Redhead Meets Broccoli-Head
When Roxanne woke up the following morning, she figured Brandy must've had a stomach virus after all, because Roxanne literally felt sick to her stomach. She knew it couldn't have been anything else. She was a virgin, after all. Not that everyone else knew that. But the moment Roxanne climbed out of bed, the only place she knew she wanted to be in was the bathroom. After rushing right in, she got down on her knees and threw up loudly in the toilet. Her cheeks burned, not just with sickness but embarrassment. She didn't get sick often, but when she did, it hit like a hammer to the head. And she was sure everyone heard it too.
She was more than certain of it when she saw Georgia come through the door. The moment she saw the look on her face, Roxanne said the first thing that came to mind. "No, I'm not pregnant!" She then turned back to the toilet and threw up a little bit more, her pulse pounding and sweat breaking out on her forehead.
"Oh boy," she heard Georgia say as she panted, "then I guess we really do have a bug going around here, don't we?"
Still panting, Roxanne pulled her head back to look toward the ceiling, almost as if she were looking at heaven itself. "Why did it have to come to Mars?"
"Well, it's been true throughout most of history that wherever people go, so does sick. It happened when settling lands, I'd think it would happen settling planets."
"Well, it's stupid," Roxanne groaned. Feeling like a five-year-old, both over what she said just now and the fact that she was ill, she forced herself back up and trudged her way to her bed. She then flopped across it and turned her head toward Georgia. "You're gonna have to cancel my performance tonight. I don't care if there's a riot."
"And neither do I," Georgia gave a kind smile. "I'll find someone else. You just stay in bed and I'll get you medicine and something to eat."
"Make sure you bring a bucket too, if you don't mind." Georgia nodded, and then left Roxanne in peace. But she was actually wallowing in misery. Still, as she rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling, again, Roxanne couldn't help but turn her lips upward. At least she didn't get sick yesterday, and now she had five million additional woolongs. Of course, neither Georgia nor anyone else could know. She had a separate bank account in which she got her bounty money.
She'd set it up shortly after she arrived at Heaven's Gate. She knew she wanted to be a bounty hunter. It was almost as though her life had been building up to that point in her life when she finally made it so. She'd walked into the bank, where she'd worn the clothes she wore last night – including the scarf around her face – and immediately, heads had turned her way. Roxanne had a private talk with one of the bankers, claiming that her parents had just now allowed her to set up an account of her own. To explain the scarf, she'd said that she'd been in a fire recently, and was hiding the scars. Another fictional story that wasn't entirely fictional.
Amazingly, the banker bought her story. And Roxanne filed it under the name "Venus Kepler" – the coolest name she could think up at the time – using a forged ID. She'd already used her initials for her second pseudonym. So using them a third time would draw too much attention. But every time she collected a bounty, that was the account she used. Roxanne knew she could get in big, big trouble if she got caught. Not just with the people catching her, but the authorities as well since it was a false ID. But sometimes, some rules had to be broken if you were on the run and no one believed you. It was a hard existence, but one she managed to get some meaning from nonetheless.
Awhile later, Georgia returned with some medicine for her to take and some soup for her to eat. Once she'd thanked Georgia and had been left alone again, Roxanne almost cried. It had been so long since she had a real mother, almost a lifetime. And Georgia had been so kind to her in the past year she almost felt as though she didn't deserve it. After all, she was a runaway outlaw with a bounty on her head. What would Georgia have done if she'd heard about her before she came to Heaven's Gate? What would she think if she found out right now? Roxanne didn't know. And had to keep reminding herself that Georgia still didn't know. But even so, her hand trembled as she took the medicine and then ate the soup. And she was sure it wasn't just her sickness.
The hour was late, and Spike stood outside Heaven's Gate for the third time in three nights. This was it. The time had come for him to meet with "Rosemary Singer" and have a little chat with her. She may have fooled the people here she knew. But she hadn't been able to fool him, a complete stranger. Even now he was amazed that no one here seemed to have put the pieces together. Either they were idiots or this woman was really good at keeping secrets. Whatever the case, he had good reason to believe that not only was this "Rosemary Singer" not who she claimed to be. Not only was she a moonlighting bounty hunter. But she also may be Roxanne Sadler. A bounty hunter with a bounty on her head. A bounty that would soon be his.
Still, even as he went over his planned conversation one more time inside the club, Spike knew he'd be going with his gut instinct on the most important part. He knew this woman looked too similar to Sadler to not be her. From her statistics, he couldn't recall her having a twin sister. And he'd brought the two strands of dyed hair with him. He had evidence, just not all on paper. Then again, paper was becoming pretty obsolete now that it was 2072. That is except for things like cigarettes, one of which he badly wanted to smoke right now. But he wouldn't. Spike believed the man that night when he said he'd get thrown out. And he wasn't going to risk it a second time, much as it annoyed him.
Just then, the singer's last song ended. While everyone else in the club applauded, Spike didn't. Oh, she was fine. But not every woman was going to get an applause from him just because she sang well. She had to be exceptional. Just like someone he was starting to remember... Spike shook his head. Not here. Not now. He was focusing on one woman tonight, and she was only two floors above him. It was now or never. Getting up from his seat, he strode casually over to the two large men in suits at the side of the stage.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," he said in a tone of mock politeness with a smile that matched. The two stared down at his puny frame, but he wasn't intimidated. In fact, his smile only grew. "Yeah, I have a special appointment with one of this club's fine ladies."
Roxanne knew she had to ask Georgia what that medicine was. She was almost completely better now. She still felt a bit nauseous, but she'd stopped throwing up hours ago. Must be a new wonder drug. That was her first guess. Whatever it was, Roxanne had never been happier to get better. She hated being stuck in one place all day, as much as she loved her room. Nah. She had to move to really think. And being a bounty hunter involved a lot of moving. She was considering whether or not she was well enough to exercise some more when a knock sounded on her door.
"Miss Singer?" She recognized that voice. It was one of the bouncers. Ugh. They only showed up at her door for one reason. But she found she didn't want to be rude.
"Come in," she said politely. Only one of them walked in, the other holding a person she couldn't see behind. The bouncer closed the door. "Yes, what is it?"
"There's a young man outside the door," he replied with a point of his thumb. "He says he has a 'special appointment' with you. Is this true?"
Roxanne was about to say not, but she quickly stopped herself. She had a bad feeling about this man, but it wasn't a usual bad feeling. She still remembered that she'd been followed last night. And for the rest of the night and all of today, she'd kept both her gun and her knife in the top drawer instead of the bottom. Roxanne knew he might come. But she didn't think he'd come like this, when he could be so easily stopped. And who knew? He might not be her stalker. But even if he was, she decided, she had to know why he followed her. So she nodded at the bouncer.
"Let him in." The bouncer nodded back, while Roxanne mentally prepared herself for what she might see. But, in defiance of any expectations, in walked a young man whom Roxanne almost immediately raised her eyebrows at.
Tall, broad shoulders, and probably muscular underneath that suit. Messy dark green hair with brown eyes that showed a bit of cockiness. And he was certainly young, probably in his late-twenties. Indeed, Roxanne silently admitted, had circumstances been different, much different, she probably would have found him somewhat handsome. But she also quickly remembered who this guy probably was, and was not about to let her guard down. One could be handsome and still be a villain. She had learned that firsthand. Still, as her stare lingered, Roxanne was troubled by the air of familiarity that seemed to surround him like an aura. She had seen him before, but couldn't pinpoint exactly where.
It wasn't until then, she realized, that he was surveying her with about as much fixation as she was him, making her feel almost exposed. Who was this guy? Well, Roxanne decided, she would find out soon enough. But that didn't stop her from pulling her knees up to her chest.
Even so, she quickly regained her courage with a smirk. "If you're looking for a good time you ain't gonna find it in here."
The man returned her smirk. "Really?" he asked with a deep voice. "I'd figure a pretty young thing like you would get plenty of offers."
Roxanne narrowed her eyes slightly. "Yeah. And I turn them all away."
He shrugged his shoulders, and continued on speaking as if she hadn't spoken at all. "Can't really blame 'em. I mean, nice layered hair. Big, soulful eyes. And the silk pjs are a nice touch. Periwinkle looks good on you."
Roxanne regarded him thoughtfully. "I'll give you points for flattery. But not all girls are stupid enough to fall for that. So, either you leave in peace or I'll call the bouncers and have them introduce your butt to concrete."
He chuckled. He actually chuckled. Was he really this full of himself? Roxanne opened her mouth to call for the bouncers, when the guy held up his hand. "Wait. What if I actually didn't come here for what you think?"
Roxanne's gaze immediately turned suspicious. And her heart began to pound nervously against her chest. Was this guy the one who had the testicular fortitude to stalk her last night? Well, if he was, then she was going to find out why. Now. She flipped her hair out of her face. "What do you mean?" she asked in mock innocence.
He casually put his hands in his pockets. "Well, if you'd be kind enough not to let my butt meet concrete, I'll tell you."
For a whole, solid moment, he and Roxanne stared at each other, almost as if they waited for the other to make the next move. In a bizarre way, Roxanne didn't really know what to think of this guy. She could usually read people pretty easily. But this one just seemed like an enigma, which automatically meant he could be more dangerous. Still, facing danger was part of being a bounty hunter. And whatever this guy had up his sleeve, she'd be ready.
She put her feet on the floor and pointed to a chair near the door. "Have a seat." He did as she said, grabbing the chair and sitting in it with the back to his front. "Though, you might want to scoot back a little bit, 'cause I've been sick all day. You can look at my vomit bucket in the corner if you don't believe me."
"I think I'll take your word for it," Spike smiled at her humor, or her attempt at it.
Roxanne spoke before he could. "First things first. You got a name, sir?"
His mouth turned in a cheeky smile. "You can call me Spike. That's all I answer to."
Whether or not that was his real name – which it likely wasn't – Roxanne didn't care. At least she had something to call him by. "And I'm Rosemary Singer," she replied, using her alias. "Though you probably already knew that. But you're only allowed to call me Miss Singer."
Now he spoke before she could. "Right... First off, Miss Singer, I didn't come here to have sex with you."
Roxanne raised an eyebrow. Wasn't he blunt? "Well, Spike, what other reason could you have to be in my room right now?"
Whereas most men would've sat in the front of the chair with their legs crossed, Spike simply leaned forward on the back of the chair and put his chin on his wrists. "Let's just say, I work in the business of, finding wanted people and turning their sorry hides in for a big payday."
Now things were getting interesting. But Roxanne was still on the defensive. "You're a bounty hunter, then?"
Spike's smile grew. "Ain't she smart?" He then chuckled to himself before he went on. "Yes, I am. And I think you can help me."
"How so?" she asked, deciding to play along, for now. "All I am is a club singer."
"That you are," Spike nodded in agreement. "And a very good one, by the way. I saw you a couple nights ago."
Roxanne raised her eyebrows, but not too much. So that was where she'd seen him. "Really? And, did I live up to your expectations? You probably know I sing more than any other here."
"Yep and yep. I gotta say your boss has great taste. Especially since your name is Singer." For some reason, Roxanne let her lips tilt slightly. She'd gotten compliments like this before, but somehow, coming from this guy, it felt a bit more genuine. But still, no matter how many charms he had, Roxanne knew by now he was hiding more than met the eye.
"But I digress," he went on. "See, I'm looking for a specific person. Her name is Roxanne Sadler."
On the outside, Roxanne's face didn't change. But inside, her heart was now pounding even harder than before against her chest. He...he knew about her. Not just her alias but, her. The real her she'd been trying to hide all these months. But how? Had he been hired by the ones trying to find her? Had he been watching her from the shadows for a long time? Or had he just only a short while ago learned about her and decided to make a quick woolong? Whatever the case, he was on her trail. But she couldn't let him catch up to her.
She kept her cool as she spoke. "And why are you looking for specifically her, may I ask?"
"Well, I've been in a bit of a slump for awhile," Spike explained. "And, I heard she was somewhere on Mars, and worth ten million woolongs. A pretty hefty payday compared to most. Her ex-boyfriend must really love her to pay that much to get her back. I would."
Now Roxanne knew. He was working for those who wanted her. He had to be! And it was becoming harder and harder for her to remain calm as he continued.
"Now, last night, I decided to do a bit of a stakeout on Heaven's Gate, and when it got dark I saw a person climb down the fire escape from the third floor. And they seemed to really like to play hide-and-seek in the shadows. I'd say I like it a bit too, if you asked me."
No. Oh please, to heaven above, no. "So I followed them," Spike went on, practically admitting it to her without shame. "And I even watched them take down someone else who had a bounty on their head. But when they went back the way they'd come, they dropped a couple things."
Spike then fished through his pocket, and pulled out a small ziplock bag. At first it looked like there was nothing in it, until he tossed it to her. On closer inspection, Roxanne discovered, to her now head-spinning horror, that there were two strands of dyed red-pink hair in the bag. Her own, and he knew it.
"Do you recognize those, Miss Singer?" he asked, his tone now a bit darker. Roxanne looked back up at him, and saw that his smile now faded. Having been replaced with a slightly raised, highly suspicious eyebrow. He was on to her. And there was nowhere for her to run or hide. Or was there?
Well, two could play at this game. Changing her tone of voice too, Roxanne glared at him. "Sir," she said, deigning to not use his name, "I don't know what you think you're getting into. But I think you'd better get out of here before things get really ugly."
Despite her words and tone, Spike gave a slight smirk. "Before you do something you'll regret, Miss Singer, you might as well tell me where she is." His smirk then left, replaced with the narrowed eyes of his own glare. "Or am I looking at her right now?"
That did it. Shoving any potential regret down into her gut, Roxanne dove for her drawer, pulled both her knife and gun out, and fired the gun at him. She missed though, sending the bullet into the wall instead of her target. Before he could grab her or take her weapons, Roxanne kicked him to the side and hurried to the door. As soon as she opened it, she raced down the hall past the alarmed bouncers, past everyone else. She knew Spike was going to be hot on her heels, especially with his long legs. But she was fast, and she wasn't about to let him – or anyone else for that matter – catch her now.
The moment Spike knew what she'd done, he knew his walking payday was getting away from him, and he literally sped into action. As he dashed down the halls after her, for a moment, he allowed himself to consider she might be unpredictable. She was a madhouse escapee. And even though she hadn't initially struck him as insane, that didn't mean she wasn't. She could also be a danger to herself as well as to those around her, and it wouldn't do at all if she killed herself.
But then, even as he continued to try and catch up with her, Spike found himself remembering the time he'd first seen her. Onstage here at Heaven's Gate. The way she sang, the way she carried herself. It reminded him for a sole moment about another person who seemed desperate to escape their past. Someone...like him. And even then, even here and now, she was running not just away from him, but from whatever haunted her. Just like Spike, in a bizarre way, was running toward her just to get away from what continued to haunt him day and night. He knew he shouldn't be thinking this way about someone he barely knew. So why was he? What was it about this person that made him feel this way?
Whatever it was, Spike quickly brought himself to the here and now and what he was doing. He was trying to catch another bounty. Just another bounty, he kept telling himself. Until he finally made it outside and skidded to a stop in front of the front door. There, right in front of him, Rosemary Singer – or rather, Roxanne Sadler – was surrounded by a circle of rough looking men with guns all pointed at her. Who they were and why they were here, Spike had no idea. But he did know one thing. If these people killed her, he could say goodbye to his ten million woolongs. Yet, for one reason or another, that soon wasn't the only motivation Spike wanted her to make it out of this place alive.