We woke up early because Mrs. Shew and BJ were staring at us while we slept.
“Damnit, Mrs. Shew, get out,” Mike roared.
Bethel came out from underneath the covers and started barking.
“Don’t even look at my dog,” I said to BJ.
“You people are animals. Sexual deviants. Mike where is my portrait?”
“I think people who eat the sweet little pets of old lesbians are animals, don’t you?,” Moira asked. “No wonder you didn’t mind having all of those cats loose in your hallway.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Mrs. Shew huffed.
“You don’t know where BJ is getting all of that fresh meat? You really don’t know?,” I asked.
Mrs. Shew reddened. “There wasn’t a scrap of food in the kitchen,” she said to Mike. “What do you do? Eat at soup kitchens?”
“This is my apartment,” Mike said. “If there had been food in the kitchen, it would have been mine, not yours.”
Little Old Lady and Big Old Lady appeared in the bedroom doorway. “The door was open,” Little Old Lady said apologetically, “and we are wondering if you’ve seen Miss Kitty. She’s a cat. She’s orange. We are missing several others, as well.”
“BJ might have seen them,” I offered.
BJ turned to the women. “I saw a couple of cats get into the elevator with Mr. Woo.”
“Oh, dear, he runs a Chinese restaurant, doesn’t he?,” Big Old Lady said, worriedly. They hustled out of the apartment.
“Why don’t you leave, too?,” Mike suggested to Mrs. Shew and BJ.
“You have to leave with us,” Mrs. Shew said. “Don sent us for you.”
“Who is Don and what does he want?,” Moira asked.
“He lives on the top floor,” BJ said. “He wants you to listen to his radio.”
“Well, we certainly want to do THAT, we certainly want to listen to the radio, don’t we, girls?” Mike started to throw the bed covers off of all of us. Mrs. Shew paled and hurried from the room. BJ made no move to leave.
“Get the fuck out, BJ,” I said.
We got dressed in the bedroom and caught BJ and Mrs. Shew poking around the living room.
“Looking for your portrait?,” Mike asked.
Mrs. Shew chose to answer his question with questions. “What did you have in the hamper, Mike? And where did it go?”
“None of your business. Now, take us to your leader.”
Don lived on the top floor of the building, apparently. We got off the elevator and followed Mrs. Shew and BJ to a door. They didn’t bother knocking. They just walked straight in.
The apartment was a wreck, but it wasn’t because birds had crashed through the windows. The apartment was a wreck because it was always a wreck. It was obviously the apartment of a bachelor. Papers and books and laundry formed teetering towers on every available surface, including the floor. It actually reminded me of my own mess, and I sniffed back a snuffle of homesickness. Or maybe it was the dust.
Don was in the back room, sitting at a desk with his back to us. He was no younger than anyone else we’d met in the building. He had a set of headphones on his mostly bald head. A few long, curly gray hairs were there for decorative purposes, only. On the desk, on either side of the desk, all over the room, as a matter of fact, were all kinds of electronic weirdness things. Lights pulsed, hands jumped up and settled back down in dials.
“Ham,” I gasped.
“Ham?,” asked Moira.
Don spun around on his desk chair. “You bet your ass. I’m a Ham Operator.”
Ham radio wasn’t what it once was. What little I knew of it, I knew from movies. As the world got more connected, fewer and fewer nerds tapped out Morse Code to Japan. But, Ham radio had once been a fairly popular hobby, as well as providing a useful public information service in times of disaster. If the world ever needed Hams, it was right now, and Don obviously knew it. He was the only genuinely happy person I’d seen in days.
“What have you heard?,” Mike asked him, and sank into a chair beside Don like he was going to hear the Gospel straight from God Himself.
“Several countries are threatening to invade us, including Great Britain. They want their citizens released. Princess Di is in town, you know.”