An Arm and A Leg

Here is something I wrote about a month ago, inspired by a plot line in Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots.  I can’t remember the exact phrasing of the line, but it was a woman being forced by two robbers to to open a safe box. Hope you enjoy!

PS: the stories have been coming slowly because I started working on a novel D: … It’s too early to mention anything, but.. there it is. Oh god what am I doing…

 

 

 

“Come now gentlemen, it’s a more than fair offer. You both know as well as I do that I would get more use out of them than you, what with you trying to share them and all.”

Turk and Jerry both stood with folded arms, frowning at the tall, well dressed man who spoke to them. He stood near the fire escape where he had climbed up to the roof. The coat-tails of his black suit jacket flapped slightly behind him.

“I told ya already, Ripley, they ain’t fer sale,” Turk spat at Ripleys feet and narrowed his brow.

“I see.” Ripley eyed the brothers; Jerry, tall, thick and balding, and Turk with curled hair and a grizzled face. “Well, if you should change your mind, you know where I reside.” Ripley adjusted his grey bowler cap, and disappeared down the fire escape.

“How many times is that fool gunna keep botherin’ us.” Turk sat back on the ledge of the apartment building where they lived, and returned to surveying the busy street below. “He’s just jealous we were the ones to snag those tricky boots from that travelin’ soldier fella.”

“Yeah,” added Jerry with an earnest nod, “we’re lucky.” He sat next to his brother and pulled the laces tight on one of his mismatched boots.

“Not luck, Brother,” said Turk. “You gotta observe yer prey first. Pick ‘em out. You can’t just go appropriatin’ the goods of any old Joe. Gotta make sure its worth it riskin’ yer neck like that.”

“I ain’t propreatin’ nuthin.”

“You know, swipin’, theivin’,” Turk said. He adjusted the zoom on his binoculars and scanned the crowded market street. Most of the people wore plain clothes, browns and greys and blacks, much like his own clothes. He caught a flash of bright blue and red amid the sea of drab, and his stern, prickly face cracked into a smile full of yellow teeth. “Ah, here we go, look at this broad here.” He handed the binoculars to his brother and pointed. “There, next to the cherry stand.”

“Wow, look at that hat!” Jerry’s mouth hung open, folding his thick neck into a double chin. He watched a woman wearing a wide-brimmed, red summer hat covered in blue flowers put a small bag of cherries into her purse. He licked his lips. “Ohh, cherries Brother, she must be rich.”

Turk snatched the binoculars back from his brother and peered through them. “Yeah, gotta be from outa town, maybe even off world.” He looked closer at her, trying to guess. Atland maybe? Newtopia? Her flowery red hat meant a rich city for sure, and her metallic blue dress didn’t have a speck or smudge on it, meaning she can’t have been here for long, especially with the way it clung to her chest and thighs. If he didn’t hassle her soon, someone else would. She waved at the cherry vendor and started walking again.

Turk stood up. “Let’s go, she’s headed north.” He loped to the north edge of the rooftop with Jerry lumbering behind him. His brother stood a foot taller and a hundred pounds heaver than he, and panted a little at the exertion. “Ready?” Turk grabbed Jerry’s arm when they reached the edge. It was about five meters to the neighboring apartment building.

“I guess so.” Jerry looked down into the alley below with a grimace, then bent down and flipped a switch on his left boot.

Turk flipped a switch on his right boot, then grinned, wondering if Ripley might still be watching them below, green with envy. “All right, one, two, three!” On three they both leaped off the edge, and wobbled slowly through the air. Their boots hummed and vibrated, warping the effects of gravity. The brothers balanced each on one foot and braced against each other, with their opposite hands and legs waggling about in the air. They landed on the rooftop and tripped forward a few steps.

“When are we gunna find another pair, brother? I hate doin that.” Jerry let out a sigh.

“Yer lucky it even fits you.” Turk adjusted the too-big anti-grav boot on his right foot. He found the pair to be one of the more useful things he’d ever stolen.

He brought the binoculars to his eyes again. The crowd was even thicker up ahead, but he spotted the woman’s red hat bobbing through the busy street. “Looks like she’s headin’ fer Madeline’s clothes shop, lets get goin’.”

They hurried to the other end of the roof and looked down across the street. “Ohh, she’s got ‘spensive tastes.” Turk licked his lips and leaned forward with the binoculars, spying through the shop window. The woman carried three colorful dresses to the counter. Turk observed the clerks ingratiating demeanour and sickly-sweet smile, and gauged the price must be around 1000 credits. “We got a winner here for sure, brother,” he said. The woman rolled up the dresses into a cloth cylinder and pushed them into her purse and out of sight. “What the…” The small bag did not bulge, and she did not force the dresses in, yet he saw no way they should be able to fit inside.

“What’s she doin?” Jerry sat on the rooftop and fiddled with his shirtsleeves.

“Nothing, let’s keep watchin’ her for a while.”

They hopped across to the next building, keeping up as the woman meandered down the street. She paused to look at several stands and to peer into shop windows, taking her time with a cool confidence. Turk thought that she either knew exactly what she was doing, or had no idea.

The sky dimmed as clouds rolled over the sun. Fat drops of rain splattered on the rooftop, and one plinked on the binocular lens, blurring Turk’s vision. He wiped it off with his sleeve. The rain fell harder, and the crowd thinned as people dodged for the dry indoors. The woman in the blue dress reached into her hand bag and produced a long, red umbrella with an elaborate curved handle of what could have been ivory.

“OK Jerry,” said Turk. He licked some rain off his lips. “We gotta get that bag.”

Jerry grinned and rested a hand on the pistol that bulged in his jacket pocket.

The red umbrella was even easier to follow than the hat, and several minutes of drenching rain later Turk saw her turn sharply and head toward an alley, just as he expected. She would cut through to the street on the other side, where rows of cabs waited for fares.

“Here’s our move Brother, get ready.” Turk rested his hand on Jerry’s shoulder and they looked down into the alley. Jerry held his gun out, rain dripped from the barrel. The umbrella floated through the rain, rivulets of water spilling from its points to splash near the woman’s feet. The clacking of her heels on the pavement was barely audible over the downpour. As she reached the center of the alley, Turk began a whispered count.

On three, they stepped off the roof and floated shakily downward. When they dropped to two meters above her they let go of each other and split off to land: Jerry in front and Turk behind.

“Hand over the bag, lady,” Turk said.

Jerry grinned and leveled the gun at her.

She turned on her heels and her blue eyes sparked at Turk, her face hard as ice. “You’re robbing me?” Her words cracked like a whip, and Turk found himself momentarily grasping at an excuse for his behavior.

“The… the bag,” he repeated. Her gaze made him feel like a disobedient child.

She flashed her glare at Jerry, who shrugged away holding the gun forward.

“Come on, lady,” he pleaded.

She looked back to Turk and folded her arms. “Take it then.”

“Um-”

“Take it you filth!”

Turk fought an impulse to step back, and instead edged his way forward until he was under the umbrella with her. She smelled of fresh fruit and flowers. Curled locks of auburn hair brushed against the pearl white skin of her neck. Her eyes blazed. Turk reached tentatively for the strap of her small handbag, pausing when he realized he would have to touch her to grab it.

“I.. uh…”

“What?” she snapped.

Turk swallowed hard, and hesitated only a moment longer before snatching the strap from her shoulder. He yanked several times before the bag came loose from her folded arms. She stared him down the whole time.

Finally the bag was in his hands and he backed away, waving his brother toward him.

“I hope you are proud of yourselves.” The woman gave them each a long, disapproving glare, then stalked down the alley to the street full of taxis. Turk didn’t wait around to see if she got into one.

“Let’s go.” He nudged his brother, and they hurried into the crowded market street to lose themselves in the throng.

~

Turk shut the door on the still pounding rain and shook the wet off his jacket. “All right,” he said, a smile blooming on his weathered face. “Let’s see what valuables she’s been stuffing in this ‘ere magic bag.”

Jerry grinned and rubbed his hands together as they sat down at the rickety table in the main room of the small, dingy apartment. A few purses, wallets and bags sat in a pile on one end of the table, the remains of the previous week’s work.

“I want some of those cherries,” Jerry said, licking his lips.

Turk pulled open the small, burgundy handbag and narrowed his brow. “Hmm.” The bag was empty other than a glinting metal box about six inches square. The surface was etched with swirling spirals and waves, and tiny red gems lined the edge. A larger red gem was in the center of each side, and on the top. A latch held down the hinged lid. When he picked it up out of the bag he felt a sort of resistance, as if he were picking up a magnet and the table beneath were made of steel.

He held it up to his eyes. “Well look at this.” It felt odd in his hand, like it was fixed in place. He got the impression that if he let go, it would hang in the air for a moment before dropping.

“Open it!” Jerry leaned forward in his seat.

“All right, all right.” Turk put the box down. It pulled out of his hand with extra weight, fixing itself to the surface of the table once it got close. “There is somethin’ odd about this here box,” said Turk, but he only hesitated a moment before flipping up the small latch and opening the lid.

A warm yellow light shone up at him. Turk peered in cautiously, and looked down on a row of umbrellas sitting on a shelf.

Jerry leaned over the table to look in. “Where are the cherries?”

“I don’t know, brother, but this ‘ere box is somethin’ special.” He picked up the box again, planning to tip it upside down to see what would happen, but as he gripped it his thumb pressed one of the bigger jewels, and it clicked inward. The light coming from the box blinked off for a second, then returned.

“What the…” Turk returned the box to the table and looked down on a different shelf, this one containing several rolled up dresses and the bag of cherries. He reached tentatively into the box, his hand passing through the bottom and into the shelf. He felt around and grabbed one of the dresses and pulled it out into view. “Oh yes, we’ll get a good sum for these all right.” He handed the dress to Jerry, who rolled it out on the table, inspecting it. Turk fished out two more dresses, then came up with the bag of cherries.

“There they are!” Before Turk could protest, Jerry snatched them from his hand. He plopped the bag on the table in front of him and tossed one of the little fruits into his mouth with a satisfied grin.

Turk rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the box. He looked in at the shelf, then pressed another of the jewels. The bottom of the box became a flat black for a second, then lit up again to reveal yet another shelf, this one holding rows of perfume bottles, nail polishes, and make up. Another press and he was looking down at blouses and skirts on hangars. Another jewel click and the view changed again.

“Here we go now!” Turk cheered. He was looking at a shelf filled with rows of jewelry boxes opened to reveal necklaces, rings, pendants, broaches, earrings and lose gems of all kinds. He saw silver and gold and platinum, emerald, diamond and pearl. In his excitement, he didn’t register the shadow moving across the gems and jewelry. He reached in his arm to grab a handful, and felt fingers clamp around his wrist and pull hard.

“Gah!” Turk slammed into the table, up to his shoulder in the metal box.

Jerry coughed several cherry pits out of his mouth and stood up in shock. “Brother!”

Turk felt a coarse rope cinch around his wrist and pull taught, straining his wrist and elbow to the point of pain. He felt cold metal scrape against his skin as it moved up the length of his arm, then a sharp prick on his bicep, he cried out and felt a trickle of blood snaking down to drip off his fingers.

“What’s going-”

“Listen here!” The familiar voice snapped out of the box, loud in his ear. “If you want to regain the use of your arm, you are going to bring my possessions back to me. Now.”

“But I-”

“I’m going to read you an address, and you are going to make your way here. With all the items you took, and they will be returned to me in pristine condition. Do you understand?”

“I… uh…” Turk looked at his brother’s dripping mouth, and the pile of cherry pits soaking juice into the dresses laid out on the table.

“Do you understand?” Another prick on his arm.

“Yes ma’am!” Turk stood up with some effort, pulling the box up off the table. It stayed fixed to his shoulder as he scrambled to find something to write with. Jerry watched with a worried look on his face, but only paused his cherry munching for a moment.

Turk found a stubby pencil and scrawled the address on the table’s surface in barely legible characters.

“I hope you are here soon,” came the woman’s voice. “I may get bored.” Turk felt the blade moving up and down his arm again, and looked up at his brother.

“You don’t have any money do you, Jerry?”

Jerry shook his head, and another pit slipped out of his mouth to land on the fine fabric of the dresses laid out on the table.

“Well,” Turk sighed. “I guess we’re goin’ to go see Ripley about these boots.”

“But… why?”

Turks elbow throbbed, and he looked at the elaborate box stuck to his shoulder where his arm should start. “We need to go shoppin’ fer some clothes.”

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