“And where will she go and what shall she do
When midnight comes around
She'll turn once more to Sunday's clown
And cry behind the door"
-Sung by The Velvet Underground
(“All Tomorrow’s Parties”)
We set down in Philadelphia a few minutes ahead of schedule.
Chester came out of the cockpit and we all went off to the hotel.
At this point we had a lot of planning to do.
That was how we spent the next 7 hours. We were firmly determined when we said good night.
I was almost asleep when the fire alarms went off.
I took the tiny robe they give you in the hotel, since I don’t sleep in pajamas, and picked up my case that holds everything I travel with including my wallet, and exited the room.
Harry and Chester were standing outside my room. Max always took a little longer to wake up.
“There’s no fire!” Chester shouted above the blaring.
“But I’d hate to see what’s waiting for you down on the street,” Harry said.
By the time we reached the elevator a bleary-eyed Max had joined us. “Sorry, Boss, I was having this dream…” he started.
“Let’s talk about it later,” I stopped him. I had heard his dreams and we didn’t have time in the 30 floors the elevator took.
When we reached the lobby people were pouring out onto the street, even though the staff was assuring them that there was no fire.
“Someone tapped into our sound system,” the manager told us, “They are broadcasting that alarm.”
“Pretty far to go, when they could have just set a fire,” I returned to him.
Then we knew why.
The sound of automatic gunfire roared on the sidewalk outside. People were screaming, fighting to get back in to the lobby. Windows exploded in.
We were all armed in a second. That was something else I always had in my case.
We got as close as we could without trampling the throng trying to trample us on the way back in.
I picked up sight of one of them, a generic clown with his gun blasting randomly. I got him on the third try, but, in my defense, he was across the street and I was striving to not hit any civilians.
Max got the second one, and then they ran.
There had been five of them.
There were three times that many dead or wounded lying on the street.
I was sick.
Sick at heart and physically sick.
Sick of the death. The killers and having to kill them. Sick that that madman in the California prison was still killing people and blaming it on me. Maybe I should have killed him the night we arrested him.
But then we would stop being the good guys.
That thought afforded me little comfort at this moment.
This all had to end.
© C. Wayne Owens