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O Divine Art of Subtlety and Secrecy!

"Look, I've been talking to someone lately, and I think he may be able to give you information about your killer," Megan said. She'd been hanging around outside every evening for a week, trying to catch Meteor as she departed on her nightly patrols (or on any dates).

Meteor glowered at her from the far side of the carriage house garden. She'd modified her plain green tank suit into a sleeveless body suit with a low neckline and a decorative red line (that matched her hair) from one shoulder straight down her body to her foot. "You and that Holmes woman think you're so very clever," she said with an expression that wasn't quite a snarl. "But I know you're trying to find someone who will exorcise me. And not having much luck," she added, almost gloating.

Megan gritted her teeth. "I want to help both you and G."

"You're lying," Meteor said.

Megan ground her teeth now. It sucked that Meteor was right.

A short, urgent series of beeps sounded.

"I don't have time to hang about chatting with you," Meteor said. "I have important things to do." She tapped a small gold star set on her costume just below her left collarbone and ran out of the yard, heading toward the road. She was almost out of sight when she started growing.

Megan sank down on a tree stump and put her head in her hands.

"Bitch has got to keep her size 50s outta my damn garden," Mr. Hammer said, emerging from the carriage house, "or I will put a serious hurtin' on her." His silvered countenance was sour and angry.

"Sorry," Megan said. "She flounced off, and the flounce took her through the tulip patch."

He bent over the wounded flowers, gently plucking the ones that were crushed and encouraging the rest to stand back up. "If this keeps up and she flounces through my vegetables, I'll make sure she'll never goddamn flounce again."

"She's using G's body, you know," Megan said glumly.

"I know," he said, plucking a few weeds from around the blooms. "Zoltan's been bending my ear about it for days."

"She's going on dates," Megan said. "With men. G told me once that she knew she was a lesbian when she was 11 and came out when she was 17."

Mr. Hammer straightened up and dusted his hands off. "She's got good friends in you two," he said. "Me, I'm not the charge-to-the-rescue type. That gets you deader'n doorknobs in this town."

"I know," Megan said. "One of my friends asked me what I wanted for my epitaph."

He squinted at her through the deepening crepuscular gloom. "You don't want to be talking to me, girl. Zoltan's the one for meddling. Go ask him for suggestions. Just keep bein' on time at the site in the mornings." He went back into his house and shut the door gently.

Megan sighed, then heaved to her feet and went to knock on her landlord's door.

"Ah, my dear, you look like someone has kicked your puppy, kitten, and potbellied piglet," Zoltan said, letting her into his basement apartment.

"Potbellied piglet?" Megan said, baffled. She was bemused by his attire: an immaculate white undershirt and perfectly-creased black trousers.

"A passing fancy," he said, leading the way into his living room. "You will forgive me, I hope. My tailor is here, and I have been measured and remeasured. She cannot deny me a moment's rest."

"I can and I will, if I must," said a gravelly woman's voice from his bedroom. She had what Megan thought might be a German accent, and sounded like she'd been smoking unfiltered cigarettes for the past fifty years.

"You see what I must suffer for my wardrobe?" Zoltan said.

"Why do you have to be measured so much?" Megan said. "Does your body ever actually change much?"

"An excellent question!" Zoltan said, sprawling decoratively on a Victorian-styled fainting couch. "I asked her much the same thing."

"And I said, yes, your body changes," the woman said, emerging to stand in the doorway. She was shrunken and wizened like the apple witches Megan had made as a child, but she was dressed in an exquisite dark blue suit and rose-colored blouse, a pair of silver-rimmed half-moon glasses perched on her nose. A set of silver tools -- scissors, thimble, and other things Megan couldn't recognize -- hung from her belt. "Over my lifetime, your posture and carriage have changed radically. Your body shifts to carry its weight differently, because even you cannot defy gravity..."

"Aie, do not tell me these things!" Zoltan exclaimed, covering his ears with manicured hands. "I defy all, even gravity!"

"... and so," she continued, "I must adjust your mannequin every year so that your suits are still the envy of all Wonder City. And now I must adjust your older suits to fit. This is, as they say, what you pay me the big bucks for, yes?"

"Yes, yes," he said, defeated. "Give me a moment of peace with my tenant. She is come to tell me important tenantly things."

"Ach," she said with disgust, "as if you ever take anything seriously." But she disappeared back into his bedroom and shut the door behind her.

"Now," Zoltan said, abruptly surging forward to sit on the edge of the couch, all attention. "You were about to tell me about Meteor and my friend G."

Megan blinked. "How did you know?" she said. Then she waved a hand. "No, never mind, you're the landlord. Look, I have to get Meteor to Sator's in Staybird somehow. He says he thinks he can remove her from G."

"You have tried the most obvious method of cunning, I gather," Zoltan said, folding his hands under his chin.

"Well," Megan said dubiously, "I tried telling her that I'd been talking to someone I thought could give her information about her killer."

"Ah, very good, not entirely a lie," Zoltan said. "The problem is that she thinks you are the devil in disguise. What you need is someone who she could believe is not evil."

"Like you?" Megan said with a wry smirk.

"Oh, no, she believes I will suck her blood!" Zoltan said. "And when I tell her I will not, and why, then she believes I am the devil. No, no one in this household will do."

"But if I tell any of the Gold Stars," Megan said, "or, god forbid, her boyfriend, they probably won't believe me, and even if they do..."

"They are not exactly the souls of subterfuge," Zoltan said, nodding. "Yes, I quite see the difficulty. So you must give up."

"But!" Megan exclaimed, nearly standing.

Zoltan indicated with a "stop" hand signal that he wasn't finished, and she subsided. "You must give up the pseudo-lie," he said, "and go with out-and-out fabrication. What are the things driving this ghost?"

"Um," Megan said, "she wanted to be a superhero. And, I guess, she wanted a boyfriend."

"But most of all! She wanted to be a superhero." Zoltan smiled, running his fingers through his smooth black hair. "This is what you must play upon. There must be a superhero reason for her to go to Sator's."

"Oh!" Megan slapped her forehead with her palm. "That makes so much more sense."

Zoltan leaned over and patted her other hand. "Ghosts are shallow beings, in general. You cannot appeal to their reason, so you must appeal to their raison d'ĂȘtre."

---

From the Author:
The party went well! (I'm sure you all were waiting with bated breath to hear.) And now we are in an atrocious heat wave. AC is my best friend.

The comment incentive in July: if I get 50 total comments from readers in July, I will post twice weekly through August. As before, if you all post 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through September too. Get up to 100 comments, the twice-weekly postings continue through October.

And add-on to the incentive: reviews count as 5 comments, a TVTropes page for WCS would count as 25 comments.









Date: 2011-07-22 07:59 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Zoltan! Aww, he cheers me up.

Date: 2011-07-22 01:22 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
He's a cheery sort, ain't he?

Date: 2012-01-28 08:33 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
He reminds me a lot of Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.

Are gay vampires all so similar as all that?

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