Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 47

In which Jones tries to marshal his few remaining resources

Jones called Amelia again, and again. Twenty calls later, she picked up.

“Jones, it’s not a good time.”

“Please,” Jones begged. “Bugs is stuck in jail. Well, just outside of one. The jail’s closed now but there’s no bus. I need you to get him a ride so he can give me a ride. I’m in Needles.”

Amelia didn't reply. Jones couldn't tell if she was mad, or merely irritated. Either way, he knew he was in for a fight. He tried again.

“There will be water shortages soon. If I don’t get a ride, I’ll die out here.”

“You’re telling me that you were able to get into the middle of the Mojave desert without help, but now you can’t get out? I find that hard to believe.”

“I will die out here,” insisted Jones. “The paperwork will be a mess.”

Amelia grunted. “That’s a compelling point. Are you aware that Blue Cross Blue Shield is refusing to pay out any health insurance claims, indefinitely? It is a good thing you already have your wisdom teeth out. Where is Bugs?”

“Truckee Temporary.”

“Huh,” murmured Amelia, finally sounding interested. “I have a few friends at Truckee. There might be some carpool opportunities. Was Bugs mixed up with the grow bust? I didn’t know he was into that.”

“He was a bystander.”

Amelia snorted. “Always the bystander, never has a ride. I’ll take care of Bugs. Anything else?”

“Can you get me a new phone? The Feds bugged this one.”

“You can't get a phone, or a tablet, or a coffee cup anywhere in the Bay Area right now,” said Amelia. "The payment grid is down. Don't use the phone for personal calls. Anything else?” 

“How’s your week going?”

“Jones, it’s not a good time!” Amelia hung up. Jones looked down at the phone in his hand. He would send her a postcard. Maybe that was the way to get through to her. Jones valued Amelia’s ability to keep the lights on in his detective agency, but it was sometimes hard to communicate with her. Performance management had never been one of his strengths.

Jones left the motel and started walking. He would trust Amelia to get Bugs a ride. He would trust Bugs to come to him. There was only trust left now. Trucks passed on the highway, but they didn’t stop. An hour stretched into two, and the sun fell behind the motel roof. Jones felt the weight of the day draining away from him. At night, the ground cooled off more and lost most of its daytime heat, but in the daytime, the desert heat was so strong that anyone sleeping outside would cook slowly in their sleep. 

Once, at his first software engineering job, his manager asked how he was doing. After a few minutes of evasion, Jones admitted that he was doing very poorly, and wouldn't it be better to just say so? His manager stared at him for a long time, so long that Jones worried he’d missed a cue to leave the room. 

“Honesty,” his manager repeated. "Is that a new policy?" Jones said he would avoid it in the future, and he had expected the conversation to be over then. 

“I’m not sure this company has a right to exist,” his manager said. “Every day I encounter more and more instances of fraud. Some willful. Some not. We’re committing time fraud right now, without meaning to.”

Since then, Jones realized that being a bit detached was generally better for his health than being more involved in someone else's work issues, but he still couldn’t bring himself to lie his way out of the conversation. It might not be that healthy, but it was the way he worked, and Amelia seemed to know and accept that, and would lie for him. He really did value that.