By Kyt Dotson © 2007 (Creative Commons License, see sidebar)
“You actually met him?” Elaine leaned so far over the table that
I felt fairly certain she would tumble onto it and might even begin crawling
across towards me.
“Well,” I countered, “I wouldn’t quite say ‘met.’ But I
did give him a ride in my cab.”
“You met him?” The verve in her voice rattled her
glass of Coke, rippling the dark fluid within. “I can’t believe it! You have to
tell me every detail. Everything.”
“Who is he anyway?”
“He’s only the most famous blogger ever,” she said.
I shrugged. He was just another fare—a strange fare, yes,
but still just another fare.
“Fine… I’ll start from the beginning.”
* * *
Phoenix is a big city. Sure, I don’t think it’s much compared to
someplace like New York or London, but Phoenix is still a fairly big city. As
with any city of reasonable size there’s always a sense of staid mediocrity
punctuated with abrupt diversions from the ordinary—and sometimes from reality
After a long evening of shuttling fares through the
clogged streets of the city I decided to deadhead out of Apache Junction
instead of trying to find a fare on my way back to Tempe. The night was young
and I’d just received the extremely reasonable tip of a double sawbuck on top
of the expensive fare. Good thing Da wasn’t around; else he might have vetoed
the radio call from Gary before it even reached my ears.
Needless to say, I was quite pleased with the outcome of
the night’s haul and didn’t think much of it when I saw a billowing sail of
nylon, swelling and crumpled by the side of the road in the midst of a field.
The cab’s headlights illuminated the dark colored material for only a moment,
but long enough for me to see it bore a sort of camouflage. The matte black
expanse of cloth would have been nearly invisible had I been looking up from
the ground into the cloud scudded night, but parked limply on the ground it
stood out in stark relief.
I watched the formless puddle of shadow vanish around a
curve in my rear-view mirror before shrugging and speeding on. In my mind, I
was quickly developing a plan that would put me at a night club with no less
than one hundred and twenty comforting decibels of dark EBM to massage stress
of the day away.
That’s when I saw him. An uncanny wind kicked up, blowing
dust and desert debris across the road and caught his crimson cape with an
almost-superhero snapshot pose as he leaned into the gale.
He saw me, waved, and managed a shrill cab-call whistle.
Having turned to face me, I could see that aside from the dashing red cape, he
also wore a pair of blue goggles. Even if I had considered passing him up, the
sheer novelty of his costume compelled me to pull to a stop only a few car
The radio, which had been playing something guttural and
death-metal on my drive out of AJ, abruptly switched to a piano ditty that
reminded me of a Prohibition era Speakeasy riddled with the pops and cracks of
static. The door opened and entered my newest fare—goggles pushed up onto his
broad forehead, now nestled in his close-cut hair and red cape yanked in as he
closed the door against the night. Closer up, I could see that he wore heavy
rimmed spectacles beneath his goggles that framed cheerful eyes. Though
unshaven, his beard appeared cultivated, even under the layer of dust deposited
by the windstorm struggling against the closed windows.
“I couldn’t help but notice,” he said, "you have an
EFF sticker on the back of your cab.”
“Yeah.” I shrugged. “One of my friends gave that to me.
She bought me a lifetime membership. After she told me what they do I stuck it
on there. Not exactly regulation, but I’m not a regular girl. Where can I take
“Before I can answer that, could you tell me where I am?
Judging from the desert brush and Joshua trees I am hoping California.”
Okay, that struck me as a little strange, but he was
wearing a cape, after all…
“Same desert, wrong state,” I said. “You’re in Arizona,
right outside of Phoenix.”
“Curses,” he breathed. “What is the fastest way to reach San
Diego from here? And, please, if you like you may get under way.” He produced
a wallet of cash and extended me a fifty.
I waved him off. Chances were this fellow would be going
to the airport and I could make change for him there. “I can get you to Sky Harbor
airport in about half an hour…maybe less.”
On the road again, I pushed the cab up to speed and
watched the empty desert whip past on both sides as the light of Phoenix built
in the distance.
“No airports.” The sudden sternness of his voice caught me
by surprise. It must have caught him as well because he backpedaled. “They
probably have spies among the TSA, I wouldn’t make it out of the queue. No… Is
there a rail station?”
“Would a Greyhound bus station suit you?” I don’t think
there are many passenger trains that pass through Phoenix anymore.
His manner and speech, coupled with the odd choice of
music from the radio, struck me in a weirdly romantic spy noir fashion. Right
down to the tingle along my spine that warned me that something was not quite
right. Not about the man in my back seat—although seemingly eccentric, he had
no malice about him—but instead I got the definite sense that we were being
shadowed. Years of experience have taught me not to dismiss my second-sense as
nerves. Just to be sure, I checked the wizard wards cast along the skin of the
taxi. Unlike me, they don’t suffer from such human frailties as an overactive
imagination. They too appeared to be on edge, emitting a sense of alertness as
if itching for a fight.
In the dark of the back seat, I could see him clutch
something like a leather missive bag. For a moment, he frowned out the window
at the gloom and dark. His gaze finally came to fix on the EFF sticker on the
back window and afterwards he righted himself and his eyes found mine in the
“There is something about which I think I must warn you,”
he said. “For if I don’t, I fear it would be ungentlemanly of me. I believe
that we are being followed and that I may have mixed you up in something that I
should not have.”
“I’ve noticed our tail,” I said, not taking my eyes off of