3 min read

The Yowling Throng

Does every surgery battle have to end in a booze-fueled riot?

Previously: Our couriers reach their drop-off point: a gymnasium where hundreds of drunk guys are betting on a surgery competition. It goes about as well as you’d expect, with the sisters getting spotted at this men-only event.

— 14 —

Here in the suddenly illuminated aquatic center, several things happen in quick succession:

  • Every man in there—swollen in their sweat-stained business suits, inflamed by a desperate need to feel in control of something—leaps to their feet and ululates.
  • In the pool, Dr. Karl Manz carefully plucks a pearl from the anterior axillary fold of his patient, then proudly holds it aloft.
  • The emcee, trying to keep his balance upon the high dive, cries, “Manz has his pearl! But I will not proclaim him the winner! Because there is obviously some kind of bamboozling going on here!” Then he loses his footing.
  • Vickers fans start mauling Manz fans and vice versa. They tumble down the wooden benches. A few dozen spill into the empty pool and continue the brawl there.
  • A handful of spectators lurch toward Batya with unfocused but intense menace.

Bat tries to ready herself for this menace but is distracted by another mob, this one heading toward Mina, cowering over there by the shallow end. “No! Girls! Allowed!” goes their chilling chant.

Then she’s further distracted by an individual sitting in the front row of the Manz bleachers, the only person in the room not moving. He’s just sitting there, legs crossed, not a care in the world. And he’s looking right at her. And he is, indeed, a handsome gentleman, and there’s a pop of pink on his lapel, which Bat has to assume is a moth orchid, despite not knowing what that flower looks like.

And so she throws herself, quite literally, into the melee. Adrenaline flowing like a raging river of glory, she punches a hole right through the yowling throng, gouging her way in Mina’s general direction. En route, she takes some meaningful hits to the gut and the shins and—yes, again—the eyes.

But she manages to get to the far side of the pool where she boots aside her sister’s assailants, picks her up, and points her in the direction of Moth Orchid.

Mina immediately takes out the delivery envelope and sprints over to the bleachers. She slips on a spatter of blood and drops the envelope, it gets stuck to the tasseled loafer of a fleeing bookie, Bat knocks him over and tears it off his foot and gives it to Mina, who gets back up, runs, twists her ankle, then drags herself the last few yards to where Moth Orchid is relaxing.

“This is for you,” she says, her voice a hoarse croak. “Hope it’s not too late.”

“What have we here?” Moth Orchid says in an unidentifiable accent, stroking his thick brown mustache.

Bat finishes yelling at some guys. (“If you want more you can find me at the whorehouse your dad got fired from because he was so bad at his job!”) (That one could use some work, she thinks.) Then she limps over and sprawls out on one of the benches. “Ahoy,” she says.

“Greetings,” Moth Orchid says. “I must say, this is quite the surprise.” He examines the crumpled bloodied footprinted goldenrod envelope with curiosity. Then he carefully opens it and withdraws a single piece of paper, unfolds it, studies it intently. “Hmm.”

“Good news?” Mina asks, panting.

“You tell me,” he says, turning the paper around to show them. It’s a piece of stationery with the Hawthorne Grain logo embossed at the top. Scrawled underneath, in black ink, are the words NICE and JOB.

“What’s this?” Mina says.

Bat shrugs, way beyond caring about the document or anything else at this point, but then Moth Orchid peels off his mustache and there’s the boss lady, the one who put the pen in her eye earlier this evening, Margaret Feddema, F-E-D-D-E-M-A.

“The Hull sisters deliver,” Margaret says. “Looks like you’re not getting executed tonight after all.”

This has been Chapter 14 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next up: You Girls Look Horrid