It’s Fourth of July, which in America is a holiday to celebrate when Paul Revere freed the slaves from the British by ringing his magic bell or however Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are rewriting history now.
Anyway, I was trying to think of something patriotic to post, but I’m too cynical to have a patriotic story in my arsenal. Then I remembered I do have part of a story involving a fireworks display that goes horribly wrong. No, not because of a firework blowing someone up.
In Change of Heart, Tales of the Scarlet Knight Volume IV, a Russian madman has come to Rampart City and frees the animals at the zoo. Our hero Dr. Emma Earl tries to stop him but some of the animals have already gotten loose. They make their way to the big plaza downtown where there’s about to be a fireworks display. The heroic police Captain Lottie Donovan is there for the festivities when the shit hits the fan.
And afterwards, Emma goes clubbing!
One of the annoying things about being a police captain were the public appearances. As a sergeant and then a lieutenant, Lottie Donovan had rarely had to waste time shaking hands and waving to the public. Since being promoted to captain nine months earlier, she found she spent a lot more of her time these days politicking and pushing papers around her desk.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Besides the substantial pay increase and added insurance benefits, she also got a front row seat for the fireworks tonight. She couldn’t help thinking there were a lot of better things for her to be doing at the moment, real-life fireworks going off around the city that she could prevent.
Lieutenant Cielo, her new aide, leaned over in his chair to whisper, “A lot of crackpots on the phones tonight. We’ve got at least ten calls about animals running through the streets.”
“Yeah. Big ones: elephants, rhinos, hippos, and such. It’s crazy.”
“Has anyone checked with the zoo?”
“We’ve got a black-and-white heading over there. You don’t think it’s a prank?”
“Maybe one or two calls, but ten? It’s either mass hysteria or something’s up.”
“Should we head back to the office?”
Captain Donovan looked around at the dignitaries on the stage with her. The last thing she wanted was to set off a panic by taking off. “We’ll stay put for now, but keep on it.”
Captain Donovan flinched at this, still unused to people addressing her as a superior officer. She wondered again why she had accepted the promotion. But then it was either her or some corrupt idiot like Captain Kramer had been before he received his just reward. At least with the promotion she had more authority to put heat on Don Vendetta and the rest of Rampart City’s criminal underground. Not that it had done much good so far.
The mayor finished a rambling speech on the city’s bright future by motioning for a ten-year-old girl to be brought forward. She was a fourth grader at Madison Elementary who had won some kind of essay contest about Rampart City’s future. The girl looked scared to death as she read her essay, her cheeks flushed red and eyes focused on the paper. “In the future everyone will be happy,” the girl said just as the ground began to rumble.
At first Captain Donovan thought someone must have lit off the fireworks too early. But there were no colored explosions in the sky. She leaned towards Cielo to ask him what was going on when the crowd began parting and people began screaming.
A moment later Captain Donovan saw the elephants. There were two of them charging through the crowd gathered in Executive Plaza to watch the fireworks. Captain Donovan squinted at them, her mouth going slack when she saw a red-and-gold figure clinging to one of the elephants. “What the fuck is she doing?” the captain asked herself.
Beside her, Cielo said, “What do we do?”
“Get these people out of here and call animal control.” Captain Donovan bolted from her seat to snatch the little girl who was gamely continuing to read her essay.
“Is that an elephant?” the girl asked.
“Yes, it is,” the police captain said, not sure what else she could say. “Where’s your mommy and daddy, sweetheart?”
The girl opened her mouth to answer but only a scream came out. Captain Donovan saw the elephants weren’t alone. A mix of other African creatures came after them, including giraffes, gazelles, and hippos. The animals stampeded through the crowd, people screaming as they tried desperately to get out of the way in time.
The stage definitely wasn’t going to deter the animals much. The mayor’s security team was already hustling him away towards Robinson Tower, where he would be safe from the rampaging creatures. Captain Donovan decided to follow suit, carrying the little girl over her shoulder. The girl shouted for her parents, pounding the captain’s back to get her to let her go.
“We have to get you to safety. Your parents can take care of themselves.”
Captain Donovan had neared the front doors for Robinson Tower when she saw something lunge towards her out of the corner of her eye. Reflexively she spun around to protect the girl as the creature collided with her. Teeth sank into her left arm, prompting her to scream. The little girl’s scream echoed this though the creature hadn’t bit her.
A shot rang followed by something heavy falling against the captain’s body. She turned her head to see a vaguely dog-like head with rows of sharp yellow teeth. The weight fell away as Cielo pushed the body off of her. “What was that?” she asked.
“A hyena, I think. Oh shit. We’d better get you to the medics.”
“In a minute.” Captain Donovan rose to her feet, still carrying the little girl despite the pain in her left arm. The doors to Robinson Tower opened, allowing her inside. She collapsed to her knees just as she reached the security desk.
It was one in the morning before Emma gave up on trying to find the remaining animals—and this Koschei character. She had eventually herded the elephants back into the zoo, where zoo personnel were ready with tranquilizers. The rhinos and hippos proved even more difficult, the former nearly goring her and the latter nearly stomping her. Stripping off the armor at Ms. Chiostro’s house, she could already see bruises beginning to form.
Not surprisingly, Ms. Chiostro had heard nothing of the stampede at the Independence Day celebration. She was waiting for Emma in front of a new nightclub called the Blue Angel, tapping one foot impatiently. “I was beginning to worry you might keep me standing here all night,” the witch said.
“It’s all right. We still have plenty of time. Come on.” The bouncer didn’t give them any trouble as they went inside. The loud techno music was enough to give Emma a headache, but she didn’t say anything.
At the bar, Emma ordered a whiskey. She rarely drank more than the occasional glass of wine, but this had certainly been the kind of day to warrant something stronger. She gulped it down in one shot before signaling for another.
Ms. Chiostro patted her on the back. “Are you feeling all right? We can go home.”
“I don’t have a home,” Emma said.
“Yes, of course. I’m sorry. I meant we could go back to my house if you’d like.”
“No, it’s fine.” She drained the second glass of whiskey as quickly as the first.
“How about we dance and get our minds off of all this?” Emma didn’t have much choice; Ms. Chiostro was already pulling her off the stool to the dance floor. Despite her exceptionally good reflexes, Emma didn’t have the rhythm for dancing, but from the look of it, neither did Ms. Chiostro. They imitated the people around them as best they could, though Emma was certain they must look like idiots.
It wasn’t bad enough to keep two young men from deliberately bumping into them. “Hi,” one of the men said to Ms. Chiostro. “You guys looked a little lonely.”
“Oh, we were,” Ms. Chiostro said, her voice taking on a higher pitch to sound younger. “My name is Agnes. This is Emma.”
“I’m Brad. And this is Brett.” From their beefy forearms, Emma wondered if they worked for Don Vendetta. If not her, they might work for another gang in the city. Or they might just be athletes.
The latter turned out to be the case. As they clumsily danced to another song that sounded very similar to the first, Brett told her he was a heavyweight on the Rampart City State wrestling team. “That’s nice,” Emma said, trying to sound impressed. The wrestler went on to quote his statistics while Emma pretended to listen. She turned her head to see Ms. Chiostro already had her hands on Brad’s rear.
“Would you mind if we go back to the bar?” Emma asked.
“Whatever you want, babe.”
At the bar, Brett suggested they get a bottle of tequila. Emma could already sense he wanted to get her drunk; she didn’t want to think what might happen then. They clinked their glasses together and then took their shots of tequila at the same time. Emma slapped the bar as the liquor burned down her throat.
“Oh yeah!” Brett shouted. “Let’s do it again.”
“OK, but first I need to use the little girl’s room.” Before Brett could protest, she patted his arm. “I’ll be right back.”
She didn’t like to lie, but it seemed the only way out of the situation short of demonstrating a few new holds to the wrestler. She found an unoccupied stall and then sank down on the seat, burying her face in her hands.
She looked up to find Ms. Chiostro poking her. “Come on, dear, it’s four o’clock.”
“I was asleep for two hours? What about Brett?”
“I think he found someone else to play with. So did that skunk Brad. Let’s go.” With a flash of light, they appeared in the guest bedroom—thankfully without any lions waiting for her. Heaving a relieved sigh, she collapsed onto the bed.
Happy Independence Day! As the convenience store clerk in “The Simpsons” (not Apu but one in Port reallylong name) says to Homer when he wants to buy fireworks, “Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”
Wednesday the first Rogue Mutt Classics revisits the first-ever blog entry! (For this blog, not all blogs. What was the first-ever blog entry? Probably, “Testing, testing, 1-2-3.” Or gossip about a celebrity.)