"Processed pig parts!" yelled the vendor as he rolled his cart down the paved lane of the city park. "Get your processed pig parts here! Steaming hot pig parts, only a dollar!"
Rembrandt frowned as the vendor passed by. "Man, I'd love some processed pig parts," he said wistfully.
Wade wrinkled her nose. "Hot dogs are revolting enough when they don't tell you what's inside of them."
"Yeah, but they still taste good," replied Rembrandt, his stomach rumbling in agreement. The slide was nearly at an end and he'd barely eaten anything. It wasn't so much this world's practice of calling things exactly what they were that hurt his appetite, although admittedly the menu at Peking Dragon was a little more disturbing than usual. The major problem, as always, was a severe shortage of funds.
"Tell me again how you convinced us to spend all our money registering you in that beauty pageant last slide," he asked Wade as his eyes watched the vendor disappear from sight.
"Hey! I took second place!" exclaimed Wade indignantly.
"Yeah, girl, but I can't eat the sash!" retorted Rembrandt. "And Q-ball here had to spend our last dollar on candy."
"I prefer animal-shaped artificially flavored gelatin molds to processed pig parts," said Quinn as he tossed a handful of gummi bears into his mouth. "Wahnt thum?"
"No," said Rembrandt with a disgusted look. He sighed and plopped down beside Wade on the park bench. "I'm sick and tired of always being broke."
"Remmy, we don't work. All things considered, I think we're doing pretty well," said Quinn, sitting on the edge of the bench.
"I have nothing against work. I'd be more than happy to work if it meant I could eat when I wanted to. But it's been a little hard holding down a job with all my interdimensional travel," said Rembrandt.
"Oh yes. I forgot how you were absolutely raking in the dough before this adventure began," chimed in Arturo, who was pacing back and forth in front of the bench.
"I was making do. You forget about all my royalties. You ain't going to find any 'Sounds of the 70s' compilations without hearing the Cryin' Man," rebutted Rembrandt, adding, "Like you were making much more."
Arturo roared back indignantly, "I had a six-figure salary and I wasn't relegated to singing at grand openings for the local gasoline stations!"
Wade interjected, "What right have you two to complain? I was making only $7.50 an hour at computer hell."
"Seven seventy-five," said Quinn with a sympathetic nod.
Wade spun her head in his direction. "You made more than me? But I'd been working there three months longer than you! That is so unfair!"
Quinn shrugged, "I was a tech specialist. You worked the counter."
"It's called a sales associate!" fired back Wade.
"Look, who cares about your stupid computer jobs? We're all making nothing now," interrupted Rembrandt.
The timer beeped, signaling their departure window had arrived.
"And that concludes our time on 'Truth in Advertising World,'" said Arturo as Quinn opened the vortex. "And not a moment too soon. If I had to hear Mel Tormé sing 'I get a kick out of Carbonated Yellow #5' one more time I'd have tossed my non-nutritional cake wafers."
"I just hope the next world has soup kitchens," said Rembrandt.
"Quit whining. You love this and you know it," said Quinn, munching down the last of his Flavor #44 Gelatin Molds.
"I'd love it a lot more if I had some cash," muttered Rembrandt as he jumped into the vortex.
Rembrandt found himself on a cool, hard floor when he emerged from the sliding tunnel. The momentum carried him into a small island, jarring the contents above. As Rembrandt tried to regain his bearings, a few yellow slips of paper fell around him.
"Checking Deposit Slip?" he read. He looked around and immediately recognized the place as a bank. He shook his head. "All this money and I can't have any of it. I think the vortex likes to taunt me."
"Looks like a rare indoor slide," said Quinn, his face pressed against the floor.
"Marvelous," said Arturo, his backside against the island.
"How are we going to explain this one?" asked Wade, pushing the Professor off of her.
"Oh, there will be some explaining to do," announced Rembrandt who had rolled past the island in his attempt to get out of their way. His voice was grim. "But it won't be to these people."
No one in the bank had batted an eye when the swirling maelstrom of blues and whites opened up right beside the queue for teller service. How could they? They were all dead.
What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds?
Where it's the same year...and you're the same person...but everything else is different?
And what if you can't find your way home?
The bank was now silent save for the squawking of Herb Friend's four o'clock financial report on the San Francisco News Network. The bond market was up and the Dow Jones ended on a high note despite a shaky opening bell. Not that any of that mattered to those in the room.
Captain Barry Pederson held the phone to his right ear and covered his left ear with his hand. He had ordered the sirens killed but the honking of traffic had picked up now that the street had been blocked off. His average frame rested against his cruiser while he waited for his adversary to respond.
With no knowledge of what was happening inside, Pederson had gone for his bullhorn to formally announce their arrival. That had proven to be a mistake. He hadn't even completed speaking before a hail of gunfire sprayed out of two of the side windows facing the intersection. He had dropped below the
It was deathly quiet for the next five minutes. Pederson could discern no movement in the bank and had abandoned the bullhorn for the telephone. He had let it ring and ring but no response was forthcoming. Fearing the worst, Pederson was about to signal his men to move in when a sudden flash of light flooded the bank. It flickered and swirled for a good minute before it ceased. He waited a few more minutes before deciding to give the phone one more try. After the seventh ring, the line picked up.
"Uh…hello?" came the voice on the other line.
"Hello. This is Captain Barry Pederson of the San Francisco Police Department. Am I speaking with the man in charge?" asked Pederson cautiously. Judging from the previous actions, he felt he was dealing with someone who needed to feel like he was in control.
"I wouldn't go that far," came the unsure reply.
"Then who am I speaking to?"
"Um…just a customer. Yeah, the uh…tellers are busy with um…banking and stuff, so I thought I'd just…uh…you know, lend them a hand," the voice said. "So, we're all busy banking in here. You can go on and you know, patrol or whatever. Um…nice talking to you. Keep up the good work."
And with that, the suspect promptly hung up.
"You just hung up on the police," remarked Arturo to a frazzled Rembrandt.
"What the hell was I supposed to do? Let them think I'm him?" he said, pointing at the robber on the floor.
"You're the one who answered the phone, Mr. Brown," replied Arturo.
If looks could kill, Arturo would have joined the body count by the glare Rembrandt shot him. "I don't like this one bit," said Rembrandt. "I say we go out the back door and make a run for it."
"And if they have the door covered?" said Quinn, stating it more as fact than as a question. "We need to make our stand here—gruesome though it might be."
"Oh yeah? And how do we prevent the police from busting in and hauling us out?" continued Rembrandt.
Quinn looked at Arturo, who in turn looked at Wade. She returned the glance to Quinn, completing the cycle. The three then looked at Rembrandt.
"If they think you mean business, they might keep back," explained Quinn.
"You want me to pretend I'm the bank robber?" exclaimed Rembrandt. "Are you out of your freaking minds?!"
"Rembrandt, listen to me," said Quinn, grabbing Rembrandt by the shoulders. "If the police get inside, it's all over. We need to stall them. If they think you're some ruthless lunatic holding the three of us hostage, we might be able to get out of here alive."
"Aw man, why do I have to be the bad guy? Why don't you do it?" he asked of Arturo. "You're a much better villain than I am. You've already got the British accent!"
"They've already heard your voice! There's no point dragging me into this!"
"You're the one who said to pick up the phone!" exclaimed Rembrandt.
"I said no such thing! An indifferent shrug is not a direct action!" rebutted Arturo.
"Enough you two!" said Wade, playing peacemaker. "Forget how we got into this situation, let's just all think of how we're getting out of it."
"Trust me, Rembrandt," said Quinn. "I wouldn't have you do it if I didn't think you could pull it off."
Rembrandt moved his head as if to crick his neck. "Yeah, all right," he said. The double ring of the telephone called him to the task ahead. "I believe that's for me."
Having failed to maintain an open line after his first contact with the apparent gunman, Pederson was again on the phone. This was not what the officer expected. At worst, he figured he'd get a crazed lunatic. This man struck him only as clueless. It only took his assailant four rings to answer this time.
"Who is it?" he heard.
"This is Pederson. We know you're not a customer. I'm giving you a chance to surrender."
"Actually, I think I used to have an account at this bank," came the reply.
"It doesn't matter," spat back the captain, a little bewildered by the track this negotiation was taking. "There's no way out of this. We've got the entire block surrounded. It's best you make it as easy on yourself as possible."
"Look, this has all been some big misunderstanding. I'm not even from around here. I swear, this is the last you'll see of me, I promise," was the response.
"The only place you'll be seeing soon is a cell in my precinct. But if you give yourself up, we'll see what we can do."
"No dice…" he said. There was a pause before he dropped the bombshell. "Look, I've got hostages."
Pederson squinted at the windows, but the reflection of the sun obscured his view of even the curtains. The captain never wore sunglasses. He liked to stare people down eye to eye, which made this phone conversation with this unseen assailant all the more frustrating. "I want confirmation of that," said Pederson, not discounting the terrific amount of shots fired inside. "Put one on the line."
"Um…OK. I'm going to put one on right now," the robber said. There was a brief hesitation and what sounded like an argument. Pederson couldn't quite make it out, but he thought the hostages were arguing over who would speak. Finally, one came on the line.
"Hello? Officer?" said the voice in a thick British accent.
"Are you all right?" Pederson asked. "Is anyone hurt?"
"Yes, for the time being, but I fear our captor is quite out of his mind. He's already killed and I have no reason to believe he's through. Please, do whatever he says!"
In the background, Pederson faintly heard, "I didn't kill anyone!"
A female voice quickly added, "Shut up, Rembrandt!"
"OK, that's enough," said the robber, reclaiming control of the phone. "You heard him. He's alive…for the time being. You just stay where you are or he and the other two will get it next. You hear me?"
The phone line went dead. Pederson turned to one of his technicians. "Did you get all that?"
"Yes, sir," the technician replied.
Pederson nodded his head. He replayed the conversation in his head. There were three hostages, that much he was sure of, but there was something curious about it all. He could have sworn the voice declaring he hadn't killed anyone was that of the gunman, but why would a hostage mouth off to her captor? And why would she know the robber's name? It was too coincidental. The woman must have been an accomplice, which meant the possibility of two armed criminals. At least he had a name—Rembrandt. How many of those could there possibly be?
The amount of police on the scene had quickly multiplied since the first shots were fired and there were now seven cruisers holding position across the street and intersection. This blockade was close enough to prevent a daring escape, but not so close as to put themselves in grave danger should the gunman get any wild ideas again. The building that housed the bank was set about twenty feet back from the sidewalk with a small concrete staircase leading to the double door entrance of the bank's foyer. This was a small branch for Second Savings and lacked a
"Five," topped Kelley, adding, "Each."
"Big claim. Of course, you have to represent them first," challenged Wing. "And that won't be happening, my friend, 'coz they're all mine."
Kelley chuckled. "You've got spunk, kid. I like that. You know I could use a guy like you on the payroll."
"And give you fifty percent of my take?" said Wing sarcastically, eyebrow raised. "I don't think so."
"Fifty percent of something is better than one hundred percent of nothing," advised Kelley. "Think about it, won't you?"
Wing didn't need to think about it. All he would concentrate on was finding a way to get to those hostages.
Herb Friend's financial report had been interrupted to carry the breaking coverage of a spectacular holdup at the Second Savings Bank of San Francisco. From inside the bank, the four sliders watched the screen in the hopes of gleaning anything they could use.
"Police were first notified of the situation when the silent alarm was tripped at 3:42 this afternoon. The building was quickly surrounded. However, as soon as the SFPD announced their presence through the use of a bullhorn, shots were immediately heard from within the bank," said the anchorwoman as the footage switched from in studio to a live shot outside of the Second Savings building.
"We have since heard that the captain on the scene has made contact with the man they believe responsible for the crisis. He is claiming to have three hostages and has threatened their lives if anyone so much as takes a step toward him," she concluded.
"I never said that," said Rembrandt.
"Creative license, Remmy," said Quinn. "Besides, the more overblown your reputation gets, the longer they may hold off."
"Or they'll think he's such a nut they'll just charge in," replied Wade, not nearly as assured by Quinn's take on the situation.
"I can see it now. The Cryin' Man Rembrandt Brown—now playing at San Quentin every night for the next
"No one's been convicted of anything yet, Remmy," said Quinn. "Besides it's been at least seven…no, six slides since Wade was nearly executed for indecent exposure."
"Lousy Puritans," sneered Wade, recalling that slide with bitterness. "Can't a girl show a little elbow in ninety degree weather?"
"At the very least, I think we now have a better idea of what transpired here. It's safe to say our
"How can you be so nonchalant?" asked Wade. "These people are dead. It's not a murder mystery game, Professor."
"Miss Welles, I recognize the solemnity of the occasion, but there is nothing we can do for any of them. Mourn these strangers if you feel compelled, but we must remain focused on making sure four more bodies do not join those already on the floor," replied Arturo calmly.
While Rembrandt continued to watch the screen, the others stood behind the teller wall looking out at the macabre scene. They had seen death in their three years of sliding, but never had they been forced to hole up with it. They knew nothing of these people, yet it remained unsettling.
"We shouldn't just leave them like this," said Quinn.
"We can't move them," said Arturo. "This is still a crime scene. Once we have departed, we do want the police to be able to discern what happened here."
"Could we at least cover them up?" suggested Wade.
"With what?" asked Arturo, his voice laced with sarcasm.
"I don't know, the curtains," said Wade, a little miffed with the Professor's tone.
Arturo sighed. "Those curtains are preventing the police outside from getting a clean shot at Rembrandt. But if you would like to aid the officers, then by all means, take down the curtains!"
"Cool it, Professor," said Quinn stepping in. "Maybe there's something in the back rooms we could use."
Wade nodded at Quinn and shot a dirty look at Arturo. The pleasantness was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Rembrandt grabbed it "Yeah."
"Pederson here. I'm calling to ask your terms," said the captain.
"Terms?" Rembrandt asked, "You mean, like my demands?"
"Right. As in, what will it take to end this standoff?"
"What would you suggest?" asked Rembrandt, still new to this
On the other end, Pederson took a second to just stare at his phone. "I don't know," he stammered. "Usually in these situations the perp asks for passage to an airplane, the release of friends or relatives, occasionally food..."
"Huh. I guess I am kinda hungry because someone had to have a bag of gummi bears," Rembrandt said, glaring at Quinn.
"I see…" came the befuddled reply on the other end.
"Is it possible to get any grub in here?" asked Rembrandt.
"If you're willing to be cooperative, I think some food could be arranged," answered Pederson. Rembrandt put his hand over the receiver and looked to his friends. "Hey guys, want anything to eat?"
"How can you think of eating?" asked Arturo.
"If they're willing to feed us, who are we to refuse them?" Rembrandt replied.
It made sense to Arturo. "In that case, I'll have a Beef Wellington. Medium rare, I want to see the pink."
"We don't have time for anything fancy," said Wade.
"If I wanted fancy, I'd have ordered appetizers, but seeing as time is short…"Arturo was abruptly cut off by Wade.
"Remmy, just order a pizza," she said, holding a finger to Arturo's face.
"OK," said Rembrandt, removing his hand from the receiver. "Uh, I'll take a large pepperoni pizza…"
"Vegetarian!" interjected Wade.
"Now look who's being fussy," muttered Arturo under his breath.
"Make that half pepperoni, half green pepper and onion. You got that?" Rembrandt said.
"All you want is a pizza?" the officer asked incredulously.
"Uh…no, no," replied Rembrandt. His eyes scanned the bank for an idea. As he looked around, he stalled. "I also want a…a…." Something by the teller wall caught his eye, "…a yacht!" Rembrandt rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of his own request.
"A yacht? I'm not sure that can be arranged," said the officer.
"Oh, it'll be arranged," threatened Rembrandt, "if you ever want to see these people alive again."
"So, in summary you want a three topping pizza and a yacht and you'll negotiate?"
"For starters," said Rembrandt. "And that pizza better be here in fifteen minutes or less, or I'm not paying for it!"
With that, he hung up. Wade stared at him with a bewildered look on her face.
"What are we going to do with a yacht?" she asked slowly.
"I panicked. I saw this brochure for a high yield interest account telling me to 'cruise into savings' and it's all I could think of," explained a flustered Rembrandt. "Cut me some slack. This is the first time I've ever held up a bank!"
The phone rang again. Rembrandt immediately launched into the caller, "What now? I just gave you my demands!"
"I want to speak to the hostages, just to make sure they're still all right before we fulfill any demands," said the voice. It wasn't Pederson's, but Rembrandt thought it sounded vaguely familiar. He sighed and turned to the others, "They want to speak to a hostage. Which one of you wants to take it?"
"Don't look at me. I already had my turn," huffed Arturo. Quinn bagged off too, saying, "I'm going to look for some coverings and also make sure there are no unlocked backdoors that will catch us by surprise."
"I'm with you, Mr. Mallory," Arturo quickly agreed and the two headed out back.
"Guess that leaves you, sweetheart," said Rembrandt, dangling the phone in front of Wade.
"Fine," she said, snatching it from him. "Hello?"
"Are you alright? Have you been harmed in any way?" the voice asked urgently.
"No, I'm fine. So far, so good. I'm just anxious for it all to be over," Wade said.
"So you haven't been physically harmed in any way, huh?" the voice asked, almost dejectedly thought Wade. "How about mentally? Surely, this has caused you a great deal of anguish?"
"I guess," Wade shrugged.
"When this is over, you're going to need someone to get back the time you lost and compensate you accordingly."
"Compensate me?" asked Wade. "What are you talking about?"
"For your pain and suffering, of course. Someone needs to be held responsible for this terrible event and I can…"
"Wait a minute!" interrupted Wade. "Are you a lawyer? The crisis isn't even over yet and you're already trying to sign me up as a client? How low can you go?"
"I'll go as low as need be to get you the benefits you deserve and I won't take no for an answer. I'll FIGHT…"
"Damn!" said Kelley from the payphone across from the Seconds Savings building. There was nothing worse than clients with a sense of decency. Still, it was unlikely his upstart challenger would do much better. Little did he know, Wing always favored the face to face approach.
"Locked," shouted Quinn back to the Professor. The bank itself was pretty small. There were only two ways in and out—the main double door entrance and a fire exit in the back. All it took to secure the heavy door was the twist of a small lever at the top of the door and the heavy bar locked into place.
"The windows are vulnerable," remarked Arturo at the unbarred panes of glass as he locked the window in place. "They'll have no trouble coming through these if they're determined enough."
"Then Rembrandt will have to give them reason not to risk coming in," said Quinn as he took down the curtains from the office. None of them would be hanging around in these rooms so it didn't matter much if the police could see into them. While the back wall faced a narrow alley, the adjacent side of the bank must have been flush to the adjoining building. That limited the amount of backroom windows—and curtains—but Quinn collected eight in total. They'd be just enough.
"Come on, one last room to check," he said. The only place they had yet to search was the employee restroom, which likely had no windows in it anyway. The door to the restroom was a heavy one that naturally closes after it's been opened. The professor pushed on it, but it stopped midway.
"What the devil?" remarked Arturo, shoving it all the more.
"Good heavens," sighed Arturo, adding another number to the already appalling casualty list. Quinn kneeled down, placing his hand over the man's heart.
"Professor! He's alive!"
Quinn and Arturo desperately attempted to revive the man, but mere splashes of water weren't doing the trick.
Outside, the SWAT team van pulled up to the edge of the police barricade. Captain Pederson greeted the unit commander and quickly briefed him on the situation.
"We've been told we have three hostages inside, and we're pretty sure we have at least one casualty from the words of one of the men being held," explained Pederson. "The suspect is clearly unstable. His demands were a pizza and a yacht."
"Looks like our guy cracked under the pressure," said the commander. "I recommend we move in immediately before he loses it again."
"Not without knowing what we're dealing with. I've got an operative who's going to give us the layout of the place," declared the captain.
Pederson hadn't asked for demands out of the goodness of his heart. He was looking for any excuse to get an officer close enough to the scene without him getting shot at. Fortunately, the perp had given him such an opportunity.
An Asian man in his
"Agent Yenn?" asked Pederson.
"That's me," replied Trevor Wing.
"Pleasure to have you on the team," said Pederson, extending his hand. Wing took it, declaring, "I wouldn't miss this opportunity."
"I assume you've been briefed," prodded Pederson.
"Entirely, sir. Just send me on in," said Wing.
"Good. Remember, I don't want you playing hero. Just get as good a look as you can at the
"Perfectly clear," remarked Wing.
A newsflash ran across the bottom of the screen and the feed returned to the studio where the anchorwoman breathlessly announced an update on the standoff at Second Savings Bank. "We now know the identity of the man responsible for today's atrocities. Through the use of a voice analyzer, the SFPD is now confirming that the
"What?!" exclaimed Rembrandt. He stared with his jaw agape as an old publicity shot of himself, 'fro and all, appeared on screen by the anchorwoman's head.
"With us on the telephone now is Mr. Brown's agent, Artie Field," the anchorwoman said as an old black and white photo of Artie, cigar in mouth, popped up.
"Mr. Field, what can you tell us about your client's state of mind?" she asked.
"Former client, Ms. McLeod," hedged Artie. "It's really a shame. Rembrandt was always such a nice guy, but you know how things get when you're down and out. I don't know, I guess something inside him just musta snapped."
"Oh that's just great," muttered Rembrandt. "Thanks a lot, Artie! Some true friend you turned out to be! As soon as we get home, I'm firing your ass."
As if on cue, the double ring of the phone chimed in. Rembrandt picked it up immediately. "You just had to release my name, didn't you? I could kill somebody I'm so mad!"
"Now, now, Mr. Brown, let's not do anything hasty," came the captain's voice over the line. "Your pizza…"
"Oh it's going to take a lot more than pizza to satisfy me now!" huffed Rembrandt before slamming down the phone, leaving a flustered captain once again just staring at his phone.
"Had he made any indication to you that he might be capable of such heinous acts?" the anchorwoman continued, but Rembrandt was too wound up to pay attention.
"I can't believe this," he growled. "Now even if we do somehow get out of this, my double takes the fall."
"Don't worry about it, Remmy," said Wade gently. "If your double is anything like you, he's probably got thousands of screaming fans as witnesses this very moment."
"…do that to a man. Truth be told, I didn't even know he was back in town," continued Artie on screen. "Last I heard he was opening for El DeBarge at the Plucky Pirate Pavilion…"
"Hundreds of fans?" Wade pitifully offered up. The Cryin' Man hung his head.
The door from the back pushed open and Arturo and Quinn entered carrying a man in his
"He's still alive, Remmy," said Quinn, placing a wet cloth on the man's forehead. "But he's in bad shape. He needs immediate attention."
"How much longer til we slide?" asked Wade, kneeling down next to Quinn.
"OK, but how are we going to do that? It's not like he can just walk out of here," replied Rembrandt. He groaned as he saw that
"Can't do that, Remmy," said Quinn. "I'm thinking it might be time to give ourselves up."
"Come again?" asked Arturo. "Maybe I didn't hear you, but I could have sworn you just said something incredibly stupid."
"This is a man's life we're talking about, Professor!" declared Quinn.
"Oh? And what about the four lives right here, hm?" challenged his mentor. "In your rush to play the hero, did it ever occur to you what might happen to the rest of us? We did not create this situation; we are under no obligation to see it to its end."
"Wrong, Professor. If we hadn't arrived, the police would have already found this man. In a way, we did create this situation." countered Quinn.
"You mean, you created this situation," interjected Rembrandt. "Don't forget, I'm the guy they want, not you. You said to trust you and we'd all get out of this."
"That was before I knew there were lives other than our own at stake," Quinn fired back.
"You say that as if it makes a difference," shot back Rembrandt.
"Doesn't it?" he asked, looking at the other searchingly, but they all looked away—even Wade.
"You want off the hook? Fine. I'll claim I'm the bank robber," said Quinn.
"It's too late for that," said Wade. "They've already trumpeted Rembrandt's name all over the news."
Quinn's face hardened. "I'll take him out alone then."
"And risk having someone 'rescue' you?" questioned Arturo. "If you walk out of here, you will not be allowed to return."
"I know," said Quinn, removing the timer. "You'll have to slide without me."
"Like hell we will!" returned Arturo, refusing the timer from Quinn. The two glared at each other, each waiting for the other to blink as Rembrandt and Wade watched anxiously. Once again, the telephone came to the rescue.
"Yeah?" asked Rembrandt.
"As I was saying before, your pizza is here. We're sending the delivery boy in," said Pederson on the other end of the line. "If that's OK with you, of course."
"Yeah, OK. I'm going to send one of the hostages to open the door. It will be the girl. Don't shoot," said Rembrandt, hanging up the phone.
"The pizza's on its way in," said Rembrandt to the others.
"Look…maybe we can make a trade—pizza for hostage," suggested Wade.
"Yeah, good thinking, sweetheart," said Rembrandt with a nod of approval. As Wade went to the door, Arturo took Quinn aside.
"I'm not through with this conversation," he said. "But for the time being, we'll stick to making our escape—all of us."
Pederson hung up the phone and gave his final advice to his operative. "OK, Yenn. The girl will be letting you in. We have reason to suspect she may be in league with Brown. Keep your guard up."
Wing nodded and began the long walk to the bank. While others may have thought about the risk they were taking to their lives, Wing had only one thought in mind—commissions.
The woman was waiting for him behind the second set of doors. It was time to perform.
"One large mushroom pizza with extra anchovies," Wing declared.
"We didn't order that," she objected, lifting up the top of the box. That gave Wing all the time he needed as he pressed past her and into the bank.
"You can't be in here!" yelled Wade. Outside, Captain Pederson yelled something similar, but laced it with some appropriate cussing.
"Mister Wing?!" exclaimed Arturo just as Quinn also called out his name. Wing's eyes lit up at the name recognition. Those commercials on UPN 46 must be starting to pay off...
"I see you're familiar with me," said Wing, extending his hand. Arturo numbly shook it. "How are you all doing today?"
"How does it look like we're doing?" fumed Arturo, disengaging himself from the double of his former student.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Of course, this is all a terrible tragedy," backpedaled Wing. "The good thing is that you're still OK. Your case is a potential gold mine, I don't mind telling you. It would be my privilege to represent you."
"Represent us where? The Food Court?" questioned Quinn.
"Huh? Oh this!" laughed Wing, looking down at how he was dressed. "Not the typical apparel of a top lawyer, but I think it proves my resourcefulness. There's nothing I won't do to win your case."
"This boy is a lawyer?" whispered Arturo to Quinn.
"It's not a complete inconsistency. I remember him mentioning his father always wanted him to go law school," replied Quinn. Arturo simply raised an eyebrow.
"Wing, is it?" said Wade, grabbing him by the arm. She looked him dead in the eye, "What kind of a soulless person must you be to want to capitalize off of such an atrocity?"
"Somebody's going to do it. Might as well be me," was his shameless reply. He didn't even blink.
Rembrandt coughed," Ahem…excuse me? Aren't you forgetting somebody?"
"Don't worry, Mr. Brown. I know you're destitute. Expect no further litigation from me. I'll be going after the bank and their failed security that allowed your rampage to happen in the first place," explained Wing. "And as a token of my good will, I can get you set up with a criminal defense attorney. I know a few guys who'll represent anybody no matter how guilty."
"This is unbelievable," muttered Rembrandt, unsure if he was relieved or insulted. "Unfreakingbelievable."
"What's truly unbelievable is that you made it in this far. How did you manage this counterfeit?" asked Arturo of Wing.
Wing chuckled uneasily.
"Sir, you need to see this," exclaimed the lieutenant to Pederson. Pederson followed the man back from the frontline to a blue police van. In the back was an older Asian man in a white undershirt. He was out cold.
"Who is this?" asked Pederson.
"That's Agent Yenn," replied the lieutenant. "It looks like someone swung the door into his head and stripped him down."
"But Yenn's in the bank," countered Pederson.
"Are you sure?" asked Pederson, a sense of increased alarm welling up inside him.
"I'm worked with Yenn before. This is definitely him."
"Son of a bitch!" exclaimed Pederson as he realized he'd been played. He'd underestimated this Rembrandt Brown.
"So let's see, four hostages, six, seven, eight killed. Wow! That's a lot of families to consult. Make sure I get the names of all of them before we get out of here," remarked Wing to everyone's horror.
"I can't believe this guy is your friend," Wade said in an aside to Quinn.
"Well, we're not that close. Come to think of it, I don't even know his first name," shrugged Quinn.
"At least he won't make anything off of this. Little does he know his clients aren't of this world," she sneered.
"That's not quite true," said Quinn, looking down at Murray. Wing could be useful after all.
Captain Pederson and the SWAT team commander huddled behind the lead cruiser to verify the plan. "I've got men stationed behind the building and in the right alley. The back door is locked, but there's nothing preventing us from going in through the windows."
"Good, use as much force as necessary," replied Pederson calmly. "I'm not sure what kind of game is being played inside there, but I'm through playing."
He took an old publicity shot of the Spinning Topps out of a folder and handed it to the commander. "Here's our guy. The man on the right in the powder blue blazer."
"The Crying Man, huh?" remarked the commander. "Then he should be a real fan of tear gas."
Three years of sliding had forced a change of attire for Rembrandt. Left to his own devices, he'd still gravitate toward the loud and flashy, but the need for blending in had dulled his sense of fashion. Nevertheless, he knew what he liked, and the crushed red velvet suit he saw on television appealed to him. If only he could say the same about the man wearing it.
"He's releasing a hostage," said Pederson to the SWAT commander.
"Could be a trick. This Brown is crafty and we don't know anything about this pizza delivery lawyer. For all we know, that 'hostage' is the culprit," said the commander.
"Not unless this guy pulled a Michael Jackson," Pederson said as Wing emerged from the bank with a very white hostage.
"We're not waiting any longer, here's our chance," said the commander. Pederson hesitated for a moment before signaling his approval with a slight nod.
As soon as Wing was clear, the team lobbed two tear gas grenades through the windows and into the lobby. Wing caught a slight whiff of it as he pulled the injured man along. "Tear gas? That's got to be at least another $100,000 each in personal damages!"
Inside, the tear gas was beginning to spread. "How much time, Mr. Mallory?" bellowed Arturo.
"Too much," was his response. "Cover your eyes!"
The four began to cough as they desperately tried to come up with a plan. Peering behind his sleeve, Quinn came up with a temporary solution.
"Quick, inside the vault!" yelled Quinn. The vault was behind the teller wall, adjoining to the hallway to the fire exit. The four hurried in, choking as the gas continued pouring out of its canisters. Once all were inside, Quinn pulled the door in plunging them into darkness. He gave it a push, but it didn't give. They were locked in.
Ross J. Kelley sauntered over to the ambulance as Murray was being loaded in. Wing, still dressed as a pizza delivery guy, removed his hat and flashed him a big smile.
"Looks like you got aced, Ace," mocked Wing. "The Second Savings case is mine, all mine!"
"Good work, rookie, looks like I underestimated you. Maybe you do have what it takes to compete with the big boys," Kelley acknowledged. Wing beamed with pride.
"However, you forgot one simple rule of lawyering. Only break the law during the trial, not before it," said Kelley with a wink.
Before Wing could respond, a pair of officers joined them. "Trevor Wing, you're under arrest for impersonating an officer and impeding an investigation. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney…"
"I am an attorney!" yelled Wing as the officers handcuffed him and led him away.
Kelley chuckled. Rookies, he thought. They may have the enthusiasm, but it's a seasoned personal injury lawyer who knows when to pick his spots.
As the ambulance began to pull away, he hopped into the back to meet his new client.
The SWAT team charged through the windows of the bank, entering through all three sides of the building available to them. Clad in body armor and gas masks, they swept through the small bank with rifles raised. But to their surprise, they encountered no one. At least, no one alive.
Once the tear gas subsided, Pederson marched into the bank. The SWAT team commander greeted him at the teller wall. "It's worse than we thought," the commander said.
Pederson knelt beside the
"We haven't found them, but there's no way they could have escaped. We had the building surrounded. Unless there's a staircase to the second floor we haven't discovered…"
"They're in there," said Pederson, pointing at the vault. "Open it."
The commander signaled his men to take position around the vault, two setting themselves up in sniping crouches from behind the teller wall. The assailants had shown their hostages no mercy; they'd pay them no quarter in return. If they so much as sneezed…
The commander counted three off with his right hand as he prepared to fling open the door with his left. But it didn't budge. "It's locked," he announced.
"Then get me the combination," Pederson replied tersely.
"How are everyone's eyes?" Quinn asked now that the four were breathing easy again.
"Some slight irritation," said Arturo. "But slight irritation is something I've grown accustomed to."
"I'm not going to apologize for trying to save a man's life if that's where you're heading with this," said Quinn sharply.
"My boy, it's not your concern for others that troubles me. It's your complete disregard for yourself. Your desire to play hero, although often admirable, cannot override the basic concerns of
"The next time you consider sacrificing yourself, remember you also condemn the rest of us. Do us the courtesy of at least having a say in it."
There was a moment of silence as the Professor's words sunk in, but Quinn's reaction was concealed in the dark of the vault.
"If nothing else, I think this shows just how important it is that you fix that stabilizer thingy. We just can't keep sliding into these crazy situations," Rembrandt pleaded. "Think of it. One place, all the time. Wouldn't it be nice?"
"It's on my to do list," said an exasperated Quinn.
"And another thing. This vault is a pretty good idea. We can't get to them; they can't get to us. Why didn't we do this in the first place?" asked Rembrandt.
In response to Rembrandt's question, the tumblers to the vault's lock began to move.
"That's why!" said Quinn, staring at the timer. There were still several seconds left.
"These quarters are rather cramped for a vortex," said Arturo.
"It'll fit," replied Quinn as the tumblers of the lock fell into place.
"Take them!" Pederson ordered his men, but they couldn't get into the vault. The officers bounced off the back of the vortex like they had thrown themselves into a rubber wall.
"Pretty cool, isn't it?" said Quinn, admiring his impromptu force field.
A few of his men raised their weapons, but Pederson called them off once he saw there was no getting through. "Hold your fire! The last thing we want is a bullet flying back at us."
"What the heck is this thing?" one of them asked, trying to push his hand against the back of the vortex.
"Applied physics," replied the Professor.
"I have no idea what the hell is happening here, but when I do, somebody is going to pay," exclaimed Pederson.
"Then I suggest you take a look at the guy lying in the middle of the lobby. He's the real robber," said Rembrandt.
"Then who are you?"
"Just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time as usual," he said.
"Shall we?" said Arturo, gesturing to the vortex.
"You don't have to tell me twice," said Wade jumping into the vortex. The officers on the other side watched in amazement as she simply disappeared before their eyes. One by one, they blinked out of this world, the force field dissipating a few seconds after the last one disappeared. The officers rushed into the vault, but there was no longer any reason to.
"This is the strangest stickup I've encountered in my eighteen years on the force," mumbled Pederson in disbelief.
"Sir!" came a shout from the lobby. Pederson turned. One of his men had uncovered the
Pederson took a look at him and then took a glance back at the empty vault. The paperwork on this one was going to be a bitch.
This story was inspired by an existing Earth 214 story by Slider_Quinn21, "Negotiations." Slider_Quinn21 also assisted in the initial brainstorm for this episode.
Special thanks to QBall79 for his comments in the
I'm also indebted to SpaceTime for the idea that a vortex could be used as a shield.
Additional feedback provided by Jayelle Carey.
Finally, it has come to my attention that RMScream proposed an episode so similar to this one that even the titles are the same. His was never finished and I was unaware of it until after I completed this one. What can I say? Great minds think alike.