I'm not exaggerating when I say this chapter is all about Mr. Bury in a phone booth while Gris stands outside, listening to one half of series of conversation.
Like I said last chapter, it's all up to Gris and Mr. Bury to find this dangerous J. Walter Madison. Unfortunately the guy has fled to the end of a pier in some sort of Free Trade zone, beyond US jurisdiction. And though Mr. Bury will cheerfully hire assassins to deal with problems, works with the secret power behind the U.S. government, and is a member of an organization frequently described as controlling the planet, the fact that getting Madison could involve international laws means he needs to get advice for what to do.
This is mostly an excuse for the author to show how well-connected Rockecenter's posse is, so we get to see Bury bossing around generals and other important officials. But the whole exercise is somewhat self-defeating: Bury's enormously powerful and influential because he's able to ring up these people, but the reason he rings up those people is because he's unable to go onto a pier.
Anyway, the chapter. Bury and Gris have only four hours to go from the advertising district to the pier. Gris tips over a passing liquor delivery trike, which lifts both his and Bury's spirits - by spilling some other spirits! See, I can't come up with names like Stahb or Kutzbrain, but sometimes I'm sorta clever!
There's a line of Klansmen picketing in front of a Jewish deli, an impassable obstacle because Rockecenter owns the unions. I don't know either. They go in a subway station and Gris spots a "young black" graffiti-ing up the station. Once Bury gets into a phone booth Gris goes topside, yells about the police and opens fire with his pistol to get the Klansmen to scatter (winging two of them), takes one of their placards, knocks the "black" out with a bag of change and steals his spray paint, whips up a sign saying "CIA Man" to stick to Bury's back while he's on the phone, and finally fixes up a placard to read "Down With the CIA" before forming a one-man protest outside the phone booth. All this to ensure that nobody interrupts the phone call.
I think for that one stupid gag Gris just showed more initiative and cunning than he has in the last two books combined.
After fighting with the operator, Miss Goog... maybe it's a thirty-year-old reference to someone Hubbard hated? Bury has to explain that of course he knows about the secret phone line, he owns the company (IT&T), and has the operator punt the president off and set him up with the National Security Agency. After a brief chat with some spymaster named Peeksnoop, Bury gets connected to a General Hatchetheimer, currently leading a terrorist group in Cairo so they can blow up the US embassy tomorrow.
Oh, and did I mention that Hatchetheimer is a ninety-something veteran of Hitler's general staff? At least we made it three books into the series before Hubbard dragged Hitler into it.
Bury and the venerable Nazi talk strategy for a bit before Bury reconnects to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to see what NATO units are in the area. In a happy coincidence there's a British tank squadron about to give a show nearby that very evening, and they're promptly assigned to meet Bury on the pier. Just to hedge his bets Bury also transfers a (drydocked) aircraft carrier, the USS Saratoga (decommissioned 1992), to NATO command and starts giving its captain orders.
When the phone call is finally over, and a crowd disembarking from a train makes leaving the station difficult, Gris cunningly slaps the "CIA Man" sign on someone wearing a similar coat to Bury's, urging him to run. The crowd takes off after him, and when Bury asks what's going on, Gris says "joggers." Ba-dum tish.
So with a tank squadron and aircraft carrier at their command, Gris and Bury are now able to get ahold of the guy who will ruin Heller for them.
Instead of taking the tank squadron and aircraft carrier at their command, cutting out the middle-man, and blowing seven shades of hell out of their target. Seriously, Bury can ring up a frigging tank division, but when faced with someone claiming to be Rockecenter's illegitimate heir, he goes with a single sniper in one attempt and a pair of dangerous drivers in the second. He can boss around the president and punt him off the red hotline, but he can't deal with this Free Trade zone at the end of a pier without outside help.
That's what's being a Hubbard Villain is all about. You run empires even though you're so stupid you couldn't win a game of Civilization. You're incredibly powerful but always have these incredible weaknesses for the hero to exploit. You're hyped so much that your defeat will be hailed as the greatest accomplishment in history, yet you're literally designed so that defeat is almost inevitable.
Back to Chapter Three