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8:00 PM

We spent that day and the next preparing. By preparing, I mean going around Rio, trying not to be spotted (the South American fans were ridiculously fanatical and would've mobbed and flattened us dead before noticing things like the scars that made us look different). We bought masks and Nick picked up some cologne and I got Lucy a dress and some other clothes (she couldn't very well go running around in that robe forever, you know?). And by Saturday night, we were ready.

Apparently Nick knew about some masquerade club that AJ had met Marisol at that she went to every Saturday night. This was their rendeavous point, a place, Nick said, he was certain he could find Marisol.

"So we find Marisol, then what?" Lucy asked.

Nick glowered at her. "Then I figure out from there."

"Well shouldn't you have some sort of plan formulated already?" she asked, "So you know what you're doing once you see her? You can't completely wing it."

"Girl has a point," I thumbed at Lucy.

Nick stared at me, his eyes squinty. "Look, there's no telling what'll go down next," he said, "I just wanna find Marisol at this point, and worry about the details then."

I looked at Nick. "What if her father is there?" I asked.

Nick frowned. "Well I'm not AJ, he has no reason to cut my cahonies off."

"You didn't think your cahonies were in danger in Japan, either, when the guy with the machete almost made you into a salmon spring roll," I pointed out.

"If it was her rendeavous place with AJ, he's not gonna be there. Otherwise they never would've used it as a rendeavous to begin with."

We both looked at Lucy.

She smiled. "I really liked playing Clue when I was little and I read every Nancy Drew book ever," she explained.

Nick rolled his eyes, "Doesn't make you a professional investigator.. ."

"And somewhere between vocal lessons and choreography you became one?" Lucy asked hotly.

Nick grumbled something under his breath that sounded very rude.

Lucy cleared her throat, "I think we need AJ to be there."

Nick looked at Lucy, "You dumbass," he said, "AJ's dead that's why we're trying to solve who killed him remember?"

"But does Marisol know that?" Lucy questioned.

Nick blinked. "Well no, nobody knows yet."

Lucy smiled and looked at me. "How tall was AJ?"

"Five-nine," I answered.

She glanced between Nick and I. "How tall are you guys?"

"Six-one," Nick answered.

"Five-eight, and a half," I added. I'd always added the half. Always.

Lucy's eyes twinkled dangerously. "Anybody got a Sharpie?"



"Wow it feels weird up here."

"It's only half an inch."

"Y'know if you squint, I don't think it's half bad." Lucy glanced down at a picture. "No, once he's dressed and has a mask on..."

I nodded. "Once the lights are dark..."

"If he doesn't speak..."

Brian turned and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He groaned. "This is never gonna work."

Indeed, it was an impossible task our annoying Nancy Drew had set out to do. Turning Welcome Home, You Brian into Love Crazy AJ would blow anyone's mind.

And yet...

It really wasn't half bad.

"We don't have time to do anymore," I announced. "We've got to get dressed."


"Preston. I'm still Preston. Don't forget that."

Bri teetered slightly. We had put lifts into a pair of fancy loafers. It wasn't that big of a difference, but he was walking like one of those circus dudes on the tall sticks...whatever you call them. Lucy grabbed her bag and breezed into the bathroom. I turned to the bed and grabbed Brian's bag.

"Pretend you're in a play. Pretend you've got the role of the Phantom of the Opera."

"That's AJ's role."

I stroked my chin. I had applied a heavy mat of medium brown fuzz to my face. My hair had gotten another dye job to match. And Brian...

He looked really odd with his almost-black scruff and hair. Hair we were going to have to hide under a top hat.

"Funny," I said. "Tonight you are AJ."

Bri took his bag from me. "I feel like I'm disrespecting him by doing this," he muttered.

"He won't think so if we find out Marisol's dad or someone working for him off'd him. He'll have justice. He'll finally be able to go the big skyscraper in the, er, sky."


I smiled. "Yeah, y'know like King Kong? I'm playing on the monkee thing again."


I was proud. He had remembered my name. "Yeah?"

"I hate you."

"You didn't mean it, right? You don't hate me, do you?"

The three of us we're walking towards the entrance to the club. Bri was still Weeble People-ing along. He sighed.


"You sound like an old married couple," Lucy remarked. I stared at her back. Ugly red welts detracted from an otherwise bare back. The gold dress Brian had bought her fit like a glove. I started to wonder how he could have gotten her size so right without checking her out often. Then my attention went back to the welts.

"What are those?"

She turned. "What?"

I pointed without touching. "Those."

"Burns. When you're getting trained as a sex slave and decide to be stubborn like me, you get punished. You learn to shut up after awhile."

"Are you sure you're psychographically okay to be doing this with us?"

"First off, psychographically isn't a work. Second of all, I haven't been allowed to do anything all my life. I only got to go to college because it looked good. I have plenty of time to dwell on things when this is over."

"Well we're just getting started," I said. I spotted a dude at the front door. I motioned towards an alley.

"I think our entrance is this way."