“We’d hoped to be invisible inside that box,” I said.
“You never heard that birds are attracted to shiny things? That thing zoomed down for a look and then it was trying to either kill or screw its own reflection. I’m not sure which it was, but bad for you, no matter what its intentions were,” the man replied.
“We thought the buildings would be reflected…”
“She worked on a David Copperfield show, one time,” Moira was smirking.
“Look,” he said, “maybe on a cloudy day, it might have worked. Maybe. But the sun was winking off that thing like fireworks. It didn’t help that you chased the bird off its nest on the roof of your building with that racket.”
“It was on OUR roof?,” Moira gasped. “Last we saw, it had a nest on YOUR roof. On the tennis courts.”
“Nah. We chased him off of there last night. Every time he’d go hunting, we’d snake hoses out of windows to soak the roof. Ruined his nest. People on that side of the building didn’t want to watch him eat anybody else. While having a view of the tennis courts was never ideal, looking at people being eaten by a bird was worse than tennis. Gave the kiddies nightmares.”
“Thanks for letting us in,” Mike said. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“Well,” the man said, “you’ve displayed dumbass execution of ideas, but they are ideas that have a little promise. Some of our residents killed themselves right away, before the shit even hit the fan. A lot of them won’t come out of their apartments. You are people of action. I want people of action.”
“What for?,” asked Trish.
“I want an army, sailor. Come see our barracks.”
The man and his friends walked us through the abandoned grocery store, and he talked the whole time.
“We don’t actually have an entrance to the store from the towers. We leave guards down here. We control Food Emporium, for now. The guards are how I knew you were coming. They called me on security guard walkie talkies. We are fortunate that 43rd Street is narrow and that there are a lot of store awnings. The big birds don’t like the narrow streets as much as the wider streets because they can’t maneuver. Plus the awnings are great cover for us. Hawks don’t fool with bugs hiding in cracks. They want to swoop down on rabbits in the open.” He smacked his hands together and we all blinked.
“We basically have control of this side of the block. From different rooms in the towers, we can see 9th and 10th Avenues, and 42nd Street. Those are wide open streets, and there is nowhere to hide. You are about the only people we’ve seen get across any of those streets in the past 36 hours.”
We’d reached the 43rd St. door of Food Emporium. The guards opened the doors and the metal gate. My friends and I looked nervously at each other. Going outside was suddenly a big deal. But, then we were out there and…it was like an ordinary day. Like a Sunday morning, before businesses had opened and people were out and about.
Minus the Food Emporium guards, who slammed gates behind us, we all walked two doorways down. Past the gym, past the travel agency, both protected by their precious awnings. Placed to invite customers in from inclement weather, awnings suddenly seemed like the most miraculous things in the world to us.
In the lobby of Manhattan Plaza, we saw evidence that things were different. There were guards, again. Apartment buildings don’t have gates. Apartment buildings are always open. No matter the time or the weather, people have to get in and out of Manhattan apartment buildings. Things had changed. This apartment building, at least, had become a fortress. People had to have a reason to come and go. Those guys with guns were there to make sure the reasons were good ones. There were big lockers in the lobby that had to be for creating a barricade in front of the doors, if needed.
“Stand down, boys. I’ve got crazy ass celebrities with me.”
The guards relaxed. “Who are they, Bob?”
“Oh, wow!,” Jill burst out. “I know who you are! You are Bob Hogan! You are going to star as Baloo in The Jungle Book On Broadway!”
“You better believe it, little britches.”