For previous chapters, look for the label GRE
Shelia and I got into JK's dune buggy. "My henchmen found this in the middle of the desert." JK said. "I don't suppose you had anything to do with that?"
I tried to smile urbanely. "Darling, it's unlike you to have an evening talking shop when it's time for a cocktail."
JK smiled a favonian smile. "You're quite right." she said as she piloted the dune buggy around the back of a high dune to an empty hinterland. The shadow of the sun made the valley dark. It was devoid of life, except for a shack. Not even tumbleweeds blew in the strong west wind that gusted around us. "You'll have to excuse my error in punctiilio." She halted the buggy in front of the shack. "Would you like to come in for a drink?"
"But of course." I exited the buggy, hoping that a shared drink with a former lover (or so she thought) would lead to some sort of exegesis. "Do you have any Armagnac?"
"No, Jane Smith, I do not." JK said, her revolver aimed directly at me.
My eyes widened, but I tried to maintain equanimity. "I was hoping to wassail our reunion."
"You must think I'm an ignoramus. You think I wouldn't recognize my own lover?" She waved her gun, gesturing that we should enter the shack. "And who goes to a shack and asks for Armagnac? You're a fool, Jane Smith."
The wind howled through gaps in shack's walls. It was a hastily constructed bricolage of wood from broken shipping pallets and other scrap lumber. Some overturned buckets served as chairs. "Sit there." JK commanded.
Shelia and I did as instructed.
"Jane Smith, either you think I have no acuity or you let Shelia do all the thinking for you. Given that she tried to signal you to shut up three times during our drive, I can only assume the latter." JK reached into her purse and removed a brandy snifter and a very small bottle of Armagnac and poured herself a drink.
I knew you'd have that!" I exclaimed before thinking.
"But I never share." She swirled the amber beverage in her glass. "Let's say for a moment that my goal now is irenic."
"Then why are you pointing a gun at us?" Shelia asked.
JK shrugged. "I could efface you from earth right now with a flick of my index finger. You'll just have to take my word for this." JK sipped at her Armagnac. "It's not you that I'm after. I want Dr. Cool."
"Then why are you holding us here?" I demanded.
"Bait." JK said, standing up.
"What's all this about?" Shelia asked.
JK sighed. "An interregnum. We have a power vacuum and like dust mites, you two have been sucked into it. No fault of your own, of course. In a certain sense, though, absolutely everyone is a victim of circumstance. You, me, Dr. Cool, Milligan Peg . . .."
"Milligan Peg is dead." I said.
"Yes I know." JK laughed to herself. "I pulled the trigger." Her blood red lips formed a semblance of a smile. "I'll have to leave you two here now. No running off." She walked through the door, shutting it behind her. I started to go after her, but Shelia stopped me. The buggy started up outside and roared away.
"It's best if we wait for Dr. Cool." Shelia explained.
The cold wind blew harder through the shack as the sun went down.
A nascent understanding formed in my mind.