Wolf in the City II.

Read and listen to Wolf in the City I. first.

Or, go straight to the Zoo Illogical Gardens .

 

“I’d rather have the blues, than what I got.”

–Nat King Cole

Thomas Matthews reads

Wolf in the City II.

(keep your finger by the volume knob, it escalates on the first five minutes)

five more minutes

five further minutes

 

Wolf In the City II

Wolves are returning, returning to my dreams and nightmares.  Night after night I saw the coyotes—sometimes thousands of them, but most terrifyingly sometimes only a lone coyote hunted me.

Ms. Teal rarely returned my calls.  So I sold my car and bought a motorcycle.  It was then I began to drink more than eat.  With no cases except hers, I had no checks except hers.  The lease on my apartment lapsed, and I slept on the street.  But I could not let her go, I had to know.  I had to know the answers, solve the case, unravel the mystery to understand her.  My obsession.

They were some long cold nights, standing guard down the block from her house.  To pass the time, I practiced what I would say if Leonard showed up again, but he stayed away for weeks.  When he finally showed his face, Ms. Teal had been waiting for him too.  She leaped down the steps and on to the back of his motorcycle.

Again I followed him, but this time South, South across the Anacostia River, into the part of the city I would never have dared enter before.  But now I did not care, for I had nothing to lose.

The sun was setting.  When they parked and dismounted in a residential ghetto, I stopped a block behind them.  Ms. Teal began shouting at Leonard.  From the stoop of a house next to me a man walked up with his shoulders hunched and his hands in his pockets.

“What do you want, what to you want,” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I said, “nothing.  I’m following those two people up there.”

“Following them?  What are you a cop?”  He pulled a pistol from his waste band.  Without thinking I grabbed his gun and twisted it in a direction his wrist would not twist until it came free from his hand.

“Be quiet,” I said.  Ms. Teal was still yelling, so I ran at them.

“Riley?” she asked incredulously, “what are you doing here.”

Leonard reached for a bulge in his jacket pocket, so I pressed the pistol to his shoulder and pulled the trigger.  He shouted in pain and fell away.

“I’m rescuing you.”

“Oh Riley, Riley.   He said he was taking me on a plane to Brazil.  Riley, take me away from here.”

The sound of the shot had brought men running from all directions.

“You eclipse the sun,” I told her.  “You’ll have to drive.  I’m going to find your husband.  Wait.  Ms. Teal, before you go, tell me your name… your first name.”

She looked in my eyes and quietly, slowly, shyly told me, “Fay.”

“Fay?”

“Fay.  And what, Mr. D. Riley, is your first name?”

“Doghouse.  Doghouse Riley.”  She hitched up her skirt to straddle the bike and wobbled off into the growing darkness, and disappeared.  A bullet whizzed by my head, so I turned and fired at random until I was hit in the leg.  I fell to the pavement, and the pain sunk me to unconsciousness.

I gained consciousness again in a moldy colored room, dimly lit with dozen-colored plastic—red, gold— melted onto the lamps.  Twelve men lounged on the floor and on chairs, smoking crack.  Leonard was staring down at me.  “Are you gonna kill him?”

“Not yet,” said another man.  “I want to have some fun.”  He raised his fist, and I soon blacked out again.

Again I awoke in the crack den.  I recognized Balustrade tied to a chair next to me.  “Hello, Congressman,” I managed to say.

“Who the hell are you?” he snorted.

I laughed to myself, and winced as the deforming bruises on my face enflamed.  “I’m the stranger with a pretty face.”

I looked around the room.  We had been moved from the rooms with those doing drugs to an inner office.  Leonard and the other man came back into the room.

“Harharharharhar,” the other man was large and when he laughed his whole body shook.  “How are you feeling, Lancelot?  You have so many drugs pumping through your system I’d be surprised if you remained remotely alive many more hours.  PCP, LSD, DMT, Meth, harharharhar, you are a walking chemistry set.  Try to stand up, just try it.”  I stood up and instantly bowed at the waste and rolled my head in a slow circle.  “I garentee you will never be sane again after this fucking trip experience.  Apathy Enlightenment Zam, bitch.  Now get the fuck out of here, good luck finding a cab in my neighborhood.  You may wanna start running now.”  I stumbled to the doorway and out into the street.

Twelve tough kids were waiting for me.  They gave me a headstart, then started walking after me, yelling at me, throwing trash and rocks.  I started to run, and so did they.  I ran till I came to the river, then collapsed.  They jumped me and kicked me with their boots until I bled.

Once they left me in a pool of my own blood, I reached in my pocket for my cell phone.  “Yorrick,” I cried, “you have to save me.  I’m in Anacostia, by the river.”

“You fell right into her plan, didn’t you,” Yorrick yelled at me.  “Some friend I am, pro’lly the best you got, driving all up and down this river for hours, looking for you when I have work to do.  I’m arresting your girlfriend in the morning.  Turns out she had a secret life insurance policy on her husband.  Not much, but enough to incriminate.  She is suspected of colluding with two Afghani hit men who we expect snuck through customs.  Their local Warlord may have been selling heroin and opium to dealers in the United States.  He convinced a local gang leader to house the hit men.  Leonard was just a pawn, sent to contact Teal and find out Balustrade’s habits.  Then the hit men kidnapped the Congressmen.

“Now you are the only link to finding him.  You must show me the way to the house where they are holding the Congressman.  Lives, buildings and the American superiority complex are at stake.”

“Only if you don’t arrest Ms. Teal.  She’s innocent, she’s been used and abandoned.”

“That’s up to the justice system, now.”

“You can’t, you can’t,” I was pounding on Yorrick’s chest by then, practically in tears.  “She’s innocent, she’s frail; she loves butterflies, she couldn’t stand being locked up.”  I pulled his gun from his holster.  “You’ll see, she’ll call me, you’ll see.”

“Just put the gun down, Riley.  Your messed up, I can see that, but put the gun down.  She is not frail; the only difference between men and women is the difference between each human being.  As simple as—”

“—Yorick, tell me your first name.”

“Put the gun down, and I will.  Let’s talk about Ms. Teal—”

“TELL ME YOUR FIRST NAME.”

“Osric.”

I shot Lt. Osric Yorick in the head, and he fell backwards into the river.

I tossed his gun in the river then stumbled down the street toward a large nightclub.  I had just killed my only friend.  I needed a drink.

Inside, a young, black woman was singing Nat King Cole: “The moon is kind of chilly/ Conversation just seems silly/ I feel so overwrought/ I’d rather have the blues, thaaan what I got.”

My cell phone beeped, a text message.  It was from Fay.  “Meet me on the highest point of Embassy Row.”

I turned to the street in elation, then paused.  The highest point of Embassy Row?  That would be the White House, the highest point of power.  No, the White House was on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Massachusetts Avenue was Embassy Row.  What was on Massachusetts?  There was a hill, a huge hill curving up from the downtown swamp, to the cliffs by the Potomac River.  And on top of that hill, was the Vice President’s House.

I left the girl in the bar, still singing, “I’d rather have the blues, than what I got.”  I hailed a cab and threw some money through the window.  “The highest point of Embassy Row,”  I yelled and he seemed to understand.

We crossed the Fredrick Douglass Memorial Bridge and took Maine to Independence, passing the Jefferson Monument and the Tidal Basin.  As we crossed, the Cherry Blossom trees flowered for a moment of crystalline white, then wilted and fell, as snow does.
On through Rock Creek Parkway, past the zoo, where a Panda herd had escaped.  We were lucky we hit none of them.  The road is no safe place for a Panda.

We exited the Parkway and turned onto Massachusetts Avenue by the mosque, which seemed trying to step on me.  Those blocks are Embassy Row.  Iraq, Brittan, Brazil, Cote d’Voir, Argentina, the Vatican—all have Embassies next to the Vice Presidential Mansion.  I could see the power and influence leaking from the buildings as a neon red glow.

Where was she?  I left the cab and stumbled on the curb.  I checked my phone, had I hallucinated her message?  No, she was still there, smiling at me through nine words, thirty-eight letters.  I leaned my head back to wait.  Then I saw it: a blinking red light, an aircraft warning light, directly above my head.  The twin towers of the Episcopalian National Cathedral practically stepped on me, the highest point on Embassy Row.

 

Panda Pope Xian Xian, ink on paper, by D. Glover

Panda Pope

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, I thought as I raced toward the Tower.  How often had it struck me—even God has an Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.  The front entrance rose above me, enormous lamps set in the alcoves and windows, illuminating patches of limestone and casting others into deepest shadow.  Through the yawning gates and into the church—where a wedding was processing— my feet carried me, knowing where to go.  An immediate right and I was hurtling down the stairs of the tower.  No, I thought helplessly to myself, I need to go up these stairs, down can only lead to the—

Catacombs.  It was silent as the grave.  Until, I thought I heard… yes there was most certainly a noise, a clinking and a mumbling.  I rounded the corner.

“Amontillado,” smiled a man with long, thin, black dreadlocks and thin, sallow, black skin, smoothing a new notch in the catacombs. “Ha ha hahah, Amontillado.”  Inside, a man was screaming in Persian.  I began to back away, but he turned to me, held up his trowel and spoke again with red lamps burning in his eyes.  “Beware, the unending stair lies before you.”

I turned and ran to the stair, which now indeed seemed endless.  Up and up and around the spiraling stone stairs I ran.  Finally in exhaustion, I slumped through a door, into what seemed an empty room.  But there was a wolf.  Out of the gloom a man’s face appeared, thin and angular with high cheek bones and a sharp nose.  He began to speak:

 

“Fourteen. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
We wish only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world– the new world in which we now live– instead of a place of mastery.
We have spoken now, surely, in terms too concrete to admit of any further doubt or question.
An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.”

 

A wolf saw that President Wilson was sincere, and swallowed it whole– as if such a thing would be allowed, as if even a victorious American President could change the bureaucratic power structure of world nation-states, for those we empower to write laws and direct militaries never feel so uncomfortable then when told someone else would better control those powers and are incapable of giving an uninvested global government wide authority or any real independent power– and it of my dreams and nightmares howled as if released from a trap.  I stumbled from the room.

But the stair was no less insurmountable.  The stained glass windows began to speak.  Here was the Shah of Iran re-throned by the CIA against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossaddeq.  But leftist Mossaddeq had nationalized Iranian oil industries, so, when the religious right took power, they desperately desired to bring Iran nuclear power and weapons potential, for no reason except to make their mark on history.  In these windows were Cold War and Terrorism politics, secret arms deals, backfiring alliances, sweatshops and oil rigs.  I saw a vast manatee sucking down the fruits of the world, and then I saw an army of puppets dancing before the beast.  I heard a wolf howl, and I fled.

I was no longer conscious of the stairs as I climbed.  I only knew to run as far and as fast as possible.  When I finally came to a door, I threw it open and slammed it behind me, leaning up against it.
I had emerged into an illogical garden.  Plants that never could exist surrounded me: flowering vines growing in ellipses, never touching the ground; leaves in the shape of sideways figure eights growing from the plants; flowers emitting rainbow light from their pollen.  Staircases lead sideways and diagonally, upside-down.  In the center a fountain poured water upward to collect in an upside-down pool.
Next to the fountain was a lion the size of a bear wearing an enormous crown of gold.  I fell to my knees before it to realized that I was a mouse scurrying before him.  It clapped a great paw over me and asked why He should not kill me.  “I could someday,” I peeped, “Save You.”

The Lion spoke.  “Pray to me, and I exist.”  It released me and I scurried across the garden to another door.

Through this door to another room, full of nothing but darkness.  In this room I was alone, alone in the dark.  I fell to the floor and wept and wept and wept.

I could not face any more stairs or doors, so I broke my elbow through a stained glass window and crawled out toward the moonlight.  I clung to the side of the cathedral, the ground, seemingly, miles below me.

Thus, precariously perched, I looked up to see an airplane flying above me.  In a flash as brilliant as sunlight, I saw Fay’s face, whispering “the highest point of Embassy Row.”  She was gone, on that plane to Brazil.

I let go.

And fell.

 

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