Year One: Duquesa Bay
Chapter Four

"Thinly Sliced"

    Earlier that evening...

    Inside the Santa Conchita University lab, Erika von Meer is asleep, slumped over her papers and books. Griffin Martel, styling in a charcoal gray Armani suit, enters and softly approaches the woman.

Griffin Martel (art by Dale McKee, 2000)Griffin Martel: (Patting her shoulder and whispering loudly) Rikka... Rikki... Rikki Tikki Tavi, wake up!

Erika: (Groggy and groaning) Riff... what are you doing here?

Griffin: (All cheerful) We have a dinner date, remember?

Erika: Uh

    Erika slowly rises and looks at her disheveled appearance in a mirror.

Erika: EEH

Griffin: You look wonderful

Erika: (Fixing her hair) Liar

Griffin: Yes, but I'm good at it

    This elicits a small chuckle from the woman.

Erika: I thought you had polo practice?

Griffin: I did... it's over

Erika: (Looking at her dive watch) Whoa, I slept longer than I thought... OH NO

    Reaching into Griffin's vest pocket, she grabs his cell phone and calls home.

Erika: Father, I'm so sorry, I'll be home shortly and we'll work on the business then, I promise!

    Erika hands the phone back to Griffin, lifts her glasses and rubs her eyes.

Griffin: Work can wait, we've got a dinner to eat

Erika: Actually, that sounds pretty good

    Griffin's cell phone goes off.

Griffin: Hello? - how's everything going? - EXCELLENT - you have a wonderful evening, I know I'm going to enjoy mine... goodbye!

Erika: (Heading for the exit) I feel like fish

    With his hands folded behind his back, Griffin follows.

Griffin: Well, my enjoyment level just dropped a notch

    At the Samurai Sushi Bar, overlooking beautiful Duquesa Bay, the stately blonde pounds down tuna and salmon sashimi as the swarthy gentleman in her company picks at his marinated octopus.

Griffin: (Watching Erika voraciously eat two more slices) Rikka, darling, even though I have no idea why you like this little hole in the wall, we're still in public... must you eat like a pig?

SushiErika: (Dipping another slice in wasabi) Suddenly, I hear my mother's echo in here

Griffin: Well, if Pauline WERE here, she would be correct in making that statement

Erika: "Must you eat like a pig?" is an interrogative, not a statement

Griffin: (Joshing) And I invited you to dinner again... why?

Erika: Good question!

    The two laugh and regard each other for a moment.

Erika: I apologize if my dining habits are a little extreme tonight, this is the first time in days I've had a real appetite

Griffin: You need to take better care of yourself

Erika: Mmm-hmm

Griffin: Where were you last night? - and don't say "at the lab" because you weren't

Erika: (Drinking some saki) Are you stalking me, Riff?

Griffin: I'm just curious... you weren't at your family's, you weren't at the lab, you weren't on your boat... where were you?

Erika: If you must know, I was at the research facility on Concha Dos - am I free to go now, Officer Martel?

Griffin: (Leering) Maybe I need to handcuff you to the bed

    Erika stares at him blankly.

Griffin: Sorry... but you are spending too much time at work

Erika: You know, I just had this conversation with my mother and brother this morning, I really don't feel like repeating it

Griffin: (Now popping a California Roll in his mouth) I'm just concerned, that's all

Erika: How was polo practice today?

Griffin: Lacking, as usual

Erika: Really?

Griffin: (Looking at his Rolex) I know Craig had more important matters to take care of but we absolutely have to find a better replacement for him

Erika: What's wrong with Shelby?

Griffin: She T-boned your brother in the third chukker!

Erika: Knowing KJ, he probably liked it

Griffin: Ms. Willis is not quite up to our standard of excellence

Erika: (Miffed) Because she's a woman or because she's black?

Griffin: This has nothing to do with her gender or her race...

    Griffin reaches under the table and squeezes Erika's knee.

Griffin: (Evil smirk) She's just not the player you are

    Erika casually flicks the man's hand off of her knee.

Erika: (Looking at a TV in the corner of the bar) It's almost time for Craig & Anita's Dog & Pony Show

Griffin: Which one is the dog and which one is the pony?

Erika: I think they both tie for "horse's ass"

Griffin: Before that starts, just a small reminder that you and I will be attending Aunt Liddy's "Etruscan Nights" museum gala next week

Erika: Is that so?

Griffin: Yes, we will!

Erika: Lydia has worked very hard on this, I suppose I could go

Griffin: Penelope flat-out refuses to go unless you're there to suffer along with her

Erika: (Picking something out of her teeth) Heh

Griffin: (Curt) Hopefully, you will have regained your manners by then

Erika: When did Sybil arrive at the table?

Griffin: (Looking at his watch again) I don't understand your reference

Erika: Only a little bit ago, you're dragging me to dinner, now you're acting like you want to be anywhere else BUT here

Griffin: Don't be ridiculous

Erika: Shh... it's time for the press conference

    Everyone strains to listen to the TV as sirens are heard in the distance.

KCON NewsCenter 8Good evening everyone, I'm Claudia Steel at the NewsCenter8 news desk, we're just receiving word of a breaking story - only moments ago, an east-bound freight train derailed past Riverbank Drive and the 101 intersection - there's no word yet on fatalities but we do know that several of its cars are on fire and some are apparently leaking oil into the Santa Conchita River - KCON has a news crew en route to the scene, we'll have more details for you shortly...

Erika: (Jumping up from the table) I've got to go

Griffin: Don't let this ruin our dinner


Griffin: What can you do? - you're not a fireman

Erika: (Rushing out the door) I'm going to the university, we'll need to set up a task force - YOU NEED TO GET TO THE OFFICE

Griffin: (Rushing after her) Whatever for?

Erika: (Whipping around in a fury) You know damn well that Meer-A-Mar cargo was probably on that train!

Griffin: So what if it was? - our fathers can handle it

Erika: (Looking him directly in the eye) If you EVER hope to grow out of your Daddy Dougie's shadow at this company, YOU WILL HANDLE IT, Griffin

    Erika stares at the man as he realizes the truth in what she says.

Griffin: (Getting in his limo) Can I at least drop you off?

Erika: (Sprinting off) It's just around the corner, I can make it faster on foot

    Running between buildings and down alleys, the woman heads as fast as she can towards the beach. Suddenly, she doubles over in exhaustion.

Erika: (To herself) Changing twice in a 24 hour period...

    Taking a few deep breaths, she sets her watch and puts it in her purse.

Erika: I suppose now is a good time to find out if I can handle it

    Making sure no one sees her, Erika hurries along a jetty, strips off her clothes and dives into the ocean.

Panel 1 (art by Alex)  Panel 2 (art by Alex)  Panel 3 (art by Alex)


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