Lisa sat in the rear of the bank parking lot with the engine running on their rented Pontiac Bonneville. Her heart was pounding as she scanned the surrounding scene for any sign of suspicious characters. Steve was taking too long in the bank she thought. She checked her watch and realized he had only been gone a little over 10 minutes but it seemed like 10 eternity’s. She knew that withdrawing almost $200,000 and closing an account of that size was not going to happen quickly, but she had no idea how long it would take. And she found the uncertainty of their whole situation to be the worst kind of torture.
In an attempt to occupy her mind and ease the anxiety of each passing moment, Lisa once again tried to analyze their situation and see if any new revelation that she had somehow missed came to the surface.
She thought about how Steve had figured that whoever killed Mr. Ciau might have taken his cell phone since there would be numbers, and maybe names on it. He got the bright idea to call Ciau’s cell and see who answered and what information he might obtain. The voice that answered had been male and American, at least it had no detectable accent. Steve described it as having a Slot Online hard edge as if owned by a man who was capable of anything. Yet he also seemed to detect a hint of fear and uncertainty. When Steve asked to speak to Mr. Ciau, the voice had told him that Ciau was not available and then asked for Steve’s identity. Steve told him he was a business associate of Ciau and needed to speak to him directly. There was a pause on the other end of the line and then the question came back, “What do you need to talk to him about?”
Steve’s reply had been, “It’s between me and Ciau, but if you must know, I want to collect my money.”
“When was your last shipment and how many did you send?” was the question that immediately came back.
“That’s between me and Ciau,” Steve answered.
“Then call back later and talk to him,” came the gruff reply and the connection was severed.
No real concrete information was gleaned from the call except it served to reinforce the fact that Ciau’s killers were desperate men who were definitely into something illegal and it sounded like it might be smuggling. But who knows, Lisa thought. He might be into more than one illegal activity. Maybe even money laundering. Gambling is quite often used for that she thought. But then again, that didn’t seem to quite fit their circumstances.
Lisa thought back upon the night she had spent with Ciau. Now she deeply regretted it but at the time she had been swept up in the aura of this powerful man. Being with him was like being with a king. Casino management and employees were obviously well acquainted with him and went out of their way to react to his every whim and desire and it was almost sickening the way they played up to him. And the way he flashed large sums of money around at the tables and gambled as if chips and hundred dollar bills were of no more importance than tooth picks or match sticks attracted a lot of attention, especially from some of the attractive females that seemed to gravitate to him and openly vie for his attention. But Lisa couldn’t help but be proud that she was the one on his arm and Ciau was not hesitant to lavish compliments upon her and to make her feel like the most desirable woman in Las Vegas.
The only thing that had momentarily detracted from that feeling of desirability was when Lisa had left his side to go to the ladies room and when she returned she saw Mr. Ciau laughing and talking to a very attractive young blonde woman. She also thought she saw him slip a business card into her hand before he turned to greet Lisa as she returned to his side. Lisa passed it off thinking she could be mistaken and perhaps the woman had initiated contact. Besides, jealousy was not an emotion that Lisa was on intimate terms with.
But now, as Lisa continued to reflect, she remembered a comment that Ciau had made when she remarked to him that he really knew how to make a lady feel special. He had remarked, “Women are my business.” At the time she thought nothing of this casual comment, thinking it to mean something else, but now she wondered if he had meant it in a more literal way. Could he have been involved in human slave trade? Some of the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit when viewed from that perspective.
But Lisa was glad the team had voted to keep the money and split it up between them. They obviously had as much right to it as the other shady characters involved. Besides they had entered into this expecting to be well remunerated for their services and so far they had received very little. Even if any of them did have to eventually answer to the police, law enforcement would be hard pressed to prove that the money wasn’t all lost in the casinos. In fact, had their luck not dramatically changed when it did, that might have happened. Lisa hoped their luck would hold up and that greed wouldn’t exact a severe penalty on them for their actions.
Lisa’s thoughts were interrupted when she saw Steve heading her way carrying his brief case and smiling. He jumped into the car and commented, “It was quite a hassle but I finally got it. It’s a good thing I called ahead and they were expecting me. Now let’s get out of here!”
Lisa didn’t need to be told twice. She gunned the engine and zipped out into the traffic. Steve was intently watching the rear for a tale. He wasn’t disappointed. Within a matter of a minute or so, it became obvious that a blue Jaguar was mirroring their every move. Lisa turned right, then left and the Jag stayed behind them.
“They’re on us!” Steve announced. “Step on it.”
Lisa darted through the traffic changing lanes in a reckless fashion. Steve watched as the Jag occasionally came into view several car lengths back. They made their way to the Las Vegas Strip while the Jag relentlessly pursued. Fortunately, it wasn’t coming any closer, yet.
Suddenly Lisa abruptly turned into a multiple deck casino parking garage and sped up to the 3rd level. She wheeled into a parking slot and she and Steve leaped out of the Bonneville and ran over to a green Chrysler mini van. This time Steve got behind the wheel while Lisa opened a bag that was in the floor and pulled out a blonde wig, 2 panchos, a beard and Cowboy hat for Steve and sun glasses for her. Lisa and Steve threw on the panchos, and Lisa donned the blonde wig. Steve’s beard was a simple pull over job like some kids use for Halloween, but it was all that was needed under the circumstances. Steve put on the cowboy hat, plunged the van into gear and drove away. They had accomplished the whole maneuver within a matter of a minute’s time since they had practiced it several times the night before.
Steve was careful not to speed away since he didn’t want to attract undue attention. With any luck, their pursuers would spot their car and think they had gone into the casino.
Steve and Lisa drove down the Strip and turned onto the expressway. There was still no sign of the blue Jag. Had they succeeded in giving them the slip? Could there possibly be another vehicle in pursuit that Steve knew nothing about? Steve slowed down to 45 MPH to see if any traffic stayed behind. He maintained his speed for over a mile and all traffic passed him by.
“Lisa, I think we’ve done it,” he finally said.
The couple returned to the Los Palamos Motel where they met Sam, Jimmy, and Mack. They divided a little over $200,000 between them, and said their farewells. Jimmy, along with Mack and Sam drove the mini van to the airport where they returned it and made arrangements for the Bonneville to be picked up.
Mack and Sam boarded a flight back to Chicago and Jimmy, well, no one really knew what Jimmy had in mind or where he eventually wound up. Knowing him, he probably went to some other exciting or exotic location and continued to sew his wild oats with the same diligence he had exhibited thus far.
Steve and Lisa climbed into Steve’s new PT Cruiser which he had just purchased for cash and headed back to Chicago via the roadways (sticking mainly to back roads as much as possible). They thought this would be a safer way for them to travel since the bad guys (whoever they were) might have the airport staked out.
Lisa was looking forward to seeing her children again, but she also knew that it wouldn’t be safe for them in Chicago. If she was still being pursued because of her link to Ciau, she could be traced back to her home. But at least, she now had a decent stake and could start anew somewhere else and hopefully build a good life for herself and her kids.
Three weeks later, Steve found himself standing on a steep hill looking down on the President Casino (a riverboat casino which was docked at the foot of St. Cleve’s Landing in St. Louis). He walked on board and purchased a ticket to enter. The casino was small and very cramped compared to what he was used to. Steve was drawn to a blackjack table where he stood and watched for a moment. When the time was right he sat down and bought in for $500, the maximum allowed on this riverboat casino. He immediately placed one of the 2 black chips he had been given into the betting circle.
“Black Action,” the dealer loudly announced to get the Pit Boss’ attention. Steve smiled and felt good again for the first time in months.