HURRY! HURRY! HURRY!
ESHU... A lonely god at the end of the universe? Sounds like a party.
DR. EIDLING... A scientist with a physics problem that just might be murder.
ANTIOPE... A young girl with a secret bundle, monsters in the dark woods? Not your grandmother's fairy tale.
Geoffrey Thorne, author of Star Trek: Titan: Sword of Damocles, assembles these tales and many more under one tent for the first time.
Bring your friends! Bring your lovers! Bring your cats! There's something in the Dreamnasium for everybody!
Excerpted from THE DAME WORE A TESSERACT
Gray didn’t like guns. They were heavy, oily, clunky things that too often put holes in people he cared about.
He wasn’t sure he actually cared about the red-draped dame currently clutching his arm in terror but he was dead sure he didn’t want anybody airing her out before he found out what her deal was.
“I think someone’s trying to kill me,” she’d said in that hot breathy thing she called a voice. Then she’d turned her head to hide a tear while at the same time affording him a view of her ample cleavage that would have made a seeing-eye dog walk through a plate glass window.
Gray just smiled.
She looked like a high-end little number, the talk of the society pages, but there was some grit under those cherry colored nails if Harris Gray was any judge. And she was familiar too, now that he thought of it. It was like they had some kind of history together that he couldn’t remember.
She was good, whoever she was, that was the point. Even though there was obviously more going on with her than she wanted to spill, Gray had the feeling that getting to the heart of her matter would dig up the goods on his own situation.
That situation got a little less murky with each passing second. He was from someplace else. Another country? Another city? He wasn’t sure yet but it wasn’t here. As familiar as these environs were, he could feel in his bones that they weren’t exactly his.
He was a cop or something in that other place. He had a partner, a woman, he thought, who went from place to place with him setting right what somebody had put wrong. There was definitely more to it but that was the gist.
“Well,” he said in the kind of low rumble that made girls knees weak and guys make way. “We can’t have that, can we?”
He was just about to get down to brass tacks with her when the gunsels and, more importantly, the widow-makers they toted, came pounding up the stairs to his office.
“Let’s get you out of here,” he told the Dame as the two silhouettes appeared in the smoky glass window of his office door.
In the second it took him to grab her and his trench coat, he realized she’d never make it down the fire escape in stilettos that high. The only other option was the closet.
She let out a little squeak as he whipped the door open and shoved her in with the dusty moose bust and the golf clubs he never used.
“Quiet,” he hissed as he shut her in. “Let me handle this.”
He shut off her protest with the click of the door just as two of the biggest gorillas he’d ever seen kicked their way into his digs. The gats looked like toys in their big meaty hands but Gray knew they meant business.
“You Gray?” said the one who looked more like an orangutan than a gorilla.
“Who wants to know,” said Gray, making a show of hanging his trench back on the ancient coat rack.
Suddenly there was a ring of cold steel pressed hard into his throat– the nozzle of a very competently made Tommie gun. Gray froze, letting the trench flap in his hand.
“Crack wise with us, flatfoot, you’ll be whistling out the side of your neck,” said the one that looked more like a gorilla. “Get it?”
“Got it,” said Gray.
“Good.” The gat receded slightly but the apes closed in.
“We got a message for you, Gray,” said the first one.
“Something simple, I bet,” said Gray. Ape Number Two cracked him across the jaw hard enough to let him know that a break was in his future if he kept up the smart guy act.
“The Boss wants to see you,” said Ape Number One.
“And the Boss is...?”
“Maxie Sparks,” said the ape.
“Never heard of him,” said Gray. It was a lie. He knew the name and felt he should know more, considering the little chill it sent through him. He just couldn’t match the handle with a face or a rep. Not yet.
“Yeah, well, he’s heard of you,” said Ape Number Two. “He wants to see you.”
“Guess I want to be seen then, don’t I?”
“Believe it, smart guy,” said Ape Number One. “Two o’clock at the Chateau Noir. You know it?”
“I read the papers,” said Gray.
The Noir was a gin mill masquerading as a short order restaurant just on the edge of the city’s bowery. It was the kind of place the lowlifes went to get a taste of the highlife and the society set stepped down to get some mud on their spats. It was also the sort of joint where you could catch a bullet if you didn’t stay sharp.
“Don’t be late,” said Ape Number One, moving out of the little office.
“Yeah,” said his partner, following. “’Cause if you’re late, you will be late. Like, The Late Halo Gray.”
“That’s Harris,” said Gray, irritated, but he wasn’t quick enough. The gorillas were already halfway down the stairs, well out of earshot.
“Guess you don’t have time for me anymore,” said a voice that made Gray think of purring cats.
He turned to find the dame peeling herself out of his closet and, it seemed to him, nearly out of the too-tight skirt she wore.
The hem was caught on the rusty hinge of the closet door, dragging it a little down and exposing just a hint of the porcelain flesh beneath.
Red garters, thought Gray. Nice.
“Nix,” he said aloud, deftly flicking the hem free of its entanglement. “For a doll like you, I always make time.”
posted by Geoff Thorne at 31.5.10