Chapter 18 of
"Close the door." Joe Nably said as the last of the six men entered his office then picked up a stack of envelopes and held them up. "Five thousand now. Another five after."
One of the men took his envelope. "So what do you want done?"
"I want you guys to break into that park tomorrow night and make the rides breakdown. Do whatever you can. I want them to go haywire, fall apart, the works, Clay." Joe Nably.
Clay had been counting the money, but looked up. "And if people are on them when it happens?"
Nably snarled. "All the better! I want that place shut down!"
Clay nodded. "Alright. You just bought alot of accidents."
"Just get it done Clay. Make it a BIG show." Joe Nably said angrily as they left.
Alone again, he went back to his desk for his computer and pulled up the site for religious group against transgender people. He had found one that didn't just hate them alone, they would show up at anything important to lesbians, gays and transgenders. They were also known to have protests at war veterans' funerals and pretty much anything else that wasn't religious. A message, along with a donation, got their attention. The website now had an announcement that the protest-group would be at the park to block the gates at opening. Between them and the sabotage, the park should be ruined.
Ol' Mac was sweeping the sidewalk along Third street. He had been assigned two blocks before lunch and two blocks after lunch. The young man wearing a hat saying he was an Air force veteran and a T-shirt printed with Idle Hands had promised him lunch and money for the sweeping. He had seen the young man before, and several others like him. They traded money, meals and other things needed for work by the street people. Currently he was sweeping in front of A-1 Appliance and Electronics Repair. He stopped for a minute to look at the television in the window. A busy commercial was on and it caught his attention, even though he couldn't hear it.
Suddenly he all but banged his head against the glass to look close. "THAT'S HER!"
A worker saw this and came out, worried the streetman might break the glass to try stealing the television. He stopped when he heard him muttering to himself. "You're real. I really saw you. It wasn't the booze. You're really real."
"Um, could you ease back from the window?" The worker asked.
Ol' Mac pointed to the television. "She's real! I saw her!"
The worker walked over and looked at the screen. "That's the commercial for the park. VentureRealm. Who did you see?"
"She wore all white. She looks like an angel. THAT'S HER!" Ol' Mac pointed again.
The worker recognized her. "That's Queen Tessa. She owns the park."
Ol' Mac's eyes had filled with tears. "It was Christmas. I saw her. She gave us envelopes. Told me Merry Christmas. It wasn't the booze, I really saw her. I ain't gonna drink no more. She was real."
The owner of the shop had come out and heard most of the exchange. "Tim, go get a bottle of water. I think the heat's gettin' to him."
"Might be right, Mitch. Be right back." Tim nodded and went inside.
Mitch gently pressed on the streetman's shoulders to turn him. "Why don't you come over and sit down in the shade over here?"
"She's real." Ol' Mac repeated as he went over to a bench under an awning and sat down.
Tim returned and handed him an opened bottle of water. "He's talkin' about Queen Tessa over at the park."
Mitch nodded. "Yeah. She's real alright. Hired my nephew's girlfriend right out of High School to work over there. She's working in the kitchen of the Italian place over in SeaSide, learning under real chef. That ain't all Queen Tessa done. She donated to the schools' Home Ec classes, drama clubs and computer classes. Queen Tessa; she's very real ol' man. What are you doing out here though?"
"Mitch. Look, over there." Tim said and nodded to the broom leaning against the building. "That broom has one of them Idle Hands stickers on it."
Mitch went over and brought it back. "Are you sweeping the walk here for Idle Hands?"
Ol' Mac nodded. "They give us money for the sweepin'. Feed us too."
"That's good, but I think you might be working a little hard. Probably be best if you sat down a bit and drink that water. I'll be back in a minute." Mitch advised.
Ol' Mac drank the water while Mitch went inside and came back out a couple of minutes later with a damp cloth.
"Here. Wipe your face down with this and wrap it 'round your neck. It'll cool you down." Mitch said.
Ol' Mac did and began to feel relief from the heat. It was hot out, but only 92 degrees. Hot, but not unbearably.
Tim looked to the old man. "If you saw Queen Tessa outside the park, that's really something. She doesn't just up and wander around. No sir, if she's out and about, it's for a reason. She definitely doesn't go off by herself. Always a handful of people watching over her. Those princesses too."
"Park?" Ol' Mac asked, confused.
Mitch nodded. "Yeah. The Amusement Park. She bought and rebuilt it. It's called VentureRealm. It where that old broken down park was. All brand-spankin' new now."
A man walked up wearing a veterans hat and Idle Hands t-shirt. "Mac? You ok?"
Tim nodded. "He got a little excited, but he seems ok. Ok if he takes a break here in the shade?"
"Yeah. We don't want the folks pushing themselves. They get a small area to work in and they can take as long as they need. I'm Morris, I volunteer with Idle Hands and Street Table." Morris said offering handshakes.
Mitch shook hands. "Heard of you folks. Doin' good work around town."
"Getting better and better everyday. Lots of places are donating to us now. I'd name some, but they all agree to be anonymous. Let's just say that several restaurants contribute their buffets to Street Table after the line closes and other stores and business pitch in with various donations for Idle Hands. Good for the community." Morris said proudly. "Folks, like Ol' Mac here, trade us their time and we give something for the effort. Some money, supplies for them staying outdoors. The like."
Tim asked. "What's Mac doin' today?"
Morris pointed down the way. "We asked him to sweep the walk from Cherry to Birch. After that we gave him a plate lunch and thirty dollars. He said he could do more so we asked him to sweep from Birch to Sycamore. I can give him some more money for that and he'll get dinner by Street Table anyway."
"Four blocks. You say he got thirty and lunch for the first two, right?" Mitch asked.
Morris nodded. "Yep. We don't dog the folks willing to trade time."
Mitch took out his wallet and pulled two twenties. "Tell you what, I'll add forty to that right now. Mac, right? Mac, you come down here every monday morning and sweep this block first thing, I'll give you forty dollars and a full breakfast personally. Deal?"
Mac nodded. "I can do that. I have a time keeping days right, I forget sometimes."
"I'll make sure you come on the right day Mac." Morris said writing in a notebook.
Mac was given another bottle of water and told he could keep the towel. Morris told him there was no rush and to take his time sweeping. Mac nodded and after half an hour went back to it. However he was more focused on the discovery than sweeping. The Christmas angel was a real woman and they said her name was Queen Tessa. His mind was still fuzzy, but he did remember the envelope of money that bought him food and warmer clothes. While he ate dinner that night, his hands started to shake.
Tessa wandered about the park. Though the adults seemed a bit hesitant to approach, children flocked to her for hugs. With a smile she gave them hugs and said encouraging things to them. The four member Security escort stayed with her, but discreetly so the children wouldn't be intimidated. Tessa played a few games with some, winning prizes and handing them out. The kids enjoyed being with her, playing the games and even sat in the shade while she sat on a bench and told them a quick story.
When some of the cast from the Winter show happened by and began to distract the kids, Tessa slipped away and went back to her office for more mundane work. It seemed the big revelation of Tessa being transgender had only an hour or so of impact on the park. Most people did seem to understand that her main job was working in an office. They never thought to ask if she was the only one and nobody else was interested in informing about any others. Unfortunately for her, the rest of her work day required her to stay in the office. The God of unending paperwork decided it was the perfect day to lavish attention on her. By dinner time, Tessa was seriously considering having a stamp made for her signature. By closing time, she was definitely ready to change and go to her house for a long bubblebath.
Clay led his guys out of the bar, lighting a cigarette and blew out a long stream of smoke. "I been thinkin'."
"Yeah?" One of the men asked.
Clay spit to the side then took another drag off the cigarette. "Nably wants that park to fall apart so he can buy it, right?"
The group grunted and murmurred in agreement, not really getting his point.
"If that's all he wants, there's a better way. Easier too. That park is owned by that queen freak, Tessa." Clay stated.
One of the other men shrugged. "Yeah. So?"
"That's the point. The freak owns it. There's no board or committee. Just her. If the freak's not there, Nably can buy the park easy." Clay stated.
Another drained his beer. "So?"
"So; we take it out instead. I heard it lives in a house all alone. We just go over there and throw a beatin' and torch the house. No more freak, no evidence, job done. Hell, we'll probably get a bonus." Clay smirked.
"Shit! Chill! Chill!" One of the guys said looking off.
Clay looked in the direction and saw a man trying very hard to pick up some discarded cans and shook his head. "Forget it. That bum ain't nothin'."
"You sure?" The guy asked.
One of the others nodded. "Look at him. That dude's shakin' so bad. DT's are hittin' hard. He probably can't even make sense right now. Probably lucky if he knows his own damn name. Clay's right. Let's just go do the freak and torch the house."
"By this time tomorrow, we'll be 5k heavier and that freak Tessa'll be toast. Come on, we'll get some gas and wait til about two in the mornin'." Clay said leading them away.
Ol' Mac had tried six times to pick up the empty beer can. Then he heard men talking. Not much made sense until they said her name, Tessa. Tessa and fire. That made sense.
"Gonna burn the angel. Can't let." Ol' Mac stammered out and abandoned the cans despite not having a drink in two days.
The man in the bar had said he would give Mac some beers or a few dollars for picking up all the cans. That no longered mattered. He had found out the angel was real and now some men wanted to burn her. He had to find her and tell her. Mac began walking. He saw a police car and went over to it.
"Help." Ol' Mac said waving to the officer inside.
The officer warily got out. "What's the problem?"
"I have to go see her. They're gonna burn her." Mac stammered.
Officer Strahern looked at him intently. "Who's going to get burned?"
"The angel. Tessa. Where is she?" Ol' Mac plead. "They want to burn her. I heard."
"You mean Queen Tessa?" Strahern asked then noticed the old man's shaking. "Mister are you drying out?"
Mac went down to his knees. "She's real. I saw her! They want to burn her!"
Strahern reached down and pulled him up. "I hear you. Ok. Tell you what. We'll go tell the Security there, ok? They protect Queen Tessa."
Ol' Mac let himself be sat in the back and the officer drove. Strahern was mentally arguing with himself. One side said the old man must be going through withdrawls and could be breaking. The other half though remembered all the latest incidents at the park. Queen Tessa did have real enemies that may come after her. He decided it couldn't hurt to err on the side of caution and drove to the park. He pulled up at the gates and got out then brought out the old man. They didn't have to wait long.
"Evening Officer. Can I help you?" Zeke Malone asked then focused on the other. "Mac? Ol' Mac? What's going on? It's me, Zeke."
Mac understood the man knew him and lurched forward. "They're coming! I heard them! They want to burn the angel. Tessa. I saw her that night. I know she's real. They want to burn her!"
"Is he making any sense to you?" Strahern asked.
Zeke nodded. "Yeah. Let me take care of him Officer."
"Ok. He's all yours then. I almost took him in instead. He looks like he's drying out." Strahern said then went back to his patrol car.
Zeke put an arm around him. "Come on Mac. Let's get you some coffee."
"Tell the angel? You'll take me?" Ol' Mac asked.
Zeke nodded. "Yeah Mac. We'll tell Queen Tessa."
By the time Zeke got him through the gates and into the park, several others had arrived.
"What's up Sir?" Barkley asked.
Zeke gave orders. "We need to get some coffee in this man. Looks like he's going into DT's. I don't want to give him any alcohol, but may need to to get him calmed down."
"Yes sir!" Barkley acknowledged and ran off.
Zeke keyed his radio. "Over-watch. Is Queen Tessa still in the park or has she gone home?"
"Copy Zeke. I have her heading toward her dressing room. You need her or just checking?" The Over-Watch operator asked.
Zeke answered. "Have somebody ask her to come to my location. This might be important."
"Roger. Hold position." Over-Watch replied.
A few minutes later Tessa and two of her Security escort came into view. She hadn't changed yet, so she was still in her gown and tiara.
"Mister Malone." Tessa said. "You have something that needs my attention?"
"It's you!" Mac exclaimed and slipped off the bench Zeke sat him on.
Tessa ordered. "Help that man."
"Ma'am!" Martell and Dermot quickly reached down and gently helped him back to the bench.
Tessa bent down. "You came here to see me?"
"You're real. I saw you. Help you. They're coming. They want to burn you." Mac stammered out.
Tessa leaned down to him. "Yes Sir. I'm real. You did see me. Who's coming to burn me?"
"I heard them. They're coming." Mac insisted.
"I believe you. You told me about them. They won't hurt me." Tessa reassured him then turned back to Zeke. "Mister Malone. Get this man to the medical station. He needs attention. Have Over-Watch call the Captain, tell him to return to the park."
"Aye Aye Queen Tessa." Zeke said and relayed the instructions then turned to his men. "Let's take Mac to the infirmary. Come on Mac. We'll take care of you."
Zeke looped one of Mac's arms over his shoulder while Martell did the same. they all but carried him away.
"I found her. I told her." Mac insisted. "They can't burn her now?"
Zeke nodded. "They can't burn her now. You did good, Mac. We're going to take care of you now. Just relax. I got you."
Mac was taken to the Medical Station. Within minutes both nurses arrived and began checking him over. Unfortunately Mac hadn't bathed for some time and it was becoming a factor.
"Zeke. I really hate to say this, but something is going to have to be done about your friend." Leslie stated.
Zeke nodded. "I understand Ma'am. We'll take him over to the staff locker room and get him cleaned up."
With Martell's help again, the two men gathered Mac up and took him to the locker room. An hour later they were back and the nurses were able to resume work.
Finally Leslie sighed. "He's in bad shape Zeke. He's going into withdrawls. Alcoholism I suspect. I'm sorry Zeke, but he's going to have to go to a clinic for rehab. He's so old and weak, he may not be able to handle it on his own."
Zeke looked down at the old man, shaking even harder than before. He felt torn. His duty was there, to Tessa. Yet, Ol' Mac needed him too. He needed somebody to care. Zeke reached for his mic.
"Anybody near Queen Tessa?" Zeke asked.
Her voice came back seconds later. "Yes Mister Malone?"
"Queen Tessa, Ol' Mac needs to go to a rehab clinic. How do I get him there?" Zeke asked.
Tessa answered. "Take him there yourself Mister Malone. Take Leslie with you and have her fill out the relevant documents. Leslie, have them bill the park. We will assume responsibility for Mister Malone's friend."
When Leslie nodded, Zeke called back. "Aye Aye Queen Tessa."
Martell drove the medic cart to transport the group to the dorm parking lot. Ol' Mac was transferred to Zeke's truck to lay down on the backseat. Leslie got in the passenger seat and Zeke drove away. An hour later Mac was being settled into a room and beginning a severe detox treatment. Leslie assured Zeke that his friend would be looked after, but he would better off returning to the park.
Clay led his crew over the gate. Four two-gallon plastic gas cans were passed over then the other two men climbed over. Clay carried a flat pry-bar and a sledgehammer. The others had lengths of board three to four feet long. They sneaked up the long drive and approached the castle-like house. The group quietly circled around, looking at the windows, but choose the french doors on the back patio for their entry. Clay checked his crew and nodded then began to work the doors with his pry-bar. The door was compressed enough to groan and finally popped open. The group silently entered. The gas cans were left in the middle of the darkened room as they found the stairs and went up. Quietly each door was checked until they found the master-suite. All of them entered and surrounded the bed.
Clay edged closer and swung the sledgehammer at the middle of the form within the bedding. "GET IT!"
The boards swung together, smacking into the bedding. For a minute all that could be heard were the thwacking of impacts.
"WHAT THE?" Clay exclaimed at the oddness of no resistance or sound of injury.
Suddenly the lights snapped on. "FREEZE!"
Several armed deputies were coming through the door with their pistols draw and some with shotguns. Clay and his crew all looked completely stunned. They were handcuffed and read their rights.
Tessa came into the room, her face was etched with fury as she stared at the man that she had seen leading them and glared at him. "You didn't come up with this all by yourself. Who sent you?"
Cclay pooled his saliva and spit at her face. "Fuckin' freak!"
From the side, a tissue was held out. Tessa took it and wiped the spittle away.
"Call over to the dorm. Inform Princess Nicole to come to her bayou, wake up her pet." Tessa snarled then turned away. "Bring the scum."
Without thinking, the deputies began bringing the crew. The Sheriff was confused and hurried after her.
"Tessa, just what are you up to?" Sheriff Roy Dodd asked.
Tessa didn't look over or break stride. "Getting an answer to my question Sheriff. Don't interfere."
"Wait a minute! You can't mean that you're going to force these men to talk? That's illegal! It'll get the whole damn case thrown out!" Sheriff Dodd protested.
Tessa asked loudly. "Who said those so-called men were going to court, Sheriff?"
Only the Sheriff saw her wink. He decided to play along for a minute. "Look, that thing with blowing that kidnapper's balls off was one thing; the little boy was in danger of a drug overdose! Yes; you doing that did save the kid's life, but this, this is different."
"Get earplugs if you can't handle the screaming. They're criminal scum, tried to slaughter me and burn my house to the ground! You saw the gas and what they did in my bedroom! You will NOT stand in MY way!" Tessa declared and led on.
The Security men encouraged the deputies to continue on, trying not to smile. They knew immediately what Tessa had planned. They also knew it would work. Sheriff Dodd continued with his token argument until they reached a large body of water surrounded by a fence and went through a gate.
"Princess Nicole! Did you wake up your pet?" Tessa demanded.
The cajun girl nodded angrily and glared at the men in custody. "Oui, Reine Tessa. Etienne, him plenty mad."
Nicole waved them to follow and led up to the edge of the concrete pond. She turned on a flashlight then bent down and splashed her hand in the water. Seconds later something splashed on the other side and a low, gutteral, gurgling growl was heard. She played the beam around then twin white reflections came back. Whatever was reflecting the light was moving as well. Toward them.
"Allons you mean ol' thang! ALLONS ETIENNE!" Nicole shouted then turned around and crooked a finger. "Monsieur bad-guy. You meet Etienne. Allons Hommes."
Two of the Security-men grabbed Clay, hauled him over and began to bend him over to the water.
"Non!" Nicole said then gestured with her hand to turn him around and spread his legs. "Other way, yeah."
Clay realized what they were doing. Maneuvering him to be held over the water, groin first and legs wide open. The growling sounded louder and water was rippling. Nicole shined the light and a dark form was moving through the water, coming closer.
"You see sign? There for reason, yeah. Etienne no nice." Nicole grinned. "Swamp Legend Jeromy Pruitt, David LaDart drive up, themself, to bring Etienne. Put Big Arm on 'im! Etienne make big fight, yeah!"
Tessa playing along. "Ten thousand dollars for your gator was a big bounty, Princess. Show me what he's worth."
Nicole smiled big then slapped the water three times fast. "ALLONS!"
The thing in the water revealed itself to be what looked like an alligator, at least ten feet long of body alone. It lifted its head to hiss and sped up.
The Sheriff and deputies were startled and voiced their surprise.
"WHOA WHOA WHOA! THIS IS GETTING REAL NOW!" Sheriff Dodd protested in very real alarm.
Nicole laughed. "Bon apetit, Etienne!"
Clay struggled to get free, but the Security held him tight and even lowered him further. The Gator reared up again, hissing, as it closed in.
"WAIT! JOE NABLY SENT US. HE PAID US TO MESS UP THE RIDES WHILE PEOPLE WERE ON 'EM! HE DIDN'T KNOW WE CHANGED THE PLAN!" Clay began to scream in terror.
Nicole hollered. "YA'LL WANT HURT PEOPLE? KIDS?"
"JOE NABLY! HE PAID US TO! IT WOULD DRIVE SALE OF THE PARK!" Clay yelled then screamed as the gator reared up a few feet away.
The gator reared up and opened its mouth. "You wet your britches, boy?"
Laughter followed. The security-men holding Clay, Nicole and the other Security force members were laughing as well.
Sheriff Dodd looked over at Tessa dumbfounded and pointed to the water. "Uh....."
Tessa finally smirked. "Concrete pond, ten thousand. Animatronic alligator, thirty-five hundred. The LOOK on your faces; PRICELESS."
"This guy pass out." Nicole giggled then turned to call out and wave. "Merci, Bo!"
Etienne opened its mouth again. "No problem. Too bad I don't have the accent you do. I'll put Etienne back inside the show pond now."
The animatronic gator 'swam' away and a light came on by the building and a man came into view as the gator came up out of the water. to reveal it was animatronic. It was mounted on a metal post and running on a track that went into the water.
Sheriff Dodd watched as Tessa's face resumed a look of anger. "Get that trash out of my realm, Sheriff. Before I think of something more creative and definitely harmful to do with them."
The deputies reclaimed Clay as he came around and began to take the crew to their squad cars.
"Somebody get me that asshole Nably's head. I need a new paper-weight for my desk!" Tessa snarled walking away.
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