Most of the women were holding rather stiff-looking standing poses, yet three of the luminous mimes were positioned in sitting or kneeling poses on separate pedestals, interspersed within the display. All of the motionless women were wearing only the finest of fashions from around the world. Summer was definitely the theme for this storefront display: muted pastels, short skirts and bikinis were the predominant focus of the gleaming arrangement. To further compliment the static models, the ground beneath them was littered with sand and other fun summertime accessories such as beach blankets and umbrellas. Even a large panoramic backdrop featuring an inviting coastline was hung along the wall behind them, adding to the wondrous illusion of summertime bliss. The department store's efforts were certainly succeeding in securing new customers. The one sales clerk located next to the mannequin models in the pavilion was scurrying around desperately, trying to keep up with the clamoring demand for merchandise.
While Diane was single-mindedly glued to the awe-inspiring fashions in the window, Rick and the others were intensely focused on the models themselves. After about five minutes of close scrutiny, Rebecca turned to Rick in confusion, asking, "Gee, Rick, do you think Diane was wrong about the store doing a living mannequin display today? I mean, look at those dummies in the window, Rick! Not only havenít they moved an inch since we got here, but they all have a plastic sheen to their skin. And look, they are even secured to glass bases to keep them from falling over! There's no way those nine models are living, breathing girls."
Rick's face took on a puzzled look for a moment as he glared at the storefront occupants with greater acuity and focus. In utter confusion, he turned to his redheaded companion, saying, "Then something is very wrong with this place, Becky! Take a look at the third girl from the right. Doesn't she look awfully familiar to you?"
Rebecca nudged Harriet as she relayed Rick's question to her. In unison, they both analyzed the rigidly posed model, studying her amber eyes and petite facial features. Suddenly, they both recognized her as a fellow graduate. Trying to hide her baffled frustration, Rebecca whispered, "Rick, isn't that Janine Bast from our homeroom?" Harriet quickly added an exuberant nod in confirmation, a silent acknowledgement of her recognition as well.
Rick nodded slowly, yet never really took his eyes off of the statuesque model in the window. Under his breath, he added quietly, "That's precisely what I thought, ladies. I sat behind Janine for two years, and I'd never forget that face."
'Or that body, huh?' thought Harriet in frustration as she threw daggers at the busty woman in the window.
Suddenly, a leggy woman stepped right in front of the window display. In her hands she held a small wireless microphone. With a confident, sexy voice she proclaimed with a flourish, "Put your hands together for our nine volunteers, everybody! Aren't they fantastic?" The crowd howled in approval as several porters walked into the small enclosure behind her with hand trucks. Raucous laughter filled the luxuriously tiled alcove as the many workers carefully tilted several models back, securing them as they wheeled them out of the back door. Rick looked on in horror as he saw Janine being tilted back then spun around as she was guided out of the window. Never once did she move a muscle. In fact, she seemed to be merely cargo as she teetered from side to side. The sitting and kneeling models were similarly removed as three burly men simply lifted them off of the simple pedestals, barely even breaking a sweat during the process.
At last, Rebecca couldn't stand watching this macabre display of oddity any longer. With a fearful look in her eye, she turned to Rick and Harriet, asking, "Shouldn't we do something to help her and the others?"
Before either of them could reply, the swaggering barker again called out to the crowd, saying, "Alright, everybody, let's find some more volunteers to pose for us in the window! What do you say, people? Do I have any takers? Remember, for your time today, I will gladly offer two hundred dollar gift certificates to the best department store in the world, R.F. Gilbert's!"
Rick, Harriet and Rebecca looked on in shock as Diane lifted her flawlessly manicured hand into the air. Nudging her with his elbow, Rick tried to stop Diane from stepping forward. "Don't do it, Diane, it's a trap."
However, Diane wasn't convinced. With a gleeful expression on her beatific face, she replied, "Oh, Rick, you are so paranoid! Or do you think I'm not capable of holding a pose for that long?"
Rebecca stepped in to assist, saying, "That's not what he's saying, Diane. I mean, look around! Doesn't all of this seem incredibly odd to you?"
Quickly, the roving crowd teaser grabbed Diane by the wrist, proclaiming to the crowd, "What do you think, folks? Would this one make a lovely mannequin for our window display?" Diane blushed as the crowd roared in absolute approval. Perhaps Diane was transfixed by the adoration of the rowdy group of onlookers or by the prospect of a shopping spree. Maybe this was the modeling opportunity that Diane spoke of longingly earlier that day. To Rick, Harriet and Rebecca, however, the motivation behind her actions was inconsequential. For them, all they could see was a dear friend slipping away into the bowls of the department store.
Finding himself unable to merely stand aside passively, Rick spun around to face his remaining friends with a determined look in his eyes. Using a tender voice he offered up a plan to save their adored friend.
Thu Aug 31 12:37:07 2000