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SEARCHING FOR FRANKLIN
By NEAL LOCKE
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Neal Locke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSEPTEMBER 28TH
Robert, Wendy, and David picked up Derek at his home. Rachel stands at the door and waves to them as Derek walks down the sidewalk. Derek gets in and greets the others with a big smile. Robert puts the crew cab pickup in drive and pulls onto the street as Derek wave's goodbye to Rachel.
As the pickup approaches the H.E. Bailey Turnpike entrance ramp, Robert tells the others he hopes they like cowboy boots because he had gone to Langston's in Oklahoma City a few days ago and bought everyone a pair of cowboy boots and a carry bag for them. Derek laughs and tells Robert he likes cowboy boots even though he's not the normal redneck. Wendy looks over at Robert and asks him why he bought all of them cowboy boots and carry bags? He tells them the money that they got from the Blanchard storage unit had been placed in the boots as paper stuffing. David looks at the others and smiles. He asks Robert how much money did he put in the boots? Robert tells them he put two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in each boot, which would give them right at a million dollars to gamble with in Vegas. Wendy looks at Robert and tells him she hopes that the x-ray machine doesn't expose the money when they put the boots through the inspection point at the airport. Robert tells them he had a friend at TSA and he asked him about paper going through the machine and he told him that it only viewed solid objects. Wendy looks at the others, tells them that's good, but what if one of the inspectors decides to look in the carry bag and the boots? David, with a concerned look on his face, tells them he hopes that doesn't happen. Robert assures them that everything looks legit because he covered the money with the original paper that came with the new boots and the inspectors wouldn't take all the paper out. He tells them he wadded the money up and stuffed the boots with it. He assured them that there would not be a problem because they were flying the weekly charter flight to Las Vegas and they didn't search carry-on bags that close. Wendy tells them she hopes he is right because explaining the money might be hard since none of them make that kind of money. Robert tells them all to "be cool" when going through the inspection line and everything would be all right.
As Robert exits off the ramp on SW 59th and turns west, they can all see Will Rogers World Airport. Robert turns into the parking area and quickly locates a parking spot just as the airport shuttle bus drives up behind them. Each of them gets out of the pickup, taking their bags and placing them on the shuttle for the ride to the entrance to the airport terminal. David looks at Wendy and asks her if she had remembered to get the tickets and she assured him she had everything under control.
As the four enter the airport and walk to the TSA screening area, Wendy hands each one their ticket. They all take out their identification and ticket and they're checked into the security area and enter the screening line. They all remove their shoes and place them and their carry-on bags in a plastic tub on the conveyor. As they approach the walk through metal detector, each one removes the metal objects from their pockets, putting them in a bowl. They all make it through the first time except for Robert. As the others hear the metal detector alarm go off, they all turn and look at Robert. Robert smiles and says "Crap!" Robert feels in his pockets, looks at the inspector and smiles and tells him he forgot his can of smokeless tobacco in his sock. Robert removes the can, hands it to the inspector and walks back through the metal detector. Robert is free and clear this time. The alarm does not sound. Each one gathers up their carry-on bags, puts on their shoes, and starts walking toward the boarding gate. Derek looks at Robert and tells him his heart almost stopped when the alarm went off at the metal detector. Robert laughs and tells the others not to worry, he was good. Derek said the first thing he thought was that Robert had his off-duty weapon with him and he forgot to take it off and leave it in the truck. Robert tells them it's was no big deal and they need to just enjoy themselves. Wendy looks over to them and tells them that each of them has illegal drug money and that she is as nervous as a whore in church. As they approach the ticket counter, each one shows their ticket and is given a boarding pass. Their plane is sitting on the tarmac. The ticket hostess starts to call out seating assignments on the public address system. As they hear their seat numbers called, they each get up and approach the line to board the airplane. Once inside the plane, they store their bags in the overhead compartments. They're all seated together in rows fourteen and fifteen. The flight attendant walks by, shuts the doors to the overhead compartments and looks at Robert. "Robert Johnson is that you?" Robert looks up at the flight attendant and says, "Well, hello Joyce." Wendy looks at Robert with cold eyes wondering who this Joyce is to him. Robert looks at Wendy with half a smile as Joyce, the flight attendant, smiles at Robert and says. "Long time no see." Robert looks over at Wendy and back at Joyce and says, "Well, how are you doing Joyce?" Joyce can tell this conversation is a little uncomfortable for Robert and she says that she is fine and she was glad to see him. Robert acknowledges Joyce and tells her the same. David leans up in his seat and asks Robert where he knew Joyce from? Robert looks at Wendy, leans back, and tells David they are old friends. Derek and David smile at each other because they know Robert isn't telling them the truth. Derek leans forward in his seat, laughs and tells Robert it sounds like SPS to him. Wendy looks at Robert with a cold stare.
As the plane taxis to the runway, Derek can see David is a little uncomfortable. "You okay, David?" Derek asks. David is gripping the arms of his seat and Derek can see his knuckles are white. David tells Derek he has never flown in a big plane before, and this is the first time he has ever gone to Las Vegas. Derek smiles and tells him not to worry; flying is safer than driving a car. As the airplane stops on the runway, David is watching the flight attendant finish her safety monologue and eases his grip on the armrest of his seat. The flight attendant smiles at Robert when she walks by on the way to her seat. Wendy has been watching Joyce and Robert make eye contact numerous times. Derek has been watching this too, and leans forward in his seat and says, "Hey, Sarge, how good of an old friend was she?" Robert ignores the comment, adjusts his seat belt, and leans his head back as the thrust of the airplane engines become louder. The airplane begins to increase speed down the runway.
Once in the air, David puts his hands in his lap and Derek can tell he is becoming more relaxed. David looks over at Derek and says, "Damn, I need a stiff drink." Derek tells David that once they level off at the flying altitude, the flight attendant would get him anything he needed. Robert comments to Wendy that was a smooth take-off, but she ignores him. Wendy closes her eyes, tilts her seat back and pretends to take a nap. As the airplane levels off, the flight attendants start their routine of taking drink orders. As they continue to work their way toward row fourteen and fifteen, Wendy opens her eyes. Joyce has made it a point to stop at row fourteen where Wendy and Robert are seated. Joyce looks at Robert, "Where are you staying in Vegas?" Wendy looks up at her, and before Robert could answer, says that they are staying at the MGM Grand on the strip. Joyce can see that Wendy is not fond of the way she is acting toward Robert, so she takes their drink order, serves them and moves on to row fifteen. Joyce asks Derek and David what they would like. Derek tells her a coke for him, and David orders a whiskey and coke. Joyce smiles as she looks at Derek and David, serves them and moves on to the next row. After sitting on the plane for a couple of hours, Wendy removes her seat belt and walks to the lavatory. Joyce can see that Robert is alone. She walks to row fourteen and stops. Robert looks up and smiles. She asks Robert how long he is going to be in Vegas. He tells her that he will only be there a couple of days. She quickly hands Robert a note. He takes it, folds it, and puts it in his pocket. As Wendy comes out of the lavatory and starts to walk back toward her seat, she can see that Joyce is talking to Robert. Joyce looks up and sees Wendy approaching. She winks at Robert and tells him to call her. Wendy and Joyce meet in the aisle and just smile at each other. Wendy sits back down in her seat, and without looking at Robert, buckles her seat belt. Derek leans over to David, and in a low voice tells him he thinks that Wendy is pissed off at Robert. By now, David has had four whiskey and cokes, and he's feeling pretty good. So he leans forward in his seat and says to Wendy, "What's up girl?" If you act like this the whole trip, you aren't going to be any fun at all." Wendy says that she is just fine and she is going to have fun. She looks at Robert, smiles and tells him she is going to have fun. He smiles back and tells her this is going to be a fun trip because they have plenty of money.
The airplane lands at McCarran International Airport and comes to a stop. They all remove their seat belts and began removing their carry-on bags from the overhead compartments. As they make their way toward the exit, Wendy can see that Joyce is waiting at the door telling everyone to have a good time in Las Vegas. As Robert, Wendy, David, and Derek leave the plane, Wendy looks over her shoulder at Joyce and wonders if she has slept with Robert?
As they make their way to the ground transportation area of the terminal, Robert tells them they're going to the hotel in style. They will be taking a limo to the MGM Grand. Derek smiles at David and says, "Hey David, you redneck! You ever been in a limo?" David flips him the middle finger.
As the four arrive at the MGM Grand and are checking in, Derek can see this large slot machine close to the check-in counter. He looks at the others and says, "I want to play that one." David is still feeling good from the four drinks he had on the airplane and says, "Oh hell Derek, you can play anything you want." After they check in, Wendy hands David and Derek their room keys. David looks at Wendy and says, "How many rooms did we get?" Wendy tells them that each one has a room to themselves. Derek looks a little startled, and says "Four! Aren't you and Robert sharing a room?" With a cold stare, Wendy tells him again that they each have their own room. David tells the others he is going to his room and would meet them in fifteen minutes by the elevator. They all agree to meet in fifteen minutes.
Wendy opens the door to her room and sets her bags down on the bed. She unzips the boot bag and takes out the money. She stacks the money on the bed and takes ten thousand dollars and places it in her purse. She locates the in-room safe, enters her private code and places the rest of the money inside. She goes to the bathroom and combs her hair.
Robert enters his room and throws his bags on the bed. He unzips the boot bag, removes the money from the boots and lays it on the bed. Robert takes ten thousand dollars, folds it, puts a rubber band around it and puts it in his front jeans pocket. He takes the rest of the money and places it in the safe.
David enters his room and drops his bag in the floor. He unzips the boot bag and takes out the boots. He removes the paper stuffing and finds the money. He throws the money on the bed and he lays it out in ten thousand dollar stacks. He locates the safe and enters his code. He places all but twenty thousand dollars inside.
Derek enters his room, drops his bags on the floor and goes to the bathroom. As he stands in front of the toilet relieving himself, he looks at the mirror on the wall behind the toilet and smiles. When he is finished, he flushes the toilet, washes his hands, and leaves the bathroom. He picks up the boot bag, unzips it and removes the money. He takes five thousand dollars and folds it into two twenty-five hundred dollar stacks. He places one stack in his front jeans pocket and the other stack in his wallet.
David is first off the elevator and he waits for the others. Wendy and Derek exit the elevator and greet David. David looks at them and is about to ask about Robert when the elevator door opens and Robert steps out. As they stand in the elevator corridor, Robert looks at the others and says, "Okay what's the plan?" David looks at the others and says, "No Plan", and they all laugh. Wendy says she is going to the High Limit Slot area to see what she could win. Derek and David are going back and play the big slot machine by the hotel check-in. Robert tells them he will be around somewhere.
Wendy enters the High Limit Slot area and walks over to a hundred dollar machine and begins to put ten one hundred dollar bills in it. David and Derek walk to the big slot machine at the front of the casino and they both put in five hundred dollars. Robert looks around the casino and walks toward the table gaming area. Wendy has won a little on the High Limit Slot machine. She is playing three hundred dollars a spin but quickly loses what she has won. She takes another thousand dollars from her purse and puts it into the machine. She pushes the button on the machine and it stops on three MGM Lions. The machine starts blinking and bells start ringing! She has hit the jackpot! A slot hostess walks over to Wendy and tells her she has just won three hundred thousand dollars. Wendy can't believe she has hit the jackpot. She sits down on the stool in front of the slot machine in shock. Wendy takes out her cell phone and tries to call Robert, but he doesn't answer. Wendy begins screaming and jumping up and down.
David and Derek have put two thousand dollars each into the big slot machine and have won nothing. Robert has not stopped to play anything. He is admiring the magnificent beauty of the casino. Robert can't help but notice all the commotion going on in front of him as he walks through the casino. As he gets closer to the High Limit Slot area, there is a large gathering of people looking into that area. As a trained police officer, he's curious about what's happening, and wonders what has so many people's attention. He walks up to the crowd and he can hear a machine ringing very loud. He looks at an elderly lady standing at the back of the crowd and asks her what is going on? The little woman tells him that someone had hit a huge jackpot. Robert is trying to see, when he hears Wendy screaming. Robert makes his way through the crowd into the High Limit Slot area. He can see Wendy sitting on a stool with her hands over her face. Robert can tell by the way people are acting around her that something big has happened. Robert walks toward her. Wendy looks up and sees him. She jumps up, screams and runs toward him, jumping into his not so outstretched arms. "I won! I won!" she screams. "You won what," Robert asks? "I won three hundred thousand dollars," she tells him as she screams. "Holy Shit!" Robert says in a slow drawl as he wraps his arms around her and congratulates her. Robert can see all the people in the area are casino employees. A guy in a suit approaches them. "Hello, I am Carl Marr, and I am the High Limits Slot Casino Supervisor," he says to Robert and Wendy. He shakes hands with Robert. Wendy grabs Carl Marr's hand and shakes it with enthusiasm. Mr. Marr congratulates them on their big win. As Wendy and Robert stand by the winning slot machine, a photographer walks up and takes their picture with Mr. Marr. He tells Wendy he will send a copy of the picture to her room. The photographer talks with Mr. Marr and then leaves. Mr. Marr tells Wendy that the casino will pay her jackpot winnings shortly and asks her how she would like to be paid. She turns to Robert for advice. Mr. Marr can see that this is probably the first time either of them has won anything big and he tells them to follow him to his office. Once inside his office, he asks Wendy if this is her first big jackpot. Yes, she said it was. He suggests to her that they take only a portion of the winnings in cash, and the rest in a check. He also suggests that the casino would be the place to have taxes withheld from such a large sum. Wendy listens to Mr. Marr's suggestions and looks at Robert who nods with agreement. As they discuss the payment of the winnings, Mr. Marr asks them how long they will be staying at the hotel. Robert tells him they have reservations for two nights. Mr. Marr asks Robert what type of room they are staying in and Robert tells him the standard room, he guessed. Mr. Marr gets on the phone and places a call. He asks Robert and Wendy for their room keys as he talks on the phone. As Mr. Marr continues to talk on the phone, Robert catches the words penthouse and suites. Mr. Marr hangs up the phone, smiles at Wendy and Robert, and tells them he is transferring them from their present rooms to a Presidential Suite on the fourth floor. Wendy asks Mr. Marr how much for the transfer? He smiles at Wendy and tells her that there is no charge. It is compliments of the MGM Grand Casino. Robert tells Mr. Marr that he needs his room key back because he and Wendy are not staying together. Mr. Marr apologizes for the misunderstanding as he thought they were together. Robert tells him they are friends and work together, but they are not sharing the same room. Wendy looks at Robert with a confused look and she could tell by the way he answered he was serious. Mr. Marr takes all the information from Wendy needed to fill out the paperwork for her to receive her jackpot winnings.
Excerpted from SEARCHING FOR FRANKLIN by NEAL LOCKE Copyright © 2012 by Neal Locke. 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.
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