Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Bandits

The Bandits chanted the register, each calling out their own line from the rhyme and hopping forward:

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Three for a Girl, Four for a Boy, Five for Silver, Six for Gold, Seven for a Secret never to be told. (The last three words were always whispered).

On this bright, cold day, each one was present, but there was a time when their rhyme stopped at ten and not seven. Three verses took their leave as they wouldn't thieve.
The eighth, Wish, asked to part and it was granted; the ninth, Kiss, opened his own business as a matchmaker; and the tenth, Bliss, with help from Kiss, was arranging his nuptials to a parakeet. All three left the company amicably, but Wish's departure eighteen months ago was a mystery. Sorrow, Joy, Girl, Boy, Silver and Gold wondered exactly what he had wished for? And if it had been answered? Only Secret now knew what Wish was up to.
She found this out one Thursday when they had gathered to trade at Thieves Market: an Aladdin's cave of bargains to be made in an underground car park. Each bandit had their own stall, and was in charge of a separate division: Sorrow, cheap booze; Joy, low cost food; Girl, counterfeit handbags and shoes; Boy, replica Rolex watches; Silver, bendable cutlery and poor quality saucepans; Gold, brass plated rings and medallions; and Secret, fraudulent works of art from Van Gogh to Banksy. With their arrogant, almost rude, challenging attitudes, the punters never haggled or argued. They simply accepted the tall tales the bandits spun for, as everyone knows, magpies have been in this trade since time begun.
Mid-morning, Secret gave the usual signal: she wagged and flicked her tail at Gold, who was busy with a Eurasian male admiring a medallion on himself in the mirror. Gold, with pound signs in his eyes winked back, which was code for “Yes, go!” and “Watch me close this sale!”
With a wad of notes in her belt, Secret went to Crow's to fetch them all teas and thick slabs of fruit cake. Trading in fake art could be slow as punters were less impulsive with their cash, and often went away and didn't come back, but dealing in art allowed her to befriend other looters. As Secret's wares were not as competitive as her brothers and sisters, and her conduct was quieter, the tip-offs she extracted here were far more useful. Traders and punters sat at plastic white tables and chairs in front of the van, so Secret had to weave her way through to the open hatch, where Old Beady, with his one good eye and the other hidden by a tartan patch, stood behind the serving counter. As he handed her their order, he hunched down and put his beak to her ear, “The MCs are here.” He whispered. Secret glanced nervously about her. If the Magpie Coppers were here, someone was bound to get busted. She had to get back and warn Sorrow, Joy, Girl, Boy, Silver, and Gold!
Balancing a brown tray of teas and cling-filmed wrapped fruit cake, she retraced her hops, stopping here and there to browse at second-hand clothes and stolen antiques. Be normal, act normally, she thought to herself, but she knew she was being followed. She could feel it. From out of nowhere, a large wing clamped around her shoulders, which made Secret wobble and upset the teas slightly. She gulped and looked up, “Wish!” She exclaimed.
He shushed her as he manoeuvred her into an alcove, “Yes, it is I.” He confirmed.
But your feathers...” She muttered as indeed these gleamed more blue than black.
They're dyed. I switched sides, and now my probation's complete I'm being transferred up North tomorrow.” He explained hurriedly and planted a peck on Secret's cheek. “I got my wish and now you get to keep my secret forever.”
And this is why it's so rare to see a flock of eight bandits together.