At about the same time that Nadine Cross was beginning to realize certain truths which should perhaps have been self-evident, Lloyd Henreid was sitting alone in the Cub Bar, playing Big Clock solitaire and cheating. He was out of temper. There had been a flash fire at Indian Springs that day, one dead, three hurt, and one of those likely to die of bad flash burns. They had no one in Vegas who knew how to treat such burns.
Carl Hough had brought the news. He had been pissed off to a high extreme, and he was not a man to be taken lightly. He had been a pilot for Ozark Airlines before the plague, was an ex-Marine, and could have broken Lloyd in two pieces with one hand while making a daiquiri with the other if he had wanted to. According to Carl, he had killed several men during the course of his long and checkered career, and Lloyd tended to believe him. Not that Lloyd was physically afraid of Carl Hough; the pilot was big and tough, but he was as leery of the Walkin Dude as anyone else in the West, and Lloyd wore Flagg’s charm. But he was one of their fliers, and because he was, he had to be handled diplomatically. And oddly enough, Lloyd was something, of a diplomat. His credentials were simple but awesome: He had spent several weeks with a certain madman named Poke Freeman and had lived to tell the tale. He had also spent several months with Randall Flagg, and was still drawing air and in his right mind.
Carl had come in around two on September 12, his cycle helmet under one arm. There was an ugly burn on his left cheek and blisters on one hand. There had been a fire. Bad, but not as bad as it could have been. A fuel truck had exploded, spewing burning petroleum all over the tarmac area.
“All right,” Lloyd had said. “I’ll see that the big guy knows. The guys that got hurt are at the infirmary?”
“Yeah. They are. I don’t think Freddy Campanari is going to live to see the sun go
down. That leaves two pilots, me and Andy. Tell him that, and tell him something else when he gets back. I want that fuck Trashcan Man gone. That’s my price for staying.”
Lloyd gazed at Carl Hough. “Is it?”
“You’re damn well told.”
“Well, I tell you, Carl,” Lloyd said. “I can’t pass that message on. If you want to give orders to him, you’ll have to do it yourself.”
Carl looked suddenly confused and a little afraid. Fear sat strangely on that craggy face. “Yeah, I see your point. I’m just tired and fucked over, Lloyd. My face hurts like hell. I don’t mean to take it out on you.”
“That’s okay, man. It’s what I’m here for.” Sometimes he wished it wasn’t. Already his head was starting to ache.
Carl said, “But he’s gotta go. If I have to tell him that, I will. I know he’s got one of those black stones. He’s ace-high with the tall man, I guess. But, hey, listen.” Carl sat down and put his helmet on a baccarat table. “Trash was responsible for that fire. My Christ, how’re we ever going to get those planes up if one of the big guy’s men is torching the fucking pilots?”
Several people passing through the lobby of the Grand glanced uneasily over at the table where Lloyd and Carl sat.
“Keep your voice down, Carl.”
“Okay. But you see the problem, don’t you?”
“How sure are you that Trash did it?”
“Listen,” Carl said, leaning forward, “he was in the motor pool, all right? In there for a long time. Lots of guys saw him, not just me.”
“I thought he was out someplace. In the desert. You know, looking for stuff.”
“Well, he came back, all right?