One More Switcher

 

One More Switcher
by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2020 Melanie Brown

Jerry and Max decided to play hooky on the wrong day.


This is a "side-quell" to Switcher as the story takes place simultaneously with Switcher. It helps to read Switcher first -- Ed

 


 

“Don’t you think this is a bit early to do this?” I asked Jerry as we made our way through Old Man Buckner’s corn field. We live in a small farming community and it was only a twenty minute walk from Jerry’s house. It was a warm day though dark and overcast. A perfect day for us to skip classes and swipe a beer from Jerry’s refrigerator. Last year this became a thing Jerry and I did once a month or so. Get a beer and hide out somewhere to drink them and solve all the world’s problems. But mainly to drink beer.

Jerry shook his head at me. “Don’t be a pussy, Max. We waited almost three weeks into the school year before doing this.”

I nodded. “Yeah, you’re right.” I looked around, though I really couldn’t see much through the corn stalks. “Is this the spot?”

Jerry nodded. “Yeah. Nobody will find us here; that’s for damn sure.”

We cleared a small space among the corn stalks and sat down to open our beers. To be honest, I never really liked the taste of beer that much, but it’s what Jerry wanted to do. We’ve been friends since before the first grade. The only times I’d ever get in trouble was when I was hanging out with Jerry. Mom kept telling me Jerry was going to get me in jail. Jerry really isn’t a bad person. He just likes giving authority figures his middle finger. Which is why his dad is making him join the Army as soon as we graduate from school.

After a few minutes, Jerry was in high gear in his favorite pastime; bashing authors and movie directors.

Jerry took a swig of his beer. “I tell ya, Max. Someone ghost wrote most of Heinlein’s books. You’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land, right? I think that right in the middle of the book, Heinlein’s brain died. The whole story shifted and his books were never the same after that.”

I laughed. “That’s pretty crazy, even for you. What I think…” I stopped when we both heard someone thrashing through the corn near us.

It was a bit distant, but I distinctly heard someone shout, “Take the girl out. Shoot to kill.”

Another voice said, “What if he’s switched and he’s not her anymore?”

The first voice laughed. “Who’s he going to switch with in a corn field. Shoot to kill. Simon must be stopped.”

There was a loud thrashing near us and suddenly a girl, probably high school age or maybe a bit older, and very pretty came running out of the corn in front of us. She was breathing hard. A breeze caught her long blonde hair. I couldn’t help but notice her long legs barely covered by her miniskirt.

She looked at us with wild eyes. Breathless she said, “Help me, please! They want to kill me. Can you hide me?”

Jerry and I both stood up. Jerry said, “I guess so. My house is close by. Why are they after you?”

The girl reached out for my hand. The moment we touched, I was hit with a blinding flash of light and felt like someone punched me in the gut. Everything seemed to go blank for a moment.

When I opened my eyes, I was on the ground. What I saw was impossible. I’ve never had this reaction from beer before. I saw myself stand up and laugh. I heard my voice say, “Fucking morons. It’s just too easy.” And then I watched me bolt through the corn stalks.

“Max!” hissed Jerry, afraid of alerting whoever was chasing the girl. “Where you going?”

“I’m right here, Jerry,” I said as I lay on the ground. I had a little trouble trying to stand.

Jerry said, “I was talking to my friend, Max. I don’t know where he’s going.”

I got unsteadily to my feet. “I’m Max. What are you talking about?” I felt different. Everything was weird. I felt strange in the chest area. The wind blew long strands of blonde hair across my face. I looked at my hands. They were smaller than they should be and I was wearing pink nail polish. What the fuck?

Jerry looked at me quizzically. “You’re definitely not Max. I don’t know who you are.”

The voices had moved to the other side of us. “Shit! He’s switched again. That boy is running for the farmer on the tractor. Take him out.”

A different voice said, “Johnson, see if you can find the girl. She should be nearby.”

Jerry looked at me wild eyed. “I don’t know who you are or what you did, but we need to get out of here.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me after him through the corn stalks. We reached a line of trees that marked the end of the corn field and stumbled down into a shallow ravine.

“Jerry! Stop! I’m Max! Let go of me!” I said to him, out of breath.

He let go of my hand and spun around to face me. “I don’t know who the fuck you are, but you’re definitely not Max. I don’t know why he ran away because now they’re after him. Why are the cops after you, anyway?”

I threw my arms up. “I have no idea! But Jerry, this is me. Max! I have no idea what just happened.”

Jerry grabbed my hand again. “Let’s go to my house. Maybe you can think up a better lie by the time we get there. I just don’t want the cops to get you. I’m a rebel like that.”

I frowned. “You’re an idiot like that. That’s why your dad is making you enlist.”

Jerry stopped. He kept a grip on my hand. “H… How the hell did you know that?”

“You told me this summer while we were playing pool in your game room,” I said, trying to tug my hand from his grip.

Jerry looked at me sideways. “Do we know you? Have you been spying on us?”

Still tugging to free my hand, “I know it’s impossible, but I’m Max! You have to believe me!” To be honest, I couldn’t believe myself. How the hell could I be that girl? I looked down and saw what appeared to be breasts pushing my shirt out and below that, a miniskirt. I have boobs? Does that mean I now have a… a… No fucking way!

Jerry started walking towards his house again, still holding my hand. “You’re right. It is impossible. Nobody can switch bodies.”

“Let go of my hand!” I shouted. “Jerry… did you not hear those guys? He said somebody switched again. They were looking for a girl and then they were chasing a guy. Me and the girl somehow switched places.”

Jerry shook his head. “It just isn’t possible.”

“Apparently it is!” I shouted, unnerved by my female voice.

Not letting go of my hand, Jerry said, “Let’s get to my house before those cops or whoever they are, hear you.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jerry was opening the door to his house and quickly pulled me inside. His sister was in the living room watching TV.

Jerry’s sister pointed at the TV as she turned around. “Hey, our town’s on the news. There’s some girl on the loose…” Her eyes went wide when she saw me. “That’s her! Hold her while I call the police!”

Jerry waved her off. “Don’t call anyone yet.”

I looked on in horror at the TV screen. The picture on the screen I recognized as the girl who touched me. The announcer was saying, “… not believed to be dangerous. Denise Carlisle is wanted by Federal agents as a person of interest believed to be involved in the deaths of Max Stewart, a high school student and Elmer Buckner, a local farmer. Do not approach this woman yourself. Please call… “

Jerry’s sister yelled, “Oh my God, Jerry! Do something! She killed your best friend Max and old man Buckner! I gotta call the police!”

“April, no! Put the phone down,” Jerry shouted. He let go of my hand and almost fell onto one of the kitchen chairs. “What the fuck is going on here?”

I sat down opposite Jerry. “Oh my God! They think I killed Buckner and… and …and myself? You saw her touch me and we both fell down.”

Jerry looked thoughtful. “And then Max got up and ran off.”

“That wasn’t me, Jerry!” I frowned. “She, or whoever the hell she is, was inside my body!”

April shouted, “What the fuck are you talking about? You brought a murderer into our house! We need to call the cops. Dad’s gonna be pissed.”

Jerry frowned. “Dad’s always pissed. I have no idea who this bitch is, but it’s impossible for her to have killed Max. I saw him run away after she bumped into him. If anything, the feds killed him.”

I started to cry. “I want to go home, now! I want to wake up from this horrible nightmare. Those beers were bad or something.”

Jerry scowled at me. “Where do you live? I’ll take you there just to get you to stop lying.”

April started crying too. “Stay away from her, Jerry! She’s a killer. I see it in her eyes.”

“You know where I live!” I cried. “You had lunch over there last Saturday.”

Jerry leaned towards me. “What did we have?”

I pulled some long strands of hair from my face. “We had ham sandwiches. You freaked out Mom when you said you wanted ketchup on yours.”

Jerry leaned back in his chair with a gasp. “Only Max would know that. What’s my favorite coke?”

I frowned, “Dr. Pepper. Do you believe me now?”

April stood back up. “I’m calling the cops.”

Jerry shook his head. “No.” He studied me a moment. “Max. It’s really you? You’re a chick?”

“Yes! I don’t know how or why, but yes,” I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

April picked up the receiver from the wall mounted phone. “Don’t believe her. She’s tricking you. She’s a Svengoolie or something.”

Jerry leapt up and jerked the receiver from April’s hand and returned it to the phone. “No. It’s Max.”

April wrinkled up her nose. “You believe that skank?”

I jumped up. “April will you shut up? I’m not a skank. I don’t even know why I’m a girl.”

Jerry frowned at April. “She’s right. Shut up. We have to think this out.” Jerry got up and walked over to the computer in their living room. “You know, I think I remember seeing something about this a few weeks ago on one of those conspiracy sites Dad goes to.”

I pulled my chair up next to Jerry so I could see the screen as well. April stood on the other side of him. She cast a dirty look at me.

April sighed. “Really? You know those sites are bullshit.”

Jerry nodded. “Yeah. But sometimes there’s a nugget of truth buried in all the bullshit.”

April looked over at me. “If we don’t call the cops, maybe we should at least call her parents.” She studied me a bit more closely. “I’ve never seen this bitch before. You from around here?”

I scowled at April. “I’ve known Jerry for years.”

Jerry growled at April. “Will you please shut the fuck up? I’m trying to concentrate.”

April folded her arms and stood silently while frowning at me.

Jerry quickly clicked through several web pages. “I saw something last week or so, but I didn’t read it because I thought it was stupid.” He looked over at me. “I’m not so sure about that now.”

A few more clicks and then Jerry declared, “Ah! Here it is.” He quickly scanned the page. “Okay, listen to this…” He started reading text from the screen. “People are disappearing off the streets of U.S cities.” He pointed at the screen. “Look here… people who have evaded capture by the feds claim to have been switched to a different body. A ten year old boy claims that he’s actually a thirty-four year old woman. Claims the boy touched her, and after blacking out, she woke up as the boy. The boy’s parents were horrified after Federal agents whisked the boy away. A week later, the boy is returned to the parents who are now silent about the incident. The woman the boy claimed to be was later listed as deceased.”

Jerry let out a low whistle. “Holy shit, man. Talk about your conspiracies. That’s why those cops or feds or whatever were looking for you. People are getting switched and the government is trying to cover it up. You and Buckner have already been reported as being dead.”

April pointed at the screen. “Look there. It says the same thing was rumored to have started in Europe first.”

I leaned back in my chair. “This is crazy! How can you switch bodies like that?”

Jerry leaned in closer to the screen. “Some close to the British Science community before going silent suspect a research project got out of hand in the U.K. The bodies aren’t being switched. It’s the mental state. Well, the bottom line is that you’re in a different body. This is totally insane!”

I was shaking again. “Does it say what the government is doing with the people they capture?”

Jerry shook his head. “The article just speculates on that. Everything from new identities and relocation to executions. It says no one outside the DHS has any real knowledge of the situation.”

Becoming more scared, I asked, “Does it say you can be put back in your own body?”

Jerry shook his head and pointed at the screen. “Nobody knows. The speculation is no. But some think the U.K. scientists have a solution to restore people, but they’re sitting on it. That’s it. And this is the only site that has anything about all this. The story is pretty much buried.”

I just realized I was holding my breath. I released the breath. “You mean I’m stuck as a girl for the rest of my life?”

April grunted. “So am I .”

Jerry looked over at April. “You’re not helping.”

April folded her arms again. “I’m not trying to.”

Jerry turned to me. “We’re going to have to hide you some place. It can’t be here.”

“Yeah. Dad will shit bricks when he sees we’re hiding a murderer here,” said April.

Jerry stood up. “Knock it off, April. That’s Max. We need a plan.”

The doorbell rang. Everyone froze. The doorbell rang again.

From behind the door, came a slightly muffled voice. “Come on Jerry. Open up. I know you’re in there. This is Sheriff Collins.”

Jerry turned to April and whispered. “Take Max to your room and stay quiet.”

April protested, “What if she tries to kill me too?”

Jerry hissed through clenched teeth, “Go!” I followed April to her room. She left the door open so we could hear what was being said at the front door.

I heard Jerry open the door. “Why Sheriff Collins. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

We all knew Sheriff Collins. He said, “Cut the crap, Jerry. I have some questions. Can I come in?”

Jerry asked, “Do you have a warrant?”

Collins sounded frustrated. “Dammit Jerry. I just want to ask some questions.”

“I’m fine right here,” said Jerry sternly.

Collins sighed. “Have it your way. But now I’m curious so I’ll be back with a warrant later. Anyway, you and Max were seen skipping school again today and heading towards Mr. Buckner’s corn field carrying a couple of beers. What were you two up to?”

Jerry said calmly, “The same thing we were doing when you caught us behind Toby’s barn.”

Collins said, “You guys are going to get expelled one of these days. Well, maybe just you now. But you were with Max in the corn field?”

“Yes.”

“The whole time?”

“Yes.”

Collins sighed. “Our office was notified that Max and Mr. Buckner are dead. And they’re looking for a young female suspect. Did you guys see anything?”

“Yeah. The girl ran past us and Max went after her,” said Jerry. “I lost him in the corn stalks.”

Collins said, “Is that your formal statement? Look, Jerry. I have to ask about this. Max’s parents are extremely upset right now. They want to know what happened to their son. If you have any information about this, I’d appreciate it.”

Jerry said, “If I have anything more, I’ll call.” He shut the front door and walked back to April’s room.

April said, “We’re all going to be fucked if they discover we have a fugitive hiding here, Max or not.”

Jerry looked at me. “For once, April is right. We need to find a place to hide you.”

I sat down on April’s bed. “Where? We know the feds know I didn’t kill me. But the local cops don’t know that. There’s an all points bulletin out for me. They might shoot me. Or you, even.”

April sat down on a chair and scowled at me. “We’re all going to jail because of her. If she wasn’t pretty, would you still try to help her?”

Jerry frowned at April. “Pretty? That’s Max there. Her looks don’t enter into it. We have to help Max.”

I shivered and folded my arms under my tits. “I don’t want to be a girl! I hate this! God! Why me?” I stood up. “I gotta take a piss.”

Jerry nodded. “I’ll try to think of something.”

I left April’s room and walked down the short hall to the bathroom. I closed the door behind me. This was the first time I had alone since becoming a girl. I leaned back against the door and took a deep breath. I turned my attention to the bathroom mirror. It’s the first good look I had of myself. Long, blonde, unkempt hair fell across my shoulders and down my back. My face was smeared with dirt and make-up. Other than that, April was right. I was pretty. You might even say I was hot.

I lifted my t-shirt to reveal two perky tits being held in place by a bra. I poked one of the tits. Yep, it’s me alright. If I have tits, then holy crap. I have a pussy. I pulled my skirt up and pulled my panties down. Oh my God, there it was. A godammed pussy. No! No no no! I don’t want to be a fucking girl! Dammit! Damn it all to hell. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it.

While I had my panties down and holding my skirt up, I remembered I had some business to attend to. I stood in front of the toilet for a moment and then turned around and sat down. This just all felt wrong.

When I walked back into April’s room, she grinned and tossed a paper wrapped object at me. “You’re going to need that.” She laughed. “Max has to use a tampon!”

I tossed it back at her. “I liked it better when you thought I was going to kill you.”

“Okay. I have a plan,” announced Jerry.

I sat back down on April’s bed. “Let’s have it.”

Jerry leaned back in his chair. “This is just temporary to get you out of our house. Remember that abandoned house we spent the night in two years ago. Just past that dirt road near Alpine?

I frowned. “You mean that old adobe house with the collapsed wall? Are you serious?”

Jerry grinned. “It’s perfect. Just for a few nights. You can take some water and some of that freeze-dried food Dad keeps around for his hunting trips. Just until we can find a good place to hide you.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know, Jer. I didn’t like that place much.”

Jerry stood up. “It’s all we got. You heard Collins. He’s going to come back with a warrant. You need to be gone.”

Jerry ran outside and backed his car up to the garage door. He went in the garage and starting putting a few camping supplies like a bedroll and some things to cook with, into his car’s trunk. He didn’t load much and it didn’t take long.

Jerry opened the passenger door to his car. “Come on, girl. Let’s go.”

I frowned at Jerry. “You called me ‘girl’.”

Jerry shrugged. “Aren’t you? We’re wasting time, let’s go.”

Jerry closed the trunk lid as I got into the car. A moment later, he started the engine and we sped down the gravel road towards the highway.

“Slow down!” I said as I looked at the cloud of dust stirred up by the car. “You don’t want to attract attention. Jerry backed off the accelerator.

We finally reached the paved street and turned towards the highway. A minute later Jerry turned the car towards a convenience store.

“If we’re going to Alpine, I got to get some gas.” Jerry opened his door and got out. “Stay in the car.”

Jerry ran into the convenience store to pay for the gas before pumping any. I was really nervous. We needed to get on the road. What if the sheriff came by? I watched Jerry enter the building. While he was inside, a car pulled up to the entrance and a woman got out. She showed anyone coming out of the store a picture. I didn’t like the looks of it.

The woman stopped Jerry when he came out and showed him the picture. I saw him just shake his head and started walking briskly back to the car. As he walked to the pump, he said to me through the car window, “Don’t look over at that woman. She has a picture of you or rather that girl. I think she’s the girl’s mother.”

He casually started pumping gas into the car. I kept an eye on the woman. She finally got back into her car and drove back down the highway.

Jerry got back into the car. “That could have been bad. She told me she was trying to find her missing daughter. She said the police told her that her daughter stole a car about a hundred miles away. It ran out of gas by Buckner’s farm. She said her daughter would never steal a car. She thinks the girl was kidnapped. If she had seen you in my car, you can bet she’d call the cops on us.”

I shook my head. “I hope we don’t see her again.”

Jerry started his car. “We shouldn’t. She turned the opposite direction from Alpine. We should be good.” We drove out onto the highway.

As we drove, I just sat there and shook. I was scared out my mind. I was imagining all kinds of things happening to us. Jerry slowed down as we approached another small town that we had to pass through.

“Ah, shit!” yelled Jerry. “Look up ahead. There’s a road block.”

“What do we do? We can’t bluff our way out of a roadblock.” I felt tears welling up.

Jerry slowed down and turned the car down a dirt road. “We’ll take this way. Hopefully this oilfield road goes around the town.”

I looked out the back window. “Don’t go too fast. We don’t want a dust cloud behind us.”

Jerry nodded. “I know. I know.” The dust still billowed up behind us.

I kept watching behind us. After a few minutes, I saw a car following us. “Holy shit, Jerry. We’re being followed!”

Jerry gritted his teeth. “I guess they noticed us turning off the highway. Is it a cop?”

I tried to look through the cloud of dust billowing behind us. “I can’t tell yet. He’s catching up though.”

“Shit.” Jerry started to accelerate.

Through the dust, I could see the red and blue lights on top of the car turn on. “It’s definitely a cop.”

Jerry’s car started to broad slide as he made an abrupt turn down another oil lease access road. The engine roared as he pressed the accelerator pedal. We were throwing a ton of dust into the air. We were unexpectedly airborne after we hit an exposed pipe.

“You’re going to get us killed, Jerry! Slow down!” I watched the police car speed up to catch us.

“Dammit! I should have stuck with backroads. Shit shit shit.” Jerry had his teeth clenched tight.

“Jerry, it’s over,” I said as I gripped the armrest of the car as we bounced across a caliche mud hole. “Maybe I should turn myself in?”

Jerry pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor. “This is the most trouble I’ve ever been in. I can try to save you from the feds.”

The car decelerated quickly as Jerry made a hard right turn to go down another road. We smashed through a gate over a cattle guard. Behind us, I saw the flashing lights of the chasing Sheriff’s car getting closer.

Still looking out the dirt smeared rear window, I begged, “Jerry. Please stop. You’re making this worse. It looks like Sheriff Collin’s car.”

Jerry said simply, “Okay.” He hit the brakes making the car slide to a stop on the dirt road. I looked out the windshield and gasped. Landing in front of us on the caliche road was the proverbial black helicopter. Two men in black suits exited the helicopter, the spinning blades stirring up a dust cloud and started walking towards us. The Sheriff’s car slid to a stop behind us.

I got out of the car slowly and put my hands in the air, not knowing what else to do. Sheriff Collins ran up to the car and jerked the driver’s door open. He roughly pulled Jerry out of the car, pushed him onto the hood and started handcuffing him.

Sheriff Collins growled, “Thought you could play me for a fool? This is the last time I put up with your shit, Jerry. You just bought yourself some serious jail time.”

One of the men in a suit casually walked up to me and flashed an ID that could have said anything. “Max Stewart?” I nodded. “You can put your hands down. You need to come with us.” How did he know my real name?

The other man in a suit walked over to Jerry and Collins. Collins gruffly pulled Jerry to a standing position by grabbing his hair. What I assumed was another federal agent flashed an ID at the sheriff.

“We’ll take him from here.” The agent took Jerry’s arm.

Collins glared at the agent. “The hell you will. This is my prisoner.”

The agent shook his head. “Not anymore, sheriff. Please remove the cuffs.”

Collins looked royally pissed. “You can’t just take my prisoner. And if I remove the cuffs, he’ll run.”

Still holding Jerry’s arm, the agent quietly asked, “Are you going to run, son?”

Jerry shook his head. “No. What’d be the point?”

Still glaring at the agent, Collins unlocked the cuffs. “I’m going to file a complaint.”

The agent allowed a smile to creep onto his face. He pulled a card from his pocket and handed it to Collins. “That’s the number for DHS. Have a good day, sir.” We were both led to the helicopter.

*          *          *

A soldier brought me to a small, plain, windowless room. There were two chairs and a small table inside. I sat down in one of the chairs. I had been taken to a briefing. There must have been about ten or twelve people in the room, all shouting and angry. They had all been switched. A man in a suit had explained to us that we were all victims of an international criminal who had stolen a way to switch bodies at the slightest physical contact. He confirmed that once switched, you couldn’t switch again. So no going back. He also pretty much confirmed what we had learned from that one web site.

I was beginning to think I’d been forgotten about when the door opened and a young woman entered the room. She placed a notebook computer on the table and sat in one of the chairs.

She started typing on the computer before looking up at me and smiled. “Miss Stewart? For the record, can I get your full name, address, age and social security number?”

“Are you going to kill me?” I asked, starting to feel a bit sick.

The woman smiled at me. “Oh goodness no, miss. We’re trying to help you.”

Lashing out with pent up fear and anger, I shouted, “Why didn’t you just leave us the fuck alone? I could have just stayed with Jerry. But no, you had to flash my picture all over the TV!”

The woman looked at her computer screen. “It’s interesting that you bring up Mr. Hollis. Is he your boyfriend?”

I twisted my face up. “What? Boyfriend? No. He’s my bud. I’ve known him for years.”

The woman kept typing. “He was driving the car you were in, correct?”

“What’s going to happen to us?” I asked with a cry. “Jerry was just trying to help me. You should just let him go.”

Pursing her lips, the woman looked at me. “We’re trying to figure out what to do with him. You’ve known him since you were both five, correct?” I nodded. “Okay, now can you please give me the information I just asked for?”

I frowned. “I’m Max Stewart…”

“Is that a nickname?” interrupted the woman.

“No. It’s just Max.” I then gave my address, age and social security number.

The woman nodded and typed some more. “Here’s the thing, Miss Stewart. You were a seventeen year old boy. The girl you are now is eighteen. This is important because under the emergency rules we’re operating under, we cannot return you to your family. You’re no longer Max and most people just have a lot of difficulty with this. If you were in a younger body, we would offer your parents the option of adopting the new you or put you up for foster care. You’d be surprised at how many won’t take the switched child. But you’re too old to place in foster care. You’re considered an adult. What we provide with every victim is a new identity, some assistance and relocation in the cases of switched adults.”

“A… a new identity? Relocation?” I understood the words. I just couldn’t believe it.

The woman nodded. “It’s like a witness protection program. That’s why it’s imperative we try to locate everyone who’s a victim of this criminal. Without a new ID and relocation, you’ll be running into people who know your body, but not the person you are. This causes all kinds of issues. As it is, any criminal record you have, any accumulated debts… anything associated with your old life is erased. You are legally deceased. You can pick your new name or we’ll provide it. You can do what you want, but most people use the first name of the body they took and their own family name.”

“I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this.” I said closing my eyes. “I’m basically a new person?”

The woman nodded. “Yes. We move you to a new city. We provide a list of employers who must hire you if you present there. And we provide counseling services. At taxpayers expense, of course.”

I shook my head. “What about Jerry?”

The woman smiled at me. “What about Jerry? He’s not a victim. Under the DHS security directive, he’s not eligible for a new identity or relocation. We’ll have to send him back home along with a signed non-disclosure agreement. And the very real threat of jail time if he breaks the agreement.”

I felt shocked. “If you send him home, he’ll be arrested by Sheriff Collins. His dad will force him into the Army.”

The woman nodded. “Most likely.”

“You can’t do anything for him?” I asked, feeling miserable.

“Maybe. That’s what we need to discuss in court.” The woman shrugged. “How do you feel about Jerry? You’ve known him for at least twelve years, correct?”

I shrugged. “He’s my best friend.”

The woman leaned back in her chair. “He risked everything to try to save you. Why would he do that?”

I frowned. “Because he’s stupid?”

The woman chuckled. “Perhaps.”

There was a knock on the door. It opened and the soldier poked his head in. “The court is ready for you, Ms. Sanders”

Ms. Sanders nodded to me. “Let’s see what the court wants to say. Usually these hearings are cut and dried. This case, not so much.”

I got up and followed the soldier and Ms. Sanders down a maze of hallways. We finally entered a large room set up as a make-shift courtroom with a panel of three military judges.

After we were seated, the center general addressed me. “Miss Stewart, we have a situation here. Most of the time, only the victim is brought into this facility. And in most cases, the victim’s disposal is adjudicated outside their presence. But in this case, we have a second party involved.”

Ms. Sanders stood. “Yes. A Mr. Hollis. He was present when Miss Stewart became another of Mr. Simon’s victims. Fearing for her safety, he attempted to hide Miss Stewart and wound up in trouble with the local sheriff.”

The first general asked, “Ms. Sanders, in your opinion, would Mr. Hollis face undue suffering if we returned him to his home.”

Ms. Sanders nodded. “He would most assuredly face arrest and possible expulsion from school. He was already truant from school before he decided to commit the crime of harboring a fugitive which could carry a five year sentence. Under the DHS emergency security guidelines, there’s nothing we can do specifically for him, even though his knowledge of Simon’s switching is a security risk. I don’t think just signing a NDA would be enough.“

The middle general said, “You have a proposal Ms. Sanders?”

Ms. Sanders nodded. “After interviewing both Mr. Hollis and Miss Stewart I feel this would be a good solution for both of them.”

The third general said, “Bring in Mr. Hollis.”

Flanked by two soldiers, Jerry was escorted into the courtroom. That seemed a bit excessive to me. Forgetting where I was, I jumped up and shouted, “Jerry!”

Jerry managed a grin. “Max!”

The middle general sat up and addressed Jerry. “Mr. Hollis. While this isn’t a court, we can make recommendations to the county court where you’re from. Among other charges, you face evading law enforcement and harboring a fugitive. You could be facing quite a few years in prison upon your return to your home. Ms. Sanders, who you’ve met, has a proposal you should give serious consideration to.”

Ms. Sanders looked at Jerry. “Mr. Hollis. How do you feel about Miss Stewart?”

Jerry shrugged. “I dunno. She’s my best friend.”

“You put yourself at serious risk to protect her. Why was that?” asked Ms. Sanders.

Jerry shrugged again. “Stupidity?”

Ms. Sanders looked up at the panel of generals. “I’m sure the panel would agree that this is a most atypical situation. Normally a second party doesn’t get quite this involved with a victim. Consider your answer to my next question carefully, Mr. Hollis. Do you love Miss Stewart? Over the past twelve years, you two have been through a lot together, and then you risk your life and your freedom to protect her.”

Jerry screwed up his face. “Love? Max is a dude.”

Ms. Sanders said, “That’s irrelevant. Could a close friendship be considered love?”

Looking confused, Jerry said, “I guess so.”

The first general looked at Ms. Sanders quizzically. “Is there a reason for this questioning?”

Ms. Sanders nodded. “Under DHS guidelines, we can do little about Mr. Hollis’ situation except send him home after signing a NDA. He’ll be arrested for his crimes and his life pretty much ruined. But here is something for both of you to consider. If these two wish to remain together, and Mr. Hollis remain out of jail, the guidelines, under certain situations will allow the spouse of a victim to relocate as well.”

I gasped. “You mean Jerry and I get married? That’s crazy. I’m not really a girl.”

Ms. Sanders asked, “Do you want to stay close to Jerry?”

I sighed. “He’s the only friend I have in the world.”

Ms. Sanders glanced over at Jerry. “Do you want Jerry to go to jail. That definitely hurts his future.”

“Of course I don’t,” I said. “But like I said. I’m not really a girl.”

Ms. Sanders smiled at me. “Miss Stewart, in a few weeks, your thinking will start to change. The term is ‘going native.’ It happens to everyone in your situation. You don’t lose your memories, but you’ll be a woman.”

Jerry was sitting there holding his hands against the sides of his head. “How can you do this to me? Choosing between possibly going to jail or marrying someone who’s only been a girl a few days?

Ms. Sanders turned to Jerry. “I only suggested this option because it seemed of mutual benefit to the both of you. After interviewing you, it’s obvious that deep down, you care very much about each other. Standard protocol is to just send you back and you both lose contact with each other forever.”

Jerry stood up and started to walk towards me. The general on the left started to say something, but Ms. Sanders looked at him and shook her head.

Jerry asked, “Is that something you want to do? I’m facing a world of shit if I go back home. You’re going to get a whole new life, one free of a screw up like me. For just a second I thought it might be cool to be with you. I’m not likely to meet another girl not only as pretty as you, but one I know so well. You should probably just forget me.”

I stood up to look Jerry in the eye. Well, as much as I could since he’s now taller than me. I frowned at him. “You know, if I hadn’t followed you out to that corn field, I wouldn’t be a girl right now. And now you’re facing jail because you tried to help me. How many times have you put yourself between me and some danger? Like when Carl was going to beat me up, you stopped him and gave him something to think about. Or when you got me to the hospital in time after I got bit by that rattler. How can I abandon you now?”

Jerry grinned. “I got you in trouble a lot too.”

I bit my lip and just looked at Jerry a moment. “You know, when I get relocated, I’m definitely going to be a stranger in a strange land. It’d be nice to have someone there to help me through it.”

Jerry grinned a bit wider. “Even if they’re brain dead?”

I laughed. “Even if they’re brain dead.”

Ms. Sanders and the three generals all gave us curious looks.

Jerry stepped close to me and took both my hands. “Max. Will you marry me?”

This was completely insane. I never imagined my best friend would ever look me straight in the eye and propose to me. Here’s my chance to make a clean break from everything in the past and start fresh. Alone. After a long pause of reflection, I said, “Yes.”

*          *          *

I sat in the airliner seat, resting my head on husband’s shoulder. That was still just too unbelievable. Two weeks ago I was just a boy drinking beer with his best friend in a corn field and now I’m a married woman.

I held his arm as I looked at him. How could he be so calm just staring out the window? I was a riot of emotions that I was desperately trying to keep in check. They still haven’t told us where we’re being relocated to. A guy in a suit had escorted us onto the plane to make sure we got on it with all the other passengers staring at us.

I had taken the name Denise which was the girl’s name of the body I now inhabit. I really felt bad for the girl’s mother. These DHS folks were rather callous in informing her that her daughter is now deceased. They requested some of the girl’s clothes and other personal items be “donated” so I could have some clothes to wear. They did the same with Jerry’s family. I guess they really have no choice. They refused to tell me what happened to my old body who I’m guessing now has old man Buckner living in it. They had quickly announced both me and Buckner were dead. I hope they nail that Simon guy, but I’m sure we’ll never hear about it if they do.

We took a shuttle bus from the airport to a rather swanky hotel. Ms. Sanders had managed to pry enough funds from DHS to pop for the honeymoon suite at the hotel while they arrange for a small, relatively cheap furnished apartment. They pay the apartment rent for the first six months and then we’re on our own. Jerry already said the first thing he was going to do was hit up some of the potential employers on our list.

“This is beautiful,” I said as we entered our hotel room. “This is so much better than the Motel 6 that Dad usually stops at.”

Jerry turned on the TV. “I’m glad I don’t have to pay for it.” He looked around the room. “Oh hey. Look at this.” He walked over to the dresser. On the dresser was an ice bucket with a complimentary bottle of champagne. “Free booze.”

I looked dourly at the bottle. “Good. I may need to get drunk for later.” Tonight we planned to consummate our marriage. The thought terrified me.

Jerry pulled the bottle from the bucket. “You’re still worried about having sex? It’ll be fun. Your body isn’t a virgin.” We had to have a physical at the secret military base and it was found that my hymen was already broken.

I frowned at Jerry. “But I am. I never got to be with a girl, either.”

Before Jerry could reply, there was a knock on the door. We both looked curiously at each other and I walked over to the door. When I opened the door, there was a bell hop or whatever they’re called, holding a bouquet of flowers.

“Delivery for Mrs. Denise Hollis.” said the guy holding a bouquet of flowers.

I looked at him like he was from Mars for a moment. Then in a severe blonde moment, I said, “Who?” I then laughed. “Oh, that’s me.” I took the flowers and closed the door.

Jerry looked over at me. “I think you were supposed to tip him.”

“But look at these flowers!” I exclaimed. “There’s a note. It’s from Ms. Sanders. She says ‘Good Luck!’. Isn’t that sweet?”

Jerry laughed. “We’ve known each other since we were both five years old and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you say, ‘Isn’t that sweet’.”

I set the flowers down on the dresser next to the bucket. “Well, I’m just full of surprises.”

I started to get more nervous as the evening drew on. We had a delicious complimentary dinner sent up from room service. Jerry found a porn movie to watch on TV.

Finally, when I felt it was still too early, Jerry said, “Let’s go to bed.” He started to take his shoes and socks off.

I walked over to the bed and slowly stripped down to my bra and panties. I then just sat on a chair next to the bed and stared blankly into space. I couldn’t wrap my head around what we were planning to do.

Still in his underwear, Jerry walked up to me and looked down. “Are you okay, Denise?”

I hesitated a few moments. “I… I’m scared, Jerry.” I cast my eyes to the floor.

Jerry knelt in front of me. “Scared? Why are you scared?”

I shook my head and felt like crying. “I’ve never had sex with a man before. What if I do it wrong? What if I screw up? You’ll get mad at me.”

I heard him chuckle. He put a finger under my chin and lifted my head up. “Don’t be scared. I wouldn’t get mad at you. Do you trust me?”

I frowned at him. “I married you.”

Jerry just smiled. “Do you trust me?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

He looked me in the eyes. “I know this is your first time. You’re not going to screw up. And I’m not going to get mad at you. I’ll help you. But hey, if you’re really uncomfortable, we don’t have to.”

I nodded. I knew the moment I said yes to marriage that I’d have to face this challenge. The idea of being with a guy is so foreign to me. “No. I’m ready. Just go slow with me, Casanova.”

Jerry grinned. “We have all night.” As he stood up, he kissed me.

I smiled at his kiss. “I’m curious though, Jerry. You don’t have to answer. But who was your first time? Anyone I know?”

Jerry laughed. “You remember Mrs. Whittaker, the widow?”

I gasped in shock. “Serious? Really? But she’s like an old lady! What is she; forty?”

Jerry smirked. “At the time she was forty-two. It was a couple summers ago. But she taught me everything I know.”

I shook my head as I reached behind me and unsnapped my bra and let it slide down my arms to the floor.

Jerry smiled at me. “Wow. Nice!”

I gave Jerry a nervous smile. “That’s the first time you’ve seen them, isn’t it?”

Jerry reached down and cupped his hand over one of my exposed breasts. I felt a tingle at his touch. He ran his finger across my nipple. He gave my breast a gentle squeeze. “Very nice.”

“Thanks,” I said looking at the floor. Can I take credit for something I had nothing to do with? And should he just go fondling things like they’re his? I both enjoyed his hand on my breast and was bothered by it. It’s certainly a novel experience for me to have a guy show interest in me.

I moved from the chair to sit on the bed. Jerry bent down and ran his fingers through my hair. “You are so beautiful, Denise.” He kissed me again.

He was still wearing his underwear. I pointed at his crotch. “Can I see it? Your thing?”

Jerry grinned as he pulled his underwear down. He pointed at his penis. “All the ladies want a gander at this magnificent specimen.”

I frowned. “You better not be showing all the ladies your thing.” I tilted my head as I looked at his limp manhood. “Does it get bigger? Am I even going to be able to feel that?”

Scowling, Jerry said brusquely, “Of course it’ll get bigger, girl. You know that.” He kicked his underwear across the room and slid next to me in bed.

He covered one nipple with his mouth and started sucking on it. I felt his tongue press against my nipple. I moaned slightly. That felt good. With his other hand, he began kneading my other breast, teasing the nipple. He then slid up and kissed my neck and then his lips pressed against mine. His tongue slid into my mouth and I sucked on it.

I slid my nails down his back and got a satisfying groan from him. He pressed into me and started sucking my other breast. I have no idea what sex is like on the guy side, but I have to say I was enjoying the hell out of having sex from the girl side. He started fingering my clitoris and my feelings of pleasure flew into orbit. I’ve never felt anything like it. I wanted more.

He suddenly pulled away and I saw him fumbling with something. I saw him unwrap a condom. His cock was completely engorged and he was frantic to put the condom on. I helped him slip it on.

And then he entered me. Oh God! I never would have dreamed I’d have a cock inside me. And that I’d enjoy it. I moved my hips to match his rhythm and I really hoped that he’d last longer than five minutes. I don’t know how long the whole experience was, but I enjoyed every second up to his final big thrust. I was glad the condom was there.

He didn’t pull out and I felt him grow limp inside me. He was breathing heavy. And then he was snoring. His arm was draped across me. I sighed heavily. That was an awesome experience. I couldn’t wait to have sex again.

I lay there for a long time, looking out the window at the night sky. Jerry had finally rolled over. I played my fingers through my husband’s short hair. There’s that word again. Husband. It was still hard to believe that I was now a married woman. It was all surreal. I had no idea what the future held for us. After all, we’d only just begun. I laughed to myself. That’d make a good song title.

As I slowly drifted off to sleep next to the man I loved, I wondered; should I hate Simon or thank him?

*          *          *

The End



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