“So when am I going to find out the where the surprise destination is?” Darlene asked. She and Joe Riordan, the owner of the movie prop house, were the only two left in the building on a late Friday afternoon. She was sitting at her desk in the rear of the building, in the accounting department behind the warehouse. Joe sat on the edge of her desk.
“Not just yet. I do have some coming attractions though. Want to hear the trailer?” Joe had taken over the family business a few years ago from his father. The main business was providing various props to movie and television production companies. A lucrative sideline was selling old movie memorabilia, primarily on the internet. Darlene, an aspiring art director, was hired to catalog props as they were used in order to document the provenance, the proven history, that movie fans demanded.
Joe and Darlene had become close friends, and lovers, since Joe had rescued Darlene when she had been locked in the warehouse one weekend. Darlene had been the impromptu damsel in distress when Joe had shown up as the proverbial White Knight. Since then they had grown close and usually spent weekends together.
“Yes! Show me some thrilling scenes that will make me come back for more.” Darlene laughed as Joe shook his head. She loved the movies, especially the technical and production side. The job in the prop company had been a dream come true for her. Joe’s stories about his own and his family’s experiences with the studios were as much a treasure as the old movie scripts and props she handled each day.
“Okay, remember the movie that got you in so much trouble that night we met?” Darlene nodded, remembering how she had mistakenly found the box for Babes In Cages, a 60’s women in prison exploitation movie. She had tried on the female lead’s costume, including the handcuffs and leg irons, and wound up trapped in them when the keys were accidentally picked up by a customer. Joe had come to her rescue, driving out to the movie location in the middle of the night to find the box with the keys she needed.
Joe continued. “Well, I found the sequel. I didn’t know there was one until last week. We recently won a bid on acquiring the inventory of a bankrupt company. That’s where I’ve been this last week. It turns out the building for this company was often used for location shooting by low budget producers. I obtained a list of movies made there from a collector friend of mine. Imagine my surprise when I found Babes In Cages II: Insanity Plea on the list. Knowing how involved you were with the first movie, I had to get a copy of the second one.”
“Joe, now you know it was pure chance I even watched that movie. I am not obsessed with it. You’ve made me curious though. Do you have a copy?” She leaned back in her chair and looked up at him.
“The same collector made a copy for me. For the finale,” he paused for effect, “we are going on location this weekend. I want to go over what we’ve bought in more detail. It’s supposed to be full of specialty items stretching back over a hundred years. I think we’ll get a lot of period set work from it.”
Darlene was puzzled. “I don’t get it, what’s so special about this place? Is it an office building?”
Joe laughed. “No, it’s definitely not an office building. Trust me; you will have a good time. And don’t ask, because I’m not going to tell you what kind of business it is, or was.”
She narrowed her eyes as she stared at him. She could tell he was leaving out some crucial details. “Okay, you talked me into it. When do we leave?”
After the turnoff on the highway the drive down a narrow twisting two lane road had been long and boring. Other than a few farms Darlene had seen no signs of civilization, not even lights in the gathering dusk. For the last twenty minutes she hadn’t even seen a car on the road. She looked over at Joe. “How much further?”
“Patience, we’re almost there. Isolation was a necessity, given the line of business they were in. You’ll see why in a moment.” He reached over and patted her knee. “I’m looking forward to this.”
She put her hand over his. “I can tell. I admit I’m stumped. I have no idea where we are or what this place is.”
Joe slowed at a curve in the road. In the headlights she could see why. A large iron gate set in high brick walls barred the way. He stopped the car in front of it. “I have the key. Just a moment while I let us in.” He opened his door and got out.
The car lights answered one question as Darlene read the large sign on the gate. New Ashford Institute for the Criminally Insane it read. Below the name was another placard warning passersby that no one was allowed inside the gates. A guard shack on the left side of the road was closed and dark. She watched as Joe swung the gates open.
Back in the car he pulled forward and got out to close the gates. Further up the drive Darlene saw a large brick building, from the architecture apparently dating back over a hundred years. The front was dark except for lights at the front entrance. Now it made sense why Joe would bid on the inventory. If this was an old hospital the basement and storerooms would be a treasure trove of rare and unique antiques.
After locking the gates behind the car Joe drove past the front entrance to an open garage in the back of the building. “The caretaker told me he’d leave the garage door open so we could park inside. Figured it out?”
Darlene nodded. “A mental hospital, and by the looks an old one. Spooky at night; I can see why it was used for movies. What happened to it?”
“It was built in 1901 by a private company. They had a contract with the state to house mentally deranged criminals and violent mental patients. From what I’ve read it was a grim place, as bad as a maximum security prison except the inmates all had indeterminate life sentences. The state yanked the contract in 1974. It struggled along until last year as a private detox clinic for second rate alcoholic celebrities between their stints on afternoon game shows.
“The building is going to be torn down in a few months time. Until then we get to take out anything we want. Whatever we leave behind gets bulldozed or sent to a scrap dealer. I have some idea of what’s in here from the books and a quick look around but I want to do a more thorough inspection.”
Darlene opened her door and got out. The garage was large enough for a school bus. Some of the overhead lights were burned out, giving the place an ominous feel. A massive steel door set in the rear wall was the only entrance into the building. “Is anyone still here?” she asked.
Joe closed the car door on his side. “Nope, all gone. The caretaker was the last one. He left this morning, off to retire and enjoy fishing with the grandkids. He sent me the outside keys. There should be a full set inside so we can explore anywhere we like.” He opened the trunk of the car and took out a large gym bag. “I’ll get the rest of our stuff later.” He closed the trunk.
“There aren’t any towns nearby and no neighbors, so we won’t have any visitors. Utilities will be shut off when we finish moving out all the goodies. For now it looks like it’s just you and me.” He took her hand and headed for the interior door. Next to the door was a switch for the garage. He pressed the button and turned to watch the noisy metal garage door rattle down. “At least it’s been maintained.” Joe used a key to open the door.
The inside entrance opened onto a small room. At one end a counter ran along a wall. The opposite wall contained reinforced glass windows into another room. Darlene could see wire embedded in the glass.
“This is where the ambulance unloaded the patients. The room behind the glass was for guards. The patient was processed here before being admitted to the rest of the hospital.” Joe dropped the gym bag on the counter and unzipped it.
Darlene shivered as she looked around the room. How many poor tormented souls had passed through this room to spend the rest of their lives in the hospital? The grey paint on the walls and the beige tile gave the room an antiseptic, cold impersonal feel. She turned back to watch Joe as he took something out of the bag.
The something proved to be a long white lab coat. He put it on and buttoned up the front. What was he doing?
Joe looked up as he noticed her watching. The evil grin on his face warned her something was about to happen that she might not like. He pulled out a videotape from the bag and dropped it on the counter. “This is the sequel. We’re going to see it, but not in the way you expect. For the next two days, I’m going to be Dr. Joe. And you,” he leered in a way that made her excited, “are the newly arrived patient Darlene, wrongly accused but recently exonerated in a sensational and gruesome murder trial by reason of insanity.” He took out a plastic bag and placed it on the counter.
“Welcome to the New Ashford Institute. Regulations require that you wear an approved uniform at all times.” He put a hand on the bag. She could see a light brown garment inside. “Please disrobe. It will be necessary to search you to ensure no contraband is brought into the facility.”
Eyes wide Darlene began unbuttoning her blouse. She looked at the tape, wondering what the plot line was. She suspected Joe, Dr. Joe now, was playing one of the characters, likely the chief villain. And he intended for her to play the part of the victim. It sounded like fun. “Yes doctor” she answered in a meek, intimidated voice.
She took off all her clothes and carefully folded them on the counter. This was probably close to the real thing, which explained why the counter was on the wall. She turned away from the windows, imagining the guards behind the safety glass who would have been ogling her. She finished by placing her shoes on top of her clothing.
“Face the wall, place your hands on the counter.” Joe came up behind her. “Spread your legs.” He used his own foot to push her ankles apart and back. She had to lean against the counter in order not to fall. He began running his hands along her arms. She shuddered, excited by his touch and the erotic surroundings. The tile felt cold on her bare feet.
When his hands lingered over her breasts she pushed into his grasp. When his hands dropped below her waist she had to stifle a moan. He ended his entirely unnecessary search by slowly running his hands down each of her legs. Darlene had to bite her lip in order not to cry out. If that part was in the movie, she thought, it must be X rated.
He left her in the awkward position as he picked up a clipboard on a nearby desk. “No contraband. Patient appears to be in good health. No tattoos or distinguishing marks.” Out of the corner of her eye she could see the grin on his face. There was no doubt he was enjoying the playacting. After his hands on search she was beginning to get into the part too. He took hold of her arm and helped her stand up. “You may dress now.” He handed her the uniform.
It was a two piece outfit, white blouse and a skirt in a light brown color. She put on the blouse and buttoned it up. It proved to be tight fitting, sleeveless and with a low cut neckline. The skirt was short, not quite a mini but not office length either. It was Hollywood’s typical version of a female prison uniform, designed to show off the actress as much as possible. No underwear of course. Joe reached in his bag and handed her a pair of low heeled sandals. “Your shoes. The floor will be cold and dusty.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” That was sincere. He was right, the tile floor felt cold to her bare feet. She slipped them on. He closed his gym bag. What was he going to do next?
She stood next to the counter and watched as he crossed the processing room to a storage cabinet. When he opened it she couldn’t make out what was in the plastic bags on the shelves. He picked out several items and closed the cabinet door. When he turned around she saw what looked like a white jacket and a leather belt.
“I apologize for this, but since you have been judged to be violently unstable we have to take certain precautions.” The belt he dropped on the counter was a wide heavy leather strap with matching fleece lined leather cuffs on each end. Each of the cuffs had a metal buckle. The jacket he kept in his hands. It was white, canvas, with a red stripe around the neck. Straps hung from the closed sleeves. She knew what it was, a straitjacket. He unfolded it and held it open.
Darlene had never seen a straitjacket before, except fleeting glances on TV and once at a magic show. It opened in the back, straps on one side, roller buckles on the other. Two additional straps hung down from the bottom. The sleeves were long and closed at the end. She held out her arms, unsure how she was supposed to put it on.
Joe answered that question by sliding the jacket over her arms and then turning her around. She could feel the jacket tighten against her chest as he pulled on the rear straps. Her arms dangled at her side. When he finished in back he took hold of her left wrist. She hadn’t noticed a reinforced area in front until he guided her sleeve covered hand through it, followed by her right arm in the other direction. Still behind her he took hold of the straps at the end of her sleeves and pulled them tight. Her arms were pinned against her body, folded under her breasts. The wide strip of canvas in front prevented her from moving her arms up and down.
There were still two long straps hanging down in front. Joe studied them for a moment, apparently unsure as to how they were used. She could tell they were meant to prevent an attempt to pull the jacket up and over her head, but she couldn’t see how they would go over her skirt. Joe solved it by simple unzipping the side of her skirt and letting it fall to the floor. Then he passed the twin straps between her legs and pulled them up in back. She could feel the pressure on her shoulders as he tightened them. Finished, he pulled her skirt back up, over the bottom of the straitjacket, and zipped it closed.
Darlene started to turn toward the guardroom to catch her reflection in the glass but Joe stopped her. “Not yet, I have something more to add.” He grabbed the leather belt and knelt down next to her. Looking down she watched him open a leather cuff, wrap it around her left ankle snugly and then close it with the buckle. He pressed a button on the buckle to lock it. He repeated the procedure on her right ankle, securing her legs together. Finished, Joe stood up and wiped his hands on the lab coat.
“There, that should do it. Are you okay? Is the jacket too tight? Can you breathe? Try taking a few steps to see if you can walk.”
Darlene tried to move her arms around. The straitjacket was loose enough not to interfere with her breathing but she had little arm movement. With his hand around her arm she took a step. The leather felt stiff and restrictive but she could walk. “I’m fine, Doctor. I can walk if we go slowly. I don’t think I can climb stairs though.”
Joe put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. He stepped out of character as he said, “tell me right away if you have a problem, okay Darlene? I don’t want you to get hurt. Be careful, medical restraints are just as effective as police ones.”
“Yes, Doctor.” She stayed in character, letting him know she wanted to keep going. She did know how well police restraints worked from the night she had spent locked in handcuffs at the company warehouse.
“Good, then we’re ready for the introductory tour. Here at New Ashford we take pride in our mix of new and old ideas, as you will see.” With one large hand firmly wrapped around her upper arm he led her toward the room’s exit.
“This room is something special,” Joe told her as they stood in the corridor outside a door. Like most of the patient rooms in this wing it had a large deadbolt lock on the outside and an observation window insert at eye level. Unlike the other rooms this one had a metal plate closed over the observation slit. “It’s been soundproofed with extra insulation. You can scream as loud as possible inside and barely hear anything out here. But that’s not the best part. Look.” He unlocked the door.
As the door swung open Darlene saw why. The floor and all four walls were covered in what looked like upholstery. “Wow! A padded cell! I didn’t know they really existed.” Even the inside of the door was covered with thick padding. Standing in the doorway she leaned in for a better look. The high ceiling, at least ten feet above the floor, appeared to be panels of translucent plastic covering fluorescent lights above. The wall padding stopped flush with the panels.
“Too bad we don’t have any way to save it. Take your shoes off and you can go in.”
Fascinated by the room Darlene forgot she still had the straitjacket on. She actually tried to reach down to take off her shoes but the jacket sleeves put a quick halt to that. She turned back to Joe. “Could you help me?”
“Sure,” he answered. He knelt down and slipped off her sandals. He set them on the floor to one side of the door. When he stood up he surprised her by picking her up at the waist and setting her down on the padded floor. “Try it out. You can even bang your head against a wall if you like.”
Darlene decided to take Joe up on his suggestion. She walked over to the far side and threw her shoulder against the wall. She bounced off with no damage but the uneven footing on the padded floor combined with the restraints on her ankles made her trip and fall. She landed on her back. Startled Joe took a step into the room but Darlene sat up and started laughing. “I’m okay. Just a little clumsy. No thanks to this fashionable designer jacket.” She tugged on the sleeves that bound her arms.
“Feel free to take it off if you want. I’m going to get the rest of our stuff out of the car. While I’m doing that you can spend some quality time here. Try yelling, you’ll see what I mean by the soundproofing.”
“No, wait…” She watched helplessly as the door swung shut. Awkwardly she managed to stand up and go to the door. There was no handle on the inside. She pushed against it but the door didn’t budge. He must have locked it. “Joe! Wait, take me with you!”
There was no answer. If he was still out in the hall she couldn’t hear him. She hit the door again, with her shoulder. Nothing happened. She tried to look out the observation slit but it was shut tight.
“Joe! Joe, open the door!” She screamed as loud as she could. The door remained closed. Darlene was locked in. Until he came back she couldn’t get out. In a single moment what had been a play room was transformed into a prison. She went to the far wall and sat down so that she could watch the observation slit.
Leaning against the padded wall she could feel the buckles on the back of the straitjacket. Take it off if I want, he says. And just how am I supposed to do that? Darlene leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. How long would he be gone? How long had she been waiting so far? She touched the canvas covering her hands. Naturally none of the buckles keeping her captive inside the jacket were anywhere near her limited reach. At the magic show the escape artist had somehow managed to slip an arm over his head in order to free his arms. The way this straitjacket was constructed she couldn’t move her arms up or down, much less over her head. Twisting from side to side didn’t help at all either. The straps between her legs, under her skirt, didn’t allow for more than a few inches of movement.
Darlene struggled to her knees and then to her feet, using the wall to brace herself. Slowly she walked around the room, keeping close to the wall. Anyone who wanted to bang their head against a wall wouldn’t get much more than a headache. Curious, she lifted a foot and tried a backward kick. Her heel bounced off the padding. Because of the restraining belt between her ankles she couldn’t keep her balance and slid down the wall to the floor.
A flash of movement drew her attention to the door. She could see a pair of eyes in the observation slit, watching her. Darlene made it to her feet again and carefully walked toward the door as it opened. She practically fell into his arms at the doorway.
“You’re back! I was so scared in there.” She laid her head on his shoulder as he held her in his arms.
“Now you call tell all your friends you actually spent time in a padded cell. Not many people can claim that experience these days.” He stroked her hair as he whispered in her ear.
She leaned her head back so she could look up at him. “Thanks, but I’d rather not share. What took you so long? I must have been in there for hours. It really gets to you after a while, almost like it’s haunted.”
“More like twenty minutes. As for being haunted, I’ve never heard of a padded cell that could contain a ghost. I unloaded the bags from the car and put them in the staff living quarters. The director had a nice room for himself.”
“I hope it’s not upholstered.” Darlene giggled.
“C’mon. I’ll take you there and we can sit down for a snack. I brought some munchies. If you’re extra good maybe I’ll take off the jacket.”
Darlene rubbed up against him. “And what if I’m extra bad?”
She was rewarded with an enigmatic smile. “In that case I have something in mind as well.” He bent down to pick up her shoes. “Let’s go. There’s a TV and VCR set up so we can watch the movie. I think you will have a newfound appreciation for it.”
“Sit down on the couch and I’ll make us some nachos.” Joe headed into the kitchenette in the director’s apartment. Darlene heard him pour some chips onto a plate. She started to ask if she could help but stopped before she said it out loud. In her current condition she couldn’t offer much assistance.
She still had the straitjacket on but Joe had removed the restraints on her ankles. The couch was large and comfortable so she curled up with her legs tucked in to one side. On top of the TV was the tape of the movie. She could see part of the lurid cover but couldn’t quite make it out. After the microwave beeped she could smell melted cheese in the kitchen. She looked over her shoulder to see Joe coming out with a plate and two glasses in his hands.
He put the food on the coffee table and went to the TV. The opening credits began as he sat down beside her. “Hungry? I added just a touch of salsa.” He picked up a cheese laden corn chip and held it out to Darlene. “And,” he continued, “when you get thirsty, I came prepared.” He reached into an inside pocket on his lab coat and pulled out a straw.
“So you have me eating out of your hand once again.” She grabbed the chip out of his hand with her teeth and began eating.
“If you would rather feed yourself then you could ask me to let you go.” He picked up a chip for himself.
“May I be released from this thing?” She knew the answer.
“No. I like you as you are. But I’ll be fair. We’ll take a vote, everyone in favor of letting Darlene go, raise your hand.” He looked around, as if there were a crowd present. “Okay, now all those in favor of leaving her as is, raise your hand.” Joe raised his hand. “One to nothing, looks like you’ve been outvoted.”
Wrapped in the straitjacket Darlene couldn’t move her arms. “The vote was rigged but I guess I’ll have to concede. Can I have something to drink?” He held up her glass so she could sip some iced tea from the straw.
She knew he wouldn’t release her. In fact she would have been worried if he had taken the jacket off. The more time they spent together the more she felt driven to please him, any way she could. In their time together she had seen how he liked control over her. Physical control especially, where she was helpless and had to depend on him for everything. Times like now, when she couldn’t use her hands or arms.
Darlene would never admit it to anyone else but she enjoyed it as much as Joe. He had proven she could trust him. That trust gave her the freedom to place herself in his hands without fear. The uncertainty of not knowing what he would do was exciting, something like a thrill ride on a roller coaster. It looked and felt dangerous but she knew no harm would come of it.
One side benefit was that she didn’t have to worry about doing things he liked. He simply told her what he wanted, or even forced her if he felt like it. She never would have thought he would get a kick out of feeding her until that first night when he had stopped for fast food while she had been shackled hand and foot. And now he was handing her nachos while they watched the movie. As the title credits came to an end she turned her attention to the movie. The opening scene was in a courtroom.
Joe leaned back and put his arm across Darlene’s shoulders. The movie began with the scene where the star is deemed insane and sent to the hospital. The star’s boyfriend, now her lawyer, vows to prove her innocence. There were plenty of camera shots of the young starlet and her late 60’s style mini-skirt and go-go boots. He tuned it out and looked over at Darlene.
He’d take her over the movie actress any day. She would do anything he asked of her. Most amazing of all, from what he could tell she wanted, even encouraged him to indulge himself. In the processing room there had been no hesitation when he told her to put on the uniform. And she had given her enthusiastic cooperation during the body search. More like foreplay, too bad he didn’t have a copy of it on videotape.
The canvas jacket covering her shoulder felt rough under his hand. It must be uncomfortable yet she didn’t complain. She glanced up at him, smiled, and then went back to the movie. His intention had been to take it off as soon as they sat down, assuming she could last that long. But seeing her calm and relaxed he chose to leave it on, purely for his own selfish reasons.
That was what made Darlene so precious for Joe. He could indulge himself and not even feel guilty about it. In the past he had suppressed his inclination to be controlling, believing that it was wrong. Consensus and compromise were proper behavior; always ask, never tell. Not with her though; if he acted like that she got a nervous, worried look. When he acted in a decisive, confident manner then she would, in her own fashion, do the same by trusting and deferring to him. It was her single most compelling attraction, drawing him in and bringing them closer together.
He held up another nacho for her. Making her eat out of his hand was a way to remind her of how much she had to depend on him. He liked that, especially when she had no other choice. No doubt one component was a certain sexual attraction in being able to control her, but there was more to it. For Joe there was a sense of satisfaction in earning her trust so that she would allow him to place her in bondage. Added to that was his own need to provide for her and protect her. All the better that she seemed to thrive when submitting to his commands.
He picked up the VCR remote and froze the picture. “Recognize that scene?” he asked. On the TV screen the police cruiser with the main character in the back was stopped at the hospital gates.
“This place, isn’t it? Aren’t those the same gates, with a better looking coat of paint?” She looked up at him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“That’s right. Thirty some years ago the place wasn’t quite so run down. There were still violent patients committed here. A few of the more docile ones even appear as extras later on. I doubt if it was legal but it saved the producer a few dollars. I think you’ll recognize the next shot too.” Joe started the tape playing.
In the movie the car parked in the same garage. The two guards pulled the poor unfortunate heroine out of the car and dragged her to the door. As Darlene expected the actress wound up in the processing room. Except this time the guardroom on the other side of the windows wasn’t empty. When the actress protested the indignity of being forced to strip in front of the male guards two waiting orderlies rushed into the room, dragged her to the floor and forced her into a nearly identical straitjacket.
“So that’s where you got the idea for this?” Darlene asked Joe while nudging him in the ribs.
“Yup.” On the TV the heroine struggled with the orderlies. For her trouble she was carried down the hall and bodily thrown into the padded cell. “See what might have happened if you chose not to cooperate?” The scene faded out with the young actress huddled in a corner, crying, while the two orderlies walked away laughing.
Sequels never had the same size budget as the original movie. In this case the screenwriter must have worked for beer and hamburgers. The hospital director, some unknown actor with a vague resemblance to Vincent Price, was busy developing his secret anti-psychosis serum. In the course of the movie the heroine makes friends with another female patient, who in turn becomes the mad doctor’s next guinea pig. It was the typical fate of supporting actresses in these types of movies. Instead of a cure the drug sends her into unpredictable murderous rages. The doctor refines his mixture and decides to test it on his next subject.
Joe stopped the tape just as an orderly began strapping the star onto a gurney. “Who will save her from the clutches of the demented doctor? You’ll have to wait to find out.”
“Don’t stop when it’s getting to the good part!” Darlene said with a lack of sincerity. She didn’t think there was a good part to the movie, except perhaps the ending credits.
“I think it’s time you fall into the clutches of crazy old Dr. Joe. But it’s getting late and we need to start early tomorrow. I’m going to save the best part for tomorrow.”
The next morning they went to work. Darlene and Joe went through the main building room by room, making notes on anything that caught their eye. It was boring, dirty work and took them all day. Joe finally called a halt at dinner time. They headed back to the director’s apartment. While Darlene took a shower Joe warmed up some frozen food.
Darlene came out of the bathroom just as the microwave beeped. “Good timing,” he told her. “We got quite a bit done today, more than I planned on. I’m pretty sure we’ll at least break even on the deal. The only problem I see is warehouse space.”
Darlene nodded as she sat down at the small dining table. “I’ll be busy cataloging for months. Where are you going to store all this stuff?”
Joe sat down next to her. “Some of it I’ll sell off to collectors immediately, either on the internet or at auctions. That’ll generate enough cash flow to cover expenses and reduce the space we’ll need. I just want to make sure we don’t let any real rarities slip by unnoticed.”
Darlene nodded. “I figured that was your plan. Most of the stuff we saw today wasn’t all that rare or valuable. I thought you said there were some old storerooms?”
Joe smiled. “There are, in the basement. After we finish eating we’ll take a peek. I thought it would be appropriate to wait for dark. You know, when all the ghosts come out to do away with those who dare disturb their eternal rest?” He laughed.
“The House On Haunted Hill? Yeah, I remember that movie. Back when the TV stations ran fright night movies on Fridays, when I was a little girl, one time I stayed up till 1a.m. to watch it. I was so scared I wouldn’t go into the basement for weeks afterward.” She shivered.
“Well, no departed spirits here. The caretaker told me as far as he knows the only deaths in the hospital were from natural causes. Anyway, last week I got a quick look down there. There is one item I want you to see. It might be the single most valuable piece in the whole inventory. I cleaned it up just before I left so I could get some pictures to send off to a few museums.” Joe looked pleased.
“Sounds interesting, now you’ve got me curious. What is it?” She knew it had to be something special judging by his expression.
His only answer was an enigmatic expression followed by a shake of the head. “Nope, better you see it without preconceptions. All I’ll tell you is that I’m sure it’s at least a hundred years old. When it was new in psychiatric circles it was considered an advanced therapeutic tool. Today…well, it wouldn’t enjoy quite the same reputation.”
When they finished dinner Joe gathered up a pair of flashlights and a large key ring from the director’s desk. “The basement does have lights but some are burned out.” He handed a flashlight to Darlene. “Take one of these just in case.”
A door in the main hallway opened onto stairs which descended into darkness. Joe turned on the lights but the stairway still had too many shadows for Darlene’s taste. She knew it was just an overactive imagination fueled by movie stereotypes but every dark corner seemed to transform into a waiting demon. To her disappointment the stairs ended at a mundane looking furnace instead of a yawning pit glowing with devilish fires.
“The furnace kept the air dry. I’m sure it was just coincidence, but the storerooms were perfectly placed, cool, low humidity and out of the sun. It helped to preserve all the treasures down here.” Joe walked past the furnace and unlocked a metal door.
Following behind Darlene peeked in as the door swung open. At first she couldn’t see anything, but when the overhead lights flickered on she realized they were in a part of the building that had never been renovated. A narrow corridor ran along one wall. From her vantage point she could see the barred doors of the cells that were now storage rooms. She trailed behind Joe as he went through the entrance.
“This was the maximum security lockup ward, where the genuine psychos were originally kept when the place first opened. They were some of the most dangerous people alive. Psychopaths, people with no conscience, who would kill or maim without the least feelings of remorse. The patients who made it to this ward were considered incurably and criminally insane.” Joe stopped in front of the first cell door.
Looking through the bars Darlene could see boxes piled up to the ceiling. From the markings they appeared to be paper records going back over twenty years. Heavy inch thick reinforced steel bars covered the entire front of the room. The door, also of bars, was mounted on sturdy hinges and secured with some type of lock.
Joe noticed her staring at the door and rattled the key ring. “That’s why I had to bring these.” He held up the ring, which had over a dozen oddly shaped keys. “Keys for the cell doors. It was too expensive to dismantle the cells so the management just left it as is. Theft down here was very light, you can see why. That’s why I have high hopes of finding some intact antiques in excellent condition.”
“That makes sense.” She doubted any of the staff ever came down to this place by choice. There seemed to be a cloud of bleakness and depression hanging in the air. “I hope they aren’t all full of boxes of paper.”
Joe shook his head. “Nope, the previous owners were supposed to take the records with them. Some kind of law about maintaining medical files, I think it was microfilmed. All that’s left are some old accounting files, the trash in here. It’s supposed to be destroyed when the building is demolished. This cell we don’t have to check. C’mon, the one I wanted to show you is at the end of the hallway.” He pointed with the flashlight.
As they walked along the corridor Darlene glanced at the contents of the cells they passed. All she saw were cardboard boxes, wooden crates or larger items covered in sheets. The last unit was different. When they stopped she could see someone had been at work. The space had been cleared and swept clean except for one large object in the center of the room. Since it was covered with a sheet she couldn’t make out what it was.
Joe fumbled with the ring of keys, looking for the right one. Darlene had to smile at his eagerness to show it off, whatever it was. He swung open the door and gestured to her. “Ladies first.”
Something told her it wasn’t courtesy at work. His mood was too playful. He had something planned, something that would involve her. A sidelong glance at his face as she walked into the cell told her he was excited. He was right behind her, even putting his hands on her shoulders as he began his presentation.
“Back in the early days of this hospital they didn’t really have any way to treat mental illness. For the violent ones, the best they could do was experiment. One of the prevalent theories was that a patient had to be calmed, to help suppress their aggressive nature.” He reached out and pulled off the sheet.
At first Darlene thought it was a plain if overbuilt wooden chair. Then she saw the straps, and the cutout in the seat. There was some odd type of box on top of the back. “Joe? What is this, an Electric Chair?”
“Nope, it was called a Tranquilizer. In the days before they had drugs a patient would be confined in it for days, sometimes weeks, unable to move. Doctors believed it helped to cure psychotic episodes. Quiet, isolation, and immobility were the prescribed treatments. Several of these chairs were made and used in institutions both in the U.S. and Europe for many years. As medicine progressed they were discontinued. Nearly all were destroyed. I know of only one in a museum in Britain.”
Studying it Darlene could see it was no ordinary chair. The legs, thick square beams of pine, were bolted to the floor. The seat had to be two inches thick. The wide armrests were braced at several points to the rest of the chair. The back was solid and higher than normal, with what looked like a box on top.
The numerous leather straps and buckles attached to strategic points demonstrated it was designed to be a restraint device. As she walked around it she could tell no one could possible escape from it. Looking up at Joe she suddenly realized why he had brought her.
“You’ve been on your feet all day. Why don’t you sit down and rest for a few minutes?” His tone was so innocent sounding she almost laughed. One thing she was sure of, he wasn’t acting out of concern for her sore feet. Of course there was only one chair. Darlene was sure if she did sit down she would not be getting back up anytime soon.
Still the chair, the Tranquilizer as he called it, looked intriguing. The more she stared at it the more she imagined the feel of being held captive by the leather and wood. And then there was Joe. He wanted her to do it, but wouldn’t come right out and ask. Probably thinks I might be afraid of it, she thought. And maybe he’s right, I am nervous but I can’t tell him no.
“I would like to sit down for a few minutes.” Did that sound as corny to him as it did to her? Even a third rate hack scriptwriter could do better. “Umm, what do I have to do, Joe?”
The way his face lit up with excitement she could tell those were the exact words he wanted to hear. The conversation had sounded innocuous, but she knew it really meant she had consented to whatever he had in mind. He had a fascinating if devious mind, one that surely had more in store for her.
“It would be best if you took off your clothing. I wouldn’t want you to get a bruise or cut from being pinched if any skin got between clothes and the chair.”
She knew that’s what he would say, but for once his reason actually made sense. A tight blouse would be uncomfortable. She unbuttoned the blouse first, followed by the skirt and her underwear.
“Good, now, just sit down, get situated, and I’ll do the rest.” The wood of the chair felt cool to the touch. The seat was contoured, as were the armrests. She leaned back and looked up at the box above her head.
“What does that part do?” She looked up at the mysterious upper part of the chair. From below she could see a cutout in the base of the box.
“We’ll get to it later. First the basics, is that a comfortable position?” Darlene nodded. “Okay, to begin we need to make sure you sit up straight.” From behind her he knelt and looped a wide leather belt across her waist, pulling it tight through slots in the chair back. He did something with a buckle before standing up. “Tell me if it’s too tight.”
It wasn’t much worse than a seat belt. “I’m okay,” she told him. “What next?” She ran a hand along the waist strap.
Joe frowned. “I think your hands should be next. They might get in the way later.” He leered at her and she almost burst out laughing. At the end of each armrest was what looked like a baseball glove. He opened the wrist strap on the right side first and by holding onto her wrist guided her hand into the leather mitten. He finished by tightening the strap on her wrist. Going to the other side he did the same for her left hand.
The stiff leather forced her to keep her hands spread and flat. When she tried to raise her hands Darlene discovered the gloves were somehow fastened to the end of the armrest. She couldn’t pull her hands out either. He finished tying down her arms with a leather strap above her elbow and another on her forearm, halfway between elbow and wrist. She couldn’t move her arms or hands no matter how much she struggled.
“I’m sure you realize this is for your own good. It will help you relax. Trust good old doctor Joe.” Darlene rolled her eyes; he was off on a movie script again. Only deranged hospital doctors said something like that, just before the poor sacrificial patient met with some terrible fate. With her arms tied down she would have to trust him though. It was too late to do otherwise.
He knelt in front of her, to one side. “I need you to move your feet a little further apart.” Leaning forward she spread her legs till her ankles were lined up with the straps on the chair. Quickly he wrapped the leather around her ankles, trapping her legs. He followed that with straps below her knees and across her thighs. The finishing touch was a loop across each foot to hold it in place. As with her arms her feet and legs were now immobilized.
Joe stood up and with arms folded looked down at Darlene, now helpless in the grip of the chair’s restraints. She tried to wriggle a bit but gave up. Other than her head she couldn’t move. “Is that it? Am I supposed to be tranquil now?”
He shook his head. “Not quite everything.” He unfolded his arms and went around behind her again. Confined to the chair she couldn’t see what he was doing. “You were curious about this last part. Let me show you what it does.” He opened a latch and the box above her head swung apart, split vertically. She felt him unscrew something on the back of the chair as the box slid down to rest on her shoulders. She could see thick padding inside it.
“The important point is being forced to sit completely still.” He closed the box around Darlene’s head. “That means not even turning your head.” She could breathe, but her eyes were complete covered. The padding held her head rigid. She felt him do something to hold the box closed. When he finished she couldn’t move her head up or down either.
A click and a small door opened in front of the head restraint. It was just large enough to expose her face from her mouth to her eyes. “This is how the patient was fed,” he explained. “I’m sure you can appreciate what it would mean to have a few brief moments of light if you had to sit here all day long in the dark.”
She struggled but it was useless. Darlene knew she had no hope of escaping from the chair. It was as if she were paralyzed and unable to move a muscle. “I don’t think I could take sitting in this thing all day long, much less a week. They really believed this was some kind of cure?”
“Psychiatry wasn’t much of a science back then, more trial and error than anything else. My guess it did work for a few people, one or two times, so it became standard practice. You should read about it sometime. This was tame compared to some of the other methods.”
He brushed his fingers across the inside of her exposed thigh. Darlene closed her eyes and hissed through clenched teeth as she took a deep breath. In her current state it took very little to stimulate her sexually. When she opened her eyes he was gone. “Joe?”
“Behind you. Listen carefully Darlene. Do exactly as I say. I want you to close your eyes and open your mouth wide.”
She did as he ordered. She wasn’t sure what to expect next, maybe a piece of candy. What she got was something large and tasting of foam rubber shoved in her mouth before he closed the faceplate. She tried to push it out with her tongue but the inside of the closed box held it in place. She tried to call out Joe’s name but only a garbled sound escaped. He’s made me wear a gag! That was something new.
“It’s surprising what you can take when you aren’t given a choice, Darlene. Why don’t you sit here and think about it. Take all night, and tomorrow, if you like.” The covering around her head blocked out most sounds but she distinctly heard the cell door slam shut.
Joe shut the cell door but left it unlocked, taking care to make as much noise as possible so Darlene would hear it. Then he quietly walked back around in front of her and sat down on the floor. From the muffled sounds she was trying to shout. It sounded like his name, but it wasn’t intelligible. At the moment she wasn’t struggling, but that might be due to the delayed reaction to the shock of being abandoned. If he remained silent she would have no clue that he was still in the room.
When he had found the chair it had been in bad shape, beyond hope of selling to a serious collector. With little to lose he had decided to refinish it himself and use it as a unique movie prop instead. It was still mostly authentic, though he had modernized it in a few respects. Adding the leather mitts to cover the hands on the armrests was a nice touch to increase the sense of complete vulnerability.
Darlene was stirring in the chair, pulling against the restraining straps. He knew there were too many and too well placed for her to free herself. She had to know it as well, but still she tried. Joe leaned back against the brick wall and watched, studying her reaction to what she believed was happening.
He had fully intended to scare her with his parting comment. Inside the enclosure around her head she must be going through the full range of emotions, from fear to anger to resentment and back to terror. Without the gag she would be screaming for him, and at him. His one regret was that the chair did not allow him to actually see her face. Her body language was telling a story though. Her struggles were more pronounced; he could even see a bulge on the top of her hand coverings. She must be trying to make a fist or turn her hand around.
It didn’t take her long to realize fighting the chair was pointless. He saw her relax as her shoulders slumped in resignation. Joe leaned forward. This was the point he had been waiting for. What would she do next?
His gag had been intentionally crude; a wad of foam held in place by the chair’s head box. She should be able to push it out with her tongue if she was patient and worked on it a bit at a time instead of all at once. Apparently she had come to the same conclusion as he could see slight tremors in her neck. There was a gap between her face and the box where she could work the end of the foam rubber out of her mouth.
“Joe? Are you still here? This isn’t funny. Get me out of this thing!” The sound of her voice, still garbled but now understandable, told him she had been partially successful. “Joe?” The demanding tone switched to pleading. “Please, I don’t want to sit here all night long.”
He had no intention of leaving her there for any great length of time. An hour, maybe two at most, and then he’d let her go. But confined inside her little prison time would be moving at a slower pace. Minutes would become hours. Joe looked at his watch. An hour from now she would be convinced it was early morning. Sensory deprivation usually played tricks with a person’s sense of time.
“Damn it Joe, let me go right now!” Darlene never cursed, not that he could remember. He looked at his watch, five minutes. Her angry tone hid an underlying desperation. He was sure she didn’t know he was in the room, but she might be counting on him listening from the hallway.
Another five minutes and the crying began. A tear streamed down her neck, followed by sobbing sounds. The full weight of her predicament was hitting home. Joe nodded to himself. What came next, what he expected to come next, would tell him what he wanted to know.
The crying soon passed, replaced by silence for the next half hour. Then in a voice so low he could barely hear, “Joe? “ He almost gave in when he heard her, but this was a chance he’d never have again. He had to know.
“I’m sorry Joe, for whatever I did. Am I being punished? Did I make you mad? Was it something I said?” He had read about a sort of compulsive guilt complex in submissive women, a tendency to blame themselves regardless of who was at fault. Now he was seeing it surface in Darlene. “I’ll do whatever you want Joe. Anything. If you want me to stay in this chair, then I’ll do that too. As long as you want; I’ll sit here all day long.” There was a long pause. “I love you Joe. I’ll be quiet now.”
There was no doubt in his mind she meant it. He stood up, unable to watch her suffer any longer. At her side, he started to reach for the head release but stopped as a better idea occurred to him. Instead he reached down between her widespread legs and softly rested his palm on her thigh.
He felt and saw her whole body jerk in surprise. Joe smiled; she really had no idea he was there or even listening. “I’m here Darlene. I never left. I won’t ever abandon you.” He released the latch on the head enclosure and swung the parts open, releasing her head. She blinked a few times as the light hit her eyes. The tracks of tears still marked her cheeks. He gently brushed her hair aside as it fell over her face. “You see Darlene, I love you too.”
The torrent of curses and accusations he expected to hear next didn’t arrive. Instead she looked up at him for a moment, and then lowered her eyes. “I said some stupid things.” She looked back up at him. “Is it morning yet? Could I have a drink of water before you put the gag back in?”
Joe snatched another grape from Darlene’s fingers. They were both in bed, Joe on his back and Darlene on her side, with a bowl of chilled fruit in between. He had no idea what time it was but the hour had to be late. They had spent most of the night talking in between long bouts of making love.
“You know, I really thought you were going to leave me in that chair all night long. I was terrified at first, but when I calmed down and could think the whole scenario through, I just knew there had to be more to it than what I could see. Or not see; that was mean, blindfolding me so I wouldn’t know you were right in front of me.” She handed him a slice of orange and took another grape for herself.
“Guilty, but the means justified the ends. For quite some time I’ve thought about the type of woman I’d want at my side. I’m sure it’s no surprise to you I’m attracted to the submissive type. I can be pretty stubborn, okay obnoxious, about getting my own way. I’m not willing to change so I figured I better find someone who likes that type of man, instead of all the friction and grief caused by incompatible personalities.” He ran his hand through her long hair.
“Demanding, take charge, obnoxious, you? I never would have guessed!” She ended her sarcasm with a girlish giggle.
“I have remarkable self-control,” Joe answered in mock offense. “Besides, it wasn’t me that was dressed in little more than handcuffs and shackles when I found you in the warehouse late at night.”
She ran her hand across his wide chest. “And who’d have thought a stupid stunt like that would wind up like this? Do you think we might have gotten together if you hadn’t found me that night?”
He thought for a moment. “Hard to say. The few times we talked I didn’t have any idea who you really were. It seems a happy series of coincidences saved a lot of time.”
Darlene seemed to run out of questions. She continues to rub her hand over his chest but said nothing more. He reached up and laid his hand over hers, both hands crossed over his heart. “What if I had left you down in the basement all night?”
“Then I would have sat there. It’s not like I had a choice.” Joe started to say something but she put her fingers over his lips. “I know; you would have let me go if I asked. That’s not what I meant. It’s hard to explain, but something happened to me. Even before you touched me and I knew you were there, all I could think about was how I could please you, what I could do for you.
“You said you wanted me to stay there through the night and the next day, so I had to get through it. Trust me; it’s miserable being trapped in that thing. But I had to do it, for you. I didn’t want to think about disappointing you. Does that make sense?”
Joe sat up and pulled her close, his arm around her. “Yes it does, Darlene. I’ll tell you a secret. The reason I enticed you into that chair was to see what you would do. If you got mad at me, if resentment won out, then I’d know you and I never would get along. And when I uncovered your head, if you had assumed it was over and acted as if I was going to let you go, then I’d have known you were just tolerating my idiosyncrasies. There were any number of wrong responses, but only one right one. I risked losing you, but I got that one right answer. You accepted who I am and submitted to me, to what you believed would be one of the worst nights of your life, for no other reason that I wanted it. You got it right the first time.”
Darlene brightened, “Really? You mean it? I was so scared when I asked you for a drink of water. I was sure you were going to close that box around my head again. If I hadn’t been tied in so tight I would have been shaking.”
Joe had released her from the chair the moment he was certain she was willing to stay in it. “There was no reason to continue. Now it was tempting, seeing you there, so helpless, but it struck me as senseless cruelty.”
She propped herself up on one arm and looked at him. “Joe? If you really want me to, I can do it. I wouldn’t be scared if I knew you were there. But that gag, it left an awful taste in my mouth. Could you use something else?”
Joe laughed and smacked her behind playfully. “No, no more chair. Now we do have some more work to do tomorrow, so we better get to sleep. And maybe in the medical supplies that are left we can find you a tastier gag.”
Sunday morning they slept in. Darlene was still asleep when Joe slipped out of bed to take a shower. When he came out she was awake but still in bed. “How about some breakfast?” he asked.
She grabbed him and tried to pull him on top of her. “How about you come back to bed and I make you forget about food?”
He grabbed her wrists and pinned her down on the bed. “You are tempting me!” He kissed her long and hard.
“I’m trying. Is it working? Cataloging can wait, come back to bed with me.”
“Yes it is working, and no, we can’t spend all day in bed. It seems I’ve opened up a Pandora’s box and out jumped Insatiable along with Lust.” He let go of her wrists and bent down to pick up the towel he dropped on the floor. “Go take your shower.” She made a pouting face before getting up and going into the bathroom.
Joe sat on the edge of the bed and listened to the running water. He couldn’t fault her, because he had been the one to strip away her inhibitions. If they were to get anything done today he’d have to take some steps. Fortunately he’d anticipated the problem and had what he hoped would be the solution. He heard the water shut off in the shower and saw the towel disappear from the rack.
She came out of the bathroom still drying her hair with the towel. When she started to reach into her suitcase he stood up behind her and gently put his hands on her arms. “Before you get dressed there’s something I want you to do.”
She turned around to face him and put her arms around his neck. “Something personal, I hope? Very personal.”
“Yes it is, as personal as it can get. You said anything Darlene, now I’m going to hold you to your promise.”
Seeing the serious look on his face she dropped her arms to her side and took a step back. “I meant it Joe. Tell me what it is.”
“I want you to stand here, in the middle of the room. Spread your feet and put your hands behind your neck.” Puzzled as to what he had in mind, she did as he ordered, holding her arms wide apart with her hands behind her head. “Good, but move your feet further apart.” She widened her stance. “That’s right. Now I want you to stand there and don’t move or talk. Okay?” She nodded in agreement.
He opened the closet and took out a large, plain looking cardboard box from the top shelf. She watched as he sat down on the bed and stared at her, the box sitting in his lap. “What I’m going to ask of you will be difficult, but I want you to know it’s very important to me. I put a lot of thought into this. It was a tough decision, but I think the right one for the two of us.” He smiled at her. “This isn’t making any sense to you, so here goes.
“Going through this hospital and reading up on its history gave me some insight into who I am, what I want out of life, and the type of person I want to share it with. You Darlene, you are the woman I want. And I want you on my terms. Not very politically correct, but I won’t apologize for it. You know what I’m like, yet you stayed by your own choice. I can’t say I really understand why you decided to put up with me, but I’m glad you did.
“Okay, enough rambling.” He stood up and opened the top of the box. She still couldn’t see what was inside. The device he pulled out looked unfamiliar at first, until he turned it right side up. Her eyes went wide when she recognized what it must be, even though she had never seen one before.
It was made of some kind of metal, stainless steel judging by the shiny grey finish. There was a horizontal band and a wider bisecting vertical piece. The interior was lined with some type of padding. In the front it all fastened together with some kind of lock. Joe took a key out of the box and opened it.
“I’m going to put this on you now. You are to wear it until I take it off. Understand?” She looked at Joe, then the chastity belt, then back to Joe. Forbidden to speak, she nodded in agreement.
Standing behind her he pulled open the waistband and put it around her, above her hips. She could feel the weight of the bottom piece hanging from the back. Moving back in front of her he pulled the waist band closed before reaching between her legs and pulling up the shield part. It completely covered her genital area but there was a narrow vertical slit down the front. Joe attached the shield to the front of the waistband and closed the lock.
“You can put your hands down now. Move around and see how it fits.”
Darlene ran her hands over the steel belt around her waist. It was a snug fit but not uncomfortable. The portion between her thighs was also a tight fit but didn’t interfere with moving her legs. When she tried to bend over the front cover plate dug into her stomach, but if she kept her back straight and bent at the knee the belt didn’t interfere. When she tried to push the belt down it wouldn’t budge; her wide hips held it firmly in place. She noticed the sides of the belt were bent out slightly to accommodate the curve of her legs.
Overall it wasn’t as bad as it looked out of the box. Darlene had to admit it really wasn’t much worse than a bikini, except for the additional weight. She started to say as much but remembered Joe had told her to be quiet. She looked a request to him, for permission to speak.
“Is it too tight? Does it chafe anywhere?” His anxious tone of voice and concerned look seemed to indicate he was more worried over the belt than she was.
“It fits pretty well Joe, but I’ll have to move around a while to see if it needs adjustment. I…uh, what about the bathroom?”
He reached into the box and took out a small paper pamphlet. “There should be an explanation in here. Why don’t you look through it? Listen, you tell me the moment you have a problem, okay?”
She sat down on the bed and glanced through the instruction booklet. According to the manufacturer it was possible to wear the belt for an extended period, though the hygienic procedures were involved. Nothing she couldn’t handle, with a little practice. She placed the booklet on the bed and tried to spread her legs. The belt was cut high enough that it didn’t interfere. However, when she tried to cross her legs the width of the cover proved to be a problem.
“I won’t be able to cross my legs.” She felt the front and sides of the belt. “Tight jeans are out of the question. I’m not too sure about shorts either.”
“I don’t see that as a problem,” Joe added. Darlene nodded; she knew he liked her in dresses. Of course he wasn’t the one who had to wear it. As long as clothes weren’t too short or tight fitting she should be able to keep some of her modesty and not be embarrassed by revealing her steel panty line. The tough part would be breaking her habit of crossing her legs when she sat down. Knees together and ankles crossed like a proper young lady, the voice of her mother came back to her from childhood. She wouldn’t be able to ignore her mom’s lecturing now.
“Will you do this for me, Darlene? You understand I’m not going to give you the key.”
“Yes Joe, I’ll do it. As long as you want. Just don’t lose that key. And you’ll still open it once in a while?” She knew exactly what he was asking; relinquish sexual control of her own body. Three months ago she would have been outraged at the suggestion. Even a week ago she might have hesitated. After the previous night it was a foregone conclusion she would do it. She ran her hands around the gleaming waistband. With it locked on her body there would be no temptation to take it off when alone. That would make it easier to obey him.
“Yes I’ll let you out, but only on my terms. When and where is up to me alone. Now you get dressed while I cook up some eggs. Omelet or huevos rancheros?” Joe headed for the kitchen. “And Darlene? Wear one of those hospital uniforms today. Look in the closet. Who knows, maybe Mad Doctor Joe will show up this afternoon.”
“Okay, and I’ll take huevos.” Both she and Joe shared a love of Mexican food. On a shelf in the closet were several two more plastic wrapped uniforms in her size. Unwrapping one she slipped on the blouse and skirt. Using the bathroom mirror she checked to see if the belt would show underneath. As far as she could tell it remained hidden. Pulling her brush out of the suitcase she began to comb her hair. The smell of cooking eggs and salsa made her hungry.
“Come and get it,” Joe yelled from the kitchen. Normally she’d feel guilty about not fixing breakfast but he loved to cook. She smoothed the wrinkles out of the skirt, took a look in the mirror, decided to open one more button on the blouse, and then went out to the small dining table.
He was dishing out the eggs from the frying pan as she walked in. The table was set for two, with a plate of toast and orange juice next to a cup of coffee. He stopped as she sat down, smiled at her, and then finished scooping out the rest of the eggs onto his plate. “I forgot flour tortillas so we’ll have to make do with some rye toast.” He sat down next to her.
The eggs delivered everything the tantalizing aroma promised. While they ate Joe talked about the plan for the day. He wanted to go through the storerooms in the basement and have her make notes on the laptop about the potentially valuable items. He had brought along a digital camera too, so they could get images out to some potential buyers as soon as possible. “I’ll pick through the junk pile. When I find something interesting, you take pictures and type in the manufacturer, serial number, dates, anything that looks significant. I have outstanding requests from collectors of old medical instruments so we’ll pay special attention to anything like that.”
Swallowing a bite of toast she asked, “is there anything else I should look out for? What about old books?”
Joe thought for a moment before answering. “I’m not sure. I don’t know too much about medical texts. Why don’t you enter the title, author and copyright date for now. I can email the list around and maybe post it on the website. Who knows, maybe we’ll find some equivalent of a first edition Mark Twain.” He reached over and put his hand on top of hers. “I like it when we work together. Even if you are a distraction. I don’t remember so many open buttons the first time you put on that uniform.”
Darlene felt her face redden. She had to look down at her plate. Didn’t you want him to notice? she chided herself. You made him look, and he did. She started to button up but he stopped her.
“No, leave it like that. Let’s clean up so we can get to work. You wash, I’ll dry.”
After cleaning up the kitchen Darlene picked up the carrying bag with the laptop and camera. Joe brought the key ring and a few tools. They headed back into the basement. Even though it was still dark just knowing the sun was shining outside made the shadows less sinister for her.
Once they got organized the inventory went fast. Darlene found a roll-around table and office chair. She set up the laptop and camera on the table, wheeling it along the corridor as they progressed to the next cell/storeroom. Joe sorted through the piles in each room, placing the important items outside the door for her to catalog. More than once they would stop to puzzle over some curiosity with no obvious purpose.
Once she found a large leather bound book full of beautifully illustrated color plates. He had ignored it but she noticed the mixed color pattern of the paper edges. Joe had her put it aside as one they would take back immediately. When he told her “we make a good team” and “good thing I brought you along” the compliments made her warm inside.
During a break Joe came out and sat down against the wall, next to where Darlene was typing in a book title. When she finished he ran his hand around her waist. “Doing all right? Any soreness?”
Absorbed in her work Darlene had completely forgotten about the chastity belt. Standing up she twisted back and forth. “No, I don’t think so. It doesn’t hurt.”
He stood up and put his hands on her hips. He could feel the steel band under the thin cotton material of the skirt. “Is it distracting?”
“Only when a certain man gets me all hot and bothered.” She studied his face. “You’re doing that deliberately! You know I can’t do anything when you have me locked up tight.”
An evil grin confirmed her accusation. “You could persuade me to find the key. Now where did I put it…” Joe stared up at the ceiling as though lost in thought.
She hit him playfully on the shoulder. “You better not forget where it is.” Slipping her arms around his waist she pressed tightly against him, rubbing her leg against his. “Does this help you remember?”
He sighed. “Yes it does. Now I remember why you are wearing the belt too. C’mon, we have to get back to work.”
It took most of the day but they managed to finish all the basement storerooms. Back in the apartment they washed up and had a light dinner. Afterward they sat on the couch and watched the ending of the movie.
When he had stopped the tape the star was in the process of being restrained on a gurney. In his lab the mad doctor was preparing his serum, which would surely leave her with permanent brain damage. Meanwhile the boyfriend was sneaking over the outside wall.
“So do you think he’ll find her in time?” Joe asked, munching on popcorn.
“He’s a wimp. I hope the doctor injects him instead.” Darlene laughed as she grabbed a handful of hot buttery popcorn from the bowl.
Igor the repulsive half-witted hunchback orderly had both her ankles and one hand secured in the restraint straps when he decided to take advantage of the heroine. Being particularly stupid as most movie molesters were, he had neglected to finish tying her down first. She was valiantly trying to fend him off with her one free hand when the head nurse showed up to chew him out. “Saved in the nick of time by Nurse Cratchett” Joe added. Darlene nearly lost her mouthful of popcorn as she burst out laughing.
To the sound of ominous music the actress was wheeled into the laboratory. In a cutaway the boyfriend found an unlocked window and was peeking out the room’s door at the front desk nurse. The moment she left to take a break he dashed out and grabbed the convenient ring full of keys hanging on a hook next to the desk.
“Look at that continuity,” Darlene pointed out. “When he leaves the room the hallway light is off, when he comes back the same way the light is on. That’s sloppy.”
In the lab the crazed doctor is well into his ranting soliloquy on how the medical world has ignored him but now he’ll prove them all wrong. Uninspired terror grips the cute young actress as she struggles in vain to escape her certain fate. “Ever notice how villains are so long-winded?” Joe pulled Darlene closer to him. “That must explain why politicians never pass by an opportunity to give a speech.”
“Don’t be so cynical,” she answered, jabbing him in the ribs. “Our hero needs time to find her.”
Meanwhile the boyfriend has found the unstable but sympathetic friend locked up in the padded cell. He lets her out, unaware that she’s been injected with the serum. She eagerly volunteers to lead him to the laboratory. In the lab the doctor is drawing the deadly potion into a syringe. He is just about to inject the helpless victim when the door bursts open.
The cavalry rides to the rescue as the boyfriend batters the evil doctor to the floor and then rushes over to release the love of his life. In turn she screams as the doctor recovers and lunges at the boyfriend’s back while brandishing the syringe. But before the boyfriend can react the supporting actress conveniently goes into one of her rages, picks up a handy scalpel, and stabs the doctor in the heart. Both collapse onto the floor. The ending credits roll as the female lead and boyfriend walk out the door, hand in hand.
“I bet this was a hit with the dollar per carload Saturday night at the drive-in crowd.” Darlene shook her head. “I’ve seen game shows with better production values.”
“Who’s being cynical now?” Joe asked. “I’m sure it paid the rent for those drive-ins. Besides, you think the teenagers were actually watching the movie?” He got up to rewind the tape.
“Now that you’ve seen the movie version, I’m going to show you how the movie should have been scripted.” He held out his hand. “C’mon, let’s see if we can improve those production values of yours.” Darlene let him pull her up off the couch. She had no idea what he meant.
He led her out into the corridor and through several doors to the patient wing. Joe slowed as he checked room numbers, finally stopping in front of one. “Here we are.” Like all the patient room it had a stout lock and a small window in front. He opened the door with a key. Darlene followed him in as he turned on the lights.
Rather than the usual bed and desk this room had one of the same gurneys as the movie. “This is the real thing,” Joe said as he went to one side and lowered the railing.
Darlene stopped at the foot of the mobile bed/table and studied it. Unlike the one in the movie this version had rails that raised and lowered on the sides. At the foot a wide leather belt ran across the mattress. Close to the edges were thick padded leather cuffs. About midway another heavy leather belt was in place. It also had smaller versions of the ankle cuffs. The other difference was a waist belt. Finally there was a third belt at chest level. A folded sheet lay on the bed. The real life version looked imposing compared to the on screen prop.
Joe picked up the lab coat draped over the head of the gurney and put it on. “I trust you’ll cooperate? I don’t want to use force but I must insist you get in.”
Darlene looked at his face. Was he playing the doctor, or the orderly? She’d find out soon enough. “I won’t be any trouble.” She still wore the skirt and blouse uniform from that morning. “Do I need to disrobe?”
He shook his head, which surprised her. “No, that won’t be necessary. Please lie down and I’ll do the rest.”
He must be plotting something but she couldn’t figure it out. With his help she got in and stretched out. She slid up until her wrists and ankles lined up with the restraints.
He began with her wrists, fastening both tightly in the stiff leather. In the movie the cuffs had simple buckles; this version had locks. Next he secured her ankles, forcing her legs apart. That was followed by a strap across her waist and another just below her breasts. When he finished all she could move was her head. The finishing touch was the sheet he used to cover her below the neck. By outward appearance she was simply lying down.
She saw him bend down to retrieve something under the bed. “As I see it, the first problem is the victim, you in this case, keeps asking the doctor pointless questions to distract him. Or you start screaming, which is just as irritating. So,” he paused as he stood up and reached toward her, “we need to remedy that problem first.” In his hand was a real, purpose-built gag. The front went in her mouth, hard rubber with some kind of foam covering. He lifted her head to fasten the retaining strap in back. It was lodged firmly in her mouth. When she tried to speak only a meaningless muffled grunt came out. She probed at it with her tongue but this gag wasn’t coming loose.
“The second problem, she always seems to communicate something crucial to her rescuer with nothing more than a facial expression.” Once more he bent down. “How do we handle that?” This time he had a blindfold. The room went black as he covered her eyes. “Simple, keep the victim unaware of what’s happening. Now isn’t this much more realistic than the movie?”
Darlene tried to answer but any effort to speak was hopeless. Hearing her attempt Joe laughed. “Sorry, I meant that as a rhetorical question. To continue,” he pulled the sheet down to her waist. Darlene clutched at it with her bound hands. “Igor did just about everything wrong. He should have started earlier, so he’d have more time.” He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand as he whispered in her ear, “We have all night.” Darlene’s body shook involuntarily, anticipating what was to come. Yes! Yes! He’s the orderly.
Ever so slowly he opened the buttons on her blouse, one at a time. She fought the cuffs holding her wrists, not to escape but to help him finish. She tried to turn back and forth to make him hurry, but Joe would not be rushed. It seemed to take hours but he finally had her blouse open. Darlene gasped around the gag as he drew one finger between her breasts. “Igor left one hand free. Dumb. This way there’s no interference. Don’t you agree?” He was talking to her as if she were a disinterested observer. All Darlene cared about was that he didn’t stop.
When he suddenly grabbed both her breasts she tried to arch her back, to press against him. She clawed at the sheet tangled in her hands, trying to push it aside so she could touch him. If not for the gag she would have let out with a passionate scream.
Dimly she felt him pull the sheet up, uncovering her legs from the knee down. When she felt the soft touch of his fingertips run up the inside of her leg she lost any remaining self-control. Ignoring the gag she begged him, pleading with him to take her. All Joe heard were incoherent moans but from her warm flushed skin he knew what she was saying.
He pulled off the sheet and threw it on the floor. “Now Igor will have his way with you,” he whispered as he reached for her skirt. In the throes of uninhibited passion Darlene fought the restraints in her single-minded determination to get to Joe. His hand touched her thigh as he grabbed hold of the hem. Aroused by her helpless but inviting writhing on the bed he yanked up her skirt to her waist and prepared to mount her. Except…
Under her skirt and closed tight between her legs the cold impenetrable barrier of steel that was the chastity belt stopped him. Frustrated he reached for the key he kept around his neck. When his hand closed on empty air then and only then he remembered leaving it in his suitcase, so it wouldn’t get lost. Cursing his own stupidity he slapped the palm of his hand against the railing.
Darlene sensed something was wrong. Coming out of her haze she was able to focus again. At first she didn’t understand what had gone wrong. When he slipped his fingers under the front part of the belt and pulled against it while muttering something about double-edged swords, she realized what had happened. He didn’t have the key with him. Fortunately she still had the gag on or he would have heard her laughter. It was a movie ending she would never forget…and she’d make sure he never forgot it too.
“Do we really have to go back today?” Darlene nibbled on Joe’s ear as they snuggled in bed, unwilling to get up and start packing for the return trip.
“Afraid so. We’re going to have a busy week ahead. You have to get the book list and pictures up on the website. And I need to make the rounds of our best customers for advance notice of what we’ll be offering.” Joe stretched out his arms and then suddenly threw off the blankets. “C’mon, let’s go.”
Darlene sighed. It had been a wonderful weekend, just the two of them working side by side. She didn’t want it to end. “Okay, but let me cook breakfast. You can get cleaned up first.”
When he came out into the kitchen she had hash and eggs ready. Joe seemed preoccupied and left most of the talking to Darlene. When she asked him about it he made some excuse about planning the trip home. She wrote it off to embarrassment over forgetting the key to her belt last night and went into the bathroom to clean up. Meanwhile Joe packed some of the more valuable items they had found into the car.
He was putting the laptop and a few other items in the gym bag when she came out of the bathroom. Her suitcase was on the bed. She noticed he had laid out the hospital uniforms next to the suitcase. She started to reach into the closet for her one remaining outfit still on hangars when he stopped her.
“Before you get dressed, I want you to turn and face me.” >From the commanding tone of his voice she dropped the towel in her hand and turned toward him without hesitation. “Spread your legs, hands behind your neck. You know the routine.”
Darlene did recognize the routine, and what was coming next. She obeyed his orders without making a sound. Once more he pulled the chastity belt out of the box and opened it. For a brief moment he stared into her eyes; she met his gaze without flinching or looking aside. Not in defiance but with pride she stood waiting, her arms wide as she displayed herself to him.
The steel waistband felt cold as he slipped it around her body. An involuntary shiver ran through her as the bottom shield portion slid into place against her sex. The click of the lock as he fastened it was loud in the room. Once more he was in physical control of her body. This time he dropped the key, dangling on a chain, over his neck. Despite his poor timing last night she had no qualms about wearing the belt. It went on with her full and eager cooperation, for he had already taken possession of her heart.
Joe backed up and looked her up and down. He folded his arms, taking the time to fully admire what now belonged to him. The gleaming metal lines bisecting her body only enhanced her natural attraction. She drew back her elbows, still spread wide to either side of her head, a barely perceptible amount. The net effect, to draw attention to her breasts, was not lost on him. Darlene’s ability to keep within the letter of his command yet still add her own spirited interpretation impressed him every time he saw it.
“You can put down your arms and get ready. I’d like you to bring back the uniforms, but you don’t have to wear one today. It’s a long drive so put on something comfortable.”
Darlene shifted the waistband a small amount to one side to better fit it against her hips. There was little slack. Apparently he had decided she should wear the belt the rest of their vacation. Comfortable would be problematic. She had brought a pair of shorts but those wouldn’t be practical. The patient uniform was tempting but chances were good they would stop to eat, and she didn’t want to walk into a restaurant making a fashion statement from 1970. It would have to be the sun dress. She took it off the hanger.
Watching her Joe marveled at how easily she adapted to the changes he had imposed on her life. No protests, no refusals, not even a request to discuss or a suggestion of compromise. He did pause to consider the risks in holding the proverbial tiger by the tail. In return for what she had given him, he must deliver on what she would expect in return. If he failed then one day she would be gone. He couldn’t let that happen. The surprise in the glove box in the car would make clear to her his intentions. Bu that was for later.
“What? Is it dirty?” She looked down at herself, brushing an imaginary speck off her clothes. “Do you want me to put on something else?” She had mistaken his absentminded stare as some sort of mild annoyance.
“No, no, that’s fine. Just lost in thought. I’ll take some of the bags out to the car.” He picked up the duffle bag and his suitcase. “I’ll be right back.”
“Can you leave the laptop in the back seat? I might want to check something on the way,” she yelled at his retreating back.
Alone for a moment she stopped and looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Something had happened to her, something he released that had been living deep within her. She had done the unthinkable, handing her life over to a man practically a stranger. It was like winding the clock back a hundred years. Or back to medieval times, she thought ruefully, feeling the lines of the chastity belt under her dress. He owns me, and I think it’s the most wonderful moment in my life. I just lost my union card in the feminist movement. The feeling of freedom at being able to finally let go and trust someone to lead her was the opposite of what she had been taught to expect. Domineering men were supposed to be cruel and heartless oppressors of womankind. Oppression was supposed be unrelenting misery. Try as she might Joe just did not fit her picture of a malevolent tyrant.
She picked up the hospital uniforms and folded them neatly before placing them in her suitcase. Maybe it was the association with the scenes in the movie, or the events the last few days, but they did bring out certain emotions as she handled the clothes. She was glad Joe had ordered her to include them.
He came back into the bedroom. “Anything else?” Darlene closed the top of her suitcase and handed it to Joe. “That’s it, unless there’s something left in the kitchen?”
He shook his head. “We’ll be back before the place is demolished. I’m going to leave the food and utensils behind.” He picked up her luggage. “Ready?”
“Ready.” She slipped her arm through his as they walked out of the director’s living quarters. “It’s kind of a shame the place is being torn down,” she said as they walked down the hallway to the garage exit. “I’ll have some special memories of it. Thanks, Joe, for bringing me here. And for everything else.”
As they pulled away from the closed iron gates she took one last wistful look at the hospital. Two days hadn’t been enough; two weeks wouldn’t have been enough. She turned on the radio and started to hunt for a good station. She still one more day with him before going back to work.
In daylight the scenery was every bit as uninteresting as in the dark. It was over an hour before they passed the first town and got onto the interstate.
There were so many questions left unanswered about the weekend. During a lull in the conversation Darlene decided to confront the most immediate one right away. “Joe, are you going to drop me off at my apartment, or are we going to your house first?” She dreaded spending the night alone. She didn’t want to leave his side, not for a minute.
He didn’t answer immediately. Traffic was light, but she didn’t want to distract him while driving. The expression on his face was hard to make out.
“Is there anything you need at the apartment?” He finally asked her.
Answering a question with a question didn’t exactly tell her what she really wanted to know. “Something to wear for work tomorrow, I can’t think of anything else.”
“Okay, we’ll stop there first and you can get whatever you need before we go home. We’ll move the rest of your stuff this coming weekend.”
That was simple, she was moving in with him. I wonder when he planned to tell me. Still she had to ask, “Uhh, Joe? I can keep the apartment if you want. In case…”
“No.” He didn’t let her finish. “Besides, what would people think? I’d be the laughingstock of the office if everyone knew my wife preferred to live in her own place.”
Darlene stared at him, eyes wide in shock. Wife? What does he mean? She didn’t know what to say. Was he joking?
“Open the glove compartment. There’s a white box in there.” She took it out. “Look inside.”
The ring was a band of gold, with a solitaire diamond mounted on it. “Now put it on. Left hand, you know which finger. I hope I got the size right.”
Moving in a daze she did as he told her, slipping it on her finger and holding it up to the sunlight. “It’s beautiful!” Tears welled up in her eyes. “But I can’t…”
“The ceremony is in six weeks. You meet with the wedding planner tomorrow afternoon to go over the plans. I’m putting you in charge of all the details. All I want to know is when and where to show up. Any problem with that?”
“No, no problems. Umm, should I say yes?” She wiped her eyes. From the way he talked it appeared to be a fait accompli; whether she liked it or not the marriage was going to happen. If he was proposing it was the strangest way she had ever seen.
“Not necessary, it wasn’t presented in the form of a question. You’re my responsibility now. I’ve decided it’s in your best interest to marry me. Selfish, but then I think you are well aware I can be self-centered when it suits me.”
And that ended the discussion. She had intended her initial question to be a subtle way to find out if he wanted her to move in. Instead she found herself engaged and about to be immersed in all the work that went along with a formal wedding.
The sunlight gleamed off her ring. If she held it just right she could see a rainbow pattern. The more selfish he was, the better off she seemed to be. Joe and Darlene Riordan, Mr. and Mrs. Riordan, it had a nice rhythm. “As far as I’m concerned Joe, you can be selfish all the time.”