—Let’s go to the air now with Chuck “The Boz” Dickens in Chopper Five. Boz, we understand you’ve got the suspect in sight.
—That’s right, Sikes has just come into view. We’re all amazed to see him back in London, returning so soon to the scene of the crime. And what a brutal crime it was! The kind and sympathetic Nancy, adored by all fans of Oliver Twist, found dead on the hearth of Sikes’s shabby flat, her skull shattered by a blunt instrument. Police have positively identified the murder weapon as a heavy club which Sikes apparently tossed into the fire when his gory deed was done. No, the light of day has never seen such a gruesome, such a horrible—
—Bozzy, is our man still in sight?
—Sorry, yes, we’re just coming down for a better look. London’s finest are closing in on the fugitive, herding him into a most congested part of town. I don’t see how he can keep this up much longer. The bobbies are clearly trying to head him off, and Sikes seems aware of their ploy but unable to resist it. Wait—he’s ducked into a building. We’re going to hover in place here and see if he emerges. In the meantime, I should mention that the crowd are making things quite difficult for the coppers.
—How’s that, Bozmeister?
—Hundreds of Sikes supporters have gathered along all the thoroughfares and rooftops; every window is busy with spectators leaning out for a glimpse of the murderer. As you know, in spite of his unsavory personality Bill Sikes has become an extremely popular character, profiting from all the media coverage—and perhaps especially my own running reportage—of young Mr. Twist’s adventures. Some of Sikes’s fans are carrying hand-lettered banners, swinging them from the windows and so forth.
—Can you read those banners from your position?
—Trying to get a better—yes, there’s one. It reads, “Go, Sikes!” He seems to be receiving far more support than our noble and innocent young hero, whose audience share has, as we all know, been slipping steadily in comparison to that of his nemesis. Quite ironic, really.
—It certainly is, Bozzy-Boy. It’s the kind of scene that only some kind of literary wiz could capture, sad-social-commentary-wise.
—Sorry to interrupt you, but Sikes has just reappeared on the exceedingly steep rooftop. Teetering on the slates while the cheering crowd packs the avenues below, he seems hesitant—a devious fiend trapped by his own devices. The crowd are going wild. Some are urging him to jump: Twist-supporters, it’s safe to say. But many more are urging Sikes to hold steady, to attend to his legal defense, betraying a perhaps cynical faith in the brand of justice meted out in our courts.
—What a moment, Boz-Old-Bean!
—Yes, and it must feel to Sikes like the longest scene of his literary career, as he commences anchoring himself to a chimney-pot with a length of rope. It does seem unwise of him to fasten the knot so near his neck. Well, the question in everyone’s mind now is, will this be the final chapter for Bill Sikes, or a mere cliff-hanger in the American tradition?
—Hold that thought, Bozzleoppagus, while we break for this commercial message. And be sure not to miss Boz Live, mornings at five, on the Royal Zoo!
“Twisted” is copyright 2016 by Marc Laidlaw. Found on a 5.25″ floppy disk from mid ’90s. This is its first appearance in print.