Outside, Boone settled into his sniper's wait. His patience was almost infinite, but on this particular night it took him slightly longer than usual to get into his zone. On the other hand, Vulpes Inculta was a field soldier, and not quite so good at waiting in such situations.
"Goddamnit, quit fidgeting," Boone finally snapped in a whisper. "What the hell's wrong with you?"
"I am unused to this form of warfare," Vulpes replied. "Caesar's Legion preferred direct conflict to skulking in the shadows."
"Could have fooled me."
In hushed voices they argued tactics for several hours before lapsing into silence again. Vulpes quickly became cagey again; he had no clock, but it had to be almost dawn, and Edie had yet to return. Boone turned and glared at him.
"She's taking too long," Vulpes said.
The sniper thought of how long he had waited outside The Tops before she emerged wearing Benny's checkered suit. He hadn't asked for any details, but he had a pretty good idea of how she got it… and without any blood on it, too.
"This is nothing," he said. "But why do you care?"
"I love her," the former legionary admitted.
"You doubt me?" He snarled, sounding very much like the animal from which he took his name.
"Yeah, I do." In his mind's eye, Boone could see the sniper's nest above Cottonwood Cove, but could not bring himself to look further. "You people from the Legion can't understand the concept of love."
Before Vulpes could retaliate, a form appeared in the distance. Boone looked through his scope and relaxed. "It's her."
By and by, Edie materialized, somewhat rumpled but unhurt.
"What happened?" Boone asked.
"I don't know how the son-of-a-bitch is still alive. His left foot is gangrenous. He's survived this long by taking numerous healing powders and just drinking Bitter Drink. Takes care of the pain, for the most part, and keeps him from running a fever, but he can't do that forever." She looked at Vulpes. "He doesn't happen to have a heart condition, by any chance?"
"Not that I am aware of."
"Pity. All we'd have to do then was slip him a Psycho, and he'd have a heart attack."
Boone and Vulpes looked at each other again.
"Let's discuss this somewhere else," Edie said. "I'm dropping."
The Dino Dee-Lite Motel was as good a place as any to crash for awhile. The small group congregated in Edie's room; she sat on the bed, Vulpes on the ruined couch, and Boone at the small table. She had a bottle of booze, which both men were abstaining from, though Boone had a cigarette. Edie had a long swallow of whiskey and resumed the discussion about Lanius.
After a while they decided to strategize after getting a few hours' sleep. Boone went downstairs to his old room, leaving Edie and Vulpes alone.
"What is the matter with your friend?" Vulpes Inculta asked.
"He lost his wife and unborn child to the Legion," she answered carefully. "That can embitter a person."
"Such things are not uncommon during war."
"True, but imagine you were too far away to stab Antonius when he attacked me. Imagine I couldn't fight him off."
Edie stuck her head in the wardrobe and pulled out a man's dress shirt and some underclothes. She changed swiftly, barely revealing any of her alabaster skin.
"You can sleep on the bed if you want," she said, lying down. "But this isn't a sexual invitation."
He didn't reply but got in beside her and was soon fast asleep. The sunlight pouring through the exposed bits of window awoke him a few hours later; he was entwined with Edie. His face was tucked into the crook of her neck, and one of his arms was curled around her waist. She hadn't shied away from him. Her left arm encircled his neck, holding him in place, close to her. He disentangled himself and entered the bathroom. A few minutes later Edie was awakened by the sound of the bathtub running. She was puzzled but accepted this odd turn of events.
Outside she was met by Daisy Whitman. They talked about the weather and its effect on flying for a while until Vulpes appeared out Edie's door.
"Who's he?" Daisy asked, eyeballing him.
Boone materialized, nodded to Daisy and asked Edie, "Is it time?"
"As soon as Vulpes gets here."
Vulpes Inculta descended the staircase with all the dignity he could muster with his hair dripping wet. Boone's eyebrows shot up behind his shades, but he didn't say anything.
"What happened to you?" Daisy asked.
Vulpes ignored her and restated Boone's request to leave. Edie and Daisy looked at each other and made the international sign for "men are so weird," before saying goodbye.
"Out of curiosity, as intellectual to intellectual," Vulpes Inculta said sulkily. "How did you manage to walk out of Skeleton Creek alive?"
Edie smiled mysteriously. "Well, Lanius isn't very bright; he's easily swayed by words. And I think he respects that I tried to kill him- that I wouldn't just let him away. That said, he was bright enough to not let me look too closely at his injuries. I've got to give him that."
Boone started to ask a question, but then she snapped her fingers.
"I've got an idea," she exclaimed. "Remember Ruby's Radscorpion Venom Casserole?"
Boone nodded. The first time he'd tried the casserole it had made him violently ill, for he had made the mistake of washing it down with water, which just made the burning worse.
"Remember what she said about not having any cuts or sores in your mouth when you eat it? And nothing dries out your lips like healing powder."
"Ah," Vulpes smiled. "I begin to understand. He dies from the venom, and while that is regrettable, it is unsurprising to those near him due to the infection. Even if they do not know about it now, it will become apparent when they prepare his body for cremation."
"Great," Boone said. "How do we give it to him?"
"Put it in the bitter drink; he'll never taste it. A little espionage, a little strategy, and Lanius sleeps with the lakelurks."
"He does what?" Vulpes asked, appalled.
"That's the mob way of saying someone is dead. It's from a pre-war movie, and anyway, my mother was a Camonte."
They took it in turns to spy on Skeleton Creek for the next couple of days. The Legionaries had several campfires that they used to cook and make medicines. One was reserved specifically for Lanius' needs. Edie fixed the evil bottle of bitter drink while Boone and Vulpes Inculta looked for an opportunity to switch it out with one of the real ones.
One evening their conversation was interrupted by a cacophony of yipping from the coyotes. Boone almost smiled.
"Right after I signed up with the NCR a pack of those little bastards stormed the camp and snatched the night's dinner right off the fire," he said. "I thought Corporal Farber would have a stroke… running after them with his meat cleaver, yelling like he'd lost his mind…."
Vulpes lowered his shades to better look at the sniper. "That's more than you've said in a fortnight."
"It's more than I've said in a year."
"What's more, it's the perfect distraction. Edie, we could easily train your cyberdog, Rex…."
"No. Rex couldn't outrun them, but I know a dog that can. A bitch, actually, her name is Violetta; she's a Fiend dog."
"Where is she?"
"Not far from here; I gave Violet's dogs to Old Lady Gibson, along with a thousand caps or so for their care. I can easily get her for a while."
"All right. The junkyard is not far from here… we'll lose only a few days."
Violetta was happy to see Edie again, and she got along extremely well with Vulpes Inculta, though she avoided Boone. Around the dog, Vulpes was almost a different person. He was a strict dog-trainer, but they overheard him telling Violetta that she was beautiful.
The Fiend dog was a fast-learner, and only a few nights later, Vulpes released Violetta just outside the campfire area. She sprinted for the nearest campfire with a spit on it, grabbed the roasting gecko meat, and took off again. The legionaries gave chase, machetes out, and Edie, who was the fastest of the trio, ran and switched the bottles. The dog led her pursuers on a merry dance for a few more minutes before dropping the meat and escaping back to Vulpes.
Boone noted with distaste that their adversaries ate the meat anyway: dog-slime, sand and all. "Animals," he muttered under his breath.
Edie wandered over, wiping sweat off her neck. "Mission accomplished. The next stage is more waiting, I guess. How long do you think it'll take?"
"Not long. If that's stuff all he drinks, it'll be a couple days at most."
"Good," she sat down. "Now I'll just wait for this Stealth Boy to wear off."
"The ceremonial purifying of the dead is always done in bright sunlight," Vulpes remarked as he rewarded Violetta for her valor with some Brahmin meat.
"Hot as it is?"
He nodded, "To remind us that death is death, and that Legionaries stink as badly as the profligates."
Edie raised her eyebrows, but spared him any snarky comments.