“HOUSE OF THE HOARDER” by BLAISEWELL

December 17th 11:48 pm – Wherein a Life of Crime Meets Its Logical End

 

A puke green Volkswagen van idles in the middle of vast parking lot. Its engine loudly passes gas into cream puffs of exhaust that dissipate into the prickly winter night.  In the van, sit the Brothers Parcheesi whose nicknames (C-Drive, Dingo, and Bradbury, in respective birth order) have superseded their real ones, and whose long string of crimes have kept county law enforcement so puzzled as to why they were even committed long enough to let them get away with each one.

A month ago, they ran a test drive circuit to every dealership in town, leaving the Mustang or Ferrari or Prius they got from the previous place in exchange for Volvos, Saturns, Pontiacs, ultimately winding up with a van painted the same color as the bug splats on its windows.

Two weeks ago, they bought an entire vanload of canned cat food and poured it out onto the lawns of random residents of Tweaker St underneath the Turnpike 404 overpass, then, days later, went door to door, Bradbury armed with a flame thrower, Dingo eating the cat food, and offered “pest extermination” services to the unfortunate individuals whose homes had been overrun by an influx of feral felines that constantly made meals out of beloved pet birds and guinea pigs and kept entire neighborhood awake every night with an unsettling symphony of mating frenzies.

In the end, no transactions were made; no cats were cooked; many cops were called.

Tonight they plan to rob the Midweston Miniature Market of its most recent shipments of [b]racketball gear: helmets, bracket-sticks, pads, jock straps, and replace it with several crates full of pink ping pong balls, all marked as containing hazardous materials.  The scheme is about as drunkenly conceived as they were, and like their dear Mama Parcheesi (God Bless), they also lack a Plan B.  It’s a plan backed and funded by an enigmatic entity whom C-Drive only refers to as “da geezah” and C-Drive keeps reminding his two younger brothers that “it’s flawless” and that he’s “got it all figgah’d out” despite neither Dingo nor Bradbury caring if it succeeds or fails.  Risk is their reward.

Right now they await the arrival of their contact from the Pinkerton Pines Ping Pong & Pinball Plant which is undergoing another labor strike, according to the contact.  He’s told them he’s got to be careful about Union vehicles patrolling all the inroads from the factory, as any contract employees voluntarily doing overtime deliveries to cover the shortage will be violently apprehended and his insurance plan has a notable exception for limbs broken with bracket-sticks.

The van’s heater weakly blows tepid air that smells like leaking engine fluid.  C-Drive neurotically unties and reties his atrocious man bun in between sips of his third canned double espresso of the night.   The [b]racketball supply truck should be arriving any minute now.  The contact is running late.

The burner phone on the dashboard comes to life with a little cha-cha beat.  Dingo, hopelessly enthused with any device with beeping and lights and buzzers, holds the phone and says, “WINGING! WINGING!”  and C-Drive keeps trying to snatch the phone from him to answer it.  The two wrestle for control of the phone, sending it into the air multiple times. Bradbury’s puts his copy of Ulysses down to grab the phone in mid-air.

“Yes, we’re here and we’ve got your payment,” he says to the contact.  Unlike C-Drive, he speaks intelligently.  Unlike Dingo, he speaks intelligibly.  Unlike both of them, he hardly speaks at all.

Bradbury gives their exact GPS location to the contact, down to the fraction of a second.   They see the approaching luminescent cone of headlights and a hot pink delivery truck pulls up next to their seasick green van.  The contact gets out. Looks spooked, paranoid even.  He keeps scanning the perimeter and mumbling that he can’t stick around long.   He’s been followed, he says.  The Brothers Parcheesi make quick work of unloading the ping pong crates from the truck.  Once finished, they hand the contact his payment, a suitcase full of IOUs.  The contact throws it in the back of his cab and speeds off without bothering to check it.

The plan is as follows:  the shipments of [b]racketball gear are going to be sorted and sold as starter kits to the residents of Midweston, Minnesota keen on jumping in on the massive craze sweeping the nation.  The kits include all the items and paperwork necessary to register for the national free-for-all league. This year’s season is due to start in only a few days.  The sporting goods department of the Midweston Mini Market is late on finishing its preparations due to specific legal deferments of parents with law degrees and recently dismembered children.   The warehouse employees are to spend tonight unloading the supply truck and assembling the kits.  The idea is to intercept the delivery, “pacify” the workers, and fill up all the boxes with the ping pong balls.  At its heart it’s some guerilla marketing ploy that is beyond C-Drive’s cognitive level, he only does as he’s told and makes it out to his brothers like he’s “got it all figgah’d out”.

They all change into their warehouse uniforms that they’ve pilfered from their brief stint of honest employment. The supply truck comes exactly at midnight and they all load their Saturday night specials while they unload themselves from the van (C-Drive, Dingo, and Bradbury, in respective unloading order).  They don’t plan on incurring any murder or assault with a cheapo weapon charges, but C-Drive thinks that they might fire a few shots in the air for persuasive reasons.

The Brothers Parcheesi stride right into where the warehouse employees are unloading the truck and brandish their guns, giving several colorful descriptions about what will happen if they fail to comply.  Something like, “Yo yous all should do what wes sayin or we’ll pull dis heeah triggah on dis heeah gun and dis heeah bullet will entah yo skulls but probs will not kill yous but rattle around in yo brains and leave yous in some real fucked up, dilapidated states wheeah yous got tubes goin into every holes in yo body and yous can’t do nothing but watch da homo gahden TV network all day and yous’ll keep pressing da button that says yous wantin to die but yo relatives is J. Hoover witnesses so deys not gonna wanna let you die until da HIYAH POWAH says so.  Got it?”

They don’t got it, but the warehouse employees back off all the same.  Most of them know the Parcheesis through one way or another, and none of them are afraid of anything C-Drive says.  The truth is that they secretly hope for something like this every time they go to work.  They want freak accidents to happen.  They want robberies to occur.  They want anything that gives them a legitimate, on-paper excuse to not work and even give them full entitlement to disability benefits so they can become things like writers, painters, directors with the sudden surplus of free time they’ll have.  And none of them will ever become prolific writers, or painters, or directors because writers, painters, and directors actually write, paint, and direct.

C-Drive tells the warehouse workers they best line up against the wall and they listlessly comply.  Some light cigarettes; some check their phones.  He then orders Dingo to open the first box taken off the truck and take out the [b]racketball gear to make room for the ping pong balls.   Dingo flips the lid off the box and freezes upon looking inside, his eyes go criss-cross-apple-sauce and a gooey yarn of snot descends from his right nostril.  He stays like that for several seconds and his brothers can’t tell if he’s genuinely confused or if he finally graduated from huffing spray paint to drinking industrial solvent.

“EMPTY!” he finally shouts. “EMPTY! EMPTY!”

C-Drive raises an eyebrow to Bradbury. “Yo B, I don’t get it.  What’s MT stand foh?”

Bradbury rolls his eyes and checks the box himself.  There’s nothing in it, save for a single yellow ticket tucked into the corner.  Bradbury picks it up for a closer look.  It’s got some faded lettering on it.  He’s seen something like this before, somewhere, but probing the farthest depths of his hippocampus draws a blank.  He puts the ticket between the knuckles of the hand holding the .25 auto and waves it in front of the line of warehouse employees hoping they’ll get the hint with the gun and all.

They all furiously shake their heads that they know nothing.  They’re being sincere.  Bradbury can tell.  At the end of the line, a gentlemen far too elderly to have a lucrative retirement plan asks if he might be allowed to use the commode. He’s got a cane and a bowtie and everything.  C-Drive says he can do whatever but wants to know where to take a piss first.   The old man nods at him and starts hobbling his way to the warehouse offices.  C-Drive says he’s going inside to check for an ambush and follows.

Bradbury has the workers diligently pull the rest of the boxes from the truck by showing them the detonator to the C4 plastic explosives strapped to the radioactive sewage colored van.   He makes Dingo  check the boxes for more tickets by saying they are redeemable at Brother Bubba’s Ice Cream Trucks  for various amounts of illegal drugs.  He feeds him a yarn about all the different types of underworld currency like forged checks, McDonald’s monopoly tiles, jars of formaldehyde, and suitcases full of surprises.  He says there’s a huge market for arcade tickets in Midweston after county legislature outlawed all forms of institutionalized child gambling, forcing all the pizza joints to invest in rigged games that were actually beatable, rather than token-powered slot machines.

While Bradbury soliloquizes past what Dingo can comprehend, a mean gust of subzero wind flares up and near flash freezes everything  in its path, and the sudden jolt of bitin’ cold halts all activity outside the warehouse.  Everyone refocuses on the horizon, where an endless single file fleet of pink delivery vans comes slithering their way like a starving nightmare anaconda.   Many more are channeling out from the roads leading up the mountain, headlights shimmering off the tall and tidy snow banks coming down.  Van after van after van pulls into the MM-Mart  parking lot, starting with the handicapped spaces.

A small army of men dressed in what looks like football gear for fetishists pools together from the vans.  Each of them holds a six foot staff with a hooked blade on one end and some robotic looking claw on the other.   The staffs look weighty enough to hit hard; some have red stains across the wood finish.  Are those high heels?  From the backs of the vans, they bust out walkie talkies, camera equipment, and a whole host of weapons that would make any insurgent drool.  Some of them even have rocket launchers.   They completely ignore the mildew green van packed with enough C4 to delete every single one of them from time and space.

They converge in front of the store entrance and form ranks.  They’ve all got these Ottoman style steel helmets with pointy tops and a goalie style facemask coming around the front.  They’re all wearing sperm count decimating tights,  in a striking black contrasting against the milky glow of moonlight reflected by the whitewashed winter landscape.  They act unaffected by the cold — must be thermals.  The tights are accented by leather shoulder, knee, and elbow pads paired with a sturdy chest plate covering their torsos.  Their protective gear is all spray painted with swear words, skulls, and crude depictions of X-rated things.  There’s a buzzer looking deal covering the crotch of each outfit, giving the impression of an emasculating bullseye.

Two mammoth semi-trucks come backing up as the crowd parts to make room.  There’s even guys holding glowsticks directing where the trucks go.   The trucks stop and the trailer doors snap up like tightly wound venetian blinds.  Down goes the ramp and several gorilla sized dudes scurry in and roll out floodlights, mountains of cables, generators, camera cranes, mic booms, monstrous computers, and several tables of catering.  Within a few short minutes, they’ve got an entire command center set up in the parking lot.

The floodlights flash on and the sheer brightness forces Bradbury’s eyeballs to strategically retreat into his skull.  He blocks out the light with his arm and tries to make out the current scene.   There is a guy standing at the very front holding a megaphone.  He looks rather adipose — must’ve needed a custom fit.  Instead of the goofy helmet, he’s got on a black director’s cap with some lettering that’s hard to make out from a silhouette.

“Now listen heer: Dis soopermerket and all surroondin’ property is under control of tha Werrkerr’s Perty of Minnesoota.  If you’re not gonna submit peacefully, we will use foorce. Do ya comply?” says megaphone man.

A dwarf wearing a miniature version of the S&M rugby outfit runs up to Bradbury then holds up a microphone.  All the cameramen zoom directly in.

Bradbury can only blink as he tries to take in what even is going on.  The vertically challenged man with the microphone politely nudges him for an answer.  Bradbury almost defaults to whipping out the detonator.  The snipers up high with .50 cals dissuade him.  He looks side to side for anything to use.

“Boy, I didn’t ask ya fer tha squarr root of a pie. Do ya or don’t ya comply?”

The wind decides it’s back for round two and blows the collective miasma of van exhaust onto the scene.  Instantly people are choking, coughing, wheezing, having asthma attacks, regretting ever getting contact lenses.  The visibility goes down to point blank. Bradbury goes with the flight response and high tails it in the direction of the ping pong balls, grabbing his brother by the arm along the way.  He thinks he hears police sirens.

“What’s go-weeng on, Bwadbewee?”  asks Dingo.

“We’ve been set up, dingus.  That’s what’s going on.  Those freaky hockey guys are already storming in.  Help me with the ping pong boxes.”

It’s still near impossible to do anything in the stinging death cloud. Bradbury has to duck into the undershirt of his jumpsuit to breathe.  Dingo has no problems, smoke-filled rooms are his most frequent habitats.  Together they kick over the boxes of ping pong balls and tens of thousands spill down the decline from the warehouse entrance to the parking lot.  The hard to miss figures of the trailer unloading ape men emerge from the smoke.  Their eyes are swollen shut and pouring gallons of tears for some form of relief. They don’t see the ping pong balls and tumble forward one after another.  The guys following behind  do somersaults over the first group.  As they try to get up, a third wave hustles in to make a twelve man pileup.

Bradbury and Dingo take off into the warehouse entrance and climb over every pallet, forklift, and stack of wrapped boxes they see ‘til they reach the scaffolding up high that leads into the part of the building housing the management office.  They pull themselves over the railing and look below to see footsoldiers flood the warehouse.  The workers keep shouting, “WE’RE UNION! WE’RE UNION!” before getting violently pacified by the business ends of staffs and stun batons.   The brothers run across the scaffolding and evacuate through an open door to the management offices.

The office complex oversees both the warehouse and the main floor of the store. The first thing that they see is a half-eaten still kind of hot pocket on a paper plate next to a pile of gun magazines and National Geographics.  There’s a single computer still turned on and logged in.  It’s got some instant messaging client pulled up that is flashing in font size 400 Comic Sans “IT’S OVER.  SECURE THE SHARDS AND RUN.”  Even the chair is still warm. Bradbury’s worried that some beer-bellied, pumped up, middle aged man is lurking beyond any corner, ready to leap out from the shadows and give them both a series of lead implants.  Judging by the rounds with the NatGeos and the Cabela’s catalog, he has a 9mm pistol.

Bradbury thinks he’s got some time to fool around on the computer, at least find some floor plan or fire escape.  Dingo nibbles on the hot pocket and spits it out because it’s vegetarian.  Among things open on the management computer are a live cam feed from the changing rooms, an abandoned MOBA game, and a furry dating website..  In a folder under …/users/rstiff/Desktop/don’t click/confidential he sees a juicy looking file named MOTHERLODE.dec.  But it’s encrypted by some program he’s never heard of.

It prompts him for a username and a password. He thinks for a second then types.

>>>User: user
>>>Password: password
>>>UNRECOGNIZED LOGIN.  YOU HAVE 2 (TWO) ATTEMPTS REMAINING.
“Shit.”
>>>User: admin
>>>Password: admin
>>>UNRECOGNIZED LOGIN.  YOU HAVE 1 (%null_object_ae00000f) ATTEMPTS REMAINING.

Bradbury kind of spaces out and almost panics.  He notices a little sticky note tucked underneath the keyboard.  It’s got some writing on it in M.D. style penmanship.  Social engineering.

>>>User: rstiff
>>>Password: schlongerdonger2265

>>>WELCOME BACK, rstiff, IN ORDER TO BETTER PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO PRIVACY, DECODER-RING MUST UPDATE ITSELF TO THE MOST CURRENT RELEASE. >>>PLEASE STAND BY WHILE COMMUNICATING WITH SERVER…
>>>CONNECTED TO SERVER
>>>DOWNLOADING UPDATE INSTALLER PACKAGE…
>>>OVERWRITING FILES…
>>>FATAL ERROR: COULD NOT WRITE TO SPECIFIED FILE PATH FOR g04t_53.dll. PROCESS WILL BE ABORTED.
>>>DO YOU STILL WISH TO VIEW YOUR FILES? (WARNING: OUTDATED VERSIONS OF DECODER-RING CAN SOMETIMES BE BACKDOORED. REMEMBER YOUR FIFTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS!) Y/N
>>>Y
>>>DISPLAYING FILES…

And a whole list of non-descript file names cascades down the screen. It takes Bradbury several clicks to find anything remotely interesting or useful, as he tries to remain desensitized and indifferent to the sorts of depraved acts he now sees his favorite cartoon characters committing.  And there it is.  He’s found it: a floor plan of the entire building, with points of interest marked in red inside MS paint.

He tries to print the file. The printer whirs, then spits out a blank page because it can’t interpret the format.  He has to take a screencap for anything to come out.  This time the printer sucks in multiple pages at once and grinds and shreds them into fine confetti, along with large chunk of its own insides.  Smoke billows out as the dumb machine just keeps trying to do its one and only job; it passes from our world with long terminal BEEEEEEP like a flatline on a hospital drama.  The screen now only gives an esoteric error code and list of newer, more high end models.

Dingo cries, apologizing to the printer and cradling what’s left of it in his arms. Bradbury notates all the emergency exits on the map, there’s one nearby tucked within the women’s bathroom.  It’s close to the warehouse entrance from the main floor, so they’ll have to plan their route carefully.  Bradbury figures that at this point they’ve given the Worker’s Party way too much time to dispatch the warehouse workers, at this point likely praying to their “HOIYAH POWAH” that they’ll be awarded workman’s comp.

They hear the unmistakable clanging of high heels on metal, telling them that it’s time to get the hell out of dodge.  They run past the labyrinth of phone booth sized offices and arrive at a flight of stairs next to a collection of posters that stress the importance of a positive attitude in the workplace.  The stairs lead into complete darkness. Dingo is hesitant to follow Bradbury down.  Bradbury has to assure him that being assaulted and captured by militant perverts is a far worse fate than whatever the invisible, intangible oogly-booglies in the dark have in store.

They reach the main floor, and lo and behold, some jackass has cut out the lights. Fortunately, there are windows running all across the MM-Mart and a huge glass dome for a ceiling,  as if the place was a botched planetarium or something.  The ambient light of a waxing gibbous moon is enough for their eyes to adjust.  They hear the deep gnarling sound of police chopper blades outside, followed by a cinematic kaboom.  A flaming helicopter spins in and out of view, and the inevitable crash causes a fireball so bright that it lights up the interior of the store long enough for the brothers to establish an orientation and relative location. The satanic socialist umpires patrol the aisles, some of them have already taken to looting.  They guard every single entrance or exit, including the restrooms.

There’s no way to splinter cell their way through this one.   The MM-Mart aisles are arranged radially in the shape of an asterisk, or a certain Kurt Vonnegut drawing.   Spatially inefficient for sure.  Bradbury thinks it would be funny to rearrange the shelves into a swastika .  There’s a large section in the middle of the rotunda that’s normally an open space, but now has a thirty foot tall ziggurat of styrofoam boxes.  This gives him half an inkling of a plan.

Bradbury whispers to Dingo to find some nail polish remover and to please not drink it.  He’s got a natural nose for these things, Dingo does.  Bradbury moves towards the cash registers as Dingo slinks off to wherever his sense of smell leads him.  Bradbury can’t find any monetary assets to liberate, and there’s no time to pick the register locks.  He pockets some zippos and peanut M&M’s and sees a mop and a bucket nearby next to an unguarded utility closet.  He hears the click-clacking of stiletto on tile.  He wonders if the psychological effect was worth sacrificing mobility and stealth; it definitely puts him on edge more than combat boots or those weird Doc Marten things that the Midweston PD or whatever they call themselves now after the reform, wear.

Unlike most of the low-level Midweston street thugs, Bradbury harbors no irrational contempt towards police officers. Like, he realizes they’re honest, hard-workin’ folk who only want to keep the streets safe from the likes of miscreants such as he.  He knows that, respects that.  His contacts within the department are all real standup, kind-hearted men and women.  His qualms are all against the establishment as he calls it.  Like, the idea, he will explain if prompted, that gets to some of their heads, that they and their guns are the only thing protecting Midweston from itself.  Which, he’ll continue on, leads to things such as shooting out tires for speeding, dropping plastic baggies of detergent around poorer neighborhoods and arresting anybody with nose covered in blood and white powder, and instating quotas of how many trailer park whites they had to shoot a month in response to protests from some bleeding-heart college liberal group.  Like, they may not actually have done any of those things but if city council has their way, they most definitely would.

He grabs the bucket then ducks into the toys aisle as he sees it’s unoccupied.  It’s on him to create a diversion; he has no intention of getting his brother beaten half to death.  He makes a barrier at the far end of the aisle by hanging slinkies from shelf to shelf, then sets up all the Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars for an additional line of defense. He runs through and presses all the demo buttons on every Fisher Price See-n-Say, Tickle-Me-Elmo, and crying baby doll that the MM-mart currently stocks.  A demonic cacophony of giggling, screaming, and animal noises erupts and echoes throughout the store.

They all charge him at once, the ones nearest to him getting caught in his slinky trap, as their helmets severely limit their night vision.  Bradbury makes a beeline for the styrofoam pyramid and climbs it.  The guards break through the springy force field and faceplant into the floor tiles once their heels meet the diecast cars.  One of them loses his balance and teeters then totters helmet point first into the gut of a gigantic inflatable snowman who apparently has a bad case of gastrointestinal bloating, as it launches  into the air with incredible force, zips around erratically like a housefly on PCP, knocks over every display and guard in its path, then gently floats down and envelops two of the guards. They wrestle aimlessly to get out.

Bradbury’s at the apex of the styrofoam temple, breaking off chunks of it and putting it into the bucket.  Something catches his eye: a glowing violet crystal that gets brighter the closer he puts his hand to it.  Looks like there were more, but somebody already had first pick.  He pockets the crystal, hopes to pawn it off later.  There are guys at the base of the pyramid now and Bradbury decides to put his .25 auto to use.  The thing has virtually no stopping power on its own, but it’s still worth a shot.

He fires at the guard closest to him and the recoil catches him by such surprise that the gun goes flying from his hand.  The bullet ricochets off the guard’s chest plate into the hardware aisle, bounces between tool racks and snow shovels, then zooms into a Nativity scene near the entrance, penetrates the Virgin Mary, then flies through the ornament display before burrowing into the glass of the towering aquarium display in the pets aisle.  The glass cracks in all directions before finally giving way and flooding the rotunda with salt water, little plastic castles, and poor, hapless fish.

Bradbury runs down and keeps kicking boxes to the side to destabilize the pyramid.  A guard slips on the water and goes out cold.  Bradbury jumps the rest of the way down, bucket in one hand, crystal and detonator in his jumpsuit pockets, peanut M&M’s in his mouth.  He picks up the unconscious guard’s death staff and finds that it’s much lighter than he originally thought. He swings it around a few times to get a feel for it and decks a guard coming up behind him without realizing. He knows what these things are now, they’re modified b-

More explosions from outside, better not stick around.  He runs into the now unguarded bathrooms, hoping C-Drive has found a way out already.

“Hey B, there you are! Good news, bro.  I checked everywhere and there ain’t nobody here!”  Speak of the devil.  Was he in the bathroom this entire time?

“Yo, dem double espressos.  Dey run right through ya, dey do.”  He’s lived here all his life and doesn’t sound remotely Minnesotan.

Bradbury just shakes his head and runs into the woman’s restroom, drops what he’s holding, then reaches out and pulls C-Drive inside.  He slams the door and props the death staff between the door jamb and the handle. Dingo’s already in there, surrounded by bottles of acetone.  Some are empty.  He licks his lips.

Bradbury empties the bucket and pours in the acetone.  He drops the bits of styrofoam in while stirring the mixture with an empty paper towel roll.  Someone is aggressively trying to  pull open the door from outside, not having much luck with the improvised deadbolt.  The mixture is now at the right gooey consistency.  Bradbury throws in a lit zippo, then pulls the staff away from the door.  It’s immediately yanked open by whoever is outside.  Bradbury chucks the flaming bucket of napalm through the doorway, then pulls it closed and seals it again amidst the flurry of yelling and swearing.

The women’s bathroom of the MM-Mart is the most vile restroom they’ve ever seen. There are symbols on the walls written in what they hope is blood. The toilets are overflowing with wads of toilet paper with little spindly hairs sticking out.  There are mud encrusted footprints all over the floor, the world series of tic-tac-toe carved into the stall doors, people’s phone numbers scribbled in sharpie below the mirrors, tampons stuck to the ceiling. The place smells like a slaughterhouse doused with coconut perfume. It’s like every custodian ever assigned to clean it figured unemployment was the better option.

Bradbury’s not sure where the secret exit actually even is.  Like, do they have to do some weird combination of flushes and faucet turning to open a hidden wall?  Their first impulse is to check where things are normally hidden in sketchy restrooms, and they push up the ceiling tiles.  They find nothing other than dessicated rodent corpses and a bag of cocaine.  Bradbury has to stop his brothers from dropping down and doing lines on the spot.  He figures that now is as good of time as any and fishes the remote detonator to the van from his pocket, along with more M&Ms.  The glowing crystal falls out.  C-Drive picks it up to look at it. Bradbury flips the safety switch, inhales deeply, closes his eyes, and triggers the detonator.

Nothing happens.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.  It’s supposed to beep.  Why won’t it beep?! It’s a long range radio detonator.  He knows it works.  The instructions he downloaded guaranteed it would work.  Why won’t it work?!

Bradbury hyperventilates.  His eyes are firmly focused on a random spot on the floor and beads of sweat drip down his temples. What if the exit isn’t even real? What if they get blitzkrieged the moment the napalm goes out? He regrets dropping out of high school.  He regrets all their criminal escapades: the arson, the racketeering, the creative accounting.

One of the stall doors swings open. Bradbury turns around and the old man in the suit and bowtie leaps out and clocks Bradbury in the face with his cane.  Bradbury staggers, puts his hand over the surging pain, then takes an uppercut that knocks him onto the floor.   He sits up to see C-Drive go at the old man and receive a swift blow to the stomach.

The old man grabs at the detonator, struggles with Bradbury while shouting, “Give it here! Give it!” Bradbury tries to sweep out the old man’s legs, knocks him over.  Bradbury stands up but the old man is already behind him.  He jumps on Bradbury’s back and starts strangling him with the cane.  Bradbury tries to buck him off but the old man pushes the cane harder against his throat.

Dingo pulls his gun out of the crotch of his jumpsuit and points it at Bradbury’s opponent.  Bradbury’s face is redder than the entire American South, veins pop out on his forehead.  Dingo bites his lip, then pulls the trigger.  The gun won’t fire. Bradbury tries to ram his back against the wall to throw the old man off, and he’s seconds away from a permanent KO.  Everything he does makes the old man tighten his grip.  C-Drive snatches the gun from Dingo.

“Look, you moron. Safety’s on!” and C-Drive clicks it off then puts his arm out and turns his wrist to the side in proper ghetto gun handling form.

“Watch dis.” And he fires off three shots, misses each one.  He tries again. The gun jams.  Bradbury’s frothing at the mouth. C-Drive looks at the gun, makes sure it’s loaded.  Still won’t fire.  He points it at himself, looks down the barrel, then pulls the trigger again.

And the Brothers Parcheesi are now without one.