‘New Vampire in Town’
This is how the tale of Cate the Vampire begins:
“Twenty eight hundred dollars for tires?”
I gasp as I see the price on the eBay website, my third tire stop online. The Michelin site, my first stop, was so coy. So inquisitive. It asked me to tell it a thing or two before it would send me to a local dealer’s site for prices. Then the dealer’s website, stop number two, wanted just a little more information before it would disclose prices. For god’s sake, what’s going on? Since when do you need a Top Secret security clearance to find out RV tire prices? So I went right to eBay and got the bad news square between the eyes: $2,843.00 for six top of the line RV tires. Installation extra. That can’t be true. Those tires must be lined with gold.
So how much do I have now?
I open my super-expandable handbag. Whoever designed this bag deserves a MacArthur Genius Award. It was très expensive, but goes from flat and discretely small to large enough to carry the wardrobe for the entire cast of “The Pirates of the Caribbean.” Right now it contains my total cash assets in a tidy bundle held together with a blue rubber band.
Now let me see…I arrived here with next to nada and six tires that need replacing. That guy from Winnemucca in the casino downtown was good for $328. Nothing like a shy cowboy with a big crush on Dolly Parton. All it took was that blonde wig, a padded, push-up bra and a half an hour of sweet talk. No sex, of course, involved with this—except in his mind.
Over at Twin Towers on Saturday night my time and effort really paid off: $925 from that Goldie Hawn scenario. That’s over $200 an hour—buckets more than I ever was paid in the film industry. With her long, floppy blonde hair, Goldie’s makeup wasn’t too difficult. Armed with my make-up kit and a pair of colored contact lenses, I can make almost any woman look like she has those great big blue eyes, even myself. I actually even managed to imitate Goldie’s ditsy act from back in the 70’s fairly well. That middle-aged insurance agent from Denver ate it up. Figuratively, of course. No sex.
Marilyn, tonight, with all her buttery blonde hair and that white pleated halter dress, was really pushing my luck —too conspicuous—but I hit the jackpot and made off with $3,673 thanks to Mr. Roly-Poly plumber. Again, no sex.
I’m a thief, occasionally, not a you-know-what. I only steal when I am absolutely, positively 100% forced into it—like when I need new tires for my RV. And I only take people’s playtime money, the extra cash they were going to spend on fun stuff. Nothing else. Those three guys didn’t know it when they met me, but when each of them woke up they discovered that I was their fun stuff on this trip to Vegas. Of course, I was long gone by then.
I know, I know. Being ‘fun stuff’ is a rationalization. But a girl’s gotta earn a living somehow. Film production in L.A. withered away to almost nothing after the Writers Guild strike in 2008 followed by the Film Actor’s strike back to back in 2009, so I have made some changes.
Anyway, Dolly, Goldie and Marilyn resulted in $4,926 and now some dude on eBay wants over half of it for tires that probably fell off the back of a truck somewhere.
I need gas money, too. Expenses really add up when you’re taking the All American Fantasy Road Trip from coast to coast to coast in an old RV. Fortunately, my grocery costs are zero now. But still – twenty-eight hundred for tires? It makes me want to cry or scream or go on an eating binge.
I think I’ll go out and find a big juicy someone and deal with the tires tomorrow.
Then get out of Las Vegas. It may be a 24-hour-a-day town, but it’s not my kind of town except when I am short of cash.
* * *
“I’ll tell you, Conrad, we can’t figure out how she got out of the casino. We have video of her in that Marilyn get-up going up the elevator with Mr. Big-Time-Plumber, but she never came back down. It’s like she’s the Invisible Woman or something. Vanished into thin air.”
Conrad tilts back in his Eames lounge chair, listening on his cell phone to Bill, night security supervisor at the GLV casino. He sounds frustrated and frustration is not his normal state. Bill’s a big man with a buzz-cut and probably was a Marine at some point in his earlier life, but Conrad has never asked. These days Bill’s stand-up-and-salute-loyalty is to the GLV casino and his platoon consists of a handful of youngish tech wizards armed to the teeth with proprietary code, facial recognition algorithms, and hundreds of cameras devoted to thwarting the greedy and deceitful.
“Well, send over everything you have on her and all the elevator video from when they went up to his room until he called the Front Desk. Maybe another hour after he called, come to think of it. She may have hid somewhere and slipped out later.”
“Nah. I don’t think that happened. We’ve looked at everything for the next twelve hours. No Marilyn Monroe in any elevator or stairwell,” Bill replies. “She was gone. Somehow. But we’ve put her in our database so she’d better not come back. Frankly, my biggest concern is how she got out. If there is a hole in our physical security, some sneaky new way she found to get out from upstairs—we’ve got to fix it. But I’ll send you an extra couple of hours of elevator video just in case.”
“Okay. I’ll let you know if I see something odd.”
Conrad turns off his phone and strolls along the wide hall to his home office. His house is one of the mid-century modern ones built by gangsters who called Vegas home back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. No expense spared. Rooms with perfect proportions. Impeccably matched wood paneling. Acres of floor to ceiling windows. After all, money was flowing in then as if there were U.S. Government printing presses in the basement instead of a fully equipped safe room with a cunningly disguised entrance in the bedroom and a subterranean exit leading to a side street. Conrad appreciates all its features.
The windows do pose a problem but black-out blinds solved it. And the gangsters are gone now, leaving behind beautiful architecture behind 9 foot high walls surrounding two landscaped acres in an old—well, old for Las Vegas—upscale neighborhood.
In his office Conrad powers up his Mac. Consultations of this kind—as an extra pair of eyes—come his way three or four times a year from the casinos. His brief career as an all-purpose P.I. tracking down runaway husbands and unfaithful wives is years behind him in a previous life. Looking at the tape from GLV is more or less a favor for an old acquaintance, a favor for which he will be paid quite nicely. Eagle eyes. Laser eyes. That’s how some of the younger security guys describe him.
“If they only knew,” he chuckles.
A couple of clicks and some keystrokes later he is watching a reasonable facsimile of Marilyn Monroe waltzing her way through the casino. Heads swivel as she walks by. Then she takes a seat at a bar next to the poker tables. She orders a drink. Pays for it. Never touches it. A short, stout, slightly balding man in expensive casual wear takes a seat beside her. She smiles. They chat. She smiles some more. They leave. They go upstairs in the elevator.
Rewind. Conrad takes a slow and closer look at the Marilyn look-alike. The hair is almost certainly a wig. A good one, but a wig. Most of the rest of the image is make-up and that sexy white dress that swirled up around Marilyn in one of her movies. Was it the ‘Seven Year Itch’? Maybe. The look-alike’s dress simply drapes around a slender but shapely body. Not as voluptuous as the real Monroe.
“What do you look like under all that paint and fake hair?” Conrad mutters at the screen.
Then he goes on to real-time video taken in the elevators with ceiling cameras. A nicely dressed, middle-aged couple gets in; they talk and then exit. A single man, looks like a tired conventioneer, steps into the elevator reading a program of events, and then exits. Next, a family of four: mom, dad, preschooler, and grandma chatting away. Then another couple. Whoa. Not in the elevator, folks. Get to your room first. More couples. More single men. Another family group, this one with a bored, pouting teenager. The parade in and out of the elevators goes on and on. No solo women in the two hours of tape he views.
Conrad glances down at his watch. It’s old with an expandable steel wrist band. Whenever he is asked about it, he tells the inquirer: “It went through the war with me and we both survived. Wouldn’t give it up for love or money now.” They assume he means the Iraq War. In fact, it survived war in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
I’d better eat now. It’s going to be dawn in about an hour.
* * *
You can find the rest of Cate’s adventure on Kindle.