Where No Story Has Gone Before, Ch. 5

Where No Story Has Gone Before, Ch. 5

by Robert Lee Beers

 

After being mysteriously dumped into an alternate reality where they are apparently movie stars, Tony Mandolin and his friends head to Comicon to confront, well, themselves.

 

Contact info for Robert Beers
* Website – http://asmbeers.wixsite.com/robertleebeers
* Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Beers/e/B00JCRVS3U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1505455713&sr=8-1
* Audiobook – http://www.graphicaudio.net/a-tony-mandolin-mystery-1-a-slight-case-of-death.html

 

Chapter 5

The convention was tomorrow, and since it was an easy hour’s drive from Longmont to Denver, the three of us sacked out on whatever space we could find to sleep. Frankie, steadfast in his refusal to squeeze himself back into that sardine can the Herron’s called a car had us trying to plan a bus ride and a meet up at the convention. That is until Lesley managed to weasel the use of an SUV from a neighbor. I contributed to the gas and the insurance rider.

Frankie, discovering that Chris and Lesley were the people behind Tale Tale TV, his favorite YouTube podcast, had a much better ride than the one before. They chatted about monsters, mushrooms and a whole bunch of other stuff. Somewhere he told me about that show before. It just hadn’t clicked.

Driving to Denver consisted of two legs, a short one due east to the freeway and then a long one due south, ending at the parking lot for the Colorado Convention Center, whatever that was.

What it was, was huge.

I stared at it as we drove down this ultra-wide street Chris said was Colfax or something like that.

Omigawd,” Frankie breathed, “It must cover an entire city block.”

Parking’s easy these days,” Lesley said, as Chris turned the SUV into what looked like the entrance to an underground facility, “They built a thousand space garage that’s open 24/7.”

Hopefully they installed signs to help folks figure out where they’re going,” I said, as we came to a stop in the one space not occupied in our lane. From my vantage point, the SUV was a bit of plankton in a sea of SUV’s.

Got that covered,” Chris declared, pointing at the support at the roofline. A painted square displayed the space number and letter.

Just like SF International,” Frankie murmured. “Nice.”

I stared at the sign and then said, “Got it. How about you, big guy?”

Frankie nodded.

Milward turned in a slow circle, “Amazing place. It almost looks as if the designers had been counseled by the dragons.”

I’d almost forgotten the old wizard was still with us. On the entire drive, he’d been quiet as if he was dozing.

Dragons?” I asked. In my experience, you did not mess with dragons unless you had business in their library. And even then you could wind up as a snack instead of being a patron.

Oh yes,” Milward said, nodding as he puffed his pipe to life. “The wisest of beasts. It is mainly through their guidance that my world has been mostly at peace for several thousand years.”

Frankie asked, “What about the fire and the people eating? Doesn’t that bother you?”

My dear boy,” Milward chided, “What a silly notion. Dragons do not eat people, and neither do they breathe fire. They are peaceful vegetarians, everyone knows that.”

Frankie’s face froze into a does-not-compute lock.

I clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Wake up big guy. Different worlds, remember?”

He blinked, “Uh… yeah, yeah. Let’s go see the crowds.”

Wait a second.”

I turned at Chris’ command. “What?” I asked.

He said, “You may not believe it, but you guys are going to be mobbed the minute the crowd realizes who you look like. So, shouldn’t we have a plan?”

I thought and then said, “Are we really that similar in appearance?”

Lesley nodded.

Chris said, “Dead ringers. You even sound like them.”

That’s what I figured,” I muttered, “A hotel manager would’ve seen subtle differences if there were any.”

I stood there, thinking until the others, including Milward, began to fidget.

Well?” The old wizard asked, “Are we going to stand here until nightfall?”

Tony,” Frankie pleaded, “What’s the plan?”

We need to find who’s in charge of security for celebrities,” I said, looking at all of them in turn.

Frankie said, “Huh?”

Milward said, “Hmm,” from around his pipe.

Chris said, “I like it! Make the event work on your side. Brilliant!”

A knot of attendees walked past. Several of them giving us the once over. I turned away to hide my face, since a couple of them sported trench coats and fedoras.

Hey, hey!” Someone called out of the crowd, “Looking good Mandolin!” And then a lot of laughter erupted.

Thank God,” Frankie breathed out, “They thought we were just more cosplayers.”

Seems I was worried about nothing,” Chris murmured.

Perhaps,” Milward mused, “If we act as if we are part of the crowd, we will be taken as part of the crowd.”

I nodded, “At least until we find a security guard.”

Or maybe we don’t have to,” Frankie said, “I’ve seen an awful lot of impersonators in the SOMA shows, Tony, and some of them look more like the original than the original. Maybe all we need to do is not act so much like ourselves.”

What the hell,” I growled, “Couldn’t hurt to try.”

So we entered the gates of nerd heaven.

It never ceases to amaze me. When the feminist movement started, one of their first targets were superhero comic books, all of the roundly condemned for the objectifying of women. And, for the most part, that war still rages today, nearly fifty years later. But if anyone went wandering through one of these affairs, their eyes would be subjected to more acreage of quivering exposed mammaries than the largest pasture in Kansas. Add to that the scrupulous use of spandex and you have the combination of a hormonal teenager’s wet dream and Ms. Steinem’s worst nightmare. Just one question, how can it be objectifying when the lassies are the ones putting themselves on display for free?

Truth be told, we did get some looks, but none of them with that wide-eyed open-mouth shock of recognition I was afraid of. Almost all were the sort given to a fellow traveler who done good. And I did see several other Tony’s and even more Frankie’s but come on, I don’t care if you are black. When you stand shy of 5’6”, no hat and coat are going to make you look a bit like the big guy. I also found myself doing a double-take a few times because I could have sworn I’d seen Violet Thurgood saunter by. She’s the new woman in my life on the professional side. And no, I mean professional as a fellow PI. If you’d seen her use those knees against a hapless thug or two as I did, your mind wouldn’t even think once of going near that gutter.

The crowd began to thicken as we neared the rooms where all the vendor booths were laid out.

In a couple of years,” Chris said, “If the subscriptions keep climbing, we’re going to be here as vendors.”

I patted him on the shoulder, “That’s good kid. Keep after the dream.”

Lesley suggested, “How about we stroll past the Tony Mandolin Mysteries booth and see if anybody’s there doing autographs?”

Frankie muttered, “Oh God…”

What, if I may ask,” Milward said, looking around wide-eyed, “Is an autograph?”

I said, “It’s a copy of your signature, written as a sort of keepsake.”

He looked at me, puzzled, “Does that not cheapen its worth? A man’s signature is a sacred thing. It is the embodiment of his oath, his word.”

Frankie chuckled, patting Milward on the arm, “Different worlds, Millie, remember?”

So we waded through the crowds, each of us likely experiencing the sensation in our own unique way. For myself, I spent a considerable amount of my time marveling at all of the exposed female form as a triumph of design. I’m single. I get to do that.

Okay, so I’ve been to one of these shindigs before. Well… once qualifies as a before, right? It was when Bain and I were looking for a weapon that could kill a dragon and for some ungodly reason we had to attend the comic convention in Frisco and somehow managed to wind up running for our lives. But, and this is a massively big one, it did point out to me that perhaps one of these booths was not what it seemed. Back in Frisco, the one where the guy sold weapons, the cheap plastic and aluminum junk the kids go gaga over, not real ones, was also a dimensional portal, and just maybe…

Frankie interrupted me with, “Oh I wish my momma could see this!” He was punching me rapidly in the shoulder, pat-pat-pat-pat-pat

Frankie,” I griped, “What are you— oh… God…I’ve been turned into a cardboard cutout.”

There, standing twice as large as life, and in the big guy’s sense that’s really big, were two huge cutout posters of Frankie and me, and they were flanking an equally huge booth. It had to be at least the size of three normal spaces.

Like I said,” Chris exclaimed, “The show is huge. The sixth season is starting this fall and the network has already optioned the seventh and eighth.”

Lovely,” I muttered.

Lesley said, “It looks like the stars aren’t here yet. I’ll bet they’re all back in the green room getting ready.”

Woah, majorly cool cosplay dude! What is that from, G-O-T?”

I turned to see a kid dressed in something from one of the steampunk catalogs. His costume had several plastic gears and pipes attached to it. Lank blondish hair trickled down from beneath his equally festooned top hat. The scent coming off of him could have kept a bay area commune high for a week. He was talking to Milward, and the eyes of the wolf’s head in the old wizard’s staff were glowing.

What,” Asked Milward, “Is this G-O-T?”

The kid laughed, putting several of the onlookers into serious danger of overdose, Farrrr outttt!”

Frankie was becoming the focus of somewhat concentrated attention.

Are you one of the stunt doubles?”

It’s him, it’s gotta be him.”

But aren’t they not due for another hour?”

Frankie? Are you the real Frankie?”

I reached in and grabbed the big guy from the crowd, saying, “Sorry kids but we have to keep circulating. You know how it is, keep the excitement going and so on?”

That seemed to stall things for a bit, but the huddled confab and the looks said it wouldn’t last long. There are look-a-likes and then there are look-a-likes, know what I mean?

We starting moving through the impacted walkway and were almost to a booth advertising giant turtles wearing fake ninja gear when a guy in a very expensive three-piece suit pushed through to us.

There you are,” he declared, “What are you doing out here so early? Come back to the green room right this instant!”

Frankie looked at me. I shrugged.

When Chris, Lesley, and Milward began following, three-piece suit shook his head, “Oh no, we’ve had too much trouble with groupies as it is. No visitors means no visitors.”

I said, “It’s all right, we’ll find you later. Show Milward around, he’ll love it.”

Three-piece suit kept the litany going as we followed him through a set of guarded doors, “DeSimone and McBride, why do you keep doing this. The studio has enough problems with the author and his demands for continuity with the books. Do you know we had another writer quit because Beers deleted her entire scene of a lesbian kiss between the two female PI’s? What about the first amendment? Do you know what the activists are going to do? Doesn’t he know what sells television?”

Frankie said, “His books seem to sell and the shows a success. Maybe he wants to play to his strengths.”

Don’t you start, McBride,” Three-piece grumbled. “If we start catering to authors, where will show business be?”

I couldn’t help it, “Better off?”

He spun around and hissed, pointing a shaking finger at me, “It is attitudes like that, DeSimone that make the difference between a celebrity and an executive, and you sir, are no executive.” Then he spun back around and stalked off toward another guarded door.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Frankie mouthing, “And you sir are no executive,” with a snarky expression straight out of second grade.

We pushed through the door as if we belonged there. The two guards didn’t even blink. On the other side three-piece was standing there stammering, “B-b-bu—.”

Frankie, not mine but the other one said, “Keeping working on that speaking thing, Dan. You might figure it out someday,” as he poured something from a thermador into a mug.

The other me was reading a copy of the Hollywood Reporter with a photo of Tom Cruise on it. It figured it didn’t matter the dimension, the guy refused to grow old. He glanced at me from over the top of the paper. “You the new body double?” He asked.

It was the chuckle from Frankie number 2 that did it. “No,” I said, “I’m Tony Mandolin. You DeSimone?”

Huh?”

The chorus from DeSimone and McBride was priceless, but not to Dan. He was looking from them to us and back again.

What’s wrong, Danny boy?” The other me asked, “You having fits… again?”

I… do… not have fits!” Dan squealed, “I am the co-executive assistance traveling producer to this circus and you will treat me with due respect!”

Uh… Dan?” I said, “I think they are.”

You, you, you… imposter!” He shrieked, “I will have you arrested and removed immediately!”

No… you won’t,” The other Frankie, McBride finished sipping from his mug and walked across the room to stare at the big guy.

It was an incredibly odd scene, like seeing one of those mirror plays, except there was no mirror involved. McBride tilted his head one way and Frankie followed. Frankie held up a hand and McBride matched him, movement for movement.

McBride murmured, “Interesting. Holland, you gotta try this.”

Holland?” I thought, as DeSimone got up and came over to look at me. That was his first name?

He beckoned to me, “You say you’re Tony Mandolin?” He chuckled, “What, did you pass through a dimensional rift or something, like one of those scripts the author rejected?”

I nodded and replied, “How’d you guess?”

I expected some snickering, but not outright belly laughs. “Oh this is too much,” DeSimone howled, practically falling down as he laughed out of control. “Danny boy, you have got to hire these two. They are perfect.”

I pulled out the gun and the laughing stopped.

Th-th-that’s not a prop,” DeSimone said, pointing.

No,” I replied slipping the gun back into its holster, “And I’m not a double. Believe it or not Holland,” I stressed the H in his name, “Your guess was right on the money. I have on me everything that’s needed to prove I am the real deal. You fellows should know what a real ID looks like just like you knew this,” I pointed toward the concealed holster, “was real. Care to take a chance on having your world rocked?”

Right then Danny boy went screaming out of the door.

I muttered, “Oh… crap.”

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