What was Krissa doing? Nafalda wondered impatiently, shooting her co-worker a dirty look. It seemed that, no matter the job, Krissa always found time to flirt shamelessly. Stopping just outside the realm of Krissa’s attention, Nafalda amped up the venom in her glare and wished, not for the first time, that she had been assigned a different partner. All Nafalda wanted to do was get out of there. She was hardly in her element in the midst of this glimmering roof-top party – while Krissa seemed content to spend the evening sipping champagne, chatting up hunky actors and doing absolutely nothing to help the mission.
Nafalda was just contemplating fatal accidents that her partner could have when Krissa’s companion – a black-clad brunette whose button-up was buttoned down far enough to show off his muscled chest – took a sip of champagne and fell to the floor.
“Help, somebody!” Krissa called, looking around the crowded rooftop and playing helpless.
A man in a suit hurried towards her, while everyone else just stood and gaped.
“What happened?” the man asked.
“He just collapsed. Is there somewhere we can take him that he can lie down?”
“Yeah. Here, Joe, come and help me.”
Between the man in the suit and the man called Joe, they managed to get Krissa’s lifeless companion onto a comfortable couch inside.
Thank you so much,” Krissa said. She and Nafalda had followed the men looking, in the case of Krissa, worried and solicitous and, in Nafalda’s case, decidedly annoyed.
“No problem,” said the man in the suit, “Should we call an ambulance or something?”
“No, Luna here’s a doctor. I’m sure she’ll be able to take care of him.”
“Miriam’s my nurse,” Nafalda said, “She’ll be fine if she can stop freaking out whenever someone faints.”
“Well, we’ll leave you to it then,” said Joe, who was eager to get back to the blonde he’d left upstairs.
“You sure you’re all right?” the suited bloke asked. He wore a look of genuine concern.
“Fine,” Nafalda answered, “It’s nothing some smelling salts and a brandy won’t fix.”
“Right.” With that, the man in the suit left, if reluctantly.
Shutting the door behind him, Krissa sighed, “He seemed nice. Pity we didn’t even get his name.”
“Speaking of names,” said Nafalda, “Did you have to stick me with Luna?”
“It was the first thing I thought of! Surely you could have done better than Miriam?”
“It was the first thing I thought of!” Nafalda mimicked, “That aside – what’s going on? Or is it just chance that the guy you happened to be talking to collapsed mid-swallow?”
Brown eyes shining, Krissa grinned – the dangerous sort of grin that told Nafalda she was about to be dragged into something.
“This man,” Krissa said, her voice trembling with the drama of the situation, “Is not who he says he is!”
“Ok,” said Nafalda, unimpressed, “So who is he?”
“I first began to suspect his falsehood when he refused a part in tonight’s production,” said Krissa, like a detective in an old Earth T.V. show, “He said he didn’t know the lines, but he was offered Dustin in Dübrêre’s Torn Through Space. Everyone knows that part.”
“Some people just don’t like to act,” Nafalda countered, “I’ve never been able to understand the desire, myself. You get on stage with a bunch of people you don’t know, to perform for an audience of people you don’t know, reciting lines that everyone knows – and for what? A round of applause, and maybe a bit of notice in the local paper if there happens to be a reporter in the audience who thinks your acting was worth mentioning?”
“May I continue?” Krissa asked stiffly.
“I have a feeling you’re going to,” Nafalda answered.
“Through a series of complicated tests you no doubt care nothing about, I have come to the conclusion that this man… is an Earthling!” Nafalda actually burst out laughing.
“An Earthling? Those bumbling ninnies couldn’t get to Mars, much less to a planet 150 million miles away.”
“You don’t give them enough credit,” said Krissa, “They’ve advanced a lot over the years.”
“Oh? Can they do magic, then?”
“Well, I think they rely on science – which is basically the same thing, only with a lot more numbers.”
“It’s not the same thing. Have you suddenly become a mundane lover just because of some hunky might-be Earthling?”
“Oh, so you do find him attractive!” Krissa grinned, “I thought as much.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Nafalda snapped, “He’s just a job to me. If he’s even that. Probably he’s just some poor shy bloke who said the wrong thing and got himself drugged. Besides, you do realize we already have a job, don’t you?”
“What, the diamonds? Already found them.”
“What?! When were you planning on telling me this?”
“Um… right now. The Duchess has them. She’s wearing them – which means her boyfriend gave them to her once he heard the heat was on. He should be easy to locate.”
“I found his wallet while I was snooping around the Duchess’s bedroom.”
Eyes closed in exasperation, Nafalda reminded the other woman that entering a subject’s room without clearance was against protocol.
“Well, yeah, but I solved the case – which means we’re ready for our new one.”
“Oh, very well,” Nafalda drew a syringe and a vial of antidote from a cleverly concealed pocket in her evening gown. Stabbing the possible alien with perhaps too much enthusiasm, Nafalda injected the goods, then stepped back to watch.
The Earth man stirred. Letting out a soft moan, he sat up, blinking around the room in a bleary-eyed sort of way.
“What happened?” he asked.
“You were drugged,” answered the man standing in the doorway.
Nafalda and Krissa turned in despair to see Joe leaning against the door frame, a broken champagne glass in his hand.
“I knew there was something fishy about you two dames,” said Joe, “Now tell me, why’d you do it?”
“What are you talking about?” Krissa asked with a wide-eyed, innocent stare, “We had no idea he was drugged. That’s just awful!”
“If you didn’t know he was drugged, how did you bring him ‘round so quickly? Just happened to be carrying the antidote in your purse, doc?”
“You don’t know what you’re meddling in,” said Nafalda, a warning note in her voice.
“I intend to find out.”
“I think you’d be better off rejoining the party,” Nafalda said, reaching for the laser pistol she had strapped to her thigh. It was truly remarkable the things a dress as small as hers managed to conceal.
“I think you’d be better off leaving that gun where it is,” said Joe, drawing a police badge from his pocket before Nafalda had a chance to even touch her weapon.
“Miriam,” said Doctor Luna to her nurse, her eyes fixed on the badge in Joe’s hand – the badge that cancelled the magic of everyone in the room except the holder, “I think you just beat your old record of how fast you can get us arrested.”
“Oh, yeah, sure – blame it on me,” Krissa complained an hour and a half later. She and Nafalda were sitting in a magic-proof cell, with no Earthling and no way of catching the Duchess’s diamond-stealing beau.
“What?” Nafalda looked up. She had been examining the walls in a futile attempt to find a weakness. She always did this when they got arrested, and it had never once yielded results. Krissa figured it was just some psychological need to be doing something.
“You always blame the cops catching us on me – but I don’t see how it could be my fault this time.”
“You don’t?” Nafalda sounded incredulous, “Whose brilliant idea was it to drug a man in the middle of a crowd of witnesses and then get a cop to help you carry him out?”
“Oh, yeah, because I totally knew he was a cop.”
“You’re not remotely careful,” Nafalda said, and she spoke with the practice of a many-times repeated speech, “You don’t pay attention. Could you think before you acted, just once? I mean, the least you could have done was get rid of the champagne glass.”
“I was in character! Besides, I didn’t see you doing any cleaning. You knew I’d drugged his drink, why didn’t you dispose of the evidence?”
“It wasn’t my evidence.”
“Besides, the champagne glass wasn’t enough evidence to detain us on. You’re the one who went for your gun.”
“I thought he was a civilian and I could scare him out of pestering us.”
“See? You didn’t know he was a cop any more than I did. I’ve told you to be more careful about pulling out your gun.”
“Now you sound like my mother.”
“Hey, you two!” The women looked up to see their prison guard standing in front of their cell door, “Your bail’s been posted. You’re free to go.”
Relieved, if slightly confused, Krissa and Nafalda exited the cell and went to find their benefactor.
An attractive blue-haired man was leaning against the wall, waiting for them. Krissa beamed when she saw him.
“Sky!” she exclaimed.
“What are you doing here?” Krissa asked.
“Heard you two were in a spot of bother; thought I’d come bail you out – as usual. Blimey, you two do spend your time in the cooler, don’t ‘cha?”
“We appreciate your assistance,” said Nafalda stiffly, “We’ll take it from here.”
“Let me give you a lift at least,” said Sky, “Where’re you two headed?”
“I need to get to work,” said Nafalda, looking anxiously at the cops standing near-by.
“I’m headed that way, I’ll drop you off,” said Sky, so casually that it forced Nafalda to silently commend him. Despite his other faults – he could lie effortlessly.
They exited the prison and climbed into Sky’s circular transport. Seating consisted of a couch formed in a circle to maximize conversation space.
“Ugh,” Krissa complained, sitting down in the seat beside Sky, “I feel all out of wack. Prison throws off my groove.”
“You can’t do magic for 48 hours, right?” said Sky, punching in the coordinates of where they wanted to go. The transport stuttered to life and started off. Sky leaned back, his arm draped casually across the back of Krissa’s seat.
“You know very well we can’t use magic,” said Nafalda, giving Sky a disapproving look.
“Well, it’s not like I’ve ever been to prison,” Sky said, “I keep my nose clean.”
“You take easy jobs,” Nafalda retorted.
“Possibly,” said Sky, “But I just picked one up that would make your hair stand on end.”
“What is it?” asked Krissa eagerly, always the flirt.
“I’ll tell you,” said Sky, “But first I have to ask: Are you in?”