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No doubt about itCosmo Fortune was a royal pain in the ass.
Mickey stepped back into the anonymity of the stage's curtained shadows, aware that alerting the wily old coot to his presence would be a mistake. Instead, he rifled his jacket pocket for the familiar shape of the pain reliever bottle. Withdrawing two oval tablets, he popped them in his mouth and swallowed without water. With luck, they'd cut off the headache before it turned horrific.
Stress seemed to induce the blinding pain, and today had been nothing but stressful. Cosmo had failed to deliver the goods. Worse, that two-bit magician had lied to him, and Mickey was damned if he'd cover Cosmo's ass anymore in this mess. The old guy was a bad liability, and Mickey wasn't buying any more of his stories. He needed answersand he needed them tonightor someone was going to get hurt.
Yeah, like King Kong gnawing on his skull wasn't enough.
His fingers drummed against his thighs as he waited for his quarry to finish his performance. Cosmo tried to make you think his brain power had receded like his hairline, mumbled his way out of messes with his folksy charm, and all the while he juggled his numerous little dealings with the same precise arcs as those flaming torches he now wielded onstage.
Well, this was bound to be Cosmo Fortune's last show for a while. Quite a while.
The magician's deft fingers conjured a dove from within the folds of his black cape. Capes had gone out with Liberace, Elvis, Houdini, for God's sake. Amid sparse applause, the dove fluttered upward until it disappeared in the bright stage lights.
Careful, bird. Don't be giving your boss any ideas.
Mickey glanced at his watch. Time was quickly becoming his enemy. Well, at least enemies were more predictable than friends in this game. He'd tried to befriend Cosmo, and look how that had turned out. Dangerous to have friends when you played every hand against the other.
He'd been doing that ever since he arrived in Vegas. His lifestyle didn't allow for friendships. Not anymore.
Beyond the footlights, the half-filled auditorium resounded with sketchy applause and a few hoots as Cosmo Fortune took a bow. His assistant, scantily clad in a blue satin tutu, hauled a white rabbit roughly the size of a cocker spaniel off the draped table, handed the animal to Cosmo and all three took another bow. Finally, the curtain dropped.
Mickey marched forward to take the trickster's pudgy arm. A strong smell of Axe aftershave wafted up from the magician and made Mickey's headache bare its teeth again. He blinked against the flash of pain, imprinting the image of Cosmo's mad-doctor hair and silver goatee, which always made the guy look like a cross between an aging Wolfman and a munchkin.
Cosmo's impish golden eyes lit in recognition. “Mickey, my boy! Here, take Edgar”
“Keep that damned carnivore away from me.”
Cosmo blinked. “It was an accident he bit you that time.”
“Like I'm going to believe anything you say,” Mickey said under his breath as the assistant came to lift the rabbit against her globe-shaped breasts. “We need to talk, old man.”