Burton stood once again in Tattletailz, holding the buckets he had borrowed and waiting for the crowd surrounding Madame Red to thin enough for her to notice him. He knew that his presence there was a residual effect of the sex pheromones that Madame Red had been engineered to exude. He knew that he could have just given the buckets to the doorman. Yet there he stood, buckets in hand and feeling more than a little foolish.
The crowd at Tattletailz was a little thinner than Burton had remembered, and the customers who remained seemed to be forcing themselves to have fun. The atmosphere was a notch or two more tense: voices more subdued, glances more veiled.
Unfortunately for Burton, he was left standing for several minutes with buckets in hand before the cloud of suitors surrounding the gorgeous vixen-clade moved enough for her to notice his presence.
"Excuse me, gentlemen." The clade made a simple dismissal sound like a heavenly chorus, the merest flick of her fingers into a languid piece of performance art. Her eyes gazed into Burton's, sending an electric thrill down his spine as she smiled.
"Ah yes, you're back." She murmured, crossing one slender leg over the other at her seat. "Nothing dangerous, I hope?" A twinkle in the depths of her forest-green gaze seemed to belie the serious tone of her words.
"Err... no," said Burton. "I'm, uh, I'm just returning your ice buckets." He initially held them out to her, then put them on a nearby table.
"I, uh, I also wanted to apologize for the other evening. You see, I'm a policeman... uh, well, actually, I'm a scientist... well, no, I'm, uh, I'm really a scientist who works for the police. I was, uh, collecting forensic evidence on a... a suspect involved... involved in a crime. The ice buckets helped preserve the evidence... well, not the buckets themselves, but the ice in the buckets."
Burton felt more and more idiotic with each passing second. It's just pheromones, he thought to himself. Pheromones pheromones pheromones. Pheromones, and her eyes, and her voice, and the liquid grace that characterizes every little movement she makes...
"So, uh, that's why I was, uh, acting the way I did the other evening."
Madame Red nodded and brushed an errant strand of fiery red hair away from her cheek. "I understand it was all for a good cause." She said demurely. "So I'm pleased I could lend whatever minor assistance I could."
The vixen clade leaned closer and studied the doctor up and down. "If you want to make it up to me, why not start with an introduction? I'm sure you already know who I am."
Burton felt his heart accelerate as Madame Red moved towards him. "Oh—yes, of course. I'm Burton... err, Graham Burton."
He reached one clammy hand into his pants pocket and fumbled to remove the screw-cap from the empty gas chromatography sample vial he had there. He brought the vial as close to the top of his pocket as he dared. "I, uh, I'm sorry about the disturbance we caused the other evening. I hope none of your friends were taking Dr. Kamang's drugs."
Madame Red's smile lowered in wattage slightly. "I'm just glad he's gone." She replied. "In fact, I ought to be thanking you. Won't you join me for a drink?"
Her invitation was accompanied by a gesture at the nearby seat—occupied, of course, by one of her admirers. The designated seat-holder flushed red and stood up with a muttered curse, pushing his way towards the exit.
"Why yes, thank you," replied Burton and took a seat. Noticing the demeanor of the ejected admirer, Burton made a mental note to himself to check his own testosterone, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels later on that evening. He looked at the glasses of the other admirers, trying to figure what to have. "I... er... I guess I'll have a martini."
The manager of the strip club leaned her arm on the bar and cupped her delicately pointed chin in her palm, smiling at the flustered XSWAT Scientist. "Did you have something other than an apology and smalltalk on your mind?" She inquired as the bartender delivered Burton's martini, complete with olive.
Burton gulped down the martini, almost choking on the olive. He shifted in his chair and felt something hard and cylindrical press against his thigh. The gas chromatography sample vial! The presence of the vial was like a glass of cold water splashed in Burton's face.
"Uh... yes, well, for now, perhaps, but I'd like, um, I'd like to come back and, uh, uh... talk! Yes, talk to you again some time," sputtered Burton. He got up and walked backwards, facing Madame Red, and almost collided with a waitress. "I'd like to stay, but I have a, um, a procedure running in the lab that requires my attention. I, uh...." He waved to Madame Red, turned, and walked briskly out of Tattletailz.
Back in his lab, Burton stared with mouth agape at the results of the blood tests he ran on himself shortly after his episode with Madame Red. His testosterone levels were only 20% higher, and his norepinephrine levels were up by one-third. In contrast, his serotonin levels were halved, while his dopamine was almost doubled!
Burton was impressed. Love follows three phases—the lust phase, the attraction phase, and the attachment phase—each characterized by unique patterns in the concentrations of hormones and neurotransmitters. Madame Red's presence appeared to inspire only moderate levels of lust, but significantly high levels of attraction. Was pheromone secretion responsible for this reaction? He marveled at the skill it would take to engineer a clade to secrete a compound blend that would by-pass the lust phase and amplify the attraction phase.
He took the gas chromatography sample vial from his pocket and walked to his GC/MS instrument. If he could identify compounds in the vial that accounted for Madame Red's effect on him, he could synthesize analogues that would block the appropriate receptors on his olfactory neurons. He wondered if he would still react the same way to her if he was immune to pheromone stimulation....