The man from the network scowled at the idea. "We've got too much wrapped up in this boy."
The pilot of the police helicopter looked at his passenger like they were from different planets. "Even if you can't snap him back?"
"Oh, we can snap him back."
They were chasing O'Brien across an open field, helicopters with ground support herding him towards a predecided spot. So far he hadn't made any unpredictable moves, but after the preceding weekend the police department wasn't taking any chances, a half dozen sharpshooters planted along the perimeter as a contingency plan.
Conan cocked his head to one side when he heard the rumble, so strange yet so familiar. Over the rise he a Harley Davidson of gleaming chrome and roaring engines, a rider clad in black leather. When the helmet came off, O'Brien stopped cold.
Looking through a set of field glasses, the network man nodded to nobody in particular, then spoke into his cellphone. "Leno's in position."
The pilot scowled. "Please tell me that's not your ace in the hole."
"Jay's a company man, dammit. Just you wait."
For a second, the battered feral late night host looked at his large chinned comrade as if he was almost ready to say something. That stopped when Jay whipped out the tranquilizer gun.
Leno gestured at his weapon. "Ya see this? Ya hear about this?" Then he fired the dart into O'Brien's neck.
The man at the head of the network entourage looked like he hadn't slept for "All these crazy showbiz people. It's a nightmare, I tell you. We had to bring Joey back! Do you know how painful that was?"
A yes man from the back of the group piped in. "Did you hear they caught Gwynneth Paltrow in some guy's chicken coop?"
"Really? I thought she was a vegetarian..."
"Heh. Not any more."
Billy Bush from Access Hollywood, a tagalong pal looking for an exclusive, tried vainly to make himself heard. "Cool it...she's good people."
A young woman from the legal department chose this moment to pipe in. "They're all good people, Billy--well, some of them. But the point is that quack's 'herbal supplements' have driven half of the primetime lineup insane." She paused to collect herself. "And I blame Aaron Sorkin. But that's strictly off the record."
The doctor silenced the group. "Here we are, people. Now keep in mind we're only here to observe. Mr. O'Brien is not ready for visitors yet."
They stood in front of a two-way mirror as the lights in the cell came up gradually; a few of them gasped. Conan sat in a corner staring at the ceiling, tousled, circles under his eyes, torn hospital gown. At no provocation whatsoever, he leapt to his feet and pounced on what looked like a tattered rag.
The legal assistant recognized it first. "That's a Triumph puppet. And it's missing the eyes."
One of the older men chose this moment to announce he was going to be sick.
"Well," the head of the network expedition noted to an assistant, "I think that makes our decision for us."
"Late Night With Patton Oswalt?" The head man was already making the necessary phone calls.
The legal assistant paused for a moment. Conan had moved on to some form of the String Dance, but he was too shaky on his feet; when he cut the invisible string to the right hip he crumpled to the floor like a rag doll. Then he started sniffing things.
She scowled. Patton Oswalt. It would've been Louis C.K. if he hadn't made that silly growling noise at the meeting...