09-05-2011, 05:00 PM
"Security. Macaffey here."
"Macaffey? It's me."
"Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Rappaport. What can I do for you?"
"Well, word from the security staff grapevine is that you've been beefing things up lately."
"Oh, yes, sir!" Macaffey said proudly. "After that little burglary in the editing studio, I'm making sure it doesn't happen again!"
"Macaffey, I appreciate your diligence in this matter, but, really, you need to lighten up a bit. Posting guards at every corner is carrying things a bit too far in my opinion: you're taking away manpower where it's really needed. We've got video surveillance everywhere; there's no need for armed guards patrolling every corner of the Luxor."
"I just don't want any more break-ins, sir, that's all. Even if it was just a bunch of nudie photos, it's still personal property, and I want this to be the safest, most secure hotel in the city."
"I know you do, Jim, but this is a hotel, not a supermax prison. I know you spent years dealing with hardened criminals on your previous job, but the people who stay here are guests, not convicts. And the staff are all vetted for criminal records before hiring. I assure you, the Luxor is fully secure as it is. I know you're still (bleeped) off about the photos being stolen on your watch, but when you got hundreds of people coming and going, some sort of theft is going to take place, whether it's towels, robes, or photos. So, call off your dogs and follow procedure, okay?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Rappaport."
"Good. You're doing splendidly, but tone it down a bit, willya?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
Macaffey hung up the phone and sighed heavily. Tone it down, the boss said. Lighten up, the boss said. This is a hotel, not a supermax prison, the boss said. He glanced out the window of the security office facing the atrium. Outside, guests strolled around the colorful carpet, wheeling or carrying their luggage to and from their rooms. Ordinary citizens whom he had sworn to protect, he thought. Not a criminal in the bunch.
His prison guard instincts kicked in. Complacency was death, he reminded himself; how did he know there were no crimimals out there? Appearances can be deceiving--some innocent-looking tourist could be plotting a heist for all he knew. Who knew what was in those suitcases?
Macaffey shook his head. Fifteen years corralling convicts had made him paranoid. During that time, his basic sense of trust had eroded little by little until he suspected everyone and everything as a potential threat. The boss was right, he admitted. The Luxor had the best surveillance technology money could buy, better than back at the supermax (he recalled the twinge of envy when he was shown the video surveillance room for the first time, feeling they should have had something like it back at the prison). Why should he go and pull his men away from their usual posts? Besides, it had been just a bunch of nudie pictures, not the crown jewels of England.
He got on the intercom and ordered his men back to their usual positions. Let the eye in the sky take care of the nooks and crannies, he thought. His men were needed on the floor.
Thirteen minutes to four. JD and Costa synchronized their watches for the countdown while their mother whiled away the time with a paperback novel. Behind them, their cousin George sat idly cleaning his fingernails. The next two minutes would determine the winner of the fifty-dollar jury bet. JD was confident, but Costa was still hopeful.
Fifteen seconds passed, and no sign of reconvening. "Looks like I'm gonna win," JD said.
"We still got a minute and forty-five seconds left," Costa reminded him.
"You're really going down to the wire on this one, aren't you?"
"It's still less than an hour."
"Whatever makes you happy, bro, but I'm still gonna win this one."
"Don't be too sure about that--there's still a minute and a half left."
George leaned forward from the seat behind them. "What are you guys talking about?" he asked.
"Oh, we just made a bet to see how long it takes the jury to reach a verdict," JD explained. "Cos says less than an hour, I say longer. We got fifty bucks riding on it."
"You think they'll aquit him?" George asked.
"(Bleep) no! He's guilty as hell, you know that! Especially for what he pulled earlier."
"What'd he pull earlier?"
"His (bleep), remember?"
"Oh, oh, yeah. So, how long has it been, anyway?"
Costa checked his watch. "Fifty-eight minutes and forty-five seconds."
JD chuckled. "Hope springs eternal, I guess," he quipped.
There was silence in the courtroom for the space of a few heartbeats, then the jury room door swung open and the jurors filed into the box to take their seats. Costa checked his watch again. "Made it with a minute and eight seconds to spare," he said triumphantly. He turned to JD and held out his hand.
Disappointed, JD fished out his billfold and withdrew two twenties and a ten. He slapped the bills into his brother's waiting hand. "Here," he said. "Last time I make a bet with you."
Costa gloated as he stuffed his winnings into his pocket. He had no time to savor his victory because the judge had just entered the courtroom. Everyone rose at the command of the bailiff, then sat down again. The Honorable Jerome Schwarz turned to the jury box. "Has the jury reached a verdict?" he intoned.
The foreperson, an elderly woman with white hair cut in a pageboy, stood up slowly. "We have, Your Honor," she quavered, holding out a folded piece of paper.
The bailiff took the paper from the foreperson and passed it to the judge. "Will the defendant please rise?" he ordered. Then he asked, "Does the defendant have anything to say before the verdict is delivered?"
Alvin stood there, wavering. "I-I-I don't know what to say," he stammered. "I din't mean no harm to no one, really. I don't wanna go to jail or nothin'! You can put me in a bughouse ward if you want, but please, no jail!"
Judge Schwarz was totally unmoved by Alvin's pleas. He unfolded the paper and read the contents aloud: "Alvin Zubrowski, you have been found guilty on sixteen counts of indecent exposure, one count of criminal sexual conduct on a minor, one count of burglary, and one count of conspiracy. While you claim you didn't harm anyone, you have in fact caused greater harm than you think. Not only have you traumatized those to whom you had exposed yourself, but you had also sought the ruination of a major celebrity out of personal resentment. You are not a hardened criminal, Mr. Zubrowski, but you are a reprobate. I don't know what impulses drove you to these acts, but I can only hope in time you can overcome them. If you had restricted yourself to older women, I would have simply recommended compulsory therapy. However, since you also exposed yourself to a minor, plus your theft of the photographs to defame the cousin of the man who broke your nose for your crime against his aunt, plus your outrageous conduct in this courtroom, your behavior has crossed the line. Therefore, the court sentences you to ten to fifteen years in the Nevada State Prison, plus three hundred hours of community service." The gavel came down with a bang. "Case dismissed."
Alvin seemed to wither upon hearing his sentence. "No! No!" he pleaded as the guards hauled him away. "I can't go to prison! I can't! They'll kill me there! I'll do anything, anything at all! Pleeeeeze!I don't want to go to prisooooooonnn!"
Two uniformed guards hauled the flailing, wailing prisoner out of the courtroom. From the gallery, George could not resist one more dig. "Hey, Alvin!" he cried out. "Don't drop the soap!"
Dimitra was perplexed. "What do you mean by that?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing, nothing," George replied quickly. "Just a joke, that's all."
His aunt disregarded her nephew's puzzling humor and picked up her purse to leave. "That vulgar man," she muttered indignantly. "After what he did, he deserves to be sent to prison!"
The family filed out of the courtroom with the others, murmuring and commenting on the trial, everyone satisfied over the verdict. "Hey, I'm hungry!" George announced. "How about some dinner?"
"It's only four o'clock in the afternoon," Dimitra observed.
George shrugged. "So?"
"Wanna go out for pizza?" JD suggested. "It's on Costa."