Safely tucked away on the top floor of the Armstrong, Ep!phanee took a long hot bath in the huge sunken tub, and then wrapped herself in one of the hotel’s complimentary fluffy robes and sat down in front of the radio-vid. This one was a newer and more expensive model than the one on the dirigible. It boasted a twenty-five inch screen and according to the logo was in living color, but the news program was still in black and white.
“… though at least fifteen are missing and presumed to be dead. Speculation continues that the explosion was a result of a bomb and that it might have been an attempt on the lives of one or all of the members of the Ladybugs, whose sold out performance at Shea Stadium was called by more than one fan ‘the event of a lifetime’.”
“Don’t listen to that,” said Alexa, turning it off.
“The event of a lifetime?”
“Well, that part’s okay. I don’t want you worrying about somebody trying to kill you though. You’ve got to think about your music.”
“So you think someone was trying to kill us?”
Alexa frowned. “Maybe. Dirigibles don’t just blow up. They’re not flammable.”
“Right. They’re inflammable, not flammable.”
“Inflammable and flammable mean the same thing.”
“Well they don’t catch fire very easily. When was the last time you heard of one catching fire or exploding on its own?”
“That’s right. That’s why people fly in them instead of really big aeroplanes.”
Janet Shaw, one of the crewmembers, stuck her head into the room. “Alexa, the Science Police are down at the lobby. Should they come up?”
“Yes, send them up.” Then turning back to Piffy, she made a face. “Like I could stop the Science Police.”
By the time the Science Police arrived at the door, Steffie had come out of the shower in the other bathroom, Ruth had kicked off her boots and put her feet up, and Penny had assemble a huge burger from the tray sent up by room service. She had a separate platter of fries.
“You’re going to get fat,” said Steffie. “Fatter.”
“Don’t even start, you boney-assed bitch,” Penny replied.
Piffy got up and followed Alexa to the door. The two agents entered. They were both about six feet tall, lean and muscular, with close-cropped hair, and sharp features. They wore dark suits and one had a small mustache. The one with the mustache spoke in a crisp, sharp soprano.
“I’m Agent Wright and this is Agent Andrews.”
When Alexa reached to shake Agent Wright’s hand, Ep!phanee automatically reached out to shake hands with Agent Andrews. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“And you,” said the agent.
Something suddenly rushed around in Piffy’s insides. Her skin felt hot and her breath caught in her throat. Other things were happening inside her too. It was as if some kind of chemical reaction had opened the floodgates that held back rivers of hormones.
“Holy shit,” she said. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. You’re a man.”
“No, I mean you’re a man—a real one.”
“Yes, I know.”
Agent Wright cast a sidelong glance at Agent Andrews, who returned the look with a shrug. Piffy looked at the former.
“Are you? No, I see you’re not.”
“Nice mustache though,” offered Alexa.
“Thank you. I made it with my own hair.”
“May we come in and talk with you?” asked Agent Andrews.
The other women, who had rushed over to see what Ep!phanee was so excited about, now were loath to move away from the door, each feeling something akin to what she had felt. Alexa finally had to physically push them aside so that the agents could lead them back to the living area where they all sat down near Steffie, the only one who had not rushed to the door.
“Where are you from?” Piffy asked Agent Andrews.
“Cape Horn enclave.”
“Aren’t you afraid of the disease?” asked Steffie.
“Are you married?” asked Ruth.
“We need to ask you the questions, I’m afraid,” said Agent Wright. “The NYPD has made a preliminary finding that it was a bomb on your dirigible that caused the explosion at LaGuardia. We have to assume that it was an attempt on your lives. That’s why we’re here.”
“We need any information you might have on anyone who might want to do you harm,” said Agent Andrews. “Have you received any recent threats, either as a group or individually?”
“I like it when he talks,” said Ruth.
“The group has gotten hundreds of death threats since last year, and they’ve gotten them as individuals for years,” said Alexa.
“Some more than others,” said Steffie, looking at Penny, who glared back at her.
“We’ll need copies of all of those, plus we’re going to need to interview each of you separately; you and your crew members.”
“Can’t that wait until tomorrow?” asked Alexa. “It’s past midnight and the girls are exhausted.”
“Perhaps that would be best,” said Agent Andrews. “We’ll meet here first thing in the morning. In the meantime we have posted police officers outside your door, at the elevator, stairwell, and at every building entrance. You’ll be safe here tonight.”
As the agents were leaving E!piphanee pulled Agent Wright aside.
“I felt something when I… um, met your partner.”