Well, here we are. The first installment of Derailing Bedlam, which will run on Thursdays until it’s done. As usual, I will warn everyone that this is an R-Rated adventure and put the story section behind a cut. There will be violence, cursing, and talk of sex. There will also be a lot of comedy and action, so I hope people give it a shot. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Nobody pays any attention to the black-haired man as he wanders the castle, which has been turned into as a quaint museum. Having been preserved and defended by the locals for over a decade, the artifacts have been kept pristine within their glass cases. The lanky visitor takes his time reading every placard about the relics, which show the life of an author who died long before the collapse. The man lingers at a wall display that holds a small collection of books, each one open to allow guests to read a little of the adventure inside. Savoring the soothing atmosphere, he takes a seat and thumbs through a handwritten pamphlet about the history of Owosso, Michigan. He barely notices the words as he keeps an eye on his watch and listens for the guards to start their patrol. The three men attempt to look casual, but their darting eyes and predictable route are easily observed by those who are paying attention. For a brief moment, the smirking guest is tempted to throw caution to the wind and execute a less graceful plan than the one he has carefully crafted over the last few months. The only thing that stops him is how the trio of armed guards repeatedly move their hands to their pistols, a sign that they are looking for some excitement and a reason to kill.
Rising to his feet, the man heads for the stairs and acts like he is examining a picture. His plain clothes help him blend in with the small crowd, especially the thin jacket that is popular among the locals. It is when he is turning away from the display that the guards burst into shouts and rush across the room. Smoke billows out from around the case that holds the open books and the other guests yell for them to be saved. One of the men reels back when he discovers that the edge of the glass is incredibly hot to the touch. There are no signs of flames, but the choking cloud thickens and rises to partially blind those who are too close to the display. While everyone runs for the doors and the guards break the case to save the tomes, the black-haired man silently slips up the stairs and smiles at the sight of a solitary desk. He stops at the sight of what he thinks is another visitor, but relaxes when he sees it is only a coat rack with what he assumes is the author’s favorite jacket and hat. Getting a closer look, he snorts at the sight of the counterfeit artifacts and considers destroying them in the name of his beloved craft. Not wanting to waste any time on frivolities, he moves the offensive objects into a shadowy corner and continues to the desk. Formerly a sewing machine stand, the thief chuckles softly when he sees that it holds a typewriter instead.
After taking a moment to appreciate the ingenuity, he pulls an old pen from his pocket and compares it to one that is under a glass case. Confident that he is looking at the original and not another forgery, the thief picks the tiny lock and switches his fake for the real one. Turning his jacket into a padded bag, he covers the artifact in bubble wrap and gently puts it away. Strapping the satchel to his back, he is about to go back to the first floor when he hears shouting from the bottom of the stairs. With a casual shrug, the thief opens a window and climbs outside before closing it behind him. Instead of sliding down the slanted roof to the front, he crawls to the back where he has already tied a long rope to the chimney. Seeing the guards with their backs to the windows, he slides down to the ground and slaps his calling card on the wall. He scowls at how the picture of a golden quill pen is crooked and makes a mental note to get new stickers once he is safely out of Michigan.
Putting sunglasses on his head and inflating a fake water bottle, he jogs away from the castle and heads for the edge of the nearby park. To anyone who is unaware of what has happened inside the museum, he is nothing more than a jogger. He turns around to make sure he is not being followed, but all of the people and vehicles are heading in the opposite direction. Satisfied with the successful heist, the thief smiles and mockingly waves at the museum. He is in the middle of chuckling when he skids to a stop and does his best not to stare at what he sees by a tree. Feeling emboldened by his flawless crime and wanting to celebrate, he approaches the blonde woman wearing tight leggings and a sports bra. Her boots do not match her outfit, but he guesses that she enjoys running along muddy paths for the extra challenge. As he gets closer, the man spots a lower back tattoo of two handguns entwined with boney vines. The design seems familiar to him, but he finds it hard to concentrate due to his adrenaline and the sight of the well-toned curves before him.
“I’m surprised such a work of art isn’t behind glass,” the thief declares, causing the young woman to jump. He notices a few dirty handprints on her butt and softens his voice to make sure she does not think he is as rude as her previous wooers. “Sorry for coming off so lecherously, but you are simply gorgeous. You don’t see women in leggings these days. One of the greater losses to the collapse if you ask me. What other article of clothing screams pride in your body? My name is Kirby and-”
“You’re a thief who swaps counterfeit pens for famous originals. You promised to join the Relic Keepers if you’re ever captured alive too,” the young woman says as she turns around. She takes a sip from her heavily dented water bottle while tapping her head to bring attention to her forehead scar. “If you ask me, it’s best that this style stays dead. You can’t hide weapons in these things and the rubbing is fairly intrusive at times. It’s like my clothes are getting touchy-feely and owe me a drink. Pretty sure this leaves nothing to the imagination too, which makes me think these are a size too small for me. So, are you going to come with me willingly or put up a fight?”
“Sorry, but you can’t possibly be Cassidy,” Kirby replies as he leans forward to get a closer look. He circles the mercenary and cocks his head to the side as if he is examining a priceless statue. “You have the scar and the tattoo, but I know she likes to use decoys. The real one is probably hiding somewhere nearby. You’re simply too short to be her. Just from how she’s talked about, I would expect someone leggier and bigger in the chest. You can’t be more than a high B or low C, which are nice, but not what one would picture. We’re talking at least a Double-D and a presence that screams sexuality.”
Cassidy sighs as she takes a small stun gun out from under her hair and calmly zaps the thief in the chest. “My legs are perfect and I’ve yet to meet a Double-D in this day and age that wasn’t faker than the pens you leave behind. Trust me because I’ve kept an eye out for them. Why should I even care about what you have to say about my body? There’s nothing about you that appeals to me. Guess the stories fail to mention I’m not a fan of dicks and I mean both definitions. Well, this has been a nice blow to my ego. Time to take you in and get whatever reward my idiot partner negotiated. At least you went down without any trouble.”
Cassidy jumps back to avoid a sweep of Kirby’s leg, which turns into the thief flipping to his feet. Discarding a rubber pad that was under his shirt, the expert runner sprints towards the street and is half a block away before the mercenary can get out of the park. Having been warned about their target’s impressive speed and stamina, she hurries to a nearby bicycle that she stashed in case he escaped. Racing after Kirby, Cassidy does her best to keep him in sight and ignores the constant flow of wolf whistles that she gets from the men and women she passes. It is when she makes a sharp turn that the mercenary feels something run across the exposed part of her back. Trying not to slow down, she reaches over her shoulder and tears off a sign that tells people to whistle if they like ice cream. She is nearly amused by the childish prank until she notices that the toothed clip has part of her sports bra still attached. Knowing that it is only a matter of time before she loses her top, Cassidy barrels forward and constantly reminds herself that the thief is wanted alive.
When Kirby leaps over a fence, the mercenary is forced to go around the block and guess as to where the man is going to emerge. It takes her a precious second to realize that he is about to double-back, so she swerves into a U-turn and hurries along the street with the top layer of her tires smeared across the asphalt. She catches sight of Kirby coming around the corner, but he sees her when she is nearly on top of him. Instead of hitting him in the head, her kick strikes a lamppost and sends a jolt of pain up her aching leg. Falling off her bike, Cassidy scrambles back on and curses at the breeze that caresses her nearly exposed back. She continues her pursuit and searches for anything that she can throw or use as a lance. It is when they reach a parking lot that the determined woman realizes she is falling behind and struggles to think of a plan to end the frustrating chase. With none of her usual gear, she wonders if going through with the seduction would have been the smartest move. The dull ache on her butt from a barrage of pinches left by some of the amorous locals and travelers, all of whom now sport broken fingers, make her accept that she has been pushed too far. In fact, she silently declares that her only mistake was not punching Kirby in the face the instant she turned around.
“You’re doing better than I expected!” the thief shouts over his shoulder. He runs backwards and taunts the mercenary, whose bike is now suffering from a flat tire. “Best to get out and walk, but that won’t do you any good. Let’s call this a teachable moment. Never mess with a man who is known for studying his targets. I know this town too well for you to catch me on foot. Where’s your partner anyway?”
“That’s a good question,” Cassidy replies while getting off her bike. She sprints at her smirking target while her hand goes for a gun that is not there. “He was supposed to be waiting around the first corner that you turned. Guess it isn’t much fun for him when he can’t kill our target. Dumbass must have wandered off in pursuit of something shiny. Think we can make a deal where you give me the pen in exchange for something else?”
“Thought you weren’t into men.”
“Was thinking something less physical and nauseating.”
“Sorry, but I have a reputation to uphold just like you do.”
“Think I’ll get in trouble if I shoot you?”
Cassidy reaches into her sports bra, which snaps and falls away as she pulls a tiny gun out of her cleavage. The midday sun glints off the chrome of the weapon that looks smaller than a derringer. Fearing that he has pushed the woman too far, Kirby rushes around the corner while she takes careful aim. He is so busy thinking about what is behind him that he fails to notice the door of a blue jeep swinging into his path. The thief hits the armored metal with a loud bang and collapses to the ground as a grinning figure steps out of the vehicle. Recognizing the koi-shaped scar on the topless man’s stomach and the personalized machete, Kirby scoots away from Lloyd Tenay without looking away. He stops when he hits Cassidy’s legs and looks up to see that she is pointing the small gun at his head. The man yelps and passes out when she pulls the oddly-shaped trigger, which sends a tiny stream of water onto his face.
“I think he wet himself,” Lloyd says while he scratches his head. Picking a pretzel out of his hair, he flicks it over a nearby fence. “Sorry about that. I feel asleep in the back and didn’t get into position. Had the strangest dream about warlords, insane people, and us getting kidnapped a lot. I should post about it on a blog or something because it was so weird. Hey, do you think we’re at the start of a new adventure?”
“Shut the fuck up, Lloyd,” Cassidy replies as she takes Kirby’s small backpack. As an afterthought, she strips the thief naked and stuffs the clothes into a dumpster that is swarming with flies. “See how you like being exposed, asshole. Put a tarp on the backseat and we’ll take him back to the museum. What did you say we were getting for this?”
“Books,” the serial killer states with a smile. He reaches into the jeep to pull out a roll of plastic wrap and goes about cocooning Kirby from the neck down. “Been a long time since I got to use this skill. I used to put a little design at the end like an origami swan or rabbit. Well, I tried, but they always ended up looking like amoebas. Just can’t work with this stuff, which is why I prefer trash bags. Simple, versatile, and you have to open them up to figure out what’s inside. Awww, I think the little guy is chilly.”
The mercenary is still staring at her partner as she blurts out, “Books? What do you mean books? You can’t eat, gas up the jeep, or kill with books! Okay, you might be able to pull off that last one since you offed someone with a gila monster four months ago.”
“Ah, good memories that might or might not be canon.”
“Explain or you’re riding on the grill of my baby instead of in the passenger seat.”
“But the bugs will get in my pearly teeth.”
“Long ago there were dinosaurs who had a popular television show that I-”
“About the books, jackass!”
“Better to show than tell . . . Did you just hear authors screaming in unison?”
Realizing that she is not going to get anywhere with the lunatic, Cassidy gives up and helps stuff Kirby into the jeep. She takes the keys from Lloyd’s hands and points at the passenger seat, which is covered in shattered chips. The mercenary hears someone shout at her from across the street and is about to shout back when she notices that it is a woman covering her children’s eyes. It takes Cassidy a moment to realize that she is now topless and her sports bra is sitting at the entrance to the parking lot. She ducks into the jeep where Lloyd is offering her a black bra that she knows it not from her own wardrobe. Settling for her denim jacket, the mercenary turns on the air conditioner and immediately regrets the cold air on her body.
“Again, these books better be worth the humiliation, Lloyd.”
“I offered to be the jogger.”
“And now I’m imagining you in skin-tight leggings. Pass the hot sauce in the glove compartment, so I can put some drops in my eyes.”
“You’re so vicious when annoyed.”
“Hi, I’m Cassidy. Apparently, we’ve never fucking met before.”