(Late Friday Night - Outside The Dive)
There’s a crowd outside The Dive. It’s not unusual to find a handful of people making their farewells or grabbing a smoke - something forbidden inside the bar, as they offer food, even if it’s nuked nachos and greasy burgers. But tonight is different. A newsprint banner hangs in the window, bearing the message EVERYTHING MUST GO, and there are price tags hung on some of the bar’s furnishings. Not actual ‘Table w/ 4 Chairs, $50’ tags, but harshly mocking ones specifying body parts or first-born sons.
“Lya!” calls the owner. “How’d the show go? Hope you had more fun than this fucking disaster zone.” That’s morose, even for Cyndi.
“Want something? It’s on the house,” she says. “Fucking bastards.”
“What happened? The health department riding your ass again?”
“Worse,” Cyndi snorts. “Lost the lease. We’re getting evicted.”
“Evicted?” you ask.
“Yeah. But it’s not just me,” she says solemnly. “Sorry, girl.”
“No. Oh, no. They didn’t,” you say.
You make your way up the stairs to your apartment. It’s not the glamorous abode of a rock star, but it’s a place to hang your hat. It’s home. Or was. There’s forbidding red tape across it, with a shiny new padlock next to an eviction notice ...
“Fuck me...” Lya mutters as she takes two of the safety pins off her jacket. “They think this is the first time I’ve had to break into my own home?” she says to herself as she crouches to inspect the padlock. She runs her hand through her hair and pulls her cell phone out of her pocket. “Klepto? Yeah it’s me... looks like that lying bastard moves fast. Do me a favor and bring the van, would you? Looks like I’m moving again...thanks.”
She puts the phone back in her pocket and takes a deep breath before focusing on the lock with her safety pins. After a few moments there’s a satisfying click before she breathes out and smiles. “At least hanging with those assholes was good for something,” She pulls town the red tape with a swipe of her hand and opens the door to find clothes strewn all over, drawers hanging open, and empty bottles and cans all over the floor along with overfilled ashtrays and broken CD cases.
“Well... at least they didn’t mess with my room,” Lya chuckles. “Better grab what’s important.”
She bends down and pulls a dusty olive green dufflebag out from under her bed before grabbing her pillow, a toothbrush, her make-up kit, a handful of clothes off the floor, and a photo of her and Hitoshi when she first moved in with him. She then unfolds her ratty old bloodstained hideaway couch that smells of dog piss and beer (left that way on purpose after she found it on the curb to dissuade the curious) to reveal not a mattress, but a storage compartment where she pulls out her amp, guitar, and microphone stand.
There’s a knock of the door and Lya turns around to see Klepto leaning against the doorjam. “Damn, girl... did they take anything?”
“Nah... nothing important, anyway,” Lya replies.
“Looks like they could’ve destroyed the place and you’ve been out...what... twenty bucks?”
Lya laughs as she spreads her arms. “The joys of living without material attachments!”
“Hey, Toxic has the van downstairs...” says Orithia as she walks up behind Klepto. “You need a hand with anything?”
“Just got the bag and the instruments, really. We’re not heading out yet, though... I can’t just leave Cyndi in the lurch like that. This wasn’t just our home, you know?”
“What are you thinking, Lya?” asks Klepto curiously as they grab her things and she proceeds to re-lock her apartment.
“How do you guys feel about a little fundraiser?”
“After that little drinking contest with Alex?” Toxic rolls her eyes. “I’m not as think as you drunk I am, ocifer. Fuck, yeah.”
“Sure. The problem is never being drunk, it’s sobering up in the morning,” Orithia laughs. “Let’s do it.”
“Yo, Cyndi... I think we’ll take you up on those beers now,” Lya calls out as she sets down her gear and they grab some of the seats left at the bar.
Cyndi chuckles as she opens the cooler. “Well that didn’t take long...”
“Hey, it’s me!” Lya replies with a wink. “Nothing I haven’t been through before... but I hate the fact that they’re putting all of you guys out too. That kind of crap just won’t stand with me, ya know?”
Cyndi shakes her head and chuckles weakly as she passes out 5 beers from the tap. “I don’t know if we can save this place, Lya... it really is a dump. It was only a matter of time before they condemned the place.”
“Yeah, that may be the case... but we can still help you and all the other people who lived and worked here,” Lya replies. “It’s not right that you’re all getting kicked to the curb like that.”
“We don’t forget our friends,” Klepto adds.
“And we don’t let our sisters suffer when something can be done about it,” Toxic finishes as the others nod.
“All right then...” Cyndi replies as she pours herself her own beer. “What do you all have in mind?”
“I say we have a little fundraiser concert...a party to end all parties so the Dive can live on in infamy, and everyone getting kicked out can have enough money to be able to move on without having to worry where their next meal or night’s sleep is going to be,” Lya replies with a grin. “I mean what are they going to do... close the place down?”
“Toga...toga...toga...toga...” the Furies begin to chant...
“I think they want to tear it down, redevelop the lot and put some tony apartments in,” Cyndi frowned. “At least, that’s the vibe I got off the smarmy shithead that delivered the good news around 11PM.”
“Weasely little fucker, thin face, swept-back black hair, fancy suit?” Lya asked.
“Yeah, that’s him. Fancy edu-ma-cation kinda guy, lots of five-dollar words,” Cyndi said. “You’ve seen him before?”
“He was at the performance,” Toxic says. It might not be entirely true, but he was there afterwards, and had implied he was responsible for siccing Wolfgang or whatever it was on Hitoshi.
“Even more reason to throw this party, I say. That weasel-faced fuck seems to have it out for a lot of my friends because I didn’t want to be a part of his ‘hostile takeover’, Cyndi... and I’m really sorry he involved you guys. ” Lya sighs before taking a long drink of her beer. “We’re going to throw a party that’ll guarantee nobody ever forgets the Dive... and that’ll get you and everyone else here a chance to get out of Vegas before the shit really hits the fan.”
She finishes her beer. “Cyndi, if you can make sure that everybody that lived upstairs has safely cleared out by Saturday, we’re going to make a few calls and get the ball rolling on this.”
She turns to the Furies. “I figure since this is a charity event, maybe Hitoshi’s company wouldn’t mind donating so they can have a tax write-off next year.”
“Especially since the show won’t be anywhere near the casino,” Phoebe laughs.
“What about...you know? ” asks Orithia in a whisper.
“I wonder if Officer Evie knows anyone in the Gang Crimes Bureau?” Lya replies. “If not I’m sure they’d love an anonymous tip on their hotline letting them know the Lobos are starting shit for no reason.”
“Well, the party’s over after closing,” Cyndi frowned. “Mister Smarm said he’d be gracious and allow us to stay through closing. Otherwise, everything - at least, anything we want to keep - has to be out tomorrow.”
“Damn... well I guess we need to work quick, then!” Lya exclaimed in surprise. “Ok girls, gather round so I can catch you all on the phone, because it’s time to use the best advertising there is: the Internet.”
The Furies scoot closer together at the bar while Cyndi hops up on the bar behind them and Lya stands in front of them all with her phone as she activates her webcam.
“Hey there my furious friends, Lya and the Furies and my good friend Cyndi are all here at the Dive and it’s time to get angry because yours truly just found out that some rat-faced company man is closing down the Dive for good tonight to make way for some...ew... get this... condos! ”
(Toxic and the others wave at the camera)
I say fuck that shit! If they’re going to tear down our home then we’re going to make sure the memories of this place will outlive any piece of crap condos by having the party to end all parties... the concert that everybody will remember... Lya’s Baccchanal!
(the Furies cheer behind her cheer and start chanting toga...toga...toga...)
That’s right... we’re talking a toga party, people... with enough wine, women and song that even the Gods will take notice! So rip up those sheets and grab a few bucks because we’re not going to leave our own out on the streets, no matter what THE MAN says!”
“We stand up for each other!” exclaims Orithia.
“We fight for each other!” exclaims Toxic.
“And we play like there’s no tomorrow,” finishes Lya. “So be here with us tonight as the Dive goes down for the count, but its spirit lives on! Eua!”
“Eua!” the others roar as Lya turns off the camera and starts posting it to everything from Youtube, Facebook, and every other social site she can think of.
“There... that should be a good start. Cyndi, if you can make some signs for outside and start spreading word with the customers, we’ve got to go get our gear, make some flyers, and talk to some people. We’ll be back soon!”
Lya swipes open her phone and gives Hitoshi a call while they all pile into their van and Klepto takes the wheel.
“Hitoshi! Lya... was wondering if we could meet, because I’ve got a business proposition for you. No... it’s nothing illegal, I swear... more like our Mr. Lying Bastard fucking with my friends. We’re holding an impromptu charity concert for The Dive since that bastard pulled the lease and is closing the place down. Maybe we could meet for coffee?”
Lya rolls her eyes as laughing is heard over the line. “Yeah, you heard me... it’s going to be a long night so I figured I could use the extra boost. I’ll have them drop me off over at the MadHouse and I’ll meet you there to explain the rest.”
“So what’s the plan?” Klepto asks as she watches the road.
“I’m going to leave the van with you guys so you all can take care of the flyers,” Lya replies as she fishes out a wad of cash from her wallet. “Here’s $100 so that should be plenty to get them printed out and you guys can spread the word around town.”
“You’ll be ok by yourself?” asks Phoebe.
“Hitoshi will be there eventually, and I’m hoping our Officer Evie might have a moment as well.”
“Well they do serve some fantastic doughnuts there,” Orithia says with a giggle.
“Hey now... she’s good people,” Lya admonishes as they pull in to the parking lot for the MadHouse Coffee House. She opens the door but looks back for a moment. “You’re right, though... the doughnuts are choice!” she winks and hops out to close the van door. “If things go south, I know where to find you,” she says as she taps the door and watches the van leave before she walks towards the entrance and pulls out her phone again.
“Officer Cartwright! Ok...Evie... wasn’t sure if I should call you something else when you’re on duty or not,” Lya chuckles. “Would you have a moment to share a cup of coffee and some important discussion between friends? It seems our mutual acquaintance from last night is moving fast and I’m going to need your help.” she opens the door to the cafe and walks in to the smells of coffee and warm baked goods. “Awesome... I’ll see you when you can get here.”
Hitoshi sighs as he climbs into his mustang, and takes off across town for the coffee house. He pulls up about fifteen minutes later, and after finding a place to park he walks inside and sits down, running a hand through his hair.
“So Lya, whats the Situation, and how can I help?”
“Some goofy guy in New Jersey who thinks he’s a TV star,” Lya jokes before taking a sip of her double-espresso white chocolate latte. “Seems Lyman has his eye on real estate... specifically the lot where the Dive and my home used to be.”
“Used?” Hitoshi asks with a raised eyebrow as he sits back.
“Yup... as of tomorrow morning the Dive is no more, because Lyman has plans on leveling the whole place to turn it into some condos,” Lya sighs. “I can’t just let everyone get kicked out on the street with no jobs or no homes like that... especially because it’s my fault for telling him to fuck off.”
“Hence the proposition you said you have?“”
“Exactly. The Furies and I are going to throw a bacchanal the likes this town has never seen so we can raise some money to help all the innocent people being effected by this. A regular toga party, Hitoshi... it’ll be fab! I’ve broadcast the news over the internet and the girls are putting up flyers as we speak... I just figured your company might want to do some charity work so they can write it off on their taxes next year, you know?”
Hitoshi frowns. “Excuse me Lya, I need to go make a phone call.” He stands and walks outside, dialing up James on his phone.
“James, it’s Hitoshi. We’ve got a problem. Someone beat us to the Dive bar and the apartments above and around it, only their plan isn’t to rescue the area. All the tenants received eviction notices tonight, including Lya and the Furies. Bastard plans on building high class expensive condos. Any way we can stone wall this bastard and get the eviction overturned?”
“It is possible,” said James. “I will inquire as to the eviction process as well as construction permits for the planned condominiums. If they are not ready to begin construction, then I believe the evictions could be contested as premature.”
“We have contacts at the City Planning Commission from when the Westview added the new parking structure,” he added. “However, we do nothave a friendly judge to hand.”
Evie pulls up to the shop in her old Camry, quickly finding a place to park. Seeing Hitoshi standing outside, his phone to his ear, she gives him a silent nod and smile as greeting before moving on in to find Lya.
She slides chair opposite Lya, a frown already firmly in place, “This can’t be legal. In fact, I’m pretty positive that it’s not. As I recall, eviction notices have to be given at least...30 days, I think?...prior. This isn’t my area of expertise, but I think there are laws are in place to make it difficult for building owners to simply eject people without giving them ample time to either correct whatever is wrong or find a new place to live.”
“Was anyone notified beforehand that these buildings were to be leveled? ’Cause, as slimy as Mr. Lyman is, he isn’t a Vogon. He can’t plow over everything all willy-nilly,” she drums her fingers on the table. “Have you called Alex to ask him? He’s probably more well-versed in these laws than I am.”
“Considering this a-hole has money and power I didn’t think I should even bother, honestly,” Lya replies with a shrug. “This might be Alex’s bag though... a regular David & Goliath story he might sink his teeth into. I’ll call him next. The main reason I called you though Evie is that there’s a good chance the Lobos will try and pull something.” she sips her coffee and grins. “So I figured a nice anonymous tip to the gang task force might be in order.”
Alex dropped onto his living room sofa with a handful of mail that was quickly sorted, bills on the side table, ads and catalogs into the trash. Back to the bedroom, where he laid out clothes for the next day. Lights out.
His smartphone rang, the screen casting its bluish glow on the ceiling. He glanced at it, saw that it was a call from Lya. He was awake at once, a trick he’d learned in the Army.
“Hey, Lya. I didn’t do something silly like leave my credit card on the table, did I?” he joked.
“If that was the case I’d be inviting you to drink a bottle of Vieille Bon Secours Ale with me,” Lya chuckles. “But as it is it’s just coffee... and a little conversation about real estate law involving our mutual acquaintance Mr. Lyman. I’ve got a charity concert in the works tonight to help the people being effected, but I’m going to need your assistance on the legal side, my friend. Think you can join us at the MadHouse?”
“Yeah, give me about twenty minutes,” he said, already donning jeans, a faded Army t-shirt, and a set of desert combat boots.
The plus side of the late-night meeting at the MadHouse was that it was just as the first offerings of the night’s baking were coming out of the oven. College students and locals all knew it was one of the best times to hit the place. He stopped at the front counter for coffee and a cinnamon roll before joining Lya and the others.
Evie nods and gives Lya a fierce smile, “I do believe Mr. Lyman may be making a mistake with this. If he wants to play in the legal ring, that’s fine...but it is the legal ring. Just because he’s got money and power doesn’t mean that he can do anything he pleases.”
“Unless...” here, the detective pauses and leans back in her chair, stifling a yawn. “This is just a diversion to draw our attention elsewhere. He knows that Alex and I are both officers and that we’d rally to your cause. He’s got to know that, unless this was something in the works weeks in advance, we’d be able to at least delay him. I wonder if he’s got something else up his sleeve.”
“As far as the tip, absolutely! I can call that in. I don’t know the head of the department personally, but I do have their number. What time were you going to have the concert?” Evie asks.
After she gets a few details from Lya, she calls up HQ.
“Hey, Jimmy. This is Evie. Can you put me through to Garcia? Thanks,” there is a pause as she waits for the call to transfer. “Hey, this is Detective Cartwright. I got an anonymous tip, this evening, that there may be gangs that might want to cause some trouble.”
“Yeah, so here’s what’s happening: earlier this evening there was a hit over at Westview Grand and then trouble at a concert there. Now, the band who was playing (and whose concert was interrupted) come home to find out that they are being evicted. They are going to have a fundraising concert, tonight at The Dive, so that folks can at least have a hotel room to stay in and not be on the street in the morning. There is some concern that gang activity may happen in this instance, considering the way the evening has been going for them, so far.”
“Now, I don’t know if it will or won’t, but it sounds like an opportunity for something to happen. And, if you have anyone that likes punk music...can’t hurt to have someone there, ya know?”
“I’ve read enough comic books to know that Loki is full of diversions,” Lya agrees. “Thanks for the assist, Evie. I’d say share the word about the concert with your brother, but I don’t know if anything dangerous might be going down and I don’t want him to get hurt.”
“So what do you think, Alex... could it be that this guy isn’t just trying to stick it to me by closing down the bar and evicting everyone? What if he’s already 2 steps ahead of us and knew we’d be having this very conversation because I’d need legal help?”
Lya sips her coffee in thought. “I tell you... if you’ve got anything else important going on right now, I’d double check and think twice about everything. When the gods are involved, nothing is coincidence.”
“Oh, you mean like the District Attorney wanting to offer me a job?” Alex said. “Any filings or legal consultations will be at the family-and-friends price.” He took a sip of his coffee.
“So, first off, there are several different kinds of eviction orders,” he explained. “Nuisance orders are essentially fix-it-or-else orders. Then there’s the full eviction for non-payment of rent, safety hazards, and so on. Once the notice has gone by, there’s a secondary period of one to two weeks before you can show up and toss people out, and the landlord is obligated to store tenants’ belongings for thirty days.”
“The problem is, even if the notice was improperly served, it’s binding until a judge can rule otherwise, and that will be on Monday morning,” Alex said. “If the landlord doesn’t check to see that the order is being contested, and doesn’t show up in court, it will most likely get vacated. Which brings us back to your point. Why do this now? Is it forcing you to move somewhere or do something that they can benefit from?”
“We need to find a friendly Judge. Hold on, I have Alex North with us, I will see what he has to say on the issue. I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Thanks James,” Hitoshi says as he ends the call and slides his phone back in his pocket before heading back inside.
“My contact says that if the construction is not ready to begin, the evictions may be premature. He’s got contacts at the City Planning Commission, but we don’t have a friendly Judge.”
“Unfortunately the people would still be shit out of luck while it was tied up in a legal battle,” Lya sighs.
“You’ve got me, Alex,” Lya replies with a shrug. “Sure it’s annoying, but it’s nothing I haven’t been through before. Besides, I can fit everything I own in my van. I figured it was to keep me busy so I can’t look into what he’s really doing somewhere else. Because really... The Dive? Sure it was home... but it really is a dump.”
She takes a bite of a cruller and chews for a moment. “If I was more into computers instead of music, I’d say we should see if we can track any other business dealings this guy is into right now to see where he might really be focusing his attention. Like they say in the movies... ‘follow the money.’ If there’s something that he’s doing that doesn’t involve one of us in some way, chances are it might lead us to his actual plans, you know?′ Hey Hitoshi... you’re the one with the business contacts... do you have someone you can trust who could look into that angle?”
“Yea, I can see if James knows anyone who can look into those dealings. He may be looking into it as we speak as a while bundle deal for us.” He signals the waitress. “Miss, I’d like an Iced Chai Tea Latte please. Thanks.”
“Hmm. This is the kind of stuff the late Armand Roget would do,” Alex mused. “And Roget had my half-brother buried under his building. I haven’t found out if Roget had left anything behind, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find Lyman or some other puppet benefiting.”
“I’m not sure there needs to be a Big Plan,” he adds. “But you told him ‘no’ to his weaselly little face. Hitoshi, as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just to push us around a bit. You’ve been evicted, even if it’s temporary. The Lobosstarted a fight at the casino. I’ve been shot twice. Evie, I’d wonder what surprise he has in store for you.”
“I wouldn’t put it past Lymann to go after anyone’s family either, so figure out a way to keep those you love safe.” Hitoshi replies as he looks out at the bright lights of the strip reflected against the night sky.
“Everyone in my family is on the East Coast,” Alex said. “Lya, even if Lyman owns the building and has plans to demolish it, the eviction notices were improperly served, and I can at least buy some time for you and the other tenants to relocate.”
“Look, I wasn’t going to bring this up, but James and I had a plan to buy the Dive and the Apartments around it and fix them all up for those living there. We were only a week away from laying out the proposal. That area of town is a piece of Vegas history. Alex, is there any way we can appeal to the Vegas Historical Society to put in a motion to preserve the buildings as historical landmarks?” Hitoshi pays the waitress for his Latte and takes a long sip. He coughs. “Damn that’s got some sugar in it.”
Lya coughs as she sets down her coffee. “The Dive a historical landmark? I’ve got to tell Cyndi that one. Unfortunately everyone is getting kicked out tonight, so as nice a thought as that is, unless you’ve got some judges you all can wake up in the middle of the night I’m not sure it’s going to help in time, Hitoshi. Not to mention that these people lived in a dump because that was all they could afford. I think they’d be better served if your company wanted to donate towards the charity fund.”
“Well that will keep everyone from having to do some late-night relocation, so I appreciate it Alex,” Lya replies with a smile. “Really, thanks to all of you for helping. You’re all more family to me than my mom ever was, and dad... well...” she takes her flask out of her coat and discretely pours a little into her coffee, “I’d like to think he appreciates what I do, but I know in the end I’m just one on a long list of results from his one night stands over the ages.”
She takes a sip of her coffee. “Ah! That’s the stuff!” Her phone rattles against the table as it vibrates and she looks down to read a text on her screen. “Looks like the girls have done what they could to plaster posters around town and they’re headed back this way. I need to get back to the Dive so we can prep the stage for tonight.”
“So... am I going to get to see you guys in togas tonight?” she grins slyly. “I’m sure it’ll look better on you all than horned helmets and fur... or in Hitoshi’s case horned helmets and lamellar.”
“Not sure the apartments would qualify,” Alex said. “But I’ll call Max Bayer over at the Planning Commission and follow up on who owns the lot and if any plans for new construction have been submitted. The thing about lies, good lies, is the mileage they get because they’re believable.”
“It doesn’t matter that the eviction order was filed improperly. Lyman may not even own the building. No one questioned the lie because it’s a run down apartment complex and a seedy bar.
“It’s the same bullshit he was trying to sell you, Lya. Join the Dark Side, and the people don’t matter,” Alex frowned. “It’s a convenient lie. You decide in favor of new, shiny developments and condos, of ‘progress’ and you don’t notice what you’re being asked to throw under the bus.”
“Well people are going to notice tonight if I have anything to say about it, because we’re not going down without a very loud fight,” Lya replies.
“I just wish I knew what his deal was. Is he just gathering friends and money and waiting for Ragnarok, or is he doing something more... non-conventional to make sure he comes out on top?”
A van pulls up outside and honks as Orithia waves out the window.
“Well there’s my ride, guys... I hope you all stop by to catch the action!” she stands up and grabs her coat. “Seriously... togas,” she winks as she leaves.
Evie sighs and leans back in her seat at Hitoshi’s words. It’s true. She wouldn’t at all put it past Lyman to go after people’s families and, unfortunately in this particular case, all of her immediate family lives in Vegas or nearby towns. She has extended family in other states, but...doesn’t everyone? A knot of fear and worry forms in her gut. How can she convince them to leave for a bit without coming off as batshit insane?
When Lya asks if they are coming, Evie nods, “I’ll be there. I can’t promise a toga, though! Undignified, you know. I only show up to these things with my spear and magic helmet.” She gives her new friend a tired grin. She may be ready for bed, but she’s not about to let Lya and the others be there without backup.
“As long as it doesn’t involve getting shot and fighting Einjehar, I’m game,” Alex chuckles. “Not sure about the toga, though.”
Hitoshi raises an eyebrow. “And what in the heck is an Einjehar?”
“Your friend from the dance floor,” Alex explains. “It’s a warrior summoned from Valhalla to fight. So they’re generally tough bastards who go all-in, because they have no fear of dying. Which is why the police don’t have a body ... and you don’t have to worry about a mess at the casino.”
“Huh. Thought he was on a little more than PCP. Even the PCP nut jobs stop attacking after a point. So umm excuse my little knowledge of your Pantheon, but if they Come from Valhalla, then shouldn’t Loki and his children NOT have access to them because you know, he’s a bad guy, and all around asshole? Sounds like someone up there dropped the ball.” Hitoshi clearly has an annoyed look on his face, and tone in his voice.
“There’s generally more than one side in a war,” Alex says. “The warriors of Vahalla come from both sides. Nothing matters but courage. Loyalty. Honor. You don’t have to be Nordic, you don’t have to worship the All-Father, you don’t have to be on the winning side.”
“And I don’t know how to summon one, so I don’t know if it would be forbidden to Loki and his kids. But if someone could exploit a loophole, it’d be them. They’re more slippery than a shady lawyer, and I’ve seen more than a few.”
’Huh. Me thinks that those rules of Valhalla should be changed, but then I’m Japanese, Not Nordic, and you won’t see me there when I die.” Hitoshi shrugs and continues to drink his Latte.
“That’s a shame,” Evie muses. “You guys are good friends. I’d hate to think that, after we bite the big one, that we wouldn’t get to hang out and share stories in the afterlife.”
She smiles, wanders over to the counter and orders up a coffee, “Load that sucker up with sugar, please.”
Sitting back down at the table, she continues, “Maybe there’s an afterlife visitation program!” She chuckles.
“I’m not even sure we qualify. Not because we’re lacking in courage or valor, but ... we’re the children of the gods,” Alex said. “I mean, I didn’t know I could take a bullet until two days ago. So ... are we becoming more powerful, somehow? Maybe it’s tied up with this whole war-of-the-gods thing. Nature abhors a vacuum and all that.”
“We must be. As far as I can tell, Dad didn’t tap me until it was absolutely necessary. I have a feeling that had this war continued to stew in the background, I’d still be merrily traipsing along, clueless,” she thinks for a second. “The enemy is upping the game. So, our side has to step up, as well.”
“I suppose a set of instructions would be too easy,” Alex smiled. “Do we grow into a lesser version of our parents? Or is it like any human kid, you grow up to be what you want to be? I mean, to be honest, when Lyman threw out that barb about being like my old man, I was serious about beating the tar out of him. I had no doubt in my mind about my ability to do so.”
“I suppose it’s like any other kid. You grow up to be what you want to be, but you have genetics that predispose you towards one thing or another. I could see, though, how having divine genes might override the human genes,” she shrugs. “Or, maybe the human genes temper and filter the divine genes. Maybe a bit of both. But, heck...I’m looking at something that may well be magical through a scientific lens, and that may not work at all.”
Evie muses, a thoughtful expression on her face, “Now, that would be something to research. I wonder if anyone in the Human Genome Project is a scion and if they’ve done any research on it? That would be neat to read!”
“WIth our luck, it’d be someone from Lyman’s side of the fence, trying to muddy the waters ... or even find a way to ‘turn it off’,” Alex said. “Or, maybe the whole point of interbreeding with humans was to capitalize on some trait the gods lack. Empathy. Creativity. Whatever.”
“We should ask Lya, later, and get her input.”
Hitoshi finshes off his Latte and stands. “Well, We’ve done all we can here. I’m heading home, I have that board meeting tomorrow.” He nods. “Have a good night you two, and remember, be careful.” With that said he pays his bill, and heads out to his vehicle, heading home from there.
(Saturday Afternoon - Alex Meets Dist. Attorney Clemens)
The Las Vegas Country Club was an oasis in the middle of the city itself, featuring a full golf course, a half-dozen tennis courts, and a five-star restaurant. He knew the District Attorney well enough to favor dress casual – essentially a jacket and dress shirt sans tie. Clemens, of course, would be fresh off the links, wearing designer golf apparel, looking like a male fashion model, rather than the DA. Still, Clemens had parlayed his ready smile and camera-ready good looks into a solid political career.
“Alex!” Clemens called from the panoramic glass doors leading out onto the concourse. “Good to see you.”
“So this is the infamous Alex North,” said a woman as she walked up beside the District Attorney. “Our table is ready, Christopher.”
“Alex, this is Sunny.”
“Soleil Hunter,” the woman said, offering Alex a firm handshake. She was Clemens’ rival in eye-catching appeal, dressed in a silk sheath dress of pale green that came down to mid-thigh, with a pair of matching espadrilles. Long blonde hair cascaded down to her shoulders, and crystal blue eyes challenged those who dared to meet them.
“One of my best prosecutors. I imagine she’d even give you a run for your money,” Clemens laughed.
“So I’ve heard. A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Hunter.”
“Soleil. Or Sunny,” she smiled. “We’re not in court.”
“Shall we?” Clemens motioned towards the grill. “Something to drink, Alex?”
“Ice water is fine.”
Clemens nodded at one of the waiters. A tall glass was presented as Alex took his seat. “Good afternoon, Mr. Clemens; Ms. Hunter; Mr. North,” the waiter greeted them. “The specials today are a flame-broiled Rainbow Trout with grilled asparagus drizzled with balsamic vinegar; and a ceviche salad with a basil vinaigrette.”
“The ceviche salad, please,” said Soleil.
“Steak sandwich, with the onion strings,” Clemens added. “Medium-rare.”
“I’ll have the trout,” Alex said. “Soleil, are you from Vegas? Where did you go to school?”
“California,” Soleil replied. “Hastings Law School. Had some offers from good firms, but an opportunity to be ADA? I was on the next flight out.”
Clemens was the typical Ivy League golden boy, a Harvard graduate. He regaled Soleil Hunter with the story of Alex’s chopper being shot down.
“I’m impressed. Not many mort- men could survive a three-day hike across hostile ground,” she said, then added quickly, “I’m sorry, is this a touchy subject?”
Alex waved it off. “A little, but it’s okay. We just lost some good men that day.” Mortals, Alex noted. A slip, Ms. Hunter? Or are you another piece on the board and you want me to know it?
“I understand,” Soleil said. She flashed her charming smile again. “Chris had also said you took on the NYPD in a wrongful death suit?”
“That was several years ago,” Alex said.
“It’s why he has a reputation for protecting the innocent,” Chris smiled. “The media loves that kind of zeal. The Vernon case? They couldn’t sing his praises loud enough. We can use someone like that in our house. What do you say, Alex? Pay’s better, benefits package, 401K, we can even expedite a concealed carry permit.”
Hunter followed up with a dazzling smile. “Don’t just sit there. Say yes.”
Alex stared blankly for a second, as if any reasons he had to turn the offer down had evaporated in the warmth of Soleil’s smile. He took a sip of water, looked out the picture window as he marshalled his thoughts.
“Chris, it’s a tempting offer,” Alex shook his head. “But you understand that if it comes to a point where I have to choose between my job and seeing justice fairly done, I’ll walk.”
“Look, I’ll be the first to admit my last term was pretty rocky,” Clemens allowed. “We were like every other shop in the country, backlogged like crazy, roster full of second-string counsel, short on people who could handle lead. Sunny came in and helped set the pace. We’re current, we’ve brought the right people up, let go one or two who weren’t working out. We’re lean and mean.”
“Take him up to $85K,” Hunter said.
“If it’ll close the deal, sure,” Clemens agreed readily. “There it is, Alex. $85K. That’s more than commensurate with your experience.”
“We need someone like you on the team, Alex,” Soleil said, looking directly into his eyes. “Tell us you’ll at least consider it.”
Alex could feel the persuasive force of Soleil Hunter’s personality, and understood why Clemens had brought her along. She’d be someone who could upend your case with a compelling close, and leave you wondering how and where you’d dropped the ball. Or, if she was a Scion, did her gifts run towards dazzling men with her fashion model looks? What was the old saying? Keep your friends close, and your enemies, closer.
“I’ll have to see what’s on my desk,” Alex said. “I don’t think I have anything headed to trial. If I do, I’ll want to see it through.”
“Excellent. Get back to me on that as soon as you can, so I can make the announcement.”
“You know the newsies will be more interested in the attempted drive-by,” Alex warned.
“We’ll make it clear we’re not taking any questions on the subject,” Clemens smiled. “So. Welcome to the team. It’ll open a few doors for you, make some new friends I think you’ll find worthwhile.”
The lunch meeting concluded with a handshake from Clemens and a kiss on the cheek from Soleil Hunter. The understanding was that he would spend the next week closing down his private practice, and join the District Attorney’s office the week after.
The manager caught him on the way out. “Mr. North? Mr. Clemens has informed me that you are now with the District Attorney’s office. This comes with membership and full privileges. So, here is your membership packet and ID card, and welcome to the Las Vegas Country Club.”
“Thank you,” Alex said automatically. He glanced through the packet, which contained a printed copy of the membership agreement, a series of cards showing the various amenities, and an embossed membership card bearing his name.
He drove back home, still feeling uncomfortable about accepting the job offer. It was hard to not see it as a bribe, a move by the enemy to diminish the influence of his dedication to protecting the innocent. Better pay, improved financial security, perks like country club membership ...
... and less autonomy. Less of a connection to the real world, the human world. But right now, it wasn’t anything he couldn’t walk away from. Something else would happen, something to set the hook and reel the fish in. Perhaps a case, perhaps working more closely with Soleil Hunter. She was already familiar with his past, and Alex imagined she knew a bit more than what she’d learned from Chris Clemens.
Her credentials would check out, of course. They had to. That didn’t mean there hadn’t been some behind-the-scenes string pulling. Alex would have to find out who else had been on the short list for Hunter’s job. Also, who had left the office, and who else was new.
Alex knew he could clear his desk in one day. He had no matters going to trial, and the remainder were issues that would be remedied by a formal letter. He’d miss his old office space, of course - the furnishings, books, and decorative items would go into storage. Except, perhaps, for the engraved drinking horn he’d picked up at a Renaissance Faire - to remind any enemies within reach who they were dealing with.
The rest of the time would be spent chasing down former employees.