Nick had never had such a hard time getting a carpet to cut. It was as if this one was trying to help conceal evidence. Nick leaned back for a short break and then leaned in, making jabbing cuts along the outline.
Nick paused to look up. Another officer had been sent to stand guard outside the room while Nick worked. He was holding his radio’s speaker/mic to his ear, likely listening to dispatch.
He let the mic go. “Your supervisor is trying to reach you but your phone is off.”
“Oh!” Nick had forgotten he’d turned off his phone. When the phone finished booting, the icon at the top indicated he had 20 voicemails and 60 texts from Russell. Nick dialed Russell.
“You are at the Bellagio?” were the first words out of Russell’s mouth.
“Well, yeah. There’s a—”
“I gave that call to Greg. Why are you there?”
“I traded with Greg.”
“Without telling me?”
“It’s okay, D.B. We just traded, but the calls are—”
“Why was your phone turned off?”
“I had my hands full; it kept ringing and distracting me from questioning a witness, so I had to turn it off. I just forgot to turn it back on. I’m sorry.” Nick sat back on his legs. “Greg should have been to that scene by now, or called dispatch for directions.”
“He hasn’t done either and the officer at the scene realized he gave the wrong road number, but he can’t recall if he gave 112 or 211, when it should have been 121. So I called Sara who told me that Morgan had her call, Greg had Morgan’s call, and I have been trying to get a hold of both you and Greg for two hours now!”
“Dispatch should have the address he gave. I’ll give them a call and—”
“I already thought of that. The officer radioed it in so there is no recording, and the dispatcher who took it left for France when her shift ended three hours ago. We won’t be able to reach her for another six hours, not that she can be any help from France! And no one has heard from Greg since I handed out the calls.”
Nick stood up and grimaced. His legs tingled as blood flow returned to normal.
“He isn’t answering his phone?”
“No, Nick. Did you give him any of your other calls without telling me?”
“You only gave us each one.”
“At this rate I wasn’t sure you hadn’t been handing others off to him.” Nick had to bite his tongue from snapping a retort, and listened to Russell add, “Finish that crime scene and get back here. We have to find Greg.”
Nick looked at the screen to make sure Russell had hung up, before telling his boss, “Thanks for the faith.”
He turned to look out the balcony doors at Las Vegas, but the city offered no advice about the situation. So he went back to work on the stubborn carpet, pausing every give minutes to call Greg.
All he kept getting was Greg’s cheerful voicemail recording and a deeper sense of dread.
Greg opened his eyes and for what felt like hours stared at the tree shading him from the hot, late afternoon sun. He didn’t have to move to know he was sore everywhere, especially his head. He slowly sat up and carefully felt his head. He found a bloody patch on the back but it didn’t feel life threatening. Judging from the small spot on the rock behind him, he didn’t feel he had much to worry about. He looked up the side of the gulch he’d fallen in. The side was about thirteen or fourteen feet and it ran out of sight in both directions. Greg climbed to his feet and waited for a wave of dizziness passed.
He started to move when he felt pain and realized he still had thousands of cacti thorns stuck in him. He pulled as many out as he could and then walked up to the gulch wall. Preceding a long breath, he began climbing.
He didn’t know how long the climb took but he reached the top winded, dirty, and dripping with sweat. Greg stood up at the top, staring at the house and outer buildings. They were much further away than he remembered running. Behind the buildings, black smoke billowed into the blue sky. With his breath caught, and his legs feeling a little less rubbery from the climb, Greg started walking.
He reached the first outer building – a lean-to – and stopped. Holes had punched through the walls of the building and blood had run under the boards to dimples in the ground, creating little chokeberry red pools. Greg hugged the wall and paused before looking around the end. He slowly stepped out into the yard.
The parents laid dead on the porch was dead. Their daughter Theresa was dead in the middle of the yard. Justin and two of his gang lay dead in the yard. Greg’s Denali and the car were the source of the black smoke, both engulfed in flames. He briefly wondered which vehicle had started the fire. He could see at least two bodies in the car, but the flames were too intense to check for more.
Greg looked back when he heard a snort. Two pigs were rummaging through the trough; the other eight were dead from various bullet wounds. Judging from the two pig’s wounds, it wasn’t going to be long before they joined the other dead pigs.
“I wasn’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Greg muttered under his breath. “I somehow ended up in hell’s half acre of the wrong place at the wrong time!”
He walked around the burning cars, looking for any signs of life – and a vehicle. In the corral by the barn, the only animal left alive was a Palomino. It had a bleeding wound down its leg, but it looked like it was just a scrape. The horse watched Greg with intense interest.
Greg walked into the barn and found two sheep alive, along with a plethora of tack and a tractor. There were no keys in the tractor, not that he’d know how to drive it if there had been. He walked to the garage near the house. He found a car in it with all the windows shot out and full of holes, but the keys were in the ignition. He climbed in and tried to start it, but the ignition wouldn’t turn over. He got out and opened the hood. The battery was in pieces and the acid had already begun to work through the metal around it.
Greg left the building and searched the other five buildings. He found most of the chickens were alive, one dog hiding under the porch, but no vehicle. He tried the back door and found it unlocked. He went in and searched for a phone, only to discover there was no phone. He couldn’t even find cell phones.
“Who in the hell lives in the middle of nowhere without a phone?” Greg asked the empty house.
He went back outside and sat on the back steps in the shade, within sight of the corral. He looked up when the horse whinnied. It pawed the ground and nodded its head at him.
“Do you have a phone?” Greg asked it.
It whinnied back.
“I bet you’re hungry, huh?”
It pawed the ground.
Greg walked back to the barn and found a grain sack with a coffee can in it. He fed the sheep and took another can out to the corral. He spotted a trough that he dumped the grain. The horse went to work on the grain. Greg went back to the stairs and sat down. He looked across the valley with a forlorn sigh. He wasn’t about to hike out into the desert. His last trek across the desert nearly killed him.
Greg looked back at the horse. He did have a horse this time, but since he didn’t like horses, he had never ridden one. His opinion of them was they were big, smelly creatures that only crazy people rode. Greg sighed again, looking across the desert.
Morgan walked off the elevator into the halls of the lab and stopped. She didn’t see anyone in any lab. Finlay brushed past her, engrossed in a stack of pages.
“The State Patrol finds some interesting stuff along the roads.”
“We’re the only ones here,” Morgan said.
Finlay looked up and stopped.
“This is like the beginning of the zombie apocalypse,” Morgan almost whispered.
Finlay laughed. “I’m sure there’s a better reason everyone is gone. Come on.”
They found Henry and several other lab techs in the break room. There were maps spread out across the room, and most of the people were on laptops or talking on cell phones. The two approached Henry.
“What’s going on?” Finlay asked.
“D.B. thinks something has happened to Greg. He left at around eleven last night for his call at the Bellagio but no one can find him now.”
Finlay lifted her wrist to check the time when she heard Morgan almost whisper, “No he’s not.” She turned and the two women stared at each other.
Morgan headed for the door. “Gotta get this evidence—”
Finlay caught up to her, blocking her before she could leave the room.
“You never did tell me why we had Sara’s call, and now you can tell me how you know Greg was not at the Bellagio.
Morgan bit down on her lip, looking at the floor.
“Morgan,” Finlay said in a warning tone.
“Tonight we… We might have, maybe played…” Morgan trailed off.
“Call Roulette? D.B allows that here? He didn’t allow it in Seattle.”
Morgan hesitated, telling Finlay everything she needed to know about her questions.
“And who all played?” Finlay asked.
“Me, Greg, Nick, and Sara, but… We’ve played it before.”
“That is not where that but was going. But what?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing.”
“It is something. What happened, Morgan?”
“Well… Uhm… Greg, he… He wasn’t going to… Play.”
Finlay didn’t like the direction of this story. “Then why did he?
“We, may have, possibly, talked him into it.”
“You mean pressured him into it?”
“He did play, though.”
Finlay shook her head in disapproval, making the Morgan look even guiltier. “Go start working our case,” Finlay ordered.
“But I have to help look for Greg,” Morgan almost whined.
“Okay,” Finlay said with a smug smile. “I’ll go get started on our case and you can tell D.B. how you, Sara, and Nick pressured Greg into playing a game with the calls that you shouldn’t have been playing in the first place, and you knew it. I’m sure he wouldn’t at all be inclined to suspend, or fire you, on the spot.”
“How would you telling him make that any better?”
“He’ll have to get up and come find you, giving him time to calm down some, and when he finds you diligently working the case, he’ll be less inclined to fire you.
Morgan considered the options. She grabbed the papers from Finlay. “I’ll get to work on our case.” She hurried off.Finlay turned back to Henry. “Where is D.B.?”