Chapter One - Lost Like This
Somewhere outside Salem, IN
Owen Pitt was having a bad day.
First off, he wasn't even supposed to be working today, or anytime this month for that matter... Earl had promised he and Julie could have a couple weeks off for their honeymoon, since business had been a little slower after the Arbmunep incident, but here he was in rural Indiana of all places, doing paper work and prepping the new Ohio River Valley team headquarters for their move in next week.
Secondly, it was July in Southern Indiana, and he was pretty sure he was melting. The one thing he'd looked forward to when The Boss had told he and Julie that they were needed a week early was that at least he'd be cooler in Indiana than in Alabama. Now he was kicking himself for not bringing his camelback along with his casual wear, and the air conditioning in his rental car was slowly dying in the awful muggy heat of a Washington County summer.
Last but not least, he was lost. The GPS on his phone hadied stopped working a short time after leaving the temporary office in New Albany and he was now searching for the "dark green silo" that Scooter, the new team lead, had told him was "near about 'round" the slowly evolving compound.
He was tired, covered in sticky sweat, and it was getting dark. Up ahead, its neon sign just now flickering to life, was a blast from the past. A small “no tell motel” with an attached diner sat off to the side of the two lane blacktop, its parking lot filled with well worn cars and a vacancy sign lit up in red letters above the faded white and green sign proclaiming it to be The Lodge Diner and Boarding House. The smell of burgers and fries had Owen's mouth watering through his now rolled down window. He'd slept in worse, and he could eat a horse at this point.
“Screw Scooter… I'll call him from the land line in the morning.”
Jimmy was already late.
He had a load of lumber bound for Northern Illinois and had already dealt with a disappearing hitchhiker and coached Heck through a particularly annoying encounter with a truck stop gremlin that cost him two hours near Charleston. Now he was having to pull off of 65 out in the sticks to grab some gas and food before his truck died or his hands shook any worse.
It was late, and every restaurant he passed was dark and empty. He pulled up to the first gas station he'd seen in the last few miles and reached over to shut off his CB, but stopped short as he heard a short squawk over channel 23. He turned up the volume, only to catch the last few words of the broadcast.
“... lone driver spotted. Drove into The Lodge. Requesting a brother. No field operatives within range.”
Looks like he was gonna be really late this time.
“This is Paladin, what's your twenty son?”