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Friday in Laughlin

Paul Clark was elated. By winning his local club’s singles’ curling tournament last weekend he moved to the top of the free agent rankings. The Laughlin Club had an upcoming tournament this weekend but was down a player. The Skipper phoned Paul to see if he was available to fly to Laughlin and round out the time. This was his opportunity to be seen on a larger regional scale. The only challenge was due to multiple conventions and a big concert at one of the casinos all of the hotels rooms were booked.

Using the Airbnb app on his cellphone he was able to find a last minute deal – a spare bedroom in a four bedroom house close to the arena where the tournament was scheduled to begin tomorrow. He quickly reserved the room with a deposit while sitting on the plane prior to takeoff. As close as the house was he wouldn’t need a car. It was right on the busline and the arena was within walking distance. This was going to be a great weekend. He preferred Laughlin to its more popular cousin one hundred miles north, Las Vegas. There were casinos, concerts, and plenty of restaurants to keep him entertained after the daily competition.

The short one-hour flight put him in town with plenty of time to settle in for the night and rest up prior to Saturday’s first match. He only had a carry-on bag and was able to disembark the plane once it landed and head directly to the bus. He texted the number on the reservation to let the owner know he would be there soon. Connor Stewart replied quickly letting Paul know he was home and the room was ready for him. Within thirty minutes Paul arrived at the bus stop and walked the rest of the way to the house where Connor greeted him.

“Welcome to Laughlin,” said Connor. “It’s great to have you in town for a couple of days. Let me know if you need anything while you are here. My girlfriend should be home soon. Feel free to drop your bag in the room and join me in the kitchen for a beer,” he said. “Sounds great. After my flight I am ready for a cold one,” said Paul. “It’s a nice house you have here. Just you? And your girlfriend?” asked Paul. “Yes, we have lived here for about two years now. It’s conveniently located to the casino where she works, although she said she was quitting in a few days,” revealed Connor.

While on their second beer, the door knob turned and a young woman entered. As she slowly opened the door it blocked her view of their houseguest. “Good evening, honey,” she said as she walked in. Paul thought the voice sounded surprisingly familiar. As she fully opened the door and walked into the kitchen she and Paul stared at each other in disbelief. It was his old girlfriend from four years ago. They were supposed to get married, but she left town without saying goodbye and he hadn’t heard from here since. Now he was renting a room for the weekend in the house of her current boyfriend.

The two continued to stare at each other without saying a word. The awkward silence was broken up by Connor. “D-Do you two know each other?” he asked. Paul looked at Alexis King with a confused look, “Um…no, she just reminds me of someone I once knew. The resemblance is amazing,” said Paul as he stood to shake her hand. She returned the greeting and excused herself to the other room to freshen up.

She returned downstairs dressed in different clothes and acting uncomfortable being in the kitchen around Paul. “Connor, I’m sorry. I left my…phone at the casino and I have to run back and get it. I will be back later,” she said as she kissed him. She uncomfortably turned to Paul, “and it was nice to meet you,” she said nervously. “You don’t have to wait up on me, Connor, if you’re tired,” she said as she exited through the door. “That’s an odd thing to say,” Connor said to Paul. “She’s only going to pick up her phone a few blocks away.” “Do you want to watch a movie or something?” “Sure, I’m not too tired and I don’t have to be to the arena until about 10 a.m. tomorrow,” said Paul as they both stood and walked to the living room.

Turning on the television Connor and Paul sat down on the sofa. Before he could click the Netflix app on his smartTV the local news began. “Our top story tonight at eleven, more than six million dollars in chips stolen from the Colorado Belle casino tonight. Authorities are searching for a young female employee named Alexis King in connection,” reported the anchor. The two men looked at each other in disbelief at the story.

“That’s crazy!” said Connor. “She would never do something like that!” “You said she was quitting?” asked Paul. “What if this was part of her exit strategy?” “No, she would never do something like that,” he said as he crossed his legs, accidentally kicking a stack of magazines, books, and other things on the coffee table. One of the books fell to the ground, opening on landing. As Connor reached down to pick it up he looked the page and noticed it was Alexis’ journal and happened to open on today’s date. His eyes focused on the writing and he squinted in disbelief. The journal revealed that Alexis had outlined an elaborate plan to hide a bag of chips in a laundry cart. She had another employee from housekeeping in on the plot. The journal revealed the bag would be placed in a truck and transported to an off-site location where Alexis would pick it up later and split it with her accomplice.

As he read the plan in shock Paul’s cellphone rang. He removed it from his pocket and stared at the display. Starring back at him was the name he hadn’t seen on his caller ID in four years – Alexis King. She still had his phone number in her cell and now was calling him. He looked at Connor and nervously answered, “H-hello?” The voice on the other end was frantic. “Hold-Hold on. Slow down,” he attempted. “Where are you?” “Who is it?” Connor asked inquisitively. “It’s…Alexis. Sounds like she’s in trouble,” he said. “Alexis? How would she have your number,” Connor asked. Paul was suddenly as uncomfortable as he was earlier when Alexis walked into the kitchen. “Who is after you?” Paul asked. “O-Okay, stay there. We’re on the way,” he said.

Paul and Connor walked hurriedly to Connor’s car and Paul filled him Alexis’ boyfriend in on the details of their past life. “Why would she call you though?” asked Connor. “She didn’t know you were here until she came home.” “I don’t know, but she said she was calling from a payphone at the Emerald River Golf Course and she sounded like she was in trouble. She thought someone was following her,” Paul said with urgency. Connor pushed the gas pedal down further and tried to get to the location quickly.

When they arrived, they were too late. They found Alexis slumped to the floor of the pay phone, the spray of blood on the glass wall of the payphone indicating she was victim of a gunshot. The two men stared in shock and disbelief, Paul reaching out to grab Connor’s arm preventing him from exiting the vehicle. “She called me less than five minutes ago. That means whoever did this might be close by. Maybe they were looking for the money?” Paul reasoned. Connor was nearly uncontrollable as he looked at his girlfriend’s lifeless body. Just then a black Escalade pulled into the lot firing shots at Connor’s Camero. “Go!” Paul screamed. Connor smashed the gas pedal and squealed tires as he drove through the parking lot and exited onto South Casino Drive. The Escalade was in close pursuit, continuing to fire at the Camero while Connor attempted to evade the chasers.

The speeding vehicles caught the attention of a Laughlin police officer, parked in the shadows of the Laughlin River Lodge parking lot. The passenger of the Escalade again fired at the Camero, causing the officer to turn on the siren and lights. The Escalade pulled over at the officers orders. The officer detained the driver and passenger, soon learning the full extent of their crimes. Paul and Connor continued driving away and slowed down after the Escalade was pulled over.

“Dude! Okay, we have to calm down and piece this together,” said Paul. “We know she quit the casino and the news said there was a large heist tonight – her last day. The journal outlined her plans. Someone from the casino must have caught up with her or maybe her accomplice squealed to someone?” theorized Paul. “Those didn’t look like casino security,” he said. “Think back – what did the journal say?” he asked Connor. Still shaken up from the night’s events, Connor tried to recall. “The Old Town Saloon,” said Connor nervously. “That was supposed to be the drop-off. The laundry service that handles the casino also takes towels from the saloon. The bag was supposed to be dropped in the in a white canvas laundry bag left in the dumpster behind the saloon.”

“Look, I know it’s hard,” said Paul. “But she has a problem with commitment when things get too serious. She would leave you like she did me. The guys that killed her were detained by the cops back there. We have time before anyone associated with the heist or murder is aware of what has happened. Let’s check out that dumpster and see if it’s there. Whatdaya say?” he asked. Reluctantly Connor considered the details and knew Paul was right. They walked to the dumpster together and using the flashlight app on Paul’s cellphone they spotted the canvas bag. Connor reached in and removed the bag, opening the top of it and seeing the stolen coins. “This is it,” he said. He put it in the Camero’s trunk and they drove back to the house, deciding to split the coins fifty/fifty.

The next day Paul arrived at the arena. After winning the finishing the day in first place the Skipper talked to him afterward. “Our fourth guy is feeling better and is able to compete tomorrow, so we won’t need you. “No problem,” Paul said, shaking the Skipper’s hand and slipping him one hundred thousand dollars in bills. “Everything went according to plan.”

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