new security man wasn't working out so I stopped by the
MGM Grand to have a look at him and make a final decision.
Usually, if it's a Thursday night, I'm in my suite at the
Stardust on the 26th floor with the T.V. on and the lights
out. Catching my breath before the weekend. So yeah, like
most bad experiences, this one started as a favor.
He was somebody's nephew.
I crept around his station for a little while, first at
the bar, then around the aged columns that ringed the floor
until I was standing across from him, arms stretched across
the banister. I almost enjoyed being back on the front line
again. After twelve years I could still float the floor
unnoticed. Something you wouldn't expect from a guy my size.
I watched him bump around for a while, looking but not watching
anyone, like he was still on a farm. It was twenty minutes
before he noticed me.
I waved him over.
"You look like you're trying to find a bathroom Tommy,"
I said. We were next to the wait-station so I stopped a
girl and asked her for coffee.
When she said "Sure Manny" his expression changed.
Cute girl. Fearless little thing, too. Eve, or Emma, anyway-
This was a very slow night. We had our usual busload of
fossils working on the slots, and a few kids in their twenties,
placing small bets on hands of Blackjack, or as they call
it, "twenty-one." Point is, in that small crowd,
it was just too easy to spot the plain clothes security.
Ordinarily, I would've fired him on the spot.
"You know who I am?" I asked him, before he could
say a word.
He put his hands on his hips, twisted up his face and asked,
"Something like that," I said. If I'd told him
I was the Head of Security for three of the biggest casinos
in Vegas, I don't think he would have been any more terrified.
He was annoyingly self-conscious too. Posing, awkward, even,
what's the word? Affected.
"Did you need something?" He asked.
The waitress set my coffee down. I took my time with the
sugar and cream. Then I looked directly at him and asked
him pointblank: "What else are you good at?"
He didn't say anything.
Besides being his boss I stood a good six inches over him,
and outweighed him by sixty pounds. It's a nice bit of leverage
in social situations. That unspoken fear of what someone
my size could do, if provoked. He turned his head and looked
around the room, like he was trying to remember where he'd
"Tommy," I said, "the only person in this
casino more conspicuous than you, right now is that blonde
with the backpack, and you didn't seem to notice her at
all. This is what we call a 'finesse' job, something you
must have an intuition for. Understand?"
He turned again to look at the blonde girl, then he said,
"No, I saw her. I saw that girl. In fact, I saw her
coming out of the casino chapel before my shift. Seriously."
"Out of the Chapel?"
"Yeah," he said. "Yes sir. Couple hours ago."
Now, I'm sure I mentioned that this was a Thursday night.
"Oh. Okay," I said.
There was a long pause while I flipped through all the possible
responses for such an ignorant explanation. I should've
offered him a cigarette and a blindfold.
"You religious, Tommy?"
"Yeah. Sure. I'm not weird about it or anything but-"
"My mother was religious too," I said, sipped
my coffee. "Church every Sunday."
"Charities too. Shit we probably went to four or five
of those telethons. Rented hotel rooms and stayed up for
days a couple times. She loved celebrities, too. God and
I pretended not to hear him.
"Then," I said, "when I was eight, I walked
in my mother giving Redd Foxx a blowjob backstage at a Jerry
Lewis Telethon. Jesus. Try reconciling that, Tommy, when
you're eight. You like Redd Foxx? "
His face slowly twisted again.
"My mother." I sipped my coffee again, shook my
head. "My religious, charitable mother, right? In my
mind," I said, pointing to my head, "forever suspended
over this twitching black junkyard dick. Reconcile that
for me, Tommy."
I interrupted. "Respect and Ethics have nothing to
do with the depth of someone's faith. Nothing," I said.
"Understand? That's why I asked you in the first place,
Tommy: 'What else are you good at?'"
It was a pretty dramatic way to fire someone. Must admit.
But, at the time, it seemed like a good chance to make a
point. And unless you're telling a story, nobody actually
listens to you, anyway.
I was back in the car a few minutes later, feeling a little
guilty but satisfied.
Foolishly thinking that my night was over.
Somewhere between home and Circus-Circus I got a call from
the New York, New York people about a very big winner who
wasn't losing any hands at all. They couldn't pinpoint the
grift but he was alone. Security had already swept the streets
for radio activity so I had the Eye-in-the-Sky patch me
in over his table. I was still getting comfortable with
the computer system in the car, the touch-screen monitor
and swing-out keyboard. It would be easy to mistake me for
a cop in that car, unless you knew anything about my past.
"Rewind it for me, okay? Send me the last few minutes,
Bird's Eye, please. I want to see for myself. I'll get back
A stuttering video recording of the boy popped onto the
screen. In his early twenties, wearing a loose cotton oxford.
I watched him win eight hands in a row, but never celebrated.
He was looking around the room too often to be counting
cards. He looked straight up into the camera at least four
times, though. I brought him up in real time on the screen
and called back in.
"Probably something high tech," I told them. "He's
not counting that high."
"That's what we thought. That's why we called you."
The irony isn't lost on me in those moments. Floor Security
calling me in to catch a thief. Me.
When we were first recruited we were called coin-flippers,
doubles and sometimes snakes; ex-gamblers who were literally
too tough to beat in the 70's and early 80's when casino
security was, on all fronts, primitive and unprepared for
the tech revolution. So, in essence, we were paid to stop
beating their banks. Some of us were caught, and legally
forced into employment, others, like me, were approached.
We were the terrors of the tables. Even when they arrested
us, it only forced us to come up with new ways of cleaning
them out. We used goats and mules whenever we were banned,
fiber optics and transmitters the size of buttons to orchestrate
big takes, etcetera etcetera. Nothing could stop us. Of
course, with all that money going around, going straight
wasn't such an easy sale at first. Miniaturized cameras
and relays, magnets and computers were making our jobs too
easy. Everything getting smaller, stronger and cheaper.
Everything, in pieces, at your local Radio Shack. Eventually
though, you get tired of looking over your shoulder and
arguing with your wife. Eventually, if you can live long
enough, you've got to clean up.
It must've been ten o'clock or so, because I remember the
strip was, well, I won't say "dead," but quieter
than usual. Of course the traffic was still backed up for
blocks, creeping and craning through the spinning glitter
of the smaller casinos, then slowing to a stop around the
theme park casinos that filled entire city blocks.
This was at the end of October. A depressing time in Vegas,
for most of us.
A red pickup pulled past me and almost clipped my right
front bumper for no reason. As they sped by, a thin dumb-looking
boy in cutoffs howled and two young girls were laughing
while they passed a brown-paper bag between them. Then the
dumb one stands up, pulls his t-shirt off and spits beer
off the back of the truck towards the hood of my car.
I should have just smiled, but I immediately felt that old
urge tingle around my fingertips and open up the back of
my throat. "Kids," I muttered, "just kids."
In 1980, in all honesty, if I wasn't in the middle of "working"
or hauling my killings home, I might've followed that truck
for a couple of miles, at a distance, waited long enough
for them to forget about me, then dragged the driver out
into the street and broken both his legs. Especially in
'80. Just after Anne died.
The shirtless boy stood up again at the next stoplight and
shot me the finger. This time I smiled so wide it seemed
to make the girls nervous.
I shook the thought from my head. Replayed the video feed
again. These mobile feeds were much worse when they were
first installed but now it's all fairly crisp zooming and
close-ups, smooth panning cameras that can be manipulated
in real time from the unit in my dashboard.
Most of the security people I've worked with, the first
thing they notice about a gambler are their hands, for jewelry,
but mostly to check on the nerves of the player. Of course,
a good confidence man won't give it away with his hands,
but in my experience there's always a tell so I find more
of them beneath the table. Always start with the feet. I've
picked up scams just by catching a player wiggling his toes
manically, or shuffling his feet, repositioning his legs
under the table, scratching at a crotch because of sweat
buildup, all beneath the table. That's why I always start
with the shoes, watch the toes, then move up the length
of a body carefully looking for subtle signs of panic.
Our winner was looking mildly pleased, but much too relaxed
for someone like him, with so many tall stacks of chips
in front of him, drawing all that attention. I accessed
different cameras to get a full view but still couldn't
see enough from the car.
Joker was wearing sandals.
I called back upstairs. "Terry," I said. "It's
Manny. Yeah I got it. No. That was smart. How much's he
in for?" Over sixty-five grand. "How long?"
4 hours. "Yeah. No, I'd go ahead and pick him up. Don't
let him take any more of your money. No. I'm looking but
I don't see anything here. Yeah. Hey, Terry, has the shit
even moved in the last hour? No, no. I mean, look at him.
Hand on hand, blink-blink, but I haven't seen him move a
muscle in ten minutes. Yeah. He's hiding something. Hold
him for me. I'll be there in five minutes, maybe ten. I
want to watch him here for a few more minutes. Hey, that's
alright," I said, "there's always next Thursday."
The Vegas strip that I first walked down in 1968 as a lost
little kid from Brooklyn is, to put it plainly, no longer.
The big boys are all still here, but in the nineties everyone
started building theme parks, space needles, and atriums.
Now the larger casinos offer day-care and support for gambling
addictions. It's cleaner, sure, and the sex shops and brothels
have been pushed outside the city limits but if you ask
me, at the core, nothing ever changes about this place,
and nothing ever will. It will always offer the same thrills
and risks, it will always be a Mecca for the weird and lost,
and at six a.m. you'll always be able to walk out and see
a fleet of street cleaners chasing a tidal wave of porno
leaflets down the main strip. A new set of clothes couldn't
change any of that.
I guess that's an interesting way to put it, coming from
After Joe Denny put me on the payroll at Stardust and, as
Anne would've said, made me a "respectable man again,"
I ended up heading security after a couple of years on the
floor, then moved over to MGM, then, of course, there were
buyouts, and cutbacks, which I somehow survived and ended
up where I am now, in a very respectable position heading
security for all of the MGM properties including the New
York, New York Hotel and Casino.
It was getting a little colder outside, almost cold enough
to roll up the windows. The parking lot was only about half
"Hey Mr. Clayton." Jack took my keys out front
and gave me my ticket.
The coaster was back online and speeding through that spread
of famous New York mockups, four or five red trains full
of screaming tourists. Mostly kids. It was worse than a
Puerto Rican street parade. All that damn screaming. It
follows you inside and out too. No escaping it. But I know,
it's not the best of kind of business for someone who has
a problem with screaming.
Winners still send chills through me, though.
When Anne died, years ago, our daughter Lilly decided to
stay in Kansas City and live with her grandmother. I could've
fought it, but I wasn't doing anything like this then, and
the girl had been through enough by that point, you know.
No one knows how Lilly even survived.
Cops couldn't separate the cars from each other at the scene.
The entire accident had to be lifted by crane onto a flatbed
and towed away. At least that's what somebody told me on
the phone. First few days I was there, in Kansas City, Lilly
wouldn't see me at all, but things are better these days.
She's married now and much better at it than I ever was.
It was much too cold in the lobby. The dead end of our long
Nevada summer with the winds picking up, chasing off the
tourists and they were still cranking the air conditioners.
I could feel my flesh tighten and the chill penetrating
layer after layer. A bone-aching cold.
I walked the floor before going upstairs just to stretch
my legs. Made eye contact with a few dealers, but it was
quiet, if you don't count the occasional screams from the
"Hey Smitty," I said. Upstairs the office was
practically empty except for Harry Smith. I poured a coffee.
"Where is he?"
"In three," he waved, and then pointed over my
head. "You're falling apart there, Manny."
A rope of hair was hanging over my forehead, so I smoothed
it back in place and dragged a comb through it. "Surprised
it didn't chip off in here."
"What?" Harry was getting lost in some newspaper
on his desk, and not really paying attention. He looked
like a fat little boy in a classroom. In some ways, Harry
was brilliant but you'd never know by watching him. Still,
he was a perfect example of the crossroader. When he was
still in the game, I'm sure he led a few Vic's right over
the edge with that dumb look and those awful clothes, and
now he was cracking just as many heads, or more, working
the other side of it. Almost two decades later and it still
surprises me how easy it was to switch teams. We were all
just one miscalculation away from a long gray bus ride,
and in truth, it was getting harder to stay ahead of the
monkeys in charge of trying to stop us. It was definitely
the smart play, especially for me and Lilly.
We keep the control room dark so the dispatchers can stay
focused on their monitors and the cameras that occupy the
gambling areas of the casino. Harry sat under the only white
light in the room.
"Yeah. Oh. Sorry, Manny."
"How much did he start with?" I asked.
"No. Your mother," I said.
"Oh. Two grand or so. Not much more than that."
"And what are we in for?" I asked. I took off
my jacket and slipped on an empty shoulder holster. It wasn't
a huge haul by most standards, 60 grand, but we've got to
be ahead of the technology wherever it shows up and intimidation
can work wonders. I didn't expect the kid to confess, he
looked too calm for that in the video, but I hoped to raise
the heat on him.
Harry wasn't responding again, sinking deeper into some
tabloid story and picking his teeth with a matchbook.
"Yeah. What?" He didn't make any effort to hide
the matchbook or his open mouth.
"Where is everybody?"
"Doris is sick. Jimmy's in there with Walter and Benny.
Everyone else is on the floor. It's quiet, Manny. Getting
cold out there."
"Cold," I laughed. "I miss the cold."
I didn't own a gun. That wasn't our job. Every casino had
some kind of arsenal still stored away somewhere, but the
days of assault-trained security units are gone. The police
are in charge of Vegas now. And like I said, it just wasn't
our job. There are a couple of stun guns, somewhere around
that office, but Harry and I have been big enough, and smart
enough, to handle just about everything these last ten years.
Even when I was on the other side, counting my own cards
and running dirty poker out of Minn's, I never even wished
for a gun. When Marc Eid threatened to take my left hand
off at the wrist after 12 years of running numbers together,
stood over me with that cleaver and, swear to God, with
tears coming out of his eyes waving that filthy blade over
me, all I could say was, "You're right, Marc. Go ahead.
I'm sorry to make you do it." He was so wound up he
broke my nose with the butt of the handle and stomped out.
That's why we call each other gambling "partners,"
instead of "friends." Friends don't last around
money. Not for long.
"I'll talk to the kid," I said. "Where's
"No I.D.?" I stopped moving towards room three.
"How'd he expect to walk with his winnings? No identification
means no money. No proof of age, to begin with, right?"
Harry was nodding as I spoke. "So why am I up here?"
"It's the policy, you know?" He stood up for what
looked like the first time in days, stretching and groaning
as he spoke. "We throw him out and he produces I.D.
with in thirty-six hours, and by then we've got nothing
to look at but security tapes, which-"
"Okay," I said.
"And besides," he said. "We can't figure
out how he did it. No lurkers on the tape. Just finished
"Who talked to him first?"
Harry sat back down. "Doris."
"Doris? You said she was sick."
"Right, well, she is now."
"Come on. What right after she talked to him?"
"Yeah, well, while she was talking," he said.
"She flew out of there complaining about her stomach,
her period or something? I don't know. You missed her by
"Where's the report? She leave it?"
"Harry," I said, "you okay? You still in
control of shit around here?"
"Hey, come on," he said, a little injured again.
"It's a slow night, brother. She runs out of the room,
holding her stomach saying she's going home after talking
with him for 2 minutes. What should I do? Tie her to a chair?
Chinese water torture?"
"You check on him?"
"Look for yourself," he said. "Hasn't moved
I walked into three's adjoining room and watched him for
a few minutes through the two-way mirror. He really wasn't
moving much. His legs were crossed, hands folded over his
wrinkled white shirt.
I threw my coat back on and walked into the room. Took a
seat like I'd reserved the table.
"Lucky day, huh?" I asked him. "Nice haul."
I made a gesture out of removing my coat. He seemed to understand
when the holster swung out from under my arm.
"You're the guy," he says, right away. He sounded
older, his voice deeper than it should be. I've had meals
that weighed as much.
"I'm the guy," I said, "and who are you?
A victim of pickpockets? Where's your identification?"
"Lost it," he said, "but maybe it was picked."
He smiled. "You're Clayton."
"That's right." It wasn't the first time someone
recognized my name in one those rooms, but it did mean that
he wasn't as innocent as he looked, and that we might know
some of the same people. "What's your name?"
"Good American name, Clayton. No nonsense."
"Yeah. Why don't you-"
"You're not married are you?" He asked.
"No," I said, irritated already.
"Anymore, right? What was her name, Anne?" He
Of all the cheats, the techno whiz kids are the worst. They're
smug right up until the judge reads their sentence. "So,
what, you know me? You my biggest fan? Or are you just a
good guesser?" I asked him.
"I'm a great guesser," he said, still smiling.
"Very intuitive. Just like Anne was." He leaned
forward and rested his arms on the table. "Sorry, but
I had to start somewhere. She didn't blame you, you know?
When she was dying. She just wanted you to be there with
her. I thought you'd want to know that."
I waited for him to say more, but he didn't. It was only
mildly surprising that he'd found the name of my ex-wife,
mildly irritating that he would try to use it to rattle
me. But the 'intuitive' comment plucked a nerve. "Anne,
huh?" I asked. There was too much truth to it. I stood
up and slowly walked around behind him. I'm not a violent
man anymore, but I reached down into that V above the top
button on his shirt and grabbed a big tuft of his wiry chest
hair. I don't think he saw that in his future. When he screamed
he finally sounded his age. Maybe twenty-three, I'd guess.
"Why don't we leave me out of this. Would that be okay?"
He was digging his nails into the back of my hand but I
held onto him.
See, when Anne and I were still together, and life was good,
just after Lilly was born, it used to completely freak me
out how often she could guess what I was thinking, or planning.
It was an intuition that laid me bare, like motherhood had
chemically activated some new part of her brain. The last
night we were together, the night I got picked up, she actually
begged me to stay home. "I can feel it," she told
me. "If you go out there tonight, you're gone, baby."
She was always hassling me to clean up and go straight so
I guess I didn't take her seriously, but she was right.
Somehow she always knew more than she was supposed to.
I tried to change the tone with kid. I let go of him and
said, "I'm not in a cheerful mood, son, so why don't
we backtrack and I'll give you a chance to not get yourself
hurt again. Okay? This is all a little intimidating, I'm
sure," I said, waving around the stark white room,
pointing to the black sponge hanging from the ceiling. "But
we just need to ask you some questions. Understand? Then
you can walk out of here. It only looks like a torture chamber."
I forced a smile.
"Okay," he said.
"What's your name?" I asked again.
"Gabe Dorsey," he answered. "And I didn't
mean to upset you, Manny." He struggled to catch his
breath. "Anne was an amazing woman. She had an incredible
effect on you." He rubbed his chest. "You're practically
I cracked my knuckles and sat down across from him. I had
to admire the attempt, especially coming from such a young
kid, but I wasn't interested in playing games. "Look,
Gabe. You have no I.D. You're not walking out of here today
with sixty-five thousand dollars and we're probably not
going to be friends. All I really want to know is: How?
Every week we get a new tech baby fixing the slots or a
team of tech babies photographing hands with a camera the
size of a zit. If I'm famous at all, it's because it's because
I stop guys like that. Like you."
"I can make you really famous," he said. He smiled
like he hadn't been listening to me, and began to turn a
small silver ring on his hand.
"Oh yeah?" I think I actually rolled my eyes.
"Why would I want to be famous? Would you be here if
I wasn't a little famous?"
"No, I wouldn't." Then he said, "I know you
don't believe me. But if you want proof I can give it to
you all day long. Ask me anything about you. About your
I just stared at him. "Come on, Gabe. You're not an
idiot, I don't think. I'm not an idiot. Did you really expect
to walk in here and wow me? If you know who I am, then you
should know better than that."
He rubbed at his chest again. "I didn't just guess
that Anne was intuitive, Manny. I didn't pick her name out
of the newspaper. I've also never been to Kansas City but
when I think about Anne I can clearly see the tangled frames
of a station wagon and a blue pickup gliding over a cold
October night and a young girl in the back of a police cruiser.
Tell me how I'd know that." He waited for me to answer.
"You want more?"
I didn't say anything.
"Anne's wasn't your fault, Manny. You should stop blaming
yourself. You're barely alive anymore. That's not what she
would've wanted. Anne wanted you to go straight, not stiff."
"Enough," I said.
"You know," he went on, "I really don't know
how you could stay single for so long in Vegas. They women
are really gorgeous here. I'm impressed though. You really
loved her." He paused. "Twenty years is long time
"Right," I said, absorbing the act. He had prepared
for getting caught, that was all. My head filled with the
possibilities, searched for the angle. Something. I just
"You're impulsive," he said, rubbing his chest
again. "I knew it would be dangerous coming here, but
I had to meet you."
"So you're here to meet me? You don't care about the
money." I wasn't impressed, or at least I hoped I looked
that way. I pulled a little plastic baggie out of my pocket
and fished the last cigarette out. Lit it. "What are
you trying to tell me here Gabe?"
He didn't answer.
"Come on," I said. I turned my chair around and
sat with my arms resting across the cool metal piping, almost
setting my head down. "Okay, okay," I said. "So
why don't you tell me, how you know about my wife. You've
never been to Kansas City? Didn't find the information,
or hear about it anywhere? Right? Are those the parameters?
Throw in a little bit about intuition and stroll out the
door with sixty grand? Is that the angle? Come on. We've
got people playing and replaying the performance you put
on out there tonight and they're sending your picture around
to every other casino in town, so sooner or later, we're
going to figure you out, Gabe. I mean, I can appreciate
the attention. Really, I'm flattered in a weird way, but
son, honestly, this isn't going to happen. I don't know
why you'd cheat and win so conspicuously out there, or why
you wouldn't bring some kind of I.D. in here with you, but
ironically," I said, "the casino industry doesn't
believe in magic, or odds-defying runs of luck."
He leaned forward, lowering his voice. "Manny, you're
the last piece of this. My last invitation. That's what
this is. I'm not here for money."
"An invitation." I said.
He nodded. There was nothing about his body language that
gave him away. He was relaxed and completely delusional.
Smart in all the ways that make you crazy.
I shook my head. "If you're really about to tell me
that you're Jesus or psychic or a psychic Jesus, I'm going
to be really disappointed, Gabe. I actually thought you
might be a smart guy there for a minute. But even Jesus
would need I.D. in Vegas these days."
" I don't want the money," he said.
"No? Really? Well great. Let me get a statement for
you to sign." I stood up.
He was so still I wanted to shake him.
"So, Gabe, really, if you don't want the money, why
gamble in the first place?"
"Manny. I'll sign the paper. You can have the money.
I came here to meet you. You can excuse it all away but
I know more than anyone could tell me. I know about Anne,
and Lilly. I even know what happened when you were eight.
I know how embarrassed you were by your mother, how disrespectful
she was to your father's memory. I know you're the best
security specialist in this city, possibly the most cynical,
reasonable, empirically driven person in the most cynical,
reasonable, empirically driven city in the world. I was
sent here, for you, Manny. Like it or not. And if I can
if I can convince you to accept my invitation
than it will be time for the world to change again. A new
Paradigm. I know you think I'm crazy, I expected that,"
he was almost frantic, "But what if I'm not? What if
I am what I claim to be? What if you, or someone just like
you, with everything to lose, what if you're the final test?"
He mouth was drying out. Pure desperation.
I thought about Lilly and wondered what in the hell this
kid's parents had done to twist his mind like that. He'd
obviously met Lilly, or someone from my past. There was
an explanation, somewhere.
He spoke up again. "I know I'm already running out
of time in this room and there's only so much you'll take
before you walk out that door and talk to Harry. You know
how long I waited for you tonight? Would you have come sooner
if I didn't lose those four hands?" His hands were
shaking. I let him talk. "Is there anything that could
restore your faith? That's what you called it earlier, right?
'Faith.' When you were talking with that farmboy about finesse
and faith, when you were humiliating him before you fired
him. Manny," he said. He took a breath and stared into
me. "Check the time on your tapes of me gambling in
here tonight, Manny. Then check the time stamp on your valet
parking at the MGM. Tell me how I could know any of this?"
I didn't answer him.
"I don't know if you're supposed to come with me, or
follow me, or what. I can't see the future, Manny, only
what's possible. I know that we need you to make this happen.
My final invitation. And I also know that part of you is,
at least, curious. That you want to believe me but you can't.
Is that right?" He stood up. "It's Lilly isn't
I walked up on him. "Gabe, enough. Understand? I've
been more than nice about listening to this daydream."
He kept talking, staring through me. "You're thinking
about Lilly this very second, because you'd never take any
chance at losing her respect again." He paused. "But
I won sixty-five thousand dollars in four hours, almost
won every hand. I've answered every question that's jumped
into your mind before you can ask it. What else can I do?
How many tricks do I have to perform?"
He reached for the microphone that dangled over our heads
and pulled himself up to it. He held it like a ring announcer
and said. "Tell me what happened with your uncle when
you were nine."
I didn't say anything. I'd never told anyone. There was
no way he could know. Any of it.
I let my surprise slip, which seemed to satisfy him.
He said, "I know all about you. This life of respect
you've earned and cherish. That's what I need. That's why
I'm here. To convince you, like I've convinced others. To
invite you." He sat down again. Deflated.
Others, I thought. "So this a traveling show? A doomsday
cult?" It was too much. Nothing about his body language
gave him away and he was too confident to be on drugs.
"I'm not stupid, Manny. And I'm not delusional either.
We both know why Harry works for you. What he does here."
He'd done a lot of homework. "And I know what you could
have Harry do to me. I know you could let me go, and send
him after me. I knew walking in that there were only two
ways out. You won't send him to kill me but that's how it
I had no response. He was grabbing at anything.
"You don't want to know what he's done, do you?"
He shook his head. "How many have you sent Harry after?
How many did you ever see again? This isn't a job of respect,
Manny. This couldn't be. Look where you are. Look at this
city. But we can change it," he said, leaning into
me, "if you're ready."
He was right about Harry. I'd sent him out after hustlers
before, but we were in security, not organized crime. No
I moved towards the door and opened it. I couldn't listen
anymore. "Enough. We don't kill people here, Gabe.
I know you believe what you're telling me, but this is too
much, son. I don't know what you expected to get out of
this, but I'm not leaving all my worldly possessions to
join the Circus because you told me my secrets. You've impressed
me, Gabe, but be real. You did a lot of homework for this,
for whatever reason, but I'm too tired for this." I
shook my head, and thought about Lilly again.
"Lilly would understand," he said.
I couldn't explain away what he was saying, but of course,
I wouldn't believe any of it either. I'd like to say we
just let him leave with the money that night, based on his
performance if nothing else, or even that, at the last second,
I bought into what he was saying and drove off on a bus
to introduce him to the world with some reluctant group
of scholars, that we awoke some sleeping mystery of the
world. At least that would be a good story, right? But I
didn't. I never saw him again so I couldn't tell you what
happened to Gabe after he left the casino. You'd have to
ask Harry about that.
--© Larry Williams