I'm participating in the "What If?" Blogfest, hosted by the official heirs of the Grimm Brothers: Mark Koopmans, Leigh Covington, Cassie Mae and Morgan Shamy.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if we swapped one tiny detail of our familiar, beloved fairytales? We get some incredible twists, that's what! I chose to join the "Best Plot Twist" group and decided to mess with the classic Cinderella.
I got carried away with the story, so the first 300 words are the "official" blogfest entry. The rest is there in case you want to read on and see how it ends!
Goodbye mild-mannered housemaid, hello smart suave undercover agent.
What if Cinderella's Ball was a sting operation?
In a cramped, nondescript office in mid-town, a screen flashed the pictures of two women. Below them, in thin black font, scrolled a warning: The Stepsisters – Wanted on Theft and Trafficking Charges.
The room’s door burst open, and a pixie blonde in a dark suit strode in carrying a mop. “We got ‘em, Gus.” She tugged the hidden recording device from the mop’s handle and slapped it on the table in front of the wiry man monitoring the screens. “Ten years of sweeping floors and crawling through dusty air vents finally paid off. This is the evidence we needed.”
“I don’t know, Elle. The Sisters are big names around here. Even with that tape you got, it’ll never stick. What we really need is a chance to catch them in the act.”
“We have it.” Elle tapped the website she’d brought up on Gus’ computer. “Here.”
“The Royal ball? Naw, too risky. The Prince is just an unwitting fall guy in the Sisters’ latest con. We can’t let this bounce back on him.”
“What if we had someone on the inside? I lifted an invite from the Sisters’ mailbox today. All ladies of the house, it said. And I’m a lady.”
Elle ignored him. “We’ll set Jacques up as a potential buyer and get it on record. I know their weaknesses, and I’m telling you, we can nail them. Let me run the op.”
Gus nodded thoughtfully. “Write it up. We’ll move tonight.”
* * * * *
300 words stop here
* * * * *
Three hours later, the unit’s make-up team had lengthened her pixie cut into the long tresses she wore undercover. This time, no dirt dulled their edges. The full skirt of her robin’s-egg dress disguised a wire and several guns. Oil-resistant elbow length gloves, compliments of Gus’ gadget collection, would mask any fingerprints in places she didn’t want to leave them. Gus handed her a pair of shoes, and she shot him a quizzical look. “These are glass.” In fact, they were exquisite.
“It’s my latest camera design. We see what you see.”
“Can’t you just give me a button?”
“The shoes let me watch everywhere at once, even behind you while your back is turned.”
She examined the pair. None of the electronics were visible to the naked eye. “Nice.”
* * * * *
Without the subtleties of the sting, the ball would have been utterly boring. Elle danced with a number of very eager, very vapid men before the Sisters made their appearance. “Finally,” she muttered when she spotted them on the verandah. She politely stepped away from her date. “Jacques, they’re moving toward you now. Let me know if you need me to intercept.”
The ear pieces kept her in touch with Jacques, in position in the curtained balcony where they’d arranged for the meet to go down, and with Gus, in the tech van.
“We’re set here,” Jacques said. “I can see them on approach. Gus, you getting this?”
“Affirmative. We’re rolling.”
“Hey, Elle.” Jacques again. “The Prince is wandering a little too close to our op zone here in the balcony. Can you steer him away?”
“Moving now.” She caught sight of the Prince’s royal suitcoat through the crowds and headed toward it. He was already halfway up the main stairs. “Excuse me.” She touched his elbow, making her voice coy. “Aren’t you the Prince?”
A couple eyelash bats, and he was hers. She steered him back to the main ballroom and kept him there for three songs while Jacques made the deal with the Sisters. Compared to the others, the Prince was a decent dancer. He kept up a steady stream of interested conversation, and she almost felt bad that her attention was on the voices in her ear instead.
She carefully angled their latest waltz turn to get a better view of the balcony. It was empty. Too late, she realized the Sisters were heading back to the main floor. Close enough to spot her. She spun away from the Prince and whispered, “Guys, we’re blown. We’ve got the evidence. Get out now. I’ll ditch the Prince and meet Jacques at the car.”
“We still need eyes on that building, Elle. If anyone walks out with the artwork Jacques fronted—”
“On it.” She turned back and threw a hurried curtsey in the Prince’s direction. “I’m so very sorry. I must go.”
“Wait” He stepped after her. “I simply must know who you are!”
The Sisters were on the move. And Gus still needed eyes. Elle ran for the main entrance, weaving through the crowd and ignoring the Prince’s calls behind her. Just outside the entrance, at the top of the grand outside stairs, she smoothly stepped out of one glass slipper without losing pace. “Good enough vantage for you, Gus?”
“Perfect, I can see all the exit points. Now, get your ass back to the car.”
The car was a sleek silver beauty, all muscle and curves. It made get-aways a dream. The Stepsisters fired a couple shots in vain as she ducked in, and Jacques gunned it. Within minutes, she was back in the tech van with Gus, doing final op clean-up. And no one at the ball was the wiser. Elle shed the dress and undid her hair extensions.
“Check this out.” Gus’ voice called from the front of the van.
“What?” She hopped into the legs of her suit pants as Gus tapped the surveillance screen.
“Your Prince came out on the steps looking for you. He’s gonna get himself into trouble if he doesn’t stop sticking his nose around.”
Sure enough, there he stood, shadowed by Palace Security as usual.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Elle said. “I’ll handle this.” She climbed down from the van, skirted the next block to avoid drawing attention to their recon location and walked up to Palace Security, flashing her badge. “I’ll take it from here, pal.” She turned to address the Prince. “What seems to be the problem, sir?”
“There was a shoot-out on our steps. That woman I was dancing with…I think they kidnapped her.”
She barely stifled a snort, but no recognition flared in his eyes. That was good. Yeah, I look different out of a dress, don’t I, bub? “A shoot out, sir? That would be highly unusual on the palace steps, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, yes…but they were right there. A man and a woman fighting two others. And there was this car. Like a tricked-out silver car you see in movies.”
In the background, the clock struck midnight.
“Sir, I can assure you there were no shots fired. There was no car of that kind.”
“B-but, I saw it. It drove right there and slowed down. I’ll show you.”
Elle turned where his finger pointed and hid a smile. The curbside and the field beyond were empty now, of course. Jacques had taken the ride back to HQ. Only a few animals remained scrounging for food along the gutter.
“Those are mice, sir. They’re eating a pumpkin.”