Jack awoke with a start in the stairwell where he’d hidden out for more than a day. Deacon was nowhere to be seen. Jack checked his pockets, finding his stash of dwindling cash. He quickly felt a twinge of guilt for the effort. His throat was parched and he ached from hunger, as it was far too risky for either of them to venture out until the heat was off a bit. But he was warm and modestly comfortable, and more or less trusted Deacon. Jack lifted the water jug and wiped the opening with a sleeve, wondering where Deacon had gone off to.
He went up to the next landing and chanced a look out of the busted window. Out past the empty lot and nearby rundown apartment flat, the Chicago skyline shown in the bright morning sunlight. Fresh air poured through the broken window. Jack gulped it in and sank to a step, fighting to divert his thoughts from hunger.
His mind spun to find a way through all this and back to Eva and Jeffrey. With each passing minute, that tore so terribly at his aching heart, Jack was much less interested in who had done all of this than simply being finished with the nightmare he was trapped in. But this wasn’t the movies. This, Jack knew would be a long tough slog.
What he needed was some way to get to a computer. Social media, Facebook, Twitter, email were the best weapons he had, but how to get to them, and how to cover his tracks sufficiently not to alert authorities, which could track him easily. Jack wondered how he might exploit the protests, to cover his tracks or…he didn’t have a clue. A wave of anger swept over him, and he slammed his fist against the peeling plaster wall. His hand burned white-hot with pain, but it helped to focus his thoughts a bit
The irony, he thought, was that the great weight of the status quo, those struggling hardest against inevitable change, and those complacent in their lives were the greatest force for chaos and upheaval. Those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder will not remain compliant there for long. It wasn’t a class or envy thing. It was that they were being robbed of the opportunity to better themselves, and were being blamed for not being happy about that. It was that old ghosts and sins that had forever haunted the nation, like racism, reasserted themselves. It was the perversion of morality that religion was now being used to codify the privilege of wealth as a god-given right.
Those forces threw up impossible barriers, casting themselves as the ultimate arbiters of fairness and law. Those barriers squashed free speech, the salvation of dissent and the right of redress. It force people into antagonistic positions, rich against poor and poor against poor. Those forces of cynicism, and ultimately of abuse, twisted truths, manufactured facts and blithely sowed confusion to polarize and partition good-hearted people, and fling them against one another.
And so they invented the Tea Party, this new conglomerate fully at odds with the original tea party asserting itself against corporatism and privilege. They were hardly a revolution, but rather an affirmation of a massaged and manipulated political line. The intent was to whip them into a fearsome rage by diverting the true assailants of their freedoms and security to constructed cartoons based on race, immigration, class and religion. The inventors of the Tea Party, in partnership with groups like ALEC cocooned and blinded these dupes with nationalism flag waving and the condescension-ist promotion of soldiers returning tragic from war as heroes, despite that these inventors were themselves chicken-hawk cowards.
Jack stood and groaned loudly as the tension of those thoughts threatened to crush him. He washed his hands across his face and started back down the stairs when he heard a noise from the ground floor.
“Deacon?” he said softly, his voice echoing in the stairwell.
When no reply came back Jack’s heart froze. He retreated part way up the stairs, without having a clue where he might go from there. He pondered climbing out a window, and at giving himself up. Both promised equally bad outcomes. He strained over the banister, where he could just catch a glimpse of the dark foyer below, with its stained and broken tiles.
He could hear steps, shuffling and a little uneven. Then, all at once, Deacon appeared, looking up at him. He held a plastic shopping bag. From inside came the wondrous scent of fresh bacon, toast and biscuits. Jack bounded down the stairs, all but fawning over the bag and what lay inside.
“Must be starvin’, boy,” Deacon laughed. “The way you’re practically droolin’ over the bag.”
“I didn’t know where you went. I got worried.”
“No worry,” said Deacon. “No and a gain this fella throws me a little work at his restaurant; washin’ dishes, cleanin’ up. I figured you’d be half-starved.”
They sat on the cold hard floor of the foyer as Jack devoured eggs, a couple of biscuits and three gloriously crispy pieces of bacon. He inhaled it while Deacon watched with amusement.
“Oh my god that was amazing,” Jack exclaimed. “I think that might be the best food I ever tasted!”
Deacon drew a paper from his pocket. It was a wanted flier of Jack. “Stopped by the police precinct. This was on the board. I swiped it, but you are sure in it deep, son.”
“Believe me if I said it was all a lie?”
Deacon looked him square in the eye. “If I didn’t you’d already be in jail, and I’d be sleepin’ between sheets tonight.”
Downtown there was a ruckus along Jackson Street. Sixty or so boisterous protesters, party of a larger group protesting immigration issues in Little Village filled the sidewalk, flanked on the street by a phalanx of police officers on bicycles. The protesters were defiant and charged with bravado and emotion.
“Welcome home!” roared one of the protesters as they triumphantly crossed La Salle, returning to the Bank of America building where the Chicago movement had begun its stand the previous fall. Two of their group had been arrested, peaceably at the ICE enforcement offices.
A few miles to the north, along Lincoln Avenue, Dan Holman sat in a fast food place, waiting on a former partner who had retired a few years earlier. He didn’t have to wait long.
A dark blue Lincoln Towncar pulled up across the street. Out stepped a big man, in every sense of the word. His name was John Bohannon, an old-school Irish cop. He was dressed in a dark brown suit and an open-collar white polo shirt. Leading with a pronounced belly, Bohannon strode across the street as if he owned it.
Big John was far less imposing than he appeared, though imposing enough when he needed to be. He’d grown a big mustache, which Dan looked rather odd on the normally clean-shaven Bohannon. It was the consequence of a second sort of career as an extra in locally filmed movies, and a bit of stage acting. The mustache was for a period piece, yet another iconic Chicago gangster film. The rest of the time he freelanced as a private investigator.
Powerful as he was, Bohannon practically pulled the door off the hinges as he entered. Dan rose to greet him and was immediately smothered in the man’s giant arms.
“God its good to see you, ya ugly piece of…” said Bohannon.
“Had lunch?’ said Dan. “I’m buying.”
“Nothing, thanks. So what the hell did you get into the middle of that you need me to dig your ass out?” Big John smiled warmly. “As usual!”
“I was looking into something for my niece and I ended up getting strong-armed by a couple suits and ties.”
“Ain’t like you to get bullied and not hit back. Losing your touch, Dan? Who were they with?’
“Didn’t say,” Dan replied. “They sure had the captain shitting his pants.” He took a piece of paper, the one Eva had given him and pushed it along the narrow counter to Bohannon.
The big man picked it up, holding it out a bit to see more clearly. “So who is this guy?”
“That’s the guy who got me the visit.”
Bohannon nodded thoughtfully and stuffed the paper in his inside jacket pocket. “Don’t like people messing with my old partner. That’s my job.”
“Appreciate the favor, Johnny. Just be careful of these guys. I don’t think they like playing by the rules.”
“Who said I was either,” he winked. “Give me twenty-four hours.”
Eva couldn’t help herself and drove the city streets that evening in a vain attempt to find jack. Time was running out, and she could feel it slipping away, sliding towards a calamitous culmination of all of this. When exactly that calamity would come was impossible to say, but she could feel it nonetheless. Sometime around midnight she returned home, disappointed and discouraged. Exhausted, she laid her head down on the couch. There was a knock at the door. She sat up quickly and trudged wearily down the hall. Looking through the window she felt suddenly save and pulled open the door excitedly.
“Oh my god!” she exclaimed.