“You’re not coming up?”
“Hell, no. Sammy Davis is at the Sands tonight, and this guy gives me the creeps. You can deal with him.”
And with that exchange Red was off in the fire engine red Corvette, into the natural twilight, soon to to be erased by the Las Vegas glitz and glamor. Ben looked up and back down the towering Desert Inn, then headed inside.
Vegas wasn’t Ben’s scene. Everywhere he looked, he saw excess and waste. It felt like the whole city was just baited catnip for suckers, from the slot machines to the prostitutes. It was a toss up which was most ubiquitous. The inside lobby of the joint was like something out of ancient Rome, all towering ceilings and marble. Ben decided to skip the elevator and take the stairs, but started to regret the decision by the time he got to the top floor. He took a minute to catch his breath in the stairway before he got into character. Upon opening the door to the floor, he encountered two men in black suit and tie and tight short back and side buzzcuts.
“Director Venice!” one of them said, “It’s an honor to meet you. I’m a bit embarrassed to have to ask, but I have to…”
Ben smirked, then replied:
“Correct, sir. That’s the word.”
“I know, I made it up.”
“Of course, sir.”
Ben was allowed entry. Once inside the plush penthouse room, he laid eyes on the man he came to see. Whatever he had imagined he might find, this was not it. There before him, stark naked, stood Howard Hughes. Ben was taken aback, so Hughes spoke first.
“You’ll have to forgive me. I don’t shake hands.