~ Singapore Illusions ~
DISCLAIMER: This is an original fiction story Any similarities to real people are purely coincidental.
LOVE/SEX WARNING: This story may someday depict an explicit love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If and when I decide to write this (and don't hold your breath because I may decide I really suck and not write anything explicit) and if depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story so don't flame me for writing this. You can exercise the same right I do when I encounter something that offends me like the 700 club, the Home Shopping Channel and anything to do with NASCAR: pretend it doesn't exist.
THANKS: My beta readers, Kaia and Windstar, were great sources of support and encouragement, and for that I am truly grateful.
FEEDBACK: Comments and constructive critiques can be sent to: . Flames will be handled with asbestos gloves and placed in a metal trashcan.
Skeeter and the Amazing Technicolor Ghost Hunt
We went down to the edge of the water,
You were afraid to go in,
You said there might be sharks out there in the ocean
And I said I'm only going for a swim.
The two faced each other across the desk. The slightly overweight woman behind the desk regarded her new charge. It was an interesting tableau, one you would expect to find in a high school principal's office. Only, this unruly student exuded an air of controlled menace not usually found in the undisciplined troublemakers of today's schools.
The older woman sighed and pushed a folder across the desk towards the darkly glowering woman in the chair in front of her. The folder sat unopened, unexamined in front of the would-be troublemaker.
"Here's the assignment detail. Please make yourself familiar with the dossier provided. You will be working closely with Dr. Malone for the next couple of weeks. If all goes well, the company will hire you on a full time basis." The older woman sat back in her chair and regarded the bright blue eyes over steepled fingers. This one will either flop miserably or perform splendidly. I wish we weren't using Aeron for the test case though.
The dark haired woman leaned forward and picked up the file. It appeared to be about an inch thick.
"What's the assignment?"
"Basically, you will be Dr. Malone's assistant. You will provide help in her research endeavors and basically do the physical security of the research," replied the older woman with a slight Maine accent.
The younger woman's eyebrow rose in question. "Physical security? What exactly is Dr. Malone researching? Anything the DOD would be interested in? Because, frankly, you aren't paying me enough if that's the case."
The woman across the desk laughed. "No, no. Dr. Malone is rather? shall we say proficient, at being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her research is quite harmless. It just seems the good doctor is a trouble magnet. The company would just like someone with your skills along with her to? help her with her tribulations."
"You want a cross between a secretary and a body guard?" growled the dark haired woman.
"Ms. Taylor, you came highly recommended to me by an old colleague, who said they felt you were able to adeptly handle situations that arise that there is no specific training program for. The company needs this. I need this to make sure that Aeron doesn't get distracted, arrested, shot, or hit by a bus. She is the consummate professional, but her emulation of the absent minded professor is not only frustrating, but quite worrisome at times. I need someone I can trust to take care of her. Your skill at languages is an added bonus in the sense that Aeron, for all her brilliance, can't seem to grasp basic Spanish, much less the language essentials to communicate in any other language than English. This is very frustrating since her work takes her overseas quite a bit. In fact, you will be meeting her in Singapore in 48 hours and Aeron's lack of language skills is very apparent in the Orient. In Europe, she can at least stumble around and find familiar sounding words or pictures. I'm afraid Mandarin leads to confusion on her part." The older woman sat back, a little winded at her outburst.
The younger woman opened the file and flipped through it. "So what is the good doctor researching? Is it some new kind of technology?"
"No, she checks for abnormal energy emissions or vibrations connected with the paranormal."
"Excuse me? Paranormal? Are you telling me she's a ghostbuster?" the dark-haired woman grinned. "I ain't afraid of no ghost!"
The older woman sighed. She really hated that movie. "What Dr. Malone does is investigate claims of the supernatural and either proves or disproves the occurrence of hauntings. You would be surprised how many places call us in discreetly to find out if they are really haunted. Some, like the Winchester house, do it to put something in the tourist pamphlets. Others, like the hotel you are going to, are trying to find out why a respectable Japanese businessman went screaming across the lobby in his skivvies at 2 o'clock in the morning and refused to return to the hotel. It seems like that sort of thing is bad for business. What Dr. Malone does is see if the hauntings are really the work of the paranormal, or simply someone's idea of fun and games. If there really is a paranormal occurrence, we send in a specialized team -- if the customer requests it. All Dr. Malone does is debunk or support the accusations."
"So what you are saying is, you want me to baby-sit your head ghostbuster, travel all over the world at the company's expense, plus you will pay me handsomely. What's the catch?"
The other woman grinned. "You can't be afraid of things that go bump in the night."
The dark haired woman tried unsuccessfully to suppress a snicker. "Right. Well, it looks like you have a bodyguard, Mrs. Post." She stood and stuck her hand out. "I guess I need to go and pack. You did say I was meeting Dr. Malone in Singapore, right?"
Mrs. Post also stood and extended her hand across the desk. "I hope you and Dr. Malone hit it off." The handshake between the two was brief and firm.
Mrs. Post came around the desk to escort Ms. Taylor out of the office. "One other thing Ms. Taylor?"
The dark haired woman raised a sculpted eyebrow. "Yes?"
"Don't make fun of the teddy bear. It would be best, in fact if you pretended it doesn't exist." At that, Mrs. Post firmly escorted Ms. Taylor out of the office and shut the door, leaving a very bewildered bodyguard staring at the closed door.
The so called weirdoes in this country stand as completely freaked out by the normal man, as the normal man is completely freaked out by the weird masses reaction to him.
-The Butthole Surfers
The dark haired woman leaned her head against the window of her hotel room. Her eyes stared sightlessly at the incredible view offered of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Had she been looking, her window offered her a glimpse of the bay covered with sailboats, their owners taking advantage of the rare sunny day in San Francisco. BJ Taylor wondered how her life came down to this. She was now an overpaid babysitter for an eccentric scientist. A few weeks ago she was a happy career Naval officer. One little misunderstanding and BJ was 'advised' to resign her commission. Admiral Johnson has no understanding of what a delicate situation that was. No international incident, no media, just a certain Admiral with a little egg on his face. I should have gotten a promotion. A deep sigh escaped her as she pushed herself off the window and returned to the file sitting on the desk provided in the room.
Let's see what we have here. Dr. Aeron Malone. Hmmm, 26? That's seems kind of young. A double bachelor's from Cal Tech in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. Looks like you got it by the time you were 18, too. So you are a super geek. Stanford for both Masters and PhD. Both in unpronounceable electrical energy fields. Graduated from Stanford when you were? um, 22. Hired right out of school to work for Cowling's Institute. Traveled all over doing various research projects. Been through 7 assistants? Geez girl, what do you do to them? Perform electro shock therapy to them in their sleep? Oh, I see. Lost one in the Winchester House. I heard that place is like a maze. Two and three seemed to have developed a nervous twitch and requested a less 'stressful' assignment. Four had a 'health problem' and retired, at 28 years old and is now collecting disability. Five never showed up for work one day, and subsequent checks at his apartment showed it empty with no forwarding address. Let's see, number six's husband got transferred to Alaska? Number seven, quit after an incident at a Stop 'n Go involving a shooting. What? Where is that field report?
"Come along Skeeter, we don't want to be late." The tall red-haired woman chastised her invisible companion. "We need to be at Gate 12 in?" she looked at her watch, "20 minutes to meet our new assistant, Barbara Taylor. I wonder if she goes by Babs?" The woman babbled along, completely oblivious to the stares from the shorter, Asian crowd around her. Not only was the woman head and shoulders above the tallest person in the airport, she was topped with red-hair that obviously caused her to see and hear things no one else could.
Aeron Malone bounced along the airport corridor happily, her blue, hard-shelled backpack bouncing along with her. In the netting on the back of the backpack, an obviously well loved bear bounced along with her, examining the airport terminal from his comfortable resting place.
"I wonder what she's like. Emily said she hand picked her just for me," Aeron babbled along to her silent companion. Cocking her head like she was listening, Aeron continued on, "I hope that she likes me. The last assistant I had said he'd rather chew glass then go on another assignment with me. You didn't like him from the beginning, Skeeter. I should have listened to you. You said Arthur looked high strung. I thought he was just nervous. It wasn't my fault he wanted to stop in that store and get something to drink. I was just minding my own business when that man pulled the gun. I certainly didn't mean to knock the Frito-Lay display over on him. He startled me, that's all. And the police officer said that bullet missed Arthur by a good 3 feet." Aeron shook her head. "I just hope Ms. Taylor is a bit more adventurous. Imagine, being that fragile and chasing ghosts. He should find a nice 9 to 5 office job."
Aeron looked up and noticed the sign. Pleased that she arrived in plenty of time, Aeron bounced over to the gate and sat down. She took off her backpack and set it on the seat next to her, making sure that Skeeter was comfortable and could see everything around him. She then opened the backpack and pulled out a laptop computer. Booting it up, she pulled up the files that Emily had sent her, including a picture of Barbara Taylor.
"Wow, Skeeter, check out her eyes!" Aeron tilted the laptop to show her silent companion. "I bet she gets lots of compliments on them." Aeron pointed out the electric blue of her new assistant's eyes to Skeeter. "I wonder if she wears contacts to make them that color?"
Just then, an announcement came over the PA system in typical undecipherable noise. Through the windows next to the door, an airplane taxied up to a stop next to the gate. Aeron summarized that the announcement was Barbara's flight arriving. She put away her laptop and re-shouldered her backpack.
"Come along Skeeter, let's go meet Barbara!"
As BJ exited the plane, she had no trouble spotting her new charge waiting for her at the end of the gate. Dr. Monroe towered over the crowd around her. Her red hair seemed muted by the glow of the fluorescent lighting. BJ noticed her nervously shifting from foot to foot while waiting for the passengers to disembark.
Hmm, I wonder if she's nervous about meeting her new bodyguard? BJ controlled a smile trying to creep its way onto her face. I think I'll play nice for now. I'm sure life will be exciting enough around her if her file is accurate.
"Dr. Monroe?" BJ walked up to the taller woman and extended her hand. "I'm Barbara Taylor, your new assistant."
Aeron took BJ's hand and shook it. "I'm pleased to meet you, Barbara. Please call me Aeron. I hope your trip was pleasant?"
"Yes it was. It's the first time I've traveled business class. I must say, I'm completely sold on that method of travel for long flights."
"Yes, Emily makes sure to see to all of our comforts during travel. Do you have any other bags?" Please say no. Please say no. Aeron wondered what kind of excuse she could come up with to stay away from the baggage claim.
"I have 2 checked bags. Do you know where baggage claim is around here? I see you haven't picked yours up yet." BJ indicated with her hand Aeron's lack of bags.
"Um, I have an overnight bag in a locker near the taxi stand. I'll go get it while you get your bags," Aeron hastily suggested.
BJ's eyebrow rose. "Why don't we go get my bags together and pick yours up on the way to the taxi stand?"
Aeron shifted uncomfortably. "Um, I don't think that would be a good idea. How about I pick up some expresso or something for you while you do that and we'll meet at taxi stand?" Aeron begged the shorter woman with her eyes not to ask the obvious question.
BJ ignored the plaintive look. I'm not really being bad, I just need all the information possible to do my job, right? BJ smiled internally, a truly evil little grin. Nah, I'm being bad. Let's find out why she's avoiding the baggage area like the plague. "Dr. Monroe - Aeron - I'd rather have you within my eyesight at all times if you don't mind. That is part of my job description. Why are you on an extended trip overseas with only an overnight bag? You can't possibly believe that you could buy anything in your size over here?"
Aeron sighed. Well, I tried. I wonder if she's going to believe me? "I'm not allowed to go into the baggage claim area anymore. Emily has my stuff shipped directly to the hotel. It's better that way. No lost luggage." Aeron gave BJ a weak grin. "Besides, it's quicker, you should really try it."
"Uh huh," was BJ's only reply.
"No really, Emily will be really upset if she found out I went within 50 ft of the baggage carousels. Please let me get you something to drink and I'll wait by the taxi stand." Aeron was just short of begging the other woman.
BJ was unmoved by the redhead's plight. "You will accompany me to get my bags." The voice was calm and as unmovable as iron, and the shorter woman seemed to grow in stature. "I will take full responsibility for any? incidents that occur. I'm sure that nothing will happen." With that, BJ turned away from the good doctor and strode off in the direction the signs indicated was the way to baggage claim.
Aeron shoulders slumped in defeat as she followed the dark hair woman towards the deadly baggage carousals. "I warned her, Skeeter," she mumbled to her silent companion, "I hope that Emily realizes that before deciding to take a chunk out of my hide."
They're creepy and they're kookey,
Mysterious and spookey,
They're altogether together ookey,
The Addams Family.
BJ was crammed into the corner of the taxi, her hands braced on the back of the front passenger's seat and the back of the seat she was sitting on. The expression on her face as she stared at the person sharing the backseat of the taxi would have amused the red head had Aeron glanced up. The wide-eyed, look of disbelief on BJ's faced was locked on her companion, who was clutching her backpack and rocking back and forth slightly. She seemed to be muttering under her breath at the teddy bear in the cargo netting on the front of the backpack she was desperately clutching.
I would have never believed it if I wasn't there to see it. Hell, I was there and I still don't believe it. That woman is a menace! I'm sure everyone has felt like taking out one of those Japanese tour groups with the annoying cameras, but armed only with a backpack and a teddy bear? And the baggage carousel! I have now found out what happens to the bags when they go back through the little black curtain after they have taken a go-round for people to pick up their bags. Thank God I use Sampsonite. They knew what they were talking about with the 800 lb gorilla. This whole experience? it was a cross between an episode of Absolutely Fabulous and the Keystone Kops! I will never, ever question why she isn't allowed to go someplace again! And Aeron said this time wasn't that bad, there was no one sent off in an ambulance and no property damage to speak of. Though why anyone would try and smuggle durian out of the country is beyond me. The smell is atrocious! And people eat the stuff? I'd rather a cat took a dump directly in my mouth. I hope the smell washes out of my clothes.
The taxi pulled up in front of an impossibly high building with a highly elaborate fašade. The bellman quickly approached the car with the luggage carrier in tow to unload the bags. Aeron and BJ both exited the vehicle warily eyeing each other.
"You can approach the front desk without any disasters, can't you?" BJ inquired waspishly.
Aeron seemed to slump even more. "Yes. Baggage claim and late night convenience stores are about the only things that are totally off limits, but Emily suggests that I stay away from helicopter rides as well."
BJ shuddered. "I don't even want to imagine that," she muttered.
The two entered the lobby of the Hilton Hotel. The lobby was the epitome of elegance. The floors were highly polished marble with a cavernous ceiling and posh furniture scattered about. The people in the lobby exuded power and wealth by their poise and clothes. BJ felt underdressed in her casual travel clothes of khaki slacks and polo shirt. Glancing at Aeron's t-shirt and jeans ensemble, she knew that they both looked highly out of place. One of the busy desk clerks came to attention as they approached the massive front desk.
"May I help you?" the clerk asked.
"Yes," Aeron replied. "I'm Dr. Malone, and this is my assistant Barbara Taylor. I believe we are expected?"
The desk clerk seemed to stiffen for an instant. "Yes, we have your rooms available. The Manager, Mr. Li, would like to speak with you at your earliest convenience." Her nose wrinkled slightly as BJ came closer. "I'm sure you both would like to freshen up after your long trip before you meet with him. Dr. Malone, your bags have already been delivered to your room. Ms. Taylor, we have a laundry service in house if you care to leave your clothes in the laundry bag provided in the room."
BJ's cheeks reddened slightly in embarrassment. "Thank you. I seem to have had an unfortunate encounter with one of your local fruits."
The desk clerk smiled slightly. "Now you understand the reason that durians are banned on all public transportation."
"Before today, I didn't even know what a durian was. I think I can safely say that I will not be trying any this trip," BJ said.
Aeron smiled slightly. "Stay away from the candy with the picture that resembles a pineapple. I made that mistake only once."
The desk clerk smiled broadly at that and handed them their keys. "Go to the elevators to your left. Those are the only ones that go to your floor, and you must insert your card keys to access the top 3 floors. Those are the executive suites. You will be spending most of your time up there."
BJ looked at the woman sharply. "You know what we are here for then?"
The desk clerk looked uncomfortable. "Yes. I was on duty the night Mr. Yakatoma ran through the lobby. I was also one of the employees sent up to investigate his room. The other front desk clerk quit on the spot. I requested to work the day shift only after that."
Aeron's eyebrow rose. "Then you've seen something? I'll want to talk to you later."
"Fine. As long as we do the talking down here, not up there. Now if you'll excuse me, I have other guests to check in. Have a nice stay." And with that, the woman walked off.
Aeron and BJ looked at each other. "Guess we should head up, Ms. Taylor," said Aeron. "You have got to get out of those clothes, the smell is making me sick."
BJ snorted as they walked over to the elevators, "And whose fault is that, Aeron? And call me BJ. I was only called Ms. Taylor in school when I was in trouble."
Aeron grinned and pushed the call button for the elevator, "Yours. I told you not to take me to baggage claim."
BJ snickered, "OK, you're right. Next time I'll listen to your "off-limits" list. I wish I had a tape of it. I could make some money on America's Funniest Home Videos."
"Well, there was a guy taping it, but he got bowled over when security stormed the room. I don't know if the camera survived. I hope not, because if Emily finds out?."
The elevator doors opened and the two stepped in. "Who is Emily?" BJ finally asked.
"Emily Post," replied Aeron, "I'm assuming you met with her when you got hired. She sent me your file in my email so I would know who you were when you stepped off the plane."
"Her name is Emily Post?" BJ started laughing.
"Yes," replied Aeron rather nasally. She had given up any pretense of trying to handle the smell emitting from BJ's clothes in the compact space of the elevator and was holding her nose. "She almost kept her maiden name, but then figured it would work better if she could say, 'Because I'm Emily Post' if her mother-in-law got too out of hand."
"Does it work?"
Aeron shrugged, "Don't know. But I've seen it work on some stubborn clients."
The elevator doors opened onto their assigned floor, interrupting the conversation. Aeron and BJ stepped out of the elevator and turned right as indicated by the room signs. As they approached the door to their suites, Aeron kept her nose pinched with her left hand. BJ started to say something to her, but noticing the discomfort of her companion, shut her mouth with a click.
"What?" asked Aeron with a sidelong glance at BJ.
"Nothing," muttered an irritable BJ.
Aeron sighed, "OK, we're meeting with Mr. Li as soon as you get? presentable again. May I suggest that you dress? Professionally? Anything less shows that we do not take this job seriously and causes Mr. Li to lose face. Do you have business cards yet?"
BJ nodded, "Mrs. Post had a rush job done for me. English on one side, Chinese on the other."
"Do you know the correct protocol in exchanging business cards over here?" Aeron asked as they arrived at their door.
BJ just looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
Aeron released a breath that puffed her bangs up. "OK, I see I'll have to give a quick protocol lesson before we go downstairs, come knock on my door once you are ready to go. Oh, and don't wear white. Most Asian cultures are superstitious and white is an unlucky color." With that tidbit of information, Aeron opened the outer door to their suite, and stepped inside. "That's your room," she indicated with a wave of her hand towards the right. "And this is my room. Knock on my door when you are ready to go." Aeron used her key to open the door to her suite and stepped inside before BJ could say a word.
BJ looked at the closed door for a second then used her key to open the door to her suite. As she stepped inside, she was struck by the elegance of the room.
"Wow, I think I'm going to like this job if this is an example of the accommodations," she grinned.
The door opened into a set of rooms that showed that this hotel was in a class well above a Motel 6. BJ's suite was the size of an apartment that most people in San Francisco would give their eyeteeth for. The rooms had to cover over 1000 square feet, and consisted of a living room, dinning room with bar, a kitchen and a bedroom with a door on the other side of the kitchen. The whole room was done in understated elegance; there was a leather sofa and chair, along with an armoire that hid what looked to be at least a 32-inch flat screen TV. The kitchen was done in dark wood and had what appeared to be a marble counter. The liquor was in full size bottles sitting on the shelf of the bar, unopened and bracketing a crystal decanter and glasses. BJ walked over and flicked her finger against one of the glasses. It gave a clear, bell like tone. Yep, that's crystal. Her gaze looked over to place settings on the table. If that design isn't 24-karat gold leaf, I'll eat one of those disgusting durians. Wow, and this is all top shelf booze, not the well stuff. BJ shook herself out of her stupor as she caught wind of her clothes.
"Better find that laundry bag. I wonder if they have Cremate: Scatter Ashes at Sea as one of the options?"
BJ walked into the bedroom to see that the bellman had already been in there with her luggage and placed it all on the bed and opened the suitcases. She also noticed the laundry bag discreetly placed next to her suitcases with the laundry ticket placed on top.
"Looks like the desk clerk called ahead. Either that or the bellman got a good whiff of me when I got out of the taxi."
BJ quickly stripped off all her closes and stuffed them into the bag. She then rummaged through her suitcases, removed her toiletry kit and headed for the shower, making sure to tightly seal the laundry bag before she entered the bathroom.
After a relaxing shower, in which BJ managed to scrub all of the durian smell off her body, she emerged squeaky clean and ready to get to work.
It's amazing how much a good hot shower will do to get rid of jet lag. I thought I was going to kill Aeron for suggesting that we meet with Mr. Li first thing, but I guess that's the way to get into the swing of things. Stay up until it's normally time to go to bed. I, myself, prefer the Navy way of dispensing jet lag. BJ grinned at the memories that came to her mind. Yep, that is the quickest way to get rid of jet lag that I know, I wonder if the great Dr. Malone knows that trick? Wonder if I'll get to show her? On second thought, let's not tempt the fates. God only knows what kind of trouble a drunken Aeron will cause. BJ shuddered at the possibilities. Now where is my hanging bag?
BJ walked over to the closet to find that not only was the bag hanging up in the closet, the clothes had been removed and were hanging up, ready to go. BJ selected a conservative gray corporate suit to wear, and a black blouse to put under it. I wonder if this is what they had in mind with the title 'From Navy Blue to Corporate Gray'. I hope that this outfit passes Aeron's inspection. She quickly got dressed and moved over to the suitcase to find hose and shoes. After rummaging through her suitcase, at first calmly, then with increasing panic, BJ realized that she forgot to pack pantyhose.
Grabbing her shoes, she stomped to the door to her suite. "I hope Aeron has got a pair I can borrow. Her legs can't be that much longer than mine." BJ opened the door to her suite and marched over to Aeron's door, realizing just as the door to her suite closed that she had left her room key and her credentials inside.
BJ closed her eyes and started banging her head against Aeron's door softly. She almost fell on her face when the door was quickly opened and she found herself looking at a pair of panty-hosed feet. As her gazed traveled upwards, she took in the long, shapely legs, the forest green skirt that started just above the knees and seemed to hug the body it encased until the skirt stopped at the waist. From there, a soft yellow shirt emerged and covered a firm stomach and a pair of shapely breasts. A hint of cleavage showed where the blouse billowed open softly and exposed an interesting necklace on a silver chain that encircled a long, slim neck. As the bodyguard's gaze traveled higher, she noticed a faint blush start rising up this goddess's neck, and bleeding into her checks. BJ finally met the confused green eyes of her charge, and blushed as she realized that Aeron had caught her staring.
"Um, BJ." said the flustered red head, "why are you using your head to knock on my door?"
BJ was trying to bring her blush under control. "I forgot a pair of hose, and while I was rushing out to ask if you had a pair I could borrow, I locked myself out of my room." BJ's blush increased. Damn it, what is wrong with me? I never blush. "Uh, do you, uh, haveapairIcouldborrow?" BJ's words came out in a rush as she dropped the other woman's gaze.
Aeron appeared stunned for an instant. "Yes, I have a few extra pairs. I bring the extras because then I don't get runs. Murphy's law and all that. Do you want tan or black?"
"Tan will be ok."
"Do you think you can wear mine? I'm quite a bit taller than you are."
"Hopefully, this meeting will not last that long, and I guess that I can always pull them up to my armpits," BJ grinned, her initial embarrassment fading away.
Aeron grinned back. "That is not an image that I really want to picture. You, all professional on the outside, knowing that underneath those clothes, you have a pantyhose bodysuit on." Blushing she continued. "Not that I imagine what's on underneath your clothes. Nope, not at all." Aeron blushed even harder and turned and buried her head in her suitcase. She found what she was looking for and thrust an unopened pack in BJ's general direction without stopping her search in her suitcase. "You can use my bathroom to change, I'm just going to accessorize and put on my make up."
"Damn it! I don't suppose?."
"Sure. Lucky for you I just bought a new case that came with make-up. I didn't have time to remove that stuff and put my own make-up in. Help yourself."
The dark haired woman took the offered package of hose and entered the bathroom and shut the door. Aeron stood up, a small bag in her hand and walked over to the dresser and set it down. She opened it up and rummaged around, eventually removing two silver hooped earrings and put them on. She then zipped the bag closed and removed a black velvet box and a make-up bag. She opened the box and pushed it to one side of the dresser. The red head then opened her make-up bag and began awkwardly putting on her make-up.
BJ exited from the bathroom, tucking in her blouse and glanced up at Aeron's attempt to put on mascara without poking out her eye.
"You don't wear make up much, do you?"
Her voice startled Aeron just enough that she succeeded in poking herself in the eye. Luckily, her eye closed and the doctor just ended up with a big black smudge on her left eyelid.
BJ rushed over to Aeron. "I'm sorry, are you ok?"
Aeron nodded, as her eye started to tear. She sat down on the bed behind her, covering her eye.
"Here, let me fix this. I shouldn't have startled you anyway." BJ licked her thumb and went to work removing the black mark from Aeron's eye. Realizing that all she was doing was blackening her thumb and smearing the mascara, BJ looked around for a Kleenex. "Do you have any wipes or Kleenex handy?"
Her charge seemed to shake herself from a stupor. "Yes, I have some face wipes in my bag. Thank you."
The shorter woman reached over Aeron to grab her make-up bag and felt Aeron flinch. "Hey, did I poke you again?"
Aeron just shook her head in the negative.
BJ removed a facial wipe from the bag and went back to cleaning Aeron's eye. She then gently pried the mascara wand from the redhead's grasp and finished applying the mascara to the bloodshot eye.
"There, no harm done. Now if you'll just give me a few moments to put my face on, we'll be ready to go meet Mr. Li." The shorter woman walked over to the dresser and began selecting make-up items to begin her own routine. Aeron sat behind her wordlessly and watched BJ expertly apply her own make-up.
"Who taught you to do that?" Asked Aeron softly.
"Hmm? Oh, I had to learn quickly in self-defense. I was the youngest of 3 girls. For some reason, they found me more entertaining to practice on than their Barbie Head. Once I proved I could more than adequately apply my own make-up, they had no more excuses to 'help' me out."
Aeron frowned, "How old were you when you started wearing make up?"
BJ pursed her lips to check her lipstick. "Um, I was wearing make-up for dress up almost as long as I can remember. My mother insisted that I not leave the house 'without my face on' when I hit puberty. Boy, was I glad when I went to college out of state so I could dress down." BJ laughed. "My mother had delusions of society. Someday, I'll tell you about her insanity. Right now, I think it's time for our 'protocol' lesson." BJ turned around and folded her arms across her chest, leaning against the dresser. "Are we going to go back for my business cards or what?"
Aeron thought for a minute, then stood. "No," she said as she walked over and reached into the closet, grabbing a matching jacket for her suit. "I think we'll just play it, that you are my assistant and not worth trading business cards with." She put her jacket on as she walked over to her backpack and removed a leather folder. "Just hold this and act like a wallflower. Take notes or something." Aeron reached into her backpack and removed a slim silver case and a PDA. "Just watch what I do and be prepared to jump in and translate if I need you. Singapore was a British Colony for so long, English is the official language. That doesn't mean that it''s spoken exclusively, but most business is conducted in English." Aeron tucked the case away into her blazer pocket and fastened up her jacket. "Are you ready?"
BJ was amazed by the transformation. It was as if when Aeron put on her 'power suit' she became the epitome of a professional business executive. Where did the clumsy, absent-minded professor go? Curiouser and curiouser. Giving herself a mental shake, BJ followed her boss out the door.
Every breath you take
Every move you make
I'll be watching you.
The two women exited the elevator on the 36th floor. Aeron's brows were furrowed in concentration.
"Did Mr. Li?" started BJ as the red head raised her hand for silence.
"In order to start our sweep for abnormalities, I'll need your help to start setting up the equipment. Do you mind if I set up in your room as well to establish a baseline?"
The dark haired woman looked puzzled. "Of course, you're the scientist."
"Good. Meet me in my room after you change and I'll go over the set up procedures with you."
The two ghostbusters had arrived at the door to their suites and entered, each woman going into her separate room.
Aeron immediately kicked off her shoes and went to the closet to hang up her jacket. She then turned and opened up her laptop and started the computer. While the computer was booting up, the doctor opened another one of her boxes and started pulling out various electronic gadgets. She hooked up two to her computer and turned them on. Aeron then opened up various computer programs and studied a black window as it popped up on screen. Noticing something about the white line that was zigzagging it's way across her screen, she turned back to the box and removed two more small gadgets that were the size of golfballs. The doctor took one and twisted it, and turned back to the computer screen and observed the reaction of the white line to her actions.
"I am your only friend
I'm not your only friend
but I'm a little glowing friend
but really I'm not actually your friend but I am.
Boom, boom, boom.
Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch,
Who watches over you.
Make a little birdhouse in your soul,
Not to put fine a point on it
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet,
Make a little birdhouse in your soul."
Just then, there was a knock at the door. Aeron continued singing while ushering BJ into the room.
"There's a picture opposite me,
Of my primitive ancestry,
Who stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free.
Though I respect that a lot,
I'd be fired if that were my job,
After killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts."
With BJ looking at her funny, the doctor pointed to the laptop and continued to manipulate the device in her hand and singing.
"Blue bird of friendliness,
Like guardian angle,
It's always near.
Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch,
Who watches over you.
Make a little birdhouse in your soul.
Not to put to fine a point on it
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet,
Make a little birdhouse in your soul."
With a flourish, the redhead finished singing the nonsensical song and pretended to bow to an imaginary audience.
"Thank you, thank you. I'll be here 'til Thursday. Try the veal."
BJ started slowly clapping her hands. "Thank you for that interesting performance. Can you go back in and ask the doctor to come back out and talk to me? I find her the most comforting of all your different personalities."
Aeron flushed. "I'm sorry, I was checking to see if this room was bugged and working on jamming the signal. I suspected the bug was voice activated so I started singing to detect the frequency." The doctor pointed at the laptop. "That program helps me see what frequency the bug is broadcasting at and this," she held up the small object in her hand, "jams the set frequency. I picked that song because it would drive whoever is listening nuts, and I'm so tired from the flight I'm slap happy. I'm sorry I was so abrupt in the elevator, but I was concerned that our conversation was monitored."
BJ just looked at the taller woman intently.
Aeron sighed, "Look, from what Mr. Li did and didn't say, I'm not entirely comfortable with what's going on."
"So you picked up on that?"
The red head glared at her. "Yes, my social skills are not so deficient that I cannot tell when someone is being evasive. What really spooked me however, is when he mentioned that the gift shop sold plenty of different sizes of clothing and accessories. Or the fact that there were "extra copies" of our keys ready to go at the front desk. I figured that meant that someone was listening to us in our rooms. What is so important about what we are doing that merits someone listening in?"
"You remember the short call he took while he was in with us? He hastened to assure whoever was on the other end that we were in the rooms assigned to us and that everything was fine."
"I'm glad I didn't introduce you as my translator. I think it would be best if we pretended you didn't speak Chinese. We might get an idea of what is going on quicker."
Aeron yawned, "I hate jet lag. I wish one of those cure alls for jet lag really worked. I'm so tired." The doctor punctuated the last sentence with a yawn.
The shorter woman grinned, "You want to know the Navy cure all for jet lag? It's 100% guaranteed. "
Aeron eyed her assistant warily. "OK, I'm willing to try anything once."
BJ whooped. "OK. But I think you better fix my room before we get started. Do you know any other annoying songs? My reparatory is limited to 'Henry the Eighth'."
Aeron laughed, "Ever hear of a group called 'They Might Be Giants'? Or 'Dead Milkman'? No? How about 'The Butthole Surfers'?"
"Those can't really be groups names. You're yanking my chain."
"Come on, I'll introduce you to a whole new world of music," the doctor laughed evilly and led the way into BJ's room. "Oh, and grab the laptop will you? I have a performance to give." And with that, launched into a song about a Bitchin' Camero as she entered BJ's room.
The brunette shook her head and gathered up the laptop and accessories and followed her eccentric boss into her suit. "And I wondered how she managed to drive off so many assistances. Now I know. It's all the singing."
There's a song I was listening to
Up all night
There's a voice that I'm hearing
Saying it's alright
When I'm happy I am sad
But everything's good
It's not that complicated
I'm just misunderstood.
Aeron opened the door to her room, listening to BJ sing 'Henry the Eighth' in bemusement before shutting the door to her room. The doctor walked over to the dresser and removed Skeeter from the top drawer and placed him so that his back was braced against the mirror.
"I'm sorry big guy. I didn't know how BJ would react to seeing you," said the redhead as she started undressing. "I think she has possibilities. I think Ms. Taylor could possibly be corrupted by us." Aeron flashed her silent companion an evil grin. "I hope she lasts through this test and is assigned to me on a permanent basis. Of course, being the only survivor of the 'Aeron Experience'," the redhead winced. "She might not get a choice. What I can't understand is why sometimes I feel so? I don't know, weird around her, Skeeter." Aeron started rummaging around in her suitcase for some shorts. "Like when she leaned over me to grab the tissue, it was, I don't know, like she shocked me or something." The doctor snapped her fingers. "I know, it was like sticking my tongue on a 9volt battery, only on my arm. And when I caught the woman banging her head on my door, I don't know why I blushed. And then she blushed! Like a kid with her hand in the cookie jar. I don't understand what's going on." The doctor found a comfortable pair of shorts and put them on, as well as a T-shirt.
"What do you think, Skeeter? Do you like her?" Aeron cocked her head and stared at her companion. "I don't know. Do you want to tag along? I guess that is one way to find out, huh?" the redhead chuckled, "This should be interesting."
In her suite, BJ was getting together the ingredients for a Navy jet lag cure. This consisted of a blender, ice, various forms of juice and coconut milk, and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.
"Let's see what we have here, Jose Quarvo 1600, ooo, nice; Bacardi Silver, very, very nice; Glenffyydich, Johnny Walker Red and Black, Stoli and Grey Goose as well as Ketle One. Wild Turkey, what the hell is that doing in there? Let's see if there's beer." BJ opened the small refrigerator tucked under the bar. "Heineken and Buttwiper. Great, guess I'm not drinking beer tonight. Oh well, I think I can deal with the hard stuff just for tonight, like that's a hardship."
The ex-officer walked over to the phone and dialed room service. "Yes, hello. I would like to order some food and juices brought up to room?Oh, you know my room number? Ok, I would like some pineapple, and strawberry juice brought up, along with some coconut milk. Is there an ice machine somewhere on my floor or do you have to bring it up? Ok, bring up a bucket at least. Oh, and what kind of food do you have?"
"Chili crabs," Aeron called as she walked into the room. "I love chili crabs."
"Ok, we want an order of chili crabs, some egg rolls, some fruit slices, do you have a cheese and meat platter, and some calamari," BJ glanced at Aeron to see if she wanted anything else. When Aeron shook her head, BJ thanked the room service operator and hung up.
Aeron eyed the alcohol set up on the table along with the blender warily as she set Skeeter on one of the chairs in the living room area. "This is the Navy jet lag cure? To get totally blitzed?"
The dark haired woman grinned, "Yep, that's it. It's never failed for me, though I did have one bummer of a hangover in one port. The stories I could tell and probably will if you ask and I'm drunk enough."
The doctor looked around, and asked, "Do you have any way to play music in here?" At BJ's negative indication, Aeron left the room, making sure to prop open BJ's door and enter her suite. She emerged with her laptop, and a small, round rubber thing in her hands. Stopping by the main door to the rooms, she made sure the door was bolted with the dead bolt before entering the bodyguard's room once again. The doctor placed the laptop down, and undid a latch on one side of the black rubber thing. The round object fanned out to expose 10 CDs. Aeron chose one and closed the disk holder back up. She opened the port on the computer and inserted the CD. As the music program booted up, Aeron asked, "Do you like Jimmy Buffet? I figure since we have all the makings of some fine margaritas you might be a Parrot head."
"Who's Jimmy Buffet?"
Aeron just looked at the shorter woman like she just asked who was George Washington. "You don't know who Jimmy Buffet is?"
BJ looked annoyed. "I don't think I would have asked if I knew."
"Well, you said you only listened to music from the 70's and 80's. I figured you might have heard at least Margaritaville or Southern Cross sometime in your life. Those are some of his best-known songs. I'm not even going to ask about Cheeseburger in Paradise."
"Hey, I've heard of those. I thought they were country."
Aeron looked offended. "Jimmy doesn't easily fit into any one category. He's a category of his own."
BJ's curt reply was cut off by the knocking at the door. She went to get the room service while Aeron set up a play list on her computer. BJ came staggering in with a tray, while the waiter followed her with another. They put both trays down on the table and BJ turned to the waiter and signed the check. The dark haired woman reached into her shorts and pulled out some money and tipped the waiter. The man bowed and took the money and left.
"Boy, they are sure used to Americans here," commented Aeron.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because he took the tip. If you were in Japan, you would have insulted him by doing that. If you give someone a tip there, it is taken as 'You really suck at your job, here's some money to tide you over until you find a job you're good at'. I'm not sure if the Singaporeans have the same thing, or if the English were here too long."
BJ blinked, "How do you know all this?"
The doctor looked abashed, "I figured that since I can't seem to learn a language, I would find out all I can about each culture so the only handicap I have is not knowing the language, not the usual 'Ugly American' syndrome."
The shorter woman was busily making a concoction to throw in the blender. "Hey, I thought you said you had some Jimmy Buffet or something on that thing. Let's hear some tunes."
The red head was grateful for the quick change of subject, as well as no mention whatsoever of Skeeter. She cued up the tracks to play all of the Buffet songs on that disk and sat back and watched her assistant skillfully prepare some margaritas.
"So how did you get hired by the Institute?" asked Aeron.
The dark haired woman poured the drinks into some glasses and brought them over to the couch were Aeron was sitting and handed her one. "A friend of mine from the Navy set up the job interview. I got the impression that he was a long time friend of Mrs. Post's. He said that my unique talent of getting out of any situation without major repercussions was something she was looking for."
The taller woman looked intrigued as she sipped her drink. "Like what?"
"Let's just say that I'm a hell raiser but never got caught, or if I did, nothing was ever put in my 'permanent record'. I've gotten away with murder," BJ grinned thinking of all the stunts she's pulled.
"How about an example or two?" Aeron persisted.
The ex-officer thought for a moment. "OK, in language school, we had this really annoying class leader. I managed to sneak in some alcohol and we got her rip roaring drunk. After she passed out, I snuck in with some friends and wrapped her up in a sheet and ordie tapped her to the wall. When she didn't show up for formation the next morning, the instructor went looking for her. He found her still wrapped up in her sheet, sound asleep. Needless to say, she no longer had her class leader responsibilities and the culprits were never found. After that, not too many people messed with me. It was pretty much a given that it was my handiwork, but since nothing could be proven, I was free and clear."
"What's ordie tape?" asked Aeron as she got up to refill her drink.
"It's kind of like duct tape only stronger. The ordinance ratings use it for various things on their jobs. I got a hold of some through a friend to use on my car to hold it together. It's been said that sometimes, ordie tape is the only thing holding some of the planes together."
"Oh, sounds like you had fun in school. You went to college before you were in the Navy. What was it like there?"
"It was great to get away from my mom. I only applied to schools out of state. I wound up at the University of Kansas. They have one of the best Slavic schools in the country, plus I received a couple of nice scholarships. I was finally able to be me, not my mom's idea of what a 'proper' lady should be." BJ winced. "She disowned me when I joined the Navy. 'Proper' ladies do not join the military. But I wanted to see the world, and for what I made as an officer, plus living expenses plus the networking, the Navy was perfect for what I wanted to do with my life."
"You said before that you're mom had delusions of society. What did you mean by that?"
"What is this, pick the assistance's brain day?"
Aeron blushed, "I'm just curious. Nobody else that I've worked with really wanted to talk to me."
A flash of insight hit the ex-officer. Aeron was lonely. Maybe that's why she carried the damn bear around. It was the only thing that would listen to her.
"I'm sorry, you can ask all the questions you want. On one condition; I get to ask questions too." BJ got up to pour the rest of the margarita mix into her glass.
The red head looked thoughtful. "OK, it's a deal. Now tell me about your mom."
"Hey, how come I have to go first?" asked BJ as she started making a pitcher of pina coladas.
"Because I'm going to need a lot more of these," Aeron waved her glass in the air, "before I can do that."
The shorter woman shrugged, "Ok, I can live with that."
"My mother was convinced that she was actually a member of high society. She named my sisters and I with that in mind. We all were forced to attend cotillion school and had to act like proper ladies at all times. All three of us had a 'coming out' party at 18. My dad sat back and let her do whatever she wanted with us. After all, we were girls. If he had managed to have a boy, I imagine that my dad would have been allowed some say in how he was raised. Per my mother's grandiose ideas, my dad went to work to provide money for my mom to spend, and she raised the girls. I liked my dad, but I was never allowed to really get to know him. I think the best conversation of my life was when I graduated from KU and told my parents that I was joining the Navy. After my mom's rant and production she made stomping off, my dad winked at me and said, "I'm proud of you"."
"I don't have much contact with my family, but my sister Buffy still speaks to me on occasion and passes messages between me and my dad."
"Wait a minute, you have a sister named Buffy?"
BJ sighed, and drained her glass. "Yep, Buffyanne is the oldest, followed by Bambi," the ex-officer winced, "and me, Barbara."
"Seems to me you got off the luckiest," commented Aeron.
"Nope, until I went away to college, I was known as Barbie. As soon as I could, I switched to using my initials."
"Ewww, that must have been fun growing up."
"You have no idea. I played sports all through school. Do you know what it was like being introduced as Barbie Taylor? I had to hide the sports from my mom, though. I told her I was in choir. For some reason, she never asked why I never had a recital. Buffy, my oldest sister, was cool. She helped me hide things from my mom. Bambi was a carbon copy of my mom. Buffy and I always thought that Bambi should be the one with the biggest grudge against mom, since she had the worst name."
Aeron started snickering.
"Well, when I was reading over your file, I was wondering if I could call you Babs. I now realize that if I had tried, you would have left me in the baggage claim."
"Ok, your turn. I've told you all my family's secrets, what about yours?"
Aeron stood up and wobbled over to the table and grabbed the whole pitcher and brought it back. "Ok, I'm ready. Ask away."
"I'll start off slow and easy, ok? How many siblings do you have?"
The doctor took a huge drink right out of the pitcher. "None."
The shorter woman eyed her companion. "Ok, do you get along with your folks?"
Aeron took another huge drink, her demeanor changing abruptly. "I did before they died. They died when I was 12. I got sent to live with one of my mom's cousins. When Rosie found out how smart I was, she shopped around and found a college to take me and shipped me off. She and Harley didn't really want kids, I guess."
BJ wondered if there was anyway to extract both of her feet from her mouth at the same time. "I'm sorry."
The doctor waved her off as she took another drink out of the pitcher. "You didn't know. If you knew I'm sure you wouldn't have asked."
The dark haired woman thought for a moment. "Did you like college?"
"Well, I liked the classes and most of the professors. I had fun in all the labs and I was finally challenged in my math classes. As for socially, who wants to hang out with a 12 year old? The couple of times I went to parties? let's just say it was enough of an experience to cure all curiosity I had about wanting to join a sorority. In grad school, I learned pretty quickly that if someone is being nice to you, it's time to lock away all your research notes and lab books."
BJ looked aghast. "You didn't go to any parties, pull any pranks or just hang out? That's not college, that's prison!"
Aeron shrugged, "I liked my advisor for my thesis. He's Emily's husband by the way. I discovered club sports in grad school and that was pretty fun. I didn't qualify to play varsity sports, or even try out, because of the time limit rule."
"They didn't make an exception to the 5 year rule for you? I'm sure if you tried playing when you first started college at 12, you would have gotten creamed."
"Actually, I didn't enter college until I was 14, I spent 2 years at a special prep school for super geeks like me so I could handle college."
"And you didn't make any friends there?"
Aeron drained the pitcher and laughed derisively, "And you think I'm a social misfit? I look like Miss Congeniality by comparison. I swear there were 2 of them that needed to be locked up in padded rooms. I think they work at the Institute as well." The doctor hiccupped. "How is this supposed to be helping me get over jet lag?"
BJ grabbed the now empty pitcher from Aeron, stood up and walked over to the table. "You drink until you pass out, get about 8 to 10 hours sleep, and boom, no more jet lag. Here, eat some food and drink some water or you'll get sick." The bodyguard grabbed a platter of food, walked back over to Aeron and set the platter on the coffee table in front of her. "Eat." She commanded, walked back into the kitchen and fixed Aeron a cup of water. "Drink." Was the next command.
"And be merry," quipped Aeron.
Sensing the mood change, BJ launched into another sea story, keeping the mood light until the two passed out singing Southern Cross for the 5th time that night.
"Oh my God, turn off the strobe lights." whispered Aeron, face down on the floor with Skeeter clutched to her chest.
A muffled snicker came from above her. "S'not strobe light, s'window wif cur'ins." Came the almost indecipherable reply from her bodyguard.
"You're supposed to protect me from harm. Go close the curtains!"
"Don't wanna. Too comfy. Sleep now." A soft snore punctuated the sentence.
Aeron reached above her and started flailing around on the couch with her arm. "Wake up. Serve and protect. Close the curtain before my brain explodes." A grunt and a snort were her only response. Since the flailing only seemed to increase the pain in her head instead of waking her companion, Aeron whimpered and started a slow crawl to the bedroom, which looked quite dark. Reaching her destination, she tossed Skeeter up onto the bed and crawled up after him, kicking BJ's stuff off the bed as she went up. Tucking herself in, she said to Skeeter, "I now see why this is a jetlag cure, you're too busy recovering from your hangover to care about jetlag." And with that, she cuddled up to the teddy-bear and went back to sleep.
Continued In Chapter 6.
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