And Leon wasn’t being melodramatic this time. You could tell. There was no prelude, no hysterics. He just collapsed in the middle of the hotel lobby. Everybody just looked at him lying on the floor for a minute, before Bobby and I rushed to his side.
He was out cold, but the scary part was Bobby’s face. She was ashen, and that threw me more than anything. Nothing got to her. I had to do something.
“Okay, that’s it.” I said. “I’m going to talk to Moretti. I’ve got a plan.”
Okay, it wasn’t really a plan, so much, as a really strong desire to get out of this mess. I haven’t really had a plan since that morning walking across the quad and seeing Alisa Cooper handing out flyers for S.T.O.O.P.I.D. Well, I joined up. So, now I had to do something, if you know what I mean. I must have really been worried about Leon or I would have never had the guts to do what I was about to do. My whole life I’ve cultivated a highly developed aversion to taking responsibility for anything. Especially, something serious like this. Yeah, I know, nothing special about that these days, but I never claimed to be special. Blame it on Reality Television.
I walked out doors of the hotel and stood there. The crowd was even bigger. We had gone viral – who could ask for anything more in our generation, right? I mean isn’t that the goal, the penultimate (another ten-dollar word) goal? To be loved by millions of people for thirty seconds. I mean my attention span is even shorter than that. Remember, the A.D.D. thing? So, I figured we had already succeeded, if you know what I mean. Right? I mean what is success today, anyway, except recognition. Though, as Moretti walked out of the crowd toward me, I was wondering if recognition was what it was I was going for, if you know what I mean.
“What is it Walt?” he asked.
“I had forgotten he had decided to call me Walt. So, at first I thought he was talking to someone else. I stood there for a moment just staring at him. It must have rattled him, a bit, because he paused in his approach. Sometimes being confused can be an advantage if you know what I mean.
“What is it, Kid? What’s the game? I brought you the food, you ready to do something for me, now? I want to help you out. Meet your demands, but I need you to start doing something for me too, okay?” Moretti was fishing. Bobby’s comment about what they would do if they ever discovered how lame we were danced in my head. I swallowed hard.
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s why, I’m here. One of the hostages fainted. I want you to bring him out and get him some medical attention, okay?”
Moretti seemed to brighten up, but it was the kind of brightening that happens on dismal days, and you only notice it because it’s less gloomy than before. “Well, that’s a good start, Kid, but, how about a few more.”
“I stood there looking at this man, and I knew he was trying to play me. I felt like a mark in a con game. The only thing was this cop had no idea that I hadn’t anything to wager really. I mean, even the hostages were on our side. He’d have trouble telling the hostages from the terrorists. I don’t know if I ever had an epiphany before, but never did I have one like this. It was grand and powerful. It was almost enough to make me believe in a Higher Power. Not that I don’t believe in a Higher Power you understand, just that thinking about Divinity and all that stuff makes me nauseous. It’s bad enough with the NSA watching my every move; I have to worry about some Superior Being knowing what I’m thinking. I mean, I didn’t mean to think about, well, all that stuff that I would have rather not have thought about, if you know what I mean. But how do you stop thinking about stuff your not suppose to think about. In fact, the moment you think about not thinking about it, you end up thinking about it. It’s enough to make you crazy. And, the truth is, I was having enough trouble with all these lesser powers controlling my life. I didn’t have the strength to deal with anything else.
But, anyway, as I was saying, I had an epiphany. It was a big one too. These cops didn’t really know who were the terrorist and who were the hostages, so maybe, just maybe, I could get everyone out of this mess, I had kind of gotten them in to. Especially, Alisa Cooper; I didn’t want her to hold it against me for the rest of our lives that she was forced to wear the Orange jumpsuit. It would put a real downer on our marriage, if you know what I mean.
What is with the whole Orange Jumpsuit thing, anyway? I mean, isn’t Orange the symbol of anti-authority and anti-establishment groups, like in the Ukraine? Maybe, and this might be more likely, it has to do with the fact that it was the color of the Apartheid government of South Africa. I don’t know. I never did like orange that much, myself.
So, anyway, now, I had this brilliant idea on how to get everyone out of this mess. I mean except, me. The cops already knew me. I doubt I could sneak away as a hostage right. And Mustafa – I mean, I’m sure he’d make a better symbol of the cause than I would. And, anyway, I wasn’t going to have him on the outside with Alisa Cooper, while I was sharing my cell with Bubba. I might have had fantasies about being a hero, but I’m no saint, if you know what I mean.
The problem of course, was getting this whole thing to work. It wouldn’t be the first time that I dreamed up a brilliant plan, only to have it crash into reality. So, I decided to let Moretti help me. I mean after all, he was an expert at these things, right.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “We only have one hostage that fainted.”
“Come on, Kid, quit playing with me. Just keep a few hostages for bargaining chips and let the rest out. What do you need to be worrying about all those people for?”
I nodded my head, like I was considering his proposal. The truth is I wanted to let everyone go, including me. But I guess, I needed a few of those bargaining chips, he was telling me about. “Okay, I said, I’ll see what I can do. I got to talk to Mustafa, first.”
“Maybe, I could talk to Mustafa?” Moretti fished some more.
Actually, that was a great idea. I could just leave the whole thing to the two of them, and go home. Then again, there’s a reason Mustafa had me handling this whole thing. He knew his limitations. “I’ll see what I can do.” I said. First, bring me a gurney or something, and we’ll bring out the guy that fainted, okay?”
Moretti took a few steps back and talked to some guy, who talked to another guy, and eventually, an ambulance gurney with two medics came out of the crowd. They walked over with Moretti. “Here you go, Kid. The paramedics will go with you.”
I don’t know why, but that made me nervous. I had seen enough television to know that those paramedics were probably cops in disguise. I mean I wanted to give up, but still, I figured if a few cops got into the hotel, it would just make a mess of the whole thing. So I said, “Just the gurney, Moretti. We’ll bring him out to you, okay.”
He looked disappointed. I felt like I had just spoiled his surprise party. I felt bad, even though I knew that he was planning the surprise for me. But, I still felt bad, so to cheer him up I said, “I’ll make sure that a few of the other hostages bring the gurney back to you okay?”
“Okay Kid. I’ll be waiting.”
“Give me a few minutes, okay,” I said. I knew it might be tough to convince everyone else to give up, and pretend like they were hostages, but we had to do something. I hadn’t seen any television all day, and it was almost time for NCIS.