Two hours later, Izzy, Bang-Bang and Twoey were celebrating their joyous deliverance from the Empire State Building by eating anything and everything Heller could stuff into them at Sardine's Restaurant.
When there was nothing left to consume but the tablecloth, he sent them home to get rested and cleaned up with orders to meet him in the morning at the condo.
Bam, two whole sentences describing how they left the office. Makes all the death and mayhem worth it, no?
The battle was not over. The hardest part was just ahead: Rockecenter. And in this one, Heller was very short of troops.
Whatever happened to those five hundred Corleone mobsters?
Heller's able to use his Army intelligence resources to learn that Rockecenter's currently at his Pokantickle Estate, until he leaves on Sunday to meet with a bunch of evil businessmen before Congress declares war on Maysabongo on Monday. New York's National Guard is... guarding the mansion, to make Heller's attempt to gain entry all the more dangerous and therefore dramatic. And I'm sure Heller could have figured all this out by using that Command Isolation Geometry of his.
He uses a Voltarian magic wand to turn the antique cab Army green and paints on some insignia.
While he worked, the radio battered him with war hysteria, not the least of which was news that Maysabongo saboteurs had attempted to blow up the New York City Hall but had been foiled by an army tank unit under Colonel Boots. Motorists were also being warned to keep off major highways and leave them clear for the army: a safe enough order since there wasn't any gas. People were also being requested to stay alert for Maysabongo partisans who might be planning to blow up railroads, airfields and convoys, and to report such information to the army.
Much martial music was also on the airways. The country was obviously girding up its loins for battle. Heller knew that, with a lot of luck, he might be able to prevent it. Nobody else seemed to be trying.
Guess Miss Simmons' guild has a raid this weekend or something.
At eight the next morning, Heller assembles some of the more important secondary cast members - Bang-Bang Rimbambo, dressed as an Army driver, Izzy Epstein, as himself, and Delbert John Rockecenter II or "Twoey," who misses his pigs. No moment where Heller reflects on the absurdity of the situation, or muses that he's never led a commando team like this before, or feels a glimmer of doubt. No thoughts, no feelings from our main character. He's a man of action!
The cab doesn't have to worry about the gas crisis, Heller gave it a magic carburetor that eats asphalt, so they zip along the empty streets, arriving at Rockecenter's mansion in less than an hour. When challenged by the National Guardsmen, Heller shows them Twoey's driver's license, and since obviously no one could forge an ID, they get waved through with a big FAMILY sticker to get the other soldiers out of the way. No "wait, I never heard of no Rockecenter II, what're you trying to pull?" or anything. Certainly don't need to bother the big man in the mansion to verify things.
They drove on up the winding drive past tents, troop carriers, motorcycles, field pieces and two tanks.
"I am not going to join the army!" said Twoey with determination. "They shoot pigs!"
"You shut up," said Heller. "Let me do the talking."
"All right, brother," said Twoey, "but don't you go getting me in any army!"
If you have to use a pig-loving simpleton as a glorified parking pass, would it kill you to be polite to him?
They park, Heller gives Bang-Bang a satchel full of mystery, and tells him to wait with the car. When he leads Izzy and Twoey into the building the three of them get frisked by a guard, while the security detail of the most powerful man on the planet chooses to ignore Bang-Bang.
The key words for Rockecenter's mansion are "enormous" rooms and furniture, and "outdated." Remember, bad guys have no taste when it comes to interior decorating, while Heller's exquisitely-arranged apartment back on Voltar proves he's the most noble hero in the story. The three of them march into Rockecenter's study to see the bad guy "standing like an angry vulture back of the desk."
Cue m... hmm. Well, I don't have any ominous tunes to recommend for this encounter. Rockecenter's so pants-on-head crazy that it's hard to believe he could ever assemble a world-spanning financial empire, and more to the point he's being bamboozled by his lackey Mr. Bury. Plus, Lombar Hisst is arguably the big bad of the book since he - despite suffering the same drawbacks as Rockecenter - has more resources to work with and a greater ability to cause harm.
So what soundtrack goes well with a "climactic" confrontation with a demented, decrepit secondary villain who will be almost constantly wrong-footed during the encounter?
Rockecenter is interrupted while ranting about sending Bury in for some electroshock therapy when said lackey shouts "WISTER!", then starts gibbering about the "fuel man."
"Perhaps I had better explain," said Heller. "We have come to make you a fair offer that can settle all this oil trouble, Mr. Rockecenter."
"Who is this?" Rockecenter asked Bury. "What's he talking about?"
"Sir, that one in uniform is Jerome Terrance Wister!"
"And this," said Heller, "is Mr. Israel Epstein. He controls the companies that own the microwave-power setup, Chryster Motors, gasless carburetors, gasless cars---and he controls, as well, all the U.S. oil reserves now possessed by Maysabongo."
Rockecenter sat down very suddenly. He stared at Izzy. Then he said, "The Jew. You're that (bleeped) Jew!"
This is a good strategy - if you ever get worried that readers might find a hint of intolerance in your story, create a transparently racist character as a lightning rod.
Rockecenter asks to see the patents for these alternative-fuel devices, and Izzy complies, but Heller's ultimatum is more complicated than a quick exchange for peace. Instead they're offering Rockecenter 49% of the shares and money from those upcoming stock options on the oil companies, if he recognizes Twoey - Heller generously withdraws any claims - as heir to that ten billion dollar trust and the entire Rockecenter estate. With Izzy as executor. Rockecenter is naturally quite surprised to learn he has two sons, but Bury can't find any fault with the documents Izzy and Heller brought to prove it.
Twoey of course has nothing to say to all this, no reaction worth narrating. Guess he took Heller's "shut up" order to heart. Nor does Rockecenter have any specific reaction to his son.
"And if I do this thing?"
"The oil companies can have these patents, the U.S. will have its oil. The refineries will get back in operation...."
"They can't!" said Rockecenter. "The protest marchers claim they're radioactive! They won't let them open!"
"I will promise to see that they are decontaminated and gotten' back into operation," said Heller.
With science. I'm sure that tugboat of his has a false-radiation negator beam installed.
Remember, Heller can't "decontaminate" all the oil now, he needs prices to stay low so he do stock market no jutsu and... destroy the world financial system... and then everyone's driving a gasless car. It's a great plan, just with the side effect of provoking an oil war and global energy crisis.
Rockecenter asks what happens if he refuses, and Heller bluntly threatens him and Bury with charges of conspiracy to murder Rockecenter's "wife and son." Not "children," oops! Heller just let slip that one of the two Rockecenter children in this room is a fraud! Not that anybody notices.
"That's blackmail!" said Rockecenter.
"That's murder," said Heller coolly. "And when you add it up with millions of other murders in the name of war,
Hubbard's against the military-industrial complex.
millions of babies dead from your abortion programs
And pro-life. Huh.
and hundreds of millions of lives ruined with inflation
And... I don't know, pro-regulation? In favor of set prices? I need to bite the bullet and take an economics course, get some terminology.
just so you can make a quick buck with oil, I wonder that they haven't hanged you a hundred million times over. I'd be glad to hold the rope myself!"
And for capital punishment. Also, all this from the man who killed a hundred million Russians in his attempt to solve a problem that only existed in his mind.
"No, no," said Izzy hastily. "This is a business conference."
"Well, this bird has caused me a lot of trouble," said Heller. "What he calls business is just banditry on a planetary scale. He's just a pirate and I don't like looking at him or talking to him. I disagree completely with the generosity of your offer, Mr. Epstein."
"Mr. Wister," said Izzy, "please stand over to the side, there, and let me continue these negotiations. Mr. Rockecenter can recognize a profit when he sees it."
Remember, Rockecenter's a pirate for taking control of a planet, while the Voltarian Confederacy, which also seeks control of that same planet, is a legitimate government Heller's willing to fight and die for.
Anyway, Rockecenter agrees, and gives his "sacred word" that he'll cancel the war. He signs the documents, Izzy signs the documents, Twoey pops into existence to sign the documents. There's also some notary work that requires them to get out their ID's and such. And we can't end the book like this. You can't just talk or reason with people to convince them to abandon their evil ways. No, the only way to accomplish things is through force - either by physically removing those who oppose you, or scrambling their brains to remove their will to oppose you.
Heller bent over to fill it in and sign it.
He had his eye on the top of a solid silver inkwell.
In distortion, he saw Bury draw!
Behind his back, the gun came out like a striking snake!
I'm assuming this is Heller drawing his own pist- wait, no, he was disarmed. Well, that makes this next part weird.
Heller whirled. His hand shot up!
He caught Bury's wrist, forcing it toward the ceiling!
THE GUN WENT OFF!
Heller bent the arm into a smashing blow!
He made the clenched gun strike Bury's head!
The scalp parted to the bone!
So Heller forces Bury's arm up, then manages to flex his elbow so that Bury's own gun hits him in the head hard enough to tear flesh. Without breaking the out-of-shape lawyer's elbow or anything. Eh, sure, why not.
"HOLD IT!" came a shout.
The library doors had slammed open.
If you're a guard protecting the home of the most important person on the planet, suddenly faced with dangerous intruders who could wish that man harm, what weapon do you bring to the situation? The obvious answer is
THERE CROUCHED AN INFANTRYMAN WITH A BAZOOKA!
an explosive anti-tank weapon that could kill everyone in the room, yes.
The two other soldiers were smart enough to pick rifles, at least. Bury's down and out, but the gun's still in his hand so Heller's unarmed and too far away to rush the soldiers. Rockecenter cackles, gathers up all the patents and legal documents and identifications and puts them in an armored combination briefcase. And, because he's a villain, he gloats.
"You think I'd keep my word on a crazy deal like that? All I wanted from you was the patents! Now we can nullify and hide this work and keep the world on profitable oil."
Wonder what the National Guard is making of this. "Wait, did he just admit to..."
He peered over at Bury on the floor. The man appeared to be dead. "I'll take the rest of this along to keep it out of plotting hands." He stuffed the papers and wallets and all Izzy's papers into the case, got them out of the way of the beveled, fitted edges, closed it and spun the combination.
A major general came rushing in, followed by a squad.
"General," said Rockecenter, "hold this riffraff until I return. Then, as we will be at war, we'll have work for a firing squad!"
We got here an example of Villain Classic, not only monologuing in front of the heroes, but deciding to hold them prisoner instead of telling his flunkies to shoot 'em in the head right then and there. And Heller decides not to protest, or argue, but let the soldiers grab him.
While no doubt thinking, "I should've brought the cat along!"
foiled the entire plan?
What will Hisst do
Find out in
Well, judging by the title, I guess the answers are "yes" and "defeat the heroes."
Back to Part Seventy, Chapter Five