Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 14): Safehouse (Part 1)

This week we get back to the story of Frank MacGuiness, aka the infamous Dr. Necropolis, now an escapee from Sing Sing prison.  I’m excited because when I started this story, this was the chapter that I outlined first.  It’s taken eleven chapters to set the idea up, but now--finally--it’s almost time for sex, violence, and utter mayhem.
If you want to start the story from the beginning, click on the Sketch in My Notebook tab.  You’ll find it there.
While we’re talking, I have stats that show that a bunch of folks checked in to read last week’s entry.  If you were one of them, do me a favor and let me know a little about yourself.  I don’t need your name, but believe it or not, it helps a lot to have a general idea of who one’s audience is.
Thanks in advance!

The Return of Dr. Necropolis

Chapter 11: Safehouse

Frank was down for three full days with a fever.  He was lucky, he knew, because he’d managed to get all the way to his old Mott Haven safehouse before the fever laid him out, giving him a chance to ditch the ambulance and its drivers on a North Bronx side-street and then catch a subway line south.  The subway ride had been a misery, but he’d managed, and anyway, his obvious illness had at least kept other passengers from looking at him too closely.  Since then, he’d lain flat on his back in utter misery, shivering while his body fought itself and surviving on a diet of ten-year-old ramen noodles and cans of vegetable soup he’d put away against just such emergencies back in better times.  His dreams were fevered and confused, haunted by memories of Jaynie and prison.  Images of his cell in Sing Sing mixed with the Hell of swimming the Hudson River at midnight in late fall.  Thoughts of Jaynie interspersed with those of the Owl or Scott-fucking-Grossman.  Orange jumpsuits and black lace.  Handcuffs and beatings.  Pain and heartbreak.

Forty-eight hours passed before Frank was strong enough to consider the miracle of finding an intact safehouse ten years after being sent to prison.  It was another full day before he looked around and realized that the place hadn’t even been empty all that long.  
Draygho and Jaynie had been there.  Recently.  
Frank was at most two days behind them.  Not that it did him any good.
The safehouse wasn’t technically a house at all.  It was a bomb shelter that some no-doubt patriotic landlord had built into the bottom of an old tenement back in the 1950s.  Like much of the South Bronx, the tenement had burned in the chaos of the ‘70s, becoming first a flophouse and then a skeletal old eyesore caught in the heart of a neighborhood most civilized folks liked to avoid.  Frank had discovered the bones of the building lying vacant in the late ‘90s, but it wasn’t until he and Jaynie started running regularly with Draygho that the three of them together had chased off the squatters and turned the ruins into something more useful.  Draygho had done most of the heavy lifting while Frank himself had used a heavy rock drill to cut through the building’s cement walls and into an adjacent set of secondary electrical cables.  A little low-voltage splicing and some informal wiring was all it had taken to provide the place electricity from a virtually untraceable source.  After that, they’d repaired the plumbing, swept and mopped, put in some cheap furniture and a couple of old Army cots, repaired the air circulation system, and dropped in some canned food, and then they’d had an invisible hideout less than ten minutes outside of Manhatttan, New York.  
It was a miracle that the building above the safehouse hadn’t been purchased and renovated while Frank had been in Sing Sing, but Frank supposed he had the financial crisis of 2008 to thank for it.  The whole of New York was undergoing investment and gentrification, but Mott Haven’s heart hadn’t as yet seen much of that change.  Developers had concentrated their efforts on the waterline along the East River, leaving the safehouse’s building the same eyesore it had always been.
Frank sat up slowly and swung his feet down off the old Army cot.  He didn’t feel good, exactly, but he felt better, and it wasn’t like he could stay in the safehouse forever.  For one thing, he was hungry, and the safehouse was almost out of food.  Draygho and Jaynie might have stayed there, but they hadn’t made any effort at all to restock the place’s supplies.  
That was typical.  Draygho was big, tough, and useful in a fight, and Jaynie, well…  Frank doubted he would ever get over the pain of losing Jaynie.  But neither of them was what one might call a deep thinker.  They’d used the old hideout for whatever they could and then they’d gone, leaving wreckage in their wake.  In that, Frank felt a kind of kinship with the old place.  Empty food cans lay strewn across the floor, mixed with ruined electronic equipment and spent shell casings.  Trashed furniture was piled in one corner alongside a rack that had once held assault rifles and other tools of the villains’ trade.  Discarded magazines—paper and pistol alike—littered the floor.
Frank sighed.  He was sure the safehouse still held some useful gear, but it would take some time to find it.
He stood slowly and worked his way towards the counter.  His last food was a can of pork and beans that looked like it had been packed in the 60s.  It looked disgusting, but Frank was already covered in stale sweat from three days’ fever, so disgusting was a relative concept.  He wondered briefly if the safehouse’s shower still worked but discarded that until later.  For now, his stomach was rumbling, and if he wanted his body to mend itself, he first had to make sure it had enough fuel.
As Frank ate the pork and beans, he began looking around the safehouse with a more critical eye.  He noted claw marks on the walls and on some of the furniture alongside smashed and splintered wood, and he was cheered by the image of Draygho prowling around the lair in frustration, hurling things and screaming in rage.  Draygho had never been the calmest, most rational of men.  Frank didn’t know if his temper was the result of his ultrahuman biology, or if it was the product of a good old-fashioned broken home, but he could well imagine Draygho’s old bosses in the Luna Park Mob encouraging the big man’s temper.  He wondered briefly if Draygho had beaten Jaynie when he’d gotten upset and found himself shaking at the images his mind conjured in response.  These he set the idea carefully aside.  He was going to settle up with Draygho, but it had to be in his own time, on his own terms.  Now there was a job to do.  Equipment to salvage.  Plans to make.
Frank got up and began looking around.  In a pile in the far corner, he made his first useful discovery—an old leather bomber jacket of the kind once worn by the superhero Kid Zulu.  Frank couldn’t remember fighting the Kid, but the jacket had been his, no question.  It was so heavy; it was obviously lined with Kevlar.  Typically, Draygho had taken the time to tear Zulu’s old Diogenes Society patch from the jacket’s shoulder, but he hadn’t searched its pockets.  In them, Frank found a set of lock-picks and a telescoping metal baton.  
Zulu’s utility belt lay on a nearby table.  It was looted and depowered, and its battery had long since corroded, but in the pouches Frank found a half-dozen carbon-fiber throwing stars and a functional—though wholly depowered—super-capacitor.  That might be useful, Frank thought, depending on what else is here.  He also found a pair of miniature hexachloroethane (HC) smoke grenades, but unfortunately, none of Kid Zulu’s signature exploding caltrops was with them.  Frank shrugged, but he was sorely disappointed.
He got up, walked around, and looked for other useful items.  There wasn’t much.  A pair of extension cords, an old blender, a refrigerator that looked like it hadn’t run in five years or more…  Frank could probably make something out of some of that, but it would require time and heavy fabrication, and he doubted he could afford either.  Finally, he worked his way back towards his old workroom.  The place was a disaster.  Workbenches shattered and broken, tools destroyed, pictures in frames smashed and torn.  He shook his head and started to turn around, and that’s when he saw it.
His safe.
It was still standing in the corner.  Claw marks scored the front, and there were heavy dents on either side, but the thing was still anchored in place.  It was still intact.  Draygho had obviously tried and failed to get into it, and then he’d apparently gone into a berserker rage, attacking Frank’s old stuff rather than heading out to the store for a simple cutting torch.  
What a fucking idiot, Frank thought, smiling.  Thank God almighty for stupid gangster fuckers.
Frank knelt down, spun the wheel on the safe twice, and then twisted the knob slowly and carefully.  The safe wasn’t tricky, but it was precise.  You had to get the numbers right on.  It was a good piece of gear.  After ten years, the door opened right up.
Inside there was a treasure trove.  Three white phosphorous grenades, two tear gas grenades, and a single grenade that mixed tear gas with weaponized hydrochloric acid that Frank had designed himself to neutralize SWAT team gas masks.  There was also a replica Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol that Frank had made himself using a titanium alloy and carbon fiber for the grip.  It would react to neither magnets nor some old-style metal detectors.  It lay in a quick-draw holster alongside four already-loaded magazines.  It had once belonged to Jaynie, Frank knew, and he picked it up with more than a little satisfaction.  Titanium was a bitch to work; this was one piece Jaynie wasnever gonna replace without him.  The real prize lay underneath, though.  That was where Frank found his old zero-point[1] energy projector connected to a trickle-charge, along with an electromagnet belt.  Like Kid Zulu’s belt, the electromagnet’s battery was long since dead and corroded, but since the zero-point energy projector was connected to a power source, its battery would be fine.  Once he’d rewired the thing to accept Kid Zulu’s super-capacitor, both the belt and the projector would kick like Hell.
Frank smiled.  Now all he needed was a little walking-around money.

[1] Zero-point energy is the minimal energy within atoms when at or near absolute zero.  It will absolutely not behave as I’m writing here, but it’s a convenient term for the purposes of science fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Wow great story. I hope there's more to come. Thanks.