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Copyright: Although the main characters in the following do bear a strong resemblance to a cute couple with whom we are all familiar, all the characters in this work of fiction are the product of my own imagination and are therefore copyright to me.
For the rest of the disclaimers, please see the first chapter
by Helen Smith, September, 2000
Early morning sunlight streamed across the kitchen floor and into the hall behind Quinn as she stepped through the kitchen door. The sun also illuminated a furry little being running for cover behind his box.
"Good morning Hairy. How are you today?" The dark-haired woman walked over to the coffee maker and began assembling the ingredients for the first cup of the day. The kitten ventured out from behind his box and sat down to gaze at her. "I'll bet you're hungry."
"Eeek" he squeaked, seemingly in agreement. A few seconds later she heard "Eeeeek," from a little closer, and then almost immediately "EEEEEK!" from right at her feet.
"Ok, ok. Ariel will be here any second and she can show me where your food is."
"I'll take care of it, Love," Ariel said as she walked in the door. "But for future reference, I keep it down in this cupboard." The writer bent to get the food out and Quinn took a second to admire the view. Since the shorter woman was wearing a bikini, it was sensational.
"I now have a new appreciation for kitten food," grinned Quinn.
Ariel rolled her eyes and then turned to put some food in a dish for the kitten, who by now had set up a steady clamour.
"I'll set out breakfast while you do your laps," said Quinn.
"Ok, thanks Babe, responded Ariel as she opened the doors to the backyard.
The sun was shining brightly, but the long narrow pool Ariel maintained in her backyard had not yet heated up. The writer gritted her teeth, dived in and started a smooth crawl up and down its length. Theoretically, since her fence was 12 feet high and impervious to passersby in the lane behind her house, Ariel could have swum naked. However, two elderly sisters, who lived next door, had a perfect view of her pool from their second floor windows, and in deference to their sensibilities, Ariel wore a bikini. "Bet they'd enjoy it," Quinn had said. Ariel had replied, smiling, "Quinn, I think there's a little transference going on in that statement. They are not you. You are not them." "Bet they'd still enjoy it," Quinn muttered, "You'd have to be dead not to enjoy it." Ariel had just smiled, kissed her and murmured "Thanks."
While Ariel did laps Quinn flipped on the info feed. She was about to search for a news program but, remembering what had happened the previous day, decided that an audio music channel was probably a safer bet. "In fact," she glanced at the time, grinned and said to herself, "I know just which one."
" Come on people now, smile on your brother,
Everybody get together, try to love one another right now...
right now... right now..."
"That was the Youngbloods with "Get Together," one of the anthems of the 1960s. The time is coming up on 7:30, and you are listening to The Classics, on W 101.3. Are you sure your sun block is really ..." Quinn zoned out through the commercials and set about getting breakfast. Lessee. Bagels. Butter. Cheese. Juice? Naw. "I think there's some fruit in the freezer, Hairy, let's see if I can find it."
The kitten, wrapped up in chasing his toy mouse, paid no attention to the human making meaningless noise. Quinn scanned the freezer contents. "Yup. Strawberries." She pulled them out, popped the top and put them in the microwave. A glance outside assured her that Ariel was still swimming. The commercials ended, and the announcer came back on.
"And now, a song often requested. The Jefferson Airplane's ..." the announcer's voice dropped an octave, "White Rabbit."
The hypnotic opening bars followed immediately, bass combining with snare drum, joined by guitar.
"One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small,"
Quinn, singing along with Grace Slick, danced around the room as she popped the bagels in the toaster and took the now defrosted fruit out of the micro.
"And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.
And if you go chasing rabbits"
She pointed a finger at Hairy, who had given up playing with his toy mouse to watch the human's strange antics.
"And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call.
When she was just small."
Quinn stuck a finger in the fruit and tasted it thoughtfully. "Yup, needs sugar."
"When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go"
The bagels popped up and she retrieved and buttered them while singing
"And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low.
Go ask Alice I think she'll know."
Quinn found the sugar, dusted some on the berries, tasted, nodded her head and went for the big finish:
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead,
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's 'off with her head!'
Remember what the dormouse said:
'Feed your head.
Feed your head.
Feed your head.'"
Quinn took a second to enjoy the orgiastic conclusion, then bowed deeply to Hairy who didn't know whether to run and hide or get ready to defend himself. "Thank yuh, thank yuh. Thank yuh v'ry much," she said. A giggle behind her made her turn as Ariel stepped through the patio door.
"I think that was The King you were quoting."
"Hey, it fits," grinned Quinn, then added, "You look cold."
"A little. I can take it."
"Uh huh. Mental note - add ice cubes to the bedroom toys."
Ariel laughed, then suddenly stepped up to Quinn and embraced her tightly, and murmured "only if I get to use them on you, Sport."
"Aagghh, you're freezing, woman. Not to mention wet, and not in a nice way."
Ariel giggled again, stepped back quickly and disappeared through the doorway on her way upstairs to change.
"One of these days Alice," Quinn yelled after her, "One of these days!"
The dark haired woman chuckled, poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down. Hairy came over to look at her more closely, and was picked up for his pains. An initial squirm, as he felt her wet shirt, was soon replaced by purring as she pulled her T-shirt up and held him against her warm skin.
As Quinn listened to the music she reflected that one of the things she and Ariel had in common was an interest in history. But whereas Ariel's main interest was political history, hers was cultural. Ok, ok, cheesy pop culture.
She remembered her grandmother, whom she'd loved dearly, would play songs from the previous century. Some of it had sounded like current stuff, but other things were like nothing she'd ever encountered before. Doing a little investigating, she learned that popular mainstream music had begun to change around the middle of the previous century, when rock 'n roll was introduced. Quinn discovered she liked it. The corny, the bubble gum, the acid, the whole spectrum. When her grandmother died, the family was going to throw out her collection, but Quinn, who was 11 at the time, persuaded them to let her keep it. It was a link with her grandmother, true, but it was also music that spoke to her. She still had the collection, and had substantially added to it by browsing in second hand music shops.
Her interest in music from the previous century had led naturally to an interest in the television programs and films of that era. Her collection ran from TV shows of the '50s, when television was really just beginning to find a mass market, right up to the end of the century. Often complete sets. "Complete runs of almost 100 shows, Hairy. It takes up a fair chunk of space, I'll tell ya. If I brought it all over here instead of leaving it at my apartment we'd have to add a room."
"What's that?" Ariel asked as she returned, dressed, Quinn noted, in a sweater, jeans, socks and shoes. Must have been colder than she let on, she thought.
Quinn put the kitten down and poured Ariel some coffee. "I was just telling Hairy about my popular culture collection," she said. "He seemed very interested."
"'Cause you're a fascinating conversationalist."
"Umm. Never been called that before."
"So," she asked, after a few minutes of music only, while they ate, "what's on your agenda for the day?"
"Corrections and queries from Jan. Continue writing. Check over my mail I picked up yesterday. Not necessarily in that order." Ariel answered her own fan mail. If it came electronically, the publishing company forwarded it to her. If it was snail mail, they either sent it periodically by messenger or she picked it up.
"How about you?"
"Well, I'm gonna take it a bit easier than yesterday. What I can't hand on to Kris, I'll postpone 'til tomorrow. Getting in some exercise is my number one priority for today and other than that I'll just clear up some paper work." Quinn pushed back from the table, yawned and got up to start clearing it.
"You go ahead, Love. I'll handle this," said Ariel."
"Ok. If you need me, just shout."
Quinn was walking by Ariel's office door an hour later when the writer called to her.
"What do you make of this?" said Ariel as she handed a sheet of paper to the taller woman.
Quinn noted the expression on the other woman's face. "Hold it." She grabbed a tissue before accepting the sheet, using it to keep from touching the paper. She saw immediately that it was a photocopy of a review of Midnight Madness, with two sentences struck out with red ink: "But interwoven throughout this sexy tale of two young women who can't keep their hands off each other is a serious message--society's current trends have a dehumanizing effect. The author makes it clear that, in her view, the gun culture, expanding at warp speed through a loosening of licensing requirements, combined with ever more draconian crime and punishment legislation, is greasing the proverbial slippery slope." A photo of Ariel that had been run with the review was defaced with a large red "X". Block letters above it proclaimed, "You must be silenced."
"I think we have another loony to contend with," said Quinn.
"You think it's that serious?"
"When did the reviews of Midnight Madness come out"?
Ariel thought. "Um, a little over a year ago."
"Over how long a period?"
"I don't know, two, three months. Why?"
Quinn ignored the question. "So there hasn't been a
"No. Besides, I think I recognize this one. It came out in the local paper, shortly after the book was published. So you think it's serious?" the shorter woman asked again.
"The message is terse. Your photo is defaced. Whoever sent it took the trouble to look up a review and photocopy it. Hell yes, I think it's serious." Quinn ran her free hand through her hair and set the sheet down.
"What should we do?"
"Report it to the police. God knows, they can't do much, but at least it's on record. And if I'm forced to shoot someone over this we got that covered."
Ariel nodded grimly. Explaining after the fact without a threat on file could take hours, if not days, while Quinn languished in detention. Even though everyone was encouraged to carry guns, the authorities were still expected to look closely at anyone firing one. As a result, it could be a while before an overworked police officer got to your case.
"Ok. Do you want to phone the police or should I?"
"I'll do it. I'll call Hank, since he handled the last one." Quinn knelt in front of Ariel, who was now slumped in her chair. Clasping the writer's hands in her own, she asked, "Hey. You ok? We'll get this guy, don't worry."
"I know. I know. It's just ... why, Quinn? For expressing an opinion, for being who I am. I ..."
Quinn leaned over and tenderly brushed Ariel's lips. "I know, Love. I know. I'll go call Hank."
"Yeah, I got a call into Hank right now."
"Well, if you need any help on this thing, let me know."
"Will do, Kris, but right now you can help just by running the company for me. As soon as we hang up I'm going to forward my business number to you. Call me on my personal number if you need to consult, and check with me once a day to bring me up to speed, but for all intents and purposes, until this is over you are Thanatos Security."
"Got ya Quinn," responded Kris, her second-in-command. "What about the paper, do you need ..."
Quinn cut her off. "Already thought of it. A messenger has just taken it to the lab for analysis. But that reminds me, have Joe call me. I've got some other stuff I want checked ASAP."
"Ok. If that's all, I'll get going." There was a pause, then, "Keep her safe."
"I'm planning on it. Thanks Kris. Talk to you later."
Quinn had no sooner disconnected than the phone buzzed again.
"You called?" the baritone voice of Det. 2nd Grade Hank Walsh responded.
"Yeah, Hank. Ariel has received another threat and I don't think it's one we should ignore."
"I was afraid this wasn't a social call. Ok, we can analyze ..."
"Got it covered." She heard the detective inhale to lecture her on proper procedure but she kept talking. "You know the police labs are hopelessly backed up. I'll have results back by the end of the day. I called you to officially register the threat and because you might be able to help me find the guy."
"Or girl," interjected the detective laconically.
"Yeah. Or girl. I've got a copy of the note for you. Can you drop by and we can discuss it?
"Ok. How about in an hour?"
"Good. See you then."
Quinn closed the connection then took a second to think back a year ago. On the face of it, the threats were similar. Each was made on a review of Midnight Madness, newly published at that time. But whereas this one was a photocopy, that one had been neatly cut from a newspaper and scotchtaped to a sheet of plain paper. This one was terse. That one included Biblical quotations. Both were made in block letters. Just then her phone buzzed.
"Hi Boss. I hear you got something that needs doing ASAP."
"Yeah, Joe. Ariel got a threatening note. It may be just a loony, but on the other hand it may not. I'd like you to dig up whatever you can on the following ..."
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