dragon challenge header

not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Seven Plus One Equals None

by Terri

“You have to do better than that, Nick. Make them believe that you love them, show your vulnerability and pain.”

Nick dropped to his knees, beating his fists against the floor as he acted out the emotions of the ballad that played softly from the corner of the room. He was sweating and his t-shirt clung in damp patches, his hair falling forward into his face as he sang.

Suddenly Lou held up his hand. “No. Stop!”

Nick halted mid note, and looked up at Lou who was walking toward him.

“Nicky, Nicky, Nicky, what can we do with you?” Lou rested his hand on Nick’s shoulder. “You’re an attractive boy, and your voice is good, but it’s not working. Let’s face it, you simply don’t have it.”

Nick seemed shocked, his shoulders slumping as he stared fixedly at the floor, and Kevin couldn’t remain silent any more. Standing, he ran his fingers along the keys of the piano, causing a sudden clash of sound.

“Knock it off, Lou. He sounded fine.”

Clearly annoyed, Lou walked close, but Kevin stood his ground. He was sick of watching as Lou tore into Nick, criticising things that were fine. Kevin mightn’t be a big shot in the music world, but he knew talent, and when someone was trying his best.

“When you’re managing successful artists you can tell me he sounds fine.” Lou leaned in, jabbing his finger at one of the keys. “Until then, stick to piano tuning, it’s all you’re good for now.”

It was a familiar taunt, but Kevin just glared back, his self belief always high. “Nick sounds fine, and so do I.”

Lou theatrically sighed. “I don’t know, Kevin. Your last song didn’t do that well.”

“Maybe if you’d promote me, or you know, actually release a song on time.” Anger stirring, Kevin scowled and was gratified when Lou took a step away. “Don’t blame me for your fuck ups.”

Affecting dignity, Lou straightened the cuffs of his jacket. “We’ll talk about this later. Nick, take a break.” He left without another word.

“You shouldn’t have said anything,” Nick said. He had a towel draped around his neck and looked tired as he drank from his bottle of water. Closing the top, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I was flat on the second verse and...”

“You sounded great.” Sitting, Kevin started to play, ending the conversation as Nick smiled his thanks.


Lou scowled when he was out of sight. Kevin had become increasingly argumentative. There was no trace of the naïve boy Lou had first known, he’d been replaced by someone who knew his own mind, and wasn’t afraid of saying how he felt. More worryingly, an aura of menace seemed to hover around Kevin. Lou hated that, he wasn’t used to feeling threatened, especially by someone like Kevin, a small-time one hit wonder. He’d become a liability, a threat, and that was something Lou couldn’t allow.

Arriving at his office, Lou sat behind his desk and picked up his phone. Quickly dialling a number, he settled back in his seat, smiling when he heard a reply.

“Johnny, I need you to take Kevin downtown. The usual place.” Not waiting for a reply, Lou closed the phone, confident Johnny would know what to do.

Satisfied the problem would soon be resolved; Lou’s attention switched to his computer. Clicking on the bookmark he tapped his webcam, making sure he was in the frame as his favourite advisor at the Scary R Us website appeared on the screen.

JC grinned. “Lou. Welcome back. How are you today? Did your deal go well yesterday?”

“It went perfectly,” Lou boasted, still proud of successfully transferring millions offshore.

“And what can I do for you today?” JC leaned forward, his face filling the screen.

“Oh you know, the usual.” Affecting ease, Lou clenched his hands under his desk, needing this validation each day.

Looking pleased, JC settled back. “Cool. Go for it.”

Heart racing, Lou recited the words he knew so well. “Well, am I the scariest of them all?”

Immediately JC’s expression became serious and it seemed he stared straight at Lou. “Scary is such a vague concept, and really how can scary be defined? Many things are scary, the horrors of war, the last condom splitting when you’re with a hot babe. If something is scary in a certain respect, we tend to enjoy the apprehension or perception of that aspect of scary. In fact...”

“JC,” Lou interrupted, and JC nodded slightly, getting back to their usual routine.

“You’re scary, there’s no doubt about that, but I’ve been made aware of someone else in town, and man, the eyebrows scare me.” JC shuddered visually. “They’re huge, and black. Serial killer eyebrows, and I know you’re scary, but this guy is something else. Cute too, like seriously hot. Not that you’re not, if you’re into the older man anyway, which I’m not, but if I was I’d totally....well, I’d think about it anyway.”

“Enough!” Lou slammed his hand down on the desk, furious that someone else was muscling in on his turf. “Tell me more.”

“There’s not much to tell. He’s close to you, I know that. Tall, dark hair, green eyes, a tendency to talk slow, likes to sing.” JC hesitated, his expression pained. “This is weird but I can see him ballroom dancing and in an Aladdin costume. Man, this cat is scary. Not like you, more of a good scary, like he uses his scary for good. Which is an oxymoron if ever I saw one, but it works for him. He’s...”

“Richardson,” Lou hissed, realising that the very man he’d been supporting had tried to steal his scary crown. Slapping his hand on the desk, Lou moved to end the call.

“Nice talking to you, man. Remember all calls are $5 a minute and will be charged to your card.”

Cutting off JC’s spiel, Lou leaned back in his chair and fumed. Pleased that Richardson would soon be no more. He only wished he’d told Johnny to make it more painful, because Lou was the scariest one of all. It was that simple.


Troubled, Johnny went looking for Kevin. He felt heavy-hearted, and sighed when he found him at the piano, singing along as he played. Johnny footsteps were heavy and he hated himself when Kevin greeted him with a smile.

“Hi.” Kevin said, ending the song.

“Lou wants me to take you for new clothes, something for the stage.”

“He’s letting me stay?” It took all of Johnny’s experience to not look away as Kevin stared at him, as if searching for the truth behind his words.

“Mr Pearlman has plans for you.” Forcing a smile, Johnny rested his hand against Kevin’s arm. “We need to get going.”

“Fine.” A last considering look and Kevin made for the door. “I’ll go and get my coat.”

Johnny’s smile slipped when Kevin walked away. Too often he’d stood over Lou’s failures, watching the light drain from their eyes. It was becoming too much, and for months now he’d planned on leaving, striking out on his own. It was that time now, Johnny knew it, all he had to do was go.

“Johnny.” Lost in thought, Johnny jumped when Kevin waved a hand in front of his eyes. “I’m ready.”

“Good.” Feeling sick, Johnny walked Kevin to the garage, selecting a non descript car. Getting inside, he turned on the engine, half-listening as Kevin talked about his family, how proud his mom would be when Kevin got his big break. Johnny didn’t have the heart to reply. Instead he concentrated on driving, taking the back roads until they’d left the rehearsal studio far behind. Swapping clean streets for rubbish strewn sidewalks and roads that snaked between dingy houses and burnt out cars.

Hand against the window, Kevin looked around. “What mall are we going to?”

“We’re going to one of Mr Pearlman’s places. It’s round there,” Johnny said, indicating an alley. Parking, he instinctively checked they were alone, even though he knew no one would look as he led Kevin away. Even if they did, no one would care.

“He’s buying me custom made?”

Kevin sounded suspicious, and Johnny tensed, running his hand over his gun. The star struck ones were always easier, their naivety easily allowing him to lead them away. Kevin was already grown, and had some ideas about what it took to be famous. It added problems to a job Johnny already hated.

“Something like that.” Johnny locked the car, his feet crunching over broken glass as he walked, the scent of decay and urine filling the air. He never looked at Kevin, just trusted he was following as the entered the alley, past the smashed windows, the boards long since removed and burnt on the floor.

“You know, my own clothes are fine.”

Johnny listened as Kevin stopped walking. Tension filled the air as he turned, noticing that Kevin stood on patches of dried blood. Inadvertently placing himself just where Johnny needed him to be.

“I think I’ll just go.”

Kevin started to inch away, his face blanching white as Johnny pulled his gun.

“Are you crazy?”

Johnny had to admire Kevin’s control, the way he never looked away.

“I’m sorry,” Johnny said, an apology he’d made many times before. It always remained painfully inadequate, and the distaste at his own actions was a bitter taint at the back of his throat.

“You don’t want to do this.” Kevin held up one hand and he took a step forward. “You can let me go and I’ll tell no one, or you can shoot me, but I won’t go quietly. I’ll haunt your every move. Believe me, I’ll be one pissed ghost.”

Kevin scowled and Johnny could believe his every word. Hastily making a decision, Johnny decided anything was better than this. He could go manage on his own; there were plenty of beautiful people in the world, all ready for him to work his magic. He dropped his hand. “Go.”

Heart thundering, Kevin forced himself to calmly walk away. He expected to feel a bullet smash into his back, but it seemed Johnny wasn't moving. Kevin hurried past the abandoned buildings ignoring the figures who lurked in the shadows. Finally, when he could stop holding his shaking hands in tight fists, he looked around.

The houses were better here, small and cramped, but at least the windows were whole. The doors looked sturdy, and Kevin looked at each one, knowing he should call for help. Heading for the nearest door, he knocked, surprised when it swung open at the first touch.

Kevin stepped inside.

Pulling the door shut, he looked around. The house was a mess, with clothes lying strewn upon the floor and dirty dishes piled in the sink. The mess was an assault to Kevin’s ordered mind, but still, it was shelter, and he did need a phone.

Picking his way past the discarded magazines and old pizza boxes, he looked for a phone, finding one hidden behind an old wilted plant. Picking up the receiver, he wasn’t surprised to hear no tone. It was just the way this day was going; he had no luck at all. Pushing the phone back in its hiding place he stepped over a pile of wedge boots, and noticed a plate of pizza crammed onto the counter.

It had been hours since Kevin had eaten, and his stomach grumbled at the sight. Despite his distaste, he picked up a slice, and took a bite, grimacing when his teeth struck rock hard dough. He didn’t even try the next slice; he’d rather eat his arm than eat anything covered in mouldy anchovies. The third slice however, was just right. Taking a big bite, Kevin wandered toward the tv.

A games system sat on the floor, games strewn around it. Chewing cheese and pepperoni, Kevin looked around and finally found the remote under a box of empty soda bottles. Turning on the tv, he crouched down and plugged in a game into the system. Immediately coloured blocks filled the screen and Kevin frowned. He hated Tetris, and could see no point in the game at all. He switched cartridges, and spent five minutes trying to work out how to make Lara Croft climb a rope, giving up when she fell to her death yet again. The last game he tried was Sonic, and he enjoyed rolling the hedgehog around the course, the hours passing until his back ached from sitting on the ground.

Kevin stood, arching his back before sitting down. The chair was tiny, and Kevin felt his hips wedge between the sides. He tried to get comfortable, but something was sticking in his back. A slinky purple something that he pulled from between the cushions of his chair. Poking at the stretchy garment he tried to imagine who would wear such a thing. Then he heard a sound. In fact, he heard singing, multiple voices approaching very fast.

Only then did Kevin realise he’d effectively broken in, and while he surely had cause, being found wedged in this chair was probably a bad idea. He tried to stand, but he was stuck fast.

Caught, Kevin wiggled desperately, then froze when some of the smallest men he’d ever seen entered the room, wearing pointed hats that dripped with rain.

“Just got paid. Friday Night, party....”

The singing tailed off as the men noticed Kevin. They stood looking at him and he suppressed the urge to tell them to stop staring already. It was creepy, especially as they all seemed to have freakily huge eyes. Kevin blinked, and gathered what wits hadn’t scattered with their entrance.

“I’m Kevin. Someone was going to kill me, so I tried to use your phone.”

“So you just broke in?” One of the little men said. He was scowling; his arms crossed and mouth a thin line. “Not even a knock or anything?”

Kevin scowled right back. “The door was open.”

“I thought you’d locked up?” The green-eyed squinty one raised a manicured eyebrow and looked at the skinniest midget.

“I did.” The tattooed one leaned back against the door, looking over his sunglasses. “Look at him, he’s obviously lying.”

“Lying!” Kevin explained, jumping up, the chair stuck fast to his ass. “The door was open. All I did was walk in, but obviously that was a mistake.”

“No, wait.” Another of the men stepped forward, his face almost all smile. “No need to be hasty. You’re welcome here. You’ve already got a chair, so sit down, we’ll make tea.”

Kevin looked back at the other midgets, but was drawn back to the one with the smile, feeling some kind of connection, like they’d met sometime before. “I can stay for tea.”


Head spinning, Kevin positioned the chair back on the floor, ignoring the giggles as he sat. He watched as one of the smallest of the small men stepped forward. His hair was like liquid silk, and he brushed it back as he pushed aside a teetering stack of dishes so he could fill the kettle.

“You know, one of you could have done the dishes.” Putting the kettle on the stove, the man approached Kevin. “They’re terrible slobs, and have no manners.” With a small bow he indicated himself. “I’m Winky. That’s Twitchy, Smiley, Snarky and Porno.”

“Porno?” Kevin stared at the tattooed man who smirked back at him. Leering as he looked Kevin slowly up and down. “I don’t want to know.” Kevin said, then looked questionable at Winky when he saw a flash of purple run up the stairs.

In the middle of washing out mugs, Winky glanced up. “That’s The Artist Formally Known As Squeaky. He’s shy.”

“Lazy more like. It was his turn to wash up.” Twitchy had taken off his hat, and was rubbing at what looked like a rats nest on his head. Suddenly he looked at Kevin, a challenge hidden behind his smile. “You’ve already played our games and ate our pizza; you could take the couch for the night. A few hours of cleaning should clear the debt. That is if you can get out of the chair.”

“Oh hell no!” Kevin flung out his arm, indicating the towers of take out cartons, the tv under a thick layer of dust. “I don’t do cleaning.”

“May I suggest a compromise?” Snarky said, his smile smooth as he moved next to Kevin. “The dishes done and the carpet vacuumed for a safe place to sleep tonight.”

Kevin immediately counter offered. “The dishes and dusting for bed and breakfast.”

“The dusting, vacuuming and laundry for one night and two meals.”

Snarky’s eyes were alight, and Kevin knew he’d never win completely. Gracefully accepting the offer he held out his hand and said, “deal.”


If it wasn’t for the increasing rain, Kevin would have left within an hour. The dwarfs were insane, and wouldn’t shut up; even for a minute. Everywhere he looked there were little men, arguing over some game they were playing on the tv, working on sheets of paper that slid from the table onto the floor, and above it all was the incessant tap of keyboard keys. Kevin knew he’d hear that sound in his sleep.

“What the hell is that noise?” He asked at last, turning to Winky who was sitting on the sofa, legs crossed and drinking yet another cup of tea.

“That’s Emoey. He’s blogging.”

“For the last hour?”

“He has a lot of blogs,” Winky said, and he winked at Kevin. “He’s probably emailing Patrick, too. He hasn’t seen him for a few hours.”

“Patrick. He’s another dwarf?”

Suddenly the room was full of laughter, and Kevin scowled. He hadn’t said anything that funny, how was he supposed to know who this Patrick was?

“Who said we were dwarfs?”

Twitchy was glaring at him, game controller held menacingly in his hand.

“I’ll have you know I’m 4 foot 8. Not dwarf sized at all.”

Kevin felt a keen satisfaction when laugher erupted once more, this time not at his expense.

“Yeah, right. 4 foot 8 when you wear your built up boots.” Snarky balled up a piece of paper and threw it at Twitchy’s head. “Face it; you’re a long way from 5 foot.”

“Anyway,” Winky said, breaking up the impending paper fight. “Patrick isn’t a dwarf, he’s a normal.”

Porno slid his sunglasses down his nose and looked at Kevin. “Emoey’s just the right size for Patrick, if you know what I’m saying.”

“They’re friends, that’s all.” Smiley stopped trying to shove a paper ball down Twitchy’s shirt, his grin wide as he sketched quotes in the air. “They’re best friends.”

This time Kevin was prepared for the blast of shrill laughter, steeling himself as the dwarfs fell back against chair backs and the floor, enjoying the joke of something Kevin didn’t get at all. In fact, the more they laughed the more annoyed he got, until suddenly he stood, hands on hips as he looked down at them all.

“Are you going?” asked Twitchy, clearly not caring about the answer, attention already back on his game.

“Does it look like I’m going?” Kevin demanded, his brow already aching from all the scowling.

“Well, you’re standing, you could be leaving.” Smiley settled back in his chair, permanent grin widening. “Or do you want to sing us a song, we like singing.” He looked at the other dwarfs and started to sing. “Hi my name is Brian, but you can call me B-Dwarf 'cuz I'll be rockin' your house....”

“Okay, that’s enough. Just stop already.” Kevin ran his palm across his forehead, trying to erase the deep lines. “What the hell is that? Is it supposed to be singing?”

“Yeah, B-Dwarf. That sucks. Ow!”

Twitchy yelped when Porno poked him in the side. “Like your songs are much better.”

“Quiet!” Breathing deep, Kevin tried for calm. Already today he’d been told he was too old, nearly murdered and now he was stuck with a bunch of bickering midgets. Aware of the stares of multiple freakily huge eyes he wrestled back control and pointed at Winky. “You, get started on the washing up. Snarky, you dry. Smiley, you’re doing trash. Porno, get dusting. Twitchy you pick up all the clothes.” Taking advantage of the sudden silence, Kevin walked to the stairs and yelled. “Emoey, The Artist Formally Known As Squeaky. I want those beds made.”

The sudden lack of clattering keys and a muffled squeak were Kevin’s reply, which was fine for him. Aware of stares levelled at his back, he turned. “Yes?”

“This is our house.” Porno pointed out, standing shoulder to shoulder with the other dwarfs. “Why should we do what you say?”

“Because I said so!” Which wasn’t an answer at all, but Kevin’s glower seemed to be all the persuasion the dwarves needed as the house became a whirling chattering area of chaos.

Settled back in his chair Kevin watched as dishes were washed and dried, clothes picked up revealing a floor that had surely never been cleaned for years. Even the windows were washed, Twitchy balancing on a stool and bitching about breaking his neck and slave labour.

Really, Kevin was tired just watching them work. Sleepy, he curled himself up as best he could in the tiny chair, his eyes closing as Smiley and Porno dashed past, slapping at each other with cloths that puffed dust in the air.


When Kevin awoke his back ached and his belly grumbled. A patchwork quilt covered him from neck to waist and he placed it to one side as he eased himself upright. When he stretched his hands clattered against the ceiling, and he nearly tripped over a basketball abandoned on the floor, but the room shone in the morning light. The floor clean and the sink empty. A plate sat upon the table, and Kevin smiled when he saw the mountain of tiny muffins and the note that explained the dwarves had gone to work.

Popping a muffin in his mouth, he poured himself three shot tumblers of orange juice, drinking them in quick gulps. Refreshed and aware he needed the bathroom he went upstairs, his head bowed as he looked into small bedrooms. The first room had two beds, one with silver necklaces and a pair of built up boots pushed under the crooked cover, the other was neatly made and covered with cushions.

The next room contained three beds. A basketball hoop was attached over the trashcan and the dresser was littered with hair brushes and mascara, multiple pairs of sunglasses hooked over the mirror.

The last room had two more beds. A computer left on in the corner of the room, eyeliner pencils resting on the keyboard and yet more purple clothes, catsuits and spandex laid carefully on the bed.

Kevin opened the remaining door, relived when he saw it was the bathroom. He had to crouch to use the toilet and the shower was aimed at his chest, but he managed somehow and soon he was strolling downstairs, wearing pants that were Capri length on him, and a t-shit that was little more than a crop top. But they were clean, and he happily shoved his own clothes in the machine. Settling down in front of the tv with the remaining muffins, he plotted retribution against Lou as he waited for the dwarfs to come home.


His office door closed, Lou switched on his computer, and clicked on his favorite page. It seemed to take an unbearably long time for JC to appear, and when he did his hair was mussed and his mouth already curved into a smile.

“Lou, hi. I haven’t seen you for a while.”

Lou leaned forward. “I’ve been out of the country.”

“Ah, business or pleasure?” JC asked, his eyes sparkling as he looked at Lou.

“Both.” Lou smiled as he remembered the latest band he’d managed to sign. Each one naïve and blinded by the prospect of fame. “But enough of that. I need to know. Am I still the scariest of them all?”

JC’s smile slipped away, and Lou felt the first brushes of concern.

“You remain scary still, that is true. The fact remains, someone is scarier than you.”

“What!?” Hand slamming on the desk, Lou glared at his computer. “You’re telling me someone else has arrived?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all.” JC hesitated, as if not wanting to say anymore. “It’s the same guy. You know, the hot dark haired one. He’s watching a repeat of Larry King. See, told you he was scary. Only Satan’s minions enjoy that show, just last week I saw him....”

“Enough.” Fury building, Lou tried to remain calm. “Tell me, where is he?”

JC went still, his eyes distant. “I can see him with some dwarves. Hey, there’s Porno. He works at the Purple Palace. Look there, it’ll lead you to what you seek.”

“Good.” Lou moved to end the connection.

“Remember all calls are $5 a minute and will be charged to your card.” JC smiled, already looking behind him as he disappeared from the screen.

Intent on destroying Kevin, Lou picked up his phone, dialling his main PR contact. It was all too easy to pass on a few poisoned words, attach the pictures that were sure to destroy the pathetic amount of fame Kevin already held. Clicking send, Lou sat back, knowing the rumours would hit within hours. If he couldn’t kill Richardson physically, his reputation would do.


It felt like Kevin had been living with the dwarves forever. Sure, his back ached from sleeping on the couch, but that was a small price to pay for a roof over his head, and the chance to relax among friends. And they had become friends, the rocky start left far behind. Kevin still made them clean, and often threatened to throw stocky little bodies out of the window, but he also lifted the groceries from the top shelves when they went shopping, and changed the lightbulbs as soon as they popped.

As the days passed he settled into this new simple life, calling his mom on occasions and spending hours with the dwarfs. He’d even seen the back of The Artist Formally Known As Squeaky’s head once, and he’d featured in Emoey’s blog, at least Kevin thought he had, if he was the tall tree that held solid in the aching void of life. He became used to watching tv or playing games and sometimes they’d even sing, happy songs that reminded Kevin of what he’d left behind.

It was one such night when Porno came running into the house, newspaper held in one hand. He grinned, looked at Kevin and said, “You sly dog.”

Confused, Kevin took the newspaper, surprised when it fell open to show a picture of him under the headline One hit wonder in cross-dressing shame.

Eyebrow raised, Snarky looked from the picture to Kevin. “You mock my shirts when you wear a skirt?”

“At least he looks good in a skirt, unlike those things you wear.”

Twitchy ducked when Snarky slapped at his head. “My shirts look good, and stop looking at Kevin’s legs.”

“Yeah, that’s my job.” Grin sly, Smiley slowly looked from Kevin’s ankles to mid calf. “Looking good.”

“Thank you,” Kevin said, accepting the compliment with a smile. Taking the newspaper from Winky he quickly read the article, sighing when he reached the end of article. “I loved the skirt.”

“You could buy another,” Smiley suggested. “It’s time you had new clothes anyway.”

“He could, or he could borrow mine.”

Surprised, Kevin looked at Snarky. “You have a skirt?”

“No, but I have a kilt, and we could easily modify it.”

“Yeah.” Enthusiastic, Twitchy broke in. “I could let it out a bit; take out some of the pleats. It’ll be short, but you do have good legs.” Head tilted to one side, he stared at Kevin. “If we do it now you can wear it tonight. It’s about time you went out.”

“You can sew?” Kevin asked, surprised once more.

“Well yeah, sew, design. What did you think I did all day?” Twitchy said, amusement shown in the slight curve of his mouth.

“Well. I guess....”

“Mining I bet.” Porno shook his head when Kevin weakly nodded. “Figures. We’re dwarves so we have to mine. Fact is, Twitchy has his own shop, Winky is in personal clothes shopping, Smiley is a ball dwarf at the local bb court, Emoey manages a few bands, The Artist Formally Known As Squeaky is a librarian in the kid’s section. I’m a manicurist and Snarky’s a...” Porno paused. “I’m not actually sure what he does, but it’s important I’m sure.”

“I arrange things,” Snarky said, jabbing Porno in the arm. “You know that.”

“Oh,” Kevin said, feeling awkward, thought what had they expected him to think? Living in a place like this. “You do have nice nails.”

“You bet your sweet ass I do.” Porno grinned, his eyes gleaming behind his darkened glasses. “I’ll even paint yours one day. First though, let’s get that skirt sorted. I’ve a belt that will match perfectly.”

He ran for the stairs, Snarky and Twitchy right behind as Kevin sat and gratefully accepted the cup of tea Winky shoved into his hand.


Lou laughed as he looked at the newspapers. Richardson was sure to be ruined, any chance of him being the scariest of all swept away on a rush of shame. It was a fitting end, and Lou couldn’t wait to once more be verified as the scariest one of all.

Finally JC appeared, his cheeks flushed as he looked at Lou. “I didn’t expect you until later. I take it you’ve been undertaking scary deeds.”

“I have indeed.” Puffed up with pride, Lou ran his fingers over the newspapers that littered his desk. “Now, am I the scariest of them all?”

“Like I’ve said before, scary is subjective. Why, just the other day I saw a cow eat a daisy. To that daisy the cow was scary, a flower murdered as it were, yet the cow had to eat. It’s part of the circle of life, so the cow was scary, but also not. See?”

“Answer the question, JC,” Lou demanded, his stomach coiled tight as he waited for the reply.

“The answer to what you seek, is you’re not the most scary of all.”

“No!” Remembering the ache in his hand from last time, Lou clenched his fists.

“Remember, calls are charged at $5 a....”

Lou cut off JC as he frantically clicked onto Google, searching the entertainment news pages. He was confronted with page after page of pictures. Richardson wearing a skirt that was little more than a belt, the pleats flaring out as he walked, confident in his platform boots, his nails painted black. He looked good, he looked scary, his hair slicked back and his eyebrows drawn down.

Lou groaned and thumped his forehead against his desk. He had to destroy Richardson somehow, dilute his scary in some way. Already because of him he’d lost one of his long term employees and now he kept being the scariest, without actually doing any scary deeds. Surely showing his scary was a sly and stealthy thing. Lou needed to end that now.

Examining each picture and report, Lou noticed how Richardson would glower into the camera, prompting reports of how dark he was, compelling people to look his way. It was obscene the way he attracted attention, and Lou couldn’t see why. He was nothing special after all. Green eyes, thin lips... suddenly Lou froze, peering at a close up picture of Richardson’s face. It was the eyebrows, it had to be. If they were gone surely his scary would wane.

Convinced, Lou opened his address book; he had the perfect plan, and the perfect person to undertake it.


A stack of books in his arms, and a bag thrown over his shoulder, Joey checked the address once more. He didn’t want to be here, but he had no choice, not when Lou could easily hurt his family. Joey would do anything for his wife and child, and it wasn’t as if this was that bad. If he kept telling himself that maybe he’d believe it.

Steeling himself, Joey stepped forward and knocked on a door. “Avon calling.” He had to knock twice more before the door opened, and he took an involuntary step back when he was faced with a wild-haired half-naked confused-looking Kevin Richardson.


“I’m your local Avon representative; I’m here to drop off a book.” Joey quickly held up the books, relieved when Richardson stepped aside.

“You’d better come in.”

With a last look at his car, Joey stepped inside. He looked around the room as Kevin yawned, taking in the clothes hanging over the chair back, the pillows and blanket crumpled on the couch.

“Do you want a coffee?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Joey said, and watched as Kevin filled the machine. He looked tired, and glitter sparkled on his cheek, catching the light as he selected two mugs and placed them on the bench. The t-shirt he was wearing barely covered his stomach, but Richardson didn’t seem to care, rubbing at his eyes and slouching against the bench as he waited for the coffee to drip through. Like this he didn’t look scary at all, and if it wasn’t for Lou’s threats, Joey would have left without another word. Instead he placed his bag on the floor, rummaging in it until he found his supplies.

“I’m sorry I missed the others. Can you tell Emoey and Porno that there’s a new eyeliner. I’ve marked it in the book, page 37. It’s on two for one; they usually share on those deals. Oh, and there’s a new body buffer. Snarky likes those.” Joey opened the book, pointing at the page, then looked up at Kevin. “You know, you look tired. I’ve something that could help, the new Brighten and Tighten face cream. In fact, I think I have a sample.”

Hoping he’d said enough, Joey left the book on the table, and held up the small sample. He didn’t know what it contained; he didn’t really want to know. He just wanted to do his job and go.

“Thanks.” Filling the mugs, Kevin handed one to Joey then sat down, curling his legs under him. “So, you like selling make-up?”

“It’s a wage.” Joey shrugged, then noticed a flyer that lay on the floor. “Not as much as I like the theatre though.”

“I love it too.” Reaching down, Kevin picked up the flyer, showing the advertisement for Cats. “That’s what I want to do, act. I used to sing, but not so much anymore.”

Curious, Joey balanced his mug on his knee. “What happened?”

“I had to leave my management, rather abruptly.” Blowing on his coffee, Kevin shrugged. “I ended up here, been coasting ever since.”

“So you don’t have a secret underground laboratory? You’ve really got no plans to take over the world?” Joey had to ask, and was unsurprised when Kevin laughed.

“Have you been sniffing your products? I’m a singer, nothing more.”

“Too many comic books,” Joey explained, forcing a smile, as if this was a joke, but it wasn’t at all. Quickly drinking, scalding his tongue and throat with hot coffee, he jumped to his feet. “I have to go, doors to knock on, make-up to sell.” He left without a backward glance, the little sample packet left behind.

Mug cradled in his hand, Kevin watched the Avon man almost run out the door. Despite wondering what was wrong, he stayed curled on the couch. The night before had been amazing, a series of clubs, gathering attention as he stalked past the photographers, their cameras adding flashes to the night.

Despite sleeping to well past midday he was still tired, how the dwarfs managed to work was beyond him. Yawning, Kevin thumped back against the back of the couch, adding to the pounding of his already aching head. He needed hours more sleep, painkillers and a shower to wash away the smell of smoke. Instead he reached for the face cream, cursing Porno and Snarky for pimping him into the decadent world of facial products.

Decision made, Kevin ripped open the packet, squeezing the contents onto his hand. Quickly he rubbed it onto his face, paying special attention to his forehead, and the lines that always threatened.

That done, Kevin placed the empty packet on the table and looked at his watch. Twenty minutes and he could wash it off, until then he’d watch tv. Changing the channel, Kevin saw 15 minutes of Planet Earth, then hauled himself to his feet. He felt a little better now, and he was sure he could feel the cream working, tightening the skin of his face.

Taking the stairs three at a time he hurried to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. Wetting a washcloth, he closed his eyes and swiped it across his face, washing away the cream.

When Kevin opened them again, all he could scream was, “No!”


evin ran a finger over his brow carefully tracing over the reddened skin; the totally hairless skin. He looked stupid without eyebrows, like some kind of skinned animal, and as much as the dwarfs protested that fact, their barely hidden laughter gave their real feelings away.

Pulling at his hair, Kevin arranged it so it so it swept across one eye. It didn’t help. Mind made up he decided the only thing to do was hide in the bathroom; forever. The dwarfs could bathe in the sink, and use bottles to pee. After that, Kevin didn’t care.


There was a soft knock at the door and he shifted around on the bath edge. “Go away.”

“It’s not that bad, really.”

Smiley this time, but despite the sympathy, Kevin wasn’t letting him in.

“And you could wear a hat, Porno said you could use his, he has a lot.”

Smiley’s voice was pleading, and Kevin could easily imagine him leaning against the door. Despite his intentions, Kevin stood, and unlocked the door, unsurprised when Smiley fell against him.

“Hi.” Smiley looked up, and there was no hint of laughter in his smile. “Come on, Winky’s making tea.”

Allowing Smiley to take his hand, Kevin followed him along the hall, listening to the increasing clatter of Emoey’s keyboard and the quick flash of purple accompanied by a squeak from the same room.

“Emoey’s asking Patrick if he knows any hair loss cures.” Smiley pursed his lips and shook his head. “I asked if that was wise, but he said Patrick would be fine.”

Concentrating on Smiley’s voice, Kevin walked downstairs. He felt embarrassed, naïve for using something without testing it first, but most of all, remained aware of how idiotic he looked. An awareness that poked at issues of vanity that he hadn’t even realised he possessed.

“I could draw them in; I do it for my goatee.” Porno stared closely at Kevin’s face, sadly shaking his head.

“Eyebrows are different to filling in a few hairs, especially Kevin’s eyebrows, they’re rather.” Winky hesitated. “Rather prominent.”

“Are you saying I have big brows?” Kevin felt laughter bubble as Winky blushed, his eye fluttering closed.

“No. It’s just. They’re rather.” Winky flung his hands in the air at the resulting laughter. “You all suck.”

“At least we don’t diss Kevin’s looks in his time of need.” Standing next to Kevin, Twitchy elbowed him in the thigh. “I can cut off some braids if you like; you could glue them on.”

Horror stricken, Kevin’s mouth opened, then closed when he realised Twitchy’s eyes were sparkling with laughter. “Ass.” Laughing, Kevin pushed and Twitchy fell onto the couch, waving as he landed on Winky’s lap.

“Hi,” Winky said, winking in return.

It was like some kind of farce. Winky and Twitchy laughing on the couch, Porno practicing filling in his own eyebrows, Smiley grinning brightly while Snarky was hanging up the phone.

Snarky leaned next to the front door, cool and collected despite the way they all looked his way. “Joey’ll be here any minute.”

“Who the hell is Joey?” Twitchy asked, wiggling off Winky’s lap.

Snarky, looking incredibly pleased with himself, held up the Avon book. “He’s the one that left the cream, his name and number was on the back of the brochure.”

“You think he had something to do with the eyebrow situation?” Porno asked, pointing his mascara tube toward Snarky.

“No, I thought we’d ask him for some tip on filling in eyebrows.” Rolling his eyes, Snarky stood upright. “Of course he had something to do with it, and I’m going to find out what.”

Timing perfect, there was a knock at the door. Shaking his head so his hair fell forward, Kevin watched between the strands as Snarky let the Avon man in. He looked nervous, glancing around, his eyes widening when he saw Kevin.

“Oh, man. I’m sorry. I had to, he had my girls.” Sounding frantic, Joey took a hesitant step forward, looking so apologetic that Kevin had to feel sorry for him.

“It’s okay, they’ll grow back.” Saying the words made Kevin feel happier, but only for seconds, when he saw Joey gulp and look away.

“I don’t think they will.” Voice low, Joey shuffled his feet against the floor. “I was listening to Mr Pearlman, when he was getting the packet from his lab guy. I think it’s permanent.”

“Permanent.” Feeling faint, Kevin stared at Joey. “You permanently took away my eyebrows?”

“I’m sorry,” Joey said again, and he reached out a hand toward Kevin. Immediately all the dwarves hissed a warning, and he let his hand drop next to his side. “If I could change things.”

“What about the lab guy?” Twitchy asked suddenly. “You’re part of Pearlman’s operation; do you know the lab guy? He might have an antidote.”

Joey shook his head. “I’m a messenger guy; I don’t even have my own mug, never mind be allowed in the lab.”

Kevin pressed his hand over his brow, feeling the lack of hair. He felt naked without eyebrows, as if something vital had been stripped away. Hand still firmly pressed against his head, he stood. “I’m going to have a bath, I may be a while.”

No one spoke as he slowly walked upstairs.


“Come on, man. You haven’t been outside in days. It’s not natural.”

Dressing gown pulled tight, Kevin stared at the tv. The results of the paternity test were about to be revealed, and he wanted to know if the toothless guy was the dad, or the ass with the broken nose. Kevin hoped it was the one with no teeth.

“This isn’t right. I like chocolate as much as the next dwarf, but come on.”

Eyes fixed on the screen, Kevin unwrapped another Snickers bar, biting into the chocolate. The toffee stuck to the furry coating on his teeth, and he felt slightly sick when he washed down the chocolate with a long drink of Cola.

“At least get a shower. You’re an offence to my nose.”

“You’re in the way,” Kevin said, and tried to push Winky out of the way with his foot.

“Okay, that’s it.” Slapping Kevin’s foot aside, Winky turned off the tv. “We’ve given you time, we’ve watched you eat yourself into a sugar coma, but you’ve moped long enough. Now up!”

Deliberately, Kevin settled back against the couch, no way would Winky be able to pull him to his feet. Then suddenly hands seemed to touch him everywhere, gripping his arms, against his sides, behind his back, and Kevin realised that one grown man was no match to seven determined dwarfs.

He was pushed and pulled upstairs, and his dressing gown stripped off before he could even blink.

“It’s for your own good.” Twitchy was inside the bathroom, turning on the shower, and Kevin shivered when he was propelled under the spray. “Ooops, did I forget the heat? So sorry.”

Twitchy didn’t look sorry at all, and Kevin started to feel angry, looking down at the dwarfs with a glare. At least, that was the plan. Glares just weren’t the same without his eyebrows, and Kevin slumped back against the wall.

“Don’t you dare!” Suddenly a cold soaked sponge splattered against Kevin’s face, thrown by a red-faced Smiley. “You’re going to get washed, and you’re going to get dressed, and we’re going out.”

Kevin looked at the dwarves, and knew if he didn’t agree they’d be in the shower with him. He grabbed the sponge and started to wash.


The laying out of his clothes had been a group decision, something that was apparent by the clumpy boots, tailored pants, patterned shirt and the purple cowboy hat pulled low on his head. Kevin wore the outfit anyway, hoping it would distract from his lack of eyebrows.

They’d decided to visit the cinema, the dwarves to indulge their love of popcorn, Kevin to hide in the dark. Of course first they had to choose the right film, which shouldn’t have been difficult, but was. Especially when Winky wanted to see the movie with Orlando Bloom, Twitchy and Porno the latest gore fest, Smiley and Snarky the rom com and The Artist Formally Known As Squeaky some arty type movie with subtitles. Emoey had eased himself into a group of teenage girls before they’d even got inside. He was chatting with them now, standing on tip toes to kiss one on the cheek.

Kevin wondered about joining him, extracting himself from the arguments that raged from every side. Of course, that would mean exposing himself in public. Kevin sighed and pulled the hat firmly down on his head.


It was the last voice Kevin expected or wanted to hear. Inching back, he tried to hide, but six dwarves didn’t provide much cover, especially when they were looking between him and Nick, as if they’d finally found the movie they wanted to see.

“I’ve missed you.” Nick was grinning as he approached, and suddenly Kevin was wrapped in a hug. Nick squeezed tight, then stepped back, inadvertently managing to knock off Kevin’s hat.

Immediately, Kevin slapped his hand over his eyes, blushing when Nick looked at him.

“Lou, right?” Nick crouched and picked up the hat, carefully placing it back on Kevin’s head. “It explains his good mood, and the conversation he had with Justin.”

“Who’s Justin?” Snarky asked, his head craned right back as he looked up at Nick.

“He’s an assistant in the lab. I heard him bitching to Trace about losing his hair in the hair removal trials.” Nick paused, his mouth quirked as he thought. “Though he still had his eyebrows. I wonder what he tried it on?”

“Maybe they grew back.” For the first time Kevin felt hope. “Or an antidote. I need to go to the lab and find out.”

“No, wait.” Nick grabbed for Kevin’s arm. “You can’t.”

“I have to,” Kevin said. “I need my eyebrows. I’m not the same without them, and I look stupid.”

Nick held tight to Kevin’s arm. “You look fine. You always look fine. The same wonderful, scary Kevin that I’ve always known.”

Nick smiled, and Kevin couldn’t help smiling back, then staggered when Porno pushed his way between them.

“Not that I want to break up this hallmark moment, but remember the big bad that took your eyebrows. Even if Nick here thinks you look fine, which I have to say is debatable, you can’t let Pearlman get away with this.”

“He won’t, because I’m going to the lab. No one will care that I’m there, and if there’s an antidote I can bring it back,” Nick said, focus totally on Kevin. “I’m not a kid, Kevin. I can do this.”

Kevin wanted to protest, but Nick was an adult and even if Kevin hated doing it, the most sensible option was to let him go. “Be careful.”

Nick let go with a last squeeze, and the dwarves surrounded Kevin, pressed against him as they watched Nick walk away.


It had been two long hours since Nick left, and Kevin was ready to charge to the rescue. His nerves were stretched as he ignored the chatter of the dwarves as he paced. He should have accompanied Nick, or demanded that he didn’t go at all. His eyebrows weren’t that important, he would have learned to live without them eventually.

Visualising scenes of death and destruction, Kevin didn’t hear the knock at the door. But the dwarves did, and within seconds, Nick had been ushered inside.

“Nick.” Kevin whirled around, checking for any visual hurts.

“I’m fine.” Nick stepped past the dwarves, who stood as a united force at the back of the room. “I talked to Justin. Strangely enough, when I told him you were ready to storm the lab he handed over the antidote.”

Trying to hide his impatience, Kevin prompted, “and, where is it?”

“Well, he couldn’t give me the tube; he’s only an assistant and needs the job.” Nick explained, one foot shuffling against the floor. “So I had to bring it as best I could.”

Nick pursed his lips then, and Kevin noticed how much they gleamed. “You brought the antidote home on your lips?”

Nick beamed happily, as if it wasn’t an utterly insane thing to do.

“Yeah, and it was a bitch not licking it off.” Nick moved closer, then leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss above each one of Kevin’s eyes. Immediately Kevin felt a tingling sensation, and he forced himself to keep his hands by his side as he itched, like something was burrowing from under the skin.

“I can see something.” Snarky had moved to stand on the couch, closely watching Kevin’s face. “That’s amazing.”

He sounded awed, and Kevin had to touch. Carefully he brushed his finger tips over his eyebrows, and felt like yelling in triumph when he felt hair.

“They’re back!”

The room filled with the sound of celebration, and Kevin grabbed hold of Nick, twirling him around, both of them laughing when they heard Porno ask if someone would kiss his head.


Slumped in his chair, Lou stared at his computer. It had all started to go wrong, his employees were leaving in droves and he didn’t know why. He’d always helped them, giving them a wage and a place to say. Sure, maybe it wasn’t much, but still. With a long suffering sigh, he clicked onto Scary R Us, at least he was still the scariest of all.

“Lou, hi.” JC was beaming, in total contrast to Lou’s present mood.

“Quit the chat, just tell me. Am I the scariest of them all?”

JC’s mouth opened, then closed. He looked at Lou. “Your number one scary status has gone away, but you’re still scary there’s no doubt. Which is good, you’ll need to be scary for the place you’re going.” JC looked off screen, his smile fading into a frown. “Tough break man, you play with fire you get burned, not that I want to. You know, get burned. In fact, look. I’ve got a call on another line. See you!” Smile forced, JC’s screen suddenly went blank.

Confused, Lou clicked the connect button, then he jerked back, the mouse flying when someone flung open the door.

“Richardson.” Shocked, Lou went to his the panic button under his desk, but found his arm grabbed by a little hand. He looked down, and shuddered when he saw a dwarf looking up at him.

“How dare you come in here?” Hiding his fear with indignation, Lou looked between the FBI agents who were standing next to the door, and Kevin who settled himself on the corner of the desk.

“I dare because I can.” Kevin glowered, and Lou reflexidly pulled back. “I’ve been talking to some of your ex staff. They had interesting things to say. Stories about exploitation, money-laundering, murder. There’s no low you wouldn’t stoop to is there?”

“I’ve never done anything wrong, the papers were signed.”

“You disgust me.”

Kevin slid of the desk, and loomed over Lou. So close that Lou could see every hair of his eyebrows, the way they shadowed his eyes, transforming Kevin’s face into something to be feared.

“You can’t prove anything.” It was a lame attempt at defiance and Kevin broke straight through it, glaring even harder. Lou gulped, feeling cold. All he could see were those eyebrows, and they struck fear in his heart.

“Okay, fine. I confess. I confess it all. Just get away.” Lou looked pleadingly at the FBI agent, who finally took pity, and swapped places with Kevin.

The handcuffs clicked around Lou’s wrists were the final proof. He wasn’t the most scary one of all.



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