Vegas in Red: Ring of Fire9
The casino was noisy. Raucous. The constant clatter of the slot machines was only matched by the rising crescendo of voices and the sloshing of drinks. The noise penetrated to the back where a modest eatery was established. The rodeo theme dominated here as it did in the casino. Booths were decorated like the Wild West, saddles on the walls. Cowboy hats along the chairs. The menus printed on old-time paper and the food bearing colorful names like Buffalo Bill's Burger and Calamity Jane's Jubilee fries.
John shook his head at the excess. Sat at a booth, waiting for Moira. He waved the waitress away yet again, not ready to order except for the Coke he sipped from a long, red straw. He glanced round. There weren't many people back here. Most were in the front, too busy gambling to stop to eat. The noise would cover any conversation they had.
He glanced at his watch. Sighed. Wondered if she was being deliberately late or was held up by some meeting somewhere. Some science thing. He debated whether or not to call her on the phone when he finally spotted her making her way back towards him. She appeared flustered, as if in a rush. He smiled, sat back lazily. Silently watched her sit across from him. She set a briefcase on the seat next to her.
Moira brushed back stray strands of hair from her face. Grabbed a menu and perused it, ordering a Coke as the waitress appeared suddenly at the table. She looked up, meeting his gaze. "What? You had to choose an out of the way place across town, didn't you? "
"If that's an apology for being late, it's accepted."
"Funny. Let's order, all right? I don't have time to dawdle."
He snorted. "Okay, Moira. I don't either. We found its lair."
"Its what?" She paused as the waitress returned. Set her drink on the table, eyes all the while on John as he sprawled in the booth. She rolled her eyes, causing him to smirk. To sit up straight and order a burger, fries. She did the same. Waited until the waitress had left. "That's what your question was about? The human contamination of the lair?"
"You answered it."
"Then why am I here now?"
"Because I asked you to lunch. And I need a follow-up."
She sighed. "I don't see why." She leaned forward on the table, arms folded on the cool surface. "John, this isn't an animal so I don't see why you need my input. I mean, it's not human either and you know how human criminals think but it is closer to being human than being an animal assuming it is a Wraith. That is your assumption, correct?" He nodded. "Okay, then. Why don't you get your secret government friends to look into this since it is their field?"
"Tried. They don't believe me."
"Oh? That's why I need you, Moira. You're all I've got in the way of back-up. Carson and Evan too, if they'll come along for the ride. You're the lynchpin, Moira. The glue to hold us all together. You see?"
"No, I don't. All you need to do is show them the al…the proof," she corrected as the waitress returned with their food. She sat back as the plates were set on the table. "Then they'll be aboard. Simple, John."
"Not so simple, Moira. Thanks." He watched the waitress leave. Eyed Moira. "Let's eat."
She shook her head as he lifted the burger. Took a big bite. She began to eat hers.
They ate in silence. The sounds of the casino filtering in to them. Drowning conversation, the scattered voices around them. Finally Moira sipped her Coke, sat back as did John. She ate a few stray fries. Shook her head again. "No."
"It won't return to that lair. You were right. Now that it's been discovered it will find a new hiding place."
"Until the next attack, if there is one…and I'm betting there will be one."
"Probably," she agreed. Shrugged. "What are you going to do? If you can't convince, what's his name? McKay, and the rest you'll be on your own, John."
"I know. Except I have you, right. And the others since I have you. Trouble is I can't predict where or when that thing will strike."
"Nor can I. And you don't have me. I'm leaving, remember." She checked her watch. "In fact I need to get home now to pack and get ready. Can you give me a lift?"
He stared at her. "You're serious?"
"Yes! I've been telling you and telling you!" She sighed, scooted the empty plates aside. Leaned forward again. "John, we don't know the first thing about these, these creatures. How they act, what they want, how they think…but your government friends do. You'll have to convince them that there is another Wraith out there. Before someone else gets killed. They'll know how to track it, right?"
John was staring at her. "And if they don't listen to me? What then? I need you here, Moira. Working with me. I can cover the human aspects of this thing. You cover the insect ones. McKay told me it can't be a Wraith because they don't feed that way, don't kill that way. But you saw the savagery. The strength. No animal could do that. No human either."
"Then something must be wrong with it. Maybe it is injured, or mentally unstable."
"Are you saying it's insane? Is that possible?"
"Any sentient being can go insane, John. And from what I've gleamed so far these things might have a hive mentality. Now, say this one is injured, terribly injured to the point it can't feed normally, plus being cut off from all of its kind. Alone, stranded on an alien planet. What would it do? What would you do, John? When it's thinking rationally, and when it's not? When it's acting on animalistic impulses or more human concerns? That's how you'll catch it."
He smiled, pointed at her. "That's why you are on my team, Moira."
She stood. "I'm not on your team. Let's go. Can you give me a lift back to my place? Oh, what's my half of—"
"I've got this." He opened his wallet, following her out of the booth. "Okay, I'll give you a lift, Moira, because you were a good girl this time. Now I want you to be a very naughty one."
"Funny, John. Let's go!"
John parked outside the house. Moira was already opening the door. "Thanks, John, for the late lunch and all. I have to get packed and get my papers in order plus set up someone to watch the house while I'm gone and—"
"Wait!" He caught her arm, stopping her. "You're really leaving, then? In the middle of a fucking case you're leaving?"
She met his irate gaze. "Yes. I leave for Mongolia tomorrow morning. And it's your case, not mine." She freed her arm, got out of the car. She quickly walked up to the house.
"Shit." John got out of his car. "Moira!" He strode after her. She was unlocking the door. He caught her arms, spun her round to face him. The keys jangled in the lock. He pushed her gently against the door. "And this is how you were going to tell me?"
She touched his chest as he stepped closer to her. "I've been telling you, John. You just haven't been listening to me. Nothing's changed. I still need this job, the money."
"Nothing's changed? Thanks, Moira. You really know how to make a guy feel special."
"Oh come on, John! Don't pretend that this is more than it is!"
"And what is this, exactly?"
She couldn't answer. Wasn't able to answer, to admit things one way or the other. She turned away from him to open the door. He yanked her back against him. Pressing her to his body. Arms encircling her waist.
"You can't answer, can you? Shall I?"
She squirmed, turned to him. "You…you…"
He kissed her. A long, deep kiss. Kept kissing her. Fingers gliding down as he pushed her against the door. Undoing her pants, undoing his. Moira eagerly returned his kisses, yanking at his belt, unzipping his pants as he tugged at her pants, her panties. She caught hold of him, but freed him suddenly.
"Why am I about to fuck you out here, then, if this isn't something?"
"I—" She whirled, opened the door. Yanked him into the house. He followed on her heels, kicked the door shut as she turned to him. Flung herself into his arms, kissing him hard.
John woke. He sat. Rubbed his eyes. Morning light was streaming through the lilac curtains. He realized where he was. Moira's house. Moira's bedroom. Moira's bed. He was naked. He smiled, recalling the passion, the sex. She had tried to awaken him but he had ignored her. "Moira?" He looked round. "Moira!" Listened. Realized. Saw her suitcase was gone.
Realized she was gone.
Realized he was alone.