The assassin moved into the parade crowd wearing a Richard Nixon Mask. Divine Fury.

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A VG Serial: Divine Fury

Chapter 71

IT WAS EARLY enough that the walk down the south side of Market went quickly.  Lee cruised past the office buildings and banks, then through the department store district below Union Square, and finally to the Civic Center area which held City Hall and the big plaza outside that was a gathering site for rallies and demonstrations.  Lee was taken aback for a moment when he spotted the dome of City Hall in the distance, remembering it was where Harvey Milk and George Moscone had been shot to death.  He buried the thought and stepped up his pace.  He surveyed the growing crowd along the parade route with new vigilance.

He crossed at the end of the parade route and headed back toward the start, this time on the north side of the street.  The crowd was growing steadily.  The police and parade monitors had lined the route with metal barriers with end brackets that nestled together, forming a solid front.  Although he was watching carefully for Walberg, Lee couldn’t help but notice the excitement of the hyped-up crowd.  There were people climbing up street lights and perched on the banks of newspaper boxes to get a better view.

Midway down the route, Lee saw someone across Market on the south side of the street.  He wore a Richard Nixon mask and an old suede coat.  He was waving two-fingered “V”s in the air.  Maybe it was Lee’s imagination, but he thought the Nixon character was staring at him across the street and thrusting his “V” up in the air as if he were giving Lee the finger.

* * *

After Daggart dropped him off three blocks from the parade route and left to find parking, Walberg spent a few seconds getting oriented to the mask.  He adjusted it until he could see through the eye holes and got openings for his mouth and nostrils in place so he wasn’t stewing in his own hot breath.

It took only a couple of minutes walking down the street to feel the power of disguise.  He’d sneaked a few pills before they got in the car and they kicked in as Walberg wandered through the crowd.  People stared at him, some in amusement at the Nixon mask and others warily, trying to read the state of the real person under the latex by studying his eyes.

Walberg  quickly came up with the “V,” remembering that famous clip of Nixon walking up the steps to the huge helicopter on the White House lawn, turning in the doorway, and waving his awkward  goodbye salute.  As he walked through the people, the pockets of his coat holding his gun and the detonator, he waved the “V” slowly in front of him as if blessing the assembled mass.  The crowd parted to let him through.

It took a while for Daggart to finally find a parking space a half-dozen blocks away from the parade route.  It was on the far side of Union Square.  He got out of the car wearing a blue track suit and a black cap.  He opened the trunk, pulled out the old backpack, slung it over his shoulder and began the long trek to Market Street.

* * *

As people-watching parades go, Tina Valdez thought this was probably about as good as it got, at least in San Francisco.  She’d heard that Mardi Gras was wild. It would be pretty hard to beat that – warm weather, skimpy costumes, splashes of Brazil and voodoo, and bathtubs of booze pouring out of the non-stop bar scene in New Orleans.  That was on her bucket list – visiting New Orleans.  But today she was happy to pass the morning with Johnny, who couldn’t get enough of her, and take in the costumes and the increasingly enthusiastic crowd.  Occasionally a couple of bare-chested girls would wander past.  Plenty of people wore costumes, outlandish hats or Mohawk wigs colored purple, red and orange.  A few strange-looking men walked past with breasts and wearing show girl attire but with the size and body hair of football players gone to seed.  She even saw a guy in a Nixon mask across the street standing next to Big Bird.  Then, there were the Andrew Harper signs everywhere.

She heard and felt one of the spring-loaded doors on the far end of the row of newspaper boxes slam shut.  Tina spun around and saw an older guy in need of a shave standing there in a blue track suit.  His empty hand was outstretched where he must have just let go of the door.  He seemed frozen in place, staring down at the box in front of him.  She figured he was reading whatever alternative weekly or automobile shopper filled the box.  She turned back to watch the crowd with Johnny.  Tina didn’t see Brent Daggart lift his head and take in the young couple before turning around and slipping into the current of people strolling along the sidewalk.

* * *

 Lee was back at the beginning of the parade.  He’d made a complete circuit but hadn’t seen Walberg.  Of course, Lee could have just missed him in the large crowd. Walberg could be in a disguise of some sort.  On the other hand, maybe he had been scared off.  The narrow escape on Telegraph Hill might have had some effect.  He must know that the parade would be packed with security, making Harper a tough target to reach.  They were letting people cross Market past the beginning point of the parade.  Lee moved back to the south side of the route and waited for the parade to start.

 

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.

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