Chapter 1: Cinderella Undercover
The constant undercurrent of noise in the bullpen drops away, and she notes it distantly, but these reports aren't going to write themselves, and she has yet to learn the secret of foisting paperwork off without feeling incredibly guilty. When her ears don't pick up the office chatter resuming, she glances up to see the Captain leaning on the door frame of his office, arms crossed. All eyes are on her, and Maka fights the urge to redden as her chair scrapes away from her desk. She holds her head high and ignores the chatter that's started back up, most of it directed at her.
"What'dya blow up this time?"
"Ice cream truck down, ice cream truck down!" Eloquently, Maka flips the bullpen the finger before she disappears into the Captain's office, shutting the door behind her.
Captain Death the Kid is already seated; as usual, he's impeccably groomed and infuriatingly composed. He motions casually, gold eyes fixed on the pile of papers in front of him.
"Sit." It isn't a request, and Maka self-consciously brushes at the wrinkles in her button-down that she can't ever seem to really get rid of, no matter how much time she spends with an iron. She's pretty sure that she knows what this little meeting is going to be about, and she's hoping her captain hasn't notice the coffee stain she'd missed on her slacks. He might be one of the youngest police captain's in the history of the Death city PD, and his father might be the mayor, but Maka knows from experience that Kid's position had nothing to do with nepotism and everything to do with the fact that he could be one scary motherfucker. He's glaring at her over the papers now, and Maka straightens her spine.
"You know why I've called you here, yes?" Her brain skitters over a multitude of sins and appropriately noncommittal responses in a matter of seconds before her brain says, keep it simple, stupid, and her mouth says,
"Captain, I have no idea—" The innocent look and puzzled smile doesn't fool Kid for one minute. She cuts herself short at his unimpressed raised eyebrow. He sighs and takes a moment to wipe his glasses clean before pulling a thick file out of the stack decorating his desk top.
"Let's see. I have here three separate instances of severe property damage, four," he looked up. "Four weapon discharged incidents, two accusations of illegal search and seizures, oh yes. And one stolen car."
"I didn't steal it, I commandeered it," Maka mutters, looking anywhere but at her supervisor.
"Albarn." He sighs, one hand rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Maka. Look. We can't keep having these kinds of blemishes on our precinct's record. You're out of control."
"But Captain! Every one of those incidents was completely necessary. My life was in danger; my team's lives were at stake!"
"Illegal. Search. And. Seizure."
"Absolutely necessary! We were running out of time—you know as well as I do that the Ripper was going to kill again! If we hadn't busted into the storage unit on a hunch—"
"It is still unacceptable." The chair is long forgotten, and Maka slams her hands down on the captain's desk.
"I am doing my job! I keep people safe, and I put murderers away, Kid. I do what it takes, and if doing my job is wrong, I don't want to be right." She's fuming, chest heaving, eyes flashing. Kid remains largely passive in the wake of her outburst. After a moment, he sighs again and motions to the chair. Maka's chin is set, and she folds her arms.
"I have an assignment for you," he says abruptly.
"You can't do this to m-wait, what?" She can't be sure, but she thinks that Kid cracks a small smile at her confusion.
"I have an assignment for you. You aren't going to like it, but we need the best, and despite your record for ah...collateral damage, you do, as you so eloquently put, 'get results'." Mouth still hanging wide open, Maka plops into her chair. "You'll be going undercover at Chupa Cabra's. Thanks to my sources, we've been able to isolate Chupa Cabra's as one of the primary establishments that Medusa Gorgon owns and likes to use as her personal playground." Maka's jaw shuts with an audible click, her spine straightening and eyes sharp.
She knows that name, knows it because it's burned onto the backs of her eyelids. Homicide's been after the woman for years now. Maka's been after her for years now, ever since Gorgon had been linked to the death of a young pair of beat cops. She'd been hauled in and taken to trial, but the best lawyers money and the power of the Arachnophobia organization could buy meant Medusa Gorgon had walked out of that courtroom a free woman. She's never forgotten that arrogant bitch, or the feeling of complete failure.
Kid waits patiently for her response, watching the synapses of his finest detective fire rapidly. Slowly, she nods, a grin beginning to spread across her lips.
"Your job is keeping your eyes and ears peeled while you're at Chupa Cabra's. We want anything that we can use to take this bitch down, but we need it by the book." Maka is a little taken aback by the vitriol in her captain's voice, but she nods again.
"You've got it. I get results, Captain. You know it." He smiles faintly.
"That's what we're counting on, Albarn. The file with the rest of your assignment parameters is in your box." Maka's hand is on the doorknob, turning, when she stops and looks back over her shoulders.
"Why now, Kid?" His gaze is frank over his glasses' rims.
"We never gave up, Maka. No matter what you think, we never gave up. Gorgon's got connections though, so we've had to be extra careful. My sources seem to think that now's a good time, and we can get the break that we need. It's as simple as that." While the sentiment may have been just so simple, between the sources and the red tape involved in any lengthy or undercover operation, Maka has some measure of the complexity involved, and she gives her Captain a smile. She'll trust him, trust his sources. Medusa Gorgon would not get away this time.
Maka thinks she could probably press for some more information, but Kid's all ready gone back to shuffling his paperwork, and if she's being honest with herself, Maka doesn't really care for the whys of this particular case so much as she cares that she's got another shot at the bitch. With a happy hum and a spring in her step, Maka grabs the folder containing her new life, checks that her guns are snug against her ribs, and grabs her blazer. She's got a job to do.
Tsubaki tries desperately not to stare at the bags that litter her apartment floor, but they're right there, and very hard to ignore, all bright pink plastic and names like "Death's Secret" and "Lacy Things." Her eyebrows feel like they're permanently glued to her hairline. She's lived with Maka for years now, has come home to a coffee table covered in gun parts and leather oil, to an exploded dishwasher, to crime scene photos strung along the curtains and every available surface, but this was a new one. Maka is many things, Tsubaki has learned, and with that comes a certain level unpredictability.
"Ah! Tsubaki!" Maka's standing in the doorway of her room, looking a little red and a lot guilty. Tsubaki picks up one of pink bags and removes a flimsy piece of red something. Her eyebrows arch a little further up as Maka squeaks and rushes forward to grab the bag out of her roommate's hand, face scarlet now.
"This is not what it looks like, I swear-" Maka shoves the frilly thing back into it's pink prison, babbling now. "Well, I mean, it sort of is what it looks like, but it's really not, I swear that I haven't turned into some kind of loose harlot woman I just have this job that I have to-" she stalls out at the grin spreading slowly across Tsubaki's face.
"I am just making this worse, aren't I?" Tsubaki laughs softly.
"Yes, yes you are. I'm assuming all this," she gestures delicately, "is for a new assignment?" Maka nods, face still several shades redder than is strictly healthy.
"Undercover work," she confirms, and Tsubaki makes a strangled little choking noise that sounds a lot like,
"Tsubaki!" Her roommate laughs again, moving into the kitchen.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. Spaghetti?" Maka nods again, starting to gather up her various purchases. The clank of Tsubaki moving pots around is familiar and soothing, and Maka begins to relax. She's got a reputation as a cop that takes no shit-a hard ass and a good detective, even if one that has a tendency to get into explosive scrapes. She's no stranger to undercover work, either, but when it boils down to it, she'd rather take a crack at a perp head on than skulking around. She tucks her purchases away into her room with a slight scowl, and goes to help Tsubaki make dinner.
They're finishing up a bottle of wine and an action movie with a truly indecent number of explosions and men with rippling biceps and an abnormal fondness for tank tops when Tsubaki pounces. She pours Maka another glass and waits until her roommate has her eyes riveted on the screen, and the glass up to her lips before asking innocently,
"So what's the assignment?" Maka shoots her a sideways glare as if to say, I see what you are doing there, but takes a sip of her wine anyway. In the background, a car rolls over and explodes for no particular reason.
"They think they've got a good lead on Medusa." It's not what Tsubaki expects, and she straightens.
"She's got an establishment that she uses for covert business deals, entertaining clients and lackeys...real standard sleazeball fair."
"And Kid wants you to go undercover at this place?" Maka's face reddens again, and gulps the last of her wine. Tsubaki cocks her head to the side even as she pours the last of the bottle.
"And...?" she asks, though her mind has already put together the pink bags and saucy garments together.
"And it's Chupamuphramah..." Maka's voice mumbles.
"Chupa Cabra's?" Tsubaki is struggling not to laugh at her friend, who is looking more and more distressed by the moment. "Oh, Maka. It will be fine. I'm sure they've set up a job as a bartender or one of the hostesses." Maka looked vaguely less grim. On the TV two muscle men attempted to out-burly each other during a sweet guitar riff.
"You think so? Kid was...distressingly vague about the whole thing." Tsubaki patted her soothingly on the back.
"I'm sure that it will be fine. Besides, it's much easier to gather information wandering around patrons than stuck on a stage, isn't it?" Maka nods cautiously, then grins unexpectedly at her friend.
"Besides...I'm all bones!" She pokes at her hip, mouth twisted. "No one wants a boney, flat-chested stripper, right?"
Everyone in Death City has at least some idea of where Chupa Cabra's is. It's been a fixture of the city since as long as Maka can remember at least, and she still can recall the look on her mother's face as she made the drive to go haul her good for nothing papa out of the cat house. It changed ownership a few years ago, and according the file Kid gave her, that's when Medusa started taking over.
In the daylight, without the bouncer and the neon lights, or the pounding bass leaking through the doors, Chupa Cabra's was just another seedy little building in an aging part of town. Tamping down on her nerves, Maka straightens her spine and throws an extra sway into her walk. The heels still feel unnatural, but Tsubaki had spent the past two nights teaching her how to not fall on her face with regularity. Strictly speaking, Maka doesn't mind doing undercover work. She's had several assignments before where she needed to be someone else, but never one this big, or this...open ended. Maka won't ever admit is, but she's nervous and a little scared. This is important, and the longer an assignment like this goes on, the more chance there is for something to fuck up.
She pops a piece of chewing gum into her mouth and squares her shoulders. She'll be damned if she's the one who messes up this operation. She spies the side door, slightly rusted and forlorn, and girds her trench coat. It's now or never, and she's knocking on the door, short and sharp and loud in the alleyway. She's about to knock again when the door swings open and Maka finds herself face to face with a towering man. That, she thinks, is a truly obscene amount of muscle.
"Can I help you?" And though it's polite, it's still a growl. Maka tries not to flinch at the glass eye that rolls her way. She steels herself mentally, puts on her brightest, most vapid smile, and cocks one hip out.
"Hi! My name's Honey, and I'm here about the job?" The man smiles, wide and open and suddenly friendly, and Maka is astonished by the change.
"Oh! Excellent! Miss Blair's been expecting you; please come in!" She's ushered inside, and the first thing that she notices is that the interior is nothing like the outside. Instead, it's all plush reds and violets, polished marble floors and far classier than it has any right to be. The overgrown bouncer leads her through a few different hallways, each of equal opulence that Maka notes in her brain with interest. It's almost serpentine in complexity, but she's got a good head for theses kinds of things, and thinks that she can make her way back here again if she needs to. They arrive suddenly at a large, heavy wooden door, and the bouncer knocks loudly.
"Come in~" a voice singsongs through the door. The man bounces a little on the balls of his feet and grins down at her again before pushing open the door.
Maka isn't really sure what she expected, but she's pretty sure that it isn't anything like the reality of "Miss Blair" or her office.
"Oh! Free~" she practically croons at the bouncer, batting long lashes. "You brought me the new girl yourself? That's so sweet of you! Thank you, pumpkin!" She curls one well-manicured hand under his chin and presses close. Maka doesn't know if a man with a glass eye can roll both of his eyes into the back of his head, but Free certainly is trying. She also swears that the man is seconds away from drooling all over himself. She taps the finger under his chin gently. "Now be a dear, won't you, Free? Us girls have business to attend to! Scoot, scoot."
Free's already out, door shut firmly behind him before he or Maka notices what's happening.
"Well then," Blair turns and wastes no time circling Maka like an over-endowed shark. "Let's see what we've got here." Before she knows what's going on, Blair is poking and prodding her categorically. Maka takes a finger to the stomach, the chin, the ass, and finally one in the tits before she recovers and snaps, swatting at the woman.
"Stop that!" There is a tense pause, and for a moment, Maka is horrified that she might have just lost the job before she even secured it. But the moment passes, and Blair laughs a little, smirking.
"Oh, you are feisty! I like that! Kind of scrawny, though, aren't you, girlie?" Her finger darts out and stabs Maka in the hip before she can dodge. "Not gonna lie; most of our customers prefer girls with a little more in the ways of," she grabs her chest for emphasis, "assets." Maka feels her face heat up, and hopes in vain that the dimness of the room covers up her blush. She doesn't like the calculating look on her new boss's face, and likes even less the insult to her physique. She straightens her spine and gives Blair what she hopes is a good, haughty stare.
"I may not be stacked," she all but spits out the word, "but I am fit." She extends a leg, made longer in strappy heels she'd borrowed from her roommate. "I've got mile long legs and, as you might have noticed from poking it, an ass that's to die for." She's hoping that Blair will be more amused than put off by her boldness, and as the woman moves to her desk to make a few notes, she holds her breath and tries to remain defiant and cocky. When Blair looks up, she's got a grin spread across her pretty face.
"You already came highly recommended by the Thompson sisters, so that's a point in your favor. And I like your style. I think you're going to do just fine here." Maka feels relieved, even as she remains wary of the calculating look in Blair's eyes. "Oh yes. I think that we have just the niche for you here." She waves a hand negligibly at Maka's coat. "While we're on the subject, let's see what you've got, Kitten."
"Of course, Kitten." Stifling her glare, Maka turns her back and drops the coat and her thin dress unceremoniously.
Maka's spent a good portion of her life feeling like a grade-a prude, and with a proportionate measure of shame for her body. Years of martial arts training, the police academy, and sharing space with a bunch of sweaty, crude cops has mostly gotten rid of her embarrassment. Mostly. The black fishnet thigh highs go well with the bustier/thong/garter belt combo that Tsubaki had assured her was the perfect outfit for "exotic dancing." It's too expensive for her to feel cheap and skanky in. They're high-end, she's high-end, and this, she thinks, is just a job, just like any other. If there is one thing that Maka Albarn excels at, it's her job.
Unconsciously, she squares her shoulders, absorbing the essence of Honey, exotic dancer and barmaid. She gives Blair a coy smile and a little shimmy, then bends slowly at the hips, running her hands down her thighs, then back up. Her hands linger at the top of one leg, teasing around the garter, before unsnapping the clip, and beginning to roll the hosiery down. In a neat acrobatic trick, Maka brings her leg up as she rolls the thigh high down, propping it daintily on Blair's desk.
She flings the stocking out, and it lands on Blair's lap. The other one joins it not long after, and she places one foot in front of the other, hips twitching as she struts across the room, pulling confidence from the lessons Tsubaki had given her. She ends her little audition to Blair's applause and smirking face.
"I like your flair. I think you're going to like it here, Kitten. I even like the look, buuuut I think we can fit you into something a little more suited to table service." Maybe it's just the fact that everything Blair says sounds like thinly veiled innuendo, but Maka doesn't like the expression on her new boss's face one bit.
Nearly an hour later, Maka finds herself several outfits heavier, and in front of a surprisingly nice locker labeled "Kitten :3~." Maka frowns, but no matter how much trouble she'd gone through to pick out a suitable name for her alter ego, it didn't seem like her new boss was having any of it. She had also spent a lot of time and money picking out...work clothes. If she had known that Blair would decide to dress her, she wouldn't have bothered. She glares half-heartedly at the pile of micro plaid skirts and flimsy white button downs. It figures that she'd be regulated to a slutty version of her old school uniform.
While she's engaged in pouting at her locker, there's a faint laugh from behind her. Maka whips around, more startled than she wants to admit. She could kick herself for being so lax in her scan of the room when she'd come in. She must have been really out of it to have missed the stunning blond.
"Did Blair 'rename' you, too?" she asks, arching an eyebrow. Maka relaxes her shoulders and forces a grin.
"How'd you know?" The blond smiles, and it's open and genuine in a way that Maka doesn't anticipate.
"You get to see that look around here a lot. Knowing Blair, she'll probably try and rename you two or three more times before it's all said and done." She squints a little. "Kitten, huh?" she grins. Maka shrugs and laughs a little.
"Yeah, I keep telling her my name is Honey, but she won't have anything to do with it." The woman's smile expands and she jabs a well manicured finger up at the lettering on her dressing table's mirror. In disgustingly girly script, it reads, "Bambi!~" Maka can almost hear Blair's soprano trilling it out.
"You can call me Liz, though."
"Liz Thompson?" The name rings a bell for Maka, and she recalls Blair mentioning the Thompson sisters, flashes back to the dossier on her coffee table and pinpoints it. This...this is Kid's source? Maka is equal parts impressed and insanely curious. Liz looks more tense than a last name should warrant, and belatedly, Maka recalls the pass phrase. "Of the Baltimore Thompsons?"
It takes an act of God for her to refrain from rolling her eyes back into her head when she says it. Liz has no such compunctions. Her pupils are somewhere in the vicinity of no man's land when she replies.
"Actually, we're from the New York Thompsons."
"Ah-ha," Maka mumbles. "My mistake." When Liz finishes rolling her eyes, they exchange a look of What the fuck was Kid thinking?
"It's nothing. We get that a lot. You get all your stuff stored?"
"Ah, yeah. Fortunately, I don't have that much." Liz grins at her.
"Treasure it. Just wait till you move up to one of these babies." She pats the vanity. "Costumes everywhere. I swear to god I'm going to have to choke a bitch before every show because something or another goes missing. The lockers at least have locks." Liz gets up, and Maka tries very hard to not be jealous of the blond's ridiculous curves. "Come on, I'll give you the tour. Normally, I'm not here this early, but since I recommended you, Blair wanted me to break you in."
"Break me in?"
"Her words, not mine," she calls over her shoulder. "Come on...Kitten. Let's get you suited up and I'll show you the ropes."
She stumbles in the door as the sky begins to lighten. Maka is no stranger to all nighters and bizarre cop hours, but she hadn't anticipated the fourteen hour day, and she sure as fuck hadn't anticipated it all being in heels. The tour with Liz turned into observing the first shift of evening, which turned into practicing drink running during the mid-shift, and assisting in the late shift closing duties. She flings the heels Tsubaki lent her towards the living room. They'd come off as soon as she was in her car. She eyeballs her bedroom door, but knows that if she goes in there, she's going to fall to the siren lure of her bed, so she makes her way to the kitchen instead and starts a pot of coffee, then starts the process of running through her mental catalogue of the afternoon and evening's events, and transferring it to her casebooks.
The days begin to blur together pretty quick. Maka feels awkward knowing that all of her other cases have been either put on hold, or transferred to other detectives. It makes her itch, and she can't really pinpoint why. She feels ridiculously lazy getting up near noon, but the idea of getting up any earlier makes her eyes want to bleed. To her credit, the first day or so she tried, but getting in at four in the morning and getting back up again at eight could firmly be placed in the "bad idea" category.
She's quick, has always been, and it doesn't take more than a few days for her to get into the swing of things. Drink orders roll off her tongue like they've always been there, and she's already located all the regulars. When she gets home in the wee hours of the morning, she kicks off her shoes, eats the dinner that Tsubaki's laid out in the oven for her, and then cracks open the notebook she keeps on the coffee table. Slowly but surely it begins to fill with descriptions and details. She writes names when she can get them, nicknames when she can't, habits and snippets of any conversations that stuck out at her.
She's well into week two and she's starting to despair of finding anyone of note when she catches sight of a face that she's seen staring at her from her Most Wanted files. Her heart quickens and she keeps a sharp eye on the man's table, watches as Candy brings out his drinks, watches his sharp face getting more relaxed, his sneer turn more into a leer. The next time Candy saunters out, Maka stops the bubbly red head.
"You mind if I take him this round?" Candy smirks and gives her a conspiratorial wink.
"Sure thing, Kitten. Careful, he's a rough one!" Maka titters in response, but she's read the file. Giriko is one nasty piece of work, but he's the best lead she has come across yet. An extra swing in her step, she sets his drink down on the table, and smiles flirtatiously.
"Jack and Coke, right?" Giriko glances up and she has to repress the shudder she feels as his eyes rake over her. Her smile stays in place through sheer force of will, and she hopes her teeth don't shatter from clenching.
"Hey there, sweet thing. You new around here?" Maka manages a giggle despite the fact that his hand has attached itself to the back of her knee.
"You bet!" She twirls a pigtail around her finger. "Is there anything else I can get you, Mister?" He eyes her again, fingers sliding up the back of her thigh. Even without looking directly at him, she can feel his oily gaze land on her chest.
"You're pretty fuckin' cute, sweet thing." He takes a long sip of his drink, and she holds her breath. "I don't fuck little girls, though. Why don't you go tell Cherry I'll meet her in the usual room in ten?" Maka manages to keep her rage tamped down to a mild pout and she grinds out,
"Of course," before stalking off.
"Hey cutie! Call me when you grow a decent pair of tits," his voice follows her across the room noisy as it is, and her fingers positively itch for a gun she's not carrying. At the same time, she can't help but smile. After all, he's just given her the opportunity that she needs to do a little more snooping.
She slips backstage and delivers the message to Cherry, a petite brunette who shudders at the summons, but nods, nevertheless. Maka pats the woman on the shoulder delicately.
"You want me to go ahead and clear the room for you?" It's about a quarter til, and she's trying not to eye the clock in the dressing room nervously. If she can just get in there...Cherry nods, and Maka's off, stalking down the low-lit hall, the clicking of her heels muffled in the plush carpeting. It's the work of a minute to find the right door.
She knocks once, briskly, then pushes it open. It's dark and surprisingly clean...doesn't look like anyone's been in here yet this evening. She flicks on the overhead, and has to give credit to whoever wired the joint. Soft track lighting, more plush seating and a mini bar made for a pretty comprehensive champagne room. Fortunately for her, it also made for several excellent places to hide bugs. She kicks off her heels and clambers onto the top of the mini bar. With the added assistance of her tip-toes, she's just able to reach a piece of the track lighting.
With practiced ease, she slips a small audio visual bug out of one bra cup and fixed it to the rail. Once on the ground, she double checks the placement. As far as she can tell, there's no place where Giriko will be sitting where he'd be able to detect the damn thing. She gives the room another quick once over before leaving the lights on and exiting. She eyeballs the other two private party rooms and then the hallway again before rapping on the next door. She has more bugs left to plant, and there really is no time like the present. Her sharp ears catch the sound of rings sliding along a metal pole, the rustle of the heavy curtain that separates off the staff's section of the nightclub, and her heart leaps into her throat. It'll be hard to play off that she'd just gone to the wrong room...Maka twists the doorknob and slides into the other room, deftly closing the door as soundlessly as possible. She breathes a sigh of relief about the same time she realizes that the dimmed lights are on, and a rough voice from behind her growls,
"It's about time you got here."