Chapter 14

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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I left the bus station and walked a couple of blocks to reach the first motel. The buzzing neon sign read, “No Vacancy.” Because of course it did. Why would anything go my way this evening? I walked a little further to the second motel. They had rooms offering ‘short stays’. I’d been on calls to places like this, it was never pretty. 


“I’ll take one room for the whole night,” I said to the receptionist.


Naturally she took one good look at me - a 14-year-old girl dressed in school gym clothes carting a rollerboard - and raised an eyebrow and asked to see some ID.


I fiddled with my wallet and pulled out my student ID and handed it to her.


See gave me a judgemental look.


“What? I’m not buying alcohol. I’m not trying to gamble or buy cigarettes. I just need a place to stay.”


“Thirty dollars,” she flatly replied.


I pulled out my credit card. Or rather a brand new Visa made out to one Emma Kincade that got a weekly allowance in it. I guess since that weekly deposit was tied to me being a ‘good girl’ at PAA, I was going to have to make this deposit last. Hopefully she didn’t notice the name on my credit card and the name on my student ID didn’t match.


I paid for the room, took the key-card, and headed out to my room. I noticed a hole-in-the-wall diner a little further down the road so I ditched my stuff in my room and walked over there for some food. The whole time I felt so alone, cold, and vulnerable. I wish I’d brought my Glock with me.


There were people loitering on the side of the road. Normally I’d just barrel through them, but I wasn’t feeling it. I was cold and felt so small. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to blend in - as best I could do wearing gym clothes on a commercial street at night.  I then crossed the road to avoid any possible confrontations. I heard a few cat-calls, but thankfully that was all that happened.


I got my food and repeated that walk without incident. Once I got back to my room, I locked the door and closed the curtains. My heartbeat was racing. I ate a bit, then tried to watch some TV, but my mind was elsewhere, replaying the events of the day and the total destruction that took place at the Barnes’ house.


Eventually I gave up and went under the covers of the bed. As I tried to fall asleep I kept yearning for a return to PAA, but I was no longer welcome there. 


I clenched my pillow, wishing the events of the past 24 hours hadn’t happened. That’s when the emotions of the day burst through my facade of calm control, and rained down on me. 


I screamed into my pillow.


Fucking hor- 


At what point do I stop blaming the teenage hormones and start blaming the fucked up decisions that I made to get me here?


I thought about that first day with Sophia two weeks ago. God, she was so annoying with her bubbly personality. She wasn’t like that when I left. She was worried and frightened. And disappointed I lied to her. I promised I would look after her. I broke that promise.


Then there’s Sam and Lulu. Sam, a tough tomboy who puts on a brave front, but her clear motivation is doing right by her girlfriend. Sam loves Lulu unconditionally. Lulu turned back into a boy on the outside, but Sam didn’t question it other than to try to protect her girlfriend from dysphoria. I also broke my promise to Lulu.


Amanda and her friends? They wanted to have fun. They wanted to show me a good time. They wanted me to ditch my brusque 42-year-old male persona and behave like a 14-year-old girl. I suppose the truth is, I actually did start having fun with them. I would much rather be at the club with them than alone in this shitty motel room. 


The biggest promise I broke is to the girl I have only met once. Emma. But that was going to change. I was going to find her.


All of my so-called friends were worse off from my two weeks at PAA. Maybe everything they said about me tonight was true.


I hoped these walls weren’t thin. If I had neighbors they’d certainly hear the sobs of a scared homeless 14-year-old girl who lost almost everything she had and everyone that cared for her.


Finally, when the tears were done, I fell into a restless sleep, thoughts of lost friends entering my dreams.


* * *


The next morning I headed back over to that diner for coffee and breakfast, then returned to the motel to kill time. 


I did manage to take a nice hot shower. When I opened my rollerboard to put warmer clothes on I realized - I didn’t have any. I pushed aside shirts and underwear, but realized in my conversation with Sophia back at the dorm, I never opened my jeans drawer. All I had were the gym shorts I came with. Shit.


I put on clean underwear, and T-shirt and then put the gym shorts back on and laid down on the bed staring up at the ceiling.


As the time crept by slowly I wondered what I would be doing at PAA that very instant. I think right now femme class would be about to start. I think today was going to be a makeup tutorial. I thought about Mrs. Barnes. Boy did I fuck that up. I even handled that situation wrong. She was a nice and accepting teacher and I rode in there on my high-horse and tried to destroy her marriage over a hunch about her husband. I didn’t even get the answers I needed.


With an hour to spare, I checked out of the motel and went to the bus station.


I boarded the near-empty bus and found a window seat near the middle. I settled in, then pulled out my notebook to plan for the next couple of days.

 

First, I needed to contact Max. “Max, it didn’t work out at PAA,” I texted. “I was expelled for revealing my identity.”


I put my phone back into my backpack and returned to my notebook. 


Despite all the empty seats, a guy in his twenties sat in the seat next to me. He looked at me and smiled. It was a toothy, predatory grin.


I forced a smile and returned to my notes.


“Why so serious?” he asked. “You should smile more,” he said. “Pretty girls should smile.”


I looked up at him. Is this guy serious? The fucker wasn’t actually making eye contact. He was staring at my bare legs. It sent a shiver down my spine. “Yo asshole, take a picture, it will last longer. I’m 14.”


He was stunned and surprised that I called him out.


“Move. Or I’ll scream bloody murder,” I warned.


With that, he quickly got up and sat somewhere else. Creeper.


I crossed my legs and crossed my arms, worried about the next creep to sit next to me.


I sighed and looked out the window of the bus. I could see my reflection. It was a reflection of a disheveled 14-year-old girl who is again homeless. “I’m sorry Emma,” I whispered. “We’re a runaway again.”


I needed to take the focus of my unfortunate situation and instead focus on my plan.  On paper, my plan was simple. I was going to find Emma’s internet boyfriend, Jacob. I was going to question him to see if a guy claiming to be Emma confronted him. I find Emma, then we can work to find the Slider - or any Slider would do, really. They can put us back in our original bodies. The hard part is - the last time I talked to Max, they couldn’t find Jacob. They couldn’t find anybody really. I suppose that department is lost without me.


Jack Baker to the rescue.  Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.


As the bus pulled out onto the highway, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. 


* * *


A five-hour journey later we arrived at the Pittsburgh transit station. That was a long trip. The seat was uncomfortable after the first two hours. People were talking loudly, music was playing, and I was worried the creeper would return.


I got off the bus thinking, “Fuck, what day is it?”


Emma’s bladder announced it was time for a bathroom break. As I approached the restrooms there appeared to be a line to use the ladies room. No line for the men's room. I contemplated just using the men’s room, but that seemed like it wasn’t worth the risk, so I just waited my turn.


Pit stop complete, I grabbed a bag of chips from a vending machine and waited outside the station for my Uber. 


As I stood there alone, in gym clothes, with a suitcase, I noticed a police cruiser approaching. At first, I thought nothing of it. Then the memories of last night’s confrontation with my schoolmates echoed through my head. How fearful they were of cops. Of me. Then the memory of my first interaction with Sheriff Dickless. What would he have done to me if we weren’t in public? I found myself slowly backing away from the curb. The last thing I needed was a run-in with a different police squad. One that hadn't heard of PAA - or worse, one that had. I'd be labeled a runaway, which Emma technically was, and a runaway with a gun that could be traced back to a missing cop. I ducked back inside and tried to blend in with the other passengers in case they came looking. After a few minutes I figured the coast was clear and headed back outside, just in time to meet the Uber.


The driver took me to the nearest cheap lodging. Again, I found a cheap motel a short drive from the bus station. Yes, like the other one, it was a sketchy joint. Another ‘no-tell motel’ if you will. But it worked, and this time the receptionist did not care that a 14-year-old girl got a room by herself.


After running the card and handing me a key - not a modern key-card - a literal key, the cashier finally said, “Have a good stay Miss Kincade.”


I took the key and made my way to my room. Hopefully it would be better than the dump I stayed in last night. Nope. It reeked of cigarette smoke and I coughed the moment I walked in there. 


It’s OK, I told myself, I’m not living here. I put my suitcase down and closed all of the blinds and curtains.


I climbed into bed and got under the sheets and quickly fell asleep.


* * *


Sometime around 8 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of a nearby train whistle. I sat up and stretched as I cleared the cobwebs from my mind. I had actually slept better than the previous night, probably because I felt like I now had a purpose - working my case and finding Emma. 


I noticed a thrift shop across the street. I needed warmer clothes. I was freezing in a T-shirt and gym shorts, and guys of every age who passed me looked at me like I was a piece of meat. 


I walked up and down the aisles of women's clothing. Even though I’ve been in this body for over two weeks now, this is the first time I had to go shopping for women’s clothes. I felt out of place. I felt eyeballs on me as if I was an imposter. Now that I was out in the real world, I felt uncomfortable around every Normie that walked by. Could Normies tell I was a TG? Could those women tell I’m a guy in a teenage girl costume? There was some comfort in knowing that at PAA every girl was just like me. I think I’m letting all of this stress and anxiety get to my head. 


At that moment, I really wished I had Sophia with me. 


When I realized nobody was looking at me, I managed to settle down and find what I was looking for. In addition to baggy jeans, I also picked out a longer-sleeved T-shirt and a hoodie. 


At the checkout, the cashier kept looking around as if I was waiting for an adult to accompany me. “That’ll be $23,” she said to me.


I pulled out my credit card. 


“Wow, a girl your age has a credit card?”


“Yup,” I replied. “Never leave home without it.”


It’s been over 36 hours since I was expelled, and no doubt this card will eventually be either cut off or used to track me. I should get out cash next chance I get.


At this point I was starving. I’ve been surviving off of junk food. But alas, that won’t change anytime soon. I found a McDonald's nearby and walked there.


I was in a strange city, and this newfound unease around normies made me put the hood of my hoodie up and I tried my best not to stick out.


Thankfully, McDonalds still had their breakfast menu available so I got an Egg McMuffin and a coffee and sat down in a corner both away from everyone else. I still got glares. Strangers, for some reason, were overly concerned with a lone 14-year-old girl. Or it was my imagination.


I pulled out my phone to review my messages. 


There were two messages. The first was from Max. “Where are you?”


I didn’t want to tell him I was resuming my case work. He’d likely come here and drag me back to the Kincades and I would likely never find Emma. “McDonald’s getting some coffee,” I responded.


The second message was from Mrs. Kincade. “Expelled? Call me!”


Well, I guess that cat is out of the bag. I’m surprised it took so long. Maybe she and Mr. Kincade were on a yacht or something and just got back to the country club.


There were no other messages. I’m not sure I was expecting a message from Sophia or Sam. What would they say to me? What would I say to them?


Max texted me back. “Do you need a ride home?”


“Negative,” I responded. “I took a bus.”


I needed to do some internet research, but I lacked a real computer. I searched for a library and found one across town. Taking Ubers was getting expensive, so I decided to take the city bus instead.


* * *


At the library, the receptionist looked at me confused. “Can I help you, honey?”


“I’m here to do homework,” I replied.


“Are your parents here?”


“Oh, right,” I said. I looked around and saw an older man sitting at a table reading a book. “Dad,” I called out.


The man curiously looked up.


“That’s him over there,” I said with a smile, and the receptionist let me pass.


I scanned a row of computers, but they were locked and required a library account to log on. In the next row I found a computer that was still logged in and parked myself there. I managed to log into my email. I never got a chance to set up an out-of-office message so I got plenty of emails asking where I was. 


What I really needed were the case files. I was not CC’d on those, naturally, so I needed to log onto the mainframe - or the cloud - or whatever those fucking IT people call it these days.


I found the files I was looking for. “Kincade, Emma.”


There was more stuff in here since I last looked at it.


Apparently they looked into finding the boyfriend, Jacob. They couldn’t find him, the number was unlisted and the case was closed. 


What the fuck? After only two weeks? Max didn’t tell me they closed the case. I’m going to give him shit next time I talk to him.


I ran a reverse phone number search on Jacob’s number in my database. It came back unknown. 


I may not know who owns the number, but I do know someone is on the other end of that number. Let’s see if I can get them to show themselves.


I pulled my phone back out again and found the chat history of Emma and Jacob. 


I scrolled through some of the messages and started at the beginning.  


The messages started late-night August 23rd. It appeared there were already mildly acquainted so they must’ve met through social media or some online community. At first talking about typical get-to-know you stuff. Favorite TV shows, websites. Emma revealed way to much information. Her first day of school, her lacrosse team winning regionals, and hinted that her parents had money. Days later it transitioned into a lot of lovey-dovey stuff. They traded some pictures. More flirting and intimate messages. Then there was a photo of Emma posing awkwardly in her underwear. At this point I’ve seen my current body naked, but I was embarrassed and disappointed that she shared this with a stranger on the internet. 


Despite him only ever sharing a selfie, he laid the charm on thick. “Emma, you're the most beautiful girl in the world.” “Emma, you can go into modeling.” They engaged in erotic conversations that I felt awkward reading, given that I was now the girl he was fantasizing about.


Every conversation was late at night - likely when Emma was alone in her room and away from her parents.  Emma started to share how she hated her new school.  Her new high school was not like her middle school, and she found the change stressful. Everything was harder. Her classes, lacrosse practice, and her parents’ expectations now that she was a Freshman.


Over the course of that first week of school, those fun messages started turning into Emma complaining about her parents. Then Jacob telling her she should leave. That he was well connected. That he could help her get a modeling gig. She can share a studio apartment with him in Pitt. He showered her with compliments and pushed the narrative that she was perfect and her parents were evil. At first she resisted those messages, but then she started to agree with it.  Her parents were ‘awful parents and were the source of her anxiety and problems’.


Granted, I didn’t think highly of the Kincades either, but I got a bad feeling about this conversation. Jacob claimed he was 15 at the very beginning, but between the selfie and the words he used, he had the distinct impression he was older than that. Much older.


Then a plan was hatched for Emma to go to the mall with her friends on Sunday, not come home and board a train to Pittsburgh on Monday. 


Monday, September 18th, is when she ran into me and the Slider. Her only message was in the morning. “I <3 you. See you soon!”


The next message is Jacob’s text when I was already in possession of this phone.


I studied Emma’s words. She called her parents “wardens.” And would often abbreviate words into letters or numbers. She would use lots of emojis and then would always end her conversation with three heart emoji.


I texted, “Jacob. The wardens threw me into boarding school! (sad face, angry face) I’m coming to see you tomorrow. (bus emoji) (3 heart emoji).”


I turned my attention to the case notes detailing the whereabouts of “Jack Baker.” Max was right, the Slider never attempted to use any of my bank accounts or credit cards. The Slider must be an expert on living and traveling off the grid.


The fact that those accounts are flagged is currently annoying. I’d love access to all of my accounts. Instead all I have is a meager allowance given to me by the Chief and the Kincades.


Jacob texted me back. “Em, I was worried sick. I haven't heard from you in two weeks!”


I replied. “Sorry, my parents freaked out when I tried to see you for the first time. Sent me away. I finally got my phone back. I’m going to break out today. I miss you.”


“Do you want me to pick you up at the train station?” 


“No, I’m taking a bus this time. Train is too much $$$”


“No prob. I’ll pick you up at the bus station.”


“That would be gr8!” I pulled up the Greyhound schedule for tomorrow morning. I found a bus that arrived in the morning. I can pretend to be on that one. “My bus arrives at 8 a.m.”


“Wow, that’s early. See you tomorrow, my love.”


I signed off with a series of heart emoji.


With step 1 out of the way, it was time to do step 2.


I stared at the phone looking at the empty notification bar. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear from someone other than Emma’s creeper online boyfriend? 


* * *


I scouted the bus station for somewhere I could watch Jacob from a safe distance. I then looked for a good public place where we could talk. That Starbucks across the street from the transit station will work nicely. All I really wanted to know is if Emma had attempted to contact him after the displacement. Once I got my answer, I would look for some excuse to leave.


I got dinner from McDonalds and once again kept to myself.


I then returned to the hotel. I couldn’t relax and I couldn’t sleep. I instead watched some HBO, and kept an eye on the digital clock. The time seemed to go by slowly.


I called down to the front desk to extend my stay for another night. After all, I needed someplace to keep my luggage.


When it got dark out I heard the neighboring room’s door slam. Then minutes later I heard lots of groaning, moaning, and the headboard hitting the wall.


That’s when I turned the TV volume up. 


Maybe I should rethink extending my stay.


My phone’s alarm went off at 6 a.m. This made me miss Sophia’s 7 a.m. alarm. It almost made me miss her gleefully dancing around the room and jumping on my bed. But anyway, It was time to meet up with this Jacob character.


I got one more text from Max. “Jack, where are you? Don’t do something stupid. Come home.”


Sorry Chief, no can do. I need to find Emma. I have nothing for me at home until I find her.


After a quick shower to get the stank of this hotel room off of me, I emptied my backpack and packed the essentials. Wallet, phone, Glock. I put everything else into my suitcase.


I put on my hoodie and jeans, grabbed just my backpack and left the motel room.


* * *


I returned to the bus station a half hour before the time I told Jacob my bus would arrive. I put the hood over my head and positioned myself with a good line of sight of the bus lot.


Twenty minutes went by before I saw Jacob. Similar to the selfie that was on Emma’s phone. He didn’t appear to be as groomed or put together as his picture, but it was no mistaking that it was him. Geez, he looked to be in his late 20’s. Maybe even 30.


It’s 8 a.m. on a Thursday, so that means I’m missing my weekly therapist appointment with Virginia.  I wonder if anyone told her I wouldn’t be there today and why.


I waited for the 8 a.m. bus to come, which was running a few minutes late, then I put down my hood and started walking towards him. 


As soon as I approached him, his face lit up. “Emma!”


I feigned a smile. “Jacob!”


He hugged me then kissed me on the lips. Yuck!


I tried to not resist and blow my cover. “Hey, can we get something to eat? I’m starved. I saw a Starbucks across the street.” I nonchalantly wiped my lips off. Gross.


“Sure,” he said, uneasily. 


He held my hand as we walked through the bus station and out the door to the street. 


We got a table at Starbucks and I ordered a pastry and a coffee. He ordered a coffee too. 


He held my hand across the table. My nerves were on high alert. I hadn’t done a true undercover gig in quite some time. It was easy to pretend to be a new student at PAA because I was one. Right now I’m pretending to be this guy's online girlfriend, a role I know nothing about. Besides, this guy was clearly an online predator. The quicker I extract the information I need and get out of here, the better.


“You look even better in person,” he said with a smile.


I looked down at my attire. A hoodie and baggy jeans. Was he reciting a script? Oh, Jacob, you know how to flatter a girl. “You too. Now that I’m here, what cool things do you have planned? Movies? A nice afternoon in the city? Fancy dinner? I hear Pittsburgh has good sandwiches.”


“I was thinking about heading back to my place after this,” he said with a cocky raise of his eyebrows. “We can relax for a little bit before heading back out.”


Does he think he’s going to get some? That’s totally out of the question. Let me ask what I wanted to ask then get out of here. “Hey Jacob,” I began. “In the two weeks I was incommunicado, did someone come around asking about me? Or pretending to be me?”


“What?” he asked, confused. “I don't think so. Do you think you’re being followed?” He nervously looked around the coffee joint.


“Nothing major,” I assured him. “The warden can be overbearing.”


“The warden?” he asked.


“My father.”


“Oh, right. So, I pulled some strings and got you some face time with that modeling agent I was talking to you about.” He started caressing my hands.


I nodded. I was thinking it was time to bail. If Emma was ever here, she likely saw that this guy was a creep and bailed too.


Before I could say anything else, he spilled his coffee all over himself. “Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed,” he said. “Can you get me some napkins?”


I rolled my eyes and got up to get napkins. I pulled several napkins from the napkin dispenser at the front counter then returned to Jacob, throwing them at him as I sat back down.


He grabbed some and started patting himself dry. “I’m so embarrassed. Here I am with a beautiful woman and I made such a mess of myself.”


I grinned and took a sip of coffee as I watched him clean himself off. I chuckled thinking about watching Brett spill coffee on himself.


“Can I get you something else?” he asked. “I feel bad about this.”


“I’m fine.” OK, I need to get out of here. “Hey Jake, I need to use the restroom. It was a long bus ride.”


“Sure babe,” he said.


I took another sip of coffee. I then got up from the table, grabbed my backpack, leaving my coffee and trash there and walked to the ladies room.


I stayed there for five minutes looking in the mirror, waiting for a good moment to leave. He did nothing to persuade me he wasn’t a creeper. He was more interested in getting me out of here than asking how I was doing, and how boarding school went, or how I escaped. Plus he looked 10 years older than the picture he shared with Emma.


I poked my head out of the rest room and saw that Jacob had left. Good. A coffee shop employee was cleaning off the table we were sitting at. He must’ve caught on that I didn’t believe him.


I pulled my phone out of my backpack and hailed an Uber. I was shaking my head, pissed that this was a dead end. The only other place Emma would go is… home. But I feel that the Kincades would’ve told me if that had happened. I put my phone away and zipped up my backpack. 


Time to get back to the motel and find a way back home. Maybe I could be a tourist for a few hours. I really did hear Pittsburgh has some good sandwich places.


As I stepped out of the coffee shop I didn’t feel right. Actually it felt like I was buzzed. It then occurred to me that I left my coffee unintended when I went to get napkins. The world in front of me started to spin. I nearly fell, but grabbed onto the building.


Shit. That fucker roofied me.


Speaking of, Jacob was standing right there holding a cellphone to his ear. “Hey Em, are you ready to go? I got in touch with the agent and he can see us tonight. Isn’t that great?”


I held onto the building as I tried to regain my balance. The dizziness was getting worse.


“Em? Are you OK?”


I slurred my words, “Bastard. Roofied.”


“You don’t look so good. Maybe I should get you back to my apartment.”


I wanted to say “No” but I couldn’t.


Jacob came to me and held me up before I could fall down.


That’s when a car pulled up right in front of us. It wasn’t my Uber. I wasn’t able to protest or resist as he pulled me into the car.


“Shh,” he whispered. “It’ll be alright.”


I attempted to struggle, but it was no use. I was down for the count and I quickly lost consciousness.


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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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marter

Oh no. She's being trafficked.
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Emily

And she saw it coming too. She was careful - until she wasn't.
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