, and her head was bent back toward her right leg, with red hair tied behind her head. Another figure, in white lingerie, was a brunette haired girl; tall, lithe, and beautiful. Her head and upper legs were straight with each other, like a ruler. However, her back was arched forward pleasingly. Her arms were back behind, at a 45-degree angle to the head-leg line and parallel to each other, the hands open but cupped, palms inward facing the other. Her legs were together, bent at the knee 45 degrees back from the upper leg. She looked frozen in mid-jump. Her dark hair was made up to look as if in motion, with wild strands trailing up from the back and a large curling strand sticking up and forward on the upper front of her head. The eyes were nearly shut, but a big open smile was visible. Like the other mannequins, she had a single metal rod holding her in mid air, going between her open legs. Brighton looked, and then turned away. It was crazy, being attracted to an obviously artificial plastic mannequin; no matter, it was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Still, he hoped one day to meet a woman who looked like that.

At the same time, as he approached one of the two grand staircases, he wondered just how many mannequins Winson's had. He figured the amount of plastic used by these hyper-realistic figures must be more than in the jet fighter he flew. These plastic ladies were certainly more nicely shaped.

The fashion displays, small and big, went on along with the racks of fashionable go-getter tops, bottoms, pants, blouses, and skirts. In the opening of clothing racks and other displays in front of the staircases, was a giant indoor pool/fountain that seem to boast a very natural looking rock face on one side. There were swimsuit clad mannequins placed in the water and lower parts, but the upper part of the rock face had a posed group of female mannequins dressed in expensive looking hiking gear, with a famous brand name on most of the boots, jeans, shorts, and shirts. They were arranged if they had been walking in the country and just climbed the mountain to see the other side, and were appreciating the view. One of them was rigidly pointing off into the distance. The scene on the other side of the rock face contrasted with both of sets of the sporty mannequins, something that Dave did not see until he was climbing the staircase seemingly set into the rock.

A disco floor had been arranged in the stony grotto 'inside' the stone face, with many young women in very trendy dancewear seemingly frozen in the middle of a 'rock'in good tune. Bright, multicolored spotlights gyrated and a mirror ball rotated above, sending sparkles of light across the entire motionless scene. Again, Brighton was impressed on how they could get mannequins to be posed that way, most of the time off-balanced, in the most amazing positions. The uncanny realism of the beautiful mannequins was another thing that still piqued his interest. He was determined to ask his uncle about them.

Exploring farther into the store, he found more mannequins clad in tight leotard/exercise outfits, or just a towel, standing in glass cases next to the health club/spa on the second level. More were posed at the cosmetics counter, as if trying on some new make-up style. There were pretty clerks, too, to help the many customers, but the amazing mannequins were what stole the show in his mind.

As Dave passed through to the offices, there was another series of glassed-in alcoves; inside each an unbelievably gorgeous mannequin was posed dressed in some different outfit, like a fashion show or museum exhibit of ultimate beauty. Separated by a thin pane of glass, he could get very close to them and marvel at the detail in their face and eyes. This was workmanship on par with the best he had seen in the famous British wax museum; he could see individual freckles placed on the mannequin's face and her eyes had lovely star-streaks in the irises. There were even tiny ridges in her painted lips. He stared at her for a few long seconds before realizing he must look pretty foolish standing there, being entranced by a mannequin. Little did he know his situation was perfectly normal. For Winson's.


He entered the office space and stopped before the young, perky, secretary at her desk inside the double doors. Dave also noticed another two mannequins posed just inside the glass doors. Both were perched on clear glass bases, one blonde and the other brunette, both dressed as if for a day at the office. These figures, too, had been impeccably accessorized. The blonde wore wire-rimmed glasses that gave her a studious, yet appealing, look; the brunette carried a thin leather attaché case and wore a gold watch around her wrist. Glancing at it, Dave noticed that it was set to the correct time.

The receptionist looked up and smiled. "Hello, can I help you?"

"Yes," Dave replied. "I'm here to see Walker Winson."

"Certainly; can you state your name and your business with Mr. Winson?"

"Sure. I'm his nephew David Brighton and I'm here to just visit him."

The receptionist appeared calm, but some surprise showed in her expression as she quickly pressed the intercom. "Mr. Winson?"

"Yes?" came the deep voice of an older man.

Eying Dave with a smile, she responded. "Your nephew David is here to see you."

"Really? Well, send him in!" The voice laughed. The secretary smiled again at Dave and nodded to the door.

"David!" Walker Winson rose with a big smile on his face as the younger man entered the room. His uncle was not a good dresser, but he looked respectable in the tailored business suit. "Nice to see you after so long!"

"Hi Uncle Walker. Thought I stop by while I'm in town. Hope you did not mind."

"Not at all! It's good to see my favorite nephew!" Walker looked over at the two ladies who were seated across from his desk. "Kristie, Sandra, I'd like you to meet my nephew Dave Brighton, currently the best pilot in the Navy." Turning back, he continued "Dave, I like you to meet two of my merchandising executives, Kristie Bond and Sandra Perez."

Both ladies shook hands with Dave, and gave him a smile and good-natured "Hello, pleased to meet you." Kristie was an attractive leggy blonde dressed in a blue workplace ensemble. Sandra had on a white business dress that was a dazzling contrast with her dark hair. Both looked no more than in their late twenties. In some odd way, they reminded him of the standing mannequins posed at the entrance. Maybe because they were both gorgeous enough to be models.

The older Winson continued, "Kristie and Sandra arrange and conduct the wonderful displays you see throughout the store. I was just finishing up some business with them before lunch." To the young women he said, "Ladies, your plan sounds good. I hope to see it later, in person, when you put it up in the store. Can you excuse me and my nephew here?"

"Sure thing Mr. Winson." The two ladies gathered up their papers and left with a spring in their step and a pleasant farewell to Dave. David responded with interest, before looking back at his uncle.

"Sit, sit. When did you get in?" Walker Winson pointed to the chairs before him.

"Last night. Sorry I didn't call earlier, but I've been driving too long and was beat. Figured I could spend some of my leave sleeping."

"Not at all a problem. How long are you in town?"

"A week. I have to see my parents for the next two weeks, and then I have to go back to my carrier. We're shipping out again for another sortie."

"Just a week! You should take vacations here more often." Walker smiled. "Where are you staying?"

"The Holiday Inn on 5th."

"Huh. Should have called me, I could have put you up in the house or one of the apartments we maintain here. Anyway, it's almost time for lunch. How do like a real meal paid by your uncle? You'll have to listen to me prattle on, but how about it?"

"A great idea, Uncle. I'm famished!"

"Good, good. I think Kristie and Sandra might like us to leave so they can take that display model downstairs for their new project."

"What model?" Walker Winson pointed, and David looked at the side of the room. It was another one of those wonderfully realistic mannequins, standing in an alcove in the side wall of the office on a low dais. Long blonde hair and green eyes went with a fair complexion and jade colored gown, which featured a plunging neckline that glittered in the light. She seemed to be magically paused in mid-conversation, one gloved arm and hand arranged as if holding a drink that was no longer there.

"Like it?" Walker asked proudly. Dave just looked.

"It's very realistic. How do you make them that way?"

"I'll tell you later. Or rather, have Kristie and Sandra and the other visual merchandisers can tell the whole story for you, if you are willing to come back tonight. Needless to say, the technique is a trade secret."

"Sure." Dave was curious, and proud that his Uncle would want to share a company secret. He was definitely interested in knowing how they made the stunning mannequins.

"Good. Well, we should get going if we want to make it through traffic."

Both of them rose from the seat, and Walker decided to let his nephew go out first. As David exited the room, Walker pressed a few buttons on the remote control lying on his desk, and let himself out. Behind him, a rigidly posed figure woke up and stretched…

"So David, what are your plans?" Walker Winson asked between bites of his salad.

"Don't know, Uncle. I got another year in the Navy, but I don't know if I want to sign-up for another tour. My parents want me to become an airline pilot, but you can only have so much fun flying from New York to Los Angeles and back."

"True." Walker sipped his drink. "Have you considered going into this business?"

"Becoming a suit? Sounds more boring then driving an airliner." David laughed. "I want some fun in my life."

"Well, if you come work at Winson's, you will see and be involved in more interesting things here than most executives would." Walker smiled. "Besides, there are very few people who I would want to replace me eventually. You are one of them."

"You're retiring?" Dave looked at his uncle, shocked.

"Not yet. But I want to someday, and move to my place in Florida. None of my children want the job - they've got other things - their own interests. And I want to keep the company in the family, you see. And most of the family I'm not sure could handle everything that comes with the job."

"I'm flattered Uncle Walker, but do you think I really am qualified for it? Cousin Eddie or Joan might be better…"

"They probably would not handle everything about the company as well as you. It's… well, when you come by tonight to see how we do the displays, I'll show you that special thing as well." Walker smiled as he looked for the waiter to get the check. "I'll have my car drop you off and pick you up from the Holiday Inn around 10:00. I'll meet you at the store. You will not forget this surprise."

David arrived at Winson's at 10:30 PM in the underground garage. The driver gave him directions, and one rapid elevator ride lifted David Brighton to outside Uncle Walker's office.

"Hello, Dave. Just in time for the visual merchandisers to begin their work."

"Sure, Uncle. I like to see how you come-up with those amazing displays, and I want to know what's all hush-hush." Dave saw that the dais where the mannequin had stood earlier was empty now.

"All in good time. You'll be blown away." Walker rose-up from his desk and ushered his nephew out of the office.

The store was empty of most of the staff, with most lights dimmed as they walked past the glassed-over display alcoves of the mannequins from the office to the stairs. There was a group of people wandering around at the bottom of the stairs. A couple of Dilbert-like male engineering guys, fussing over equipment, and a group of good-looking women, fussing over themselves. Dave recognized Kristie and Sandra, and said "hello" to them.

"Everybody, I'd like to introduce my nephew, David Brighton, who is a Navy pilot and a great catch." Some laughter came from the group. "He's my special guest for the week. I want you to extend every courtesy to him."

A number of pleasant 'Hello's followed, as Walker introduced Dave to everyone. Most of them seemed ordinary enough except for the nerdy engineers, but there were four young women, dressed more casually then the rest, who introduced themselves as "Active Role Visual Merchandisers."

Dave was puzzled, but Walker just said "In good time. All in good time, my boy." That too was said for the large block of Styrofoam sitting behind the group.

One of the engineers gave Walker a remote control like for a TV or VCR. Some others crowded at the customer service desk next to the stairs, opening fake panels to reveal fancy electronic controls, dials, LCDs, etc. "Start with the regular schedule. Be careful with the off-balance ones!"

The crowd broke up, leaving the ARVMs, Kristie, Sandra, Dave, and couple engineers following Walker as he moved toward the lingerie section. There seem to be a flickering in the lights, as more came on. There was also an odd humming in the air. Dave was a bit dazzled, but he did notice that the sound of people conversing was starting to increase.

Looking around, he noticed nothing had changed...well, not exactly everything was the same. Was he dreaming that there were more people moving about? Before he could think, they arrived at the lingerie display, and two of the engineers were removing the mannequin he had noticed earlier posed in mid-air from the stand, while Walker was pointing the remote at the different groups of mannequins…

Dave eye's widened, and he turned to face his uncle. "Uh, am I dreaming; or are some of the mannequins moving?!"

Everybody else was smiling at what Dave said, and Walker shook his head. "Nope. Everything you are seeing is real." At the same time, slowly to begin with, the mannequins all around started to move around. In every one of the scenes, the mini-displays, even those scattered in ones and twos around the store, the display figures were coming to life! Seen closer, the mannequins in the lingerie department were also stretching. "Did I accidentally take something?" Dave said, his mouth and eyes wide open. "This is unreal!"

"It's easier to see it for the first time instead of hearing about it." Sandra said, as she and Kristie helped the now flexible "air" girl from her awkward pose. "But you are not dreaming. All these 'mannequins' here in the store are real women, who just don't move at all during the daytime."

"No way! I know about mannequin modeling and nobody can be still this long. It's impossible to do!" As far as he knew…

"We can. That's one of the secrets of the Active Role Visual Merchandisers." One of the four ARVMs named Tanya said. Dave suddenly realized that Tanya and her friends might also become mannequins sometime. "Oh, some of us are trained mannequin models, and sometimes we do that in the store, just to get the people guessing if it is a real person or just as perfect 'mannequin' copy of her."

The store's PA called-out: "All ARVM personnel, general meeting in the Home Furnishing Section in ten minutes for display planning. We have a guest tonight, so be nice with your dress!"

Walker Winson came walking up to Dave. "Nephew, what you are seeing is the secret behind Winson's wonderful displays and also what is so special about running this place. All the mannequins being displayed here in the store are alive. The models are held in suspended animation or whatever they call it on the Sci-Fi Channel. We can pose them as they are, or have them frozen still like statues, and you can't tell that the mannequins are actually living women. As Kristie said, it's easier to see it firsthand instead of telling it to you. Saves time, and you won't think you're going crazy."

Dave stared at his uncle. This was a completely surprising turn of events and the young man could not think of what to say. 

"Well hello, who are you?" One of the cute lingerie mannequins -no, model-, said as she came toward the group. She was the gorgeous tall, lithe, brunette beauty, with a golden tinge to her flowing hair. She was the same girl who had been perched motionless in the "jumping" pose! Even garbed in the finely cut but otherwise plain white lingerie, she was stunning. Dave remembered his whimsical thoughts about her earlier.

"Uh…" Dave was not sure how to respond to a fantasy girl who had somehow come alive.

"He's my nephew David Brighton, currently a pilot in the Navy," his uncle supplied, "And David, this is..."

"I'm Danielle, currently lingerie model mannequin of the moment. It's my pleasure to meet a nephew of Mr. Winson, especially…" She gave Dave a look "…someone as handsome as you." She stretched her arms up and back and arched backwards, catlike, completely un-self-consciously. "And someone as confused as you must be right now."

"Sure." Dave did not know anything else to say.

"Don't worry. Everybody feels that way. You'll get use to it if you are around long enough. Well, that's not a problem either for us Active Role Visual Merchandisers. When we're active, that is." giggled Danielle.

"Danielle here can give you better answers then I can." Walker said. "I have to take care of a few things, so why don't the two of you get acquainted?" He walked off.

"Just exactly how do you become..?" Dave begun, feeling a little tongue-tied.

"Like mannequins? A couple ways, really. The one we do most of the time is -- see the earring and ring? Danielle showed the medium size ring and pair of earrings she wore. "It's actually a battery and a tiny receiver/transmitter. Whenever it gets a signal to freeze from the controls at the customer service desk, or one of those remotes, the transmitter sends a coded pulse of energy that suspends us, by creating what the research papers call a bi-stable physiostatic field…" She caught his blank look at the unfamiliar technical terms, and continued. "Simply put, we freeze solid, just like mannequins, and the device makes us look shiny like mannequins too. Nobody can really tell the difference, even close up. Once we are fully suspended, no additional energy is required to keep us in that condition; years or even centuries could pass and, as mannequins, we'd never know it. That's what the 'bi-stable' phrase means. We don't have to worry about batteries running down or power failures, either. Another coded signal allows us to be flexible but poseable by somebody else; we can stay in that pose until we get a signal to partly unfreeze or wake up again. Of course, we can also be hard-frozen at that point too. That's usually what happens here in the store. It's really kind of a curious sensation, not being able to move at all."

David listened to this, and shook his head. "This all sounds too weird to believe."

"Sure it is! You seen us all caught in the act. Or rather, acting like mannequins!" Danielle winked. "This is lot better then how it used to be. Back before they invented integrated circuits and the personal 'suspendors', they suspended, changed states, and woke-up people using a hulking electronic monster in the basement. You had to move the models to and from it to be frozen or revived, not simply be suspended right at your place in the store like today. That ancient thing looked like a photo-booth designed by Doktor Frankenstein. This way is a lot easier." Danielle smiled, wiggling her ring finger. "We still use the old monster occasionally for jokes and fun stuff. If you want more proof of what we can do, come to the VM meeting at Home Furnishing. I'm sure everybody there will love to see you."

Dave smiled. "I would like to. Just curious; but you appear very knowledgeable about this."

"I use it. For some odd reason, I want to know a little bit about something that can turn me into a statue at the press of a button. Besides, I have a degree in electronic engineering. This gizmo used to pay my way through college, mostly as a research associate. But posing is much more fun then sitting in a lab, so I used to moonlight in the shops on campus too." Dave caught her meaning and smiled briefly; Danielle smiled back. "Come on. You'll want to meet everybody." She took his hand and pulled gently; how could he refuse?

Walking towards Home Furnishings, Dave saw more and more mannequin-models ('ARVMs' he reminded himself) talking, laughing, and walking toward the same place. There were so many of them! A couple were finishing putting on bathrobes, since they seemed to have nothing else on underneath. Dave guessed they were the ones who had been wearing only towels while mannequins. Fooey; they could have left the robes off, David thought. It was still extremely strange, almost unbelievable, but Dave was starting to see the benefits his uncle enjoyed as head of Winson's, and wouldn't mind having some of these kinds of perks himself. He wondered where Danielle had gone off to.

"What time is it?" A mannequin model from the disco scene said. "I had a watch on when I froze, and now it's gone! That's really annoying!"

"That was a popular watch, Audrey. Maybe they ran out of stock." Another model responded; one wearing only a skimpy green-yellow bikini outfit with a pair of sunglasses stashed in her strawberry blonde locks. Sitting in the chair beside her was one of the girls from the spa, tying the sash of her robe.

The assembled models spread out around the middle of Home Furnishings, sitting on the chairs, sofas, and couches or just sprawled on the carpets and rugs. Dave stayed a little back, behind Walker and the regular VMs and engineers, with Danielle (Who now had a pair of sweats and sweatshirt on.) and Tanya standing next to him. Dave estimated that there were several hundred models here, counting Tanya and other three. There were so many!

Walker smiled as he spoke. "Alright girls, settle down. First, I'd like you to welcome a very special guest; my nephew David Brighton. He will be our guest of honor for tonight."

"Umm hello." Dave said, trying to be the cool pilot he wanted to appear as, but sweating.

"Hi, Dave!" All the models said simultaneously, with laughter afterwards. Dave flushed a little, even as Danielle nudged him playfully. A striking tall, lithe Latino beauty in a white satin evening gown shook his hand and smiled. Tanya laughed a little at his awkward reactions to the living, moving mannequins. She found it sweet, in a way.

Walker smiled too as the in-charge Kristie took the microphone and began speaking. "Because the customers' reactions to the front window's beach display scenes have been the highest ever seen, we'll keep that setting in place for at least another week, and revive the models afterward."

"Are you going tell them that?" A young model asked jokingly. "They might like knowing about it, having slept a month." Laughter followed.

"Now, now." Sandra took over. "We have to swap out a few of the models out front. Laurie and Kimberly will need volunteers to move models in and out of the window." Sandra pointed to a pair of athletic statuesque girls garbed in blue and green mini-dresses that matched their blonde and red hair. Another couple of girls got up and followed the pair towards the front of the window. Laurie and Kimberly received remotes from one of the engineers and slipped the straps around their wrists.

Meanwhile, the engineers begun to check any problems with the earpieces, and the regular VMs started handing out letters and other mail to the models. "We'll be changing the lingerie section and fitness scenes tonight. Disco and the interior store beach scenes will be changed this weekend. And the summer scenes on Monday." Kristie announced. "All the models who have been assigned to the Teen department, we finally have the right number of models so please report to the department for posing. And," She smiled, "tonight is last day for Tara and Carmen. Be sure to say your farewells. It's been a wonderful time having you here, girls, we hope you visit again after you go back to the store in Madrid."

Both girls, tall raven-haired Tara and beautiful Spanish model Carmen, blushed and smiled at the flood of hugs, kisses, congratulations, and farewells. They are definitely a close-knit group, like my squadron, observed David.

"Alright, we'll stay with scheduled rotations this weekend for the General Scenes Displays. Make sure to look at your assignments, some will definitely change and you'll want to be prepared. Sandra said. "And if anybody wants to change, talk to me first and REMEMBER to put the old clothes into the laundry bags, not the storage, okay? Accounting and the executives are getting concerned about miscounting inventory." 'Yes's and nods came back with laughter.

Walker Winson took the mike and spoke briefly. "Very well. Take the next few hours to unwind. Those models going to Teen or being rotated into the front window beach displays should report an hour before everybody. Remember that the maintenance comes in sooner than you think, so make the most of your freedom!"

The models began to break up from the assembly. Some went through their mail; others started using computers to catch up with friends, family and the world. A number headed towards the store's restaurants and kitchen for something to eat. More models headed to the store's gym or showers or the other facilities in the store's basement. Still more were trying out different clothes and accessories to see if they were worth changing into. Others just started to chat with friends.

Laurie and Kimberly and the other volunteers came back from the front windows, along with a couple of swimsuit-clad models, who looked like they were still waking up. A pair of helpers were carrying a trim slender blonde in a silver lame one piece swimsuit, who had been frozen lying on her back, with her right leg angled up at the knee. David was impressed at how rigid and frozen solid the shapely girl was. The group draped the frozen model across the arms of two couches, and sat down for an encore of the presentation by Kristie and Sandra.

"What's with her?" Dave asked Danielle. "Why is she remaining frozen?" Dave pointed.

"Oh, that's Kerri. She's a practical joker who loves to play jokes on us when we're frozen. She's also the one who started using the old monster downstairs for fun and games." Danielle grinned. "Once she managed to get a remote controller and froze Kimberly and a couple other girls and posed them as some naked statues in the pool. Caused a big mess because she kept it a secret from us until just before the maintenance people came in. We were able to fix it just in time, but that prank almost let the cat out of the bag! That's why they don't let her use a remote anymore. Not that it stops Kerri either, she uses the suspendor downstairs."

"You mean, this was her idea?"

"She's just loves being frozen, too. Finds it arousing." Danielle laughed. "Some girls get that feeling too. But anyway, Kerri's lets us 'use' her while frozen for a lot of stuff, like posing dressed in strange things, those sorts of practical jokes. Sort of a way to say no hard feelings; that's how pranksters like Kerri, Jodi, Carla, and couple others keep things light. We pose them nude in the beach scene or dress them up like Goths or cheerleaders or nurses in the formals section or next to the bathroom or by your uncle's office door. That sorta thing. Sometimes, if they're out of the way, we leave them there…"

David tried to imagine that, and the picture was very appealing.

"Danielle!" Another ARVM, tall with reddish-blonde tresses, dressed in stylish sort of summer shirt, shorts, and sandal shoes came over and passed out a bunch of mail.

"Thanks Janice. David, like you to meet my best friend here, Janice. We went to college together." Danielle said as she went through her mail quickly, dropping the junk on the floor.

"Nice to meet a relative of Mr. Winson." Janice smiled as she shook Dave's hand. "Did Danielle tell all our secrets yet?"

"" Dave said, not sure what to say. "Not all…" He had the feeling there was more.

"Well, don't let her hog all the attention." Janice eyes sparkled. "There's a lot more to tell.  Like, do you know how old those head VMs Sandra and Kristie are?"

"Uh…twenty-nine or thirty? They're quite young for such kind of responsibility."

"Try forty-five and forty-nine. Being suspended slows the aging and metabolism process down to nothing. You stay the same age all the while you are being posed or being frozen and," Janice laughed, "The effect lasts for a while after you woke-up. The longer you're in suspension, the longer the after-effects. Effects last about one day after wake-up for about every nine days under or as the nerds say twenty-five hours for every two hundred hours. Great if you want to stay young." Janice laughed.

"Janice has a biology degree and was a pre-med." Danielle looked up, from her mail. "Just a postcard from my folks. They really like life in RV-land. Jan, are you rotating out from your scene?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Yeah. Tanya wants to do my pose."

"That should be fun to see. Interested, Dave?" Janice teased.

"Uh, sure." Dave was becoming extremely interested but not so blunt as to show it.

"Well, they'll be setting up that earlier than others, so let's go see."

Behind them, Walker saw the three and a grin appeared on his face, with a slow nod.

"How long have you been doing this?" Dave wondered what answer he would get.

"Me and Janice and Tanya have been doing this for five years now, since we graduated college. Actual time, too." Danielle said assertively.

"And how does everything work? How do you feel? The technical stuff I think I get, kinda, but everything else…what's it like to… to be frozen?"

"Hi, Curious Dave." Tanya said as she joined the three. Her golden hair and deep blue eyes went with the slim figure under the casual clothes. "Heard the questions. Mind if I answer them?"  Danielle and Janice shook their heads 'no'.

Tanya continued "It's like falling into a deep sleep, except you do it pretty much on a dime when you're suspended. With dreams and all, and you are only aware and awake when they de-suspend you. The dreams can great pretty intense. Something about the suspensions makes your fantasies really good. I mean, sexual fantasies too. Sometimes you can't hardly wait for them to freeze you."

"And you don't have worry about everything on the outside. It's quite safe while in suspension. Being frozen causes your skin to get hard and impossible to bruise or break-"

"Not that anybody thinks of doing that!" Danielle piped-up.

"And when you are in the poseable state, there's a field of some sort that prevents injuries like that. Though someone -- like you -- can still move or pose us or squeeze us if you are feeling lonely." Tanya teased. "And the only thing we might complain is feeling a bit stiff when awakened; our muscles always feel a bit sore, like from having a strenuous exercise session. And that's all we complain about. Other than becoming the victims of the prankster girls, that is…"

"Not that we do complain. Not every day do you find a Fountain of Youth like this. A job that stops aging and that pays you to do it, too!" Danielle said enthusiastically.

"Tanya always pays attention to the money and that kind of stuff." Janice agreed sagely. "Business degree and all."

"How long do you stay frozen while here? A week? A month?" Dave asked.

Tanya responded. "Well, you remain suspended as long as needed for the display. Usually, major or complicated scenes or displays like the beach and the disco are up for only a week or two. Front-windows are two or three weeks. The General Displays like those apartments or offices, which don't really need much precision generally last only couple days to a week before changes, like the mini-displays and single mannequin slots. But we all have a clause in our contracts that allows the displays to remain exactly the same for a longer time if we get a very good customer response about it. Course, we get paid very well if that happens. Best overtime in the world!"

"The longer you could stay in them, the better you get paid." Danielle commented. "It depends a lot on your families, friends, preferences. Some families and such are a lot more anxious about keeping in contact with the models than others. Of course, if there is an emergency or very important news, they wake you ASAP. Otherwise you stay frozen into a mannequin for as long as they need you to."

"And you get thirty days paid vacation for every one hundred-twenty days on the job." Janice commented. "That really adds up! A months in Jamaica three times a year is something you just love to work for!" They all laughed.

"And we get really good pay too." Tanya said. She gave a number that made Dave's jaw drop.

"You must be really good if the store can pay that." He said.

"Definitely." Tanya agreed. "Your uncle rewards us pretty good for the privilege of being here. You can't find a job with less work and more money! We also get full health coverage, retirement plan of our choice, money for further education, in-house job placement if you want, superb compensation, and a lot of stock options."

"You can see Tanya is really happy about the last one." Janice laughed. "For the rest of us, your uncle has set up a foreign exchange program with all the stores the chain has in the world. You met Portia from our Rio branch. Carmen from the Madrid store. We got Vanessa and Claire from London, along with people from Paris, Milan, Hamburg, Tokyo, Sydney, and closer to home like Los Angeles and Miami. You can pull a full term each year in a different city, and the company handles everything. Expenses, reservations, customs, everything."

"Some of the models have real weird ideas of foreign travel." Danielle added, in a playful tone. "Once, one of the pranksters -- Heather -- who's right now in one of the office display cases," Dave suddenly recalled an image of the two mannequin models standing rigidly posed just inside the office doors, "had herself frozen and placed inside a shipping crate to be delivered to the store in Paris. The French customs guys were really confused by her." Danielle smiled.

Dave thought of it for a moment. "Wait a minute; how many people here know that all the mannequins in the displays are really people?"

"Well, besides us models, you and your uncle, there's the technical staff for the suspendors, the Visual Merchandising Department, a few upper management types, and some of the security folks." Janice spoke. "A lot of those used to be former models too, who decided to retire. The in-house job placement is very handy. Some have gone on to schools, went into business elsewhere, settled down with a family or gone into different careers. Some have gone back to modeling, or run modeling agencies. And without anyone else knowing! Anywhere they go, they've kept the in touch, and they always keep an eye out for prospective talent." She said the last with a broad wink.

"One of the Winson's alumni recommended the three of us." Tanya explained. "We were all in the same group in college, and just started modeling together; she heard about it, and then one thing led quickly to another…"

"The rest is history." Dave Brighton completed the statement.

"Sure. We do talent-spotting too, whenever we go back for a reunion of the alumni of the group at college. Considering how well Winson's treats us, financially and physically, it would be a shame not to keep it going after we decided to move on with our lives." Tanya finished.

"Anybody else ever catch on to you?"

"Well, the staff who don't know sometimes wonder if we have moved to a different place. You can't exactly have the same pose, and after we all re-animate for a meeting like this, the hints are everywhere. They can't place it but they swear that something is different. And we have people from the outside that occasionally think a frozen model is a mannequin that closely resembles somebody they knew." Danielle began. "And they are usually right…. but not for the reason they think!"

Tanya continued. "That's why we have some of the girls who've done mannequin modeling like Janice," the other model smiled, "do regular mannequin modeling in the store right next to us suspended models. It really does interesting things to people who think it is a 'mannequin' looks so much like a real person, and then have the 'mannequin' be a real person! And it gets a lot more people back, to see if it is really the girl, or the girl the 'mannequin' is modeled after."

They had reached the lingerie section, where some regular VMs and engineers were checking over the displays. Some of the Active Role Visual Merchandisers were there already, looking over different outfits to change into. Also there was that large block of Styrofoam. David wondered once more what that was for.

Kristie was there, writing on a clipboard. She looked up at their approach. "Hi Danielle. I see you are rotating off the 'jump' display, and Tanya is replacing you, right?"

"Yep." Both replied.

"Okay. I think I got the outfit for you Tanya." Kristie eyed Tanya carefully, and held-up a satin green French-cut bra and panty set from one of the racks. "This should be just right for you."

"I'll take it." Tanya answered; and right before Dave and everybody, she began to quickly shed her clothes. The shirt and jeans came off, and right after the sneakers and socks came the bra and panties. Without any hesitation or cover, Tanya took a vibrator from somewhere and put it in, before she took the green bra and panty set and put them on. Dave was flummoxed, and looked like it.

"Well, Tanya has always been a exhibitionist at heart. She did that even before Winson's." Janice and Danielle laughed. Tanya gave them a mock hurt look and continued her preparations.

Finished, Tanya carefully adjusted her hair in a nearby mirror. She trembled a little bit, from something, all the while. Finally, she looked up. "Ready."

"That was fast." Kristie observed. It had taken a few minutes… Tanya must be really eager. And David noticed why she might be. "Harold, is the form ready?"

One of the engineers working at the form looked up. "Yep. Just have them open the form here-"

Harold swung open the upper half of the foam and inside was what looked like a reversed, negative-space, mold of… a woman's shape in the pose that Danielle had been frozen in. The engineer opened another part of the form. Without waiting, Tanya walked over and lay backwards onto the form face-up. Another engineer bought a form part that covered and bent backward her lower legs toward her back. Tanya then stretched her arms backwards, and Harold closed up the form parts that covered and bents her arms straight behind her. Finally, Harold lowered the upper half of the form, covering Tanya and leaving only her head free.

The man locked the form together, and several engineers raised the form upwards until Tanya's head was on top. The model closed her eyes and breathed in and out, then opened her eyes. "Ready." She called.

Kristie immediately operated the remote and Tanya turned into a statue before Dave's amazed eyes. It was hard to notice, but there was a moment when Tanya's small movements stopped and her expression seemed to glaze over. Dave stepped in front of her face, waved a hand in front of the frozen model and received no reaction. She did not once blink and she seemed to be staring right through him. The engineers lowered the form to horizontal once more, and unlocked the parts.

"Care to have a hand, Dave?" Danielle offered, as pieces of the form were swung out and the suspended model was fully revealed. Dave nodded, and caught hold of Tanya's arm and upper body with Danielle. It was amazing how rigid and stiff the frozen model was. Carefully, they flipped the model upright and carried the Tanya over to the pedestal. There was a small shelf a couple inches below the top of the rod. Janice carefully removed the vibrator and adjusted the bottom of the panties, which Dave noticed were modified with a small sewn opening. Danielle and Dave moved Tanya's suspended body onto the top of the rod and delicately lowered the model down until she reached the shelf, where she remained in place. Finally, Kristie adjusted the panties around the rod and Tanya's tousled hair, until she was satisfied with the overall 'look' being displayed.

Stepping back, Dave saw Tanya, who he had just been chatting with, now suspended stiff as a board and held in exactly the same posture as Danielle had been; transformed into an incredibly realistic mannequin posed in a eye-catching way. "This is too weird." Dave said.

"Oh, it only gets weirder," Danielle commented with a broad smile.

"Everybody, you've half an hour left. Start wrapping things up!" The PA system said.

The store was filled with activity as the models finished up changing clothes or whatever personal business they had been doing. The Active Role Visual Merchandisers were hiding their possessions, either taking them to the back of the store or using special lockers hidden among the furniture and settings on the store floor. Most were already inside their departments, displays, and scenes, practicing their poses for when they would soon become mannequins again while preparing their mental states. 

A few were even inside the glass display alcoves, looking like mannequins already, as they would freeze in an elegant pose for a moment before changing to another. Others were making sure to lower their skirts and dresses to cover the tops of the fake support rods that were part of the illusion the store maintained that they were plastic mannequins on display, while the truth was much more fantastic.

A number of swimsuit clad models hurried toward the front window display, to replace those that had left the display earlier. A couple thoughtfully took the frozen Kerri, wiping away the last of the whipped cream some girls had used as a swimsuit replacement for her, then putting on a golden bikini. A couple were applying something out of toothpaste containers. "Yuck! I just hate this gel stuff we have to wear!" One of the models complained. "Some sort of special effects gel from Hollywood." Danielle explained. "Does a good job of looking like water or sweat when frozen in place on the your skin. But it sure feels sticky when you're awake, and it's hard to get off without a long shower. It's also kind of slippery, and so when you have it on it makes the models hard to handle. Difficult, I mean…"

Another group of petite models were hurrying towards the Teen department of the store, dressed in very stylish daily clothes, swimsuits, and prom dresses for young, teenage girls. Danielle explained, "Winson's always had a Teen Department. We just never had enough mannequin models before who looked young enough to pose in the section. This year, we finally found enough willing girls to do that, so they've started displays now. From what I've heard, they have been really successful too."

"What are you two planning to be?" Dave asked. Both Janice and Danielle had not changed from what they had on originally. "Sandra said they wanted us in the upper level display alcoves. Don't know how they choose to, but they did." Danielle shrugged. "We usually rotate every two weeks from one display to another. No big deal." She did not seem at all bothered about being frozen again.

Janice looked at her watch. "Say, we'd better get upstairs. They've already started to suspend the girls." She pointed to the Teen section, where one by one, the models were freezing up into mannequins. Most were just posed like normal mannequins; singly or in loose groupings, but here and there was a small display, like three girls dressed in jeans and blouses, arms over shoulders, caught as if they left a good movie or on break. These dioramas looked especially life-like because of they way the realistic mannequinized models interacted with one another in a moment of frozen time.

Already most of the girls in the other parts of the store were where they were supposed to be. One last group hurried up from stairs, watching as the swimsuit models were posed, then frozen, and then finally positioned one by one. Slowly the store was becoming quieter as the living models were once more turned into motionless display figures. The hiking-outdoors models on the mountain scene above the swimsuit models were posed in a picnic scene, or as if taking a break from hiking/climbing the mountain. Like the disco scene behind the mountain, each model was first frozen and then posed by the VMs before being frozen completely solid. Some of the dancers were caught in poses of balancing on just one foot that appeared as if from a slice in time but would be difficult or impossible to hold on the person's own. In those situations the VM's used wires or glue to anchor the stiffened models in place.

Kristie and Sandra were posing some familiar models in the glassed-in display alcoves in the hallway leading to the offices when they arrived. Kristie just smiled, as Sandra said, "Just in time. You get the last two." She pointed. "Janice, get into the right enclosure, and we'll suspend you first."

"Okay." Janice went up to the opened alcove, stepped in and up slightly, then struck a pose, one hand in her hair with the left hand on her hip, head looking up, right leg slightly forward of the other, a smile on her face. Composing her expression, Janice seemed only to change… slightly as Sandra pointed her remote and suspended her with a quick press on the controls. Several seconds had passed before it became obvious that Janice was not going to move or blink and that her body was now completely rigid. Even her skin looked a little different, shinier in a way. It was amazing to see.

Sandra came in and checked for any stray threads or lint, before closing the glass door to the alcove. Dave was amazed at how a vibrant and attractive woman had just been turned into a frozen display mannequin with just a touch of a button. He told this to Danielle, who by now had pulled-off her outer sweats and was again just dressed in sexy-looking lacy underwear.

"That's why we're Active Role Visual Merchandising." She laughed. "We still do Visual Merchandising, but were in a much more active role then the average VM." That doesn’t mean we're active, though! Much to the contrary."

Dave pointed to the occupied display alcoves, and their shapely occupants. "Why a display here? Most customers don't come this far."

"Well, some do. Besides, there are guided tours of the private areas of the store that go through here, so the store wants us present in these displays to continue that famous Winson's look. Also, the models here and in other out-of-the-way places are used for floor substitutes."

"Floor substitutes?"

"Yeah." Danielle confirmed. "Sometimes the store staff has to replace a mannequin or fill an empty spot or something. Or occasionally executives want to create a quick display in the middle of the day, or we have to wake a model for something and replace her during business hours. So we have some models available in the store already to become floor substitutes. We aren't always frozen, though. Sometimes, if all the possible slots are filled, we stay up in the apartments at the top floor, or use the gym and aerobic/fitness center downstairs or spend the day relaxing around the store. Otherwise, we get to play dress-up here and there, and be frozen just for fun." She giggled, glancing at her own skimpy outfit. "Or, play dress-down in my case." Looking at the glassy alcove, she said wryly, "Actually, that's my case over there…"

Dave winced at the play on words.

"Danielle, you're ready?" Kristie called out.

"Sure!" she replied to the head VM. "Say, you'll be around here again sometime?" Danielle asked, interested.

Dave smiled, "I'll try." He was thinking about how he could swing it.

"Care to freeze me? I won't mind, its not like anything can go wrong or anything." Danielle offered. "You've seen how easy it is."

"Uh..sure.." Dave responded, a little shyly. Sandra handed him a remote, which did look up close like a TV or VCR remote with a cell phone merged into it. Danielle had meanwhile gotten into the alcove and posed with arms crossed overhead; back arched, head back slightly, left leg slightly bent forwards. A smile formed the last part of her dazzling costume. 

"Ready to freeze me, Dave?"

"Okay. How do you do this?" Dave wondered aloud.

"It's all set for you. Just press the big red button." Sandra pointed to the controls.

"Oh, sure," he said, feeling embarrassed. He flew jets, after all, and knew every switch and indicator in the cockpit by heart. Just press the Big Red Button. "By the way, Danielle, how would you like to have dinner with me sometimes?" Dave had a sudden inspiration.

"Love too. When--" In mid comment, Dave froze Danielle. Her mouth was still open trying to ask the question, but also held a smile on it. And held, and held.

Danielle had changed in one moment into a fetching and arousing mannequin.

"Very good timing, Mr. Brighton." Sandra said, nodding. "That was a good idea to get the exact expression."

"Well, that was not my only intention." Dave admitted to the laughter from the VMs.

David Brighton found his uncle at the top of the grand staircase, looking admiringly over the store. Just as he arrived, Kristie spoke over the PA system. "Is everybody else in position and ready?" 

Acknowledgements came from that majority of models who were not frozen. "Okay, the group freeze begins… now!"

Throughout the store and at the main panel, controls were pressed. All the remaining girls in the various scenes and general displays were turned into life-like mannequins as the signals reached their receivers. Bodies stiffened into position; hands held aloft did not quiver. Vacant eyes did not blink. Breathing slowed, and appeared to halt. Exposed skin took on the satiny, shiny appearance of plastic. Business wear and active wear immediately followed. The freestanding lingerie section models likewise turned into rigid mannequins, like a frozen fashion show. Portia and the other models of Formal Wear and evening gowns were stilled along with swimwear and summer fashions. Several models wearing aerobic and fitness gear were suspended with the flip of a switch, along with the rustically dressed mannequins that were girls in the outdoor wear. The magic that was Winson's closest held secret was happening before his very eyes!

Kimberly and Laurie froze on their metal pedestals while the blonde girl, who had been in the glass display in the office, was now dressed in just a bathrobe and a towel around her hair and had been frozen in the beauty products section. The freeze effect continued until every last ARVM was turned into a life-like mannequin at their assigned pose. The store was filled with lovely statues once more.

Around them, the Visual Merchandisers begun going around the store and started to pick-up stray personal belongings and anything out of normal for a ladies' fashion store; they helped keep the secret of Winson's life-like mannequins under wraps, though of course many of the models were not.

It was slow work, cleaning up any subtle clues that might have been left by the models, but there were still a couple hours left until the custodians arrived. The VMs also adjusted the poses and outfits of the mannequins, occasionally unfreezing a model to poseable flexibility and then refreezing her after an adjustment was made. A little brushing of the hair, touching-up of make-up, clearing out a wrinkle, or straightening the clothes slightly. Occasionally, the VMs added an accessory like a handbag, compact, purse, watch, or sunglasses to complete the illusion of the mannequins looking almost like real people.

Their job done, Kristie and Sandra returned to join the two men. "Everything is complete, sir," the blonde reported, "the models have all been suspended."

"Not all…" interrupted Sandra, with a mischievous grin.

"Don't tell me you ladies want to take another break?" Walker Winson said with playful concern. He had expected this turn of events as part of the out of the ordinary 'routine' of running this store.

"Yes, Sir!" Sandra said with a giggle, as she doffed her work smock to reveal a very tightly cut wine-colored velvet cocktail mini-dress, silky hose, and a pair of matching pumps she had just slipped on. Beside her, Kristie showed off her silvery gown and quickly replaced the wire-rim glasses in her blonde hair with a sparkling tiara. A quick primp and she, too, was ready. "Very well, then; you know where your display stations are." Walker said, more for his nephew's benefit as the four of them headed towards his inner office and the two glass platforms that waited there for models to occupy them.

Kristie was first, slipping the fake support rod up her dress and leaning on it to balance as she took a very sexy pose that left little to the imagination as she pointed one leg far to her left side, crouched slightly, then placed one hand on her silvery hip and the other behind her head. With a wide, inviting smile she mussed her hair slightly while looking as if she were trying to seduce Dave, or his uncle. Suddenly she stiffened into a mannequin as Walker pressed the button on his master remote.

"I can do better than that," boasted Sandra and she stepped onto the other display stand and took a more 'classic' merchandising pose with her arms held stiffly in front of her body, head tilted to one side and a blank look on her lovely face. She had only time to part her lips slightly before she too froze into position on the glass base.

"Say, would you like to pose her?" Walker offered. "I kept her at partial freeze in case you did."

"Ah, well… what the hell. I might as well give it a try." Dave answered. He took a few seconds to approach the motionless figure of Sandra and he wondered what she was feeling right now. Had she fallen into her long sleep yet, or was she awake and aware as she waited there like a life-sized doll for him to move her into a different position? She looked so lovely, and so still.

"She won't bite!" The elder Winson kidded him.

Dave reddened. Well, here goes, he thought. "Sorry, if I screw your pose up," he whispered into Sandra's ear. She said nothing of course. Tentatively, he grasped her left arm and lifted. There was some resistance, but the limb also stayed in position when he let go. Becoming a bit bolder, he raised the arm higher and pointed her finger, so it looked almost as if she was trying to hail a cab. That left her other arm, which he placed more to her side. More effort was required to pivot Sandra at her waist so the line of the dress and her bust was more obvious. He was starting to have fun, and wished in a way it was Danielle posing for him. Stepping back after a while to judge his handiwork, he saw her eyes and skin glaze over as his uncle completed the freeze process with another push of a button.

"Thanks for being so understanding," he whispered again as he came up to her and impulsively planted a light kiss on her rigid lips. They felt so hard… He caressed her slim body briefly, before stepping away, imagining divine Danielle in her place.

Ooh, anytime, lover! Dave thought he heard Sandra's lusty thoughts calling to him as he took a long look deep into her glassy eyes and interpreted the wistful half-smile she wore.

The pair of them made very beautiful mannequins posed there, and Dave remembered how the office had appeared when he'd first entered it. Clearly, his uncle liked having the life-like figures around for his own appreciation as much as for Winson's customers.

David Brighton gawked at one frozen mannequin, then the other; speechless himself.


"Bourbon, son?" Walker Winson held out a half-full glass to his nephew, who took it without saying a word and sipped briefly, savoring the warm glow the liquor brought him. He sipped again, contemplating the fact that beautiful women allowed -- no, wanted -- themselves to be turned into mannequins and put on display. It was difficult to believe, but the proof stood all around him, posed stiffly in their alcoves and on their pedestals. Danielle had looked happy as she was frozen; Kristie and Sandra treated it as a kind or reward for a job well done. How long had they all been at this strange form of modeling? Years, it seemed, and none was the worse for it. On the contrary, Janice had said being suspended had kept them younger and prettier than otherwise. The whole proposition was bizarre from the get-go; if someone had asked him yesterday about such a thing as suspended animation he'd have treated the person like some kind of crackpot mad-scientist. Making women into mannequins…

"So, what do you think of it all, Dave?" Walker Winson eventually asked his nephew.

"I don't know. I'm still digesting it all. It is almost too much to take." Dave Brighton said.

"That's what they all say when they see and hear it the first time. You get used to it. Our models certainly do!" He swept the room with his eyes, pausing appreciatively on the frozen forms of Sandra and Kristie. Outside of the double-glass doors, Janice and Danielle stood saucily in their lacy lingerie.

Dave looked at his uncle. "How did you get this thing-a-ma-jig?" he said, pointing to the remote the older man was holding.

"Had a science-whiz friend once. One of those guys in school that you wondered about because they kept to themselves and would yell stuff out in class like madmen. Never slept at all, it seemed like. Made a break-through, a big time out-there discovery. Most people didn't even understand what it was capable of. He offered it to me when I first saw it because he didn't know what to do with it in the regular world. That was a ways back. A long time ago." Walker became quiet. "It's a long story that I'll tell you later. But once I realized how it could work with the store's visual displays… it was very… rewarding for us. His son still works on the field and other things related to it. There's a lot of interesting things for the visual merchandisers there," Walker grinned, "but I got this first."

"Wow. I never heard of this. I never suspected that something like this could exist." Dave said in surprise. "It's all extremely Flash Gordon and stuff."

"Not like you had no clues right under your nose. What did you think your mom did before she met your dad?" Walker glanced sideways at the stiffened models and smiled just a little.

David choked. "My mom was a… mannequin model?! Here?"

"Sure." Walker winked. "A very good one, for a couple of years." He stopped. "If you ever want me to wake up Danielle, just give me a call. I'll throw in the gold watch and the everything else, too."

Dave thought of the movie Mannequin all of suddenly. His face blushed once more.

"Well, I think we had enough fun for tonight, my boy. Why don't you get some sleep, forget about doing anything the rest of today? I'll pick you up late tomorrow morning."

Dave was puzzled. "Why?"

Winson came back with the amber bottle and refilled Dave's glass. "To see the other part of this whole thing. Driving out to the mansion would take too long for now, and I can tell you want to think some about what you've discovered and seen."

"Mansion? Around here? I thought you lived only in the penthouse." David wondered aloud.

"Well, I do have a place around the outskirts of the city, too. And there are a lot of even more fantastic things to see there." Walker smiled and winked. "Not enough space to do it here in the city, and not quite secure as well at the store here. Sometimes, it's good to have some privacy. Besides, if you thought what this thing can do was already unforgettable, you have not seen anything yet. I'll show you some things that will knock your socks off!"



To Be Continued…

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