A most sinister thing happened recently and if the parties would have opened up their ears it could have all been avoided. It all began when yours-truly was out for lunch at the Wes Carlin Dining Hall down on South Hampton Street. I was enjoying a good sausage, egg and cheese omelet when Helena Spurs interrupted with that usual laugh of hers. If you aren’t acquainted with Helena Spurs' laugh it sounds much like a sea otter after it’s had a breather or two from a helium bottle.
“Oh, Chip!” she said after a giggle and threw her arms around me.
Helena and I go way back. Back in college she was top of the line brilliant, coming out with three degrees, two in Astrophysics and one in thermal engineering; when I came out with a good steady C-straight-average and half-a-degree in the arts. Last I heard from her she was making more money than the Zoic State and was engaged to royalty. A very smart and lucky girl.
“Hello, Helena,” I said, putting the fork down to my chagrin. “How’ve things been?”
“I heard what happened with IPR.”
“Oh really? Was it the static that clued you in?”
“Yes,” she said. “The whole station is out.”
“Yes, I’m out of a job,” I said.
“Tough luck,” she said. “I’ve been having a tough time, too. Care to hear about it?”
I looked at my omelet, which looked like it needed a few more bites out of it. “Go right ahead,” I said, pushing the omelet aside. My stomach rumbled.
“I left him,” she said.
“Who?” I asked.
“Oh, did you?”
“He didn’t have any ambition or drive. He didn’t have dreams, Chip. I can’t marry a man without dreams.”
“I see your point. But he’s royalty, isn’t that dream enough? I mean, most people dream of being royalty. Why should he have dreams at all since he’s—well, at the pinnacle?”
“He doesn’t want to be king. He’s fine being a Prince forever. And that’s fine and all, but once you reach a certain age, Prince is too boyish.”
“I see your point. A 40+ prince is not too princely.”
“Precisely. And now that I’ve left him, I’ve lost all my funds.”
“What about the job at the nuclear power plant you had?”
“Since I was getting married I quit the job and became a member of the ‘Preservation of Earth’s Heritage Foundation.’”
“Oh, yes. ‘We are here to preserve the earth’ and all of that. I remember learning about those radicals in the paper. Those are the people who tie themselves to nuclear reactors and stuff like that.”
“I work for the earth now.”
“How’s that pay?”
She pulled out a bunch of green flowers and set them on my omelet.
“Not well,” she said.
There was a silence between us for a bit. I was looking forward to finishing my omelet and now it was covered with a whole lot of greens. Never been fond of greens.
“If you were to rob someone,” she asked. “Hypothetically, who would you rob?”
“Well, I wouldn’t expect it, ” I said. “Yes, it’s all about the element of surprise.”
“What about a bank?”
Before I had a chance to set her straight and explain to her how bad of an idea it’d be to rob a bank she gathered her flowers up and was out the door.
Three-and-One-Quart Banking Bros. was a large bank right down the street from the restaurant. Helena had put it in my head that I should make a good deposit of my remaining funds. I had never been to this bank before and since the incident with the aerosol can and hang glider at my previous bank, I thought maybe I’d try this new one out. I crossed the street. When I was about to enter I heard the distinct calling of some man from behind. He was shouting my name.
“Baker! Chip Baker.”
I turned around and there was Devon Findale on top of a large three-legged horse.
“How’s it, Finny?” I asked.
“I’m doing well,” he said and jumped off the horse. He had a large suitcase in his hand.
“What’s with the horse?” I asked.
“Oh, Snickerdoodle? Yes, I won him in a race.”
“A horse race?”
“No, a three-legged race—you know, where you get your leg tied to someone else’s leg—the pals thought it’d be a good joke that the team that won would get this fellow.”
“How’d he loose his leg?”
Finny looked down at his horse’s one front leg.
“Can’t say I noticed that before,” he said. “I wonder where it’s run off to.” He looked around with a puzzled expression.
“You mean you hadn’t noticed your horse was missing a whole leg?”
“No. Explains why whenever he gets into a gallop, he falls over. Have to make sure he only walks. Ever have a whole horse fall on top of you before, Chip?”
“Can’t say that I have, Finny.”
“Well, neither can I—anymore.” He scratched his head as he looked at a leg that wasn’t there. “But it’s got to hurt nearly as much as when a three-legged horse falls on you.”
“Yes, I’d assume,” I said. “What’s in the briefcase?”
“Bricks. I’m depositing them.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Well, what sort of bricks are they?”
“Mortar. I’m building a fire-pit. But until I have enough bricks, I thought I best keep them safe in the bank’s vault. Don’t want anyone running off with my bricks before I lay them.”
Can’t say that Finny was that bright, but he was a romantic. And who’s to argue with a pal who wants nothing more than to keep his bricks safe until he turns them into a fire-pit.
We entered the bank and stood on line. There were just a few people in front of us.
“So what are you going to do with the horse?” I asked.
“I only have him on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Kipper—that’s the lad who won the three-legged race with me—he gets Snickerdoodle the rest of the week. We were going to try and make him a racehorse, but I don’t suppose he can be a bounder now that he’s missing a leg. I do hope we find it, otherwise Kipper’s going to be really upset.”
While we were talking, I failed to notice that a person dressed all in black and wearing a ski-mask had just entered the bank carrying what appeared to be a large frying pan.
“Good Lord!” Finny said, shock written on his face.
I turned and there was the robber holding a frying pan up to the bank-teller’s head.
“Give me all the money!” the robber said.
The teller, with stone-cold resolve, steely-eyed stared right into the robber’s black mask and said:
“Here at the Three-and-One-Quart Banking Bros. we don’t delve in what most people call ‘money.’ Monetary systems are governed here by barter and trade.”
This stopped the robber dead in their tracks.
“What?” the robber asked, scratching at their head.
“We barter. We don’t have money.”
“What?” I asked. I hadn’t heard this before.
The teller looked at me.
“It says it on the front door,” he said. He turned back to the robber. “If you’d like to deposit your frying pan, I’d happily assist you.”
This enraged the robber and with a loud, obnoxious laugh that sounded like a sea otter after it’s had a breather or two from a helium bottle, the robber hit the teller on the head with the frying pan and began making inquiries as to who was depositing what.
Everyone seemed to be depositing toothpicks and beeswax that day; and so the robber reached Finny and me.
“Give me all of your money!” the robber yelped at Finny and winked at me.
“Can’t say I have money with me,” Finny said.
“What’s in the case?” the robber asked.
“Goldbricks! That’ll do!” the robber said.
"Wait," I said to the robber. "I wouldn't do that." And before I was able to explain that the robber was mistaken, the robber dashed out of the bank with the bricks.
I can’t say how furious Finny was, but he was in a titter—and he bolted after the fellow and was on the robber’s tail.
But before Finny could catch up—and before I was able to explain to the robber why they needed to stop making all these blunders—the robber hopped onto Snickerdoodle with the suitcase in hand and tried to get the three-legged horse to fly. It seemed the robber had failed to notice that the horse couldn’t fly even if you put wings on the thing. And so the horse tripped over its leg that wasn’t there and did a whole 180—head over hooves! And the robber was planted under the poor beast.
“Oouuuufff!” the robber went, getting the wind knocked out of their lungs.
"Help!" I yelled, concerned for the horse and the robber, who both seemed to have mangled each other up pretty badly.
"You rouge!" Finny spat, ran to the scene and expertly removed the robber’s mask.
“Good lord!” I said. “Helena.”
The robber smiled timidly. “I’ve had a run of bad luck,” she said.
“I can see that,” I said.
“Well, can you give me a hand?” she asked me as the constabulary arrived on scene.
I tried to get the horse off of her, but couldn’t roll him.
“Sorry,” I said. “But no go.”
When the police arrived, I turned to them and said:
“Thanks for listening.”