by Lewayne L. White
Part 1 and Part 3|
appear in this issue.
|part 2 of 3|
Moon fidgeted in his seat.
“You need to go to the little boy’s room?” I asked him.
“No. I just wanted to add something. I talked to this guy, once. He called, and Swan didn’t want to answer, and Madame Chain was kicking around some photographer that had slipped onto the grounds.”
Moon took a drink, then continued. “He told me he’d kill me. He said my name. He said, “I’m going to kill you, Moon.”
“Just ‘I’m going to kill you, Moon’?”
“Well, no. He described rather graphically how he was going to do it.”
We talked a bit more about the stalker, then got to my least favorite part.
I said, “Part of our assignment includes providing close security for you, in addition to the uniform and plainclothes officers at your scheduled events.”
Moon looked me over again. “Like I said before, you’re cute, but why you?”
I ignored his ‘compliment’, and said, “We’re human. We’ll blend in with the other models better than, say a giant or a three-headed dog.”
Moon snorted. “What? You? As models?”
“No!” I snapped. “Just as crew. Maybe photo assistants or something.”
Swan cocked her head, looked us over, and said, “No. I think we can use you in a shoot.”
She scanned Dagan. “We always need attractive men.”
Then she looked at me, “And Moonie’s right. You’re cute. Get rid of the baggy suit, and-”
I raised my hands. “Nope. If you want to take pictures of Dagan, feel free. He’s got that wholesome all-American-”
“Never mind,” I said. “Look, we can’t be watching the people around you if flash bulbs are going off in our faces, and Moon’s telling us ‘Just a little more pout, love’.”
“No, Ace,” Dagan said with a smile. “I think she’s right. One of us should be a model to stay close to Swan. The other one can be a photo assistant.”
“Great. You be the model.”
Swan shook her head. “No, Aislyn. It would have to be you. He cannot possibly go into dressing rooms with me. Madame Chain would never allow it.”
“Look there’s no way I’m going to get all dolled up and prance around in heels for this guy,” I said.
* * *
The next afternoon, I stood on high heels in the middle of a cluster of half-dressed, skinny women, trying to figure out how to conceal a badge and gun in the dinky dress I wore.
Swan drifted by and said, “Oh, Aislyn, you look so cute,” then hugged me.
Before I could struggle free, she whispered, “Madame Chain just answered another call from my admirer. He told her he was coming to see me, today.”
“Did you tell Dagan?”
She released me and nodded.
“Is there any chance they’ve got something a bit less revealing I could wear?”
Swan smiled. “Are you self-conscious?”
“No, I just can’t hide a gun anywhere comfortable.”
Her smile widened. “You have such a great sense of humor.”
Before I could say more, she strutted past me to speak to Bert Moon. I turned to follow, since I was supposed to be keeping a close eye on her.
“Ace,” Dagan’s voice echoed in my right ear. “You still hear me okay?”
“Yep,” I replied, trying not to look like I was talking to myself.
Since I couldn’t wear my FTPD badge we couldn’t communicate via mind burst. As a result, we had to rely on a tiny ear-mike.
The small electromagical device is often referred to as a “bug in your ear,” because its cylindrical body and small antennae suggest the shape of an insect. Plus it itches like a giant flea. But if you want nearly invisible two-way communication, it’s the way to go.
“Swan told you about the call?”
“Security’s tightening up, but trying not to look like it. If we’re lucky, our guy will try and slip in, and we can snatch him up for a chat.”
“You know what’s cool about this?”
“I can talk trash about you right in your ear and you don’t dare respond.”
I faked a cough and said, “Next time, you wear the dress.”
“You don’t like it?”
Another fake cough. “Can’t wait to get out of it.”
“I think there’s someone who might like to see that.”
I glanced toward one of Moon’s photo assistants who seemed not to be assisting very much. He nodded toward a couple men standing near the studio door.
I blurted out, “Casey!”
“Mighty” Casey, former Mudville slugger looked up from his conversation with a doughy man in an expensive suit.
“Ace,” he responded. Then looked around, and caught a glimpse of Dagan.
He turned to the man beside him, said something enabling him to escape the conversation, and approached me. As he kissed my cheek, his mustached mouth brushed my ear and said, “What are you doing here?”
“Cop stuff,” I whispered back. “You?”
Before I could ask what business Big Bad Wolf could have with a bunch of models, Moon interrupted. “Hey, you. The little one. Ace isn’t it? We’re ready when you are, love. Let’s not keep our Swan waiting.”
“Break a leg,” Dagan said in my ear.
I stomped over to the set, and grudgingly allowed myself to be posed.
Like all the other women in this shot, my function seemed limited to staring adoringly at Swan while wearing a dress similar to, but not quite as elegant as, hers. Swan’s dress, made of a material so white it almost glowed, shone like a beacon amidst our slightly lower wattage frocks, which provided examples of the other colors available.
The next several hours consisted of a lot of posing, changing, posing, changing again, and more posing. The blur of clothes and flashbulbs, broken only by occasional status reports from Dagan, seemed to go on forever. Eventually we did reach the end, and I escaped to the comfort of my relaxed-fit suit complete with badge and gun.
As I slipped out of the dressing room, keeping a close eye on Swan, I got intercepted by Casey.
Before I could object, I heard Dagan’s voice in my ear.
“I’ve got Swan. Meet you before we head outside.”
“You look completely different in dresses,” Casey said.
“Better or worse?”
Casey kissed my cheek. “Just different. Are you going to be modeling lingerie anytime soon?”
“No! What are you doing here?”
“I told you. Wolf business.”
“What’s Wolf’s interest in models?”
Casey grinned. “Same as any guy’s interest.”
I shivered. “There’s something creepy about anthropomorphic animals.”
Casey nodded. “But they pay well.”
“So, what were you doing here?”
Casey shrugged. “Talking to a guy.”
“I saw that. Who was he?”
I noticed Casey’s good left hand fiddling with his battered right hand. We’ve known each other long enough that I’ve learned to associate that gesture with an unspoken “I don’t think you want to know.”
It’s one of the sticky points in our relationship. I’m a cop, and Casey works for one of the biggest crime bosses in the city. I suspect that our relationship may have gotten somebody killed recently.
“Just a guy.”
“It’s Swan’s manager-slash-agent,” said Dagan through the ear-mike. “Julius Gingerbread.”
Casey’s face reddened. “Yeah, okay. Gingerbread. Look, since I ran into you, how’s tonight work for you?”
“Sorry. I’m on duty until further notice. I can give you a call when it’s over.”
“I guess that beats ‘I’m washing my hair’ for an excuse,” Casey said. But at least he said it with a smile.
He kissed my cheek again. “Better let you get back to work, then. See you soon.”
As he walked away, I touched the spot where he’d kissed me. I felt the same mixture of emotion I feel whenever I see Casey.
I think we really like each other, but neither of us particularly trusts the other. Maybe if he didn’t work for Wolf...
Or I wasn’t a cop.
Before I could contemplate a total personality reversal, Dagan’s voice interrupted.
“Ace, get up here. We’ve got to get Swan through a mob of DUCKlings.”
I bolted for the front entrance to the studio building.
We had argued with Swan about arriving and leaving through a public entrance, but she insisted. There were autographs to give, photos to be taken, people to hug.
A security nightmare, but she seemed to genuinely want to interact with her fans.
I was having trouble disliking her. I was trying really hard not to like her, just on principle, but it wasn’t working.
“On the way. Sorry about the delay.”
“What’s up with Casey?”
“Later. When we get back to the castle.”
I hit the building lobby and saw the crowd through the giant magic mirror doors. A wall of people, human and fairy, pressed against the parallel velvet ropes that formed our walkway to Swan’s waiting carriage.
Twelve horsepower Ivory Pumpkin with gold trim. Very popular with princess wannabes.
I walked toward Dagan, pausing occasionally to examine the odd person on the other side of the reflective glass.
Luckily, they couldn’t see in, because I stood inches away from a few, trying to decide who was dangerous and who was just love-struck.
Dagan paced near Moon, who held Swan’s hand.
“There’s got to be a hundred people out there,” I said.
Dagan nodded. “Most are fans. But there’s a contingent of DUCKlings.”
“I’d guess it’s the full-figured women with the placards circling behind the line of security guards?”
“Oh, I hate this,” Swan said. “They’re such nice people. I’d hate for one of them to get hurt.”
I blinked. “Aside from the stalker, those ‘nice people’ are the only ones who’ve expressed a negative response to you.”
“I know. But I understand what’s it like when no one thinks you’re pretty enough.”
I looked at Dagan, who shrugged.
I turned to Swan. “As soon as we tell the security guards to open those doors, we’re going to go past a lot of people, one of whom may have threatened to kill you.”
Swan nodded. “I know.”
“You still want to go out that way?” Dagan asked.
Swan nodded again.
Dagan blew out a sigh, then nudged Moon, “Ready to go?”
Moon nodded, then shook his head.
“Moonie,” Swan said, squeezing his hand. “You’ll be okay. It’s me the guy wants.”
She hugged Moon, and smiled. “It’ll be just like when we were kids.”
Moon hugged her back. Then picked up his camera and equipment bag.
Dagan and I looked at each other again, then out at the crowd.
“I’ll go first,” Dagan said. “Moon, you and Swan behind me. Ace will cover our back.”
Moon and Swan nodded.
“We’re coming out,” Dagan said into a wrist-mike.
A guard outside lifted his walkie, responded, then opened a door.
The crowd surged forward, and we tried not to look like we were running to the carriage.
Swan, never actually pausing, still managed to smile and wave at her admirers. A couple blown kisses, a stray autograph, a few more smiles, and we reached the carriage.
A footman held the door open and Dagan practically threw Swan into the elegant coach. Dagan reached out a hand to help Moon onto the step.
Something caught my attention, and I turned to see a cloaked figure raise sparkling hands.
I drew my pistol and headed toward the figure.
A bolt of lightning flew at me, struck, and threw me backward.
Dagan caught me before I hit the ground.
I felt him drag me up into the carriage, which immediately peeled away from the curb.
I heard Swan crying “No” over and over.
“’S not bad,” I mumbled. “Wearing dragon scales. Deflects lightning.”
I rolled to look at Swan and realized she was covered with blood.
So was Dagan.
I blinked, scanning both for injuries.
Then I realized Swan was cradling Moon in her arms, and he wasn’t breathing.
Dagan banged on the carriage roof.
“Witches of Mercy! Now!”
We nearly tumbled over as the carriage wheeled around a corner.
Within a few minutes, we’d reached Mercy, Moon had disappeared inside, and we got Swan secured in one of the rooms designed to hold monstrous creatures.
While she showered and changed into borrowed robes, Dagan and I discussed recent events.
“Central called,” he said. “Turns out the lightning-thrower was just an over-excited fan trying to execute a flaming words spell. Instead of “I Love Swan,” he zapped you. Got him a suspension from his wizarding school.”
“They snag the sniper?”
He shook his head, and I kicked the wall.
Dagan’s phone rang, and I kicked the wall again, while he answered it.
The door to Swan’s room opened a crack, and I heard her whisper, “Ace, can you come here?”
Dagan was still on his call, so I gestured that I was going in Swan’s room. He nodded, and I slipped through the door.
Copyright © 2007 by Lewayne L. White