In this session the world of our investigators opens up. They head to Las Vegas where more than slots and singers are about!
Cast of Characters Cindy as Babs Cook the Photographer Caitie as Joe Johnson the Drifter Kelly as Sophia Nye, Retired Star of the Pictures Jacob as Jack Keel, Veteran and College Drop Out Tyler as Derek Munds the Tough Street Greaser Ted as Karl, Nuclear Engineer and Field Researcher Charlie as Special Agent Travis Taggart (on hiatus)
"Howdy Pard'ner," goes Vic, shimmering in his brilliant glory looking down on the Las Vegas strip. Out from The Sands comes the crooning voice of Frank Sinatra crowded with the rumble of chrome autos, the flippedy flip of shuffling cards, the song of the roulette wheel, the meter of tumbling dice. And hunkered in the neon-flecked shadows are the Teamsters pulling strings for both hardworking hands and well-greased palms. The papers describe the stepping down of a sheriff due to an investigation concerning a brothel. Every few months the distant mushroom cloud of testing ascends in the north, sending shockwaves through the sun-baked soil and asphalt. Airy hair-dos and colorful cocktails affirm: This is the Age of the Atom.
Our investigators, though, have not arrived yet.
Dietrich Munds, happy to be away from his stodgy Pop made his way to a quiet fishing hole on the sunny Sierra Nevada. His head, still swimming with that anemone like creature he helped flambé twice, that strange memory of the movie set with Sofia Nye crying out, "Action!" And while he shivers upon seeing a pool of still water off his fishing stream, he remembers a time with his father, before Ma left, when he thought things might go okay. He wondered, quietly, line bobbing in the water, where Ma was now. The road seemed to be an easier home than their perfectly shaped little house in Los Alamos.
Sofia Nye though, had a script to write. And Babs Cook, unable to get her fantastical and macabre "astonishing photos" in the papers, was providing the concept art for the studio. That Roger Corman would be a perfect fit for this kind of business. Little beneath Nye, she supposed, but those space flicks were all the rage. A writing and production credit could lead to directing. Or maybe she might but in on that Corman fellow and take the lead. Babs, though, with two books on this Gla'aki creature had more than just unsellable photos to think about. Where would she find the beginning to this story?
Jack Keel had spent the evening after the day of dark prayer and contaminated river digging a hole in the desert and putting whatever the devil it was in it. It had been cooked through and charred passed that, with the decrepit, ancient, and mad Brophy brother stabbed through two dozen times. He had kept speaking, praying, or what-have-you after he'd fallen onto that pin cushion creature and he could still hear those noises. Heck, Keel could still feel the rushing of the water from his dream that night before. For now, though, that stream was guiding him to Los Angeles where he could chat with some of his street-level buddies. Guys who took to road and rail to get away from their past, or their home, or just whatever was chasing them. When that came up for naught, he checked out the library where he started looking into (What did the librarian call it?) cryptozoology to try to learn more.
Joe, having seen the fraying of the world she knew, dove into something she always had cared for: engines. Two or three towns down, best to lose track of Clarkdale after the nights she'd had, she picked up some work with a junkyard, lending a hand for a few days and shifting parts around to get an old junker moving. Since it was scrap without her, and Old Man Brown seemed to like her jib, it all worked out work-wise and she drove the belching jalopy into the neon lit streets of Vegas.
Special Agent Taggart, well, as to be expected he had more forms to fill in triplicate than any of his clandestine collaborators could comprehend. Knowing he was going to meet up with them in Vegas, he got the ball rolling on poor Allen Gibbs and the kooky Don Howards Sr. in Clarkdale and got to the Vegas field office. Those long hours provided ample opportunity to get in touch with his boss, and then later to get word to the Boss, the big one, who was all shadows and smoke. And with the stacks of papers and that familiar hand cramp, even the field office felt pretty familiar and comfortable after a while.
And so our investigators scattered, researched, recovered. Or recovered what they could before reconvening in the Golden Nugget.
Las Vegas, Nevada, Wednesday, November 3, 1954
The Golden Nugget, built in 1946, was not one of the flashiest joints in Glitter Gulch. Its clay-red and sunny yellow carpet was worn bare in spots and just enough bulbs were out to take notice. Jack stood outside with a ten gallon hat looking for the life like a scrawny tourist riding bennies while reading through one of those funny magazines about Siamese twins and the like.
With a belch of smoke Joe parks around back and moseys into the glitz and faded glamor of the casino. Dietrich is at the bar nursing a drink and gathers up the others. Sofia, always fashionable, is last to arrive, wanting to spend as little time as possible in the joint.
There are rumors about: Some journalist in a white suit is trying to do a story on an up and coming lounge singer; the Teamsters are getting paid on the back and front with all the new construction; Taggart gets the word to keep an ear out for anyone looking to make deals with Soviet types (the foreigners can blend in a little easier on the Strip); and at the bar even in the Golden Nugget everyone is talking about the show coming to the Sahara called the Golden Pharaoh.
Turns out Jack is a fan of Walt Avery, the man in white seen about town. And there are some Life Magazine photographers snapping pictures for a story coming out next year. They seem to be interested in the Riviera, the first high rise on the Strip, but more people are going to the Showboat with its bowling alley and breakfast buffet.
But Sofia, eager to know what all the buzz is about suggests the Sahara and this Golden Pharaoh. Amir Slama has made himself not just the writer, but the director and choreographer of the performance. Outside crowds of Saudi businessmen, well-dressed Cubanos, and New York tycoons are talking about the upcoming performance. The Sahara's several stories tower high overhead.
The ticket girl tells Sofia that the show isn't till Friday, two days from now. They've been sold out for days. Even the Saturday is all booked. Sofia, not to be deterred, calls a Tinseltown friend who is going to do his best to get seats in Row 5, Row 7 at the furthest back. And with that, she's ready for a drink. Babs, interested in talking their big picture deal, is eager to talk more.
Dietrich, Joe, Taggart, and Jack are interested in the setup for this big event. A drunk down the way requires the attention of the brick house of a security guard, giving them a chance to sneak through the service hallway. Kitchen entrance to the left, stage hall to the right, and more access in the back. The quartet gets into the performance hall midway through. The stage is made up like some kind of Egyptian palace with big blocks of stone and elegant stairways. The whole thing is bigger than you'd expect would fit in a place built more for jazzy tunes. Two large rolls of ersatz papyrus flank the stage hanging just behind the curtain and the stage itself is dusty and covered in footprints and boot prints.
Taggart scans around and finds a half dozen sheets of script laying near the front of the audience hall. The scene is some kind of dream with special technical lighting instructions and notes in Arabic. It is some kind of song number with all the dancers moving in unison just before the Pharaoh presents himself to his vassals and servants.
Jack and Dietrich get to the box of electrical controls and the stage ropes tied up just off stage. Curious to see what these rolls of papyrus say, they unroll one with a ruffling whir the nearest one comes down. On it is a massive symbol, somewhat reminiscent of the nuclear symbol but stylized and spiral. A center point with three unique spirals coming off of it. All in yellow ink.
Dietrich tries to get the image down, sketching it in his notepad, but each time it seems to shift somehow as if the dim lighting of the closed stage were casting shadows over it. After a dozen attempts, each one looks different and not one looks right.
Joe and Jack duck back stage and head toward dressing rooms. Connecting to the rear service hallway, they come upon the girls' dressing hall with twenty or so scanty skirts and muslin tops. Vanities with make up kits spread out, but mostly tidied, line the space with a few black and white photos and postcards slid into the vanity frames. In the back is a locked door, the main dressing room of the star.
Joe makes short work of the lock. Inside, well, they don't know quite what to make of it. Long whirls of fabric are everywhere, as well as a get up that looks like drywall stilts and arm prostheses, also wrapped in muslin. On the desk is a plain, featureless mask with holes for proper breathing. In the vanity desk is another locked drawer, which they pry open together. Inside is a box, marked with the symbol on the papyri (that the two do not recognize as they have been back stage), which they open.
And the box falls and cracks on the floor. The sudden sharp sound echoing through the quiet back halls despite doors being closed. But the box is open.
Outside at the bar Sofia has found a bachelor in need of a dancing partner, but she is all left feet! Or maybe he is. Either way, their movies are uncoordinated and her attempt to find a funder for her latest project comes up short. For now, at least.
While away, a man barely able to fit in his suit, all bulk and cheap finery that he is, saddles up next to Babs and buys her next drink. Babs, recently attired with some help from Sofia during one of their work breaks, is lapping it up. Strong, suited, even if maybe he's a little older than she'd prefer. Turns out Teddy Skoglund here has been keeping busy managing the new construction sites! They've got one coming up, word is, it'll be integrated. Imagine that!
Sofia, her sponsor having taken the air, has no problem imagining. No business partner of hers will be seen with an inelegant type like Teddy. With a keen flash of her eyes and a breath of cigarette smoke, she "rescues" Babs from the brute buying her drinks.
Something about what is inside perturbs them, and Jack falls into a delusion. He is in enemy territory and must report to Command. He ducks out, hunkers low, and makes his way swiftly toward the known exit. Meanwhile, Joe is looking in the box, its base broken, but its contents still wrapped in a black satin cloth.
It is a crown. Several tall, pointed prongs come off of a round base. And it appears golden, but also lighter than gold. Without thinking Joe puts it into her bag and moves out toward the dressing room. Taggart and Dietrich, having heard the ruckus, make their way back stage. They don't see Jack, who has been moving quickly, but one of the guards is strolling by curious about the noise. Looking toward Joe concealed in the rack of clothes, Dietrich and Taggart get the jump on the guard. Literally.
The guard slams Dietrich against the wall, knocking the air out of the young man, who continues to hold on tight. Taggart comes around, fedora low to hide his face, gives him the quick one-two to the cheek. Nothing breaks underneath, but it stuns the fellow while Dietrich keeps holding him tight until he becomes subdued. Did he catch of the Special Agent who suckerpunched him?
Joe joins the two just in time to see Jack push his way into, if not through, the door to the casino floor. Unfortunately, the floor guard had made it back on duty. The flimsy swinging door hits his back hard but slams harder into Jack's lowered forehead, knocking him on his derriere! Babs and Sofia see this with a bit of confusion, while Jack, still most definitely in hostile territory, hops up and runs for the kitchen. The guard, Vincent "Smokes" Dilotti, is fast on his heels. The others rejoin Babs and Sofia for a stiff drink before making their way out of the Sahara.
Jack bobs and weaves through the kitchen, though he is a little less nimble than he used to be. He bashes straight into a server carrying a steak dinner and soup, sending it flying and keeping Smokes' attention. In a last ditch effort, Jack (beginning to come to with the warm soup on his face) pushes through a door and right into one of Smokes' compatriots on the other side. He gets a hard punch in, but these guys are used to trouble.
Luckily, Jack's got enough wits to calm himself down and enough dough on hand from some good tablework at the Golden Nugget to cover the meals he's ruined, not to mention a handsome tip for the guards. They brush him down and escort him out with a warning. About as good of an ending as he could have expected.
Joe, with something unnerving in her back, coaxes the group back to a hotel room at the Golden Nugget. With a little privacy they try to make heads or tails of the crown Joe nabbed, but without any luck. It isn't gold but maybe an alloy? And the symbol on the papyrus sure isn't Egyptian hieroglyphics. There's a lot of head scratching as they figure out whether to return it and what to expect from this Friday show on the way. With a little nerve calming drinks, they split for the night.
Special Agent Taggart is able to send off a private wire through the Special Channel before trying to dig into what all the Sahara's in to. Maybe the owners or backers have something to do with this Golden Pharaoh funny business. Jack, trying to calm himself, gets at one of the terrible cigars he's picked up, trying to reflect on what all he's wrapped up in. Sofia, seeing that Babs is getting some unaccustomed attention, sets up a hair and fitting appointment the next day for the two of them. Dietrich, a little light in the pocket, tries to relieve a big winner from a little earnings but ends up in lock up for the night befriending a fellow greaser there. Joe, well, with a hard week of work behind her she's ready to call it a night.