Monday, March 21, 2011
About a half-hour outside Vegas, Kevin and Leah stop so Kevin can assist a middle-aged, matronly, African-American woman with California plates whose car has broken down in the desert heat. She’s overjoyed at the prospect of good Samaritans, and is keen to continue on her way after a long weekend in Vegas. It’s about another half-hour or so when they find another stopped car, an old Astro van with blinds and Utah plates. A skinny, balding guy in a suit is trying to fight with a toolbox while his arm is in a sling. Kevin stops and goes to help him; the passenger front tire is flat. While Kevin is investigating, the guy goes to the back of the van, opens the doors, and pulls out a fire axe as his arm slips out of the sling.
Leah screams to get Kevin’s attention, shouting that the man has an axe. Kevin moves to the far side of the vehicle, keeping the van between him and the axe-wielding man. While the man moves to catch up, Leah grabs a lighter and hairspray, and Kevin casts a spell to make attacks tend to flow around him. It’s hardly immortality, but any barrier between him and violence is worthwhile at this point.
As the suited man catches up to Kevin, Leah exits the car. Kevin manages to send him sprawling back with something, a blast of force akin to being hit by a wave or the crushing pressure of the deep ocean. Both Leah and the suited man freak out at this display of magickal power, but their reactions are totally different. Leah freezes, unsure of what she just saw and too afraid to approach. The man loses it, charging at Kevin with the axe. The fight is swift and brutal as the man’s axe bounces off Kevin’s clavicle. This prompts Kevin to freak out and charge the man, although he is eventually able to overpower Kevin and fell him with the axe.
When the man knocks Kevin backwards and then disappears around the front of the van, the urgency prompts Leah to rush forward. Kevin is on the ground — unconscious? dead? — bleeding from numerous axe wounds. The man is poised to deliver one more blow, but Leah tackles him. Although she fights valiantly, the man in the suit is surprisingly strong for his size. She takes several defensive wounds in the struggle before he manages to completely overpower her. She finally pleads for her life, saying that she won’t tell anyone if they let her go. If he wants anything, she’ll give it to him; her father is very wealthy. He replies, “This is what I want,” before her hits her with the flat of the axe and she loses consciousness.
Jones continues to sit in Smitty’s awaiting a phone call. Felicia calls first, and he explains that there’s a woman who can possibly assist with their Otherspace problem, but she’s paralyzed and would need someone to treat her. Jones is sure that Felicia knows that she doesn’t have to do it — they have other leads and might be able to renegotiate — but she agrees, although he notes she does seem hesitant. She finally says that if he finds another option that he’s comfortable with doing, feel free to do it, but she’s willing to do this. He notes that she might have to travel to Chicago, but he would cover it.
A bit later, Brian calls. He managed to get ahold of his contact and she’s willing to meet tonight at 7 PM in one of the private dining rooms at The Peninsula Chicago. Jones agrees and Brian says he’ll let her know.
As the afternoon continues, Jones eventually gets a call from Otis asking if he knows where Kevin is. He notes that Kevin went to Las Vegas, but left hours ago. Jones says that’s odd, but not to worry. They probably just got stopped somewhere. He’ll make some inquiries.
Jones, however, is immediately on alert.
He calls Kevin and Leah, and each of their phones ring a few times before going to voicemail.
Next he calls Brandon Frazier. Brandon says Kevin and Leah left hours ago, ostensibly to head straight back to L.A. He met them in the lobby of the MGM Grand, for what it’s worth.
Jones calls Willett, asking if she has any contacts with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department she can call. Has anyone come through a hospital? Any highway patrol reports of abandoned cars or anything? Willett says she’ll look into it.
Jones calls Clark with the news, asking if he can do whatever weird summoning thing he does. He hangs up. He calls back a few minutes later. No response. At Jones’ request, he tries again. No response.
Jones calls Frazier again, asking if he knows anybody who could find his friends. Frazier recommends a group, and says they’re easy; they’ll probably just be interested in money. He gives Jones a number, strangely with a Chicago area code.
Jones calls. A man with a New England accent answers the phone. Jones asks if he’s in Chicago. He is. They make arrangements to meet.
Meeting with his contact, he finds two men. One is an intensely Irish man with a flaming red goatee wearing a trenchcoat and driving cap. The other is an African-American man with a scraggly goatee, Afro, and a puffy coat. Jones recognizes the latter man; he delivered Jones’ bag on Sage Price’s behalf at the D.C. airport. They introduce themselves as Tom and Shake. They ask for a few more details regarding the missing people, and say if they have everything, they can head out immediately. Jones asks if they’re driving; they give each other knowing looks and say they are not. They explain that there is a Back Corridor between Chicago and Vegas, and they will be there in a matter of minutes. He wants to go with them, and they agree.
Jones uses the phone again before leaving. He calls Brian, asking to let the contact know that an emergency has arisen, and he won’t be able to make the meeting. Brian says he’ll pass it along, but also tells Jones to call the hotel and let them know he cannot attend the meeting with the Dupree party. He does so.
There’s also another call from Willett in there somewhere. Nobody has heard anything regarding anyone matching the descriptions of Kevin or Leah. No highway patrol reports of an abandoned car matching the description of Leah’s vehicle.
Jones returns to Tom and Shake, and they head out. The trio arrives at Delphi’s, apparently part of the same chain as found in Las Vegas. The club is not yet open for the night, but a line is forming, but Tom and Shake manage to squeak through, as the bouncers know them. Jones brought his go-bag with him, and Tom informs the people manning the metal detectors that he has a gun, so not to worry when the detector beeps. The dance floors are empty, but Tom and Shake head toward some manner of back office. Tom exchanges a few words with the guards outside, and they open the door, leading into a hallway. A tangle of passages and backrooms — featuring a few occupants here and there — eventually leads back out into another dance floor, also empty. The trio emerges in the early evening air — the sun is still up and the air is warm. They’re standing outside Delphi’s in Las Vegas.
A phone call later, some nameless valet brings another car around, and Jones, Shake, and Tom enter. Tom starts driving, heading west toward the desert. Whenever there’s a choice to be made, he just drives on autopilot, or picks the exit by flipping a coin or flipping through the radio.
Tom, as Shake tells Jones, is lucky. He’s also good with a gun. Shake is emphatically not. If this turns to combat, Shake is going to stay behind; he just makes drugs. If Jones wants PCP that’ll let you kick out a police car door, there might be some in the trunk. When asked, Tom just instructs Jones to stay just behind him; let Tom go first. Jones agrees.
They drive out into the desert for an hour or so before Tom turns off onto a dirt road. Far off the road, they find Leah’s car, hidden behind a hill and some desert scrub. A patch of disturbed earth sits nearby. Jones gets out of the car as it rolls to a stop and investigates. He recognizes that there’s a lot of evidence here, so he doesn’t want to get close and contaminate the crime scene: it’s clear Leah’s car pulled up, somebody buried something — maybe about six feet long and a foot or two across — and then left on foot.
Jones doesn’t bother with it, he just records the GPS coordinates and sends them to Willett, telling her he won’t be there when the police arrive. He tells Tom to drive, and he does.
Another couple of hours pass before the car finds itself behind an old Astro van. Tom indicates that whatever he’s been following has led him here. Jones asks if Tom is ready to cut the van off; he is. Everyone makes certain their seat belts are buckled. Tom rushes around the van and slams into it. It manages to stay on the road, but he pulls ahead and blocks the road. Tom and Jones both step out and draw their guns. (Jones was initially thinking Tom had a shotgun given his, “Stay behind me,” comment, but now he sees Tom carries an eight-shot .38 snub nose.) Jones shouts for the driver to get out. Shake worms his way to the driver’s seat.
The driver steps out, a thin, balding man in a grey suit. He’s disheveled and dusty, with evidence of both hard work and a quick attempt at cleanup. He kneels in the dirt, his hands above his head. He seems far too calm for a man with two guns pointed at him.
While Tom keeps him under the sights of his revolver, Jones investigates the van. He finds a bedroll, a lot of radio equipment, a shovel, a fireaxe — is that rust? blood? — and other assorted items that don’t seem terribly relevant right now. He asks the man why he did it, why he killed them. The man replies because it’s what he does, because they just happened to pass on the road. Did he do it for the charges? The man chuckles and says Jones must be, “one of those.” Visions led him to where he needed to go.
Jones acts. He pulls the trigger, a loud gunshot cracking the desert night. Tom and Shake both jump, maybe not quite expecting the bullet right then. Jones steadies his breathing. He retrieves the shell casing when it’s cool enough to touch, and Jones and Tom step back into the car. Shake turns the car around on this small desert road, and they start making the drive back to Las Vegas.