----------------------WINNER TAKES OIL----------------------


Author's note: I have decided that in order to keep up with the times, add profoundness to the story like other good writers, etc., it is appropriate to add an ingenious and infinitely relevant quote to the beginning of at least one chapter of WINNER TAKES OIL. Here it is:

"Waw waw…waw waw waw…waw waw…waw…waw…waw waw waw… waw."

-Charlie Brown's Parents

It is 12:57 AM, and Agent Ferguson Beem lies sleeping on his comfy, flowery-patterned bed on the seventh floor of The Emissary Hotel. Agent Boz had approved his request to stay and "interrogate," and Beem had done just that. Treating it as his duty, he had begun directly after his conversation with Boz, leaving evidence of his work around the room: in the 2 mostly empty pizza boxes, the multiple crumpled chocolate wrappers on the end table, and the wet swimming trunks hanging from the shower bar.

A lamp provided an eerie glow to the room, along with the light cast by the T.V. that Beem had left on at a low volume. He had fallen asleep watching a two-hour special of Sci-Fi Channel's "Ghost Hunters." Now, some might wonder how Agent Beem managed to drift off to such an interesting, thrilling program about the supernatural. The television can attest to that, however:

"…And now we're back with the much anticipated Two-Hour Ghost Hunter Special only on Sci-Fi!," the narrator… narrated. "As the Ghost Hunters enter their third hour, Ghost Hunter Mike begins to fatigue."

"Ghost Hunter Bill, whose stupid idea was it to film a Two-Hour Special in a ONE-ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE!?" criticized Ghost Hunter Mike.

"Ssh!" remarked Ghost Hunter Bill. "Did you hear that?" He paused, listening intently. "I think it came from that corner!"

"Ghost Hunter Bill, we've already checked that corner FORTY TWO TIMES!" whined Ghost Hunter Mike. "Not to mention, we can see it from he-"

"Ssh! There it was again," Ghost Hunter Bill insisted. "It sounded like, 'Get out' or some other eerie and foreboding phrase. I'm going to check it out!" He walked fifteen feet to the other corner of the room.

"Ghost Hunter Bill, that's just you going, 'Ssh!'"

"Oh," said Bill sheepishly.

At that moment, one could hear a faint hissing sound in the distance. Gradually, the hiss became a roar, drowning out the sound of the T.V. All of a sudden, the room next to Beem's exploded, blowing a gaping hole in the wall and pushing his bed forward about two feet. The crumbling dry wall created a faint haze throughout the room. Everything in his room was at least damaged, and the room next to his was decimated. The only thing that had protected Beem from the catastrophe was his bed's thick headboard.

Agent Beem awoke leisurely (did I mention he is a heavy sleeper?), attempting to hit the snooze button on his alarm clock, which was now in many pieces against the far wall of his room. After swiping just air, he sat up slowly. When he realized his room was in shambles, his mind jolted mostly awake; however, he was still in a semi-groggy, confused state.

The haze that permeated the air irritated his eyes and evoked a few coughs from him as he arose from his bed. Beem walked over to what was once a wall, being sure not to step on any sharp debris, and gazed in disbelief. It took only a moment for him to analyze the situation and form a conclusion. "I know exactly what happened," he said to himself. "That giant demon-possessed Pillsbury Doughboy from 'Ghost Busters' must have slammed his fist into this hotel room!"

For a moment, he praised himself for his genius deduction. Then, Agent Beem realized that he obviously wasn't totally awake. He slapped his cheeks and wiped his eyes to try to wake himself up. "Okay," he thought. "Locked room… unoccupied… metal shrapnel… looks like the type and magnitude of an explosion caused by a Katyusha rocket!" He peered out the window of the destroyed room to see a wispy trail of smoke that had been somewhat dispersed by the wind, but it led to his general direction and altitude. "Vapor trail!" he exclaimed.

"How could this have happened?" he pondered. "I caught Jackson! Oh no, could he have escaped? Even if he has, how does he know where I'm staying? I haven't told a soul!" Various possibilities cycled through his mind. He concluded that he had to see if Jackson was still at the police department, and if he was, Beem was going to get him to talk! He had devised a cruel and unusual interrogation method that required only duct tape, a chair, and a sinister little video tape that he had created. He treaded carefully across the fragments of dry wall, metal, and other debris back into his room. Reaching into one of his tattered duffel bags, he found the videotape still intact.

Grabbing his shoes, he raced out the door and down the stairs, tape in hand, only stopping at the front desk to request room service for the room next to his. This assignment had just become much more dire than he originally planned, and as he jumped into the police cruiser to head for the P.D., he could only ask himself, "Why didn't I just stick with catching underwear nappers!?"

He turned on the radio only to hear Michael Jackson's song, "Thriller" being played. "Man," he said, "that's ironic."

After speeding recklessly downtown, Agent Beem arrives once again at the Galveston Police Department. He has given up on trying to answer all of his questions theoretically; attempting to draw conclusions without evidence is useless. Shaken and paranoid, he is in no mood to wait around. Beem will get answers!

Agent Beem parked next to the curb at the front entrance of the station, grabbed his mysterious videotape from the passenger seat, and rushed through the double doors. It was 1:37 AM, and an excruciatingly bored policeman stood behind the front desk, scanning the pages of his Law Enforcement magazine in order to keep himself awake. Beem approached him hastily. "Sir! I'm Agent Ferguson Beem of the F.B.I. I need to see a prisoner immediately!" he demanded. "Rick!" yelled the officer without looking up from his magazine. A brawny, barrel-chested officer entered the room from a door behind the desk. "What can I do for you?" asked Rick. "I need to interrogate an inmate immediately," Beem replied. "Can I see some I.D. please?" Rick requested. Beem quickly complied. "Okay, Agent Beem. Follow me."

Rick led him through a set of double doors, down a hall to the left, and through an exhaustively secure corridor. Agent Beem now found himself in the central lockup facility. This is where all arrested delinquents were contained, from the mildly mischievous to the madly murderous. Beem shivered as a gargantuan, muscular inmate was led past him. He guessed that this one was probably of the madly murderous variety.

The thug grinned at him menacingly, veins surfacing and muscles bulging. "Do you deal with those kind of criminals often?" asked Beem. "Yeah, it's pretty routine," Rick said matter-of-factly. "They don't usually give you any trouble as long as you prove you're not a push over." "I'm glad that that job is left to you police officers!" Beem exclaimed. "Police officers?" Rick laughed. "I'm a psychiatrist!… but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." "You're joking, right?" Beem asked uneasily. Rick smirked. "If I was, would I be able to tell you that Sigmund Freud's last name is spelled F-R-E-U-D, not F-R-O-Y-D?" Beem gulped. If he could spell Freud, he couldn't be a policeman!

"So," Rick continued, "which prisoner are you looking for?" "Jesse Jackson," Beem replied. Rick thought for a moment, "Jackson… Ah, yes! He's in cell B3. The guys stuck him in with one Mr.McDonald, but McDonald was released about 45 minutes ago." The two men walked quickly through the maze of cells and hallways until they reached Cell B3. "This is it," said Rick. "Sure is," Beem replied. He was halfway surprised to see Jackson still occupying his cell.

Rick unlocked the cell door, and he and Agent Beem stepped inside. Jackson was huddled in the corner of his cell, groaning from what sounded like pain, with two colored permanent markers protruding from his ears. However, no wounds were present on him, and even if they had been, Beem was not feeling very compassionate after the whole room-exploding ordeal. "Get up, Reverend. We need to talk to you," Beem said gruffly, clenching his videotape. Jackson arose slowly and expressionlessly, still groaning, and Agent Beem and Rick escorted him out of central lockup.

The three of them enter the interrogation room in the office building of the police station. Rick holds the door open as Beem leads Jackson in by the arm. Jackson has not uttered a word since Beem arrived tonight, and Beem can't help but feel that something's not right. After all, Jesse Jackson never misses an opportunity to communicate how he feels about… well… anything.

It was the stereotypical interrogation room: one lamp suspended from the ceiling, a table, two chairs, and four walls, oh yeah, and a floor- we can't forget the floor.

Beem led Jesse over to his chair and had him sit down with his arms slid around the chair's high back, making him unable to stand up without help since his hands remained cuffed. Rick stood in the corner, and Beem took the other chair. "Okay, Jesse, you will tell me what I want to know or I will be forced to use a very… unsettling method," Beem stated. "Question one: WHY a one-room SCHOOLHOUSE!? Of all the places to film a two-hour special, WHY there!? Why not Gettysburg? Why not the castle of Vlad the Impaler? Heck, why not a run-down Tyson Chicken Plant!? There HAVE to be ghosts in THERE!" Beem's shouting turned his face flush, while a confused Jesse Jackson sat in silence. "Agent, do you really think that's a fair question?" Rick pointed out. "No, I suppose not," Beem admitted, exhaling impatiently. "Okay," he said, attempting to calm down, "question two: how did you obtain the rockets you used to attack those oil tankers?" Jackson muttered something under his breath. "Speak up, Jackson!" shouted Beem. "Get… happy?" Jackson said.

"Get happy?" Beem echoed, perplexed. He had never known Jackson to use any words referring to joy or pleasure. Had Ronald McDonald traumatized him that bad? Beem scooted back in his chair, stood up, and walked around pondering the response. Upon coming around to Jackson's back, Beem noticed something he had overlooked before: Jackson's hands looked as pale as a white man's hands. Looking higher up Jackson's back, Beem noticed a tag hanging out the side of Jackson's collar. He tugged it, which raised a flap of skin.

"Eeeew," was his first reaction. It felt nauseatingly rubbery. "Wait a minute," he thought, and as he tugged it harder, a plume of blindingly bright orange hair shot out from underneath. "Jinkies!" he exclaimed. "It's a mask!" Curiosity thrusted Beem's arm upward, peeling off the likeness of Jesse Jackson to reveal the visage of a bruised and beaten Ronald McDonald.

"HoW's ThAt for a pLot TwIst!?" gloated the deranged author.

Rick was taken aback. "That means that we must have let out-" "Jackson!" Beem broke in. He squeezed the videotape furiously. When he caught that weasel, nothing could save him from the torturous tape of Agent Ferguson Beem. "Rick!" Beem blurted, "What time did you say that 'McDonald' was released?" "One o'clock sharp," Rick responded. "Did he have a car?" asked Beem. "No," Rick replied, "he has to have either walked or ridden a city bus, but it has been about an hour, so he could have gotten pretty far."

Beem was utterly bewildered. The rocket hit the room next to his at about 1:03 AM. Jackson had been released at 1:00 AM. The car that he had kept his rockets in was approximately 20 minutes away from his point of release at this branch of the Galveston Police Department. Not to mention that the car in which he had kept his rockets and the hotel from which he had fired one were currently heavily guarded by the police. So far, the facts fit together like a square peg in an obtuse triangular hole. Someone knew all about him, and that someone had rockets, which needless to say, wasn't a very comforting thought to Agent Beem.