So, finally, after I couldn’t think of anything else to postpone the decision (and believe me I tried), I walked outside the doors of the hotel. Steve stood behind me with his AK-47 held to the head of one of the hostages. Actually, her name was Sylvia Ball. She was a really nice lady, in her early thirties. She was one the participants in the conference. She volunteered to be our hostage. If you want to know the truth, I think she was more excited about being a part of all this than we were. I tied her hands behind her back, but not too tightly. Which was good, because then I decided we should put one of our combat vests on her, so I had had to untie her hands. Then she suggested I stuff all the pockets full of whatever I could find. It was supposed to look like she was laden with explosives and stuff – kind of like a walking “Claymore mine.” The only problem was that since I didn’t really know what that was, it probably didn’t look too authentic.
The truth is, we hadn’t really planned this operation to the last detail, and it was beginning to show. In fact, Mustafa had only heard about the conference two days ago, and well, he left all the details to me. You may not know this, but I can get distracted at times. Really. And, I hadn’t really thought past the whole idea of the takeover of the conference. And, to tell you the truth, if the participants hadn’t been so sympathetic to our cause, that might not have gone as smoothly as it had. That Rabbi Arikman was full of a lot of really good ideas. He really was. I could tell he had done stuff like this before. It was a good thing he hated those “Zionists” as much as we did. Even though, to tell you the truth, I was having second thoughts about some of that stuff, now, too.
So while Steve hung back by the door, I walked out to meet the cops.
The scene was nothing like what I expected. The streets were crowded with onlookers and reporters; helicopters were flying overhead. Everyone was shouting questions, condemnations or support. And there were a million cops with their guns all drawn and looking at me as if I were some kind of evil terrorist or something. Yeah, okay, so, they may have had a point, but still, if you knew me, you would know that this really wasn’t necessary at all. It was scary and surreal, to tell you the truth - like something out of movie. So, I guess, considering all the viewing hours I had logged in, I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I thought about stoking up the crowd and getting them on my side. Some of them seemed actually quite sympathetic. But, I didn’t really know what to say. I wondered if shouting, “Attica!” or something, might help. I saw it work in a movie once, but you probably don’t remember it. There was a transvestite in that movie too, and bank robbers. But I don’t think there were any rabbis. I’m not really that big of a crowd person. But, anyway, just as I was about to give it a try, this guy, one of the cops, though he wasn’t dressed as a cop, broke out from the crowd and casually walked over to me.
“My name’s Moretti,” he said. “Detective Sergeant Gene Moretti. I’m in charge here. What’ your name kid?”
Of course, what I was expecting, I mean, what I realized I was expecting, since I didn’t really know what to expect, was well, I don’t know. But, especially, with a name like Moretti you’d have expected some old-time, hard-nosed, uneducated, street-wise, sarcastic New York cop type, right. You know, outspoken, rude and sentimental, with a cigar clamped between his teeth; a guy who still wears a hat even in this sweltering heat. It would have fit with the rest of the whole scene. But, he was nothing like that at all. Instead, he was tall and muscular, the kind of guy you would see in an ad for a fitness program or something. Nothing was working out like I expected to tell you the truth. Except, he was wearing a hat. But, who wears a porkpie hat these days, except for Peter Himmelman? And, wasn’t that being a bit cliché, for a cop to be wearing a porkpie?
Which makes you wonder, can a Jew wear a porkpie hat, or is there some sort of karma interference with that? Then I got to thinking: Do Jews have Karma? I mean, maybe that would mess with their whole Jewish vibe. I thought about asking Moretti, but he didn’t look Jewish, so he probably wouldn’t know, either. Of course, looks and names can be deceiving. After all, everyone always seems to think that I look Jewish, and well. Oh, yeah, I forgot. It turns out they were right.
And what about Muslims? Can you look Muslim? And what kind of hats do Muslims wear? Can they wear a porkpie? And what about football, can a devout Muslim play with the old pigskin and still get into Paradise and hang with the seventy-two virgins? Seemed suspect to me. I realized I didn’t have too many answers, and yet, somehow, they had kind of put me in charge.
Then my brain started thinking about this whole pig association, but with no reference to the present company of course. Well, mostly not, but it’s hard not to think of it, once the thought pops into your head. I hoped this Moretti would forgive me. But anyway, they never seem to catch a break. Pigs, that is. The animals, I mean. They always seem to be the discriminated against by everyone. Except maybe the pig in Charlotte’s Web; everyone liked her.
But, then George went and really made them out to be really self-serving and mean. But, maybe his point was that we were really all potential Napoleons, and self serving and mean, and maybe even snide, though I’m not sure if he thought we were snide. I don’t even know what that means, to tell you the truth. Maybe John did, or George, the other one. Then again, the other George didn’t seem to really like pigs too much either. Though I don’t think you could have blamed anything Charlie did on either John or George, either of them. It was probably the penguins’ fault.
I don’t know about you, but this whole situation was making my brain work overtime. I could really have used some television if you know what I mean. I wondered if we were on television. I would have thought that most of the news stations would be covering us. I know. I’m digressing again. But, you should be used to it by now. You know, the A.D.D. thing.
“So what’s your name, kid,” he repeated, recognizing my thoughts were elsewhere. This cop was pretty sharp, at least for a cop, if you know what I mean.
“Why do you need to know my name?” I asked.
“Look, kid, I don’t care. Just give me something to call you okay?”
I thought a moment. “Call me Sonnyboy, okay?”
He frowned. “How about I just call you Walt, okay?”
I perked up. Did this cop see in me a resemblance to Walt Whitman. Then I thought about it. Probably not. I shrugged. I was standing there racking my brain trying to think of another famous Walt. I might have still been thinking about it, if he didn’t fire off another question at me.
“Are you the leader?”
It took me a moment to answer. I was still trying to get my mind around the whole Walt concept. You may not know this, but I haven’t had a lot of success with cops, if you know what I mean. Actually you may know this. I wondered if the guy that had busted me for having a car air freshener was out there in the crowd of blue. I shuddered at the thought. It was better that they didn’t think that I was the leader.
“No, that’d be Mustafa,” I said.
“So why they send you?”
“Well, he thought that maybe you might take a chance and grab him if he came out.”
“He’s not worried about you?”
“I’m kind of expendable, I guess.”
“That’s awfully big of him.”
“I’m used to it. Besides we’re interested in the same woman, so, he’s got nothing to lose.”
Moretti put on a worn sarcastic smile. He wasn’t taking me too seriously. I started to feel more comfortable.
“So let’s have it.”
“You’re demands, Kid. What do you guys want?”
He had messed up my rhythm. I wasn’t prepared for demands just yet. I stuttered.
“What’s the matter Kid? Don’t you guys have a list of demands?”
“Sure we do,” I bluffed. I was trying to think of something. “But first can we put away the guns? I wouldn’t want anybody to get hurt. You see that guy over there?”
“Well, we got a lot more inside like him, and they’re all veteran killers.”
“He can get awfully nervous, you know. You should know how serious we are. We aren’t playing around here. And that’s not all. We got a lot more inside like him, and they’re all veteran killers.”
“Uh, huh.” I think he noticed that I was repeating myself. I, unfortunately, didn’t.
“And, not only that, there’re a whole lot of hostages, and they’re all trussed up like that woman. They’re all wrapped with twenty pounds of C-4 explosives, and then on top of that we’ve tapped fifteen pounds of stainless steel ball bearings, making them the world’s largest walking claymore mines. Around their necks are radio frequency dog collars. Dog walks out of the yard, he gets the shit shocked out of him. Same thing. Their yard is the bank, I mean, the hotel. And well, you get the idea.”
“Uh, huh.” Moretti nodded. I wondered if he had seen the same movie.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone copied an idea from the movie, but maybe I should have ad-libbed a bit more. Anyway, I straightened up and said, “So, don’t mess with us, okay?” I wished I hadn’t sounded so pathetic.
“Fine, Kid. Just tell, me what you want, and we can get the ball rolling already.”
“Okay, we want McDonald’s to be allowed to open a restaurant in every Palestinian city.”
“What?” Moretti asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “With free bathroom access, so all those refugees with outdoor plumbing can go to the bathroom.”
Moretti just stared at me.
“Really, I said. “It’s a problem.” I swallowed hard. I would have to come up with something better, I knew. “Okay, there’s more.”
“Yeah, we want Atyaf Samar freed from prison and given clemency. She’s in Detroit.” I could tell things were getting serious now. He was taking notes on his ipad.
“How do you spell that?” He asked. “What else?”
“We want all the Palestinian refugees to be absorbed into their host countries like it says in the UN 1951 Refugee Convention. We demand that Palestinian refugees get the same rights as every other refugee; none of this double standard UNHCR – UNRWA criteria. That’s discrimination.” I said.
I was on a roll now, and I started to get excited. It might not have been a good thing. “Also we want you close Guantanamo Bay already, like Obama promised. That’s why we voted for him, you know. Well, that, and the fact that we would have felt like racists if we didn’t vote for him, you know.” The cop just looked at me. I needed something else. Something grand. So, I said, “And get out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and ...”
“We got out of Iraq,” Moretti said.
“Well, that’s a good start.” I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t know that, to tell you the truth. How could I have missed it? It must have been the same day the Kardashian Sisters learned to floss or something. “And Snowden. Stop hounding the guy. And stop spying on everyone. What? You think we’re all terrorists or something?”
The cop just looked at me.
I shrugged. “Okay, I’ll give you that one,” I said.
“Anything else, Kid?”
“Well, I got some hungry people in there.”
“You want pizzas or something?” Moretti asked.
“Well, actually I was hoping for sushi.”
“You get pizzas,” he said. “Says so in the book.”
“Oh,” I said. “Ok, but make sure they’re kosher, we got a bunch of rabbis in here.”
“Sure Kid. I’m going to order them from New York, okay?”
“I’m serious,” I said, “and no pork either.”
He looked at me kind of strange, like people do when I tell them my name.
“Mustafa doesn’t eat pork,” I said.
“What else? Something to drink?”
“Can we get some fruit juices?”
“You get Coke and 7up, Kid.”
“Can we get some aspirins, too?” I knew Leon would be needing some. Actually, he needed something stronger by now, but there was probably a law against it and I didn’t want to push my luck.”
“Okay, kid. Is that all?”
“Well, after you fulfill our demands, we’ll need a bus and a plane so that we can escape to another country.”
“Yeah, that’s standard procedure anyway,” Moretti said. Then he added, “so, when do you give me something?”
“What?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, how about you release the hostages, kid?”
I laughed. It was really funny. “So, you want me to just give up, and then we’ll all go home, is that it?”
“Why not, Kid?”
“Cause, we’re not that stupid, detective.”
“Come on, Kid. I’m being reasonable. I listened to your demands. I’m getting you the pizzas, and everything. Now, you got to give me something. How do I know I can trust you? How do I know you’ll release the hostages after you get everything you ask for?”
“What do you mean?′
Well, send one out, anyway, okay. Just one. Just so I know that I can trust you, okay, Kid?”
“I don’t know. I have to ask Mustafa.” I said. The truth is I didn’t even want to admit there were hostages. I mean you can go to jail for kidnapping, can’t you? And anyway, most of the hostages seemed to be on our side. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“That’s all I’m asking, Kid.” Moretti extended his hand. “I’ll let you know when the pizzas arrive, okay?”
“Okay.” I hesitated in giving the guy my hand. You know, he might try and grab me or something, not that I had any idea what grabbing me would accomplish. But then I figured if he wanted to grab me he could have done that already. I’m not exactly an imposing figure, and he was.
We shook hands and I slinked back towards the hotel. I think I heard him crying as he went back to the coffee shop across the street. He was a really emotional guy. Or, maybe he was laughing. Maybe his laughter was a macho cover for the turmoil of emotions swirling in his gut. I don’t know.
I turned around and Steve and Sylvia were having a conversation with someone from the crowd near the barrier. They hadn’t even been paying attention. Moretti could have grabbed me and they wouldn’t have even have known. I couldn’t say I was too surprised, but still, you’d have thought he could have looked like he was paying attention. Even I don’t get that distracted. Okay, maybe I do, but not when someone is counting on me. At least, I don’t think I do. Not that I remember anyway.
I walked up to them. “Thanks for watching my back Steve.”
“Oh, are you like done talking to the Man, already, man?”
“Thanks for noticing. Weren’t you supposed to be covering my back?′
“Oh, but we got interviewed by a guy from CNN and Fox,” Sylvia chimed.
“And we’re, like all over YouTube, man.”
“Yeah, but that cop could’ve grabbed me and ....”
“Nah, it wouldn’t have worked that way, man.” Steve looked at me from outer space. “I mean, man. I got your back. Ain’t no better way. You know what I mean, man?
I admitted I didn’t.
“Listen,” Sylvia tried. “The only way to watch someone’s back today, is with good PR. You’re famous now.”
I guess that made sense. I mean, in a world where one’s worth is based on how many “likes” he gets on Facebook or YouTube, the only way to really support someone is with media coverage. Let’s face it, if those cops in Hawthorne had known they were being filmed, they may not have shot the dog. At least it wasn’t a shaggy dog right? Anyway, Steve and Sylvia did have a point.
“Maybe we should send out a message on What’sApp to all our friends,” I said.
“Oh you can’t use that,” Sylvia said.
“Because the Zionists invented it,” she said. “Don’t you know about BSD?”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “Didn’t you see it on our website?”
“Oh you guys have a website?” Sylvia asked.
“Yeah, it was pretty easy to build,” I said. “I used Wix.”
“Oh no,” Sylvia was nearly frantic. “That’s a Zionist company too.”
“Wow,” I said. “They’re everywhere. We should send an SMS to all our friends and let them know.”
Sylvia and Steve both looked at me.
“Zionists invented that too?” I asked.
Sylvia nodded. “And don’t even ask about USB storage,” she said.
I shrugged. It was getting so you couldn’t function anymore without the Zionists making life easier. It was probably a conspiracy or something. I don’t know. “Come on,” I said. Let’s get back inside before they invent a way to conduct hostage negotiations or something.”
“You mean like Game Theory or Rubenstein’s Bargaining Model?” asked Sylvia.
“You’re kidding me,” I said.
Now, it was Sylvia’s turn to shrug. I shook my head. This was getting out of hand. I hung my head, and the three of us silently went back in to the hotel.