Dr. Kara Pendleton looked up as the door to her office opened and her newest patient came in.
She smiled at the tall, slender young man with the slightly overlarge head and gestured at the comfortable chair positioned in front of her fancy, polished oak desk. “Do sit down,” she directed. “Unless you’d prefer the couch?”
“No, no,” her visitor responded. “The chair will be fine.”
He sat. Dr. Pendleton looked him over, noting with amusement that he was checking her out too while trying not to let on. She didn’t mind. She knew men found her powerfully attractive, and besides being flattered, she found it useful. She worked hard to keep her well-endowed body firm, and dressed to show it off—not flashily, there were professional niceties to be observed, but she made sure her male patients got a good view. It helped make them . . . cooperative, she supposed one might call it.
She introduced herself and asked coaxingly, “And your name is . . . Henry, right? Henry Branscom?” Of course it was; she’d gone over his file carefully before he’d arrived.
“That’s right, Dr. Pendleton,” Henry said, nodding.
“And you’re here because—?”
“Dr. Betelheim referred me,” Henry explained. “He was my therapist, but he’s retiring.” There was something a little odd about the way the young man said that, but Kara couldn’t put her finger on it. Oh, well, he’d tell her everything soon enough.
“And you were seeing him because—?” Again, the therapist left her question open-ended. The more information she could get Henry to volunteer, the stronger the bond between them would be.
“But you know that,” Henry countered. “I’m here because Dr. Betelheim considers me to be suffering from a delusion. A very particular delusion.”
Dr. Pendleton looked at Henry Branscom over steepled fingers and nodded. “Yes,” she said. “You started telling people you could read minds. That’s why you were sent to Dr. Betelheim in the first place.”
“That was a mistake,” acknowledged Henry. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
The psychiatrist tsked. “Now, now, that wouldn’t have helped. Not if you still believed it. You need help, Henry. Holding onto a false belief can undermine your ability to function in the real world.” She smiled reassuringly. “That’s what I want to help you to do, after all: function in the real world.”
Henry Branscom regarded her solemnly. He had big, colorless eyes and a large nose set in a smooth-skinned face which looked younger than the twenty-seven his records gave as his age. Short, fine blond hair combined with his facial features give him something of a baby-chick air. “Whatever you say, Doctor.”
Kara frowned thoughtfully. This was going to be an interesting case—much more so than the usual run of what she thought of as her “daylight” cases, the ordinary professional referrals which were the basis of her public career.
Her “moonlight” practice was another matter, of course. Dr. Kara Pendleton had run a secret sideline for years, employing her hypnotic skills in the service of clients with—unconventional—needs, anything from aiding in industrial espionage to short-circuiting a business tax audit to silencing a would-be corporate whistleblower. She had even dabbled in politics, in the Stagg matter. Not only had these contracts made her a rich woman, they had allowed her to amuse herself sexually with the men who’d become her targets. Some of them she still looked in on, from time to time; they, of course, had no idea what she had done to them.
The doctor didn’t usually take advantage of her “daylight” patients that way—although, she admitted, Henry was cute enough in his own odd way to be tempting. Henry’s case promised to provide more of a challenge, though—sex or no sex—than did the neurotics and compulsives, the struggling dieters and smokers and so forth, whom she usually treated. There might even be a paper in it.
She glanced surreptitiously at the clock on the wall. There was time for a brief introductory interview before Henry’s first hypnotic session.
“Now Henry,” the doctor addressed her new patient, “tell me about this gift of yours. When was it, exactly, that you noticed you could read minds?”
Henry smiled. “It was about two years ago, Dr. Pendleton.” He looked pensive. “I started hearing these . . . whispers, I guess I’d call them. At first, I didn’t know what they were. I thought I was cracking up.”
He shifted in his chair. “And then I realized the truth. I was actually hearing other people’s thoughts.” The blond man smiled sourly. “Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my family. Also unfortunately, at the beginning, my ability came and went—so when they challenged me to prove I could do it, I’m afraid I made myself look foolish. That was where Dr. Betelheim came in: my parents—I was living with them then—insisted I go to see him.”
Dr. Pendleton nodded. That matched up with what was in the young man’s file. “Tell me more,” she encouraged.
For the next ten minutes, the therapist guided Henry Branscom through an account of his time in therapy with Dr. Betelheim. Along the way she learned that he was an avid chess player and a fan of mystery novels. Finally Henry wrapped up: “Two months ago Dr. Betelheim told me he’d decided to retire. He said he’d be transferring my case to you; apparently he’s very impressed with your work. He asked if I had any problems with being hypnotized as part of therapy—he doesn’t do it, you know—and I said no. And here I am.”
“Yes,” murmured Dr. Pendleton. “Here you are.” It felt as if there was something wrapped around her calves, constricting them. Irritated, she brushed her hands down her legs. The sensation disappeared.
Watching her, Henry smiled. “I wonder what poor old Betelheim would say if he knew the whole story about your work, Doctor.”
“I’m sorry?” That had come out of nowhere. It almost sounded like—but no. It couldn’t be.
“If he knew about Jack Caulfield, for instance,” the blond remarked to the air. “I saw the news stories about that, you know: key witness against tobacco company breaks down on stand, very dramatic.”
Kara froze. “How do you know—I mean, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Of course.” All of a sudden, they seemed to have switched roles. Henry Branscom was in charge of this session now. “And I’m sure you don’t have any idea what goes on at that institution he’s locked up in now, where you go to, ahem, treat him.”
Kara stared, speechless.
“And then there’s Senator Harry Stagg, ex-presidential candidate,” continued Henry. “You really did a number on him. And got very well paid for it, too.” His smile widened. “Imagine what would happen if people found out.”
Kara shivered. She’d be ruined if any of her little extracurricular activities came to light.
“Yes, you would.” Henry nodded.
Light dawned, and Dr. Pendleton gasped. “You’re—you’re for real.” She could hardly make herself say the words. “You really can—!”
“Read minds?” Henry finished her sentence for her. “Of course. But I can do more than that.”
Kara Pendleton cried out wordlessly. All at once she was aware that instead of sitting at her desk, she was on her hands and knees on top of it. And she was naked, except for her polished black pumps and the panties now dangling from one ankle, the panties she had felt around her calves as she had eased them down her legs. She remembered now how she had stripped down sinuously as she and Henry had talked. While it was happening, though, she had had no idea what she was doing.
“I can control minds, too,” Henry added, quite unnecessarily. “While we spoke, I was in your head, not just snooping around but making some adjustments here and there.”
“You can’t do this!”
“Oh, yes I can, Doctor,” Henry disagreed. “And you can’t resist. You can’t even get down off your desk unless I let you. Go ahead, try.”
Kara tried. All that happened was that her rump went up in the air and her shoulders came down until her breasts were rubbing squishily against the polished wood of her desktop. The feel of her titflesh against the tabletop sent shudders of pleasure through her. The doctor moaned.
“Enjoying ourselves, are we?”
“Ohhhh. . . .” Kara sighed. She had to regain control somehow, but the pleasure. The pleasure.
“I’ve made some changes to your pleasure responses, Doctor.” Henry leaned forward and stroked Kara’s homey-blonde hair. “When you’re naked like this, you’ll find physical contact much more . . . rewarding . . . than before.”
“H-huh-how,” the therapist wheezed, “how did you learn . . . to do all this?”
“The same way you get to Carnegie Hall,” answered Henry, grinning. “Practice.”
The telepath stood up. “I told you my powers didn’t work dependably at first. That’s true. But after a while, I could read minds anytime. By then, I realized I shouldn’t have told anyone my secret—but it was too late.
“Or was it? I realized I didn’t know just what I really could do if I tried, so I started experimenting.
“I found out I could make ‘suggestions’ and people would respond to them as if they were their own thoughts. I was able to tweak people’s emotions, even their memories. I fixed things so my family forgot why they’d sent me to Dr. Betelheim. They just have this vague idea I went for ‘counseling’; they never think about it beyond that anymore.
“The Doctor was another story. I got a kick out of teasing him with hints of what I really was. It freaked him out—he couldn’t bring himself to believe it, but there were all these weird little incidents.”
Henry sighed. “I’m afraid I overdid it. He was a nice old guy, for a stuffed-shirt shrink. But he got to a point where he couldn’t deal with it anymore. I’m afraid I’m why he retired.”
The mind-reader grinned. “But when he told me he was handing my case to you, I figured I’d hit the jackpot. I saw you in his mind, and later in some articles on the Net, and I said to myself being your patient would have some real pluses.” The grin widened. “I didn’t know the half of it. You’re a piece of work, you know that?”
Looking up from her tabletop crouch, Kara panted, “But—what you’ve done to me! How did you learn to—!”
“Oh, really, Doctor,” Henry teased. “Once I found out I could, ahem, influence people, that was an obvious thing to try. And as you’ve found, it works.
“There was this Jehovah’s Witness type who came to the door while my parents were out. I don’t like those religious cranks anyway, but this one was really annoying. And she was really good-looking under the plain-Jane clothes and tight bun hairstyle; her boobs were even bigger than yours!
“I invited her in and got her talking—that type loves to talk! And then I went in and planted one sexy thought after another. I could actually see it working, and within twenty minutes she was taking off her blouse. Five minutes later, she was all over me, squealing, moaning, and blurting out all sorts of things I don’t think her minister would have liked at all.
“An hour or so later, I got her dressed and steered her out of the house. As soon as she left, one last command I’d put in took effect: she forgot all about her little visit with me.”
Henry sighed reminiscently. “She was great. It’s amazing what those repressed types are capable of, with the right sort of encouragement.
“I’ve had my share of fun since then, and as I said before, practice makes perfect. I’ve learned things about the human mind and brain you won’t find in any textbook.”
“But,” Kara got out, “what about me? What are you going to do now?”
Henry regarded her, speculation in his eyes. “Well, first, I think I’ll have you sit up, Doctor. I can sense your discomfort in that position, and I don’t want to hurt you.”
Suddenly Kara’s body moved, swinging its legs around to drop off the edge of the desk, ankles crossing neatly as her spine straightened until she was sitting erect, arms at her sides.
“There now,” Henry soothed. “Isn’t that better?”
“Yes,” Kara admitted. “Much better.” She felt like screaming, trying to run away. Instead, she sat quietly.
“The telepath frowned. “I can sense you’re still upset. That won’t do. Look into my eyes, my dear Dr. Pendleton, and listen to me.”
Kara obeyed. Her eyes fastened on Henry’s and her attention focused on his words.
“You’re relaxed,” he told her. “There’s nothing to worry about. It doesn’t bother you that I can make you do anything I want, because you know I would never do anything to hurt you. Just relax, and listen to my voice, and let it guide you, and relax, and listen, yes. . . .” He droned on in this vein for several minutes.
Kara found herself nodding and murmuring agreement. Some part of her mind realized the mind-reader was using a familiar sort of induction now, something she herself might use. She wondered why, but didn’t ask. It wasn’t important to ask; it was only important to listen, and relax.
A hand passed in front of the therapist’s wide, glassy eyes. She didn’t blink. Henry’s voice said, “There. That should do it for now.” His face came into focus for her, and Kara noticed the young man looked slightly strained.
“Yes,” he sighed, responding to her unspoken observation. “Using my telepathic talent takes a bit out of me. That’s why I switched to an ordinary spoken hypnotic induction as soon as I could with you.” He rubbed his forehead again. “Remember the woman I told you about, the Jehovah’s Witness? I had the same reaction with her.” He grinned. “Once we got going together, though, my headache disappeared. Sex is a great restorative.”
“Yes,” Kara agreed in a dreamy voice. “A great . . . restorative.”
“I’m glad you agree,” Henry said. “Now why don’t you get down off that desk and lie down on the nice couch?”
Kara did as she was told. As she stood, she kicked away her panties, which had been dangling from her shoe. She crossed the office and lay down docilely on the couch where so many mesmerized men had pleasured her in the past.
“Bend one knee up, that’s right, Doctor,” Henry instructed her, and her body obeyed, posing itself seductively. “Now arch your back, yes! And tilt your head back, nnhh! Yes!” Kara was vaguely aware that Henry was breathing raggedly now, obviously aroused by her. Under other circumstances, she could have used that to help control him. But now, she could only obey.
Then he was lowering himself onto her. His clothes were gone, and he was fully erect. “Sex is a great restorative,” he repeated. “A great healer. And that’s what you are, Dr. Pendleton—a doctor, a healer. You know what you must do now, don’t you?”
“Yes, Henry,” Kara answered. “I must . . . heal you.” It seemed perfectly logical to clamp her thighs around him and pull him down on to her, perfectly natural to rock and writhe beneath him.
“You like to be in control, don’t you, baby?” Henry said roughly as he thrust against her. “All those men you’ve hypnotized, all those men you’ve manipulated for your ‘special clients’—unnhh!—it was always about more than the money. It was about the sex, and the power—about turning strong-willed men into your spellbound studs! Uhh!“
“Yes!” Kara confessed. The trance Henry had put her in was sliding toward a different sort of altered state of consciousness. “Yes! Oh, Henry! Oh, God! Yes!“ Her hips heaved faster, faster!
“But deep inside,” Henry gasped, “you want to be . . . controlled. You want a man to tell you what to do, what to think, and you want to be . . . helpless to resist, just as your hypnotized, ghhhnhhh, victims were helpless against you.” He was struggling now, fighting to stay rational himself as the eager, mind-controlled Kara Pendleton slithered and slid beneath him and his body responded, bucking and driving against her.
“Yes! Yes!“ Kara’s eyes rolled up in their sockets until all she saw were bright, flashing lights. “Please! Oh, God! Yesssss!“ She clawed at Henry’s naked back with her elegantly manicured nails and clamped him tighter between her legs.
Two bodies moved together and Henry Branscom and Dr. Kara Pendleton came simultaneously, explosively. The pleasure passed back and forth between them through the link Henry’s telepathy opened between them in the midst of his orgasm, trapping the pair in a feedback loop of mind-shattering sensation which was broken only when both passed out.
Kara was the first to revive, floating back to awareness. She sighed, drifting in the afterglow, and ran her hands gently through Henry’s downy hair; his head lay against her ample bosom. She could feel his soft, even breaths tickling her flesh.
Full consciousness returned, and the therapist whimpered. The man atop her had turned her into his toy! Her cheeks burned as she remembered her screams of joy as Henry had pumped into her, the way she’d clutched at him while pleasure roared through her in a wild torrent, the way she’d babbled her adoration for him before words deserted her completely.
Disgusted with herself, she wanted to throw him off her. She didn’t; when she tried, her arms moved gently around his slender form, stroking him.
Her caresses woke Henry. “Mmmh?” he mumbled. His eyes opened.
“Well,” he said a moment later. “Well. That was . . . really something, Doctor.” He shifted, pulling himself out of her, moving away and sitting on the end of the couch. He grinned a very masculine grin and went on, “I could do with a lot more of that kind of therapy.”
Kara sat up as well, trying to keep some distance between her and the telepath. She hunched, pressing her knees together and covering her chest with her arms. She wasn’t normally body-proud, but just now, she felt queasy with his eyes on her. It didn’t help that she remembered his words, about how she really wanted to be controlled, and couldn’t quite convince herself it wasn’t true.
“I can’t continue as your therapist,” she told him at last. “Not like this.” Gathering up her tattered dignity, the doctor observed, “Especially since it turns out you aren’t delusional after all. What would I be treating you for?”
Henry had begun pulling his clothes back on. At Kara’s words, he turned to her and said, amusement in his voice, “Professional integrity, Dr. Pendleton? From you?”
Stung, the hypnotherapist flushed, but said nothing. What was there to say? Wordlessly, she bent to pick up her own clothes.
Presently, both of them were dressed. Henry looked at Kara and urged, “Go ahead, Doctor, sit at your desk if it’ll put you more at your ease.” He smiled mischievously. “I promise, I won’t make you climb on top of it and take your clothes off again.”
Dr. Pendleton went back to her desk and sat down. Henry took the chair he’d sat in at the start of their meeting. When they were both seated, the therapist looked at Henry Branscom and asked, “What now?” Lurid visions of herself prancing and stripping for Henry’s amusement, her training and practice forgotten, paraded through her mind.
The mind-reader chuckled. “We’ll have plenty of time for fun, Doctor. Kara—I can call you Kara, can’t I? Of course I can.”
“Of course you can,” Kara heard herself say.
“But I’ve got bigger plans for the two of us,” confided Henry. “I know all about your, ah, ‘moonlight’ practice. There’s plenty of profit there for two.”
“What do you mean?” The doctor was afraid she knew.
“It’s simple enough,” came the answer. “You’re going to take on a silent partner, Dr. Pendleton. Every ‘special’ case you take on, you’ll give me a commission—ten percent, shall we say, for a start?” Henry’s large, luminous eyes caught Kara’s gaze and held it. “But it won’t be all one way, Doctor.”
“No?” Despite herself, Kara was suddenly interested. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, come now, Doctor.” Henry chuckled. “Wouldn’t you like to have a better handle on the people who come to you for your, er, special services? To know what they’re not telling you? To maybe even establish your very own, let’s call them double agents, in places like Tomishu Electronics? Or in the offices of some of the political hotshots you’ve started getting involved with?” He paused, then reminded the therapist, “You’ve already got one in the IRS, after all, Frank Avery.”
Somewhat sourly, Dr. Pendleton nodded acknowledgement. She was used to others being open books to her; it was a new experience to be on the other side of that situation, but it was obvious she had no secrets from the telepath.
Thinking over his words, though, she couldn’t help admitting to herself that having more . . . connections . . . like Frank Avery would be useful. Especially now that she was branching out beyond the corporate world into politics.
Henry, of course, knew what she was thinking. “I can help you with that,” he assured her.
And he probably could, Kara knew. His gifts had all sorts of potential. If only they belonged to her instead. . . . But they didn’t. She sighed. One played the cards one was dealt.
“All right,” she agreed. “It’s a bargain.” Some bargain, she thought. I f I don’t agree, he can just turn me into an eager puppet again.
“Yes, I could,” Henry answered her thoughts aloud. “But I won’t. It would be . . . tiring”—he massaged his forehead again, wincing, “to keep adjusting your mind telepathically, and using hypnosis has its limitations too, as I know you’re aware. Besides, I need your mind intact if our partnership is really going to work. After all, you’re the one who’ll be handling our clients and the patients they, ah, refer to us.
“Just one thing. I’m installing a mental block to keep you from telling anyone about me without my permission. You’ll find that if you try, you’ll simply forget about my gifts and our arrangement until the next time you hear my voice.”
Tight-lipped, Kara inclined her head and said, “All right.” Once again, this . . . mutant, or whatever he was, had been a step ahead of her.
At least, she consoled herself, that suggested he was bright enough. This partnership might be advantageous after all.
“It will be,” promised Henry.
The telepath glanced at the wall clock. “I see our time is up, Dr. Pendleton.” He rose from his seat. “I’ll speak with your secretary about arranging a regular appointment schedule.”
“Of course,” murmured the therapist.
Henry nodded, turned, and left the doctor’s office, closing the door gently behind him.
Dr. Pendleton sat silently at her desk for some time, chin resting on steepled hands. In just one session with Henry Branscom, her comfortable world had turned upside down. She didn’t like it.
No, she didn’t like it at all.
There had to be something she could do.
Her eye fell on a small object resting atop her filing cabinet. A brass metronome, one of several tools she used in hypnotic inductions. She regarded it speculatively.
Yes, she thought, that might do. If Henry were going to be monitoring her thoughts, why not take advantage of it?
But she would have to be careful. Very careful.
Dr. Pendleton took out a small audio recorder she used in taping sessions, turned it on and began to speak into it. When she was satisfied with the message she’d recorded, she reached over, started the metronome ticking, and began to play back her words.
“Watch the metronome,” her voice said soothingly. “See it tick back and forth, back and forth, so regular, so soothing; hear the steady ticking, so regular, so soothing. Focus on the motion, and the ticking, the steady, relaxing rhythm, and my voice, steady, relaxing, yes. . . .”
“Steady. Relaxing.” Kara’s voice was soft and low. “Yes.”
The recording went on, with the sound and motion of the brass metronome in the background. Presently it concluded: “You are about to awaken, Kara Pendleton. When you awaken you will remember what we have discussed, but only when Henry Branscom is not with you. When he is with you, you will not remember. Only when the time is right, when you are ready, will you remember while he is with you. When you are ready, you will remember.”
Kara repeated her instructions in a dazed tone. “I will remember . . . only when Henry is not with me. Until the time is right. When I am ready . . . I will remember . . . even when Henry is with me.” Her eyes were glazed, but a wicked smile curved her lips.
“You may now awaken, Kara Pendleton,” her recorded voice told her. “Awaken now, and follow your instructions.”
Kara blinked. She reached over and stopped the metronome, then shut off the recorder. She put both items carefully away. The evil smile which had come over her while she’d been in trance remained.
In a way, she thought, I ought to be grateful to Henry. I do so love a challenge. . . .