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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 38
Sucking the Enemy In

“Where should the TV crew set up?” Debra Florsheim asked.


“As my media counsel, wherever you say,” Billy said, sitting at Director Carson's desk
conducting multiple conversations with inmates hurrying in and out of the office.
“Media counsel? It'd be nice if you asked.”
“Will you?”
“No.”
“Please, I need your help. The media is running wild.” The columnist-turned-reporter
wrinkled her nose, as if getting a pungent whiff. “I don't have time to beg.”
The phone rang. Billy picked it up, listened and handed it to Debra.
“Media inquiry.” When she hesitated, Billy said, “I need you -- please.”
She took the call.
With all this swirling about him, Billy gulped down scrambled eggs, wrote in a notebook
and discussed with Joy and Vera which suit to wear. They had selected a dark blue single-
breasted suit, a gold power tie with matching bouffant pocket handkerchief, a white shirt
with French cuffs, gold cufflinks with a pearl inlay and serious black shoes. Crouching
behind the desk to avoid female eyes, Billy pulled on the pants to the suit.
“What makes you think,” Vera said, “that anybody wants to see your precious tush?”
“You're going to look great all dressed up,”Joy said.
Debra, busy on the phone, rolled her eyes.
Joy helped him into his shirt and tie. Vera fixed the cufflinks.
“Stand up,” Vera ordered.
Billy stood and Vera helped him into his jacket.
An inmate rushed in.
“The assault force.”
***
Billy hurried to the window with shoes in hand. The expected army had arrived. It was
the same scene he had looked out upon from Mr. Caulfield's castle. Police cars
everywhere. Officers in black commando outfits bristling with weaponry. Commanders
directing deployment. It was a fearsome sight.
However, like Napoleon's at Waterloo, the army was tardy to the battlefield.
“Deploy the mothers,” Billy said, tying his shoes.
Led by Mrs. de Cruz, the East Side mothers danced out smiling and giggling like
schoolgirls. Grim, black-suited, helmeted troopers peeked out from behind massive riot
shields -- and their faces said it all.
What the hell is this?
Billy waited for the mothers to infiltrate the police ranks.
“Send out the young guys.”
Boyish, well-scrubbed inmates in white shirts and ties and huge smiles skipped out,
waving and chattering like schoolboys getting out of school for summer vacation. The
mothers were already among the assault force, smiling and tugging playfully at open-
mouthed troopers.
What on God's green earth is this?
Billy thought, now.
“Send out the students.”
A few dozen Fairfield University students -- Billy's faux populist volunteers -- spilled out
the front entrance in white shirts and ties and with red flags of support tied at the right
knee, and singing “God Bless America.” First out was Colin Everington, Jr., the son of
the Fairfield University president, who acted as conductor for the attack by choir.
“Oh, my God,” said the force's commander, Captain James Morrill, who immediately
recognized the university president's son. He waved off troopers fingering their weapons.
Soon all three waves of Billy Stone's attack force, now dispersed among the police,
joined in a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.”
***
“Bring Carson,” Billy ordered.
Inmates brought him in and sat him before his own desk, where Billy now sat in an
expensive suit with two girls fussing over him -- Vera brushing his hair and Joy fiddling
with his tie. Looking like a whiz-kid partner in a white-shoe Boston law firm, he was
flanked by Johnson Johnson and Billy Ruggieri, both in neat white shirts and ties and
looking like young law interns.
“That's a great song, isn't it? Makes me fill up every time I hear it. Look, the phone is
going to ring. It will be the police. You are going to tell them this.”
He handed Carson a sheet of paper on which he had written:
There seems to have been a huge misunderstanding. As you can see, we're having a
Community Dialogue Day. We have seventy-five mothers of inmates inside, over a
hundred Fairview students, a panel of community leaders and Congressman Waters is
expected shortly. A TV crew is inside. Of course, the police are welcome to participate.
Just come on in. Help yourselves to coffee and donuts. I'll be right with you. See you in a
bit.
“ Say it exactly that way. Don't leave out a word or add a word. Then hang up.”
“I'll do no such thing. What makes you think ...”

Billy whispered to Joy and Vera and they left. Debra had already gone to deal with the
media. Billy spoke softly into Durk Coogan's ear, then said aloud,“He's all yours.”
Coogan, who hated Carson, approached the Director rubbing his hands.

“Do him in solitary,” Kali said. “Nobody will hear.”


“Okay! Okay!”

“Thank you,” Billy said. “Your help is much appreciated. When the phone rings, just
read. Be normal and friendly, but busy with all your guests, or ... well, you know how it
goes here.”
They waited for the phone to ring and it did. Carson picked up and did a gutsy,
convincing acting job. He put the phone down and retched.

“Take him to the bathroom.”


Inmates led the Director, bent-over and holding his mouth, out of the office.
“Send in the welcomers.”

They hurried in. Billy issued quick instructions. They scurried out.
***
“Bring O'Toole.”
The captain, now much subdued, was brought in and put in a little chair in front of Billy.
The captain was struck dumb at the sight of Billy sitting in a suit at a big desk issuing
orders.
“Take off the cuffs. Captain, all I ask is that you hear the truth. That was my offer last
night and it is my offer now.”

“My answer is the same. No.”


Vera entered.
“Dad.”
“Sweetheart!” the captain said, gathering Vera in his arms. “Are you okay?”
“I'm fine,” Vera said, pulling away.
The captain shot a sharp eye at Billy, who gave it right back. He looked around the office
at neatly-dressed inmates staring at him, then back at Billy sitting at an executive desk
calling the shots.

“I don't deal with criminals.”


“I can't make fine distinctions when the shooting starts.”
“Dad, they've got guns! Please.”
Captain O'Toole, stuck between damnation and damnation, put his right index finger to
the side of his nose.
“He'll listen,” Vera said, taking her father's hand. When he said nothing, she went into her
father's arms. “Good. It's agreed.”
“I'll protect him,” Billy said to Vera. “I give you my word.”
Vera hugged her father.

“You need your uniform,” Billy said to Captain O'Toole.

“Why?”
“You're not a civilian any more.”
“It's in the car,” Vera said. “It's always there, just in case.”
Captain O'Toole scowled at his daughter.
“Well, it's true, isn't it?” she said. “Your uniform is in the car. What's your problem?”

“I'll have somebody get it for you, Captain,” Billy said. “As far as anyone will know, you
have just arrived for the program. It's a real program, Captain. Escort Captain O'Toole
and his daughter to their places.”
Captain O'Toole and Vera, arm in arm, followed two inmate guards out of the office.
“Bring Father Colahan.”
He was brought in and sat before Billy. He sat slumped over, arms hanging like dishrags,
face cadaveric.
“Father, some friendly police officers are outside. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind
going out and inviting them to join us for coffee and donuts. Tell them we're having a
community day. I'm sure you could make them feel right at home.”
“Yes, I'll do that,” he said in a zombie-like voice. “Thank you.”
The priest was escorted out.
***
“Bring Carson.”
The guards brought him with his hands cuffed in front of him and in leg restraints. His
stomach discomfort had passed. The guards sat him in the little chair in front of his old
desk, the chair that had just been occupied by Captain O'Toole and Father Colahan.
Seized by a profound lethargy, he sat sallow-faced, head bowed to his chest.
Billy had guards remove the Director's restraints. “You are going to introduce me as the
facilitator of the Granite City Community Dialogue Day. Here is what you are going to
say.”
He came around from the desk and presented a sheet of paper to the listless director.
“Don't leave out a word or add a word.” Billy took the despondent Carson by the elbow
and eased him up from the chair. “Come, sit where you belong.”
He guided him around the desk and sat him at his executive chair. Billy took the
Director's family pictures out of the drawer and arranged them on his desk the way they
had been. Billy sat in the little chair facing Carson sitting at his old desk.
“Listen, you are going to have your school back and much, much more.” Carson
remained glum. “Let's see, it's nine thirty-seven. In about twenty-three minutes, you are
going to go out there before TV cameras and the national press. People all over this
country -- all over the world -- are going to see you. They will be hanging on your every
word.”
Billy got up, put both hands on the desk, and leaned forward. “Do you know what that
means for you? You will no longer just be the director of this school. You'll be a celebrity.
You'll have clout. Millions will know your name and face. You'll be able to write your
own ticket if you play it right.”
“What do you mean?” the Director asked, showing the first sign of life.
“If you fight me, you lose everything. So do I. We both go down in flames. It's a simple
choice, Mr. Carson. Either we both win or we both lose.”

Voices sounded from the foyer -- of police officers in battle dress, chattering East Side
mothers, milling Fairview students and smiling inmates in white shirts and ties politely
asking grim-faced warriors how they take their coffee. Father Colahan and the
commander of the assault force, Captain Morrill, sipped coffee and exchanged small talk.
An inmate said loudly, “You thought there was what? A school take-over?” He laughed
uproariously. The foyer was downright festive -- except for one skeptical officer, Sgt.
Frank Tancredi, who had urged that some of the SWAT troopers enter the school along
with regular uniformed officers, just in case.
“Where's Director Carson?” Sgt. Tancredi asked.
“Oh, he's on the way,” a Fairview student said off-handedly.
“Ah,” Billy said. “It seems that the police who were out front preparing to commit mass
slaughter at your school have decided to join us for coffee instead. Listen to them.
They're having a good time. Everybody is in a good mood -- everybody, it seems, except
you.”
Billy went on: “Mr. Carson, all you have to do is read that little statement -- look at it;
anybody would be proud to say those words in public -- and then turn things over to me.
Everything I say or do will make you look good. That I promise. I'm going to build you
up as the kind of thinking-outside-the-box guy we want for Governor. Mr. Carson, this is
the opportunity of a lifetime. Take it. You'll leave your buddy Waters in your dust. If that
blob can be a Congressman, you can be Governor.”
Carson thought, Governor.
***
Congressman Waters arrived fleshy, pink-cheeked, puffing, chins quivering and with
foot-long French cuffs sticking out of his tent of a dark blue, custom-tailored suit. Three
welcomers, having taken care to keep him from talking to the police, showed him into the
office.
“What the hell is going on?”

Carson smiled. “Huge misunderstanding.” He put an arm around the Congressman.


“Amazing how a wonderful event like this can get twisted into something bad. Crazy.
This is our facilitator for today, Billy Stone.”
Billy and the Congressman shook hands.
“Billy Stone? You have the same name as that juvenile pervert?”
“Yes,” Billy said. “Mr. Carson, it's nearly time. Shall I have Congressman Waters
escorted to an honored place at the head table?”
“Yes, do that.”

Addressing Waters, Billy said, “Would you like to say a few words to our police friends,
Congressman? I'm sure they would be thrilled to see you up close. We have a little time
before the program begins.”
“Yes, love to. Got to keep the police happy, you know.”
The Congressman was soon joking with the troopers about the big misunderstanding and
delivering his boilerplate campaign speech.
“I don't see Director Carson,” Sgt. Tancredi said.
“Oh, I just spoke to him in his office,” Waters said. “I think the program is about to begin.
I have to get in there. How about a police escort as befits the best friend our police have
in all of Congress?”
With a group of inmates leading the way, a cordon of police officers in riot gear escorted
a beaming Congressman Waters down the corridors toward the dining hall.
Billy said to Carson, “Remember, if Waters can be a Congressman, you can be
Governor.”
He looked at the clock. It was one minute before ten.
“Right on schedule, just the way you like it. Shall we go?”