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A La Mode

fantasy by Karina Fabian

He sat in my office chair and stared at me, while attempting to look like he wasn’t staring. Trying to get his head around seeing a live dragon, no doubt. I get a lot of that. What I don’t get a lot of is clientèle. People want to believe in dragons – dragon detectives, not so much.

I didn’t have to stare back. I got the gist of him from the moment he entered the warehouse I call home. Common enough face and build as to be unmemorable, cautious by nature, nervous but determined to do a job. Lots of professional ethics, not a lot of morals.

A high-class thug hired by a higher-class human to do their dirty work.

And he wanted to sub-contract. Joy.

Maybe I should have thrown him out, but last week I’d had to resort to eating rats and gophers again. At some point, the bank would overcome its fear of a dragon on the loose and try to foreclose on this dump I call a home. I needed a job – bad.

He pushed a manila envelope across the desk I’d set up because the barrier made humans feel better. Then he glanced at my clawed toes, took it back, pulled out the photo it contained.

The chocolate-haired woman wore what looked like stylishly draped napkins on gold chains. Her overlarge, strawberry lips quirked in a Mona Lisa smile. With the tilt of her body, the stiletto-heeled sandals and the funky cross-legged gait, I figured she needed wires to keep her upright and balanced.

“That’s Dijonne,” the man said.

Funny how he introduced her and not himself.

“Like the mustard?”

“She’s the favorite to win UltraModel this season,” he said. “Two million dollars, four-year contract with LaMode Models, New York. That’s La Mode as in French for “in vogue”—not ice cream or anything.”

I know a dozen languages, human and non-human, and this guy thinks he’s teaching me. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I needed the job.

“– personal trainer and dietitian. There are those among her competition that don’t want her to win.”

“Thus, the definition of ‘competition.'”

Professional pride kept his face neutral. “My clients want to make sure she’s out of the picture. Permanently.”

I let silence be my question and continued to look at the photo. That coco-butter tan came from a bed.

“She’s a virgin,” he said. “Completely untouched.”

“Except by her plastic surgeon, maybe. Those proportions don’t come naturally to humans. Trust me; I’ve seen a lot of humans over the millennia.”

“The terms of the modeling competition forbid artificial enhancements. Everything there is 100-percent human flesh.”

“Free range?” I quipped. I knew the answer to that. Gold’s Gym, more likely.

He straightened. Dragon or not, he’d tired of my banter. “Will you handle this for my clients?”

“Why me?”

“Look, we all know about dragons –”

“Do we?” Murderous instinct supersedes law-abiding occupation? Speciesist.

“You do this, the evidence is digested.”

I couldn’t believe he said that with a straight face. “Except for folks witnessing the dragon swooping in and carrying off an innocent – and popular – victim.”

“We’ll deliver her to you –”

“Thirty minutes or less, or the next virgin’s free?”

“– and fifty thousand dollars in gold and jewels. You can roll in the dough. ”

I snorted. Rent aside, it wasn’t enough to roll in. Then, my traitorous stomach accepted the deal with a gurgle.

Stupid stomach. Didn’t it remember that since St. George, humans have been off my menu? Never mind. I could work this to my advantage. “Ten thousand now, cash.”

“I’ve been authorized to give you five.” He set a wad of unmarked Franklins on my desk.

“Deal, but we do it right. There are – rituals. When I dine, I like a certain atmosphere.”

#

A week later, I landed in the secluded clearing in the mountains near Los Lagos. I looked about with satisfaction.

Quiet meadow surrounded by evergreens. Aspen just starting to turn. A quickly rushing stream full from an earlier snow melted by Indian summer, a light breeze carrying the crisp scent of autumn.

The napkin-draped, stiletto-heeled virgin tied to a tree screaming through the duck tape on her mouth.

I gave my client a nod and circled the victim. “Snagged her easily enough?”

He shrugged. “We drugged her for the flight. That’s worn off. She was calm until you landed. Used hemp rope like you specified.”

“Good. I like to floss.” I sniffed at her. She stared at me with huge, terrified sapphire eyes. I licked the tears off her cheek. “She’s a virgin all right. Now, about payment – unless you want to join me for dinner first?”

Finally, the thug showed emotion. Turning slightly green, he set his briefcase on the ground and opened it. I nodded at the gold bricks, diamonds, rubies, obsidian and black spinel. How nice that his employers thought to match my hide.

“Not stolen?” I asked.

“I don’t ask my clients where they get their funding.”

“Fair enough.” I sat on my haunches and grinned. “I think we’re done here.”

At my words, the clearing erupted with a half-dozen sheriff deputies and an FBI agent. The man stared wildly around him, noted the pointed guns and my pointed teeth, and held up his hands.

A deputy cuffed him, the rest hastened to free Dijonne. She collapsed into a lucky one’s arms, crying.

Bert, the sheriff, came to thank me, a nervous FBI agent in tow.

“There’s no reward,” Bert apologized.

“Story of my life.”

“I don’t get it,” the agent said. “This could have been the perfect crime. You could have gotten away with the jewels and the — meal. Why call us?”

Bert started an angry retort, but I placed my tail on his shoulder. I’d been waiting all week for this question.

“I don’t like my virgins a la mode,” I said.

copyright April 2011 by Karina Fabian

Karina Fabian lives in Layton, Utah.  Karina edits award-winning science fiction anthologies.  She won the 2010 INDIE award for Vern’s first novel, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem and her latest novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, mixes the zombie apocalypse with reality television.  Learn more about Karina at Fabian Space.

[return to the April 2011 main page]

2 Responses

  1. […] A La Mode […]

  2. great ending line. lol

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