Marlon 'Marley' Grann sat in a cafe somewhere close to nowhere on a two lane highway, somewhere in the desert of Montana.
At least he thought it was Montana.
Even in the middle of the night it was hot and arid as the wind blew dust along the road and under the yellow, dull street light. It was the only light within 100 miles and it marked the little café with the single serve, 70's style gas pump.
A light, flashing red shots across the wanderers face through the nicotine stained blinds, pulsed in a pattern as it lit up O...P...E...N in a left to right neon beckoning.
Marley drank his thick sludge coffee and stared out into the darkness of the desert. Far off in the distant west a storm was racing, flashing.
There was a single waitress and what he assumed to be the owner of the joint at the end of the cheap counter. The waitress was middle aged but looked worn, like only the desert and hard living could do. She smiled at him whenever he looked her way.
The man was in his 40's and watched Marley peripherally as the patron sipped his 3rd cup.
Movement down the highway caught Marleys eye. Headlights appeared and made their way steadily towards the isolated café.
Marley stood and approached the waitress, thanking her and paying a $7.85 tip on a $2.15 bill. She smiled her weather beaten smile and bade him farewell.
Once outside, Marley winced against the hot wind. It tousled his hair and sent bits of sand into his eyes.
Still he watched the lights edge closer.
He reached into the folds of his worn jacket and felt the grip of the beretta snugly secured in its holster. He took it out and subtlety checked it before placing it back into its spot under his clothes.
They say, if you hold someones gaze for more than 15 seconds you have one of two things on your mind... Love or murder.
Marley just wasn't feeling the love tonight.
The man being sent to pick him up had information the wanderer had been looking for for a very long time.
The car drew nearer.
The pale moon cast a dim glow across the low scrub of the desert. A coyote howled somewhere in that pale darkness.
Without warning, Marley feels an odd sensation. It's not a physical feeling, rather, one of impending change. He casts a quick glance around, noting the car would be here in a minute.
As he glances about he notices something panic inducing. His hands are falling apart. More accurately, they're breaking apart and scattering into the wind like the seeds of a gruesome dandelion.
He opens his mouth to shout out but......
The life worn waitress rushes outside to give the large tipping stranger the gloves he had forgotten at the booth. She sees a older model Ford slow and cruise slowly by.
It didn't stop but, rather, eased off into the desert night, its tail lights red points disappearing behind the dusts of the hot wind.
The stranger was gone.
The first thing Marley Grann notices is the cold. He had just been in the desert and yet he feels rain and the cold hardness of concrete beneath him. He opens his eyes and finds himself looking up at two towering, brick buildings. The rain falls lightly and streams down past the yellow lights of the apartment windows. Somewhere in the alley he finds himself in, something scuttles away.
The wanderer reaches for his pistol automatically but finds it's gone... Along with everything else.
He props his naked body up onto one elbow and scans his surroundings. He's not hurt nor feeling ill and yet he can't explain how he arrived here.
'And what was with the hands' he thinks, looking down at his hands, solid and real, 'was I drugged?'
He stands slowly and tries to get his bearings.