"What the hell is Vargas' Syndrome? Is that one of those new psychiatric disorders where the guy can claim he's the victim of a mental disease and try to walk free? I hate those bastards."
"Well, no. It's not a recognized description of a disease at all. The term is being used informally to describe people who are obsessed with impregnating women. There's a writer on various web sites that cater to readers of sexually oriented fiction who goes by the name of Homer Vargas. I'm not sure if that's a pseudonym. His stories invariably contain one or more female characters becoming pregnant and loving every minute of it."
"This Vargas guy sounds like a real sicko."
"He most probably is," said Miranda. "Even his fellow writers think so. On the chat forums the other writers say that if they receive an email from Homer Vargas it's invariably a note advising them to add a pregnancy angle to their stories. It's all a joke with them now."
"I didn't know you read that kind of stuff."
"Only in the line of duty, Tracy," said Miranda. "An attorney wanted me to testify in a visitation case. Her client was the ex-wife. She found out her former spouse was reading those stories on the internet including Vargas. She wanted visitation rights taken away for him being a bad influence on the children. Naturally, I had to do some research on the subject."
"Did she win the case?"
"I'm afraid not. The judge took the position that reading the stories was protected by the First Amendment. Since there was no proof that he'd been acting out the scenes in these stories or exposing the children to pornographic images on his computer there was little we could do."
"That's too bad."
"Well, we can hope that will change. If the President and Attorney General Ashcroft get their way the First Amendment will be assigned to the dustbin of history and then we'll get the bastards."
"One can only hope," said Tracy
"Did you know Vargas has a wife and daughter?"
"Oh my god! You can't be serious! I hope for their sakes he's using a pseudonym. I'd die of shame if I was related to a man like that."
"Sadly, some women will put up with anything to have a man around, even a man like Homer Vargas."
"If I were you I'd write the guy and offer him my services. He and those other writers really need your help."
"That's a good idea, actually. I don't know where he lives but I could at least advise him to seek competent psychiatric help in his area."
"Let me know if he responds to your advice."
"I'll do that. Mr. Vargas might very well be a nice fellow, if a little deluded. Like other writers of fiction he's engaging in a little fantasy and trying to entertain his readers at the same time. He just might not realize the harm he's causing by writing that filth. Vargas is not the only writer of that type of story, of course but his name just started being associated with the genre. Just like the name Lolita started being used as a term for a preteen seductress because of the main character in a book of the same name by Vladimir Nabakov."
"Well, the guy I'm concerned about isn't just writing stories. He's doing it for real."
"Do you have a file on him? So far the details you've given me make it very sketchy. At least a dozen women, as far as we know have been impregnated by one man. The sex appears to have been consensual so no rape charges can be brought. The women impregnated seem to be intelligent, mentally stable and financially able to take of the children born as result of these pregnancies so welfare officials can't get involved. Even the husbands of the married ones don't seem upset about their wives being impregnated by this man. They seem to be the perfect cuckolds. It's sad but there's really nothing to be done. If I were you I'd just hope that some day one of the women he's abusing gets sense enough to put a bullet through his skull."
"I'm sorry I don't have a file on him. My reasons for being upset are personal."
"Would you like to share your reasons with me? I am a psychiatrist but I'm not asking you to go into therapy. The more information I have the better to help you, Tracy. Sort of woman to woman and friend to friend?"
Tracy sighed and nodded. "I know all of these women personally. We were sorority sisters at the same school. We all graduated in the same year. This bastard seems to be taking these women in alphabetical order according to their maiden names. I'm next on the list." Tracy smiled grimly. "Tell me I'm just being paranoid, Doc."
"Uh, no. I don't think I can do that, Tracy. Would you mind starting from the very beginning?"
Tracy sighed again. "I first became aware of what was going on about the middle of last year," Tracy began. "Our sorority maintains a web site which includes news on individual chapters. I edit the news on my chapter's alumni. You know the type; jobs, promotions, marriages, etc. Anyway, I receive emails and announcements all the time.
"When the first two announcements of expectant births came in I duly noted them without any comment. While I knew these women I wasn't very close to them. The third announcement finally caught my eye because it was from a friend but also because I knew her to be a dyed in the wool Lesbian. I immediately called her to wish her well and to ask who the lucky guy was. She was very coy and would only say it was a guy who was at school the same time we were."
"I know Lesbians who want to have children but it's usually done by artificial insemination," Miranda commented.
"That's what I figured. I still wasn't at all suspicious," said Tracy. "It wasn't until the next pregnancy was announced that I started to get interested. I finally noticed their alphabetical sequence. At first I thought it was just a coincidence and thought about writing a humorous piece about it. 'The Mystery of the Alphabet Pregnancies' was the working title.
"I called number four to wish her the best and to mention the coincidence. She told me it was no coincidence. When I asked her what she meant by that statement she said I'd find out when it was my turn."
"My goodness! What a thing to say! Did you ask her who the father was?"
"Of course I did! She would only say it was a guy who was at school the same time we were."
"Well, it appears we have an individual with some sort of grudge against you and your sorority sisters. By some unknown means he prevails upon these women to allow them to be impregnated by him. For obvious reasons he wants his identity to be kept secret but at the same time he doesn't seem to care that you know you're on some kind of hit list. Do you recall any incident at school that might indicate who's behind this and why?"
"I've wracked my brain trying to remember anything at all and have come up with exactly nothing. I've examined the student newspaper's archives and talked with other sorority sisters, all to no avail."
"So you've warned the other members of the chapter?"
"I've warned them to the extent that I could without coming across as a total nut case. I went ahead and posted 'The Mystery of the Alphabet Pregnancies' to the web site as if it was just a humorous curiosity. I then emailed all of the chapter members telling them about the story just in case they weren't regular viewers of the site."
"I assume it didn't do any good?"
"Not at all. It wasn't long before pregnancy number five was announced and by the fifth person on the list. I called and asked her if it was the mystery man from school and she said it was. She told me that the story worried her and she started to take precautions but when the time came there was nothing she could do to prevent it."
"Well, it certainly looks like it's time to bring in the police," Miranda said. "You certainly don't want to become his next victim."
"What do I tell them, Miranda? 'Hello, officer. I suspect a man wants to rape and impregnate me. I don't know his name or description. I don't know why, when or where he wants to do this. Will you please send protection?'"
"I realize that's a problem but there must be something you can do."
"Well, I've run out of ideas. That's why I'm asking you. How do you deal with a psychopath on the loose?"
"I try to get as much information on him as I can just as you tried to do." Miranda shook her head in frustration. "I wish you had come to me sooner. With more time we could have come up with some ideas."
"Then there's nothing to be done," said Tracy. She seemed resigned to her fate.
"I didn't say that, Tracy. What does Eric say about this?"
"I, uh, I've broken up with Eric."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I thought you two were pretty close. Did it have anything to do with what's going on now?"
"I think so. I don't know."
"What do you mean by that, Tracy?"
"I've been doing weird things, Miranda." Tracy cried as she finally lost her composure. "I think I'm already under this guy's control."
Miranda mentally winced. She hoped her friend wasn't talking about mind control. That might indicate Tracy would indeed need therapy. "Do you mean this man has been in contact with you? Has he threatened you?"
"He hasn't talked to me in the sense that you and I are talking but I feel his presence. Somehow, he is giving me orders and I am obeying his commands. I see the look on your face. 'Bring the strait jacket. Tracy's finally lost it.'"
"I wasn't thinking any such thing, Tracy. This man is obviously doing something but it isn't mind control. Let me assure you on one thing: there is no such thing as mind control. What things have you been doing that you consider weird?"
"You mean besides breaking up with Eric, the love of my life, for absolutely no reason? At a time when I need him the most?"
"Well, I've gone off birth control. I've purchased and read the book, 'What to Expect When You're Expecting.' I've started viewing maternity sites. I've made an appointment with my ob-gyn because I know I'll be pregnant by the time it rolls around. I've started looking at the spare bedroom with a view to remodeling it into a nursery and I'm now on the mailing list for nursery furniture and baby clothes catalogs.
"Let me see. I've always been pretty practical about my clothing but underneath this professional suit you see I look like a lingerie model or a slut out to seduce someone. By the way, I've started checking the calendar and monitoring my body temperature. I'll be at my peak of fertility for the next few days. I expect to meet the father of my child very soon. Is that weird enough for you?"
"This sounds very serious, Tracy. I'd like you to drop everything and come to stay with me for the next few days. I live in an apartment with very good security. Just cancel all of your appointments. You'll be safe there while we work on a plan to stop this maniac."
"I made you my only appointment for this afternoon and my secretary has left for an early weekend," said Tracy. "I'll go home and pack a bag."
"That'll be fine," Miranda responded. "I'll go with you."
The telephone began to ring as they got up to go.
"Tracy Levy," said Tracy.
"Ms. Levy?" the male voice said. "I was at school the same time you were. May I drop in on you for a few minutes?"
Tracy's eyes dilated in fear but she said, "Certainly. I'll be waiting for you here." After hanging up she said, "I guess it's show time."
"Who was that?"
"It was him."
"No, Tracy! Do you know what you've done?"
"Of course I know what I've done. I'm finally going to meet the man I've wanted to meet for a year. Aren't you the slightest bit curious? All that I really want to do is get his name and see his face so that we know who we're fighting.
"I'm curious too but you shouldn't be inviting him into your private office where you're vulnerable."
"I'm sorry, Miranda. You're right. I just wasn't thinking. Let's get out of here."
"Hello, Ms. Levy," said a voice from the door. "We talked just a moment ago. Is it all right if I come in? I see you already have a guest."
"Yes, uh, I'm afraid I don't know your name."
"Pester, Percy Pester."
"Well, Mr. Pester. I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Miranda Follett."
Miranda shook hands with Mr. Pester. Is this the monster Tracy has been talking about? He looks kind of innocuous, thought the doctor. Mr. Pester appeared to be in his early thirties but with a head of brown hair that was already thin and receding. He was of average height and build and wore a thin mustache and wire rim glasses. Miranda had to remind herself that the most disturbed individuals passed for normal 99% of the time. He certainly seemed normal at the moment. She had a feeling she should grab Tracy by the hand and make a run for it but the feeling passed quickly and Miranda began to feel relaxed. She decided to credit her professional detachment for remaining calm.
"You said we were at school at the same time," Tracy stated trying to put on a confident front, "but I don't recall ever meeting you before this very moment. That isn't surprising considering there were over 30,000 students there at any one time. I'm very busy right now. May I ask you to state your business?"
"Yes, you're quite right, Ms. Levy. We've never met before now yet our paths have crossed and while I can honestly say it was no pleasure that first time I intend to make it a pleasure now."
"Are you the man I've been hearing about for the past year?"
"I am indeed."
Tracy wore her sternest look. "Mr. Pester, if you're not out of here within the next ten seconds I'll dial 9-1-1 emergency. The police have a very good response time in this city."
"Then you'd better start dialing, Ms. Levy. I'm not going anywhere."
Tracy looked at the phone and then at Mr. Pester. He didn't seem the least bit concerned about the police being called. He hadn't made any overt threats and appeared to be unarmed yet Tracy made no move to pick up the receiver. She turned to her friend and said, "Help me, Miranda."
Miranda cursed herself for stupidity. She was just looking on while her friend was in obvious distress, too afraid to pick up the phone. She reached inside her purse and brought out her cell phone. She had only to press a single button and help would be on its way. "I can't," she said, completely amazed at her own words.
"No, you can't, Dr. Follett. However you might press that button by accident and then there will be a lot of explaining to do." Mr. Pester reached out his hand and took the phone without any resistance from Miranda. "That's better," he said. "Now we can sit and have a nice chat. I'm sure you both have lots of questions but the two most asked questions are how am I doing this and why am I doing this.
"A full explanation of how I'm doing this would be long and complex. I don't want to bore you with details and it's a secret anyway. I will say that I have developed a technology which suppresses individual will and causes certain behavioral changes in the subject which I have deemed desirable. It doesn't affect the individual's intelligence or rational thinking processes. Neither of you are being turned into bimbos or in a trance. Nor are the emotional processes affected. I can't force you to love me. You are free to hate me and be disgusted with me. The only things you can't do are disobeying me or betraying me."
"Are you claiming mind control," Miranda asked.
"I'm not only claiming mind control, Dr. Follett. I'm demonstrating it."
"Bull," Miranda responded.