copyright 2006 by Purplebootsgywr
Devin- J.R. Jones (Bollywood and Vine)
Jamie- Rick Sparks (Beverly Kills, Navy NCIS)
Jamie rolled over in the large, unbelievably soft bed and draped his bare arm around the young man whom he was convinced was truly "the one". The sheets were satin, the comforter wrapped around them was imported, the duvet cover folded neatly at the end of the bed was lavish. But none of it compared to the feeling of Jamie's arm resting upon the shoulder and chest of his man Devin.
Delicately, Jamie ran his fingers across Devin's chest, playing with his taut pecs, working their way down to trace the definition of his abs. Moving in closer, Jamie took in his lover's scent, breathing in deep the smell which seemed to him to be a mix of lavender soap and a hint of cinnamon toast. Gently, Jamie kissed Devin's shoulder, then his neck, pausing to nibble briefly on Devin's earlobe. Devin moaned softly, a quiet mumble of satisfaction which Jamie took to be contentment. Unconsciously, Devin's fingers interlaced Jamie's, taking his hand as he still hovered on that strange rift between sleeping and waking. As Jamie continued to nibble Devin's ear, moving on to lick the edge where a few strands of blond hair stuck out, ruffled from having been slept on. With his free hand, Jamie massaged Devin's shoulder and then reached around down Devin's chest, massaging his chest and then running his fingers over the hand that held his, caressing the knuckles, lightly following the length of his hand.
Easily, Jamie guided Devin in rolling over towards him, and once he faced his sleeping prince, he kissed him so very gently upon the lips, his contact growing just a bit more passionate as he lingered there. Slowly, Devin's eyes fluttered open and Jamie pulled away, if only by a few inches. As Devin's eyes came into focus, they met Jamie's and he recognized where he was, who he was beside.
"Good morning, beautiful," Jamie smiled.
"Oh...hi." Devin seemed taken aback by Jamie's presence for a moment.
"What's up with that?" Jamie snickered. "You were expecting someone else?"
Devin traced Jamie's face with his fingers, brushing a bit of his dark brunette hair away from his forehead. Jamie's hand went reflexively up to Devin's, ready to hold it, kiss it, to suck on his fingers. But then Devin braced his other hand against Jamie's chest and pushed himself out of bed.
"Hey, where are you going?" Jamie asked, disappointed.
"What time is it?" Devin asked. "Did we oversleep?"
"Since when do you keep to a schedule?" Jamie watched as Devin went over to the large bay window, gazing out over the balcony and the brilliant sunlit morning that bathed the green landscape of the back acreage in warm beams of gold. The gauze curtains which hung from some twelve feet above swirled about Devin as the morning breeze flowed into the room. Jamie grinned as he took in the view of Devin's naked backside, admiring his very tight swimmer's build, his perfect spine, his muscled legs, his firm little ass. Better than a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.
"We should get dressed," Devin said, turning back to his boyfriend.
Jamie could tell something was off. Devin was always more keen to roll around naked in bed after waking than he was ever concerned with getting ready and going somewhere. Particularly when the lad of privilege had nowhere to go.
"What's the rush?" Jamie asked. "We have time, don't we? Is there something going on today I don't know about?" Jamie threw back the covers that had concealed his lower half and patted the mattress beside him. "C'mon back to bed. Just for a little while." Jamie smiled brightly, jerking his head back toward the pillows. "It's not gonna kill you."
"Not today," Devin said. As he stood there naked in the window, the curtains wafting around him, he looked like a dream come true to Jamie, save for the serious expression that the young lover seldom wore.
Jamie sat up. "What is it, hon? Something's not right here. Tell me."
Devin was already at the large tallboy and was thumbing through a variety of designer clothes which of late he had shared liberally with his boyfriend. "I know I usually let you have your pick in here or from the wardrobe, Jamie, but here," and Devin pulled out a hanger which held some of Jamie's old clothes he'd discarded at the mansion some time before. "You should probably take these today." The faded gray T-shirt and the shredded jeans landed on the bed beside Jamie. He'd forgotten he even used to dress like that. After all the time he'd spent enjoying the use of Devin's personal expense account and the finery that went with it, seeing his old attire made Jamie suddenly feel like a former hobo. Devin had already fished out Jamie's old pair of torn sneakers from the bottom of the tallboy. He set them beside the old clothes and turned back to select his own clothes for the day.
Jamie was out of the bed and behind his lover in an instant. Jamie gently held Devin by the shoulders, caressing his smooth skin and then running his hands down his slender arms and holding onto his wrists. "Hey. Something's up. Please open up. Tell me what it is so I can make it better." Devin just shook his head. Jamie tried another approach.
Jamie moved tight against his lover's back. Both their trim swimmer's builds connected, smooth, taut, naked, Jamie's chest and crotch pressing against Devin's back and rear. Their hairless forms nearly blending together, Jamie ran his hands over Devin's chest and abs, the warmth of his hands playing upon the rich boy's skin and raising an additional warmth from within. Slowly, Jamie's hands found their way down to Devin's penis, lightly fingering the small patch of blond peachfuzz that served as his pubic hair, then delicately fingered the rod itself, his tender contact fondling Devin's member toward erection. "Talk to me, Dev."
Devin shook his head, and for a moment tried to pull away, but was clearly losing his resolve to the loving touch of his boyfriend. Jamie eased his hands in loose fists up and down Devin's penis, bringing gentle sighs and gasps out of his boy. As he did this, he also pressed more firmly against his back, his own member already fully erect now moving up and down against Devin's ass crack. Both their bodies were heating up quickly now. Devin started to pull a bit at Jamie's wrists, in a feeble attempt to remove his boyfriend's hands from what they were doing, but then gave in and reached around instinctively and grasped hold of Jamie's buttocks and pulled him toward him, holding the duo together in a lock of loving arms.
Jamie kissed Devin's neck, then his shoulder. His hands kept busy at their task, one hand now working the wealthy boy's shaft as his Jamie's other hand fingered his balls. Devin was beginning to gasp now, his head flopping backward to rest upon Jamie's right shoulder. Jamie nuzzled against him, feeling Devin's hands squeezing his behind, then sliding down and massaging his inner thigh. Devin was very erect now, and Jamie could feel the heat of Devin's manhood in his hands. Devin's eyes were closed tightly and his mouth was open, his breath coming harder and more forced.
Jamie kissed Devin's neck again, lingering longer with each contact. "No secrets from each other, Dev. Tell me. Let me fix it."
Devin reached around with his own hand and began to help Jamie with his project down below. Slowly he turned his head toward his lover's and the two moved closer for a kiss. As their lips neared each other, Devin whispered his response.
"It's my father."
Jamie jerked his head back, his eyes wide open. His hands stopped pumping. "I can think of more romantic things you could've said just then."
Devin paused, seeming a bit shocked that this intimate moment had halted. "Huh? But...you asked."
"What is it with your father, is he sick or something?"
Devin glanced downward. "I'm going soft here. Think we can go back to where we were and fill in the blanks on everything else later?"
"You're the one that brought up yer dear papa. Now what's the deal."
Devin nodded toward his crotch. "It's not like you've let go yet or anything. Just a squeeze or two, and we can be up and running again." Devin began to pump at his lover's knuckles. "Therrrre we go. Up and down. That's the way."
Jamie let go and pushed away from Devin. "Okay, seriously now. What's the deal with your father?"
"My balls are gonna turn blue here."
"The sooner you fess up, the sooner we can—"
"He doesn't want me to see you anymore."
Jamie blinked. He had long since gone soft as well. "What? Since when? I thought he liked me."
"He does. Well, he did. But you don't come from money and you haven't got a job, and he's concerned that—"
"I have a job!" Jamie insisted. "It may not be as the head of some stupid big corporation or anything, but I am employed."
"As an assistant manager at a men's wear store."
Jamie frowned. "It's not like I'm a gold digger. I didn't even know who you were when we met."
Devin had gone back to the wardrobe and was selecting an outfit. "I know, I remember."
"I didn't even know what your father did for a living. It wasn't until you first brought me to the family mansion that I had a clue...and he always acted like he liked me!"
Devin sighed. "Yeah, I know. It's just that, um, I dunno, he's like that sometimes."
Jamie paced the room in the altogether as Devin stepped into some stylish casual pants and slung an expensive pullover over one shoulder. "I even asked him," Jamie muttered, incredulous.
Devin yanked on the pullover, which hugged his slim frame and flattered his trim waist. "Asked him what?"
"I asked him if it was a problem that you were dating someone like me, not being connected in high society or having any old money or like that."
Devin looked at Jamie. "You did? No shit, really? When did you ask him that?"
"The day I first met him! When you brought me home for dinner and I was all, 'Holy frijoles, this kid's loaded, fuck!' and at dinner with that asshat butler or whoever tripping all over us—"
"Cuthbert," Devin grinned.
"Yeah, Cuthbert spilling soup on himself and shit, I asked your dad if it was a problem for him with us dating and he said no. Straight out."
Devin looked surprised and more than a little annoyed. "And why don't I remember this?"
Jamie rolled his eyes. "I waited until you were out of the room for God's sake."
Devin retrieved his shoes from the bottom of the tallboy. "And he really said it was no big deal, you and me?"
"He was all appreciative of my asking and gave me this little lecture about the importance of man's character being more vital than the width of his wallet and everything like that."
Devin was suddenly preoccupied with tying his shoes. "Really. I didn't know he still gave that talk. Haven't heard it since I was a kid. Hmmm." Devin was suddenly lost in thought, as if the problem with his forbidding—and now contradictory—father had suddenly become secondary to another concern. Jamie snapped his fingers in front of Devin's face as his boyfriend stared into space.
"Hello! Earth to Devin!"
Devin looked up. "Huh? What?"
"What are we going to do about this change of heart with your father? Should we go talk to him together? Should I see him alone?"
Devin shook his head. "No. Not a good idea. His mind's made up. He wants you gone." The statement was made matter-of-factly, with very little remorse or emotion.
"You could sound a little more broken up about it."
Devin tossed the shredded jeans at his lover. "Put your pants on."
Jamie let the pants bounce off him and fall to the floor. He stared at Devin, hands on his hips, the expression of his eyes demanding more than what he was getting. For the one who was still stark naked and exposed, he seemed far less vulnerable than Devin, dressed neatly in his designer labels.
Devin looked at Jamie and grinned involuntarily. "God you look hot standing there all commanding and pissed off. I can see every muscle in your defined tiwnkish body."
"I always thought I was too skinny. Don't change the subject."
Devin sighed. "Look, when you've been through this as many times as I have—"
"How many times?" Jamie demanded. "How many lovers have you had now?"
Devin raised a hand. "Rephrase. When you've seen my dad change his mind in a complete 180 on things as many times as I've done, you don't try to fight it any longer. It's just..." he seemed to be searching for the words, "...part of who he is, I guess."
Jamie stayed standing there, looking at his lover, wholly unsatisfied with his answer. Devin pointed to the rumpled jeans on the floor. "Get dressed."
Jamie strode over to the stand beside the bed and removed one of Devin's robes. The blue one. He wrapped it around himself and walked back over to Devin. "I'm going to go downstairs and make us breakfast. Then you and I are going to sit down and eat and discuss this thing rationally. I am in love with you and I'm not going to let anyone, even a rich, flip-flopping father, kick me to the curb."
As Jamie walked out of the grand bedroom, Devin called after him. "It's not going to make any difference," he said. "The decision's already been made."
Jamie's response was, "Eggs Benedict coming right up."
In the huge kitchen, Jamie made himself very much at home. He had grown accustomed to the expansive room where he could prepare culinary delights for he and his beau far more easily and with greater flair than he could in his efficiency apartment. The kitchen at the Renquist Manor was always well stocked and had all the latest cooking apparel, which Jamie made the best use of. He was in the midst of preparing his first meal feast centered around two plates of Eggs Benedict when he was addressed by a deep voice behind him.
"What are you doing here?"
Jamie turned to see Devin's father, the one and only Nigel Hartford Renquist, lord of the manor and head of both the industries and fortune that bore his name. Nigel Renquist was a tall, balding man with broad shoulders and a stout build. His arms were muscular and his legs long and narrow. In some ways he looked a bit more like a caricature of a successful businessman than the real counterpart that he actually was. Particularly when he was behaving amiably and showing good cheer. He had no need to concern himself with appearing like a caricature today.
"Good morning, Mr. Renquist," Jamie offered, smiling. "I was just making breakfast for Devin and myself. It'd be no trouble to make a third plate if you'd care to have some."
"Breakfast?" Mr. Renquist snapped. "It's going on noon."
Jamie eyed the clock on the wall and saw that it was only half past ten. "Err, anyway, sir, I'm sure Devin would be happy to have you join us. It'd be a pleasure to—"
"You're certainly generous enough when it comes to offering my food," Mr. Renquist said. His eyes were like flint and his back was stiff.
"Have I done something to offend you, sir?" Jamie asked, fishing.
"You don't belong here," came the sharp reply.
"No offense, Mr. Renquist," Jamie said, "but where is this coming from? You and I had always gotten along since the day I met you. I even came to think of us as friends. Now all of a sudden I don't belong here? What's up with that?" Jamie tried to turn back to his breakfast preparations, but Mr. Renquist walked around to face him again.
"Look at you. Waltzing all around this house as if you were in charge here. Parading about the kitchen almost naked. Sponging off my son and off my hard-earned income—"
"Hey!" Jamie stopped him, feeling defensive. "I never asked Devin for anything. I had no idea he was heir to the Renquist Rubber-whatsits fortune until after we'd been going out for almost a month."
Mr. Renquist cringed as if Jamie had insulted his mother. "Renquist Rubber Retooling and Innovations," he intoned loftily.
"And I don't sponge off anyone! You said you were proud to see me making my way in the world of retail. Hell, you practically threw me a party when I got that raise last week. Now you're acting like I was some club kid Devin brought home, a spoon up my nose and my fingers in his wallet! What gives?"
"Have you anything to offer Devin in this—this relationship?" Mr. Renquist demanded.
Jamie puffed himself up a bit. "I can offer him my love, and my devotion and loyalty."
The big man snorted. "Can you offer him anything substantial?"
Jamie's mouth fell open. He had never heard his deepest feelings regarded as something insubstantial, least of all by someone whom he'd respected.
"You said yourself I was good for Devin," Jamie countered.
"You were a distraction, James." Jamie hated being called James. "You were a momentary flirtation that has run its course."
"Momentarily lasting nearly six months," Jamie added, but the rich man ignored him.
"I allow Devin his little flings and fancies, but he knows I have given each one a time limit. I will only tolerate these things that take him away from the seriousness of him taking up the family business for so long. He should have already told you of my concerns."
"He tried to, this morning, but I didn't believe him."
"Believe it!" Mr. Renquist said.
"You really want me gone, just like that?" Jamie was incredulous.
Mr. Renquist reached over to the stove and turned off the burners. "You're done."
Jamie shuffled his bare feet back toward the winding carpeted stairway that led up to the bedrooms. Mr. Renquist stormed after him. "Where do you think you're going??"
Jamie looked back at him. "To get my things. Unless you want to toss me out starkers."
"And have you go upstairs to see my son one more time?" Renquist snorted. "I think not. Cuthbert!"
Into the room shambled the ludicrous servant that the great Nigel Renquist kept about the house. If Renquist occasionally appeared as a caricature, then Cuthbert occasionally seemed to be a genuine human being. A gangling cartoon of a man, Cuthbert had oversized everything. His nose, eyes, and ears were all much too big, making him look more like ventriloquist's dummy than a person. His hands and feet were also of enormous size and he constantly found them in his own way. His limbs twisted and bent as he moved in such a way that he appeared to be stuffed with foam rather than bones and cartilage. To add insult to injury, atop his head was a shock of red hair so coated in brylcreme it may as well have been shellacked there.
"Yetthur, Musthu RhENkwist, yass." Cuthbert had an accent so thick it could be placed around the mansion in lieu of an iron fence. Jamie never could tell if it was English, Scottish, Irish, or some other –ish.
"Go on up to my son's room and fetch Master James's belongings. He'll be leaving us. Never to return."
"Rhite-o, sahr. Ihe thall ackomodite withall sthpeed, yass." Like a broken windup toy, Cuthbert hobbled his way up the stairs, dangling arms flopping at his sides.
Mr. Renquist turned back to Jamie. "You will take your clothes and begone. I would advise you against making any attempts to see my son again. Do I make myself clear?"
Jamie just stared at him for a moment, then said, "I understand the words you just said, sir, but as to why you would say them is not clear at all."
"That I said them is enough."
They two stared at one another, as if facing off a contest of will focused through their eyes, until the bumbling Cuthbert returned with the T-short, shredded jeans, and old tennis shoes Devin had offered his boyfriend earlier. "Put them on and get out of here," Renquist demanded. Jamie fumbled to pull on the shirt even as Renquist yanked away the robe he'd been wearing. "And I'll take that, if you don't mind. It cost more than a month of your wages and I have no desire to see you steal it."
Jamie furrowed his brow as he fussed with the front snap of his jeans and looked daggers at the presumptuous business man. "When have I ever--?!"
Before Renquist could respond, Cuthbert waved for his attention. "Sar, atthuh toppuv thstarrrz, sahr. Yuhng Mastuh DAHvin, quiteah fuss an mos'distress, yass. Ooh."
Mr. Renquist and the half-naked Jamie looked up at the top landing of the stairs and saw Devin standing there shouting down at them. "For God's sakes, father! You could at least let me say goodbye to him!"
Renquist Sr. looked fit to burst. "I have spoken! I have made my decision and I have deemed that this impoverished little whelp is no good for you! Now accept my ruling if you still wish to be a part of this family! My decision is final! Heeeeerrgghh!" Nigel Hartford Renquist had begun to wheeze rather badly.
"Jeez, dude, are you alright?" Jamie said, surprised by the older man's sudden attack.
Devin, on the other hand, used the moment's distraction to bound down the stairs and rush to Jamie's side. He gave his boyfriend a quick hug, whispering, "I'll talk to him. It doesn't have to be over between us."
Jamie let his arms drape around his lover, but kept his eye on the slowly recovering Mr. Renquist. "It does if it's gonna kill your old man, Dev." Then, to Devin, he asked quietly, "Is he asthmatic or something?"
"An old condition," Devin pooh-poohed it away. "One that crops up when he gets overexcited over nothing, or throws one of his tantrums."
"You-huhoooo—," Renquist wheezed, pointing at Jamie, "Out."
"This isn't the end of it," Devin said to Jamie, "not yet." Jamie felt Devin fondle him even as he tried to pull on his tattered jeans. Man, the kid was insatiable.
Mr. Renquist was still wheezing, but managed to signal the oafish servant nearby. "Cuthbert---wheeeeehuuuurggg---see the gentleman out."
Cuthbert sauntered over to Jamie, his usual clumsy gait more sure and directed. Jamie raised an eyebrow, imagining how easy it would be to upend the tuxedoes idiot. "Okay, that's it. I'm going already. But don't think I'm going to let Doofus Malarkey here escort me to the exit—"
Whatever further insult Jamie had to toss in the direction of the usually bumbling servant was cut short as the dangling arms of Cuthbert wrapped around Jamie's torso and his massive ape-like hands grasped Jamie's biceps and lifted the young man off the ground. Cuthbert muttered some kind of drivel that was no doubt intended as a formal dismissal, but Jamie could not make it out, nor pay much heed, amazed as he was at Cuthbert's display of strength. "Thuh masthtuh requesteth yew leevthuh premiseses, yass."
"What? How're you--? When did you get so strong?"
Effortlessly, the human caricature carried Jamie, his feet dangling at least an inch or two off the floor, to the main entrance and casually tossed him out on his ear. The young man landed in the grass just off the main pathway. From inside, Devin shouted at Cuthbert's back.
"Go easy on him!"
Jamie tried to get up but fell back on his bruised behind. "How the hell did you do that? Last night you couldn't carry a dish of curry and now you're a fucking nightclub bouncer??" Cuthbert tossed Jamie's old shoes out after him, both of which bounced flawlessly off the lad's head. Jamie was beginning to understand why the prestigious Renquist family kept the oafish Cuthbert around.
Jamie put on his shoes (he'd forgotten the dreadful state that they were in). Devin had driven them here last night, and it was quite a hike to the nearest bus stop. For the life of him, Jamie could not understand what had just happened. He had always gotten on well with Devin's dad, had even had some nice chats in which they both spoke at length about customer service and marketing, which Jamie had studied in school. For crying out loud, Mr. Renquist had even mentioned the possibility of a commitment ceremony for the two of them at some point in the future. As Jamie puzzled over this bizarre and unexpected turn of events, he fished around in his pants pockets for some spare change or some tokens he'd be able to use for bus fare. That was when he found it.
Jamie pulled out a small note written in Devin's hand.
Need to see you one last time, if only for a proper goodbye.
Dad has business until late tonight. Come back to the house
and meet me then.
Jamie smiled. Okay, so his boyfriend wasn't getting inappropriately frisky there in the kitchen as he helped him into his jeans. He was planting the note on him. Clever boy. Jamie decided he would get back into town and to his apartment, and try his level best not to dwell on any of this until tonight. That would be no small challenge, as tonight suddenly seemed a long ways away.
* * * * *
That evening, Jamie sprang for a cab and rode back to the Renquist Manor. He felt that what could be the final farewell, or potentially the planned escape, with the love of his life was worth the expense. After a few rings of the clanging doorbell (coupled with silent prayers that the master of the house truly was away), and a couple bangs on the knocker, Jamie peeked inside the unlocked door.
"Devin? Hello? You in here?" No answer. Jamie let himself in, keenly aware that if Devin wasn't readily to hand, that what he was doing could be considered breaking and entering. Jamie made his way to the main foyer where he found a note taped to one of the tall columns there.
Dining room. Join me.
Jamie smiled and felt a wave of relief wash through him. So he was here. Phew. So Jamie moved quickly to the main dining room and stepped through the double doors, taking care to close them behind him quietly. There on the long, polished table was an intimate setting for two, complete with floral centerpiece and two white taper candles, already lit. A small blaze was already going in the large fireplace nearby. Jamie let out a satisfied sigh and moved toward the table.
"It is rather a charming little setting, isn't it?"
Jamie whirled around to face Mr. Renquist. He began to stammer. "Sir! Mr. Renquist! I—I thought that Devin would be—I didn't think that—"
"That'd I be here?" Mr. Renquist said, finishing Jamie's thought. "Ah, yes. Business until late in the evening. But that's the thing when you run the business, you see. You can reschedule just about any late business until it's early morning business. Or whenever you'd like it. You can understand that, can't you, James?"
"And I also thought you could understand when I said I wanted you out of my house."
Jamie felt suddenly very frightened. This entire setup felt wrong. He gave voice to the concern that was foremost on his mind. "What have you done with Devin?"
Mr. Renquist looked at Jamie askance for a moment, then realized what he was asking. "Oh, please, James. What, do you think I had him done away with? Pushed off a cliff or something? Oh, I know: I loaded him aboard a steamer and had him shipped off to a cruel and isolated boarding school." Renquist scoffed. "For God's sake, man, he's in his early twenties."
"Old enough to decide who he's going to be with," Jamie challenged.
"That remains to be seen," Renquist countered. "But come. Sit. It appears you came here for answers of some kind, it seems only fitting that you get them from the one around whom your concerns are centered."
"So where is Devin?"
Renquist waved one hand airily. "Oh, he's upstairs in his room, taking a nap. Not one that he had intended to take, mind you, but a nice relaxing nap nonetheless. He'll wake up a bit groggy, then feeling curiously refreshed, but he will wake up, eventually. Allowing us more than enough time to talk in the meantime."
"You drugged him? Your own son?"
Renquist gestured to the chair at the head of the table, farthest from the intimate place settings for two. "Please. Sit."
"But that's your chair," Jamie said, stalling for time.
"I'll stand, thanks."
"Ah, but you are a guest in my house, an uninvited one though you may be," Renquist began.
"Devin invited me," Jamie stated firmly.
"Fair enough. So as a guest I can't have you up on your feet all evening. Please." Renquist offered the chair at the head of the table again. Jamie didn't move. Mr. Renquist pursed his lips. "Perhaps I should ring for Cuthbert and have him find you a chair more to your liking."
With the experience of the rubbery-limbed clown butler tossing him about still fresh in his mind, Jamie silently walked over and took his seat in the master's chair.
"Well done," Renquist sneered.
"So now what?" Jamie asked.
"I thought a nice chat would be in order," Renquist suggested. "We used to have friendly chats all the time, didn't we?"
"We used to," Jamie said. "Until you started acting like someone else, someone I didn't even know, and had me thrown out."
Renquist didn't appear to be paying much attention to Jamie. "Yes, I thought a nice chat would be in order. But then I had another thought. And decided something else would be more in order instead."
Jamie was rapidly growing impatient. This entire scenario was starting to feel like a bad soap opera. The once pleasant father suddenly behaving cruelly, the caricature of a butler with superhuman strength, the star-crossed lovers. He was half expecting a beautiful woman named Dominique or Beatrice to stride into the room and announce that he and Devin had actually been switched at birth or something.
Mr. Renquist was sliding his hand along the molding of the fireplace, fiddling with one of the figures carved into the surface there. Jamie decided not to wait for whatever odd surprise Nigel Renquist had in store for him and prompted, "And what was it that you decided would be more in order?"
"This." Mr. Renquist twisted the figure on the mantle and it turned to the right like a handle or a switch. There was a low rumbling noise and before Jamie could react, the dining table folded back upon itself and the floor beneath Jamie's chair began to open, a panel sliding back to reveal a dark chute.
"Wh-what? What is this--?!" The seat in which Jamie sat collapsed. The armrests flattened against the chair back and the seat fell inward. Jamie had nothing to grasp, nowhere to go, except down. Caught completely unawares, Jamie fell down the chute beneath his chair and slid down its metal length at alarming speed. He made a feeble attempt to grip the sides of the slide, but could find no purchase there. His hands clutched at the slick metal surface underneath him, but it was far too slippery, feeling as if it had been treated with an oil or lubricant of some kind. Jamie rolled around and simply kept gaining speed. How far down did this thing go??
In another moment, Jamie slid off the end of the long slide and landed almost spread eagled, face-down, on a large rubber cushion, breaking his fall, but also knocking the wind out of him. Jamie could not make out where he was, in what room he had landed, in what part of the mansion he'd been deposited. He knew he'd fallen much farther than the lower levels of the house, most of which he'd visited. This place was something else. This place was dank and musty, and the chill in the air filled him with fear.
Jamie tried to get up, doing his best to put aside his disorientation and fright, but found he was held fast to the cushion upon which he'd landed. The surface, already a slick rubber of some kind, stuck to him and his clothes with an incredible strong adhesive. Jamie was able to lift his head up, but that was about as far as he could go. His entire underside was held fast like a fly on flypaper. The large spongy cushion had a wide enough diameter that there was no way Jamie could even attempt to grasp the edges to gain some purchase there, the outer edges were well beyond the reach of his stuck fingers.
Jamie attempted to push himself up and only served in making his predicament worse. The adhesive that held him to the large rubber cushion clutched fast, and all his attempts to push upward simply pulled him back down harder. As Jamie tried to free himself, he cried out for help as he pushed and strained. He could feel the powerful adhesive not only sticking to his clothes but soaking through them and attaching itself to his skin. He knew he wasn't going anywhere.
In the distance, at the far end of the room, came the grind of an old freight elevator making its way down toward this level from up above. Mr. Renquist was coming for him. God, what next? Jamie continued to cry out, knowing it was foolish, that no one could possibly hear him, but he couldn't help himself. Maybe, just maybe, if he could raise enough racket, he could rouse his beloved Devin.
Jamie began to rock himself back and forth upon the cushioned prison, trying anything to get himself free. Somewhere within the cushion, something broke. Jamie heard it clearly. It sounded like a large plastic case cracking open. Underneath him, something began to slosh within the rubber cushion. Jamie did not even want to guess what it was, what awaited him next. His struggles increased in ferocity, and his entrapment just got worse, the adhesive holding him fast, feeling as if it were beginning to dry, to harden. His skin felt funny, and began to tingle. Below him, there was the steady trickle and puddling of some kind of liquid, free from its burst container.
Jamie could hear that at the far end of the room, the old elevator came to a stop and its creaky doors opened. Footsteps drew near him. Jamie struggled harder. It was not the best move he could have made.
Fumes began to rise from the cushion, its rubbery pores releasing a tranquilizing gas that stung Jamie's eyes and filled his mouth and nostrils with something sickeningly sweet. Jamie tried to close his mouth tight, but he had already taken in a good lungful. Besides, there was no way to pinch his nose shut, not that he could have done that indefinitely while held fast to the rubber bed. Jamie's entire body was tingling now, and his muscles felt languid and heavy, his head thick with growing cobwebs. The footsteps were coming closer, but had an odd, distant echo to them.
No, not a bad soap opera, thought Jamie, I'm in one of those god-awful nighttime dramas about a kidnapping. I'm gonna be held for multiple episodes before anyone even gets any ransom demands...
From directly above him, a voice that could have belonged to Nigel Hartford Renquist, or could very well have belonged to Marley's Ghost considering how disoriented the ensnared and drugged Jamie could tell, spoke to him in words that thudded and echoed in his head.
"Don't worry, James," the voice told him. "This will all be over soon."
* * * * *
When Jamie awoke, his head was very fuzzy, but it began to clear quickly. A strange giddiness filled his chest and he actually laughed a little, out loud, as he awoke. He felt extremely good, and more refreshed than he ever had after the best night's sleep of his life. Then he opened his eyes. Jamie immediately had fond longings for the good old days when he was stuck to a giant rubber cushion filled with knockout gas.
Jamie was strapped down to a table of some sorts. The table itself was tipped upward in a vertical position and locked in place, so that Jamie appeared to be standing, if only on a slight angle so that he was leaning backwards by a few inches. His arms were held out at his sides, bent at the elbow, his hands even with his head. His legs were spread into a strong stance with his feet just a bit farther apart than shoulder length. Metal bands were clamped securely around Jamie's wrists, ankles, neck, and forehead, holding him in place. He was naked. It was only after he shivered, trying to fight off the odd happy feeling pervading his mind that he realized that his entire body was coated in some kind of viscous goo. From what little he could see from looking sideways at his arms, it was like a clear gelatin or syrup, all over him. It looked as if he'd been dipped in glue, or slime. Or rubber.
Jamie blinked rapidly, trying to shake the last of the sleep from his head, fighting to tell himself not to feel happy, to feel frightened, and very much so. This was neither a soap opera nor a kidnapping drama in which he'd found himself. It was some kind of twisted old science fiction movie. Or a contemporary horror film.
"Oh, don't get up, James." Jamie looked across the room to see Mr. Renquist standing there, arms behind his back, a smirk on his face.
"Rhennn--!" Jamie began to say, but his voice came out as a harsh gasp.
Renquist began to pace about, as if he were slightly bored. "That would be an aftereffect of the gas. Your voice will return in a moment. Give it time."
Jamie was not willing to wait. He swallowed hard, twice, licked his lips—coming away with some kind of gelatin in his mouth?—tried to spit it out but swallowed most of it. He felt a shiver, a thrill run through him as the goo went down his throat, exciting his insides. Obviously, this was part of the tranquilizing drugs that were keeping him docile. He fought off the urge to laugh. Instead, he focused his mind on the anger he felt at Mr. Renquist.
"This—this is kidnapping, Mr. Renquist! More than that, it's assault—you drugged me, pumped me full of narcotics--!"
Renquist held up a finger. "And coated your entire body with a thick liquid form of the drugs as well. Don't forget that."
"Hey, yeah, that's right. Thanks!" Jamie couldn't believe he'd just said that. the cobwebs of forced sleep had left his head, but it appeared his brain was far from clear. Had he not been strapped down, he would have shaken his head. "God, Renquist, are you insane?"
"Why, no, my dear James. I'm not insane," the man said, turning to face his captive. "I'm actually a genius." He stressed the last word just enough that it was apparent he wanted to impress it upon Jamie. His emphasis was successful.
Jamie's eyes brightened. "Hey, yeah. You ARE a genius! Cool!" Jamie started to giggle again, then laughed out loud, feeling as if he were back in high school around the hastily-made campfire he and his buddies would build out by the Two Tracks. Where they smoked their homegrown weed and laughed at each other's asinine remarks as if they were high comedy. The image helped Jamie compose himself, reminding him that he was indeed drugged, and drugged thoroughly.
"That would be the euphoria you're feeling," Renquist commented unnecessarily. "A rather intoxicating aftereffect of the tranquilizer drugs and a genuine benefit to the following procedure you'll be undergoing."
Jamie's euphoria left him, replaced by a cold dread in the pit of his stomach. "Procedure?"
Renquist waved away Jamie's tone of concern. "Oh, you needn't worry. It's non-invasive. At least," he added, "I won't be cutting anything." As he spoke, Renquist produced a mask and began to cover his face with it, strapping the elastic band attached to it around his hand. At first Jamie thought it was a surgical mask, but as Renquist settled it in place over his nose and mouth, Jamie could see it was more of a woodworker's mask, or the kind worn by those installing attic insulation or other materials harmful if inhaled. So what would Jamie be inhaling, then?
He didn't have long to wonder. Two slender mechanical arms extended upwards from the floor. Each arm ended in an oversized spray nozzle, not unlike the kind found in car washes, but considerably larger and more frightening, at least from Jamie's perspective. As the nozzles twisted toward Jamie's body, the table he was manacled upon titled forward slightly, giving its prisoner a slightly better view of the room. Jamie could see that the entire floor of the room was laced with grid patterns and slender tracks. It was within one of these sets of tracks that the nozzle arms had extended. The pattern of tracks swirled and meandered about the floor of the room, circling around, before, and around back of the table which held Jamie tight. Jamie could make out various circular and rectangular pattern here and there intersecting the tracks, which looked like trap doors or hatches. It was no doubt from one of these retracting trap doors that the nozzle guns, far too long and wide to emerge from the tracks alone, had been released. Jamie had no more time to contemplate the layout of the room as the nozzle guns took aim at him and hummed to life with an angry mechanical buzz.
"You might want to close your eyes," Renquist remarked blithely.
The warning came just in time. The nozzles let loose with a cold spray that coated Jamie's body with little more care or tenderness than if he had been a car door or a piece of patio furniture. The powerful spray soon covered the young man's chest, crotch, and legs with a thick layer of liquid rubber, the stench of which made Jamie's squint his eyes closed even tighter. The chemical smell that struck him was as if he'd been dunked into a vat of latex house paint. That was just as well, because after another grinding hum from the mechanical arms, one of the paint prayers caught Jamie full in the face. Jamie felt the thick paint cover his head, the smell attacking his nose, trying to seep between his tightly-closed lips, the weight of the rubber fluid matting down his hair.
There was a brief pause in his unceremonious "paint job" and Jamie allowed himself a moment to breathe. He hoped that his treatment, whatever reason for it there was, was over and he inhaled gratefully through his nose and even let his mouth open a bit to take in a breath of air. His small breaths were quickly changed to a huge gasp as Jamie felt a new blast of the icy rubber spray catch him from behind. Literally.
It was then that Jamie realized that the back of the table he was held against had a large circular hole in the center of it, allow the shocking cold spray of rubber to coat his backside. As the saturation of his skin continued unabated from behind, Jamie could also tell that there were several smaller holes throughout the table, providing access for the spray to hit his claves, his shoulder blades, his forearms, and so forth. In short order he was coated with the sticky, smelly liquefied latex goo. Whatever it was.
As the rubber coating began to dry rapidly—latex paint never took too long to solidify—Jamie felt the table tilt forward slightly and lock into a large track, or slot, in the floor, where it locked in place. As it did so, Jamie could feel the rubber liquid all over his body begin to dry and tighten, creating a second skin, or something even more snug if that were possibly, and the combination of the rubber hugging his body, compressing into him the gooey lubricant he'd already had all over his body, to say nothing of the heady chemical aroma of the latex, began to have its affect on him. Jamie felt as if he'd been inhaling clouds of hashish smoke while gulping down poppers with a tequila chaser. As a result, he soon had a huge erection and was fighting off the urge to giggle again.
"Glad to see you're enjoying your transformation procedure," Renquist grinned.
Jamie's head was spinning. "Ohh, yeaahhh...it's cool." But then one word leapt out at his foggy conscious mind and roused it to wakefulness. "Whuh—wait, trans-transformation??"
Jamie had little time to consider what that meant, as a new mechanical arm rose up from the floor and arced its way around behind the table. The spray nozzles had since been retracted and receded (when had they gone?) and this new arm appeared to have only a large hard rubber head upon it, not unlike a massive plunger, but flatter in shape. Jamie couldn't imagine what it was for. As he pondered this, two more trap doors opened in the floor and twin arms, stiffer, sturdier than the spray nozzle extensions, rose upward, a slight hum of gears and controls echoing below them.
"Yes, a transformation," Renquist narrated, bringing Jamie back to his a thought of a moment ago. "You see, you simply weren't becoming what I wanted as my son's lover, James. So the need has arisen to change you into something else, something he does need."
"What-what's that?" Jamie asked, which was difficult to say, as the rubber all over his face was drying completely, making it difficult to move his mouth at all.
And Jamie did see. He saw the extension arms, that had risen up beside each other, begin to spread outward in opposite directions, stretching out between them a large sheet of flesh-colored latex. The extensions locked into place in their grid upon the floor, and the sheet of rubber began to move toward Jamie. It was at least as tall as he was, and extended well past the edges of the table on both sides. As Jamie squirmed, or tried to while bolted down to the table, the rubber sheet drew closer and the use of the flat plunger arm was no longer a mystery.
The arm had taken up position directly behind the large opening at the back of the metal table and was now pressing against Jamie's back, pushing him outward, toward the oncoming sheet. Jamie felt as if he were being bent in half—the wrong way—as the sheet of rubber loomed toward him. With the sheet just inches from his face, Jamie's manacles unlocked with harsh snaps, clanking against the table's surface as they came open. But any chance for escape on Jamie's part was quickly daunted. The plunger arm pushed Jamie forward from behind and forced him right into the large sheet of rubber. Jamie stumbled at first. With the table in its new locked upright posture, Jamie's feet were only a few inches above the ground, but after being released by the manacles, his sudden drop to the floor was enough to momentarily disorient him. And a moment was all the extension arms needed.
As the table sank down into the floor with a mocking hiss, the outward arms wrapped Jamie completely in the rubber sheet. Jamie tried to back away, but the plunger arm was still holding him in place as the sheet was stretched tightly over his body and face, easily wrapping around his thrashing arms and legs. The plunger extension retracted only at the last moment when the smoothly arcing extension arms came around to tuck the rubber sheet around Jamie's back. Panic rose in Jamie's belly, overpowering any chemically-created euphoria, as he fought to breathe or even move. Jamie felt the fast-moving arms work their preprogrammed routine, strapping part of the sheeting up over his head, clamping it tightly against his scalp, and even hefting him up off the floor for a brief second, stretching the sheet under the soles of his feet.
With a whirr and a hum, the sound now muffled from beneath his hugging rubber prison, the extension arms retracted, the sheeting they held and stretched now completely enshrouding the helpless Jamie. The young man fought for air, feeling as if he were being smothered, and wondering if this wasn't in fact the goal all along. But even as Jamie feared suffocation, he found his breathing was beginning to some easier, even if his movements were still hampered.
"It'll be a lot easier if you stop struggling, James."
Renquist's voice came to Jamie with increasing clarity, as the sheeting wrapped around his head began to open precisely over Jamie's ears. The new availability f sound was enough to make Jamie pause in his struggles, if only for a moment.
"There. See how much better?"
The sheeting pulled apart over Jamie's eyes. Standing before him was Renquist, the same smirk on his face, but holding something new in his hands. It was roughly the size of an old calculator or adding machine, only minus any wires or hand cranks. Renquist's fingers played upon the boxy device's surface with practiced skill.
"Informing you of my genius was no idle boast, you know, James."
The rubber wrap ensnaring Jamie began to undulate, like water slowly beginning to boil, though the constricting sheet remained cool upon Jamie's skin. Even as the bubbling movement upon the rubber's surface began, the sheet began to tighten upon Jamie's body, the undulating action slowing as the bands of sheeted rubber constricted.
"You see, I was not content to simply operate within the limits of the rubber industry," Renquist explained, his voice more reminiscent of a lecture hall than a torture chamber. "Supply, demand, production, distribution. I knew there was something more to be done, something that would not only make me rich, but unique. Very unique."
The rubber continued to tighten upon Jamie's body, at first feeling as if it were strangling him, every inch of him, but Jamie's breathing was coming to him easier, even as the sheeting bound itself ever tighter against his chest, neck, and face. A small opening expanded over Jamie's mouth, allowing for a greater intake of air, but as the rubber wrapped more snugly around his head, the sheeting, which logic dictated should have torn easily, instead conformed to the shape of Jamie's mouth, cementing itself firmly upon his lips, solidifying there.
"I studied rubber, had others research everything I could find about it," Renquist went on, almost oblivious to Jamie's plight, but for the fact that as he manipulated his control box he was clearly controlling it. "Did you know, for instance, that the chemical base for rubber, isoprene, has within it specific properties that make it an excellent conductor to certain...forms of electrical and chemical stimulation? Even manipulation and control? It was a thrilling discovery, I assure you."
Jamie's experience was well beyond mere thrills at this point. It was beyond terrifying, too. As the rubber sheeting wrapped itself around his every part, his limbs, his torso, his head and hands, Jamie realized that even if he knew where the door was, he could never make a run for it. He had no means to control his legs, or any part of his body, as the rubber sheet made its home firmly all about him, the substances to which he'd been exposed earlier began to make themselves known again in the back of his mind, telling him he was happy, telling him that this felt great, making his erect member throb with arousal, aching for release but eager to hold it off for as long as possible.
"And the truly fascinating thing," Renquist continued, "was that there were some striking similarities between the chemical bases within the isoprene, within the latex, and those found naturally in the human body. Can you imagine!"
The rubber sheeting could not possibly get any tighter around Jamie's body. As it reached it's maximum fit, for want of a better word, the edges, the seams, of the sheet began to blend together, becoming one form-fitting piece. Rather than leaving Jamie looking like a rubber-wrapped mummy, the latex sheet soon started to look like it had always been a rubber catsuit designed particularly to fit Jamie exactly, as it's seams vanished and it blended perfectly.
"Mind you, it needed prepping first. It's not something that can be just introduced, one body into another, without properly finishing the one substance so it would accept and meld with the foreign material." Renquist looked on as Jamie's wrap reached its zenith. It now looked as if Jamie were in a tight-fitting, heavyweight flesh-colored wetsuit. It felt like it, too. Mind you, this "wetsuit" had form-fitting gloves, boots, and a hood that encompassed its wearer's head and face precisely. Renquist nodded in approval.
"Oh, and of course I'm not speaking of the preparation of the rubber, James." He smiled. "It was the human body which needed to be prepared for blending first."
With that, Renquist's fingers played again upon his control box, and the heavyweight suit upon Jamie's body began to press against him, but with alarmingly little feeling of increased pressure. No, this time it felt as if the rubber were seeping into Jamie's pores themselves. That's because it was.
The sensation was horrifying to Jamie, but as the rubber suit blended with is skin, sank within it, he felt a freedom of movement return to his limbs, his breathing come a bit easier.
"That's the way, my boy," Renquist cooed. "You'll become quite accustomed to your new situation, eventually."
That one word, 'eventually', gave Jamie some hope, in that it implied that there was no intent on doing away with him today after all. The rubber upon his body still felt fairly heavy, but movement was now quite possible. And with renewed hope for escape, Jamie opted to make a run for it. He was faster than Renquist, of this he was certain, rubber suit or no, and he could surely evade the older man long enough to find a way out of here.
Jamie lurched forward, desperate to run, but found that the feeling of freedom he'd been experiencing was more illusory than actual. His legs were clumsy, awkward, and he stumbled as he moved, arms pin wheeling, legs tripping over each other, his feet unsure upon the floor.
"Ah-ah-ah!" Renquist chided. "We'll have none of that, now, James. Be still and accept your fate like a good boy."
Jamie was once again standing still, his back straight, his legs slightly apart, his head held high and his arms extended easily at his sides. As he stood there, Jamie felt the rubber sheet-suit grow increasingly workable about him, upon him. his arms began to feel more like his own, as did his legs and the rest of him, rubber coated though they were. But as Jamie felt a tingle upon his skin which seeped deep within his pores, down into his muscles and nerves, an electric pulse that danced its way throughout his body, a terrible realization befell him.
The rubber was bonding with him.
The latex, the isoprene, the whatever-it-was, was really seeping down into Jamie's body via his very pores, connecting with his central nervous system, locking him in place.
Jamie's suit was very much like a second skin now, or perhaps more accurately a renewed first skin. Jamie no longer appeared to be wearing a rubber wetsuit. It appeared as if he was the rubber suit. Jamie let out a deep breath and his posture relaxed. Now he felt himself returning to some semblance of how he'd been before this whole ordeal. There was something fundamentally different about him, he could feel that clearly—his insides were somehow thicker, more viscous and pliable—but he was regaining something else, too. His sense of self, perhaps. He might make a bid for freedom yet.
"I can see the glimmer of hope in your eyes, James" Renquist observed. "You can feel free to let it fade away."
With a few more buttons pressed on Renquist's remote, Jamie felt the tingle inside him move around with greater force within his limbs. His body convulsed this way then that, and soon he was moving around the room in a herky-jerky fashion. He was being made to walk in circles, then move his arms up and down, over his head, and then at his sides. He had all the halting motions of an old-fashioned windup toy, or a newly-acquired remote control car.
"Your movements will come across as far more natural once I've installed a complete program for you," Renquist remarked matter-of-factly. "But for now, I think it's important that we establish our new relationship, don't you? In terms of whom is in control, if nothing else."
Jamie had never felt so helpless. He watched from within himself as his own body marched about, pivoted, bowed, saluted, skipped, and ran in place without any prompting from himself whatsoever. Jamie tried with all his might to resist what was being done to him, but it was to no avail.
"It will go a lot easier for you if you don't resist, James."
Jamie hated to admit it, even to himself, but he sensed that Renquist was right, at least partly. The more Jamie fought against the movements inflicted upon him, the more uncomfortable, almost in pain, he felt. When he relaxed his attempts to pull against the movements, he felt almost natural and right, though that contradictory feeling caused more emotional distress than his being moved about by remote control.
"Tha-aat's better," Renquist said, sounding pleased. He marched Jamie over to another part of the room, where a new arm extended up from the floor. This arm had a curved brace on the end of it, well padded so that it resembled a car seat somewhat. Jamie was made to take his place with the strange brace supporting his back and shoulders.
"I never did find a practical application for my discoveries in the business world," Renquist admitted. "But its enhanced my personal life considerably."
Now Renquist hurried to stuff something in his ears. Jamie no sooner wondered what he was bracing himself against when another arm rose out of the floor before him, this one with what looked to a parabolic microphone at its head. Within a heartbeat, it released a powerful sonic hum that resonated at, into and through, Jamie and his controlling rubber suit. The wave of sound—if that's what it was—worked against the rubber, solidifying its clinging to Jamie's body, working its way into every orifice of his body.
The rubber crept and crawled its way over his head, seeping into his ears, deafening him as it clogged his head. It seeped and flowed into his nostrils, into his mouth, gagging him, but somehow maintaining its porous property enough to permit Jamie to continue breathing. Jamie's nasal passages were filled with the chemical smell of the isoprene, his mouth coated, palate teeth and tongue, with the taste of latex. Miraculously, the rubber never flowed into his eyes. Jamie thanked God for small favors.
Down below, the rubber made its way up into Jamie's posterior, invading his ass. No, no, Jamie thought. Don't you dare rape me on top of everything else.
But the rubber making its way into Jamie's behind was more like a medical exam than anything sexual. Mechanically, the enhanced rubber substance worked upward until it massaged Jamie's prostate. Jamie squirmed inwardly, his natural response to the ticking and kneading one of extreme pleasure, and his erection throbbed with greater force. He fought against the sensation, determined not to enjoy it, but it was to no avail. Like everything else about his body now, Jamie understood, his pleasure response was beyond his control. Under great duress, Jamie gave into it.
After an indeterminate amount of time, Jamie felt the brace behind him retract and he slumped to the floor, violated and spent. He watched as the sonic gun arm also descended into the floor, it's low mechanical hum increasing in volume as Jamie's hearing slowly returned. The rubber within his ears had evidently found its purchase, allowing Jamie to hear somewhat normally. As his head grew less fuzzy, he could hear Renquist blathering on. Mindless of the fact that the sound machine had momentarily deafened his subject, the rubber magnate had gone right on narrating the procedure.
"—considered shaving your head, but the rubber coating would work well to matt your hair down so that it wouldn't interfere with anything, so there's really no need to trouble myself. Besides, your hair will stop growing at all before long, I'd imagine."
Jamie's head lolled forward, and he caught his reflection in the polished surface of the floor. He was amazed at how little the alterations affected his appearance. His reflection looked back at him, rubberized, but otherwise it was still him. His hair was captured in a tight-fitting skull cap, and his feet encased in what could be socks or footed pajamas, but he did not look like the monstrous rubber freak he'd imagined he'd be. He did not look normal, to be sure, but he more closely resembled a lifelike mannequin of himself than anything else.
"Up we come, James," Renquist said, remote in hand, easily drawing the weary young man to his feet. Renquist looked his handiwork over. "Aha! Excellent! This is a vast improvement on your old self, I assure you, lad!" Renquist laughed at his little joke, finding it hysterically amusing, as apparently he took his humor black. But within moments, his laughter gave way to another wheezing spasm.
Jamie stood at attention, much like the mannequin he'd likened himself to, fearing that if the older man collapsed from some attack here, they'd both be stuck in the positions where they were left until someone found them. The old man dead of some coronary disorder or something, Jamie starved to death while standing in place like a statue. Renquist must have read Jamie's mind just then, for he was quick to remark as he collected himself.
"Never fear, my boy. You won't be stuck here alone with my corpse. I'm quite fine, it's simply an old complaint that acts up from time to time. Nothing to concern yourself with." Before Jamie could consider that, Renquist added, "As opposed to this--!"
Jamie suddenly found himself marching around the room like a toy soldier again, only far more smoothly. The final stage (he hoped to heaven it was the final stage) of the sonics completing the bond of the rubber to his body seemed to have done the trick. As Renquist manned his controls, Jamie did everything from jerk about in a mock hip-hop robot dance to march like a tin soldier from the Nutcracker, to flop about like a marionette with loose strings. Renquist laughed with delight, this time no wheezes to be heard. This was a shame, Jamie thought, since at this point he would gladly have starved to death as a living mannequin if it meant watching the cruel bastard drop dead first.
Jamie found he could speak, even with the strange latex coating inside his mouth. "Is this it, then? Is this the result of your genius, Mr. Renquist? To treat me as your own little toy? I expected better from you." Jamie kept the spite strong in his voice, no longer fearing reprisals from his lover's father, for as his present situation went, he felt nothing could be much worse.
"It's good to see you've found your voice," Renquist said, unphased by Jamie's anger. "Not that I much care for what you have to say. But we can change that."
Renquist now plugged some type of cable jack into his control box. From where the cable had come, Jamie could only guess, but opted not to. After a few more buttons were manipulated on his remote, Renquist sent a small surge through the cable that Jamie felt in the base of his skull. Before he could wonder what that portended, Jamie opened his mouth and spoke.
"After careful consideration, I think it's time for me to leave Devin." Horrified on the inside, Jamie's face remained placid on the outside. He titled his head to one side, not unlike a pet dog, continuing, "It's for the best, I think. You see, I've finally found my calling—I need to be a manservant for the rich and privileged, to better drive home into my thick, impoverished skull my true place in the world. I have come to recognize my proper station as a lowly crawler who'll never be anything more than 'the help'."
Jamie's eyes bulged wide as the words left his mouth. Had he just said that? No, he hadn't. Renquist had said it. He'd merely said it through Jamie, is all.
"I find that those words suit you much more, James, my boy," Renquist said, flashing a toothy grin. "Mind you, you can say them any way I choose." Renquist pressed more buttons on his control box, and Jamie spoke again.
"Aw si, senor, humble Pedro is nuttin' but a wort'less slaveboy," Jamie slurred in a convincing Mexican accent.
Renquist laughed, and made Jamie speak again. "Indubitably, milord, I am naught but a lowly serf. Perchance would you care to flog me, sire?" This time he spoke in old English, sounding as if he were born and raised in Great Britain centuries ago.
Renquist soon had Jamie speaking in French, German, and a host of other tongues that the bigoted Renquist thought fulfilled the stereotypes of the lower classes. He stopped when he saw the tears streaming from Jamie's eyes. Renquist set down his control. "Hm. I'll have to reset your program so that you can't go setting off waterworks in the middle of your performances." Renquist plucked the jack from the remote and Jamie felt his bodily control return to him. He slumped forward, doing all he could not to fall to his knees. he would not belittle himself that way in front of this bastard.
Jamie leaned forward, bracing his hands upon his knees, holding himself up. "So, what now?" Jamie gasped. "You ship me off to some other rich upper-crust jackass to be his personal bootlicker, or do you have some black market where you can auction me off to the highest bidder??"
Renquist shook his head. "Gads, no. You young people. No imagination. No, James, how would you like to be a servant in my house? Perhaps even the personal manservant of my pride and joy Devin? Forever within reach of your lover but unable to touch him, to connect with him in any real way? No longer able to corrupt him with your lower-class way of thinking?
Jamie tried to snarl at Renquist. "You realize that I'll find a way to tear this goddamn suit off. I'll wipe this goo from my body, and get my life back as soon as you turn your back."
"No, the rubber has already started to seep well into your skin, and into your nervous system. By the end of the day you'll be transformed. This isn't a mere suit anymore, it's part of your bodily makeup. In fact, within the hour, you'll literally have no means to resist your newfound remote-controlled straitjacket, much less try to take it off." Renquist snorted. "You'd be further ahead trying to remove your arm, or your leg. Or your liver."
Jamie shook his head now. "Devin will never believe it. No matter what you make me say, no matter how you make me say it. You just don't go from planning secret rendezvous one day to being an aloof subservient the next." Renquist paused, as if considering it. "There's the flaw in your plan. How much we love each other. You've underestimated that. As soon as Devin sees me as some kind of...of manservant...he'll know something's up, he'll confront you. And he'll never accept his boyfriend as his personal slave."
Renquist smiled again. He then stepped aside as a final trap door in the wall opened, revealing another rubber bodysuit. This one was a bulbous costume, complete with face mask, hands, and feet. A large belly, a rotund face, with a ridiculous costume wardrobe hung nearby of antique topcoat, tails, top hat, and hunter's knee boots. It was the perfect recreation of the old caricature of the British John Bull.
"Oh, I rather think he will," Renquist sneered.
Jamie instantly reassessed his situation. Oh yes, something could indeed be worse.
* * * * *
Devin rolled over in bed and sighed. It wasn't a forlorn sigh, the wan exhalation of a handsome gay man who'd just lost the love of his life. It was the sigh of someone contented, rousing slowly to wakefulness in a soft bed, coming back from one of the best night's of sleep of his life. Devin felt great. That is, until the knock at his bedroom door.
Devin pushed himself up from the mattress, his eyes squinting against the light streaming in from the balcony window. Was he expecting someone this early in the morning? Wait, when had it turned into morning? The last recollection he had was of the previous night, a note sent to Jamie. He felt suddenly as if he were missing a chunk of his life. Not a huge chunk, mind you, just a few hours or so, but vital hours all the same.
Jamie began to speak, in answer the knocking at his door, which was growing more insistent. His voice caught in his throat, came out as a harsh whisper. This was not something he encountered as a rule in the morning. He cleared his throat, forcing a cough or two, then tried to speak again, with better results.
"Come in," Devin called, rolling over a bit more, sitting up so that the sheets were drawn around him, covering his nudity. "Cuthbert, is that you?"
Renquist strode into the room, his step bordering on a swagger. "Hardly, son," he said. "Did you sleep well? Feeling very refreshed this morning?"
Devin sat up a bit straighter, not sure what to say next. He was feeling a bit euphoric, which given the circumstances, was entirely inappropriate. He looked about the room, then peered past his father, as if looking for someone. Devin behaved like an actor who'd found himself suddenly on stage without any knowledge of his lines.
"Umm...yeah, Dad. As a matter of fact, I did."
"Looking for something?" Renquist asked, his voice implying that he knew full well what Devin appeared to searching for.
"Ah, my robe," Devin fumbled. "I thought I hung on the bedpost, but I don't see--"
With a rude flop, Devin found the robe suddenly in his lap, thrown there by his father. "Over the back of the chair where you always leave it."
"Oh. Right. Sure." Devin looked down, acting as if he were not particularly eager to meet his father's eye. As he pulled his robe on sleeve by sleeve, Devin asked in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner, "Did anybody stop by last night, by any chance?"
"Why do you ask?" Renquist said, an accusing look in his eye.
"Oh, no reason," Devin said unconvincingly. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, tying his robe at the waist. "I just...I thought I heard someone come in last night, is all."
"I seriously doubt that, they way you were out," Renquist snorted under his breath.
Devin caught his father's tone, if not all of his words, and said quickly, "What was that?"
Renquist waved it away. "Nothing, nothing. It's just that you sleep like a log is all. I find it surprising you can be roused by anything short of eight hours." Then Renquist turned to face his boy. "As a matter of fact, someone did arrive yesterday evening, rather late." His gaze met Devin's, and an evil grin spread across his face. "Certainly not someone I anticipated arriving. Imagine my surprise upon greeting him at such a late hour."
Devin looked daggers at his father, ready to shout out, "What have you done with Jamie??" But restrained himself, making a show of fussing with his robe instead. "Oh, really?" he said finally, trying without success to sound only mildly interested. "And who came by, exactly?"
"Oh, he's still here," Renquist said offhandedly. "Would you care to see him? He's right outside the door."
Devin was on his feet instantly, an eager look in his eyes. "He's here? I mean," he paused, catching himself, "that is, who's here? Someone I'd know?"
"You'll get to know him soon enough," Renquist remarked. "I've no doubt that you two will soon become fast friends." Toward the closed bedroom door, Renquist called out, "Jonbull! Front and center, man!"
Devin's face scrunched up. "Jonbull??" he said, a strange look on his face.
In waddled a rotund caricature of a man. He was plump, with a full, gelatinous belly that was disproportionate to his spindly legs. His face was ruddy and full, with fatty jowls that hugged his features which were punctuated by a rather bulbous nose. He was attired in the uniform of gentry, with a jacket with tails, tight trousers (though to be fair, anything put upon this man would fit tight), a vest, tall riding boots, and even a top hat.
"Why the hell is he dressed like someone out of a World War I recruitment poster?" Devin jibed upon seeing the man.
"Mind your tone, young man," Renquist warned. "This World War I recruiter as you put it is going to be your personal manservant."
Devin rolled his eyes. "Is that supposed to be some compensation for driving my boyfriend away? This lardass? It's hardly what I'd call a fair trade."
Renquist grinned. "And he is also assigned as your overseer. To make certain that your attention remains focused on the important things. He'll be your personal watchdog, as it were."
"You have got to be fucking kidding me!" Devin said, his outburst sounding almost more a loud declaration than a remark of surprise.
Renquist went on, pretending not to notice his son's outraged tone. "He will see to it that your attention remains focused on the important things. On business, on how you present yourself. There will be no more of these foolish dalliances with the lower classes."
Devin glowered at his father. "I'm not a little kid anymore, pops. You can't just assign me a "manny" and expect me to fall in line for fear that he'll tell on me. I do what I want—"
"—and you may then forget such things as your allowance," Renquist announced. "Or access to your car, your membership to the country club," he went on, rattling off the many privileges Devin would lose should he not submit to being kept under constant surveillance. "And most of all," Renquist stressed, "you can forget all about the occasional input I allow you to contribute at the firm."
That stopped Devin cold. As much as he hated his father's apparent change of heart, Devin loved the family business. The planning, the organization, the meetings, and especially the research and development. Unlike so many spoiled rich kids who despised the idea of one day being thrust into the family business, Devin had longed for a seat on the board, a place in management, ever since he'd been old enough to toddle along after his father as he went off to work. Devin could give up a great many things in a show of defiance, but he could not surrender his time spent at the firm, even if what he did was seen mostly as a meaningless position.
Renquist grinned mockingly at his son, who rankled. The fat man in the outlandish attire looked back at Devin with an expression that could only be described as vacant, if not flat-out stupid. His eyes appeared glazed and lifeless, a far cry form the dazzling eyes of Devin's now-absent boyfriend Jamie.
"So what's his name?"
"His name is Jonbull Radcliffe," Renquist said.
"You may address him as either Jonbull or Manservant John," Renquist told him. The fat man bowed slightly at the introduction, then eased his way back to an upright position. Devin imagined that had the portly Jonbull leaned over any farther he would have collapsed onto the floor and, after perhaps bouncing once or twice, be trapped there by his girth.
Devin shook his head, gave a wave of surrender with his hands. "You know what? Whatever. I'm beyond caring right now. I'm going to take a shower."
"We're not done here!" his father said quickly. He then nodded to Jamie, who was now Jonbull, and Jonbull reached out and grabbed Devin in powerful, meaty hands.
Devin was astonished at how strong the fat oaf was, as he lifted the svelte boy right off of his feet and held him a few inches above the floor. Devin's robe fell open, revealing his naked body, but the large costumed man seemed not to notice or care. He finally spoke, the gargantuan caricature of a man, and the words came out in a thick British accent.
"Begging Master Devin's pardon, but it behooves his young sir to pay better attention to the wishes of his father. You really must refrain from wandering off during a conversational exchange, lad, or showing any disrespect to he who sired you, indubitably, eh wot?"
Devin looked at the bulbous buffoon and was about to spout off a cruel remark about the man's size, or his wardrobe, which struck Devin as equally preposterous, or perhaps even spit on him--but then something stopped him. He locked eyes with this Jonbull character, and he saw something there. Sadness? Regret? Possibly even longing, but for what Devin couldn't discern. Who the hell was this guy??
Devin nodded. "Okay, right. Whatever, sorry. You can put me down now."
Jonbull bowed slightly as he lowered his young master to the floor easily. "Very good, sir. Well done."
The gelatinous oaf stepped to one side, allowing Devin a free view of Renquist, but kept his hand on the boy's shoulder. Devin felt the meaty hand resting upon his shoulder (which felt more like a big water balloon than a human hand, really) and had no desire to see what else this hired man could do besides heft him up like a stuffed teddy bear. Devin averted his gaze from the costumed overseer and looked instead at his father.
"You were saying?"
"Yes, I was saying," Renquist smirked. "And from now on you will listen to what I am saying and not walk away from me until you have been excused. is that understood?"
Devin looked as if he were about to snap back a smart retort, but instead answered, "Yes, dad."
Renquist nodded his approval. "Jonbull will remain at your side until further notice. You won't be doing much clubbing or cruising or whatever it is you do with your boyfriends with him around. He will see to your needs as long as you do the same, by focusing on more important things like business and social networking. Do I make myself clear, Devin?"
Devin eyed the large man in the ridiculous costume and knew that if he were to hang around him constantly it would mean the end of any enjoyable lifestyle, anyway. Plus, given his strength, it wasn't as if this Jonbull fellow could be shoved aside by the much smaller rich boy. Devin understood that he was stuck, at least for the moment.
"We're clear," Devin admitted. "May I be excused, dad? I want to take a shower."
"Go ahead then, son."
Devin walked away, casting an evil eye on the fat man now assigned to him "for his own good." Renquist called after him.
"You do realize I am only doing this because I care about you, son."
Devin said nothing, but hurried to turn the water on in his private bath. He could later claim that he had not heard his father's words over the noise of the faucet.
In the bedroom, Renquist got right in Jonbull's face. "This s killing you, isn't it, boy? If you had just gone away when you were told to, you would have been spared all this."
Jamie, realizing that he was indeed Jonbull now, said nothing—not that he could at this point—but his eyes conveyed a great sadness and fear.
"From now on, you will remain at the side of your former lover," Renquist went on, "you will oversee his every move, you will spoil all his fun, and you will carry out my orders as to my restrictions on his movements and behavior. And as you always remain within arm's reach of the man whom you cared so much about, he will steadily grow to hate you more and more each day, never knowing who you truly are." Renquist rethought his phrasing. "Or were. Enjoy."
Renquist departed the room, leaving the formerly skinny Jamie, now a bulbous oaf attired like a historical clown, to begin his new life as a slave and a henchman. Jamie was not going to have it.
Jamie had to let his lover know what had happened. Having spent so many hours in this bedroom, he knew exactly where to go. He waddled as fast as he could to the desk vanity just outside the door to the private bath. Fumbling with his sausage-like finger through the drawers, Jamie eventually produced a small telephone pad and a rather expensive pen. Doing his best to manipulate the pen in his bulky hand, Jamie began to write furiously.
Devin, it's me.
I'm really Jamie. Your father put me in this fat suit and I can't even tell you who I am or that I love you.
Please help me. I would do anything for you and do not want to be forced to do your father's bidding, but I have no choice after what he's done to
"Oh, and Jonbull?"
Jamie whirled about to find Renquist smiling in the doorway. Fumbling like the oaf he now was, Jamie tried unsuccessfully to hide the pad behind his back. His arms didn't reach.
"A moment of your time, please."
Devin was just emerging from the bathroom, only a towel wrapped around his waist. Jamie looked longingly at his former boyfriend, wanting nothing more than to hold and kiss his slender body.
"Devin," Renquist said, "I'm going to borrow Jonbull for a moment."
"Take your time," Devin said, not trying to hide his disdain.
"I'll have him back to you in a moment to select your day's wardrobe."
Devin shot his father a look. "I can get dressed by myself, dad."
"Nevertheless, I won't detain your trusted manservant long. Come along, Jonbull." Jamie attempted to toss his hurried note upon the desk, hoping Jamie would see it, but Renquist spied him. "And bring that pad with you. There's a good man."
Dejected, Jamie/Jonbull did as bidden and followed his master out into the hall, where Renquist closed the door behind them.
"You must think I'm an idiot, don't you?" Renquist snapped. "If I were to assign you to be in the presence of my son day and night, do you honestly think I would allow you any means to communicate to him who you once were??"
Renquist snatched the pad from Jonbull's meaty hand and held it in front of him. "Take a look at what you thought you wrote. What you really wrote!"
Jamie blinked as he stared at the pad Renquist held before him. It read:
I am Jonbull Radcliffe. I am a large, bloated oaf who must do as his master commands.
I will look over young Master Devin and keep him upon the straight and narrow and away from such unsavory louts as that dreadful Jamie person.
I am jonbull, stout and true. I am Jonbull I am Jonbull I am Jonbull I am Jonbull I am Jonbu
Jamie could not believe his eyes. Renquist dropped the pad and locked eyes with his rubbery slave. "I don't just control your speech and appearance, boy. I control you."
Jamie looked at the pad, then at his hands. Was that the same pad he had used in Devin's bedroom? Perhaps Renquist had palmed it...
Renquist grabbed Jonbull's fat face, seeing where his thoughts were going. "This was no sleight of hand, boy! I switched nothing. This IS the pad you had in there and this IS what you wrote. You're helpless now, and you simply have to get used to that."
Jamie shook his head. No, he would find a way to resist. he had to. he would live as a fat oaf, but he would also live in hope.
Renquist saw the glimmer of hope there in Jamie's eyes and felt a rage rise up within him. "You will come with me," Renquist ordered. Jamie followed his master down the hallway and into a large ballroom that was rarely used. Once there, Renquist instructed the young man trapped in the rubber fat suit to make his way to the center of the room. Once there, Renquist spoke one word.
Not knowing what he was doing or why, Jamie burst into a ridiculous musical number, with his flabby arms and legs flailing about, his rotund form half-marching, half-slipping, across the smooth polished floor. He wailed loudly in his British accent.
"God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!!"
Jamie sang out in a booming baritone like the renown Welsh comedic actor Harry Secombe, another large-bodied character associated with the isle of England. But any dignity the late Mr. Secombe's vocals commanded, to say nothing of the revered song, were lost amid poor Jamie's flailing arms and flopping feet, as his absurd boots clomped along the floor, casting his corpulent carcass about in wide circles and jerky sidesteps. the longer he was made to perform, the more ludicrous Jamie's production became.
"Sen-nd her vicTORious,
Happy and GLORious,
Long to reign OH-OHH-ver us:
God SAVE the Queee-eeee-heeee-een!!!"
The last note, a high, screeching thing, nearly burst Jamie's britches. After he'd finished, he flopped forward in what may have been a bow, but to Jamie was more like a slump of exhaustion. His attention was drawn by the light and sarcastic clapping of Renquist, who stood by the door.
"Well done, my dancing puppet buffoon."
Jamie opened his mouth to say, "No more. I get it. I'm helpless. Please let me go back to Devin."
But what came out was. "Milord, I can see you are not quite fully entertained yet. Mayhap I may do another number for you?"
Jamie could not believe his ears. Had he just said that?? Renquist certainly heard it. "Carry on," he answered. Jamie was off and running again. And if his movements before seemed ridiculous, they were tame in comparison to the wild flailing and bounding he threw himself into now.
"AYE!! Surely you're proud, SHOUT it aloud,
The Empire TOO, we can depend on YOO-OUU.
Freedom remains. These are the CHAI-AINNS
NOTHing can break!!"
Jamie understood the irony of his being made to perform this song. If anyone was in chains that could not be broken, it was him. He belted out the closing lyrics with gusto.
"There'll ALWAYS be an EN-gland,
And England shall be FREE
If England means as much to YOO-OUU
As England means to MEE-EEEEEE!!!"
Jamie collapsed in a heap upon the floor, against the far wall of the ballroom where his wild dancing had carried him. He looked like a wreck, his flab practically extending across his lap to touch the floor on either sides of him.
Renquist laughed with delight at the boy's humiliation, but collected himself as he began to slip into another wheezing fit.
Jamie felt as if he were about to cry—that he needed to cry—but the tears would not come.
"Oh, don't be such a baby," Renquist sneered. "You'll be able to cry at night, after Devin has been put to bed. You'll regain some semblance of free movement then, but never enough to approach either Devin or myself, and certainly not enough to leave the premises or do something that would draw attention to yourself. I've seen to that."
Renquist leaned in and looked Jamie in the eye. "Now, who are you, you little shit?"
Jamie looked up at the cruel man and knew he was speaking in his own voice, accent or not. "I am Jonbull Radcliffe. I am nothing but a manservant to your son, Devin."
Renquist escorted the fat fool who was resigned to his fate back to Devin's chambers. Devin was already dressing in the attire he preferred, tight dark jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt.
"Jonbull and I were just going over some things," Renquist began, then paused when he saw how Devin was dressed. "Ohh, no. You'll not be dressing up like a little ragamuffin any longer, son. I've instructed Jonbull to pick something out for you more befitting a young man of your stature and position."
Jonbull bowed slightly to Devin and made his way to the dresser on autopilot, as curious as Devin to find what he would select there.
"Let me guess," Devin said, "a little sailor suit with short pants, right? Does it include a lojack?"
"Now son, the more you resist these changes, the more difficult it's going to be for you, so if you'd just accept—"
"What was he writing?"
Renquist stopped at the interruption and even Jamie felt his heart skip a beat. Renquist cleared his throat. "Excuse me?"
"The fat guy.," Devin said. "When I came out of the shower, he was scribbling something on a pad. You wanted to see it. So do I."
Renquist made a dismissive wave of his hand. "Oh, that. Of course you can see it. Here." He handed a slip of paper to his son, one that had been palmed for the actual brainwashed scribbles Jonbull had written. "You're meant to see it."
Devin looked at the paper. "A checklist? A fuckin' Honey Do list? You're scheduling my day now?"
"A day that starts with you focusing on the family business," Renquist said. "And as you have a lot to do in that regard, I suggest you begin immediately and save your bitching and moaning for another time." Renquist turned to leave and remarked, "Manservant John will see to your every need, and that you don't stray from your appointed tasks. Carry on."
Jamie, who realized he really was just a brutish manservant, plucked conservative attire from Devin's wardrobe and knew that what Renquist had said was true. Whether the fat Jonbull liked it or not.
* * * * *
Devin set to work on his assigned tasks with far less reticence than Jonbull expected. He'd made a few snide remarks about the bulk of his new keeper, deciding that he would call him anything he wished, be it Lieutenant Lardass or Corporal Corpulent, and as his manservant, Jonbull would have to accept it. Jonbull did. Eventually, Devin opted to go with "Corpy" as his chosen moniker of affection, or total lack thereof.
Jonbull escorted Devin to the library, a room which he had never entered before that day. It was huge and impressive, with high shelves filled with books upon books covering every subject from classic literature to world history to, of course, the family business.
There was a sizable stack of ledgers and paperwork pertaining to the family business that seemed to Jonbull more like legitimate endeavors than mere busywork. Devin, attired against his better wishes in very expensive dark slacks, dress shoes, a cashmere sweater vest and conservative tie, grumbled at first but soon set to work with what appeared to be genuine concentration. If he had resigned to his fate as Jamie had to his, he did so with far less resistance and considerably less prodding.
By day's end, Devin retired to his room to change for dinner (something he had to do as evening meals were now required to be shared with his father in the dining hall) and Jonbull found himself plodding, preprogrammed, to what would be his chambers.
Jonbull's room was in the servant's wing of the house, which was far less lavishly furnished and more utilitarian in its design. Jonbull trod into his room, a small cramped space with only the basics of a bed and table and closet. Actually, there were two beds. Jonbull did not give the extra accommodation much thought as he waddled over to the closet and opened it up. There, like some theatrical wardrobe or cruel joke, were a series of identical outfits, all neatly lined up, all designed to fit the massive girth of the young man who was now Jonbull. The same jacket, the same trousers, the same riding boots all lined up below each outfit, a series of top hats along the shelf above. this was indeed his life now.
Jonbull sat heavily upon the bed and tried to weep. No tears would come, as his free time had not been allowed just yet. Jamie's lower lip curled downward in despair and his eyes squinted in attempt to make the tears come, but again to no avail. Jamie caught his reflection in the full length mirror upon the back of his door. He saw the ridiculous caricature that sat there on the bed, the fat and ludicrous man who was Jonbull, who was him. His lower lip hung down, his mouth trembling, Jamie thought the massive imbecile was repulsive, as surely his former lover must. Jonbull snatched up the clock that sat upon the bedside table to hurl and smash the mirror to pieces. But his reflection wavered as the door opened. In stepped Cuthbert.
"Huhlloo," Cuthbert slurred. "We'rtoo be rhummates, yassth."
Wonderful. As if the day couldn't get any better, Jonbull realized that on top of everything else, the Renquist's moron butler was to be his roommate. thus the need for the second bed.
"How splendid," Jonbull said, his face a large grimace.
"Thurley we'll getalonng VAMously," Cuthbert said, a bit of slobber decorating the floor around him as he spoke.
"No doubt," Jonbull said, wondering if killing this idiot in his sleep would also be prohibited by the strange suit that encapsulated and controlled him.
A harsh buzz came from the wall near the door. It was an intercom. Jonbull got up—with some effort—and hit the button. "Jonbull here. How may I be of assistance?" he had wanted to say, "Yeah, what?!" but his vocal chords wouldn't even give him that much satisfaction.
Renquist's voice answered back. "Ah, my fat slob of a slave boy. Go see that Devin is properly dressed for dinner and then escort him to the dining hall. You'll be waiting on us. Be sure to get right on up there so you can see his attractive body as he changes and know you can never touch it again. off you go, then, Jonbull."
Inside, Jamie ached, but his obedient finger pressed the intercom button, and he replied, "Yessir, right away, sir."
As Jonbull moved to leave the room, he noticed that Cuthbert looked at him askance. The fool had obviously heard the exchange between Jonbull and Renquist, but what did he make of it? Did he think by those comments that Jonbull was a pedophile or something? Why else would the master of the house point out that his fat manservant could never lay a hand on his son? When Cuthbert met Jonbull's gaze. he quickly looked away. Whatever thoughts were rolling around in his addled head, he kept them to himself.
Jonbull stood at Devin's door and rapped twice.
"Yeah, what?" came Devin's voice from within.
Must be nice, Jonbull thought, upon hearing the words he could never speak. "I've come to see that you are properly attired for dinner Master Devin," he called back.
"Right, sure. Whatever," Devin said.
Jonbull entered the room to find Devin standing there, buck naked before his open wardrobe. Jonbull's eyes bugged out like a cartoon character, causing Devin to laugh at him. "Don't be such a puss, fatboy," Devin laughed. "You're gonna see a lot worse than this if you're assigned to hang around me all the time."
"Yessir," Jonbull said, "very good, sir."
Jonbull entered but saw Devin with Jamie's eyes. God, he wanted him so badly. He wanted to go up behind the slender rich boy and kiss his long neck, massage his firm shoulders, caress his supple ass. He wanted to turn the boy around and kiss him madly, throw him on the bed and make love to him right then and there. But as he waddled across the room, feeling his fat suit's flab jiggle all around him, he knew those days were long gone. He ached once again for the comfort of tears.
"Hey, Corpy, toss me that evening shirt, willya?"
Jonbull went to the wardrobe and produced a very handsome white tuxedo shirt. Very gingerly, he handed it to Devin.
"Thanks, pudge." Devin saw how Jonbull cringed a bit as Devin's fingers made brief contact with his stubby fat ones, how he pulled away quickly. Misreading Jonbull's distaste, Devin laughed again. "Relax, Corpy. You are so not my type."
Not anymore, thought Jamie from inside his suit.
Devin stood before the mirror and adjusted his shirt collar. "That fucking bustard," he muttered.
"Beg pardon, sir?" Jonbull said.
"I just know my father is behind all this," Devin said, not turning back from the mirror. "I don't know what he did, I don't know how, but I know damn well, as sure as I'm standing here that that miserable bastard got rid of my Jamie."
Jonbull's heart began to beat faster. It was distracting enough, watching his lover stand there bare-assed, fiddling with that flattering shirt, but now there was another reason to pay attention. Perhaps there would be a way for Jamie, inside his identity as Jonbull, to convey his plight to Devin.
Devin turned to face Jonbull. He fussed with his cuffs, still not having buttoned his shirt, his considerable manhood left hanging out in the open.
"I mean, why would someone who loved me that much make himself scarce after just being tossed out of the house once? He'd have to try to come see, me to call at least," Devin surmised. "Unless, of course, a certain heartless shit did something to him." Devin paused, thinking. "Man, you don't think dad bought him off, do you?"
Jonbull was going nuts inside, being so close to his near-naked boyfriend but feeling as if he may as well be miles away. "Uh, er...if I may so observe, Master Devin, if the lad's affection was what you say it was, I doubt his disloyalty could be purchased so readily."
Devin eyed Jonbull. "Why, Corpy. Am I making you uncomfortable, standing here like this?"
"Er, ah, no sir. Not at all."
"Then why are you sweating like a cold water pipe in July?"
Jonbull felt his forehead, and true enough, he was perspiring like a babbling brook. Jamie had never been a free perspirer, but evidently the Jonbull suit was set up so that he would gush like a water main during stressful situations. Anything to make him appear more the fool.
"Ahh, yes, it must be the humidity," Jonbull offered lamely.
Devin sat on the edge of his bed and lay back. "Oh, I dunno, Corpy. I think you may be a bit taken aback by someone who's as...free...about his sexuality as I am." Devin began to stroke himself, slowly. "Ohhh, yeah. That's the ticket." He moaned softly, Jonbull gushed profusely. Devin tickled his balls and rolled his head back. "Ohhh, mannn. Since Jamie's been gone I have been so fucking horny."
Devin traced the length of his abs and upward to his chest with his fingertips. "So desperate for interaction and no beau to help me get off. Oh, the mortification." Devin caressed his with one hand neck, then grasped his rod with the other, beginning to pump it. "How'sabout that, Jonny boy? You like that?" Devin cocked an eyebrow and grinned devilishly at Jonbull. "Y'know, I think part of the reason my dad was so keen to get rid of my boyfriend is that he still has trouble dealing with the fact that I'm gay." Devin pumped himself more vigorously, moaning with exaggerated pleasure.
Jonbull was sweating so much he could barely see past the flow of perspiration. "If you would care to have some time alone, Master Devin—," and the bulbous figure moved quickly toward the door. Devin was before him, blocking his way, in an instant.
"Whats'amatter, huh? You don't think I'm very appealing? Is that it?"
Inside, Jamie wanted to flip Devin around, push him against the door and screw him standing. But he was forced to say, "Sir, I hardly think such an observation lies within my purview to state—"
Devin began to hump the rubbery girth that was Jonbull's tummy. "Oh, yeah. I think you want to say something, don'tcha? You want to say how hot I am. You really want to gimme a big fat wet kiss—" Devin paused in his rebellious taunting and looked at Jonbull's gut. "Dude, you feel like a fricking medicine ball."
Jonbull blinked rapidly, trying to clear the sweat from his vision. "As you say, sir."
Devin laughed out loud, then slapped his manservant on the back as he walked back toward the wardrobe. "Corpy, you're okay." Devin snatched up a pair of black evening dress pants and begin to step into them.
Jonbull wiped his brow as he watched Devin cover himself. "Sir, no under garments this evening, sir?"
"Nah. Gonna go commando. Gotta take my bits of revenge where I can." Devin deliberately gyrated his hips as he slowly pulled up his pants, enjoying the look of shock and awe on Jonbull's fat face.
"I shall await you in the hallway, sir, if I may," Jonbull said, as he hurried out the door.
"Whatever frosts your cookies," Devin chided. But as Jonbull closed the bedroom door, he heard Devin mutter something to himself.
"Just know that bastard is behind all this. And I'll be damned if I'm not gonna find out."
Dinner was a stiff and uncomfortable affair. Renquist sat at the opposite end of the table from Devin, a length of some fifteen feet between them. Jonbull waited on them, going back and forth with more wine, bread, and dishes of food as they emerged from the kitchens. He was the only thing going back and forth.
"I looked over the paperwork you saw to today, son," Renquist beamed. "Fine work. I knew you'd be the right man for the company with sufficient grooming for the task. Have you considered looking into what the different departments have to offer?"
"So what did you do with him?" Devin asked pointedly.
"Oh, please," Renquist moaned. "We're having a perfectly civil conversation. Tell me you're not going to start raving about some paranoid fantasy that I had anything to do with your latest fling's departure beyond seeing him to the door."
"I know you did," Devin insisted, "and he wasn't just some fling!"
"And what could he possibly offer you, Devin? What possible benefit could his relationship with you bring, apart from moments of sexual depravity?"
"More pate, sir?" Jonbull offered, feeling the urge to interrupt the conversation, no doubt prompted to help cover what Renquist had done.
"Not now, you idiot!" Renquist snapped. "Go help in the kitchen or something!"
"Stay put, Corpy," Devin said. "I want us all to hear what dad has to say. Did you write him a check, maybe? Or was it a threat of some kind? How did you do it? How did you make someone so devoted up and vanish like that?"
Renquist took a sudden interest in his wine. "Perhaps you didn't know him as well as you thought you did. Perhaps he fled at the first sign of trouble, without any further prompting from me."
"Bullshit!" Devin shouted.
"You will not use that tone with me, not at the dinner table, and certainly not in front of the help!" Renquist screamed back. "How dare you-youuhhh-Hheeeehrrrhh!" Renquist fell into another wheezing fit. Devin was unimpressed this time, and simply sat back with his arms crossed, waiting for it to pass. It did, in relatively short order. When it had passed, Renquist stared daggers at his son.
"Don't hurt yourself rushing to get up to help me or anything."
Devin stabbed a piece of salad with malice. "Don't worry, I won't."
Jonbull offered a lame, preprogrammed smile that made him look like a mental patient. "More vichyssoise, gentlemen?"
The end finally came to the longest day of Jamie's life, his life as Manservant John. He sat on the end of his bed and felt some measure of control returning to him. He prayed quietly, but his voice was still that of a thick-accented British oaf. he tried several times to speak his name and it always came out as Jonbull Radcliffe. He tried to say that he loved Devin and the only words he could form said he was Devin's personal servant. He attempted to give voice to his predicament of being trapped in some technologically advanced fat suit, and all that came out were praises for how ingeniously intelligent "Master Renquist" was. Finally, Jonbull lowered his head and wept.
As the fat man blubbered, in wandered the idiot Cuthbert. Jonbull looked away, not wanting to deal with the oaf butler, but was surprised when said oaf rested a reassuring, if clumsy, hand upon Jonbull's shoulder.
Jonbull looked up at him with tearful eyes. The idiot butler seemed to be trying to comfort his fellow servant, though from his misshapen features, it was hard to tell. His inarticulate utterings did not help.
"Gye nowwuh whasshu feeh. Ditta saymuh mie whenny luvvim."
Jonbull shook his head. "I don't understand you."
Cuthbert held up one finger. Wait a moment.
He then toddled over to the bedside table and rummaged through the bottom drawer. After carefully peeling back a portion of the inside drawer, he pried out something and showed it to Jonbull. It was an old, crumpled photograph.
Jonbull wiped away his tears and looked at the picture. It was a small headshot of a smiling young man of about his mid-twenties. The man had unruly, bright strawberry hair, a slight peppering of freckles over his nose, and a beautiful, broad and boyish smile. There was no doubt he was quite cute, but no clue as to why Cuthbert was showing the photo to his new roommate.
"Tshe?" he gurgled. "Izza heeh!"
Jonbull simply nodded, pretending he understood, as Cuthbert held up one finger again and started to fiddle and fumble with the photo. Jonbull waved him away. He was too exhausted both emotionally and physically, from carrying around his new girth, to play at charades. Jonbull rolled over onto his bed, which creaked beneath his size, but held. Cuthbert tried to gain the fat man's attentions for a little while longer, but then eventually gave up, returned the photo to its hiding place, and went to bed as well.
* * * * *
Breakfast was not much better than dinner the night before. Devin and Renquist sniped at each other, mostly in regard to the son's newfound imprisonment and the absence of his boyfriend. Jonbull was left to dote on both of them, unable to indicate his presence to his lover, nor his hatred for the man that had put him there.
"Am I at least going in with you to the office, to apply all the work you've had me doing here?" Devin asked angrily.
"Not yet. I need to oversee its application myself, to ensure that it's done correctly. besides," Renquist smiled, "As I recall, you said you preferred to work at home."
"Not when the only place I ever get to go is home," Devin retorted.
Renquist got up from the table, taking one last sip of his coffee. "And whose fault is that?" He then turned to the fat man nearby. "Jonbull! My jacket."
Jonbull then had to help his master into his suit jacket, unable to act on all impulses to wrap it around the man's neck and strangle him with it.
As he departed, Renquist fired a hateful look into Jonbull's eyes. "Do see to it that my boy stays out of trouble, won't you? There's a good fellow."
Jonbull followed his charge upstairs to his room, where the day's ensemble and another considerable workload was laid out for Devin. As Devin shucked off his robe and looked over his conservative attire of navy blues and grays, softly counting to himself. "Five...four...three...two..." Uncertain what the countdown meant, Jonbull arranged the day's paperwork. That is, until the smell hit his nose.
"And one," Devin whispered. Then, turning around in mock alarm, he declared, "My lands, what an aroma! Whatever can THAT be, I wonder!"
Jonbull stared back at him dumbly, and Devin jerked his head toward the private bath. "Better go check it out, Corpy."
Jonbull did so, and upon opening the door was struck with a virtual wall of stench. He tumbled backwards, almost bouncing along the floor as he fell over.
"Dear me," Devin said. "Looks like the toilet's clogged and backed up. That used to happen a lot around here when I was little and wanted to escape my nanny. How odd it should recur just in time for you to enjoy it." Devin opened up the small cupboard near the shower and pointed to some rubber gloves and a series of brushes, drain openers, and cleaning supplies. "Better get busy, Corpy. I'll be down working in the library. Where there aren't any toilets."
Jonbull rose to his feet, not without considerable effort, and said, "Master Devin, Mister Renquist has entrusted me with your care, and as such it may be best that I remain at your side. Mayhap we should summon a plumber to see to this problem."
Devin got eye to eye with Jonbull. "And while daddy dear is gone, I'm in charge. You obey me. And I say, get down on your pudgy little knees and start plunging and scrubbing. NOW."
Jonbull tried to open his mouth to speak, but felt an overwhelming urge to obey at all costs. However Renquist had him wired, Jonbull was helpless to resist the direct command of either man of the household, apparently. "Yes, sir!" Jonbull answered crisply. "Very good, sir. Right away, sir!"
In an instant, Jonbull was hunched down, fighting against his own blubber, and plunging away at the toilet bowl, filth and backwash sloshing about him.
"That's better, fatso," Devin said, and made his way out of the room.
At regular intervals, Jonbull got up from his humiliating chore and looked in on the library where, to his dismay, Devin had gone to work rather than slipping out on some daytrip escape. Eventually, Jonbull got the toilet unclogged and the filthy bathroom cleaned up and sanitized. As he made his way to the library, however, he was struck with another dreadful smell. Jonbull ducked into the next room, which were large guest chambers, and found the toilet in that bathroom clogged and backing up as well.
As he stepped out into the hallway to inform his young master that he'd be further detained, another, equally foul smell hit his nostrils. The next room over, the master bedroom suite, was also suffering from a clogged toilet. As was the next room over, and the one on the next floor. And the one off the kitchen. And near the billiard room.
Jonbull dashed, waddling, his rubbery flab sloshing from side to side, his sweat flowing profusely, to get help, possibly by calling a plumber, perhaps even from Cuthbert, when Devin appeared in his path.
"Sir! Master Devin! T'would seem that every loo in the manor has gone balmy! They're all backed up! Without a professional team of plumbers, it will surely take all day to correct this!"
Devin smiled menacingly. "Then you'd better get to it, hadn't you? And be quick about it, tubs. It's getting pretty ripe in here. I'll continue working on the patio. In the fresh air."
Jonbull stood there, dumbfounded. He stood there watching the former love of his life walk away, the weight of his fat suit—his body—hanging heavily around his limbs and his middle, his rubber face drenched in sweat, the faint odor of discharge clinging to his absurd uniform. Now he would have to do the same chore again and again? How much humiliation would he have to endure?
A disturbing gurgling sound came from the bathroom behind Jonbull, and he realized he would have start enduring before the house was flooded with backwash and poo.
Jonbull set to work, utterly demoralized, his arms plunged into toilet after toilet, his flabby knees soaked in overflow, his manufactured brow gushing rivers of fetid sweat. By the time he'd reached the third subsequent toilet, with it's stench of obstruction, he'd had enough. Tired, rancid, and outraged, Jonbull decided to hell with his orders, and tromped over to the nearest phone (in this case a 1927 gold and porcelain model with pink rose pattern base in one of the guest rooms) and grabbed the receiver to call a plumber. Or a dozen.
When information came on the line, with a prerecorded, "What city, please?" Jonbull was ready to scream his location and hire the most expensive plumber he could find. But that's not what came out of his mouth.
"I say! How do you start a pudding race, et wot?"
The tape on the other end paused, then played back, "I'm sorry, please repeat that. What city, please?"
Jonbull answered his own comment. "Say go! Jolly good, eh?"
For the next several minutes, each time Jonbull tried to make his request, he was confounded by his hijacked vocal cords which spat lunacy in his thick British accent. By the time an actual operator picked up the line, Jonbull was singing again.
"Merr-ee OLLD England--!"
"I'm sorry sir, is this going to be an international call?"
Jonbull slammed the phone down in frustration. He was stuck with the task at hand. A fat, humiliated puppet doing the bidding of his masters. Head hung low, he waddled back to his undesirable task.
By day's end, all was right with the plumbing at the Renquist manor, and Jonbull was a malodorous mess. The fat man stood in the foyer as Nigel Renquist, returned from work, dressed down his son.
"My God, Devin! What are, six years old again?? What the hell were you thinking?!"
"I was thinking that I can't work with Corporal Corpulent over there looming over me with his piggy eyes. I was thinking he needed a hobby to keep him busy, so I gave him one."
Renquist began to quiver. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you—how could you be so disrespectful—so irresponsible!" He turned to the soaked and reeking Jonbull. "And you! Have you no judgment at all? Why didn't you call in a plumber!!" As he said this, Renquist flashed a wicked look at the captured Jamie, clearly knowing full well why no outside aid had been summoned. "Perhaps you and I need to have a little conference as to WHOSE orders take precedence for you around here. Perhaps all that fat has absorbed your common sense--!!"
Devin held out a thick folder to his raging father, who seemed to be on the verge of another wheezing fit. "Anyway, here's the stuff you gave me to do today."
Renquist stopped short, looking at the folder that had been extended to him. After a moment to recognize what he'd been offered, Renquist snatched the paperwork away angrily. His anger subsided when he began to flip through the pages. "Devin...this is brilliant. This is really top-notch work here." His tone softened as he went on, "I suppose you could have run off but instead you did what was expected of you. I'm impressed."
"Run where?" Devin asked. "I have no idea where you stashed my Jamie. Or sent him off to."
"Now son, we're not going to start all that again." Renquist looked back at Jonbull, "You are considerably fortunate that my son completed his tasks while you were chasing your fat tail from commode to commode today." Renquist turned back toward the depths of the house. "Cuthbert!"
The cloddish butler was at his side in an instant.
"Yetthuh? Athyur therviss, yaas."
"Take this blundering fat oaf out to the stables and hose him down. He stinks to high heaven."
"The stables, sir??" Jonbull asked, somewhat alarmed.
"I'll not have you tromping back through the house in your state. Not after you'd gone to such lengths to get it cleaned up." Then, to Cuthbert, he went on, "After he's cleaned up, he's still serving us at dinner, and I expect him to be April fresh." He glared at Jonbull, "Just because you've been doing char work all day does not excuse you from your regularly appointed tasks."
Cuthbert took Jonbull by his flabby arm and lead him away, out the side door. As he was escorted outside, Jonbull glanced back and saw Renquist sneering at the fat manservant. A small wheeze escaped the side of his mouth, but Renquist's teeth remained gritted tight as his victim was led away.
At the stables, Cuthbert clumsily stripped Jonbull of his uniform and stood him up against one of the empty stalls. For what it was worth, Jamie found that some of his speech had returned, even if his words were still held within his assumed accent.
"God curse that bloody rapscallion! Am I to remain stuck like this for my lifetime? Tis an outrage, I say!"
Cuthbert picked up a hose and prepared the nozzle as best he could to spray Jonbull down. The manservant would be denied even the dignity of using the shower in the staff quarters. Cuthbert tried to offer some words of comfort, but of course they cam out as gibberish.
"Tho thorry hastoo beelikkizz, yaas."
"Oh, bloody devil! Do let's just get on with it," Jonbull grumbled.
"Sorry I got you in so much trouble."
Jonbull turned to see Devin standing in the doorway of the stable, leaning against the frame. Jonbull looked at him and for the first time saw him with disdain. He looked away. Devin went on, "I just figured that if I gave you enough shit..." Jonbull looked angrily at him. "Sorry, bad choice of words. That if I gave you a hard enough time, you'd up and quit. Guess that's not going to be the case." Jonbull said nothing.
Devin watched as Cuthbert unsuccessfully fought with the hose and it's nozzle attachment. "Here, let me do that."
Cuthbert tried to fend Devin off, but was less than effective. "Pleezuh, thissass bin asshinnduh meyuh."
"If we leave it to you, we'll be here all night. I don't want my boy Corpy getting into more trouble for being late to serve us our dinner." Devin nodded toward a yellow canister set upon a nearby cart. "Grab the animal-safe disinfectant cleanser. That's the only thing that's gonna get that smell off him."
Jonbull began to feel very uncomfortable, being naked before Devin. certainly, he had been naked with him many times before as his boyfriend, but there was something so much more...revealing...about being there in the humiliating fat suit that left Jamie, inside of Jonbull, feeling terribly exposed. He fumbled with his meaty hands in attempt to cover himself.
"Now's not the time to be shy," Devin reprimanded him. "Besides, it's not as if I could see your man parts under that low-hanging belly, anyway. Close your eyes."
For the next ten minutes, Devin hosed off his flabby man Friday with freezing water and antiseptic-smelling soap. Jonbull almost thought he could not be more dehumanized than this, then thought better of such ideas, fearing that something worse could always lie around the corner.
As Cuthbert retrieved the fresh uniform Devin had hung on the outside door for Jonbull, Devin seemed to almost be enjoying the spray-down of his assigned manservant.
"Looks like we're stuck with each other, huh, Corpy?"
"Indubitably," Jonbull replied in between glugs as the soapy solution struck his face.
* * * * *
Dinner passed in relative silence, with a number of evil glances shot across the table length between father and son. After Devin had retired to bed, Renquist spent a few more minutes pointing out what a clueless imbecile Jonbull was before sending him off to bed as well.
In his tiny quarters, Jonbull lay crying into his pillow, horrified at what his life had become. It was well after midnight when Jonbull felt a furious tapping upon his large shoulder. Jonbull rolled over to find Cuthbert there, still fully clothed, trying to rouse his roommate.
"Cumm! Yew mustha cumma meh, nahw!"
"I say, what the devil are you saying?" Jonbull said.
Cuthbert waved about his precious little photo of the cute redheaded boy, then waved his hands toward the door. "Nawh! Cumm nawh!!"
Jonbull rolled his eyes. It was almost as bad as trying to understand that Lassie was telling ma and pa that Timmy was down the well. Clearly Cuthbert would not rest until Jonbull followed him, for whatever reason. Jonbull threw back his covers and struggled to his feet. Every inch of him was sore after the day's event, rolls of rubber padding be damned.
"Very well then, lead on, MacDuff."
Cuthbert was surprisingly stealthy for a man who fumbled and tripped his way around the manor all day long. If not for his cartoonish appearance and mannerisms, Cuthbert would almost seem to be moving as a normal person. He led Jonbull to the main dining room, separate from the private hall in which Devin and Renquist dined each evening. This one the room in which Renquist had confronted Jamie that fateful night, the last night he would be seen as Jamie. Cuthbert ushered Jonbull over to the mantle, signaling that there was something untoward or unusual about it's moldings. With his great paws fumbling less than usual, Cuthbert manipulated the decor of the mantle, which Jonbull saw, even in the dim light, were actually switches.
There was the solid click of a mechanical latch, and then the soft hum of gears as the mantle rolled back within the wall to reveal a dimly-lit spiral staircase.
Jonbull's eyes bulged in surprise. "What the deuce?"
Cuthbert urged Jonbull to follow him. He did. The made their way down the spiral staircase, Jonbull hearing the soft whirr of gears again as they were about halfway down, leading the fat man to believe that the doorway had closed up above them automatically. At the end of the staircase was a door with a keypad. Cuthbert withdrew a pen from his jacket and stabbed skillfully at the buttons. There was certainly no way that Cuthbert's bloated fingers could manipulate the keypad, but with the pen in hand, he tapped out a code with some measure of skill. There was a quiet tone and a tiny red light at the base of the keypad went out, and the one beside it flicked on in green. The door slid aside with a hiss.
Cuthbert led Jonbull into the room and indicated the surroundings with a wide sweep of his hands.
"Yew theeh? Theewy ah bringoo heah!"
"Angles and ministers of grace defend us," Jonbull uttered. They were back in the room where Jamie was first held prisoner and prepped for his entrapment in the fat suit. The large table, manacles and all, stood in the corner. The floor was sliced hither and yon with tracks and railings, out of which a series of mechanical arms bearing a variety of devices and nozzles were lined up along the far wall. Behind the table, along the wall, out of view of whomever would be held there, was a set of control panels, as well as a monitor, with more switches and buttons than Jonbull could imagine what to do with.
Jonbull turned around and saw that Cuthbert was already on the opposite side of the room from the table, and was urging Jonbull to follow him. "Heeah! Ovuh hyeah!"
Jonbull followed and saw that there was a red-handled lever mounted upon the wall. For what purpose, he had no idea, as it seemed to be attached to nothing. Cuthbert gave the level a downward yank and the wall to the left beside it slid open. It was a panel doorway, but was so masterfully concealed that there was no indication of it until it was opened. Cuthbert moved quickly into the next room and this time Jonbull needed no prompting to follow. It was a tight squeeze to get Jonbull's fat through the passageway, but once through he fund it well worth the effort.
"By the white cliffs of Dover..." Jonbull gasped.
The room was filled with huge machines and large vats that gurgled and bubbled softly. The air was thick with the chemical smell of rubber. Large hoses extended from some of the smaller vats and dripped thick solutions into different containers, some of which were lined on their outer casing with small lights and readout panels and gauges.
Centermost of the machines and vats was a large computer screen with a slideshow of sorts showing data and formulas of how the rubber solutions might be applied. Upon the screen appeared a very placid image of Jamie, a she had been just days before, bare naked, hands at his sides like an anatomical study in a textbook. The image of Jamie then shifted to his body in a wire framework, as line after line of text blipped upon the screen beside him, detailing various aspects of his physique. Next appeared an image of Jamie as he was now, as the bulbous Jonbull, and the pattern repeated, with the fleshy image going to framework, and more text detailing the different aspects of the figure's build and scope.
Then the two images appeared side by side, with small cursor arrows bringing attention to the vast differences of the two figures. Soon, Jamie's form was highlighted and brought over to Jonbull's, there to be absorbed by the much larger figure. Then the naked Jonbull was clothed in his uniform and the figure slowly rotated while more formulas and calculations appeared upon the screen around it.
Jonbull turned to Cuthbert. "This is how he did it, is it not?"
Cuthbert nodded vigorously.
"This all seems a bit elaborate for the design and application of a fat suit," Jonbull mused, taking in all that appeared on the large screen. "Most of this must have to do with the glue or binding solution or whatever the devil it was that keeps me trapped in this thing." He looked again at Cuthbert. "Do you know how this thing works? Can you undo what's been done to me?"
Cuthbert shook his head fiercely. He then leaned over to the keyboard and tried to pound out something on the monitor, but his cumbersome fingers hit multiple keys at once, obscuring the message. On the screen, the result of his efforts appeared.
The computer beeped angrily. The following text appeared in a harsh blue marquee:
INVALID ENTRY. RETRY.
"Blast!" Jonbull cursed. He looked down at the keyboard but had no idea what he was looking at, nor what he should do next. He asked Cuthbert, "Can you try it again?"
Cuthbert shook his head even more vigorously. He tried the keyboard, this time with a faster response from a new marquee.
INVALID ENTRY. IF FOLLOWING ENTRY IS NOT VALID, SYSTEM SHUTDOWN WILL COMMENCE. SAFETY FEATURE LK-392. ALL DATA NOT SAVED WILL BE LOST.
Jonbull pounded his fist upon the console. "Bloody death and hell!" he let out a sigh and looked at Cuthbert. "So what can you do, now that you've brought me all this way?"
Cuthbert waved Jonbull over toward the far end of the console. he opened a drawer, which slid out easily. In it was a large silver device that looked like a cross between a surgical utensil and a hacksaw. Cuthbert lifted it up and held it before Jonbull.
Jonbull's eyes grew wide. "I say! What ever are you going to do with that?"
Cuthbert jerked the two-foot long blade up and down in a cutting motion.
"I rather think not!" Jonbull snapped, and turned away.
Once his back was turned, Cuthbert did not wait to get permission. He plunged the massive blade into the small of Jonbull's back as far as he could. Jonbull screamed. Not pausing, Cuthbert raked the blade upward, causing a mustard-colored goo to pour out of Jonbull's back, steaming upon the floor. Jonbull screamed louder. Cuthbert returned the blade to the drawer, which receded silently. Jonbull was on his knees, flailing about, feeling as if the skin on his back were being flayed from bones. The strange seepage that had sprayed the floor was beginning to steam, dissolving rapidly, leaving a pungent chemical smell in the air that dissipated rapidly.
Jonbull tried to crawl away from the insane lunatic who had stabbed him, but Cuthbert grabbed hold of his shoulders, displaying the strength that Jamie had encountered when he had first been ejected from the premises.
"Egad, unhand me, you maniac!" Jonbull cried, battling excruciating pain at the same time he was trying to fend off the mad butler.
Cuthbert's hand clamped over Jonbull's mouth, stifling any further cries, and he crammed his other hand into the shredded rubber that was Jonbull's back. With the sound of terrible tearing, Cuthbert worked his hand upwards, underneath the rubbery skin over Jonbull's right shoulder. The fat man was sweating again, torrents of perspiration sprinkling the floor, mingling briefly with the yellowish goop, adding to the smell before evaporating as well.
Jonbull's head was spinning with pain as Cuthbert continued to work his way under the rubber fat suit that made up the manservant's oversized body. Jonbull was on the verge of passing out when Cuthbert released his hold upon the large man's face, smacking him about the cheeks to rouse him. Jonbull blinked, starting to come around, struck not so much by the pain he'd been feeling—which was fading, thank heaven—but by the sensation along his right arm, which felt very wet and cold.
Jonbull looked at his arm. And saw Jamie's arm there. He could scarcely believe his eyes. The fat arm of Jonbull lay hanging from his shoulder to rest limp upon the floor. Held out before him was the arm of Jamie, slender, pale, and dripping with the yellowish goo that already spattered the floor. His arm had been freed from the godforsaken fat suit that had been his prison. Gasping for breath, head filled with relief, Jonbull (with Jamie's right arm protruding form him) spat out, "Get...the rest of me out."
Cuthbert nodded, and began to work both hands upon the increasingly-loosened rubber flesh of Jonbull's back, when a high-pitched whine came from the computer console. A gold marquee appeared upon the monitor.
DAILY VIRUS SCAN/MAINTENANCE BEGINS IN THIRTY SECONDS.
SECURITY ROOM SWEEP BEGINS IN TWENTY-NINE SECONDS.
A line of slender electric-blue lasers began to dance along the far wall, riding smoothly over the surface of the equipment and vats, as a series of fast-moving scan bars and percentage readouts flew across the monitor.
"Get us...out of here...quickly," Jonbull gasped.
The duo grunted and struggled their way back to the doorway panel only to see it slide shut before them and lock firmly in place. As Cuthbert tried to pry it open, another series of light beams whirled in a star-pattern across its surface, verifying that all was secure. The ooze that had fallen upon the floor had already dissolved and filled the air with a harsh stink, so the lasers which swept the floor found nothing there but smooth concrete. That would not be the case if the beams reached the oafish Cuthbert and the only-partially free Jonbull/Jamie at the other end of the room.
Cuthbert pulled Jonbull as far away from the oncoming beams as possible, squashing them into the far corner of the room. They stepped upon a ridged pad, not unlike a doormat. Had they been in anything other than a state of panic, it would no doubt have struck the two as strange that there would be a small mat over in the corner of the room. But the mat gave way every so slightly under the duo's weight, and like an activation pad at an old grocery store, the weight upon the pad opened a door behind them. Cuthbert and Jonbull spilled backwards into the small cubby, the door sliding closed behind them just moments before the sweeping beams would have reached them.
Panting, gasping, in no small amount of pain, the awkward twosome paused in relief as the tiny room in which they were crammed rose steadily upwards.
"It's a dumbwaiter or something," Jonbull thought.
And he was right. The small elevator brought the two up to the main level of the mansion and opened up in the library. The pair exited the small elevator to watch as its door closed, quickly to be concealed behind a sliding bookcase. The Renquist house was simply full or surprises.
Cuthbert helped Jonbull make his way to the more secluded area of the staff kitchen, at the furthest end of the house. There, the spent and weary Jonbull lay on the floor as Cuthbert grabbed hold of a few utensils and set to work peeling away the rest of the rubber fat suit. It took the better part of half an hour, and as the rubber tore away from the original skin underneath, there was considerable discomfort. The room soon stank of lingering chemicals, but in the end it was worth it.
The body that made up Jonbull lay in a heap on the tiled floor, the face caved in, the limbs flopped this way and that in anatomically impossible positions. And there, naked and free upon the floor amid puddling goo was Jamie.
Jamie breathed hard, thrilled to be out of his costume prison. His body was pasty, still lightly coated with whatever glue or goo had kept him bonded to the suit. His skin felt almost rubbery itself, no doubt due to being encased in similar material for hours on end. Jamie decided he could not wait for the goo to fade away and his flesh to feel normal, and he gasped, "I will never complain about being too skinny for as long as I live."
"Which may not be for much longer if I have anything to say about it."
Jamie looked up and saw Renquist standing before them in his pajamas and dressing gown, a look of fury upon his face. Cuthbert, who only moments before had a ridiculous grin on his face that made him look even more foolish than usual, now looked horrified. He dropped his cutting instruments and pliers with a clatter upon the floor.
Renquist jabbed an angry finger at the door. "Get. Out. I will deal with you later, you traitorous wretch."
Cuthbert fled the room, his large feet flopping noisily against the tile as he muttered profuse apologies. He gave one last sorrowful look of regret to Jamie before finally departing.
Renquist took in the scene. Jamie lay upon the floor, too tired to make a run for it. But the results of his labors lay all around him. The fat suit was vacated and shredded. The gluey ooze was evaporating before the rich man's eyes, filling the room with its chemical stench. Renquist saw his work undone and began to twitch in anger.
"How—how—how could you even Do this? How is this possible? You shouldn't have been able to get out of the suit! At this point you shouldn't even have the strength, much less the willpower! God, this is unthinkable!!" Renquist appeared so fraught with outrage that his body actually began to convulse and spasm as if he were on the verge of a seizure. His arms flailed about him and his legs nearly buckled, his wheezing beginning again.
"Huuhrrr! WheeeeeeHHHHHthththzzz!! Haaaaahhhrrhhh!!"
But very quickly, Renquist composed himself, and forced his eyes down on the prone Jamie. "I trust, at least, you lack the wherewithal to run away."
Jamie could barely sit up partway, much less stand up or run, this much was true. "But I'm not so spent that I can't call for my boyfriend," Jamie snarled. "After he finds out about this, he may very well kill you." Jamie dropped his jaw and let fly with all his might to call out one word. DEVIN!!!
Or he would have, had any sound come out of his mouth.
Jamie lay there, pantomiming screams for help, but all that came out was empty air. Jamie felt his face, his lips, his throat, and could find nothing wrong. There was no gag there, no restraint, but there was also no sound.
"You poor deluded fool," Renquist said, shaking his head.
Jamie continued to attempt to cry out, but still there was no sound.
Renquist pulled out his remote control from the pocket of his dressing gown. It was same remote he had use don Jamie when he'd first captured the young man and strapped him to that table in the basement. Renquist shook it about to make certain Jamie saw it. Jamie saw it. Renquist played across the keypad on the remote control and then smiled at Jamie. "Try again," he said.
Jamie looked fearful (with good reason), and gingerly raised his fingertips to his mouth, then to his throat. He was afraid to try to say anything.
"Go on, then," Renquist said.
Jamie tried to just say four words. "My name is Jamie," is what he'd intended. What came out was the cluck of a chicken. "BuhKAWK! Byuk-buk-buk-BaKAWWKK!" Jamie slapped his hands over his mouth, clamping his lips closed.
"I'm still very much in control of you," Renquist announced unnecessarily. "Hands down, now." Unbidden, Jamie's hands fell from his mouth. "Let's try this now, shall we?" Renquist mused. He pressed a few more buttons and then pointed the remote towards Jamie again. Jamie spoke, though his eyes conveyed his surprise at what came pouring out past his lips.
"I say! I do apologize, good sir, for my foul effrontery. It was most unsporting of me to strip away the jolly good fat suit into which you'd put so much effort to give me a proper home as the lowly servant I am, and the man I was meant to be, the oafish Jonbull. Pray, can you be so good as to put me back there, eh wot?"
Jamie shook his head slowly, back and forth, tears forming in his eyes. He mouthed the words, "no, no, no, no" over and over. Adrenaline pumped through him and no doubt he would have found the energy and strength to make a run for it, were his legs still his to control. But of course, they weren't.
"Never fear," Renquist said. "I won't be putting you back into the suit," he assured the slight young man. But then, he added, "I don't need to." Renquist opened the back of the remote and removed a small device from a compartment there. He fastened it skillfully to the head of the remote and made a few more adjustments on the keypad. He pointed the realigned device again at Jamie. "The suit was never meant to be the end, it was merely part of the means. Allow me to demonstrate."
With the sound of an air pump being turned on to full blast, Jamie's belly suddenly inflated like a great balloon. "N-no--!" Jamie cried, although his cry was cut short as Renquist adjusted the remote to kill the volume of Jamie's voice. Jamie's slender build began to undulate and expand. His chest filled out to becomes flabby, hanging teats, and his limbs began to bulge and swell like a time-lapse diet infomercial run in reverse.
"The suit was merely a gestation device," Renquist narrated as the change took hold of poor Jamie. "The yellowish goop was all part of the rubber formula I'd concocted. The miniature computerized devices that lined the rubber of the Jonbull costume are nothing compared to the strength of the signals of the mechanisms now laced within your body."
Jamie felt his hands and feet puff out, growing to grotesque and fleshy caricatures of what they were meant to be. He felt like a parade balloon being inflated and prepared for flying display above a holiday crowd.
"The formula usually needs only twenty-four hours or so to fully transform the human body so it is fully responsive to the change into a rubber character," Renquist went on, evidently unaware or uncaring of Jamie's terror. "Mind you, I would have preferred to leave you in the suit for a week before activating your metamorphosed skin and body, but it seems you're responding just fine after only a couple days."
Jamie felt his face fill up, his fine young features puffing out, his cheeks looking first like a chipmunk's, then like the fat man whom he'd been disguised as. His slender neck bloated to house double chins, his vibrant eyes grew lids which sagged heavily above them, with bags and lines forming below and around them. his brow bulged, furrowed, and hung heavily beneath his hairline, which receded.
"You did royally screw up my big plans for the weekend," Renquist stated. "I was really looking forward to freeing you from the suit myself—which, incidentally, would have been a lot less painful than however Cuthbert did it—and leading you to believe that I was going to let you go. Only to then inflate you as you thought you were making good your escape." Renquist lamented that silently a moment. "I was really looking forward to that. Still, this isn't half bad, after all."
Jamie was gone now. The massive, flabby, corpulent form of Jonbull had returned in full. Only now, it wasn't a mere suit that Jamie was trapped inside. Now he was the suit. Jamie had never felt so violated, so helpless in his life.
Renquist smiled. "And who might this be, sitting here on the staff's kitchen floor?"
Jonbull looked dazed and lost. Without prompting from any remote, he answered his master. "I'm Jonbull. I...I'm your humble servant. Forced...forced to follow your wishes."
"Damn right you are," Renquist snapped.
And Jonbull, stuck there in his new and, apparently permanent, identity, felt his face crumple. In a voice that was not his own, he began to cry.
* * * * *
Jonbull was still weeping when he returned to his room a little while later. Renquist had toyed with the idea of making the fat man (which is what poor Jamie was now, as the suit was long gone) stroll naked back to his quarters, but instead had put him in an oversized night shirt. Jonbull didn't think it was possible for anyone to feel as terrible as he did at that moment. Until he opened the door to his room and saw Cuthbert sitting on his bunk, bawling hysterically.
"I say," Jonbull drawled, "whatever is the trouble here?"
Cuthbert was inconsolable. His wailing mingled with his already near-incoherent speech and made a horrendous noise. Tears flowed freely from his eyes and Cuthbert rocked back and forth as he sat there. His toes pointed inward toward one anther, and his clumsy hands grasped at his head, pulling away his normally plastered hair in tufts, leaving it to stand on end in wild stalks. His blubbering echoed around the small room, filling the air with his wretched keening.
Jonbull tried to extend a hand to the odd servant, resting a meaty palm upon his arm, but Cuthbert flailed about, pushing the larger man away. As Cuthbert's arms shoved Jonbull aside, something fell from his palm and fluttered to the floor. Jonbull leaned over as best he could, his renewed girth even more trouble to navigate around than the fat suit, if such a thing were possible, and after a few failed attempts, picked up what had fallen.
It was Cuthbert's photograph. The image of the smiling young man with the strawberry hair. But held in his beefy hands, Jonbull was able to see for the first time that this small scrap of paper was not merely well-worn and creased, it had been folded over. Jonbull had only ever seen one half of the photo. Gingerly, his engorged fingers not easy to manipulate, Jonbull unfolded the photo and looked at the full image. It was from a novelty photo booth, the kind in which four photos are taken and spat out for patrons almost immediately. The redheaded boy was not alone in the photo. He was arm in arm with another young man, approximately the same age. It was Devin.
The two smiled brightly, arms around each other, a look of something more than happiness in their eyes. It was a look of shared young love. Jonbull looked up from the photo of the boy and saw Cuthbert slamming his palms against his head fiercely. He tried to make out the words of the disconsolate man but had little luck.
"Ztoolayht! Ztoolayht!! Nevvuh, nevvuh befrea! Nhowahm trahp fhevah!!"
Jonbull looked at the image of the boy with the strawberry hair, then looked up at Cuthbert, his own red hair pulled up from his head in wild disarray. The light cam on behind Jonbull's eyes.
"Dear Lord. This boy is you, isn't it, Cuthbert?"
Cuthbert threw his head back and howled. "YAAATHH!! YATH!! Izzmee!!"
"You were Master Devin's beau once as well," Jonbull realized.
Cuthbert nodded his head so furiously it looked as if he might fall forward onto the floor. Jonbull understood the reason for Cuthbert's wailing, for his absolute despair. Jamie had not been the first love interest of Devin's to be abducted and trapped by Renquist. This beautiful boy with the unruly red hair had been Jamie's predecessor. Jonbull remembered what Renquist had said. First they were put into a rubber suit, where they gestated for a week or so, as their actual skin was transformed, then out of the suit they would come, under the illusion of being released, then they would be altered for real, and permanently.
Freeing Jamie from the original Jonbull suit and setting him free to summon help was poor Cuthbert's only possible bid for freedom. Now, he was most surely a prisoner for all time.
Jonbull looked at the misshapen oddball before him and could see no resemblance whatever to the handsome lad in the photograph. No more so than Jamie resembled Jonbull. "Your own skin...it's already been altered as mine has, yes?" Jonbull asked.
Cuthbert nodded, slapping his oversized hands against his chest, then waving them at his fat friend. "Nawh yeewww—lak MHEE!!"
Cuthbert slumped forward, his ugly face buried in his large hands, his disproportionate body trembling. With the arrival of Jonbull, Cuthbert had been granted some semblance of hope, no matter how small. Now he was quite certain that he was trapped forever, and with good reason. Jonbull thought for a moment about how long he had been going out with Devin, about all the time Cuthbert had been there, tripping over himself, bumping into things. About all the times he and Devin had ridiculed the clod of a butler, had made him the brunt of their private jokes and dismissed him as an idiot. Jonbull felt a deep pang of regret and guilt now that he knew the truth.
Jonbull lowered his head as well, and the two spent some time wallowing quietly in their sad state. Renquist had passed judgement on them, deemed them unworthy, base, and unfit. He then captured and imprisoned them, making his observation true. He had taken away everything they had, even their own features, their own identities, and beyond daily degradation and humiliation, left them with nothing.
Except each other.
A light came on for Jonbull. He lifted his head and looked at the distraught Cuthbert. "I say...my good fellow."
Cuthbert looked up, his eyes puffy, his nose running.
"I do believe that rascal Renquist has given us the means to vex him quite heartily."
Cuthbert titled his head like a confused puppy. "Whachoo meen?"
"In putting us together in this predicament, he's given each of us something he hadn't considered." Cuthbert shook his head, still baffled. Jonbull clarified. "A co-conspirator."
Cuthbert sat up a bit straighter, still not understanding, but intrigued.
"Do consider it. Working together, we can plot against Renquist." Jonbull stood up, drying his eyes, elaborating on his idea. "You know where the rubberizing machinery is...as now do I." Cuthbert shook his head vehemently again, certain that path was now blocked. Jonbull took him by the shoulders.
"But here now! Renquist never knew we were down there—he found us in the staff kitchens! He didn't see you wield the cutting instrument, he saw you with cooking utensils." Cuthbert looked up, a glimmer of hope returning. "He has no notion that we have the potential means to undo what has been done to us. And even if we can't repair ourselves..."
Cuthbert sat up, "Thenwe geh HIHM!!"
But no sooner had he said this, than Cuthbert slumped back down. "Howh?" he muttered. "Wee KAHNT! Heeh controwlz uzz, yass heeduzz!"
Jonbull considered that. It was true, they were both under very specific controls due to the altered rubber that now made up their bodies. While they were allowed some small measure of freedom at night, their movements were limited. But Jonbull pondered this. Perhaps their restrictions were too specific. "No, I say! Dwell on this. What were our confinements? He told them to us." Jonbull ticked them off on his sausage-like fingers. " After Devin has been put to bed, we regain some semblance of free movement, but never enough to approach either Master Devin or Mr. Renquist. And never enough to leave the premises or do something that would draw attention to yourself." Jonbull looked at his companion. "You've tried to leave before, yes? Or signal to guests that you were a prisoner?"
Cuthbert nodded. He pantomimed with his fingers the movement of walking away, then abruptly jerked his hand back, indicating that he had never been able to pass the manor's threshhold. He held up two hands, then one again, fingers spread out. he'd tried to make an escape fifteen times before finally resigning himself to stay.
"And you couldn't signla to Devinor anyone else your true identity?"
Cuthbert looked at Jonbull askance. His expression said it all. Could you?
Jonbull smiled. "Then we have what we need, I do believe. Think about our restrictions. From a new angle."
Cuthbert stared at Jonbull with dismay for some moments before the clouds lifted for him. Sneaking off to the machinery below stairs did not require leaving the premisies, as evidenced by their journey there earlier. They had no intention of approaching Renquist in his sleep, and they certainly did not want to draw attention to themselves during their outings. True, they could neither approach Devin and bring him to the machinery to explain their plight, but their former lover would learn the truth soon enough.
"Now," Jonbull said, some vigor returning to his voice, faux accent notwithstanding, "have you any understanding of the equipment we saw tonight? Do you understand computers, how all this rubber formulae is employed?"
Cuthbert's shoulders sagged again. He shook his head, waved his arms about in a gesture of futility.
"Well, then," Jonbull said, not to be discouraged now, "then it would appear you and I have some late-night study sessions to attend to. We shall examine that confounded contraption until we learn it's secrets. Are you with me?"
Cuthbert rose and offered a massive paw to his new cohort.
Jonbull took him by the hand. "Agreed. First order of business is to find some way to repair ourselves. Failing that—or even upon the success of that—we unleash our new knowledge upon that villain Renquist and see how he likes being vexed by his nefarious enhanced rubber toxins!"
The duo hugged and finally repaired to bed, knowing they would need all the rest they could get for the following day's events of working as controlled slaves then sneaking off to the lower levels to study the means to reverse their imprisonment. But depsite their desire to sleep, both men remained awake for anothe rfew hours, charged by excitement, and the faint light of hope.
* * * * *
The following month was a turbulent sea of back and forth between days that dragged on painfully slowly and nights that raced by all too quickly. Jonbull and Cuthbert slogged along each day accepting their humiliations, bouyed by the thought that they'd escape to the lower levels at day's end and work on their escape and possible retaliation.
As punishment for Cuthbert's transgression in helping Jonbull escape his suit, he was given a clumsiness factor that surpassed his already awkward ramblings. Cuthbert was made to walk into walls, trip over his own legs, and even fall down small flights of stairs, most often while carrying things that could clatter, clang, and shatter. He was then made to clean up his own mess, which resulted in further chaos. It was painful to behold, and any time Jonbull tried to aid his friend, the controls within his body kicked inand forced him to turn in an about face and march away. Cuthbert was now ordered to stand in the corner and oversee all meals, reduced to absurd tasks such as ringing a dinner bell and announcing "Dhinnah izz suvved." When Devin asked why the oafish butler was hanging around as they ate, renquist simply told him it was to keep an eye on him and keep him from getting into trouble. devin's response to this was only, "Whatever."
One evening before dinner, Renquist noted Jonbull's dour expression as he prepared the dinner service. "Don't look so down, son. So you're doomed to a life of humiliation and servitude as befits you. Let's have a smile and a cheerful cliche, shall we?"
Jonbull felt his face split in a comical smile. "Aye, major! Cheerio, pi-pip, and eh wot! Jolly, jolly good! Raw-ther!"
Renquist laughed heartily at that, only losing his guffaws to one of his wheezes for a moment. Beneath his forced smile and banal banter, Jonbull seethed.
As night enshrouded the manor and its masters slept, the two rubberized servants worked fervently to decipher the secrets of the machine below stairs. Cuthbert seemed to have a greater familiarity with the computer, which stood to reason, given how long he'd been a prisoner, and Jonbull had greater dexterity in his fingers, leaving him the job of manipulating the keyboard. There initial results were less than fruitful.
At Cuthbert's instruction (which in itself took some time to decipher, given his speech impediment), Jonbull typed in queries and investigated pull-down menus.
Search: Rubber transformation reversal.
SEARCH YIELDED NO RESULTS.
They tried again. Jonbull typed:
Search: Unlocking computerized control over rubberized body.
SEARCH YIELDED NO RESULTS.
Cuthbert pointed his clumsy fingers at different menu options and gurgled his suggestion that Jonbull investigate those leads.
Search: Full system install and basic instruction help.
SEARCH YIELDED NO RESULTS.
It went on this way all night. Eventually, Cuthbert lowered his head and looked as if he were about to weep again. Jonbull patted him on the back. "Chin up, old boy. we'll get it yet. Steady on, there."
Then the gold marquee appeared onscreen.
DAILY VIRUS SCAN/MAINTENANCE BEGINS IN THIRTY SECONDS.
"Just not tonight," Jonbull conceded. "Off we go, then." The duo made their departure with considerably better time than on their previous visit.
The following days brought more of the same humiliation and subserviant torture. Devin was getting more accustomed to his conservative attire and his increasing workload from his father's office, as well as to Jonbull's constant presence. But there were time he did go hard on Jonbull, presumably, the fat man surmised, as a way of getting back at his father.
"So pops tells me that you're quite a singer, Corpy," Devin remarked on day in the library as he flipped through his day's agenda.
"I shouldn't like to think so," Jonbull answered, "but far be it from me to contradict the master of the household."
Devin sat back in his chair, clicking his pen. "Yeah, far be it. Wouldn't want that. So sing a few bars, why don'tcha?"
Jonbull had been set the task of dusting the library—in frilly apron, feather duster and all—and paused in his work. "Beg pardon, sir?"
"You know, belt out a tune for me. I like to have some background music while I work. Wouldn't prohibit you from breaking into an old soft shoe if you're so inclined, either."
"Oh, Master Devin, I really do recall that your good father insisted you remain focused on the day's assignment—"
"Sing, fatso!!" Devin snarled.
And for the next half hour, Jonbull was made to prance around the library, using his feather duster as a prop, belting out everything from The White Cliffs of Dover to Falling In Love With Love. Devin finally had the bloated manservant acting out several choruses of I'm A Little Teapot, complete with hand gestures and impromptu choreography. He eventually went back to work, leaving the degraded manservant to do the same.
Under cover of darkness, his own blaring voice still ringing in his ears, Jonbull joined Cuthbert down below. Their stinging humiliation urged them on in their secret task. All they learned that night was how to work the rubber vats and hoses. Should they want to increase the hell of their situation by pouring more of the chemical goop on their heads and ensuring their imprisonment for all time, they were set to go. Their exit that night as the maintenance scan began was done with heavy hearts.
Dinners had become increasingly painful to work through. As Cuthbert stood in the corner, a prisoner of his own deformed body, Jonbull had to wait upon his captor and his former lover, listening to their often heated exchanges.
"You did a fine job arranging the papers for the Mackenzie account, Devin. I may let you come by the office yet."
"As long as I don't make friends with anyone, right, dad? Wouldn't want me to fall for some other cute guy you can buy off or threaten away, would we? Can't have me having an actual life interfere with your precious business."
Renquist threw his napkin down upon the table. "Oh, for God's sake. Are we going to go through this every time we sit down for a meal? Is a civil dinner between a father and son to much to ask for?"
"I dunno, dad, is a private life to much for a son to ask of his father?"
Jonbull was left to waddle back and froth along the table, adding and removing dishes, refilling glasses. He wanted so badly to tell the love of his life that he was right there. But something stopped him. Beyond the notion that touching his lover with his deformed, tumid fingers was abhorrent to him, Jonbull now had Cuthbert to consider. As he stood there, turned into a living caricature and assigned to the corner of the room, the oafish Cuthbert left Jonbull with a pervasive thought. He loved Devin first. If the two captive servants could be restored, whom would Devin choose?
The question about their relationships with Devin were left unaddressed during late nights spent in the hidden machine room. It was Jonbull and Cuthbert's mutual hatred of Nigel Renquist that held them together as they strove to master the mysterious machine. But the work was long and slow, as neither Jamie or whoever Cuthbert used to be had any computer or engineering experience.
The night dragged on and they were left with many of the usual dead ends and frustrating responses to their queries.
SEARCH YIELDS NO RESULTS.
There was about forty-five minutes where Jonbull and Cuthbert sat at opposite ends of the room, on the floor, their backs to wall, silently sulking. There great glowing hope of escape, of reversal from their condition had faded to less than a dim ember. They both knew it. Reversal seemed impossible, even from what little they'd been able to divine after hours and hours of searching. They began to realize that they may have to accept being stuck inside rubberized, malleable, altered and controlled bodies for the rest of their lives.
Jonbull looked up. "I say..."
He waved his fat arms excitedly at Cuthbert, drawing him close so he could be helped up off the floor. Cuthbert toddled over and put his strength to use, hefting the enormous man to his feet and over to the console.
Jonbull found his way through the various menus to the section they'd uncovered detailing the application of the rubber formula to human skin, how it could be made to saturate the pores, alter the body itself, be used to reshape the normal physical aspects of the form into wild caricatures. Jonbull typed again.
Query: Display ways in which flesh already transformed may be redesigned again in alternate shapes.
There was an achingly long moment of no response, the cursor hanging there, blinking upon the screen. Then a small prompt appeared.
Jonbull and Cuthbert made an absurd sight, hugging each other and leaping around the room in abject joy. They almost didn't make it out of the room in time for the nightly sensor sweep.
And the following three nights proved very interesting indeed.
* * * * *
On the fourth day following, Jonbull was in such good mood that he almost failed to notice how upbeat Devin was. "In rather good spirits today are we, Master Devin?"
"You betcha, Corpy." Devin toyed with a pen, which he twirled artfully between thumb and forefinger. "Gonna join pops in the board room tomorrow. Probably just a sit-in, but still, the kid's movin' up in the world, huh?"
"Might I suggest a celebratory verse or two of I'm A Little Teapot for sir?" Jonbull suggested. He felt his teeth grind behind his forced grin, hardly believing he'd made the offer.
Devin smirked. "Maybe at dinner, pal. Got a few things to ask the old man."
At dinner, all began quietly enough. Cuthbert took his position in the corner, Jonbull doted on his masters. All was going quite smoothly until the entrees were served.
"So, I'm going to the big boardroom tomorrow, right, dad?" Devin said.
"That's right, son. Your work has shown great promise. A lot of the folks are looking forward to meeting you."
"A lot of them already know me."
"Well," Renquist amended, "meet you in a more professional capacity."
"If I keep on impressing them," Devin added, "maybe I'll find myself with a position there."
Renquist looked up from his meal. "That's the idea, Devin. It's always been the idea. You see what you can accomplish free from the distraction of your gay flings?"
"And maybe, just maybe," Devin went on, "I'll garner enough position power, enough influence, and even enough connections, that'll I'll have the resources to go track down those gay flings that you brought to such a premature end. How about that?"
"I will not be sucked into this conversation, Devin." Renquist looked at his son levelly. "I will not."
"Seriously though, dad, did you really think I'd just let it go? You send my man packing, put a fat watchdog on my ass and I just throw my hands in the air and give up?"
Renquist threw his napkin on the table, a standard gesture for him at mealtimes now, and stared daggers at his son. Devin continued.
"And let's be logical here. I mean, really. Were you planning to keep on chasing away all my boyfriends even after I found my place in the company? After I was thirty? For the rest of my natural life? For the rest of yours?"
"I invited you to attend tomorrow's board meeting, Devin. I can just as easily un-invite you."
"Don't count on it. I've already made some phone calls. Several people are expecting me and now I have no reason to cancel. Mr. Cellise, for one. Mrs. Lockhart, too."
"This is intolerable!" Renquist spat.
"So where is he, dad? Where's Jamie?" Devin was clearly ready to fight. "What, did you hide him behind old Captain Corpulent over here? Is that why you hired someone so huge, for the perfect camouflage?"
Jonbull looked at Cuthbert, both of whom had wide eyes. Did Jamie know? Did he suspect?
"Is that what's up with these idiot manservants?" Devin demanded. "You have enough buffoons running around, you think it'll distract me from what you've done to me? Is it some kind of twisted consolation prize? Or is it...something else?"
Renquist was on his feet, his face reddening. "That is enough! I am the head of this household and what I do is NOT for you to criticize or contradict! And you are sadly mistaken if you think I can't banish you from my board room with a single word--!" Just then, Renquist's show of power and ill temper was cut shot by the most tremendous and foul-smelling blast of gas from the seat of his pants.
PPPPHHHHHHHHTHTHTHFFFFFFFFPPPTTTTTT!!! It nearly shook the candelabra.
Renquist stood there, dazed by his terrible burst of flatulence. Even Devin looked alarmed.
"Umm...Dad, are you okay? That was, er, one hell of a fart."
Renquist began to speak but succumbed to another wheezing fit. "I—I don't feel quite right, but there's no need to concern yourseell-hhuhhelll—HURHHHwheeeeezzth!"
Renquist's body trembled and convulsed as he spat and wheezed like never before. "HUHHtherrruggTHHFF!! Heeehhhrrr-HEUEUIEUHHHHGGJJRRRH!" Air seemed to be rushing to escape his mouth and nose, his hands trying to grasp at his mouth as if to hold it all in. The wheezing continued, increasing in intensity, until it was like something more akin to an extended sneeze out of control than a wheezing fit.
Renquist's lips fluttered like a horse's, spitting a fierce raspberry as more breath rushed forth from him. Then, amid quaking and seizing, the incredible happened.
Nigel Renquist deflated.
Like a blow-up party favor whose knotted tail had been unceremoniously untied, Renquist let out a hideous gasp of air and his body, his limbs, his very face, sank inward. His arms fluttered violently around him like the fan-powered giant tube sock characters found outside clubs and convention halls. Renquist's lips extended like a broken hose end and spat out strange mustard-colored fluids, greenish goo, and foul-smelling gases which filled the air and spattered the ceiling.
Finally, with a sickening whistle that ended with a hateful snort, the lifeless length of skin and hair that had been Nigel Hartford Renquist gave one last wave of farewell and came to rest with a vile plop upon the fine china which held what had become his last meal.
For a long moment, no one spoke. Jonbull and Cuthbert stared wide-eyed and in utter shock at what had transpired. Their nemesis, the focus of their hate and whose destruction was their sole reason for living had just deflated before their eyes like a carnival balloon. There was nothing they could possibly say in response. But Devin did say something.
Jonbull and Cuthbert gaped in awe at the slender blond man. His tone was not one of someone who had just witnessed a horrible, impossible event that left destroyed someone for whom he felt unconditional love. Devin's was the tone of a man who had his car break down on a deserted road after the service station had assured him it was fixed.
"Great! That's just muther-fuckin' great!" Devin threw his napkin down on the table, a gesture he no doubt picked up from his father. Devin then got up and marched over to his deflated father, lifted up his lifeless, rubbery deflated arm and let it plop back down on the table. "Perfect."
Jonbull stood there with his mouth moving but no sound coming out. Cuthbert began to mumble incoherently. Devin paid no attention to either of them. Instead, he whipped out his cell phone.
There was but a moment's pause after dialing, then Devin nearly shouted into the tiny receiver. "Hey, I hope you're not busy, because I need your ass here right now! We've had a deflater incident. In front of observers, no less. Yeah, well, you damn well better believe it's a problem, because he wasn't supposed to need his next puff-up for at least another month! I doubt he'd do well at tomorrow's board meeting as a welcome mat rather than the main speaker. He needs repairing and he needs it now. Get the lead out!"
Devin clipped his phone shut with a flick of his hand and turned to see the astonished looks on the faces of his two enslaved servants.
"Oh, come on. So it was me. It was me all along. Deal with it." The two indentured servants looked as if they could be knocked over with a feather, giant rubber girth or strange strength be damned.
Devin waved a hand in a futile gesture to brush the whole thing off. "Lookit, you know I've got a limited attention span, so once I get tired of a boy, I need to get rid of him. And it's so much more effective to have old dad be the bad guy. I hate to be the bad guy." Then his face took on a darker appearance. "That whole rubber reforming the human body, that was my idea. Sure, pops was all 'let's use it for prosthetics, for safety suits for rescue workers, for mobility for the elderly, for blah-blah, for yadda-yadda, let's save my failing company!' But I'm all, ohhh no, I wants me to have some fun with this puppy all on my own."
Devin took his seat again, propping his feet up on the table. "You know, dad was my first subject. Didn't have all the bugs worked out back then, to put it mildly." Devin produced a cigarette case and jerked himself out a filtered cigarette. He lit it casually with a wooden match and tossed the match into the china gravy boat to extinguish it. "Poor dad wound up a near-vegetable after his rubber makeover. He's still alive, though." Devin titled his head and looked at the flattened form of his father. "At least I think he is." He shrugged. "Whatever. The sacrifices we make for science."
Devin stretched, placing his hands, fingers interlaced, atop his head. "You know, dad sucked at running the company. Really sucked at it. Now gramps, he knew what he was doing. And what he didn't know, he had the brains to hire other people to do. But not pops there. Gots ta do it hisself. Nearly sank the whole ship. One day, he's facing bankruptcy and he walks into my little bedroom, and he says all jokingly, 'You wouldn't have any concepts for saving an ailing company, would you, Dev?' Well, as a matter of fact, dad..."
Devin flicked ashes on the carpet and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I had the iceberg-bound Titanic that was Renquist Rubber Retooling and Innovations back afloat within a year, sailing strong by another." Devin blew smoke rings at the chandelier above them. "And I wasn't just about product concepts and inventory application, either. I had a much better head for business and investments than dad." He smiled. "I was running the entire company by the time I was 19. But no investors were willing to trust a twink like me with their hard-earned capital. That's where pop came in."
Devin dropped his feet to the floor. "But, as usual, his timing sucks. Deflating on the fucking night before he was supposed to announce handing the reins of the company over to me. I knew I should have had him checked out when he started wheezing again. Shit."
Devin poured himself some wine and looked at the duo he'd kept imprisoned as his personal slaves. "But I'm even more sorry for you two guys, really. Tonight was going to be an awesome blow up between him and me, all for your benefit. The whole 'where's Jamie?' thing, me making veiled references to you guys, the suspense of you wondering if I'd 'figured it all out!'. Annnd then at the last moment, dad and I make up or something. I get to watch the glimmer of hope go out of your eyes, I send you off to bed crying." He took another drag on his cigarette. "Yeah, it was gonna be a good one alright. I was a thespian in high school, did you know that?"
Jonbull could take no more. He lunged across the table at Devin. "You scoundrel!!" But even with his tremendous size, coupled by his momentum, he froze in place inches from Devin. As if he'd been caught by a force field or some other invisible barrier, Jonbull was held fast, arms outstretched as if to strangle his former love, face contorted in a mask of rage. Devin grinned.
"Oh, please. You had to know by now there was no way I was gonna leave you an opening to hurt me." Jonbull began to sweat as he strained against the constraints that bound him from within, but it was to no avail. Devin took a final drag on his cigarette, blew the smoke in Jonbull's face, then put the butt out along the brim of the manservant's hat.
The rumble of a truck pulling up fast outside the servant's entrance caught Devin's attention. "That would be my repair crew. Gotta see to business. Big day to prepare for tomorrow."
Devin got up from his chair and strode toward the door, giving no more thought to his dead (inert?) father's body than he would an ottoman or an end table. Cuthbert called after him, having the sense not to attempt an attack, but displaying his rage and hurt with is voice. "WHHYY?? Whyy yew doo thiss?" He slapped at his chest with his clumsy fingers. "I LUVVD yew!!"
Devin pursed his lips a moment, considering. "Yes, dear, and I suppose I loved you too, for a time. But like I said, I get bored easily. That is, when it's not business, which for some reason I find endlessly fascinating."
Cuthbert wailed again, "Letuss GOH!"
"No, I don't think so," Devin answered flatly. "And don't get all swell-headed thinking you were one of those 'If I can't have him, no man can' scenarios. It's just that...you know, you've been with me. Intimately. So that means, after I dump you, it's almost like anyone else you're with after me...it's like they've been with me too. God knows who. Total strangers. Eww. And I doubt you have the discriminating tastes I have." He looked at the frozen Jonbull. "Either of you."
There was a commotion at the servant's entrance and Devin called out. "Personal dining room, guys!"
Three men of about Devin's age stormed in, carrying bags, two metal tanks, and various other equipment. They spotted the deflated form of Renquist and set to work on him immediately.
"Given the choice, MASter Devin," Jonbull said, "I do believe I would have preferred you simply castrated us and had done with it, sir."
"Well, not me!" Devin said, getting eye to eye with the fat man. "You were so lucky to have me! And I don't think you fully appreciated it! You and your whole 'Oh, I'm so thin, I wish I weren't so scrawny' bitching. Do you realize how hard I have to work to keep this figure??" He indicated his trim frame. Devin then stabbed a finger at Cuthbert. "And you! You with your fucking seven zillion-word vocabulary." Jonbull was amazed to learn that Cuthbert at one time had any vocabulary to speak of. "Guess neither of you have those respective problems anymore, do ya?" Devin yanked Jonbull's hat down almost to his eyes for emphasis.
"Uh, Mr. Renquist, sir?"
The servants' eyes shot over to the three men, and the one who had spoken in particular. They were unaccustomed to hearing anyone address Devin by the name they had long associated with his father. Said father had a number of gauges and probes now attached to him, most of them needling into the red.
"It doesn't look good, sir. He's never had a collapse as complete as this one. We're not sure if there's much we can do here."
"Well, find a solution. That's what I pay you for. God knows I pay you enough."
"And the witnesses, sir?"
"Oh, I don't think they'll be a problem." Devin looked at the two servants and spoke loudly. "At attention, both of you!"
Instantly, Jonbull and Cuthbert stood straight and tall, side by side. Devin stood before them, staring them down. "You two get to retire early tonight, boys. And how was dinner this evening, anyway?"
Jonbull answered promptly. "A most civilized and pleasant affair, good sir. Jolly good."
Cuthbert answered, "Sshplendid mheal, yaas."
"You march your pathetic carcasses off to your tiny room and enjoy your extra few hours of semi-freedom. With the usual drill. You can't speak of this to anyone, you can't attack me, you can't leave. You got it?"
"As you say, sir."
"Off you go."
The two rubberized slaves did a right-face and began to march off as ordered. Devin called after them. "Oh, and boys?" They stopped in their tracks, waiting to hear what their master had to say to them. "Jamie, Simon. Simon, Jamie. No doubt you're very pleased to make each other's acquaintance. Good night, lads."
Jonbull and Cuthbert marched off to their quarters, the sound of three technicians working fervently on the deflated father fading behind them as they made their way down the hall.
Jonbull and Cuthbert sat across from each other on their cots. Jonbull could not believe that he had ever loved Devin, or that he never saw him for what he truly was. He looked at Cuthbert, and cursed himself for being so caught up in his own little world that before his own transformation, Jamie never guessed that there was something amiss with the clown butler. He was doubly furious with himself for not realizing what Cuthbert's identity must have been after Jamie was forced into the role of Jonbull.
Cuthbert locked eyes with Jonbull. He lifted up the precious photo booth picture of Simon and Devin he'd kept all this time. Cuthbert held the upper corners of the photo in two hands. Taking care not to crumple the fragile picture in his awkward hands, Cuthbert gripped the picture tightly between thumbs and forefingers. Slowly, deliberately, he tore the photo down the middle.
The side with the redheaded Simon separated from the side with the smiling Devin. Cuthbert then wadded up the torn side of the photo with Devin on it, tossing the small ball against the wall. He then gently set the half which retained the image of his original self down on the bedside table. He pointed to it, then nodded at Jonbull.
Jonbull nodded back, understanding perfectly. He knew what the two friends needed to do. And they would do it immediately.
* * * * *
The following morning, Devin waltzed around the house humming to himself and whistling, merrily anticipating his big day in the board room and acting just as if his dear old dad had not deflated and collapsed in a heap on the dinner table the night before. In fact, Devin was up and about before his trusty rotund manservant. Rapping on his door, Devin found Jonbull only just fastening up his uniform jacket for his morning duties.
"Mornin', Corpy. Up and at 'em ,eh? Big day for yours truly."
Jonbull shot him a look of malevolence with intent to kill. Devin understood it.
"No, fatboy, I am not going to call you Jamie. Never again. That's not who you are anymore, is it?" Jonbull said nothing. Devin leaned forward, repeating himself with greater emphasis, "Is it?"
Jonbull grinded is teeth as he replied, "No, sir."
Devin flashed his winning smile. "Dandy. I just thought I'd tell you that I'll be taking breakfast on the terrace this morning. Okie-dokie?"
Jonbull looked at Devin as if he wished he could reach out to the self-indulgent prick and throttle him. But he said reverently, "Very good, sir."
"There's a good boy. And try to put a little pep in it today, chubby. You're looking kind of tired." He nodded to Cuthbert. "You can even pour the coffee, numbnuts."
Jonbull and Cuthbert waited on Devin on the terrace, which looked lovely as it was lit by the morning sunshine. Both servants were attentive and respectful, both were silently wishing for some miracle that would deliver a semiautomatic rifle into their hands. Devin hummed to himself as he sipped his coffee, enjoyed his poached eggs and toast, puffed on an imported cigarette. Eventually, the quiet moment was interrupted.
"Ready for you to have a look, boss."
It was one of the techs who'd been summoned the night before. He led Devin into a small sitting room adjacent to the terrace. There, slumped sideways over a settee was Nigel Renquist. He looked like his normal self again, save for his unusual posture and complete lack of movement.
"Took some doing," said the tech, looking exhausted, "but we got him up and running. He needed a complete new workup. The computer interfaces in the interior fluid, the biogenetic drivers, the whole thing. But we did it."
"That's what I pay you for. You made enough noise down here all night. I barely got a wink with your fussing fuming."
The tech looked a bit irked at that. "I thought we kept things pretty damn quiet!"
"The dangers of thinking and driving," Devin sneered, tossing the butt of his cigarette into the nearby miniature fireplace. "So fire him up. Let's see if he's good for this morning's meeting."
The techs did so, and Jonbull and Cuthbert watched from the terrace, half hoping that Renquist could not be revived and Devin would be left with some considerable explaining to do. They hoped in vain. After some buzzing of machinery and the soft pumping off one of the technician's filling tanks, Renquist sat up. His eyes bore the expression of a zombie, and his smile the emptiness of a lobotomy patient.
"Add the personality protocols," Devin said with irritation, "I need him for a board room, not a dime store mannequin display."
In short order, Renquist's eyes began to take on a normal tinge and his expression looked human. Or as human as Renquist ever got. As the technicians adjusted the faux father, Devin mused aloud. "I should have seen this coming from a mile off, really. And it wasn't just the wheezing thing." Devin snorted. "The old 'importance of a man's character versus the width ofhis wallet' speech. Hadn't heard that bullshit since I was a kid. He wasn't programmed to still spout that." Devin looked over his father's body standing at attention as if he were examining an appliance he was uncertain about purchasing. "He's been resisting, is what it is. Trying to take his life back. Schmuck."
"That's confirmed by our diagnostics, sir. By this level of stress, he's been fighting the transformation for weeks now. Maybe months."
"Can he fight anymore?" Devin queried.
The tech scrunched his brow. "Doubt there's enough of him left in there to fight."
Devin nodded his approval. "Sounds good. Try it again."
Renquist began to move in a jerky fashion, like a mime's robot impression, then rapidly eased into a smooth series of increaisngly natural motions and gestures. His mouth was moving but nothing was coming out.
Devin snapped his fingers angrily. "Sound, sound!"
There was a brief squealing noise and then Renquist's voice came in, at first sounding like a radio station slightly out of tune, then with a fiant echo, then normally.
"Fine job you did on the Jefferson proposal, son. Very fine. We may be looking at a corner office for you one day, you keep this up." Renquist's face changed expression and he spoke angrily, "I don't care to discuss this, Devin. Your little boyfriends simply are not as important as your place in the company!" Then his expression went somber. "And so I feel it is best for all concerned that I step down from my post, if only temporarily."
Devin grinned. "Wrap him up, I'll take him."
The techs looked relieved. "Great, sir. We'll have him spruced up and ready with final checkups in the next fifteen minutes."
"Make it ten, I'll have a car waiting out front soon." Devin glared at the first tech. "And the wheezing problem's solved?"
"Near as I can tell, there'll be no more wheezing, sir."
Devin frowned. "Near as you can tell??"
The tech swallowed hard. "No more wheezing at all, sir."
Devin stalked off. "I'm going to get dressed." As he departed, he looked back at Jonbull and Cuthbert. "Clean up the terrace and then do some light housework. Uhh...straighten up my bedroom. Then take a little break, boys. Don't go out and don't talk to anyone, of course, but relax a bit. I'll need you rested for tonight. I'll be celebrating my new position as head of Renquist Rubber Retooling and Innovations. And I usually celebrate with a handsome boy—and we'll need wait staff to serve us. Ta."
Jonbull and Cuthbert exchanged looks of seething hatred. But unbeknownst to any but themsleves, their hatred now had focus and purpose.
The Renquist father and son team were welcomed at the board room with open arms. The board members and trustees assembled knew that a big announcement was pending, but had no confirmation of what it was. The clues of incoming work by son Devin and Nigel Renquist beaming like a proud poppa led everyone to believe is was time for the baton to be passed, or at least for the young up-and-comer to take his place beside his old man. Nigel Renquist took his place at the head of the long table and, unlike their posed dinners at home, sat Devin at his right side. As the august body was seated, Renquist stood.
"I'm going to eschew the usual meeting agenda and get right to the point this morning. As many of you know, I have been bringing in a variety of work handled by none other than my rather brilliant son, Devin."
A polite round of applause. Renquist raised a hand to still them.
"No doubt there were those maong you who blanched at this initially, and I can't say that I blame you. Nepotism is a practice that has buried many a fine organization. Well, you may be interested to know that the reverse is true in this case. Years ago, when things looked bleak here at Renquist Rubber Retooling and Innovations and a number of you were thinking of jumping ship—" There were a few embarrassed looks, even a blush or two from the women. Renquist smiled. "No, don't deny it. I was going to lead the parade overboard myself." A few appreciative chuckles. "But a few rather brilliant innovations and advancements saved us then, and helped us grow string in the years following, putting us in our considerably strong position today."
More applause, more enthusiastic than before. Renquist raised both hands this time.
"What you may not know is that it was not my brain work, but my son, Devin's, which saved our company." Confused and astonished murmurs from all around the table. "Since the age of 15, Devin has been working prominently in our company and presenting ingenious work that I have offered to you as my own." The murmurs grew to a rumble of concern. Devin leaned forward.
"It's cool, everyone. Let him finish." The rumble died down and Renquist continued.
"As I say, Devin has been working hard, and it was solely by his insistence that I did not bring him in earlier. His concern, which was exceedingly mature for his age, was that a boy not old enough to drive sitting at the head of a company would hardly inspire confidence in our investors. You can understand his point of view."
A few nods and understanding looks from around the table.
"But I'd say it's time Devin step forward and take his proper place here at the firm. Besides, his old man deserves to take a break. Snnrk!"
Renquist had twitched suddenly, his face scrunching up, a bit of saliva shooting out from between his lips. Devin looked extremely concerned. Requist waved it away.
"Further proof it's time for me to take a break!" he joked. A few soft chuckles. "Maybe I'll take a brief sabbatical," Renquist explained. "Perhaps a year-long world cruise. Who knows? I haven't decided. But I've seen to it that all is ready for Devin to make his presence known. I've even started a number of profile pieces in Forbes, Money, and a few other prominent periodicals about our very own Wunderkind."
Devin's face broke into a beautiful smile and he said with completely unconvincing surprise, "Why, dad! You didn't have to--!"
Renquist rested a hand on his boy's shoulder. "Ah, sure I did. A man's got bragging rights when it comes to his own son." Devin beamed. He had been awaiting this part all last night and all morning long. His father would bring him to his feet and shake his hand, making the transfer of power official to the public, and all those around the table would no doubt rise and applaud. Photographers whom Devin had hired already filed into the back of the room, their lenses and flashes at the ready.
"So, you can all rest easy knowing that Devin here is well familiar with the business and your various departments and accounts," Renquist went on. More nods and looks of approval from everyone. "And if I do say so myself, there is no one finer, no brighter and more promising executive that I could possibly assign to my vacated post than my own brilliant, gifted, generous, and caring progenNNNNNNHHhhhheeeee--!!"
The sudden stream of sound which rumbled from Renquist's lips shook everyone in the room. Renquist swayed back and forth at the table's head, his hands pawing desperately at its surface to find some purchase there.
Devin blanched. "Uh, dad...?"
"Swell boy! My pride an JUH-juh-juh-joooyyyyyyy..." Renquist rambled, his head jerking back and forth. "Good job on this proposal! Corner office! Not going to discuss this now! Damn your frivolous boyfriends! Cuthbert, where's my soup?!"
Renquist's eyes crossed, and his cheeks swelled like a chipmunk's. PHHTTOOOO!! His lips ruffled like an overheated horse and spittle sprayed down the conference table before him. Renquist's arms undulated and flapped about, his hands still trying to clutch the edge of the table. Then there was a clunking noise from somewhere within Renquist's head. THLONK! And then the coup de grace.
SSSFFHHHHWWWHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE--!! Steam shot out of Renquist's ears like a train whistle, only louder. The board members cupped their hands over their ears. Three of the female executives shrieked.
Then it happened. Final meltdown. With a nauseating gurgle, the man who had been Nigel Hartford Renquist gave up the ghost, and his overworked, prosthetic, rubberized, remote controlled body collapsed inward on itself in an avalanche of foul-smelling chemical ooze. With a sickening WHUMPHH! Renquist at last ceased being Renquist and cascaded over the table, his chair, and the carpet like an upended punch bowl full of fake vomit and corn chowder.
Devin had reflexively thrown himself against the wall as his dad caved in, so as not to get any of him on his new suit. Men screamed in terror, women fainted, and the publicity photographers were absolutely horrified, but not so much that they failed to get every moment captured on film and video.
Devin stared into the cameras with a look of shock and desperation. Everyone present assumed it was because he had just witnessed the death of his father. He alone knew it was the look of a kid at long last caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Well," he thought to himself, "at least there was no wheezing."
The room was soon abuzz with building security and panicked employees. Various board members stared in horror at the spot where their esteemed leader had imploded and melted all over the table, his steaming ooze still bubbling on the floor. Devin watched in horror as well, but out of genuine fear of being found out. People recounted to one another what had happened over and over, first to convince themselves that it was real, then to compare their individual perspectives. Some of the older trustees, those who had known Renquist the longest, huddled around Devin, trying to comfort him, trying to keep him from looking at the unsightly wreckage before him that was now, quite literally, the stain on the carpet.
Devin pushed his way past most of the well-meaning executives in attempt to distance himself from their barrage of questions, their unending assurances that someone would get to the bottom of this. But how long would it take before they realized that Devin was behind his father's destruction? How stupid could these people be?
"My God, Devin," one of the trustees said, having pushed his way through to the side of the business' heir. "Do you realize what this means? You know what's been done??"
Devin felt his heart pounding. "What are you looking at me for? What could I possibly have to do wi—"
"It means your real father has been kidnapped!"
The board members and trustees nearby nodded gravely, trying to collect themselves. They all agreed that this must be the case. He had been taken and replaced with this short-lived rubber automaton who would fill in for the poor man long enough for the abductors to make good their escape.
Devin felt his heart rate ease a bit. "Yeeeeaahhhh," he said, "that sounds plausible. I mean, that must be it. Or something like that."
The next thing anyone knew, the room was crowded with policemen and detectives, each one taking down the story of the incredible events as told by the dozens of reliable witnesses present. Whispers of the terrible kidnapping had already made their way around the room and were filtering throughout the building. Devin sat upon the window sill farthest from the spot where his dear old dad imploded. He was crying, seeming to all to be the grieving son, when in fact he was gushing with tears of joy that perhaps at last he could dispose of the father figure facade and take over the company overtly. Who needs to fake an ongoing worldwide cruise or indefinite sabbatical if poor old pop had already fallen apart on the job, in every sense of the word?
Devin looked up, suddenly afraid, until he realized it was just one of the detectives speaking to him in what he clearly thought was a comforting tone. His dad was still puddled across the room, ruining the carpet.
"I'd prefer you didn't call me that," Devin sniffled.
"Yes, of course. I'm sorry, sir." The detective squatted down on his haunches to address Devin eye-to-eye. "I know this is a terrible time, but there are some questions I have to ask you."
"Sure. Why not?" Devin kept staring out the window, not wanting to make eye contact with the detective. All the while, Devin repeated to himself two words. Play dumb. Play dumb. Play dumb. If he offered nothing, the police would surely have nothing to go on. His father literally would have vanished without a trace.
"Sir, do you happen to know anyone who would have anything against your father?"
Devin turned and looked at the detective, his eyes brightening.
"As a matter of fact, I think I might."
Devin burst into the front door of the mansion and practically flew across the floor. He was going to create the perfect alibi, fall guy, and villain all in one fell swoop. He strode confidently through the house in search of his prey. "Jonbull!" he shouted. "Jonbull, get your ass in here, right now! Front and center! I have your biggest assignment to give you yet!" The corpulent manservant slave was nowhere to be found. Devin began to feel panic rising in him again. Had he flown the coop? Had Jamie...no, dammitt, not Jamie, never Jamie anymore...had Jonbull found some way to undermine his programming and actually leave the premises? Impossible.
Devin ran from room to room, his pace increasing with his fear. Where was that fat fucker? Where was the bumbling idiot Sim—Cuthbert? Finally, Devin came to the main dining hall and stopped short. There was a low grinding sound and a soft, repeated thumping. There. The mantle had been pushed back, his secret staircase revealed. On the floor, just at the opening of the passageway, was Jonbull's comical top hat. It had fallen there and was preventing the sliding doorway from closing on its track. Devin smiled, shaking his head. The simpleton. He had gone to all the trouble of locating the hidden passage to the basement laboratory and then dropped his stupid hat behind, clearly revealing where he'd gone.
Devin snatched up the hat and slipped easily through the doorway, hearing it slide shut smoothly as he made his way down the spiral staircase. As he neared the bottom, he heard voices arguing. Unmistakable voices. Devin peered around the corner at the bottom of the stairs and saw his two personal slaves. Jonbull and Cuthbert were fumbling embarrassingly over one of the large nozzle guns which rose from the floor and tried to move it toward the upright table at the other end of the room. To say they were having no luck was putting it mildly.
"No, I can't divine how the blazes the wretched contraption works, damn it all!" puffed Jonbull. "No, I push and YOU pull!"
Cuthbert fought with the unyielding device and blabbered back, "Uth lemme puth YEHR zide! Issth whey!"
"Confound it, man! I can't understand a bloody word of your senseless palaver! Just let me do it!"
Devin applauded softly from the doorway. The two servants froze in place. "Oh, very nice. In fact, this couldn't be better. You find my secret, evil lair at precisely the right moment. This couldn't be better if I'd planned it." He tossed the crumpled hat at Jonbull's feet. "Here. You dropped something."
Jonbull looked at the battered felt and blanched. "Master Devin! We were just...that is, we happened upon..."
"GLEEning!" Cuthbert interjected. "Ahh zay, we were gleening thuh DYning rhum!"
"Quite right, yes! We were doing light housework, as instructed, dear sir, and while dusting the mantle, we..."
Devin waved a hand. "Oh, do shut the fuck up." The duo were instantly silent. "And you may as well not try to make a break for it at this point. Not unless you want to find yourselves dancing around singing I'm A Little Teapot, or maybe even punching yourselves in the face." Though not a direct order, Devin's words were clear enough and the manservant duo remained where they were. Devin strolled around the machinery over which his personal slaves were fighting.
"Just what the hell were you trying to do? Figure out how my equipment worked?" Devin sneered. "It is so far beyond you." He then walked over to the level on the wall in the corner. "And do you really think I'd design something that had to be operated manually? Please."
Devin pulled the lever and the small entryway to the computer room slid open. Devin stepped in and the door slid shut behind him. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and Jonbull and Cuthbert stared at each other with some trepidation. Then, there was a rumble which could be felt throughout the floor of the entire room. With a grinding noise of metal on metal, the wall before them slid upwards, opening the computer room up to the rest of the lab.
Jonbull leaned toward Cuthbert. "I say. Didn't know it could do that."
Cuthbert shook his head. "HUNH-uh."
Devin was leaning back on the computer console looking smug, his feet crossed at the ankles. "This rather impressive display you see before you is going to be my ticket to insane riches. It's been my path to freedom from morons like my father and jackasses who'd overstayed their welcome, like you. And now, it's going to be my means to freedom from the law." Devin shrugged. "I was going to say 'from justice', but that makes me sound like the bad guy, and we all know how I feel about that role. Besides, anyone would agree that dad had it coming."
Jonbull and Cuthbert looked at each other, truly baffled. They had no idea what Devin was talking about at this point.
Devin went on to illuminate them. "Guess what YOU did, you naughty boy?" he said, pointing at the bloated Jonbull. "You went and murdered my father. Or at least that's what the police will think. You done killed him off, and tried to replace him with a rubber mannequin on the day you knew he was scheduled to go away for a while. But o-oh-ho! Your little plan was foiled when your half-baked simulacrum went kerplooey in front of a room full of witnesses."
Jonbull stared slack-jawed, only just beginning to realize what had happened.
"Yeah," Devin said blithely, "ol' pops went bye-byes today at the board meeting as we all watched in shock and horror." Devin threw his hands up and made a frightened face akin to an extra in a B-grade monster movie. "Eek!"
He then crossed his arms, grinning ear to ear. "Guess it turns out that fatso Jonbull Radcliffe had just had enough of being mean old Nigel Renquist's fetch-n-carry bitch boy. Ya should have just tendered your resignation, pal. Ya didn't have ta kills him!"
Jonbull and Cuthbert looked at each other, astounded. Were there no depths to which this bastard would sink?
"So you get carted off for smiting dad, I get the company free and clear," he wiped his hands as if dusting away unwanted grime, "and as for you—" he looked at Cuthbert. "I dunno, maybe you can get to be the corpse for my "real" dad. The discovered body!" Devin waved a hand. "Oh, you'll be mutilated, deformed pretty much beyond recognition, so pumped full of rubber chemical toxins as to make any kind of medical scan pretty much useless. I think I'll give you his face though..." Devin mused absently. He looked back at the large computer screen. "I'm pretty sure I have it on file here somewhere."
Jonbull and Cuthbert stepped forward, both speaking frantically at once.
"Master Devin, surely you must reconsider! There must be another way--!"
"Gluffa goom whumma! PLORHF!!"
Devin stood upright quickly, a finger poised menacingly over the keyboard controls. "Hold it right there, boys! You know what this little button—what this whole keyboard—can do?" The approaching duo stopped short. "It can rewire you so that you'll have no choice but to confess to whatever I program you to. And though I've never had the means to test it, I bet I can rig you up so that your confession would even stand up under hypnosis, a polygraph test, or any thing else." Devin's eyes darkened and he glared at his personal boytoys. "You try to resist now, and I have no compunctions about just killing you outright. Or having you do it for me. Maybe brave Cuthbert raced to my side in order to protect me from Jonbull's attacks. Poor guy just wasn't strong enough to save himself. But no, I like the idea of the state doing my dirty work better."
Devin produced his cell phone with one hand, flipping it open while keeping his other hand held above the computer's keyboard. Devin glanced at a business card he held along with his phone and tapped out the number found there. As the call went through, Devin breathed heavily in and out, pouting his lower lip, looking at the ceiling to provoke tears. In a moment, he was speaking frantically into his cell.
"Detective?? Devin Renquist! Oh God, oh God. No, I'm at home. I know what you said, but I wanted to check dad's private computer for some clue...No! It's not a business associate like I thought! It's someone right here! He's one of our servants...yes, he had access to everything. And that's not all...what? Jonbull. Jonbull Radcliffe...yes, yes, he's a huge, fat man who dresses funny...oh God, he's here now...I'm in the main dining hall...come quickly!"
Devin's clipped the phone shut almost casually and dropped it back into his pocket. His face was once again completely placid. The detective's business he sailed over to land by the door at the bottom of the stairs. With one hand, Devin deftly pressed a series of switches along the base of the countertop and a soft whirring noise could be heard above them. The mantle had been moved again, the doorway slid open. He'd done everything but provide a trail of bread crumbs.
Jonbull and Cuthbert's faces looked ashen. They knew that this was truly the end of their terrible ordeal. And they at last knew Devin for who he really was.
Devin tilted his head, considering the situation. "You were fun while you lasted, fellas. Both as lovers and as playthings, but it's time to move on."
Devin then, without hesitation, pressed a launch button on his keyboard to set his plans in motion. When, rather than hearing the clickety-clicking of his program coming online, Devin heard the soft hum of the security protocols starting and saw the bright laser beams sweep across the room toward him, he only had time to utter three words.
"What the hell--?"
The police pounded down the spiral staircase as if their lives depended on it. The detective was in the lead, followed by his partner and dozen armed uniformed officers. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they beheld an unnerving sight.
Devin Renquist was there, strapped to an upright table. He had been stripped naked, and a layer of some kind of transparent, viscous oozed covered his entire body. The fat manservant that had been described to the detective, Jonbull Radcliffe, stood at the foot of the table, with some kind of menacing device, not unlike a large spray cannon, pointed at the helpless heir.
"H-help!" Devin cried. "Get him away before he dissolves me! PLEASE!!"
"Stand back," Jonbull cried. "I do so swear that I shall have him! He must be done away with I tell you! His kind must surely perish!"
Jonbull began to work some kind of remote frantically, and the device before the prostrate Devin hummed to life. The officers waited not a second longer. Three of the uniformed men leapt upon Jonbull, pulling the remote from the fat man's hands. It took two more to wrestle him to the ground, and another three on top of that to hold him there.
"Like tryin' to wrestle a rhino!" one of the men said.
"Goddamn, how can someone so fat be so freakin' strong?"
"Can't get the cuffs around his damn fat wrists!"
"Use the zip-ties! Christ, get his legs if you can!"
The detective was busily unfastening the formidably straps on Devin. "I've got you, son. I've got you. Take it easy."
Devin was blubbering. "Oh, god, oh God..."
The lithe Devin Renquist fell into the arms of the detective, the slime which coated him slathering the lawman's clothes. "Ohhh...oh no," Devin wept. "I found out what he did to dad...He told me...bragged about it."
The detective pulled himself from Devin, trying to keep from recoiling at the chemical stench of the rubber solution all over him. "What do mean, Devin? What did he tell you?"
Devin pointed to one of the nozzle guns on the far side of the room. He took up the remote and addressed a couple of the policemen nearby. "You'd better step quite a ways back." As they did so, Devin tossed Jonbull's hat below the nozzle gun. With a quick flick of the remote, the nozzle gun hummed to life and spat out a single glop of rubber solution, no more than six inches across. The foul-smelling ooze struck the hat and promptly disintegrated it, leaving no more than a wisp of smoke and a harsh clean spot on the concrete floor.
"My God," the detective whispered.
Devin tossed the remote aside with disdain. "And he...he said he was going to replace me..." Devin pointed to the computer console and the drawers underneath, as a policeman put a blanket around the young man.
One of the uniformed officers slid open the drawer Devin had indicated, which came forth with a soft hiss. The policeman produced what looked like a length of human skin. More specifically, it looked like Devin's. The cop muttered, "Sweet Jesus."
The skin in his hand then inflated, gurgling slightly, and grew to a near-perfect replica of young Devin. It looked quite suddenly as if the officer were holding the young man up by his hair. The dummy spoke, "I just love Jonbull! He's such a devoted servant, I think most of my family's fortune should be signed over to him."
"Eeugh!" The officer let the talking inflatable drop from his hands, whereupon it quickly lost all its shape and deflated into a stretch of empty skin. Green ooze trickled out of its ears.
The detective shot a look of searing hatred at Jonbull. "You sick bastard."
"You can prove nothing," Jonbull snarled. "Nothing, I tell you! Nothing!!"
"So what is this place, anyway?" one of the officers asked, looking around the room.
"It was dad's private lab," Devin said. "Where we worked together, on ways to revolutionize industries like medical prosthetics, aid for the elderly and infirmed, like that. It was in here that I got most of my ideas that helped restore the company." Devin sniffled. "If dad knew how it was being used today..." He covered his mouth to stifle his cries.
"Hey, detective!" one of the uniformed men called. "Look what I found over here."
There in the shadows of the corner was Cuthbert, tied up and gagged with duct tape. The officer freed him with the sound of painful tearing as the tape came away from rubbery skin. The detective looked at the servant's exaggerated features, his oversized ears, nose, hands, and feet. "Good God, what did that sicko do to this poor guy?"
"It's okay," Devin said, "he always looks like that."
Cuthbert was helped to his feet. Devin took him by the shoulders. Cuthbert was crying. "Ohh, shar. Whenn I learnt whut he was dooing, I TRYD to sthop him, rilly I tryd. Ahm zo, zzo thorry. Bhut Mahstaw RHENkwist?" Devin shook his head. Cuthbert wailed in agony, clutching the boy to him.
"Oh, trustworthy Cuthbert," Devin said, stroking the oafish butler's hair. "It's alright. We'll survive this, I promise you."
"Bhutt I FAIHLLED yew!"
"Detective, what say we get this piece of garbage out of here?" Jonbull was being held by no less than four men, but was still proving to be a handful.
"Unhand me! I already got that tyrant of a father, I won't be denied the destruction of that whelp of a son! The degradation of waiting on them hand and foot! And for what? Let me go, I tell you, so I can be done with him!!" Jonbull's eyes were wild, and his face twitched like a man in conflict, almost as if his divulging words did not match his own thoughts.
Devin strode up to the raving fat man and stood before him. He laid a hand upon Jonbull's shoulder. One of the policemen started to urge Devin away, but the young man continued. "I forgive you, Corpy. At least go to face your judgment knowing that."
Jonbull started to jerk away, his eyes wild with rage, then he made two sharp twitching motions with his face, his nose scrunching up. Slowly, his eyes glazed over.
"I do say. You forgive me, Master Devin?"
"But you have to face punishment for your crimes," Devin stated. His face became quite stern as he said, "For the murder of Mr. Nigel Hartford Renquist, the man who cared so much about you."
Jonbull nodded dimly. "Jolly good. Will there be anything else, sir?"
"Get him the hell out of here," the detective ordered.
The men struggled to get the fat man up the winding staircase. Jonbull rambled on, clearly unaware of their strained efforts. "I say, I really must get back there and kill that little shit. Any of you chaps care to help me kill the little shit? Most sporting of you if you could, you know..."
The officers scoffed as they shoved the vile man upward.
"Crazy as a jay bird."
Back downstairs, the detective looked with some concern at Devin. "While I can appreciate your expression of forgiveness after all that man has done to you and your family, sir, does this mean you won't be pressing charges for his assault on you?"
Devin perked up. "Oh, hell no. I'm going to insist we throw the fucking book at him. Oh, but hey, detective?"
"Is it possible to see to it that Jonbull doesn't get the death penalty? Even with killing Renqui...my father, I think he should be left to live out his life dwelling on what he's done."
The detective looked at Devin with admiration. "That may not be up to me, son. But I'll mention your wishes to those with authority over that."
"Fair enough," Devin smiled.
"You'll be okay here for a while?"
Devin nodded. "I feel safe here at the mansion, especially with him gone. Besides, I want to see to Cuthbert. He's pretty shaken."
The detective nodded. "Call if you need anything." The lawman and his partner departed.
"Can you believe the character of that kid, detective? Incredible."
About ten minutes after their footsteps and chatter had faded, the faint sound of cars could be heard pulling away down the long driveway.
Devin looked at Cuthbert. "You think they're gone?"
Cuthbert grinned. "Ohh, fhukk yah."
Devin walked over to the computer console and activated a few keys. There was a strange gurgling noise and the body of Devin Renquist (not the deflated one in the drawer) began to inflate. His face filled up, his belly expanded, and before long he was once again returned to his previous self, that of Jonbull.
"I say verily, that were I to chose between posing as that shithole son Devin Renquist and this rotund buffoon he stuck me as, I find I prefer the fat manservant. Although the look does surely look better on him." Jamie, once again in the shape of the huge manservant, cracked his knuckles and looked at Simon-Cuthbert, for whom he was growing increasingly fond. "T'will no doubt be in short order that the constabulary will be swarming over this room with their gauche yellow tape to declare it a crime scene, so time is indeed of the essence. Shall we get to work, my friend?"
Cuthbert nodded. "Leths shahll."
And so they did.
* * * * *
The Cayman Islands never looked lovelier. Two young men, gay lovers, made their way along the beaches and enjoyed both the sunshine, the waves, and each other's company. The first, a dark-haired man with a boyish face, had a trim build with very defined musculature. Had he been any thinner, he could be described a swimmer, but his considerable physique, slender though it was, was somewhere between that and a gymnast's. He rocked lazily in a hammock tied between two palm trees.
On the beach before him, his companion, a freckle-faced man with strawberry hair and the rugged build of a country boy, did an effortless hand walk across the sands. he stopped on occasion, spreading his legs in a wide split, then rotated his entire body around, legs still spread, then did a full flip from handstand to upright position then back again, sand flying about him.
The dark-haired muscular man in the hammock rolled his eyes. "Showoff."
The freckled college-age boy did two cartwheels over to his partner, grabbing one of the palm tree trunks to do a flawless spin around the tree, landing lightly beside the hammock. "I used to be a dancer, you know."
The dark-haired man smiled widely. "And so you are again."
The two men kissed. The redhead let his palms rest upon his friend's chest, his fingers sliding slowly down this torso to rest above the waistline of his board shorts. "And I couldn't help but observe that you gave yourself a somewhat enhanced physique than you had to start with."
The boyish man in the hammock placed a hand abruptly over his friend's crotch. "I notice you gave yourself an extra inch or two in the manhood department, Red."
"Yeah, well, at least that's the only enhancement congruent to my makeover."
"I always was too slight of build," the dark-haired man shrugged. He then reached up and stroked the cheek of the man whom he was fast falling in love with. "You kept the freckles."
He smiled. "They're inarguably part of who I am. I used to loathe them, especially during adolescence, but after the tumult of the past year or so...I find them oddly reassuring. Comforting, even."
The redheaded man began to kiss his prone friend again. He started at his face, then his neck. Soon he was kissing the chest, abs, and flat belly of his newfound lover. He began to pull down the elastic waist of the brunette's short.
The redhead looked up at him. "Beer?"
His friend smacked him upside the head. "Asshole!" Then laughing, he answered. "Beer."
The duo walked up to a grass hut farther up the beach which served as a bar and snack station. The redhead held up two fingers to the man in the Hawaiian shirt behind the counter. "Two Coronas."
The dark-haired man noticed a news report on the small television set in the upper corner of the hut, above the shelves of liquor. Beside the news anchor, two photo graphics showed first Nigel Renquist, with the letters R.I.P. above his head, and beside him the fat face of Jonbull, looking enraged.
"Hey, turn that up, could you?" The barkeep did so.
"—final sentencing today in the case of Jonbull Radcliffe, the man who murdered millionaire industrialist Nigel Hartford Renquist, and sought to do the same to his son Devin. Jonbull is looking at two consecutive life sentences for charges including fraud, assault, kidnapping, and murder in the first degree."
Red popped the cap of his Corona, making a "tsk-tsk" noise. He handed the second bottle to his companion, whose eyes remained glued to the screen.
"The only reason that Jonbull did not get the death penalty," the reporter went on, "is due to the testimony of this man, Devin Renquist himself, who urged the jurors to imprison his father's killer rather than give him, as he called it, an "easy out"."
"What a humanitarian," the redhead grinned. His friend shushed him.
"Devin Renquist has handed the reins of his father's company over to his second in command, urging that his rubber-to-body research be put towards medical applications such as prosthetics. Devin Renquist himself had since gone traveling with two of his former boyfriends, who rushed to his side upon hearing of the tragic murder."
The dark-haired man wriggled his eyebrows at his redheaded friend. "Twas the only proper thing to do."
"At last word," the reporter continued, "Devin has gone into seclusion, evidently suffering from clinical depression over the loss of his father. No one has seen him in weeks and he has shunned all interviews. His staff has asked that his privacy be respected."
Footage appeared onscreen of Jonbull being dragged out of the courtroom by officers, raving and screaming. "Having first confessed to, even boasting of, the murder," the anchor narrated, "Jonbull Radcliffe now claims that he was coerced into confessing, and that he is in fact trapped in a magic fat suit, remote-controlled by a mysterious biogenetic computer chip. Authorities believe that Radcliffe is now trying a desperate attempt at an insanity plea, in the face of his sentencing and the incontrovertible evidence against him. Other Renquist home staffers had this to say."
The screen cut to a woman in a maid's uniform. "My team and I only cleaned the mansion once a week, and we didn't live in, but we saw that Jonbull fellow around. Did not like him at all. One time one of my girls heard him in the upstairs ballroom, singing like a crazed banshee about merry old England or something. He scared us."
The redhead snorted. "I always liked her staff."
The anchor and her co-anchor appeared back at their desk. "It's frightening, but I noticed that Jonbull's eyes bear a striking resemblance to Devin Renquist's."
"An unnerving similarity to say the least," the other agreed. "In other news, it's corn everywhere at a Midwestern agricultural fair—"
The redhead placed a handful of bills on the shack's counter. "Thanks, man."
The redhead, Simon, walked off hand-in-hand with his dark-haired beau, Jamie. "What do you suppose would happen if psycho boy gets out of the fat suit?" Jamie pondered.
"Not much," Simon opined. "By then, his visage will bear the same appearance on the inside as on the outside. And wearing such an absurd habiliment will most likely be interpreted as merely further evidence of his derangement."
Jamie laughed. "Man, I love your fucking seven zillion-word vocabulary."
Simon threw his arm around Jamie's shoulders. "Displays of pedantry aside, I would have loved to seen ol' Devvy's face when he heard the jury announce he'd been found guilty of his father's murder."
"Couldn't be any better than him finding out the hard way that we rewired his security sweep to register him as an intruder," Jamie grinned. "Or that I found his stash of euphoria-inducing gas pellets."
Jamie and Simon finished their beers, leaving the bottles beneath the hammock. They made their way out to the shore, watching the sun set on the crystal waters. "Where do you want to go from here?" Simon asked.
"Well," Jamie mused, "as we just so happen to be entrusted with a huge amount of Devie-poo's money..."
"Yeah, he's a generous guy."
"We can go wherever we want." Jamie moved close to Simon, nose to nose. "But who says we have to go anywhere?" The two kissed, their hands working their way around their fit, muscled frames, and liking what they found there.
"You know," Jamie said, breaking away from Simon's kiss, but lingering on his lower lip, "we could make a fortune in the body enhancement biz. Forget plastic surgery—we could introduce RUBBER surgery!"
Simon smiled. "Mmm. Maybe. But later. First things first."
Simon kissed Jamie tenderly, and as the sun dipped below the distant skyline, the tide came up over their toes. Stars began to speckle the sky, and each man stripped his partner of his shorts. The two laid down in the rising tide and made love together, wrapped in each other's arms, they felt freer than they had in ages. The sand beneath them, no longer touched by the orange sun and awash with the clear waters, warmed again under the heated skin of the two lovers.