When my most recent kidnapper dismissed me from the hallowed halls of her cramped office above a fully operational whorehouse, she had one of her goons on hand to drive me wherever I wanted. I gave some serious consideration to refusing that offer and trying to find my own way “home” since I figured there was an eighty-nine percent chance that I would be driven into the clutches of another crimelord where I would be forced to perform “Come Home Baby” at gunpoint over a tank of voracious tiger sharks. And that song isn’t in my natural register! It would still sound great, don’t get me wrong, it just wouldn’t be a true reflection of my abilities. Which would be a shame. Because I am a fantastic singer. You don’t smash your way into the top 40 hits without the goods.
In the end though, I decided to get into the back of that Toyota Corona Mark II T70 coupé utility on account of I was sleepy and didn’t feel like walking. Also I had no idea where I was. I need to get a map of Madripoor or something. Besides which, in terms of kidnapping, while the first one didn’t end up great, the second one was a draw I’d say, and this last one wasn’t so bad – with a record of 1-1-1, I’m getting the hang of being kidnapped I think. I feel confident that my fourth kidnapping will turn out okay whenever it occurs – tiger sharks notwithstanding.
I was literally starving to death so I had the driver swing by a fish market where he stood by with thinly veiled disgust as I ate (drank?) a gallon of shark fin soup and a quart of grilled octopus with a kind of spicy sausage and peppers. I had him pick me up a carton of smokes too. The cigarettes around here are weak and unsatisfying but any port in a storm you know? I’ll say one thing about the United States, whatever you think of their politics and problems, they know how to make a smooth, rich, and fulfilling cigarette. When I smoke the local brands, I feel like I’m smoking a chicken bone. I’m sure madam crime lady won’t mind that I charged all this stuff to her.
When I got to Kruszarka 495 (I essentially live in a bar right now, that’s how well things are going) Blue and Martialla weren’t there, but I assumed that was because they were out hitting the streets and cracking skulls looking for me. The guy who seems to be the only employee wasn’t there either, so I drank a half a bottle of vodka and then took a little nap behind the bar. I dreamed of banana splits and mountains of juicy duck and ding-dongs and pizza and thick sizzling steaks and pecan pie with seventeen scoops of ice cream. Don’t think me unworldly, but I miss the good old fat and sugar-based cuisine of Northern America. I don’t think they even have Crisco here. Or mayonnaise.
I was rudely awakened by the sounds of heavy things (heavy to normal people, I’m super strong you know) being banged onto tables and loud speaking in French accompanied by raucous laughter. I smiled to myself and listened for a moment, expecting to hear Blue and Martialla discussing how worried they were about me being missing and imagining how relived they would be when I popped out behind the bar like a jack in the box. But they were talking so fast in their stupid Canadian dialect that I couldn’t exactly tell what they were talking about. It didn’t seem to be about me though. Which was troubling.
I stood up with a flourish “Ta-da!”
Blue and Martialla were standing by a table loaded with guns and ammo. Blue glanced over at me and then nodded. “You’re alive, good, you can help.”
I frowned “That’s it? You’ve been out looking for me all night and you can’t show a little more enthusiasm that I saved myself yet again? It was quite a sticky situation but I managed to fight my way free. You see what happened . . .”
Blue picked up a rifle or a shotgun or something and examined it “We weren’t looking for you, we assumed you were dead.”
Martialla hadn’t even bothered to look over, she seemed to be sorting loose bullets “He thought you were dead, I assumed that you were distracted by a disco ball and spent the night dancing.” She awkwardly mimed a little dance move and they both laughed. I’ve scarcely been more outraged in all my life.
“First of all, no one does the Hustle anymore. Second of all, when did you two become such good friends? And third of all, you weren’t even looking for me? What kind of bullbird is that? I go out on a mission for the team and you don’t even try to save me when I don’t come back? Whatever happened to leave no man behind?”
Martialla grinned with her gross fish-lips “That’s what you staties do, in Canada we leave people behind all the time. We’re known for it. They tell you in basic ‘don’t dawdle or you’ll be left behind’.”
Blue laughed and then flicked his tongue sideways in what I’ve come to understand is a lizard shrug “Once you were dead, we had to make a move. If you were alive, we knew you’d find your way back and you did. Look, there you are. Roaming the streets of Madripoor looking for you wouldn’t have done any good.”
Martialla said something to him that I didn’t catch and they both laughed again. I was furious. I’m the leader and they just moved on without me? They should have been tearing this city apart looking for me. They should have been burning this place to the ground until they got answers. It’s hard to stay furious when the people you’re mad at don’t even seem to notice though. To mollify myself, I started chewing on some of these local berries they have that are like coffee beans. The barman keeps a bag of them behind the counter but I’ve never seen him eat one.
“How’d you get all the guns?”
Blue opened his freaky lizard mouth slightly in what I think is a lizard head shake “This place is crazy, you can buy anything here. We just got all this stuff on the street.” He looked at Martialla “What I’d really like is a Lee–Enfield.”
She scowled. I think, her face is scowly all the time “Are you nuts, you can’t be robbing a bank with a service rifle. What I wanted was an Inglis Hi-Power.”
Blue flicked his tongue out “A nine-millimeter? That’s a lady gun.”
Martialla put her hands on the table angrily “I meant the forty caliber not the nine, besides which the Inglis Hi-Power is not a lady gun, the stopping power . . .”
I threw a hand up “Whoa, whoa, whoa what are you talking about? Robbing a bank? What bank? What’s happening?”
Martialla grinned “We’re gonna rob a bank.” Blue nodded and gave me a thumbs up.
I was so shocked I let a berry drop out of my mouth, which is very unladylike “What?!”