Issue 4

The next day came and I decided to go ahead and do my own shopping. It wasn’t like Wil was my bitch or anything like that. Plus, I knew what I needed which made it easier. After I called to let the guys know I had some shopping to do, I remembered that in my semi-drunken stupor, I had the idea that maybe we could use the internet as a tool to coordinate some of our efforts. I wasn’t yet sure how, but I could easily put The Wills to work on coming up with something. They were good at tech solutions like that, so it seemed right up their alleys.

After going to three different stores I was able to find all the parts necessary to create the signal jammer I had in mind, so I headed on in to the store, so I could start putting all the pieces together. I didn’t want waste any time getting ready for this upcoming meeting, so that I’d be good to go when the call finally came in that everything was a go. But as I was soon to learn nothing goes as planned and sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches.

“Bout fucking time you showed up?” And with a big stupid grin it was clear that Ralphie though he was both clever and funny. He was a real smart ass sometimes. It happened so rarely that I sometimes just let him win one. In my now full blown hangover this was not one of those times.

“Guys, how late was he today?” The Wills laughed at that question and almost in unison responded.

“Fifty-five minutes”

“Now did he call to say he was running late?” Now I already knew the answer, but as it was part of the show, I did not spare anyone of the show.

“Fine asshole, forget about it.” And with that Ralphie let it go. I started to head to the basement to begin my work.

“If you guys need me, I’ll be in the basement working on something. Let me know if any calls come in for me.” I didn’t even wait for a reply, I just headed downstairs.

I knew what I was working on would take me a better part of the day and the sooner I got started, the sooner I’d be done. Plus I thought I remembered a bottle of Tylenol down there somewhere and my head was pounding.

I’d been working for all of five minutes, when Wil came down.

“Hey, man. Got a second?” He wanted something. He only had that kind of tact when he wanted something, but he was like my little brother and that was always at the front of my mind. I still didn’t lift my head from my work area.

“Not really, but go ahead. I wanna get this done today.”

“Uh, ok. So, are you sure about this dude? I mean are we getting in over our heads here?” I stopped what I was working on to deal with this. I expected it from William, not Wil.

“You were appointed to do this weren’t you?” I knew he would only do this if the others had concerns. He chuckled.

“Yeah, Williams’s freaking a little, and when I let Stevie and T know what was up they were a little concerned and had some questions?”

“Ok, I hope you let them know that it was all under control, and we’re going to be doing it or we go under.” I was not in the mood for this conversation. If they started with small complaints and concerns, then by the time they all had the opportunity to talk, it would only grow until they had all decided to back out. “You guys just need to be patient and have a little faith. I’ve got the beginnings of a plan. I do have some things you guys can do to help though. If nothing else it’ll keep you busy and distracted for the time being.”

“Anything you need, man. You should know that I’m down with whatever, but I’m worried about William and the young ones. Ralphie has nothing but confidence in whatever happens. He always believes in your plans.” Ok, that was reasonable. I wasn’t completely sure how to go about addressing his or any of their concerns.
“Ok, here’s the thing, I’m a little worried too, but really what choice to we have. We’re all on the verge of losing our families, our homes, our cars and the store. We just don’t have a ton of options here and we’ve tried to do everything by the book up to now. We just keep falling farther and farther behind. Look at it like this, we’ll be pulling down some much needed money on this and we’ll just we are only doing this to we get our shit straightened out.” When I said it, I really did believe it.

“Ok man, I’ll relay that. So what do you need me to do?” Loyal as always. I knew he’d follow me into hell if I led him there. I’d spent years building that trust.

“Ok, get William and divert some of your online time into researching military conflicts and their participants around the world. We need to start looking for buyers now. I also want you guys to start brainstorming for a way to communicate with buyers about new orders. Look for groups that are focused on hating someone else. Also, look at the Russian mob, maybe therer is some money there. Hell they have nukes don’t they?” I didn’t wait for a response before I continued. “I was also thinking maybe we could sell that helicopter to a drug cartel. Maybe it would help them to slip over the borders a little easier. Don’t look at me like that. Money is money and if that’s the case, then we could probably get a mint for it.” With that I lowered my head and went back to work. I heard him start to head back upstairs.

“I’ll get William and get to work. I’ll have something for you by the end of the day”
“Do whatever it is you need to do to cover your tracks online.” I wasn’t paranoid, but I saw no reason not to be careful. I yelled after him, “You talked to Stevie, right? Where the hell is he? Is he coming in today?”

“Yeah, he’s waiting on his grandma to give him a ride again.” The little shit couldn’t afford to get his driver’s license, so he was always in need of rides to get places. It was something we’d all just come to accept. I didn’t bother to yell anything else. I’d just talk to Stevie when he finally showed up.

By now it was about two in the afternoon, and I’d made some significant progress getting my little “thing” put together. As I was putting it together, I was starting to come up with some ideas for hardwiring the shop to make it “bug” proof. I was thinking about making the basement into a safe room of sorts. Make a larger signal jamming device and add in some larger transmission scanning technology. That way we’d always have a place where at least we could talk in peace.

Anything else we’d need I could make and would work to make as small as possible. Hell, the device I was making now, was about as big as a large cell phone, and was a relatively simple device to operate. Two buttons for scanning and a “signal meter” for when it detected anything transmitting, and another two buttons for the signal jamming portion of the device.

To be fair, it really wasn’t jamming anything, but was actually broadcasting “white noise” intended to drown out any potential receptors. I was effectively employing the techniques I’d learned in school in reverse. Instead of working to reduce the noise in signal receptors, I was working to amplify and add to it. It was like a mini broadcaster that sort of “spammed” the spectrum of broadcast frequencies.

I finally got my little project finished around 4 or so and right around that time it was like a miraculous convergence of celestial bodies. No sooner had I finished, than Stevie finally showed up. He was only about 5 hours late, but whatever. And almost as soon as he’d shown up, but before I could even talk to him both about the previous night’s meeting and his incredible tardiness, Crazy Russ showed up.

“Hey Stevie when I get done here we need to talk about getting you a better way to work.” He just nodded at me, and hung his head a little.

“Alright Russ, why don’t you come on into the backroom, the new issues are in and I’ll let you take a look before anyone else.” Funny, I was just trying to be clever but that statement stuck, as we started using the term ‘the new issues are in’ when we were getting ready for something. Russ, didn’t say anything, he just followed me into the basement.

“Ok, I got you a meeting with Tom. It’s set for tonight at my place, at 8. He’ll hang out till 8:30, and if you guys don’t show he’s gone and there won’t be another meeting. He says that this is a one time only deal.”

“Alright Russ, we’ll be there. I’ve been thinking though and we never discussed what you guys were looking for as far as your cuts are concerned. I have no problem with giving you guys pieces of the action, but don’t expect big ones, cause it looks like we’re doing most of the work.” I wasn’t gonna let these guys take a huge cut when it looked like we’d be handling the dangerous part.

“We can just talk about that tonight. Tom told me that he’s not going to have as much time as he thought to do this. He didn’t go into specifics, so I don’t have more on it than that.” I didn’t like the way that sounded, but there was nothing I could do. I’d just have to work it out with Tom.

“We’ll be there by 8:15, and I’ll bring the comics.” Russ seemed to take that comment for what it was worth and left. That gave me less than 4 hours to talk to the guys and make sure that everything was in order with my little gadget.

Plenty of time I thought, but that was before Meryl called me and wanted to “talk about things”.

I couldn’t very well blow her off when she was the single biggest reason that I was doing what I was doing. So, when she called and wanted to talk about things I just decided that I’d go ahead and leave early for the day. I left The Wills in charge. Together they were of one mind. It was creepy sometimes. Ralphie and I had agreed to meet at my place at 6:30, I knew he wouldn’t be there until well after 7, but that was fine and that’s what I was planning for. So
I grabbed my gadget and off I went. I had agreed to meet with Meryl so that we could discuss the possibility of her coming home and so that I could see my daughter, Bailee. It had been almost a month since they’d moved out and I never knew how much I missed them until they were gone from me.

We had agreed to meet at the restaurant we’d had our first date in. It was her choice though, so it did give me some hope for things. When I showed up, she was already there waiting for me. I kinda felt bad for making her wait a little bit, but the future of everyone and everything related to Pandora’s Box relied on the meeting that was a just a few hours away.

I went in and sat down and we talked. We talked about how I wanted her to come home, and how she wanted to. We tried to work out some conditions for her return. She wasn’t really excited about returning, mainly because of the near borderline poverty situation my dream had driven us to. When it was all said and done she had agreed to come home, and I had agreed to make things right. She wasn’t going to live in the poor house and I couldn’t blame her and she gave me a couple more months to work things out.

Her agreeing to return home really made it hard since I had that meeting with Crazy Russ and Tom the gun guy, but I didn’t have much choice and I was going to be cutting it close too. As I was pulling out of the parking lot I realized that I’d forgotten to bring the comics that were the crux of my plan, so I had to swing by the shop and pick some up, which put me late getting back to my place.

I finally got back to my place at close to 7:45 and Ralphie was waiting. It didn’t surprise me at all. I was late even by the standards established by Fletcher. Fletcher was a communal friend that had died not long before the shop was opened. He was habitually late to things but on an absolutely mythical scale. This would have been one of his arrival times.

“Bout time you showed up. I was about to go handle things on my own. Fletcher would have been here earlier than you.” I fucking knew he’d do that.

“Yeah, well I’m here now and we’ve got someplace to be. Let’s go. We can talk in the car.” So he got into the car and we were off. I had to drive because nobody who had their faculties about them would in any kind of reality allow Ralphie to drive. Every trip was like driving in a stolen race car with the driver in a perpetual state of ‘road rage’.

“So what did you want to talk to me about?” It was nice to see him being serious for a change.

“Ok, so you know I was in the basement all day right. Look behind the seat there and grab that thing that looks like a big ass control.” Which he did.

“So what is it? It has to be important if you spent all day working on getting it together, but what does it do?” I loved it when I could create that kind of curiosity and mystery when talking with the guys. It was almost a necessity for me sometimes. It was just one of my life’s little pleasures.

“You need to see it to understand it and you’ll see when we get there.”