CHURCH, The Television Show
‘6pm, concert tonight,‘ The Supervisor texted.
‘Can’t. Stuck painting. Back in The City for weekend shifts,’ Noodle shot back.
‘I need you tonight,’ The Supervisor replied.
‘Sorry…The Manager approved this time off. The sooner I get this contract done, the sooner you’ll have me back full time.’
“Where’s Noodle tonight?” The Barracuda asked The Supervisor.
“I don’t know,” The Supervisor shrugged, “He hasn’t been showing up for work.”
“I’ll tell you where he is. He’s outside, hanging in the sun all day, slapping paint on a wall and getting paid for it! That must be nice,” The Barracuda planted.
“Noodle’s an Assassin,” The Manager planted his own disinformation, “This painting thing’s just cover.”
“My ass,” The Barracuda dismissed.
“I’m telling you, he’s an Assassin for the government,” The Manager continued, “You lost your guy Washington, didn’t you?”
“Washington was a loudmouth. Mark my words: Noodle’s going to get killed. He’s not a killer…Noodle’s the prey!”
“Be careful what you say about Noodle.”
“Assassin,” The Manager whispered then slipped away.
So The Barracuda went to find The SquishHead. He found him with The Meat Packer, whose head was bent over a cell phone.
“Hey ‘Cuda, check out this picture!” The Meat Packer said and turned the phone around.
“Why would you show me a picture of a guy in his underwear?” The Barracuda complained and pushed the phone away.
“Here, take a closer look,” The Meat Packer said, “Scroll up!”
“Oh. My. God!” The Barracuda exclaimed. “That’s Doughboy! How on earth did you get this photo?”
“He got naked with some dude over at Waterhouse College!”
“What a fag!” The Barracuda laughed. “And you guys are queers too, for staring at this picture! SquishHead, I need you to do something for me.”
“You’re friends with Noodle, right? The next time you see him, find out where he’s painting. Figure out if he’s painting in Rockton or not, okay?”
“Easy,” The SquishHead confirmed.
“Oh, and one more thing,” The Barracuda added.
“Please forward me that nude photo of Doughboy!”
On Friday night The Detective stood in The Lobby talking to The Manager. Noodle would have given anything to hear what they were saying.
“So, what happened on the night The Patsy was almost killed?” The Detective asked The Manager.
“God, are you still investigating that?”
“Are you avoiding my questions?”
“I’m not avoiding anything…”
“You still haven’t answered.”
“Look, that was a long time ago.”
“Good people mature with age.”
“I’ve already told you everything I know.”
“Which is nothing!”
“You run this place and you know nothing about the night in question?”
“That’s right. I know nothing.”
“Look, I know how The Gang works: No one talks to The Cops.”
“I tried to help you. We even brought The Showman in here so you could interview him.”
“That was a dead-end. There had to have been someone else.”
“I don’t know anything,” The Manager shrugged.
“That’s not why I’m here,” The Detective pushed.
“What’s with you people?” The Manager cried. “Then, why are you here?”
“Detectives,” The Manager groaned.
“I know why you’re here.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Sure you do,” The Detective interrogated. “You’re their slave!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” The Manager continued to deny.
“I heard about those photos,” The Detective smiled.
“I’m not reaching out for any help,” The Manager refused.
“I’m not here to help you.”
“God! Then why are you here?”
“I’m here for him,” The Detective glanced toward Noodle.
“Who? Noodle? What do you want with him?”
“You know he’s a good kid, from a good family, with a bright future when this is all over.”
“I know. Noodle’s awesome!”
“Then what’s he doing working here?” The Detective tried to piece together. “How’d he get to be working for The Gang?”
“I don’t know,” The Manager lied.
“Look, I don’t want the same thing that happened to you, to happen to him.”
“It better not.”
“I’m telling you, it won’t.”
“If it does,” The Detective pointed his finger, “I’m going to blame you.”
“Come on man, I have to get back inside. The Gang is going to get suspicious if we stand around here talking for too long…you know what I mean?”
“I’ll let you go. But don’t forget what I said!”
“I won’t,” The Manager said and went upstairs.
“What was that all about?” The Barracuda asked.
“Nothing, The Detective was just asking about stuff.”
“Asking about what?”
“I don’t know, about The Patsy.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him everything I know: Which is nothing!” The Manager smiled.
The SquishHead ran up behind Noodle. “Noodle, wanna split a cab home?”
“Sure, but I have to stop by the box office first to collect my check.”
“I’ll wait,” The SquishHead agreed.
There Noodle found a case of Sleep Nectar, one-hundred four ounce bottles of it, marketed as the antidote to caffeine infused vodka drinks.
He tried to read the contents, but those tiny bottles were filled with ingredients that had so many letters, each unpronounceable chemical scrolled from one end of the bottle to the other, and continued on line below that, and below it again.
“Manager, I was wondering if you had my check from last week?”
“What’s in your hand Noodle?”
“Sleep Nectar. I found it outside the door.”
“Noodle, do not drink that!” The Manager advised.
“Thanks for the warning; I can’t even read the ingredients. It should just say: Unfit for human consumption.”
“Noodle, I have good news for you.”
“We found someone else to work the lobby. Starting next week you’ll be working upstairs with everyone else.”
“Thanks Manager, I love you man!”
“Noodle, there’s no need to get all emotional. Get out of here. Go have some fun with the other kids!”
The SquishHead was waiting for him on the other side of the office.
“I met these girls tonight,” The SquishHead said, “They invited to go home with them.”
“You should have gone!”
“They were from Rockton, do you know where that is?” The SquishHead asked.
“No,” Noodle lied. “I don’t know where that is.”
“I’m going to call them, hold on…” The SquishHead took out his phone and called the girls that he’d apparently met.
“They’re in the car already, on the highway, headed south to Rockton. Do you know how to get to Rockton?”
“I wouldn’t have the faintest idea,” Noodle answered. “I don’t know where that is.”
“You could come with me. We could have sex with a bunch of girls. Noodle, how do we get to Rockton? I have a car!”
“What would a car help if neither of us knows where Rockton is?” Noodle joked.
In the morning Noodle grabbed his painting kit and headed South, through Rockton, to Binghamton. He spent the week roasting in the sun, scraping and sanding The Iron Shield’s home.
At Majesty, The Barracuda printed the picture of Doughboy posing in his underwear and called in a couple of his associates.
“Hey ‘Cuda, why are you printing gay porn?” Hayden, the bigger of the two boys behind him, laughed.
“Listen to me, “The Barracuda commanded. Here is what I want you to do. I want you to take this picture to CopyMax and make a thousand copies. What does it cost, ten cents a copy? Here’s one-hundred bucks.”
“Why, so you can tape them all over your ceiling?” Hayden laughed again, and turned to watch his boys laughing along with him.
“No, you fool. I want you to take the photos down to Waterhouse campus and post them on every door and telephone pole you see.”
“Got it ‘Cuda.”
“And just so you’re aware, we have friends down there, so I’m gonna know if you take that hundred bucks and don’t use it for exactly what I say.”
Hayden frowned. “It’s going to cost one-hundred dollars for the photo copies.”
“That’s why I gave you a hundred bucks, idiot.”
“Yeah, but Waterhouse college is like forty miles each way. What about some money for gas?”
“Money for gas! That’s why you get to come to The Club every weekend and drink for free!”
“Yeah, but it’s kinda like we’re working while we’re here, too.”
“Hayden, no buts. You’ve got it made, okay? Now get out of my office. And paste those pictures everywhere! Right on Doughboy’s door if you can find out where he lives!”
On Wednesday night, after everyone at his school had seen the picture that The Barracuda had posted, The Doughboy called out sick.
“Where’s Doughboy tonight?” The Barracuda smiled.
“He called out sick.”
“I wonder why that is?”
“He says he has hives.”
“Isn’t that too bad! Where’s Noodle?”
“I don’t know. Painting or something.”
“Supervisor, let me tell you something, you are too kind to your employees. Think of them like dogs: You have to exert your dominance or they will chew your house apart. What do you do when your own dog barks back at you?”
“I don’t know ‘Cuda. What do you do?”
“You slap it in the face. Show that mutt whose boss!”
On Thursday night, after dark, Noodle’s cousin picked him up from Iron Shield’s house.
“How’s the painting going?” She asked.
“Great! I should be finished at some point next week. Where’s your new house?”
“Cool! Take me to see it; you could give me a tour! Hey cousin…”
“What’s up Noodle?”
“Once a Detective paid me a surprise visit at The Club and he told me he knew you.”
“I was friends with a girl in college whose father was a City Detective.”
“It was weird that he came in the middle of the night when no one else was working. I felt like he was coming to check on me. Do you know what I mean?”
“Here’s the thing: Do you think that he’s Good Police, or a Bad Cop?”
“I think he’s Good Police.”
“You have to be absolutely sure that he’s not on the take, and you can never talk to him about me. They have rules against that.”
“Rules against what?”
“No one talks to the Police!”
“That’s weird,” Noodle’s cousin sighed.
“That’s just the way it is.”
“Why are you asking me about The Detective then?”
“Because I feel like people are stalking me, people who claim to be my friends. I want to make sure that I have other friends, in case my friends turn out to be no so friendly.”
“Why would people be stalking you?”
“I don’t know! I don’t think I’m that interesting. But listen to this: When I just asked for this time off they kept on asking me where I was going to be painting…like they wanted the physical address.”
“That’s weird. Maybe they were just curious.”
“But they were being creepy about it, so I lied to protect my privacy. I told them that I was painting in Rockton. And then last weekend this guy named SquishHead kept asking if I knew where Rockton is. Even after I denied any knowledge of it, he kept insisting that I tell him where Rockton was!”
“Maybe it was just a coincidence.”
“Maybe, but it struck me as particularly strange because he was asking me for information that I had purposefully presented as counter-intelligence.”
“What are you like a spy?”
“Cousin, listen to me. He’s the spy! If we were at war, and someone asked where the nuclear weapons were stored, and you lied and said that they were in Warehouse B; and then, a week later warehouse B got robbed…then I’m pretty sure that the person you’d just told about warehouse B is a freaking spy!”
“You’d be good at that! How’s the Army going?”
“I’d make a terrible spy because I hate lying to people. Lies destroy our world. I’m still trying to get into The Army, I’m missing a recommendation from my flight instructor.”
“Call him. Maybe he forgot.”
“I’ve called him, and he said he forgot. But I’ve reminded him two or three times now, and his mother just died, and he has religious reservations about war and killing people and all that,” Noodle rambled. “I don’t like asking people for stuff. At this point, my fate’s in his hands!”
While Noodle toured his cousin’s new home, The Roommate was at Majesty in a meeting with The Manager.
“Are you sure that he’s the mark?” She asked. “I don’t think that Noodle’s in The Gang.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Well, he’s really nice for one.”
“The successful ones are. How do you think he made all his money?”
“I don’t know. He seems poor. He doesn’t have any stuff.”
“Roommate, it’s just a front! He owns the house you live in, you know.”
“That’s what your job is: Find out how! Where is he right now?”
“I don’t know, he’s away somewhere.”
“Exactly! Go through his stuff and find out where he is,” The Manager ordered.
“I did, I did what you told me to do.”
“And what did you find?”
“Nothing. His file cabinets are locked.”
“He’s an Assassin!”
“He’s not an Assassin,” The Roommate dismissed.
When Noodle got back to his apartment in MetroNorth he lugged his heavy duffle bag upstairs.
“Where have you been?” The Roommate asked.
“I told you, I had a painting contract. I have to pay my bills this year!”
“What’s with all those lights on the back porch?”
“They’re work lights, for when I paint interiors.”
“Sometimes I take money from work; I slip it into my boot.” The Roommate confessed, hoping to receive a mutual admission.
“Roommate, you shouldn’t do that! And you defiantly shouldn’t have told me. Don’t ever tell anyone that again, okay?”
“Okay. But do you ever take money when you work the door?”
“Nope!” Noodle answered.
“Sorry about the mess,” The Roommate apologized.
“What is it?”
“I’m making a dress for a cancer benefit. I want to be a fashion designer.”
“Roommate, creativity is life. Don’t ever give up on your artistic pursuits, and don’t ever apologize for it! Use my living room as your art studio.”
The Roommate felt awful that Noodle was so nice to her after she had let someone go through his things. She ran to her room and quietly withdrew a razor from her make-up case. She made three small incisions into the flesh of her thigh, where no-one would see.
Just as Noodle finished unpacking, The Roommate returned to the kitchen.
“Sorry for crying,” she apologized.
“What are you talking about?’
“I just went into my bedroom to cry.”