A Thick Slice of Baloney
You have unfortunately gotten yourself involved in a rich people thing.
Previously: A snooty dame crashes into Batya’s food truck—which, by the way, had ALREADY been crashed into by a stolen ambulance—and this dame ALSO wants the ring box. Because she wants to destroy it? What’s the deal? No idea.
The dame drives her roadster up to the Khamsin, a ludicrously opulent hotel that Batya’s never had reason to set foot in. Bat is suddenly very aware of her beef-stained shirt, her bloody knuckles, her pungent fog.
The staff seems to be very familiar with the dame. Señora Valentina, they call her, in pleasingly subdued tones. The señora and Bat are escorted to a booth in the bar—a perfect glycerine bubble of tranquility—and then a concierge appears with a plump baby boy.
“The heck,” Bat mutters. For a second, she thinks maybe this is a rich people thing? Free baby?
“I thank you, Levi,” Valentina says. “Did he eat?”
The concierge looks heartbroken. “I’m afraid the young master had no interest in our chef’s specials tonight.”
“It’s fine, we’ll get him something from the bar.” She takes the tot into her arms and shows him to Bat. “This is Baby Mitch.”
“How do,” Bat says. Baby Mitch’s blank stare gives her the creeps. “Is this…do you live in this hotel?”
“From time to time,” Valentina says, bouncing the baby on her knee. “And this little imp, he was supposed to be asleep hours ago, wasn’t he? But this box situation ruined our schedule, didn’t it?”
Bat says, “How did you know Kuniko had the box?”
“Men told me.” Two cocktails arrive, looking like sleet-packed clouds.
“You got men?”
“Mm,” Valentina says, sipping her drink. “Here’s what happened. The box you’re carrying is a family heirloom. It was pilfered this morning by a syndicate called the Flu. You know them?”
“Yeah I did jobs for them when I was a kid. They’re the worst.”
“Indeed. They stole the box, I sent some men to reclaim it, a third party got to it first. There was a scuffle, the third party was injured but managed to escape. My men told me it was some cold piece of work named Kuniko. Evidently all you goons know each other.”
“Unfortunately,” Bat says. “And I know the Flu dipshit that did her in.”
“The fellow you put down on the pavement?”
“That’s right.” Bat takes a swig of the cocktail and immediately feels infinity times better. “Uh this is the best thing I ever drank.”
“I’m very pleased to hear it.”
“So the Hand hired Kuniko to thief the thing from the thiefs. Why’s your box so popular today?”
“Word got out that it actually exists and isn’t just some sailor’s yarn, which is what everyone thought.” Valentina moves her drink so Baby Mitch can’t grab it with his chubby little fingies.
“Why’d everyone think that?”
“Because it does something improbable.”
“I’ll show you. May I see it?”
“Of course not.”
Valentina mulls something over, then says, “It’s a kind of music box. You open it and there’s a button inside. You press the button and it plays a song.”
“I dunno, that seems pretty probable to me.”
“It plays the perfect song.”
“The perfect song? What’s it called?”
“It’s different every time. It plays the song you need to hear right at that moment.”
“So…it has every song ever made in there?”
“You misunderstand, darling. It composes the perfect song. It crafts it. Out of the aether. Just for you.”
Bat knocks back the rest of her drink. “Well, señora, that does sound like a thick slice of baloney.”
“Doesn’t it? And yet.”
“And now you want to destroy it.”
“Yes. I should’ve destroyed it years ago. I definitely should’ve destroyed it after…”
“After what?” Bat says.
Valentina puts her hands over Baby Mitch’s ears. “After it killed this one’s daddy.”
This story continues with an episode called: The Shape of Menace
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Ooh, seeing a location from the earlier newsletter at play here. I liked the link to that chapter and the picture. The perfect music box, quite the thing. Wonder how far back the history of it goes.
Does the music box truly compose the perfect song, or is the song the prestige, the sleight of hand that hides the fact that it is transmitting the feeling that it is the perfect song? Because I would bet you twelve euros that you cannot capture the song. Oh, you could record it well enough, but it wouldn't feel the same, feel perfect.
Again, an enticing entry, and this box, well, let's hope Batya comes through all right. Mitch's mama, well, maybe not.
I will be here on the 30th, and woe betide the writer if he does not deliver another installment. He has made me a junkie for his street cut of prose.