I’m sorry for the scrawling script, but I’m writing in nearly complete darkness. I need to write it tonight, though (it seems mother, the historian, still has some sway over me). I’ve killed men (always men – four, actually – now five) before, but it’s been twenty-two years, and today felt a little strange.

I haven’t held a gun since Hermosillo, but they still seem to work pretty much the same. Point and click. I was sorry to bring undue attention to my new friends, but while they were all standing in the bushes with their collective thumbs in their asses, I solved the problem at hand. Admittedly, I didn’t have much of a plan after stumbling out of the bushes, but I think I can make this turn of events work for me.

Tonight I’m sitting in a decommissioned Milwaukee City Bus. I’m sure that that statement would baffle my parents and infuriate Uncle Charlie, who, literally, was decrying the Milwaukee Public Transit System eleven years after it ceased to exist, half way to California...

Green lines and Blue lines – express lines! Leaving the communities who need it most in the lurch.

I miss his voice. All I have of him now is one third of this book and a copy of his map.

We reached the University this afternoon. As we were riding north from downtown with a caravan of refugees fleeing the city, I kept forgetting to breath and even swallowing became a conscious practice. I recognized the bend of the lakefront road, but when we reached the top of the hill – it was on fire. Curtin Hall, the place I have walked more than 2,000 miles to return to was burning to the ground.

At first I couldn’t register what I was seeing. At one point I almost wandered into the burning building – probably would have, if Billy hadn’t grabbed my arm.

Ah, yes – my new friend Billy. He’s cute enough in an a-yuck-ing farmboy kind of way. He’d work to scratch an itch, anyway, but his little wretch of a sister is more trouble than he’s worth it seems to me now. At first I’d tried to make nice with her, because I thought she could connect me with the Curtin Hall high-ups (Wallace keeps calling them ‘Lorekeepers’). Now it’s clear she’s a spoiled, scared child. In retrospect I should have nicked the iPad the moment I realized she had it.

Mind you, I don’t much care what’s on it (I wonder if they downloaded Angry Birds before everything shut off…), but it’s valuable – just the kind of thing I might need to get established in this town (assuming the map’s still viable). Joey Martinez seems like the kind of guy I need to get to know better, and having something like the iPad to offer him, might make him inclined toward allowing me into his network. Of course, now I’ve also got a bus I can offer him, but I’d just as soon find that wretched girl now, too. I don’t like being shown up.

With Billy tagging along on the search for his sister, I won’t be able to scare her too badly once we find her, let alone hurt her – unless I could get him to come around to my our way of thinking. She did leave him behind, after all. I find men to be at their most pliable when they feel satisfied, when they feel they’ve done a good job at something – and I am feeling an itch.

* * * * * * *

The early dawn light is making it easier to write. Once he wakes, I need to find out anything Billy might know about where Rachel is heading. She can’t have gotten much farther north than we are now, and she’s too scared to travel at night.

We’ll find her this morning and bring the flash drive back to Joey. Then it’s off to Grafton, to see if Charlie’s map was worth the trip. So far, it’s been fairly easy to convince my new traveling partners that they’re in charge and I’m just along for the ride (what a cute old sot she is…). Once we meet back up with Joey, it might be harder to convince them to head back North, but I don’t think I can dig up the coffins by myself.

I may not have been able to deliver the book to the Lorekeepers (I wonder if Wallace would be interested…), but if Charlie’s copper still and cases of liquor are still where he buried them, I’ll be able to establish myself in this town. Not only that, but I’ll be rich, not to mention in good booze for the rest of my glorious, besotted life.

I’m down to my last jar of my traveling shine – an agave spirit that’ll melt your stomach lining if you’re not careful – but I can already taste Charlie’s hidden stash from the long nights he used to tell me about them.

Gin, with hints of basil – a lemon and honey vodka – maple-syrup rum!

I’m finding myself licking my lips with just the thought. Perhaps I won’t need my new friends all that much longer. I might keep Billy around – he’s young and eager to please. Once I get in good with Joey, I don’t think I’ll be needing them much after all.

The war will come and go, but Joey will recognize a business opportunity when he sees it. He’ll loan me some guys and a vehicle to find Charlie’s stash and set up shop. That oughta be worth a bus and some apps.