The nest was weirdly high off the roof, but my terrified brain couldn’t figure it out. All I saw and understood was the damned giant bird. It stood up a tiny bit and hissed at us, murder in its eyes, but it didn’t come for us. There had to be eggs in that nest, or hatchlings. Otherwise, there was no reason why the bird couldn’t jump off the nest and claw us open with its giant claws or peck our heads off with its giant pecker and then eat us and then poop us out on some poor, unsuspecting person who had the ill fortune to be out and about at sunrise or dusk.
The door behind us was still open, and we made for it, Bethel growling and barking over my shoulder all the way. Once inside, we slammed the door behind us. Mike jammed the fire ax into the crash bar, in case the bird decided to attack the door. But there was dead silence from on the rooftop.
“Shit, how much do we need information?,” Mike panted.
“I don’t know. I didn’t even see Don’s antenna out there,” I answered.
“I think I saw it,” Jill said. “I think the bird was IN it. I think it’s a satellite dish.”
We trooped back to Don’s to report the bad news and try to figure out which news Don had given us was real news. I didn’t care so much about Princess Di and the little royals, but I cared very much about Don’s report that New Jersey would take anyone who could get there. If Don had made it up, New Jersey might not be a haven, after all. I wasn’t interested in busting our asses and risking our lives only to be shot on sight by someone who said “dese and does” instead of “there and those.”
“I’m sure I heard something about free New Jersey,” Don said. “At least, I’m pretty sure.”
“Damnit, Don, now we don’t know what to do. Even if you did hear it, things could have changed, by now,” Moira said. The more Moira thought about the journey, the more she realized that we would be traveling to my neighborhood, and the more she cooled off. Her anti-Washington Heights snobbery would never die. She was a really consistent person.
“We have to go,” Jill said. “Food or not, there are more people like Bob around. More people who are clearing out the buildings.” We gave Jill our full attention. It was the first time she’d mentioned anything connected to her kidnapping and captivity. We’d been letting her have her space, but it had been a stretch for us. We weren’t good at allowing people privacy under the best of circumstances.
“What do you mean, Jill? Does somebody want buildings emptied out?,” I asked.
Jill nodded. “Bigger buildings, to start with. I heard Bob say that empty buildings would be nicer for the new owners. Bob had a big mouth. He was always talking about how important he was and how important his job was. He didn’t care if we heard. We were expendable.” She paused for a second, thinking about being considered an expendable person. Then she gathered herself and went on. “That is why he wanted people to go on the march to the Lincoln Tunnel. It was basically an ambush. Most of the Manhattan Plaza tenants wouldn’t do it. They were too scared. Then he started stirring people up about jumping into the pit, although he really didn’t have many takers, just people who were kind of suicidal in the first place. There were so many doing it last night because they were from buildings all over the city.”
“Who hires people like Bob, Jill?,” I asked.
“The Mouse. That’s all I know. I don’t know if they mean a person or if they mean Disney itself, but there has to be a person at the top, somewhere,” she replied.
I couldn’t spend time thinking about all of this. All it meant to me, at that moment, was that we needed to get out of the city. I didn’t want to waste our bullets killing the satellite dish bird, but we really did need information, if we could get it. I turned to Don. “What do you have in your…um…collection that will kill a big bird?”
Don took the question seriously. He clearly wanted his radio capabilities back. He shoved BJ over on the sofa and sat. He put his chin in his hand. He sucked a corner of his lip into his mouth and chewed his mustache. After a few moments, he raised his head. “I’ve got it,” he said.
We left Jill and the pets with Don, then we crept back into the hallway with our new gear. “You sure you can do this?,” Mike asked me quietly.
I hefted the bow and the arrow with the emergency road flare duct taped to it. “I made an ‘A’ in my college archery class,” I breathed.