07-03-2012, 06:58 PM
Springs turned around to see the smiling face of Criss Angel, with his pint-sized girlfriend under his arm (literally under it--she barely came up to his chest), both striding toward the bar. Seeing him dusted off a few memory cells in his aging brain: he remembered he was going to meet Criss' mother, Didi, for lunch that day at Adamo's. Lucky thing the guy came along, or Springs would have forgotten it.
"So, how's it going?" Criss asked.
The old man merely shrugged. "Can't complain," he said glibly, despite his past musings while he had been nursing his Manhattan. "Just killin' time before my lunch date with your ma."
"What time are you meeting her?"
Springs thought for a moment. "Twelve-thirty."
Criss glanced at his watch. "You've got half an hour 'til then," he said. "Like some company?"
"Hey, why not?" Springs said. "Pull up as stool and make yourselves at home, here. I always do."
Criss sat down on the old man's left while Sandra took the stool on the right. Immediately the bartender appeared before them. "Can I get you anything?" she asked.
Sandra ordered a Mimosa while Criss asked for a Martini. Springs declined another Manhattan. "Trying to cut back," he muttered in the way of an excuse. "Don't wanna be too crocked when I meet yer ma, y'know."
Criss chuckled a bit. "Say, you remember Sandra, my fiancee', don't you?" he asked. "Sandra, this is Springs. I told you about him, remember?"
"Yeah, you did," Sandra said. "Nice to meet you, Springs."
Springs tilted his glass in a salute. "Same here," he said.
There was an awkward moment of silence, then Criss found something to say. "So," he began, "how was the opening of the new mobster museum? Heard you were there for it."
Springs drained the last of his Manhattan. "Not only was I there, Angel," he said, "but you're lookin' at the guy who cut the ribbon."
"Wow," Criss said, "that must've been quite an honor."
"Yeah, well," Springs hedged, "it was no big deal, really."
"See anyone you knew from the old days?"
"Besides Oscar, not really."
"Who's Oscar?" Sandra asked.
Springs looked at her. "Whaddya mean, 'who's Oscar?'. Oscar Goodman, the mayor, that's who! Ain't you read the papers?"
Sandra was surprised. "You know the mayor?"
Springs nodded. "Oh, yeah," he said. "Used to be the defense attorney for just about everyone in the rackets back in the day. Damn good one, too. Kept me and The Guys outta jail. Oscar and me, we go way back."
"So, uh, did you have fun at the opening?" Sandra floundered, still stunned at this sudden revelation about the mayor of Las Vegas.
Another shrug. "I wouldn't call it 'fun'," he said. "I guess the best word would be 'bittersweet'. Lotta photos of what Vegas used to be, but there are a lotta things I'd rather forget."
"Like what?" Criss asked.
Springs turned and faced Criss. "A lot of things," he repeated more emphatically. "Things you're better off not knowing." He swirled the melting ice in his glass. "Take it from me, kid," he said, "ignorance is truly bliss as far as my past is concerned."
"But you told everything in your book," Criss argued.
The old man shook his gaunt head. "Not everything," he said. "There's a lotta stuff I've forgotten over the years, and there's a lotta stuff I wish I could forget. Things that not even old age can erase, y'know. The mob museum bought back a lot of it, unfortunatly. I dunno why they had to glamorize it like they did. They don't know the half of it, the half I lived through. The dark side."
"The dark side?" Sandra half-whispered fearfully.
"Yeah, the dark side," Springs repeated. "The fear you live with every day. The feelin' yer gonna get whacked any minute. Tensing up every time a car drives past you, thinkin' there's some hitter in the back seat with a gun, ready to blow you straight to hell. Never knowin' when either the cops or the Syndicate is gonna come knocking on your door, and not just for coffee, either. Fearin' for your loved ones, knowing they make easy targets for payback. That's what I'm talkin' about."
Springs sighed heavily. "How the hell I survived all that in one piece, I'll never know," he said. "Sometimes I wonder why I did. Why didn't I go belly up with Mick and the rest of The Guys? Why am I still around?"
Criss laid a sympathetic hand on the old man's leg. "Springs..."
"Nah, nah, nah," Springs said, brushing him off. "Don't gimme that! You know my life's story, Angel: two divorces, lost my only son in 'Nam, and that whole mess with Mick's will. Everybody I know is dropping like flies around me, but me? I just keep on goin'. They should have given that stomach transplant to someone else, someone younger with more to look forward to in life. Why the hell do the keep me around, anyway? I'm just an effing relic from the past."
Criss leaned forward. "Because we need you," he replied. "You're practically the last living link to Vegas' golden era. You're here to set the record straight, to look past the glamor and glitz of it all and tell the truth about what it was really like back then. We need someone who's been there, seen it all, and lived to tell the tale. That's why you wrote your book, wasn't it?"
Springs grimaced thoughtfully. "Yeah, maybe," he replied in a low voice.
"And you're also here to take my mom out to lunch, remember?" Criss reminded him. "It's almost twelve-thirty--you better get a move on!"
Springs glanced at his watch and hopped off his stool. "Holy (bleep)!" he exclaimed. "I'm damn near late! See to the tab, willya, Angel?"
(to be continued).