I've woken up to some fantastic party aftermaths before, but never any that set my skin to such a chill. A dozen or more people littered the office in various states of undress. Liquor and drugs were scattered on every surface and the place smelled strongly of sweat and sex.
I, on the other hand, was fully dressed in a swallowtail coat with a white shirt, neatly pleated black slacks, and spats over expensive leather shoes. A top hat sat upside down on the table and resting on the bridge of my nose was a pair of sunglasses missing a lens. My head felt heavy. My eyes were full of sand. I could have swallowed a lake of water to quench the desert that had settled in my throat. As I surveyed the disaster in front of me, my heart sank to recognize several of the high school cheerleaders from the night before. And, even though I remembered nothing of what happened, I knew that the one with the honey-gold hair who had drawn Death from my deck had met her fate and that my Papa – in my body – had introduced them.
Mama always said that if the world had gone to pieces, you should set to sweeping ‘em up. Once I'd made sure everybody was breathing, I set to getting them clothed and out the door. That done, I locked it behind them, praying that their groggy faces meant they didn't remember much more than I did. They'd made quite a mess. I scrubbed many a stain I refused to question and flushed many a pill I didn't recognize while incense burned in every corner to restore the proper ten dollar psychic stench. When all that was done, I sat down to unroll the small sheaf of papers that nestled in the top hat, tied up all pretty in somebody's panties.
The letter was from Papa. It explained the Titans, the war, what was expected of me. It named us: Scions. Then it went on to explain that the book we were supposed to be getting from that desk was part of a plot by the Titans to steal the power we called on to work our various hoodoos and give it to everybody. The idea being that normal mortals wouldn't need the gods anymore, so they'd stop praying and the gods would die. Never mind what that would do to the world. We had enough trouble reigning in our own chaos. If everybody started being able to kill a harpy with a car, or memorize the internet, or smile their way into anywhere, well, life would get even more complicated than it is normally.
I also found $1800 in the pocket of my new clothes. I guess Papa heard about that eviction notice, too.
Much as I hated to, knowing he worked nights, I had to tell the others about the book, so I called Ramose. I caught him just as he was crawling under the covers. I felt for him. I was pretty sure I hadn't slept, either. I told him to come get me and we'd go by Chris' house. I wouldn't tell him why, though. I figured I had better only have to explain once, my head being a little fuzzy.
I called Chris on the way to warn him, but I guess he didn't have time to get the smashed TV out of the living room. Ramose and I were too tired to press the issue when Chris didn't feel like talking about it. After I explained the information from Papa (but not the exact method by which it was obtained) we decided that Ramose and I could nap for a while before the press conference, which we planned to use as an excuse to get into Mr. Reichertz's office.
After a nap and a quick lunch, we stopped at my place so I could change into something a little less dramatic. While I was there, I told the zombies to meet us – discreetly – at the casino. (Author note: Discreet Zombies is a great name for a rock band.) I didn't know if we'd need them, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to have them there. Well, it might have, what with them being zombies in a public place in broad daylight and all. But I was still suffering from lack of sleep. Cut me a break.
At Caesar's Palace, I continued my role as Chris' new arm candy and Ramose was playing a random flunky. He said "secretary," but whatever. It was enough to get us all in the office. After a few minutes of shop talk, the big boys were ready to head down to the press conference. Ramose excused himself to the restroom and I kept Mike Rushman, the assistant manager, occupied with some personal attention. (Get your mind back out of the gutter.) I noticed the door to the boy's room ease open a crack with nothing seeming to push it and figured that was my cue to get Mike out of the room. He's cute and I'm sure he's a wiz at his job, but the number of otherwise intelligent men who can be distracted with a little bit of suggestive simpering from a pretty girl is… well, very useful. Don't change a thing, guys.
At that point, I joined Chris at the press conference, so I don't know what happened, other than Ramose got his hands on the contents of the desk. It looked like an old plank somebody took a carving knife to, but it seemed to be what we were looking for. Of course, I didn't find out he had it until after the fight.
See, during the conference, Chris told everybody he was coming straight back out of the retirement he'd only entered the week before. Seems that broken TV had something to do with Lennox Lewis talking trash at his own press conference and Chris was ready for that rematch Lewis wanted so badly. I was smiling at the crowd, so I noticed, among the reporters, a new friend. Sylvester Guiler, the man who had been asking my clients about me and who had shown up in the list of Ops Team 7 members was standing right there in front of us. He smiled at me, pulled what looked like a pair of scissors out of his bag, and then all hell broke loose. Seems like Lewis couldn't wait for the official fight, so he'd showed up with some friends to start a brawl. I tried to stop it, but it took off in a hurry.
That was when the fire alarm went off.
I kept in Chris' comfortable wake while we headed for the door, letting him break a path through the panic. We were almost there when I realized that the zombies were still hiding in one of the conference rooms and that I couldn't just leave them there. I don't think Chris was too happy about going back, but I was going with or without him. Not only did he follow me to the room, but Ramose showed up, too. Unfortunately, so did Sylvester and Seth Farrow, the gentleman (using the term loosely) whose day we had ruined at the Luxor a couple weeks back.
Farrow demanded the book. I said we'd rather keep it. Then he shot me. Bastard. Of course, Chris paid him back with a fair amount of interest for it. I wasn't hit that bad, and I pulled out a new trick that came from Papa to ease what damage there was, but Chris near killed Seth with a conference table. Ramose grabbed the plank and ran for it. Can't say I blame him, but it might have been nice if he'd shown a little more concern. Guiler ran after Farrow went down in a bloody mess.
Since we didn't know where Ramose had got himself off to, Chris and I headed back to his house. We eventually got in touch, though, and met up to have a look at our prize. Ramose was the only one who was in love with the damn thing. He spent some time wooing it and eventually puzzled out what it said and then spent another hour figuring out what the hell that meant. It wasn't the book. The book was, for no good reason other than annoying a tired and bloody fortune teller, apparently at Red Rock Canyon. We decided we'd head out in the morning. We should have known better.
I get a call, paying me back for that morning, saying that Ops Team 7 knew where the book was. Seems Ramose told them. Remember that bit about pretty girls and suggestive simpering? Don't get me started on Marie Glapion right now. Needless to say, we moved up our departure. Not that it did us a whole lot of good, what with them having access to a damn helicopter. Why don't we have a helicopter? No, I get zombies. A rant for another time, I guess.
When we got there, we didn't see them right away, so we headed for the entrance at a place called Eagle Rock. Ramose found a switch and flipped it, at which point two things happened: a door opened and Sylvester showed up with an ugly little gang. Next thing we knew, we were leading the way through a mess of caverns worthy of Indiana Jones, with traps and all. I managed to temporarily lose the gang for us, but that didn't slow down Guiler. He kept us marching deeper, threatening me with those scissors he said were a gift from his papa.
What we finally found was a strange little pyramid, like the ones you see in Mexico, and inside was a chest. When Guiler opened it and revealed the book we were all after, wonder of wonders, Ramose pulled a gun on him. And while Sly was trying to talk himself out of a bullet hole, I grabbed his shears. That was when Ramose lost his mind and told me to give them back. Still don't know what his problem was, but I made a deal to walk outside the pyramid with Sly, but without the book, theoretically to give him back the scissors. We went back and forth on the subject a little too long, because his gang found us. I ended up handing him his shears back, knowing it was a mistake even before he stabbed me. But – thank Papa, I guess – he didn't manage to do me any harm. He didn't stop to see, though, just took off running. Chris and the gang had a fight that didn't last too long and we were back outside in time to watch Guiler flash us his yellow derrière by way of the helicopter in the distance.
Now, all we gotta do is figure out what to do with this book that could kill the gods. Go us.