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Pen Your Pride

Chapter 5 - Closing the Gap

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Pete pulls into the parking lot of a Super 8 Hotel on the west side of the highway. We're near the same exit that leads to the warehouse where Margery is holding Nina. At most, we're separated by five miles.

This area is densely populated. Fast food joints and gas stations surround the hotel, an obvious stop-off for truckers and travelers on their way between New Mexico and Denver. This late in the morning, the parking lot is mostly empty.

Pete turns off the Hummer, and with it his choice of twangy music. "I'm surprised you were so quiet during the drive."

I shrug my shoulders. "What am I supposed to say?"

"Are you at all curious about your father?"

"I don't get what he is enough to even know what to ask."

"He's a fallen angel. Fallen from God like Satan, only he's much more dangerous."

"More dangerous how?"

"You're not his first child. He's had many with human women, and he won't stop until he's impregnated every fertile woman on earth."

As severe as Azael sounds, I'm having a hard time believing Pete. Seriously, me, the loser who lost four jobs last year is somehow the son of a powerful fallen angel. How can everything change so drastically in a few short days?

Pete clears his throat and turns to me. "Once we meet with Father Timothy, you'll understand how important it is that you fulfill your destiny and stop Azael. You have to trust that we can guide and help you."

All I can think is how I didn't ask to be chosen for this. Rudely, I turn away from Pete, pull up on the door handle, and exit the vehicle.

Pete lays off me while we head into the main entrance of the hotel. At the elevators, he hits the button and the doors open right away. The trip up to the fourth floor includes a musty smell and grinding cables. We reach our target floor with a thud and bounce to a stop. We get out and head toward the rooms.

The smell of cigarette smoke hits me and I'm sure Margery is near. I halt mid-step, ready to pivot and run the opposite direction. Then again, why would Pete rescue me one minute and take me to Margery the next? "You smell that?" I say.

Pete turns his head to look back at me and raises an eyebrow. "What?"


"Everyone on this floor smokes and drinks whatever they can get their hands on. It carries over from being a courier. This place is like a frat house on any given night. Doesn't stop them from getting up every morning to work their asses off for me though."

At the end of the hall, someone with broad shoulders stands looking out a window wearing a short embroidered red, silk robe, athletic socks up to the knees with two red colored stripes around the upper calf, and three-inch, black, patent leather pumps.

"Nassar," Pete calls out.

Nassar twirls around and reveals a wife beater t-shirt and plaid boxer shorts underneath his robe. He grins cheek to cheek and removes the unlit pipe from between his teeth. "Hey, Pete. Archie didn't say you were coming down." The guy approaches us more steady on heels than most women. He and Pete shake hands.

Although Nassar looks more eccentric than dangerous, I approach with caution.

Pete turns to me and says, "Barry, meet Nassar. He's my crew chief, and the most trustworthy guy you'll ever meet, not to mention he knows the land around Trinidad better than anyone."

"So you're the savior." The guy holds out his hand and we shake.

"Yep, this is him," Pete says. "And he's here to fix your printer too."

"Great. Come in, come in." Nassar turns to walk back into his room and we follow. The room is a disaster area. Looks like his method of filing is to throw paper up in the air and let it find its own order in wherever it lands.

"Over here." Nassar removes an empty box from on top of the printer and throws it on the bed.

I read the error message, then tell him, "It needs paper."

"God damn," Nassar says. "Sorry you guys came all the way here for something that easy."

Now I get why Archie was making such a fuss.

The phone in Pete's pocket rings. He pulls it out, looks at the display, then answers it. "What do you need, Pip?" He pauses and rolls his eyes. "Did you show him with the paperclips how an eighth is larger than one tenth." Again, he waits. "Well, I guess I'll have to meet you there in say, twenty minutes." Pete hangs up and puts his phone back in his pocket. "I can't believe these ranchers. They should have a basic understanding of math."

"Can I ask what happened?" I say.

"It's ridiculous. We're offering the ranch owner a one eighth share of the oil pumped out of his land. The competitor is giving him one tenth, but he think that because the denominator is a larger number on one tenth, we're cheating him. I've got to go over and explain that we're not."

I frown and chuckle. Sure, I minored in math, but it seems like common sense.

Pete turns to Nassar. "Can I leave Barry here with you? He's just had the pancake antidote and he shouldn't be in public if you know what I mean. Plus, we can't have bounty hunters showing up during a deal."

"Sure," Nassar says.

Shouldn't be in public? How bad will the cramping get? I wonder while pulling out the printer's empty tray. "Where's the paper?" I ask before noticing it's in a box on the floor.

"Give Barry one of the new cell phones. Text me his number." Pete says while he nervously rushes around, then turns to me. "I'll call you when I get to the ranch, okay."

I nod my head. "I'm fine. Don't worry about me."

"Stay here, please." Pete holds his hands up in a prayer position.

I nod my head again.

Pete walks toward the door but turns and looks at me with a weary face before he's gone. Maybe he's worried, but more likely he knows I'm lying. That I'm waiting for just the right moment to take off to get Nina.

Nassar reaches into a cardboard file box, pulls out a cell phone, and throws it to me. "Pete's number is in it if you need him." Then he goes back to printing his documents.

I sit on the bed, check out the Android phone, and think about how I can reach Nina in a matter of seconds. As long as I can get in and out without Margery seeing me, I bet I can do it before Pete returns. Now is as good a time as any. Nassar wouldn't even notice I'm gone. I hold my breath and walk outside of Nassar's room. I look out toward the mountains, wondering if I can see the warehouse in the distance, but of course I can't.

I take a deep breath and wonder what will happen if I vomit up the pancakes after a run. Should I risk having to eat another short stack?

Of course I should.

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