Rise of the Purple Ninja
“The most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes.”
Coffee in her left hand, a black pleather briefcase/purse/handbag/medicine cabinet clutched in her right, Angela sauntered down the narrow street mesmerized by the glistening oak sign swinging on shiny iron chains. She smiled again, as she had every morning this week, at the tangible results of a few hours labor.
“It’s the details that make all the difference, little one.” her father, Leonard had said. As had his, Thomas and his before that, Maurice Gutenberg, founder of the family business. Sylvia and he had arrived in America with little else but copies of the stories from their homeland written in their native tongue. The homesick immigrants around them quickly bought their entire inventory. Then the Gutenberg’s bought it all back and re-sold it. Soon they were filling requests for other inventory. After a few months, Maurice realized he didn’t need something to keep him afloat till he got work for another man. In America, he could work for himself.
It was her father, Leonard, decades later, who moved the business from their living room into an actual store front. He designed the oaken sign, hanging from 2 metal chains, attached to a flagpole, attracting the eyes of potential customers like a waving hand. He personally carved and stained the words “Buch Laden” into the remains of a quarter panel of a fire damaged door. June, 1979 they opened the doors.
Karla Rheims was a graduate student doing research into eastern european literature and the opening of a book store with a german name, holding an inventory of source material, caught her attention. They ended up spending hours together, after closings, working on her research and falling in love.
Just shy of 2 years later, May of 1981, they were married, and Angela was born to the happy couple in November. A miracle of sorts.
A heart attack had taken her father when she was 6, and cancer took her mother just a few years ago. The grandparents had all passed many years ago from various diet related ailments. Now it was just her and the legacy of their work. She could see them in the bad paint jobs, and crappy carpentry, and hear their voices as she placed orders. As she walked up the cracked cement stairs, and heard the sign creak in the wind, she felt the particular comfort that only comes from “home”. She twisted the brass knob of the wooden door, and leaned into it. The familiar whine of metal hinges made her smile, just a little. Rounding the fiction stacks, she saw her entire staff gathered around the front sales desk.
“Good morning. I didn’t know there was a meeting scheduled.” She stopped and cocked her head, thinking. Dropping her bag, she put her finger to her chin, “Wait, that’s because there isn’t one. I would know that sort of thing.”
“Haha. Good morning.” Kevin stopped leaning on the counter, accepting his role as group leader. A position somewhat undermined by the effect of momentum on his unkempt Jew-fro. He was speaking before it had finished moving, “We were all just talking because, Tommy and Diane, from Davis Hardware, across the street, were just in. Greg just fired everyone.”
“Laid off.” Carol interjected, ever the editor.
“Big difference to them. Apparently the fuckin’ bank crash has trickled down onto Greg and then flowed onto his employees.” Kevin made a vague waterfall-like gesture in the vicinity of his groin.
“Apparently not so much of the trickle down with the bail out.” Tara observed, looking about for some recognition of her insight.
“Yeah, shit rolls down hill, not gold.” Kevin snorted, “and we live in the valley.”
“Oh my god, have you heard from Greg?”
“No,” Carol looked at her seriously, “I haven’t even seen any movement over there since his employees left and he put out the closed sign an hour ago.”
Angela set her packages down on the counter, forcing Kevin out of the way. Hopping up and leaning over, she opened a bottom drawer and pulled out a bottle of Gruner Hund. “I’m going to head over and console him. See if we can’t get some money earned around here in the meantime, eh?”
As the staff scurried to look busy, Angela flew out the door and across the street. Greg had taken over the hardware store from his dad around the same time she come home from college and joined her mom. They had come to know each other through barter; she would give him ‘how to’ books and he would give her free maintenance labor. Over the years they had become friends, even setting each other up on dates.
“Greg?” She opened heavy oak door and let it fall shut behind her. Sunlight streaming through the large front window and narrow ones lining the back ceiling, was the only illumination. Winding her way among the racks, spinners, and shelves, Angela called out again, “Greg? Hello?”
Receiving no answer, or any sound at all, she continued to work her way towards his office in the back. She knocked on the office door, “Hello? Greg? Are you in there? It’s Angela. Are you okay?”
No response. She rested her hand on the knob. Jiggled it a little, then paused. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest. “I feel like I’m in a fuckin’ horror movie. Here goes nothing.” She turned the knob, and let the door swing open. “Oh My God! Fuck! Dammit! Greg! Oh, Greg, no.”
In the middle of room stood his desk, as always, sideways to the door. A bare bulb dangling from the ceiling centered above it. In the chair sat Greg, slumped, head back, blood and brains all over the wall behind him, and dripping out of the back of his skull onto the floor. His hands dangled limp to either side. On his chest lay the pistol he had used to end his life.
Angela approached the body of her friend. His eyes stared at the ceiling, devoid of emotion or thought or any metaphysical spark. She reached out and closed his lids with her right hand, resting her left on his shoulder. She paused like that for uncountable moments, tears pouring down her face, making no sound, quietly saying goodbye to her friend.
Breaking from her reverie, she turned to call 911. Reaching for the phone, she saw his desk covered with the documents he had been reviewing before ending his life. Across the desk, arranged in neat piles grouped into 3 sections, were various financial documents. Some were passed due debts and outstanding bills, others were incoming funds, but center was a single letter from CHT Bancorp informing him that his investments had bankrupted and his money was gone. Beneath it was a newspaper article listing the banks receiving bailouts, CHT had been circled. The article was dated 2 days before the letter.
Angela felt something turn inside her. She set the papers down and made the call. Then she began walking through the store picking out items: goggles, gloves, spray paint, some fertilizer, propane, a motion detector and some PVC tubing. Throwing them into a basket, she walked out the door, leaving it open for the sirens she could hear coming.
In Dark of Day
10:30 AM. If the security guard had not been sleeping, he might have noticed a woman on a purple bicycle, wearing a purple hoodie and purple sweats, ride past the front of the CHT Bancorp International Headquarters across from City Hall, Philadelphia. Perhaps he would have issued some alert as she slipped alongside the armored SUV. The driver picked her up, just as she reached into her purple and white wicker basket, pulled out a pair of small purple frisbees, and tossed them upside down, under the vehicle.
A motion detector sat in the well of each disc. Originally connected to a light bulb, it now triggered a spark in a PVC tube filled with propane and fertilizer. Enough to blow the wheels off and send the armored car pinwheeling across the street on its passenger side, slamming to a halt on the cement divider protecting the government from terrorists. Traffic screeched to a halt. A brief moment of erie silence was broken by a child’s wail, then police sirens, then people screamed and ran in all directions.
Angela, shocked by the results of her own actions, sat, frozen, on her bike, where the careening armored car had just missed her. The closing sirens distracted her, and she re-focused on the mission at hand. Reaching into the basket, she pulled out a PVC tube that was skinnier and longer than the others and pedaled for the vehicle. Sidling up along the back doors, she slipped the tube into the door handles, uncovered the motion detector and pushed off, yelling, “BOMB!” as loud as she could. People within earshot ran away.
She was less the 30 yards away before a piece of litter blew in front of the lens, triggering the bomb. The doors, too strong to blast apart, blew completely off their hinges, falling to the ground like a ramp. The guard in back had been knocked unconscious during the crash, like his comrades in front. The public servants, bankers, lawyers, small business people, retail employees, homeless and others that inhabit center city at this hour rushed the unguarded money car and emptied it. In all of center city, not a single security camera recorded a single image properly that day. Nor did any person see anything.
Angela rode away, the wind carrying tears off her cheeks. She had attempted to transmute her grief into revenge. Now she had both, and still her soul ached.
Her friend remained dead, his employees out of work, his family legacy gone, and those who were truly responsible remained unharmed. She could not just return to her old life. There were people who were responsible for that being true. Those people do not feel the weight of that responsibility, and that injustice had to be rectified.
Angela stopped crying. She sat up. She pedaled a little harder. Still she felt the pain of her friend’s loss, but now she had purpose. She pulled the her purple hoodie down over her eyes and headed for the store.