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The Unpleasant Profession of Jennifer Hoag
by Charles M. Bonanno
Charles M. Bonanno -- all rights reserved
 

"Jennifer?"

"Jennifer!"

"Damn it! Wake up, John! We're late! I'm not going to sit in this cab all night!"

"Ah... coming, Ms. Todman!"

"What's the matter? It was like you were on another planet. Didn't ya' hear me calling?"

"I'm sorry. I'm still not use to answering to that name."

"Well, you'd better get use to it soon! Get in! I don't like to be kept waiting. Do it again, and I'll give the next big money job to another one of the girls!"

"No, Ms. Todman! I'm sorry... you know how badly I need the money."

"So how are the kids doing these days?"

"Fine. Judy's getting over a cold, and little Tony has another ear infection. The doctor bills are eating me alive! I'd like to thank you for sending Marna over to baby-sit."

"Thanks nothing! It'll be your turn to watch her kids when she goes to work tomorrow night. Be there to pick them up by six fifteen! Don't forget! Got that!?"

"Yes... don't worry, I won't forget!"

"You're lucky. Marna's a traditionalist, ya' know. She doesn't believe in bottle feeding. If you'd been working for me a couple months ago, you would've had to breast feed her brats."

"Breast feeding? I... I could never...!"

"That's what they're for, dearie. Mine are mostly silicone these days... even a woman of my age must keep up appearances in our line of work, ya' know. But you! A couple a those new recombinant DNA hormone shots and you'd be beggin' for a kid to feed... and you've got such a nice pair of knockers too!"

"Why... WHY ME!!!!"

"You ... ladies... all right back there?"

"Just watch you're driving, bozo. And keep you're mouth to yourself. If one of your stupid cabby friends hadn't run into my caddie, I wouldn't be inside this rusty junk pile!"

"Sheesh. Bite my head off... why don't ya'!"

"Now stop crying! I thought you 'd be over this by now."

"Over it! Over it! Two damned months ago I was a happily married man with a wife and a couple of kids! Now I'm divorced, broke, and forced to go out and do... this!"

"Well, what ya' expect? It could've been far worse, ya' know. You were very lucky."

"LUCKY! How in Hell can you call this lucky!? You were born a woman, I wasn't! I've lost everything!"

"That's what 'you' think! You remember, Bob? Bob Malcolm. My second husband. The moron. I believe he worked a spell in that car factory with you."

"I... I think so. A big blond guy? A body builder, right? Always putting people down for eating meat and..."

"Yeap, that's my Bobby! The rabid militant vegetarian. Or should I say, that 'was' my Bob."

"What happened to him? He didn't change into a woman too, did he?"

"I wish! I'd love to stick that "God's gift to women' in a black leather top and miniskirt. A few hours standing on a street corner would've done his libido a world of good!"

"So what 'did' happen to him? Did he get the FLU? Or did all those steroids finally get to him?"

"Oh, yeah! Definitely the FLU! And how! He got it 'real' good! They found him downtown in one of those cheap by-the-hour hotels. He'd just finished getting his twenty credits worth when he suddenly started screaming bloody murder!"

"Is he... is he alive? What happened to him?"

"Well... the first FLU sign was kinda obvious. Even that mental giant could tell something was wrong when his pride and joy fell off! I'd pay a thousand creds for a picture of his face just about then!"

"But you said he didn't change sex."

"And he didn't! I'm no herpo... logist, herpi... logist, ah shit! Whatever they call them! The reptile doctor at the hospital said that Tuataras don't have anything dangling on the outside... or inside for that matter. By the time the ambulance got there it was all over. They took Mr. Muscles away in a shoe box!"

"A Tuatara? What's a..."

"Heck if I know! Some weird kinda primitive lizard thingy. The dumbest looking critter I've ever done seen. The only thing it eats is meat, preferable alive. The doctors say he's still in there, but he can't even use a voder. They're teaching him to blink his beady little eyes to Morse code... as if anyone would give a damn what that idiot's gonna say!"

"So what are you going to do with... ?"

"Don't look at me, I couldn't care less! As the closest thing he's got to a relative the docs tried to stick me with the scaly little bastard. No way! I already have a pet. The last thing I need is old Bobby crawling around the place!"

"Yo! Mario Andrette! Can't ya' make this thing go faster? You promised we'd be uptown by now! Hit the pedal or no tip!"

"Right! Maybe you'd like to climb on the hood and scare the traffic away?! Don't worry, I'll get you there!"

"Watch ya' mouth, buddy! Or I'll write ya' name down and report ya' to the taxi commission! Frig that! Where ya' come from, lead foot? Mars? I've never seen anything outside of a zoo with so many consonants in its name!"

"Ha Ha! Very funny! Now leave me alone, I'm driving here!"

"I "like' him! How about I make him husband five, Jennifer? Jennifer? YO! Earth to the former John Hoag! Are you receiving me? Damn it! Don't start crying again!"

"I'm not crying!"

"Could've fooled me! There's enough eye liner dripping down your face to scare away little children on Halloween! Now fix yourself up. We'll be there soon."

"Where we going?"

"Let me check my little black book... yep, here it is. Mr. Lawrence Talbot. One thirty second, Park Lane and Oak wood."

"Pretty ritzy part of town. Does he normally do much business with the agency?"

"I'll have ya' know that I've sent my girls to every damned part of this city! Just last week we took care of a two supreme court justices and the ambassador from France! What's the problem? You didn't like the place I sent you to last time."

"Like it! The guy foul mouthed stinking slime ball! I don't think he's taken a bath since the turn of the century! He even kept me an hour over the limit and stiffed me for the overtime!"

"You'll get use to that. I'll just remember to charge him more the next time he calls."

"So, what's this Mr. Talbot like?"

"Well... his checks clear the bank."

"That's not what I asked and you know it!"

"Okay. If you must know. He's a bit rough and most of the girls complain about that. He calls the agency two, maybe three times a month to make an appointment."

"Why do I feel you're forgetting to mention something else?"

"Nothing you can't handle. You've been working for me long enough."

"Ms. Todman. I 'really' appreciate you taking me in. Although I never... I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd 'ever' be doing this kind of work. But I still have some standards left. There 'are' something's that even I won't..."

"Relax! It's not 'that' bad! He's not a monster!"

"So...?"

"So, what?"

"What's the problem with this Mr. Talbot? And why does that name sound so familiar?""

"Don't ya' read the papers? He's a big wheel in the Stock Exchange. Not only is he loaded, he's a notorious heavy weight tightwad. He's pulls the same routine every time he calls. He demands my best girl and springs a couple of his business friends on her when she arrives."

"Geeez, Ms. Todman! It's bad enough I've got to do this kind of... stuff. Now you want me to take care of a crowd too?!"

"Look, John... err Jennifer. It's not as bad as it seems! You just do your thing and his friends will pay the agency under the table afterwards. Daddy Warbucks will never know that his buddies are embarrassed by his penny-pinching habits."

"How much?"

"The usual rate for each one plus twenty percent off the top for you. Just keep them all happy for as long as you can. It's not that hard. I'd still be going out on calls if it weren't for this damned arthritis!"

"Anything else?"

"Just one thing. Don't be too surprised if his wife shows up. She really doesn't give a damn what her hubby does as long as the money keeps rolling in, but she might stick her head into the room every once in a while to see how things are going. I think she does it just to annoy him."

"Perfect! A crowd 'and' an audience! Why don't you just put my picture on the friggin' Web and make my life complete?! Maybe someone in Outer Mongolia still doesn't know what happened to me and what I do for a living!"

"Get off it, Jennifer! It's not like 'you' never called our the agency! I remember that one time a couple years back when your wife went into the hospital for two weeks and..."

"That wasn't my fault! I was under a lot of stress at work and she wasn't there to..."

"That's what they 'all' say, sugar! But I guess the high heel's on the other foot now, ain't it?!"

"I need a drink!"

"Oh, no! Not while you're on the job! Remember what happened the last time you took a break and went inside that bar downtown! The customer demanded a refund when you didn't come back! But I have to admit, something like that could only happen to you!"

"Sheesh! Rub it in... why don't ya'?! What would 'you' have done if a seven foot tall stuffed teddy bear with a three foot long penis had grabbed you?!"

"Hummm! Come to think of it, I've never had the situation 'come' up! But I doubt if I'd have torn it off and beaten the stuffing out of him with it until the cops arrived!"

"Go ahead, laugh it up! I'm just lucky that tall-dark-and-foam-filled didn't press charges! Hell! He actually came over to the apartment to apologize! Someone had gotten him drunk by pouring a bottle of vodka on him. After he passed out they'd Velcro-ed that 'thing' on his crotch and waited to see what would happen when the next woman walked in. And now Tony and Judy are..."

"Tony and Judy are... what?"

"God! This is so embarrasing!"

"Well... spill it! You know I'm going to make you miserable until you do!"

"They're making me invite him over for dinner every Saturday... and he can't even eat! They just sit in his lap while he hugs them until its time to go to bed! They love him! Tony's calls him Uncle Teddy, and Judy asked us both last night to 'play house' so that he could stay permanently! I swear the poor guy's terry cloth face blushed pink!"

"That's rich! That's priceless. Humm... that reminds me. You still owe me seventy five credits for bailing you out."

"Yes, I haven't forgotten. I'll give you the money tomorrow, Ms. Todman."

"Make sure ya' do. I'm not running a bank ya know."

"Are we there yet?"

"Almost. Now remember... you've always been Jennifer Hoag. No one needs to know that you're a gendermorph... especially this client. Got that?"

"Is this there 'something' else you've forgotten to mention about Mr. Talbot?"

"You'll find out soon enough. It seems that Old Mr. Talbot's a 'bit' closed minded about Scabs. I sent Susan over last week and he went postal!"

"He's afraid of Susan? Susan the three foot tall Panda morph? You're joking, right? She's so damned cute total strangers try to hug her on the streets! I've never seen her without a half-dozen kids following her around."

"It was a pretty ugly scene, all right. He screamed some pretty nasty things at her and slammed the door in her muzzle. It took me most of the evening to calm her down. That's why I'm accompanying you tonight. If I think he suspects anything I'm yanking you out of there!"

"Why didn't you save yourself the trouble and send someone else?"

"Believe me, I would've if I could. But all the girls are busy tonight. My only choices were you and Tara. I can just imagine what would happen if 'she' showed up on his doorstep!"

"I see what you mean. If little Susan scared the crap out of him, I'd hate to see his reaction to a four hundred pound bipedal Siberian tiger morph! She's a little pussy cat normally, but it's really not safe to get on her bad side!"

"It's a crying shame too. Tara's one of my most experienced girls. She can do things with her paws and tail that are truly remarkable. After a couple visits her clients never ask for Norms again!"

"OOPS! Here we are. Now, remember what I said. Let me do all the talking. Keep your mouth shut unless he talks to you directly. Got that?"

"Yes, Ms. Todman."

"What ya' got on that meter, slowpoke?"

"Twelve credits exactly."

"Twelve credits! That's highway robbery! I can remember crossing the whole damned city for twelve credits!"

"I bet. And exactly what color was that covered wagon?

"Care to say... that... again?!"

"Nah! How about my money or I call the cops?!"

"Here ya go! And don't spend the tip all in one place!"

"Gee, thanks! A whole quarter credit. Now I can afford to buy a newspaper!"

"Happy to oblige. Now get lost!"

"Okay, lets go. See that red door? That's where we're headed."

"Why do we have to walk way around the building? The front door is just over there."

"Them's the rich folk rules, dearie. 'Our' kind don't walk through the front door. It simply isn't done. We've got to stop at the servant's entrance and get the butler to let us in. Now leave me alone for a second, I've got to get ready to talk to these smucks."

"Who's there?"

"Good evening. It's Ms. Todman and Ms. Hoag."

"I see... come in. The master Talbot told me to expect you. You're late. Everyone else has arrived already. I'll let everyone know you're here. Please remain in the lobby until I return."

"Everyone?"

"What I tell you? He's at it again! Now hush and keep smiling!"

"Good evening, Ms. Todman! So this is the new one. Tiny little thing, isn't she?"

"I assure you she's well qualified, Mr. Talbot."

"I sincerely hope so! And she'd better last longer than the last one! Harold and I were rather annoyed when she gave out in the middle of the night! This evening is rather special and I won't tolerate another repeat failure!

"I'm truly sorry about that, Mr. Talbot. Rest assured that it won't happen again. Jennifer is worth every credit you're paying and I'll stake my reputation on that! I'm sure you'll be calling upon her skills often in the future!"

"I'll be the judge of that! You... turn around."

"What...?"

"I said... TURN AROUND!"

"As you wish, Sir!"

"You don't have a tail or fur under that dress, do you?"

"No... no sir! Just me."

"Very well. Peter! Harry! She's here! We can start now!"

"Hello there. This the one? Kinda small for all of us, don't you think. Lawrence?"

"Jennifer is extremely talented and a fast learner. She may be a bit on the 'petite' side, but I'm sure she can satisfy all of your... needs."

"It's too late to change things now, Peter. We'll just go on as planned. Where's Harry?"

"He's in the quest bedroom making a mess. I don't think he has a clue what he's doing. There's webvideo equipment scattered all around the bed. He's still trying to figure out what plugs into what."

"There's not much time left! Give him a hand!"

"Me?! I don't know beans about web cameras! I'm a tax lawyer not a technician! And Harry's almost as bad. I've yet to see a fortune 100 CEO that can touch a computer without screwing it up!"

"God! This is hopeless! Everything will be ruined if we can't link up everybody!"

"Mr. Talbot?"

"What is it? Can't you see I'm busy?!"

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but Jennifer might be able to help. She's done a bit of video work for the agency. Perhaps you saw our new website? It's really quite impressive. All the girls had a fun time in front of the camera."

"I don't have time to see trash... wait! You 'did' say she knows how to use all this stuff?"

"Absolutely! I'll stake my reputation on it!"

"She'd better, or I'm taking my business somewhere..."

"Lawrence?"

"Yes? What is it now, Peter?"

"Harry's about done. He's got all the video equipment plugged in and rolling! We'd better get in there before he starts without us again!"

"What about the linkups? This is not going to work unless we can't all see each other!"

"Tokyo and London are online and we're getting a clear signal. Something's still wrong with Paris, the security codes refuse to mesh. If you ask me, Maurice has been playing with his system again!"

"Of all the rotten luck! Very well... YOU! Jennifer is it?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Don't just stand there! Grab that briefcase and get in there! I want both you and those cameras working in the next fifteen minutes!"

"Cameras? You're going to film me...? Why do we need...?"

"I'm not paying you to question me! We're 'all' going to be on camera in less than half an hour! I promised my foreign business partners that they could watch the action tonight!" You have any problems with that?!"

"Lawrence?"

"What now, Peter?"

"This thing is a piece of crap! Why can't we use the computer in the den?"

"One of Talbot, jr's games infected it with a virus. The hard-drive's trash! I lost at least two months of take-home paperwork and all my backups!"

"Which game?"

"How the heck should I know?! Ask him yourself when he gets back."

"Very well, I will. When will that be?"

"Whenever he graduates from that military academy I sent him to. Say in... eight to ten years!"

"I see. I'd better... I'd better get back and help Harry."

"You still here? What you waiting for... a written invitation?! Get in there!"

"Yes, Sir! Of course, Sir!"

"WAIT! STOP RIGHT THERE!"

"Yes? Is there something... did I do something wrong?"

"Get back here! Aren't you forgetting something?"

"Forgetting? I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what you mean..."

"Of all the brainless... ! The briefcase! Grab... the... DAMN BRIEFCASE!"

"OOPS! Sorry!"

"Now get in there and start typing! My overseas partners want copies of all those contracts before the market opens tomorrow morning or the merger is off... got me?!"

"Yes, sir. I get them done as..."

"Shut up! I didn't hire you to see your lips flapping! There's millions ridding on this deal! My business partners and I will probably be video-conferencing all damned night, and we need that paperwork ready when we're done. Now... MOVE YOUR ASS!!!!"

"Ms. Todman!"

"Yes, Mr. Talbot? Is there something else? I need to get back to the office."

"If she's not as good as you claimed, I'm never calling the Todman Temporary Secretarial Service again!"

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