Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 17
“Uh-oh! Uh-oh!! Uh-oh!!!”
“What? What is it?” Mullins came running. The sound of the food tray clattering on the floor had been a bad sign. The “Uh-oh!”s might as well have been written in neon tubing with bells on.
“It’s Count Erfitter,” said Harris. “Or…I mean…it’s not.”
Mullins took a look through the bars of the cell. “Oh geez.” He breathed in through his teeth. “Oh geez. Oh man. We are so fired.”
“Hey, hey, let’s not go nuts. We’ve let plenty of supervillains escape before and Warden Burt’s always been remarkably understanding about it.”
“Yeah, but they had psychic powers or robot tentacles or acid pee! This guy had…he had…” Mullins gestured to the thing standing in the cell. “What even is this?”
“I think it’s pizza boxes, mostly?” Harris squinted at it. “There’s some toilet paper in there too. And I think the eyes are blue M&Ms and toothpaste.”
Mullins put his head in his hands. “We are so fired.”
“To be fair, I don’t think anybody could have anticipated he’d be able to stockpile that much cinnamon chewing gum. And he was known for his cardboard cutouts.”
“Yeah! When he had a full set of paints and hours to use them! But I wouldn’t have thought you’d be so easily fooled by something he cobbled together with bits from the guards’ lounge bin!”
“In my defence, it’s pretty convincing at a glance.”
“No it isn’t!”
“Yes it is. Look, it even talks!”
“That’s a speech bubble, Harris! When was the last time you said something and the words came out of your mouth scrawled in ketchup on the back of a cereal box?”
“Well, there was last year’s Christmas Party.”
“I thought we’d agreed to never speak of that again.”
For a moment, the two of them simply stood there in silence, watching Count Erfitter’s left eye slide down his cheek.
Mullins said nothing.
Harris said nothing.
Count Erfitter said “Salut, mon ami!” but technically he hadn’t stopped saying that since it’d been stuck on the oval-shaped bit of card next to his suspiciously square and corrugated face.
“Okay, serious talk: would it look better or worse if we’d just found the cell empty?”
“What, like he didn’t bother with a decoy and just did a runner?”
“Better. Definitely better.”
“Okay.” Mullins shook out a black bin bag. “I’ll chuck this thing in the dumpster, you…punch yourself in the face or something. Just tell the warden he got the drop on you when you went in to give him his food.”
“Hey! Why do I have to be the one to punch myself in the face!”
“Because you were the one who was supposed to go in the cell and if you don’t punch yourself I’ll do it for you!”
Mullins stepped inside the cell and took one last look at the hastily-constructed junk effigy of Count Erfitter before sweeping it into the black bag. He tutted. “Seriously, man, this is just embarrassing.”
Mullins carried the bag down the stairs, out the back, and heaved it into the dumpster by the prison wall. It was a thankless job at the best of times—dangerous, poorly paid, and with nowhere near enough support from city hall—but sometimes, every once in a while, he wondered if he and Harris were to blame with the steady stream of supervillains escaping their custody. Well, Harris anyway. Basically just Harris.
He turned to walk back to the cell block, and as he did so he spotted Warden Burt running towards him waving his arms. That too was a bad sign. That was the sort of bad sign that couldn’t be any clearer if it was written in blood, set on fire, and Godzilla was spinning it around with its tiny dinosaur arms.
“That was Count Erfitter!” yelled Warden Burt. “You just binned Count Erfitter!”
Mullins turned around to discover that the pizza box, toilet roll and chewing gum dummy had torn free of the binbag and was now climbing the prison wall.
“Au revoir!” he called, as he vanished over the other side.
“Oh…” said Mullins, as Burt finally reached the dumpster. “That’s not good.”
“Captain Caulk is coming to check on the prisoner in ten minutes,” said Burt, still catching his breath. “We’re all so fired.”
“Not necessarily.” Mullins reached into the dumpster and picked out a distressingly squashy watermelon.
Warden Burt stared at it.
“So we draw a face on this and stick it in the bed…”
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
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