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Chapter Thirty-One

"Judgement Day"



    For two quiet hours after dawn, we rested together watching the morning breeze dust snow from the evergreens outside our window. My first words of what I thought was the last day of the year were to ask my bunkmate what she meant a few hours before - when she alluded to Peter being gassed and her own body being burned. Successfully evading the question with smalltalk, Sunshine collected our belongings and asked me to call her Kitty.
    Out in the morning mist, I felt renewed - but wondered how, without biblical sin, could I be in love with two wonderful women at the same time. Leading the way to the car, I hoped Margot wouldn't judge me too harshly - if she even cared.
    While I steered west again, Kitty busied herself perusing a six-page poem she discovered in my shoebox, the first thing I ever typed on the Olivetti I inherited from Victoria in Junior High (the same year I met my unrequited love, Susanna): "The Nightmirror Maiden of Mine." After applauding my literary debut, Miss Frank read a short story I wrote for a Science V project: "Time Comes Running."

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     My legs, though operating better than they had for a couple days, still required two canes - so I stopped at the drugstore to purchase outright the rental unit. As Kitty hopped out to run the money in for me, I noticed a broken pop bottle, torn newspaper, and baseball cap scattered on the sidewalk.
    Seeing no George, anywhere, I told my etherial sidekick to take the cap in and ask the herbist if he knew where the good guy was. "Something's wrong here."
    Two minutes later, Kitty returned with the herbescent proprietor and climbed back in while Professor Carl Pride looked around.
    Presently, the retired soda-jerk ambled over to my side. "David, Genteel George Quail's been living in the back room of my outlet for the past thirty years and he's not there now." When I asked if he'd seen anything unusual in the last few hours, the enlightened druggist said he had, through the window, a bit after dawn. "I saw a yellow-green bus with chicken coops on top park out here for a minute, then take off. I never seen chicken coops in Olivette 'fore - 'specially not in the dead of winter."
    I told the holistic teacher to call the police. "Report George kidnapped by a bus that belongs to either Pyre Industries or the Tri-County Histarical Society of Tennessee." I gave Carl my parents' phone number in case the authorities wanted to talk to me.
    Very slowly, I tooled toward the end of Olive Boulevard - but saw no trace of George. Pushing one of Granny's music tapes into the deck as I hung a gentle left, Kitty announced it was Peter, Paul, and Mary's "HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS." The music began, and a heavy snow started to fall.
    As we turned onto Mock Manor, Kitty said she was no fool, that she knew I didn't have the body-flu. "Granny told me you have MS. So what are you going to do about it?"

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     I said I planned to take it easy until spring. "And hope that it's better by then." But I was more concerned about Brandy, Ména, Judy - and Genteel George. Where is it all going to end?
    Psychic Kitty said I might be surprised and started to hum along with Peter, Paul, and Mary.
    When I asked why she became a movie star, Kitty, between verses, claimed that the positive Pohla is absorbed by the improving Ohla at the end of each good incarnation. "So a person whose weathered many fruitful lifes has many more experiences to draw on for their acting. It's only logical."
    Back at the mockhome, Bitsey was complaining about the usual things - Paco and Sly shooting pool downstairs, Jessie blowing his sax in the backyard, April fixing breakfast in the kitchen (of all places) - and about Coleen fiddling with dad's computer in the study.
    After promising little sis we'd all be leaving before the hour was out, I yelled down to Sly and Paco to do me a big favor and load the moped on the back porch into Granny's trunk. I handed Proud Mary's keys to Kitty - who was teaching April how to break eggs with a thump to the forehead - and made the trek back to dad's so-called study.
    Resting my canes on the edge of his aircraft carrier desk, I sat in a chair across from Coleen and asked what she was working on. "More of my father's memoirs?"
    She claimed to have finished processing them the other night. "You know, David, I really am a Systems Analyst. I wish you guys took me seriously. In prison, us gals only worked with computers thirty minutes a week, but I thought about them - and other things - all the time." When I asked what sort of things, Coleen's eyes opened wide as she proceeded to describe how the metaphysical world allegoried a vast computer network. She likened the human body to a climate-controlled office with mainframe. She compared the brain to the resident mainframe's CPU, the mind itself the software. "Our instincts are application software while our soul, i.e. spirit, is our own unique program. But David - if you directed the development of a special computer program and worked on improving it for many years, what would you do just before the research computer wore out?"

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     That was simple. "I'd save the program and keep the disk for..."
    "Keep the disk for the next generation." Proudly, Coleen thrust her bullet-bra forward. "You know - reincarnation. Like I said, our spirit or soul is on the disk - the software. Our brain is only the hardware - the replaceable computer." While I remained in silent contemplation, this so-called bimbo went on to offer the best argument I'd ever heard for the existence of a higher Purpose in life.     Someday, she said, humankind might build androids that would do everything we could - including immitate emotions. "However, in your humble opinion, David, would such androids need to have a stream of consciousness to look and act just like humans?"
    I said that it didn't seem necessary. "The robots could be no more than glorified machines controlled by super-complex micro-computers."
    Coleen's voice sparkled. "That proves there's a higher purpose for Life. God, Mother Nature, or even evolution wouldn't go to all the trouble of creating something as complex and elusive as consciousness unless it was necessary for something. Just as each brain cell may have some primitive form of awareness, but no idea whatsoever of what the entire mind's consciousness is. I maintain, David, that our collective consciousness amounts to much more than a mainframe's central database - something we've only begun to understand."

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     I praised Coleen's ambitious theories. "See what you can do when you're straight, Miss Baxter?" Unintentionally, I scraped Moses' hook across the desk top. "If there's anything in my father's memoirs about a white egg on a gold necklace, I need to know. It could mean the diff..."
    "He keeps it in the kitchen wallsafe. A Mr. Martin Pyre has been paying him large sums of money every month for the last three decades to keep it from you." The frustrated Systems Analyst frowned. "But your father has set up a $600/month trust fund for you for when he dies."
    I struggled to my feet. "That's real big of the bum. But why'd you decide to tell me all this now when you wouldn't before?"
    Coleen's eyes watered. "Just before you took your parents to the airport yesterday - your father raped me on the pool table, just like the warden used to."
    I told her I had to go look for the wallsafe. "Good luck on getting your theories published, and I promise to personally rip my father's gonads off - for free."
    By the time I got to the kitchen, Paco was at the table eating fried matzohs and eggs with Sly and said the moped was already loaded. "And we pulled the Dodge into the garage for you, hotshot."
    Sly egg-belched. "The keys are in the ignition, slugger."
    I was just about to start hunting for the safe, when Kitty beckoned over the intercom from the master suite. Without hesitation, I limped back to the bedroom and sat on the sofa beside her.
    She asked if I felt good about our few hours in the cabin, and I had to be honest. "Well, it was one of the two most wonderful experiences of my life - but we're not married."
    She stood slowly. "What about Margot?"
    I admitted that maybe I'd done wrong by Morningstar too. "Even from a practical point, what if I got both of you pregnant?"

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     Walking to my mother's makeup table, Kitty spoke cautiously. "You already have gotten both of us pregnant, Long Dong David." She opened her purse and told me to close my eyes. "Didn't you see the SC in the heart on the train ticket I left you, David?" After fiddling for a moment, she cleared her throat and said I could open my eyes.
    Already stunned at the news of an alleged double-fathering, I fell further into shock by this vision that materialized before me. Putting her hair up in a bun, Kitty slapped on some face powder and slipped on a pair of horn-rim glasses - and looked exactly like the queen I'd seen in the museum.
    I went numb as she spoke peevishly. "It's me, SC - Susanna Cole from high school and the lady in the art museum."
    After collecting my continence, I said that Margot Morningstar already told me she was Rhonda, Mr. Sam's niece. "So I guess you're Donna Singer."
    Nodding, Susanna walked over to put her arms around my neck. "I'm Donna, and Margot is my half-sister - Joanna Cole."
    I was baffled. "And Edith is your abandoned daughter?"
    Susanna said that was right. "I left her with Daddy Otto because I needed to keep my egg from falling into Hista's hands - and I wanted to try and find Peter. I wasn't positive who Eddy's father was anyway."
    When I said I didn't understand how she could not know who her daughter's father was, Susanna said she didn't understand completely, either. "All I know is that graduation eve I had a dream that you, Master Daniels, jumped over my fence, climbed up a ladder, tore off your shirt, and came in my window to make wild love to my virginal self until dawn."
    Caning myself to the standing position, I explained that I had the same dream - and Susanna explained with a smile that she'd borrowed her Aunt Strangelove's lavender lingerie that night and maybe our mutual night-vision hadn't been a dream afterall. With a sly grin, my lady in light purple said she got a call from Joanna just last week. "She's in Hope, Arizona, awaiting your baby - the newest crewmember of Salvation."

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     Still pensive, I told Susanna that I thought my alabastor egg was locked in a safe in the kitchen. "Maybe that's what's been wrong all these years."
    Pressing her palm to my forehead, Susanna claimed my strength wasn't in some magic egg. "Your strength is in your soul - and what fateful things the doctors did to subdue it is what's really held us up."
    Moving toward the hall, I said that was all in the past now. "But is there anything else you're not telling me, Susanna Cole/Donna Singer/Kitty Sunshine Frank? Is anyone else not who they appear to be?"
    Susanna straightened my jacket collar as she spoke. "Paco is Dale Goldberg. Sly is..."
    I knew it. "Sly is Eddie Weiss. They're part of the crew, too?"
    Surprisingly, she said they weren't. "They're simply two very good friends of ours, David."
    Bitsey's shout from the pseudo-family room delayed our generational exchange. "You come out of that room right now. My parents are on the phone in the kitchen and they want to talk to you. Right now, Brother!"
    Escorting Susanna down the long hall, I asked who this Peter character was that might have been gassed by the nazis, and why she was looking for him.
    Halfway down the family portrait gallery, Susanna stopped me and dropped her atom bomb. "Peter was a quiet, handsome boy with a forest of brown curls and blue-gray eyes. As surely as you were and are LCPL Mathew Waters, I'm the Anne Frank who teased Peter Van Daan to survive, who used to call her diary Kitty. At that time, Margot was my older sister. And I've named my daughter after our then-mummy - Edith Frank."

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     I gave Susanna a kiss before I spoke. "God sure works in mysterious ways."
    With tears of joy, she splashed me with Chaz. "Doesn't He though. I might add that Granny, who you already know is Ms. Mary Smith, is also Joanna's step-mother and my mother. Daddy Otto had an affair with Mother Mary while he was still married to Joanna's Navajo Mother and volunteered to raise both of us - with help from Ms. S."
    I took a cavernous breath before commenting. "Absolutely amazing."
    Arm in arm, we made our way toward the kitchen, and I couldn't help but remember what Victoria said about Spartacus. I, too, had spent a season with friends in the sun - the past five months.
    Crossing the family room, I told Susanna that I was going to visit my nephew Jason in Columbia, then drive home. "I need to rest a few hours before the New Years Gala tonight."
    Susanna said my timing was off. "New Years isn't for two days." My little sis greeted us with a snarl. "Dad had a palpitation because you kept him waiting so long, but mom's on the line waiting right now, Buster." Bitsey Bob poked a button on the speaker phone.
    Dreidel fluttered in from the dining room and while I smoothed her feathers, my mother asked what was wrong with me. "Hon, you know you shouldn't have all your friends in my house."
    When I asked where she was calling from, mother said they were still out at the airport - at the Skyhigh Club. "Our flight's finally been cancelled, but an old banker/friend of your father's just offered to fly us to Vegas on his private jet."

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     I said that that was great. "But I'd like to know where my alabaster egglace is?"
    "Hon, I..."
    With that, something crashed through the dining room window and the house exploded. The floor blasted out from under us and the walls collapsed and I went hurdling rearward into a cushion of bodies and debris. A few smoky and convoluted minutes later, as the dust settled, Dale proceeded with a roll call - miraculously, no one was injured.
    Jessie crawled in through a hole in the wall, clutching his saxophone. "I believe my horn's dented, folks."
    When my sobbing sibling threatened to kill me that if her CVX got damaged, Jessie crawled over to give her comfort.
    Unscathed but agitated, I struggled to my feet beside Dale and Eddie as one of them cut a dusty fart. "I need to take care of these fuckin' nazis myself."
    Susanna pointed to an opened safe behind the toppled refrigerator. "David, look - your egg."
    Dale fanned the air. "And is it a stinker."
    After Eddie scrambled over and came up with my egglace, Susanna hung it around my neck as I asked why the travellers from Twola waited so long to come together.
    Susanna smiled cryptically. "To quote the first rock opera I ever did, Danu - 'Israel in 4BC had no mass communication.'"
    Dale tossed me his saturday-night special and a couple extra clips. "That's right slugger. Put a slug in 'em for everybody, guy."
    Adrenaline drowning out all confusion, I gave my requited love a hard kiss and pushed through the debris toward the garage.
    Susanna shouted passionately. "Maybe you should rest for a while, Danu."

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     Climbing into the plaster-covered Dodge, I verbalized my well-being. "I'm just gettin' fuckin' warmed up for those no-good heathens!"
    Firing up the mighty hotrod, I listened to Peter, Paul, and Mary sing ""Everybody's gonna pray, on the very last day..." as I blasted rearward - right through the overhead door, fish-tailing wildly as I hit the wet lawn and spewed mud everywhere. After trenching the lawn in reverse, sideswiping princess's CVX and running down the mailbox, I jumped a culvert and finally touched down on semi-firm pavement.
    Jamming Proud Mary into low, I spun 90° before shooting off toward the highway. Glancing in the mirror at what little was left of the Daniels' Estate, I spotted my pair of pursuers - Shitler and Lenore's Porsche.
    Shifting into second, I slammed my foot to the floor and slid sideways around a hairpin turn. Purposely, I spun 180° and came to a stop - dead in the middle of the road. Clicking Dale's high-tech pistol off safe, I waited. Alas, no one emerged from the turn.
    As I edged the Dodge slowly forward and renavigated the hairpin, my foes came into pathetic view. Both nazimobiles were piled into a ditch - a yellow haze of anti-freeze mist rising above them.
    I emptied Dale's hi-powered peeshooter into the mid-morning air and yelled out the window. "Didn't they teach you how to drive in the hitler youth, you mutant hermaphrodites?!?"
    As soon as Dreidel fluttered safely in, I turned a tight donut and headed for the superslab - to slay another day. Slipping onto the interstate, I wondered how many more twists and treats the road up ahead would hold.

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     One of Abraham Lincoln's comments on a bronze placard in Lincoln High's locker room came to mind:

     "The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are the best adaptations to effect His Purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that God probably wills this contest and wills that it shall not end yet. By His mere great power on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."

    My foot pressed hard on the accelerator as the driving beat of "IF I HAD A HAMMER" banged from Granny's deck, compressing all the milemarkers from Wright City to Kindom City and beyond in the process.

    Forty-five minutes hence, approaching the Fulton Exit, I tried to put my cranial house in order - to recap who was who. My high school chemistry teacher and wrestling coach, Prestcott Mathews, was actually Ména Menachem, an ageless Nice Old Gentleman who may have actually been the original Abraham. Mr. Sam the Crippled Man seemed to be connected with Mark Samuel Clemens Twain and Ben Poor Richard Franklin. Step-sisters Joanna and Susanna Cole, who were actually Margot and Anne Frank in their prior life, masqueraded first as Rhonda and Donna Singer at Puberty Park, and now as policewoman Margot Morningstar, and movie star Kitty Sunshine Frank - respectively. My high school English teacher, Ms. Mary Smith, was now called Granny Florence Smith.
    I mused. Are the women I now know the same Joanna, Susanna, and Mary that were followers of JESUS? Had I - David R. Daniels/Mathew Waters, impregnator of at least two women out of wedlock in this life - also been a follower of the Nazarene??

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     Too tired to know the answer, I opened the center console for a few of Granny's coffee drops - but found much more. Wedged under the cannister of chocolate-coated coffee beans was a submachine gun - a MAC-10. Very familiar with its features from a requisition video I made for the Johnson County Sheriff's Department, I had a hunch that Granny's gift was going to get me in a whole lot of trouble before the day was done. I took a whole handful of coffee drops and closed the console - wishing I had Judah the hammer Maccabee at my side.
    On the eastern outskirts of Columbia, the home of the University of Missouri, I refilled Proud Mary with marine fuel and lumbered toward the campus to visit my ailing nephew - all the while keeping my good eye on the panoramic racing mirror.
    At 501 W. Oak, a small sign beside the infirmary's door said it was closed for holiday renovations and all student-patients had been transferred to Privileged University at 3030 E. Sycamore. The college town appeared deserted as I double-backed east, thinking how lucky I was too have fathered a fine daughter. As soon as I found gainful employment, I'd try to explain to Eddy what happened between her mother and me.
    Dominating Sycamore, the expansive granite building that housed PU looked more like a cross between the German Reichstag and a Georgian penitentiary than a college campus. Apparently, no snow had fallen on this section of Columbia; the smooth brown asphalt of PU's parking lot was dry as a bone and occupied by only three vehicles - two sky-blue mopeds and a maple-colored Edsel. Parking as close to the front entrance as possible, I checked to make sure Dale's .25 smart automatic was still in my jacket with a fresh clip - just in case.
    Leaving the driver's window rolled down and placing Granny's MAC-10 on the dashboard under a red shop towel, I grabbed hold of my canes and followed Dreidel. Slowly, we ascended the long, gradual granite steps to the grand facade of what appeared to be an entire campus under one roof. Outside, a brushed-bronze plate to the left of the chrome and glass doorway was engraved with the architect's claim-to-fame: ALEXIS SPEAR, 1966 (AF77).

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     Pondering whether AF77 designated the fact that 1966 was 77 years after the 1889 birth of der führer, I gazed up at a steel SOS mounted high above me - similar in size to the medallion the Russians blasted off the Reichstage in April of '45. Etched into the thick door glass that motored open from the center as I entered was: Priveleged University - A TLC Operation of The Lump Corporation.
    Inside, a brown cardboard sign directed the way to the student infirmary. The cavernous two-story building appeared empty as I made my way across the lonely marble lobby and rode a burnished bronze escalator up to a small Medical Examination and Waiting Suite on the second floor, rear.
    Nephew Jason, adjusting his duffel bag, smiled warmly. "Mom said you might come to visit me, Uncle David. But I'm well now and just getting ready to leave."
    We shook hands as he reintroduced me to a very attractive and familiar coed, busy writing at the receptionist's desk - Stephanie Butler.
    Putting down her pen, April's sister rose to give me a gentle hug, explaining that she was no longer a student at PU, but had transferred to UMC School of Journalism where she met Jason.
    While she went back to writing, I explained to Jason about my bad case of body-flu. My perceptive nephew also noticed my egglace, and I told him a good friend had given it to me for the holidays.
    Whereupon, Ms. Bean, a sweaty lady in a chartreus uniform, shuffled in and hustled us out to the escalator. "I got to get you brats out of here quick, so I can lock up and get over to the Lump Club for lunch."

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     As we obediently descended toward the lobby, Steph petted Dreidel and insisted to our portly overseer that we be allowed to ride down another escalator flight to the basement clinic. Bean first cursed, then conceded to Steph's demand when she threatened to lay down and stay all day otherwise.
    Way downstairs, Moses and company clicked harshly against the basement's concrete floor as we approached the clinic of iniquity. Carved crudely into its cheap plywood door not far from the mechanical equipment room, was: PAC - L. Lump, Director.
    While Steph tried to jimmy the padlocked door, I asked Porky what PAC stood for.
    Bean barked. "Private Abortion Clinic - if it's any of your fuckin' business, butt-face."
    Moving to Steph's side, I told Porky Bean to go play with herself and used the butt of Dale's .25 to hammer a tack through young Butler's parchment.
    Standing back, coed Butler rendered it aloud from memory: "Proposed Equal Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At conception, the human rights of all unborn persons in these States shall be provided for and guaranteed by the States, such rights being those afforded all citizens of this Repub..."
    "Bang...bang, bang!!"
    Something heavy came tumbling down the escalator and rolling across the concrete floor. A German grenade.
    I yelled for everyone to hit the deck and fell toward the thing, grabbing its long handle. With a deep breath and my last ounce of energy (I thought), I shouted for Lump to go to hell and hurdled it right through her damn plywood door.

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     Before we could cover our heads, the basement convulsed. Flames and timber strewn everywhere, we barely managed to crawl through the debris to the escalator. Ascending in the prone position toward the lobby, I pulled out my laser pistol as we lifted through the smoke. But the lobby was empty.
    After Stephanie and Jason handed me Moses (noname was lost in the blast), I followed Dreidel to the front entrance and peered through the thick glass. The Schicklgruber triplets were standing beside a jet-black Pyretechnix van parked under a big leafless tree. The three shitlets were cackling at each other - probably about how they'd killed me.
    Kicking a nearby fire exit open, I stepped outside and yelled. "Here I am!" Unloading half my laser-guided clip in their general direction, I stumbled down the granite steps, then hobbled in a spastic zig-zag to Proud Mary - before finally falling on the asphalt and launching the rest of the rounds from the prone position. Reaching up to open the car door, I noticed two of my bullets had felled Brownie and Heinie - on either side of their screw-eyed sister.
    Unstunned, Lenore snatched the nozzle of a bulky hose from the back of the van, ignited the thing, and sprayed flaming plasma toward me. Ducking the unbearable heat, I was barely able to reach up, grab the machine gun from the dash, and fire blindly into the holocaust.
    Half a banana clip later, when the oncoming flames receeded some, I fired a second volley - right into the van's gas tank. As the vaulted vehicle burst into a giant fireball, gangly Lenore, hair on fire, yelled frantically and dove into a semi-frozen fountain behind the mangy tree.
    Adrenaline still surging, I yelled for Jason and Stephanie to stay in the building and picked up Dreidel from the pavement - her feathers horribly scorched. Climbing into the car, I carefully nested Dreidel in the center console and reloaded.

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     As I was just about to start the motor, Lenore crawled from the fountain, flailing her arms about like crazy - flagging down the battered chartreuse chicken-bus that had just swerved off Sycamore. While the damn thing clattered across the lot, I fired up my supercharged chariot.
    After the Empire Express smashed into the smouldering carcass of the van and sideswiped the tree, thus blocking my escape, I raced the motor and popped the clutch. Peeling rubber all across the lot, I steered with my right hand and fired the MAC with my left.
    Out of ammunition again, I stepped on the brakes and spun to a stop. Less than twenty feet from the enemy, I slouched down and loaded a third clip from beside Dreidel. I kneed the door open and stumbled out - firing into the air, above Lenore's head.
    She threw her skinny arms into the air. "We surrender! We surrender, Dahling!"
    Riddling the Tri-County coach with bullets an inch below floor level, I yelled back. "What about your friends with the Histarical Society?"
    Presently, they too opted to surrender - throwing out a bevy of six-shooters and several squirrel rifles in the process.
    Ordering everyone to come out with their hands over their heads, I fell back against Proud Mary. As they hobbled out, the group's elderly leaders looked like rejects of the Tri-County Geriatric Society.
    Catching sight of my nephew's silhouette inside PU, I hollered for him to call the police - just as high-speed rotors approached from the east.
    As a chartreuse jet-copter hovered above the tree, a large chrome speaker threatened me. "Achtung, David Daniels. This is Übermann Pyre and I have your parents. Unless you drop your weapon, I will throw them out - one at a time."

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     Then my mother's broken voice pleaded with amplified inflection. "Please, hon, don't let him hurt us. Do whatever he asks, hon."
    Next, dad's charismatic voice rattled from the speaker. "That's right, son - they're going to throw your mother out first - son."
    The chopper's door slid open and a high-heeled leg showed itself - so, what the hell, I took a deep breath and dropped my piece.
    While the chopper prepared to land and Lenore scrambled over to pick up my weapon, I noticed that SwizzleStickers Heinie and Brownie, guts tangled in the bus's undercarriage, appeared permanently decommissioned.
    After the Histarical Society retrieved their firearms, one of their rheumatic number pointed to the portentious tree and cried out to the others. "I sez we finish up what we started in St. David's Field twenty yar ago. I gots the very same family rope."
    His sick-looking sidekick had a different idea. "Jasper, I sez we tote the Hebe back to Tennessee and drown him in the Stone River - just like our kin done to Sherman's boys durin' the War."
    Inspecting his precocious rope, Jasper said it was a dumb notion. "Jethro, that damn river's probably dried up after 130 yar with no Yankee blood in her."
    While a middle-aged and clergic Pip Perez rendered "MISTER BEAUJANGLES" on a bladder-shaped harmonica, the other weathered members and offspring hoisted me on top the bus. All the while, I tried to amuse myself by wondering whether Mr. Beaujangles was any relation to Mrs. Cognomen - unsuccessfully. Finally, Jasper hung his ancestors' noose diligently around my neck while an alzheimered Sheriff Gurnsey handcuffed my wrists and ankles.
    M. Pyre surveyed the threatening sky. "Not a very good day to die, dear David."

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     I spit in his general direction. "I'm not dead yet, you fuckhead."
    Surrounded by cages of sick chickens who seemed my only friends at present, I listened to Pip move his parishioners into "DANNY BOY." M. Pyre, one diamond-studded Luger in each wretched hand, orchestrated the deadly while my parents chose to watch the proceedings from the chopper.
    Finally, when everything seemed ready and the music stopped, Jasper yelled down to Jethro. "Brother Turnip, you start that damn motor down there and be ready to pull away on M. Pyre's command."
    As the mob hushed, Herr Pyre ordered Jasper to remove my egglace and throw it down. "Brother Jones, let him keep his Star."
    Old Jones did his job, and I yelled down to my grizzly executioner. "If you think a magic egg is going to make any difference one way or the other, you're dumber than I thought Herr Pyre." I cleared my throat and made a last request. "I'd like to have my patch removed so I can see the world with both eyes one more time."
    M. Pyre snarled. "Do as he asks, Hauptmann Jones."
    After Jasper complied, I focused both my eyes on Martin's ugly face - best I could. "Herr Martin Pyre, you really are Survivalist Hista from the Jungle of Grede - aren't you?"
Fondling ringlets of red hair protruding from his scarred scalp, he smiled devilishly. "And what if I am - Dear Danu?"
    Read my mind, I invoked. As your Captain, I order you to put one of those Lugers to your head and pull the trigger. Then I ordered aloud. "Do it now."
    Fear flushed Hista's features. Eyelids shivering and left hand quivering, he dropped one pistol. Steadily, as the ground rumbled from thunder above, his right hand moved up and pressed the other 9mm to his temple - then jittered against its hair trigger as distant thunder tremored the Earth.

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     Suddenly, an awesome muzzle blast splattered brains everywhere. The bloodied mob went into a frenzy and lightning started to dance across the sky like I'd never seen before.
    Jethro climbed from behind the steering wheel and yelled up. "Jasper and Gurnsey, undo the Jew!"
    Not to be denied her pleasure, Lenore discharged a squirrel gun to get everybody's attention. "Nein, dahlings, don't nobody dare move." Unceremoniously, she scurried into the bus. Gunning the out-of-tune motor, she shouted frantically from her window. "Dahling David Daniels, vee shall vinally see iv you are really the vone the Jews have been vaiting vor all these schtupid years."
    That said, dry lightning continued to streak across the sky as Jasper grabbed his demented sheriff and leaped into the chilly fountain. While Pastor Perez started "AMAZING GRACE," I decided the Fifth Commandment was the real killer.
    Chicken feathers everywhere, the messy roof slipped fatefully away while I prayed for timely redemption. Eyes closed loosely and tired neck tensed, I dropped to my judgement.

end chap 31


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