Days pass, the media blitzkrieg goes on, and Whiz Kid fever continues to spread. The scheduled test drive morphs into a Demolition Derby and Combined Endurance Run pitting Heller against professional racers. A Whiz Kid video game is sold in drug stores (?), and "If you won, you got to wear glasses" (?!). Heller installs his alien carburetor, unknowingly bringing it closer to destruction by running it for an hour. And Utanc is completely absent from the chapter, again begging the question of why in the Nine Hells she was put in the story in the first place.
Gris decides that "Maybe Madison knew something I didn't know," proving that given enough time he will eventually be able to spot the obvious. Unfortunately Madison is so busy he doesn't even hear Gris' attempts to yell at him. So instead the Apparatus agent visits Mr. Bury to talk about the "other thing," and after Bury mistakes the subject for two of Rockecenter's mistresses, he admits that while he hasn't the slightest idea of what Madison is up to, he has full confidence in the man's work.
So Gris does the only logical thing: he goes back to Madison's office and patiently waits until the end of the day, then confronts Madison and asks him to sit down and explain what the plan is and how a faulty carburetor doesn't affect - oh, wait, he doesn't do that. Instead he gets Mr. Bury to give him the address of the Narcotici mob headquarters.
Yes, Gris has decided that since he doesn't know what the plan is (because he hasn't asked) and has concluded that everyone else is incompetent, he's going to bring in a third party to settle things. He takes a taxi to the (bad) mafia's lair, which is right next to a courthouse, police headquarters and Federal Building.
The splendid sign, Total Control, Inc., fanned above a splendid arch. The lobby had murals of American flags, depicting its evolution from Betsy Tea--calmly sewing the first flag with a joint in her smiling mouth--and adding star by star the appropriate and applicable drug of the state with charming little frescoes of the events. Obviously, American history was firmly based on drugs. The murals stopped with fifty-four stars, which dated the mural. A group of schoolchildren were on a guided tour but I pushed through them.
Hey, the drugs are back. They popped up at the beginning of the previous book and were in the background of two scenes in this one, but I guess the implication here is that America's firmly a drug culture with states selecting which mind-altering substances best represents them. Even though nothing else we've been shown reinforces that. It's not like we've had clients at the Gracious Palms complaining about the Corleones' "no-drugs" policy, or crowds of red-eyed college students trying to eat their research papers, or Izzy shaking off his cocaine addiction.
Also, I am now more interested in who the four newest members of the United States are than anything else going on in this story.
Gris wants to see Faustino "The Noose" Narcotici and a secretary leads him into what he mistakes for an elevator, only for the girl to push a button and send Gris through a trap door and down a chute. Gris is a genuine firearms expert, so that even after that rattling experience and having someone shove a gun barrel in his face, he's able to identify the weapon as a Bernadelli Model 80 .380 ACP seven-shot automatic pistol just by looking at it from the wrong end. Some Sicilian mooks take Gris' pistol, complain about the noob "Fed" not checking his weapon in the coatroom and spooking the secretary when he set off the hidden metal detectors, but when Gris explains that he's here to see the boss and knows Mr. Bury, they send him on his way.
So Gris gets sent upstairs this time, and passes through the place New York's finest citizens gather every Saturday to get their mob pay-offs, "a huge banquet hall decorated with baskets of money and naked brunettes holding them..." what, they just stand around completely starkers all day long? Past that is Faustino's office and the man himself, someone so fat his eyes are nearly hidden by drooping bags of flesh.
Pleasantries are exchanged, Gris decides to show off his Italian, and after throwing Bury's name around he gets Faustino to loan him a pair of snipers for the race day. Gris leaves, apologizes to the secretary in the lobby, and discovers that after they took his gun the mafia goons stuck an explosive plug in the barrel that would have taken his hand off if he tried to fire it. Gris laments that you can't trust the mafia. "They weren't honest."
On the bright side, now he has a pair of hitmen set to shoot out the tires of Heller's car during the upcoming derby, which will surely discredit and embarrass Heller, or even send him to the hospital! Yes, everything is fine now that Gris has gone behind his boss' back to "fix" a plan he doesn't know the details of. I mean, what are the odds that this could backfire horribly, or clash with the other conspirators' plans in a way that leaves Heller the victor?
Back to Chapter Five