Monday, May 6, 2013
“I’m telling you,” Pablo insisted, “that town up the road is weird.”
Hoover hid a yawn behind his hand. Here we go again. Knowing Pablo would never let up, he gave the expected response. “Weird how?”
“Spooky weird. Everything we’ve got here, and they keep to themselves.” Pablo waved his arm to indicate the world beyond the lobby of the Rocky Top Motel: fast food restaurants, chain stores, gas stations and, about a mile or so beyond the exit, the interstate. While Pablo’s arm pointed one way, his eyes aimed the other, up the winding two-lane that led into remote mountain wilderness.
“All the other folks around, they come out to eat at McDonald’s and go to the movies or the bowling alley and shop at the WalMart,” Pablo went on. “Those folks from Talbot’s Peak don’t even go to the WalMart. Who doesn’t shop at WalMart? That’s un-American, that’s what that is.”
“They come here,” Hoover said. “They eat at Pizza Hut. I’ve seen ‘em. They go to the Outback Steakhouse and the Chinese buffet, too. And the monster truck rally out at the raceway.”
“But not the rodeo. They protest that every year. Show me a normal Montanan who doesn’t support the rodeo.”
“Those are animal-rights freaks. Every town has those. That doesn’t prove a thing.”
Pablo leaned across the front desk. “I’m telling you, they’re weird. Not-really-human weird.”
“Those two guys who were here last month. The ones who asked all the questions. Well, I thought about those questions, and I realized they were on to something.” He dropped his voice to a froggy whisper. “This has happened before.”
Dreading the answer, Hoover said, “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Pablo whipped a paperback out of his pocket like he’d just been waiting for a cue. “It’s all here, in this book.”
Hoover eyed the tattered cover. “Salem’s Lot?”
“I’m telling ,you man, they’re vampires. They gotta be. A whole town that never goes to the WalMart and always keeps to themselves—”
“Who eat at the Chinese buffet and go to the monster truck rally.” He leaned toward Pablo until they were nose to nose. “And who walk around in daylight.”
“There are ways around that. Don’t you watch TV?”
“With you around, what do I need TV for? Look, you’re a decent guy half the time, so I’ll tell you the truth.” Hoover glanced around the empty lobby before confiding to Pablo, “Those folks in Talbot’s Peak, they’re a home-grown militia. Survivalists.”
Pablo’s eyes got huge. “For real?”
“Hell yeah. This is Montana, remember? Home of the civilian army. I’m telling you, man, they’re armed to the teeth up there. You’re a terrorist, your ass is grass. When the big one drops, or the zombies attack, that’s where I’m headed. Safest place you could be.”
“Yeah,” Pablo said slowly. He put his book away. “It all makes sense now. The monster trucks, I mean. But what have they got against WalMart?”
“No cheap foreign goods for them. American-made all the way. Those are patriots up there. We should be supporting them instead of nosing around in their business. They don’t take kindly to that.”
“Yeah. Yeah, okay.” Hoover assumed Pablo must be thinking of a whole town full of rifles and ammo in the trained hands of suspicious fanatics. “Thanks, man. I’ll make sure to be polite to them.” He leaned in again to ask, “Does the FBI know?”
“Even they steer clear. Why do you think those two guys left in such a hurry? You ask me, we’re better off if the Peakies don’t come down here to mix. Safer all around that way.”
“Amen, brother.” Pablo heaved a deep breath. “You want to hit the bar after work?”
“Is Judy on?” At Pablo’s nod, Hoover grinned. “You betcha.”
# # #
After Pablo moved on, Hoover leaned his crossed arms on the counter and sighed. He resisted the urge to put his whole head down and just give in. Sometimes this guard detail could be a stone cold bore. Other times he thought the pressure would make him shed himself bald.
Keep an eye on the highway, Dante had ordered him. See who comes in and goes out. Most of them will be human and no problem. It’s the ones who aren’t that we need you to stay alert for.
Problems, yeah. Like those two hunters who’d checked in last month. They hadn’t scared him half as bad as the third guy, the head case in the trench coat who didn’t smell like anything Hoover had ever sniffed before. Fortunately they’d taken off without going anywhere near the Peak, and Dante hadn’t had to send in the troops. That would have caused a total scatload of mess.
Hoover rubbed his nose. This was all his nose’s fault. It had given him his nickname: Hoover, the lupine vacuum cleaner, who could suck in any odor and ID it on the spot. He could tell humans from non-humans, shifter from shifter, even subspecies from subspecies. Point that nose at, say, a bear, and Hoover could tell you what kind it was, where it had been last, what it had for breakfast, and where it had shit in the woods.
For this reason Dante had put him on the front desk at the Rocky Top Motel. Guests checked in, and Hoover checked them out. If anyone didn’t smell right, Dante’s team got a heads-up. So far, except for the hunters and the big Swedish moose, life had gone fairly smoothly.
The Pablos in town were the biggest burr in his fur, but he could handle them. It just lifted his hackles sometimes, all the petty annoyances. Not for the first time, Hoover considered calling Dante and weaseling out of his duty. Say he’d caught a cold or developed allergies or something.
On the other hand, Judy was pretty damn hot, for a human. Her scent told Hoover she was definitely interested. We’ll see how this month goes, Hoover thought, and let his thoughts drift off in happier directions, like bar waitresses after work hours.