Story © 2000-2004 by Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel © Eric W. Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe © Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Mr. Canis, Dexter Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy Vixxen, and Wanda Vixen© Chris Yost. Character ZigZag © Max BlackRabbit. Character James Sheppard, Doug and Kelly Granitz © James Bruner. Character Mark the cheetaur © Mark White Eric W. Schwartz © Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. Michael Jones © Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge © Keith Dickson. All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners.

Identity Crisis
Act IV
Chapter 5

Oh my god! He's killing her!

Maurine looked up as Hazel set the clipboard full of paperwork on her desk. “All done?” she asked as she picked up the clipboard.

“Yep,” Hazel agreed with a nod.

“OK. Hang on a second and let me get someone to cover the front desk,” the raccoon replied. She picked up the phone and pressed a number. “Jenny. Can you come cover the front desk for a bit, please? Thanks.” She stood, took the paper work and walked around the desk. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll get you setup.”

Hazel followed the female to the inner glass door where they met a poodle as she came through the door.

“Jenny, this is Hazel,” the raccoon stated, introducing them. “Hazel, Jenny’s one of our wardrobe people.”

Jenny gave hazel an appraising look and smiled. “New talent?” she asked as she licked her chops.

“No,” Maurine replied. “Gofer.”

“Gofer?” Jenny echoed. “Why the hell is Zig Zag hiring a gofer?”

Maurine rolled her eyes and shrugged. “Hell if I know. You know how weird she’s been acting lately. Maybe this is just more of the same.” She held the door open for Hazel to walk through then followed her.

“It was nice meeting….” Hazel started to say, but dropped it as the door closed, cutting her off. She nervously followed the raccoon down the hall, past Zig Zag’s office to one of the rooms Zig Zag had said was a storage closet of sorts. “Umm… Why did she react like that when you told her I was being hired as a gofer?”

“Simple,” the raccoon replied as she pushed the door open and stepped in, flipping the light on at the same time. “When Sheila disappeared, sales of her videos went through the roof. Since Zig Zag got charged with Sheila’s murder, our sales have plummeted. There are lots of folks screaming about her profiting from Sheila’s disappearance, but that’s not true. Right now the studio’s barely breaking even and that’s after the studio did some pretty hefty belt tightening.” She paused and saw the look on the squirrel’s face and shrugged. “Don’t sweat it, though. Now that Zig’s off the hook, sales will probably pick back up. Besides, it’s not like you’re earning a lot of money.”

“Still,” Hazel commented, as she watched the other female setup a camera. “She didn’t sound too happy about me being hired.”

“Can you blame her?” Maurine replied. “This place needs another gofer like I need another hole in my head. Stand in front of the grid facing me, please,” she directed.

Hazel walked around in front of the camera and stood with her back to a grid that looked suspiciously like the kind the police used for mug shots, showing a person’s height. “Like this?”

“Yep. Smile.” There was a click and a flash as the camera took her picture. “Ok. Turn to your left.” Again, the camera flashed. “And now to your right.” And one final time a picture was taken. “Got it.”

Maurine pulled a tab and extracted a Polaroid picture, then studied her watch until it was time to pull off the covering. She looked at the picture and nodded. “Looks good. We can work with these. Let’s see about getting you settled in with the studio rules and then we’ll go over time cards, project accounting, privacy rules, media restrictions and the like.”

Zig Zag leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes as she sucked on a cough drop. She wasn’t running a fever any more, but she was still tired from being sick and the remnants of her sore throat weren’t making life any easier. A knock at her door caused her to crack open an eye, and she spied Marvin as he stood in the doorway.

“Mind if I come in?” the badger asked, not waiting for an answer to take a seat across from her.

Letting out a long sigh, Zig Zag opened her eyes and sat up. “What’s up, Marvin?”

“You over your cold?” he asked, a concern look in his eyes.

“Yah. Fever is all gone. Just have a little bit of a sore throat left,” Zig Zag replied as she folded her hands on top of the desk.

“You’re not taking any medication for it, are you?” the badger asked.

Zig Zag frowned. “No. What’s with this third degree about my health?”

“I’m just concerned about you, Zig,” Marvin replied, as he sat back in his chair and crossed his legs. “I’m trying to figure out why you just hired a gofer.”

“Don’t worry about why, just worry about finding something for her to do,” Zig Zag replied with a tired sigh.

“Zig! We can’t afford this!” Marvin declared. “Our budget’s going to be on the razor’s edge with this Hairy Slotter movie coming up. We don’t have the funds to be hiring extraneous personnel!”

“Look, damn it! She’s working here and that’s the end of it!” Zig Zag snapped, taking Marvin aback with her sudden anger. She closed her eyes and let out a long, stressed breath. “Look. I’m sorry I snapped at you. But the fact is that she’s here to stay so find her something to do.”

Marvin pursed his lips and nodded as he stood. “If you say so, Zig. You’re the boss.”

“Oh. And one more thing, Marvin,” Zig Zag said, stopping the badger before he could leave the room. “Tell the staff that she’s ‘out of season’.”

The badger cocked his head in her direction. “Out of season? Why? She’s over eighteen.”

“She just is. I’ll try to explain everything to the crew tomorrow at the Friday meeting,” Zig Zag declared.

“What ever you say,” Marvin replied with a shrug and left.

Zig Zag leaned back in her chair and had just gotten comfortable when the phone rang. She growled as she snatched the handset from its cradle. “What?”

“Zig? This is Maurine,” the voice on the other line declared. “You said something about an orientation video? I’m not sure what you were talking about.”

“Oh yes, the orientation video,” Zig Zag said as a wide, toothy grin spread across her face. “Dig up a copy of the Winter ’99 promotional video, the one with Sheila and Bull in it.” She gave a low chuckle as she thought of something. “Oh yah. Don’t show it to her in the conference room. Use the projector in the theater. Make sure she has a front row seat for that.”

“The big projector?” the raccoon ask, sounding somewhat bewildered. “OK. Can do. What should I do with her afterwards?”

“Bring her to me,” she replied with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

Zig Zag hung up the phone and leaned back as she gave a low, sinister laugh.

Maurine escorted Hazel into the studio’s private theater and gestured towards the front row. “You go grab a seat up front while I see if I can remember how to run this thing.”

“All right,” the young squirrel replied before setting off to find a seat.

“Now, let’s see,” the raccoon muttered to herself as she examined all the electronics in the projection booth. Hitting several buttons, she brought all the equipment on line. She slipped the tape into a VCR and hit play. For the next few seconds, she hunted around for the right button that would project that tape onto the screen. She smiled as she saw the ZZ Studios logo pop up on the screen as music started up in the background. Another button killed the house lights as she adjusted the volume before going out to join her charge.

“This is an orientation video?” Hazel asked as the raccoon sat down next to her.

Maurine laughed. “It’s Zig Zag’s idea of one. It’s actually our winter promotional tape from nineteen ninety nine.”

“Oh,” the squirrel replied with a nod as she settled in to watch it.

Maurine split her attention between the screen and Hazel as the young female watched the video. She smiled to herself as she saw the girl’s eyes widen as the video suddenly cut to a bedroom scene where three couples could be seen going at it. As the video progressed, Maurine started to understand why Zig Zag had decided to have her show this as an ‘orientation video.’

It was all Hazel could do to stare as she watched the various commercials for upcomign productions being shown on the big screen. She’d seen porno movies before, but nothing like this. The last video was for one where they were touting a new actor by the name of Big Bull Rowan. “Oh my GOD!” the squirrel declared as she saw the Texas longhorn on the screen with Sheila. “He’s HUGE!”

“Oh yah,” Maurine replied with a chuckle. “They don’t come any bigger.”

Hazel pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs as she winced at what was happening on the screen. “Jesus Christ on a stick! He looks like he’s killing her!”

Again Maurine laughed. “Not quite, though she was a bit sore afterwards. Bull joked afterwards that Sheila was a bit tight for his taste.”

“Tight?” Hazel squeaked. “The Alaskan pipeline looks like it would probably be too tight for him!”

She turned to the squirrel and smiled. “Just think, if you ever decide to start working here, you just might get to work with Bull, too.”

“No way!” the squirrel declared. “Not on your life. Not with that monster!” She let out a small squeak as she covered her eyes, not wanting to watch the screen.

Maurine chuckled some more as she got up and walked to the projection booth. She reached the VCR just as the promotional text started scrolling up the screen and hit the stop and then rewind buttons. She killed the projector and turned the house lights up while she waited for the tape to rewind. A few seconds later she heard the tape thump to its end, and ejected it before powering down the booth. “Come on,” she called as she headed for the door. “Time for you to see Zig Zag.”

Zig Zag looked up at her phone as it beeped and then picked up the receiver. “Yeah?”

“Zig Zag? There are two gentlefurs out here to see you,” Jenny declared. “They’re with the FBI.”

“Aw, shit,” Zig Zag thought to herself. She took a breath to calm down then nodded. “OK. I’ll be right there.” Zig Zag stood and looked down at herself. She was just wearing a basic T-shirt and shorts. She’d only expected to be in the office half a day and wasn’t expecting to have to deal with the feds. Shaking her head she made her way to the lobby where she saw the same two agents who’d grilled her back when Sheila first disappeared. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the first one replied. “Is there some place private we can go?”

Zig Zag shrugged. “Sure. Why not?” She turned for the door and gestured for them to follow. “This way, boys.” She paused at the door for a second until Jenny buzzed her through. She walked down the corridor to her office and paused outside the doorway as the agents went through then entered and closed the door. She settled into her chair and sighed. “So, what is it this time? Who’d I kill?”

The two agents, one a crème-colored stallion and the other a young buck glanced at each other before looking back at Zig Zag. “It’s not like that, Miss Zumbrowski,“ the young buck declared.

“First of all, don’t call me that,” she said with disgust. “Call me Zig Zag.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” the stallion said as he removed his sunglasses and pocketed them. “We’re actually not here on official business.”

“Oh?” the skunk replied as she leaned back, propping her legs up onto the corner of the desk and semi-unintentionally striking a pose. “And just why are you here? Looking for a tour maybe?”

“Could we?” the buck asked, his ears twitching.

The stallion kicked his partner’s shin. “Not this time, ma’am,” he said as he settled back and crossed his legs. “We’re here to talk to you about Sheila Vixen.”

Zig Zag’s brows furrowed as she dropped her legs to the floor and sat up. “What about her?”

The stallion let out a long sigh and glanced at his partner for a moment before looking back over at Zig Zag. “It’s like this, ma’am. We’re done debriefing her and will be returning her tomorrow. The problem is, she’s not in any condition to be released.”

“The fact is, ma’am,” the buck cut in. “Miss Vixen is not mentally competent to be on her own right now.”

“So you see our problem, right?” the stallion asked. “Officially, we’re supposed to have her committed until such time as she’s declared competent.”

"In fact," the young buck interjected, "we're on our way over to the court house after we leave here to drop off the paper work to get the ball rolling."

Zig Zag nodded. “So what do you want me to do?”

“It’s not so much what we want you to do, ma’am,” the buck declared, leaning forward with his hands clasped and his elbows on his knees. “We can’t officially ask you to do anything. However, as her former employer and her friend, we thought that you might sue for custody.”

“Sue for custody? Me?” Zig Zag let out a low whistle. “Do you know what kind of can of worms that would open?’

“Frankly, ma’am, yes we do,” the stallion replied gravely. “However, Miss Vixen has been asking for you constantly since she was rescued. Since she’s cleared you of all wrong doing and has been requesting your presence, we have reason to believe that the court might be willing to grant such a request.”

“That’s right,” the buck chimed in. “Especially since we’ve not been able to locate her sister, Tammy. Since she has no other family, we have no recourse but to have her comitted. We were hoping that as her friend and former employer, you might be willing to look after her.”

“Current,” Zig Zag said, confusing the two. "Sheila is still a current employee. I’ve never taken her off the books. In fact, her royalties are even now being put into an escrow account until such time as she claims them.”

The stallion nodded. “That’s another reason. If we commit her, she’ll go to a state institution. Your insurance would guarantee that she went to a private facility with a superior level of care.”

Zig Zag sighed and closed her eyes as she let the chair rock back. Her first impulse was jump at the chance to help Sheila and maybe find out what really happened, but after all she’d been through she was reluctant to stick her neck out that far.

Her eyes snapped open as she realized what she was doing. She was using her own convenience and safety as an excuse to push Sheila away. She was pushing yet another close friend away and hurting them in the process.

Zig Zag sat up and nodded. “All right. I’ll do it,” she declared in a stern voice.

“Thank you, Miss Zumb…” the stallion started, but stopped and smiled. “Zig Zag. Her plane will be arriving at the Rickenbacker Airport at noon. If you’d like to meet us there I’ll make sure you get to see her before they transport her to the hospital.”

“Noon?” Zig Zag asked as she chewed on her thumbclaw. “That doesn’t give us much time to act.”

“No it doesn’t, ma’am” the stallion replied as he stood, gathering his partner with a gesture. “We’d better leave so that you can get the ball rolling.”

The young buck paused at the doorway and smiled in Zig Zag’s direction. “And remember, ma’am, we were never here,” he said with a mischievous grin and a wink before disappearing around the corner.

“We were never here?” the stallion asked as he pushed the button to open the glass door.

“Hey! I couldn’t resist,” the buck replied as he followed his partner out the door.

Zig Zag picked up the phone and dialed David. Today was going to be very, very busy.

“This is James” the coyote said into the handset as he leaned back at his desk.

“James!” Zig Zag’s slightly gravely voice cheerfully said over the phone. “How’s the most gorgeous male in Columbus doing today?”

James smiled as he settled into the plush leather seat. “I’m doing just fine,” he cooed into the phone. “I’m really looking forward to dinner tonight.”

“That’s why I called,” Zig Zag said sounding somewhat disappointed. “I’m afraid I have to cancel on you. Something major has come up.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked, sitting up a little more. “Has the DA found something else to harass you with?”

“No, nothing like that,” she sighed. “I just had a visit from the FBI about Sheila. She’s flying back tomorrow.”

“Oh,” was all he could say.

“Problem is, they say she’s mentally incompetent to be released, so they’re going to have to see about having her committed.” Zig Zag sighed into the phone. “I’ve got David filing an emergency petition to gain custody of Sheila to prevent her getting stuck into some damned state run institution, and may have to go before the judge. I’m about to head over to the courthouse now.”

“What about afterwards?” James asked as he leaned his elbow on the desk. “We could make it a late dinner.”

“Yah, well…” she let her voice trail off so it was incomprehensible.

“What was that?” James said, pressing the volume button on the phone to hear better. “I couldn’t make you out.”

“I said I have to give an interview at U-62 tonight,” Zig Zag declared.

James sat at his desk with his mouth hanging open. She was going to do an interview with the media? Zig Zag had come to hate the media with a passion since Sheila and Arden had vanished. He couldn’t understand why in the world she would do something like that.

“James?” Zig Zag asked. “Are you still there?”

“Um, yeah,” he hastily replied. “I’m still here. I just can’t believe you’re giving an interview.”

“Yeah, well, neither can I,” she admitted. “Unfortunately Logan did me a favor and now I have to pay him back.”

“It must have been one hell of a favor,” James said with a chuckle. “What did he do, dive on a live grenade?”

“Close,” she replied then paused for a moment before continuing. “He gave me the video tape some cop was trying to sell to the media where you got pulled over last Thursday night.”

James frowned as he felt his hackles rise. “He blackmailed you into this?”

“No! Not blackmail. He did it as a favor. Didn’t even keep a copy of the tape,” she explained. “He did it because he thought taking pot shots at an innocent third party like you to get at me was below the belt.”

“I see,” James replied, still unsure how he felt about having some cop sell his video to the news. “How about I join you at the studio? Maybe I can give you some moral support?”

He could practically hear Zig Zag shaking her head. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. Look. I promise that we’ll do dinner this weekend.” She chuckled into the phone and said in a conspiratorial voice. “And afterwards, I’ll model our latest line of lingerie for you. How’s that sound?”

James smiled as his imagination momentarily kicked itself into high gear. “I think that sounds like the perfect plan for the perfect evening.”

“Great,” Zig Zag said, as she blew a kiss through the phone. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Sounds good,” James replied as he hung up the phone.

He sat back and stroked his chin as he thought about their conversation. It was obvious that Zig Zag was using dinner and the promise of more intimate things afterwards to distract him from her interview tonight. He didn’t really have a problem with that, per se, but the fact that some cop had decided to try and sell him out to the media bothered him.

James reached into his pocket and removed the carefully folded ticket from his wallet. He looked for the name of the cop who’d written him up and found it: Lambert. Nodding to himself, he picked up the white pages and found the number for the TV station and dialed.

“Thank you for calling, U-62, Columbus’ premier independent TV station. How may I direct your call?” the receptionist asked.

“Logan Furbody, please,” James said.

“One moment, please,” the female, replied before passing him off to the limbo hell that was on-hold music. A moment later he heard a familiar voice, “Logan here.”

“Logan. This is James Sheppard,” James announced. “Have I caught you at a bad time?”

“Why, no. Not at all,” the reporter cheerfully replied. “In fact, I was just going over a list of questions I’ll be asking Zig Zag tonight. I hope you’re going to come.”

“Oh?” James said, his free ear perked up. “Why’s that?”

The voice on the far end of the phone laughed. “Come on, James. We both know you’re not an idiot. Some of the questions I’ll be asking Zig Zag will concern her relationship with you. I was hoping that you might come along so that I could have the last half hour of the show be with the two of you together. Answering questions as a pair.”

“Is that why you sent that video tape to Zig Zag?” James asked. “Hoping that you’d get some better video footage of me than on that tape?”

There was no immediate reply. “I guess I should expect that kind of attitude, but after all the research I’d done into Sheppard Computers and the reason you stepped down that maybe… No, I guess I had you wrong. Forget about it. I can do the interview without you. In fact, now that I think about it, the reason you called was about the tape, wasn’t it?”

James nodded. “Yes. I want to know the name of the cop who gave it to you.”

“Nobody ‘gave’ it to me,” Logan snapped back. “I paid eight hundred dollars for that tape.”

“Right,” the coyote drawled. “Money you’ll more than make up for when Zig Zag does that interview.”

“Fine. Believe what you will,” Logan said, “but I didn’t give her that tape to get an interview, just like I didn’t buy it to put it on the air. You’re a nobody, James. A nobody! The only reason anyone would give a damn about you is because you’re connected to Zig Zag, and personally, that’s not good enough for me. If it had been Zig Zag’s ass on that video, I wouldn’t have hesitated to show it because she’s news! You’re just an afterthought in the personals column. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

James yanked the receiver back from his ear as he heard the ferret slam his down in its cradle. He dropped the phone back in his cradle and sat back in his chair again and thought about the two conversations he’d just had.

Zig Zag looked up as Maurine knocked on her door. “Hey! Are you all done?” she asked Hazel as she entered the office.

“Yep!” the young squirrel answered as she stood in front of the desk.

“Why don’t you close the door and then take a seat on the couch,” Zig Zag suggested as she hurriedly finished dealing with the mail, which had stacked up while she was sick. “So. What did you think of the orientation video?”

Hazel’s brow rose as she considered how to answer the question. “It was very----educational.”

Zig Zag laughed as she tore up a small stack of advertising mail, which she then chucked into the trash. “Educational, eh? I wonder if I could get an NEA grant on those grounds.” She flipped through the rest of the stacked documents to verify there was nothing urgent then set them aside. “So what did you think of Tiny?” Zig asked with a lopsided grin. “He’s going to be back from vacation in a couple of weeks to play Haggis in our next film. I could probably arrange for him to do your audition.”

“That monster?” Hazel shrieked. “You’ve got to be kidding. That guy ain’t touching me!”

Zig Zag frowned. “Monster?” she said as she tisked at the squirrel. “That’s not a very nice thing to say. I happen to know that Tiny’s one of the sweetest, most gentle people you’ll ever meet.”

“That may be true, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to let him screw me!” she declared vehemently. “I’m sorry, Zig Zag, but I don’t believe that god ever intended something that big to go into or come out of my ass, and he certainly never intended for it to happen repeatedly! Uh uh! Not this squirrel! ”

This time Zig Zag couldn’t help but laugh. “All right, you got me there,” she admitted, smiling at the sulking squirrel. “We won’t use Tiny for your audition. In fact, as tight as our schedule is for the next few months as we work on the Hairy Slotter movie, I’m not sure when we’ll have a chance to properly audition you.”

“Why not?” Hazel demanded. She leaned forwards to rest her elbows on her knees. “There’s no reason you couldn’t do it after the end of the regular shooting during the day. I’m sure one of the guys would be willing to hang around afterwards for that.”

“That may be,” Zig Zag conceded, “but they would probably be exhausted. It wouldn’t be a good test. Those guys work hard at what they do and it takes a lot out of them. The spirit might be willing, but I don’t think the flesh would perform as well. Besides, you’ve got a lot to learn yet before you can be properly auditioned.”

Hazel's ears drooped as she looked down at the floor. “Yeah, I guess so,” the squirrel begrudgingly admitted.

“Come on,” Zig Zag ordered as she grabbed her purse and stood up. “Lets go get some lunch then head home. I’ve got to get changed and take care of some legal stuff.”

Hazel stood and followed her from the office. “You’re not going to put me to work today?”

Zig Zag shook her head. “Nope. Not today. Monday is your official starting day. Today was to just get your paperwork filled out and get you oriented. We’ll put you to work on Monday.”

Hazel paused at the outer door. “Then why don’t I just hang around here? I could just watch what’s going on and try to pick some stuff up.” She glanced back into the studio then back at Zig Zag. “You wouldn’t have to pay me. Not for today anyway.”

“Oh no,” Zig Zag said in a voice that brooked no further argument. “You’re going to be chaperoned for the first week or so until you know how things run in the studio. Last thing I need is for you to accidentally do something that sets our production back a week.”

“I wouldn’t do something like that,” the squirrel pouted as she climbed into the convertible.

“Darned right you won't,” Zig Zag said as she fired up the Viper and put the stick into reverse, “because I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen.” She turned around to make sure the way was clear as she backed the car out, then turned back forward, shifting the car into first. “This is a business, Hazel. It’s big money and I’m taking a big risk hiring you right now. You may not like my rules, but they are the rules and you’re going to have to live with them. If you don’t like it, get a job at Burger Fling. I’m not going to cut you any slack just because you’re my neighbor. I expect all of my employees to follow my direction. When I say jump I don’t want a bunch of questions about how, where, why or when. I want you to jump. That’s how it works. Take it or leave it.”

“What a day,” Zig Zag complained as she tossed her purse onto the table and dropped the cell phone in to the charger, pausing long enough to make sure it was actually charging. She made her way back to her bedroom and sat down on the bed. Picking up the phone, she dialed David’s number.

“Law offices.”

“Yes, is David in?” Zig Zag asked as she dropped backwards to lie flat on the bed.

“I’m sorry, he’s stepped out of the office. Is this Zig Zag?”

Zig Zag nodded. “Yes it is. I’ll give him a call on his cell phone.”

“OK. He was headed over to the courthouse with some paperwork for you, so if he’s in chambers, he might have his phone off.”

“Right,” Zig Zag said as she sat up. “Thanks.” Hanging up the phone, she dialed the number for David’s cell phone.

“This is David,” came the response through the sound of wind passing over a microphone.

“David! This is Zig Zag,” she announced. “I just got home and am going to get changed to head over to the court house in case you need me for anything.”

“Don’t’ worry about it,” David replied. “I’ve got all the paperwork done. I won’t need you to come down unless the judge decides to hold a formal hearing on the subject.”

Frowning at the news, Zig Zag chewed on a fingerclaw. “When do you think you might get an answer from the judge?”

“If we’re lucky, today,” David cheerfully said. “Judge Grays is covering for Judge Tiglion since she’s out sick today. Grays doesn’t like the DA so I think he might grant the petition without turning it into a circus. Of course, that’s assuming the DA’s office doesn’t try something stupid.”

Zig Zag sighed. “Yah, like that’ll happen!”

“You never know,” the lawyer said cheerfully, “I think we caught them off guard. The DA’s incommunicado this afternoon, so his lackeys may not fight it as hard as he’d like.”

“OK,” Zig Zag said, nodding to the phone. “Keep me informed, OK?”

“Sure thing,” David replied. “Oh, by the way. I sent those contracts over to U-62 for your interview tonight. I think you’ll find everything’s in order.”

“OK. I’ll deal with that when I get there,” she replied somewhat annoyed by his willing collaboration with a reporter, even if that reporter was supposedly sympathetic.

Zig Zag hung up the phone and stared at it for a minute before glancing at the clock. It wasn’t quite two yet and she wasn’t sure how to fill her time. A tickle in the back of her throat made her cough for a moment and reminded her she wasn’t quite over her cold.

Rolling over on to the bed, she hooked a corner of the afghan at the bottom of the bed with a toeclaw and hauled it up far enough to grab it. She spent a moment covering herself, before tucking a pillow under her head and curling up for a nap.

Tonight was going to be an ordeal, and going in rested would be her best defense.