Morning’s Glories

Posted: 13th November 2010 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in Single-run ("One off") Stories
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Kevlar vest. Taser. Chain mail gloves. Three pairs of wings. Sage and honeysuckle sachets. Olive oil soap.

Where the hell were the custom-made pliers?

“Leon!” Julian called out. “Where are the pearl-handled pliers?”

With 7-year-old Lois in tow, Leon pointed to the leather duffel bag. “Jules, you’ve been fretting about those since Saturday. You stuffed them in the side pocket already. You know, that’s skirting the line, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Pliers are a tool, not a weapon.”

“This is Tooth Fairy we’re talking about, Jules. We know what she’s using them for. Makes me feel dirty,” Leon said. “I don’t like feeling dirty unless you and I are doing something special.”

“Hey! Watch the talk around our girl,” Julian whispered intently.

“What?” Leon asked with faux innocence, rolling his eyes since Lois wasn’t even in the room right now, having rushed off to grab a snack from the kitchen. “I can’t talk about gardening in front of our girl?”

“You’re incorrigible, Leon. OK, I have everything I need to keep myself intact if things go wonky, and everything she ordered.”

“I’m serious about the pliers. Let’s not do that again.”

“Leon, Tooth Fairy is our most unbalanced client. You and I didn’t know that when she came to us, but now we do, and we have to deal with it. She’s a sociopath. I figure that as long as she respects our no-weapons and no-controlled-substances rules, and we don’t ‘fire’ her as a client and throw her a little bone like this, you and I get to maintain some semblance of our consciences with the added bonus that we stay alive and/or unmangled.”

“Jules, she uses those pliers to yank out teeth from her victims.”

“And she’d buy plain ones from the hardware store if we didn’t have these made for her,” Julian pointed out. “Except that she’d be using the ones from the hardware store on us to express her displeasure at our poor customer service. To be honest, I think she just wants these ones for show. She seems too concerned about her appearance these days to want to ruin something that pretty with saliva, blood and food that people didn’t finish chewing.”

“We need to screen our future clients a bit better, and we need more heroes on the list,” Leon said.

“We’re getting there, Leo. Villains are the ones with the best money, and all we’re doing is dressing them,” Julian said.

“The wings did turn out nice,” Leon noted. “So they’ll flap with just minor movements of her neck or shoulders?”

“Yeah. Had Karen test them out, and it takes practice, but they work perfectly. Really realistic. Tooth Fairy should have come to us for that first instead of going to Peter Goebel just because he has the prettiest looking silk-work. Shallow bastard. No sense of style, really. OK, we bring Lois to school, then you drop me at the meeting point. Her backpack is on the table. I packed her afternoon snack and the library book she needs to take back.”

“If Tooth Fairy had a better sense of the transhuman design circles, she would have gone with Francesca,” Leon said. “She’s about the only person I’d put above you for style and attention to functional details. Too bad, too, because my conscience would feel a lot better if someone else had her as a client. If you love me, you’ll ‘accidentally’ drop Fran’s name the moment you step out of the car to meet Tooth Fairy.” A slightly panicked look crossed Leon’s face, and then he said, “Oh, shit.”

“What?” Julian asked and, almost simultaneously, Lois came in and said, “Oh shit what, Papa?”

Julian glowered at Leon. “Watch the language in front of our kid. She’s going to be talking like a sailor with you around.”

Leon chuckled. “Time was that you fancied sailors,” he whispered into Julian’s ear, then turned to Lois and half-heartedly scolded her with, “That’s not the kind of language for a young lady to use. At least not until you’re old enough to vote.”

“Sailors,” Julian scoffed. “Way to perpetuate the gay stereotypes, Leon. Besides, their uniforms are terrible. Marines or Air Force men any day of the week.”

“Are you going to join the military, Daddy?” she asked Julian, and he had no idea if she was being sarcastic or serious—she was becoming more like Leon with every passing month, God help them all.

“OK, why the slip of the tongue with the S-word, Leon?” Julian asked.

“I haven’t swept the car for tracking devices yet this morning.”

“Oh dear God almighty, Leon! Lois has to be at school in 15 minutes, I need to meet our toothsome client, and our car is probably going to lose 25 percent of its gas mileage because it’s so loaded down with hidden FBI-issue GPS trackers. What were you thinking?”

“Yeah, what were you thinking, Papa?” Lois mimicked, almost nailing Julian’s tone, essentially making fun of both of them on one fell swoop.

“Frankly, both of you, I was thinking that I had a lot of arrangements to make with people in Europe at 5 a.m. our time for that fashion show that you need to be at next month, Julian,” Leon said, “and I was up past 2 a.m. scheduling drop-offs for various transhuman clients and for our standard garment industry clients. I’ll go sweep the car. You know, Jules, you could stand to bend down and crawl around a bit yourself some days.”

“I do that enough with you,” Julian muttered, hoping that Lois hadn’t heard that. Then, in a normal tone of voice, he added, “I’m sorry, Leon, for snapping at you. Tooth Fairy makes me nervous; you have a good idea, there—I’ll make sure she finds out about Francesca and then we won’t have to worry. She’s a shark with no morals and no conscience, so the two of them would be perfect for each other.”

* * *

Leon declared the car free of tracking devices 12 minutes later, to which Julian replied tartly that it took 8 to 10 minutes to get to Lois’ school, so she was going to be late. Somehow, this spiraled into a short rant about permanent records and lowering her odds of getting into Harvard.

“I could skip school today,” she helpfully offered, then put up her hands in surrender when both of her fathers shot her glares.

They gathered everything up, went to the front door, and opened it to discover that a man was standing there, wearing a white unitard, ivory-hued gloves and boots, and a helmet that looked like a molar. A van had pulled up onto their lawn, close to their front porch, with the back end facing the front of the house.

Julian and Leon both realized that even if any of their neighbors were looking out their windows or strolling, they wouldn’t be able to see who came out of that van and went into the house.

“Step back inside,” the man said grimly behind his tooth-mimicking helmet. “My mistress, Tooth Fairy, commands…ooooff!”

Without hesitation, Leon’s mind and body brought up all the training from his previous extreme fighting days, as he struck the man hard in his solar plexus. Then he grabbed the man by the back of the neck, pulled his head down, and brought his knee up into the helmet, which didn’t look that sturdy.

Leon’s suspicions were confirmed when the helmet cracked open and the man’s nose let out a cracking noise of its own as Leon’s attack broke it. Julian had already pulled the taser from the duffel sack and incapacitated the man.

“Daddy, Papa…can we go now? If I’m going to have to go to school today, I don’t want to miss the morning snack.”

“In a moment, sweetie,” Leon said. “Daddy and I seem to be having a little client trouble.”

“Oh, no trouble at all,” came a husky voice from behind them, and they turned to see Tooth Fairy. As the woman smiled and her teeth began to grown and change to become a fearsome maw, one of Julian’s hands covered Lois’ eyes.

“Really, let’s not traumatize the child,” Julian scolded Tooth Fairy. “We were supposed to meet elsewhere. Is there a problem?”

“Not anymore,” she said, letting her teeth go back to normal and smiling now with a closed-mouth grin as she sauntered forward. “All the FBI people are three blocks away in various strategic locations waiting for you to leave so they can track you. Now when they do, I won’t be where you’re going. I will still need you to go to the meet-up site so that they’re distracted. OK, need my stuff. Chop, chop,” she said, flashing her teeth, a handful of which looked life wolfish fangs now.

“No pun intended, right?” Julian said. “We cleared the car already, and we know how to slip cars shadowing us.”

“Safer this way, especially since they nabbed you in Maine a few months ago. Tsk tsk tsk. Villains need to know their suppliers won’t get caught. Let’s get started. I’m feeling snackish, and since I’m watching my figure, something low-cal would be in order, and only one of the three of you is light fare.”

Leon tensed at the implied threat to Lois, but Julian put a hand on his forearm gently to keep him from doing anything rash.

“Dentistry Dude back there trying to be menacing at our door? Threatening to take a bite out of someone? Tooth Fairy, this is not good business,” Julian said. “We play straight and smooth with you all the time.”

“Oh, don’t be so uptight. Even a sociopath needs to work on her banter. I don’t eat kids…yet,” she added, looking Lois right in the eye as the little girl hugged tighter to Leon’s body. “Dentistry Dude is a terrible name, by the way. By a strange coincidence, though, my currently prone henchman suggested Dental Dude as a possibility when we were brainstorming monikers. He also suggested Captain Cavity. I don’t know what to call him yet, though after his performance this morning, ‘snack’ seems like a good nickname.”

“You want him to take his job seriously, you might want to rethink the tooth-shaped helmet,” Leon offered. “How about you set down some money, we set down the duffel bag, and we all get back to business as usual. My little girl is already tardy, and your henchman got blood all on our cream-colored carpet and my pant leg.”

Tooth Fairy wound one finger into the strand of teeth hanging from her neck in a disturbingly coquettish manner, and shrugged, her flimsy wing-like cape fluttering a little. She pulled out a manila envelope, and tossed it to the ground. As Julian tossed the duffel bag at her feet, first pulling out the chain mail gloves he planned to use to hand it over at the meeting place, a sudden sharp flash of light exploded behind them, and Tooth Fairy screeched, covering her eyes.

“No evil shall hide in the shadows with Morning Glory bearing the light of justice!” came the clichéd cry behind them, as a hero dressed much like an angel burst in after the wake of his demonstration of Luminar powers. He managed to knock over Julian, Leon and Lois and tangle up his own legs in the process. As he struggled to get back on his feet, the wings on his back seriously askew now, Tooth Fairy got up, partially blinded but clearly recovering her sight quickly.

In moments, the two were wrestling and striking each other in the living room.

“Julian, I am going to grab one of those GPS trackers I took off the car with me, along with Lois, and I’m going to take the FBI for a little wild goose chase as I drop her off at school and go to the meeting place and sit there for 15 minutes while the feds try to figure out why I’m doing absolutely nothing,” Leon said, then winced as their new television was smashed by an ill-timed blow from Morning Glory, whose talents with light generation were clearly much better than his fighting skills. “I’m going to keep the feds far away from this. These two better be gone when I get back.”

* * *

Julian was vacuuming the carpet when Leon came back 90 minutes later. Some Oxy-Clean had apparently removed the blood stains from the carpet, and the remains of the television were now in a box. Several knick-knacks were broken, but Julian had managed to straighten things up almost to normal.

“Who won?” Leon asked. “They are gone, right? One or the other of them isn’t using our toilet or having some tea or something, are they?”

“No clear victor, so we’ll call it a draw. Tooth Fairy wasn’t in peak fighting shape with all the strobe-light effects, but she kind of took the fight out of Morning Glory when she bit off his ear—then she ran off with her merchandise and her henchman. She must have been in a good mood, though, because she hardly chewed on the ear at all. I put it on some ice for the poor guy, gave him directions to the nearest hospital, and sent him off with the number for a couple of good martial arts instructors for good measure.”

Leon sighed heavily.

“You know, Julian, Lois will keep this to herself at school, but if the FBI or anyone else got wind of this, Child Protective Services would be so far down our throats we’d be shitting case workers. I’m serious: You have six months.”

“To do what?”

“To get our client list down to no more than 20 percent of them being villains, and only sane ones. I don’t care if we boost our clientele with the more reputable or just semi-reputable mercenary and freelance transhumans or if we just take a bath on all this by just cutting back our number of clients,” Leon said. “Our mortgage is paid off, we’re nearly debt-free, and this was always a sideline business.”

“Agreed. On the future mix of clients, that is. I’m not going to walk away from something I’m so good at. I’m already thinking that I should approach Cheshire; she could really stand to play up feline themes in her costume—and I think she’d be well-served by having a few different styles to switch around and mix-and-match. Not enough transhumans doing that,” Julian said. “Those triplets Conundrum, Paradox and Enigma need a serious style boost, too.”

“Great, Julian. But first, about Tooth…”

“Cutting her loose. Well, driving her toward Fran, anyway,” Julian said. “I ‘let slip’ that my wings, while very high quality, would have never survived a tussle like that—which we both know is untrue, but she doesn’t—and I muttered that I should see if Francesca DeSantos could be convinced to consult with me on a new design.”

“Think she’ll take the bait?”

“She’ll look into Fran,” Julian said. “I’m sure of it. Once they start talking they’ll hit it off and we’ll be off the hook. A shame, though.”

“To get rid of a psycho as fast as possible?” Leon sputtered. “That’s a shame?”

“What’s a shame is that Tooth Fairy is such a damn wildcard and needed to be dumped, because she paid us 75 percent of what we had agreed upon.”

“She shorted us last time, too,” Leon pointed out. “Only reason we didn’t argue was because she’s a sick freak—and because you always pad the price to account for that kind of bullshit.”

“I know,” Julian responded, “but last time she paid us 50 percent of what she owed. She was clearly beginning to warm up to us.”