"Jon, can we go to the stars’ homes? Please? I want to see Beverly Hills," an excited Valentina said as soon as the bellman left their suite. "I want to see Hollywood Bowl, Chinese Theater, Dodger game—"
"Nap time, Valentina," Jon said with a touch of irritation. She collapsed limply on the bed, put to sleep instantly with his power. She’d been babbling non-stop for the entire trip.
"Honestly, Jon," Maribeth sighed, happy for the break, "I love her, and I know why she’s with us, but sometimes Valentina is too much."
"Remember, this is all very new to her. She never got out of Moscow, for the most part. So now, here she is in the middle of all the things she’s heard about the U.S. She’s like a kid in a candy store with an unlimited budget." Noting Maribeth’s continued contemplation of the unconscious ex-spy, Jon lightly said, "Later, Maribeth. You have a job to do." All she did was smile at him, inviting him to read her mind. "I wouldn’t dream of saying anyone else is better at it." Jon didn’t have to check her mental state; Maribeth’s sassy demeanor and confident stride spoke volumes. She wouldn’t need him until after all hell had broken loose.
Three days later, Maribeth was tired, but unshaken, and Jon was exhausted. She had just finished two twenty-hour days, while he had been chasing Valentina all over Los Angeles. The Russian had gone sightseeing with a vengeance. "Tomorrow, we go to Disneyland, yes?" Val called from the bathroom.
"At least we know how to get her mind off of sex," Jon mumbled.
"Yeah," Maribeth replied sleepily. "Mickey Mouse and Goofy. Personally, I want to be Sleeping Beauty." There was a pause. "Jon? I’m glad you’re here. I know I’m doing okay, but I’m not sure I would be without knowing you’re right here if I need you." She weakly patted his hand. "Soon I’ll be able to do this all by myself. Really. I promise."
The smile that came to Jon’s face vanished when Val called out and said, "I am going dancing in hotel club downstairs. It has been too long since I danced. See you later!" The door shut and she was too far away for Jon to rein her in mentally. He started to get up, but his body responded sluggishly. Maribeth lay next to him, happily unconscious. It seemed like such a good idea. He’d take a nap, then retrieve Val. After all, she was just downstairs.
Jon woke up with a start. The clock read two-thirty. Maribeth was still dressed, still sound asleep next to him. He couldn’t sense Val. He got up, confirming that she was not in the suite. He sighed, and dressed to go get her and bring her back. After all, she was the one who wanted to go to Disneyland tomorrow. His faint smile at the thought vanished when he got to the club downstairs, and Val wasn’t there. He went to the bar and asked if anyone had seen her. "Slender, black hair, great-looking dancer?" the bartender asked him. Jon nodded, the description confirmed by the picture in the man’s head. "Yeah, she left with a group about two hours ago. Don’t know exactly where they went, but I think they said they were going dancing somewhere else." Jon said thanks and went back upstairs.
He dressed a little more carefully, grabbed his wallet, and kissed the still-sleeping Maribeth. Stopping by the bar on his way out to give the bartender a twenty for his earlier help, he got a list of dance clubs likely to attract tourists from the man as well. Jon hailed a cab and took control of the driver. "Here is a list of clubs. You will drive and wait for me as I command. Take the most direct route to the first club on the list. Oh, and turn on your meter." There was no need to rob the man of his living.
The first two places had no trace of Valentina; none of the doormen had seen her, or any one close to her description. There was a line at the next club on the list, and the men at the door were too cool to answer his polite question. It was a little too public for him to use his power to get an answer, but he remembered who the men were. They’d get a lesson in simple courtesy another time. "Sir, the next two clubs are in the same block. It would be best if I parked as close as I could to one and you walked," the driver offered, his candor greatly improved by Jon’s mental control. He didn’t find Val at the first place, but she had definitely been there—and made quite the impression on one of the doormen. She was good at that.
There was a short line at the next club. Jon decided to wait this one out since Val had been spotted nearby. Shortly thereafter, a young blonde woman came up and stood in line behind him. "Hi!" she brightly said. Jon looked at her. She was very pretty, in a fresh-faced, innocent sort of way. But her body inspired thoughts that were quite the opposite of innocence. Her generous, but not out-of-proportion chest tapered to a classical waist and then flared wonderfully at the hips. "Would you like a dance partner?" He had been distracted for a few seconds by the body, but he did a quick scan for his own protection. It allowed him to ascertain that she was truly being friendly, and was not just a hooker looking for work.
"Sure!" he smiled in return. "What’s your name?"
She smiled brightly, just a truly happy young woman. "Kityn. K-I-T-Y-N. I’m an actress," she said. "Like every other girl, I’m just waiting to be discovered. They say that a lot of talent scouts hang out at this club." Boy, was she perky! Jon felt compelled to explain why he was there, so Kityn wouldn’t expect anything. "That’s OK," she happily replied. "I like meeting new people. Is your friend really from Russia?" Jon couldn’t help but like her.
When they got to the door, the bouncer took one look at Kityn, rolled his eyes and said, "Not you. Not here, not tonight, sweetheart." She looked extremely surprised at his pronouncement, then very hurt. Jon read Kityn’s puzzlement at the way she was being treated and decided to intervene.
"She’s my date," he declared. "A friend from back home. You gotta let us in," he pleaded, keeping his voice light. At the same time, he skillfully took care of the doorman’s will. As a result, the doorman became quite agreeable and happily let them in. Kityn thanked Jon continuously in her perky fashion as they walked into the club. Despite the early morning hour, and the fact that he could have been quite happily unconscious if Val weren’t missing, Jon was actually in a pretty good mood. His newfound companion’s small-town charm and manner made it impossible to be upset. "Kityn, let me buy you a drink while I go look for my friend," he offered.
Jon scanned the crowd visually. He could probably find Valentina faster that way. Crowded, noisy nightclubs were one of the few places where his powers didn’t have an advantage over more traditional methods. Sure enough, there was a circle of people congregated on the dance floor watching something. Jon had a hunch. He easily made his way through the thicket of people by gently brushing their thoughts, which caused them to shift position and allowed him to pass.
When he got to the inside of the predominantly male crowd, there was Valentina. Long-limbed, sleek, and gorgeous, moving fluidly with a ballerina’s grace, yet with incredible sensuality, lost in the music. The two men attempting to dance with her didn’t realize that they did not exist to the woman. Jon’s ballerina was dancing, and that was all that mattered to her. It was easy to sense the lust her unintentionally erotic movement inspired among her admirers and would-be suitors. He waited patiently for the song to end. His ballerina could have her simple pleasure.
As the music ended, men quickly surged forward to gain the lady’s favor, but Jon’s quiet, "Ballerina," got her attention immediately. "Jon! You came to get me! How sweet!" Disappointment and jealousy, along with some outright hatred surged around his senses. He made an effort to pinpoint the source of the hatred. Dealing with alcohol-induced testosterone rages was a sure way to ruin his good mood. Val kissed him on both cheeks, and the emotions flared even hotter. "I am sorry, but I met nice people in hotel bar and you and Maribeth were asleep." The music started again, and Jon suggested to Val that they leave the dance floor. She smiled, "I am finished dancing for the night. I am ready to go back to the hotel now." Her eyes told the truth about what she was ready for.
Jon remembered his perky companion. "Before we go, I have to say goodbye to someone." He led Valentina to where he had left Kityn with her drink. As they got close, three obviously upset women brushed past them. He overheard one of them say, "I can’t believe they let that slut back in here again, not after what she did last time." Wonder who she’s talking about… He froze as he picked the image from the woman’s mind. He couldn’t believe it.
Kityn was demurely sipping her drink by the bar, and beamed at his approach. Her? A slut? Nahhh. "Hi Kityn, I found her," he cheerily announced.
The bubbly blonde’s first words were, "Wow! I’ve never met anybody from Russia before. How long have you been in the United States?" She and Val started an animated conversation while Jon got his own drink. The bartender served him, but directed a baleful glare at Kityn. Something was going on here…
Jon interrupted, "Excuse me Kityn, but do you know any of those ladies?" He discreetly pointed at the group of women he’d bumped into earlier.
She turned to look at them. "Nope. Can’t say that I have," she replied. The women’s mental reaction to Kityn’s brief look said otherwise. Why would Kityn lie about it? All of this wasn’t an act, not as far as Jon could determine with a mental scan. "Why?" the young blonde asked.
Still perplexed, Jon replied, "They seem to think you’re a—pardon the expression—slut."
Kityn’s hand suddenly dropped and purposefully fondled Jon’s crotch. Her voice became throaty. "Oh, but I am a slut," she growled. "I love cock, and I love to eat cum. You can give me some of your girlfriend’s pussy to eat. I’ll do it all, baby. I’m a big slut. Anything you want. Fuck me in the ass, then I’ll suck you dry. Want me to do you right here? My pussy’s so wet and hot, I just gotta have some of your cock now. Let me suck you right here, right now." She began to kneel. "I’m just a fuck-slut—" Jon finally got over his shock at her sudden transformation and assumed complete control of her before she started doing the things she was describing.
Valentina was shocked beyond words. "Let’s leave. Now," Jon hissed, and Val headed for the exit. He gave a quiet, terse command to Kityn, who obediently followed him out. The three of them climbed into the taxi, Val in the front seat. "Sleep, ballerina," he commanded, and his Russian slave lapsed into a deep hypnotic slumber. Jon told the driver to drive around for a while. It was time for him to explore Kityn’s mind. "Tell me your name," he demanded.
"Kityn." Suddenly, the mystery got much deeper, and much stranger. Jon had expected an alter ego to answer, or some other symptom of multiple personality disorder. Mentally, the woman sitting next to him was nothing like the one he’d met a scant half-hour ago.
"Kityn, remember this evening," he said. "I command you to think about this evening, and to remember everything in the greatest detail. Think about nothing else. There is only tonight." This way, he might find the trigger that caused Kityn to transform. He waited a few seconds for her to process the command, then directly accessed her memories and thoughts. What he found was even more disturbing. Kityn’s memories started with fondling Jon’s cock and ended with—now. There was no sign of her meeting him, the wait in line, or the conversation with Val. "Kityn, sleep." Her eyes closed, and her body slumped against his. Directing the taxi driver to head back to the hotel, he leaned back in the seat to think. Now what?
"Jon… Jon… Wake up!" Maribeth’s urgent call snapped him to full alertness. He sat up, having dozed off while pondering what to do about Kityn. "There’s some blonde bimbo in the living room jilling herself with my hair brush!" He sighed. Kityn hadn’t reverted to the sweet, wholesome girl from— "Jon," Maribeth whined.
He went into the living room of the suite to find Kityn as advertised. He put her back to sleep before she could go into her slut monologue. "She’s—related to the case I’m working on," he apologetically explained to his peeved companion. Whether or not that was true, he didn’t know, but it was a definite possibility.
"Eeeuuuuwwww, now I have to buy a new brush," Maribeth complained. "Jon, she was really gross. She wanted me to do her, and when I refused, she took the brush!"
"Sorry," Jon mumbled, while deepening Kityn’s sleep enough that she wouldn’t wake up without his intervention. "I didn’t know that she was going to wake up so early." He yawned. "I’ve gotta shower and wake up."
"I’ve got to get to work," Maribeth said, kissing him on the cheek. "If anybody can help her, I know you can."
I can’t help her if I don’t know what’s wrong was Jon’s first thought as Maribeth left. Val was still asleep, so the suite was quiet. He needed plenty of time and quiet for what he needed to do. Sending Kityn into a near-comatose state, he slowly and methodically searched through her brain. While she had no surface memories of last night prior to being in the club, something should be there, even if it was buried very deeply.
After three fruitless hours of mental probing, nothing had presented itself except Jon’s enormous headache. This was slow work, requiring enormous care on his part. The deeper he probed, the greater the hazard to Kityn. At this level, if he were to lose his concentration and fine control of his ability, the probe might interfere with the part of her brain controlling her involuntary muscle functions. He hadn’t delved this deep into another’s mind in a long time. Still, he could find no clues about her missing memories. This was looking more and more like a psionic’s work.
He only stopped long enough to eat lunch and send Valentina on a studio tour or three. Once the room was quiet, Jon resumed exploring the innermost reaches of Kityn’s mind. Still nothing before moving her hand to his crotch. Her motivation was purely sexual; she was an animal in heat. Had she been conscious, the drive would be unaffected, and Kityn would again try to fuck anything that moved. This was certainly pathological, but Jon hadn’t been able to find any trigger or fuse, and he was getting awfully close to the foundation of her mind now. That was where primary childhood learning resided. Items such as how to make sounds, basic motor skills, and the like were all woven into a solid, dense mass. In a normal mind, it was generally impossible to search for a single item there, because of how tangled and interconnected everything was. However, Jon made the effort anyway, because nothing else had shown up so far. After nearly six hours of exhausting and delicate mental probing, his persistence paid off. Jon found something in literally the last possible place he could look. There was a single word, laced throughout the foundation, composed by the foundation material itself. It was a name. Beth. Jon withdrew his probe and called Bridget.
"Beth Arnold. Abducted from Sayre, Oklahoma over a month ago. She was office manager at an auto dealership. She went in to work late one night, and that was the last anyone had seen of her. The security man said that she left with a family emergency at eleven. Office was locked just fine, although it did look like she left in a hurry. Her family said there was no emergency, so we know it was a set-up. Her car was found a couple of miles away. The height and hair match, but the bra size—I bet you had a lot of fun measuring that—doesn’t. Can you get anything out of her? A description of her abductor would be nice. I mean, are you sure it’s our boy?"
"I’m fairly sure. All of her memories start with her schizophrenic episode, and there’s nothing else there. I originally thought it was MPD. That’s why I did such a deep scan. Somehow, she had a strong enough sense of self to retain her name despite the blanking process."
Jon swore he could hear Bridget frown on the other end of the line. "You mean her mind’s essentially been totally erased?" He didn’t answer. "Damn," she finally managed after a minute. "I guess you can’t help her get back to Beth, then."
"No," Jon admitted. "I would like to try and fix her memory blank problem. She was a perky kind of gal, and I want that Kityn to be in control. If worse comes to worse, can you—find a reason to put her in protective custody until I figure out a way to do that?"
"Easy enough," Bridget replied. "She’s a material witness. Jon—could she help us find this guy? After all, he took her once. Maybe he’ll try to get her back. We can tail her to get him."
"No," Jon firmly said. "That’s way too dangerous for everyone involved. After what he’s done to her already, if he gets a second chance…" His voice trailed off. Los Angeles was not a good place for Kityn to stay, even if Jon could cure her. The man responsible for this could find her all too easily. For all he knew, that man was waiting outside her door right now.
Hank Parrott took a slug of his drink. "I went to see if that Kityn chick was back yet. She hasn’t been home since she left last night. This kills my movie. Think she’s gone for good?"
The tall young black-haired man leaned back in his chair, absently playing with his fingers. He considered the question for a moment. "It’s most likely that some other man said the magic word before you could get to her at the club."
"Yeah, well, I was running late," Hank defensively said. "She was gonna be a big star in the biz. Great look, all sweetness and innocence. Just say, "slut," and she’d do anything just to get her pussy touched. Great premise. I had a whole series planned out. Black guys, white guys, girls, even animals for the specialty market. Coulda made mega-mega bucks on her." Hank took another gulp. "Think I should go back to her place and wait for her?"
"No, no. That would not be a good idea. She could have a tail," the tall man replied. "Better to let her go. I can always get you another one. It’s a safe assumption that he’s got her in her slut persona. If you were a single, horny guy, would you give her up?" He brushed his stringy black hair out of his face.
Hank said, "At some point, he’s gonna want the ‘off’ switch. She’ll kill him otherwise." Both men laughed. "Still… she was gonna be a big money maker for us. Are you sure you’re not just being paranoid? I mean, you can do that thing to make them forget everything." The other man gave him a pained look and shook his head strongly, clearly indicating that the subject was closed. "Well, if you think it’s easier to get another one…"
"I do. It may take a few weeks to find the right girl."
"That’s fine. Same deal? Fifty-fifty split on the profits?"
"Yes," his partner said. "Alterations at your expense." Parrott nodded. "Are you sure I couldn’t interest you in Bambi here?" He pointed to the tall, tanned blonde with him. She was wearing a miniskirt, an overmatched top that threatened to spill her mythic chest at any moment, and four-inch stiletto heels. "Otherwise, it will take a few weeks. Fresh-faced girls don’t grow on trees."
"No," Hank responded. "She’s a little… too much for what I’m looking for. Huge tits is your thing. There are enough of them in the biz already. If you’re looking to dump her, though, I’m sure I can find guys who’d be happy to take her off your hands."
The other man considered that briefly, then stood to leave. "No, not right now. Maybe in a few weeks, after I get bored with her." Turning to his female companion, he said, "Come along, Bambi." She obediently tottered along behind him on her heels with a big smile on her face, and adoration in her eyes.
It was getting late in the day. Both Maribeth and Val would be returning soon. Kityn was still in her artificially induced near-coma, her mind still full of performing sexual acts. He had to get inside Kityn’s foundation. The trigger had to be in there somewhere. He steeled himself, knowing that he could do far more harm than good. Messing with someone’s foundation was the easiest way to render him or her a vegetable. If the trigger was embedded in there… Jon suddenly had a new respect for his adversary’s power. He eased through the upper layers of her mind, following his earlier route. It still took forty-five minutes.
Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead as he gently began to probe the foundation, looking for an opening. It would be best if he could get into the foundation without using force. After a tense hour of delicate searching, he found a narrow fissure that seemed to lead all the way to the root of Kityn’s/Beth’s mind. As far as he knew, normal minds didn’t have a clear path to the root. He dove in, curious. Once he got to the root, it was plain as day. The trigger word was "slut," and associated with males. Simply put, all a man had to do was to say "slut" to her, and he’d have one. With this planted at the root of her mind, there was no way she could do anything different. This was who she was.
Now where’s the counter-trigger, Jon asked himself. He found it quickly enough, also planted in the root. "Honey pooh-bear?" he asked the comatose girl. "Who thinks of these things?" Jon withdrew from her mind with a clear strategy. He’d have to wake Kityn, use the words that turned her into the sweet innocent, then put her back into coma so he could remove both triggers. It was getting late, and he would still need absolute concentration, so he waited until after Valentina and Maribeth got back.
Kityn, Val and Mickey made for the cutest picture at Disneyland the next day. Jon was preoccupied, wondering if there was anything he could do for Kityn. She had no memories beyond her "reawakening" last night and her previous life as Beth was lost forever. The fact that she had no memory of how or why she’d awakened in a strange man’s hotel suite (one he shared with two other women) didn’t seem to trouble her in the least. He was too worn out to attempt to find out why or where the memories went. However, getting her out of Los Angeles was important. "Kityn, if this actress thing doesn’t work out, what would you do?" he asked as the three of them had lemonade on Main Street, U.S.A.
"I don’t know, Jon," she said, sounding surprised that he would ask. "I can’t say I’ve given it much thought. I’ve always wanted to be an actress."
"You are so sweet, Kityn," Valentina chipped in. "I think you would be good with little children."
Kityn smiled. "I like children, especially the little ones," she smiled ruefully. "But I’d have to go to school to teach. I don’t have the money for that. I can barely afford my rent," she sighed. "Besides, I don’t even have my high school diploma."
Jon grasped her hand. "I am in the business of making dreams come true. Ask Valentina or Maribeth. Why don’t you leave Hollywood and come back to middle America with us? I will give you the financial and moral support you need for your education. Universities will accept a G.E.D." He looked at her with as much sincerity as he could gather. "No strings attached."
Kityn gaped at him. "Really? You would do that for me? Why? I mean, I’m not that naïve. Men say that to me all the time, and all they really want is to have—ummm—ummm—sex with me." She wanted to believe him.
"I’d do it because you’re a really sweet girl, and I’d hate to see anything bad happen to you here in California. I can’t save everybody, but if I can make a difference with one person, it means a lot to me. You wouldn’t be living with us, although you’re certainly welcome to visit Maribeth and Valentina and I." He took a deep breath. "I’m even willing to put this in writing, and have a contract drawn up to your specifications."
"Well… I dunno," Kityn sighed. "Can I talk to Valentina first?" Jon nodded and smiled. Kityn drew Val aside and walked away from him, far enough so he couldn’t hear them. Jon didn’t eavesdrop, although he could have by locking onto Valentina’s thoughts. Kityn came back. "Ummm… I don’t think I need the lawyer part, because Val says you’re an honest guy, and I can always come back here if it doesn’t work out, right?"
"That’s right, Kityn. Like I said, I’ll provide moral and financial support, but you’ll be responsible for providing for yourself. That means you’ll have to get a job for your spending money, and eventually, your rent and things like that," Jon said. "I’m not going to be your provider forever."
"I can do that, Jon," Kityn replied. "I’ve never been afraid to work for what I want. Thank you," she said as she hugged him. "Now, who wants to go to the Magic Mountain?"