Coal Blackstone was posed, dainty as a daffodil, in front of a huge studio fan, happily withstanding the artificial wind that lifted and torqued the pale yellow muslin Tom Ford cocktail dress she was wearing, when one of Lincoln Ford’s studio assistants bustled in to tell her there was someone waiting to see her.
     “Now?” she asked the girl.
     “In gale-force winds?” smiled Linc.
     “She said it was very important.”
     Someone turned off the fan and everything drooped back to normal.  Studio attendants carefully divested Coal of her sunrise-coloured dress, replacing it with a shimmering black satin robe that she hastily belted around her nakedness.  Coal was curious about who would intrude so decisively into a photo-session.
     It was Joy Pommery.
     “Hello,” said Coal gaily.  “What brings you to this windswept Garden of Eden this morning?  Anything wrong?”
     Joy had known Coal Blackstone for a couple of years now and they were almost friends.  Coal rather enjoyed Joy’s tendency to be efficient about her emotions—she was, after all, the resident psychotherapist for a large, absurdly successful Toronto-based advertising agency called A.D. Inc.—and had always been curious about the degree to which she could make carefully planned, highly deliberated forays even into the mostly bleak terrain of her private life whenever she felt the need to. 
     For her part, Joy admired—as everyone did—Coal’s dark, smouldering beauty and her faultless poise.  Just at the moment, though, it was something else about Coal Blackstone that Joy was seeking out.  It had to do with the rumors she had heard about Coal’s more than casual interest in the labyrinthine ways of the criminal mind.  
     Coal wasn’t anything as banal and as earthbound as a private detective, or even something as predictable as an amateur sleuth.  But she did continue to demonstrate an abiding fascination for the machinations of the darkly bizarre, for understanding the shape of outlaw behaviours, for providing some startling and revealing excavations of motives and meanings behind psychotic enactments of every kind.  
     The police might normally have found Coal’s rummaging around in crime to be both annoying and interfering, if she hadn’t consistently proved herself so damned helpful to them.  As Chief of Police Victor Grommet had once said to her, “You know, Coal, you’d be a real scorpion in my shoe if you weren’t so fucking useful sometimes.”  Coal had thanked him, both for his tender admission and for the elegance with which he had stated it. 
     “I hate to bother you during a shoot, Coal,” said Joy, “but I’d really like to talk to you about something that’s sort of worrying me.”
     “Of course, Joy,” said Coal.  “What is it?  Something about the Mayor?”
     “You know, I simply can’t fathom what it is you find so compelling about the portly Lord Tamburlaine,” said Coal.  “I find him sort of off-putting.”
     “So do I,” Joy admitted—with a trace of relief at being able to say so.
     “So??” asked Coal.
     “It’s complicated” said Joy.
     “Like everything else.  Okay, why don’t we meet for a drink or an early dinner later today?  This is clearly not the place to discuss anything of any importance.”
     “Wonderful.  Thanks, Coal.  Where and when?”
     “How about Didier at 8 tonight?”
     “Where is it?” Joy asked.
     “You don’t know Didier?  Oh, you’ll like it.  It’s up on Yonge Street, just a bit north of Bloor.”
     “Great,” said Joy. “See you tonight.”
     “Wait till you taste chef Leroy’s soufflé!”
     “It’s good?”
     “It’s to die for!”
     “Please, Coal.  Don’t say anything like that.”