Authors: Elmore Leonard
Harry was squinting, as if to get his memory to work, saying, “Yeah, on the news .Â .Â .” and then turning to Chili. “That's where you got the idea.”
“Part of it, yeah.”
“And you made up the rest.”
“No, it's all true, Harry, everything I told you.” This got him squinting again. Chili could see his mind working. He expected to hear from Karen, but Harry was staying with it.
“The part about the shylock?”
“Wait a minute. You're not the guy, are you?”
Chili said, “You mean Leo?” shaking his head. It was getting good.
“You wouldn't be talking to me if you were.”
“I'm not the guy, Harry.”
Again he expected Karen to jump in and say something as Harry started thinking, looking up at the pots and pans before getting an idea.
“You know the wife?”
“Yeah, I know her. Fay.”
Harry seemed to like that. It got him hunched over the table. “You're related to her. Waitâ you're her brother.”
Chili shook his head, not giving him any help.
“But you're a close friend. She asked you to help her find her husband.”
“I talked to her, that's all.”
Chili waited. Harry was still thinking of it as a movie instead of real life. You could see him going over the story in his head, trying to come up with the answer. Staring at his glass now to see if it was in there.
Harry said, “Okay, the guy goes to Vegas .Â .Â .” Then stopped and looked at Chili. “How's the wife know for sure that's where he went?”
“Take my word for it.”
“Okay, he's in Vegas,” Harry said, “he can't trust anybody .Â .Â . So he uses an assumed name. Right?”
“How do you know?”
“Okay, he starts gambling, gets hot right away .Â .Â . Wait a minute, you made that part up. The guy
win. That's itâhe not only doesn't win, he blows the entire three hundred thou, gets into Mesas for a chunk of dough and they send you to find him.”
Now he was back to real life, putting in things he knew, but still making it sound like a movie. Chili felt like saying to him, See? Not a bad idea, huh? At least so far. But Harry was still talking.
“It's what you do, working for the casino. It's why you're here tonight.”
“You're close,” Chili said, “but you're coming at it wrong. I'm looking for the guy, yeah, but it wasn't the casino sent me. They asked would I look
up, that's all.”
“Which I resent,” Harry said, “and believe me Dick Allen's gonna hear about it.”
“Okay, but getting back,” Chili said, watching the way Harry was staring at him, still interested, “where you think I fit in the picture?”
Karen said, “Harry, for God's sake,” sounding bored.
They both looked over at her, Harry saying, “What's the matter?”
“He's the shylock,” Karen said.
She was staring at him again as Harry said, “Is that right, that's what you do for a living?”
“What I did up till recently,” Chili said, still looking at Karen. “After I get done here I'll think about what I'm gonna do next.”
Karen straightened, where she was leaning against the doorjamb. “With your experience,” she said to Chili, “you could always become an agent. Right, Harry?”
“Yeah, that's what we need,” Harry said, “more agents.”
Still looking at Chili she said, “Well, if I don't see you again .Â .Â .” gave him kind of a shrug and walked away, left them.
“She's upset,” Harry said.
“You think so?”
She didn't seem upset to Chili; he thought she had it together, handled it just right.
“You should've rung the bell,” Harry said, hunching over the table. “But getting back for a minuteâit was the guy's wife told you where he went, huh?”
“Yeah, Fay. She felt it was her money more'n it was his,” Chili said. “So she offers me half of whatever I bring back, if I find Leo and he has any of it left.”
“You didn't mention this before.”
“You said keep it simple.”
“But what it does,” Harry said, “it adds a whole new dimension to the story. So you went to Las Vegas but didn't find him. The guy stayed a jump ahead of you.”
“No, I found him,” Chili said, and paused.
Harry, waiting, seemed more interested now than he did before.
“You want to hear about what happened in Vegas?”
The next evening after the visit with Fay he was in Las Vegas, checked into the Golden Nugget and on the phone with Benny Wade, the man in charge of collections at Mesas. Chili knew him well enough to call his house, tell him he was in town looking for a Leo Devoe and didn't have much time, a couple of days .Â .Â .
“Never heard of him.”
Chili said to Benny somebody must know of a flashy kind of guy comes to town with three hundred grand. Benny said high rollers left their money at home and played on credit; this guy sounded like a runaway, the kind dreams of making a score and then flying down to Rio by the sea-o.
“Can you check for me? I'll do you one gratis.”
“That's what I like to hear. Where are you?”
“The Nugget, downtown.”
“What's the matter with Mesas? Give you casino rate.”
“The Strip,” Chili said, “you have to get a cab to go anywhere. Here, you walk out the door you're in Vegas.”
Right there out the window, the Pioneer, Binion's, Sassy Sally's, all the grind joints, hot slots, discount prime ribs, keno, bingo, race and sports book .Â .Â . cleaning and pressing While-U-Wait .Â .Â .
“Downtown, you get it out of your system, why you're here, in less'n twenty-four hours.”
“Not to mention it's cheaper,” Benny said. “You could stay in your room, watch TV, you want to save money. Or you could've stayed home.”
“I wouldn't be here,” Chili said, “if I didn't have to find this guy. He took a walk, so the new management tells me he pays or I do.”
Benny said, “Let me get on it. Leo Devoe?”
“Yeah, but listen, he could be using a different name,” Chili said, looking at While-U-Wait in red neon down on the street. “You don't score with Devoe, try Paris. It's the name of his drycleaning place.”
Chili wasn't going to get dressed up but changed his mind, put on a dark suit and tie, white shirtâso he wouldn't look like a touristâa giant neon cowgirl watching him through the window. The suit picked him up, made him feel like going out, find some broad to have dinner with him, nice bottle of wine .Â .Â . He was studying himself in the mirror, smoothing his short hair forward to lie flat, wondering why people didn't like to get dressed up anymore, when Benny Wade called back.
“You ought to put down some bets tonight, you're lucky. Did you know that?”
“I try to be.”
“There's a Larry Paris keeps changing hotels, moving up the Strip. Stayed a few nights at the Trop, left and went to the Sands, the Desert Inn, Stupak's
Vegas World. Currently he's appearing right up the street from you, at the Union Plaza.”
“So is âNudes on Ice,' “ Chili said, feeling himself getting more into a Vegas mood. “How's he doing?”
“Nobody knows. He didn't apply for a credit line anywhere he stayed.”
“Not with a phony name. It must be the guy.”
“I mentioned âLarry Paris' and the night manager at Stupak's knew right away who I meant. He said Mr. Paris rented a bodyguard to carry his cash. They do that, pay some local stiff ten bucks an hour, try and impress you.”
“That's Leo,” Chili said. “He must think he died and went to heaven.”
Benny Wade said he sounded like the kind you'd find shooting craps, where you can draw a crowd. Check the dice tables at the Plaza.
It made sense, but didn't take into account this was Chili's lucky night. He went downstairs, walked across that flowery Nugget carpeting and there was Leo playing roulette, a lady's game, Leo betting numbers while his bodyguard, a guy who looked like a young dressed-up weight lifter, held his briefcase.
Chili stood away from the table, behind Leo and a little to one side. Two women in their thirties, wearing party dresses but not too attractive, were across the table from Leo, who was trying to get something going. He'd shake his head at their betting one chip at a time, saying you had to take risks if you wanted to score big. Leo was playing what they called the action numbers, 10 through 15 and 33, the numbers scattered evenly around the wheel. His chips were a shade of green to
match his outfit, but there was no way to tell what the chips were worth or how much he was betting. The two women were playing with blue and pink chips. A lot of color at the table, Leo looking like the Easter bunny in a pale green sport coat with gold buttons, an open pink shirt with one of those high Hollywood collars, Leo's face hunched in there behind sunglasses, hair slicked back. Chili watched the wheel spin and stop. The house won. As the two women walked away Leo told them the dinner offer was still on. They said thanks anyway and turned to each other rolling their eyes. Leo watched them go, the poor little dry-cleaner trying to be a high roller. The bodyguard, a young guy with shoulders that filled his suit, was opening the briefcase now. He brought out a stack of 100's in a paper strap and handed it to Leo, the dealer waiting. Leo tore the strap, wet his thumb and counted out twenty bills he passed to the dealer, who gave Leo his stack of twenty green chips. So he was betting a hundred a spin on each of the seven action numbers, looking for a hit that would pay him 35 to 1. Chili watched. Leo hit and put three chips on each number, his idea of a system. He hit again, collecting over ten grand, tried three chips again on the seven numbers and lost. Now he went back to betting a hundred on each and was covering the numbers when Chili walked up behind him, said, “Look at me, Leo,” and Leo spilled his chips. The dealer looked over.
Leo, getting himself ready, didn't turn right away. When he came around he was adjusting his sunglasses over a casual expression that showed just enough surpriseâa guy who scams three hundred thousand ready to put on whatever kind of act was neededâthough all he managed to say was “Well, well .Â .Â .” The bodyguard, with his build and his hair
shorter than Chili's, stepped in to put his hand on Leo's shoulder.
Chili said, “What's this guy do, Leo, stop traffic you want to cross the street?”
“Well, this is a surprise,” Leo said, “believe me. What're you doing here?”
“I'm collecting,” Chili said. “Twenty grand even.”
Leo pushed his sunglasses up on his nose. He seemed to be squinting, puzzled. “I owe you twenty? How you figure that?”
“Expenses,” Chili said, “and a late charge I'm adding on.”
The young weight lifter had his eyes narrowed, giving Chili his ten-bucks-an-hour bodyguard look.
“Mr. Paris, is this guy bothering you?”
Leo waved him off. “It's okay, Jerry.” Still looking at Chili. “I was gonna call you, it slipped my mind. Listen, when I'm through here we'll have a drink, I'll write you a check.” Turning to the table he said, “It's good seeing you, Chil,” and began picking up his chips.
“You'll write me a check,” Chili said. “You serious? Leo, look at me, I'm talking to you.”
“I'm busy at the moment,” Leo said, studying the table layout. “Okay? You mind?”
He was serious.
It didn't make sense till Chili began to think about it, staring at Leo's shoulders rounded inside that sporty green jacket, his sprayed hair hanging over the Hollywood collar, and said, “Lemme ask you something, Leo.”
“You heard Mr. Paris,” the ten-dollar bodyguard said. “He don't want to talk to you.”
“Okay, you ask him,” Chili said, watching Leo reach over the table to cover his action numbers. “Does he think I just happened to run into him .Â .Â .” He saw Leo begin to straighten, bringing his arm in. “Or I knew where to look?”
Leo turned from the table. The old Leo once again, Leo the loser. He took the case from the bodyguard.
“How much you want?”
“What you owe me. I'm not into extortion, Leo. I will give you one piece of advice you can take any way you want. Call Fay. And I mean tonight, soon.” He felt the bodyguard start to move in and said to him, “Keep out of this. There's no problem.” Now the bodyguard didn't know what to do. Leo was bringing a stack of currency from the briefcase. “We're old friends,” Chili said to the bodyguard. “I knew him when.”
Leo handed him the currency saying, “Fay told you, huh?”
“What'd you expect?” Chili said, looking hard at Leo, wondering what was going on in the little drycleaner's head. “What're you doing, Leo? You nuts or something? Can you tell me?”
Leo raised his face, sunglasses shining in the light. “What am I
ing? You kidding? I'm doing what I never dreamed in my whole life I'd ever have a chance to. That's what I'm doing.”
The dealer, watching them with his arms folded, said, “We have a problem here, gentlemen? I can get the floorman.”
Benny Wade told him on the phone to go in the door next to the cage, the cashier's window, take a left at the hard count room, go down past the coffeemaker
and the Xerox machine and you're there. Benny came out from behind his computer terminalâgray-haired, easygoing, not at all what Chili thought an ex-FBI agent should look like. He didn't act like a guy who'd once been a hard-on in wing tips, either.
“So you found him.”
“I found him,” Chili said, “then lost him again.”
“You told me on the phone you collected.”
“I did. I wanted to see him about something else. He was suppose to call his wife last nightâit's a long story. I talked to her and found out he never called, so I wanted to see him again. This morning I go over the Plaza, he's gone, checked out.”
“Maybe he's back on the Strip.”
“No, he left, went to L.A.”
“Let me see what we have there,” Benny said, sat down at the computer and began tapping keys. “Yeah, one of Dick Allen's customers, guy owes us a hundred and fifty K, over sixty days. You want to talk to Dick? I mean if you're going to L.A.”
“Yeah, why not.”
Benny sat there staring at him. “You found this guy Leo and collected. But you don't seem too happy about it. What's the matter?”
“I don't know if I told you, I had my ass in a crack when I came here.”
“You mentioned it in passing.”
“It's still there,” Chili said. “You remember your saying to me last night I was lucky, should lay down some bets?”
“Don't tell me the rest,” Benny said, “I don't want to feel responsible.”
“I'm not blaming you, I'm the one did it.”
“Okay then, how much you lose?”
“What I collected, less some change.”