This story takes place after the episode "What Happened to Sunday?" Please read and review.

The Truth About Cinderella

Cinderella had Prince Charming. I have Joe Mannix. Tonight's the night he takes me out. I've spent all day at the beauty parlor. A real beauty parlor, not the place I work as a dancer. I even saved my tip money and bought a new dress and heels just for tonight. Joe hasn't said where we're going, but I don't really care. I'd be happy just to sit and look at him. Boy, does he get my motor running.

I know it's not mutual and the truth is I never expected him to go through with his promise. Who am I kidding? I'm just a girl from the wrong side of the pits who's got a date with a guy who normally wouldn't give her a second look. Now that it's happening, I can't believe it. I've got a date with Joe and he's going to be here at my place in a few minutes.

I look around at my little one room studio. Not much, but clean. I spritz a little perfume around to hide the cooking odors. I check my makeup in the mirror over the dresser for the fortieth time. I prance around the room and try a couple of dance moves and pretend I'm dancing with Joe. I can feel his arm around my waist and my head on his shoulder. The music is slow and sexy and . . . knock, knock!

He's here! He's here! I give myself one final look in the mirror, smooth the puckers from my dress and open the door. He stands there with a single dark pink rose and that comma of hair hanging over his forehead. His suit is dark blue with a white shirt and a silver tie with a matching handkerchief in his pocket. He smiles that smile that could drive any woman to his bed.

"Hi, Billie" he says and offers me the rose.

"Hi. Come on in." I take the rose but I don't have a vase to put it in, so I take one of my tall glasses from the cabinet above the sink, fill it with water and place the rose in it and then on my dresser. "Come in, sit down."

He comes in, looks around my apartment, and turns to me. "You look beautiful."

"Thanks." I blush. You would think I'd never been on a date before. I head over to the fridge. "Would you like a drink? Scotch?"

"No, thanks. I thought we'd get the evening started."

"Oh, okay." I'm disappointed. I want this night to last. I move for the stand next to the door where I keep my keys and purse. He sees my wrap hanging on the coat rack above the stand,takes it down and drapes it around my shoulders. Did I mention I borrowed it from Lulu down the hall?

Walking down the flight of stairs to his car, I ask, "Where are we going?"

"Geno's," he says. "I'm addicted to the lasagna."

His car sits right in front of my building, a dark, green convertible. He opens the door and I slip onto the black leather bucket seat. Not fake leather, the real thing. As he walks around the rear of the car, he unbuttons the tonneau cover. When he gets in, he presses a button and the black fabric top comes out of its hiding place. Joe locks it down to the windshield.

I glance around the interior of the car. I'm thinking this is one helluva pumpkin. "So this is the new 'Cuda. Does it have the Hemi in it?"

"You know about cars?"

Most guys are surprised when a girl like me knows anything about cars. "Yeah, my older brother, Reg, is a car nut. He reads all the car mags and works on old cars. I help him sometimes and every now and then he lets me drive. It rubbed off on me."

"It's the 440 V-8." Joe flips on the ignition. "Got three Holley two-barrels and the TorqueFlite tranny."

"Bet she flies."I hear the low growl from the dual exhaust and feel the rumble of power through the floorboards. I wouldn't mind driving this baby around the block.

Joe grins like a little boy with a new toy. He checks for traffic behind us and then peels out from the curb. Like to see Cinderella's carriage do that.

We make a small talk on the way to Geno's. I'd never heard of the place, but Joe assures me I'd love it. He's right. The place has class. Valet parking and none of those cheesy red and white plastic tablecloths. White linen all the way.

Joe knows the headwaiter. He shows us to a booth in the back and takes our order. Naturally, Joe gets the lasagna and I choose the angel hair pasta. A second after he walks away, another waiter shows up with two wine glasses, a bottle of Chianti, a basket of bread and our salads. Joe pours for both of us. I could get used to this. Like I said, classy.

"So tell me what it's like chasing the bad guys," I say.

"It's not what you think. Most of my cases are insurance fraud, thefts companies want investigated discretely, and missing persons. It's like we used to say in the air force, boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror."

"Must have been one of those moments when you came into the Beauty Parlor." I sip my chianti and watch as Joe grabs the bread and twists a small piece off. "How did that turn out? Did you find Ted King?"

"Turns out his real name is Ted Kinsella, a Mafia hit man," he says between bites. "I'll be testifying at his murder trial next month."

"Isn't it dangerous testifying against those guys? Don't you worry about what they could do to you?" I spot a look in his eyes. A sadness and maybe a regret.

"I don't worry about myself."

After the waiter arrives with the main course, I'm thinking, maybe there's a chance. "You know, I never expected to see you again." I take a forkful of pasta and gather my courage. "Why'd you keep your promise?"I shovel the pasta into my mouth and hope I've left enough room for my foot.

"Turn down a date with a pretty woman? I'd be drummed out of the private detectives union."

"No, really." I put down my fork and touch his hand. I want to know why. It wasn't like I was holding a gun to his head to make him take me out.

He grips my hand in his and gazes at me with those baby brown eyes of his. "I pay my debts. Without the information you gave me, I never could have found out who was trying to kill me. You probably saved my life. Besides," he says, "you're the prettiest bill collector I've ever met." He touches my cheek. Could have sworn I felt an earthquake.

I want to say to him, could you think of me as someone you'd like to get to know better. Maybe, just a little bit.

"What's the matter? Don't like the pasta? Would you like something else?"

I return to reality. "No, it's fine. I was just thinking."

"Penny for . . ."

"No, you don't want to know," I say.

"Oh."

The rest of the night was small talk about his growing up in Summer Grove and some of the crazier cases he'd been on. I listen to him knowing that when this night was over, I'd probably never see him again, that I was an entry in the loss column that had been taken care of. The truth is at least Cinderella had the prince looking for her.

"Ready?" he asks.

"Yes." The dinner ends way too soon. He stands and holds my chair for me as I get up. I walk out of Geno's ahead of him as he takes care of the bill and the tip. Standing on the sidewalk in the cool night air, I wonder if Cinderella had a Plan B. Where's your fairy godmother when you need her?

Joe hands the valet his ticket. He comes up behind me and puts his arm around my shoulders. I lean against him and breathe in his Old Spice cologne. I sigh accepting that this is as close as I would ever get to him.

"Billie, I want you to know that if there's anything I could ever do for you, give me a call. Will you do that for me?"

I know he's sincere and he knew I would never make that call. I didn't need to look at a clock to tell the 'Cuda was about to turn into a pumpkin.

"Sure, Joe."

Before I could do anything, some guy grabbed my purse, well not exactly my purse – Lulu's purse.

"What the . . . where'd he come from?"

Nearly took my arm with it plus he broke the strap. Lulu's not going to be happy. The jerk! I'm on a date and this idiot steals my purse, I mean Lulu's purse. Before I could take two steps, Joe's off and running after the him.

The valet drives up with Joe's car. "Hey! Where's he going?" the valet asks.

"Some guy stole my purse!"I shove the valet out of the way and jump into Joe's car. I'm more pissed off than a wicked stepsister.

I stick it in low, stomp the brake, gas it, do a 180 and gun it down the street. I'm burning rubber trying to catch up.

I don't see Joe or the guy for a couple of blocks. I keep going. When I get to the third street down, I see Joe in the middle of the block with the purse in one hand and the guy's collar in the other. The guy's running, but he ain't getting anywhere. I grab the handbrake, gun the engine and slide around the corner. My brother, Reg, would be proud.

As I skid to a stop, the guy's shirt rips. He bounces off the 'Cuda's front fender and collapses to the pavement.

Joe stands there with the purse and what's left of the guy's shirt. Looks like he wrestled with a fence or two trying to catch this guy. His hair's mussed, which looks pretty good on him, and his suit's streaked with dirt. The pocket handkerchief's long gone.

Joe rolls the guy over and drags him onto the sidewalk. The guy's moaning.

"He's okay. Just dazed." Joe turns to the 'Cuda and fingers the small dent on the fender. "Mac's gonna love that." He hands me Lulu's purse. "Hey, pretty nice driving."

"Thanks," I say. "I'm a bit rusty."

"If that's rusty . . .say who's your brother again?"

"Reg Darcy."

"The stunt driver?"

"Yeah, he taught me how to drive."

"He sure did. Wow." I go to open the door to let Joe drive; he stops me and pushes the door closed. "You can drive." He climbs into the passenger side. "I'll enjoy the view from here."

I blush again. "Where to?"

He winks at me and smiles. "You're in the driver's seat."

Oh, my. Talk about peeling out. Thanks, fairy godmother.

The End