Chapter 17 - Necktie Party


"We cannot, in good conscience, spend the tax dollars this program requires, just to get a bunch of deadbeats off the streets of this state."

-Assemblyman William Bennett


"There are certainly more pressing problems for the People of California than worrying about building houses for reprobates who refuse to help themselves. Especially when so many hard working Californians don't own their own homes."

-Assemblyman Bradley Edwards


"Frankly, I see little benefit to throwing any money at these bums. They come here from all over the country and expect us to take care of them. I've had enough, and so have the people of my district."

-Assemblyman Ron Aramajian


"I'll be with the Governor and some guests tomorrow morning, Peggy. Move my appointments and don't forget to pick up my dry cleaning by noon."

-Speaker of the Assembly Richard Weede


Matthius sat rapt as the official recorder read back the homeless Medical aid debate. One after another, the assemblymen had spoken against homeless aid in rather unflattering terms. The platitudes and misrepresentations rolled out of the assemblymen like maggots from a dead dog's eye. Several of the homeless quietly matched each callous statement with the face of its author.

Although he was the only person who could easily see the rear of the chamber, Matthius had been absorbed by the recorder's words. He hadn't seen the scuffle below the gallery railing, nor had he heard it. But as he looked up, he saw Bill Bennett tap dancing at the end of the climbing rope.

Matthius gasped, then screamed, "In the name of the Almighty, what is going on back there?"

Bennett was too preoccupied to worry about a public appearance in only his underpants. He would normally have welcomed the attention, but his ears buzzed, and his thoughts were dull from lack of oxygen. His desperate kicks had become infrequent. He just didn't have the energy to dance for his peers the way he danced for his tormentors.

Freddy and Jason had already cut another sheep from the flock. They had just fitted Assemblyman Bradley Edwards with his new thirteen twist gold neckpiece when Matthius' shouts startled them.

"Listen preacher, if you want him down, you get him down yourself. We're a little busy right now," Freddy barked.

Every head turned to the scene at the rear of the hall. An amazed murmur rolled through the chamber. Horrified assemblymen and staff members watched with intense interest, while mixed signals radiated from the homeless contingent. Everyone found the events even more interesting than television.

"Some of you in back, get up there and help those men," Matthius imperiated. "Our sponsors surely expect better of us than this."

Several homeless jumped up and rushed to the rear of the hall. They surrounded Jason, Freddy and victim. Matthius smiled broadly at their quick response.

In a few seconds, the second assemblyman joined Bennett in his improvisational aerial ballet. The macabre marionette show now had two life sized stars. Matthius realized that he was no longer in control.

Outside, the nervous corporal of the guard still waited for contact with his superiors. He was paralyzed without specific instructions from someone in authority. He still didn't know what was going on inside the assembly hall, but he was nervous. It wasn't normal.

"Corporal Powers, we've got it working now. The PA system is hooked into this temporary speaker if you want to listen in," the audio tech offered.

"Well then, turn it up," he responded impatiently, "Maybe it'll tell us what's going on in there."

"...sponsors surely expect better of us than this," Matthius' pulpit tones crackled from the speaker.

"Sounds normal, doesn't it?" Powers asked his guards, trying to sound as though he had some idea of what usually went on inside the assembly hall. Several semi-sentient skulls nodded in agreement. "Just the same, I'm not convinced. Let's keep our eyes open and listen. Somebody find Captain Smucker and get him on the phone to me right away. Unless I hear gunfire, I need official orders to kick down those doors."

Powers' powerless statement wasn't accurate, but it sounded good enough to justify his caution. Far more careers are destroyed by improper action than by total inaction. It seemed like the right time to sit tight and let the brass take the heat.

Matthius was shouting by now. "Gentlemen, gentlemen, please come to order. This unruly behavior is not going to help us achieve our goals."

"Maybe not, preacher, but it's gonna be one hell of a party while it lasts," shot out a slurred voice from nobody in particular in the middle of the mob.

"Then I have nothing further to say," snarled Matthius as he angrily flipped the mike switch off.

"Then shut up," yelled a bearded old reprobate as he angrily flipped Matthius off.

"Let's stop the yammering and get down to business," shouted another angry voice from a different part of the crowd. It was one of the quiet guys from the homeless band who had matched up the faces of assemblymen with their statements from the official record.

Two men grabbed Assemblyman Redmond, but were quickly admonished by a third. "No, he's on our side, take the one next to him, and the porker behind him."

The two legislators were surrounded by several men who dragged them to the foot of the galley overhang. Both begged for justice, then demanded to be set free because of their importance. One fought back as the crowd beat and kicked him; the other didn't. Each whimpered as the golden rope fixed itself into a death grip around his neck. Neither volunteered apologies for their misbegotten lives or evil career tracks. They simply gagged for awhile, a few feet above the floor. In about thirty minutes, both became blissfully, and permanently quiet.

Most of the rabble didn't stand around to watch old Mr. Lynch choke each politician to death. Jason and Freddy had generously cut each climbing rope into shorter sections, handing out custom lynching ropes to all comers.

The mob eagerly broke up into smaller groups of entrepreneurs. Each little bunch zeroed in on a favored assemblyman or even an especially annoying staff member. Unfortunately for many lynchees, nobody in the mob had the same historic interest in knots as Freddy. This led to many botched hangings where the victims endlessly gagged and turned blue, but never quite stopped breathing.

Wally and Otter led a pathetic group that struggled with a particularly pompous and porcine politician. Before the wildly kicking moose reached the top, his noose came untied. He smashed down hard onto his executioners, severely injuring everyone. The whole botched affair finally had to be turned over to a healthier gang with better noosebuilding skills.

Matthius was appalled at the scene in the assembly hall. Absolutely nobody in the place was paying any attention at all to him, their leader. As he stewed, the door behind him exploded in splinters, detonated by the force of a police battering ram.

Black uniforms topped by bulletproof helmets boiled through the door in an awesome flood of Kevlar and metal. The SWAT team was still primed, thanks to their stunning success up in Speaker Weede's office an hour earlier. They were followed by the more traditionally clad capitol guard contingent.

"Holy mother of Jesus, they've murdered the state assembly," screamed Captain Smucker. "In the name of the State of California, I order you to disband immediately and surrender your weapons."

A couple of the men in the lynch mob looked at Smucker, but the party continued. From all appearances, it could just as well have been a fraternity beer bash being broken up by the campus cops. Nobody paid any attention to the police.

Smucker became irritated and eased off a few rounds from his assault weapon directly into the crowd just to regain his composure. The rest of the SWAT team instinctively followed his lead. Several homeless men fell to floor in a shower of blood. Bear and some of the rowdier guys were caught in mid-lynch by the full force of the SWAT warning shots.

Luck was almost with Wally and Otter. The opening round of gunfire missed them as they lay injured on the floor. However, Bear was thrown off balance as the police slugs chewed through his back. He slumped forward and down. His 350 pound frame sklunched onto the prone forms of Wally and Otter.

"Wally, help me get Bear off of me. I'd push him myself but I think my arm's broken. Jeez, he doesn't look too good does he?"

"Listen you little twerp, you'd look like that too if somebody had just shot you to death. You gotta push harder than that or they'll never find us under this guy."

Bear made some gargling noises deep in his chest and throat, then flopped slightly to one side.

"Okay, push toward me now Otter, real hard. Yeah, that's it."

The man mountain of meat flopped onto the floor, freeing the pair.

"Oh man," Otter whined, "It's bleeding again where the bone sticking out of my arm. I really hate this. Are we leaving pretty soon?"

The question was answered so quickly that it almost wasn't asked. One of the back doors that had been tied shut by the demonstrators was now open. About a dozen panicky homeless men bad-tried to get through the narrow opening as one. They didn't make it.

More guards pushed through from the other side with guns blazing like a dozen bad cop movies. The homeless men slumped into a heap on the floor, yielding the right of way to boys in uniform.

"Everybody stop what you're doing and line up against the rear wall NOW!" barked Smucker's bullhorn.

But to his consternation, most of the fallen homeless didn't get up, the fallen assemblymen only moaned louder, and the men hanging from the railing didn't seem to respond at all. To make it all even more annoying, the unwounded homeless continued to hang new victims as the few uninjured assemblymen bolted for the doors.

The frustration was too large for several of the marksmen, who fired into the crowd again, just to get their attention. It seemed to work. Several more men dropped to the floor spewing blood; many of them were demonstrators, several weren't.

The final round of gunfire ended the confusion. Nobody was left standing unless he wore a uniform.

When the final tally was made later, it was impossible to honestly say how many assemblymen and staff members had been killed by police gunfire. Captain Smucker would have been in a jam, except for his connections, and several thick dossiers he owned, starring government leaders who survived the Capitol Massacre.

Fortunately for the American Way, when the official report was released, every non-homeless death was blamed on gunfire from the weapons of demonstrators. In the spirit of patriotism, nobody thought to ask how the homeless band got their hands on so many official police weapons in the first place.

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