“Bring her in,” the Mountebank said. He glanced down and nudged a spilled chip with his foot. “And somebody get me a bag of Doritos. Cool Ranch.”
“I don’t get involved in these things,” I said. “So you can leave her out of it.”
The Mountebank leaned in close, his breath surprisingly minty. “But you did once, back in Fre-“
“Hey,” I said. “I don’t go dredging up your past and using it against you in some semi-crazed scheme for world domination, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t do it to me.”
The Mountebank nodded. “A reasonable point, but unfortunately, I’m not a reasonable man.”
The cleaver started up again, short intermittent strikes, as if someone was trying very hard to hit a very fast cockroach. The saxophone switched to the theme from Gilligan’s Island, but slow and somewhat mournful.
There was the sound of heels scrambling on concrete and a woman in handcuffs was deposited in the Mountebank’s chair. She had a Cheeto’s bag on her head and at every breath, orange dust poofed out of the bottom of the bag.
She was also wearing an orange and pink uniform that looked very familiar.
“Ta-dah!” the Mountebank said, as he yanked the bag off of the woman’s head.
I looked at her. She looked at me.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” she answered, a small poof of Cheeto’s dust rising from her lips. She looked around, and then shrugged. “What’s the deal?”
“World domination, with a side dish of the bat-shit crazies,” I said.
The fly that had been sitting on the Mountebank’s shoulder flew back to my head as the woman and I looked at each other.
Birds chirped in the distance. A car backfired. A myopic priest walked into a bar.
“Well?” the Mountebank finally said.
“This is the Dame. The woman you’re in love with. The woman I’m going to torture unless you do exactly as I say.”
I took a deep breath. “First of all, I’m not in love with the Dame. Sure, she’s the only woman in the last five years who’s actually talked to me of what I assume is her own free will, but love is a little much. It’s more like a ‘friends with shooting’ arrangement. And secondly, this isn’t the Dame.”
The Mountebank blinked. “She’s not.”
“Nope,” I peered at her nametag. “Apparently, she’s ‘Donna.’ Similar, I know.”
“Oh,” the Mountebank said, managing to combine glee and anger into one weird, therapy-intensive, syllable. “Someone’s going to die.”