|by Mark Finn|
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
"How in the hell could you let them get away from you," shouted Jerry Markham into his cell phone. "There's no place to lose you on campus!"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you," said Morgan, "they used campus as a decoy and gave me the slip."
"How?" Markham was sitting in the drive-thru lane at the Taco Bell. He was still three cars away from placing his order, and he had been sitting for almost five minutes. The woman in the minivan who was currently yelling into the speaker was apparently feeding Rhode Island. "Please, explain it to me."
"Jerry, that guy was driving like a maniac," Morgan said. "It was all I could do to keep up with him. He almost caused a dozen accidents! I'm totally serious."
Markham sighed. "I believe it, but shit, Morgan."
The lady in the minivan finally finished dictating her order and pulled around. Markham obligingly rolled forward twelve feet. "Jerry? You still there?"
"Yeah, I'm thinking," he said. "Okay, tell you what: stay near campus. Keep driving the perimeter. Maybe they're still in the area. Cruise Apache when you can. If you spot them, hang back and call me. Okay?"
"Right-o," said Morgan. "I'm grabbing lunch, then I'll get right on it."
"Okay, but get it to go," said Markham. He hung up.
The image of Larry Croft in his beat-to-shit black van, evading Morgan as they raced through the streets of Tempe, played over and over in an endless loop as Markham ate his second burrito supreme. Was Larry's presence here another one of his Stercutus stunts, he wondered. And why here? Was it to get his attention? To what end?
Markham sighed and pitched his burrito wrapper into the paper sack it had come in. He was too close to the puzzle, he knew it. All of the words from the e-mail just swam in front of him, like a giant game of Scrabble.
His phone rang as he was unwrapping his taco supreme. "Hello?"
It was Russell. "Just checking in. I've got dick here."
"Yeah, I know," said Markham distractedly. He was trying to open a packet of hot sauce without spraying the foul-smelling goo everywhere. "Morgan found them, but they gave him the slip on campus."
"Yeah, I know, he's a numbskull." The sauce packet opened perfectly at the upper right corner, and Markham laid down a thick red-brown line on the inside of his taco shell. "Look, why don't you get over there and coordinate with him? I still think they may come back. You two can double up and take opposite ends of the loop."
Jerry rolled his eyes. "Tell you what: call Morgan, and talk to him. He'll tell you what's going on."
"Oh, okay. Where are you?"
"Eating. I'll call you later." Markham hung up.
If they come back, and Russell is there, he won't lose them, Markham decided. In spite of him being slow on the uptake, he was really primed for the James Bond angle of it all. Markham quickly ate his taco supreme and pitched the remains of his meal in a nearby dumpster before driving back into Saturday afternoon traffic.
When he was back on the road and steering around the high number of sport utility vehicles, he called Steve.
"Werewolves of London," said Steve by way of a greeting. He was eating something.
"It's Jerry. You got something for me?"
"Oh, well, yeah," said Steve, through the crunching.
"What are you eating?"
"Funions," said Steve. "And drinking beer."
"You're a caveman," said Markham. "What have you got?"
"Well, I've got the origin for the Phallus of Ebon Keep. It was originally called the "Phalanx of Ebon Keep." It was an old LegendMaster module, first edition stuff."
"Okay, that makes sense. So?"
"So, get this: Larry's been on several message boards, talking about a pornographic version of the module that was rumored to exist. Everyone he's talked to said it was a rumor, or yeah, there was a module, but it was destroyed."
Jerry frowned. A module? It didn't make sense. "Okay, that it?"
"Yeah. Well, no. On one of these threads, Larry gets into it with this guy, calling him a liar and what-not. It turns into a flame war, but not before Larry says, and I quote, 'you'll all be singing a different tune in nine days.' After that, it's a bunch of fuck yous and so on."
"Uh huh," said Markham. The wheels were beginning to turn. "Anything else?"
"No, not yet. Want me to keep looking?"
"By all means. Oh, and forward me that stuff to my e-mail."
"You got it," said Steve. He belched loudly into the phone and hung up.
Markham stared at the red light in front of him. "He's looking for a porno module?" It didn't make sense. It was a crummy six-dollar module when it came out. The original version would have some academic value, but it wouldn't be playable. It would be like how they put some really unplayable stuff in the first edition of the Pantheons of Legend book. Markham smiled, remembering how much he had to pay when he bought his copy...
The light turned green.
Morgan didn't move until the cars behind him started honking. He smiled again. Larry, you son of a bitch, he thought, I've got you now.
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