#BOSK-EO494A-PARTY

CE N’EST PAS UN PARTI C’EST PLUS BEAUCOUP ENTIER

J. J. W. Mezun ☆ Season 5 ☆ 2017 December 15

I

It took all o’ Lance Chamsby’s will not to pace round his office while Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty tried measuring his legs.

I tell you: I know they’ll come crashing it just like they probably did to the economy.

Mmm hmm, Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty said, his voice muffled by needles. He’d long realized that “Mmm hmm” was always the best response to give to anything Lance said.

Those other doofuses are guarding the whole tower, ¿right?, asked Lance.

Mmm hmm.

¿& you hired mo’ temp guards?

Mmm hmm. OK, now just stand still, Sir; I’ll be done in just a minute.

¿Why d’you even need to measure my limbs, anyway, you weirdo?, asked Lance.

You said you wanted a complete ghost-written autobiography, Sir.

¿& why’re you holding needles in your mouth?

My doctor said I need to get plenty o’ iron.

Lance crossed his arms. Whatever. Just make it quick already.

Purple Mountain’s Majesty dared to add, You needn’t worry, Sir; I’m sure everyone will love this as much as all o’ your earlier birthdays.

Hmmph. I remember when Kip Chalmers was told something o’ the same sentiment just ’fore his train crashed, said Lance ominously, in that stubborn tone that heavily hinted that he thought his own circumstance would lead to something as disastrous as the example he gave, which is from Atlas Shrugged, the most popular novel by Ayn Rand — whom he ’course worships — & thus this example is simply ’nother way to demonstrate Lance’s aforementioned love o’ Atlas Shrugged.

If there’s something here that’s still vague, please email me @ jjwmezun@gmail.com so I can ’splain this joke in further detail.

II

Things were changing: that Lance couldn’t doubt. The question was whether he should revel or worry.

You’re being craven, he told himself. You can’t let circumstances control you; no matter what changes or remains, a true individual is as impregnable as gold.

But usually he didn’t have to worry: since as long as he could remember, he’d be unable to sleep the nights before his birthday, he was so excited.

It’s all the fault o’ those looters. His eyes flicked to both sides. I know they’re hiding round here somewhere, preparing to ruin my birthday like the bitter losers they are — still bitter ’bout me ruining the head looter’s attempt to conquer the world with that “Genie” magic, no doubt.

So distracted by these concerns was he that he hardly bought any attention from the various drummer boys begging for a chance to stick their cheese up his ass with the hope that he’d puke up gold coins for them. They’d shake his hand as if he were a trolley & slap him with smiles so festered, he was ’fraid 1 o’ their lip bumps would finally pop in his face.

That was till he saw 1 woman leaning back gainst a wall, so still she looked as if she were naked wood carved right into the wall. Her mouth held the condition o’ being both a smile & a frown1, as well as a drooping cigarette. Her dress matched her black spiky but short hair & eye-concealing shades.

Her voice sounded like coins being dropped on a mahogany table carved into the shape o’ a trapezoid. Luckily, Lance was able to translate this alien language into English: Good evening, Mayor Chamsby. You appear to have quite a birthday party here.

Lance coughed. Erm. Yes.

Keep your nerves strong. You’re the mayor, not some 8-bit chestnut monster. Learn the same lesson Dominique did.

I meant that as a compliment, ’course, the woman continued, her cigarette bobbing up & down with her words like a conductor’s stick. You know, everyone always fights over whether Muertoween or that dreadful communistic holiday are best; but I think the best is feet-down one’s own birthday. Her smirk curved upward like a fissure. After all, ¿what should one celebrate mo’ than oneself?

Lance’s top hat straightened in the stubborn way one does when it wants to symbolize a common characteristic o’ sexual arousal for a male human, which was rude & something I don’t approve o’, but they do it all the after.

She sucked on her cigarette & then held it out & tapped its ashes onto the carpet. ’Twas pure cinematic — which was good, since Lance would otherwise be annoyed by the fact that she just dirtied his carpet.

But then she frowned & lowered her chin a centimeter.

Well, I s’pose I shouldn’t waste any more o’ your time, since you probably have business to attend to. I, uh, well to be honest, I only came to tell you that I admire the work you do. A good man’s hard to find nowadays, ¿you know?

Lance evened his shoulders & grunted. Yes. Yes, that’s true… Well, the latter part’s true, a’least. ’Tween you & me, I wouldn’t mind a reprieve from all o’ these…

Lance’s hand froze in mid-air, a magician’s hand hitting a force field blocking him from pulling the ocelot from the fez.

Augh. Think. You’re s’posed to be clever, ¿remember?

’Fore he could continue, the corner o’ the woman’s mouth crept up ’gain. He wanted to watch it happen a million mo’ times.

I think they call those “cronies”, she said.

I believe you may be right, Lance replied.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets & looked off to the side. He couldn’t say why he did this; his mind felt enraptured by the self-evident inclination that ’twas best to only look directly @ her when he was @ his highest caliber, & best not to while practicing for his intellectual Tetris.

When he glanced to her briefly, he saw her doing the same.

The supply & demand for the saliva in the back o’ his throat reached equilibrium. ¿Would you prefer to resume this dialogue somewhere less noisy?

That sounds like a good idea, she said as she stepped forward, seeming to come to life before Lance’s eyes. By the way, I forgot to give you my name: it’s Dagny. Dagny von Ludwig.

She reached her hand out. Lance gazed @ it blankly.

That’s impossible. This is too convenient. ¿What are the chances?

¿What are the chances that a woman who admires a magnificent work would name herself after a magnificent character o’ fiction & magnificent economist? ¿After all, true individuals choose their own destiny; why shouldn’t they choose their own name, too?

Lance grasped her hand & shook it slowly & firmly, her hold as tight as his.

Then he turned & led her through the hall, everything else but a blur2.

III

Agent Mountain Meadow waited till she was sure Dagny had left ’fore whispering in Agent Outrageous Orange’s ear, ¿You think we should bother ’bout that?

Agent Outrageous Orange rubbed her chin.

To tell you the truth, it seems kinda mean o’ her…, Mountain Meadow said with a laugh. Though you probably wouldn’t care, ¿would you?

It struck her that Dagny looked somewhat like Outrageous Orange; but she knew Orange wouldn’t appreciate the comparison or the implications. Nor did Mountain Meadow, which was why she remained silent on the subject — a rarity for her, she knew.

Outrageous Orange dropped her hand from her chin.

As enjoyable as it may be — & I must confess e’en my bitter heart is doubtful o’ that — a risk’s a risk. We’ll only benefit from telling Lance. Hell, he’ll probably trust us mo’ if we do.

Agent Mountain Meadow nodded.

¿What if that makes him mistrust us though &… we get in trouble?, asked Agent Winter Wizard.

Outrageous Orange rubbed her chin & hmmed ’gain.

It’d be awfully nice if we did…, said Mountain Meadow.

Outrageous Orange stuffed her hands into her pockets.

We should ask some other guard if we should tell him. She shrugged with her arms held out like Atlas. We’re new, anyway; they can’t get mad @ us for not knowing what to do in such a specific circumstance, ¿can they?

That sounds good, Mountain Meadow replied with a nod.

Outrageous Orange led them down the hall, hoping that she still remembered where any o’ the other stations were. For someone so stressed ’bout having his party ruined, Chamsby sure didn’t keep a close eye on them, despite their being new. It worried Outrageous Orange: she said that that meant Chamsby was watching them with extra stealth.

Mountain Meadow had told her, It might be ’cause they’re nervous round us, with a smile.

¿But why’s that? They can’t think —

No: I mean… they probably like us.

Outrageous Orange had paused @ that & then replied, But they don’t even know what we look like, much less who we are.

Maybe our voices are just super sexy & we just ne’er knew it till now.

You’re not acting much like a guard, Outrageous Orange said, less with anger & mo’ with unease.

Looking @ how most o’ these guards act, neither are you.

Outrageous Orange had admitted that she had a point.

Mountain Meadow was punted back to the present when she saw a guard by the doorway to the anteroom. As he turned his masked head to them, she could see his shoulders stiffen as if inflicted with a particularly deep itch he couldn’t scratch.

Outrageous Orange cleared her throat. ’Scuse me, er…

He cleared his throat himself — though it sounded mo’ as if he were swallowing a pear whole.

That would be Agent Tickle Me Pink, Madame.

Right. Sorry. New @ this, said Outrageous Orange.

She shifted her feet forward & back, stuck her hands in & out o’ her pocket, & turned her head to the side & forward.

Uh…

¿You, uh, need help with something, Madame?

Well… It’s just that I saw this woman…

Tickle Me Pink nodded. Uh huh.

& she was stealing some o’ La — Mayor Chamsby’s stuff.

O… Tickle Me Pink took a step back. That’s not good. ¿Did she have a red ponytail, glasses, & a shirt that said “PHAT LOOT” on it?

Uh, no. Outrageous Orange looked down. The thing is, I already know the woman’s name — or a’least what she claims she’s called. Er… She’s that woman Mayor Chamsby was talking with — Dagny.

Tickle Me Pink’s pause told her all.

That’s not good. He paced a few steps back & forth in front o’ her, rubbing his hands over each other. He stopped just before her. ¿You sure you didn’t mistake her for someone else? She’s hardly the only brown-skinned woman with black hair round here.

I know, said Outrageous Orange, her voice deepening. This 1 was wearing the same clothes & the same shades & had the same shaped head & facial features & walked the same way & had all o’ the other specific details that people tend to have.

That’s what I was ’fraid o’, Tickle Me Pink said with his head tilted downward while she scratched the back o’ his neck.

So… ¿should I tell him?

Might have to. It is our job, after all. Meadow could tell by the way he kept scratching himself that he still wasn’t pleased. ¿Who knows? Maybe he won’t be mad @ all.

Meadow was surprised to see him start walking forward. She, Outrageous Orange, & Winter Wizard looked ’mong each other for a second ’fore following.

Gee, I hope he doesn’t get in trouble for this. I’d hate to have him get fired & end up on the street & driven to jumping off Baguette Bridge.

They stopped a step after he did, as if a wave streamed through them.

Um… Mayor Chamsby, Sir…

The sight o’ Dagny von Ludwig sitting next to Chamsby on his bed ’splained this hesitation. Her eyes, however, weren’t on him @ all; ’stead they were on some book called Principles of Economics.

¿Yes?, Lance said loudly, dragging out the “ehhhhh”.

Well, it’s just that… Can I… You may want to hear this in private, Sir — Mayor Sir, I mean.

Lance’s brows fell. ¿Then why did you bring those 3 in the 1st place?

O, uh… Tickle Me Pick glanced back @ them as if he were surprised they were still there. I mean… Just us work people — the people part o’ your guards, & you, ’course.

Lance blinked @ him as if compiling his words into English.

O right, he said, voice scratchy but lower. He turned to Dagny. ’Scuse me for 1 second, Madame.

No trouble, Mayor.

This time the trio led them outside, to the end o’ the hall. When they turned back round, they saw Tickle Me Pink unable to decide what to do with his arms, so he tried to move them everywhere @ once, & Lance with his arms crossed & his lips sagging like a canyon.

This better be important, said Lance. ¿Did you capture the looter?

Tickle Me Pink shirked back as if poked by a needle. Erm… You could say that.

But what would you say, said Lance.

That looter isn’t who you think it is…

Lance’s scowl was replaced by astonishment. ¿Who’s this now?

Erm…

Well, don’t just stutter there, Lance said quickly. Give me a description, for Mises’s sake.

She has a black dress, blurted Tickle Me Pink.

O. Good. We’re bound to find her now with that detailed description, said Lance. You’re a true Tolkien.

O. Uh, thank you, S —

Give me mo’ description, snapped Lance.

She has black hair & brown skin.

Lance’s eyes darkened. ¿Are you trying to be zany?

I —

Lance threw his arms out. ¿How did she sound? ¿What way did she walk? ¿What was the shape o’ her face? ¿Did she speak? ¿What words did she use?

Well, uh…

Outrageous Orange cleared her throat. ’Scuse me, Mayor.

Surprisingly, Lance turned to her not with anger, but with apparent relief. ¿Yes?

I think what Agent Tickle Me Pink means to say is that the looter is the Dagny von Ludwig in your room.

Now Lance’s face turned angry.

Now is not the day for these kind o’ japes. He stretched a finger out @ Outrageous Orange. If my situation didn’t prove Mises’s point that labor is scarce, I’d fire all 4 o’ you idiots on the dot.

This is no joke, I fear, Mayor, said Outrageous Orange. I know I saw her.

O, ¿truly? Chamsby stepped toward her — so close that Mountain Meadow began to worry. ¿& why should I believe you? I believe you were just hired tonight, ¿right?

True, said Orange. You also just met Madame Ludwig tonight, too.

Don’t change the subject. Lance’s arms were boiling pipes. ¿How do I know you’re not 1 o’ those looters under that mask, trying to distract me with such obviously false accusations gainst others?

Meadow tried to keep herself from shifting uncomfortably. She could see Winter Wizard fail to do so, which worried her.

Didn’t expect this, she thought.

Outrageous Orange stood back. ¿’Scuse me, Mayor?

Chamsby winced. You heard me, Madame Springer. Don’t think I don’t know that’s you in there. It’s like they say down in the desert: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice… ¡I won’t get fooled ’gain!”

Agent Outrageous Orange was silent. She looked up @ Agent Tickle Me Pink, only for him to turn his head ’way.

Mayor, I can assure you, I would never think to try robbing you. You may search me if you don’t believe me.

Meadow felt a warm splash o’ sweat itch over her. She wanted to ask, ¿Are you sure that’s a good idea… with these guys?

Chamsby’s wince deepened. You’d like that, ¿wouldn’t you? Bet you have a bomb somewhere hidden on you that’ll go off the second it leaves your pocket.

Thereby blowing my legs off by proxy, said Outrageous Orange.

Your wordplay won’t trick me, said Lance. You’re fired.

Orange paused a beat ’fore replying, Yes, Sir, & then turned & headed out the door.

IV

Report on suspicious activities, Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty, Lance said during 1 o’ Dagny’s restroom breaks.

None to be found, Mayor.

Hmmph, that’s not right. Suspicious activities should be happening round this time. They always do. Lance looked ’long all the trinkets in his room as if he would find these activities there.

Well… I had trouble finding Agent Atomic Tangerine for a second…

¿Yeah?, said Lance, looking up @ Purple with growing anxiety.

But then we just found that he was taking long in the restrooms.

Hmmph. ¿& what’s he doing in there?

Err… I think the things people usually do in those places.

¿Where’s he now?

He was assigned near some new recruits, said Purple.

Obviously conspiracies, said Lance, not with fear or anger, but just with petulance. Then he stared off @ the wall as if considering these obvious conspiracies deeply.

He was interrupted by his door creaking. He turned & saw Dagny’s head poking in.

Madame Ludwig, come right in, Lance said hastily.

She did, stepping sideways ’way from the doorway & leaning on the walls. She tossed her bangs back & forth like meddlesome mosquitoes.

Sorry I took so long, said she.

Lance turned back to Agent Purple. We’ll continue this discussion later. Now, return to your post.

Yes, Sir.

Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty went out, closing the door ’hind him.

I must apologize for the lack o’ proper seating in here, Madame, said Lance. I guess that’s not as important as giving plump subsidies to oil companies or buying all those flying cars for welfare marchionesses that I see them flying round all o’er with. He waved his hands ’bove his head to demonstrate said flying.

No problem, said Dagny.

She hopped on Lance’s bed, crossing her knees. Lance slid up ’side her , holding his hands out ’side him for reasons he couldn’t discover. Neither looked @ each other; Dagny merely continued to puff on her cigarette, staring opaquely @ the far wall with her usual indeterminant ’tween smile & frown, while Lance continued to sweat.

Finally, she turned to Lance & said, ¿Well?

¿Yes, Madame?, asked Lance, brows rising with both fear & excitement.

Dagny tilted her head back & puffed out a huge billow. ¿Aren’t you going to “exploit” me, like I hear all those spooky Marxists say you capitalists like to do?

Lance felt his whole body & face fill with mushy red head. His face stiffened in a robotic spasm that wasn’t sure whether to be a smile or a frown.

Dagny leaned into him & said in a voice that tasted like dark chocolate, But I’m not Marxist, & I want you to exploit me…

She looked down @ Lance’s lap, flipping her cigarette back & forth pensively. She placed her wrist on his thigh & kept flicking a finger forward to tug on his cloak belt every so oft.

Now, ¿what do you think o’ my proposition, Sir?, she continued.

He stared blankly, as if he were frozen & far ’way, e’en though he could feel the pressure o’ her pinches on his groin, only to keep releasing.

You buffoon, you shriveled worm. A moral man knows his own value.

Without moving, he simply cleared his throat & said, Sounds good. Since it’s your offer, you may lead the way.

V

Dagny lay back in the cool dark, her chest & legs both o’erheated, & yet relaxed. The funky scents & super-soft, extra fluffy sheets wrapped all round her added to the magic world she had created for herself — & ’twas the unbelievability o’ that creation by her own hands that made it so magical.

She could hear Chamsby’s adorable li’l snores right gainst her ear. In a few minutes or so I’d best get to action. This didn’t scare her a byte, but rather filled her with excitement. ¿What had she to worry ’bout? She knew everything was going as perfectly as it possibly could, & knew it’d continue to do so, ’cause she ensured that it did — she always did. She used to expect that she’d get bored o’ these constant surprises o’ unexpected success growing stale, but she increased the speed. Then she expected that — ¡Ooo! — she might slip up & end up in some semblance o’ danger. But it ne’er happened. She ne’er let it happen. ¿What could she say? She was just too attached to this badass life to let it slip ’way.

She sat up, shaking with the pleasure o’ feeling her own muscles move. In the dark she groped round the carpet for her clothes & quickly slipped them on @ the opposite side o’ the room. Then she spent the next 10 minutes wandering the room, feeling round for valuables.

Once she’d pocketed all her hands could find, she carefully opened the door just a crack, keeping herself in front o’ said crack to minimize the amount o’ light that came in &, when ’twas just wide ’nough for her to fit through, slunk outside.

She walked down the hall @ a brisk pace, turning her head with a face o’ curiosity, as if looking for the bathroom. She noticed a few guards loitering; but none seemed to move in response to her movements. ¿& why would they? ¿Wouldn’t she be just the opposite suspect for wrong actions — ’specially with whoever that “ponytailed devil” Chamsby ranted ’bout — ¿an ex? Not like it mattered… — being the perfect distraction.

In the half hour that Dagny was in Chamsby’s room the party had mellowed. The # o’ guests shrank; most o’ the stragglers were just guards playing board games & video games or watching movies. They didn’t seem to react to her as she crossed their rooms, either.

A few rooms & a hall down, she found some empty rooms — ¡& full o’ such succulent government heirlooms, too! She figured ol’ Clay’s favorite pipe that parliament bizarrely decided to keep would fetch zesty ₧.

She took 1 last look ’hind her to see that the door was just as closed as before. But as she was slipping the pipe into her dress, she heard the door fly open & saw a flash.

¿Did you get it, A-a-atomic Tangerine? ¿Did you get it?

A guard ’side her was staring @ a digital camera.

Holy shit, I did. ¿What are the odds?

Hell yeah. The 1st guard looked @ Dagny. ¿Have you no heart? ¿How could you just use someone like that? Super mean.

Yes, try reasoning with the thief. That’s a great idea, said Atomic Tangerine. Then he looked @ Dagny. ¿How much you willing to pay to have this photo not end up in ol’ Chamsby’s hands?

The 1st guard gasped. You can’t do that. ’Sides, that way, it sounds like you want to fuck her, too. I mean, she is kind o’ cute & all…

Dagny could hear & see Atomic Tangerine inhale & exhale deeply in annoyance.

Dagny spread her arms out & said, All I got is this pipe I took. I’ll trade that for the camera. You can take whatever else you want yourself.

Atomic Tangerine crossed his arms. I wasn’t born tomorrow. We heard you scrabbling round Chamsby’s room. I expect you must’ve a’least taken some o’ his credit cards, & probably that dumbass Atlas lamp.

You’re wrong on the latter — too bulky & too obvious, said Dagny.

Atomic Tangerine nodded. I still expect mo’,

Dagny shrugged, & then dug inside her dress & pulled out some jewelry & a wallet.

But as Atomic Tangerine began to step forward, she pulled them back & said, Give me the camera 1st. You can o’erteam me.

If we can o’erteam you, then we could just take the goods & give you nothing, Atomic Tangerine countered; we trade @ the same time.

Dagny smirked. Chamsby’d be irate @ such communism.

He had no problem sharing the means o’ production with you, said Atomic Tangerine.

¿What was that like, by the way?, asked the other guard. ¿Was he squishy? He looks like the squishy kind.

Atomic Tangerine stiffened. Mountain Meadow, you speak e’en though nobody benefits from it; perhaps you should just think ’stead.

Dagny shrugged. Whatever. Let’s do it.

She & Atomic Tangerine slowly reached their arms out; however, both casually grabbed the other’s item( s ).

As Dagny booted up the camera, she noticed the guards swiftly leave. She didn’t wait to see what was on it: the second ’twas on, she flashed a picture & began running herself, bumping past the guards in 1 dash.

¡Guards! ¡Guards!, she shouted.

As she did so, she checked the photo list on the camera. Unsurprisingly, it held only the photo she just took.

& yet, the mo’ she thought ’bout it, the mo’ contrived it felt. Nobody carries 2 identical cameras round, 1 o’ which is empty.

The other guards began to emerge. She held her camera toward them & said, ¡I caught the new guards robbing Chamsby!

While some looked @ the blurry photo that, honestly, didn’t prove anything, 1 ’hind her pointed ’hind him & said, I saw them pass me, saying that they were going to tell Chamsby ’bout some thieves.

They all turned & marched down the hall, but went down 2 without seeing the culprits.

All the exits are guarded, ¿right?, asked Dagny ’tween biting her bottom lip.

Um…, said Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty.

Dagny stiffened. For once she began to feel the semblance o’ a flush from the possibility o’ being bested.

¿Why does Chamsby keep these goons?

¡No time for nonsense!

Go outside by the quickest method & search all round, she snapped. Chamsby won’t be pleased in the slightest if he’s been robbed.

Purple Mountain’s Majesty nodded. Yes, Madame. Then he scrambled farther down the hallway. She began to follow.

However, both were stopped when they saw an open door & heard Chamsby’s voice.

That’s Chamsby’s room, said Purple.

They peeked inside to see 3 guards standing before Chamsby. Chamsby was staring @ a digital camera held in the lead guard’s hand, Chamsby shaking & haggard with flayed hair in his interrupted sleep.

Dagny remained still. Wait before you act…

Chamsby slowly looked up @ the 3 guards & said, That’s some fine Photoshop work you guys did. He then glanced to his side, looking straight @ Dagny & Purple Mountain’s Majesty.

Well, ¡don’t stand there!, snapped Chamsby. ¡Apprehend these sneaks!

The lead guard o’ the trio stepped back & turned his head back & forth ’tween Chamsby & Purple. The guards ’hind him also stepped back uncomfortably.

¿W-what d’you mean, Mayor, Sir?, asked the lead guard.

Chamsby said loudly, You heard me: Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty, apprehend & unmask these 3.

Purple gasped. B-but, Sir — I mean, Mayor, Sir… We ne’er take off these masks.

These 3 aren’t ’mong you, said Chamsby. I can smell the suspiciousness on them from kilometers ’way. The 2 ’hind “Atomic Tangerine” are the new guys — the new guys who were following “Obnoxious Orange”, or whatever she was called… till Atomic Tangerine mysteriously disappeared. Chamsby jumped off his bed & stood stretched upward with a finger raised. ’Course, any rational person can tell that this is neither Atomic Tangerine nor Oblivious Orange, but the ponytailed devil herself, ¡Autumn Springer!

Atomic Tangerine turned to Purple with his arms held out to his sides, frozen. Dagny pinched her lips together to stifle a smile.

I knew his lunacy would come in convenience — ¡but not in this way! ¡H-hoooley shit!

Atomic Tangerine turned back to Chamsby. M-mayor, Sir… Surely you know it’s me.

That’s not e’en your true voice, said Chamsby.

Wait, yes it is.

¡Aha! ¡That tone proves that you’re mo’ surprised that your excellent impression didn’t work mo’ than that I would doubt your voice @ all!

Now Purple & Dagny exchanged glances. Dagny now pretended to rub her mouth pensively to hide her erupting smile.

Sir, I have no idea what you’re talking ’bout, said Atomic Tangerine.

Chamsby turned to Purple. Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty, unmask this liar before I fire you.

Purple jerked as if jabbed by a thorn. O… ¿What?

Chamsby glared. You heard me.I know you think I’m crazy, just like the vulgar masses always think the lone genius is crazy. Well, I didn’t hire you to care ’bout your opinion. Your job is to carry out my orders no matter how crazy they seem to your vulgar mind.

Purple nodded. Yes, Mayor, Sir. He began to step toward Atomic Tangerine with heavy breaths. Sorry, AT: a job’s a job.

Dagny watched Atomic Tangerine as he began to slowly step backward, & noticed him slide a hand into his pocket. Without thinking for mo’ than a scrap o’ a second she rushed forward & grabbed his arm just as it was pulling out… ¿a stick o’ chalk?

Seeing this, Purple grabbed Atomic Tangerine round his arms while the other guards followed inside, joining him in holding Atomic Tangerine & the other 2 guards.

Chamsby pointed up @ the chalk & said, Now, ¿what do we have here? A smoke bomb. ¿Who uses that as her main method o’ ’scape?

Dagny’s brows fell. She remembered the twin cameras.

Nooooo… Holy shit. This time she let her smile burst out into a short laugh.

Chamsby gave her an odd look — 1 in a tug-o’-war match ’tween indignation & embarrassment. She ignored it & turned to Purple & said, ¿Well? Follow your master’s orders. I gotta see…

Purple slowly reached a hand up to Atomic Tangerine’s mask & let it vibrate a centimeter before it before finally pulling it off.

As he finished, Mountain Meadow said, It turns out we might’ve benefited from going the whole way with the disguise, after all…

But what amused Dagny most was Chamsby’s expression o’ sheer delight. She didn’t need to recognize the face to know who ’twas.

The other guards froze as they stared @ the bespectacled face staring back @ them with glazed eyes partly covered by red-orange bangs.

Chamsby held a hand out. This is why you fools shouldn’t doubt my brilliance. I can only bet that the quiet 1 in the back, “Winter Wizard” — Sraffa, ¿How could I not have seen it earlier? It’s right there — is her occult skeleton partner & that the loudmouthed “Mountain Meadow” is that inane new friend o’ hers in the stupid jacket. Now, stop standing round like gaping morons & escort them to my prison cell — & return the real Atomic Tangerine his uniform which Madame Stealer has clearly stolen, judging by nametag.

Um, ¿What if she’s not wearing anything ’neath?

Chamsby rolled his eyes. That would be the worst job one could have, ¿wouldn’t it? I’m sorry you couldn’t get sexier culprits, but that’s just the way the invisible hand rolls the dice, ¿now isn’t it?

Yeah, we’re not bitching ’bout having to see stick-dick & the thief with no dignity butcher the art o’ fucking, Autumn said calmly.

Chamsby’s eyes shot open like flashlights. Dagny began laughing out loud.

¿What the fuck is up with all these fucking people? They’re crazy as shit.

When Chamsby finally regained his composure, he said, Take them to their cells already — he began waving a hand toward the door — & take off her disguise ’way from here; there’s no reason why we should have our midnight snack’s ruined by seeing it. Ugh.

VI

The second she heard Dawn begin, I’m surprised Chamsby didn’t th — , Autumn turned to her & said, Let’s not give him any ideas or he may take you up on your offer.

O. Oops. Sorry.

Dawn moved her arms, — probably to slap them o’er her mouth — but they were jerked back by the chains latching them to the wall.

Androgyn, this is silly, Dawn said as she continued budging gainst her chains. Couldn’t he just lock us in this dungeon without going fully medieval? My knee itches.

I have a sense that Lance is mo’ bitter ’bout this circumstance than before, thought Autumn.

’Sides, I’ve had worse.

Just then they heard a creak & turned their attention to the door to see it wink open; through it slid in the other thief — the 1 in the black dress & shades. Her mouth was upraised slightly in calm amusement. Glancing to her side, Autumn could see Dawn with a scrunched-back smile while Edgar didn’t e’en bother to hide the worried stare he aimed @ Autumn. Autumn herself felt a competing mix o’ displeasure @ the threat o’ further punishment & curiosity.

The thief wiped a bang from her forehead. So you’re the thief Lance had ranted ’bout. Hmm… It’d be interesting besting you.

I don’t think it counts as besting if someone else has tied the loser down, said Autumn.

O, don’t be a sore loser, Madame, said the thief. Surely a thief like you knows that in robbery there are no rules.

If the goal is feeling success, which is what I’d presume from the diction, “besting”, then I’d presume that there must be some standards if it’s to be meaningful. Otherwise you wouldn’t need to do anything to win.

The other thief’s smile grew. I don’t know what half-assed psychology you’re trying, but it’s not e’en close to working.

Before Autumn could respond, Dawn laughed & said, That’s just how she normally acts. She won’t mind you intruding on her, actually, so long as you agree to have a philosophical debate with her.

Autumn puzzled o’er why Dawn would say this, only to realize she likely didn’t have a reason. Dawn ne’er seemed to have a reason for most o’ the things she said or did other than some spontaneous type o’ joy. Autumn had to admit envy, though it also seemed to come with extra risk that left Autumn fidgeting for Dawn. ¿Where does she get her security?

No thanks, the other thief said as she walked toward Autumn. My only philosophy is, “I win when the gold’s in my hand”. Autumn also envied this concise philosophy.

The other thief bent down next to Autumn’s feet & began peeling off her right sock.

I hope you’re not trying the same technique you applied to Lance on me, said Autumn; ’cause there’s a subtle difference…

I don’t need to butter those who are already tied down, the thief said as she pocketed a few ₧.

Autumn thought, Some o’ us don’t need to butter people @ all; but figured that’d be inapt to say.

The thief lifted lifted Autumn’s undershirt & Autumn scowled when she saw her look under it & find the hidden pouch. The thief showed the same lack o’ personal space when she searched Autumn’s boxers & extracted a few mo’ ₧ & the rest o’ the jewelry Autumn had pawned off Lance. All she could do throughout this was turn her head so she couldn’t see Dawn’s inevitably snickering face & develop the urge to sock it.

This was futile, as Dawn spoke, saying, You’ll be frisking me next, ¿right, cupcake?

Don’t insult my intelligence, pudding top, said the thief.

Autumn could only think ’bout how Dawn could’ve avoided being searched if the thief had taken the accidental bait & how that would’ve both pleased Autumn in robbing the silly ho o’ her nonsense & displeased her in being outsmarted — well, in the 1 subject in which Dawn didn’t always outsmart her.

Dawn laughed in a mock-sleezy way that sounded mo’ like Dick Dastardly’s pup. That wasn’t an attempt @ reverse psychology, toaster strudel.

Autumn sighed deeply, mock-reminding herself ne’er to invite Dawn to anymo’ heists.

Actually, Autumn wasn’t sure what to judge from the sight o’ a perplexed & uncomfortable thief slowly moving her hands in Dawn’s golden tuxedo while Dawn giggled & delivered instructions.

The thief clearly looked relieved as she left Dawn — who called ’hind her, Call me if you e’er want ’nother opportunity to do that, Pop-Tart® — only for the thief to stop with a frown as she stared @ Edgar fidgeting.

Tsk. Now you’re going to make Autumn jealous, said Dawn.

Autumn couldn’t help responding, ¿Why? It’s only fair after I just cheated on him.

Whatever gives you all pleasure, said the thief as she began searching Edgar. Autumn looked ’way, unable to bear Edgar’s uncomfortable stare.

’Ventually, the thief said, Well, ’twas fun working with you folks.

Remember what I said ’bout the call, pumpkin, said Dawn.

The thief didn’t respond; she was already closing the door ’hind her.

Well, that was mortifying, said Autumn.

Don’t feel so bad: you can get an opportunity to frisk Edgar yourself to see if she missed anything when we ’scape, said Dawn.

That “if” is gigantic, said Autumn.