EPISODE 8


          The lobby of the Hall of Justice was, per usual, a madhouse of cops, perps, lawyers and B-list media enhanced by out-of-town scavengers; bloody demonstrators trundled in and out of custody amidst a handful of confused or bemused common felons. Andy, on arrival… after an hour of hurrying, scurrying and bumming bail cash from weary patrons… had been cornered by one of his least favorite people: an oft-institutionalized, certified-paranoid, self-designated street fighter Marty Lesh in his soiled, reeking canvas raincoat and week-old, emphatically un-Hollywood stubble... after a quick glance inside, both retreated to the front steps to smoke and await one or another of the lefty lawyers who haunted post-demo moppings-up like piranhas circling a burning cruise ship.











          The two he was first to encounter he'd known for years... even if he hadn't, their profession was draped round their clothes like the cheap tobacco fumes that made Andy one of The People.

          Marty probably knew them too, but his brain was fried, so Andy muttered "Leo! Leo Goldman, ACLU,” he added out of the corner of his mouth. “Emil Hill," he added, in a less welcoming tone,

          "The TV ambulance chaser?" Marty Lesh deduced, or possibly even remembered.

          Andy kept his opinion to himself. "How bad?" he asked the lawyers as they wormed their way back through the metal detector at the door and out of HoJo.

          "They're not finished processing; last I heard was seventy misdemeanor and forty-something Revised Patriot Act felonies." The fortyish Leo, whose receding hairline had retreated like a carbon-stomped glacier towards the vicinity of a skullular Siberia, still projected the outraged intensity of a younger man.

          "Felonies?" Marty jumped. "Fifteen year slugs… and for what... assaulting the pigs' nightsticks with their heads?"

          Hill, who possessed a majestic crown of pomaded, dark-dyed Elvis hair, despite being well past fifty... and a majestic beer gut, too... laughed "oh, better, better! Except for about a half dozen assaults and some goof who brought down a surveillance drone with an empty Bud longneck, the rest are for conspiracy," he winked, waving the printouts he'd obtained from the booking officer, one of his drinking buddies, for a small financial or, more likely, libatory consideration.  "Conspiracy to commit misdemeanors – it’s a felony, under state law."

          "And, just coincidentally," Leo piped up, "everyone on the structural end of planning your CNC demo just happens to have been deemed part of the vast conspiracy. Rolf, Deena, Fil, Tara, Virgil..."

          "...Lemoyne, Tom and Damien, Burghardt..." Hill continued before Andy could speak up in objection to the designation of the protests as his.

          "And so on. So much for all those pious post-inaugural words from President Joe about the Patriot Act amendments only affecting foreign terrorists, subway pushers and the rare, occasional Tony Taliban from Tonawanda!  Meaning you're out of business. Shut down," Goldman said. "Every so-called responsible member of the host committee... present company excepted... will be in the jug for weeks. Maybe win one-way tickets to Git'mo. And the flakes all walk." He shot a short, non-committal glance at Marty Lesh.

          "Shit," Andy declared and started past them, through the metal detector and back out the door, down the steps and towards the row of bailbondsmen's offices across the street, with their red and indigo neon blinking and sputtering like the signs out in front of low-end strip clubs. "Of course you'll be filing complaints," he accused the struggling, puffing attorneys as they caught up with him on the sidewalk.

          Emil Hill fairly grinned as he slapped his briefcase. "Had a couple hundred retainer forms and complaints made up this morning, don't know why. Must have been the University CopyBot prices, eight-ninety-five a hundred, did you know? That's with the coupon in the Urinal..."

          He swatted a parked police car with rolled-up printout as they jaywalked to Tony Nick's.

          "Speaking of which," Emil growled, "you deadbeats still owe me my thirty-eight large for the Costa Rica demo fines and bails, and the busts at the closing of the West End Community Center. Oh... and the Clinic takeovers. When are you going to put together some of these benefits you're always mouthing off about?"

          Andy halted before a neon-festooned door. "When the damn cops, the Conks and the rezoners get the hell out of our face. When Washington stops sending its corrupt accountants up here to incite n’ provoke the citizens. And when... oh hell, just chalk it up against all those big settlements you promised, like for Jefferson Street."

          Emil held open the door to Tony Nick's. "Can't help it if Supremes like RBG got picked off by God and those Appeals circuit riders by so-called lone wolf gunmen.  And losing their Senate majority on account of the plague carrying off two of those old fossils in Congress, the House going next and, since the President nearly died of the imaginary plague himself… those Democratic primaries will be just like they always are, circular firing squads.  No backbone!   I'm lookin' at two cases, by the way – one Baltimore, one Phoenix... they're trying to short circuit the appeals and take cases direct to the World Court, which is one of the unintended consequences of Protectorship. Now if you guys were to get clocked by UNAPIS..."

          "Never happen," Marty shut him up. "They're pussies. UNAPUSSIES!" he snickered and the quartet ducked in, out of the sun.

          The short, balding bailbondsmanTony Nick, himself… grunted through his cigar at this strange, but not unexpected, apparition.

          "What happen?" he asked them innocently. "I seen the news... been waitin' fer youse guys…"

          "How much did you raise," muttered Goldman in Andy's direction.

          "Just a little over seven hundred. Hey... don't look that way at me, we already got expenses for this Coalition thing. Nobody asked us what we thought of inviting the Conks, and all the heat and crazies they attract. People get tapped out."

          "Which would ransom… maybe… fourteen dead souls?" Hill calculated, scanning down the sheets of printout, making brief notes with a pencil while a snake on the television’s nature program devoured a squirming baby rabbit.

          "I love this part," Andy mugged, making approvals or corrections to the names of misdemeanants Hill was checking off with his pencil stub. "It's the only time I get to play God, a damn fucking street God with the power of life and death!  This one.  Him! Holly can stay in the can and get the Variant Seven plague, or TB from the Russians, he's been asking for it. Rodrigues..." He began to whistle something, but so many old songs clashed and clamored in his brain against the animal adventures announcer intoning, now, how ants follow occult pathways towards baby birds that have fallen from trees. What fell out of Andy's mouth was a tuneless tune that only made the others edge away, casting their own surreptitious glances at the Hall of Justice printout.

          "Victor?" Marty finally spoke up, pointing. "You're not bailing Victor out?"

          "The hell I am!  He owes me money."

          "That's why I'd bail him out," Marty argued. "What if he dies in there? Gets murdered, poisoned, AIDS, whatever people get in jail. Plague!  Disneyland measles!  Estonian encephalitis, like in that prison they shut down in Alabama?  Plus, of course, the usual lead poisoning or shank poisoning…"

          "You want Victor?" Andy replied, refusing to admit the logic, shrugging, and making a fierce little mark on the paper. The telephone rang, and Tony picked it up with an epithet. Andy continued down the printout, trying not to listen too obviously to the shouting woman easily audible at six feet distance as a President ordering his vassal to bribe some Ukrainian.

          The bailbondsman held the phone away from his ear like something dead that not even the ants would touch. "OK, I think I get it," he finally replied, grinning at the politicals and motioning them to listen in. "You thought your ol' man was foolin' round, you call East End station, say he took the television, which you hid under the sink. They come and toss his place, only instead of the TV they find his shit and now you wanna... yeah, I know, you were drinking that Olde English, hey, I don't care, it's still two-fifty. Cash, yeah! Don't care. Well, then, you come by tomorrow morning, someone's always here. Lemme see... probably that kid from law school, Pete knows him. Do him good to spend the night thinkin' about the way he's gonna rearrange your face once he's out. Yeah, you shut the fuck up too... go over to Ace, if you think Rodney will cut you a better deal. Fuckin' Jamaicans are hardass sons of bitches, too, oh... you..."

          He slammed down the receiver, the four visitors pretending, dutifully, not to have heard. "Thinks that she'll pull that race shit on Ace, give a sistah a break... still ends up payin' two-fifty and probably gets talked into letting Grosvenor take the case, which gets Joe a habitual charge, for certain..."

          "Hey,” Emil protested, “the Groz did get somebody off... I think, once, back in '98..."

          "Who are these people?" Andy asked Leo, pointing to a cluster of names with intake symbols attached; stars and pound signs and exclamation points. "Never heard of them. Students?"

          "Let me see that," Goldman snatched the printout, adjusting his black, cracked horn-rimmed glasses, held together by black electricians' tape. "Uh huh. Uh huh. Non-citizens... I know him, that's the Australian documentary film producer, he called me. Independent moke, no company to pay his tab.  Probably thought he'd blow into town early, get some footage he could sell.  That one – Salvadoran.  ICE-bound and hopeless.  These others with the star signs, they're minors."  He lay down the bust list, shrugged…

          "Fine," Marty said. "Let mommy and daddy bail them out."

          Leo turned, two pudgy fingers planting the printout to Tony’s desk. "These two don't have a mommy or a daddy. Or if they do, there's a good reason why they're not at home. I know 'em. They crash with Reverend Malik, sometimes, but what do I know... they're just kids. A week or two in an adult jail, hey maybe it'll improve their character, like that good ol’ Man o' God would say if they asked him for bail.  At least flexabilize their buttholes… now if Mister Morrison here were to kick in a bit of all that money he made at the stab lab last Tuesday…"

          "Sweet, Leo, sweet," said Andy. "Well there goes Victor again! And that leaves uh, Fitzpatrick Brown, himself… he could use a little drying-out interval.  And I don’t have a dime… forgot to tell you, the plasma people stopped paying cash, now they use these debit cards that only work at a couple of the big box stores on the turnpike out past city limits.  And when I called them on it, they got sort of nasty, so here…" He passed the printout to Tony, sat down in one of the wooden folding chairs and removed his papers and tobacco.

          "Gotta love this new software," grunted Tony Nick. "Takes all the fuckin' guesswork out of processing, push a button, comes back good risk, bad risk. They check everything," the bailbondsman added reverently, "Interpol, insurance dossiers, Facebook, Taleo psych profiles, medical, cookies if they use computers... everything! Even taps into the FBI's list of a couple million pornography customers, morons who speak up at town council meetings, lefty and righty so-called “patriot” blog downloaders and furtive clickers who think nobody knows what they’ve been doing.  Palantir people!  You could use one of these programs," he propositioned Emil, "I got a guy sells them straight from Taipei.  Six hundred bucks marked down from two thousand, and that's with all the features they say they wouldn't let get put in the originals on account of the stripy-pants sprouts in Brussels that guy Vanser, Prancer, the one Biden appointed and then kicked the bucket, allegedly, playing deep state possum.  We're talkin' NSA, Moral Majority, they even got East German police stuff on the CD…"

          "KGB?" Emil sniffed.

          "Workin' on it. GRU for sure.  Definitely next edition, soon as the pirates and the President work things out over there. But do it now and my guy says thirty percent off upgrades for life, that's what the fuck is it..." Tony stumbled, "I can't use my calculating programs while I'm runnin' this shit."

          "Forty-two dollars left," said Marty Lesh.

          "You trust him?" the bailbondsman looked up. Emil shrugged. "Forty-two it is, then!  And, by the way, Vanocur ain’t playin’ – he is dead.  Somali plague, kinda like Corona but different.  Gone to that Bilderburg in the sky…"  

          “Gone to the frozen head zone,” Hill scoffed.  “I read it in InfoWars – so it’s gotta be true!  All those sorts… they’re being kept in hermetically sealed chambers in Wyoming, underground… Reagan and the Bushes, Ollie North and his Russian Natasha, Haldemann, Erlichmann and Nixon, too.  Warren Beatty!  Warren Harding!  Come the real Revolution, like the original Tea Party one, they got thawed out and pop up again – tanned, rested and ready to be attached to the body of some healthy drifter as picked up the wrong hitchhiker…”

          “Nixon,” Andy said, “was a fuckin’ Social Democrat compared to the gangs running the show today.”









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