Lucky Jack

w.t. pfefferle

  
                Lucky Jack Milford it had been in the fifties, when you couldn't place a bet in the state without Jack getting part of it. That was when he first told the story about winning the motel in a poker game. It wasn't true, of course, but it was something he had said enough times so that even he believed it. The truth was he had inherited the place after his second wife had died. The girl's name was Lucy, and she was fifteen or twelve. She was the product of wife number three, also dead now. The motel was called the Pink Flamingo, and it sat on the crossroads of highways 305 and 50 in Austin, Nevada. There was nothing there besides the motel and a post office and Bob Scott's Hunting Lodge in the Toiyabe Range. Bob Scott had been dead for fifteen years and now a woman named Ruby ran the Lodge. Jack had been sweet on Ruby in the old days, and there was always talk of a marriage. Nothing every came of it.
            But Lucky Jack had five full time cus­tomers, Ruby, her son Mike and his wife, and the two Mexicans who worked in the Lodge. The business picked up during the hunting seasons in November and May, but most of the time the money that came in was just enough to get by. Didn't make any difference though. Jack wasn't going anywhere. The deal was too sweet right where he was. Money came in to a post office box over in Cold Springs, and once a month him and Lucy would photocopy hundreds of copies of a twenty year old pamphlet called "Extending YOUR Life.” The pamphlet had been written by two guys Jack had known up in Sparks, and the ad for the pamphlet ran in Popular Mechanix and Car and Driver. Lucy licked the stamps, Jack folded the papers, and if Ruby wasn't busy, she kissed the envelopes closed.
            About a week ago a brown envelope had come from a guy named Larry Lovers, from Phoenix. There was $5000 in it and a note. It said something about a deal down in Vegas, and that Lucky Jack was needed to put it together. Larry had found Jack's name in the address book of a famous grifter known as the King who had just recently died. Jack remembered the man as a thin, white-haired old guy even thirty years ago. Larry was someone he had never heard of or known, although it was certainly possible that the world had gone on without him while he had been holed up here in Austin. It had been four years since Jack had been out of the state, and he hadn't run a real scam or even a real hustle ex­cept for the mail fraud. Larry said his plan was to go through Colorado and that he was headed to Vegas. The guy in charge of the gambit was apparently already in Vegas, and his hotel suite number was in the note. It had been a long time since Jack was somebody, and maybe he was going to be somebody again. Regardless, the $5000 was enough to get him into Vegas for a day anyway.
            Lucky Jack drank his coffee behind the desk of the Pink Flamingo and watched the odd truck pass by on 50. He could see Elmo's gas sta­tion across the way, and could see Elmo and his wife working on the station wagon sitting at the pumps. Lucky Jack picked up his phone and di­aled Elmo's number. After Elmo got out from un­der the wagon, and made his way into the shop, Jack hung up. Elmo looked over to the motel and waved once. Jack laughed, just like you do some­times.
            "What's up?" Elmo said as he came in the lobby.
            "Nothing. Whose wagon?" Jack said.
            "Ruby bought it from a guy at the lodge," Elmo said. "This big burly guy from the East. Said he was going to move merchandise for some distributor and needed some cash to tie him over."
            "What the hell's that?"
            "Don't know. Have you seen him?  Said he needed a place to stay. He may be down at the diner eating."
            Just then the bells on the door rang and a man came in from outside.
            "Need a room?" Jack said.
            "Need two," the guy said. "I'm moving in for a while, if you'd oblige me."
            "Doesn't matter a bit if I oblige you or not," Jack said. "Twenty-eight bucks a night or $175 a week."
            "Two weeks," the guy said. "My name's Handle."
            Elmo looked at Handle for a while and then went back to the gas station. Jack gave Han­dle a room registration card and watched as Elmo's wife came out from underneath the wagon with about $40 of grease on her.
            "That your wagon?" Jack said.
            "Used to be," Handle said. "Sold it to the schmoe over there."
            "Does it run?"
            "Only when you pray for it right."
            "I've had one of those," Jack said. "Married one and drove it right into the lake."
            Handle laughed. "Listen, I'm going to be doing some work around here. You got long distance phones in the rooms?"
            "I've got a fax machine down in Cold Springs if you need it."
            "Superb," Handle said.
            "What kind of business you in?" Jack said.
            "Don't ask if you don't want to know," Handle said.
            "Understood. Room fourteen. No room service, no maids. Pools closed. No ice. Diner down the road. Got no rules against visitors, or where you park or how you park. I'm here twenty-four hours a day. Want to leave someone a package. I'll take it. Want to store valuables, try your air conditioner. Any thing else, dial 0. Lucy is my daughter, but she don't listen much."
            "I don't need much, but sometimes I work late."
            "More power to you Mr. Handle. I'm Lucky Jack, and I might be going out of town for a couple of days. Ruby up at the Lodge will take care of things here."
            "Understood," Handle said. "I'm on to her. I know where she gets that hair color. I've seen it before, and it didn't scare me off."
            "You're really going to like it here," Jack said.
            Lucy came in from a door that separated the office apartment from the lobby. She was a vi­sion of innocence and strawberry blonde hair. Green eyes. She looked like she could melt ice from four hundred miles away.
            "Daddy, the TV's fucked."
            "You're going to have to get out there and kick the dish."
            "I don't have any shoes on, and besides I don't know how."
            "I'll do it," Handle said. "I'm going to need to fix it anyway late at night if it goes out. I might as well learn it now."
            "Okay," Jack said. "It's out back. We barbecue out there on occasion. Weekends. But who knows. Maybe we'll do it tonight if the weather's nice."
            "Get to it," Lucy said. "If I don't see that picture clear up I'm moving out."
            "She's something else," Handle said, looking at her.
            "She's a pistol," Jack said. "You know that saying don't you?”
            "I'm forty, Jack. I know everything."
            Handle and Jack went out the front and walked around to the dish. Lucy sat down on Jack's stool behind the registration desk and twisted her hair in violently tight braids. A Glen Campbell song came on the transistor radio Jack kept under the desk and Lucy shut if off. "Fix it, fix it, fix it," Lucy said, stubbing her bare feet against the fake wood of the desk in front of her. "Fix it, fix it."
            When Lucky Jack was finished with the dish he went back into the apartment and looked at Lucy sitting on the couch.
            "We're going to go into Las Vegas for a couple of days," he said.
            "What for?"
            "Meet a guy."
            "What for?"
            "Business, child."
            "What kind of business would anyone want you for?"
            "I guess we'll find out," Luck Jack said. He went back into the lobby and looked out the front window again. Handle was carrying his bags from the back of the wagon and was having trouble crossing the highway.
§
            Lucy's favorite dream was the one where she turned into a Barbie. She had the hair for it, and all her life she had looked at the small, perfect dolls and had longed to be one.
            Lucy worked the night shifts when Lucky Jack couldn't get anyone else to do it. She would put her bare feet up on the telephone switchboard, turn on the black and white TV and watch it until she fell asleep. If she was lucky she would dream about Barbie and about leaving the motel behind. Sometimes at night Lucy would leave the front desk, walk across the green, in­door/outdoor carpeting of the lobby, through the front door, underneath the small, cement over­hang, let herself through the chain link fence into the pool area, and then taking off her yellow hal­ter, and her light blue shorts, would dive naked into the dark green water of the Pink Flamingo's unheated swimming pool.
            On those rare occasions in the Nevada night, when the moon would somehow shine through the blinking, flashing artificial neon lights, the moon would light up her body, and she would dream, right there, while wide awake.
            On the morning after Handle had moved in to the motel, and the day before her and Lucky Jack were going to Vegas, she heard him stirring in the small apartment. Lucy took the registration slips that had come in that night, and stacked them. Lucy started the double pot coffee maker that sat in the lobby, and moved the TV off the switchboard and back onto its stand near a large potted plant, in between two matching green sofas. When the old man came out there was a cup of coffee waiting for him on the desk. The TV was on and quiet, and Lucy was already asleep, small bare feet hooked over one end of a sofa.
           §
            Jack knew the girl would be of little help in Vegas, but he didn't know what else to do with her. He had gone hunting one weekend and Lucy had taken off with a truck driver headed for Cali­fornia. She had hitched back that next night in a pouring rain storm, got pneumonia, and had lin­gered close to death for nearly a week. He had vowed from that point to look after her, regard­less. She might come in handy down in Vegas. A kid made an interesting decoy if used the right way.
            Lucky Jack started to feel good about the trip, and he started thinking about leaving right then.
§
            Lucy was in love with a boy she went to school with. His name was Eddie and he had been suspended on more than one occasion for blowing things up in the chemistry lab. One time she had stayed after school with him while he tried to make Pepsi from a recipe his dad found in OMNI magazine.
            "Just a little more fructose, baby," he had said just before two beakers shattered, shooting glass for about twenty square yards. Eddie didn't get caught for that one, but he had for others.
            Lucy didn't know her mother, but she knew Lucky Jack's fourth wife, a croupier from Reno named Blanche. Blanche lived with Jack and Lucy for almost eight years, until Lucy was ten. And then when they were divorced there were no more women at the Pink Flamingo except for Ruby.
            "Marry Ruby," Lucy used to say to Jack.
            "Get out of my business," he would say back to her.
            But Lucy loved Jack in a strange way. He was like a grandfather to her, not a father, but at least he was something. Besides him all she had were the drifters who came through Austin, Elmo and his wife across the road, and the ten other kids in her class at the K-12 school right there on the highway.
            That morning Eddie came by on his motorcycle to get Lucy and Lucy raced out to meet him. Lucky Jack was sweeping out the overhang.
            "Hey Mr. Milford," the kid said.
            "Eddie."
            "What's up with you?"
            "Nothing, kid. Mind your own busi­ness."
            "Just being friendly," Eddie said.
            "Yeah, Jack, just being friendly," Lucy said.
            Lucy gave Jack a kiss on the cheek and then got on the back of Eddie's bike. Neither one of them wore helmets.
            "Listen, get back right after school. We're leaving tonight," Jack said.
            "Leaving where?" Eddie said, turning the bike off.
            "Vegas," Lucy said. "Jack's got a job down there."
            "Job ain't the right word, sister," Jack said. "Now go to school."
            "What kind of job could you get in Ve­gas," Eddie said, sneering.
            Jack took a long pause and stopped sweeping. He looked around and watched while Elmo turned on the gas pumps across the high­way. "I used to ride one of those," he started. "But I rode a big one. And me and a guy from Sparks once rode to Ely without headlights. Passed a cop at the Pancake Summit doing 120+."
            "Yeah, me too, pop.” Eddie kicked the bike and took off, spraying a fine layer of dust.
            As the bike careened onto the highway and up toward the school, Jack could see Lucy turn a little on the bike, looking right back at him, waving.
§
            Jack started the Eldorado at 5 a.m. sharp, just like he promised. The goddamned girl was still sleeping inside the lobby and Jack honked the horn loud and long.
            "Damn the guests," he said out loud, just a little above the crackling radio newscast. "Damn that girl."
            Just then Lucy came scampering out of the front door of the lobby, barefoot, wearing pink sweatpants and a blue sweatshirt that said "Hollywood" across it in yellow and pink letters.
            "You're waking everyone up, Jack," Lucy hollered as she ran to the passenger side of the Eldorado, first across the cement drive, and then onto the gravel apron.
            "It's my goddamned hotel, sister, don't forget it. Besides I told you when we were leav­ing."
            "Could we leave when the sun comes up, maybe?  This doesn't even seem normal."
            "You want normal, go join the roller derby."
            "I might, you old bastard."
            Jack reached across at Lucy as she closed her door and slapped her a good one across the cheek. Lucy squealed for a moment, but the grinding gravel and the charging engine drowned her out. As the Cadillac fishtailed out of the lot and onto the highway, Handle, Ruby, her son, and the two Mexicans all opened up the curtains in their rooms.
§
            "Are we going to eat?"
            "What's that?" Jack said, hoisting a thumb into the back seat.
            A big red cooler was back there sitting on towels. The top didn't quite fit snug and Lucy reached back and knocked it off.
            "Ooooh, Daddy. Ding Dongs and Twinkies. You don't happen to have any orange juice or Old Milwaukee, do you?"
            "Eat what's there or get the hell out."
            "You'd let me?  Well maybe that's all right. I could hitch back home and maybe Eddie and me could get married and go to Tahoe for our honeymoon."
            "He's nothing, darling. He don't even exist in this world anymore. That motorcycle of his is going to kill him before you get a good crack at him yourself."
            "That's nice."
            The sun had started coming up from the east and Jack began squinting. He hadn't been into Vegas in a long time, but he felt like this highway was his. His whole life had revolved around that shitty place. Right from the early days, when the casinos first started going up, that was where he made his money. Lucky Jack was something he could hold onto for all the rest of his days. And now that his time was short, the chance to go into the bright lights and the big city seemed like almost a last chance. He tugged on a pack of cigarettes under the visor, spilling them at his feet. Lucy reached down and scooped them up, lit one of the Camels with the car lighter and gave it to her father.
            "Thanks, darling. Sorry we had to leave so early."
            "Daddy," Lucy cooed, "tell me about Las Vegas. Tell me about my mommy."
            And as Lucy stretched out on the front seat, tilting her pretty head against the side win­dow, Jack told her the stories. He talked and talked as the miles went past. And once, when he looked over at her, once when the sun was high in the sky and when he had begun to feel the strength of a young man in his bones, once when he looked over to see his beautiful daughter's face, the same face as his second wife's, once when he looked over Lucy had fallen asleep.
§
            The big Eldorado took the driveway up to the front doors of the Dunes and Jack got out with the motor still running.
            "Park this baby around the back," Lucky Jack said, "somewhere where it won't get dinged.”
            "We don't have a back," the young valet said, looking past Jack and at Lucy as she stretched cat-like inside the car, one bare foot dangling out the passenger window.
            "Well then park it somewhere else safe, kid. Lucy, goddamn it get out of the car and grab my bag."
            "Yes sir, right away, sir," Lucy said, at the same time winking at the valet.
            "You want us to wash it for you, sir, before the morning?" the valet said.
            "Drive it, park it, and then don't even look at it. You think I'm just in from the desert?  You think I want to get a $40 detailing bill when I check out?  Leave it. It made it this far, and it's as clean as it's going to be."
            Lucky Jack lit up a big cigar he had been carrying in his pocket, and Lucy stood beside him as the car drove away.
            "He was kinda cute, Daddy," Lucy said. "Kinda greasy like I like 'em."
            "I wish I could put you in jail somewhere, darling. That's about where you oughta be."
            Jack led the way into the hotel and Lucy followed. A man at the front door looked at her a little funny as she went past, but didn't say anything.
            "Jack Milford," Jack said to the desk man.
            "Do you have a reservation?"
            "Look under Lucky Jack Milford," Jack said, puffing on the cigar.
            The desk man sort of smirked, looked once at Lucy and then went to a computer screen out of sight of the customers.
            "How many people, sir, just you and your wife?" the desk man said, all smiles.
            "Daughter, you smart-ass."
            "Oh, I'm sorry, sir."
            Jack looked at Lucy once but she was wandering away, headed toward the casino. "Damn it get back here, Lucy. You want to get me in trouble?"
            "Boom...boom...boom...boom," Lucy said, coming back to the desk, stubbing her bare toes against the thick carpeting.
            "You'll be in room 411, sir. I'll get Manolo to help you with your luggage."
            "Forget Manuel, hoss. I'm not going to knock out a fifty cent tip for showing me the inside of an elevator. Me and the girl can handle it."
            "It's a courtesy service, sir, please let me call the boy."
            "Listen, son. I got my own bags in and around these casinos for about forty years. So I think I got one more trip up to the fourth floor in me. Besides, the little girl here can lift her weight in dirty clothes."
            The desk man gave up and watched Jack and Lucy wander away, the wrong way, not headed toward the elevators, but instead toward the gallery of shops.
§
            "Goddamn hotel. What the hell do you think it takes to lay out one of these bastards. Last time I was here you went right past those doors and the elevators were right here."
            Lucy had given up. Jack was hopelessly lost. Lucy sat down on the edge of Jack's suitcase and stared at a leather skirt in the window of a shop called 'Celines.' 
            "Lucky Jack, can I buy some clothes while we're here?"
            "Yeah, as soon as you make some money, darling."
            "You've got plenty, don't you. I checked your suitcase when you filled up with gas this morning."
            Jack came over at her and slapped the top of her head hard with an open palm.
            "You stay the hell out of my stuff, little girl. I don't think it's any of your concern what I do and don't have in my suitcase or anywhere else."
            "Shit, don't smack me. I just wanted to know what was going on."
            Two women came out of the store and stared hard at Jack and Lucy, both now sitting by the store window. Jack was still smoking the cigar, but it was right down to the butt. Lucy had rolled the legs of her sweat pants up and was rubbing the fine, blonde hairs on her legs.
            "What are we doing here?" Lucy said, leaning back against the window and staring up at the ceiling.
            "Working. Daddy's got a job here, that's what."
            "Doing what?"
            "I don't know exactly. I got a call from a guy. Some money. Who the hell knows. Nobody called old Jack Milford for a good goddamned long time.” Jack dropped his cigar on the carpet, looked at it, and then picked it up. Stubbed it out against his shoe and then put it in his shirt pocket.
            "Lucky Jack Milford, they call you, right?  Not Old Jack Milford.” Lucy reached out with one hand and touched her old father on the arm.
            "You're quite a pistol," Jack said. "You got some of me in you, I guess."
            "Well, not too much, I hope."
            A woman from the store came out into the enclosed hallway and looked at Jack and Lucy. She stared hard for a second and then went inside and closed the shop doors, locking a chain and a lock around the handles on the inside. Jack got up and peered in at her.
            "Hey, lady. Hold that leather skirt there in the window. I'm coming back for it tomorrow morning."
            The woman gave a sort of pained grin through the glass, motioned something like all right and then moved away from the doors, shutting out all the store's lights.
            Jack stood there and rested his arms against the door, closed his eyes.
            "Lucy, we're going to take one more try and finding those elevators before the night is completely over."
            Lucy stood up and picked up a suitcase. "Okay, but let me have a go at it this time."
            "All right, darling. You lead the way."
§
            The next morning Lucy found her way to the pool in her yellow two piece. She folded a white hotel towel out on one of the soft, pink chaise lounges and just laid there a while, eyes closed, drifting a little toward sleep.
            The pool area gradually filled up as the sun got higher and higher in the sky. Soon, Lucy was surrounded by middle aged ladies, young cabana boys, waitresses in white, shorty robes, and a bartender about ten feet away at a molded plastic Polynesian style bar.
            "Honey, you're going to burn without any oil," a voice said from behind Lucy.
            Lucy looked at the woman behind her. She was about fifty, Lucy guessed, and lathered up with some sort of white cream from head to foot.
            "I'll be all right," Lucy said.
            "No, really. It's going to be brutal out here today. Best to get some SPF 15 on you immediately.” With that the woman rolled off of her chaise and came at Lucy with a silver bottle of cream.
            "No thanks, lady. My skin is young and pretty."
            The woman pulled up short, and squinted over her sunglasses. "Well, isn't that precious. You're just a pretty little thing, aren't you?”
            "When I have to be," Lucy said.
            The woman turned around and went back to her chaise, mumbling something to the two ladies next to her. Lucy heard the words 'cancer' and 'little bitch.'
            Twice the waitresses came by and asked if she wanted a cocktail from the bar. Once Lucy had asked the waitress what the drinking age was in Nevada and the waitress had just smiled and moved on to the next person.
            At around noon Lucy pulled the back of her chair up and took a good look around at the place. The pool was a brilliant blue, and the pool area itself was completely white, with splashes of pinks from the chairs and from some of the pool towels. It was very hot, and Lucy thought about going in. But the thought of waking up Jack and having to deal with his various moods didn't seem like much fun. After a time Lucy ordered a club sandwich from one of the waitresses and when it came she signed her name and room number.
            "Give yourself a buck tip," she said to the young boy who brought the food out.
            "Thanks," he said. "My name's Skip. You a new arrival?"
            "Just last night," she said.
            "Figured. I notice when there's someone new."
            "That's pretty sporty of you."
            "Well, anyway. I gotta go back to work. Are you going to be here for long?"
            "Don't know. As long as it takes, I suppose."
            "What does that mean?" Skip said, pocketing the bill, and shifting his weight from his right to his left.
            Lucy liked this one. He looked like Eddy from back home but there was something a little more worldly about him. He had a small gold stud earring in one ear and his hair was black and shiny, cut close to his neck, but long in the front, one lock just covering part of his clear, brown forehead.
            "You're a winner, aren't you, Skip?" she said, finally.
            "What do you mean?  Gambling?"
            "Everything's gambling, Skip. Everything's up for grabs. That's what my dad told me."
            "Oh yeah, is he with you?" Skip said, checking the chaises on either side of her.
            "Oh, he's here, all right, but he's still sleeping. He won't like you, I'd imagine."
            "Well, anyway. Like I said, I gotta get back to work. I'll stop by later, okay?"
            "Sure," Lucy said. "I'll be around."
            As Skip left, Lucy heard the woman behind her say the word 'trampy.'
§
            When Lucy went back to the room at around 1:00, Jack was up and on the phone to someone. Lucy touched him on the shoulder and motioned to the bathroom. She went in, took off her clothes and started the shower. Next to the toilet was another phone and she thought about picking it up and listening in. Just before she did, though, she thought about the loud running water, and decided to forget it.
            In the shower she kept the water scalding hot, to wash the sweat and grease off of her from the pool. She hadn't gone in the water the whole time she was out there, but she was used to the heat. She already had a good tan, she thought to herself. What the hell was that woman talking about anyway.
            As she was drying herself off Jack knocked on the door.
            "Lucy, I've got to go meet a guy somewhere. You all right for a couple of hours?"
            "Leave me some money. I haven't eaten or anything."
            "Yeah, okay," Jack said. "Right here on the TV."
            Lucy got up next to the bathroom door and yelled. "You think you'll be back for supper?" Lucy said.
            "I suppose. Probably sooner, once this guy gets a look at me."
            Lucy heard Jack rustling around in the room and she realized she didn't have any clothes to change into. She rested against the sink and waited.
            "Okay, I left a sawbuck on the TV. Don't run off."
            The door to the room slammed and Jack was gone. Lucy looked at herself in the foggy mirror and then wrote her name real slowly inside a big heart.
§
            When Jack got to the Tropicana he gave the valet instructions on where and how to park the Eldorado. He also told the guy to wash it. Inside, Jack found his way to a blackjack table, bought some chips from a pimply middle-aged dealer and began to play, $5 a hand. Across the room he noticed a young man standing against a pillar. When he saw him the first time he didn't think anything, but then when he looked up again and saw the man standing in the same spot still, Jack raised his hand up to his hair, and made two passes through it with his fingers, and then flipped a chip up and caught it with his left hand. The young man took a drink out of a glass he was holding, and began walking over toward the table.
            "Twenty $5 chips," Larry said when he got to the table.
            He sat down two chairs from Jack and once he had played the first hand he looked over and winked.
            Jack didn't like the looks of this guy. He was young, and he wore blue jeans, and athletic sneakers. His hair was long in the back and he wore it in a little ponytail. He couldn't tell how old he was, but he guessed late twenties.
            As the dealer kept dealing, Jack began to win a little money, despite not paying much attention. He hit a ten and a four with a perfect seven of clubs. And then doubled down and hit a five and a six with a queen. He was up about $450 when Larry got up from the table and began walking to a bank of elevators twenty yards away from the table.
            "Thanks, Marge," Jack said to the dealer, and he left two $5 chips for her at his spot.
            Jack followed Larry's disappearing back to the elevators, waited for Larry to go up in one elevator, watched to see the number it stopped at, and then got on one himself, pushing 12.
            Larry stood in the hallway just a few feet down from the elevator doors, and when Jack got out they were the only people in the corridor.
            "You must be Lucky Jack," Larry said, smiling.
            "That I am. And you're the messenger."
            "That I am, Lucky Jack. I'm the answer to everyone's prayers."
§
            The conversation was polite for a very long time. Jack called Lucy on the phone and told her to take a cab over. He suddenly didn't like the feeling of her being alone there, or even him being without her. When Lucy arrived, Larry began to loosen up, and Lucky Jack seemed to relax. Lucy had that sort of effect on everyone.
            "Now, son, I don't want to tell you about your own business, but I've been around the race course a few times and I'd imagine I've run a few gambits more than you."
            Larry held up his hand and stopped the old man.
            "Boys, are any of us hungry?" Lucy said.
            "Lucy, keep it zipped up while we're talking."
            "Lucky Jack, if I may call you that?  Let me tell you where I'm coming from. I've sat down with the man, you know what I'm saying. He's here in town now, but he's not happy yet. He wants a few more pieces in place before he runs everything all together. But, I tell you, Lucky Jack. I've got my ear to the ground, and I'm liking what I'm hearing.” Larry winked again, this time at Lucy, and Jack was about tired of him.
            "Hearing and doing are different things," Lucky Jack said. "And, I'd say you've done a bit more than the other."
            "No doubt," Larry said, smiling back, also smiling over at Lucy who had now put her feet up on the air conditioner and seemed to be settling in.
            "Well, then let's get to it. I've spent some of your money, and I intend to spend the rest. I owe you my ear, now."
            "Well, thank you, Lucky Jack. Let me fill you in."
            Larry held up a pad that had been laying by his side. The top sheet was covered with names and arrows, places, street names, code words of his own design. In the middle of it all was the name 'LARRY,' like the hub of a wheel.
            "I'm the guide. I'll be running the show. I'm hiring the fish from here in town and I'll be in charge. The man is staying way back on this one. Too much at stake this early. He's going to let me have the ball a while."
            "Yeah, why's that?" Lucy said.
            "Well," Larry said, smiling big. "Because I'm the player. I'm the star. I'm gold-polished and clean. I can whistle in the wind and you can hear it like a symphony."
            "I get you," Lucy said. "You're the head cheese."
            Jack laughed, and so did Lucy. Larry started to, but then realized he was being made fun of.
            "Cheese?  That's it. You've got me. Say, Lonesome Jack, this girl here can really spot them. You say she's your daughter?"
            "Don't say another word," Jack said.
            "It's okay, daddy. I like him. He's got huevos as big as Mt. Rushmore."
            "Shut up, darling."
            Larry got up from his chair and walked over to the window near Lucy. He looked out for a while and Jack looked at his back.
            "Listen, son," Jack said. "I don't know what the hell you've got on your mind. I don't know what this here pad is supposed to mean. But I'm an old dog. I've been Lucky Jack for a lot more years than you've been alive. This here is my daughter, and I love her more than the next breath I'm going to take. Her mother was the most beautiful creature I've ever seen, and I should know a little about that."
            Lucy sat up straighter and looked over at her dad, both eyes, dead on. Larry turned around and looked over two, both of them now dark silhouettes in the Vegas motel room window.
            "But you're talking scams and deals and I think you're full of shit. The man?  You're not a man, but that's not your fault. You ain't going to get it with yellow pads and an ear to the ground. I don't know who your backer is, and I don't care. You're in way over your head, and I suppose I am, too. I don't know who would want an old man like me down here in this city anymore. I don't even recognize the place. No one knows me. I don't know no one."
            Larry walked back over to his legal pad and picked it up. He made a little salute to Lucky Jack and a short wave over to Lucy.
            "Listen, Lucky Jack. You've got a sweet deal. You've got a nice little family going. What the hell am I?  Me?  I'm a player, right?  Yeah, well that's it.” Larry held up his hands like he was getting set up for a shootout.
            "Well, you boys look like you're ready to smooch," Lucy said.
            Jack looked over at his daughter, and while he wanted to slap her, he decided to smile instead.
            "I'm out of here," Larry said. "I need to fill a spot in this deal."
            As Larry stood there, Jack stood up and reached his hand out to him. "I'm in, kid. I don't know why, but I'm in.”
            The air in the room was perfectly still. Lucy rubbed her head with her hands. "Yikes," she said. "We're in business with the King of Vegas."
            Larry spun around and held his legal pad up high.
           §
                        Larry, Lucky Jack, and Lucy ordered room service and Larry started outlining part of a plan. It involved a couple of rental units that Larry had leased on a monthly basis in the north part of Vegas. Larry kept turning pages in the pad and Lucky Jack nodded from time to time. Lucy mostly ate her hamburger and stayed out of things. With the TV on low she was patient until 9 p.m.
            "What's up, boys?  Are you going to call it a night or what?"
            "Yep, you've got us there, Lucy," Larry said. We've really been burning it up over here."
            Lucky Jack didn't answer. He was working on a fresh piece of paper and had his head down. He licked the end of a pencil every now and then. Larry excused himself to go to the bathroom and while he was gone Lucy went over and sat next to Jack.
            "Well, is it any good?" she said.
            "You know what, girl. It ain't bad. It's rough. It truly is. And I don't think he's got it all figured. But you're right. He's got the huevos, all right."
            "Told you. He's a real winner, all right."
            Larry came back in from the bathroom and put his hands on his hips. "Jack, when do you want to put this thing to work?"
            "Well, listen, kid. I've been thinking about that. I know you've got some money in those rentals but I'd really like to work out a few details, you know?  I've got some ideas that might bring this together."
            "It's not ready?"
            "No way. It's right there, but it's not all the way."
            "We've got a place up in Austin," Lucy said. "We're going there, I bet?"
            "You've got it," Jack said. "We're going to need a few things. In fact I've got some plans of my own."
            "I'll go," Larry said. "Hell, sign me up. Do we fly or drive?"
            "I've got a Caddy in the valet parking. You want to pack now while me and the girl get our stuff?"
            "Got you, Lucky Jack."
            As Jack and Lucy left the room, Larry did a little dance in the room. He looked out the window down at the street and tried to see if he could spot them as they left.
            "I'm the man," Larry said. "I am the man."
§
            As Jack steered across the city back toward their hotel Lucy peered pleasantly and quietly out her side window. Jack felt like his heart was going to go through his chest. Somehow this whole day seemed like it had been about 40 hours long. But despite the late hour and all of his work, he was still fresh, looking forward to the drive to Austin. He had some ideas, and the deal that Larry had wasn't really that bad.  
            Once while Larry was talking Jack began thinking about the Pink Flamingo. He loved that place, and he loved Lucy, and he loved being a big man in Vegas again.
            As Jack pulled into the hotel Lucy reached over and touched him on the arm.
            "Let's go get 'em, Poppy."
            "Way ahead of you, little girl."
            As the valet pulled the car away Jack put his head back and pulled in a big breath of air. "Ahhoooooooo," he hollered one time. "Ahhooooooooo."