The Influencer

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Chapter 12

The Next Evening

Archibald Gracie had bought the huge tract of land on Horn’s Hook overlooking the Hell Gate portion of the East River right at the end of the 18th Century. Once Gracie Mansion was built, it was a magnetic draw for high society and big swinging wigs (you see, back then the hoity-toities wore dusted wigs, as it was very gauche to big-swing one’s dick in polite company).

The then-soon-to-be final-King-of-France Louis Phillippe—who had fought ably during the Revolutionary Wars, but broke ranks with the Republic when, surprise-surprise, his uncle Louis XVI was executed by revolutionaries—had even gone there to party it up.

Archibald Gracie was, in his time, what one might today call hot shit. He was in business with Alexander Hamilton, and a buddy of John Jay. But, hot shit or not, fortunes both good and bad befall every one of us, and Archie had to give up the mansion during the Monroe administration.

Gracie Mansion’s ownership changed hands a few more times until it was bought by the city, in 1891.

Like so many New York City landmarks—some of which remain, some of which have been destroyed—the legacy of Gracie Mansion was affected by the long tenure of Robert Moses, who, and Caro fans will know this, was known as the most powerful man in New York for decades. During WWII, Bob Moses browbeat Mayor Little Flower—better known as Fiorella LaGuardia—into taking the mansion for himself as the mayoral residence.

Once Mayor LaGuardia was living in Gracie Mansion, he learned that there was a series of secret tunnels underneath the residence leading out to the East River, an underground maze-work that the British Loyalist Jacob Walton had built along the foundation of his home... that is, before George Washington captured the Horn’s Hook property and the Waltons took their peaceable leave.

Carl Magnum and his two newly transformed still-masked ladies had made their way into the tunnel entrance, and were working their way toward Gracie Mansion, the residents and other government officials inside completely unaware.

* * *

Inside Gracie Mansion

“Mr. Mayor, it’s good to see you.”

“Ronnie Lime! Hey, did you know that my wife is black?” DeFazio said as he held out his hand for a high five. “Give me some jive—on the black hand side!” DeFazio bellowed.

Lime grimaced and reluctantly offered his hand in turn. Lime, himself a black man, knew of DeFazio’s penchant for acting strangely around African Americans.

“Mr. Mayor... a pleasure, as always.”

DeFazio leaned in close to Lime, as if to impart a secret. “My kids are black, too.”

DeFazio also had a penchant for not being a good listener.

“So, what’re you doing here, Ronald McDonald?”

Lime winced; it was his least favorite of all the mayor’s favorite nicknames for him. “I’m here to interview you—remember? The monsters? The city under siege? Any of that ring a bell?”

Mayor DeFazio looked around the cobalt-blue-walled drawing room and saw PA’s and cameramen rigging up lighting and checking their equipment. “Oh. That’s today. I was wondering what these guys were doing here. I thought maybe they were here to interview me about my—”

“—your black wife? No, Mr. Mayor. Unfortunately, my producers were not sold on that topic.”

“Didn’t go for that one, huh?”

Lime raised an eyebrow. “No. Simply because it doesn’t seem… relevant.”

DeFazio stood silent, staring daggers into Lime. Finally, he smiled. “This guy. This guy. Okay, okay, we’ll talk about those gosh-darn Cellheads. Now, come on, gimme some skin, my brutha-from-anotha-mutha!” The Mayor held his hand up in the air—he was almost six-five, so his hand was far up in the air. “Come on, Ronald McDonald. Hit me. Come on!”

“Mayor DeFazio, you know I can’t reach that high.”

“Come on. Come on, Ron. Just go for it. One time, homey. I know you can do it.”

Lime looked around; everyone was busy with their attention elsewhere. So, he gave it a shot. He jumped; missed.

DeFazio roared with laughter. “Come on, Ronald McDonald, you can do better than that! I thought it was White Men Can’t Jump!”

* * *

Outside Gracie Mansion

Karjiel’s hair and beard had grown back out to full length. He had enjoyed the Doc Brown experience, but things had taken a very serious turn. Mr. Donomak was unkempt and back in his monkish robe.

About a third of Carl Schulz Park leading into Gracie Mansion was sealed off and barricaded—it had been this way since the protests during the summer. Karjiel approached the steel gates sealing off the pathway to the mayor’s residence and two cops looked toward him.

“Can I help you sir?” one of them asked. Karjiel didn’t answer. They looked him over, saw his bedraggled dress and wild facial hair.

The other cop asked, “Are you lost?”

Karjiel still didn’t answer. He simply rocked side to side, his face tilted down, a cast of shadow over his large brow and prominent nose.

One cop turned and asked the other, “What do you think? Escaped Gracie Square?”

The other cop shrugged. “The nut-house? I’m not su–”

He couldn’t finish speaking. The cop looked down to see a gaping hole in his abdomen. The second cop, who was standing a bit behind his fellow patrolman, briefly saw what had created the hole: a brass sphere flew out of the first cop’s abdomen and into his own. Before either of them could pull their service pistols, they were both on the ground, bleeding more than a prospective physical reaction would allow.

Karjiel stepped over the dying men, and continued his advance.

* * *

Inside Gracie Mansion

Lime was pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to tune out DeFazio’s grating voice. Upon DeFazio’s insistence, MXMVC had moved the equipment for the interview into the main hall, the grand foyer. The crew almost had everything set up—a PA was in the process of attaching a small mic to DeFazio’s lapel.

Rhythmic, violent banging came from a nearby interior door. It sounded aggressive, as if someone were attempting to knock it down. The first bang had given Lime a start.

Lime turned to DeFazio. “What is that… what is that door?” The banging continued. The door shuddered—the hinges emitted tiny plumes of drywall dust.

“Well, Limestone, that would be the base—”

The hinges and frame gave out, and the door toppled over. A SWAT battering ram was thrown into the room from the darkened entryway. Three figures walked out, armed to the teeth. There was a short middle-aged man, clad in black full-body armor and aviator shades—he held a cigar in one hand, while the other was wrapped around the grip and trigger of the AK-47 resting on his shoulder, barrel pointed up at the ceiling.

He was followed by two thin-framed figures, also covered in body-armored. Their faces were concealed behind gas masks, and they wore black cloaks with the hoods up. One wielded a large pistol in each hand while the other had a six-pack grenade launcher.

DeFazio didn’t have much in the way of private security (he didn’t think he needed the protection; he thought himself beloved by his constituents), and Karjiel had taken care of the armed threats outside.

The armored man flicked his cigar, and now had both hands on the AK-47. He fired a half-mag volley of rounds into the ceiling. The deafening blasts got everyone’s attention.

Carl observed the captive audience though his aviators. “Gracie Mansion, wow-wee! Never thought I’d see inside this place…”

One of the MXMVC’s PAs made a dash for the front door. He was just about to grab the knob when the double doors slammed open with tremendous force. One of the doors whacked the PA hard enough to send him skidding twenty feet across the floor. The air inside Gracie Mansion was swept with a chill as Karjiel walked in.

Carl cackled at the PA lying unconscious on the floor, blood pooling from his head. “Guess he wanted to leave the party! Don’t ya know? No one is leaving this place.”

Any of you other motherfuckers dart, I’ll fill you with lead!” one of the gas-masked soldiers addressed the crowd in a low robotic auto-tuned voice.

Karjiel walked into the center of the large room with hands clasped behind his back. He looked around before casting his head backward, facing the ceiling. His eyes glowed a deep purple.

Bodies poured in through the front door. They moved awkwardly, aggressively. Some were clothed, some weren’t. All had glowing rectangles affixed to their foreheads. About forty Cellheads assembled behind Karjiel—they idled, slightly bobbing up and down from their abnormal breathing and wheezing.

Karjiel turned to Carl and gave a nod.

Carl returned the gesture, then motioned for his two soldiers to follow him. The trio aimed their weapons at anyone who was present, yelling at them, herding them. After a few moments, they had cornered DeFazio, Ron Lime, the entire MXMVC TV crew, and about a dozen of DeFazio’s political associates who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carl and his friends went back to the front door to close it, then began moving furniture to form a barricade. Karjiel’s swarm of Cellheads surrounded the captives, forming a humanoid fence.

Karjiel approached the hostages. The Cellheads parted as Karjiel walked past them, then snapped back into formation.

“I have business with you, Mr. Lime.” Karjiel gave the man a wicked grin.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Lime asked.

“I want you and your associates to follow my instructions—noncompliance will result in death.”

Defazio fell to his knees. “Please don’t hurt me! I have a black family—a black wife… black children!

Lime looked back at his team—some were cowering, whimpering—and then back to Karjiel. “Nobody has to get hurt, man. Tell us what you need.”

Karjiel let out cackle. “I need all of your cameras. Get me on the television and the YouBoub—I need the world to see this! Broadcast me on your news program.” Karjiel’s eyes glowed purple, and the Cellheads moved out of the way, ambling into position behind their master to form a sloppy echelon-like formation.

Carl resumed crowd-control, keeping his gun trained on the TV crew and assistants. The girls circled each other, giggling as they slowly sang a robotic sounding version of “Johnny B Goode.”

“GO GO! GO JOHNNY GO, GO, GO!” Carl screamed. “THIS THE NEW SOUND YOU BEEN LOOKIN’ FOR?”

Karjiel, and with eyes still glowing, yelled, “Faster! I need to be seen on the TV. Ron Lime, I want a huge audience. Do not fail me.”

Lime told his team to call in an emergency broadcast. In cases of civil crisis or nuclear war, MXMVC had the ability to override programming on several stations.

Serious as Karjiel was, he still possessed some wit—he had an urge to entertain himself. He was getting whatever the fuck he wanted, why not ask for more?

“You lot are politicians, no? Get me the leader of the United States of America on the phone, now!” He hardly managed the words as he fought the urge to laugh. He raised his right hand before his face. His fingers were curled closed, circling an invisible shot glass. He raised the imaginary little glass and nodded his head. Toasting to himself, with imaginary vodka.

There was silence among the crowd of politicians and news crew before the muttering started. A pathetically tiny little person was pushed out into the middle of the room by the confused huddle. The little man proceeded to make a motion of pushing glasses (when there were none) up onto the bridge of his nose. “Uh yes, yes well, I just rang for the President and, um—I’m sorry but he’s just not available, I don’t really know what to tell you…”

Carl nested the muzzle of his rifle on the little man’s Adam’s apple and squeezed the trigger, putting a lead rocket through the man’s neck.

The little man grasped at the hole in his neck and squirmed on the floor. Carl looked at the rest of the hostages and bared his teeth. “This is what happens when you don’t listen! Give the man what he wants! NOW!

Ron Lime signaled that it was showtime for Karjiel.

Karjiel looked directly into the camera. “Listen closely. I have a room of people whom I will kill if my demands are not met. Please, cameraman, show the people at home what happens if I am not taken seriously.” Karjiel motioned to the man whom Carl had just shot.

The camera panned to a bloody carcass, then back up to Karjiel, with his army of Cellheads behind him.

“My assistant will shoot to death everyone in this room. I am at the mayor’s mansion. BIRD. I AM ADDRESSING YOU DIRECTLY.

“I DEMAND THAT THE BIRD FACE ME AT MIDNIGHT.”

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