Sûrah LXI
THE RANKS
"Then We strengthened those who believed against their foe, and they became uppermost."

61
ARMED FORCES

Deployment of the urban army Squatman has assembled is an iPhone to an iPhone i.e. cell to cell affair, whereby maneuvers are conducted with precise coordination. Nothing random, nothing wayward foils fulfillment of his orders, yet the streets betray few hints of deviation from their norm: drug deals go down, tricks turn, booze changes hands, a bet or two gets placed, all in the counter-culture's ebb and flow of commerce.

SQUATMAN

Hell to pay.

An ill-willed mantra, Squatman's phrase is voiced with escalating vehemence, as his Oldsmobile draws closer to a Lower Haight hotel, the dragnet tightening—Willie, anxious in his seat behind the wheel, intent on earning his belated vindication.

SQUATMAN

Hell to pay.

A look of grim determination sets the cast of Squatman's features. Vengeance masked, few facets move except his hypertensive jowls, now vaguely jiggling from the shock of tires encountering trolley tracks or potholes.

SQUATMAN

Hell to pay!

While Willie's countenance crawls with nervous ticks and grimaces. He is sweating. Beads of perspiration percolate swarthy skin, its planes and pockmarks like a contour map of angst.

They turn on Haight Street.

  • Are the youths who flaunt their boom-box hip-hop—volume brashly BLASTING—simply neighborhood juvenile delinquents or recruits, mere boys or cadets?

  • Is she who walks her dog and stoops to wipe its feces off the pavement incidental to the goons amassed or their surreptitious scout?

  • How differentiate, from among the patrons seen through cafe windows, which ones watch with relative apathy, which with a paid informant's zeal?

  • Do those two tinkering with a moped really care about its maintenance; is it theirs, or does it serve to cloak reconnaissance?

Crepuscular is the hotel lobby—be it morning, noon, or night—its jaundiced aura and musty odor reminiscent of moldy newspapers. What functioned once as a front desk now is a cubicle, heavily fortified, locks and plate glass reinforcing its hermetical veneer; a virtual pillbox, it reflects the clientele—i.e. deflects it—for attendants fear both guests and residents alike.

Beyond the entrance is:

  • an antique, cage-like elevator

  • a broken television

  • a mounted mini-cam (also broken; no doubt never equipped with film)

  • a stretch of cinder-block wall—graffiti covered

  • a wall ineptly papered

  • sundry furnishings wrapped in Naugahyde;

warped linoleum shrouds the floor, which now resounds with measured footfall of a dozen rubber heels, their martial, single-file progression come, collectively, to a halt, their leader slipping a bill underneath the receptionist's see-through shield that is of sufficient denomination to avert nine-one-one.

SQUATMAN

The man in six-O-seven?

DESK CLERK

Just stepped out. 'Bout an hour ago. No jive.

SQUATMAN

Kinda dark, yeah tall, a beard and moustache?

DESK CLERK

Yup. Goes by 'Al High-Jeer.' Or so his passport states; we make 'em show us. No ID no room. You fellas...?

SQUATMAN

Friends of Mister "High-Jeer." Like to wait for 'im.

DESK CLERK

Here?

SQUATMAN

Upstairs.

Another bill buys full compliance, which includes the desk clerk's passkey. Squatman, entourage in tow, steps into the elevator, slams its grate, and, midst the pulleys' laboring squawks and squeals, ascends.