Beauty Queens


Don’t cry, she told herself, and yanked hard on the fishing line, stumbling as she dislodged whatever was stuck.

She screamed as the bloated body washed toward her.

“Something’s not right on this island,” Sinjin said between kisses, and Petra grew quiet for a moment.

“Was that a double entendre?”

“No, luv. I’m serious. That girl — the barmy one …”


“Yeah. Ahmed said she was wearing a man’s black shirt. Where did she get it?”

“Maybe it was in her luggage all along?” Petra said, but she didn’t really believe it.

Sinjin mulled it over. “Say, you’re not, like, a competing show designed to give our show a hard time? Like a Survivor Versus Survivor concept? And you’re the surprise we have to figure out. Like you’re really the Sirens who lure us off course and we have to resist you.”

“Did you just make a reference to Greek literature?”

“I suppose I did.”

“Totally crushing on you in a Homeric way.”

Sinjin waggled his eyebrows. “I fancy a bit of the Homeric way.” Petra went in for a kiss and Sinjin stopped her lips with his fingers. “You’re sure you’re not some sort of creepy double agents connected with those black shirts?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Give us a kiss and make an honest pirate of us,” Sinjin said.

“Oh my God! Adina just found a body,” Nicole said, racing by.

“A body!” Mary Lou said, her heart beating faster. Could it be Tane? Was that why she hadn’t seen him? She tried to put that thought out of her mind as she ran toward the lagoon with the others.

They dragged the body onto the beach and rolled him over.

He was wearing a black T-shirt. But other than that, there was no way to know who he was.



13:45 HOURS

The red phone rang and MoMo grabbed it quickly. “It is you, my dove?”

“Now, who else would it be, MoMo?”

MoMo smiled, then frowned. “When is MoMo to receive his weapons, Ladybird? Already, I have funneled one billion dertmaz into your account through secret means and killed everyone involved with the transaction. Also, you have said unkind things about The Peacock in the press.”

“Oh now, MoMo, you know that’s just politics. Once I’m president, I’ll lift the sanctions against your country.”

“You are the femur of my institution, Ladybird Hope. Long may you wave. When you are president, our union will set free the doves of entropy. When can we be together as we were in the hot tub here at Camp Peacock?”

“Remember, MoMo, we’ve gotta keep that part a secret.”

“We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.” MoMo giggled.

“That giggle is disturbing, MoMo. I’ve told you about that.”

“I am sorry, my dove. It’s just that I have been thinking about our agreement and making the amends to it.” MoMo played the finger drum set he kept on his desk beside a bust of himself and one of General Good Times.

“You see, I have in my possession a very special video, which would make your election to president very difficult.”

“I thought you destroyed that, MoMo.”

“I hear you might get rid of the MoMo.”

“Now, why would I do that?”

“I am thinking a June wedding. Is very nice in the ROC in June.”

“MoMo? Have you been nipping off the crazy juice again? You and I can’t get married.”

“Why not? Is perfect way to solve all our problems. Will be like royal wedding, and our faces will be on plates for the peoples to eat from. And we could to have the situation comedy on television. Maybe with nutty neighbor who borrows our plunger and makes to ogle the br**sts of our daughter all the time.”

There was a moment of silence on the other end.

“Okie dokie, Peacock,” Ladybird purred. “First we do the arms deal and you secure The Corporation’s rights in the ROC. Then we’ll plan the wedding. Three days.”

“I count the time like my hemorrhoids.”

“TMI, MoMo.”

“TMI to you, too, my darling.”

Agent Jones had been summoned to the conference room. Urgent was the only word on his pager. Ladybird sat waiting for him on the flat-screen TV. She did not look happy.

“Agent Jones. Report on the girls.”

“Um, no change. They’re doing okay. In fact, they’re proving to be surprisingly resourceful.”