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When last we met, the day following their strange night at The Box and beyond continued to be even stranger…
Wally is still mulling over what to do with the invitations received from M. Butterfly when there is a knock at his door. Peeking out, he sees it is one of his building neighbours, Alexis. She’s dressed very nicely for work, her hair is up, and her face is plastered with makeup. He opens the door and she greets him as Edward, the name by which he’s known in the building. She’s holding out a casserole dish with Fritos on top. She seems very excited to see him and asks how his apartment has been since the police raid earlier in the week. They make the stilted small talk of two socially awkward people before he finally invites her in. She noted that he hasn’t been around the building in a while and she thought, after the debacle wit his neighbour, that he might want some food, so she made him a Frito Pie. She starts acting really coy, playing with her hair, and he notices a few bruises on her neck and under her arms. He’s deciding whether or not to comment when his phone rings.
It is Hank, his landlord and drug dealer, and he wants to discuss business. Since Wally had to take his production kit with him when the police arrived on site, Hank has run out of product and his customers are getting antsy. He’s not overtly threatening but serious, and Wally suggests they meet in an hour. When he steps back into the apartment, Alexis has gotten out bowls and silverware and has served up the Frito pie. He notes that she seems a bit calmer now and they eat and soon wind up on the couch, talking. When she puts her hand on his knee, giving it a squeeze, he freezes and she freaks out. She tried to leave, but Wally stops her, saying it is OK, and that it isn’t a big deal. She breaks down into uncontrollable sobs, and he brings her back into the apartment where she proceeds to cry herself to sleep, head in his lap.
Knowing he has to meet Hank, he gently rests her down on the couch and writes a note saying he has to “see the super about something” but will be back soon. When he gets to Hank’s office, he notes that he’s been chain smoking and is on edge. Hank’s “investors” are starting to breathe down his neck, and he wants to know when Wally can have more product. Wally says two days is realistic, although if he really wanted to push it, he could have it done in a day. Hank suggests that Wally call in sick to work and get started now; he’ll be expecting product tomorrow, and make sure that there’s some beer for him when he picks it up.
Wally goes back to his apartment, and when an hour passes without Alexis waking up, he amends his note explaining he has to “run an errand” and leaves his number for her. He takes what remains of his Pyrex set and descends to the basement where he spends the next several hours cooking. He checks on Alexis periodically, and sometime after dawn, she’s returned to her apartment, although she’s cleaned their dinner dishes and put away the rest of the casserole in the fridge. Wally texts the group to say that he’s gotten caught up in things, but he’s received some information and will get it to them soon. Knowing he’s got the better part of a week’s worth of product ready for Hank, he pops down to the corner store to get some beer.
Meanwhile, back at Gareth’s the assembled group – Gareth, Alex, Drake, Morgan, and Goom – decide it is a good idea to see Goom’s lair so that they know it’s location for future reference, just in case. Everyone except Drake heads out, as he has had a notion pop into his head about his doppelganger and, feeling he is on to something, he wants to research it further. The rest of the gang heads out, following Goom into subterranean levels of the city through twisting, turning pathways. They do note, however, that he’s cleverly and discretely marked the way with brown yarn that blends in with the shadows and dinginess.
Eventually they make their way to a heavy metal door, which Goom pulls open. The interior of Goom’s lair (as he calls it) is shockingly nice. He’s managed to siphon electrical power from somewhere, and has a fridge, TV, a recliner (with a basket of yarn to one side) and an elevated sleeping area; he even has a small vegetable garden with a grow light. He offers them refreshments, and everyone takes beer or water while Goom has a glass of milk. After hanging out for a little bit and marveling at Goom’s ingenuity, they all go their separate ways, Alex heading home to sleep, Morgan returning to her apartment to prepare for work, and Gareth returning to his apartment to update Drake.
Morgan gets dressed appropriately and heads to work to tell fortunes – a small back room in a new-age shop. The proprietress quickly motions Morgan aside and tells her that people came by earlier saying that they are investigating fraudulent and unlicensed business practices in NYC. They wouldn’t give any ID or business cards, but kept saying they were with a federal agency. The “agents” had a very unsettling vibe, and Morgan acknowledges that there have been strange things in the air lately and thanks her for the information, saying she’ll likely take a few days off to see if it blows over. The woman comments that she’s so unnerved she might close shop early and go home to “pop some Wallies”. Morgan again returns to her house, changes out of her fortune telling garb, and heads back to Gareth’s.
Alia, having returned Mia to their apartments after the unsuccessful visit to the free clinic, realises that she’ll need to cover both her wages and Mia’s while Mia is out of commission, goes into the city and tries to scrounge up an odd job or two. She’s able to make $40 washing dishes for a few hours before she has to go to her “real job”. She’s just been dropped off on a street corner by her pimp, Smoky, and who does she encounter, but Morgan. She’s a bit suspicious about suddenly encountering this person from the previous night of supreme weirdness, but they chat a bit. Morgan reminds her of their meetings, and says that they’ll be doing a Thanksgiving dinner at one of the group member’s place the next week, and that Alia is welcome to join them. Alia says she may, confirming that she’s got Morgan’s contact information, when they’re interrupted by a guy in a sedan pulling up and propositioning them both. Morgan quickly declines, despite the guy’s insistence, and backs away, leaving Alia to her work. After the car pulls into an alley with Alia, Morgan continues on her way.
Alia is asked to do a host of freaky shit (vaginal sex, analingus on the John – no condom – followed by tongue kissing). She agrees, provided that he uses protection when they fuck, and she can use some sort of sanitary wipe on him before she goes down. He busts out a handful of wet-naps from his glove box (he’s got kids, he says) and they get down to business.
When he gets back, Gareth finds that his apartment has become host to an impromptu chaotic art installation – papers with hasty scribblings, and thread and twine connecting various papers have been taped up around the apartment – and Drake has a mad glint to his eyes.
He explains that after looking up what his
doppelganger has been doing (investments in concrete and steel) he realized that
something must be up and started delving deeper, and the resulting madness is
his flow chart. To cut a very long and
involved story to its briefest possible point, Drake explains thus:
He knows that his doppel has business with a hedge fund and investors at Goldman Sachs, though apparently there has been some tension of late, possibly stemming from “Drake’s” poor investments in steel and concrete, which are dying industries in the US. Recently, “Drake” and others had been involved in lobbying for NY to pass legislation giving preferential treatment to companies that are based out of the state and owned by racial or gender minorities when large contracts are offered for things like rebuilding, city beautification, and so on. Two of the companies that “Drake” recently invested in fit the bill perfectly (NY based, owned by minorities). There wasn’t a lot of industry in the United States for steel and concrete – most product coming in from over seas – until the September 11th attacks when the American companies contracted to rebuild the World Trade Center raked in billions. Were there another disaster that cleared the way for the rebuilding of a new skyscraper, these two companies invested in by Drake’s doppelganger would be perfectly poised to receive said contracts, and he would make a financial killing. Drake just doesn’t know when, where, or how his doppel intends to pull this off, although it will probably take a decent amount of time before the plan is executed. Off the top of his head, Drake thinks that the Empire State or Chrysler buildings seems like prime targets.
Gareth is in the process of downing his second beer of the afternoon while listening, and suggests a connection between this plot and the “Christmas Day Massacre” being planned and promoted by Alex’s double, the magician/illusionist known as Konstantyne, which will be going down in just about a month in Times Square. Both are mildly horrified when they realise that Times Square, while not a high rise, is a large portion of expensive – and more importantly iconic – real estate, and may very well be another potential target, although Drake thinks that the timing is too quick for what he thinks his double’s got planned. At one point in their discussion, Drake casually touches Gareth on the hand or the arm, and suddenly Gareth feels refreshed, as though he had received a solid night's rest, despite having been strung out on no sleep since well before The Box the night before. Gareth looks suspiciously at Drake for a moment, but says nothing. Knowing they need to do away with the incriminating evidence of Drake’s brainstorming, they pile up the papers and string at Gareth’s welding apparatus, turn on the vent hood, crack another beer, and fire away.
That’s when Morgan gets back, and they fill her in on everything, making sure that all traces are burnt to a crisp. The rest of the day proceeds without incident.
The following week is fairly mundane.
Wally tries to get ahead of production for Hank and visits with Alexis again. He manages to catch her during the week, which has gotten difficult – he thought she had a 9 to 5 job, but has recently been getting in around 2:00 in the morning every day. They hang out briefly, and she invites him over for Thanksgiving dinner at the end of the week.
Morgan tries to figure out what she’s going to do about work. The shop that she uses is still under heavy surveillance by whatever suspicious party has taken interest – her host tells her that they’ve been sitting outside in a car each day, although every time she’s tried to call the cops, as soon as she begins dialing, they drive away. Morgan hasn’t been back yet.
Goom explores the city using his new-found heightened sense of smell and looks into procuring a shotgun on the black market.
Gareth begins having erotic dreams, every night, about the devilish host at The Box. They’re always frustrating and incomplete, causing him to awaken every morning in an extreme state of arousal, although the memories of the dreams soon fade. Freaked out by that and what he saw in the red door, Gareth goes to a local free clinic to get tested for HIV. He also takes time to look up Sam’s family, finding that they moved to Virginia sometime after he died, and that there is still a memorial web page set up for him, obviously dating back to the mid-90s. The picture on the site of Sam he knows to be one of the two of them, although Gareth has been cropped out. Following that, he also looks to see what his own doppelganger (a moderately well known artist) has been up to, but only sees that he’s recently had some trouble with a piece overseas.
Drake predominantly spends his week looking for a more permanent place to live, while also continuing to keep tabs on his doppelganger.
Alia spends her week babysitting Mia, trying to get her as sober as possible without going cold turkey, so that she can try again to abort her pregnancy without doing serious harm to herself. Alia also does what she can to over-earn each night, and working during the day at odd jobs, to cover both her and Mia’s wages for the week. She also tries to squirrel away some extra money ($50 here, $100 there) for her own, without letting Smoky know.
During the week, through text messages, they determine that the next meeting will be on Thanksgiving and since Gareth has the room and an oven, he’ll host. Everyone decides what they’ll be bringing, although Wally says he might be a little late.
Alex goes to work as usual, although notes that he has stopped receiving bizarre phone calls and has seen no more butterflies. The night of November 27th, he has a strange dream. He finds himself in a room with stone walls, manacled and chained in a corner. The room seems to be precariously balanced, and keeps tilting around, causing him to be slammed into the wall, or dangling by his wrists over a black vacuum of space. His hair is long and stringy and hangs in his face. The room gives one final lurch, and he falls, free of the manacles, landing in a sewer similar to the spaces that Goom led them through earlier in the week. He hears a din coming from the end of the tunnel and approaches it. He hears chanting, which he knows to be in English, but he cannot understand it. He walks into a massive room with concentric levels of stairs going down, like an amphitheatre. Sitting in it are thousands of homeless people, chanting, and they all have black orbs for eyes, with flickering candle flames for pupils. Seven levels down, the space bottoms out at what appears to be a subway track (Alex can see the third rail) with a block of concrete with a stop sign in it to one side. Secured in the concrete are also the manacles he’d been held with (he just knows it) but in them now is a woman, and he knows without looking that she is his daughter.
He leaps over the ledge to the first row of the amphitheatre and everyone goes silent and stares at him, flames flickering in their dark eyes. However, they make room for him and allow him passage down, level by level. When he makes it to the bottom, he turns to look at his daughter, but finds he is blocked by the red door. He tries to look around it, but he is compelled by some unseen force that stops him. Giving every ounce of his willpower, he makes his way around the red door, and all of the people in the seats start hissing at him. His daughter looks up at him, her face haggard, spent, as he’s never seen her, but when she sees him, a wave of hope washes over her and she starts calling to him. He starts towards her, the image breaks, and Alex is awake.
The afternoon of Thanksgiving, Wally goes to Alexis’ apartment around 2:00. He knocks and announces himself, and he hears her call out to wait a minute. Through the door, he hears a rustle of plastic being shoved into a trash bag, cabinets being slammed shut, and other noises. Finally the door opens, and Alexis greets him with a puff of flour covering her head and shoulders, though conspicuously none on her apron, and there is a smell of burning coming from the oven. She lets him in and goes to get dressed, coming back out sans flour. Wally offers her the pumpkin pie he picked up at CVS, and they sit down to eat what is obviously a meal, portioned for at least ten people, that was picked up at Boston Market. As before, Alexis is bubbly and awkward, but they fall into a pattern of small talk and comfortable silences. Wally apologises for having to leave, as he has to go to the meeting at Gareth’s, but she sends him off with Tupperware full of leftovers. At the door, he kisses her on the cheek.
Wally drops off his leftovers at his apartment, bringing some of them, another CVS pie, and the invitations for the next day with him to Gareth’s.