Friday, October 16, 2015

HELL BECOMES HER—Welcome to Battle Mountain

Quiet, calm and peaceful on the outside . . . 
Northern Nevada has one of the smallest, most desolate towns in the entire nation kept alive by a strange combination of cattle ranching, farming and mining—Battle Mountain.  About a decade ago, it was named the official Armpit of America in a national search set to answer that question.  In the four-ish years I lived there, I learned to run, played ball, and  met some of my best friends.  It seemed only fitting to bring at least one of my stories back to a place that proved so influential on me:

The Bronco wasn’t much. A late 80s four-wheel drive with a lot of special “modifications” for use on the airfield, including only one working windshield wiper on the driver’s side. It didn’t have to be much though. The GPS on Jane’s phone said it was 6.4 miles from the airport to the center of Battle Mountain. They rumbled down into the dark, little town to its main drag, appropriately named Front Street. A giant, glowing Shell gas sign welcomed them, its yellow light cutting through the night, except the light on the “S” was burned out so that it read “HELL”.
“Seriously?” Del asked no one.
“Where to?” Marrin replied, as he navigated the semi-flooded streets, potholes, and mud.
“Don’t stop,” Del told him. “Go on through. Let’s see what we can see first. Get a lay of the land.”
They passed a few cars going in the opposite direction, headlights muted by the rain and dark of the storm, but there was nothing like traffic. Every store they passed was closed until they came to a block dominated by a brightly lit combination restaurant and casino—The Nevada Hotel Fun & Food—was doing a brisk trade. Every parking space in front of the single-story building and across the street was filled. People stood outside the entrance, clinging to the side of the building where the eves and overhang provided some protection from the rain, as if they were waiting to get into Studio 54. Del checked the digital clock on the truck’s radio. It read 3:10 A.M.
“That seem strange to anyone else for a weekday?” Jane noted.
“Yeah,” Del said. “Keep going.”
Battle Mountain boasted a single stoplight where Front Street made a T with
. . . rave on the inside?
Broad Street. Due to the storm, the light had defaulted to blinking red in all directions. They continued through and passed a defunct grocery, and a deserted motor inn called The Uptown. The entire town felt like it was on the brink of collapse, as if one good, economic crisis would end it all and everyone would close shop without bothering to board up the windows or even lock the doors.
“Pull in there,” Del said.
Marrin slowed and turned into the last hotel along the roadway, another motor inn called The Big Chief. He stopped under the portico in front of the office, turned off the lights, but left the motor running.
“What’s the play?”
“Base of operations,” Del said. “We have about two or three more hours before we’re supposed to arrive. Jane, you’re on transportation.”
Del reached into a zipper pocket of her pack, pulled out a small plastic bag of cash, mostly hundred dollar bills. She passed it to Jane.
“Ditch this truck somewhere it won’t attract attention. In a town like this, a vehicle stolen and recovered probably won’t illicit much excitement. Get us something similar though: SUV, four-wheel drive, reliable. After that, I don’t care what it looks like. Except pink. Do not get it in pink.”
“Sure,” Jane said. “I take it I’m also being ditched?”
“You are,” Del said, “but it’s not personal. You’re serving as back up.”
“That means we’re taking point?” Marrin asked.
“Right again,” Del replied. “You saw this town. Their main street isn’t exactly Grand Central Station. It’s mostly struggling, failing, or abandoned businesses except that casino and restaurant we passed. It doesn’t strike me odd that it’s succeeding. It strikes me odd that it’s packed to capacity during a heavy downpour on a weekday at three in the morning when everything but the sidewalks have been rolled up.”
“You’re sure you don’t want one more set of eyes on this?” Jane asked.
“Marrin is the extra set of eyes,” Del replied. “You’re in case we both miss something. Two hours. No more and no less. After that, you kick down all the doors and come get us out. I mean that. I don’t want to be tied up in a back room with my wrists all chaffed up because you decided to give us a little extra time.”
“Or a bullet in your head,” Jane supplied.
“Or that,” Del agreed.
Jane looked at her watch. “Two hours,” she said. “Let’s get to work.”

Cover Reveal—Monday, October 19th

Book Release—Thursday, November 19th

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