Alisha Goes Back to Work
Copyright 2021 Lorenzo Marks
All rights reserved
Many thanks to Regressednegress for her imaginative contributions to this story.
Until they arrived at the fringes of the city, Alisha had been sitting impassively in the back seat of Martin’s Cadillac Escalade, watching the unfamiliar rural towns scrolling past her window. Still feeling emotionally numb, she recalled how she had been blindfolded on her original trip up to the farm, presumably as a precaution in case she should ever return with the authorities. Now it seemed that her subjugators were no longer concerned about the possibility she might find her way back to Jacob Johnson’s farm. Was that because they were confident that she was by now too feeble-minded to make notes of the landmarks along the route? Or had they spent the past fortnight building a credible scenario that would totally discredit her as a plaintiff—even if she ever managed to press charges? Mr. Van Hook was after all, extremely wealthy and well connected in the corridors of power. What was a working-class black girl’s word worth against a rich white man like him?
Whatever the reason for their complacence, plotting her revenge was not actually on the top of Alisha’s list of priorities as she watched the city skyline come into view. Despite everything she had been through, Alisha’s mental faculties were still functioning, even with her body permanently flooded by the mind-altering drugs they had addicted her to. This meant that if she were ever called upon to testify against these cold-blooded people, as painful as it would be to do so, she would be able to recount almost every detail of her ordeal. Nevertheless, as the farm and all the depraved events that had unfolded there receded further into the distance, Alisha felt a calm resignation descending upon her.
Even though she was now free of the evil clutches of Jacob Johnson and his twisted sons, she felt no immediate urge to run off just yet—in part because she realized that she didn’t really have anywhere to go. There was no way on earth she could return to her mother having already confessed to being a hopeless drug addict to her over the phone. And even if she could somehow get over that shame, there was her physical appearance to consider—who could possibly take her seriously out in the real world with her breasts as absurdly enlarged as this? She was a freak of nature now, and away from the farm only Martin and Gretchen knew the truth of how she had come to look this way. To a casual observer she could very well have been carrying these gigantically deformed breasts around for her entire life!
Glancing up at her reflection in the rear-view mirror, she caught a glimpse of the blonde Shirley Temple wig that served as a constant reminder of her hideously shaven scalp underneath. After dressing her back at the guest cottage, Gretchen had posed Alisha in front of the mirror and taken a series of pictures on her phone before making Alisha look at them. The ridiculous sight of her dark face framed by the golden, curly locks, and her absurdly elongated nipples straining against the burlap frock would probably never be expunged from Alisha’s memory!
As she recalled the look of pleasure on Gretchen’s face while she was snapping contentedly away, Alisha now became aware of a little bubble of outrage rising up through her general apathy. This spasm of resentment was evidence enough that the old Alisha Royce was still alive and well inside her somewhere, and if she were fully in charge she would already have made a break for it at the first red light they had stopped at. Alisha had no doubt that with the combination of the performance enhancing drugs in her system and her strenuous two-week exercise regimen at the farm, she would have been both strong and fast enough to physically overwhelm Martin and Gretchen together.
So why then did she already know that she wasn’t going to do that? Had Jacob Johnson, Darius Nash, and all of the shadowy figures lurking behind them, finally succeeded in removing any last vestiges of her free will? Had the personality reshaping that Nash had told her about already taken effect? In her constant state of mental flux, it was hard to be sure, but through it all she still sensed the deep inner desire for freedom that had given her the fortitude to survive the continuous torments recently inflicted upon her. And with nothing more than that nebulous awareness to cradle and protect, Alisha had taken the almost subconscious decision to allow these people to dictate her immediate future. Even though it felt counterintuitive, it seemed the most pragmatic path to take right now.
While these rambling thoughts had chattered away in her roller coaster mind, Alisha had been watching the good folk of rural America going about their daily routines outside the car window. The last time she had walked among them—only weeks ago, but it felt like years—she had considered herself superior to most. As a black girl with brains, ambition, and looks, she had come to regard the majority of her peers with an almost contemptuous pity for their lack of drive, purpose, and inner power.
But after her morale crushing experiences at the farm, where far lesser human beings than herself had regularly taken pleasure and amusement from watching her debase herself in the most vulgar and humiliating ways, that feeling of superiority was now conspicuously absent. Indeed, as they traveled deeper into the more populous suburbs, a sense of trepidation and unworthiness began to creep over her.
At a red light opposite a shopping mall, an open-topped sports car pulled alongside, and the driver glanced in Alisha’s direction, making eye contact. She was young and female, her skin almost as black as Alisha’s, her dark, curly hair streaked with orange highlights, her forearm, draped with colored bangles, resting casually on the window sill. The girl was chewing gum, her arrogant eyes checking out Martin’s conservative SUV with disinterest before she spotted Alisha in the back seat. She did a double take and then said something to her passenger, a handsome young black man wearing a red bandanna and a black vest. He looked over, raised his sunglasses, and then a contemptuous sneer shaped his lips. Leaning back in his seat, he gestured in Alisha’s direction, and to her dismay, the young African American couple occupying the back seat turned to stare at her.
These were the kind of street punks that Alisha used to regard as an insult to her race, obviously with plenty of money, but surely obtained by illicit means. The girls were overdressed and made up like hookers, but they carried themselves with such confidence and easy power that Alisha caught herself shrinking back into her seat. She couldn’t hear their comments, but the gestures of the two young men were clear enough, and when one of them cupped his hands in the shape of big imaginary breasts and mouthed an obscenity, they all burst into raucous laughter. Mortified, Alisha slid lower down in an attempt to hide her massive bust, suddenly highly conscious of what she must look like to them. This was her worst nightmare! The very type of people she used to regard with contempt were actually laughing at her!
The lights changed, and one of the guys blew Alisha a mock kiss before the female driver sped away from the junction. Alisha continued to stare numbly at the mall, but the image of the girl’s face behind the wheel remained imprinted in her mind. Her eyes had bored into Alisha with a look of utter derision, as if she understood that Alisha was a white man’s bitch simply from her absurd appearance. But there had been no pity in that girl’s eyes. On the contrary, with the corners of her ruby red lips turned down into a sneer, she had flipped Alisha the bird before wheel spinning away.
Suddenly Alisha understood with great clarity all that was waiting for her in the city. There was no salvation ahead because she no longer belonged here. She was now just a lowly farm slave, without sophistication or self-esteem. The streets that she had once walked as if they were her very own, now loomed menacingly in her future, and they were filled with thousands of everyday people who could never imagine how it must feel to crawl naked in the dirt in front of laughing strangers. They were all waiting for her, a vast and unfeeling audience, ready to bear mirthful witness to how far Alisha had fallen—and there was nowhere for her to hide!
Gretchen lived in a small but modern complex called Lakeside Gardens, which consisted of six two-story units that faced into a communal garden area and pool. As the name implied, it was situated beside a picturesque lake surrounded by woodlands crisscrossed with jogging trails and dotted with picnic areas. The inward-looking layout had evidently been intended to create a sense of village community by the designer, although the cozy effect was somewhat diluted by the five other identical developments spread along the shoreline. Despite the deceptively rural setting, a large college campus occupied the opposite side of the lake, and the apartments were only a short walk from the elevated railway station and a ten-minute ride into the city center.
The cream stone buildings weren’t the prettiest, but they were well-appointed and served Gretchen’s needs well enough for now. She had a bedroom, box room, bathroom, kitchenette, and living area. Plenty of space for a single girl working her way through her law internship. Even though she received a certain amount of financial assistance from her father, Gretchen had recently been considering advertising for a roommate to help with the not insignificant rent—but she could never have imagined that Alisha would have been the one moving in with her, nor that the company would be picking up the tab! Then again, after the bizarre events of the past two days, Gretchen was beginning to believe anything was possible!
Not that Alisha was ever going to be her roomie, of course. It had already been made clear to Gretchen that not only was she was to have total control over her former rival twenty-four hours a day, but that she would be expected to wield her power ruthlessly and relentlessly. Gretchen had absolutely no problem with that. During the drive back she had been visualizing some of the delightfully cruel humiliations Alisha was going to have to suffer at her hands, but all of that lay in the future. This was day one of their new life together and the first item on the agenda was to lay down the ground rules.
Martin pulled into the parking lot facing the lake and put the SUV into park. For a moment they all sat in silence, each no doubt aware that they were about to begin a new chapter of their unexpectedly intertwined lives. Martin still looked awkward and confused about the whole affair, while Gretchen suspected that despite her submissive demeanor, Alisha was still biding her time as she tried to work out her escape. So it was up to Gretchen to take the lead—just as she had done at the cottage back on the farm.
“Well,” she said, looking at Martin. “Here we are then.”
Keeping his eyes fixed on the rowing boats on the lake, Martin popped the trunk and said, “You can come in around lunchtime tomorrow, so there shouldn’t be too much fuss—at first. I’ve been informed that Alisha’s work clothes will be delivered here this afternoon, along with some other items that she will be required to use.”
Gretchen tried to suppress a grin at Martin’s attempt at formality. Sitting right behind them was none other than Alisha Royce, the intelligent and beautiful young woman he had once been deeply attracted to. Now he was talking about her as if she wasn’t even present! Unable to resist, Gretchen leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Martin didn’t pull away exactly, but she sensed him stiffen.
“Don’t I get one back?” she asked mischievously.
Placing her hands under Martin’s square jaw, Gretchen gently turned him toward her, and their lips touched. She pushed her tongue between his broad lips and when it made contact with his, she felt him relax a touch. For a couple of seconds, they kissed like teenage lovers before Martin pulled his mouth away with a self-conscious cough.
Gretchen ran her tongue over her lips and turned toward Alisha who was shifting uncomfortably in the back seat. The poor girl looked so comical in her burlap frock and golden wig that Gretchen could have been forgiven for missing the hurt and anger in Alisha’s eyes. But she caught it alright, and the sense of injustice that she saw in them was all the motivation Gretchen needed to twist the knife even further.
“Come along, Daisy,” she said brightly. “Let’s get you settled in.”
Alisha’s eyes darkened at the sound of her demeaning farm name, but she kept quiet, so to goad her some more, Gretchen said, “I’m sorry, I thought you liked the name the Johnson boys gave you. But don’t fret—we’ll find you a new pet name, won’t we, Martin?”
Martin nodded imperceptibly and then fired up the engine. “I have to be getting back.”
“Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Alisha?” Gretchen asked him sweetly.
Martin cleared his throat again and muttered incoherently as Gretchen climbed out of the vehicle and opened Alisha’s door.
“Come on, there’s nothing to be afraid of—they do allow pets here.”
Alisha remained glued to the back seat of Martin’s car, her gargantuan breasts heaving under her crude frock. Gretchen noticed that two dark patches had materialized where Alisha’s distended nipples were pushing against the burlap. Maybe she wasn’t aware of it herself yet, but it looked like Alisha would soon be in desperate need of milking! Gretchen briefly thought of inviting Martin inside, given his recent experience in this area, but the agitated soul looked so anxious to leave that she decided not to push her luck. Instead, she said to Alisha, “If you don’t get out of there right now, you won’t get milked tonight.”
That got Alisha’s attention, and she reluctantly swung herself off the seat and stood unsteadily beside the car. Gretchen slammed the door shut and was about to reach for her bag in the trunk before she remembered their new respective roles. Quickly retracting her arm, she snapped her fingers and said, “Get the bags, Daisy. Mine is the pink Samsonite—and yours is the tatty old canvas bag, remember?”
Whether or not her near lapse had been noticed by Alisha, it served as a timely reminder that their mistress-slave association was still in its infancy. After all, it had been little more than a few weeks since Alisha had been the natural leader in their relationship, and now that they were returning to the real world, she would be receiving constant reminders of her previously elevated status all around her.
Gretchen couldn’t tell if Alisha was blushing under her dark complexion, but there was definitely a hint of rebellion in her eyes as she retrieved the two items. As far as Gretchen could ascertain, the pharmaceutical cocktail that Alisha to been forcibly addicted to, affected her mental clarity in waves—meaning that sometimes the tormented young woman was lucid, and at others in a state of confusion. Right now, she seemed to be oscillating between the two. The threat of not being milked had been enough to tease Alisha out of the vehicle, but based on what Gretchen had observed so far, the lure of the mysterious drug mixture was sure to have an equally powerful effect on the hapless black woman.
Seizing on that, Gretchen said, “The more time you waste out here, the longer you’ll have to wait for your next fix.”
Alisha obviously wasn’t approaching panic mode yet, but the mere threat of withdrawal seemed to be enough to spur her into action as she grudgingly hauled the suitcase out of the trunk, followed by the canvas bag containing her kinky paraphernalia. She extended the handle of the Samsonite, and with the canvas bag in her other hand, peered into the trunk again. Gretchen followed her gaze and saw the grocery bag containing the clothes that Alisha had been wearing on her first day at the farm. Gretchen pulled out a rather nice wool sweater and held it up thoughtfully.
“It was nice of Jacob to return your original clothes, but they are pretty useless to you now, aren’t they? I mean there’s no way you’ll ever manage to squeeze those oversize jugs into this anymore!”
Alisha glanced miserably at her sweater, no doubt recalling how well-proportioned her figure had been back on that fateful day. Gretchen retrieved a cream-colored brassiere next, and dangled in front of Alisha with a little giggle. If ever there was a reminder of how much Alisha’s physique had been altered, this piece of underwear was it. Gretchen thought back to the way Alisha had always proudly flaunted her ample bust in the office—but the great wobbling udders she now possessed rendered this bra totally obsolete!
“Uh-uh! No way!” Gretchen said, walking over to a row of yellow trash bins.
Noting the forlorn expression on Alisha’s face, she dropped the sweater, bra, and grocery bag into one of the bins, and said, “Come now, you can’t live in the past. You have to get used to the fact that the Alisha Royce who once wore those nice clothes no longer exists!”
Martin revved the engine of the Escalade, and Gretchen gave him a final wave as he backed out.
“Okay then,” she said brightly. “It’s just us now—follow me!”
After unlocking her front door, Gretchen glanced back over shoulder half expecting to see the baggage dumped on the ground and Alisha hightailing it across the parking lot. Instead, the formerly proud law intern was standing obediently on the porch, glancing anxiously around the residential complex. Gretchen could understand Alisha’s concern given her ludicrous appearance, but she was unlikely to attract any unwanted attention at this time of day. Most of the occupants of Lakeside Gardens were professionals or college types and were usually busy until the evening.
Gretchen’s apartment was the second on the left. The first apartment was shared by a couple of attractive female college students, Brandie and Juanita, one black, one Latina, and who Gretchen had a suspicion might be sleeping together. On the other side of her was a diminutive old Jewish college professor named Oren Kline who was polite but somewhat reclusive. All three of them would likely be at classes over on the campus right now, which meant Gretchen could acclimatize Alisha to her new surroundings undisturbed.
Gretchen walked straight through her living area and slid open the patio doors at the rear. In her absence, somebody had erected an olive-green army tent at the bottom of her yard—it seemed that Mr. Van Hook’s people had already started making preparations for Alisha’s arrival. Gretchen turned to show Alisha her sleeping arrangements—and immediately noticed that her new dependent was in a condition of some distress!
As she pulled Gretchen’s expensive suitcase over the threshold, Alisha’s senses were immediately assaulted on all fronts. It was as if that comfortable air of detachment surrounding her in the back seat of the car had been nothing more than a thin bubble waiting to be burst. She had already received a couple of flash warnings of what was to come, but now the sheer scale of her awful predicament surged through every fiber of her being! And as if triggered by her emotional shock waves, the fabricated physical demands of her reconditioned body abruptly burst forth with an urgency that made her knees tremble and her stomach lurch. Her craving for the unnamed drug hit her with an intensity that she had never known back on the farm, and her elongated nipples started to ache terribly from the pressure in her swollen breasts!
Alisha didn’t know exactly what had precipitated this onslaught, but right now she didn’t have time to consider it. All she knew was that her body—was it really hers anymore?—was calling the shots, not her mind, and she had no choice but to obey it!
Oh God, I’m going to lose control here! Alisha thought as she began to hyperventilate.
Gretchen took one look at Alisha’s panic-stricken face and ushered her through the patio doors out to the back yard. Looking frantically around, Alisha noticed that there were only low trellis fences separating the yard from the units on either side, which would allow the neighbors an unimpeded view of her. Then her eyes settled upon the tent at the bottom of the yard. Would Gretchen at least have enough decency to administer Alisha’s medication in there?
While she waited anxiously for Gretchen to locate her suppositories in the canvas bag, Alisha gradually became aware that she was fingering her nipples through the coarse burlap frock. Back on the farm, she had been forbidden to milk herself—or more precisely, she had always been physically restrained from doing so—but now that they were back in the city, did a new set of rules apply? She had become so accustomed to trembling at the sound of Master Jacob’s voice that having a new mistress, particularly one who she used to regard with such disdain, represented uncharted territory for her. Although Alisha didn’t really feel afraid of her as a person, Gretchen had evidently been given the power to withhold the supply of pharmaceuticals that Alisha’s body so desperately craved—so deciding that it would be prudent not to risk antagonizing her, Alisha lowered her hands and tried to ignore her aching teats.
Looking around this unfamiliar back yard, it struck her how helpless she had now become. After years of working to become an independent young career woman, Mr. Van Hook and his accomplices had managed to regress her to the status of a child! She suddenly felt embarrassed that she should be standing here in another person’s home, waiting to be taken care of. It was all so unnecessary and unfair! She had her own apartment in the city, and until this terrible sequence of events had upended her life, she had proven more than capable of taking care of herself. But now she felt stupid, weak, and pathetic while she waited for a Gretchen to administer her fix!
Just when Alisha was beginning to fear that Gretchen might follow through with her threat to withhold the drugs, the blonde bitch emerged with a clear plastic bag in her hand. At the comforting sight of the shiny blue pellets and the imminent relief they promised, Alisha almost smiled with gratitude.
“Found them!” Gretchen said, dangling the bag, and Alisha reflexively licked her lips as she watched the capsules swinging back and forth.
“Oh, just look at your face!” Gretchen smirked. “And I thought you were holding out so well!”
Alisha flushed, suddenly feeling extremely foolish.
She’s making fun of me again! This mean white girl is taking advantage of my weaknesses—except they’re not really my weaknesses at all, are they? They forced this addiction upon me so they can keep me under their control!
Yet even though both she and Gretchen knew that to be true, what difference did it make out here in the real world? People only saw what was in front of them, and the hows and the whys were irrelevant. Every malfunctioning fuckup on the planet had an excuse, a reason why—and nobody could care less. This was the harsh reality Alisha had to come to terms with. It didn’t matter that she had been turned into a drug dependent, physical freak of nature against her will. Right now, all that counted was finding a way to break free of this vicious cycle and reclaim her former place in society. But that was something for the future, because right now she was unable to think any further than getting those accursed suppositories inside her! Worryingly, there was a mean glint in Gretchen’s eyes that suggested that wasn’t going to happen either quickly or easily.
Gretchen pulled one of the blue capsules out of the bag and held it up in the autumn sunlight. Alisha gazed hypnotically at the cigar-shaped pellet, really anxious now for the soothing effects of the compounds it possessed, yet at the time repulsed by the idea of the alien invader nestling deep inside her. Back on Jacob Johnson’s farm, her torments had come so thick and fast that she hadn’t been given time to ponder the unsavory details of her addiction. Now she had to wonder—why suppositories? Why couldn’t she just swallow some tablets in water? Or even have her fix injected directly into her veins? Why did it have to be anally administered? But she could probably guess the answer to that—it was just another of Van Hook’s imaginative ways to maximize her shame and self-loathing.
“So what do you want first?” Gretchen smiled. “Your tits milked, or your ass plugged?”
“May I be of assistance, Miss Wilder?”
Gretchen turned around to see a tall gray-haired man wearing a gray suit standing on her back patio. He also had a gray mustache and cold, gray eyes. Given that he had just addressed her by her surname, Gretchen had a feeling she that she should have known who this unnerving man was.
Looking totally unfazed by Alisha’s bizarre appearance, he took a step forward and produced an embossed business card from his inside pocket.
“My name is Higgins—Mr. Van Hook’s personal assistant. I hope you don’t mind me intruding like this. I rang the bell, but there was no answer.”
Gretchen couldn’t remember whether she had even locked the front door, but for all his politeness, Mr. Higgins didn’t look in the slightest bit sorry that he had let himself in to her house. Regardless, there was such calm assurance about him that Gretchen could only say, “That’s okay, I guess. But why—?”
“Why am I here? Mr. Van Hook asked me to deliver some supplies that Alisha will be needing.”
He turned his gray eyes back toward Alisha. “Your slave looks a little agitated. Perhaps I can help?”
Gretchen glanced again at the card. If this guy was indeed Mr. Van Hook’s assistant, she figured it would be prudent to cooperate.
“Sure, go ahead.”
Higgins nodded and without preamble he grabbed the hem of Alisha’s frock and yanked it up over her massive breasts. As they sprang free, Alisha shrieked and tried to wriggle free of his grasp, but Higgins was apparently a very strong man, and with one fluid motion he pulled the frock up around her neck, forcing her arms over her head. Alisha now began to struggle in earnest, but Higgins easily maintained control of her, pushing her wrists together with one hand, while pulling the frock all the way up over her face. Then, with what looked like practiced ease, he tied the rough material into a thick knot which bound Alisha’s arms together above her head, leaving her effectively hooded.
While Alisha protested and wrestled inside her burlap veil, Higgins yanked her underwear down to her feet and then guided her into a garden chair and squatted down, resting his large hand on Alisha’s thigh with his fingertips inches from her exposed crotch. The potentially intimate contact had the desired effect and Alisha froze.
“Blindfolding helps to calm them down,” Higgins explained, as if he were a veterinarian talking about a farm horse.
Indeed, Alisha’s body had gone limp, perhaps finally in acceptance that she was now under the control of a far superior force. For her part, Gretchen sensed that she had already been relieved of her command—at least while this imposing visitor was still here. Higgins certainly had an aura of authority about him, and Gretchen figured it would be prudent not to confront him—on the contrary, she had the distinct feeling that she was about to gain a few useful pointers here.
Now Higgins slid his hands under Alisha’s knees, pulled them apart, and draped them over the metal arm rests, causing her sticky cunt lips to open up like the leaves of a Venus flytrap.
“The suppository, Miss Wilder?”
Still staring at the pouting gash between Alisha’s thighs, Gretchen handed him the blue capsule.
“Alright, let’s see the wood from the trees.”
Higgins casually parted Alisha’s thick bush with his thumb and forefinger, and then gently tickled her swollen lips with the tip of the suppository. Her feet jerked at the unexpected contact, and a muffled squeak emanated from her improvised sackcloth hood. As Higgins eased the capsule between her labia, Alisha sucked in the coarse material encasing her head. When he was satisfied that the suppository was sufficiently coated with Alisha’s female juices, Higgins removed the glistening blue pellet and trailed it over her hirsute perineum down to her exposed anus. The well lubricated capsule slipped inside her with ease, and as it disappeared from view, Alisha exhaled, her hood now billowing out away from her face.
Without turning around, Higgins wordlessly extended his hand behind him, and Gretchen took another suppository from the bag and dropped it into his palm. Just as before, Higgins trailed the suppository up and down Alisha bloated pussy lips before dipping it into her honeypot and then he pressed it deep into her asshole. Alisha let out a rather unusual gurgling growl and wiggled her toes.
Higgins wiped his hands briskly together, and said, “She’ll be much calmer in a minute.”
Then he abruptly gripped Alisha’s ankles and pulled her legs back inside the arm rests, allowing her feet to slap unceremoniously onto the lawn. Alisha remained in that position as her head tilted backward. From her brief prior experience observing the effects the of this mysterious drug, Gretchen knew that Alisha would now enter a period of blissful disorientation during which she could be manipulated like a mannequin with the minimum of fuss.
Higgins stood and cast his eyes around Gretchen’s yard until they settled upon her rotary washing line. He went over and gave it a vigorous shake.
“This will do nicely. Excuse me for a moment while I go fetch the supplies.”
A half hour later, eight large boxes were stacked inside Gretchen’s living room, and out in the yard, Alisha was suspended from the rotary line. Higgins had rummaged through a couple of the boxes before finding what he wanted—a bizarre arrangement of rubber tubes and straps which he had looped around each of Alisha’s breasts and secured behind her back before attaching it to the nylon lines overhead. She presented quite a sight hanging there naked, with her head and arms bagged by her frock, and two thick patches of underarm hair sprouting out on either side of her mammoth jugs. The rubber tubes encircling them were not so tight as to totally restrict blood flow, but there was now a more noticeable issue of milky white fluid escaping from her nipples.
Gretchen tore her eyes away from Alisha’s semi-mummified form and returned her attention to her laptop. The document she was reading had no heading or any other indications of where it had come from. It had been attached to an encrypted email that Higgins had unlocked for her, and it contained an extensive list of instructions—or suggestions as Higgins had called them.
Gretchen had found all the secrecy a little strange at first but given the bizarre and cruel nature of this whole perverted affair, she figured it was understandable that there should be no tangible trail back to its perpetrators. Of course, Gretchen was too smart, intrigued, and yes, afraid, to even consider being a whistle blower, but Mr. Van Hook obviously wasn’t leaving anything to chance. No doubt he and his accomplices had already put some kind of artificial background scenario into place to ensure that Gretchen would take the fall on her own should she ever have a sudden rush of conscience about all of this.
No chance of that, Gretchen thought.
Higgins sipped his coffee and then produced a stack of envelopes from his briefcase.
“While we are waiting for Alisha to come to her senses, we need to talk about your neighbors,” he said.
“My neighbors?” said Gretchen.
“Yes. Have you thought about how you intend to present Alisha to them?”
“I haven’t really had time,” Gretchen said. “They all work or study in the daytime, so nobody has actually seen her yet.”
“But you won’t be able to keep her hidden forever,” Higgins said, tapping the edge of the envelopes on the coffee table. “Are you acquainted with everybody else in the complex?”
“All except the incoming occupant at Number Six,” Gretchen said.
There were only eight apartments in the complex and one of them was currently empty and awaiting its new occupant. The students, Brandie and Juanita, shared apartment Number One on the left-hand side, and Gretchen’s was Number Two. Oren Kline had Number Three and on the other side of him was a rather engaging bachelor called Tony Ellison, who Gretchen had dated a couple of times.
Opposite Tony, in Number Five were the Stanton family, a somewhat unrefined bunch—the mother, Collette, was a daytime drinker as well as the chairwoman of the Owners and Tenants committee, while her secretive husband, Don, profession unknown, would often be away for days at a time, while their children, Eric and Michelle, had both dropped out of college to become delinquent layabouts.
Next to them was Number Six, soon to be occupied by a Miss Ingle, who according to Collette Stanton was a nurse at a clinical research center, whatever that was. The next apartment remained vacant, and Number Eight, directly opposite Gretchen, was owned by Charles Austin, an openly gay art dealer, where he shacked up with his young toyboy called Roly.
So that was Lakeside Gardens—and with such an eclectic mix, how could Gretchen possibly gauge how they would each react to Alisha?
Mr. Van Hook had evidently already given this some thought however, because Higgins handed the envelopes to Gretchen, and said, “We thought it might help if we created a kind of cover story for you—in case anybody decides Alisha is being treated a little too harshly.”
Gretchen opened the top envelope and pulled out an official-looking letter with an embossed letterhead of a law firm that she didn’t recognize and suspected might exist in name only. The gist of the text was that Alisha was a convicted drug dealer on probation, and Gretchen had been assigned as her custodian while Alisha performed a number of community services. The document pulled no punches about the severity of Alisha’s crimes—apparently she had been peddling drugs to school kids—and by way of an apology for bringing such a heinous criminal into their midst, the Department of Corrections—via this bogus law firm—had included a sizable compensation in the form of a cashier’s check for each of the households at Lakeside Gardens. Not only had Van Hook and his associates painted a terrible character sketch of poor Alisha, but they were hoping that even the most charitable of Gretchen’s neighbors would turn a blind eye to her mistreatment once their checks had cleared the bank—brilliant!
Just as he had done with Alisha’s own mother, Van Hook was relying on their basic human greed to outweigh any misgivings they might have—and at the same time give them moral justification to back it up with! Not only could they enjoy their cash rewards without guilt, but they would now be motivated to assist with the punishments that this low-life black drug pusher deserved! Gretchen smiled to herself, and out in the back yard Alisha groaned and shuffled her feet on the grass, slowly turning her wrapped-up head from side to side.
Higgins said, “It sounds like your slave might be ready for her milking.”
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