New Fiction: Angel and the Blitz, Friday Night (Part 1)
August 10, 2001
The process of writing differs for everyone; you don’t need me to tell you that. Some writers sketch out a plot, some do chapter breakdowns. There are, no doubt, many writing techniques I’m unfamiliar with. I generally write in two distinct styles. When I’m doing comics, I write spontaneously and draw thumbnails of each scene, or each panel, until the story is done. When I write prose, I think of a person, or an object, and begin writing about it and let the story go where it will. The story below was begun a few hours ago when, for whatever reason, I thought about a Hawaiian-flavored drink I had a few months ago at a local Chinese restaurant. Here’s where that one thought took me…
The coconut-shaped ceramic glass was filled with a coconut-flavored alcoholic beverage, the name of which he had forgotten less than five seconds after ordering it from the waitress who looked neither Hawaiian, nor coconutesque, in shape and stature. The jukebox played not Don Ho, but an obscure (as if any other adjective would be apropos in this case) song by Don Johnson, whose closest ties to Hawaii were the long gone, but regrettably, not long forgotten, Miami Vice series for the National Broadcasting Company, more commonly known by the acronym NBC which many have, often with just cause, been mistook as the Narcissistic Bullshit Corporation. The fashion trends that the ill-conceived Vice had spawned had imbued themselves into the fabric of American GQ for all-too-long a period of time, and though that time had (thankfully) come and gone, there were a minority, a subba-culture, of individuals who still chose to wear the blue and pink pastels, the pocketless jackets whose lapels were not notch-tab, or corner tab, but shawl. Shawl. As in scarf like. As in barf like. Fast cars. Fast women. Guns. These items had already been with us. As American as apple pie. He couldn’t honestly blame such stereotypes on a one-hour television show that had been off-the-air for close to two decades. But the clothing. That he would never forgive. He thought of the fashion "genius" at After Six who had designed the line of Miami Vice formal wear and nearly cried knowing that, on bookshelves in thousands of homes across the United States, sat countless wedding photo albums, the likes of which contained portraits of grooms and best men with hair of gel and tux of Miami. He looked to the muted television set in the corner of the wall, hoping for some correlation between his presence and the coconut drink that felt cold in his steady hand. But Hawaii Five-O was not to be found. Nor was the Brady Bunch Hawaiian vacation episode that featured the now-departed Vincent Price. Nor was the Hawaiian Bowl or a Hawaiian Tropic Swimsuit Competition. He would have even been content seeing an advertisement for Hawaiian Punch. Instead, he watched the silent screen as “high-energy prop comic” Carrot Top harangued a stranger on a beach that clearly was not the blue waters of Wai-Ki-Ki. He thanked God above that the set was muted, placed his coconut (what had he been thinking when he ordered it?) drink on the bar and pushed it aside, then ordered a Pabst and a shot of J&B. From Don Ho to George Thorogood without so much as having to tip a skycap.
Angel was late. It didn’t surprise him. Angel was forever late. It was often rumored that the folks who write the Oxford English Dictionary were going to amend their definition of “late” to include Angel. Though that probably didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Honolulu of happening since none of Angel’s associates knew anyone on the editorial board of the Oxford English Dictionary, nor, for that matter, had they even heard of the Oxford English Dictionary. Or Oxford. Matter of fact, they’d not so much as even held a dictionary in their hands since they were in grade school, and during those times, boys only read dictionaries to locate dirty words.
Angel arrived, promptly set down, and ordered a vodka martini which was too dignified to suit his all-too-common image. “Sorry I’m late, Blitz. Swing class ran a bit long.” On Mondays, Wednesdays, and alternate Fridays, Angel and his wife, a charming woman of 41 who had not the slightest clue as to what Angel did with himself when he met with his friend Barry, attended swing-dance classes at the local YMCA. Barry had seen the couple dance on one or two occasions, and he used the term “dance” judiciously. Simply put, Angel did not have the heavenly grace one might associate with his name. If his dancing ability and his name were to have any association whatsoever, Angel would have to legally change his name to Clumsy White Guy Who Swing Dances With Less Style Than Al Gore the Day After the Ballots Were Counted for the 300th Time. Because the Department of Human Identification imposed limits on the number of characters a person’s name could have, it would be impossible for Angel’s name to bear reflection on his dance skills unless, of course, he were to use the acronym SWGWSDWLSTAGDABWC300T which, in addition to being impossible to pronounce, would look silly on a driver’s license--though it might generate a chuckle or two from the otherwise humorless drones who operate DMVs.
“What have I told you?”
“Um—what do you mean?”
“About me. What have I told you?”
“Uh, lots of stuff.”
Blitz could see he was not making point A and switched to a more direct approach. He leaned in close to Angel and said s-l-o-w-l-y and deliberately.
“My name is Barry. You call me Barry. You do not call me Blitz. Not in public.”
“Ohhhhh,” Angel replied, more than a bit nervously. “Yeah, sorry about that Bl—uh, Barry.”
“That’s okay. Relax…drink…and talk to me.”
Angel talked softly and, over the course of subsequent vodka martinis, described in detail the events that were to occur in a few hours time. The traveling Rembrandt exhibit would be arriving at the museum at 2:24 a.m. via a small convoy that included international police escort. By 3:00 a.m., the exhibit pieces would be unloaded and letters of transfer signed by the museum curators. Prior to the convoy’s arrival, special forces units would be positioned on the museum grounds, atop adjacent roofs, and within the museum itself. With the recent international theft of several artistic masterpieces, security had become, perhaps, more important an issue than the items that were being secured. A total of 24 special forces officers would secure the museum’s outer perimeter. Another 12 would be dispatched within the museum. The convoy included six law-enforcement vehicles and a total of 15 uniformed officers.
“What about the drivers--those driving the trucks carrying the canvases?”
“Um—four trucks. Uh…six…no, five, drivers.”
The anger on Barry’s face was not disguised as he asked sharply, “Which is it? Six drivers or five drivers?”
Angel hesitated a moment. He counted on one hand, then said, “Five. Four regular drivers and one riding stand-by in case any of the regulars take ill, or get tired, ya know.”
“Yeah, I'm sure. It’s five. Anyway, aren’t you more concerned about all of those cops?”
“Not at all. Finish you’re drink. We must be going.”
Angel sucked the last of his fourth vodka martini through the narrow stirrer and placed money on the bar. The jukebox had long since forgotten Don Johnson, and it now bellowed the vocal stylings of Huey Lewis and the News’ “If This is It.”
“Don’t overtip; I’m never coming back here.”
“Really? I kind of like it here. It’s kind of, I dunno, tropical.”
"Yeah, well, so's malaria."
The two left the establishment and, driving separate automobiles, headed toward the city. Back at the bar, a coconut-flavored drink--housed in a coconut-shaped glass that was, in fact, manufactured by small boys and girls far away from the isle of Hawaii in a country known as China--was discreetly purloined by one of the bar’s regular patrons who was too cheap and too poor to let such an obviously expensive drink go to pot. He sniffed the drink, then tasted it with the curiosity of a young tabby being introduced to catnip for the first time in its feline life. He frowned sharply, placing the drink down on the table.
“Goddam faggot drink,” he muttered, then spotted a half-full/half-empty MGD two tables over and smiled as if the Sierra Madre had suddenly unearthed her vast treasure.
“Look at this,” Angel said, picking up a page from a newspaper that had been discarded. The headline read “Masked Super-Criminals or Idiots in Halloween Costumes?” Barry looked at the headline contemptuously. “I’ve seen it,” he scowled.
“They’re talking about us--The Blitzkrieg and APB. They, uh, they don’t seem to really much like us, do they?”
The duo were standing on the top level of a 5-storrey parking garage located four blocks from the museum. The garage was empty save for the teller on the ground level who appeared to be engrossed in the latest Tom Clancey novel (as if such a thing were possible), which, judging by its length, could take several lifetimes.
“We’re not supposed to be liked, Angel. Now hurry up and finish getting dressed.”
Barry was fully attired in his--for lack of a better word--costume. Adorned in black leather and faded silver, the stylized “B” on the left side of his chest reflected faintly in the moonlight. Angel finished dressing, still looking at the newspaper headline. The story had been published three days ago, following the successful theft of a 198-year-old bronze bust of Thomas Jefferson from the city hall building. Given the bust’s size (it had been crafted in bronze in a 2:1 scale), the theft had been no small task. Barry and Angel--in their “Halloween Costumes” (to quote the Associated Press)--had entered the building through a 10th-storrey window and had bypassed seven security systems, and four sleepy guards, before retrieving the item they desired. Exiting the building had been a harrowing experience, because the duo, although crafty, were nonetheless spotted through a window by a security guard in a neighboring building; the guard promptly phoned the city’s finest and the Blitzkrieg and APB quickly found themselves trapped. However, their entrapment had been short lived as APB (which is, in fact, Angel’s acronymic name for Armored-Piercing Bulleteer--a name that Barry found quite to his disliking [so much so, in fact, that he offered Angel the choice of either developing a new pseudonym, using the APB acronym, or being shot]) created a fast exit by flying directly through stone and providing a suitable, albeit precarious, escape. The story had been televised locally, and the city’s rag trades were quick to condemn and ridicule the dark duo. Nevertheless, the individual who had contracted Barry and Angel to secure the bust made good his payment--and had helped facilitate the free trade process without which our brave nation could not survive.
At last APB was in full wardrobe, his metal helmet securely in place. The Blitzkrieg checked his watch. It was 1:30 a.m.
"So, you think when the police are looking for me they say, 'We have an APB on APB?'"
“Yeah. I'm sure that's exactly what they say. Look, you’d better do some stretching exercises. You don’t want to get a muscle cramp in your leg like you did last month,” he said to APB.
“Right,” APB replied, and began perform a series of calf and upper leg stretches. “So, uh, what’s the plan? We gonna hit the museum after the pieces are inside, or while they’re being unloaded?”
“Angel...that convoy isn’t even going to reach the museum.”
NEXT: The conclusion...I guess.
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