The next day, Nadia, Ian, and Demona split up, each following up on different leads. Demona remained holed up in her hotel room, going back to her online research. Ian walked around Las Vegas, looking into the smaller venues to see if there was anything amiss. One had a magic act cancel at the last minute, but beyond that, he found nothing out of the ordinary. Nadia drove around the city in the rented SUV, working out the edges of the blanket cutting her off from the flow of magic. Through trial and error, she worked out approximately where the blanket was centered. In the afternoon, she drove to a local high school not far from the Strip. With school still in session, Nadia could only drive past and make note of the parking lot.
The three met up again in Demona's room to share their findings. Demona had a Power Point presentation ready to go, much to Nadia's annoyance. Ian sat down for the report, giving his feet a rest. Nadia only paced. Demona's report showed a pattern in when the John Does went missing. The morgue needed to have at least four unknowns arrive, with the missing John Doe being either the second or third of the night. She didn't have any information that could lead to exactly when the bodies were removed from the morgue, though.
Demona's smartphone rang, playing the chorus from PSY's "Daddy". She answered it, then passed the phone and Kaye over to Nadia. A few minutes later, plans were made for Kaye and one of her teammates to meet in the buffet for dinner. The meeting broke to let everyone clean up.
Nadia, with a clean black t-shirt to match her jeans and her boots, was the first to arrive at the hotel's restaurant. She let the hostess take her to a large table. Ian arrived not long after, trailed by the camera crew. The crew set up so that no other table would be in the shot. Ian, wearing a polo shirt that stretched over his frame and a pair of grey slacks, sat next to Nadia, ordering a draft beer while he waited for the rest to arrive. Demona slipped into the restaurant, trying hard not to be seen, Even her clothes, a silver cardigan over a grey t-shirt and floor length floral skirt, were meant to not attract attention. She saw Ian and Nadia and joined them.
As the waitress took Demona and Nadia's drink orders, Kaye Ortiz arrived with a taller man with a dark complexion. Kaye led the man over to the table. "Hi guys," she said. "This is Byron Calhoun, Team One One Seven's magic expert."
Nadia stood up. "HI. Nadia Wallach." She shook Byron's hand. "This is Ian Markowitz and Demona Bell. Please to meet you."
"I've heard about your team," Byron said.
"And you still came? You're brave." Nadia sat back down. "I figured the buffet would keep everyone happy. There's something for everyone."
The waitress returned with Nadia's gin and tonic and Demona's diet cola. She left with Kaye's request for a glass of white wine and Byron's order of a sour apple martini. Once the group was alone again, Nadia asked, "How is the John Doe case looking?"
Kaye shrugged. "Still looking. Demona's been helpful, crunching numbers. I've managed to get all the information she wanted. It still feels like something is missing."
Byron grinned, his teeth gleaming under the restaurant's lights. "Other than the John Does, that is."
"We figured." Nadia leaned in closer. "Have any more gone missing in the past couple of days?"
"One, last night," Kaye said. "Thanks to Demona, the guys at the morgue were able to tell me when they noticed. No deliveries, no visitors, nothing else happened before they discovered another John Doe left the building."
Demona frowned. "That's not possible. Someone had to be there."
"Unless it's an inside job," Ian said. "Is that possible?"
Kaye shook her head no. "The night shift guys have been there for years. The newest guy on the team came on two years ago. Someone would notice if any of the others are taking bodies out."
"Just a thought."
"We've been following up a new problem," Nadia said. She looked over at Byron. "Two days ago, someone dropped a blanket of sorts that cut off the flow of magic. We've been trying to find whoever's responsible."
"Oh, well, you can stop looking." Byron beamed. "I did that."
Nadia launched herself over the table, knocking over her drink. Before anyone could react, she had a grip on Byron's shirt. "You what!?"
Kaye grabbed hold of one of Nadia's arms. "Hands off my people!"
Ian wrapped his arms around Nadia's waist. "Let's hear him out first, Nadia."
"Do you know how many people you screwed over with that stunt?" Nadia ignored the people pulling on her.
"Nadia, people are watching," Demona said. "They're going to kick us out."
Nadia piushed Byron back into his seat. "That stunt of yours let every practicing mage and who knows how many supernatural entities know that you're in town. How does it feel to have a target on your tuches?"
Kaye got herself between Nadia and her teammate. "If you have a problem with anyone on my team, you bring it up with me."
"Did you know that he was going to do something stupid?"
Byron adjusted his shirt. "It was a preventative measure. If someone was taking the John Does to animated, then I delayed them."
"But cutting off the flow of magic in Las Vegas?" Nadia sat back down. She worked to get her volume under control. "You closed off a method of finding the thief. What sort of mage are you?"
"I'm not. I'm an alchemist."
Nadia rolled her eyes. "And you didn't think to ask a mage if your idea was a good one?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
Ian formed a T with his hands. "Time out, everyone." He looked over to Nadia. "We found out who cut off the flow of magic. One less mystery." He turned to Byron. "How about giving all agents a heads-up before you do something like that again. Maybe you can't feel the flow, but cutting it off sent up a flare. If there were supernaturals in town that weren't aware there was an Agency team in town, they do now. That's going to make it harder for all of us."
"There's a bright spot in it, thought." Demona shrunk back from Nadia's glower. "Whoever is stealing the John Does isn't using magic, right? They couldn't have last night, but a body went missing."
Nadia bit her lower lip. "The rookie has a point. There's no magic involved."
"Unless they used a potion or an amulet," Byron said. "Those wouldn't be affected. The magic's already in the item."
"But can you create something to animate the dead?" Demona asked.
Byron shrugged. "Probably? It's just a matter of working out the matrix needed."
"No, you'd still need to infuse the body with magic, even with an amulet," Nadia said. "Magic items can't store enough magic to do much more than getting a corpse to sit up. It also takes time to create these things. How many missing John Does are we up to now?"
"About a dozen," Kaye said. "Probably more."
Ian drained his beer. "Unless there's a Frankenstein process involved, that's going to take to prepare."
"Which Frankenstein, book or movie?" Demona asked.
"There's a difference?"
Demona smiled. "A big one. Mary Shelley didn't go into the details of how the Monster was brought back to life. The movie used a lightning bolt. We're in a desert. Who is going to count on a thunderstorm to hit here?"
"No one, but Hoover's Dam isn't far from here," Kaye said. "Maybe an hour out of town at most, depending on traffic."
Nadia looked over to Ian. "Did you get your gear in yet?"
Ian nodded. "It arrived around noon yesterday."
"You're thinking of checking out Hoover Dam?" Demona asked. "I thought /Frankenstein/ was fiction."
"It is, but that doesn't stop anyone from doing something stupid. Kaye, call your team. We'll meet them there. We're going to eat before we go."
Nadia urged the rental SUV faster down the freeway, passing traffic like the cars were standing still. Beside in the front passenger seat, Ian braced himself, making sure his seat belt was fastened properly. He watched as a sedan swerved out of the lane. A loud honking followed. Demona clutched at her door handle in the back seat, her knickles turning white. "Slow down!"
"I'm not even thirty over the limit," Nadia called back. "The rental company must have put a limiter on it. It's bad enough that it's an automatic."
"You almost hit that car!"
"I missed, didn't I?"
Ian looked back. "I think we just blew past a cop going the other way."
"Yeah, and?" Nadia checked the rearview mirrors. "It's not like he's gonna catch up with us."
"The police have radios," Demona said. "He could call us in."
"And say what, there's a speeding truck?"
Demona rolled her eyes. "If we're stopped, I don't know you."
"If we had my car, we could check the police frequencies," Ian said.
"If we had your car, Demona would be strapped on top," Nadia counted. "Look, we need to get to the Dam."
"Why the rush?" Ian winced as the SUV came within inches of sideswiping a semi. "We don't know that anything's happening there."
"Kaye and the rest of Team One One Seven are on their way."
Demona looked out the back window. "We passed them ten miles back."
Nadia held down on the horn to get a Corvette to move out of the lane. "They're still on their way." She let out a low whistle. "We're too late." She pointed over to a bright display of light coming from Hoover Dam. Actinic light played along power lines. Over the Dam itself, lightning surged skywards then arced back down. Thunder cracked. Winds buffeted the SUV. Nadia gritted her teeth as she fought to stay on the road.
Coaxing as much speed as she could out of the Ford SUV, Nadia raced to get to Hoover Dam, cutting off a camper as she exited on to the Dam's access road. The light show dimmed, but didn't end. Nadia eased off on the SUV's speed on the double-laned road. There was no traffic ahead of her, though, letting her still drive above the speed limit. As the SUV neared the last bend before the Dam, a white moving truck roared by. Nadia put the SUV into a bootlegger turn, throwing Ian, Demona, and the camera crew into the side of the Ford.
"What was--" Demona's question got cut off as Nadia floored the accelerator. Tires squealed before they found traction. "I missed something."
"Hoover Dam's visiting hours ended at five. It's well past that. So why is there a delivery truck coming from the Dam?"
Ian shrugged. "Late delivery?"
"And just happens to be leaving after the light show?"
"Makes perfect sense to me," Demona said. "If I was a delivery driver, I'd leave, too. No one gets paid enough for that."
"Okay, you two, answer me this. If they were running away, would they have passed us sooner, like when the light show began?" Nadia waited a moment for an answer. "The average /shlmiel/ would have taken off when everything went nuts. Even if they froze at first, they'd be gone before the light show ended."
Ian nodded in agreement. "So what's in there? The missing John Does?"
"Got a better suggestion? Oh, shit!" Nadia stood on the brake. The SUV screeched to a halt, its front bumper half an inch from a Nevada Highway Patrol cruiser, its lights strobing blue and red.
The state trooper walked around his car to approach Nadia. "Care to explain why you were so far over the speed limit?"
Nadia produced her license and the rental agreement. "Hello, Officer."
The trooper glanced at the paperwork. "I'm waiting."
"This might be above your pay scale, Officer."
"And you want my supervisor." The state trooper glared at Nadia. "Just who do you think I am?"
Nadia smiled. "Look, Officer, did you see the fancy light show with the thunder and lightning just now?"
"Was that your handiwork?"
"Just how fast do you think I was going?"
"At least eighty miles per hour. I wouldn't be surprised if you hit a hundred."
Nadia glanced back at Ian. "Maybe I was too harsh on this car." She turned her attention back to the state trooper. "To be honest, I didn't think it would go that fast."
The trooper brought out his ticket book. "Just consider yourself lucky I'm not hauling you-- Is that a camera? Hey, are you recording me? Turn it off. Turn it off now--"
I am not taking the blame for this. I was just a passenger. Nadia has a lead foot. I knew she'd be pulled over.
Nadia followed Kaye back into Las Vegas, driving at a more sedate pace at the speed limit. The urge to pass Team One One Seven and their full sized passenger van gnawed at her. She was sure something was happening in the city. Just what, Nadia didn't know, but there was something happening.
Ian turned on the radio. He flipped from station to station until he found an all-news broadcast. The news announcer droned on about the day's news. Ian looked over at Nadia. "It's quiet."
The news announcer gave way to the traffic reporter. "A truck has blocked the Las Vegas Boulevard at East Tropicana. Police have set up roadblocks in the area. Traffic is halted in both directions."
After exchanging a glance with Nadia, Ian got out his smartphone. He sent a quick text to Kaye. Team One One Seven's van sped up. Nadia followed suit, passing the van. Demona grabbed on to Ian's seat. "What's the rush? Wasn't one lecture from a highway patrolman enough for one day?"
"Ian, start the timer," Nadia said, ignoring the question. "We have fifteen minutes."
"Fifteen minutes?" Demona turned her attention from Ian to Nadia and back again. "Fifteen minutes until what?"
Ian shifted in his seat to look at Demona. "Police are already on site. That means people will wonder what's going on. The Strip is a tourist attraction, so there's going to be people with phones out taking pictures. What do you think will happen when they see the John Does walking around?"
Demona shrugged. "Run away?" She sat back in her seat. "No, wait, they wouldn't. Not right away. This is Las Vegas, entertainment capital. They'll think the zombies are part of a show and move in to get photos. If the zombies attack, then people will get hurt and a panic happens."
"There's more," Ian said. "One person posting about a zombie apocalypse might not be noticed. Hundreds posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media? That gets noticed. Hashtag zombies hashtag Las Vegas. That will bring in the wannabe zombie hunters, who will get in the way."
"Hashtag headshot hashtag morons." Nadia managed to fit the SUV between a pair of semis. "Crowd control is hard enough without having the helpful in the way." She glanced down at the speedometer. "We should be there in about ten minutes, giving us a really slim margin to get past the police and find whoever stole these John Does."
Nadia pushed the Ford SUV to its limit, never easing up on the throttle until well inside Las Vegas city limits. Even then, red lights and stop signs were more suggestions than requirements. It was only when the traffic came to a dead stop that Nadia did, too. The three agents jumped out of the SUV. Ian ran to the back to get his gym bag. Nadia and Demona pushed their way through the gathering crowd. The white truck that had eluded them at Hoover Dam blocked the road ahead.
Ian caught up to the two women. He stared at the spectacle in front of him. "Huh. You don't see that everyday." Shambling away from the truck and the roadblock were a score of dead men, each with a pompadour, each wearing a silver jumpsuit. "Zombie Elvis impersonators."