Betsy Visits River City.
Before they got too close to Pearl Girl’s apartment, she ducked down an alley. Betsy and Vicky stopped and looked at each other. Betsy made a face, Vicky didn’t. Pearl returned to them a few moments later, dressed in normal street clothes, leggings, red shirt peeping through a red jumper, trainers and a black jacket with the hood pulled up. They looked at her.
“I get cold when I change,” she said.
“Why change here?” asked Betsy.
She looked puzzled. “I don’t want anybody to know my secret identity because bad people could attack me when I’m sleeping or they could go after my friends and family.”
“Do you have a normal job?” asked Betsy.
“Do you have any friends?” asked Betsy.
“Er, no. I don’t have any time for such things.” Pearl was a bit embarrassed at admitting that.
“And, from what you’ve said about how you got here, I assume you don’t have any family either.”
“Er, no. No I don’t.” Pearl was a bit embarrassed at admitting that.
“So why do you do all this then?”
“Well, it’s expected. It’s traditional,” she answered.
“You’re American,” went on Betsy. “Americans don’t have traditions. They haven’t had time enough to form traditions.”
“Here we are,” said a relieved Pearl. “I’m on the fourth floor.”
Betsy was puzzled when they stopped off at the third floor. ‘She obviously can’t count,’ she thought. ‘I wonder how she does her taxes and they must rip her off something awful when she gets change and how does she know when her periods are due? Poor thing.’ All this went through Betsy’s mind as she took them to her apartment. ‘I’d better be extra nice to her,’ she thought.
Vicky was silent during this introspection, which was how Betsy could introspect without getting side-tracked. “What are you thinking now Betsy?” she eventually asked, as they sat down after being invited to do so.
“Drink?” queried Pearl before Betsy could answer.
“Coffee please, black,” answered Vicky who looked at Betsy and interrupted her before she could say anything. “Betsy will have the same as well.”
“OK,” answered Pearl cheerily and went to make it.
“What do you think you’re doing?” whispered Betsy (it was a small apartment).
Vicky whispered back. “Don’t be rude. I like her and want to stay on with her. For a while, at least.”
Betsy widened her eyes.
“Now don’t go there either,” whispered Vicky with some heat. “Anyway, what’s wrong with you? It’s only polite to accept food and drink. Well, it is in Essex.”
Betsy looked down and mumbled something about having a flask with tea in it and something else about water. Vicky ignored her.
“Anyway,” went on Vicky. “Have you tasted American tea?”
“You don’t want to. It’s much better to have their coffee. If I can drink it, so can you. And don’t pull a face either. Be nice.”
Betsy was intrigued and wanted to know more about this little love affair. “Does Pearl know you’re after her?” she whispered.
“Not yet. She’s only into men. I’m sure she’s curious though. And it’ll all go well if you don’t balls things up as usual,” she whispered venomously.
“Why don’t you just change her mind for her? It’s such a little change the ethics committee won’t be a problem.” Betsy thought a while before adding, “Especially if they don’t find out.”
Vicky looked daggers at Betsy before admitting, “She’s resistant. I need to do it the hard way.”
Betsy smiled. “You’re smitten,” she said.
Just then, Pearl returned with three mugs, interrupting their whispered conversation. Betsy and Vicky thanked her.
“Now, what are we going to do about Dr. Orlof?” asked Pearl. “I know what he did, but even so, I can’t see the police doing anything about him on our say so. We’ll need evidence.”
“Don’t look at me,” said Betsy. I’m just here in passing.”
“Now there’s a statement,” answered Vicky. “So, then, Betsy, if you’re only passing through, why did you come to rescue us? That doesn’t say ‘passing through’ to me. And while you’re here, what’s this quest of yours? And how do you know those elves?” Vicky was on a roll.
Pearl looked on with confusion. She had thought the same things but wouldn’t say anything, at least until she knew this would be rescuer better.”
“And speaking of our rescuer,” added Vicky, “Exactly how did you get out of those bindings? I couldn’t and I want to know how you did it.”
Betsy decided to answer this one. “Oh I was just lucky one of my straps was weak.”
“Crap,” was the instant response. “I saw how you beat the drug. You wouldn’t do that if you thought you would still be trapped in there. You knew how to get out.”
Betsy paused. She knew Vicky wouldn’t let this one go. It shamed her that she couldn’t get out and Betsy could. Betsy liked that and desperately wanted to keep her secret, but Vicky already knew how she beat the drug and she could easily work out what Betsy did after that. A little thought would give her the answer anyway, so it was better to share this time. Plus, it would divert their minds from those other questions. She held out her hand, palm up, for inspection.
“You came prepared,” said Vicky after a close look at her hand. “Well done. I’m going to use that. Don’t you cut your hand?”
“Not if you’re careful.”
Pearl finally saw the sliver of razer blade glued to the inside of Betsy’s nail. “Oh, well done,” she exclaimed. But what about the drug? Are you immune?”
“No she’s not, thank God. She’d be insufferable if she was. I saw what she did. She balled up her muscles and rolled them over the puncture wound and forced the drug back out. Or, a lot of it anyway. Show her Betsy.”
Betsy showed her. “Ooh, you are clever,” she gushed. Betsy preened herself and looked at Pearl appreciatively.
Vicky wanted to know how Betsy did that but she had more important things to do right now, such as getting Pearl’s attention away from Betsy, so she quickly intervened to get them off this particular subject. “What about food? I’m starving.”
Pearl answered, “You’re welcome to what’s there, naturally.”
Vicky rose and wandered to the kitchen. Betsy, hungry herself, followed. Like Vicky, Betsy was always hungry.
Pearl was a bit upset when they both said they weren’t hungry after inspecting her supplies of cereals, which she loved. There was nothing else in her kitchen. “I usually eat out,” she said.
“No worries,” answered Betsy. I’ve got some work to do anyway and now is as good a time as any. OK if I’m back in,” she thought for a moment, “five hours?”
Pearl immediately acquiesced. Vicky didn’t. “What work? You said you’d finished your job back there when buggerlugs was interrogating you. And you didn’t put up much of a struggle, did you?”
“Neither did you, yet you told them nothing they could use,” answered Betsy.
Vicky grinned. “And neither did you and I bet your package wasn’t even going to Heathrow.” Betsy grinned confirmation. “They thought they would get everything when they, what, integrated you? Why five hours?”
“I just need five hours,” Betsy said firmly. “At least,” she hastily added. She picked up her cup of coffee, which had cooled sufficiently by now, and took a big gulp. Her eyes widened before she had time to swallow. She looked at Pearl after swallowing. “That is superb Pearl. How do you do it?”
Vicky looked askance at Betsy. What the fuck was she playing at? Was she making a move on Pearl? The coffee was drinkable, but that’s all.
Pearl smiled at Betsy. “Why thank you Betsy. It’s Emeril’s Big Easy. They’re based in New Orleans.”
“I’ll remember that. Thanks Pearl.” Betsy smiled. “I’ll want some more when I’m back.”
“No problem. Anytime Betsy,” purred Pearl.
Vicky didn’t like that purr and interrupted with, “What about all the questions you need to answer, Betsy? When are you going to answer any?”
“When I can, naturally. Anyway, I can’t now ’cause I’ve got to go. See you both later, in about five or six hours.” She strolled out of the apartment waving her hand.
“Five or six now? Which is it? And what do you need the time for?” But she was talking to a closing door.
Vicky grinned, still wondering why Betsy needed five hours. She turned to Pearl. “OK then. I could use some food, sorry Pearl but my kind of food, and some sleep. And so can you.”
“What about those elves?” asked Pearl. They still intrigued her.
“They’re separate from our problems, Pearl. “It looks like they’re Betsy’s problem though. I don’t know much about them except they keep themselves to themselves, although I didn’t know about that treaty. That’s something I’ll have to get back to my group about. They’ll want to know that. Can we just forget about the elves, at least for now? I’m certain they’ll just be a distraction.”
Pearl was disappointed. She wanted to know all about elves. “OK then,” she answered.
Once back on the street, Betsy remonstrated with herself because she didn’t know where she was. She pictured a map of the city she had memorised and consulted it. Some luck for once. Her apartment was only fifteen minutes away.
Pearl had been relatively quiet during these exchanges between her friend and Betsy. They obviously knew each other well. All the time during their walk to her flat they were trading insults and sniping at each other, but they did cooperate when they needed to, without argument. Their conduct when those elves arrived testified to that. They seemed to wait and argue until it was obvious what to do, then they did it with the most appropriate one leading, then they argued again over something else. Pearl didn’t understand it and wanted to.
“OK, if you don’t want what I have, lets eat out,” she offered Vicky. “Afterwards we can work out why my whip has stopped working. And my powers are definitely returning, I can feel it. But it’s slow. We need to understand why that’s happening as well.”
Vicky nodded and smiled. “Is there a place that does a good fry up around here?”
Pearl shuddered and led her there. They didn’t hold hands on the way although Vicky wanted to.