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Authors: Fern Michaels

Fast and Loose

BOOK: Fast and Loose
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Books by Fern Michaels
No Safe Secret
Wishes for Christmas
Fancy Dancer
About Face
Perfect Match
A Family Affair
Forget Me Not
The Blossom Sisters
Balancing Act
Tuesday's Child
Southern Comfort
To Taste the Wine
Sins of the Flesh
Sins of Omission
Return to Sender
Mr. and Miss
Up Close and Personal
Fool Me Once
Picture Perfect
The Future Scrolls
Kentucky Sunrise
Kentucky Heat
Kentucky Rich
Plain Jane
Charming Lily
What You Wish For
The Guest List
Listen to Your Heart
Finders Keepers
Annie's Rainbow
Sara's Song
Vegas Sunrise
Vegas Heat
Vegas Rich
Wish List
Dear Emily
Christmas at
The Sisterhood Novels
Point Blank
In Plain Sight
Eyes Only
Kiss and Tell
Home Free
Déjà Vu
Cross Roads
Game Over
Deadly Deals
Vanishing Act
Razor Sharp
Under the Radar
Final Justice
Collateral Damage
Fast Track
Hokus Pokus
Hide and Seek
Free Fall
Lethal Justice
Sweet Revenge
The Jury
Weekend Warriors
The Men of the Sisterhood Novels
Double Down
Fast and Loose
The Godmothers Series
Breaking News
Late Edition
The Scoop
eBook Exclusives
Desperate Measures
Seasons of Her Life
To Have and To Hold
Captive Innocence
Captive Embraces
Captive Passions
Captive Secrets
Captive Splendors
Cinders to Satin
For All Their Lives
Texas Heat
Texas Rich
Texas Fury
Texas Sunrise
When the Snow Falls
Secret Santa
A Winter Wonderland
I'll Be Home for
Making Spirits Bright
Holiday Magic
Snow Angels
Silver Bells
Comfort and Joy
Sugar and Spice
Let It Snow
A Gift of Joy
Five Golden Rings
Deck the Halls
Jingle All the Way
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
ZEBRA BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Copyright © 2016 by Fern Michaels
Fern Michaels is a registered trademark of KAP 5, Inc.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the Publisher and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Zebra and the Z logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
First Zebra Books Mass-Market Paperback Printing: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4201-4063-7
eISBN-13: 978-1-4201-4064-4
eISBN-10: 1-4201-4064-7
hilonias Needlemeyer was many things. First and foremost, he was rich. Some said if he spent a million dollars a day until the day he died, he would never run out of money. Philonias was thirty-nine years old. Others said he was richer than God, but could not offer up proof that it was so. There were so many rumors about Philonias, it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn't, all of which suited Philonias just fine.
Philonias was also a philanthropist. He gave to every worthy cause, and some that were not so worthy. He never stinted when it came to donating money. Philonias was a pillar of the community of Las Vegas, albeit a very reclusive pillar. What that meant was he was a stand-up guy and could always be counted on for whatever the community needed or wanted as long as he didn't have to put his person on display, speak, or give interviews—and he never allowed his picture to be taken. Ever.
And there was a reason for that. Philonias Needlemeyer was a giant among men. He was seven feet three inches tall and weighed 360 pounds. Some said he was a big ole cuddly teddy bear. He was not a big ole cuddly teddy bear. Others said he was a gentle giant. Whatever else he was, Philonias was
a gentle giant among men. What he was, simply put, was a large man with a strange name who happened to be incredibly, obscenely rich.
Philonias was a kind man. A gentle man. A generous man. At least that was how he thought of himself. And he never argued with himself. Why not? Because he knew that he would win in the end, and what was the fun in winning all the time?
He lived in a ten-thousand-square-foot penthouse apartment at Anna de Silva's Babylon Casino and Hotel. It was a penthouse he had inherited from his parents. Because he was such a big man and required such massive furnishings, he had purchased the adjoining ten-thousand-square-foot penthouse and had combined the two apartments into one massive unit that was the envy of every other resident at Babylon, as well as anyone else in Las Vegas who knew about it. He had a gourmet kitchen with every kitchen appliance, tool, gizmo, and gadget with a plug known to man, because he loved to putter in the kitchen. He thought of himself as an
gourmet chef. He also knew how to clean his living quarters, how to do laundry, and how to shop for nutritious food. Philonias Needlemeyer was a man of many talents. But only because he valued his privacy, and the only way that worked was to do everything himself.
His digs, as he referred to them, had six fireplaces, all wood-burning. He had installed a surround system that would make Hollywood cringe in shame if they knew he had it. He had wall-to-wall television sets. The carpeting was ankle thick, because he liked to walk barefoot. But most of all, he had a perfect view of the city he loved. Oftentimes, at night he would sit by the hour, with all the lights extinguished, and stare out at the city, with its magnificent illumination.
All of the above was the public version of Philonias Needlemeyer. What no one knew or even suspected was that there was another Philonias Needlemeyer. That Philonias Needlemeyer hung his second hat in his adjoining penthouse, where he spent half of each and every day playing Robin Hood. Philonias Needlemeyer, aka Robin Cool Hood, was a cyber thief, or, as he liked to say, hacker extraordinaire. Not for himself, since he clearly did not need the money. It was the challenge. Because he didn't approve of gambling, he loved to help himself to the Vegas casinos' money and use it to do good for others. And he loved doing it right under all the noses of the casinos' owners, including the Countess de Silva and her head of security, Bert Navarro.
Straight arrow Philonias Needlemeyer had many cyber acquaintances but no real flesh-and-blood friends. He liked it that way. The Robin Hood version of Philonias Needlemeyer had one real cyber friend, the kind of friend you would trust with your life and your money. And that person was Abner Tookus. Abner was his best and only real cyber friend because he had been the one to train the sixteen-year-old Abner when he was just a long-haired geek with magic in his fingers. They'd met at an underground convention of cyber geeks in New Jersey that he had wanted to explore but had never quite got up the nerve to because he was afraid he would be the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. The thing was, to his relief, not one of the geeks or their promoters gave him a second look. All they were interested in was his fingers and what he could do on a computer. And that all worked for him. He'd never attended another convention.
In some ways, the relationship was a bit one sided, what with Philonias knowing everything there was to know about Abner, while all Abner knew about Philonias was his cyber name of RCHood. And Philonias planned to keep it that way. Forever, if necessary. Philonias had spent many enjoyable hours watching Abner try, to no avail, to ferret out his real identity. Each and every time Abner was about to crack the code, he threw up a happy face. To Abner's chagrin.
Philonias Needlemeyer was also a brainiac. He had two doctorate degrees and MBAs from three different Ivy League schools—Harvard, Yale, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also had total recall on each and every event in his life from the age of five. His parents, even at that early age, had recognized that they had given birth to a genius who had no equal.
From that day on, the man and the teenage boy were fast friends, not flesh-and-blood friends, mind you, but cyber friends. Each saw something in the other that allowed them both to swear to secrecy as to their professions. It was a rule neither of them had ever broken, because it was sacrosanct. Like doctor-patient confidentiality or lawyer-client privilege. Neither knew nor cared where the other lived. They communicated only through computers and only by using their cyber names. No matter how much depended on one of them locating the other at a moment's notice, even if it was a life-or-death matter, doing so was impossible. Philonias was simply RCHood, which stood for Robin Cool Hood. Abner was TRIPLEM, which stood for Triple Mister Magic Money.
The man and the boy had met face-to-face only once, at the aforementioned cyber fair. And that was years and years ago, too many to even remember these days. The boy of sixteen with fire in his eyes, ragged jeans, and stringy hair was now a grown man who wore Armani suits and John Lobb shoes and worked at legitimate jobs. And some that were not so legitimate. Talking about one's achievements, along with bragging rights, was allowed as long as no names were mentioned. TRIPLEM was also wealthy these days, though not as wealthy as RCHood and not because he had inherited anything of value. No, his wealth had come from special jobs he did for private individuals. Philonias was very proud of his one and only star pupil. Just as Abner whooped and hollered when he saw a cyber message attributed to RCHood that said something had gone down that was not to RCHood's liking, to which he had replied,
Screw this up, and I will wipe out your entire bloodline
. That simple, succinct response put him at the top of the cyber pole. Or in layman's terms, “Never mess with RCHood.”
RCHood was a legend among the men and women of the cyber world.
The legend among men stared at the wraparound computer room, which rivaled NASA, with all its computers and monitors, as he tried to decide what he wanted to do. It was early in the day, not quite seven o'clock Vegas time, and he'd already had his hourly workout in his private gym and eaten a manly breakfast that he prepared himself—eggs, bacon, pancakes, and a whole melon, along with three cups of coffee. He'd showered, shaved, and read three newspapers online, and he was now ready to start his day. This was the time of day he loved best, because he knew he was clicking on all cylinders. Today, though, he was out of sorts, and he hated the feeling. He hadn't slept well. Normally, he slept a full ten hours of deep, peaceful sleep. Last night he'd tossed and turned all night long, and when he did finally drift off into a fitful sleep, he had awful dreams, which he could not remember on awakening.
Philonias flexed his fingers, gave his neck a workout, then rotated his massive shoulders in preparation for a long stint at the keyboard. Something wasn't right; he could feel it in every fiber of his body. Something here at Babylon. Something he had missed, which was unlikely because he knew more about the inner workings of the casino than the security firm and the owners knew. He had all their banking records on file, encrypted, of course, all the private e-mails between Bert Navarro and Dixson Kelly and, of course, the entire security force. He knew what was going on minute by minute. He even knew everything there was to know about the entertainers, the regular dancers, and the showgirls. Right down to every last penny of their bank balances. He knew who was in arrears, who was up to date, who was dodging bill collectors, and whose vehicles were about to be repossessed for lack of payment. He knew every high roller to enter the doors of Babylon, knew if they could afford to gamble or were just winging it on a hope and prayer.
Knowledge, Philonias Needlemeyer told himself daily, was the most powerful aphrodisiac in the world. He loved the power. He loved that he could choose to crush a reputation the person with the reputation deserved to have destroyed. He also loved to make one soar to unbelievable heights if the universe was moving too slow to suit him. He also loved that he was never wrong. And yet, somehow, someway, he knew the day would come when he would make a mistake. He tried not to think about it and worked extra diligently to make sure he covered his tracks.
His neck and shoulders at peace with each other, Philonias hit the keys and brought his world within view. He scrolled and tapped and pecked for ninety minutes, just long enough to let him know nothing had gone wrong during his sleepless night. He was about to exit Dixson Kelly's Babylon e-mail account when something caught his eye. He sat back and eyeballed a message that, on the surface, was innocent enough at first glance.
Call me. We need to talk
. That meant ASAP. Philonias scooted his chair to another computer, where he brought up a new screen that logged Kelly's in-house in and out calls. No calls to Macau, where Bert Navarro was living these days, while overseeing the building of Babylon II. He moved to yet another monitor to check Kelly's personal Verizon cell-phone account. Also no calls to Macau. He knew Dixson Kelly had nine burner phones that he used for his dating life. As always, he had at least three women on what he called his love chain. The reason for the burner phones was so that none of the women knew they were part of any daisy chain. He wanted to keep it that way, too. Phelonias checked those, too. No calls to Macau.
Philonias nibbled on his lower lip. When Bert Navarro spoke, Dixson Kelly hustled. A call had been made; that was for sure. Otherwise, there would have been a storm of incoming calls from Bert, but there had been none following his initial call. That had to mean Kelly had gone outside Babylon's doors to make the call. But why?
Philonias moved his chair to yet another in-house monitor to check the entrances and exits at the casino for the past eight hours to see if Kelly had left the premises. It took him a full ten minutes before he spotted the temporary head of security leaving the casino sans jacket and tie. His shirtsleeves were rolled up, and he was wearing a Boston Red Sox ball cap. Just another customer hooked on gambling. Philonias blinked. He'd never seen Dixson Kelly in anything but his Hugo Boss suits, of which he had twenty-two. To anyone else, it would have been a dead end. Not for Philonias Needlemeyer.
Philonias moved back to computer number three and pressed more keys, which would show him the traffic on the street. He was able to track Kelly all the way to the Wynn resort and casino, where he entered through the massive front doors with a gaggle of people, even though it was three o'clock in the morning. Vegas never slept. And it was true, there were no clocks in the casinos. Deliberately so.
Another program suddenly filled the screen, one that, had he known about it, would have sent Steve Wynn, the owner of the Wynn Las Vegas, screaming to the authorities.
Philonias continued to track Kelly across the main floor, never losing sight of him for even a second. He acted the part of a customer, stopping here and there to drop a coin in the slots or to stand and watch someone else waste their money. Ten minutes later, after winning thirty-seven dollars, he made his way to the men's room and entered a stall. Now he was off-limits to Philonias, who cursed ripely. Within fifteen minutes, Kelly was back on the main floor. He dropped another coin in one of the slot machines and was about to walk away when it pinged and clattered to life. He'd won another seventy-three dollars. He cashed in, settled his baseball cap more firmly on his head, and made his way to the nearest exit. From there he returned to Babylon, checked with his assistant that all was well, and retired to his apartment. Actually, Bert's apartment, which he was using until Bert's return.
“Crap!” The single word flew out of Philonias's mouth like a gunshot. He worked his neck muscles and settled down to what he knew was going to be an even longer day at the keyboard than he had originally thought. He'd had days like this before, and he welcomed the challenge. After all, he had all the time in the world to figure out what was going on.
And he would figure it out. He always did.
BOOK: Fast and Loose
4.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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