Chapter 2: The Perils of Strong Drink
Consciousness returned slowly and reluctantly to Samantha. Her head was
pounding, her body stiff, and there was a horrible taste in her mouth. She
opened an eye, wincing at the brightness of the light.
"Where am I?" she mumbled.
"Aha," Jamie's voice said. "I think we've got another live one."
With an effort, Samantha raised her head. She was lying on a couch, in
what looked like some kind of circular anteroom. Nearby, Victoria was
slumped on another couch, still in her Starfleet jumpsuit, her Trill makeup
smudged and smeared. Jamie was standing over her. His bowtie was undone, but
apart from that he looked fresh and ready for action -- a James Bond,
perhaps, who had taken a short break from his game of baccarat to seduce
his archrival's mistress, and was still prepared to throw an assassin off
a balcony should the need arise.
"What's up?" Samantha croaked. "What happened?" She probed her memory of
the previous evening, coming up with a fog through which various images
loomed -- most pleasant, some less so. "Last thing I remember, I was dancing.
How did I get here?"
"You walked," Jamie said. "Mind you, if I'd not been holding your arm
every step of the way, you'd have ended up flat on your face. And you weren't
the only one."
Not without another pang, Samantha turned to follow his gaze. This wasn't
an anteroom, but a bedroom, with a large unmade double bed. Perched on the
edge of this was Gia, her hair a tangled mess, her head in her hands. Isobel
was huddled on the floor nearby, her eyes red-rimmed and her police uniform
"Must've been quite a party," Samantha said.
Victoria opened one eye. "You ought to know. You were there."
"Yeah, suppose I was." Samantha rubbed her aching eyes and looked around.
"Hang on. There's only five of us. Where's Zoe?"
Gia raised her head. "That's what we'd all like to know. Do you remember
"I can't remember anything," Samantha said. "I've got the hangover of the
"So've I." Gia nodded, then gasped and clutched her head again.
"I think we all have." Isobel looked up at Jamie. "Except you. Why?"
Jamie looked smug. "Well, some of us can hold our drink, and some cannae."
"There's got to be more to it than that."
"Oh, all right, then. Charley gave me these before we came." He produced
a small bottle of pills, and carefully read the label. "Runkle's Magic
Midgets. I took a couple and they cleared up my headache in no time."
"I'm not taking something called Magic Midgets," Gia protested. "Who knows
what they'd do?"
Victoria put a hand to her stomach. "I'm going to try them. They can't make
me feel any worse."
One round of Magic Midgets later, the party were, at least, able to sit up
and talk intelligently. The pills had also rendered their memories of the
night before somewhat less blurry; though opinion varied on whether or not
this was a good thing.
"Let's make sure we're all up to date." Gia pushed her hair out of her
eyes, not for the first time. "Zoe didn't turn up for the-- what was it
"Cascade Fandango," Isobel said, checking her pendant. "But we didn't think
much of it at the time. You just said it was her lookout, and went back to
your kissing competition."
"We agreed not to mention the kissing competition," Victoria said.
"You just don't want to think about all those people you snogged," Samantha
said. "It's like, you drink enough and all your inhibitions go kablooey in
one go. Same thing with Gia," she added pensively. "I wonder if that's why
you two get on so well together?"
"We agreed not to mention it," Victoria repeated. "Anyway, I wasn't the one
who tried to romance a standard lamp."
"I wish I'd had my camera for that," Isobel said. "I think you were really
in with a chance there, too. He was a good catch. Tall, elegant, such a
"All right, all right," Samantha said. "Point taken. Let's talk about
"OK. Whatever did you do to your costume?"
Samantha looked down at her stained fuku. "Had a bit of an accident."
"I mean I spilled my drink. Get your mind out of the gutter."
"Zoe'll go spare when she sees it."
"That's what I said to Victoria." Something tickled Samantha's memory.
"Yeah, she said she'd just seen Zoe. When was that? In the bar, just before
that thing with all the foam. Don't you remember, Victoria?"
"My head feels as if it's full of cotton wool." Victoria closed her eyes.
"Oh, yes. That's right. She was with another girl-- well, a woman, really. A
stranger." Hastily, she described the brief glimpse she'd had.
"And no-one saw her after that?" Gia said.
Jamie shook his head. "I danced with her, but that was early on. Then she
went off to explore with Isobel."
Isobel nodded. "That's right. Then my next dance came up, so she went off
on her own. And that must have been at least an hour before Victoria saw her."
"So she went off with a girl," Samantha said. "So what? Maybe they crashed
out somewhere like we did. Or maybe she went back to the Round."
"But maybe she didnae," Jamie said. "We ought tae make sure no harm's come
to her before we go back."
"I should like to wash my face first," Victoria said. "Is there a bathroom
Jamie pointed. "Through that door."
"What about spare clothes?" Samantha said, as Victoria disappeared into
the bathroom. "Don't suppose there's any of them?"
"Oh, great. Just look at us. Sailor Spillage and the scatty squad."
"Is that so?" Jamie asked. "What does that make me-- Hang on. Someone's
He jumped to his feet and crossed to the door. As he opened it, the sound
of desperately running footsteps could be heard. A young woman with a shaved
head threw herself into the room, her elaborate ballgown trailing behind her,
and a domino mask dangling from one hand.
"Hide me!" she gasped. "Please!"