55)   Super Sunday, 2/21:  4:10 – 4:20 AM – “For the Cause!”


The construction crane Tom Eppert hotwired was half again as tall as the cherrypicker at FREECOCK – it growled to life with a tumultuous roaring and shaking that might just have been poor maintenance but felt, to Tom, as he climbed the ladder to the crows’ nest, like God’s favourite stallion, freshly saddled and rarin’ to run.  Feeling no pain, Easy tried climbing after him but the vibrations made his teeth rattle so he stopped, swigged from the looted pint-bottle of peppermint schnapps in his pocket… disgusting stuff!… and called out, extending his gun, handle-first…

          “Here, man, you need a friend?”

          “A gun?  Man, this thing… it could run over a Hummer, squash it like a bug…”

          Easy considered this.  “Yeah, but you never know.  Go ahead, we got plenty… there’s guns all around… means we trustin’ you now…”

          “Well, if you put it that way…”

          Tom leaned over and grasped the weapon, juggling it, the looted TV from Tenison’s office and his grip… finally, he held the tiny set against the ladder with his chest and stuffed the pistol in his belt, grinning down below to his captors, pointing to the bottle in Easy’s hand…”

          Gimme a slug for the road, too?”

          Easy took a last swallow of the crap, tossed the bottle upwards.  “Take it all, man.  Nasty…”

          Now juggling ladder, pistol, TV and schnapps – Tom took a healthy swig, grimaced, took another and lodged the bottle next to the gun…

          “If this sumbitch goes wild and shoots off my balls…” he warned…

          “Yeah?” said Slim, expecting the worst; that he’d have to climb that giant crane.

          “Then I guess…” Tom broke into peals of peppermint laughter, “…guess I’d have no balls…”

          And he continued climbing.


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In the meth lab under Oil Change Charlie’s, Dusty’s battered face fairly stretched out into a wide, putrescent grin at the sight of all the dope that Ray and the girls had had to leave behind – not to mention the few loose twenties and fifties on the floor.  He did a shambling, little dance, then ripped open one of the plastic bags with a long, dirty fingernail, lit his foundling cigarette from a pack of matches left next to some glass cage thingy, took a deep drag and then lay the butt at the edge of the table.  Cupping his hands, he scooped up at least a cup of powdered, pure crank and inhaled deeply, powdering his face like a clown.  His eyes widened like saucers, and he did another little dance, more frantic, this time, pumping his fists into the air and crowing…

          “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Now, uh… candy!  Man!  Under the sink…”

          Stumbling pathetically, Dusty grasped the fixture, sank to his knees, and began batting away all of the old, oily boxes underneath while, on the table, the forgotten cigarette smoldered – brighter and brighter and brighter.  He tossed another box over his shoulder… and found himself staring into the eyes of Charlie’s guardian viper.  The snake looked at Dusty, Dusty looked at the snake.  Tendrils of blue flame began issuing from the cigarette…

          “Hey there, bro’!” Dusty hailed the reptile.


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A few moments after Capp had intimidated the Giga-Plex staff into silence… or, more probably, a score of covert, decentralized schemes of escape and revenge… the zombies massing above launched what must have been conceived, in their minds, as a broad, well-coordinated assault.   It began with a feint – simultaneous suicide attacks from the east and west sides near the front of the store.  Waves of suicidal looters, self-selected by lust to watch the big game and by strong spirits, if not actually recruited by a centralized intelligence, leaped from catwalk to support stanchions and attempted to scrabble down onto the floor… some failing and falling in flailing horror and despair, some others shot in the act; a few even making it down into the cellphone and satellite sections where, weaponless and apparently brainless, they sprinted (or limped) towards the television section.  The Eagles, including all those drawn from the loading dock and northside departments, were waiting for them, taking cover behind the circle of big floor models that surrounded the Dominator.  A terrible slaughter ensued; bodies piling up along the wall short of the Hi-Def henge and at the base of Big Sonny’s bloody, revolving statue… the prisoners cuffed to the tech and credit tent found themselves caught in two crossfires and General Westmoreland Soames’ pole-mate caught a bullet in the bowels, just after “Billy Obvious”, peeking up from behind a desk, was drilled between the eyes.  As the screams of the wounded and just plain nuts berserkers rent the air during a lull in the shooting, Westy appealed to Capps and Mark Tenison, hiding behind a chest-high Samsung console…

          “Captain!  At least give us a chance… I ain’t done a damn thing… oww…”

          A bullet grazed his forearm, then plunged into the shoulder of the other detainee, who screamed anew.  Capps looked towards Tenison, who shook his head vigorously…

          “You’re thieves.  Once this affair is concluded, you’ll be turned over to the authorities and you will have your day in court…”

          “I’m innocent!” Westy protested…

          “Innocent!” the four men cuffed, two to a pole, on either side of him echoed – a gallows chorus punctuated by the singing bullets.

          “Shut up,” Captain Capps advised them, one and all, “and duck…”

“I was framed by Tom Eppert,” Westy persisted.  “Do you see him anywhere?  He’s a deserter… one of them.  Ergo, I’m innocent.”  He looked up – not to Heaven, exactly, but to a more impartial authority,  It’d be on camera…”

          Capps couldn’t help laughing.  “On camera?  Ergo?  Guy has a New York mouth.  Wonder if he can handle a gun…”

          “He’d turn it on us…” Mark warned.

“Maybe.  Would you?” the Captain asked Westy.  “Or, if I did let you go, and gave you a weapon, would you give me your pledge that you will fight, fight with us, fight for the cause?”

          “Don’t do it!” Tenison waved his arms, frantic.  “If you let one of them go, why not all of them?  What are you, Captain, some pussy Democrat?” the Manager sneered.

          “What cause?” asked a suspicious Soames.

          “The defense of civilization,” Captain Capps declared, as if to imply that both Soames and Tenison were inferior Americans for not standing straighter, and saluting… although he did acknowledge that the black man was at a disadvantage for being handcuffed to a tentpole in the center of a firefight.  So, he added: “And, also, saving your own ass…”

          “That?” Westy bit.  “Sure!  Anything…”

          Capps tossed a tiny key towards the tech and credit tent.  It fell a couple of feet short… under withering fire from above, Westy reached out, grabbed the key, uncuffed himself and dove towards the henge

          “He’s coming this way,” Mark appealed to the Captain.  “Shoot him!”

          Westy scrambled behind a sixty-inch plasma set, already shot and leaking.

          “Gun!  I need a gun!” he screamed, pointing upwards.

          Capps followed the presumed shoplifter’s finger upwards.  “Stu?” he designated his best sniper to take the shot.

          Rifleman Stu took aim at one of the armed zombies trying to balance himself atop the wall of televisions and pick off a defender simultaneously.  No luck!  Stu drilled him between the eyes, and his cheap revolver struck the floor a second before the man himself.  Westy grabbed the weapon, turned, and… to Mark Tenison’s horror… trained the gun on the Manager, then raised it and fired at a looter hanging on to Big Sonny’s bloody, rotating statue like a kiddie ride and aiming at Tenison’s back.  The zombie dropped…

          “Not bad,” Capps nodded.  “Been in the service?”

          “Fallujah…” Soames recalled.  “Waziristan… wazooistanwhatverstan…”

          Lester pointed to a couple of automatic pistols by the bodypile.  “There’s better shit out there, grab what you can, soon as we’re safe…”

          “Are we safe, yet?” Westy hollered back.

          “Not yet.”   The Screaming Eagle had spied another furtive form crawling, face down, on the catwalk above the registers.  “Stu!”




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