Chapter 9: Las Vegas, Nevada—Part 3
Almost instinctively, I headed out of town south on 101 towards LA, the same route I had just followed back from Nevada.
I didn’t know where I was going. Phoenix wouldn’t be safe. If they were looking for me, they would know to look for me at my dad’s home there. I thought about going to Los Angeles, to Bobbi and Claudia. The idea of being with the two playmates was comforting, but their connection to my father made that too dangerous—the enemy might be watching them. In the end, I decided to go to the butte, hoping the aliens could help me.
I couldn’t use the cell phone or credit cards, afraid they would trace me if I did, and, I only had about 100 dollars in cash. I pulled off I-15 into a small shopping mall. Sitting in the Expedition in the mall’s parking lot, I waited until my prey appeared, a prosperous young couple in a BMW convertible. I scanned them. He was a lawyer, she an accountant. They had been living (very comfortably) together for almost a year, and would be getting married in the spring.
Exiting my vehicle, I walked towards the couple as they headed into the mall. “Steve, Audrey,” I called, “What are you two doing here?”
The couple stopped, looking confused for a moment as I came up to them. Then greeted me warmly. “How are you, Rob?” Steve asked.
“Rob, we haven’t seen you in ages,” Audrey said, smiling at me.
“I thought you might be avoiding me,” I said. “Because of the money ... you know, the money you owe me.”
“We wouldn’t do that,” Audrey said.
“We can pay you now,” said Steve.
“You don’t need to do that. I don’t want to put you out. You can pay me when it’s convenient. You probably don’t have that much cash on you anyway.”
They insisted on giving me as much cash as they could raise. Between the two of them, they only had a little more than 200 dollars in cash. At the mall’s only ATM, they were each able to get another 300 dollars. I told them that was enough. Then, wishing them a good time that evening, I left, using the power to make them forget the incident.
Now, with enough cash to last a while, I headed toward Las Vegas again. I felt a little guilty about what I had done to Steve and Audrey, but told myself it was a kind of tax I was collecting to protect them from the enemy. Besides, they could afford it—I had made sure of that when I picked them.
It was almost 10:30 when I decided I needed to stop for the night. Pulling off at the next exit that indicated services were available, I passed up the two more modern motels, stopping at an older one vaguely resembling the Bates Motel—but without the house on the hill. There were plenty of vacant rooms, and the owner was happy to be paid in cash.
I had a light supper at an all night restaurant, looked for a store where I could buy clean clothes, but everything was closed. Finally, I went back to my room. On the bed, I watched the evening news on tv to see if the bodies had been found at the ranch.
The motel cable tv carried LA stations. It was too late to see the lead stories, but the news recap at the end covered the discovery of the massacre at the Santa Barbara ranch. They didn’t seem to know about me, but mentioned that the police were looking for the Ford Expedition, giving the license plate number.
Looking out the window, I saw the motel lot was quiet. I got a screwdriver from the Expedition, then removed the license plates. Examining the few other vehicles parked at the motel, I found a fairly new station wagon that looked like a good candidate for a plate switch. Scanning the driver as he slept, I learned he was on his way to Los Angeles for a job interview. Quickly, I switched plates, planting in the driver’s mind the certainty that the plates from the Expedition had always been on his vehicle.
Back in the room, I took a shower, a little annoyed at not having clean underwear. Lying on the bed, I let my mind dwell over all that had happened. Somehow, I was able to put aside my distress and analyze the events of the last few days.
The aliens—my aliens—thought there was an enemy group working against us. Events seemed to be proving them right. Whether the enemy knew that I was my father’s replacement was questionable. They killed my dad, then attacked the ranch and got all my dad’s records—luckily, I remembered most of what I had reviewed, thanks to the aliens—but, it wasn’t certain the enemy was looking for me too. It was possible, and consistent with what had happened, that they had no knowledge that our side had been foresighted enough to have me in place to succeed my father in case something like this happened.
The enemy probably didn’t have mind control powers like my dad and I received from the aliens. If they had those powers, there would be no need to torture Candace. Or, if they were sadists, and did it just for their own pleasure, that was another weakness I might be able to exploit. I was able to feel a little better after completing this review, and with that I fell asleep.
I awoke a little after 8:00. The morning news had more information about the massacre at the ranch, but still no mention of me. Without checking out of my motel room, I purchased (with cash) new clothes and toiletries at Penney’s, went back to the room to change. Then checked out, had breakfast and fueled the Expedition before heading east on I-15.
It only took a couple of hours to reach the turnoff to the alien butte. Once more, I drove past the old airfield, then along the rutted road to the butte. Again, I parked the Expedition by the side of the road, and walked over to the butte, waiting in the afternoon sun. I looked at my watch, noting about thirty minutes had passed, then continued waiting. After an hour, I gave up. The aliens didn’t want to contact me. I was on my own.
With the Expedition’s air conditioner cranked up full blast, I rested, cooling off from the effects of the desert sun, while I tried to determine what my next move would be. After a while, I decided to continue on to Las Vegas. I would see Kim. She could, at least, help comfort me. I needed that. And there was a good chance the enemy didn’t know about our relationship. She wasn’t being subsidized by my dad like my two playmates in LA.
It was sunset when I got to Las Vegas, the neon almost too bright in the fading light. I stopped at a 7-11 and phoned Kim. I remembered her phone number, but didn’t know her address. Kristen answered the phone, saying Kim was at work. She gave me their address and directions for how to get there. Following the directions, I got close enough to use the power to scan Kristen for the precise way to their apartment.
“Hello, come on in,” Kristen said when I knocked on the door. Kim had shared this apartment with her boyfriend until they split up. Now, her younger sister was living with her. I had talked with Kristen on the phone, but hadn’t met her.
“So, we finally meet, Rob,” Kristen said, offering her hand, giving me a long look. I didn’t need to read her mind to know that Kim had told her about me, that she was curious to see what I was like. Kristen was a younger version of her sister, thinner, with shorter hair, and coltish legs. “Kim’s at work,” she said. “We can leave her a message to call back when she gets a break.”
“Go ahead,” I said, waiting while she called the hotel where Kim worked as a dancer. Then, “I’m kind of hungry. Do you have anything for me to eat,” I said, realizing I had skipped lunch.
Kristen got me a 7-UP, then put a frozen pizza in the oven. While the pizza was cooking, she went to her room to study—she was a community college student. I turned on the tv, hoping to catch some news about the massacre at the ranch and the search for my Expedition, but it was still too early, so I watched CNN until the timer on the oven went off.
I was pulling the pizza out of the oven when Kristen came out of her bedroom. We shared the pizza, eating off the coffee table in the living room, watching a rerun of “Friends” on tv (Kristen’s choice) when Kim called on her cell phone, “Rob, darling, why didn’t you let me know you were coming? I would have taken off today ... called in sick. I want to see you—to be with you—so much.”
“I want to be with you too, Kim,” I said. “But this is very important, don’t let anyone know—not anyone—that I’m here. As far as you’re concerned, I’m at MIT if anyone should happen to ask.”
Her voice lower, “I ... I understand, but why? What’s happening?”
“I’ll explain when I see you. I’ll wait here for you. You just hurry back after your last show.”
“I’ll leave right after the show. I should be there before midnight.”
“That’s great,” I said, trying to sound more cheerful than I felt. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
I looked at Kristen as she picked up the last piece of pizza, realizing I needed to make sure she wouldn’t let anyone know about me either. A quick scan revealed that she was interested in me because of what Kim had told her, as I guessed. Using the power, I made sure that she would keep my secret. To reinforce my mental command, I said, “Did you hear what I said to Kim? That I’m staying here with you must not be revealed to anyone?”
“I understand. I won’t tell anyone, Rob.” Then, standing up, stretching, “I’m going to bed now. I’ve got classes tomorrow. If you want to rest until Kim gets home, you can lie down on the couch. Or, you can use Kim’s room.” Smiling at me, “You might as well. You’ll be sleeping there tonight anyway.” She took the dirty dishes into the kitchen, then went to her bedroom, closing the door behind her.
It would be a while before Kim got home, so I decided to follow Kristen’s advice, but first I checked CNN again. On the screen they showed a vehicle—a Ford Expedition—similar to mine. Listening carefully to the story, I heard that the police were still looking for my Expedition and now believed it was heading east, perhaps to Las Vegas. There was no mention of me or the “borrowed” license plates.
Worried about being discovered, I shouted to Kristen that I was going for a walk, then went out to the apartment parking lot. It was quiet this late at night, even in Las Vegas. I wandered through the apartment complex until I found what I was looking for: a fairly new pickup with Nevada plates. I mentally scanned the apartments until I found the owner—a student living with his girlfriend, another student. Using the power, I convinced him that his pickup wasn’t running and he wouldn’t be able to fix it for at least a couple of weeks, that he could commute to school with his girlfriend, and that he wouldn’t notice anything missing from his truck. I influenced his girlfriend the same way.
Then, I opened the pickup’s hood and removed the distributor. I closed the hood and took off the pickup’s plates. I removed the “borrowed” plates from the Expedition, and replaced them with the Nevada plates from the pickup.
Back at Kim’s, I put the California plates from my vehicle and the pickup’s distributor into a plastic garbage bag, and left it on the kitchen floor, planning on disposing of it tomorrow. I washed my hands in the kitchen sink, then found the girls’ bathroom, littered with undies drying on towel racks and shower curtain rods, like other girls’ bathrooms. In Kim’s bedroom, surprisingly neat after the disorder of the bathroom, I removed my shoes and socks, and, loosening my belt, I turned off the bedside lamp. Lying on top of the blankets, I dozed off.