The Last Town #2:Preparing for the Dead(4)

By: Stephen Knight

But Meredith was a weary soul, and she liked changes in latitudes. While Sinclair was happy to stay in New York where he hosted his weekly hour-long syndicated television show, The Sinclair News Hour, Meredith wanted to travel. It was a pain in Sinclair’s arse, having to leave New York once a month for quick getaways to places like Seattle or Hawaii or Vancouver. It wreaked hell on his broadcasting schedule, but since Meredith had access to the family jet, Sinclair found he could tolerate it. After all, almost nothing beat flying in style in a luxurious Bombardier Global XRS, even if it was just to Canada.

But for this trip to Vegas, the jet hadn’t been available. Sinclair grudgingly allowed himself to be mistreated by the airlines, and for his trouble, he was now ensnared in what appeared to be a complete shutdown of all air travel. There were a couple of silver linings to the situation, however. One was that Meredith owned another condo in Vegas, and the other was that Sinclair was actually scheduled to broadcast from Los Angeles that very night. While not being able to catch a plane to LAX was quite inconvenient, they would be able to drive to the City of Angels in just a few hours.

It took over an hour to get their luggage reclaimed from the grounded jet, and then they had to try and find ground transportation to Meredith’s condo at the Mandarin Oriental. That was another ordeal in and of itself, as Sinclair and Meredith had to compete with thousands of other stranded fliers. Sinclair spent over an hour trying to find a cab or limo or even a bus with little results. It wasn’t until Meredith tried that a vacant cab suddenly appeared, driven by an athletic black man with a smile that seemed to be a yard wide. His grin diminished substantially when Sinclair climbed into the vehicle after Meredith, and when it became clear Sinclair wasn’t just sharing the ride, the driver became downright surly as he drove them back downtown. He also drove more slowly than necessary in a bid to drive up the meter. Sinclair stiffed him on the tip for that.

“So what will we do now?” Meredith asked as they entered the lobby.

“What do you mean? I have to work tonight,” Sinclair said. “I’m due in Los Angeles by five.” He hadn’t been unaware that the world was starting to stumble across a rough patch, and he wanted to take advantage of it to try and pump up his ratings. He was down in almost every major market, and while no one had threatened to not renew their syndication contracts, Sinclair could feel the pressure building. He had decided to shoot a special in Los Angeles, where gun violence was at an all time high. While he was reviled by the NRA and gun-toters of all stripes, Sinclair had a personal hatred for guns and the invariable loss of life they fueled. And all the American nitwits could come up with was they were protected by the Second Amendment of a historical document created by a bunch of wig-wearing insurrectionists. Sinclair had a word for his opposition: Pikers.

“I don’t think it’s safe to go there,” Meredith said. “Things are getting weird now, Jock.” As she spoke, the pop-pop-pop of distant gunfire sounded. Sinclair and the doorman standing nearby turned and looked out the lobby windows. There was nothing to be seen other than a FedEx delivery truck sitting in the circular driveway—the taxi was long gone. The driver paused momentarily as he unloaded his vehicle, looking south. The gunfire sounded quite distant, and it ended as quickly as it had begun. Just the same, Sinclair felt a bolt of alarm run through him. Jock Sinclair had no use for guns of any kind, and hearing them in action somewhere in the city came quite close to terrifying him.

“You may be right,” he said to Meredith after a moment, and was surprised to hear his voice was quaver-free, “but I’m not sure Las Vegas is going to be any safer. We should leave. Now.”

“I need to use the bathroom, and then I need to call my parents and let them know,” Meredith told him. “I couldn’t get through on the cell, so I want to go upstairs, Jock.”

“Well, be quick about it,” Sinclair snapped. “I’ll get the car and bring it around. Rafael, help me load the bags when I come back?”

“Sure thing, Mister Sinclair,” said the uniformed doorman.

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