44 Hours After the Bus Exploded
Drake had reached out to a contact of his who works in Atlantic City, asking what he could find out about Meagan. He learns that she had a record, pot possession, and that she was known to have been in contact with a local dealer known only as “Diggles”. Obviously that’s an alias, but no one seems to have any other information on the guy. Drake figures this is better than nothing, and thanks his contact.
Wally is at work, manning the CVS prescription counter, and it is a slow night. He jerks awake suddenly, realising that he’d dozed off. He looks down to find that while he was off, he’d been writing furiously on an empty prescription bag. A chemical formula. Just as he’s trying to make sense of it, the pharmacy phone rings. He answers it, but there are only a series of four clicks and then a dial tone. He thinks nothing of it and returns to the formula. Suddenly it clicks. He knows. It is the formula for whatever was in the bomb the blew the #7 bus two nights before. And whatever was in the bomb was mostly solid state rocket fuel.
The phone rings again. This time it is an old woman, a regular customer, inquiring about her prescription, and after she hangs up, he hears it again – four clicks followed by the dial tone. Suspicious, Wally carefully takes apart the receiver (it is an old phone, permanently connected to the wall base with a curling cord) and finds two small components soldered in, components that are clearly much newer than the ancient phone. He wraps them carefully in a latex glove for later examination and checks the phone still works. It does.
That night, Alex is working at a homeless shelter, something he does from time to time, hoping to find his daughter. As he’s cleaning out a massive soup pot, his cell phone rings. He answers, but only hears four clicks, and then dial tone. Twenty minutes later, it happens again. Never any caller ID. By the time he leaves the shelter around 9:45, he has received more of these unusual calls, and as he steps outside, it happens again. Only this time, across from him in a dark alley, he sees a black panel van start up, and inside is the silhouette of someone lowering a phone from their ear. The van moves off, and Alex notes that it has no license plates. He immediately texts the group members, inquiring about the strange calls, and gets a reply back from Wally.
Gareth is in his studio apartment, working on a new piece of sculpture, news radio on in the background, still listening to coverage of the explosion investigation. They’re zeroing in on a suspect, they say, and the attack is definitely domestic and not Islamic in nature. The chemical signature is providing great leads, and they can report that the suspect is a white male between the ages of 16 and 35. Morgan is in her shop, doing readings for late night customers. Neither receives any calls, suspicious or otherwise.
Goom is asleep in a maintenance tunnel. He awakens to hear heavy rain and notes that his wristwatch has stopped. He hears a groan in the distance and advances towards it. Around a bend in the tunnel, he sees a male figure in a canvas coat, arms akimbo, long greasy hair in his face, kneeling. There is a puddle of water around him growing ever larger, and the sound of falling water is coming from him. Goom double back to get his gun before investigating further. The man begins to shake, and the closer Goom gets, the more violent the shaking becomes. As Goom comes around to face him, the man’s head snaps up – his face is melting like a candle. Goom knows he looks familiar, he’s seen this, and as this thought crosses his mind, the man’s body just dissipates, becoming one with the puddle.
Goom sits up suddenly from where he’d been sleeping in the maintenance tunnel. There is no more rain, although he notes he has wet himself. He collects his meager belongings, intending to burn his soiled sleeping bag in an incinerator. When he looks down the corridor where the man had been, there is no evidence of the puddle, although the exact canvas jacket is there. He takes that, too, to burn it.
The next day, Morgan goes out to find a new spot for the group to meet, as they don’t feel comfortable at the old building any more. She finally gets a Christian book store to agree to host, after hours. The shop will be empty, although there will be an employee staying around the front, just to keep an eye on things. No offense meant, of course, but they have to be careful. She informs the group of the new meeting place via text messages, although she leaves a note for Goom at a diner he had specified for them as a drop point for communications.
When the group next meets, they discuss the strange calls – Alex has continued getting them and had gone to a Verizon store to get his phone repaired. They gave him a refurbished phone as a loaner, and he still gets calls. Wally brings up his insight about the explosive formula, and they all figure that it was rigged in such a way to only take out the bus and everyone on board, not actually wreck the surroundings. They also talk at length about Meagan, and what to do about finding her.
Drake mentions the lead he had gotten from his contact, and when he mentions the name “Diggles” Gareth snaps to attention. He knew a dealer named Diggles, back in the late 80s, during the height of his heroin addiction. This guy, actually Mark-something, was a notorious idiot with a strange business model – he wanted to be the “Dominoes delivery guy of drugs”. He had apparently been inspired by some guy in the 70s who ran a grilled-cheese-and-Mary-Jane delivery service, although Diggles had designs to take it beyond Manhattan, to service the whole NY-NJ area, and beyond.
As the group is departing, the young girl at the front of the store comments darkly about some advert on TV: A famous magician (think David Blaine or Criss Angel), Konstantyn, will be holding a “Christmas Day Massacre” live on NBC in Times Square. Konstantyn, as it turns out, bears a striking resemblance to Alex, who acknowledges that this is the guy who replaced him and ruined his family. With this knowledge, they all (except Goom) head for a bar.
After some time at the bar, everyone but Morgan and Gareth notice a kid on a bike pull up outside of the bar and enter. He’s a character – spiky hair with frosted tips, an oversized puffy coat, basically an idiot. He approaches a table of college kids, hands them a brown paper bag, and leaves. When the others comment on the guy, Gareth notes that this seems very much like the fashion that Diggles might have adopted, although the kid is easily 25 years too young to be his old dealer. Drake questions how someone would have gotten to be so close with the guy who sold him drugs, but Gareth just shrugs it off.
Over the next few days, the group goes about their separate business. Wally confronts his landlord, Hank, who he knows to be a small time dealer, if he knows a guy named Diggles, and Hank confirms that he does. He is not, however, on good terms with Diggles, as he has taken a lot of good business from Hank. When Wally informs him that some people are just interested in talking with him, Hank hands Wally Diggles’ calling card – a sticker with a pot leaf on it, a phone number, and his slogan. Hank asks if these people are going to teach Diggles a lesson, at which Wally just shrugs.
The group decides to meet outside of their regular meeting time, selecting Aberdeen Park Square, an open public area, to have a picnic and discuss new developments. Wally offers up the sticker, and Drake calls the number, smarming his way through a series of lower level guys until he speaks to the man himself. He tells Diggles that he’s interested in “starting a franchise” and wishes to speak with him. Diggles, all the while spouting off forced thug-speak, agrees to meet him the next evening… at the very same park they are sitting in now. Drake agrees and, ending the call, lets everyone know. A message is sent to Goom in the usual way.
So the next day, there they all are again, though not together. Goom is feigning sleep on a park bench, curled under a blanket. At the appointed time, a black Escalade with pot-leaf spinner rims and underbody lighting pulls up. A large guy steps out of the car and waits by the open door. Drake approaches and indicates he is the guy who called, and Diggles (who is inside the Escalade) says that he wants Drake to get in so that they aren’t seen talking in public. Drake refuses, as he’s not sure what Diggles, or more importantly one of his two overlarge body guards, might do. Diggles goes through some show of pulling a gun and waving it around, but Drake doesn’t move. They go back and forth about the matter for some time, ultimately culminating in Diggles actually shooting at Drake.
Shooting at him – not actually shooting into him. Diggles has a thing about firing his gun sideways, which kills his aim. Drake dodges and runs around the vehicle for cover, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
From under the blanket, Goom brings out a M-16 assault rifle and expertly fires a single shot into the Escalade’s engine block, killing the ride. Diggles and his goons flee, wildly firing shots behind them.
Gareth, Morgan, and Wally scatter, returning to their own homes. Drake, shaken, similarly makes tracks. Goom, with his rifle… disappears. Alex, however, who has been sitting in a Starbucks across the street, takes out his phone and calls 911, staying on the phone with the dispatcher until authorities arrive.