Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 39 of 61

Chapter 7

The meds helped me cope with the next couple of days, starting the rehab on the Mansion. We worked all night erecting a scaffolding around the facade, though no real work would be done on it — we wanted the appearance of rapid progress, and besides, I had an idea.

I worked alongside Dan, using him as a personal secretary, handling my calls, looking up plans, monitoring the Net for the first grumblings as the Disney-going public realized that the Mansion was being taken down for a full-blown rehab. We didn’t exchange any unnecessary words, standing side by side without ever looking into one another’s eyes. I couldn’t really feel awkward around Dan, anyway. He never let me, and besides we had our hands full directing disappointed guests away from the Mansion. A depressing number of them headed straight for the Hall of Presidents.

We didn’t have to wait long for the first panicked screed about the Mansion to appear. Dan read it aloud off his HUD: “Hey! Anyone hear anything about scheduled maintenance at the HM? I just buzzed by on the way to the new H of P’s and it looks like some big stuff’s afoot — scaffolding, castmembers swarming in and out, see the pic. I hope they’re not screwing up a good thing. BTW, don’t miss the new H of P’s — very Bitchun.”

“Right,” I said. “Who’s the author, and is he on the list?”

Dan cogitated a moment. “She is Kim Wright, and she’s on the list. Good Whuffie, lots of Mansion fanac, big readership.”

“Call her,” I said.

This was the plan: recruit rabid fans right away, get ’em in costume, and put ’em up on the scaffolds. Give them outsized, bat-adorned tools and get them to play at construction activity in thumpy, undead pantomime. In time, Suneep and his gang would have a batch of telepresence robots up and running, and we’d move to them, get them wandering the queue area, interacting with curious guests. The new Mansion would be open for business in 48 hours, albeit in stripped-down fashion. The scaffolding made for a nice weenie, a visual draw that would pull the hordes that thronged Debra’s Hall of Presidents over for a curious peek or two. Buzz city.

I’m a pretty smart guy.

Dan paged this Kim person and spoke to her as she was debarking the Pirates of the Caribbean. I wondered if she was the right person for the job: she seemed awfully enamored of the rehabs that Debra and her crew had performed. If I’d had more time, I would’ve run a deep background check on every one of the names on my list, but that would’ve taken months.

Dan made some small talk with Kim, speaking aloud in deference to my handicap, before coming to the point. “We read your post about the Mansion’s rehab. You’re the first one to notice it, and we wondered if you’d be interested in coming by to find out a little more about our plans.”

Dan winced. “She’s a screamer,” he whispered.

Reflexively, I tried to pull up a HUD with my files on the Mansion fans we hoped to recruit. Of course, nothing happened. I’d done that a dozen times that morning, and there was no end in sight. I couldn’t seem to get lathered up about it, though, nor about anything else, not even the hickey just visible under Dan’s collar. The transdermal mood-balancer on my bicep was seeing to that — doctor’s orders.

“Fine, fine. We’re standing by the Pet Cemetery, two cast members, male, in Mansion costumes. About five-ten, apparent 30. You can’t miss us.”

She didn’t. She arrived out of breath and excited, jogging. She was apparent 20, and dressed like a real 20 year old, in a hipster climate-control cowl that clung to and released her limbs, which were long and double-kneed. All the rage among the younger set, including the girl who’d shot me.

But the resemblance to my killer ended with her dress and body. She wasn’t wearing a designer face, rather one that had enough imperfections to be the one she was born with, eyes set close and nose wide and slightly squashed.

I admired the way she moved through the crowd, fast and low but without jostling anyone. “Kim,” I called as she drew near. “Over here.”

She gave a happy shriek and made a beeline for us. Even charging full-bore, she was good enough at navigating the crowd that she didn’t brush against a single soul. When she reached us, she came up short and bounced a little. “Hi, I’m Kim!” she said, pumping my arm with the peculiar violence of the extra-jointed. “Julius,” I said, then waited while she repeated the process with Dan.

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