Nica of Los Angeles
Frames, no. 1
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Nica Sheridan Taggart Ambrose Taggart Ickovic (S.T.A.T.Ic.) craves action and change, which leaves her life as stable as old dynamite; and though she’s had more than her share of tragedy, she maintains an unquenchable spirit. Her restless nature has led her into several marriages and countless jobs. Now she appoints herself as a private detective, and her shingle is barely dry when she gets not one but three pairs of clients demanding her attention.
First comes a noxious couple that Nica secretly dubs Mathead and Scabman, who claim to seek a certain duffel bag; repelled, Nica declines their money but they won’t go away. Then, the Garcias hire her to find a missing, 15-year-old goddaughter; Nica doesn’t trust them, but decides she can help the girl in spite of them. Both cases pale beside the third demand for her services.
I became aware that the air had changed. My office smelled like a forest just after a flash flood, when everything is power-washed and tree trunks are smeared with riverbed mud. Fresh and wild.
It took much strength to gently lower that window, but the stranger's arms - all sinew and muscle - showed no strain. I took a step back to get a fuller look and to get farther away. He was a wolf. I don't mean a predatory flirt, I mean he was long and lean and fast and dangerous: coarse black hair, ice-gray eyes and smile full of teeth, supreme confidence backed with survival instinct.
"Please sit down," I suggested or pleaded as I retreated behind my desk. As he complied, muscles flexed inside his garments, a loose cotton tunic and drawstring pants that were as gray as February.
She sat down, too. My other visitor was a princess: not as in daddy's spoiled girl, as in future queen of the fairies. She was as ethereal as he was earthy, exotic but I couldn't place the ethnic background. Cornsilk hair, slanted eyes like unpolished silver, her skin like the penny you've always kept in your pocket for luck. Her tunic was white as a desert sunrise.
"We are in need of your detective arts," she said.
"That tends to be why people come to this office." The joke was stillborn. "I'm usually good with accents but I can't place yours. Where are you from?"
"I first arrived in the place you call Kansas."
"Huh." I've been to Kansas and there is nobody like her there. I decided I would not call her a liar and looked to him expectantly.
"Knowledge of my ancestry provides no value. We have need of your assistance," he said, in a voice that never needed help from anybody.
"The fate of the free worlds is at stake," she added, in a voice like the first spring breeze on snow.
"Oh-kay." Note to self, cancel ad in Nutjob Quarterly.
Despite this bizarre introduction, Nica instinctively trusts these two, Anwyl and Anya, who draw her into adventures beyond imagining - and she's got a crazy imagination. They travel into other dimensions called Frames, often with the Watts Towers - which are folk art sculptures in Nica’s Frame, but sentient, animate beings elsewhere. Nica learns to avoid books, which form deadly mercenary armies; to keep silent around clouds, which can be spies; and to view her stray cat warily, since cats are beings of great power and you never know what side they’re on. There is danger everywhere in the Frames, but also a mind-boggling expansion of reality. For once, Nica feels challenged, engrossed, and strangely at home.
In this first book of the FRAMES series, a band of allies that includes structures, landforms, and creatures sets out to stop Warty Sebaceous Cysts, a repulsive trio who casually commit genocide as part of their plan to free their imprisoned leader, Maelstrom. This would bring cruelty and horror to all the Frames, so Nica joins the allies’ cause without hesitation, though her efforts get her in trouble with the law at home, and in danger of mind control, pain, and death in other Frames. As she sees it, she was born to travel the Frames.