Authors: Robbins Harold
"Sounds good," said Jonas noncommittally.
"Let me tell you something else," said Chandler. "If
the builder from Milwaukee loses too much, he may come around asking
for credit. He wants to sign a note. At this point we ask him how
much he's lost and how much he can afford to lose. We usually find
out he brought with him all he can afford to lose. So we tell him no.
Sometimes I've given a guy a couple hundred to get him and the little
"So next year he comes back," said Jonas.
"Besides which, I want him to tell all his friends back home
what a swell bunch of guys we are."
"Short course in how to run a casino," Jonas laughed.
Though he hadn't intended to, he found himself liking this man, this
curious combination of craft and calculation with ingenuous
enthusiasm. He wondered where and how Chandler and Nevada had become
friends. It had to go back long before anyone had so much as imagined
The Seven Voyages. Nevada Smith did not extend his friendship
readily. If he trusted a man, that should be a man anyone could
"There are tricks to every trade," said Chandler.
"But what deal can we make about the top floor?"
"Happy to accommodate you, Jonas," said Chandler. "The
top floor has two suites, each with a nice big living room, two
bedrooms with bath, and a kitchenette. The elevators won't take
anybody up there unless they have a key. Likewise, we keep the
stairway door locked. Ordinarily, high rollers occupy those two
suites, but from time to time we help out a man in a position like
"Nevada says you can make special telephone arrangements."
"We got a telephone hookup that switches your calls through San
Diego, which puzzles the hell out of anybody trying to trace. We've
got scramblers available. Course you have to put a descrambler on the
other end. The bottom line is, we're set up to give privacy to a man
who wants privacy."
"What's the rent?" asked Jonas.
"Look at it this way," said Chandler. "Each of those
suites rents for fifty dollars a night. That's fifteen hundred a
month. Two of them is three thousand. We got expenses in the special
telephone stuff and in keeping security guys around to make sure
nobody tries to invade you. Frankly, Jonas, I usually get nine
hundred a week or thirty-five hundred a month for those two suites,
when I rent to a man in your situation."
"I'll pay you eight thousand a month," said Jonas. "Two
months in advance, though I may not stay two months. The sixteen
thousand is yours if I move out sooner."
Morris Chandler smiled and nodded. "Jonas, you are a gentleman
and a scholar," he said.
Arrangements had to be made. Jonas realized he could not telephone
Monica that night. What could he tell her? What she wanted to know
was where he was and when he would come home. He hadn't promised he
would be in touch within twenty-four hours. So he didn't call.
The suites were comfortable, furnished unimaginatively like most
hotel rooms everywhere. The bar was stocked. In the living rooms,
picture windows overlooked the pool, and someone who had lived in the
suite Jonas chose for himself had equipped the place with a big
telescope on a tripod, maybe for watching the girls around the pool,
maybe for checking out who arrived in the parking lot.
Chandler had suggested he could send up a girl, but Jonas had
declined for tonight. He took a final slug of bourbon and went to
In the morning, Morris Chandler arrived not long after Jonas and
Nevada had finished breakfast. Both of them ate big breakfasts: ham
and eggs, fried potatoes, buttered toast, and coffee. Jonas poured
coffee for Chandler.
"I can help you with some things, if you want," said
Chandler. "To start with, you brought no luggage. Give me your
sizes, and I'll send up some clothes. Also shaving stuff and so on.
But something more important. Twice a week I send a plane to Mexico
City to pick up high rollers and bring them in for a couple days'
gaming. I send a man down there on each flight. He can post letters,
send telegrams, and so on."
Jonas nodded. "I'd like to send two telegrams."
The first telegram from Mexico City was to Monica: EVERYTHING IS OK
STOP WILL BE IN TOUCH AGAIN IN A FEW DAYS STOP MY LOVE TO YOU AND
The second was to Philip Wallace, Attorney, Washington, D.C.:
TELL LA AND NEVADA NEW YORK OFFICES TO INSTALL IMMEDIATELY ON MY
PRIVATE LINES DESCRAMBLER EQUIPMENT AS FOLLOWS STOP VERICOMM MODEL
NUMBER ONE DASH FOUR TWO FOUR STOP THESE LINES TO BE MONITORED
BUSINESS HOURS STOP SUGGEST YOU INSTALL SAME YOURSELF STOP EXPECT TO
CALL NO LATER THAN FRIDAY SO EQUIPMENT MUST BE IN PLACE STOP
A shop downstairs delivered clothes chosen by Morris Chandler, and
Jonas sent the suit he had worn from Bel Air down to the dry cleaner.
His new clothes were resort wear: light-colored slacks and golf
shirts, also after a couple of days for tailoring a royal-blue
jacket. Chandler sent up similar things for Nevada. Nevada accepted
them, knowing he could not venture downstairs in the hotel in jeans
and a buckskin shirt.
On Friday Jonas placed a telephone call to Phil Wallace in
Washington. Phil answered and could understand him, so Jonas knew the
descrambler was in place.
"Somehow I guess," said Phil, "that you're not really
in Mexico City."
"You guess right. How much heat is on?"
"Well, you're not on the Ten Most Wanted List, but if your
whereabouts is discovered you'll be served with the subpoena. A
couple of senators are pissed. Counsel for the committee is pissed."
"And the competitors who want my ass are pissed," said
Jonas. "I don't give a damn."
"Monica is pissed," said Phil. "She called and
demanded to know where you are. Demanded. She said she knew damned
well you're not in Mexico City."
"Monica's not stupid."
"You didn't order a descrambler for her."
"The only reason would be to tell her where I am, and I don't
want to do that, not yet anyway. I'm not sure she could hold out if
they pressured her to talk."
"You got a problem there. Monica's not just a
little pissed. She's
pissed. She's going to New York."
"Well, she's got her job in New York. She travels to New York —
"She's taking Jo-Ann with her."
"Jo-Ann's in school. She — "
"She's taking her out of school, transferring her credits to
some school in the East."
"I'll take care of the Monica problem. Don't worry about it."
"I'm not. I'm just telling you what she said."
"Okay. You want to know where I am?"
"If I need to know. Otherwise I don't. I've told people I don't
know. I'd like to continue doing that."
"Do you mind passing along some orders?"
"Not at all."
Jonas stood looking down on the swimming pool, convinced now the man
who had brought the telescope to the suite had brought it to do some
plain and fancy girl watching. Two-piece bathing suits were in style,
and some of the girls around the pool were spectacular. Looking at
them made a man horny.
"Okay," he said to Phil. "I want some people to join
me. I'd like to have Sheila." He meant his personal and private
executive secretary, in the Los Angeles office. "But I'm afraid
that, apart from Monica, she's the one person they might follow.
Besides, she's got a child, and I can't ask her to leave it."
"Do you want her to know where you are?"
"No. I want her to communicate through you. As my lawyer, you
have privileged communication with me. No. The guys I want to join me
are Buzz Dalton from Inter-Continental, Clint McClintock from Cord
Electronics, Bill Shaw from Cord Aircraft, and Len Douglas from Cord
"I get you," said Phil. "Second-level men from each
company. None of your top executives."
"Bright, knowledgeable young fellows," said Jonas. "None
with family obligations that would prevent their spending some time
with me. Tell them to bring along the paper about pending stuff.
They'll know what that is."
"Okay, but where do they go?"
"Make notes," said Jonas. "They come one at a time.
Dalton first, Shaw next, then McClintock, then Douglas. On Tuesdays
and Thursdays at noon there's a flight from Mexico City to where I
am. It does not go from the Benito Juarez International Airport.
They'll have to get to the Tialpan Airport. A sixteen-passenger De
Havilland comes in about noon. Tell them to identify themselves to
the agent that comes with the De Havilland. From that point they can
relax. They'll be brought to me. Tell them to bring summer-weight
clothes. They'll only need one suit. Do I have to tell them not to
talk to the people they meet?"
"It sounds like you're settling in for a long stay," said
"Long enough to screw the bastards that are trying to screw me,"
Jonas quickly grew bored with living in the suite. He could only call
the offices that had installed the descramblers. He could think of a
thousand other calls he wanted to make, and he gave orders to his
people at the offices with descramblers to telephone this person and
that, saying they had heard from him and he had ordered them to relay
a message. It was not a satisfying way to do business.
On his fourth night in the suite, Morris Chandler offered to be host
for dinner, which he would have room service bring up.
"What you need up here is a cute girl," he said to Jonas.
"What I need is an executive secretary," said Jonas.
Chandler laughed. "A horizontal secretary."
"No, seriously. A secretary. I can't bring in my executive
secretary, and I need a woman who's competent and I can trust."
Chandler glanced at Nevada and shrugged. "If you say so,"
They ate lobster, which were flown in on ice and were kept live in a
tank in the hotel. Chandler and Nevada talked a little about old
times in New Orleans. Jonas guessed that was where they had met, in
Storyville, in one of the celebrated old whorehouses. At least, both
of them had been there in the early years of the century. Both
remembered a whore who had always worn a black satin mask trimmed
with lace and received her callers while reclining nude on a red
plush settee. The rumor had been that she was the wife of a prominent
New Orleans cotton broker.
They remembered musicians: a pianist named Ned and
a trumpet player named Charley. They spoke of something called
, which Jonas deduced was a fiery liquor as destructive of
a man's mind as the wormwood-tainted absinthe the French used to
make, which was now illegal in every country in the world. They
laughed about how it had got them in trouble.
Abruptly Chandler broke off the reminiscences and spoke to Jonas.
"You want an executive secretary? Trustworthy and competent, you
said. How 'bout one that's honest and competent and you can trust —
and would probably be glad to sleep with you, too?"
"They don't make 'em like that," said Jonas.
"Trust me," said Chandler. "I'll send somebody up for
you to interview in the morning."
He did. She arrived at half past nine, and she was more of a surprise
to him than Morris Chandler had been.
"Mr. Cord? My name is Mrs. Wyatt. Mr. Chandler sent me up to be
interviewed as a possible executive secretary."
She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and Jonas
formed a quick determination that he would take her to bed as soon as
he possibly could. Golden-blond hair surrounded the perfect features
of her face. She was flawless. He couldn't see anything wrong with
her, unless maybe it was that her eyebrows were distinctly darker
than her hair. She wore a putty-colored linen pullover and a tailored
knee-length dark-gray skirt, white shoes with thin high heels, and
smooth, sheer nylon stockings on long, sleek legs. She was no girl.
She was probably thirty-two or -three. She wore on her face a look of
worldliness, even of world-weariness, that suggested she had seen a
lot and had a few things to regret.
"Come in, Mrs. Wyatt, and sit down," he said. "I just
sent the table back down, but I can order us another pot of coffee if
you'd like some."
"You needn't," she said.
"I think I will anyway. I could use some myself."
She sat down gracefully, crossing her legs below her knees the way
girls in finishing schools were taught to do. Her skirt crept up a
little, but she had it under control and showed no more leg than she
Jonas picked up the telephone and ordered coffee, knowing a few small
pastries would come with it.
"I'll be blunt, Mrs. Wyatt," he said. "Why did Morris
Chandler recommend you?"
"He told me what your requirements are," she said plainly.
"He judged I could meet them, and so do I."
"What is your experience?" he asked.
"I was a secretary with Boise-Cascade Corporation. The last four
years I was there I was an executive secretary. Then I got married,
and then I got divorced."
"Do you have any children?"
"No, sir. After my divorce, I worked again as an executive
secretary, in the office of the state auditor of the State of
California. I've had eleven years of secretarial experience, six of
them as a confidential and private secretary to an executive."
"What are you doing in Las Vegas?"
"I'm stranded here," she said.
"I came here on a romantic trip with a friend. He wanted to
gamble. So did I. I signed a chit to buy some chips. He promised me
he'd pay my chit, just as soon as a check he'd given the hotel
cleared. He lost everything he had with him, panicked, took off, and
left me with an unpaid chit. I'm working it off as a waitress."
"How much is it?"
"Five hundred dollars. I've paid off sixty-five."
Jonas shook his head and picked up the telephone. He dialed Morris
Chandler. "Morris, this is Jonas. Put the balance of Mrs.
Wyatt's chit on my account."