“That Turkish?” The guy’s accent was thick, but he was breathing deep and smelled the spice from Justin’s smoke.
Justin nodded at him and pulled out his pack. He opened it up and offered him his last one. “Tough as shit to get out here, but worth the wait.”
“You only have one left.”
“No worries, man. It’s all you.”
“Thank you.” The guy tipped his head and Justin lit it for him. He took a long pull and closed his eyes, like it had been years since he had one and he was loving the taste. “My wife would kill me if she saw me smoking, but I can’t pass up a Turkish spice like this.”
I laughed and rested my shoulder on the brick wall next to Justin. “We can keep a secret.” It was a throwaway comment, but the guy looked us both up and down for a second as if sizing us up.
“Actually you might be just what I need tonight. I’m in a bit of a bind and I need a runner. You guys got a few minutes before you have to be back in?”
Justin looked at me, and I nodded. We both knew we had about fifteen minutes before we had to be ready for our shift. If we weren’t we’d lose our jobs. Vegas is a big city, but everyone knows everyone. And if you burnt a bridge at a casino like this, all the other casinos on the strip would hear about it. From pit boss to busboy, your reputation and work ethic follow you. I knew this, and I also knew that this opportunity was a gamble, but we’d been waiting for this kind of opportunity. It was one that could get us in a lot of trouble or it could be one that paid off. Justin nodded back at me, and I looked at the guy. “We’ve got time. What can we help you with?”
The guy smiled at us and gave us instructions on when and where to pick up a package and bring it back. After he gave us the basic details, we made our way out.
We met up at the exchange spot, and I handed over an envelope the guy gave us. The dude in the truck handed us a small box, and we sure as fuck didn’t ask what it was. I took it, stuck it in my back pocket, and we got the fuck out of there.
When we got back to the casino, the guy with the accent and Don were waiting for us in the back of the kitchen. It was just the two of them, and it was intimidating as fuck. Justin and I were thirty minutes late for our shift, and seeing Don there wasn’t a good sign. I didn’t bother with excuses; I just started with an apology. “I’m sorry, Mr. Cortez. My brother and I got caught up on the way to work. It won’t happen again.”
“I come out back to find my good friend Mr. Florence having a smoke, and then the kitchen manager comes out to complain about two guys skipping a night shift. I’m guessing you’re those two guys.”
“Yes, sir. We were running late. I apologize. It won’t ever happen again.” I didn’t make eye contact with Mr. Florence. I didn’t mention the reason for being late, and I pretended like the big fucker wasn’t even in the room. And I absolutely didn’t mention the small box in my back pocket.
Don looked us both over, and then looked back to his friend and nodded. The two of them turned and left the kitchen without saying a word.
Justin looked over at me, and I shrugged. “Let’s get to work.”
Eight hours later it was nearly 9 a.m. and we were done. The graveyard shift sucked, but it’s Vegas and people never really sleep. So even first thing in the morning, the casinos are hopping.
As we made our way out of the kitchen, we spotted Mr. Florence at a table, having breakfast alone. I walked by, casually took the box out of my pocket, slipped it under his napkin, and kept on walking, never breaking my stride.
When we got back to the apartment, we both passed out, and didn’t talk about what happened. We had about six hours before our next shift, and we used the time to sleep.
Later that day, we headed back to the Gold Peacock for our next shift. When we walked to the back of the kitchen, Don was there, waiting on us.
“Mr. Cortez, what can we do for you?” I was nervous as shit because I had no idea what he was going to say.
He pulled out a fat manila envelope and handed it over to us. “Mr. Florence wanted to thank you for your discretion.”
I nodded my head in acknowledgement and passed the envelope to Justin. He put it in his bag, and neither of us said anything. When you grow up doing ‘favors’ for guys and running packages, you learn to keep your mouth shut, even when someone is talking to you. Let other people do the talking.
After a moment he smiled. “I’d like to talk to you both about a promotion if you’re interested in doing some work for me.”
It was the moment we’d been waiting for, and I was all ears. “Yes, sir, Mr. Cortez.”
“Call me Don.”
* * *