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Under a Killing Moon

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Under a Killing Moon is the novelization of the video game of the same name, written by Aaron Conners in 1996

Prologue

We are introduced to the world of Tex Murphy, a private detective character created for the games Mean Streets, Martian Memorandum and Under a Kiling Moon. The world has been through a Third World War and a radioactive disaster.

Tex Murphy lives in the former Ritz Hotel, in Old San Francisco where the mutated humans have gathered. It’s about 20 days before Christmas 2042 and Tex lives a bad period of his life, divorced and broke.

Chapter One

Tex is flying his speeder, a futuristic airborne personal vehicle, lamenting that he can't find Lucky Strikes in Mexico City. He finds forgotten Malrboro Rojo cigarillos in the passenger seat, and although he compares them to Sauron's creations in the foul-stench bowels of Barad-Dur, he satisfies his addiction.

He passes near the Torre Latino Americana and lands somewhere near the Dulce Vida building. Flying vehicles are out of the norm in Mexico City and a gang of juvenile delinquents seems interested in his speeder. He stalks the appartments near that of Eddie Chang; in an hour, the neighbours' lights go out.

Exiting his speeder, Tex takes some wrapped packages. It's his plan for entering the building without having the tenants' magnetic card. He stands by the entrance at the east side of the building until an old lady approaches and opens the entrance; seeing him carrying the "presents", she politely holds the door for him. The two enter the elevator, the lady exits at the 3rd floor, and Tex continues to the 18th floor, where Eddie Ching's appartment is.

Chapter Two

The chapter goes back two days ago when Tex invetigated the building. Pretending to be a buyer, he approached manager Alfonso, who showed him an empty appartment mentioning also the security facilities of the building. Tex passed the other day stalking the building but had no luck as Eddie's neighbour did not leave.

Now back to the present, Tex enters the empty apartment and unpacks his equipment. Making sure the windows have no alarms, he exits and walks on the ledge. Chang's appartment is 4 windows away. His particle-beam-detection goggles, reveal that the windows are made of LCD alarm glass and the floor is protected by a laser net.

Tex memorises the cycling grid pattern of the sensitive blue lines, opens a hole on the glass with a laser-blade and reaches the alarm switch, but there is no way to disable the laser net. He breaks into the adjacent apartment, and again, he cuts through the plasterboard wall behind a sofa to Ching's apartment. He finds himself in a den room, full of aquariums and terrariums of lethal serpents. He searches a desk where he notices a name list of people interested in buying rare artifacts. He notices "Lowell Percival", a billionaire industrialist and former client.

After examining the living room, full of mirrors, a bookcase stuffed with books and a cabinet with exotic antiquities, he discovers a safe behind a painting. After some disappointment, he realises that the wall behind the case is a 15 ft rectangle of space, which is immovabe. He cuts through the bathroom wall with the laser-blade, and finds himself in a treasure room complete with statues and paintings (having destroyed a genuine Rebrandt). On a marble pedestal he sees the 16" tall crystal bird statuette, the artifact that Countess Renier sent him to fetch.

The alarm goes off as he takes the bird. He runs back to the den while steps and voices are approaching. He opens the terrariums and sets the reptiles free, and exits through the hole which he covers with a stereo speaker. He covers the other side with the sofa and exits the window of the apartment as men knock the door, and returns to the unoccupied apartment. Looking through the peephole, he sees the open elevator with Alfonso leading some men to Ching's room; Tex quickly opens the door and rushes to the open elevator, only to get noticed by them.

Tex stops the elevator at the 2nd floor and breaks into a startled old man's apartment. He jumps out of his window, falling 20 feet below onto a flower garden. Under gunshots, he runs to his speeder, successfully ignites the engines and takes off. The geo-grid guides him to Brownsville, Texas.

Chapter Three

Tex is at the Post-Nuclear café in Brownsville, a diner popular among truckers and migrant workers and finally enjoys his first Lucky Strike. His rapture is interrupted by LaDonna, an impatient orange-headed waitress. Tex orders the safest choice: a white grilled cheddar sandwich and a gallon of extra thick coffee; he then admires how she approaches the kitchen. Tex doesn't enjoy his coffee, not matching Louie Lamintz's Armageddon blend.

He then notices a man who falls onto the bar, reminding of his own recent situation; he could not even afford drink in public so he spent most of the previous month locked in his office with a bottle, listening to Edith Piaf Cds, wishing for Sylvia's return, his divorced wife. His pondering about his recent emotional hell, is again interrupted by the arrival of his meal. Amazed by LaDonna's professionalism and accurate movements, he compliments her only to get the reply that she is too much for him.

Eating his sandwich, Tex remebers his life, how it all started while he watched The Maltese Falcon. Although he did not understand the plot, noir retro figures captivated him for the rest of his life. He lights a second cigarette looking forward to deliver the statuette to the Countess and receive the remainder of his fee. He considers spending some at Lamintz's place, who was kind enough to keep Tex a tab. Tex suspected it was Louie who paid Tex's vid-phone bill, allowing him therefore to be contacted by the Countess for his new job.

After the Colonel's visit, Tex returned to sobriety, replacing alcohol with cofee, and noticed that he had no more than $99. He owes 2 months’ rent, alimony to Sylvia, tab to Louie, even to Digby his bookie. He needed money desperately.

He remembers his visit to Countess Renier in her mansion at Filmore. The old woman was after an invaluable family heirloom been stolen from her. Tex was a last resort. He was given $1000 dollars as a retainer and promised $29000 when the job was done. He had no leads other than a bad picture, but his underworld contacts, namely the gangster Franco Franco, gave him one name: Eddie Ching.

Now, some days later, he is ready to collect his reward. He finishes his coffee, pays LaDonna and returns to his speeder. As he pulls up the door, something hits the back of his head.

Chapter Four

Tex is in his office, recovering from an alcoholic slumber. Colonel Roy O'Brien, his former mentor, is before him, reviving their strained past; 15 years ago Tex made a mistake which humiliated the Colonel in front of his peers. As a result Tex was kicked out of the detective agency and they avoided each other ever since. Now O'Brien is in his office for an unspecified reason.

Then Tex wakes up from that flashback to find himself lying down on the street, feeling the hit behind his skull, unable to move or respond. There is an awful smell. A woman scolds her boyfriend for sleeping with her sister and grandmother. A woman asks Tex if he is thirsty and throws some water for him, but he coughs it out.

2 days later he opens his eyes to see that he is in the Brownsville Regional Hospital; Dr. Berry and Nurse Chase are tending him. Asking, he is told that no backpack was found nearby; panicked, Tex asks to leave. It is denied as his medication could have antisocial effects. Tex's vain threats result only in a hypodermic shot to hold him at bay.

The news talk about a bombing in Los Angeles which obliterated the headquarters of CAPRICORN, a left-wing group which sided with the Mutant League. The Crusade for Genetic Purity were deemed as the suspects.

When itss time to leave the hospital, Tex notices that his wallet is intact. The assailant was not a mugger but was after the statuette. The police drives him back to his speeder outside the Cafe. Nobody, nor the police, nor anyone in the vicinity knows or saw anything.

Tex drives back to his apartment in New San Francisco perplexed. He considers asking some support or compensation from the Countess. But when he drives to her mansion things were not as expected. Everything is locked, dark and quiet, the mansion is abandoned with a Century 22 for sale sign. Tex breaks a window to enter and finds only boxes and potted plants. Even the fireplace is cold. The case was a set up.

Chapter Five

12 hours later, Tex is drying after a shower, recounting his adventure and collection of injuries. He sits at his desk and checks his mail. As usual, it's bills and junk mail.

He skimms through a threatening mail from his landlord Nilo, a note from Zebra Speeder Finance Corporation, a bill from West Coast Bell charged with an unreasonable amount, an application for a Master Express credit card, an ad for a dating service, a donation form to the Humane Society, a discount coupon booklet for dry cleaning and Et Tu Brute pizza, another credit card application for the Radioactive Shack; and finally, an envelope without return address, containing a blue card with BXK+A261184 written on its side.

He stands up and stares outside at the Chandler Avenue. His crush, Chelsee Bando, is talking with a NSPD cop before he takes 2 styrofoam cups to his police speeder. Tex wonders whether they are staking out for him.

Tex decides to investigate the set up. Over the vid-phone, Mrs. Kaitlyn Abbot of the estate agency tells him that the Countess' mansion was owned by some Mrs. Greenburg and hadn't been occupied for the last 6 months.

Once more, Tex revisits the mansion under an acid rain. He enters from the back. All he finds is a full asthray with butts of a brand he'd never seen before. He then flies his speeder to a convenience store and finds a tobacconist shop among a list on a pay phone: the Cigar Bar. Before leaving, he leaves a message to his acquaintance from the SFPD downtown precinct, Lieutenant Mac Malden. Perhaps his men can investigate the house and find more leads.

He arrives at the Cigar Bar near the Wharf. He approaches the landlord called Gabby, who seems to fancy Tex's retro style and comments on his Luckies, the Fedora and his wing tips. After a chatter on noir figures, Tex produces the butts to him. The cigarettes are Gitanes Specials, found only in France. The person who smokes them has been to France.

The only lead left is Lowell Percival.

Chapter Six

The Lowell Percival Enterprises building is a strange irregular structure belonging to the new neo-anarchic form of architecture. Tex passes a militarized zone (with exhaustive checks that would’ve made a proctologist proud) to the vast foyer. He enters one of the 4 elevators among executive types and arrives to the 51st floor receptionist's station.

The receptionist is a beautiful woman in her mid-20s who won't allow Tex in. When Tex mentions his name, she remembers him: she is little Ally Moore, the sister of Tex's date, Debbie. Alayna is excited to see Tex again and does not hesitate to say that she had a crush on him back when she wore braces. Debbie now has been married and living in Seattle.

Alayna is so eager to go out with Tex that she asks him out for a drink; she will buy it for him.

Less than a half-hour later, they walk into Lindsay's, a piano bar on the top floor of the downtown Hilton. A holographic projection of Nat King Cole plays at the piano.

The pair sit on the table enjoying the view and the sunset. Ally's provocative behavior makes it not easy for Tex as they are discussing their news and wondering over the French dishes in the catalogue. Tex says that he is now a PI, married and divorced with no kids. Ally is working for the richest man in the world, summing some money for a doctorate to a teacher. Tex has a hard time ignoring the part of himself that brings him into trouble with women.

The charming atmosphere is cut short when a couple of Mutants enter the bar. Ally looks at the "goyles" with disgust, wondering who allowed them in. This makes Tex look at Ally differently as most of his friends are Mutants. He coldly says that he has to go, stands up, and hurries outside. Looking forward for some junk food that he can pronounce.

Chapter Seven

Driving back at the Chandler Avenue, Tex sees the unmarked police speeder still there, and drives around to the Brew & Stew. He feels bad for having his friend Louie hold his tabs for one more time, but he notices a lucky penny next to his shoe, which he collects before entering.

Tex orders chili with meat and cold beer. Chelsee is also in the diner reading The Complete Works of O. Henry. They chat about work, money, and the Crusade, whose fanatics have attacked the diner and Rook's pawnshop. The mutants established neighborhood nightwatch to protect themselves from the vandals. Louie brings up the matter of Chelsee who would not accept to go out with Tex. At that instant, she approaches and orders vodka tonic. She greets Tex and talking about job, Tex mentions the mysterious blue card with the code. They rule out the possibility to be a license plate, a VIN or a phone number.

A vid-phone call rings. Mac Malden warns Tex that the cops are out for him. Colonel Roy O'Brien has been missing for about a week and Tex is the only suspect, but Mac knows that Commissioner Drysdale is after the wrong person.

Chapter Eight

Tex thanks Louie for the dinner and decides to investigate the Colonel's murder himself. He visits his office in Sausalito, which is, as expected, guarded by cops. He lands near the Market Basket, a mom-and-pop convenience store. A metal grate with a Rockwell Alarm System sticker covers its facade. Cautiously, he throws a piece of asphalt and triggers the alarm, diverting the cops towards his place. That way he manages to approach the office.

Inside, Tex finds no clues, but notices a cigarette, since the Colonel quit smoking. It even has the Gitanes logo. He sees a pack of blue index cards like the one he received, and the book Perry Mason and the Case of the Sleeping Wife by Erle Stanley Gardner, which he promptly takes with him.

As Tex is ready to leave, he notices two thermostat control boxes instead of one. He sees that one of them is actually a camera lens. It leads into the coat closet where he discovers a small area behind a secret compartment. He collects the videodisc as soon as he hears voices outside.

After discerning that the cops are not going to enter the room, he finds his way out, and collects a Gordon Lightfoot CD case in order to protect the videodisc. However, as he opens the window to jump down, he is stopped by a cop aiming at him.

Chapter Nine

It is 9:30 and Tex is in a cell along with hookers, drunk bums, and other figures. He is approached by a wino named Rusty who starts chatting with him. Tex fends him off by saying that he killed his grandparents by cutting them to pieces with a shovel.

30 minutes later, guard Blake comes and takes Tex to Drysdale's office. O'Brien was Drysdale's friend, and was missing since 6 days ago; Tex's name was found in O'Brien's appointment book and is considered a suspect. Tex has no option but to tell about the videodisc from his apartment.

A guard brings the disc from the files and indeed it reveals that on December 1 O'Brien was visited. It was a dark-skinned man in a long overcoat, with golden spectacles and a large moustache. He hit the Colonel on the back of the head and wore him handcuffs. After lighting a cigarette he revived the Colonel with smelling salts and started interrogating and slapping him. It was apparent that the man was from the Crusade and responsible for blowing CAPRICORN, and was after the "Winter Chip" about which the Colonel claimed no knowledge. Eventually he inserted a hypodermic needle into the Colonel's neck who fell motionless. He returned with another man and together they carried the Colonel outside.

Having proven his uninvolment, Tex is released and has his belonging's returned by the clerk. Now he notices a Halloween picture, the Colonel is dressed as a pirate with a beautiful young woman identified as Melahn. Tex sees Mac Malden in his office. After finishing a vid-phone call from his wife Joanna, he helps Tex identify the woman: Melahn Tode, on probation for soliciting and possession.

Mac is leading a boring life with dull Norms vs Mutants cases. Tex tells him about the Countess' mansion and the set up case. Mac promises to investigate.

Chapter Ten

The city sparkles with Christmas lights, and speeders filling the air space. Tex thinks how he hates this period of the year.

Supplied with a bottle of Jack Daniel's from a liquor store, he returns to the office. It is 23:11 and Tex ponders about his life. Miles Davis and John Coltrane's saxophone echo in the room. He unpacks the bottle and lights himself a cigarette. He watches and then deletes a vidphone message from Alaynah, who gives her number asking to call her back.

He looks at an old picture with himself, the Colonel and Xavier Jones, wondering the purpose of his visit just days before he died. He also wonders why he still has Sylvia's picture on his desk.

He then spends the next hours smoking one cigarette after another and attempting to solve the code on the blue card. It is 4 AM and Tex quits thinking. He lits another cigarette and fills one last glass.

Chapter Eleven

It is 6:54 with the first rays of sunlight. Tex observes Chelsee coming to the empty Chandler Ave with a cup of coffee from Brew & Stew, and setting up bundles of newspapers on her counter. He goes to the bathroom and refreshes himself and then politely buys a newspaper from Chelsee. He notices her surprise as he is not flirting her.

Louie's cafe is full of breakfast patrons. The TV is set on a silly monring show. Tex finishes his newspaper and the 9th cup of Armageddon brew a little after 8:00 and ten minutes later he flies over a run-down area near Oakland, full of rubbles and disintegrating material.

He lands near the Knickerbocker building, a 19th century residence decorated with dirty columns. In apartment 3-11 he locates Melahn Tode, a blond beauty with long legs and light blue eyes. Tex produces his fake police ID and requests information on the Colonel. Melahn is devastated to hear that the Colonel is suspected dead. She explains that they met some months ago and were planning to retire and leave together near the end of the year. He never mentioned his job. Tex confesses that he is not a cop, but a PI and former friend of the Colonel, and leaves his name and number. He feels that Melahn is not a common hooker, and few, like the Colonel, could see her qualities. Finally, Melahn lets Tex to examine some of the Colonel's belongings: a hardback novel, reading glasses, a tartan vest, 2 shirts, a pair of khaki trousers and boxer shorts. There is a notebok in the watch pocket of the vest.

Tex leaves the apartment and finds a newspaper clipping, a photograph of the statuette in the notebook.

Chapter Twelve

It is just after 9am and Tex enters the Gaslight Lounge willing to spend the last $40 in his wallet. He orders Old Grand-Dad with a sidecar from Denny the bartender and begins studying the Colonel's stuff in a circular booth in the corner. The newspaper clipping says that the statuette was unearthed while renovating an old section of Berlin, and then was stolen from the museum. This was not enough to discern where the Colonel, the Countess and Eddie Ching fit in all this.

At the end of the Colonel's notebook he finds a series of letters and numbers: BCM1206428X8. After some study and looking at an old woman nearby reading the Bay City Mirror, he understands the code is a date: Bay City Mirror 12/06/42 8X8. He tips Denny and asks from him another Daddy and a 2 days old copy of the newspaper, which he brings.

He scans the whole newspaper, especially the classifieds. In the "Men Seeking Men" section he finds an especially odd ad: "I gave the extra one to David. He seems elated. Counting exact as per policy norm."

The meaningless phrase is composed of 64 letters, which he puts in a 8x8 table. Diagonally he can read two things "Land Mine" (a dance club in the new city) and IXDECXPM which he understands as "9 December, 10PM". It is a planned meeting.

Chapter Thirteen

It is 9:30am. The sun is out for the first time after weeks of clouds and rains. Tex feels renewed. He is showered and groomed, wears clean and good clothes and a burgundy tie with a chess-piece motif, and takes his wallet with his last $22. The progress he made in figuring something concerning the Colonel was a proof that his mind still works and he feels excited. It doesn't mind that he is not paid for this. He approaches Chelsee's newsstand prepared to express his interest, but his psychological change fails; she promptly rejects him again as she doesn't drink with customers.

At Louie's he reads in a newspaper about Interpol's investigations for the CAPRICORN bombing, and the growing unrest between Mutants and Norms. Louie brings him a mug of coffee, omelette with chili verde filling and chunks of chicken, fried potatoes, slices of wheat toast and orange juice. As usually Louie watches him eating, waiting for his approving reaction. He is also happy to hear Tex' progress the previous day.

The paper has an article about Lowell Percival, and he recalls that he must see him. Out of curiosity he searches the personal ads for any mysterious message, but Rook shows up as he was reading the Men Seeking Men section. Tex thanks Louie and leaves, under Rook's sarcastic comments.

Back in his office, Tex reads that the Bijou theater, has two classic movies, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. He enjoys the films in the nearly empty movie house while longing for older times. The old-fashioned movies and fashions gave way to pay-per-view and interactive movies and were Hollywood's demise. Art tried to imitate film noir but nothing was the same without Bogart. Most people Tex grew up with entered the PC or online business. Gumshoes were replaced by the Web PI but a PC could not replace social engineering and stakeouts.

It is 16:35 and Tex has only $10. He drives to the LPE building. Alaynah is happy to see him and repeats her invitations to Tex, but his uninterested reaction makes Ally to back-off. She arranges a meeting for him with Percival for tomorrow at 15:00.

In his office, Tex receives a call from Malden: investigation in the mansion returned zero; and the Interpol now investigates the Colonel's disappearance, meaning that it is something big. Tex then prepares another pot of coffee to be ready at the Land Mine.

Chapter Fourteen

2 hours later Tex is in the nearly empty Land Mine nightclub. He orders ice water from a bored waitress and starts looking for the Colonel's contact among the 20-30 patrons. He notes two young women, one tall and one round, a Don Johnson wanna-be with midlife crisis, a couple of punk lesbians, a glassed young man and another blond one looking nervous. Other seats were occupied by larger groups of all shapes, sizes and ages.

It is 10:05 and the waitress brings his water. He sits on a corner table and sips for 15 minutes. Having no luck he starts investigating the dark corners. But now his table is occupied by 3 Middle Eastern businessmen. As he orders more water, he sees in the mirror the young man being more nervous than before. He approaches his, lights a cigarette and speaks the message.

He tells him that the Colonel is missing. The man empties away his glass of beer and says he has no idea about the Colonel's whereabouts. Terrified, he attempts to leave but Tex grasps his wrist. Tex tries to make him trust him and offers to meet anytime and anywhere else, as he only wants to know what happened to him. He explains the leads that brought him there. The man is Paul DuBois from CAPRICORN. They are interrupted by the waitress who brings another beer and bourbon, which Paul pays (to Tex' relief). Paul explains that CAPRICORN is eradicated and he is there to take something from the Colonel and deliver it to someone else, but knows nothing more. When asked by Murphy, he says that the Winter Chip was something developed by computer scientists to be used against the Crusade. He also tees Murphy about a CAPRICORN mole who ranked high in the Crusade, and the names Phoenix, Chameleon and Dr. Perriman.

Murphy thanks him and advises him to return to Des Moines with mother and sister. Paul finishes his beer and leaves. A moment later, Murphy sees out of the window Paul taken by 3 men and put into a speeder. Shortly later two suited men enter the club.

Tex runs to the large girl he noticed earlier and asks her for a dance. Her name is Teri. Then one of the men holds the waitress with a gun to her neck and the other holds off some employees showing his identification. Gunshots are heard. Panicked bystanders are erupting out of the club, and Tex himself finds his way to his speeder.

He flies to his office while wondering about the purpose of the mysterious men. Arriving to Chandler Avenue, he sees several speeders parked outside the Ritz. Again, he parks near the Brew & Stew and walks his way home. Then a speeder stops near him, and a beautiful red-haired, green-eyed woman puts a gun on his chest and orders him to enter.

Chapter Fifteen

The speeder lifted off and drives away from the city. Tex is in the front passenger seat, and the beautiful woman in the back. They introduce as Agents McCovey and Andrews of Interpol. Despite McCovey's suggestion, Tex lights a cigarette. The speeder flies towards the no-man's-land to the north of the city. They land on the roof of a derelict building. It is cold and Tex lights another cigarette staring at beautiful Andrews as McCovey throws small gravels into the darkness beyond the edge of the roof, lighted only by the half-moon.

The agents explain that they know about the video disc and inquire about O'Brien's murder. Tex realizes that it is an opportunity to gain some information. McCovey tells him that the man in the video disc is the assassin Chameleon, master of disguise. They believe that Tex might help them pinpointing who paid him, and also about the Winter Chip.

Tex is cooperative and shares everything he knows including Dubois as Andrews takes notes. McCovey explains that CAPRICORN was decimated from the inside, and behind the Crusade there is another power. It is likely that they paid Chameleon.

After the interrogation they head back to Chandler Avenue. In the speeder, Tex also shares them his meeting with Countess Renier and the statue.

Tex disembarks and the speeder leaves off. Tex realises that the agents never displayed any ID.

Chapter Sixteen

Tex wakes up after 11 and goes through his notes over his coffee. He reminds himself his appointment with Percival, and the name "Perriman" he noted down yesterday. He traces the name on his computer and finds that he is teaching history at the University of San Francisco.

He flies there and enters the Jerry Rice building where he shares a pre-lecture smoke with some students. He finds a directory on the third floor and finds Dr. Perriman in Room 319. Tex introduces himself explaining what he is after. Lighting up a pipe, Perriman tells that O'Brien approached him some months ago. As Tex narrates his adventure, the Professor recognises the statuette as the "Habuh", and confirms its picture from A complete History of Arcana and the Occult.

The Professor then explains that it is a talisman of the Brotherhood of Purity, an ancient cabal. Hidden and unknown they marked the course of humanity even before historical times. Their members were few and their oral tradition was recorded by the Docetists as the Secret Doctrine. Many historical personalities were members. They survived the fall of Rome, the Crusades were the cleansing of a splinter group, the Holy Inquisition was an ethnic cleansing, even Hitler tried to adapt the Doctrine to his politics.

They exist to this day and prophecise an entity known as the Moon Child. The name is known as the orbital resort for the Crusade for Genetic Purity. They conclude that the Brotherhood is behind the Crusade and has reached a point where they no longer feel it necessary to hide themselves.

Chapter Seventeen

It is about 3 PM and Tex flies his speeder to Lowell Percival Enterprises. He goes up to the 5st floor and Alaynah, now more charming than ever, calls Percival. Tex notices a top secret envelope from Genetic Research Systems for Percival on her desk.

Tex talks with Percival. Seeing the picture of the statuette Percival doesn't reveal any more knowledge but admits that he contacted Ching to buy it as a beautiful piece of art. He is unaware about any magical properties and when Tex brings up the Brotherhood, Percival shows some knowledge although he dismisses it.

Tex leaves the office undetermined whether Percival is bluffing. On his way out, he notices a photograph of Percival with Claude Shepherd.

Outside, Tex decides to try once more with Alaynah, despite their previous failed encounter, and she would provide him with more information. They arrange a date at 5 PM.

Tex flies his speeder away, nd sees the building being blown behind him.

Chapter Eighteen

Tex lands his speeder and runs towards the zero ground. The scyscrapper does not exist any more and the whole block is destroyed. The scene is filled with journalists, medics, fire-fighters and SFPD officers. Tex shocked tells Malden that he was inside just minutes before the event. Malden advices him to go back to his office.

Tex stumbles towards the speeder. Regaining control of himself, he flies over the panicked city to the Ritz and falls asleep immediately.

Andrews and McCovey bang at his door waking him on 7:10. Malden reported that Tex was present at the bombing scene. Tex lights up a cigarette and Andrews responds by caughing politely. McCovey notes several "coincidences" surrounding Tex, such as being the last person to see O'Brien, Dubois and Percival alive. The agents note that there are similarities to the CAPRICORN bombing, however LPE had no ties to either. Percival influence all over Wall Street and the panicked stock market is leading to another crash. Upon hearing that Percival and Ally were found dead (what was left of them), Tex crushes out his cigarette.

When he is alone again, he relaxes with a disc of Nat King Cole. Melahn Tode beeps his vid-phone to report another clue concerning the Colonel: A 13 November paper of the Bay City Mirror has a personal ad marked: "Gorgeous, rabid single seeks confidential, open-minded lover. Take away our love, and our Earth is a tomb." Tode is frustrated seeing that her lover was seeking for new acquaintances but Murphy explains it is coded communication.

Tex determines that the message reads "GRS seeks COL". The rest of the phrase seems to be a literary quote.

Just after 8:00, Tex calls the San Francisco Public Library. A white-haired helps identifying the quote as Robert Browning.

Tex goes there and searches through Browning and past newspapers.

  • The November 23 issue (17 days old) has a message "Grandfather reaching sixty seeks comfortable, old-fashioned lady. Pyramus and Thisby meet by moonlight."
  • The December 7 issue has a similar one: "Green-eyed, redheaded Scorpio seeks curvy, outgoing Leo. We sail tonight."

The librarian helps Tex finding Pyramus and Thisby in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Just before the Library's closure at 10 Tex rents Browning's Collected Poems and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Back at his office Tex studies the books. Browning's poems don't clarify the quote. He locates the Shakespearean one at the act III-1, lines 49-50 but again, the context doesn't clarify its meaning.

At night, he sees Alaynah in his sleep. He sees that she miraculously survived the bombing and was helping him with the codes. He asks he about GRS and she points at the manila envelop on her desk, reading Genetic Research Systems.

Chapter Nineteen

The other day Tex searches for Genetic Research Systems. He finds nothing in the phone directory and contacts his stock broker, Lavercan Kimbell. He isn't available and his brother Lemmer redirects Tex to the governmental Department of Commerce. The worker there says that such information is strictly off-limits to the public and redirects Tex to "Dun & Bradstreet", a printed directory of credit information on almost every company.

Tex is bck to the Library, returns the rented books and finds the reference directory. Genetic Research Systems is located in Sacramento, one of six subsidiary companies belonging to Western States Pharmaceuticals, which by coincidence, is affiliated to LPE.

He flies his speeder to Sacramento and lands in an industrial district. The GRS building is an uninteresting rectangular abandoned block. Both entrances are locked and the blackened windows are unbreakable. Tex lands his speeder on the roof and finds a trap door whose padlock he breaks with a hammer.

With a flashlight, he looks around the dark top-floor corridor. He is in a storage area with metal shelves, boxes and crates, full of test tubes, chemicals and computer supplies. Another room houses cubicles with computer workstations; the date on a desk calendar is December 7, giving sense to the coded message "we sail tonight" he read earlier. The next room is an empty laboratory with counters, steel sinks and overhead cabinets, surrounding empty tables. Tex concludes his investigation checking out the restrooms, two utility closets and an office at the end of the hall, empty as the laboratory.

He inspects again the computer room. No computer has a data storage clip. He notices a piece of masking tape beneath each computer with 6 digits. Remembering the Shakespearean quote, Act III-1 lines 49-50; he finds the computer with matching numbers: 314950. Tex concludes that the mole left the Colonel this message to locate his computer. Indeed, under a pile of papers inside a tissue box, he finds the data-storage clip.

Tex leaves the building and flies back to the Ritz, eager to try the clip in his computer and find all the answers. He enters his room, but then someone hits him.

Chapter Twenty

Tex finds himself on one of his chairs flanked by 2 thugs. On his desk sits an Asian woman wearing a red silk blouse and black jeans. She is Eddie Ching who reprimands him for breaking into her Mexico City flat. She requests her statuette back but Tex doesn't have it any more. His sarcastic comments make one of the thugs to hit him, but Tex demands to tell her goon to quit hitting him in order to talk. He explains that the bird was stolen from him in Brownsville where he stopped for cigarettes. Mentioning this, he pulls out his pack of cigarettes and lits one.

Ching jumps off the desk furious, Tex didn't know what he was doing. When Tex mentions the Countess, Ching is sure that it was another disguise of Jacques Fou. The statue was important to a cult and she tried all these years to keep it from them. Finding it was the last step before destroying the world.

Ching asks from Tex a cigarette. While smoking, Ching sees the Colonel's picture and decides that Tex can be useful to her, as there are no many on her side. Tex then, still skeptical, produces the data-storage clip from his pocket.

They load the clip in Tex' computer while he recounts the events. Ching finds a file labelled COLONEL and a document written by the CAPRICORN mole. There, he described how he was working in the GRS, when was approached by cult members and his initiation. He mentions an encounter with Phoenix, that the cult was getting rid of everyone involved in their work once it was completed, and his failure to meet with the Colonel. The last entry was about moving to the lunar penal colony.

Chapter Twenty-one

Tex, Ching and her 2 thugs, Lou and Felipe, discuss their plans. Ching's connections will help them get a passage to the lunar penal colony without clearance.

Back to Louie to relax, Tex sits next to Rook who is playing chess with sn old French-speaking mutant. Louie treats Tex with kinds of cheese with pieces of ham, turkey and brown mustard in the center, and some Armageddon. While drinking Diet Shasta, Louie tells Tex his problem: his sister's son, Dalton, is graduating from Berkley, but his goddaughter's wedding is on the same day. Tex finds him an easy solution: go to the graduation, because "you only graduate once."

Tex is poked when he hears the Frenchman mentioning "Fou", which is the Bishop of chess in French. He checks again his mysterious blue card: BXK+ is chess notation meaning "Fou prend Roi". Tex interprets it as "Jacques Fou takes Roy O'Brien". The next part, A2, is the "Rook's Pawn" which Tex understands as Rook's Pawnshop.

The four run to the pawnshop, filled with water-stained maps, dusty steamer trunks, and crackling parchments. In his registry, Rook finds the 5-digit number corresponding to that on the card; a box Rook paid $50 from a man.

The box contains a letter and a watch. Tex reads it aloud to the curious friends. The Colonel tells that the cult brought chaos between mutants and norms, about CAPRICORN, and his task to deliver this watch. Believing it's too late for him, he tells Tex to give it to Paul DuBois on December 9 at 10P.M. in the Land Mine.

Back in his office, Tex studies the retro-looking watch and wears it. He regrets not having figured out the code sooner, now both the Colonel and Paul were dead.

He is interrupted by a beep on the vid-phone after midnight. Eddie Ching tells him to come at New San Francisco Interplanetary Spaceport, Terminal G at the courtesy phones in half hour.

Chapter Twenty-two

Tex meets Ching and her thugs at the bank of courtesy phones. The thugs make their way through the terminal to the gates and outside the building, and enter a hangar. Karl Voorman, apparently a smuggler, waits for them in an office where. Ching insists that there be no questions asked and offers a handsome payoff for his silence. 5 minutes later, they enter a midsized shuttle-cruiser parked just outside and begin their 30-hour flight. 45 minutes later is almost 5 AM and they are off-planet.

Tex finds some time to interact with Ching. She knows nothing about the Colonel's watch and spares her the details. 600 miles later the craft breaks free of the exposure and the flight smoothes out. Ching produces a large knapsack with ready-to-eat foodstuffs, and (to Tex's delight) 2 bottles of Black Bush Irish whiskey as space flights make her sick. Tex starts considering her a close friend as they share some gulps. Tex lights a Lucky, which tastes better under the no smoking sticker.

Lou snorts and jolts asking if they arrived and, being told no, resumes his snoring.

Intrigued by the fearful woman, Tex gets to know her better. Her mysterious reputation was built by rarely interacting face to face with her clients; the less they know, the more they fear. Killing is part of the business as bluffing is not enough. So far Tex's favor is 60 to 40 to not kill him.

Ching narrates that her business is something like commodities dealer. She buys rare and valuable items and sells them to the highest bidder. The statuette was one of the most ancient artefacts. Having disappeared during the 1940s pesumably by Nazis, it was discovered in Vienna and donated to a museum there. It was sought after by private collectors, until someone snatched it and contacted her to find out more. Ching found potential buyers and collected bids, however an agent of CAPRICORN learned about her and told not to give it anywhere. Ching was skeptical but everything she learned verified this scenario. She held onto the statuette and saw that the cult was getting desperate to find its talisman.

When Ching falls to sleep, Tex grabs the whiskey, lits another cigarette and ponders the great vacuum, his beliefs and God, and closes his eyes.

Still 20 hours to go when Tex wakes up. Ching and the thugs enjoy a brightly colored snack cake but Tex clings to the whiskey. He gets to know them better while Ching meditates or cleans her weapons. He enjoys cribbage with Felipe who beats him repeatedly.

An hour before landing, Voorman shows them a diagram of the GRS complex and says that he gives them 8 hours before he launches the ship. They are going to land in an airlock at the op-center and then find their way through the domes to the research facility. Ching supplies them with communication devices and rebreathers. It is manned only by a dozen people.

Nobody replies to Voorman's request to land. He is forced to land outside the op-center instead of an airlock. They wear space suits and go out the hatch down the ladder. Ching shoots the door to the dome.

Inside a short tunnel, Ching operates a control panel and opens a door to an empty room with computer consoles and stations. They fan out and Tex examines the nearest monitors displaying camera views, records, inventories and other data. Maximum Security Zone 10 had dozen cameras trained on a prison camp, and everything looked abandoned.

Ching shows Tex the complex's layout with color-coded areas as minimum, medium, and maximum security. They decide to explore the 3 unlabelled areas first. Each goes to one of the 4 exits which lead to transport tubes. Tex operates a panel and a monorail compartment (with two rows of facing seats and windows all around) arrives.

He soon arrives to the next section which is shut down. He uses the rebreather and walks along the corridor around the dome perimeter until he finds an unlocked door ajar. Inside he sees dead bodies, shot former GRS employees.

The room has a long, straight, high wall of Plexiglass separating from the interior of a biosphere. The garden-like area is at least the square footage of a football field, covered with hundreds of dead bodies, entire families of prisoners. A row of decontamination suits say it would be a bad idea to enter.

There is no power and the workstations won't reveal anything, but Tex finds an interesting printout: it describes the development of a virus by GRS that will be dispensed into the atmosphere by satellites to eradicate the whole human population. The prisoners were a test subject. As the base is empty, the only possible point of origin would be the Moon Child.

Via their communicator Ching calls Tex back. Tex checks whether one of the 9 bodies was the CAPRICORN mole but doesn't find any evidence and leaves the room.

While on his way back to the op-center, his communicator cracks: Ching's voice talks with some men. They trapped her, and she uses the communicator to warn Murphy. He reverses the compartment and returns to the dome. He runs along the exterior corridor until he finds an emergency exit, and goes outside.

He runs towards around the right side of the op-center dome, and reaches the side of the dome where Ching was trapped. He jumps over a transport tunnel to reach the shuttle straight ahead but he hits it and somersaults over the top, losing his gun.

He enters the empty shuttle. Then, 4 men approach, one of them being Voorman who set them up. Not finding any weapon, he locks himself into the lavatory.

The men enter and discuss whether they should hunt down "the fourth one" or go to the Moon Child. Voorman suggests to take off immediately on his shuttle. One of the men discovers Ching's whiskey bottle, while another attempts to enter the lavatory. He finds it locked. After an attempt to break it, they order Murphy to open the door and come outside, to which he complies. A large blond man points a rifle at his face.

Then the shuttle lurches and Tex finds an oportunity to grab the man's gun. Suddenly the shuttle pitches and Tex loses his hold. He is put to sit in the passenger area where the man is about to execute him. Voorman however orders him to wait until they reach the Moon Child; he doesn't want his shuttle messed up or with a hole in the bulkhead. Voorman comes and ties Tex, who calls him a traitor. The other man, Brody, hits him with the butt of his rifle.

Chapter Twenty-three

Tex wakes up, still tied up. They are approaching the Moon Child. He regains control of his hands and manages to loosen his cord. He opens his eyes as the shuttle powers down. The 3 men had celebrated with Ching's whiskey and are intoxicated. Brody leers at Tex but Voorman steps in and tells them to go out; he has a few things to do. Then he will call them back to execute Tex.

Tex grabs the bottle behind his back. Voorman reappears, says they need to have a talk, but Tex stands up and hits his head. He then ties his hands and gags him with a shirt sleeve, and exits the shuttle.

He is in an immense cargo bay full of vehicles and machinery. Ducking behind vehicles, he finds his way towards an exit on the other side of a lone watchtower, a 100 yards away. He finds a small foyer and enters one of the elevators, leading to levels LL through 24 and then to 36.

He randomly presses 13. At level 3 he is joined by three gorgeous women who ignore him, chatting about italian food. They stop at level 9 and Tex decides to follow them. The level is a restaurant complex with a cobblestone street between a pizza parlor, a Chinese restaurant, bakery, a mesquite grill, an ice cream parlor and an Italian restaurant where they enter. Tex decides to satiate his hunger and sits on a table. He notices that the catalogue has no prices. He makes an order but as the mustached waiter brings the salad, he notices Tex' wrist. Tex realizes that everyone is wearing a silver band, and he is not. The mystified waiter returns to the kitchen, Tex runs away and returns to the elevator.

Tex hides himself behind 10 people. They stop at level 13 and Tex follows them to a revolving door marked Environ 3. He steps into an artificial forest full of trees, flowering plants and animal life, even a simulated blue sky, and breezes smellng earth and rain, things he hadn't experienced since being a little child. He follows one of tiny paths among the grass and rests on a rock by a brook. He wonders who created this and what can he do against them. He knows noone and nothing besides the CAPRICORN mole, provided he is still alive, among thousands of people.

Tex starts feeling tired and withdrawal. He can do nothing against the cult and ponders whether it's time to play along and join them, but he wouldn't comrpomise his principles and self-respect. He dozes off to sleep. He wakes 6 hours later by a light rain shower simulated by a sprinkler system.

He leaves the garden and sees another crowd lined for the elevators. No less than a half hour pass before his turn to enter. They all gather to the top level (36), an enormous space with a stage, where Rev. Sheppard is going to appear. It has an ornate podium with throne-like chairs and an enormous screen.

The vast expanse echoes the "Ode to Joy" while it fills by continuously gathering streams of people of all ages, characteristics and ethnic diversities. When the space is almost full, the lights dim. The cult leaders appear on the stage and sit on the arranged throne-like chairs. Sheppard approaches an ornate podium and gives a sermon. The crowd applauses in adoration and Tex joins in so that he doesn't attract attention.

Sheppard reveals that the Crusade follows ancient beliefs, and that those present were selected to prepare the Earth for a golden age. They will remain on the Moon Child for 40 years while Earth is purified, beginning at midnight. Mumbles and confusion arise from the crowd as not all the Crusaders knew they were part of such a plan.

Tex starts walking discreetly towards the stage. He is halfway there when Sheppard mentions the presence of a traitor. Tex freezes in terror, but realizes that the traitor is being already brought there, none other than Voorman. The crowd boos as the guards take him away. Tex waits for Sheppard to turn away when he makes his move: he climbs to the podium and shouts to the crowd that the "purification" is going to exterminate humanity, and that everyone there should stop it.

Tex is grabbed and taken into a corridor. Between kicks and punches, guards carry him to a room and tie him onto a mechanical chair. 2 security guards are left with him, a bald man and a beautiful blond woman. Then he is approached by Lowell Percival.

Chapter Twenty-four

Percival greets Tex and gives his villain speech. He staged his death in the explosion to be safe, but (as he is the Phoenix) returned from his ashes. He suggested Murphy to the cult in order to be hired by "Countess Renier" and fetch the Habuh. Finally he mentions the advantages of living in the Moon Child with the elect, and invites Tex to join them, or die.

Tex thinks of his mutant friends and Chelsee, who deserve to live, and responds in a violent manner to Percival, who, controlling his anger, orders the bald guard to kill Tex and leaves the room. The blond woman, called Eva, asks to stay to watch him die.

The bald man is none other than the Chameleon, who killed the Colonel and who hired Murphy as Countess Renier. He mocks Tex for not pretending to cooperate and have an advantage to hurt Percival before dying anyway. He produces a TSC, a gun designed to dissolve tissue in a painful way.

Tex closes his eyes expecting the inevitable but after a shock, nothing happens. Eva has just killed the Chameleon.

Chapter Twenty-five

Eva frees Murphy and hands him the TSC. She opens the door and cries for help. A guard notices Tex holding a gun over the dead body runs towards him. Eva grabs him and snaps his neck.

She takes the mysterious watch Tex is wearing and tells him to wear the guard's uniform (black-red short sleeve pullover and black pants). Eva reassures him that the security camera is patched directly to Percival's office - who is not there right now.

Tex is sorry to part his overcoat and fedora. Meanwhile Eva opens the watch and reveals a black chip. After finding a card on Chameleon's body, she operates some controls to open a waste bin where they eject the two bodies to space. They exit to the empty corridor and ride an elevator, which gives access to levels 25 to 35.

On 31 they are joined by two young men who leave the elevator on 29. Tex and Eva leave on 28; on the right to the check-in area are restrooms and Eva uses Chameleon's card to access a door marked Authorized Personnel Only. They climb a stairwell, traverse a hallway at the top and Eva opens a door marked 28-A-41.

They are in a garden, and Tex follows Eva down a path among the trees until a clearing with a boat by a lake shore which they take. As Eva guides it through the lake she explains that she will use the service access. The strange route they take will have less resistance on their way to the computer control area. The chip is the last of the three Winter Chips, designed to destroy the computer system of the station. Karl Voorman was a CAPRICORN agent and he was supposed to find and deliver the chip to her.

They reach a shore and find an ivy-covered wall; Eva finds an opening leading to a stairwell. 3 levels later, Eva opens a door marked 31-D-07, which leads to another empty passageway. At an intersection they turn towards the command tower. Eventually they reach a busier area with more doors and noise behind them.

A woman in a lab coat steps out from a door and walks ahead of them. She, and the nervous pair, enter an elevator to levels 24-36. The woman leaves on 35, and allows two hurrying security guards (a slender young blond woman and a large bald man) to take the ride. Eva starts talking with the woman while Tex just smiles to the man, who looks at him suspiciously.

Eventually, loud beeps are heard from the belts of the security uniforms announcing 2 intruders on level 28. Eva shoots the guard before he takes his tasc gun, and then pivots towards the woman and throws her down. She then switches off all communicators. When they reach level 35 she shoots the elevator doors open.

Tex follows her until a door marked "Top Level Security Clearance Required - No Unauthorized Entry" and Eva uses Chameleon's card, risking that the central system will track them. Down the hall they reach a door with the computer room. They stand waiting until a man opens the door. Eva grabs him and twists his arm behing his back. She steps into a large white and bright room with scientists (5 middle-eaged men and 2 younger women) frozen in terror. Eva threatens to kill the man and orders everyone to lie down.

Following Eva's instructions, Tex points the gun to the people while she installs the Winter Chip within minutes.

Suddenly an alarm is triggered and lights flash on consoles. Eva makes a set of stairs with the drawers of a filing cabinet and removes one of the ceiling tiles. Tex climbs up, one of the hostages stands and runs towards him, but is shot down. Soon after security guards open the door.

The pair is found in a 5-feet tall crawl space stretching in every direction. They crawl recklessly on the dangerously narrow catwalk while the guards catch up and shoot from behind. Eva reaches an intersection on the catwalk and turns right beginning zigzagging. When they reach another wall she jumps down onto a metal-grate landing. Tex follows (as a slug is shot above his head) and lands on an access point to the elevator shaft with an imbedded ladder.

The two start climbing down. Tex notes that the corners of the shaft have electric tracks into them. Access windows are found every 30 rungs. Soon the elevator is heard descending above and they move faster. A security guard is leaning through an access window above and shoots a shower of bullets at them. Eva crawls into an access window and pulls Tex. The bloody parts of their pursuer soon fall along the shaft, followed by the elevator which just killed him.

Eva then pushes Tex down who falls onto the top of the elevator, and Eva follows. The shots and voices of their pursuers are lost in the distance. After 20 seconds the elevator slows down and stops alongside another window. Not affording to go up, they enter the opening; as soon as the elevator resumes its downwards course, they jump on it again. Eva explains that their aim is the cargo bay, hoping to find Voorman's ship, if the Winter Chip allows them to live that long. The elevator shudders and lights dim, a reminder of the virus at work.

The elevator comes to an abrupt halt. Eva grabs the ladder and climbs 4 feet to a window. Tex drags himself out of the shaft and just pulls his legs in, saving them from the now-ascending elevator. They then return to the ladder, and after 100 feet, they reach the floor. Eva warns Tex to not jump down but rather enter the lowest window.

It's another crawl space. An alarm starts to blare. They advance and, after Eva removes a tile and peeks beneath, they drop down in a women's lavatory. They step out to a dark hallway, as the lights just flicker and go out, giving place to an eerie, green emergency illumination. Down the hallway they reach a door on the left, leading a stairwell. Tex starts feeling that the Chip made life support system stop circulating the atmosphere.

The stairwell ends to a cargo bay door. It is now dark, full of voices; from a tower 40 feet above searchlights scan the area. Eva tells Tex to reach and fire up Voorman's freighter (which Tex estimates about 100 yards away) in order to divert the guards. She will take advantage of the diversion and reach the tower and open the bay doors. Tex should give Eva 20 seconds to return but his priority would be to save himself and make known the story to the authorities.

Reluctantly and dodging the lights, Tex finds his way after 5 minutes. He opens the hatch, climbs inside, turns on the console and fires up the engine. All lights focus on him and human shapes run towards his direction.

The bay doors are still closed. Tex wonders if Eva failed when shots are heard from the tower. The searchlights go off, the door opens in the darkness. Guards bang his hatch door. He then counts for 20 seconds but there is no sign of Eva. Cursing, he lifts off and accelerates towards the open bay door. Guards fire against the ship, as the door starts slowly to close again. Tex angles towards the left, open side hoping the freighter accelerates fast enough. It is too large for the opening space so he attempts to roll it horizontally; he fails but slams into the opening, raking the freighter. The steering mechanism is ripped off the back. The bay doors close behind and the outer door starts opening ahead. The freighter doesn't respond.

Tex spots the Eject Capsule handle on the controls. The outer door begins to close as well. Tex uses the rear elevation thrusters until the cockpit faces the floor. He pushes the thrusters and pulls the ejection handle. The cockpit slams onto the roof in front of the closing door but the force careens the capsule through the opening.

Tex spins into space. As soon as he regains his equilibrium, all he can do is flipping n SOS emitter. The dead Moon Child is darkened. Relaxed, he notices a glove compartment with an owner's manual and a pack of Lucky Strikes.

Chapter Twenty-six

22 hours later Tex is picked up by a mining transport, and uses the radio onboard to contact Interpol and makes known what happened. Space vehicles then travel to the station to investigate what happened.

The transport lands in New Jersey where McCovey and Andrews are waiting for Tex. They visit a Greek deli and debrief Tex. He learns that Percival and other officials escaped the station and have been arrested. Eva didn't make it. Other than that, Tex is taken to the Interpol headquarters in Manhattan and is rewarded with a check of 10000 dollars for apprehending the Chameleon. Tex is then taken home in an Interpol private vehicle. McCovey advises Tex to keep the story secret.

Just after 7 PM and Tex is again in Brew & Stew, feeling happy that all his friends (even Rook) and regulars are well and oblivious of their averted annihilation. He sips a 12-year-old scotch, satisfied that he can finally pay off his tab to Louie. Chelsee is also there with vodka and tonic and Tex makes another attempt to invite her to his office. Once more she turns him down, but Tex won't abandon hopes just because he hasn't any.

The TV screen announces the Moon Child disaster. 5000 people are believed dead because of systems failure, but no official comments were given. Tex finishes his drink and lays 3 bills on the bar for a surprised Louie. He kisses Chelsee on the cheek and takes his brand-new trench coat.

On his way to his office, he sees a stunning brunette in a black dress looking for him. A new story begins for Tex.