A walking trip to Washington Heights would be a daunting prospect, on the best of days. I wanted to access Fort Washington park from 181st. St., so we would be walking well over 100 blocks, about six miles. Six miles wouldn’t be un-doable. We were New Yorkers. Without cars to hop into, we walked a lot. Even taking the subway or the bus meant walking to a station or a stop. On an ordinary day, New Yorkers walk more than most Americans walk in a week. Six miles wouldn’t take us more than a few hours, but we would have to stop at my apartment for a few essential things and to rest for the day.
The truly daunting part of the trip was that we didn’t know what would be ahead of us. We’d be walking in the dark, through neighborhoods that might have become war zones. There wouldn’t be anyone to help us, if we we ran into trouble.
We would have the guns with us. We were all getting more comfortable with the guns, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I grew up in the South, Land of Second Amendment Rights as interpreted by people who liked to shoot. All of my friends and neighbors had owned guns when I was a kid. I’d known a man who’d accidentally shot his baby grandchild while he was cleaning his gun. I’d gone to high school with a boy who’d accidentally shot his own toe off on a hunting trip. Another boy from my junior high had blown off half of the face of one of our fellow classmates when the two of them were kidding around. Two people I’d known had committed suicide when they were drunk, one of them in the middle of a party. However, the guns were protection. I couldn’t worry about what they could do to us because of what they could do for us. I just wished we knew how many bullets we had in them. Maybe we could figure it out.
The guns would be another burden, though. We’d have the pets, we’d have the last of our groceries, and we’d have the guns. A lot of heavy stuff to carry.
I expected Kate to demand her pistol back, so that would be one less gun to haul, although it was the smallest gun, by far. Kat and Kate had met together for a brief time and had come back with their decision to not go with us. “I can’t swim,” Kate had said, by way of final explanation. It was a valid excuse. We all hoped that we’d be able to cross the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, but that hope was very slim. That left us with the river as our only option.
Moira and I were itching to go, but we didn’t even have a full night ahead of us, and we were all tired. So, we had about 20 hours to kill. We decided to visit Don and see if he had any new information that we could use.
Don’s penthouse apartment hadn’t been improved by the addition of BJ. Don had somehow dragged him out of the tub and dumped him in a corner of the living room. “I was afraid the stupid bastard was going to pee in my tub,” Don said. “I’m hoping you are going to haul him out of here, now that’s it’s night and he can find somewhere to scuttle to with his fellow rats.”
“Yeah, we’ll get him out of your hair,” Mike said. We all looked at Don’s few strands of hair. Don smirked at Mike, and Mike’s face reddened. “But, before we do that, could we listen to your radio with you for a while, Don? We are going to take off, and we are hoping to hear a little more about how things are out there.”
It was Don’s turn to redden. “Um, no. I like to listen to my radio alone. It’s a thing with me. Don’t like anybody around my radio but me. Very delicate equipment.”
“We’ll just stand in the doorway, Don. We aren’t going to touch anything,” I said.
“I don’t like anybody HEARING it but me,” Don’s red face replied.
We all stood there looking at the old man, and something occurred to me, suddenly. “It doesn’t work, does it, Don? The radio doesn’t work and you’ve just been making up stuff to tell us.”
“It did work,” Don protested. “It worked the first couple of days. But I think a bird knocked down my antenna. I only get static”
“That should be easy enough to fix,” Jill said. “If we fix your antenna, can we listen with you, Don?”
“You are a cute girl,” Don said. “So, yes, fix my antenna and you can listen.”
We decided to deal with BJ after we checked out the antenna. There was a door for roof access right around the corner from Don’s place. There was an emergency exit alarm on it, but Mike bashed that a few times with a fire ax that hung on the wall right beside the door, and the high pitched screaming of the little alarm troubled us for only an instant.
Mike tossed aside his ax and pushed the door open. Jill I walked out on the roof with him and we instantly wished we’d been a little more cautious. We didn’t see Don’s radio antenna, but we did see a giant bird crouched on a giant nest, and it was glaring right at us.