Look, I'm a realist.
I knew I was lucky to have gone up against a guy like Meskhiyev three times without getting killed. I knew I was lucky the police hadn't caught up with me yet and thrown my ass in jail for any number of reasons. But I knew my limits, and I knew when I was out of my league -- which was over 48 hours ago, for anyone who was counting.
In over my head. It was quickly becoming my mantra. There was no way I could just assault a building crawling with security and snag a damn nuclear bomb out of there. I couldn't sneak in, either -- assaults and infiltrations weren't part of my skillset. Need someone to drive a car through a flaming building? Need a dumbass bail-jumper tracked down? I'm your guy. Need someone to go all one-man-army against a fortified building filled with an ex-military private security force? You're thinking of Rambo.
But right about then, I had a thought -- how would I handle this if it was a stunt?
Well, first off, I'd have a serious discussion with the guy who wrote this script, because this was an unrealistic scenario for a single guy to survive. But, barring that... well, I'd work the stunt out with the show's stunt coordinator. I'd get expert help.
And I know a guy who just might be able to help me out. I hadn't talked to him in years, but when I'd last talked to him, he'd told me to call if I ever needed anything. I was hoping he hadn't just been bullshitting. I didn't have his number on me, but it was in my files back at the office.
So I called Mike and asked him to look up Jason Black's number for me.
It took about an hour -- Mike had to go down to the office, after all -- but he called me back with the number.
"You realize it's, like, 6:00 in the morning, right?" Mike asked.
"Yeah. He's a military guy, right? He's probably up this early."
"Just do me a favor and don't burn any bridges, OK? That guy throws a lot of business our way."
I didn't know how Jason Black could be giving us business -- near as I knew, he was a military consultant on film sets. At least, that's how I met him. But I wasn't going to argue with Mike. He'd just done me a solid, and I could tell by his tone of voice he wasn't too happy about it. Could be that I woke him up early. Or it could be that he was still looking over his shoulder for an Umbra guy to put a bullet in his eye.
Yeah, I owed that guy one.
I jotted down Black's number on the notepad on the bedside table. It was a Nevada area code, I noticed. I thought he lived in Hollywood. I wondered if he would local -- that would be a big help. I dialed the number and hoped.
"HT-117," a female voice answered on the first ring.
"Uh, I'm looking for Jason Black? Uh, Captain Jason Black?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I don't know anyone by that name. Perhaps you dialed incorrectly," the woman said.
"Oh, uh, sorry about --" I started, but she'd already hung up.
I checked the phone number and started to dial again when my phone rang.
"Jacob Harris. We met on the Delta Commando set, right?" a deep male voice said without the courtesy of a hello.
"Call me Jason. What's up?"
"I just tried to call you."
"Yeah, you must have dialed incorrectly," he said, but there was a chuckle in his voice. "So what's going on?"
"I've got some consulting work, if you're interested. Should only take a couple of minutes."
"Oh, you're back into the movie business? I heard you were running down scumbags."
"Writing a script. Kinda, you know, in my off time. I'm in Vegas doing research."
"Ah. Cool, then," Black said. I could still hear the chuckle in his voice. "So, uh, I'm not really in the consulting business. That was just a one-time thing when you met me, favor for a buddy. But if it's only going to take a couple of minutes..."
"Yeah. Hey, if you're local to Vegas, I could meet you for a drink, talk it out."
"I was there last week, but I'm kind of way out of town right now. Can we just do it over the phone?"
So I laid out the situation -- assault on a covered, fenced, protected building. Corporate security and rent-a-cops. Cameras, patrols, and plenty of firepower.
"Right. And how many... characters... are you rolling with?"
"Two pistols. A shotgun. A really thick skull."
"You're playing the lead role, then."
"Look, I don't want to tell you how to... write your movie. But if you can get even one other person in the scene, it would help your chances a lot. Just someone to watch your character's back. More realistic that way."
"Right on. I can do that."
Jason Black laid out the perfect plan of attack, a broad-daylight raid that seemed so insane it almost had to work. I just listened and jotted down notes.
"Hey, thanks, man. I really appreciate it."
"No problem, man. Don't get yourself killed. Call me if you take down the building," Black said, chuckling and hanging up the phone.
After I hung up, I took a long look at my notes. Black's plan wasn't bad -- it was great, in fact. Better than anything any one of us could have come up with. But it came with a long list of things we'd need that we didn't have.
The first problem would be just getting out of that damn hotel room. Umbra knew we were in the hotel, and they'd have people watching every exit. It would be damn near impossible to get past them, as they were all trained by a former KGB agent. So that was one big problem right there.
Next was transportation. My car was still -- well, probably -- back at the Imperial Palace, but either Umbra, the police, or both would have eyes on it. None of us could go get it. If I went, I'd either get killed by one of Meskhiyev's people or detained for questioning by the police. Laura had warrants that I'm sure were in the LVPD system right now, and they'd even snatch up Quentin as a person of interest. And Umbra security knew all of our faces now, so even if the cops didn't get us, Meskhiyev's goon squad sure would.
Laura's car was out, too. It was at Caesar's, and we already knew Umbra knew about that one. They'd surely have at least one guy on it.
"Quentin," I said after a moment. "What did you drive here? That rusted-out Chevy in your driveway?"
Quentin started off laughing, but ended up in a coughing fit. As he finally got himself together, he just shook his head.
"Shit no, man. That thing was there when I moved in. I took my car. Pathfinder."
"Is it here in the hotel?"
"Nah. Stashed it at the airport, long-term parking. Always do."
I shook my head. Quentin's paranoia never ceased to amaze me, but it was probably that paranoia that had helped us out the most so far.
"All right. We're going to have to catch a shuttle to the airport somehow. And I'll need you to watch my back. You ready, Q?"
Quentin struggled to sit up.
"Yeah, man. I got your back."
Laura just shook her head.
"Seriously? The guy can't even stand up. He's got broken ribs, a cracked sternum, maybe even internal bleeding. He needs to go to a hospital, not on some crazy-ass raid."
"Who, then? You?" I asked.
"I'm the only other one here."
I wasn't wild about Laura backing me up. It wasn't because she was a woman -- OK, total honesty, that was part of it. It was that she was a scientist, not a fighter. I mean, Quentin wasn't exactly a fighter, either, but he was crazy. Crazy often went a long way toward keeping someone alive.
When I was doing stunts, I had to take a bunch of fight training. Nothing makes a movie weaker than when it looks too easy for the hero guy to take out the hordes of faceless opponents (read: me), so I had to look like I knew what it was doing when it came time to throw down for the cameras. The easiest way to look like you know what you're doing? Actually know what you're doing.
So, shortly after booking my first movie gig, I started taking lessons. Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Jujitsu, you name it. In one of my kickboxing classes, there was this little guy, 19-year-old kid with long hair and silly glasses, who was just fucking insane. After a while, none of us would even step in the ring with him. Punching him in the face or kicking him in the body -- even kicks and punches form a guy my size -- didn't seem to do much more than make him laugh. And when he hit, he hit like he had anvils for hands. Once, I saw him hop out of the ring and whip off his headgear, and he was bleeding from one eye and his nose. He calmly tossed the headgear, walked over to the water fountain, got a drink, and started talking to one of the other guys in class like nothing happened. Dude was crazy, and that's what made him dangerous.
Quentin had that spark. Laura, though? She just seemed smart. Too smart to go through with some of the seemingly crazy shit I'd ask of her if she backed me up.
Still, though, as she'd pointed out, Quentin could barely stand. Crazy or not, he was still more a liability than an asset in a fight. And another point -- she was the only other person available.
"All right," I said. "Ever fired a gun before?"
* * *
So it was decided. Laura was going with me. I gave her Meskhiyev's gun and gave her a quick primer on how to use it. I really hoped I wouldn't have to depend on her aim, but as she'd said, she was the only one vertical besides me at the moment.
The next step would be getting out of the hotel room. We'd have to figure a way to get past anyone who might be looking for us, which wouldn't be easy. I'm not entirely inconspicuous on my best day, and every member of Umbra security probably had Laura's face memorized. It was still early in the morning yet, and the casino wouldn't be busy -- so no real chance of blending in with the crowd, as the crowd didn't exist.
"Do you know how the Umbra Security guys keep in touch with each other?" I asked Laura, sitting on the couch and stretching out my legs. I didn't realize until I sat down how tired I was.
"Yeah. Radios. Little walkie-talkie things with earpieces plugged in, mics in the sleeves of their jackets," she told me.
"Quentin? Anything you can do with that?"
"I can run a scanner and try to pick up their frequency. At least we can hear what they're saying. I have some gear in the duffel bag over there if you'll bring it my way."
I did, and Quentin started digging through the bag. He paused for a second and looked up at me.
"This could take a couple of hours," he said. "You might want to use the time to get some sleep. You look like hell, and no use in going on a crazy suicide mission sleep-deprived."
I nodded. That was the best idea I'd heard in quite some time.