34)   Saturday, the Eighteenth, 8:50 AM – “Dissatisfaction!”



Twenty minutes later, Freddie Hurst… wedged between the security airlocks in the employee locker area of FRCOC … couldn’t stop giggling as he held up a prize smuggled in past the first tier of security.  It was already shaping up to be a bad day… well, half-day… for both Tom Eppert and General Westmoreland Soames; an eerie silence over breakfast at the absence of a not-particularly-favored but familiar acquaintance… the morning television.  Bad morning, America!  Goofy Gus gave Freddie a thumbs-up, zipped up his blue coverall and entered the airlock, leaving a scowling Just Jones behind to pop the inevitable question…

          “So what’s that you bring in, some sorta pill… one of ‘em Ecstacies you people take goin’ to the disco…”

          “That Vicodin?  Gimme!” Westy held out his bandaged hand.  Hurt like a motherfucker and the security asshole on the other side of the “IN” airlock had made him unwrap the whole bandage, presumably to confirm that Soames wasn’t bringing any dirty, mutilated currency into FRCOC.  It was that damn movie, the one with Latifah and those other women about stealing from the Federal Reserve that hardly anyone had seen, not that it put ideas in people’s heads that hadn’t been there to begin with… rather, it had put ideas in security’s head that the feeders, shredders and mulchers had begun developing ideas

          Freddie recoiled, arching his brow like he’d seen Joan Crawford do… or was it Bette Davis?  S’not a pill, and nobody goes to discos anymore, not for the last twenty years.  I go to the club…”

          “You take one of those,” Tom Eppert needled Freddie, “lose a hand in the machine and then how do you do yourself at night, thinkin’ about Gage Cochrane…”

          “It’s not a pill… an’ how do you know about Gage, you watch Cannibal Cove?” Freddie leered.  “Or, should I say, watched, along with the rest of the unmodulated barbarians…”

          Tom snorted.  “I gotta daughter…”

“…cause Klaus wouldn’t mind if you came over on Thursday and we could all watch the divine Mister C. together!  Or…” and Freddie turned, wagging his freecock at Westy “… a screening of ‘Mad Money’ is on Cinemax next Wednesday, since you sorta look like Latifah…”

          “Shut yo’ mouth an’ put that little worm away… an’ the dope, too…”

          “It’s not dope,” Freddie bawled, exasperated.  It’s a bead… mother-of-pearl, thank you very much, from the Bead Outlet at Kravjak’s in the One World Mall, and do you know what I’m planning to do with it?”

       “Stick it up your ass, I hope…” Tom muttered.

          Freddie stepped back, genuinely astonished for a fraction of a second before theatrical astonishment took over: “I swear, you have ESP!  I tuck this way, way up, where the Doc can feel it, but can’t dig it out, he’ll know it’s not money cause it’s too small and hard, but he’ll wonder what it is, probably cancer.  Then the fun… does that fusty little homophobe tell me I oughta see a real doctor, or does he just pretend he didn’t feel a thing?”

       “One would hope…” Westy couldn’t help himself saying…

Freddie was barely able to keep a straight face – the poor Neanderthals were walking right into it.  “Wouldn’t lift a finger to save my life…”

          Tom and Westy groaned, predictably, as Freddy bent over… waggling his butt and cackling like a whole barnyard of domestic fowl; Tom pulled up the blue coverall and eased his right foot into a government flip-flop.  Just Jones zipped up his coverall… the last two money destroyers left, but Freddie… wrapped up in himself… seemed willing to hang around all day and let the decaying dollars hang on a while longer.

          “That anti-FCC riot you mentioned…” Jones said, putting his right hand up against his cheek as if it would give them confidentiality…

          “It’s a rally, not a riot…” Westy pointed out.

          “Against the government shutting down TV?  It’ll be a riot,” the painted man predicted, “like back in front of the Capitol again.  Liquor stores round that government place?  Pawnshops?  Hey, I’ll be there.  Nakonset Park?  Again?”

          “That’s where we gather, sundown…” Westy answered, since it seemed that Just Jones already knew the answers to all his questions…

          Speakin’ of matters electronic,” Tom decided to venture, “that converter your man sold me…”

          Westy waved his left hand in the air.  “I know.   Sold us a bad one too… Raoul and I never got along so well, but for him to do what he did to his Auntie that way…”

          “Yeah,” Tom cut in, already pissed to think Westy thought that he could be distracted, “…well, since he doesn’t seem to be around, I’m countin’ on you to make it right…”

          Just Jones had been listening, and stepped forward as if to say something, then shook his head, entered the airlock and was gone with a whoosh.  Tom and Westy glanced at Freddie… still engrossed in himself, dancing a sort of cancan as he stepped into the coveralls… then at each other in a distinctly unfriendly way.

          “Me?” Westy pointed at himself, in mock disbelief.  “Raoul’s an adult, your dispute’s with him… all I can do is leave a little something after I track him down…”

“Don’t work that way, man.  You put me on to him, he scammed me… so it’s on you…”

“Thought you said you were gonna moonlight Giga-Plex tonight, get a big screen all by yourself…” Freddie needled, zipping up the front of his coveralls and saluting the unblinking red orb of the surveillance camera, like a one-eyed Duke Staley, the thought flitted through Westy’s mind…

“I ask for your input?  Don’t…” and Tom lifted a finger, “…just go put that marble up your ass and get out of here…”

          Freddie passed through the airlock with a jaunty wave and General Westmoreland sighed.  “Hey man, I’m sorry but like… Raoul burned me too.  Tapped out.  I want to see the game, I gotta pawn my title again or pay fuckin’ Leo his forty bucks door fee at Feargal’s…”

          “Forty ain’t bad… the Chevalier Room wants fifty,” Tom said, though he knew Soames could care less.  “I ain’t even checked around here…”

“Forget it, man, guys like you ain’t exactly welcome in Purley.  I’m a regular.  Leo said he’d charge, I thought it’d be five, ten bucks…”

          Tom, zipping up his coverall, said “Well your problems ain’t my problems, ‘cept one.  You owe me, General, thirty-five for that fuckin’ box an’ my set  that blew up.  Old, but worked fine, call it a hundred for the both.  You owe me.  Coulda burned down my house, my kids… one way or other, even if I have to catch you at that riot, I’m collectin’…”

          “I’m right here,” Westy answered, right hand balling into a fist. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere…”

          Both men started looking around the room for something to be used as a weapon, but the place was sterile and the options unsatisfactory – the drab, papery uniforms and flipflops depressing even thoughts of violence.  So Tom went to the airlock, looking over his shoulder…

          Nakonset Park don’t scare me, motherfucker.  One way or another…”

          The airlock whooshed closed behind him.

          “Punk,” Westy spat.


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