New Fiction: Angel and the Blitz, Friday Night (Part 2)
August 24, 2001
More stream-of-consciousness (though given the unGodly hour at which this is being created it may be more apropos to use the term "stream-of-unconsciousness") writing as we continue the story of the dastardly duo known as Armored-Piercing Bulleteer (APB) and the Blitzkrieg...
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, or Rembrandt, by which he is more commonly known today, was not necessarily the smartest man in the world insofar as managing his own finances. Indeed, despite his marriage to Saskia van Uylenburgh (herself, the cousin of a successful art dealer which led to many commissioned portraits by wealthy patrons), and despite teaching full classes of students while Rembrandt himself was but several years their elder, his indulgent lifestyle and penchant for excesses forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. The bankruptcy sale garnered less revenue than what the artist had hoped. One can only ponder what those personal belongings (e.g., his clock radio, fax machine, and electric razor) might be worth today should some happy soul find them in his or her attic and display them on the Antiques Roadshow (A-R-S).
The Blitzkrieg didn’t much care for public television (home of the aforementioned A-R-S) or network television (home of C-R-A-P) for that matter. Nonetheless, he owned seven television sets and kept them on 24-hours-a-day. When he was a child, Barry and his parents lived in what was appropriately known as Ohio’s Tornado County. They lived in a trailer park that was, most assuredly, marked from its rooftops with arrows to guide stray tornados that had lost their destructive paths. No less than seven tornadoes had passed through the trailer park during Barry’s eight years of life. The first six had missed his parent’s trailer entirely. But the seventh (lucky, lucky seven) had found its mark. Shortly after the devastation—and once mom and dad were sure their child was unharmed—Barry's parents began to search frantically for the safe. They searched the debris that was their home. They searched the debris that was their neighbors’ homes. Barry didn’t search. They kept looking for it. The search lasted throughout the day and night and into the next day at which point Barry’s dad found the small, metal safe. It had landed a half-mile away from the tornado’s mark of impact in a supermarket parking lot. Although no larger than a bread box, the safe weighed nearly 100 pounds. It was undamaged: the car hood upon which it had landed did not fare as well. His dad hauled the safe into his pick-up truck and drove back to the temporary shelters erected by the Red Cross. The safe held their financial salvation. The tornado had taken everything, but it hadn’t destroyed the safe—or its precious contents. As dad turned the combination (his hands still shaking with trauma), Barry was several miles distant. He knew the safe would be empty. Knew the safe no longer contained the painting his dad had purchased for $5.00 in an estate sale 25 years prior. Barry knew because just before the storm’s arrival, he had removed the painting from the safe and had been discretely studying it in his bedroom. In the ensuing confusion and panic, the painting (a small oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, recently appraised for $0.25 million) had been left on the tiny bed in the tiny bedroom of the tiny trailer—the room that had been the first to fall before the tornado’s wraith. So he ran, knowing that he could never explain the truth to his parents. He ran, knowing they would not understand how it was he’d even learned the combination to the safe, to say nothing of the fact that, at age 8, he’d had an interest in art in general and French Impression in particular. He ran, not knowing where he was going, knowing only that he wasn’t—couldn’t—go back. Thus, 24 years later, and living in an area where tornadoes were as rare as U.S. Presidents who give a damn about anything save their own interests, Barry remained petrified of tornadoes. As such, he monitored their progression across the country by keeping a television set in each room of his house continually tuned to The Weather Channel and by dialing the local weather number ritualistically at 3-hour intervals. Which is why he was nervous at 1:55 a.m., as he and his friend and accomplice the Angel (a.k.a., APB) stood atop a modest parking garage that overlooked the city.
“Give me 35 cents.”
Angel dug into his right front pocket and procured the exactly two dimes and two nickels.
“This is all I got.”
“I need another five cents. I have to make a phone call.”
Angel knew better than to question his friend’s actions, or to downplay his phobia. Prior attempts at doing so had resulted in countless bruised face muscles and Angel’s gal preferred her man to be clean shaven and free of facial contusions. So Angel kept quiet and dug into his other pockets until finally locating a nickel.
“Good man. I’ve got a bad feeling about the weather,” Barry said, and walked toward a nearby pay phone. Angel wondered why Barry simply didn’t carry a cell phone but, touching the bone just below his left eye—which never had quite healed properly—decided not to ask. Angel waited patiently, his APB “costume” making him feel a bit uncomfortable on this rather warm and humid evening. He’d thought of wearing his alternate uniform, the one with the spandex shorts and slip-on shoes, but had decided that the attire was too effeminate. He always felt the need to shave his Robin Williamsesque legs before wearing that red and orange garb, believing it necessitated a clean-shaven image of a wonder boy he was too old to play. So he’d decided to retire that costume and stick to the purples, greens, and blacks more typically worn by his contemporaries, or contemporary, as in Barry, the Blitzkrieg. He resigned himself to the thought that evil may be cool but its wardrobe isn’t and, chuckling, decided he would inscribe that thought on the stall door of the men’s room of the next Denny’s he visited. The Blitzkrieg returned from the phone booth. He looked troubled. But the skies were clear, and besides, tornadoes never touched down in this portion of the state, so what could possibly be the matter?
Barry stood before APB saying nothing for several moments before APB asked, nervously: “Anything wrong?”
Barry answered, “No…yes…I don’t know,” as his eyes looked upward and to the left and right. “The weather report is down.”
“Yes, down. As in not available at this time. It’s 2:03 a.m. I haven’t seen or heard a weather report in four hours, Angel. Four hours.”
“I’m sure it’s okay. I mean, the sky is clear and…”
“That has nothing to do with it! They strike without warning. Don’t you understand that?”
“Yeah, yeah, I understand. Okay, how about this? Um, we do this job—that’ll take about, what, 45 minutes? Okay, so then we drop off the piece, change, and walk over to Alfie’s. He’ll be awake. The guy never sleeps. We walk over and we put on the tv and watch a little Weather Channel and have a couple of drinks. By then the weather report should be working again, too. You know he’ll let ya use his phone.”
“I don’t think--I mean, the weather report--it's been too long since--” Barry's voice faded out as he sat slowly down on the pavement, his face awash in despair.
“I know you can. Blitz; you’ve been in tighter situations than this. It’s 45 minutes and we’re done. We can do this.”
Barry looked at his accomplice—his friend—and somehow, it was enough. He knew Angel well enough to know that Angel wouldn’t be able to conjure much more encouragement than he’d just delivered. Not that he wouldn’t want to, just that Angel wasn’t exactly the best negotiator, the best team leader. If Angel, and not Bela Karolyi, had been Mousekateer gymnast Keri Strugg’s coach at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Keri would have been lucky to have won not the gold, silver, or bronze metals—she’d have been lucky to have taken home the plastic (as in plastic drink stirrer from a concession stand's trash bin) before hitching a ride to Vegas and drinking herself to death on Cold Turkey. But just as Bela had encouraged Keri during her final leap toward the horse in the All-around competition, so had Angel’s words given hope to Barry, who stood up with a champion look (albeit not quite ready for Wheetie’s stardom) and said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
Those individuals who prefer not to fly can attest to the fact that airline travel is a necessary evil to be used only when other means of transit are not practical. FAA regulations require airlines to show passengers a brief video recording before the plane on which they are flying is airborne. The movie calmly explains that, in the event of an emergency, oxygen bags will drop from above each passenger’s seat to provide air. Flotation devices, should they be required, are located beneath each passenger seat. Air-sick bags are located in a pocket in front of each passenger’s seat. This same movie tells passengers to locate the exit nearest them on the plane and, should an evacuation be required, exit calmly and orderly. The widescreen director’s cut of this movie, which is rarely seen on commercial flights, concludes by stating that "the preceding instructions are pointless since the crash itself would kill most of you on impact, and those who did survive would be scarred so badly that their employment opportunities would be limited to travelling freak shows (for a list of shows visit www.travelingfreakshows.com) and, of course, tv-sitcoms."
The Rembrandt’s (the paintings, not members of the Rembrant family) were flown from Paris nonstop to Philadelphia International Airport. The flight included dinner service and a movie, but the paintings did not much care to see Sylvester Stallone in a film about race cars, nor did they care to taste “airline food,” a term that, in-and-of-itself, is an oxymoron. However, those passengers onboard the Tupolev Industries TU-204 had no choice in the matter and so ate what was fed them and watched what was spoonfed them.
The TU-204 touched down at PHI at 1:37, two minutes ahead of its scheduled landing. The plane’s cargo was subsequently unloaded and, under the watchful gaze of law-enforcement officers, loaded aboard the four vans. The convoy left the airport and the procession was quite ordinary with one police car at the head of the convoy, followed by van, police car, van, police car, etc., with two police cars at the convoy's end. The convoy avoided the interstate highways (routes I-95, 76, and 476) and instead, kept to side roads. The path had been clearly mapped out, and police were waiting at specific intersections to ensure that the convoy could proceed without pause.
At the intersection of O’Shea and Dickinson, officer Brad Felbgarb waited in his prowler for the convoy that would be arriving in a matter of minutes. He used this down time to inhale a cup of lukewarm coffee, several cigarettes, a half-dozen donut sticks, and a tuna hoagie. At this hour, the intersection was deserted. His shift had ended hours ago, but he volunteered for the extra assignment. It was easy money.
“Excuse me,” a voice said to him from outside the car as he puffed heavily on his filterless Lucky Strike, “when does a wise man not know the day of the week?”
Brad turned in the direction of the voice only in time to feel the charcoal impact of a gloved and studded fist upon his face. He slumped across the front seat of the prowler as the Blitzkrieg concluded: “When he’s been knocked unconscious and thrown in the trunk of his car.” Moments later, APB closed the trunk lid and got into the passengers side as Blitzkrieg moved the prowler into the intersection. The convoy approached and turned onto Dickinson, exactly as the leather-clad duo had planned.
“Well, that was easy,” Blitzkrieg said. “No more police back-ups for them.”
“Too easy. But Blitz, you’re really got to polish your riddle-telling skills.”
NEXT: Part 3 of our tale, and/or tales from the city by the bay.
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