Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day Ninety-One

Day 91: 31 Oct 2010

Made it to the Port of New Orleans late tonight. Cassie found us a 1999 Buick Riviera in near-mint condition. Some senior citizens were looking to part with it for a mere $2,500. The thing is a whale, but it runs like new, so I can't complain.

When I stopped the Buick Land-Beast at the dock, it wasn't hard to find Travis' Escalade. Didn't even need Eric's fancy netbook. The black sport-utility was sitting, neatly parked, facing the Mississippi River. No one was inside.

Cassie broke in with little effort. No evidence of a long road trip in the car -- no food wrappers, soda bottles, maps, nothing. Of course, he didn't need any of that. He didn't need to eat or drink like normal people.

On the passenger seat, we found this:

Apart from the five pages of journal entries, this was the only other page with marking on it.

It's a message, one meant for me -- my slug, actually. The large symbol is the lituus -- the Astrologer's Staff. It's ancient. Older than your historians think, in fact. From the slug's time. More interesting than that are the symbols surrounding the staff. They're from an early human language.

The one at the top left is Body of Water -- the father of our slugs, the Water God. Top right is Earth, bottom left is the Rising Sun (for the God of The Skies). Bottom right -- that one means war. Plain and simple.

But then there's this. Two tiny symbols, drawn away from the staff, but almost more important.

The one on the left means white man, human. The one on the right means snake -- enemy.

It wouldn't make sense to you, of course. But to my slug, it's clear as day. It's a manifesto. A blueprint of things to come.

And humans are in a lot of trouble now. Travis and his slug believe as the slugs' father did -- that humans were parasites on this earth. Kept to a small population, they're merely annoying. Left to grow to your current -- I mean our current -- levels, they're an infestation.

It's something all the ancient gods would agree on. So Travis and his slug have decided to bring them back, one at a time.

I didn't have time to explain any of this to Cassie. The insect sharing her body -- child of the God of The Skies -- would explain it to her in time. I had to act. To try and stop this.

Just before midnight, as Cassie was searching the rest of Travis' SUV, I walked into the cold waters. I sank as low as I could. Then I headed out for the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day Ninety

Day 90: 30 Oct 2010

Stalled in Beaumont, Texas, east of Houston. Eric's intel has been good so far -- shows Travis has stopped. His GPS signal stopped moving late last night in New Orleans.

The Lexus is pretty much dead, according to Cassie. And she knows cars. Once something opens up in the morning, we'll try to track down a car we can buy in cash with as little paper trail as possible.

I know why Travis (or, more accurately, his slug) went to New Orleans. I also know why he made stops along the way -- a lot of them. Death Valley, Vegas, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and San Antonio. All West Coast Syndicate outposts. All with information to hide. Pieces of the puzzle, the puzzle that leads to his ultimate goal -- New Orleans.

For years, the Syndicate didn't go this far east. Their presence stopped in Arizona. But after they found -- or obtained, really -- my slug, they started to do research. To study. To figure out if they could make more of. . . me, I guess.

They broke the research up into unrelated pieces, spread it out. No one team knew the whole, the ultimate plan. Cells worked in secret, using major cities -- the ones I just mentioned -- as cover. Their research neared completion. Some had already finished, found their part of the answers. The parts would soon be combined into the whole.

My slug figured it out, so Travis' must have. And once he had all the pieces together. . . well, I can only assume it led him to the Port of New Orleans --that's where he stopped.

And, come morning, that's where we're going. Hopefully before he has a chance to do what I think he's going to do.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day Eighty-Four

Day 84: 24 Oct 2010

One guard outside the boathouse. There used to be three, but those were non-murdery times.

I went in first. I didn't try to be stealthy about it -- I wanted him to see me. And he did.

"Stop!" he yelled, raising his weapon. A P90, I think. I'm not great with guns.

Cassie swept in behind him, moving blindingly fast and without a sound. Her feet didn't touch the ground. She barely hit him, and he crumpled to the dirt.

"This is where they keep five million in cash?" she said, shaking her head.

I understood her reaction. It was a crappy clapboard hut, basically. It was supposed to look that way, supposed to be avoided. I didn't answer her -- just took the steel-reinforced door right off his hinges and threw it to the ground.

The bags were there. All of them. Ten black "Las Vegas" duffel bags, each with $500,000 in cash. We only needed one.

"Any harm in taking more?" Cassie looked at me with a lopsided grin.

"Only as much as we can carry with us," I said without thinking.

Uh, yeah. I'm sure I mentioned this, but we're both really strong. We could carry them all, and we did.

* * *

Eric was right on time. He wasn't hard to find, either -- he was leaning on his Ford Econoline van, tattooed arms crossed over his chest.


"Howdy yourself," Cassie said, nodding.

"You bring me something?"

I opened the Lexus' trunk, which was packed with bags. Cassie grabbed one and handed it to him.

"Right, then," Eric said after looking inside. "Your brother Travis is on the move. Don't know where, exactly, but I have the GPS tags on his car."

Eric handed us a netbook -- a dot on the screen was moving. It was headed away from Los Angeles.

"That thing's got a 4G wireless card. Keep it charged, and it should lead you right to him."

So now, Cassie and I are on the move again. We're headed east. That's all I know for the moment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day Eighty-Three

Day 83: 23 Oct 2010

Cassie still wasn't back by noon today. I'm not sure what I was up to before then, which isn't a good thing. That means the slug was probably puppeting me around most of the morning.

Around noon, though, I was just kind of hanging out. I was in one of the safehouses in Koreatown, an apartment building the syndicate used to house its people. And I was getting hungry.

As I was considering food, though, the front door opened. I expected Cassie -- she knew where to find me -- but it wasn't Cassie.

"Heard you've been looking for me," the young man said as he walked into the apartment and closed the door.

I had been. His name was Eric Drake, and he was one of the outside contractors the West Coast Syndicate used to get information on the Russians. He was a little older than me, and his arms were covered in tattoos. I'd met him once or twice before, but we hadn't talked much.

Eric took a seat on the couch and kicked one combat-booted foot up on the coffee table. He didn't seem afraid of me -- that's rare.

"I guess I have," I said. Some screech had crept into my voice, but he didn't seem flustered by it.

"One thing," he said. "Just in case you're thinking of getting violent, you should know my van downstairs is packed with a couple tons of trinitrotoulene. It's roughly equivalent to a mini nuclear bomb. I won't tell Homeland Security if you won't."

He knew his stuff, this Eric guy. I could walk away from a lot, but probably not several tons of TNT. That would turn this building into a crater, and we both knew it.

"You won't need that. I'm only looking for information. On the other one like me."

"Yeah, the other slug-thing. Your brother. He's gone off the chain, but I'm sure you know that," Eric said. "Has the Syndicate people running scared. But he doesn't know me."

"Do you have any information that could help me locate him?"

"That depends on what you've got to offer me for it," he said.

I didn't have much in the way of money, but I know where the Syndicate keeps a rather large stock of cash, in case of emergency. I wasn't sure it would still be there; Travis killing them all wholesale was about as "in case of emergency" as situations could get.

"Half a million," I said.

"Fine. You obviously wouldn't have it here. Meet me tomorrow afternoon. The Beverly Center."

"I can do that."

"I'll be bringing my friend Jim The Big-Ass Bomb in case you figure it'll just be cheaper to beat it out of me."

"Fair enough."

So now, as soon as Cassie gets back, we have to go steal a bunch of cash.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day Eighty-Two

Day 82: 22 Oct 2010

No luck finding anyone yet. Cassie's still out -- said it might take her another day or so. So, waiting. Again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day Eighty-One

Day 81: 21 Oct 2010

No idea what to do, and still confused about just what the hell happened yesterday. I've been rerunning it. Travis and I fought, of course. But it seems it was really easy for the slug to get him to stop kicking my ass. Just took a word.

So do I run, or try to find him? That was the question I was grappling with most of today. Wasn't easy, but I came to a decision. If I run, he probably goes back to killing on a massive scale. I don't want that on my head. My slug's gone quiet again, so. . .

I have contacts in Los Angeles, and some of them have to know something. I don't expect them to be easy to track down. They're probably in hiding, just like the survivors in Vegas. But I'm going to try. Cassie's going to hit up her sources, too. Maybe between us, we can come up with some sort of useful information -- something that's been seriously lacking for a while now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day Eighty

Day 80: 20 Oct 2010

The meet was set for eight this morning, and Cassie and I made it to the hotel in East L.A. by seven. It was a run-down place on City Terrace, all horrible stucco and Spanish tile. Cassie already had the key to a room on the 3rd floor.

The room was Spartan, at best -- a twin bed, a small table, and an old tube TV. It wasn't clean so much as it was mostly empty. Cassie sat on the bed and checked her watch.

"Less than an hour," she said. "If we're lucky, meth-heads won't kill us before then."

"Doubt they could," I said.

I'd been feeling better since we got to Los Angeles yesterday. The sea breeze was doing wonders. The slug seemed sharper, too, but still quiet. I felt like I was the one in control, which was both great and a little worrisome.

I had no idea what to expect as the clock rolled on to eight. Travis seemed amenable to talking, Cassie had told me. That tracked. It seemed he was looking for me, not on a mission to wipe out the West Coast Syndicate. Would we just have a nice, calm sit-down? Chat about whatever was on Travis' mind?

As it turned out, no. Not at all.

* * *

Travis didn't even bother to knock. At 7:58, he burst through the door, crossing the room in less than a second, heading dead-on at me.

I wasn't ready for an attack. But the slug was. Instantly, I dodged left, and his fist sailed harmlessly by. The slug was fully in control now -- no doubt of that. I was back to the familiar sensation of watching things happen, unable to control my own body.

I kicked at Travis' kneecap, hard. His leg snapped back, but instantly righted itself. He shrieked, a short, wordless cry, and threw the TV with a flick of his wrist. I felt the crappy Zenith explode against the side of my skull, but I barely stumbled.

The TV to the head was enough, though. I was off balance for just a second; Travis dove at me, catching me around the midsection with his shoulder. My feet left the ground. We both crashed through the wall, and suddenly, we were on the street, Travis' knee in my chest. He raised one fist and wailed.

Before I knew what happened, Travis was off me, slammed into a parked car about 25 feet away. Cassie was standing over me, smirking. She reached out a hand and helped me up as Travis pulled himself out from the mangled BMW she'd knocked him into.

"How did --"

"Flew. Cool, eh?" Cassie said as I got to my feet. I realized it was me talking, not the slug. He'd let me have some control back. As Travis charged at me, I raised one hand, palm out -- though I don't know if it was me or the slug who did it. Travis stopped dead.

I opened my mouth, and the loudest, most horrible shriek I've ever heard came out. Travis replied with a howl of his own.

The two of us stood there in the street, communicating (I think) for almost a full minute. Then, Travis nodded and walked away.

I could hear police sirens not far off, and I knew they were headed my way.

"OK. What the fuck was that? What did you guys say?" Cassie asked as we double-timed it back to the car.

"I have no idea," I told her, and it was the truth. But I knew one thing. My slug wasn't sick at all. It had been playing me.

I just wish I knew why. Or what the hell had just happened.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day Seventy-Nine

Day 79: 19 Oct 2010

Drove six hours to Los Angeles this morning. Cassie didn't tell me why we stopped in Vegas -- I didn't ask. She was quiet for most of the drive, though. I guess she had some thinking to do. I know the feeling.

We meet Travis tomorrow. Cassie arranged it so the three of us can meet on neutral ground -- away from Syndicate-controlled territory, at a hotel in East L.A. Until that time, we're staying at one of the Syndicate safehouses, one they keep in town just for me. It was empty when we got there. Can't say I'm surprised -- everyone in the Syndicate is probably laying low.

That makes them smarter than us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day Seventy-Eight

Day 78: 18 Oct 2010

Road trip stop today at Cassie's request. She says she needs a day.

I plan to check in at some old haunts -- don't expect much to find anyone still breathing, but I have a day to kill.

Checked my old residence in North Vegas. Phil and a couple of others used to have apartments there. The place was abandoned. Burned to the ground. Police tape still clung to the fences.

Also checked out a couple of industrial properties of ours. The West Coast Syndicate used them as clearinghouses for drugs and weapons. More tape, more ashes. Travis had been thorough.

I even sought out a couple of contractors -- people who didn't work directly for the Syndicate, but ran errands from time to time. There was a blackjack dealer at the Wynn, for example, who used to spy on the Russians for us. No one at work had seen him for days. Same deal with Reggie, a mechanic who worked on our vehicles and consulted for our auto-theft people -- vanished last week.

Travis knew way too much about the Syndicate's organization. I realized he must have help -- one of the Chinese, maybe. Perhaps he's getting information from the Russians, or the street gangs we often employed. I have to assume he knows everything now.

And that means he knows about the project in Los Angeles. And him knowing about that means nothing good at all. For any of us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day Seventy-Seven

Day 77: 17 Oct 2010

Cassie explained the situation to me as we drove to Los Angeles today.

"I got him to agree to stop killing. At least until you get to Los Angeles and he can talk to you," she said.

"Why would he do that? I mean, why stop?" I asked.

"I managed to convince him that slaughtering the West Coast Syndicate was pointless, as you're no longer under their control."

"But I am," I said.

"I don't think you are anymore. You haven't contacted them in weeks. Bet it hasn't even bothered you. I think you're the one driving now, not your slug."

I hadn't thought of it like that. Was she right? Am I free?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Seventy-Six

Day 76: 16 Oct 2010

I was packing the car today when Cassie appeared outside the hotel room.

"We going somewhere?" she asked.

"Where the hell have you been?" I was angry, and I didn't try to hide it. Some screeching definitely crept back into my voice.

"Um. . . where you told me to be. Checking in with some people, seeing if we could get a location on Travis."

She frowned. I could tell she was confused, and I was definitely heading that way myself.

"And I told you to do this?"

"Three days ago. We were standing almost exactly where we are now. You said it was worrying that Travis hadn't shown up yet. I agreed," she said. "Then I mentioned I could check in with Vince, but you said the phones probably weren't safe."

I didn't remember any of this.

"That's when you suggested we split up -- I go see Vince and a few other contacts, see what I could find out. You'd stay here. Wait to see if Travis popped up."

"I. . . shit. I don't remember that conversation at all."

The slug had done the talking. Of course. Probably while I was asleep -- that didn't worry me, as it happened all the time. And it wasn't even a bad plan, really. What really bothered me was that the slug hadn't let me know about it at all -- he'd just let me think Cassie had vanished.

Either he meant to keep me out of the loop (for what reason, I can't say), or he forgot to tell me, thanks to his growing weakness. I'm really hoping for the former, as that's at least happened before.

"So, what did you find out?"

"A lot. None of it good."

Cassie went on to tell me that the West Coast people in Las Vegas were either dead or running scared. Others had stepped in -- the Chinese, the Russians, a few more -- but they hadn't been messed with. Travis didn't seem to care about them -- just my bosses. From Las Vegas, he'd left a trail of bodies leading to the West Coast Syndicate's home city -- Los Angeles. Just as I'd sensed.

"So, looks like we go there," I said.

"Yeah," Cassie said. "Just one more thing -- he knows we're coming."

"How could he?"

"Because I told him."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day Seventy-Five

Day 75: 15 Oct 2010

Shit. I need a plan. I've spent the entire day in the hotel, waiting for Cassie to show back up. She didn't. The slug is telling me to go to Los Angeles, to get back to the sea. I don't know if he knows something I don't. I don't know much. Part of me thinks he just wants to get back to the sea, to get away from the thin, dry mountain air. But maybe. . . maybe he knows.

Maybe he's trying to tell me that he's picked up Travis' scent. I've decided -- I'll wait one more day for Cassie to come back. If she doesn't, I'm in the car and heading for Los Angeles.

Not like I've got many other options at this point.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day Seventy-Four

Day 74: 14 Aug 2010

Disturbing developments today. One -- when I woke up this morning, Cassie was nowhere to be found. Compound problem: I wasn't *supposed* to wake up at all this morning, because I wasn't supposed to have slept in the first place.

See, I fall asleep all the time. The slug sleeps only rarely -- maybe an hour every couple of weeks. But one of us is always up. Our eyes haven't closed for longer than a second in the past six years.

The fact that I fell asleep, then the slug did, is bad. Quite bad, in fact, because it means the slug is even weaker than I thought -- he last slept for an hour or so three days ago.

And Cassie's disappearance -- that's troubling. Did she wander off? Did something happen to her?

More good news, too. I still have no idea where Travis is. I don't know if he's learned to hide himself, or if it's due to the slug's declining health that I can't sense him.

Either way, no answers today. Just more anxiety.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day Seventy-Three

Day 73: 13 Oct 2010

Still no Travis. I'm beginning to think I miscalculated his move -- I thought for sure he'd be on his way. And try as I might, I've had no luck tracking him. It's like he dropped off the face of the planet.

Crap. This is not good. Not at all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day Seventy-Two

Day 72: 12 Oct 2010

Still waiting. Cassie's getting antsy. Don't blame her. How long does it take to get from Nevada to Colorado?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day Seventy-One

Day 71: 11 Oct 2010

Just realized that today and yesterday were both binary days -- the dates worked out to binary codes. I mention this only because it's a random, pointless thought I had -- and I haven't had any of those in more than six years. The slug finds our random nature -- the wandering of our minds -- distasteful, so he tends to stop random thinking before it starts.

Today, though, I felt my mind wander. To have its own pointless, rambling, spontaneous musings again. I was shocked at first. Then I got worried.

That one thought may mean a lot more than reflection on the date. I know the slug is getting weaker now. Can he no longer stop my mind from wandering? Or perhaps he can, but he just doesn't want to waste the energy it would take?

Scary stuff with Travis, his power new and strong, bearing down on us -- and I have no doubt that's exactly what he's doing. Since Cassie's transformation, I've made no attempt to hide myself from Travis' senses. The longer I run, the more people will die. I know he's on his way.

I just have no clue what'll happen when he gets here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day Seventy

Day 70: 10 Oct 2010

Finally checked in by phone today with my bosses at the West Coast Syndicate. There was no answer. In the hotel lobby this morning, though, I noticed a newspaper headline: "Gangland Massacre in Nevada." Not an encouraging sign.

Cassie and I decided to stay in the mountains for the time being. Travis and I will be weakest here, should it come to combat. But Cassie will be at her best, which will put us ahead, if only slightly.

Now, we're just waiting on Travis.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day Sixty-Nine

Day 69: 09 Oct 2010

Watching Cassie sleep peacefully through her transformation reminds me of my own change, six years ago now. My transformation was anything but peaceful, though.

It was also anything but intentional. I wasn't supposed to get the slug. I wasn't even supposed to be there. I was in Los Angeles to meet a guy about a cargo ship job. He said to meet him in Long Beach. I must have gotten my buildings confused, because I sure as hell strolled into the exact wrong place at the wrong goddamn time.

There were four men in the warehouse. Three of them were wearing suits -- I could see them through the open door when I parked. They looked businesslike -- maybe like they were waiting to interview someone for a job -- so in I walked. That's when I saw guy #4.

He was a young guy, maybe 22. They had him duct-taped to a chair, and one of the suits was walking towards him with a duffel bag. The suit opened the bag and pulled out a big glass jar full of water -- something was thrashing around inside. He took off the lid slowly.

That's when one of the suits noticed me.

"Shit. My bad," I said, backpedaling. "I saw nothing."

The lid hit the floor. Before anyone could move, something leaped out of the jar, crossing the room in an instant. I opened my mouth to yell in surprise. That was a mistake.

The slug forced its way down my throat, and the change was underway.

It was a violent two weeks. Painful. Maddening. And when I came out the other side, I was no longer in control. The slug was controlling my body and mind completely. I was little more than a passenger, watching as he dutifully used me to kill, maim, destroy whatever they pointed him towards.

When Cassie woke just before midnight, she showed no sign that the change had been tough on her at all. In fact, she smiled.

"How do you feel?" I asked.

"Out-fucking-standing," she laughed. "Now. . . let's get to work, shall we?"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day Sixty-Eight

Day 68: 08 Oct 2010

Cassie is still asleep. Her change is quicker, but less invasive, less complete, than Travis' or mine. It's also not permanent, a fact of which she is well aware.

But, hopefully, her change will give us the edge we require. Until we see how well the child of the god of air has adjusted to her as a host, we won't know anything for sure.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day Sixty-Seven

Day 67: 07 Oct 2010

This morning we finally stopped the car. We're safe for at least a while, so now I can fill in some blanks.

We're in El Paso County, Colorado. Current elevation: 14,115 ft. Temperature is a rather pleasant 58 degrees, but the air's thin. My slug doesn't like that at all -- he prefers humid, thick air, and this is neither.

We came here to Pikes Peak for a reason. It's not just that Travis will have a tough journey to get here -- that's a fortunate side effect. No, Cassie needs the elevation. Needs the thin, dry air. And unless we could somehow get to Alaska, this was the best place for it.

I have to back up here. Travis' slug has already made you aware of some of what is happening, though he didn't know some of the things I know. Fortunately.

He told you that there were two would-be gods -- one of air and one of land. This is correct. He also mentioned their armies. People that these gods, like our father, would turn to their own purpose. The god of air did this in a similar fashion to our father. He would introduce an organism -- a piece of himself -- into an ancient human, and that human would change. Evolve. Grow into. . .

Well, something else. Something no longer human, but not like me or Travis.

Travis' slug wasn't aware of the box in Texas. I only became aware of it recently, while I was there doing a job for my handlers. The man who owned it didn't know what it was.

I did. It stirred some racial memory deep down in the slug -- it was a child of the god of air. And it was viable. It was alive.

And in two more days, all going to plan, it will join with Cassie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day Sixty-Six

Day 66: 06 Oct 2010

Busy. Cassie's asleep. The change is taking hold, and we're on the move.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day Sixty-Five

Day 65: 05 Oct 2010

Cassie slept through the day, got up once to eat, and went back to sleep all night, leaving me on my own. Her backup place was in Vegas Heights, and it was a dump of a one-bedroom apartment in a small complex with bars on the windows.

You know, I'm pretty sure you could replace the word "Heights" with "Ghetto" in most neighborhoods and still be completely accurate. I heard random gunshots throughout the day and night, but it wasn't as if I was worried for my safety, or Cassie's for that matter. Bullets don't bother me -- it's not like they can do much but mess up my clothes. And Cassie seemed comfortable enough in the hood.

What I didn't hear, not once, was a police siren. And if Travis was going to come at us out here, we'd have plenty of warning. He was most likely to muscle his way to us; there would be plenty of gunfire and explosions to tip us off.

I was worried, though. About food. I hadn't eaten in weeks, and I couldn't afford to starve the slug, who was already on the decline. I'd need him soon.

A drug dealer two streets over provided the first meal. I wish I could say I felt bad about it, but I really didn't. Not a bit. Years with the slug had corrupted my already shaky morality. He was simply scum, and served no useful purpose while he drew breath. Once I ripped the warm, beating heart from his chest, at least he served some purpose -- to nourish the slug. He became useful -- possibly for the first time in his life.

When Cassie woke this afternoon, I was feeling much better. My strength had returned. It was time to put my plans into motion.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day Sixty-Four

Day 64: 04 Oct 2010

I'd pushed the Lexus to more than 60 mph before Travis started falling behind. By 80, we couldn't see him.

"I knew you guys could move fast, but that was nuts," Cassie said, shaking her head.

"Did you get it?" I asked, slowing down.

"I think so," Cassie said, opening her messenger bag and pulling out a small wooden box covered in flowing, black script."Still don't know what it is, though."

"Did you open it?"

"Tried to. It wouldn't open, not any way I could figure, anyway."

"Yeah, there's a trick to it. We need to get somewhere safe, somewhere Travis doesn't know about. Then I'll explain everything."

"Right. Go to North Vegas. I have another place there. Explanation's gonna have to wait though -- I haven't slept in two days. And I'd about murder for a beer."

I nodded and drove to where Cassie indicated.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day Sixty-Three

Day 63: 03 Oct 2010

Las Vegas is a true 24-hour town. Forget about New York's title of city that never sleeps -- that's a lie. I've been to New York, seen it without motion, heard it without a sound. It sleeps, or at least parts of it do.

Not so in Vegas. I've been stationed here the better part of five years, and I've never seen or heard it sleep. There are always people moving about. Always voices. In the whole time I've been here, I've never experienced silence or stillness.

Take McCarran International Airport. Flights coming and going around the clock, welcoming newcomers like fresh blood and expelling the losers, money gone, like vomitus. A whole functioning biological system, pumping cash instead of hemoglobin.

Cassie's flight was scheduled to land at midnight. I'd heard nothing from her while she was in Texas, but that was by design. The Chinese (and my own bosses) notoriously eavesdropped. Cell phones and email are not anywhere close to secure, but even land lines were vulnerable. Besides, I don't have a phone, anyway.

I pulled up to the airport at about ten minutes to midnight, driving one of the West Coast Syndicate's fleet of Lexus LS sedans. I'd been ducking my employers for days -- they probably wouldn't send anyone but Phil to track me down, but he hadn't yet shown up. I knew I had to check in with them, but first, I had to see if Cassie accomplished her objective.

I waited in the idling Lexus. The radio was off -- the slug hates our music -- and the engine wasn't making noise, so I heard it when the SUV pulled up behind me. Before I looked, I knew it was Travis -- I could sense it. I checked the rear-view mirror and saw him step out of the huge truck. He was wearing black pants and a black shirt, and sunglasses even in the dark. He looked bigger. More muscular. Even more than me. As he slowly approached the driver's side of my car, I saw Cassie walk out of the baggage claim doors. I floored the accelerator. The Lexus stopped inches from Cassie, who, seeing Travis, immediately got in. We peeled away from the curb, the engine howling.

"Uh, Jared, we have a problem," Cassie said as we accelerated, turning to look out the back window.

I checked the rear-view again. Travis was running after us, keeping pace. On foot.

No, he wasn't keeping pace. He was gaining.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day Sixty-Two

Day 62: 02 Oct 2010

Laying low today. Trying to keep my brain inactive as possible. Will check back in tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day Sixty-One

Day 61: 01 Oct 2010

Sent Cassie on an assignment this morning -- drove her to Maccarran myself. She'll be back in two days. She's headed to Central Texas -- there's something we need, and my slug assures me it's there.

Cassie was skeptical, of course.

"You're listening to an eons-old slug? How does it even know where Texas is?" she complained. Her logic was sound, I guess.

At least, from her point of view.

I played the whole "do it for Travis" card again. Don't know how long that'll keep working. Don't know how long I'll need it to keep working. She got on the plane, though. That's what counts.

Now comes the tough part. I've got to keep on Travis' radar just enough to keep him in Las Vegas, but not so much so that he can actually track me down. It's going to take a lot of careful tip-toeing and some moments of quick movement -- and I'm not sure me and the slug are up to it.

We need to eat.