The 4 of you pull up to the service station where the surveillance photo was taken 5 days ago. It’s a Mobile station, located at the crossing of Interstates 10 and 12, right by Lake Pont. It resides in one of those toll road-esque travel plazas. It is open 24 hours, nestled in the same building as a Starbucks, Convenience Store, and Souvenir Stand. There is also a pay phone bank, and public rest rooms. Across the parking lot, where the Semi’s usually park, there is a Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, and Popeye, also in one building.
You arrive shortly after midnight. Your conspicuously mismatched party steps through the sliding doors, sounding a faint “ding” as the glass parts in front of you. Behind the counter is a rather unfortunate looking man maybe in his late 30s. Brown hair, dark eyes, very mundane and nondescript. With no other customers in the store, he takes his time lazily walking from the coffee kiosk, back behind his counter. He leans heavily on the surface, thumbing through the most recent issue of Auto Trader. His eyes flicker up, groggily, falling almost immediately on the massive mountain of man that is Connell. Chewing on his toothpick, he then gives a cursory glance to Lena, then David. Obviously not wanting to stare at what appears to be a burn victim, he finished his ocular sweep with Dahlia. Perhaps spending more time then really necessary on the pretty young socialite, he rapidly immerses himself in his publication.
The air smells of cheap truck stop coffee, and there is an omnipresent hum of the overhead fluorescent lights. The clerk seems to be the only employee on duty, and there are no other patrons in the store. Outside, the roar of 18 wheelers sporadically whizzing by in the light drizzle can be heard. You get a faint sensation on your skin of moisture. The AC is working overtime to fight the humid July air.
Lena sighs as the hulk of a being exits her car at the service station. She pulls on the rearview mirror and wipes away the traces of smeared makeup. The long shift this evening and the tumultuous meeting of strangers has begun to wear her thin. She Her eyes linger on the entrance to Starbucks. The eyes of the Prince invade her thoughts; she noticed the distaste and disinterest behind the facade of friendly hospitality. No, it wouldn’t do to separate herself from these people. Doing what she is told may be the only way to stay alive.
“Alive.” Dammit. A wave of melancholy and anger rises from the quakes below as she kicks open her car door. She slams it behind her, squeezing her lips together in determination. Three more steps and she is inside the station, quivering from her rage.
You step out into the muggy night air, hot rain mists upon your skin, giving every movement a slimy malaise. Despite the head start and longer legs, Connell lags a few steps behind. You walk with determination. Slamming your car door and exclaiming verbally has drawn the attention of a middle aged man fueling up his RV. He looks at you under the brim of his fishing at momentarily, then goes back to remorsefully watching the numbers on the pump rise higher and higher.
Her eyes go first to the coffee bar, then to David, then back to the coffee kiosk. Smoothing her skirt, she walks carefully over and pours herself a 20 oz cup of the strongest brew available. She sets her cup down and pulls the pins out of her hair. Champagne blonde hair falls down in lumpy curls. She runs her fingers briefly through them and shakes them out. A few pumps of French Vanilla coffee creamer later, Lena has gone over to the cashier, taking out her wallet. She tries to make friendly conversation with the attendant, petting down her hair absentmindedly, mindfully.
“You in the market?” she asks, gesturing at the magazine playfully.
The clerk, sincerely not giving you much attention, begins to move his out of shape frame from the stool beneath him. He dog ears the page, on which he seemed to be enthralled, and exhales heavily as he waddles over to the register. With casualty, you’re sure he’s run through this scenario hundreds if not thousands of times, his eyes dart to the coffee cup and punches the same three worn out keys on his cash register. His voice is unremarkable, just enough southern draw to place him as a native. Now that you’re up closer, you see the dilapidated name tag “Oscar” on his blue vest.
“Ya might say that. Just lookin around for some extra parts really. Nev’r know when you’re gonna come across a good deal….Ugh that’s gonna be a dollar twenty seven, anyt’ing else m’am?”
Dahlia goes over to the counter, she looks for something clean to lean against, then gives up on that, tipping her self a bit over the counter she tries to catch a glimpse of the dog eared page.
“I love old cars. What are you working on?”
Almost overwhelmed, his eyes dart nervously from Lena and her casual conversation to the posh newcomer. Obviously flustered, he stammers over his words while trying to avoid any and all eye contact with Dahlia.He seems to focus on Lena’s coffee cup rather intently…
“Uhh..yeah..it’s a..ummm ’66 GTO. Competition orange. It was ma’ Paw’s. Kind of fig’red I’d give it up to mah boy someday. You ladies really into cars? Cuz, gosh, I just can’t see it.”
" ‘66 was the first year the GTO was a full fledged model rather than a tempest upgrade, wasn’t it?… Orange is a good color, not one we see all that often anymore."
“Well golly man, ya sure know your old cars. Ya just don’t seem like the type, that’s all. Anyway it’s more of a hobby than anythin’ else. They got me workin here so many hours, I hardly have time to do much else. So uhhh, ya’ll just passin through then I reckon?”
“Well, actually, my friend forgot her purse here and we were hoping someone might have turned it in.”
“Yer friend? So I guess ya’ll are from round here. Usually I get all sortsa movie types headin out east to Orlando. I just figured with you and yer assistant here…well with the body guard….”
“No, I’m a local… I have Connell because my father worries about me.”
Connell grins widely at the clerk
“Oh! Well, I like i said, I just reckon’d you were one of those. Ya know i met Gwenyth Paltrow once. She was just passing through after Mardis Gras, heading over to Orlando for some film shoot. Real nice lady, lots prettier in real life. Much more of a looker than she is in those magazines.”
“…Kinda stuck up if you ask me. ..of course…you’re not..so I’ll just shut my trap now. Well your paw must be one worryin son of a…….So uh, this friend of yers?”
“She’s my age, she has shoulder length auburn hair… a bit shorted than mine. the purse is yay big (hold my hands out to demonstrate) and shaped like (again with the hand gestures)”
“Ye..yea….Yeah….Sure thing…ummm…Miss, uhh, An-Anna….I’m always happy to help. If I remember anything or your friend happens to turn up..I’ll ummm….Yeah I’ll give you a ring…that’s what I’ll do…”
<< Oscar listens for the door chime as Lena exits, and Dahlia strolls elegantly back in. He tucks up the Post It note and puts it in the breast pocket of his blue Dickies work shirt, just behind his name tag.>>
“So was that girl who came in here prettier than me?” Dahlia put a little bit of the flirtatious tease into her voice.
“Well ma’am, you’re pretty and all. But I guess these here belle was a different kind of pretty. You got a real nice movie star thing goin on…like I said earlier. But this’n here…””
“She was something else. Legs for days…straw cow girl hat…I’m kind of into that sort of thing you see. She musta got into a little scuffle, cuz most of her clothes were a bit ripped up. That voice she had…All I know is that shes been walkin through my mind for at least a week now.”
“Did she look through the purse then give it back to you?”
“The hand bag? Nah, she just sat there…right there….leaned up against that pop machine under the camera there….just smilin at me. We talked for a good 10 minutes er so. I told her I had one here, she didn’t seem to care too much. Seemed like a nice simple country girl, not too concerned with material things ya know? Salt of the earth type folk. Her fella, the one that wasn’t much for words, he just hung outside an chewed on a cigar. Remember her clear as day, don’t think that smile will ever leave my mind…”
And Lena forgot her coffee inside, so I suppose she will go back in for it, and to use Dementation to blunt Oscar’s emotions towards the cowgirl.
“So the guy with her didn’t come in at all?
“Oh…I dunno. I guess not. Just remember the cigar. He wasn’t smoking it or anything. What’s the point I guess. He wasn’t hurting anyone.”
Connell is planted firmly at the door. He gives off the impression, without uttering a word, that he eats rocks and shits gunpowder. He might as well be carved out of wood. Cold…dry….unfeeling. An aura of sheer aggression emanates from him, so much that, a couple wanting to stop in and grab some coffee make it within a few yards of the door, but quickly do a 180 back to their RV. You’re fairly certainly they’re doing 10 over the speed limit, back to wherever the fuck they come from. (Your stats alone justify substantial success)
Dahlia, you try your hardest and fall back upon what has worked for you in the past, from the dance clubs to the formal dinners. You’re not arrogant but you know you look stunning. You smell like heaven. You’re glad in fabrics and colors that have proven their efficacy time and time again. Your ass is so round and perfect that scientist in Europe use it to calibrate their instruments. Oscar, just seems disinterested in life right now. Whatever enthusiasm and zeal he had for helping you, or for appreciating beauty seems to have left him. The best you can do is chatter on, play cute, and obscure his view of your two companions sneaking off down the hallway.
David slithers back from the dark corner by the cooler with the burnt out like. It’s cold, its dark, and it’s very damp…a home away from home. Ever listening, he slides his arm across Lena’s lower back, and without making a sound pitter patters across the dingy tile floor to the hallway. The two casually stride to the EMPLOYEES ONLY door. David’s hand wraps around the beaten up polished nickel doorknob…and discovers that it is locked.
Connell gives his new friends a sneer over his shoulder. Sensing the need for a stall
Dahlia rearranges even more clothing and takes an awkward pose to block any possible view. She then uses presence to ensure that she has the gas station attendant’s attention.
Upon reaching the locked door, the Malkvian looks to David, who’s already in deep contemplation, trying to think on his feet. David eyes the knob, and the lock…hearing the door to the Woman’s restroom glide open then close without making too much of a rucus.
Lena, you step into the dingy bathroom, which obviously hasn’t been serviced yet tonight. Only 1 step inside, you see see a typical set up. 2 stalls, 1 regular, one handicap. A set of two sinks, paper towels and an air dryer. The track lighting above you flickers on and off, partially illuminating part of the room for a fraction of a second before it repeats its erratic pattern. Aside from the dripping of water from the broken faucet, the only sound you hear is the door, locking behind you.
Lena backs against the wall, drawing her elbows in, holding her hands in little ineffectual fits palms in at her clavicle. She watches, frozen in terror, as the figure emerges. A scream boils in her chest but cannot escape. She is trapped within the stasis of her own caged body. She has no thoughts.
We return to in game actions rather than text at this point so that Lena can fail her own checks.