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CHAPTER ONETHE GAMBLERWhen Sylvia White didn’t get her usual morning phone call from her son, Bruce, on Saturday, July 6, 1996, she didn’t like it at all. It wasn’t like him not to check in, and she was still worried when she left her Summerlin-area home on the far eastern edge of Las Vegas at about 7 a.m. to drive to work.Even though Bruce Weinstein lived only a few minutes away from his parents’ house; Sylvia and Fred White could always count on his calls, because their oldest son was a creature of habit. He had a routine, and he rarely varied from it. If he went out to dinner, which he often did, he was sure to return home early, and was usually in bed by 9 or 9:30 p.m. He didn’t venture away from his home late at night, because he was always up at the crack of dawn, never later than 5 or 6 a.m. Before turning in, he always telephoned his parents, just as he did a few hours later after getting out of bed to begin his morning activities. He had to arise early, because he had important work to do.Sylvia White was closely involved with that work, and had been for a long time. She worked with her son. Running a sports book was a family business, and Bruce had taken naturally to it. He was the one everyone, family members and other employees, depended on to keep the operation running smoothly. Sylvia’s concern continued to build and deepen as she left her house and drove across town on her way to work.
Shawn Hallman was puzzled. He needed an advance on his paycheck to tide him over the weekend, but he couldn’t locate Bruce. Normal opening time for the betting office was 8 a.m., when the lines were set, but Hallman had come in to work at about 7:30 Saturday morning so he could call his boss.Bruce’s live-in girlfriend Amy De Chant answered the phone. She started giving him a song and dance about Bruce being upstairs in bed and sleeping late, but immediately corrected herself: “No, no. He’s out,” she stammered. “He’ll be back around 11 a.m.” That sounded strange to Hallman, but even though Bruce was his former brother-in-law and they had a close relationship, he was in no position to argue with his boss’s live-in girlfriend. The young betting clerk mumbled a puzzled “Okay,” and hung up. He figured he could ask for the advance after Bruce called Shawn’s roommate, Brian Foster, to set the betting lines.Foster was Bruce’s office manager and line-setter, and he was mildly surprised when his boss failed to call him at 7 a.m. for their first discussion of the day about the games scheduled to be played, about the odds and setting the lines. When Bruce still hadn’t called by 7:30, Foster was at a loss to figure out what was going on. It was critical to the operation to set the lines and get them on the board early, because Las Vegas is three hours behind the East Coast, and by 8 a.m. in Nevada, gamblers in New York, Boston, and other cities miles away are already beginning to call in with their bets.The office manager was authorized to accept most bets called in to clerks manning the bank of telephones, but if a gambler called in with a bet that was unusually large, then he had to ask for Bruce’s approval. Foster could make minor changes in the lines on his own, but needed Bruce’s okay for everything else. Bruce was the boss and setting the lines was his call. He was the brains behind the operation and the man with the final say-so.The two men talked during the workday at least every half-hour, often more frequently. Bruce was a man who was married to his job, and Foster had always been able to get in touch with him, regardless of where he was or who he was with. Even when Bruce was vacationing in Miami Beach, the two men had talked by phone every day. During the busiest times of those days, it was every ten minutes.By 7:45 a.m., all the betting office employees, including Bruce’s mother, had trooped into the house on Winterpine and were still waiting around staring expectantly at the telephones and at the board, as if the lines might somehow miraculously appear there. But their boss didn’t call at 7:45, and by the 8 o’clock opening time he still hadn’t phoned in. Normally, Bruce and his line-setter talked by phone three or four times between the first call of the morning, at 7 a.m., and 8:25, when the 800 lines were just beginning to warm up.Foster, a boardman, four clerks, and Bruce’s mother were all waiting, looking more worried and perplexed by the minute. Sylvia White sat next to Foster and helped out with whatever chores had to be taken care of. She knew the business and was an efficient, enthusiastic worker, but she couldn’t set the lines. Foster had to get hold of his boss if he was going to start putting information on the board.Then Bruce vanished. He punched in the number at Bruce’s house at 8:25 a.m., desperate to get the lines set, but also motivated by the growing fear that something was disastrously wrong. After the phone rang a few times it was answered by Kenny Reisch. Reisch told Foster that he hadn’t seen or heard from their boss.Foster knew that Bruce was a man of habit, and was shaken by the brief conversation. He’d last talked with him at about 9 or 9:30 Friday night, and they had had a routine conversation. Bruce had just gotten home from the Holiday Inn where he was playing the horses, and was getting ready to go to bed. He was grumbling because the Atlanta Braves had won again, and everyone bets on the Braves. Baseball season was a bitch for bookies.Everything about the conversation Friday night was normal, and Bruce hadn’t said a word about anything special coming up on Saturday that might interfere with his usual routine, or keep him from calling in to set the lines. Foster had seen the business go through troubling times before, like when Bruce had moved the betting office from its initial location on Cedar Avenue to Winterpine after the police raid. But police raids on betting offices were expected occasionally, and bookies and their employees know how to roll with the punches.The boss’s mysterious vanishing at the beginning of a busy weekend a few days before baseball’s break for the annual all-star game was a different story altogether. Nothing like this had ever happened since Foster started working for Bruce.The office manager began dialing numbers on other lines. He tried all of Bruce’s cellular phone numbers and his car phone, then finally dialed his boss’s private number. Bruce’s girlfriend answered, and sounded as though the call had awakened her. She didn’t bother with pleasantries, and simply advised the alarmed office manager that Bruce was gone. She agreed to leave a message for him to call the office.Foster turned and looked at Bruce’s mother. His concern was reflected in his face. “Something’s wrong,” he said.Copyright © 2000 by Clifford L. Linedecker.