54) Super Sunday, 2/21: 4 – 4:10 AM – “Unfired Again!”
Captain Capps, something of a fighting dog himself… needing only cropped ears under his buzzcut and, perhaps, a spiked collar… heard the new commotion well before the managerial contingent, that being Big Sonny, Faubourg and Miss Dominator, Effie Lou, Mark Tenison, Anjelika and the visitors from the FCC…
“Fuckin’ idiots broke into the kennels!” he slapped his forehead.
“Is that bad?” Big Sonny inquired.
The Captain’s head swiveled – taking in the angry barking, and another sound… a faint, though swelling symphony of human screams and growling, flesh-ripping snarls audible during those intervals when the automobiles were backing up, regrouping for further assaults against the Giga-Plex fence.
“Not for us. Not yet…” the Captain estimated. “It’ll thin the herd…”
Vern Cooth suddenly giggled. “Until the men from Waco come to save us from those wackos outside…”
“That’s supposed to be confidential, Commissioner…” Sonnenschein admonished.
“I’m not just any old Commissioner, I’m the Manager,” Vern bawled…
“Then we will have to see whether it’s worth my while to save your sorry ass…” Big Sonny bristled.
“Exactly what are you talkin’ about?” Kristi finally broke in.
Vern flapped his arms.
“Birds! Big black birds!”
Chaine turned to Sonny. “You sent for the cavalry?”
“Such as it is. And I am not promising a damn thing, nor am I really admitting anything because, if a private rescue operation were in the works, it’d be part of a wholly commissioned enterprise of Gig-Enterprises, undertaken for the sole benefit of myself and my entourage…”
And Sonny extended a hand outwards to encompass the loafing Soft Shell Dixieland Band, a handful of dispirited clowns with smeared make-up playing penny-ante poker or staring, mesmerized by Evan Augsberg; the other two remaining Giga-Grrrlz and the foreign placekicker (who was entertaining the salesclerks in Cameraland by booting boxed camcorder cassettes personally marked down by Mark Down Mark towards the 007 Club)…
Tenison sprang to attention. “Stop that! That’s private property…”
Jarlo Knupp gave the caffeinated manager a middle finger.
Vern, glaring at David Lee and Kristi, declared: “Even if you did send for reinforcements from above, neither I nor my staff would be able to participate. We have the image of the Commission to consider…”
“Speak for yourself, buster!” Kristi objected.
“I speak for the Commission as an entity. We are going to stay here and face whatever it is that those idiots out there can throw against us; we are going to stand tall and stay the course, and when the time comes…”
As Fred Faubourg clapped, silently, David reminded the Manager – “You fired us. Remember?”
“Well, you’re unfired again,” Vern said. “Re-hired. Effective immediately, until tomorrow morning or whenever this godforsaken episode blows over. Then, you’re fired again…”
“He’s right!” the store manager seconded. “It’s our obligation to maintain a strong profile and never let the bastards show that they’ve intimidated us…”
“Stop sucking up, Tenison…” Big Sonny finally removed his hat, slapping his knee three times. “You and I both know that you’d kick your wife and children aside to get on my bird. Oh I forgot… you’re not married anymore…”
“Meanwhile, ladies, gentlemen…” Captain Capps pointed out, “we’ve got a howling mob outside, a mob with guns and automobiles, our communications are cut off and… what about the ammo in our truck?”
“Sent those two kids from the tech booth out but…” Tenison shrugged painfully, “ …I’ve probably just dispatched them both to their untimely, but probably deserved, deaths…”
For only a moment, Capps could feel for the store manager… among said feelings: contempt, astonishment at Mark’s un-understanding of human nature and a gnawing sense of dread that, if this was the public face of Giga-Mart, he would be screwed ‘til the end of his days and then some. “One of the burdens of command,” he finally nodded.
And all present observed a minute of silence… well, fifteen seconds… for Skinner and McHale.
“If Waco is coming for Big Sonny, they can take us…” David tried to assure Kristi, “Mr. Tenison, it’ll be up to you to find a place for them to touch down...
“Forget it! There’s no way,” Vern Cooth waved his arms in angry dismissal… “you couldn’t land a Cessna in that parking lot, let alone a helicopter or, even, a fleet of helicopters under all that fire…”
Kristi snapped her fingers.
“The roof! A ‘copter could land on the roof, easy… Mr. Tenison, how do we get up to the roof?”
“Don’t tell me that you’re abandoning me, too…” the store manager flinched.
“She doesn’t work for you. Or you!” David reminded Big Sonny, then turned to Vern. “Or you! Neither do I…”
And as they stood in a circle of mutual recrimination, Anjelika spoke up.
“I have made extensive reconnaissance of physical plant in preparation to do my duty. All host enterprises for One World properties are similar… there will be entrances at north and south ends, approximately center of the Mall. These may be accessed from those catwalks above where our friends…”
A gunshot broke the attention of the group… another zombie fell, screaming all the way down, finally raising a puff of black dust anew as he landed in the blood and toner-spattered aisle between Appliantology and Cyberia. Rifleman Stu gave Capps a smile and a thumbs-up.
Mark Tenison pointed to the corpse, then to two of the Mexicans who’d ventured out of the loading dock area with information – purposefully ignored. “Take that up to the front of the store and throw it on top of the rest!”
Anjelika had been waiting patiently and, when the store manager finished, continued with her narrative, “…our friends have been at display of themselves for the better part of an hour.”
Mark assumed the worst. “Oh fine! Fine! Now you are abandoning me, too. I thought that Germans were brave…”
“I am Austrian, not German. And I do not have martyr complex in situation beyond repair.”
“Now, honey, let’s all think positively. Although,” and Big Sonny impatiently slapped his knee with his hat, “…Fred, if the insurance company gives me any grief over the civil insurrection provisions in our policy…”
“But I was…” Mark objected
“Not now, Tenison. As I was saying, Fred, we have to be ready to fight a two-front campaign; the legal and public relations…”
Sonnenschein droned on while, to make Mark’s job all that much harder, a few of the rank and file… drifting around the perimeter of the bosses, trying to glean useful information… were closing in on him, the impertinent Craig Synch even daring to ask questions…
“Sir, if the company is sending helicopters…”
“There will be no evacuation,” Tenison cut him off. “Not for you, not for me, not for anybody on these premises not specifically assigned from corporate headquarters… I don’t know where this leaves you, Anjie, or the Eagles…”
“We’ll follow our own exit strategy…” said Captain Capps, jaw set, mind exploring possibilities that tumbled over one another like the tumblers on a combination lock. If Sonny did leave them behind… well… that sort of absolved them from their commitment to remain behind and protect his goddam property, didn’t it?
The merchandise, after all, was insured.
A communal murmuring had begun to emerge… Craig Synch muttering to Vicki…
“This store is the fuckin’ Pequod…”
“But if there is a way to the roof…” Vicki encouraged him, “that man… he says he won’t help us, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t hold out, find some other way down…”
“…or what was that ship where they had the mutiny with the guy rolling steel balls in his fist?” Craig wondered. “The Flying Dutchman?”
“Maybe we could find a tree and shimmy down? Up? I thought I saw this bunch of phony trees over on the east side, in front of the chocolate place…”
When the murmurings had grown loud enough to compete with the recalcitrant Dominator, the periodic teeth-rattling crash of vehicles against the gates, the baying of the hounds, the gunshots and the screams, Captain Capps laid down the law…
“If any person within these premises makes an unauthorized attempt to escape, my men and I have full authority to shoot-to-kill…”
Jurgen Jenssen from the 007 Club, standing back on his heels with his partner, Sammy Mulaire, arms crossed, fired back “Why?”
“Why? Because,” said Lester, having ascertained that Sonnenschein was watching, “if you were captured, you could be tortured into providing information that might prove harmful to the cause…”
“What information?” Mulaire shot back. “What cause?”
“What… what torture?” Jurgen blanched…
“That is something I have not been authorized to tell you. Case closed!”
And Captain Capps nodded towards the boss – Big Sonny nodded back.
¾ ¾ ¾
Ray Wilson lifted the trapdoor in Oil Change Charlie’s office up by a half an inch. It was covered by a filthy rug and a chair, but the chair was on rollers and rolled off as he emerged, carrying two briefcases of unshredded United States currency and a black garbage bag, full of the stuff that busy, busy dreams are made of. Sabra followed with more of the same, finally, Honey Keissler, tugging and moaning…
“Well, it’s your share. You don’t want it, lay some down or all of it, even, but you ain’t getting’ none of mine. All we gotta do us lug this shit out to my wheels, and we are rich…”
Ray, of course, chose not to mention that, just as soon as the goods were loaded into the Explorer, he’d have a 45-calibre surprise for both girls – who were hot, but not that hot…
“There’s somebody in the garage…” Sabra pointed…
A derelict in rags and a long, filthy beard… his name, in fact, was Dusty – though few ever asked, certainly none of the three Giga-Plex escapees… was rummaging through the tools and parts left behind by the first wave of looters. He’d recovered a screwdriver and a couple of boxes of sparkplugs, and hailed the three emerging from the office with a hopeful wave…
Ray checked around to be sure that there weren’t any more bums in Oil Change Charlie’s garage. Then, he hoisted and shook the bag, and smiled. “Got the candy from the candy machine…”
“Gee that’s lucky. I ain’t found nothin’ here, but this…” and he displayed his modest treasures, ruefully, then reached down to snatch up a discarded cigarette, sticking it… unlit… between cracked lips. “Could you spare a couple Mars Bars, bro’? Or an Almond Joy, some Life Savers, anything…”
“Tell you what, man,” Sabra answered, with a grin, “you go down this trapdoor in the office, there’s plenty of candy left. They keep it under a sink opposite the stairs… you gotta feel around some boxes, tho’…”
“Really!” Dusty flashed her a smile, wide and generous as the sun… a dusty, cloud-spotted sun. “Hey thanks, lady. I love candy, more than I love anythin’… ‘cept wine… ‘cause it’s easy to chew.”
He smiled broadly, showing black, rotten stumps that might once have been teeth and Ray grinned back, uncomfortably, then hoisted his bag and the cases, motioning for the two girls to follow…
“You are one bad, bad lady…” Ray shook his head.
“‘Gonna be a bad
girl in a bad-ass Corvette. Drive west
Honey, straining with her load, lay the suitcases down while she shifted the weight of the garbage bag of drugs and money from her right shoulder to her left. “You sing?”
“Not really,” Sabra admitted, “but I got other talents…”
¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾
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