After much debate and argument, Angel was sent to investigate the new Muppet Theater, which would be opening 'soon'. He'd lost the real resistance when Wesley had reminded him about the ghostly Blinnikov Ballet, but hadn't immediately admitted defeat. Then again, Angel had been quite disturbed by some of the things occurring with the Muppets and the Count as well...
He went that night, figuring that at least he could inspect the building. There were the posters, promising music, vaudeville style variety acts, live comedians, dancers, and new special guests each week. And yes, the posters promised the Blinnikov World Ballet Corps. His mind had drifted briefly, lost in twirling ballerinas and soft music.
The deep voice pulled him from his ballet-inspired reverie.
"What're you doin' here?"
Reminding himself that he didn't need to breathe, and his heart hadn't beat regularly for several centuries, Angel turned to face the speaker. He found himself looking at a shaggy brown chest. Looking up, he realized that he was facing a shaggy brown ogre, with a heavy eyebrow and jutting fangs. The sort of ogre that could rip him apart with about as much effort as it took him to kill a fledgling struggling out of the grave.
"I was curious about the new theater... you'll really have the Blinnikov Ballet? Do you know the dates for their performance yet?" He tried not to shake, panic, or offend the ogre.
"You'd have to talk to the Boss about that," the ogre rumbled.
Angel nodded, "That makes sense... would there be a good time to ask, or should I call at another time?"
One shaggy hand reached out, grabbing Angel's arm just below the shoulder, "We can talk to him now. Need to ask him what to do about intruders..."
The ogre towed him into the building, calling to a shaggy something with beady eyes in a demonic language. Angel only understood a couple words - Master, where, and intruder.
By the time the ogre was approaching an office, Angel couldn't feel his arm. The ogre tapped the doorframe, rumbling, "Boss. I found this guy outside, he wants to ask about the ballet."
"Why don't you let him sit down, Sweetums. There's no reason not to let him ask a couple questions," the mild tenor seemed completely calm.
For a moment, Angel was paralyzed with shock. First, the voice from the office had just called that towering shaggy ogre... Sweetums?!? And secondly, if the voice came from the shape he saw moving inside, the speaker was barely higher than his own waist. How in the seven hells did something that small hold control of an ogre?
"Behave," the ogre growled at Angel, wagging one clawed finger, and then walked away.
Angel took a step into the office, his eyes adjusting and he blinked, realizing that the small boss was, in fact, a bipedal frog.
Oh hells, this had to be Kermit, the Count's frog! You did not mess with the Count's frog!
He must have made some sort of sound.
The frog looked at him, one webbed hand gesturing towards a chair, while the other closed a small paper box that held a faint scent that reminded Angel of blood gone slightly off, or perhaps blood that wasn't quite human. "Why don't you sit down in the chair, it might be more comfortable."
"You must be Kermit, the Count's.... ummm," Angel's brain frantically signaled his tongue to edit those words before he got killed or worse. "The Kermit that the Count mentioned."
"That's right, and I'm also in charge of the Muppet Theater," the frog nodded, looking remarkably harmless for something with such a terrifying reputation.
Demons in Sunnydale still told horror stories about what had happened when the Count had visited Sunnydale, and things had only become more terrifying and gruesome when the frog had arrived. No creature with contact with the demon communities would ever dream of taking the Count's medication or the Count's frog. The consequences were too horrible.
The words emerged slowly, and Angel wasn’t at all certain that they should, “I thought Scooter Dee was organizing the reopening of the theater?”
“You could call it his last project,” Kermit’s voice was calm.
Angel would deny until the time he became dust that he squeaked like a mouse. Those horror stories from Sunnydale gave far too many ideas of what could happen to someone who crossed the Count, or possibly Kermit, and if framing the Count for murder wasn’t crossing him…
“The plan is to open on the fifth, with the Blinnikov World Ballet Corps as our special guest for that week. We still need a couple inspections, but everything seems to be going well,” Kermit offered. “You’ve taken an interest in the Blinnikov dancers?”
“I saw them perform once before, a long time ago. They were amazing,” Angel admitted.
“The Saturday evening performances won’t be starting until after sunset. The Count insisted that we had to have the option for well behaved vampires being able to attend if they wanted,” Kermit replied.
“You brought back the people who had been here… with the Theater before?” Angel’s eyes drifted towards the box, noticing that the bottom looked just a bit darker, as if there was a dark lining… or something dark staining the lining.
“Uh-huh,” the frog nodded, placing a handful of papers on his desk from a basket. He opened an envelope, adding the papers inside to the pile, and then opened another envelope, those papers folded.
Angel thought that they looked like contracts. Job contracts, presumably for the theater, to sign in people, though he didn’t know if they were for the cast or the stage crew. He didn’t know what the ogre did around the theater, and wasn’t about to ask. Just like he wasn’t about to ask why Kermit had called the ogre Sweetums…
As the papers attempted to slide, Kermit sighed, and reached into the paper box and pulled out what looked like a glass paperweight and placed it on the stack of papers. It served quite well to keep the papers from shifting about. It also caused Angel to freeze into place from shock.
The paperweight was looking at Angel.
“An eye?” Angel found himself desperately hoping that it was just fashioned to look like an eye. That it wasn’t really an eyeball set into glass… surely a real eye would have melted if exposed to molten glass… it couldn’t be an actual eye… even if it did look like a bit of the optic nerve trailing behind the orb set within the glass.
“Scooter wanted to keep an eye on the theater.” Kermit tossed the emptied envelopes into the round trash can.
Angel would have bolted if he hadn’t been certain the ogre would eat him for trying.
Kermit produced a business card from one drawer of the desk and passed it to Angel. “You can call to ask about the scheduled special guests. If that actress on your staff changes her mind, we might be willing to schedule her in as a guest some time. Skeeter’s working on setting up a website for us, but that isn’t ready yet. She promised that there would be a feature to permit interested talent to inquire about guest appearances.”
“The theater’s really opening… the show must go on, is that it?” Angel pocketed the card, feeling like reality had just fallen sideways.
“Oh, we’re definitely opening. It was far too much fun to let it fade away. I can’t think of anything that I’ve done that left me happier than running the theater,” Kermit smiled. “It has the added benefit of keeping some of my cast and crew out of trouble.”
“Less trouble is always a good thing,” Angel mused.
He got out of there as soon as he could without offending the frog or the ogre. Less trouble for the cast and crew… as long as nothing threatened the Theater.
Once he’d made it back to the safety of the Hyperion, Angel locked the doors behind him. It didn’t make him feel much safer.
End Muppet Contracts 19: Look Around.