|by Mark Finn|
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Jerry Markham squinted into the early morning sun as he turned his car into Sam's Wholesale Club. He made a crazy loop through the mostly deserted lot and parked his car so that it directly faced Rent Town across the street. Satisfied with his view of things, he turned the radio down, picked up his cell phone and played with his autodial feature for a minute until he found Morgan's number.
"Yeah, it's me," he said as he fumbled for his binoculars one-handed. "Where you at?"
"At the Jack in the Box, across the street from A1 Rental Company," Morgan replied. "I'm eating breakfast and taking my time, because A1 doesn't open for another hour and a half, thank you very much."
"Hey, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it." The binoculars were now free of their imitation leather carrying case and Jerry put them to his eyes and tried to focus them.
"Or boring as shit," said Morgan. "Who said that, anyway? 'Knew the job was dangerous'?"
"Superchicken," said Jerry, dispassionately. He was still trying to work the focus knob between the eyepieces with one hand.
"So, what now? Where are you?" asked Morgan.
"In front of Rent Town," said Jerry. "And I'll be here, in case you want to chat."
"Do you have three-way calling?" asked Morgan. "We could game, or something."
"No," said Jerry. "I've got a phone, not a Star Trek Communicator."
"Philistine," said Morgan.
"Eat your breakfast," said Jerry. "I'm calling Russell."
Jerry put the phone down and looked through the binoculars using both hands. He focused the lenses and saw that Rent Town didn't open until 10: 00 on Saturdays. An hour and a half to wait, he thought.
He dialed Russell's phone next.
"Yeah?" said Russell.
"Rus? Where are you? I can barely hear you."
Russell paused for only a second. "I'm at the Krispy Kreme."
"Hey, you sent me over here."
Jerry frowned. "Carson Brothers isn't near Krispy Kreme."
"No, but it's on the way," said Russell sheepishly.
"Russell! Double-time it over there!"
"Jerry, I'm like, almost through the line. I'm next up."
"Well, hurry the fuck up, Russell! If they show up before you get there, we're fucked!"
"I know! I got here thirty minutes ago! You'd think that would be enough time."
"It's never enough time," said Jerry. "Look, I'm going to eat breakfast. Call me as soon as you get there."
"Will do," said Russell. Jerry hung up.
Amateurs, he thought. He was dealing with strict amateurs. This situation had become highly elevated in the last twenty-four hours. It had become a plan, a scheme. Counter-espionage. Jerry unwrapped the package of powered donuts and ate them methodically, holding the little pastries with the very tips of his fingers, to minimize powdered sugar displacement.
Jerry remembered his high school days, when he used to oversee large games of Assassinate, a live-action game that pitted the players against one another using dart guns, water balloons, and other non-lethal weaponry in a massive game of cat-and-mouse. He had won the job of head overseer because he won five straight games in a row. His nickname his senior year was "Ace." It sure beat the hell out of "band nerd."
Now, as he washed the wads of cake donut down with sips of chocolate milk, he thought about those skills and how they would come back into play in the next forty-eight hours. He would stalk and hunt until he found his prey, and when he did...
Jerry smiled at his own dark thoughts. He burped a chocolate milk burp, and then he picked up his phone. This time, he called Steve.
"Real professional, Steve."
"Hey, what do you fucking want from me, I'm going on two liters of Mountain Dew and four hours of sleep, here."
Jerry smiled. The crazy hacker at base camp, in the movies, usually turned out to be the traitor. He had no such worries with Steve. "You got anything yet?"
"No. Well, sorta. I'm still cruising through Usenet right now. Your boy Larry, or Stercutus, or whatever, was all over the place. Did you know he likes midget porn?"
Jerry felt his face get hot. He was the one who had shown Larry how to navigate Usenet some four years ago. He remembered how they had laughed when they found alt.hardcore.sex.midget. That was a long time ago. Let it go, he told himself. He's the enemy, now. The Moriarty to your Holmes. The Oddjob to your Bond. The Penguin to your Batman.
"Ignore the porn, Steve. Remember what you're looking for."
"You ignore the porn, Jerry, it's part of what's keeping me going."
"Whatever. Look, call me if you turn something up."
"You know I will." Steve hung up.
One hour and twenty-five minutes to go. Jerry turned the radio back up and tried not to think about midget porn.
Chapter One: The Navel Adventures of Larry Croft
Chapter Two: 1123 Miles to Tempe
Chapter Three: Enter the String
Chapter Four: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Chapter Five: Rutlege's Story
Chapter Six: The Plot Thickens
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed
Chapter Eight: It's a DRY Heat
Chapter Nine: Preparing to Lam
Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man
Chapter Eleven: The Danger of Talking to God
Chapter Twelve: Anchors Aweigh, Let's Go Men
Chapter Thirteen: The End is Near
Chapter Fourteen: Roll to Hit
Chapter Fifteen: Six Feet of Beef Stick for the Soul
Chapter Sixteen: Hello, My Name is Indio, California
Chapter Seventeen: Threadgill Takes Charge
Chapter Eighteen: The Players on the Other Side
Chapter Nineteen: On the Road to Perdition
Chapter Twenty: Welcome to Tempe
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Chapter Twenty-Two: Should Have Known Better
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Backhoe
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Frank Discussion
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Brief History of Larry's Van
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Go Speed Racer, Go
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Owner of the Thumbscrews
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
Chapter Thirty-One: Frick and Frack Check In
Chapter Thirty-Two: Scouting
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Stakeout
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Food Fight
Chapter Thirty-Five: Time to Dig
Chapter Thirty-Six: Deep in the Night
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Paydirt
Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Phallus of Ebon Keep
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Otto and Stacy Make Good
Chapter Forty: Thieves in the Night
Chapter Forty-One: Critical Failure
Chapter Forty-Two: Downtown
Chapter Forty-Three: The Hoosegow
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
Chapter Forty-Five: Two Early Phone Calls
Chapter Forty-Six: Threadgill Meets the Gang
Chapter Forty-Seven: Back to the Van
Chapter Forty-Eight: Five Days Later
Table of Contents