Encounter in Elko

Encounter in Elko
The only entrant for this week’s Flash Fiction Saturday challenge was me. Hopefully, your submission will be the winner next Sunday.

“Great. Just freakin’ great. I can’t believe this. What else could go wrong?”

Nicholas Nightly stared in disgust at the cloud of steam rising from the engine of the aging RV. He pulled over to the side of the road and put on his emergency lights.

“I wouldn’t ask that if I were you, Psio-“

Nick snapped his head around and gave a death stare to his companion.

“I’m not Psionic anymore, remember? I’m just Nick Nightly. Sideshow freak. Travelling circus act.”

Cool blue eyes returned his glare. Savanna’s face remained impassive. It was hard to tell what she was thinking, let alone feeling. He missed being able to know what was going on inside her mind.

“Your injury forced you to retire. It didn’t force you to give up on yourself. Besides, you’re still Psionic to the people who pay to see your show, remember? You may not like it, but that’s what pays the bills. You want me to call Roadside Assistance?”

Nick shut his eyes and counted to ten. He hated her implacable common sense at times. It was part of what made her such a great side kick, but it was just flat irritating to him right now.

“Whatever. I’m going to check the engine. It’s probably just a minor radiator leak.”

She shrugged, sat down in the lounge area, and pulled out her cell phone.

“I’ll be here when you need me.”

And that was the hell of it. She always was. She always had been. Sometimes he wondered why she didn’t quit and give up on him. Sometimes he wished she would already. He’d once valued that loyalty, but right now he found it a burden. He was just waiting for the day when he was going to disappoint her enough that she would finally get it and walk away, find some other superhero to support.

Fifteen minutes later, he was forced to admit defeat. This was a problem bigger than a simple radiator leak. He stared at the banner bedecking the RV in the flashing yellow light of the emergency blinkers. It was a throwback image of a better time with him in an action pose wearing his psionic enhancement suit and her in her leather one-piece jumper, back when she’d been “Nightingale.” He felt like crying. He chose anger instead.

He headed back into the RV.

“Go ahead and call Roadside. Hope they don’t take too long to get here.”

Her thumb hit the button to dial the moment the words were out of his mouth. She’d already been ready for this. That just made him even more upset. She seemed to be perfectly capable of reading HIS mind.

It took an hour for Roadside Assistance to find them along that lonely stretch of I-80 and another 30 minutes to pull them into the small town of Elko, Nevada. He hoped the stay here wasn’t going to be too long. They were going to be late for their next stop in Reno, Nevada if they couldn’t get the aging RV repaired soon.

The repair shop on Idaho Street was closed for the night. It was Saturday, and the sign on the door told them it wouldn’t be back open until Monday.

“You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”

The tow truck driver unhitched the RV in the parking lot.

“You’re not that far from a decent place to stay and some good food. There are two ways you can go. There’s the Stockman’s Casino & Hotel, that’s the one behind the Commercial, the casino with the giant white polar bear outside. They’re pretty reasonable and their food’s not too bad. You can also head over to Gold Dust West. Just keep heading down this road a few and you’ll find them.”

With that, the driver tipped his hat to Savanna and headed out.

“Let’s make the best of this. We might as well take the opportunity to relax and unwind a little. Maybe there’s a reason for it all.”

Nick turned the full force of his anger on her. The last thing he wanted to hear right now was her telling him how all this was going to make things better somehow. There was nothing good about what was happening here.

“Reason for it all? Yeah, there’s a reason! The freaking reason is that the engine blew and we don’t have the three grand it’s going to take to fix it. We’re going to be stuck in this little town until doomsday and there’s nothing I can do about it. We’re going to miss the show in Reno and after that, there will be no show. Not that it freaking matters anymore. They pay for my name, but they come to see you. You’re the one they want. You’re the one they admire. I’m sick of this! I’m sick of it all! I just want my life back but my life is just like that stupid RV – broken down and going nowhere.”

Savanna just watched him and waited until he was finished. He felt like an ass for blowing up at her. He knew she was just trying to help, but somehow that made it worse.

“Why do you even stick around? You should just leave already. I don’t need you. I don’t need your pity, I don’t need your help and, God knows, you don’t need me.”

For a fraction of a moment, pain surfaced in her eyes but it was gone as quickly as it rose to the surface and the impassive face she presented to the world returned like a mask that never changed.

“You know what? You’re right. You don’t need my help and I don’t need you. As to why I stick around, it’s called loyalty. Something you used to have, but seem to have lost in the river of self-pity you’ve been swimming in since the accident. Okay. You don’t have your gift anymore. So what? Plenty of people manage to get along in life without those powers. Those powers didn’t make you a hero. It was what you did with them that made you a hero. I’m going to get something to eat. You can come with me, or you can stand there and sulk. I don’t care which you do anymore. I’m taking care of me for a change.”

And with that, she turned and walked into the darkness, heading in the direction of a prime rib dinner that promised it was only $9.99. The food sounded good, and there was a temptation to join her, but he couldn’t make himself do it. He walked in the opposite direction heading toward the nearest bar.

There was enough smoke in the air when he entered into the Commercial’s doorways that he’d have thought a fire was going somewhere. Everybody in here smoked, it seemed. He ignored it and wandered over to the bar.

“What’ll you have?”

The bartender was an older woman with a gravelly voice probably earned through a six pack a day habit, if he had to guess by the puckering of the lines around her lips.

“A whiskey sour.”

The bartender served his drink with an efficiency born of practice and went back to her conversation. He ignored the chatter and the television and concentrated on his drink as if it were the only thing that mattered.

A few drinks later, he glanced over at the mirror behind the bar and froze. It was his old nemesis, the Void. He’d recognize that angry, scowling, dark haired freak anywhere.

“You wanna peshe of me? Well you’re in luck, buddy. I got no powers. Nothin. I can’t fight you, but tha’s why you’re here, ishn’t it?”

He noticed the bartender and some of the other patrons giving him weird looks.

“You shee him?”

He pointed at the guy he spotted in the mirror.

“He’sh been tryin’ to take me down for yearsh now. I guess he’sh finally got me.”

The bartender shook her head and walked over, took the empty glass from in front of him, and replaced it with a glass of water.

“There’s nobody but you where you’re pointing, honey. The only one threatening you is you. Sober up, sweetheart. Drunk is no way to live life.”

He felt humiliated and humbled. He wished for all the world that Savanna were here with him right now. She’d know just what to do or say to make this better. It took him three hours to work up the courage to call her. By then the liquor was cleared of his system. He felt sick, but it wasn’t from the alcohol. It was fear. Fear of finally having lost her.

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone as the sun was rising over the horizon. He held his breath until the phone on the other end of the line picked up. It was her voice mail.

“Savanna? It’s me, Nick. We need to talk. I just want to let you know I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.”

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