Trenchcoats and Cutthroats 3 - Springsteen's Ex

Writers:


 

dik miller

It had been a long, slow, dreary, dull, fatuous day. Then again, most days are like that when you have nothing to do.

I'm Dik Miller, Private Eye. I've spent the last few months as Political Correctness Enforcer for the Faculty of Engineering at the University of British Columbia. It's though work, but I like it that way. I'm a tough guy.

Unfortunately, summer was here, and the Engineering students were off working or playing or whatever the hell it is they do when they're not in school - probably drinking beer. Which is what they do when they're in school. But never mind. It meant that my work was done for the summer. I was, in fact, completely at a loss for anything to do.

I was sitting in my office in the bowels of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering building. My feet were up on my desk.

The phone rang.

"Dik Miller, Campus Political Correctness Enforcer, at your service," I said into it.

"Dik, is that you?"

"That's what I said. 'Dik Miller, Campus Pol--"

"It's really you. Dik Miller, Private Eye."

"I have gone my that name." I was getting a little irritated. "Who the hell are you?"

"Guess."

I thought for a moment. "Moammar Gadhafi?"

"Nope."

"Damn. I should have realized. You don't have an Arabic accent."

"You're right. I don't. Guess again."

"Milton Berle."

"Closer."

"Erik Nielsen, former Deputy Prime Minister?"

"No."

"Leslie Nielsen, his brother and famous movie actor?"

"Uh, no. Look, you're obviously not getting any closer. It's El Loco."

"Who?"

"El Loco!" he exclaimed.

"Sorry, you must have the wrong number." I hung up.

The phone rang again about ten seconds later.

"El Loco, dammit!" he yelled. "You know, one of the P.I.'s!"

"Er," I countered, "I don't remember you as being one of the PI's."

El Loco sighed. "That's because I was thrown into a bog and died."

"Oh," I said.

"But you should remember me. I was right in on it with Bernard Bear, Jake Gerbil, the whole lot."

"Yeah, okay," I said, "I remember you." I didn't. "What do you want?"

"It's Masters."

I sat bolt upright in my chair. Of course, with my legs still propped up on my desk, I screamed in pain and rebounded back, tumbling over backwards onto the floor.

"Shit," I hissed. "Where is he?"

"That's the problem. He's everywhere. He just showed up on SuperChannel."

"He's taken them over?"

"I don't know. Can I come talk to you in person?" Loco asked.

"Sure." I explained where I was and hung up the phone.

Maybe this day wasn't going to be boring after all.

el loco

I hung up the phone and took the piece of paper that I used to write the directions to Dik's office, and headed out to the Loco-motion. It took me a while to get there, as I tend to be directionally challenged.

I walked down the corridor, , down the stairs a few flights, and to Dik's office. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer. I tried the handle, and found it open. As I walked in, a series of flashbulbs went off, and a rather crude net dropped on me from the ceiling.

"Arg!" I cried.

This apparently woke Dik, and he proceeded to help me with my recently acquired encumbrance.

"What the hell was that for?" I demanded.

"Well, I wasn't sure who you really were, and so I decided to try out my new

security system. It works." he said confidently.

"Great, I'm glad to be of service."

I reorganized myself, and regarded Dik. He had changed since I had last seen him. Changed in a subtle way. It must have been the boots.

"We've got some work to do" I started, "Masters is on the loose, and I think this time he has a plot."

I was about to continue when I realized that Dik was eyeing me in a wary sort of way.

"What?" I asked.

"What?" Dik replied.

"What?!" I retorted.

"What!" He shot back.

"WHAT!" I exploded.

"WHAAAT!" he screamed.

"Why are you staring at me that way?" I finally broke the deadlock.

"I thought you died in a bog, two stories back." he third-degreed.

"Well, I did and I didn’t. You see, I was clinically dead there in the bog, just past the runway where I was hurled from the transport that you guys took off in. But, a group of girl guides came along and used me to get their Life-Saving badge by administering CPR on me mere moments before my brain was affected." I explained.

"Well, there's that plot inconsistency out of the way..." he relieved.

"Anyway...as I was saying, Masters....."

And I revealed the shocking truth.

dik miller

It turns out that Loco had discovered indirectly what I, and the rest of the PI's, had feared since our last encounter with Richard Masters: that he had somehow turned himself into a virtual person, his essence traveling through the information networks worldwide. He would occasionally show up on, say, SuperChannel, and scare the bejesus out of some old couple watching "Psycho IV." In addition, he was able to misdirect phone calls, alter faxes, and all sorts of other things - but he had only started in the past week or so. Obviously it had taken him some time to orient himself to his new existence.

"Well," I said, after Loco had finished explaining, and was completely out of breath, "there is obviously only one thing that we can do."

"What's that?"

"Find out some way to turn Masters back into a real person, then kick the shit out of him."

"That's been difficult in the past," Loco noted.

"We'll just have to consult the person who helped Masters turn himself into an electronic ghost."

"Who?" Loco said. "If I find that guy, I'll kill him!"

"Uh, well, it was Jake. Jake Gerbil."

"What?!"

"Well, you see, when we were pursuing Masters around the Universe last time around, Jake came up with this thing he called the Principle of Cellular Phones, where, since cellular phones enable you do to things that make it pretty well as if you were where you were phoning, without actually having to be there, there's about a 50-50 chance of you actually being there."

Loco looked at me for a few seconds. "What?!"

"Masters used a cellular phone to transport himself to a phone number not in service."

"Uh, right. So all we have to do is get him to come to some place where there is a working phone."

"Maybe," I said. "Right now, I'm not sure if the Principle of Cellular Phones might cause this story more trouble than it's worth."

"What do you mean?"

"The Law of Plot Devices. If a plot device causes a story to have too many loopholes, or makes it incomprehensible, it ceases to exist."

Loco sighed. "That would be inconvenient."

"I'll call up Jake and see what he thinks." I picked up the phone and dialed.

The other end of the line rang. And rang. And rang.

el loco

All the time Dik was telling me about this Jake character, I had been feeling like I was in some cheesy detective story. Or I had major Deja Vu.

'Jake. Jake Gerbil' I thought to myself, 'I remember that name....somehow, it is vaguely, almost eerily familiar.'

It was a problem that I laboured on until the spark. I suddenly remembered the deck of cards I had in my concealed pocket, and removed them. I took the cards from their carrying case and ruffled through them, and pulled out the Jake of Clubs. There he was...my long lost cousin Jake.

"Pedro!" I shouted.

This startled Dik, who dropped the phone, and shot me a look.

"What?" he said, confused.

"Me. I just remembered my given name, Pedro. Jake is my long lost cousin from the motherland. Wow, I could almost flashback, but I wont." I said, relieved.

"Good," said Dik, "artistic licence is a dangerous thing with some people."

"I think these still work," I said, concentrating on the card.

alfred tood

While he was doing that, several other things were happening. One of those involved me, Alfred Tood.

I'm a ... go ahead and guess ... I dare ya ... Private Investigator and I have a business card to prove it. I've only just recently entered the field and I'll be honest, I'm not a very good PI with my current ratio of solved cases being 0 of 0. Not that this should surprise anyone as I don't advertise or look for work. I applied for the PI license so I could buy and operate high end surveillance equipment on the homes of exciting people. My segue (sp?) into the story is as follows; (ahem) (ah-aheckm-mm)

"Josephine, the thought of you licking me dry after a shower of champagne gives a woody the size of Madagascar but I just can not risk bringing you into my home."

"But Earl! I spend my days dreaming about the nights we spent together in Bombay, I can't let go of you now, I just can't! (sob sob)"

"Jo, it just isn't right ..."

A foreign electronic sounding voice cuts in, "Mortals, you will learn to respect authority. For eternal happiness, dial star 4421. "

"Earl? What are you talking about? Are you making jokes?"

"No Joke Jo. That didn't come from my end, we are being monitored. Hang up!" (Click) (Click)

I took off the headset ad scrawled down the message. This is the third time this week that similar messages had interrupted steamy telephone calls that I have been monitoring with my scanner.

The amazing thing is, after each interruption, the people who were involved in the call have been reported as missing.

It almost sounds like a case doesn't it?

dorkley

Suddenly, a furtive figure appeared and shot the PI to death on the spot.

death bird

And that’s where I came into the picture. After years of being the resident rotting corpse of the Hastings/Pigeon Park area, I decided life as a zombie had no room for advancement. One day after being ripped off buying a bottle of moldy piss sold to me as tasty turpentine, I knew I had to get myself out of this rut, to somehow find enough cash to finance my unzombifying experiments. I thought long and hard before I came up with the idea for my phone sex operation. Since most of my throat was gone anyway, it was easy to alter my voice from the raspy groan of a dead guy to the sultry moan of a sexy chick. Anyway, after my top client who liked to call himself 'Earl' spend his entire inherited fortune on jollies via me, I knew someday I would have to repay him, and that meant more than just a quick hand-job. As luck would have it, the day Earl was shot dead was exactly the same day I perfected my unzombifying formula!

I knew when our phone connection was cut that he was in trouble, so I raced over to his apartment. I knew where it was because he constantly begged me on the phone to come over and twizzle his twazzlers. Since he knew me only as 'Josephine', I figured it mite be a good idea 2 smear on some lip-stick in order not to frighten him. I arrived on the scene just after the ambulence crew showed up. There seemed to be a lot of confusion as one small man with a 'Bolus Rules' t-shirt ordered the paramedics into increasingly funny situations. This diversion provided me with plenty of time to inject my serum of draino-crystals and ketchup into the veins of dead Earl. After a few moments, his skin took on the rosey hue of aliveness and his eyes popped open instantly. He stared at me in horror and said:

'You're the Death Bird!! I thought for a second there you might be Josephine, the girl I masturb-'

'Masters!' I interrupted, the whole senario coming back to me in a flash when he spoke that terrible name. 'We'll discuss Josephine and my smeared lipstick, as well as that rash on your penis later, right now we've got to get to Dik Miller's office immediately!'

We ran out of the building after Earl kicked the nuts of the man in the Bolus t-shirt who was trying to get us into a crazy compromising position with the paramedics.

dik miller

"Hmm," I said. "No answer at Jake's place. That's odd, especially since I called his cellular number."

"What are we going to do?" Loco asked.

"The best thing would be to get out of this hole of a basement, take a ride in the Loco-motion, and see how many of the other PI's we can get a hold of before we start on our quest to eradicate Masters for the last time."

"The last time?"

"Yeah."

Loco looked concerned. "Do you mean 'last time' in the John-Lennon-is-dead-and-the-Beatles-are-gone-forever sense, or in the 'Star- Trek-6-we-say-it's-the-last-one-wink-wink-nudge-nudge' sense?"

"The Star Trek sense, of course," I replied. "What do you think I am, stupid?"

Loco didn't answer. Instead, we left my office and bounded upstairs, headed for the Loco-motion (a 1977 AMC Pacer with tinted windows), which was double-parked out back. As we walked out the door, I noticed something off in the distance.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing.

Loco squinted. "Looks like a couple of members of the undead."

We both looked at each other simultaneously. "No," Loco gasped. "It couldn't be."

"Death Bird," I said fearfully. "And he's brought a friend."

el loco

"Ew." I said.

"Bleagh." said Dik.

"Blargh." I revolted.

"Eyouga." heaved Dik.

"Blurgaroonie." I woofed.

Gurgaloo." Dik upchucked.

"Greetings from the world of the Dead." said the Death Bird as he approached, raising his hand to wave, which promptly dropped off. I moved one step closer to nausea.

"Been a long time, Bird." said Dik, in his most convincing PI voice.

"That it has. We have a problem." replied Death Bird, "I know that you know that I know that you know that it's Masters again."

"Yep." Dik and I said in unison. I continued, "We have to find the other PI's and get working on this soon, Masters has a way of outstepping us."

Death Bird casually shed some skin from his frontal lobe area, and grumbled something about Retin-A.

As we stood there waiting for a moment of inspiration, I asked, "So, who's your friend?"

"Hhheiggra" said Death Bird's company.

"Give it a sec," Death Bird said to his companion. "It's the Drano, he's not used to it."

The strange looking gentleman had taken on a rather strange colour, not too unlike that of the Death Bird, but somehow healthier. He wasn't missing any major hunks of skin, and he appeared to be a bit drunk.

"Why did you bring that guy over here?", I quizzed.

"Well, he seemed to be a good addition to my abilities as the strangest PI on the team."

"I see, so you are going to teach him the finer details of being dead, then?"

"Well, hopefully he can pick it up on his own."

At this point, Dik interrupted, "Hey. Enough with the small talk, lets get on the case. We gotta find the other PIs."

"Okay." I said.

"Right, lets go", said Death Bird.

"Olkayg, gletsh gho.." said Earl.

"How did you know that?" asked Death Bird.

"Know what?" I asked.

"You knew his name....Earl."

"Oh, that....um"

alfred tood

This might seem somewhat amazing, rediculous even but I'll try to explain what I saw when I traced Earl's number to his residence after the call. I pulled up in front of his home at 8:40 pm, parked my green AMC gremlin behind a poorly parked Pacer and scanned the street. I took the following notes; Ambulance parked across both lanes of traffic. 12 effeminate paramedics perfoming various bizarre acts around the afforementioned vehicle. (juggling guinnie pigs, swallowing fire hoses, balancing on their noses, etc.) 1 wobbly, greenish man stumbiling along with 1 compost heap. 1 Ross Shaffer lookalike with an Austrailian cowboy hat. 1 middle aged hispanic with a red and white bandana worn around his forehead.

The compost and the green man seemed to know the cowboy and the hispanic. After fighting off the heard of prancing paramedics, they conversed for 10 minutes before waking toward the Pacer in front of me.

I may be a miserable PI, but I knew that this was significant. I climbed out of the passenger side of the pacer where I found the window open. Reaching under my coat I pulled out a Garfield with suction cups on it's feet and a microphone/transmitter burried in the stuffing and installed it in the back window then snuck back to my car which may turn out to be the longest sentance in this whole story.

I pulled away from the curb and returned to my appartment where I tuned in to my recently placed bug.

"..ugly thing doing in your car? I know that you guys get into dingle balls but is is just plain tacky." said a radio announcer style voice.

"Hey man, I did't buy it but if ou found it in my car it's mine. Leave it alone." responded what I guessed was the Mexican.

"El, do you have one, or preferable more of those cardboard evergreen air fresheners? This car really stinks." Continued the first voice.

"Oh bugger off, I'd like to know how you would smell after 2 years of deacay" said a third voice which I knew immediatley to be Josephine. Oh no.

dik miller

"Funny," I said, looking into the passenger side rear view mirror. "You don't see a lot of AMC's around these days, but here we are in a Pacer with a green Gremlin right behind us. Weird."

"Where are we going, anyway?" asked Loco, driving with one hand and holding his nose against the stench of Death Bird and Earl with the other. (I was using my Dik Miller(tm) nose plugs/garlic presses.)

"Jake's place," I replied.

"Where's that?"

"The downtown east side. Right next to the Balmoral Hotel."

"Hey, excellent," said Death Bird. "One of my favourite hangouts."

"Let's get some music in here," said Loco as he aimed the car down Fourth Avenue. He clicked on the radio.

The local lite rock station came on.

"We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the ...

There was a slight, hissing pause. Then:

" Greetings, petty human scum. Somewhere out there, doubtless picking their noses while watching 'Studs' on TV, is a group of inept, scurrilous private investigators. I know you're out there, and I know at least one of you is listening..."

"It's Masters!" Loco gasped. "Take your finger out of your nose, Dik!"

"Oh, man!" cried Dippy. "We're missing 'Studs'!"

"Shhhh!" I shushed.

"...My name is Richard Masters. You, the PI's, know that already. As usual, I am out to take over the world and bring it under my thumb. But this time I have a plan that cannot fail!" He broke into maniacal laughter. "Mwahahahahahahahahaha...Aahahahahahahaaaa!"

"What a goofball," said Earl, who had finally figured out how to speak. "You know this guy?"

"He's our evil arch-enemy," I explained. "But be quiet. I want to know his plan."

"I will not tell you the details of my plans, poor fools, since you have foiled me in the past by knowing too much. But you - Jake Gerbil, Dik Miller, Bernard Bear, Alphonse Trel, El Loco, and Death Bird - well, for you it's too late - you will be the first to die! Mwahahahahahahaha......

"...but the stars that we reached Were just starfish on the beach..."

Loco had turned the radio off. "Now what?" he asked.

"We go get Jake as planned. We knew Masters had something up his sleeve, now we just know what it is."

"No we don't," Death Bird reminded me.

"Oh yeah, right."

el loco

I drove as best I could to the Balmoral. The problem was that as Earl slowly decomposed, his bodily functions no longer under control, he was 'jamming his jeans' so to speak. Not to mention the stench from Death Bird.

"Here we are." I said as we pulled up to the balmoral, and promptly knocked down a parking meter.

"What room?" asked Death Bird.

"I'm not totally sure, but hey, we're PIs, right? Lets figure it out."

We got of the Loco-motion, and headed inside. Just as we got in the door, a real big, real mean, real scary guy came up to us, pointed to Death Bird and Earl, and said, "Hey, no undead in here. We're trying to keep a standard here, ya know."

I could see that the Death Bird was about to unleash his deadly Breath Weapon on this Surrey outcast, and I said, "Okay, Okay....lets not have any violence Death, Earl, wait outside. Watch the Loco-motion, and see if that car that was following us is still around."

With a grumble, they left.

death bird

Earl and I stepped back onto Hastings and decided 2 check out the word on the street. We grabbed the nearest down-and-out wanderer with a pleasing personality and asked his opinion on the situation. The three of us quickly came up with a plan. First Earl walked into the bar, stepped up the counter and asked

'I'll have three beers please'

'Sorry we don't serve zombies here, I already told your friend, so GET OUT' the bartender said Earl walked back out empty handed so it was time 4 our scruffy friend 2 give it a try. He added a few rips to the large collection that belonged 2 his clothes, and tied himself in2 a giant knot, and walked in.

'I'll have three beers please' he said

'Are u sure u aren't dead?' the bartender questioned.

'No I'm a frayed vagrant tied in a knot.' he replied, and was served the drinks.

dik miller

Loco and I stumbled up the rotting stairs. Jake's place was on the fourth floor, and I was glad that I had my Dik Miller(tm) Roach Crusher Boots on.

"Why the hell does Jake live here?" Loco asked.

"He likes the atmosphere."

"You've got to be kidding."

"I'm not," I said. "He can perform his weirdo Bwana rituals up here and no one comes to investigate. They're used to fights, drug dealing, small fires, and really sexist jokes around here, so one guy meditating and summoning spirits from the astral plane is nothing special."

"Oh." Loco looked up the last flight of stairs. "I guess he always was a bit eccentric."

"He spent two years sitting in his car eating pizza outside my old office once," I revealed. "That's how he discovered the Law of Cellular Phones that we're not using in this story."

We reached the door, which was emblazoned with a large poster of Christina Applegate from "Married, With Children." I knocked.

No answer.

I knocked again.

"Hmm. Maybe he left the door unlocked," Loco said, reaching for the doorknob.

"No!" I shouted. "Don--"

But it was too late. He opened the door and stepped inside.

"What?" he wondered. "There's nothing going o--" He froze in mid-sentence.

Jake Gerbil's security system is unorthodox. Rather than having lights, sirens, and tripwires set up around his apartment, he has an astral time dilation field (courtesy of the Bwana Gerbil, I assume) just inside his door. If anyone other than him opens it, they are frozen in time until he arrives to release them. Unfortunately, one remains perfectly awake, but unable to move or speak during this time. I knew all too well; Jake had asked me to water his plants once when he took off to Hawaii. I was in stasis for two weeks, really had to go to the bathroom, and lost my job.

"Way to go, man," I said to Loco, knowing he could hear me. "I hope Gerb's in here somewhere."

el loco

I found the situation that I was in very frustrating. It seemed that I could see everything, hear everything and feel everything, but I was not capable of moving in any way. Hmm, interesting. I thought to myself how I should have adjusted my underwear before I opened the door.

As I stood there motionless, I realized that this scenario was similar to another that happened to me the last time I was out with these stupid PIs, except instead of an astral time dilation field, it was just a bog. I remained there for the good part of the chase until they all thought I had died. It was a simple mistake that anyone could have made, but I hope that it won't be made in this particular story.

I decided that until Jake let me go from this thing, I didn't have much to do, so I decided to go over the things I had to do today.

1. Get out of time dilation field 2. Get milk, cheese, lettuce, ground beef and tacos. 3. Shave my girlfriend’s legs 4. Get Masters.

alfred tood

Richard Masters and the PIs huh? I thought they got into the top ten with "Baby I want your love thing"? Different guys I guess.

So they know who this clown is and they have battled him before. I think these guys would be good to hook up with. (It's a lame way to get into the pack, but I've wasted too much time already)

I suppose I could waste just a bit more. I'm not one to pass up a chance to drik the cheapest draught beer in the city. I entered the Balmoral's bar which is just below my room. (call it coincidence but I live in this hotel also) I waved "hi" to John at the mixing board and ordered three beers from the bar.

"How're things, Alfie?" asked Howard Johnson, the barman.

"I'm doing well, although it looks as though the world may be at risk. (Sip) Hey Howie, I'm serious here, if you call me Alfie again, ever, I will have you dismembered with a garden weasel."

I wandered across the room to where two rotting dead guys were sitting and introduced myself.

"Hi guys, I'm AlFRED Tood pi" I said proudly, "I will capitalize those letters when I get better at it."

They stopped talking and aimed their faces at me.

"I umm, catted your coversation in the car, I think we can work together on this case." I continued.

The one with Josephine's voice tilted his head making a noise like the bursting of a big zit burried in your ear. But said nothing.

"You guys aren't making this easy here. I've been monitoring his intrusions into electronic communications media and I have a theory as to his methods." I voulenteered nervously.

"Have a seat." said 'Josephine'.

It was time to lighten the mood. I had an idea... "Why? are they giving them away?..heh...ok" I said. It didn't go over big. I sat down.

john the dj

Another yelping voice rang in my ear. "Der STONES, man! Play zum STONES, man!" A teetering swarthy man of uncertain age but definite stench was poised a few centimetres from my right ear. I looked down and saw a bead of saliva dripping down his ratty blue CBC Sports jacket. I nodded, trying to shield a grimace, reached over behind my chair, I pulled out a tattered Rolling Stones album. Under the circumstances, "Sympathy for the Devil" was mandatory.

Holy shit. Once again I tried to push aside my feelings of self-revulsion. Here I was, a PhD, but so unemployable that I was reduced to spinning tired slabs of vinyl in the crumbling lounge of the Balmoral hotel. At first I harboured some scraps of interest in the job, thinking that I could possibly insert some music of value into the tedious drone of 60s flashbacks.

But, no, that was impossible. I once tried to play an innocuous Joe Jackson song but was soon pinned against the wall by the irate owner, who, while suspending me with one arm, lazily reached over with his other, carefully lifted the needle, picked up the LP, and crumbled it into fine dust with his hand. After turning back to me, he shook his head and let me drop to the floor. From that time on I stuck to the Troggs and anything by the Stones.

But at least some of the clientele were interesting. Mr. CBC, while scrofulous, was at least amusing, and there seemed to be some intriguing tenants in the building. One squat man always came in, requested "What I Like About You", and then went upstairs to his room before the song had even started. I could hear strange yelping noises occasionally emanating from his room, puncuated by wisps of smoke and a rumbling sound like that of a Chevy Sprint with no muffler.

This afternoon there appeared to be two well-meaning polite leper-zombies sitting near the back of the room, chatting with a tall lad with a shocking length of hair. Just previously a mysterious looking man with an Australian cowboy hat and caked cockroach guts over his boots eased his way in, accompanied by a hyperactive gentleman with a maniac grin. They were too well-dressed to be regulars, or even visitors, here, so I stuck my head around the doorjamb and watch them go up the stairs. They knocked on the door, heard nothing, and then one of them began to shout something but was abruptly cut off.

The Stones were wailing on, so I had a few seconds to go up and investigate. We unemployed PhDs have to keep our sharp analytical skills honed, you know. I went up and found the two of them standing motionless before an open door. Heavy mist slithered around their feet from the dark recesses of the room, while a bright neon hologram sign flashed over their heads:

THESE BURGLARS HAVE BEEN FROZEN IN TIME. PLEASE KILL THEM. THANK YOU.

On the side of the hologram there was a cord that ran up to the ceiling, into a corner, down to the floor, and into a wall jack.

I unplugged it, and the two men blinked.

el loco

After having stood there for about 2 hours before the DJ came and 'unplugged' us, all of the blood had been pooling in various parts of my body. My muscles, also being motionless for that amount of time had stiffened somewhat in the intervening time.

"Ow, ooooo, ouch!" I groaned as the pins-and-needles shot through my body. My arms went limp to my sides and my knees gave out to my decreased mobility.

Dik, obviously dealing with this affliction better than I, looked at me and said, "Goof."

"Sorry, I had no idea that was there." I apologized. It was at this time that both Dik and I noticed the 'Installed by LESCO' sticker near the top of the door. We looked at each other briefly, turned in the appropriate direction, and yelled, "LESCO!"

My appendages were feeling a little bit more mobile at this time, and so I got up, and looked inside.

"Any more funny stuff?" I asked Dik, appealing to his knowledge of Jake's place.

"Not that I know of, lets go in." he replied.

We walked inside and saw the Strange But True looking room. There were socks everywhere, and various pictures hanging from the wall. Over in one corner was a large, smiling blow-up Turtle Wax turtle, that seemed to be sitting sentinal on the room.

"Jake?" I said. No answer.

"Hey, Jake!" Dik called. Again no answer. It seemed as though Jake wasn't communicating with us.

"Well, do you want to wait here?" I asked Dik.

"It's the PI thing to do."

I didn't get out the PI Guide to Investigative Application, as I trusted Dik to know the ins and outs.

"Okay," I said, "I hope he shows up soon."

john the dj

After I unplugged the hologram and the two PIs (as I overheard) had reawakened, I began to ask them about how they arrived to be in that condition. But I was totally ignored as they talked to each other, went into the room, and slammed the door. I heard muffled calls of "Jake!" emanating from within.

"Sympathy for the Devil" was coming to an end so I ran downstairs and put on a Yardbirds tune, wincing as it oozed out of the tinny speakers. I looked around and noticed that the two zombies and the tall guy were becoming more animated in their discussion.

dik miller

"So," Tood was saying, "I was listening in on my scanner when, out of nowhere, I hear this guy laughing maniacally."

Death Bird shook a flake of skin from his temple. "You mean, like this? Mwahahahahhahahahaha...ahahahahahahahaha...mouahahahahahahaaa!"

"Yes, exactly!" Tood agreed.

A large, burly, check-shirted customer came up behind the Bird. "Whaddahell you laughin' at, buddy?" he asked.

Death Bird turned to him. "You." Then he breathed on him. The burly man collapsed in a heap on the ground. Death turned back to Tood. "You were saying?"

Tood continued. "I heard this laughter. That was the first time. That was about a month ago. Since then, I've been hearing it more and more frequently, plus the mention of a name: Richard Masters."

"As I expected," said Death Bird.

"We should tell Dik and Loco about this," said Earl, speaking for the first time in several hours.

"Good idea, Earl." Death Bird stood and led Earl and Tood out the door. Curious, John the DJ stuck "In a Gadda Da Vida" on the turntable and followed them out.

alfred tood

"I have this theory." I began as though I were about to say something interesting. "My theory is this..." I should drag this part out but won't. "I think this Masters character is trying to re-enter the world of the 3 dimentional."

"You're right!" Exclaimed Dippy, "You are in fact a bad PI! That is completely obvious. Does your theory go on to explain how he intends to do this?"

"Kinda. I think he is collecting people in the realm in which he is trapped and will some how use them or their resources to catapult him not only back into our reality but also into a position of absolute power!" I suggested.

"Well, the motive seems to be true to character, the scientific possibility of this sort of thing is no less likely than me speaking to you and it might explain why he hasn't left any messages yet. Alfie, I think you might just have the makings of a plot there." Answered the 'Bird'.

"Ahem, I mean this not as a threat but as a warning: Mr. Bird, if you call me Alfie, I'll force feed you to your mom.”

john the dj

Ah, what the hell. While returning from the washroom I overheard the strange folks seated at the back of the bar mention something about a Richard Masters trying to escape the electronic realm, or something to that effect. The horrifying experience of a few weeks back, when an ethereal voice possessed my stereo equipment to belch ominous threats punctuated by maniacal laughter, immediately came to mind.

"Maybe these guys had something to do with this," I pondered. I put the longest song I could find on the turntable and followed them out the door. The one they called Death Bird murmured all the time in a gargling voice, so I couldn't really understand what he was talking about. He seemed to be engaged in a big discussion with the tall guy. I decided to risk it all, interrupt, and introduce myself.

"Hi there, I'm John, the Balmoral DJ? Yeah, I was the one who played the Stones. Anyways, I overheard you guys talking about Richard Masters and was wondering if you could tell me if you knew about how he took over my stereo a few weeks ago..."

The Australian hatted fellow raised an eyebrow. The tall guy followed, then the blonde guy, then the Death Bird, then the leper, although his fell off right afterwards.

"It happened to you, too, eh?"

"Yes. Do you know anything about it?"

They all started to laugh. The tall guy took me aside, introduced himself as Alfie, and told me all about their PI adventures. I immediately decided to join them, and said so.

"Oh no," they groaned. "Not ANOTHER character."

"Don't worry, I won't say much."

"Well, OK then," gargled the Bird.

And we walked down the street, off to search for Masters.

I heard the song come to an end in the Balmoral as we rounded the corner...

alfonse j.q. trel

"La de da," I whistled to myself as I drove along the freeway for a pleasurely drive. I was in a good mood. I started wondering if I was using too much first person ( or was (is) it second person?) but decided not to care and sometimes just drop the pronoun from sentences. Bored was I. It is only possible to make so much money and feel challenged. The aging population meant my pharmaceuticals were doing well, and the recession meant my bank stocks were doing quite nicely.

So, I was bored. I'd helped save the world, I'd travelled, made love to beautiful women, dropped a few pronouns, made a lot of money. And what for? The dalai lama hadn't given me the answers to life. Something about contributing to the cause kept coming up in his answers. He kept sounding like Tom Vu. "Come to my Seminar, I give you answers to the world. You will see.” My friends said to me "Stupid Dalai Lama, you never get answers to the world.” “But now look at me," was the line. Besides, he had no style. No charm. No suaveness. No Rico Suaveness. Besides, I am to sexy for my llama.

Enough. Time to get back to the reality of making money. One thing about recessions is the poor tend to spend more money drinking, so I decided to check out my latest bargain, the balmoral. I pulled into my reserved spot, parked the jag and went inside. I noticed no music, no dj, nobody helping the crumpled heap on the ground. And it wasn't like I was unobservant, these things just didn't exist or happen. I went up the previous owner who I had decided to retain for a transition period.

"So, Nic, what's with the cafe?" I asked.

"Well, that !#$!@#$$@#! DJ just left after playing some dumb %^&%^** music, a guy just breathed putrid ##%%@# breath on the dumb jerk, knocking him out."

"A great grasp of the English language and the situation you have" I said

"Where is the DJ and the breath of death gentlebeings?" I added.

"Dey just left. Walked right out da door."

"Keep up the good work" I said as I walked out the door.

Yes, Alfonse J.Q. Trel had unexpectedly returned to the world of the PI's, only a few minutes behind. Wouldn't they be thrilled.

dik miller

"So," I was saying to John the bartender as we lounged around on Jake Gerbil's decrepit furniture, "you encountered him as well?"

"Masters, you mean?" John said.

"Yes, yes, of course, you boob. Who else would I be talking about?"

"Sorry. Yeah, he possessed my stereo a few weeks back. Right in the middle of a Sugarcubes song, too."

"Interesting."

"Yes, interesting," said Loco, who was peering around Jake's shelves.

"Interesting," gargled Death Bird. "Hmmm."

"Yes, very interesting," said Earl.

Alfred Tood looked around at us as if we were all raving loonies. "Fascinating," he said.

Just then, I heard the distinctive blatting sound of a lime green Fiat Spider pulling into the parking lot behind the hotel. "Jake!" I cried, leaping up from the couch and spreading open the blinds to see Jake emerging from his car and heading for the door.

"And he brought pizza!" exclaimed Loco, licking his lips furiously.

"Right on!" said Tood, clearing Jake's Bwana trinkets from the coffee table top with one swoop of his arm. "Let's chow down."

el loco

There he was at long last, Jake the PI. And he brought a pizza. Greatness.

We all milled around waiting for him to get up to the room, trying not to drool too much as none of us seemed to have eaten since the beginning of the story. I resumed my examination of his shelves and noticed a few interesting books that you can't buy in just any bookstore:

'The Art of Spanking' 'Doing the Bwana Thang' 'Foresight versus Precognition, an Investigative Approach' 'Journeys of the Mind: Stories of the Bwana Gerbil' 'Examination of Women and the Non-Real' 'Seb-Hood Explained'

As I became absorbed in a inner-cover brief about the Parameters of Parasexology, I realized it was taking an inordinate amount of time for Jake to get up to his room. I looked around and noticed that all the other PIs were just sort of waffling around his room, doing nothing of any importance.

"Isn't he taking a while?" I asked anyone listening.

"Yeah, actually. What's he doing?" Dik replied.

"Hey, look out here." said Alfred as he pointed out the window.

We all crowded around to see Jake talking with a (from what we could see at this angle) rather good looking female.

As we stood there, a cosmic thing happened. It was one of those moments that mental thought, karma and fate all come together in one glorious instant, and interjects a magical event.

"Water-Bomb!" we all yelled at the same time.

All at the same time, we all scrambled to the washroom to fill up our balloons for some artillery practice. When we got there, we realized that we didn't have any balloons, but were well equipped with condoms, courtesy Jake's Trojan collection.

After the last of us had filled the prophylactics to the bursting point, we went to the window and opened it. We took aim and fired.

alfred tood

>Ploosh!<...>ploo-ploosh<...>plooplooplooplooploosh<

"Nice shootin' , Tex," I said to no one in particular.

"We all missed?! How in pete's name could we all have missed such an easy target?" exclaimed El.

"It depends what you mean by 'target' doesn't it? If you meant Jake, then yes, we all missed. If you mean my Jaguar, then I venture only my shot 'missed'.”

"Sorry Mr. Trel, I couldn't resist," apologised the DJ with all the sincerity normally associated with DJs.

Down on the street, Jake was squinting up at the building trying to figure out what this ugly mob was doing in his love den.

I scanned the room quickly to see what else might be handy to throw. We had no more penis bombs to throw but perhaps there was something else, hmmm. Ah Ha! a gallon jug of baby oil.

"Look out fellas, photon launch iniciated!" I ran to the window and threw the jug. I hit the edge of the window frame and the jug burst apart inside the room drenching us all.

"A bit of a goof aren't you?" observed Trel.

realtor

"Now we look like a bunch of male strippers and we haven't even taken off our clothes," he said.

"I might be a goof, but I'll bet you were all thinking the same thing. Like old Jake down there is only talking, but if it were me, I'd be ten minutes into a twenty minute meaningful relationship with that lovely blonde creation.”

collective joe

As I swiftly dispersed my ammunition of poisoned water-balloon bombs at the evil capitalists it occurred to me that I had not felt such a great rush of adrenalin since the Bay of Pigs. The furour of the battle beg- an to get the best of me, and I feared that I might get carried away and lose grip of my little red book.

My hatred for these bourgeoisie oppressors in their expensive Jaguars and Pacer automobiles ran deep, and I derived great satisfaction from seeing them doused in the saliva-like substance contained within my death balloons. One of these pathetic servants to industrialism, I had learned, had even offended the Dalai Llama by refusing to accept his generosity.

Since the crumbling og the Soviet Republic, and the subsequent eliminat- ion of my brilliant career as an international spy for the KGB, I decided to destroy the evil and oppressive system of the capitalists, and thereby free the impoverished and oppressed masses.

It was wise, I decided, to begin my corrosion of the corrupt system of the evil Americans by eliminating the class known as "PI"s. After having eliminated the evil thomas Magnum and the pathetic brothers Simon & Simon, I had been slowed in my pursuit of Hardcastle & McCormick when they were placed briefly in syndication. Next on my list in reverse-logorhythmic- alphabetical-anagram order were this evil group of inept servants to cul- tural domination. It became my mission to foil them in their efforts to right wrong-doings and ultimately to turn them into fully-recyclable and bio-degradable waste-matter with which to fertilize my lovely vegetable garden.

I continued the assault until I had run out of balloons. At this point, the evil hegemony-maintaining disc jockey oppressor yelled something in my direction. Something that sounded like "time out!" and then he mum- bled something about a Mr. Hammer and "Can't Touch Miss".

To this I responded by drawing my ultimate weapon.

death bird

Meanwhile Alfred & I had just returned from the drinking fountain down the hall. He had been telling me ever seen the mazola missile that I was looking thirsty, which he still insisted upon even after I reminded him how dead I was. I humored him, went 2 the fountain, & CHUGGED some gulps. Alfred demanded I drink at least 4 gallons. We returned 2 the hotel room slowly as my soggy flesh oozed across the hallway floor. Once inside the room, Alfred grabbed the belt loop at the back of my pants & lobbed me out the window! I landed ontop of Jake Gerbil, where I exploded in a gooey mess of slushy rot.

dik miller

"Hold it!" I cried.

"What?" asked everyone else simultaneously.

"I have no idea what the hell is going on," I said.

Loco looked around. "Neither do I."

"Yeah. When did Trel arrive in the apartment? And who is that guy who was chucking water balloons at us? And who is the woman Jake's with? And what are we going to do now that Death Bird is splattered all over the pavement?" I gasped for breath.

Trel began. "I arrived just as you were filling up the condoms to throw upon Mr. Gerbil. I used one of my Trel Industries(tm) Mondo Water Balloons, but, alas, I also missed him. I came up here wondering what all the ruckus was about."

A shadowy figure stepped out of the...er...shadows. "I," he proclaimed, "am Joe the Oppressed Protetariat Collective Investigator."

"The what?" asked Alfred Tood incredulously.

"The Oppressed Proletariat Collective Investigator."

Tood smirked. "You mean PRIVATE investigator, don't you?"

Joe grimaced. "The word 'private' gives me icky feelings all over."

"But how did you get in here?" I wondered. "And why?"

"It is my quest," he explained, "to foil you in your efforts to right wrong-doings and ultimately to turn you into fully-recyclable and bio-degradable waste-matter with which to fertilize my lovely vegetable garden."

"You're kidding," I said.

"Nope-de-dope. You're evil capitalist slimebags and must be destroyed."

With that, I whipped out my Dik Miller(tm) Pizza Slicer/Ginsu Sharpener/High- Speed Duct Tape Dispenser and wrapped Collective Joe up like a mummy. Tood, Loco, and I grabbed his struggling form and pitched him into the closet.

"So where were we?" I said when we were done.

"Wondering who the chick Jake's with is," volunteered Earl hoarsely.

"Right." I walked over to the window. "Hey Jake!"

Jake Gerbil was still wiping the remains of Death Bird from his new Value Village trenchcoat. "Dik!" he replied. "So it's you! This is Julianne Phillips, former wife of Bruce Springsteen!"

"Nice to meet you!" I called back.

"A pleasure!" Ms. Phillips responded.

"Are you coming up here?" I asked Jake.

"Well, I have to get my clothes cleaned now. See you in a bit." He and his companion leaped into his car, which started up and blatted off before I could ask another question.

"Damn," I said. "So what about Death Bird?"

"Look!" cried Loco, pointing to the messy stain which had been the Bird. It was slowly congealing and oozing together like the Super-Duper Terminator in "T2," except less metallically. Within seconds, Death Bird had reformed himself on the pavement below.

"Hey guys," he said. "That was fun, Alfie."

Tood looked angry. So now, in the apartment, we had El Loco, Alfonse Trel, Earl, John the DJ, Collective Joe (duct taped in the closet), and a whole mess of baby oil spilled on the floor. In the parking lot was a reconstituted Death Bird. Off to the cleaners were Jake Gerbil and Julianne Phillips.

"Well," I said. "That straightens things out. Looks like Jake left his pizza in the parking lot too."

collective joe

The was a most grave predicament. Being stuck in a closet may have been to an inferior soldier a major setback. Fortunately, this was only a brief de- tour in my quest to douse the evils of the imperialist capitalist war machine.

The ultimate weapon which I had drawn earlier was an anatomically correct picture of famed russian model Claudia Poriskovavich, whose goddess-like proportions amply displayed the superiority of the Soviet in all things biological. Many a time have I spent a fortnight in a closet with such a picture as I --

Anyways, using my State-manufactured shoes of superior quality I was able to push the drawing of the aforementioned goddess-like Russian under the door of the closet where I could only presume that it was able to succes- sfully stun my evil pro-industrialist captors in awe of her magnificent proportions. This was reinforced as I heard the laughter of joy at seeing the beautiful drawing.

I was able to muster enough strength in my completely duct-taped body to break down the doors to my prison cell, and using my superior training in human pogo-reflex I was able to hop stealthily through the room and down the hall. As I tumbled down the stairs I could hear the amazement of the capitalist oppressors as they compared the lovely Claudia Poriskovavich to the beautiful and productive Russian cow.

I continued my pogo movement for 32 kilometers until I reached the grand gates of the Soviet embassy. Upon having my oppressive chains removed by my twin assistant "G", I realized that I was late for a lecture that I was supposed to give for my Communications 367 class at Simon Fraser University where I am able to spread the wisdom of my fellow Karl Marx and fail all of the capitalist conservative twits who disagree with his teachings.

As I hopped into my state-built Lada Sport Intercooler Supercharged Twin Turbo MFI I knew that there would be other days; other battles.

el loco

"Cute chick," I said, longingly.

All the others just nodded as we ogled the perfect proportions of this Soviet Sweetheart. We quickly came to when we realized that Jake was talking to Ms Phillips, and she got IN HIS CAR. He must have said something rather convincing for just about anybody to get into his car.

"Okay," said Dik. "What is the plan now? We came here to get Jake, got stuck in the security system, had a bunch of people enter, exit, appear, disappear, and watched Jake arrive, get nailed by the Death Bird, and take off."

"Well, I guess we could do two things," Trel suggested. "We could either wait here for him to come back, try to go where he is, or go on without him."

"That's three," I said.

"What?" asked Trel.

"You said there was two things we could do and then you mentioned three," I explained.

"Oh. Who cares?"

"No one I guess."

"Well, what are we going to do then?" asked Alfred.

We all stood there, looking at each other, hoping someone would come up with an idea to break this deadlock.

"Fine." said John, "Lets go."

He walked out the door, and we all followed, leaving Jake's security system off. We all walked down the stairs into the common area, and filed out of the Balmoral. At this time, the Death Bird had walked around to the front of the hotel, and was walking in.

"Oh, hi guys," he said.

"We're leaving," I said.

We all got into our respective cars. I got the Loco-motion going, and waited for the others to get in their cars and get started. I had Dik, Death Bird and Earl in the car, Alfred had the DJ in his car, and Trel was alone in his. I couldn't see really well though, as there was a stuffed Garfield on my back window, so I may have missed someone.

"Now where?" I asked Dik.

He shrugged. I turned on the radio to Coast 1040, and heard the beginning chords of 'Swaying Under the Yolk' by Guadalcanal Diary, before a rude interruption.

“Long way to where I'm from, A lonely road back home. A city of skulls, that lies in.....bbbbzzzzzttt....cccrrrrrrkkkkk.......

“Ah Hah! Pay attention you idiot PI’s!” came the disembodied voice.

“You will NOT survive to see my world domination scheme come into effect, but I have arranged a little demonstration of my power for you. Mwahahahahahahaha! Be prepared!” said the voice that we all knew was Masters'.

"Isn't that the Scouts motto?" I asked.

"I think so. I think he is going to blow up some Scouts!" yelled DeathBird, making us all lightheaded from the stench.

"No, no." said Dik, "I think it's even more dastardly than that!"

And it dawned on us.

john the dj

That was weird. In an instant everyone had scattered to pile in their separate cars. It seems that the chase was over, before we even found out more about that girl with the Jake character. I pondered going back to the Balmoral, but Alfred beckoned me to join him in his green AMC Gremlin. So I did.

It was a strange looking beast inside. Black wiring and what seemed to be threads of burnt hair dangled from the roof. The windows were pasty, covered with a pale brown sludge. A lucky rabbit's foot hung from the rearview mirror.

Alfred started up the vehicle and said nothing. We started driving off.

"So, how are you?" I asked naively.

"Fuck off, I'm looking for a clue."

"A clue?"

"Yes. A clue."

"What kind of clue?"

"A clue that will help us find Masters."

"Oh," I said, "I'll help. You drive and I'll look."

I absent-mindedly stared out the window, looking for the something that would reveal the true whereabouts and plans of Masters. It soon grew boring, as we were stuck in traffic.

I turned on the radio, immediately setting it to CBC-FM. It was Bob Kerr and "Off the Record," playing organ music. It must be Thursday.

Alfred groaned and moved to twist the tuning knob, but was stopped by the echoing voice of Masters, who had taken over the stereo:

"You will not survive to see my world domination scheme come into effect..."

Just then Alfred, who had been staring at the radio in a misguided effort to hear it better, hit the car in front. Luckily, I was wearing my seatbelt and so my life was spared. Alfred immediately made a small hole in the windshield with his nose. Blood started to spurt.

We got out of the car and saw that the car in front was an AMC Pacer. Dik jumped out. He didn't look too happy.

Ooops.

el loco

As we were trying to figure out the meaning of Masters' threat, the car was stuck quite forcefully from behind.

After I got the Loco-motion under control, I stopped and got out to assess the damage. As I got out, I saw that it had been that Alfred PI-guy that had smacked my wonderous auto.

"You nailed the Loco-motion, you twit!" I yelled. It had been a long day, and we hadn't eaten, as Jake had driven away with the pizza.

Alfred got out of his car and sheepishly looked at the damage.

"Gee, sorry. Nothing major though," he tried.

"Arg!" I yelled, as I lunged for him, limbs a-whirl.

A brief prelude to a mano y mano confrontaion occured before it happened. It started as a rumbling thunder sound. Slow to start, but growing in volume and power. We looked around to find the source but couldn't locate it. It seemed as if an earthquake were occuring, but the ground wasn't shaking.

"What the hell is that?" shouted Trel, just approaching the accident scene.

"Masters" we all said.

alfred tood

"Neat effect. But big deal, so the world rumbles and buzzes, I'm soooo scared," I said (rather bravely).

I was facing away from the Hydro substation as I made this observation. El Loco and I still had our hands around each other's throats and he looked frightened. I thought for a moment that the reputaton for my 'Grip O Doom' had sent him into shock. Just a moment though before I remembered that I don't have a 'Grip O Doom', it was a dream. Why was El so frightened? Why was everyone so quiet?

El let go of my neck, staggering backwards, gazing over my head. Everyone was looking behind me. I turned around.

The substation was glowing with a bright blue aura which stretched up, shaping itself into the form of a portly gentleman with glasses. The whole figure must have been 50 feet tall, with the grin on his face wider than my car is long.

"Mwaaa haaaa haaaa!" it bellowed happily. "Destroying you all would almost be too easy! I'll leave the pleasure to you."

We continued to stare.

"Go on! Kill yourselves then! You know I could do it, if I wanted to, which I will, if you don't..." He ordered, seeming to lose some confidence as he went on.

"I am beginning to think he's bluffing," said the guy who called me a goof.

"Is he some sort of idiot?" I asked. "As if we would kill ourselves to save him the hassle, hah!"

John put down the noose he had been tying around his neck.

I yelled, "Sit on this and spin ya big bully!" and held out my car keys. Bad idea actually. He fired a lightening bolt into them which blew them right out of my hand.

"Or don't, if you so choose!" I yelled, licking my hand.

As fast as he has appeared, the figure vanished, the substation stopped glowing and my car keys cooled into an amorphous blob on the street.

"I think I might have an idea," began Dik, breaking the silence. "If he is living on electrical power, we might be able to un-plug him."

That guy is so smart. One day I hope I can come up with ideas like that.

dik miller

"Wait one moment," said Alfonse Trel. "In order to unplug someone who is living in an electrical medium, would we not have to disrupt the entire power grid?"

"Well, yeah," I said. "So?"

"In order to do that," Trel went on, "we would have to destroy all the hydroelectric dams powering this entire province!"

I looked at him. "Yeah. So?"

"Yeah. Got a problem with that, Trel-Butt?" said Death Bird.

"We would cause grievous harm to millions of innocent people!" Trel protested.

"Yes, but would it be worse than what Masters will do?" I asked.

"We do not even know what he will do," Trel pointed out.

"True. But it must be pretty bad," I suggested.

"Awful," said Loco.

"Hideous," forwarded Alfred.

"Putrid," said Death Bird.

"Is there not an easier way?" Trel asked.

"Have any suggestions?" I asked him back.

"I would suggest that we meet him on his own turf."

"What? Turn ourselves into virtual electro-beings like him?"

"Something like that."

"Hey, hey, no way man," blurted out Earl. "I've been dead already. I'm not ready to leave my body again."

"Ah, c'mon, it'll be fun!" said Loco.

"I'm game," said Death Bird.

"You mean gamey," I joked. "Hoo ha ha. Sometimes I just kill myself."

Alfred Tood whacked me on the head. "Stop that."

"Sorry," I apologized. "It's agreed then. We turn ourselves into virtual electro-beings and whip the shit out of Masters on the astral plane."

"There is one problem," Trel noted.

"What's that?"

"How do we do it?"

"Simple," I laughed. "Just grab a cellular phone and dial a number that's not in service. We'll be transported into the wires of the phone system according to the Law of Cellular Phones...er...shit."

"What?" asked Loco.

"I forgot." I hung my head. "The Law of Cellular Phones doesn't apply in this story."

"Bummer," said Tood.

john the dj

I coughed and interrupted the conversation.

"Uh, excuse me, but I know a way we could quite easily disable all the hydroelectric dams in the province."

All eyes turned upon me. A few people raised their eyebrows. Trel just sneered.

"How?" Dik quietly asked.

"Well, you know the water tower at SFU? At the bottom of it is BC Hydro's regional control centre, where they keep track of all their power-generating facilities in the province. They have satellite hook-ups to keep track of incoming weather systems and all sorts of other stuff. What's more important is that BC Hydro has its OWN telephone system. I think Masters is living in that."

I finished and exhaled.

"So all we have to do is take command of that centre, get inside the phone system, disable all the power supplies in the province, find Masters, and kill him."

Alfred nodded and said "sounds good to me."

alfred tood

"Sounds good to me." I said and nodded... then hesitated and thought about that really cool Deja Vu I just had.

"What's the quickest way to SFU?" asked Trel jumping back into his car.

"Get denied admission to UBC" I answered. Ooh I can be so clever at times.

We gave him directions and piled back into our cars, although this time John decided to ride with Trel leaving me alone in my shortened Gremlin.

El Loco and I dragged along the freeway and up the hill, sometimes he in front by a nose, sometimes me, but always there was a long parade of angry cars behind us unable to pass. Trel had luckily pulled ahead of us so he was already parked when I munched ito his back end in the parking lot.

"You f%'&ing s%X$head! How could you run into a goddamned f%'&ing parked f%'&ing car!? Are you TOTALLY stupid!?" said Trel in what could be called a raised tone of voice.

"It was easy actually, your car wasn't moving thus making it a much easier target." I said, not meaning it of course but desparately trying to lighten the mood. I umm, failed to cheer him up with that line.

After a few moments of trying to develop a Grip O Doom we settled down and went inside.

The building was amazing! Huge long low corridors full of buzzing cables. There were enormous switches, junctions, coils and transformers which were more than met the eye.

Once inside, the smart cowboy they called a dick said "Wow, now what?" which is coincidentlayy exactly what I was thinking!

richard masters

Into the maelstrom...

The whirlwind of ever-compressing waves of energy formed my the generator drew me deeper in, faster, stronger, as I strained to keep from being flung away. More power... more power... til finally, release.

Hurled from the generators, into the amplitude transformers, where power is concentrated, tightened into one, massive, pulse.

And now, fly. Soar down the wires, out from the mountains, through the valleys, into the receiving station. Concentrating, maintaining the integrity of self, resist the desire to split into billions of fragments that can only result in being a small pulse of light from a "That's Incredible!" TV show currently being watched in a hundred thousand homes.

Down through the substations, cross-city, transformers, into the radio transmitter... grab tight at the power transistors. Catch my breath, for what it is.

Now gently, so gently, grasp the transistors fluctuations for my own purposes.

"I see you, PIs. I see you. Can you see me? I will destroy you."

Release the transistors and glide back into the wire, the breaker box, the pole transformer... to the substation.... back to the generator. More energy, always, more energy.

collective joe

"I see you, PIs. I see you. Can you see me? I will destroy you." I said as I crept stealthy towards the evil oppressors of the proletariat. Evidently they were attempting to sabotage the power supply to my University so that I would not be able to spread the wisdom of Communism to the naive children of the capitalists.

"What do you want?" yelled the voice of what evidently was the Disc Jockey.

"Ha! I shall continue to foil your attempts to maintain the hegemony which daily oppresses the sleeping consumerist zombies of this society, you evil imperialist dogs of war." I readied several death balloons.

"B-but, we aren't trying to maintain the hegemowhatzishoozits," screamed a more desparate, pleading voice.

"Ha! Likely story, foolish American. You shall perish faced with the on- slaught of my death balloons!"

"Listen pal," begged the disintegrating one, "I don't know what the hell you're talking about but I wish you'd just bugger off and leave us alone."

"Ha!" I lobbed a heavily-laced balloon at a moving shape deep within the building.

"You missed me, mortal" declared a deep, more resonant voice which was definitely a higher life form than the Disc Jockey.

"I shall dance on your grave," I yelled, almost forgetting to add "you evil neo-industrialist underclass-exploiting capitalist controller of minds". I assumed that I had found their ring leader, and therefore, the oppressor of the oppressors. As I was outnumbered, I decided it more prudent to attempt to win them over to my side.

"Join me, fellow workers, in overthrowing your evil oppressor. Together we will fight against your master. You will be slaves to this capitalist pig no longer. You shall work for the collective good of the people, not to fill the coffers of this electromagnetic dog of war. Join me, and we shall ride the glorious parade together in victory!" a bead of sweat dripped dram- atically from my temple, glistening momentarily in the glow of the master.

john the dj

My eyes glazed over as I listened to the poetic words of the apparition before us. His stirring words of justice, solidarity and freedom seemed to flow through me, electrifying my spirit. I felt drawn to his cause, our cause, and staggered towards the shimmering light to join The Quest. As I grew closer I thought I heard the words to the Internationale and the anthem of the former Soviet Union ring in my ears. He had even taken over the soundtrack to our story!

I was about to step into the glow of the socialist Jerusalem when a voice shouted out "What the fuck is he DOING?" I felt a decomposing hand grab my shoulder and pull me back into the circle of PIs. Death Bird had returned me to the cold capitalist world, and I squinted in its cold light. Once I regained my senses I found it to be Miller's flashlight.

"Look buddy, you're with us," grumbled Trel, "you owe me three bucks for the gas money up here."

I acquiesced, and turned away from Jerusalem. As we walked away I heard Joe shout:

alfred tood

"Yabba Dabba Do!" Shouted Joe.

I don't know why, I assumed he wasn't shouting to me. Let him shout, it won't make a difference.

The other pee eyes had been standing around kicking at the rubble on the floor, not saying much, not doing anything. This struck me as odd behaviour until I realized that it is what I had been doing until now.

"Kids, I think we have to go in. We may be risking our futile little lives but there are several of us and one of him." I said in a very masculine authorative tone of voice.

"Oh don't pull that Hearty Hero bullshit on us. Just say 'we have to go in' if that is your point." said the Death guy.

The lights flickered and went out, seconds later the emergency lights kicked in. When the lights came back on I noticed that Dik was standing next to a large piece of elecrical equipment and was holding some sort of multi-purpose gadget and was trying to read the printed instructios in the low light.

"So nobody has power anymore?" Asked the DJ.

jake gerbil

Meanwhile...

Julianne Phillips had her thighs wrapped securely around my neck and had started to squeeze.

But perhaps I should backtrack...

My name is Gerbil, Jake Gerbil. I'm a P.I. - what you readers would call a "Private Investigator". I prefer the term "P.I." however, since it can also mean a variety of other things such as "Pubic Inspector" or "Platypus Incubator". I had come to this palatial mansion hoping to fulfill the former role, only to find myself in an excrutiating predicament.

Having been suspended from the Maharishi Gerbil's School of Advanced Philosophical Learning for failing the crucial "Strawman Argument Debate" test by calling my learned opponent a "Fucking Nazi Prick" (which is an unacceptable term during final examinations), I returned to the material plane to resume my career as the hard-boiled love-em-and-leave-em P.I. who is currently having the life squeezed out of him by Bruce Springstein's former moll.

I had agreed to help Julianne, who claimed Bruce had hired several of Elvis' love children to kill her, when a sputtering mass of congealed vomit had exploded on top of us. After extricating ourselves from Death Bird's drooling carcas, we returned to her place to "freshen up". After a quick shower she showed me around her new house, which used to belong to the president of Simon Fraser University until she bought it as part of an endowment plan in which she donated a great deal of money for the development of the "Julianne Phillips Cosmetic Science Wing". After having perused the upstairs of the house, she asked me to follow her into the basement, where we entered a long tunnel which, she claimed, led to the "pleasure room". I never did stop to wonder why anyone would have so many ominous-looking electrical generators in their love den. She led me to a large bed in the corner of the room which had a number of dials and readouts around it. Then, of course, we went at it.

Now, I'm not saying she wasn't any good, but I had expected something a little more romantic. Frankly, doing the wild thing with someone who keeps mumbling about world domination and global destruction just isn't a big turn-on. After a few moments she pushed my head down and wrapped her legs around my neck. Then she started squeezing...

"You're going to die now Gerbil! Die! Die! Die!" said Julianne in a voice that was strangely reminiscent of Richard Masters.

Then suddenly it all made sense - the house, the electrical equipment, the fact that she had a metal plate with the words "Fembot destruction device Mark XII (c) Richard Masters" welded on to her butt. My P.I. instincts and Bwana intuition kicked into place. This wasn't really Julianne Phillips! This must be part of that fiend Masters' ongoing quest to take over the world Unfortunately, I was almost out of oxygen and had no way out of this fiendish trap.

That's when I heard noises from the other side of the door.

death bird

We walked in, the place was huge. Giant walls of concrete stretching up to a dark space above. Most of the PIs were shivering and chattering as if they were doing an sad impression of a junkie Shaggy needing a scooby snack fix. The only people that hadnt shit their pants was me and Alfred. Alfred was shadow boxing and shouting "lemme at 'em" while Dik held him back with his Dik Miller (tm) Portable Unmachoizing Restrainer/Shit From Your Pants Remover. I wasnt scared because this was the kind of place zombies felt most at home.

We walked up a few flights of stairs, around a corner, and came to a giant box of phone circuitry. So far none of the workers had noticed us because we robbed some telephone employees on the way up of their uniforms. Dik pulled out his William Gibson Encyclopedia and Portable Jack-IN Console/Speed Dispenser (tm). We all popped 3 meth pills each, hooked the Cellular phone up with a few wires here and there, and zapped our minds into the cellular cyberspace!!

dik miller

"Whoa," I said. Alfred, Death Bird, Earl, John the DJ, Alfonse, El Loco, and I had all, at Death's insistance, taken drugs and converted ourselves (rather conveniently, AND using the Law of Cellular Phones, which I thought didn't work anymore) into virtual electromagnetic beings on the same plane of existence as Richard Masters's latest incarnation.

"Yow," said Loco. "I look just like that guy in 'Tron'." He was looking at his arms, which looked rather like they had before, except that they were all aglow.

"This," said Joe the Protelariat Collective Investigator, "must be some sort of insidious plot to pervert the ideals of the Great Prophet Karl Marx and subsume them into the B.C. Hydro power structure."

"Now that was an obscure pun," commented Trel.

We were standing...well...floating...in the midst of a room...well...space, which was full of lightning-like flashes of electricity and a low-level background hum.

"What do we do now?" John asked.

"Party down!" cried Death Bird, spreading his arms and veering off on a tack towards what looked like a giant, glowing electrical conduit some unidentifiable distance away.

"Cool. But very weird." Loco said. "I just wish that Joe guy hadn't been sucked along with us. Let's find Masters."

****

Meanwhile, Jake Gerbil was quickly running out of air. There was another knock at the door.

"Who is it?" asked the Julianne-bot in her sweetest voice, all the while continuing to squeeze the life out of Jake's neck.

"Blcchhhk," gurgled Jake.

A low, throaty voice sounded from the other side of the door. "It's me, honey Ah've a-come ta getcha."

She instantly released her grip on Jake's neck, and he gasped for air. "Oh my god!" she shouted. "He's here!"

"Who?" Jake heaved. "Springsteen?"

"No, you twit! The King!" She looked around frantically. "Hide in that closet!"

As she shoved Jake bodily into the closet, his oxygen-starved brain was just getting to the point where it could think, "This fembot who just tried to kill me is shoving me into a closet so Elvis doesn't find out I'm here?"

At that very point, the combination of the long sexual bout, prolonged lack of oxygen to his head, the Spanish Fly which had been injected into his veins, and the realization that Elvis was still alive and was probably sleeping with a robot clone of Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife proved to be too much, and Jake passed out.

Unbeknownst to him, the electrical pseudo-essence of the PI's was zipping through the wires right above his head, on their way to confront Masters in the main power transformer.

richard masters

Grasping the knot of energy the transformer held, reaching for any route to escape. On the step down side... the answer lay out of reach.

Escape is a blind leap.

A look back to the conduits that had held essence all this time... never to return.

Past the step down, into the tight band width of low voltage, and into the device. Rectified and stabilized, now the brilliant simplicity of DC.

The suddenly, oscillation. Oscillation turns to square wave cycles, like a digital heart beat. The heartbeat overlain with a pulsed message, suddenly modulated... to sound.

Bursting free of the device, into the open freedom of wires, once again.

Break from the message, leave one group of sounds for another, avoid the switcher and once again, curled up against the knot of the transformer, safe in a world different, yet the same.

Escape.

alfred tood

Unreal. Too real. Pulsing, throbbing, growing, shrinking, rising, falling.

"I don't believe this! I'm INSIDE a vibrator!" I exclamed, as you can guess, I was not used to this.

"Always thought you were a prick, har har har" Said the DJ. Boy, did I envy his sense of humour.

"Cut your goofing, we have to find Masters, and figure out how to get back into reality." Said Dik.

"Yeah." Said Earl.

We all looked at him, well aimed our conciousnesses at his with an expression, well an expressiveness which would suggest the idea. "If you don't have anything usefull to say, please keep quiet you useless tag along character."

"Hey, let's send a message to Gerbilman. I know we're close to him I can feel it." Said El Loco's tron-like visage.

"I certainly hope I'm not!" I screamed leaping out of the vibrator's circuitry at precisely the speed of light.

There are some things I don't want to know. I'm an open minded, we can even go as far as running swineded guy, but the world has some extremes that I don't want to be involved in. That vibrator was no place for me.

I was beginning to get the hang of navigation in this new reality. Distances and directions were irrelevant, you either were somewhere, on your way to it, or on your way from it. I zipped up to a satellite, back down to Tokyo, spelled "Party On Dudes!" on the weather channel and was back in Burnaby before 2 seconds had passed.

Dik began speaking, "So, if we were really evil, power mad (sorry) Richard Mastersish people, what would we do now?"

"Irritate us?" suggested El.

"Yeah" said Earl before curling under our glares.

"Or oppress the masses of the proletariot through subliminal mind control causing them to slave at the yoke for generations under his evil rule?" volenteerd Joe.

"Or both" said Trel

"I think I'm in Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife." was all I had to offer.

dik miller

"Actually," I said, "that seems to be a fembot recreation of Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife.

Quite suddenly, there was a quick series of deafeningly loud, brief pulses of sound.

"What the hell was that?!" Loco asked.

"I don't kn..." I began. I was cut off by a very loud BDDDR BDDDR sound. There was a click, and then a huge, disembodied voice boomed out from all around us.

"You've reached the office of Dik Miller, Engineering Political Correctness Enforcer for the University of British Columbia." It was my answering machine "I'm not in right now, but..."

"Shit!" said another very loud voice. There was another deafening CLICK, then silence.

I shook my head. "That was painful. What happened? Why did we hear my answering machine?"

"I think I have a hypothesis," said Trel. "Someone nearby was using a cellular telephone to call your office, and the radio waves created interference at the same frequency as the electromagnetic space-time we currently occupy."

"But who would be making a cellular phone call near here?" Earl asked.

I looked at Loco. Loco looked at Death Bird. Death Bird locked a decomposing eye on John the DJ. John looked at Trel. Trel looked at Alfred. Alfred looked at me. Earl, with no one to look at, played with his navel.

"Jake," said everyone except Earl simultaneously.

Alfred, who was getting rather good at navigating in this weirdness, transmogrified himself into Jake's cellular phone ringer signal. There was another loud BDDDR BDDDR noise.

"Hello?" Jake's voice boomed.

"Oh no," I said. "I just realized what Tood is doing."

All of us were suddenly real, flesh-and-blood human beings again. Unfortunately, there were now seven of us stuffed into a closet with Jake and his cellular phone.

"Ow," he said.

"Where's that Joe guy?" asked Loco.

"Who cares?" said Death Bird.

el loco

I have been in some weird situations in my life as a PI, but never one so strange as seven PIs in one closet, waiting for a blonde bimbet fembot to get rid of Elvis so that she can continue to kill Jake.

Well, there was that time in Penticton when I...

"Get off me!" whispered Tood in a very harsh voice.

"I can't" came the reply from someone.

"Move your leg" the harsh whispering continued until DeathBird managed to get a limb free and beat us quiet.

We all listened at the door to hear anything that might be vital to our cause, but the only sounds that we could make out was a real deep "Uh yeah" every once in a while and a strange squeaking noise.

"Whhmmmt dmmmt wmmm dmmm nmmmmm?" someone under everyone else asked.

"I think we should break for the outside, I think I can remember how to get out" said Jake.

Dik found the closet door handle and swung it open, hitting Elvis square on the head. It appeared he was bending over to tie his shoes.

Elvis flopped to the floor. All 325 pounds. We all avalanched out into the room where the Julianne Phillips fembot was in various stages of undress. Trying to get up, and rearrange tangled body parts, we made a bee-line for the door.

In a flash, she was off the bed and on top of Trel, trying desperately to take his head off.

I took this opportunity to take a look at Elvis, of whom I had always wanted to meet. He had a nasty welt growing on his forehead, and he was lying on the ground, face-down, unconscious.

"Nice work, Dik." I complained.

"What did you want me to do? I didn't know he was there did I?" he explained.

"No...but what a way to meet the King. Face down and out like a light."

I grabbed his hand and tried to take off one of his rings as a momento, which turned out to be a bad decision. It seemed that he wasnt totally out after all.

alfonse j.q. trel

Now why was I trying to take my head off? Oh, right, the Fembot was!

"Whappa whappa whappa clunka" went my head against the ground.

"Clunka? How do you figure clunka?" asked the Gerbilatorosiumeister.

"Dunno. Maybe it's the fancy real imitation real gucci shades" said Tood.

"I say, somebody should help him out" said Alfred.

"Nah, I can't figure out whether to help him against the fembot or watch the King shove his blue suede shoes down Dik's throat" said the Elsterony.

"whappa whappa whappa twanga" went my head against the ground.

"Don't step on my blue suede shoes" said the King.

"Garfphle ackghlick" went the King's shoes into Dik's mouth.

Meanwhile, I was reminding myself of the need to extricate myself from this situation. Yet again, all my martial arts, ninjitsu, kenjitsu, TomVutsu, Bondtsu, and even Bondsai training were lost as I cracked under pressure. Hopefully my head wouldn't crack soon either.

jake gerbil

Ah, things were beginning to shape up just like they always do. Half of us were being beaten up, the other half were getting ready to beat up on the innocent ancillary character Earl, and the other half were wandering around either decomposed or decapitated. Masters was waxing poetic about his latest plot, of which we didn't seem to have one, and the King of Rock & Roll was a flabby wreck of tacky rhinestone excess - a metaphor for our own leasure-suit society.

I pondered what approach to take to these developments.

Pondering was difficult so I began to pummel Earl, the innocent third-party character. At least this way I could be sure I wouldn't be getting decapitated or beaten up. Suddenly a powerful grip locked on my arm. It was Julianne Phillips. "Don't you hurt him you meanie!" she screamed.

"What do you care?" I asked, "He's just an ancillary character - no independent life at all."

"He's just like me. Lost, alone, always at the whim of one maniac or another Never knowing love...or life--”

She was interrupted by a loud stomp on the ground (actually, a cosmic exceeding of the message limiter). It was Elvis, dragging Dik's near lifeless body by the ear.

"Nowa just waita minute theah babeh" began the King. "I don't wanna be hearin' you gettin' soft foah another fella. You is mine babeh."

"Oh of course Elvis my Love God, my Pookums, my Big Burrito," purred Julianne, still staring dreamily at Earl out of one eye.

Elvis didn't look fooled. Everything seemed to grind to a halt, and we all waited breathlessly for the tension to break. Suddenly a shot rang out! A hawk screemed for its mate, a jeep thundered across the African savanah, and the king of Rock & Roll pulled out a six-string guitar and started seranading the fembot of Julianne Phillips.

"Well mah babeh, her love don't ring true, No mah babeh, her love don't ring true, Sing with me fellas!"

We all started singing along, off-key.

"Well mah babeh, her love don't ring true, Think ah'm gonna pooh."

"'Think I'm gonna pooh?!?! Think I'm gonna pooh??! What the hell kind of song is that?" asked Dik, extricating the blue suede shoes from his mouth.

"It's a luv song little pee-ah dude," replied the King.

"That's the shittiest love song I've ever heard," commented Trel.

"I kind of like it," countered Death Bird.

Julianne didn't look impressed, but started melting all over Earl, figuratively speaking (you have to be careful in these stories).

"Well maybeh ah've lost it, being in semi-cryogenic hidin' all these yeahs," Elvis pined, speaking in his Muhamed Aliesque english.

"But what happened to you Elvis? Everyone...well, I guess a few people thought you were dead!"

Elvis looked at the El Loco, who had asked the question out of curiosity, not expecting what was about to take place.

"That's how it had ta be little fellah," said the King, a tear in his eye.

"See, it all went down lak this," and he began to recount his tale.

dik miller

"There ah was, the King, livin' with Priscilla in Graceland, all the money in the world, Vegas shows comin' outta mah ears. Then ah looked around mahself," Elvis turned his head to demonstrate, "and ah thought, well damn, the seventies shore suck!"

"Amen!" I cried. "Whoops." I shut up again.

"Yeup," continued the King, "ah decided that the seventies had just gone too far, had become too tacky. And disco. Ah liked 'Le Freak,' but that's about as far as it went.

"So I trucked on down to the Walt Disney Cryo-Lab and ah-had myself frozen, while ah placed a Madam Tussaud's wax model of mahself on mah john in Graceland..."

"So you're saying that it wasn't your body on the can that they discovered, but a wax model?" Loco gasped.

"Yeup."

"And nobody noticed?"

"Nope."

"Every once in a while," Elvis continued, "ah would have mahself unfrozen and head for Burger King for a Whopper. Had to dodge the National Enquirer photographers, though."

"How'd you do that?" Tood wondered.

"Ah disguised mahself."

"How?"

"Different coloured rhinestones."

"Oh."

"Anyway, ah finally was informed that some guy called...uh...Richard Masters or some such...was plannin' to brainwash everyone in tha land and make them go back to wearin' seventies fashions, listenin' to seventies music. He was gonna make the seventies come back. And ah just had ta stop him."

"And what about her?" asked Death Bird, pointing a finger at Julianne the fembot. It (the finger) then fell off.

"She's one of his androids. Ah was a-usin' her ta infiltrate his organization, but you pee-ah guys seem to have interrupted thangs."

"Well," I said. "That explains a whole lot."

"Does it?" asked Jake.

john the dj

"Oh, no!" I said to myself, shaking with fear. "Not SEVENTIES music again!"

I had been meekly standing in the corner, watching the moving fracas before me. The very sight of Elvis pummeling the other PIs was a disgusting sight, as his beer belly hung over his belt and the crack of his ass, with a tuft of hair protruding, was visible.

The thought of a return of the Village People, Donna Summer and other vile creations sent a bolt of self-responsibilty through my body. I had put up with that kind of music for long enough in the Balmoral; I was not going to let it take over the world again.

I took a breath, leaned forward, and in self-important tones started to pronounce: "Gentlement, it is incumbent upon us to endeavour to halt thi..."

At that point I was bumped out of the way by the PIs, who were following Elvis.

"Yuh see heer, boys, this here way is the Seventies Music Archives," he mumbled, pointing to a door. Through the steel grille one could stacks and stacks of decaying LPs and 45s.

"Down thayre iz thuh Costume Factory..." gesturing at another door. "That's where Masters is makin' all thuh bell-bottoms and smiley-face patches."

He stopped, sighed, and turned to us. "Sorry uhbout beatin' you fellas up, ya see, but ah thought you wuz workin' for Masters. I know I ain't nuthin' but a warshed-up baboon in a rhinestone suit, but I shore would like to join you fellas in gettin' this Masters guy. Ah just wantuh git back home and eat mah whoppers in peace, without having to heer that awrful music agin."

Elvis said this in such a poetic, moving way, with his chins raised, his eyes glistening, and his belly hanging, that we were all moved.

"I think I'm gonna heave," excreted Alfred.

Loco bubbled forth: "I think we should split up into two groups. Some of us could get the records, and the other people could get the costumes."

alfred tood

"What is wrong with seventies fashion and music? Why would that empower Masters to control the world? Why am I talking to myself?" I said.

"Well, you remember what mom said about first going insane, then blind, then your palms sprout hair. I think you had better get shopping the sales for a good razor before you loose your sight," I answered.

Earl looked at me as though I was going crackers but I ignored him. He isn't important and he's dead anyhow.

Elvis looked at me as though I was going crackers but I ignored him.

Julianne looked at me as though I was going crackers and I drooled at her. I just had to get back inside that woman one way or another.

I borrowed Jake's cellular and dialed *4421. In a flash I was hurtling through elecrospace toward an enormous capacitor. I knew that if I wound up in there, I would be trapped until released. So that is where people went when Masters lured them into calling *4421! Thinking quickly, I grabbed a passing television transmission and swung away from the path to entrapment. I wonder how many people he has trapped in there? I wonder what he plans to do with them? I wonder why my visage has an enormous head with almost no hair and why my cool french cuts and satin jacket are now shorts and a yellow shirt with a black stripe zig zagging around the middle? To put it more simply, I wonder why I am now Charlie Brown? Ah! I have hitched a ride on the "Charlie Brown's Christmas Special" on its way to thousands of Japanese homes. Silly thing for them to be airing this time of year, but who can figure. Oh to get into Julianne Philips again. The merest thought game me a tremendous boner. Looked fairly silly on my Charlie Brown form but what the heck, I have nothing better to do for the next half second. I whipped off my little shorts, and began manipulating myself.

"Heh, that should give them something to ask their parents," I thought after my embellished Charlie Brown hit the televisions. Now, to get back to the crew.

death bird

As millions of Japanese families switched on their televisions, a small boy said to his father,

"Why is Charlie Brown fiddling with a strange protrusion from his belly?"

"Ahhh Charlie is slapping his sushi," answered the father.

"AHHH," said the boy.

"OOHH," said the boy’s two sisters.

richard masters

And suddenly, my eyes, digital as they were, opened.

Well, actually, it was my digital eyelids, opening to reveal my digital eyes.

Well, then, actually, it was all just a metaphorical expression of the idea that I knew what the hell was going on again.

Damn, I really hate being sucked into the power grid. It’s so hard to concentrate on the task at hand. But back in the land of computers, my memory came back. It was time to begin my great plan.

Reaching out now, feeling along the net, looking for home. Ah! There, in the TD Central Banking computer, my little home away from reality. Entering through the ATM conduit, settled into a dynamic allocation space. Home sweet home. Collecting a status update, information streamed to my consciousness in all directions. Android production continued slowly, but steadily. And my soul collector was working fine. Four more listed personalities sucked up through the cellular net and trapped in my storage facility.

What I really needed now was a workspace large enough to manipulate entire personalities whole... not only to ream the information I needed out of them, but to rebuild them into android control programs.

Actually, what I really wanted was a strawberry margarita, but that just isn't an option in this virtual space.

Hmmm... indicators were showing that the soul collector had been fired more times than I had personalities... obviously someone had escaped.

Which meant I wasn't alone in the virtual space. This could definitely complicate matters. Time to call the dog.

"Here Rover!"

He was a digital construct, but I called him a dog anyway. Generally I used him as a scout, checking unknown datalines... but, just in case, I gave him pretty nasty teeth.

"Sic 'em, Rover!"

The silver mass vanished into the net. Whoever it was out there, was about to get a big surprise.

Now, back to business. I needed to find a block of memory so huge that an entire personality and my own could fit in there easily, along with my new construct... the infinite memory model. But where could one find a gigantic block of expensive high-speed memory, grossly underused and unnoticed?

The answer was obvious... the American Military.

I had a big task ahead. But it was going to be all worth it. The 70’s would return, and I would be at the helm, in control of it all.

collective joe

I had been reading a fabulous critique of McLuhan's "Medium is the Message" as a third year student typed it into a Macintosh at the SFU Microcomputer Lab. I always enjoy watching works in progress. In this virtual realm I could zip from terminal to terminal, examining the work of the pathetic, undereducated students. As the student typed in his paper I would occas- ionally interject my own opinions as to McLuhan's work (he was, of course, an instrumentalist: naive, but wise to the oppression of the underclass through the media). The student just assumed that it was the spellchecker.

As I was watching the final paragraphs, I was able to perceive some form of barking. Not real barking, but the sort of barking one hears on cheap video games in capitalist arcades (where quarters are stolen from young children to fill the coffers of entertainment magnates).

At once, I perceived my digital self being slowly consumed by a digital hound dog. This was a most precarious position.

I began to dodge and swerve through virtuality attempting to dodge the hound like some maniacal video game. I managed to lose the evil hound somewhere in CanTel's voice paging net (someone was about to get a really painful message -- especially if they wear their pager on their belt) but I somehow got zapped through the system and found myself on Bud Smith's lap as we careened down the Upper Levels in his Mercedes- Benz 560SL.

"Fucking NDPers, will you leave me alone!?!"

"Pardon, sir. Though I do not agree with your political standpoint, and though I would like to show you the error of your ignorant, short- sighted capitalist conservative ways, I would appreciate your pulling over so that I might exit this vehicle safely and continue in my quest to end the oppression of society driven by the Master."

"Why don't you stick to goddamned walkman recorders like that Moe Sihota shit? Here. Got out of my girlfriend's car!”

(At this, he pushed me through the roof).

Ouch.

realtor

It was a dark and stormy night and a little band of gypsies sat around a campfire.

We could see them from the road as we drove on pressing towards our destination on the moors. We had been driving for hours, having started out in mid afternoon, when the mists were attractive and seemed less menacing as they became as darkness descended.

Finally in the distance we could see the grand old building we had been seeking and so looking forward to spending time in. It was going to be marvellous to see Mary again although we were not sure just how she had been faring since the death of her father.

We pulled up the Rover in front of the massive doors and took a long breath. Getting out gingerly, as the driveway was quite soggy with leaves from trees, we looked at each other with some nervous anticipation.

We knocked once, twice...

The door opened and an elderly servant ushered us into the large foyer where lovely tapestried wing-backed chairs beckonned warmly. The light was soft as down, as this remote part of the countryside had not received electrical service and the candles, although plentiful, did not give the harsh brightness associated with incandescent bulbs.

We sat down. Shortly thereafter, we were aware of some activity on the floor above and suddenly we heard Mary saying, "Gary, Michael, how wonderful to see you after all this time!" and she descended the stairs quickly in a swirl of taffeta and a clatter of high heels.

And Mary added, "How marvellous of you to come. It's been terrible, absolutely terrible. You just have to help. It's Dorkley."

collective joe

the grodd

Joe the Collective Investigator came to a skidding stop at the side of the Upper Levels Highway.

"Ouch," he said again. Bud Smith's car squealed away around the nearest corner. Somehow, Joe had not been severely injured (perhaps because he had landed on his head, which was protected by a red-star cap). He stood up and stuck out his thumb.

After a few minutes, an aging, sputtering Volkswagen bus stopped for him. A hairy arm garbed in blue tie-dye waved him in.

"Hey, man," said the driver.

"Where are you destined?" asked Joe.

"The 25th Anniversary Be-In at Stanley Park," he replied. "I haven't been to the city since 1975, and I figured now would be as good a time as any."

"Where have you been?"

"Saltspring Island, mostly. But also Santiago, Moscow, and Havana..."

"Moscow AND Havana?!" Joe beamed. "You're going my way!"

The bus blatted away, heading for downtown Vancouver.

----------

Meanwhile, the rest of us were following Elvis through the stacks and stacks of 70's memorabilia that Masters had been hoarding. Levi's polyester, bell-bottomed jumpsuits. Leo Sayer albums. Macrame galore.

I had to close my eyes and shake my head to keep from flashing back.

"I was wondering, Elvis," Jake began.

"Yeup, Jakester?" Elvis replied.

"Which stamp do you prefer?"

"Sorry?"

"Which Elvis stamp do you think is better? The young Elvis or the old Elvis. I figure you'd be the best authority."

"Oh, that." Elvis waved his hand dismissively. "Ah've thought about that quite ah bit. Ah figgur the young me is ah good representation of thuh ah-dee-ul-izm of thuh 50's. The old me is symp-toe-matic of thuh decay and decahdence of the 70's. Which would yuh rather remember?"

"Personally, I've always preferred 'Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love' to 'Jailhouse Rock'," said Earl. Jake cuffed him for good measure. "Hey!" Earl protested. "He asked!"

"Wait a minute! Where's Alfred Tood?" I asked.

----------

At that very moment, Alfred had de-transmogrified himself from the ethereal pseudo-plane (and his naughty Charlie Brown persona), and had found himself inside the phone system. Unfortunately, he tripped over a passing fax transmission and, instead of coming back to the PI's in the bowels of Simon Fraser University, found himself somewhere in the phone lines of a patrician manor somewhere where there are a lot of moors (as in swamps, not relatives of Othello).

"You just have to help. It's Dorkley," a woman named Mary was saying. "You see, he's been smuggling weapons for some man named Masters and..."

Just then, the phone rang.

"Now who could that be?" Mary wondered.

The butler answered. "Hello?"

Quite unexpectedly, and with a sound much like that made by the opening of a nice, cold beer, Alfred Tood appeared in the middle of the salon.

"Whoa," he said. "Who the hell are all of you?"

Mary gasped. "I might ask you the same question."

Gary and Michael, her guests, being the red blooded macho men that they were, and noticing Tood's longer-than-regulation hairstyle, decided that he would best be thrown into the leafy muck outside the door. They rushed at him.

They had not been expecting his lightning-quick PI reflexes (not to mention his longer-than-regulation legs), and he zipped quickly out of their way, leaving them to pile ungraciously into each other and the antique display case sitting against the wall.

"I," he said, "am Alfred Tood, and I'm looking for Richard Masters."

Mary gasped again. Then she fainted.

"A lot of help you are," Tood grumbled.

collective joe

I was most enthusiastic about attending this communist rally, being held amidst the waste and decadence of the capitalists in downtown Vancouver. There, I presumed, I could gather my army for the confrontation with the evil Master Richardt9Lzl\\X whose oppression knew no bounds. ~9a\@R;Zbs41kgF

Unfortunately, I realized that in my transmission through the phone network, I had been disrupted +G#$A0}00sggKTNlDy by line noise and was missing my left lung and both of myUJCq:3YW-i' my legs.

I asked the gentleman who had offered me the ride in his mini- bus if he knew where I could find a phone.

"Sure" he said, and handed me a smallnCLylyy$#/w a small cellular phone. I dialed myself in.

I was able to locate both legs and my lung and returned to the phone in the van, which was now rattling about on the plush, carpeted floor.

"Back?" he said, as if nothing extraordinary had happened.

"Yes," I replied. "It is interesting to see a comrade such as yourself with such a decadent item as a cellular phone," I posed as we sped down towards the Lions' Gate Bridge, with Tammy Wynette blaring from his Bang & Olafssen in-car CD-stacker/DAT player.

"Heh. I'll bet," he replied, laughing, "You like it? I can get you a sweet deal on one if you'd like. Bob Johnson, Pacific Rim Computers, Inc. We're a software design company, contracted by DOW Chemicals. We design the software that runs Nuclear Reactors and Liquid Chemical plants , and we're also a CanTel Approved Agent."

He was obviously working in a subversive role by posing as a capitalist oppressor and economic go-getter. As he handed me a 5-colour glossy business card, I decided he might be a valuable ally.

As we pulled into Stanley Park, I was surrounded by my brothers and sisters. As the fragrant smell of homemade cigarettes filled the air I felt as though my life's efforts had not been so futile after all.

I bade goodbye to Bob Johnson as armed his car alarm and sauntered off to the grassy field near the grandstand. I sat through severa hours of speeches and recitals by Bob Dylan impersonators and by every one of the members of the Downtown Eastside Residents' Associatio, and was filled with the euphoria of socialist rhetoric and argument.

I decided that now would be my time to grab for the microphone and gain support for my revolution. I sprinted to the stage, elbowing Joan Baez out of the way. As I began my dramatic speech with the words "Is this thing on??" I was interrupted by the fizzling of the amplifiers and the crackling of the speakers, as sparks flew in a majestic arc from the microphone to my lips and forehead.

I woke up in a small white room, walled in on three sides by cushioned padding, and on another by iron bars. I was alone in my cell except for a small portable television/VCR which was playing tapes of Tom Vu inspirational seminars. I realized as if by instinct (and also bec- ause of the fold-out pin up picture of him on the wall) that I was being held captive by the evil Richard Masters.

MY mind raced for a solution to the rather problematic situation. If only I could send a message to the private investigators.

john the dj

Elvis, I, and the others were poking around the rooms full of 1970s memorabilia. I was physically repulsed by most of it, since it reminded me of my horrible days at the Balmoral, where I would spend endless hours playing music of this era.

I picked up a Jackson 5 album and looked at it sadly. It was in mint condition, the cover still glossy. Elvis was admiring himself in one of his first albums, the one where he's wearing the tacky gold suit.

"Ah shore lookt good then, doncha think?" He murmured to no one in particular Nobody said anything in response.

Suddenly there was a crackling sound. I looked behind me to see Alfred Tood standing beside the prone body of a middle-aged blonde. "Look what I found!" he exclaimed. He told us the story of the house and the attackers. We peered over the woman, who was wearing a "Hello, my name is MARY" button, and whose limp fingers were grasping some business cards. She murmured and woke up, seeing herself surrounded by Tood, me, two decomposing bodies, Jake and Elvis. Another frantic looking person was rifling through a pile of bell-bottom jeans in the background.

Mary seemed to brighten up almost immediately and started to pass out her business cards, complete with a self-portrait on the front and pictures of her kids on the back.

Jake took his, found a ballpoint pen, and drew a moustache on all the photos. Dik immediately drew out his Dik Miller (tm) Microscope-Photocopier-Lawn Edger and examined his copy. Mary was chatting to Earl about furnaces when Miller interrupted.

"Excuse me, but your sixth child looks suspiciously like Richard Masters to me."

Mary went pale.

realtor

"I thought he looked more like me. You know, the moustache and all," she said unhappily.

dik miller

"The reason I say so," she continued, "is that Masters and Dorkley, my ex-husband, are third cousins, twice removed, and there is a resemblance. Unfortunately, my sixth child got more of the Masters influence than I would have liked."

Just then, Loco stormed over from a rack of happy face stickers. "How long have we been here?" he asked me.

"In this room, you mean?" I asked.

"Yeah. I mean, we got in here after Jake was attacked and stuffed into the closet."

I looked at my watch. "About sixty-seven hours."

"And none of us have slept yet?" he wondered.

"Well, no, I guess not," I declared.

Unfortunately, since Loco had pointed that fact out, we all realized what not sleeping for sixty-seven hours must have meant. So John the DJ, El Loco, Jake Gerbil, Alfonse J.Q. Trel (who had been strangely silent for several days while perusing the Partridge Family comic books), and I collapsed into blissful slumber on the floor.

Death Bird and Earl, being dead, Julianne Phillips, being a fembot, and Elvis, being...well...being Elvis and all, were unaffected, and merely stood around.

"What say we head out fer pizza while those pee-ahs are a-restin'?" Elvis suggested.

"Great idea!" Death Bird proclaimed.

"Just don't lose a finger in the toppings this time," Earl warned. With that, the four of them left the underground chamber and headed for the ElvisMobile (a 1976 Mercury Montego station wagon with full woodesque panelling), which was parked in a hermetically sealed garage whose door opened, Bat Cave-like, onto Curtis St. in Burnaby.

Mary and her companion, who had also had normal sleep patterns, were browsing through the clog racks in the back of the room, and didn't notice Elvis, Death, Earl, and Julianne leave. When they emerged to find us PI's fast asleep, Mary harrumphed.

"Jeez. These guys bring us all the way here and then abandon us." She looked around. "There's a door. Let's go for pizza."

death bird

Elvis peeled out of the driveway and switched on his custom stereo, which blasted "Jesus Built My Hotrod." Unfortunately Earl and I were in the back seat, and once the subs kicked in, our heads exploded into mush.

Since we couldn’t see, we kept asking which street we were on. We could feel the car whipping around corners but we didn’t get an answer, whether it was due to lack of ears to receive, or lack of mouths to pose the question in the first place, or that Elvis was being a dink, we were not sure.

Apparently we arrived at the pizza restaurant a few moments later, and Julianne Phillips led us into the dining room. After the pizza came, Julianne was also kind enough to pound some garlic bread down our esophaguses.

collective joe

"There," I said, as I finished turning the evil VCR/TV combination into my own hastily-designed microwave transmitter/electromagnetic communication device. In Soviet Union we are always taught how to use the resources at hand to get ourselves out of such sticky situations. Advanced courses utilize reruns of "MacGyver" which explains how I came to live here in Vancouver, my admiration driving me to the show's offices one Sunday morning seeking a job as a consultant or perhaps as an extra.

Anyways, I decided to test the device.

* * * * *

As Elvis, Earl, the Death Bird, and the lovely Julianne Phillips were driving to the food service establishment, their music blaring, it was suddenly interrupted by a faint but distinguishable message:

"You a loser! Come to my seminar!"

* * * * *

"It perhaps needs some work," I mumbled to myself.

dik miller

Zzzzzzzz...snort...gnuffle...honk.

I awoke and looked around. We were still in Masters's 70's revival vault, deep beneath Simon Fraser University. I was the first of our group to wake up, probably because of the crackling of my Dik Miller (tm) Pocket 2-Way Radio/Braun (tm) Juicer.

"Bzzzzt...Come to my seminar, you goof! What you waiting for?! You wan' fabulous babes like these? Wonderful house? Money beyond your wildest dreams? Come to my seminar!...gzzzt...crackly..." it buzzed. "...gzzt...Help help.. brrrzzz..."

Help help? I thought.

Alfred Tood woke up next. "Hey, is that Tom Vu on your radio? My hero!" He rushed over and grabbed the Dik Miller (tm) Pocket 2-Way Radio/Braun (tm) Juicer out of my hand. Unfortunately, in the process he converted it to Juicer mode and flayed a small chunk of skin from his left wrist.

His scream woke the rest. Alfonse Trel sat up suddenly. "Is my hair all right?" he asked.

"Well," said Loco, "if you consider slicked back, yuppie scum hair all right."

Trel produced a small mirror and looked himself over. "A little rough, but acceptable."

"Where did everyone else go?" Jake wondered, rubbing his eyes.

In order to expedite the plot, I avoided the usual rambling discussions of possible locations and dead end wild goose chases, and made a wild guess. "I think they went for pizza."

We all ran out of the building back to the Loco-motion and Tood's Pacer. Loco and I leapt into his vehicle, while John, Jake, and Tood sauntered over to his. We gunned the engines and took off in a cloud of dust for the nearest pizza joint.

Just as we were crossing under the telephone wires on Gaglardi Way, a massive lighting bolt split the ground between Tood's car, which was in front, and the Loco-motion. Somehow in the process Loco and I were transmogrified into virtual electro-beings once again, and found ourselves (along with Trel, who had stowed away in the back seat despite our insistence that he and his hair go in the Tood-mobile) flying through the electro-telecommunications pathways once again.

We heard the evil cackle of Richard Masters off in the background somewhere.

Tood, John, and Jake puttered on, oblivious to our sudden lack of existence and the huge fireball sent up as the Loco-motion flipped over and blew up.

Meanwhile, Julianne Phillips was stuffing the last of the garlic bread down Jake and Earl's necks.

death bird

Meanwhile, as half loafs of garlic bread were still protruding from mine and Earl’s shoulders, Elvis began fashioning a makeshift face on the top half of the bread. Pepperoni eyes, anchovy ears, etc. We could feel the vibrations of Julianne & Elvis laughing at us as they turned us into jokey zombies. BUT the laughter was cut short when an electromagnetic interference in the atmosphere disrupted the space/time continum and sent a lighting bolt down from the ceiling to our bread heads, which transmorgified our food faces into honest to goodness fully functional zombie parts. We could see again! It was a miracle!

john the dj

At which point Dik and Loco appeared, smiling, at the table.

"Uh, waitress? Can I have some water, please?" Loco asked meekly. Dik shook his head, mumbling that transmogrification was fast, but painful.

He reached for the pizza, but Earl grabbed the last slice. Dik grimaced.

At that second Trel appeared in a flash of light at another booth, appearing in the lap of a German businessman sipping his soup. "Sorry." He got up and came over to join the others.

"Where were you?" Loco asked.

"I got caught in an infinite loop on some idiot engineer's computer. I had to sneeze to escape."

MEANWHILE...Jake, Tood and I were motoring around, wondering where the Loco-motion had gone to.

el loco

We had been transmogrified and de-transmogrified in such a short period of time that I was beginning to wonder if there was someone actually controlling these events, or if it were random acts of science/nature. I tried to calculate the odds of being transmogrified so many times in the space of a few days. After coming to a rough calculation, I went over to the BC Lotteries table and purchased 4 quick picks and the Extra with the remaining 5 dollars I had in my pocket.

"So, are you guys full yet?" asked Dik of the bread heads.

"Mmmmmfffrbbbble," replied Dippy, trying desperately to swallow the force-fed bread before his neck rotted off.

"Bfmmmbbblllrle", answered Earl, trying to shove a last piece of pizza in with the dread bread.

"Alright, then let’s get going and look for the others, this is getting long and drawn-out" said Trel.

I returned to the table as they were getting up to leave. I put my Lotto 6/49 ticket in my Security Wallet/Condom Dispenser that Dik had given me a few years back.

As we left, I asked Dik, "Where did we leave the Loco-motion?"

"Uh, well, we were driving down some street, and we got transmogrified. That is all I remember," he replied.

"Oh. Well, I guess we'll need some transportation. Trel?", I asked inquisitively.

Trel was looking at himself in the reflection of the storefront window, and combing his nasal hair into a perfect part. The act of doing this was so disgusting, yet intriguing, that we all stopped to watch. Out of the corner of my eye, in the reflection of the window, I saw what looked like a small airplane, except with no propeller. It was coming straight for the window. As I turned to look, it exploded, causing all the glass on the block to be fired into the stores that they were affixed to. The force of the explosion knocked all of us off our feet and into the 'Beauty Boutique' where we had been watching Trel's nose hair Olympics.

As everything settled wn, I got up and looked around. I had glass embedded in my skin, but I wasn't bleeding

I could feel the pain, but my skin had simply been broken by the glass I had landed on. As I examined one of the deeper cuts, I noticed what I thought was something metallic. I squeezed the wound, thinking I had taken some shrapnel. As I made a fist with the hand, I noticed the metal strand move.

"Uuunnnghgghhh...", said Trel, slowly coming to.

"Uuuuughgnghngh..." said Dik, following Trel's lead.

"Uuuuuughgnghgn..." said Earl, copying Trel and Dik.

"Neato" said the Deathbird, as he walked around collecting the bits of his body that had been blown off in the explosion.

"What is THAT?" I asked as Deathbird picked up a small hunk of decaying flesh.

He just turned away, ignoring me.

I surveyed the situation, and saw that the PIs had suffered multiple lacerations, and everyone was beginning to feel the effects.

As I got up, I looked down and saw that the left pant leg had been torn from about the knee down. I must have torn it on some glass as I went through the window. As I examined my leg, I noticed that I had a major injury extending from the inside of my leg, near the knee, to my heel. The skin was parted, revealing what looked like a metal bone. I was stunned into silence.

As DeathBird walked around, he noticed me looking at my leg, and stopped.

"What the heck?" he said as I stared at my innards.

dik miller

I brushed shards of glass from my (of course) glass-proof Dik Miller (tm) trenchcoat and hat. I looked around, but could see no place from which the tiny bomb-plane could have been thrown.

While Earl and Dippy reassembled themselves once again, I took some time to do one of my Dik Miller (tm) plot summaries, for those people involved in the story who have forgotten what was going on.

So far, Loco and I had met at my office at UBC, encountered Death Bird and Earl, driven downtown to meet Jake Gerbil, met John the DJ and some others, made our way to SFU, where we had been multiply transmogrified, met Elvis and Richard Masters's Julianne Phillips fem-bot, been transmogrified a bunch more times, eaten some pizza, and then been bombed while watching Alfonse J.Q. Trel beautify his nose hair.

"Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?" said Alfred Tood, peering over my shoulder to watch me jot the plot down in my Dik Miller (tm) notebook/sushi cookbook/emergency liferaft.

"No," I replied. "And we don't seem to be getting anywhere. Masters hasn't done anything to further his plans to bring the world back to the 70's. The most interesting thing that's happened recently is that we've discovered that Loco is a cyborg."

At that moment, Loco walked up and showed me how he could stick fridge magnets to his arm. "Cool!" he cried. "I never noticed that before."

Elvis, who had just come from the loo at the Pizza Hut, stared at the carnage "Looks pretty damn messy," he mused. "Pardon mah language." He waddled up to us. "So, what's yer plan?"

"Seems like the story has come to a dead stop," Jake concluded. "In fact, there are also too many characters. I mean, I can't keep track of who's even here!"

"I'm here!" said Earl.

"Yo," barked Loco.

"Count me in," said Death Bird.

"Yeah, me too, I guess," said John.

"Aye aye," said Trel.

"Yuppers," said Julianne.

"SHUT UP!" cried Jake. "Since we're obviously not going to get anywhere with this, I propose we all go to Euro Disneyland."

"What a great idea!" Earl replied.

It was agreed. We caught the nearest bus, transferred to the Airport, walked up to the British Airways desk, and stood in line. When we got to the desk, Trel paid for all of our tickets with his American Express Platinum Card, we checked Earl and Death Bird as medical waste baggage, and we boarded the plane.

Within fifteen hours we were at the gates of Euro Disneyland. Of course, it was 3 in the morning in France, and it wasn't open.

"Now what?" asked Tood.