Bull Mayday and his new partner in crime Myers are flying thirteen stories above Jaidour, in the gondola of an airship. That wouldn't be so bad, if they weren't trying to rob the ship blind, and if their line back to safety hadn't just been cut...
"What are we going to do?" I asked Myers with a loud gulp.
"You think I know? Aren't you the one with experience in these sorts of situations?" Myers asked me.
"Uh...," I stammered. Experience? Please. I didn't even have experience playing catch, much less performing high-wire acrobatics and airship heists. I looked down from the ship's window and saw that the wire I had reached the ship with was now dangling just above a two-story rooftop below. How high above that roof it was dangling, I had no idea. I've never been a very good judge of distance. "I think we might be able to just shimmy down the rope," I said.
Myers stuck her head out the window and balked. "How about you go first and see how it is?" she suggested. How could I blame her?
"Right," I said. I would have given anything for the airship to crash at that moment, or take off, or to wake up and realize the whole crazy thing had all been a dream. I waited for a few seconds, hoping as hard as I could for some Deus ex Machina to solve things for me, but it was soon clear that there was no supernatural relief in sight.
"You going to... uh... go, then?" Myers asked after I had been staring fearfully out the window for some time.
"I guess I have to," I sighed. I threw a leg over the window sill that would either lead to my utter doom or wild criminal success. To be honest, neither outcome seemed particularly appealing at that moment. I remember thinking that I would trade it all to be back with three-legged Marv in my old apartment. I tried to back out of the window, so that I didn't have to face the drop waiting for me, holding onto the wire tight with one hand and sort of scooting my backside out a few inches further into the air every time my fear let me.
"Say, you're pretty timid for a cat burglar," Myers said.
"I'm on my ninth life," I said dryly, just as I pushed off the sill completely and grabbed onto the wire with my other hand. My weight fell and pull against the rope. The wind shears from the corridor of tall buildings there in the heart of Jaidour started to swing me back and forth through the air, and I almost panicked. I told myself to just go for it, as fast as I could, so I just went ahead and slid down the wire as quickly as if it were a pole, burning my hands like crazy as I did so. I collapsed down on the roof of the building below with a thud. As I pushed off from the roof tiles to stand up, I saw that I left behind a good deal of blood from my lacerated hands. They looked like ground beef. It was no time to pity myself, though. The ladies whose window I had shot my harpoon from to get to the airship were still hanging out of their apartment across the busy street, hurling insults and old vegetables at me. Why were old vegetables such an integral part of my criminal career, anyways?
"I'm coming!" Myers called down to me with a mix of excitement and trepidation.
"Come on, I've got you!" I called up to her. As I was watching the sky, I didn't see that someone else had taken to the roof. And when the surprise visitor called my name, I nearly jumped out of my skin.
"Bull!" the voice cried. My heart skipped a hard beat and then I saw who was calling me: it was Gaunt, that mysterious accomplice to the heist who had claimed to know me a few days before despite our never having met.
"Gaunt!" I cried. I tried to act like I was happy to see him, but my mind was racing to come up with an explanation, an alibi.
"Looks like you're part of the plan isn't going as it should be," Gaunt said with a grimace. "I was expecting you five minutes ago, in the alley across the street."
"I, well, I was just getting there," I said. "It's just... taking a little longer than it should," I added with a feeble laugh.
"You know what you're doing, don't you?" Gaunt said as he drew himself up to his highest height and pursed his lips.
"You trying to say I don't?" I said back to him, giving him my best tough-guy impersonation.
"Funny, you know... you don't look like Bull Mayday used to...," Gaunt said, sizing me up. "You must have lost some weight."
"Yeah, oh yeah. Lot's of vegetables," I said without missing a beat.
"And you lost some height, too" Gaunt added, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, you know, old age," I said. "Windy up here, isn't it?" I asked, trying to change the subject.
"Listen pal," Gaunt said menacingly. He cracked the knuckles on his bony fingers as he closed in. I searched the surroundings for help, even from the angry ladies across the street, but I was coming up short, and fast.
"Hey pal, I'll do my part of the job and you do yours," I said. I tried to make it obvious that I was carrying a quickshot, spreading my coat from my waist by resting my hands on my hips.
Gaunt chuckled something sinister and spread his coat open: he was wrapped in weaponry like a festivity tree wrapped in ribbon. "Now, you wanna tell me what happened to the real Bull Mayday?" he asked.
I started pouring sweat like he had turned on a faucet. What was I gonna do now? This thug Gaunt had me pressed clear to the edge of the roof. I peered over into the street below: maybe I could make the jump? I thought maybe, if I aimed for the awning of the drugstore...
With a loud smack, Myers suddenly appeared from behind Gaunt with her leg in the air. The kick she had delivered the old man sent him tumbling to the roof tiles.
"This guy giving you a problem?" Myers asked me, wiping the spit from her lip with self-satisfaction.
"It doesn't matter, run!" I shouted. I bolted for the door to the roof as Gaunt struggled to get up under the weight of all his weaponry. "Come on!" I hollered back to Myers, as I ducked low to scoop up the bags of stolen goldquartz currency as I ran.
Myers and I blasted through the roof-top door just as Gaunt began unloading one of his quickshots in our direction. Two of his bullets blew holes through the door after us as we barreled down the stairwell as fast as we could.
"He's gonna kill us!" I cried at the top of my lungs. The echo bounced off the walls of the stairwell and ricocheted like Gaunt's bullets.
"Naw, he doesn't want to kill us, though he might try to disable us!" Myers screamed.
"Wait," I said, pausing, completely out of breath. "How do you know that?" I gasped.
"I trained with him. He's a cop," Myers said, as she grabbed my collar and pulled me along down the stairwell. "All the more reason to run!"
It seemed that old Gaunt was a plant. It explained why he hadn't called me out in front of the others at that first meeting to plan the heist. But why was he after me? Was it because he wanted the dough for himself, or was he trying to crack the case? I figured there would be plenty of time for wondering later, though.
Myers and I high-tailed it out of downtown like a couple of scared cats. We had the dough, sure, but did it mean that the police force and the criminal underground were gonna be on our tails now?
NEXT TIME: WE ALL FALL DOWN, or, FAKE IT TO MAKE IT