"Lola" by R. D. Davies, copyright 1970.
Penhall sidled up to Ioki's desk and perched on the corner. He cast a quick glance around the Chapel, just to be sure no one had taken undue notice of his activities, then cleared his throat. Ioki glanced up from the paperwork in front of him, a question in his eyes.
"Whatcha doin'?" Penhall asked.
This answer did not bode well for the success of the conversation. Obviously, Harry was in no mood for Doug's games this morning. Penhall briefly considered beating a strategic retreat, but decided against it. He had run out of time, which was why he'd found himself in this fix to begin with, and if he walked away now he wouldn't get another chance.
"The Prospect High case, huh?"
"Bet you're glad that's over."
Ioki shot him an irritated look but made no comment.
"I, uh, need a favor, Iok."
"No, I can't finish your arrest report for you. I'm busy."
"Oh, this isn't about work," Penhall assured him, all innocence, "it's about after work."
"You aren't gonna go away, 'til I say 'no', are you?"
Ioki laid down his pen, folded his hands in an exaggerated gesture of attention, and fixed wide, expectant eyes on his colleague. "Give it your best shot."
"Don't be so sure you're gonna say 'no', pal. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to..."
"Get to the point or get your butt off my desk."
Penhall sighed at his teammate's total lack of social graces. "Okay, I got this thing I have to go to tonight..."
"Party. It's a party for a friend of mine who just got promoted. You remember Fitz?"
"Yeah, she was your partner in Intelligence, right? She got promoted?"
"Yeah, well, looks like ol' Fitz is on the fast-track. She's been makin' some big collars and gettin' lots of attention from downtown. Rumor is, she'll be a lieutenant by this time next year."
"Good for her."
"I guess so," Penhall said, lugubriously.
"What's wrong? You don't think she's earned it?"
"Yeah, maybe, whatever. That's not the point." He sighed again, this time with a touch of self-pity. "She's havin' this shindig, with all her new power-broker buddies, and she's invited me."
Ioki grinned at him. "And you want me to make sure your shirt matches your tie, right?"
"Well, that'd be a big help, but that's not exactly the favor I had in mind."
"You're looking awfully nervous. Am I gonna hate this favor?"
Penhall opened his mouth to protest, then thought better of it and nodded grimly.
"Then why are you bothering to ask?" Ioki demanded.
"'Cause I really need your help, and you're my pal...my teammate...my ex-roomie..."
"It'd be better not to bring that up."
"Right. Sorry. So, whaddya say, Iok?"
"Will you be my date?"
Ioki blinked at him in surprise. "Wouldn't you rather take a girl?"
"I don't know any girls. I - I haven't been dating much, since Marta left..."
"She's workin' a stake-out tonight."
"Oh, yeah." Ioki thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. "If you want me to come with you, I will, but I wouldn't call it a date, if I were you." He grinned mischievously at the gloomy Penhall. "It won't do you any good with the Brass, and it won't make you feel any better about Fitz and her fast-track career, to pretend you're dating a guy."
"Uh...well...that's kinda the other part of the favor..."
Ioki's smile died. Growing suspicion showed in his eyes. "What are you talking about?"
"I was kinda figuring that you'd...sorta pretend..."
The warning in his voice made Penhall flinch. "Pretend to be a...girl."
"With the wig, and the heels, and everything."
"Are you out of your mind?!!"
"Shh! Keep it down!"
"How could you even suggest that?! Get off my desk, and get away from me! You are NUTS!"
"No, but I'm desperate, man! Okay, I admit it! I, Doug Penhall, am desperate!"
"What you are is brain damaged, if you think I'm gonna put on a cocktail dress and pretend to be your...I can't even say it!"
"Aw, come on! You've done it before," Penhall wheedled.
"On the job. When I didn't have any choice."
"Well...maybe you don't have any choice this time, either."
Ioki glared fiercely at him. "What do you mean?"
"You owe me, Iok."
His teammate thought about that, then suddenly reached for his wallet. "You're right. Twenty bucks for that pool game last week." He slapped a twenty on the desk and said, "Take it, and hire yourself an escort. And get away from me!"
"Only thing I can hire for twenty bucks is a...never mind. Keep it. The debt is cancelled, if you do this for me."
"Oh, I get it. My self-respect is worth less than a Working Girl's time. Very nice, Penhall."
"Your self-respect is what I'm thinking about, here, my friend. I want you to feel good about yourself again, to feel that you've paid a debt of honor and helped out a friend in crisis..."
"What debt of honor?"
"The Prospect High case." Ioki looked confused, so Penhall elaborated, "You guys woulda lost the collar, if I hadn't gotten Ritchie to talk. The perp woulda walked! Could you have lived with yourself, if that low-life had waltzed outta here clean? I don't think so."
"You did help us out. And you got credit for the collar in the report."
"I also saved your backside. Two more seconds, and you woulda been leaking from a few extra holes."
"Thank you, Doug, from the bottom of my heart. Now, go away."
Penhall shook his head mournfully. "I'm sorry you're makin' me do this, man. I really didn't want to."
"Tell Fuller how you spent that two weeks of sick leave you took...about the rehab clinic..."
Shock flooded Ioki's face, and he hissed, "You wouldn't! Doug, you promised!"
Penhall clapped his own hand over his mouth, and his eyes widened, as though he couldn't believe what he'd just said.
"How could you do that?" Ioki asked, so much genuine hurt and betrayal in his voice that it made Penhall wince. "I trusted you, Doug."
"You still can. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that." Ioki didn't seem convinced, so he added, pleadingly, "Don't be mad, Iokage! I swear, I wouldn't tell Fuller! I only said that 'cause...well, 'cause I'm desperate! I can't go to this party alone. I can't face Fitz and all those guys from Intelligence and Major Crimes and Metro Division, and admit that my whole life has gone on hold since I came back here. But I don't know anyone except my buddies here, at the Chapel, who'd cover for me."
"It's nuts. You think anyone at that party is gonna believe I'm your girlfriend? And if they did, how would that help any?"
"I wouldn't feel like I was alone."
The plaintive note in his voice pulled Ioki up short. He stared consideringly at Penhall's mournful face and felt his determination waver. "Why not ask Hanson? He looks much better in a dress than I do."
"Too many people there who might recognize him, from when he was hanging out with Jackie. Besides, I...I don't have the guts to ask. He'd give me that look, and I'd feel like a total jerk."
"You are a total jerk," Ioki told him, absently. His mind was obviously on something else. "I can't wear any of that stuff we use on the job. Where am I s'posed to get a decent dress?"
"I got a couple things Dorothy left at the house..."
"No offense, Penhall, but Dorothy had lousy taste. I wouldn't be caught dead in her clothes."
Penhall tried to smother a grin, but didn't quite succeed. He knew Ioki well enough to tell that he'd worn him down to the point of giving in. They'd moved from threats and insults to wardrobe, which meant his reluctant escort was one nudge away from surrender. "I never actually dated a girl with taste, before," he reflected. "This'll be a first for me."
"I didn't say I'd do it."
"Please, Harry? Please, please, please, please?"
"I won't be a blonde again," he warned.
"And if you pull any of that Dougie the Flirt stuff, I'll spike you with my heels."
"No flirting. Word of honor."
"There'd better not be anyone I know at this party!"
"Fitz'll be the only one you've ever laid eyes on, and she won't recognize you. Guaranteed." When Ioki crossed his arms and fired a glare at him, Penhall wheedled, "Does that mean you'll do it?"
"I owe you big time, Iok. I owe you my life."
"You owe me a damned sight more than that," Ioki grumbled, as Penhall broke out in a victorious smile.
*** *** ***
Penhall knocked politely on Ioki's door. It was precisely eight o'clock - right on time, for once. The door swung open, and Doug blinked in surprise at the Vision on the other side. He broke out in a wide, appreciative grin.
"Where'd you get the dress?"
"Hoffs." Ioki stepped back from the door, allowing Penhall to enter and giving him a clear look at the entire ensemble. "She says it's from her "fat" period. D'you believe Hoffs ever had a fat period?"
"You actually told Judy what we're doing tonight?"
Ioki shot him an uncomfortable look. "What else was I gonna do? I had to get a dress, and some jewelry, and some decent make-up... It isn't easy to get dressed for a party, Doug," he snapped.
Penhall's grin widened. "Guess not. So, this stuff is Judy's?"
"Everything except the wig and the shoes. Her feet are bigger than mine."
Penhall started to laugh, then realized that he meant it. "This is really starting to scare me."
"How d'you think I feel?" Ioki looked down at his clothing, wearing a doubtful frown. He tugged on the dress a little, trying to get it settled more comfortably, then asked, "Really, Doug, is anyone gonna buy this?"
Penhall took a moment to answer, letting his eyes stray over the small, trim figure in front of him. Hoffs' dress fit Ioki admirably - with a little strategic padding - and the artfully stretchy fabric made him look like he had curves where there couldn't possibly be any. It was a stylish black number, covered with shiny jet beads, that hung to mid-thigh and had a provocative slit up the back. A black velvet evening jacket gave the dress an air of sophistication and concealed the less-than-feminine contours of Ioki's shoulders and arms. Sheer stockings with rhinestone flowers at the ankles helped do the same for his legs, as did the suicidally high heels he wore. More rhinestones, very restrained make-up, manicured nails and a long silky black wig with bangs that brushed his eyebrows finished off the picture. All in all, Doug had to admit that Harry made a much more fetching girl than he would have thought possible - considering how he'd looked as a blonde.
He shook his head, grinning. "Yeah. That's what's so scary."
Ioki leaned over to get a good look at his own legs, then shot Penhall a wry glance. "You better hope everybody at that party is near-sighted."
"Aww, so you aren't exactly dainty. Who cares? I like my women healthy!"
With a muttered curse, Ioki snatched up his coat and herded Penhall toward the door. "Let's get this over with!"
"Whatever you say, Babe."
"And that's another thing!"
"What's my name? You can't call me Babe all night. And you better not call me Harriet!"
"Don't worry. I got it covered. Hey," he commented, as Ioki sashayed down the corridor ahead of him in his preposterous heels, "where'd you learn to walk like that?"
"Practice. I've been getting way too much practice."
Penhall chuckled. "Cool."
They arrived at the hotel after the party had long since warmed up. Penhall definitely wanted to make an appearance, but he also wanted to make sure he had plenty of crowd cover. Just in case. As they came in the door, Penhall slipped a proprietary arm around Ioki's waist, earning him a glare from the object of his solicitous affection.
Doug leaned close and murmured, "Smile, sweetie. It's show time."
No sooner had the words left his lips than a horribly familiar figure strode up to them, a smirk on her face and speculation in her eyes. "Douglas! It's so good to see you!"
"Fitz told me she'd invited you, but I didn't really expect you to show."
Penhall bristled. "You kidding? No way would I miss this! I think it's great that Fitz is movin' up in the world."
Jackie raised a skeptical eyebrow. "This isn't exactly your kind of party. As I recall, you and Hanson prefer pizza and beer to champagne and caviar."
"I'm learning to appreciate the finer things in life," he retorted, his arm tightening around his silent and glaring date.
Jackie turned those knowing eyes on Ioki and said, pleasantly, "It's a rare woman who can get Douglas into a suit. What did you use, a whip and chair?"
In his best, sugary falsetto, Ioki purred, "Blackmail."
"Careful, Babe. Jackie, here, works for the D.A. And she's got a nasty habit of using everything you say against you."
Jackie's eyes hardened, and her teeth clenched slightly. "Don't pay any attention to him, Miss..."
"Lola," Penhall supplied.
Before Jackie could deliver the sarcastic dig that obviously hovered on the tip of her tongue, Ioki held out his hand to her and said, in that same sweet, slightly husky voice, "Just Lola. You couldn't pronounce the rest of it."
Jackie shook his hand. "It's a pleasure. I'm Jackie Garrett. Doug and I used to work pretty closely together, back when he had a career."
"Yes." Ioki's smile turned venomous. "He's told me all about you."
"I'll bet he has."
Before the sparring could escalate into an all-out cat fight, Penhall tugged on Ioki's arm, drawing him away from Jackie. "We better find Fitz, before she's too plastered to remember my name. Come on, Doll. You can chat with Jackie later...much later."
Ioki gave Jackie one more level, vaguely threatening stare, then obediently fell into step beside Penhall. Jackie watched them leave, her smile gone and her brows drawn together in thought.
Something was most definitely wrong with this picture. She had the uneasy feeling that she knew 'Lola' from somewhere...somewhere that had nothing to do with beaded dresses and rhinestone earrings. In fact, if she didn't know better, she'd swear that was... No. Not possible.
Shaking her head to banish her suspicions, she headed across the room to find a drink and forget about the Jump Street Gang for the evening. If her eyes strayed a little too often toward Doug and Lola, well, it was just because she coveted that dress, not because she was letting her imagination run away with her. And certainly not because seeing Doug again had dredged up memories of a certain baby-faced, Bambi-eyed cop who had ripped a few chunks out of her heart when he dumped her... Yes, she definitely needed another drink.
Penhall and Ioki sailed through an audience with Fitz. She was the proverbial piece of cake, after dealing with Jackie "The Piranha" Garrett. As they wended their way through the crowd, looking for an empty table, Penhall called cheerful greetings to people he had known, briefly, back in his fast-track days. Most of them at least pretended to recognize him. Beside him, Ioki maintained a dignified silence and avoided meeting too many eyes directly. He couldn't help feeling a little smug at how deftly they had carried this off, and while he still didn't understand why it had been so important to Penhall that he come, he was glad he hadn't blown Doug's big evening.
Penhall snagged a glass of champagne from a passing tray and offered it to him.
"Thanks." He watched the crowd over the rim of the glass, while he sipped the nasty, bubbly stuff. They were mostly just cops, regular guys like Doug, pretending to be more than they were...like Doug. Too bad Penhall felt he had to compete with these drones. Then he saw Captain Fuller.
Penhall caught the note of panic in his voice and turned a questioning eye on him.
"Look!" Ioki hissed, "over there by the bar!"
"Awww, man! We're screwed!"
"He's coming this way. Doug!"
"C'mon." Penhall grabbed his hand and pulled him quickly into the crowd. It took them only a moment to lose themselves among all the chattering, posturing, laughing people. When they could no longer see the captain's debonair figure through the wall of bodies, they heaved a sigh of relief.
Penhall dropped into the nearest chair and started to laugh.
"It isn't funny," Ioki snapped.
"Watch the voice, Babe."
"It isn't funny," he repeated, in Lola's dulcet tones. "What if he recognizes me in this get-up?"
"He'll probably ask you for a dance."
Ioki groaned and buried his face in his hands. "I'm so dead! Why did I let you talk me into this?"
"Because you need a little risk in your life."
"This isn't risk. It's insanity. Oh, God, here he comes again!"
Once more, they barely made it out of Fuller's line of sight in time. It was now clear that he wanted to talk to Penhall - and meet his lady friend - and drastic measures were in order. After two more close calls, Ioki started to panic and insist that Penhall take him home.
"I can't yet. I gotta be here for the big toast."
"Doug, please! If Fuller sees me like this, I'll...I'll...I'll jump in front of a bus!"
"I got a better idea. Come with me." Stifling Ioki's protests, he led him across the nearly empty dance floor to where the DJ stood at his console. "I got a request for you, man. See, it's our Anniversary, and I promised my sweetie I'd get you to play our song."
"Sure, bud. What's the tune?"
Ioki listened to Penhall exchanging pleasantries with the DJ and bit back a scream of frustration. The moment Penhall quit talking, he jerked him out of the other man's hearing and whispered, furiously, "I'm not going to dance with you!"
"Not even to our song?"
"Doug, get a grip! We don't have a song!"
"Course we do!" In a more serious tone, he added, "Think about it, Iok. Fuller's here alone, and he's not doing any dancing. We're safe out here on the floor."
Ioki had to admit the logic of that, but he still looked dubious. As the slow dance number ended, and the swaying couples looked up and around, he leaned over to Penhall to whisper, "What is our song?"
On cue, a jangling '60s guitar riff began to pour from the speakers. Penhall took Ioki's hand and pulled him onto the dance floor, just as the heavily-accented voice of Ray Davies cut in:
Ioki broke out in a wide smile, and his eyes began to sparkle with mischief. "So, that's where you got the name!"
"Only the best for my girl."
Penhall caught Ioki's wrist, spinning him around and pulling him close in the same movement. Ioki took one look at the pure fun brimming in his eyes and began to laugh. This was beyond insane, and they would both regret it in the morning - if not sooner - but if he was going to wear high heels and a wig, he was damned well going to enjoy himself! So he quit worrying about Fuller and Jackie and his wounded dignity and started dancing with Doug.
Penhall's piercing wolf whistle brought Jackie's head around with a start. He was dancing - or more accurately, watching his girlfriend dance - and reacting with his usual lack of decorum. Jackie shook her head in wry amusement. Only Doug Penhall would behave this way at a snotty function like this, though he seemed to have found an appropriate partner in Lola. Jackie turned her chair so she could see them better and watched with a snide - but faintly envious - smile tilting her lips.
The next time Ioki moved up close to him, Penhall remarked, "I'll never understand how you do that in those shoes!"
"It's a gift."
"For somebody, anyway."
As Penhall once more caught his partner against him, he bent to whisper something in her ear. Jackie could not hear their voices, but she saw Lola grin and punch him playfully on the arm in response. At that gesture, something clicked in her head. Her eyes flew open. Her jaw dropped. Then she buried her face in her hands and laughed 'til she choked.
As Captain Fuller strolled through the crowd, he glanced over at the dance floor and smiled. Penhall was certainly enjoying himself. Fuller hadn't met his date, yet, though he had tried several times to corner the couple and wangle an introduction. He had the strong feeling that Doug was avoiding him. Maybe he didn't want to introduce his captain to his latest inamorata. Lord knows, he had picked some winners over the years, and he'd grown a little shy about exposing his exploits to his colleagues.
Fuller watched the couple, and his smile widened. At least this girl had decent taste in clothes. In fact, that dress looked remarkably familiar...like something he'd seen Hoffs wearing recently... His brows drew together in a frown. There was something very familiar about the woman, as well, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
As the music built to a climax, Penhall grabbed his partner around the waist and swung her into a dip hard enough to give her whiplash. In the split second that she faced the room, looking at the crowd inverted over Penhall's arm, her eyes met Fuller's and widened in alarm.
The captain suddenly choked on his drink, spraying champagne across the floor and several pairs of expensive shoes. By the time he had recovered his breath and apologized to the people around him, another dancing couple had obscured his view of the floor. He swore colorfully, then slammed his glass down on a table and headed purposefully toward his wayward officers.
Harry clutched Doug's arm in panic and hissed, "Fuller saw me!"
"Oh, man! Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure!"
Harry looked to be on the verge of hysterics, and Doug was completely at a loss. If his 'girlfriend' started hyperventilating in the middle of the dance floor, they'd be royally screwed. He caught Harry around the waist again and made a move to lead him off the floor, to find someplace private where he could pitch a fit without blowing their cover.
Before they had taken more than two steps, a familiar figure loomed up in front of them, and a deep voice said, "Excuse me, Penhall, but may I cut in?"
"I promise I'll behave myself. I've been wanting to meet your date all night."
Ioki looked up into his commanding officer's face and groaned, "I need a drink!"
He tried to bolt from the dance floor, but once again, he didn't get very far. This time, Fuller caught his arm in a vice grip, halting his undignified flight, and purred, "I'll bet you do. Allow me."
He tucked Harry's hand into the crook of his own elbow and strolled casually toward the bar, forcing Ioki to go with him. When they reached the bar, he glanced down at Harry and asked, pleasantly, "What are you drinking?"
"Better make it a double." The bartender looked confused, so Fuller took pity on him and said, "A couple of beers, please. And some Valium for the lady."
As the man moved away to get the drinks, Ioki cast a terrified look up at Fuller through his impossible lashes, and said, "I can explain, Captain."
"No, I don't think you can."
"It was Doug's idea. Honest."
"Now that I believe."
"Oh, God, I wish I were dead!"
"You keep dancing like that in those shoes, and you will be."
Something about the tremor in Fuller's voice made Ioki risk another glance at him. The captain wore his usual stern face, but he had his lips pressed together suspiciously tightly, and his eyes were almost popping out of his head. He looked as though he were about to explode. At Harry's nervous look, Fuller took one shaking breath and burst into gales of laughter. He had to clutch the bar with both hands to keep his balance, and his eyes were swimming with tears by the time he came up for air.
Ioki watched him with a mixture of relief and wounded pride, not at all sure that having his captain convulsed with laughter over this was any better than having him foaming with rage.
Fuller saw the expression on his face and started laughing again. Between guffaws, he choked out, "Harry, this is priceless! Some day, you have to tell me how Penhall talked you into it!"
"If I ever figure it out, myself."
Fuller shook his head in disbelief. "You better pray this never gets around!"
"Captain...you wouldn't tell anyone, would you?"
"Me? Adam Fuller? Your commanding officer? Your mentor, guide, teacher and friend? You're asking me if I would squeal on you?" Ioki gazed mournfully up at him, doing his best impression of an abandoned puppy in heavy make-up and rhinestones, and Fuller chuckled. "Your secret's safe with me, Harry."
Ioki heaved a sigh of relief. "Then nobody has to know."
*** *** ***
The next morning progressed as every morning did in the Chapel. Ioki arrived early, Penhall arrived late, and the others traipsed in somewhere between the two extremes. If Hoffs smiled a little more widely at her partner than usual, no one noticed. And if Fuller's polite questions as to how he had spent the evening were suspiciously bland, well, no one seemed to notice that, either. Ioki began to relax. He could trust both Hoffs and Fuller to keep last night's adventure to themselves, and Penhall knew better than to blab, if he wanted to live out the day.
For his part, Penhall gave every sign of having forgotten that last night had ever happened. He bounced over to Ioki's desk, somewhere around the middle of the morning, and slapped a fat manila folder in front of him.
"New case, over at the City College, Iok. You and me. Got any wardrobe suggestions?"
"As long as it's pants," Ioki muttered under his breath.
Before Penhall could come up with a suitable response, a stranger appeared at the top of the stairs, clutching an enormous sheaf of exotic flowers that filled both his arms. Both Penhall and Ioki swiveled around to face him. He cleared his throat politely and said,
"I'm looking for Harry Ioki?"
Ioki's eyes flew open. "What for?"
"That's him," Penhall chimed in, gleefully, pointing at his wary colleague.
"Could you sign this please, sir?"
By the time Ioki had signed for the flowers and tipped the delivery man, Hoffs and Hanson had gravitated over to his desk to investigate. He sat behind the mound of flowers, looking confused, while Hoffs rooted through them for a card. She finally produced it, handing it to her partner with a flourish.
"I'm impressed, Harry. Whoever she is, she must be, too."
The others waited for him to open the envelope, eyes alight with curiosity. Harry pulled out the card and read:
"Oh, no!" he groaned.
"What? What is it?" Penhall demanded, while Hoffs took the more direct approach and plucked the card from Ioki's suddenly numb fingers.
"I'm dead. I'm dead."
Hoffs started to laugh. "Poor Harry!"
"It isn't funny." He dropped his head onto his desk, so that he disappeared into the mountain of flowers, and groaned, "I'm dead!"
Over the sound of Hoffs' laughter, Hanson began to sing, softly, "I met her in a club down in old Soho..."
"Not you, too!" Harry protested.
"'Fraid so, Iokage."
"I am so dead."
Giving Ioki a pat on the shoulder, Hanson strolled away, still singing, "Now I'm not dumb but I can't understand why she walk like a woman and talk like a man..."