Monday, August 30, 2010

Day Twenty-Nine

Day 29: 30 Aug 2010

Dane took us to a room in Caesar's Palace, one that barely looked occupied. There was a backpack on the floor. Apart from that, there were no other signs anyone had checked in.

"Nice place," Cassie commented.

"Strategic," Dane told her. "This place is so goddamn big that even the employees don't know their way around too well. I had to ditch my apartment yesterday."

"Russians?" Cassie asked.

"No. Chinese. I saw 'em tooling up in my parking lot about 30 seconds before they kicked in my door."

"You been able to get in touch with Vince?"

I was starting to feel left out of this conversation, so I wandered to the window.

"Not yet," Dane answered. "But you know Vince can take care of himself. He'll turn up."

Dane's room had a pretty crappy view. Instead of facing the Strip, his main window looked over at one of the other towers.

"Hey, Travis," Dane said, waving to me. "Sorry about the cloak-and-dagger surrounding our first meeting. I assure you, I'm not really a stumbling drunk. Don't even drink."

"So why were you playing drunk?"

"Again, strategic. Gave me a chance to check out the area without raising any red flags."

"You weren't really blending into the scenery," I said.

"It's a city with no open container laws and full of kids on vacation. People are used to seeing young dudes drunk off their asses. No one even bothers to notice them anymore," Dane said, shrugging.

He unzipped the backpack and pulled out a netbook. As the computer started up, he pulled off his stained shirt and tossed it aside. I watched him dig in the bag for a fresh shirt, and noticed that his entire upper body was covered in tattoos, all of them in black.

"What, exactly, are you a doctor of?" I asked.

"Anthropology. Yeah, I know. Kind of a hippie degree. Useful, though," he said. "I was out at UCLA until about a year ago. Now I'm on sabbatical. Ah. Here's what I wanted to show you."

He pointed to the screen. This is the video that came up:

"Is that what I think it is?" I asked.

"Yep. That's the slug," Cassie said. "Where'd you find this, Dane?"


"That sounded like Russian," I said.

"You have a good ear for languages. Do you speak Russian?" Dane asked.

"No," I said. "Just familiar with what it sounds like."

"Well, you're right. Couple of guys on a Russian fishing ship found it a few weeks back. They didn't know what they had, but the Russian Mob sure did," Dane said.

"So the Russians have it," Cassie said.

"They did. Chinese took it from them about ten days ago. We don't know where it is right now, but whoever has it, we know it's on the way here."

"To be put in me," I said. Part of me wanted to be disgusted -- I mean, look at that thing. Still, another part of me. . .wasn't. A part of me felt sorry for the thing, being poked with sticks, being kept captive. It was weird -- didn't seem like my own thought.

"Well, not on its way here, exactly. It needs to stay close to the water when it's like that. It's fragile until it implants. But it's on its way somewhere close," Dane continued. "My guess is Los Angeles."

I started to ask a question, but I didn't get to. Dane's cell phone rang, and he grabbed it and checked the screen.

"It's Vince," he said. He put the call on speakerphone.

"Dane. Cassie and the kid are with you, yes?" a deep voice poured out of the phone.

"Yeah, Vince. We're all here. Where are you?"

"Watching. Five big dudes just cruised the door to Caesar's -- West Coast guys. They're on the way to you. You have to get out."

"Shit. Where should we meet you?" Dane said, closing the computer and throwing it into his bag.

"McCarran. Freight Terminal B. Wait there. I'll handle these guys and meet you tomorrow morning. They're sure to have someone tail you, but Cassie can lose 'em."

"Gotcha. We'll see you at, what, 6 a.m.?"

"Copy that."

The line went dead -- Cassie and Dane hustled me out of the room. We ran like mad through the halls -- Dane seemed to know where he was going, which was good, because I was hopelessly lost.

"Hammer it, Cass," Dane said as we rushed into the parking garage and piled into the stolen Lexus.

"Right on," she said, grinning.

We tore out of the garage and onto the strip, and a huge SUV fell in right behind us. Cassie dodged cabs and limos, swearing.

"These guys can motor," she mumbled as I struggled to get my seat belt buckled.

"Once you lose 'em, we should ditch this car. Mine's in the parking garage at the Sahara," Dane told her.

"Hang on. Hard left," Cassie grunted, spinning the wheel with one hand. We cut across three lanes of oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding an accident with one of those "Hot Girls to Your Room!" trucks.

The SUV behind wasn't so lucky -- it slammed into the truck full-on, wrecking both vehicles and a limo in the next lane.

"Heh. Nice move," Dane chuckled from the back seat.

"You said Sahara, right?" Cassie asked as she slowed to the speed limit.

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