Cinema Is An Effective Metaphor.

Sunday is my day off. You know how hard it is to get anyone to understand that? Or remember it for more than half an hour? It’s not a religious thing, though I’m happy to say so if it’ll get me my twelve hours of leisure. It’s just that nobody can stand dealing with all the insanity I see without a break now and then.

If Lupo wants to move in on my turf when I’m off the job, fine. It’s worth it. Besides, I can run circles around him, come Monday.

Multiplex of the DAMNED

So of course, who do I run into when I’m trying to relax? Criminals. Criming.

Max wasn’t watching when they came past. He was buying popcorn from a bunny obviously cruising on something. I make a mental note not to touch any of it, and then I see them. They’re both rushing forward with fifty times too much manic glee to be excited about seeing a movie. Buford was an open book. He’s got his shirt unbuttoned halfway down. He’s wearing clothes at least one size too small, so it shows his muscles. He’s wearing this lopsided grin halfway between cocky ‘yeah-I-got-this-babe-here-and-you-don’t’ and incredulous ‘how-the-hell-did-I-get-this-babe-here-that-doesn’t-usually-happen’ with just a dash of ‘oh-man-so-gonna-score-tonight.’ His hand keeps wandering down her back. No secret what he’s excited about.

But Cassie. She’s never worn that look for me. No, I’m not jealous, just puzzled. I can guarantee that she’s never worn that look for anyone. The last time I saw Cassie that excited was when she thought she’d pulled a loaded gun on me. Somehow I didn’t think this theater was showing ‘Pull A Loaded Gun On Slylock II: This Time The Safety’s Off.’ So what was she so thrilled about?

“Max, look.”

Aw yeah das one hella tasty popcorn!

“…your accent just gets weirder all the time, doesn’t it?”

Watta talkin bout, Sly?

“Never mind. Look at that!”

Hey, it’s Cassie! Whozat big guy she’s wit?

“More important is what they’re up to.”

Aw, dere goin for the double ticket routine, he says through a mouthful of popcorn. Used ta do dat one ta sneak Melody inta shows. You jus buy one ticket an tear it in half, see-

“Getting in to a movie wouldn’t make Cassie that excited. She only gets that happy when…” I trail off. I tend to do that when I get hit by lightning bolts of inspiration.

When what?

“When she’s playing somebody. C’mon, our movie is starting.” I drag him toward the door where they just disappeared.

Slyyyy! I wanna see ‘Huge Robots Blowing Up In Space!’ Not annuda sequal to ‘Pirates Again.’

“Don’t worry. You’re getting a front row seat to the premiere of ‘What’s Cassie Up To This Time?'”

My badge is the only ticket I need to get in, and when the previews start Max and I are sitting right behind the, well, happy couple. Man, I’ve seen both of these clowns naked before, but the way they were gushing and cuddling and canoodling (if that’s a real word) made that look like something your elderly unmarried aunt would stitch on a napkin and hang on the wall.

“Isn’t true love just great?” I whisper loudly. They both freeze, then turn around.

Hey! What’s the big idea, Copper? Buford is angry, and that means he’s scared. He thinks I know something, or else he’d take the opportunity to show off his arm-candy, try to make me jealous. Which I’m not.

Hey, Foxy, Cat purrs, You come to bust me and my guy for disturbing the peace? Cassie’s too careful to give anything away, she’s trying to pass this off as a joke, maybe even get me hot and bothered so I’ll miss something. I keep my eye on the pile of beef, ignore her.

“I gotta say, you kids weren’t the ones I was expecting to get together. I can’t think of a single interest you’ve got in common.” I know I sound like the drunk uncle at the wedding, but I push on. “Except one. Shiny stuff that other people own. Like that African Bug-Idol the museum just got in. You know, the one that a certain cat announced she was gonna steal in broad daylight. Butt ugly, but still, it’s worth a fortune.”

Buford swallows, hoping the theater’s too dark for me to see. But foxes have very good night vision. Almost as good as cats.

“It didn’t seem like your style, Cass, coming out and saying what you were planning. Too melodramatic. Not like you, I should know.”

You don’t know me. She’s pissed now.

“I know you well enough. Well enough to guess that if you did call your shot, it’d be a bluff. You’d set up someone we’d never expect to do the job for you while the cops were all staring at you. Maybe you’d have him set up to take the fall for it, too. I’m assuming it’s a ‘him’ we’re talking about, because one thing I do know about you is how you love double-crossing your latest squeeze.”

The beef is shaking like beef jello. He’s angry, but he can’t decide with who. I know I’ve struck gold.

Cassie licks her lips as the last preview wraps up. Prove it, she hisses.

“I don’t have to. I don’t have to prove anything until you try to pull the job.” Then it’ll be easy. Heck, if it’s on Lupo’s watch, I might just let them get away with it, and only step in to catch ’em afterward. I stand up, suddenly feeling tired and sick with the whole business. The thought hits me that it could be me sitting next to her. It could be me she was holding onto. It could be me getting ready to pull a huge heist with her, and already planning how to keep her from pinning it all on me. “C’mon, Max. I’ve seen this movie before.”

As we leave the theater, I wonder. Maybe she’d rather it WAS me, not this mountain of hamburger, because I know something in me wishes it was me, too.

But that’s not something that’s up to either of us.

Ok, maybe I am jealous. A little.

So were gonna see the splodin space robots after all?!

“Sure. Why not?”

Cool! Max grins. Man, he finished that popcorn fast. But, Sly? Why’da let ’em go? We coulda booked ’em and worked out a confession from at least one!

“It’s my day off,” I tell him.

The Final Word.

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