Witch Hunt
Chapter 1

I have thought long and hard since gaining this unholy power. I have realized that my only option is to kill myself. The ability to remove the free will of those around me is a devilish curse that runs counter to God's will. Although my suicide will condemn me to hell, I believe I am already damned. I can see no alternative. Please consider this diary as my suicide note. May the pages before this one stand as proof that I was not always like this.

I met a woman named Patricia Gardner. She opened my eyes. She told me of other people with my affliction. She was convinced that my curse could be transferred. She did not know how this was done. She wanted me to transfer my curse to her so that she could use it for her own sinful mortal purposes. I realized that God needs me to save the world from the other accursed ones before I leave this world. I convinced Patricia of the rightness of my new cause. I have changed my name to Job.

Dr. Susan Johnson was having a hard time deciding who she hated more: Bertha Onager, the physical therapist assigned to oversee her rehabilitation, or her assistant and sometimes advisor Carl. While she secretly suspected Bertha was a closet sadist and deserved the bulk of her hatred, she also knew that if Carl had not been there, she would have given in to her frustrations and issued a mind controlling command by now. How this translated into hatred for Carl she didn't know, but she was in pain and not in the mood to be logical.

"I don't think I can do any more," Susan groaned in anguish.

"Just three more reps," Beth cooed, "You can do it. C'mon, one..."

Susan completed the three reps and collapsed back on the inclined bench.

"More good work like that, and I think we will be ready to move up from the red to the green bands," Beth said with satisfaction.

"Yay," Susan cheered quietly and with sarcasm. "If I get the whole rainbow do I get a prize?"

Beth slapped what Susan still considered her injured leg and said "You get to chuck that walker in the trash can."

"Don't you ever slap that leg again!" Susan snapped.

"Yes, doctor," Beth replied with the speed of reflex, instead of what she was about to say.

"Doctor Johnson, did the slap cause you any pain?" Susan's friend Carl interjected calmly. "I thought the injury was fully healed."

"No, it didn't hurt. It just..." Susan sighed and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I snapped at you, Beth. Disregard that previous command."

"Yes, doctor," Beth replied. "One of these days you are going to have to teach me how you do that."

"Do what?" Susan replied all too innocently.

Beth just shook her head and said, "Get out of here, you two."

"Yes, doctor," both Carl and Susan chorused, then grinned at each other. Beth had enough of a sense of humor to grin too.

Although she felt fine by the time they reached Carl's car, the session with Beth had taken more out of Susan than she realized, and she had to ask Carl to help her up the front steps in front of the building when they arrived home.

At the top of the steps, Susan paused and looked sadly down the street to where her parents' car had been when a madwoman had set off a car bomb within it. That same woman, Patricia Gardner, had also convinced a man at gunpoint to run into Susan with his van, right outside the door of the hospital where Susan worked. Patricia had also shot Carl inside Susan's own apartment. But despite the police and Susan's own efforts, Patricia Gardner was still nowhere to be found.

While Susan pondered her misfortunes since gaining mind control powers, Carl stood quietly just behind her elbow. Although he had relaxed as he had gotten to know Susan and her expectations of him as her advisor, Carl was still pretty much always quiet, in a calm untroubled way that Susan occasionally found unnerving. Someone else who cared for her would have seen where she was looking, and would have said "there is nothing you could have done" or "it wasn't your fault."

"Tell me it wasn't my fault," Susan said sadly.

"It wasn't your fault," Carl immediately replied. "There's nothing you could have done."

No 'yes, doctor's from Carl. Through some strange immunity that Susan still didn't understand, Carl seemed to be the only person left in the world who did what Susan told him to because he wanted to, not because he had to.

"Anything in the mail?" Susan asked.

"Three letters that are likely to be bills from the return address and a package," Carl replied.

"Another book on the Salem Witch Trials?" Susan asked with a sigh. Ever since word had gotten around that there was a new member to the very small community of mind-controllers, articles and books had started to appear in Susan's mailbox. The theme was always the same: keep your head down and don't make trouble for the rest of us.

"It's a bible: King James version, old and new testament, with annotations."

"That's a switch," Susan said. "Any highlighter markings or book marks in this one?"

"Two," Carl replied. "In Deuteronomy chapter eighteen - 'When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.'"

A chill ran down Susan's spine. "And the other?" she asked.

"Let's get inside out of the open," Carl said in a quiet forced-calm voice.

"What's the other highlighted quote, Carl?" Susan asked, a tremor starting to creep into her voice.

"Exodus chapter twenty-two, verse eighteen - 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'"

"I'm a doctor, Carl," Susan said, after they had gotten in the house where a sniper rifle would hopefully have a harder time reaching them. "People send hate mail to lawyers and politicians, not competent surgeons. Do you think it was Patricia?"

Carl considered then shook his head. "I can't see Patricia giving you that kind of warning."

Susan's vision blurred at the memory of her own parents, stiff and still, in side-by-side caskets. "I'm not running," she said firmly, "and I'm not going to simply wait around for somebody to start killing people, this time."

"What would you like to do?" Carl asked softly.

"Do you or Mark have any experience at this sort of thing with Elspeth?" Elspeth Gardner was a powerful mind controller, and Carl's longtime girlfriend before her death from natural causes late last fall. She was also Patricia's mother. Mark was Elspeth's lawyer.

"Elspeth was a great believer in using the right tool for the right job. She said she thought dealing with that kind of thing could adversely affect my status as her boyfriend; so while she encouraged me to study things like therapeutic massage, learning counter-terrorism was never brought up."

"Who would know about that sort of thing?"

"I assume somebody in politics or law enforcement, like the FBI or secret service."

"Do you know anybody like that?"

"Miranda might. She is fairly well traveled and knows more people than I do." Carl paused, and then with a slight stutter added, "I would prefer if you didn't send me away."

"Why would I send you away, Carl?" Susan asked, perplexed by the tone in Carl's voice as much as the sudden change of topic.

"Sometimes when Elspeth was worried about something, she would send me to do something far away from her ... study philosophy at a college half way across the country or such." Anybody else would have elaborated. Carl simply stopped speaking, but Susan thought she caught a hint of a frown at the corner of his usually calm, sensual mouth.

'Now where had that thought come from?' she asked herself silently. Aloud, she said simply, "I won't send you away, Carl."

Susan always shuddered when she thought about what an unethical person with mind control powers could do. Although Susan and Miranda had studiously avoided each other since their first meeting, in her dreams the unethical mind-controller was always Miranda. Only the fact that Susan was the stronger of the pair made her follow Carl's suggestion to seek Miranda out.

The Kink was a small bar located in an industrial section of the city, surrounded by factories that were usually closed when the bar was open. It had no windows - only a small neon sign with a plain awning above it and a plain grey metal door below. The neon sign was off and was nearly invisible in the shadow of the afternoon sun.

"Do you think anybody is here?" Susan asked doubtfully.

"There are apartments over the club." Carl replied. "When Miranda is in town, she stays there."

"It looks deserted."

"The club is open from eight at night until about four in the morning" Carl said as he leaned on the doorbell. "Some of the people here are rarely awake when the sun is up."

Susan would have left after the third ring of the doorbell, but Carl seemed confident, and eventually a window opened on the second floor and a thin man with a shaved bald head and dressed in a pale blue fuzzy terry-cloth bathrobe leaned out.

"Some people sleep during the day, asshole," he yelled.

Carl gestured toward Susan, "The lady would like to talk to you."

The guy in the window looked from Carl to Susan. He must have recognized something in Susan's face, because his eyes widened in what might have been fear, and he said in a respectful tone, "I'll be right down, milady."

Inside, The Kink was all black and chrome. Empty of people, Susan expected that atmosphere to be menacing, but in the afternoon light it just looked forlorn and a little worn around the edges. Despite the sad feeling to the bar, the bald stranger seemed perfectly at home, down to the fuzzy slippers that matched the blue of his robe.

"May I make you something to drink?" he asked, as he opened an electrical panel and started turning on lights. "The bar is fully stocked."

Susan considered simply asking the man where to find Miranda and letting him get back to sleep, but reconsidered. The last time she had barged in on another mind-controller unannounced (even if it was by accident) she had found herself in a jail cell with a robot serving her meals.

"Would coffee be too much trouble?" Susan asked.

"Instant, black, or Miranda's special blend?" the bald man asked.

"I wouldn't mind instant," Susan said.

"Liar," the bald man said with a smirk as he started a pot brewing. "My name is Cliff, by the way."

Cliff was a skilled host, and, in the time it took the coffee to brew, also produced several gooey warm pastries using only a small toaster oven and things he found under the bar. The whole time he chatted amicably with Susan about nothing in particular, until Susan could pretend she was in the kitchen of a new friend instead of a black bar with bondage furniture along the walls.

Susan was halfway through the delicious pastry when a phone rang. Cliff answered, listened a moment, then hung up.

"She's eating lunch at the White Lotus restaurant and is expecting you." Cliff announced after he hung up.

"I didn't tell you who I was looking for," Susan replied.

"My dear," Cliff replied, "why else would you be here in the middle of the afternoon? When you arrived, I buzzed the Mistress and activated the internal security cameras before I unlocked the door."

Miranda was waiting outside the restaurant when Susan arrived. Although she had toned down her appearance and didn't obviously look like a professional dominatrix, Miranda still wore too much concealer in Susan's opinion, and her outfit still contained more leather than any other material. Her expression was guarded and cautious, but she didn't say a word when Susan approached. She simply turned to walk into the restaurant. Carl jumped forward and held the door for the ladies.

When Miranda and Susan walked into the restaurant, Susan could see the entire waiting staff pay attention. Susan looked over at Miranda suspiciously.

"I believe you've eaten here before and had some influence," Susan said.

"Yes, I eat here often" Miranda replied with a nod. "But not the kind of influence you mean."

The trio seated themselves at a booth near the door, and were instantly served water and menus by a thin, dapper man with an air of calm professionalism that instantly reminded Susan of Carl.

Susan gaped at the prices on the menu. "You said that you eat here often?"

"Yes, I do," Miranda replied casually, despite the obvious accusation in Susan's tone. Without looking up from the menu, she added, "Although today, you need me. You're buying."

"Yes, mistress," Carl replied, as quickly as if he had been mind-controlled.

"Cancel that," Susan snapped as she whipped her head around to stare at Carl. "I'm paying."

"Yes, doctor," Carl again instantly replied.

Miranda smiled like she had scored some kind of point.

Dinner was quiet but strained. Miranda insisted that they not talk "business" until after they had eaten, but by the end of dinner Susan was tempted to simply command Miranda to tell her what she wanted to know. The two women had disliked each other since first meeting. Susan found Miranda pushy and overbearing, and suspected Miranda didn't like the rare uncomfortable feeling of being with somebody more powerful than her. Miranda dealt with her discomfort by commanding Carl to do little things for her. Carl played along with the fallacy that Miranda could control him, and Susan found herself grinding her teeth every time he said "yes, mistress".

Dessert had just arrived when the waiter tapped Miranda on the shoulder.

"I'm sorry to be a bother Miss..." the waiter said as he pointed to a table in the back. Following their gaze, Susan saw a fat man complaining loudly to the restaurant manager.

"Normally, this is where I pay for dinner," Miranda said, as she dabbed her mouth and rose from the table, "but today, remember you said you were buying."

As Miranda approached the table, relief flooded the manager's face. Susan and Carl followed far enough away to not be in the way, but close enough to hear what was going on. Miranda's stride picked up a confident swagger that reminded Susan of a hungry lioness approaching a gazelle with a broken leg.

"Hand me your wallet and sit there with your mouth clamped closed until I tell you that you can leave." Miranda commanded as she approached the table. The fat man did as instructed with a shocked expression on his face.

"That was a good meal," Miranda said, as she counted the money in the man's wallet and looked over the bill on the table. "I assume you know what the ingredients would have cost if you had driven or walked to the store, shopped, and cooked it yourself." She took a bill out of the wallet and dropped it on the table.

"How much would you like to pay the cook for preparing it for you?" Miranda said, as she took out another bill and dropped it on the table.

The fat man just glared at her.

"How much would you like to pay the waitress for bringing it to you?" she added as she dropped another bill. "How much would you like to pay the man who delivered the ingredients to the cook, assuming the cook didn't do extra work getting it himself?" Another bill landed on the table.

"How much would you like to pay the man who paid for the air conditioning and lights and water for the hour that you sat in his establishment out of the heat?" The fat man started to squirm, his eyes flickering back and forth between the growing pile on money on the table and his emptying wallet.

"In short, exactly who would you like to shaft by paying less than the full price for the meal you just ate?" Miranda asked, as yet another bill landed on the table. She folded the wallet back up and tossed it back at the fat man who fumbled to catch it.

Miranda put a hand on the table, a hand on the back of the fat man's chair, and leaned forward until her face was inches from his. "Let me make this perfectly clear. Your actions have consequences - if not for you, then for somebody else. I want you to consider those consequences before you command anybody to make your life easier. Do you understand me?"

The fat man nodded.

"You can go then," Miranda said sweetly, as she stood back up and took a step back.

The fat man muttered "yes, mistress," jammed his wallet in his pocket, and walked quickly toward the door. Just before he reached Susan, he looked back at Miranda and muttered, "Bitch."

"Stop," Susan commanded. The fat man said "yes, doctor" and stopped with an 'oh shit' expression on his face.

"Since the lady's advice did not make enough of an impression on you," Susan commanded, "you will not speak again until you have thought through all of the possible consequences of the words you are about to speak."

"Yes, doctor," the fat man replied. His mouth moved like he wanted to say more, but no sound came out. Susan gestured with her thumb toward the door and the man fled at a full run, no longer trying to maintain any semblance of dignity.

"Was that staged for my benefit?" Susan asked Miranda as the leather-clad woman joined her.

"Do you stage that for mine?" Miranda replied.

"How strong was that guy?" Susan asked.

"He wasn't strong at all," Miranda replied, "just an asshole who liked running up a bill, then finding an excuse, any excuse, to not pay."

After the ladies returned to their dessert, Miranda started to say something inane, but Susan interrupted her.

"Give me a bit to process this," Susan said, inadvertently making it a command.

"Yes, doctor," Miranda instantly replied, before a sour expression crossed her face. She silently ate her dessert, jabbing at the food with her fork with a bit more force than was necessary.

"I think you and I got off on the wrong foot when we first met," Susan finally said slowly. "I'm guessing you never command restaurants to cover your tab."

Miranda nodded, "I like good food, and some of the restaurant managers at the finer restaurants have gotten in the habit of inviting me to eat at their restaurant at specific times. When I've accepted their invitation, I've always eaten for free. I've never asked them to give me the free meal ... but then again, I've also never eaten again at a restaurant that didn't pay me back for my efforts, the way I pay them back for the invitation."

"Do any people ... like us," Susan said, hesitant to call herself a mind controller in public, "Do any of them abuse their abilities that way?"

"Some do," Miranda acknowledged. "But the issue is, to some extent, self correcting. Businesses who give away too much go out of business. If the person involved doesn't get a clue when his favorite stores hit financial trouble, usually sooner or later somebody else like us notices and sets them straight. Is that why you are here?"

Susan shook her head and slid the package containing the bookmarked and highlighted bible over to Miranda. Miranda read it and frowned deeply.

"Do you have the packing material the bible arrived in?" Miranda asked.

Susan handed Miranda the plain box with her name and address on it. The box did not have a return address. Miranda looked over the box, then closed her eyes and laid the box on her forehead.

"This box was shipped from San Francisco," Miranda announced, with her eyes still closed. Then she opened her eyes and handed the box to Carl. "I suggest you two start your search there."

Susan and Carl thanked Miranda for her help and left. Carl frowned silently during the entire drive home.

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Story tagged with:
Mind Control / Magic / Slow /