Friday, February 4, 2011
Before heading over to Kevin’s house to ride up to the commune with Otis, Jones calls Leah to ask if she wants to accompany him. They both agree to meet at Kevin’s house. Jones also sends Jane a text to let her know there’s something he has to do; she admonishes him to be careful.
After parking, Jones heads up the sidewalk and sees a man in a suit pass him. As he does, he hears a clattering of plastic on the pavement, and he turns to see the man has evidently dropped a USB flash drive and continued walking. Jones takes a picture of the man’s back and then picks up the thumb drive in a handkerchief.
Meeting up with Leah and heading to Kevin’s, Jones sees Sabas sitting on Kevin’s front stoop. Leah, never having previously met him, does not recognize him, nor does she connect him with Jones’ tale of the man in his hotel room, but she notes that Jones seems deferential. Sabas says all is well, he just admonishes Jones to ensure that his friend cleans up the mess down the beach. Jones acknowledges, and asks if there’s a way to get in contact with Sabas in the future? Sabas says there is likely no need, but if Sabas ever needs to find Jones, he’ll take his phone number. Jones recites it to him, and Sabas indicates he has places he needs to be, so he leaves them to it.
Before knocking on the door, Jones explains to Leah that Sabas was the strange man in his hotel room with the “time bomb,” and he’s some sort of repairer of the cosmic order. Leah comments that Sabas is probably going to erase Kevin from reality; Jones asks if that’s a thing that’s even possible, while Leah notes it would solve the problem. Jones thinks erasing a person would cause more problems than it solves. In either case, hopefully they’ll fix it before it comes to that.
That successfully resolved, Jones knocks on the door. Otis answers, and Jones and Leah enter. Jones notes that he has some things he wants to discuss with Leah, and asks how much Otis knows about the occult underground. He indicates he doesn’t know much, so Jones explains the current situation regarding the King of Scales apparently forcing Leah’s father, Jasper, out of Los Angeles so he could take his territory. Jones suggests that they start planning their own regime, setting up a king of their own. Once they recover Jasper Fitzroy, he could potentially act as this king, or perhaps Leah could. In either case, they could build their own power base to rival that of the King of Scales, so that if he ever does try to oppose them, they’ll already have a support structure in place. Jones also notes that he could potentially recruit his fellow veterans as an honor guard to guard vulnerable places like the Spring-Day commune without needing the King of Scales to do it for them. Of course, he needs to discuss all this with Kevin first. He asks Otis if this idea sounds fair, and Otis says he doesn’t know enough to know if that plan seems sound.
Jones also notes that Otis should probably keep in mind that there are dangerous people out there, and Jones, Kevin, and Leah have already been threatened, so Otis should make sure to watch his back.
Felicia walks in the door shortly thereafter, and Otis presents the plan of traveling up to the commune. She agrees, and the foursome jumps in Otis’ truck to head to the commune. Once they’ve left the city, about forty minutes out, Otis comments that there’s a black sedan that’s been behind them for quite a while. Jones recommends they pull over, and when he does, the car that’s been following them keeps on driving. The rest of the journey to the commune is uneventful.
Once they have arrived, Otis asks around for Kevin and introduces Jones and Leah to a couple of people. They run into Kevin’s mother, who seems glad to meet Jones and Leah after hearing about them, and she indicates that Kevin is in the sweat lodge out back. Otis and Felicia lead Jones and Leah to the small, wooden building. Chief Bug is sitting out back; after introductions are made, Bug checks on Kevin, who appears to be finishing his sweat session. He informs the others of this, and so they wait for a moment until Kevin emerges. Kevin greets them and says he has much to discuss, but as it’s roughly dinnertime, Kevin says they can converse after dinner. Everybody goes inside to help prepare for dinner, and they make pleasant chitchat as food is served and eaten.
After dinner, Jones, Kevin, and Leah head out back to walk around and discuss matters. Kevin begins to explain that this is all about what’s best for the city, that the city is like a tree, and like a tree, some things can be harmful or helpful to it. He thinks urbanomancers like the Los Angeles Rats are parasites on this tree, while it is unclear whether or not the King of Scales is harmful. As his diatribe proceeds, Jones and Leah surmise that he has taken steps along the road of the adept, even if he doesn’t see it that way, although he notes that he can perform his own miraculous tasks if allowed to alter the city’s flow.
Jones then proceeds to explain the issues with Kevin’s use of the Holes, his visit from Sabas, and his ideas regarding making their own court. Kevin disagrees with this, saying that creating a separate court is tantamount to declaring war, and are they willing to make war on the King’s Court before talking to them? Jones argues that talking with the King’s Court risks tipping their hand, and they had best begin shoring up their own defenses in case someone’s attack comes.
After an hour of this argument with no sign of resolution, Jones says he’s heading back to Los Angeles. Kevin and Leah are both staying here for the night, as are Felicia and Otis. Jones manages to catch a ride back to the city with Shane, one of the regulars at the commune. On the way back, he asks if he can hit the Walmart Supercenter in Porter Ranch, and Shane agrees; he buys a very cheap laptop while there, and finishes his ride back into Los Angeles. Once he returns to his car, he manages to return home a little after 11 PM. He explains the day’s excitement to Jane as he sets up his laptop. She indicates she’s been trying to reach Leah, but hasn’t gotten through, and does Jones know where she is? He just left her at the commune, and she probably doesn’t have cell service.
Making certain the laptop is not connected to the internet, he plugs in the USB drive. It contains only a single file, “man is least himself when he talks in his own person.txt,” and that file reads:
A quick Google search indicates that latitude and longitude corresponds to the Eastsider Motel at 2133 S Central Ave. He asks Jane, currently in her pajamas and reading before bed, if she’s up for an adventure. She agrees and quickly changes into a T-shirt and jeans. They jump into Jones’ car and head toward the Eastsider Motel.
It’s the perfect image of the cheap movie hotel, a mix of travelers looking for an inexpensive place to stay and people who cannot afford better. Jane and Jones ascend the stairs to 207 and knock on the door. A woman’s voice shouts through the door, asking what they want, and Jones asks if this woman lost a USB drive by any chance? She indicates she did not, and after a little back-and-forth, Jones finally thanks her for her time and apologizes for the lateness of the hour. As Jane and Jones are ready to leave, Jones looks around and notices a familiar car in the parking lot; it’s the black sedan that tried to follow them to the commune. Jones explains this to Jane and he decides to wait by the car to see if anyone approaches. The woman in 207 eventually peeks out of the door and glances in Jones’ direction before returning to her room. After another minute, her door again opens and she steps out, leaning against the upper railing and asking why Jones is waiting around. He says he’s waiting for the owner of this car. She finally deigns to invite Jane and Jones upstairs so she can examine this USB drive, and the pair ascends the stairs and heads to 207. Before entering, Jones tells the woman he’s armed, and she says that’s all right.
The occupant of 207 is a petite, dark-haired Caucasian woman, introducing herself as Cassandra. Jones explains how he came across this USB drive, and that it led him to her. As he explains this, she starts rummaging through the duffel bag on the table. She indicates that she doesn’t think it’s hers, and wheels around with a pistol in her hand, a Glock by the look of it. Noting her hands, Jones notices that her knuckles are bruised. Jane has had her hand inside her purse this whole time, having earlier indicated to Jones that she carries mace, and doesn’t move it any further into or out of her purse. The woman seems to direct most of her inquiries at Jones, indicating that he killed someone — he notes he was in the Air Force, and she says it was a lot more recent than that — and asking why. Questioning reveals that she is referring to her brother, Maps-to-the-Stars Jimmy. Jones explains that something happened to him, he was possessed by the ghost of a dead woman — which the woman calls a demon — and came in to kill someone. Jones may have shot him, but he also tried to save him, applying pressure to the wound until emergency personnel came. The woman seems satisfied, but continues to ask what happened, was Jimmy into anything she should know? Jones says he doesn’t really know, and so she asks if there is anyone who might know. Jones directs her to Hal, but tells her that he was one of Jimmy’s friends, so she shouldn’t go in half-cocked and ready to shoot him. At her request, he gives her Hal’s phone number. He then tells her that her actions the other night — referring to the attacker at the Far Bar, whom he strongly suspects was also this woman — were fucked up, and maybe she should try talking to people before attacking them. (He notes with some degree of irony that Kevin expressed a similar sentiment earlier in the night.) Both parties agree they’re done, and Jones tells her not to come after Jane again. Jane similarly notes that if Jones can’t take her, Jane absolutely will. They depart.
On the way back down the stairs, Jones embraces Jane and kisses her, and they both head back home to drink too much Scotch and make love until the adrenaline levels come back down.