And as much as I've complained about those early chapters, this one is, inarguably, the worst. Because as ridiculous as everything has been up this point, chapter thirteen is even stupider. In fact, it is so poorly constructed that it's insulting.
Here's what happens: Noah wakes up in Molly's arms, in the back of a police van. The patriots are perp walked past the liberal media. Noah's fancypants lawyers gets the charges against him dropped. But before Noah can leave, he sees all the most radical patrons from the bar standing around the police station having a laugh. Because they were all undercover cops!
This is, literally, the most ridiculous and unbelievable thing that could have happened. I dare you to come up with something stupider. Can't be done. No Twinkies for you!
He opened his eyes, and found her looking down at him.
It was the wide variety of aches and pains that told him for certain she wasn't a figment of his imagination. His head was resting in her lap, and Molly held him steady as the crowded police van bumped and jostled along the patchy downtown streets.
Noah looked up at her again. "What happened—"
She hushed him with a fingertip to his lips, and he saw that her wrists were bound with nylon ties.
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
Are you gagging? Because I'm gagging. What tripe.
So, yeah, Noah is dragged from the van past "local and network correspondents" and detained with a couple hundred teabaggers, drunks, and male prostitutes. Oh, the humanity!
After a time he saw something that he couldn't begin to understand; he must have been mistaken. The man from the back of the tavern, the one with the gun, was being escorted from an adjacent cell. He wasn't in handcuffs or restraints of any kind. He was just walking along with the officers toward the exit.
What?!? No! Not the gunman! He's just walking out of jail! How could this be? Oh, yeah, he was clearly an agent provocateur! Duh! (And jebus, I need to lay off the exclamation points for a while.)
Eyeing Noah's "gold class ring from Riverdale Country School," the cops pull him from the cell and take him to be interrogated. The interviewing officer even gets a short speech. Yay for speeches!
He tells Noah he is "going to get on a big bus with some armed guards and take a ride to central booking at the Manhattan Detention Complex—most people call it the Tombs. Over there they'll get your mug shots, your DNA and your fingerprints, and then you'll be formally charged and arraigned in the criminal court and bound over for trial." Blah blah blah. It's painfully boring.
The officer tries to play Good Cop/Bad Cop all by himself, hoping to get Noah to squeal. Not that Noah has a chance. The family lawyer arrives before Noah can open his mouth.
Charlie Nelan was one of those old-school, silver-haired überprofessionals who swore by the power of image. No matter where you happened to see him, he always looked as though he'd just stepped out of the "Awesome Lawyers" issue of Gentlemen's Quarterly. Fortunately, he was every bit as sharp as he looked.
Slick Charlie tells the cop "I want my client released, and his charges dropped, and I want that arrest report in the shredder." And to further his point, the officer's captain calls at this very moment. The cop takes the call and Nelan drags Noah down the hall. It's there that Noah sees something unbelievable. Well, honestly, it's not believable, if you understand the distinction.
Out in a common area, a dozen or so men were gathered together having coffee and a collegial chat with some uniformed police. He stood and stepped closer to the glass, trying hard to believe his eyes.
In this surreal gathering was every heckler, every troublemaker who had made himself apparent during the speeches at the bar. Every one of them was dressed similarly, the differences being confined to the inflammatory slogans on their clothing and their selection of cracker-chic accessories. When scattered among a larger group they'd been harder to spot as co-conspirators, but all together like this, with their guard down, their costumes were obvious and their mannerisms out of character. It looked like the after-party of a Larry the Cable Guy stunt-double audition at Central Casting.
One of them matched a picture in Noah's memory to the very last detail. He was sure this time: the man was wearing a loud flannel shirt, a hunter's vest, a do-rag torn from the corner of a Confederate battle flag, and a shoulder holster.
So, yeah, the agitators? All undercover agents. They were at the rally to stir up shit, to cause a riot, to bring down the average in Noah's outstanding record of success with the ladies. Noah is freaked out by this revelation.
Which is odd, don't you think? All of it is. Again, going back to Noah's' earlier professed ability to spot an infiltrator, he missed all of the undercover cops. And he just spent the afternoon in a meeting about implementing the New World Order, and he's stunned to see it taking place. Noah's fancypants prep-school education obviously didn't buy him any critical thinking skills.
Nelan tells Noah he's pulled all the strings he can, and if he "so much as jaywalks" there is nothing he'll be able to do. Noah doesn't care.
"Those guys, right out there"—Noah pointed through the glass, and Charlie looked briefly in that direction—"they were at this meeting tonight, where all this happened, and they were there specifically to start something. When they got tired of waiting for the people to get violent they did it themselves."
"Let me see if I understand you. You're saying that you think an undercover New York City police officer discharged his weapon in a crowded bar to incite this whole incident?"
Nelan says it doesn't matter if he did. Noah disagrees. Because he's becoming a Better Man. "That guy right there, the one with the visitor's badge and the holster under his vest, that's the guy who fired the shots that started all this!" Oh, the humanity!
Noah refuses to leave. "Not without everybody else who was brought in with me." (To hell with the drunks and rent boys!) Nelan complains about opening "this can of worms again" (huh?) and says he won't be able to do anything without Darthur's say-so.
That wasn't welcome news, but Noah took a deep breath and nodded his permission.
Oh dear. Daddy issues. Very thrilling. Less thrilling: Everything else.