Andy followed Rael and the attorneys into Disson's office, feet crunching already-withered fronds and petals into the carpet. Shadows of approaching evening cast these dark flowers of the Permit Office... those respiring hungrily in their containers and the others, still on the floor, dead now... in a malevolent, malodorous aspect as cigarette smoke wafted from a figure in the Director's throne... its high back turned to his supplicants.









          Tom Jenks closed the door behind them, took the last of the five chairs arrayed before the desk.  The smoking man revolved in his chair to face them.


          Emil Hill pointed to the Director's nameplate. "Oughta have you brought up for misrepresentation.  I have friends, you know, they have friends in Austin Tillerman's inner circle. Hope your papers are in order," he added, withdrawing the day's Journal from his jacket - which rag neither Andy, nor any of the others, had seen yet, being on account of their incarceration.

          The paper was open to the third page, Metro Section, folded over. "Lemme see that!" Tom said, grabbing at the newspaper, Andy reading quickly as it passed, hand to hand, "Drugnet Scoops Up City Officials!"

          "The gentlemen downstairs have not yet had time to prepare a sign for me as Interim Director, nor would the City’s financial crisis permit such luxury," Sylvester shrugged. "For which I apologize. Nevertheless, unless and until a new Director is named, I have authority over this Department... full authority," the tidy African bureaucrat emphasized. "So... we are here! And what we are here for is... that I am pleased to state all charges arising out of this unfortunate incident with the former Director are to be dropped."

          "Whoopee," Rael declared, without enthusiasm.

          Sylvester raised one finger to point at the heavens, or at least the Mayor's Office on the floor above. "Further, I am authorized to re-tender the offer of a fully-equipped First Amendment station at Sylvania Park."

          The five looked from one to another with dim astonishment. "Is that like... with some kind of porta-potties?" Rael finally asked, “or do we just go behind the trees?”

          Sylvester smiled.

          "May I presume your lack of enthusiasm implies disinterest?"

          "You may," Leo smiled back.

          "How unfortunate!" Sylvester looked down and shrugged, drawing a sheaf of papers from his briefcase, resting by the side of Disson's desk, upon a shroud of petals. "In that case... and, with the co-operation of the Governor, the Regents and certain other parties... I am authorized to offer you that certain area at the State University known as the Garabedian Memorial soccer field.  Subject, of course, to certain University-imposed conditions."

          This time it was Hill who smiled - no, again.

          "I see. You are most difficult. Very well." He set the papers aside and withdrew a thicker set, slapping them against his palm. "Here, then is the City's authorization to hold your little demonstration in the plaza across the street from Masty Hall... permits, insurance waiver, everything." This time Hill nodded, but tentatively, inquisitively, so as to prompt further details. "I also have waivers for each of you... Mr. Hill excepted, being as he was not a guest of our police... that indicate your forfeiture of any right to sue the City for such actions as may have transpired Wednesday or yesterday."

          "Is this legal?" Andy asked as Emil, reaching over his colleague, snatched the waivers.

          Goldman turned to Hill. "Well, you're the ambulance chaser?"

          "Up to you." Hill scratched, rather than stroked, his moustache... something small and white popped out, crawling for its life, and Andy averted his eyes. "Basically the option is to sue, probably collect something down the road a ways, depending on judge and jury. Could take two, three years, maybe five with appeals. Plague pushed everything back.  Or sign and resume this circus tomorrow. That is a two-day permit, isn't it?"

          "How much would we collect in those five years?" Rael persisted as Sylvester nodded.

          "Anarchists shouldn't think about the money," Emil coughed. "Ask the Coney Court."

          "Well, we'd have to make a group decision," Andy told Sylvester, "but... personally... I can say I don't see anybody accepting this."

          "I beg your pardon..." Goldman started.

          "Look man, we're down to the wire as it is. Probably well over it! Word's already gone out all over the country not to come to the Coalition demo unless you're into maximum streetfighting. All the forums are shot and the community organizers blame us, and we are hopelessly in the hole. The last of the dough we could have used to salvage credibility all went to Tony Nick."

          "Excuse me," Sylvester interrupted, frowning, "this person would be..."

          "The bailbond vig, you've probably got all that in your briefcase!" Andy pointed. "Don't know about Africa but, here in the United fuckin’ States, that's not refundable."

          Emil withdrew a stubby pencil and dirty envelope from the same inside pocket in which he kept his rocket fuel. "Just a sec, now... lemme see... in order to host a credible demo, these people as have been grievously wronged by the City you represent..."

          "Ah... but let us not fail to remember we cannot be held liable for actions of the State National Guard," Sylvester pointed out. "Nor any provisions of the Revised Patriot Act.  So waiver of your right to sue us as condition for any agreement would not be applicable to those people..."

          "OK, we understand, in theory," Leo explained, "...but, in any event, the sort of immediate costs that we are talking about would be... help me, Andy?"

          "Uh, I'm not an expert, but... uh, five large?"

          "Hundred? Thousand? Five? Why not ten!" Sylvester chuckled. "Fifty! As if it all grew on the mango tree..."

          Hill rose, stuffing pencil and envelope back in his pocket.

          "Well, I can see you have plenty on your mind... new job and all... and maybe we'd just better let the courts sort this one out after whatever happens happens. Understand... I don't think we could win, but reckon that the paperwork and City Attorney time would cost the city, oh, at least that five large, every year. For five years, you say? Meanwhile, whoever wants to show up at Masty Hall will do so... nobody in this room, of course.  Hear a couple busloads of antifa and black blocs are on their way south; League of the South and Proud Boys coming north.  They should come together oh… somewhere around the downtown department store district?  Whatever will be will be, what will be!" he smiled.

          "Mr. Hill, you are a speculative man," conceded the novice Interim Director. "Very well, I am authorized to budget three thousand dollars of the City's security and monitorship fund to... well... to whomever is willing to assume responsibility for keeping order at this demonstration."

          "Hey!" Jenks woke up, "I ain't gonna be no fuckin' monitor!"

          "Sly, three thou won't even get us a halfway decent PA," Andy pointed out.

          "You are difficult people, especially in that I have not authority to exceed three thousand in go-away money," Sylvester said, making a brushing motion with his wrist. "Nevertheless, I am aware the City's summer youth programs possess such equipment as you may require, which may become available, the Sunday only. I must research this. But understand, this is our final offer, I am not some souvenir vendor in Accra bazaar..."

          "Then I don't know, if..." began Rael.

          "But what is this?" Sylvester added, removing another paper from his briefcase. "Hmmm... I see that fourteen; yes, that seems right... fourteen of your people remain in custody. It would appear that they have warrants outstanding, or else are being held on felonies. No doubt minor felonies," he qualified, "but the authorities must hold them, at least until Monday when the police of other states and counties may answer our inquiries as to whether they are wanted elsewhere.  And, of course, Washington… pursuant to the RPA.  Oh... did I also mention that certain equipment of which I spoke may also be available tomorrow, for a sound check?"

          Hill motioned Andy to lean over. "That's in all City contracts, it helps us. I'll explain later." He raised his voice. "Your offer is one that I would recommend, with a few amendments, but there is one major problem. It's late and, since the banks are closed for the weekend, a City check would be wholly useless… don’t think even the pawnshops would honor your John Hancock.  These people here have obligations that must be met immediately. If they sign, it would be only reasonable for payment to be made now, in cash."

          "In cash?" Sylvester frowned as he picked up the telephone. "Myra, please connect me with the Mayor's office? Yes, important. Yes." For the first time, impatience showed, as he waited for a reply.

          "Andy," Leo asked, "were you mistreated in custody?"

          "Well, I was bored. First I was stuck in a cage with guys who haven't seen soap and water since the first Bush administration. Then I get shoved into a dark room where the CIA... or someone like them... drilled me about Mark Cobb... or maybe it was only that they put something in the food and I was hallucinating. Yeah... I was mistreated. Do I wanna cash out, let this slide and wait five years for satisfaction? Like the Catfish says, man, great kill-off’s coming long before that.  Hell no!"

          "Then I suggest we ought to do it," said the ACLU lawyer. "The plaza, equipment and the releases are viable concessions."

          Sylvester snapped to attention as somebody picked up on the other end. "Yes, sir!" he jumped. "Yes! But they want payment now, and in cash... yes, sir, three thousand. I understand! Yes, he is." And the Interim Director turned, one last time, to the five petitioners. "This is acceptable?"

          Emil Hill glanced at the others, whose stares had settled on him. "Going..." he said, "...going... you've got your deal, Sly!"

          "It is! Yes, sir." Relieved, Sylvester hung up. "The Mayor will be among us shortly. First, however, pertinent papers for everybody to sign."

          He handed Hill a prepared contract and, while the lawyer scanned it, Andy snatched up the Urinal. Disson had been busted in his apartment with two Arts Commissioners and a Tillerman lieutenant. A quantity of drugs... coke, pills... not to mention what was referred to "sexual paraphernalia" had been confiscated late last evening, even as his petitioners languished in jail. Anonymous tip. The Permits Director had spent the remainder of his night in the clink, no doubt in a secure, private cell removed from the Tweakies of the world, been bailed out and placed on immediate (paid, as Emil Hill had quickly learned) medical leave.

          "They need two signatures," Hill pointed out, passing the contract to Andy, who signed it, signed it again at the other X and passed it along to Tom Jenks. As he did, the door was thrown open to admit the right Honorable Peter Horatio Potter, known to friends and foes alike as Mayor Pinhead... a rumpled, sandy-haired plug-ugly in a cheap brown suit, with distillery breath and the battered, vacant smile of a club fighter turned strip-club bouncer. He'd folded his own issue of the Urinal into a paper sailor's hat, bobbing across the thin, sandy locks as he staggered, bumping against another of Disson's antique tables, sending a large, indigo vase of flowers skittering to the very edge.

          Pinhead extended a fist, in which a greasy white bag from Meier's Deli was slackly held.

          "Oh... you... better watch out!" the Mayor began to sing. "You better not cry! Better not pout, I'm... telling you why!" Throwing his arms wide, almost dropping the bag, he sank to one knee as Goldman and Hill began to clap, derisively.

          "Santa Claus is coming... to town!"

          "A man who has truly missed his calling," Emil said.  “Better hope Disson’s cameras are off – the President might mistake your kneeling act for support of Black Revenge Matters.”

          "Who can make the sun shine for this municipal jewel?" Pinhead winked, rising unsteadily, braced by one hand on the desk. "Hello, Goldfarb... still making the streets safe for rapists and muggers? Gentlemen, young lady... love the nosering... don't think I've yet had the pleasure of your company. Let's keep it that way!" he added, wriggling his salt and cinnamon eyebrows, Groucho style, while tossing the greasy bag to Hill.

          "The Candy man can! Count it, motherfucker! Note... I've included a small bonus... six general convention badges.  One for each of you plus the excitable Mister Reid, who should be good for some fun.  Do you good to see how the real world deals from the bottom of the deck." Then Pinhead caught Andy's eye, studied his face through whiskey fumes. "I know you from somewhere," he finally conceded. "Aren't you a little old for all this shit? Ta-ta!"

          "Ta-ta, Pinhead," said Hill, without looking up as he rummaged through the bag.  A small, brown bug emerged from its recesses and dove onto his leg.

          The Mayor danced backwards with a wild glare, still singing and striking poses.

          "He's... making a list! Checking it twice! Gonna find out who's naughty or nice..."

          And he slammed the door behind him without finishing his song, the impact sufficing to topple the vase. It bounced on the carpet, spewing filthy water and its dark, lascivious petals over Andy's well-worn sneakers, held together with prayers and duct tape. Emil flicked the insect away and glanced up from the money… moldy tens and twenties, mostly, even a few rumpled Lincolns… he had already begun separating the cash into two piles, as he checked his watch.

          "That man made Rob Ford look like LaGuardia.  Oughta be in a mental institution," he advised Sylvester, palming the smaller of the two stacks. "Instead, he's throwing his weight... such as it is... behind the Conks in the hope of some Federal job down the line; he and Jack Parnell being charter members of the Brotherhood of Barleycorn. Now, I figure I'm due my ten percent against your outstanding account, three hundred?" He held up the wilted bills, riffled them before Andy's nose, challenging him to dispute and, upon hearing no discouraging word, stuffed the money in his jacket, behind the flask. "Hey, I'm not even charging for all my time wasted today. Pleasure doing business with you, Sly... OK, gang, as the former Permits Director would say, let's blow!"

          As they were filing out of Disson's office Hill handed the deli bag, into which the rest of the money had been stuffed, to Andy. "Don't lose this," he advised. "On second thought... why not? Forget about this crap, go to Chicago and have a good time. You've earned it!"

          "It was a fair settlement... wasn't it?" Andy still sought reassurance.

          "Well, that depends on your perspective," replied Emil, waving to Disson's secretary, now Sly's. "It so happens that, as a reward for walkin' the streets for Pinhead in that travesty of an election, and having extended certain financial gratuities, City workers get sixteen hours paid overtime this weekend while the Conks are in town, whether they clock-in or sit home, waiting for somebody to call. I do contracts, sometimes," he added, "So I know how unions stick it to the taxpayers."

          "What does that mean to us?" Rael spoke up.

          "Ah... youth!" The lawyer shook his buffalo head. "You see, all that Chief Sylvester signed away was the right of a few ignorant City workers to spend this weekend throwing down beer and watching the games on the tube and, instead, wire up your circus for sound. Yeah, right! You've just helped exploit labor."

          "That's fucked!" she said with a disgusted glare.

          "That's life.  Everybody treading water hates the city unions now, cuz they’re the only ones left who still got good pay and benefits.  I don't see you, complaining, Morrison," Emil taunted, "whatever happened to Karl Marx?"

          "Like the Catfish says, he threw in with the parasites. Dudes get theirs," Andy shrugged, "why shouldn't they have to work for their time and a half? When that... what's it's name, the no-more-overtime law passes the House and kicks in, then it might trouble me."  He slapped the Urinal against his thigh.  “I’m more pissed about the Supremes striking down minimum wages for minor league ballplayers.”

          "Agh, that!  Curse the soul of RBG for failures of her flesh and… what was it… pancreas?  Just have someone who knows how double-check your cables Sunday morning. Just in case," winked Hill. "Nothing straight in this City ever happens on straight time, you know? 









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