The Profane Series: Medium Rare: Chapter 2a
May 2012 – Searchlight, NV – Vector
This early in the morning, when the light had not quite begun to rise over the curve of the desert hills, the temperature on his phone read a number that some would not have found fault with: a balmy 75° F. Vector’s gut, however, told him it was a prelude for a scorcher. The day was going to be hot as balls and miserable; made worse so by their destination.
He gripped the armrest on his seat on the plane with white knuckles, swallowing against the sensation of nausea threatening to get a rise out of him. Three years and he still hadn’t gotten the hang of flying around in these little Cessna CitationJet puddle jumpers.
Across the narrow aisle, Special Agent Henderson gave him a long angled look. Ostensibly, the man was assigned as his partner, but he’d never felt like anything other than a handler. The resident wolf wrangler.
Vector frowned at him and turned to watch their approach on Searchlight. The airport hadn’t been in operation for six years, but that wasn’t going to stop the FBI. What was one more strip of abandoned concrete in the Mojave desert to the men in black suit?
He slipped a finger under the collar of his own starched white shirt, wishing that he could shed it for a cotton tee or anything, really, other than an actual suit.
“You’re not going to hurl, are you?” Henderson asked in a suspicious tone.
“No, I am not going to ‘hurl’ as you so colorfully put it, agent.”
“I’m just asking because I don’t want to scrub it out of fucking white leather seats.”
Vector pinched the bridge of his nose and held onto the armrest even tighter as the little jet swooped down towards the hot tarmac. It made it worse to keep his eyes closed, so he forced himself to watch the dark line of buildings that made up Searchlight’s abandoned airport.
Deep breaths, blank thoughts, the carefully constructed zen which he clung to rather than pay attention to Henderson’s derisive suspicion, and then they were touching down with a serious of jumps and jolts before the rubber wheels caught the edge of the earth.
Vector slipped on his dress shoes, wedging his long toes into the black leather chelsea boots under the hemmed cuffs of his pants, and grabbed his suit jacket. He’d let Henderson and the other agents deal with the baggage. He wasn’t there to be a pack mule.
In deference to his soft stomach, they’d finally let him take the first row seat, left side, and he was the first one off the plane in each city, disembarking on shaky legs.
He was a wolf. Wolves were built to keep four paws on the ground. The dirt under them and the sky very very far above them. It was unnatural to spend this much time flying from one little town on the tip of America to the next. And it inevitably left him discomfited. More than just the airsickness, the travel messed with his head, turned him around until he had a hard time distinguishing up from down, east from west.
Vector found the sun rising in the sky and squinted into the glare, soaking up the feel of solid earth under his four hundred dollar shoes, the bone dry air on his cheeks, and the natural warmth on his eyelids.
He stood there for a long minute and tasted the air, the dust, the hint of wind that did nothing to break the heat as it rolled past sunrise into mid-morning. They’d been chasing that sunrise for the past hour.
Henderson kicked up a cloud of dust behind him, not going so far as to touch Vector, but still managing to project an air of extreme dissatisfaction with their hold-up.
The man was a master at looming. So much so that some days, Vector wondered if the agent was part sheep dog and he a sheep, rather than a wolf.
“We’re burning daylight,” the man grumbled. He carried their duffle bags, one in each hand. He was flanked by the three other agents that had traveled with them, two of them reassigned from the Denver Bureau and the third guy joining them from the Las Vegas office. Vector wasn’t sure why they needed the extra muscle, heaven knew Nevada saw enough murders, drugs, gang shootings, and prostitutes in a regular day to make a couple of skeletons in the desert, over fifty miles from the nearest multibillion dollar casino resort, pale in comparison.
And he didn’t think he was likely to get an explanation anytime soon either. No one ever told him anything, and two of the new agents hadn’t so much as said a word since introducing themselves. And the other guy, while chatty, clammed up whenever Vector so much as glanced at him, smelling sickly of sweat and All Spice working triple time to keep the man from sweating through the underarms and lower back of his shirt.
“It’s your show, Henderson,” Vector murmured. He flicked a glance over the four men as they walked past him, single file, hauling their luggage. The wolf slung his jacket over his forearm and followed them at a slow clip, dragging the heals of his boots in the dust, unwilling to let his feet leave the earth too soon again.
He couldn’t taste much other than dust and decay on the wind as they made their way to the two sherif’s SUVs parked at the edge of the airstrip. A deputy in khaki browns tipped his tasseled hat at them and introduced himself as Deputy Roberts. He pointed to the man sitting behind the wheel of the other vehicle.
“And that there’s Deputy Quinetha. Didn’t expect to see so many of you boys down here in little old Searchlight,” Roberts said with a narrow expression.
Vector let Henderson do the talking as they climbed into the SUVs and began the forty-five minute into the desert where what passed for the sherif’s crime scene unit had set up a tent over their objective.
He did better sitting in cars than planes, as long as he sat in the passenger’s seat. No one at the Bureau had let him get behind the wheel in eight months. Not since New Jersey and the Hudson River.
“Something funny, Agent Clanahan?” Roberts’s voice broke into Vector’s thoughts.
He blinked, slow dark eyes at the other man and watched the deputy’s heartbeat speed up under the collar of his shirt, rabbit fast, the way anyone with a well developed prey sense responded when they came face to face with a werewolf. Didn’t matter if they knew what he was. If they had a shred of self-preservation, that was enough to kick in the fight-or-flight instinct.
“Not at all,” Vector replied in a soft voice.