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datatime: 2022-12-03 21:40:47 Author:ARhSUAwg

"And Mrs. O'Leary was just an old lady with a clumsy cow, but she burned down Chicago," Fat Jack said sourly. He was eating a Mars bar. In the distance children's voices, insulated by soundproofing, rose in a dull roar, and as if talking to that unseen multitude, the fat man said, "Ah, choke on it, you little trolls."

Now, after she gave Fat Jack her new shopping list, after he quoted a price and counted her money, he led her and Chris through the hidden door in the back of his office closet, down a narrow stairwell-he seemed in danger of becoming wedged tight-to the basement where he kept his illegal stock. Though his restaurant was a madhouse, his arsenal was stored with fetishistic neatness: cartons upon cartons of handguns and automatic weapons were stacked on metal shelves, arranged according to caliber and also according to price; he kept at least a thousand guns in the basement of the Pizza Party Palace.

Fat Jack grinned. Bits of chocolate were stuck between his teeth. "Don't get much call for this kind of thing, not from someone like yourself, a small buyer. Tickles me to try to figure what you'd be up to with it. Not that I expect you to tell me. But usually it's big buyers from South America or the Middle East who want these neuroactive and respiractive gases. Iraq and Iran used plenty the last few years."

"No. Vexxon. That's the stuff I want." Stefan had given her the name of the gas. He said it was one of the chemical weapons that was on the list of items the institute hoped to bring back to 1944 and introduce into the German military arsenal. Now perhaps it could be used against the Nazis. "We need something that will kill fast."

Fat Jack took his nickname seriously and tried to live up to it. He was five feet ten and weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds. Wearing immense gray sweatpants and sweatshirt that fit him almost as tightly as Spandex, he looked like the fat man in that magnetized photograph that dieters could buy to put on refrigerators to scare them off food; in fact he looked like the refrigerator.

"Please follow me," Dominick said in a funereal voice.

Raising her voice to be heard over the din, Laura asked for Fat Jack and said, "I called earlier. I'm an old friend of his mother's," which was what you were to say to indicate you wanted guns not pizza.

"Please follow me," Dominick said in a funereal voice.

"Good memory," she said. "A year ago."

"You sure you don't mean tear gas?"

They did not have to go through the cyclonic commotion of the dining room, which was good because that meant Laura was less likely to be seen and recognized by one of the customers. A door off the other side of the host's foyer opened onto a corridor that led past the kitchen and the storeroom to Fat Jack's private office. Dominick knocked on the door, ushered them inside, and said to Fat Jack, "Old friends of your mother," then left Laura and Chris with the big man.

Dominick had learned to project his voice clearly through the cacophony without shouting. "You've been here before, I believe."

"Yeah. Isn't it a beauty? I designed it, had it made, and then had it erected in the dead of night, so the next morning it was too late for anybody to get a restraining order to stop me. The damn city council just about croaked, all of them at once."

Laura had no great love of big government, whether the left or right, but she had little sympathy with Fat Jack, either. He did not acknowledge the legitimacy of any authority whatsoever, not that of proven institutions, not even that of family.

Fat Jack leaned his backside against the metal worktable in the middle of the room, where he had laid out the Uzis, revolvers, pistol, and silencers. The table creaked ominously. "Well, what we're talking about here is army ordnance, tightly controlled stuff."

"All right," Laura said, putting one arm around Chris to keep him at her side, "what about the gas on my list?"

Now, after she gave Fat Jack her new shopping list, after he quoted a price and counted her money, he led her and Chris through the hidden door in the back of his office closet, down a narrow stairwell-he seemed in danger of becoming wedged tight-to the basement where he kept his illegal stock. Though his restaurant was a madhouse, his arsenal was stored with fetishistic neatness: cartons upon cartons of handguns and automatic weapons were stacked on metal shelves, arranged according to caliber and also according to price; he kept at least a thousand guns in the basement of the Pizza Party Palace.

Laura had no great love of big government, whether the left or right, but she had little sympathy with Fat Jack, either. He did not acknowledge the legitimacy of any authority whatsoever, not that of proven institutions, not even that of family.

"Yeah. Isn't it a beauty? I designed it, had it made, and then had it erected in the dead of night, so the next morning it was too late for anybody to get a restraining order to stop me. The damn city council just about croaked, all of them at once."

Fat Jack leaned his backside against the metal worktable in the middle of the room, where he had laid out the Uzis, revolvers, pistol, and silencers. The table creaked ominously. "Well, what we're talking about here is army ordnance, tightly controlled stuff."

They did not have to go through the cyclonic commotion of the dining room, which was good because that meant Laura was less likely to be seen and recognized by one of the customers. A door off the other side of the host's foyer opened onto a corridor that led past the kitchen and the storeroom to Fat Jack's private office. Dominick knocked on the door, ushered them inside, and said to Fat Jack, "Old friends of your mother," then left Laura and Chris with the big man.

"They're only children having fun," Laura said, standing with Chris in front of the desk.

"Good memory," she said. "A year ago."

Jack had a grainy complexion with gray eyes nearly buried in a puff-adder face. He focused on Laura and said, "You see my new neon?"

Raising her voice to be heard over the din, Laura asked for Fat Jack and said, "I called earlier. I'm an old friend of his mother's," which was what you were to say to indicate you wanted guns not pizza.

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