“Once more, from the beginning,” the she-bandit demanded. Her mask muffled her words, but her intentions came out clearly.
Tetris (not the game, the merchant) slowed down her words. “My precious jewel was stolen. A man on a camel stole my cross-hatch gem. It’s a gem made of many other jewels. Please, find it for me, or…”
The she-bandit sighed, muffled. “A man on a camel? Like every man travelling in the desert? How can I identify this man?”
“Well…” Tetris gulped. “That’s the problem. He… or she, maybe… was in disguise, so it could be anyone.”
“Tough break, kid. I can’t waste my time looking for a super-expensive jewel that you can’t even sell without it getting stolen. I suggest you try fishing in sand pits. You’d have more luck.”
As the she-bandit rose, a blinding sparkling object dropped from her boot.
“THE CROSS-HATCH GEM!” Tetris shrieked.
“Oops.” The she-bandit considered her words carefully. “Okay. To be fair, I didn’t steal it. A merchant sold it to me for a fortune, so I’m…”
“And that blood on your knife, I’m led to believe is from a flying cow?”
The she-bandit looked at her weapon.
“Can’t blame me for trying. But I just stabbed him in the arm for it. A murderer I’m not.”
Banging came from the closet.
“Father! You tried to steal from your own daughter?”
A fat man in Arabian garb with a knife wound on his shoulder was tied up in the closet.
“She was trying to steal it from us while you were relieving yourself! She did this to me!”
The she-bandit laughed. “Oh, please. What about the person on the camel?”
Tetris examined the gem. “This is a clever forgery! So you stole the real one from my father and replaced it with a fake, stole the false one back on camel-back while in disguise to shift the blame and…”
“I’m confused,” said the she-bandit. “And this was supposed to be my scheme. Why don’t I just take both and call it a day?” She pulled out a knife. “Unless you don’t like keeping both of your ears.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said Tetris. She pulled out a new kind of weapon. “It’s called a gun. It may look like a horn, but it packs a punch.”
“What could that possibly–”
“We’ll be taking our things back, Miss She-Bandit. Rot in Hell, please.”
After they left the she-bandit’s den, she began extracting the bullet.
“Damn coward. Guns. It’ll never catch on.”
A young man with sandy blonde hair approached the bleeding woman.
“Not now, kid. I’m kind of bleeding out here.”
“NO!” she jerked back. “Look, what is it you want?”
“I have a gem, and I assure you, it’s not worth wounding me over.”
She scratched her head. “So you heard all that. What, what, out with it!”
He opened a gold painted box with a teensy-weensy jewel. It seemed to be a ruby.
“You’re right. It’s not worth the effort. So what’s up?”
“The much-larger part of the jewel was stolen by bandits. As a bandit yourself, I tracked you down–”
“Found one of my advertisements, you mean.”
“Okay, yes. Please help me find the bandits. I think they go by the Graham Bandits.”
“How much are you willing to pay for me to betray my former gang?” she muffled.
“Oh… I had hoped you would have done it out of good will…”
She laughed and laughed and laughed.
“…But I do have 37 thousand kolens. And the use of my flying cow, if you’d like.”
She stopped laughing.
“Is the gem really that valuable?”
“No, but it was my late wife’s favorite.”
The she-bandit shook his hand and took a map to their new hideout. It had been seventeen years since she left the Graham Bandits, and for the better. On the whole, she could swipe gems and get a reward for them better than those chuckleheads could simply steal from others.
She rode the cow as far as a mile before the hideout. No sense in dropping off right in front. She could figure out the traps easily. A flying arrow? No problem. A hole in the sand? She could go around it easy-peasy. She was never particularly perfect at spike traps, which is why she recommended not bothering to put any in her own den. The gang also lacked spike traps at her request, still keeping to it seventeen years later.
When she got to the entrance, she jumped onto a rock. Perfect. The whole gang was there with crossbows aimed right at her.
The young man with sandy blonde hair emerged from the shadows.
“So, the former Graham leader is caught by the new turd,” the she-bandit said. “How did you get here before me?”
“Flying jaguar, of course.”
She smiled under her face mask. “Of course. So what now?”
“Now you admit I’m the better Graham leader and we’ll kill you with crossbows,” he mumbled.
“And if I don’t?”
“Well then, we’ll defile you and then kill you with crossbows.”
“You don’t want to defile me.”
“Oh, but I do. Ever since I saw your portrait on the wall of former leaders, I knew you were the one.”
“Guys,” she groaned, “You don’t want this. You knew me as a little girl.”
“Of course not, She-Bandit. But he’s the leader, and we have to shoot you.” A ruffian with a thick beard turned away from her piercing glare.
“And defile me?”
“I think he means to do it himself. Like the royal we.”
“SILENCE!” The gang leader clapped his palms together. “Now, remove your mask.”
“You’re the better leader, guy. Definitely outstanding. My, my leadership was like, nothing compared to yours.”
The other Graham Bandits turned away.
As she lowered her black mask, the Graham leader’s mouth turned downwards.
She had a multitude of zits and pimples scattered across her face and a notable mustache forming above her lip. Her lips themselves were cracked and pale, while the corners of her mouth had white gunk forming.
“Like I wear a mask to disguise myself? No no. At this point, my eyes are gorgeous and recognizable. Still want your way with me?”
The leader yanked a crossbow from a female gang member’s hands. “I’ll end you right now, monster!”
The other members shot the man with sandy blonde hair. He breathed out, “This was supposed to…” and died.
“Nice loyalty, Graham gang.” She hopped off the rock. “But as the most recent living leader, I suggest you disband. If that’s your pick of leader, you really need to reevaluate your lives.” She affixed her mask once more.
“It’s fine. Hey, is there any good gems around here, like a large ruby?”
“No. That tiny ruby is the best we could do under his leadership. He was obsessed with you to the point of ignoring his duties.”
“No gold, any kind of compensation?”
“How about the flying cow and jaguar?”
“Those are on loan, actually.”
“Ah. I shan’t deprive you of that, Borshnick.”
“She-Bandit. I’m the She-Bandit. And I’m having a really lousy day.”