Story: Give Me One Reason (chapter 2)

Authors: A Markov

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Chapter 2

Title: Green Suede Boots, Two: For the show

Chapter 2-

By the third day, the matron was pissed at me. I refused to tell her my name… my age… where I was from… anything. ‘Cause I was pretty sure that if they figured out who I was, they’d call Hector and he’d come and get me. And I'm thinking... I’m warm, I’m fed and Hector is nowhere in sight. Doesn’t matter if they lock my door at night, I’m free. Who wants to go to Norway any anyway? Not me. It wasn't a vacation though, they had us doing menial labor during the day... sewing stuff, making tea cozies and shit like that. I’m not sure if they were trying to make us pay for our keep or keep us too busy to fight each other. Some of the chicks in there were pretty scary. There was this one red head, tattoo of a fox’s head in silhouette completely surrounding her right eye, walked around with a sneer on her face, looking for someone to beat-up. Second day I was there I saw her break a girl’s nose for cutting in line at the mess hall. I stayed well clear of her. I wasn't looking for trouble. I was just trying to keep my head down and hoping they’d keep feeding me and they wouldn’t figure out who I was.

One day, I’d been there about a week, I was taking out the trash and I walked by the gym and that chick, everyone called her “Fox,” was working out. She was doing a defensive kata… well, I didn’t know what it was then, I just thought it was some kind of dance at first. Then I figured it was some kind of Karate. I didn’t know anything about martial arts, really. Just what I saw on Kung-Fu Theater and in Bruce Lee movies. I stopped to watch her, and I'm thinking, whatever she was doing, it’s pretty. She looks so graceful and elegant flowing around the room in this weird kind of dance. And I’m standing there, trying to reconcile in my mind the image of the bitch that struts around starting trouble for the hell of it with the image of this serene dancer when she notices me watching her and heads for me at full tilt. All of a sudden the sneer is back and she’s just as ugly as she usually is. Except now, she’s got me in her sights. My mind is racing about a hundred miles an hour trying to figure out how to get out of this one when something about the whole thing gives me that Déjà vu feeling. And I realize… she looks just like Hector. I don’t mean they look alike, I mean the way she’s acting reminds me of his same kind of overbearing “I’m bigger and stronger than you so I’m gonna make you do what I want” attitude. And in the back of my mind a little voice is nagging at me about how if I give in to this, it’s just trading one bully for another. So I drop the bag of trash and I put up my Dukes. And she stops cold. For a split second, I’m thinking I’m pretty impressive… until she starts laughing.

And I don’t mean a little chuckle. The bitch is doubled over holding her stomach, having a hard time breathing because she’s laughing so hard. At first, I’m relieved that she’s not going to attack me, but after a few minutes of watching her point feebly at me while wiping away tears of mirth, I’m starting to get pissed. She notices it and, if anything, laughs even harder. Now I’m really pissed and I go for her. No technique, just a mad rush and a scream of frustration. She side-steps me easily and trips me on the way by… still laughing. So I pop up and let her have a taste of plasma. I’m so upset that my aim is off and I end up missing her by a couple of feet, but I’ve got her attention now, and she’s not laughing any more. I start hurling plasma at her, alternating hands. The blasts are harder to control like that, but I can send a lot of them and at this point I’m seeing red and I just want to blast something, preferably something with red hair and an attitude problem. Who knew that was going to become the story of my life? She’s dancing around all over the place, doing flips, jumping off of the bleachers, using all the sports equipment in some kind of elusive ballet. I’m basically blowing shit up. I tag her once or twice, but she manages to avoid most of the blasts and when I do tag her, it’s a glancing blow. All of a sudden she does this confusing series of jumps and rolls and flips and ends up right next to me. Light explodes behind my eyes and I pass out.

I woke up in a truck. At first I was thinking the whole thing was a dream and I was still headed to Nova Scotia but my head hurt like hell and the first thing I saw was the tattooed red head leaning over me. She starts talking to me, all excited like, about how we’re going to be a team and we’ll be the most feared and respected mercenaries since the Sicilian Crowd. Like I said, my head was hurting like hell and I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about so I just nodded and tried to smile at the crazy woman who had apparently kidnapped me and broke me out of jail at the same time. I was afraid that she was just going to take me somewhere and kill me for using her as target practice, but it turns out, she wants to be rich. She wants to be really rich. And somehow, she figured that if we teamed up she could get that way faster. I still wasn’t thinking straight and I asked her if she’d show me how to dance like her. Then we were both confused, but we got it all straightened out before we reached Vancouver. She started teaching me martial arts and I started helping her with odd jobs.

Now, when I say “odd jobs,” I do mean odd jobs. To this day I have no idea why that particular government wanted those shapes in that wheat field, but they did. And we put ‘em there. Got paid damn good too. Fox was willing to take on anything. I was kind of in awe of her. She was so smart and sure of herself but at the same time, she was right on that razor’s edge between sane and completely gaga. She always knew exactly what she wanted and always had a plan to get it. Never let anyone take advantage of her… I guess I was kind of crushing on her in the beginning. I know I really wanted to be like her, at least the strong and independent part, the crazy part I could do without. She opened a whole new world for me. A world where women had control of their own lives and possession was ten-tenths. She showed me how to get what I wanted with a smile and an arched back and how to take a sucker and make 'em think you were doing them a favor. But most of all, she taught me the art of the heist. Most of what we did was heists. Usually it was some crazy collector who wanted a rare item that some other crazy collector wouldn’t sell so he'd hire us to steal it for him. Sometimes the other guy would hire us to steal it back. I remember we stole the same statue fourteen times. After the fourteenth time Fox decided she wanted the damn thing for herself and kept it. She’s still got it too, sitting right out in plain sight in the foyer of her house in Paris. I thought about swiping it from her the last time I was in France, but I was pretty busy… maybe next time.

After a couple of years of capers and training with Fox, I was a very accomplished thief. I was also a damn good fighter. But I was still pretty repressed, socially. My initial crush had turned into a secret torch that was tearing me up inside. She was as wild in her social life as she was in her professional life and always chided me for not enjoying myself as much as she did. I was always afraid that she’d turn her back on me if she figured out why I was so reserved when we went out. Looking back, that’s just one more thing that demonstrated my naiveté. But I think it was a good thing I never let on to her the way I felt. Turns out, she’ll pretty much screw anyone with a pulse. I’d ‘a been just one more link in a chain of one night stands. Instead, I became something more than a student but less than a partner and we had a lot of fun visiting far away countries and stealing their treasures. Even with the occasional long night in the middle of a muddy wheat field, that’s still the favorite time of my life. Odd as this sounds, there was a kind of innocence to it. I was young. Everything was new and it was all in fun, you know. No one got hurt and I never took any of it seriously. Then she decided to settle down in the states and start doing stunts on TV. It just about killed me. I don’t think she really understood how much I hated the idea of being famous and I know I didn’t understand why she wanted to be a star. But we both smiled and promised to keep in touch and said all the meaningless shit that you say when someone is ripping out your heart and throwing the pieces on the ground but you don’t want to let them know they’re killing you. She went on to become an international TV star and married one of the richest men in the world. And here I am, sitting here, spilling my guts out to you.

After we split up, I knocked around on my own for a while. You know, “cat burglar for hire,” that sort of thing. But too many people think that since you’re already breaking the law, they don’t have to pay you. It got tiresome having to beat the crap out of every third asshole who hired me for trying to double-cross me and half of the rest for insisting that my paycheck came with “benefits,” for them. But by that time I was pretty well heeled. I figured I’d head back home for a while. Maybe get a penthouse overlooking the lake and just lay low for a while, see where life takes me. Of course, I forgot that all the lake views included that stupid tower and that for several years I was a very public figure in town. Even after being away for five years and wearing full skin-tone make-up, people were giving me a second look all the time. Asking: “Do I know you?” and trying to figure out where they had last seen me. I got tired of it after about a week. One night, after a particularly inquisitive hot dog vendor pestered me for twenty minutes about whether or not I’d been at his cousin Esther’s Bat Mitzfah, I got the bright idea to put on my old cat suit, the one I used to wear when I was following my idiot brother around trying to be a superhero, and pull a job on the Museum of Modern Art. Turns out I’d grown up a little since then. Well, not so much “up” as “out” but it was painfully obvious that the thing needed some serious alterations before I could fit into it again. Then I started thinking about adding pouches to hold my tools… one thing led to another and the next thing I know, I’ve got a whole new outfit designed. One problem, I lack the necessary seamstress’ skills to turn my dream into reality.

It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. I started out looking for a discrete tailor and ended up, somehow, on Jack Hench’s website. I really hadn’t known that sort of thing existed. It’s like a wholesale warehouse for wannabe evil-doers. I spent hours going through all the listings for doomsday devices and various villainous services. Eventually I did find a tailor and when I called him I mentioned that I’d found his business through the HenchCo web site. I was hesitant to do it, I felt kind of silly. But he started gushing all over himself, offering me discounts and specials and so I made an appointment and went over the next day. I show him my sketches and he starts taking my measurements, asking me if I want wash and wear or dry-clean and he’s expounding on all the benefits of this fabric or that fabric and what kind of traps I think I’ll have to go up against and what kind of armaments my lair has and whether the Alien Brain will win “Villain of the Year” again... I had to stop him. “Look, Mac, I’m just a thief.” I told him. “I don’t have a lair or anything like that. I’m not planning on taking over the world.” I can tell he’s a little miffed. And I don’t think he believes me when I tell him I’ve never heard of the Alien Brain, but my money’s green so he finishes taking my measurements and gets my cell number… phone, not prison. I figure it’s over but while I’m driving home, he calls me up and tells me he can give me a good deal on piranha resistant fabric if I don’t mind pink. I won’t repeat that conversation word for word. Suffice to say when it was over he had agreed to make what I wanted and not try to foist any of his overstock off on to me.

The next week crawled by. I cased every art house and museum in the city, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to steal. It had to be spectacular and it had to be something that’d really get under Hector’s skin. He was still doing the hero thing. None of the others were though. I was trying to remember how old the twins were when I left. I figure they’d be in college now and I considered looking them up and seeing if they wanted in on the caper. Odds are they’d be fed up with the officious jerk and wouldn’t mind tweaking him a little bit. In the end, I decided to go it on my own, that way I could claim full credit for whatever discomfort it caused him. I found my target on Wednesday. The Museum of History was hosting a display of priceless Egyptian artifacts and Hector gave a speech on TV about how Go City was the safest city in the country and no harm could befall the collection while it was under his watchful eye. There was a nice green and black Ahnk that caught my attention and I figured it would be funny as hell to just steal things that were black and green. Hector would never figure it out. And if someone else did, that would make it even funnier. I spent the next two days trying to come up with clues that I could drop at the scene to let everyone but Hector know what was going on. I never did start my green and black crime spree though, once more, circumstance intervened and I ended up going in a completely new direction.

When I got to the tailor’s to pick up my cat suit, there was this crazy blue guy already there. He’s going on and on about how hard it is to find good help and how the last person he hired to steal something for him ended up selling it to someone named Professor Dementor. The tailor’s being all sympathetic and understanding. I’m doing my best to keep a straight face and suddenly, the little bastard points at me and says; “She’s a thief, why don’t you hire her?” Well the blue guy looks over at me and sneers something about how he doesn’t want to send a girl to do a man’s job but he trails off in fear or awe. I’m not sure which, because at that point I’m pretty busy expressing my displeasure at being singled out to the tailor. It’s a fairly one sided conversation. And even though there’s very little said, I’m pretty sure he gets my point. As I was walking out, the blue guy chased after me and offered me a job. At first, I turned him down. He’s got a seriously whiney voice and I really don’t need to be stiffed by someone right now, but he was willing to put up cash, up front and the job was in Go City. I figured it'd still knock Hector's nose out of joint, so I thought, What the hell? Let’s see what happens. The guy’s name was Drew Lipsky but he preferred to be called, “Dr. Drakken.” I ask him; “Doctor of what?” but he just snarls and mumbles something about it being none of my business. “Whatever.” I said. “Give me the money and tell me what you want me to steal.”

Sometimes I really wish I had turned him down, because even though the next few years were a lot of fun, it all went to shit when I met the girl of my dreams. Yeah, I said “girl.” Of course, I didn’t know she was the girl of my dreams when I first met her. Didn’t really know that my Mr. Right would be a girl. But she showed up one day and the next thing I know she was there every time I turned around. Always in my face, always annoying and always frustrating. Then she started popping up in my head when she wasn’t even in the room… That’s when I knew I had a problem. You see, I’d already spent too much of my life carrying around a torch for someone who was unobtainable. And this girl was definitely unobtainable. I mean, even if she was gay, there’s no way she’d ever go for me.

[End notes:


Next TIme:
Three:  To get ready


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