Suzy Q by Suzy Q

Suzy Q
Suzy Q

Sam Quinn invented Suzy Q, the exotic Cuban dancer. José Enrá­quez insisted on meeting her–but of course that was impossible! Or was it?

Late in the afternoon of May 13, Samuel Patrick Quinn set down his calculator and took a break. His stress-and-strain class at the university in Monterrey was giving him more stress than he could calculate. Even with a test coming up tomorrow, he couldn’t keep cramming. He was bushed, and he needed some rest and relaxation. Anyone who claimed that classes in a Mexican university were easy had to have his head examined. Differential equations were differential equations, and the only difference between Monterrey Tech and a stateside university was that he had to do everything in Spanish. It didn’t make it easier, even if he was fluent in the language.

With a feeling of relief and anticipation he logged onto Yahoo, then clicked onto his usual chat room. He regularly escaped the heat and foul air of Monterrey by disappearing into the fantasy world of the Internet, where he could become anything or anyone he wanted. During the few months of his Mexican residency he had become three wildly different people. For each, he had invented a biography and created a life style. Photos accompanied each persona.

The first was basically himself under an alias: “Robert Bailey”, a 21-year-old American of English ancestry, born in the small town of Paris, Kentucky. He was 5’ 6”, 138 lbs, brown-haired, near-sighted, and undistinguished in appearance (almost baby-faced). A typical techie, he was good in math and science, interested in science fiction, hunting and fishing, folk music, and spectator sports (especially University of Kentucky basketball and the Cincinnati Reds).

A second persona revealed a fantasy identity. Godfrey Dunthorpe was a debonair, wealthy, and macho 29-year-old English stockbroker and sports enthusiast from London. The photo posted on the Internet showed a handsome man with wavy blond hair. His 210 lbs was well distributed over a rugged 6’ 3” frame. His pastimes included tennis, sports-car racing, skiing, and rock-climbing. He was visiting Monterrey to challenge the sheer limestone cliffs of the Sierra Madre south of the city.

His third persona was Susana Quintana, a 17-year-old girl, 121 lbs. and 5’ 3”, with a buxom figure and a pretty face framed by long blonde hair. Sam described her as a Cuban expatriate of pure Spanish (Galician) extraction. She liked rock music, pretty clothes, jewelry, and men. She spoke only Spanish and worked as an exotic dancer under the name Suzy Q. Her ambition was to marry and raise a family, if only she could find the right (rich) man. Sam’s chats in Susana’s persona were vapid and shallow; she was a “dumb blonde”. Suzy was inspired by a dancer he’d watched in a local dive, El Guacamayo.

Of the three personas, Susana aroused the most interest among the chat-room denizens. Since he had invented her three months earlier, he had amused himself by showing her off to a series of would-be boyfriends. The most persistent had been one José Enrá­quez, who offered to fly her to Cancáºn for a week of partying, scuba-diving, and “other fun”. He hadn’t said where he lived or what his business was, but he hinted that he was independently wealthy. “Susana” refused, of course, but without cutting him off; Sam enjoyed stringing the foolish suitor along. A week ago he had been surprised by a package in the mail for “Susana”. It contained a round-trip ticket to Cancáºn, a skimpy red bikini, a simple but obviously expensive black evening dress (size 7, to fit the measurements Sam had given), high-heeled black Italian pumps, and diamond earrings. A note accompanying the gifts pleaded with “Suzy” to accept them, and to repay the donor by accompanying him to Cancáºn. The note further said that Seá±or Enrá­quez had set his heart on dancing with Seá±orita Quintana, who would look radiant in the humble gifts he was bestowing on her. It closed by noting that “I am a stubborn man, Seá±orita, and I intend to enjoy your company. I promise you, you will take pleasure from the sight of your own beautiful face adorned by these sparkling baubles, and of your exquisite body lending its dancer’s contours to these simple coverings. It is futile to try to refuse me. You might as well relax and enjoy my hospitality sooner, rather than later. I promise, you will come to look forward to our dates. You may even find the man of your dreams and begin your family.”

Sam again refused, secure in the anonymity that the chat room promised. It never occurred to him to wonder how Seá±or Enrá­quez had gotten the address of his prospective inamorata, and what that implied for the security of the chat room.

Two weeks later, Sam was studying alone in his room. A knock announced the arrival of a deliveryman with a prize Sam had won. A peek through a spyhole showed a short dark man carrying a large box. He opened the door. The man entered, put the box on the floor, and complained of the heat. Sam offered him a drink, which was accepted on condition that Sam share it. They toasted Sam’s luck in winning the contest (which Sam didn’t remember entering).

After a couple of minutes of conversation, Sam became a little dizzy. He swayed in his chair, but didn’t pass out. Somehow he had entered a trance state. The visitor asked Sam, “Are you all right?” When Sam answered “Yes” in a monotone, the man smiled and told him, “I fear I have taken advantage of your hospitality, Seá±or. I dropped a little something in your drink. It’s tasteless but potent. You’ll do whatever I tell you, won’t you?” Sam agreed. His guest told Sam that he had a few questions, but first, Sam should open the box. Sam obeyed; he seemed to have no choice.

The box contained a skimpy two-piece dancer’s costume in red satin, hung with tassels and covered with glittering sequins. It was only slightly less revealing than a G-string and pasties. “This is for Suzy Q,” the visitor said. “Tell me, Seá±or, where is she?”

Sam told him that Suzy Q was imaginary, but the next question was, “Who, then, sent all those messages to Seá±or Enrá­quez?”

“I did.”

“Then you must be Susana Quintana, true?”

“No, I’m I’m Sam Quinn. There isn’t any Susana Quintana.”

“You sent the messages. Therefore you’re Susana Quintana, unlikely though that may appear at the moment. Admit it, Seá±or. Tell me that you’re Susana Quintana. Tell me.”

“I I am” He tried to deny it, but his voice disobeyed his will. “I am Susana Quintana.”

“I’m pleased to meet you at last, Seá±orita. I’m José Enrá­quez, of course.” Sam felt terror beneath the enforced lassitude that afflicted him. “I promised to dance with you in my arms, and I won’t be denied. I admit, it’ll take a little preparation–a year, I estimate–but then I’ll escort you to a nightclub here in Monterrey. You’ll be very pretty then, in that simple black dress I gave you. I expect you’ll ask for help in finding work, in return for the pleasure of your… ummm… your company. And I will help you. One of my associates needs a talented and pretty girl who could wear this little costume I brought. As I said in my letter, you might even find the man of your dreams and begin your family.” His tone became offended for a moment: “I was quite disappointed to find that you’re a cheat and a liar, Seá±or Quinn.” He became friendly again: “No matter. I’ll make an honest man of you. I’ll see that your fiction becomes fact.” He chuckled and amended his statement. “I’m afraid I misspeak. As long as Sam Quinn walks the earth, he’ll be a liar and a cheat.” He switched to Spanish: “Pero tẠte hará¡s recta.” Sam translated easily: “But you will become honest.” The gender of the adjective was feminine. “But enough. You must be bored by my monologue. You don’t hold up your end of our conversation.” He clapped his hands. Two more men entered, carrying a coffinlike box. His visitor ordered Sam to lie down in it. Suddenly he could move easily, obeying without hesitation while his mind screamed at him to flee. The box, which proved to be padded, wasn’t uncomfortable.. He lay there unresisting as Seá±or Enrá­quez gazed down at him, then ordered, “Put him to sleep now. One day’s dose should do it. I’ll see that he doesn’t wake again until we’re ready.” Turning back to Sam, he commented, “I’ll see you shortly, Seá±or. Sweet dreams.” One of the men lifted his arm and injected it with a colorless solution. The room began to spin as the lid was lifted onto the box. He was left in darkness until a tide of deeper blackness overwhelmed him.

Sam awoke to find himself seated in an overstuffed chair in an unfamiliar room. At first he couldn’t remember how he’d arrived, but the sight of José Enrá­quez quickly reminded him. He tried to protest, but his abductor cut him off: “Yes, Seá±or, I understand your confusion. Let me enlighten you. You’re in one of my homes, on a Caribbean island. It doesn’t matter precisely where; you won’t be leaving for some time.” He gave a nasty little laugh and added, “In one sense, you’ll never leave. Seá±or Quinn will die here.” Then he cocked his head and asked, “Is there anything you’d like to know? I’ll answer to the best of my ability.”

Shaking his head, Sam tried to clear the cobwebs that seemed to shroud his thoughts. He asked, “Why? What do you want with me?” His voice was hoarse with disuse. He remembered that Seá±or Enrá­quez had been searching for Susana Quintana and added, “Your Suzy Q isn’t real, and no amount of badgering me will produce her.”

“A well-chosen word, ‘produce’. In the sense of ‘manufacture’, that’s precisely what I intend to do. No, my sweet little Suzy isn’t real. But she will be. I intend to ‘produce’ her. You gave me a blueprint, and she’ll fit every specification.” Then he backtracked: “Or almost every specification. You’re three inches taller than Suzy. I could arrange to remove the three inches, but as a dancer you’ll need your legs as long as possible. But otherwise You were kind enough to send me a photograph. That’s what you’ll look like in one year.”

“But I That’s stupid! You can’t do that!”

“Let me tell you a little about myself, Seá±or. I’m a wealthy man, wealthier than you can imagine, with resources beyond your dreams. I fear, though, that the wealth has come through methods that offend your government, and I’ve been forced to develop means to keep my affairs, and my identity, private. Among those means are elaborate ways to disguise myself and those who work for me. Plastic surgery, organ transplants, genetic manipulation You wouldn’t believe the changes that can be made in a body!” His enthusiasm was almost contagious. “Not yet, anyway. However, you will believe them. You will experience them. I’m going to transform you into Susana Quintana, a sexy exotic dancer from Havana.”

“No! That’s not possible! Please, I’m sorry! I didn’t”

Seá±or Enrá­quez softly said, “Shut up.” Suddenly Sam’s voice cut off. He closed and opened his mouth, but no sound came. He was mute.

Enrá­quez went on: “That brings me to another matter. I originally made my money in drugs; but chemicals are such a crude means of affecting the mind. They’re still profitable, of course, and I still market them, but direct stimulation–or inhibition–of the brain is so much more elegant, and Doctor Ibá¡á±ez in Honduras is a genius in that technique. Seá±or Quinn, let me fill you in on what’s happened over the last six weeks.” He reset a switch out of Sam’s sight.

Sam found his voice. “Six six weeks?” he croaked.

“Yes, it’s July 12. You’ve been unconscious a month and a half. My doctors have already begun to reshape you to Suzy. You see one minor detail: I can tell you to shut up, and make it stick.” He moved his switch again, and Sam sat speechless. “I control many functions of your brain, Seá±or. Speech is one, as you see. Muscular control is another. You cannot move your limbs, true?” Sam was unrestrained, and he tried to get up. It was true: his arms and legs were paralyzed. “I can do much more, as you’ll discover.” Suddenly Sam became violently sick, retching uncontrollably. It cut off, but it was replaced by agonizing pain throughout his body. He tried to scream, but he was still mute. The pain faded, to be replaced by a terror beyond anything he had ever experienced. In a moment it was also gone, leaving him with a deep-seated horror, which he somehow realized was his own natural reaction to his helplessness. Enrá­quez smiled. “Not pleasant, is it? Doctor Ibá¡á±ez is brilliant, Seá±or. He developed this technique for a cousin of mine. Incredibly tiny probes are implanted in the brain and activated by radio impulses. Some act directly on centers in the brain, and others simply monitor brain activity. You carry these implants. And of course I also have a wide spectrum of drugs at my disposal. You’ve already experienced one of them. Metrazine is given orally or by injection. It affects the frontal lobes and leaves a subject unable to carry out his own wishes. He’ll obey any order, no matter how repugnant. If I say so, he’ll gouge out the eye of his closest friend–or his own. Repeated dosages cause a change in personality. It renders the recipient compliant and submissive. Of course, I prefer my women that way.” He pulled a cord: a bell rang, and a white-coated man entered. He appeared to be Irish or Scots, in his mid-20’s, with a full head of red hair. “This is Doctor Morales. He’s a Honduran national and a mestizo, 41 years old. A bit of plastic surgery, gene manipulation, and other tools gave him a new appearance, no? It was necessary; I’m afraid he’s wanted by several police departments. He has new fingerprints, too. He’s truly a new man.” He turned to Doctor Morales. “Give Seá±or Quinn the metrazine, Doctor. Then I’ll release him.”

The doctor gave Sam his shot, then waited about 20 seconds. Seá±or Enrá­quez glanced at his watch, then told Sam, “Stand up.” Sam rose, weak and dizzy after six weeks of sleep. “Take off your shirt.” He complied. He struggled to break the hold of the drug, but to no avail. “Now your undershirt.” Again he obeyed. “Now look at your chest and feel where it’s sore.” There were slight bulges on Sam’s chest, and the nipples seemed a little swollen. When he felt the bulges, they were sore. Enrá­quez smiled slightly. “Your new breasts, Seá±or. Six weeks is quite long enough for accelerated hormone treatment to begin to take effect.” To his horror, Sam realized that his captor was right: he was developing breasts. “Now put your clothes back on, and Bernardo will show you to your quarters. Tomorrow we’ll begin training you. Good night, ‘Susana’.” He rang the bell again, and a servant entered. He accompanied Sam to a small cabin, where he left the captive alone. He recovered from the drug in half an hour, after which he tried the doors and windows. They were secure. He threw himself on the bed and tried to think of anything he could do, but it seemed hopeless. After another ten minutes he realized he was hungry. A quick check of the cabin revealed that he had everything needed to prepare his meals. He made supper, then quickly fell asleep after eating, in spite of his predicament.

In the morning he awakened and fixed breakfast. At 8 o’clock a knock announced the arrival of a visitor. He opened the door (now unlocked) to find a large black woman. Her round face had a flat nose, thick lips with magenta lipstick, and a slightly protruding jaw. Gold hoops dangled from her ears, and her coarse black hair was done in a bun at the nape of her neck. Her ample bosom and wide hips were covered by a maid’s uniform: black with white lace trim, a white apron, and a white cap. “I be here to clean yo’ room, Mistuh Sam,” she announced in a clear soprano. “Yo’ gonna have lots to do wit’out you gotta worry ‘bout dat too.” Her accent was… West Indian? No, he didn’t think that was quite right.

“Very well,” he told her. “Come in.”

She bustled in and began to clear away his breakfast dishes. “Yo’ new here, mon,” she told him. “Aftuh dis, yo’ gonna be too busy to watch me, I t’ink. Mistuh José, he got plans for yo’.”

What did she know about what was planned for him? Maybe he could pump her. “Yes, I suppose, but I don’t I really don’t know what’s going on.”

She uttered a high-pitched giggle. “No, mon. Mistuh José, he tell yo’ a little, but not ever’t’ing. But yo’ know enough. Yo’ prob’ly gonna work fo’ Mistuh José, I t’ink.” She sobered. “Dat what happen to most ob de men come here. Dey be changed, an’ den dey go work for him.”

“Changed?” He sat on a rattan chair as she started washing dishes. “How do you mean?”

“I t’ink yo’ knows a little, mon. Diff’runt ways. Some a little, some a lot. Yo’, now I t’ink he got big plans fo’ yo’ Yo’ be change a lot, mon.” She picked up a glass.

“You have the advantage of me, I’m afraid. I’m Sam Quinn. And you?”

“Oh, I be LaTreena Fipps. I jus’ be de maid for Mistuh José.”

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Fipps.”

She giggled again. “My mon, he be unhappy yo’ callin’ me ‘Miss’. I be Missus Fipps.”

Belatedly he noticed a gold band on her pudgy finger. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Fipps. But like I said, I don’t know much yet. Now what kind of changes are you talking about?”

“Yo’ be Sam Quinn now. When Mistuh José, he let yo’ go, yo’ be someone else.” She sobered. “Yo’ not be likin’ it at firs’, mon, but pretty soon it ain’t so bad. Mistuh José got ways of makin’ yo’ get used to it. An’ de work he gib you–he see dat yo’ good at it. When he turn yo’ loose, yo’ eben like it. By then, yo’ almos’ forget who yo’ was.” She finished drying the dishes and began to put them away. “Almos’, but not completely.”

“How do you know all this? Are there other prisoners here?”

“Prisoners? Jus’ you, now. But there be others in past. Lots. He use changes to punish dem what cross him. Or sometimes to reward. Wimmin git a purty face, or a man git strong muscles.” She dropped her eyes. “But mostly he punish. He git lots ob workers dat way. Workers what ain’t gonna complain, nor run away, nor slack off.” She shut the kitchen cabinet and headed for the bedroom.

He followed her. She was a gold mine of information. Maybe she could even be persuaded to help him escape. “So no one here’s being punished now?” he asked. “Except me, like you say. And he intends to change me into someone else, them make me work for him. But then I won’t run off? That seems pretty unlikely.”

“No, mon. Yo’ ain’t neber gonna run away, Or eben complain.” She picked up his pillow and put it aside, then began to make the bed. She was an efficient worker.

He decided to change the subject. “And what about you, LaTreena? Where are you from? Jamaica? Or maybe the Bahamas? I don’t know accents very well, and I can’t place yours, but I’d guess you’re from somewhere in the West Indies.”

She giggled. “No, mon. Yo’ ain’t neber gonna guess.”

“Not the West Indies?” But that accent, and that name “All right, I give up. Where?”

“New Jersey.”

“New Jersey? But” He reconsidered. “Your parents, then? They were immigrants.”

“No, dey was borned in Jersey.”

“West Indian ancestry?”

“Italyun.” She tucked in his coverlet.

“Italian? But” He shut up. He was beginning to sound like an echo. No Italian parents would name a daughter “LaTreena”. And she was black. Her skin color, her face A horrible thought struck him. “You Did Enrá­quez punish you?”

“Yes, mon.”
He stood and faced her. “Why? And who were you?” He was afraid to hear the answer.

“He punish me an’ my partner ‘cause we cotch fibe ob his drug couriers. Once ‘pon a time I be wit’ de Fed’ral po-lice, workin’ fo’ DEA.” Her face was somber. “T’ree years ago–no, four–I be James Ricciello.” She sounded the name out carefully, as though it were unfamiliar. “But dat a long time ago. Now I jus’ be LaTreena Fipps, Mistuh José’s maid.”

He collapsed back into the chair. “But how?”

She shrugged. “He tell me, chemicals, drugs. De doctors, dey change my face. My skin, dey make it turn black. Dey do sumpin’, make me wan’ eat a lot, I get fat like you see. An’ dey do t’ings to my head. I fergit lots ob stuff. I don’ know nuttin’ ‘bout drugs, or po-lice work, or or nuttin’. Dey tell me I got a sixt’ grade education now. ’Cep’ I don’ read so good.”

Illiterate too! “Why don’t you run away? You said he doesn’t keep you prisoner.”

“I don’ got no place to go. Nuttin’ I can do. I be jus’ a maid.” Then she cheered up.

“Besides, I got me a mon here. Mistuh Fipps, he be a good mon.”

“But you were a man! A white man! What? How can you?” Sam trailed off.

She shrugged again. “I be a mon a long time ago.” Only three, maybe four years, Sam thought. “I no be a mon now.” It was too obvious, from her dulcet soprano voice to her massive bosom. Her eyes dropped to the floor. “But I be needin’ a mon, jus’ like any gal. Dat what Mistuh José tell me, an’ he right.” Her face broke into a smile. Perfect white teeth gleamed in her broad black face. “Like I say, he a good mon! He keep me satisfied!” She finished with the bed and headed back to the kitchen, where she picked up a broom and began to sweep.

Sam followed her. “But you can’t be happy like this! You can’t be satisfied with the life of a black peasant girl!”

“I got to be. It all I got now, mon, satisfied or not.” She smiled again. “Besides, like I tol’ yo’, when Mistuh José turn yo’ loose, he see dat yo’ accep’ what he gib yo’. Maybe yo’ be likin’ sumpin’ else mo’–like what yo’ was–but it not so bad. It seem like it right fo’ yo’. An’ besides, pretty soon yo’ almos’ fergit who yo’ was.” Her smile widened. “’Specially when yo’ wit’ yo’ mon!” She finished sweeping. “Yo’ see soon enough. Yo’ gonna be pretty, Mistuh José tell me. Yo’ gonna be a dancer what de menfolk like to watch. An’ yo’ gonna like de menfolk too.” She pointed down at her heavy body. “Yo’ be lucky. He gib yo’ a pretty body. Nice tits, like de menfolk want. An’ a pretty face. He show me yo’ new face. Yo’ like it, after a while. Yo’ gonna want to be pretty. Fo’ yo’ man, so he treat yo’ good.”

A question occurred to Sam. “And your partner Did Enrá­quez catch him too?”

“Yes, mon.”

“What happened to him? Is he a woman now? A maid?”

“No. Mistuh José make him eben bigger, stronger. But he black now like me. He lose what he know, ‘cep’ fo’ machinery. He be a handymon an’ mechanic fo’ Mistuh José.”

“Isn’t Seá±or Enrá­quez afraid he’ll take revenge on him, for what he did to him?”

“No, mon. He like me, ain’t got no other life, an’ he need Mistuh José. He addicted to sumpin’, I dunno what. An’ he got a woman he gotta care fo’.”

“Do you still see him?”

She laughed. “All de time. He be Mistuh Fipps!”

She opened the front door and left. Her last words were, “Yo’ gonna be surprised, ‘Suzy’!”

Half an hour later a slightly built man entered the room carrying a small traveling bag. “I am Pierre DuChamp, Seá±or. I’m going to teach you to dance.”

“The hell you are! Let me out of here!” Sam advanced on the man.

DuChamp pressed a button in his pocket, and Sam collapsed. His legs refused to work. DuChamp advanced and gave him a shot. In a moment Sam arose, but he was told to stand still. He tried to curse the man out and then to run, but wordlessly he obeyed. “Now strip. Everything.” Again he obeyed. DuChamp extracted a pink and frothy ballerina’s dress from his bag and handed it to him. “We expected a bit of rebellion, Seá±or, and I came prepared. Put this on.” In spite of his effort to resist, Sam pulled it onto his body. “Look at yourself. Silly, no?” He was right. “But those hairy underarms and legs They will never do. Shave them.” He handed Sam a razor and shaving cream. In twenty minutes, Sam’s legs and armpits were as smooth as any girl’s.

DuChamp looked at him with approval. “Much better. You will keep them shaved.” He sat and ordered Sam to pirouette. He did, awkwardly. As he turned, DuChamp told him, “You are going to obey me completely, my foolish friend. Any disobedience will bring punishment, and then you will obey anyway. This time, you really get off easy, because you were going to have to shave in any case. Keep turning. Up on tiptoe, now! And smile!”

The dancing master ran him through exercises in his cottage all morning. Any slackness, real or perceived, brought pain, and Sam bent every effort towards pleasing his taskmaster. At noon they broke for lunch, and he was allowed to put his own clothes back on. During the afternoon they resumed. Sam didn’t consider disobeying again, and he was rewarded by a feeling of euphoria. It was much more pleasant than the pain and sickness of the morning.

He was free during the evening, and this time his room was left unlocked. A quick examination of his surroundings showed that he was on a small tropical island, occupied by a large rambling building and his own isolated cabin. Surf broke on reefs a few hundred yards offshore, and dense brushy woodland covered the interior. He couldn’t see the mainland. He approached the main building, but he began to feel nauseated when he came within 500 feet, and he turned back. Obviously his brain implants would keep him wherever José Enrá­quez wanted. After dark, he returned to his room. It was stocked with reading material, all in Spanish, and he lost himself in a steamy romance.

After a week of hard workdance practice moved to the big house, and he didn’t see LaTreena againhe was taken to another room of the building. Seá±or Enrá­quez met him there. “I hear you’re doing well. You have some talent for your new career.”

“I do what I must. You’re insane.”

Sam felt a touch of nausea as Enrá­quez reprimanded him: “Don’t be disrespectful. Call me Seá±or Enrá­quez, or just Seá±or. Otherwise you’ll regret it. In fact, I insist you call every man you meet by that title.”

“OK Seá±or.” Sam couldn’t defy this man, who held such power over him.

“Tomorrow you’ll begin your language lessons. You speak Spanish fairly well for a norteamericano, but I want you to speak it like a native. A native cubana, in fact. For the next few weeks, Spanish and dancing will occupy your time. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Seá±or.”

“You seem to have adapted well to my requirements. You even keep your legs shaved without the necessity of a reminder.” Sam was glad he hadn’t defied his captor on that point. “Of course, I’m keeping you a little drugged. That helps. But are you resigned to your new life? You may speak freely.”

Sam was dismayed to find that he was being drugged, but he didn’t protest. “Seá±or, I’m not ‘resigned’, as you put it. It’s crazy. It’s impossible too. Please, let me go. I’m sorry I I teased you on the internet. But well, it’s crazy! There’s no way I could become your ‘Suzy’. Even if I were a woman, I couldn’t do it! I’m an American. And I’ll never be a real dancer.”

“We will see, Seá±or. I’m told you’re learning quickly. And as far as your sex You’re becoming more feminine, day by day, week by week. Your breasts are developing nicely, true? You’ll never reach LaTreena’s proportions, but it won’t be too long before you fill out that cute little costume I got for my sweet Suzy.”

Sam squirmed. The soreness had remained constant, but the swelling had increased, and his torso was slightly girlish. “But that’s a superficial matter. Breasts don’t make a woman.”

“Of course not. Much more is involved. Indeed, there’s already more. Your armpits and legs are feminine as well.”

“Of course they are! You make me keep them shaved!”

“And your face?”

Sam realized he hadn’t shaved his face since he’d arrived. There was no mustache or beard. No stubble at all. He raised a hand to his chin. It was baby-smooth. “What the hell?”

“You have a girl’s face, no? Smooth and soft. Your beard and mustache are gone. A combination of a chemical treatment to remove existing hair follicles, and a bit of genetic engineering. You’ll never need to shave your face again. And speaking of genetic engineering, have you noticed your hair? On your scalp, I mean. Look in the mirror.”

Sam turned and looked closely at his hair. It was lighter near the roots.

“Your hair’s becoming blond, Seá±or. As per your description of Susana. It’s growing a lot faster too.” He recalled the photo he’d sent: Suzy had strawberry-blonde tresses cascading over her shoulders. “Another week or two, and that bit of genetic engineering should take full effect. I won’t need to do anything about your complexion. You already have a fair skin. Poor Seá±or Ricciello needed a lot more work.” He smiled. “You should be quite attractive when it grows out.” Then he added, “Don’t cut it. If you do, you’ll quickly find yourself more feminine afterwards, not less.” Sam’s hair was already over his ears. He’d been thinking of doing just that. “Another matter: have you noticed your… umm your male response is reduced?”

It wasn’t reduced, it was gone. Moreover, his genitals seemed smaller. “Yes Yes, Seá±or. Please, Seá±or  Have mercy. For the love of God, have mercy!”

“No, you’ve had your last erection. But don’t worry. As Susana you’ll be interested in your partner’s masculinity, not your own. Now, you’ve been here a week–conscious, that is. At irregular intervals you’ll be blessed with further aspects of womanhood. By next year you’ll fit your description of sweet little Suzy. Consider yourself lucky that you described a very pretty girl. You may go.”

He returned to his room. In the morning he awoke to find that his earlobes hurt. They were pierced. Pearl studs adorned his lobes. A matching necklace lay on his dresser. He left it there, but didn’t attempt to remove the studs.

His language lessons began the following afternoon. His teacher was an attractive young woman from Havana, Dolores Martá­nez. She insisted that he concentrate on his accent, slurring his letters (almost to the point of inaudibility for “S”), abandoning what she called his “plosive” English consonants, and using pure vowels instead of his English diphthongs. Also, he had to speak only Spanish from then on. “You’ll learn more quickly with total immersion, Seá±or. You’ll see.” He’d be punished for any use of English. To make certain he wasn’t tempted, only Spanish-speakers (many of them Cubans) could talk to him. Seá±ora Martá­nez told him that the Fippses had gone to another residence of Seá±or Enrá­quez.

A week later his male self-image received another blow. When he awoke and went to the sink to brush his teeth, the mirror showed him a pretty face. He’d been sedated while asleep, and his lips had been injected with collagen. He had a permanent pouty look. Worse, they had been tattooed with a rose-colored dye while he was sleeping. He had a girl’s lips. Kissable lips. In addition, his hair was completely blond. Strawberry blond. The mass of his hair had been dyed to match the roots, and then he had been given a perm. With his pearl studs and his smooth cheeks, he no longer appeared to be male.

Sam rushed to the big house, but he didn’t head for his lesson. Instead he found a servant and demanded to speak to Seá±or Enrá­quez. The servant ushered him to the Patrá³n, and he protested loudly, “You you can’t do this to me! You”

His voice disappeared. As he opened and closed his mouth in vain, Seá±or Enrá­quez replied, “You are disrespectful, Seá±or. And you’re speaking English, which is forbidden. I won’t listen to you now. Go to Ricardo Barrameda, down the hall, second door on the left, and tell him to punish you. When your punishment is finished, come back and ask to speak with me.” He pointed to a door. Sam tried to plead, but without a voice he couldn’t even beg. Suddenly he was terrified. He began to feel sick. He hurried from the room, through the door indicated. Two doors down, he began to knock, but stopped. He couldn’t do this! He had to run! But where. As he stood there, he began to retch, and started to stumble away. The door opened. Seá±or Barrameda looked at him and asked what he wanted. Sam’s voice returned, but he refused to obey his order. “N nothing!” he stuttered, and tried to escape. His legs collapsed, and he passed out.

When Sam awoke, he was sitting in a chair in an unfamiliar room. It looked like a doctor’s waiting room. He was still paralyzed, and he was wearing a pink sweater rimmed with white lace and decorated with seed pearls. It was snug enough to show two slight bulges where his breasts were growing. José Enrá­quez stood over him. Sam tried to plead, but his voice was gone. Enrá­quez told him, “You learn slowly, mi amiga. By now you should know: disobedience isn’t a good idea.” He leaned down, gave Sam an injection in his arm, then looked at his wristwatch. In two minutes he told Sam, “Stand up. And be quiet.” Sam obeyed. “Now, you crossed me in two ways. You raised your voice to me, and you disobeyed me. I’m going to punish you even more, now. For the next six hours you’ll do anything I tell you.” Sam’s terror couldn’t break the trance. “Listen carefully. You’re in a clinic in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Two doors down the streetout the front door and to the leftis a beauty salon. You will go there and ask the girl to give you a makeover. Your hair, your face, your nails Tell her to make you pretty. Use your judgment, but choose whatever makes you look most like your own picture of Suzy Q. Whatever makeup she advises, you’ll continue to use from now on. That’s your punishment for raising your voice. When she’s done, return here. I’ll give you more orders, to punish you for disobedience. I rather doubt you’ll disobey in the future” He gave Sam a pink handbag with more than enough money to pay for the treatment.

Sam left. The city street was busy, and he knew if he could just force himself to run, he could escape this madness. He kept telling himself that, as he found the beauty salon and entered. A young woman asked, “What can I do for you,  ¿Seá±orita?”

“I I want a makeover. My hair, my face, my nails. Please, make me ppretty.”

The tenor voice startled the woman, and she peered closely at Sam, but she didn’t comment. “Very well. Come with me.”

For two hours Sam submitted to the ministrations of the shop’s experts. Under their tutelage he chose scarlet lipstick and lip gloss, matching nail polish, dusty green eye shadow, and a curly showgirl perm. At the end he was shocked at the result. Sam was gone. In his place stood an attractive teenage girl. The manicurist giggled as he paid, telling him he was the prettiest girl they’d turned out that day. He walked back to the clinic under the admiring glances of the local men. At every moment he told himself to flee, but he opened the clinic door and returned to Seá±or Enrá­quez, who admired his Suzy. “They did an excellent job, Seá±orita. I think you must agree: you’re rather attractive already. But the remainder of your punishment is to come. You will walk through that door”–he pointed at a swinging door–“and you will tell the woman there that you want to sing soprano.” He chuckled at Sam’s reaction, expressed only in his eyes. “No, you won’t lose your cojones. Not yet. Only your tenor voice. Doctor Mejá­as specializes in throat surgery. He’s worked for me beforehe did LaTreenaand he’ll give you a nice girlish voice. When you see him, ask him to make it really high. Be polite, and ask him nicely. Tell him you want to sing soprano. Then tell him these words: ‘I’m a man now, but I want to be a girl. Please, make me sound like a teenage girl.’  ¿Do you understand?”

“Yes, Seá±or, I understand.”

“Give him this note when you see him.” He handed Sam an envelope. “Now go.”

Sam got up and passed through the door. A receptionist sat behind a desk. She asked, “ ¿What can we do for you today, Seá±orita?”

“I want” He tried desperately to run, or at least to shut up, but the words came out inexorably. “I want to sing… to sing so soprano.” His voice made it clear that he was male.

The nurse giggled. “You look very pretty– ¡Seá±or! Yes, you’ve come to the right place. Have a seat, and I’ll get Doctor Mejá­as.”

The doctor appeared in three minutes. “ ¿What have we here? Juanita tells me I have a pretty boy who wants to sing soprano.  ¿Is that true?” His gaze took in the made-up face, the earrings and permed blond curls, the pink sweater snug over two nascent breasts. “You certainly should be singing soprano.”

“I want” He tried again to shut his mouth, then gave up. The compulsion couldn’t be broken. “Please, II want want to sing sop soprano. Yes, I’m a man now, but I want to be to be a girl.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “Pplease mmake me sound like a like a teen teenage ggirl.” He handed the doctor the envelope he’d been given.

The doctor opened it. “I see. Seá±or Enrá­quez is paying. He says to do whatever you want, and hang the cost. Very well, Seá±or, come with me.”

He seated Sam in a chair, but he didn’t start his work yet. “I need to know precisely what voice you’d like to have, so I want you to listen to a few samples and make your own choice, as Seá±or Enrá­quez instructs me. I can come very close to whichever you pick.” He turned a knob, and a woman’s voice said, “Buenos dá­as, Seá±or.  ¿Cá³mo está¡ usted?” Her tone was a low and sultry contralto. The doctor asked, “ ¿Is this what you’re looking for? Certainly that’s a womanly voice.”

Sam considered the instructions he’d been given. “No, Seá±or. High higher. Like a ggirl.”

The doctor pushed a button and another voice spoke the same words. The woman had a high soprano. “That’s the other extreme. She’s thirteen.”

It fit Sam’s instructions as he understood them. “Yes, I want to want to sound to sound to sound like that. Like a like a teenage girl.” He almost strangled on the words, but they forced their way out.

“I warn you, Seá±or, this isn’t reversible. Once I raise the voice, no one can lower it. And as you noted, this isn’t really a woman, but only a girl. Her voice matured when she grew older. For you, it’ll stay like this forever. You’ll never sound quite like an adult. Even an adult woman.”

“Yes, that’s what what I want. I want Make makeme sound like that that girl. For Forever. Pl please, Seá±or.”

Doctor Mejá­as looked at him with ill-disguised contempt. “Very well Seá±orita. Or maybe just chica. That’s what everyone will call you when I’m done.” He shrugged. “Be it on your own head. I’m being paid well to do as you say.” The doctor pushed a button, and two green-clad assistants came through a door. That was the last thing Sam saw before a needle went into his arm, and the world faded to a blank.

Sam awakened in his own room. Seá±ora Martá­nez sat there watching him. “ ¡Ah! You’re awake at last.  ¿How do you feel?”

“I” His voice squeaked. “What?” It wouldn’t come down.

“Speak Spanish, Seá±orita. Your punishment is finished for the moment, but you don’t want to incur another one,  ¿do you? Now,  ¿how do you feel?”

He tried to collect his thoughts. Yes, he had been threatened with punishment. What had they done? He couldn’t remember. His thoughts were too muddy. “I feel” He squeaked again. “My voice  ¿What?”

“You have a soprano voice, Seá±orita. Or better, treble. Just like you requested. Quite high.” She giggled. “I’m afraid you don’t sound much like a man any longer. No matter–you don’t look like a man anyhow.”

He swallowed, then tried again. “ ¿What what did they do?” His voice was high and breathy. She was right: he sounded like a girl. Then he recalled: that was exactly what he had requested.

“The doctor operated on your throat. Your vocal cords are shorter and thinner, and your larynx is quite a bit smaller. Your Adam’s apple is gone. Look at your neck.” Her alto voice was much lower than his.

It was true. His neck rose smoothly with no bulge. From the neck up, he was a girl. His hair was noticeably longer, too, and he had received another perm.

“It’s August 20. You were asleep for three weeks, to let your throat heal. And look at your chest. The three weeks made a difference there as well,  ¿true?”

It had. His breasts had inflated. He had two soft mounds beneath his shirt, and his nipples were visible. Not large: only A cup, he guessed. But they looked grotesque on him–until suddenly his perception shifted and they looked normal, on the girl he had become. Without thinking he clutched at them. The nipples were sensitive. Very sensitive. They stiffened immediately. It felt wonderful!

Seá±ora Martá­nez giggled again. “That feels good,  ¿doesn’t it? Just wait until a man touches them. Seá±or Enrá­quez says he’s making you extra sensitive there. A touch there is wired directly to your pleasure center; but after today only a man’s touch will activate it. Now, let’s return to your lessons. Already you sound like a girl; but you need to sound like a Cuban girl.” He spent the rest of the day practicing his Spanish, but he was distracted by a craving to reactivate the pleasure he’d felt so briefly. He found himself unable to keep himself from stroking his breasts surreptitiously. Each touch left him almost intoxicated. He had been receiving pleasure stimulation regularly as a reward for his dancing, but this was much stronger. He refused to think about needing a man to get the same sensation in the future.

That evening Seá±or Enrá­quez told Sam that a young peasant, Juan Sosa, would accompany him to the beach. “You’ll call yourself ‘Suzy’. You look like a girl, you talk like a girl. For tonight, you are a girl: behave accordingly. In particular, you will behave like any young girl with her boyfriend. You’ll try to please him.” Sam knew better than to protest.

“She” was given a thin bra and a panty girdle that protected her crotch. The now-diminished male apparatus was tucked away. She made her face up, then donned a thin cotton dress, peach-colored with a floral pattern. Juan arrived and led her away, his arm around her and his hand cupping her breast. Although she couldn’t resist anyway, the activated pleasure center filled her consciousness, and she didn’t even want to escape from this man who made her feel so good.

As they walked to the beach, Juan whispered, “ ¿What’s your name, querida?”

“I… I call myself Suzy,” she replied, then gave a quick high giggle. Sam was shocked by the reaction. The giggle was followed by a frisson of added pleasure, which drove out the shock.

Juan leered at her. “You are beautiful, my sweet little dove. I’m grateful to the Patrá³n for this chance to enjoy your company.”

He led her to a blanket laid out on the sand and in the light of the rising full moon Juan took “Suzy” in his arms and kissed her. She was plunged into rapture that overwhelmed her initial aversion, and she responded passionately. Juan fondled her breasts, driving her to heights of ecstasy. For half an hour they petted and necked, until the peasant reluctantly took her back to her room. “Don José tells me I can see you occasionally, querida.  ¿Will you like that? Tell me you’ll be my own little Suzy.” He stroked her stiff nipple through the thin fabric.

“Yes.  ¡Oh, yes!” she squealed. “I’ll be your little Suzy.” Sam was willing to agree to anything to regain the bliss he felt. “Suzy” laughed again, a high silly giggle. In the house, José Enrá­quez heard the sound through a bug carried by Juan. He chuckled. That giggle, induced by a jolt to a tiny region of the brain, would be reinforced by pleasure until it became an unbreakable habit.

Next day Sam remembered the previous night’s amorous adventure. He was ashamed of his response, and at the same time he wanted more. He couldn’t get any pleasure response through his own efforts, and against his will he wanted a man to hold and to fondle him again. He couldn’t understand it. Even drugs shouldn’t have made him respond so enthusiastically. He determined to fight harder. He had to obey–by now he knew better than to attempt any rebellion–but he had to control his own feelings. He wasn’t “Susana Quintana”. He recalled what LaTreena had told him: “Mistuh José, he see dat yo’ accep’ what he gib yo’. Yo’ like it, after a while. Yo’ want to be pretty. Fo’ de menfolk, so dey treat yo’ good.” LaTreena certainly had accepted it. But he was stronger. He’d make sure he never became the airheaded bimbo he’d invented.

But he still looked forward to his next date.

His dancing lessons changed a little. He had to wear a pink leotard. His new breasts jiggled noticeably as he moved, and the snug garment made them obvious. His genitals were tucked away, and he knew he’d be taken for a girl by any who saw him. His voice was completely in accordance with his newly girlish appearance. Like Seá±ora Martá­nez, DuChamp referred to him as “Seá±orita”. He thought Seá±or DuChamp treated him a little differently, too. He didn’t know whether it was due to the increasingly curvaceous figure, or the breathy soprano voice, but the dancing master seemed to treat him more like a true female. He detected a gleam of appreciation in the Frenchman’s eye. It wasn’t reciprocated.

After his afternoon language lesson was finished, he attempted to see Seá±or Enrá­quez again, but he was refused. His servant Bernardo told him, “Not yet, Seá±orita Suzy. Soon, though.” Sam tried to remonstrate, “I’m not ‘Seá±orita’, Seá±or Baca. I’m Seá±or Sam Quinn. I know I don’t look like it or sound like it, but I am. You saw me when I arrived. You know I’m right.” It was difficult to insist with a straight face that he was Seá±or Quinn, in a girlish voice that belied the claim.

“No, Seá±orita. Not any more. Your name’s being changed officially to match your new appearance. From now on, you’ll be called Susana Quintana. Or Suzy Q. By order of el Patrá³n, you have to accept and acknowledge the name.  ¿Will you defy him?” He laughed, then echoed Sam’s own concern: “And you’re right, you don’t sound much like a ‘Seá±or’ either. Now tell me, little girl:  ¿what’s your name?”

Sam knew better than to fight. “Very well. I’m Susana Quintana.” But he reserved the right to call himself “Sam” in private.

Soon he suffered another change. He awoke to find that his feet hurt when he got out of bed. He had trouble walking flat-footed, and he could ease his pain only by tiptoeing. His Achilles tendon seemed to be the source of his difficulty. DuChamp knocked on his door as he ate breakfast. The dancing master explained his problem. “Your feet are altered, Seá±orita. Your Achilles tendon is shorter. The operation was a month ago, and you’ve healed sufficiently to walk without injury. I fear that, from now on, you’ll need to wear high heels in order to walk without pain. Four-centimeter heels should be possible, but I think you’ll prefer six-centimeter heels. Maybe even seven. They’ll definitely be more comfortable. I brought a selection to replace your old shoes.” Sam looked at his new footgear. Pumps, mules, boots all had heels from one to four inches high. He tried one-inch red pumps. They eased his discomfort a little, but Seá±or DuChamp was correct. Two-inch heels were barely tolerable. Two-and-a-half was better, but he needed at least three-inch heels for comfort. That morning he began to adapt his dancing to his new footgear. His feet hurt a little, but DuChamp assured him it was temporary.

Sam’s routine continued unchanged for two more months. His breasts continued to swell, in his own estimation reaching a full B cup,. The doctors who attended him told him his transition into womanhood was much more rapid than the puberty of a normal female, due to his massive hormone doses. His hips and ass broadened a little as well, and his waist was shrinking. All his pants were tight around the hips and loose around the waist. His shirts bound uncomfortably around his breasts. He kept wearing male clothing anyway, donning skirts and dresses only when necessary, for his trysts with Juan.

One morning he pulled on his slacks and they split a seam. He tried another, and they held, but he knew his male clothing didn’t fit any longer. He almost looked forward to the dance lessons, when his leotard stretched to accommodate his new curves. The fact that his feminine shape was revealed by the leotard didn’t really matter. Even in a man’s shirt and slacks, his contours were clearly womanly. His real problem in the dance lessons was that his breasts, unsupported, bounced uncomfortably. He could see that DuChamp was fascinated by their motion. The other men began to pay attention to him as well, in spite of their knowledge that his sex was really male. Appearances, it seemed, mattered a lot. Worse, he found himself behaving like a silly female. He couldn’t stop himself from giggling. When he was allowed to go on his dates with Juan, he didn’t even try to behave differently. All he wanted was the surge of pleasure that the peasant gave him. He was well and truly addicted.

When he arose on the next morning, he found a new wardrobe in his closet. His old clothes were gone. In their place he found flowered print slacks in bright colors, and shirts with ruffled collars and buttons on the wrong side And skirts, short to long And dresses. He checked his dresser. One of the drawers was filled with lingerie, another with pantyhose. He even had new glasses. A feminine pair, pink-rimmed and set with rhinestones, was on the dresser. A note was on his bed: “Susana: Come see me.” It was unsigned, but no signature was necessary.

He desperately wanted to plead with his captor, but he didn’t want to beg in a skirt. His final choice was a flowered pink sleeveless top and matching pink slacks. Under them he wore white cotton panties and a cotton bra. He was pleasantly surprised at how much more comfortable he was, freed from the ill-fitting male clothing. Two-inch pumps, red with open toes and a single strap, slipped onto his feet; he preferred to endure the discomfort of the low heels. After he fixed his face, he put on the diamond stud earrings that he had first been given, and on a whim added the pearl necklace. He looked at himself in the mirror. He was a cute girl! No wonder the men were attracted to him. The thought gave him no pleasure. He had to persuade his tormentor to release him, before this went any further.

Seá±or Enrá­quez was delighted at his appearance. “You are becoming quite pretty, my dear. My Suzy Q is beginning to appear, I think.  ¿Do you agree?”
“No, Seá±or. With all respect”–he couldn’t afford to anger the man–“I disagree. I know I look like a girl.” He looked down at his bosom, lending its curves to the snug pink top. “And I sound like a girl.” His thin and breathy soprano lent his words verisimilitude. “But I’m not a girl. I’m not a cubana. I’m a norteamericano. I can’t be anything else.”

“Soon your body will be transformed completely, Seá±orita.  ¿Will you admit then that I’ve found my Suzy Q?”

“No, Seá±or. Even if I were a real woman–and that’s not possible, I just look female–I wouldn’t be a cubana. It simply isn’t possible.

He chuckled. “My dear Suzy, I’ve just begun to create you. Your body’s ripening nicely. Soon it’ll be finished. Already it pushes you into the arms of your boyfriend,  ¿no?” Sam blushed. When he was allowed to go on his “dates” with Juan, he couldn’t think of anything but the surge of pleasure that the peasant gave him. “And DuChamp tells me you’re becoming a skilled dancer. Next year you’ll be able to find a job at any night club. But you say your mind is still that of the norteamericano I brought here. Perhaps, but that’s changing too. Read your description of Suzy Q. That’ll be an accurate portrait–body and soul–when I’m finished.” He laughed and told his victim, “You already like men,  ¿no? Come here, muchacha. Sit on my lap.”

Sam obeyed. Seá±or Enrá­quez fondled his breasts through the thin fabrics. Sam’s eyes widened and he gasped in pleasure. He tried to suppress his reaction, but it was hopeless.

Enrá­quez paused and asked, “Do you want me to stop? I will if you insist.”

The girl in his lap couldn’t resist. “Nno.  ¡No!  ¡Ddon’t stop!  ¡Please!”

“I’ll continue if you kiss me. You want to kiss me,  ¿don’t you?” Sam didn’t answer directly, but pressed his mouth hungrily against Enrá­quez’s lips. He responded by fondling a breast again as he thrust his tongue between Sam’s lips. Sam exploded with pleasure beyond his dreams. Enrá­quez withdrew and asked, “ ¿You really think you’re still a norteamericano in your head? I think you wanted to be that little Cuban slut you described. ‘Susana Quintana’ versus ‘Samuel Quinn’ It’s the same initials. You already were her in your mind. I’m doing you a favor by sending you the rest of the way.”

Confused, Sam pulled back. “I  ¡No!  ¡I’m a man! I don’t  ¡I didn’t!” But his soprano voice betrayed him. And his reaction to Enrá­quez’s offer to stop shocked him. He was acting like a slut. He began to weep.

Amused, Enrá­quez offered Sam a handkerchief. “That’s all right, Suzy. Have a good cry. Just like a woman, of course. It's all those hormones.” Sam tuned his head away, and Enrá­quez pushed him off his lap. “I’ll send Juan over this evening to comfort you,” he declared. “I know he makes you feel better.” Then he looked at Sam critically. “I said that you’re a pretty girl, and you are. But you can be even more attractive. You’re using makeup, but you need more skill, my dear. It’ll be invaluable to you in your new career. I’ll send one of my maids to teach you.” He stood. The interview was over.

For several weeks nothing further seemed to happen. Sam recovered from the traumatic visit with his captor, telling himself that it was just a momentary weakness brought on by drugs and those infernal brain implants. He assiduously applied himself to the makeup lessons. It wasn’t difficult; he enjoyed the meticulous application of various cosmetics to his face (under the effect of an implant). He found that he liked wearing dresses and skirts, too, and the slacks went unworn. Juan complimented him on his appearance, and he couldn’t bring himself to resent the comments (drugged and buoyed by artificial euphoria as he was), only giggling in delight.

However, further changes were being imposed, unknown to Sam. Late each night he was taken, unconscious, to a room where another set of doctors wired him to a machine and injected him with an exotic drug with an affinity for the neurons that stored memories. A combination of the drug with an electric shock effectively erased whatever memory that was held in his consciousness at a given moment. He was put into a drug trance and ordered to recall specific items. They began with his true name, and followed with the names of his family, his social security number, his birthplace, his birthday, and other items that could be used to identify him. Each disappeared. When they were done, they replaced the missing information with a piece of information more appropriate for Susana Quintana. He was returned to his room, to awaken the following morning with no knowledge of the losses.

Seá±or Enrá­quez recalled “Suzy” three days after Christmas and asked him to be seated. He complied nervously, spreading a long pink-flowered skirt beneath him as he sat. “Maybe you’re right, Seá±orita. Perhaps you’ll never adapt to such an alien life, and I should allow you to return.” He held up his hand as the “girl” in front of him brightened. “ ¿But are you really an American citizen?  ¿A norteamericano? That’s very hard to believe. Tell me,  ¿where were you born?  ¡Quickly now!”

“I was born in  ¡in Havana!” he replied.

“ ¿In Havana? Tell me then,  ¿how is it you claim to be an American?” Before his confused guest could straighten out his thoughts, he went on: “ ¿And what’s your name, my dear?  ¿Your full birth name? And your age. Tell me.”

“My name is Susana No, it’s it was” But it was gone. His memory insisted that his name was, and had always been, Susana Quintana. He was bewildered. He knew he’d been a man–an American student at Monterrey Tech. He was still a man, if badly impaired. But the name of that man was gone. He’d been born in His memory lied to him, insisting “Havana”.

“Come now. I insist. Your full birth name and your age, Seá±orita. Tell me.”

Aware now that somehow he had lost his identity, “Suzy” began to weep. Through his sobs he tried to insist, “ ¡No!  ¡I’m not Susana! I’m” But it was lost.

Again Seá±or Enrá­quez ordered him sternly: “Your full name, Seá±orita, and your age and birthplace, or I’ll punish you. And look at yourself in the mirror as you answer me.”

“My my name is” He forced himself to answer. “Seá±or, my full name is Susana PaPatricia Quintana Lá³ï‚¼Lá³pez.” Where had that come from? “I’m seventeen years old. I was born in Havana. But but that’s wrong.  ¡It’s a lie!” He tried once more to dredge his true name from the depths of his memory. There was nothing. He stared at the mirror, transfixed. Looking at him was a shapely blonde teenage girl, pretty even in her misery. He knew her. She was Susana Quintana. Suzy Q. Nothing else. He recalled inventing Suzy on a hot dull afternoon in Monterrey, and choosing her birthplace as Havana on a whim. But now she stared back at him from the mirror.

“Born in Havana, you said.  ¿What about your family?  ¿Your father, your mother?”

Suzy tried to answer. He saw his family in his mind. But their names His father was It was gone! He knew it wasn’t really Julio Quintana Sosa. Nor was his mother Ana Maria Lá³pez de Quintana. A pair of faces came into mental focus: Suzy’s Cuban parents. For just a moment she was seized by grief. They had both died just a year ago in an accident, and she’d had to make her own way, alone. She had been dancing since then No! She–no, he!–was an adult American male, not a teenage Cuban girl! “I I don’t know.  ¡I don’t remember!” But he did! He just remembered falsehoods. And they were falsehoods beyond the biography he’d invented.

“Yes, you remember, Suzy. Tell me.”

“I” He gave in. “My my parents are–were–Julio and Ana Maria Quintana.”
“Of course. But then, you aren’t a norteamericano.” Enrá­quez smiled slightly. “Or a norteamericana. You’re a native-born cubana, and a naturalized Mexican citizen.” His smile broadened. “My cousin’s doctors’ work again. A man named Ibarra found a way to erase what you know and to substitute something else instead. Julio and Ana Mará­a are now your parents, just as Susana is your name. Your new identity isn’t so alien after all,  ¿is it?” He puffed on a cigarette. “I’m afraid you might have a problem returning to your old life. You don’t look much like the engineering student I found in that dormitory room. You don’t even know his name or birthplace. If you ever try to claim his identity, La Migra won’t be easy to persuade,  ¿will they?” Enrá­quez chuckled. “No, you’re going to live the rest of your life as Suzy Q. You are your own creation, come to life. No one else. Soon–two years, five years–you’ll accept it.” Suzy looked at the image in the mirror. Shoulder-length blond curls tumbling over bare shoulders, the smooth clear cheeks of a teenage girl, rosy lips set in a permanent pout, firm rounded breasts and a slender waist Not to mention the silly high voice, and the habitual giggle. No, he couldn’t pass as as whoever he had been. Enrá­quez smiled and dismissed his captive. His metamorphosis was nearing completion.

The next step was the final and irretrievable loss of what remained of Suzy’s masculinity. It came on New Year’s Day. Of course, it had long since become diminutive and nonfunctional. Nevertheless, she wept bitterly. After she recovered from the initial shock, though, she realized that it wasn’t quite as shattering as she had expected. Months of seeing a girl in the mirror had slowly changed her self-image, and subconsciously she had known that the pitiable remnant of an appendage had been totally incongruous and forever useless. The slit in her crotch, bordered by fleshy lips and surrounded by a triangle of golden fuzz where her shaved hair was growing back, seemed much more appropriate. Her hips were broader as well; when she awakened on February 11 after six weeks, Doctor Weiss told her he’d remodeled her abdomen and her pelvis. She consoled herself with the thought that at least she couldn’t get pregnant. She knew enough about transsexual operations to realize that her apparent vagina had to be a sham. She didn’t really have a full complement of female plumbing, and she couldn’t get pregnant. But she had to admit, it was a convincing replica. And there was no doubt: she was definitely not male. Not any more. She received a reminder (as if she needed it!) every time she sat to pee.

Because she needed time to heal completely, the dance lessons were suspended. The extra time was used to tutor her more intensively in Spanish. Drugs were used to assist her memory, to impart a true Cuban accent to her speech. During the night, she was taken to the laboratory, where the doctors also began to work on her English. Night by night, it was eroded away. Her vocabulary, her grammar They slowly disappeared. The gradual loss went unnoticed. She thought in Spanish now, and she hadn’t had an opportunity to speak English in months; all her books were in Spanish. During the reduction of her English to a pitiful broken remnant, they also erased selected portions of her education. Physics and chemistry, biology, mathematics beyond elementary arithmetic, all technical subjects, were completely obliterated. Geography and history were decimated. She was left with a substandard high-school education, inadequate for any decent job. Even her reading ability was attacked. She remained literate, but at a sixth-grade level. This loss too went unnoticed. The editing had the unfortunate side effect of lowering her IQ by about 15 points.

The doctors continued to edit her personal memories as well. She learned an entire new biography, as the life of the anonymous norteamericano faded into obscurity. When asked who she was, she replied “Suzy Quintana” with a happy giggle. Her parents had been Julio and Ana Mará­a Quintana; she had a sister Mará­a and a brother José, still in Cuba. When she thought about it, she knew these “facts” to be fictions, but they leaped to her consciousness anyway. She accumulated a store of girlhood memories: birthday parties (especially her quinceaá±era two years earlier), her First Communion, a favorite doll To herself she insisted, “I don’t care what lies they put in my head. I’m not a cubana, in spite of those memories he stuck in my head me. I’m a norteamericana.” It didn’t occur to her that she thought in Spanish now. “When he lets me go, I’ll return home and pick up my life again. Even if I can’t return to my former identity, I can become a success as a woman.”

Her figure finally stabilized at 35/24/36. She was too heavy, her captor told her, especially for an exotic dancer. “You need to diet, Suzy. Your figure has to be a little more slender.” He chuckled as he told her, “I’m afraid you’ll need to watch your weight for the rest of your life. Just like most women.” By March 8, and with the assistance of appetite-suppressant drugs, she lost 15 pounds, mostly from her hips, waist, and thighs. Her breasts, hemispherical with prominent pink nipples and areolae, remained at a generous C cup. She resumed dancing. Her lithe and athletic body easily returned to the old schedule. DuChamp had slowly introduced more erotic routines, and she innocently became adept at the graceful removal of her clothing. Soon she was unselfconscious in nothing more than a G-string and pasties.

She felt a general attraction to men, in addition to her need for the specific pleasure Juan gave her during their dalliances. And his attentions were beginning to leave her frustrated. The pleasure wasn’t sufficient. Her body craved more than he was allowed to give; José Enrá­quez had told him that any attempt to consummate his affair with Suzy would leave him without the necessary equipment for future affairs. The other men also had strict orders to leave Seá±orita Quintana alone, so that her waxing libido remained unquenched. Of course, she refused to recognize the existence of her desire, beyond her need for Juan’s stimulation.

On March 20, five weeks after waking up with a woman’s anatomy, she felt a severe cramp in her abdomen. She complained to one of the doctors who monitored her recovery. He laughed. “Don’t worry, Seá±orita. It’s quite normal. Doctor Weiss didn’t just give you a convenient holster for your boyfriend’s pistol. He’s one of the world’s best in transplant technology. You have a complete set of female pipes. With all accessories.”

“ ¿Whaaat?” Her voice rose to a squeak “ ¡No!  ¡That’s impossible!”

“You’ve overused that phrase since your arrival, I think. It’s not impossible. Very difficult and expensive, yes. But your Patrá³n is insistent that his creations be authentic in every respect. You’re beginning your first period, and in a day or two you’ll start to bleed. Ask one of the other women about appropriate feminine hygeine. I suggest sanitary napkins for the first couple of months, but then you should probably switch to tampons. And you might consider contraceptive measures in the future. I expect you’ll prove as fertile as Weiss’s other subjects. I understand his first patient has borne five children so far.” The bleeding began in two days, and lasted for three

Eleven months after the abduction, on May 1, Suzy awoke to find that the last physical trace of the American college student had disappeared. She felt exceptionally groggy as she stumbled to the bathroom to begin her day. There she saw a strange face in the mirror. A network of faint scars, almost faded, showed that she had undergone recent plastic surgery. Her chin was smaller and more delicate, her nose was bobbed, her cheekbones were higher, her eyes had a startled doelike look The face was quite pretty. In fact she was almost beautiful, and much more attractive than she’d been before. But she wore the face of a stranger. Then she realized it wasn’t quite that of a stranger. No, it was the face in the picture that had been posted on the Internet. The face of Suzy Q. She ran back to her bed and began to sob. Nothing was left. Her old identity was obliterated.

After a few minutes her sobs became sniffles. It didn’t matter. Her old identity had already been destroyed. Her new face was no big deal. At least she was pretty, and she could use that fact to help her in her life ahead. She was female, no doubt about it. Seá±or Enrá­quez had succeeded to that extent. If she had to be a girl, she might as well be a pretty girl. She looked for her glasses, ready to dress. Then she realized: she didn’t need them. Her myopia was cured. Of course: Suzy Q hadn’t worn glasses.

Suzy renewed her acquaintance with LaTreena Fipps on the next morning. LaTreena bustled in with a newborn black infant in her arms while Suzy ate. She greeted Suzy enthusiastically: “Suzy! I here fo’ jus’ dis mornin’, and Mistuh José, he ax me to come see yo’. Yo’ be so pretty, girl! Yo’ even prettier dan dat pitcher Mistuh José show me! How yo’ doin’? Come see my sweet li’l chile!”

Suzy looked at her in confusion and gaped. She couldn’t understand what the woman was saying.

LaTreena saw her confusion. She misunderstood and giggled. “Yo’ be surprised at li’l Lucy here, I t’ink. I had her jus’ two weeks pas’.”

Why was her visitor spouting gibberish? Suzy asked, “Seá±ora–LaTreena– ¿what are you saying? I can’t understand you.”

The black woman’s face fell. She knew her English wasn’t standard, but Suzy had understood her before. Nevertheless, she switched to Spanish. “I said you are very pretty. I come to show you my baby.  ¿Why couldn’t you understand me?”

“ ¿Why did you…?” She realized she was still speaking Spanish and tried to switch to English. “I don’t know why I…” It hit her. She couldn’t speak English. For the last nine months she hadn’t had a chance to speak or hear anything but Spanish, and only now was her loss apparent. She no longer spoke, or understood, her native tongue. She closed her eyes in despair, then opened them to look at her visitor. “I… I’m sorry, LaTreena. You know Seá±or Enrá­quez was making me over into a Cuban girl. Well, that Cuban girl doesn’t speak English.”

A light dawned on LaTreena’s face. “ ¡Of course! Seá±or Enrá­quez, he want his creations to talk like they was borned the way he made them. I know I don’t talk no good English. You saw that when we met. Naturally you speak Spanish. I can’t tell the difference, but I bet you talk like you just off the plane from Havana.” Then she saw Suzy’s reaction. “And you just found out now. I’m sorry, Suzy. I remember when I found out I didn’t just look like old Aunt Jemima, but I sounded like her too, whatever I try to do. It was a shock. I tried not to say nothing at all for a week or two. And my partner, he acted the same.”

Suzy recalled that this fat black peasant woman had been a DEA agent from New Jersey, and knew that there were worse punishments than the one she had received. She tried to smile. “I’ll be all right. You’re right, I just found out. But it doesn’t matter. I’m Susana Quintana, just like you’re LaTreena Fipps, and I might as well talk like who I am.” She suddenly realized that it’d make any return to the U.S. that much harder. She lacked any proof of her true citizenship–even her fingerprints were changed, Enrá­quez had told her–and now she couldn’t even speak English. Even if she learned it all over again, she’d never speak it like a native.

Well, she’d deal with that problem later. “But let me see your baby.  ¡She’s so pretty!  ¿Can I hold her?” She chatted with LaTreena for fifteen minutes before she left. Only later did it strike her: LaTreena had gotten pregnant. She had been a man, just like Suzy. The doctors were right. She was a woman, in every way that counted. She’d have to be careful.

And the baby was black. LaTreena had been a white man, but she’d borne a black child. The metamorphosis of Missus and Mistuh Fipps had been more than skin deep.

Three weeks later Enrá­quez summoned her. Without thinking about what she was doing, Suzy automatically chose a pretty pink sleeveless dress that flattered her fair complexion and clung to her figure. Four-inch crimson open-toed pumps replaced the comfortable three-inch brown pumps she had on. She chose a crimson shade of lipstick to match her shoes, and dusky eye shadow, then brushed out her long blonde tresses and held them in place with pearl-crusted barrettes. A pearl necklace and diamond earrings finished her ensemble. She checked herself critically in the mirror, then felt the familiar rush of pleasure that always told her when she had succeeded in making herself attractive.

At the house her captor greeted her behind a desk. He held a beer in one hand “Ah, my pretty Suzy Q. You look ravishing tonight. As pretty as the picture you sent me.” She forgot her dismay at seeing her new face and giggled. Enrá­quez smiled with satisfaction. “ ¿Do you remember when we first met, my sweetling? It was a year ago. You claimed that Susana Quintana was a figment of your imagination. Do you still deny her existence?”

Suzy remembered. Her face fell. She was really But of course the name was long lost. And when she looked down at her bosom, its cleavage displayed by the low-cut dress, she knew she was really Suzy Q. Acutely aware again of her girlish soprano, she answered, “No, Seá±or. I can’t deny it. I am Susana Quintana. I’m Suzy Q.” She managed to stifle the automatic giggle. “You made me into her. At least physically.” Left unsaid was her determination to return to the life of a middle-class norteamericana.

“ ¿’Physically’? You think you’re still that lying gringo inside your head, is that it?” He chuckled. “No more, my dear. You’ll see. But let me give you these. They certify your identity. You’ll need them when you apply for a job. Or a marriage license.” He handed her an envelope. She opened it. It contained a Cuban birth certificate, a baptismal certificate, Mexican naturalization papers and photo ID, and a diploma. She had just graduated from high school, she learned. She had everything she needed to verify her identity–as Susana Quintana, a seventeen-year-old Cuban-born Mexican citizen. “Keep these safe,” he told her. “This is your only identity now. This is who you are.” He gave her a handbag–it was scarlet, matching her shoes–and said, “You can use this to hold them. It has all the things a girl needs to keep handy, including cosmetics. It even has ten thousand pesos.” She didn’t dispute him, but he saw her disbelief. “You don’t accept that truth even now, I see. You may speak freely. In fact, I order you to sit down and tell me:  ¿who do you think you really are?”

She gathered her skirt beneath her and sat. “I’m really a norteamericana, Seá±or, not a cubana or a mexicana. I was born in the United States, not Cuba, even if you took away the proofand even my memory of exactly where it was. I’d like to say I’m still the norteamericano you kidnapped in Monterrey, but that’s not really true any more. I know that. But except for my body, I’m still him.” She gave a delicate shrug. “I don’t know his name, and as you’ll claim, it doesn’t fit anyway. Not now.” Her bitterness showed through. “I suppose for now I’ll use the name you forced on me. It’s as good as any other I might pick for myself. But I’m not the girl you tried to produce.”

“ ¿No? I understand why you believe that, but you’ll change your mind. Legally and practically, you’re a woman. You’ve accepted that. But legally you’re also a Mexican national of Cuban origin. As a practical matter, you’ll soon accept that detail too, even if you know that you used to be someone else. Just like LaTreena. I emphasize: You used to be someone else, a norteamericano; but you are Suzy Quintana.” He took a sip of beer. “A decade ago, my cousin’s doctors perfected the process of rebuilding a man, body and soul. I met the first subject. She works as a maid for my cousin’s daughter. Pansy’s the very model of a mixed-race campesina. She’s married to a peasant, and she’s pregnant with her sixth child. She thinks she was born a peasant girl; she still has memories of being a norteamericano, but she doesn’t believe them. I usually don’t do that for my subjects. I like them to know who they used to be, and what I did to them, even if I give them a biography as a cover story. Like your girlhood in Cuba.” He crossed his legs and lit a cigarette. “For you, though, I did a favor.  ¿Are you happy with your new life?

“No I’m not. I’m a captive, and worse, I’m a subject for your damned experiments.”

He laughed. “No ‘experiments’ at all, my dear. These procedures are tried and proven. I know exactly what the result will be. You’re lucky in that respect. The doctors lost several subjects while they were still in the ‘experiment’ stage, including some who went mad or ended as vegetables. But I take your meaning.” He puffed on the cigarette. “ ¿What’ll you do when you’re free again?”

“ ¿‘Free’? I’ll never be free again.” She looked down at her body, its curves flattered by the pink dress. “I’m a prisoner in this body.”

“True, but then, it’s true of any of us. I’m equally a prisoner in my own. I’d much prefer to be twenty again. But again, I understand. It’s not the body of your choosing, nor of your birth. It’s a body I chose to trap you in.” He chuckled. “Be grateful I had a reason to trap you in an attractive body, and leave you in a civilized society.” She thought again of LaTreena, but he continued: “One of my own men raped a girl five years ago. He betrayed not only the girl, but also the trust I gave him. He undermined the good relations I have with my growers.” Enrá­quez gave a nasty laugh. “He became one of my more exotic projects. He liked sex, so now he gets a lot. I check regularly to see that he’s still healthy.” He puffed again on his cigarette. “It’s not really ‘he’ any more, as I know you can appreciate. I made Seá±or Flores into a very attractive black girl. Coal black: she’s modeled after a tribal woman in southern Sudan. She even has the conical breasts of a Dinka girl. A real work of art, she is. It took two years to shape her body. Doctor Ibarra erased her ability to read or writeshe won’t be able to relearn, that part of her brain doesn’t work any more–and she lost her Spanish. Doctor Ibá¡á±ez made sure her libido was strong, and trained her to satisfy a man.” Leering at Suzy, Enrá­quez told her, “Your own libido’s getting stronger, true?” She blushed and looked away. He went on: “Then I sold her to an official in the Sudanese government. She’s a slave now. Literally: she has a collar welded around her neck identifying her as the property of Yusuf bin Hamood. The implants in her brain keep her docile, if not happy. She’s learned a little Arabic under pressure from her master. Of course it’s not for her benefit, but only so she understands orders. She’s borne a child for her masterthe brat’s a slave too–and she’s a month pregnant again. She tried to kill herself a week after she arrived, but she’s too valuable to allow that to happen.” He chuckled. “She’ll never try it again. I expect she’ll live to a ripe old age. Of course, as she gets older, she won’t serve in bed any more. Probably the kitchen’ll take her. And maybe old Yusuf’ll give her to another slave for breeding. After all, her libido won’t go away just because her looks fade.” Enrá­quez lifted a glass of Corona to his lips. “I saw her three months ago. In fact, she was in my bed: Yusuf lends her to favored guests. We didn’t speak–I have no Arabic, and she has nothing else–but she recognized me. She’s eager to please, even if her partner has… let’s say, exotic tastes. I thought I’d trained her well, but Yusuf’s been even more… well, more imaginative. Of course, she isn’t quite sane any more.” Suzy shuddered, but Enrá­quez laughed. “When you think of yourself as a prisoner of your body, remember Miguel Flores–now Yasmin the whore. That’s how she thinks of herself now. That’s who, and what, she is.”

“But enough unpleasantness. I grant, you’re trapped in a body that was forced on you.  ¿What do you intend to do with it? As I said, you can speak freely. I won’t hold anything you say against you.”

“I don’t know, Seá±or.” She looked down at the floor. “I’ll dance for you. You told me that. And I guess I’ll…” She thought of LaTreena, and Yasmin, and her own reaction to Juan’s petting. “I’ll do whatever else you want. I don’t have a choice,  ¿do I?”

He grinned. “Not if I don’t allow you one, my dear. Yes, you’ll do what I want. You’ll be whatever I want. But I’m done with you. You’re a completed work of art. Like Yasmin and LaTreena, and others. All very different, and none needing my direct control any longer.”

“ ¿What…?  ¿What do you mean?”

“I’m going to release you, my sweetling. Tomorrow I’ll fly you back to Monterrey. Your old apartment is rented again, but in the name of Susana Quintana. Suzy Q. A month’s rent is paid. After you’re back, you can do whatever you like. I won’t make you dance for me. I won’t force you into bed with me. Nothing.”

“But…” She was taken aback. “ ¿You’re releasing me?” As the meaning of his promise sank in, she was at first overjoyed. “ ¡Thank you, Seá±or!  ¡Thank you!”

“Now answer my question, Seá±orita.  ¿What do you intend to do?”

What would she do? What could she do? “I… I don’t… I don’t know. I can’t just go back to classes. I’m not registered. And I can’t work in Monterrey. I don’t have a work permit for foreigners. I’ll have to return to the U.S.”

He chuckled. “I know, it’s not fair to ask you now. It’s too sudden, and you haven’t had a chance to sort things out. But think it over. I’ll see you in the morning.”

As she considered the question that evening, her position became clearer. Yes, she could work in Monterrey, or anywhere else in Mexico. She wasn’t a foreigner, but a Mexican citizen. Or so her papers said. And getting back into the U.S. might be difficult. She could manage it, she supposed, but officially she wasn’t an American. And she didn’t speak any English. What would she do there? Her technical training wasn’t much help without any English. Would she have to work as a maid? She wasn’t trained for that work. Seá±or Ricciello–James Ricciello, she remembered–had been transformed into a maid. LaTreena Fipps was well suited to her niche, and she could find work anywhere–but only as a maid. And poor Yasmin, born Miguel Flores… she was a sex toy. Then it struck her. It was obvious. She was a dancer. An exotic dancer. That was how Seá±or… Seá±or Whoever, her earlier self, had described Susana, and that was what she was. Was there anything else she could do? Not really. She had no credentials. And Seá±or Enrá­quez had said as much. “You’ll be able to find a job at any night club,” he’d said. She didn’t like the idea of earning her living that way, but it was only until she could figure out a way to return to some approximation of the life of Seá±or Whoever, back in the U.S.A.

By noon the next day she was back in the apartment where the engineering student had lived a year earlier. It was stocked with clothing, a little food, kitchenware… All the necessities. The decor was feminized, with frilled curtains and pastel colors. On the shelves were mementos of her fictional Cuban childhood: beloved dolls and stuffed animals, photographs of herself as a child and of her family, and a few potted plants. No books, but then, she hadn’t enjoyed reading for some months. She was amazed all over again at the thoroughness with which Enrá­quez had transformed her. Even her past was metamorphosed. Had she really been anything other than a latina dancer?

The driver who delivered her to the apartment told her that Seá±or Enrá­quez was available to help her if she needed anything. He gave her a phone number where he could be reached. She told him to thank his boss, and he left.

For an hour she watched a soap opera on the small black-and-white television, but she needed to do something. She had to find a job. From her earlier life she knew where the clubs were. She called a taxi and headed downtown.

The taxi let her off at El Guacamayo, where sheor hehad been inspired to invent Suzy. In a way, it was her birthplace. She went in.

The interior was dim. Stale cigarette smoke hung in the air. The show had just begun. She analyzed the moves of the dancers. She was better, she knew. Then they started removing their clothes to the rhythm of the music, and the customers began to go wild. They called obscenities to the girls, who smiled sweetly and continued to strip. Suzy realized that the point of the act wasn’t the dance. It was a sexual display. She recalled the marquee: SEXY STRIPPERS. Somehow the English words registered–or rather, the words had entered Spanish. But this was her skill. The only way she could earn her food, her rent. It was only one step above a prostitute–with an easy step downward.

As she stood there, one of the patrons approached her and offered to buy her a drink. He was unshaven, and smelled of cheap tequila. It occurred to her that she was a pretty young woman, unescorted. She looked as if she was angling for a pickup. For the drink, she’d be expected to… She couldn’t! But the thought brought back a memory of Juan, stroking her breast. And the pleasure… the incomparable pleasure! She felt her crotch become warm and damp, and suddenly she wanted to accept that drink. She thrust the thought away and denied her craving. Quickly she refused the man and left. It took all the will power she could muster. Another taxi took her back to the apartment.

She spent the rest of the day trying to think of alternatives, but she came up blank. When she tried to retrieve her technical education, it wasn’t there. Mathematics, physics, chemistry… Evaporated. She could multiply, but long division was beyond her. Worse, she couldn’t keep her mind off her memory of necking and petting with Juan. She thought of LaTreena. Had she gone through this? When she’d been released as an overweight and illiterate black girl, had she struggled against her assigned position? She must have fought! Seá±or Ricciello never would’ve settled for a life of laundering clothes and washing dishes. And raising a brood of children for some black peasant. But he had. That was the nature of LaTreena: a black serving girl. And Yasmin: when Seá±or Enrá­quez was done with her, she didn’t have a choice. She was a whore and a slave. And Suzy? She was a stripper. No more than that. Seá±or Enrá­quez had said, “You’ll do what I want. You are what I wanted you to be. You’re a completed work of art, not needing direct control any longer.”

The next day she tried the border. She had more than enough cash to purchase a bus ticket to Nuevo Laredo, where she walked to the crossing across the Rio Bravo. Her feet were sore when she reached it from the bus depot. She couldn’t walk at all without heels, but certainly walking any distance in heels was painful. And the heat! She was grateful she could wear a light sundress.

The crossing was familiar. As a student, Seá±or Whoever had crossed here often. Now, though, it was forbidding. She was an alien, or so her documents stated. And when she listened to the speech of the day-trippers, returning from a shopping spree in the duty-free shops of Nuevo Laredo, she realized she was an alien in reality. They were speaking gibberish. Had she really been able to understand that nonsense?

La Migra turned her back. It wasn’t clear just what papers she was missing, or maybe it was just an arbitrary decision, but she wasn’t allowed to cross. Back at her apartment, she realized that the official was competent, and his decision really was correct. She wasn’t a shopper, or a tourist. Not really. She was a prospective illegal immigrant, a wetback. And La Migra had known, and acted properly. When she thought a little more, she realized that on the other side she’d’ve been no better off. She’d still be ignorant, with no skill but the one granted to her by the imagination of that cursed Seá±or Whoever. And she couldn’t speak the language. She couldn’t put all the blame for her position on Seá±or Enrá­quez; he had only been faithful to the design supplied by Seá±or Whoever.

She tried for three more days to find another way to make a living in Monterrey, but it was hopeless. Finally she broke down and called Seá±or Enrá­quez.

He was gracious. Yes, he could help. He’d be delighted to help. He’d be there in four days, at noon on May 31; only the press of business kept him from arriving immediately.

He arrived exactly on schedule, and offered to take her out to supper. They could discuss matters over a good meal. He was dressed in an expensive suit, and she knew he wanted to put her on display. His trophy escort. She made her face up carefully, then donned the simple and expensive black evening dress he had given her through Seá±or Whoever. The Italian pumps, with three-inch spike heels, were quite appropriate for the occasion, and she added the diamond earrings and pearl necklace.

When Suzy appeared, Seá±or Enrá­quez grinned in delight. He insisted that she call him José, and she obeyed. He called a taxi; when it arrived, he offered her his arm on the way to the curb, and opened the door for her.

They had filet mignon and baked potato at the expensive nightclub he chose. She had only a small portion; she’d had a much smaller appetite since her metamorphosis. After the meal José held her close as they danced. She was acutely aware of his masculinity, and wanted… She denied her craving. He bought her a couple of after-dinner Martinis and invited her to his hotel room. She accepted. She needed his help, and there was no alternative. Once there, he offered her a Margarita. She was already slightly tipsy, but she accepted anyway. After the drink she begged, “Seá±or Enrá­quez–José–I need your help. Please. I need a job. You… you promised. You said you’d help.”

“Yes, my little Suzy, I can help.  ¿But what am I offered?  ¿Perhaps a kiss?”

“I…” She hiccuped. “But… Yes, José, I’ll kiss you.”

He put his arm around her. As his lips approached hers, his hand crept around to her breast and stroked it gently.

Her carefully cultivated reflex kicked in. She gasped slightly, and her libido erupted. When José pulled her mouth towards his, she responded eagerly. Their tongues met, exploring each other. Involuntarily she thrust her body against his. Without a word, he picked her up and carried her into the bedroom, her arms clinging around his neck. There he gave her a brief red nightie. She donned it with anticipation, as he stripped naked. In the soft kingsize bed, her lust was a match for his.

When she awoke in the morning and got up, still in her nightie, he was already up and dressed. He greeted her cheerfully. “At last I found my Suzy Q, and she’s all I could’ve wanted. Now, you need a job, you said. As I told you when I first met you a year ago, I have an associate who can use a dancer.” He ogled her half-hidden body openly. “You certainly have the body for it.” His words reminded her of their first meeting, when she’d been a norteamericano student. He had orchestrated every bit of their date. It had been described to Seá±or Whoever a year earlier. In return for a night of sex, she’d get a job. But it was the only job she could get, and she forced a smile of gratitude. Enrá­quez smiled back. “My cousin runs a club here in Monterrey. A high-class club, not like that cheap dive you visited last week.” She wasn’t surprised that he knew her movements. “Of course, the work’s much the same. After all, that’s what you do,  ¿isn’t it? You’re a dancer, true?”

“Yes, Seá±or. I’m a… a dancer.” A stripper. “That’s the job I need.”

“You have it.” He smiled again. “My thanks to that norteamericano who told me about you. I was smitten by your charms before I ever met you.”

In an hour they were at La Copacabana. He was right. It was higher class. She had no trouble passing the audition. There was less smoke and more light, the orchestra was better, and the patrons were wealthier. They wanted her to start immediately, and Seá±or Enrá­quez left her there. But as she donned her costume (only as a prelude for taking it off again, piece by piece, down to the minimally brief scraps of sequined red satin she’d first seen a year ago), she knew the quality of the club made no difference. She was a stripper. There were no other options. More than that, it was her nature now. Like LaTreena, like Yasmin, she had her niche. And she knew (especially after the night with José) that there was one last, planned climax to her fate. As the curtain went up and she pasted a smile onto her face, she recalled the words Seá±or Enrá­quez had spoken to that cursed norteamericano student a year earlier: “You’ll find the man of your dreams and begin your family.” She spun on a four-inch heel, pulled off a gauzy shawl to bare her shoulders, and tossed the shawl to a patron. The audience roared, and she lost herself in the act. It was her life, until her man claimed her. Remembering the lust that had driven her into bed with Seá±or Enrá­quez, and the ecstasy he had given her, she shivered slightly. It wouldn’t be a long wait. She wondered what pregnancy would be like.

This story is set in my “Baby Machine” world, where a technology only slightly beyond what exists today can transform a subject (willingly or unwillingly) to a different person.

If anyone wishes to write the stories of Yasmin and/or LaTreena, I won’t object, but please keep within the parameters of the technology, as sketched here and in “Only A Baby Machine”.

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