The Ex-Women

By ARthur

They say true love is forever, but it seems short by comparison to time spent waiting for oneís date to arrive when heís late. Such was the position junior bank executive Cassandra Boxley found herself at Club Savannah. The man she met only a week before said heíd meet her at 8 p.m., was already 45 minutes behind schedule, causing Cassandra to become very acquainted with the face of her watch.

Finishing her whiskey sour, Cassandra was readying to look elsewhere for fun when a waitress handed her a courier-delivered message. "Itís from Lenny!" she exclaimed. "Hi, sweetie. Howís about us having a real rocking night," the message read. "Iíve arranged a secret rendezvous. Suite 314, the Montana Apartments. My friendís out of town. What he doesnít know wonít hurt him. Meet you there at 9:00. Make yourself comfortable Ė especially in the bedroom Ė if Iím not back with the special refreshments. See you soon."

Lenny was all right after all, Cassandra thought. So innovative and romantic. The computer-written note even had a map. She climbed into her BMW and headed for the Montana, a nearly century-old building in the plush Pioneer Park area.

Cassandra soon arrived at the Montana. The door to the lobby, surprisingly, was ajar. Lenny is so considerate, Cassandra thought. Arriving at suite 314, fully anticipating the night of mad passionate lovemaking, she found that door also open. Peering inside, Cassandra called for Lenny. No answer. But there was a note: "Make yourself at home. Iíll be back shortly. Your wild man Lenny."

Cassandra grinned broadly. She planned a big surprise for her loving boyfriend. Entering the bedroom, she sprayed a very expensive perfume around. She then quickly removed her outer garments, and then her ample brassiere. Now clothed only in bikini panties and garter belt (both British Racing Green) and a pair of beige tinted silk stockings, Cassandra reclined stomach down on the bed and bunched the bedspread against her chest. "Iím waiting, darling," her thoughts sang.

But Cassandra was destined not to be the person giving the surprise, but the recipient. While smiling in the direction of the bedroom door, she heard an awful creaking noise Looking to her side, Cassandra shrieked, as a section of the bedroom wall unaccountably hinged open like a door, and a strange rotund man with bushy white hair entered.

"Not what you expected?" the man melodiously spoke. "You get out of here, or Iíll scream," Cassandra yelled. "Nobody will hear you. Weíre three stories up, and besides, the walls her a very thick," the man hummed. "Well, my boyfriend will be here soon," she added. "No he wonít," the man added. "He never sent the courier message. I did. You noticed its all computer typed, not even a signature. And you brought it in with you. All the easier to destroy this evidence," he concluded.

Cassandra dashed for the bedroom door, but it somehow was now locked. As she beat against the door, the man continued to grin like a spider contemplating a menu of houseflies.

"Youíre here not for you own enjoyment, but for my profit," the man said in an increasing self-satisfied tone. "You see, you have the raw materials that can make me and my partners a lot of ready cash. Iíve been watching you for weeks. But knowing about your sudden fling with Lenny enabled me to get you here for harvesting," he added.

Cassandra turned around in time to see old bushy hair slowly pull a syringe full of a brackish liquid from a leather pouch on his belt. "You wonít kidnap me," Cassandra bellowed as she attempted to use all her force to somehow knock the chubby little man down. As Cassandra lunged, the man grabbed her wrists, but to no avail. He was soon on the floor, with Cassandra on top, trying to disable him. She so covered him, he could barely see much of the time. Reaching around, he found the syringe he had dropped, and in a mighty effort, plunged the needle into Cassandraís backside, an exposed area between the top of her panties and the back of her garter belt. Cassandra let out a sonic scream and bolted to the bathroom, locking the door behind her.

The man sat up and inspected the syringe. Nearly all of the contents were gone. He had successfully injected Cassandra with a full dose. Listening to Cassandraís histrionics through the door, Ulysses inserted a credit card between the door and jamb, and slowly undid the lock.

As he entered, he smiled. The full-size woman that had caused him so much trouble was gone. In her place was a crying little girl, no older than 6. And she continued to grow smaller Ė and younger.

Grinning broadly at the results of he work, he soon looked down on an infant, silk stockings flowing far off her feet across the bathroom floor. Panties and garter belt sat in a ring around her body, covering nothing. Leaning over, the bushy-haired man put his ample hands under the babyís minuscule shoulders. "Come, Cassandra. Let me take you to your new life," he musically intoned. In terrified awe, Cassandra scanned the room, feeling queasy over how small and defenseless she had become.

Carried through the unexpected bedroom portal into a separate room, Cassandra, now a naked baby, was deposited in a crib containing a comforter covered with nursery rhyme characters, and strings of plastic do-dads and mobiles designed to keep an infant occupied.

"Gheeeh! Aaaaahh!" Cassandra babbled, her puzzled eyes telling how she felt about being unable to utter a coherent sentence. "Relax, Cassandra. Youíre a baby again, and nobody expects babies to carry on an intelligent conversation. So donít even try," the mysterious man said in a very pleased manner. He pulled a 4-ounce baby bottle from a warmer and plugged the nipple into Cassandraís mouth. He held it there until the baby was sucking its contents on her own.

"That milk will calm you down," he added with a smile. Pulling a Pampers out of a box, he dangled it before the nursing baby. "Your stylish new wardrobe," the man offered. "Oh, youíll experience a lot over the next few days as we prepare you for delivery to your new family."

Unable to stop sucking down the bottle, Cassandra wondered what would now become of her, and if anyone would notice her missing before it was too late. Surely, she was the only person who suffered such a humiliating change in her age, life and prospects, she thought. Would anyone help? Was that like asking lightning to strike?

Crrruunnuunnuunnnggg! This was not young Ruby Sliparrís idea of getting up at the crack of dawn, not with all those thunderclouds cracking. Worse, the overnight heavy rains all but assured that the child model shoot for Wahoo Jeans planned for that morning would be washed out and delayed.

"And I was so looking forward to this shoot," Ruby sighed to herself as she thought about the lost opportunity to visit a farm, cavort amid the barn and silo, and even ride Shetland ponies. Ruby so anticipated this photographic session that she even submitted to having her long brunette hair braided into pigtails, and had spent the night at the apartment of her agent Faith Taykan to get an early start to the farm.

It had been several months since Ruby had gone from being a ravishing 24-year-old woman to becoming stuck as an 8-year-old girl at the hands of the Hedweigian witch Pearl Longbaugh, and she had just about adjusted to her fate. She realized that while she was still attracted to handsome men, they were no longer attracted to her in the same way.

While still a grown woman and a top fashion model, she had her pick of the men. And in return for being seen with her hanging on their arms, they lavished on Ruby dinners at the finest restaurants, expensive bejeweled gifts, and extremely romantic evenings. Yet now as a pre-voluptuous but still beautiful girl, she only brought menís fatherly instincts to the surface, prompting gifts of candy and an occasional toy. That is what now made the prospect of riding Shetland ponies seem so exciting.

Now she would need something else to occupy her time. Something stimulating. If only the American Association to Aid Age-Regressed Girls (AAAARG for short), of which she was a full-fledged member and its chief financial support, hadnít been so long between clients.

"Something will turn up," Ruby thought. "Maybe its closer than I think."

Twirling the tips of her two pigtails, Ruby began to feel very Western. "Guess Iíll go Ďrustleí up some breakfast," she thought. But on entering the kitchen, Ruby was greeted by a sight harsh enough to wilt oneís chaps Ė a very bedraggled Faith asleep while slumped in a chair, still wearing her clothes of the previous evening and her cordless telephone on the table before her.

"Are you all right, Ms. Taykan?" Ruby asked while shaking Faithís arm. Faith jerked to awareness, looking very disconnected. "Iím okay," Faith gurgled. "Anything wrong?" Ruby added. "Nothing," Faith replied.

Ruby wasnít fooled. Faith was hiding her problem so as not to "burden the child." But Ruby was concerned and wanted to help Ė if not fill some time on her now empty day.

Pulling her encrypted two-way communicator from her duffel bag, Ruby contacted the mysterious white van housing her likewise rejuvenated to 8-years-old team members in AAAARG. As always, communications expert Naomi Claussen answered the call.

"Look, Naomi, something weird is going on here," Ruby explained. "I could use help in finding out whatís happening. Iím not sure if this has anything to do with the Hedweigians, but Iíd consider it a real favor."

Within 20 minutes, the doorbell rang at Faithís apartment. "Itís your little friend Naomi," Faith told Ruby as she answered, adding as she walked to the other room, "You two little girls play nice while Auntie Faith attends to another matter."

"Do you suppose we should tell her Iím really 35 and youíre 24?" Naomi sneered. "Naw! She couldnít handle the concept. Now what Ďtoysí did you bring," Ruby replied. Having been a CIA electronics expert before being rejuvenated, Naomi knew all the best spy devices. She produced a telephone-bugging device; "the best youíre modeling income can buy." And she quickly installed it on Faithís main telephone.

"As long as Faith is hiding her problems from you, she wonít make her next phone call until youíre gone," Naomi noted. "This bug will let us Ďgo out to playí and still eavesdrop," she added with a knowing grin.

In the now non-rainy outside, Naomi walked up to a bicycle and pulled a surveillance monitor from a pouch in an attached cart. "I still donít know how we store all this gear in that van," Ruby smiled. Naomi said nothing, but activated the monitor. The two didnít have to wait long before Faithís voice boomed out:

"Hello, Sgt. Weiss? Any word yet on Cassandra Boxley?" Faith asked. "I realize itís only been four days since she disappeared, but Iím worried. Sheís my best friend, and we were to have dinner yesterday. She told a waitress at Club Savannah on Thursday that her boyfriend invited her for the night at the Montana Apartments. No, I donít know the boyfriendís name. You say you found her car parked near the Montana, but you donít have enough evidence for a warrant to search the building? Then get some. PleaseÖ"

"Maybe we can get the evidence," Ruby suggested. "But what does Cassandra look like?" Naomi asked. Ruby returned from Faithís apartment with a newspaper clipping showing Cassandra in all her blonde and blue-eyed glory. The article, "Ugly Ducklings Grow Into Sexy Swans," included pictures of Cassandra when she was a newborn and in early grade school. The article was published years earlier when Faith and Cassandra both worked as spokesmodels at trade shows, before Faith became an agent and Cassandra used her MBA to become a rising executive in the banking industry.

Returning to her bicycle, Naomi found two older boys trying to break into the attached cart. "Get away from my stuff," Naomi yelled as she charged the boys. "You mean, was your stuff," one of the boys said, as the other shoved Naomi backwards, painfully onto her rump. Sitting on the still soaked pavement, Naomiís look of extreme agitation quickly morphed into a sly grin as the boys tripped a security wire that caused them to be sprayed by a noxious substance. "Aaaauuuucccch!" the boys screamed, flailing madly.

"Essence of skunk?" Ruby asked. "Worse! Charlie Perfume. It will take them a week to get that entire scent off. And by then, their egos will be permanently damaged from their companions repeatedly calling their masculinity into question," Naomi snickered.

Ruby climbed onto the bikeís banana seat behind Naomi, and the two rode to the Montana Apartments, where Naomi took out and set up additional surveillance devices, including long-distance sound and image eavesdropping tools and recording equipment. Ruby initially had fun aiming the telescopic lens camera at anything moving. But she was soon attracted to a strange woman wearing a fedora and man-like suit.

"That looks like one butch dame," Ruby sneered. But the woman stopped at the door of the Montana. She was greeted by a heavy-set man with bushy white hair wearing matching olive-colored shirt and pants. He invited her inside. Ruby continued to scan the street. Within 15 minutes, an older couple arrived, and was again invited in by the bushy-haired man.

A half-hour later, the couple reappeared; only they now held a baby. The bushy-haired man and the lady in pseudo-masculine attire followed. Ruby began to snap photos, while Naomi carefully aimed her eavesdropping microphone.

"Itís been a great pleasure doing business with you," the male half of the couple told the bushy-haired man. "My wife couldnít bear children. But now we have exactly what we wanted Ė a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby girl. It was well worth the $30,000 fee," he concluded, shaking the manís hand. "Bless you both," the female half of the couple added, her voice choking as tears rolled down her face.

After the couple departed with their new daughter, the butch woman removed her fedora, allowing long auburn hair to pour down her back. The bushy-haired man slyly grinned and pulled of the womanís horn-rimmed glasses. "We sure make a great team, Sweets. I provide the chemicals; you provide the legal work. May we live long and profit," he concluded, planting a sloppy kiss over the womanís mouth.

"Eeeeewwww! They have to be the most unappealing couple on earth," Ruby said, holding back her nausea. "Weíve got enough. Letís check those digital photos," Naomi coolly added.

As they clicked through the pictures on Naomiís laptop, Rubyís eyes opened wide enough to trap Frisbees. "Look at that baby!" Ruby gasped, pointing at the girl the couple received. "She looks exactly like Cassandra did in her baby picture in that clipping. The same shape head, nose, and chin. Nothingís different. This has to be Cassandra, regressed back into a baby." Naomi agreed that the resemblance was too close for coincidence.

After examining the information, formerly 33 now 8-year-old AAAARG leader Zephyr Cassidy was floored. "We could have another possible Hedweigian witch coven here. But something isnít right. The Hedweigians regress beautiful and successful women out of spite or jealously, mostly to protect their access to men who can help them breed future female coven members. But it appears Cassandra was regressed for profit, as sort of a designer baby for a desperate childless couple. This is not how the Hedweigians operate. And that talk of chemicalsÖ"

She concluded, "I think we should investigate this further."

Always a super-efficient, detached worker even as a child, Naomi set out to identify the players in the little baby black market drama she and Ruby had earlier recorded. Pictures of all were printed and digitally downloaded into secret web site that maintained records on nearly all citizens. "Who owns it? The FBI?" Ruby asked. "No, that would be against the law. Its owned by the credit card companies," Naomi replied.

Within minutes, the data began rolling from Naomiís on-van computer system. The bushy-haired man was Ulysses H. Durwood. Occupation: Pharmacist. Status: Inactive. Ulysses lost his license for selling Viagra under the table without a prescription. He has since tried to replicate Viagra in a basement lab, although an early batch produced the opposite effect, as one gent testified in a chipmunk voice during divorce proceedings initiated by his wife. Owns two suites on the third floor of the Montana Apartments building. Recently made big charges for remodeling work on one suite.

Next to be identified was the butch woman. Joyce James. Occupation: Attorney, specializes in adoption law. Status: Active. Currently runs an adoption search firm on the side. Owns two-acre estate in the plush suburb of Barwood. Addicted to wearing masculine attire; says it gets her more respect in court from some older judges.

No immediate data was found on the couple taking the baby.

"Letís concentrate on the two apparently running this made-to-order adoption business. Letís see if we can tie Cassandra Boxley to Ulyssesí suites," Zephyr told her AAAARG warriors.

But as plans were concocted, the bushy-haired man was throwing a fit. "Dammit. Joyce. It takes time to find the right specimen, be sure she doesnít dye her hair or wear contacts, and set the trap. But you give me four days to find a green-eyed redhead. You think I can just place a phone call and order takeout!" Ulysses grumbled as he slammed down the receiver. "Hmmm!" he then thought. "Maybe I can!"

By 6 p.m., another woman was at the door of the Montana, ringing for Suite 314. "Who is it?" came the voice over an intercom. "Iím Pola Bartok from the Regal Escort Service," she said. "Come right up," replied the voice as the buzzer sounded to allow her entry.

Pola found the door to the suite ajar and entered. "Make yourself at home," said the voice in the other room. "I was told to meet you at 1501 Grove Street, but a note taped to the bell directed me here. I had to pay twice for parking. My fee will be $50 more," Pola said.

Ulysses walked into the room, eliciting a look of disdain from Pola. "Why do the guys who hire escorts always look like shaved bears?" she grumbled.

"Before we leave, could you join me in here?" Ulysses said. "Anything to get this over with," Pola thought. Finding herself in a bedroom, she replied, "Hey, I donít go for that funny stuff. Iím paid only to accompany you to dinner and that reception at the convention. Breaking bedsprings isnít in my job description."

"But youíre such a breathtaking redhead. Youíre perfect for my needs," Ulysses slyly grinned. "Thatís it! Iím outta here," Pola said. But she found the door locked. "Now you let me outÖ" she yelled as she turned around and saw Ulysses poised with a syringe. Attempting to evade the strange little man, Pola jumped across the bed, heading for the glass door to a rear balcony. But her three-inch shoe heel caught the edge of the bed. Pola fell to the floor, and Ulysses piled on top. Attempting to pull up her skirt to give the syringe a better path to its target, he soon gave up, and plunged the needle through several layers of clothing.

Gasping for breath, Pola stood up. Her skin itched, and her face began to warm. Taking a step forward, her foot caught the front of her skirt. Earlier, the hem had been 9-inches off the ground. "What in hellÖ," she whispered. She eyes were now playing tricks on her, she thought. Ulysses had been shorter than her, but he now looked taller. Looking down, she saw her strapless, bosom-hugging gown top begin to slide off. Only her quick reaction in grabbing it kept it from falling off and exposing her breasts. But her hands were flat against her chest now. She hadnít felt that sensation since she was 9-years-old.

Ulysses was getting giddy at the sight of Pola diminishing in size. Affecting a little jig, he laughed, "As the late great Margaret Hamilton once said, ĎYouíre shrinking, shriiiiinking!í" Now scared out of her wits, Pola attempted to run, but her foot again stepped on the front of her gown. This error caused her to topple over. Prostrate on the floor, Pola began to cry like a little girl. Ulysses danced all the merrier, as Polaís cries got higher pitched and gradually turned into an infantís wail.

Ulysses bent down and lifted the now baby Pola off the floor. "Naughty, naughty! You wet your clothing. Now Iíll have to dry-clean them before I can donate them to charity," he teased. Carried into the secret nursery, Pola soon occupied the crib recently vacated by Cassandra. "You did say youíd join me for dinner," Ulysses mocked her as he offered her a bottle of formula. As Pola began to nurse, he continued, "Look at you slurping your meal. Regal Escort said they only had refined ladies."

Later in the AAAARG van, Zephyr was wearing a groove in the floor mat as she plotted strategy. "If we are ever to help Cassandra, we have to know how she was rejuvenated. If a rogue Hedweigian is involved, weíll need to find her vial of age vapors, if not destroyed. But Ulyssesí talk of chemicals. If he has, perish the thought, another method of rejuvenation, weíll need to find that antidote, if any is available."

"And maybe we have another person to worry about," Naomi added. "This just came over the police wire. They found another abandoned car in the Pioneer Park area; in a parking lot. It belonged to an employee of an escort service Ė Pola Bartok. Sheís a green-eyed redhead."

"Then we may have only one course of action Ė break into suite 314 at the Montana," said AAAARG van driver and mechanical expert Ryoko Tenaka, the formerly 26-year-old Indy car mechanic. "If somebody is rejuvenating people there, weíll find out, and if Pola Bartok is there, even as a baby, we can rescue her." Zephyr agreed.

The next evening, Zephyr, dressed in dark clothing, and Ryoko in a black junior ninja costume, prepared an assault on the back of the Montana Apartments. Identifying the balcony behind Suite 314, Ryoko prepared to launch a grappling hook to catch the railing, and enable the two girls to climb up.

Inside the secret room off the bedroom, Joyce had joined Ulysses to check out the newly minted baby. "Little Pola weighs a whole 14 lb.," Joyce cooed as she hugged the still perplexed infant. "The Palmers will love you to death. You such a pretty baby." Annoyed and scared, Pola began to bawl.

Ulysses snatched Pola from Joyce. "Thatís what I love about you, Joyce. You have absolutely no maternal instincts," he grumbled, while offering a pacifier to the crying child. He then put Pola into a fresh diaper, tiny cotton jammies, and deposited her in the crib.

"Wait! Hear that?" Joyce said to a suddenly puzzled Ulysses. "A noise coming from the bedroom," she added. The two swiftly crept into the next room, locking the secret panel to the nursery as they moved. But on reaching the door to the balcony, they saw nothing but the night. "Youíre always hearing things," Ulysses grumbled at the lady lawyer.

As they continued to stare out over the balcony, Zephyr and Ryoko, having been unable to enter through the locked balcony door had found an unsecured window Ė which led directly into the nursery. Catlike in their movements, the girl ninjas first came upon the crib, where baby Pola spit out the binky and issued a loud "Gaaaaeeeeiiiii" in greeting. "Sssshhh!" Ryoko told the tot, "Donít give us away."

Pulling herself close to the wooden bars of her infantile prison, Pola watching intently as the two girls pawed through anything and everything. They put their ear to, or peered into, all containers in hopes of detecting bouncing age vapors, greenish blobs that hold the lost years of victims subjected to the Hedweigian Age-Reduction Spell. In a compact refrigerator, Zephyr found a small bottle with a greenish substance, but it was a liquid, not vaporous.

The girls began to rifle drawers and cabinets in search of other clues as to who, or what, might have caused the rejuvenation of Cassandra Boxley. Zephyr soon came upon a notebook containing a handwritten diary by Ulysses. Perusing to page 7, Zephyr pointed out a passage to Ryoko. "It says here that Ulysses stumbled onto some chemical that, on entering the bloodstream, affects a quick rejuvenation in the subject. Ruby and Naomi were right! Weíre not dealing with Hedweigian witches."

Ryoko lifted from of corner of the floor a black strapless bra. "Look at this," she said, pointing to a small white label affixed near the rear hooks. "P. Bartok," it read. "Itís a laundry tag. This bra belonged to the missing Bartok woman," Ryoko noted. Then looking at the baby, "I wonder if thatís her?"

On hearing her name, baby Pola began to wave her arms widely, making assorted non-language noises. "We canít leave her here," Ryoko noted.

Back in the bedroom, Ulysses was trying to plant another kiss on the face of Joyce, who was resisting with all her might. "Stop it! Iím not that kind of woman," Joyce said. "But I want you to be. You could start by wearing more feminine clothing. Those man-like suits are confusing," Ulysses argued. "Iím now wearing a skirt with my shirt, tie and jacket," Joyce explained in peeved tones. "But its midi length. Letís see some thigh," Ulysses pleaded. "Everyone liked Emma Peel when she wore pants on ĎThe Avengers,í" Joyce noted. "And Iíd like to be your John Steed," Ulysses said hopefully, trying to nuzzle closer to her. "More like my Boris Badenov," Joyce thought.

Hearing a loud thump coming from the hidden nursery, the two baby brokers dashed into that room, surprising the two girls. "Abort!" screamed Zephyr as she headed for the window. Ryoko snatched up the baby and followed Zephyr back out the window. Although rushing as fast they could, the two adults arrived in time only to see the two girls, with baby Pola, vanish down the ropes attached to the balcony and jump into a large white van, which sped off.

"Theyíve kidnapped our baby," Ulysses whined. "And what will the Palmers say? We promised them a green-eyed redheaded baby girl in a few days," Joyce added. "Now where are we going to get another on such short notice," Ulysses snuffled.

As the AAAARG van fled down city streets, each girl did their part. Ryoko drove the van, aided by a booster seat and leg extenders so she could see out the windshield at reach all controls. Zephyr continued to peruse the notebook she liberated from Ulysses. Naomi continued to monitor communications from the van computer desk. And Ruby played babysitter to Pola.

"Donít worry, Pola. Weíll take good care of you," Ruby told the baby, who responded with gleeful little squeaks and light taps to Rubyís face. "We wonít let the bad people sell you to anyone," Ruby added.

Zephyr was a study in scholarship as she carefully read every page. She soon excitedly announced, "I never thought Iíd see the day. This Ulysses character actually stumbled onto a mix of chemicals that rejuvenate the body. He was working on a copy of Viagra, but found this instead. Because it regresses a person so fast and thoroughly, he didnít dare market it. So he found an alternate use: filling orders of people who donít just want to adopt a baby, but want to dictate the type. They get to dictate hair and eye color, but not sex. Ulysses only promises female babies. Must be scared of grown men. He also guarantees the baby will grow up to be beautiful, even passing off a photo of the woman before rejuvenation as the parent. Heís making babies to order, using single, unattached women as the main ingredient."

"Thatís horrible," replied Ruby as she rocked Pola in her lap. The motion proved restful for the little Pola, as she plugged her thumb in her mouth, nuzzled close to Rubyís chest, and dozed off.

"The stuff works only when injected into the bloodstream," Zephyr noted. "And in can be counteracted. Ulysses mixed an early batch wrong, and found it worked as an antidote. You tell the two apart by the color. The regression mix is light amber, the antidote greenish. I saw bottles of both in the nursery fridge."

"So to reverse Polaís rejuvenation Ė and Cassandraís Ė we have to break into the Montana Apartments again," Ruby noted. "Exactly! Plan on it tomorrow," Zephyr said with dark emphasis.

"To make things easier, we could use a distraction," Ryoko suggested. "What if we interested the police in Ulysses and Joyceís baby selling racket? We should get a cop or two in there to interview them and otherwise keep them occupied while we visit that nursery and relieve the refrigerator of the antidote."

Zephyr liked the idea, and volunteered to visit the police station to get the ball rolling. The next afternoon, Zephyr carefully combed her reddish hair, tied it up in a big green bow, and put on her favorite multi-colored play dress. Looking in the mirror, her green eyes sparkled. "Iím one cute kid," she smiled, knowing that her current appearance was an asset. Able to effortlessly project childish innocence, she could invade any location without suspicion by anyone, especially those with whom she would tangle. Who would suspect that a cute 8-year-old housed the brain and abilities of the woman she used to be before running afoul of the Hedweigians?

"I want to report something unlawful I saw in my neighborhood," Zephyr told the desk sergeant at the Pioneer Park police station. "Thatís mighty brave of you, little lady. Go to that room over there," he said in a voice that Zephyr heard as condescending and unbelieving. Nobody believes an honest child, she thought.

Zephyr climbed into the big visitorís chair in the room and told the officer, who was hard at work on her computer, "I want to report some bad people selling babies." Still not looking up or facing Zephyr, the officer asked the child to describe what she saw and typed it into her computer. Zephyr gave a detailed description and added, "I have these photos too," tossing the prints on the desk. "Thatís nice, honey. Now whatís your name?" the officer requested. "Zephyr Cassidy," the girl answered truthfully.

The officer suddenly sat up and looked around. She stared at Zephyr, sitting demurely in the chair, a cute smile on her face and her short legs dangling off the seat. The sight caused her to turn pale. Zephyr suddenly noticed some familiarity to the officer, the same red hair, greenish eyes, Irish good looks.

"You look just like my little sister did when she was a child," the officer stuttered. "You must be a ghost Ė or an angel Ė to appear to me in this form. My adult sister disappeared nearly two years ago. With no word from her since, we believe her to be dead," she added.

Zephyr had hoped this day would never arrive. The last thing she wanted was to run into a family member with her current 8-year-old body. And now she was facing her big sister, Officer Patricia Cassidy-OíBrien.

"Iím still your little sister, only Iím littler now," Zephyr offered haltingly. "But you canít! People donít just grow younger," Patricia puzzled. "I used to think that," Zephyr quietly responded. "So what happened?" the big sister asked. "Letís just say I ran afoul of supernatural forces, and now lead a merry band of little girls fighting to eradicate such forces from the planet," Zephyr tried to explain.

"No, Iím hallucinating. Someoneís playing a trick on me. Who put you up to this?" Patricia demanded. "Nobody. Just like I got no help the last time I was this size, winning that Scariest Jack-O-Lantern Contest by sawing your Barbie in half and inserting the bottom half in my pumpkinís mouth," Zephyr responded.

Walking out, Zephyr added, "Believe what you want, but I only came in to report some possible criminal activity. Iíd send somebody to investigate. But donít you go. That suite in the Montana Apartments is a dangerous place for women. Send a male officer or two to check out Ulysses Durwood and Joyce James."

Later that day, the AAAARG van was parked in the vicinity of the Montana. The girls waited patiently for their diversion. It arrived in the form of a squad car. "Showtime!" Ryoko sang.

Within minutes, the two girls, partially hidden by the night, were tossing grappling hooks at the balcony and shimmied up the three floors. Looking through the balcony door, Zephyr saw Joyce heading for the front door; her destiny being a thorough interrogation by the cityís finest.

Prying up the nursery window, the two girls entered discreetly and checked the crib. It was empty! No more victims of rejuvenation, for now. Zephyr headed for the refrigerator, and found the greenish antidote along with some spare syringes. They went into a leather satchel Zephyr brought for that purpose.

But Ryoko was glued at the crack of the secret door that led to the bedroom. "The police sent a female officer, even after you warned them not to," she said. Zephyr took a peak herself. "Good grief! Itís my older sister Patricia. She never takes my advice!" the littler sister vented.

Reaching backward, Zephyr felt something strange. Looking back and up, she saw Ulysses, standing with a full syringe of rejuvenator. "You troublemakers again," he hissed.

As he reached for the girls, both dropped to the floor and rolled. Zephyr bounded out the open window, as had been the plan should the girls ran into trouble. But Ulysses blocked Ryokoís escape route. Poking the syringe in her direction, Ulysses barely missing her several times. Ryoko wasnít about to let him inoculate her with rejuvenator. She already was much younger than she wanted to be, and the formula might be too much for an 8-year-old. It could send her before birth Ė and conception.

Ryoko bobbed, weaved, leapt to her feet, and twisted her waist, anything to avoid being stuck with the rejuvenation chemical. Ulysses worked her backward toward a corner. Attempting one more evasive maneuver, Ryoko stumbled backward into an open trunk. Ulysses glommed down the lid and slammed shut the lock. "Iíll tend to you later, brat," Ulysses chided the imprisoned Ryoko.

Ulysses exited the hidden nursery, surprising Patricia. "Youíre right. Sheís exactly what we need. Right hair. Right eyes!" Ulysses cheered at Joyce. Seeing the man had an exposed syringe, Patricia attempted to draw her gun, but lost it after receiving a hard sideways kick from Joyce. Ulysses ran at her with the syringe, ready to inject.

Zephyr, having returned to assist Ryoko, found a metal bar she hoped would pry open the trunk lock. "Iíve already contacted the van by two-way communicator. Ruby will create a diversion at the front door," she explained while using every ounce of strength and leverage a girl could muster to free her friend.

Within a minute, a boring noise was heard at the front door, followed by a six-inch-diameter spade bit popping through the wood. A girl size-hand reached through to manipulate the knob from the inside.

"Not more brats!" Ulysses yelled. Joyce stormed the door to grab the hand. Missing it, she reached through the hole and had her hand whacked by a hard metal object. Now totally infuriated and with a facial expression suggesting immediate need for a rabies vaccination, Joyce opened the door and confronted Ruby whom, wearing a Girl Scout uniform, casually asked, "Wanna buy some cookies?" As Joyce charged, Ruby tossed her cookies, mostly thin mints, Do-Si-Dos, and a few that behaved like smoke bombs. When the smoke cleared, Joyce was chest down on the floor, her left wrist handcuffed to her right ankle.

Ulysses looked at this scene, his face a perfect description of the term, dumbfounded. "She wasnít careful," Ruby explained. "She tripped over the extension cord for my drill."

Looking inside, Ruby was left aghast. The redheaded lady police officer had already lost half her stature in reaction to Ulyssesí chemical. Her department-issue blue trousers had dropped off, the effects of gravity augmented by a heavy gun holster and nightstick. Patricia was valiantly trying to keep her blue shirt from also going south.

But standing between her and the diminishing arm of the law was Ulysses, who wagged his finger at the girl and threatened, "You stay out of my way, or Iíll give you worse than any punishment meted by your obviously coddling parents. You brats stole my last redheaded baby. Now I have an excellent replacement in the making, and you better stay clearÖ"

Ruby gave Ulysses a two-fingered salute and recited, "A scout is loyal; clean in word, deed and thought; cheerful; but most of all, a scout is helpful." She then darted around Ulysses, grasped Patriciaís hand, and pulled her out the room around Ulyssesí other side. "Like circumventing the equator," Ruby grinned.

Momentarily flummoxed, Ulysses was soon in pursuit. "Kidnappers. Cradle robbers," he screamed.

Ruby luckily caught an open elevator and sent it hurdling downstairs, the door closing just inches before Ulyssesí hands. Ruby watched Patricia closely. The lady cop continued to gradually get smaller. She entered the elevator a few inches taller than Ruby, but Patricia was now her junior. Realizing the shirt would slow them down, Ruby tossed it away, leaving Patricia only in baggy socks and a white nylon camisole, which now reached almost to her knees.

Pulling Patricia toward the exit, she felt Patricia slowing her down once more. The policewoman was now a toddler, and her stubby legs couldnít keep up with Ruby. So the 8-year-old picked her up and carried her into the street.

Despite her best effort, Ulysses eventually nabbed Ruby by one of her pigtails. Noticing other adults around her, Ruby began screaming. "Let me alone. Stop hurting me and my baby sister," she said as she cried real tears. Patricia, by now having regressed below the age of verbalization, joined her in tears.

The act attracted a policeman. "My kids are ungrateful brats," Ulysses tried to alibi. "Heís not our daddy. Help us," Ruby bawled. The officer decided to sort things out at the station.

Seated on a table in the squad room, the now 5-month-old Patricia registered supreme embarrassment. She was surrounded by her fellow officers, and wearing only the camisole. She desperately maneuvered the article of clothing for maximum coverage, praying that nobody recognized her.

All the while, Ruby registered one charge after another against Ulysses, including that he was selling babies to parents for $30,000 a head. But the officers just chuckled, taking a cue from Ulysses that the pigtailed girl had an overactive fantasy life.

"But sheís telling the truth," Zephyr exclaimed as she walked into the room with the freed Ryoko, carrying her leather satchel. "And he is likewise a kidnapper. The babies he sells are rejuvenated adults," she added, pointing at Ulysses. The officers chuckled even louder.

"Then Iíll prove it," Zephyr explained as she quickly produced a syringe filled with the greenish antidote and stuck it into the rear of baby Patricia. An officer restrained Zephyr and tried to relieve her of the satchel. "Trying to harm a baby girl," he scolded. But then everyone noticed the miraculous occurring.

Baby Patricia was growing larger. The officers all stood in awe as Patricia slowly matured, going from a chubby baby, to a gangly gradeschooler, and into her teen years. There was something pneumatic about the way her breasts filled out to the original 38C size, and stuffing the camisole to maximum. And, her face increased in redness as she madly tugged down on her camisole to continue hiding other vital parts.

"Its Patricia," several officers said as they recognized whom the baby had grown into. They began to whistle and pepper her with clichť phrases like "Hey, Hot Momma," "Take the rest of it off," and other things that will get them banished to sensitivity training classes for the next five years.

"Dammit, Zephyr. Iíll never forgive you! Ever!" the now fully re-aged Patricia screamed, as she leapt off the table and ran into a bathroom. "Why donít you give her this," Ryoko said to another officer, offering Patriciaís left-behind uniform and panties.

An hour later, having calmed down, Patricia provided full testimony on what she learned in Suite 314 at the Montana, and submitted the photos and recordings Ruby and Naomi had made. With each damning word, Ulysses fell into a deeper funk. The officers then brought in Joyce.

Without waiting for additional testimony, Ulysses stood up and yelled, "Fools! Iíve created the medical marvel of the 21st Century, and all you want to do is punish me for making a few babies. Well, I wonít go to jail, and I wonít share the formula with you. Its in my head, and Iím taking it with me" He pulled an additional syringe from his fanny pack, and plunged it into his own gluteus (extra) maximus.

"Let it be known that I never wanted to be in this special-order baby business. I wanted to benefit mankind. But Joyce James forced me, telling me we could make more money selling babies than youth. She said if we grabbed single, unattached women, theyíd never be missed. Blame her, not me," he bellowed.

Everyone stood in awe as Ulysses seemed to deflate. He remained plump, bushy-haired and retained a face even a mother might have trouble loving. He seemed to delight in his change, laughing, dancing a jig, and finally skipping around the room. Along the way, he lost articles of clothing, until tripping on his bikini underpants. He sat on the floor, continuing to giggle his way toward infancy.

"The guy committed rejuvecide Ė err, youthenasia," one officer gulped.

Joyce had seen enough. Her partner in crime had blamed everything on her, and was rendering himself unfit for cross-examination in court.

"Heís lying! The baby creation and selling racket was his idea. I had no idea where he was getting the babies. And I wonít take the rap," Joyce screamed. She then sneered at her reducing partner, "You wonít be sent to jail now, but youíll still get what you deserve."

Joyce yanked Ulysses off the floor and threw him over her legs. She proceeded to give the toddler-size and still regressing former man one vicious spanking. Even seasoned cops were repelled by this display. But not Ulysses. Wiggling forward, he reached his lost fanny pack from the floor, pulled out one last syringe, and stuck it into Joyceís thigh through her skirt. "You go wití me," near baby Ulysses grinned.

Joyce froze in horror as the "medicine" began to work. She shoved baby Ulysses onto the floor, where he rolled on his back, laughing while kicking his legs in the air. She just sat there, a horrific look on her face, as her head shrunk out of her fedora and into her blouse and jacket. Her forehead, then eyes disappeared from view into the fedora. Her glasses slid off and bounced off the floor. Eventually, the fedora rested on the collar of the jacket. By then, Joyceís legs had retreated up into her mid-calf skirt. She was gone from view inside her highly starched attire, which maintained much of its shape, despite its occupant no longer filling them out. And all was quiet. Too quiet!

Worried, an officer brushed off the fedora and plunged his arms down into the clothing. He then yanked out a tiny infant girl, not moving, with the same horrific look on her face. "Is she alive?" one cop asked. The rescuing officer followed standard paramedic procedure, grasping the infantís legs, holding her outward, and using his free hand to slap the childís rump. "Eeeeeewwaaaaaaa! Wwaaaaaaaa!" baby Joyce screamed, causing the rescuing cop to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Now Iíve seen everything," a viewing officer said. He went on medical leave the next morning. Another officer drowned his sorrows in Maalox. But at least Patricia was happy.

"I guess I have to believe you now," Patricia told Zephyr, giving her a hug tight enough to squeeze some of the breath from her tiny body. "And now you can grow up again," she added.

Zephyr only shook her head. "It wonít work for me. This antidote will only work on people who received Ulyssesí rejuvenator formula. And Iím going to see that they all get it," she said. "Iíd like to help," Patricia added.

Later that day, the antidote was administered to Pola at Faithís apartment Ė without Faith present. The effects of the injection soon had Pola bursting from her diaper and baby jammies. To leave, Pola raided Faithís closet. Walking past the regrown Pola on the stairs, Faith could only comment to Ruby, "That woman has the worst taste in clothing Iíve ever seen."

Cassandra was tracked down to a farm in Vermont. Posing as a medical worker immunizing infants against a new virulent strain of flu, Patricia was able administer the antidote. The sight of watching their adoptive baby grow quickly to adulthood gave father Bruce a heart attack. And mother Winifred didnít take kindly to re-aged Cassandraís criticism of her childcare abilities. "Insolent, unappreciative brat," she whined.

With that, unfortunately, the antidote was used up. True to his word, Ulysses never wrote down the formulas, at least not in coherent form. And there werenít enough drops left for other scientists to work with.

Ulyssesí poor records indicated that there may have been five other victims, but no names or adoptive parents were listed. It might be as well they not be regrown as, with the Hedweigian Age-Reduction Spell, victims sent below 18-months-old might lose all adult memories permanently after two weeks. If then regrown, the person would retain an infantís mind and abilities. The only consolation was that Ulysses and Joyce would, as babies, soon be put up for adoption themselves Ė but with no price tags. "I wouldnít give two cents for either of them," Cassandra told Patricia.

The police reported breaking up the black market baby ring, but said the suspects had disappeared, fearing that reporting that they were now babies would invite ridicule and trips to sanitariums. Nothing was ever said to the press about the age-regression formula.

"Another mission successfully completed," Zephyr cheered.

As for Ruby, she finally got to ride those Shetland ponies in the Wahoo Jeans ads. And she made a new friend of Brittany, the 8-year-old girl who gave her quick riding lessons.

"Youíre a very talented equestrian for your age," Ruby grinned. "And Iíve won a lot of awards," Brittany glowed as she gave Ruby a look at all the trophies she won in steeplechase and other horse-riding events. It was then Ruby noticed that some of the cups were dated up to 13 years in the past.

"Youíre not really an 8-year-old, are you?" Ruby asked. Brittany sniffed and admitted all. She told a fantastic story about how at foxhunts, she flirted with this handsome fellow with a mustache on several occasions. "Just a little Southern belle teasing," she said. But while in the woods, she suddenly could no longer reach the stirrups on her saddle. Losing control, she was bucked off the horse. To her shock, she found herself now a little girl, wearing reduced-to-fit fox hunting attire. Then a hawk-nosed woman strode by; holding one of her covered loving cups and cackled at how she was no longer Montyís type.

Ruby was thrilled as she got on the communicator to Naomi. Back to "normal" cases and clients, he smiled.


© 2000 by ARthur Tales Ltd.