There was no fixing it. The car listed to the side as the engine knocked ans sputtered. Mae gave up and signaled to [[Elias-> The Dummy Did It]] to stop.
"It's no good," Mae said. "You killed it."
"It is an hour to walk to the town," Goodman said. "Maybe someone there can help us."
Mae sighed. "Even if we get it towed, it could take days to get this thing [[fixed->The Meaning of 'Fine']]. They might have to order parts. And the cost. The tire alone could run us two hundred. The axle and fuel line would be hundreds more!"
Goodman patted her on the shoulder. "<i>Cálmate amiga</i>."Just as morning became noon, the three found themselves next to a sign reading "[[Welcome to Marrowbend->Welcome to Marrowbend]]" with a population of 283.
Drenched in sweat, Elias stooped over for a little break. "How far is this town again?"
Goodman handed him some water. "It's not much further. See? Sign." Meanwhile, Mae wandered forward, trying to [[get a signal->No Signal]] on her phone. "Ain’t my fault it broke," Elias said as he got out of the driver's seat. "This's why you don't buy foreign cars."
"Foreign—what?" She gestered at their beaten vehicle and started counting off. "You drove it through a ditch, tore the fuel line, and bent the front axle. How is that not your fault?"
Elias shrugged, pointedly not looking at the car. "Anybody could've dunnit."
With Mae ready to explode, [[Goodman->Stay Calm]] finally spoke up."It does no good to worry of what we can’t change," Goodman continued. "We get water, tie our shoes, and [[start walking-> Walking Down the Road]] before the sun is too high."
"Yeah, you worry too much, Mae," Elias said. "It’ll be fine."
Mae rolled her eyes and groaned. "Tell me that again when we’re drenched in sweat and two thousand in the hole."
"<i>Calma, calma,</i>" Goodman repeated. "In future, we do not let <i>el burro</i> drive the car.""I've got nothing." Mae pocketed her phone and took a swig from her water bottle. The sun was already scorching hot. They'd been walking for little over an hour. Any more time in this heat would probably kill them.
Goodman scanned the horizon. "No relays and the mountains are high. We need a landline to communicate to the outside."
Mae followed his gaze. "Looks like. Let's hope the [[locals->Welcome to Marrowbend]] are friendly."The town of ''Marrowbend'' had seen better days. It had the makings of a tourist trap gone belly up. There were shells of [[restaurants->Empty Restaurant]] and [[souvenir shops->Souvenirs]] lining the main road. There was a large statue outside the [[city hall->City Hall]] and an [[information booth->Info Booth]] right next to the [[theater->Old Theater]]. Since they weren't there for the sights, Mae, Goodman, and Elias eyes gravitated towards the [[repair shop->Uncle Lou's Motor Shop]].The group was starting to get hungry but most of the restaurants on the [[main street->Welcome to Marrowbend]] were closed or falling apart. Mae decided that it was probably best to deal with their car troubles before looking for a place to eat.Just off the [[main road->Welcome to Marrowbend]] was Uncle Lou's Motor Shop. It was as dusty, weatherbeaten, and empty as every other place they've seen. Mae knocked on the locked door and called out, but no one answered.
"<i>Esto es malo</i>," Goodman said.
Mae nodded. "We may already be too late."
Elias leaned around the corner and waved them over. "Hey! Come look! There's a freakin' [[payphone->Ratty Payphone]] over here!"The door was locked. Elias peered through the glass, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. "Anybody looking for a cactus keychain?"
"No," Mae answered.
"How about a mug? Look, that one says 'World's Greatest B--"
Goodman steered him away from the window. "Later we will look. [[Let's go now->Welcome to Marrowbend]]."It must have been the city hall in name only. The building had been abandoned for several years. The doors swung open and closed, squeaking on rusty hinges. A tumbleweed rolled by and Goodman sighed. "I fear this is a..." He paused as he thought of the right phrase. "Ghost Place?"
"Ghost town, my friend. Ghost //town//," Elias corrected him. "This place isn't big enough to be called a city."
Mae would have argued with him but there was something very odd about this place. Something very, very wrong. She turned to [[leave->Welcome to Marrowbend]].It was more like a pile of boards than a booth. Unlike the other places, this area was torn to shreds. They wouldn't have known what it was without the remains of the sign.
Elias let out a low whistle. "I'd hate to run into the guy that did this."
Mae didn't want to admit it but she had to agree with him. It looked like someone had purposely destroyed it. She spots [[a piece of paper->Dirty Map]] sticking out from under some wood. Goodman and Elias started moving towards [[the theater->Old Theater]] next door.There hasn't been a show here in ages. Sun-bleached posters adorned the outer walls while the doors had been shattered and boarded over. Out of all the establishments on the [[main road->Welcome to Marrowbend]], this was the most destitute save for the [[info desk->Info Booth]].
"What happened here?" Mae asked.
Goodman scanned out exterior of the building while Elias tried to peek inside. "Probably played a shit movie and people //really// wanted their money back," Elias said.Mae picks through the wood, finding tour maps of the town. It was brightly decorated with starred points and descriptions throughout. She grabs several and [[follows->Old Theater]] after Goodman and Elias."Can't believe these things still exist," Elias said.
Mae picked it up and heard a dial tone. "I can't believe it still works." She reached into her pockets and frowned. "You wouldn't happen to have any change, would you?"
Elias pulled at his torn jacket. "Do I look like a bank?"
Goodman reached over and hit '0'. Mae was surprised when a computerized voice began to speak. Seeing her confusion, Goodman took the phone. "[[Collect calls->Collect Call]]--only dangerous for the other end." His mischevious smile was slightly concerning."Adalberto! It's been far too long!" Goodman's lip twitched at the casual use of that particular name but brushed it off. Thousands of times he'd told her to use 'Goodman' and thousands of time she'd ignored him.
"Hello Mrs. Vesna," he said, keeping his voice light and cheery.
"Oh, please call me--"
"This is call is collecting so I must be [[brief->Please Fix Our Car]]," he said curtly.While Goodman talked nice with the higher ups and Mae hid from the sun, Elias found a more productive way to spend his time. There was a back door. The hinges was so rusty that a firm push was enough to break them.
Walting in, he took in his surroundings. Something, something, nothing important--just a rundown garage with rundown equipment. Even if there was a mechanic, what could they do with this junk?
Despite the stillness in the air, Elias heard [[the shuffle of paper->The Locked Office]]. "Oh?" He didn't expect this place to have anything interesting.Mae did her best to fit herself in the shade but the tires were still hot on her back. She checked her phone again--still no signal--and opened the last image their contact sent:
SEEK THE SECOND FACE OF THE MOUNTAIN.
The message had been carved into the floor, most likely by the nail in the corner of the photograph. Mae [[looked around->Goodman's Troubles]]. They were almost completely surrounded by hills and mountains. <i>Guess we're close</i>, she thought wryly."Our car is <i>dañado</i>. Damaged. Outside the town. We arrived safely but we had to leave our equipment. There are no people. They all <i>desaparecido</i>."
"I love it when you talk like that."
Goodman audibly groaned. He saw [[Mae->The Burning Sun]]'s head pivot in his direction so he waved. "Please send help. We will do what we can here." He quickly hung up and breathed a sign of relief.Mae could hear Goodman groan even at this distance. Vesna must have took the call. He was truly a saint for not losing his temper where she was involoved. She drove damn near everyone crazy.
Goodman slammed the receiver into the cradle and breathed a sign of relief.
"What's the word, Goodman?" she yelled from her shadow of solitude. He yelled back something in Spanish. It sounded unusually crass for him. She gave him a thumbs up. "You're doing great!" Unlike <i>[[someone->Back of the Shop]]</i>.The sound had come from the locked office. Taking a wrench from a toolbox, he smashed the glass window. He unlocked the door and strolled in, casually swinging the wrench all the while.
There was some [[folders->File Folders]] on the desk, a [[box->Box of Papers]] of papers on the floor, and a [[file cabinet->File Cabinet]] to the side.Staring at the folders on the desk, Elias was rewarded with the sound of flipping pages. If he held his gaze long enough, he'd see phantom images of the papers moving on their own.
"Hey look, I found [[something->The Files]]," he said unenthusiastically to no one.The box was filled with customer information. He stared at it intently but didn't hear the sound of papers. The [[file cabinet->File Cabinet]] and the [[desk->File Folders]] were really the only other places the sound could have come from.The cabinet was locked. He was torn between beating the lock with the wrench and just leaving it alone...
Not worth the effort. He turned his eyes towards the [[desk->File Folders]] and the [[box->Box of Papers]] on the floor.Right off the bat Elias could see that they didn't belong in a car shop. As he picked up the first one, Mae and Goodman came in through the back door. Mae frowned when she saw the glass on the floor and the wrench in his hand. Always so uptight.
"Took ya long enough. Come 'ere, I found something..."While Goodman was on the phone, Mae and Elias wandered around the shop. Elias sauntered to the back while Mae found some shade under a stack of tires.
After the usual runaround, someone [[picked up->The Call]] the line.