Chapter 1: Arrival
Artemis didn’t like the sun, he much preferred to be in his office working on some kind of new money making scheme, in the dark with only a computer monitor as light. Arizona, however, was the last place someone like him would want to be. It was summer, and today it was 113 F. Artemis turned to Butler unable to look at the sun any longer.
“When do we get there?” he asked annoyed. Butler who knew Phoenix quite well responded promptly from the driver’s seat.
“I believe that we will be there in about ten minutes master Fowl, the streets have changed a quit bit since I was last here.” Butler had indeed visited this city about twenty-five years ago while working as a body guard for a mafia man in the United States. He was surprised that Artemis had wanted to come here at all.
Truth be told, Artemis himself wasn’t sure why he was drawn to this desert. He pondered this thought for a moment; however he was unable to find a distinct cause. Perhaps it was the fact that his father was back, and not allowing him to get involved with the family business, and his mother was constantly pushing him towards school and making friends. He was tired of it all and needed a rest from the lack of intellectual stimuli which was slowly driving him mad.
It had started a few months ago when Artemis had put out a want ad for a priceless vase which had been stolen and restolen for hundreds of years, and just recently from rival Mexican drug lords, most of which presided in Arizona. He received a hit a few days ago about a man named Hugo Gonzales who happened to know of its location, and was willing to answer any questions about the vase. Artemis, who had been looking for any excuse to get away from his house, told his parents he was taking a holiday in the U.S. His parents admitted that he deserved a vacation, and let him go for two weeks; Artemis was thrilled, and, finally something interesting was happening.
Arizona was an odd state, and Phoenix was an odd city. Arizona was a state cut in half by a plateau, one side was desert and the other forest, Artemis felt he had lost a bet being on the desert side. Arizona had originally been a territory devoid of facilities, people, and air conditioning; the people had a pioneer-like attitude, where self sufficiency was key, survivalisum was the norm, and rarely did anything change. In recent years however with the influx of people from the East, and California, Arizona had become a regular state, and Phoenix was the fifth largest city in the United States, a feat, considering only six million people occupied the state altogether. The Phoenix skyline was nothing to get excited about as Artemis looked out the window. There was a thin cloud of dust and smog hanging like fog against the 80’s styled, boring buildings.
Today was hot for one, and nothing that Artemis saw was particularly clean, the air was full of dust and asphalt was everywhere creating heat on top of heat. The primary colors were terracotta, tan, rusty gold, and a kind of brownish-purple which lined buildings and freeway walls, plastered with pictures of lizards, pyramids, and Native American symbols. Artemis had never seen anything like it before, and it intrigued him. Everything was dominated by the fact of the sun. The roads, roofs, cars, and people, all exposed to the sun were bleached by it. It was like living in a real life purgatory of constant pain and suffering.
In doing his usual background check Artemis had discovered that Hugo was an illegal alien caught in possession of meth among other things, had been deported many times; and faithful to his belief of a better life in the United States, kept coming back. He often did business with the major drug factions along the border and in Phoenix, but had never been caught giving information from one to another. This simple fact would have been a red flag for anyone who was looking to meet this man, after all who was that good? However, since it was unlikely that Artemis would meet anyone friendly on his trip, there was no need to worry. In fact, if Artemis had looked at any other records besides those with a federal seal, he would have known that the Hugo Gonzales he was going to meet, had died three months ago.
When Butler changed lanes on the freeway called the 101 Loop he got off at an exit called Scottsdale Road. Artemis could tell they were in a better part of town as they passed a number of fancy resorts and modern looking restaurants. The airport “Sky Harbor” seemed to be surrounded by mobile homes with cars on blocks in the front yard. Artemis was afraid everywhere in Phoenix was this disagreeable, but with the onslaught of well kept freeways and art deco shops Artemis’s worries vanished. It was a new place and for a moment he forgot this trip was a business one, and though about walking about in the cool shade to each of the quaint shops. These thoughts soon vanished as the Mercedes sedan braked to a stop.
They were at the Fairmont Princess Resort where they would be staying for the next two weeks. Butler opened the door for his charge and walked with him to the entrance doors, as the busboys, sweating from the heat (despite being in the shade) picked up the bags and hurried inside. Butler secured the rooms at the front desk. The Resort was large, and first class. The ceiling in the lobby room was covered in expensive marble with designs almost Spanish in taste. The front desk was no different with its gold panels and tropical flower arrangements. Artemis watched as Butler looked around the common room of the resort checking out its security. Artemis could tell instantly that Butler was disgusted at the lack safety measures, and fallowed master Fowl to the elevator. Once standing in the metal box Butler felt it was time for him to ask.
“Why are we here Artemis?” He asked as casually as possible. Artemis had been expecting this question to arise and he had the perfect response. However he knew that he would only alarm Butler more if he were to hear something Artemis had canned and saved as a rebut to that very question. Artemis sighed.
“I needed to get away Butler.” Butler looked at the elevator doors as the box continued its path upward.
“I don’t understand master Fowl, what was wrong?” Artemis shifted his weight. He wanted to tell Butler everything, how he was simply bored out of his mind, and why this had been the best time he had had in a long time. Despite the fact that they hadn’t really got started just yet, after all they had just arrived. Artemis’s mind was filling with the possibilities of the vase. Where would it be located, how he would get it, what he would do with it once he had it in his possession?
The elevator doors opened, and Butler checked the corridors to insure his master’s safety as they made their way to their room. Their room was a one bedroom suite called the Casita Suite. Like the Lobby, the room was styled with Spanish old world flair, its colors being primarily gold, with different dark reds and rustic wood accents. It had large windows and a small balcony looking out onto one of the Resort’s many pools. Butler began setting up some equipment from the bags on the rust colored couch, which had been brought up a head of them. He then preceded de bugging the room. Artemis walked over to his own bag, unzipped it, and grabbed his laptop. He then walked over to the room’s desk, put his laptop on top, and began to email Minerva. Minerva had fared far better than him when it came to the boring existence called being decent. She had adapted well to school, and seemed to have made friends. Unlike Artemis who hadn’t made a new friend since N deg 1.
He then checked his email and to his surprise Hugo was in town, and was ready to make a trade, of info for cash, $10,000, but he wanted to meet that day at 2:00 at some shopping center called Desert Ridge, more specifically at the Barns and Noble located inside the shopping center. He seemed a little frantic, but Artemis accepted the challenge.
“We need to move in about fifteen minutes Butler, do you know where Desert Ridge is?” Butler looked disappointed as he ended up not finding any bugs in the room.
“No, I do not, but I can find out.” He sat at on the coach once more, and began planning the trip. “Is this where we’re meeting Hugo?” Asked Butler. Artemis nodded engrossed in his message to Minerva. “Are you ever going to answer my question Artemis?” Artemis stopped typing, resting his hand absentmindedly on his laptop.
“I don’t know if you’d believe me Butler . . . I” Butler looked across the room at him, meeting Artemis’s gaze with a fearless one of his own. The last thing he wanted Butler to think was that he had done this all because he was bored, no that sounded selfish, and Artemis cared about what Butler thought of him.
“You know you can tell me anything Artemis.” Butler’s voice was as sincere as father’s. Artemis couldn’t do it, he couldn’t, he was being selfish, and after all, shouldn’t he be happy about having so much peace now in his life?
“We need to go Butler perhaps we can finish this talk after we meet with Mr. Gonzales?” Butler sighed, so much was it like the old Artemis to change the subject when he was getting close, it was scary. Butler nodded.
“I have the location Mr. Gonzales specified, Artemis do you know anything about this man?” No, Artemis had been too preoccupied on leaving to find out anything else but the basics on him.
“I imagine I can find out plenty once we meet the man Butler, have you suddenly lost faith in my abilities?” Said Artemis, Butler looked at him hawkishly.
“No sir,” Said Butler, “never.” Artemis nodded.
“Good then, we might as well leave now he’ll be there in two hours.” Butler’s eyes narrowed.
“It will only take us thirty minutes to get to Desert Ridge.” Replied Butler, Artemis grew ever more restless.
“Well then we’ll be early!” He said franticly, Artemis stopped for a moment and regained his composure. A few months without scheming had done this to him! Butler looked alarmed and grabbed Artemis by the shoulders forcing him to stand upright.
“Tell me what the problem is Artemis, you’re not acting like yourself, and I’m considering going in you place.” Artemis looked into Butlers dark green eyes, so steady, and then looked down at the floor unable to face him. Why was he getting so emotional? What was going on?
“I’m sorry Butler, I . . . I’ve just been so . . . so . . . “Butler’s eyes softened.
“Bored?” He said. Artemis looked at him like a bolt of lightning had just stuck him.
“Yes.” Butler smiled.
“I thought so.” Butler let go of Artemis and sat on the couch so they were eye level, though now he had to crouch some to do so. “Look Artemis, it’s okay to go out, and do all of this to blown off some intellectual steam but.” Butler looked at him and then the window, not being able to completely act fatherly though Butler felt the same; he took his eyes off the window and looked at Artemis once more unable to hide. “You need to still be careful Artemis. No matter what you may think you’re a young man, though you’ve been through what no person your age should ever go through, you’re not a man just yet. You have your whole life to be full of hardships, and you don’t need to put yourself through this. Furthermore you should not act this way before you meet someone with information you need.” Artemis nodded in agreement.
“Good, Artemis we have two weeks to get a priceless Mexican vase and we have no idea where it is or who has it, but in two weeks we have to have it in our hands.” He stood up. “Can I count on you to do that?” Butler couldn’t help but crack a smile. Artemis knew now what he was doing, first identify the problem, put things in perspective, then pep talk. Artemis had forgotten how smooth Butler was.
“Who are you talking to again?” Butler raised an eyebrow and began to gather his things.