There was no debate, no internal monologue this time. I was following them, and I was taking Laura Mills back to Los Angeles. Too much had happened in the past few days for me to do anything but.
There were only two guys with her, and I was sure they weren't cops. The Town Car had private plates, not Federal or State ones. I also noticed as I passed the car that there was no extra radio gear, no lights, no lowered suspension -- definitely not a law enforcement vehicle. The guys were Umbra Security, which meant... open season. Sure, they outnumbered me, but they were smaller, and I had the element of surprise.
As I tailed them through the gaming floor, I decided on my plan of attack. They looked like they were heading for the elevators, so once they got somewhere out of the way, that was when I'd crack some skulls and grab the girl. Two-on-one were about the best odds I could hope for.
I stayed about fifty feet back from them, keeping myself behind slot machines and late-night gamblers as I walked. Both of Laura Mills' escorts were scouting for tails, but they weren't doing a bang-up job -- a quick glance back over a shoulder here and there. I was, of course, concerned that there might be more guys hiding on the gaming floor, ready to pounce on me the second I made my move, but I was ready for that.
It's one of the things I learned as a stuntman -- situational awareness. Things didn't go wrong often in a big, coreographed stunt, but there was always the possibility. As a stunt performer, you learn to be aware of movement from any direction, almost like a sixth sense. If, say, a piece of burning metal was headed for the back of your head, you learned to duck without really thinking, or even consciously knowing the flaming chunk of death was trying to decapitate you. That was the state I was in now.
The two guys and Laura made it to one of the back hallways, a small elevator lounge that would take them up into the hotel. It was just far enough removed from the gaming floor that I could take them down there. As I got closer, however, I heard one of them mumbling into his sleeve, one hand over his ear.
"Copy that. We're in the lobby."
As he pulled his hand away from his ear, I saw one of those little Secret-Service radio earbuds. I ducked behind a rather large man at a slot machine near the elevator lobby and chanced a look out -- the elevator doors were opening, and inside were four more guys in black suits. One of them was Meskhiyev.
Shit. Two-to-one odds, I could handle. Six-to-one... well, there was bravery, and there was stupidity. Six-to-one definitely fell into the latter category. As the two guys from the car ushered Laura Mills into the elevator, I popped out from behind the obese gambler and watched the numbers on the elevator car. The elevator stopped on the 30th floor, and I immediately pressed the call button.
It only took about a minute for another elevator to show up, and I hopped in and pressed the button for the 30th floor. I was well aware I'd pretty much lost them already -- they'd be inside one of the rooms up there -- but maybe I'd get lucky and see a guy in a black suit going into or coming out of one. They weren't being too subtle, but it was Vegas. They probably just assumed no one was paying attention to their shit, and with the exception of me, they were probably right.
In the elevator lounge on the 30th floor, I was greeted by long, featureless hallways to the left and the right. A drunken 20-year-old guy ambled past, trying unsuccessfully to light a cigarette and walk at the same time. He smiled at me and shot me a thumbs-up, then leaned up against the wall next to the elevators. Slowly, he sunk down to the floor until he was sitting with his legs crossed, then finally managed to light his smoke.
"Hey, my man," I said, squatting down until I was in his eyeline. "You see a bunch of dudes in black suits hanging around up here?"
The drunk kid nodded, his eyes half-lidded, and pointed down the hallway to the right with his now-lit Marlboro. I nodded, grinned at him, and headed down the hall to the right. I kept to one side of the hallway, trying to make myself as small as possible, though that was pointless. Nowhere to hide out in the open, of course. But somehow, sneaking through an open, well-lit hallway made me feel better. Stealthier.
The Umbra guys made it easy for me to find them, but that's probably because they assumed no one was looking for them. Around the first corner, I noticed a guy in a black suit pacing up and down the hall. He was making a wide orbit, but right around room 3022, he slowed a bit each time. That was where they were, and they only had one guy on the door. One guy shouldn't be too hard to avoid. I had an idea, but I wouldn't be able to do it on my own.
See, here's the thing. The best bet would be to take this guy out and hang outside the room until they came out. But I knew I was facing five guys alone -- even if I caught them by surprise, I'd probably end up getting myself and the girl shot. I could hang back by the corner and watch, but if they took another elevator down... well, it would be really easy to lose them.
So second best would be to sit on their black Town Car downstairs, which I'm sure someone had parked by now. But it was entirely possible that wherever they were going to go when they did come out... well, they could easily walk. Vegas is the sort of town where you can get pretty much anywhere -- well, anywhere worth going -- on foot, especially at night when the heat had blown off a bit. So keeping an eye on the car might just let them walk right out the front door.
I'd need someone downstairs, someone who could pick up the tail after I lost it. And there was only one person in town who could get my back. It wasn't quite 2:00 yet, but I decided to check anyway. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed.
"Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino," a woman's voice answered.
"Hi. Ken Adams, please."
* * *
Quentin met me on the 30th floor in a matter of minutes. He had changed clothes -- we was now wearing a long coat and brown cargo pants. He had a pair of yellow-lensed sunglasses on, despite the fact that it was almost two in the morning.
"Hey. What's up?" he whispered, creeping up next to me at the corner of the hall.
"Found the girl."
"Man, you're good."
"No, I'm lucky. She's in 3022 under guard. I'm going to hopefully snatch her when they move her."
"What do you need from me?"
"Hang out downstairs near the elevators. If I call you, they're coming down. Guys in black suits with a good-looking woman my age. Keep on them until I can catch up."
"I can do that. Hey, got something for you," Quentin said, digging into the hip pocket of his cargo pants and pulling out a wad of bills.
"It's your initial $25 investment, turned into $2500, minus ten percent. That's my fee," he said, grinning.
"How did you --"
"I'm a genius, remember? I'll be downstairs. You let me know when it's game time."
As Quentin headed back down the hall toward the elevators, I turned my attention back to room 3022. It was very quiet in the hall, and apart from the guard, no one was moving much. If he decided to round the corner, I was pretty fucked, but he hadn't in the last half-hour.
By the time something happened, most of the blood had drained out of my legs from crouching so long. Fortunately, none of the people coming up or down my side of the hall had been surprised to see me creeping around, any more than they were surprised by the frat boy sleeping next to the elevator lobby. I guess, after a certain hour, nothing really seems odd in Vegas. I checked my watch when the activity started: 3:27 a.m.
The guard left the hall first, heading into 3022. I pulled out my cell and dialed Quentin's number, and he picked up on the second ring.
"Movement. Guard just got recalled," I told him.
"Right. I'm near the front elevator lobby, but there's a back one, too. I can get there in under a minute."
"Hold on. They're coming out now," I whispered.
The door to 3022 opened, and Meskhiyev came out first, followed by another guy in a black suit. This one was huge -- I couldn't tell for sure, but he might have been bigger than me. They headed down the hall away from me. They must have been going for the back elevators.
"Back elevators. The girl and two guards, including the Russian guy. I'm coming down in the front elevators. Stay on the line."
I sprinted back down the hall, past the sleeping frat boy and into the elevator lobby. The door was just closing as I got there, but I shoved my arm in and stopped it. No one was inside, and I pounded the button for the first floor.
The ride didn't take long, but it felt like forever. As I passed the third floor, Quentin's voice buzzed in my ear.
"They're heading for the parking garage. I'm on them. Heading for a black BMW."
"Looks like they're having some trouble. Meskhiyev's checking his pockets. Holy shit. Think the guy forgot his keys."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a set of BMW keys as the doors opened.
"Uh, I have them."
"How -- never mind. They're getting into a black Town Car two spaces down. We don't move quick, we're going to lose them."
I cleared the doors into the parking garage and saw Quentin crouched behind a concrete support. I tapped him on the shoudler, and he turned and hung up his phone.
"We need to stay on them," he said.
"Well, let's just take their ride," I said, grinning and holding up the BMW keys.
We stayed behind the pillar until the Town Car backed out and started off the other way. As soon as it was a few hundred feet away, we sprinted for the BMW, which thankfully had keyless entry. I got in the driver's seat and started backing out just as Quentin got his door closed.
"Nice ride," Quentin commented, running his hand over the dashboard.
"Yeah. Keep an eye on that Town Car. If it looks like they've spotted me... well, that would be good to know," I told him, heading off in the direction Meskhiyev had gone. We caught sight of them in just a few seconds -- they were turning out onto the Strip.
"There are, like, hundreds of black Town Cars out there," Quentin said.
"Yeah. Courtesy cars, private car services. Did you happen to catch the license plate?"
"Nevada CRJ899," he said as we turned left onto the Strip. "There it is."
I kept a few cars back, but Quentin was right -- there were a shitload of black Town Cars out on the Strip. Thankfully, I had a second set of eyes, so we didn't lose them as we powered on past the Strip and headed into North Vegas.
"Where the fuck are they going now?" Quentin wondered.
"I think I know. There's an abandoned office park way out in the ghetto. It's pretty secure. They get her in there, it's going to be tough getting her out."
"So we don't let them get there," Quentin said, nodding.
"Right. We take them in transit. Think you can handle one of 'em while I take down the other?"
Quentin reached into his long coat and pulled out an Ithaca 37 Stakeout shotgun with a pistol grip.
"Thought you'd never ask," he said, chuckling.