Day 30: 31 Aug 2010
We met Vince at the airport this morning, and I have to admit I was disappointed.
It was Cassie's fault. She built the guy up way too much. She told me that Vince used to be an operator -- a covert agent for the Department of Defense.
"Vince is hardcore," she told me. "He was in the Middle East before we even had a war going there. Before that -- Central Africa. He worked in some sort of Intelligence capacity, but he got his hands dirty, too."
I was expecting a Super Soldier, a Terminator. Someone like Robert Patrick or Ray Liotta -- someone who just looked like a badass.
When Vince came in (late) I almost laughed. The guy was maybe 5'5" in boots, going bald, and had a beer gut that made him look pregnant. He wore jeans and a Babylon 5 T-shirt. He didn't look hardcore at all, even for a guy in his 50s.
"This the kid?" he said as he walked in, pointing a pudgy finger.
"'The kid' has a name, Chief," I told him.
"Fine. Fine. Are you Travis?" he said slowly, as if he were talking to a child.
"You know I am, genius. I assume you've met the other people here before," I said.
"Watch yourself, Travis. He has a temper. And remember, he was Special Forces," Dane muttered from behind me.
"Yeah, maybe 10 years and 50 pounds ago," I snickered.
"Tell your boy to lock it up before I do it for him," Vince said to Cassie. "Now, we have to get his majesty here out of town, soon. Get him out in the middle of the desert and strongpoint our position."
"They can't bring the slug out there."
"Exactly," Vince told her, "and in the desert, we'll be able to see them for a mile in any direction if they try to take him. I've got a place out there. It's not the Hilton, but it's off the grid."
"Hey, doesn't 'the kid' get any say in this?" I said.
"Not if he wants to stay alive," Vince said quickly, not even bothering to look at me. "Cassie, I picked up your Thunderbird. You and Dane use it to tail me and the kid out there. I'll take your car, Dane."
Dane nodded and tossed Vince his keys.
"Their dog -- what's his name -- Jared. He still in town?" Vince asked, snatching the keys from the air without looking.
"Yeah. Saw him just the other night," Cassie said.
"All right. That means you," he said, finally looking in my direction, "go to sleep."
"Cassie and I have already gone over this. I'm not getting knocked out again," I said, growling.
"Tell you what, Sport. You keep me from knocking you out, and you get to stay conscious. After all, I'm just an old, fat guy, right?" Vince said, grinning.
"You're on," I said before I thought. Dammit -- I've managed to avoid fighting thus far in my life, but this guy Vince pissed me off. Anyway, how hard could it be to take him down? He was old and out of shape, after all.
"Please," Vince said, spreading his arms. "After you."
I didn't give him time to change his mind. After all, I would probably need the advantage of taking the first shot. I pulled back my right arm and swung -- next thing I knew, Vince was behind me, one of his arms around my throat. Dude was strong.
"Vince, let him breathe," I heard Cassie say as my vision started to swim.
"Not cutting off his air flow, Cass. He can breathe. I'm cutting off the blood flow to his brain. In about two more seconds --"
That was the last thing I heard. It wasn't unpleasant. It was just like falling asleep.
When I opened my eyes, I was in what I could only describe as a shack. There was no power. It was getting dark, and the place depended on a few kerosene lamps for light.
"Hey, Travis. Welcome back," I heard Vince say. I looked up to find him sitting across from me on an old, threadbare couch. I was in a leather armchair.
"Head hurts," I said.
"Yeah, sorry about that. And sorry about being such a dick earlier -- I'm hypoglycemic. I hadn't eaten in a couple of days. . . when I don't eat, I get belligerent. Again, sorry."
"'S all right," I mumbled.
"There's a room for you back that way," he said. "Why don't you go sack out for the night? There are some books and a lamp if you're not tired, but we'll all be taking watches. Yours isn't until midnight," Vince said.
I nodded and walked back to the room he'd pointed out. There was a mattress on the floor. Though I'd been unconscious for who-knew-how-long, sleep sounded good -- so I flopped down on the mattress and passed out.