This was, without a doubt, the last time she volunteered to do an assignment for the Justice League. For some inexplicable reason, the psychotic villain known as Chess had only been brought to the League’s attention after he had been killed. What really got the heroes’ attention was the fact that there were reports of new victims and new schemes attributable to Chess months after his alter-ego, Sergeant Vince Faraday had been caught. It had been decided that someone should head to Palm City to investigate the circumstances of Chess’ death. Zatanna had volunteered for the job.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. She’d heard rumors of a man performing magic in Palm City and she figured while she was in town she could find out whether there was any truth to them. Alas, all she’d found was an illusionist named Max Malini. The public might be impressed by his act, but Zatanna, who could do real magic, found the performance terribly disappointing.
And yet, she’d rather be back at the Carnival than stuck here. ARK Corporation was throwing a fundraiser to raise money for the victims of Chess. You would think Peter Fleming would know how to throw a good party, but the magician was bored out of her skull. She hadn’t found out anything useful and she was about ready to call it a night. Just then, she spied the CEO coming towards her.
“You know, it’s funny, but I don’t remember hiring a magician for this event,” Fleming smiled.
“I guess someone in your company thought a little magic would liven up the place,” Zatanna said, eliciting a scoff from him.
“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t insult my intelligence by pretending that sleight of hand is magic.”
“You don’t believe in magic, Mr. Fleming?”
“Well, magic certainly didn’t get me where I am today.”
“A billionaire running the company in charge of Palm City’s security. Not bad,” Zatanna conceded, “but isn’t there anything else you wish you had?”
Peter frowned. That had struck a nerve.
“Yes,” he murmured, “I suppose so.” He wanted his family back. He wanted to know where his daughter was. Apparently, that was something his money couldn’t help him with. He’d have given up his fortune if necessary and had parted with a sizable chunk of it, but it hadn’t worked. He was no closer to finding Jamie than when he first discovered she was missing.
Zatanna noticed the light go right out of the billionaire’s eyes as he contemplated whatever it was he didn’t have. He looked so…heartbroken. She almost wished she hadn’t asked. To her surprise, she realized she felt bad for him. She would never have thought that she would grant a wish to a wealthy man like Fleming, of all people, but… maybe a little magic was in order.
Peter expected to wake up the next morning with a hangover, so he was pleasantly surprised to find that his head wasn’t pounding. He opened his eyes slowly, in case the room was too bright…
Okay, this was not his penthouse. Either he was still drunk or he had not slept in his own bed. Although, he mused, he would like to think that even drunk he would have better taste than to sleep here. Maybe Chess had chosen the accommodations.
What makes you think that I would choose to stay here, Peter? And what is this, some sort of makeshift cave?
Much as Peter hated to do so, he agreed with Chess’ sentiments. The place did look like a bloody dump. He got up and started walking around.
No sign of anyone he might have spent the night with. Perhaps that was a good sign. On the other hand, this was not his underwear he was wearing… not a train of thought he wanted to follow.
There was a bulletin board on the wall. It looked like something you’d expect to see in a cop’s office, all set up with clues for some big case, full of photos and newspaper clippings and sticky pads and… His eyes widened.
It’s about us--our crimes, our victims. His eyes alighted on one of his press releases for ARK, tacked to the board to emphasize the connection between Peter Fleming and Chess. Someone knew his secret.
Not for long, he won’t.
Peter closed his eyes. Even without a hangover, it still seemed too early in the morning to deal with the homicidal maniac that shared his head. He opened his eyes again. There had to be a loo around somewhere. Finding the bathroom at last, he used the facilities, washed his face and then caught sight of his reflection in the mirror over the sink. Only it wasn’t his reflection staring back at him: it was a ghost’s. Ugh. He clasped a hand to his chest and hoped he wasn’t having a heart attack. He glanced behind him to see if anyone was standing there. No, he was alone. (Well, as alone as he could be considering his split personality.)
The tightness in his chest dissipated. He turned back to the mirror. This was not possible. Instead of Peter Fleming’s handsome face--
A bit narcissistic, are we?--
Vince Faraday’s face was gaping at him from the glass. He’d know that face anywhere. Any citizen in Palm City would recognize it, if only because his news stations had flashed it repeatedly, gloating over “Chess’ death.” If not dreaming, he was very obviously still drunk. Not only was it physically impossible to switch bodies with someone, but there was no such thing as ghosts or…zombies or whatever it was that writers cooked up for their crazed fans. There was no way he was in Faraday’s body, which would be six feet under if it hadn’t been blown to smithereens.
Maybe coffee would dispel the bizarre hallucination…
“Hey Vince, are you up yet?” Orwell bounded through Vince’s hideout as if she owned the place. “There you are! Morning, sunshine! Oh, you look like you’ve had a rough night. Listen, I have big news: Scales-- What is it? What’s wrong?”
Peter could only gape at the young woman, his mouth opening and closing in a completely undignified manner. If this turned out to be just a dream or a hallucination, he would do something even more uncharacteristic--cry. His long lost daughter, his Jamie, was right there.
“Jamie!” Without saying another word, he pulled an extremely startled Orwell into his arms. She pushed him off after a moment and clenched her fists.
“Vince, where the hell did you hear that name?”
Author’s Note: Whatever am I thinking starting a new fic so soon? I must be mental.
Well, go ahead. Leave me a reason to continue the story or one to discontinue it.
This is not tied to “In-Laws” or any of my other fics. Not planning to do much shipping in this story, but then by now you should know I make them up as I go along. You should also know not to expect me to consciously ship Vince/Orwell, which would be kind of incestuous in this fic, if you think about it.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to think about what Vince could possibly have done to deserve this.