Friday, July 24, 2015
The intentions of the man on the corner became obvious upon a second glance. At first look, he's warm jacket and blue jeans announced he was a local because winter-time visitors to Las Vegas wore shorts and Hawaiian shirts. The fifty degree days felt balmy compared to the near zero temperatures of the northern climes. Not-so to thin blooded Vegas residents grown accustomed to 108 degree summers.
My second glance revealed the muzzle of a handgun under the jacket, breaking smooth lines. The calm, almost sanguine early morning, with the rising sun back lighting the aptly named Sunrise Mountain promised excitement. Nothing ever happened at 5am, no hookers, no deliveries, nothing, except for...
I leaned against the neo-roman concrete fence of Caesars Palace and watched the man standing at the head of the alley between the Flamingo Casino and O'Sheas, my early morning job for a client temporarily postponed. No one posted an armed guard on Las Vegas Boulevard without cause. After a moment, I walked up to the man. He looked away, pretending we didn't know each other.
"Get lost, Sully."
A radio-mike protruded from his collar. A clear coiled tube ran from under his jacket to his ear.
"Need any help?"
"Not your kind."
"Oh. One of those jobs?"
"Bounce." Beads of sweat formed on his brow.
"Just checking out the competition."
"You looking a little sick. Are you okay?"
Stephens put his hand under his jacket and stared into my eyes.
"Extraviarse. I get it. One last question: When the shit goes down, which side am I on?"
Stephens's muscles tightened.
I departed, returning to the Caesars Palace side of the street to watch and wait. Stephens glanced at me. I imagined his thoughts: I've been made. Do we call this off? Is it too late? How do I handle him after this goes down? Should I kill Sully now? Is he packing? Probably. How messy is that going to get? He's got friends on the force.
I enjoyed fun on the Strip at any hour.
Ten minutes later the Oshea's side-door opened. Two guards and three drop-crew personnel manhandled a cash-cart over the threshold and down the concrete ramp. Stephens moved, talking into his coat collar.
I looked at the second hand on my watch.
A rented box truck, it's rear loading gate out and lowered, sped up the street, turned into the alley, and missed hitting the casino crew and cart by inches. The truck's brakes screeched as the vehicle stopped. The rear door opened and three men with sub machine guns jumped out. The loading gate straightened and lowered to the ground. The unarmed casino guards raised their hands and the drop-crew froze, bewildered. Gun barrels swung and pointed. Commands rose. Within half a minute the guards pushed the cash-cart onto the loading deck and the money disappeared into the truck. Five seconds later the truck went mobile again, and ten seconds later, police sirens echoed through the streets.
Those dumb bastards, I thought. I later learned that for ten years, since Flamingo purchased O'Shea's, they'd been taking the cash up an elevator and across the alley through the overhead walkway, then down five stories in another elevator to the count room in the basement. Concealed and secure, but inconvenient and a pain to manage, the bosses did something dumb-deciding to take the money outside, in public, rather than tolerating drop-crew complaints. They finally gave in. I wondered for how long. A day, maybe two, until they got robbed. The eyes on the city, eyes like mine, watching, learning, waiting to see how obtuse the managers were. Street people watched everything. Seeing this one time might be weird. Twice: an anomaly. Three times: opportunity not missed.
An hour afterwards, Detective Esposito, my current nemesis, and certainly not one of my friends, crossed the street. "Sullivan."
"Casino Surveillance says you were talking to one of the gunmen and you've been standing here since before it happened. Are you stupid or do you wish to go down as an accomplice?"
"Nice to see you too."
"I should arrest you for being an asshole." Esposito's eyes narrowed and he turned away.
"Well... I might have seen something." I walked after him, crossing the street.
"I'm not hiring you."
"Let's call it a finder's fee."
I expected the knock on my office door when it arrived that afternoon. I discussed with a visitor if his side would pay and which small-time, virtually unknown drug-dealer he would frame, deflect suspicion, and allow Esposito the glory of solving the case, recovering half of the million dollars stolen from the casino. The casino certainly reported twice that amount stolen to the insurance company. This profited the bad guys and the casino. I'd deposit two nice paychecks into my vacuous bank account. Everyone wins.