SUNDAY the NINTH - 4:49 PM

          In the East End, twelve blocks from CNC’s convention site, the road to Hell bucked, buckled, bowed and swayed like a bad bridge in an eight-plus Richter quake. A trash can careened into the ankles of a police horse; its rider plunging across the sidewalk into a plate glass window to set off burglar alarms… swarms of kids rushing past the bloodied officer to grab jogging pants, support hose and sneakers.  Demian and Richard Reid shepherded a corps of hefty alt-right skinheads and beery undergraduates… loosely coordinating the bustling, weaving swelling mob as it assembled haphazardly... pointing out targets, leading chants: "Don't gimme shelters, gimme homes!  No more evictions and foreclosures!"










          Forty throats replied, and then a hundred... "Don't gimme shelter, gimme homes!"

          "Remember the Pit Stop!" Richard reminded the older congregants of a beloved Wake Street dive, bulldozed six months earlier.  "No fuckin’ condos!"

          "Burn the condos..." Demian proposed.

          Two hundred voices cheered back! Three! "Burn the condos!"

          The mob, become an organism with half a thousand heads and five thousand agile agenda-fingers fingering, lured the police and Turks deeper and deeper into what remained of the hardscrabble East End ghetto neighborhood... drab streets of tenements with shops on the ground floors of those on the widest boulevards. Some of the managers of these had hastily armed themselves. Before an Arabic grocery, bakery and liquor store... in the window of which reposed a glittery sign proclaiming "Canadian Club welcomes Coalition for a New Consensus"... the proprietor beckoned over Reid, a customer he knew well. "Where is this trouble? What is reason?"

          "It's a march against the Jews! Down with Zionist pig bankers!”shrieked an insurrectionist.  “Free Jerusalem for free people.  Viva la jihad!"

          He proceeded east, fist pumping the air, leaving a puzzled but undamaged merchant who, in a few moments' time, was chanting and cheering too, unfolding a dusty Palestinian flag to place in the window and motioning his sons inside to bring free doughnut holes and sodas to pass out to the passing fedayeen. At a home for the elderly three doors down with a sign in the window... "Attention Conventioneers - This is Not a Hotel!"... curious seniors pressed their noses against smudgy glass as Glenn and Demian passed.

          "Raise pensions! Stop the raid on Social Security," Glenn cajoled. "Join us! Restore Medicaid!  March to end the savings tax!"

          The elderly returned forced smiles and waved back... a few even clinked walkers against the window but, prudently, declined to venture outside. Down the block, a firebomb exploded the front window of a second hand novelty shop, showering the sidewalk with flaming Beanie Babies and tendrils of melted, yellow Spadoodles.

          And a crowd of pale, excited students surrounded the vintage red Porsche owned and operated by a local gentleman of leisure taking care of business in one of the seemingly abandoned buildings.

          "Dude riot! Dude riot! Dude riot!"

          Responding to the undergraduates pushing at it, the vintage Porsche screamed back with the alarms and electronic voices of a decade past...

          "Burglar! Burglar! Burglar!" it wailed.

          "Asshole! Asshole!" the students bellowed back and, with sticks and bricks, construction debris and trashcans, began the task of reducing it to junk. The kat dealer who owned it skittered down the stoop of that derelict building at the sight of the destruction of his wheels, but the vista of so many white people with weapons thronging East Eleventh and massed Turks gathering in the middle of East Twelfth Street convinced him to duck around the corner. There, he narrowly escaped capture by a mixed force of local police and Guardsmen, stealthily advancing to contain the riot. A couple of kids in noserings weren't so lucky... half a dozen cops trapped them in a blind alley beside a burned-out auto body shop and began beating them to bloody pulp, ripping the metal from their beaks with canine yelps of glee.

          Somebody finished off the Porsche by plugging its gas tank with a Molotov cocktail fashioned from an empty half-liter can of ABM.

          Four black UN helicopters, surrounded by a flotilla of American drones, circled the East End blocks only a dozen feet above the rooftops like angry wasps as the flames flamed upwards… blades ominously whup-whupping as snipers dangled from their belly doors… and, promptly, cylinders of gas burst in the street below. Clouds of bluish-purplish vapor billowed up, driving coughing, angry people down Jefferson Street - past the Sanctuary and towards the empty lot on which the first condos had been under construction until poleaxed by plague, recession and the credit crunch and had, as the Urinal reporter’d told Andy, been picked up by Peppermill for the proverbial song.

          The black copters rose as Glenn Savitt, eyes burning, separated from Demian, Richard and the dude rioters, now chanting the still-quixotic “FOUR MORE YEARS!  FOUR MORE YEARS!”  He stumbled into an alley… an artificial lane fashioned by the long-deserted construction workers and fronting a dilapidated trailer… looking for something to wipe his eyes with.

          At a reasonable distance, upwind of the gas, one man in a dark suit, dark glasses, black shoes and radio tailed him, barking directions into a radio.  Four surveillance drones, a mini, no bigger than a hummingbird; the other three approximately the size and girth of possums, hovered overhead and then took off.

          Across the street, another did the same.

          Opposite the construction site, several burly workers piled out of a white van with smoked glass windows.

          Construction workers... with gas masks...




SUNDAY the NINTH - 5:01 PM

          In his corner suite at the Ivona, a rangy, pockmarked man pricked his ears up at the knock and voice of Tom Beedle. He glanced from the door to the hotel table, on which reposed a Sig Sauer in its shoulder holster, radio and several cell phones, shook pills out of a pillbox, dry-swallowed and instinctively checked the window. No fire escape.

          "Geiger? This is Tom. Tom! The operation's busted. There are law enforcement gentlemen with me and the exits are covered. Time to cut our losses."

          Geiger sighed, dry swallowed another handful of pills and looked out the window as he punched out two buttons of a pre-programmed number on one of the burner phones, then down at the carpet. He muttered a few short words, most of them of a legal or obscene nature, killed the connection as the knocking intensified and picked up the holster, deliberating; then placing it on the bed before walking towards the door, coughing all the way.


          "I'm not armed. I'm opening the door... I've already contacted my supervisor and my attorneys. Please don't do anything stupid!" he added in a wide, flat voice that might have come from anyplace east of Denver, west of Tulsa.

          The crew from the Masty basement, augmented by a few more local police burst through, but after a few moments of dramatic lunging and ransacking, the Sergeant gestured towards Geiger's electronics.

          "Is there any unfinished business we ought to take care of before going downtown?"

          "We are downtown," Beedle protested, but the Sergeant gave him a withering glare, so he nodded.

          Another UN helicopter passed, its rotors almost brushing the window of the Ivona.

          "If I tell you what you want me to," Geiger bargained, "will you get me a Splice from the machine downstairs before I get into your car?"

          "It's one of those smart machines," the Sergeant advised him, "goes up to a buck seventy-five a can during the middle of the day."

          "I have a debit card in that billfold," Geiger pointed, so the Sergeant nodded, and an officer picked up one of the cell phones, handing it to Beedle's operative. "Hello! Perseus? Ah... we got a fire in the hole.  Right, that hole.  Fire…"

          He lay the phone down, pointed to the radio. Again, the Sergeant nodded.

          "Legionnaire! Legionnaire! This is Scipio calling, Scipio."

          "Roger!" a voice answered through the static.

          "We got pink elephants. Ah yeah... that's right. Elephants."


          Geiger put the radio down, nodded, and placed his hands behind his back for cuffing. A policeman frisked him, one of the FBI agents picked up the radio, glancing curiously.

          "Two teams? Two sides! Let's have a guess... locals reporting to our Democratic Mayor and some of the Guard working for our Republican Governor?  Pink elephants?  Legionnaire?  Somebody didn’t understand that “Get Smart” was a comedy, not a fuckin’ training manual?"

          "You said it, sir, I didn't," Geiger replied. "I’m a consultant.  Business is business and I’m only following orders!"

          Beedle's face flushed.

          "You didn't tell me you were working for the Governor, too!"

          "You didn't tell me I couldn't! Take five for the Splice," he told the officer who… regarding Geiger’s debit card as if it were an IED… removed cash from the wallet on the bed, before the consultant added, generously, "...get one for yourself, too, and keep the change!"






SUNDAY the NINTH - 5:13 PM


          From the VIP section, Anne and Andy watched Catfish Jack Parnell approach the final meters to the podium, waving and bumping select fists as he advanced. "Glad you made it," Anne whispered, "gangplank's coming up. If you hadn't jumped on board, you'd have been stuck down in that 60’s peanut gallery forever."

          "I don't know," Andy demurred. "I got responsibilities..."

          "To whom? The Sanctuary? That bunch of bums... don't worry, Jack'll see their safety net restrung..."

          "Around our necks, he will.  And if Tillerman's elected?"

          "Then he'll inject moral responsibility into public charity.  After he cuts taxes and unemployment insurance, mines the border and kicks out the twelve million Mexicans that Trump never got around to expelling, there’ll be lots of minimum-wage jobs and full-time, too.  With overtime!  And, without all those religious leeches hanging off the President like barnacles, like..." and she nodded, obliquely, towards Reverend Malik, also on the podium, cheering Parnell's approach as if the politician were the Messiah himself.

          "I don't fit into this." Andy glared at the politician, now mounting the front steps... recessive scalp alarmingly visible (the Catfish was holding one of those big, black Garth Brooks hats he favored in his left hand like a big, black satellite dish, waving it at faces he recognized), then his eyes, his politician's smile, shoulders. "I feel like the troll on the fairy castle's lawn."

          "Nonsense! You've been doing all the good work, just as people like Glenn and I have done for years, just getting none of the benefits. And you have a firmer sense of reality than he does, sad to say. If people of competence and principle continue standing on the sidelines like the rich girls at fancy colleges because of some inarticulate posturing that they're preserving their moral virginity, then I guess we really are doomed to Entropy..."

          "Dunno. Maybe I'm just one of those old-fashioned Americans after all. Revolution in the blood like Thomas Jefferson, not some half-assed Broadway Hamiltonian reforms..."

          "That old slaveholders’ Constitution,” she snorted, “guaranteed life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Not happiness! That's for everyone to figure out however they can. If the bastards don't take it away from us while we're sleeping..."

          "But he," Andy pointed, "he's the one calling for repeal of the Bill of Rights."

          "Only as a rhetorical device," Anne shushed him. "He's only suggesting reforms like separating campaign financing from the free speech provisions... not actually calling for repeal... as a way of waking people up to their responsibilities and motivating them to organize."

          "Fake news generating fake policies?  I don't trust that Catfish," Andy glowered. "That catfishin’ Catfish has hooked you good.  Look how he walks... is he wearing high heels?"

          "They're not heels, they're lifts. Heels are on the outside of the boot, they'd look ridiculous. Ross Perot wore them. Jack has the lifts inside, so most people wouldn't even notice. And it's not because he's vain... well, mostly not... it's strategy, carefully worked out with focus groups. Short people don't get elected President."

          "James Madison did," Andy objected.

          "They didn't have TV back then and, besides, E and R ain’t exactly the Federalist Papers," Anne conceded. "The Coming Kill-Off” ain’t “Common Sense” either, nor is the Don the Dow.  But nobody else in DC’s even close, either... Aaron fuckin' Burr would tower over your contenders likely to be running in either of the major parties.  Biden and his Ukrainian gasboy, his lock-em-up Vice of color?  Again?  Hillary?  Again?  Bernie the Burn?  Al Franken – well him, probably not, but one of the billionaires?  Stay-rrr?  Clooney?  Swallwell?  The Squad?  The Democrats can’t fix the budget, can’t create jobs… but the President does seem awfully proud of sending his leaky Attorneys General out to seize properties that rent to the medical marijuana outlets in California and using the IRS on his enemies list.  Bill said he felt your pain, so cancer patients better damn well feel theirs.  And the Repubs… if their basket-case President-in-exile forgets to file?  Jeb?  Carson?  Pence?  Kanye?  The Cubans? Those lames from the lame-duck cabinet or that guy from Law and Order?  How about Prince Andrew?  Or the little old Libertarian who looks like Marshall Applewhite or his phony Libertarian Senator son… the woman hater, the other Mormon and the other Hispanic guy who ain’t Cuban and the fat guy from Jersey, the former attorney general afraid of cats or any one of half a dozen teabaggers.  Or Don Junior, Erik, Ivanka?  Or the haircut or pillow guys… Button Gwinnett would’ve cleaned all their clocks..."

          "Who?" Andy began to ask, but then the Catfish turned, raising both hands over his head. "Speaking of buttons, I'll bet your fish in high heels is short in another department."

          "Stop it!" Anne elbowed him in the ribs. "I work for his fiancée... well, the lady who's going to be in a couple of days, whether he knows it or not..."

          "And you think he'll go along with this?"

          "If he wants her money, he will. And he's one fried Catfish filet without it! Jack's a moron, but he's not a moronic moron! She's got the papers already drawn up for him to sign, but they'll announce just before the New Hampshire primary... or Super Tuesday in the Deep South, depending on the polls and the viability of that local guy, the one from South Carolina?  North Carolina?  Whatever!  A midnight court clerk’s signature and, afterwards, a White House reception after the fact... if he wins, if he loses, she'll probably..." but the rest of what she thought to say was drowned out by the screaming and applause that rolled down from the rafters, a shrill, confetti-garnished fog that enveloped the podium of Masty Hall.



SUNDAY the NINTH - 5:14 PM

          The capricious wind brought a squall of gas through the skeleton of a doorway Glenn had taken cover in and, half-blinded, he stumbled out and up the construction alley towards the street. One of the UN helicopters passed overhead; blades whup whup whupping, raising up little whirling devils of trash and smoke and sawdust... suddenly, half a dozen construction workers with gas masks under their hard hats were facing him and, through teary eyes, Glenn saw them lifting two by fours and lead pipes. Their foreman began walking confidently forward, raising his right hand, in which was a cell phone.

          What was a construction crew doing out here? It was Sunday... were they on fuckin' overtime?

          The purple gas swirled away, the foreman tugged his gas mask off. He had a sparse red beard and was missing two front teeth.

          "Aren’t you uh… Andy Morrison?"

          "Hey guys, I'm with the Convention," Glenn said, fingering his Raggedy Andy tags… which, he hoped, at this distance, wouldn't be scrutinized. "Just passing through. Honest!"

          He looked back into the construction site... most of the gas had dissipated but a dark man was approaching through the scaffolding. He carried a radio. As he advanced, smiling thinly, he said...


          Glenn stepped back, looking from one to the other, turning the Convention dogtags over and over like worry beads. "No, I'm... like, is there a cop around? Police? Shee-itt!.. Police!"

          “Cop free zone,” radio man smiled before a terrific grating of grinding metal from the street drowned him out as one of the black, hovering UN helicopters downed by a well-aimed brick that had hit a blade skidded by the alley, tipping over in the street, right upon the half-completed doorsteps to the condos. Several dazed Turks crawled out as the big bird began to throw off smoke... Norwegians, Glenn calculated, from their hair and language, or maybe mercenaries from one of the Baltic states...

          The construction workers backed off…

          Half a dozen townies rushed one of the Turks, knocked him over, and one grabbed his blue beret. The other Unapissers rushed him and he tossed it to another, then another... the Turks swearing in their native language, finally one enunciating: "War crime trials, war crime! Give back man hat!"

          "Hey, UN!" Glenn ventured but, trapped between the approaching factions, he instinctively edged back, towards the lone man who hadn't displayed a weapon yet. The radio began to crackle... the man lifted it to his ear, using an index finger to point to Glenn to remain where he was. A crackling voice stuttered out... "Scipio says he's got elephants. Elephants! Commence the procedure!"

          "Roger!" said the dark man.

          "Dude riot!" shrieked one of the locals, leaping on the shoulders of the brawniest UN peacekeeper in the street.

          The construction foreman's cell phone buzzed, he lifted it to his ear. Glenn couldn't hear what he said, but it couldn't have been pleasant, Red Beard slapped it back into his shirt pocket with a curse.

          "Fuckin' fire inna hole," he shouted across Glenn to his adversary, slapping his palm with the length of pipe he'd brought out of the white van. "What about you?"


          "See you in Anchorage, then, I hope..."

          "San Antonio, first," the dark man reminded him, opening his jacket as he put the radio away, exposing the handle of his gun. "Unless one of us gets called up to Montreal for the G-10 conferences... fuckin' horns of the beast now that the Russkis, the Chinks and the Indians are in it!  Indians! – I guess they mean the Apu Indians, not the woo-woo Indians.  Fuckin' eggheads..."

          "San Antonio, then!" said Red Beard. "Agreed!  You," he pointed to Glenn with the pipe, "are one lucky bastard, Morrison. Keep your mouth shut and hands clean and you might get allowed to live."

          "Fine with me!  Though I’m not…"

          Glenn turned, but the dark man with the radio was gone and, when he turned back, the phony construction workers were piling back into their vehicle. Within seconds, the white van was speeding off past the brawling townies and Unapissers thronging the street, and Glenn slumped against the aluminum wall of the Peppermill condo construction trailer, hyperventilating. As his breath slowed, he opened his eyes... and there was another man – this one in a Gulf War vintage Army shirt tagged "Douglas" pointing a pistol at his nose.

          "Morrison, you killed my buddy. My only buddy!"

          "Hey, man, chill!" Glenn tried to explain. "I'm not Andy, he's with the Conks, inside Masty Hall. Hey... I don't know what or who you're talking about."

          "That’s your name on those twinkly dogtags.  Andy Morrison, right?  You killed Paulie," "Douglas" said, reaching out and flicking at the credentials as if they were some shimmering bug. "You took the money."

          "Hey man, everybody takes money. I didn't," he added, realizing, in the instant, his mistake. "I mean... Andy didn't..."

          "Guys like you that think they run the world and leave the good people, the real people hanged in jail cells. "Now it's your turn, man..."

          "Whose turn?" Glenn began to question, but the question dissolved in a red flash, a shower of white sparks... then, only, blue sky...








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