* * *
The woman gleefully laughed to herself. My plan, perfect. Her eyes narrowed as she thought of Toonie.
What am I going to do with him? Can’t keep him here; too dangerous, she thought, looking around at her dank, paint-peeled abode. Yet I expect him at any time if my oh-so-capable goon can get his job done right. She looked down at the floor, the monkey feet of her minions in her peripheral. Dingy green carpet with burn holes and urine stains.
A knock sounded at the thin, hallow door.
Her captive appeared in the entry between two of her goons, his arrogant head held high.
He didn’t wait for an invitation to speak. “Good to see you again, Isabelle.” An impudent wink.
“Oh, get off it, McKenzie. I know your game.” She rose from the small twin-size bed in the corner. The silver filigree in her robes reflected light from the lamp that sat on a nightstand at her side. She sneered. “And now I have you.”
“You’ve always had me,” he sighed.
The queen blinked once. She hadn’t thought he could be so soft of heart. Perhaps he was older than she thought. Maybe the years had softened his resolve.
“Then tell me where the Book is.”
“You know I can’t.”
“You have no choice,” she hissed.
“Of course I do. I just made it. It’s the only one I ever had, once you wanted all of… this.” His green eyes pointedly glanced about.
Isabelle rolled her eyes. Can’t believe I have to go through this over again.
“I want the Book. And if you don’t let me know where it is, I’ll eventually find it anyway. But it’ll be that much more difficult, take that much more time, and it’ll be a lot more—unsavory. I’d much prefer to make a clean retrieval. I’d rather not have to kill your little friends.”
“They’re your friends, too.”
“Same Book only,” she dismissed. “No relation. Tell me already.”
Toonie strode up to her, minimal hesitation from the guards that held him. Chimp was standing in the archway of the doors. Another monkey stood nearby.
Isabelle’s knees quivered to have him so near. She was in awe of the bravado he displayed, ever thwarting her hold over him in front of her subjects.
“As I said: no.”
Strong, firm jaw. She had to give him credit. He had some big balls in those Levi jeans. “I will admit it, then. I don’t know what the hell to do with you.” She sat back down. “I don’t want to kill you. I’m not sure how I can make you tell me.”
“At a loss, I see.”
The queen’s eyes pierced his own. “You are the Creator. Of us all.” She gestured to the two guards. “My Creator.”
After a moment, she said to the guards that held him, despite the dubious glances they kept giving her, “Tie him up.”
Well, this is a fine mess to have gotten myself into. Leaning against the far corner of a dingy room, I sighed.
After the gorilla had me safely in the car, he put a sack over my head, and I was left absent from daylight. I never saw my way here, and he must have taken me through a back entrance, for I heard no commotion, unless they had already killed the person working the lobby.
Before I was brought in the room with her, they removed the bag from my head and smoothed my hair. Couldn’t have me looking abused before her eyes.
My old flame. I had been in love with her once, and I loved her still. She was my moon, my stars, the sun in my dappled and probably polka-dotted sky. Her name was Isabelle. And her eyes were just as blue as I remembered them, when I had first drawn her in my sketchbook.
I don’t know why I ever thought to draw her. I was at my art desk one of those sleepwalking nights with the magic pen. And there she was. Her sketch had so much… personality. It’s hard to describe everything I felt, other than the initial feelings that she was somehow unfinished—
I readjusted myself in the corner. A daddy-long-leg spider crawled over my pant leg. My hands were asleep behind me. But none of these things had enough power to irritate me from my thoughts—
I began to draw her more often, in many different poses, situations and styles. I couldn’t get enough of tracing her curves onto the paper. Isabelle was my prize work of art.
And one day, after a new set of sketches, I finally finished the loveliest piece of her. It was an eleven-by-fourteen inch illustration. She wore a gown of the most expensive moirés, inlays, and lace. I detailed a silver circlet upon her lovely head. I colored her in. Something came over me as I was adding the final touch—her hair.
A great flowing mane of jet breaks the starkness of her snow white skin to rest halfway down her back, smooth black ringlets over her gown’s vestments, a crimson sash draped over her shoulders.
My last thought that night was, She’s so beautiful. And I knew no more until the next morning, having sunk into a realm of sleep as dark as her hair. I found that like so many other finished drawings I had done—many not of my own choice, I just had to—she had disappeared from the paper, left me drooling on empty space.
Usually, my characters disappeared without any trace. Yet I couldn’t figure out why I felt something different about this day. And it was different.
I found her downstairs. She was sitting on the couch in my living room, cozy brown leather, and she was nude—
The spider finished making rounds over my pants, crept up my shirt, and after a brief journey back down my body, crawled inside my pant leg. What a feeling. Oh, well—
She was beautiful. Her skin was almost preternaturally pale with a gentle shimmer of extraordinary health. She was lithely built, a slender body housing everything that art is composed of brought to life. She was a collage, her eyes an azure blue hue only watercolor pencil can make just so; her hair, layer upon layer of thick, ebony, acrylic curls. She was perfection sans white feathered wings.
My breath caught in my throat when she first opened her soft, coral-and-crimson colored mouth and spoke the first words she ever said off of paper: “I have come.”