The “All Nite Laundry” looked about like any other; Boring. Lines of homogenous, off-white washing machines and dryers lined up against the walls in a most non-ominous way. They were crafted especially to provide symmetry to the room, but generally caused confusion to customers, as it was nearly impossible to tell the washers from the dryers. Cracked and dingy black and white tile covered the floor, lovingly decorated with artfully arranged candy wrappers, soda cans, and the occasional wad of gum.
Fluorescent tube lights glowed their sickly greenish white from their recesses above the water-stained drop-ceiling tiles. By “All-Nite” franchise standard, three of these tubes were on the verge of burning out, (“All Nite” corporate compliance regulations state that only two tubes must be flickering, but this particular franchise was unfortunately owned by an overachiever.) These bulbs flickered specially designed Morse code signals that gave adults headaches, and told teenagers to kill their parents and blame it on rock-and-roll bands. In conjunction with this effect, they also emitted a buzz that was carefully selected as the precise harmonic frequency with which to rattle back teeth.
In the center of the floor, stood two rows of blue plastic seats, bolted to the floor in such a way that they could never be moved, but still seemed to maintain a sketchy balance and threatened to drop their occupant to the floor at any minute. These seats had been especially molded to accommodate almost any size or shape being who happened to be bilaterally symmetrical. In turn, that special molding made them utterly uncomfortable to every bilaterally symmetrical being who happened to sit in one.
A man reading a newspaper occupied
one of these seats. He was a rather hefty individual who looked as though he
may have once played college football, but was now relegated to a cushy desk
job. He wore a rather nondescript striped tie, a white shirt, a gray flannel
suit jacket, and the most obnoxiously patterned boxer shorts to have ever been
produced by an underwear company. He peered over his newspaper as the Rangers
entered the Laundromat, (all the Rangers, that is, save Tiny, who chose to guard
the vehicle, obviously offended by the “No Pets” sign on the door.)
“The Cyclone Rangers, I take
it,” the man said as he rose to his feet. He stepped forward and shook
hands with each member in turn. The Rangers were unusually mute. It was not
often that any of their number began an adventure by shaking hands with a man
in his skivvies.
“I am Frank Leonard, Deputy Secretary of Recreational Footwear Sanitation for Interpol. It’s a pleasure.” He gestured for them to join him on the plastic seats. The Rangers moved to sit.
“I’m sure you are wondering
why I’ve called you here,” he said, crossing his knobby knees. The
pattern on the boxers shifted psychedelically, causing Keltic Tommy to almost
yak right there.
“The thought had crossed my
mind, yes.” Tomcat said, using every ounce of his catlike dexterity to
position himself comfortably into the blue plastic.
“Yeah,” Keltic Tommy
said, giving up on trying to sit comfortably, and rising to his feet,”
I was kinda wonderin’ why I’d been called to Boston in the middle
of the night to talk to some guy who changes Spook’s ‘Odor Eaters’
after a long day of ‘Undermine the Third World’ training.”
“Well,” said Mr. Leonard,
“I’m afraid that’s somewhat misleading.”
Tomcat consulted his notes, “So you’re not the Deputy Secretary for Recreational Footwear Sanitation?”
“Actually, yes I am. But that’s
the point. Don’t you see?” The Rangers gave him a puzzled look.
Leonard shrieked as if he was shouting the answer to Final Jeopardy at his TV
“Of Course!” Tomcat smiled.
“Yes,” Bryian snapped
his fingers, “who’d believe we’d be taking orders from a guy
who launders Fed Nikes…”
Leonard nodded, “Recreational
Footwear Sanitation is just a Red Herring.”
“Sorry Chief,” Daniel
added flippantly, “Red Herrings are the Fish’s department.”
“Actually Daniel, what I have
to say will most likely be of great interest to your friend, Kataka Kun Rgyu.”
The team froze up, most notably the
Fish himself. That had been the name that his now dead brothers at the B-Roll
monastery had called him, and was unknown to all but his most trusted friends.
Suddenly an alarm went off and the rangers sprung into action. Tomcat had flipped over the back of the plastic chair and cartwheeled onto the top of a washer, producing a collapsible bo staff in flight, and whipping it into an en guarde position, covering the entrance. Keltic Tommy, already on his feet, whipped a heavy-frame single action revolver from his jacket, and was ready to lay down cover fire for Bryian, who had slipped out of the chair and flipped onto his feet out of a graceful “Gunslingers roll,” with his own pistol in hand, and covered the doors to the public restrooms, (the only other entrance to the room.) Daniel had dropped to one knee while pulling his own sidearm, drawing a bead on the man who had lured them into this possible trap. The Fish rolled his battle camera onto his shoulder, extending its bayonet and cocking the shotgun microphone.
No one moved.
It was only after a few awkward moments that Leonard nonchalantly moved over to one of the dryers. He opened the door and the alarm stopped. He pulled out a lump of fabric that matched the jacket he was wearing, shook it out, and put on his now-dry trousers like everyone else;
One leg at a time.
“Rangers, the situation is
explosive,” he said, zipping his fly, “Movie theaters across the
nation are falling pray to arson. Ten cineplexes have burned to the ground across
the New York state last week. This week the arsons have spread across five other
major cities in New England, the most recent of which was a Supermegaomniplex
here in Boston this afternoon during the matinee. Forty-five people injured,
thirty-two dead recovered, and one-hundred-seven unaccounted for.”
muttered, “Towering Inferno 2 in 3D!”
“Wait up!” Keltic Tommy
held up a hand, “Why didn’t they evacuate the theater? If the building
was up to spec for public occupancy, and met OSHA
code, they would have had plenty of time to get out before the structure went
plop! Why didn’t they get out when the fire alarms went off?”
Leonard sat back down and turned to face Keltic Tommy, “reports from the survivors say that the fire alarms never went off, and the building just collapsed. Boston fire marshals haven’t ruled out the possibility of an incendiary device. They haven’t found remains of one yet, but they also haven’t found any of the smoke alarms that would have alerted the moviegoers and the authorities.”
“OK,” the Fish took his camera from his shoulder and tipped his battered fedora back on his head, “I admit, I’m intrigued, and as a lover of cinema, want to see justice done. But why did you call us in?”
Leonard produced a piece of paper
from his jacket, and handed it to the Fish, “There seemed to be no rhyme
or reason to the theaters targeted. Often, there was a larger, more accessible
theater only blocks away. That’s when we found the common link. These
are the films that were playing in the theaters when they were destroyed.”
The Fish scanned the list, “Mission:
Impossible 2, Army of Darkness, Yojimbo… Each one of these theaters was
running a film that at least one of my brothers from the B-Roll Monastery worked
Leonard nodded, “We were stumped until a theater went up in Red Bank, New Jersey and a couple Blue Blazers from the Banzai Institute investigated and put two and two together. They suggested we contact you and the Rangers, so I called you as soon as I received your contact information.”
The Rangers looked over the list
of movies, eyeing each other in silent, non-verbal debate. Finally, each gave
a slight nod to Bryian who handed the list back to Leonard.
“OK,” Bryian nodded, “so, where’s this Supermegaomniplex?”