“No. Absolutely not. Get back in there and wear something I’d be caught dead being seen with. And invent yourself a comb while you’re at it!”

Liz rolls her eyes. She throws her arms up in mock frustration as she walks away from Sally’s limo. “How was I supposed to know you didn’t want the blowtorch burns intact?” She knew she kept her extra-stained lab coat around for something. The hair was a freebie- she’d had a total of four hours of sleep since Sally tossed that heavy brick of cash into her lap. She’d been running on fumes, inspiration, and a little device that was supposed to stimulate your brainwaves to replace sleep. She definitely felt stimulated, but it was in that “wired, but exhausted” feeling you get from too much caffeine when you’re already tired. So not the feeling that helps.

Sally sent Elizabeth back in two more times after that. She didn’t like last year’s Halloween costume (“There are no witches at this dance!”) or the bathrobe (“I’m glad you finally figured out how to clean yourself, but assume you’re more capable than that.”). Once Liz had wasted all the time she could (That is, Sally threatened to follow her up and dress the mad scientist herself), she wore her real outfit. A daring crimson number with a slit for her leg on one side. She actually cut it herself to show off the little pink test tube with heart-shaped bubbles on her thigh. Totally worth being barred from giving blood. Her crimson hair fell long and smooth over her shoulders, expertly hiding the blowtorch singe on her cheek and the tear in her left ear. A hair clip held a brass gear above her right eye. She let herself into the limo and promptly started rooting through Sally’s fridge. “Does anyone actually like sparkling water?”

As promised, the Bella Tolls Benefit Ball was a who’s who of philanthropists, the wealthy, and whatever arm candy the first two could bring along. This year, Sally had rented one of the swankiest ballrooms in town- the one right in the middle of the city aquarium’s main tank. No matter which way you look, there’s just this endless blueness teeming with all kinds of life. Fish swirl in every direction. Gentle giants mix with quick, nimble predators. The first thing Sally did was compare her constantly flowing dress to the world just outside the glass dome.

Sally was ready to make a splash. As soon as the doors opened and the so-called couple walked in, Sally was ready to be the belle of the ball. She was already more popular than the year she came dressed as an actual bell. Simulated water rushed from the top of her head, crashed on the fake rocks that lined her waist and fell in into a perfect poofy dress. That dress was the product of at least two sleepless nights for Liz. It’s actually kinda hard to count when you’ve been up for 48 hours straight running on nothing but fumes and raw inspiration. Sally had to call her to get her out of bed. Every step Sally took was accompanied by the serene crashing of water upon simulated rocks. Unfortunately, that was the only thing serene about the bratty waterfall we call Sally Silvestra. She immediately grabbed a waiter’s attention and demanded something more substantial than hors d’oeuvres. “I skipped lunch to fit into this thing and all you have for me are the same tiny sausages you serve to the masses?” She threw her hand up his face. The silver platter clattered to the ground. Sally was already on the move, ready to terrorize the next pour soul who wandered into her path.

She wasn’t off the war path yet. She had to show her flashy new dress off, after all. She had to chat up everyone she met. And, of course, she had to show off her arm candy at every opportunity. Sally would start every conversation by showing off her perfectly appropriate dress, going off to a brief “Have you met Liz? She’s Inspired, you know. She made this dress. I’m her best customer, you know. See how it fits me? I told her…” After that, it’s a lot of Sally talking about herself until the other party excuses themselves to top up on punch, and the heiress is off to her next victim.

“So, which one is Bella?” Liz idly scanned the crowd. Not that it’d do much good. The only pictures she could find of Bella online were either sketchy conspiracy theory-type things or from a few centuries ago.

“Look who just crawled out from under a rock. Bella Tolls hasn’t made a public appearance in twenty years. Some people even doubt she exists.”

“I hear she’s an alias. Some rich weirdo uses the name to try and make it cool to give to charity.” Sally’s current conversational partner chimed, happy to talk about something other than the silver-haired waterfall. He was a tall fellow who hadn’t had his suit coat pressed in some time. His tie was a few inches too short, and the scales on his reptilian tail looked like they’d never been polished. “Some people come just to look for clues.”

“Can you imagine meeting her?” Sally said. “That picture would be on the front page of every news org in the country. ‘Mysterious, reclusive billionaire shows face for first time.’” Sally let her gloved hand drift through the air. “Of course, looking for her wastes valuable networking time. If you’re not here to rub elbows and trade business cards, what good are you?”

“Some people say she can’t stand publicity. It’s why she went into hiding in the first place.” His tail swished back and forth while he talked. “She made a lot of money inventing some gene splicing technology. Couldn’t handle the publicity, though. Lots of rumors about whether she was working on her own genes, back when that was a real no-no in the mainstream media. She could be here right now and we might not even recognize her.”

“Please. How could you not want to be in the middle of your own party?” Sally scoffed. “This is the biggest event of the season, and you can do anything you want because it’s your party! How could you waste something like that unless you had something seriously wrong with yourself?”

Mr. Lizardtail (it’s Brazilian, thank you very much) soon excused himself to apply some scale lotion.

Somewhere in the crowd, a