Janice Grey, Founder and CEO of PureHealth, C0-Founder of WomenCare, Sponsor of the 2022 Conference on Mental Health and Member of Glory Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 to Watch, sat impatiently in her limousine. The line of cars leading into the Museum Gala was moving slower than a congressional ethics committee. Janice was eager to step out in her very expensive black dress and be photographed by a dozens of press photographers. Later she would pick the best photograph and have it transformed into a poster to hang in the lobby of her company.
The phone rang. George’s picture flashed on the screen. That was concerning. Why was her Chief Financial Officer calling her now? He was requesting a video call.
She accepted the call. George’s face appeared on the screen. The elderly man had the most ridiculous bushy eyebrows. For some reason, he was smirking.
“Speak,” Janice commanded. “I am about to step out and make my way up the red carpet.”
“Victor Horton, three hundred thousand dollars,” George said in that annoying Delaware accent. “John Napoli, Two hundred thousand dollars and a trip to Las Vegas. Bianca Cantrell, fifty thousand dollars.”
Janice glared at the old man. She knew those names and she knew those numbers. They were the people they needed to bribe in order to get their new anxiety drug on the market.
“What are you doing, George? Have you lost your mind?” Janice asked.
“I’m not George,” he said. “I am a concerned, worried and anxious citizen.”
The limousine coasted forward. The line was moving again.
“I don’t understand what game you are playing at but I am not amused,” Janice said. “Especially over the phone like this. I’m hanging up now.”
“Hang up and this long list of names, along with the amounts paid to them, will be sent to every news, government and watchdog agency,” George said.
Janice glared at her phone. “Blackmail, George? You idiot, you facilitated those arrangements! You would go to jail too. Are you going senile?”
“Madam, I remind, repeat and mention again, I am not George,” he said again in the Delaware drawl.”
“Fine, who the fuck are you?” Janice asked.
“I am Mister E.”
A cold hand gripped Janice’s stomach. Mister E, the social justice villain! He had stolen priceless artifacts only to give them away to their home countries. He looted cryptocurrency funds and transferred the funds to victims of police violence. He was responsible for the detonation of countless Confederate statues. The man was a menace to the rich and powerful and utterly ruthless.
And this madman knew about her company’s bribes!
“Why are you calling me?” Janice demanded. “If you are really, Mister E, then why haven’t you sent this information to the press yet?”
“Your company is about to release a dangerous treatment for anxiety to the public,” the man with George’s face and voice said. “The drug has dangerous side effects and will only add to anxious people’s misfortunes, troubles and calamities.”
The limousine coasted forward. How much time did Janice have before she had to step out? Maybe she could talk her way out of this.
“It is called the pharmaceutical business,” Janice said. “Every drug has side effects and every company greases the wheels to make sure it is available for purchase. Besides, this drug has the potential to help people.”
“Maybe it does,” the man who looked like George said. “That is why I am willing to make a compromise, agreement and concession.”
“What kind of compromise?” Janice asked. She resorted to the usual distractions that won over those rare people with morals. “Want me to start a charity for anxious people? I could probably get an Oscar winner to be a spokesperson.”
“I was thinking of something more empathetic,” not-George said. “I think you need to experience a moment of intense anxiety yourself. I will delete these files that I have procured if you strip out of your dress and exit the limousine in the nude.”
“You must be joking,” Janice said.
George’s face stared back at her. It was really amazing how accurate the bushy eyebrows were. Everything looked like George’s face. Maybe this really was George. Could this be some sort of powerplay to take over the company?
No, not everything was the same. The eyes were different. They were far colder. They were the eyes of someone who didn’t make idle threats.
“If the limousine door opens and you do not step out in the nude, in the bare, au natural, I will send the bribery accounts to the public,” Mister E said. “Do as I ask, and I will delete the files. One way or another, you will be exposed. How is up to you.”
Visions of stock prices dropping danced through Janice’s head. She imagined outrage from the media. Shareholders will demand she step down. Federal prosecutors will look to advance their career with her conviction.
“Fuck,” she whispered.
“There are only three cars ahead of you,” Mister E said.
“Fuck!” Janice snapped again. “Completely nude? What about underwear?”
“I will allow you your shoes but that is all,” Mister E said.
“You goddamn son of a fucking bitch!” Janice snarled. She dropped the phone beside her on the seat and then reached behind her to get to the zipper of her dress. It was too high up. Her hand groped around for precious seconds before she gave up.
The limousine glided forward.
She had to get out this dress. It was too form-fitting to slip out of. It took the help of three people to get into this dress and that included the designer. Getting out of it by herself was impossible.
“Joseph Brooks, fifty thousand dollars,” Mister E recited.
There was no choice. Janice gripped the neckline of the dress and pulled. The fabric stubbornly resisted. She kept pulling; her hands vibrating with adrenaline and fear.
The sound of ripping cloth never sounded so sweet. Janice nearly giggled with relief. The dress opened to reveal the black bra Janice was wearing. The ripping stopped at the waist and stubbornly refused to open any further.
“Michael Johnson, a spot on the executive board when he retires from the FDA,” Mister E read.
Janice pulled the sleeves off her shoulders and through her arms. She pulled the dress over her waist, snagging her underwear in the process. Lifting her ass, she wiggled and struggled as she slipped the dress and caught panties down past her ass and then down her legs.
The dress caught on the heels. “Fuck!” she swore. Her hand trembled as she undid the straps on her heels. The shoes slid off and she pulled the dress down over her feet.
The limousine moved once more. How many more cars were in front of her? If there were no more, the door could open at any moment.
“I will find you,” Janice swore. “I will hire the best trackers in the world and then I will sue you into oblivion you fucking piece of shit!”
“Penelope Carlisle, a membership to a country club,” Mister E responded.
Janice reached behind her and undid the clasp on her bra. It fell off her heavy breasts and joined the dress on the floor. The leather seat was warm against her bare ass.
“Don’t forget your shoes,” Mister E said.
“Fuck you, asshole!” Janice said. She did bend over and put her heels back on.
Mister E didn’t respond. She glanced down at the phone and saw that the call had been disconnected. He was done with her.
Janice sat in the back. Her leg shook. Was she really about to step out in the nude? Yes, she had to. She could spin the nudity later. Her people would say she was making a statement about natural beauty or some bullshit. The media will eat it up. Who knows? This might be a good publicity stunt.
“Everything is going to be okay,” Janice said out loud.
The cold pit of terror in her stomach disagreed.
The limousine moved again. Before it came to a complete stop, the door opened. The noise of the assembled crowd of paparazzi filled the interior of the car.
Janice was paralyzed. She didn’t want to move. It was hard to breathe.
She forced herself to step out. A gasp ran through the crowd followed by the flash of a thousand cameras. Startled faces stared at her from behind velvet ropes.
The usher who opened the door offered his hand. Numb, Janice took it. The man started to walk and Janice followed him.
The cameras kept flashing. Questions were shouted at her. The startled faces gave way to looks of lust, disgust or judgement. Every eye was on her.
The sense of vulnerability seared into her. She was exposed and helpless. Every intimate part of her body was revealed to the world and would exist forever in digital media as well as public memory. All of her previous achievements were now just footnotes to this one moment of salacious humiliation.
“I’m going to throw up,” Janice whispered. It was a long walk to the museum doors.
The usher turned towards her. His breath tickled her ear. He had to shout to be heard above the crowd. “Yes, that is a common, mutual and shared symptom of anxiety sufferers. I recommend you seek out therapy and medication to deal with the traumatic experience you are having, however, I advise you do not use any medication from your company.”
Janice looked at the man’s face for the first time. Bushy eyebrows hung over hateful eyes. It was Mister E, still wearing George’s face.
“You!” she hissed.
“And just so you know, I deleted the files. However, I sent the incriminating, compromising and damning evidence to the press before I called you,” Mister E said.
He let go of her hand and walked back towards the limousines. Janice took one step before event security came rushing to throw a coat over her. As she screamed and shouted, the guards forcibly dragged her to the museum doors.
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