Hi all! As promised, here is a steampunk story. Please have a wonderful New Year and be very safe!
The Fifth Avenue Twins
By Leandra Ranger
Tommy waited until midnight to pick the lock on his chain. That way, the other kids couldn’t be implicated. They didn’t know; they were asleep. The guard wasn’t asleep, but he had left to pee, and that was good enough for Tommy. They weren’t very careful with the kids, Tommy had noticed. Guess they hadn’t planned for a street boy. Or maybe they just thought they’d be too tired to try anything after slaving in the Machine all day.
With skills long-honed from avoiding coppers, Tommy crept to the door and began to work on the lock with the skinny piece of metal he had scavenged from the Machine. Get out, get help, he thought to himself, over and over. Get out, get help, get out get help, get out get help get-
“Oi! You there! Get back in there!” The guard was back. Luckily for Tommy, the man was sluggish in his state of exhaustion and Tommy was able to open the door and dash out before the man reached him.
Without slowing, the young boy scurried down the narrow hallway. There was another door at the end. Tommy slammed into it and tried to open it. It was locked. Heart sinking, he fumbled for his makeshift lock pick, fiddled desperately, got the door open, and got pulled back by strong arms yanking on his chest.
Crash! The door slammed open.
“Sister!” shouted the figure in the door way, scurrying out of the way even as he raised a blade as a threat.
Bang! Apparently, the figure’s sister responded non-verbally. The arms around Tommy loosened as the guard dropped to the ground. One glance confirmed that he was dead with a bullet to the head. Tommy opened his mouth to scream, decided against it at the last second, and squeaked instead.
“Are you all right?” asked the figure in the doorway. He slid his blade into a wooden cane and limped into the hallway with Tommy. The boy nearly screamed again. His rescuer was monstrous. He towered over the boy, his head nearly scraping the ceiling. He wore a strange mask over his nose and mouth with tubing protruding from it and connecting to a canister on his back, his right arm was completely covered with metal plates, and his right leg was nonexistent and replaced with a thin sliver of metal that resembled some arachnid’s leg. He was very well-dressed, but Tommy found it akin to putting a bow on a spider for the comfort it provided.
Seeing Tommy’s face, the man stepped back, hands raised. “Sister?” he called behind him, then turned to Tommy. “I promise I won’t hurt you. I know I look scary. Here, let me get my sister to stay with you and I’ll go-“
“No!” interrupted Tommy, suddenly aware he was being rude. “I’m fine…I’m sorry-I mean-uh, thanks for saving me, sir.”
“Nothing of use in the front room.” A crisp, business-like voice entered the hall, announcing the arrival of the guard’s killer-a tall women in clothes finer even than the monster’s with a smoking pistol in her left hand and a furled fan in her right. She smelled of honeyed-rose perfume. “Shall we move on?”
“We need to help him first,” replied the monster, gesturing to Tommy. “Can you check and see if he’s hurt? I think he’s scared of me. Also, we’re very lucky this room is soundproof, Miss Trigger-Happy,” he teased.
“Are you hurt, boy?” Tommy turned to the women, star struck for a second. “No m’am.” Were these the Fifth Avenue Twins?
“He’s not hurt, James. Let’s go before someone else realizes we’re here.”
“Wait, Josie. We might as well talk to him-and actually check him for injuries-while you send one of your butterflies with the sleeping bomb. Let’s figure out what he knows and make sure he’s safe. We’re here to save the children, after all.”
“Are you the Fifth Avenue Twins?” butted in Tommy, who couldn’t help it anymore.
“We certainly are twins who live on Fifth Avenue,” replied both rescuers simultaneously. Then the monster-James-continued, “I’m James Garfield, and this is my sister, Josephine.” Josephine, meanwhile, had started to pay attention to some small, metal object Tommy couldn’t quite see instead of the proceedings. “What is your name?” continued James.
“Tommy Jones, sir. And I promise I’m not injured; I’d know if I was. I’ve had a broken nose before!” At this, James tapped his own metal-encased nose knowingly, “You’re here to save us?” continued Tommy, “I can take you to the other kids; they’re down that hallway.” Tommy pointed back down the hallway he came from. Josephine released her metal object, which turned out to be a delicately crafted butterfly, in the other direction while placing a monocle on her eye. She then proceeded to control the machine with an elegant yet heavy bracelet she wore. Tommy was fascinated.
“Do you think your friends will be safe for a couple more hours, Tommy?” asked James, breaking the boy’s trance.
“Um..Yeah, they’re just gonna sleep. Ain’t you gonna save us, though?”
“We will, but we have to do something first to make sure you stay safe.”
Tommy nodded resolutely. Then, Josephine turned to him.
“Do you know where Eliot Grebbe sleeps?” she asked in the manner of someone who is only putting a fourth of their brain into the conversation.
“Yes m’am-third floor, second door on the left.”
“Lose your way, Josie?” laughed James, though it sounded a bit alien through his mask. His sister ignored him.
“Are you gonna kill him?” blurted Tommy. James looked pained.
“No,” replied Josephine, still distracted, “we will incapacitate him and leave him for the authorities. They’ll be here in-” she pulled a pocket watch from her bodice and glanced at it, “49 minutes.”
“Grebbe is asleep. Let’s get the dividers set.”
James nodded and walked into the entry room and up the ladder into the foyer. Tommy followed, since James seemed to be more friendly.
Once reaching the door to the main house, James pulled a strange, cloth-like film off his back and clamped it to the door. Then he walked back to the foyer, where his sister met him.
“Trap’s set,” James confirmed, a small amount of glee in voice. “Ready to test it out?”
“You’re confident it will work?” asked his sister
“Of course. I’ve got a bunch of sleepy flies at home.”
Josephine fiddled again with her wristlet, removed her monocle, nodded, and turned toward the door. James followed.
“Wait,” blurted Tommy, “Where are you going? What about us?”
“The police will be here to arrest the West Side’s most prolific kidnapper in-“ Josephine checked her watch again, still walking away- “34 minutes. They will take all of you back to your parents.”
Tommy ran to catch up with them. “I don’t have any parents.”
“They’ll take you to an orphanage, then,” shrugged Josephine, still walking.
“The orphanages stink,” rebutted Tommy, not wanting to admit that he was just as likely to be jailed for pickpocketing as sent to an orphanage anyway.. Josephine kept walking.
James stopped, though, and put a hand on his sister’s arm. Then, they proceeded to have a whispered conversation in some private language Tommy was sure no other human spoke. Finally, James turned to him and handed him some bills.
“Door’s right there,” he smiled, “And if you ever find yourself in need of a job, come be a cook’s assistant on Fifth Avenue.”
And the twins left.