Detective Angelo is really good at his job.
I came out to meet Detective Angelo without hesitation when he showed up at the lab a couple of weeks later, because he’s a good guy and he deserves that respect – and it’s not like he hasn’t seen me before, he’s the one who went with the guys to get me and Hana from Doc’s abandoned hideout. That’s why he’s ‘our’ detective, he’s the one who’s always been over our lab, and after the government assholes tried to kill Hana and I he fully made up for all the shit he’d helped put us through in the past. In fact, he used that experience to make himself better at his job. He even got recognized by the city not too long ago, Detective Angelo is a good guy.
I wasn’t sure why he was at the lab today, though. “Hey, Detective, what’s going on?”
“Paperwork,” he said. “Always and forever paperwork. I’m taking a break today, though, so I can take Miss Kim to get her state I.D. updated.”
That widened my eyes. Not because he hadn’t said drivers license – Hana has never had one, even before she became a bunnygirl she didn’t drive – but because getting official I.D. has always been a problem for modded humans. The federal government is ignoring the problem until someone sues them hard enough to make them stop ignoring it, and the state governments really aren’t sure what to do either and there’s a lot of debate on both sides.
Debate about whether modded humans still count as people, that is, and how exactly the state should view them, what rights they have, all that. So it varies a lot from state to state right now. The Chicago cat women have been recognized as people, the Central Park wolfman has not. Hana hasn’t been, because for all the weirdness that lives inside its borders – or maybe because of that, I’m not sure – L.A. County can be pretty sticky about the rules and regs when you go down to the DMV. I mean, Hana had gotten her address changed on her I.D. card by switching it online, but even Rick swearing out a notarized statement that she was who she said she was would not convince the DMV to update her photo in the system. “I thought…”
“I talked to some people,” he told me. “Turns out that no matter what some of them think of your business, they are across the board not okay with Chicago being one up on them when it comes to citizens’ rights.”
He didn’t say ‘human rights’, of course – people like Hana and I aren’t human, genetically speaking. But I’ll take ‘citizen’s rights’ if that’s what’s on offer, because it’s a better alternative than having no official rights at all.
Hana came bouncing out of her room just then, and his mouth dropped open. I couldn’t help it, I laughed at him. “Let me guess, you told her she needed to dress up?”
“Yeah. I guess I should have been more specific.” Hana had dressed up, all right. Ruffled pink and white dress puffed out with lacy petticoats, straw hat trimmed with ribbons and flowers, straw bag trimmed to match the hat, shiny white shoes. “You’re adorable, but the DMV people are gonna have a heart attack,” he told her. “And they’ll make you take the hat off for your picture.”
“I know.” She bounced out of the cage and looked me up and down. “You need a jacket.”
“Why would I…” And then I sniffed. Ooh, she was proud of herself, and so was he. And so was Pete, who came out of the back with one of the jackets Hana had re-tailored for me. And a matching tie. “No.”
“Yes,” Pete said. “You need to update your license too, Danny – you can’t fly without it, remember? And ‘that guy’ has to fly.” I winced, and he pushed one ear back up. “Stop it, you’re still that guy, and we can’t drive everywhere. Unless we’re getting our own plane?”
“You only wish – cutting-edge equipment and fancy vacations are one thing, buying a plane is something else.” I knew this because I’d already looked into it. A while back, actually, because we really were on the go a lot. It still didn’t make financial sense, and our accountant had backed me up on that. “You want a plane, talk to your mother. Because when I asked her she said it didn’t make financial sense for us to do that, and she also said nobody in their right mind wants her son to be a pilot. Something about how often you fell off your board back in the day?”
He huffed. “It was a learning curve, I eventually got…” I raised an eyebrow – yes, I still have them, sort of. “…okay, well, decent enough at it that I didn’t drown. Happy?”
“Your mother will be, she still has hope for grandchildren.” He groaned, and I laughed at him. “The last time I talked to her, she said your little sister is going through an ‘I hate children’ phase and asked if I could just make her a grandbaby in the lab.”
Oh boy, there was a scent change I wouldn’t have expected. “I’ll consider it,” he said, dropping the tie over my head and then helping me on with the jacket. And then he pulled a comb out of his pocket but I batted his hand away and messed the little thatch of white-tipped fur between my ears up even more than it already was. “Okay, fine, have it your way – I was just trying to make you look nice.”
“You were trying to make me look like the fox from that new Disney movie,” I corrected. He didn’t deny it. I patted my pocket to make sure my wallet was in there, and he handed me a folder that had all of my other personal paperwork in it and then handed one to Hana too.
Hana’s folder matched her outfit; she squealed and bounced up to kiss his cheek, and then Detective Angelo herded us out of the lab. He was driving his personal vehicle today, a nice older-model four-door sedan, and Hana got the back seat because petticoats and hat and bag and the ruffled umbrella she’d brought along just in case. I settled into the front and prepared myself to be stared at every time we hit a stop. There’s a reason I try not to go out.
There was a line at the DMV, of course, because there’s always a line, but we apparently had an appointment. They had a line for that too, but it was a short one that went in through a side door and let out into a special waiting area with a few rows of plastic chairs, only about half of which were full; I sort of recognized a few people, so apparently this was the place for those of us who might cause a disruption if we came in the regular way. We were right on time, and Hana went first. She handed over her paperwork, and our detective produced a sheaf of papers of his own which he spread out when the woman at the counter tried to push them back. He went over them with her one at a time, then put them with Hana’s paperwork. The woman’s supervisor was over there by this point, and when she sent her underling off to make copies she herself sat down and talked to Hana. And apparently admired the hat and the way it coordinated with the bag, because of course she did because Hana has that effect on people. Finally the underling came back, though, paperwork was signed, and then Hana trotted back to the area where they take pictures.
Which meant it was my turn.
I was doing my best to keep my shit together, but when the lady at the desk screamed and ran I almost came right out of my skin – and so did Detective Angelo and the supervisor. I pressed a hand to my chest. “I’m guessing…she’s afraid of dogs?”
The supervisor made a face. “I thought it was just purse dogs, honestly, because they tend to pop out and surprise her. I’m sorry about that, Dr. Darling.”
I shrugged, shaking it off. “Phobias are weird, it’s okay. If it’s affecting her job, though, there’s a therapist out at the spa on West 57th who uses VR to help people bring reactions like that down to a manageable level. We don’t have a financial interest in the business or anything, but two of my business partners helped program their system so the virtual animals would be accurate. They work with people who have other phobias too, but cats, dogs and birds are the ones they have VR therapy for.”
“I’ll suggest it,” she said, and her scent agreed that she thought it was a really good idea. “You’d be amazed how many people sneak those little dogs in. Now, paperwork?” I handed it over, and wasn’t really surprised when Detective Angelo pulled out another sheaf of his own to go with it. I frowned when I saw the one on top, raised an eyebrow at him. “The mayor?”
He nodded. “Like I said, some people really didn’t like the idea of Chicago getting one up on L.A. He took it to the city council, they’re currently nagging the governor.” A smirk. “Who really, really hates Chicago since they beat the Raiders last season.”
“We all hated Chicago after that,” the supervisor informed him. “They gloated all over the place after, it was disgusting.” She was going through the papers, and when she asked I got out my drivers license and handed it over. “Is everything else still correct?”
I shook my head. “I lost about two inches, I’m just barely five-five now. My eye color shifted a little more into the yellow spectrum, but they’re still brown.”
“Do you require adaptive modifications?” I just blinked at her. “Special modifications to your vehicle. Hand brake, passenger-side mirror, things like that.”
“Not that I know of.”
She cocked her head. “Haven’t driven since the incident?”
Of course she knew. “If I had, you probably would have seen it on the news: Wolf Driving SUV Causes Pileup.”
To my surprise, she laughed. “I doubt it. You know how many clowns and zombies I’ve seen on the freeway? If people don’t wreck for clowns, they aren’t doing it for you. And the Highway Patrol only pulls people over if it looks like they can’t see – mascot heads and things like that.” She ticked off a few more boxes, then went to make copies. I noticed she made my copies herself. And then she brought everything back and I got to sign papers, and then I got to go take my eye test. Which came out pretty close to the way it had always been, because 20/20 is as high as you can go and luckily the mod hadn’t made me colorblind. I got my picture taken, they verified everything one more time…and then the supervisor was handing me a brand-new license still warm from the laminator. I grimaced at the picture, and she laughed again. “At least yours looks like you; mine makes me look like I don’t have a nose.”
That made me smile too. “Yeah, my last one kind of looked like a mug shot,” I admitted. “It was a heavy smog day.” I took a chance, held out my hand. “Thanks.”
To my surprise, she didn’t even hesitate to shake. “I’m just doing my job, but you’re welcome, Dr. Darling.”
Detective Angelo nodded to her, and then we gathered up Hana – who had been holding court from her folding chair, because a few people there had kids with them – and almost made it out before one of the kids screamed ‘Benny!’ and wrapped herself around my leg. I had to smile – Benny is the Disney character. “Nope, sorry, my name is Danny,” I corrected. “I’m a friend of Hana’s.” The kid’s mother was showing some concern – I recognized her, she’s an actress – because she was afraid I would be upset, from the smell of it, not because she thought I’d hurt her daughter. “It’s okay,” I told her. “I know there’s a resemblance. One of my friends tried to get me to comb my hair so I’d look like Benny in my license picture.”
That made her smile. “You really don’t look that much like him,” she offered. “Go online and look for the ‘Benny as a real person’ pictures, he looks really strange when he’s drawn realistically.” She appeared to think of something. “Oh, but make sure you have safe-search turned on first.”
“Thanks for the warning,” I told her, and winked. “I think I’ll withhold that information from Pete and ask him to look those up for me. It’ll serve him right.”
She laughed and detached her daughter, and we managed to get out of the DMV and back into Detective Angelo’s car before anyone else could mistake me for a Disney character. He was smirking. “Hadn’t realized you were one of them, had you?”
I made a face and shook my head. “No. Although the having to have security around all the time and constantly being in the papers should probably have tipped me off, I guess. I thought I was just bunnygirl519’s assistant when we were in public.” That got a faux-outraged huff from the back seat. “Like you don’t load up my carry-on with things to hand out every time I go somewhere.”
A waft of self-satisfaction. “I have a new batch ready. You do such a good job expanding my fanbase when you travel.”
Detective Angelo laughed so hard he almost had to pull over. But that was okay – at least he didn’t smell worried anymore.