Messenger In a Bottle

Cue: Use a bottle of ketchup in your story.
Word limit: 1000
Deadline: Wed Nov. 23rd 9PM EST

Castagere hunkered down behind the parapet of the ten-story walk-up as he watched the two shadowy figures slink into the back entrance of the nondescript Thai restaurant across the street. He grinned. The effort he’d put forth baiting these two-bit thieves with promises of an easy score had paid off. Tonight was the endgame; he was getting his life back.

They had parked a rental car six blocks to the north and humped their gear to the staging point at the rear of the restaurant. Through the walls, he watched them change into jumpsuits and masks, load their weapons, and stow their tools in a pack in preparation for the midnight assault on Sybil Williams’ apartment.

He stood, stretching, preparing himself to utilize the skills he had honed over millennia, through countless chases and battles, to make sure these thieves didn’t complete their mission. Turning, he studied the rooftop; to the south stood a wall, rising two stories to the penthouse.

63 Feet. There’s plenty of room, he though, mentally measuring the distance he would have to cover at full speed.

He reached behind his back and adjusted the scimitar strapped between his shoulder blades, then pulled his keffiyeh over his mouth and nose so only his eyes shown in the pale moonlight. He crouched and slid the Sig P226 from his ankle holster and pulled back the slide to make sure a round was chambered. Just in case. Adjusting a few more straps, he raised his head and peered back over the edge; through the cinderblock walls he could see thieves moving into the stairwell. He had about sixty seconds.

He crossed to the opposite side of the roof, stopping at the brick wall; he set his right foot in the crease between the wall and the ballasted roof, his left foot just in front of his body, and crouched down with his knuckles digging into on the rock in front him, as if a sprinter preparing for the hundred-yard dash. This would be easier if he had a hundred yards.

Here goes nothing.

With a grunt, he sprang out of his stance, kicking up the cinder ballast and sprinted across the roof faster than any human, launching himself off the edge of the roof, floating into the void over West 48th Street.

With nearly ten feet to spare, he landed hard on the roof over Mrs. Williams residence, rolling to a stop next to the metal door leading down the same stairwell that Sid and Jack were still climbing. Castagere adjusted his vision, looking through the walls and floors; he could see them still huffing up the stairs, about 30 seconds from reaching the front door of the apartment.

The ability to see heat signatures through solid buildings was a gift, of sorts, given to him by an old master; a wizard he had served nearly eight centuries before. The Wizard had been profoundly afraid of an honorable Knight he had double-crossed; the treachery had cost the Knight both his wife and young child, and he had been hell-bent on revenge. So, the Wizard had demanded that Castagere track down and kill the Knight. The ability to see through walls was bestowed upon him to ensure that he had every advantage. It came in handy, no doubt; however, the moral dilemma made him sick, even to this day. But, this was his most sacred duty, the essence of his race – to fulfill his masters’ wishes regardless of something as vague and shifty as morality.

With a light twist, Castagere tore the lock from the door and started down the stairs, taking two at a time, slipping silently onto the eighth floor, just outside the apartment. He leaned against the wall, less than five feet from the door to the apartment, and vaporized.


Sid and Jack crept out of the stairwell door moments later, crouching and shuffling their way down the hall to the apartment door.

“Get out the popper,” Sid whispered.

“No, let’s pick it, she ain’t home and we don’t want to wake the old ladies neighbors,” said Jack, reaching into the pack.

“Fine, whatever. Just hurry up before someone comes out looking for Geritol.”

Jack pulled out the bump-lock kit he had made the night before and set to work. Sid sat on his heels, leaning against the frame of the doorway as Jack worked, and kept watch; looking up and down the hallway, his eyes swiveling back and forth, searching.

Bump. Bump.

“Damn it,” hissed Jack. “It ain’t working.”


“Come on, just pop the damn thing then, we’ll be in an out in less than sixty seconds. No cop going to get here that fast if they don’t know we’re here,” said Sid.


Jack threw the bump-lock into the pack and took out a twelve-inch, black crow-bar. Jamming it into the door frame, just above the lock, he looked at Sid and nodded his head once. Jack lifted his right hand, holding up three fingers and mouthed, “In three. Three…two…one.”

The door opened, triggering the klaxons as the floodlights came on in the hallway and foyer to Mrs. Williams’ apartment.

“What!” screamed Sid. “He said the joint wasn’t wired! Move, move, move, let’s get the diamond and get the hell out.”

They ducked inside, quickly, running through the foyer, turning right at the coat stand; past three doors on the left, they turned right; two more doors, then they took the second one into the study.

“Under the desk,” Sid said as each of them grabbed one side of the desk and slid it roughly across the wood floor, gouging the ancient oak as a thin mist of white vapor collected silently above them.

“36-24-18-4-6,” said Jack, as Sid wrenched open the panel covering the safe.

Sid started twisting the dial when he felt the intense pressure of someone, some thing, grabbing the back of neck and squeezing very hard. Suddenly, his head jerked forward, smashing into Jack’s skull, everything going black.


“Wow. That was easier than I thought,” said Castagere, shaking his head.

He kneeled beside the unconscious thieves, pushing Sid’s leg off the lid to the safe. Closing his eyes, he held his hand over the hi-tech locking mechanism, softly chanting in ancient Sanskrit. The digital readout began glowing, a brilliant, electric blue, as smoke wafted from the seams around the panel. As the tumblers slid into place, Castegere closed his hand over the handle and opened the safe.

Inside he found a red folder, thirty-thousand dollars wrapped in three bundles, a box of jewelry, and two compact discs. He stuffed the CD’s and the folder into his jacket then leaned over to Jack.

“Sorry, mate. I hate to set you two up like this, but I had to make this look like a robbery. You’ll be out in a few months, no problem,” said Castagere, patting him on the chest. The sirens could be heard approaching from the south. He had ninety seconds before the cops were in the room.

He stood, pulled two blank CD’s from his pocket, bent them gingerly just until they cracked and were unreadable, then tucked them into Jack’s inside pocket. He stuffed ten-thousand dollars into the back pocket of each man and the rest of the cash, along with the jewelry, into the pack they had waiting by the door.

Satisfied the scene was arranged well enough to fool the police, he walked over to the window, slid the lock open and cracked the window an inch – just enough to let some air into the room. He pulled the folder from his jacket, opened the cover and quickly flipped through the pages. The documents were there. This is exactly what he needed to end this nightmare. By morning, he would be rid of his nitwit master once and for all.

Tucking the folder back into his jacket one last time, Castagere vaporized again, floating out through the crack in the window.


“Hello, Thadeaus,” Said Castagere, re-materializing in the kitchen he’d called home for many months.

Tad sat at the table, scarfing down his morning protein; three eggs, over easy, mixed with a 1/2-cup of black beans, cilantro, and one teaspoon of Rooster Sauce – all washed down with a whey shake. It must be eaten within thirty minutes of waking up, or Tad would get cranky.

“It’s Tad, not Thadeaus” he said, through a mouth full of eggs. “I hate it when you just float in like that. I’ll never get used to it.”

“Yes, well. That shouldn’t be a concern for you much longer. I’ve got something for you.”

“What? I have yoga in fifteen minutes, so make it quick.”

Castegere tossed the folder onto the table and set the CD’s on top.

“Your grandmother’s financial records are on the CD’s, and your grandfather’s will, rest his soul, is in the red folder,” Said Castagere, as he walked to the refrigerator.

“What?” said Tad, his eyes wide. His fork, full of eggs, hung in the air near his mouth as he stared at Castagere, slowly realizing what was happening. “What? No.”

Tad dropped the fork on his plate and grabbed the folder, wrenched it open, and began reading the first page as Castagere opened the refrigerator door, rummaging inside.

“Blah, blah, last will and testament…What did you do, you puffer? This isn’t my third wish,” he screamed, jabbing the paper with his finger, eggs spewing from his mouth. “It’s not. I didn’t wish for this!”

“I’m a Genie you twit, not a puffer. And, yes; that was three. Last month, as I was resting in my bottle, I heard you in here with Jenny Harrington.”

“No! I was just…just talking. I was drunk. It was a party, we were just talking. Twit?”

“Yes, twit. Now that I am free of my bond, I don’t have to deal in niceties any longer. Drunk or not, you made a wish,” said Castagere, pulling a piece of paper out his pocket, then reading it aloud; “And I quote, ‘Oh, man. I wish I had that geezer’s will and that wretched Sybil’s financials. I know for a fact that he didn’t leave me his crappy set of golf clubs. AND, she has plenty of money to get me through Harvard next year.’ There is more, but it is superfluous and my time here is at an end.”

Castagere leaned into the refrigerator, pulled out his Heinz 57 bottle, and tucked it into his pocket while Tad sat, mouth agape.

“A ketchup bottle? Your…your Genie lamp is a Heinz 57 bottle?”

“Yes, it is. Recycling is so common nowadays that it was inevitable that someone would recycle my original lamp. And, well – here it is,” Castagere said, patting his pocket.

“Then – how did I?” said Tad, trailing off.

Castagere sighed. “This is so embarrassing; your mom bought me at Kroger, on sale no less, and brought me here. One night you were out drinking with Chaz and you brought home an order of French fries. You got into a heated discussion about which of you two were going to, and I quote again, ‘Do Jenny Harrington first’. In an effort to illustrate what you’d do, you stroked my bottle three times,” said Castagere through clenched teeth.

Then, without another word, the Genie vanished, leaving Tad to his protein.


F3 Cycle 57 – Playing Catch-up [Link]

Cross posted to [Link]

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