The CAP Epilogue, Pt. 1: Jackie in Lost Wages
 

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The CAP Epilogue, Pt. 1: Jackie in Lost Wages
by Ladybug

The revolution was over, having been solved amicably among the CAs and the chancellors. However, two mysteries remained: Where was Jackie, and whatever happened to Rose and O.M.A.R.? They had called Lost Wages, but Jackie was long gone, having checked out some time ago, with no forwarding address and no message for those at home who wondered about her fate. At first no one had even known of Rose’s existence, but since the revolution, all was made known, and everyone clearly wondered what had become of the alternate Ladybug and the android created by Omar.

So it was quite a shocking day when Rose and Jackie returned home one day out of the blue, carrying their bags, tanned from the sun, looking tired and a little sad.

“Where on earth have you been!” Bluetopaz called, racing toward them and giving Jackie a big hug. “We were worried sick!”

Ladybug and Bird grabbed Rose and embraced her. “What happened to you?” they asked. “Where have you been all this time? And where is O.M.A.R.?”

The prodigal Debs looked at each other. “It’s quite a long story,” said Jackie. “And, strangely enough, our paths crossed in time.”

“I don’t even know where to begin,” said Rose. “So much has happened.” She was weary.

“Well, for crying out loud, come on in and sit down,” said Bt. “We can’t leave you out here all day. Come in, get something to eat, and rest a while, and then tell us everything, from the moment you left our sight.” She ushered them inside, urged them to freshen up and restore themselves. Of course she did it out of concern for their welfare, but she also wanted to make sure they had their strength up. She would settle for no less than a fully detailed report. This would be the juiciest story of the year.

When the girls were rested and ready to talk, they had scores of Debs gathered around like kindergarteners waiting for storytime. “Who should start?” Jackie asked.

“You start,” said Rose. “I was out of Lost Wages when you got there.”

“All right,” Jackie agreed, and she began to tell her tale. “It all started when I went to fetch the chancellors’ bodies in Lost Wages.” The scene got wavy as she settled into flashback mode....

***********

Jackie walked into the hotel and marched up to the counter. “I’m here for the corpses,” she announced. The clerk’s eyes got wide as he shushed her.

“Not so loud!” he hissed. “What are you trying to do, cause a riot? Come this way!” He led her back to a huge deep freezer. “I’ll have you know that we lost a great deal of money on the seafood that used to be in this freezer,” he frowned, opening the lid. There lay the dead chancellors, covered with frost. Jackie gulped. The Harbinger had better make good on his promise to bring everybody back after the holiday.

“I’ll take them home right away,” she said. “When does the next delivery service come?”

“Not until morning. You missed the last pick-up by about an hour.”

“Then I guess I’m staying for the night.”

She checked in and stared at the walls of her room. This place was pretty nice. They had underestimated the accommodations when sending the chancellors to what they thought was a prison of sorts to force submission to their demands. She decided to look around a while. It was still very early and she would be very bored if she didn’t find something to do.

Jackie wandered the expansive and expensive gift shops in the hotel. Souvenirs and clothing lined the walls and filled the racks. She could never afford any of it, not on the small allowance she’d brought to get herself and the cadavers home, but it was nice to look.

She stopped at a slinky little black dress near the back of the store. It was stunning. She held it up to herself and looked in the mirror. With one hand she pulled her hair back to see what it’d look like swept up. Very nice, indeed.

“What a vision.” Jackie turned at the male voice, surprised and embarrassed. She put the dress back on the rack.

“I was just looking,” she said, almost defensively.

“So was I,” said the handsome older gentleman. He had autumn blonde hair that was just beginning to be flecked with grey, and twinkling blue eyes with little wrinkles on them that said he smiled often. “It would look wonderful on you. You should try it on.”

“Oh, no,” she waved a hand. “I couldn’t afford it. They gouge you for everything around here.”

“Yes, they do.” He smiled at her. “But names are free. What’s yours?”

“Jackie.” She hadn’t meant to tell; you must never talk to strangers in big cities, she knew. But for some reason she couldn’t help herself.

“I’m Delphus. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He took her hand and kissed it. She shivered.

“I need to go now,” she said. “I...have to get back to my room.”

“I see. Someone waiting for you?” He seemed disappointed at the thought.

“No, I just--I just have to go.”

“Are you staying in the hotel tonight?”

“Yes.”

“Then perhaps I’ll see you again.”

“Maybe.” She left then, and knew he was watching her as she went. She wondered who he was and where he came from. Maybe she would have dinner in the hotel restaurant after all, instead of in her room as she’d planned.

Jackie couldn’t decide what to wear to dinner. She’d be alone, and so she didn’t want to dress up; hadn’t brought anything very dressy anyway, not having planned a need for it. But if she saw this Delphus person again, she wanted to look nice. There was something about him that intrigued her. She sighed as she looked at her reflection. Why would he be interested in her when there were all kinds of glamorous big-city women around?

There was a knock on the door. Who could that be? She answered it, and a bellboy stood outside with two huge boxes. “Delivery, ma’am,” he said.

“You must have the wrong room,” she said. “I’m not expecting any deliveries.”

“You’re Jackie? Room 623?”

“Yes, but--”

“Then these are for you.” He handed her the boxes.

“Who could know I’m here?” she wondered out loud.

“The owner of the casino knows where everybody is,” the bellboy explained. She went to tip him, but he refused. “No, need, ma’am. It’s already been taken care of.” He bowed and went his way.

Jackie closed the door and put the boxes down. The owner of the casino? She wondered if he was trying to buy her silence about the chancellors’ deaths. Heck, if she’d thought there was a chance for bribery here, she’d have monopolized on it upon her arrival. The room was already free.

But the card on the boxes said “From Delphus.” He was the owner of the casino! Inside the first box was a bunch of deep red roses. They smelled heavenly. She set them aside to open the other box.

There lay the black dress she was looking at in the shop. It was exactly the right size. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The cost of the dress would have paid two CAs for a month at home, minus all usual extortion fees and bribes. Underneath the dress was another card inviting her to meet him for dinner in half an hour.

While Jackie was a smart girl, and one who never let a man have control of the situation unless she wanted him to, she decided to accept the invitation. Once she had this dress on she would definitely have the upper hand. And then she could divine what this man’s intentions were. Perhaps she could use him in some devious way if he turned out to be not all he seemed. Either way, she’d end up just fine.

Down in the restaurant, Jackie was slightly nervous. The dress looked fabulous on her, and she turned heads with every step she took. But she preferred to be the one waiting for her prey. As she approached the host, she began to give her name, but he preempted her.

“Ah, Miss Jackie,” he said. “Mr. Delphus is waiting for you. Please, come with me.” He led her to a cozy table where Delphus sat waiting for her. He stood as she approached, and kissed her hand again.

“You are so lovely,” he said warmly.

“Thank you.” Jackie smiled at him. “And thank you for the dress. How did you know my size?”

“It was easy,” he said. “Your size is perfect.” She blushed and sat down.

Over dinner, they talked casually about various subjects. Jackie took care not to drink too much wine. She monitored him very closely. He had a good sense of humor, and seemed very intelligent.

“So tell me, Jackie,” he said to her, “how is it that you’ve come here alone?”

“I just came to pick up a delivery and take it back home,” she answered.

“I see. And when are you taking it?”

“First thing tomorrow.”

His eyes showed disappointment. “So soon?”

“I’m afraid so. It’s...perishable, and they need it at home right away.”

“Is it something that you really have to take yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’d like it if you would stay longer.” He took her hand across the table. “With me.”

Jackie’s heart fluttered. Few men had ever had this effect on her. She found she could not look away. “I suppose I could send it along tomorrow and stay a while,” she said.

He smiled. “You’ve made me very happy. I promise you’ll have a good time.”

She smiled back at him. “I know I will.”

So the dead chancellors were sent back to Deb U sans Jackie, with no note of explanation. She ignored all messages that came in for her. She felt it would spoil this fairy tale that was unfolding before her, and she didn’t want to do that.

Over the next few days she and Delphus spent a great deal of time together, in the casino and out of it, taking rides on his horses and having picnics on his estate. He never talked about his money or tried overtly to impress her with it. They simply utilized the resources he had, and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. He was a perfect gentlemen, too. Jackie decided that this bothered her somewhat. Hadn’t she been gorgeous that night in the black dress? Hadn’t she looked lovely in the afternoon sun when they were outside together? Hadn’t she even invited his affections in the way she moved around him and looked at him? But he hadn’t responded. She knew he noticed. She could tell by the look in his eyes. So what was the problem?

One night on the terrace Jackie looked up at the moon, rather sadly thinking that perhaps she’d lost her touch. Or perhaps he just didn’t care for her that way. She realized at that moment that she cared for him. And a lot more than she’d expected to.

Just then Delphus came out behind her. “Lovely night, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she said, not paying attention.

“Is something wrong?”

She turned to face him. “You asked me that first night why I was alone. Now I want to ask you. How is it that someone like you hasn’t got some big buxom wife on his arm? Why are you here with me? Surely you’ve got better offers than someone like me. Unless you do have a wife, and she’s just not here right now. Oh, that’s it, isn’t it? You’re married! I feel like an idiot!” She began to leave, tears in her eyes.

But Delphus caught her arm. “No, Jackie, I’m not married,” he said. “Don’t go. Please.” She was crying now, frustrated and confused. She waited, her cheeks wet with tears. “I’m not married. I used to be, but I’m not any more. I haven’t been for a long time. I never got remarried because I was afraid of being hurt like that again. And I’m here with you because you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

“Then why won’t you kiss me?” she asked, hurt.

“I didn’t want to let myself get too close in case you got tired of me,” he confessed. “I’m old. You’re young. I’ve wanted to touch you ever since I laid eyes on you. But I was afraid to.” He brushed the tears from her face, looking in her eyes with longing and a little bit of fear.

“Delphus,” she said, “I could never get tired of you. You’re kind and sweet and funny and smart. You listen when I talk. You never look at anyone but me when we’re together.” She laid her hand on his. “I adore you. And if you don’t kiss me now you’re going to lose me forever.”

Delphus heeded the warning, and putting his arms tightly around her, kissed her with great passion and fervor. He broke the kiss and said, “Marry me.”

“What??”

He got down on one knee, and there in the moonlight he restated his proposal. “Marry me, Jackie. Make me the happiest man in the world.” He pulled a little box from his coat pocket and gave it to her. She opened it and gasped at the immense diamond ring inside. It glittered in the white light like a star fallen from the night sky.

She tried desperately to think of a reason to say no. But she could not. All that mattered was that she loved this man. “Yes,” she said. “I will marry you.”

He leapt up and swept her into his arms, kissing her again. “Tonight,” he said. “Let’s do it tonight.”

She nodded, laughing. “I’ll marry you tonight!”

Posted on Dec 03 1999 , 12:16 AM

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