Bring Me A Light And Then Bring Me A Light, Part 4

(by The Tobacconatrix, 13 November 2012)

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Bring Me a Light and then Bring Me a Light 
By The Tobacconatrix 

Part 4 

"Bring me some light!" 
Shakespeare; Hamlet 

Chapter 1 

The AV room had never been spacious, but now with so many people crammed 
into it, it felt like a subway train at rush hour. 

The trouble was, thought Beverly wearily, a subway train would at least be 
getting us somewhere. 

She rubbed her eyes and looked at her watch. It was a little after 3 am. 
Everyone else in the room looked as tired as she felt, but she was damned 
if she was going to let them go just yet. She lit a fresh cigarette - her 
millionth of the night - and surveyed the motley group. 

Tina sat across from her, smoking a cigarette of her own and looking pale, 
but alert. At least she understood the nature of the problem they were 
facing. Her fiancÚ David sat in the corner, away from the table, looking 
bored. Beverly had barely met him before tonight, and wasn't terribly 
impressed with what she had seen thus far. Tina could surely do better. 

At the end of the table sat Eve, her face completely expressionless, giving 
nothing away. She had barely said a word all night. It had probably been a 
mistake to get her involved in this, but Beverly had hoped she might have 
something useful to contribute. So far, she had contributed nothing at all. 
She had simply been sitting as an observer, watching them without 
interfering in any way: the consummate social anthropologist. Beverly knew 
the technique well; she used it herself all the time. She just didn't enjoy 
being on the receiving end. 

The centre of attention in the room was Tina's brother James, who was 
looking as if he desperately wanted the ground to swallow him up. A bit 
late for that now, thought Beverly grimly. If only that had happened at the 
beginning of the night, we wouldn't be here now. 

"I just didn't recognise her; I'm so sorry," James was saying. He had said 
that repeatedly - it was rapidly becoming his signature tune. 

"So," growled Tina, "you just took it into your head to chat her up by 
telling her all about our project?" 

Tina glared at her brother, Beverly glared at Tina, and David glared at 

"Before we go into all of that again," Beverly said, "What was Louise even 
doing at this party?" 

Tina snorted. "You'd have to ask genius-boy over here." She turned angrily 
to her fiance. "He decided to invite her, for some unknown reason." 

David rounded on her, furious. "I was being polite! She seemed to be a 
friend of yours; I didn't want to look rude." 

"How gallant of you; I'm sure her legs had nothing to do with it...?" 

Beverly pounded her fist on the table, impatiently. She had to get this 
back on track before they got sucked into a full-blown domestic dispute. 

"Okay, so she was invited to the party." Beverly carefully avoided making 
eye-contact with anyone. "And she accepted?" 

Tina turned away from her fiancÚ and pulled out a fresh cigarette, which 
she lit with the stub of her old one. 

"She looked upset when we met her," she finally said. "She was standing 
outside the building, practically mainlining a cigarette." 

David nodded in agreement, and seemed to calm down slightly. 

"I thought she must be one of your colleagues," he said. "The way she was 

Tina rounded on him yet again. "I told you she was one of the students. I 
said; I specifically said that at the time..." 

Her voice was rising again, and Beverly banged the table once more. 

"Save it for family court," she said firmly. "Just tell me what happened." 

Tina sighed and turned back. "It's true; she was smoking like a pro. You'd 
think she had been smoking all her life." 

Eve smiled slightly at that; her first visible reaction of the night. 

"So she came with us to the party," Tina continued, "But we got separated. 
I kept an eye on her, though." She shook her head; remembering. 

"She started drinking. A lot." 

"I'll say," said James, vigorously. "She was knocking back the tequila like 
it was going out of fashion." 

Beverly tried to control her anger. This is a child, she thought. 

"And you decided to put the moves on her while she was drunk?" 

"No. I was just watching her. She was hot." James was blushing now. "But 
she was with this big group. No way was I going to talk to them. And 
anyway, she didn't seem that drunk. Not at first, anyway." 

Beverly remembered the nearly comatose girl she had seen when Tina had 
called her down. The group of them had needed to drag her back upstairs. 
David had even suggested taking her to a hospital, but Beverly had assured 
him that wasn't necessary. She hoped she wouldn't come to regret that. 

Tina picked up the story. "It's true, she met up with some people she knew. 
I'm pretty sure at least one of them was her stylist. I tried to keep an 
eye on her, but it was crowded in there, and I didn't want to be too 
obvious about it." 

"And her friend was never there? Portia?" 

Tina shook her head. "No one else from the group was there, as far as I 
could see." 

They had seen Portia briefly when they had deposited the wasted Louise back 
in her room. She looked as if she had been having a very bad night of her 
own, and Beverly was interested in what had transpired during the day. 

"The next thing I knew," Tina was saying, "My idiot brother was trying to 
chat her up." 

James turned crimson. "I want to be clear about this: she came up to me," 
he said defensively. 

"She chatted you up?" 

"It was really weird," James continued. "I think she was on something. You 
should have seen her; the way she was acting..." He trailed off and looked 
around the room, hoping for support and not finding any. 

"I just didn't recognise her," he said finally. "You may not realise how 
much she's changed since I last saw her. It was like she was a different 

They all looked at him, silently. 

"You should be happy about that," he said pleadingly, looking at Beverly. 
"Isn't this what you've been trying to do?" Beverly had to resist the urge 
to stub out her cigarette on his arm. 

"He's right," Eve said, and they all turned to her in surprise. "You should 
be happy." 

She calmly pulled out a cigarette. The rest of them waited expectantly as 
she lit up, taking her time about it. 

"The whole purpose of this project has been to modify their behaviour," Eve 
said finally. "It sounds as though that is exactly what you have achieved." 
She looked at Tina. 

"We're talking about the girl from that first night with the Louise Brooks 
hairdo, yes? You say she was smoking?" 


"And drinking?" 


"And taking drugs?" 


"Well then, it sounds as if you have managed to transform this young woman 
into a different person in less than a week." She smiled crookedly at 
Beverly. "Congratulations." 

They all stared at her, processing this. 

"So, your only real concern," she concluded, "Is how much this young man 
told her about your project, and how much of that she's going to remember 
when she wakes up in the morning." 

She sat back in her chair, the dispassionate observer once again. 

James shook his head. "She's not going to remember anything; she was 
seriously wasted." He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. 

"First of all, you can't be sure of that," said Tina. "Second of all, what, 
precisely, is she not going to remember? What did you actually tell her?" 

James looked miserable once again. "Well... I sort of said you were doing 
an experiment." 

"Did you say what kind of experiment?" 

James was silent for a moment. Everyone was glaring at him, and he clearly 
wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. 

"Mind control," he finally said in a tiny voice. "I said you were doing an 
experiment in mind control." 

Beverly almost exploded with rage. She jumped up from her chair, and James 
shrank back, probably afraid she was going to hit him. She nearly did, but 
she stopped herself in time. Instead, she moved to the window and gazed out 
at the dark room beyond, turning her back on the group and trying to calm 
herself down. 

Mind Control? This kid was such an insect. She turned back and thought she 
saw Eve smirking slightly. 

"Well, isn't that what you're doing?" James said pathetically. "I mean look 
what you did to that girl. You changed her so much, I didn't even recognise 

"Well, we certainly have no control over your mind," snarled Tina. 

I'm not sure he has enough of a mind to control, Beverly thought, but she 
kept it to herself. 

"How did she react, when you told her this?" 

James shrugged. "I don't think she took me seriously. She was laughing at 
me. And she was pretty out of it." 

"By the time I came over she was crashing," Tina said. "I don't know how 
much she took in, or how much she'll remember." 

Beverly sucked on her cigarette thoughtfully and looked at the group 
sitting in front of her. They were all clearly tired, and there was little 
more they would be able to accomplish tonight. This was her project, she 
reminded herself, and she would have to decide what to do next. 

"Okay," she said finally. "There's not much more we can do before tomorrow. 
Let's all get some sleep." She turned to Tina. 

"We'll go ahead with tomorrow's activities as planned; we won't change 
anything unless we have a reason to." Tina nodded. 

"But I want you to send text messages to Jordan and Kumiko. They're going 
to have to strike up a friendship with Louise; tell them to find out what 
happened to her yesterday, and how much she remembers from her... 
conversation.... with your brother. And tell them to be subtle about it." 

She turned to James, who looked miserable. "And as for you: stay away from 
the girls from now on, got it?" 

James nodded vigorously and practically fled the room. Tina and her fiancÚ 
also left, doubtless to continue their quarrel in private. Beverly found 
herself alone with Eve. 

"What will you do if that girl Louise starts talking to the others about 
your experiment?" Eve asked once the door was closed. 

Beverly shook her head. "Mind Control," she laughed. "When you say it like 
that it sounds absurd, and hopefully that's what she will think. If she 
remembers it at all." 

She thought about what Eve had said earlier. It was true; looking at the 
situation dispassionately, Louise was a runaway success story. She had 
walked into the course a week ago a sensible, straight-laced, clean-cut 
young woman; a far cry from the self-destructive party-animal Tina and 
James had seen tonight. Maybe `mind control' wasn't such a ridiculous way 
to describe it after all. 

"You seem surprised by what happened," said Eve as if reading her mind. "Is 
this not what you expected?" 

"I hadn't expected Louise to go off the rails quite like this," said 
Beverly thoughtfully. "I pushed her yesterday - her and two others - in 
order to get them smoking more. But I wasn't expecting this. We're missing 
a piece of the puzzle." 

Eve stubbed out her cigarette, calmly. "People are not simulations on a 
computer. You can't control every single variable. You need to adapt as the 
situation changes." 

Beverly nodded absently. Professionally, she knew that Louise's melt-down 
was just one more variable in the experiment, and she certainly didn't feel 
guilty about it. She had been pushing the girls to their limit with the 
express purpose of breaking them down. She had set up the photo-shoots 
because she knew it would mean a high-stress, unrelenting blitz of non-stop 
smoking for them. She had also specified that the final photo project be 
non-smoking. That way the girls would presumably get their first real taste 
of nicotine withdrawal. 

Whatever had happened to Louise, Beverly knew that she had engineered it, 
and she bore a good deal of the responsibility for it, good or bad. She had 
done her job well, and Eve was right: she should be pleased about it. Guilt 
was simply a moral judgement imposed by mainstream society, and had no 
place in this sort of social anthropology. 

As for the damage done by Tina's idiot brother, they would have to wait 
until tomorrow to learn anything more. Nothing was going to happen until 
the girls were awake. 

Chapter 2 

Louise's return to consciousness came not all at once, but by degrees. The 
first thing she was aware of was pain. Pain in her head, pain in her nose 
and mouth, in fact pain all over her body. The second thing she was aware 
of was the smell of cigarette smoke. 

She lay still, gathering her thoughts. The pain was unpleasant. The 
cigarette smoke was not. She had no idea where she was, although it felt as 
if she were in a bed. There was a dull thumping in her head that was making 
it difficult for her to focus, so she was grateful when it stopped 
unexpectedly, replaced by the sound of voices talking softly. 

It dawned on her that the thumping had actually not been in her head at 
all, it had been real; someone had been knocking on the door, and that was 
what had finally woken her up. Wherever she was, there seemed to be a door, 
and it had just been opened. 

"No, she's still asleep," one of the voices was saying. "It's best not to 
disturb her. I'll tell her you stopped by, don't worry. Thanks for checking 
up on her." 

She heard the door close, quietly, and then the indistinct sounds of 
someone moving around the room. Louise had still not opened her eyes; she 
knew beyond a doubt that as soon as she tried, awful things would happen. 
She could already feel a deep stabbing pain behind her eyeballs, and her 
head seemed to be trapped in a vice. The best course of action seemed to be 
no action at all, so she simply lay as still as she possibly could. 

This lasted for a couple of minutes. After that, she heard the distinct and 
unmistakable `click' of a cigarette lighter from somewhere close by her 
side, and the smell of cigarette smoke suddenly intensified. Again, it was 
not unpleasant, and she inhaled deeply, sampling the smoke for herself - 
and was suddenly convulsed in a violent and uncontrollable fit of coughing. 

She couldn't seem to stop herself; she was doubled over, hacking and 
retching, unable to catch her breath. Each cough sent a deep, stabbing pain 
through her body, but there was nothing she could do except let it run its 
course. She had never had a coughing fit like this before, and she 
fervently hoped she never would again. Dimly, she was aware of a cool, 
steadying hand on her back, and another against her forehead. 

When the coughing eventually subsided, she collapsed back against the 
pillow, exhausted and in pain. The hand on her forehead remained, cool and 
comforting, and she was very grateful to its owner for being there with 
her. Cautiously - very cautiously - she opened her eyes slightly. 

Thankfully, the room was dark. The lights were turned off and the curtains 
had been pulled across the window, so only the merest hint of daylight was 
filtering in. Encouraged, Louise opened her eyes a bit more, and she could 
see that the person leaning over her, looking worried, was Portia. 

Even in the gloomy half-light, Louise could see that Portia was a mess. Her 
eyes were red and puffy and had dark circles under them. She still had the 
hair extensions they had given her for the photo-shoot, but now those 
extensions were sticking out unnaturally in every direction, making her 
look like an 80's punk, or perhaps some sort of Star Trek alien. She was 
wearing a bathrobe and looked as if she hadn't slept in days. 

When she saw Louise's eyes open, she withdrew her hand, and Louise could 
see that her fingers still ended in the long red talons they had given her. 
She was looking down at Louise in the bed, her face twisted with worry and 

"Hey," she finally said softly, and smiled weakly. 

Louise tried to respond, but her voice did not come, and she nearly 
triggered another fit of coughing. Portia produced a glass of water from 
the bedside table, and Louise drank it down gratefully. She was terribly 
dehydrated and the glass was empty in seconds, but at least it made her 
feel fractionally more human. She handed the glass back to Portia, who 
returned it to the table. Louise saw that the ashtray next to the bed was 
full to overflowing with cigarette butts (more than a dozen) including one 
fresh one, still burning. Obviously the one Portia had just lit. Portia had 
pulled up a chair next to the bed, and from the look of it had been sitting 
there all night. 

"What time is it?" Louise finally managed to whisper. 

"A little after two," Portia said softly. 

Louise tried to process this. Two in the afternoon? It couldn't be two in 
the morning because there was daylight filtering in through the curtains. 
How long had she been asleep? What day was it, for that matter? 

Portia drew a ragged breath, more of a sob. "I was so worried. When they 
brought you in last night you were so... I didn't know..." She trailed off, 
her eyes watering up. 

"I'm sorry," Louise said to her. "I'm sorry about everything. Last night 
was..." She broke off. She didn't know where to begin. Portia had been 
keeping vigil at her bedside, even after the awful things Louise had said 
to her. She felt her own eyes starting to mist over, and the next thing she 
knew they were both sobbing uncontrollably and hugging each other close. 
Louise held on for dear life. Someone like Portia doesn't come along very 
often; how could she have treated her like this? She squeezed her tighter 
and resolved never to let go again. 

With Portia's help, Louise got out of bed and cleaned up a bit. She was 
very unsteady, and still in pain, but she took it slow. She wasn't ready to 
leave the room - or even get dressed - so she pulled on a bathrobe and the 
two of them padded around the room, looking like an old married couple in 
their dressing gowns. 

Louise found her purse, buried under the dress she had been wearing last 
night (which she had no memory of taking off) and fished out the bottle of 
headache pills she kept there. There were only three pills left in the 
bottle, so Louise took them all. Hopefully they would ease the pain she was 
still feeling. She tossed the empty bottle onto the bed and examined the 
pack of cigarettes in her purse. The pack was nearly finished; there were 
maybe three cigarettes left. Louise was shocked to think how much she had 
smoked yesterday, between the photo sessions and the party. The memory of 
the party was even more bizarre. The drinking! The drugs! What had come 
over her? 

Even more curious, she realised that the thought of smoking a cigarette 
seemed quite nice to her right now, despite the sore throat and the memory 
of her heavy coughing fit. She looked over at the ashtray, noticing again 
how many cigarettes were stubbed out there. Portia had clearly been doing 
an awful lot of smoking of her own last night. 

Portia came over, saw what she was looking at and blushed slightly. 

"I was upset last night after you stormed out. Then I was worried about you 
when they brought you in, in the state you were in. I guess I had a few 

"Would you like one now?" Louise asked her, carefully. She hoped Portia 
would say yes, because she really wanted to smoke one herself, but she 
didn't want to be the only one to light up. 

"Would you?" Portia asked, avoiding eye-contact. 

"Sure, why not?" said Louise, careful not to sound too enthusiastic. "I had 
a few last night myself." 

They lit up together, and Louise took her first puff of the day. Her head 
immediately seemed to clear slightly, and she felt a bit of the weight 
lifting from her shoulders. She closed her eyes and released a long stream 
of smoke into the air. 

Portia sat down next to her on the bed, moving the empty pill bottle, and 
blew out a long stream of her own. She looked curiously at the bottle, then 
frowned, reading the label more closely. 

"Are these yours?" She asked Louise. 

Louise nodded. "They're for headaches. They really work. I just took the 
last of them." 

Portia looked troubled. "This is maximum-strength Codeine. My uncle was 
given these after he had back surgery. These are serious pain-killers. 
They're supposed to be prescription only. How did you get them?" 

Louise shrugged. "Yvette gave them to me at the beginning of the week. 
She's one of my stylists." 

"Yvette; I think I just met her," said Portia, thoughtfully puffing on her 
cigarette. "She stopped by to see how you were doing. Said she was worried 
about you." 

Louise smiled and leaned back in the bed, puffing on her cigarette. That 
was sweet of Yvette. "Yeah, she was at the party last night." 

"What actually happened last night?" Portia asked her, releasing a thick 
cone of smoke. 

Louise took a deep breath and gave Portia the edited highlights of her 
adventures last night. She described running into Tina and her fiance, and 
the party they had taken her to. 

"I'm not a party person," she said, "But I didn't know what to do. I 
couldn't face you after the way I had treated you..." 

Portia put her hand on Louise's arm. "Don't worry about it. It was a bad 

Louise realised she still hadn't told Portia about her day with the 
horrible photographer. She filled her in now, describing the guy's 
condescending manner, and the horrible, horrible things he had said at the 
end of the day. 

Portia looked appalled. "What a pig! No wonder you were so upset." She 
shook her head. "My photographer was much nicer, from the sound of it. He 
was always asking for feedback and suggestions from me, and from the 
stylists. It would have been a fun day if I hadn't smoked about a billion 
cigarettes under the lights." 

Louise laughed. "Same here. I wasn't prepared for all the smoking. I 
actually thought we would be smoking less yesterday." 

Portia grinned and held up her rapidly dwindling cigarette. "And look at us 
now," she chuckled. "smoking away, all over again." 

Louise took another puff on her own cigarette. Actually yes, she thought, 
look at us now. They both seemed to be doing quite a bit of smoking on 
their own time. Almost as if... 

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. 

"That might be your friend Yvette," said Portia, getting up to answer it. 
"She said she would stop by later." 

It wasn't Yvette; it was Anthea, looking more conventional than Louise had 
ever seen her. All the goth trappings were gone, along with the vampire 
dominatrix accessories, apart from the silver streak running through her 
hair, and even that had lost some of its sheen since yesterday. She was 
wearing a simple pair of jeans and a T-shirt; presumably her own clothes. 

"I just thought I would check on you two; see how you were doing," she said 
when Portia opened the door. "You didn't come down to lunch." 

"We're okay," said Portia briefly. "What have we missed?" 

"Macaroni and cheese," said Anthea, grinning. "Burned." 

"No, I meant..." 

"Absolutely nothing," Anthea continued. "It was Sunday morning. Everyone 
got to sleep late. Apparently we're going to spend the rest of the 
afternoon watching movies downstairs." 


Anthea nodded. "I think Dr. Piper has chosen films that show different 
styles of smoking in different social contexts. We just finished watching a 
Bollywood film of some sort, and they have more movies lined up. She wants 
us to take notes." 

Louise nodded. "Sounds like a relaxing Sunday afternoon." 

"It's pure propaganda, if you ask me," Anthea grinned. "Smoking 
indoctrination." She looked at the cigarettes that Portia and Louise were 
still smoking. "And it seems to be working." 

Louise lowered her cigarette, suddenly self-conscious, but Anthea waved her 
hand, laughing. Her nails were still painted black - another relic from her 
vampire session. At least the fangs seemed to be gone. 

"I'm joking," she said. "It does sort of sneak up on you." 

Louise smiled, but she still felt a bit strange with the cigarette in her 
hand, and she stubbed it out in the overflowing ashtray. It was more or 
less finished anyway. 

"I'll leave you two in peace," Anthea was saying. " I just wanted to see 
how you were doing. I'm glad you seem to have sorted everything out between 
the two of you." 

Louise looked up sharply, and Portia saw the expression on her face. 

"Anthea came by last night," she explained. "After you left." 

"I was just curious to know how your photo-shoots went," Anthea said. "I 
didn't mean to get in the middle of anything." 

Louise shrugged it off. "I was a jerk," she said. "That's the beginning and 
end of it." Portia smiled at her, gratefully. "In fact," Louise continued, 
"That was a different Louise, last night. An Evil Louise." 

"She was being controlled," Portia said, squeezing her hand. "By the Forces 
of Darkness." 

Something about that triggered a memory in Louise, and she suddenly thought 
of the poor kid at the party last night. God, she had been so horrible! She 
would need to apologise to him as well, if she could. 

There was another knock on the door, and this time it was Tina, looking 

"I just wanted to check on you," she said to Louise when Portia opened the 
door. "We were all so worried about you. How are you feeling?" 

"I'm okay, thanks," said Louise politely. She didn't want to start 
explaining everything all over again. 

"Tina helped bring you home last night," said Portia, and Louise suddenly 
had a flash of memory. That poor kid she had insulted was Tina's brother! 
She felt humiliated all over again. What had gotten into her last night? 

"Tina, please apologise to your brother for me," she said sincerely. "I'm 
afraid I was very rude to him." 

Tina waved a hand dismissively. "Don't give it a second thought," she said. 
"I'm sure it wasn't as bad as you think it was." 

"No, really," said Louise. "I remember every word I said to him, and it was 
awful. I'm so sorry." 

Tina was silent for a moment, then smiled again. "Well, he probably 
deserved it. James can be a bit maddening sometimes." 

"No," Louise said firmly. "He didn't deserve it. He was being fine. It was 
all me. Just tell him I'm sorry." 

Tina looked as if she was about to say something else, but then seemed to 
change her mind. She looked around at the others, then smiled again. 

"I'm just glad you're feeling better," she said finally. "We're having a 
relaxing afternoon watching movies. Come down whenever you like, but no 
pressure, if you want to rest a bit more." 

She turned to leave, and nearly collided with Yvette, who had just stepped 
into the open doorway. Their room was starting to feel like Grand Central 
Station, Louise thought. They would have more privacy in the middle of the 

Yvette beamed when she saw Louise. 

"Ah, you're feeling better, I'm so glad!" she purred. "We were all so 
worried about you." 

Louise blushed. Next time she had a melt-down, she would have to remember 
to do it in private. It felt like absolutely everybody knew about it. 

"I'm fine," she assured Yvette, "but thanks." 

"Here," Yvette said, pressing a small package into her hands. "I brought 
you a few things. I know exactly how you're feeling. If you need anything 
else, at all, just give me a call." 

With that, she swanned out of the room, all smiles. Anthea stared after 

"Who was that," she asked, bemused. "the Fairy Queen?" 

"That was Yvette," said Louise. "One of my stylists." 

Anthea shook her head, bemused. "My stylists look more like Sid and Nancy. 
And they're both men. I will never understand the fashion world." 

Louise curiously examined the package Yvette had given her. There was a 
note attached to it, written in big, flowery handwriting with a lavender 

Hey Louise, 

Sorry u arent feling well, but if their is anything i can do, pls let me 
no. i find all these can help after a long nite!!! If u need anything else 
at all, just ask. Its no trouble. Get well soon! 



Inside the package was a fresh bottle of headache pills, some sort of 
herbal hangover remedy, and two packs of the extra-strong Japanese 
cigarettes Louise had tried last night. Despite herself, Louise laughed. 
This was Yvette's idea of detox? 

"Why is she giving you cigarettes?" asked Portia curiously. 

Louise explained how Yvette's room-mate brought them back from Japan, and 
Anthea examined one of the packs with interest. On a whim, Louise decided 
to smoke one. She remembered enjoying them last night, and she was curious 
to see if they were as nice today. Extracting a cigarette, she lit up and 
was immediately rewarded with the same powerful surge of minty tobacco she 
remembered from the night before. 

"Could I try one of those?" asked Portia, seeing the look of satisfaction 
on Louise's face. Louise handed her the new pack and she lit up one of her 
own. Her eyes widened as she took her first puff. 

"Wow, these are strong," she gasped through a thick cloud of smoke. "And 
they're flavoured!" 

"Flavoured?" asked Anthea, intrigued. "How?" 

Louise took another deep drag. The strong smoke was perking her up by the 
second, and she was feeling a surge of energy rushing through her body. For 
the first time since waking up, she was starting to feel almost normal. 

"They taste like peppermint," she told Anthea, and Portia nodded in 
agreement, taking another deep drag of her own. 

"That's menthol," said Anthea, and they both looked at her in surprise. 
Seeing the look on their faces, she explained. 

"My roommate. The basket-case ballerina. She was given a pack of menthol 
cigarettes a few days ago and she decided she liked them better. She's been 
smoking them like candy. I tried a couple of them last night after the 
photoshoot, and they do taste like peppermint." 

Portia offered her the Japanese pack. "Would you like to try one of these? 
They're actually really good." 

Anthea took the pack and lit up a cigarette, experimentally. Exhaling a 
large cone of smoke, she nodded in approval. 

"Very nice." 

The three of them smoked their cigarettes in silence for a few minutes, 
enjoying the strong smoke and the quiet. Louise felt herself starting to 
relax. It was good to be spending a lazy morning (afternoon, she reminded 
herself) with nice people. No makeover sessions, no photo shoots, no 
role-playing, and certainly no drugs. She found herself studying Anthea as 
she smoked. She and Portia had smoked together in the privacy of their 
room, but this was the first time she had seen Anthea smoking away from a 
group exercise. It was also the first time she had seen Anthea out of 
`costume'. This wasn't Anthea the Goth, or Anthea the Vampire, it was 
simply Anthea In Real Life, lounging around on a lazy Sunday. And smoking a 
cigarette. Louise found it fascinating. 

It was finally Anthea who broke the silence. 

"What was that business about Tina's brother, by the way?" 

Louise sighed. She didn't want to go into that again. 

"Remember that kid serving drinks at the reception the other evening? That 
was Tina's brother. He was at the party last night, and I was rude to him." 
She took another drag on her cigarette. 

"Tina was very upset about it," said Anthea thoughtfully, releasing a long 
column of smoke. "She was trying not to show it, but it was really 
bothering her. You must have really hurt his feelings." 

"He tried to chat me up, and I made fun of him," said Louise. "I was a bit 
out of it last night, and I wasn't very nice." I was high on coke, she 
thought. Never again. She shuddered, just thinking about it. 

Portia raised her eyebrows. "He tried to chat you up? Really?" 

Louise smiled faintly. "I don't think he remembered me. He fed me a line 
about his sister's top secret work." 

Anthea laughed. "What, you mean her top secret work as the secretary to a 
drama teacher?" 

"No, he was being a bit... inventive, shall we say. Apparently her real 
field is mind control." 

Anthea and Portia burst out laughing. 

"Yeah, that was my reaction as well," said Louise. "But I shouldn't have 
teased him. He was just trying to impress a girl at a party. He didn't 
deserve to be insulted." 

"The funny thing is," said Anthea, "Your apology actually made Tina more 

"I doubt that," said Louise. 

"Definitely. That's why I was curious." She shrugged. "People are funny. 
Everyone reacts differently. 

"Well, maybe it's all true," laughed Portia, through a cloud of smoke. 
"Maybe Dr. Piper is really an evil scientist trying to control the world 
through hypnosis." 

Louise laughed as well. "Yes, and now that we've stumbled across it, it's 
going to lead us into a dark web of intrigue?" 

Portia smiled. "That could be our next role-playing scene. We can do some 
sort of espionage thriller." She manicured her dwindling cigarette in the 
overflowing ashtray. 

Louise stretched out on the bed, feeling better than she had in ages. She 
was still tired, but she didn't feel pressured, and that made a big 
difference. She wiggled her toes and savoured the freedom of not having to 
wear heels for a day. If they went downstairs to watch movies later, she 
resolved to go down in her own clothes. No heels, no constricting dresses, 
and no makeup. 

Anthea took a final puff on her cigarette and then stubbed it out in the 

"I should leave you two alone, but maybe I'll see you downstairs a bit 

Louise was suddenly conscious of the fact that she and Portia were still in 
their bathrobes. She looked at the clock and saw that it was after four 

We must look like a couple of slobs, she thought. 

Anthea put a hand on the doorknob. "Thanks for the cigarette. And the 
conversation." She grinned suddenly. "It sure beats watching my roommate 
popping pills and doing her stretching exercises!" 

Portia smiled and crushed out her own cigarette. "We'll probably be down in 
a while. Enjoy the movies!" 

Anthea wished them well once more, then finally left, leaving Portia and 
Louise alone again. Portia closed the door and locked it, then came over 
and flopped down on the bed next to Louise. 

"No more visitors for the time being, please," she laughed. 

Louise smiled and looked over at her. Portia's hair extensions were still 
sticking up in every possible direction; she probably didn't realise how 
ridiculous she looked. Louise leaned over and started to stroke her hair, 
trying to pat it down and tame it into submission. She couldn't go 
downstairs looking like that. 

"Poor Anthea," she said as she worked. "She doesn't seem very happy with 
that dancer she's sharing with." 

Portia moved in closer to Louise, and let her head rest on Louise's 
shoulder. Louise continued to stroke her hair. 

"She was telling me more about it last night," Portia murmured. "Apparently 
she takes these diet pills that make her completely hyper, then she takes 
sleeping pills at night. And she apparently smokes in their room, 

Louise laughed gently. "Obviously the roommate from hell." Portia had a 
speck of ash on her cheek, and Louise brushed at it with her finger. 

"Nothing worse than a roommate who smokes," Portia said, giggling. She put 
her hand on Louise's chest, and let it slide under the folds of her 
bathrobe. Louise felt Portia's long fingernails against her bare skin and 

"If my roommate started smoking, I'd throw her out then and there," said 
Louise, running her hand up Portia's leg. 

"Same here," whispered Portia, her lips inches from Louise's ear. 

"And she would deserve whatever she got," said Louise, softly. 

"Why is that?" Portia picked up the Japanese pack with her free hand and 
started to tap out a pair of cigarettes. "Why would she deserve to be 
punished like that?" 

"Because," said Louise, picking up the lighter, "she's a bad, bad girl." 

Portia had one of the cigarettes in her mouth now, and she started to pull 
open Louise's robe. Louise took the other cigarette, then extended the 
lighter and lit up for both of them. Portia released a thick cloud of smoke 
directly into Louise's face. Louise ran her hand under Portia's robe, and 
let her fingers feel their way into her crotch. Portia gasped, sucking even 
more deeply on her cigarette. 

"She's a bad girl?" 

"Terrible. The worst." 

Louise took a long drag on her own cigarette, then kissed Portia, and 
released a lungful of smoke directly into Portia's mouth. Portia's hands 
were on Louise's breasts now. She broke the kiss and started to run her 
tongue down Louise's neck, Louise's cigarette smoke dribbling from her 

Louise continued to run her fingers between Portia's legs, and Portia 
opened herself up to accept them. 

"Shall we go downstairs to watch a movie?" Louise whispered. 

"We'll catch the next screening," said Portia, and kissed Louise once 

Chapter 3 

At six o'clock they finally decided they should put in an appearance 

The afternoon had flown by, and Louise couldn't believe it was almost 
dinner time. She realised she had not eaten anything all day (not food, 
that is) and she was feeling quite light-headed. She and Portia threw on 
some old clothes and prepared to head down to join the others. 

As Louise pulled on her own jeans for the first time since Monday, she was 
shocked to discover how loose they were. This was an old pair of jeans that 
she had worn for years, and they had always fit her well. Now, they were 
practically falling off, and she was forced to tighten her belt by a couple 
of notches to keep them up. She had not really been eating very well this 
week, but it hadn't occurred to her that she might be losing weight. She 
examined herself in the mirror and decided that her face might indeed look 
a bit thinner, but she couldn't be sure. Adrian and Yvette had given her a 
completely new hairdo and it was making it difficult for her to judge her 
reflection properly. Her jeans had certainly never been this loose on her 

That idiot photographer would be so pleased, she thought grimly. She 
resolved to eat a proper meal at dinner this evening. 

She and Portia headed downstairs and found the rest of the group in the 
main bar area, watching the end of a movie. The room had been converted 
into a makeshift movie theatre, with a basic video projector set up at the 
back, projecting the film onto a medium-sized folding screen. The room was 
in darkness apart from the video image, and Louise smiled to herself, 
remembering the last time she had been in this room in the dark. 

This time around, the movie on the screen gave off enough light for them to 
find a pair of empty chairs at the back of the room. Louise recognised the 
film they were showing: it was To Have and Have Not, with Humphrey Bogart 
and Lauren Bacall. She knew the film well, and she could see that it was 
almost over. Bogart and Bacall both gave incredible performances in this 
film, and it was actually one of the films that had first interested Louise 
in acting. She understood why Dr. Piper had chosen to show it to the group; 
there was a lot of smoking throughout the film. Of course it had been made 
in the 1940's, when everyone had smoked. 

As Louise sat down next to Portia, she suddenly became aware of something 
interesting. There was a strong beam of light running from the projector to 
the screen, passing over the heads of the assembled girls in the room, and 
the light was swirling with thick cigarette smoke. The smoke actually 
served to make the light even more pronounced, and Louise was reminded of 
the lighting technicians in yesterday's photo shoot, trying to capture her 
drifting cigarette smoke in their spotlights. She looked across the room at 
the girls sitting there, and she could see that quite a lot of them were 
smoking in the darkness as they watched the film. The smoke from their 
cigarettes was drifting up, into the path of the projector beam. 

The film was nearing the end, and Lauren Bacall was about to sing in the 
nightclub, wearing that amazing black gown of hers. Bogart was watching her 
with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, a burning match forgotten 
in his hand as he gazed in awe at this gorgeous woman before him. Louise 
had seen the film many times before, but she suddenly found herself 
fascinated by the use of cigarettes in the scene. What would directors of 
the time have done without cigarettes? The unlit cigarette in Bogart's 
mouth was such a perfect metaphor for sexual tension; it was hard to 
imagine anything else that could have worked as well. 

Lauren Bacall began to sing in the smokey atmosphere of the nightclub, and 
Louise looked around at the room she and Portia were sitting in. It was 
just as smokey as the scene in the movie. People seemed to be engrossed in 
the film, and she sensed no tension or boredom in the audience. She 
wondered if Dr. Piper had instructed everyone to practice their smoking 
while watching. She couldn't see Dr. Piper anywhere, although Tina was 
sitting next to the projector, watching the film and smoking a cigarette of 
her own. Scanning the audience, she estimated that about half the girls in 
the room were smoking cigarettes at that moment, although it was too dark 
to see which girls they were. There was something deliciously intimate 
about the environment; the smoke in the room almost seemed to be mingling 
with the smoke in the on-screen nightclub. This was a form of audience 
participation that Louise had never considered before. She almost felt as 
if she was actually sitting in that grubby little bar in Martinique 
watching Lauren Bacall singing while cigarette smoke twisted and curled 
around her. 

Louise was gripped by a sudden desire to light up a cigarette of her own. 
The moment just seemed to demand it, as if not smoking would do a 
disservice to Lauren Bacall and the song she was singing. Fishing out her 
pack of cigarettes, she removed one for herself and passed the pack to 
Portia, who also took one, and they lit up together. Louise wondered if 
Portia was feeling the moment the way she was. 

"Maybe you're meant to be mine," sang Bacall on the screen. Louise looked 
over at Portia, sitting next to her in the dark, cigarette smoke curling 
around her head. 

"Maybe I'm only supposed to stay in your arms awhile...." Louise touched 
Portia's hand, and they leaned closer to each other. 

" others have done...." Portia turned her head as well, and their eyes 
met in the flickering, smokey light of the Martinique nightclub. 

"Is this what I've waited for? Am I the one?" 

Growing up, Louise had always been a serious and mature girl. She had never 
been the type of girl to make out in the back of a movie theatre. Today, 
she discovered what she had been missing. 

The film carried on, but Louise and Portia hardly noticed. They only broke 
apart when the end titles flashed up on the screen and the image went dark. 
Tina switched off the projector and Louise straightened herself out as she 
watched the other girls in the room starting to get up from their seats, 
stretching and chatting quietly. She was momentarily blinded when Tina 
switched the full room lights back on, but her eyes gradually adjusted, and 
she got her first good look at the group of girls. 

For the past week, the girls had been spending most of their time together, 
working with Dr. Piper in the smoking sessions or eating together in the 
dining area. Louise had become pretty familiar with the group, as you'd 
expect from such an intense week. 

The girls she saw now might have been a group of strangers. Being a Sunday, 
there had been no stylist sessions for anyone, and every single person in 
the room was dressed down with a vengeance. The women she had come to know 
during the week with their glamorous dresses and designer suits had all 
been replaced by frumpy kids in jeans, T-shirts and sweaters. Elegant, 
fashionable shoes had been abandoned in favour of dirty sneakers or even 
(in Michaela's case) threadbare slippers. Impeccable, flawless skin was now 
revealed without makeup, and Louise saw pale, blotchy faces, looking tired 
and worn out. 

These are the girls as they really are, Louise realised with some surprise. 
Away from the manipulating powers of people like Adrian and Yvette, these 
are the real people; the ordinary individuals who had been lurking below 
the surface glamour all this time. 

A tall girl with messy hair stood up in front of her, and Louise saw that 
it was Anushka. Her incredible figure was completely hidden by a 
comfy-looking anorak and a pair of shapeless, baggy jeans. Her eyes and 
lips looked smaller than Louise remembered, and it seemed to change her 
whole face. She isn't wearing mascara or lipstick, Louise realised. If she 
had passed this girl on the street she would never have connected her to 
the Bollywood goddess she had been ogling for the past week. 

Anushka took a puff on the cigarette she was holding, and noticed Louise 
looking at her. 

"We haven't seen you for a few days," she smiled. "How was the photography 
session yesterday?" 

"It was interesting, thanks," said Louise, absently. She was thinking about 
something else. Anushka was smoking. So were a lot of the other girls 
(including herself and Portia, for that matter). Seeing them smoking while 
`out of costume' made Louise slightly uncomfortable. This was not a 
classroom situation, and they were not working on any specific smoking 
exercises, so why was everyone smoking? Being dressed up in elegant 
clothes, with professional hair and makeup, Louise had been able to think 
of the cigarettes as an accessory; a stage prop. 

She looked at herself now in the big mirror behind the bar and saw herself, 
Louise, looking back at her. The first time she had stood in this room she 
had just received her first radical makeover from Adrian and Yvette, and 
she had seen a complete stranger staring back at her in the mirror. A 
sexier, more elegant stranger; someone far classier and more desirable than 
Louise herself. Now, her hair was dyed black, but otherwise she was looking 
at the same old Louise she had seen in the mirror every day of her life. 

Apart from the cigarette in her hand. 

How many cigarettes had she already smoked today? She was losing track. 
More to the point, why was she smoking at all? She remembered how frantic 
she had become yesterday after going just a few hours without smoking. That 
was not something she wanted to go through again. She took another drag on 
her cigarette, watching her reflection in the mirror and focusing on the 
way it felt. There was no question: it felt good. She was definitely 
enjoying the experience of smoking. Was she becoming a smoker? An actual, 
real smoker? This course was supposed to be about teaching them how to use 
cigarettes as an acting tool. It wasn't supposed to be turning them all 
into smokers. 

Was it? 

"Are you all right?" Portia put a worried hand on her arm, and Louise 
realised she had been staring at herself in the mirror like a crazy person. 
She snapped herself out of it and looked around. The room was rapidly 
emptying out as everyone wandered over to have dinner. 

"I'm fine," she smiled at Portia. "Let's go eat." 

Chapter 4 

Beverly had been relaxing somewhat as the afternoon had progressed. After 
the chaos of last night, everything seemed to have settled down nicely. 
Their fears about Louise were starting to look a bit premature; whatever 
James had said to her last night did not appear to have alarmed her 
excessively. She was not running around spreading panic among the other 
girls; in fact, she and Portia had not even come out of their room for most 
of the day. Tina had finally gone to check on them, and had come away with 
cautious optimism. Although Louise seemed to remember everything James had 
said to her last night, she was apparently mostly upset with herself for 
insulting him. They would need to keep monitoring the situation, but there 
was nothing more they could do until the two of them decided to emerge from 
their room. 

Everything else was going according to plan, as far as Beverly could see. 
She had put together a programme of films for the girls to watch, all 
carefully selected to bombard them with images of sexy women smoking. It 
was the oldest trick in the book of course, but it always worked. 

In this case it was working beautifully. A couple of the girls (Claire and 
Michaela) were already smoking freely, and seemed to have fallen into their 
new habit with great enthusiasm. Kumiko and Jordan had also finally been 
given permission to light up as often as they wanted, much to their obvious 
relief. Four women smoking in the group had been enough to push most of the 
others over the edge, and by the time they were halfway through Fashion, 
most of the other girls had succumbed to their own nicotine cravings. The 
darkened room had helped as well; the more self-conscious members of the 
group didn't have to worry about being observed by the others. Everyone was 
focused on the movie, and no one worried about who, specifically, was 
lighting up. 

No one except Beverly and Eve, of course. 

"This has been a very impressive project, from what I have observed," Eve 
told Beverly approvingly. "I think you will have a very compelling proposal 
to submit to the grant board." 

They were sitting in the AV room, looking out at the darkened bar area, 
which was now serving as a de-facto movie theatre. Tina had carefully 
positioned the projection screen so that it wouldn't block their view, plus 
the night vision cameras were once again providing them with all the 
details they needed. 

It really has gone well, Beverly thought to herself. The only question at 
the moment was Louise; she and Portia were the only ones missing from the 
group. It was still remotely possible that they were up in their room 
methodically putting clues together, untangling the threads of the past 
week and preparing to make a grand entrance later when they would blow the 
whistle on Beverly and Tina. 

It wasn't very likely, though. More likely, Louise was still in bed, 
recovering from the biggest hangover of her young life. 

Beverly looked out across the heads of the girls as they watched To Have 
and Have Not. The room was thick with cigarette smoke. Eve was right; 
everything was going perfectly. Today had been a crucial test, and so far 
it was going better than Beverly had dared hope. There had been no makeover 
sessions, so the girls had all come downstairs dressed in their own clothes 
for the first time all week. This was the first time they had all seen each 
other as they `really were' and not as their respective stylists had chosen 
to present them. 

"Look at them," she said to Eve, shaking her head. "They're all dressed the 
same." It was true: everyone was wearing the same worn jeans and faded 
T-shirts, with the occasional sweater dotted around the room. 

Eve nodded, thoughtfully. "That's individuality for the 21st Century. These 
girls are living in a society that gives them more freedom than people have 
ever had. And yet they all choose to look exactly like everyone else." 

"That's the ultimate expression of freedom," Beverly said. "You're even 
free to take away your own freedom." 

Eve laughed. "People are sheep," she said. "The human race has a very 
strong herd mentality. You should be grateful. If they weren't so easily 
influenced, you and I would be out of work." 

Beverly smiled at that, and lit a fresh cigarette. She didn't really care 
how the girls chose to present themselves. She was more interested in how 
much they were going to smoke today, and she had not been disappointed. 
Crucially, Tina had given no instructions to the girls, other than to enjoy 
the films and have a relaxing Sunday. The girls were all free to smoke - or 
not - as they pleased. 

Well, they had certainly been smoking, Beverly thought with satisfaction. 
They had sat through two and a half films so far, and she could see that 
every girl in the room had been lighting up on numerous occasions. The herd 
mentality, as Eve had called it, was working in their favour now: the more 
cigarettes were smoked by the group in general, the more each individual 
girl was encouraged to light up again. 

They sat in silence for a time, smoking and watching the girls. About 
fifteen minutes before the end of To Have and Have Not, Louise and Portia 
finally appeared, looking flushed and unkempt. 

"Ah, look what the cat dragged in," Beverly chuckled. 

"Wow, they look awful," muttered Eve. 

They watched as the two girls quietly slipped into seats at the back of the 
room. Portia's hair was a mess, and Louise's incredible legs were 
completely hidden inside a shapeless pair of jeans (another pair of jeans!) 
that didn't even fit her properly. Beverly studied them carefully, trying 
to pick up any clues they might be giving off. They both looked tired, but 
they didn't appear to be upset about anything. Their body language was 
relaxed and comfortable. After about five minutes, Louise pulled out a pack 
of cigarettes and the two girls lit up together. Beverly felt a huge weight 
lifting from her shoulders. 

"Gotcha!" she said, triumphantly. Whatever Louise remembered about her 
encounter with James last night, she apparently wasn't letting it interfere 
with her smoking. Beverly felt her few remaining concerns of the day being 
swept away. Everything was going fine. 

"Lucky Strikes," said Eve approvingly. "Very nice." 

"I'm sorry?" Beverly wasn't sure what Eve meant. 

Eve pointed to one of the video monitors. The camera had a good angle of 
Louise sitting with the pack of cigarettes in her lap. Beverly squinted at 
the screen and saw that Eve was right: The pack she was holding had the 
distinctive Lucky Strikes logo. 

The implications of that suddenly hit her, and she gasped, audibly. 

"What's wrong?" 

"We haven't been using Lucky Strikes this week," Beverly said softly. "She 
must have picked those up somewhere else." 

"She's started buying her own cigarettes?" 

Beverly was still processing this. All the cigarettes the girls had been 
smoking this week had been provided for them by Beverly and Tina. If Louise 
was getting her cigarettes from somewhere else... 

All day she had been worrying about Louise. She had been afraid that James 
had said too much to her. She had thought they might have to cut her loose 
from the group to protect the integrity of the project. Now it seemed that 
not only was Louise still in the game, she was apparently buying her own 

"I think," she said finally, "we have our first fully committed smoker." 

"Congratulations," said Eve, smiling broadly. Beverly couldn't get over it. 
She felt a surge of adrenaline building up inside her. They had been 
working towards a point like this of course, but now here it was: physical 
proof right in front of her! 

As they watched, Louise and Portia leaned in closer to each other. Portia 
put her hand on Louise's leg, and they turned to face each other. A moment 
later they were kissing passionately, safe in the darkness of the room, the 
movie forgotten. Beverly and Eve watched them, entranced. 

"I thought you said they were both pretty upset last night," Eve said, 

"They were. Louise got herself too drunk to stand up, and when we brought 
her home, Portia looked like she was on the point of a nervous breakdown." 

They continued to watch. The two girls were practically undressing each 
other right there in the back of the room. 

"Nothing beats make-up sex, don't you think?" Eve smirked. 

Beverly was experiencing mixed emotions. Seeing Louise smoking her own 
cigarettes was a major victory. But there was something about the intensity 
of their kissing that made Beverly a little bit uncomfortable, and she 
wasn't quite sure why. It certainly wasn't guilt. She had no moral problem 
with the efforts she had made to manipulate these two young women (or any 
of the others in the group) and if anything, she was happy for them. They 
were nice kids; they deserved a happy ending. 

So what exactly was bothering her? 

"Remember what it was like to be young and in love?" Eve said as she 
watched them. 

Beverly had not been young and in love in a very long time. Perhaps that's 
what was bothering her now: simple jealousy. Could it be as mundane as 
that? She continued to watch Louise and Portia, who were busily trying to 
swallow each other's tongues. 

They looked happy. 

Beverly stubbed out her cigarette and immediately lit another one. She was 
definitely annoyed, and for no obvious reason. Unfortunately, that was only 
making her even more annoyed. She was a social anthropologist; she had made 
a career out of understanding why people acted the way they did in specific 
situations. As a rule, she didn't enjoy emotions that she didn't 
understand. Emotions that were not understood could not be controlled, and 
Beverly liked to be in control. 

Louise and Portia were showing no signs of stopping. Why would that bother 
her? All week she had been pushing these girls to their breaking points, 
quite deliberately. She was cold and professional when it came to 
manipulating the emotions of others. She had seen people broken and 
destroyed as a result of her manipulations, and it had never bothered her 

So why did it bother her to see them happy? 

To Have and Have Not came to an end, and the girls began to stand up; 
stretching their legs and talking softly. Portia and Louise stopped what 
they were doing and also stood up, but Beverly's mysterious anxiety 

"What happens next?" asked Eve, watching the girls starting to drift out of 
the room. 

"They will have dinner," said Beverly, absently. "Then they'll come back 
and watch one last film." 

She watched as Louise exchanged a few words with Anushka. Then, 
unexpectedly, Louise turned and looked into the window to the AV room. She 
seemed to be looking directly at Beverly and Eve. Beverly flinched, despite 

"She can't see us, can she?" Eve asked, cautiously. 

"Of course not," said Beverly. "She must be looking in the mirror." 

Louise continued to stand there, staring intently and smoking her 
cigarette. Beverly had to admit it was very unnerving. Perhaps Louise had 
been putting the clues together after all. Perhaps James had told her more 
than he had admitted. Perhaps.... 

Suddenly Portia put her hand on Louise's arm, and Louise turned away from 
the window, smiling. The moment passed, and Beverly felt her pulse 
returning to normal. Louise and Portia set off for the dining hall, and the 
room outside was suddenly empty and quiet. 

Beverly was more shaken than she cared to admit. She knew what she wanted 
to do. 

"Would you like some champagne?" She asked Eve. She went to the small 
fridge in the corner and retrieved the bottle she had been keeping there. 
"I was saving this for the end of the course, but I think we deserve a 
little something at the moment, don't you think?" 

Eve looked surprised, but smiled and nodded. Beverly really was pleased to 
see Louise smoking her own cigarettes (and that was certainly a reasonable 
excuse to drink a toast) but she was also feeling strangely tense. 
Something was bothering her; something she couldn't quite put into words 
just yet. Hopefully a drink or two would help. 

She opened the champagne bottle and poured glasses for herself and Eve. 

Chapter 5 

As usual, the food was awful. 

Louise and Portia had found a pair of empty seats at a table with two other 
girls, Jordan and Kumiko, and Louise found herself staring at the meatloaf 
on her plate without enthusiasm. It probably tasted terrible, but the 
strong cigarettes she had smoked that afternoon were muting her taste buds, 
and for once she was grateful for that. She felt it was important to clean 
her plate. Her jeans were killing her; they were bunched up around her 
waist and felt as if they were at least two sizes too big. It was also the 
first time she had worn trousers of any kind since having her legs waxed 
yesterday, and her skin was chafing badly under the denim. It was strange: 
these had always been her comfy jeans. She actually found herself looking 
forward to getting back into a short skirt tomorrow; something she would 
never have believed of herself. 

She was troubled by the idea that she had lost so much weight in such a 
short time. The irony of that was not lost on her: there were many girls, 
she knew, who would kill to lose weight like this, and on some subconscious 
level she felt obscurely proud of herself for managing it. It just bothered 
her that it seemed to have happened without her knowledge. If she was going 
to lose weight, she wanted to be the one in control. 

"I heard you two got to do a photo shoot yesterday," Kumiko said to them, 
grinning. "That must have been so much fun!" 

"It was mostly exhausting," said Portia. "It's not as glamorous as you 
think it would be." 

"It's mostly just sitting under hot lights for hours," Louise agreed. She 
put a piece of meatloaf in her mouth and forced herself to swallow it. 

"Was there a party afterwards?" Jordan asked, eagerly. "Fashion parties are 
supposed to be legendary." 

"Actually, there was a party," said Portia. "But I didn't go. Louise did." 

Jordan and Kumiko both squealed in delight and turned to Louise. 

"Oh, tell us all about it; we want all the juicy details!" 

Louise was saved by Anthea, who came up to their table and slid into an 
empty chair next to them. 

"Don't eat that, if you want to live," she grinned at Louise, pointing to 
the meatloaf. 

"Listen," she continued. "I thought you might find this interesting. You 
remember what you were saying about Tina's brother and all that crazy stuff 
he told you yesterday? Well, it got me curious, and I Googled Dr. Piper 
when I got back to my room." 

"Why would you do that?" asked Kumiko. 

"I'm a lit graduate," laughed Anthea. "Research is the only thing I know 
how to do." 

"What did you find?" 

"Well, the only `Dr. Beverly Piper' I could find seems to have no 
connection to drama, or theatre. There's a Beverly Piper with a degree in 
Social Anthropology, whatever that means. That was the closest I could 
find. She seems to be the director of some sort of think-tank called the 
`Institute for Rational Logistics'." 

Jordan raised her eyebrows. "Well, that could be absolutely anything." 

Anthea looked at her, annoyed. "I'm not even sure if it's the right Dr. 
Piper. I found a paper she published about ten years ago. Something about 
religious cults, and the techniques they use to brainwash their victims." 

"That doesn't sound like the same Dr. Piper," said Kumiko. 

"It's interesting, though," said Louise. 

"It just made me think about what that kid said to you about mind control," 
Anthea said. "Maybe Dr. Piper's real work is deprogramming cult victims, or 

Louise nodded. "But that would be the opposite of mind control." 

"Well, you said he was trying to impress you," said Portia. "Maybe he was 
just trying to make it sound good." 

"Anyway," Anthea went on. "If it is the same Dr. Piper, why would she be 
teaching drama students how to handle cigarettes?" 

Louise frowned. She remembered watching all the girls smoking during the 
film. Something strange was going on. 

Jordan was looking skeptical. "I used to have an art history professor 
whose degree was in comparative religion. Teachers can wind up teaching all 
sorts of weird courses." 

Kumiko nodded in agreement. "It doesn't prove anything." 

Anthea glared at the two of them. "I wasn't trying to prove anything," she 
said sharply. "I just thought it was interesting." She got up to leave. 

"Anyway, we can talk later." She threw a dirty look at Jordan and Kumiko, 
then grinned at Louise. "Good luck with the meatloaf of doom!" 

"Well, I'm finding the course very useful," said Jordan as Anthea left. "I 
had an audition for a part about six months ago, and I couldn't get past 
the first round because I didn't know how to smoke." 

"Same here," Kumiko said. "I wish I had taken a course like this a year 
ago. It would really have helped me." 

They continued to chatter away. Louise tuned them out and focused on her 
meatloaf, which was every bit as bad as Anthea had said it was. 

She was probably just being paranoid, she decided. She was still a bit 
shaken by everything that had happened yesterday, and she was most likely 
just reading too much into a few random coincidences. The whole group had 
been smoking non-stop for the last week; why shouldn't they enjoy a few 
cigarettes today? She was not a great believer in conspiracy theories. In 
Louise's experience, most situations were more or less what they appeared 
to be. If this course was designed to teach drama students how to handle 
cigarettes as props, then that was the whole story. If Dr. Piper was really 
a social anthropologist (and she wasn't even sure what that was) then she 
was simply a social anthropologist teaching a drama course. It probably 
wasn't even the same person. 

Just because she had been acting a bit out of character this week didn't 
mean that the kid's remarks about `mind control' had any substance to them. 

She was just being paranoid. 

Chapter 6 

Beverly finished her glass of champagne and poured herself another. Eve sat 
and watched her silently. If she was wondering what was troubling Beverly, 
she didn't say anything. She simply waited for Beverly to start the 

Beverly was no fool; she knew what Eve was doing. Eve was a social 
anthropologist, just like her. She was trained to observe behaviour without 
influencing it; she would sit and wait for the rest of the evening, if 

That's the problem with both of us, she thought grimly. We have made 
careers out of analysing every social situation, and now we are no longer 
capable of experiencing anything spontaneously. 

She sipped at her drink and studied the woman sitting across from her. To 
an outsider, Eve looked like just another corporate, high powered executive 
type. Someone meeting her for the first time would probably assume her to 
be a lawyer, or a PR manager. Her makeup, her designer outfits, her 
expensive hairdo all indicated someone intelligent, successful and highly 
image-conscious. Of course that was exactly the image Eve wanted to 
project. In reality, she was something far more dangerous and insidious. 
Beverly looked at Eve, and knew that she could be looking at herself just 
as easily. 

"How long have you been working in this field?" She asked Eve finally. 

Eve took a small sip of her own champagne. "Almost fifteen years." She 
didn't elaborate. She wasn't going to lead the conversation, Beverly knew. 
She would only say enough to keep Beverly talking. Beverly had used the 
technique on others more times than she could count. 

"Does it ever bother you?" She asked. "The work you do? The way you 
manipulate people?" 

"Is that what's bothering you?" 

Beverly smiled, despite herself. Another psychologist's trick: turn the 
question back on itself. 

"No," she said. "It doesn't bother me." She waited, but Eve said nothing. 
Beverly felt her frustration rising. This was ridiculous: two 
anthropologists trying to have a conversation. She would have more luck 
talking to a fortune cookie. 

"It doesn't bother me," she continued, "but sometimes I think maybe it 
should. And that's what bothers me." 

Eve smiled for the first time. "You feel guilty about not feeling guilty?" 

Beverly looked down at her glass. It sounded ridiculous when put in those 
terms, but she couldn't help that. 

Eve picked up the champagne bottle and topped up her own glass. 

"When scientists observe animals in the wild," she said finally, "They need 
to be completely dispassionate. They can't allow themselves to become 
emotionally attached to the groups they are observing. Whatever happens to 
those animals, they need to observe from a distance, without getting 
involved. As any naturalist will tell you, that's extremely hard to do." 

"I know that, of course," said Beverly. 

"The problem that we have," said Eve, "is that we are trying to observe our 
own group. In order to maintain the correct perspective, we must separate 
ourselves from the rest of society. We need to be dispassionate enough to 
step away from our own culture and observe it from the outside. 

"That gives us a distinct advantage over the rest of society. We can see 
why people act the way they do, and we know exactly what it takes to make 
them act in various ways. Unfortunately, we pay a price for that. The price 
is that nothing in society can ever affect us directly. We have become too 
dispassionate for that. It has probably been decades since either of us 
experienced a first-hand emotion." 

Beverly thought of Louise and Portia, kissing in the dark. They had looked 
so happy together, and she had engineered that. She had thrown them 
together, and she had manipulated the circumstances that had turned them 
into a loving couple. If she wanted to, she could separate them just as 
easily; people were sheep, after all. Anything was possible once you 
learned which buttons to press, and Beverly was extremely good at pressing 

Unfortunately, she knew that Eve was absolutely right. She had been able to 
generate that passion in Louise and Portia, but she would never be able to 
experience passion like that - she was too self-aware for that. Watching 
others from the safety of her little bat cave was as close as she would 
ever come to genuine, sincere human emotion. Physical pleasure, yes; or the 
sense of power that can come from control - she could certainly experience 
that. But the warmth of simple human contact was something that she had 
trained out of herself long ago. She could read about it, study it and 
observe it in others. But it would never be hers again. 

"Personally," said Eve, "I think the advantages of our position far exceed 
any drawbacks. We may be detached from society, but we are also liberated. 
Normal rules of polite behaviour simply don't apply to us. Also, we can 
manipulate absolutely any situation to our advantage, because we understand 
why people do what they do." 

Beverly nodded. "It is very seductive, there is no doubt about it. There is 
nothing that is beyond our control." 

"And no one," said Eve, smiling wickedly. "People may be sheep, but sheep 
can be very tasty, sometimes." 

Beverly smiled at that. "So you enjoy a good rack of lamb, now and then?" 

Eve looked directly at her. "I believe in the importance of a varied diet." 
She took a long, deliberate drag on her cigarette. "Don't you?" 

"I was never one to observe dietary restrictions," Beverly replied. "I've 
been known to mix milk and meat on occasion." 

She looked at her watch. The girls would be finishing their dinner soon, 
and they would be returning to watch their final film of the evening. 
Louise and Portia would probably be giving each other tonsillectomies 

"Here," she said to Eve, picking up the bottle. "I think it's time for us 
to get drunk." 

Chapter 7 

After dinner the group got together to watch one more film. Louise wasn't 
really in the mood for a film. She was tired, and the meatloaf had given 
her a stomach ache, but she and Portia decided to brave it out. They had 
missed most of the day, after all. 

The film was Gilda, with Rita Hayworth, much to Louise's disappointment. 
She had seen it once before (on television a few years ago) and hadn't been 
terribly impressed by it. Still, watching a film was relaxing; she would 
have a chance to sit quietly and think about the past few days. 

Everyone settled into their seats and Tina turned off the room lights, then 
crossed to the projector and started the movie. Louise thought about the 
information Anthea had turned up about Dr. Piper - if indeed it was the 
same Dr. Piper. It probably wasn't her. Why would someone like that - a 
social anthropologist - be teaching a course like this? It didn't seem very 

The film got underway, and Louise absently watched the opening scene. Glenn 
Ford was in Argentina, cheating some sailors out of a lot of money in a 
crooked dice game. Louise remembered why she hadn't liked this film. Glenn 
Ford's character meets a strange guy played by George Macready, and they 
become friends. When Macready eventually marries Rita Hayworth, Ford 
develops a bizarre love-hate relationship with her and winds up treating 
her horribly badly. That was the part that had bothered Louise. Rita 
Hayworth's character was no saint, but the treatment she receives in the 
film is cruel, and brutal; basically torture. Louise had found the film 
quite misogynistic. She had been reading a lot of feminist film theory 
around the time she had seen it, and she remembered mustering up quite a 
lot of moral outrage about it. 

Next to her, Portia seemed happy to watch the film, for the moment at 
least. Maybe she had never seen it before. Louise looked around the room 
and saw that several cigarettes had already been lit. Once again, the smoke 
was starting to rise up to intersect the beam of light from the projector. 
She wondered how long it would be before she and Portia lit up cigarettes 
of their own. Strange to think how much could change in just one week! 

In the film, George Macready's character made his first appearance. Glenn 
Ford was being held at gunpoint in a dark alley, and Macready saved his 
life, scaring off the gunman with a lethal-looking sword stick. 

Portia leaned across her chair. "What's a classy guy like him doing in an 
alley like that?" she whispered, and Louise smiled. Onscreen, Macready 
pulled out an elegant cigarette case and Glenn Ford immediately helped 
himself to a cigarette, then lit both his own and George Macready's. 

Everyone smoked in those days, Louise thought. 

"I'll do the same for you sometime," said Glenn Ford's character. 

"Save my life?" asked Macready. 

"Give you a cigarette," replied Ford. 

It suddenly hit Louise what was really going on in the scene. The two men 
were chatting each other up! How could she possibly have missed it before? 
It was so obvious, and it explained everything that happened in the film. 
The two men did not just become friends, they became lovers. That's why 
Glenn Ford becomes so protective of George Macready, and that's why he is 
so upset when Macready unexpectedly marries Rita Hayworth. 

And it was all there, in the way Ford lit those cigarettes, Louise thought, 
wonderingly. That one little moment told the whole story. She had missed 
that completely the last time she had watched it. Now, it seemed so 
blatant, she was amazed the film-makers had gotten away with it. Gilda was 
not about Rita Hayworth at all, it was about the love affair between Glenn 
Ford and George Macready. 

Louise sat forward in her chair, suddenly completely engrossed in the film. 
Ford and Macready met again the next day, and Ford talked his way into a 
job working in Macready's casino. 

"This way you'll have two friends," said Ford, pointing to Macready's sword 
stick. Louise couldn't believe she had missed anything this obvious. 

"There is no woman anywhere?" said Macready, sharply. 

Glenn Ford looked him straight in the eye. "I was born last night, when you 
met me in that alley." 

Next to Louise, Portia sucked in her breath. She was getting it as well. 
Louise could feel every hair along the back of her neck. Gilda, that 
classic movie with Rita Hayworth as the iconic `bad girl' was actually a 
gay love story! This was a mainstream film from 1946; hadn't anyone 

The film progressed, and Louise watched it with new eyes. Every little 
detail had meaning, she realised. Now she understood how to read those 
details. She felt privileged; she was suddenly privy to a secret layer to 
the film, hidden in plain sight all these years. The clues had all been 
there, but she now had the means to decode those clues. 

Rita Hayworth made her unforgettable entrance, and she and Glenn Ford 
stared at each other across the dressing room. Hayworth smoked a cigarette, 
never taking her eyes off Glenn Ford, and Louise could see the rage and the 
betrayal in Ford's eyes. The betrayal was not directed at Hayworth, Louise 
now saw; it was directed at George Macready for marrying this woman; for 
being unfaithful to him. 

Louise watched Rita Hayworth smoke her cigarette. It was incredibly sexy. 
But it was a power play, she realised. She was using the cigarette to 
flaunt the power she had in the relationship. She was saying, "George 
Macready is mine now; he isn't yours anymore." She was saying it with a 
cigarette. Every single cigarette in the movie meant something, Louise now 
understood. It wasn't just characters lighting up at random, and the 
cigarettes were never just cigarettes; they were metaphors. Why hadn't 
Louise ever picked up on any of this before? 

Well, the answer to that was obvious as well, she realised, with a grin. 
The last time she saw this film she had not been involved in a same-sex 
relationship, and she had not been a smoker. 

And suddenly there it was. Just like that, staring her in the face. 

A smoker. 

She was a smoker. Sitting next to her in the dark was Portia, her lover. 
Clutched in her hands, folded across her lap, was a pack of cigarettes. Her 

A smoker! When had that happened? Louise Hamilton, lesbian smoker. It was 
such a radical departure from her regular self-image, it had taken her 
until this moment to articulate it to herself. A smoker. And a lesbian. She 
wasn't sure which was the more shocking. She shook her head, processing the 
enormity of it. 

Portia looked over at her, concerned. "Are you all right?" she whispered, 
and Louise nodded. 

"I'm fine," she whispered back. 

She was - absolutely fine. In fact, she was great. She took another look at 
Portia, and she couldn't believe how lucky she was. Who would have thought 
that this course would bring so many changes to her life? Coming to a 
decision, she opened the pack of cigarettes she was holding, and removed 
two of them. She was a smoker, after all; she was going to smoke a 
cigarette. And she was in a relationship, so she was going to share her 
cigarettes with her lover. Portia accepted the cigarette without any 
hesitation, and they sat together, watching Gilda and smoking together in 
the dark. 

She was going to have to send a thank you note to Dr. Piper. What a 
wonderful week this had turned out to be! It couldn't have gone better if 
it had been planned. Even the hell she had gone through yesterday had just 
seemed to cement her bond with Portia. Plus, if it hadn't been for that 
power failure on the first night, she might never have spoken to Portia at 
all. Or smoked her first cigarette. 

Something about that nagged at the back of Louise's mind. Something about 
the blackout was bothering her, but she couldn't quite put her finger on 
it. It didn't matter, really. She was in a good mood. She took Portia's 
hand and squeezed it. Portia squeezed back, and Louise continued to smoke 
her cigarette, watching the smoke drifting up into the projector beam, 
mingling with the smoke from all the other cigarettes in the room. 

She wondered about everyone else in the class. Most of the girls sitting 
here seemed to be smoking. Had they all become smokers as well? Or 
lesbians, for that matter? She remembered what Anthea had said about the 
other Dr. Piper she had read about on the internet. Social anthropologist. 
Pity this wasn't the same Dr. Piper; an anthropologist would probably find 
this very interesting. 

In the film, Rita Hayworth accepted a light from one of the waiters in the 

"It is so crowded, and yet so lonely," said the waiter. It made Louise 
think of the party she had gone to last night. Crowded and lonely; that 
pretty much described it exactly. 

"You smoke too much," said the waiter. "Only frustrated people smoke too 
much, and only lonely people are frustrated." 

Louise chuckled at this. Right now, she was feeling neither lonely nor 
frustrated; quite the opposite, in fact. But last night at the party had 
been a different story. She had been completely frustrated and painfully 
lonely, and she had smoked a lot. She had even taken cocaine; that was a 
personal low for her. Lonely and frustrated. This was a very insightful 

The plot was starting to develop, and it was becoming clear that George 
Macready was actually using his casino as a front for something far more 
sinister. From his office, he had one-way windows that overlooked the 
casino floor, and hidden microphones that allowed him to hear everything 
that went on. Nothing happened there that was beyond his control. 

Louise saw something moving out of the corner of her eye and she turned to 
look. Tina was slipping out the side door; probably just running to the 
bathroom or something. Louise saw her for a moment, looking pale in the dim 
illumination of the `Emergency Exit' sign above the door. 

Louise frowned. She hadn't really noticed it before, but there were two 
doors in this room, and both of them had illuminated signs above them. Had 
those signs been there all the time? They must have been. But they couldn't 
have been lit when the power had failed the other night or they would have 
provided enough light to see. They must have gone out along with the rest 
of the lights when the power had been cut. But wasn't that the whole point 
of emergency lights? They were supposed to stay on in the event of a power 
failure, so people could evacuate the building in safety. 

Louise looked around the room, curious. It was hard to tell because the 
movie screen was giving off quite a bit of light, but now that she thought 
about it, she realised the room had not been in total darkness even before 
the film had started. She had been able to see Tina switching on the 
projector after she had turned off the room lights. That's what had been 
bothering her about the blackout, she realised. Now that she looked, she 
saw that there were a couple of tiny little bulbs that were still lit, 
including the `Emergency Exit' signs. Just enough to let them see in the 
dark. Those lights had certainly not been working the other night. 

She took a puff on her cigarette, wondering. Did that mean anything? 
Probably not. Maybe those lights were simply broken the other night, or 
they had been cut off by the power failure, along with everything else. In 
that case, it was lucky that they had all been given cigarette lighters, or 
they would have had no light at all. 

"I make my own luck," said George Macready onscreen, as if reading her 

Louise thought back to the evening leading up to the power cut. It was just 
a reception for the group; it had been a chance for them to meet each 
other; nothing more. No, that wasn't quite true. They had all been given 
unlit cigarettes to hold. It was hard to believe that was barely a week 
ago. It had been the first time she had ever handled a cigarette, lit or 

Tina had said the blackout was just a blown fuse. Surely it was just as 
simple as that. What else would it be? She started to think about what 
might have happened that night if the lights hadn't gone out. She probably 
wouldn't have met Portia, and if she had, they would only have made small 
talk. They certainly would not have ended up on the floor together, smoking 
their cigarettes, kissing... 

Louise had not had any intention of smoking a cigarette that night, and she 
certainly hadn't planned to hook up with any of the other girls in the 
group. Why had she done all those things? She had been dreading having to 
smoke during the course; she had been hoping to put that off for as long as 
possible. If anything, she had been fantasising about the waiter that 
night. She had thought he was cute. The waiter who was Tina's brother, she 
reminded herself. The one she had treated so badly at the party last night. 
She felt a rush of guilt thinking back to that again. 

What had he said to her last night? An experiment in mind control. She 
strained to remember what else he had said. Her memory got a bit foggy from 
that point on. He had called it an `experiment in mind control' and she had 
laughed at that. `It's amazing what she can get those girls to do,' he had 
said. Did that mean anything? Or was he just blowing hot air? In the past 
week she had gotten herself involved in a lesbian relationship. She had 
started smoking. She had taken drugs. All of those things would have been 
inconceivable to her just a week ago. What had prompted her to do all those 

It's amazing what she can get those girls to do. 

Next to her, Portia lit a fresh cigarette and offered one to Louise. She 
accepted it and lit up, again noticing the number of lit cigarettes dotted 
around the room. Portia had also started smoking in the past week. So had 
Anthea, Anushka, Claire, Kumiko... all the others, in fact. They were no 
longer just practicing, they seemed to be really smoking. Were they doing 
that by choice, or were they being influenced? 

It's amazing what she can get those girls to do. 

The whole thing seemed so unlikely. Mind control! It had sounded crazy last 
night when Tina's brother had said it to her, and it sounded crazy now when 
she said it to herself. What was she basing this on? An `Emergency Exit' 
sign? That was an awfully shaky premise on which to build a conspiracy 

With a little effort, she brushed all this insanity from her mind and 
returned her attention to Gilda. 

Chapter 8 

"A bit more?" 

Beverly picked up the bottle of scotch (the champagne was long gone) and 
poured some of it into her glass. The rest of it she poured onto the table. 

Impaired motor control, she thought. Lack of coordination. Slurred speech. 
Blurred vision. Damn it! Why did she have to analyse everything all the 
time? Couldn't she even get drunk like a normal human being? 

"The problem is," she said to Eve, "You and I have too much power." Her 
tongue seemed to be too large for her mouth, and her lips felt numb. Again, 
typical of alcohol consumption. 

Eve didn't respond. She was smoking her cigarette and staring vacantly out 
the window, watching Gilda as it played to the girls in the room. 

Beverly watched Eve watching the girls watching Gilda. She giggled at the 
absurdity of the situation. 

"This is what God must feel like," she said to herself. 

Eve turned to her, curious. "Did you say something?" 

Beverly laughed. "I said we're like gods. We shape the destinies of these 
girls." She drank a bit more of her scotch. 

Eve shook her head slowly, and took another puff on her cigarette. "We 
don't deal with destiny," she said finally. "We deal with temptation." 

Beverly struggled to focus on Eve's face. Her pupils were dilated and her 
cheeks were flushed. Indications of intoxication. 

"Temptation," she said, savouring the word. It was a good word. "Yes. We're 
temptresses-es!" She burst out laughing. 

"I think not," said Eve, with dignity. "The correct word is temptressi!" 
She collapsed in hysterics. 

"I'm a temptress," said Beverly with satisfaction. She looked at Eve and 
grinned. "And you're the mother of us all!" 

Eve looked puzzled, so she explained: "You're Eve, the temptress!" 

"So I am," said Eve, looking pleased with herself. "Although it's Dr. Luci, 
to you." 

Beverly extracted a cigarette from her pack with rubbery fingers. 

"May I have a light, Dr. Luci?" 

Eve giggled and lit her cigarette for her. 

Beverly was feeling better, but she knew that was simply the effect of the 

That was her whole problem right there, she thought darkly. She could never 
feel anything, good or bad, without knowing exactly why she was feeling 
that way. Her own mind was an open book to her; she had lost the ability to 
experience anything directly. That's why she had been depressed by the 
sight of Louise and Portia together. She may have engineered their 
relationship, but they were the ones who got to enjoy it, not her. 

Even that had to be analysed, she thought. It was not enough for her to be 
simply depressed by the sight of her subjects being happy. She had to 
analyse and explain her own depression. Where would it end? 

She swallowed another mouthful of scotch. She enjoyed getting drunk on 
occasion. It was the only way she could experience her emotions more 
directly. As long as the alcohol was in her system, the analytical part of 
her brain was pushed to the background. She no longer experienced 
everything through a self-referential filter; observing herself from a 
distance as if she was one of her own subjects. 

That filter was still there - it never went away completely - but the 
alcohol muted it somewhat. A filter around the filter. 

Eve was watching Gilda through the window. "You know," she said now, "This 
film is a perfect expression of social engineering." 

Beverly looked out at the screen. George Macready's character had been 
killed in a plane crash, and Glenn Ford had married the widowed Rita 

"I've always liked this film. He marries her just to punish her," she 
nodded. "Everything he does to her is designed to break her down, to reduce 
her to nothing." 

"No wonder you like it," Eve said. "It's all about one person having power 
over another. That turns you on, doesn't it?" 

"Power is a great aphrodisiac," Beverly said. 

Onscreen, Rita Hayworth was becoming increasingly desperate. Glenn Ford was 
keeping her locked up; away from everyone, including himself. 

"It's brilliant," Beverly said. "This is Rita Hayworth, one of the sexiest 
women in Hollywood, and he's making her feel like a piece of garbage." 

"Push the right buttons and you can make even the sexiest person feel 
worthless." Eve leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs, looking 
comfortable and relaxed. 

Beverly studied her, thoughtfully. She was looking pretty sexy at the 

"Speaking of sheep, are you hungry right now?" 

Eve turned to look at her, calmly. 

"I'm always hungry. But I'm not in the mood for lamb at the moment." 

Beverly took a drag on her cigarette and released a long stream of smoke 
into the room. 

"Something more substantial, perhaps?" 

Eve leaned forward and met Beverly's gaze. 

"Perhaps I could look over the menu?" 

Beverly stood up - a little unsteadily - and took Eve's hand, pulling her 
forward out of the chair. 

"I can assure you, everything we serve is of the highest calibre." 

They stood facing each other for an instant, then Beverly suddenly pushed 
Eve with all of her strength, and Eve fell back onto the table. Beverly 
started to lean over her, but Eve rolled away, eyes blazing, and managed to 
circle around behind her. Grabbing Beverly, she pulled her sideways and the 
two of them fell roughly against the window, each refusing to submit to the 

Beverly felt her pulse racing. Sexual arousal. Increased libido. Eve was a 
wild animal, every bit as dangerous as Beverly herself. She would have no 
hope of conquering her. But the battle was going to be glorious. 

She grabbed at Eve once again and forced her back against the wall of video 
monitors. Eve clawed at her and succeeded in ripping the fabric of her 
blouse. Beverly slapped her with all of her strength, and Eve gasped in 
pain and arousal. They were both enjoying this very much. 

Eve lunged forward and pushed Beverly back with the sheer momentum of her 
body. They went over together, and Beverly found herself lying on the 
floor, Eve on top of her. She tried to roll over, putting herself on top, 
but Eve blocked her, snarling. Beverly wrapped her legs around Eve's waist, 
trapping her where she was, and Eve began to thrash and bite, fighting 
Beverly every inch of the way. Beverly grabbed her head and pulled her in, 
kissing her full on the lips. 

It was like trying to kiss a live power cable. Eve snarled again and bit 
down on Beverly's lip. Beverly tasted blood, and managed to pull herself 
free, grabbing at Eve's dress and ripping it away. It was a designer dress; 
it would be expensive to replace. 

There was no way either of them would ever yield to the other; they were 
both dominant types, and they both took a lot of pleasure from being in 
control. This was a contest, Beverly knew. A contest that she was 
desperately hungry for. 

She moved in again, trying to trap Eve into a vulnerable position, and it 
was at this worst possible moment that the door opened, and Tina popped her 
head into the AV room. She stopped when she saw the two of them. 

"Is everything okay in here?" she asked, sizing up the situation. 

"Just fine," Beverly assured her, trying to catch her breath. "We were just 
debating what to eat." She untangled herself from Eve and got to her feet. 
"Join us?" 

Eve also straightened up, grinning and adjusting the remains of her dress. 

Tina looked bemused but did not flinch. 

I chose my assistants well, thought Beverly. 

"I need to get back in a moment," Tina said calmly. "The film will be over 
soon. I just thought you should know about this. I had a text message from 

She handed her phone to Beverly, and Beverly squinted at the tiny screen. 

anth serching dr piper. fnd IRL wbste. 

She read it through twice, but it didn't make any more sense the second 
time. "This used to be the language of Shakespeare," she said, and laughed. 

"The point is," Tina said patiently, "it sounds like Anthea is looking you 
up on the internet." 

"Anthea is a lit student," said Beverly dismissively. She wiped some of the 
blood away from her lip. "She thinks she can solve any problem by reading 
about it." 

"But why is she doing this?" Tina pressed. "Do you think Louise said 
something to her?" 

Beverly giggled at that. "I really wouldn't worry about Louise," she 
assured Tina. "From what I've seen, she has her hands full." 

"And her mouth, and the rest of her," said Eve, and Beverly laughed. 

Tina took a deep breath. "But it sounds as if she's been looking at the 
website for the Institute," she said, evenly. 

Beverly really did not feel like dealing with this now. It was Sunday 
night. She just wanted to finish what she and Eve had started together, and 
forget about the girls for one night. Louise and Portia were having their 
fun today, she deserved a little fun of her own. She had orchestrated the 
entire week, after all. She should not be denied the benefits. 

"Don't worry about Anthea," she assured Tina. "She's just a bookworm." She 
stood up and walked unsteadily over to the window. The girls were all 
sitting quietly, watching Gilda and smoking, like good little sheep. There 
was nothing they could do that Beverly wasn't ready for. 

Impaired judgement, she thought. Sense of invincibility. Typical of excess 
alcohol and sexual arousal. She would have to keep her eye on that. 

"I think I'll try to talk to Jordan and Kumiko," Tina said. "Once the 
others are upstairs. Find out what Anthea actually said." 

"Don't worry about Anthea," Beverly said to Tina. "She's just a bookworm." 
Had she just said that? She couldn't remember. Maybe she just thought she 
had said it. 

"She's just a bookworm," she said again, just in case, and giggled. "A 
bookworm in latex." 

"So it doesn't bother you that she's looking at the Institute's website?" 

Beverly laughed. "I'm glad someone's looking at it; we pay a lot of money 
to maintain that website!" Eve laughed as well, and Tina looked pained. 

"Maybe we could ask Anthea for some feedback," Beverly said, collapsing 
back into her chair. "She's a lit student after all; she could give us a 

"Okay, why don't we talk about this later," Tina said, starting out the 
door. "I'm sorry I interrupted what you were doing." 

"We were just negotiating a hostile takeover," Eve said, smiling. 

"I noticed," said Tina, and went out, closing the door behind her. 

"What's on this website?" Eve asked, curiously. 

"Nothing incriminating," Beverly said. Her judgement was definitely 
compromised, but it didn't matter. Of course, she would think that; she was 
drunk and aroused. 

"It's just the public face of our business. Nothing to alarm the masses." 

She wondered why Anthea had decided to look up the Institute for Rational 
Logistics. Probably she should be concerned, but she would worry about it 
tomorrow. Right now, she didn't feel like worrying about anything at all. 
She turned back to Eve and readied herself for battle once again. 

She was a social anthropologist. She was invincible. 

Chapter 9 

"What a weird film," said Portia, shaking her head. "That wasn't what I 
expected at all." 

"I loved it," said Louise, standing up and brushing a few stray flakes of 
ash off her lap. "I didn't get it the last time I saw it, but I thought it 
was just fantastic." 

"I've always been a big Rita Hayworth fan," said a voice behind them, and 
Louise turned around. It was Claire, the actress, looking very frumpy in a 
faded sweater. "This is definitely one of her best films and that 
striptease she does is legendary." Bursts of smoke punctuated her words, 
and Louise saw that she had a freshly lit cigarette in her hand. 

Louise herself had just finished her latest cigarette. She and Portia had 
managed to make a sizable dent in the Japanese pack Yvette had given her; 
she would probably have to open the second pack before the night was over. 
Especially if they stuck to their usual routine once they were back in 
their room. 

It had gotten quite late, and Louise realised she was very tired, even 
though she had missed most of the morning. The day had been much more 
relaxing than yesterday however, and she felt good about everything that 
had happened. 

Tina was busy dismantling the projector, with the help of one of the other 
girls - Jordan. They had already managed to fold up the screen, and Louise 
watched as Tina slipped the projector into its carry case. She should 
probably volunteer to help, but truthfully she was feeling too tired to 
start carrying equipment around. Several of the other girls had already 
disappeared upstairs, and Louise decided nothing terrible would happen if 
she and Portia quietly slipped away. 

She watched as Tina maneuvered the screen through the side door. Even 
rolled up, the screen was bigger than she was, and it banged loudly against 
the door frame as she tried to pull it through. 

"By the way," Louise said to Portia, "have you noticed those signs?" She 
pointed to the `Emergency Exit' signs she had been looking at earlier. 

"What about them?" 

"Do you remember if they were lit on Monday? Before the power failure, I 

Portia thought for a moment, then shook her head. "I honestly can't 
remember," she said. "Sorry. Why?" 

Louise shrugged. "I was just noticing them earlier. They certainly weren't 
on when the power failed. As I'm sure you remember." She grinned at Portia, 
and Portia blushed. 

"I guess they must have gone out with the rest of the lights." 

"That's impossible." 

Louise looked up. It was Claire again. 

"Sorry to butt in," Claire said, "but those lights run on batteries. They 
would never get cut off by a power outage." 

"Are you sure about that?" 

Claire wrinkled her nose. "My ex-husband was the lighting engineer for the 
Garrick Theatre. If you only knew the number of times I had to listen to 
him complaining about directors who wanted to disable the emergency lights 
because they `interfered with the lighting effect'..." She rolled her eyes, 
remembering. "It's funny, but I hadn't thought about it until this moment." 

"So they can be disabled?" Louise asked. 

Claire shrugged. "Sure. If you want the city to shut the building down for 
Health and Safety violations. Those lights have to be maintained, by law." 

Portia looked interested. 

"But they were out on Monday, when the power failed. Does that mean 

Claire smiled. "It means we have good grounds for a lawsuit," she said. "I 
don't know about you, but I really freaked out when the room went dark." 

Louise didn't say anything; she just looked around the room. Most of the 
girls were gone by now, but she spotted Anthea on her way out the door, a 
pack of cigarettes in her hand. She ran up to her now and touched her 

"Can you do me a favour?" she asked, and Anthea looked at her, expectantly. 
"I need to know absolutely everything you can find out about Dr. Beverly 

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