Story Title: Only In America
Author: D.W. Chong
Rating PG (for suggested violence)
Spoilers: none
Pairing: none
Category: humor
Summary: Fugitive!Krycek finds a way to make a treasured Holiday pay
Disclaimers: After next week, I say Ratboy belongs to the masses!
Liberte, Fraternite, Eternalli!

Only In America

He had been on the run so long he'd forgotten what day it was, but he'd been hiding out in this run-down 'transient' hotel for a whole week, and that meant next week's rent was due and he only had twenty-five bucks. <<What to do, what to do?>> Rob a convenience store? Roll a bum? Put the money in the gas tank of his rustbucket of a getaway car and end up someplace else without a dime to his name?

His stomach talked him into making the trek to the local Mom & Pop's mini-mart. He did crime better on a full stomach. But, no slouch, he used the fire escape, the better to avoid the manager.

Alex took a stroll through the aisles, pondering the rows of condensed soups,corned beef hash, and so-called 'beef stew'. He eyed the instant mashed potatoes longingly, but he'd need butter and milk and salt and a pot and some kind of stove to make it, and he hadn't so much as a heater coil to make hot water, (and the residents weren't supposed to cook in their rooms, not that this stopped anyone).

<<Oh, what the hell.>> He grabbed a tin of kippered herring, a singles box of saltines, and a sixteen ounce malt liquor and headed for the cashier. There was a line, naturally. It was the only market within walking distance in the neighborhood, which meant everybody and their grandma used the place, especially for those last minute staples everybody always ran out of but didn't really want to drive fifteen miles to buy: bread, milk, liquor, cigarettes. He took his place at the line's end, behind some stressed out working mother with a cartful of kids, one of which was tugging on her sweater whining for a Halloween costume that --if the look on her face was any indication-- would not be forth-coming.

Alex smiled and drifted off into a short-lived reminisence of Halloweens past, then jerked to attention. Halloween? What day was it? He glanced up to check out the 'If you were not born on or before this date' plaque and grinned.


Hermes and St. Nicholas were smiling on him tonight. He paid for his purchases and trotted back to his hole of a room, dumped his dinner on the beside table, and headed for the top floor in order to thoroughly canvas the building for prospective cohorts. He figured he'd need at least three suitably aged, arrogantly daring, socially disadvantaged gamins willing to meet his price for a chance at a sweet pay-day. By the time he had trolled all eleven urine-soaked stories and hit the lobby, he'd netted four entrepenurial Munchkins. That'd do.

Two dollars worth of black Rit dye, two pair of 'borrowed' sunglasses, ten double-bagged plastic grocery sacks, a quick wash and dry at the local laundrymat, five bank-crisp ones for 'seed' money, and ten dollars worth of gas later they were all set. They just had time to cruise up to the 'Ritzy' neighborhood and park before the sun set.

Alex herded his 'kids' up to their first mark of the night. "Trick or Treat!"

The owner eyed their scruffy, black dyed jeans, t-shirts, and tennies and sunglasses suspiciously. "What are you supposed to be?"

"MIBs!" The kids yelled.

The woman was not enlightened.

"Men In Black," Alex clarified. "Like the movie with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones?"

"Huhm.... OK." She glanced inside their sacks and dropped two fifty cent pieces into each of their sacks --including Alex's.

Alex beamed. Yup. Only in a snooty neighborhood would dispensing candy on Halloween be classified 'declasse`' and one-upmanship flame the fires of ostentatious consumption by proxy. "Say 'Thank You' to the nice lady, boys."

The boys turned as one to stare at him, only the barrier of their sunglasses preventing him from seeing their incredulity. He cleared his throat, smiled fixed, eyes centered on their benefactress. Little shoulders slumped. "Thank you, Lady," they said in unison.

Then they turned, flipped their sunglasses onto the top of their heads, and ran pell mell for the next-door-neighbor's, Alex hot on their heels.

The mistress of *this* house balked at forking over a fiver to someone who was obviously not a child, but Alex did not close his bag or back away. He listened to the background noises wafting faintly through the door and, gracing the woman with his best pout, said: "Hey, Lady, I'm schlepping around the neighborhood doing the 'Good Daddy' thing, making sure the kiddies are safe and minding their manners, when I could be planted in front of the TV soaking up beers. Isn't that worth a fiver?"

The woman frowned, unwittingly glancing over her shoulder to the lump decorating her sofa. She gave him the fiver.

Of course, Alex's spiel didn't work on everybody. Just enough of them that he accepted the occasional rebuff with good humor (and a few rude words scrawled onto the closed door with a mini-bar of hotel soap).

After three hours of combing the neighborhood they took a break to count their cash. The kids had grossed a hundred eighty dollars apiece. This netted them a hundred seventy dollars once Alex took his cut for 'expenses'.

Alex then asked for a vote: Spend the next two hours trolling for dollars, or go to a lower rent district and score some candy? Candy won.

The street was nearly deserted as they hit the next-to-the-last house on the block an hour and a half later.

Alex shifted forward, bag held out, and craned his neck over the kids in front of him to check out the goodie stash. His eyes lit up, his smile practically stretched off his face. The plastic cauldron their host clutched was half-filled with little Dove chocolate easter eggs. Dove *dark* chocolate easter eggs.

The old man doled one measly bite-sized egg apiece to the kids and sneered as Alex shuffled forward, eager for his rasher, drawing back with a growled: "I don't give hand outs to bums."

Alex bristled. "Bum!" He plied the old man with his 'Good Daddy' speech, to no avail.

"Huh! From the looks of it, you've been rewarded amply enough by my neighbors." He started to swing the door shut. "You oughta be ashamed, using those kids to freeload off honest, hard-working folk."

Alex stiffened. Without thinking his foot thrust forward, blocking the door, their sturdy leather sparing his foot any harm. As the old man protested, banging the door even harder, Alex whipped off his sun glasses, tucked them into his jacket, searched the yard for witnesses, saw none, snatched at the back of his waistband for his very impressive-looking, very lethal 9mm Glock, and shoved the barrel end into the old man's face. "Gimme the chocloate, Geezer, or I'll drag you out of your house, lock the front door, fuck your ass with my piece, and leave you buck-ass naked and bleeding on your porch."

The old man dumped the contents of the black plastic cauldron into Alex's bag, which was still held in his prosthesis. Alex withdrew his foot. The old man slammed the door shut. Alex grinned at the kids. "I've think we've out-worn our welcome, boys. Run for it!"

The kids, who, moments prior, had resembled the catch of the day laid side by side on cracked ice, needed no second warning. They flew off the porch before the old man came back with his own weapon. But the old man did not breach the fastness of his abode again. He merely shut off the porch light before they'd made it to the safety of the nearest sidewalk streetlamp, apparently done 'treating' for the night.

They were back at the tenement by 11:35 p.m.

Alex made the kids dump their bags of goodies on the hood, made a cursory examination for illy and un-wrapped or other suspicious looking candies and, that duty dispensed, relieved them of their agreed upon 'chocolate fee'. He parcelled out the candies in his own bag he didn't care to eat, then they rebagged their respective hauls and made a reverse trek through the hotel, so Alex could see the boys safely to their doors.

Back in his own room he kicked off his shoes and flopped onto the bed with his booty. He'd made enough money to gas up the car *and* pay a week's rent at both ends of the drive, not to mention enough chocloate to last him a month, and it was all perfectly legal. He popped a dove egg into his mouth and smooshed the chocolate around, refusing to swallow it until it was reduced to creamy sauce.

"God! I love this country!"

Archived: May 18, 2001