Turns out that finding what the Shadow Lords are up to so that their establishments may be robbed is tricky. Their activates are veiled in secrecy and . . . shadows. Elusive. A lot of the criminals around here don’t seem to hide what they’re doing at all. I guess the Shadow Lords are more traditional, they keep their dirty dealings under wraps.
I figured Kinuyo Yoshizumi could turn me on to a good target, but even though I know she has people following me and keeping an eye on me, I couldn’t figure out how to contact her. And since Martialla’s scouting is restricted to the coastline that was a bust as well. What are we going to rob, a fishing boat? A trawler? What is a trawler anyway? How does one trawl? And to what end? Our potential target came from Alojzy, which is apparently the name of the sole employee of Kruszarka 495. One day Blue, Martialla and I are discussing our plans – talking in circles really – Alojzy puts down his newspaper and sets aside his cigarette and says;
“You want to make robbery?”
I didn’t even know she spoke English.
He pointed us at a place called the Level 1 Bar, which is not a bar at all but a cathouse. And in the back there’s gambling. But all of that is just a front, what it really is is a safehouse where a local gang called the 451s stashes their stuff. The gangs around here really seem to be into numbers. Back home all the gangs have names like the Hell’s Angels or Murder Inc. but around here numbers seem to be really popular with the criminal element. I asked what that was about but no one knew. I should really make friends with someone who’s actually from here, speaks the language, and knows that the hell is going on. I’m good at making friends you know.
Once they were pointed at a target, Blue and Martialla were ready to lock and load and make their move right then. They started talking about amphibious landings and taking the initiative, they said the words “operational control” like fifty times. They’re awfully gung-ho for former special forces people. I thought their whole thing was planning, not charging in with a sawed off M79 grenade launcher in each hand blowing shit up like the 14 Fists of McCluskey. Maybe that’s why they got drummed out of the service.
I suggested reasonably that we case the joint first – see what we’re dealing with. Blue agreed but then added that we should “rob the place a little bit” while we cased it. We had a lengthy conversation about that. Once I used the term “rules of engagement” that seemed to settle him down. Blue said that what he really wanted for this “op” was a DynaTAC 856. I’m really starting to wonder about this guy. I thought Canadians were supposed to be level-headed. I guess being turned into a horrible lizard monster changes a person.
As I said, the Level 1 Bar is not a bar, but walking up to it it doesn’t look like the things that it is either – it looks like a movie theater from the 1950s. It has a massive facade up front that looks like a marquee. I’ve said it before and I say it again now. Madripoor is a crazy place. You have a brothel/gambling hall that is called a bar and looks like a cinema from the outside. Explain that. You can’t.
We got some looks when we walked in, none of the three of us being the sort you’d be expecting to frequent a house of prostitution. Jesus, at least I hope Blue doesn’t do that, for the sake of the women involved. But everyone calmed down when we asked which way to the gambling.
I’ve never been a gambler. If I’m going to waste my money I’d at least like a hang-over as a result of it, but I know the basics. Everything here is different. They have these machines that are kind of like slot machines but they’re not. They’re a bit like vertical pinball machines maybe. Whatever they are, people love them. There are table games too, but none that I understand. Even if I wanted to gamble here (which I don’t, also I can’t because I have no money) I couldn’t because I have no clue what’s even going on. I watched one of the tables for a while and just when I thought I understood who the dealer was, that guy started placing bets.
Blue and Martialla were taking note of how many guards there were and security measures and so forth, whispering to each other about fields of fire and sight lines when I realized that I should have cased the place by myself. They’re not exactly inconspicuous. Even in Madripoor you’re going to remember the eight foot lizard and the fish-woman in the wet suit walking around. Although they’re going to remember them from the robbery anyway. It’s not like Blue can slap panty-hose on his head and be good to go. This robbery stuff is harder than you think.
The good news is that around that time I was having that realization it became moot, because that’s when someone else beat us to the punch and started robbing the place. When I saw some statie frat boys (I’ve seen a few packs of them around here strangely, sex tourists I suppose) wander in in their flared pants and Penn-Prest Towncraft shirts straight from the JCPenny catalog, I assumed they just got done in the brothel and were in the mood to lose more money. But then they pulled out guns and started shouting. In English, which was not very effective.
I expected a shoot-out to start right then, but the guards were curiously sanguine about it. Maybe because the Alpha Alpha Epilsons were just trying to rob the casino and not the safehouse? I could tell that Blue and Martialla wanted to jump right into the middle of this jackpot and I was furiously trying to eye-shout at them not to do that when one of the How to Stuff A Wild Bikini boys suddenly grabbed me. He jammed his gun into the side of my head so hard it felt like a punch. He kept screaming at no one in particular to give up the money.
“They don’t understand you, moron, no one here speaks English.”
He fired his gun into the air “They understand this!”
My hand flew to my ear, which was ringing painfully “Jesus Christ! I’m a singer, damn it! You better not have screwed up my hearing.”
He switched to jamming the gun into my side so hard I swear I could feel the barrel going between two ribs “You tell them to give us the money!”
“I don’t speak Malay either! Or Tagalong. Or Bahasa. Or Javanese. They speak a lot of languages here, it’s very multicultural.”
“You just spit in my hair.”
I guess the good news is that watching that comedy of errors gave us some good ideas on how not to pull off a robbery. After a lot of chaos, the frat boys, some paper bags of money, myself, and the rest of the hostages ended up out front where the red carpet would be when they have a premier at this movie theater/whorehouse/casino. I noticed that one of the hookers had come out with us. At first I thought she was a very lackadaisically handled hostage, but then they started giving her all the money. She was the leader?
And that’s when a little dude glided down like a leaf and hit the ground with a ninja-roll in front of the whole sorry scene. He was wearing a tight black suit and one of those silly little masks like the Spirit has. What is that supposed to do? Disguise your cheekbones? He looked like Kato from the Green Hornet. Which might seem racist but seriously, he looked just like Kato. Except without the hat. Why did Kato have that hat? Was he a chauffeur? Now that’s racist.
The woman standing on the street in lingerie but who was somehow in charge of a gang of frat boys curled her lip in disgust and said something to him that I didn’t understand. Mister Black Suit said something back that I also didn’t understand but I am 100% sure was something like “You’ll never get away with this Catwoman!” While they were bantering, a red suit of armor that looked like something a Catholic Bishop would wear in a space-war against alien heathens also landed – the jets from his boots setting some shit on fire. He held up an arm and some kind of laser-canon popped out cracking with eye-watering radiation.
“Let those people go” came the robot-voice speaking English out the suit in an Australian accent. “What the hell is going on here?!” I shouted at no one in particular.