Daniel and Blair had pretty much concluded their research at the Apache reservation and had decided to hitch hike to Las Vegas. They half convinced themselves that the Nevada State University had a fairly good library on Indian legends, and that the town itself was an interesting 'phenomena', from an academic point of view, of course, since neither one of them was old enough to gamble or get into the casinos.
Hitchhiking saved money. Money could be used for other things. They both had let their beards grow, or at least Blair had a pretty good growth on his chin after a day or two, Daniel's beard tended to come in little whispy growths of blond hair, but he had a fair moustache after a week. They both agreed that they looked older, maybe even 21 older.
JP gave them a ride to the main road and from there they got a ride about halfway to Vegas, and from then on their luck deteriorated. The few cars that passed them didn't even slow for two young scruffy men with backpacks. They spent two hours walking down the dusty road discussing important issues.
"So, how come a talking mouse can own a dog that doesn't talk?" Daniel asked. This discussion had started with the sighting of a roadrunner, which led to Wiley Coyote, and then on to other cartoon characters.
"The real question is that of ownership of one animal by another." Blair opined.
"Are you questioning the humanity of the animal or the animalism of humanity?" Daniel countered.
The conversation would have continued indefinitely if a dusty pickup hadn't passed them and them stopped and backed up.
"You fellers lookin' to go to Vegas?" A scruffy guy with a matchstick in his mouth leaned out the passenger side of the window.
"That's right." Daniel volunteered. The gun rack in the back was none too reassuring, and neither was the passenger and driver, but this was the first ride they had been offered in an hour.
"Jest sling yur bags in the back, we be a bit crowded, but taint a problem fer two more to fit in." The driver added and spat professionally out of the rolled down window. He grinned showing a mouthful of tobacco stained teeth.
Daniel and Blair looked at each other, despite wanting a ride, they weren't fools.
"Okay if we sit in the back?" Blair pointed to the bed of the pickup.
The passenger of the truck looked at the driver and shrugged. "Shore boys, hop in."
Daniel and Blair tossed their backpacks into the truck. Daniel put one hand on the side of the truck and the driver raced the motor and the truck gave a lurch forwards.
"Sorry boys, the clutch slipped." the driver laughed. But when Daniel put his hand on the truck it lurched forwards again. The two men laughed.
"Oohh crap." Blair said under his breath. He then plastered a big grin on his face and raised his hands in mock surrender. Daniel put his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels and turned his head casually as if admiring the dusty road. "They have our bags." He said with his head turned from the truck.
"Yes. And we got to get them back." Blair smiled and said through his teeth, not breaking his smile. He got as far as a light hand on the back of the pick-up. "Wow. You guys got us all right. Hey! When we get to Vegas let us buy you a beer." He grinned infectiously.
Mr. Scruff grinned back, only his grin revealed broken dirty teeth and he had an evil glint in his eye. "That's kind of you boys. But I'm guessin' you are too young to be buyin' beers. So, me and Clint here 'll just take care of your money for you."
"Look man, take the money, but leave us our backpacks. We got important study notes and...clean socks."
Daniel was edging closer to the truck and his hand was just inches from his precious backpack when the driver hit the accelerator and the truck went weaving up the road with the occupants laughing uproariously.
Without thinking, Blair stooped and scooped up a rock and threw it. It flew with uncanny accuracy and broke one of the tail lights. The truck skidded to a halt and backed up with a squeal of rubber on asphalt. Daniel and Blair exchanged startled glances and then took off running.
"This...reminds...me...of...high school." Daniel panted.
"Get the geek...hammer the nerd..."Blair shot back.
"Heck no. Track and field."
"Summafabitch...!" The shout was accompanied by the sound of a shell being chambered into a shotgun. "Ya busted ma light!" Buckshot chased across the heels of the fleeing young men.
Blair dropped like a stone. Daniel skid to a halt and knelt next to his friend. Blood was welling up from his head and starting to cascade through his thick curly hair.
"You shot him! What did you do that for?" This was followed by a quick spate of Arabic that would have made a camel drop dead from sheer horror.
"What the..." Scruff exclaimed. "Gimme that gun, git their money. Quick!"
"Am...I ...dead?" whispered Blair.
"Almost...killed him!" Daniel exclaimed and leaned over Blair. "Quiet! "he hissed, "we are getting our stuff back."
"...kay..." Blair closed his eyes obediently. His head hurt. He'd been shot.
A backpack sailed over to where Daniel was crouched over Blair. He opened it and fished out a shirt (none too clean, but it would do) to staunch the flow of blood pouring into the dusty road and dribbling towards the desert.
A second backpack soon followed with papers drifting out of the top. Daniel scrambled to save the important research notes as Scruff and his buddy Triggerhappy hopped back into their truck and sped off into the heat haze.
"Well, we got our stuff back." Daniel said philosophically.
Blair sat up gingerly. "I got shot." He took the shirt from his head and then pressed it back on the still bleeding wound. "They could at least have driven me to a hospital." he whined a little, after all he got shot.
Daniel snorted and muttered some bad language in ancient Sumerian that would wither a cactus. He slung both backpacks on his shoulder and hauled Blair to his feet.
"Whoa. Head rush." Blair panted, but stayed more or less upright with decided 30 degree list to the port side.
Daniel peered down the road. "Here comes a car. Stay here and flag it down." He then sprinted for the side of the road leaving Blair in the middle of the road still listing to port.
The purr of a powerful and well tuned engine announced the arrival of the pink Cadillac convertible circa 1963. The driver and her companion exchanged glances, slowed and eased the behemoth to the side of the road.
Listing, Blair staggered toward them "I've been shot," he said in a conversational tone and hung himself over the door of the car and smiled engagingly, which might have impressed the two hot chicks in the car if he hadn't been dripping blood on the white leather upholstery.
"So it seems." The dark haired driver had her hair in two pigtails, but the spiked dog collar and the spider tattoo on her neck screamed Goth. "You are bleeding on my car."
Blair staggered back a step and executed a bow which would have been gallant under other circumstances but only served to render him unconscious on the roadside.
"Blair, you idiot." Daniel exclaimed in disgust. "I said stop the car, not bleed on it."
The driver turned off the motor and stepped out of the car. She was dressed from head to toe in black, even her army boots were black. She stepped gingerly over Blair who was already peering up blearily from the ground.
"Hi!" She shook Daniels hand vigorously. "I'm Abby and that is Penelope." She pointed over her shoulder to her friend who was already cooing over the semi-conscious Blair.
Blair tried to focus on her face but was distracted by the soft pillowing breasts that were pouring out of her skimpy orange top which clashed with her dyed orange hair. All his wishes were granted when she pulled him to her ample bosum and patted him soothingly on his back. "Oh poor baby," she cooed.
"I've died and gone to heaven." Blair cooed back. "I should get shot everyday."
"Actually," Abby interrupted the saccharine scene. "The evidence suggests that you were not shot, but hit by a ricocheted rock, otherwise you would be dead."
"How can you be so sure?" Daniel asked.
"We study..." Abby started to say.
"We are HomeEc majors." Penelope cut in brightly peering at Daniel through rhinestone studded glasses.
Abby glanced at Penelope uncertainly and then continued brightly, "You wouldn't believe what we have to study these days."
"We have to get this poor boy to a hospital." Penelope lifted him easily to his feet. She was easily three inches taller than him. "I'm wearing heels." she apologized.
"S'allright by me." Blair lisped into her two delightful assets. He was soon ensconced in the back seat with the delightful Penelope.
Daniel sat in the front seat next to Abby. The backpacks were safely stowed under his feet, just in case these two Red Riding Hoods were really wolves.
"So, what are you boys doing out here in the middle of nowhere?"
"We are doing important research." Blair spoke up from the backseat.
"Yep, us guys are Forestry majors." Daniel deepened his voice a trifle to underline that he and Blair were adults.
"Ooo. Manly." Abby smiled. "And where is your flannel shirt?"
"It's in the backpack, of course." Daniel explained.
Abby glanced at the backpack and smiled, "Of course it is." She noticed the University of Illinois, Chicago sticker on the backpack, since when did they have a forestry department she wondered.
"Look." Abby pointed at a billboard saying 'Las Vegas Home of the Stars- Only 20 miles'.
"Uh huh." Daniel eyes jittered from the sign to the small parking sticker on the windscreen. Since when do HomeEc majors park at MIT?