Disclaimer: I am not Lisa Lutz, nor do I own the brilliant 'Spellman Files' series.
Author's Note: So I just finished reading Revenge of the Spellman's last night, and my immediate thought upon closing the book was, "Wtf happened to Henry?!" And because I'm unduly impatient and simply cannot allow this to irritate me until March and the next book in the series, I wrote this. It takes place in Rae's senior year, during an otherwise unspecified time.
Hopefully this won't be too uncanon once the next book comes out. Hopefully.
Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!
"I've been thinking."
"I'd really rather you didn't."
"You need a fake name," I told Henry, completely ignoring the obvious insinuation that he didn't want to know. That was mainly how it went with us, I'd noticed— he subtly implied basic etiquette that he'd like me to adhere to, and I, you know, didn't. Funny how those things work out.
Henry gave me a withering look. "Please list five reasons I require a false name," he said.
"Easy. One, you're a cop. You never know when some criminal's going to want to take you out."
"I see you're putting a positive spin on things."
"Always. So a fake name could throw off possible hit men. Two, let's say you hire a hooker."
This is where Henry choked on the (disgusting, herbal) tea he was drinking. "Excuse me?!"
"We're pretending you don't have standards, okay?" I said impatiently. "Though I'm sure if anyone could find a classy hooker, it's you..."
"Could we please move on? Because as far as I can tell, this little prostitute-scenario you have going isn't very convincing, false-name-wise."
"Oh yeah. Well, if you're hooking up with a hooker— haha, hooking up with a hooker... Oh my God, it's like the best accidental pun ever…"
"Hmm? Oh, right. So if you're hookin' up with a... ahem, lady of questionable morals—"
"Excuse me, Queen Victoria?" Henry snorted.
"Shut up," I said/ordered. With me, the two tend to be interchangeable. "Basically, you have to have a fake name to use with your hooker so nobody finds out about it and your reputation goes down the toilet."
"Can I interject," Henry said, even though he was clearly already doing so, "that the likelihood of that happening is somewhere in the range of 'hell freezing over' and 'Rae giving up recreational surveillance cold turkey'?"
"Point taken," I allowed. "But you've only heard my first two reasons."
"I'm beginning to see why people around you tend to drink a lot."
"Hey," I snapped, "are you implying that I can only be handled by someone with copious amounts of alcohol in heir system?"
"Copious," Henry said. "Good word."
"Thanks. I work on cultivating the 'semi-intelligent' appearance when I can."
"It's paying off."
"And your distractions really suck. So, fake-name-reason number three!"
"Goodie," Henry deadpanned.
"What if I commit murder one day and we have to flee the country?"
"Where are we fleeing to?"
"Oh, I see how it is. Objections all around when I mention you and a hooker, but when it's me and a dead body hangin' out it's just, 'So, where are we going?'"
"Your family has a history."
Oh, that was just low. "Don't we have a clause somewhere about never mentioning the accidental-vehicular-manslaughter?" I asked.
"Almost accidental, Isabel. There's a very large distinction there, mainly my life. And I have full right not to abide by any of the ridiculous clauses."
"What do you mean, ridiculous? Which ones are ridiculous?" I demanded, getting just a little bit peeved.
"All of them," Henry replied.
"That's just mean."
"You do realize that most men would refuse to sign a contract in the first place, right?"
"It was highly thought out and lovingly rendered."
"As most dating contracts tend to be. I still don't know why that whole 'no porn addictions' clause was needed."
"I've had a lot of exes," I said vaguely. "Anyway, for your information, we'd be going to Siberia."
Henry sighed heavily, which was his way of telling me that he was pretty sure he didn't want to know, but couldn't help asking. It never failed. "Why Siberia?"
"Rae has a low tolerance for cold," I said. "She'd follow us anywhere else."
"Ah," Henry said, accepting this explanation immediately, mainly because he knew I was right. And he also knew that Rae wouldn't be following us for me— she'd be following us for her 'best friend,' which probably should have offended me more than it did.
"So, where were we?"
"Never mind, you're just going to try to distract me again, which means I'll have to pause to laugh at your efforts," I said. And I would. "Okay, reason number four for why you need a fake name: if I drag you on surveillance with me, you're going to need something better than Henry Onestay while we're tailing a suspect."
"Pardon me, Miss Ellmanspay?" Henry said.
"Shut up," I instructed. "See, that's my point. I hate that name. You need to start out with a better one."
"So why don't you change yours?" Henry asked, still ignoring the part about him being the one who needed the name, not me.
"Duh. I already have the business cards made," I told him. "Work with me, please." When Henry didn't answer right away (read: in the next second and a half) I went on, "And now mypièce de résistance, raison numéro cinq—" Henry opened his mouth, and I could tell he was dying to inquire about the French (Rae got sick of two years of Spanish; I got study-buddy duty), but I didn't pause "—you need a fake name so Helen doesn't come to kill me in my sleep."
Deep sigh time. "I'm fairly sure my ex-wife makes no plans to kill you at any time, Isabel. Though how this connects to my false name, I'm not sure I even want to know..."
"Simple," I said cheerfully, deciding to be affectionate for the moment— I had just brought up Hell-En (Rae's name; I just happen to agree with it), after all —and leaned my head on Henry's shoulder. "When she beats me to death with a sack of wheat flour—"
At this, Henry actually burst out laughing. "Of course it's not stabbing you or poisoning you. Of course."
"Did you really expect it to be?" I asked rhetorically. "Okay, so I'm lying in the bed covered in flour—"
"Helen's a very sloppy murderess," Henry remarked.
"Shhh. And you know it was her."
"How exactly to I come to this conclusion?"
"Um, because we just talked about it. Who else would beat me to death with a sack of wheat flour?"
"I can think of a few people."
"...Yeah, so can I. But Helen did this one, okay? And you need a fake name so you can tip off the police anonymously."
"I am the police."
Oh. Right. Dammit. "Well, we're already in Siberia because I finally got off my ass and killed David. So you're no longer on any police force, except maybe one with polar bears and stuff."
"There aren't any polar bears in Siberia," Henry said. Oh, pardon me Mr. I-use-logic-to-my-advantage. "And why would they be on the police force? What, are officers up there riding them around instead of cars?"
Okay, I admit it, that was kind of funny. "Totally," I said. "But you see? I just gave you five perfectly good, socially acceptable reasons for why you need a fake name."
I thought I heard Henry cough something like 'prostitutes,' but I chose to ignore it. For now, anyway. "So!" I said enthusiastically, clapping my hands together. "I vote for 'Honey Stern.' Lemme go make up the paperwork."
I actually managed to hop up from the bed before Henry's hand grabbed at the back of my shirt, tugging me back down with a lot more spazzing on my part than was probably necessary. Once I managed to re-situate myself, Henry was busy staring me down. Along with cleaning and being generally anal, it's his favorite hobby.
"You bullshitted those five reasons just so you could give me that name," he said.
"Hey! Hey. I highly resent that implication, true as it may be," I said, sounding appropriately offended. "And please check your language, I am exceedingly impressionable."
"It sounds like a stripper name!"
"Ex-actly," I enunciated. "That's why when you get mail in that name, I'll have it forwarded to the local strip club."
"I'm not going to get mail in that name."
"Okay," I said.
Henry's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What do you mean, 'okay'?" he asked. "It's never just 'okay' with you."
"Well, today it is," I said cheerfully, and then started to calculate the distance from bed to window. Two seconds of running and a rip through the screen, and I should be good.
"Isabel," he said, a warning in his voice. I determined that Henry's house's closeness to a bus stop could be easily taken advantage of. In fact, it would be criminal not to do so.
"Henry," I countered.
It took approximately three more seconds for his face to twist up in horror. "Oh for God's sake, Isabel!"
"Bye!" I yelped, and was tearing his screen into an Izzy-sized hole before Henry even registered where I'd gone. Unfortunately, in my experience, I've found that cops have unusually good reflexes. Luckily, I've also been dealing with this since I was about fifteen. I'd had more than enough time to steel myself against that particular advantage he had over me.
I waved at Henry from the tree beside his bedroom window, deciding to monkey it as far as I could to the bus stop. He was still yelling at me three trees and one perilous balancing act later when my cell started vibrating. I fumbled it out of my pocket, praying that I wouldn't drop it. Because if I did, I was going to be cell phone-less. Like I was shimmying down a ten foot tree that I wouldn't be able to get back up into again.
"Hello?" I said, clinging stomach-down to the tree branch of Henry's semi-neighbor.
"Isabel?" It was one of Henry's coworkers, Leo Fitzgerald. I'd met him a few times, but was pretty sure he still didn't like me very much after the whole 'you ran a criminal check on my mother?' thing. (Hey, she sounded suspicious. Sue me. ...Actually, I'm pretty sure Henry stopped Leo from doing just that.)
"Leo," I said, brushing a few leaves out of my hair. "What can I do for you?" Shit, was that Henry's car starting down the road?
I expected an irritated tone, but Leo just sounded confused. Hedging my bets on the fact that Henry was, in fact, following me via car, I started shimmying my way down the branch as Leo talked. "Um, we just got a letter for someone named 'Honey Stern.'"
Dammit! I knew I had too many fake name/businesses/e-mails/PO Boxes to keep track of. "Huh," I said noncommittally, hopping into the next house's tree with a risky jump. I froze against the trunk, hiding behind the foliage. "How odd. Did you need me to look into it?"
Maybe this is why my mother refers to me as a pathological liar. Leo said, "Oh no, that's okay. Your sister was over when it came and when she saw it, she said you probably had it forwarded to Henry."
I was going to kill Rae. "Oh! Right, yes, of course. I don't know how that could slip my mind." Note to self: keep all fake accounts in order. That thing was supposed to go straight to the strip club, goddammit.
A dull beep sounded in my ear, and I jumped. Not a good idea in a tree, just so you know. "Hey Leo, that's my other line. I'll pick up the letter later today, okay?"
I looked at the number that was calling me, winced, and switched over without listening to Leo's answer.
"I am going to kill you," Henry said.
"I may have to take that threat to the cops, sweetcakes."
"How many times must I remind you, I am the cops!"
"You seem upset, my little croissant."
"Gee, I wonder," he said sarcastically. "Spill, Isabel."
"What is there to spill, darling danish?"
"Cut it with the nicknames," he growled. "Which goddamn tree are you in?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said, falling back on an oldie but goody. "My little pie a la mode," I added. I needed a new strategy to throw him off. Think Izzy, think!
"Is. A. Bel."
"I love it when you speak my name in syllables!" I said on a whim, waving in what I like to think was a friendly manner to the man across the street who'd been staring at me as I crossed from tree to tree down the road. "It makes me hot!"
"Yell my name some more."
"I'm being serious."
"I love it when you're serious. Be serious some more!"
"This isn't funny!"
"I love it when you lack humor! Do it some more!"
"I'm calling your mother," he threatened.
"Oh, threats totally do it for me, baby." I could see the bus stop in the distance. So close to victory.
"On the count of three," Henry informed me.
"Ooh, I love it when you count. It's like sex for my mind."
He totally wasn't going to do it.
"Yeah, say that number."
"Two," he continued.
"Oh yeah, you can handcuff me any time."
"Two and a half."
"Fine!" I shouted, slumping against the trunk of my latest tree. The branch I was standing on was wide enough that I could slide down to straddle it, which only made me realize that I'd lost one of my shoes. Whoops. I'd need to get on finding that. "You're evil," I told him.
"At least it doesn't make you hot."
"Oh come on, you loved that part."
"Not really. Isabel, please tell me the local strip club isn't getting any mail meant for me under the name Honey Stern."
"Now why would I do that?"
"There are plenty of reasons you would do that," he said impatiently. I peered around, trying to see if his car was anywhere near me. Safe so far. "You're you, for one."
"No, I mean why would I tell you?" I asked. "That's like gorging on the Kool-Aid."
"That isn't amusing."
"I think it is."
"Isabel," Henry said again.
"You seem to be saying my name a lot, cupcake."
"Can you stop with the pastry names?"
"Are you still scouting for me?"
There was a pause. "No."
"Liar. Stop tailing me and I won't ever call you that again." It was a high price since the names seemed to annoy him so much, but I rather liked my current tree-sitting position and wasn't in a hurry to move.
Henry sighed. How he managed to make it sound angry, I don't even know. "Fine. I'm done tailing you. Happy?"
I smiled. He wasn't a Spellman, and therefore I trusted him to follow his word. As long as I kept mind, that is. "Very."
"Good, because I'm not. Tell. Me. Now."
"Enunciate those words some more, baby."
"I'm going back out."
"No!" I yelped. "That totally didn't count."
"Tell me," he ordered.
I squirmed. "Um, I may have a connection at the post office..."
"May have or do have?"
He was way too much of a cop. "Do have," I admitted grudgingly.
There was a moment of silence. "And?" Henry prompted.
"And I… may have— sorry, did… maybe kind of tell her that your grandmother has Alzheimer's. And writes letters to you under the name 'Henry Stone.' But really your name's Honey and you work at the strip club. And that they should be forwarded there."
Maybe I should carve my last will and testament into this tree branch.
Henry's answer was short and clipped. "And who are these letters originating from?"
"No one important."
"Isabel, I think we've established it's someone important, given that you went to all this trouble."
"Is that what we've established?"
"Fine. Fine, okay? You want to know who they're from? They're from Helen. She keeps writing to you, and I keep deflecting them because Rae is totally right in calling her Hell-En. I don't know why she can't call like a normal person, but maybe that's just because I blocked her number. Nothing important. Look, can we just go get some lunch and forget about this whole thing? I'm starving."
Henry was quiet for so long that I actually started inching away from the dense covering of leaves surrounding me. "Henry? Hey, if you hung up on me, I'm going to have to punch you the next time I see you, just so you know."
"I didn't hang up on you."
"Good." I paused. "You're really pissed at me."
"More like amused," he said finally.
"Well, you shouldn't be, because— wait, what?"
"Isabel." He does say my name a lot. Huh. "She's getting married."
I proceeded to startle so forcefully that my other shoe fell to the ground. Damn. "What do you mean she's getting married?!" I demanded. "She— but I— and the strip club! And when… the thing with the Honey— and… oh, fuck a duck."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"You failed to realize that the station has a phone, too."
"That was bad PI form on my part."
"You've been forwarding her invitations to a strip club."
"No I haven't."
"You just told me—"
"No. I. Haven't," I repeated forcefully. "They got lost, okay? When you unblock her number from your home phone, you are going to tell her that. They. Got. Lost. And you know nothing more than that." I paused. "Nothing."
And then Henry did the oddest thing. He actually laughed. "That's why I love you, Isabel."
Woah. Woah-ho-ho. Woah. What? "What?" I said, and on a reflex started patting my jeans down frantically. "Could you maybe repeat that? For, you know, informational, auditory purposes?"
"I took away your tape recorder," Henry informed me, effectively halting my search. "And you heard me."
"Oh. Oh, yeah. Except, what you don't know is that I've been going deaf in my right ear for some time now. Terrible, hereditary disease. It's a wonder no one else in my family has it."
"Do I need to define 'hereditary' for you?"
"You could say it again," I hinted.
"I will if you stop hanging around in some random tree in my neighborhood and come back home."
"Oh. Yeah. Right." I paused, glancing down. "Hey Henry?"
"…Could you maybe bring me some shoes?"