"You're gonna ice me?" Alie'e asked. "You're gonna fucking ice me? It's twelve degrees in here."
The German had closed his eyes. After a moment, he nodded. Plain had worked for eight years in Miami, where he'd developed a reputation for a decadent, sexually charged fashion art, juxtaposing outlandishly disparate characters in variations of the Beauty and the Beast theme. Anyone could do that, and many tried, but Plain had something different, something that nobody else could quite get. Something straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Like this shot.
The German could see it in his mind's eye, now that all the characters were assembled in this ridiculous hulk, with the lights, the smell of the welder, the roaring propane heater . . . But never could have thought of it. This was why he traveled to Minneapolis and paid Plain as much as he did.
Plain had vision.
They worked the rest of the morning: hard work, done over and over. Plain had a color card in his brain, and a drama chip. He knew what he was getting, and he pushed it. Shredded the T-shirt, exposed one breast completely. Clark watched from the background, a burning torch in his hand, his cement-block sausage lover's face fixed by the vision of the woman's body. Lynn and Lil watched from behind the lights: "You don't think that's getting toward the porno . . . ?"
When they were done, and while Jax was collecting her dressing bags, one of Plain's assistants walked Alie'e back to a rented Lincoln Towncar. She recovered her purse and the stash of cocaine, caught a little dust under a fingernail, and inhaled.
"What do you think of that Clark guy?" The assistant asked.
Alie'e, whose eyes had been closed, the better to experience the rush, now opened one eye, cocked her head, and thought about it: "He's not bad, for a pickup."
"What I meant was, he looked like he had a zucchini stuffed in his pants during that last sequence."
Alie'e smiled her wan, coked-up smile and said, "Then it must have been a good sequence."
Dieter Kopp had seen it; so had Plain.
"I was afraid I'd lose it." Plain laughed, brushing the hair back from his eyes. "I was over there waggling that snoot around, trying to get some light on him, hoping it wouldn't go away, hoping he wouldn't figure out what I was doing."
"Not for the American magazines, I don't think?" Kopp said. But it was a question.
"Oh, I think so," Plain said. "You couldn't say anything about it. You couldn't make it too obvious. But a little work on the computer, taking it up or down. We'll get it in. And people will notice. . . ."
Kopp bobbed his head, flashed his thin, hard grin. At another time, he might've been driving a tank into Russia instead of selling underwear. But that was then, and this was now. He was in underwear.
They all went to the party that night, at Silly Hanson's home: Alie'e, Jax, Plain, Kopp, Corbeau, the photo assistants, Alie'e's parents, even Clark the welder. Alie'e looked spectacular. She wore the green dress from the photo shoot, and hung with Jael Corbeau and Catherine Kinsley, the heiress, the three women like the three fates in the Renaissance paintings, all tangled together.
Techno-pop rolled from small black speakers spotted around Silly Hanson's public rooms and Alie'e images flashed across movie-aspect flat-screen monitors. The crowd danced and sweated and drank martinis and Rob Roys and came and went.
Silly herself got drunk and physical with Dieter Kopp, who left thumb bruises on her breasts and ass. A gambler drifted through the crowd, and met a cop who was astonished to see him.
And the killer was there. In the corner, watching.
Reprinted from Easy Prey by John Sandford by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by John Sandford. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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