52)   Super Sunday, 2/15:  3:30 – 3:45 AM  How Effie Lou Became Miss Dominator!”


Someone else had been watching Ted and Ed’s excellent adventures all the while – Tom Eppert.  Still enraged by the loss of his prize, he’d decided to join the other team, and said as much to the smirking, enigmatic Marko. 

          “What the fuck are we doing, working here… sitting here, actually, not getting paid, not getting respect?  All I wanted was a cheap set to watch the game on, and they took that from me.  They took everybody’s TV… they took my job, taking over my street, taking over the whole fuckin’ country… “

          Marko rewarded him with a knowing smirk.  “So… you like killing the Kosovar?”

          “The… yeah, you mean those fuckin’ creeps up on the ceiling?” Tom remembered.  “Yeah, I like, I’d like to kill them all… but that ain’t enough.  It’s like killing rats, there’s always another one.  You know what I’d really like to do…”

          “Kill Mark Tenison?” Marko suggested, lighting another cigarette…

          “Well, that…” Eppert considered, as noise from the grenades resonated from the corridor beyond the manager’s office and rancid smoke wafted in from the crack under the door, “… yeah.  But I have a better idea…”

          As soon as the Manager left his office, a handkerchief pressed over his face, Tom slipped in behind Tenison and made for the fire door, suppressing a cough.  Three persons had gone in, only one had left, and Tom had a pretty good idea about what had happened.  On his way to the fire door, he confiscated Mark’s personal five-inch set on the desk and tucked it under his arm like a football…

          “Better than nuthin’…” he said.

          He opened the fire door unobserved and followed the two techies down the corridor… allowing six more fluorescent rats entry before the door closed behind him.  The corridor was still smoky – a scene out of Bosch, but with shattered glass and screeching parrots.  One stumbling, half-blinded fiend made a grab for the five-incher but Tom swatted him away… it was the law of the jungle out there.  Having almost achieved the gates of the Mall, the smoke began to fade and he found himself surrounded by a peppery crowd of mixed and decidedly hostile origin… black kids, white kids, old guys, another guy holding a length of rope.  There was also a man in a suit holding hands with a monkey and a big loonie in a wedding dress… nearly all packing some sort of weapon from the looted gunshop, all of them united, against him!

          The rope-holder whispered a few words to Slim and Easy from Nakonset.

          “You work for Giga-Plex…” Slim nodded.

          “Hell no, ah… how do you know?…

          The mob laughed and Tom looked down… the blue temporary vest, of course, with the little GP logo…

          “Are you going to steal my television?” he asked

          “That little piece o’shit?” Easy winced.  “Hell no, man, we gonna hang you from that iron gate, out there!”

          Rafe, the burly, hairy bride, grasped Eppert in a hammerlock and frog-marched him towards the gate where, to his horror, three people were already swaying… two dead, faces purple in the night, the other still kicking, feebly.  In overrunning the One World Mall, these free-enterprise vigilantes had killed or maimed every merchant, manager or service worker they’d crossed… the dying fat lady in a Kravjak’s smock had been escorted into death by a dishwasher from Mad Sam’s Steakhouse, on the right and, on her left, a civilian… pointed out by the grinning Slim, who was wearing about a dozen pounds of gold and silver chainlinks under his torn shirt and holding the business end of a stolen shotgun, letting the stock drag and bounce across the parking lot…

          “Man thought he could take off some bling, din’t belong to him…”       

Before hanging their captive, the mob paraded Eppert in a circle round a looted and torched limo taking up two handicapped spaces… Big Sonny’s wheels, his driver fled, or dead… but Tom, thereby, looked out beyond the mall into the construction site, and saw his salvation.

          “What if I could break into Giga-Plex for you?”

“I’d think you were lying to save your rotten, white ass, but, if you were serious… then you might be allowed to live…” Easy proffered hope.

          “Except you can’t break into that place,” the Bride exclaimed, “we got guys in big cars ramming at those steel gates for almost an hour, now…”

          “They can’t do what I can do…” Tom smiled.

          Slim hoisted the shotgun up over his shoulder.  “Prove it!”

          So Tom set off towards the construction site, escorted by Slim, Easy and Rafe… whose demented cowgirl-bride appearance had been enhanced by a bandolier and a Western belt with two holsters, hosting a mismatched tiny 9 mm. popgun and a huge Smith and Wesson revolver.  The man with the rope was left behind, disappointed, until a cry went up from within the mall…

          “Hey!  Hey!  Found a nut seller from the nut store, hidin’ in the back!”



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          Beneath the One World Mall, Ray Wilson had led his pulchritudinous partners through a yucky maze of tunnels, cockroaches the size of rats, non-fluorescent rats bigger than cats fervidly violating their brightly coloured, domesticated cousins with triumphant or piteous squealings and sewer drains to almost the opposite end of the Mall, before detouring down a cramped, stifling alley to their left that dead-ended at a door plastered with warning signs.  Ray looked around, but casually, as if he were a cool hero in a movie, and pulled a blue Taurus semi-automatic pistol from his pants pocket.

          “OK, this is the only dicey part…”

          “Ray, I don’t like the dicey parts,” Honey whined, popping her gum. “Why didn’t you tell us that you had a gun…

          “Because, then, you’d ask me why? and I would either have to waste time coming up with more lies, or tell the truth – which might scare your pretty, pink ass more than it deserved.  Like they say in the military: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’  Never know what might come in handy… buncha zombies up above, or a locked door needs shootin’ out.  But I have to do it careful-like, ‘cause those rednecks likely left something cooking behind, and meth vapor’s worse than gasoline.  Shouldn’t be a spark this side of the door, but once we’re in… man, don’t smoke, don’t bump into anything, anything could set those fumes off…”

          “How about I just pick the lock?” Sabra interrupted.

          Ray looked up.  “You pick locks?”

          “I gotta lot of talents,” said the Miss Dominator runner-up, “mos’ people don’t know about which I used to use before I was a Giga-Grrrl.  Cept that damn Effie Lou, she got most of her teeth knocked out by a boyfriend or her daddy, so she can take off this bridge when she gives Sonny his Lewinskis, and the boss likes ‘em smooth.  Only reason she’s Miss Dominator, not me…” Sabra added bitterly, giving the lock a look with the looted Luminor.

          There was, also, a narrow plastic envelope of apparatus in Sabra’s purse, and the lock gave way in under a minute.  Ray pushed the heavy door open – and a sour, acrid smell blew back on the intruders, something black and bubbling in a pot under a Bunsen burner and lights were still on, more evidence of a hasty departure.  The basement lab’s décor was predictably appalling – a pornographic calendar from 1978 and a large, glass aquarium being the only embellishments not directly related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine.  There were several empty briefcases on the floor, a large quantity of plastic bricks containing white powder… and something large and brown, moving lazily across the sand at the bottom of the waterless glass aquarium…

          “Oh yuck…” Honey shivered, “a snake!”

          Sabra peered over the top of the aquarium.  “I don’t hear any rattles, is it poisonous?

          “Probably,” Ray told the girls.  “Start packing this shit, we can each take two cases worth… I’m gonna look for the safe…”

          Sabra pointed under an old desk.  “There it is!”

          Ray shoved the desk away, but carefully.  “How are you with combinations?  Oh wait, there’s a keyhole… and I bet I know where they keep the spare key…”

          As one, three faces turned towards the reptilarium.


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          Vestless, Total Skinner and Thunder McHale reached the gates of the mall and exited without any incident of the sort that had tripped up Tom Eppert.  They transferred the remaining martial artifacts from Tenison’s boxes to the various pockets of their windbreakers with the intent of using the containers to hold ammunition, and circled through the parking lot, but stopped when a voice cried out “Freeze”.  It was the shabby white kid from Nakonset Park, shivering under his greasy overcoat, with a looted Glock and a stoned grin…

          “Better hand over them boxes…” the stoner ordered.

          “Sure!” said Thunder.  “Catch!”  

          And he tossed the empty box towards the kid, who pointed his new gun away as he bobbled, then caught it.

          The kid held the box up, looked into it, shook it.  “Hey man, this is empty…”

          McHale affected an insolent laughter.  “Yeah, for the time being…”

          The kid lowered the box, then remembered his gun.  “Then why shouldn’t I shoot you?” he said, with a mean little grin,

          “Because you’d waste ammo?” Total suggested.

          This was something worth thinking over… how many bullets did he have?  “Uh, yeah…” and he began waving the Glock.  “You, there, leave your box behind, also…”

          “If you want it…”

          Ed Skinner lay his box down on the parking lot pavement with a slow motion intended to fool the imbecile gunman into thinking there was something worth checking out inside, and they start walking towards the back of the Mall and the Giga-Plex loading dock.  Having a change of heart once he’d ascertained that he’d claimed only two empty boxes for his trouble, the kid trained his gun on Total’s back with a stoned grin, ready to blast him off the face of the earth when a strange quartet approached… a determined, marching Tom Eppert, two homies from the ‘hood, covered with bling, finally, a monster of a man in a snow-white wedding gown, wielding a shotgun as if searching for a partner to his own shotgun wedding. All, except Tom, were heavily armed… so the kid did the sensible thing, pointing the Glock at Eppert

          “Don’t even think about it, loser…” Tom sighed.

          It had begun snowing as the two tech savants reached the loading dock, finding only a few dozen stragglers vainly beating fists against the metal, almost outnumbered by the corpses scattered hither and thither… including two Screaming Eagles and two Giga-Plex security guards, purple vests drenched in blood.  The van lay on its side and, when they opened the back panel, they found that it had been looted, the two other mercenaries lying dead, throats cut.

          “Bogus!” Thunder swore.

          “I think I’d be sick… except,” Total remembered, “I didn’t take a dinner break…”

          McHale looked back at the shuttered loading dock.

“Should we go back and tell them?”

          They looked at one another, disbelieving, then around the ruins of the van…

          “No guns,” Thunder ascertained.  “No ammo…”

          “Yeah, but they left behind some of this cool cop gear,” Skinner said.  “Check it out!  Directional shit, and hey…”

          Thunder inhaled sharply.  “Night vision goggles!  Way cool…”

          Ed pointed back across the parking lot.  “We can cut across the lot to the highway, hoof it back to my place.  You can crash on the couch… better not risk the parking lot til’ tomorrow.  If then…”

          “I… I love you, dude!” Thunder broke down, fitting the precious goggles to his face.

          “I know.  Me too…”



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Tom Eppert led his captors towards the construction crane, then broke out his cellphone.  An odd urge to call home had come over him, but the cellphone wasn’t working… Slim and Easy watched him, getting nervous, trigger-happy…

          “Just tryin’ to call my wife an’ kids, alright?”

          “Tried to call my Boopsie,” Rafe, the bride, admitted… “we’re goin’ up to Vermont next month, ‘n gettin’ married…”

          The big man reached into a pocket under the wedding gown and pulled out a photograph of a tiny codger in a tux with amazingly long fingers, like a prehistoric lizard…

          “He works in a piano bar…” Rafe said, proudly.

          “Lucky you,” Tom said, resting a foot on the big wheel of the crane.

          “Uh yeah… man, you said you could knock down that gate with this?  You gotta key?”

          “Key?  Who needs a fuckin’ key?” Tom scoffed.  “If I can’t get this baby started, you can hang me from the top of that hook, up there…”

          “I seen a picture, in a book” Easy remembered, looking up and pointing at the snowy sky.  “This elephant, man, he stomped some people so they held a trial, sentenced him to death.  Only way they could hang that elephant was using a big crane like this one… fucked up, man…”

          Tom held a penlight to the ignition,  Ain’t no crane… nobody either… gonna fuck with me!”  He unhooked and hotwired the beast into a low, ominous rumbling, glancing from the crane to the back door of the loading dock. 





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