Saturday, May 31, 2014

Skid Row Diary 27

19 September 2003   Friday    day 69

   “The corpse that scares you is walking around with you now. Underneath this thin coating of skin, we are already white bones. All of us - rich and poor, man and woman, honored and despised - walking white bones. In death there is no difference, so what do these differences matter now? Meditate on this and you will also find something the same in all of us that could not possibly die, because it was never born” -Tao Shan

   I made myself a nice smoked sausage sandwich for breakfast, utilizing a large French roll I had brought back with me from dinner last night. I used my last two sausages, cheese, and mustard. I had to wash off the white scum that was beginning to attack my sausages, before I zapped them in the old microwave. Such is life without a refrigerator. 
   I finished eating, and dressing and all, just in time to walk up to the VA Clinic, for Dr Lo’s group about groups. 
   Today we discussed groups... and goals, and that goals are a good thing to have. Especially for recovering addicts as we get so carried away with euphoric recall that we forget the bad things that happen to us when we were using, and the misery, just like women forget how painful it is to give birth and keep on having babies. We addicts selectively, but not consciously, remember just the good things, the fun we thought we were having... and sometimes we were having fun.
   A specific goal to help us remember is a good thing, and everybody should have a goal. I have many.
   One of them is to help bring a little sanity into the world, just a little, but that is a very difficult thing to achieve because of the prevalence of insanity, desperation, and denial which exists. Our leaders often act as if their in kindergarten. And my goal is more difficult due to the fact that I’m not all here myself. 
   But that’s no reason to stop trying.
   Another goal is to move away from Los Angeles, up north, to Monterey maybe, or Morro Bay. That goal is much easier to achieve than the first, and shall happen within the next year or two I hope, if I live that long.
   I felt like trying to be “a part of” today, and joined in the conversation to a large degree. It was a small group, seven or so, and no one was trying to dominate the group’s time, so it was rather easy to jump in now and then.
   Sam wasn’t around, or Earl, or whoever it was that referred people to the CWT program, so I left right after the meeting and checked my mail. John Manzano’s letter was waiting for me. I also stopped at the mental health office. Anthony was there today, finally. In fact he was behind the counter as I entered and I was able to give him the two forms I needed for him to fill out. I told him I’d be back at 1:30 to pick them up, and walked three blocks east to 6th and San Pedro, where the Weingart was located.
   I wasn’t particularly hungry. The smoked sausages had filled me up, as smoked sausages are want to do, so I skipped lunch. I went to my room and wrote, and listened to an interview on NPR, of the British singer/songwriter/actor David Bowie, a favorite of dinosaur rock and roll fans like me, and one of the few performers I’ve actually seen live, right at City Walk, where the movies are.
   I was a little surprised to learn that he really didn’t like to perform. I can’t say as I blame him.
   Anthony made me wait until 2:00 to get my forms back. No matter. I had brought “Floating Dragon,” with me so I had something to do while sitting in the crowded lobby with my fellow lunatics.
    My illness is designated by the abbreviation DSM IV-311. DSM meaning the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” IV designates the 4th Edition of such, and the 311 nails it down to Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS), which could mean just about anything really. 311 is often used because it takes quite a lot of effort and time make a more exact diagnosis, which doctors don’t like to do because they’re so busy and all.
   Always a good idea to know these things.
   I returned to my room and watched one of the videos that I had recently purchased, “The Dish,” starring Sam Neill, who can be an enormously affecting actor, if not altogether a brilliant one. I’m a fan though, and I wish we’d see more of him. 
   This film, “The Dish,” was a wonderful surprise. I’d seen a couple of scenes from it on HBO while staying at the Frontier Hotel, and knew it concerned a radio telescope (the dish in “The Dish”) in Australia, picking up the signals Apollo 11 sent back from the moon on July 20th, 1969. There were a few mishaps it seems. In general, I love Australian films. I even like films that were made in Australia. And I love the Australian culture, and their young women in their Australian space bikinis. Be that as it may, I’m a little prejudiced as I’ve visited the country on two occasions and was engaged to one of it’s citizens, but I truly enjoyed the warmth, humor, compassion, and passion of those I’ve met, and those who are depicted. It’s a rare thing to see a depressing Aussie movie. And I’ve so enjoyed the work of the British writer Nevil Shute, who relocated to Australia in th 50's and wrote one of my favorite books, “A Town Like Alice,” about a young English woman who while a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II in Malaysia, falls in love with an Aussie man, also a prisoner, and emigrates to Australia with him to make a life in small outback community, "a town like Alice" i.e. Alice Springs. A few years later he wrote “On the Beach,” which turned into one of my favorite films, starring Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Gregory Peck, who passed away just last June. 
   Actually, “On the Beach,” is pretty depressing, but it was an American film, now wasn’t it (based on the work of a British/Australian author, which took place in Australia (for the most part))?
   “The Dish,” besides being very funny, and boasting a lively sound track of popular music from that era, also recreated the feeling that those of us who witnessed this event via television (the landing at  20:18, and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the surface at 2:56 Coordinated Universal Time). The film points out that it wasn’t only America, which sponsored this politically motivated response to the Soviets deployment of the Sputnik satellite, but the entire world uniting (even the Soviets) for just a brief moment, setting aside it’s immediate cares, and getting caught up in the tension, excitement, and the danger of the moment. I don’t think there was anyone alive at the time that wished those astronauts harm, or the mission to fail, or who wasn’t affected by our species first tentative step onto another world, and by extension, the universe.
   During his telephone call from the Oval Office, President Richard Nixon had this to say to the astronauts:
   “It inspires us to redouble our effort to bring peace and tranquility to Earth. For one priceless moment in the history of man, all the people of Earth are truly one.”
   It’s unfortunate that we are incapable of keeping this sentiment alive, and at the forefront of our thoughts.
   It’s also unfortunate that we’ve never really been to the moon, and all of this occurred on a sound stage at Warner Brothers in Burbank (just see the film “Capricorn 1“ for proof).
   I spent the evening reading and in deep meditation. I ate a big, fat filled 3 Musketeers Bar before going to sleep just after midnight, which may explain the dream I had of the lovely and talented Carl Sagan and Salma Hayek both attempting to explain to me the subtleties of quantum mechanics as applied to our daily lives, Bologna Detection Kits, and invisible dragons in America’s garages. 
   It was also unfortunate that I was somewhat distracted during this discussion (see picture above) and don’t remember anything at all of what they told me. 
   Fortunately, Carl wrote a book about it.

20 September    Saturday     Day 70

   I reached up from my bed. “What the fuck!” I quietly exclaimed to myself.
   I got up and showered. Today I would see my friend Aurica.
   While riding on the Red Line subway, I continued reading from “Floating Dragon.” At the 99 Store in Van Nuys, I re-stocked my supply of smoked sausages, as well as acquiring some nice spiced luncheon loaf (whatever that may be), sliced turkey breast (poor turkeys), 2 blank VCR tapes (at least one of which was defective), sliced fake American cheese, smoked cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, two 3 Musketeers and Nestles Crunch bars (for the protein), two bottles of instant coffee, two cans of meatballs in tomato sauce, beef jerky (poor cows), one 6 once bottle of picante salsa, microwave and pre-popped popcorn, butter, and a dozen eggs (poor chickens).
   Live college football was on the telly (with horrid reception) as I entered the Trimar Center. I hadn’t seen football being displayed on the television there before. Not being as in tune with my Hunter/Gatherer ancient instincts as my fellow males, I would have rather watched a movie, as I assumed the female patrons would. 
   I read from the Peter Straub book.
   I only saw Aurica briefly. She was working in a different room than where I was donating. We did say hello, and she asked me is I’d been “busy at school.”
   I lied to her.
   Weight 181 pounds, pulse 87, blood pressure 130/70, height 5 feet 11 inches, sexual orientation yes, political affiliation Whig. The young lady who took my vital sings complained to me of her stomach distress, and that her doctor had advised that she get more sleep. She was having a little trouble getting enough sleep because she was too busy going out and partying. She looked like she hadn’t brushed her teeth in three weeks. 
   I let her know that I hoped she would feel better soon, and that I agreed with her doctor... like I’m one to talk.
   I almost left “Floating Dragon,” at Trimar! After buying a Super Lotto ticket at the 7/11 across the street, while waiting for the 165, I felt the absence of the book. There was only one place I could have left it and I decided to risk missing the next bus to retrieve it. Thank God nobody likes to read anymore, and my book was waiting for me at the front desk.
   And I made my bus, getting back to the Weingart by 4:00.
   Meat loaf for dinner. 
   I taped the demented lobotomist episode of “The X-Files,” then moved everything off of the floor of my room, including 7, 247, 861 cans of pasta products, and meatballs in tomato sauce, onto my bed and desk, in order to sweep and scrub. This took two hours or so. I am nothing if not conscientious. I used the Weingart disaster blanket Gary had given to me to pick up the excess soap and water I had used while scrubbing, then had to let it dry. My $14 fan had broken down a few days ago, so I propped my door open in order to aerate, with a device specifically designed for that purpose. 
   It is against the rules to prop open doors here at the Weingart. I don’t know why. The case workers, like Labrien, are allowed to prop open the doors to their offices. She has her door propped open all goddamn day!
   I watched a nice volcano movie starring the lovely and talented Lynda Carter while waiting for the floor to dry. She is probably best known  for her performance in 1991‘s “Posing: Inspired by Three Real Stories,” which of course concerned Playboy magazine. A true classic.
   It took about an hour to put everything back in place, onto my new clean floor and dusted desk. I rolled about on the floor for a good 30 minutes relishing in it’s sparkling cleanliness. 
   Then I wrote. I set my VCR’s timer to record “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles,” at 3:00a.m. on channel 13, and put in a fresh tape.
   And before going to sleep I read from the rescued “Floating Dragon,” while consuming a 3 Musketeers protein bar. 
   Then I dreamt I was hang gliding in Ithaca, New York, with Carl Sagan’s lovely widow, Ann Druyan. She was dressed in jeans with a “Skateboarding is Not a Crime” T shirt, and I was wearing a polka dot bikini. I don’t know why. It was kind of weird actually. My body is not suited for this kind of dress, but what can you do. 
   Ann was sipping on a Mai Tai while floating through the air. I was nursing a Dr. Pepper.
   And we were having a hell of a time.

21  September    Sunday   Day 71

   “I awakened, although I had not been asleep, but lay there in a semi-conscious state.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky

   I woke to a clarinet reaching for the slippery, piercing, 1st notes of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” 
   It was 4:30a.m., and I leaped out of bed to try to get it on tape, but I could not get clear reception on the radio Gary had sold to me. Another radio station’s transmission kept cutting into kmozart’s. I filthered and tortured those radio knobs, but to no avail. I gave up after a brief eternity, and dripping with sweat, returned to the cold comfort of my empty bed.
   But not for long. I had slept fitfully, and soon it was time to get up and do some yoga and sit ups, hoping my heart would not burst, while listening to another rhapsody, this time the Swedish., by Hugo Alfvén. 
   I showered and got a load of laundry sorted. I read John Manzano’s letter, and would have relayed  what he had to say if I hadn’t misplaced it, although he reiterated his desire to come back to the downtown area. 
   Why did he leave in the first place? Good question. Because he’s a little sissy boy, that’s why.
   After putting my clothes in the dryer I meditated for 400 breaths, then made a nice spiced luncheon loaf sandwich for later. It would come in handy if I happened to get hungry at some time in the future for spiced luncheon loaf, no matter how improbably that was. 
   I moved my dead fan out of the room, placing it by the garbage can by the elevator. 
   Goodbye old friend. 
   Although summer does not end until the day after tomorrow, and Canoga Park will record a record 108 degrees out in the north west valley today, that fan had got me through most of the heat this year, cool and in one piece.
   I listened to a classical music program on KMZT, talking with accomplished, young musicians mostly in their early teens (like gymnasts, to play classical and excel (or any kind of musical instrument, or type), one must have demented parents who force you to start practicing early. It was on this program that I became aware of the hazards of playing the clarinet. I had been completely unaware of them until this time. I’m certainly aware of them now.
   At 9:30 I left the residence in such a rush that I forgot my sunglasses, leaving them upstairs. I was forced to us my emergency “John Lennon” glasses that I keep in my utility belt, and which have no nose guard. 
   Even after stopping at the 99 Cent Store at MacArthur Park for sodas, I arrived at City Walk and the movie theater an hour early. I sat up on the second level near Tommy’s and watched music videos on the outdoor Panasonic television monitor they have there, until it was time to go in. Rooney, Cooler Kids, Scotty Emerick, Sinead Lohan, Something Corporate, Black Eyed Peas (which I have to say was pretty good despite my intense hatred of Rap. I even hate to capitalize the word ”Rap” There I’ve done it again!), Caetano Veloso, Nickelback, U2, and Rufus Wainwright’s rendition of John Lennon’s “Across the Universe.” 
   It is a sad testament to this modern generation of song writers and performers that the Beatles song was the best of the samples. This, I surmised, was undeniable proof that the 60s, 70s, and early 80s spawned the best rock songs ever, and that music videos and the advent of VH1 and MTV ruined popular music.
   Prove me wrong!
   At 11:30 I entered theater number 10 to see “Underworld,” starring the lovely and talented Kate Beckinsale, in a documentary of epic proportions, recounting the recent hostilities between our Lycan and Vampire brothers and sisters in 2001. This was just before both sides developed nuclear capabilities, a time in which the world trembled as if sitting atop a lighted powder keg. Oh, can’t we all just get along!? 
   Well directed, acted, and produced, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. All the characters looked as if they were refuges from the Matrix, all decked out in black, skintight spandex (a nice polyurethane-polyurea copolymer, brought to us by the good people at Dupont). 
   There was not a single ounce of humor in this dark work (no daytime shots. I thought I was back in “Dark City,” floating between suns on top of a giant spacecraft), as befitting the seriousness of the subject matter, and although the musical score was at times rather oppressive, I was swept away by the film, and no one can ask more than that.
   Could have used a tad more action though.
   And the film’s premise was completely feasible... except for the werewolves and vampires.
   “Second Hand Lions” starring Kyra Sedgwick (married to her 9th cousin, once removed, Kevin Bacon), was just an excuse to get two veteran actors together to see what they could do  (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall). 
   Duvall, who along with Jack Nicholson, are probably the two best male American actors who haven’t died off yet and are still working, is not known for his work in comedy, and this film is a great example why. I don’t think he knows what comedic timing and pace means, and in all fairness, I don’t think he could have made much of this contrived mess if he did.
   “Cabin Fever,” starring Cerina Vincent,  which I accidentally walked in on, was not as horrible as Ebert and Roper would have you believe, however it was intensely stupid. Everything about this film was stupid, and all of the characters (except Cerina of course) were too stupid to live, and deserved what happened to them (except Cerina... and Jordan Ladd, daughter of Cheryl. Everybody... everybody died in this film, even you and me supposedly Don’t drink the water!), except the two girls. They were very nice (they had stupid boyfriends though).
   I returned to the Weingart and my room, and for some stupid reason (“Cabin Fever” made me stupid) I watched the Emmy Awards, which is intrinsically hampered by having the same actors win, year after year. A notable exception was Debra Messing’s much deserved win for Best Actress in a Comedy. 
   Even though I’m not caught up in the current “Will and Grace” craze, I think Debra is great.
   A huge injustice was done to the beautiful and talented actress Uma Thurman (who doesn’t look half bad in spandex herself), who wasn’t even nominated for her performance in “Hysterical Blindness” (she did win a Golden Globe, but those things are a dime a dozen. Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands won Emmys for Best Supporting Actor and Actress). 
   I was shocked and appalled, and will never, ever watch the Emmys again.
   Helen Mirren lost as well! What color is the sky these Emmy people live in?!
   The Emmy Award show preempted “The X-Files,” which is another reason not to watch them. 
   Actually “The X-Files” was postponed. I was forced to stay up to 2:00 in order to see the gripping climax of that three part episode I’ve been taping. And do you know what that big climax was? It’s well that you ask, my dear friends. 
   Agent Scully gives Mulder a kiss on the forehead.  
   I didn’t even get to see a little slap on the ass for all of my trouble, and to send me off into pleasant dreams.     
   Instead I dreamt I was a Lycan in the Underworld, with Kate  Beckinsale, Debra Messing, and Aja, the beautiful and talented star of “Timeless,” “Habits of the Heart,” and other fine films.
   They vamped me.

22 September    Monday   Day 72

   Mark Thompson, of Mark and Brian, didn’t like “Cabin Fever” either. He thought it was stupid.
   Brian Phelps, of Mark and Brian, said he had just seem “Terminator 3,” and liked it. “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” came out in early July, making Brian a tad behind the times.
   Too much geezer golf.
   Giselle was decked out in a marvelous short black skirt and white blouse. Simply marvelous.
   I had gotten up at 5:00, and by the time breakfast came around was rather hungry. 
   Dry waffles.
   I prefer my waffles wet.
   Yesterday I had done something I hadn’t done for two years, cook myself some eggs. I used the microwave to cook them, the first batch consisting of 3 eggs (of various colors), a chopped up smoked sausage, cheese and hot sauce. 
   The secret to cooking eggs in a microwave oven is to do it in stages. Cook for 35 seconds, stir them up (a ring of cooked egg will form around the bowl), heat for another 25 seconds, stir again, then add the cheese, cook some more until done, leaving them just a little runny as the eggs will continue to cook after being taken out of the oven. 
   They were wonderful, although they probably would have tasted better, purer at least, without the sausage. As an addict I tend to believe that more of something will make anything better. Left to my own devices I’ve made omelets with so many various ingredients there was no room for the eggs.
   I displayed more restraint (proof that I’m getting better) when I made a 2nd batch in the evening, and again, later today, when I returned from my journeys.
   First stop was One Stop. I was there when it opened and was able to get some free computer time on the Internet, looking up several items of interest, none of which had anything to do with finding work. I did send my resume to 4 or 5 places, and faxed my mental health evaluation to the DPSS.
   DSM IV, 311: Depressive Order (NOS) Not Otherwise Specified. essential features: A disorder with depressive features that does not meet the criteria for one of the mood disorders. Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, or Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety and Depressed Mood. 
   How depressing.
   Anyway, after leaving One Stop, I took the Dash to the V.A. Clinic mainly to just use the restroom. I say “just,” but at the time it all seemed rather imperative.
   I can’t seem to get together with the referral guy at ASAP. Drastic action is in order.
   I took another Dash back downtown, after which I walked to the Skid Row Housing Trust housing office to turn in another form from mental health. Still no openings they told me. I shall need to press the issue soon, but not now... not now.
   I walked to the Central Library and looked up the DSM IV information. I also found a library card that someone had dropped by the catalogue computers near the main entrance. I used it to check out Peter Straub’s “The Hellfire Club,” Frank Herbert’s “Hellstrom's Hive,” Whitley Strieber’s homage to H.P. Lovecraft “The Forbidden Zone,” Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” a scholarly work on Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a “Special Forces Guide to Unarmed Combat,” and Stephen Hawking’s “Theory of Everything.”
   I’m despicable.
   And I shall have to return these books on time (in three weeks), as I can’t stand the idea that the lost card belonged to a child, who after misplacing it, found that a couple of hundred dollars worth of unreturned books had been checked out on it. 
   I’m moral yet despicable.
   I took this bounty back to my room and began reading from Herbert’s book, “Hellstrom’s Hive.” I’ve read it before and found it fascinating. In it the author of “Dune,” had created a hive society, based on the behavior of insects, in an immense, underground facility in Oregon, where 50,000 “workers” lived and bred. Nothing illegal in that I suppose, except for zoning laws of course, and that none of those who lived there had social security numbers, or cards, or appeared in the national census, or were registered for the draft. Except for that there was nothing illegal going on.
   A tale of the ultimate form of communism, I suppose. It reminded me of A. Harbinson’s “Genesis,” where another scientifically advanced society of slaves located in the antarctic prospered, and which is always one or two steps ahead of whatever authorities may be sniffing about.
   Both books would make fine films.
   I would have liked to know a bit more of the hive’s origen, which is only alluded to in Herbert’s book, but it’s a good read if you’re into that sort of thing.
   Many are.
   I meditated, exercised, yogaed, wrote.
   At 8:00 I watched a depressing John Candy movie on KPXN, “Only the Lonely,” featuring the last theatrical film performance of the incomparable Maureen O'Hara (up to now), one of my very favorite actresses. Anthony Quinn was in there too, and Ally Sheedy.
   Then at 10:00, the premier of “Las Vegas,” on NBC aired, which I watched only because another of my favorite actresses, Nikki Cox, starred in it. She was, in my unbiased opinion, the best thing about the show. I didn’t even mind the fact that she was wearing more clothes than I’m used to seeing her in.
   Jordan’s mom, Cheryl, was in it as well, another lovely and talented lady, probably best known for her role in “Satan's School for Girls.” 
   And James Cann, who is unlovely, but not without appeal.
   But if it were not for Nikki, who I’d be happy to watch brushing her teeth (I’m so sick. I thought I was getting better. The eggs proved it, didn’t they?), I wouldn’t have watched it. I’ve already seen “Casino.”
   I went to sleep soon after the movie, and dreamt of two fiery redheads.  
   Maureen O'Hara, Nikki Cox, and I were in a casino in Las Vegas, playing poker at one of the many tables that they have there. I was the dealer. 
   The two beautiful and talented ladies soon ran out of money, but didn’t want to stop playing trying to win their funds back. 
   “Oh please Mr. Rick, can’t you give us some credit,” Maureen pleaded.
   “Yes, please,” Nikki added. “I have to have some money to get home.”
   “I’m sorry ladies. House rules you know.”
   “Please,” they both cried.
   How could I refuse. 
   “Alright,” I said,” I’ll tell you what I can do. We’ll play one more hand, and if you win you get your money back.”
   “Oh, thank you. Thank you,” they cried.
   “But if I win...” And I told them what I got if I won, which involved some horseback riding. Hey, it’s a dream.
   And even in dreams the house always wins.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I See You

   Being one with the universe, and all, I anticipated the Edward Snowden / NSA debacle, or fortuitous circumstance depending on how one feels about it, back in March of 2009, and wrote the following story which I shall republish today. I hope you, dear readers, enjoy it as much as I enjoy publishing a significant post without too much effort.

First Published Wednesday March 11th 2009:

“Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretaps, it requires a court order. Nothing has changed by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” -President George W. Bush, April 20 2004

“He’s trying to claim somehow that the authorization for the Afghanistan attack after 9/11, permitted this, and that’s just absurd. There’s not a single Senator or member of Congress who thought we were authorizing wiretaps.” -Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, Dec 17, 2005

“I guess I disagree with that characterization. I think that this electronic surveillance is within the law, has been authorized. I mean, that is our position. We’re only required to achieve a court order through FISA {Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act}, if we don’t have authorization otherwise by the Congress, and we think that that has occurred in this particular case.” -Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Dec 19 2005

“Osama bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he’s killed by Karl Rove and his crowd.” -Senator John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, Jan 22 2006

   February 2007:
   Agent Clark took another bite from his Krispy Kreme donut and considered how much he despised the F.B.I. Not that the agency itself was the primary cause of his scorn. No, it was more to the fact that he was getting exceptionally weary of the assignments that had been handed down to him lately, such as the one he currently found himself involved with, a simple stakeout. They were at times important to a case, but this one? He quietly sighed, not being able to figure it out, and helped himself to another mouthful of sweet dough and tasty icing.
   He fondly recalled the early days of his career, catching bank robbers, kidnapers, and foreign agents within the United States. The mob. He had personally helped put John Gotti behind bars for the rest of his life when the common wisdom proclaimed it could never be done. Never say never, he thought warmly. Never. Now, they couldn’t even put together a simple case of attempted murder against the son, Junior, and make it stick. If we could only get rid of the lawyers and politicians, Clark thought, then true American justice could be served, just like in the Wild West. String’em up and ask questions later. Yes sir, real justice… fast, furious, and forever.
   While working in Los Angeles, he had helped pull together the clues identifying the hideout of the Symbionese Liberation Army, which directly led to the destruction of half of its members in a fiery inferno. Too bad Patty wasn’t there, he reminisced. She eventually was caught, snitched out her fellow “revolutionaries,” was released by Carter, and pardoned by Clinton, (Democrats would be the ruin of this country yet, he knew, but with the agency’s new tools like The Patriot Act, now almost all of its provisions permanent, we’ll soon out those bastards for the real traitors they are) and now lives high on the hog off of her family’s money and appears on talk shows showing off the latest fashions. I’m surprised she doesn’t have her own reality T.V. show, Clark thought. “I Want to be a Bank Robbing Hearst.” Commie bitch!
   He longed for the freewheeling days of Waco, not so distant really, when federal law enforcement was allowed too, and ready and willing too, take unwarranted, decisive action, without being hindered by concerns regarding the protection of civil and human rights of obvious perpetrators. He considered himself one of the few remaining defenders of the nation’s sovereignty, detecting threats from within and without, disregarding personal safety and security, prepared at a moments notice, or less, to send all traitors, spies, and instigators to the hell they so richly deserved.
   But now? He took another bite and languidly took stock of his two partners. The short, stocky, Asian-American Paul Lo, who currently manned the surveillance equipment and was concentrating on the goings on within the small training center across the street. Clark wondered again if Lo was truly an American, or a Chinese double agent. Hey, the Russian in “Ice Station Zebra,” was really a Russian spy (who would of thunk it?), so there was plenty of precedent. He had never worked with him before and would continue to keep a steady eye focused keenly upon him. Two eyes. Peter Roderick, another porker (Sweet Jesus Christ and his mother Alice… doesn’t Quantico believe in exercise and fitness evaluations anymore?), sitting in the corner of the cramped, dingy loft they had commandeered, and reading from a book… Madame Bovary. Gay bastard, Clark thought while looking down at his own semi-flat belly. Not bad for fifty-eight. He polished off the donut and sighed, wanting another. Better not, he decided. He’d had three already and didn’t have time to hit the gym today. He sighed again and crossed his legs, shifting his position on the re-upholstered chair he was sitting on. Christ!
   Four months! Four months they’d been in this hole, dying of claustrophobia and dust mite infestation, and not one break. Not one lead, not yet. Although this was not the longest stakeout he’d ever been on, it was certainly the crumbiest. Twelve hours on, twelve off. He hadn’t worked this hard since he was a Seaman Recruit in the navy. He calmed himself, remembering the importance of the mission, and how his fellow citizens depended on people just like him to keep them safe. Real Americans, not like these two nit-wits he currently was sequestered with. Christ!
Roderick stopped reading, and began to play solitaire. Lo took off the microphones and stood up.
   “They’re still chanting,” Lo said. “Chant, chant, chant. That’s all they do. Sit crossed legged, meditate, and chant.”
   “Well, they are monks,” Clark pointed out. “That’s what monks generally do, don’t they?”
   “I suppose,” Lo mulled. “But it sure is monotonous, isn’t it? Chanting all the time. Aren’t they supposed to go out and beg alms, or something? Practice Kung Fu?”
   “You watch too many old T.V. shows,” Roderick observed, placing a seven of spades over an eight of hearts.
   “They still chanting the same stuff?” Clark asked.
   “Yup. ‘Taberu watashi Amerikajin buta, taberu watashi Amerikajin buta,’ over and over. I wonder what it means.”
   “Ah, just some Buddhist crap, probably,” Roderick stated.
   “I don’t know,” Clark mused. “One of those words sounds suspiciously familiar. I can’t quite place it. We better have headquarters translate what they’re saying. It could be some kind of subversive code. Know what I mean?”
   “Huummm,” Roderick considered.
   “These guys?” Lo wondered. “I say these guys are harmless. They haven’t done a damn thing but chant for two weeks.”
   “And eat rice bowls with fish,” Roderick pointed out, which reminded him of how hungry he was for something other than donuts. He’d had six of those already. “You guys want pizza?”
   “Pizza? Are you crazy?” Lo asked. “We just had bean burgers an hour ago.”
   Roderick shrugged. “Just asking.”
   “Why are we watching these guys anyway?” Lo asked, slightly perturbed.
   “Just because,” Clark sighed.
   “Just because? What kind of answer is that?”
   “Just because it’s our job. Just because we’ve been ordered too. Just because during the last six months at least fourteen bank robberies in this area have been successfully committed by bald men wearing saffron colored robes. Just because…” He sighed again. “What color robes are these guys wearing?” he asked laconically.
   Lo blinked, then looked back through the telescope before replying. “Yellowish orange,” he said.
   “Saffron,” Clark corrected. “Do they have any hair on their heads?”
   “There you go.”
   “These guys aren’t bank robbers. I’ll bet a years pay. These guys… these guys are harmless. They don’t even karate chop each other, or argue. It doesn’t look like they would know what to do with money if they had it. I think we’re watching the wrong guys.”
   “Yeah, really. I think the real robberies were committed by somebody trying to frame these poor slobs and draw us off the track. I’m for recommending to headquarters that this is a dead end and we cease surveillance ops.”
   “You do?”
   Lo was adamant. “Yeah, I do. None of the perps on the security tapes match any of these guys,” he said while pointing out the window and across the street.
   “The bank robbers wore Donald Rumsfeld masks. How could they match?”
   “Well… I still don’t think these guys are bank robbers, or any kind of criminals at all.”
   “And you want to go home?”
   “Yeah,” Lo admitted. “I do.”
   “When’s the baby due?”
   “Anytime now, but that doesn’t have…”
   “Ummmhuuumm. How about you, Roderick? What do you think?”
   “About what?”
   “About what!? About the monks, Roderick, that’s what! Do you think we should pull out, or stay?!”
   “I don’t think nothing about’em. Pullout, stay. Doesn’t matter to me. One assignments as good as another as far as I’m concerned.” He stopped placing cards on the table and looked up at Clark. “Lo’s wife is gonna have a baby, huh? Maybe he should take off.”
   “Maybe. How long you been with the Bureau, Roderick?”
   “Eleven years.”
   “Ah huh. And you, Lo?”
   “Let me tell you something. When I was just starting out… at about your age Lo, in the early seventies, I was assigned to a case in Baltimore, investigating a series of brutal, sadistic muggings. Terrorist attacks really, against innocent pedestrians…”
   “Doesn’t sound like a case for the FBI, to me,” Lo interrupted.
   Clark breathed deeply, then continued.
   “Just hear me out, kid, okay? As I was saying… a series of muggings and attacks against individuals, and… bombings of Social Security offices scattered about the metropolitan area…”
   “Auhh,” Roderick exhaled.
   “Social Security offices?”
   “Yeah, kid. Social Security offices. That’s why we were involved. Now you got to remember, this was the seventies. No security cameras, no armed guards. Hell, we didn’t even have any witnesses for the first five months of the investigation. Attacks on the streets, men mostly, all hit from behind. They didn’t see a thing. No forensic evidence. All the victims could remember was the sound of approaching roller skates. The bombings…”
   “How did you connect the bombings with the muggings?” Roderick asked.
   “That’s just what I was gonna say,” Clark continued. “We didn’t at first. But after a while, like all perps, they got sloppy. Or else they figured we couldn’t touch’em, and they started leaving clues at the scene of the crime…”
   “What kind of clues?”
   Clark took another deep breath before answering. “Doilies.”
   “What?” both Lo and Roderick, exclaimed.
   “Doilies,” Clark repeated.
   “Doilies?” Lo asked again.
   “Doilies. Decorative mats,” Clark made his point as clear as possible. “Little bits of lacy, white, fabric were discovered at the bomb sites. And support stockings…”
   “Just what I said, support stockings. Still, after eight months on the case we had no suspects designated. Then one day we got an anonymous tip, which led us to a retirement home in Rosedale…”
   “A retirement home?” Lo asked.
   “You never get tired of repeating what I say, do you, Lo?”
   “Hey, wait a second,” Roderick interrupted. “I think I remember reading about this. Baltimore, huh?”
   “Yeah, Baltimore…” For a moment, Clark was lost within his memories of the past case. His eyes de-focused and his breathing shallowed noticeably. Both Lo and Roderick watched as Clark seemed to wrestle with the demons associated with his recollection, demons resurrected today for their benefit. They waited patiently and silently until Clark was ready to continue.
   “It was the only lead we had and we stayed on top of it. For a year and a half we watched that house. A year and a half… for a year and a half myself, Ed Bently, and Josh Ralston… our team watched that house. Nothing happened. We didn’t see anything suspicious. The attacks and bombings continued and escalated. We suggested to headquarters that we stop surveillance and move on.” He looked at Lo, saying, “Sound familiar, Paul?” Lo remained silent, looking back at the senior agent. “Anyway, after a year and a half the case blew open. Another surveillance team staking out a Social Security branch caught three perps on tape planting a bomb at three o’clock in the morning. Instead of busting’em right there it was decided to follow them to try and get the whole gang, and its leaders, if possible.”
   “What happened?” Lo asked.
   “They came right back to our location at the retirement home. They must have known they were being followed and got careless, coming straight back to the house rather than using the sewer system and a network of tunnels we later discovered, which until then had let them come and go unseen anytime they pleased, allowing them to carry out their nefarious operations for the entire time we’d been watching them.”
   “They knew you were there?”
   “Apparently. Evidently they did, and continued bombing and mugging right under our very noses.”
   “Smug bastards,” Roderick whispered.
   “Smug little old ladies,” Clark said.
   “Little old ladies?” Lo Asked.
   “Yeah. After it was all over, after the escape, we discovered the gang committing the atrocities consisted entirely of retired grandmothers.”
   “Grandmothers!” Lo shouted. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
   “Do I look like I’m kidding, kid?” Lo kept silent.
   “Yeah. I remember,” Roderick said, “the Granny Gang.”
   “Yeah,” Clark continued. “The Granny Gang. Thirty eight retired grannies, terrorizing the streets of downtown Baltimore, riding roller skates and attacking helpless and unsuspecting young men, and blowing up Social Security offices.”
   “Grannies,” Lo shook his head. “What happened next?”
   Clark looked intently at Lo before resuming.
   “Oh, my God… I remember now,” Roderick exclaimed.
   “Just before orders were given to move in on the retirement home, the apartment we’d been using was struck by a bazooka.”
   “We were attacked! The local SWAT team and our men on the ground began to move in, but were stopped by automatic machine gun fire and percussion grenades. A firefight ensued, lasting for more than two hours before we decided, to hell with possible hostages, and just set fire to the place. We lost twelve agents, and twice as many cops. Both of my partners bought it with the bazooka. I escaped with two broken arms and a fractured tibia. Six months in the hospital…” Clark’s voice leveled off.
   “Well, what happened to the grannies?” Lo pressed.
   Clark regained his attention. “The grannies? The grannies… they escaped.”
   “Escaped?! How the hell did they do that?”
   “Through the tunnels,” Roderick answered for Clark. “There were dozens of them leading from the house… dozens.”
   “Yeah,” Clark went on. “Tunnels. We only caught one who’d been knocked unconscious by a tear gas canister in the parlor. She died two years later of old age, in Danbury Federal Prison.”
   “Did she explain why they did it?” Lo asked.
   “Sort of. When asked, she had this to say, and it was all we ever got out of her. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘It’s something ta do, en’t it!’”
   “Wow! Almost sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch.” Lo exclaimed.
   Roderick asked, “Did they ever find out where the other grannies went?”
   “Yeah. A couple of years later they popped up in England. London became infested. Muggings of young and middle-aged males by little, white haired, homicidal grannies in black dresses became rampant. By that time they called themselves, ‘Hell’s Grannies,’ and began attacking telephone kiosks and defacing public buildings with hateful, pro-senility graffiti propaganda.”
   “Hell’s Grannies, yeah, I remember,” Roderick mused. “Terrorized London for years. Backed by the IRA, weren’t they?”
   “That’s never been proved,” Clark retorted. “The point is, kid, we don’t stop watching until HQ tells us to, or we catch’em. Get it?”
   “Yes,” Lo grudgingly conceded. “I guess.” He rested a moment lost in thought, then sighed.       “In any case,” he said at last, “it’s someone’s else’s turn to watch. I’m tired.” He yawned to emphasize his point.
   Clark turned his gaze to Peter Roderick, who was busy pretending not to hear Lo’s plea for relief by slapping cards down, one after another.
   “Alright, kid. Take a break. Have a donut before Elliot Ness here, eats em all.” He and Lo exchanged positions, Clark sighed again as he settled down and adjusted the focus on the telescope.
   The image became clear. Clark found himself looking at the back of a cleanly shaven head. He adjusted the sight to reveal a whole monk, presumably the leader, or master, who was seated on a small cushion facing away from the agent, situated directly in front of a group of eighteen acolytes, who were facing their teacher. All sat motionlessly, except for their lips, which moved slowly, and in unison. Clark pulled back the focus further to reveal the entire store front… a gym and martial arts/meditation center, across the street and two floors down from where the three agents were perched. Clark took his gaze away from the telescope, looking directly out the window to the street below. It was still drizzling slightly, and the subdued light from the overcast sky did nothing to further his goal of observation. He looked at his wristwatch, three fifteen. There was little traffic on the street below and few pedestrians frequenting the pawnshop and dry cleaners, which sat to each side of his targetl.
   “Damn it!” Clark heard Roderick exclaim from directly behind him. He turned around to see his partner scowling at the cards on the table, then picking them up to shuffle a new hand.
   “How do you manage to lose at solitaire when you cheat?” Clark asked.
   “I don’t cheat,” his partner answered. “I just position the cards creatively.”
   Clark returned his attention to his prey, and adjusted the headphones on his large, ponderous head.
   “Taberu watashi Amerikajin buta. Taberu watashi Amerikajin buta…”
   “Taberoo whatasee ameraagen buuta,” Clark parroted. He slowly scanned the room below, studying the intent faces of the students facing his direction, but at a forty-five degree angle. They were sitting in three rows of six men apiece. He slowly roamed from face to face on the first row, from right to left, and back again, suddenly stopping at the last acolyte on the right, who seemed to be staring directly back at him and flipping him off, with what the President of the United States often labeled the, “One-Finger-National-Press-Corps-Salute.”
   “What the hell?!” He leaned back from the telescope and rubbed his eyes, then looked again through the instrument, and saw… nothing. Nothing amiss at least. The monk in question was sitting just as the others, chanting, “taberu watashi Amerikajin buta,” like all the rest, but…
   “What’s up?” Lo asked between mouthfuls of donut.
   …but, he thought he could discern a slight, ever so slight, crinkling at the edges of the sitting monks mouth as he chanted. A curling, self-satisfied smile.
   “I think we’ve been made.” Clark stated.
   His two colleagues immediately perked up. Roderick ceased his card playing, and Lo stopped chewing. Both came to the window to look at the storefront below them.
   George Peterson of the American Civil Liberties Union, turned away from the small video monitor he’d used to watch the FBI surveillance team for the past three months, and spoke to his partner. “Hey, something’s up!”
   Oscar Lamont shifted his chair closer to the monitor, and asked, “What?”
   George took off his headphones. “I’m not sure. Clark said he thought they’d been made, and now their all looking at the monks.”
   “Thought they’d been made, huh? We’d better start recording.” He leaned over and flipped a switch on the ADX automatic recording system, which began copying the picture on the monitor and all of the sounds emanating from the room the three FBI agents occupied.
   They’d been watching the FBI team for over ninety days now, ever since their vast intelligence sources had determined the domestic law enforcement agency had been interested in this benign group of innocent religious practitioners. The ACLU’s labyrinth communications center, located deep within a forgotten wing of Carlsbad Cavern, had ascertained the FBI’s interest in The Sneezing Buddha Meditation Center, and as per standard operating procedure, an investigation had immediately been put into place. Unbeknownst to the two staunch defenders of civil rights, they themselves were being watched from a small, dingy, apartment across the street from their location, two floors up, and fifty meters to the south. Utilizing a tiny camera embedded within George and Oscar’s smoke detector, and a Bionic Ear, Earl Iverson, Clyde Johnson, and Leroy Jones, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, historically distrustful of the ACLU, were keeping close tabs on Oscar and George.
   “They’ve started recording,” Clyde observed.
   “Yeah,” Earl, a 250 pound, ex NFL halfback turned lawyer, agreed.
   “Recording what?” Leroy asked, while patting down his shinny, baldhead.
   “Those FBI guys,” answered Clyde.
   “Who knows?”
   “What are the FBI guys looking at?”
   “Who knows? Who cares? I just want’a make sure these mother _ _ _ _ _ _ _ stay in line. Feel me?”
   “Yeah, yeah,” Leroy retorted. “Don’t get your panties in a twist. I was just asking, bro…”
   Clyde turned away from the monitor to face Leroy. “My what, in a what!?”
   “Hey, hey.” Earl spoke up, clearly exacerbated. “Calm down and stay focused. We got a job to…”
   “Who died and made you queen?” Clyde countered. “You calm down, has been! You stay focused.”
   “Has been? Who you calling a has been, you mealy-mouthed little _ _ _ _ ! Best watch your mouth before I _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ your _ _ _ _ _ _ _ in rapid succession, you
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ! Furthermore, I’ll _ _ _ _ _ _ _ more than
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , and your mamma too!”
   Both Clyde and Leroy were taken aback by this outburst by their usually even-tempered and civil protégé. Then they turned on him and all hell broke lose.
   This caused a great deal of amusement between KKK members Jeb and George Hatfield, and Jethro McCoy, who were closely following the activities of Clyde, Leroy, and Earl, from directly across the street, via a wall embedded infrared camera and parabolic microphone.
   “What a bunch of morons,” George quipped.
   “Yeah, morons,” Jeb, his older brother agreed.
   “Morons…” added Jethro.
   “Shut up, retard!” Jeb admonished. “Got anymore donuts?”
   “Nope. George et the last one.”
   “I did not!” George protested.
   “Did to.”
   “Did not.”
   “Did to.”
   “Did not.”
   “Did to.”
   “Did to.”
   “Did not.”
   “See, I told ya.”
   “Hey, wait a dog gone minute…”
   “Shut up, before I smack ya one!” Jeb exclaimed. “We need more coffee anyway. Go get us some more of them donuts while you’re at it. Chocolate ones this time, with them little yeller sprinkles on top.”
   “They only come with red sprinkles,” Jethro corrected.
   “Now I ain’t gonna fall for that again. This ain’t no gull dern Bugs Bunny cartoon! What do you think I am, some kind of idjet, or something? They’re yellow sprinkles, and that’s that, gull dang it!”
   “Whatever you say, boy. Now get to it!”
   “Is it still raining out?”
   “Yes it is, I can see it.”
   “God dang it! There ya go again!”
   In a makeshift storeroom in the building just across the street from Jeb, George, and Jethro, Harold L. Pitt of Human Rights Watch, observed the three through his pair of digital binoculars, and listening to their inane arguing through a Q telephone transmitter. He shook his shaggy head, muttering, “These guys are too stupid to be alive.”
   “Are they at it again?” His partner, James Demont asked.
   “Again? They haven’t stopped!”
   “Explain to me why we’re still watching these morons. They’re too dumb to cause any real damage, unless it’s to themselves.”
   “Maybe that’s why,” Harry considered. “So we can call the cops before they finish killing each other.”
   “I think I’d pass on that and let nature take its course.”
   “Now, now, James. Be nice.”
   “Okay, Okay.” Demont returned his attention to his computer monitor to check out the current progress, if you could call it that, of the Janjaweed’s efforts to exterminate the indigenous population within the Dafur region of Sudan. Ely Widdle of the National Rifle Association was also able to monitor the Janjaweed’s atrocities, due to the PC mouse transmitter he’d been able to install in Demont’s equipment five weeks ago. Unlike Demont, however, he cared little about the actual commission of rape, displacement, and murder. Rather his concern was for the protection of the rights of the nomadic terrorists to bare arms. As for the rights of the refugees, he saw no reason why they should not enjoy the same privileges, as was their God given right, and would have been thrilled if both sides were equally armed, with the same ability to slaughter each other at will. Unfortunately, Widdle thought, the refugees were ill equipped to bear arms, even if they could afford them, largely because most of their male population had already been exterminated, leaving just the women and children, who traditionally were terrible shots.
   Pity, Widdle lamented.
   He was able to record every keystroke, web site, and Email transmitted from the Human Rights Watch outpost, two floors directly above him in the same abandoned factory, as well as every word spoken in their room. Unfortunately, he was unable to see them through the mouse transmitter. For that he had to rely on the encased 37mm color camera he had installed in their ceiling light fixture, just as Hayduek Marmalade, Eugene Swift, and Edward Little of the Central Intelligence Agency had used to monitor Widdle. A standard parabolic microphone aimed at Widdle from their location directly across the street from his location, was fully capable of recording any conversation transpiring within Ely’s tiny room. Not that Widdle spoke very often. He did not. He did hum, however, and at great length. The “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” seemed to be his favorite tune, which irritated Hayduek.
   “He’s humming again,” he told Little.
   “So what else is new,” Edward replied. “When’s he due to be relieved?”
   Hayduek glanced at his wristwatch, and said, “In about an hour and a half.”
   “I say we pick up the bastard now,” Swift said, heatedly. “We let these guys keep operating, who knows what will happen!”
   “You know we can’t do that,” Hayduek cautioned. “We’re not even supposed to be here, let alone start kidnaping American citizens. That’s the FBI’s job, not ours.”
   “Yeah,” Swift fumed. “So we just sit and watch these bastards, knowing full well they’re going international, supporting arms sales to… to… whoever wants them, for God’s sake!”
   “No, that can’t be allowed,” Little wryly answered. “The CIA never wants arms to get into the hands of foreign insurgencies or dictators, now would we?”
   “None that we don’t approve of, or back,” Swift added. “None that don’t kowtow to the United States.”
   “Like Iraq?”
   “That was before we told Hussein he could go into Kuwait. How were we supposed to know Bush senior would get so pissy about it?”
   “Like the Taliban and Bin Laden?”
   “Same thing. Whose side are you on, anyway, Little? Are you defending these traitors?”“I just can’t stand hypocrisy, that’s all. And we don’t know they’re traitors. Not yet, at least.”
 “That’s right,” Hayduek broke in. “That’s why we watch. And you know as well as I do we don’t move without…”
   “Orders. Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Swift admitted. “I know. Still, I think the time for watching is long past. I say we render this guy to Gitmo for the old Lynndie England treatment.”
   “All in good time, Swift.”
   “Maybe,” Little added. “And let’s not forget these are American citizens.”
Hayduek and Swift thought about that a moment, just before bursting out in raucous laughter.
   “Yeah,” Swift coughed. “Like that’s ever stopped us before!”
   “Yeah,” Marmalade agreed.
   “Yeah,” Joseph Dearborn repeated, then turned sideways to face his partner from the Department of Justice, Rudy Halterstopp. “They’re starting to get antsy. The big one wants to ship the NRA guy to Cuba.”
   “I know how they feel,” Rudy replied.
   “Well, these guys aren’t going to think it’s so funny when they wake up in Leavenworth. CIA domestic surveillance is still against the law, as far as I remember.”
   “Well, at least it used to be.” Rudy countered. “I hear those NSA pansies are doing a little homeland eavesdropping these days, on direct orders from the old party boy himself.”
   “That can’t be right,” Dearborn argued. “Not even this President is that stupid.”
   “I wouldn’t be too sure. He may have fallen off his little bike one too many times.”
   Both agents were located in a vacant apartment next to the one used by the CIA team, and were able to listen to every word they said by utilizing a state-of-the-art, high gain “Listen-Through-The-Wall Device,” a souped up inverted water glass, one might say. A wireless 900 MHZ color camera embedded within the adjoining wall allowed them to see their target and record any and all incriminating evidence.
   Although both the DOJ and the CIA worked toward the advancement of all United States interests, rivalry between to two agencies was legendary, resulting in some of the most horrendous and embarrassing public incidents in the recorded annals of government. The two DOJ agents still felt the humiliation resulting from the CIA’s clandestine and malicious artificial enhancement and exposure of certain mammary glands on the “Spirit of Justice” statue residing within their Washington D.C. headquarters. Before the CIA got to it, only one small breast had been bared, which had recently been a matter of annoyance, but one night intelligence operatives had remade the statue (how this was accomplished is still a matter of conjecture) displaying both breasts, and increased their size from cup B, to a couple of extravagant Ds. That alone would have been a matter of contention between the two agencies, but the CIA had also managed to entirely remove the loin cloth from the Spirit of Justice’s male counterpart, the “Majesty of Law,” while enhancing its neither regions, if you will, prompting some observers to compare said appendage to that of a certain 1970’s pornographic movie star by the last name of Holmes, in a somewhat, er, agitated state. These developments created no small amount of apoplexy within the Attorney General, who first became aware of the situation during a photo-op alongside the mortified national leader of the Girl Scouts of America.
   The outraged AG wasted no time in retributive efforts toward those deemed responsible for the outlandish prank, the end result being a tip to the Italian Government that the CIA had been responsible for the kidnaping of a terrorist suspect that the Italians themselves had been watching and were about to arrest. This resulted in the indictment of 22 agents of the CIA on charges of kidnaping and rendition by the European Union. Unfortunately, as far as the DOJ was concerned, President Bush did not back the AG’s attempts to extradite these agents back to Italy where they faced certain prosecution and imprisonment. The controversy was ongoing and for the time being, despite a change in leadership at both the CIA and DOJ, the feud between the two agencies stood at a stalemate.
   Hopefully, this would soon change, Halterstopp ruminated. Change, as soon as they were able to discern whom in the CIA had ordered the surveillance of the NRA within the borders of the United States. He hunkered down just behind Debont at the monitor and watched the team of intelligence agents, which obscured the view of Frank Murphy and Steven Odessco, members of the Surveillance Directorate of The Sierra Club. They’d been watching the Justice Department agents for three weeks, utilizing a motion detector video camera attached to the revolving fan located in the southwest corner of their target’s room. An Infinity Transmitter mounted on the DOJ agents phone allowed the environmentalists to listen in and record every word they spoke to each other, and to whom ever they called, or were called by. Admittedly, it being rather cold and dank within and without their respective rooms (Murphy and Odessco where situated in an abandoned warehouse, three blocks southeast of the DOJ outpost) they had not counted on the fan the camera was attached to, to actually be activated. This hampered their observation of the Justice agents a great deal, as the slow, steady rotation of the fan kept the two men in view only a second or two each pass.
   “Why do they have the fan on?” Murphy asked for the thousandth time. “It’s freezing!”
   “Cold blooded, I guess,” Odessco replied.
   “That doesn’t make any sense. If they were cold blooded, they’d want it to be warm, wouldn’t they?”
   Odessco thought about that a moment, a little more than the question deserved, then replied,    “Whatever.”
   The Sierra Club had been monitoring the actions of the DOJ ever since they had uncovered (through similar surveillance activities) the Justice Department’s efforts to direct blame toward the Sierra Club for the flooding of New Orleans in the destructive wake of Hurricane Katrina. So far those efforts to divert blame away from the federal government’s own initial lack of response to the massive flooding and loss of life and property, had been ineffective due to the Club’s annoying habit of previously and publicly advocating for the restoration of the wetlands adjacent to the city and coastal region, rather than stalling needed repairs and levy maintenance through litigation, as the Justice Department had hoped to find and publicize. This effort having fizzled out, a fresh campaign had been launched by the Republican Party to shift responsibility for the lack of preparation to deal with this disaster to whom it so clearly belonged, former President William Jefferson Clinton, who it turns out, was responsible for global warming, as well. This position was odd, many of the RNC’s critics maintained, because up until that time the Republicans had vehemently denied the very existence of global warming. Faced with this discrepancy, the party’s chairman, Ken Mehlman explained, “Well, if global warming did exist, Clinton would be responsible for it!”
   Odessco took over the monitoring duties from Murphy, just as Al Cheadle of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s 8th Intelligence Protocol, took over from Peter Mozgo, who had been watching the environmentalist team for the past two hours utilizing the Hubble Space Telescope, which had been repositioned to allow it to observe through the skylight of the Sierra Club’s hideout. Unfortunately, the view was intermittent, obscured by the thick cloud cover currently hovering over the city. Emphasis was being placed on listening, via electronic sensors able to discern all of the sounds emanating from within the warehouse, transmitted by vibrations bouncing through the windowpanes.
   The NASA surveillance detail had at their disposal the Chandra X-Ray Observatory located in Earth orbit, for which the cloud cover would be transparent, and would have used it if not for the fact that the Sierra Club team emitted few, if any, X-Rays for it to observe.
   George Huerl looked on as his two partners exchanged places. He was tired and bordering on exhaustion, and thought he might doze off for the next two hours before it was his turn to watch. He lazily considered their mission before drifting off. The national space agency had been keeping tabs on all the major environmental advocacy groups ever since Greenpeace had accused them of creating an Eco emergency at the Kennedy Space Center, through noise and air pollution created by it’s two rocket facilities, allegedly killing off myriads of indigenous species and causing irreversible damage to the fragile ozonosphere, thereby increasing the levels of deadly ultra-violet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. A counter argument had been made that NASA was in full development of a reusable SST space vehicle that would not require large rockets to place it in orbit, acting more like a traditional airplane than a spaceship, as well as pointing to new feasibility studies of a proposed Space Elevator. The environmental agencies response was uniform, and predictable… too little, too late. They pointed to the recent discovery of a multitude of Bald Eagle deaths due to mercury poisoning. NASA, quite rightly, countered that it in no way was responsible for the deaths of the endangered national symbol, that the oil and gas industry was, due to its habit of dumping pollutants into the air from coal burning energy plants throughout the Midwest. This explanation, however, was immediately followed by a harsh chastisement from the Department of Energy, which maintained that these “so-called” burn offs of natural gas, and high mercury emissions did not exist. Humbled, the space agency administrator agreed with the Energy Department, but added this stipulation: “If coal burning energy pollution did exist, which it does not, then the eagles themselves would be responsible for their own deaths, by flying too close to the plant exhaust ports, which aren’t there.” Throughout, NASA continued to insist it was not their problem.
   Patrick Juracek and Dennis Cosworth of the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons, didn’t give a tinker’s smickle if NASA polluted, or not. Their concern dealt primarily with how the space agency spent the federal tax dollars allotted to them, and waste thereof. Waste, as expressed by ridiculous and costly surveillance operations, such as the one they were currently monitoring, via the spectral assimilation microphone and television camera Cosworth had managed to shoot through the open window of the condo the NASA team currently occupied. This device, disguised as a common Long-haired Norwegian Midge, recorded every word and movement that Cheadle, Mozgo, or Huerl said or made. Juracek and Cosworth, and their fellow retired operatives, had been watching the NASA team for over two weeks now, slowly and assiduously compiling evidence, and calculating the daily costs of the space agencies dubious and ineffectual activities. These unnecessary expenditures particularly riled the Association, due to the fact that at the present time NASA faced crippling budget cuts, which had already called for substantial personnel layoffs at the distinguished Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as many other agencies related to NASA, and a de-emphasis from robotic missions (which until now had shown some spectacular successes, such as the first cometary impact probes (Deep Impact), a third exploration of Jupiter and its moons (Galileo), and the first probe sent to investigate Saturn’s icy moon, Titan (Cassini-Huygens)). The AARPer’s reasoned that the President’s call for “manned” missions to the Moon and Mars (costing, excuse the pun, an astronomical amount of tax payer funds, and exceptionally dangerous to those chosen to go) was simply a ploy to divert attention from the presidents historically significant, plunging job approval ratings (some would say, disapproval), caused in large part to President Bush’s involving the country in unilateral “war of choice,” in Iraq, which everyday demonstratively had no discernable rational purpose, or satisfactory plan for conclusion, illustrating George Orwell’s theory that national leaders could better control and manipulate their entire population, critics and adherents alike, if it was constantly at war. Hundreds of billions of dollars had been spent (some would say wasted) overseas, and thousands of lives lost (some would say unnecessarily) for no other purpose than to control vast oil fields within the Middle East, maintain a military presence in the region, and provide huge profits to the military industrial complex and its ancillaries, creating an artificial need to cut domestic spending on programs for the elderly, poor, and the nations students and children, clearly furthering the Republican conservative ideological agenda. National fear propagated by the White House called for the creation of a brand new cabinet level Department of Homeland Security, which during its first national test, a series of violent hurricanes (whose power and ferocity were expedited by warm ocean currents, as a direct result of global warming, which of course, did not exist), was hopelessly ineffective, causing vast loss of life and billions of dollars in property damage.
   Conrad Smith, Alice Yenour, and Gerald Springer (no relation to the sensationalist talk show host) of the National Security Agency, were not concerned with national budgetary discrepancies, or modes of exploration, as they surveiled the two octogenarians (using standard relay monitoring facilitated by local telecommunications companies, and various microphones and cameras placed within their loft). No, their main purpose in this exercise was to authenticate repeated signal reports of existing and ongoing links between the AARP and foreign terrorist organizations, especially to the United Kingdom, specifically wire transfers of funds to the now infamous “Hell’s Grannies & Knitting Circle.”
   Domestic eavesdropping by the super-secret intelligence agency was wholeheartedly illegal, even unconstitutional (as well as the Pentagon’s own spying efforts within the country, such as operation, “Talon.”). But the nation had been caught up in the “Terrorist Frenzy” perpetrated by the current administration, allowing President Bush to easily circumnavigate existing law at his whim, as long as its stated purpose was to protect American lives (his having ignored repeated warnings of imminent terrorist attacks, which if acted upon possibly would have thwarted the assault upon the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, did not seem to register upon the national conscience). If, by some technical accident, political enemies of the president happened to be spied upon as well, it would be a regrettable side effect of an essential tool used to combat international terrorism.
   The NSA had not yet proved any link existed, but long suspected a financial connection between the American retirees and the massive Granny organization. This suspicion peeked recently after the Federal Reserve had reported stepped up transfers of funds immediately preceding reports of an arrest of a 73 year old woman in New Orleans for looting sausages in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
   “A bunch of right-wing, commie, pinko, central liberalist moonbats!” Smith muttered under his breath.
   “Calm down, Conrad,” his female colleague urged. “What are they doing now?”
   “Nothing. Still watching those space jerks.”
   “My, aren’t we in a state,” Springer quipped.
   “Back off, Jerry!”
   “Gerald. My name is Gerald.”
   “Yeah, whatever. Why don’t you go get us some hoagies, Jerry. I’m hungry.”
   “Why don’t go take a flying _ _ _ _ at the moon, you _ _ _ _ _ _ _ imbecile! What do I look like? Your _ _ _ _ _ _ _ wife?” Springer adroitly countered.
   Smith looked up from the surveillance camera. “Naw. You do look like my little slut, though, so go get me and candy pants here, some…”
   At this point the recording of the NSA team being made by Janine Palmer and Susan Whitcomb, of the Forward Intelligence Directorate of NOW, became garbled, interspaced with several loud bangs, and what may have been possible crashes, due to, Susan surmised, the manifest brawl now transpiring within the NSA loft.
   “Was that a bang, or a crash?” she asked.
   “I think it may have been a whack, actually,” Janine answered.
   “A whack? Are you sure?”
   “It could have been a bang.”
   “These guys sure could use a cooperation seminar,” Susan observed.
   They continued monitoring the brawl, which showed no signs of abatement, occasionally wincing as more bangs, or possibly crashes or whacks transpired, feeling rather sorry for Alice, the female NSA officer, who was now huddled into one corner of the loft, attempting to duck various pieces of lose furniture. After a while, however, they became desensitized to the frightful melee and resumed filing their nails, making sure to record the incident, while occasionally using a separate monitor to check in on Oprah.
   The National Organization of Women had been monitoring the NSA at various locations for several years, ever since it had come to their attention that the NSA had been monitoring their own routine signal operations, without benefit of a warrant or court order. “What’s good for the goose…” their leader had stated. Unbeknownst by the feminist organization, they were working off of a false premise fed to them from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was the organization that was actually watching and listening to them without benefit of a warrant, or court order. Howard K. Monroe, Jack Lamprey, and Raymond Joyce were located directly across the street from the two female agents, watching them watch the NSA debacle through a large, plate glass window, utilizing a pair of telescopic binoculars, and listening via a miniaturized diaphoretic membrane microphone. The FBI had intentionally leaked the misinformation that the NSA was surveilling NOW specifically to distract them while the Bureau investigated allegations that the feminists had adopted an outspoken and belligerent anti-war stance, thus marking them “subversive enemies of the state.” These allegations were mainly due to various press releases and personal remarks made to the media by some senior members of the organization, stating that they were fed up with the administrations tendency to use the nation’s sons and daughters, their sons and daughters, as cannon fodder, in an aggressive military action (they refused to dignify the illegal occupation by calling it a “war”) that was uncalled for, without pertinent purpose, and wholeheartedly unnecessary. Further aggravating the ladies was the fact that the president’s own twin daughters, as well as 99.8% of the children of Congress members, refused to volunteer for military service, despite Bush’s insistence that, “There is no higher calling than service to the country,” through military conscription. They also claimed, unreasonably the FBI had been directed to think, that military recruiters were disproportionally targeting (some would say exclusively) the children of the economically disadvantaged. The belief that the administration’s own domestic policies helped to create the growing economic distress evolving within the country, didn’t help matters.
   Rumors abounded that NOW was secretly publicizing the false notion that the Iraqi’s themselves wanted the American occupation in their country to end, supported by a non-existent petition signed by over one million non-existent Iraqi citizens requesting the coalition forces withdraw immediately. The embarrassing fact that such a petition actually existed did not deter the CIA from determining it was a phantom. The recorded response from the Iraqi provisional government stating it did not believe they could achieve the status of a sovereign nation as long as it was under American military control, did not bother the U.S. intelligence community either, for as per instructed, this development did not exist, and was hugely successful in hiding these un-American and inconvenient facts, which did not exist, from the American public. It had been just as successful in hiding the supposition that the illegal opium trade in Afghanistan actually financed the violent insurgency in Iraq (another American occupied country in which both the extreme fundamentalist Taliban and 9/11 instigator, Osama bin Laden, still maintained operations (which was exceptionally handy whenever President Bush needed to distract the American populace from his falling poll numbers and almost daily corruption scandals by invoking the “terrorist’s” name, referring to him as a continuing threat to the USA. The fact that bin Laden was still alive after four years of “hunting (ha ha)” for him, and had actually let him escape during one confrontation, rarely came up)). The CIA and FBI had been aided in suppressing these facts, which did not exist, by the corporate owned media’s disinclination to report in depth on any serious matter that might shine disfavorably on the current administration. In fact, the agencies admitted they could not have been successful without the media’s full and enthusiastic participation.
   “Can you see what they’re watching?” Lamprey asked Joyce.
   “The NSA idiots are fighting each other,” he answered.
   “No, not them! I mean on Oprah.”
   “On Oprah,” Lamprey insisted. “What’s she talking about?”
   “Who cares?” Monroe exclaimed.
   “Is it “Oprah’s favorite things?” I haven’t missed one of those shows in eight years.”
   Monroe and Joyce looked at Lamprey somewhat distastefully, then at each other. “Oprah’s favorite what?” Joyce asked.
   “Things! Oprah’s favorite things!”
   “Oprah’s favorite things are thousand dollar bills.”
   “Naw,” Lamprey maintained. “Last year it was Gourmet Florida Key Lime Bundt Cake, and Apple Bottom Jeans by Nelly. I love bundt cake,” Lamprey wistfully concluded.
   “You really need some kind of serious therapy, Jack,” Howard Monroe pointed out.
   “Or a girlfriend,” Joyce suggested.
   “No, that would just sissify him more,” Monroe explained. “He needs… he needs…, hell, I don’t know what he needs… climb a mountain, or something. Take up boxing… shark wrangling.”
   “Come on you guys. Don’t you ever watch Oprah?”
   Joyce and Monroe both looked at each other again, before both answering, “No!”
   “Oh, man. She’s great! I learned how to crochet from watching Oprah.”
   “Did you learn how to give birth, too?” Monroe asked, while Joyce resumed his surveillance duties at the window.
   “Give birth? What do you mean?”
   “Never mind, Jacqueline.”
   “Hey!” Joyce shouted.
   “What’s up, Ray?”
   “They’re gone.”
   “They’re gone? What do you mean?”
   Joyce continued to peer at the apartment across the street, and said, “They’re gone, that’s what I mean. Adiosed. Vamoosed, split. Taken off. Not there anymore.”
   Monroe joined his partner at the window. “Call headquarters, Jack. Let’em know the subjects have moved out and ask for instructions.”
   “What’s the magic word?”
   Monroe angrily looked back at Lamprey. “The magic word? Okay, Jack. Please call headquarters… before I put my boot up your alimentary canal!”
   “Alright, alright. No need to get vulgar about it.”
   Monroe continued to watch Jack, disapprovingly, as the call was made to their command center. 
   Unbeknownst to them both, their colleagues, Clark, Roderick, and Lo were similarly perplexed at the sudden loss of their own surveillance subjects. One moment the sanguine monks had been sitting peacefully, chanting away, the next, they had all got up and moved out of view.
   “Can you hear anything?” Paul Lo asked, clearly worried.
   “Not a thing,” Clark answered.
   “But you think they made us?”
   “I think being given the bird is a slight indication that we’ve been made, yes.”
   “Given the…”
   At that moment the doorbell to their loft rang. All three agents nervously jumped at the unexpected sound, and turned away from the window to look at the door.
   “We’re not supposed to be relieved for three hours,” Roderick pointed out, whispering.
   Also whispering, Lo asked, “Who is it?”
   “Go answer the door and find out,” Clark said.
   “Hey, you’re senior. You open it.”
   “What are you afraid of, Lo? It’s probably just somebody selling vacuum cleaners.”
   “Yeah, right.”
   The bell rang again, still none of the agents made a move.
   “Oh, jeez! You guys make me sick,” Clark said, then stepped up to the door and slowly, carefully, looked out through the peephole.
   “Who is it?” Lo again.
   Clark turned back to his partners, and said softly, “I can’t see anything,” and withdrew his handgun from his shoulder holster, a 9mm Taurus. His two associates followed suit.
   The reason agent Clark was unable to observe those standing in the hallway just outside was merely due to the fact that Clark was himself being observed through the use of a simple Reverse Peephole Scope. It was noted that agents Lo and Roderick had both garnished their weapons, further exacerbating the situation and precipitating the following events, which rapidly got out of hand.
   Clark motioned for Lo and Roderick to cover him as he stepped up to the door and unlocked it, while slowly turning the knob. As soon as the door was unlocked, however, it burst open, throwing Clark violently to the side where he hit the adjacent wall and was instantly knocked unconscious. The open door now revealed a huge, bald monk, dressed in saffron, smiling famously, which caught Lo and Roderick off guard, temporarily immobilizing them as they were unsure how to proceed and somewhat stunned. Before their instinct and training brought them into action, said monk shouted in Japanese, “Fakku Hoover!” which roughly translated into English, means and sounds the exact same. The monk instantly stepped aside, allowing two companion monks, also smiling famously, to aim and fire the RPP launchers they were armed with. Two RPP’s (Rocket Propelled Pies) hit Lo and Roderick full force. Lo, hit in the gut with a Lemon Meringue, doubled over unable to breath, while Roderick was incapacitated by a Dutch Apple that struck him full force right in the kisser, instantly blinding him. Both agents dropped their weapons as they strived to get their bearings, Roderick screamed, while Lo choked and tried to regain his breath. The ferocity of the unexpected attack allowed four other rampaging monks to enter the loft and begin karating the three helpless agents, who were easily taken captive, handcuffed and hog-tied. “FBI!,” Roderick shouted, when able. “You’re all under arrest!” This caused untold laughter within the group of monks, who were actually members of the LTTE, or Liberation Tigars of Tamil Eelam freedom fighters, sent to the United States to procure funds to continue their struggle against government forces in Sri Lanka, by various methods, one being the robbing of American banks while posing as Japanese Buddhist monks. Fortunately for the FBI agents, the LTTE had instructed their operatives in America to abstain from using lethal force in their endeavors in order not to incur international disfavor for their cause. No limitation was placed on them though, on the amount of humiliation they could provide to those who had been stalking them, effectively making their mission totally enviable.
   The LTTE/monks fell upon the hapless agents from the FBI.
   Of course, all this was being observed by ACLU operatives, Peterson and Lamont, who sat stunned at the sudden turn of events.
   “My God!,” Peterson exclaimed, “I didn’t know monks did stuff like this! Should we call the police?”
   “They are the police.”
   “Yeah, yeah, I know, but these guys look like they could sure use some help, don’t you think?”
   “Probably. But our job is to watch them, not rescue them. Besides, they just got hit with pies, for Christ’s sake. I’ve never heard of anybody being seriously injured by being hit with a pie.”
   “You’ve never been hit by an RPP,” Peterson maintained. “Those suckers can shoot you into next week. And look what they’re doing to’ em right now.”
   Lamont looked. “My God!”
   “Yeah, I think we should make an anonymous call to the FBI, or at lest the police.”
   “I don’t know. Maybe we should ask headquarters for instructions.”
   “I don’t think we’ve got a whole lot of time here, Oscar. Call the police.”
   “Alright, alright.” Lamont dialed 911 on his cell phone. “No signal,” he told his partner.
   “Use the land line.”
   Lamont began to dial, then stopped. “The lines dead.”
   The two agents looked at each other, just as a thick cloud of etorphine gas rushed into their room via two small ventilation grates. The ACLU’s Counter-Intelligence Academy, located on the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica, had thoroughly trained its graduates to deal with situations just as this. Unfortunately for Paterson and Lamont, they had never graduated.
   Both agents rushed the one door to their room, only to find it bolted shut. They were quickly incapacitated by the gas, falling unconscious to the floor. Within seconds, the door the agents had just tried to escape from opened inwards, and three members of Young Americans for Freedom, donning gas masks, rushed in and began to tie up the ACLU agents. The two organizations had a long history of enmity over many issues (minimum wage, deregulation, abortion, taxation, etc.), but none so contentious as their dispute over whether grandparents had the right to visit their grandchildren over the objection of the child’s parents. YA for F, had long and bitterly contended that “old people,” had only one right, to die as quickly as possible, hopefully before reaching retirement age and collecting benefits. The ACLU held the opposite opinion, and for decades the two had battled over the issue, resulting in huge losses and “disappearances,” on both sides. Iverson, Johnson, and Jones, of the NAACP, stopped their bickering long enough to agree that the Civil Rights activists would never be seen again, as they watched the attackers bound and gag Peterson and Lamont. Still, they would have began arguing this point if the floor they were standing on had not caved in causing the three gregarious protectors to fall a total of 28 feet straight down to the unoccupied studio directly below them. This was not due to any structural malfeasance on the part of the buildings contractors, but rather to eight charges placed by three female members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the day before. The NAACP agents were incapacitated, not by the fall itself, but by the curare tipped darts shot into their necks by the three lesbians who immediately ambushed them. This was a matter of some shame to Iverson, who had accepted the risk of imminent capture as being a condition of involvement in what he believed to be a noble and worthy cause, but rather that it was so easily accomplished by “girls.” Paralyzed but totally aware of what was happening, he was able to feebly mutter, “Bitches…” just before his nervous system was totally overcome. The three men were quickly wrapped in opaque cellophane, and prepared for transportation to the Task Forces interrogation center in Salt Lake City.
   Jethro McCoy abandoned his mission to procure more breakfast pastries after hearing his fellow KKKer's shout out in surprise at the sudden disappearance of their surveillance targets.
   “Where the heck they get to?” George asked no one in particular.
   “What happened?!” Jethro asked.
   “How the hell should I know,” Jeb replied. “One minute they’re beat’en each other senseless, the next there’s a big cloud of smoke. You better get over there and see what’s up Jethro. They might be a try’en to pull a fast one on us.”
   “I ain’t going nowhere near there! That ain’t in the plan.”
   “Yes it is.”
   “No it ain’t.
   “Yes it is.”
   “Now don’t start that stuff again. I ain’t going over there, and that’s that! You go over if you want to so bad, I ain’t.”
   “Yes you are.”
   “No I ain’t! Gull dang it! As a matter of fact, I forgot that I’m in charge here. You go over there and find those guys… and get some donuts while you’re at it!”
   “You ain’t in charge,” George maintained.
   “The hell I’m not!”
   “The hell your not.”
   “See, I told ya…”
   At this particular moment a knock came to their door. The three men, instantly alert, silenced themselves, then whispered.
   “Who could that be?” asked Jethro.
   “Answer the door and find out,” Jeb suggested.
   “You answer the dang door, and you find out.”
   “Hey, you’re in charge.”
   “No I ain’t. I was just funn’en. You’re in charge, George.”
   “Alright,” George agreed, “in that case, go answer the gull dang door!”
   Jethro cautiously approached the one door to their enclave and bravely asked, “Who’s there?”
   There was a muffled response from the other side, causing him to repeat his question.
   After a brief pause, came the reply, “Plumber.”
   Another brief pause. “Flowers.”
   Jethro looked back to his fellow cohorts, who blankly looked back at him, and shrugged. He turned back to the door. “Flowers? We don’t need no flowers. Go away!”
   Another brief pause, then, “Candy gram.”
   “Candy gram! Well in that case…” Jethro deftly unlocked the door and opened it, which gave the Black Ops Team from the Folk Art Society of America, a clear shot at George, Jeb, and Jethro, who were disintegrated in a hale of machine gun fire, Jethro’s last words being,     “Gull dang it…”
   Harry Pitt and James Demont, of Human Rights Watch, sat speechless as they witnessed the demise of their targets. After a moment, Pitt composed himself, and exclaimed, “Wow! That was certainly unexpected.”
   Demont agreed with him, wittily stating, “Yeah.”
   “What should we do?
   “I don’t know. Call the cops, I guess… anonymously.”
   “Well,” Pitt thought a moment, “they were human, no matter how stupid…”
   “So they have the right not to be shot, don’t they?”
   “Yeah, I suppose. But I think we should call headquarters first, and see what the boss thinks.”
   After being instructed to report to their headquarters without alerting the local authorities, the two agents packed their equipment and were ready to leave.
   The men left the storeroom and the building just to be knocked unconscious by members of Amnesty International’s R16 Clandestine Enterprises Department, who had been patiently waiting for them. The two human rights organizations were ancient enemies, vowing to fight for the rights of everyone, except each other. This abduction was just one of many such incidents that frequently occurred on a regular basis, both sides capturing or exterminating the others agents given the slightest opportunity. Luckily for Pitt and Demont, due to a recent abduction of six AI counter espionage personnel in Toledo, Ohio, they would soon be traded for two of their counterparts (after a methodical, and quite painful interrogation).
   Ely Widdle of the NRA, would have objected strongly to this action, because no guns were used in the execution of the kidnaping. He would have, if he had not just been garroted by Smeadly DeJure, the American Library Association’s infamous and steely assassin. These two organizations had been… at odds… ever sense the Association had banned the use of firearms within the nations libraries, stating, “It’s bad for the little children.” The NRA, of course, disagreed. “The younger, the better,” being their official assessment.
   Having just witnessed a murder, the Central Intelligence Agency officers, Marmalade, Swift, and Little, came to the conclusion that their mission was now completed. No more surveillance subject, no more illegal mission. It is interesting to note that photographs, recorded videos, and audio tape recordings recovered by eighteen year old members of the Jaycees, before the FBI arrived at the scene of the apparent abduction and disappearance of the Department of Justice officers, Joseph DeBont, and Rudy Halterstopp, by elite members of the Common Cause Commandos, or the CCC, would lead to an embarrassing investigation by the DOJ, of the CIA’s activities. The Central Intelligence Agency could not allow this to progress, and sent agents Marmalade, Swift, and Little to Guatanamo Bay, into permanent exile with “extreme prejudice.”
   In their abandoned warehouse, Sierra Club agents Murphy and Odessco were shocked and rather appalled, after witnessing the CCC’s swift rendering of DeBont and Halterstopp. Before they could make a cogent response to the violent action they had just witnessed, several (six, to be exact) tear gas grenades were lobbed into their station through the plate glass skylight, by members of an extremist wing of the National Trust for Historical Preservation. Being a non-violent extremist wing, however, the NT for HP activists disbanded after their attack, leaving Murphy and Odessco totally confused and helpless for a period of thirty seven minutes, after which, they hurriedly left their outpost, and began a well deserved, in their opinion, vacation in Yosemite National Park, where they were summarily molested by a migrating pack of in vasive and ravenous African Pygmy Squirrels, in a rare, but not unheard of skirmish.
   It was a regrettable coincidence that the Department of Defense was at this time testing the country’s anti-ballistic missile defense system, commonly labeled the “Star Wars Program.” Eight minutes previously a Minuteman missile had been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, aimed at a drone target flying 934 miles southwest of the island of Sumatra, in the Indian Ocean. Due to a slight miscalculation within the guidance system, this missile veered northeast, toward the American heartland, slamming directly into the apartment building in which Al Cheadle, Peter Mozgo, and George Huerl, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, were taking notes on the gas grenade attack of the Sierra Club. Cheadle was actually able to discern the missile’s engine exhaust plume, from the Hubble telescope’s perspective, just before he and his partners were obliterated, shouting, “Hey, look at th…” The resulting explosion created a crater 262 meters wide, and 428 deep. It also created a very harsh and strongly worded letter of complaint to the Defense Department, from the city’s mayor.
   Oddly, the Department of Defense claimed the test was a resounding success, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, stating the basic principle and technology of the system was sound, and defended it, stating, “the missile blew up, didn’t it!” (This proclamation was technically false since the missile was not equipped with a warhead, and relied solely on its own kinetic energy to destroy its target. In any case the amount of damage it caused, as described above, was considerable). The DOD used this incident to request 178 billion dollars in additional funds, “desperately required to ensure the country’s integrity.” Who, or what nation, was currently prepared to disrupt the country’s integrity, was asked of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
   “We’re preparing for every conceivable future threat, not excluding possible attacks from foreign sources not originating from the local planetary environment.”
   “Ahh, what does that mean? Aliens?”
   “Those are your words, not mine.”
   Although not in the immediate vicinity of the NASA stakeout and “missile fortuity,” the suddenness of the blast, it’s shock wave and thunderous reverberation, caused Patrick Juracek and Dennis Cosworth, of the AARP, who witnessed the demise of the NASA surveillance team, to have matching cardiac arrests. Members of the 2nd Protocol of Practical Intelligence for the American Philosophical Society, who along with the NSA, had been monitoring Juracek and Cosworth’s activities, quickly came to their aid, but due to the two agents advanced age and general poor physical condition conducive to a sedentary lifestyle maintained by sitting around watching surveillance monitors and consuming donuts, had passed away before first aid could be successfully applied.
   The NSA team, for their own part, and at this particular time, were involved in a firefight with a National Slag Association hit squad. At the time of this writing, no reason could be determined to any degree of certainty why the Slag proponents (whose motto is, “Blast Furnace Slag, the All Purpose Aggregate”) were at odds with the National Security Agency, other than an obscure and under reported dispute over the copyright of the initials N S A. Sustaining heavy losses on both sides (Agent Yenour being the sole survivor from the intelligence agency), both sides withdrew, after a great deal of name calling, vowing to carry on the fight another day.
The Special Agents from NOW, Janine Palmer and Susan Whitcomb, had been warned through a prearranged series of codes transmitted to them over the public airwaves, via The Oprah Winfrey Program, that an impending attack from the Third Wet Ops Directorate of Concerned Women for America, was imminent, and thus were the only participants of this days activities who escaped wholly unharmed (although not without first arming a series of tiny and quite deadly booby traps, in anticipation of their antagonists arrival).
   FBI Agents, Monroe, Lamprey, and Joyce, had been instructed to maintain surveillance operations for 72 hours incase the NOW operatives returned. Had they left their position at the time the female agents had abandoned their post, they would not have succumbed to a series of timed percussion mines that had been planted directly beneath the floor they were standing on. The three agents fell a total of four stories, one floor collapsing upon the next beneath it, until finally coming to rest at street level. All three miraculously surviving the fall, and sat stunned at the unexpected turn of events.
   “What happened?!” Joyce cried out to no one in particular.
   “The building blew up,” Lamprey coughed.
   “How the hell did that happen?!”
   “I don’t know. Are you all right?”
   “Yeah, I think so.”
   “Where’s Howard?”
   “I don’t see him,” Joyce answered, trying to stand up. “MONROE! WHERE ARE YOU?!”
   Both agents looked at a white pile of broken plaster as it began to move about. Agent Monroe soon made his presence known after shoving off the various lose pieces of drywall. “I’m here.    What happened?”
   “I’m not sure,” Joyce answered. “The building fell apart. Are you alright?”
   “I think I broke my leg.”
   Agents Joyce and Lamprey stumbled over to their colleague and were able to extract him from the debris, supporting his weight between them. They were finally able to make their way out to the street, which seemed eerily quiet as most of the neighborhoods indigenous population and emergency resources had been diverted to the scene of the wayward missile. They looked back at the ruined structure.
   “Jesus! It’s a miracle we’re still alive,” Jack Lamprey observed.
   “Yeah,” Joyce agreed. “What the hell happened?”
   “I heard an explosion,” Monroe maintained. “We were set up! CHRIST, my leg hurts.”
   “Come on Jack, Let’s get him to a hospital, and call HQ.”
   The three agents began to hobble down the deserted street, and were able to make a good thirty yards progress, before…
   “Do you hear that?” Lamprey asked his partners.
   “Hear what?”
   “That noise…”
   “I don’t hear anything,” Monroe answered.
   “What noise, Jack?” Joyce asked, panting with the effort of holding Monroe up.
   “I’m not sure. It kinda sounds like…”
   “Like what?”
   “Like, like… roller skates.”
   “Roller skates! Your crazy.”
   “No I’m not. Can’t you hear it?”
 “No!” Joyce exclaimed. Then, “Wait, yeah. I think I can hear it. Are you sure it’s roller skates…”
   “What ever it is, it’s getting louder.”
   The three stopped in their tracks, slowly turning around as the approaching sound now became quite clear.
   To their utter amazement, four elderly ladies dressed in long black dresses on roller skates (and one on a skateboard), the vengeful descendents of the original Granny Gang, recruited by the London branch of the infamous Hell’s Grannies Syndicate, each carrying either a large umbrella or baseball bat, quickly over took them. They barely had time to scream out their official association with the F.B.I., before they were attacked. Beaten repeatedly about the head and shoulders, Lamprey and Monroe were herded into a waiting van, which quickly drove off, Joyce escaping that particular fate, was however beaten senseless by the remorseless grannies, crumpled to the ground as his assailants attacked.

   The Sneezing Buddha Meditation Hall sat silent as its head practitioner, Kulathunga Ratnayake, stood in conference with the Grannies platoon leader, Ms Emmenita Doolittle, on the sidewalk just outside. Both gazed fondly at the sight of agents Clark, Lo, Roderick, and Joyce, stripped to their under shorts, hanging upside down from ropes ten feet below their loft’s window, gagged and trussed like Christmas turkeys, struggling to no avail, cardboard signs affixed to their midsections proclaiming, “I’m with Stupid.”
   The anomalous couple Hi-Fived each other, and shook hands in mutual appreciation of their considerable abilities. An open bed truck, filled with screeching fake monks, turned the corner, and stopped abruptly near their leader. As Ratnayake hopped on board, the congregation donned Condoleezza Rice face masks, and saluted their hapless victims utilizing their outstretched middle fingers, shouting in unison, “Taberu watashi Amerikajin buta! Taberu watashi Amerikajin buta! Taberu watashi Amerikajin buta!”
   “What’s that mean, love?” Ms Doolittle asked.
   “Eat me, American Swine, ha, ha, ha, ha,” Ratnayake laughed.
   The truck abruptly took off, the rowdy congregation, whooping and hollering, as Ms Doolittle shouted, “Tell your bosses we’ll be seeing them later. You’ll rue the day you messed with the Grannies!”
   With that, she held her pointy nose as she stepped into an open manhole, quickly disappearing into the local sewer system.
   In its labyrinth clandestine Communications and Dispatch Center, located 87 meters directly beneath the giant Geosphere at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, Manfred Idleson, of the American Automobile Association backed away from the large High Definition monitor he had been using to watch the street in front of the meditation hall, and flipped open the microphone of his dispatch board.
   “Big Bro to unit Beta, over.”
   “Unit Beta, over.”
   “Yeah, the subjects have just moved out, heading north on Halprin Street. Should be passing your location in two minutes, over.”
   “Copy that, over.”
   “Subject will get four simultaneous flats in exactly…” Idleson checked his watch, “four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Move in at that time, copy?”
   “Copy, Big Bro, over.”
   “Big Bro, out.”
   “What about the Grannies,” his protégé, Alan Wadsworth asked.
   “What about’em?”
   “We just let them get away?”
   “What do we care? They weren’t driving a vehicle, were they?”
   “So, they’re out of our jurisdiction.”
   “How about those FBI agents?”
   “Ah, somebody will find them… eventually.”
   They both laughed, as Bernard Torquemada of AAA’s janitorial staff, exclaimed, “Hey, what’s this?”
   Idleson and Wadsworth stopped laughing and went over to the bank of computers where Bernard had been sweeping.
   “What’s what?” Idleson asked.
   The triple A agents looked at where the erstwhile janitor was pointing and spotted what looked to be a common Long-haired Norwegian Midge.
   “It looks like a Norwegian Midge to me,” Wadsworth exclaimed.
   “Long-haired,” Idleson agreed.
   “Not that! That!,” Torquemada pointed to the large microphone sitting on top of the T14Z8 helium cooled Super Computer.
   “It looks like a old fashioned, nineteen-thirties radio microphone to me,” Wadsworth observed.
   “It sure does,” Idleson agreed.
   “But what’s it doing here?”
   Unbeknownst to the three men, they them selves were being……………….