Rock Bottom

In the months after the invasion and its ensuing cleanup, Hunter Sawyer’s business has blossomed. Most of the locals were regulars. What else was there to do in Jackalope Crossing, except rent a DVD and player from Gus, whose business was also doing well.

Miles Daniels stumbled into the Prickly Cactus as per usual at 3 in the afternoon. He was already coming down from his vicodin buzz and was looking to now drown himself in alcohol. He found his usual bar stool and eyed the annoyingly handsome proprietor of the watering hole with a dull stare.

"Dimple Pinch, neat." Miles slurred at Hunter Sawyer.

It was a pathetic sight, all things considered. Miles was once a decorated sheriff, but one shotgun blast changed all that. Now even the gutter didn't want him to crawl in it. It wasn't just the drug problem he developed from being shot, it was not being able to solve the case of those dead kids on Mt. Charleston, that just proved to Miles he wasn't sharp enough to play the game. He didn't see it as a result of the pills and the booze, no he blamed the wound. He blamed the bad arm and the world for giving him the bad arm. The pills were there to try and keep him functioning, the booze to stop the aches in his shoulder. An ache that was starting to cut through his vicodin buzz.

"Ya gonna serve me my drink or what? Pretty boy." Miles said to Hunter at a volume that wasn't too loud but loud enough for everyone in the bar to hear.

Some time later, at night.

Isobel Vaughan stared blankly at the night sky and sighed. Her father, Leland Vaughan was pacing back and forth, leaving a nice little indentation in the desert floor. In the distance Isobel could see the glow from the Vegas strip drowning out the stars. She didn't much care for looking at the stars anymore. Nothing made sense to her anymore after Allison disappeared, then came back as the town Sheriff. Worse yet, what Allison had told her had broken her heart.

"We were wrong. You were wrong. There's nothing. Go home." Allison's words continued to echo in Isobel's skull. After all that, the nights searching the sky for answers, Allison does a 180 and leaves her alone feeling like the biggest idiot on the face of the Earth. It didn't matter anymore anyways, family business had taken up much of her time now. She practically had to beg her father to take her back after he found out she had warned Freddy Falcone about his plans to sell him out. And even now she knew he didn't trust her. But she was all he had at the moment. Since her father came back and the whole deal with the cartel fell through the Vaughans were now in a tricky situation. The Castagnaccis had managed to recover somewhat from the loss of Johnny, his son Milo had proven to be far more ruthless than the old man ever was.

And since Isobel's father had tried to take territory that was once Castagnacci ground and sell out to the Cartel he was looking sweatier than usual. And it wasn't the summer heat.

Milo Castagnacci's SUV came rolling up to them, the car's xenon headlights blaring through the night almost obnoxiously. Leland squinted as the SUV came to a stop just a few feet away. Milo stepped out, followed by three burly enforcers. Instinctively, Isobel did a mental check to make sure her SIG-Sauer P232 was still nestled in her waistband. She was praying they wouldn't need it.

"Leland." Milo said plainly.

"Milo..." Leland kept his focus on Milo for the moment. "So you want to talk?"

"You were a very bad boy, Leland." Milo said. "After all the years my family looked out for yours, you pay us back with betrayal."

"Not so." Leland insisted. "I was doing my part to secure your assets in the wake of your father's death. Maintain everything and keep it from falling into the wrong hands."

"Shut the fuck up, Leland. We know you wanted to sell out Falcone to the Cartel to curry favor with them. Get in bed with them, and try and shut us out. And guess what? It failed, spectacularly. Now the Cartel's out of Jackalope, and you're stuck with the check."

"Please, Milo, you know me. I would never betray your father."

"No, you waited until he was six feet under so you could feel better about it." Milo pulled his pistol and shot at the ground a few feet in front of Leland. Leland flinched. Isobel pulled her SIG-Sauer, prompting Milo's men to draw their weapons.

"Don't!" Leland shouted to Isobel. Isobel lowered her gun, for now. Milo's goons kept theirs trained on them both.

Milo glared at Leland. "Give me a reason why I shouldn't kill you right now, Vaughan. You betrayed my family, tried to sell out a family friend, and you still lie to my face."

"I can give you the man who plugged your father." Leland said.

"Ortiz? Freddy axed him already, you got nothing."

"How about the man who pulled the trigger? He got away, scott free. That's got to be worth something to you, right? The hitman who used your brother's funeral to get to your father."

Milo paused and a small smirk formed on his face. "It's a start, Vaughan. Fine, give me this hitman. It'll save me having to dig two graves out here tonight anyways."

That sent a chill down Isobel's spine.

"Everything about him is here, contact info, everything to bring him to your doorstep." Leland slowly produced a piece of parchment from his jacket pocket and handed it to Milo. Milo accepted it, but then seized Leland's wrist and pulled him about, twisting his wrist so that Leland's knees buckled and he was on the ground.

Leland grunted and looked to Milo in shock. "Milo!"

"Shut up!" Milo shouted. "I said it was a start. You still need to remember not to fuck with the Castagnaccis." Milo looked to one of his goons. "Knife."

"No!" Isobel exclaimed as she brought up her gun again.

"Oh calm your goddamn tits, bitch." Milo sneered at her. "I'm not gonna kill your father, and I ain't gonna kill you. My brother Nate liked you after all. Consider it a favor, brother-to-brother. But your daddy here needs to learn his lesson."

"Please, Isobel," Leland begged. "Stand down!"

Isobel reluctantly agreed and lowered her gun again.

"Knife!" Milo shouted. The goon produced a fold-out knife and handed it to Milo. He dragged Leland over to his car and placed Leland's hand on the hood before unfolding the knife.

Isobel didn't have the stomach to watch the next part, merely hearing her father scream and then a sharp, distinct pop. Then another. Then Leland stopped screaming but he was now whimpering. When Isobel opened her eyes she saw her father clutching his bloody hand while two of his fingers remained on the hood of Milo's car. Milo looked to the goon who had given him the knife, handed it back to him, then gestured for the goon to pick up the fingers and wipe away the blood.

"Now you'll remember," Milo said to Leland one last time before turning to get back into the SUV. The goons got back in as well and soon Isobel and her father were alone in the desert once again.

"Fuck..." Leland winced. "Izzy help me." Isobel went to her father's side and helped him back into their car and started to speed off. As she did she dialed eight on her speed dial, Ira Cane answered. She filled him in on what had just happened.

"You got a cigarette lighter in your car?" Ira asked.

"Yeah." Isobel said, looking to the lighter.

"Heat it up, when it pops use it to cauterize the fingers, stop the bleeding. It'll hurt like hell though so maybe get something for your dad to bite down on." Ira said.

Isobel did as instructed but had to pull over to actually cauterize the bloody stumps. Her father screamed through his teeth as she did this then gave her a look that made her think he was going to pass out right then and there.

Instead he reached out with his good hand and pulled her into a hug. "I'm sorry, Izzy. I'm sorry I made you see that."

"My eyes were closed the whole time," Isobel said.

"I mean everything. Not just..." He gestured with this three-fingered hand. "I never should have..." He just about fainted right then and there.

"Don't talk, Dad." Isobel said. "I'm taking you to Ira, right now."

Three hours later Leland was sitting in a chair with a fresh bandage over his mangled hand with enough pain meds to knock out a horse. Ira Cane rubbed his head in exhaustion and looked to Isobel.

"He's gonna be fine, just make sure to change those bandages often. I'll send you home with some antibiotics to fight infection and pain pills. Now it's just a matter of letting those suckers heal." He smirked. "Good work with the lighter, by the way, couldn't have done a better job myself."

It felt like faint praise at this point, Isobel merely nodded. "Can I take him home now?"

Ira nodded. "Sure. I'll go get your pills."

Leland was asleep by the time they got home. Isobel's mom was gone, some trip to California to some spa to "recharge her Chi" or some nonsense like that. Probably just went to get poked by a plastic surgeon in more ways than one. So Isobel had to carry her drugged up father to his bed and get him out of his bloody clothes. Once he was down she went to the den and had a breakdown. She sobbed and beat a throw pillow until the down feathers started spilling out of it.

Then it dawned on her that she hadn't eaten all day, and there was nothing in the house at the moment. Certain her father would be fine, she drove into town to see what was open and found the Jackalope Diner. When she stepped in the owner, Orson Filmore, regarded her with a nod.

"Ms. Vaughan." Orson knew her since she occasionally came into the diner, and had spent quite some time with Allison here when they were UFO hunting. That sent a pang of regret through her, but she was too hungry to find someplace else to eat.

"Orson. I need something big and greasy." Isobel said morosely.

"Well I'm here so I got you covered." He chuckled. Isobel didn't laugh. "Tough night I take it?" Orson didn't mention it, but it was obvious from her red, puffy eyes that she had been crying.

"One for the books..." Isobel sighed.

"One record breaking tough night cure, coming right up." Orson said as he disappeared into the kitchen. The one waitress still working at this hour then came up and asked what she wanted to drink. Water was her choice.

When Orson finally returned from the kitchen he was carrying an enormous hamburger with something that looked like a side of mozzarella sticks.

"Viola! Something big and greasy! And a side of chicken fingers, since I know you like those."

Isobel was turned off by the fingers for obvious reasons, but accepted the food nonetheless. "Thanks, Orson."

"Want some company while you eat? If you just need an ear to talk off, mine's available." Orson offered.

Isobel thought for a moment before sighing. "Do you ever just wish you could run away from the world and become someone else?"

"Not just wish, I've actually gone and done it." Orson said.


"Well back where I came from. Up north, in Alaska." Orson sat down next to Isobel as she started to eat. "I was in some real trouble with some tough dudes. And I realized I couldn't stay without them killing me. So... I ran. I hopped the first cargo freighter and never looked back."

"Just like that?" Isobel asked.

Orson shrugged. "More or less. It wasn't as easy as I make it sound. Plus the trip took longer than expected. But soon I found myself here and eventually found my calling: making big, greasy dishes for people to eat their sorrows away." He smiled.

Isobel felt good enough to smile again.

"Ah, see? And it works!" Orson chuckled. "Look. Whatever trouble you're in. There's always a way out. And if you hate who you are, then change. Hell, I did. It wasn't easy, but eventually I went from a floppy purple tube to the burly mass of hair you see today!"

"Truly a motivational tale for the ages," Isobel chuckled slightly. Then she frowned. "Purple tube?"

"Weird phase I went through," Orson said with a shrug. "Trust me, not worth mentioning."

Isobel shrugged and continued to eat her food, slowly feeling better the more she ate. Though she felt it had more to do with the company than the food.

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