It was a dark and stormy night.
The rain beat them like rented mules. It was one of the heaviest rains any of them had ever endured. The six people, five women and one man, fought their way up a long winding road towards a forbidding looking castle. Their car had failed them long ago, so they were fighting on without it.
The wind was stronger than day old coffee and knocked them on their butts on more than one occasion. Most of them jumped back to their feet, cursing. Only one of the women, the tallest, refrained from using foul language.
When they finally reached the top of the hill, the tallest woman, who seemed to be the leader, knocked on the door using an ornate gold knocker that had been formed in the shape of a bullhead.
The door was opened by a rail thin man who looked to be more bones and skin than anything else. The only thing big about him was a big head that was all out of proportion to his body. "Are you the Slide Police?" The man inquired in an effeminate voice. He did not come across as homosexual, in fact he was asexual more than anything else, but he DID have an effeminate voice.
The woman who seemed to be in charge nodded and led the group into the foyer.
"Before you come any farther, I will need your names to assure myself that you are on the approved list."
The woman in charge sighed. "Very well. My name is Diana Lloyd. I am in charge of this team, and I am one of only two members of this team who has actually been a Slider. Sarah Ginsfield, the chief of detectives, sponsored me for this team."
The only man in the group stepped forward, blinking from the water still pouring from his soaked hair. "My name is Antony Wuhrer. I am the Master Interrogator of this team. Ginsfield also sponsored me for this group. Excuse me, I am not usually this much of a blinker." He wiped his eyes again.
"My name is Chalice Connell. I am the lead investigator. Myc Hand sponsored me for this team."
The door man frowned. "'Myc' ? You're kidding, right?"
Chalice shrugged. "He's from Canada."
Another woman from the group spoke up. "My name is Jade Derricks. I am the finest forensics expert in the world. Jumper Tollis sponsored me for this team."
"My name is Jennifer Locke," the next woman stated. "I am the Master At Arms of the team. Wolf M. Twain sponsored me for this team."
The door man finished writing that and eyed the last woman. "And you?"
"My name is Heather Davies. I am the Team Hunter. I can't tell you how many Sliders I have caught sleeping. Tiger Woods sponsored me on this team."
Diana moved past the doorman firmly. "I take it that all of us are acceptable? Then will you tell us why we were brought up here in the dead of a dark and stormy night?"
The doorman wheeled and seemed ready to glare at her. But the look on her face warned him against it. Instead, he said, "you are here because four Sliders violated our home tonight. One of the four of them murdered the lady of the house, and it is up to you experts to discover which Slider it was!"
"Perhaps you could tell us the nature of the crime before we examine the scene and interview the suspects." Diana suggested helpfully.
The doorman, who had introduced himself as Fred, nodded. "Follow me. I can tell you as we walk. It all started late this afternoon. Four Sliders landed in our courtyard. For some reason Master Bates offered them shelter. Dinner was at five, and all four of them dined with Master Bates and Lady Bates. The Master and Lady retired around ten. About an hour later Maude, the lead house keeper, discovered the body and the murder weapon in the kitchen."
They were at the kitchen now, in fact. Diana ordered Jennifer to seal the room and allow no one in. Jade entered the kitchen and began taking pictures of the corpse. The fallen woman, still clutching a melting cherry Popsicle, lay facedown on the floor near the refrigerator. The weapon lay nearby. "It appears that she was bludgeoned to death with an onionloaf." Jade reported. She jumped over the weapon and continued to snap pictures.
Antony blinked. "A what?"
A deep voice from behind them replied. "Yes. A lunchmeat that has never been allowed in this mansion. The Lady was allergic to it. Ironic, eh? Though more ironic would have been if it had been baloney, since she was full of it most of the time."
The team turned in unison. It was Master Bates. He was a tall, lean man. His completely bald head resembled a scuffed up pool ball. He was wearing a red smoking jacket and fluffy lime green slippers.
Antony approached him. "And what makes you so sure this is a matter for us? How can you be sure if one of the Sliders did this?"
"They must have brought along that deadly weapon, because there was no onionloaf on the premises, I can assure you. Everyone who works here can testify to that."
Diana rubbed her chin with one nervous finger. "Plech. When does their timer run out? As you know, we can't legally hold them past their Slide window without tangible proof that one of them has committed a crime."
Master Bates sighed. "This was the need for you to rush up here. They Slide in 12 hours unless you have a reason to hold one of them. That must be why they felt they could get away with this atrocity."
Diana nodded and turned to her team. "Jade, Jennifer, you are in charge of the crime scene and the body. Chalice, you decide the course of your investigation. Heather will assist you. Antony, you're with me." She returned her attention to the doorman and Master Bates. "Take me to them."
The four Sliders were Quinn, Arturo, Remmy, and Wade. In their time, the Slider Enforcement Team had run across many variations of Sliders, as some had lost original members and picked up new ones. But these four were still the most common. More rare, but still occurring, were Slidering groups which included none of these four.
Diana allowed Antony to interview them after it was explained who they were and formal introductions were made. "Okay, first of all, did any of you transport an onionloaf from the previous world?"
The four exchanged glances and then shook their heads.
"Look, I can understand someone being reluctant to admit that they eat something as nasty as onionloaf. And ordinarily I would allow you the social lie of saying that you have never possessed it. In this case, however, the truth must be known. So I will ask again, did any of you four bring onionloaf into this residence?"
"Very well. I must warn you that on this world we possess a way of examining taste buds and determining if someone has very odd tastes. That will not be conclusive, you might just prefer pineapple and cheese on toast, for instance, but it will give us an idea on who to focus on." He was lying about the technology, but there was no way for them to know that.
Still no reaction.
"Very well, I'll interview each of your separately then. You come with me first."
Arturo was miffed. "I'll have you know, sir, that just because I have big bones does not indicate possession of odd tastes! I am the size I am because I enjoy the finest foods, not the worst!"
After the two were out of earshot, Diana eyed the other three. None of them were looking guilty. Shaking her head she left the room and locked the door behind her.
Diana was in the main hallway when she heard Chalice and Heather searching the massive living room.
"Can you believe they would leave something like this lying out in the open?" Chalice could be heard saying.
"Oh no! How embarrassing! I would have had to hide that if I knew investigators were coming!"
"Look, it has batteries already loaded in. It looks like it has been used a lot."
Two giggles could be heard.
"Do you think it was for her or for him?"
Heather giggled again. "I can't believe you said that! His butt looked normal to me! It HAD to be for her!"
"Look at the satin cushion on this side!"
Diana hurried up to the doorway, dying to know. "What in heaven's name are you two talking about?"
The other two looked up, startled. "Oh! This is an Ass Master 6000! It is for people with buttock injuries. It massages you as you sit down."
"I see. Carry on then." Diana shook her head as she left the doorway. This job had long night written all over it.
"Yes! Yes! You foolish man! You have asked me this four times now!" Arturo shouted.
Antony wrote a note on his pad.
"What was that? What did you just write?"
The interrogator shrugged. "Just a note." He continued writing.
"This doesn't make any sense! This is the fourth time I have answered this question, what could you possibly be writing down by now?" Furious, Arturo leaned over and snatched the pad out of Antony's hand. There were several notes about key information, but the thing the investigator was apparently doing now was a doodle of a large man swinging from a tree via a noose. Underneath had been written, 'defensive, antagonistic, prone to snatching pads from interrogators!' Arturo dropped the pad as if it were lime flavored candy. "How could you possibly know I was going to do it?"
Antony blinked. "You are the twentieth Maximillian Arturo I have interrogated in the past two years. You tell me. For reference, two others have been found guilty of murder, so you are also prone to that."
Arturo settled back in his chair. He could see that he was going to have to be uncharacteristic with this lad if he was going to survive this investigation.
"One melting cherry Popsicle." Jade commented into her headset microphone as she bagged the evidence. "Checking the pockets of her robe now. One pair of extra long nose hair clippers. One partially sucked Starmint candy, lint covered. One set of keys. One lighter. One spaghetti noodle, 4 inches long."
Jennifer shook her head. "Some people use their pockets more than others, I guess. You know, I need to keep this in mind. You can die at any moment. I don't want to have anything embarrassing in my pockets when I die."
"I know what you mean. I always carry at least one dignified item in my pockets to counterbalance anything else I might have in hand or pocket."
"Oh really?" Jennifer returned. "As in what?"
Jade shrugged. "Something like the silver medal I won in the World Jumper contest in last year's World Games. Something dignified like that."
"Oh, in that case, I might start carrying around a Mark Twain novel or something. Or one of his essays."
"Makes sense." Jade activated her mike again. "One nearly empty tube of an externally applied laxative ..."
Chalice and Heather were interviewing Master Bates in the study. He seemed unwilling to tell them why he and the Lady had separate bedrooms.
"You insist that the two of you rarely argued, but the servants I have talked to said that you never entered each other's bedrooms." Chalice pressed. "This just doesn't sound like a close marriage to me. And yet, you insist that it is one."
Bates was pacing the floor. A couple times he started to speak, stopped himself, and then finally went over to the main doors and closed them. He returned to the other two and spoke in a soft voice. "Well, we were very close. We adored each other. We just weren't sexually attracted to each other."
Chalice thought she had it now. "You are a homosexual? There is no reason to be embarrassed about that. This is the 90's."
"No, it's not that."
Heather raised her eyebrows. "So you're straight? But having an affair?"
"No." He wiped his forehead nervously.
"Maybe you should tell us, Master Bates." Chalice insisted.
"I am a Vegesexual." He whispered. Then louder. "So you see, that is why we have separate bedrooms. The Lady was allergic to leafy green vegetables."
Chalice made an "O" with her mouth and closed her notebook. "O-kay. I think that is all we need right now. We'll look for you again if we need anything else."
"Yes, certainly. And I appreciate your discretion in this matter."
"Of course. Just lettuce finish our investigation and this will all be over in the morning with no one the wiser." Chalice responded and turned to leave the room.
Heather lingered. "One more question. Exactly how does that wor-." She squealed as Chalice, without turning, reached back and seized her arm to pull her along and out of the room.
Remmy sighed. "This is another fine mess the Professor's gotten us in!"
Wade socked him in the arm. "Are you saying that he did it? I can't believe you!"
"He's just saying that the Professor should have never brought along that stupid onion loaf with us. If anyone finds out he's the one who did, we are all toast." Quinn sighed. "We are co-conspirators now."
"In what?!" Wade shot back. "Conspiracy to conceal and transport lunchmeat? Give me a break!"
Quinn was about to retort that the meat in a question was a murder weapon when a key hit the lock. Diana entered, face impassive as always. Again she darted quick looks into their eyes, trying to detect any duplicity. When she had given that up, she sighed and addressed Remmy. "Mr. Brown, come with me please. You will be the next interviewed. You two sit here and think about this dwindling timer." She held up the confiscated device. "The time to sell out whomever did it is now. There are only seven hours remaining, and the paperwork for the release of a timer takes hours to complete."
Quinn snorted. "You act like you know us so well. If we knew that one of us had murdered someone, we would turn them in immediately. We'd have to. Otherwise, we wouldn't 'sell out' a friend to save ourselves. It would only be because it was the right thing to do!"
Diana spared him a smile. "Why not? Most of your doubles have sold one or more of their friends out. Why not you?"
They were almost believing her when someone interrupted.
"What rubbish! Don't pay attention to this rot, my friends. My name is Sean Floyd, and I am an official Sliders defender! Hmmmm. Looks like a typical crew to me. Not a Brit Slider among them. Pity. The British Sliders are always fun. No matter!" He finally stopped talking long enough for the three Sliders to absorb his appearance. He was a tall, lean man with devilish good looks and dashing mannerisms. He grinned at Diana cheerfully. "Aren't you still in school or something?"
She snorted, eyeing him with irritation. "You know very well that my grades were higher than yours! You have a nerve to mention school in my presence!"
Sean cast a secret wink to Quinn and Remmy before returning his gaze to Diana. "We shall see who gets winning marks tonight, eh?"
"... one pack of semi-moist Jolly Rangers. One error filled, partially written, fan letter to David Peckinpah. One extra large bag of ..."
"Mr. Brown, what kinds of snacks do you bring with you when you Slide?" Antony asked, blinking.
"I don't bring any lunchmeat, I can assure you of that! I usually bring a bag of cheese puffs. Maybe some raisins."
Sean interrupted. "My dear chief investigator, are we bringing the eating habits of the free world out into the open? Because I assure you, my friend, if you make this investigation ugly I intend to bring out the eating habits of every person involved with this case into the open. Do you really want to jury to know what YOU are eating for your midnight snack?"
Antony looked nervous. "You wouldn't dare!"
"I would, could, and will. If you want to drag out personal history into this case, if you want to smear the good name of these fine visitors, then you had better be prepared to get in front of a microphone and tell the world that you have never had eating relations with that lunchmeat, onion loaf, and that you have not lied about it, not a single time!"
"You have no proof that I've consumed onion loaf!"
Sean grinned. "Can you be as adamant about ...," he leaned forward and whispered into Antony's ear. The man's face went completely white.
"You wouldn't tell anyone I've eaten that!"
"I have pictures. You ate it on toast with jelly butter, which is disgusting in and of itself, but that is another story."
Antony sighed. "Well, I didn't want to use this, but I have pictures of you driving a ..." he leaned forward and whispered, "... during your vacations when you thought no one would know!"
It was Sean's turn to become as white as an albino snow rabbit buried in snow, wrapped in a virginal wedding gown, wearing a polor bear fur cap, and eating vanilla ice cream. "Sir, I beseech you! It would destroy my image if anyone knew I drove THAT in real life!"
"Then it appears that we have reached a balance, if you will. Mutually assured ridicule."
Remmy rose. "Well, this has been real fun, but since you two are enjoying each other's company so much I think I'll be going now."
"Not so fast, Mr. Brown, we have not even started with you yet."
"... collection, missing only the year 1986."
Jennifer sighed. "How many more pockets do we need to search? How big could that robe be?"
"Only 12 more pockets. A matching pair of Dudley Do-Right socks. One used, non-oral thermometer. One partially used ..."
"So this was the dining room where they had their dinner?" Chalice wanted to know.
"Yes miss." The Lead Serving Wench, Lorena Bobbitt, replied politely. "They had sliced smoked sausage, hot peas, and hot buttered buns. All except the Lady, she is allergic to almost everything."
"But you wouldn't believe what she is NOT allergic to!" Jade called from the kitchen next door.
Heather bent and carefully inspected a stain on the floor near the middle of the room. "Have you ever seen this stain? Is it recent? Perhaps as recently as today?"
The Serving Wench shrugged. "I don't know, miss."
"Touch it, see if it is still wet." Chalice advised helpfully.
"I am NOT touching this without knowing what it is!" Heather exclaimed. "It might be something Master Bates last used!" She didn't elaborate because they had promised discretion.
Chalice grinned wickedly. "We'll send Jade in here next to investigate.
"I heard that!" Jade shot back. "I'm not touching it either!"
Ignoring that, Chalice said, "Come on, let's check her bedroom for clues."
"I'll tell you, we have landed in a lunatic's asylum! This world, and especially the people in this mansion, are INSANE!" Arturo vented. "I have never been so outraged in my life! How dare they insinuate that I could be so low!"
"We know you're not a murderer, Professor," Wade comforted.
"It is even worse than that! They are suggested that I was interested in relations with the Lady. When she rebuked me, I killed her. How dare they? Did you see the way she behaved at dinner? She was rude, antagonistic, opinionated, overly verbose, and unable to stay on one subject! We had nothing in common! Especially considering the fact that I don't dabble with married women!"
"Besides, everyone could see that it was clearly the other way around." Quinn remarked. "She was interested in you and you were not interested in her."
Arturo shuddered. "I remember, my boy. Perhaps that will help clear my name."
"Mr. Arturo was all over her at dinner, miss." Lorena told Heather and Chalice as the Serving Wench led them to the Lady's bedroom. "It was 'can I pour that for you' here and 'what a marvelous joke' there all through dinner. It was so obvious that I feared that he might try and make a play for her right there in front of everyone!"
Chalice jotted that down in her notebook. Then she gasped as they arrived at the room. The décor was best described as "chaos." She raised her eyebrows. "My, my, my. Chandler Hotel style room service is definitely missing here!"
Heather darted in, avoiding the Roachles CDs strewn everywhere, the lime green housecoats, the grass filled pots, the stuffed Spotted Owl, the extra large Greek vase filled with broken marbles, and everything else that cluttered the floor. "I am just guessing, but I think it is going to be hard to find any clues in here."
Chalice chewed on her lip for a minute. "I think you're right."
Heather grinned. "I'll bet there are some clues in one of the Sliders' rooms!"
"I like the way you think."
"... one partially used tube of nose lubricant. One George Michael/Pee Wee Herman duet CD. One Ass Master 6000 instructional video-..."
Jennifer interrupted. "Hold on, I need to get another ream of paper. Be right back."
"... one toe tumor test kit. One parking validation token. And 43 grams of pocket lint. And that's it!"
"Oh thank heavens," Jennifer sighed, stretching her writing hand and wincing.
"For this pocket. Moving on to the second pocket. One semi-cooked Danish Ham..."
"What did Miss Welles and Mr. Arturo argue about?" Antony wanted to know.
Remmy sighed. "It had something to do with the Lady, I didn't really hear it all. I just know that they had heated words, and I heard them mention her. That's all I know. But the Professor would never-."
"Yes, yes. Blah blah." Antony cut in. "Next you'll be telling me that he doesn't favor onion loaf. Save it. One of you transported that horrid meat into this castle. When we know which of you it was, we have our killer."
"What if the killer was a vegetarian just taking advantage of an item that someone else had already left in the kitchen?" Rembrandt wanted to know.
"Oh, he was definitely a meatarian, Mr. Brown. Examination of the weapon in question has revealed the greasy reside of another meaty substance on the onion loaf. The killer had eaten something else meaty before picking up and using the onion loaf, because part of the substance remained on his or her unwashed fingers!"
Sean laughed spitefully. "Oh, well, that eliminates 15% of the world population from suspicion, then, doesn't it, Stephen Hawking? That residue proves nothing beyond the fact that the killer is slovenly!"
The two started arguing again. Remmy buried his head in his arms and waited for someone to wake him from this nightmare.
Diana found Master Bates in his private study. Her sudden appearance startled the man. The can of green beans he had been holding flew from his hands, hit the floor, and rolled under a heavy cabinet.
"Damn! That was my last can!" He exclaimed. Throwing up his hands, he set aside the can opener which had rested in his lap and turned to her. "What can I do for you, madam?"
Trying very hard not to furrow her brow, Diana responded. "We are working on a theory that Mr. Arturo was attracted to the Lady, she refused his advances, and he committed the act in a fit of passion."
The man frowned. "I'm afraid that I was not paying much attention to the goings on at the table. Terribly sorry. We were having broccoli in creamy sauce and I was not following the conversation most of the time."
"I'm afraid that I have a rather delicate question. Was there ... any chance that the Lady might have led him on a little bit? That perhaps she makes a habit of that sort of thing? I wouldn't ask other than it would make our case stronger."
Master Bates considered her question for a second and shook his head. "I doubt it. She had other interests."
Maintaining her unfurrowed brow was becoming increasingly difficult. "Um, other interests? Dare I ask?"
"I am not at liberty to say, madam."
"I must ask you to peas reconsider. It might have very much to do with her death!" Diana urged. "It could clear or convict Mr. Arturo, depending on what happened tonight."
The other man thought about it. "I seriously doubt it. She would not be interested in him. Let's just say that the Lady had to have her walls painted every week and leave it at that, okay?"
Diana turned quickly to leave, lest her see her failure to resist her brow any longer. "Very well, I'll leave you to your ... business."
She had almost left the room when something else occurred to her. Wheeling back around she asked, "were there any other Sliders here this week? We know that for some reason your grounds are a common entry point."
Master Bates had been supine on the floor, his arm up to the elbow under the heavy cabinet. He leaped up to his feet as she turned around. "Why yes! Four days ago five Sliders stayed for a couple hours. They had the most wonderful cream of pea soup recipe."
"I see. I'll get their descriptions and names from your staff. Good night."
"...one disheveled Barbie Doll. One Cross-dressed Ken Doll. One Jack's House of Paint brochure. Two threadbare -."
"Ah ha!" Chalice exclaimed with glee. "We have him now!" She pointed to the damning evidence. On the night stand next to Arturo's bed were the following items. A plate, knife, bottle of Green Poupon mustard, tomato, block of cheese, four slices of bread, latest issue of Onion Loaf Sandwich Aficionado's Weekly, and nothing else.
"All this and NO lunchmeat!" Heather grinned. "Gee, that sure seems suspicious." She picked up the magazine. "Check out these headlines. 'How to make people hate you less for eating onion loaf.' Good luck on that one. 'The top five toothpastes that REALLY work for the smell!' Again, good luck. The smell could knock a vulture off a manure wagon at fifty paces! 'Meet three heroes who risked their lives to save their onion loaf sandwiches from a burning kitchen!' My goodness!" She discarded the magazine. "I could see if it was an cheese and gravy sandwich but onion loaf? Please."
Chalice smiled. "Peanut butter and apple sauce sandwich for me, but the onion loaf would have to burn! Come on, let's take some pictures and then get Diana up here!"
Wade sighed as she continued to pace the room. "Don't we get a phone call or something?"
"My dear, the chances seem good that anyone we might reach on this world would be ever madder than the ones we have encountered so far! Personally, I would rather keep my diet of walking nuts to a minimum."
Quinn glanced at Arturo. "They seem fairly normal to me. What do you mean?"
"Quinn, my boy, I spent a good deal more time exploring this mansion today than you did. They can their stamps on this world!"
"They do what?" Wade stopped pacing.
"They can their stamps! I saw three cans of postal stamps in the library. I asked one of the servants why on earth one would need a can opener in order to mail a letter, and she said, 'you couldn't get to the stamps if you don't open the can first!' and then she stormed off. Not only was that non responsive, but it was rude to boot!"
The other two Sliders simply looked at each other.
"It wouldn't surprise me if the punishment for murder on this world is a pie in your face!"
Quinn shook his head. "I just hope that we clear your name before the timer runs out or we might have to find out!"
"... two stamp can openers. One screwdriver bottle opener. One sales receipt for 56 cans of extra chunky red paint. One CD-ROM game called 'Riven' which has been inexplicably broken in half. 3 rusty..."
"So how did it make you feel when the 3rd grade teacher gave you an 'F' for your hand-turkey drawing right before Thanksgiving?" Antony wanted to know.
Remmy groaned. "I've told you before, I didn't care because I liked it-. Now what in the world could this have to do with anything? Can I please go now? You have been interrogating me for three hours now and haven't asked me anything about the crimes!"
"The quicker you answer my questions, the quicker you can get out of here. Now, you said that the first time you left the house on December 22nd, 1984, you went to a grocery store first, or was it a hardware store?"
Remmy looked pleadingly to Sean. The other man shrugged. "I can't help you here. Sliders agree to full disclosure merely by entering our world. Any little fact can be relevant to an investigation."
Antony cleared his throat. "So which was it?"
"... 13 coupons for half off on a large peanut butter and catfish milkshake at Fairy Queen. A well used pair of toe cuffs. A partially torn tee shirt with the slogan, 'Too fat to ride and too skinny to outrun' on it. 45 pairs of..."
The door to the Sliders' cell opened, revealing three grim looking investigators. Diana entered, followed by Chalice and Heather. "Maximillian Arturo, you are officially charged with the crime of Murder with the Intent to Slide Afterwards. Your friends will also be held for aiding and abetting the same. Cuff 'em, girls."
Heather produced three sets of lime green handcuffs and approached the Sliders.
Everyone turned at that exclamation from behind the investigators. Diana sighed deeply and resigned herself to more foolishness. "What is it, Master Bates?"
"I heard that you found some evidence in the third floor guest room closest to the stairs. Is that true?"
"Yes, in Arturo's room."
"But that room was not occupied by the Sliders! We always keep the Sliders on the second floor rooms closest to the stairs. Your team must have gotten confused."
Diana shook her head. "Do you see any brunettes on my team? Blondes don't get confused, sir." The retort was frustration. They had been minutes away from being able to leave this insane asylum. "Well, someone was certainly staying there! We found clothes, food, magazines. The works."
Master Bates reflected on that. "Was there any aqua vitae in the room?"
Chalice suddenly spoke up. "As a matter of fact, there was! It was lying on the bed. A full bottle!"
"Then I know who our killer was! And it wasn't the Sliders!"
"... 16 keys, each with the number 12 imprinted upon them. One ... Hey! Jennifer! Wake up and keep writing!"
"Huh? Oh, I couldn't possibly stay up a second longer." She lowered her head back on her pillowesque stack of paper.
Jade leaned back on her haunches. "Do you have any idea what all this stuff has done to the skin on my hands? Now get up and keep writing, pissant! This is as hard on me as it is you."
"Muffin." Lady Bates muttered.
"You stay out of this!" Jade turned back to Jennifer. "I know that your hands must be killing you ... but ... we ... need ... to ... um ... Did Lady Bates just say something?"
"Muffin." The dead woman said again.
Jennifer sat up. "YES!!! Oh YES!!!! She's not dead!!!! We don't have to write this stuff down anymore!!!" She leaped up, ran over to the fireplace in the next room and started throwing in pounds of paper.
"A Sliding crime has still been committed!" Jade reminded her partner.
Jennifer snatched the papers back from the fire and blew them out. "Spoil sport."
"I don't understand this! How could she be alive? We did the usual brain scan and it showed no activity. We never thought to check her pulse!"
"It's kinda hard to be alive without a brain, so why would we have needed to." Jennifer sighed. She moved aside the woman's bulging robe and checked her pulse. She was, indeed, alive. "I'll go tell Diana."
Antony blinked. "You were able to cry on cue at the age of 5? I find that hard to believe. Do you have any idea what fine the crime of Slide perjury will get you?"
Remmy contemplated what the crime of jumping out the window would cost him in fines when someone slammed open the door. The three men in the room turned in unison.
Heather, Chalice, Diana, and the three other Sliders all entered, their faces grim. Diana eyed Sean. "Why'd you do it?"
Sean snorted. "Do what? I haven't won this case yet, though I intend to."
"You didn't just arrive here tonight, as we assumed. You were spending the week in this house, visiting Master Bates. He told us as much. When the Sliders suddenly appeared, you saw your chance to have another case. You saw your chance to again represent Sliders, which is always a boon to your company. It's been a long time since you've represented any famous Sliders. All you needed was a crime for them to be charged with. So you waited for the Sliders to go to bed. You followed Lady Bates into the kitchen. You pulled out the onion loaf that you have been keeping with you for just such an occasion. You hit her with it and left it there, knowing that the odd lunchmeat would attract Slider speculation and incriminate the visitors. Then you could step in and represent them and revive your career! But you made one mistake, Mr. Clever Sliders' Solicitor! You didn't account for us mistakenly searching your room." Diana smiled at him. "Now, isn't that about how it went?"
Sean shrugged. "You couldn't be more wrong. My career is doing fine. I have seven movie scripts on my desk right now. I busted her trying to bogart my onionloaf from where I hid it. In a fit of passionate rage, I brained her with it. You know as well as I do that food passion is a legal defense on our world. I'll get off with a warning to improve my tastes. I might even get another script out of it."
Deflated, Diana turned to her minions. "Cuff 'em, girls. And let the Sliders go. They have ten minutes left on their timer." She handed the device to Quinn. "Happy Sliding."
The four Sliders were standing out in the rain. They quickly decided that they would rather be wet than in that house for one minute longer.
"I think this world qualifies as the most bizarre EVER." Wade commented passionately.
"What about the world that had Animé thingys in it?" Quinn asked.
Arturo nodded. "Or the world with the 56 doubles of us?"
Remmy, still stinging from the interrogation, jumped in. "NO, this is the MOST bizarre world ever!!! Do you want to know what they smoke here? I saw one of them roll a cigarette!"
Quinn grinned. "You'll have to tell us on the next world. Say goodbye to this one!" He activated the timer.
Wade gave the world a dirty look. "Goodbye food freak world!" She jumped in.
"Goodbye stupid interrogation world!" Remmy jumped in.
"Goodbye blistering idiot world!!!"
Chuckling, Quinn jumped in last.
Diana inspected the prone body of Lady Bates. "It is hard to believe that we missed her aliveness for so long. I guess there is nothing to do but for you two to put everything back in her pockets and then take her upstairs until Master Bates makes arrangements.
Master Bates nodded and sighed. "It is a shame."
Jennifer and Jade contemplated the idea of having to unbag all the evidence and put it all back in the correct pockets. "It's a good thing that we only did two and a half pockets."
Bates eyed his wife. "So when is she going to wake up?"
"You don't understand," Diana answered. "We did a portable brain scan and it showed no brain activity. That means that her body is alive but her mind isn't. She has no brain activity, so she is never going to wake up."
"Wait a minute!" Master Bates' eyes glowed. He considered the implications of her words for a long time. "You mean she's a vegetable?"
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