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The Mothers

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Casino glared at the Lieutenant. “Oh, no. Uhn Uhn. No chance, Warden. I mean, I’m tellin’ you right now I ain’t gonna do it. You understand me? I ain’t gonna do it. So forget it. Never!”

Actor drove the bakery van slowly around the deserted streets until he found an area of the city that was bombed out. He was able to hide the van down an alley out of sight of the street. They took the babies into a fairly intact room in an old building.

“Goniff,” said Garrison. “I need you to find some women’s clothes that will fit you three.”

“I told you I ain’t doin’ it, Warden,” interrupted Casino.

“I heard you,” said Craig steadily.

Actor looked at Garrison. “I will need to find wigs and makeup.”

Craig nodded.

GGGGG

It was almost light when Goniff and Actor returned. Goniff had two armloads of clothes and Actor was carrying bags of shoes, stockings, wigs, hats and makeup.

“Any problem?” asked Garrison.

“No,” replied Actor, “but the city is swarming with Gestapo.”

Craig handed Goniff’s baby back to the pickpocket. As he and Actor started sorting clothes out by size on a rickety table, he snuck glances at his other men. Goniff looked resigned. Chief had an apprehensive expression. Casino was glaring. All three were holding their babies in maybe not a motherly, but at least a possessive manner.

“Okay,” said Garrison firmly, “get changed.”

“No way, Warden,” objected Casino.

“We need three women with babies,” said Garrison, trying to be patient.

“So why can’t Beautiful do it?” demanded the safecracker. “He can change himself into anything.”

Actor shot Casino a dirty look and began laying out the makeup.

Garrison answered with patient annoyance. “Well, for starters, he’s six foot four and we’d never find a dress to fit him. We’re trying to be inconspicuous and a six foot four woman would stick out like a sore thumb. And I need him as an SS officer.”

“I ain’t wearin’ no dress!” Garrison chewed his lower lip a moment. “If you can’t follow the plan, Casino, then give your baby to either Goniff or Chief.”

That brought an expected cacophony of irate outbursts from the three men. “I’m not takin’ another baby! I ain’t givin’ up my kid! Why do we ‘ave to do it and not ‘im?”

Casino looked at the other two men. If Chief hadn’t had his hands full of kid, the knife would have been out. Even his buddy, Goniff, was glaring at him.

Garrison spoke quietly but firmly, “Casino, get dressed. You’re doing it.”

Never one to give in graciously, the safe cracker handed his baby to the Lieutenant and snatched the pile of clothes off the table. Actor took the two other babies. The infants were laid side-by-side on another table, with Garrison watching them, while the men changed. Actor set himself to getting the makeup in order.

Craig had to keep his back to the makeup process to keep from laughing. He spent an inordinate amount of time inspecting the infants and adjusting clothing. The more he listened to the arguments behind him, the wider his grin became. Actor’s patience was being stretched to the limit. The more aggravated he became, the stronger became the accent.

“Do you ‘ave to cake that stuff on so thick? I can’t move me mouth!”

“Your mouth is moving just fine, Goniff!”

“Hey, Man, go easy with that stuff! I’m gonna look like a clown!”

“Keep it up and that can be arranged!”

“Hey, watch it with the glue!”

“Quit moving!”

“You’re gluin’ my eyes shut!”

“In a minute I’m going to glue your mouth shut!”

Eventually all three “ladies” stood in a fidgety line. Actor was putting the makeup away, muttering to himself in Italian.

“It’ll have to do,” said Garrison.

“It had better,” shot back the con man testily.

Craig eyed his mothers. Goniff looked the most like a woman. He wore a black on black striped skirt and jacket over a white blouse with a cameo necklace. A gray hat with a large black bow in front topped a long blonde wig. Black sling-backed sandals covered his feet. At least he had the legs for it. Chief stood sullenly embarrassed. A long black coat covered a black dress with white circles. A black beret sat jauntily atop a long brunette wig. His legs weren’t too bad. All in all, he would pass. Casino had to be the ugliest woman Garrison had ever seen. Pink lips were scrunched together in obvious irritation under narrowed, glaring, long-lashed eyes. A tan hat with a thin bow on the right topped a blonde wig with hair that turned up at the shoulders. The hair rested on the white fur collar of a black and white checked coat. Underneath was a black dress with white polka-dots. Stocking encased bowed legs ended in black open-toed lace shoes with high stocky heels the man was having trouble balancing on.

Garrison sighed to himself. “All right, get your babies and let’s get going. And try to act like ladies.”