(Continued from Part 8: End of the Line)
|Author: Shel Silverstein|
It was a restless night for all of us. Even though I was exhausted, thanks to my middle-of-the-night wake-up call the night before and all the stress leading up to this day, I barely slept. Of course, it didn’t help that my bunk mate was a virtual symphony of snorts, gargles, and the occasional nonsensical outburst (“Who the fuck killed Cock Robin?”). I had forgotten that about Newton.
I grab a quick shower while there’s still hot water, and head out to the living room. To my surprise, Maggie is already there, looking as fresh as a daisy. Albeit it a somewhat colorless one: she’s dressed completely in black. Her black pants, turtleneck, and blazer have the odd effect of making her look both sexy as hell and formidable. Her red hair is once again pulled back, but in a more severe style than yesterday. No fetching tendrils curl around her face today. The lady looks like she means business.
“I made coffee.” She offers a small smile over the magazine she’s holding. “Couldn’t find any food, though. We didn’t even leave a pizza crust.”
“Coffee sounds good. Thanks.”
As I’m returning from the kitchen, Morales and Patterson join us.
I’m going to run down to the deli across the street and get some bagels,” Morales says. I’ll meet you guys downstairs in the office. You can leave your gear here, just in case.”
Patterson adds, “I don’t anticipate anything going wrong, but…”
Nothing will go wrong,” Maggie interrupts in a firm voice. There is a tone to her voice that I haven’t heard before. What happened to the sweet girl who picked me up in Penn Station?
“No, probably not. But just in case, we might need to hunker down here for a while until we see how things play out.”
Shortly after Morales leaves for the bagels, Paulie Newton stumbles into the living room. “Sleep well, sunshine?” I say sarcastically.
He at least has the good grace to acknowledge the racket he made. “Sorry.”
“Come on, let’s go down to the office. It’s almost show time,” Patterson says. "There's coffee down there."
On the elevator ride down to Carlos’ office, I check my watch. It’s just shy of 7:30am.
Carlos lowers the large screen in front of the elevator.
“I’ll turn on The Morning Show. The interview is supposed to begin at nine,” he says, “but we want to be ready in case there’s any change in scheduling.”
He punches a few keys on one of the computers. Overhead, a ceiling panel drops down with a slight hum, and I see the projector mounted on it come to life. A few more keystrokes, and morning anchor Chuck Kingston’s smiling face fills the screen. “Now, let’s go to Dick for today’s weather. Is it going to be as good as it looks?”
We nibble at the bagels Morales put on the conference table, but none of us really has much appetite. The atmosphere in the room is heavy, the tension palpable. We’ve been making our way to this moment for nearly ten years, ever since we saw Jimmy Flanagan die while singing a goofy kids’ song. Now that we’re here, our nerves are buzzing like high tension power lines. All of us are bowed by the unbearable weight of gravitas. Trying, and failing, to keep the conversation light, we talk about sports and the upcoming Super Bowl. But our focus isn’t on it, though. I’m sure each of us is looking inward, running over our pieces of the plan, looking for flaws.
“It’s half past eight, time to break for your local news, folks,” Kingston announces from his studio desk. “We’ll see you on the other side.”
“And that’s my cue.” Maggie jumps up, and reaching under her blazer, pulls out a lethal looking Glock. She quickly checks it, then shoves it back into its concealed shoulder holster.
“See you later,” she says, and steps though the door that leads up to the stacks above.
Stunned into silence, we all sit there, our mouths gaping. All except Ed Patterson, that is.
“Yeah, about that…” He gives us a moment, then continues. “I told you she was our secret weapon.”
“And now for our feature interview of the day. We’re joining Michael Andros at the mid-town office of Alcázar Sentinel Security.” As Chuck Kingston speaks, the image on the screen switches to the outside of Alcázar’s headquarters on Madison Avenue. “What can you tell us about the building, Michael”
Standing on the sidewalk in front, Michael Andros gives the camera a brief overview of the six-story building that was home to the historic Villard town houses. The tower behind this was built as a hotel, once reigned over by the famed ‘Queen of Mean,” Andros says.
The image switches to Kingston in the studio, who says, “And right after the break, Adam Knight, the CEO and founder of the company is going to give us a glimpse into the inner workings of the leading security firm in the world.”
“Oh, yeah, we’ll get a glimpse into the inner workings, all right,” Morales growled. “And Lafcadio takes aim.”
“I’m here in Adam Knight’s office, Michael Andros says. “Thank you for allowing us this rare opportunity to visit this magnificent place.”
Knight strides into camera view, his arm outstretched to shake hands with Andros. He is dressed in what looks to be an expensive bespoke tailored suit from Italy. He’s groomed to a fare-thee-well, from his styled hair to his manicured fingernails. Everything about him screams wealth.
“And who says crime doesn’t pay?” Morales says with a look of disgust on his face.
“My pleasure, Mike. Mi casa es su casa.” Grinning like the pompous ass that he is, Knight waves his arm around, gesturing at the opulence he works in daily. “Please come in.”
“See, didn’t I tell ya?” Paulie smirks. “The Sultan of Brunei would be at home in that fucking place.”
Knight leads the reporter over to a seating area and, chuckling, introduces several men seated nearby as the “the brains behind the brain.”
Oh, give me a fucking break,” I mutter.
Patterson comments, “I told you they’d be there.”
Knight and Andros take their seats in gilt-encrusted chairs that resemble thrones more than anything.
“Adam, tell us a little about Alcázar Sentinel Security,” Andros begins.
And then all hell breaks loose.
We stare at the screen as the camera lens swings from the seating area to the office door, which has just burst open, spilling in a large group people in black jackets emblazoned in yellow with the letters FBI. Several of them are carrying weapons. In the middle of the group, I see Maggie Murphy, a fierce look burning in her eyes, her Glock aimed right at Adam Knight. There’s a lot of shouting and confusion caught by the camera which is jerking around the scene, and then the feed cuts back to a very shocked looking Chuck Kingston.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure you are wondering, as we in the studio are, what just happened in the offices of Alcázar Sentinel Security. We’ll fill you in as soon as we know anything. In the meantime, let’s get the latest on the Super Bowl planning from our sports guy in New Orleans, Susanna Baker. Susanna?”Patterson reaches over to the computer and closes the program bringing us The Morning Show. The screen goes white.
Cheers have erupted in Carlos Morales’s office. There’s a lot of back-slapping. “We got ‘em, Jimmy. We got ‘em!” Paulie shouts. “The show is over!”
When things calm down, I turn to Patterson. “OK, you want to tell us about Maggie now? Is she really Jimmy’s cousin?” As I say this, I’m thinking that if she isn’t, the lady is one hell of an actress.
“Yeah,” Paulie exclaims. “I thought she was going to blow his fucking face off.” He grins. “Come to think of it, wouldn’t that have been appropriate? What goes around, comes around. Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back.”
“Oh, she’s his cousin, alright, but that’s not why I contacted her,” he responds. “She’s also FBI Bureau Chief of the New York Regional office. That’s why I contacted her.
“I decided long ago that we needed someone inside law enforcement if we were going to take Alcázar down. Who better than a bureau chief who just happens to have a vested interest in seeing Knight get his just desserts?”
Amid a barrage of questions, he fills us in. Once Maggie had agreed—indeed, pleaded—to come on board with Lafcadio, she became our conduit of information to the people who knew what to do with it. She fed the powers-that-be just enough information, provided by us, of course, to get a task force formed. A task force she headed up.
Thanks to Morales’ computer skills to access the electronic data and Newton’s access to the physical information in the building--both supplemented here and there as needed—we gave the task force everything they needed to begin to build a damning case against Knight, his minions, and Alcázar Sentinel Security. And what a case they built. Alcázar had broken a lot of laws, both domestic and international, including murder and treason. They were going down. Oh, yeah, they were going down for a long, long time.
Maggie doesn’t return until late afternoon. She lets herself in through the doorway we had first entered the day before, looking a little worse for wear, but very proud of herself. The guys all jump up and hug her, applauding her, throwing a barrage of questions at her. I let them finish congratulating her, and then walk over. I pull her close and gave her a big old glurpy slurpy kiss.
“This one’s for you, Lafcadio!”
(Credit, and thanks, to author Shel Silverstein.)
Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 8, Muse 2: "The Unbearable Weight of Gravitas."