Sitting at a table in the House of Mouse, a month after arriving in the Magic Kingdom, Lottie felt like she needed to find a man or she would scream. Women had needs, and it didn’t help that everywhere she looked there were happy couples—and princesses. Setting her glass of sweet tea down before she threw it, Lottie made a decision.
There was a whole social circle of the Kingdom she hadn’t explored yet, and she knew from overhearing the others that there were men there. Men, and no competition—because with the ratio of pretty girls to single men here, it was basically down to Kuzco and she did not have any interest in trying to snag the emperor as a husband.
Stalking out of the club and down the street, Charlotte found herself thoroughly lost in a matter of minutes, on dark streets; she heard a voice she instinctively cringed from, a whine that must have been from Brooklyn, behind her.
‘Well, lookee here, boys. We got ourselves a lost little lamb.’
Charlotte whirled and found herself looking down at… a weasel. A weasel that shone oddly in the streetlight, but held a very real, very deadly-looking gun. She took a slow step back, only to run into the point of a knife.
‘Juicy, eh boss?’ the knife-wielder said in a thick accent, licking his jaw. There were three others that surrounded her, and Lottie found herself with only the dark alley nearby to back into. She was too scared to speak. It was also the least bit absurd, being cornered by… she remembered from something Megara had warned her about that these were the Toon Patrol. Most chilling was the fact that they couldn’t die, being toons. Charlotte felt herself go a little paler, trembling; when she hit something soft and warm she screamed, whirling to find—a pair of sequin-clad breasts. Looking up found the owner was a toon herself, a redheaded siren who put gentle, firm hands on her arms and sneered at the weasels behind her.
‘Five against one lady? Classy, boys. Real classy.’ The one visible green eye looked down at Charlotte, and the expression softened. ‘You okay, honey?’
‘No,’ Charlotte heard herself say, in a small voice.
‘Seems to me we got five to two, now,’ the pink-clad weasel snarked, his sharp yellow teeth in a leer.
‘Make tracks, or I’ll call my monkey,’ the woman snapped back, poised and sarcastic. Charlotte admired her already. The weasels retreated with muttering, but Charlotte noticed they were moving pretty quickly. When they were gone, she found her voice again.
‘I’m Lottie,’ she said, as the toon woman stepped back into the alley.
‘Jessica Rabbit,’ she returned, beckoning Lottie with a gloved hand. ‘You lost? Come on in, we’ll—’
‘I ain’t lost,’ Charlotte said; it was only half a lie. Jessica studied her, and Charlotte expected a lecture, or a dismissal. Instead, however, Jessica spoke again.
‘Come in and have a drink, and tell me about it.’
Something in her voice made Charlotte follow her, up a set of back stairs and into a door that led into a hallway. Jessica shimmered even in the low light, and Charlotte had no trouble following her into the rest of the building, which turned out to be a beautiful nightclub. Charlotte was entranced by the sleek lines and curves, and curious at the mix of patrons. There were people a lot more scary in here; from the slender skeleton and blue-skinned ragdoll to a few people she’d seen here and there at the House of Mouse, to people she’d never seen before in her life, most of them dressed in black.
A slender, pretty man with dark hair was sitting at the piano; he was dressed in shirtsleeves and black pants, his sharp cheekbones making beautiful shadows on his face.
‘Who’s that?’ she asked her hostess, entranced. Jessica followed her gaze, and gave a soft laugh.
‘That’s Sasha, Lottie; my animator.’ She steered Lottie to a table that had a deck of cards waiting, along with players. ‘This is Lottie,’ she said to the half circle of people—which included Megara, Charlotte noticed.
‘Hey, Lottie. Wondered when you’d show up,’ Meg said with a smile, before giving Jessica a less sweet look. ‘So we playing or what?’
Charlotte sat down, and noticed a red parrot on Meg’s shoulder. ‘I didn’t know you had a pet.’
‘Watch it, sister,’ the bird snapped.
‘Give her a break, feathers, she’s new,’ Meg said, as Jessica took her seat at the head of the table, shuffling the cards.
‘Ever played poker?’ asked a green-eyed gypsy woman with wild black hair. She studied Charlotte keenly. The blond man sitting beside her nudged her.
‘Of course she hasn’t, Esmerelda, she’s a sterling young woman.’ He gave her a playful grin, and Charlotte blushed a little. ‘See?’
‘Well, it’s never too late to learn,’ opined a low-voiced brunette as she took her cards. ‘Let her watch for a round or two.’
‘I don’t believe I caught everyone’s name,’ Charlotte said politely.
‘Esmerelda and Phoebus,’ Jessica introduced the blond man and the gypsy. ‘You know Megara, that’s Iago, on her shoulder. Vanessa’s the one with the necklace, and we’re expecting—Edna, good to see you.’
‘And you dahling, this is my solace!’ The little woman hopped up on a chair, and Charlotte could finally see her face—she was pug-nosed and rather plain, with glasses that magnified her eyes several times. She took a drag from her cigarette (it smelled expensive, and was in a short black holder) and seemed to notice Charlotte for the first time.
‘My god, that is a lot of pink.’