Deity Arms 2: I Call My Sugar Candy

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Deity Arms

Deity Arms: I Call My Sugar Candy
by The Professor (c. 2001)

For Jack Chrysler, meeting a girl like Vickie was like a dream. Would it stay that way though, or would it prove to be a nightmare?

Deity Arms Separator

Luk had been making great progress in learning English. He had even been picking up some of the local slang, so when Mr. L told him to be part of the furniture, he assumed that meant he was to be very quiet while observing his mysterious boss as he carried out a negotiation. Not so. He would have sighed, but in his current shape as a floor lamp, it was impossible for him to do so. In fact, how he could see and hear was a mystery to him. As a minor deity, the spell Mr. L had used on him was far too complex for him to comprehend.

“So do we have a deal?”

The man who spoke was what Luk believed the local idiom referred to as a “mover and shaker.” Tall, handsome, and expensively dressed, the man reeked of power and success. At his right, a beautiful woman with dark red hair sat, sharing his aura. No, that wasn’t quite right. She seemed to have an aura of her own–perhaps even greater than the man’s. Her short green skirt rode high on her crossed legs, turned just so to give Mr. L a full and impressive view.

It was just as well Luk found himself part of the furniture. Otherwise, he might have snickered at the pair. They thought they were in control of the meeting. Nothing could have been further from the truth. He was sure they would never learn that until Mr. L was ready for them to know.

Mr. L leaned forward in his large leather desk chair. His hands were folded on the desk in front of him as he peered at the pair. There was a twinkle in his steel-blue eyes that hid the gaze of a predator.

“Now let me see if I understand,” he began calmly, a thin smile on his lips. “You believe that I have certain arcane powers which will allow me to carry out your plan, and you wish to pay me fifty thousand dollars when I do. Is that correct?”

The man nodded. “That’s about the size of it.”

“I must say Mr. Sherman, your plan is most inventive,” Mr. L said smoothly. “However, to carry it out would demand great magical power...”

“Which I have been assured you possess,” Mr. Sherman interrupted with a wicked smile of his own.

“I’m not sure...”

“Seventy-five thousand then,” Mr. Sherman said confidently.

“Shall we say a hundred thousand?” Mr. L replied calmly.

“A hundred and you’ll deliver?” Mr. Sherman asked.

“I’ll most certainly deliver,” Mr. L assured him, rising to take the man’s well-manicured hand. “Please call on my assistant, Mr. Luck at nine tomorrow morning. All will be arranged.”

“But Chrysler’s plane will be in at three tomorrow afternoon,” Mr. Sherman protested, releasing Mr. L’s hand. “That doesn’t give us much time. We’ll need to start today.”

“On the contrary,” Mr. L said calmly. “There will be plenty of time. You must trust me on this, Mr. Sherman.”

Luk could tell Mr. Sherman wasn’t used to trusting anyone for any reason. But the dapper man had no choice. He had been told that Mr. Logan was the one man in the city who could do what he wanted done. He would have to trust him, no matter what his instincts told him. He looked at his female companion who gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

“Very well,” he agreed reluctantly. Then to his companion as he took her arm possessively, “Let’s go.”

“Good day to you, Mr. Sherman,” Mr. L called out cheerfully. “And to you too, Mrs. Chrysler.”

The pair nearly stopped walking toward the door. Neither had remembered mentioning the name of the woman. But perhaps there had been a slip...

The heavy oak door closed behind the couple. Mr. L waved his hand, not bothering to watch as the floor lamp which had been casting light on the rug moments before plumped out into the figure of Luk. Luk felt his dark hair, still warm from being a lampshade.

“Well, Mr. Luck, a most profitable encounter, don’t you think?” Mr. L said. “I must thank our associate for referring Mr. Sherman to us.”

“But,” Luk asked respectfully, “are you going to do what he wants?”

“Oh yes.” Mr. L smiled a smile Luk hoped never to see directed at him. “I plan to do exactly what he wants. And more.”

Deity Arms Separator

“Mr. Chrysler?”

It was Alice, the receptionist. Usually she would have called Brenda Travis, my admin assistant, but Brenda was already in New York, meeting with my staff there while I handled the corporate move from back in Cleveland. I had just talked to Brenda, and she was having a ball getting things arranged. She was going to really take to New York: I could tell.

“Yes, Alice.”

“There’s a reporter on the line from the Plain-Dealer. He’s most insistent.”

I sighed. Brenda would normally take care of this. I didn’t really want to talk to another reporter–particularly one from the local paper. Everybody from the Mayor’s office to the Chamber of Commerce was pissed off because Chrysler Publications was moving to the Big Apple. It seemed I was to be castigated in print one more time before the move. “Put him through,” I said reluctantly.

“Jack Chrysler?” a voice came through my speakerphone with no preamble.

“That’s right.” It was really John David Chrysler III and Jack to my friends. A reporter from Cleveland’s biggest newspaper was certainly not my friend, but I wasn’t in a mood to split hairs.

“Matt Rogan–Cleveland Plain-Dealer. So how is the move going?”

“On schedule and on budget,” I told him as laconically as I could. I wanted this interview to be over already and it had just begun. I wasn’t a very popular person over at the Plain-Dealer these days. I was just moving my business out of Cleveland. Jeez, you would have thought I was moving the Cleveland Browns–the original Browns, that is.

“Why do you feel the need to move your publishing empire to New York?”

‘Empire? I’d hardly call it an empire,’ I thought. It consisted of four magazines, only two of which were still making a profit. Of those, only First Class Male did very well, and it had been losing circulation steadily for the last three years. All of them were owned by the Chrysler Family Trust–an organization founded by my father which had left me in charge after his death.

“Matt, I’ve been through this with another one of your reporters already.”

“I know,” he said quickly. “But indulge me, okay? I’m writing a little different angle on this.”

“A different angle?” I pressed, my defenses suddenly alerted. “I thought you were primarily an editorialist.”

Silence for a moment–then, “Well, I am.”

“So you plan to write an editorial about our move to New York,” I concluded. “Something tells me it won’t be very favorable.”

“Jack, a lot of people think you’re just doing this to please your wife.”

“My wife?” I practically yelled indignantly as my hackles rose. “What does my wife have to do with this?”

I could almost hear the droplets of sweat at the other end. This wasn’t going like the editorialist had hoped. “Well Jack, it’s pretty common knowledge that your wife hasn’t been very happy here in Cleveland.”

I cursed silently, admitting to myself that it was true. I had met Vickie at a publisher’s show in New York. She had been there helping to promote a coffee table book featuring top models from around the world. She was one of the top fashion models in New York–read that the world. Vickie was absolutely stunning. I fell in love immediately. She had a natural poise and grace that was alien to a Midwestern boy like me. Before I knew it, we were engaged, then married.

I had just inherited Chrysler Publications–or at least enough of the stock to exercise control of the company–from my father. He had died at his desk–as he would have wanted it–only three years before. My father was a legend in Midwestern business circles. He had built Chrysler Publications from the ground up. And as dynamic as his reputation had been in his business life, his personal life had been no less memorable. He was known to have had a number of mistresses before my mother’s death, and after her death, he had often been seen with a stunning young actress or model on his arm.

Since inheriting the business, I had been struggling. I had never really wanted the business and had certainly never thought I would inherit it at the tender age of thirty-five, but my father’s unexpected death had left me the sole heir. Nearly two hundred people were employed by Chrysler, and I had made up my mind to do well for them if nothing else.

And yes, there are businessmen who care about their employees–quite a few of them actually in my experience. I was proud to be one of them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a very good one. Once at the helm, sales of all our magazines began to slip almost at once. I was actually in New York at that publisher’s show to try to dig up a buyer for some or all of our titles.

But then I had met Vickie, and I forgot all about my mission. I had a new mission now–to bed and wed a world-class model. Unfortunately, I succeeded.

I suppose in a way, I was trying to imitate my father. If he had been able to woo beautiful young models, why couldn’t I do the same? I suppose in retrospect, my feelings for Vickie were influenced by the memory of my father.

Oh, it started out well enough. The honeymoon in Rome was everything I could have hoped for. The problems started when we got back to Cleveland. For a girl like Vickie, born and raised in the shadow of the Empire State Building, Cleveland was a drag. Personally, I had always liked the town–its friendliness seemed to more than make up for its lack of sophistication. But Vickie was the proverbial fish out of water.

I was spending more time trying to salvage my marriage than I did running my company, and it was starting to show. By a strange coincidence, it was Vickie who saved the day. She knew Del Sherman from her days in New York. Managing Editor for a top men’s magazine, she was sure she could talk him into taking a similar position at First Class Male. It seemed to be the answer to my prayers. I could then run the other three magazines, boosting them in circulation, while Del did for us what he had done for other publications.

The strategy worked at first. First Class Male rose dramatically in circulation, and I was even able to bring our other titles up some. The problem was that the increase was temporary. Then came the opportunity to move to New York...

“Any comment on your wife’s role, Jack?”

“The decision to move to New York was mine,” I told him, then adding, “And mine alone.”

“Del Sherman had nothing to do with it?” he asked innocently.

“Of course Del was part of the decision,” I growled. “First Class Male is the main reason for the move. I feel in New York, that publication will be better able to keep our finger on the pulse of emerging trends and...”

“What about your employees?”

My train of thought interrupted. I asked, “Employees?”

“Yeah, Jack. Those folks who work for you. How many of them are moving to New York with you?”

Uh-oh. Now I knew where he was going. “Matt, most of our employees were offered the chance to move.”

“Sure,” he countered, “but only about twenty of them are actually doing so, and all of them are associated with First Class Male from what I hear.”

The correct number was twenty-two, but I kept quiet.

“Not very many considering the way you said three years ago that you wanted to take care of your employees,” Matt commented.

“Oh come on now,” I retorted. “It isn’t my fault so many of them wanted to stay here. And we even hired an outplacement firm to help them find new jobs.” I was proud of that move. It had been my idea. The firm had found jobs for nearly half of our people, and most of the rest found opportunities on their own. Thank god the local economy had been growing.

“Sure,” Matt said sarcastically. “You offered the same money they were making here in spite of the difference in cost of living in New York.”

“Profits aren’t sufficient to increase wages,” I replied, hating myself for using an argument Del had advanced over my objections. “Once we’re established, I’ve promised a bonus program that should more than make up for it.” I hoped.

“Have it your way, Jack,” Matt laughed, to my consternation. “I hope you get what’s coming to you in New York.”

There was a click at the other end. I didn’t even have the pleasure of hanging up on the bastard. He was bound to pillory us in the next day’s edition. The hell of it was, I was afraid he might be right.

The move to New York had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I wasn’t so sure. Oh, Del was still enthusiastic about it, but I wasn’t sure the additional costs would ever translate into revenue for the company. But I also knew that Vickie was anxious to move to New York. That damned reporter had been more right than I was willing to admit about that.

But right decision or wrong decision, the choice had been made. I was due to fly out to New York that very day to see the temporary location Del had picked for the company offices. So far, only First Class Male was gearing up in New York, but the other magazines would be headquartered there within a few months. Del had convinced me that it was imperative that we get First Class Male moved as quickly as possible.

“You’ll like the offices,” Del had told me just an hour before. “They’re in an older building–near the Village. It’s a brownstone that’s been converted to apartments and offices. You and Vickie can live right there in the building.”

“How about you, Del?” I had asked my good friend and associate. “Did you get a place there too?”

“I wish I could,” he had laughed. “But they don’t get vacancies very often. There was no room at the inn for me, I’m afraid.”

“Well, I’ll have you up for drinks as soon as we get settled in,” I had promised.

I was going to make good on that promise sooner than he thought I mused as my chartered jet took off from the airport. I had brought along a nice magnum of champagne to christen the place as soon as I arrived. Of course, I didn’t have to wait to start celebrating. There was a bar on the plane, and although there was no flight attendant, I was quite able to make my own drink.

I didn’t usually drink alone, but I was happy and relieved to get out of Cleveland. It wasn’t that I disliked the city. Actually, I liked it very much. The problem was that ever since I had announced the move, the city didn’t like me. At least, once in New York, if that reporter wanted to call me, it would cost him the price of a long distance call.

As for being alone, I was certainly that. There were no other passengers on the flight, and the crew had apparently come on board and taken off while I was napping. I hadn’t even seen them. They didn’t even respond when I tapped on the door of the cockpit to find out what the slight shudder had been while we were climbing out. The only response I had gotten was a distorted comment from the pilot over the intercom. He assured me everything was all right. Mollified, I sat back down to enjoy my drink.

It was nearly dark on a brisk early spring evening as we touched down at Westchester Airport. I had napped during the relatively short flight, so I was now ready to celebrate. With a wide smile on my face, I lifted the magnum up over my head so Del and Vickie could see me from the side of the waiting limo.

“You came prepared pal,” Del commented, taking the bottle while I hugged Vickie. God, it was good to be back in her arms again. I buried my face in her long, red hair.

“Always, Del,” I laughed.

“Well, we’ll get this one on ice as soon we get to your new offices,” Del told me. “There’s another one all ready for us in the car.”

“The offices?” I said stupidly. “I thought we’d be going to the Ritz-Carleton this evening.”

Del gave me a wide grin. “Why do that when your new office and apartment are all ready?”

“Ready?”

Del nodded. “Of course. Why did you hire me if you didn’t want things done? The building manager, Mr. Logan, put a rush on everything. He had people working through the night to get it done. Of course, we didn’t have to remodel since the offices are just temporary.”

“The apartment too?” I asked. “What about our furniture?”

“Well,” Del admitted, “the apartment isn’t actually ready yet, but Mr. Logan arranged for you to use another apartment in the building for a while. He’s quite a miracle worker.”

“Sounds like it,” I agreed. “I’d like to meet him.”

“Oh, you will,” Del assured me with an unexpected twinkle in his eyes.

A uniformed driver carried my luggage to the car. He was a homely little man–short and rather nondescript. It was hard to imagine a little fellow like him even being able to see over the steering wheel of the black behemoth that waited to carry us into the city.

I helped Vickie into the limo. Damn, she looked good! I was so relieved that we had settled our problems with the move to New York. She was wearing a dark blue dress–cocktail length and made from a shimmering material. Every inch of her body was sheer perfection from her lush red hair to the tips of her dainty toes. I loved her more every time I saw her.

“Our first night together in New York,” I whispered in her ear. We were alone in the back. Del had chosen to ride up front with the driver. I think he was just trying to give us some time alone.

“And it will be wonderful, darling,” she giggled. “I’ve already got the champagne on ice at the apartment. Of course, it’s not as big or nice as our real apartment will be, but we can make do.”

“I’m sure we can,” I assured her, covering her dark red lips with my own. Damn! I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to the apartment. I wanted her right that minute.

“Here we are, sir,” the driver announced, opening the door for us. He had a strange little accent–one that sounded almost Russian. ‘Probably from the Balkans,’ I thought. With all the trouble there, there had been a large number of refugees even in Cleveland. New York had to be full of them.

When I got out of the car and found myself staring up at a large building squarely in the middle of the block, its brownstone façade weathered by both age and pollution. It was six stories high and had obviously been built in a more opulent age. The windows and corners of the building displayed ornate detail. Above the polished heavy oak front doors, two gargoyles perched on a ledge. Between them, carved into the stone, were two words: Deety Arms. But part of the stone on one of the words had either worn or been chipped away, for the second ‘e’ looked more like an ‘i’ at first glance.

“It’s magnificent!” I remarked. I fell in love with the building that very moment. I have always loved classic buildings more than the steel and concrete monstrosities that rise up from our cities. With their mirrored glass and imposing scales, they seem designed more for the machines that inhabit them than the people who must work there. This building had character.

“Come on,” Del insisted as he grabbed my arm. “You’ve got to see the offices.”

I marvelled at what Del had been able to accomplish in such a short time. Our temporary offices were nicer than our permanent offices back in Cleveland. Technically, I suppose the offices weren’t in Deety Arms. They resided in a building next to the brownstone, but it was similar in character.

“There’s even a hallway from the lobby of your building to this one,” Del pointed out as he indicated the softly lit, carpeted path I would walk to work each day. “You won’t even have to get your feet wet.”

He led Vickie and me through a double door of glass and brass into an office lobby replete with walnut wainscoting and tasteful furnishings in a deep burgundy shade. Gold letters displayed our logo, a stylized Chrysler Publications inside a drawn book.

I could scarcely believe it. Del had done all of this in just a few days. I had known he had contacts in New York, but I had never dreamed they were so efficient and resourceful.

“Of course, we just have a skeleton staff,” he told me apologetically.

“That’s all we’ll need for a few weeks,” I reminded him. The official business plan was that First Class Male, which had just published its latest issue, would be the first to move to New York. The other titles would continue to be published in Cleveland for the next few months until sufficient New York staff had been hired. First Class Male’s senior staff consisted mostly of people Del had recruited, and they had been more open to the move.

“I suppose you’re right,” Del said as he popped open a magnum of champagne. Producing crystal glasses from behind the reception desk, he smoothly poured glasses for Vickie and me, handing them to us before pouring his own.

“I propose a toast,” he said, holding out his glass. “To success!”

“To success!” Vickie replied quickly, hoisting her own glass to meet Del’s. I practically had to squeeze my own glass in to participate in the toast. I was very pleased, though. Vickie was obviously happy to be back in New York. This would be the spark that would rekindle the fires in our marriage.

“What a joyous occasion!”

The comment had come from the entranceway. It was deep and cultured, lacking any trace of the harsh New York accent I would have expected. I turned to look at the speaker. The man was tall and slender, his face a series of contrasts. His skin and build were those of a young man in the very prime of life, but his hair was completely white, cut closer than current styles would dictate. And his eyes... the steel-blue eyes seemed older than dirt, as if this man had seen it all. He was dressed in a dark blue suit, obviously tailored specifically for his narrow frame, and his shirt, tie and shoes had obviously been selected with impeccable taste. I suspected the clothing on his back cost more than most people made in a month.

“Jack, allow me to introduce our landlord, Mr. Logan.”

Mr. Logan extended a slender hand. His grip was warm and confident. I met his welcoming stare with one that I hoped was equally strong. But I couldn’t match his look somehow. It was as if he was examining me–perhaps all the way down to my very soul.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Mr. Chrysler,” he said. “I’ve followed your company for some time now.”

That pleased me. Our firm wasn’t all that large as publishing companies went, and to have a man of such obvious tastes familiar with us warmed me greatly. “Do you read any of our publications, Mr. Logan?”

He favored me with a small smile. “Yes, I have. I particularly like that little architectural magazine you publish–The Classical Touch. Last quarter’s article on medieval European influences on Nineteenth Century New York buildings was marvellous.”

“I can see why you enjoyed it,” I commented, warming to him at once. Art and architecture had always been my own first loves. “This building shows some of those very touches.”

“Yes, doesn’t it?”

I didn’t bother to mention that I had actually written the article, although not under my own name. I found myself liking this polished man. He was obviously a man of sophisticated interests. Yet there was an air of mystery about him, as if seeing him was only seeing the very tip of an iceberg.

“Would you like a glass of champagne?” Del called out.

“Yes, that would be very nice,” Mr. Logan replied, although he continued to look at me. His eyes never left me even when Del handed him his glass.

Del had ushered Vickie into his office, presumably to show it off to her, leaving me with Mr. Logan.

“Mr. Chrysler,” Mr. Logan began after a sip of champagne, “I’m rather curious about you. Your firm publishes such fine magazines as The Classical Touch. Yet you also publish that rather titillating... magazine known as First Class Male.”

I smiled. It wasn’t the first time I had been asked that question. “I realize many people may feel First Class Male is in less than appropriate taste...”

He dismissed that line of conversation with a wave of his hand. “I assure you, taste has nothing to do with my question.”

“Then I suppose the best way to say it is that First Class Male pays the bills so I can afford to publish quality magazines like The Classical Touch.”

If I had expected an argument, I would have been disappointed. Instead of the sanctimonious retort I had expected from him, Mr. Logan merely nodded with a smile. “I see. That sounds reasonable,” he commented. “Yet it doesn’t seem to belong in your group. I wonder if concerns about its publication are hurting the circulation of your other magazines.”

“I’ve wondered that myself,” I admitted frankly. “That’s why I’ve made an effort to keep it toned down a bit from other men’s magazines. I try to maintain a higher standard than even Playboy.”

And it hadn’t been easy, I might have added. Del had been pressuring me practically since his arrival to give First Class Male a harder edge–more explicit pictures and titillating articles. I had let him make a few changes I actually felt uncomfortable with. I had to admit, both circulation and advertising had picked up as a suspected result, but I didn’t want the magazine to become trashy.

“That’s a laudable objective,” Mr. Logan allowed with a thin smile. With that, he set his glass down, careful to place it on a coaster so as not to leave a ring. “Then if you’ll excuse me, I have other matters to attend to. I hope you enjoy your stay here, Mr. Chrysler.”

“I’m sure I will.”

‘I was impressed with Mr. Logan,’ I thought as I watched him leave. He carried himself with the poise and dignity of a man who is in charge and knows it–and doesn’t have to flaunt it. And as I was to learn later, I didn’t know the half of it.

“Well, I’d better let you get settled,” Del said with a friendly slap on my arm.

I looked over at Vickie. Getting settled wasn’t exactly the first thing I had decided to do. I had missed Vickie, and here in New York, she seemed even more radiant than I had remembered. I hoped our new temporary apartment had a large, comfortable bed.

Vickie and I embraced like teenaged lovers once the elevator doors closed. “I’ve missed you,” I told her in a husky voice.

“Oh darling, I’ve missed you too,” she replied.

I lifted my hand under her short skirt, only to have her gently pull it back. “Maybe we should wait until we’re in the apartment,” she admonished me gently.

I could scarcely wait. I could feel the erection in my trousers growing to the point that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk out of the elevator. I toyed with stopping the car and doing it right then and there. “I love you,” I said, unaware of how enslaved I was.

“Oh! We’re here,” she said as the elevator bell rang on the fifth floor. “Now, don’t be alarmed, darling. This apartment is just temporary. It’s very small.”

I grinned. “Does it have a bed?”

“You’ll see.”

She led me into the apartment, turning on only a small dim light. I strained to look around, but it was as if my vision was beginning to blur. “I feel suddenly very tired,” I mumbled. What was wrong with me? A few moments before I felt fine. In fact, I felt better than fine: I felt fantastic. Now, I could barely keep my eyes open.

“You’ve had a long day,” Vickie said in low soothing tones. “Why don’t you just lie down on the bed and I’ll get ready.”

“Ready? Oh... yes, ready. Yeah, I’ll just... lie... down.”

She had led me into the bedroom where I saw the faint outline of a bed bathed in the weak light coming from a single courtyard window. It didn’t look like a very big bed, but it looked soft and inviting. I didn’t so much as lie down as throw myself on the bed. I heard water running from the next room. She was getting ready for me... Ready for what? Oh, yeah... that...

As I slept, I thought I was dreaming, for I heard voices and could make out people walking around the room.

“Is he breathing?” a familiar woman’s voice asked.

“Oh yes,” another familiar voice–this one male–responded.

“How long will it take?”

Mr. Logan’s voice replied, “It will start any moment now.”

“Yes, I see. My God, that’s amazing!”

As if on cue, I felt something tickling my neck. Then, I dozed off again.

I awoke to a feeling of disorientation. As a businessman, I had travelled often, so the feeling of waking up in a strange room in a forgotten city was not uncommon. While that too, involved disorientation, this was different. Everything was different. The sounds, the smells, the very feel of my body seemed more different than I had ever experienced before. I felt an overwhelming urge to pee, but the sensation seemed to be coming from within my body rather than in my penis.

Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

I had awakened lying on my back, and as I shifted to get out of bed, I felt flesh pooling beneath my ass and something flopping at my chest. Something else was tickling my shoulders and back. There was something short and silky, barely covering my body. In that sudden moment of self-awareness, I nearly dropped back onto the pillow in a catatonic state. Sitting there on the side of the bed, I knew what had happened to me. What man wouldn’t have known?

I was a woman.

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to force myself back to sleep and out of this impossible nightmare. I had gone to bed male, my wife with me...

‘Where was Vickie?’ I suddenly wondered, a wave of embarrassment washing over me. She couldn’t see me like this! It wasn’t right. I looked around. She was nowhere to be seen. Actually, there was no place for her to be. The bed, with its pink and white feminine sheets, was a single.

I put my head in my hands and groaned as I nearly poked myself in the eye with an unexpectedly long fingernail. This couldn’t be happening. It just couldn’t.

I think I might have sat there for the rest of the day, just trying pointlessly to make it all go away, but my bladder had other ideas. I knew if I didn’t get up and go to the bathroom I was going to make an embarrassing mess on the bed. Being a woman was bad enough. Being an incontinent woman was more than I could bear. I was already finding out that a woman, unlike a man, needs relief more urgently. With a sigh of resignation, I stood up.

Standing up was not altogether an unpleasant sensation. This new body was lighter and most probably younger. It moved with a grace that even my unfamiliarity with it could not totally destroy. I found it to be more cat-like–ready to spring upon an instantaneous command. I softly padded into the bathroom, feeling the sensation of a silky baby-doll rustling against my new flesh. I could also feel my face flush as I experienced for the first time the gentle sway of hips and breasts. In a terrifying way, it was exciting, and I hated myself for thinking of it in that way.

In moments, I had peeled off my panties and accomplished my first female act, and I felt an odd little flush of pride as a result. It hadn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. While the muscles were different from my male ones, the barely-conscious command I sent to my body was very similar to its male equivalent. I was rewarded by a fine spray of urine that instantly relieved my discomfort. It seemed less directed than a male stream would have been, and I began to realize completely for the first time why women had to squat to pee. I also knew women wiped–I did it tentatively, only hoping I had done it correctly.

I then discovered the full-length mirror that every woman finds so necessary. It was attached to the inside of the bathroom door. Part of me didn’t even want to look, but I would have to face the new me sometime. I had been correct in my initial assessment. I was quite a bit younger than I had been–maybe early twenties if even that.

I was first drawn to my hair. Unlike my darker shade, I was now a blonde–a pure blonde. The hair that cascaded off my shoulders and down my back was the natural color of spun gold. There was virtually no trace of darker shades: nor was it unnaturally light. It was an almost uniform gold, which almost sparkled in the morning light. I supposed I would now be the butt of blonde jokes, but that somehow seemed to be the least of my worries.

The hair framed a face that spoke of both innocence and desire. The eyes were a deep, sparkling blue, and the nose was pert and blended smoothly with the almost patrician lines of my cheekbones. My skin was flawless, but it was particularly smooth and feminine on my face, accented as it was by two lips that were so full and perfectly formed that they seemed to need no enhancements–such as lipstick. Oh dear God, would I have to wear lipstick now?

As for my body... well, perfection is an arguable state, but my body was nearly perfect. The breasts were full and thrust proudly forward without being outlandish. My waist was narrow and my hips a perfect complement to it. My legs were long and smooth. I was an absolute knockout. It was a body any woman would kill for. But it was enough to make me want to kill myself.

“This isn’t possible,” I mumbled in a voice that was breathy and sweet. And it wasn’t possible–not at all. I suppose my first thought had been that I had been shipped off to some sex-change clinic where I had been altered into this new form. But no surgeon’s knife had done this to me. My new body was smaller and perfectly formed by the forces of nature–not medical science.

But how? And why?

Those questions would have to wait. Someone or something had done this to me on purpose. I needed to face them fully clothed, no matter how repugnant it seemed to have to wear women’s clothing.

After looking around what was obviously a very feminine apartment, I wasn’t surprised to find a closet loaded with women’s clothing. I managed to wrestle on a reasonable outfit in a few minutes. As expected, the bra gave me a little trouble, but I managed. In some ways, the panties were more an indication of what I had become. The breasts had already become apparent to me, their presence emphasized by practically every movement of my body. The panties, on the other hand, emphasized something I had lost rather than gained. When I pulled them up, they nestled themselves at the edge of my new slit, reminding me I was no longer a man in any way.

As for outer attire, a polo shirt, jeans, sneakers and socks were not too different from their male counterparts. The only difficulty was slipping them on. I was used to the more casual fit men enjoyed–loose without being baggy. There was always plenty of room to move around in men’s clothes. Not so with my chosen outfit, however. The polo shirt pushed outward from the pressure of my breasts, and I thought I was going to have to get the jeans on over my ass and hips with a shoehorn. And why did the sneakers have to be trimmed in white and pink? Pink?

I had no idea what to do with so much hair. Finally, I just gathered it into a large, loose ponytail and tied it off with a rubber band-like item I had found in the bathroom.

If I had thought to disguise my femininity in any way, I would have been greatly disappointed. The image in the mirror was of a sweet young blonde, feminine and vulnerable in every way. Thank God I had decided not to attempt makeup or jewelry. If I had looked any sexier, I would have probably been assaulted in the elevator.

Having managed to dress myself with a minimum of problems, I turned to the next issue: who was responsible for this? It seemed that my dear wife had something to do with it. I recognized her voice in the night, talking with a man who sounded distinctly like Mr. Logan. Vickie was gone–God only knew where. That left Mr. Logan.

I hoped I looked angry. The angelic face I now had was scarcely intimidating, but it was the only face I had. I used it to frown the second I got off the elevator. An elderly man, looking like an overweight Cesar Romero stood in a doorman’s uniform in the lobby. He smiled at me as I approached.

“Good morning, Miss Dixon. Did you sleep well?”

“Where is Mr. Logan?” I demanded, trying to get my new pussycat voice to mimic a growl. Then I stopped. “What did you call me?”

“Why, your name, Miss Dixon,” he explained. He was trying to keep a straight face, but I could tell he was well aware that I was a newly-minted Miss Dixon.

“Where is he?” I demanded, ignoring his amusement.

The doorman hurriedly moved to open an oak door. “Right this way, Miss Dixon.”

I’ll Miss Dixon him, I thought to myself. Just wait until I get all of this straightened out.

I pushed by the oh-so-helpful doorman and barged into Mr. Logan’s office. He was sifting through a rather large stack of papers with his eyes focussed on them. “Please be seated, Miss Dixon. I’ll be with you in a moment,” he murmured.

“A moment my ass!” I yelled. “What the...”

Suddenly, I was unable to speak. Not even a squeak came out of my mouth. And just as suddenly, I felt a firm push from the very air in front of me, causing me to fall back into a soft chair. At least I presume the chair was soft. It’s possible that what was soft was my new feminine ass. I was unable to get up or even move about. Finally, I just leaned back in the chair and scowled as Mr. Logan read his papers and ignored me.

I’m sure it was just a few minutes, and I realized it was being done in part to show me who was in charge, but it felt as if I sat there glued to the chair for an hour. At last, Mr. Logan looked up at me. There was a nonchalance to his expression which infuriated me even more. “Now, Miss Dixon, what can I do for you?”

“You can change me back, damn you!” I tried to make it sound like a forceful demand, but it came out as a shrill request. I realized for the first time since my change how difficult it might be to be taken seriously with my weaker woman’s voice.

“Sorry, Miss Dixon,” Mr. Logan replied calmly. “I don’t think that would be a good idea at this time.”

“Why did you do this to me?” I also wanted to know how he did it, but why was more important at the moment.

“Let’s just say it was in my financial best interests to do so,” he explained blandly.

“Financial...” I suddenly remembered Vickie’s voice from the previous night. “My wife... paid you to... to...”

“Change you?” he finished for me. “In a manner of speaking, I suppose that is the case. More specifically, it was your associate, Mr. Sherman.”

“Del?” I gasped. “Del paid you to do this? Why?”

Mr. Logan leaned back in his chair and sighed, “Really, Miss Dixon, you should be more observant. You seem to lack the survival instincts required of a businessman. Mr. Sherman has been having an affair with your wife since the day he signed on with you. Before he signed on actually.”

I tried to say something, but words wouldn’t come out. There was no magic to my silence this time: I was just stunned. Del and Vickie? Why hadn’t I noticed? The answer came to me unbidden. I hadn’t noticed because I didn’t want to notice. I wanted to believe that Vickie loved me for who I was and that Del was a loyal employee. I should have realized. How could I have been so blind? So Vickie and Del had conspired against me.

“You can’t just change me into... into this,” I said motioning to my new body. “I’ll be missed. Vickie won’t have control of Chrysler Publications for a long time.”

“Actually, she will have effective control almost at once,” Mr. Logan pointed out. “You may be missing, but your whereabouts are not unknown.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your plane was seen crashing into Lake Erie right after takeoff. It will take a few days before they give up searching for your body in the wreckage. Then, it will be a few days more before you are declared dead and the will read, but these are only minor roadblocks,” he explained with a smile.

“But I was seen here–in New York,” I pointed out.

“Yes,” Mr. Logan agreed. “But who will remember you? Mr. Sherman and your wife? The pilot? The driver who brought you here?”

I saw his point. No one outside their potential control had seen me. Even the pilot hadn’t seen me. As for the driver, he had undoubtedly been paid off. I had called no one and seen no one else who would remember me. And somehow, Mr. Logan had managed to fake a plane crash as well–probably with the same unbelievable powers he had used to change me into a woman. How could I possibly fight such powers? There might be a way, but for the moment, I was trapped.

“So what happens now?” I asked quietly, resigned–at least in part–to my defeat.

“Now, Miss Dixon, you live your life,” he replied blandly.

“But... but I don’t even know who I am,” I protested in a choking voice.

“You are Candy Sue Dixon,” he told me, as if he was reading from an unseen script. “You are twenty-one years old and are from Buffalo. You graduated from high school there and left at once for New York. Your mother is dead and your father’s whereabouts unknown. You came to New York to get into modelling but found you don’t have the right build for it.” He nodded at my chest.

“What... what’s wrong with my build?” I blurted out before realizing just how much it made me sound like the very girl I had become.

“Your breasts are too large,” he explained. “Most models are not as well endowed as you are. Your former wife is a perfect example of this. In any case, modelling closed to you, you tried acting with equally poor results. No talent for it, I’m afraid.”

This was sounding worse by the minute. Alone in the big city, a young uneducated girl seeks her fortune but fails at every turn. It was the stuff stories were made of–tragic stories.

“What do I have talent for?” I asked, very afraid of the answer.

“Well,” Mr. Logan sighed theatrically, “you are very attractive...”

“No!”

“...and rent in this building is rather expensive,” he went on as if I hadn’t spoken. “Did you say something, Miss Dixon?”

“I said no!” I replied as forcefully as my new voice would allow. “I know what you’re thinking. I won’t be a prostitute.”

Mr. Logan smiled sadly. “Oh Miss Dixon, I’m sorry you think so little of me. I wasn’t suggesting that at all.”

I felt my heart slow down just a little. I had been sure he had intended me to earn my keep in a brothel of his choosing. “Then what are you suggesting?” I asked slowly, still sure I wasn’t going to like the answer.

“It just so happens that there is a new tenant in the building,” he explained. “It’s a publishing company, I believe...”

I groaned out loud. “What? Work for Del? Work for the man who did this to me? Are you serious?”

“As serious as death,” Mr. Logan replied, a threatening tone in his voice. “I would suggest that you consider your options. You have an appointment with Mr. Sherman for ten this morning. If you are interested in the job, I suggest you be there–dressed appropriately for an interview.”

“And if I’m not interested?”

“Then you may choose to make other living arrangements. I’m sure Mr. Sherman can be convinced to advance the first month’s rent for you if you are hired. Without a job, however, I’m afraid you’ll be required to move at once.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would,” he said calmly. “Now, if you’ll forgive me, Miss Dixon, I have work to do. And presumably, you have an interview to prepare for.”

I didn’t move. I felt if I did, I would be somehow giving up any chance of returning to my real life. After all, with each passing minute, the sham death of Jack Chrysler would become more and more of a reality. Rescuers would find the plane in the bitterly cold waters of Lake Erie. More than likely, the hull of the plane would be broken, and it would be assumed that Jack Chrysler had either swum out or his battered body had merely floated out. In any case, it would never be found. I would be presumed dead–case closed. And Vickie and Del would live happily ever after.

And me? Well, maybe Candy Dixon could find a nice job as a waitress somewhere. With her looks and lack of education, she’d be a natural for a stint at Hooters. Shit.

“Mr. Logan...”

“Miss Dixon, I told you I am very busy,” he said stiffly. “I can assure you that as miserable as you think your life is now, I can make it worse if you continue to bother me. Now, good day.”

Fear rose in me all at once. I jumped unsteadily to my feet. I wanted to try once more to convince him to change me back, but I realized I would be risking what little I had left. Tears forming in my eyes, I fled the office.

I slammed the door to my apartment and burst immediately into tears. How could Del have betrayed my trust? How could Vickie have returned my love for her in this way? How was it possible for Mr. Logan to change me like this? Who–or what–was he anyway? What was I going to do?

The questions were almost overwhelming. I just wanted to crawl back into bed and cry myself to sleep. Maybe if I did, I’d awaken and find out all of this had just been some terrible nightmare. I could just sigh with relief and look at Vickie sleeping contentedly beside me.

But no, I knew that wasn’t the case. This didn’t feel like a dream: it was all real. Del and Vickie had stolen everything my family had built up, and I was stuck in the body of a voluptuous, uneducated woman. To make matters worse, Del was going to rub my cute little nose in shit by offering me some menial job at my old company. I wouldn’t do it!

But as I slumped into a chair, slowly getting control of my tears, I began to realize I really had no choice. Unless I listened to Del’s proposal and took the job, Mr. Logan would have me thrown out on the street. I knew enough about renter’s rights to realize he couldn’t legally do that to me without proper notice, but given his powers, I had no doubt the threat was not an idle one. Besides, what else was I trained to do? Who would believe that I had attended the finest private secondary school in Ohio or that I had graduated with honors from college? No one–that’s who. I had no choice.

With a sigh of resignation, I pulled my busty body up out of the chair and stumbled into the bathroom to look at myself once again in the mirror. The full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door showed a very attractive girl who looked as if she had been run over by a truck. My eyes were red and puffy. My hair was dishevelled and looked as if it had last been combed when Reagan was President. As for my clothing choice... well, the less said the better. If I was going to go to that interview–and something told me I’d better do just that–I had a lot of work to do. After another traumatic trip to the toilet to void myself again, I began in earnest to get ready for my job interview. I almost changed my mind again when I saw the contents of my closet. Apparently, Candy Dixon didn’t have a skirt bigger than a postage stamp or a pair of shoes with a heel low enough to get up on without a stepladder. Oh, it wasn’t really that bad, but it seemed like it. I almost lost my resolve and fled from the building.

Maybe starving in the streets would be better than working for Del. What kind of a job did he have in mind for me anyway? I shuddered to think of it. Maybe I’d be his ‘personal’ secretary, servicing him under the desk after a hard day. No, that wasn’t likely. Vickie would be a jealous lover and wouldn’t want me getting into Del’s pants no matter how humiliating it might be for me. No, I’d just be one of the many attractive young women in the office. It was sort of expected of a men’s magazine to have attractive women displayed in the office.

‘So okay,’ I thought, ‘I can do that. I can file and look pretty until I can get some things sorted out.’ Even stuck like this, maybe I’d go to night school and get an education. Maybe there was still a chance I could convince Mr. Logan to change me back. There were always alternatives–there had to be–but first I had to eat and keep a roof over my head. A job at First Class Male might be demeaning and humiliating, but what choice did I have? As Candy, I had only a limited education and no apparent work history. Life as a young woman alone in the big city offered few viable options for me.

With a sigh, I pulled a dress out of the closet. It was short like all the rest, but its color–a medium blue–was one of the tamest in the closet. I knew enough from observing women to put together a reasonable outfit. With the practice I was sure to get, I knew I could do better, but the accessories I was able to gather looked reasonable together.

Fortunately, I had a lot of time because I turned out to be not as savvy as I thought I was. The blue dress worked okay, but the lower heeled shoes I had chosen at first were not right with it. Even my formerly male eyes could tell that they were the wrong shade of blue. The right ones had about a three-inch heel on them. I didn’t want to wear ones that high, but they were the only shoes that really matched and I didn’t want to start over. I was a little wobbly in heels, so I walked around for a few minutes to get used to them. I was surprised to find walking in them wasn’t that difficult. Maybe it has something to do with the shape of a woman’s body, but with a little practice, I was able to develop a natural rhythm that made walking in heels reasonably easy.

I had decided on not wearing pantyhose. My legs were smooth and tanned and Vickie had told me not long ago that many women were forgoing them. Frankly, I was sure I’d look better with them on, but I didn’t want to take the chance on running a few pair without having a little time to practice putting them on. I could practice later, but there was no time to do it now.

I ran a brush through my hair. Fortunately, it sprang into place fairly easily. Slipping on a gold necklace and bracelet wasn’t a problem either. So at last, I had all the easy stuff done. Now came the hard part–makeup.

I looked in horror at the dozens of bottles and tubes laid out on the dressing table before me. It looked more like the contents of a mad scientist’s lab than a collection of beauty products. I’d have to go lightly at first and experiment when I got back from the interview. Hesitantly, I applied a little lipstick as I had seen Vickie do hundreds of times before. It had an unpleasant, waxy feel to it and a taste I didn’t care for. I was thankful I had applied it lightly.

Next, I tried a little eye shadow, gently brushing on some bluish tint I thought would go with the dress. It didn’t. With a sigh, I removed it with cold crá¨me and tried another more gray shade. When I had finished, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results, but at least I had avoided looking clownish. Although I was sure I had not done a very good job, I decided to quit while I was ahead. Eyeliner, rouge, and mascara were well beyond my ability to master. I’d experiment with them later.

I thought about trying to insert earrings in the holes I had discovered in my ears but decided against it. It was nearly ten and I had visions of getting one in and having trouble with the other one. I felt Del would have enough to chuckle about without giving him more.

When the elevator doors opened for me in the lobby, I felt like pushing the button for my floor and staying on board. I swear every male eye in the lobby was on me. The staff, I suspected, knew I had once been male. Their looks were more penetrating and their smiles a bit stifled, as if they shared a private joke. Other men in the lobby looked at me with undisguised lust. I must have looked like a fine bit of female flesh. I guess I had never realized before how obvious men were with their looks at women. ‘Had I been equally bad about that?’ I wondered.

I tried to walk without wiggling my ass too much, but it was difficult in such high heels. Besides, I was trying to walk as fast as I could to get to Del’s office before some sex-hungry man grabbed me and carried me off. In my fear and embarrassment, I managed to keep just a small emotional fire of hatred burning for Del, Vickie, and Mr. Logan. Damn them all to hell anyway.

I could already feel my face flushing as I timidly entered the new offices of Chrysler Publications. How different this was from my triumphal entry the night before. I had been so stupid. I should have suspected something was wrong. After all, Del and Vickie had both been in New York. And they had known each other before I knew either of them. And then there were the problems Vickie and I had already experienced in our relationship–problems that had driven me to make the move to New York. How could I have been so blind? But how could I have anticipated what they had done to me? I still found it hard to believe it was possible.

“Hi.”

It was a woman’s voice. Looking around, I recognized her immediately. It was Lucy Travis, the woman I had let Del hire as office manager. She was a good-looking thirtyish blonde. If anything, her skirt was shorter than mine. She looked a little on the bimbo side, but looks could be deceiving. She held an MBA from the University of Michigan and was certainly no slouch. But come to think of it, she was one of Del’s key hires. I wondered if she knew who I really was.

If she did, she didn’t let on. “You must be Candy Dixon. I’m Lucy Travis, the office manager here. Mr. Sherman told me you’d be coming in this morning. Normally, I’d interview you first, but he said he wanted to do it himself.”

That wasn’t a surprise. Del obviously wanted to gloat. I knew this interview was going to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life–either life. But Lucy seemed a little baffled by the process. I knew instinctively that Lucy would have little influence over my situation. To my relief, she obviously had no idea who I was–or rather, who I had been.

“Here’s an application,” she said, handing me an employment application and a pen. “He said when you’re finished filling it out, just knock on his door.” She pointed at a closed door I already knew to be Del’s. “Good luck, Candy.”

Well, once again there was certainly no indication that she knew who I really was. I supposed Del and Vickie would have kept what they had done quiet. At least I wouldn’t have to suffer the ridicule of everyone in the office–unlike Mr. Logan’s staff who seemed to all know who I had been before that morning.

With a sigh, I began to fill out the application. I opened my purse so I could get the information to fill out some of the blanks. Name. Okay–Candy Sue Dixon. Why Candy? Why couldn’t they at least given me a more neutral name. Candy smacked of femininity and–no pun intended–sweetness. Age. Twenty-one. Well, at least I was legal. I looked more like jailbait. Address. I put down the number of the apartment I had awakened in and the address of the building. Then I was stuck.

Education? Mr. Logan said I had a high school education, but that was all I knew. Work experience? I had no idea. Trying to be a model or an actress didn’t mean I had any experience at those jobs. In fact, from what Mr. Logan had told me, I suspected I had no experience as either. I knew what happened to most girls like Candy Dixon. Their dreams of glamour usually became the mundane reality of lower level jobs–such as waitresses, store clerks and receptionists. And that’s if they were lucky. The unlucky ones might find themselves in far worse straits–prostitution came to mind. I shuddered.

As I stared at the unanswered questions on the application, I began to realize even more, that as degrading as it would be to work as Del’s receptionist, I had no choice. If I didn’t get this job, I would be forced to find work elsewhere, for no one would believe my story. But without a work history or an education, who would hire me? Sure, the economy was good, but my prospects were limited. Mr. Logan had intimated that by taking this job, I’d have a place to live at least.

I stood reluctantly, smoothing my dress, and clutching the application in my small, feminine hand, knocked hesitantly on Del’s door.

“Come in!”

I opened the door and tried to make a dignified entrance. I’m sure I failed. Yes, I needed the job, but seeing Del as he sat as his desk, a leer on his face, caused me to snap. “Damn it Del, change me back!” I blurted.

The leer turned to a merciless frown. He rose from his chair. Del and I had been about the same height and build, but now he was much taller and muscular than I. “Shut up!”

Suddenly intimidated, I froze.

“Sit!”

I sat, my knees together like a schoolgirl about to be chastised by the principal.

“Let’s get something straight right now,” he growled. “You are Candy Sue Dixon and no one else. You need me but I don’t need you. If it were up to me, you’d be out on the street in a heartbeat. Hiring you was Vickie’s idea. Logan put it in her head. They want to embarrass you. I just wanted you out of the way. If it had been entirely up to me, I would have handled you more directly.”

I had a bad feeling about what he meant by “directly.”

As quickly as it had begun, the frown went away and the leer returned. I squirmed in my seat, trying to get my short skirt to cover more of my legs. I almost preferred the frown to the leer.

“But since this is the way Vickie wants it, I suppose it could be entertaining,” he mused. “God knows Logan made you into a looker. I never would have believed magic was possible.”

That was something we could agree on, but I remained silent.

When he was sure I had learned my place, he explained, “You are going to be our receptionist. In a way, it will be instructive for you. You’ll have a chance to see how this company should have been run from the beginning. If it had been, Chrysler Publications wouldn’t be in the toilet today. I’m going to create an entirely new image for this magazine, and you’re going to be part of it.”

I nearly cringed. This was going to be worse than I had imagined.

“You start tomorrow, but I’d better see a vast change in your appearance. Your dress is too dull. I expect to see you wearing a shorter, tighter skirt and something up top that shows your cleavage. And do something about that hair and makeup. I want to see some curls in that hair. You look like a librarian. And lose that little girl makeup. Go over to Bloomingdale’s and get somebody in the makeup department to get you a new look.” He pulled three hundred dollar bills out of his wallet and slid them across the desk to me. “And get your hair done while you’re at it. Do it all curly. Now I don’t care what Vickie wants. If you don’t look the image of First Class Male, you’ll be out of here. And the way things are, you need this job, don’t you?”

Reluctantly, I nodded.

“Then get out of here,” he finished. “You start work at nine in the morning.”

I had no choice, I realized forlornly. I could feel the embarrassed flush on my cheeks, and my lower lip was quivering. I knew I was ready to burst into tears. I rose and fled for the door.

“And higher heels!” Del called after me. “I want to see your ass wiggle when you walk!”

Safely back in my apartment, the dam burst. I threw myself on the bed like some heartbroken teen and bawled my eyes out. The funny thing is, it actually felt sort of good to cry. It was as if the pain and frustration of the morning had liquefied and was flowing down my cheeks. Maybe this was why women cried more readily than men. As my tears abated, I felt strangely better.

Lying there, I managed to gather my resolve. I would do what Del had told me to do, and I wouldn’t let him or Vickie or Mr. Logan see how much it bothered me. That was the only way I would be able to keep my sanity and a roof over my head at the same time. I wasn’t looking forward to what I had to do, but somehow I’d manage. I might be stuck as young woman, but I wasn’t going to let it destroy me. I’d have to try hard and do a lot of things I really didn’t want to do, but there it was.

I dried my eyes and even fixed my makeup as best I could. I thought about changing clothes. There were jeans in the closet and some casual sweaters in one of the drawers, but I decided to stay in a dress. ‘The next day, I’d be dressed even sexier, so I’d better get used to being stared at,’ I thought. I was going to jump into the deep end of the pool. Del and Mr. Logan had seen me at my worst. By the time I had to actually face Vickie, I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of seeing me in misery. Del had given me money to have my hair and makeup done, so what the hell.

But I regretted my decision to remain in a dress when I got on the subway. Walking only a block or two, my feet began to hurt in the heels. Besides, the area around my building was a little rough. As a man, I wouldn’t have worried, but as a woman, I was becoming a little frightened, even in the light of midday. I had three hundred and fifty dollars in my purse–fifty that had been there before and the three hundred Del had given me. But I had no idea how much my little shopping excursion was going to cost. So I was reluctant to take a cab. The subway seemed the best answer–until I got on it.

It was not rush hour, so the train wasn’t too crowded. But that didn’t stop guys from rubbing against me as they passed me while I was looking for a seat. I finally found one, but it was next to a man wearing a cheap suit and smelling of even cheaper cologne. “Don’t I know you?” he asked. I could smell the liquor on his breath, presumably from a liquid lunch. I tried to move down as he leaned into me, but the man sitting on the other side of me looked even worse.

“I don’t think so,” I managed, turning away. I felt his arm behind my shoulders.

“Maybe we should get to know each other.”

“And maybe we shouldn’t,” I huffed, standing and catching a strap that was higher than I anticipated. It made my breasts stick out a little more. God, was that a mistake! Now once again, a couple of men on the car found it necessary to move about the car, pressing against me as they passed me. I even felt one pinch my butt.

I bit the inside of my lip and tried to ignore what was happening as the train proceeded slowly to Midtown Manhattan. Was this what it was like for women in New York? Were they constantly ogled, jostled, and propositioned? It was like being a mouse in a world full of cats. I resolved to save enough money from my trip to take a cab back–no matter what the cost.

I had been in Bloomingdale’s before. I don’t think it’s possible to spend much time in New York and not go there at least once. From the subway, it’s particularly convenient since there’s a station below the building. But I had never seen Bloomie’s through the eyes of a woman before. I suddenly realized that most of the huge store is dedicated to serving women. There are clothing departments of every imaginable sort–sportswear, intimates, designer, petite, formal, and on and on.

I checked in at the beauty salon first, since I thought I might have to make a later appointment. To my surprise, they were able to take me at once. As they led me to a chair, I felt like a prisoner about to be electrocuted.

“A wash and set today?” the beautician asked me.

Huh?

“Uh... yeah I guess.” Whatever a set was. The wash I had figured out.

We then went into a discussion about what was to be done with my hair. Del had said curly. I’m sure the beautician was a little taken aback by how little I seemed to know about women’s hairstyles, but she caught the “curly” bit. I just sat back and let it all happen.

It took longer than I thought it would. I guess I was used to getting a haircut as a man. ‘That’s right, Bill, just take a little off the top and trim it up. How about those Browns last Sunday, huh?’ Well, those days were over it seemed. The final result was impressive though. When she showed me the mirror, I thought I looked a little like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally–I mean the party scene where she had long, curly hair. I hadn’t realized I really had all that much hair now. I suppose when it’s fluffed out and curled, it has more body.

Next, I tackled the makeup department. Or maybe I should say it tackled me. My previous forays into the makeup department of a store had been just to pass through. I had never even bought stuff like that for my wife. Vickie was very particular about her makeup and perfumes, so I stayed out of that world–until now.

The women in the makeup department were very helpful. I assumed they were on commission the way they hovered around me, and with the price of their wares, I guessed they made a pretty good living from their jobs. I had expected them to be stunned at my ignorance of makeup, but I quickly realized that many women sought help with finding the right look.

“You look so young,” one of the girls told me as she studied my face. “I think we need to give you a more mature look.”

That was actually fine with me. My driver’s license might say I was twenty-one, but the face I had been given looked as if it had just escaped from the nearest high school. In my short time shopping on the streets of New York, I had found I appeared too young and innocent to be taken seriously.

I had to admit I looked a little older when she finished with me. I had known so little about makeup that I had applied too little, making me look even younger. It seemed odd to be happy with more makeup on, but at least it helped me to look like an adult.

Of course, there were drawbacks. I managed to conserve enough money to take a cab back to Deety Arms, and I was thankful I had. Now that I didn’t look like jailbait, I got even more lewd stares and even a proposition from some seedy foreign guy just between the door of Bloomie’s and the cab.

‘I had better enjoy the cab ride,’ I thought to myself. I might have been from out of town, but I knew that secretaries and receptionists usually rode the subway or walked everywhere in Manhattan. A cab ride was an infrequent luxury, beyond the budget of most girls in jobs like mine. I thanked God that at least I didn’t have to commute to work like most girls. The only time I would have to leave the building would be to shop, and I didn’t plan to do that anymore than I had to. And I could have my groceries delivered. I would be as cloistered as a nun.

“Not bad,” Del said, inspecting me the next morning.

I felt a little relieved. After I had gotten back to my apartment the day before, I had tried some different looks while my hair and makeup were professionally in place. No, I wasn’t getting into the spirit of being a girl: I just wanted to find a look that was slutty enough for Del yet tasteful enough that I could live with it. I knew Del wasn’t going to cut me any slack. He and Vickie wanted to humiliate me, and I was in no position to fight them–at least not yet. I’d have to keep Del happy or things could get even worse.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy to find the right look. I had ended up going to work in a tight knit top with a neckline that showed a lot of cleavage. It was a very feminine pink in color and went well with the white leather miniskirt I had chosen. I had practiced for over half an hour the night before sitting in that skirt. Otherwise, I would have been giving free beaver shots all over the place.

I wore white hose with a garter belt. It wasn’t that I wanted to wear a garter belt, but the outfit seemed to call for white stockings and I had not been supplied with any in pantyhose. ‘Besides,’ I reasoned, ‘by putting my panties over the garter belt, I could go to the bathroom easier.’ I longed for the old days of standing and a simple flick of the zipper. Going to the bathroom as a woman was a major operation, it seemed. If I ever got my male body back again, I made a promise to myself that I would never mutter about how long women take in the restroom.

I was also wearing a pair of three and a half inch sandals that added the wiggle to my ass that Del had demanded. Top all that off with the right hair, makeup and accessories and I had just the look Del wanted. When I saw the look in his eyes, I knew I had succeeded.

“What’s not bad?” a woman’s voice called from Del’s office. I turned and saw Vickie walking slowly toward me.

This was the first time I had seen Vickie since my transformation. I wanted to call her a back-stabbing whore and had to fight back the urge to... slap her? Scratch her eyes out? I couldn’t, though. God only knew what they’d do to me if I did. Besides, Vickie was now taller than me. Like most top models, she was tall to begin with–about five-ten. As a man, I had been about three inches taller than she, but as a woman, I was much shorter–no more than five-four.

There was a wicked little smile on Vickie’s face. “Well, Candy, how do you like your new life?” she purred. When I failed to answer her, she just smiled and continued her inspection. “I think this role suits you much better, dear. You never were much of a man.”

I felt my face flush and involuntarily pressed my long fingernails into the palms of my hands. No, I suppose in a way I hadn’t been much of a man. I had allowed this bitch to manipulate me at every turn. Now my masculinity had been sacrificed on the altar of stupidity.

Vickie wasn’t finished teasing me. She came up to my ear, so close that her breath actually caused my earring to move. “I can hardly wait until you have your first fuck,” she breathed in my ear. “I’ll bet you’ll be a sweet little lay.”

I felt tears of frustration building up inside me, but with every ounce of strength I could muster, I willed myself not to cry. There was no way I was going to give her the satisfaction of seeing me bawl. At last she pulled back, a little chuckle escaping her lips. “Well, play nice with her, Del,” she laughed as she headed out of the offices.

‘At least I had better breasts than she did.’ It was a strange thought to have. I realized that at the time, but there it was. Why was I suddenly proud of those two lumps of flesh, so large and unwieldy that they had to be strapped in? Why had I found it important to compare my chest to Vickie’s smaller one? I didn’t have much chance to think about it though. Del gave me an annoyingly playful slap on my rump and said, “Well, get to work, Doll.”

And work I did. I had never realized how much work a secretary/receptionist did before. It wasn’t that the work was mentally challenging, but it was like having dozens of bosses all at once, each believing that what they had asked you to do was the most important thing in the world. After two hours of being hit from all sides, I was almost at my wit’s end. And I was squirming around in my seat. I had to pee but the phone kept ringing constantly and there was no one to relieve me so I could relieve myself.

“Hi!”

It was a familiar voice. I hadn’t heard anyone come in because my head was buried in a file drawer as I carried on a conversation with a phone cradled uncomfortably against my ear. I looked up into the face of Brenda Travis. I caught myself at the last minute from saying, “Hi, Brenda!” After all, she had been my administrative assistant for almost three years, but in this identity I had never met her.

“I’m Brenda Travis,” she said, holding out a well-manicured hand. Brenda looked great. She was only an inch or two taller than me now, but there the similarities ended. An athletic brunette, Brenda carried herself with grace and confidence. She was attractive, although not in Vickie’s class–or mine for that matter. Still, her friendly manner and winning smile had guys lined up to date her. I was sure she’d take New York by the balls.

“Candy Dixon,” I replied, taking her hand. It was the first time I had shaken hands with a woman as a woman. Brenda’s handshake was firm but feminine. I tried to match it as best I could.

“Yeah, Del said he had hired a new receptionist,” she commented. “Have you done this sort of thing before?”

“Well, I’m a little new at some of it,” I admitted.

“Well, for starters, try the headset,” she suggested, reaching into one of my desk drawers and producing a telephone headset I had overlooked. She plugged it in and handed it to me. “Has anybody checked you out on the phones yet?”

I shook my head.

“Men!” Brenda muttered with a theatrical sigh. “They’d never think to train you. Where is Lucy?”

“Uh... Ms. Travis had to attend a meeting at City Hall,” I explained. I didn’t bother to tell her that Del had demanded I report directly to him and not to Lucy.

“Well, then I guess it’s up to me,” Brenda sighed. So for the next twenty minutes, Brenda gave me a rundown on the phone system that would make my life far easier. She also explained how to handle some of my other chores as well.

I was seeing Brenda in a new light. As my administrative assistant, she had always been friendly and efficient, but the friendship was always a little guarded. After all, she reported to me, and although I tried to treat all my subordinates well, I was still the boss. Now though, I was a peer. I suppose she was really my superior in some ways, but she didn’t act like it. I had always liked Brenda, but now I had reason to like her even more.

“Want to go to lunch?” she asked when we had my workstation squared away at last.

I thought about leaving the building as a woman. The thought frightened me. I had planned to just go back to my apartment and eat whatever was there. That way, I wouldn’t be seen by anyone new. “Well, I...”

“Oh don’t tell me you’re on some sort of diet,” she laughed, misreading my hesitation. “Believe me, I wish I had your figure. There’s a pretty decent place just down the street called the Southwest Grill. We can have a salad if you don’t want anything heavier.”

I discovered suddenly that I really didn’t want to be alone. If that meant I had to walk down the street swinging my very feminine ass to stay with my newfound friend, I’d do it. “Okay.”

Brenda was right: the Southwest Grill was pretty good. I followed Brenda’s lead with a small taco salad and a Diet Pepsi. As we waited for our food, we indulged in the usual getting to know you conversation. I tried to leave my background as generic as possible: young woman in the big city, no boyfriend, just moved into my apartment so not many friends, and that sort of thing. When I thought I had given her enough information, I asked, “What about you?”

“Well, I grew up in Cleveland,” she began, telling me what I already knew. I tried to pretend as if it was the first time I had heard it, but over the time she had been my administrative assistant, I had learned quite a bit about her personal life–or so I thought. Suddenly, she threw me a curve.

“What?” I asked, not sure I had heard her last statement correctly.

She looked at me blankly for a moment. “Repeat what? You mean about Randy?”

“Yeah.”

There was a sad look in her eyes, and I could see them glistening on the edge of tears. “Well, there’s not much to tell. I thought we had a good thing going for the last year, but he just couldn’t see himself coming to New York with me. So we broke up–end of story.”

“And you really wanted to come to New York,” I prompted. I was sure her answer would be yes. She had seemed very pleased when I had told her about the move.

“Not really,” she admitted, a tear finally breaking free. She wiped it away self-consciously. “I just didn’t want to let Mr. Chrysler down. He had been good to me, and I knew he’d need my help in New York–particularly with... No, I shouldn’t talk about that.”

I put my small hand on hers. “Please tell me,” I coaxed. I had to know. I had thought she wanted New York. Now, I was finding out that it wasn’t the case. She had come to New York as much for me as for the job. I hadn’t known–or even suspected.

“You... you know Mr. Chrysler is dead?” she began softly.

I nodded more sympathetically than she could have ever known. Although many of the staff at First Class Male were New Yorkers newly hired by Del, there was still a feeling of melancholy over the death of the man they had never met. I didn’t flatter myself by thinking it was because I was loved by all: I knew they were feeling insecure about the future of the company. Del had even called a meeting for all staffers for late that afternoon to discuss the situation. I wondered if anyone associated with the company besides Del and my loving wife knew their roles in my ‘demise.’

“Well, Chrysler Publications hasn’t been doing very well financially,” she confided. “That was why Mr. Chrysler agreed with Mr. Sherman’s proposal to move our headquarters to New York. A lot of us on staff didn’t think it was really a good idea, but his wife and Mr. Sherman were obviously all for it. They argued this was where the powerful advertisers and trendsetters were, and if they were going to be able to compete against Playboy and Penthouse and all the rest, this was where they’d have to be.”

“That makes sense,” I commented. It had made sense to me or I wouldn’t have agreed to the move, but she didn’t know that, of course.

She nodded. “Yes, it makes sense–for First Class Male–but not for the other magazines. They’re smaller in circulation, and the costs of running them out of New York will cause them to fold. Of course it doesn’t help that Mr. Sherman has been siphoning funds out of them to build his own empire.”

“What?”

“Oh yes,” she assured me. “I have that on pretty good authority from someone in bookkeeping. It’s not that hard to do. I just learned this a few days ago and was waiting for Mr. Chrysler to come to New York so I could tell him about it. To be honest with you Candy, I don’t think Mr. Chrysler ever really enjoyed the publishing business. It was his father’s business. His father knew how to pander to the public. His son was more sensitive. He seemed to be more interested in magazines like The Classical Touch instead of First Class Male. I think if he’d been left to his own devices, he might have been an artist or something.”

I was amazed at how little I really knew about Brenda–and how much she knew about me. Or perhaps I should say the real me. In college, I had taken a few art courses and really enjoyed them. I didn’t get time to take as many as I would have liked though. My father insisted that I major in business, and he was not a man to be denied.

“So I felt I had to accept his offer and come to New York,” she explained. “He would have been lost here without my help. I owed him that. Now, I guess I’m sort of stuck here.”

‘And now her sacrifice had been for naught,’ I realized. As far as she knew, Jack Chrysler was dead. I was certain Del would know she was loyal to her former boss and not to him. Her days of working for Chrysler Publications were numbered.

I think Brenda realized that, too. When we got back to the office from lunch, she left me to take care of some of her own business, but I could see as we walked back to the office together that she dreaded returning. Oh, she didn’t dread being fired outright. No, Del wouldn’t do that to her. He would just make her life miserable until she had no choice but to quit.

I managed to get through my first afternoon on the job with a minimum of problems. I can’t say that everything was starting to feel normal, but at least things weren’t so frightening. I was even getting used to Del’s little innuendoes and snide remarks. I realized quickly that he was just trying to embarrass me. At first I thought he might try to get me to perform sexual favors for him–something I wasn’t prepared to do even if it meant starving in the streets. But later I realized that Vickie would never allow him to do that. If he had done anything sexually to me, she would hear about it, and as my only heir, Del needed her support to remain in control of the company.

The afternoon meeting almost made me gag. Del told the staff what a great blow my death had been–both to the company and to him personally. He even pretended to choke down a tear or two when he talked about what a wonderful person I was. Well, I don’t know if I was wonderful, but I was certainly gullible.

Late in the meeting though, when questions were allowed, I became suddenly interested in something one of the ad execs asked. “Mr. Sherman,” he began, “how will Mr. Chrysler’s death affect the move of the other titles to New York?”

“They won’t be moving: they’ll be sold off,” Del explained to my shock and dismay. But on the other hand, I was actually pleased that more of my employees wouldn’t be forced to move. My conversation with Brenda was enough to convince me that many of them wouldn’t want to move anyhow. But what would become of them? To make a profit, the other magazines would need a lot of hands on management. I was afraid that while they were up for sale, they would be allowed to drift until they were of little value.

“How soon will they be sold?” someone else asked. I suddenly realized it was Brenda.

Del for the first time looked a little uncomfortable. “As soon as the issues surrounding Jack’s death are taken care of.”

“What issues are those?” Brenda pressed. Good for her. She might not be doing anything to help her keep her job, but she was certainly asking the type of question that put Del on the spot. I was coming to realize that Brenda didn’t like Del any more than I did. I only hoped she wouldn’t have to pay the price for that, but knowing Del, he would find something suitably distasteful for her to swallow before he forced her out of the business.

“Until Jack’s body has been recovered and he has been declared legally dead, we are somewhat limited in what we can do,” Del explained tersely. As the murmuring began, he hastened to add, “Don’t worry though. That’s just a formality. We expect to be able to move on within a week or so–two weeks at the most.”

The meeting broke up shortly after that. Del’s answers had actually given me a ray of hope. I had assumed Mr. Logan would have had a magical Jack Chrysler body ready for the authorities. If he could change me as he had, he must certainly have the power to change a corpse to resemble my real self. The fact was that he hadn’t left the door open for a miraculous return of Jack Chrysler. I had an idea about that and quickly packed up my belongings and hurried to Mr. Logan’s office. Perhaps I had something to bargain with now.

As I made my way to Mr. Logan’s office, I vowed I would not make the mistake I had made with him the preceding day. I had demanded he change me back, yet I had been working from an inferior position. Mr. Logan held all the cards. Now, I had to convince him that it was in his best interests as well as mine to change me back.

The door to his office was open, and there was no one at the receptionist’s desk once more. Respectfully, I knocked on the open door before entering.

“Ah, Ms. Dixon,” he said, looking up from his paperwork with a smile that gave no evidence of our precious day’s altercation. “And how was your first day at your new job?” I was relieved to hear no note of sarcasm in his question.

“It was all right,” I replied as blandly as possible. “It was certainly different.”

He nodded almost sympathetically as he motioned me to a seat in front of his desk. “Yes, I imagine it was. Now, what can I do for you today?”

“I’d... I’d like to discuss my future,” I began. I didn’t want to ask at once that I be changed back. That would come later.

“Your future is what you make it, Ms. Dixon,” he replied with a cryptic smile.

“I was just thinking,” I ventured, “that apparently my... Jack Chrysler’s body hasn’t been recovered.”

“That is my understanding, yes.”

It was time to jump in with both feet. “Then it might be possible for him to survive. Perhaps he swam to shore and is still alive but hasn’t been able to contact the authorities. If that were the case, he might be in a position to reward those who helped him.” There. The bribe was on the table.

He leaned back in his chair, interlacing his fingers like a steeple and resting his chin on them as if in deep thought. His next words surprised me. “Ms. Dixon, why is it so important that you be returned to your old life?”

I was so surprised at the question that I couldn’t come up with an immediate answer, so he continued.

“Were you happy with your old life? Specifically, were you happy with your job and your marriage? It seems your company was failing–probably because your heart wasn’t really into running the firm. And certainly the events of the last few days should be sufficient to convince you that your marriage had already failed.”

“But there’s my education and training,” I pointed out.

He nodded. “That’s true, but how have you used them? You were educated and trained for a life for which you show little interest or aptitude. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that, but you really should have figured it out for yourself.”

“And this is the life I should have?” I returned, motioning at my new body. “I should be a little walking advertisement for sex? I should wiggle around in short skirts wobbling on high heels? I should be a receptionist for the rest of my life?”

“If that’s how you see yourself, then yes.”

“So there’s nothing I can offer you to get you to change me back,” I surmised with a quaver in my voice.

He shook his head. “Nothing at all.”

There was nothing more to say. I rose from my chair dejected. My last hope at being transformed back to my old life had been dashed. I turned to go.

“Ms. Dixon, I will give you one bit of advice,” he called after me.

I turned back to him. “What?”

“Do not repeat your previous mistakes.”

I nodded and turned away. Actually, I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. How could I repeat any of my previous mistakes stuck in this body and this life? I could hardly make the mistakes I had made before if I lacked the opportunities to make them. I had been transformed into a tiny cog in a large machine. It seemed the worst mistake I would be allowed to make now would be the wrong color nail polish or which purse matched my outfit.

I went back to my apartment and had another good cry. I seemed to be doing a lot of that since my transformation. And why not? I had been transformed into a helpless little sex kitten who answered phones and took orders like a good girl. Crying when things didn’t go my way was just part of the overall package. Vickie must have been very pleased. I had been turned into all the things she found most laughable about her own sex. And Del had to be pleased as well. After all, he had my legs and tits to stare at every day.

So that was it. I was going to be Candy Sue Dixon for the rest of my life. All I had to look forward to was a world of pantyhose and PMS. In a week or two, Del and Vickie would have official control of my assets and Jack Chrysler would be officially dead–if not necessarily buried. There seemed nothing to do but live the life I had been given. After all, isn’t that what most people have to do?

After that, one day seemed to turn into another. I rose in the morning, spent at least five times the time getting ready for work that I had as a man, went to my job, worked all day, and came home tired. At least I had determined that I wasn’t going to let Del or Vickie get to me. I was polite to them and professional and did my best to stand up under their insults and innuendoes.

Del, to his slight credit, returned the favor. He finally began to treat me as I was sure he had always treated secretaries and receptionists–he ignored them except when he needed something done. The way I could feel him looking at me told me that if he had his way, he would have made any number of sexual demands, but as long as Vickie was the heir-apparent to Chrysler Publications, he would toe the line.

And then there was Vickie. She went out of her way to treat me like dirt. She made a snide comment every time she saw me. I began to realize that in spite of the fact that as her husband, I had always treated her well, she had always seen me as a means to an end. And because she had to bide her time to get rid of me, I had been a constant source of irritation to her. But she had to play the dutiful wife so as not to arouse my suspicions. The result was that she had come to despise me. Hence her desire to see me suffer as she felt she had been made to suffer.

There was another factor that added to her irritation. A week had gone by and still there had been no resolution in the ‘death’ of Jack Chrysler. Now, my old law firm, Reynolds and McGuire was sending someone to ensure that ongoing operations were continuing within the requirements of the estate.

I thanked God for Duncan Reynolds. The old man had been one of my father’s trusted confidants as well as his attorney. He had insisted that my father–then I–set up our estates properly. The contingency of a disappearance on the part of either my father or I had been covered by him. If I were to disappear, the executor of the estate–Duncan’s own son Peter–would exert limited control over the company until I had been declared legally dead. Now, Peter was on his way to New York, and both Del and Vickie seemed nervous.

It chaffed to be just a receptionist in a company that had once been mine. I was never in the know as I had been before. When Del told me to make sure I dressed sharply because we were having important visitors, I had assumed he meant Peter Reynolds. But I found as I reported for work the following day that Peter wasn’t due until the next day. When the important visitors showed up, I felt bile rising in my throat.

Three men entered my reception area together that day, but only one was of consequence. Tony Capella was a known crime figure in New York–drugs and prostitution formed the cornerstone of his empire, and his picture had been in the New York Post on a number of occasions. He was a good-looking guy (and yes, I had started to notice things like that) who moved with the swagger and confidence which showed he was sure nothing dared stand in his way. In case anything or anyone was stupid enough to try, one or both of the two apes who flanked him would spring into action.

Seeing the trio enter the office would have been frightening enough if I had still been a man, but as a woman, they were downright terrifying. Tony stepped up to my desk and made no secret of the fact that he had approached me merely to look down my top at my breasts. “Hi, honey. Tell Sherman his two o’clock appointment is here.”

He didn’t have to ask me twice. I jumped to my feet, happy at least that my breasts were no longer the target of that animal stare. Of course, I knew he and his associates were having an equally enjoyable time looking at my long legs and enticing behind as I rushed into Del’s office.

“Mr. Sherman,” I said with a practiced respect that I had been required to show, “your two o’clock appointment is here.”

The color actually drained from Del’s face. It gave me no little satisfaction to know that whatever the purpose of the meeting, Del was every bit as frightened as I was. Only Vickie who sat confidently in front of his desk was able to mask any fear she might have of Tony Capella. I began to suspect there was more going on than I had been made aware of.

Only Tony Capella walked into Del’s office, closing the door behind him. The two apes made do sitting in the reception area, watching me like a snake watches a mouse it plans to have for dinner. To my relief, the meeting didn’t last long. In about ten minutes, the door to Del’s office opened and the two apes rose to their feet. Tony shot me an evil glance and left, flanked by the apes.

“Imposing, aren’t they?”

I jumped upon hearing Mr. Logan’s voice from behind me. Where had he come from? I suppose he might have been meeting with someone else in the office and I had just not seen him come in. Then again, anyone who could change my sex would probably have a number of others powers as well–including the power to appear wherever he wanted to be.

“Mr. Logan, what’s going on?” I asked, turning to face him. “Why were they here?”

He smiled. “You’ll find out soon enough Candy. Don’t be impatient.”

And suddenly, he was gone. I don’t mean he disappeared in a puff of smoke or anything as dramatic as that. It’s just that one moment I was aware of his presence and the next moment I was not. I think for the first time, I was aware that there was a larger game being played than I was aware of. I had thought that I was the losing king in a game of chess, betrayed by my own queen. Now, I wasn’t so sure. Perhaps I was a mere pawn. ‘But then pawns are expendable,’ I remembered suddenly. It wasn’t a comforting thought.

Peter Reynolds finally arrived the next day. I had seen Peter before. His father had introduced him to me years ago when I was just starting to work for my father’s company. Peter had been a boy of twelve or thirteen at the time and I had been about twenty-four with a newly-minted MBA in hand. Then, I saw him again at the reading of my father’s will. He had been a third year law student then. I knew he had gone into his father’s firm, but this was the first time I had seen him as a full-fledged lawyer. In the past, I had always dealt exclusively with his father.

“I’m here to see Mr. Sherman,” he said to me with a friendly smile. To his credit, he looked at my eyes–not my breasts–when he said it. He was a good-looking guy, and yes, I noticed. I had been a woman for two weeks, and no matter how hard I fought it, I was beginning to become attracted to men. So far, I had not given in to my temptations, but I knew it was only a matter of time...

Peter had that confident look that all good-looking, athletic young men share, but there was no arrogance in his look. His blue eyes looked around the offices as if he were a child catching his very first glimpse of Disneyland. He pushed a windblown shock of brown hair away from his forehead and straightened his tie as if by habit.

“Just a moment, Mr. Reynolds,” I finally managed shakily after staring shamelessly at him for longer than I should have. “He’s expecting you.”

Once I had gone through all the formalities, I returned to my desk and found my heart was beating faster than normal. I mentally kicked myself for getting so worked up over Peter. It was one thing to notice men on the streets of New York, or to watch TV and wonder idly what it might be like to be kissed–or even more–by one of the hunks on the screen. Yes, and it was one thing to join in with the other girls in the office, discussing everything from stem to stern about some of the guys in the office or someone’s boyfriend. But it was quite another thing to be unexpectedly attracted to someone that I had known as a man–even if I had scarcely known him.

I resolved to be more aloof when Peter left the office. I would give him a cheerful but professionally artificial smile as he left, wishing him a good day as I went about my administrative tasks. There would be no more awed stares at him. There would be no more nervous little girl stammering when we spoke. I would be the iron maiden. I would...

“Excuse me.”

“Oh!” I nearly jumped out of my seat. I hadn’t heard him leave Del’s office.

“Y... yes?” Down, girl! Down!

“I was wondering... Candy, is it?”

“How did you...?” I began, then I remembered my nameplate on the reception desk and with a nod at it smiled sheepishly.

“I hope you don’t think I’m being too pushy, but I was wondering if you would have dinner with me tonight?”

“Dinner?” Gee, I could be a brilliant conversationalist when I tried.

He nodded. “Yes. You see, I don’t know many people here in New York, and I noticed you don’t wear a wedding ring... so I thought if you weren’t busy, maybe...”

“Sure.”

“Huh?”

“Oh,” I said, flustered. “I mean yes, I’d like to have dinner with you tonight.” Now why had I said that? Worse yet–why was I excited about the prospect of having dinner with him? “Meet in the lobby at seven?”

“I could pick you up,” he offered.

“I live here in the building,” I explained shyly.

He smiled. “Great. I’m staying here too. Mr. Logan was good enough to find a place for me. Until seven then.”

“I’ll meet you in the lobby,” I agreed. Good. At least that way, things would be at arm’s length. He wouldn’t get in my apartment. That seemed somehow too... intimate.

As he left, I wondered what part of my brain had stopped working when I agreed to go out with him. Was it just that I remembered him from my old life and wanted somehow to recapture–if just for the evening–a part of my past? Or were the female hormones flowing through my body beginning to take their toll? Maybe it was a little bit of both. Besides, for the two weeks that I had been a woman, I had tried to avoid any social situations.

My social life had been limited to a few friendly chats with the other girls and guys at work. So far, I had rebuffed all of the men and politely declined offers from the girls to go out for drinks after work. I knew those innocent little sessions would end up as evenings spent trolling for guys. I’m sure they all thought I had a secret lover. After all, I was young and attractive, and it didn’t seem natural to any of them that I would be sitting home alone every evening just staring at the television.

Yet that was exactly what I had done since my transformation. Forced to dress and act as a sexy young woman all day long, I sought refuge each evening in my little apartment. I had bought myself a couple of pairs of loose-fitting jeans and some sweatshirts to escape from the feminine frippery I wore during the day. I’d don the unisex garb, fix a small dinner, and veg in front of the tube all evening.

At first, that had seemed to be a suitable refuge from the life I had been thrust into. True, I was still a woman under the baggy sweatshirt, and the bra I still wore to keep the rough material of the sweatshirt from rubbing my nipples was a reminder of my new sex, as were the jeans molding themselves to the swell of my hips and the curve of my ass. But in spite of all that, at least I wasn’t wearing heels and nylons and a skirt so short that I felt almost naked.

But as time went on, hiding in my apartment had become a less desirable solution. It gave me too much time to think–or rather brood–about my situation. I had no life outside the one that had been defined for me by Del and Vickie through Mr. Logan’s magic. I was a recluse imprisoned by my new sex. That would have to change or Del and Vickie would win.

Two weeks as a woman was enough to convince me that I was going to be one for the rest of my life. While Mr. Logan took less sadistic delight of my plight than Del and Vickie, I knew in my heart that he had no intention of ever changing me back. Besides, Peter’s arrival on the scene was an indication that the final chapter in the life of Jack Chrysler was about to be played out.

It was not even a chapter, really–more like an epilogue, I supposed. I was certain Peter had come to review the will with Vickie and Del and discuss the future of Chrysler Publications. There was nothing I could do but sit helplessly and watch my family business be delivered into the hands of my enemies.

But none of that really explained why I had so willingly agreed to go out to dinner with Peter. Yes, he was a familiar face–someone I had known in my true life–but we had never been close. Yet I had jumped at the chance to have dinner with him as if we were old friends. No–that wasn’t true. It was time for me to be honest with myself: I was going out with Peter because he was a nice-looking guy and I had found myself almost instantly attracted to him.

It wasn’t my own doing: I was sure of that. When Mr. Logan had changed me into Candy Dixon, he had done more than just change my body, I suddenly realized. With little effort on my part, I had been feminine and demure for the last two weeks. I had reacted to the world around me in more passive ways than Jack Chrysler would have reacted. I had tried to deny feminine feelings and urges, even avoiding playing with my new sex–for the most part. But the fact of the matter was I now found men sexually attractive, and Peter Reynolds was a near-perfect representative of his sex. How could I not be attracted to him?

But I wasn’t ready to completely give into my feminine side. Yes, I would have dinner with him. We’d chat and get to know each other. I would permit him to put a gentlemanly arm around me during the course of the evening, and a gentle, almost sisterly kiss in the lobby at the end of the evening would be his reward. There was no sense in rushing into this boy-girl stuff too fast. I wasn’t ready to accept all the ramifications of being a healthy young female just yet.

Of course, given how I had to dress for dinner, I would probably have to beat him off with a pipe wrench I realized as I waited for him in the lobby. Candy’s evening wardrobe seemed to be every bit as revealing–if not more so–than her work attire. Every girl has a little black dress: Candy had three of them. I picked the least revealing of the three, but I had to compromise in the process. The dress that showed the least breast flesh and at least had shoulder straps was also the tightest one that had the shortest hemline. I would have to be extra, extra careful every time I sat down or I’d be showing a lot more than I wanted to reveal. At least the shoes I found to wear with the dress were as comfortable as any pair of strappy sandals with a three-inch heel could be.

My evenings home alone had not been entirely wasted in front of the boob tube. Boredom had driven me to read some of the women’s magazines scattered around the apartment, and an article I had read on evening makeup was now paying off. I knew I had given myself a little more sophisticated look for the evening than the one Del seemed to favor for me in the office.

I even found a subtle pleasure in the looks I was getting from passersby in the lobby. Even that strange little man who worked for Mr. Logan–Mr. Luck was his name–seemed to do a double take when he saw me standing there, absently tapping a heeled little foot as I waited for Peter.

“My God, you look stunning!” Peter said when he got off the elevator and saw me standing there.

I blushed, resisting the urge to tell him as he stood there in an expensive, well-tailored dark suit that he didn’t look too shabby himself. “I hope I’m not overdressed.”

He shook his head, his eyes still on me. “Not at all. I got us a reservation at a place not far from here called Sonny’s.”

I nodded my approval. I had read a review of the place on one of my earlier trips to New York before my transformation. Come to think of it, I had seen it in an airline magazine–which was probably where Peter had heard about it. It was run by a Mr. Rashad who specialized in Mediterranean food.

We took a cab to the restaurant and were both a little embarrassed to find out it was less than two blocks from Deety Arms. It gave us something to laugh at though, and Peter tipped the driver more than the amount of the fare.

Needless to say, I felt self-conscious as I walked into Sonny’s on Peter’s arm. Oh, I knew I looked normal enough, and two weeks at work had given me all the skills I needed to walk in a close-fitting skirt while wearing heels. It was just that as a receptionist, I had tried to be more of a fixture than a person, and sitting behind my desk, very little of me was exposed to the world. As I entered the restaurant though, I was very aware that I was the center of attention. And not all of the attention was positive. While men were looking at me with obvious approval, I could see a number of women who had reasoned me to be a young bimbo on the arm of a successful man. Their scowls though, were as much envy as disapproval.

Strangely, I felt the self-consciousness ebb as we were led to our table. I found it somehow exhilarating to be so admired by many, and somehow amusing to be envied by the rest. I managed to keep my head high, enjoying the swirl of my long hair on my nearly-bare shoulders. I would have still paid a fortune to return to my old body and my old life, but there was something to be said for being the center of such attention.

We even attracted the interest of the mysterious Mr. Rashad himself. The article I had read said only that he had arrived in New York from Egypt an undetermined number of years ago and that he guarded his privacy carefully. I couldn’t help but think when I saw him that he was very much like Mr. Logan in the way he moved confidently and even a little regally.

He bowed. “Sir. Lovely lady. Welcome to my humble establishment.” He snapped his fingers and a beautiful young woman who looked as if she was one of Cleopatra’s handmaidens shyly approached the table and bowed. “This is Jasmine. She will see to all of your needs this evening.” He looked at her, his dark eyes seeming to burrow into her very soul. “If she displeases you in any way, be certain to let me know.”

Under Mr. Rashad’s supervision, she efficiently arranged our napkins and took Peter’s order for an aperitif for each of us. She then scurried away while a busboy provided us with lemon water and a basket of flat bread.

“Wow!” Peter commented. “We don’t have anything like this in Cleveland. I almost feel like a pharaoh or something.”

I knew what he meant, but I sensed something more to Mr. Rashad and the lovely Jasmine. She seemed uncomfortable with herself, and I began to wonder if my comparison of Mr. Rashad and Mr. Logan might have been closer to the mark than I had realized. In my short time as a woman, I had had the opportunity to observe the neighborhood around Deety Arms. The area was populated by a strange collection of ethnic restaurants, clubs (including the kind with nude dancing), eclectic shops, and other strange enterprises. I had enough experience travelling about New York through the years to know that the city–and particularly this part of the city–was home for the uncommon, but the establishments around Deety Arms seemed more uncommon than most.

In any case, the meal was nothing short of magnificent. Barricaded as I had been in my apartment living off frozen dinners and leftovers from my deli lunches, the meal was an embarrassment of riches. Still, I ate sparingly, realizing that while as a man I could have polished off the succulent lamb without a second thought, my new body was not capable of eating as much. And although I drank less wine than normal as well, my smaller body felt the effects of the alcohol much more acutely.

We talked freely throughout our meal, and I began to realize that Peter and I had more in common than I might have realized. We had both followed our fathers into their professions when we would have preferred to do something else. He told me of his interest in writing.

“So you wanted to be a novelist?” I asked him as we waited for our coffee after dinner.

“Maybe,” he said with a shrug. “I think I would have preferred to be a journalist. I don’t have the imagination to be a good novelist, although John Grisham seems to have managed as both a lawyer and an author.”

I favored his smile with a little chuckle.

“How about you, Candy?” he asked. “What would you do if you got the chance?”

“Art, I think,” I answered quickly, surprising even myself.

“Do you paint?”

“I’ve really never tried,” I admitted. I could have added that my father would not have approved, but that was another life. “I can draw a little though–mostly pencil sketches. I haven’t done it in... well, let’s just say it’s been a long time. Besides, I can appreciate it better than I can draw it.”

That led to a discussion of artists and styles as Jasmine placed our cups in front of us and artistically poured from a small pot. The aroma of the coffee was incredible–a perfect ending to an unbelievable meal.

“This has been fun,” I told Peter as I sipped at the hot liquid. It was as much an admission as an observation. Actually, the evening had been more entertaining than I had dared hope.

“Well, I’ve got one more night in New York,” Peter told me. “Shall we do this again tomorrow evening?”

I found myself torn between happiness that Peter would still be in New York the next night and sadness that he would be gone the day after. “I’d like that,” I said sincerely. “I thought you’d just be here to go over the will and then go back to Cleveland.”

“I wish it were that simple,” he sighed.

My curiosity was piqued. “Why isn’t it?”

“Well, my father is executor of the will...”

I nodded with interest. I already knew that, of course.

“And as executor, he has determined that until all efforts have been exhausted to make sure he’s really dead, the disposition of the estate should be delayed.”

I was shocked. “Del... Mr. Sherman... said something about that a few days ago, but I assumed that it was cleared up. I mean, surely your father doesn’t think I... that Mr. Chrysler is still alive.”

Peter shook his head. “I really can’t explain Candy. It’s very confidential. All I can tell you is that any reading of the will has been delayed.”

‘Confidential? What was confidential about the situation?’ I wondered. “So what happens to the company in the meantime?”

Peter misunderstood my question. He smiled, “Don’t worry: your job is safe. The company will continue to operate. It’s a corporation with its own life and resources.”

I knew that, of course. Corporations are legal entities with their own existence under the law. The point at issue though, was that like many closely-held corporations, finances were often intermingled between the owners and the company. As an individual and a stockholder, I as Jack Chrysler, had loaned significant resources to the company to facilitate the move to New York. But it had taken significant corporate capital as well. In short, the company was cash poor, and the longer the estate remained in limbo, the more difficult it would be to generate operating capital.

Peter knew that too. I could tell he was holding back the details from me. And why shouldn’t he? He was not at liberty to tell me all of those things. I was just his attractive date for the evening–not a legal associate. Just for a moment, I missed not being on the inside of deals. Besides, I really couldn’t imagine why disposition of my estate was being held up.

We walked back to Deety Arms after dinner. Normally, walking through New York neighborhoods at night is a questionable idea at best, but our route was well-lit. Besides, I had a sneaky hunch that the only people who weren’t safe on the streets of this particular neighborhood were those who cross people like Mr. Logan and Mr. Rashad. The entire neighborhood had a magical quality if you had been attuned to it as I had by virtue of my transformation.

Peter didn’t seem to notice anything unusual. For one thing, he was too busy paying attention to me. I could tell he really liked me. Was it love at first sight? Well, such things happen. When I first saw Vickie, I knew I had to make her mine. Of course, when I considered what that led to, maybe love at first sight was a dangerous concept best to be avoided.

And I must admit I had taken an instant liking to Peter. Although he didn’t realize it, we had many things in common. Additionally, I found him warm, sensitive, and honest–hardly aspects I would have expected in a hard-driving young attorney. I also felt safe when I was with him. The fact that I was now an attractive young girl had made me cautious–even suspicious–of my surroundings, but when I was there with Peter, I felt safe and secure even on the streets at night.

He saw me to my door, and I toyed briefly with the idea of asking him in. God knows I wanted to. My body practically tingled when he touched me. But I was afraid of where that would lead us. I wasn’t ready to surrender this body to anyone–even someone I liked as much as Peter. Oh, it would have been safe in a practical sense. As Candy, I religiously took birth control pills. Not knowing exactly what Mr. Logan, Del and Vickie had planned for me, it seemed like good insurance to take them. And I had even been thoughtfully provided with condoms. I found them while going through my nightstand drawer one evening. And the idea of sex with a man–or at least the right man–didn’t seem so terrible to me anymore. I had a woman’s body and it seemed to dictate my sexual choices. I just wasn’t ready to hop in bed with a man–not yet at least.

Peter was a gentleman. After the obligatory “I had a wonderful time” statements, he took me very gently in his arms and gave me a warm kiss, bordering on passionate. As I put my arms around his neck and returned the kiss, I felt the tingling becoming even more intense. After a few moments, we reluctantly broke off.

He smiled at me. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Uh-huh.”

I don’t think I was able to breathe again until I had closed the door behind me.

I had expected the tingling to subside when I got inside my apartment. If I had been male, that’s what would have happened. The stiffness in my groin would have gradually lessened until I was back to normal again. As a woman though, I had nothing to get stiff–or at least not so overwhelmingly stiff. Instead, I found my arousal was more subtle but no less demanding. And it didn’t seem to subside as quickly as it would have if I had been male.

I had no way of knowing if my sexual urges were entirely average as either a male or a female, but I did know that for the first time since I had been transformed into a woman, I had an itch that I couldn’t scratch.

Or could I?

Since my transformation, I had scrupulously avoided seriously playing with myself. ‘To do so,’ I had reasoned, ‘would be giving in to what I had become.’ Sure, I had touched myself and felt some arousal, but nothing I couldn’t stop before it got out of hand. While I held only scant hope that I could ever regain my masculinity, it had somehow seemed that masturbation was as ultimate a form of surrender as making love to a man would have been. When I wiped myself, it was quickly and efficiently. When I showered, I never allowed the washcloth to linger on my breasts or between my legs. And my new sexual attributes had rewarded me by remaining dormant. Now though, they were making their presence known in a most uncomfortable way.

I don’t think I made a conscious decision to do what I did that evening. Instead, I had mechanically gotten out of my dress, fully intending to put on pajamas and go to bed. But the feel of my silky dress sliding along my body and the electric sensation of my nylons as I pulled them from my legs only intensified the sexual tingling in my body.

I looked at myself in the mirror as if for the first time. There I was–my white skin and golden hair in sharp contrast to the black lace bra and matching French-cut black panties I wore. The sources of my discomfort were to a great extent hidden by those lacy items. As if in a dream, I removed the bra, fantasizing for a moment that it was Peter stripping it from my body. I was shocked to note that my nipples were firm and extended, like tiny parodies of my missing male equipment.

Hesitantly, I brought my hands up, touching the erect nipples gently. They responded by tingling even more, accompanied by an even stronger sensation between my legs. I gasped, almost unable to breathe. My hands jerked to my sides at once, as if they had been caught doing something they weren’t supposed to do. They were so close to the sides of my panties, I pulled them off without another thought.

Now I was fully naked before the mirror, my sex covered only by a small patch of hair a slightly darker gold than the hair on my head. I backed away from the mirror, as if unable to fully comprehend the image. It was almost as if I was seeing myself for the first time, and in a way I suppose I was. This was not Jack Chrysler, warped into an image not his own. This was Candy Dixon, becoming aware for the first time of exactly who she was.

I fell back on the bed, my right hand automatically falling between my legs as my left hand rested on my breasts. I probed gently at myself, feeling a quickening of my pulse as my finger penetrated my sex. The tingling became even more intense, as if that was possible. I felt a heat rising in my body, as if a fire had been stoked within me. All the sensations rose and rose until I didn’t think they could become more intense. It was like a growing storm, rising within me. I would feel a pleasant sensation and follow it with still more confident rubbing until the sensations grew so pleasant that I was sure they couldn’t build up anymore. But they did, crashing over me like waves of warmth and pleasure–sensations unlike anything I had ever felt before...

Deity Arms Separator

The lamp on Mr. L’s desk glowed faintly. Luk looked at his boss in the near-darkness. He knew even this small amount of light was simply a concession to him, as Mr. L often spent his evening hours in total darkness. Mr. L required no light to work by, and often spent the hours between sunset and sunrise sitting at his darkened desk talking to his financial outposts on the other side of the world.

Luk marvelled at his boss. While so many other gods had practically faded from existence as they were forgotten by the modern world, Mr. L had prospered, building a financial empire the extent of which humans would never know. And yet much of his effort seemed directed to playing the manager of an aging apartment hotel in a somewhat seedy part of New York.

He had rarely seen Mr. L as energized as his current project had made him, and yet it seemed somehow out of character. Del Sherman and Victoria Chrysler were hardly the sort of people Mr. L would normally consort with. And now Tony Capella had been added to the equation.

Before he could think on it further, the desk lamp suddenly flared up, glowing brightly to illuminate the entire room. Then, in gentle waves, the glow subsided, never quite returning to the low level from which it had begun.

Mr. L watched the lamp for a moment before smiling at Luk. “It would appear,” he said mysteriously, “that our Ms. Dixon has reached a decision. Now we can proceed to the next part of the plan.”

Luk nodded at his boss, but he didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about.

Deity Arms Separator

I woke up slowly the next morning, the radio alarm playing gentle music in my ear. My jumbled mind wondered for a moment why I was naked and what my hand was doing poised at my crotch. Then with a smile, I remembered what had happened. The smile faded quickly though. I had to face another day at the office, and I knew Vickie would be joining Del for a meeting with Peter. That meant I would be the subject of ridicule one again, for Vickie would have to take out her anger on someone.

I could tolerate my new life, I thought as I showered, if I only had Del to contend with. For the most part, he treated me just as he treated every other woman in the office–with detached condescension. I suspected that if Vickie weren’t looking over his shoulder, he might have come on to me, but Vickie was his meal ticket. Or at least she would be when the will was read, because I had left everything to the bitch.

But Vickie was my tormentor. She seemed to delight in how uncomfortable I was in my new and unwelcome life. I think from her perspective it was her way of making up for the years she had been forced to play the dutiful wife. I imagined she had planned to wrest my business from me from the beginning. That was why she had brought Del into the picture practically from the start. But it had taken Mr. Logan to make it all happen.

Mr. Logan was the wildcard in the whole game. Just who was he? I had never believed in magicians and sorcerers, but I suppose he could have been one. I suspected he was more than that though. I had noticed when I first arrived that the second ‘e’ in Deety Arms chiselled in stone on the front of the building had been chipped away. The word looked almost like ‘Deity’ now. And add to that the odd collection of employees around the building and the equally strange businesses that lined the streets nearby and I began to imagine the area was populated by actual deities.

‘But if that were so,’ I asked myself as I dried my hair, ‘what were they doing in a somewhat seedy New York neighborhood?’ Then answering my own question as best I could, I decided that perhaps the world was full of displaced gods and goddesses. Maybe they were once worshipped by our ancestors, but we had outgrown them and/or replaced them with more sophisticated deities. Now they were like stateless persons, doomed to roam the Earth without a purpose. New York was full of enclaves of the stateless–people who had fled everything from political oppression to lack of economic opportunities back home. They would flee to America, often settling in New York where they formed their own communities. There were neighborhoods where Italian or Polish were more widely spoken than English. Why couldn’t the gods do the same thing?

I realized with a shudder as I applied my makeup that this enclave of the gods–if that is what it was–was more dangerous than the ethnic enclaves most New Yorkers knew to avoid. A person might not be robbed and killed in the area around Deety Arms, but he or she might find himself transformed in any number of ways. I suspected a good number of the nearby residents were like me, and possibly Jasmine from the restaurant. We were victims of the capricious nature of strange, forgotten gods.

So assuming I was right, I understood Del’s motives. He was motivated by greed. So was Vickie, but I was sure I was now female to satisfy her urges for revenge. What was Mr. Logan getting out of the deal. Money? Maybe, but he didn’t impress me as a person–or maybe I should say being–who needed or was motivated by anything Del or Vickie could provide in the way of money.

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I’d have to worry about it later.’ It was time for work.

It was a busy day, made worse by the fact that Del was on edge for most of it. In addition to the everyday crises of the publishing industry, Tony Capella called Del three times, and each time Del seemed to become even more nervous. Vickie came by to have lunch with Del, and even she was too uptight to favor me with a few pointed barbs about my new sex and my new station in life. After lunch, she and Del holed up in his office until it was time for Peter to arrive.

“It looks as if they’re circling the wagons,” Brenda observed with a nod at Del’s closed door.

“What do you mean?”

Brenda looked at me for a moment as if debating how much to tell me. “There are a lot of rumors floating around here.”

That was nothing new. There were always rumors floating around every large office. “What kind of rumors?”

“Rumors that there’s something funny going on,” Brenda elaborated. “This whole will thing should have been a slam dunk for the grieving widow.”

“But I understand that Peter’s... I mean Mr. Reynolds’ father wants to make absolutely certain Mr. Chrysler is dead. You know, they haven’t recovered the body.”

Brenda sighed, “Candy honey, I know you’re a blonde but don’t act like the stereotype. You don’t really think that Mr. Chrysler’s attorney thinks for a minute that he could have survived that crash do you?”

“But what other reason could there be?” I had to admit to myself that it did seem a little odd. I had just chalked it up to conservatism on the part of Peter’s father, but the more I thought about it, he had to know there was virtually no chance of Jack Chrysler’s survival. And my will had no unusual codicils which would hang up the distribution of the estate. By the terms of my will, Vickie got everything.

“I don’t know,” Brenda admitted. “But be careful. Wounded animals strike without warning and there are a pair of them right behind that door.”

Peter arrived moments later. He had on his serious lawyer face, but he did give me a small smile as he whispered, “See you tonight,” as he stepped toward the opening door of Del’s office.

The meeting was short. Fifteen minutes later, Peter was out of the office. He closed the door behind him. When he saw my questioning expression, he just whispered, “Later,” and left. Vickie left moments afterwards, taking only the time to shoot me a withering glance. The door to Del’s office stayed closed for the rest of the afternoon, but I could see from the switchboard that Del was on the phone most of the time.

To be truthful, my mind really wasn’t on Vickie and Del’s woes. I was too busy thinking about Peter. I could hardly wait to see him that evening. In the first place, I enjoyed his company and wanted to spend more time with him. But I suppose I was curious about the meeting with Del and Vickie as well. I understood the concept of lawyer-client privilege, but I knew he’d tell me what he could.

I got back to my apartment at the end of the day in a festive mood. ‘Let’s see,’ I thought, ‘I had worn the most conservative cocktail dress I had in my closet the night before and still got stares. Maybe the evening called for something a little more daring.’ Yes, I know. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl and didn’t even realize it. I knew as I stepped into a little black number that showed everything I had that I shouldn’t be so happy just to be going out to dinner with Peter. I mean, he was just an old friend, right? Well, maybe not an old friend, but an old acquaintance.

So why was I taking so much time to make sure everything–clothes, makeup, hair, accessories–was just right?

No sense in looking a gift horse in the mouth, I told myself as I grabbed my tiny black purse and headed for the elevator. I hadn’t had that many happy moments since my transformation. I might as well take happiness wherever I could find it. I was still in that happy mood when I saw Peter, looking resplendent in his suit. In fact, I was so happy to see him I impulsively gave him a kiss on the cheek when he walked over to take my arm.

The kiss surprised him, but it was a pleasant surprise from the way he looked at me. I got a little pleasant surprise of my own when I realized I liked the way he looked at me.

We ended up at the Southwest Grill. We were shown to a somewhat secluded table in the dimly-lit dining room. I had asked for the table for two reasons: first, it was secluded and we could talk, and second because the sexy little cocktail dress I wore left my shoulders exposed to the air conditioning vents in the more occupied part of the room. There was a price to pay for looking so sexy.

“I wish I didn’t have to leave tomorrow,” Peter sighed when our wine had been served. “I’m going to miss you.”

I think my heart melted into a tiny red puddle when he said that. “Oh Peter, I’ll miss you too.” And I would miss him. I had never realized before being with Peter, how much my sexual outlook had changed. I had practically counted the hours and minutes until we could be together that evening, and when the evening was over, I wasn’t sure if or when I would ever see him again.

As if reading my mind, he told me, “As soon as this will thing gets straightened out, I hope I’ll be coming back here and working with the company for a while. I’m fascinated with the whole publishing business.”

“Well, your father’s firm has represented Chrysler Publications for a long time,” I pointed out. “I’m sure you’ll be needed here.”

“Maybe,” he muttered.

“Maybe?”

“There’s a lot I can’t tell you...” he began.

I nodded to show I understood. It was lawyer/client privilege. Peter could get in a lot of trouble if he confided in me.

“Let’s just say that I don’t think Mr. Sherman and Mrs. Chrysler are very happy with the firm of Reynolds and McGuire right now,” he said.

“I assumed Vic... Mrs. Chrysler still hasn’t inherited the business,” I observed.

Peter nodded. “You assume correctly. It’s causing... some problems.” I knew exactly what he was saying. Chrysler Publications was running low on cash. It would have happened under the best of conditions, but I was pretty sure Del and Vickie had been siphoning cash out of the organization as well. And the move to New York had eaten up a lot of cash. Until the crisis of ownership was settled, banks would be unwilling to loan the company the working capital it needed. Never the strongest company, I was sure Chrysler Publications was on the verge of financial collapse.

That was all we said to each other about the business. By unspoken agreement, we concentrated on each other. By the time the main course was served, I thought I might actually be falling in love with Peter. By the time we finished our dessert, I was sure of it.

As a man, I had not dated a great deal–or at least not seriously. Vickie was really the first woman I ever fell for and the first one I had pursued vigorously. Oh, I certainly wasn’t a virgin. I had been the son of a wealthy, well-known man, and more than a few girls were attracted to that. But it had always seemed a little tawdry to me, even though I admit I enjoyed the relationships. I had truly wanted Vickie, but it was different from what I was feeling for Peter. With Vickie, sex had seemed a necessity–for me at least. But as insistent as the physical attraction had been, it was never like what I was experiencing with Peter.

I can honestly say that I was nearly able to forget I had ever been a man. When Peter walked me out of the restaurant, I found myself becoming aroused by his gentle touch. There was a pressure building up inside me that wanted him to touch me more. And he did when we were alone walking back to Deety Arms. His arm was around me as I leaned into him, enjoying the smooth, silky feel of my dress pressed into my side by his warm presence.

I didn’t have to invite him into my apartment with words. He had seen me to my door as the gentleman he was, but when he tried to kiss me, I gently led him over the threshold instead and into my apartment. He knew why I had asked him in. There in the entranceway of my small apartment, he embraced me, and I hooked my arms around his neck as he kissed me, fearful that if I didn’t hold him, I would melt into a pool of hot flesh at his feet.

Not speaking, we walked together to my bedroom, never taking our eyes off each other. As we undressed one another, it was as if I were a kettle loaded with steam set to explode, for I was afraid I would climax before he ever slid a hand between my legs. I needn’t have worried though. The pressure just continued to build, forcing me higher and higher as we fell together in each other’s arms on the smooth beige sheets.

Perhaps I should have had one last wave of masculine disgust at what was being done to me, but I couldn’t muster it to save my life. What he was doing, the touching and stroking, were the most fabulous sensations I had ever felt in my life. I tried to speak, to tell him I wanted him inside me, but words refused to come. Instead, I was making breathless sounds that could scarcely have passed for words. No matter though, for I suddenly felt a sensation I had never expected to feel in my life. Something warm and alive was breaching my sex, slowly making its way into me. A welcome friction warmed my body still more as I involuntarily raised my legs, feeling the sensation move deeper and deeper into my body until...

It was an explosion. No, it wasn’t the overwhelming one I had enjoyed as a male, but it was equally as satisfying. In fact, it was more satisfying, because as I cried out in joy, I could feel it continuing rather than ebbing quickly as it would have if I were still male. And the incredible thing about it was that before we were done and Peter was spent, I had ridden the crest of the wave a second time.

We lay there together. Neither of us had spoken an intelligible word since the restaurant. What could have possibly been said? I love you? I suppose, and I did love Peter, I realized, as strange and unnatural as that might have sounded to me even a few days before.

I snuggled up against Peter’s sleeping form, my body still under the influence of my last orgasm. How could things change so quickly for me? I had already spent several weeks as a woman, and while I was aware that my sexual orientation had been changing, when had it become a sexual appetite? I couldn’t discount Mr. Logan’s interference. It was possible, I realized, that he had done something to me to heighten my feminine urges, but I suspected it hadn’t been necessary.

But I do know that if Mr. Logan had suddenly appeared in a cloud of sulfurous smoke–or however he moved about magically–and offered to change me back into my old self, I would have turned him down. What would I have had as Jack Chrysler? Ownership of Chrysler Publications? What was that worth? The company was failing because I had never really wanted to run a business. The difference was that now I realized that fact, whereas before my transformation, I was determined to be as good a businessman as my father had been. My marriage? Well, Vickie had made it pretty clear that our relationship was a sham. And frankly, women no longer appealed to me sexually. Sure, if I were suddenly made male again, my orientation would probably swing back, but for now my mind and body agreed that men were where the action was. My masculinity? Please. I had certainly enjoyed being a man, but that was before I had found out what it really meant to be a woman.

I smiled as I gazed up at the dark ceiling. Poor Vickie. She would continue to taunt and tease me, never knowing that it was all for naught. How could she possibly understand? She had never been a man. My love of being a woman would blossom as surely as my love for Peter had.

Peter.

A small frown crossed my face. We had made love, but did he really love me? After all, he was attractive, intelligent, and wealthy. What could he possibly see in me? Sure, I was attractive. Mr. Logan had seen to that. But I was an uneducated girl without family. I was hardly a match for one of the most eligible young men in the Midwest.

I looked over at Peter as he lay there peacefully beside me. What had led me to want to make love to him? I had to have known that we were from such different worlds that our love could never be. I had no education, no family, and no prospects. I didn’t really exist in a way. I remembered no girlhood. I had been created out of whole cloth with no past and no promise of a future. I had only the present in which I was an object of ridicule for my former wife and her true lover.

I felt a tear trickle down my face as Peter began to stir. He was so handsome and in a way so innocent lying there. But even if it turned out that we could have no future together, I didn’t regret for an instant making love to him. I would have done so in a heartbeat if he had asked me again that morning, but I knew he was due to catch a plane that would take him back to Cleveland and out of my life–but hopefully not forever.

If I had expected a soft, loving look from him that morning, I would have been disappointed. There was something almost like guilt in his eyes, as if he had awakened hung over in the bed of a whore after a night of drinking with old college friends. But his words were kind. “How are you this morning?”

I managed a little smile. “Fine.”

He reached up and snagged the glistening tear from my eye. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I lied, turning away.

I closed my eyes as I felt his hands on my bare shoulders. “Candy, I love you.”

My heart leaped and broke at the same moment. “Peter, we’ve only known each other a few days. How...”

“How can I know I love you?” he finished for me. “I don’t know. I just know I feel as if I’ve known you forever. I think you love me too.”

I opened my eyes and looked into his. I could see his love from deep inside his eyes, and I was sure he could see mine as well.

“I can catch a later flight...” he began.

It still didn’t give us much time, but as we fell back into bed together, we made the most of it.

In spite of our last-minute tryst, I was only ten minutes late to work. I didn’t even think Del would notice, but I was wrong. “Where have you been?” he practically yelled at me. “Get in here!”

The glow from the morning’s lovemaking faded quickly in the reality of my job. Peter was on his way to Newark to catch a flight back to Cleveland. I would have to face the world alone.

Del wasn’t alone in his office. Brenda Travis was there, as well as two of our more attractive office girls. And Vickie was there as well, an evil little smile on her face, as if she knew what I had been up to.

“All right, now that we’re all finally here,” Del began with a vicious glance at me, “let’s get started. We’ve just made a deal that will ensure that we have all the operating capital we need until the Chrysler Estate is sorted out.”

He didn’t have to tell us who was providing the capital. We had all seen Tony Capella in the office. Unable to steal from my estate, they were going to use mob money to keep the company afloat. Part of me was actually pleased that their plans to take what was rightfully mine had been foiled–at least for the moment. Part of me though, was disturbed that what my father had built could now easily fall into the hands of organized crime.

“It means some changes in our format though,” Del continued. Again, I wasn’ t surprised. First Class Male was far too tame for a crime empire that included drugs and prostitution. I didn’t like where this was going one little bit. But I had no choice but to sit there and listen to Del’s rationalizations.

“We don’t have much time to get a new issue ready,” Del explained. “Our new investors want us to change formats as quickly as possible. We want to start out with a photo spread called ‘The Girls of First Class Male.’ We want the four of you to be part of that article.”

“You want us to pose for the magazine?” Brenda asked incredulously. “Do we look like a bunch of eighteen-year-old bimbos with stars in our eyes? No way am I going to pose nude.”

The other girls nodded. I was nodding myself. But I could tell by the look on Del’s face that he wasn’t finished just yet. “This isn’t a request girls. Mr. Capella has already decided what he wants in the next issue, and Mr. Capella is used to getting his way. Saying no to Mr. Capella can be dangerous–maybe even fatal.”

We were all suddenly silent. Each of us knew who Tony Capella was, and each of us had felt the cold chill run down our backs when he had looked at us as if we were just some of his whores.

“Look,” Del went on, practically pleading with us. “How bad can it be? Everybody in the office will understand. None of you girls are married, so there won’t be any problems there. In a couple of months, everybody will have forgotten all about this. You’ll see.”

Brenda as the oldest and most senior employee seemed to have become our leader. I could see the wheels turning inside her head. Although every instinct she had told her to flip them the bird and storm out of the room, doing so would have been crossing Tony Capella. That was risky to say the least. Slowly, I could see the defiance draining from her face. “What do we have to do?”

Del relaxed just a little. He knew he had won. He pushed some papers at us. “Just sign here. It’s the standard modelling contract. Then tomorrow, report to this address.” He gave us each a card with the address of a photo studio not far away in the Village. “You don’t have to be there until ten, so you can even sleep in. It’ll just be a one-day shoot. Don’t worry about anything. The studio will take care of everything. Just to smooth things over, there’ll be a little extra in your pay checks next week.”

Like sheep, we signed the agreements. But what choice did we have? Refusal would have gotten us fired and on the shit list of one of the most ruthless gangsters in New York. He might have decided to kidnap us, load us up with dope, and ship us all off to become whores in some third world nation. As my shaking hand signed the contract, I realized once again how weak and powerless I had become. My life was not really my own. The joy of the last two evenings with Peter faded quickly in the reality of my new life. Vickie must have realized what I was thinking, because of all the people in the room, she was the only one with a smile on her face.

I nearly backed out anyhow. I got up the next morning, half-determined to make a run for it. I had saved up a few dollars from my salary. ‘Maybe I could buy a bus ticket back to Cleveland,’ I thought. Maybe I could find Peter and explain why I left New York. If he really loved me, he’d protect me. We could even get married...

Who was I kidding? By now, he was back at his desk in Cleveland. He was probably already regretting that he had told me he loved me. He was probably laughing to himself about the little tryst in New York. In a week, he would have forgotten my name. Even if he had meant what he said, his father would never approve. I could still remember when his father took me out to lunch in college to tell me that the girl I was starting to become serious about had been arrested two years earlier for prostitution and what a disgrace it would be to my family if I kept seeing her. Of course, I had heeded his advice. He would have similar advice for Peter about me–especially after my nude picture appeared in the magazine.

I was stuck as a receptionist cum nude model in the big city. And now, I was about to have my naked picture circulated across the entire nation. I wished I were dead.

I thought about pleading with Mr. Logan. Maybe he could do something to help me–for a price. But I supposed whatever he would demand of me would be just as bad as posing nude.

How strange that I should find it disgusting to display my body. As President of Chrysler Publications, I had published issue after issue of First Class Male loaded with nude pictures. But at least those girls hadn’t been reluctant, had they? In retrospect, perhaps they had been, but a girl has to eat. How many girls had appeared in my magazine who had displayed their bodies believing that it was the first step on the way to a promising career as a model or an actress? How many of them did it because they didn’t have the skills to do anything else? How many of them were ashamed after they saw themselves between the covers, posing seductively at the glass eye of the camera, as if lusting for it?

The photo studio was well appointed and in a trendy part of the Village. I actually felt a little relief when I saw it. I had half-expected a sleazy outfit in a bad part of town, complete with a leering photographer sporting bloodshot eyes and a foul-smelling cigar. Instead, I was greeted by an attractive receptionist who took my name, pulled out a file with my name on it, and handed it to me. She then ushered me back into the studio where I was relieved to see Brenda waiting.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t come,” she confided to me when we were alone. “Paula and Jan haven’t shown up yet.”

“They will,” I assured her. I had watched them the day before as they signed their contracts. They were frightened–too frightened not to show up. And sure enough: both girls arrived together a few minutes later.

“What do you think they’ll have us do?” Paula, an attractive blonde asked nervously.

“Probably just strip down out of some sexy outfit they give us and look provocative,” Brenda speculated. She was trying to appear calm for the benefit of the rest of us, but I had known Brenda in my former life well enough to know she was as nervous as we were. I think half the reason she had agreed to show up was to keep the rest of us out of hot water since we would have followed her lead.

“I don’t even like to strip in front of my boyfriend,” Jan, a redhead, admitted with a sigh.

The time for speculation was over though. The door opened and a slender man with longish hair entered. He wore jeans and a sweatshirt and was trying to affect an artistic air. I pegged him as the photographer at once. “Ladies!” he called out to us with an inflection which labelled him a Brit. “Welcome. I’m Stuart McBride and you’ll be working with me this morning.”

As if on cue, two women hustled into the studio. Both appeared to be attractive, middle-aged women. The first was pushing a rack of clothing. My heart fell when I saw that the clothing consisted of the sort of frillies that Victoria’s Secret would find too daring to sell. The second woman carried what I recognized as a large makeup case which she set up on a small table behind the cameras.

“Doris will be in charge of your wardrobe and Lada will be doing your makeup,” Stuart explained. “We’ve already chosen outfits for you, so I’ll leave you to it. Then we can get started.” With that, he bustled back into the outer office.

What went on for the next hour was one of the strangest experiences of my new life. It wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but it was just strange. Each of us was told to strip down and was issued an outfit to wear. To my way of thinking, each outfit was more revealing than wearing nothing at all. To make matters worse, the studio was a little cool, causing my nipples to stand rather provocatively at attention through the diaphanous baby-doll I had been issued. I don’t think any of us felt particularly sexy as we stood there. At least I suspected the other girls had worn something like this before. For me, it was a first-time experience.

Next, we were shuffled off to Lada who worked on our makeup and hair. Her unusual name and guttural accent spoke of a Russian heritage. She fussed and teased at each of us, with touches designed to make us look slutty. She had so much mascara and eye shadow on me that I felt like a raccoon. And my hair had been given a rather wild, windblown treatment. My nails–both finger and toe–were painted a bright pink to match the lipstick that had been applied to my face. When I looked in the mirror, I could scarcely believe I was the same person who had entered the studio in a conservative (for Candy) business dress earlier that morning.

“Okay, girls!” Stuart called, bursting back into the room. “It’s show time!”

I’m sure I had the same surprised, embarrassed look that the other girls had when Stuart entered the room. We had all resigned ourselves to our fate, but at least there had been nothing but other women looking at us before. But Stuart was different–he was a man. We needn’t have worried though, for Stuart was all business. I don’t think he was gay. I just think he had seen so many scantily-clad women before that the view no longer excited him: it was all strictly business.

That wasn’t the case with the next men to enter the room. The first man I didn’t recognize. He was model handsome, blond, wearing a sweatshirt and jeans that did nothing to hide his gym-perfect physique. He was one of those disturbing guys who’s good-looking and knows it. Now I knew how extras must feel on a movie set when the star walks on.

With him was one of Tony Capella’s men. The torpedo had a smirk on his face and a look in his eyes that told me he could eat the other three girls for lunch and enjoy me for dessert. I think he could have killed us or fucked us with equal pleasure. I had no doubts that his job was to make sure that we went through with the photo shoot. And I also had no doubt that he planned to enjoy his work.

‘But why was that really necessary?’ I wondered. We had all shown up. There was no reason for us to back out now unless... Oh God, no!

“Girls,” Stuart began, “let me introduce you to Steve Stallion.”

The blond grinned, displaying a mouthful of perfect teeth.

“You may have heard of Steve–he’s currently the number one box office star in adult movies. Steve will be joining you on the shoot today.”

As a man, I was never a great fan of adult movies. Sure, I had seen a few–mostly when I was in college. And I knew what it took for a man to be big box office in adult films, so it was no surprise to me when Steve began to disrobe, stopping when clad only in a pair of silky briefs which showed an alarming bulge in front.

First Class Male had always been tasteful as men’s magazines went. Sure, there were displays of naked women, but it was too high-class to show women lusting after enlarged penises. So this was what Del had meant by a change in the format of the magazine. It was going to become a smut magazine where everything goes. I also had a hunch that Steve Stallion’s movies were probably another Tony Capella enterprise as well. We were all to be part of a porno empire run by organized crime.

“Okay girls,” Stuart called, “let’s get started!”

I now realized the importance of the large hood. If he hadn’t been in the path between me and the door, I think I would have run from the room rather than submit to what was about to happen. The looks on the other girls’ faces told the same story.

The next five hours were the longest of my life, new or old. Nothing–not even my initial transformation and the gloating of Vickie and Del–was as humiliating as that photo shoot. While Tony Capella’s man stood by to make sure we cooperated, we were forced into every seductive pose imaginable. We undressed each other as Steve watched and the camera whirred. We pretended to play with ourselves and each other as Stuart told us what to do. We had to handle Steve’s formidable penis, appearing to take him in our mouths.

I wonder how many men, panting excitedly as they looked at smut pictures, realized how little stimulation a woman gets from those poses. If I had been the only woman there, I would probably have assumed that I was just not a real woman for not getting excited. But the other girls were as disgusted with the process as I was.

“Damn it, Candy, take hold of his dick!” Stuart would yell as the camera clicked and whirred. “It isn’t electric: it won’t shock you!”

Yes, it did shock me, but not electrically. I had had my own dick for thirty some-odd years, but I had never touched another man’s penis. Well, I suppose that wasn’t entirely true. After all, I had made love with Peter. But that was the difference, really. That was love. I had managed to suppress whatever male thoughts still ran through my brain to enjoy sex with Peter. I felt true attraction to him, and my body had responded as a woman’s body should. Holding Steve’s penis was nothing like that, though. It might as well have been road kill in my hands since it was just so much dead meat to me. Still, I did my best to overcome my repulsion and look as if Steve’s member was the most important and interesting thing in my life. It was after all, the only way I was going to get through the shoot. Stuart would just make me repeat the act until I got it right.

“I need a drink,” Brenda muttered when we were dressed once again and out on the street. Paula and Jan were good friends, and when Jan broke down in tears once we were on the street, Paula politely refused offers of help from Brenda and me and helped her friend into a cab and took her home.

I shook my head. “I’d love to get one with you,” I told her, “but I think I just want to get home and take a bath. I don’t feel very clean right now.”

Brenda nodded. “I know what you mean. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As I walked away from her, I didn’t realize the terrible danger I had put her in. But I would find out before the night was over.

I was taking the promised bath when the phone rang. Reluctantly, I picked it up. I was assaulted by hysterical babbling and nearly hung up when I suddenly realized the voice was Brenda’s.

“Brenda, calm down! Where are you?”

“I... I’m downstairs–in the... the office. Candy, I think I’ve been... been raped!”

I told her to stay where she was and leaped from the tub, throwing on a pair of jeans and a T-top. Big mistake. By the time I reached the lobby, I looked like a participant in a wet T-shirt contest. The door to the office was unlocked, and I hurried in, dashing back to Brenda’s office. Looking back on it, it was a foolhardy thing to do. If the rapist was still there, I was in danger as well. Okay, so I had a momentary lapse and thought like the man I used to be. What can I say?

Brenda was sitting in her chair, sobbing. There was no light in the office except the reflection from the neon signs across the square. I turned on her desk light and saw that her dress had been ripped. There was a large bruise on the side of her face.

“What happened?” I asked her as I put a comforting arm on her shoulder.

“Mario... he followed me...”

“Who’s Mario?” I asked, gently but firmly, although I already had a suspicion who she was talking about. And I was right.

“He... he was the man watching us... at the studio,” she said, barely above a whisper. “The one who works for Mr. Capella. He... followed me here. I came back after I had... that... that drink.” She giggled, but it was a giggle of hysteria. “I... I had a couple... more than a couple of drinks. I was disgusted with myself...”

I knew how she felt. While I had used a warm bath to wash away the filth I felt clinging to me after the photo shoot, Brenda had sought to wash the experience from her mind with alcohol.

“He... Mario... the guy at the shoot... he followed me to the bar... tried to pick me up.” She gave out a heavy sigh. “I... told him to... fuck off. I... I left the bar... coming here to... to resign and get my things. The... the son of a bitch followed me... I never saw him following...”

She looked me in the eyes for the first time. “Oh Candy, they’re filth... all of them. Del, Tony Capella, Mario, and that bitch–Vickie! Oh God, I wish Jack Chrysler were still alive. He wouldn’t have let any of this happen!”

She broke down into sobs. I wanted to cry with her, but I had to be strong for her. I wanted to tell her who I really was, but even if she believed me, what would that have accomplished? Jack Chrysler had been with her that day–in a way–and yet I had been as helpless as she was. If that Mario creep had taken a shine to me instead of Brenda, it would be me sitting in that chair sobbing now. I gave an involuntary shudder at the thought.

But as I was comforting her, I noticed something strange. While she was bruised and her clothes were torn, her skirt was still in place. Gently, I pushed it back. She was wearing pantyhose over her panties, and there was no evidence that she had been... violated.

“Brenda,” I said slowly, “do you remember what happened when Mario... surprised you?”

Brenda looked puzzled for a moment, then began, “I... I was here... at my desk. Then I heard a noise.” As if trying to act out what had happened, she got up and pushed past me. “When I got here... to the door... he rushed in and grabbed me. He... he told me how I had turned him on today when we were... we were...”

“I know what you mean,” I told her, afraid that would bog down remembering the disgusting performance we had been required to give. “What happened then?”

“He grabbed me...” she said slowly, as if trying to remember. “I heard my dress tear. I tried to get away, but he... he hit me...” Her voice trailed off. Then, “...and that’s all I remember.”

Before I could ask her another question, I heard a scream–or rather a high-pitched cry. It was coming from the hallway outside our offices. “Wait here,” I ordered, and stood up as she slumped back deeper into her chair.

Cautiously, I ran to the reception area and looked out into the hall. A young woman, dark but rather pretty in a plain sort of way was holding a baby. “It’s all right, bambina,” she cooed to the tiny infant. “Don’t cry, Maria.”

As the woman left the building, another figure came into view. It was Mr. Logan, smiling at the woman as she headed to the exit. He turned and looked at me, the smile never wavering.

I don’t know how I knew, but I suddenly realized what had happened to Mario and why Brenda hadn’t been raped. I had only to look down at my own body to get the answer. “It was you...” I gasped.

He walked over to me with a fluid grace that made me wonder if his feet were actually touching the ground. “I don’t allow sexual assaults in my building,” he said firmly. “It’s bad for business. Mr. Capella is hiring the wrong sort of help these days. I really must do something about him someday...”

“You changed that thug into... into...”

He held up a hand. “Before you continue, shouldn’t we take care of your friend?”

“You called, Mr. L?” a woman’s voice said suddenly from behind me. I jumped and turned, surprised to see Lada, the makeup woman from the photo shoot standing there. Where had she come from?

“Yes, my dear. Please see that Ms. Travis gets home all right.”

Lada nodded.

“And make sure she has no memories of this incident,” he added. As Lada hurried to do his bidding, Mr. Logan suavely motioned me to his office.

As I walked with him, I alternated between anger and curiosity. I was angry that by helping Vickie and Del in their efforts to steal my company from me, he had allowed this terrible day to happen. But I was curious as well. Why had he interfered with Capella’s thug? I didn’t for an instant believe his “bad for business” comment. I was beginning to believe Mr. Logan had an agenda all his own–one that was significantly different from the one Del and Vickie had.

“Please be seated.”

I chose a comfortable chair in front of his desk and thought about the last time I had sat there. It was immediately after my transformation and I had been pissed. Strangely, I realized I was no longer unhappy being a woman. Oh, if I could have erased that terrible photo shoot from my life, I would have done so, but I wasn’t unhappy with the fact that I was a woman. What had changed? I’d have to reflect on that later.

“Coffee?”

“Don’t trouble...” I had started to reply, but a steaming cup materialized on the desk in front of me. Realizing I probably needed something just to calm myself down, I nodded in thanks and took a sip. It was slightly sweet with no cream–just the way I liked it–and it was without a doubt the finest cup of coffee I had ever enjoyed. “You seem to know a lot about me,” I observed. “Even how I like my coffee.”

Mr. Logan favored me with a small smile, drinking from his own cup which not only steamed but seemed to give off a faint red glow. “I know more than you could ever imagine.”

“You changed me into this,” I began, “and yet you helped Brenda–saved her from being raped.”

“And you find those two actions incongruent?”

“They do seem far apart,” I agreed as I crossed my legs.

“Then let me explain just a little to you,” he said. “I found what that... creature was about to do to your friend to be repugnant. But in a way, he knew no better. He was a product of his environment. I was curious to see what effect a change in environment might have on him. Perhaps growing up as a girl will teach him something that he didn’t learn in his previous life. The young woman who will raise her cannot have children of her own. She will love Maria as her own daughter. Consider it karma, if you will, although some of my Indian friends would probably disagree with that definition.”

“And is that why you changed me?” I asked. “Were you merely curious to see how I would react?”

“Curiosity always plays a part, Ms. Dixon,” he admitted. “Perhaps that is the common thread between the two actions.”

“What besides curiosity?”

He looked at his wrist. “Will you look at the time? I shouldn’t be keeping you up. You need your sleep, and tomorrow is a busy day...”

It was more than a suggestion, and the next thing I knew, I was back in my apartment, uncertain as to how I had gotten there. I had hoped for a thorough explanation of my transformation, but that had not happened. I supposed I should at least be happy that he hadn’t gruffly brushed me off as before. He had been most gentlemanly about it. Of course, I suppose I had been quite ladylike as well.

‘He was a complex... being,’ I realized. When first transformed, I had seen him as some sort of evil sorcerer who was nothing more than a part of Del and Vickie’s scheme to rob me of what was mine. Now, I wasn’t so sure. His rescue of Brenda indicated that he seemed to operate within his own moral code. How that code would allow him to change me into a woman without my permission was beyond me.

Or was it?

As I lay in bed waiting for sleep to come, I thought about what he had said about Mario. ‘He was a product of his environment. Weren’t we all?’ But what had my environment been? I had been raised as the heir apparent to a publishing empire. That didn’t seem so bad. It certainly didn’t seem to require the drastic transformation I had received. It wasn’t as if I was a rapist or anything. So why had I been changed?

Okay, obviously Del and Vickie had paid Mr. Logan to do it. But anyone who had the ability to change a person into someone else would hardly need whatever Del and Vickie had agreed to pay him, would he? And obviously transformation wasn’t his only power. I had seen an example of that when the cup of coffee materialized out of thin air.

Somehow though, I had begun to feel that whatever the reason was, I would know more shortly. Del and Vickie were on the edge of ruin, saved only by the influx of cash from organized crime. Yet Mr. Logan seemed to be doing nothing further to help them. Peter had intimated that there were problems with the will, but what? My will had been very clear. ‘Something was about to happen,’ I thought as I drifted off to sleep. I was sure of it–woman’s intuition after all...

As I dressed for work the next morning, I thought about something Mr. Logan had said to me the night before. He had told me that today was going to be a busy day. ‘It could be he was just making a mundane remark,’ I thought as I slipped on a revealing green dress of the sort that Del and Vickie required me to wear. But I really thought he meant it as a serious remark. I think if I hadn’t remembered the remark, I might not have even gone in. The photo shoot had been too much to take, and I had seriously considered resigning. I’d rather be thrown out on the street than to even go through anything as demeaning as that photo shoot had been.

‘So what was going to happen?’ I wondered as I sat down at my desk. I didn’t have to speculate long. Tony Capella stormed into the office and he obviously wasn’t very happy. I had to smile to myself as I noticed he was one bodyguard short. He stomped past me as if I wasn’t there, although that was really nothing new. With guys like Tony, girls like me were only good for one thing–and that wasn’t polite conversation.

I could hear him in Dell’s office, yelling loudly. If his guard hadn’t been posted in the reception area, I think I would have chanced it and gone over to listen at the door.

“What’s all that about?” Brenda asked with a nod at Del’s door. She had entered the offices right behind Tony Capella. I looked up at Brenda. There was no sign of the broken woman who had been sobbing in the office the night before. “I’m not sure,” I told her carefully. I had a hunch though that Tony wanted to know what had happened to his bodyguard and was threatening everyone who might have had anything to do with his disappearance.

Brenda shrugged. “Well, whatever it is, Del will be in a piss poor mood today.”

Before Brenda headed back to her office, I asked her, “Brenda, are you really okay?”

She looked puzzled. “Why wouldn’t I be okay? Oh! You mean the shoot yesterday. Well, I guess there are worse things than showing my tits in public. How about you?”

“Oh, I’m okay,” I lied. ‘She didn’t remember anything about the night before,’ I realized. Whatever that Lada had done had erased her memory of the entire incident. Then I remembered that Mr. Logan had told her to do it. I was happy for Brenda. No woman should have to remember anything as traumatic as a sexual assault.

Brenda was gone for only a couple of minutes when the door to Del’s office burst open and Tony bulled his way out of the office, his guard following wordlessly. Del had followed him to the door of his office, and before he closed the door again, I could see that his face was a pasty white. Tony had not come to the office with good news–that was for certain.

I managed a little secret smile. As far as I was concerned, it couldn’t happen to a better guy. Del had thought he had hitched himself to Vickie’s star. Chrysler Publications might be faltering, but she stood to inherit an estate of nearly twenty million dollars outside the publishing company. He had thought he’d have all of that with Vickie and a magazine to play with as well. Instead, the estate was tied up for reasons I could only guess at and Chrysler Publications was in a deep cash flow crisis, turning to dangerous sources of money just to keep operating. And people like Tony Capella expected a quick return on their money, one way or another.

My smug joy was short-lived though. Scarcely ten minutes later, Vickie came bustling through the door, a sheaf of photos in her hand.

“Oh, Candy,” she called, “come into Del’s office. You simply must see the proofs from yesterday’s shoot.”

Dutifully, I followed her, resigned to being humiliated as she showed Del countless shots of me naked holding a model’s cock as I feigned a sexually hungry expression. Soon, those pictures would be published, and my reputation would be forever soiled. As I followed her, I thought about Peter. Odds were good he would see the shots when they were published. After all, his father’s firm was our legal counsel. What would he think? If word ever got out that he had been seeing me...

“Look, Del!” Vickie said brightly, ignoring Del’s pained expression as he sat dejectedly at his desk. “We have some shots of our little Candy here.” A devilish smile crossed her lips. “What do you think her attorney friend would think of this shot?”

She held a particularly disgusting picture up as I blanched. “What’s the matter, darling? Did you think nobody knew you were dating that prick of an attorney? When we get the estate settled and...”

“Vickie, get her out of here.”

We both looked at Del in surprise. When it came to running the show, Vickie had always been clearly in charge. For Del to stop her from her moment of vengeance was a major breach of protocol. But one look at Del was enough to unsettle Vickie and give me satisfaction.

Del rose from his chair. “We’ve got problems. We need to talk–alone.”

“But I spoke with Jack’s attorney on Friday,” Vickie replied. “Duncan assured me that the will could be read this week and...”

“This isn’t about the will,” Del interrupted. “One of Capella’s men is missing.”

“So?”

“So it happened after the photo shoot–a photo shoot you talked him into.”

I suppose I wasn’t really surprised at that. Vickie would never tire of humiliating me whenever she got the chance. She had probably explained to the crime lord that a shoot of girls from the First Class Male office in particularly nasty poses would be a good way to promote Capella’s pornographic film enterprises.

Vickie shrugged. “So what does that have to do with us?”

“He called in to say he was going to hit on one of the girls from the shoot,” Del explained.

“And what?” Vickie exploded. “He thinks one of the girls from the shoot did him in? Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?”

I tried to look as innocent as possible.

“Maybe,” Del agreed, “but if he doesn’t turn up, he’s going to come back here looking for answers. Candy, do you know anything about this?”

“Uh... no,” I lied. I hoped I sounded convincing. Since Brenda’s memory of the assault had been erased, I was the only one of the girls who knew what had happened to the thug. I hoped I could be equally convincing when Tony Capella was asking the questions.

“Then get out of here,” Del ordered.

I didn’t tarry for an instant, afraid Vickie might hold me back and ask more questions. Safely back at my desk, I breathed a sigh of relief, even though I knew the relief might be short-lived. It sounded as if whatever had held up transfer of my estate to Vickie had been resolved, but it might not be fast enough to suit their criminal creditors. Del and Vickie were still in trouble, and as pleased as that made me on one hand, I realized that any and all of us in the office were in potential danger. If Tony Capella wanted to play hardball, everyone in the office was a potential target.

I thought of calling Peter to see if there was anything he could do, but I was afraid my short relationship with Peter had come to an end. He hadn’t called since returning to Cleveland. I had to consider the possibility that he saw me as just a one-night stand. After all, he was a rising young attorney, and I was just another receptionist. But even if he really had feelings for me, when those pictures of me were published, he’d have to stay away for the sake of his own reputation. I understood that very well.

The atmosphere in the office was tense all morning. Del and Vickie snapped at people, held small meetings behind closed doors, and basically left the staff to whisper among themselves. Rumors were everywhere. ‘The company was bankrupt,’ one rumor declared. ‘No, but it was being sold,’ another decreed. Then the story of Capella’s missing guard got out somehow. A rumor rose around that, that Capella was going to kill a staff member every day until the missing man was found. I was afraid that there might be some truth to that one.

Brenda and I had become even closer since the photo shoot. Perhaps misery really does enjoy company. Or perhaps after such a degrading experience, we needed each other’s company just to remind ourselves that we weren’t really bad people. Paula and Jan seemed to have formed a similar bond. Brenda was at my desk discussing the rumor of the hour when the fateful call came through.

“Chrysler Publications,” I answered with a crispness I had developed over the weeks of answering the phone.

“Candy? Is that you?”

The connection wasn’t the best in the world, but I could still tell whose voice it was. “Peter!” Calm down, girl, I told myself. He was the company’s lawyer after all. He wasn’t calling me to ask me to go out with him. In fact, he hadn’t called me since his return to Cleveland. He was just calling about business, so no sense in getting my hopes up.

“Look, I’m on my way to New York now. I need to set up a meeting with Mrs. Chrysler. Is she there?”

Damn! I hated being right. “I’ll get her for you,” I said in my best professional voice.

“Wait! I need you there, too.”

“Me?”

“I’m shooting for three o’clock. We’re just getting ready to board the plane now. I’ll see you at three.”

“Peter!” I called, but he had already hung up.

“Trouble?” Brenda asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t know.” I told her what had just happened.

“I wonder why he wants you there.”

“I don’t know,” I replied. And I really didn’t have a clue.

Brenda looked at me carefully. “So how long have you been in love with him?”

“With who?” I asked, flushing involuntarily.

Brenda smiled and came around my desk to give me a sisterly hug. “Don’t try to fool me,” she said. “I could tell it the minute you mentioned his name. And of course, there’s the rumor mill around here. Half the staff is convinced you went to bed with him. But I told them...”

Then she looked into my eyes and frowned just a little. “Honey, you didn’t... You did! You did go to bed with him!”

“I... I...”

“Oh, Candy, you really fell hard for this guy, didn’t you?” she asked, but the smile was back.

“I... I... guess I did,” I replied.

It’s funny, but with everything that had gone on the last couple of days, I hadn’t really had time to analyze my feelings about Peter. I was obviously attracted to him in a way I could have never imagined a few short weeks earlier. When I had invited him into my bed, I was convinced that I loved him, but when he left, I tried to tell myself it wasn’t really love–it was just my new hormones racing out of control. But I told myself that so I wouldn’t be hurt when he forgot me.

I was beginning to understand that love meant something different for a woman than it did for a man. When as Jack I had first met Vickie, I saw her as something I had to have. I think she sensed that. I think she decided I wanted her as an object, and she was willing to give herself to me on those terms until she could put her own plans in action. And I suppose in a way, I was responsible for what she had become–cruel and vindictive.

Why?

Well, because as much as I had lavished her with gifts and affection, I had never really made her a part of my life. She had been a possession, just like my cars and my beach house in Hawaii. Had I truly treated her as my partner in life, she might have dumped Del and truly loved me...

No, I thought with a sigh, now alone at my desk as Brenda went back to work. No, Vickie was who she was. She would never have been my loving partner in life, no matter how hard I tried. The fault had been mine. I had bought her as I would have bought an impressive car. I had been looking for something, but it wasn’t love.

And I had paid the price. Here I was, without my wealth and my fame–without even my gender.

Yet I felt somewhat fortunate. Looking back on my life as Jack Chrysler, I saw a life that was strangely two-dimensional for all its glamour. I had been doing a job I didn’t really want, and prevented from doing the things I did want to do. I had known the cost of everything and the value of nothing. I was ruining countless lives with my thoughtless move to New York, and justifying it as the right thing to do for all the wrong reasons. I had ‘enjoyed’ a loveless existence, and if I could be completely honest with myself, I was probably bringing Chrysler Publications down with my ineptitude.

At least as Candy Dixon, I was alive. So what if I had been forced to be a receptionist and eventually bare my body to the world just to get by? So what if I was penniless? I was young, attractive, and well-liked by my co-workers. And I had known love. Granted, it was a crazy, mixed up version of love in which my partner may have been there just for the sex, but I had loved Peter that evening with an intensity–and a pleasure–that Jack Chrysler couldn’t even imagine. Even if Peter just walked past my desk saying “Good afternoon, Ms. Dixon,” I would always be grateful for the evening we had shared together.

With a sudden smile, I realized that if Mr. Logan were to walk through the door right now and offer to change me back, I would have to tell him I wasn’t interested. This was who I was–now and forever–with or without Peter.

My resolve nearly vanished when I saw Peter though. He looked so handsome in his dark suit and white shirt as I could see him approaching our glass doors. And there was a man with him as well–an older version of Peter. It was a man I hadn’t seen since before my transformation. Duncan Reynolds had been my favorite of all my father’s advisors. A proper attorney if ever there was one, he marched in lock step with his son to the door.

“Candy!” Peter said with a big grin as he held the door for his father.

“Good afternoon, Peter,” I replied, so uncertain I probably sounded a little formal. My heart was melting at the warm tone of his voice, and only the presence of his father prevented me from rushing over to hug him. Well, there was another thing that prevented it was well. Peter was giving me a warning shake of his head behind his father’s back. I was curious but said nothing.

“How do you do, Ms. Dixon?” Duncan said, knowing my name to my surprise. He even extended a well-manicured hand to me. It felt odd to be talking to an old confidant as if for the first time, but I managed to say “How do you do?” without adding “Mr. Reynolds” since I remembered at the last second that he hadn’t given me his name.

“This is my father, Duncan Reynolds,” Peter explained. “It’s great to see you again, Candy.” That last was said with a warmth I felt all the way to my little painted toes.

“Please call me Duncan,” his father told me, surprising me once again. “Are we ready to meet?”

They were a few minutes early, but I knew that Vickie and Del were already in the conference room waiting. They had been in a good mood as soon as they had been told of the meeting. Vickie had even told me that it looked like the problems with the will had been taken care of, so they were sure they stood to gain control of the business during the meeting. She couldn’t disguise her glee when she told me.

“Please join us, Candy,” Peter asked, taking my arm as we neared the conference room.

“I don’t know...” I started. After all, I had no desire to watch my inheritance be turned over to my wife, even if it did mean I’d be in the same room with Peter.

“It’s quite necessary,” Duncan told me.

“Necessary?”

“You’ll see, my dear,” he said with an impish smile.

So I preceded them into the room. Vickie and Del looked up at me in surprise, but it was Vickie who yelled, “Get out of here, Candy. This is none of your business.”

“Actually, it is,” Duncan said as he sat opposite Vickie. He was enjoying this, I thought. He never had liked Vickie, and the feeling was mutual. The confused look on Vickie’s face warranted another smile from the distinguished attorney. “If everyone will be seated, I’ll explain.”

When we had all taken our seats, Duncan leaned back and began, “I became Jack Chrysler’s–that is Jack Chrysler Junior–attorney when he formed Chrysler Publishing. My father had done work for him and his father, so our relationship is a long one. Jack the Third, as I used to call him, was my client as well, although I had hoped to turn much of the work at Chrysler Publications over to my son who seems to have a fascination with the publishing business.”

Peter smiled graciously.

“Look, let’s dispense with the history lesson,” Vickie broke in rudely.

“I would do so gladly,” Duncan said, feigning sympathy, “but I’m afraid it’s necessary to understand what has happened.”

Alarm bells had to be going off inside Vickie’s head. She and Del had obviously expected their problems to be solved by the meeting, but now, she wasn’t so sure. She at least decided to remain quiet until she saw what she was up against.

“I’m afraid Jack Junior had a bit of a roving eye,” Duncan continued. “Even after his son was born, he continued to indulge in... shall we say extracurricular activities. There were a few affairs which unfortunately required my attention. But it wasn’t until Jack Junior was in the last year of his life that he told me that one of these liaisons had produced a child.”

There was a collective gasp around the table–none louder than my own. It meant that I had a brother or sister out there somewhere–or so I thought.

“The mother of the child was apparently married, so she was in a rather poor position to demand anything of Jack Junior. It would mean admitting her indiscretions to her husband. By their mutual agreement, Jack Junior would have nothing to do with the child, and the mother’s husband would be told that the child was his own. Jack Junior was more than happy to comply–until the end.

“He knew he had a heart condition, but he had kept it secret from everyone. He was afraid it would affect the price of Chrysler Publications’ stock. But in a special way, he decided it was time to provide for the child he had never seen.”

“Jack never mentioned that provision of his father’s will,” Vickie said through gritted teeth.

“That’s because it wasn’t in the will–it is in the Chrysler Family Trust,” Duncan explained.

Oh yes, the trust, I realized at once. Like many wealthy families, passing an inheritance from one generation to the next could be very expensive. As a result, assets were often placed in a trust for the benefit of the heirs. That way, considerable taxation could be avoided. While I had always thought of my father’s estate as passing down to me, technically, it resided in the trust. I actually had only about a hundred thousand dollars in my own name. The rest was in the trust.

But I had added Vickie as my beneficiary, I remembered. That meant the proceeds of the trust would fall to her control. She would be named trustee in place of me and would have control of everything. But Duncan said something about the trust...

“Poor Jack the Third never had much of a head for business, I’m afraid,” Duncan went on. “I tried on several occasions to explain it to him. Of course, I suppose I can’t blame him. Trusts are difficult enough to understand even if they’re simple. The one Jack Junior created was anything but simple. I wasn’t allowed by the provision of the trust to even discuss the specifics of the matter unless certain unexpected factors came into play. And the only way the whole thing would come into play is if something untimely happened to Jack the Third and the love child was found. No one ever expected the illegitimate child his father had sired to show up, but stranger things have happened.”

With that, he looked right at me.

I like to think my sexual transformation had no adverse affect on my intelligence, but it took me a moment to understand what had just happened.

“Oh shit, no!” Vickie screamed.

I think it was Vickie’s outburst that drove Duncan’s point home to me. “I... I’ m the illegitimate child?” It was so far out of left field that I thought as I said it that that wasn’t what Duncan had meant at all, but the paternal smile on his face and the enthusiastic nod of his head told me otherwise.

I thought about my transformation. Mr. Logan had provided me with no knowledge of my supposed background. And given Vickie’s glee at my situation, I had just assumed that my shadowed past was part of the plan. After all, I had no education to speak of and no work history to depend upon. The lack of family or connections coupled with those factors meant I worked for Vickie and Del or I starved.

“But... how?” I managed to ask.

“An anonymous tip, actually,” Duncan explained. “Someone called us and said he used to know a woman who may have had a child by Jack Junior. We didn’t expect to uncover anything, but we were obligated to check it anyhow. Imagine our surprise when we found it was apparently true.”

“You son of a bitch!” Vickie screamed, bolting at me, only to be held back by Peter.

It dawned on me in that moment as I watched Vickie rage and Del sink into his seat, his face ashen, that I realized Mr. Logan was behind this. Who else could have made the anonymous call? “Excuse me a minute. I... I have to go to the restroom,” I said lamely, rushing from the room before anyone could stop me. It would take several minutes to get Vickie calmed down anyway.

I rushed out into the hall and barged into Mr. Logan’s office. He and his assistant, that strange little Mr. Luck, were watching something on his computer screen. I realized in an instant that what they were watching was Duncan and Peter trying to calm Vickie down with only modest results.

“Ah, Ms. Dixon, shouldn’t you get back in your meeting?” Mr. Logan asked, obviously not at all surprised that I had come to see him.

“You planned this!” I yelled. “You planned all of it!”

“From the very beginning,” he admitted calmly.

I stood there in front of his desk, my hands on my hips. “But why? Why go to all of this trouble?”

“Oh, it was no trouble at all, my dear,” he laughed. “And it was quite amusing when you think about it.”

Actually, I had been thinking about it, and to be honest, he was right. Vickie and Del had thought they were in control of the situation, but they were being manipulated as completely as I had been. For a being like Mr. Logan, it must have been terribly amusing.

“Mr. Sherman and your wife approached me upon the recommendation of a mutual associate–an individual who Mr. Sherman had dealt with before during his previous time in New York. Of course, he had no way of knowing that the associate is one of... us.”

I would have loved to have known who “us” was, but I knew Mr. Logan would never divulge that.

“It seems that Mr. Sherman had a problem. He had been brought in by his girlfriend–your wife–to run First Class Male, but given his expensive tastes as well as your wife’s there simply wasn’t enough money available to support their desires. You know, as Jack Chrysler, you really should have realized that your wife was not willing to be modestly rich as you were. She wanted to be fabulously rich. She was convinced that you were just being miserly. Like many pampered wives, she didn’t realize that wealth is often tied up in businesses and property and can’t always be converted to expensive toys and such.

“Del had promised her the world if he just had control of the publishing business. He wanted to divest the company of its other magazines and concentrate on turning First Class Male into a more risqué publication which he felt would be more profitable. There was just one problem...”

“Me,” I volunteered.

Mr. Logan nodded in agreement. “You would never have gone along with his plan. You saw First Class Male as a more ‘gentlemanly’ publication. And also, you valued the other publications as much as First Class Male.”

I took a look at the monitor. “I’d better get back in there...”

“Oh, no hurry,” Mr. Logan said laconically. “Our little meeting is happening in a little kernel of time. The ratio to real time is approximately sixty to one.” He directed my attention to the monitor. Duncan and Peter were still trying to calm Vickie down, but the scene hadn’t changed much from the last time I had viewed the monitor. And all of them appeared to be frozen in space, although if I looked closely, I could see them moving ever so slightly. “If we were to meet an hour–which is unlikely–only a minute would pass to the rest of the world.”

His powers seemed endless–almost like a god. “Who–or what–are you?” I blurted out.

“That would take a bit of time to explain, and it really isn’t important, is it? Besides, there is another question on the table. You asked me why I did all of this.”

I nodded. Given a choice of knowing exactly who Mr. Logan was, was not nearly as important to me as knowing why he had changed me into a young woman, denying me my inheritance only to give it back later. “So why did you do it? And how?”

“I think I’ll tell you how first,” he said. “It will probably surprise you to know that Candy Dixon was, in fact, your father’s daughter. Yes, you had a sister–a half-sister actually. The mother was paid a suitable amount of money to remain silent and moved to New York to get on with her life as the single mother of a baby daughter. Unfortunately, both mother and daughter were killed in a traffic accident when the child was only a year old. Your father was never told of this accident.”

“How did you learn all of this?” I asked.

He shrugged. “That isn’t really important. And if there had been no Candy Dixon at all, the resources of our... organization are sufficient that we could have created an identity from scratch. However, since there really was a Candy Dixon, our task was easier. Of course, there will be questions from your attorneys. You’ll need to have a knowledge of your life as a girl. Don’ t worry though, I have it right here.”

“Here” proved to be a tiny spark of light which he held in his fingertips. It silently, slowly, floated from his fingers to my forehead where it pushed through with only a warm tickle. When it was done, I could remember a life I had never lived. I knew I had been Jack Chrysler and remembered my real life with vivid detail. But I could remember another life as well. I could remember a different mother. I could remember being a little girl. I could remember my first date, my first kiss, losing my virginity, everything.

“Don’t try to look up any of the old friends you now remember,” he warned me. “You’ll find they don’t really remember you. The only additional changes we’ve made to reality are that all record of the death of Candy Dixon and her mother has been removed. It is now recorded that Candy’s mother died two years ago of natural causes, leaving you without family. However, the lawyers won’t dig too deeply.”

“But Vickie might,” I pointed out. “She’s not going to take this lying down.”

“I wouldn’t worry about Vickie if I were you,” Mr. Logan assured me. “She will not be of any concern to you.”

“So that’s how you did it,” I said with a smile. “But was that provision actually in my father’s trust agreement? It doesn’t seem completely valid to me.”

“It probably isn’t,” Mr. Logan agreed. “Although it was actually there. It seems your father lost track of his daughter and her mother. As he sensed his death approaching, he had enough concern for her to provide for her at least on paper.”

“But he never looked for her,” I surmised.

“That is correct. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. Many individuals, sensing impending death, seek to right old wrongs. But I can assure you, if it hadn’t worked out this way, we would have found another way.”

“Which brings us to why you did it,” I prompted. “Why did you seem to go along with them? And why did you change me into a woman?”

“Are you unhappy as a woman?”

I hadn’t really expected the question, although I suppose I should have. I think I was just a little reluctant to admit to anyone how I had come to love my new life. It had been an attitude I had adopted reluctantly at first, but in spite of Del and Vickie and the humiliating photo shoot, I felt more free and alive as a woman than I had ever felt as a man. And Peter had made me feel more alive than I had ever dreamed was possible. My only regret had been seeing Del and Vickie steal what was rightfully mine. Now even that problem had been rectified.

“No, I’m not unhappy,” I admitted. “Just the opposite, really.”

He gave me the warmest smile I had ever seen from him. “This is the person you were meant to be, Candy. I sensed that long before I changed you. And I knew if I didn’t seem to be in league with Del and Vickie, they would eventually decide you must be killed. And while few can do what I did to you, many would be willing to kill you. Just be thankful their desire to humiliate you was as strong as their desire to steal from you. Otherwise, you’d be dead by now, and they would be in full control of your company.”

I shuddered at that thought.

“And I was not happy with the direction you and Del were taking the company,” Mr. Logan went on. “Are you familiar with El and Associates?”

I thought for a moment. “Yes,” I said finally. “They’re an investment company that owns this building. I assume it’s your company?”

“Right on all counts,” he replied. “But as I thought, you were never really involved in running the business as you should have been.”

I turned a bit red at that, I’m afraid.

“If you had been suitably involved, you’d know that El and Associates owns nearly three percent of Chrysler Publications stock. The mutual associate I spoke of was our attorney. He recommended this building to Del Sherman. Mr. Sherman was quite aware that we were stockholders. Part of the sweetener in addition to my fee for transforming you was that his plan would enhance the value of our stock.”

“So you’ve been watching me for some time,” I surmised softly.

“Years,” he agreed. “Candy, as Jack Chrysler, you were a good man, but in running a business, that isn’t enough. It’s one thing to be concerned about the welfare of your employees, but you have to have the strength of will to run your business well. In the long run, that is what is best for your employees. Good intentions are not enough.”

“The road to Hell is paved with them,” I observed with a wry smile.

“Actually, it’s paved in human excrement,” he replied, and I had a sneaky hunch he was serious. “Be that as it may, I think your experiences as Candy have taught you something you would have never learned as Jack.”

I nodded silently in agreement.

“So now the question is where will you go from here?”

It was a question I hadn’t really considered. I was still too shocked from the realization that Chrysler Publications was now mine again–or would be shortly. The problem was what to do with it. Unfortunately, Mr. Logan was correct. I had to admit there was more to being a good businessman than having good intentions. If I took over the helm of the company once more, I’d not have any better luck at it than I had as Jack Chrysler. In fact, I had even less chance of success. As Jack Chrysler, I had at least looked the part. Now, as an attractive young woman with no formal business training, I’d garner even less respect. I might have the credentials to own the company, but I lacked the ability to run it.

“I don’t know,” I finally answered. “Any suggestions?”

“No,” Mr. Logan chuckled, “but I believe you’ll think of something.”

With that, I returned to the meeting. As far as everyone was concerned, I had only been gone long enough to go to the restroom. Vickie had calmed down a little, but when I walked in the room, she threw me a killing look. Del was probably equally upset, but he was too stunned to pose much of a problem. Duncan and Peter were trying hard to appear professional and not allow their glee to show.

Peter rose and faced me when I entered the room. “Are you all right?”

“Sure,” I said glibly. “I was just taken by surprise.”

“Don’t think this is over,” Vickie growled. “I’ll see you in court.”

I actually smiled at her–the sweetest smile I could manage. “I don’t think so,” I told her. I don’t think Vickie realized the depth of her defeat. Sure, she could get a lawyer. She could probably find one to work for her on contingency. But what could she do? Even though she knew I wasn’t really Jack Junior’s illegitimate daughter, what could she say? That she and Del had had me changed into Candy Dixon? That I was really Jack the Third? At the least, she’d be laughed out of court.

“Ms. Dixon,” Duncan interjected, “I think my son and I should continue our discussions in private.”

“Of course,” I said. “We can use Mr. Sherman’s office. He won’t be needing it any longer.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the stricken look on Del’s face.

Deity Arms Separator

Mr. L was waiting patiently as Vickie and Del barged into his office right on time. Before they could start to bluster, he rose to his feet. Although not extremely tall, he was taller than each of his visitors, and his bearing was one of a being who saw no threat from the pair. “It’s time we discussed your future,” he began, and the tone in his voice was sufficient to convey the message that that was the only subject which would be discussed.

Knowing they were beaten, they seemed to deflate in front of the god.

“What future?” Vickie muttered. “You seem to have taken any future we might have had away from us.”

“You did that with your own decisions,” Mr. L said sharply. “You, Mrs. Chrysler, had a loving husband and a secure future, while you, Mr. Sherman, had been entrusted with the management of a potentially lucrative business. You both abused your trust and have only yourselves to blame.”

Vickie turned to Del. “You still have the hundred grand in your account. We need to get out of New York before Tony Capella finds out about this. And I’ll still inherit whatever was in Jack’s name.”

“I just called on the account,” Del moaned. “It’s been closed.”

“Closed? How?”

Mr. L smiled. “If you’ll recall, one hundred thousand dollars was due as my fee for getting rid of Jack Chrysler. Given your financial prospects, I withdrew the money from your offshore account. You really should be more careful with your account codes. By the way...” He pushed a check across the desk to Del. “...there was a little excess in the account. Here is a check from my firm to cover the difference.”

Del snatched at the check, peered at it, then fell back in his chair with an hysterical laugh. “This check is for two thousand dollars.”

“Hopefully, it will be enough to help you with a fresh start,” Mr. L said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m really quite busy...”

“At least I’ll get whatever Jack owned,” Vickie pointed out.

“I doubt that,” Mr. L replied. “You see, they’re starting to bring wreckage from the plane crash up out of Lake Erie. Some suspicious tampering with the engines will be evident in a few days. Whatever you do finally inherit will probably be eaten up in legal fees when the two of you become suspects in Mr. Chrysler’s death.”

“You bastard!” Vickie screamed. “You planned all of this!”

If it was meant as an accusation, it fell flat, for Mr. L replied blandly, “Yes.”

Vickie frowned. “Yes?”

“Yes,” Mr. L repeated with a nod. “Did you ever stop and think that an individual with my powers would hardly be interested in a paltry hundred thousand dollar fee? Of course you didn’t. Your greed clouded your judgment. You would be interested in such a fee and would gladly wreck someone’s life for such an insignificant sum. You merely assumed everyone else thought that way too.”

“Then why did you do it?” Vickie demanded. “What are you, some sort of do-gooder or something?”

Mr. L laughed, “I’ve been called many things, but a do-gooder? My dear Mrs. Chrysler, I can assure you I am anything but a do-gooder.”

“Then why...?” she repeated, confused.

Mr. L’s eyes seemed to light with internal fire. “Because you entertain me! You have no idea who we are, do you? I thought not. Let me just say that I and my kind have lived for longer than you can imagine. In that time, we have learned that wealth and power are mere transitory illusions. We seek to be stimulated. Love, hate, revenge, greed, and all the other emotional motivations of humans are our only true entertainment. They are the building blocks we require to continue our own mental stability. And I must say, the two of you have been most entertaining. We can hardly wait to see how entertaining you will be when Tony Capella finds out what has happened.”

“But he’ll kill us!” Del wailed.

“Shut up!” Vickie demanded. Then, turning to Mr. L, she asked, “All right. But if he kills us, we won’t be entertaining any more, will we?”

“That’s true.”

“So what can we do to get away from Mr. Capella?”

“An excellent question!” Mr. L remarked, rising once more from his chair. “And I think I have just the answer...”

Deity Arms Separator

Things moved quickly after that fateful meeting. Of course, I had to prove I was really John Chrysler Junior’s daughter, but that proved simple enough. Provisions had been made by my father for DNA testing, and naturally I passed with flying colors. Mr. Logan had thought of everything it seems. Since I wasn’t supposed to know my father, I wasn’t asked anything about my life growing up as a girl. So the memories Mr. Logan gave me were not necessary.

In a way though, I was glad to have those false memories. It made being Candy Dixon much easier, and whatever traces of my male existence were still with me faded further and further into the background. Although I remembered my old life, it seemed almost unreal to me.

Of course, being with Peter again helped. His love for me was real, I was delighted to learn. I didn’t even need to worry that he loved me for my money since his family was wealthy as well. Duncan returned to Cleveland leaving an enthusiastic Peter to help me with the business... and other things.

The one thing that hung over me like a cloud was the packet of photos from my shoot. Naturally, the first thing I did–with Brenda’s help–was reverse Del’s plans to turn First Class Male into a porn magazine. The next issue would be as tasteful as every previous one. The photos never turned up. Well, in a way I suppose they did. My heart had stopped when Peter picked up the photos from the floor in Del’s–now my–office. But for some strange reason, the prints were completely blank, showing only the crisp white of quality photographic paper.

I wasn’t ready to leave it at that though. A few days later while Peter was occupied on legal matters, I took a cab over to Stuart McBride’s photo studio. I was only a little surprised to find out it was gone, replaced by a trendy little women’s shop. I waved the cab off and looked around the shop, but there was no sign of Stuart nor any trace of a photo studio. I did manage to buy two very cute dresses, though.

I suppose I’ll never be certain if the studio was just another of Mr. Logan’s little sets, or if Stuart was now only a memory, forced into a new life as I had been. Whatever the reason, all that remained of that photo shoot seemed to be the memories of the participants.

Oh, and speaking of memories, Steve Stallion, our co-star on the shoot had been a real horse’s ass. I noticed in the paper the other day that he had mysteriously disappeared. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I happened to notice in the same paper that a horse named Stevie By L had won the third race at Belmont. It was a race for fillies, so if I’m right, Stallion isn’t a stallion any more.

Then there were Doris and Lada, respectively the wardrobe lady (if what we were given to wear could be called wardrobe) and makeup expert. There must be a million women named Doris in the world, but Lada was an unusual name. Doris I figure was just what she seemed to be, but Lada was obviously working for Mr. Logan. I never saw her again, but I did get curious about her. I looked up the name Lada, and I was right–the name is Slavic. It comes from the name of an old Slavic goddess of beauty. Maybe that’s why she got into makeup.

Or maybe–just maybe–she really is Lada, the goddess of beauty. That would explain a lot about the strange collection of mystical beings around Deety Arms. I thought about how the word ‘Deety’ on the stone in front of the building looked more like ‘Deity.’ What if some of the old gods–the ones we’ve all but forgotten–really existed? What if they all got together and... No, it was too bizarre to be possible.

Of course, Vickie and Del remember the shoot–wherever they are. By the time a very pissed Tony Capella came looking for them, they were nowhere to be found. So Tony had turned on me–or tried to. It turns out the one thing the mob fears more than anything else is a roomful of lawyers. Tony learned the hard way that Chrysler Publications had no legal requirement to repay the substantial sums of money he had advanced to Vickie and Del personally. Peter and the two local attorneys he brought in to handle the affair were wonderful. The last thing Tony Capella wanted was to end up in a courtroom. He and his pals slunk back into whatever dark hole they had crawled out of. I never saw him again.

And speaking once again of Peter, I don’t know what I would have done without him. We shared an office by day and a bed by night, and life had never been better. As the heir–albeit illegitimate by birth–to the Chrysler Publications fortune, no one would think twice if the potential heir to one of the most prestigious law firms in Cleveland were to ask for my hand in marriage. The wedding was set for two months from now, after I would have a chance to relocate my staff in Cleveland.

Of course, not everyone was returning to Cleveland. First Class Male would be published in New York, but not under the Chrysler banner. El and Associates had made a generous offer for the title–generous enough that I would have sufficient funds to rebuild my other magazine titles into strong publications. I could only imagine what Mr. Logan and his associates would do with the magazine, but I had a sneaky hunch that not all the women in the photo articles the magazine would publish in the future would have started out in life as females.

Happily, Brenda was coming back to Cleveland with us–but not as my assistant. Brenda would be in charge of operations as President of Chrysler Publications. I would content myself with being a contributing editor while I worked on a degree in art appreciation. People like Brenda–with some advice from Peter–were much better equipped to run the company than I was. I wouldn’t be any better as a businesswoman than I had been as a businessman. Of course, I’d still be Chairman of the Board, but I didn’t plan to interfere with operations. Brenda could handle that just fine.

And so the day to leave New York had finally come. I had entered the city as a failing businessman, but I was leaving in triumph. As I waited for my limo in the lobby of Deety Arms under the admiring stares of countless men, I had to smile to myself. It was only a short time ago that I had slunk through the halls of the buildings, embarrassed by my sex. Times had changed. Of course, there’s nothing like an expensive designer dress to give a girl a little confidence.

“Leaving us, Ms. Dixon?”

I turned and smiled at Mr. Logan. “I’m afraid so.”

“We’ll miss you,” he said, returning the smile. “I can’t remember when we’ve had so much fun around here. Most of our guests provide us with more mundane entertainment.”

As if to prove a point, he nodded at the two Hispanic women who were just entering the building after a full night’s work. Whores, strippers, or maybe both from the provocative way they were dressed, the two women shot us both an ugly glance as they hustled along toward the elevator on their impossibly high heels.

“Do they live here?” I asked when they had passed.

“Oh yes,” he replied brightly. “In fact, they moved in about the time Mrs. Chrysler and Mr. Sherman disappeared.”

It only took a moment for me to realize what he was saying. If I had had any doubts, the gleam in his eyes would have ended them. So Vickie and Del had escaped Tony Capella, but they hadn’t escaped justice. Well, Vickie had always had a small model’s bust. I wondered how she liked having a full rack now. For that matter, I wondered how Del liked having one.

I didn’t have much time to speculate though, for the limo pulled up smoothly in front of the entrance. Without being asked, the ever-present Mr. Luck scooped up my bags and hustled them to the car.

“Good luck to you, Ms. Dixon,” Mr. Logan said as he offered his hand.

“Thank you,” I returned, taking it gladly. How strange that I felt such warm feelings for that strange man who had changed my life so completely. Or maybe not so strange when I considered how much better my life had become. “Will we see you at the wedding?”

The smile became even wider. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

The End



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Deity Arms

While in the Ovid universe I rather like the Deity Arms stories better than the Ovid tales. And talking about Deity Arms you can't forget about the Barbie Lee story in the same universe. Mr. Logan is just as high handed as the Judge but somehow comes out more compassionate. Despite his claim of simple amusement there is a strong sense of justice. I enjoyed this little trip back to a part of NYC that has a bit more magic than the rest of the city.

Hugs!

Grover

PS's picture

Keep watching this space!

Hi Grover

And talking about Deity Arms you can't forget about the Barbie Lee story in the same universe.

Thanks for the heads up! However, I just might be one step ahead of you!

Barbie has given permission for her work to be posted here too.

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littlerocksilver's picture

The Past Recalled

I remember when I first read The Professor's Deity Arms stories. I enjoyed them even more than the Ovid stories. I was sure I had read this one but it wasn't until about half way through that I remembered what was going on. I don't think The Professor wrote many stories in this universe, but another author wrote a very nice and faithful sequel. It was nice to read this one again.

Portia

Portia

More Deity Arms

There are a few Deity Arms story by Barbie Lee on FM.

http://fictionmania.tv/stories/readtextstory.html?storyID=32...
Searching out Barbie Lee there will reveal the others.

Hugs!

Grover

PS's picture

Keep watching this space!

See my comment above!

PS

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Deity Arms 2: I Call My Sugar Candy

Me, I can see Ricardo Montlban of Fantasy Island as Mister Lucas. To me, his voicing those lines, fit.

    Stanman
May Your Light Forever Shine
    Stanman
May Your Light Forever Shine
Beyogi's picture

Deity Arms

I really like this universe. There are gods, they change unwilling subjects, but at least they're not an ass about it. They look out for justice and honestly try to help their "victims". I guess its kind of logical. The people who created the gods wanted helpers and judges. They didn't want cold egomaniacs. They probably need to help someone, improve someones life to be happy themselves.
If gods like these were real, they would be rather pitiful existences. Created by humanity and abandoned over the course of time. That they're not reeally cruel to their victims is really amazing.

I like this universe better than ovid, since this is more than just throwing a fish into a new pond, while destroying the old one. The gods don't seem to be able to change reality like the ovid gods, which makes the situation less cruel for the victims.

Thank you for writing this captivating story,

Beyogi

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