by Ellie Dauber © 1999
Another old story posted here for the first time. This story is part of a set of stories about an old wizard named Stavros and his family that I'll be posting from time to time.
When Nick Lucas gets the promotion that Jeff Rayburn wanted, Jeff seeks a unique revenge.
by Ellie Dauber © 1999
Jeff Rayburn's phone buzzed. “Yeah,” he said, leaning over his desk.
“Boss wants you in his office in five minutes,” came the voice of Janie, his secretary.
“Right,” Jeff said. He pushed himself away from his desk and stood up. He walked over to his office door and took his jacket off a hook. He put it on and ran his long fingers through his thinning gray hair. Then he checked a mirror hanging next to the hook to make sure his tie was straight. He pushed his glasses back on his nose and hurried out the door.
Jeff was a senior financial analyst for the Bayard City Bank and Trust. His division director had retired about two weeks before, and Jeff was a prime candidate to replace him. At forty three, he didn't have a reputation for brilliance, but he was known as a steady, hard worker who generally got done whatever job he was assigned. Often doing better than was expected.
Tom Vernon's office was on the Executive floor, one floor up from Jeff's. Vernon was chief of Jeff's department and the one who got to decide who got the division director's job. Jeff had been buttering him up ever since his old boss had started hinted about retiring. The decision was due soon. Maybe this was it. Jeff was smiling as he walked into Vernon's office exactly four and a half minutes later.
His smile faded away almost immediately. Nick Lucas was there waiting with Vernon. The two were laughing over some joke that Lucas must have just told. He was there sitting on the edge of Vernon's desk pretty as you please. Jeff began to get worried.
Lucas was Jeff's main rival for the division director's job. He'd joined the bank about a year before from somewhere in the Midwest. He was only twenty five with dark good looks, a shock of curly black hair, and an easy smile. His analysis was often eccentric, but he'd gotten a reputation for being lucky.
Vernon turned when he heard the door open. “Ah, Jeff. On time as always. I've finally made my decision on who gets Milt Kasper's old job. Since you two are the prime candidates, I wanted you both to hear it at the same time. Nick was here for a meeting, and I asked him to stay, then called you.” He motioned towards the plush tan chairs arrayed around his desk.
“Thank you, Tom,” Jeff said easing into one of the chairs. They were status symbols among the senior staff, and he hoped to get a couple when he moved into Milt's office. He tried not to notice that Nick stayed where he was, perched like a hawk on the edge of Vernon's desk.
“It was a tough choice,” Vernon continued. “Jeff, you're a good analyst. Most of the key people in this town know you, and they all trust your work. Nick, you're new in town and fairly young, but there's no denying the level of your work. Or your luck. Either way, it was tough.”
Jeff and Nick mumbled a “thanks” and looked at each other with a sincerity that neither felt. ‘The old bastard's enjoying making us sweat,’ Jeff thought. ‘Well, I've kissed his ass long enough to get this job. A few minutes more won't kill me.’
“Anyway, Nick. I've decided that the job is yours. You're smart enough to do the work and charming enough to win over anybody that may have doubts.”
Jeff was stunned. He'd been sure that the job was his. Sure, Nick was charming, but since when did a banker have to be charming? He tried very hard to keep his smile. And not to look at Nick.
Vernon was speaking again. “Nick, I'm making Jeff your Assistant Director. With Jeff as your key man, your division should be as productive as ever for us. Jeff, I know this isn't what you wanted, but Assistant Director is a promotion with some increase in pay for the extra work.”
‘Sure,’ Jeff thought. ‘And as Assistant Director, it becomes part of my job to make Lucas look good. My own promotion will depend on it.’ He stuck out his hand towards Lucas and said, “Con congratulations, Nick.”
“Thank you, Jeff,” Lucas said shaking Jeff's hand. “You're a good man, and I look forward to working closer with you.”
“Now that everything's settled,” Vernon said. “Why don't you two head back to Nick's new office to work out the details. All of Milt's files are on his desk. Excuse me, Nick. On your desk.” His face went into the neutral mode that he used to indicate that a meeting was over. The other two rose and left his office.
As they walked to the elevator, Nick put his arm on Jeff's shoulder. “Jeff, I know how much you wanted this job, and…. in a way, I'm sorry you didn't get it. We'll go slow and try to work out a good relationship. Right now, I want to take a look at those files, Tom -- Mr. Vernon -- mentioned.”
“Umm, okay, Nick.” Jeff looked at his watch. “It's about 11 o'clock. Why don't we meet early this afternoon to talk about things?”
“I don't know. Let me take a look at those files. I'll call you when I'm ready to meet.”
‘I'll call you,’ Jeff thought. ‘Why you pompous son of a bitch.’ The bile rose in his stomach. He had a feeling that the call wouldn't come for a long time. Lucas had to make himself look good to keep the new job. Jeff was sure that he'd do it by making Jeff look bad. It was certainly what Jeff would have done if things were reversed.
They had come to Milt's old office. The internal grapevine was as efficient as ever. Somebody had taped a sign on the door over Milt's nameplate. The sign said “Nicholas Lucas, Division Director” in one of those fancy new computer fonts that half the office had on their PCs.
Nick patted Jeff on the back. “See you later, Jeff,” he said. As Jeff walked back to his office, he could hear cheers from the Nick's new office. The grapevine worked real well. Nick's Section had gotten enough warning of the promotion to throw together a small party to celebrate.
Jeff spent the rest of the day thinking about his new situation. He'd have to make sure to cover his ass at all times and in all directions. That meant keeping his own Section staff working at their usual level; making sure that he knew enough of what was going on to keep Nick from messing him up; and looking for a way to get Nick.
Nick did call Jeff in late that afternoon. He said that he was going to keep his own Section and that he expected Jeff to keep his. “For a while, at least,” he said. “You should keep an eye out for somebody to be your assistant, run the day to day stuff.”
Jeff nodded. Now he was going to have to watch his back to keep some hotshot from going after his job. It just got worse and worse.
“By the way,” Nick continued. “Seven new accounts came in during the last two weeks. I'm taking these four for my section. You get the other three.” Nick quickly rattled off the names of the new accounts. Jeff recognized most of the names. Five were accounts that he'd been chasing for months. And Nick had taken the largest of them. Since each section was measured by its productivity, Nick was setting his section to be the more productive one.
Nick did go on to discuss a number of problems that the entire division seemed to be having. Jeff made some suggestions, and they worked on an overall strategy. Jeff had to admit that Nick did know his business. ‘Almost as well as I do,’ he thought.
He also began to see a pattern in what Nick was doing. He was setting up shields to protect himself from problems. They were being delegated to subordinates or passed back to other divisions for questions. If things worked out, Nick would still be able to claim some of the credit. If they didn't somebody else would get most of the blame.
Jeff decided that he'd better stay low for a while. Nick's shields would work for him, too. He'd take advantage of that while he waited for a weak spot. He could afford to wait, and, much as he hated to admit it, there were a couple of things that Nick could teach him.
It went on like that for a couple of weeks. Nick had been a little wary at first, but Jeff hadn't seemed to make a move against him. Then a problem came up. A letter authorizing a major stock transfer for one of the new accounts was never acted upon. The deal fell through, and paper losses were almost $500 thousand. The paper turned up in Nick's desk.
Vernon should have fired Nick in a minute. Nick claimed that he'd never seen the letter. Fortunately for him, the letter didn't have the routing stamps that it should have. There was no way to prove that it had gone through the normal channels. Somebody was playing games.
Jeff was the logical suspect. He had thought about doing something like that, screwing up a major deal and letting Nick take the blame. But it hadn't been him. He was in Nick's office defending himself, when the real story came out. A kid in the mail room had held back the letter because his father worked for one of the companies involved. He had panicked and tried to hide the letter in Nick's desk when he came in to deliver that day's mail.
They fired the kid immediately. Nick didn't even apologize to Jeff. He just told Jeff to write a letter of apology to the account. “Tell him we fired that kid's ass, and that we'll make good on their losses the best we can. I think our insurance will cover it. Make the letter good. That account brings in a lot of money, and I don't want you to lose it.”
“Me to lose it',” Jeff exploded. “You're the division director.”
“Right. An executive delegates. I'm delegating you to take the blame.” Then Nick saw the look on Jeff's face. He smiled. “Hey, come on. I was just kidding. Nobody takes the blame. We fired that kid -- what's his name… Gary. We fired Gary’s ass, and Danny Singh's been reprimanded for letting it happen in his mail room. We didn't even know about the letter till things went crazy.”
Jeff forced himself to smile. “Okay, I guess I'm just a little upset that it happened.” He looked at his watch. “Look, it's almost five. Do you mind if I leave a few minutes early tonight?”
“Nah, go ahead. In fact, I think I'm going to sneak out a little early myself. Can I buy you a beer someplace?”
‘Right,’ Jeff thought. ‘You think you can patch this up with a beer, you bastard.’ Aloud, he said. “Thanks, but I've got some errands to run. Will you give me a rain check on that beer?”
“Sure. Now you'd better get going. Wait too much longer, and you'll be leaving at your regular time.”
“Okay, I'll see you tomorrow.” Jeff was still pretending to smile as he left Nick's office. ‘Just kidding,’ he thought. ‘Yeah, right. The only reason he was kidding was because he knew he couldn't pin this on me. I've got to get this guy before he gets me.’
Jeff didn't go home that evening. It was a warm night, and many of the stores downtown were open late, trying to lure people back from the malls outside of town. He found himself wandering in the Old Market district. The neighborhood had been a slum a few years ago, but it was turning around with an influx of yuppies, and was filled with all sorts of quirky little shops.
He found himself looking in the window of a small store on a side street. The sign on the glass said “Curious Curios” in an ornate gold leaf. Underneath in a smaller font size, were the words “What You Need, We Have”. The space behind the window was filled with a wide variety of items, a stuffed owl, a turn of the century map in a wooden frame, some candlesticks, and a strange looking chess set with some extra pieces that he didn't recognize.
Chess was a longtime hobby of Jeff's. He played two or three times a week and was one of the top ranked players in the city. He decided to ask about the chess set.
One of those old fashioned bells hung over the door, and it rang when he opened door. He heard a voice from the back of the store, “Come in, Jeff. I'll be with you in a moment.”
‘How the hell did he know my name,’ Jeff thought. He made his way to the back of the store. There was a man leaning over a counter working on an old fashioned desk clock. He was wearing a bright orange long sleeved shirt with loose sleeves. ‘With that mass of curly black hair and long mustache,’ Jeff immediately thought, ‘he looks like a gypsy. Probably helps in the business.’
The man looked up. “Very good, Jeff. As a matter of fact, I am a gypsy, and, yes, it does help in this business.”
“How did you know my name?”
The man smiled and made a very broad theatrical gesture. “I'm a gypsy, Jeff; though we prefer to be called Romany, and a sorcerer, if you will. My name, by the way, is Zoltan.”
“Zoltan! Come on, now.”
“Actually, it isn't. ‘Zoltan’ just fits me in this role far better than my real name does. But enough of that. You are a troubled man. I sensed your troubles and guided your feet to this place.”
“Right. Tell me another one.”
“Very well, and then we get down to business.” He paused for effect. “Did you like the chess set in the window? It's a copy of a fourteenth century French set. Those extra two pieces are the War Wagon and the Cameleopard. The pieces on a modern chessboard weren't standardized until after Renaissance. It's yours for $175.”
“Done.” Jeff pulled out his checkbook. He was beginning to get the creeps, and he wanted out of this store. He did want the chess set, though. That was why he hadn't left already.
“Oh, we're not done yet, Jeff. In fact, we haven't really gotten to the reason that I brought you to my store.”
“And what is the reason.”
“I want to help you get on better with your new boss, Nick Lucas.”
“And how are you going to do that?”
“By magic, as I've said.” He closed the back of the clock and wound it by means of a small brass key. He looked at a clock on the wall, nearby, 6:30. He set the alarm for 9:19 the next morning. “Make certain that you and your adversary are together when the alarm sounds. The magic will bind you to him and him to you. Your body will alter as well. You will become young, vital, far better to assume the new role that will be yours. This I guarantee. Are you interested?”
“Youth and the division director's job. Of course, I'm interested. But what's it going to cost me?”
“This clock is also something of an antique. It's cost, now that I've restored it, is $125. Thus, both items are yours for $300. The magic I throw in for free.”
“That's a little high.”
“High? For a new life.” Zoltan looked at Jeff for a moment. “Oh, very well. The price is still $300, but you may date the check for the day after tomorrow. If it doesn't work, you can cancel the check before I can deposit it. I will ask only that you return the chess set and the clock. And that you never return to my store.”
“Seems a bit dramatic, but very well.”
Zoltan pulled a sheet of paper from beneath the counter. “Sign this.”
“A formal sales agreement stating the conditions we have just discussed. Here,” he said handing Jeff the form. “Read it if you wish.”
Jeff took the form. “We don't sign this in blood or anything, do we?”
“No, a regular pen will be fine. You can also see that there's no mention of your immortal soul or your firstborn child.”
“This all sounds crazy, but, you're right, if it works as you promised, it'll be more than worth it.” Jeff read the agreement quickly -- just to make sure it didn't mention his immortal soul. He signed it, made out the check, and handed check and form to Zoltan.
Zoltan put the check in a drawer. “I'll put it in the register when you don't come back for it tomorrow. Now excuse me a moment. He got the chess set from the window and put it and the clock into a pair of padded boxes. He put both boxes into a cloth bag with the store's name on the side and handed that to Jeff.
“What's with the bags,” Jeff asked.
“Curious Curios, just another average business grateful for your patronage, kind sir.”
“Yeah, right.” Jeff shook his head and left the store. It was certainly worth a try. And, if it didn't work, at least he had gotten the chess set out it.
Zoltan watched him walking away from the store. “The magic will work. But I never said that you would be division director.”
When Jeff got home, he sent an e mail message to Nick's office PC asking for a 9 AM meeting. From what he remembered of Nick's schedule, there was nothing on tap until that afternoon. By that time, if the magic worked, he'd be the one going to the meeting.
There was a message on Jeff's PC when he came in at 8:30. Nick agreed to the meeting at 9. There was no mention of yesterday's argument. ‘When things have changed,’ Jeff thought. ‘I'll make sure you remember, make sure I get a real apology.’ He took the box with the clock out of his briefcase and wrote a brief note, “For all the time we'll be working together.” He taped the note to the box. Then he began to pull together some paperwork. Zoltan said that he had to be with Nick at 9:19, and he wanted enough work to give him an excuse to stay there that long.
He was at Nick's door at 8:58. “You wanted to see me, Jeff,” Nick said.
“Yes,” Jeff replied. “There's a couple contracts that I wanted to talk to you about. But first…“ He stopped and opened his briefcase. He took out the package and put it on Nick's desk. “First, I wanted to apologize for yesterday. I lost my temper, and things got way out of line. I admit that I wanted Milt's job. You got it, and you've been a gracious winner.”
Nick picked up the package and read the card. “That's very nice of you, Jeff,” he said. “I'll admit I was a little concerned about how you were going to react. And I've tried to do things to make it go easier.”
“So open the present already.”
“Okay.” Nick opened the package and carefully lifted out the clock. “That's a beautiful clock; I collect them, you know, just like you collect chess sets.” He walked over and put the clock on the window ledge.”
“Now, how did Zoltan know that he collected clocks,” Jack thought. “Maybe he really is a sorcerer. Maybe this will work.” Jeff pulled some files from his briefcase and put them on the desk. There had been things he needed to go over with Nick on these contracts.
The two men had been working for about fifteen minutes when the clock began to chime. ‘Now we'll see,’ Jack thought. He looked closely at Nick who was reading one of the documents. ‘Wonder if there'll be any visible changes?’
Nick seemed oblivious to what was going on. It was as if he couldn't even hear the clock. Jack's scalp began to itch. When he reached up to scratch, he noticed that his hair seemed thicker than usual. Longer, too. He made a mental note to get a haircut that evening.
When he took his hand down from his head, he noticed that his hand seemed smaller. His fingers were thinner and his nails longer. They were growing as he watched and suddenly coated with a pale pink nail polish.
Nick looked up from the file he was reading. “Feeling a little different, Jeff? Don't worry. It'll get worse, but the physical changes will be over in a moment.”
Jack's whole body began to tingle. He looked down at himself. He looked a lot slimmer, though his clothes still seemed to fit. As Jeff watched, his shirt began to push outward as two breasts grew on his chest. The chair felt like it was moving beneath him. He saw his waist narrow and his hips become wider. His ass, he was sure, was also growing into a rounder, more feminine shape.
Now his clothes began to change. The cut of his jacket became more feminine. His shirt became a satiny blouse even as his necktie transformed into a colorful scarf. The legs of his pants fused together, and the skirt they became crept up to just past his knees. He had dark grey hose on his slender legs, and his shoes became a pair of women's pumps, growing a two inch heel. There was suddenly a pair of blue metal bracelets on his wrist, and he felt earrings dangle down from his ears.
Nick pulled two sheets of paper from his desk. “Sign these, please.”
Jeff was unable to stop himself. He signed the first, “Jeffrey W. Rayburn.” He tried to read the sheet before he signed it but wasn't able to do so. Nick took the first sheet away and put the second down for Jeff. Jeff's eyes widened as he signed the second “Jennifer Tyler” in a feminine hand that was entirely different from his regular handwriting.
“Confused?” Nick said. “The first thing you signed was Jeff's letter of resignation. Poor Jeff, he just couldn't really accept my getting Milt's job. He's moving down to Florida. The letter authorizes the bank to send his retirement to a bank down there. We also get power of attorney to liquidate his assets and send that money, too. Two guesses who winds up with the money.”
“Jennifer, the other paper was your job application. Welcome aboard. With Jeff gone, I'll need an administrative assistant, even though the job is really secretarial.” Nick pulled a hand mirror out of a drawer. “By the way, would you like to see how you look now?”
Jeff found that he could move. At least, enough to take the mirror. The face in it was familiar, but it didn't look anything like Jeff Rayburn. This was a beautiful young woman. She looked to be in her early twenties, her long brown hair full of auburn highlights. Her heart shaped face was expertly made up, her lips, full and pouty in that sexy way Jeff had always liked, were covered with a lipstick that was the same color as her nails.
“Of course, our relationship won't be completely professional.” Jeff looked in the mirror again. Instead of his face, he saw a man and women in bed. The man was Nick, and the woman…the woman had the face he'd seen in the mirror a moment before.
Jeff realized that Nick was now standing next to him. He gently took the mirror from Jeff's hand and laid it on the desk. Then he leaned over and kissed Jeff. Jeff heard himself moan softly and open his mouth. He felt Nick's tongue enter and duel with his own. He liked it, or, at least his new body did. His nipples grow erect, pushing against what had to be his new bra. He felt a warms and -- oh, no -- a yearning in his groin.
Nick broke the kiss and walked back behind the desk. As he sat down, he said, “That will have to hold you till tonight. We are running a business here. Jennifer, you can use Jeff's old office until I can get one set up for you. Don't expect one as fancy as Jeff's, though. You are only an administrative assistant.”
“But I don't understand. Zoltan said…“
“I know exactly what Fred said. Excuse me, what Zoltan said. Fred's his real name, but he never thought it matched the image he wants. I was getting very suspicious of the way you were acting. Jeff wasn't as nice a guy as you were pretending to be. So, I did a reading and saw what he was planning to do. Jennifer is a sweet girl, though, and totally devoted to me.”
“You and he will be bonded,” Jeff -- now Jennifer -- repeated what Zoltan had said.
“Exactly. Though you're just as savy about banking and investment as ever, which should be very helpful. On the other hand, you'll be a lot more fun to be in bed with than Jeff ever would have been. Anyway, I saw that you were gunning for me, so I asked Zoltan to take care of you.”
Nick smiled. “And he certainly did that with your transformation. Zoltan's never been happy that I went into financial analysis instead of following him into the family business. But, yes sir, this time, he certainly did right by his kid brother.”
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