He Like a Good Steak
Todd Loudin owned a lot of places and people in Sin City. The people owed him favors; the places owed him nothing. The people usually ended up hurt; the places were infamous.
He liked a good steak and no place proved better than the Golden Steer. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack ate here, the King of Rock and Roll held court, and Natalie Wood bought her own velvet touch. Todd like to do business in a leather booth next to the restaurant’s decorative bottles of Bordeaux.
The dinner crowd waltzed in around five, so Todd always started around two. He always ate a petite filet mignon, medium rare with a gorgeous crust, and an extra-dry martini with his head right below Marilyn Monroe’s smile. Sometimes he ate alone or with an occasional partner. Usually it was pleasure. Sometimes it was all business. Today Johnny May and Freddie Mite joined him. The first man was an imposing bodyguard on payroll. The second man was a private investigator with news about the robbery at the Glitter Gulch.
“They cleaned out the till. Got away with maybe a thousand,” Johnny said. “Luckily, Charlie had moved most of the night’s take into the safe.”
“Took a bullet too,” Freddy said. “They’ve got him over at Valley. Looks like he’s going to live.”
“The club is a mess. We’re looking at least ten grand just to make it right,” Johnny said. “Bullet holes everywhere. Plus, a scorched spot on the floor where Bill burned up.”
“He always made a statement,” Todd snickered. “How did that happen anyway?”
“A bullet tore through the fish tank, the lights fell from the ceiling, and old Bill was on the floor,” Freddie said. “He burned up in the fire. The firemen put him out, but half his face is gone.”
“Either that or a lot of makeup.”
A server wearing a black tuxedo filled the water glasses. He readjusted a napkin hanging over his arm and poured the carafe into Todd’s glass. He moved the bread bowl and scraped the crumbs over the linen tablecloth into his waiting hand. The men watched him in silence. The waiter nodded at them and walked back to the kitchen.
“Excellent service,” Todd said. “They just know how to do it.” The other men nodded in agreement. “Old Vegas through and through.” He continued talking about the morning events.
“Let’s recap. Charlie’s bummed up, Bill’s burned up, and we need to rebuild the club,” Todd said. “What about Wallace and the girl?”
“Says she knows you,” Johnny said. “Wallace was just eating his eggs. Now, he seems to be helping her.”
“Helping her do what?” Todd said.
“Crazy stuff,” Freddie said. “Says her name’s Cindy Lash. She wouldn’t be Tommy’s daughter, would she?”
Todd thought back twenty years to when Tommy Lash worked as a bodyguard. Johnny placed his fork and knife beside his plate. He leaned back with Freddie waiting for Todd to talk.
“Tommy’s death was unfortunate,” Todd said. “He was a good soldier who just happened to get in over his head. I had nothing to do with it. What does the girl want?”
“Just to talk, it seems,” Johnny said. “She went to the club looking for you.”
“Is she connected to the guy who robbed me and killed Bill?” Todd said.
“He’s a mystery,” Freddie said. “Shot the girl, so I doubt it.”
“The police picked up Feather,” said Johnnie. “She seemed to know the guy.”
“So we know nothing,” Todd said.
“Pretty much.” Freddie said.
Todd studied the two men seated next to him. Johnny wiped his mouth and set the napkin next to his plate. Freddie cut another slice of steak and put it in his mouth. He chewed slowly waiting for Todd to speak.
The server poured more water and took Todd’s plate. Behind him, a man began preparing Banana Foster; cutting up the bananas and adding butter to a hot plate. He mixed in brown sugar, rum, and tossed the whole desert into a plate with an added scoop of vanilla ice cream. He set the plate in front of Todd and gave everyone a spoon.
Todd dipped his spoon in the desert and looked up waiting for the others to join him. Johnnie reached his spoon over while Freddie waved him off. Todd took a drink and let it wash over his tongue.
“If the guy and the girl aren’t working together, why does she want to see me,” Todd said. “And why is Wallace involved?”
“Could be a shake down,” Johnnie said.
“The guy shot the girl with Wallace next to her,” Freddie said.
“She probably thinks there’s a payday,” Johnnie said.
“What bothers me is that she’s Tommy Lash’s kid,” Todd said. “He didn’t die too well and she might know our business.”
“She looks pretty young,” Johnnie said. “I don’t think she knows too much about the past.”
“It’s not the past I’m worried about,” Todd said. “I’m worried about the present.”