Chapter 1: Smith
I've decide I'm going to keep a journal, cause I am. So there. This is actually, the eighth time I'm writing this first sentence. I could never find a good way to phrase it, it always felt weird because I keep talking as though I'm talking to someone, like, a specific person, rather than just tossing out thoughts into the void. Eventually I decided that it didn't matter how I styled my journal, and, uhm. Yeah. So. That's... all... cool, I guess. Y'know, on second thought, it's probably a sin for me to even be allowed to pick up a pen and write my thoughts down, simply because I disgrace the English language in the worst possible way. Though that last sentence was pretty good, eh?
Today I went and met with my friend Matthias. I've known the guy for about two and a half years, he's a great person to be around, despite being a bit of a shady character. Anyway, he said he's got a job offer for me, a way to pick up a few extra bucks, which to be honest, I need considering how poorly I've been doing ever since the Hedgeclippers broke up. So yeah, I met with him and discussed it. The job itself is simple, I'm gonna help drive a car across the US, and as a reward, get $200,000 like nothing. Pretty sweet deal, even though it's so sketchy. I'm thinking the car has like, crack or something in the doors.
I'm going along as a 'disguise expert', which is endlessly amusing to me. In addition to Matthias, two others are going. There's Nick, who is a nice enough guy, and Natasha, who'd be totally smoking hot if she were so busy being creepy as hell. But hey, I've already made friends with Nick, and Matthias and I have been hanging out for a while, so in my mind the whole thing is gonna be a sweet road trip that I get paid for when it's over. So long as we don't get arrested, I think it'll be pretty fun.
Right now I'm packing, and listening to some Hard-Fi, they're a newish band, but their music is really great. It makes me want to get out my guitar and start playing again. I think I should get a collection of CDs to bring on the trip, some U2, some White Stripes, yeah, that'd be great. Whizzing down the highway in that sick, blue 1964 Mustang, oh man I get goosebumps thinking about it.
OH, hey, I just remembered something I wanted to write about, kinda the reason I got this journal in the first place. So, about a week ago, I was eating at this kinda modern cafe, it was called "The Numeral". It was pouring like the end of days, so I was stuck in there for a while. Anyway, finally, I get my check, and it's misprinted. Under the "Total" section, it just says "636". Not "$636", not "$636.00", just "636". Six, three, six. Now, on it's own, that's not too weird. I get the bill corrected and leave, and I notice that the cafe's address number thing is 636 also. At first I chalked it up to coincidence.
But then, get this, I'm walking down the street in the pouring rain, and I see a newspaper headline (I was walking past a newsstand), and it looks interesting, so I read the cover for a bit. Then I notice, the date is wrong. It's printed as "6-3-6", not even "06", just "6". Now, I think this was on the 18th I think, and I asked the guy running the stand what was up and he said he didn't know. Now I've been seeing the number crop up everywhere, and it's creeping me out. It isn't even being subtle anymore, just showing up in places it doesn't fit (my digital clock has been stuck as 6:36 for the past three days). I tried looking it up in the Bible, Joshua 3:6, "Joshua said to the priests, 'Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.' So they took it up and went ahead of them." I don't see any significance in that, so clearly that isn't the answer. Unless I was like, a lawyer, and I was putting justice ahead of everything else, then it could be like, symbolic, or something. Except I'm not a lawyer, I play guitar.
I woke up at 6:36 this morning, according to my busted alarm clock, I'm guessing it was really more around 7:15. I showered, but I didn't have breakfast because Matthias had said not to, he was treating us. Once I was dressed, I grabbed my suitcase and headed out the door. We were all supposed to meet outside of Matthias' apartment, but it was only a short walk, and I didn't have anywhere I could leave my car if I was to drive over there, so I decided to walk. It is kind of jogging to leave my home on such sudden notice, but hey, for $200K, I'm more than willing.
On my way to meet Matthias, I stopped at a newsstand (the same one I mentioned before), and bought a magazine. Just some fluff to read, People Magazine, with 6 life-changing beauty tips on page 36. I'm not gay, I promise. Also bought myself a pack of gum. Five Gum, so, no numerical significance there. I buy the same things when I get on an airplane, nothing annoys someone nearly as much as some idiot chewing gum and reading People on a transatlantic flight. If I'm feeling really nasty I swap it for Playboy and Caramel.
The place Matthias had picked out for us was some hole-in-the-wall French cafe, not normally my thing, but I secretly love crepes. The majority of the meal was spent with Matthias telling us various odds and ends about our job. Our employer's name is Midas, he makes pencils. The car's name is Katie, and I'm not allowed in her trunk. Which makes her like every Katie I've ever known. Additionally, Matthias mapped out the route we're going to be taking to Chicago. We've got some nice stops on the way, namely Vegas, which is our first stop. We're also trying our best to dodge places like Iowa, and Kansas, cause I mean, come on, who wants to go to Iowa or Kansas? I'm guessing the trip will take 10, 11 days. Somewhere in that area.
So yeah, that's basically all we've done all day. As soon as we finished breakfast we hit the road, and we haven't stopped once, except for lunch. I noticed Nick scribbling away in a journal, so I figured I'd do the same. We've also been playing poker, which is, you know, difficult in a moving vehicle. Natasha, who was driving by the way, got dealt in one round. She switched lanes into oncoming traffic when Matthias wouldn't fold, it was bloody hilarious. Nick and Matt nearly had heart attacks, both of them.
We arrived in Las Vegas today around midnight, and due to some perfectly acceptable behavior on my part, Matthias kicked me out of the car. He told me the room number at our hotel, and gave me a credit card with essentially unlimited funds prior to the booting, so I don't think he's legitimately angry. In addition, he tossed me out in front of M&M World, and when someone is pissing you off, you don't send them to the chocolate-composed Heaven that is M&M world. Of course, Smarties are better, but I digress.
Now, I don't know if you've been to M&M World, but in it, there is a wall. A very special wall. For this wall consists of various tubes of every color of M&M you can imagine. Crimson, gold, slate, copper, and other bizarrely named Crayola colors. Now, before you judge me too harshly, think about what you would do in this situation. I bought the wall. It's being mailed to my ex-bandmates in England.
In the midst of my thoughtless, spending rampage, I failed to realize what repercussions may actions might have. See, people overheard that someone had bought the M&M Wall, and they told other people, and those people told other people. The story spread like a wildfire. Apparently, people really liked that wall. So about two hours later, when I was walking down the street, a man pulled me over to have a word.
He was a bit scruffy, grayish hair although he only seemed to be in his twenties. His cloths were beat up, but more in the "honest worker" type way, he wasn't like, a hobo or anything. The man told me his name was Renard, and that he had a proposition for me.
"You're the one who bought the M&M wall, right? I heard a rumor, and you fit the description..." Renard asked.
"Maybe, why? Wait, how do you know about that? I mean even if people did gossip about the purchase it's not like they would vividly describe my appearance, but clearly they did since you were able to pick my face off the street... What am I going on about?"
"Well, first off, what was that even about? I mean, who goes in and buys a wall?"
"It's a perfectly legitimate purchase!"
"Alright, alright, whatever you say. Like I was saying, I've got a proposition for you," Renard pulled out a deck of cards, "Pick a card." I did, 6 of Hearts. Renard did some fancy shuffling, cut the deck, and asked me to put my card in the middle. Some more fancy shuffling, then he took the top card off the deck. 6 of Hearts.
"Oh come on, you just kept it on the top, is this supposed to impress me?" I scoffed, Renard smiled.
"Alright, I guess I have to step it up a bit for you," Renard fanned out the deck again, "Pick any five cards, hide them anywhere you want, and then tell me when you're done." Two I hid in my pockets, one I hid in a crack on the sidewalk, one I tossed in the trash, and one I wrote my name on, folded into an airplane, and threw into the street.
"Okay, I'm done, amaze me," I said cynically.
"You're done? You're ready to have your mind blown?" Renard asked with the most sinister grin I've ever seen painted across his face.
"Yes, let's see what you can do Houdini," I was beginning to get fed up. Renard produced something from his coat pocket.
"Is this your wallet?" It was.
"Oi! What the hell?!" I yelled, and snatched it from him, not before he took out the credit card. He held it out in front of me, but stopped me when I went to grab it.
"Just watch," he said, and flicked the credit card. It was instantly transformed it to a playing card, one of my playing cards. He then revealed that he also had the other cards by fanning them out in his hands, one of them was folded and had my name on it. Not only that, but they were also arranged in the order I had hidden them. To finish it all, he told me to reach into my pocket, and I pulled out the credit card.
"You're name is Renard right?" I asked.
"Sure is, don't wear it out."
"Renard, I think I'd like to hear your proposition."
I just got to my hotel room about 15 minutes ago. Two hours ago, I was $136,708 poorer than I currently am. Renard, it turns out, is an extremely good poker player. And not just poker, but blackjack, roulette, slots, all of it. He is the most extraordinary gambler I have ever seen.
"You see," he said to me back on the street I had met him, "I'm lucky. I'm very, very, very lucky. Nothing ever goes wrong for me, ever. The only issue I have? I can't hold on to money. So every year I come to Vegas, find someone to finance me, and split the profits with them. To put it simply, I have what your need, luck, and you have what I need, money." We walked up to a poker table in New York, New York. He sat down right as the dealer finished shuffling the deck. Five minutes later, he had a royal flush and $1,000 to pocket.
Renard and I kept this up most of the night. Once we had raked in about $50,000, we cashed it and switched Casinos. We've all seen the movies, we know what happens if you start winning too big in Vegas. The next place we hit was the Luxor, but before we did I stopped Renard and pulled him into some shady Halloween store. Ten minutes later, he walked out looking about ten years older, with brown hair, a black jacket, and two inches taller. Fancy card tricks are nice and all, but my disguise magic will win everytime.
I'm going to introduce Renard to the rest of the group, I'm sure Matthias will be greatly interested in him. I'm already cooking up a little scheme of my own. We've got a couple of days here, and I think we could all do with some more cash.