CHURCH, The Television Show
The Spook, the man with black hair and a black suit and a black car who had forgotten his own name, worked from home. He was a telecommuter.
“Find retired defense department operative Iron Shield. I need help protecting one of my Tourists.”
The NSA had chatter on everyone’s cell phone. EVERYONES. It wasn’t technically legal, but their methods were so secret that the public didn’t know enough to make them illegal.
They sucked cell-phone transmissions right from the air, just like an FM radio receiver. The waves, floating in the public domain, had no laws protecting them.
Augmenting this reception with spies on the ground, they were able to stalk hundreds of interesting people at a time: Entire networks of people. Say, everyone that worked at a particular nightclub.
When they needed more help than casual stalking could provide, when they needed help from The Judge or The Police or The Corporation, they used Tourists. The Tourist was someone who already warranted investigation. Someone applying for Top Secret Security Clearances, like an Army Warrant Officer, was a perfect candidate. It gave the NSA authority to investigate every person and business The Tourist came in contact with. Phone records, credit card receipts, and emails; nothing was off limits, they even went through people’s trash.
Audio recordings revealed murderers, rapes, assaults, and narcotics trafficking. But they never opened any investigations. The only thing the NSA cared about was catching terrorists.
To the extent any General would care for his soldiers, the NSA kept their Tourists well lubed. And they had a lot of people on the ground watching the Tourist’s back, right up until the day The Tourist became useless. Then they’d abandon the machine they’d built to rust on the metaphorical battle field.
Long retired OSS operative Iron Shield was deaf and blind, but still worked as a teacher at Indian Community College. That’s where Noodle’s Uncle worked.
When you spy on people, it’s incredibly easy to manipulate them. To get a reaction, just tell them what they want to hear. The Spook pretended that the FBI was trying to catch drug dealers. People from the fifties hated drug dealers. The NSA could really care less.
The Spook said dealers at the Indian Community College connected to dealers in The City, and that they were going to use his colleague’s nephew Noodle to catch them red-handed. The Spook told Iron Shield just enough to make things happen.
“Uncle, what’s your wife’s maiden name?” Iron Shield asked.
“Michelson,” The Uncle responded.
“Aha. And what’s your nephew doing for work?”
“Security at Club Majesty.”
“Aha. You know, we’re hoping to paint another side of my house this summer. Would you give him a call and ask for an estimate?”
It’s that easy. Without knowing it, The Uncle was working for Iron Shield.
Noodle’s Uncle drove to The City to give blood, and then met Noodle for dinner in MetroNorth.
They always ate at The Sandwich Shop. And they were always served by the same waitress.
The Uncle passed Noodle an article about a federally mandated rail line joining MetroNorth to The City that was thirty five years past mitigating the pollution caused by a steel highway the feds dropped on Uncle’s home in the sixties. Noodle passed his Uncle rent money.
“Wow, I feel like a drug dealer!” The Uncle said as he stuffed the envelope into his pocket.
“Don’t say that,” Noodle managed up.
“How’s work at Majesty been?”
“Have you been working there a lot?”
“What’s a lot? I work every day they’re open.”
“Do a lot of people come in every night?”
“Why are you asking so much about Majesty? I don’t have anything to report!”
“How’s the Army going?”
“I want to get on a bus and ship out as a soldier already. But I’m taking the firefighter civil service test next month in case I don’t get in.”
“What do you have to do for that?”
“Uncle, you’re always asking me twenty questions!” Noodle dismissed.
Noodle slept at his Uncle’s house. He saw his cousins. After his father’s death he’d gone high school with them.
When Noodle got back to MetroNorth he found The Roommate’s boyfriend hanging out alone. He had a key.
“I don’t think it’s such a good idea if your boyfriend has a key,” Noodle explained to The Roommate. “He’s a great guy, and I trust him, but I keep business files in the house and it doesn’t make me feel secure to have him come in when no one’s around.”
“Okay,” The Roommate agreed. “I’ll ask for his key back.”
Noodle’s phone rang. It was The Niece.
“Hey Noodle, we’re going down to the beach today to promote Majesty. Wanna join us?”
“Which beach are you going to?”
“Sounds fun, but I can’t today. I have to go to The Club to see The Manager.”
The Niece rode down to Indian Beach in Beachton with The Meat Packer and a car-load of girls from Majesty. The slim young ladies took to their bikinis and hit the sand. They flirted up the guys and handed out flyers to promote The Club.
The Meat Packer wore a light jacket with a lot of pockets. He called a couple of his buddies that lived in town and they hit the beach to sell drugs: Pot, coke, Ketamine, and E.
His guys were the runners. They only carried one sale at a time. That way, if they got caught, whatever they were holding was for ‘personal use’. No crime, no time. Way to be organized.
“How’d you ladies do?” The Meat Packer asked when they returned to the car.
“We passed out like a thousand flyers, ah…so…if only two hundred of those people come out we get to split a grand.”
“Niece!” One of the girls exclaimed. “You threw like half of those flyers in the trash!”
“I got rid of it all!” The Meat Packer bragged. “The beach was packed today! Three grand tax free motherfucker! Still got some coke though – wanna head back to my parent’s house and party? Niece, I’d love to snort something off your perfect little ass.”
Meanwhile, Noodle was stuck indoors with management trying to strike his own deals. He met with The Manager and DJ.
“He’s the easy one,” DJ made clear, “I’m the hard one. And I don’t see why you need more money.”
“When I took this job you said that the pay would be ‘competitive’, without saying anything more. I make fifty-five dollars, pre-tax, per shift. Considering that I’m making sure one thousand people have paid twenty dollar cover every night, I’m earning about 1/400th of what you bring in at the door!”
“What, are you good with numbers or something?” DJ asked rhetorically.
“This job is dangerous! Just the other night I was out on the street with the rest of security, clearing the sidewalk. A guy walked right up to me and said, ‘I know where you live motherfucker, I run the streets of MetroNorth! You live at 29 Candle Street!’ That’s where The Diplomat lives! Now I have to worry about some guy showing up at my doorstep!”
“DJ, we’re always saying to each other what a great job Noodle does, and I know from experience that the lobby sucks,” The Manager positioned. “DJ, let’s take him upstairs.”
“Whatever you want to do.”
On his way out, The Manager pulled Noodle aside. “Ninja, I’ll get you that raise. Write me a letter with how much you want. And take my advice, aim high!” The Manager said and pointed toward the sky.
Noodle left the building thinking he had accomplished something.
When The Barracuda got to work, he overheard The Manager talking to DJ about Noodle’s raise.
“Noodle’s asking for more money? He’s only been working for three months! Who does he think he is?” The Barracuda belittled. “Manager, you should give away all the money and run The Club like it’s a charity or a non-profit or a government entitlement program. The Italian would love that!”
“Noodle gets e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y to pay cover. And he doesn’t take any money at the door. He’s honest and he doesn’t steal like other people I know around here,” The Manager shot back.
“Oh, so let’s give away the store just because he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. I don’t know why The Italian ever hired you.”
“You’re jealous man.”
The Barracuda always had the last word. “Let me tell you something, I’ve been working here f-o-u-r-t-e-e-n years! You come in for six months, and you act like you own the place,” he said and walked downstairs to complain to The Prince.
“Fuck The Manager. What does he do? The only reason the staff like him is because he hands them jobs and money before they earn it. He’s taking money out of OUR pockets.”
The Prince laughed.
“Come on, don’t you agree? You should be The Manager!”
The Prince smiled. “The Manager’s our slave!
“What do you mean?” The Barracuda asked.
“He’ll never be able to quit, no matter what we do to him! That F-ing DJ too!”
“Tell me! What do you have on them?”
“You cannot tell another soul.”
“I wouldn’t be doing OUR thing if I were a Rat!”
“We have pictures of him and DJ throwing a kid off of a balcony! That’s why Babylon got shut down and The Manager started working at State.”
“Get out of here! That. Is. Awesome! I’m gonna make his life a living hell!”
“Just don’t tell him why!”
“Did you hear that Noodle crashed his motorcycle after drinking at Dungeon?” The Prince asked.
“Yes! We’ll have to give Big Mac a raise! Did you hear that he thinks he’s going to be a firefighter now?”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“From The Hostess.”
“Fuck firefighters. I’m tired of them screwing with US.”
“Who do they think they are?” Barracuda emulated. “The fucking racket they have…sitting around the firehouse all day wiping their asses with our tax money! And then they go out with their little gang to attack US! If Noodle’s going to join them, then let’s mess him up!”
“Better make sure he’s not with the Army. They’re a nasty bunch to mess with.”
“I’m not scared of the Army,” The Barracuda boasted. “There’s another group that needs to just do their job and leave US alone!”
“Make sure he never served, they stick together like glue,” The Prince warned.
“We’ll get him. I’ll make sure of it.”
“Roommate!” The Barracuda called across The Club. “How’s working with Noodle in the lobby?”
“It’s okay. I liked it better when I got to stand next to him – but after we became roommates The Manager stuck me in the box office – and it really sucks working in there for twelve dollars an hour. I don’ make any tips!”
“That’s because you work for The Manager. You should work for me. I’ll put you in coat check with The Aunt. You can make fifty dollars an hour easy, and you don’t even have to pay taxes on it!”
“I just need you to do something for me.”
“Leave Noodle’s back door unlocked.”
“Why do you want me to do that?”
“I just want to see how he reacts. I want to see if he confronts you, or if he gets you back. I want to see if he even notices.”
“Okay. You’d better put me in coat check or I’m gonna tell Noodle that you told me to do it.”
‘Hey Manager’ The Roommate texted when she got home to Noodle’s place. ‘I’m going to go work for The Barracuda in coat check…So you’re going to need to put someone else in the box office.’
‘Great…’ he texted back.
The Manager then walked into the back office at the rear of The Club, reached up into the ceiling, and pulled down his NSA phone that he kept strapped above the steel support to communicate with The Spook.
‘Our friends have started to mess with Noodle,’ he wrote. ‘It’s time to put him in play. Let’s see how long it takes him to run.’
On Noodle’s way to work he noticed a couple of very old ladies sitting in the window of The Donut Shop.
They were white, retired, and dressed like they had benefits.
Those ladies weren’t from Noodle’s neighborhood. He lived amongst immigrants. And that was a Gang controlled donut shop.
Noodle waved and winked. The old ladies smiled and waved back. Noodle knew those two little old ladies were up to something. But he didn’t think about The Old People again for a very long time.
To think two elderly women were there to watch him would have been crazy!