09-04-2011, 11:01 PM
George stood under the stinging hot shower, limp with fatigue. He had gone three rounds with Tobe Lacie to qualify for the Excalibur match that afternoon, after going another three with Christian Ruhr, the blond bomber of Austrian descent with the sharpest reflexes George had ever seen. It was all he could do to keep up with Ruhr in the ring. The qualifying bout ended in a draw. His next bout with Lacie was more successful but just as punishing; he scored a couple of points ahead of Tobe, but just barely. Now, it was all over, and George was completely drained of energy, as were his fellow fighters.
"When I get back to the Luxor," he muttered to himself, "I'm going in to the spa for a complete body massage, and I don't care how much it costs."
There were seven boxers trying out for the match (Evan "Woody" Wood had bowed out, having just become a father), but only four were allowed on the team for the finals, and Linehan wanted his four best fighters to represent him. The points were still being tallied by Seamus and his son, Sean while the fighters soothed away their aches and pains with hot showers and medicated ointments. His other son, David, made his slow way around the gym, his dull pudgy face expressionless as he gathered up wet towels into his basket to be laundered in the old Maytag washing machine in the back. The sharp, cool smell of eucalyptus overpowered the rank odor of male sweat and dirty clothes.
George turned off the shower and toweled himself dry. He padded to the locker where he kept his regular clothes and began to dress. As he sat down to pull on his socks, he became aware of a large presence beside him. He turned and saw Tobe Lacie beisde him.
"Damn good fight, man," Tobe said, sitting down beside him.
"Yeah," George grunted, "you, too."
"Think you made it?"
"Probably?" Tobe snorted. "Hell, the way you went after Ruhr, they'd be nuts to turn you down! You're lucky you got a draw with that mother(bleeper)!"
George shrugged. "You?"
"You think you made it?"
"I'd better, or I'm gonna be (bleeped) off like a mother(bleeper)." Tobe began to laugh. "I saw you yesteday, sparring with your cousin Criss. Man, you whooped his ass good there, bro! Nailed him in just two rounds! I mean, (bleep)!"
"More like one and a half," George said. "Thing is, he works out like a demon in his private gym, practices martial arts and all that, but he barely lasted half a bout in the ring. He should have lasted longer than than. I don't get it."
"Because he wore himself out trying to knock you down," Tobe said. "He thinks he knows the moves, but he don't. He ain't had the trainin' you and me got under our belts. That's why he lost. You should tell him not to quit his day job if he wants to stay healthy." He shifted his weight. "How's he doin', anyway?"
"He's fine," George replied. "(Bleeped) off about losing, but he's fine."
Tobe made a dismissive wave of the hand. "Ah, he'll get over it."
"You don't know Criss, do you?"
"Criss is a guy who hates losing anything, no matter what it is," George explained. "He loses, he wants a rematch until he wins. Hell, he's been trying to beat my score on the punching bag machine in his suite ever since he got the damn thing! He's just that competitive."
Tobe chuckled a little. "So you think he's gonna want a rematch with you, huh?"
"He will want a rematch," George said. "And he won't quit until I'm flat out on the mat, unconscious."
The heavy metal door of Linehan's office swung open. Everyone fell silent as Sean Linehan stepped forward, holding a sheet of paper in his hand. "All right, we got the results of the tryouts," he said loudly. "Stand up when I call your name. Browning!"
Browning stood up expectantly, but sank down again when Sean said he was out of the running. "Tough luck, man," Lacie said sympathetically, patting his shoulder.
Ellsworth stood up. "You're in!" Sean said.
Ellsworth pumped his fist in the air. "In your face, Browning!" he sneered.
"Back off, dude," Browning grumbled.
Tobe stood up. "You're in!"
"Way to go, Tobe!" George said, bumping fists with Lacie.
"Orowitz! You're out! Ruhr! You're in!"
Figured he would be, George thought. The guy's like Draco in Rocky Three.
George rose. "You're in!" Sean announced.
George was elated. I made it! he cheered inwardly. I (bleeping) made it!
"Wells! You're out!" Sean said. "That's all, gentlemen! Next Friday is the quarter finals, the next Friday after that is the semis, and the third Friday is the Excalibur bout. Be there!"
He retreated back into the office. George and Tobe highfived each other. "We're in, man!" they cheered. "We're in like Flynn!"
Fifteen year old Davina Uberman skipped happily into Circus Circus with her sixty-two year old grandmother, Midge. It was her first trip to Las Vegas, and she was as excited as any teenager would be to see the sights and experience the pleasures the Entertainment Capital of America had to offer (at least the ones she could legally enjoy, anyway). This afternoon would be spent riding the roller coaster and seeing the acrobats at Circus Circus, then dinner along Fremont. The evening would be the highlight of her visit--seeing Criss Angel's live show, Believe, at the Luxor. How her grandmother got tickets for that show was as astonishing and as mysterious as any of Criss' illusions.
Midge, for her part, was practically a regular around Vegas. This was her ninth or tenth visit here in almost as many years, but her first with her eldest granddaughter. Vegas was just a few hours' drive from her home in Arizona; ever since she retired early from her job as an investment broker back in the Nineties, she'd been making annual trips to Sin City to try her luck in the casinos. On her very first visit to Ceasar's Palace, she won a million dollar jackpot on the slots. Unlike many winners, however, she stowed her windfall with the rest of her investments, increasing their value immensely and allowing her to live the good life in Arizona despite the failing economy. Her professionally tinted hair was stylishly coiffed, strategically concealing the surgical scars from her face lift eight years ago, and her designer clothes, always in style, flattered a less than perfect figure she tried to keep in shape by playing tennis every morning before the desert sun grew too hot. There was no nursing home in Midge Uberman's future, not if she could help it.
Davina was almost sixteen, practically a woman, but her enthusiasm was that of a seven-year-old child. She wanted to see everything, do everything, taste, feel and experience everything. She was thrilled at seeing the elephants, she screamed as she raced down the track on the roller coaster, she gorged on ice cream despite what it would do to her complexion. Let her enjoy herself this once, Midge thought to herself. Childhood is so brief, and hers is coming to an end. Soon, she'll be driving, then graduating high school, then going off to college, then she'll be a working stiff like the rest of us. Let her have this one precious moment of carefree innocence before she's burdened with the responsibilites of adulthood.
She beamed as Davina bounded out of the coaster car and flew into her grandmother's arms. "That was totally awesome!" she exclaimed estatically. "And I didn't even get sick like I thought I would!"
"You got a strong stomach like your father," Midge told her. "Now, let's hurry and get our seats for the show."
Grandmother and granddaughter walked happily down the midway, arm in arm, in total bliss. They did not see the stranger in the black raincoat approaching them casually until it was too late. He was just a few feet away from the Ubermans when he spread open his coat, revealing his revoltingly naked body.
Midge and Davina froze for a moment, shocked into silence, then Davina let out an ear-piercing scream. Instinctively, Midge covered her granddaughter's eyes from the horror she had witnessed with her hands and cried out for security. The man in the raincoat covered himself up again and slunk away, gloating.
"Can you describe the man you saw?" a police officer asked Midge later in the security office."
"Dark hair, all over," Midge said cuddling her traumatized granddaughter. "All over his body, arms, legs. He had a dark mustache as well. All he had on was that raincoat."
"How tall was he?"
"About my height, five-eight or so. He had this little potbelly on him, and he was just plain ugly to look at."
"It was gross!" Davina cried. "That guy was a pervert! Who is he, anyway?"
"Well, we think he's the same guy who's been going around flashing older women around Vegas," the officer replied. "He's racked up several charges of indecent exposure already, but now, since he's exposed himself to a minor, he's just got himself a CSA charge tacked on as well."
"CSA?" Midge asked.
"Criminal Sexual Assault," the officer explained. "Also known as statutory rape. Any obscene act, even being in a hotel room with an unrelated minor without parental consent or knowledge, is a CSA. He's facing serious jail time for this."
"Well, I hope you find him soon!" Midge said indignantly. "That man is a menace to society!"
"We'll find him, ma'am," the officer assured her. "How long will you be staying in Vegas?"
"Until Monday morning."
"If we find him before then, we'll need to get in touch with you so you can identify him. Can you give us your number so we can call you?"
Midge gave the officer her cell phone number. "Thank you, ma'am," he said. "And don't let this incident ruin your stay here in Vegas. This guy's a perv, but he's harmless compared to some of the characters we deal with on a daily basis."
Midge nodded. "Of course." She stood up to leave. "Come on, Davey," she said. "Let's go."
Davina rose to her feet. Midge hugged her as comfortingly as only a grandmother could. "Now, we're not going to let a little thing like a flasher ruin our weekend, are we?" she said encouragingly.
Davina tried to push the sordid image of the flasher out of her mind. "No," she said firmly, more to convince herself than her grandmother. "No, I'm not."
"Of course not," Midge said. "Now, we'll go see Believe and forget all about it."
Yes, Davina thought, they would go see Believe and forget all about it--if she could. She tried to replace the memory of the flasher with an image of Criss Angel's toned, sexy torso, adorned with gleaming pendants, but the image of that creep's ugly, hairy, potbellied body still haunted her. She made a mental note to post her experience on the fanboards as a warning to her fellow Loyals planning to go to Vegas soon. She wished she had had the presence of mind to take a picture of the creep with her camera phone so the police would have something to work with, but the shock had been too great for her.
Well, Gran was right about one thing: she was not going to let that perv ruin her Vegas weekend. The police would find him, with or without her help; she'd seen enough episodes of CSI: New York to know that crime investigation was too sophisticated and scientific these days to let anyone get away with anything. Besides, how hard could it be to find someone wearing a raincoat in Nevada in the middle of summer?