In retrospect, Thomas Kidd decided, they shouldn't have followed the ghost to the strip club.
They'd been tracking Aubrey Littleton for just under a week. In life the guy had been a real-estate developer, not a master criminal, so he made the classic fugitive mistake of contacting family members. He had called his daughter, which Kidd learned by stealing her cellphone from a gym locker, dumping the 'recent calls' list, and returning it before she'd finished Pilates.
The list showed a fourteen minute call from a payphone. Littleton probably thought that was clever, but it was actually pretty stupid. In the twenty-first century, when everybody walked around with a phone in their pocket, payphones had become as rare as pinball machines. And, like pinball, they'd somehow become objects of nostalgia. There were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining public telephones, appended with little notes about them ('lots of graffiti'; 'classic aluminum booth'; 'handset smells like piss'). Maybe they even had annual conventions.
Kidd thought it was silly and a little sad, but the sites were occasionally useful. An aficionado named 'Crunchwhistle 2600' had pinpointed Littleton's payphone ('coin-return lever broken') to a gas station in Kent, a small town about sixty miles north of New York City. The phone was within walking distance of a motel, where two twenty dollar bills bought them Littleton's room number and the license plate of the car he was using. The car wasn't there, but the counter clerk, still happy from his $40 windfall, told them that Littleton frequented a titty bar down the road in Mahopac, the next town over. And that's where the trouble began.
Now, it shouldn't be hard to find a titty bar in a place the size of Mahopec. You just drive down the main drag until you spot a place that's open at night and has a parking lot full of semi-trucks and cop cars. But Kidd was that rare male who refused to use his instincts and intuition for directions; he wanted a road map. Trouble was, in the twenty-first century, when everyone drove around with a GPS in their car, road maps had become as rare as video cassettes. But as luck would have it, there were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining gas stations that stocked road maps, along with the usual notes ('bathroom smells like an outhouse'; 'still carries Pixi Stix'; 'condom machine broken').
MapGeek2006 had pinpointed an Exxon station that still had road maps and still had its Esso sign. Kidd made his way there, but all they had were maps of West Virginia and Ohio. The owner said there was no demand for road maps of the local area because the only people who stopped at the station were locals and they already knew their way around, but some of them had family in West Virginia and Ohio, so they would buy maps when they were going visiting. Anyway, Kidd bought himself some Pixi Stix and walked out, and that's when they met the ghost, who said he'd lead them to the titty bar, the one where, as I mentioned, the trouble began.
Opening: Sean McCluskey.....Continuation: Evil Editor