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Seven people, six men, and a woman entered a back room to play a game of Crazy Eights. Four walked out. Burt was one of them.
He left with one intent.
Get the hell out of Vegas.
Whatever money he could make here, whatever the potential, it didn’t matter. He’d taken a step too far with these back room games and hidden gambling halls, the ones where the stakes were large along with the thrills.
The ones were he normally stood out and excelled in his career as a card counter.
The casinos knew what he did, and often let him win anyway. He offered what they offered.
Even when he won, his garish suit, gold jewelry, chocolate skin, and boisterous demeanor kept the other patrons gambling, hoping some of his luck would rub off on them.
But he’d been sucked in beyond the casino floor and bored dealers, to the places for more serious gamblers.
He’d won more and lost more, been overcome by curiosity, and followed a man named Jack, trying to figure him out, maybe even partner up.
He’d found himself first nearly run down, then kidnapped and put in a game where his card counting skills did little for him, a game of Crazy Eights. And he’d lost.
As he approached the valet, he saw the man was already bringing his Mustang around. The advantage of being a good tipper and easily recognizable.
L.A. was no good as a haven. Neither was pretty much anywhere in Nevada.
The disadvantage of being a good tipper, a great gambler, and easily recognizable.
He’d gotten someone’s attention. Maybe he could change that.
The first order of business would be to change his clothes and his appearance. To do that, he’d need to do some shopping.
Burt had exactly seven suits, all loud in their own way. He didn’t own a single conservative polo and pair of khakis.
He almost didn’t know if he could stomach wearing them.
Where did they even sell clothes like that anyway? A mall?
There had to be one around here somewhere. In fact, he thought he’d seen one not far away.
He put the Mustang in gear and roared out of the parking lot. Behind him, a black sedan did the same, a newer Ford something he saw in his rearview mirror.
He turned right, and that car turned left.
Good. He wasn’t being followed.
* * *
Troy and Tony followed the man they’d just left the game with, Red Hat, they called him, out of the casino to find the sun shining. Time, some amount of time, had passed and it was now the quiet, early morning of Vegas.
Normal people were eating breakfast, preparing to go to normal jobs at normal times.
The twins, as they were known to most, were not. They were up past their bedtime, which usually came somewhere around five a.m.
Their mother, God rest her soul, had little sense of humor. Tony and Troy were also known as T and T. Or TNT. Because as a pair, they were dynamite. They could clear a room, take out several assailants at one time. Each.
It came from fighting their way through elementary and high school.
That’s where the bullying stopped. They discovered Krav Maga, bullies discovered the taste of pavement and the pain of broken bones.
If their mother had stuck with their original names, Troy and Tory, things probably would have been worse. It’s amazing the difference one letter can make.
Both had college degrees in criminal justice. They’d been headed for an FBI career before an unfortunate incident in a bar on a Friday night.
A witness to that incident had recruited them for a new job that put their skills to use, just for the other side of the law.
The brothers were fine with that.
Their appearance let them switch places at times, trade jobs, freak out debtors who needed to be scared into paying. They provided each other with alibis from time to time.
The accident of their birth worked well for them.
As they approached the valet, their car was already being brought up for them behind some older Mustang. That must belong to Red Hat.
The advantage of being recognizable and just a little bit threatening.
They jumped in the car and headed for the exit.
“Where to?” Troy asked his brother.
“The apartment. Let’s get some sleep, and we can chat with Ace later.”
As they pulled out of the parking area, they turned left, and saw the Mustang turn right.
“Wonder where he’s going?”
“Who knows? But I hope he has some good luck, wherever it is.”
The two chuckled at the same time. They even sounded nearly identical.
“Heads up,” Tony said, looking behind them. “We have company.”
“Blue Chevy. Two cars back, on the right.”
Troy accelerated, and then took a sharp left.
‘Where are you headed?” Tony asked.
“The hangar. You know the one.”
“Right. Built-in cold storage. Slow down, you don’t want to lose them.”
Troy slowed the sedan. He knew they could easily outrun their pursuers. But whoever had drawn them into the game of Crazy Eights, whoever that man was, knew way too much about them. Which meant he might know other things as well.
They needed to find out what.
Tony settled back into the passenger seat and closed his eyes. It took them twenty minutes to make the trip, and when they turned into the private airstrip area, he watched, concerned that the other car wouldn’t follow them.
But they did. Right behind them. Whoever it was had given up stealth long ago.
They didn’t care if the brothers knew they were being followed.
Troy stopped at a gate, and a guard came out to identify them. He waved and started to just open the gate.
“Wait,” Troy said. “Let the car behind us through.”
“Just let him through?” the guard asked.
“That’s right. Then call this number.” He handed the man a card with no name on it, just a ten of clubs on one side and the typical ten digits of a phone number on the other. With it was a hundred dollar bill.
“What do I tell them?”
“Identify yourself. Let them know there’s a cleanup on aisle ten.”
“Cleanup on aisle ten?”
“That’s it. You got it?”
Troy pulled through the now open gate, took a right, and headed for hangar ten.
It was the one with a large club on the front door.
The blue Chevy followed them through the gate and stayed only inches from their bumper.
“You ready?” Troy asked.
In answer his brother pulled open the glove box and removed two pistols. “The other stuff still under the seat?”
“Yeah. You think we’ll need it?”
Tony looked back at the car behind them as they pulled up to the hangar, and the two men inside.
“Nope,” he said.
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