This story was written for the Reedsy contest "Genre-Blending".
More specifically by the prompt: "Write a magical realism story that takes place in the Wild West."
The Masked Bandit
A man can only mourn so much.
The sheriff had given me the week off after my partner’s funeral, but I reported back for duty three days later. Crime doesn’t rest; neither should I.
My partner Ken and I had been chasing the masked bandit for many months. Last week, we almost had him. I could have sworn we hit him with at least one of our bullets, but the villain shot back. It was my partner who bit the dust.
“I’ve found you a new partner,” the sheriff says when I show up at the office, “He’s from out of town. I’ll introduce him to you, but let me warn you: whatever you say, don’t mention the LEGO® movie.”
“The LEGO® movie?” I ask.
“The LEGO® movie!” he confirms.
The sheriff opens the door to the old office I used to share with Ken and points at my partner’s corner: “There he is.”
At first sight, there’s no one in the room. I only see a Playmobil® figurine sitting on my partner’s chair.
“Are you saying my new partner is a Playmobil® cowboy?” I ask.
“A Playmobil® deputy can be as good a partner as a human deputy,” the sheriff answers, “Haven’t you seen the Playmobil® movie?”
“No one has seen that movie,” I reply, “It was a total box-office bomb. It came nowhere near the success of the movie I’m not allowed to mention.”
The sheriff gives me an angry look, but the toy cowboy smiles at me.
“Rest assure, I was made for this line of work,” he says, “Look, I have a star printed on my chest.”
“He’s from Playmoville,” the sheriff explains, “He claims he can help us unmask the masked bandit.”
“I sure can,” the tiny plaything says as he holds out his hand, “You must be Barbie. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. Actually, my name is Christophe Barbu,” I say while we shake hands, “I’m from Frenchtown, but everyone over here calls me Barbie.”
“I know,” the freshly arrived deputy says, “I’ve been told they call you Barbie because of your pink sa…”
I interrupt him immediately: “I’m called Barbie because my real name is Barbu, not because of my saddle bags. I like my saddle bags. They’re damn good saddle bags!”
“Oh, I must have been misinformed,” the new partner that is forced upon me says, “Are you telling me your saddle bags aren’t pink?”
“They aren’t pink, they’re rose!” I clarify, “They were on sale. I did a great bargain.”
“Whatever you say,” the presumptuous playmothing says, “My name is Richard Dickens; people call me Dick.”
“I bet they do,” I grunt.
“Listen,” Dick says, “I want to catch the masked bandit as much as you do. I already have a man on the inside. He told me the masked bandit will be at the masked ball in the saloon tonight. My informer is waiting for me to join him in the back alley. He can reveal the identity of the man who killed Ken.”
“Are you up to the job, Barbie?” the sheriff asks, “Are you ready to accompany your partner to catch that murdering scoundrel?”
“I sure am,” I say.
Dick winks at me: “Come on Barbie, let’s go party!”
A man is lying on the ground in the back alley. He has one hole too many in his head.
“This is Good News,” Dick sighs.
“That’s a strange way to put it,” I reply, “I’d rather say it’s bad news.”
“It is bad news,” my new partner says, “This is my informer; his name was Good News.”
“It looks like his cover was blown,” I say.
I inspect the body. Good News’ pockets are empty, but I discover a small object in his hand.
“Look,” I say, “A clue!”
“That’s not a clue,” Dick says, “That’s a LEGO® brick.”
“The brick is the clue,” I say, “I think I know what it means, but I’m not sure yet. Let’s cover our faces and go to the masked ball.”
Dick takes a lone ranger mask from his saddle bag and puts it on.
“You surely like pink,” he laughs when I cover my face with a colorful bandana.
“It’s not pink,” I grumble, “It’s fuchsia.”
The room is full of honky-tonk music and dancing cowboys when we enter the saloon. I lift Dick from the floor and place him on the bar so that he doesn’t get trodden upon.
“Everyone is wearing a mask,” the little fellow says, “There’s no way of telling the difference between a normal cowboy having a good time and the outlaw who murdered my informer and your partner.”
“Wait and see,” I say.
I move to the dance floor making wild gestures, trying to step on as many toes as possible.
“Watch out, you fool!” one cowboy shouts after the other, until I step on the toe of a masked fellow who doesn’t flinch. I use my heel to stamp harder, but the man doesn’t show any sign of pain. When I take a closer look, I see bullet holes in his shirt, but there’s no blood. Then I look him in the eyes. Two blue, emotionless eyeballs stare back. I instantly know they don’t see me.
“Can I have this dance from you, cowboy?” I ask politely.
I don’t wait for an answer. I grab the masked body by the waist, and I waltz through the room with it. There is laughter all over. Although I’m masked everyone recognizes me; I guess it’s because of my fashionable outfit. The crowd is chanting my name: “Barbie! Barbie! Barbie!”
My dancing partner has no other choice than to play along. I pretend to be drunk, but I make sure my ballroom babe can’t reach his revolver. I lead him towards the exit, where we fall through the swinging doors. Dick is the only one who follows us outside. Inside the party continues unabated. We’re already forgotten. No one cares about two wasted party animals leaving the scene to get some fresh air.
“You have the right to remain silent,” I say, while I disarm my suspect.
“Why do you think this man is the masked bandit?” Dick asks after I’ve finished reading the bandit’s rights.
“He almost had me fooled too,” I say, “but this man is not a man. It’s a dummy controlled by a much smaller being.”
“A smaller being?” Dick says, “Are you saying the bandit is a Playmovillain?”
“Even worse!” I say, and I remove the mask that covers the dummy’s face.
Dick can’t hide his surprise: “The bandit is from LEGO® City!”
The open mouth of the dummy reveals a small control centrum. It is manned by a LEGO® figurine.
“This explains why our shots didn’t hurt him,” I say, “The body was nothing more than a complex hull controlled by this miniature criminal.”
Dick extracts our yellow opponent from his command post and cuffs him.
“What gave him away?” he asks.
“It was the clue of your informer that gave me the idea,” I reply.
“That wasn’t a clue,” Dick says, “It was a LEGO® brick!”
We both burst out laughing.
“Let’s bring him in,” I say.
“Let’s do that,” Dick says, “Barbie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.”
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