Heaven’s Shine, Chapter 17

July 8, 2011

Gabriel made his way down the west side of the pedestrian bridge with the duffel bag over his shoulder.  He had to get back to Shine (and to Sarah, too, his heart whispered) and plan their next move.  He suspected the need to leave Las Vegas was imminent and immediate.Several women passing him slowed their steps.  “Is that – “ and “He looks just like the guy –“ followed him down the sidewalk.Ducking his head and hoping he appeared less conspicuous than he felt, Gabe wove through the crowd to the parking structure at Treasure Island.  As he approached his bike he saw a small group of young men gathered around it.

“They don’t come in white,” one of them was saying about the motorcycle.  “That has to be a custom paint job.”

“Yeah, but why white?” another one asked.  “That’s so lame.”

Gabe squeezed past them.  “Excuse me.”  He threw his leg over the bike and was poised to kick down when he remembered that his bike was now a Ducati.  He dug in his pocket for a minute, then keyed the ignition.

He walked the bike backward out of the parking space, resisting the impulse that urged him twist back the throttle and race out of the structure as quickly as possible.  Glancing in the mirror, he saw two men burst through the entrance to the parking level and watch as he feathered the clutch toward the exit.  One of them pointed at Gabe before they both pulled out cell phones and began making hurried calls.

Gabe had time to briefly wonder who the men were – he doubted if they were casual web video observers – before he was on the Strip and headed north.  He hit the red light at Sands Avenue and realized with chagrin that Az couldn’t have set him up with a less discreet bike.  An occasional pedestrian stared at the bright Ducati as Gabe impatiently waited for the light.  By the time he reached Riviera, Gabriel knew he had to find someplace to change the bike over.

He felt the cell phone in his breast pocket vibrate as he maneuvered into the left lane.

Shine snapped her phone closed when the call went to voice mail.  “He didn’t answer.”

Waiting at a red light, Sarah tapped the steering wheel impatiently.  “Why didn’t you leave a message?”

“Don’t be daft.  We don’t leave voice mails and we don’t send texts.  Evidence – hellooooo.”

“Don’t call me daft, Sis.”

“Don’t call me ‘Sis’.”

Sarah sucked her lip ring into her mouth and ignored the jab.  “I think I know where he is.  I keep seeing The Black Pearl.”

Shine turned to glare at her.  “Who?”

“The Black Pearl, a ship.”  Sarah followed the cars ahead of her when the light changed.  “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen any of the Pirates movies.”

“I don’t watch movies.  I read.”  Shine rested scornfully on the word.

“I can read too, you know.  I also watch movies.”

“Whatever.”

“Look, don’t bitch at me, okay?  I don’t bitch about how you and Gabe do things, do I?”

“No,” Shine muttered, “you just muck everything up.”

Sarah inched the car forward as the Strip traffic grew heavy.  “I keep seeing the ship and that means ‘pirates’, and that means Treasure Island.”  She glanced at Shine and in a softer tone said, “I told you, we’re going to have to work together.  I see bad things ahead.  If we don’t work together, we’re screwed.”

Shine dialed Gabe again.  “Whatever,” she repeated.  “We were fine before you came along.”  After a moment she closed her phone again.  “He’s still not answering.”

They stopped behind a group of cars at the next light. Sarah hit the steering wheel with the heels of her hands.  “Damn it!  This is taking forever.”

Roni suddenly sprang out of the back seat, barking frantically in his discordant way at the traffic ahead.

“Ouch,” Shine cried, trying to shove the big dog back.  “What’s he doing?  Get off of me, Roni!”

Sarah grabbed Roni’s collar and tried to pull him off of Shine.  “Roni, you bad baby, settle down!  He sees something.  Shine, can you see anything up ahead on your side?”

Shine moved as far toward the center of the car as possible while Roni took over most of her seat.  He butted his nose against the window and howled.  “It’s like he’s gone mad, or something.  He’s had his shots, right?”

“He hasn’t gone mad,” Sarah retorted.  She craned her neck out the window, trying to peer past the cars ahead of her.

“There’s a motorcycle up there,” Shine said.

“Where?”

“It was in the traffic coming the other direction.  It just turned left into Circus Circus.”

“Was it Gabe?”

Shine shook her head.  “No.  It was a guy on a white bike, wearing a white helmet.”  She looked at Sarah.  “Your crazy dog must have thought it was Gabe.  Can you get him in the back, please?  He’s crushing me!”

“I don’t think I should try,” Sarah said as traffic began to move again.  “You know me – I muck everything up.”

“That’s not funny,” Shine spat.

“It wasn’t funny when you said it either.”

Shine stared at the older girl for a moment, then turned to try and reclaim some car seat from Roni.  “Fine, then.  Roni and I can share a seat.  He likes me.”

“So do I, Sis.”  She held up her hand to stop Shine’s response.  “And yeah, I know, I know:  Don’t call you sis.”  She turned to Shine and tried to smile.

Shine was staring straight ahead, her eyes huge.  “Watch out!”

Sarah slammed on the brakes as a woman darted in front of the Taurus and pounded on the hood.  “Stop!” the woman shouted frantically.  “Stop, stop!”

Roni was silent, but his lips peeled back from his teeth in an alarming fashion.  Shine put her arms around his shoulders and glanced at Sarah.  “Don’t,” she whispered.  “Don’t stop.”

Before Sarah could react, the woman ran around to her window and leaned in, bringing with her a sickeningly strong scent of roses.  She pushed her long, blond hair aside and looked at Sarah with eyes so light they seemed almost silver.

Sarah tried to roll the window up, but the woman put out a hand to stop her.  “Wait, just wait,” she hissed.  “You’re looking for Gabriel, right?”

Sarah and Shine exchanged startled glances.

“Maybe,” Sarah said cautiously.  “Who are you?  What do you want?”

“Sarah.”  Shine’s voice was low and shaky.

The woman ignored Shine.  Her eyes were locked on Sarah.  “I know where he is.  I can take you to him.”

“Sarah,” Shine repeated, more urgently.

“Head up to Treasure Island.  I’ll find you in the parking garage.”  With that the woman turned and darted back cross the lanes of traffic to the sidewalk.

Sarah sat frozen behind the wheel.  She seemed stunned.  A car behind them began honking and she eased the car forward.  “What in the hell was that about?” she cried.

“Don’t go, Sarah,” Shine said.  “Don’t do what that woman said.”

Sarah shook her head.  “She knows Gabriel!  Shine, she knows where he’s at.  I already knew he was at Treasure Island, so maybe she can help us – ”

“You can’t trust her,” Shine interrupted.

“Do you know her?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“What is it, then?” Sarah asked impatiently.  “If that chick can lead us to Gabe, then – ”

“It’s Roni,” Shine said.

“Roni?”  Sarah glanced over at the dog and gasped sharply.

Roni was pressed up against the passenger door as firmly as he could manage.  The huge dog was visibly trembling.

“Roni?” Sarah repeated.  “Shine, what’s wrong with him?”

Shine pointed down at the seat where a puddle of urine was wetting her pants.  “He peed.  That woman scared him.”  She looked at Sarah in dismay and added, “Sarah, she scared me, too.”

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