Chapter 1: Matthias
I talked with Midas today about the car, and I told him about the companions I chose for the trip. He approved of them, though he was a bit worried about Nick. I'm not entirely sure about him either, but I think in the end he'll be useful to have on Projekt Oktober. I don't think I've actually covered each individual member yet, I think I'll write down a few words about them, mostly for my benefit.
Jones "Smith" Wright, used to be a member of the British rock band called "The Hedgeclippers", he used disguises to sneak out undetected after his shows, it was a little quirk that made the fans adore him even more. I've only ever caught him in disguise once, and that was only because he revealed himself to me. He looked fifty years older, had changed his eye color and the shape of his nose, and was bald. I have no idea how he did it, but the next day he looked perfectly normal. Despite him always insisting that his band is huge in Britain, I've yet to hear his music or meet anyone that has ever heard of "The Hedgeclippers".
Natasha (she won't tell me her last name, and I'm pretty sure she made up her first), she's ex-KGB, and looks it. I'm going to tell the other members that she's with Projekt Oktober because she is a skilled driver and can remain unnoticed. The real reason is that she's helped me with tons of other projects, and I know I can count on her if things get sticky. She's the second best shot I've ever seen, she's quick, she's clever, and Projekt Oktober is partially her idea.
Lastly there's Nick. It's a bit hard to describe what his talent is, I guess you could say he has a way with words but it's a bit more complicated than that. He is persuasive, very persuasive. Something about him puts people at ease and causes them to open up to him. But here's the best part, he doesn't know about his talent. He's completely oblivious, which means it's easier for me to manipulate him. I know that sounds bad, but it's how I operate. Nick's a nice guy, I'm going to do my best to keep him out of harm's way.
While I'm getting all my thoughts in order, I think I might as well define exactly what Projekt Oktober is. There are two phases, Jones and Nick will be removed during the second phase, but Natasha and I will stick through to the end. The first phase is all I have to focus on right now, and it's a pretty simple one, we just have to drive Katie (our car) to Chicago. We have to stay a bit away from the main path while we're close to L.A., but by the time we get to Nevada we should be okay to use major roads. We'll stop in Las Vegas for a day or two, we won't stay in any of the casinos, we'll probably just sleep in the car or stop at a motel. We'll cover Arizona in a day, stop in a small town on the border of New Mexico, I'm thinking Shiprock. From there we'll try to make it to Oklahoma City in a day, but we'll probably have to stop in Amarillo, depends on how willing we are to drive. When we reach Oklahoma City we'll head up to St. Louis, then it's a straight shot to Chicago. The entire trip should take ten days, max.
Today I decided to finally have all the members of Projekt Oktober meet each other. I invited them all over to my apartment at eight o'clock (in the morning, we're going to need early risers on this). I was fashionably late, about 15 minutes, which meant that they would all have a bit of time to introduce themselves and talk. Luckily no one questioned why I was late, nor did anyone notice the camera I had installed in a plant that was in the corner. It's important that I get to know how the dynamics work between everyone, we need to all get along here.
Upon reviewing the video, it seems like Nick and Smith hit it off, which is good. Natasha was... civil, she even made a sly comment about Smith's band at one point, though she was by no means social. Jones is amiable, he'll get along with everyone, my worry is Natasha, she creates conflict no matter where she is. And Nick, I still can't really read him. On the outside he seems to be a pretty nice guy, a bit troubled, but nice. I feel like there is something deeper to him though, and that unnerves me. Anyway, Projekt Oktober begins tomorrow. I was rather surprised that everyone seemed willing to go so early. All the formal matters were squared away in about an hour at my house, but Smith and Nick hung around for a while. Natasha left at noon, but only recently have I gotten those two out. It's good everyone had a chance to get to know one another beforehand though, the smoother we all get along the smoother the whole project runs.
Today everyone met outside my apartment building with their bags. We packed them in to Katie but before we embarked on our trip, I stopped at a local cafe and treated everyone to breakfast. It was called "Le Cafe de Nourriture", personally it's my favorite cafe in Los Angeles, despite Natasha's disapproval of the place.
"So," I said after we had all ordered and were waiting for our food, "There's a few other things we should all know before we start on our trip. Don't worry, I covered the basics yesterday, these are just some specific rules." I paused for a second, stirring sugar into my coffee, "First, the Jag E-type's name is Katie. She's very sensitive and you'll hurt her feelings if you don't call her by her name, and we don't want that, so call her Katie. Second, the name of our 'employer' is 'Midas'. Yes, that is his actual birth name. He's a nice guy, I told you about him yesterday, very successful, he runs a novelty pencil manufacturing company."
"Pencil manufacturing?" Smith asked.
"Novelty, pencil manufacturing." I corrected, "He laughs about it all the way to the bank. Anyway, this entire trip is payed for by him, including the breakfast we're having right now. He flat-out told me that we're allowed to live it up on his dime, so long as we get Katie to him in a timely manner. Which brings me to the next matter, our route. The first stop is going to be Vegas, and I figure we can spend a day or two there enjoying ourselves. Then we're going to coast over the top of Arizona, cut through Texas, head up through Oklahoma, stop for a day or two in St. Louis, then continue on to Chicago."
"Sounds fun," Nick said, "I've always wanted to go on a road trip. Would you believe I've never been out of LA county?"
"I would find that very easy to believe, yes," Natasha said.
"Alright, then there's one last thing," I tried to make my voice casually as possible, "Don't look in the trunk."
"What?" asked Jones, dimly.
"Don't look in the trunk," I repeated.
"Don't ever look in the trunk," Natasha added.
"Don't go near the trunk."
"Don't touch the trunk."
"Don't breathe too deeply near the trunk."
"Don't even think about the trunk," Natasha finished. Jones and Nick sat relatively awkwardly for a few moments, until the food arrived, and Natasha's momentary lapse in judgment caused her to say 'oooooh, pancakes' which pretty effectively breathed new life into the conversation.
To be honest, I don't like Katie's trunk. I really don't like it, something about it creeps me out. It just isn't, I don't know, right. I feel awkward even writing about it. I suppose the less that's said about that thing the better. Plus I don't want to run the risk of Smith or Nick finding this and the secret being blown. Natasha already knows, she knew before I did, however I'm not letting Nick or Jones find out how deeply involved she is with Projekt Oktober, things could go wrong in the worst possible way if those two start asking questions.
We drove quite a while in relative peace. I sat up front with Natasha, and Smith and Nick sat in the back. We listened to Jones' collection of CDs for a while. At one point Nick pulled out a deck of cards and suggested we play poker. I won the first two hands, Nick won the third, and during the fourth round Natasha insisted we deal her in. She's got the best poker face on the planet, but I know her tell. During the last round of betting, I refused to fold, so she switched in to the other lane, and said she wouldn't change back unless I folded. At first I was going to let her continue on the left side, after all, it was the middle of the desert with no one around for miles. Then a tank truck appeared on the horizon. I folded five seconds before the truck was about to run us over, and Natasha dodged out of the way in time. Nick was having an aneurysm, and Jones was laughing like a maniac.
It's midnight and I don't have much else to do, so I think I'll write in here a bit. Smith and Nick are in the back, both of them asleep. Jones' head is resting on Nick's shoulder, in an oh-so-romantic manner, I was sure to snap a picture in case I ever have to blackmail either of them. We're almost in Vegas, I think I'm going to enjoy this trip. I've been to Vegas twice, both times were generally favorable, but it has a way of wearing you down. You can only really spend three days there before you either get bored or go crazy.
After talking with Midas again on Wednesday, he said he's got people working on covering our trail, and that I should be fine to stay in a casino, and he set us up with rooms in the Wynn. Let me say a few things about the Wynn, for the uninitiated. The Wynn is one of the most luxurious places on the planet, and to stay in the suite that we had (it was a Salon Suite), was seven hundred dollars a night. My friend Midas's generosity knows no bounds.
Jones just woke up, he's dancing around like an idiot, standing on the backseat singing "Viva Las Vegas", I can tell Natasha is thinking about gunning it and bucking him out of the car. Hold on a sec...
I just handed Jones a credit card that Midas gave each of us for the trip, tied to the fund for Projekt Oktober, and kicked him out of the car, telling him our hotel and room number. He should turn up in a day or so. Probably.