Our author Larry Winchester, that master of montage, now returns the harsh truth of his camera’s eye to Dick, Daphne and Harvey, last seen getting ready to board a flying saucer in a space station somewhere between the earth and the moon. Our intrepid trio are accompanied by Daphne’s father the legendary Mac MacNamara (recently revealed to be of alien provenance), his cheerful mechanic Buddy Kelly, and the unwilling Frank and Brad…
(A glancing acquaintance with our previous episode might be helpful; or go here to see where the whole sad story began.)
The yard-wide TV monitor showed (with excellent color resolution) Paco and Derek staring at Paco’s little black-and-white TV, the small screen of which showed Mr. MacNamara, with his trench coat and hat removed, sitting in a swivel chair at a console, turning dials and flicking switches, observing readings in various little windows while keeping an eye on the big screens above, including the one showing the almost immobile Paco and Derek.
Dick Ridpath and Buddy Kelly sat to the right and left of Mac, and Buddy busily turned and flicked and pressed his own dials and switches and buttons.
This “bridge” was a circular room with television screens running all around the bulkheads, just as in the earlier flying saucer, but this room was larger, cleaner, more polished, newer.
One TV screen showed the space station receding, and seeming to be sailing directly toward the large cratered ball of the Moon.
Another screen showed the Earth, now drawing closer, and taking up more and more of the screen with its clouds and blues and greens and rich browns and its problematic race of human beings.
Other monitors showed, in slow motion:
Hope tying Moloch’s hands behind his back with his old school scarf as Enid covers him with her .45, while all around them in a frustrated circle the Motorpsychos gun their engines and brandish various firearms.
Doc Goldwasser and Big Jake driving in Jake’s shiny new red ‘69 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible with a pair of fuzzy dice swinging from the rearview mirror.
Cleb and Attie Parsons, bicycling through the desert.*
And Derek and Paco, watching themselves being watched on Paco’s little TV.
Everything about this saucer was more comfortable than the other one our heroes had been in. The bulkheads were painted a soft blue, the floors were of polished parquet, and the swivel armchairs that circled the room were cushioned in plush purple velvet.
Frank and Brad sat grimly a few seats to the right of Dick, Frank smoking a cigarette and Brad a cigar, tapping their ashes into one of the built-in chrome ashtrays that were spaced every few feet on the mahogany ledge of the console running around the room.
Daphne, her gold lamé purse hanging from her shoulder by its spun-gold strap, stood at a neat little refreshments nook, mixing Gordon’s martinis. A sliding door revealed a cabinet filled with liquor and other sundries above a small sink, a microwave, and a stainless steel refrigerator. In an indented nook a large Mr. Coffee exuded a thin steady stream of Maxwell House into a steaming glass pot.
Harvey bowed down, peering into the refrigerator, which was well-stocked with cans and bottles of beer as well as a platter piled high with sandwiches individually wrapped in wax paper.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a drink, Papa?” asked Daphne.
“Not yet, sweety,” said Mac, continuing intently to twiddle, punch and flick. “Gotta keep my wits about me, and to be honest, I’m just a wee bit space-lagged as we call it. I will take a cup of that joe when it’s ready though.”
“Mr., uh, Mr. --” Harvey hesitated.
“It’s MacNamara, Harvey,” said Daphne.
“Mr. MacNamara,” said Harvey, “’s it okay I have one of these beers?”
“Help yourself, son,” said Mac. “I think there’s some Heineken, Beck’s --”
“PBR’s okay with me, sir, thank you.”
“Good,” said Mac. “Well, Dick, it looks like we still might have time to get your two friends out of their little jam down there. Fortunately we have what's known as a relative time differential between the earth’s dimension and the one we’re in now --”
“Fishtown,” said Daphne, filling two martini glasses from a glass pitcher, and holding back the ice cubes with a long metal spoon.
“That’s right, sweetheart. Events on the earth happen at about one-twentieth the speed of this dimension, thus the slow-motion on the views of the earth you see on the screens here.”
He indicated the one screen showing Enid shoving Moloch slowly toward her truck.
Daphne came over with two martinis and handed one to Dick.
“Ah. For this relief much thanks,” said Dick.
“Cheers, big ears,” said Daphne.
Dick and Daphne clinked glasses and took their first sips.
“Mmm, wonderful,” said Daphne. “Buddy, would you like just a small one?”
“No, thanks, miss,” said Buddy. “I been on the wagon since 1944.”
“Well, that’s certainly impressive,” said Daphne.
“So what are we,” said Frank, “chopped liver?”
“Oh, I’ll get you a drink, Frank,” said Daphne. “Although I don’t know why I should -- the way you’ve been treating the entire human race like your little play-toys.”
“Hey,” said Frank, “remember, you’re only half human yourself, and your old man there is one hundred percent one of us --”
“Don’t you talk about my father,” said Daphne. “I’ll come right over there and slap your face and don’t think I won’t.”
“It’s all right, sweety,” said Mac, still working his dials and switches.
Brad leaned over toward Frank and whispered through his teeth: “Frank, put a lid on it.”
“Fuck you, traitor,” said Frank, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear quite clearly. “Yo, Mac, tell your daughter here. Fill her in. Tell her how you were in on the whole World War II caper from the start. Tell her how it was your idea to get the Japs allied with Hitler. You thought it’d be more -- how’d you put it -- ‘more fun’ I think was the phrase you used. Wasn’t it you who said World War I was just a ‘warm-up act’? That now things were gonna get really wild? Tell her about it, Mac. You wanted some kicks, didn’t ya? Who gave a fuck if thirty million earthlings bit the big one? You wanted to play soldier, secret agent, big shot, tough guy, lover boy. Go on, tell her, Mac.”
“How’s that java, sweety?” Mac asked Daphne.
“I’ll get you a cup,” she said. “Black, right? Buddy, would you like a cup?”
“Four lumps and lots of cream, miss,” said Buddy.
“Righto,” said Daphne. She put her drink down on the ledge of the console near Dick and headed back to the refreshment nook. Harvey leaned against a counter near the refrigerator, drinking from a can of Pabst. His revolver was shoved into his waistband.
“I like my martinis bone dry, Mrs. Ridpath,” said Frank. “Icy cold and two olives.”
“Hmmpf!” was Daphne’s reply.
“Cool it, Frank, please,” said Brad.
“Better make Brad a double,” said Frank. “He’s nervous.”
“Frank,” said Harvey, “I ain’t gonna tell you again. Shut the fuck up.”
“Yeah,” said Frank. “Big man, with a roscoe stuck in your belt.”
Harvey drew his revolver from his belt and laid it down on the nearby ledge.
“Ain’t got no gun in my belt now, Frank. You wanta try me?”
Frank got up from his chair.
“Frank, sit the fuck down,” said Brad.
“Shut up, Brad. Hey, kid -- you wanta tangle? Watch this. Boom.”
Frank metamorphosed instantly into Bull Thorndyke in all his brutish glory -- six feet four inches and three hundred and two pounds of reeking raw nastiness, dressed in greasy denim overalls, a tattered ten-gallon hat, brownish-grey long-johns and shit-stained cowboy boots with duct tape wrapped around the toes.**
“Boom,” he said. “How you like this, soldier boy?”
“Jesus,” said Harvey.
“Oh my God,” said Daphne. She had brought out two cups with saucers and she stood there holding the coffee pot.
“C’mon, soldier boy,” said Bull. “Let me introduce your face to your asshole, motherfucker.”
“Frank,” said Brad.
“Shut your fuckin’ mouth, Brad. I’ll deal with you later.”
“Hey, Frank --” said Mr. MacNamara.
“What you want?” said Bull.
Mr. MacNamara pulled a Colt Python snubnose out of a belt holster on his left hip, pointed the gun at Bull and cocked the hammer.
“I want you to cut the shit,” said Mac. “Now change back to Frank and sit the fuck down or you’re gonna wind up as dead as the real Bull Thorndyke did.”
Bull hesitated a moment, then metamorphosed back into Frank.
“You guys got no sense of humor,” he said. “Look, Harve, no hard feelings, okay? Hey, Mac, okay if I make me and Brad a coupla libations of the alcoholic variety? I mean, no reflection on the service, but I’m gettin’ thirsty here --”
Mac lowered the hammer on his pistol, put it back into its holster, and turned back to his dials and switches.
“I don’t give a fuck what you do, Frank; just stay out of my way and keep your trap shut.”
“Thanks,” said Frank. “I love you too.”
Brad just shook his head.
Dick sipped his martini. He had swiveled his chair all the way around, and he kept his eye on Frank.
Frank waited while Daphne filled the two cups with coffee. Harvey picked up his pistol and shoved it back into his waistband. Daphne added cream and sugar cubes to one cup, stirred it, and then brought the thick diner-style cups and saucers over to Mac and Buddy.
Harvey stepped back a bit as Frank came over to the mini-bar.
“You people are just fucked up, man,” said Harvey.
“Funny talk coming from an earthling,” said Frank, opening the freezer compartment of the fridge and taking out an ice tray. “And maybe you should be careful what you say. After all, you’re talking about Mrs. Ridpath’s papa here.”
Daphne handed the cups and saucers to her father and to Buddy.
“Thank you, honey,” said Mr. MacNamara.
“You’re welcome, Papa.”
“Thanks, miss,” said Buddy.
“You’re welcome, Buddy. Enough cream?”
Buddy took a luxurious sip.
“Perfecto,” he said.
“Good,” said Daphne. She picked up her own drink. “Oh, and by the way, Frank,” she called across the room, “my father is nothing like you.”
“Oh, sure, sure,” said Frank. Having dumped a trayful of ice cubes into the pitcher, he poured about half a bottle of gin into it.
“Yes,” said Daphne. “Sure.”
Frank didn’t bother adding vermouth. He brought two martini glasses down from the cabinet, and, after shaking the pitcher around a bit in his hand, he filled the glasses, using his left index finger as a strainer. He put the pitcher down, licked his gin-soaked finger, then picked up the olive jar.
Daphne touched her father gently on the shoulder.
“Papa --” she said.
“Sweetheart,” he said. Holding his coffee cup in his left hand, he was still intently pressing buttons with his right hand, checking gauges, gently adjusting dials.
Dick sipped his martini, silent, watchful.
Mr. MacNamara finally took his first drink of coffee, nodded his head in approval, took another good drink, then laid the cup and saucer on the console ledge.
“Okay, Buddy,” said he said, “keep her steady as she goes, and give me a two-minute warning before we engage the woofer.”
“Yes, sir, Major,” said Buddy.
Mac swiveled around in his chair, took out his cigarettes, offered the pack to Dick and to Daphne, who both declined. He shook one out for himself. He took out his lighter, lit himself up, and looked at Daphne, sipping her drink as if contemplatively.
“I guess I owe you some sort of explanation, Bubbles,” he said.
*Click here to revisit Cleb and Attie's last appearance, which was only, like, a year-and-a-half ago.
**Bull Thorndyke's one and only previous appearance in our series was way back in Episode One.
(Continued here, and until the bitter end.)