The Gods of Arrowhead Highway

Phoenix Rising
'Cause we needed a fire in the desert

Faced with a smear campaign, I decided to sway public opinion back in my favor. What better way to do that than with a TV spot? After all, Rideford’s record was too damn clean to swing back. (And don’t you think I didn’t try that road first!) Ramose got some checkered past on Rideford’s secretary, Eliza, but I didn’t want to pick on her. So Ramose and I trucked on down to the KSLV station and I convinced a reporter that it was worth his time to interview my pretty self in front of the cameras to be aired on the evening news. I think it went alright.

Also, Corpsetaker skipped bodies on us. He (she, it, whatever) jumped into a university student and then killed the professor who’d been serving as a host up ‘til then. Great. We hadn’t known that he was playing disposable hosts.

After that, I had a chore to accomplish without the guys. Corpsetaker is a nasty piece of work, trapping ghosts for his own ends. I had wrangled poor Lola from him, but I needed to send her home proper. Problem was I didn’t know how to do that. Papa’s letter didn’t exactly come with an instruction manual. I need one of them books like they had in Beetlejuice, you know? Lola told me her remains were at the dump. Me and the zombies made our way and, sure enough, there she was – not much more than a skeleton – in an old refrigerator. I had the boys gather her up and we made our way to the cemetery, where I asked Mr. Lansky if he had a bit of space for an orphan. I got the zombies to make her a nice hole, but then… Well, I faltered a little. Like I said, I don’t know the rituals for all this. But, when you’re on stage you gotta dance. So, with all the ghosts watching me, I made one up. I wish I remembered it, but I had to be born to the pantheon of body snatchers. Some of the ghosts took to calling me “Miss St. Cyr” after that, though.

Before I left, Mr. Lansky asked me to get his grandkid Joseph to a synagogue, what with the end of the world coming and all. I’m not sure how I’m going to sell that one, but I’ll figure something out.

Next day I come to find out that Corpsetaker in her new getup had hijacked my frat boys. That just ain’t funny. Jolene let me know that she’d seen them hanging about the Orleans. The last thing I needed was them spitting gasoline on a fire I was trying to put out. Besides, I told the damn fools, through Michele, that they were supposed to stay the hell away from the Orleans. Michele wasn’t picking up her phone and I had a mad on. I made my way to the frat house to figure out what the hell they were up to. What I found was not pretty at all.

In the basement rec room, I found out why Michele wasn’t picking up. She was tied up proper on the couch while a zombie I didn’t know munched on somebody’s severed head nearby. “Severed” may give the wrong impression here. “Ripped right the hell off” would be more like it. I called Chris and Ramose for backup, but I couldn’t exactly just wait for them in the kitchen. I managed not to get eaten long enough for them to show. A messy pile of frat boy pieces in the back made my lunch anxious to leave the way it came. I didn’t even know Ramose could go that pale.

Not knowing what else to do, I figured we’d better go collect my surviving boys and suss out what the hell was going on at the Orleans. Maybe not my best decision ever.

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Interlude: The Oracle at Orleans
What do you do with a drunken frat boy... when he sobers up?

It’s funny how often I’ve started to pull out my tarot when I don’t know where to go from where I am. When Olivia first started teaching me, I believed like most folks that they was nothing but a tool for hucksters, a carny trick to peel a few dollars off a man’s roll. These days I know better, but I still surprise myself laying those cards on the table to ask them what I’m supposed to do now.

I got to admit that Todd asking me questions about who or what I am threw me. I mean, so far ain’t nobody looked much past the tilt of my smile or the swish of my hips. Those who have were like me. So when this kid with eyes full of fear and grief looks at me like he sees me and asks what’s going on? I wasn’t sure what to play.

I ended up running it half straight. I don’t know if he’s ready for the truth. Hell, I ain’t ready for the truth. Was only half straight though, ‘cause I told that boy he could walk away if he wanted, and I’m not sure that’s true. But afterwards I started wondering what I was going to do if he pressed for more, if that ski trip to clear his head clears it in the wrong direction. Next thing I knew, I was cutting the cards with a picture of the frat boys in front of me, my eyes focused on his earnest ones.

Basic issue/querent: Ten of Cups Inverted Opposition, of course. He’s questioning not just this situation, but everything I’ve done so far. There’s also sadness in this card. Boy’s just lost his friends and his world’s all fractured. He’s lost that innocent grin from the picture and he thinks I’m to blame (rightly). No surprises here. I don’t need to be a reader to get this one.

Crossing: Two of Wands This one is interesting. What’s giving that boy trouble is the right path. I suspect that his path chosen for him, which means him trying to steer clear of me is taking him away from his destiny. The right path is the one he don’t want.

Root: Herald of Wands Inverted This one’s easy. The foundation of his problem is bad news, something he didn’t want to know. This herald breaks a lot of hearts, but Todd’s problems are coming from another angle.

Recent Past: Judgment I don’t like to see this pretty lady here. Took me a sec to figure out this was his judgment on me. He made a choice about me already, I think. He doesn’t get the whole picture yet, but he’s decided that I’m bad news. And that’s just going to make his life harder from here on if he’s supposed to follow me. Papa maybe did Michele a favor giving her a healthy dose of faith whether she wanted it or not. Todd gets to feel like he has a choice.

Possible Outcomes/querent’s ideal: Knight of Swords Inverted That don’t look good. Knight brings a fight and with him upside down, he’s mad. I was hoping Todd would leave it there, but it looks like he’s still spoiling for another go and he may not take things so easy next time.

Future Influence: Nine of Pentacles Inverted Aw, hell. Boy’s going to do something stupid.

Self: Knight of Wands There’s Todd again. This is the idealist. He sees change coming, but he’s happy. Thinks it’s an adventure.

Environment: Ten of Pentacles This has surely been his environment up to now. Wealth and security. Spoiled little rich kid. That’s a shaky place for it to sit though, perched on idealism and change like that.

Hopes & Fears: The Tower Damn Tower don’t make for a rosy reading, no matter where it shows. Here it’s telling me what he’s afraid of: ruin, destruction, loss. It matches up too well with that inverted nine sitting in the future.

Outcome: The World Inverted This reading just keeps getting sunnier. Those idealistic notions he’s got? That bright world he’s looking forward to? They ain’t gonna happen. This is the card of stagnant water and nothing good grows there. Worse than that, maybe even if he gets himself back on that destined path, he’s not due for any great reward. The universe is fixing to slap him down.

Question comes, then: Can I help? If Fate is a fixed thing, then I might not be able to do anything, might even make it worse for trying. But if I let him get hurt just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, what does that make me? Don’t know why I keep asking the damn cards anything; it’s not like they answer the important questions.

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Pawn Checks King
King is briefly amused

I expect my tarot to talk to me. I do not like it when they do so more directly than usual.

I was casually drawing cards while Ramose, with lifting assistance from Chris, worked on my truck in Chris’ garage. We were chatting and drinking and I wasn’t paying much attention to my deck. I suppose that’s why I didn’t notice it get away from me. Next thing I remember is looking down at a white card face with handwriting that was distressingly familiar.

Wynn, Friday 4:30 PM

No clue as to what it meant or what would be waiting for me there. I flipped the card; the back was normal. And when I turned it back over, the warrior on my five of wands stared a challenge at me. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, I later found out that Ramose had received a similar invitation – in a different manner, of course. Chris, however, had not.

I had never been to the Wynn, although I’d heard good things about their nightclub, Tryst. We called to see if we could figure out who might have reserved a meeting room, but no dice. We knew which rooms were reserved, but nothing else except that there were going to be Shriners in the ballroom. We did, however, figure it probably wasn’t them. (Although, to be fair, they could be a secret cult to Isis, for all we know. Cute little fez men.)

So, we just had to wait a week. In the meantime, I had already ditched my cocktail waitress costume for a fulltime position as an attraction at the Orleans. When I wasn’t sitting to tell fortunes, I walked around and chatted up the customers. Sometimes I went out to the street and charmed passerby into coming in. Sometimes I even meandered down to the strip in the outfit Papa left for me, top hat and all, and brought a little parade back with me. Jolene and me are getting along just fine these days. The tips alone are paying my grocery bill this month.

On Friday, the three of us showed up at the Wynn to find a funny little man waiting in the lobby. Leo ain’t one of us, but he seemed to know all about us. He didn’t want to talk much, though. He did say that Chris wasn’t welcome. Something about a choice being made that I wasn’t going to understand for a little bit yet. I tried to argue, but it ended with Chris walking off in a huff. I took a moment to feel sorry for any fool who crossed him before he calmed down. Then Leo handed Ramose and me pins, explaining that they were a way to keep in touch with the folks. Well, explain may be too strong a word. He spends a lot of energy being vague, Leo does.

Right after we got our snappy new jewelry – mine was a skull in a top hat – two fresh faces made the scene. They were introduced to us as Orlanda and Victor. Vic seemed a decent enough guy at the time. Orlanda was a godling of a different color. I’m thinking guts red. She was one creepy chick, and this is coming to you from a daughter of the god of death who keeps zombies in her closet. Then again, I was going to prove my own creep factor a little later.

Leo took us into the meeting room and said that each of our parents would be gracing the Wynn with his presence that evening. Our job, so far as he knew it, was to watch the halls for any oddities that came up, since oddities were part and parcel of the whole “gods walking the earth” package. With that, he bustled away.

Left to chat with our new friends, I discovered why Chris got booted. Vic was also Ares’ son, and it looked like he was his papa’s favorite. Orlanda kept quiet for the most part. I thought I’d prefer her talking, but after she told us who her papa was, I was happy to leave her thoughts in her head. I don’t know a lot about the Aztec gods, but that one story I’d read about Xipe Totec told me that those shivers she was giving me weren’t my imagination.

So, of course, the boys went for a walk around the floor and left me alone with her. Thankfully, that was when the ghosts started showing up. (Who’d have thought I’d ever say that?) Many of them were dressed in well-worn clothes, loose blouses and tunics over equally loose pants and skirts, colors that wished they still was bright. Almost all of them were Black in various shades. Papa’s entourage had preceded him.

(To be continued…)

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Let There Be Light
Something's coming

The Street Lights began a bit before Las Vegas proper on Interstate 15. When they did, each silver bus that came rolling by was a like a strobe into the dark of very early Las Vegas morning. They formed a caravan that stretched for nearly half a mile: buses, trucks, cars, and even a pair of motorcycles. They rolled through the Las Vegas streets at what was, in all likelihood, the quietest part of the day – when even the winos had gone somewhere to sleep it off.

They rolled up in front of the MGM Grand one at a time, depositing their passengers, who poured into the lobby as a human tide. When the third bus pulled up, one man pulled away from the herd to walk to the edge of the receiving area and take a long look up the strip. The glaring lights gave the whole lane an illusion of activity that noise did not support. He could hear the sounds of the various slot machines, some cross between a video game and a circus fanfare, playing in the hotel behind him. A woman walked up behind him and he stuffed his hands in his pockets, his sign to the world of deep thought.

“Jerry, you gonna check in?” She sounded slightly concerned. She needn’t have been: he slept on the bus and now, he felt like he was ready to take on the world. At least, he was ready to take on a part of it.

“Sure, Eliza. Give me a minute. What’s the name of the casino?”

“The Orleans. It’s not on the strip, so we’re less likely to get guff from the Chamber of Commerce.”

“Wouldn’t matter if we did. We’re here to do the lord’s work.”

“Of course, Jerry.”

Meanwhile…

The dry and cracked earth of Nevada is driven ever upwards by geothermal energy within the crust. While Jerry and Eliza discussed the Lord’s work, a trail of electromagnetic energy was flowing through rock, through places such radiation was not supposed to be able to go.

It floated down and caressed some of that geothermal energy. The radiation whispered to the fires of the earth of many things. It whispered promises and it teased. It spoke of the need for light.

Light that had burned the world when it was young responded.

It responded with a scream.

An angry scream.

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Interlude
Cocktails, Ice Cream, and Russian Mafia - Oh My.

Even with Papa's money, I was going to need a better source of income than what I had. It looked like my old employer was giving up on the fortune telling biz, which left me with a problem. Now, I had avoided the Orleans Casino on principle. Its French Quarter façade bothered me in ways I wasn't ready to face and it was a shabby place, at any rate. But I tucked all that away. Couldn't afford pride. I strode in like I owned the place and said I was looking for a job. The fact that they weren't looking to hire a fortune teller didn't bother me none. A few minutes with the hiring manager, Jolene LaSalle, and I had created a position. Had to compromise and serve cocktails, too, but I didn't plan on that lasting too long. In the meantime, I had a paycheck on the way and $1800 to get me by until it came through.

After I paid my rent and assorted bills, I wondered what I ought to do with the $800 left over. Sure, I could open a savings account, but what fun would that be? It happened, as I was thinking about it, that I passed a used car lot, and what did I see there but an old ice cream truck. Now, I don't know why the thing called to me like it did, but it seemed damn funny and I did need an option for zombie transport, since Ramose took it badly when I asked him if they could ride in his Mustang. I talked the saleman down from $2500 to $800, payment in cash.

Of course, I was then the proud owner of a rattling heap of junk worthy of Pimp My Ride. It was cute, but only barely functional. I knew, though, that Ramose liked messing with car guts, so I drove it to his place. He'd be happy for the challenge, no? Well, maybe not happy as such, but he agreed that it might be fixed with the proper funding. For car guts, we talk pretty to Ramose; for money, we smile at Chris. I'll pay him back, eventually. Ramose, too.

We were all of us in need of a night out, so I suggested that we could head on over to the MGM's Studio 54. I'd been there a few times and it was an alright scene. I needed to dance. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Ramose even met a girl. Neither of my boys can dance for crap, but that's okay. They're cute anyway.

Now, I didn't plan on getting into any trouble. For true. But when I saw those Russian boys selling their recreational pharmaceuticals, I couldn't keep my nose out of it. I knew too many girls back in NOLA who fell down that rabbit hole, you know? My first thought was to call my new friend, Jim Sweeny, so I borrowed Ramose's phone. (He gets all huffy when I call it a phone. Prefers "Blackberry." But it's a phone, ain't it? You can call people and all. Anyway.) Jim was happy to come, but he said the casinos don't like it when the cops start trouble. If only he could get the guys outside somehow. Just call me Somehow. I cozied up with the Russians, figured out who was in charge, and flirted my way through the next 20 minutes. Then I needed a smoke and Big Boy was only too happy to come outside with me. Of course, Jimmy ain't the most subtle of men and I nearly got shot. Thank Papa for Chris. Or maybe I should thank Ares. I don't know how this works. Hell with it. Thank Chris for Chris.

So much for a relaxing night. Well, for me. Ramose seems to have enjoyed himself. He turns seven shades of red when I mention that to him, though. Won't talk about that girl, either. Seems he never got himself well and truly used by a tourist before. Silly boy. What happens in Vegas, baby.

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The Book of Big Trouble, Part 2
We know something. Crap.

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.

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Ramose Considers Khonsu
Why A Baboon?

            Ramose meandered aimlessly, taking in the night air and the soft, polluted summer breeze. A plethora of smells were in the air, not the least of which was his own. Ramose had had no idea that the baboon would have stunk quite so much; otherwise, he would have had the foresight to bring along some body spray.

His thoughts drifted back to Khonsu, apparently his assigned teacher and guide, courtesy of good old Dad. The thought of seeing it made him shiver slightly, and yet, there was a small sense of warmth to the old monkey that Ramose only vaguely understood and in no way nourished. He was quite the wealth of information, and this concept of magic and Fate was very intriguing, but dealing with the teacher himself? It was a daunting task. Seeing, talking to, and learning from an ex-God on every full moon was going to be quite the trial.

Thank the Gods it’s only once a month, Ramose thought as he unlocked the door to his apartment. Thank the Gods.

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The Book of Big Trouble, Part 1
When we know something, maybe we can do something.

I guess we all thought maybe we could just go on with our lives. One night of crazy and then back to the real world (plus a few zombies). It was, at least, a nice little fantasy.

Ramose got something off the internet that he said was important enough for us all to get together. And so it was that Chris and I found ourselves sitting in a little coffee shop just off the strip staring blankly at a page full of numbers that Ramose assured us turned into a strange little poem if properly deciphered.  It made not a lick of sense to me, but I took his word for it – even when he went on to tell us that it had to do with a desk that happened to belong to the manager of Caesar's Palace. A desk that had a book hidden away in its guts. A book that was, of course, the end of the world or something.  Great.

I'm sure I should have been surprised when several large gentlemen in suits came in to arrest Ramose. Looking back, I'm alarmed at how unsurprised I was.  They claimed to be from the government, but something was fishy about the whole thing.  I admit, I made a scene. It's what I do best, after all. The gentlemen agreed to take the discussion outside, but I didn't like the way they were leading Ramose along as though they'd already read him his rights. So the scene got just a little bit uglier once we were on the street. After Chris had loaded the unconscious goons into their car, Ramose and I got in with them. Chris followed in his car.

Ramose about wet himself when we got into the car. You know all those highly advanced military control centers you see in the movies? The dashboard was like that in miniature. He didn't have time to mess with it right then; we had places to go. We didn't know where, mind you, we just knew we needed to be somewhere else.

We're new to this, so we should be forgiven for forgetting obvious things, like disarming and tying up our new friends. Not more than a few minutes down the road, I turned to find a pistol in my face. Now, I don't take too well to such things, as my former coworker Cherise could tell you. Buying some time, I kept up a shrill tirade about the man's lack of manners. Damned if he didn't flinch, too.  Maybe his mama used to talk at him like that when he was in trouble. A quick stop by the side of the road and between them Chris and Ramose put the fellow back to sleep. That was when Ramose started fiddling with the car. He was muttering about Mormons. He also found information on a group called Ops Team 7. They looked like bad, bad news. Then, sudden-like, a man was talking to him through the dash. Not just any man, but one I recognized because he'd been asking my customers about me. But I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it, because he said a fond farewell just as the car started ticking a countdown.

Exploding cars belong in movies, not my life. That's all I have to say about that.

We left the goons in a ditch by the road (after Chris saved them from their own stupid car) and went on to regroup at Chris' house. Tired as I was, I was still ready to kick Chris out and move in myself. Damn fine house.  Talking about our situation, with a little bit more research from Ramose, led us to the conclusion that we needed to get to that desk before somebody else did. Not a happy thought, but none of was ready to sit back and wait for the end of the world, no matter how comfy Chris' couch is.

We all just slept there that night.  After an amazing breakfast by Ramose in the morning, I had a chat with my cards. The results didn't make me feel great, but they did leave room for a happy ending. Ramose headed off to the library to try and find us a bit more to go on and, once we'd stopped off at my place for a change of clothes and a prelude to an eviction notice, Chris and I headed over to Caesar's Palace to get a feel for the place.

I'll tell you, I do love walking into a place where they just offer me money on the way in. Well, they offered it to Chris, not to me, but even so. A cute little box of chips on credit let us sit ourselves at the tables to blend for a bit before we tried to get into places we weren't supposed to be. Chris treated me to a peek at the VIP lounge, where Lennox Lewis tried to pick a fight but was distracted by a pretty young thing. Hey, I can bat my eyelashes with the best of them when it's called for.

Of course, then it was time to get to work. Chris and I slipped into the empty arena with the assistance of a friendly security guard. Then I slipped into Chris. Get your mind out of the gutter… I mean I mounted him. That don't help does it? Okay, with the voodoo doll from Papa, I joined Chris in his head.  Then I stayed – bodily – in the arena while he scratched up a meeting with the manager, Dan Reichertz. Through Chris' eyes, I got to see what backstage looks like at a casino. I also got a glimpse of the desk. Not that it meant a lot to me at that point. Needing an excuse to be there, he set up a press conference for the following day.

When we were leaving, Chris handed me the chips for cashing in – so we'd keep up appearances, he said. But then he wanted me to pocket the $3000 he'd won. He hadn't missed the little note from my landlord. He seemed awful confused when I wouldn't take it, but a girl has to have a bit of pride, even if she ain't got much else.

That night I had to go to work. I'd been avoiding using Papa's cards there, because I was afraid of what they might say, but they didn't take that too well. So I set my old cards aside and let the new ones do their thing. Didn't mean I had to actually say what they told, did it?

Turns out, it did. That was one troop of pretty cheerleaders who didn't get quite the fortunes they were expecting. Sometimes the death card means change. I knew that night that it meant death before that girl left Vegas. What I'm gonna do? Follow her around and try to protect her? Didn't end up mattering anyway. But I get ahead of myself.

That night I felt a little rattled, so I put on something pretty and went to start a party in the bar at the MGM Grand. Met a detective by the name of Sweeny there. Nice fellow who told a few interesting things, like there had been some big trouble in the penthouse at the Luxor a couple of weeks back (which I knew, being part of that trouble) but the case didn't make it to the news because it had been handed over to some secretive task force (which I didn't know and didn't like).  I got his phone number, but didn't tell him mine just yet.

The next evening, with new questions about myself but lacking any answers, I swallowed the fear in my mouth and went to the cemetery for a visit with Mr. Lansky and friends. I took some flowers with no real recipient in mind, just figuring that a person ought to bring something when they visit the dead and I hadn't last time. I diced with the undead and won some favors, after which Mr. Lansky and I talked a little about my confusion and I mentioned that Papa hadn't been any help.

"Do you ever call him?" the ghost asked.

"I don't have his number," I chuckled. But then I felt a little chill as I realized something. "Wait," I said," maybe I do."

And so it was that I found myself back at work on a slow night, pouring rum over vévé I'd drawn on the floor with powder and dancing self-consciously. That was the last thing I was gonna remember until dawn.

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Jolie: Reactions
Zombies in the Closet, Ghosts at the Door

 

Little kids are afraid of monsters in the closet. Mommy and Daddy tell them that it's all in their heads. Sleep tight, little one. Trouble is, I know there are monsters in my closet. And my Daddy gave them to me. I've had better days.

In the days after that night, I scanned the news and waited nervously for the police to show up at my door. They never did and the newspapers seem to have conveniently missed a spectacular multiple murder in the penthouse of one of Vegas' most famous hotels. That only made me more nervous. But that actually wasn't as bad as walking past my closet from whence came slight whispering movements and the smell of moist earth. With work closed for clean-up and repairs, I had to keep myself busy. I tried walking the strip, but honestly that gets a girl one too many offers of cash for services I don't sell. I went to the library for information on my Papa. Unfortunately, the public library doesn't have much on Voudoun. It didn't take me long to go through it all.

I was glad for the distraction of Chris' fight. But the way he looked after, like he was frightened of himself, only reminded me of what we all are and what he was really capable of. The comfort chilled a little. Ramose seemed to feel it, too.

The tarot deck almost seems to talk to me, but I can't seem to help carrying it with me. Every now and then, I pull it out and draw a card. It's not been wrong yet, but I can't tell how much of that is my con artist training and how much is real. Am I letting it tell me what I want to see, just like a mark? I've not done a whole reading for anybody but myself since then. I need to soon; the cards want using. I did try the doll a few times. Looking through other people's eyes is disconcerting, but fascinating, too. I had always thought about "mounting the horse" as something gods did to have a chat. Doing it myself feels awful powerful, even though I can't really do anything. But I think, if I just push it a little further, I might be able to. It feels right. I'm afraid to wear the necklace. I keep thinking of that little boy in the movie, seeing dead folks when he least expected to. The only ones so far were in the cemetery and I don't want to invite any more in to chat just yet. Funny how a person can spook the marks for years talking about dead relatives standing right behind them and then be unable to face it when it turns up real.

I started looking for extra work on the side last week. My itty bitty savings is down to enough for a cup of coffee and the rent's coming due. I really need the landlord to not decide on a last minute inspection for spite. Bad enough I had to hide the boys while the police came to talk about the "break-in."

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Adventure 1: As Seen By Ramose

Ramose ruffled his hair lightly, considering the half eaten steak before him. He resisted the momentary urge to slump over into it and fall asleep, instead opting to leave the diner. The Las Vegas air hit him softly as he walked out the door, blowing his coat open slightly. He pulled it closed and made his way down the sidewalk, not really caring where he was going. He was off work, and therefore had nowhere in particular to be.

Over the top of a small building he saw the beacon that was the Luxor hotel, and immediately memories invaded his mind. The events from the week before had changed him. He remembered feeling unlike a person, feeling unreal. The feeling of unreality had only grown since then. He almost felt as if his brain had doubled in size, and his coding skills had suddenly become nearly extraordinary.

Passing the Luxor, he turned left onto a small side road. Again, memories invaded; he was only a couple blocks from the alley he had been chased down by the harpies. He halted momentarily, considering again the harpies. He was reminded of his feeling of utter uselessness in all of the fights, and his pathetic flee from the harpies. He shook his head slowly, and continued walking. A sense of depression washed over him as the moonlight did. Looking back now, he had done nothing but provide the getaway car and the code to shut down the program running the processors. Every fight that the trio had been through had been led exclusively by Christos.

He considered momentarily the possibility of the harpies returning to try again, and he immediately wrapped his coat tighter in a vain attempt to feel secure. Without Christos, he couldn't do anything to those things. He could run, but even that was bound to get him into trouble, as it very nearly had in the tiger pit. He released his grip on his coat a bit, realizing he had been gripping it so hard it had ripped at the seam slightly. He sighed and continued down the road, passing rows of apartment buildings on the way up to his.

His concentration kept switching vaguely between where he was going and who he was, the latter surfacing a lot more often. He glanced up at the sky, his gaze wandering until it found the moon. He wondered whether his father was watching him, wondering if he understood his feelings at all. He smiled and chuckled a bit, remembering a small clip he had made a while back when he was still experimenting with Ambient music. It was only about a minute in length, and the harmony was off a bit, but the Egyptian theme behind it was clear. He had entitled it 'Thoth', and a great many of his internet buddies had loved it. as he unlocked his front door, Ramose considered whether that was coincidence or not. Probably, he thought, absently dropping his keys on the dining room table. He switched on the light and nervously glanced around, half expecting to find Seth waiting for him. For some reason he was unable to explain, Seth had worried him more than the harpies, more than the giant. He felt at the same time both a fear and a hatred for the mysterious figure.

It was something about his cane… he had sudden inspiration, and sat down to make a Google search. He had only a vague idea of what he was looking for, but somehow ended up on the Wikipedia article on Set. The ancient Egyptian God of the desert. He was the one God in the Egyptian pantheon that was associated with evil. Or should that say 'is'? Ramose wondered absently. He remembered Seth calling the giant a 'setite'. He knew that suffix was generally attributed to religion, and therefore came to the conclusion that some people did still worship the Egyptian pantheon. His thoughts left that subject vaguely, trailing off as he ran through his e-mail from the past few days. Scrolling through, he found an e-mail from his friend Roger. The subject stuck true to AOL chat form, using about six pairs of exclamation points and question marks. The e-mail even began with the sentence 'what the hell happened' in all caps. Ramose smiled a bit and sighed. He felt really bad about lying to Roger about something he could just as easily have told him. It was better than letting him come to a conclusion that involved asylums and drugs, however. So Ramose slowly began putting down the same lie he had told the police; he hadn't seen who did it, just ran blindly away.

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