Author's Note: This chapter continues on from The Road Trip, essentially it is chapter 6 in that story. It is a bit tongue-in-cheek but gets us where we need to be. WSU is where I work, so you know. Julia, your suggestion works perfectly! Thank you to much!!!
Chapter 42 The Big Bite
July 1, 2008
What a wonderful road trip this has been! It was made even better watching Mick as we traveled the highways as it was something he never had done before. With each mile and each state he grew more comfortable and relaxed. Unfortunately, Simone wasn’t quite as happy about it all.
She is not cut out to tour the USA in a bus, regardless of how big it is or how nice the bathroom is. She wants luxury and comfort and really, I think the bus provides both but they are not up to her expectations I guess. She been in turn angry, sullen, and sometimes hateful even. I feel bad for Josef because he is trying so hard to please her and nothing makes her happy. Mick and I have often heard them arguing at night and we just hold each other tighter, so happy for this dream vacation with one another.
I know it’s not perfect on the bus; it is cramped in the bedrooms but really, all in all very nice otherwise. I think she has gotten used to the servants at Josef’s house doing everything for her; here we have to cook and clean up after ourselves which isn’t too bad considering how small the space actually is.
And speaking of things of that nature, Josef has discovered that many RV campgrounds actually have people who will empty the storage tanks! I think it’s hilarious that he’ll pay a hundred bucks for something that only took them a few minutes but both of them are very happy about it. Vampire noses just can’t handle it I guess.
We traveled to the Grand Canyon, the Four Corners; saw the Painted Desert and Monument Valley where they made so many old westerns. Mick was more excited about that then the Grand Canyon I think. When he was a kid he loved the old serial features at the movies and later on anything with John Wayne and a horse. I’ve learned so much about him on this trip; he loves the clear blue skies against the red, gold and ochre colors of the desert and the small town attitudes of people when we pull this ridiculous bus in for gas and things. Josef only grins like an idiot when people comment on the name.
Simone usually stays in the bus, refusing to get out and get dusty. Honestly? She’s acting like a child, pouting because she isn’t getting her way. We are going to stop in Vegas on our way back to LA and she has done nothing but complain that we were doing all this other stuff before we got there.
Right now we are on our way to Wichita, Kansas. I’ve never been to Kansas, Land of Oz and Dorothy and her little dog Toto too. Josef and William Randolph had set up an endowment fund when the town started a university in 1895. It was called Fairmount College back then but it’s called Wichita State University now. He donated big bucks two years ago for a sculpture there and wants to see it; it’s a huge millipede and supposed to be quite something. We’ll see I guess!
Simone looked with clouded and dismal eyes at the empty fields the bus passed by. It was true; right now they seemed pretty bare as the wheat had already been harvested. The bus was on I-35 only a few miles short of Wichita. They saw occasional small towns or farms out the windows, nothing that Simone had any interest in at all. She’d gone from quiet and withdrawn to discontented and vocal about the length of this side show. She wanted to go home, to LA and she wanted it 10 days ago.
“I do not understand why on earth we had to travel 1,500 miles out to this – this God forsaken place! There is nothing here, NOTHING!” she grumbled, causing an uncomfortable silence for all of them.
“Simone honey, why don’t you get a glass of wine and relax, okay? We’ll be in Wichita in about 10 minutes and from there we’ll head to the university. I have it all programmed into the GPS system.”
They were all very aware of the fact that Simone’s wine consumption had dramatically increased on the trip. Sometimes Beth felt like pouring a bottle or two down Simone’s throat just to get her to shut up. Beth realized it was a very uncharitable thought but the past two days they couldn’t go more than a mile or two without Simone complaining.
Mick and Josef were both fascinated with the GPS which left Beth and Simone to their own devices. After getting lost around Flagstaff, Arizona they had stopped and bought it; it seemed that vampire traveling knowledge was not quite up to snuff. They played with it constantly; programmed places like Sarasota, Florida or Mobile, Alabama into it, which in turn irritated Simone even more. It seemed she was paranoid they might actually head there. At one point Josef teased her about visiting all 48 contiguous states. It was not a funny moment.
Knowing Josef it could have been more of a threat…
It was 10:47 in the morning when they crossed the city limits into Wichita and 104 degrees in the Air Capital city, given that name for all the aircraft industry that was housed there. Air pioneers like Clyde Cessna, Bill Lear and Walter Beech founded their companies in this Midwestern city which was now home to not only them, but also to Boeing, Airbus, Piper, Spirit and other smaller aircraft related industries, according to the guide book Beth had picked up at an information stop. She read the information aloud as they made their way to the north part of the city.
The GPS led them through the city to the university. Josef took the exit off of 35 to head to the university and they saw the football stadium (although the guide book said they no longer played football there) and made the turn off onto the campus. They circled around on something called Perimeter Road and Beth exclaimed, “Look! There is the original building for the very first Pizza Hut. The book says it was moved here to campus by an anonymous benefactor after road construction on Kellogg Avenue threatened its existence.” Beth eyed Josef speculatively, wondering about the ‘anonymous benefactor’ thing. Josef stopped the bus and Beth hopped out, taking a picture of the unimposing and Beth had to admit, unimaginably small building.
Faculty, staff and students saw the bus but went on about their business, used to people coming to see the building. One student saw the name on the bus asked if they were with MTV. Assured they were not he headed on to class, casting a quick and last look over his shoulder at the bus.
Finally after circumnavigating the small roads of the campus, clearly not designed for a bus to travel on, they found the even smaller road around Milli. The road narrowed and hooked around, almost in the shape of a keyhole with Milli being on a center island.
“It kind of looks like a giant brown turd, doesn’t it? Not at all what I expected, you know, something whimsical, like in Alice in Wonderland.” Josef, clearly disappointed in his investment stared in horrified fascination at the sculpture.
“I don’t think you can get this bus around on the road Josef,” Mick said, standing up to take a better look at the road ahead of them.
“Sure, sure we can. It might be a l-i-t-t-l-e t-i-g-h-t though. If there weren’t so many cars parked here it would help for heaven sakes. What, have these people never heard of using the parking lots?” he grumbled as they almost took off the side mirror on a Honda.
Mick’s eyebrow rose as he saw how close they came to the mirror. He looked out the side windows to see what else was near. It was clear right now but the curve of the road was impossible he believed; unfortunately Josef didn’t. He suddenly had a headache and lightly pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to wish it all away. They were at a place now where they couldn’t really go back, but forward seemed impossible too.
“Look,” Beth said, oblivious to what was going on and pointing out a building on the west side of the bus. “It’s Wilner Auditorium. The book says it is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Kansas. It’s also one of the oldest buildings on campus, along with Fisk Hall which is behind us,” she said excitedly.
Mick cast a quick glance at the building and noticed a University police car pull up behind them. Shit, what the hell? What were they going to do now?
“Uh Josef, there is a police car behind us. If we can get out of here, now would be a good time,” he said, casting a longing look out the windshield at how close they were to sweet escape.
“Just let me back up a little bit and maybe angle to the left just a smidge…” Josef answered. They all jumped when they heard the scraping of metal on metal. Mick hung his head in frustration, ready to run for the hills, always supposing they could find any in this inordinately flat landscape. They had scraped up against a ‘No Parking’ sign which seemed ridiculous because there were cars parked everywhere.
There was a knock on the door of the bus and they all saw a University police officer tapping expectantly on it. Josef pushed the lever and the door opened, allowing the officer to climb aboard.
Between this horror of a road trip, the mess they were in now and Beth chirping excitedly about a haunted building Simone had had enough. She went to the bedroom and grabbed her purse and stomped back to the front of the bus. “Let me off this rolling house of horrors – I’ve had enough,” she told them all, frustration smeared all over her face.
The officer stared at her, caught up in her beauty but she ignored him. “Please, let me off NOW!”
“Simone, here?” Josef asked quizzically as he looked around. “What are you going to do?”
“I’ll find a way to the airport; even if I have to crawl across broken glass it will be better than staying here. I’ve had enough!”
“Ma’am, we do have busses, just out there on 17th street you can catch one if you want but I can’t let you go yet, not until we get this all figured out.”
Rage washed up over her face flushing it a brilliant scarlet color and the officer recognized desperation when he saw it; this was a woman on the edge. His past history with his ex wife had shown him that you don’t ever mess with a woman on the edge. Still, he couldn’t let her go yet so he stayed in the doorway and asked Josef for his license and registration.
Josef complied, pulling out the requested documents and hoped that Logan was as good as he claimed to be. The officer took them and headed back out to the cruiser with a warning to Simone to stay on the bus.
Mick was speechless; he knew that this was it, the jig was up. Beth saw his face and kissed him lightly on the cheek and murmured, “Must you always be so pessimistic?”
He realized she was right and grinned, half-halfheartedly anyway. He still didn’t know how the heck they were going to get the damn bus moved though.
Simone was on the phone to Delta Airlines arranging for a flight. They had one that left in a little over two hours so all she had to do was get off this damn bus. It seemed the officer was taking an inordinately long time to get the information. Just then another police vehicle pulled up ahead of them. It was some sort of 3 wheeled scooter thing and the officer got off and looked at the bus, staring at the name and scratching his head in question.
“He clearly doesn’t get it,” Josef joked.
“So few do,” Mick retorted and muttered a barely audible “Thank God…”
The new officer tapped on the door of the bus and Josef again pushed the lever allowing him to come up the steps and in. He was wearing khaki shorts and his navy blue polo shirt that said ‘WSU Police Department’ on it. He had a helmet on, much like one a child would wear to ride their bike.
“Howdy folks! I’m Sergeant Stucky. Looks like you got yourself a bit of a mess here. Yup, it happens. Road ain’t made for busses, that’s pretty clear.” He looked around at Mick, Beth and Simone, who was still waiting to get off the bus. He tilted his head in acknowledgment of the ladies, a cheesy grin on his face. “How you doing?” he said and it sounded as if he had been rehearsing it by watching old reruns of Friends.
“We’re fine Officer Sucky,” Simone said, reading the name on his name tag. She had to suppress a sarcastic comment about his name.
“Actually it’s Stucky Ma’am. They misspelled it at the engravers.” Seeing the possible interest in Simone’s face he straightened his shoulders a bit and tried to suck in the beer gut.
Whatever it took to impress the ladies!
“Sergeant, I really need to get of this bus and get to the airport. I have a flight to catch at 2:10, back to LA.”
“Delta?” he queried.
“Of course,” she acknowledged her voice sounding like silken velvet with a coquettish twist to it. “I never fly anything else.” It sounded almost sexual the way she said the words. “I’m just not sure how to get to the airport from here though.”
Sergeant Stucky picked up on it. Looks like he got himself a live one here he thought. “Why, we’d be happy to escort you out to Midcontinent Miss…”
“Walker, Simone Walker,” she said offering her hand in a limp-wristed shake. She looked into his watery blue eyes and smiled. Maybe she might get out of here yet she decided.
The first officer came back on the bus and motioned the sergeant off of it for a moment. Outside, he whispered something in the sergeant’s ear and they watched as his eyebrows shot up a couple of inches in surprise. Because of the air running in the bus Mick and Josef couldn’t hear what was said but they did hear the sergeant give out a long whistle and say, “Well, I’ll be darned!”
They both climbed back on board and were almost bowing in apology. “Uh, Mr. Kostan sir, the chief says we should just help you folks get on your way here. Whatever it takes!” Sergeant Stucky told them. “I believe if you angle towards the left you can make it; you’ll take out those rose bushes there but that’s alright, the Physical Plant can plant new ones! Now, you just go ahead there and we’ll try to direct you as best we can.” As he spoke he handed Josef’s identification back to him and Josef tried to hide the smile that crept up his face.
“Thank you, and thank the chief for me too. Oh, and Simone?” he said, slipping his sunglasses back on. “I believe this is your stop!”
Since hearing that they were going to let them go Simone had decided to just stay. She was dumbfounded by Josef’s words. “Um, no that’s okay, I’ll stay.” She looked at the sergeant’s crestfallen face and held back a shudder.
“No, I insist,” Josef told her, his voice like steel. “Off. The. Bus. Now. Sergeant Stucky, you wouldn’t mind ensuring that Ms. Walker gets to the airport on time would you?” At the sergeants suddenly bright face he looked at Simone again. “I’ll make sure you get everything you’ve left on the bus when I get back to LA. Hurry up now, we don’t want to keep the good sergeant waiting do we?”
For a moment Simone considered planting herself down in protest but one look at Josef’s face told her that one way or the other she wasn’t going to stay on the bus. She briefly wondered what Wichita’s version of the tar pits was and then decided she didn’t want to find out. “Fine!” she all but screamed. “I hate this damn constant blue sky and clean air. I want to see smog and traffic and buildings that have more than 30 stories!” She grabbed her purse and stood up, raising her chin just a fraction too high as she followed the sergeant off the bus. She missed the last step and fell straight into Sergeant Stucky’s arms.
He considered it fate. She considered that maybe the tar pits wouldn’t have been so bad.
After taking out half a dozen of the Physical Plant’s award-winning rose bushes the bus finally made it out onto the street. Josef concentrated and hit the button to bring the GPS back on line.
Beth watched his face in the mirror; it was as cool as ice giving no hint at what he was thinking. While it would be a blessing to not hear Simone’s constant nagging and complaining it surprised her greatly that he had kicked her off the bus. She wondered how he was really feeling about it all. She decided to walk forward to see.
Mick was laughing and she caught his comment. “Good luck with Delta. I knew someone who recently flew with them and when they got their bag back it looked like it had been run over by the plane.”
“That’s what I’m always hearing too; that and that they are never on time. Hope she doesn’t miss any connecting flights!” Josef said, chuckling loudly.
“Hey Josef,” Beth said, standing behind him.
“Ah, back behind the yellow line,” Josef said.
Beth looked down, puzzled as there was no yellow line and said as much.
“Hm, in movies there is always a yellow line. Damn, would you look at that! We’re supposed to turn here and there’s construction.”
As they went past the intersection the GPS started crooning, “Recalculating, recalculating! Proceed .8 miles and turn left…” in its tinny computer-generated voice.
As Josef made the turn and the interstate was in sight Beth said, “Josef, are you okay?”
She caught his eye in the rear view mirror and for a half a second she thought he looked sad but then his face immediately changed back to a bland expression. She laid her hand on his shoulder and leant down to whisper in his ear, “If you need anything…” and stepped away. She thought maybe he would talk to Mick if she made herself scarce. “I’m tired guys. I’m going to head back to the bedroom and take a nap.”
“Well, if you and Romeo didn’t play spin the bottle all night long you might get some sleep.”
She started to say that wasn’t what kept them up, but they all knew what it was because they were all thinking it; Josef and Simone’s constant arguments had often ensured that no one got much sleep. “Yes, well…Mick, wake me up in a couple of hours, okay?”
“Sure baby,” he told her, kissing her briefly. He watched as she moved to the bedrooms in the back, her hips swaying delightfully and it was all he could do to stay where he was and not join her. He finally turned away when he heard the bedroom door click firmly into place. He looked at Josef then, one eyebrow crooked in question.
“Don’t say it Mick. Yes, I’m okay, or I will be.”
Mick studied Josef’s face, debating just how true those words actually were. Josef was on edge, trying to push it all away from him; it was actually one of the things that Josef did best, hiding his feelings. Only problem was that Mick knew him well enough to know it was all a sham. “When you are ready to talk about it, I’m here Josef; Beth and I both are. Hey, I need to go check on her for a minute, I’ll be right back.”
Josef rolled his whiskey colored eyes, hidden behind his sunglasses and then grinned. Right back could be an hour, but that was okay.
Mick made his way into the bedroom they shared and smiled as he saw Beth lying on the bed in nothing but one of his Henley’s. “Hey, are you alright?”
“Yes, I really am tired, that’s all. None of us have been getting much rest.”
“Um, yeah. Hey, have you taken your vitamins today?” he asked, referring to the pre-natal vitamins they had bought at a drug store. Mick had read that it was one of the steps to help her body get ready for artificial insemination. Beth just grinned and took them.
“Yes worry wart, I did, right after I ate my organic banana and yogurt for breakfast. Honestly Mick, I’m fine.”
“Yeah, I know. I just want everything to be okay. Hey, I’ve been thinking that maybe I will build one of those small garden greenhouses on the roof so that I can grow organic vegetables and herbs for you? How would that be?” he said, watching her as she smiled at him and then laughed.
“I think it would be fine! Now go,” she demanded, pointing towards the door. “Josef needs you more than I do right now.”
He nodded and bent down to kiss her sweet warm lips, savoring them for just a moment. “Okay, call me if you need anything.”
At her nod he left the room, closing the door firmly behind him. As he headed back up front Josef laughed and commented that ‘that’ didn’t take long.
“We only talked Josef. ‘THAT’ is not all we do.”
“Could have fooled me. Do you think she knows anything?” he said changing the subject.
Mick grinned like a love-sick fool as he thought about the surprise they had in store for her in Las Vegas. “No, she doesn’t know anything. Lani, Dorothy and Robbi aren’t saying a word. Have you heard from them today?”
“Yes, I had an email from Lani this morning; the three of them are in Vegas making preparations. They seem to think that they can have enough done so that when we arrive tomorrow night there will be very little for Beth to do; pick out her gown and flowers, things like that. The whole crew from home will be there, Clark, Logan and his new girl, Robbi’s family, Guillermo, Carl, Ben, Steve, her photographer friend from Buzzwire, Beth’s friends Max and Mark, Elka, Cami and Lani’s boyfriend, uh, Amos somebody…”
Mick smiled at Josef’s deliberate, incorrect name for Lani’s boyfriend. Those two would either kill one another someday or…” He tried not to speculate on the ‘or’. “When will they all be arriving?”
“The same day we get there, but a little later in the day. We have the whole top floor of the Bellagio reserved for the group. That evening we are throwing you one helluva bachelor party boyo. Lani is doing the same for your little blonde-haired bride. She has also decided that the wedding dinner will be a buffet, that way with people sort of milling around it might not be as noticeable that some of us aren’t eating the food. Think you can choke down a bit of wedding cake?”
“For Beth? I can do anything,” Mick answered.
“Good, wouldn’t want you screwing up the pictures of the wedding by making faces. You, Logan, Clark and I get fitted for our tuxes the afternoon we arrive and the wedding will be the evening after that. Small, intimate and with half the tourists in Vegas watching no doubt.”
“If it weren’t a grand show it wouldn’t be a Kostan production would it?” Mick chuckled, finally relaxing because it seemed like everything was falling into place. The extra days they had spent on the side trip to Wichita had provided them the extra time to get things ready in Vegas.
As they cruised down the interstate in Oklahoma a thought finally occurred to Mick. “Hey, just why did they let us go at WSU anyway? You know that chief or something?”
“Nah, they probably recognized my name. After all, I never said the donation for that priceless and tacky piece of art was anonymous, did I?” he joked. “Boy, I wish I could take that one back!”
To be continued…