In Nothing, Nevada…..
“One man rules around here- Dr. Lucien. He lives in that big house up on the hill thar,” the old timer pointed out. John Crawford had been in town only 24 hours and he was already bored. His first initiative was look for a library, records hall, something. But, he couldn’t find a single outlet which these things would be kept. So he started asking around town:
“Records? you mean music, right?” said Donna, the waitress at the Rusty Saloon (actually not a saloon but a greasy spoon). Light auburn hair with the blonde dye running out of it. Apparently she has a thing with Slow Joe, the cook.
“I’m not sure where those archives are in Nothing; perhaps the mayor could tell you,” Slow Joe, a robust 400 pound cook who’s not so slow and moves around the kitchen like a ballerina balancing 6 plates
“Who wants to know about what? I’ve got all the info you need,” Terry Brookshaw, pencil thin moustache, brown as a pancake, he often wears an “Alamo- Never Forget” hat.
“What’s that bird looking at?” some man who wouldn’t tell me his name. A large vulture seemed to be following me around town the last couple hours. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.
“You need to see the Mayor, he’ll tell you what you want to know. But, if you want to drink, you need to come see me,” spoke a white pony-tailed man with a flak vest on. “And, I like the hairstyle,” he added, noting my own long hair, pulled back.
“Well, just so happens, I could use a drink,” John said. He followed the old man outside to a table and held out his hand for a shake the Old man responded, as John introduced himself.
“Rush Heller, but you can call me Rush,” he said.
“I would call you Rush; that’s your first name,” John responded and Rush motioned for some drinks. A pretty young blonde, spindly and growing into herself took their order; two whiskey sours. As she was headed back inside the bar, a tattooed young punk in a striped shirt grabbed her by the arm. John sat straight as the couple had words; she looked at John and took the matter inside. Rush held his hand up.
“Whoa, partner, you stiffened like a bloodhound. Not every fight is yours. Now, what did you aim to see the Mayor about? What are you huntin’ for?” John heard a commotion inside, followed by the young man’s brusque exit. He peered at John , then scuffled on down the street. John walked over the saloon doors and saw the young girl picking herself up off the ground, and some pieces of broken glass. John went in to assist. Tears were swelled in the corners of her eyes.
“You okay miss?” John asked quietly.
She nodded, ” Yeah, fine. Just dropped a glass.” She took the shards back to the bar and John saw her picking up his drinks on her tray. He walked over and handed her a 20 dollar bill and took the 2 glasses himself.
“Keep the change if you tell me your name, ” he said.
“Wanda, and yours?” she retorted quickly, her blue eyes blinking rapidly, soaking up the moisture that had settled there.
“John, i’m new to town. If there’s anything I can do for you, just ask, and I’ll do my best,” he said. She nodded solemnly, so he put his hand on her wrist gently and repeated, “seriously, I can help.”
“The tip was very nice, thank you,” and moved off to another table.
John sat back down and drank with Rush for another couple hours, but nothing of substance was said. Nobody seemed to talk about much in Nothing, and no one seemed willing to part with any information. John walked to his hotel down the street and let the quiet glow of the street lamps bathe him. He still had a hard time believing this was where he’d grown up, or at least been born. He didn’t feel any kind of connection to this place, not a single memory or emotion. He noticed Wanda walking past a street in front of him and behind her, close enough to follow but not close enough for him to be with her was the tattooed guy from earlier. What was he up to? John wondered. Not every fight is yours, Rush had told him, but John knew and seen enough to know some fights need to be fought, whether they’re yours or not. He crept slowly down the sidewalk trying to stay hidden so as not to be spotted as Wanda turned a corner. So did her pursuer. As John followed behind, the young man had closed the distance on Wanda and had a hold of her again. John could make out what he was saying now as he crept near bushes, only 10 feet away now. He’d snuck up on a panther in Africa before; it was something of an acquired skill.
“You shouldn’t have left me Wanda, it was a big mistake. Now make it up to me!” He yelled at her, then started undoing his belt buckle. She slapped him and before he could retaliate, John was on him. He snatched the guy’s hand and spun him around and flipped his arm up under him, not breaking anything but holding him at John’s mercy. The guy yelped and dug into his pocket. John tried to move back towards a wall of a building beside them in case he was going for a weapon but his instincts were a bit slow. A loud bang erupted and smoke danced away from the man’s jacket pocket John felt himself snap the kids’ arm and he bellowed in pain.
“John, oh my god, what happened/” Wanda yelled. John expected to see his own guts, his own blood in front of him. But, his stomach, was like rock. Pieces of rock were sitting at his feet. He examined his stomach, where the bullet would have traveled but saw nothing but a strange hole only an inch or so deep where his skin should be; but instead it was granite, like the wall behind him. The wall he was touching. He backed away and suddenly a sharp pain caught him in the stomach. He looked down and saw blood now. Then, red and blue lights. John suddenly felt woozy and then nothing.
John woke up in a hospital bed. He had a huge bandage across his stomach and Rush was sitting in a chair next to him with a paper and a lemonade.
“What happened?” John asked.
“Well, you saved a girl from being attacked most likely. You broke a kid’s arm and you got shot , apparently.”
“Yeah, that all sounds familiar,” he said. John noticed two sets of flowers by the table- one small and one large bouquet.
“Who sent these?”
“Well, that small daisy is from Wanda, and the large, deluxe basket is from up on Tuley Hill,” Rush added.
“Tuley Hill? What is that?”
“That’s the Mayor’s house.” Rush pointed out John’s window and sure enough, a massive grassless hill wound it’s way up the edge of town and set atop it was a dark mansion, looked to be chiseled from the side of a cliff.
Inside that very mansion, in the sub-basement…..
A man in a dark suit walked down a hallway with one lightbulb hung over a bank of lockers embedded in the wall. He swiped an ID card next to it and punched in a 6 digit code. A click was heard. He opened up one of the lockers (618) and took out a large key. He fit the key into a door next to the lockers and walked in. As soon as he entered, he took off his dark jacket and set it on a chair. Against the far wall of the room was a metal cross; strapped to it was a man in his boxer-briefs and an undershirt. The man turned a knob and the cross rotated so the man was now horizontal, hanging from the cross, with rough leather straps holding both hands and feet In place. The man walked over to a table and selected a large steel pair of pliers and walked over to the man hung from the cross. He applied the pliers to the man’s nose and made a fist.