“We could hypnotize her.” The female voice seemed to come from miles away. Beatrice tried to open her eyes and turn her head to track the sound, but she couldn’t seem to do either, or to feel any indication of what prevented her. She could feel her body, but even her eyelids seemed too heavy.
“No.” The male voice sounded regretful, but very firm. “We have no choice. You know that, Charlotte. Even the best hypnosis can be undone. We have to find some nice island where she can enjoy herself so much she never comes back, and make it clear that coming back to this country would be a very bad idea.”
“Look, I’m not saying we should hypnotize her and then just let her go. We have her datastream. We know she’s a submissive. We can train her and sell her and keep a very close eye on her.” Beatrice realized with what she thought should be a shock, but somehow wasn’t, that this Charlotte woman must be pleading for Beatrice’s life.
Did she know a Charlotte? She didn’t think so. Where was she? If she had to guess, she would have said she was lying flat on her back, and though she couldn’t feel the actual location of her nose she thought she could smell antiseptic on the air.
The man hadn’t responded yet. Did that mean he had found something persuasive in what Charlotte had said? Beatrice tried to take an interest, but failed rather miserably.
“She’s coming around,” the deep voice said. Had Beatrice moved, or made a sound, without realizing it? Now that the question could be articulated so concretely, she found that her ears had sent a message alongside the words uttered by the voices: a sort of low moan that must be coming from Beatrice’s throat. She found her vocal cords, somewhere, and managed to stop the moan. Then, to her surprise, without her willing it, her eyes opened and she saw them looming over the hospital bed in which she lay, with webbing straps around her neck, chest, waist, thighs, and ankles. They held her motionless without being drawn cruelly tight, and she found that whatever they had put in her system bore much more responsibility for her difficulty in moving her limbs than the straps did. She barely registered the fact that her mind was housed in the body she had begun to feel again.
The woman, Charlotte, middle-aged and strikingly beautiful, had blond hair streaked with silver and pulled back into a bun. She wore jeans and a simple red top that she somehow made look like haute couture by the mere bearing of her face and body. The man, ten or fifteen years younger than Charlotte, stood at least six feet tall; as Beatrice moved her head lollingly from side to side, she couldn’t really get a perspective on him good enough to distinguish between tall and super-tall. He had dark good looks, and something about his bearing, which seemed to complement Charlotte’s in a nearly indefinable way, gave an air of command despite his relative youth.
“It doesn’t matter either way, does it?” Charlotte said. Beatrice saw in her blue eyes a hardness that called from her mind her first actual anxiety since regaining consciousness: if the man could persuade his boss (though something about the way they faced each other over her supine body seemed to indicate that the relationship must be more complicated than simple boss-employee) that Beatrice must be relocated permanently, this woman might regret, but she wouldn’t hesitate.
But Beatrice also saw an essential kindness in Charlotte’s eyes. She didn’t think that the man wanted her exiled forever, but he clearly saw it as the only feasible choice. Charlotte, though, would keep searching for any possible means of letting Beatrice remain free.
The drug—they had given her a glass of water, hadn’t they, to calm her down, after… and the drug must have been in it?—must have worn off a little more, then, because it suddenly occurred to Beatrice to wonder why she felt so very certain that the issue under consideration by Charlotte and her tall associate could be nothing other than whether to send Beatrice to some island to live out her life in prison.
The glass of water, after…
Charlotte: “She wants to forget what she saw, Kevin. I can get Dr. Franklin on the phone if you like, to confirm, but I’m telling you the studies…”
“I thought the Institute stopped studying hypnotism after the Corporate Acts let you take girls based on their datastreams?”
“Not entirely, and we already had an enormous dataset. The reason for the success of the original hypno program was that the girls didn’t want to remember they had consented to be trained and sold.”
She wants to forget what she saw. I want to forget that…
What? After what? Forget what? It seemed like a blank space occupied Beatrice’s memory between the glass of water handed to her by her boss’ wife and…
My boss. Who is my boss? Something in the back of her mind cried out to her not to try to remember whose wife had given her the drugged glass of water, warned that she wouldn’t like it, if she did travel those few steps past the veil some sentinel of memory had drawn. But now Beatrice felt she couldn’t have stopped her feet on that imaginary path even if she had wanted to, and she saw her boss, standing next to his wife, Erin, as Beatrice, one of his younger interns, took the glass from Erin’s hand.
Senator Andrew Metz. My boss. Next president of the United States, probably. I loved thinking about him, yesterday, didn’t I? Remembering that I work for him, even if only as an intern. Thinking about how nice Erin Metz, only two years older than I am, is to me, how she told me in a whisper that I shouldn’t worry about how pretty I am, because she and Andrew have an understanding.
Not thinking about how hard I had blushed when Mrs. Metz had said that, because Senator Metz was so hot in that older, powerful-guy way.
“Call Kevin, please, sweetheart,” the senator said. “And give Beatrice this water. I need to calm the sheikh down.” Kevin must be Kevin Logan, the senator’s chief-of-staff until the previous year and now rumored to be some kind of spy.
The sheikh. Beatrice definitely didn’t want to remember the sheikh. The wind pushing her through the veil seemed to press harder, now, and she knew she would remember in a moment, but she clung to the idea the Charlotte woman had introduced into her consciousness: if Beatrice didn’t want to remember, did she have to remember?
Fleeing from the idea of the sheikh, she turned her eyes on Kevin and saw that he had begun to agree with Charlotte. What he said, though, didn’t help her at all in her flight.
“The sheikh would buy her, wouldn’t he? It might be the perfect solution, at least for the moment.”
The sheikh was saying, “Is she for sale, Senator?”
He had actually said that, in the senator’s office. The diplomat from the Sahara, from the oil fields, like some story out of The Thousand Nights and a Night, had fixed eighteen-year-old Beatrice Graham with his handsome, dark eyes, and said in that accent that somehow conveyed such dominance, “Is she for sale, Senator?”
She had heard the humor in his voice. She had known it was a joke, but now she wished, oh, how she wished, that she could forget the way she had blushed. She had known, too, that her fair Anglo-Saxon complexion made such deep blushes terribly obvious, and that made everything worse. The very worst, however, came in the form of what had happened down below, at the sheikh’s urbane witticism about the strange legends with which Westerners surrounded Arab culture.
But hadn’t she heard, inside the joke, a real… desire? A hunger, even? As if perhaps he might not, as a rule, frequent the sort of market where naked girls were sold upon the auction block—but he nevertheless would welcome the chance to add Beatrice Graham, congressional intern, to his harem? Did he have a harem?
Oh, God. I looked it up, didn’t I? I looked up whether Arabian men still had harems, and how the girls in them got there. I looked him up: Sheikh Diyab al-Rashani, special envoy to the United States from the oil-rich principality Rashan.
She had heard the hunger, and she thought she had seen it, too, in the sheikh’s eyes, which refused to let her go even though the senator had turned to talk of the oil rights the sheikh had come to Washington to discuss.
When I saw that yes, polygamy is perfectly legal across the Arab world, did I feel revulsion? No. When I saw that Sheikh Diyab al-Rashani has two wives in his harem, both of them closer to his own age, did I close my laptop in disgust? No.
I pictured myself in Arabia. I pictured myself sold on the block, going for a kingly sum because of my fair skin and golden hair. I heard the voices saying terrible things in words I didn’t understand but somehow knew the meaning of: things about what it would be like when my new owner took me, between my legs; speculation about whether I would need to be punished before he enjoyed me; opinions about how soon he would loan me to other sheikhs. That was when I closed the laptop, because modern girls interning for powerful senators in Washington DC don’t think about those things.
At the senator’s house in Georgetown, helping Mrs. Metz—Erin, as the senator’s wife kept insisting—get ready for the dinner party. Knowing that the deal for the oil rights would probably be made right after dinner, in Senator Metz’ den. Talking to the sheikh’s security detail, who were so respectful, and managing with great effort not to ask any leading questions about the sheikh’s wives.
Watching the dining room and seeing dessert served. Not wanting to leave, because… because of the power in that room, which made her own apartment seem so boring, her roommates seem insufferable.
Wanting to see the den—the room where it would happen.
Mortified and frightened when she heard the senator, Erin, and the sheikh coming up behind her, with no escape and no excuse.
Hiding. Oh, no. No, please: I didn’t hide, did I? I… I said, “I’m so sorry,” and I left, right?
She had said, “I’m so sorry.” That part was true. But Beatrice hadn’t said it until later. Until they found me, hiding, in the closet, because…
No, no, no. Please, no. I don’t want to remember.
“Can you call the sheikh right now?” Charlotte asked.
Beatrice had closed her eyes as she tried to push back against the wind of her memory, tried to hold up what they had said about not remembering as a bulwark against the pressure. She opened them to see Kevin had taken out his handheld, was holding it against his face.
“Your highness, it’s Kevin Logan from Ostia.”
Beatrice frowned. Where had she heard Ostia before?
“That’s kind of you, sir. I know how inconvenient it was.”
Italy, right? Near Rome.
“Yes, it’s kind of you to ask about her. That’s actually what I’m calling about. We think we have a solution that will suit everyone involved. You’ve heard of the Institute, I assume?”
Didn’t Erin say something about an institute, that first day in DC, when Beatrice had met the senator’s staff? Hadn’t the senator frowned when she made what must have been a little joke, about how Beatrice might have a future at ‘the institute’? The expression on the senator’s face, which had made Mrs. Metz’ cheeks go a little pink, had seemed so very meaningful, as if… as if Erin needed to expect some kind of… consequence.
Hiding. In the closet of the senator’s den.
“Do you have to spank Mrs. Metz often, Senator?”
Erin had knelt on the floor in front of the sheikh. Beatrice had seen it, just barely, through the slats.
“Quite often, your highness. She can be a naughty girl sometimes. Go ahead and ask permission to suck his highness’ cock, sweetheart. Show him how naughty you can be.”
“Your highness, may I kiss your beautiful cock?” Erin’s voice, strange and thick.
“You may, girl. If you suck well, perhaps I shall grant those contracts after all. Senator, may I undress her as she sucks?”
Such politeness. An Oxford education, the worldnet had said.
“Certainly. Do you spank your wives, your highness?”
“Of course, Senator, and cane them when they need it. How else can a man contain the jealousies of women, and their insatiable needs for sensual pleasure?”
That had done it, somehow: the seed of her destruction had occurred then at the thought of Sheikh Diyab al-Rashani spanking his wives. Beatrice’s right hand had somehow crept under the skirt of her little black dress and found the gusset of her panties.
It had taken several minutes before she had cried out, though, during which Beatrice had seen more than she thought her mind could hold of the sharing of Mrs. Andrew Metz with a visiting envoy. The senator’s cock in his wife’s mouth while the sheikh enjoyed her hairless pussy from behind. Erin’s bottom, oh, her poor bottom, with a penis moving inside it as she cried out so loud that at first Beatrice thought her own cry might go unnoticed.
No, no, no.
“Dr. Franklin will be here in four hours,” Charlotte said. Beatrice must have missed some of the conversation as she fought against the terrible memory. “We’ll make sure the hypno takes before we fly her out to the Institute.”