Surprisingly enough, this Chat des Combes knew the guy who pulled off the pyramid heist of 2010. I didn’t expect it to be quite that straightforward, but he’s got a lot more contacts in the criminal community. Don’t know how he managed that. In my experience, most supervillains are leery to the point of paranoia, and betray me at a moment’s notice.
Maybe it’s just me. But then I should wonder why this Chat guy is helping me at all. I mean, sure, I said it’d be a big score that could build his reputation. Thing is, I doubt most people associate that with stealing a giant dish. Maybe a giant’s dish, or cutlery from an oversized alien, but not a radio telescope.
It just bothered me that he seemed so enthusiastic to work with me. He’s up to something else. I can tell already, this guy is going to try and screw me. Like with this goose chase we had to go on. He knew who the thief was. The perpetrator of the pyramid heist was a mysterious figure known only as the Belgian. Problem is, Chat doesn’t know where he is. I suggested Belgium, but he waved me off because he could still be anywhere. Which is true. Go on too long a drive around here and you’re invading another country by mistake. I hear that’s happened with Sweden when a military transport took a wrong turn.
Besides, all the Belgians I’ve heard of haven’t been in Belgium. There’s the Belgian in Empyreal City who makes custom sniper rifles and dabbles in assassination for hire. There’s the Belgian in Memphis who imports cocaine. There’s the Belgian in the District of Columbia who invites Senators to his lavish parties with huge door prizes on his private yacht in international waters. There’s even the Belgian in Kingscrow; a little old lady who makes the best waffles around. I hear they’re quite delicious, but I’ve never been invited along for fear I’d kill people. Lots of people.
Way back before his incarceration, Good Doctor specifically cited the spaghetti incident when he told me they couldn’t bring me along for waffle night. No amount of debate would convince him that I sometimes go into a bit of a feeding frenzy when deprived of food and then given an opportunity to eat. I thought they were just awesome meatballs.
I digress. We knew we needed the Belgian, or at least the Belgian of thieves, but we didn’t know how to contact him. That’s where Anatole the Turk came in. According to Chat, he had a pretty good idea where to find such a major and mysterious figure in the thieving community, but there would be a price for the information.
“No worries. I have some authentic gargoyles from the Notre-Dame. Right Moai?” He nodded, then pulled aside a sheet to reveal a couple of interesting-looking statues.
“Those are chimeras,” Chat pointed out.
“Same difference,” I said. Moai nodded. Chat just shook his head.
Anyway, we set out to find Anatole the Turk, which proved surprisingly easily. Chat led us to a sandwich shop called “The Turk”. American turkey, French turkey, turkey pastrami, turkey salami, turkey meat loaf, turkey bologna, turkey bacon. It was like the Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company of turkey.
I ran in first and jumped on a table. “Ok, hands in the air! This is-”
Before I could finish, Chat pulled me down. “Pardon my association, everyone. He’s…American.”
“I’m not, actually. And technically there’s no nation-state really analogous to the one where I’m from. Also, could anyone get me a sandwich? I’m thinking…turkey. No, wait!…Yes, turkey.” I took a seat at the table I’d just been on top of.
Chat tugged on my arm to get up and move with him. “As I said, pardon him. I need to speak with Anatole about a delicate matter relating to the…” Chat looked around, playing up false paranoia. “…special loafs.” f it’s so easy to find this person, whispering wouldn’t matter. Besides, Moai blocked the door if anyone overheard and decided to run for it. Ah well, we all have our enjoyable theatrics.
The man at the counter called for someone in the back. A young man stepped out and was ordered to cover the front while he showed us something in the back. He didn’t say anything, just led us to a backroom, past freezers full of turkey. Turkey as far as they eye could see. Even a large oil painting on the wall. I stopped and pointed at it. “Isn’t this a bit much?”
The man leading us glanced back at it, then told me. “My father’s from Turkey. It’s good to remember your heritage.”
“Attaboy, Ottomon,” I said.
The man led us to an office, waving us inside. Chat led the way, holding out his arms as the fellow behind the desk stood up. The two exchanged air kisses, which I thought was a woman thing instead. They greeted one another enthusiastically. I started after him, but then the presumptive Anatole snapped his fingers and our guide slammed the door on me.
“You’re really trying my patience here, ya know? I don’t have a lot of patience. You want to know why, big guy?” I leaned in close. Before I could make an incredibly stupid joke about being a bad doctor, the door opened. I didn’t actually see it open. But Chat stood there in the open doorway, so I assumed it opened at some point. I raised an eyebrow.
He just smiled. “We are finished.”
“I thought we were just getting started myself,” I tried to peer past Chat. He closed the door quickly as he stepped out, getting all up in my personal space. Tempted as I was to blast the space invader, I instead asked him, “Did you get the location? How many gargoyles did it cost me?”
He rolled his eyes. “They were chimeras. He wouldn’t want them. He has a more impressive prize in mind.”
I facepalmed. “I feel like a fucking RPG character here. Ok, what amazing fetch quest have we been sent on by yonder NPC.” I gestured toward the door.
In a flash, the fat guide handed Chat and I a pair of folders. I opened it up to see a large photo of a pink diamond in something of an oval cut. The interior facets resembled something familiar. Something I couldn’t put my finger on.
“The Pink Petal,” Chat said.
“Flowers and a diamond? We just need information, not a wedding.”
“This way,” said our guide, who led us out the back. When I saw that, I pressed the panic button I’d prepared to warn Moai to come get us. When we stepped out into the street behind the shop, he rappelled down with night vision goggles and an automatic rifle in hand. He nearly capped the guide, but I held up a hand.
“Easy there, big guy. We’re fine. Just too lazy to walk around and get you. Nice job on the rappelling, but the night vision’s dumb. Here, see what you can make of this.” I handed Moai the folder as our guide rushed back inside to the safety of his sandwiches. When I turned back to Moai, he had the folder tied to his back like fairy wings.
I tapped my foot on the ground, unamused. “I’m tired of being the straight man around here. This isn’t right!”
Chat put his arm around my shoulders. “Do not worry. Let’s go find you something wild to do.”
The Pink Petal, with facets resembling an orchid, is a famous diamond. I’d heard the name before, but it’s one of the many things I haven’t yet taken the time to look up. Chat des Combes provided something of an education to Moai and myself on our trip. Found in 1963, the world marveled at the 155 carat diamond with its rich pink color, but it was soon sought after because it was a fucking 155 carat diamond. Geez. Kinda speaks for itself there, don’t you think? The coloring and natural design also make it unique. It’s effectively priceless.
Or it would be, if it wasn’t worth exactly as much as how to find the Belgian.
It turns out, it wasn’t even that tough to find. The ambassador from Bangladesh kept it in their embassy built right near the Antwerp Diamond Quarter in Belgium so they could walk out on the diamond and show it off while waving to all the poor people with their regular diamonds.
We stopped by to look at the place from the street. High walls, an ornate gate with gold filigree; they spent a hell of a lot of money on this place. “Moai, we’re going to need a battering ram.”
I started to unzip my pants. Chat reached down and zipped me up. “Not here. Not now. Reconnaissance first. We need to learn more about the security system, the guards, and the layout. We need at least a week.”
Just then, a woman ran out onto the balcony on the third story, waving her hands in the air like she just didn’t care. As we were about to find out, she cared too much. Or, depending on your love of diamonds, just the right amount. “Help! I have been robbed! They stole the Pink Petal!”
“Not yet, you old bitch! Wait a week!” I yelled up at her through cupped hands.
Chat grabbed my hands and held onto them. “Not so publicly! This is not how thieves operate.”
A window on the second floor broke exploded open. Someone threw a rope out through the smoke, lassoing a decoration on the exterior wall. With a hootin’ and a hollerin’, a man dressed as a stereotypical cowboy swung out. And I mean stereotypical. Cowboy hat, black domino mask, huge mustache, leather vest and chaps, flannel shirt, jeans, and boots with spurs. He fired back at a pair of suits chasing after him with an old revolver. The guards ducked behind cover, giving the cowboy all the time he needed to escape over the wall and out of our view.
Still holding my hand, Chat pulled me over toward the street on the side where the cowboy landed. We got there just in time to watch a sleek silver Alfa Romeo gun its engine, the cowboy at the wheel. I called out to Moai, who tried to catch up, “There’s still time. Let’s wreck the V.” A V on the front bumper extended up the hood to meet the front windows.
Before he even got there, the car began to hover and the wheels turned downward. They began to glow neon blue just before the car shot forward, flying through the air.
“Fuck. He’s away. Moai, think you can throw me that far?” I pointed toward the disappearing dot in the sky. Moai shook his head. Still pointing, I called out, “Stop, thief,” with as little enthusiasm as I could muster.
“We must find him,” Chat stated, bringing us up to date on the obvious.
I nodded. “Considering how he’s dressed, we’ll have to check every gay bar in the city.”
“You do that, I’ll look for him in Italy,” Chat told me.
Chat pulled out his phone and tapped on the screen a few times, then turned it toward me. It showed a picture of the cowboy thief. “He is Buttero, the bandit of the Spaghetti West.”
“So he’s an Italian cowboy?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, an Italian cowboy obsessed with Spaghetti Westerns.” Ah, of course. I should have figured that one out. It made a lot more sense.
I turned to Moai. “It’s time to saddle up, partner. We’re gonna settle this little mixup with a fistful of dollars. We’re going beyond the law to make payment in blood, whether Buttero is good, bad, or ugly.”
He nodded, already pulling on his ten gallon hat.
“What if he gets a piece of you instead?” Chat asked.
“Then he’ll find Slim Pickens.”