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The Caretaker’s House
There are some secrets kept so well that no one outside a sacred circle is wise to them. Likewise, there are secrets that are so well known, so commonplace as to be almost public knowledge—but referred to in hushed tones by those in the know—thus earning the distinction of being considered an ‘open’ secret. The Caretaker’s House was a tolerably well kept open secret, known only in person to a few young women, but known to many more at one or two removes via the Internet, a place spoken of both with respect and suspicion. Those who testified of their experiences there spoke of it in terms that ranged from benignly positive to glowing, while those who read these accounts (the ones at one or two removes) received them positively on the whole, while some within this group reacted adversely, opposing the existence of the House and what it did, for reasons generally surmised to be because the House hosted activities that the others coveted, but could not provide for with similar ease.
One of the primary negative responses to the Caretaker’s House was the rule that only women were admitted. In the group that the Caretaker’s House was known, men were the overwhelming majority, at least in terms of outspoken representatives, and women were, by and large, a coveted minority. Some men lobbied hard to be included in the House’s activities, but each time firmly rebuffed by the Caretaker himself. The Caretaker it was who owned the House, the Caretaker it was who set the rules of the House, and the Caretaker intended to carry on in this method whether the Internet approved of his conduct or not, emphasizing his absolute power over the House with such commanding finality, even on the Internet, that the majority—in this case, reasonable people who saw no profitable end in pursuing their argument for gender equality at the House—respected the decision and spread their attention across the broader landscape of the quasi-hidden world that was the overarching alternative lifestyle choice represented by the group as a whole. Sadly, several people refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, and continued to apply steady pressure to the Caretaker to be included in his annual events. As the pressure increased, the Caretaker took steps to become harder to reach, making full use of the burgeoning and constantly-evolving social media landscape to isolate himself from those he did not wish to associate with, or be accosted by. Attempts to circumvent the barriers usually resulted in negative consequences for the persecutor, usually for the reason that while not all approved of the Caretaker or his ways, the Caretaker’s reputation by word from so many mouths increased his value, and added to his allies, allies who themselves had certain administrative powers, and who valued the Caretaker in their own ways.
However, too much negative attention has its consequences, and the vicious truth of the modern digital world is that enough negative attention in one isolated corner can spread to other corners, corners where representatives of other lifestyles, similar or not, lurked and watched. Some of these representatives were there simply to heap derision or to attack for the simple reason of existence, but others were there for entirely different purposes. So it was that after a time the Caretaker and his House appeared on the radar of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It was a quiet appearance at first, a new variable catalogued and sorted in the elephantine but efficient world of the executors of law and order, exciting no comment, drawing no immediate investigation, and in general becoming one of hundreds and thousands of other variables sorted and catalogued in databases, perhaps one day to be called upon. It didn’t become noisy until some of those disenfranchised few who felt they had a bone to pick with the Caretaker began to spread rumors of illegal activities happening at the House, starting at first with confused and disjointed ramblings about illegal substances, drug abuse, prostitution, sexual assault, and other similarly unsavory doings. Some of these hits were noted and catalogued as well, and the entry for the Caretaker grew. However, nothing was concrete enough to warrant any further attention, and so the matter was left at that, and while new data points were added or appended as necessary, the FBI had better things to do than look into a flame war among fetishists who were having tantrums because they couldn’t go out and play. Some of the people at the FBI who watched these things for specific trends that did merit the FBI’s attention afforded themselves a chuckle over coffee about the strange things people did to amuse themselves, while in the backs of their minds they all knew that some of those strange things were dangerous indeed.
When a particularly nasty rumor popped up, it had the spectacular good fortune (for itself, not for the Caretaker) to appear at the same time as another long-running case spread across numerous states and many branches of the Bureau began to gather steam and move towards that satisfying resolution when those who did wrong were pulled from their dark warrens and thrown kicking and screaming into the light of justice, bound by law and steel, when cases could be closed and handshakes and commendations could be handed out for jobs well done. The reason the Caretaker came to the attention of this larger case was because of its similarity in terms of activities (real or alleged) that the FBI was pursuing with the intent to shut down. It was an evil that the FBI had a special loathing for, as did all right-thinking men and women on God’s green earth. It was exploitation of the innocent, abuse, and in its own way horrifying, and few things gratified the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation more than putting an end to such capers.
The white whale they were close to harpooning for good and all was a child pornography ring. They had names, they had postal addresses, they had phone numbers, and they had criminal histories, everything they needed to start reeling in the heavily laden net. When the Caretaker was accused of being in collusion with child pornographers, the FBI looked into him as well, intending to determine his guilt or his innocence while simultaneously moving forward with the case as a whole. The usual routine for such matters was put into practice at once. Accounts on forums were created, personas were crafted, and the hunt was on. The Caretaker was researched by people who were masters of their trade, and all initial evidence pointed to a quiet person who kept to himself, had a (mostly) glowing digital reputation, and seemed to be nothing more than an average American with a secret he didn’t want to see spread. The FBI was fine with that. What they were not fine with was the possibility that this quiet façade obscured sins for which the price must be paid. However, the initial investigation was turning up nothing linking the Caretaker or his House to the child pornographers the FBI was actively and very clandestinely pursuing. While some of the users they were digitally stalking frequented the same forums the Caretaker did, there was no evidence of relations that went beyond banal posts to forum threads that in and of themselves were neither illegal or otherwise damning (unless there were sticklers for grammar about). The more they dug, the more they came up empty-handed. But… there was still that one possibility that everything they saw was a cleverly built ruse. The FBI was close to one of the biggest child porn busts the world had ever seen. They didn’t want to let anyone slip through the cracks, they wanted every last criminal brought to justice. The loose end had to be tied off. There wasn’t one agent involved in the case, some who had been with it for years, who would tolerate a mistake or a lost opportunity. And so, after the research was completed, the determination was made to insert someone into the Caretaker’s House. That meant a suitable agent had to be located who would fit his particular rules and who could eventually gain enough trust to be admitted into a sacred circle of people who dealt with him personally.
In this regard the FBI had considerable resources, but time and location were important. The Bureau wanted no mistakes, so the usual order of business was a thorough, methodical investigation within the investigation. However, the pressure from on high was enough to cause some things, like the selection of a suitable agent, to be fast-tracked. The FBI searched its database, eliminating numerous candidates because of distance, involvement with other cases, or other variables they felt would be detrimental to the cause. Finally, the most likely candidates were selected (several instead of one just to be safe—no one was going to be forced into the position) and their respective superiors spoke to them about the case, their role, and its importance to the investigation as a whole. The first and second candidates to be offered the role (for role it would be) asked to be excused for logical reasons: one cited her inexperience with such cases and the fact that another case more in line with her skills had just begun. The other had just gotten engaged and in her excess of happy emotions was concerned that she might be pregnant, and asked to be excused because she had absolutely no desire to jeopardize her blissfully happy relationship with her brand new fiancé.
Special Agent Francesca Bowden was the third candidate to be offered the role and she accepted, viewing it, quite correctly, as a way to get noticed and perhaps a way onto the fast track to the higher profile branches of the Bureau, the bigger cases, the better perks, and all the bragging rights that came with them. She was average height, brown hair that was so light as to be blond, green eyes, and closer to the end of her twenties than she cared to admit. She sat down with the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) Charles North of her branch to learn about the assignment she had accepted.
“He’s called the Caretaker,” the somewhat gruff, older man began, putting a file folder down in front of Francesca. “As of now we don’t have a name, a photo, an address, or a phone number, which is where you come in. You’re going to get us these details, or as many of them as you can, as quickly as you can.”
Francesca opened the file. “What sort of… caretaking… does he do?” she asked as she read the file’s preface. “Fetishists?”
He nodded. “Yes. All the particulars, or at least what we know, is in the file folder. Some weird stuff, sure, but nothing that at face value looks dangerous. Kinks, most of it. But, some folks we’re looking at with a much bigger case are starting to throw some mud and this guy could be dirty. We need to know one way or the other.”
Francesca put two and two together. “How deep do I need to go?”
“Deep enough to find out whether this guy is dangerous or not. The bigger case involves a pretty big and widespread child porn ring, and the brass are hot to bring it down sooner rather than later. They also want a clean sweep, no stone left unturned, that sort of thing. Look over the material, go check out some of those web addresses, starting putting together your way in. You’ve got about a week to pre-game yourself, and then it’s off to the races. You’ll be on special assignment with the local branch; they’re already putting together an apartment for you. You’ll report to the local ASAC and SAIC, but our branch is in on this big case, too, so I’ll be in the loop as well.”
Francesca closed the file and stood up. “Sounds pretty straightforward; I’ll get started right away.”
“Good hunting,” North said as he dismissed her.
Francesca left his office and returned to her desk with the file in hand. She read through the file completely before she even started with her computer, making some notes on a scratch pad, becoming more and more amazed as the minutes went by. Fetishists, indeed… clothiers, toys for various purposes, and diapers. It was the diapers that got Francesca the most, being something so out of left field for her that at first she didn’t know what to make of it. When she did at last turn to her computer to begin looking at the digital copies of the case file, Francesca started with the Internet forums, first. Simple and straightforward… but havens for people with a particular interest Francesca hadn’t been aware of until then. People who enjoy wearing and using diapers? Such a thing really existed? Francesca also discovered the support group element, noticing that some of the people frequenting the forums were people who legitimately needed diapers for one reason or another, and who liked to be among people who wouldn’t scorn them.
The first order of business was to look into the Caretaker himself, read his messages, get a feel for what sort of person he was. Fairly straightforward, no beating about the bush; it was largely direct and to the point. He seemed to concentrate the bulk of his posts in general discussions about the lifestyle—which included people who called themselves diaper lovers and adult babies—as well as to personal ads involving young women looking for particular services or activities. What Francesca found the most interesting was that he did not always suggest himself, but referred several to other providers depending on location and their availability. Some of his posts were also to be found in a section of the forums dealing with stories involving diapers and what they called age play, mostly criticism in a positive sense. Thus far, she had determined that he was an active member of this community, a person who commanded a certain respect, and who was not, strictly speaking, in it all for himself. She flagged some of the other providers of services the Caretaker had referenced for later review by herself and shifted gears.
The next part of her investigation was to look at some of the clothiers and specialty retailers. She first looked at the age play clothes and was amazed to find adult-sized children’s and toddler’s clothes, both for boys and girls—men and women, she reminded herself—in everything from sleepwear to Sunday’s best. Francesca had to admit that some of the outfits were cute, particularly the childish sundresses and some of the onesies had cute designs on them. Referencing some of the posts and threads the Caretaker had been involved with, she knew that some of his… clients? Friends? Had made purchases from these retailers for their own particular style of age play. Francesca minimized the webpage and leaned back in her chair for a moment to organize her thoughts. At face value, everything was on the level, although by Francesca’s standards, very much from left field. It was escapism, pure and simple, just like any other hobby or interest that separated someone from a daily life that was either too stressful or something they didn’t enjoy, and that was something that Francesca could understand.
That understanding didn’t prepare her for the shock that awaited her when she looked up the diapers preferred by and large by the forum community: they were almost literally baby diapers sized for adults, complete with the prints and the infantile styling. “You can’t be serious,” she murmured to herself as she looked at the various products. So amazed was she, that for a time she was immersed in a world of reviews and pictures, until finally she had to close the browser and lean back, separating herself from what she looked upon as a sort of madness. She looked at her notes, and then with the case file itself she put them in a locking drawer and stood up to take a break. Going to the break room yielded nothing more than a trip to the vending machine and some exchanged greetings with colleagues. Soon enough, Francesca was back at her desk looking at her notes, reading the case file, and considering her opening move. Clearly she would have to craft a personality that would be received by this crowd, but what sort of personality would do the trick? Turning back to her computer, Francesca began to look at whatever publically available profiles she could find to see what the average young woman was saying about herself. More notes were jotted down as she worked, and a general framework began to assemble itself as she progressed. The baseline was simple enough: an interest in diapers or baby elements was the usual starting point, with some sort of history of either bedwetting or being later than normal to master toilet training being reasonably common tacked on to establish a memory of needing diapers past toddler years. Another common thread was just a casual interest because it was ‘something different’ but it wasn’t dangerous. Others openly stated they wanted to go back to a time when they felt protected. Francesca wrote all this down, working each point in as elements to be considered for her forthcoming avatar.
Finally, Francesca felt as though she had reached an end to her initial research. Now, she had to work her way in. A sudden pang of embarrassment prompted her to decide it was better to wait until she was home on her personal computer to do that, and she went back to reading the summary of the case file to look for other loose ends she might explore in the meantime. Nothing popped out at her, so she went back to reviewing her notes to select the strongest or the most viable elements to use in crafting her forthcoming cover. She looked back through her own memories, and since she hadn’t had any issues with chronic bedwetting and couldn’t even recall having worn pull-ups, she decided not to include either in her cover. The casual interest angle was the most intriguing, because it would be the easiest to support. Something different was also a good one, because it fit easily with casual interest, and would also give her a viable exit strategy when the time came to abandon the cover and separate herself from the concluded case; she could claim that it wasn’t for her, and quietly vanish. Next came decisions on just how far she was willing to go with the whole project. Making those decisions were some of the most interesting, as well as difficult; the decisions that she made would determine how far she could go in a swift amount of time. She wrote it down as a series of questions in small handwriting so no one suddenly peeking over her shoulder would see what it was at first. First question: Am I willing to wear adult baby clothes? Francesca thought back to some Halloween costumes she had worn in high school and college. She answered that question with a yes. Second question: Am I willing to suck on a pacifier and drink from a bottle? Francesca thought of the more usual habits of chewing gum or eating suckers, as well as drinking from a water bottle while exercising. She answered that question with a yes, satisfying her conscience with each rationalization that preceded an answer.
The third question was the most daunting, as well as the most difficult to actually write out. She got as far as putting the pen to the paper before she stopped and set it down, sitting back in her chair and taking a sip from the drink she had gotten at the vending machine during her earlier break. Francesca had to tell herself it was for a good cause, that she was going to make a difference, that it was going to be worth it all in the end to do what she was going to do, that a lot of bad people were going to go to jail, and perhaps one decent person who was simply caught up in the mess for being in the wrong place at the wrong time would get to go free without having his reputation tarnished as these people who trafficked in this heinous material surely would. Put simply, Francesca Bowden thought of the children. Only then was she able to write out the third question. Am I willing to wear, and perhaps use, adult diapers? As she had done with the previous two questions, she answered, finally and with great reluctance, yes.