(Note: the previous installments of ROSE can be found in our archives. It is suggested that you read them first if you’re not familiar with the story.”
I cranked the Ford and made a beeline for the bus station, hoping like hell nobody was tailing us. I pulled around to the back of the station and parked. “Listen up, doll. You’re getting on the next bus out of here. I don’t give a damn what direction it’s headed, you’re on it. Questions?”
Gloria sat there looking stunned, her mouth open like she was trying to catch flies. “Wh . . . what are we doing?” she finally managed to say.
“Hopefully we’re saving your pretty ass from Manny Divino,” I said. “Your dear husband plans to snuff you and collect the family fortune you recently inherited. I’m doing my best to prevent that from happening, being the good natured fellow I am. You either trust me, or we’ll both be feeding the worms come tomorrow. Savvy?”
She fumbled in her purse for a cigarette. I stopped her again. “Listen lady, we don’t have a minute to spare. Divino could be riding our ass as we sit here. Now, we’re going inside the station and you’re getting on the first bus out of here. North, South, East, or West—I don’t give a shit. You’re going to be on it. Understood?”
Gloria paused a moment, and then nodded. “I guess so, but I still don’t understand—”
“Don’t worry about understanding.” I handed her my business card. “When you get to wherever the hell the bus is going, you call me. Got it?”
In the dim light I could see tears tracing down her cheek. “Yes . . . I guess so.”
I grabbed her shoulder and gave it a good shake. “Look, babe, there’s no guessing involved here. It’s do or die time. You do what I say, you got a decent chance of making it out of this mess alive. You hesitate or question me, you got a much better chance of dying. Comprende?”
She sniffled and hesitated a moment. “I . . . guess so, but can we have just a minute to—”
I opened my door and pulled her out of the car. “We don’t have a minute. Let’s go, now!”
I held a tight grip on her arm and dragged her across the parking lot into the back entrance to the bus station. I pushed her into the nearest chair with a warning not to move. Approaching the ticket counter I glanced up at the schedule.
My eyes or brain wouldn’t cooperate, and by the time I reached the counter the clerk asked, “Where to, mister?”
“When’s the next bus out of here?” I said.
He made a show of glancing down at the schedule. “That would be the 11:45 to Kingman,” he said, “leaving in fifteen minutes. Right on schedule.”
I bought a one-way ticket to Kingman, Arizona. Handing the ticket to Gloria, I said, “When you get there, call me. Then get on the next bus heading to Boulder City. You got that?”
“Yes, I . . . I guess so. But why should I come back in this direction? Won’t they be looking for me?”
I finished lighting a cigarette and said, “Sure they will, but my guess is they’ll think you’re tracking east toward Flagstaff. If you double back here, hopefully this whole snafu will be over by then. If you hear otherwise, make your way back east to your family. Take a roundabout route. You understand?”
She nodded. Ten minutes later I escorted her onto the bus bound for Kingman. I didn’t bother to wave as it pulled out of the terminal. I waited around for another hour or so. When nobody of interest showed, I headed back to the Last Frontier where I still had unfinished business to attend to.
I found Dell Nicholas at the bar where I figured he’d be after his shift. Sidling up next to him I said, “Where’s that beautiful broad in white that was hanging all over you earlier tonight, Dell?”
He straightened up to his full six-foot three frame and stared at me with glassy eyes. “What’s it to you, you . . . you sumbitch?”
I gave a quick laugh and placed a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Now come on Dell, you got yourself one helluva fine looking wife. I’m just trying to ease your load some. Must be hard keeping up with two gorgeous dames like that.”
He straightened up again and shrugged my hand away. “Why you no good sumbitch, I won’t have you talkin’ ’bout my woman like that.” He grabbed me by my coat lapels and pulled me against him.
I shoved my knee into his groin. He doubled over and vomited. I followed with a right hand to his jaw. He slumped to his knees. Grabbing him by the back of his neck I leaned over and said, “Now, my good buddy Dell. Me and you are going to stand up and walk out of here to my car like old friends. You copy?”
He wiped his mouth against his coat sleeve and nodded. When we reached my car I said, “You’re wife is screwing Manny Divino. Somehow, I don’t think that’s much of a surprise to you. But what I do know that maybe you don’t is that your sweet Rose and Divino are planning on killing you, me, and Gloria Wainwright. They’re after the fortune that Gloria recently inherited from her father. You listening to me, Nicholas?”
He offered a groan and a weak nod of his thick skull.
“Good. Now, is there any place safe you can hide out for awhile? Some place your wife or lover girl Gloria doesn’t know about? Some place you can’t be found?”
He seemed to brighten up at my latest question. “Yeah, maybe the Ranchero Motor Court on the Boulder Highway. I got a friend there owes me a favor.”
After nearly a half hour drive I pulled into the gravel driveway of the Ranchero. The dump looked like it was about to fall in on itself. I figured it must’ve been built to accommodate the workers on the Hoover Dam when the construction first started up. I gave Dell Nicholas my card and told him to call me before ten the next morning. I stayed put and watched until he left the office with a key in hand. Then I heavy-footed it back to Vegas.
I had nothing to lose, so I parked a couple rows back of Manny Divino’s room at the Last Frontier. It was past two, and the room lights were out. After eyeballing the area, I opened the glove box and grabbed my M1911 service pistol, figuring I might need the extra firepower the .45 would provide. Then I quietly exited the coupe and eased the door shut. My eyes kept searching left to right, looking for the slightest movement or change in scenery. There were none as I approached the door to Divino’s room. I considered knocking, but decided against it. I knew the bastard wouldn’t pay me the same courtesy.
Using my lock pick I quickly tripped the lock. I slowly eased the door open. Divino hadn’t bothered setting the chain. I stepped in and turned on the light switch beside the door. Divino had already grabbed a pistol and fired a shot which grazed my left shoulder. I returned fire with three quick blasts. Two struck home and Manny Divino slumped over and rolled onto the floor beside the bed.
As I felt Divino’s carotid for a pulse, Roseanne Nicholas began cursing me with every name in the book—and then some. I reached across the bed and slapped her, barely managing to hold back the full force of my intended blow.
“Listen up and listen good,” I said as I picked up the spent brass and pocketed them. “The get-rich-quick game is up. Your husband is waiting for you at the Ranchero Motor Court on the Boulder Highway. If you’ve got a lick of sense in that pretty head of yours, you’ll meet him there before the sun’s up. Then the two of you better hightail it out of the area, and fast. Manny’s boys won’t take kindly to their boss being plugged and knowing who he’s been bedding. I don’t give a damn where you go, just get the hell away from Vegas.”
Rose didn’t say a word. She just sat there in bed holding her cheek, her beautiful body showing in all its splendid glory. I’d had my say. I backed out of the room, shut the door, and drove home.