Thursday, February 24, 2011
Jones is interrupted by the glare of a flashlight, and a man’s voice asking what’s wrong. Jones turns, seeing a police officer standing in the alleyway. He explains that he encountered this homeless man, and as he turns, he notes that the strange man is gone. He finishes up his explanation, and since nothing seems out of the ordinary, the police officer lets him be.
Once the officer leaves, Jones tries the fire door to find it locked. He then finds the coat he purchased and the man’s begging bowl, and proceeds to fold the coat and place the two objects in an out-of-the-way place in the hopes that the man will later retrieve them. He then calls Bex (under the pretense of congratulating Leah), and learns what he already suspects — Leah disappeared after talking to a homeless man outside their hotel in New York City. Bex seems shaken, but notes that the police are involved, and she’s sure they’ll find Leah. Jones tells her to keep him posted.
Jones makes a couple of calls to some of his Air Force buddies, trying to track down an old contact, Clothesline. After the action in Somalia, Clothesline stayed in Africa, moving westward and taking odd jobs as a mercenary and pilot. Jones’ friends say they’ll get him in touch. He also calls Jimmy lessthanthree Brenda, telling him that Leah is missing and asking if he can track her down. He says he can, although given that she’s on another continent it might take several days or weeks for him to determine where she is. Before he heads home, he calls Jane to recount his experience, and the fact that Leah might be on a different continent, and says he’s coming home. Jane says she’ll call Mabel to see if she can learn anything further.
By the time Jones arrives home, Jane indicates she hasn’t learned anything of relevance, but Jones has received Clothesline’s Skype handle. He explains the situation to Jane in a little more detail, and then decides to contact his friend. Contacting Clothesline, Jones explains he has a couple of friends stranded in Africa, probably with minimal supplies and no passport. Clothesline says it’ll take a couple of days to get out there, but if he can get a little more information, he can probably get eyes on this person. Jones says they’re probably in Algeria, and that he can send more detail descriptions shortly. Jones also muses on the possibility of coming to Africa himself to see this through, and Clothesline recommends a person stateside with similarly eclectic employment. He says he can get contact information to Jones shortly. Jones thanks him and says he’ll be in touch.
After logging off, he receives a message from Clothesline indicating his contact is one Sage Price, followed by a phone number with a Chicago area code. He calls and reiterates his missing friends and his need to get to Algeria. She says she prefers to do these things in person; if he can make it from L.A. to Las Vegas, she’s there frequently for work, otherwise she’ll have to make an appointment to meet him in Los Angeles. He says he’ll be in touch.
Jones discusses these matters with Jane, and asks if there’s anyone she might know relevant to this situation. She doesn’t, although she notes the cult she met in Las Vegas had a strange tie with synchronicity. Rosie might be able to help. Jones asks if she wants to be indebted to any of her former cabalmates, and Jane notes she probably doesn’t.
Kevin finds himself in a grand hall watching a chess game in progress. There are many robed, masked figures moving about an elaborate chessboard, a massive edifice with tiers and slides. The pieces are varied and strange — one player moves an army of hamburgers across the board that seem to meld with other pieces, while another combines pieces into an elaborate pyramid. At the head of the table is a cage where three more of these robed, masked figures sit in judgment. (At some point, he sees some robed figure try to surreptitiously move pieces out of turn, and these three figures — feminine figures vaguely visible under their robes as they move — emerge from the cage and descend on the player, ripping it apart with sharp talons. There is no blood, however; only a tattered robe remains. The trio then returns to their cage.)
Kevin’s attention is drawn to a figure wearing a mask resembling an English explorer with a pith helmet, but carved of wood in an African tribal style. At one point, the figure pushes its mask aside to scratch its face, revealing Kevin’s face underneath, but later in the match, it adjusts again and it’s someone else entirely.
The action on the board that holds Kevin’s interest appears to be a man wearing a mask that looks like James Dean with various piercings over on one side of the board. This figure takes a piece that resembles a microphone stand and a piece that looks like a male figure in a broad-brimmed hat, and brings them to another side of the board, where the figure in the James Dean mask and another figure in an iron king mask engage in a complex series of moves and countermoves involving a small figure of a king, a figure with a bullhorn, a shouting figure with its fist raised to the sky, and a figure behind some manner of podium. The king then brings the figure with the broad-brimmed hat back to the other side of the board, where it briefly interacts with a figurine resembling an airplane before it’s moved again and Kevin loses track of it. The airplane figurine moves to a figurine that resembles a nun. There also appears to be a figure close at hand that is tipped on its side and resembles a surfboard.
Kevin awakens in the hospital. After getting a hold of a nurse and encountering his parents — and encouraging them to not stay here the whole time — he calls Jones. He describes his dream in minimal detail to Jones, mentioning the chessboard and the players, the three taloned figures, the pieces that he expects represents them and other events, and “the African carved-style Englishman monocle Victorian dude” with his face. Jones dutifully writes it down, and eventually Kevin hangs up as he’s drifting off to sleep.
Leah contemplates her next move. Caught between commotion in one direction and the sea in another, she decides to head to the sea and the monuments in the hopes of finding some sign of her father. Along the way, she encounters a grinning beggar with North African features and begins explaining her predicament. The man apparently does not understand English — he responds in what sounds like French — but beckons her to follow him. He leads her through the streets until coming to a tangle of abandoned buildings; a couple of homeless men hang around outside, almost appearing to guard the place. The beggar evidently explains something to them, and one of them enters the building, returning with a bearded man. Also bearing North African features, he speaks English with an Arabic accent, and asks her to explain herself. She again explains her predicament, indicating that she’s looking for her father, and explaining that she’s Leah Fitzroy, his daughter. The man excuses himself for a moment. Shortly thereafter, Leah hears a brief commotion inside, followed by a familiar voice exclaiming, “Of course it’s my daughter!” Bearded, and wearing threadbare clothes, Jasper Fitzroy emerges from the building.
Leah and Jasper embrace, and he asks if something happened to Melker. She says he’s fine, and Jasper invites her inside. It appears that this abandoned building has been converted to some manner of homeless camp, although Leah can’t help but notice that it looks as much like a king’s court as a homeless shelter, particularly given Jasper’s tent at the far end of the room. Jasper asks what she’s doing here, and Leah starts crying, explaining how Iggy lied to him, that whatever he thought was happening isn’t. There’s no danger, and he should just come home. Jasper explains that Iggy showed him evidence that his previous accountant was cooking the books, and that giving the business to Pam and leaving was the only way to keep his family safe, otherwise the impending legal cases would destroy them. He asks how much Iggy stole, but Leah explains that he didn’t take anything; he just gets off on ruining people’s lives. Jasper then asks about the morning he visited Leah at home, and asks if Iggy gave her the black eye. She refuses to answer, prompting Jasper to remark that he’ll kill Iggy. He further laments that he fell for such a scam, and that he expects he wouldn’t have if Robin were still alive. He praises Leah for finding all this out, as it’s likely what Robin would have done, although he notes with some amusement that she probably wouldn’t have run off half-cocked to North Africa to find him.
Jasper proceeds to explain that he was lucky to run into Abdou, the man to whom Leah spoke earlier. Leah asks about the commotion when she arrived, and Jasper says Abdou erroneously thinks that someone could be impersonating Leah, although that seems very unlikely in Jasper’s mind. Before Jasper came to Algiers, there was apparently another man running this homeless camp, but he died in the riots that have swept the southern part of the city, and so Jasper has been organizing in his stead. They try to provide a safe place for the street people, and make certain that everyone pools their resources in the hopes that there will be enough for everyone. He indicates that he destroyed his false identification when he entered the city, but they can head to the American or French embassy tomorrow and he can send word back to the U.S. to request his documents. Leah lies and claims that her luggage was stolen, along with her identification, but Jasper says Abdou can take care of it. He speaks with him briefly and then sends him on some errand. Regardless, it should all be handled on the morrow. Jasper also sees to it that Leah gets a set of clothes to make her less conspicuous.
Leah sleeps poorly that night, and is aware that Abdou returns a couple of hours later, giving some whispered information to Jasper. The next morning, the various beggars in the building get breakfast together, evidently some manner of porridge or soup, and begin serving for everyone. Jasper indicates that Abdou was unable to retrieve Leah’s things, but they’ll head out after breakfast to sort everything out at the embassy. While he’s busy, Abdou sits across from her. He apologizes that he was unable to retrieve her stolen goods, noting that it was odd that they weren’t being fenced in any of the usual locations. Doubly odd that there is, in fact, no record of her entering the country on a flight manifest. When she asks how he would have that level of access as a bum, he notes that he wasn’t born homeless. He further remarks that Jasper is a great man, greater than Leah knows.