Felton’s kidnapper wore red gloves and black everything else. The kidnapper peeled off a black ski mask, revealing plump red cheeks peeking out between shaggy black hair and a thick black beard.
Felton spoke, more exasperated than scared. “I told you, I can’t pronounce bor-geen-gon.”
“It’s not that hard! Boor-gee-nyawn. Boor-gee-nyawn. Move your mouth more nimbly.” The kidnapper told Felton to refer to him as Bourguignon.
“Can I just call you Beef? Or B?”
“Shut up!” the kidnapper said, slamming his hand down on the metal table. The smack reverberated around the empty room. Felton and his kidnapper were in a big bare metal encased room—no windows—in an abandoned building on the outskirts of the city. Felton sat on the floor with his arms pinned slightly behind him, tied tightly to the metal legs of a metal chair bolted to the black carpeted floor.
“I want the passwords,” the kidnapper repeated.
“I told you I don’t have them, Bor-gon-gon.”
“Oh for goodness sake!” A line of spit launched from the kidnapper’s mouth.
A few weeks before the kidnapping, Felton began working at VM Bank. Ever since Felton joined VM’s compliance team, he felt like someone was following him. “I’m sure you’re just being paranoid,” Felton’s good friend and old co-worker at the Securities and Exchange Commission had told him. Felton spent many years as a bank regulator for the federal government before his new gig at VM.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Felton told his friend. But then the night came, when Bourguignon finally grabbed him off the street. Clasping a rag of chemicals over Felton’s face a block away from Felton’s home, Bourguignon dragged the limp banker away from the empty suburban sidewalk. Bourguignon paced in zig zags. Felton’s vision was hazy. He tracked the kidnapper’s zig zags by the red gloves going this way and that way.
The pacing continued. “How do you not know? They’re your passwords for your work accounts? I’m getting into the VM network, you hear? And you’re going to help.” Felton had already explained this once, but Bourguignon was too frustrated to accept his response.
“My…my passwords are on some…some… password storage program. I don’t know a single one,” Felton said, now stuttering in fear.
“Not a single one?”
“No. They’re all just randomly generated strings of letters, numbers and…and symbols for security.”
“You must think that’s real cute, huh?”
“Why would I?”
“It’s cute to say it’s for security while it’s preventing me from getting the passwords, isn’t it?”
“I didn’t think so,” Felton said in a confused whimper.
“This password storage program or whatever: What’s it called?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?!?” the kidnapper exclaimed even more incredulously.
“I only started working there 3 weeks ago, and…and all of these online password protectors sound the same.”
“That’s not going to cut it.” The kidnapper zig zagged quickly over to Felton. “There is evil to eradicate, and you must not stand in the way.”
Bourguignon held up a black device with a glowing tip in his tight right red fist.
“Please, no!” Felton braced himself for the taser. “Don’t hurt me!”
“Shut up,” the kidnapper mumbled as he forced the electric end into Felton.
“No! he he heee.” Felton began to giggle. “he he he.”
“Now can you think of the name of the password protector?”
“Uh, yeah…I can try, yeah. What is that thing?”
“It’s a tickle taser.”
“Tickle some answers out of you.” Bourguignon plodded back to the metal table slowly, in a zig zag. “OK, the name of the password protector? Let’s go.”
“Maybe… LockedOn?” Felton wondered. The kidnapper clacked quickly at the keyboard.
“Rock climbing, podcast, real estate B2B solutions,” the kidnapper read from search results. “No. Not it. Try again.”
“Locksmith. Podcast. Blah blah. No!”
“Sylvester Stallone film. Exploitative TV series about incarceration in America. Nope.”
“Come on. That’s a lock company.”
“You really want to protect your big bad bank, don’t you? Real company man. Cares about the bank. You’ll risk your life for VM bank?”
“No, I don’t care. Please. I don’t care about the bank. I just don’t remember the name of this wretched password thing.”
“Don’t you have it on your phone?”
“You said you threw my phone in a river.”
“There’s no river anywhere near here.”
“A lake?” Felton asked.
“I said ‘pond.’”
“No, no, no. I don’t know!”
“You just kidnapped me. How do you not know what you did with my phone?”
“I just can’t remember.”
“—maybe you’re… in over your head with this. And I clearly don’t have the bank passwords. Maybe you just let me go and forget about tonight?” The kidnapper’s eyes got wide. He was completely still, standing over the laptop. He was in a trance.
“I simply cannot fail. I’ve been sent by a higher power. For the greater good.”
“Mercury has sent me here to punish you and your bank.”
“Mercury, God of Commerce, has tasked me with preserving the integrity of our city’s commerce!”
“Oh….” Felton laughed nervously. His swirling emotions of fear, exasperation, and confusion now birthed a deep worry that he was dealing with some sort of cultist or mad man. “Well… the, um, God of Commerce couldn’t have sent you to me. I’m just a random guy.”
“Nothing is random.”
“How would my passwords help… preserve the integrity….um… never mind. I don’t have the passwords. So, please… maybe just let me go?”
“No. We’re going to the bank.” The kidnapper’s red gloves and plump red cheeks floated towards Felton. As the floating red bits got closer, zigging and zagging, Felton noticed a sheen jutting from the left glove, a shining pointed tip at the end. The kidnapper was finally close enough—Felton could see it was a curved sword.
“Bo-gin-gin, no! Please!”
“What do you think of this samurai sword?” Bourguignon asked with delight. “I just bought it. Authentic.” Felton exhaled with a guarded bit of relief. “First time I’ve been able to carry it out on a mission.”
“It’s… it’s nice? It’s nice. It’s nice.”
“Thank you. I love it.” Bourguignon did a few battle poses with the sword. “It’s cool.”
He placed the sword on the ground with a light clank clank. He pulled a small dagger from his ankle and began cutting the wire binding Felton’s arms to the chair. “This one is not authentic. It’s from Dick’s sporting goods.”
“We’re going to the bank now.”
“Some of this feels very professional, other parts… I don’t know, odd, clumsy…”
“That’s how things are sometimes,” the kidnapper muttered before zapping Felton with the tickle taser once more.
“He he hee.”
The kidnapper cut the wire off Felton’s other arm and tied his wrists behind his back. He packed his laptop, taped Felton’s mouth shut, and hoisted his captive over his shoulder.
Felton was face down in the backseat of the kidnapper’s car. Bourguignon drove as sirens blared past. “Phew,” he sighed. “Thought those sirens might be coming for me for a sec. Ah, Mercury is protecting me. I really shouldn’t worry.”
“Is anyone protecting me?” Felton managed to get out, mouth partially covered by peeling tape and seat cushion.
“You’ve relented protection!” The kidnapper said angrily, banging on the steering wheel. “You’ve sinned! VM Bank has sinned! That’s why I am here!”
“I don’t know what I’ve done. Please.”
“That’s part of the problem.”
“I’m a good, well-meaning person.”
“Pah! PAH! The same was said by every evil person throughout history.”
“I’m not evil,” Felton sniveled.
“Shut up now. We’re almost at VM.”
Bourguignon had trouble parallel parking in a large spot. He had to pull out of the spot twice. “I think I can get in on this try. This has never been my forte.”
“What is your forte?”
“Upholding a strict moral code, probably.”
After another thirty-eight laborious seconds, the kidnapper got in the spot. “Can you poke your head out and see if I’m too far from the curb?”
“You’ve tied me up, Boubiglion.”
“Ah, yes of course.” The kidnapper got out and walked around to the passenger side. He nodded, looking pleased. He walked back around and poked his head in the open driver’s door with a thumbs up. “We’re good.”
The wide street was lined with department stores, office buildings, fancy boutiques, and VM Bank. It was 2 AM on Wednesday morning. Dim streetlights spotted the quiet throughfare.
“What do you think,” the kidnapper started, “throw some coins in the meter or chance it?”
“No street parking meters, anywhere, ever, require you to pay at this time of night,” Felton said very deliberately out of the side of his mouth.
“Oh right, good call. Thanks, you saved me a buck or two.” Felton stared at the kidnapper, annoyed that this person managed to kidnap him.
Bourguignon opened the back door of the car and pulled Felton up to shuffle beside him towards the bank’s entrance. ATM screens flashed in front of a vast lobby of cubicles and offices, all with plexiglass walls. A center of empty space laid before a counter of eight teller windows. A locked gate separated the ATMs from the rest of the bank.
“I’m almost in, Mercury,” the ski-masked kidnapper spoke excitedly into his cell phone. “Almost.” The kidnapper pulled out Felton’s VM debit card. The green light flashed. The kidnapper swung the door open and flung Felton into one of the ATMs. “Do you know your password for the gate?” the kidnapper asked.
“I told you, I don’t know any passwords!”
“Hah. I’m just kidding. I’m going to use these spirit crystals to disable the cyber locks.”
“Huh?” The kidnapper shoved a handful of crystal rods into a keypad on the wall, the keypad began smoking, and the gate lifted. “Uhh can’t you use this dark magic to gain access to my accounts?”
“It’s heavenly powers, not dark magic. And no.”
Standing in the middle of the large white circle of floor in front of the teller windows, the kidnapper spoke again: “Take me to the vault.”
“I thought you wanted my passwords.”
“Now, I want your password to the vault.”
“I’m just a compliance guy. I don’t have any passwords, or codes, or combinations or whatever for the damn vault! I have nothing to do with the vault.”
“You have everything to do with the vault.”
Suddenly, a new energy flooded the space. The two felt something, or someone, coming towards them.
“I see you’ve met Bourguignon,” the new voice uttered.
“Mercury!” the kidnapper yelped excitedly.
Felton turned around to face the new presence. “Leliana?” he sputtered.
“No. It’s Mercury, God of Commerce. I just said that,” the kidnapper asserted.
“Bourbango, this is my daughter, Leliana. Not the God of Commerce.”
“You don’t really know that for sure, dad. I could be the God of Commerce.”
Leliana stood three yards from the two men, forming an invisible isosceles triangle. 24 years old, tight brown curls, dark purple lipstick, blue jeans, white Keds, and a short sleeve yellow t-shirt with baby blue polka dots contrasted with the kidnapper’s all black get up and Felton’s crumpled suit.
“Mercury, it’s me,” the kidnapper said. “It’s me: Bourguignon.”
“I know that. I just said your name.”
“Leliana, did you plan this with this guy? Bourbingbing.”
“You’re not even trying anymore,” the kidnapper lamented. “Boor-gee-nyawn.”
“I told you not to take this job,” Leliana said plainly.
“So, you have me kidnapped?!”
“In ancient times, commerce had dignity,” she said.
“I thought you were locked up in your room looking for jobs. Or writing. Or listening to podcasts—”
“Pondcasts?” Bourguignon interjected.
“That’s not a thing!” Felton shouted.
“Was this what you were spending your time on?” Felton continued to Leliana.
“Commerce was honest then. Not like today.”
“How do you know what business was like in ancient times?”
“Because she’s Mercury,” the kidnapper replied.
“She is not Mercury! She is my daughter!”
“The gods can take many forms,” the kidnapper continued.
“He’s right, dad.”
“Can you just stop this, Leli? We can go home and talk about it.”
“We did talk about it. At least, I talked about it to you. I told you again and again that taking this job was wrong. But you didn’t hear me.”
“Leli, can you pass the asparagus?”
“Can you not take this new job? I think it’s wrong.”
“Then, can you pass the sweet potato hash and roast beef.”
“Dad, are you listening to me?”
“Sorry, Leli, I have a lot of bank regulations on my mind. What did you say?”
“Sounds like a great dinner,” Bourguignon gushed.
“Shut up, you,” Leliana sneered.
“I guess I didn’t hear you. But this was the next step in my career, honey. This is how it goes for most people like me. It’s just—”
“Evil!” Leliana screamed, interrupting Felton, pointing her index finger and outstretched arm at her father. “Greed!”
“Corruption!” the kidnapper joined in. He shoved Felton.
“I am but a man,” Felton offered, head hanging. “I am but a man.”
“You are but a man with choices. We all have choices. We all have decisions to make. You have simply ignored questions of right and wrong in favor of platitudes and ambition.” Leliana lifted off of the ground and floated up several feet above her father. She pointed her index finger at him once more. “It’s over,” and she sent a bolt of buzzing blue electricity at Felton. Instantly, he exploded into millions of flecks of nothing.
Bourguignon stared slack jawed. Leliana smiled. “A long time coming,” she said.
“You really can zap people. And you really can fly,” the kidnapper marveled.
“It’s called levitating, Bozobuignon,” she sneered as she zapped a deathly bolt just to the left of the kidnapper. “If you screw up so much again, you’ll be dust too.”
“Yes, Mercury. Yes, of course,” Bourguignon said kneeling on the ground in gratitude.
Leliana lowered back to the ground. She swiveled her head surveying the bank lobby. Her Keds clomped the floor as she moved slowly all around the cubicles under the bright white fluorescent lights. Bourguignon remained knelt in the middle of the lobby in silence.
“We have a lot of work to do, you know?” Leliana called out to Bourguignon. “We are a crusade.”
Bourguignon stood up and spotted his leader across the lobby. “Can I use my samurai sword next time?”
“Bozo, we need to get the money out of the vault. Now.”
“I thought we wanted passwords.”
Leliana pinched the bridge of her nose. “That ship has sailed, guy. He didn’t have the passwords. Now, we need to get the money from the vault to punish VM.”
“So, get the rest of the spirit crystals! We need to see if they’ll burn this vault open.”
“Yes, yes, I’ll run back out to the car and get more crystals.”
“We need to get to work.”
“Of course, Mercury, of course.”
“And can you bring me my father’s phone when you fetch the rods?”
“Oh, I think I threw that in a river.”
“A river? There’s no river around here.”
Arthur Tarley is a writer, activist, and union member originally from Queens, New York. His work has appeared in Current Affairs. He’s currently working on his as yet unpublished novel, Built Upon Freedom.