Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gary Helm

The following story is a work of fiction. Any people, places or characters described within, even those based on real people or actual places, are used fictionally. Any views or opinions expressed within this story do not represent the views of Eric's Hysterics, its editors or anyone affiliated with Eric's Hysterics. You may now return to your regularly scheduled reading.

Sleeping Beauty
Fiction by Gary Helm 

            A while ago I was sitting with my friend Big Dave Dodge in a bar called Mickey’s Mousehole, sipping beer and half listening to the Dodgers lose on the TV. Now, Big Dave is a man who is always interesting. He is called Big Dave because he is—well, big, and coming from me, that means something. I am six-three and weigh two-forty. Dave stands six-six, weighs two-seventy, and all of it looks mean. He rides a chopped Harley and looks like a Hell’s Angel with long hair and beard and, truth be told, he used to run with some pretty bad folks when he was younger, but now he keeps his “Crazy Ass Biker” look because it generally makes for a peaceful existence and gets him bit parts on TV and in the movies.    
When the inning ended, an ad for Disneyland Vacations came on and suddenly Mick, the bar tender, spun away from where he was wiping glasses, threw his towel at the TV screen and screamed, “Fuck Mickey Mouse! And may Walt Disney rot in hell!” 
 Regular customers of the Mousehole understood what that was all about. Michael Haggerty III hated Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney with a passion because Disney Corporation and its famous trade mark infringement law department had sued Michael Haggerty Junior, Mick’s father, for calling his bar Mickey’s Mousehole. Mick the third had been in the Navy Seals at the time and off doing some black-op stuff in the far-east so he couldn’t be reached, and the pressure on his father, Mick Jr. had been intense. The Disney Corporation, which seldom loses, had lost that one though, because the Mousehole had been called “The Mousehole” since prohibition when Michael Haggerty Sr. ran it as a speakeasy before there was a Mickey Mouse. At the time of the law suit, Michael Haggerty Jr. (who had been called Mickey since he was in diapers) ran the joint and therefore had a certain claim to the name. But win or not, the law suit had cost Mick a lot.  He swore the whole mess had been the cause of the heart attack that killed his father, as well as having cost a whole lot of money, so Mick hated Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. 
             Big Dave looked thoughtful after Mickey’s outburst. He was a man of poetical and philosophical disposition so I wasn’t much surprised when he said, “I’ve heard that they froze his corpse.” 
            “Who, Disney?”
            “I heard that too. Wonder if it’s true.”
            Dave shrugged.  “Probably. I mean they froze Ted Williams.”
            “Just his head.”
            “Yeah, just his head. But I bet if they froze ol’ Uncle Walt they froze his whole body.”
            “I reckon.”
            We sat and sipped beer for a bit, letting the idea of a Walt Disney Popsicle roll around in our minds until a question popped into my head. “Dave, where did they put ‘im after they froze him?”
            Dave took a big pull at his beer then said, “Well, I’ve heard rumors around a few movie sets that he’s in a cryonic tank in a safe-like-room under Disneyland.”
            Dave shrugged. “That’s what I’ve heard. I even heard that was one of the reasons for the management shake-up in Disney. Michael Eisner supposedly wanted access to the cryonic room and Uncle Walt’s family wouldn’t let him have it.”
            “Really?” I asked again. I can be a real brilliant conversationalist sometimes.
            “No, it’s probably crap, but I have heard some stories.”
            “Like what?”
            “Like that Eisner hired lawyers and tried to take control of the vault and when that didn’t work, he hired some private detectives to break into the place. And that Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew, hired a private army to keep Eisner out. Supposedly they are still there guarding the place.”
“You mean some of those guys dressed up in the cartoon suits down there are really armed guards assigned to protect the cryonic tank where Walt’s stored?”
            Dave laughed.  “I can just see Goofy running around with an assault rifle, mowing down kids standing in line at Small World.”
            We both laughed at that and when we told Mickey what we were laughing about, he laughed too and once more said, “Fuck Mickey Mouse!” before going back to wiping glasses.
            Big Dave and I sipped beer a little more and watched the Dodgers finish getting their butts kicked before I said, “So, where is this cryonic tank supposed to be?”
            “Don’t know, but I can guess.”
            “Under the Haunted Mansion? Is one of those floating heads really Uncle Walt in disguise?”
            “Naw, that would imply that he’s dead, and if he’s frozen, he ain’t dead…”
            “Course he’s dead. They can’t freeze a guy that isn’t dead, it’d be murder.”
            “Yeah, yeah, in the real world, but we’re talking about the World of Crazy Disney Worshipers.”
            “OK, OK, so he isn’t dead. Then where is he?”
            “Under Sleeping Beauty’s castle of course.”
            I let that sink in for a little bit and said, “Yeah, That does kinda make sense.  He was supposed to have an apartment in that castle in case he wanted to stay over, so it does seem right. Uncle Walt all stretched out under the castle waiting for some prince of a doctor to come give him a medicated kiss to wake him up.”
            Dave laughed. “You got a very bizarre mind, brother Helm. Very bizarre indeed.”   
            “Yeah, and look who’s talking,” I answered, and we both laughed.

            A couple of months later, when I got roped into taking my grandkids to “The happiest place on earth,” I found my thoughts drifting back to that conversation in the Mousehole. I had sent Granny Michele and the kids off to stand in line for Space Mountain and I was sitting on a bench on Main Street looking up at the sun sparkling off the pointy tower of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and I said to myself, I wonder? 
            Understand that I don’t usually go out of my way to get into trouble, but I was hot and bored and tired of being elbowed by the hoi polloi so I decided I was going to go find out if there really were armed Goofies hovering around Uncle Walt’s tomb.
Now if Big Dave had been there, he probably would have tried to talk me out of the whole adventure because he is a lot more level headed than he looks; and he had spent a lot of time hauling my skinny rear out of trouble, for which I had no one to blame but myself, but he wasn’t there so I slugged down the rest of my lime soda, wishing it was fortified with tequila, and started for the castle. 
I got as far as halfway across the bridge and stopped to figure my next move.  There are a lot of mock-arrow slits and windows up higher on the castle walls, but down on the ground there are passages that go around under the eaves of the place. Under those eaves there are stores trying to separate the visitors to the Magic Kingdom from their last dollar. No apparent secret passages of any kind, I thought. But then if they were apparent they wouldn’t be secret, would they? So I walked around the arcades looking in all the windows and watching the people flow by. After I had walked around the castle for fifteen or twenty minutes, I happened to notice one of the costumed characters coming along. It was Mickey Mouse himself and he was being carried along by the flowing crowd, apparently going about his job of amusing the kids while the vendors picked their pockets, but suddenly Mickey cut across the crowd and stopped beside a stand selling hats. It was one of those places that look like a kind of fairy tale building made of logs and stone and between the hat shop and the drinks stands beside it there was a space of what appeared to be blank wall. Mickey stood with is back to the wall for a bit, looked left and right, and when he was sure no one was watching, he leaned hard against the wall and it swung inward like a door. Mickey slid through and the door quickly closed behind him.
Wellie well well, I thought. There is a secret passage.  Don’t ask me why it didn’t occur to me that it might have been a secret door to a dressing room or a bathroom for costumed characters, but the idea never crossed my mind. When I saw Mickey disappear through that secret door I knew it was the door to Walt’s crypt.
I worked my way over to the blank wall between the hat shop and the drinks stand and leaned against it like Mickey had done. Nothing happened. It was like I was leaning against a plaster wall. Maybe there was a secret word or something, but if there was I hadn’t heard Mickey utter it so I stepped back into the crowd and studied the wall as best I could. It was painted like mason-carved stone set into a wall and no straight edge of a door showed, nor was there a knob, knocker, or bell of any kind, but when I brought my eyes to the ground in front of the wall there was a small round brass thing that might have been a sewer cleanout or access to the fire sprinklers, but didn’t look like either of those.
With a mental shrug I positioned myself against the wall like Mickey had, making sure my heel was on that brass plate. I leaned my weight on it and put my back flatter against the wall. Nothing happened, so I picked up my heel and started to step away when a kid who should have been watching where he was going but wasn’t bashed into me and I stepped back onto the brass plate. I felt more than heard a solid click beneath my foot and suddenly I was inside the door and it was closed behind me.
It wasn’t the crypt. It wasn’t even a long dark passage to the crypt. It looked more like a military or cop break room with several large tables, and several men with crew cuts in blue and white uniforms sitting at them. They all wore side arms, but they were obviously taking a break to drink coffee and maybe eat a doughnut. They looked more surprised to see me than I was to see them. At a table on my left, Mickey Mouse—sans his mouse head—was standing with one foot up on a bench. The Mickey head sat on the table in front of him.
After a moment of stunned silence, one of the uniformed men with silver Lieutenant bars on his epaulettes stood and came over to me. He looked like something out of a Sgt. Rock comic book, complete with crew cut and steely blue eyes in a craggy face. “Can I help you?” he asked, then went on, “You aren’t supposed to be in here.”
I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times before I managed to say, “I was just leaning on the wall waiting to buy some mouse ears for my grandkids when some kid plowed into me and here I am. Where am I?”
“Security coffee room,” the lieutenant said. 
“Oh.  OK.  How do I get back out?  I still need mouse ears.” 

A couple of days later I was back in the Mousehole telling Big Dave about my adventures. He was laughing so hard he almost fell off his stool and even Mickey was laughing so hard he forgot to curse that wretched cartoon mouse.
“You didn’t really figure you were gonna just walk into the crypt right off the thoroughfare, did ya? I mean everybody knows Disneyland has its own cops and they gotta take a break somewhere. Besides, there’s miles of tunnels and underground rooms under Disneyland. Where do you think they stash all the machinery that makes Small World go round and round and stuff?  And they sure ain’t gonna put Uncle Walt anywhere he can be got to by some fool buying Mouse ears. What were you thinkin’ about?”
“I don’t know what I was thinking, Dave. I was hot and bored and the thought of armed Goofies standing guard around Walt’s fridge was just too much. I couldn’t help it.”
That set off another gale of laughter with Mickey saying, “Armed Goofies!”  between guffaws.
  I suddenly stopped laughing. Something I had seen but not noted had driven through the fog to my conscious mind. “All those guys were wearing Black Horse patches on their sleeves,” I said. 
Dave stopped laughing too, then blinked and said, “Black Horse? You sure?”
I thought about it a little more and said, “Yeah. Black Horse. They were all wearing Black Horse Patches.”
“Now why would Disney security guards be wearing Black Horse patches?” Mickey asked.
“Yeah, and why would they hire one of the largest para-military organizations in the world as security for Disneyland?”
Black Horse was a ‘security company’ like Standard Oil was a ‘gas station.’  It was a worldwide company that, depending who you talked too, was ‘private security’ or a mercenary army.  The American Government had hired Black Horse to secure the gates of American military bases all over the United States, and the CIA had purportedly hired them to stir up a minor coup in Central America. The company had been put together by a couple of retired Air Cav Generals, hence the name Black Horse.
“You don’t suppose there is more down under Disneyland than a Walt Disney Popsicle, do you?”  I asked.
Dave shrugged. “Maybe. But Black Horse is famous for its willingness to do anything for money so maybe Disney just paid them enough to guard Walt’s freezer.”
We all three stared into our glasses and considered for a while. At last Mickey said, “Boys, you can do what you want about finding out what’s under Disneyland, but leave me out of it. I’ve had all the Disney I can stand.”
“Maybe we should all forget about it,” Dave said.
Now I am a man of questioning nature. I like to know what makes things work and I especially like trying to unravel conspiracies, and this whole Disney thing had tickled my conspiracy bone from the beginning. Now that conspiracy bone was fairly jumping out my chest with curiosity. “There has got to be a way to get down under that castle without the armed Goofies noticing.”
Big Dave, also a man intrigued by conspiracies, scratched his chin thoughtfully and said, “I need to ask some questions from some folks I used to know.”
So that is how I wound up crouched behind a huge air conditioning vent pipe looking at a firmly locked steel door guarded by two Black Horse soldiers dressed in urban camouflage when all hell broke loose. 
Dave had talked to some actor friends who were putting together a show for the Main Street Theater inside Disneyland and they listed us as stage grunts so we just waltzed in without as much as a blink from the gate security guys. The rehearsal started late because of the crowd of Disneyland visitors and that worked fine for us. We came in under cover of darkness and split off from the actors unnoticed.
We did a recon on the park as the crowd thinned, looking for go-downs to get into the depths below, and were about to give it up when we saw a Black Horse uniformed man stop beside one of the huge red trash receptacles in Fantasyland over by the Merry-go-round. He looked all around, but it was late so there were not many people left in the park. We were standing in the shadows so he didn’t see us. He put his hand inside the mouth of the trash receptacle and the side of it swung open. There was a light coming from inside so that we could see a winding steel staircase, then the guard stepped through and pulled the door/trash receptacle closed behind him.
“Might be another break room or something,” I said, remembering all too well the last time I had stepped through a hidden door.
“Might be, but we gotta get in and go down somehow and this and your break room are the only ways I know.”
“Yeah. Okay, let’s go.”
We looked all around, then stepped to the receptacle. I put my hand in the opening just as the guard had and found a button. “What if it rings a bell down below or something?” I asked.
Dave shrugged. “Push it. Been a long time since I played ‘ring and run.’”
So I did. 
            The door popped open and let a splash of ashy-looking florescent light slant out, followed by the damp, musty smell of enclosed concrete rooms. 
If the button rang a bell below or some such, we didn’t hear it, and when we stepped inside onto the stair landing we waited a couple of moments to see if someone was going to challenge us. Nobody did, so we began to ease down the spiraling staircase. Looking over the side we could see that the stairs went a long way down—it looked like several stories—and every twelve steps there were openings out into the underground levels.
“How do we know where to get off, Dave?” I whispered.
“Gotta be at the bottom. If I was Uncle Walt I would put my crypt at the very bottom—”
“—But still under the castle.”
Dave nodded.
“How we gonna find the castle? I’m all turned around.”
“That way,” he pointed. “When we get to the bottom we go that way,” which we did.
The vaults underneath the Magic Kingdom are amazing. There are power vaults and gas mains and hydraulic pumps and lines and sewage pumps and air conditioning ducts. Pipes and conduits of every size imaginable from no larger than your pinky finger to big enough that Dave could have stood inside without having to bend over, and all that piping made for a really confusing trek, but Dave seemed to know where he was headed and I just kept tagging along. 
The sound of voices echoing down the corridor slowed us to a creep. We could see that the corridor broadened into a wider room at the end but we couldn’t see anyone in there. When we got to the end of the corridor, I lay down on the ground and slowly poked my head around the corner. Two air conditioning ducts dipped and curved in front of me, but left an inch or so of space between them and the floor so I could see under them to the afore mentioned steel door. The guards, dressed in urban camouflage with Black Horse insignia, were standing at ease talking quietly. I could hear their voices but couldn’t understand what they were saying.
I scooted around the corner, still hidden by the curve of the AC ducts, and signaled for Dave to follow. He had barely gotten around the corner and out of sight when a flash followed by a loud BANG went off. It was so bright and so loud I saw stars and my ear drums felt like they had burst. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had not been protected from some of the effect by the AC ducts. We would probably have been left screaming and dazed like the guards at the door. As it was, I was stunned almost immobile, but I tried to scramble over Dave and back the way we had come. He grabbed me by the shirt collar and shoved me back, then motioned for me to sit still and be quiet.  A second later I was glad he had because about twenty men, all dressed in black assault gear with no insignia and armed with assault rifles and other gear, came pounding out of that corridor. They were so focused on their target that they didn’t notice us, but I would have run head long into them if Dave hadn’t grabbed me.
We both lay down and looked through the space under the AC duct at the steel door. Armed soldiers milled around in front. They were establishing a perimeter facing outward from the steel door. Now that I could see it better, I noticed a key pad of some kind on the left side, but the men who were standing beside the door weren’t worrying about that. They were placing some kind of plastic explosive on the door and, after a moment, one man with a twist igniter gave it a spin and the plastic charge went BOOM.  In a moment the smoke cleared and two of the men laid shoulders to the door. It didn’t give at first, but the second bash moved it a little and the third bash popped it all the way open.
Between the smoke and the noise and the guns I was about to pee my pants.  I’ve been around more guns and explosions than I care to remember when I was in the Army, but that didn’t make me less scared of them. All I could do was lay there and watch as a squad of four guys carrying four large boxes went through the breached door and came out in a couple of seconds pushing a thing that looked like a big black coffin on a four-wheeled cart. Steam fumed off the box like fog rolling off dry ice and the guys pushing all had on huge gloves.
“What the fuck?” Dave said, but if he had anything more to say it got lost in the sound of gun fire that suddenly poured in from the left front of us, and I went from “about to pee” to “has peed.”
All the assault team that had breached the door, except the four guys pushing the coffin, turned and answered fire. The four guys pushing the coffin ran toward the corridor Dave and I had come down, and when they were sheltered behind pipes and concrete walls and headed on down the corridor the rest of the assault team began to retreat. They were still throwing shots back up the hall and those were being answered. I could hear slugs bouncing and ricocheting around us and the bitterness of ignited cordite made my eyes tear and my nose run.
The assault team pulled back two or three at a time and followed the coffin down the corridor. At last the final two guys pulled back and knelt beside us, using the AC Ducts for cover. One of them noticed us for the first time and swung his rifle toward us. If I hadn’t already wet my pants I would have then for sure, but I had so all Dave and I could do was stick our hands up and hope this guy didn’t shoot.
He took one look at us and must have decided we were no threat because he turned back toward the other firing, let go a couple of short bursts and then he and his partner hauled ass down the corridor.
I got to my knees and tried to follow him but once more Dave grabbed me and pulled me to the floor. Good thing too, because in another second a half dozen heavily armed Black Horse guards came pounding across in front of the blown door.  They stopped beside our hiding place and threw more shots down the corridor after the guys in black, then a couple of them moved cautiously on down the corridor leaving the others behind. One of them, a guy with Sergeant’s stripes below his Black Horse patch, was talking into a hand held radio, but my ears were ringing so loud I couldn’t make out what he was saying. 
One of the Black Horse guys who had been firing down the corridor lowered his rifle and looked around and there we were. Dave and I lying in a puddle of my urine with our hands up, praying this guy wouldn’t shoot us. He didn’t. Instead, he tapped the sergeant on the arm and pointed at us. The Sergeant looked down at us, did a double take and said, “Dave? What the hell are you doing here?”

            There is a joke about a guy named Willy who is known by everyone in the world.  Now Dave isn’t Willy, but he is known by a remarkable number of people and boy was I glad this sergeant was one of them. I don’t know that they would have shot us and disposed of the bodies in some underground sump there beneath Disneyland, but I got the feeling that if Matt Clemens hadn’t known Dave it might have been a distinct possibility.  As it was, Sgt. Clemens had his men frog march us to a little room that looked very much like an interrogation cell. It had a table and two chairs and when I looked around I found a camera up in one corner so our captors could keep an eye on us. We weren’t manacled or shackled, but the table was fixed in place and there were eye bolts underneath to hook hand cuffs to if we had been.
            Dave and I sat silently for a while, just looking at the gray concrete walls and thinking our own thoughts, but at last I said, “Thank God that guy knew you. And how does he know you anyway?”
“From the movies. He’s worked as an extra with me several times. I knew he worked in security, but I didn’t know he was Black Horse.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “Is everybody in southern California connected with the movies?”
Dave shrugged.
“How much trouble you think we’re in here, Dave?”
            Again with the shrug. “They might get us for trespassing, or maybe even breaking and entering—if they decide to bring some law into this, but they aren’t exactly in the clear themselves. Armed private militia is sorta frowned on by local and federal authorities, if ya know what I mean.”
            I thought about that for a little while and looked at the windowless walls and the locked door.  
            “What the hell happened out there?”
            Dave shook his head. “I don’t know, but I got the feeling it wasn’t an intra-corporate disagreement.”
            About then Sgt. Clemens and the Lieutenant from the coffee room incident came in. The Lieutenant, whose name was Nickelson, glared at us, looking like a house wife finding weevils in her flour, and he seemed to pay special attention to me, but at last he said, “OK you two, what the hell are you doing down here?”
            Dave and I both started to talk at once. The Lieutenant stopped us short and pointed at me. “You tell me, Mouse Ears,” he growled.
            I’m sure I blushed at being recognized because I suddenly got hot all over and my mouth got even drier than it already was, but I managed to stammer out, “Well, one day Dave and me were sitting in Mickey’s bar…”
            Clemens and the Lieutenant listened with remarkable patience to my story and shook their heads in utter disbelief when I came to the end. 
            “So you don’t know anything about the guys that took the…the assault team?”
the Lieutenant asked.
            “No sir,” I answered. His lieutenant’s bars and steel blue eyes brought all the old military habits right up to the top.
            “How ‘bout you?” He asked Dave. 
            “No idea.”
            I said, “I swear to God we won’t tell anybody anything about anything, if you’ll just let us out of here, Sir,” but Dave was braver, or maybe more curious.
 He asked, “Do you guys have any idea who they were?”
            They both looked us over for a long second, still considering whether to simply shoot us I’m sure, but finally the Lieutenant said, “Clemens, do you really know this guy?”
“Yes sir.”
“And you’ll vouch for him?”
Clemens ran eyes up and down Dave and then me. “Yes sir. I’ll vouch for him—for the both of them. Nobody would believe them anyway, probably.”
            “It is pretty wild, you gotta admit,” Dave said.
            “Yeah. Pretty wild,” I agreed, which drew a withering look from the lieutenant.
            “So who shot up your crypt?” Dave prodded.
            The Lieutenant took a deep breath, let it out and began:
“This whole thing, the cryonic crypt and all, has been an urban legend since Disney died and you guys aren’t the first people who have tried to find out if it was true, but usually they get picked up before they ever get close to the security door. But even the couple who have made it as far as the door have only ever seen the guards and the door before we picked them up and handed them over to the Anaheim police. But there are some more urban legends that go along with the crypt. I mean, Disney is supposed to have had a whole new world order mapped out and was financing it all through Disney Corporation— using his movies and the amusement parks to pervert the youth of the world. So, after Walt died some of the family supposedly took over, and the organization still exists. They are allegedly funding cryonic research and underground revolutionary groups all over the world who are working to bring this Disney World Order into being, and when the world order is in place they are gonna bring Walt back from his freezer to be the emperor of the world or something. It’s crap of course, but harmless crap—or at least I thought it was until about a year ago when Black Horse got this contract. The Disney people showed us all these threatening letters and gave us the names of a bunch of pretty big people that apparently believe in this Disney World Order thing. They call it the ‘DWO threat.’ It is just mind boggling! There are web sites and organizations that send out literature talking about the “DWO threat” and how it advocates the violent overthrow of the United States government. It’s just nuts! And even the Disney people thought it was harmless foolishness until a couple of armed crazies stormed the guard gates one night—“
“Hey, I remember that!” I said. “They took a bunch of people hostage and held ‘em for several hours. I thought it was some kind of robbery gone wrong.”
“Yeah, that was the story Disney and the Police let out, and since the SWAT team killed both the perps, there was no-one left to say different,” Clemens said.
“And that was when Disney called Black Horse,” the Lieutenant finished.
“Wow,” Dave said. “I knew the Disney Corporation had enemies—I mean they’ve pissed a lot of people off with copyright lawsuits and stuff, but I didn’t know it had gone this far.” 
And through all this explanation there was still only one question running through my mind and it would not stay unasked. I tried to keep my mouth shut, but it was like trying to hold a mouthful of hot soup. Against my will it came bursting out: “So that really was Disney in that box those other guys got?”
It was like I had set off a flash-bang in the room! All eyes, including Big Dave’s, clapped onto me. The sound of a pin being dropped would have been like an explosion.
The lieutenant came out of it first and said, “I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of that statement.”
“But…” I started and Dave—good old smart, calm Dave—grabbed my arm and said. “Shut up, Gary.”
With slightly clenched jaws Dave went on, “It was something valuable enough that the Disney Corporation was willing to pay Black Horse to guard it, so just let it go at that.  Otherwise these gentlemen might have to reconsider our position here.”
I had taken a breath to protest some more when Dave’s meaning got through my thick skull and I said, “Oh, yeah,” And shut my big flappy mouth.
The tension took a while to drain out of the room but at last Dave asked, “So, you got any idea who this raiding party was?”
I suddenly had a funny feeling in my belly.
“Not a clue,” the lieutenant said, “but they were pros. They had everything set.  Took the box right down the corridors to the service elevator up to the parking lot and had a van waiting. They shoved the box in the van and were gone in a flash. The whole thing took less than twenty minutes from beginning to end.” There was admiration mixed with the disgust in the Lieutenant’s voice. “But I’ll tell ya this, you can bet your ass Black Horse investigations is going to find out who done it. Disney is gonna want their—want that box back and Black Horse is gonna get it for them.”

Dawn was just pinking the eastern sky when Sgt. Clemens ushered us through the same back gate we had come through a few hours before. “You guys came away lucky,” he said. “I don’t know for sure that Nickelson would have killed you, but I wouldn’t put it past him. He has a reputation as a bad ass so I don’t know. But if I was you, I wouldn’t ever set foot on Disney Property again.”
“I think that’s good advice” Dave said. He stuck his hand out toward Clemens.  “Thanks Matt. If I can ever return the favor let me know.” Clemens shook his hand and then mine and I echoed what Dave had said. 
Clemens said, “Dave, you know a lot of people all over the place. Kinda keep an ear open about this, OK?  And for God sakes, keep your mouths shut.”
“Sure Matt. If I hear anything you’ll be the first to know, and I have already forgotten the last few hours.”
“Me too,” I added.
Dave narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “You think maybe these guys took the box to hold it for ransom?”
“I don’t know,” Clemens said, then added,”… and you don’t wanna know. You got me?”
This time it was my turn to do the saving. I grabbed Dave’s upper arm and started to drag him away. His arm was like an iron bar. “Say good bye to the nice Sergeant, Dave,” I said, and pulled him after me as I walked away.

By mutual understanding, Dave and I didn’t go back to the Mousehole for a while.  We didn’t actually talk about it, we just didn’t go. Instead we went to “The Golden Gopher,” the owner of which was a displaced Minnesotan and, so far as I know, the University had never sued him for using their team name, which was fine with me. So a couple of days after what Dave and I began calling “The Disneyland Raid” we met in the Golden Gopher to begin our after action report and debrief. 
“I been looking on-line,” Dave began as soon as we had beer in front of us. 
“Yeah, me too. I never heard of this DWO stuff before, but it sure is all over the internet.”
“Yeah, and did you happen to run across the blog one Michael Haggerty III runs?”
I took a deep breath and a sip of suds before I nodded. “I always knew Haggerty was nuts about Disney, but I didn’t know he was into this DWO thing. I mean, damn!  You’d think he believes Disney is the Antichrist or something.”
Dave nodded. “I guess everybody has a right to be a little nuts about something, but what really gave me the yips was all the other people that were agreeing with him and writing their own craziness into it. Did you read the one about Disney having been connected with the Columbia crash?”
“Made my stomach turn over,” I agreed. “It was so nuts it was plausible.”
We looked at each other through the dimness of the bar lights for a moment, shaking our heads, then we just sat and sipped beer for a little while. I am no mind reader but it wasn’t too hard to figure that Dave was thinking the same thing I was thinking—wondering how deep into this Mickey Haggerty really was and whether he had been involved in the raid to steal Disney’s coffin.
If it was Disney’s coffin,” Dave said in answer to my thought.
“You saw the steam rolling off it same as me, and I defy you to tell me what else they would be keeping in a freeze box like that.”
“Yeah. You’re right.”
“And if Mickey was involved, how come he was so anxious for us to keep him out of it?  Seems to me he’d be cheering us on, trying to prove that what he’s been saying in his blog was true,” I said, but I knew the answer almost before I formed the question. It was the same answer that had given me that sinking feeling when Sgt. Clemens and Lt. Nickelson had questioned us. Mickey Haggerty was in this up to his eyeballs.
            We looked at each other across the table. Neither of us wanted to ask the next question but finally I said, “Should we tell Clemens?”
            “Mickey’s a friend.”
            “Yeah, but Dave—I mean, Disney World Order?
            He scratched at his beard and sipped his beer, then broke the wet ring on the table where his glass had been with his finger tip. “Maybe we are just jumping to conclusions,” he said at last. “And what do we care anyhow? I don’t even like Mickey Mouse.”
            It wasn’t much of a hope but it was the only one I saw so I grabbed on to it.  “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah. What do I care if it was Walt in that box?”
            We stalled a few more minutes finishing our beer, but when it was gone we both got up and headed out the door. Once more we hadn’t as much as mentioned what we were about to do, but we both knew we were going to the Mouse Hole.

            I really don’t know how Haggerty stayed in business because I don’t ever remember the Mouse Hole being really crowded and once more it was almost empty.  There were a couple of old-timers leaning on the bar, as far away from the door as it was possible to get, but that was all. Mickey looked up when we pushed through the padded door.
            “I thought you guys had left town.” He said, laughing.
            “We’re considering it,” Dave said as we sat down on our favorite stools. 
Mickey drew two from the tap and set them in front of us. “What’sa matter, Mickey Mouse chasing you?” he asked with a grin, but when Dave and I flinched at the joke, Haggerty twigged that something was up. “You guys go looking for Uncle Walt’s ice box like you were planning?”
“We know about the Blog and the Disney World Order and all of it Mickey,” I said.
Mickey lifted an eyebrow, then shrugged. “Just a hobby. Anything to needle the Disney Corporation.”
“We got caught in the cross-fire, Mick,” Dave said. 
Now Mickey stood up straight and said, “What cross-fire?”
“The Black Horse guys caught us and held us for like six hours. We didn’t tell them anything because we didn’t know about the blog and the DWO and all that. They  let us go because they thought we were harmless, but they asked me to keep an eye out.”
“They are gonna come after ya, Mickey. They want that coffin back and Black Horse is gonna come after you to get it,” I said.
He flicked his eyes back and forth over us before he said, “They can’t come after me if they don’t know it’s me. You guys gonna tell?”
“Hell Mickey, we aren’t gonna have to tell,” Dave said. “Disney has enough money that they can pay Black Horse and twenty other investigation services to go one-by-one through the blogs and websites till they come to you. I wouldn’t even put it past ‘em to get the government involved, too.”
Haggerty flicked his eyes back and forth over us again. A kind of a strange light had come into them. “OK. What if I give it back?”
Dave thought a moment. “If you give it back and Uncle Walt hasn’t thawed out any, I’d bet they would be willing to forget it, but I don’t know.”
“Besides, what are you gonna do with a Disney Popsicle anyhow, Mickey?” I asked and tried to laugh. 
The corners of Haggerty’s mouth turned up in a grin that I wasn’t sure was because of my joke. “Yeah, you’re right.” He turned his eyes to Dave. “Will you contact ‘em for me?”
“I’ll call Clemens,” he said.

I don’t know what Big Dave said to Clemens or Nickelson or whoever he talked to, but it was arranged. Dave didn’t ever actually give Mickey’s name or any other real information. Mickey told us that he had the coffin stored in a freezer warehouse out in the valley and that the temperature had never changed more than a degree or two in the time he had it. We didn’t ask anything about who the raiding party were or how they had gotten into Disneyland that night, just arranged for someone to show up in the parking lot of the freezer warehouse to pick up the box. Naturally, they wanted to check the box out to see that it hadn’t been opened or whatever, but they said they were willing to just take the box after it had been inspected. 
Dave explained this all to Mickey who didn’t say much except, “No Cops, right?”
“Just Black Horse and whatever techs and equipment they need to check the box.”
“I gotta be there?” 
“Yeah. You do, just in case the box isn’t in the condition you promised. They aren’t a really trusting bunch.”
“And what’s to stop ‘em from just grabbing me up along with the box?”
Dave shrugged. “I suppose you could get your raider buddies out there to cover the whole thing but I don’t think they want any trouble. I mean, they have gone out of their way for a long time to keep this whole “Disney in a freezer” thing quiet, so I don’t think they are gonna do anything to draw attention to themselves now.”
“They might just kill me,” Haggerty said, but he didn’t sound much afraid of any such thing happening.
“I doubt they will want to take the chance. They’d have to kill more than just you.”
“Yeah,” I said. “And Michele would be upset if my worthless ass got killed, so I wrote out the whole story and sent a copy to a friend of mine in the newspaper business--“
“And I sent a copy to a friend in the Screen Actors Guild so that if anything happens to any of us the whole crazy story is going to come out,” Dave added.
So it was all set up. Mickey and Dave and I were gonna meet whoever Black Horse sent in the parking lot. I thought I was gonna have to fight Dave before he would let me go. He protested a little, but finally gave up and made me promise to stay back away from the exchange. I told him I’d stay back in the shadows, but I thought I could probably get up close to see better when the time came.

It was a typical fall night in the San Fernando Valley— Gin clear with sparkling stars and a slight breeze to keep the smog at bay. The freezer warehouse was one of a couple dozen buildings in an industrial park and the park was more empty than not. There were probably a couple of the manufacturing places in the park that were running night shifts but none of them were close enough to have much effect on us. 
The three of us put on heavy gloves and carefully pushed the steaming box out of the freezer into the shadow of the building facing the parking lot. The box was still on its four-wheeled cart and cold enough that I could feel the incipient frost bite on my hands even through the gloves. As we pushed it, I saw that it was a sort of self-contained freezer unit with dials set into the top right underneath what looked like a window so inspectors could look into it—or maybe so Walt could look out. I couldn’t see anything because the glass was covered with kaleidoscopic ice crystals and I was pretty happy about that. I didn’t really want to see Uncle Walt in his Popsicle state as my dreams are strange enough without any such thing as that being added to them.
We stood in the shadow waiting and not talking. The parking lot was a long one with one entrance off the city street and several more off the alley across which we waited. The meeting was supposed to happen at ten o’clock, so we all began glancing at our watches and as the seconds ticked by Dave and I grew steadily less able to stand still.  Haggerty, on the other hand, stood as though this was just any old night. As I think back, it was kinda spooky how calm he seemed.
At ten o’clock on the dot two sets of head lights turned into the far end of the parking lot. One belonged to what looked like an ambulance and one belonged to a “deuce and half” painted haze-gray with a tarp stretched over its bed. As it got closer we saw that it had the Black Horse symbol painted on the door. The two vehicles drew up opposite us, swung around and stopped, then four men came out of the ambulance and half a dozen armed urban-camouflaged Black Horse soldiers piled out of the truck. They didn’t lower their weapons into assault configuration, but they held them across their chests at the ready.
Mickey, Dave, and I pushed the coffin out of the shadow toward the little group of men and when we were about five paces from them, we stopped and took a couple of paces back. The Disney guys from the ambulance came forward and Lt. Nickelson came with them. They all hovered around the box for a moment, then one of the Disney guys appeared to wipe the little window. He was not satisfied so he wiped it again.
Mickey stepped forward as though he was going to have a look at the window, but the guy who had been wiping it said, “This thing has been opened! That’s the only way it could get ice crystals on the inside of the window. You opened it!”
Mickey lifted his right hand to about waist high and moved it so we all could see that he had something in his hand, then shouted  ‘FUCK MICKEY MOUSE!” and pushed the button.
There was some General that once said, “there is no problem on earth that cannot be solved by the judicious application of high explosives.” Apparently, Mickey Haggerty was a devotee of that philosophy because when he pushed that button some perfectly shaped charges of plastic explosive went BOOM and Walt Disney’s freezer box went straight up into the air about fifty feet and hung there a moment as fountains of fireworks, like right off Disneyland’s Materhorn, began spouting from it to light up the sky. Just as gravity finally kicked in and the box began to fall, the fireworks ended with a second explosion that disintegrated the box and whatever was inside it into ten million very, very small pieces. 
The launching explosion had been so perfectly shaped that even Nickelson and the four Disney guys who were standing right beside it were barely moved by the concussion.  Their ears were probably ringing but there was no other harm to them. Dave and I, at about ten feet away, didn’t feel a thing, and when the second explosion went it blew the box into so many pieces that when they reached us it was as though we were being hit in the face by wind-blown sand.
Dave and I looked at each other, and then at the place where Haggerty had been standing. He was gone. He had used the explosions to divert attention while he ran back into the shadows and on into the night.
It took a moment for the Black Horse squad to react, but when they did they all aimed their guns at big Dave and me. Our mouths dropped open even further than they already were and we raised our hands.
I don’t know if it was the explosions or if Mickey had arranged it, but within a couple of minutes police sirens and blinky lights were making rags of the clear night and all of us ended up in LAPD custody.  I don’t know what anyone else told the cops, but I mostly just kept my flap shut and plead not guilty at the bail hearing. By and by, Michele showed up with a bail ticket and got me out. She didn’t say anything as I collected my personal effects, and everything was pretty quiet as we drove home, but when we got in the front door, she shook her head and looked at me with those forest pool brown eyes and said,  “What in hell’s name have you gotten yourself into?”

A few days passed and I didn’t hear from Dave or anyone else. All I could do was sit and stew and, by turns, curse Mickey Haggerty, Walt Disney, Black Horse, and my own stupidity, and fight off the urge to laugh like a maniac at the whole mess. I got in touch with a lawyer who did what lawyers do and pretty soon told me that all charges had been dropped and that I owed him five-hundred dollars. I called Dave and found out that the same thing had happened to him. Apparently, the Disney people had managed to grease whatever wheels justice still has to make LAPD and the courts forget about the big noise that happened on that Wednesday evening. Next day, when I told  Michele that I was going down to the Golden Gopher to meet Dave, she put the gimlet eye on me and said, “You can get somebody else to bail you out next time,” and I answered “Yes Mam,” and got out of there before she decided to throw something at me.
Dave was waiting with beer drawn when I got there.  “Have you heard anything from Mickey?” I asked, sitting down.
He shook his head. “He’s probably in Mexico or something. Has anyone else tried to contact you?”
“Anybody watching your house or anything?”
That question gave me pause. “Not that I know of, why?”
“Have you looked at any of the DWO websites or blogs?”
I suddenly felt a nervous prickle on my neck and looked around to see only a couple of people and Gus the barkeep in the place before carefully admitting that I had. 
“All of ‘em have links to the pix,” I said. “I can’t believe Mickey managed to get all those pix of the Popsicle and even a tape of the explosion. Disney isn’t gonna be able to deny the rumors now with Uncle Walt’s frozen puss all over the internet.  Hell, I even saw references to it on the TV news!”
            Dave shook his head and I could see that he was having a hard time not breaking up laughing.
            “And the fire works! It was like Fourth of July! All he needed was the Main St. Electrical Parade to have the perfect ending of a day at Disneyland!”
That did it. Dave roared with laughter and pulled me right along into it. We laughed like mad men for ten minutes until the tears ran down our faces.
When we got some control of ourselves again, Dave lifted his beer glass and said, “to Mickey Haggerty, and the MouseHole.”
            I lifted my glass and clinked the rim against his and added, “Fuck Mickey Mouse.”

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