Three days had past since he left Mikey's house, and Wade was jittery in ways unimaginable—since when had the Toy Devil (or any devil, as matter of fact) acquired fear? There was Daredevil, who was very intrepid, and there was the New Jersey Devils, who were a fierce hockey team. Wade Durham wasn't even thinking about bravery or ferocity at that point.

He was now on Indigo Road on his way to Natalie Arnold's residence in Fort Lauderdale; she was his first love, and even though they weren't currently together, they still kept in contact with each other. They had met at an ice cream parlor in West Palm six years ago, and being the clever devil that he was, Wade had intentionally bumped into her and the cone he was carrying landed on the breast of her shirt. From there it had been magical bliss between them, Natalie braiding his hair so nicely, Wade telling her the wacky stories of pranks and other mischievous adventures he had been in.

All had been good until Natalie and her parents moved to New Jersey so she could attend some cosmetology school called Glenwood. From then on their long distance conversations had been far and between, both of them agreeing that long distance relationships were expensive with all of the phone cards they had to buy and the great rise of the phone bill each month. They had tried the letter thing, which proved to be less costly and more effective on emotions that they had for each other.

Then, Wade had received her letter that said that she was coming back to Florida, but Fort Lauderdale was where the house would be instead of West Palm. So form there, they'd visit each other at least once a week, now focusing on each other's feelings rather than engaging immediately in sexual intercourse like before.

On his way down the road, he spotted a blockade consisting of the two police cruisers and numerous orange cones. To the far left, the road was clear and went for it, hoping that those three cops don't flag him down. They did as soon as his Accord pulled up on the left of the cruiser-cone blockade. He stopped and began to gnaw frantically on his nails as the cop who was wearing a tan suit approached the driver's side. The cop knocked on the window and wade reluctantly rolled it down, thinking that this was going to be the end if him.

"License and registration, man," the suited cop said. He had a Spanish accent and what came out of his mouth was Lyceenz n regeestation, main. He bore a mild resemblance to the younger Cheech Marin with glasses. Wade had to struggled mightily to keep from saying Where eez da weeeed, esse?

Wade opened his glove compartment and shuffled nervously through the many envelopes (bills, bills, bills) until he came across what the Cheech look-alike was demanding. He handed the card and the folded document to the cop.

"Here you go," Wade said, smiling without being devilish about it. He tried his hardest to sound proper—maybe the cop might let him go if he sounded uppity and Caucasoid. "Is there a problem, officer?"

The cop adjusted his glasses and studied the license, never minding the registration. "I theenk you know that there's a broblem, my friend, if your name's Wade Durham." He opened the Accord door and motioned for Wade to get out, his middle finger ring glistening in the afternoon sunlight; it looked liked one of someone who had won the Super Bowl. "Step outta the car, main."

Tensely, Wade stepped out of the accord, almost falling because his right foot got entangled in the seatbelt.

"Don't try eeny slick shit, main," the suited cop said, helping Wade stand straight. He noticed two things about the cop, one funny and one not so comical: a) The cop's shirt was unbuttoned at the top, revealing his bushy chest hair (all that taco meat), and b) the glossy .45 pistol on the cop's hip. "You're wanted for the questioneeng for the murder of Garrett Heyward. I'm not gonna read you your rights 'cause you should know theem."

Wade had to look down at the cop to gaze into his dark eyes. "Look, officer, I don't know what the rest of them told you—"

"Relax, main," the cop interrupted. "We can talk when we get to the Department, o-kay?"

Wade thought and then nodded.

The cop went on. "Now you look like a cool guy, so I'm gonna keep the cuffs on my belt, o-kay? 'Cause if you gotta use 'em on you, I will—and I promise you it'll be damned ugly, main."

(who does he think he is? Scarface?)

"I'm cool," said Wade. He was willing to cooperate—even though he could do an Arnold Schwarzenegger stunt: Take the gun from the Cheech look-alike's belt, shoot him in the head, use his body as a human shield, kill the other two cops, jump in the Accord, and head to Mexico. Wade didn't think he could do that as proficiently as he envisioned and Schwarzenegger couldn't either, since he was the governor of California and falling off of bikes and all.

The suited cop shut the door of the Accord and led Wade to the closest cruiser, grabbing his arm to do so. The cop opened the rear door of the cruiser and Wade got in, grimacing because there wasn't enough room to move his knees. He gnawed at his nails again like a beaver as the suited cop drove with on of the other cops in shotgun. The cops said nothing the entire trip.

They arrived at the West Palm Beach Police Department, a building that looked old on the outside and advanced on the inside. The two cops parted ways and the suited one directed him through this place, an air-conditioned complex where the fuzz fingerprinted and questioned a strange mix of accused murderers (like Wade), rapists, thieves, embezzlers, prostitutes, and gang members (all linked together with handcuffs).

I never knew there was so much crime in this city, Wade thought.

Finally, the suited cop led the Toy Devil into a small room with a gray marble table, two collapsible chairs, a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling on a wire, and a one-way mirror—an interrogation room. It was cold in there and it made Wade shiver like a junkie in withdrawal; he could see himself do so in the cop's silver-rimmed glasses.

"Have a seat, main," the suited cop ordered. Wade did so, and watched the cop shut the door and sit backwards in the chair on the other side of the table, where the one-way mirror was. "Sorry—I didn't tell you my name, did I? I'm Deetective Eduardo Bina."

Bina held out his hand as if to shake with Wade, but when Wade held his out, the cop's hand did a sharp turn and grabbed the red ashtray in the middle of the table. This motherfucker just played me out, and there's nothing I can do about it.

The cop placed the ashtray in front of him and pulled out a pack of Marlboros,

(the cowboy cigarettes)

tapping two cigarettes out and placing one between his thin lips on one side.

"Cigarette?" Bina asked.

"Nah, I don't smoke," Wade lied. It wasn't much of a lie, though—he didn't smoke cowboy cigarettes. Black&Mild was what he was used to, and now that they came in assorted flavors (mmm, strawberry), he had fallen in love with them.

"Aw c'mon, my freend!" Bina snatched the cancer stick from his lips and the one the table and aggravatingly stuffed them back into the pack. "It isn't much fun smokeeng by myself."

He put the pack back into his pocket, and then tossed the ashtray in back of him, leaving a splotch of ashes on the mirror. If the ashtray were made of glass instead of plastic it would have shattered into a gazillion pieces. The cop got up, looked at Wade gravely, and sat on the edge of the table. The Toy Devil tapped the table with his fingers, still edgy—this cop was stalling for some reason, and the anxiety of being arrested was irking Wade's nerves.

"So," Bina said, being complacent, "tell me your side of the story. There are so many sides to this story that I'm starteeng to theenk I'm in geometry class. But I have to tell you that all the stories I've heard so far all have a common theme, main—that Wade Durham keeled Garrett Heyward."

Wade started to just say that he didn't do it, but that was starting to sound obsolete. He had seen so many crime movies to know that most criminals—whether they did do it or not—always said that they didn't do it, even in the face of hard evidence. He came up with another tactic—just telling how he was a part of everything. Tell the butt-naked truth.

He sat up in the chair he once was slouching in and did just that: How Seth Heyward had called him to set Garrett Heyward up for a prank because it had been the old man's birthday that pending day; how they had planned to have the old man tied up so that the skrippers (wade corrected himself at this point and said strippers) he hired could go in the house and dance for the old man while the music would play; how Wade had been outside on the phone while Michael Hoff and Juan Gomez were dressed up as robbers when they were supposed to tie the old man up; how they had told Wade that the old man had been convulsing like he was having a heart attack while they were tying him up; how wade had run home when Mikey and Juan told him all of that.

"So what you're saying, main," Bina said, "is that you were in charge of and reesponsible for the whole thing?"

"Wrong," said Wade, shaking his head back and forth. "I was in charge of the prank, but I wasn't responsible for what happened to Garrett."

The cop stood. "No? Michael and Juan said that you threatened to keel them if they told the cops."

"Nah, that's not right. I told them that we should wait and talk the whole thing out before going to the cops."

Wade thought hard and went on.

"Besides, the last time I ever saw the old man was a couple days before the day when we pulled the prank."

"That's funny," Bina said, "because your fingerprints are all over the wire that Garrett was tied to the chair with. The joke's on you..."

Wade was enraged. None of this was making any sense.

"How the fuck..." Wade trailed off, then: "I didn't even know they used a wire to tie—"

He stood up strong as if he was going to take a stand against abortion. "Look, Detective Bean or whateva your name is—I didn't kill nobody!"

The cop leaned across the able and stared Wade directly in the eyes. "Since you used a double negateeve, that means you deed kill somebody. The joke's on you!"

"N-no, that's not what I m-meant," Wade stuttered.

Bina smiled and pulled a pair of handcuffs from his belt like Batman, swinging them in front of Wade's distraught face like a pendulum.

"You have the right to remain silent the joke's on you!" the cop exclaimed. "You are being charged for the first degree murder of Garrett Heyward the joke's on you!"

This was it—he was about to be arrested for something he did not do. Now he knew exactly how some inmates felt when the jury had deemed them as guilty when they were really innocent; he could already see himself fighting off sex-starved convicts the size of whales who'd want to shank him or throw him blanket for killing a helpless elderly man. He had long hair, long, black and girly hair, too, which made him highly susceptible to being somebody's bitch the moment the soap falls to the floor in the showers.

That's why the made that show, Injustice—'cause dudes were being tormented in a place they didn't rightfully belong.

The handcuffs were lustrous in a bad way as he looked at them, and something caught his eye momentarily—

Wait, that wasn't what he thought he saw, was it?

It was—there was something he could make out on the handcuffs: at the base of each cuff read SPENCER'S. He worked at Spencer's in the mall for two years and knew that anything bearing the mark of that novelty shop was at once a fake or stimulated real (and almost always disgusting) things—plastic vomit, gum that would turn your mouth balck, itching powder, fart machines.

"The joke's on you!" Bina said. Why was he keep saying that—

"What the fuck?" Wade uttered, sitting back down in the chair, feeling indefinite about himself and the whole situation.

The door of the interrogation room flew open like the legs of a hooker, and in came two men with big black things on their shoulders, things with lenses and buttons, things that the men holding them were looking through with one eye—video cameras. Wade's left eyebrow rose as the men approached him and positioned the cameras not that far from his face. There were three words that ran through Wade's mind in a teeny, tiny circle: whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck.

Through the same door came a balck guy Wade never seen before or perhaps did somewhere or someplace, at the mall or on the street or even on TV

(on TV?)

After him came three people Wade recognized immediately—the biggest one was Mikey, the one with the black ponytail was Juan, and the Brad Pitt wannabe was Seth. What the hell were they doing here? Everyone was just popping up.

Everybody and their grandmoms are in here! Wade exaggerated inside of his mind. They night as well send the fucking President in here, or even Jesus Christ himself, or even the boy I fought in the eleventh grade, or even the two strippers I paid to dance for Garrett—

Soon as Seth came into the interrogation room, in came the two strippers that he hired to dance for Garrett—but they weren't dressed in the stripper attire—no tight lingerie, no excessive makeup, no slutty stiletto heels. Just reasonable feminine clothing.

"Smile, Wade," said Bina, whose voice no longer owned a Spanish accent, "you're on the new MTV show, The Joke's On You!"

Before Bina said that, everyone in the room had impish grins upon their faces—even the two men who each had an eye closed another eye covered with the cameras grinned. After Bina said that, they all started laughing at Wade; just cracking up, falling into each other, falling into the cold walls of the room, pointing at the Toy Devil, the only one who wasn't laughing at all.

"You know you wanna laugh," said the black guy, his voice hideous and high-pitched. He looked familiar because Wade had seen his face on a commercial while watching MTV2 late one night promoting The Joke's On You. His name was Melvin Lash, and Melvin Lash put a hand on Wade's shoulder as Wade stood up. "Yo, kid, there are cameras all over the place—behind the one-way mirror, in the left hand corner in back of you, one on Mikey's house door, and even in his glasses."

Melvin pointed at Bina as Bina took off his glasses and showed them to Wade. "He's one of our actors, Joey Knoll. He scared the shit outta you, didn't he?" Bina (or Joey Knoll) pulled at his chest hair and it all came off together in a bundle. He dangled it in the air and Wade saw that it was fake—something else that could've been purchased at Spencer's.

"But don't blame me or him for any of this," Melvin went on. "Your friends are the ones who set you up."

Wade wanted to smile, really wanted to, but couldn't—wouldn't. The anger wasn't coming out, like a bleach stain on a black shirt. He wanted to curse up a storm and found out that he couldn't even do that. Just as he was about to utter at least the three words that kept revolving in his head,

(what the fuck)

he saw the old man standing next to Seth; Wade didn't see Garrett come in, the very same guy they said had died from a goddam heart-attack. He was laughing as well. Wade thought he heard the old man's bones creak. Was he back from the dead?

"Man, we got you good!" Juan said. "Yo, you should see ya face right now!"

"How does it feel to have a prank pulled on you?" Mikey asked, holding out his hand. Wade honestly thought that Mikey was going to do something similar with his hand as Bina (or Joey Knoll) had did earlier with the ashtray, but when Wade put his hand up, his big companion shook it with hulky vigor. "You took it like a man, though—I have to congratulate you on that much."

Everybody was still in a state of hilarity when Garrett came forward and said with a wrinkled smirk, "Ah! You thought you could fool an old fool, huh? Ha-ha! We gotcha this time, ya toy devil, you. Ha-ha, you're the last person I thought would fall for this prank."

No, he's not anywhere near dead.

"I almost thought it wasn't going to work," Seth said, now directly in front of Wade. "You didn't see that MTV van in front of my house that night? I thought that once you saw it, you'd pick up on the joke we were pulling on you."

"I saw it," Wade said with frigid monotony. He said it like that because he in fact had seen the MTV van when he ran home after Mikey and Juan had said that Garrett was dead over the phone. The Toy Devil fit perfectly well as a title for Wade—a devil that had been played like a toy.


How could I have been so stupid? I'm the prankster around here—this city ain't big enough for another man like or a group of men like me! I can't believe I couldn't snuff out any foul play going on between them.