One strange thing I’ve noticed about Arizona Mat. . .OK, one of the many strange things I’ve noticed about Arizona Mat is that he always takes the day before an exploration to do absolutely nothing. He calls it getting into a state of “exploring zen”. I’m not sure if I believe it or not, but I’m certainly glad he does this because I need that 24 hours to readjust my body clock to the new time zone.
I spent my morning eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, taking a long bath, rescheduling my viewing of Giraffealanche, and organizing my belongings while Arizona Mat made plans with Johnny V. Arizona Mat’s behavior around Johnny V was truly astonishing. In past chronicles, I have presented Arizona Mat as an arrogant, pushy, egocentric boor. And believe me, that’s an apt description. However, Johnny V seemed to bring out Arizona Mat’s better qualities. He treated Johnny V like his father. He was respectful, jokey. . . almost likable.
After a morning of puttering around, we took a walk to Jack in the Box for a bit of lunch. Johnny V settled for a soda. Arizona Mat enjoyed two Southwest tacos and a cinnamon-sugar doughnut. I enjoyed a Bacon Sriracha Burger. Afterwards I asked to stop at an FYE store so I could peruse their DVD selection. Arizona Mat decided he would head for home while Johnny V offered to keep me company.
FYE didn’t have much of a selection so Johnny V and I left the store and walked to Fry’s to pick up some pumpkin ale and chips. As we walked, Johnny V told me how he had been a friend of Arizona Mat’s father for many years and that he considered Arizona Mat a son. I was really touched by this story and found myself really liking Johnny V.
Upon buying the liquor, we returned to the house. Arizona Mat and Johnny V caught up on old times while I went to rest in my room for a couple of hours. Afterwards, Arizona Mat introduced me to an anime series called Attack on Titan while Johnny V went for a swim in the pool.
Eventually, Arizona Mat wanted to go out on the town. So we piled into his car and went bowling. Arizona Mat was on a roll as he broke 200 again. In fact, he surpassed the game he had bowled during my last visit. I started off very strong, slipped in my next two games, readjusted my style, and finished strong. Johnny V had a rather unique bowling style. Yet it seemed to work, as he usually had good rolls. In fact, he had the roll of the night when he picked up a 6-7 split. It was really a fun night and I felt loose and relaxed.
The next morning, we found ourselves on the road at about 8:30am. Johnny V had requested that Arizona Mat make a stop in Kingman, AZ so he could visit an old friend. Arizona Mat agreed to the request and we made good time, arriving in Kingman shortly before noon.
We pulled into the driveway of a trailer home and Johnny V told us to make ourselves at home while he went to find his friend.
“OK, Chris. Once we get into Vegas, we’ll start looking for the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!) right away,” said Arizona Mat.
“And then, you’ll be giving it right to me,” said a voice.
Arizona Mat and I looked up and saw an elderly man wearing a cap with a closely cropped beard. Arizona Mat’s eyes narrowed as he said, “You!” huskily.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“This is my best enemy,” said Arizona Mat. “His name is Robert Schulte (pronounced Ro-bear Shull-tay). And he’s the leader of Le Gang De La Farine D’avoine.”
“The Oatmeal Gang???” I said disbelievingly.
“Don’t let the moniker throw you. They’re a deadly gang of elderly adventurers who specialize in stealing rare artifacts. We’ve met on several occasions,” said Arizona Mat.
“And once more, something you have discovered will belong to me,” said Schulte with a sinister smile.
“I don’t think so, Robert,” said Arizona Mat with a chuckle. “The odds are slightly against you. Three to one.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Arizona,” said Johnny V, reappearing in the room with a Luger leveled at us.
“Johnny??” said a stunned Arizona Mat.
“Johnny has been one of my most trusted operatives for years,” said Robert Schulte smugly.
“A double agent!” I said.
“Very good,” said Johnny V.
“But what about all that stuff about Arizona Mat being like a second son?” I asked.
“Oh, that was all true. But this is about money,” said Johnny V.
“Do you have any friends who don’t try to stab you in the back?” I asked Arizona Mat.
“Just you,” said Arizona Mat.
“I’m more of an acquaintance than a friend and I don’t like you that much.”
“Eh. I take what I can get,” said Arizona Mat, as he reached a hand into his jacket.
In a blur of motion, Arizona Mat withdrew a foam noodle and slapped the gun out of Johnny V’s hands. I threw a chair into the path of the two men and Arizona Mat and I bolted through the door. We dove into his car while Arizona Mat revved the engine and burned rubber out of there.
So there we were. Making a desperate rush to Las Vegas to keep the Voodoo Blue out of the hands of a dangerous gang who had no qualms about eliminating the two of us. My blood froze as I began to realize the stakes of this particular bet.