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Some women kept baskets of potpourri on their desks at work. Jazz Taylor kept a basket of latex noses. She also collected chins, foreheads, and ears. Special-effects work called for strange accessories, a flexible personality, and often odd hours.
"Don't squirm," Jazz said for the second time. She sighed in exasperation. "You're going to give my Venus de Milo cellulite." She carefully used the edge of a rubber spatula to smooth plaster-soaked bandages over her model's buttocks.
"But it feels disgusting," her victim whined.
"I know. But think of it this way: a part of you will be immortalized. People in movie theaters all over the country will see it."
The model snorted. "I'd rather the public got familiar with my face."
"Well, you know what they say," Jazz reminded her. "Start at the bottom and work your way up."
"Why can't you just chop up a departmentstore mannequin, or something?"
"It's not the same," Jazz said patiently. "I need a more full-figured body for the Venus."'
"Oh, so not only do I get the spatula treatment, but you're calling me fat. This job sucks."
"Curvaceous. Sexy. Not fat. The Venus de Milo was the, epitome of female beauty in ancient Greece."
"Yeah? Well, from what I hear, the men were all gay. This stuff better peel right off, like you said."
Jazz shrugged. "If it doesn't, I'll cut you out with my chain saw."
The studio phone rang as the girl's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates.
"Kidding," Jazz told her. "I'm only kidding. Cahn down." She added more plaster to the model's posterior, letting the answering machine get the phone.
"Hi, you'vereached Taylor FX Studios. We're unable to answer the phone at the moment, but please leave a message and your call will be returned promptly." Her voice on the tape sounded tinny and artificial.
"Jazz, my dear, it's your father. Are you there?" Her hands froze in position.
His voice continued, clipped and British even after thirty years in the States. "I realize that it's been some time."
jazz sat down, hard, on a paint-spattered stool.
"Please pick up, my dear. This is rather an emergency. I'm in a spot of trouble." Her father's voice sounded gravelly, rough, not his normal smooth, persuasive tones.
jazz groaned. Then she wiped her hands quickly on an old towel and reached for the receiver. "What do you want, Myles?"
Police Officer Tony Sinclair bumped his way through the potholes, loose gravel, and puddles in the parking lot of the old warehouse. His unmarked car, which he'd just run through a neighborhood car wash, was fast becoming spattered with mud. He sandwiched his vehicle between a sixties-era Volkswagen bus and a battered Eldorado. The sleek Taurus looked too conservative and conventional in this setting, like Tony himself .
Freakin' probation, he thought with disgust. just my damn luck. And what had happened was beyond any mortal man's control.
Today marked the first day of his disgrace, until the nasty upcoming hearing in front of the Board of Police Commissioners.
He sighed. Things would never be the same. He'd have to dodge the infrared beam of the captain's hairy eyeball until the old goat retired. He could still hear the captain's voice, reverberating with the pronouncement of doom.
"Sinclair," he'd growled, "you're a goddamned disgrace to your father's memory."
Worse, Tony hadn't even been able to defend himself. He shoved it out of his mind and opened the car door, setting one wing-tipped foot, then the other, between two mud puddles.
Two artsy types wearing denim and clunky black shoes watched him with patent curiosity as he crossed the lot. The man sported a bandanna and beard, the woman a clove cigarette.
Tony sniffed hungrily. It wasn't the real thing, but it was close enough. It had been twenty-two days, two hours, and thirty-six minutes since he'd had a cigarette. He tried to feel empowered and disciplined. He felt edgy instead. Slanting an avaricious glance at the full packet of smokes the woman held, he creaked open the aged wooden door of the warehouse and stepped inside.
The hallway was long, gray, and dingy. Plain Sheetrock displayed its seams. Seventy-five-watt bulbs hung from their wires in metal cages. A paper sign pointed the way to several art studios, Taylor FX being one of them.
Tony turned right at the end of the hall, then left at the end of the next, following more paper signs to a heavy black-metal door with a square plexi window. He knocked.
What would this Taylor guy be like? Tony was actually looking forward to meeting the man who'd created so many puppets and odd creatures for Atlanta's theater and television productions. He had a real gift.
So what was he doing working in a dump like this? You couldn't create characters for one of the longest-running children's shows on television and not be paid decently
In response to his knock, the heavy door swung open, and a slight girl in paint-spotted, baggy overalls asked, "May I help you?" She held a gooey spatula in one hand.
Tony stared at her, taken by this little pixie. Her brows were raised over large brown eyes, the dominant feature in her small face. Her hair was also brown, and clasped into an untidy curly mass on top of her head with one of those plastic clawlike things. She had a small, firm mouth, nude of lipstick, and Tony found it entrancing.
"Baking cookies?" he asked conversationally.She looked at the spatula. "Not exactly... To Catch a Kiss. Copyright � by Karen Kendall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.