Verse 11: BALLROOM BLITZ
"I still think this is a bad idea, Buzz," Dell said for the umpteenth time. "Somebody's gonna find out. They can do all these tests nowadays. Haven't you ever watched CSI?"
"The local cops can't even spell CSI!" Buzz growled as he pulled his 1978 Dodge pick-up into Gilda's parking lot shortly after dark. Nick and Billy, in Nick's Pull-Me-Over-Mobile, a startlingly yellow Mustang, followed close behind. Both cars parked near the service entrance. "The Plan is foolproof."
The Plan had evolved over the course of the afternoon, fueled by heated arguments and a case and a half of Blue Ribbon. Several empties (and a few full ones) rattled around the floor of Buzz's rusting hulk of a truck. Nicknamed the Rammstein, it was held together largely by hope and prayer. Most of its original parts were a memory, the replacements cobbled together from a wide variety of sources. The transmission shrieked like an asthmatic banshee and the reek of gasoline was cleverly hidden by a thick overlay of the spirits of long dead cigarettes. It had a Classic Car license plate, and Buzz loved it more than anything else in the world. Tonight, fittingly, the Rammstein would be the instrument of his vengeance.
In true democratic fashion, each member of the crew had been allowed to submit a proposal, all except Dell who'd been made Recording Secretary. That meant, since they weren't writing anything down, that he was in charge of the Beer Runs. Nick had suggested that they content themselves with trashing Gloria's stupid red motorcycle. Billy wanted them to take turns "doing a number" on her ass but no one could pin him down as to exactly what number he had in mind. (Sometimes they all wondered about Billy.) Buzz decided that they should wait until Gloria left Gilda's that night, follow her in the Rammstein, wait until they were the only two vehicles on Noank Road, and then sideswipe her into the trees.
Dell's suggestion that they just stay home and watch TV was not even given the courtesy of a hail of empty beer cans.
Buzz's suggestion (which he called Operation Swift Justice) did not become The Plan until after a spirited debate. Billy modified his earlier submission; they should, he said, throw a blanket over her head, strip her naked, and leave her tied up in the middle of downtown New Haven. While all four agreed that seeing Gloria naked would be a real perk, no one wanted to drive that far. Nick said he'd go along with Buzz's idea if they could still trash the motorcycle first. Buzz patiently explained that, if they trashed the motorcycle first, it would be really hard to run her off the road while she was riding it. Nick, seeing the error of his ways, withdrew the amendment. Billy grudgingly gave in as well; his proposed codicil that they strip her naked after running her off the road was voted down two to one on grounds of that would be gross.
They celebrated their consensus by buying a bottle of Jaegermeister at a nearby party store before setting out for Gilda's and the unwitting focus of their attentions.
"Dude," Dell said as Buzz killed the lights and ignition, "I think there may be a problem."
"Zip it, douchebag!" Buzz snarled. "I've had it up to here with your negativity. If you keep thinking things can go wrong, something will go wrong. You gotta have faith. I tell you, this will all go as smooth as Velveeta."
"But Buzz –"
"Not one more word, Dell," he threatened. "I'll lay you out like a mackerel."
Dell lapsed into aggrieved silence. Buzz kept his eyes on the door, waiting with the patience of a cobra for his chance to strike. His concentration was broken when Nick ambled up to the Rammstein's driver's side window.
"Mon General," he said, "we got a glitch."
"Not you, too!" Buzz exploded. "Christ on a shingle, you Torkelsons don't have a pair between you! The Plan will work, I tell you. Nothing can go wrong."
Nick bit his lower lip and nodded. "Okay, the Plan's airtight. Just one thing, though..." Buzz glared at him. "The target ain't here."
"At least her bike's not here. Maybe she got a ride in with the gimp, but the bike is a definite no show."
"You gotta be shittin' me!" Buzz cried, kicking the truck's door open and getting out. He surveyed the parking lot, confirming Nick's observation. "She has to be working tonight," he howled. "How'd she replace me on such short notice?" Fuming, he stuck his head back in the cab and berated Dell. "Why didn't you say something?"
"I tried," Dell yelped.
"Shut up," Buzz overrode the protest. "Who asked you anyway?"
"Sorry," Dell mumbled.
"Council!" Buzz declared. "We gotta improvise."
"Improvise how?" Nick wondered aloud. "She ain't here. Whole thing's a bust. Let's go home."
"Just get Billy out here, and let's think this over. Maybe we can still salvage this sumbitch."
Nick shrugged, but did as directed. Soon all four, with Dell hanging back (whether out of respect for his Auxiliary status or fear that Buzz was going to yell at him again), gathered in front of the pick-up. Buzz threw the floor open.
"Anybody got any ideas?" he inquired. No one spoke.
"Strip club?" Billy ventured at last.
"Get your head out of your pants, Thurber," Buzz smacked him upside the head. "First off, we gotta find out if she's in there. I've been banned, so I think we should send Dell."
"I've been banned, too," Dell pointed out. "She'll have me arrested!"
"She won't have you arrested," Billy responded in a nasal whining imitation of Dell's words. "She wouldn't have the balls!"
They all mulled that over. Dell disconsolately shuffled off towards the front door. The rest passed the Jaegermeister around while waiting for his return. Eventually, Dell reappeared, shaking his head.
"I didn't see her. The black chick and some tall guy with a ponytail are behind the bar, but she wasn't there."
"Did you check the office?" Buzz demanded.
"Oh, that's just perfect! You're useless as tits on a milk truck. Go back in and check the office."
"No way. I think that black chick spotted me. I saw what she did to Billy." Dell looked down, suddenly fascinated by his Adidas.
"I slipped!" Billy protested.
"Yeah, right over her shoulder." Nick snorted.
"She used some kinda nig-jitsu on me," Billy continued. "I wasn't ready."
Buzz snapped his fingers in front of Billy's face. "Can it!! What are we gonna do?"
"Call it a night, I reckon," Nick said, a little more cheerfully than prudent under the circumstances.
Buzz lost what little composure he had left. "You're all just a bunch of pussies!" he screamed. "I can't believe it! You're going to let that cow get away with making us all look like a pack of losers. We had a Plan! We all agreed to it, and now you pansies want to piss it all away! Well, it's not over till the fat lady farts! I want blood, goddamit. I want to see that whore suffer!"
"You could plaster my e-mail address all over the internet," a female voice interrupted Buzz's pep-talk. They turned around in unison. There stood Gloria, helmet in hand, giving them a look of unbridled contempt. In the heat of the moment, none of them had watched their perimeter; hence, none had noticed her arrival. Buzz's tirade had effectively drowned out the sound of the motorcycle's engine. All four were dumbstruck. Dell took a step back, hoping vainly to disassociate himself from the others. "Maybe the sheer weight of the spam would kill me," she added helpfully.
Feeling well and truly ambushed, and faced with the physical embodiment of his outrage, Buzz abruptly found himself at a loss for words.
"I know," she continued, "You could set a bag of dog poop on fire, ring my bell, and hide in the bushes, then laugh yourselves sick when I tried to stamp it out. Oh, wait. You don't know how to ring my bell, do you Aloysius?" She brushed past them, heading for the door.
Buzz grabbed her arm. "Not so fast, Robinette! We're settling this here and now."
"Get your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty ape!" Gloria snapped and swung her helmet. Buzz released her, stumbled back a few steps, nearly falling, but caught himself just in time.
"Oh, that's it!" he rumbled, his eyes red with fury. "You are so dead!" He rushed her…
…and ran face first into the heavy steel service door that had, without warning, opened directly in his path. This time, he did fall. Through a veil of pain, he saw a tall, lanky hippie with a long black ponytail, just like Dell had described, holding the door ajar.
"Are these ruffians accosting you?" he asked Gloria.
"I'm fine, Lex," she assured him. "These… gentlemen were just leaving."
"Like hell!" Buzz roared from his supine position. "Nick! Billy! Get that faggot! Dell, hold her – she's mine!"
As Buzz struggled to his feet, Nick and Billy glanced at each other, shrugged, lowered their heads and charged the longhaired freak from opposite directions. The man backflipped out of their path, allowing the two former linemen to headbutt each other with a resounding crack. Both went down like windowshades. Dell, not as big a fool as he looked, turned tail and ran for the safety of the Mustang.
Buzz reached his feet and grabbed this "Lex" person from behind, trying to crush him a bearlike grip. His victim flexed his chest and arms, breaking Buzz's hold in an instant. He turned around and Buzz could see his opponent's face. He looked neither pleased nor impressed.
Buzz let go with a roundhouse right which Lex dodged with contemptuous ease. The punch's momentum carried Buzz right into the arms of Gloria Robinette, but not in a good way. She strategically applied her knee to best effect. Buzz clutched his 'nads and doubled over, temporarily forgetting how to breathe. His agony was cut mercifully short by Gloria's other knee, which connected sharply with the point of his chin. Still holding his groin, Buzz collapsed in a heap.
Billy and Nick retained enough of their football-playing days' training to shake off their injuries. They also retained enough sense to know when they were outclassed. They scuttled away, stood shakily and piled into the Mustang. Dell had the motor running and burned rubber peeling out of the lot and into the street. Soon the three were nothing more than fading taillights.
"So," Billy said from the back seat once they were an assured clear distance away from the blast's epicenter, "strip club?"