31) Saturday the Fifteenth, 7:47 AM – “Welcome to Giga-Plex!”
Chester pressed a red button on a remote and the One World gates began to swing open… there were angry cries and yelps as shoppers pushed and hollered this way and that. They surged past Linens 2-Go and Lester’s Likenesses, ignored the corridors to the smaller shops, even the Giga-Mart across the way… where Freddy Estrada peered out, hoping that – after the raving madmen outside had purchased the television of their dreams – they’d remember to drop in for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate their score, or snag one of the six and eight pound bags of pretzels, popcorn and chips he’d had delivered, or a suitcase of beer.
“Alright,” continued Mark Down Mark after making his unpaid staffers stand, scratching their heads and consulting devices as seven-thirty came and went, “report to your stations now and, until the doors open, straighten up the place. We are under total, 24-hour surveillance…” and he pointed upwards… “so, if I catch anybody just standing around, not only will they be fired, I will have a personal word with the Agency. Now… everyone on the floor is a salesman, and …and everybody pulls together. Part of our team. OK!”
He blew his whistle again, and Tom, still scratching his head, looked back towards the loading dock. The slight, seventeen-year-old Craig Synch came forward, hand extended…
“I’m Craig. Taylor, the stockroom manager, won’t be in until ten, so I’ll show you the procedure. It’s simple, the cashiers stamp the tickets on big items, they got reference numbers and you get them down off the stacks… Mr. Eppert, you’re the crane operator, right? Hamish Khost… are you that fellow from Iran?”
“I am Persian,” corrected the tall, overdressed temp with a dismissive wave.
“OK. And Marko, uh…”
“Yeah, you’ll be on the dock with Pablo and Billy, habla la español?” Marko looked blank, Tom hostile… thinking that this fuckin’ kid, not much older than Junior, was his boss? “Forget it. Oh, and we’re not supposed to accept tips, but…” and Craig looked out into the store, to be sure Tenison was gone, then up…”don’t ask, don’t tell… you know?”
The man from behind the Iron Curtain frowned. “You are homosexual boy?”
“What? No,” Craig shook his head, “that’s just a saying…”
But Marko was already fiddling with his belt. “Suck cock? Fifteen dollar… pretty chickie like you…”
And, outside, the chanting had risen to a roar: “Open the gates! Open the gates! Open the gates!”
Mark-Down-Mark whipped out his SmartPhone and dialed up Big Sonny at the Reston hotel. The call was answered by a female voice who told him that Sonnenschein was still asleep... in a Giga-Grrrlz sandwich, she giggled... and, after the manager explained his situation with mall security, told Mark that making customers wait in the freezing rain only made them more determined to buy and buy and buy…
“But what if they smash through and steal?” Mark answered, thinking back to the last two years of pre-Christmas flash mob smash and grab robberies that had erupted in New York and California and were oozing and cruising their way towards the nation’s capital.
“Well then,” said the voice on his phone: “Pay him?”
“Give that leader of the Guard some money and he’ll let you open…”
“But that man is…” Mark sputtered.
“Doesn’t matter. Pay him off and open up.”
So, swallowing his bile, he slipped Sergeant Mays a Grant to open up at a quarter to eight, seven minutes hence. “Positions?” Tenison warned the cashiers at the front of the store, the only group of employees that could hear him over the din. “Lester?”
“Welcome to Giga-Plex,” Lester the Greeter waved.
Lester, the Screaming Eagles Captain, and Mays folded their arms across their chests, one standing to either side of the entrance so as to channel the throng past Lester the Greeter and the rotating Big Sonny Likeness… onto the floor and, hopefully, towards the display of projection, LCD and plasma televisions in sizes from five to seventy-two inches (plus, of course, the single Dominator demonstrator at the center of a circle of lesser models, towering above inferiors like the high priest at a witch-burning).
For probably the last time he’d be able to do so, today, Mark Tenison walked through the pneumatic Entrance door… having already disabled its function. The doors would remain open until shutdown at midnight, and if some temp cashier complained about the cold… well, she should’ve brought a sweater. Ugly, piggish faces pressed up against the iron gates of the One World Mall, thrusting their snouts between the bars, pleading and cursing.
“What a bunch of curs!” Mark reprised to himself before returning to the familiarity and security of his domain. “Lester, bring up more security to help the Sergeant here in case some fools start to trample an old lady.”
“Beg p-pardon?” the elderly greeter stammered – the manager rolled his eyes and walked over to Captain Capps. who transmitted these orders through his cell and three more Eagles who’d been drooling over the devices in the 007 shop trotted by, taking up positions by the door. Tenison nodded to Sergeant Mays, who counted down on his imitation Rolex… “three, two, one...”
Panting, sweating… youth, speed and ruthlessness propelling them a couple of steps ahead of the howling, baying mob at their heels… a trio of shoppers surged across the One World threshold, ignoring the security, ignoring the drably smiling mall greeters and scowling Screaming Eagles, sprinting and skidding across the floor towards the temple of High Def only to encounter the Giga-Plex glass and a second line of gates – upon which they commenced kicking and banging with closed and opened fists…
With a great tintinnabulation of keys, Mark Down Mark opened the door and Greeter, Lester, set his hand to waving, smiling at each harried face, hurrying past…
“Welcome to Giga-Plex, ma’am. Have a nice day. Welcome to Giga-Plex…”
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