by Mark Finn
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Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run

Before they did anything else, Larry insisted on stopping for clipboards on the way to check out the site. They pulled into the Wal-Mart on Apache Street and bought two standard-issue clipboards, eight gallons of water, a large cooler, and four bags of ice. As the checkout girl put everything in the basket, she asked Larry, "You want the receipt?"

"Of course," said Larry, his expression severe. "I ain't paying for this outta my own pocket."

She smiled. "Y'all try to have a good day."

On the way back out to the van, Turk caught up with Larry, who was pushing the cart with determination. "You're like, brilliant," he said. "That was inspired."

"Turk, anyone can lie," said Larry, "or pretend to be something they're not. Don't make a big deal of it."

"But I'm still trying to figure out my character, here," said Turk.

"Then quit trying. Put some of those jugs in the cooler and dump ice over 'em."

Turk screwed up his face. "Kinda brusque, aren't you?"

"Hey, you're the hired help, remember?"

The light came on in Turk's eyes; he'd found his motivation, at last. His face fell into calm, neutral planes. "Gotcha, boss."

Larry wheeled the shopping cart back to the corral for wayward carts in the parking lot. When he returned, he inspected the back of the van with a keen eye. He had reorganized their gear so that the equipment and coolers were on either side. Burt and Turk sat on each of them. This freed up legroom and cargo space. The sawhorses were lying flat, near the back door. Larry nodded, satisfied. It looked like a work crew now.

He climbed into the front and cranked the engine. "D.J, in the side pocket is a packet of papers. Hand 'em to me." Larry produced the clipboards and divided the packet into two piles. "Here," he said, handing a clipboard to D.J. "This is navigation stuff. Maps of the area, streets, and directions. You're in charge of that."

"Right," said D.J. as he looked the papers over.

"This," said Larry, "is my clipboard. Notes on the job, the plan, the how-to stuff." He put his clipboard on the floor between the seats.

"Uh, boss? We're burning daylight," said Turk.

"Right," said Larry. He practically peeled out of the Wal-Mart parking lot.

With D.J. guiding him, Larry drove the van through the early morning traffic with purpose as they made their way to Gamesmen, Ltd. They made a right turn onto Dobson Road and drove leisurely, saying nothing.

"It's too quiet," said Burt. "Let me put some music on."

When no one objected, Burt popped a CD in. Secret agent-style Jazz music blared forth.

"Mission Impossible?" asked D.J. from the front.

"Yep," said Burt.

"You take good care of us, kid," said Larry.

They drove down Dobson, lost in their own romantic fantasies and stray thoughts, until they crossed the railroad tracks.

"Okay, look sharp," said D.J. "You're looking for West Weathers, on the left."

"Deej, are you sure?" said Larry. The van was slowly passing by landscaped business centers, and on the right, they could see a giant company of some sort.

"Yeah, it's right here, on the map. And it matches what Rutlege told us."

They passed by a blue sign proclaiming the Motorola Entrance in 500 feet. The two-lane road narrowed up ahead, and they were all so busy rubbernecking at the obviously new developments, Larry almost missed West Weathers road.

"Shit!" he said, braking hard and turning left. The van tires squealed, everyone was flung to the right, and the CD skipped. "Sorry," said Larry.

"Jesus," said D.J.

"Don't worry about us, boss, we're fine," snapped Turk.

They continued down Weathers at a more refined rate. The van hadn't traveled more than a hundred yards when Larry asked D.J, "Does this look right to you?"

"According to the map, it's right," said D.J. "But according to Rutlege, it's all wrong."

Down the right hand side of the street were various small warehouses, metal offices, and garages. They passed a custom paint-mixing business, a foreign automobile repair shop, and a cabinetmaker. Along the left hand side of the street were several clusters of warehouses, accessible by common driveways. They sat, almost back to back, in lots of four. They all looked brand-new.

"We are fucked," said Burt.

"There it is," said D.J. He pointed to the left. "The sign!"

There was a bank of wooden signage, maybe two hundred yards from the end of the block, which read, among other things, "Gamesmen, Ltd" in old western style type. Directly in front of it was a paved entrance. Larry slowed the van down.

There was a chain link fence, hanging crookedly and wide open. More fences ran around the perimeter. The warehouses in this lot were different, laid out in two parallel strips that ran perpendicular to the street. The paint was old, and the paved driveway was cracked and stained from millions of tons worth of trucks driving over it for over twenty years. The Gamesmen warehouse was on the left, just as Rutlege had described. But there was another lot of fenced-in warehouses on either side of the Gamesmen lot.

"We're really fucked," said Burt. He turned down the radio.

"Shit, what is that?" Larry said.

Two large trucks were backed up to the loading docks. Sitting in front of the trucks was a battered yellow Camero. A tall man and a short, curvy woman were standing beside the car, yelling at each other.

As they rolled past, they heard the man shout, "You volunteered it! What am I going to do, turn it down? I was fucking drunk!"

The woman screamed, "I was saving that last bit of territory for the man I loved! So now we've done it, and so now I have to love you, goddammit, or my master plan for happiness is ruined!"

"Keep driving," said D.J.

"Aw, nuts," said Larry. "Hold on." He turned the van right, into the parking lot of an auto detailing shop, and sharply turned the van around until they were facing the Gamesmen warehouse across the street. He kept the motor running.

"Rutlege set us up, man," said Turk. "That son of a bitch!"

"No, he didn't," said Larry, sighing. "We were just operating with twenty year old intelligence. It's my fault. I should've checked it all out first. It's just new construction, is all"

"What are we going to do?" asked D.J. "Look, the trucks are there, and they're blocking everything. We're finished."

Larry didn't say anything. He just stared intently across the street.

"Were there supposed to be trucks?" asked Turk.

"No, they were supposed to be gone."

"Hey, wait," said D.J. "Look, over there, see that? The fence, there? The lot is still there. It's behind the trucks!"

Larry peered and squinted. Sure enough, there was a section of the vacant lot visible beyond the back fence. The trucks blocked the view of the back gate from the road, along with the secret location to the Phallus of Ebon Keep.

Larry scratched his head and pondered the variables. "Okay, those trucks are either full or going to be filled soon. Look, see, it's the only vehicles in the area, aside from those two in the Camero."

"Maybe he's one of the drivers," Turk said.

"Maybe. In any case, all we have to do is wait for the trucks to leave. If we play our cards right, we can time it so that we're coming in as they're coming out. They won't have time to check on us, and they'll probably just let us in back. The problem is timing it." Larry turned around and looked at the business they were parked in front of. "This place is closed, so we can hide everything here and keep an eye on things from here."

"This is seriously screwing up the time table," said Burt.

"I know, but what can we do?" Larry shrugged. "Complications happen sometimes on a job. We can't do anything about it except prep for the job and wait for things to clear out. We're not supposed to be breaking ground until noon, anyway. So, we've got time. Hopefully, we'll only be a couple of hours over schedule."

"What if they don't leave?" said D.J.

"They will," said Larry. "Their press release on their website said that they would be back in business this Monday, in Spokane. So, those trucks have to be gone by today at the latest." He turned in his seat and looked at them all. "Okay? This is a minor set-back. Nothing else."

They regarded him silently. His jaw was still set. "Okay, man," said Turk. "We're still with you."

"Good," said Larry. "Let's go get the backhoe."

As the van pulled out and drove back past the entrance to the Gamesmen warehouse, the couple was still arguing loudly beside the yellow Camero.

Next Chapter

Chapter One: The Navel Adventures of Larry Croft
Chapter Two: 1123 Miles to Tempe
Chapter Three: Enter the String
Chapter Four: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Chapter Five: Rutlege's Story
Chapter Six: The Plot Thickens
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed
Chapter Eight: It's a DRY Heat
Chapter Nine: Preparing to Lam
Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man
Chapter Eleven: The Danger of Talking to God
Chapter Twelve: Anchors Aweigh, Let's Go Men
Chapter Thirteen: The End is Near
Chapter Fourteen: Roll to Hit
Chapter Fifteen: Six Feet of Beef Stick for the Soul
Chapter Sixteen: Hello, My Name is Indio, California
Chapter Seventeen: Threadgill Takes Charge
Chapter Eighteen: The Players on the Other Side
Chapter Nineteen: On the Road to Perdition
Chapter Twenty: Welcome to Tempe
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Chapter Twenty-Two: Should Have Known Better
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Backhoe
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Frank Discussion
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Brief History of Larry's Van
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Go Speed Racer, Go
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Owner of the Thumbscrews
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
Chapter Thirty-One: Frick and Frack Check In
Chapter Thirty-Two: Scouting
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Stakeout
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Food Fight
Chapter Thirty-Five: Time to Dig
Chapter Thirty-Six: Deep in the Night
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Paydirt
Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Phallus of Ebon Keep
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Otto and Stacy Make Good
Chapter Forty: Thieves in the Night
Chapter Forty-One: Critical Failure
Chapter Forty-Two: Downtown
Chapter Forty-Three: The Hoosegow
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
Chapter Forty-Five: Two Early Phone Calls
Chapter Forty-Six: Threadgill Meets the Gang
Chapter Forty-Seven: Back to the Van
Chapter Forty-Eight: Five Days Later
Table of Contents

About the Author

Mark Finn is the author of Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. He also writes excellent short stories, essays, articles, and reviews. In addition to his regular gig at the Vernon Plaza Theater, he can be found intermittently on The Clockwork Storybook blog and RevolutionSF, holding court or damning with faint praise.