“The Leatherettes”

(2012 – 829 Words)

This story began as a challenge to write dystopian chick-lit. I went one better. This is Philip K. Dick Chick-Lit.

Sabine carried her arsenal in a Fendi handbag: taser, pepper spray, c4, detonators, and doorknobs. Lots of doorknobs. With the bag’s thick leather handles, she could get a good swing, clock a girlie out cold at three paces. That’s how the Leatherettes rolled.

Some grannies strutted in Italian heels in broad daylight, grandfathered in. As they kicked the bucket, the state burned it all. The valley girls became alley girls. They ran the streets at night, stealing and dealing antiques: illegal leather goods.

Half a year Sabine strong-armed for Cindy Beluski. Now she wanted to open her own cosmetics line. Animal products: hard to get, hard to trace, and always in demand. They’d make a killing, but first they had to take out the Bimbinos’ operation. Sabine gripped the Fendi, ready to crash their party in a shady back-alley tanning parlor.

“Ready?” said Cindy, clicking closed her little black Chanel. She couldn’t sling it without breaking the delicate chain handle. She didn’t have to. She earned that bag roughing up a Ragdoll on Hollywood Boulevard, clawed her way to the top without breaking a nail.

“Set,” said Beth, the gang’s geek. She backed away from the steel door. They crouched behind a dumpster as she set off the charge. One poof blew the door an inch ajar, another cut the power.

Sabine pulled up her Oakleys. She promised herself something more fashionable after this run, but they cut the light better than anything. With eyes adjusted to darkness, they had the advantage in this “pillow fight.”

“Go,” Cindy yelled.

Sabine swung the door open, and the Leatherettes charged. The Bimbinos crawled from their tanning booths, slinging off sunglasses and blinking dumbly in the dark.

“How many blondes does it take to change a lightbulb?” Beth catcalled, brandishing her bag like a morningstar.

A manicured talon missed Sabine’s face by inches as she stepped aside. She tripped the blind Bimbino, who said, “Oh no, you d—” Whump. The bag went down on her neck, catching a whirlwind of bleached hair on its handle. The girl crumpled.

Someone had Cindy in a headlock. Sabine stepped over to reach her, but Beth came up behind and beaned the Bimbino with a Burberry. She let go, and Cindy drove a black patent pump into the girl’s gut.

An electric ocelot leapt from a tanning booth’s top. Sabine spun like a hammer thrower. The Fendi’s arc connected with its ribs, sending it sprawling. It got up, golden eyes reflecting in the dark, and yowled. Cindy took it out with a taser.

A pop and a zap—Cindy convulsed before collapsing. Sabine crouched behind a tanning booth, eyes following a taser wire into the shadows. A light snapped on, wavering over Cindy’s splayed out form. Sabine donned her shades and held breath.

Stilettos clicked in time to a swaggering silhouette. “Darling child,” said a husky voice, “you really oughta know better.”

Sabine pulled out her own taser—you chose to escalate, bitch—and fired. The old Bimbino fell over, following up Cindy’s horizontal tap dance with her own. The handheld floodlight crashed to the floor, illuminating Queen B’s face. Blood dripped from ruby lips onto a white fur collar. A pin on the lapel said, “Fur is murder.” Unconscious, she held her handbag in a death drip. A Prada.

A real Prada.

While Beth wrestled two Bimbinos to the floor, Sabine snatched her prize and bolted for the door. Swinging a bag like that, she could scoop up her own gang. No more small time. She clopped down the alley in hoof-heeled boots, and ran headfirst into a copper.

“Whatcha got there, miss?” He grabbed her arm.

“None a yer business, pig.” She tried to wriggle away. Stuffing a hand in the handbag, she felt lipstick tubes and compacts—nothing useful. Taser for pigs, pepper for creeps, doorknobs for dolls. A girl has to be prepared. She’d left her faithful old Fendi behind.

As the cop dragged her to his car, she knew Queen B’s makeup would get her locked up. She feigned tripping once she reached the curb, tipping the bag’s contents down the gutter. Cosmetics clanged through the grate. A pink lipstick tube settled between rusty metal bars. Sabine stomped it to oblivion before the cop pinned her to the car hood and cuffed her.

She sat in the station, wringing hands. They took her belt and boots, both black vinyl. Those wouldn’t get her into trouble, but after the Fashion Crime Unit processed the Prada, she’d be done for. She might get off light if she squealed. Cindy wouldn’t run her out of town if she fingered the Bimbinos. Never caught before, she could play the new girl—a fresh recruit who lost her head over a handbag. As she silently worked up her angle, they dumped it back in her lap with a, “Keep out of trouble.”

Why are they giving it back? She ran a hand over creme leatherette and grimaced. It’s a fucking knockoff.