A cautionary tale about the hidden dangers of trying to trick a mutt into becoming a pet using lies and betrayal. Inspired by The Samantha Project, this is a story about a different family with similar goals ... and a very different protagonist.
of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if
you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of
strings that somebody else pulls.” – Howard Thurman
Maddie tiptoed across the hall. It was well before six a.m., and even though it was bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony on the day of the wedding, she had to peek in on her bride-to-be, to see what she and her mother and grandmother had accomplished after only a few months of careful, well-planned effort. Terri was hers, for now and for always, twisted by the combination of the strength of his love for her and the meticulous planning of a family that had been bending men to their will for generations.
They spent the summer pushing him further and further past gender lines he really didn’t want to cross. But he crossed them anyway, one at a time, because he wanted her to be happy. And because he loved her, they turned him into a pretty sissy wife who did as he was told, waited for every crumb of affection she would throw his way, and never, ever pushed back.
He was perfect.
Maddie was happy. She had finally earned her place in the family by becoming a Mistress of the art of betrayal and manipulation. She had written her magnum opus with his love, composed her ninth symphony with his dreams, and painted her masterpiece with his body. She finally had her mate, just as she wanted him to be, and today’s wedding would be the unveiling of her greatest work.
She just wanted to see him one more time before the grand opening, just a few hours away. That was when Terri would walk down the aisle in his beautiful gown, and let Mother lift his veil and give him a tender kiss on the cheek before giving him to Maddie, to have and to hold. Forever.
When Maddie opened the door quietly, she saw the bed was made perfectly. Terri’s white wedding dress hung on the closet door, still in its plastic wrapper, and his white pumps with the four-inch heels were placed neatly on the floor below. The beautiful white lingerie – the corset, the garter belt, the stockings – were all neatly folded on his dresser. His vanity was neat and organized, with the day’s make-up lined up and ready for him to paint his face and fix his nails. There was even a vial of perfume, Maddie’s favorite, waiting for him to place it in a few strategic spots.
The only thing missing ... was Terri.
The house was still silent, too early for even the servants to be prowling about preparing for the big day. Maddie swept silently down the stairs, peeked into the kitchen, and wandered from room to room, becoming more and more concerned with each passing moment. Eventually, she stood in the grand hall by the front door and bit her lip, wondering where he was, and worrying about what had happened to the person she was to marry.
“I was hoping to leave before you woke up. It would have made things so much easier.”
It was a man’s voice, one she hadn’t heard all summer. Terry’s voice. She turned towards the sound and found him standing in the shadows in the parlor, silhouetted by the morning light just beginning to slip through the front window. He stepped forward into the well-lit entryway, and she could see something had gone horribly wrong.
He was wearing the clothes he had first worn when he had arrived with her at the beginning of the summer. The black sweatshirt was a little tight in the chest, and the blue jeans a little tight around the hips. But he hadn’t been on the hormones long enough for more than that, and for the first time since his first week, he hadn’t tucked his genitals away as he had been taught.
It did make a difference. Even though he still looked somewhat androgynous, there was no mistaking the fact that he was a man. Again.
Maddie looked up at his face. His hair was still long, but the curls had been ironed flat, and he had pulled it back into a low ponytail and fastened it with a thick silver ring. His skin was too pale, a little too perfect for a man, but you had to look close to see it, and a few weeks off of the skin care routine would fix that.
His eyebrows had also been restored to what they were when he first came to visit at the beginning of the summer. The individual hairs were drawn in so well with brown eyebrow pencil that you wouldn’t even know they had ever been shaped – unless you had plucked the original hairs yourself, as Maddie had. She admired the skill it took to create the illusion, even as she began to realize that all the make-up lessons Terry had learned since his arrival at the mansion had been twisted towards undermining the femininity she had worked so hard to create.
But his eyes were still the same. Still beautiful, but as she looked deep into them, she saw a sadness she had never seen before. He sighed.
“You know the worst thing about being a fool for love?” His voice was soft, almost kindly. “Eventually, it all comes down to just being a fool.”
Maddie felt the world spin, and Terry saw it hit her hard, as he knew it would. He walked over to the window next to the front door, and pushed the curtain aside to peer out.
“I trusted you,” he said, not even looking at her. “And I trusted your mother and your sisters, too. I thought your family’s customs were weird, but they all seemed to like me, and I wanted them to because I loved you. After a while, I came to enjoy playing dress-up. I thought of it as a game we shared. I even liked serving you. After all, it made you happy, so I didn’t care what I wore or how I behaved.”
“It was a long summer, and way different from the way I thought it would be. I thought we’d get out some, do some things, maybe walk on the beach. But we never left the compound. It should have bothered me, but it didn’t. Even though it was weird and a little claustrophobic, I enjoyed making you smile. That made up for a lot.”
Terry turned his head to face her, a half-smile playing on his lips. “But then, last week, everything changed. I saw how things truly were. I was wearing that ridiculous French maid’s outfit and the stupid leather collar, remember? Standing in the corner quietly, watching you and your sisters play in the pool. And then your mother thrust that absurd feather duster in my hand and told me to go dust something.”
“So I went looking for new places to clean, to try to please her.” His eyes narrowed, and he paused just for an instant before his half-sad expression returned. “That’s how I found the hidden room behind your mother’s closet – the one with all the flat screen TVs and the many hours of recordings of you all manipulating me ... and laughing about it.”
He looked out the window again. “Later that night, I used those same cameras and microphones to hear you all as you prepared for the wedding. You toasted your success with champagne, and I listened to the whole family reliving the high points of how brilliantly you all manipulated me into becoming what you wanted. I listened to how easy I was to fool – how a few kind words here and there actually made me think I was loved and accepted. I remember someone, I think it was Zoe, telling everyone she told me she actually respected my devotion to you, and how I blushed and thanked her. Of course, when you all laughed, I knew it was just a joke – that I was just a joke. You found it funny I believed her – that I actually thought I was worthy of respect.”
Terry turned to look at her, and a touch of anger slipped into his eyes. It stayed there, just for an instant, before he pulled it back and dismissed it with a cool ease that frightened Maddie somehow, on a level she couldn’t quite identify.
“You all thought I was asleep in my four-poster bed under the pretty pink canopy, wearing the mauve baby doll set you gave me as a gift. But I wasn’t, and now I never will be again. Because now I know the truth.”
Maddie finally found her voice. “Wh ... what truth?”
“That you played me, of course,” Terry replied. “You were like a pack of demonic Joshua Bell clones, taking turns playing a single cheap violin. As the violin in question, you have my compliments. There was never a sour note. And I know how much you enjoyed playing me, too. Thanks to the joys of modern technology, I got to see the smile on your face when they complimented you on how completely you rolled me.”
She felt lost. “Rolled?”
Terry smiled. “Yes, Maddie. If you’re going to make a career out of being a con artist, you really should know the terminology better than you do. You rolled me ... got me to believe that you loved me and then used my love to make me whatever you wanted me to be.”
“But I did ... I DO love you!”
“Oh, Maddie.” He shook his head and sighed, clearly disappointed. “You really must be new at this after all. Otherwise, you’d know that once the mark ‘wises up,’ the con is over. You can’t think I’d be stupid enough to fall for the same gag twice in a row?”
When the expression on her face didn’t change, he sighed and looked into her eyes. “At best, you love me the way you’d love a favorite pet. If I’d never learned the truth, I can just imagine you all drinking champagne and laughing over the inscription on my tombstone when I died of old age, blissfully ignorant. ‘Here lies Terry, Good Dog. Best in Show.’”
“How ... how could you say that?”
“Easily,” Terry replied with a small smile. “I’m used to speaking the truth. But I guess no matter how good a liar you are, finding your pet has slipped his leash must come as a bit of a shock. Maybe you should get more lessons from your mother. After all, conning your Dad into becoming a maid-chauffeur-sissy slave must have taught her a lot about how the game is played.”
A voice came from the top of the stairs. “Actually, Carolyn wanted it so badly, she was hardly a challenge at all.”
Terry looked up to find his almost-mother-in-law in her robe, looking down at the two of them in the foyer.
“Good morning, Rachel,” he said, with just a hint of a smile. “Well, morning, anyway. After my taxi arrives and I’m out of your hair, you may find the morning going bad fairly quickly, once you start explaining to your guests that one of your brides is missing.”
“I heard everything, of course.” She sniffed, peering down at the couple with a look of disapproval. “And it’s Mistress Rachel, Terri.”
He grinned. “If you heard everything, then you know that’s over. I know how you all played me, and as far as I’m concerned, you lost the right to be called Mistress Rachel the minute I heard you laughing at how hard I tried to please you – especially when I saw how little respect you had for me as a person.”
“You’re weak,” Rachel replied, the frown on her face becoming more pronounced. “You love letting others take control. How else should I feel about you?” Terry shook his head.
“Dressing as a woman and serving you or your daughters this summer was my choice. As you said, I let you take control.” He wandered back towards the window by the door and peered out before continuing. “I chose to play that role for Maddie, mainly because I loved her, and I thought she loved me. I certainly thought you felt something for me as well, since you went out of your way to persuade me that was the case. Once I realized that nothing any of you claimed to feel for me was remotely true ... and that the woman I thought I loved only viewed me as a plaything ... well, everything ended there.”
“As for being weak? Well, I’m leaving. Take that however you like.”
“But you are submissive.” The older woman took a few steps down the stairs. “All of the questions we asked you when you first arrived showed clearly that you had submissive tendencies. Sarah, my eldest, is a psychologist.”
“I know.” Terry looked back and smiled. “And she’s right. I enjoy being submissive. I learned that about myself years ago. That’s why I put up with a lot more from you than an average guy would.”
Maddie’s jaw dropped. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t ask. Besides, it’s not exactly a selling point for most women.” He shrugged. “I enjoy surrendering control, and I might have told you eventually. After all, this summer made it clear you might be receptive to the idea. But that’s all over now.”
“Why?” His almost-wife’s lip trembled, and her voice cracked. “Why does it have to be over?”
“Because to truly submit to the will of another person, there has to be trust. And I can’t trust you anymore, Maddie. None of you.”
Her eyes betrayed her confusion, and Terry shook his head. “I let you all control me all summer because I trusted you. I chose to give you that control because I thought you all cared for me ... and would take care of me. Keep me from harm. Keep me safe. That’s part of what I love about submission. When you surrender to someone you trust in a safe place ... it frees you. I could feel that in the past six weeks, as I was free to just ... be. Giving your service to someone you love ... someone who loves you ... can be peaceful. Restful. And sometimes, fun.”
Maddie spoke suddenly. “So ... you liked it?” Terry nodded, and she let her frustration creep into her voice. “So why are you leaving now? Nothing’s changed! We can still be together. You can still be mine!”
Terry looked over at her, and she could see the sadness in his eyes once more. “No, I can’t. Don’t you see, Maddie? You lied to me. Not just you, but your entire family. I wasn’t loved or respected here at all. And if all I am to you is a toy, something less than human, I don’t trust you to protect me and take care of me. In any case, you certainly aren’t worthy of my service.”
Rachel sniffed. “Don’t be ridiculous! This family could buy a medium-sized country without feeling the slightest financial distress. How could we ever NOT be worthy of your service?”
“Because you LIED to me!” Terry caught her eyes and held them, his anger back but controlled. “When I submit, I give all I have to my Master or Mistress, because that’s what true submission means. But I choose. Whoever I give myself has to understand that my obedience ... my surrender ... IS a gift, not a given. They need to thank me for that gift by caring for me, and treating me with the respect such a gift deserves. You obviously don’t. You’re the worse kind of Domme. You don’t understand the value of someone’s submission, or the responsibility that comes with it.”
The front door opened, and a huge black man in an impeccable black suit stepped into the foyer. Mortimer was Ramona’s right hand, the one who ran the mansion for her. He was in charge of the servants, security, and anything else Rachel needed taking care of. He did a small double-take at how Terry was dressed, but turned to look up the stairs and spoke to Rachel directly.
“There is a taxi at the front gate, and the driver is asking for Terry Black. Should I let the cab come through, ma’am?”
“No!” Rachel said, her voice too loud. “Send the cab away. Terri will be remaining with us.”
“No he won’t,” Terry said, looking at Rachel. His voice was level. “Terry is leaving, and if he has a lick of sense, he’s not coming back.”
“You have a wedding to attend!” Maddie’s mother fairly growled.
“Had,” he replied. “The correct word is ‘had’ a wedding to go to. Past tense.” Terry picked up his backpack and slung it over one shoulder, then looked at Mortimer. “Don’t sweat it. If she won’t let it into the compound, I can walk to the gate from here. Hell, I’d walk to Cleveland if it meant being free of this bunch.”
After a long pause, Mortimer shrugged.
“Okay, man,” he said, reaching to open the door. “It’s still a free country. I’ll take you to the gate. Took the golf cart up.”
“You will not!” Rachel roared, taking another step down the stairs. “You will subdue her and take her back to her room. I have drugs I can use to make her more ... receptive.”
Maddie wheeled and stared at the older woman in shock. “MOTHER!”
“We have just spent an entire summer on this project.” Rachel looked down at her daughter coldly. “I will not let her walk away while hundreds of guests wait for today’s wedding in vain. And I can make her heel, Maddie. I’ve done it before. You know I can.”
“Sometimes.” Terry spoke, and both women turned to look at him. “But chemicals and brainwashing haven’t always worked for you. I know.”
“How ... how could you ...?” Rachel’s voice shook.
“From the records on the workstation in your video center, of course.”
“That machine was password-locked and encrypted.” Carolyn took a step down the stairs, her hand gripping the banister. “There was no way you could possibly access them.”
“Well, sure ... if I was just some poor soul Maddie picked for a summer project,” Terry replied. “But there’s a lot more to me than that. Not that anyone here really cared to find out.”
“We’re not stupid, you know.” Rachel snapped. “We hired a PI firm to do a complete background check on you.”
He sighed. “I know. I read it. It was on the workstation, too. It didn’t say anything about my wicked hacking skills. But if anyone here had bothered to read past my lack of family (and put aside their need to make me their ‘bitch’), you would have seen that I was almost arrested in high school.”
“Being thorough, I’m sure you would have taken steps to find out why, and discovered I was well on my way to being a world-class hacker before a few missteps caused me to reconsider my life of crime – at least as far as letting other people find out what I was doing.”
Rachel and Carolyn looked at each other, and back at Terry. He grinned. “What? You think a boy built like a ballerina is going to go out for the football team? Computer club ROCKED.”
The smile faded as he looked into Rachel’s eyes. “So I know all about Andrew, Bob, and Kenny. Unfortunately, their files end after you failed. I did a bit of searching for them out on the Net, and found nothing after their time with you. No school records, no employment history. Absolutely nothing. ” He took a step towards the stairs.
“You ‘put them to sleep,’ didn’t you, Rachel? I mean, that’s what people like you do to disobedient pets, isn’t it? They wouldn’t behave, or toe your line, so you killed them. Or had them killed.”
Maddie watched her mother’s face grow even harder, and Rachel’s lips parted in a snarl her daughter had never seen before.
“Of course I killed them, you stupid boy. Just as I will do to you if you don’t settle down and do what you’re told.” Maddie gasped, but Rachel’s eyes burned into Terry’s with a ruthless satisfaction. “They were a threat to this family and everything we’d built over the course of two centuries, just as you are.”
She sniffed. “So I paid Colonel Efram ... you remember, Terri, that scary fellow you met at the Elgar reception in July? I paid him to kill them all, just as he will kill you for me if you don’t bow to my will.”
He looked up at her, as still as stone. “And you destroyed the bodies, I’m sure.”
“Oh, yes." Rachel smiled. "I had them cremated and had their ashes scattered across the grounds here. So there’s nothing to connect them to us at all.”
Terry let her have her victory for a second before he spoke. “Well, nothing except for the archives in the video room. You know, the ones on the servers in there? Video, audio ... the works. Very complete. Not sure why you wanted to document everything, but hey ... it’s your funeral. Literally.”
The hall went dead silent, and he smiled slowly. “Your fiber optic connection is very fast, by the way. I sent every terabyte of your sordid history while we all slept. All those pictures and documents – oh, and your extensive payoff records to state and federal officials – straight to the state police barracks in Shelby and the FBI field office in Boston last night.”
Carolyn shook her head. “That machine isn’t connected to the network.”
“Well, it wasn’t, but it is now. Isn’t it amazing what a six-foot length of Ethernet cable can do, if you know where to plug it in – and how to configure access?”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed, and she bared her teeth. “I don’t believe you. You’re just lying to get Mortimer here to let you catch that cab.”
He grinned back. “You think? Aren’t you wondering why I chose those two locations to send the files to? Three reasons. First, because your records said neither office had ever received a bribe from you. Second, because the state police captain has a very friendly judge who was happy to authorize a wiretap and a warrant to search your premises when I approached him last week.”
“And third? Because both offices have sweet HD video teleconferencing systems. Just in case you caught me before I left, I rigged the in-house video to be sent directly to their offices. I was shooting for a kidnapping charge, if you tried to stop me from leaving. But you just confessed to murdering three boys because they didn’t want to be your toys – on camera, in front of at least thirty witnesses, all law enforcement personnel.”
He shifted his backpack to the other shoulder and opened the front door. “I’ve locked down the machines, all of them, with a password I sent the state police and the feds. You can’t get on and delete anything, and they have copies of it all anyway if you try. But of course it’s better if it’s on the original machines, and they’re going to be here soon to collect them. And anything else they can find.”
“Terry ...” Maddie’s voice was soft, and sad. He turned to her and his expression softened. “Why?”
“Because I had to,” he replied, almost tenderly. “Not just because you lied. Not even for the three boys who died. But because your family needs to see that the world does not belong to them, and even pets have teeth – and aren’t afraid to bite.”
As he stepped out, he heard Rachel shout something, but couldn’t make out exactly what it was before the door shut behind him.
‘Not that it matters, in the end,’ he thought with a smile. ‘I’m free.’
And for the first time all summer, Terry Black took himself for a walk.
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