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|Another story staring everyone's favorite undead tax attorney. Ted and Gigi go the ball, but nothing goes quite as planned. We learn more about Ted as well as some of the other folks in the Paranormal community. All song lyrics are property of their respective owners.||
It was another dark night in a city that never sleeps. The air was clear and cold and the pollution had been washed out of the air so that anyone could see the diamond pockmarks in the sky. I was lurching along to the Visitant Hotel with my new girlfriend, Gigi Fitch. Gigi was one of that race affectionately referred to as “furries”—essentially, anthropomorphic animals. Gigi was a palomino colored human sized mink and tonight she was wearing a tight scarlet silk Chinese style dress or “chi pao” with the slit rising past her hips. Her dainty paws were encased in scarlet satin heels and elbow length gloves, and she was wrapped in a black velvet floor length cape. (A mink coat was out of the question.) She was bound to be the sexiest female at the Paranormal Persons New Year’s Eve party and I was sure to be the envy of every male and maybe even a few of the females there.
Being a zombie, I didn’t look anywhere near that good. I had dug out my old tux from the forties, and since men’s dress fashion is conservative to the point of being static, it still looked good. I guess it really was worth buying the Kashmir wool tux with tails and sixty years’ worth of mothballs. And thanks to the mortician’s make-up skills, my grey green pallor was a bit more subdued than normal. But even looking as good as possible, I was an ugly duckling compared to Gigi.
Yeah, I’m a lucky bastard. How does a stiff like me get a babe like her? The answer is simple – deep pockets. See, I’m a business lawyer specializing in paranormal clients and have been for the last seventy odd years. When Gigi’s last sugar daddy passed on and she needed help getting rid of his un-departed spirit, she turned to me. Being the generous guy I am, I fixed her up with an exorcist friend of mine who turned her into a free woman. So now, she was hanging around, trying to manipulate me into handing over the checkbook. I have no intention of doing that, but I’m not about to discourage a woman who’s trying to seduce me.
We reached the hotel, checked Gigi’s coat at the desk, and then entered the ballroom. A big band and a crooner were covering Sinatra’s best tunes and a diverse crowd was swinging away on the dance floor. The New Year’s Eve party was one of the highlights of the PP social calendar, and just about everyone had turned up. I swung Gigi around in my arms and began to dance with the crowd. I loved Sinatra’s songs; he was big right after I died and finally had time to pay attention to pop culture.
Come dance with me on an evening for some Terpsichore . . .
I hadn’t felt this, well, alive in years. Normally I come to these things just to get drunk with Hans. I hadn’t had a date for the dance in a couple decades. I decided to sing along in my raspy tenor.
“And while the rhythm swings what goofy things I’ll be sayin’, for what is dancin’ but making love set to music . . . playin’?” I swung Gigi into me, just to emphasize that last word.
“Now, Teddy, we’re in public,” Gigi said with an impish grin as we danced along. “I didn’t know you could sing.”
“Darling, you just heard me. I can’t sing. Sammy Cahn ought to rise from the dead and destroy me himself.” We finished the song then headed to the drink stand.
Gigi asked for a White Russian while I ordered a Long Island. Long Islands are weaker than my normal Walking Dead cocktail, but I wanted to go slow on my drinking tonight. I scanned the tables and having found a familiar face walked over to his table.
“Hans, good to see you buddy!” He stood up to greet Gigi and me.
“The pleasure is mine, Theodore. And who is this beauty?”
“Pardon me,” I replied. “Haven’t used my manners for so long I’ve forgotten the niceties. Gigi, this is Hans Retchsanwalt, my best friend and a ‘noted vampire lawyer’ as the paper put it the other day. Hans, this is Gigi Fitch.”
Gigi extended her hand, which Hans kissed gently. “It is my pleasure to meet you, Miss Fitch.”
I pulled out a chair for Gigi. “It’s madam, actually,” she said in her breathy alto voice. She sat down then added, “I was widowed recently. Teddy, here,” she flashed a huge grin my way, “helped me get the estate in order.”
“I’m just here to help,” I grinned, showing off the bleach job my dentist performed on my normally brown teeth. Like I said, I went all out for this shindig.
I sat down myself and noticed the drink at the empty chair. “Who’s your missing companion?”
“I esked Miss Fantôme to accompany me.”
“Madeleine? I didn’t know you two were an item.”
The vampire blushed. “I hev expressed an interest in a courtship, nothing more.” He eyeballed me for a moment. “I prefer to observe the dictates of polite society.”
Gigi was looking lost and a bit insulted at Hans’s insinuation. I decided to speak up. “You know Madeleine, darling. She’s the medium I recommended to deal with your ghost problem.”
“Oh, okay,” she replied.
“Und here she is,” Hans added, rising to greet her. Madeleine was sashaying across the floor, martini in hand. Her dress was a one shoulder number in an ivory gauze like fabric that set off her lovely dark Creole skin. I rose to join Hans. I learned all these Emily Post rules; I might as well use them.
“Ted, Gigi, how good to see you again,” she said to us as she sat down.
“So Madeleine, how have things been in your field?” I asked.
“Oh, not too bad. The real estate market is in the pits, so I don’t get too many of those jobs, but when the economy is bad, people always want my advice for stock and lottery tips. I knew it was coming, so I had plenty saved up.”
Gigi was in awe. “You actually knew the market was going to go bad because of your psychic abilities?”
Madeleine laughed. “No, I knew the market was going to tank when I was getting called to check out houses six months after I’d checked them for the previous buyer. Because I’m psychic, I realize that what’s going on in people’s heads has very little resemblance to reality. Thus, I pay attention to what’s going on in the real world.”
I smiled, “Good advice for us all,” and took another sip of my drink.
Gigi turned to face me. “Teddy?”
I turned to our companions. “Excuse us.” I got up and then extended a hand for Gigi. “Hey, you guys should join us,” I added.
Madeleine smiled back. “We’ll be up in a moment.”
With that, I led Gigi out to dance floor. We went into a two step as the crooner started into “Day and Night.” We wandered around the dance floor, swinging to the beat. I started quietly singing to Gigi as we danced.
“There’s oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me.” I released her left hand and swung her out.
“And its torment won’t be through,” She spun into me, wrapping my arms around her.
“’Until you let me spend life making love to you,” I grabbed her right hand and spun her back out.
“Day and night, night and day!” I pulled her in, spun her in a pirouette, and ended the song with a dip.
“Oh Teddy, that was so much fun!” Gigi said to me, panting a bit from the effort. I was so focused on her I missed the arrival of another vampire.
“Good evening, Theodore. And who is this vision of loveliness?” he said in his posh British accent.
“Good evening, Jascha,” I spit out through clenched teeth. “Gigi, this is Jascha von Spieler, a lawyer at Chaney Karloff. Jascha, may I introduce Madam Gigi Fitch?”
The oily vampire took Gigi’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, madam. May I?” Gigi nodded, and Jascha kissed it, making a shallow puncture wound with one fang and tasting a few drops of her blood. She gasped. I don’t get that; I’ve never managed to give a woman a small orgasm by biting her. Vampires.
“You are an amazing woman, Madam Gigi, in your appearance, dancing, and even your flavour. Theodore misspoke, however. I am Baron Jascha Reichart von Spieler, and I am the managing partner at Chaney Karloff.”
Gigi frowned a little in confusion. “What is this Chaney Karloff?”
“Why, we are only the largest, wealthiest, and most prestigious paranormal law firm in the world. Our local office oversees transactions of over a thousand million dollars a year.”
“Really?” I could see the dollar signs dancing in Gigi’s eyes. I had to get her back.
“Yes darling,” I said, “they make lots of money, but they pay for it with their time. And sometimes their lives,” I snarled.
“Theodore, do you still hold a grudge against us? We gave you this wonderful second life, and you deserted us.”
“You worked me to death and then had me reanimated to slave away for you some more!” I could hear my voice getting louder. “You don’t give a damn about your employees, you bilk your clients for everything they’re worth, and you lord over every lawyer in this town like you’re still the baron in your Transylvanian castle!”
That caught the crowd’s attention. Class was a very touchy subject, as many in the paranormal community had fled Eastern Europe for the egalitarian America.
“Teddy, people are staring,” Gigi said, her breathy alto rising in pitch with her embarrassment.
“Let them stare!” Gotta get out of here! “Excuse us!” I hissed as I stormed off. I was halfway to the drink stand before I noticed that Gigi wasn’t behind me. I turned to see her chatting with Jascha. Damn vampires!
When I arrived at the drinks, I realized that the generic bartender from earlier in the evening had been replaced by a very familiar face.
“Elva, darling! Get me a Walking Dead, please.” She turned, letting me inspect her outfit. Elva was in a slutty French maid uniform, complete with the useless lace headband strapped over the up-do of her flaxen curls. She made sure to bend over at the waist to get the ice, flashing me a nice view of her black satin bloomers which had little swastikas on the elastic, for reasons unknown.
“So what’s the matter, honey?” she asked, mixing the bourbons, whisky, Jaeger, vodka, scotch, fruit liquor, and absinthe into the lager.
“Well, I brought the sexiest woman here, (no offense)”
“None taken, if you’re talking about that mink in the red.” She leaned over to hand me my drink.
“ . . . and she’s more interested in chatting up the guy who killed me.”
Elva frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that, Teddy.” She looked at the line forming behind me. “I saw Hans around here somewhere. Why don’t you look for him?”
I sighed and headed for Hans’s table. Unfortunately, he and Madeleine were dancing away to “Luck Be a Lady.” I sat down and stared into my drink.
A lady doesn’t leave her escort. I joined in with the singer. “It isn’t fair; it isn’t nice. A lady doesn’t wander all over the room, and blow on some other guy’s dice.”
“Whoa, sounds like someone’s a little bitter,” came a voice from behind me. I turned to see a short woman with black spiky hair wearing a red silk top and fly-away dress slacks. “Theodore Clark, right?”
“It’s Ted to everyone who isn’t a pedantic vampire. And you are?”
“Rana Bodenberg. Mind if I sit down?”
I knew of Rana. She was a hotshot reporter at Paranews who covered paranormal courts and a bit of the political junk. She was also infamous for being a dyke. The paranormal community didn’t give a damn if you were dead, or undead, or immortal, or furry, but admit that you’re a dame who loves broads and you’re a freak.
“So what was all that hubbub between you and the Baron?”
“I’ve got a lot of problems with the Baron von Spieler, starting with the fact that he’s Transylvanian yet he talks like an Eton educated twerp.
“I’ve always been curious; why does he have an English accent?”
“Because he is an Eton educated twerp, from back in the day when the nobility of the world sent their brats to Eton to learn the Received Pronunciation of English. Anyway, the real reason I can’t stand him comes from some old history between us.”
“Do tell!” Rana grinned.
“My first job out of law school was at Chaney Karloff. They liked my work so much they had me slave over due diligence write ups eighty hours a week for twenty years. The stress gave me a heart attack and I died in my office at the age of 42.”
She nodded her head. “I can how that might cause a falling out.”
“That wasn’t the half of it. They took my cooling carcass down the College of Mad Science and had their Frankensteins reanimate me. Once I was walking and talking again, they insisted I get back to work to finish things up for a big merger I had been working on. I quit.”
“I’m starting to get the picture now. So what happened?”
“I spent six months drunk and dancing to Sinatra before it dawned on me that if I was practically immortal, what with being dead already, I would need a job and the only thing I knew how to do was be a lawyer. So I started up as a solo next door to Hans.”
“So where does that nice piece of ass the Baron’s dancing with enter the picture?”
I rolled my eyes. “That is Madam Gigi Fitch, human sized mink and gold digger, extraordinaire.” Rana shot me a look of incredulity. “Look, when a broad comes to me asking how to get control of her dead husband’s assets, I know what kind of broad she is. Especially when she has a pair of nice ‘assets’ herself.”
“Good observation.” She scanned the crowd while I downed more of my drink. Can’t let the lager go flat, you know? “Looks Mr. Retchsanwalt is coming, along with a really good looking gal.”
“That would be Madeleine Fantôme. She’s a medium.”
“I don’t know, her ‘assets’ look more like a large to me.”
“Ha ha, very funny. Don’t quit your night job.” I stood up as the couple, drinks in hand, arrived at the table, staggering a bit as I did so. “Hans, Madeleine, allow me to introduce Rana Bodenberg, reporter for Paranews.”
Hans bowed. “Ah, Ms. Bodenberg. I vish to thank you for your complimentary piece on my recent case.”
“No problem. Really, your side was in the right, though if opposing council over there,” she nodded toward von Spieler, “was half as good at charming juries as he is ladies, you might have been in trouble.”
Hans looked up to see Gigi swaying rather intimately with von Spieler. Dang you, Sinatra, and your “Witchcraft” too! Hans’s face grew quite sympathetic, and he seemed at a loss for words.
“Theodore, I . . .” His face seemed to search for something to say, then brightened. “Here’s something thet might cheer you up. Efter my recent victory, I feel like I ken propose this es an equal. I vish to start a partnership vith you.”
I goggled a bit. That came out of left field! “Hans, I . . .” my brain searched for words, “would be delighted.
Madeleine picked up her glass. “A toast! To Clark and Retchsanwalt!”
“May their partnership be a long and prosperous one!” Rana slipped in with an impish grin on her face. A couple people at the next table over sniggered.
“We’re not getting married, Rana. Come on, let’s clink and drink!”
We lifted our glasses, said Cheers! and drank.
Gunshots rang out, followed by assorted women’s screams. What the hell? I turned and looked. There was a commotion down near the bandstand. Someone jumped up on stage and grabbed the singer’s microphone.
“Shut up, you freaks!” The gunman swept the gun over the crowd, which instantly turned deathly silent. “I hate you! I hate you all! You, with your nice clothes and your super powers and . . .” The ranting continued as I turned to my friend.
“Oh dear Lord, it’s Jeremy!” I muttered. “Hans, can’t you do something?” I whispered forcefully.
“Vat do you vant me to do? I am not Übermensch!”
“Superman, Hans, the word is Superman,” I answered. “Can’t you turn into a bat or a mist, or hypnotize him?”
“Teodore, you should nod belief everytink Stoker sayss. I em stronk bud nod fery fest, und I ken only hypnotisse someone efter I hef sucked dem. I em nod bulled-proof, eider.” The vampire’s German accent was becoming stronger with his anxiety. “Vhy ken’t you do sometink?”
“I would prefer not to get shot full of holes, if it’s all right with you!” I whispered back.
Rana stood up. “What a bunch of girly men! I’ll take care of him.” She started walking slowly toward the bandstand. Jeremy trained his gun at the movement.
“Who are you?” he asked in his nasally whine.
“Rana Bodenberg, reporter for Paranews.”
“Oh.” His tone went even more sour than normal. “The dyke.”
Rana just laughed. “My reputation precedes me,” she replied, giving a little bow. “And you are?”
“Uh, Jeremy. Jeremy Higgins.”
She kept walking forward, the crowd parting for her. “Nice to meet you Jeremy. And you’re how old?”
“Uh, twenty eight. Why do you care?”
“It’s the kind of detail we like to get in the paper. And what do you do, exactly?”
“I uh, I make and sell drugs. But I pay my taxes! Ted Clark does them for me.” A nervous chuckle slipped through the room.
Talk about a ringing endorsement, kid. I was amazed though. Rana had crossed most of the distance to Jeremy. Another few steps, and she could probably take him down.
“Stop laughing at me! Stop it!” Jeremy’s hands were shaking as he pointed the gun at the crowd. The crowd hushed again.
“It’s okay Jeremy.” Rana’s tone was quiet and calming. “They’re just scared of you. Come on, put the gun down.”
“No! Leave me alone! Go away!”
Rana took another step forward. “I said stop!” The nasal whine yelled. Rana was five feet away, and she took another step.
Jeremy fired. A spray of silver sprinkled the crowd behind Rana. Instead of falling though, she stayed upright and extended her arms, grabbing Jeremy’s hands and pulling him towards her. He fell on his face and she pinned his arms.
“Somebody want to help me with this?” she yelled. Within seconds two wolf men had grabbed Jeremy and were “escorting” him out of the room.
She stood up, shaking her head a bit. Little patches of mercury littered the room and she had a matched set of holes, front and back, in her blouse. “Damn it! Do you have any idea what a shantung silk blouse costs?” she said to no one in particular. She jumped off the stage onto the dance floor, and the mercurial liquid starting migrating towards her and disappearing through her peep toe pumps. The crowd just watched in silence. She headed over to our table, and the buzzing broke out.
“So, uh, you’re uh, a shape shifter,” I said, feeling like an idiot.
“Great powers of observation there, bub,” she said with a smile. No one knew quite what to say. We could hear the singer announce that he would be back in fifteen minutes for Auld Lang Syne. He didn’t realize the mic was still on, and so the whole room got to hear of his need for a cigarette and a stiff drink.
“I suppose we owe you our thanks,” Madeleine said.
“Agreed,” Hans added.
I felt a need to stand up. “A toast for Ms. Rana Bodenberg!” I said over the buzzing chatter of the room.
“Here, here!” came the cries from the rest of the room. Everyone grabbed whatever alcohol they could find and gulped it down.
“Well, I certainly have plenty to write up for this week’s paper,” Rana laughed.
My mind was a tangle. There were the basic questions: Where do shape shifters come from? If she can change her appearance, is she really a she? How big is she? Like, volume wise? There was horny speculation: So how would intimacy work? Everything can be perfectly sized! And there was the bizarre: How much money could James Cameron have saved by casting her in Terminator II?
“Anyway, I think we were talking about your new partnership, Ted,” she added, completely derailing my train of thought.
“Oh, yeah, um, well, it looks like we just got our first case, Hans.” My mind scrambled to get back onto familiar territory. “I’m sure Jeremy will want me to represent him.”
“Vell, it looks like our best hope is a plea deal. Ve can argue temporary insanity,”
“It’s more than temporary,” I muttered.
“Und offer to pay restitution for Ms. Bodenberg’s blouse,”
“Why thank you Mr. Retchsanwalt,” said Rana graciously.
“Und this Mr. Higgins gets as little as a few years on probation.”
I finished off my drink, trying to steady my nerves. The adrenaline letdown was working a number on me.
Madeleine could evidently sense my agitation. “Ted, are you all right?”
“Uh, yeah. Sorry. Not used to dealing with this.” Rana was smirking. “Look, I’m a corporate lawyer, alright? I fill out people’s tax forms. I sue people. When I feel really aggressive, I garnish people’s wages. I don’t deal with people who point loaded guns at me!”
“Aw, you need to live a little!” Rana said. I cocked an eyebrow. “No offense,” she added.
The band began the familiar strains of New Year’s anthem. “Come on,” Rana cajoled, “let’s be part of the dance.” I pulled myself up and migrated to the dance floor, lurching as only a drunk zombie can. We formed into a circle, holding hands or paws all around, until the last verse.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! And gie’s a hand o’thine! And we’ll tak a right gude-eilly waught, For auld lang syne.
That was our cue. We released our upper extremities, crossed our arms, and then clasped each other’s hands. The crooner sung the last chorus. When he finished, we all ran to the middle of the circle and spun around, laughing as we tried to make our way through the balloon drop. Hans, Madeleine, Rana, and I formed a little circle
“Well, guys,” I said, “here’s to a New Year!”
|Into the Sea Act 4||Into the Sea Act 5|
|Into the Sea Act 3||The Tax Zombie Cometh . . .|
|Into the Sea Act 2||
Into the Sea Act 1