Mister Vegas

w.t. pfefferle


            In Vegas there are three rules. Don't wear a watch. Don't wear silk shirts. And don't look straight at the pit boss. Besides that you've got just about free reign. The drinks that come are free, but they're watered down. Everywhere in life is there this balance. The casinos are inter­changeable. It doesn't matter if you're in Bally's or the Dunes or the Sands or Caesar's. They are identical, right down to the carpeting, the hostesses and the dealers. Everyone here is named Darla or Eddie or Joe. Pit bosses carry walkie talkies. Dealers have huge white shirts and name tags. Waitresses wear short skirts, carry keno cards in a pocket, and bring you the watered down drinks. The sameness is comforting. It really is.
            Larry knew about all of this. He had read the paperback novels that told of the great gamblers. He knew the legend of Nick and Jimmy, the Greeks. He knew about Monte 'The Hat' Walsh, and he knew about the "hold 'em" poker games that a guy could get into if he knew someone or if he found someone who knew some­one.  All of this oc­curred to him as he stood right there in the lobby of the monster-sized Circus Circus Casino and Hotel. Below him, on the mezzanine level, he saw the gamblers, savagely losing their money at the roulette tables. Above him, on the upper level, separated from the lobby by huge glittering skywalks, were the kids playing video games, getting their handwriting analyzed by computers. And above it all, in the open central gallery, were 14 year old girls from Yugoslavia walking a tightrope stretched two hundred feet above the casino floor.
            "Just watch them," a voice said over the loudspeakers. "Every one of the little dears with­out a trace of fear."
            Larry waved high up at the girls on the wire. They did the bicycle routine, and then Larry went to his room.
§
            Larry had worked in Phoenix for ten years, right after falling out of college. He spent two years at the University of Arizona in Tucson taking busi­ness courses. And then he sold his roommate's car on a drunken binge and quit school. He had done fifty different jobs in Phoenix, each one either moving a little bit further away from legitimacy. Alto­gether, they mostly didn't add up to one year of good money or good work. The worst had been the phone gigs. He started at an answering service, but finally got into sales. He sold non-existent shares in diamond mines. In fact, when the big police sting hit, he was just leaving the parking lot.
            He sat in his car across the street from the place, waited till the cops had taken everyone away in a paddy wagon, and then he went to the back door, busted in and took two photocopiers and twenty seven phones. Got a fin for each phone from Big Star Pawn, and got $200 for the copiers. "It's a sweet life," Larry had said to the pawnie.
            But Phoenix had been okay otherwise. The construction gig was good for about two years. He did estimates and bids for a paving company. Promised the families in the suburbs a brand new driveway. Took half the money up front. Drove by on check signing day with a phony truck.
            "Looks like rain clouds. We'll come back in the morning.”
            Took the truck back to the place he rented it for 18 bucks and went and cashed the $200 check. It was nice. It was comfort­ing.
            But the decision to move to Vegas was something that he had thought about for a long time. Why it had been on his mind was never exactly clear, but the town and the dream, and even the name itself seemed far away, and beautiful. It was as if there was a signal emanating from the dunes of hopeless sand. Or maybe it was a signal coming from one of those great hopeless casinos on the Strip.
            Larry got into his tub in the room at the Circus Circus. He arranged the furniture in the room so he had a straight view right out to the window. He could see the blue sky while he sat there in the tub. He sang a little song. He smoked a Lucky Strike and laughed like you do when things are just starting to get away from you. He liked saying the name 'Vegas.' 
            "I'm thinking of a number between one and ten," Larry said to himself in the tub. He picked up the phone in the bathroom and ordered room service. It was his thirtieth birthday.
§
            Larry's mother put Larry through the two years of college, and when he took off he didn't even think of calling her. He went on a six week bender around the Southwest and when he got home his mother had already died. He sold her house, sold her stuff in a garage sale and that was that. His aunt had told him all the news, about the heart attack, and about the funeral, and she had looked at Larry with such hate. "Like your father," were the last words she said before she left.
            His father had died when Larry was very young, and at times it seemed like he had never existed. His mother had been all the family he had ever known. But now that she was gone it didn't make any sense to dwell on it.
            Larry found a girlfriend right after, a girl named Kimmy that he met at the grocery store near where he lived. He walked her home one night with her bags of cat food and potatoes, and then they started seeing movies to­gether, and eating at any barbecue joint they could find. He had slept with her one night and had found that she didn't have any cats, but that she fed the cats from the neighborhood.
            "You've got cat eyes," she had said to him in bed one night, and Larry took it as a good sign.
            One night he just started telling her about his mother and about his dream of Las Vegas, and about the cons he had been running. Kimmy listened and thought about it all. She was a bright girl, but not too bright. She wanted to go to Vegas with Larry, and she begged him. They sat in her tiny kitchen and fed two orange and white toms.
            "We'd be gone for good," Larry said. "Maybe."
            "I don't care," Kimmy said. "What am I going to do?  Feed cats and hope you marry me?"
            Larry had never heard her talk like this, and he decided he had probably said far too much about Vegas.
            "Marry me," she said. "Take me to Ve­gas. I want to leave this place and these cats."
            "You want to think a little bit before you jump into it," he said.
            "I'm going, with or without you," Kimmy said suddenly, standing up. "What's Delta's number?  I'll call myself."
            "You've got to know more about it," Larry said. And then he told her. He told her all about the scams. He told her that he wanted--more than anything else in life--to have a gang. He didn't know much about things, but he knew that somewhere there was something waiting for him. He could do it all in Nevada.
            "Kimmy," Larry said. "It could be dan­gerous. I don't know anything about it. But I know it's going to be dangerous."     
            "We'll go," Kimmy said. "These cats mean nothing anymore. I'll leave the food out there on the stoop. I'll stop the paper. We've only got one chance."
            Larry looked at her and realized he didn't know her at all. She was just this young girl who had a spark. He realized he knew nothing about her life or her dreams. He didn't even know what her job was until a week ago. She swept up in a beauty parlor. He loved her though. He loved her because he didn't have anyone or anything else.
            "We can go on one condition," Larry had said. "Marry me first."
            Kimmy reached her arms around him and pulled him close. "I'll marry you. I'll marry you today and Sunday and Wednesday, and on the highway, and in a field, and right here on the floor."
            "That's enough," Larry said.
            He thought about it for a minute and then pulled away from her. He got a piece of pa­per from a drawer and a pen. He wrote in all cap­ital letters.
On this day, Larry and Kimmy are hus­band and wife. Signed by:__________________________ and ________________________, on this date, the _______ day of ____________, 1991.  
            Larry had signed it and Kimmy signed it and Kimmy found an envelope and a stamp. She asked Larry for a hotel name in Las Vegas and the only one he could think of was Cir­cus Circus. Kimmy addressed it to "Kimmy and Larry Lovers, c/o Circus Circus Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada. They packed up her suitcases first, and then they went to his place.
            While Kimmy slept on the couch, Larry took some money out of a hiding place and put $2000 in an envelope. He left it with a note for Kimmy, telling her to meet him in Vegas if she really wanted to go through with it all. He took his stuff, took one last look around and went and got in his car.
            He left in the early spring Arizona morn­ing. He listened to old rock music on the radio. Kimmy woke up two hours later, found the letter and the money and called her mother in Kansas City.
            "Mommy, I met the man of my dreams."
            As Kimmy explained it all to her par­ents, Larry's car crossed the border.
§
            The gang idea was rough, and Larry wasn't exactly sure how one would go about it. It wasn't much, but there was a plan. It was sketched out there on the legal pads in front of him. A con. A sting. Some kind of gig that would get them all talking about Larry like they talked about the big wheels from the past. He'd be a legend there in the great casinos like Jimmy the Greek. It was nothing yet, but it was coming together.
            The room service at the Circus Circus was 24 hour, and Larry sat in a chair, wrapped in a huge white robe and looked out at Vegas. He would have to start hiring people. It wasn't as if a plan of this size could be pulled off alone. It would take the whole gang, and Larry would have to get it together. But first he just needed a couple of days to think. He would bring it together on the legal pads that he kept in front of him.
            The knock on the door came and Larry went to it.
            "Mr. Jones," the waiter said. "We've got your steak."
            "Over there," Larry said. "Right over there.”
            The room service guy was Cuban. Larry moved the legal pads off the small round table. When the waiter left Larry breathed in the heavy cologne that hung over the food. "I'm the man," he said. "The man."
§
            After Larry ate he got dressed and went downstairs to the casino. He sat on the bar stool and watched out the window while a valet twirled a ring of car keys around a silver baton. The keno girl was within shouting distance and Larry held his card up in the air for her to see it. Six, eleven, sixty-one, and seventy. He had played the same four numbers now for an hour, five dollars each time.  
            "Five dollars," the keno girl said to him, taking the card and five dollar bill Larry had clipped to the card with a paper clip.
            Larry hit the six and the eleven and the seventy and won two hundred and fifty dollars. The keno girl gave it to him in fifties. Larry handed her a ten dollar bill and smiled up at her. She was wearing a wig of some kind on top of her own hair, and Larry saw that the colors matched perfectly. She had on a white toga-like dress that was cinched at the waist with a gold belt, covered with bangles.
            "Thank you," she said, twisting the ten around her finger and then inserting it into a small, hidden pocket in the hem of her dress. "Another?"
            Larry handed her another card, this time with a fifty attached. "Fill in your phone number," Larry said, and laughed. Then he took it back, marked six, eleven, sixty-one, and seventy, and gave the card to her.
            "You want a drink?" the bartender said to Larry.
            "Ice water only," Larry said.
            "Two bucks anyway," the bartender said, already filling a glass with ice.
            Larry put down a fifty on the slick sur­face between them. "Keep bringing it," he said.
            "Hey," the bartender said. "Didn't I see you on 'Lifestyles of the Dumb and Famous'?"
            Larry laughed hard, but the bartender turned away, laughing at something else. Vegas was the only city in the world where this could all come together, Larry decided. He would never have to go back to the small time con. Never pick up another telephone, or mark a small fish.
            The giant keno board began to light up. Twelve, forty-five, sixteen, seventy-four. Larry held his hand up to the keno girl he had given the tip to. "Winner," he said. "I got another winner.”
           §
            Larry played blackjack after a while, and when he was about $400 up a sweet middle aged lady sat next to him, silver dress, too much make up.
            "Got some chips there, slick?" she said.
            "I've got chips up to the moon," Larry said. "I've got chips filling up my car and my suitcases."
            "Hmm, well that's pretty promising. You want to share a little?"
            "Share?  Hell, I'm going to give it all away."
            Just then a croupier from another table came over. He said something short to the dealer and then he signalled to the woman.
            "Sorry, slick, I've got to go.” The woman got up and straightened her dress.
            "Hey, what's up?" Larry said, turning away from a nine and a four.
            "Sorry, we're looking for another guy.” The woman hoisted a thumb over her shoulder to the croupier.
            The guy leaned in. "Mind your own business," the guy said. "We're looking for some big fish."
            Larry toasted them both with his glass, drained the watery drink and told the dealer to hit the thirteen.
            "Jack to Mister Vegas," the dealer said. "Busted."
            Larry scooped the chips he had left into the glass, nodded to the dealer, flipped him two $5 chips and headed away from the table toward the elevators. He reached out and pushed the button for seventeen. He shook the chips in the glass and waited for the doors to open. When he got into the hallway and started walking down to the room, the sleeping figure of Kimmy on the smooth orange and red carpet outside his door seemed as natural as anything else was in this world.
§
            "The taxi ride was twelve dollars," Kimmy said once Larry had woken her up and gotten her inside. "The guy drove like Mr. T in that cab movie."
            "You got here fast," Larry said.
            "Well, that's what it's about, Mr. Lovers. Hey, did our wedding letter come yet?"
            "I don't know. I didn't look."
            Larry started picking up things in the room, the legal pads, an old room service tray.
            "What's on those pads?" Kimmy said.
            "Nothing."
            "Is that the plan?" she squealed. Kimmy did a little spin right there in the room. Larry felt as if the room was way too hot.
            "No plan, not yet, anyway. I'm still waiting for some people."
            "Let me see, anyway, lover. I want to know where I fit in. Hey, did I tell you. I saw the Godfather on cable. Are we going to make a 'hit?'"
            Larry looked at her like she was a gold­fish flipping around on cement.
            Kimmy walked to the window and watched as the lights of Las Vegas began coming on in clusters. Larry stared at her back, and suddenly didn't know what to do next.
            "The plan's in motion," he finally said. "You've got to do me a big favor."
            "Anything, baby.” She came up to Larry and hugged him, her arms encircling his back, one of her legs coming up and stroking the back of his legs.
            "You've got to go to L.A. for me. I'll call you when you get there and tell you what I need."
            "L.A.?  What for?” She released him.
            "No, really. I need some equipment, you understand. I can't tell you just yet because it's not all set. But as soon as you get there you can call me and I'll tell you everything."
            "You're kidding me. I'm not going anywhere."
            Larry hooked her with his arm and pulled her close again. "You've got to, baby. This is the whole key. We can't make a move without you."
            He stroked her hair and felt her loosen some.
            "Can I see what's on the pads?" she said.
            "Right-O," Larry said. "I'll show you, but you've got to leave tonight. You re­ally do."
            "Okay, well can I get something to eat?"
            "No, I'll get you some stuff to go downstairs. I'll get you a car."
            "Car?" Kimmy said. "I'm driving to L.A.?  I've never even been there."
            "You've got to," Larry said. "You've got to keep out of sight. It's all coming together. Je­sus, Kimmy, you're a key player now. The Nevada police will be looking for you at the air­port by now."
            "Really!  You mean it?  Why, what've we done?"
            Larry knew he had her now. "Nothing yet, baby. But as soon as you came in this casino you were on the 10 most wanted list. You and me both."
            Kimmy hung on to Larry like he was life itself. Her warm body felt good to Larry, and Larry pulled her down on top of him on the bed.
            After they made love, Larry went down to the lobby and rented her a 2 door Ford Thunderbird, the only red car they had on the lot, and therefore the only one Kimmy wanted.
            As Kimmy filled out the forms Larry told her the scheme. She was to drive directly to L.A., go to the Bel Air Hotel and await instruc­tions. He said he'd fax her information within 48 hours.
            "Check," Kimmy said, smiling. "Larry, baby, I'm going to do good. I've got a fever in me that is bound to heat up the asphalt between here and California. You give me the message, baby, and I'll do it right. I'll do anything for you, lover."
            When she pulled out of the lot down­stairs Larry watched her and the taillights disap­pear. He didn't know what had come over him. Or why he had sent her away. But for some rea­son seeing her there, inside the room, her voice, her squeaky voice. All of it made him want to dive out the window to the concrete below.
            What would happen to her, he didn't know. Where she'd end up, he didn't know. But Kimmy would be back, he knew that.
§
            Kimmy was a believer. There was nothing else that so clearly identified her in this world. Since she was a child she was the one who would believe you, no matter what the tale, no matter what the stakes. Her brothers could tie her up in the backyard and leave her for hours.
            "We'll untie you in two more minutes, Kimmy," they'd say, and they'd say it again and again.
            Later when her parents separated, they told her that it was all for the best, but of course it wasn't. They got back together eventually, but it was never the same. By the time she was seven­teen she was pregnant by her first and only boyfriend before Larry. She believed him when he said it didn't matter the first time. She had the abortion in a private hospital just outside Kansas City where her family lived. The boy never knew about it, and Kimmy's father didn't either.
            Larry was the first man she really loved. Or at least that was how it seemed. She had moved to Phoenix on her eighteenth birthday, when it became apparent that she wasn't going to finish high school. Kimmy's aunt had a beauty parlor in Scottsdale and Kimmy went to work there, wearing the yellow, sunshiny smock with the place's name on it, sweeping up hair, washing hair sometimes, sometimes taking appointments on the phone. Mostly, though, Kimmy just sat there and watched her aunt and the other girls style the hair. She loved it there, and she loved her job.
            But most of all she loved the cats who lived around her. She didn't have any of her own, the lease on her apartment forbade it. But she kept cat dishes and flea collars and plenty of food around for the neighborhood strays that would collect at her back door about the time the sun went charging down into the Arizona desert at night. When the temperatures got cold in January and February she let the cats in the apartment and fixed them up with small balled up towels for each of them to lay in. She gave them all names, but the names changed from time to time depending on how she was feeling about them.
            When Larry had come into her life she had nothing besides the cats and the beauty parlor. They began dating, going to movies and eating out. She didn't let him come to her apartment un­til after they had been going out for a month. That night she had slept with him, her second time ever. She knew what could happen this time, but she still believed.
            Larry talked to her like she mattered. He told her wild stories and big dreams. He had told her about his gang in the desert, and about the life they would lead together. She had dreams about Bonnie and Clyde and about mobsters and mafiosos, but she didn't let on much. When the time came to leave, she didn't think twice about it. She would crawl across the desert for Larry.
            So when Larry put her in the bright red Thunderbird for L.A., she didn't question it. It was part of the plan, she believed it. He loved her, he had said it a number of times. As she pulled out of the Circus Circus parking lot she had looked back one more time to wave goodbye, but Larry was already inside the casino.
            "He's working on the plan," she thought to herself, and pointed that giant red car west into the setting sun.
§
            About a hundred miles out of Las Vegas she began getting hungry and she looked for a place to stop and eat. On the right hand side of the highway she saw a white and green clapboard roadside stand, and she pulled into the gravel parking lot beside a white Nevada state trooper car and a VW bug with California plates.
            The sun had been setting in front of her the entire trip, and she had kept the visor in the Thunderbird down. Now that she had escaped the glare she was amazed at how clear everything looked and how pretty. She sat at a picnic table by the stand and looked at the hand­written blackboard menu.
            "Sandwiches," a man's voice said from inside. "Barbecue beef, barbecue ham, smoked chicken. Cole slaw. Sodas. Apple pie."
            "I'll have chicken," Kimmy said to the unseen voice. "And ice water."
            At the next picnic table the trooper sat drinking a soda with a straw. "Where are you headed?" he said.
            "Los Angeles," Kimmy said, and then thought about what Larry had told her about being wanted. "Visiting friends."
            "Oh yeah," the trooper said. "That's nice. It's a nice time of year to be out there. Too damn hot here.” He sucked on the straw and took off his sunglasses.
            "Well, I hope so," Kimmy said.
            "You're not speeding in that T-bird, are you now?"
            "No, sir," Kimmy said. "Sixty-five all the way."
            "Ahh, I'm just kidding. I clocked you about twenty miles back. I was out along the feeder road there at the last highway turnoff. You were doing 67, but that's not bad."
            Kimmy looked at him and smiled back. She thought about Larry and what Larry would say to him. Larry would probably be able to steal his wallet and gun or something.
            "Here it comes.” A man in a white apron came out of the stand with a paper plate of food. He had two teeth missing in the front of his mouth and she could see the name 'Earl' tattooed on the knuckles of one hand. "Chicken, threw in the cole slaw because it gets bad overnight anyway."
            "Earl, your cole slaw is bad to start off with," the trooper said.
            "Shut up Mike, you're making me look bad in front of my only paying customer."
            The trooper got up and patted his gun one time. "Earl, I could fine you for that uncov­ered electrical outlet there. What do you think of that?"       
            "Well that sandwich there," Earl said, pointing at the trooper's now empty paper plate, "and the five hundred or so before it, comes to, let me see, fifteen hundred bucks. You got it?"
            "Okay, Earl, I got you," the trooper laughed. He put his glasses back on and then a large wide-brimmed hat and walked past Earl and Kimmy. He got out to his car and eased into it. He honked the horn once.        
            "Miss, best be careful when you start out. It gets dark real fast now out here. You'll want to get some gas before too long, too. A pretty dry stretch coming up."
            "Thanks," Kimmy said, and half-waved at him.
            As the trooper's car pulled out Earl put one foot up on the opposite side of Kimmy's table. "You know, he's one of the nicest guys I've met out here. Gave me a Christmas card last year. Can you believe that?” Earl dropped a ticket on the table next to Kimmy's plate. "Three bucks even," he said. "If I'm not back from the men's room just put it under the rock on the front counter. Have a nice drive."
            Kimmy watched him disappear into one of two free-standing restrooms about twenty yards behind the stand. She finished her sandwich, drank the last of the water and took out a hundred dollar bill from the envelope Larry had left her in Phoenix. She found the rock and stuck the bill there. She felt good about it. She felt good about the trooper, and she felt like she was doing a good thing, all things considered.
            She got into the Thunderbird and saw Larry's note about the Bel Air Hotel. She looked at it long and hard and it seemed to be written in an­other language. The letters blurred together somehow, and the whole world seemed to spin a little off kilter. What was she doing?  She couldn't even think of one reason why she should keep driving. What was going on?  Who was going to look after her cats now that she had left?  What about her aunt?  What was she doing with Larry at all?  What plan?  The sky in front of her got darker the longer she sat there, and she didn't pull out of the lot until she saw Earl pull the bill out from un­der the rock.
            "Hey, honey," the voice came through her open car window. "What the hell is this?  What the hell are you doing?"
            As the Thunderbird went up the ramp back onto the highway Kimmy saw Earl running after her, one leg swinging wide, the hundred dollar bill waving in the crisp, Nevada, quickly darkening air.
            She was headed west still, towards L.A. But she no longer knew why.
§
            "Where are you from?"
            "Newark, originally, but now I live out at Lake Mead."
            "How old are you?"
            "Thirty-one, but I can play younger."
            "Why did you answer the ad?"
            "I need a job."
            "Do you need a job bad enough to commit, how should I say, questionable acts?"
            "Why else would I be here?"
            Larry marked a few things down on one of his legal pads and then looked up at the man sitting across from him. His name was Ed, and he was the tenth guy Larry had interviewed this afternoon.
            "What kind of record do you have?"
            "Misdemeanors only."
            "Leave your phone number on that pad there beside you and I'll get back to you tomorrow."
            "Listen, I can really do the job."
            "Okay, Ed, I'll keep you in mind."
            As Larry watched him leave he thought about ordering some room service. But as he reached for the phone it rang.
            "Hello," Larry said.
            "I know what you're doing," a voice said.
            "What?  What are you talking about?" Larry said just before he heard the click and then the dial tone.
            It was four-thirty in the afternoon and the afternoon sun still beat down ferociously on Vegas. In Larry's room it was cool, about 65 degrees, just like he liked it. The phone receiver in his hand felt like a hot iron, but for some reason he couldn't set it down. He heard the tone, but above it he could hear what the voice had said. He thought about the voice and tried to decide if he had ever heard it before. A knock came at the door and Larry put the phone down. The person knocked again but Larry just sat there quietly.
            Once, after the person at the door had gone away, Larry picked up his list of interviews and stared at it for a while. Some good people, Larry thought. Maybe one of them had called. Maybe someone had a bad interview and didn't like Larry's manner.
            Larry packed up his two suitcases. He looked around the room to make sure he had gotten everything, the pads, his clothes, any loose slips of paper.
            On the ride down the elevator he looked everyone in the face who got on with him. He waited for someone to flinch, or blink, but no one did. When he got out front, he got in a taxi and told the driver to head west. As they pulled out of the driveway, the lights on the Circus Circus sign lit up, all pink and white and neon. The Big Top.
§
            Kimmy crossed into the Los Angeles city limits at 3:45 a.m. She drove around for a while, desperately tired, and pulled in when she saw a Holiday Inn.
            The desk clerk's name was Carl and he flirted with Kimmy while she checked in. The trip to L.A. had been easy, even when she was tired, the car moving through the miles was soft and quiet, and she was inside the whole time, able to control the temperature and change the radio dial, remaining always completely oblivious to anyone and anything outside the car. It was being alone that probably brought Kimmy the most pleasure of all. It was if she had spent her whole life trying to please someone, or respond to someone. Alone there, in that rented car, she decided, was the place she was happiest.
            It was the same for the hotel room. There the choices of TV channels were endless, and the air conditioner/heating unit was hers to control. Two beds, four pillows. She could use all the pillows that were there, and the soaps and the towels in the bathroom. Three large bath towels, three hand towels, and two face cloths, all folded, all clean, all white. They were hers, and she could use them or drape them on furniture, or just leave them where they were. There was a shower cap, two small containers with shampoo and conditioner. It was hers. Larry's money had bought it, but then she was Larry's wife now.
            And it was right then, at that thought, that the hotel stopped being so much fun and so much hers. What had happened?  Were they married?  Why was he in Las Vegas, and why was she here?  Why was she going to the Bel Air Hotel, and what would be waiting there for her?  Each mile that she had driven she had felt less involved in Larry's plan. When she was there at Circus Circus, in Larry's room and holding those legal pads in her hands, and when Larry had kissed her, and when he had made love to her, with those legal pads within reach, when all of that had happened she had been the happiest girl in the entire world.
            But on the highway in the rental car so many things had happened. Talking to Earl and the state trooper at the roadside stand, the nice dog she watched at a gas station at the California border. The beautiful lights on a Riverside courthouse. All of those things had removed her from whatever it was Larry represented. How could something like this happen, she had asked herself?  How could she let it go, with just the passing of miles, all of it inside a red rental car?
            Before she could think much more about it, Kimmy drifted off to sleep in her Holiday Inn room, with three pillows, one for her head, one for her to hug, and one close by to be next to.
§
            When sunlight began to sneak in past the tightly drawn drapes, Kimmy slowly began to come to and look around the room for a while. She had not realized how plain the room was that she was in. She hadn't put on many lights when she had checked in just a few hours ago, and now the whole place made her feel a little sick. The sounds of outside were just beginning to come in, but most of what she could hear was simply the rustling of the covers as her legs slowly moved from side to side, stretching, waking up.
            When she finally got into the shower the water felt good, but the sickness that she had begun to feel continued. Her mind now had moved from Larry and Vegas to the state trooper and to Earl. She tried to figure out how long it would take her to drive back there, and she thought about what it would mean to her. Who knew where the Bel Air Hotel was, or who cared?
            She washed her hair with the Holiday Inn shampoo, and used as many of the big white towels as she could. By the time she had gotten dressed and combed through her hair it was 10:30. She thought about doing a lot of things, but finally she just checked out and got back into the rental car. A nice man selling newspapers from an intersection gave her directions to Beverly Hills and she slowly made her way toward the Bel Air Hotel. There she would get a message from Larry, and then that would be it. She would find out if he still loved her. That would be the message, surely. It wouldn't be about the plan, or his gang, or anything else. He would just send her a message that he loved her and that he wanted and desperately needed her back in Las Vegas. He would want to marry her legally there at a beautiful white and pink chapel, and then they'd go back home. They would buy a house and a number of cats and she could go back to her hairdressing job. It was the only logical response to any of this. It was the only thing that Kimmy prayed for now.
            As the red Thunderbird kept pointing her along her way, she began to feel the sickness go out of her body, and suddenly everything seemed a lot better. When she turned the car keys over to the valet at the Bel Air she was back to health. She went straight to the front desk.
            "Message for Kimmy Lovers?" she said. "My husband is sending me a special message from Las Vegas, and I'm here to get it."
            The desk man smiled at Kimmy warmly. He didn't seem to speak any English, but he was a cute young thing.
§
            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. He thought about Kimmy who by this time could be anywhere. He tried to remember where he had sent her, where he had told her to go, but now he knew of course that he simply had sent her away with no thought of ever seeing her again. San Francisco, San Diego, Miramar, Los Angeles, San Jose. Certainly it was one of those places with exotic names and dreamy skylines. Larry didn't know anything about any of them. Kimmy could be lost in the desert for all he cared.
            What good would she be to him in a deal like this. Vegas was the type of place that a man could make it only if he was on his own. He thought about having more interviews, meeting some more guys to hire for the scam. He would need a number of people to carry it off, only a large group could make the kind of noise Larry really wanted. Maybe he'd put another ad in the local paper, maybe he'd call back some of those guys he already met. Kimmy might come back to Vegas but by then Larry would have been in twenty different hotels, and would have used twenty different names.
            For now, though, he was at Caesar's Palace. Phoenix was a lifetime away. This hotel was miles ahead of the Circus Circus. He could see the entire expanse of the Strip from here, and out front, cast in bright white ceramic and glittering gold, were Marc Antony, and Brutus, and Caesar himself. They stood out there in frozen majesty beckoning the gamblers and the tourists and the visitors in. Larry had paid cash for two weeks here, had gotten a good sized suite. The money he had saved in Phoenix all this time was running out, but that just made the whole thing better. The deal would have to come together now. He would have to find a way to make it work. He would be the King of Las Vegas, and it all started right here.
            He looked at the pad in front of him, his pen poised above the busy page ready to write down any new idea or any new plan that struck him. He began making notes on the outside of the page, in the margin. He drew a map of the city, as best as he knew it. He wrote the names of several big casinos where he could get money from. He worked a little on a card counting scheme he had read about in a paperback novel. He wrote down some names he could try out, so that when he was famous, everyone would remember.

            But as he wrote, and as he filled up the yellow surface of the pad, his eye was constantly drawn back to the middle of the page, to the name 'LARRY,' written in large black block letters, right in the middle of the page, big, and beautiful, just like the hub of a wheel.