Low lighting from the street lamps outside filtered through window blinds upon the figure crouched in the empty office. For anyone that could see, the horizontal illumination highlighted the lustered leather of knee-high boots, leather pants, the velvet of a tight, black corset, and the twinkle of mischievous eyes smiling at the numbers twisting back and forth on the safe she turned. She felt fortunate enough that unlike a lot of other hidden figures probably bent down at safes that time of night, she didn't need any standard safe-cracking tools or burglary experience to to open hers. It even amused her as she laughed at getting the numbers wrong a few times; she knew the number, and knew unlike all the other figures, she could afford to make mistakes, and needed not worry about a time limit. As she glanced at the office clock reading 12:30, it also amused her to notice a standing figure close-by, observing as if looking to catch her in the act.
"Good evening, my dress-up detective," she spoke sweetly, after turning her head to resume opening the safe.
"Trouble opening the safe?" the dark figure voice spoke like a low rumble, with a nearly amused tone, surprised one of his most infamous persons of interest was having trouble.
"Nope, wide open," was her declaration followed by the creaking of safe door. "Just like tonight's possibilities."
"Is that so?" the man's posture relaxed slightly, knowing of all the types he had to deal with regularly, she wasn't one to put up any kind of fight.
"A man in a trenchcoat wearing a domino mask, fedora, and utility belt confronting a dominatrix-looking woman opening a business-office safe well past business hours...yeah, I'd say many possibilities seem open. You sure can't call it boring."
"That depends on what you're used to," he commented with a deadpan tone.
"Probably true in your case, but I still believe the narrow-minded approach is not the healthiest to take, unless it helps to let other things go, and focus on the really important things before you."
"Yes, like theft and injustice."
"More like helping out a friend in need. If you want 'theft and injustice,' the financial sector is just down the block," she pointed in the direction of further downtown, smiling at her clever retort and the clock.
"Somehow I get the feeling you're headed that way soon, especially being in the vicinity of the closest precinct."
"No, I don't have any friends in that direction, not yet anyway. But anyway, tonight is more about helping those in-need," she rose from the open safe, the money she handled from it laid back down to his surprise. She'd always seemed unbothered and patient when he showed up; he had to admit it was refreshing to deal with someone who took things so light-heartedly, no matter how hot and heavy some of her innuendos implied. He hid how refreshing he felt she was just like he hid how her innuendos of soft-spoken relaxation and pleasant distraction were interpreted as hot and heavy to his mind.
"I don't imagine you need that money from the safe any more than the money's owner needs to be burglarized."
"Then maybe the wide-open possibilities will include expanding your imagination, allowing you to imagine that I'm helping to test a friend's security, and my payment for doing so according to him, would be in the safe. He needed a security check, and needs to graciously give. Lately, I've needed to find something of value that could be anywhere, even in this safe; and now that I have a detective around, I can be certain my need will be fulfilled."
Probing eyes watched the seductive woman, arms crossed and leaning against the safe wall with growing caution, noticing moreso a smile going beyond 'light-hearted' and reaching an 'expectant' quality. The tapping of her finger against her other arm didn't go unnoticed either; the tempo was measured in seconds, similar to how her speech seemed measured the more he thought of her words.
"What about you, detective? What is it that you need?"
As if on cue, his wristwatch buzzed against his skin. Peering down, the time read 12:34. It meant more to a deeper part of him than his conscious mind, as it filled with confusion about why it was set to buzz on that time, and why the buzzing surged gently through his body, relaxing his posture more than he would've wanted before, failing to fight how much he wanted it at that moment. Everything around and in the detective grew light-hearted the more he grew light-headed. He tried looking down as if to force his arms to rise so he could reach his watch and stop the buzzing, but they uncooperatively fell to his sides, letting the buzzing continue. It was even hard to crane his neck back up, especially as the sight of shiny boots stepped up to him, and a hand reached out to his person, toying with one of the pockets of his utility belt.
As if encouraged to do so, he brought his head back up to see her confident, domineering smile and gaze confining him to her beautiful face, and soft, jingling sound of metal that appeared from her rising hand holding a chain and an attached pocketwatch.
She looked down for a moment, her free hand holding his wristbanded one. "Hmmm, a watch set to vibrate for 12:34. If I didn't know any better, I would say that you need Sequentialized." His eyes flared wide as it only then occurred to him that the thief had a name that he'd forgotten. Analytical thoughts used to putting all the details together shifted tracks to track the swinging of a silver pocket watch, and follow Sequentialized's words, absorbing everything she had to say.
"And what a need you have, detective. I think it's a greater need than anyone else has tonight. Maybe that's why my need of finding my pocket watch never felt pressing; I must've known it was in safe, trustworthy hands. As many times as you've seen it, you surely would know its value, how much protection and care it deserved, and how it really shouldn't go for too long without being utilized. Hence your need to be responsible with it, and your need to have it be used. You brought this to me. You wanted this. You needed this."
Hints of blinking and irregular breathing indicated the struggle to shake off the need to fixate on the shiny timepiece and her suggestions. She giggled a little as she allowed him a few seconds or resistance before giving his stubborn mind some facts his analytical side always enjoyed chewing on.
"You've needed this since the first time we met. I must've made quite the impression since it was just outside your office. I bet usually in there the sights and sounds of the city are somewhat muted, and you get to focus completely on your cases or your clients. But outside, in the thick of the city, you feel like you have to notice everything. 'Is there someone to tail in the car going northbound?' 'Is there someone tailing you in the car southbound?' 'Will the city ever fix that pothole?' 'Does this beguiling woman need my services?' 'How low are the odds that the meteorologist will get it right this time or tomorrow?' It looked like such sensory overload written on your face to me that I decided to help you out. Remember?"
Everything he tried recalling felt arbitrary, muddled in a way unbefitting a P.I. Creases of worry around his eyes waited for Sequentialized's words to help smooth them out.
"I'd asked you if you ever noticed things sequentially, one thing at a time. Like the street light above your office that seemed to flicker every so often, putting all your attention on that, maybe counting the seconds it took between flickers in a slow, deliberate fashion. Then I asked you how the night air felt against your skin. Was it a muggy evening, sweltering like earlier that day? Was there a breeze that came across your skin, the kind that makes the skin shiver with pleasure for relief, or was it hot enough that sweat trickled down your flesh, leaving a trailing, tickling sensation wherever it travelled? Did you notice the air against your skin as you were counting the lamp light flickering? Would it have been easier or harder to forget how strong and sturdy you were standing, fixed in-place before me as two other things were on your mind? Were there multiple things on your mind, or just one at a time? Did it feel better to only have three or so things on your mind instead of assaulted by everything around you? Or did it feel so freeing to just have one thing on your mind, like standing tall and still before me?"
Lazy swinging of the pendant kept his faithful eyesight moving back and forth, and his consciousness begin to travel back and forth between things she'd mentioned. Narrowed to one or a few things did feel better than taking everything in like he had to, especially the prospect of standing still and silently processing confident, soothsaying notions.
"And standing before me must've felt like the most natural thing in the world to do, just letting me give you permission to shrink awareness for your sake. Just the abstract number of seconds of flickers, the number of pores sweating or cooled in the air, the number of different sounds of the city. For once, it must feel good not to have to decipher every sound, just simply counting the number of sounds; a car horn here, a bus there, footsteps nearby maybe, a simple number to count. Not even counting the voice you hear because it's so prevalent and surrounding that you barely even notice it, like it's in the back of your mind, like it's that little voice you listen to, whether you'd want to or not. Couple that small number with the number of seconds this has been going on, noticing so few things, and you still wouldn't have much to count. At best, it could be a count to ten things total you've heard, nine things seconds between lamp flickers, eight seconds you tried to noticed the cool or hot temperatures, running over your skin, until it's stopped by a seven-second duration between flickers, that would've taken six seconds to raise your heavy arms up to try to count five times how and why you've been standing here, filtering sounds down to nothing but the sound of my voice to four, three, two, one..."
The next time he was even half-aware, he realized he was still in the same dark room, safe still ajar, but he noticed he was sitting on a comfortable couch, and Sequentialized was sitting on the arm of the couch. Light from outside gleamed over her pocket watch and boots, and neither could tell which his gaze was truly fixed on. It mattered little to her as he seemed only cognizant of her.
"If my sterling-silver watch could talk, I wonder if it would question whether your sterling reputation was diminished by how easily distracted you are, or commendable for how focused you'd become on it. Of course, everyone has that same problem with my watch, but you were just so easy, so drawn, so very needy, it gives a girl an impression she never thought she'd have."
A few minutes of pondering her impression of choice was always fun, letting her subject's minds ready themselves to accept her chosen realities.
"Maybe you're not a real top-of-your-game detective after all, if you're armed with a pocket watch; maybe you're just pretending. And that's fine, that's fun. Playing games like this is fun as the time flies by, swings by, back and forth."
"Maybe this is all an elaborate game we're playing. I mean, maybe that's why I'm dressed like this, so elaborate, sexy, eye-catching. Maybe that's why you think you're also dressed so elaborately, your trenchcoat is like a cape, the mask and fedora, the utility belt, the whole get-up. It makes so much sense now, you just wanted to be noticed. Yeah, that's what it is, and you were noticed, which is why I called you up on stage."
It was so easy to see; a magnetic presence like hers drew everyone close to her, it seemed. He could see why even the shy or reserved ones like himself might consider going up there. And imagining her face turning in his direction, pointing to him, speaking in a low, inviting tone to approach felt like a call he was unable to refuse.
"That's right, my lovely volunteer, we're on stage, and your mind can't even notice the crowd nearby because I told you to ignore them for a while, because you're so good at ignoring what shouldn't be on your mind, and fixating on what I say is on your mind at this very moment. And it makes so much sense why a detective would be carrying a pocketwatch on his person, trying to stop the evil hypnotist. So cliche, it has to be fake. You brought this to me because it's mine. Not to stop me, certainly no more than you can stop time, or stop my wrist from swinging it by its long silver chain, or no more than your eyes can watch the watch until the end of time, carried along by words that make the utmost sense to you. That's why you brought this to me, because it's mine, because you wanted to see it in my hands, because for as long as I'd like tonight, you're mine. You've looked forward to this for so long from the last time it happened, and now you're here again, living it up."
To the average person following her watch, time would've been a nebulous thing before long. For the detective, time was still perceived, but he noticed how it had stopped, and how right she was. He couldn't stop time, but she managed to, somehow, for him. That much power, that much influence, was hard to fathom, and yet it was contained in the woman sitting a few inches away from him, rightfully sitting above. It did feel not only right, but oddly familiar, and good enough that it would be the kind of thing he'd try to live up. Detectives like him faced lots of temptation and people wanting to bend his rules, but the unlucky ones never ran into the kind of temptress that could bend him altogether, he figured.
"Feels great, doesn't it? Maybe you can't hear it, but the audience nearby is giving you gracious applause, bravos and cheering affirming how right it feels to do things I say. And their affirmation almost feels good as my affirmation; doing what I say got you not only this applause, but the opportunity to do this more, later, and extend this wonderful time now. You feel so good, you should take a bow. No, better yet, take a knee before me. They'll love to see that. I'll love to see that. You'll love to see the watch swinging still from bended knees, with the compelling voice of reason above, smiling down at you."
Slipping down off the couch was made easier by gravity and his need for more affirmation. He felt even more grateful from the crowd and charming show-stopper's showering affirmation; he would've closed his eyes to soak it all in were in not for an even shinier vantage point to stare at her watch and boots.
"And where should we take our little roleplaying from here, little hero? Done with your hero duties tonight? Good, then comes the real fun where you get to fulfill your real duties. My duties. Villainous, slightly evil, and always fun duties," she feigned theatrically, tauntingly. "And they're so fun, you'd barely call them duties. Even though you must do them, and oh you must, you find you want more than must, to obey, to show me what you really are pleasing. Let's start with something simple; let's investigate what else you have in that nifty belt of yours."
Poking at it with the toe-end of her boots, without looking away from the watch, his hands smoothly opened another pouch and pulled out a small can of black polish and buffing cloth, things he would've been shocked to consciously find for any other task.
"Oh wow, a bootblacking kit? Aren't you just my handy and handsome little hero, always coming prepared to serve. Give it a thorough-enough burnishing, and I'm sure they'll be even shinier and captivating before long, making you want to follow my steps and orders all night long. You better get started, we might have a long night ahead of us, if you're lucky."
Lowering herself to his former seat, Sequentialized crossed one tall boot over the other leg to let her detective give it his utmost care and time. As much as she liked the higher-inch heels for her attire that night, it was smarter to keep it more conservative, as she did have a few places to hit further downtown. She would've already moved on from her "friend's" office, but she thought it necessary to deepen the investigator's trance as much as possible, and for the fact that she loved "putting the ritz" someone as infamous as he was. Certain circles in town treated him like he was some kind of Sherlock Holmes-esque superhero, something he only encouraged with the a belt full of tools and a dumb mask that didn't conceal anything about him, but seemed smart from a publicity angle. It was fun to program him mid-heist for all the other planned heists that night, nearly as fun as it was to program everything else into him, including the triggering of sequential numbers on clocks and arriving at times to accompany her when he thought he'd be there to stop her. Had she not had a show the next day, they could've met around 1:23, or 2:34 that morning; each daily, hourly sequential numbering on his watch triggered a vibrant reminder of Sequentialized control.
Being an actual stage hypnotist, as far as the public knew, made her as concerned with being prepared as he typically was. She had her main itinerary ready before she arrived in town; before she even planned out her first heist, she visited the one person most likely to stop her, the "superhero," whom fortunately for her, was a public figure with an office. She'd caught him unaware in-front of his office as she mentioned earlier. Leaving his office, a strange woman walked right up to him and employed the attention-dissecting induction that made him lose track of where he was. Hanging off of every word to try to make sense of it led him right back to his office where he vaguely started working for his most important client. Every mark in town was made easier with his help; his intel plus her mental skills ensured there was never a literal crime committed, just some wonderful "exchanges" among "friends."
Sequentialized really didn't have to play it up like a sneaky cat burglar, but she was never one to waste an opportunity for good showmanship. Seeing her boots pristinely polished by her retroactive foil-turned-friend seemed even more worth it than the money he'd carry and stash for her before the next target.
"It would've been so fun, if you were a superhero with a better mask. How fun a game it would've been to have you ache to reveal your unmasked self, to show me what you really look like. 'Someday you will, once you've emptied out your will completely, of your own volition. And how wonderful that will be to give me your all.' An effective tease, don't you think? I mean, if you could," she laughed at his oblivious smiling, polishing the lengths of her boots well. "But look on the bright side, the shinier side of my boots, if you haven't noticed yet, you've already reveal your true self, your real self, your inevitable self to me. The submissive, kneeling self of you being....what's that? Very good, boy....mine."
She got the distinct feeling that a man as talented as him might take his act nationally someday, and wouldn't at all be surprised if his act followed her touring route perfectly.