“I wish to sue!”
“I wish I were Sue, too,” I said. We looked at one another, our gazes holding like water in a sieve and both asked, “What?” at the same time. She spoke louder than me, so I guessed I had to answer first.
“Sue’s just been promoted to Principal Investigator here at Märchen Dice,” I said. “I wish I’d been promoted. The extra money and two weeks holiday would suit me just fine right now.”
“Oh.” She looked a little bit taken aback, so I took the opportunity to look her over. She was tall but she was wearing heels so it was hard to gauge her real height. Her shoes were bright red like Dorothy’s from the Wizard of Oz, and it looked like she’d stepped in something messy too. Her stockings were black, sheer nylons that caressed her calves and eventually disappeared under her skirt, which was midnight blue.
“Are you finished?” she said, and I looked up. She looked disapproving.
“Sure,” I said. “Are you?”
“I’ve not started. I wish to sue, as I’ve already told you.”
“I’m not a lawyer,” I said. “I know a few though. You need a reference?”
“Hardly! I know you’re not a lawyer, but I need evidence before I can sue, and you people do that kind of thing, don’t you? Collect evidence, stalk victims and suggest strongly to people that they should be careful what they say and do?”
“That’s a way of describing it,” I said nodding my head. Sue wouldn’t approve, but I’ve used various methods to get data that she wouldn’t approve of. That might be, in part, why she got the promotion and I got to sit at my desk on a Friday afternoon wishing I could go home already. “Who do you need information on, and what have they done?”
“He’s a frog,” she said. I rocked my chair back on just two legs, grabbed the edge of the desk for support, and tried to look cool.
“Frogs aren’t easy to sue. Mostly on account of them not being human in any sense, so not something that you can bring a request for justice against.”
“Hah, he said you’d say that!”
Now she really had my attention. I lowered the chair back down to the ground and looked her in her eyes. It turned out that they were brown; I’d been expecting sea-green or electric blue. I wondered for a moment if she wore contacts, and then wondered why anyone would pick brown as the new colour for their eyes. You might as well pick ‘mud’ as the new colour for your skin and ‘zombie’ as your new lifestyle choice.
“This is a talking frog?” I asked.
“Well yes, duh!” she snapped back. I smiled a little. I’ve been tracking reports of a talking frog for over three years now and have a half-empty file on them. Or it. I’ve never been able to find out if there’s just one, or if there’s a gang of them.
“I’ll take the case,” I said. “Tell me more about this talking frog.”
“Well, he’s a were-frog,” she said. She was giving me a look that said she thought I was acting suspiciously, but the tone of her voice said that she was pleased that someone was actually listening to her instead of laughing and sending her to the Bethlehem Hospital for the Curably Insane. “He claims to be a Prince, which is where the law-suit comes in, and he claims that a kiss will transform him from a frog to a man. As a Prince, he says, he’s heir to a small Kingdom north of The Wall and he’s willing to marry the woman who can turn him back into a man.”
“Sounds reasonable,” I said, while thinking it sounded insane. Then again, if a frog started talking to me I’d probably listen to it, if only to find out what form the madness was taking.
“Yes well. What he didn’t say was that a second kiss would turn him back into a bloody frog again! I want him sued on false pretences, or illicit marketing, or breach of the Sale of Goods Act (1974)!”
“Could be tough,” I said, slightly surprised at what she wanted. “If he didn’t say that the change was permanent it could be held to be a case of caveat emptor–“
“I thought I was hiring you to work for me?”
“–which we’ll have to make sure he can’t rely on in court,” I finished. Sue might have been proud of me if she’d heard me at that point. Though she’d probably have chucked both me and the frog-kissing woman on grounds of curable insanity. “Do you know the whereabouts of this frog?”
“Oh yes,” she said, and her lips twisted into a thin, mean smile. She opened her handbag and produced a sealed glass jar with a dead-looking frog inside. “I made sure he couldn’t get away!”
“Airholes? Airholes!” I yelled. She frowned and looked annoyed, so I snatched the jar from her and struggled with the lid. It wouldn’t turn.
“Don’t you go letting him out!” she screamed, coming to her feet and towering over my desk. She wobbled in her high heels.
“He needs air or he’ll die,” I said, thrusting the jar back at her. “Open it!”
She looked at me, then looked at the jar, and then the rosy rays of comprehension dawned across her face. She twisted the lid with enough force to make my eyes water, and the lid popped audibly open. The frog in the jar stirred just a little.
“I’ll put some holes in the lid, you give it mouth-to-mouth,” I said.
“No,” she said.
“Why not? You’ve kissed him before.”
“Because when I kiss him he’ll turn into a man, and then he’ll be even shorter of oxygen. You’ll have to kiss him.”
“He said the kiss thing only worked with women.”
I sighed. It was clearly going to be a long afternoon after all.