Image

Deal 999: Lifted

The dirty rat just stood there and stared. At first, we worried that we had bitten off more than we could chew, but as we circled him and stared, we began to envy his cool demeanor. He didn’t flinch. Nor did he seem easily distracted. Not that that prevented the lightest fingered among us from relieving him of his wallet, watch, and gun.

Gun. Now that was a surprise. Someone carrying a concealed handgun and seemingly unaware that a pack of feral kids might be willing to risk lifting it. Clearly it wasn’t serving the only role he was putting it to: protection. Clearly it deserved a more careful owner too. We are happy to provide that service. For a time, at least.

At some new point in time his hand-axe was going to get too hot to handle, and would need to be artfully transformed into a weapon with an entirely different serial number. For the gun, a rebirth of sorts. And for our gang, a chance at survival for another day.

At least.

We ought to be able to live on the take from lifting that gun for a few weeks.

And the tale will be worth a few beers after that.

Image

Deal 967:Escape is up

It’s heating up in this elevator now. I’ve lost track of time since the lights went out. I know it was stopped for a while before that. I’m slowly losing my cool. And now it’s heating up.

I used to hear alarms ringing in the distance.

I think the loudest stopped shortly after the lights.

Everything got quiet then.

At first it gave me time to contemplate my future. Assuming I escaped from this box trapped near an unknown floor, suspended over a drop of unknown depth, in a building that is clearly in trouble if not already the subject of a disaster film.

I began to envy my future self who was clever enough to escape this deathtrap.

If only that was me.

Or could be me. To have a future, I had to escape the trap.

I jealous of a future that may not exist, that could exist only if I can use that jealousy to inspire a solution.

Or wait patiently enough for rescue.

I have a protean bar and a bottle of water. Or had a bottle of water, a good bit of it is gone now. Huh. So is the protean bar. Future me has been raiding my supplies again.

I hope it makes him happy, because it is pissing me off!

Wait, why do I have to keep reminding myself that future me is just me?

Anything that benefits future me is helping me escape to live to be future me.

This would all get so much simpler if the power just came back on. But it seems likely it won’t.

It is hot in here now. Sauna hot, but without the slick Finnish amenities. Especially lacking the short run to an ice bath, which seems really attractive right now.

Let me kick a few more panels, even if it doesn’t help me escape, it will relieve some stress.

And what to we find behind door number three, Alex?

We have here a fire emergency kit. A smoke mask, and a fire axe. On other floors there might also have been a standpipe and possibly a length of hose, but I did mention this is an elevator, right? It’s hard enough to have reliable electric power in an elevator. No one is going to provide a water supply.

But an axe. That could come in handy. I’m pretty sure there’s a way out of this car through its roof. Once up there, perhaps there’s a slick with oil ladder just out of reach in a smoke filled shaft. Doesn’t matter, finding a way up and out is at least doing something and could be more likely to save future me than just sitting here waiting to die before rescue arrives.

I can’t reach the ceiling alone. I’m not carrying luggage, not even a messenger bag.

But I have an axe now. Perhaps I can use it to make some toe-holds.

The first few swings against the stainless steal panels full of buttons just bounce and make a lot of noise. I pause, hoping to hear something knocking back at me like in the movies. But alas, life is far less hopeful in reality.

But I can work on the panel that sprung open. Use it as a weak spot from which to reach higher.

Wedging the panel open with the axe does get be just close enough to the ceiling to raise a ceiling tile. From that humble beginning, perhaps I can reach further. Sure enough, I can knock the corner ceiling tile free from its grid, and get a look at the real ceiling of the car.

And now i can see a glimmer of hope. For one corner of what must be an escape hatch.

Image

Deal 959: Diamond

It was just a mirror, or so I thought. It wasn’t even a very big mirror, just the sort of thing many people might carry in pocket or purse to check makeup, inspect for a lost eyelash, signal for help, or even just to peek around a corner. Just a mirror, perhaps two inches across.

I don’t recall exactly how I acquired it, but I’m sure there wasn’t any occult significance to the trip to the drug store’s makeup aisle. That is the most likely circumstance. It also could have been left behind by a house guest, or even tucked in a corner of some furniture bought at a sale. The exact origin doesn’t matter, it has been knocking around in my general cosmetic junk for a long time. I think.

My first clue that something might be up was noticing the cats spending more time around the vanity than they used to. Even to the point of ignoring calls to come eat unless persuaded by waving food bowls under their noses. But then, part of the charm of being owned by several cats is working out what this month’s quirky behavior is, and how to work around it. Cats are just, cats.

Except when they aren’t.

Then I noticed there were footsteps in the peanut butter.

No, not cat footprints. More like well-formed human feet, but only about half an inch long. Which seems impossible, as the person leaving that print would stand only about three inches tall.

While cleaning up the peanut butter, I looked around the kitchen for other signs of something off. That’s when I noticed the neat hole torn in a corner of the cracker box. A small flap had been torn open, but neatly folded back and tucked in. This is certainly not the work of the cats, or of any mouse I’ve seen.

Over the next few days, I began to understand why the cats were so fixated. They still watched my vanity, but I was watching everything else. None of us caught anything red handed, but more prints appeared in the peanut butter, an entire sausage got carried off from a cooling pan (ok, that could have been a cat), and more boxes of staple foods were discovered to have been opened in unusual ways.

Finally, one night, I heard a lot of noise coming from the vanity just after I shut off the lights to sleep. Sitting up quickly, I grabbed a flashlight and made my way to where the cats were now clustered around one who had something squirming under its foot.

It was humanoid, even reasonably normally proportioned, about four inches tall. And it was struggling mightily with the cat, who was looking a little like she wanted to take a bite. Between the cat paw centered on its torso and its struggling I couldn’t make out its features, but I could see at least that it was not wearing shoes. It was carrying a weapon, about the size of a toothpick, which it was having little luck stabbing at the cat.

All the cats were growling quietly, and intently focused on the figure. Trusting them to keep it under control, I quickly searched the area on and under the vanity. That is when I spotted the mirror lying open on the floor. There was a smudged trail in the carpet leading from it towards the baseboard. If I looked closely, I could see that there was a trail running all the way around the room. Here and there were lost cracker crumbs, and a quick search even revealed one hand print made in peanut butter.

I settled down on the floor next to the cats and their captive, and wormed her loose from her captor. She might not have worn shoes, but she did have a vest and skirt, in addition to the weapon. That (and the continued exploration and careful raiding of my pantry) seemed to imply she must be intelligent enough not to deserve to be eaten by a cat. She eyed me with evident concern, but also stood her ground which I had to admire given the situation she was in.

I reached for the jar of hard candy that I kept on the vanity, and found a butterscotch still in its wrapper. I offered it to her, and felt like we were making progress when she snatched it from my fingertips. She then turned and started to walk towards the mirror, glancing back over her shoulder as she went.

The cats and I watched in wonder as she walked on to the glass, stood for a moment, then vanished.

My head cat turned and looked back at the others, then at me, and then distinctly muttered “well, now what.” Then she looked up at me as if daring me to admit I’d heard.

After everything that we’d seen, I decided not to call her on her sudden ability to speak English, which suddenly seemed almost normal. “You’ll keep an eye out for more?” I asked her, not really expecting an answer.

“Yes we will.”

“And not eat them?”

“Well….”

“Please come tell me, and don’t eat them until we know what their intentions are.”

“Ok. Please don’t mention that we talked.”

“No, I won’t. Of course, I won’t be believed in any case.”

The cats just nodded, then went back to their vigil. I put a small stack of candies near the mirror, and went back to bed.

In the morning the candies were gone, and the cats were now relaxing in their more usual haunts. A candy wrapper was sitting on my vanity top, held down by what looked like a several carat rough diamond. I smiled. This was going to get interesting.