Les Safer looked at the tickets. “So who have you chosen as your plus-one for this thing?”
“I haven't decided yet,” Dr. Green said. “I have figured out the costume to wear for it, though.”
“Well, I guess you'd better get cracking on it if you want a good one. Or be ready to get a print T-shirt costume from our distinguished competition Hal Fass Fashions.”
Dr. Green glowered back. “Never use that filthy language under this roof.”
Les couldn't tell whether that dirty look was in good humor or nasty earnestness, or the ratio if it was both. “But seriously, if you want to make a good one--”
“--I can get started on it after lunch and be done by tea time.”
Les scrunched his eyebrows, raising one. “Yeah, right. I'd like to see that.”
Dr. Green stared at him over his glasses. And hints of a smile played at the corners of his mouth. “And I wanted to see you catch the winning play. You sure you want to wager against me, Babe Ruth?”
Les put his hands on his hips. “Name the stakes.”
“Give me until four o'clock. Pick three interns to act as judges on whether my outfit passes or fails. And I'll use only materials on the grounds of this property. And if I get two out of three thumbs up, you have to join me at our function in a costume completely of my choosing.”
“Uh-huh. And if you lose?”
“I'll join you in the next function of your choice dressed in the kigurumi of your choosing, no questions asked or objections raised.” He stuck out his hand. “Do we have a bet?”
Les peered at him. “How about an Elvis Presley encore? That included?”
Dr. Green started to falter a little. But then he shrugged and nodded. “Right, fine. Kigurumi or Elvis, your choice.”
Les smirked. “Like they say at the Tootsie Pop factory, there's a sucker born every minute.” He gave the doctor a firm grip and shake. “It's a bet!”
Dr. Green flicked his fingers from his temple in a salute. “See you in a few hours, Chupa Chup! Please have our tea ready.”
As he looked around the kitchen, Dr. Green ticked off the list. “Let's see, black slacks, black ribbon, white button down shirt, shined shoes, hmnh. We have green olives, but it just won't look right without... wait, I can improvise something with a diced tomato bit and a toothpick. I can get that from the greenhouse. And I'd hate to pick something just to have it wilt and die, but I think I can experiment with that micro root system in the shirt pocket. And I guess white buttons will work, but black ones would be better, especially by the wrists.”
Then he took off the white lab jacket. “And I know tailoring is not my strong suit, but hopefully the patterns and new sewing machines will cover for me. Right then. Let's get to work.”
Les looked at the clock. It was 3:57 P.M. “He's going down to the wire on this one.”
Ayako set out the tea, sugar, cream, cups, and fresh fruit. “You're not going to make him the loser if he's late, are you?”
Gus looked at the food, wanting to partake already. “Can we start and have tea if he is?”
Phillip sat and cracked his knuckles as he flexed his fingers. “So what are the parameters for evaluation?”
Les said, “Pretty simple: is his costume good enough for your cosplay or not. Thumbs up or thumbs down.”
And just then, a certain famous cinematic fanfare in F minor sounded, followed by its accompanying surf guitar riff. And in walked Dr. Green.
He sported a white dinner jacket, a black bow tie, a red carnation in the lapel, a white cummerbund, black slacks, shiny black dress shoes, darkened black hair, and a martini glass with toothpicked olive and a clear liquid.
Everyone stared silently as he gracefully approached the tea service. After a glance around the room, he then affected a soft Scottish accent. “You were expecting someone else?”
Ayako, Gus, and Phillip looked at each other, then to Dr. Green, now James Bond. Gus was the first to make a move: a slow, impressed thumbs up. Ayako, eyes wide and fascinated, steadily brought up her thumb, too.
Phillip looked askance, and held his fist up to waggle the thumb sideways up and down. “Botched the martini,” he muttered. “It's medium dry, lemon peel, shaken, not stirred.”
Les shot him a dirty look. And just as he looked for something to toss at the computer guy's head, Dr. Green simply ate the olive, flicked the toothpick into a wastebasket, fetched a lemon wedge from the tea service and put it in his drink. “Better?”
Les nodded. “Even if he doesn't think so, I do.” And he raised his own thumb. “I admire your courage and luck.”
“Thank you,” Dr. Green said, raising his glass. “But luck is just the residue of design.”
“Where did you get the jacket and cummerbund?” Ayako wondered.
“Old lab jacket,” Dr. Green said. I simply cut it short from the coat tails, cut the shapes from the cloth, and resewed the lapels on, and hemmed what needed it. Had to improvise the hair dye with ink and a few drops from indigo plants, but I pulled it off.”
“And everything else?” Gus asked.
“Just odds and ends around the lab.” And Dr. Green knocked back the martini. “Oh, and if you're wondering, this is just pure dihydrogen monoxide, straight from the tap.”
Les smiled despite losing. “Well, looks like I'm coming along for the fun this weekend,” he said. “and I can only wonder what you've got picked out for me.”
Dr. Green chuckled. “Oh, no need to wonder,” he said. “I had your costume in mind about three seconds after we shook hands.” And he pulled a small booklet from his inner pocket, flipped to a page, and pointed it Les' way.
Les Safer's eyes went wide. His face went pale. His mouth went tight. “Oh, no,” he squeaked. “Oh, nonononononono, NO.” He looked into Dr. Green's eyes with a pleading, begging face. “You are absolutely, positively definitely NOT going to make me wear that... are you?”
Dr. Green's eyes resembled those of a shark, and his half smile that of Elvis Presley. “Uh-huh.”
Tetsuko Breckenridge let her fingers grace the replica derringer in the thigh holster exposed by the high slit in her black, slinky evening gown. The air conditioning at this birthday party made her legs feel a little cold, but she considered that a minor thing. Especially compared to that of Dr. Sonya Gannon, who was struggling to get her black leather Emma Peel catsuit's zipper all the way up past her ample bosom. “Crud,” the disgruntled doctor whispered. “I'm just plain too big for this outfit!”
“Need help?” a suave, debonair voice offered. And in walked Dr. Green in his improvised evening wear.
Sonya smiled. “Maybe you can help me get this cake down. I seem to have too much.”
“I think this might be better... suited for a younger fellow. Higher metabolism, you know.” He turned to a corner. “Might you come over and assist?”
“Please, Lord,” a voice whispered, “don't let there be any Swedish pump jokes.”
And as Les rounded the corner, the ladies gasped. Tetsuko giggled. And Sonya barely kept her own laughter down, knowing she'd otherwise bust out all over in every sense of the word.
Les was dressed in a crushed velvet suit, with frilly long lace sleeve cuffs, a cravat, Beatle boots, and coffee stained teeth from where he blew off brushing that day. Keeping cool, he glanced over at Dr. Eaton Green/James Bond and nodded.
“You're wearing white after Labor Day,” Les said. “I, too, like to live dangerously.”
“You're a good sport,” Dr. Green said, “and I think like I did last time, you're stealing the show.” To the crowd at large, he called, “Hey, everyone! Mr. Powers has just arrived!”
And getting in the spirit of the theme, and beating the rush, Tetsuko and Sonya good-naturedly flanked Les, took an arm each, and cozied up to him, as if under the spell of his musk and confidence. Les turned to Dr. Green with a forced smile. “I'm going to get you for this,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Oh, behave,” Dr. Green beamed. “this is your happening.”
Les laughed awkwardly. “And it's freaking me out.”