The constant undercurrent of noise in the bullpen drops away suddenly. Maka notes it distantly, but her eyes stay focused on her desk. These reports aren't going to write themselves, and she has yet to learn the secret of foisting paperwork off on one of the rookies without feeling incredibly guilty about it. When her ears don't pick up the office chatter resuming, she finally glances up to see the captain leaning on the door frame of his office, arms crossed and eyes laser focused on her. Maka fights the urge to redden as her chair scrapes away from her desk. She holds her head high, ignoring the curious gazes of her colleagues and the chatter that's started back up as she makes her way to the office.
"What'dya blow up this time, Albarn?"
"Ice cream truck down, ice cream truck down!"
"Do we need to put out an APB on a king cone?"
The chirps are nothing new, and she gives them exactly the attention they deserve, flipping the bullpen the finger before she disappears into the captain's office, shutting the door behind her.
Captain Death the Kid is already seated behind his desk, impeccably groomed and infuriatingly composed as usual. He motions casually, gold eyes fixed on the pile of papers in front of him.
It isn't a request, and Maka self-consciously brushes at the persistent wrinkles in her button-down as she takes a seat. No matter how much time she spends with an iron, she's never been able to get rid of them. She's pretty sure that she knows what this little meeting is going to be about, and she's hoping her captain hasn't noticed the coffee stain she'd missed on her slacks, too. He might be one of the youngest police captains in the history of the Death City PD, and his father might be the mayor, but Maka knows from experience that Kid's position has nothing to do with nepotism and everything to do with the fact that he's one scary motherfucker when he wants to be. He glares at her over the papers, and Maka straightens her spine.
"You know why I've called you here?"
Her brain skitters over a multitude of sins and appropriately non-committal 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 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 looks up and makes eye contact. "Four weapons discharged incidents, two accusations of illegal search and seizure, and, oh yes - one stolen car."
"I didn't steal it, I commandeered it," Maka mutters, eyes fixed on the antique looking globe on Kid's shelf.
"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."
"Every one of those incidents was completely necessary. My team's lives were at stake; my life was in danger!"
"Illegal. Search. And. Seizure," he bites out.
"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 that storage unit on a hunch - "
"It is still unacceptable." Kid's fists are clenched and white on his desk.
Maka's on her feet before she can think about it, chair forgotten as she slams her hands down on the captain's desk. "I am doing my job! I keep people safe and I put murderers away, Captain. 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. "Are you done," he asks, holding her gaze. Maka sets her chin, folding her arms. After a moment, he sighs and motions to the chair. "I have an assignment for you," he says, changing tacts 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 said that I have an assignment for you. You aren't going to like it, but we need the best, and despite your record for collateral damage, you do, as you so eloquently put it, 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 the nightclub 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.
Maka's been after her for years, 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. Maka's never forgotten that arrogant bitch, or the feeling of her complete failure.
Kid waits patiently for her response, watching the synapses of his finest detective fire rapidly. Slowly, she nods, a vicious smile beginning to spread across her lips.
"Your job will be to keep your eyes and ears peeled while you're at Chupa Cabra's. We want anything that we can use to take Gorgon down, but we need it by the book."
The vitriol in his voice matches what's bubbling under her skin, and she's a little surprised by the depth of his feeling, but she just nods again. "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 the rims of his glasses. "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, that she's vulnerable and we can get the break that we need to put her away for good. It's as simple as that."
She appreciates the sentiment, but Maka has some measure of the complexity involved in an undercover operation like this, and she gives her captain a smile. She trusts him, and she'll trust his sources. Medusa Gorgon won't be getting away this time.
She thinks about pressing him for more information, but Kid's already gone back to shuffling his paperwork, and if she's being honest with herself, Maka's not sure she cares about all the whys of this particular case so much as she cares that she's going to get another shot at Gorgon.
With a happy hum and a spring in her step, she steps out of his office and grabs the somewhat innocuous folder containing her new assignment, checks that her guns are snug against her ribs, and grabs her blazer, reports completely forgotten. 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 covered in white script declaring stores like Death's Secret and Lacy 4 You. Her eyebrows might actually be 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 strewn across every available surface, but this is definitely a new one. Until this very moment, she could have confidently said that every piece in Maka's underwear drawer was white, black, or beige and a cotton blend.
Maka stands in the doorway of her room, looking a little embarrassed and a lot guilty. Tsubaki picks up Lacy 4 You bag number 3 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 bypassing blushing and heading straight for on fire.
"This isn't what it looks like, I swear - " Maka shoves the frilly thing back into its pink prison, babbling now. "Well, I mean, it sort of is what it looks like, but it's really not - I swear 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'm just making this worse, aren't I?"
Tsubaki's torn between laughing and rolling her eyes. "Oh, yeah. My brain definitely assumed that the perfectly normal purchase of lingerie had turned you into some kind of turbo sex monster." Maka squeaks and looks like she's contemplating trying to smother herself in pink plastic. "I'm assuming all this," Tsubaki gestures, "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.
Her roommate laughs again, moving into the kitchen. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It was right there. Spaghetti?"
She doesn't wait for Maka's response, and the sound of Tsubaki rummaging around in the pantry and the clank of the pots as she gets them out is soothing and familiar. Maka lets herself relax as she gathers up her various purchases. She's got a reputation as a cop that takes no shit - a hard ass and a good detective, even if she has a tendency to get into explosive scrapes. She's no stranger to undercover work, either, but when it boils down to it, Maka would rather take a crack at a perp head-on than by skulking around. She tucks the lingere bags 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 a 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're doing, 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 fare."
"And Kid wants you to go undercover at this place?" Maka's face reddens again and she gulps the last of her wine. Tsubaki cocks her head to the side even as she pours the last of the bottle. "And...?" she pushes, though she's already put together the pink bags and saucy garments.
"And it's Chupamuphramah..." Maka mumbles into her empty wine glass.
"Chupa Cabra's?!" Tsubaki struggles not to laugh as Maka looks more and more distressed by the moment. "Oh, Maka. It's going to be fine. Surely they'll set you up as a bartender or one of the hostesses, right?"
Maka looks vaguely less grim. On the TV two muscle men attempted to out-burly each other during a sweet guitar riff. "I really hope so? Kid was...pretty vague about the whole thing."
Tsubaki pats her soothingly on the back. "I'm sure it'll be fine. It's much easier to gather information wandering around patrons than stuck on a stage, isn't it? It wouldn't make sense to set you up as a dancer."
Maka nods, then grins at her friend. "Besides...I'm all skin and bones." She pokes at her hip. "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 for long as Maka can remember at least. She can still recall the look on her mother's face every time she had to make the drive into the city to haul Maka's good for nothing father out of the club. 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, without the pounding bass leaking through the doors, Chupa Cabra's is just another kind of seedy 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 spent the past two nights teaching her how to not fall on her face with marginal success. 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 it, 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 mentioned in the file, slightly rusted and forlorn, and girds her trench coat. It's now or never, and she knocks 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?" It's polite, but 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!"
He ushers her inside, and the first thing she notices is that the interior is nothing like the outside. It's all plush reds and violets with polished marble floors and it's 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 with interest. It's almost serpentine in complexity, but she's got a good head for theses kinds of things and she thinks she could make her way back here again if she has to. They come to a stop 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 Maka again before pushing open the door.
Maka isn't sure what she expected, but she's pretty sure that it isn't anything like the reality of "Miss Blair," who's casually leaning on the edge of an enormous mahogany desk and dressed like she's about to take over the corporate world via stripping.
"Oh! Free~" the woman at the desk croons, batting long lashes. "You brought me the new girl yourself? That's so sweet of you! Thank you, pumpkin!" She pushes away from the desk to curl one well-manicured hand under the man's chin and presses close. Maka doesn't know if a man with a glass eye can roll both eyes into the back of his head, but Free is certainly trying. She could swear he's only seconds away from drooling all over himself, too. Miss Blair taps her finger under his chin gently. "Now be a dear, won't you, Free? Us girls have business to attend to! Scoot, scoot."
Free's out the door with surprising alacrity, shutting the door firmly behind him before Maka can blink.
"Well then." Blair turns and immediately starts circling Maka like an over-endowed shark. "Let's see what we've got here." Before she knows what's going on, Blair begins poking and prodding her categorically.
Maka takes a finger to the stomach, the chin, the ass, and finally one in the tits before she gathers her wits 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, loud and genuine.
"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. "I'm not gonna lie - most of our customers prefer girls with a little more in the way of," she grabs her own chest and jiggles her breasts, "assets."
There's a lot of fleshy motion, and Maka feels her face heat up, hoping 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, regardless of accuracy. 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 the strappy heels she borrowed from Tsubaki. "I've got legs a mile long 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, Maka holds her breath and tries to remain defiant and cocky. When Blair looks up, it's with a grin stretched across her striking face.
"You already came highly recommended by the Thompson sisters, so that's a point in your favor." Maka wants to sag in relief, even as she remains wary of the calculating look in Blair's eyes. "I think that we have just the niche for you here." She waves a hand at Maka's coat. "But while we're on the subject, let's go ahead and see what else you've got, Kitten."
"It's Honey," Maka says, untying her belt.
"Not anymore it's not, 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. At the very least, it's helped teach her how to push through it an ignore it.
The black fishnet thigh highs go well with the bustier/thong/garter belt combo that Tsubaki assured her was the perfect outfit for "exotic dancing." It's too expensive for her to feel cheap in. It's a high-end outfit - she's high-end and this, she thinks, is just a job like any other. If there is one thing that Maka Albarn excels at, it's her job.
Maka squares her shoulders, letting herself fall into the persona of Honey, of Kitten - exotic dancer and hopeful barmaid. She gives Blair a coy smile and a little shimmy, 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 trick she has her yoga class to thank for, 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 around her like a coat. She ends her audition with her bustier partially undone and to Blair's applause.
"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 in front of a surprisingly nice locker labeled "Kitten" with a little heart doodled onto the end. She frowns at it, but no matter how many times she insisted her name was Honey, it didn't seem like her new boss was having any of it. She turns her half-hearted glare at the pile of plaid micro skirts and flimsy white button downs in her arms. If she had known that Blair would decide to dress her, she wouldn't have bothered with her pink-bagged shopping spree. It figures that she'd be regulated to the Leg Avenue equivalent of her old school uniform.
She's busy pouting at her locker and trying to figure out how you're supposed to hang up her new "clothes" when there's a quiet chuckle from behind her. Maka whips around, heart caught in her throat. 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 woman smiles, and it's open and genuine in a way that Maka isn't anticipating.
"I 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? Liz looks more tense than a last name should warrant and belatedly Maka adds the coded 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, mostly. Fortunately, I don't have that much."
Liz grins at her. "Treasure that feeling. 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 through their 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. She eyeballs her bedroom door, but knows that if she goes in there right now, she's going to fall to the siren lure of her bed. She makes her way to the kitchen instead and starts a pot of coffee, then begins the process of running through her mental catalogue of the afternoon and evening's events, and transferring it to her casebooks.
Tomorrow, she'll do it all again.
The days start to blur together pretty quick. She feels awkward knowing that all of her other cases have been either put on hold or transferred to other detectives. It makes her itch, despite knowing that they're in good hands. 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 tries, but getting in at four in the morning and getting back up again at eight is almost immediately placed in the "nope" category.
She's a quick learner, 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, 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 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 into a leer. The next time Candy saunters out, Maka stops the bubbly redhead.
"You mind if I take him this round?"
Candy smirks and gives Maka a smile that doesn't reach her eyes. "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's come across so far. 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. "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." As noisy as the club is, his voice follows her across the room, 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 get some more concrete information.
She slips backstage and delivers the message to Cherry, a petite dancer with dyed pink hair 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 the room first - 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 illuminates plush seating and a mini bar that makes for a pretty comprehensive champagne room. Fortunately for her, it also makes for several excellent places to hide bugs. She kicks off her heels and clambers onto the top of the mini bar. She has to go onto her tip-toes, but it's just enough to reach a piece of the track lighting.
With practiced ease, she slips a small audio visual bug out of one bra cup and fixes it to the rail. Once she's back 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.
Maka eyeballs the other two private party rooms and 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. If she's caught, it'll be hard to play off that she'd just gone to the wrong room - rather than risk being seen, Maka twists the doorknob and slips 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."