So what if she and Sung shared a helicopter? Brooke had rehearsal the next day and Sung was finally leaving after completing whatever skullduggery had terrified Axl.
Even when Sung pushed her into a taxi, Brooke failed to recognize him as overlord. In fact, midway through a traffic jam, she’d told him that asking Dex to teach him Pokémon was one thing—but trying to impress a nine-year-old boy by asking for tips to impress an imaginary woman in Japan was pathetic.
“How dare you!” Sung owed Brooke no explanation! “Yet, Dex ought to realize that a man and woman can be interested in each other without endangering everyone who associates with them.”
Brooke didn’t need to know more. The less said…she nodded, thinking she was agreeing yet unintentionally revealing outrage.
In response, Sung’s indignation became a righteous fury. Brooke dashed from the taxi to the brownstone. Sung paid the driver and bounded to the front door, hearing click-click as Brooke double-locked it.
Cause for immediate action. Sung leaped to the middle step, and then onto the top step, where he twisted his body backward before spinning forward off his rear foot. His leg crossed his soaring knee and the sole of his right Nike hit the door hard enough to knock its upper hinge loose.
An alarm shrieked insanely. Sung landed awkwardly, hitting two steps instead of one. Luckily, he quickly hailed a taxi and booked a flight to Heathrow.
When the ADP guards arrived and silenced the bone-rattling noise, Brooke opened the inner stained-glass doors and waited on the couch. The guards spent an hour banging and lassoing the door into an angle allowing entry.
Brooke scribbled on their black box, verifying that the door had been torn from its hinge, splintered, and cracked before the guards pried it open.
Then she told them what happened: she’d lost her keys and with no number or other recourse, had executed a Taekwondo kick. “I promise, gentlemen, it won’t happen again.”
They didn’t believe her: completely impossible that she’d kicked loose the reinforced door.
Leading them to the kitchen, Brooke performed a crescent kick on the cupboard, causing canned goods to come crashing down.
But this failed to convince the men who were still tapping electronic pads. The brownstone’s owners had listed Mark Fletcher as their house sitter since November. Nothing about Brooke.
“Well, ya see, Mr. Fletcher is en route from Opus Dei in Illinois. Are either of you guys Catholic?”
No, they were not.
After scouring the residence for evidence, they conferred with supervisors. Minus another “break-in,” they wouldn’t return until noon tomorrow—with the police.
At ten am. Fletcher stepped over the lower hinge through the door opening. Brooke paced and giggled, telling him the story as if it were hilarious.
Not amused, he called off the ADP, and then declared the kitchen a shambles. “What the bloody hell, Abominable! After the cupboard, did you kick the countertop?” (It was slightly dislodged.)
No longer giddy, Brooke was crying. She wept so easily, like Dickie at the end. He regretted the “Abominable” and patted her back. “Hush, love.” He lifted a chopped piece of her hair. “Tell me, dear, were you preparing for the fabled nunnery?”
“Oh.” She didn’t know except here was her hair and there were the kitchen shears.
Fletcher rang his friend Antonio, who couldn’t squeeze them in before this afternoon. Too bad, because Fletcher had hoped to accompany her. But there was rehearsal—and previews next week.
He sniffed at the job she had done but seeing her eyes, shrugged like an apologetic fool.
“My knight in shining armor, perhaps you’re overprotective after slaying my father the dragon.”
“Yes, perhaps. I’m paying Antonio a great deal, so please don’t tip him.”
In a West Village hair salon, the mustachioed Antonio belonged to the minority—and it was a minority—stirred by her looks.
He ignored Fletcher’s instructions not to cut Brooke’s hair shorter than necessary, declaring it a travesty that anything had ever obscured her exquisite little ears. Her neck and jawline were exquisite; the shape of her head wonderful…
Beautiful, exquisite, marvelous….
“Thank you again.”
On and on…
Thank you and you.
Snip, snip, snip.
“Do you love it?”
“Yes, I do.”
Unable to identify with the extraterrestrial gawking in the mirror, Brooke thanked Antonio for the zillionth time. Who asked for the zillionth time if she loved it.
Yes, she did. She loved it with all her heart.
Finally, he took her hand, “Promise me, ethereal girl, only Antonio cuts your hair.”
“That would be nice.”
Then Fletcher had flapped: so cunning—so exquisite! He could scarcely wait for the interviews, which he’d worked hard to get: Genius seventeen-year-old director revives Pious Lies! “You look like an über-sexy, teenage Audrey Hepburn!”
“Shut up!” Grabbing his wrist, Brooke noticed Fletcher was packing a suitcase. “Just shut up about my hair! And never, ever say ‘über-sexy’ again!”
“Fine, dear. Now pack your things.” He’d spoken to the owners who wanted them out this evening. Their decorator would give Fletcher the renovation’s estimate next week.
“Renovation? For the door?”
“They’re redoing the kitchen. Why haggle over a busted cupboard and dislodged counter? I’ve spoken to Bond, who wants me to tell you he’s both concerned and proud of you.”
“Fletcher, when did you attend today’s rehearsal?”
“My dear, Antonio fussed over you for three and a half magical hours. I also apologized to Sung, who had just arrived in distress. I explained my mistake but he’s decided you’re a force majeure beyond his reckoning. Thus, henceforth, I shall stand sentinel. For as I told Sung, a homosexual of a certain age has instincts for concealing romantic intrigue. Hurry and pack, dear, we’ve taken rooms at the Chatwal Hotel.”
“Brooke, the upside to this misfortune is that nobody could have foreseen that cutting your hair would uncover your ideal celestial self.”
“Damn it, Fletcher. Shut up!”
(click here for the next episode)