Episode 5: Front Sight
Betty, is that you? A voice yells across the lobby of the Four Seasons. Toni!!! And they rush over to hug each other. Everyone walks up to where the two girls are now admiring her huge diamond engagement ring. Jax, good to see you again. Kostamo says with his Cheshire cat grin as he shakes his hand. Kostamo, this is Simon. You all look like you just got in from hiking, he notes. Hello, Lana. Hello. We was shooting beer cans off a rusty car with my illegally modified full auto AK47, Simon drawls loudly, causing people nearby to stare at him. The image the media portrays of gun owners in America, Lana explains quickly. We’re taking a two day defensive handgun class out in the desert. That sounds like so much fun, Toni says, and looks at Kostamo pleadingly. Jax, I don’t think you’ve met Toni, my fiance. He nods at her, and doesn’t say anything. There’s an awkward silence. Toni gives Kostamo a look. Would you all care to join us for dinner, our treat? Bettina nods eagerly. Just let me change out of these dusty clothes. It’s so good to see you again. Where do you want to meet up at? The Chinese place over at the MGM; I’m going to stare down the tiger. <Pause> Lana, please come. Toni intones softly. I want to talk to you. I have to get up early tomorrow, Lana replies. Thank you for offering, she tells Kostamo, ignoring Toni. Thanks anyway bro, Jax offers Kostamo his hand, and they shake once more, and then he and Lana walk away. Bettina looks over at Simon, and then steps over to him and latches on to his arm. We’ll meet you there, won’t we, Simon? A liger is pretty much my favorite animal, he says loudly. Bred for its skills in magic. Toni and a few passerbyers laugh hard at his Napolean Dynamite imitation. Bettina lets go of his arm and steps away from him. Kostamo chuckles at this. I want to take a shower, and then I’ll be right over. She tells Toni. I’m so happy for you, and she gives Toni another hug, then heads for the elevator, not waiting for Simon to catch up. That will never happen, Toni tells Kostamo, as she watches them. What are you going to do about Lana? Betty will drag her along, you watch.
An hour later, they all meet together in the Chinese restaurant. Who won, you or the tiger? Simon asks Toni as they wait to be shown their seats. I pounded on the glass until security came over, but it still wouldn’t look at me. To be continued, she says. I have to see this, Simon says chuckling. Lana grabs Toni’s arm and leads her over to a quiet spot away from the others. You have to warn anyone you put at risk. I DID. Toni whispers fiercely. How? I sent them each an anonymous text. FLEE AT ONCE; ALL IS DISCOVERED. If they didn’t, well - then it’s on them. I’m not going to destroy my career, Lana. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am. But you’re compromised. That’s why I put in for a transfer; it hasn’t come through yet. Lana wheels and abruptly leaves the restaurant. Toni rushes after her.
The guys watch as Bettina quickly follows after them. What do you have planned for the evening? Kostamo asks Jax. Simon scored tickets to the Criss Angel magic show. We’re going to hang with him after, Simon declares. I got an extra set of tickets for you and the missus. I’ll run it by Toni. I’ve got a night helicopter flight of the Strip set up, but whatever makes her happy. Jax nods in approval .
So how is the gun class? Boring. Way too basic. Simon says disgustedly. We didn’t even start shooting until it was almost lunchtime. No, it’s been really good, Jax says. This is my first time shooting, and I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow. How did the girls do? Bettina is shooting the biggest gun there. And Lana is the only person shooting a revolver. They both kind of stand out. What are you guys packing? We’re renting Glock 17s. A workhorse, Kostamo notes in approval. What do you shoot? A Mark 12; I like Black Hills ammo. Jax and Simon look at each other, and both decide not to betray their ignorance, and just nod in approval.
The girls come back into the restaurant, and Toni gives Kostamo a relieved look. He gives her his Cheshire cat smile, and then gets her chair…
So once they finally let us shoot, I let him try out my 45, Bettina tells the table, and he looks over at Lana and says, I’d like to take this gun to church. Toni starts howling with laughter, and Simon grins widely. And Lana just lost it. She had to go get a drink of water, she was laughing so hard. This really sweet older couple from Georgia was shooting next to us. His wife says to me: honey, your friends aren’t quite right, are they? Everyone laughs.
How did you shoot, Jax? Toni asks. He shrugs. Lana? He’s very safety conscious, she replies diplomatically. And Simon? He shoots tight groups. And Bettina? She has excellent trigger control. So how could they each improve? Kostamo asks her curiously. Jax just needs a good night’s sleep and further instruction. Bettina needs to change her focus as she pulls the trigger, and see the serrations on her front sight. That’s all I saw when I shot Tank. And that’s why he’s dead and I’m not. No one says anything for awhile. What about me? Simon asks. You’ve got training scars. What? You’re lowering your guard way too soon. Stay pointed in: finger on trigger, eyes on target. How would you rate yourself against Lana, Simon? Toni asks. I’m quicker on the draw than she is, but she’s going to make the shot no matter what. It’d take a designated headshot to put her down. Jax nods at this. Let’s change the subject, Bettina says abruptly, as she glares at Simon.
Criss Angel show starts in half hour. Primo seats, hang with him after. Who’s he? Only the best magician ever. Simon pulls out his smart phone and does a quick search, then hands it to her. Nope – he looks demonic, Bettina declares, and she hand the phone to Lana, who nods at Bettina, and hands the phone back to her. Toni stares at them with an open mouth. Shall we go with them? Kostamo asks her. We could give Lana and Bettina our helicopter tickets. Toni nods eagerly.
Simon and Jax both sleep in the back seat of the SUV, as Lana and Bettina watch the sunrise over the Redrocks, as they drive west on Highway 160. I’m so glad I came, Bettina says quietly as she sips her coffee. It was worth it just to see this. Lana says nothing to this as she drives. Have you heard anything from Rolf? Lana shakes her head no. I hope he’s alright, Bettina says, and then lapses back into silence.
Hook up my phone to the stereo, she tells Bettina almost an hour later, as they turn unto the private road. Five minutes later, Guns and Roses is blaring “Sweet Child of Mine” as they pull through the gate of the facility, everyone staring at the girls as they drive slowly out to their range, windows rolled down to let cold air in to wake up the guys. Best wakeup ever, Jax says, as he stretches in the back seat. Today is going to rock. You just wait. Simon is still fast asleep. Bettina bites her lips and looks at Lana mischievously, but then pouts when Lana shakes her head no. Simon wakes when the shooting starts an hour later. Everyone on the firing line laughs as he walks over to a portapotty like a zombie. One of the instructors says something into his walkie talkie, and ten minutes later, when Simon walks over to the shaded portion of the firing range to pick up his rental gear, the director is there with a cup of coffee for him. Let’s just watch the others for awhile. You can get in on the next set of drills, Simon. The instructors say you know how to shoot. I’ve been to Thunder Ranch, Simon murmurs, as he sips his coffee. Thanks, he says to the man. Rough night? You have no idea. Don’t let a redhead take you gambling. The man laughs. I should have gone back with Jax. What happened? We pooled our funds. We started with five grand each, and agreed that we’d double our money and then call it a night. What happened? We made it up to three hundred seventy nine thousand before our luck ran out. What did you play? Blackjack. How bad? I just went bust. Thankfully, my buddy took my credit card and phone back to the room with him. What about her? She put up her engagement ring against a hundred grand from the house. The director winces. Yeah, Simon says. Her fiance? He left when Jax did. Did she go back to him? The casino shuttled us back to the Mandalay. We hugged goodbye. I don’t know what she did. I changed into my range clothes before I went to sleep, and Jax must have got me to the rental. Well, you’re here. Yep. Ready to shoot? Maybe one more cup of coffee first. I’m dragging hard.
Rolf just texted me. He’s getting in late tonight, Lana tells Bettina. Have him fly out and join us, Simon says. Bettina nods eagerly. Vegas. Mandalay. Bettina. Jax. Simon. Rolf? Sent, she tells the others. Where do you girls want to eat when we get back into town? Jax asks as he drives the SUV. Chipotle? Lana suggests. Bettina nods. That way we don’t have to change. Lana’s phone chirps. Simon and Bettina? Lana chuckles and shows Bettina the screen. Give me that, she demands. Not happening!!! She types and presses send. What’s going on? Jax says, as he looks in the rearview. Lana gives him a look that tells him to mind his own business. Goodbye, Bettina. Hmmppff. How did he know it was me? Do you two have a secret code? See if you can figure it out, Lana tells Simon, and hands him her phone.
The three exclamation marks, Simon says, and hands the phone right back to Lana. Bettina takes off her seatbelt and leans forward on the edge of her seat, and reaches around Simon’s headrest and starts giving him a neckrub. Simon, I want to thank you for generously paying my way. This class really opened my eyes. That said, I want you to know that I still don’t like you. Jax and Lana chuckle at this. But Lana does, so I’ll tolerate you for her sake. He mumbles something. What did he say? Bettina asks Jax. Don’t stop. I think he wants you to tell him everything that you don’t like about him. Lana chuckles some more, and grins widely at Jax in the mirror. Where to begin? How about wearing yesterday’s clothes. Add to that not bathing. At least jump in the water, pigpen. Pool cleaners have to eat too. She waits for the laughter to die down. Then there is the matter of your birth control glasses. Say on, he mumbles after Jax has finally caught his breath. And you look like a convict; all the cops give you extra scrutiny. Speeding would not be an option with you in my Mustang. But we’re late for a Klan meeting, officer. White power. Five minutes later, when Jax and Lana are able to breathe again, he drones, tell all. And you are irreverent. You know what I’m talking about. Those teenagers on the range hung on every word you said, and are going to repeat them as their own. Simon, you don’t have to be the first to order when you’re at a restaurant. Everyone is silent. And I don’t get a lot of your obscure references; and that makes me feel left out, and stupid if I have to ask you to explain them to me. Now, having said all that, remember that Lana gets you. And that means that there is someone out there who will take you just as you are. You just have to find her. I’ll give you a hint where to look. If you want to find quality people, look in quality places. Or have your friends set you up, like Rolf did for Jax and Lana. Keep talking, he drones. We’re at the restaurant, sweetie, time to eat.
That felt great, Simon says as they stand in the back of a long line. I’m going straight to bed when I get back. After you shower??? Bettina hints. Simon groans. Lana and Jax burst out laughing again. I’d give you a hug, but then I’d have to burn these clothes. People in the line ahead of them turn around and giggle. You’re mean, he tells her. You reek, she replies. Even panhandlers avoid you. See, he’s not sticking around any longer than he has too – Bettina says – pointing out a man in dingy clothes shuffling through the parking lot. The whole line starts to laugh. I’m too tired to fight, he tells her. I just want to eat and go to sleep. I can see it now. Room service brings a five quart pail of chocolate ice cream for you to eat in bed while you’re watching your cartoons. Listeners roar at this. Bettina pretends to snore lightly, and then snorts as she makes a a spastic motion, the sleeper knocking over his ice cream. Then rolling over and patting the bed beside him. Bettina’s eyes spring wide open. Not again, she yells. Her audience laughs and a few of them clap. Please don’t pick on me anymore, Miss Bettina. She rubs his back with her hand. That was a great roast. Where are you headlining at? My stay here is about over, but I’m on Channel Five in New Orleans, she tells them.
Excuse me, ladies. There are messages for you at the front desk, the valet announces, as they get out of the SUV. The gang troupes up there. One is a folded note on hotel stationary. BETTY underlined on the outside. The other is a card addressed to Miss Lana Radley. Bettina opens hers.
I screwed up yet again. Engagement’s off. See you around back home. Love you. –T.
Toni and Kostamo broke up, she tells the others. She went back home. Simon puts his hand over his mouth. What did you do, Simon? I didn’t do anything, he protests. What happened? She put up her engagement ring. Said it would bring us luck. It didn’t. Bettina glares at him and doesn’t say anything. What time are we flying out tomorrow? Lana asks Jax. Whenever you want, he tells her. Should we try for noon? She nods. Are you going to open that? Simon asks her. Good night, guys. See you in the morning. Lana responds.
The next morning, Bettina goes to the spa, and then meets the guys for brunch. Just mint tea with honey, please. I’m on a cleanse. She tells the waiter. You look comfortable, Jax says with a grin. Where’s Lana? She left really early. She’s out in the Mojave Desert. Kostamo invited her to go on an open door helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon; some of his military buddies own the business. Simon looks over at Jax. How come you didn’t get in on it? Jax asks. I wasn’t invited. Simon gives her a puzzled look. Did she say anything? She showed me the note. What did it say? Simon, please give Jax and I a moment alone. He can hear this, Jax responds coldly. Kostamo wrote that she needs to break it off with you before you get killed. That serious people are seriously jealous. And if she was willing to listen, he’d talk to her about it where they couldn’t be overheard.
Jax doesn’t say anything. How is she getting back? Simon asks. She told me not to wait around for her. Let’s go shoot some cans, Simon says. Bettina looks at him like he’s an imbecile. Mex-i-cans, he drawls. Simon, this isn’t something to joke about. Who’s joking? My new Mark 12 is waiting for me back home. Say hello to my leetle friend, he quips. Bettina ignores him. Jax, Lana cares about you. Just let me talk to her, okay, when she gets back. What makes you think that she’d talk to you? Jax asks. Point taken, she replies. Well, she’ll talk to Rolf anyway. So he’ll probably be the one to talk to you. Simon, how about you take Jax to Portland? Go play with your shiny toys. I’m staying with Jax till this is resolved.
She frowns at him. Do you know what a hit piece is? Yes. You’ve given me all the ammunition I need, she tells him. Go home, Simon, or I’ll make you wish you had. He grins at her. Bring it on; I know you want me. Simon, don’t make me do this. You’re a TV reporter. Where’s the footage? And how could you write it without involving Lana? So it’s agreed we keep her out of our feud? She replies. Agreed. Close your eyes. He does. She gets up and kisses him on the cheek. Goodbye, Simon. Thank you for everything.
Lana and Kostamo drive through the desert in complete silence. His security team is back, now plus one man. No one has spoken since leaving the hotel. They pull up to an old hangar, and get out. There is an off-white Huey helicopter waiting inside the chain link fence.
Half an hour later they’re up in the air. Kostamo flying, Lana sitting next to him, looking at the GPS and out at the grey dawn. Two men with rifles are sitting in the back seat.
Raul Gutierrez. She says into her headset. Yes and no, he replies. He admires you, but he is not the threat. His adopted family is. Don Luis Ortega. You know who he was? Was? I took him out the other night. Lana looks astonished over at Kostamo, and he gives her his Cheshire cat grin. Back in the day, Don Luis was being chased by assassins in his village. He fled wounded into the local Catholic church, where a young priest was performing the Mass. He laid down his gun and knelt at the altar in prayer. His pursuers burst into the church and walked down the aisle to finish the job. Raul picked up the gun and calmly executed them in front of his whole congregation. A good shepherd looks after his sheep, he told me in explanation, when I recounted the story to him several weeks ago. He was defrocked. Don Luis took him in, and he became like a son to him. Raul is now a very successful businessman. Everything he touches turns to gold, if you understand. Lana nods. He’s also the most trusted cartel enforcer in the States. But he is not an evil man, and he still seeks to live out his faith. After I let Toni go free, he was ordered by Don Luis to kill me. So he called me into his office, and told me as much, and wanted to know why I had done what I had done. And I refused to tell him, saying my reasons are my own. And this disturbed him. And he walked me through the events of the night in question. Who is Lana Radley to you? He was fascinated by you. He motioned me over to his desk and I planted a bug as we watched a clip of you dancing with Jax. He asked me how I wanted to die, and I told him I didn’t want to see it coming. A sniper’s bullet. He nodded, and we shook hands. Don Luis was furious with him. You let him go. I warned him so he can get his house in order. I’ve sent for the Russian. I will not have innocent blood on my hands. His motives are pure, and I gave him my word that she is to lead a charmed life. He played you, Don Luis hissed. If he goes to ground, then my life for his. Don Luis backed off, and he sent Tia, who is the family consigliore, to investigate you. You met her at Auggies in passing.
After the meal, Raul called Ramon, Don Luis’s son, and said that he’d made a grave mistake and had been trapped by his words. That he now believes that I’ve played him by romancing the redhead and that a strike on Don Luis is imminent. Take all precautions, Ramon. Dad and I knew that from the get go, Raul. Ramon laughs. He may send an armed drone after Don Luis. Tia’s paranoia is contagious, Ramon chuckles. I’ve got it covered, Raul. Don’t worry about a thing. And I think you handled it perfectly. I’d be in Vegas making a baby with that redhead if I were in his shoes. Let the Russian finish him when he gets back to town with his soon-to-be widow. Now, Don Luis has told me that this Lana Radley is the one tree in the garden that I’m not allowed to eat from. When do I get to meet her? You probably won’t. Oh yes, the boyfriend. I will kill this musician myself, as a token of my esteem for you, brother. No, you will not. And Raul tells him that he’s asked Tia to test Jax with the three temptations of the simpleton from the Book of Solomon’s proverbs. What are they? The whore, the strange woman, and the adulteress. I’ve done them all, many times, Ramon boasted. Kostamo laughs into his headset. And Raul told him that if he passes, then he gets you. Fine, have it your way. Later, brother.
Lana, he agreed too quickly. Jax is in grave danger. The Ortegas are a law unto themselves and live like feudal lords. She doesn’t say anything, looks down at the sun beginning to illuminate the chasm below them. I’ve got to recycle morning coffee, he tells her, and five minutes later they land on the rim. There’s a nice picnic area and a set of restrooms. When Lana comes out of the bathroom, she sees that one of the riflemen has spread out some breakfast on a table, pulling items from a cooler. Then the man goes off to give her and Kostamo some privacy.
She makes a fruit salad. What do you want from me? She asks Kostamo. Only your friendship. I like Jax. And I respect Raul. He pauses. My motivation in all of this is that you have a very powerful benefactor who I do not wish to displease. Senator Johns? He’s on the appropriations committee, Kostamo explains.
What is your first name? Mortimer.
I want my badge back, Mortimer. He rubs the stubble on his face with his hand, and says nothing to this. I’ll pass that along, he finally says. I’m not sure how long I’ve got, he tells her. The Russian? I have a man just out of the 82ndAirborne who wants to join my organization. He has a unique skill set. Kostamo grins. Can you guess what it is?
He takes out the Russian and he’s in? Kostamo nods. If he misses? It’s been a good life, Lana.
You and Toni, was that for real? He doesn’t answer. The super expensive ring was a test. You could have married her, but you choose to get engaged instead. Not a test, Lana. If I got killed, she could turn the ring into cash. The car and the condo are already in her name, and her school debt has all been paid. So I think the slate is clean for what I put her through initially. Lana nods. So she blew it. He nods.
What are you going to do? He asks her. I don’t know, Kostamo. I’ll talk it over with my partner. The drummer? She nods. I owe him everything. He gave me the leg up I needed. How did you land that job anyway? He found me; he said he was watching the press harass me on the followup story, that I was now a PI. What drew him to you? Your notoriety? That’s what I thought at first. So you want to tell all the members of your band that the killer cop is your doorman. But that didn’t phase him at all. He told me that I’d gotten a bad deal, but he admired how I handled it. He used a strange word. We all have to deal with knockbacks. That’s how British people say setbacks, Kostamo replies. But I could tell that he didn’t like that I was a narcotics cop. I was fighting a losing battle. Drugs need to be legalized, taxed, and regulated. Spoken like a true rockstar, Kostamo chuckles. Why wasn’t he shooting with you guys? His business, Lana says, giving Kostamo a hard look. He gives her his Cheshire cat grin and nods at her. I like you, Lana. Want to play for the other team? I’d eat my gun first, she tells him.
I used to be like you, Kostamo tells her. But I got disillusioned with the leadership. And I had to take care of my people, you understand? She says nothing to this, and looks over the vista. This is absolutely incredible. Thank you, Mortimer. Take your time, he tells her, and then gets up and walks away to make a call on his satellite phone.