Detective Frank Sturgess scratched his thick gray hair as he studied the report in his hand. He shook his head several times as he read it through. When he was finished, he added it to the mountain of papers strewn across his desktop and fished around until he found a small black cassette.
Sturgess thought he had seen everything in his eighteen years with the New York Police Department, rising from beat cop to homicide detective. The unsolved murder which occupied his attention that February morning had, at first, seemed no different than so many others: a single woman, Dr. Vendetta Frankenwiener, found strangled in her Greenwich Village apartment. No signs of forced entry or sexual assault. From the absence of cash and the state of the drawers and closets, robbery was the obvious motive.
None of the neighbors had heard anything, or indeed knew anything about the victim, who had kept to herself. Occasionally they had seen strange men enter the apartment, although none had ever been seen leaving. The occupant of the apartment immediately downstairs, an elderly gentleman, claimed that he had heard screams and sobbing coming from above him on several occasions, but his hearing was poor and his memory was hazy.
The case might have gone cold on Sturgess’s desk has it not been for the chance discovery of the cassette in the detective’s hands. It had been found crammed between two sofa cushions by the crew hired by the building’s manager to clear out the apartment. At first, nobody had been able to figure out what it was, until a senior detective on the verge of retirement recognized it as a dictabelt tape. The machines capable of using it had gone the way of the rotary dial phone, but Sturgess had thought to look through the inventory of the evidence locker downstairs, and sure enough, an ancient dictabelt recording machine had been found.
The secretary assigned to transcribe the cassette tape had found it so disturbing that she had refused to listen to any more, and the report which Sturgess had just read comprised a verbatim transcript of the first four minutes of a thirty minute tape. The machine was on the floor beside his desk, and he decided that he needed some air before he listened to the rest.
It was a bit early for lunch, but Sturgess removed his jacket from the hook behind his door and headed out towards Foley Square. The transcript, laying open on his desk, began as follows:
“Water. Where am I?"
"Where no one will ever find you."
"What have you done to me?"
"Don't you remember the personal advertisement you responded to? Or coming to my apartment? Or the legal papers that you signed?"
"The advertisement in the paper. About the role reversal study."
"That’s right. Dear, sweet, innocent Pat. I have been looking for the perfect subject for a little experiment.”
"What do you mean?"
"The liquid you just drank contained a mild sedative. While it is taking effect, let me show you my progress so far."
(Sound of someone struggling)
"What have you done to me?"
"The papers that you signed gave me your consent to perform surgery on you. Those are breast implants. A very simple procedure for a plastic surgeon, which I happen to be. Don't worry, you are still intact below the waist - for the moment. You see, those breasts will be perfectly capable of nursing a baby, once we fill you up with female hormones.”
"I don't know why you responded to my advertisement. From the lovely panties you were wearing, I have deduced that you are a closet crossdresser. Perhaps you found my role reversal experiment exciting. I doubt if you anticipated the full extent of what I have planned for you."
"Let me out of here! I have a family."
"Which you have already disavowed. You should have told me the truth about yourself before you signed those papers. Now it is much too late."
"You crazy bitch! I'll kill you for this!"
"I don't think so. Soon, you will be docile as a lamb. Castration tends to do that to a man."
"Oh my God! No!"
"If that was a prayer, it is not going to help you. But I am not without mercy. As I said, your new breasts will be fully functional. And I would not want to deprive you of the joys of motherhood. Although you will never be able to bear a child, you may want to suckle your genetic offspring."
"You must be insane! Let me out of here. Please, let me go!"
"You see, my little experiment requires that we preserve a quantity of your sperm in case you decide later to raise your own child. Prepare for your last male orgasm."
(Sound of machine humming. Groans. Vibrating sound. Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.)
* * *
Patricia Summers draped her overcoat over a wooden chair and sat down at a computer terminal at the Washington Library on State Street. Her legs were almost purple from the cold, and she vowed never again to walk any distance in the Chicago winter in a dress.
Methodically, as was her daily routine, she visited the web sites of the major New York newspapers and television stations, searching for any developments in the unsolved homicide of Dr. Vendetta Frankenwiener. After a brief flurry of stories following the discovery of her body, and some initial speculation as to the motive for the crime, the case appeared to have gone cold.
That speculation had centered around the doctor’s bizarre surgery practice before she was stripped of her license to practice medicine the previous year. Once a highly-respected urologist, she had been forced out of the profession after a series of botched vasectomies had turned a number of young men into eunuchs. All of these patients were being interviewed, but it appeared that all of them head good alibis, and the doctor’s murder was now thought to have been a robbery gone bad.
Pat smiled sadly to herself as she switched over to an Internet site featuring hard core pornography. When she was a man, they had never failed to stimulate an erection. Now, after her brutal emasculation at the hands of Dr. Frankenwiener, and subsequent transformation into a woman, she was searching for anything which might provide a spark of arousal. But as she scrolled through the stories, she felt none of the old familiar excitement, and she logged off with a sigh, as frigid as the weather outside. Then again, considering the macabre collection of dildos and other devices that she had been subjected to by Dr. Frankenwiener, it was a miracle Pat could even think about sex.
Things weren’t all bad, she told herself as she gathered up her purse and overcoat. After two months waiting on tables in Chicago, she had earned enough money to be able to move out of her dreadful SRO hotel into a small studio apartment. Her job interview that morning at Marshall Field’s, which explained her dress, heels and stockings, had gone very well, and she had been offered a job as a sales associate. In the men’s department, of all places, selling shirts and ties. Well, who better? She had worn them most of her life.
* * *
After two tall ales with his lunch, Detective Sturgess felt he was ready to listen to the rest of the tape. He put on a pair of earphones, plugged them into the dictabelt machine, and switched it on, a legal pad and pen in his hands. The quality of the recording was surprisingly good.
“Would you like to see your right testicle?”
“Here, see how small it looks after it has been removed?”
“Oh, God. Oh, God.”
“One more snip, and we’ll be done.”
“Please, don’t do this. Please.”
“Too late! Here is the left one, see? All finished.”
“I am going to put you under now, and when you wake up, you will be a new person.”
“Wouldn’t you like to be a pretty girl?”
“Would you rather be a sexless freak?”
Detective Sturgess tore the headphones off as a blood-curdling scream filled his ears. Christ, what a monster! The woman had certainly deserved to die, and if the man on the tape managed to survive what she did to him, Sturgess had his motive and prime suspect. He picked up the partial transcript on his desk, and found the passage he was looking for. “Dear, sweet, innocent Pat.” If Sturgess could determine when the tape was made, a cross-reference to missing persons with that first name could give him his answer.
* * *
Using a pay phone in the library, Patricia Summers telephoned the restaurant to tell them she would not be coming back to work, and made an appointment at a beauty salon near her apartment. Her hair had grown out well since her return to Chicago in December, and she was ready to try something different.
Her third call was to a financial services company on LaSalle Street, confirming her four o’clock meeting with Mr. Arnold Nash. Arnold Nash, a handsome and smooth-talking investment advisor, had become the constant companion of Pat’s former wife. Her appointment was made in the name of Patricia Exman.
Bundling herself up against the sub-zero wind chill, she returned to State Street and headed north towards Talbot’s, which was having one of its blow-out clearances. Soon she would be buying her clothes with the employee discount at Marshall Field’s, but she needed something new for tonight.
She tried on several outfits before selecting a black cocktail dress with a knee-length pleated skirt, drastically marked down. After a few other stops for shoes, lingerie and a little clutch purse, she splurged on a taxi to the salon. Entering with a wind-blown, overgrown shag in her natural brunette, she emerged two hours later a stunning blonde.
* * *
Detective Sturgess had his answer as soon as he resumed listening to the tape.
“September 12, 2001. The subject has been anesthetized and is recovering without complications from a bilateral orchidectomy. I have preserved the scrotum for use as the labia in the patient’s vagina, and I am proceeding with the amputation of the penis and relocation of the urethra at this time. All vital signs are stable.”
Sturgess switched off the machine and reached for the phone. “I need the missing person reports for September 12th.”
“You gotta be kidding.”
“What’s so funny.”
“We only had about three thousand missing persons that day, Frank. Where you been?”
“Jesus, you’re right, what was I thinking. You do have the list, thought, right?”
“Sure, Frank, I’ll drop by with one.”
Sturgess realized that he had been so absorbed by the bizarre world of Dr. Vendetta Frankenwiener, he had completely forgotten about the World Trade Center disaster the day before she dictated that entry. What were the chances that one of the persons reported missing that day had in fact wound up in her clutches?
He put on the earphones again and resumed listening. To his surprise, the next entry began as follows:
“October 1, 2001. The patient is beginning to come around. Good morning, Patricia.”
“Where am I?”
“What happened to my voice?”
“Your larynx has been shortened.”
“What? Who are you?”
“I am Dr. Frankenwiener. Don’t you remember?”
“Oh, my God. Oh, no.”
“Don’t try to get up. You are very weak.”
“Fuck off. Let me go.”
“Patricia, you have been unconscious for almost three weeks. If you tried to stand up without my help, you would fall down. In a minute, we will get up and try to go for a short walk.”
“Yes. And so much has been accomplished! Your new vagina is healing wonderfully, and the estrogen therapy is going to round out your breasts to beautiful C cups. Your Adam’s apple is gone, you have already noticed your voice, and I even bobbed your nose.”
“The estrogen is going to do wonders for your skin, and just yesterday I finished the last of the electrolysis treatments on your face. There is still a little swelling, and your hair is still too short, although it is growing out nicely. In another month, we could enter you in a beauty pageant!”
A stream of obscenities, in the new high-pitched voice of the doctor’s patient, filled Sturgess’s ears until the recorder was switched off. Sturgess continued to run the tape, hoping for more, but it ran silently until the spool ended with a metallic click.
* * *
Pat Summers shaved her legs in her tub, a huge improvement over the grungy bathroom in the hotel room she had been forced to live in after her escape from New York. She patted her smooth skin dry with a new over-sized towel, and after putting on her bra and panties, she stopped to survey her body in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Below her new blonde hairdo, which she had carefully kept dry during her soak in the tub, was a pretty woman’s face, the upturned nose the only change from Patrick Summer’s boyish features.
Her breasts were firm, her ass and hips had rounded out from months of female hormones, and her legs were terrific. When she had been a man, she had fantasized about having a body like this, never really wanting it to happen Now that it was hers, although she hated what had been done to her, she perversely wanted to take her new body for a test drive. To learn if she was capable of loving again, man or woman.
She shimmied into a black camisole and half slip, and dropped her new dress over her shoulders, being careful not to muss her hair. Since she had become a woman, she had learned to put her stockings on after she was dressed, to minimize the risk of running them. After she stepped into her new 3” heels, and applied a final coat of lipstick to her pouting mouth, she stood in front of the full length mirror and stepped back to survey herself. God, she was beautiful.
* * *
Detective Sturgess ran an alpha search on the list of missing persons from September 11, 2001, and then ran it again on a first name basis. There were seventeen Patricks, Patrices, and miscellaneous Pats. After eliminating the firemen, police officers and rescue workers, the list was down to nine. Of these, four had since been identified or turned up. That left five possible suspects.
Sturgess looked at the files for each, trying to imagine them as the person on the tape. Two he ruled out immediately: one weighed over three hundred pounds, and one was Bolivian. Another was sixty-one years old, and Sturgess eliminated him also. That left two possible suspects: Patrick Summers, from Chicago, and Patrick Moynihan, from Morristown, New Jersey. As Sturgess flipped through Moynihan’s file, he read of a cell phone call made by him the morning of September 11th from his office in the North Tower. A bond trader, Moynihan had been trapped above the point of impact, and there was no way he could have escaped. That left Patrick Summers.
* * *
“Mr. Nash, your four o’clock appointment is here.”
Arnold Nash looked up from his Wall Street Journal and scanned his calendar. Patricia Exman. Nash had never met her, and he wasn’t even sure how she had gotten his name and number. Referred by a happy client, he supposed. He straightened his tie in the mirror on the back of his office door, and put on his expensive suit jacket.
He opened his door to come face to face with one of the most striking women he had ever seen. She appeared to be about thirty, and Nash found himself speechless as she reached out with a firm hand and introduced herself. His secretary gave him a knowing smile as he invited his guest to sit down in one of the plush chairs in front of his desk.
“Can I offer you anything to drink?”
“Coffee would be nice.”
“How about a cappuccino or espresso?”
“Cappuccino would be wonderful,” she smiled, as she crossed her elegant legs and sat back in her chair. Nash buzzed his secretary and asked her for two cappuccinos.
“Have you lived in Chicago a long time?”
“No,” she answered. “I came here two years ago after I got married. My husband was from Chicago.”
Nash’s secretary returned with the cappuccinos, and after she left them alone, Nash began to probe. “You said was. Are you still married?”
“No, I left him after eighteen months. The divorce was finalized last week.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be. I came home early one afternoon to find him parading around the bedroom in my panties and stockings.”
She shrugged. “I hope I didn’t shock you, but I thought, if you’re going to be handling my money, we should have no secrets.”
* * *
Sturgess put down Patrick Summers' missing persons file and walked over to the window. Thirty-two years old, he was a financial analyst for a Chicago investment bank. Married with one daughter. Never been in trouble with the law. An upstanding citizen, who had happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: Summers had flown to New York on September 10, 2001 and checked into the hotel at the World Trade Center. He had been scheduled to meet with New York associates the next day, but after the collapse of the World Trade Center and the evacuation of the financial district, he had never been heard from again.
Sturgess returned to his desk and called Summers’ former employers. No, the head of human resources told him, nobody at the office had talked to Summers after he checked in with his secretary on the afternoon of September 10th. The executor of his estate had petitioned for and obtained a death certificate, and the insurance benefits had been distributed to his widow.
“How much money did she receive?” Sturgess asked.
“Well, of course we have no way of knowing what was in his estate, but his company insurance alone was over two million dollars.” There was another $400,000 in his 401k, which would be distributed through probate.
Sturgess thanked her and hung up. The next call would be more difficult.
* * *
“How much would you like to invest with us?” Nash asked.
Pat had been waiting for this. “In return for keeping quiet, I got a very good settlement. Twelve million dollars.”
“So, you’re rich as well as beautiful. You must be a very popular woman.”
“I haven’t been with a man in over a year,” she sighed. “I’ve even taken up smoking, and right now, I’m dying for a cigarette.” Pat had deliberately scheduled her appointment with Nash at the end of the day, and it was time to set the trap.
“Unfortunately, we are a non-smoking office. Look, it’s almost five o’clock. Can I take you somewhere for a drink? We can continue to talk afterwards.”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
* * *
Anne Summers turned down the evening news and picked up the telephone in the kitchen, where she was preparing a special dinner for her expected guest. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Patrick Summers?”
“Yes, this is Anne Summers.”
“Mrs. Summers, I am sorry to disturb you. My name is Frank Sturgess. I am a detective with the New York Police Department. Is this a bad time?”
“Well, I’m in the middle of fixing dinner right now. But I can talk to you.”
“Thanks, I’ll try to be brief. Mrs. Summers, I know that your husband was reported missing on September 11th of last year, and we still have an open file on him. Just for the record, have you had any contact from him?”
“Some of the families of missing persons have been victimized by criminals claiming the identity of people lost in the World Trade Center, you know, to use their credit cards and such. Has there been any unusual activity in that regard?”
“No, all of our accounts were joint accounts, and there hasn’t been anything like that.”
“Has anybody contacted you on behalf of your husband?”
“No. Detective, the last time I talked to the authorities in New York, they told me to assume that my husband was dead.”
Sturgess was ready for this. “Frankly, up until this morning, I would have said the same to you. However, on the same day that your husband disappeared, a man named Pat was abducted in Greenwich Village. Did your husband know a doctor named Vendetta Frankenwiener?”
“Not that I know of. You said abducted. Has he been found?”