It's all going according to Nick's carefully laid plans. Before they'd gone out Friday night, they'd combed through the first floor of his house, securing all valuables, then baiting the living room and kitchen and parlor with cheap electronic equipment — junk cameras, battered Walkmans, laser pointers and busted light-up Star Wars toys, the "few things for the Sketchinician" that Marcus had picked up at a couple of thrift stores during his afternoon foray out into the real world.
Now it's four in the morning, and they're pretending not to notice as the Sketchinician sketches around the house, pilfering the goods and then stashing them in his car during his repeated, always loudly announced "I'm just going to go and have a smoke" brief trips outside.
The Sketchinician is skilled, to a degree. No one ever actually sees him, say, snake the cracked-case Canon point-and-shoot off the end table. They just notice it's gone, and the whispered word spreads through the party: Check it out, the Sketchinician got the camera by the couch.
Then, in the denouement of this set piece, around five in the morning, Nick pretends to suddenly notice that all of his possessions are missing. And the Sketchinician? He plays it beautifully, fervently joining the search for the missing camera and laser pointer and Walkman and Darth Vader light saber, all of which Nick is distraught to lose, because he really, really wants them for the trip to Vegas.
"You see, that's how you know when a tweaker has it hard-core," Nick murmurs in another one of his conspiratorial whispers. "They'll steal shit from you, and then they'll help you look for it."
Vegas, baby, Vegas.
Nick crudely decapitated the Shabu demon before their rides to the airport arrived. "This is coming with us," he said, cradling the head in his hand. "The rest of this shit — the pipes, the torch and everything — leave it all. We'll figure it out in Vegas."
It's 105 degrees on the Strip, and it's not even noon yet, and everyone is sorely dehydrated and pouring sweat and crashing hard because they haven't had a hit for five hours and this is all starting to seem like not such a good idea after all. The plane landed a little over an hour ago, and the crew took a shuttle to the Strip, where theyre now shuffling through the middle-American masses in the blast-furnace heat, slurping cheap, slushy, sugary drinks in two-foot-tall pink plastic Eiffel Towers they bought at the Paris casino.
It's just too damn hot out here to deal, and the casino floors are just too much right now, too, too many bells and whistles and Wheel! Of! Fortune! and old ladies with oxygen tanks and jacket-and-tie security guards. The world is looking drab and worn, like a pixie stripped of her glamour.
They need a hit. They need a sanctuary. They need the Venetian.
Team Shabu is smoking speed out of lightbulbs in the $249-a-night Venezia Fontana luxury suite, in which they will spend a grand total of 45 minutes before descending to the casino floor.
"I have a poem I want everyone to hear," Marcus says, fishing a fresh bulb from the cardboard box of four General Electric 60-watts purchased earlier on the Strip. "It's about a moth and a lightbulb. I've memorized it for just this sort of five-star occasion."
His voice changes to that of a bereted poet giving a dramatic reading.
"I was talking to a moth the other evening," Marcus begins, thrusting the lightbulb up and away, then pondering it like Hamlet pondering a dagger. "He was trying to break into an electric lightbulb and fry himself on the wires."
Marcus pulls the lightbulb back, walks over to a dresser, and then, with one quick hammering motion, snaps off the bulb's aluminum screw-in plug. It falls to the carpet and he stares it for a second, then at the teardrop-shaped piece of glass in his hand, which now has a jagged hole at the fat end.
"I forget the next part," he says, weaving on his feet and staring into the bulb's hole like a drunken pirate staring through a spyglass. "But the guy who's talking the poem asks the moth why the fuck he's trying to fry himself on the light, and the moth says..."