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I say, "My oven is a dry heat, but I don't want to live in it."
Don't get me wrong. I love it here. I was born here, I was raised here, and I went to school here. I wouldn't live anywhere else if you paid me. This is home, and I like it this way. I wish it wasn't so damn hot, but what can you do?
Today, I'm standing on a little hill in a small park about a mile from Glitter Gulch. That's what people who have lived in Vegas for more than ten years call downtown Vegas. The city fathers have renamed Glitter Gulch "The Fremont Street Experience," but to anyone who knows Vegas, downtown will always be Glitter Gulch. The city fathers can call it any damn thing they want.
I've been waiting on this hill for about twenty minutes. All I've seen so far are a couple of teenyboppers twirling a baton, two old guys arguing in Spanish, and a drunk asleep on a picnic table. The drunk has three teeth. I wonder how he eats corn-on-the-cob. Must take him awhile.
I'm waiting for a kid called J.J. He's a good-looking kid of seventeen who recently took up selling weed, uppers, downers, and some sleeping aids on the streets. I think he's dealing some ecstasy too.
He's a tall blond headed pretty boy who has gone astray, and his mom don't like it.
I have to say I'm impressed with the boy. He's not only the best-looking kid I've ever seen, he's also smart, polite, good at this business, and at this tender age, making about three hundred a day. Not bad for two or three hours of work.
I've asked around about him, and I've gotten nothing but good reports. He's polite, friendly, and nice.
Some people think he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
He's going to have to.
Today ... this boy is going to give up the dope business. I'm here to show him the error of his ways.
This all got started when I went to my office Monday morning. My secretary came down the hall as if someone had tied a can to her tail. She said, "The two most beautiful women in Vegas are in your office."
"Really?" I said. "What do they want? Did they say?"
"They did not say. They never say. You know that."
"Did you offer coffee?"
"Yes, I offered coffee. Do you not know I have social skills?" she asked in a voice just like mine.
Henrietta is almost eighty years old. She's been working for me since I opened my detective agency. That was seven years ago. She was almost eighty years old then, and I'll bet in seven years from now, she'll be almost eighty again. I could not run this business without her. She is irreplaceable.
Her only fault, if you can call it that, is that she's a perfect mimic. She can listen to your voice a couple of times and talk the same way you do. It's very disconcerting. It can throw you for a loop when you first hear her do it.
"Stop talking like me. Please," I asked her.
"I'll stop when you stop," she said, using my voice.
"Please, Hen," I begged. "That's eerie."
"I'm going to stop when you get in that office and see what those ladies want. Not until. Now get to work," she said, grinning at me.
I shook my fist at her and said, "One of these days, you're going to the moon."
She laughed at me, then said, "Don't even think it."
She wasn't kidding. The two women sitting in the easy chairs in front of my desk were really beautiful. The one sitting on the left chair was a couple years older then the prettier one on the right.
The younger lady on the right was crying into a Kleenex.
The other one was sitting like a woman who had made up her mind and wasn't going to change it. Her face looked like it was made of granite. With her lips pressed together, jaw set, and arms folded across her ample breasts, her cobalt blue eyes looked straight ahead ... angrily.
I sat down in my over-stuffed desk chair and said, "Good morning, ladies. I'm Kipling Downs. How can I help you?"
The lady crying in the shredded Kleenex said, "You can't. We changed our minds. We're sorry to have bothered you."
The other blonde said, "We want to hire you to straighten out my son J.J. He's gotten out of hand, and I'm afraid he's going to be killed. You have to get to him ... before someone else does."
The younger blonde stood up and gasped,"Oh, Judy, let's not do this. Please ... I'm scared. I don't want to hurt J.J. Let's go. Please, let's just go."
The older lady said, "Annette, we've been over this a hundred times. This is the only way he's going to listen. It has to be done, or it's going to get worse. Now sit down this instant, or I'm going to get really mad at you."
The younger lady sat down, but started crying again. She said, "I don't know how it came to this. I'm so tired."
The older lady, Judy, looked at me and said, "Well, can you do it or not?"
"Do what?" I asked.
She said, "Haven't you been listening?"
I sat back in my chair and said, "Who the hell are you?"
The prettiest one looked up from her Kleenex and stared at me with her pretty mouth open.
The one called Judy stared at me with the same expression on her face.
After about ten seconds, they looked at each other and both started laughing out loud.
I sat and waited. It wasn't hard to do. I don't get the opportunity to watch two beautiful women laughing the way these two were. It was a very pretty sight to watch, even if I was the butt of the joke.
Finally, they calmed down, and Judy said, "We're so sorry. We've been talking about J.J. for at least six months, and I guess we think everyone knows what we've been up against."
Annette, the younger, said, "How stupid of us. We've been so involved with J.J. we forget other people don't know what we're talking about."
"We've never had a minute's trouble with him. He's always been the nicest boy you'd ever want to meet. So when this crap started happening, we didn't know how to handle it. I hope you'll forgive us." Judy said.
"That's all right, ladies. I understand. This has happened many times in this office. Let's start over. This is my agency. I'm Kipling Downs. What's going on?"
The older lady, Judy, said, "I'm Judy Johnson. J.J. is my son. His name is Jack Johnson, but we've always called him J.J." She pointed at the younger, prettier lady and said, "This is Annette Smithson. She's my kid sister and J.J.'s aunt."
Annette smiled at me. I started melting. I didn't think I'd ever been that close to that pretty of a girl in my life. Her eyes were deep blue, and her smile was wide and generous. Her teeth were the whitest I'd ever seen. Perfectly straight and even. Somehow, they gave the impression she had never seen a dentist.
All this perfection was topped off by a mane of hair that, once seen, was never forgotten. It was blonde, but about four different shades of blonde. Depending on which way she turned her head, you saw strawberry blonde, palomino blonde, corn-silk blonde, and ash blonde all at one time. It looked heavy and clean.
I've been all over the free world, and I've met many beautiful women. I was considered an urban, self-employed man with a lot to offer. I smiled at this beautiful, wonderful woman and said, "Howdy?"
I could have thrown myself out a window. Christ ... How dumb can a man get?
She smiled at me and said, "Howdy."
I loved her for that gesture. She could have made fun of me, laughed at me, or even demeaned me, but she didn't. She put herself on my level and made herself a friend. I was going to do what these women wanted, if it was in my power.
Judy said, "We need some help with my J.J. He's gotten way out of hand. We're afraid he's going to get himself killed if something isn't done."
"He's always been a very polite kid," Annette said. "We don't know how he got this 'Go to hell' attitude."
"What's he doing?" I asked.
"He's going to school only when he wants to," Annette said.
"He's failing all his subjects," Judy said.
"He's got a Ford Mustang convertible from some place and refuses to talk about it," Annette disclosed.
"I found six thousand dollars in his sock drawer the other day!" Judy exclaimed.
"He called his grandfather a bastard last Sunday. Our dad was so hurt he went to his workshop and cried," Annette said, biting her lip.
"He comes and goes as he pleases. He comes home at three, or four, in the morning and sleeps all day," Judy said.
"How do you think he got the money? And the car?" I asked.
"We think he's selling dope on the streets. How else is a seventeen-year-old going to get that kind of money? "Annette asked.
"We're worried sick he's going to get killed by one of those dopers or the police will arrest him or kill him for resisting arrest. There's a hundred different ways he can land up dead doing what he's doing. We have to make him stop. He's got to be taught he can't keep doing this," Judy announced.
"How did you get to me? What makes you think I can help?" I asked.
"About six weeks ago, we thought we were doing something wrong. We thought we were causing him to act like he is," Judy explained.
"We thought we were making mistakes raising J.J. We went to Doctor Scott. You know him. He's a family shrink. We thought he could help us get J.J. straightened up. Maybe he could tell us what we were doing wrong, so we could talk to J.J. and make him understand," Annette said.
"We tried everything he suggested. Nothing worked. Finally, he told us about his son Albert," Judy said.
"He told us Albert was a good boy who got caught up with some people on Fremont Street. He got into selling and taking drugs. He started living with a crack whore named Shy, or Hoi, or something like that. He wouldn't listen to anyone. He wasn't listening to reason," Annette told me.
"Doctor Scott talked to you, and the next time he saw Albert, he was in the hospital with a broken jaw, a broken nose, two black eyes, a broken arm, and a skull fracture. When he got home, he had a whole different attitude. He's in dental college now. Doctor Scott couldn't be more pleased," Judy added.
"We think J.J. needs a lesson on how to be a better son, student, and family member. He needs a lesson on how to get back to the way he was," Annette said.
Judy started crying and said, "He thinks he's so tough. Cussing all the time and you can't get a simple answer from him without all kinds of sarcasm."
"He can't go on like he is. I'm afraid he's going to get killed. If that happens, it will ruin our family," the boy's mother said with tears in her eyes.
"Okay ... I'm going to say this once, so please listen carefully," I said. "I am not in the business of kicking young guy's asses. That is not why I opened this agency. I don't like to do it, and if I take this case, I'm not going to do it again. After this is over, I don't want anyone ever mentioning it. Is that understood?"
Both women shook their heads yes. Annette said, "You will not hear a word of this from us. If our father or mother, let alone J.J., learned we did a thing like this, the whole damn family would disown us."
"Good, I'll get on it today," I said as I stood up. "See Henrietta on your way out. She'll ask for a retainer fee. You'll get the final bill after J.J. starts acting like a teenager again."
"Wait a minute," Annette said. "You haven't told us how you're going to convince him."
"Yes," Judy put in. "We don't want him hurt ... just scared enough to make him go back to school and be nice."
"We couldn't live with ourselves if you hurt J.J. badly!" Annette exclaimed.
"We don't want him smashed," Judy told me.
"It'll be all right, ladies," I said as I herded them to the door. "I'm not going to kill him. He's not going to like it, but he'll be fine."
Annette turned from her sister and put her hand on my chest near my left shoulder. I could have sworn a spark flew from my chest to her hand. I was acting like a schoolboy in love for the first time. I hoped she wasn't picking up on it. She said, "Please, Mr. Downs, don't hurt our J.J. He's a good boy. We don't want him hurt real badly."
I stopped them both before they opened the door and said, "Please, ladies, I'm not going to overdo it, but I want you both to be prepared to see him scared, bloody, swollen, and sickened by what he's been through. He's going to be hurt in body and mind.
"When you get your first beating, you start thinking ... Maybe I'm not the center of the universe. Maybe the sun doesn't come up and sit in my ass. It's a lonesome feeling. You both will have to be very supportive. Help build his manhood up again. You were right about coming to me. If this works like it should, he's not going to give anyone any more problems. I promise. Now stop worrying. I'll take care of it."
After they went down the hall to the front office, I went into the kitchen, got a cup of coffee, and then returned to my office to wait for Henrietta. She came in about ten minutes later and said, "Whazzup?"
I told her the whole thing ... what they wanted me for, what they were after, what timeframe they were thinking about. I even gave her their body language and their misgivings. I told her everything I knew about them and how I felt about their proposal.
When I was done, I asked, "Did you get them?"
"Yes," she said. "Who do you want first? Mom or Auntie Annette?"
"Born Judith Smithson in Vegas. Married out of high school to Jackson Johnson. He graduated a year before her. Professional gambler. Died in a drunk driving accident on the way home from a high stakes poker game at the Colonial Club in Henderson. The drunk that killed him was doing a hundred in the oncoming lane. Mr. Johnson never had a chance to prevent it.
"His son was eight at the time. He's being raised by his mom, his aunt, and his grandparents since his father's death. He was a straight A student and a football letterman. He's been having some problems lately.
"J.J.'s mom, Ms. Judy Johnson, is the food and beverage director of all the Heinz German Restaurants. One hundred twenty thousand a year."
"Christ ... How did she swing that?"
"Went back to school. Took food and beverage courses with the modern restaurant courses. Worked three years for Heinz before promotion to present position. Some think she'll be general manager before the next three years are over."
"Impressive," I said. "How about the pretty one? Aunt Annette?"
"Not as impressive, but not bad," she said. "She left home also, but headed for New York to become a stage actress. She was there a year and never got a nibble. She made all the cattle calls, all the try-outs, all the opportunities, but nothing happened. She ran out of money and came home."
"Damn," I said. "I'm surprised! Hell ... all she has to do is stand around and smile and she's a hit in my book!"
"Stand around and smile is all she did for the next year. She lived at home and worked as a showgirl at the Gold Mountain Casino. When she got enough money together, she quit and headed to Hollywood. She had a little more success there before coming home again."
"Really? She got some parts?"
"Not exactly. She got two foot lotion commercials, three hand lotion commercials, and a lipstick commercial. No one got a look at her face."
I knew how she felt. I went through some dumb experiences in that town. After I got out of the Marine Corps, I went to Hollywood to become the next Paul Newman. What a joke that was. I never really got the hang of things in the movie business. You have to really want what you're seeking with all your heart and soul.
At times, that conflicts with how you're brought up. It goes against all you've ever believed in. You have to make choices you would like not to make. It takes a different kind of person to become big in Hollywood ... at least in the beginning.
One thing I did learn in Hollywood. I found out I had a flair for disguises. I don't know why, but I'm real good at disguising myself to look like almost anyone I want to. It's come in handy many times.
"What's she doing now?" I asked.
"She's the lead cocktail waitress at Wolfino's in the High Caps Casino on the Strip."
"Well, that's not bad. I would sure like to see her in her cocktail outfit," I said with a wishful smile on my face.
Henrietta slapped at me with the yellow legal pad she was using and said, "You men would walk off the deep end of a dry swimming pool to see a pretty face. You're all the same when it comes to women!"
"Come on, Hen," I said. "Even you have to admit Ms. Annette Smithson is a beautiful woman."
"Do you want to sit there and moon over Ms. Smithson's ass, or do you want to know about her parents?"
"Is that a trick question?"
"Her mother was always a stay-at-home mom, "she said, ignoring me. "Her name is Mildred (Millie), and she's an excellent mother. She raised the girls on her own. The father was a world class bridge and tunnel engineer until he retired a year ago," she went on.
"The girls' mother was always responsible for them. Patrick Smithson was always gone. He spent three years, at one time in their lives, in Burma, Thailand, and Laos building bridges and tunnels for those governments. He's made a very good living. Very good indeed." she finished.
"Do you think I should do this kid?" I asked.
Excerpted from I DON'T KILL FOR MONEY by Daniel Thompson Copyright © 2012 by Daniel Thompson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 10, 2012
This is the first book I have read in many years; It was a story that held my interest all the way, I loved Kip and his attitude
about life..never a boring minute..has renewed my passion for reading..
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2012
This is one of the best books I have read. I loved it, could not put it down. There is no place in the book that is boring. Very well written and keeps you on the edge of the seat. When you finish it, it leaves you wanting more. I would recommend this book to any one. I loved it. I want more!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.