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Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Capture of the Enemy King - Dr. Factious Part III

continued from "Battle Lines are Drawn, Dr. Factious - Part II"


We needed a really solid picture of a really nasty animal to tell the story. One that could be plastered all over the news.

I went back downstairs. John suggested the 5:30 action news, hosted by a blonde on ABC during a half hour in the afternoon where she goes fire and tongs against corrupt merchants, lazy city agencies, non-performing landlords, and corrupt businesses in our wonderful city.

Five-O-Clock Faye.

It was Faye's job to find the horror stories, the breaches of public trust, the inequities charged by financial institutions, and the blatant irresponsibility by the city departments, and then go to through the motions of solving them with the resources of the press. Faye was a Knight-Princess in a shining miniskirt.

Faye was hot.

We both wanted her to pay us a visit so I began to draft a letter:

Dear Faye :

Would you like to visit a building in Lower Manhattan, so decrepit that a diabetic's apartment filled with urine-soaked newspapers became so heavy that it collapsed the floor entirely?

Would you like to poke your lovely thigh through a hole to the apartment below? Or see bathtubs stacked like teacups because the floors rotted through? Or an army of rats run for cover?

All this is a mere fifteen minutes by car from where you, dear beautiful Faye, sit on gorgeous upholstered office chairs opposite your happy and well-fed producer.

I invite you to the Building of Horrors, here in the center of Manhattan. Your jaw will drop in amazement at the number of violations which have been purposefully created by egregious landlords preparing to burn the occupants from their homes.

I'll have all domiciles flung open for your inspection.

You'll create a storm amidst city government. Your network will become a hero to ordinary citizens seeking safety and peaceful enjoyment in their rented apartments.

I await your reply,

I ripped the letter from my typewriter and called John.

"You gotta read this!"

Moments later he stormed through my door. I handed him what I'd written.

A moment ensued. Then he doubled over and vibrated. I thought I had killed him. He clutched his gut and looked at the sky, shaking his hand. Laughter poured out, mixed with the occasional hawk, which he bottled up and deposited in my sink.

"Will this do the job?" I asked.

"Oh it will!"

He ran upstairs and got the glossy black and white and brought it down for me to give to Faye Heathers or whatever her name was, when she came.

"How do you know she has a 'happy and well-fed producer'?"

"She has to have one! They're not starving"

"Oh, this is it! This is it! We've WON!" John was dancing around the apartment.

"John, I haven't even mailed it yet. She may not come."

He started guffawing again. "Oh she will. You better believe she will."

We walked to the letter box with the envelope. I dropped it in without ceremony. On the way back we stopped at John's lab and picked up more copies of the bogus rat shot for the files.

That night we strategized all-out war. He who commands media, wins. The one that tells the best story controls the mechanisms of state. Ergo, our story, if we told it right, would win.

The nights were hot. I felt the need to get out of the city. It would be days or weeks before anything happened on the building front.

"I'm going north to visit the fam." I told John.

"Later." John was one of the original minters of the phrase.

Two weeks later to be precise, my wife and I returned to the city. The apartment felt dank, almost as if a new occupant had been in the place and showered. Nevertheless everything was as I had left it. Some tableware was scattered about in the sink, but I took nothing from it.

Late in the afternoon, the lazy August sun was crouching low in the West, and lighting up the other side of Houston in rosy hues. I laid down in the center room of my little railroad flat, a place that had served me well for nearly ten years. I heard Ami mess about in the kitchen, and then she fell into bed next to me. The car was parked. My mind was revving from the drive south.

I drifted off.

Suddenly an excruciating pain ripped through my ribs. I bolted out of bed.

"What the hell was that?"

I heard a loud thud as something went for the hole under the bathtub. I looked at the blood pouring from my side. Two parallel grooves about a half an inch long had peeled off a layer of skin, in all about 1/16 of an inch deep with surgical precision.

I had been bitten by a giant rat.


John came with me to the doctor's office. He was genuinely disappointed to learn that I would live. Turns out the average rat bite is far less toxic than a dog bite, which in turn is far preferable to the bite of a human being.

"Well Doc can I at least get a good picture of the wound with your gloves in the frame."

The doctor complied. John guffawed all the way home. "We got em now. We got em now! Bitten by a rat!"

Life accelerated at a wild pace.

I was rat-hunting.

"We need a good picture of the beast that bit you." John proclaimed.

"I'm working on it."

Two days later I caught sight of the animal again, lounging behind my desk chair like he owned the place. He was a rat from Hell, a full nine inches long, nose to butt, add another six for the tail. All in all it looked the size of a cat. I saw stars. Anger, fear, adrenaline.

I employed all my skills as an inventor to create a rat trap from hell. The beast had to be brought down.

I tried glue traps. No avail. He ripped them up. I tried conventional rattraps. Too fast for them.

One gloomy evening I sat with my pellet gun pumped to the maximum (well over the safe 'limit'), and sat motionless for an hour and a half, waiting for the monster to appear, which he did, a few moments after sundown, from a hole beneath the tub. He waddled out into the kitchen. I had placed some juicy pizza crusts on a chair in front of the kitchen trash. He lept up, agile as a feline, and started to consume them noisily.

I fired. The big creature hardly took notice, but then sprang down and disappeared. I shook uncontrollably, went over to my improvised set. No blood at all. The pellet hadn't even penetrated the critter's hide. He was bruised, but not even injured.

My rat wound healed. Up in the Adirondacks a week later I picked up a section of 8" stovepipe, three giant wooden rattraps (lumberjack variety), and some coat-hanger wire.

I spoke with our caretaker about his spring trapping.

"Big Beavers are incredibly tough. In fact all large rodents have incredibly tough skins. I suspect that's why your pellet just bounced off."

My greatest fear was that King Rat would leave the building before I killed him. If I could get him, dead or alive, an image of him in black and white, life size, would make instant news.

He was afraid of me now, and avoided me like the plague. I began leaving sumptuous snacks when I went out to the movies. Purposefully, every night, I began to feed my prey. I wanted him fat. I wanted him healthy. The bigger the better. Come on baby. Don't leave me now.

I was Saladin, at the Seige of Acre. No prisoner would be taken. I fashioned metal engines of Death.

Reworking the three lumberjack rat traps, I attached them to the ends of a 30" piece of 8" stovepipe, employing them as overpowered doormen to a long hollow tube. The third trap at the top powered a trip mechanism for the two traps at either end, which simply slammed the doors shut. I would capture this animal alive.

Then the pleasure of his death would be mine.

"You've got a problem," my wife chimed. "You're obsessed by this creature. Live and let live!"

"Ok so I'll let you sleep here alone then," I argued.

She demurred. "Then get him, and move on."

I tested the trap one evening with her present. It looked like a yard-long bazooka, with two metal flap doors, one at either end. The rattrap springs waited to slam shut at the slightest bit of movement on the treadle, located deep inside.

I wiggled a piece of straw against the treadle.

"POW". Both doors slammed shut with such ferocity that I almost lost my finger.

"There that should do it!"

That evening my we went to sleep nervously. The device was set at the edge of the kitchen floor, and bits of stinky cheese were liberally sprinkled inside.

We are hardly asleep more than a few minutes.


We bolted out of bed. My wife started to freak. "What are you going to do? What are you going to do?"

"Don't worry honey. Don't worry. We've got him!"

Sure enough the trap was heavy. I could feel him moving lethargically inside. A captured king. He tried like hell to force his way out. I saw his paws exploiting all the cracks in my device, feeling for a weakness.

Smug as Bolingbroke, I held Richard II, captive, in my Tower of London.

Like Exton, I calculated the best way to administer a coup de grĂ¢ce. The chivalric conqueror exhibits mercy when he dispatches a vanquished king or nobleman. Often it was a sword driven beside the neck, down into the body cavity, or if the blade was heavy enough, decapitation.

For this job however, the stroke of mercy required another technique.

I ran the bath until it was full of water. It was said the Sun King, Louis XIV, took three baths in total, once at birth, once before being married, and finally as a corpse after he died.

King Rat would be clean upon exiting this world.

"Darling, say goodbye to the biggest rat in downtown New York."

Ami howled in sympathy for my prisoner. I dropped the metal trap, regal contents and all, into the tub.

I heard frantic scratching against metal. The whole affair rattled. Bubbles floated to the surface. Soon all was still. I waited a good half hour, then drained the tub.

All our lights were on, but our apartment felt dark. The place stank from animal adrenaline, from our fear. The universe felt tainted.

I grabbed the day's newspaper. A headline,"Roe vs. Wade Overturned", was emblazoned across the top, spelled sad news for human rights, but would be a boon for the denizens of our little tenement.

I envisioned the Attorney General, in person, visiting our little hellhole and helping us in our valiant suit.

I lifted the soggy heavy trap out of the bathtub, let the excess water drain out of one end, then opened one door and slid the dead animal out onto the newspaper.

Wet fur, a toothy grin, a long whip tail and a slurp of rat barf, all over those immortal words:

       "Roe vs. Wade Overturned!"

I reached for my camera.

We had proof at last.

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