You Belong to the City
The next day, the Gangrene Gang ended up at the Townsville Mall. The entire time, Ace kept his shaded eyes on Angela to see what she was capable of. So far, she wasn’t much different from the four guys he (sometimes) considered his friends: she was a complete nimrod.
Angela, Snake, Arturo, Grubber, and Big Billy had joined hands and began to sing as they skipped. Considering Big Billy was so, well, big, every time he skipped along, the floor would shake and sometimes crack. Ace merely shook his head with embarrassment. His idiot friends attempted to sing the theme from The Wizard of Oz. Random strangers looked at the gang as though they’d escaped from the psych ward.
“Weee’re off to see the…”
“Shut up!” Ace demanded. The group came to a halt and merely stared at the extremely pissed-off leader.
“We’re ssssorry Ace,” Snake apologized. “We were just having fun!”
“We won’t sing anymore, I promise,” Angela swore. “Can we at least skip, though? It’s hilarious getting all these funny looks from random strangers who think we’ve escaped from the psych ward!”
“I like to skip,” Big Billy said slowly with an unintelligible laugh.
“Ugh,” Ace groaned, shaking his head. “Fine! Just no singin’!”
As Angela and the four other green-skinned members of the gang skipped up and down the corridors of the mall, Ace wondered how it was even possible that this was the same girl who stole a DVD player by herself and managed to mysteriously score a nice amount of money from a stranger because today she was acting dumber than a post.
The group continued to skip merrily as they left gaping holes in the floor thanks to Billy’s massive size.
“You five!” Shouted a mall cop. “No skipping! Your big friend is causing unbelievable collateral damage! Any more from you, and I’ll have you all arrested for disturbing the peace!”
Angela, Snake, Arturo, Grubber, and Big Billy stopped skipping and trudged away in disappointment.
“Buzz kill,” Angela muttered under her breath.
Ace couldn’t believe what he was doing, but he took the cop’s hands and said with the most gratitude he had ever expressed in his life, “Thank you! Thank you! How can I ever repay you?”
“By letting go of my hands,” the cop said nervously.
“Consider it done!” Ace said as he let go of the cop’s hands. He kept walking when he found Arturo, Snake, Big Billy, and Grubber standing outside of a jewelry store.
“What are you’s doing here?” Ace asked. “And where’s Angie?”
“She went inside,” Arturo said. “We asked her if she’s ever shoplifted before, and she said no, so we went in there with her and the shopkeeper told us to get out.”
“Well what do you exsssspect?” Snake said. “We stole from him before. It was easy.”
The five members of the Gangrene Gang pressed their faces to the windows as they watched Angela interact with the shopkeeper.
Meanwhile, inside the store, the shopkeeper told Angela to sit down in a comfortable velvet chair as he showed her some beautiful diamond jewelry that Angela’s parents could’ve easily afforded with what they would’ve considered “chump change”.
“Are those boys who followed you into the store your friends?” Asked the snooty shopkeeper.
“No,” Angela lied. “I’ve never seen those guys in my life.” She hoped that they couldn’t hear her from outside the store.
“Very well. I have some very nice things you might wish to try,” the shopkeeper insisted. “First though, I’d like to give you this beautiful pair of eighteen karat diamond earrings,” he said as he took out a pair of beautiful, very large, diamond earrings. They were so large that when Angela put them on, she felt as though her head gained ten pounds.
“Thanks!” She said. “What’re these for?”
“This is a free gift just for coming in,” the shopkeeper said. “Sometimes we offer free gifts to customers with the hope that they’ll take interest in some of the other items in our collection.”
“That’s not a bad marketing strategy,” Angela observed.
“Well, we don’t do this to every customer,” the shopkeeper admitted. “But we do choose to do it for every customer we truly value. And I see that you are a young lady with very discerning taste.”
“So basically in English, you’re giving me stuff because I'm pretty, extremely gullible, and you’re hoping I’ll spend more money here.” Angela said.
“Bingo,” said the shopkeeper bluntly.
I'm not so gullible, thought Angela. The shopkeeper turned his back to grab a few more pieces of jewelry from the storage room that he assumed Angela would like. She discreetly began stuffing diamond rings, earrings, and bracelets down her tube top between her breasts. Luckily, it wasn’t too terribly noticeable, but this was one of those times where Angela wished she could be larger than a B-cup.
Outside the shop, the Gangrene Gang waited impatiently while Angela tried things on that the shopkeeper brought for her and discreetly slipping various items into her cleavage every so often. Finally, she emerged from the store. No suspicious glances, no eyebrows to be raised, no alarms to be heard.
“The guy practically gave me these earrings just for being pretty, and he was hoping I’d buy more,” Angela said slyly as the guys laughed. Ace, however, did not look impressed.
“Yeah, but ya never actually took anything from him,” Ace pointed out.
“Bull,” Angela said. “Let’s go some place where no one can see us, and I’ll show you exactly what I took.”
It wasn’t easy; Angela had to make sure to watch her step or everything would spill out of her bra. But she managed to lead the gang outside of the mall as she reached between her cleavage and carefully withdrew every piece of diamond jewelry that she stole as the gang’s eyes widened. All, of course, except for Ace.
“Psh, big deal,” Ace said, less than impressed. “Anyone can steal from that guy. We used to do it all the time.”
“Yeah, til we gotsssss caught,” Snake reminded him. Of course, he got punched in the face.
“That still don’t mean anything,” Ace said. “All right, let’s see what else ya can do.”
After hocking the jewelry for money (even though, much to Ace’s annoyance, Angela begged to keep a few pieces because she liked shiny things), they went back into the mall and went into a few different stores to try their little experiment over and over again. The same result happened: Angela walked in as the gang watched from outside the store. The shopkeeper said all sorts of sweet-nothings to Angela, suckered in by her wide brown eyes and her innocent smile before giving her free stuff. Just when he turned away, she quickly put her small, square hands to work, pilfering whatever looked good.
By the end of the day, Ace was slowly starting to warm up to Angela’s style of delinquency, even if she insisted on singing “The Song That Never Ends” the entire way back to the dump.
“Do you always have to do that?” He asked in annoyance.
“Why not?” Angela responded with a giggle. “It might’ve got me thrown out of school, but then again, so did a million other things.”
“What’re ya talkin’ about?” Ace asked. “You actually went to school?”
“Didn’t you guys?” Angela wanted to know. She wasn’t going to answer that question. The last thing she needed to do was tell these guys who she really was.
“Once,” Arturo said. “The social worker busted us and then made us go to kindergarten with the Powerpuff Girls. Doesn’t he know we’re like, way too old for kindergarten?”
“I can count to ‘W’,” Big Billy bragged
“That’s so badass!” Angela cried. She was about to launch into the hilarious story of the time her cousin wanted to be a Powerpuff Girl and tried to buy her way into being a superhero, kind of like Batman. However, Angela held her tongue, not wanting to reveal her true identity.
“You think that was badass?” Ace asked incredulously. “Do ya even know who they are? They ruin all our fun! Every time we wanna do something cool, they come in and ruin everything and beat the crap out of us! Oh wait, I forgot, yer probably not even from here, are ya?”
“You could say that,” Angela said discreetly. “That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t know who they are.”
As they walked the downtown area, they met up with the same sketchy guy who tried soliciting Angela for sex the night before.
“Whoa, I didn’t realize you were someone else’s property!” The sketchy guy said in slight shock. “I'm so sorry.”
“You know this guy, Angie?” Ace asked.
“That’s the guy from last night,” Angela whispered with a wink, hoping that would be enough for him to understand.
“Well, I mean if these guys are your pimps, then I guess I should apologize for last night,” the sketchy guy said.
“What’s going on here?” Arturo asked.
“Oh no,” Angela said seductively. “If you want some of this, I'm all yours tonight. You guys go ahead.” The gang stared at her as though she was absolutely crazy. “Beat it!” She shouted.
The Gangrene Gang disappeared into an alley, watching to see what Angela would do next. Surely she wouldn’t be crazy enough to give the guy what he wanted. Would she?
“Hey! I can’t see what’s happening!” Arturo complained. Big Billy lifted him up so that he could get a better view of the scene.
“Why don’t we do it right here?” Angela suggested seductively as the sketchy guy’s eyes began to widen.
Angela got down on her knees and began sliding her hands below the guy’s belt. The sketchy guy was noticeably getting more and more excited.
“Shouldn’t we help her? This can’t end well,” Arturo said.
“She said she knew what she was doin’,” Ace replied, only half sure of himself.
“I can’tssss watch,” Snake said fearfully as he covered his eyes.
“Oh God, Angie,” Ace shuddered.
“Oops, I almost forgot,” Angela said innocently. “You need to pay me first.”
The sketchy guy reached into his pocket for his wallet. When he looked up, Angela had disappeared into the night.
Angela found the gang in the alleyway, all of them looking extremely relieved upon seeing her unscathed. She walked over with a freak grin on her lips.
“Don’t do that!” Ace scolded.
“Don’t do what? Don’t trick a really horny guy into thinking I'm a prostitute so I can steal his wallet and get away?” Angela asked as she held up the sketchy guy’s wallet. “Man, I'm so good at this, I'm shocked!”
“You know what, you ain’t so bad, kid,” Ace admitted. “That was brilliant.” The other guys agreed, even Grubber expressed it by blowing a series of lively raspberries. “Now come on, let’s go home.”
Later that night, as the rest of the gang was sound asleep in the shack at the dump, Angela was wide awake. Normally she fell asleep at the drop of a hat, but not tonight. She shivered a little. She was used to sleeping in a luxurious, queen-sized bed with warm comforters instead of on an inflatable mattress with torn up, dirty blankets. Instead of her warm bedroom, she was in a chilly, poorly heated shack with five guys she really didn’t know very well and would probably turn on her at any given moment.
Yet at the same time, she never felt more at home. This was the thrill and adventure her heart had been seeking all her life. Always being the bull in the china shop at boarding school and charm school, and her randomness and prankster ways constantly getting her in trouble at home, this was the place where Angela could really be herself. Even if she was pretending to be somebody else.
She turned over as the light of the crescent September moon shone through the cracks in the ceiling. Across the room, Big Billy was on a box-spring mattress as he snored loud enough for the walls to shake. The mattress creaked under his weight. Angela’s eyes continued to wander. Grubber, on the other hand, merely blew a series of long raspberries. He slept standing up. Angela had never seen anything so weird in her life. In the dresser, Arturo dozed as his fists pumped rapidly. He must’ve been dreaming about fighting somebody. Snake hissed in his sleep. He slept under a heaping pile of blankets at the far end of the room. He constantly complained about the room being too cold. Chances were, he was as cold-blooded as his namesake.
Angela’s eyes locked on Ace, asleep on the only sofa in the room. He slept sitting with his hands behind his head. Even asleep, he still tried to remain as cool and composed as always. And yet, he still left his shades on, too. How Angela longed to know what those eyes were like. She adored every little thing about him, from his nasally Italian-New Yorker accent to the way he used Snake as a punching bag. Even down to the fact that he still thought he was cool even though he had a terribly tacky sense of fashion. Seriously, yellow bell-bottoms and an orange and blue vest just don’t match. Angela loved the rush of blood from her heart to hear brain every time she was with him. The feeling excited her. It made her over-the-moon giddy. She had never felt that way about anyone before. She constantly annoyed him only because he was downright cute when he was mad. When he told her that she wasn’t so bad, she could hardly contain her joy. Those words continued to echo over and over in her brain.
Oh yes. This was home for her.