12-06-2011, 05:19 PM
The rain spattered on the brick pavement, hissing like a steak on a grill. Inside his spacious mansion on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Springs sat at his dining room table, sorting out the photographs from the cigar box. They were just what he needed to finish the book he was writing. Springs had a knack for words; he loved crossword and Jumble puzzles and was a pro at Scrabble. He had always wanted to be a writer or a journalist, but the Depression and the war that followed put an end to his literary dreams. After the war he joined up with his old buddies Mick and Blusey and formed The Guys in Las Vegas. Writing didn't pay all that great, anyway, Springs had reasoned. Racketeering was more profitable.
Now that he was "retired" from the rackets, he could do what he had always wanted to do--write a book about The Guys of Glitter Gulch. He had spent years gathering remnants of Las Vegas's golden era during the Forties and Fifties from the other Guys and their families: photos, playbills, programs; assorted trinkets like gold-plated cigarette cases and a diamond tie pin reputedly belonging to the infamous Bugsy Siegel; even a rejected part of a floor plan for the Flamingo, the first grand hotel and casino. But it was Mick who had the real treasure: the pictures of The Guys in their heyday and after. Mick's first wife, Josie (God rest her soul), had been a real shutterbug when she was alive. She could take an ordinary Kodak Brownie camera and turn out small works of art from it. Every family gathering, every wedding of their kids, Mick's and the other Guys's, every vacation spot, and every casino from the Flamingo to Mirage, Josie snapped the pictures. Mick said if she hadn't married him, she could have gone to work for a major newspaper.
Josie Piccucci had been a real looker in her day, a natural beauty, not like those other women who had to use makeup to make themselves attractive. Unlike the other Guys whose marriages ended in divorce (Springs himself had two under his belt; mercifully, both his ex-wives remarried before the alimony payments could bankrupt him), Mick and Josie stayed until death did them part. After thirty-four years of married bliss, Josie came down with heart disease and died sometime in the late Seventies. Springs remembered the funeral Mass: Mick cried throughout the whole service. Josie had been the one stabilizing force in his tulmultuous life, standing by her man through thick and thin, good times and bad, court hearings and FBI investigations. They didn't make women like that anymore, Springs thought.
He picked up one photo in particular, a picture of Mick and Tina on Catalina during their courtship days. Mick's arm was wrapped tightly around Tina's slender waist, while Tina posed seductively by his side, one shapely leg up in the air, her tiny red bikini top ready to give way to the strain of supporting her huge bosom. Springs looked at it with distaste, then tossed it onto the floor. That was one memory he wanted to erase. Tina was the type of woman who made Alzheimer's look good.
Mick had mourned Josie's death deeply, yet only five years later, Mick shacked up with Tina LaRue and married her within six months after their first meeting. She had been a stripper of some reknown, with gazongas like cantelopes and an ass that wouldn't quit. Springs knew she was a gold-digger from the start, but Mick was smitten with her so bad he couldn't talk him out of marrying her. Marry in haste, repent in leisure, his mother had said, and that was true for Mick and Tina. They stayed together long enough to have a daugher, Heather, a quiet, skinny girl who seemed intimidated by her gangster father and shrewish mother, and so kept to herself. Mick was in his sixties at the time, but still naturally virile. Tina spent a fortune on beauty products, more out of personal vanity than out of a desire to please her husband. Yet Mick cursed himself for his mistake throughout their married life while enduring the demands of his second wife for money and sex, in that order.
Tina and Mick divorced around the beginning of the Nineties. Tina was the one who filed first, of course, claiming loss of affection or some such BS. Thank God Close came by and got Mick out of that damn pre-nup she strong-armed him into signing before they married, or else Mick would have been reduced to a charity case. Tina got custody of Heather and a smaller settlement than what she bargained for, leaving her even more ill tempered than ever. Springs still rememebered the huge sigh of relief Mick breathed when Tina stormed out of the courtroom after their divorce trial, yanking Heather along by the arm as she left.
The last decade of the twentieth century passed without incident. The few remaining members of The Guys of Glitter Gulch, Springs, Mick, Andrew "Shorty" Hyneman, and Robert "Blusey" Bluseman had gathered at Mick's place to welcome the turn of the twenty-first century with brandy and cigars, rehashing old memories and hardly believing they had lived long enough to see this momentious event. After that, the past began to fade, and besides all hell breaking loose on Nine-Eleven, the loss of Shorty to cirrosis of the liver and Blusey to a heart attack, life was just a round of golf, poker, and an occasional trip to one of the classic casinos in Glitter Gulch before the wrecking ball arrived. Now, Mick was gone, and Springs, the last surviving member of The Guys, was left to tell their story.
Springs sorted the photographs by category: personal family photos of wives and kids, pictures of the old casinos like the Silver Slipper, the Mirage, the Flamingo, and the Ranchero in their heyday, and The Guys posing with such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Carol Channing, and other luminaries, as well as photos of Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and "Lucky" Luciano. It seemed the whole history of Las Vegas was contained in that single wooden cigar box sitting on Springs' dining room table.
He picked up another photo of Tina and Mick, and again tossed it to the floor, then another and another. It was as if he could erase Tina's existance with a single sweep of an arm, but the recent memory of Mick's will reading could not drive it away. He knew Tina would stop at nothing to get Mick's money. Well, he would make damn sure that she didn't get a nickel of it, for Mick's sake. It was the only way to avenge his late friend and business partner short of murder, although the latter was beginning to look better and better as he thought about it.