Of Profit and Deceit

by: Louder | Complete Story | Last updated May 6, 2005

A businessman makes a special deal to gain a lucrative contract.

Chapter 1
Complete Story

"Soooooo, I guess this’ll about do it, Mr. Jackson" Mark said handing a stuffed envelope to the other gentlemen in the darkened office "No problems, right? I’ll get the contract without a hitch......I’ve never done this before."

"No, no problems. Our little ’agreement’ will see to that. No matter what you hear before the contract is officially awarded, it will end up going to your company. I assume the stock information is also in the envelope?" came the reply.

Mark nervously glanced around the office the office as he spoke. "Yes, it’s as you requested. The account number is in the envelope and your broker seemed to know exactly what to do. You know..... I built this company and did everything by the book. I paid all my taxes. I paid my employees more than the prevailing wage. I got involved in local activities and charities...... and what did it get me? Almost bankrupt! So it comes to this. It kills me to be doing this, but I guess I have to, really."

"Mark, you’re a good man. It’s just a fact of business.....you have to fight fire with fire! If it’s any consolation, this little ’inducement’ is not the ’only’ reason you’ll get the contract. The fact that you HAVE ran a solid business helps. I wouldn’t be able to give this contract to anyone just because they line my pockets. They still have to get the job done or else it’s my ass! Whether it’s a defense contract like this or something else, everybody wants their piece of the pie. So you sacrifice a little of your conscience to run with the big dogs.....it’ll profit nicely for you! And these stocks will see to it that your profit will pay-off for me also."

Mark shook his head in agreement and extended his hand for a handshake to seal the deal. They shook and Mr. Jackson turned and left the office offering "Good luck, Mark" as he closed the door.

Mark figured he had tried everything. He knew there would be lean times when he started his business but he thought his dedication and hard work would help him climb the ladder and finally score a large government contract. His wife, Melissa, was a pillar of strength for him. Her moral support kept him going even has the debt piled up. Her faith in him never faltered and that was one of the reasons that the formerly impending failure of his business was more than he could stand. How could he face her knowing her faith in him had brought her down too? It had seemed so simple when he quit his job five years ago to venture out on his own. He had saved a substantial amount of money and with loans and scaling back of their personal budget he was able to begin his own business. A couple of lean years and then it would all work out..... at least on paper. Unfortunately, the ’big’ contract never came.

At first Mark was depressed over what he had done, but as the day wore on he became more comfortable with it. By the time he left for home he knew, in his mind, that he was doing the right thing. Now all he had to do was slowly let Melissa in on it. Coming up with the money for the bribe had been the hardest part. He had already exhausted all his liquid resources. It was a complex scheme and he knew he had to take it in small steps. She would never accept it all at once.

"Mel? I’m home..... Melissa?" he said loudly as he entered the house.

"What?" she asked as she came into the room.

"Get ready for some good news..... We’ve got the Y2 contract!" he said, smiling like he hadn’t smiled in recent memory.

"But that won’t be awarded for at least another month.... how? I mean are you sure? I’m shocked! How?" she stammered.

"Hon, you gotta fight fire with fire" he said, repeating what Mr. Jackson had said earlier "I wanna run with the big dogs!."

"Big dogs? What’s that supposed to mean?.....That sounds crazy. Mark? You didn’t do anything illegal? Mark? My God! You did, didn’t you? Tell me you didn’t!" she pleaded.

"Everyone does it! It’s the only way to get your foot in the door! Damn it! I didn’t want to, but it was the only way. The ONLY way! I thought you’d be happy for me....for us...." He was interrupted.

"Happy? MY husband just bribed a government official and I should be HAPPY!?"

"Welllllll, maybe the 8 figure size of the contract will make you happy!....." he answered.

"8 figures? Oh my.... Wow.... that’s....ummmmm unbelievable! .....But, still a bribe....That is a lot of money....But bribery?"

Mark looked away and thought before speaking "Bribery is a way of life for those people. Without the bribery we would have never gotten ANY worthwhile contracts. It was painfully obvious. Now we can be on easy street! I worked out a deal to get some untraceable cash and now we are set. I’m not sure what would have happened to us if we didn’t get this contract.....We would have lost everything!"

"What type of ’deal’?" She asked.

"It’s nothing to worry yourself about and really no trouble will come of it. It’s all taken care of." he replied.

Melissa was still skeptical. Before they married she had always enjoyed spending money. In the early part of their marriage Mark’s original job had provided well for the two of them. Mark’s new venture was a sacrifice for her but she did it willingly for the sake of their marriage.

"Believe me, we have nothing to worry about now! I’ve taken care of every detail. You just have to trust me. Listen, you can finally have good things again. The good life. You’ve always liked jewelry.... You’ll be able to get anything you want. Just think of things you’ll be able to have!"

"I’m not saying I wouldn’t ’enjoy’ having money again..... but is this really safe? We could get in a lot of trouble....How do you know it’s safe?" she asked.

"Safe? Sure it’s safe! This stuff goes on all the time. And the people I’m dealing with aren’t going to do anything to get themselves in any trouble." Mark could tell he was winning the argument. "Just relax. The future is taken care of. Tomorrow we can celebrate. We’ll make a day of it. I’ll drop you off at that new Salon in town....the really ’ritzy’ place. You can get the ’works’! A full treatment. You deserve it. A new wardrobe, then dinner and a movie! We haven’t been to a movie since I quit the firm 5 years ago. We’ve sacrificed too long with our personal finances! It’s time to SPLURGE! Live a little!"

It HAD been a long time since she had really spent any money on any kind of ’frivolous’ activities. "Wellll you certainly sound convincing. I still don’t know about this though" she said as she sat down on the couch. "I’ve always trusted you before. I hope you’re not in over your head and know what you’re getting into."

Mark spent the rest of the evening trying to erase any lingering doubts. Finally, as they both enjoyed a simple meal, Mark held up his cola and said "To our last TV Dinner, AND to a new start!" CLINK They ’tapped’ their cola cans and Mark knew he had won.


Mark woke Melissa around 7:00 AM and urged her to get ready. The Salon opened at 9:00 AM and he said he wanted to get there early in order to avoid a long wait. Melissa argued that it was a short drive downtown but Mark informed her "Sometimes the traffic can be bad". Fortunately, the traffic was not too bad on this morning and they arrived just as the Salon was opening.

"Well, here we are. I’ll let you out and then I’ll run some errands and be back shortly." Mark said as he pulled over to the curb. Melissa kissed Mark before getting out of the car and walked toward the entrance of the Salon. She heard the tinkle of a bell as she opened the door of the Salon. She was surprised at the posh and yet modern looking interior. A young lady was seated at a desk opposite the entrance.

"Hello, Melissa? We’ve been expecting you." the girl cheerfully said.

"Umm Hi..... Expecting me?" Melissa queried.

"Your husband phoned in and took care of most of the paper-work. I just need to confirm a couple of things. I know sometime wives bend the truth a little and their husbands are never the wiser!" the receptionist giggled. She sat down at the desk and the girl began asking questions-

"Your age ’is’ 46, correct?"


"You’ve never had any type of medical treatments for any mental problems at any time in your life?"

"Ummm No....???"

"Just routine questions Ma’am, company policy...."


The question and answer session continued and Melissa obliged throughout although she thought some of the questioning a bit strange. Finally, the girl pressed a button and another young lady dressed in a nurses outfit entered the room. She entered from a door behind the receptionist.

"I see you’re ready Melissa. This way please." She led Melissa down the hall and pointed her into a small dressing room. "You can leave your clothes and purse in there. It’ll be locked and safe in there. Go on in and change into a robe and pick up a towel and we’ll begin." Melissa entered the room and changed into the robe. She folded her clothes in a neat pile and left them on the bench in the room.

She timidly walked out of the room and the young lady escorted her to the next room in the hall.

"I’m Janie and I’ll be doing your treatment this morning. I think you will really enjoy this. Most think it is wonderful what we can do. While we offer the basic treatments that you can get most anywhere, we also offer some more scientific methods here. Now, if you’ll take off your robe and lay flat on your stomach I’ll begin with your massage.

Melissa nervously removed her robe saying "I’ve kinda let myself go. I don’t know if I ever looked as good as you, but I used to hold my own."

"I’m sure you did.... and still can! A little pampering can do wonders. This oil massage will help with your skin and the special light treatment that will follow might even help shed a few pounds! That won’t be a problem will it?" Janie asked playfully.

"Oh no! You shine that ’light’ girl!" Melissa laughed.

Janie worked her magic, massaging the oil into Melissa’s flesh. She carefully worked it down her legs and even into her scalp. Finally she had her rollover and continued massaging the oil into every inch of her exposed skin. All of Melissa’s original worries were gone. She drifted off and just enjoyed the moment. She heard a distant ’buzzing’ sound and noticed the room brighten as the light seemed to pass over her....

"Melissa? Melissa? You fell asleep. It’s time to move on. Feels good, doesn’t it?" Janie helped Melissa off of the table and continued talking "Doesn’t your body look firmer, and isn’t your skin much softer now?"

Melissa reached for her robe and was shocked to see that she did look better. The oil was completely absorbed, or evaporated, and had left her skin glowing. ’This IS great! What have I been missing all these years?’ she thought. "I see why you say your salon is so special now!"

They walked down the hall a bit more and then Janie said "OK, here you go. A little whirlpool time before we continue. I think you’ll enjoy this one. The water will seem a little cool at first but then you’ll become accustomed to it. I’ll be back for your next session in a few minutes. Just relax and enjoy it."

Janie shut the door behind her and walked off. Melissa walked to the edge of the whirlpool and tested the water’s temperature with her toe. "Feels fine to me" she mumbled. She shrugged and took her robe off and slowly entered the whirlpool. As soon as she was fully in the pool she felt a chill ’Oooh this IS a bit chilly’ she thought. Surprisingly, it quickly began to feel more comfortable to her. Within moments it felt VERY comfortable. With the whirl of the spinning water serenading her, she soon fell into a deep relaxing sleep. She awoke to Janie’s voice.

"Melissa, time’s up sleepy-head! Time to move on"

Janie offered her hand to help steady her as she pulled herself up out of the water. Still groggy from the deep sleep she squinted at her hand as she got out of the water. It didn’t look like her hand. It looked like the hand of a younger woman....Like Janie’s hand....still it looked familiar. She wondered if she was dreaming. She shook her head and then looked down at her legs and feet. They also looked as if they belonged to someone else....They looked familiar, yet different. Younger, somehow. Unlike before, when she thought she just looked ’healthier’, this time was different. As she toweled off, she tried to see her reflection in the water but the churning made it impossible. She put her robe back on and noticed it was slightly bigger..... ’or was she smaller’ she wondered.

"You certainly look much better than this morning. And I imagine you feel a lot better too!" Janie told her.

Melissa thought about it and had to admit she felt ’worlds better’. But something wasn’t right. Even her voice seemed a bit different now. She desperately wanted to look in a mirror. She wasn’t sure whether to be excited or worried..... or whether she was losing her mind! She was afraid to say anything or ask Janie any questions because it all sounded so crazy! And ’Janie doesn’t seem to notice anything strange’ she curiously thought.

"C’mon Melissa, it’s time for the Steam Room" Janie informed her.

Melissa continued looking around the room just trying to get a glimpse of her reflection. More than anything she wanted to confirm that nothing unusual had really happened and that she was just letting her imagination go wild. Janie seemed to want her to hurry and so she obliged. As she walked out into the hall she noticed an attendant there. It was a male attendant who seemed to be only watching Janie and herself. If she didn’t know better she thought ’he almost looks like a guard!’. Janie took her hand and continued to hurry her a bit. As they passed a framed photo hanging on the wall, Melissa caught a glimpse of herself in the glass. She pulled her hand free from Janie’s grip and turned back to look into the glass.

"I AM younger! How?!...... What’s going on? I think we better stop right now!" she exclaimed, starting to sound worried.

Janie put her arm around her and explained "Just a little more. You’re not finished yet."

"Finished? I look 25! I think I’m finished!" she said squirming free from Janie’s arm. She was surprised at her own energy. Janie motioned to the male attendant and he suddenly grabbed Melissa. She couldn’t break his hold as Janie pulled out a needle and injected it into Melissa. She quickly quieted and all the fight in her diminished.

Janie turned back to the attendant "Oh well, lets get her to the next phase. She won’t be out long."

The attendant carried her to the next room and softly put her limp form down on the floor. He exited and Janie shut and locked the door behind him. They watched on a screen as the room filled with ’steam’. After a couple of minutes a light passed through the room. They could see the process begin to erase even more years from the now young woman lying on the floor. Her features softened and her body seemed to ’dissolve’ inside the robe. 25, 24, 23.... Now appearing only half her age and still getting younger. 22, 21, 20.... She now radiated youth, looking like she was barely out of high school and still getting younger....

"John, this process never ceases to amaze me." Janie told the attendant. They notice the process slowing and could see Melissa starting to come around.

When she awoke she could see that she was in an entirely different room. She was hopimg it all had been a bad dream. She held up her hand to look and could see that it wasn’t a dream! Her hand looked like the hand of a teenager. The sleeve of her robe now covered half of her hand. She knew the robe hadn’t gotten larger. She wondered how old she was now? She could tell she was much younger than before. Her body felt so light. Once again there were no mirrors anywhere. She wrapped her arms around her knees and just sat on the floor. "Why are they doing this to me?" she lightly sobbed "Please stop!"

She finally worked up enough courage to look inside her robe. Peering at her chest she yelled out "Noooooo Stop this!!! Please" She could see she was no longer in her twenties....probably 16 at best. "This has to stop!!!!" she cried out. Her sobs masked the sound of the door opening.

"Ummm.... Excuse me, Miss?".

Melissa bolted upright and spun around. In the room with her now was another young teen. She looked at him and her tearful eyes slowly widened.

"MARK? MARK!.....They did this to you too! We have to get out...... Look at US!...."

"Now, Mel settle down. There’s a reason for all this."

"REASON? A REASON? I don’t understand. How is this possible?....A reason?.....WAIT!....You ’KNEW’! YOU knew this was going to happen?!!!"

"Mel, I can explain. I needed cash for the bribe errrr inducement.... we were going bankrupt! No bank was going to loan us any more money. I found out about this place and came up with a plan. One of their services is to pair children with childless couples. The adoptive parents are willing to pay large sums of money in order to know what they are getting! They are all really great here. They even gave me the cash up front. It’s not like we won’t grow up again. And when we do the business will be a rousing success. I’ve taken care of all the details! Reinvestments, stocks.... it’s all planned out. No one knows about the ’inducement’ except you, me and Mr. Jackson who took it..... ’Plausible Deniability’ he called it. Don’t you see? This is perfect! And just like the adoptive parents got to pick us out from the profiles I provided, WE got to pick them also! I checked them out thoroughly!...."

Melissa was frantic now "WE? WE? You’ve done this on your own! I want out, NOW! I didn’t ask for THIS.....what is wrong with you? Look at me! I don’t even look old enough to vote! My God, Mark, I’m a TEENAGER! This is TOO MUCH!"

Mark tried to better explain himself "I couldn’t let the business fail! I just couldn’t. I’m doing this for you. You deserve better than bankruptcy! This is all so perfect. In a month it’ll be one of the fastest growing businesses in the country. Our new ’parents’ will be the ’owners’ but our current management structure will carry on until ownership reverts back to us in a few years. It is set up to revert to us when we’re older."

Melissa couldn’t believe what she was hearing! "Parents? You fool! I loved you for all your crazy dreams. You were never a failure in my eyes. What kind of parents want a couple of married teenagers? This is not right! I don’t want to pretend to be some kind of kid again....been there, done that! I live by my own rules now. I’ll run away! I’m not going to stand for this. Just give them the money back and tell them to reverse this! ....Who pays big money to adopt ’teenagers’?....Oh my! MARK! No more! We can’t get younger! No younger, right? Mark? Mark?...."

The door opened as Janie returned. She asked Mark to follow her. Mark lowered his head and left while Melissa continued her pleading. They could hear her sobs as they walked away.

"Mark, it’s not too late to stop this. Not until the final process..... I just want you to understand that" Janie told him as they continue to walk down the hall.

"I don’t know. This seemed like such a great idea. I mean.... we were broke and now we’re about to be rich. It would only take a few years before we could take over the business again. Then eveything would be so much better.... at least as far as money goes" he answered, not sounding as confident any more.

"You can turn back at any point before the mental regression phase is complete. Obviously, there would be a financial penalty for you..... But you’re the one in charge. You seem to be having second thoughts. A lot of people do. More so when the rejuvenation is so drastic. There are no guarantees. Growing up in a different environment could change you. You and Melissa might not even get along. She may become more self-centered. You might become withdrawn. You might find you’re not interested in your business so much this time around. Who knows? We can stop this. It’s your call, Mark." Janie stopped and waited for him to think about it, not wanting to rush him.

"She was so against this back there. I never expected that. I thought she would love a second chance knowing that she would be rich. I mean we’d still be together....obviously not like before, but still together. And well off. Damn! Maybe I have been a fool. I don’t know what to do. The success is so enticing but maybe not at this cost.....Maybe she is right. .....Let’s stop it. We’ll get by somehow...." he finally declared.

"Let’s go tell your wife. I’m sure she will be happy with your decision." Janie directed him back to the Steam Room where Melissa is waiting.

Janie opened the Steam Room door and could see that Melissa has calmed down. Mark was still surprised at how young Melissa looked, even her mannerisms seem more exhuberant.

"Melissa, you were right. This was crazy. We’re turning back. The money isn’t everything." Mark offers.

Melissa looked at the two others now in the room and asked "Money? Excuse me? Like, Do I know you or something? Money may not be everything but it’s up there! You must be a ’total’ geek! TOTALLY! Get a clue, dude!"

Mark turned back to Janie to see her now looking directly at Melissa.

"Melissa, how old are you?"

"Seventeen.....well almost anyway. I’ll be a senior when school starts back up." Melissa answered.

Janie shook her head in disbelief and explained to Mark "Someone has run the Mental Regression program for this room. I don’t understand...."

At that moment, John returned "Hey Janie, she was going crazy in there so I went ahead and ran the M.R. program for this room to settle her down. Since you headed down to the last stage I figured it was OK. It’s not like we still can’t go more and it sure made her a helluva lot more peaceful...... Not a problem is it?"

"Not if Mark hadn’t changed his mind about going through with the full process. You idiot! You’ll be written up for this!" Janie angrily answered.

Melissa brushed her hair with her hand and then started rubbing a spot on her face. "Ooooh...Do I have like a zit coming on? Oooooh...."

"Written up?! But what about Melissa? Look at her. Listen to her. She’s just a kid! We can’t leave her like this.... You have to do something!" Mark worriedly stated.

"I suppose we do. There’s no way to recover the memories once they are erased. Actually, the only real possibility now is to continue" Janie informed him "There’s no reversing it now. There’s no other way. A teenager is rarely adopted, and she can’t live on her own."

"Oh....You’re right. I’ve really done it this time. And a girl like that wouldn’t even have anything to do with a guy like me! She’s so different now than from when we met. Man, she was 30 when we married! We’ve got to go through with the plan now! Damn! Oh well.... Atleast everything can still work like I first planned it!" Mark declared.

"Melissa, let’s head to the Sun Room. Mark, we’ll get you later. And John, NO surprises!" Janie ordered as she motioned for Melissa to follow her. "Melissa, this tanning bed is a bit different than the ones you’ve seen before, it doesn’t damage your skin at all as you tan. In fact it leaves it baby soft"

"Oh, I don’t worry about that stuff. One thing though....Can I get a bathing suit or something before I go in the tanner?" Melissa timidly asked "Ummmm I kinda like tan lines."

"There’ll be a couple in there to choose from if you want. Change into one before you get in the tanning bed" Janie told her as they arrived at the room.

Janie opened the door and Melissa entered and chose the two piece bathing suit. She put it on and admired her reflection in the large mirror on the wall. Her young body was lean and fit now, unlike when she had arrived that morming as a middle-aged woman. Janie was able to watch on the video as Melissa adjusted the strings of her bikini and the laid down in the tanner. It automatically came on and then suddenly got much brighter for a few seconds. Melissa could hear a buzzing sound as the lights brightened. All of a sudden she began to shrink. She was no longer ’almost seventeen’.... 15 maybe. Then she turned 14 and was quickly getting younger. Her curves disappeared. No longer could she fill out her bathing suit. 13,12,11 -Now looking more child-like with each passing moment. 10, 9, 8 Her hair now shorter and finer. She still seemed to be shrinking and her features were becoming even more rounded. 7-6. The process stopped and Janie reached for a button on a small panel near the door. Melissa suddenly became aware that something had happened.

"Hey, Sthop It!" she lisped.

A frightened look crossed her face. She sat up with her feet dangling over the edge of the unit. "What did you do?!"

Janie pressed a button on the panel and watched as Melissa’s frightened look began to be replaced by a large smile. Soon, she was swinging her legs and laughing. Janie opened the door and handed the little girl a smaller robe with cartoon characters on it.

"Here you go Sweetie, you put this on and I’ll help you hop down."

Janie then helped her to the floor and then led her into another room filled with toys and stuffed animals.

"You stay in here and play and I’ll bring you a surprise friend in just a minute"

Melissa made her way over to a large dollhouse and sat down by it. She smiled and waved to Janie as she went back to get Mark

"Mark, It’s all done. She’s playing with some toys in the ’finishing room’. Any possible remaining memories should be repressed as she becomes accustomed to the child-friendly surroundings. Actually the M.R. appeared to be a complete success so the ’finishing room’ is a mere formality at this point. I told her I’d be bringing her a surprise friend so we need to hurry. It’s your turn now."

"I’m as ready as I’ll ever be" he replied and then walked down the hall and entered the Sun Room.

He nervously laid back and joked "Beam me up".

The tanning bed once again came to life.

Janie laughed and said "Engage" as the room brightened just as it had before.

Soon it’s rejuvenating powers were again working 16, 15, 14 The last of Mark’s ’peach-fuzz’ disappeared. His height lessened. 13, 12, 11 He looked like any boy from Rockwell painting. 10, 9, 8. Still getting smaller and starting to look a bit pudgy. 7, 6 The process stops. He looks at his hands and legs, still fully aware of what has just happened yet surprised none-the-less. He notices he now has a missing front tooth. Janie smiled and pressed the MR button on the control panel. Suddenly, his expression changed and he looked up.

"Hey, get me outta this sissy thing."

Janie opened the door and little Marky quickly hopped down.

"C’mon squirt! I’ve got someone for you to meet!" Janie took his hand and lead him into the ’finishing room’. She directed him toward little Melissa. At first Janie almost thought she saw a look of recognition in Melissa’s eyes but that was quickly displaced as she heard Melissa speak to the other child.

"I’m Missy, what’s your name?"

"Ummmm Mark" he answered.

"Wanna play house with me?" Missy asks.

"Sure, I guess..." came his reply.

Janie smiled and slipped out of the room.


"Mr. and Mrs. Bex. It’s good to see you again. The children are almost ready. We just need a couple of signatures from you and then they’ll be ready to head on home with you!" the receptionist politely told a young couple.

"This certainly is exciting for my wife and I....I’m sure you can imagine!" Mr Bex says.

Mrs. Bex was beaming, her eyes fixed on the door that the children would emerge from.

"I tell you this is going to be exciting. We have a busy afternoon planned. We had a few business deals to tend to this morning. First thing was that ’business’ that Mark and Melissa had. I studied on that all last week. That darn thing was on the verge of bankruptcy! I found someone willing to assume the debt AND shell out a little money to boot.... Five thousand dollars each to be put aside for the kids when they are ready for college! That was lucky because that thing was taking on water FAST. I don’t see how they thought they could be in business in another month! I can’t thank that Jackson fellow enough for his help in finding a buyer."

Just then Janie brought the kids out to meet Mr. and Mrs. Bex. She had them dressed up in T-shirts, shorts, sandals, and baseball caps.

"Ahhhhhhh they’re adorable" Mrs. Bex gleefully shouted as she ran toward them for a hug.

Mr. Bex knelt down to look them in the eyes "Well kids we’re going to celebrate you new wealth..... you’ve each got five thousand dollars in the bank for college and it’s earning interest every day it’s in there. That means that when you get out of High School you’ll have about seven thousand dollars for college. A couple of business tycoons like yourselves deserve a dinner and a movie! How about McDonalds and then a Disney movie? Whadya say?"

"Yippeeeeeeee" the two children blissfully exclaimed as they left the Salon.


Epilogue: In a strange sense maybe everything ’did’ work out.... at least ’close’ to the plan: The business didn’t go bankrupt..... Melissa and Mark DID get to share in a profit (although not as Mark had hoped) .....Melissa DID get a new wardrobe (so did Mark)....AND they got their dinner and movie!



End Chapter 1

Of Profit and Deceit

by: Louder | Complete Story | Last updated May 6, 2005


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