Since Heller's just going home, and Gris' innate Plot Sense indicates that he won't be saying anything important during the ride, the Apparatus agent switches to the Countess Krak's viewer. "The young man" wakes up and thinks it's nice of her to stick around, and Krak rewards his trust by getting out a "new type of football helmet" that "teaches you." And sure enough, she puts the mind-control helmet on the kid and flips the switch. It's for the mission, you see. Free will, even people's identities, all must be sacrificed for the good of Jettero Heller's mission to save the world from itself. Such a lofty objective elevates you above the petty laws of the sinful earth, or the morality of the blinkered masses.
We don't see how Krak programs Junior the Second, though. Gris is watching her thinking what a tempting target she makes, sitting with her back to the window, and can't wait for Torpedo to strike. So there's that magical moment where he hears Torpedo's voice shout "GOT YOU!" and he wonders how Krak couldn't have heard that.
Snipers normally shout "GOT YOU!" just before they pull the trigger, right? From their hidden vantage spots half a mile away?
Dramatic reveal! Torpedo is in Gris' motel room! He's real mad, and accusing Gris of setting him up and tipping off the cops at the hospital! He had to ditch the car and walk back! And not only is that worth a gut-shot, he's also super-mad Gris didn't tell him that the girl he was supposed to kill was the girlfriend of the guy who trounced him last year! Obviously Gris meant for Heller to kill him, too! I can't seem to end a sentence in anything but an exclamation point!
Yeah, this deadly killer saw cops waiting at a hospital, panicked, and ran home... but stuck around long enough to see Krak and Heller at the same time?
Oh, and he's also dumb enough to explain why he's mad, and how he's gonna kill and violate and give STDs to Gris' corpse, which of course gives Gris enough time to take advantage of the undescribed "preparations" he made several chapters ago. Before Torpedo can shoot, Gris activates his "Apparatus radio relay ring," setting off the "vibration speaker" he planted on the balcony railing, so that it emits a scream. Torpedo whirls, Gris yanks the rug out from under him and sends the hitman over the balcony. He can't find his gun (and won't touch anything Torpedo's been holding), but quickly gathers up the rest of his stuff and scampers outside to his escape vehicle, the manure truck he took an interest in earlier. He speeds off, belatedly concluding that it would have been safer to try and stomp Torpedo's head in while he was stunned on the pavement, but it's too late for that now.
We get a page of Gris driving across Virginia towards New York, stopping at gas stations and occasionally getting shot at by Torpedo, who has stolen his own pursuit vehicle. Gris decides that since Torpedo has his address, he'll hide out at the least expected place - Torpedo's mother's house! He shakes his would-be killer, makes it to New York, pounds on the door, Mrs. Fiaccola answers... when the hell time is it? Heller and Biggs kept waking people up and it was after dinner before they even got started. Seven, eight o' clock at night? Gris starts out at Lynchburg, VA, and Google says that from there to New York is about a seven hour drive. So it'd be somewhere between two in the morning and dawn.
Anyway, Mama Torpedo seems to understand his predicament and lets Gris enter, directing him to hide in Torpedo's room, which features a framed portrait of a leering, crooked man signed "To Torpedo, my best con, J. Q. Cortikul, Ph.D." So... "Corti" as in "cortex," or cortex-kill, brain-kill? Am I overthinking it? Is this a reference grounded in the 1980's, the 1930's, or something only the author will understand?
Gris gets stuffed in the closet, but then he hears the sound of someone racing up the stairs, and Torpedo bursts into the room. Mama Torpedo assures her son that he's gonna get a kill, points at the closet, and offers him his "leopard," or sawn-off shotgun. But when her son reaches for it, she spins it around so that the barrel... the sawn-off barrel... is against his chin, and then "SHE PULLED BOTH TRIGGERS!"
Torpedo's head splatters across the ceiling, Mama Torpedo wipes off the shotgun's grip while the corpse topples over, then she sticks the weapon in her son's lifeless hands and gets out some gun-cleaning junk to leave at the scene of the "unfortunate accident."
Then she stood back. "Ever since you been out of the Federal pen," she said to the dead body, "you talk psychology, psychology, psychology. So I read up. Now you get some psychology, you no-good, filthy, rotten philanderer of corpses! I hope the devil makes you read psychology for the rest of infinity!"
She turned to me and beckoned me out of the closet. "You witnessed it. He was cleaning his gun and it went off, wasn't he?"
I nodded numbly.
"So that's the end of my no-good, carrion-(bleeping) (bleep) of a son. And a pleasure it is to see him lying there dead even without the twenty-five thousand insurance I now get."
So there you have it - the reason we went through the hunt for "hit man insurance," so that a woman could off her offspring and profit from it. Satire? Irony? Hot espionage action? I'm assuming this isn't meant to be romance or comedy, but with these books, who know?
Gris walks out of the House of Severed Family Ties, and it finally hits him that Torpedo failed, and now it's up to him to save Lombar Hisst, Rockecenter, and the whole Voltar Confederacy by removing the Countess Krak
As I went out into the night,
Technically morning. Unless you drove four hundred miles in less than five hours.
I shook my fist at the sky. "By all the stars, by all the Gods and Demons of the firmament,"
Who shall remain nameless.
I cried. "In spite of what you are doing to me, I must prevail! Do what thou wilt, I shall still terminate that awful woman!"
Not Heller, the guy who was actually assigned the mission. See, Krak is the key. If she's killed, he'll surely be slowed down and stuff. But not enough to actually scrub the mission so the invasion happens and also screws up the Apparatus plans.
A deadly oath.
I meant it!
I'm adrift in space and time. Are we in the middle of book five, when Gris makes a deadly oath to complete his mission? The end of book five, when he first decides to kill Krak? The start of this book, when he begins planning how to kill the Countess? Did the past 185 pages even happen? Krak and Heller certainly did stuff, but what did Gris accomplish?
Besides developing hypochondria over STDs, I mean.
Back to Part Forty-Six, Chapter Six