Home > The Scam (Fox and O'Hare #4)(7)

The Scam (Fox and O'Hare #4)(7)
Janet Evanovich, Lee Goldberg

“But you don’t mind risking us,” Nick said.

“You’re a fugitive, wanted for crimes in a dozen countries, and she’s the FBI agent you seduced into bed and into a scheme to rip off Trace’s casino,” Jessup said. “That will be an easy story to sell if you get caught.”

“Nick hasn’t seduced me,” Kate said.

“Not for lack of trying,” Nick said.

“It will be a tawdry scandal,” Jessup said. “But not one that will deeply embarrass the United States.”

“It will deeply embarrass me,” Kate said.

“So don’t get caught,” Jessup said.

After Jessup left, Kate read through the file on Trace while Nick emptied the suitcases of cash onto the coffee table and counted the money.

She briefed Nick as she went along.

“Trace got his start in the gambling business running a small Indian casino in the desert outside of Palm Springs,” Kate said. “Then, six years ago, he bought an unfinished Vegas condo tower, which had stalled midway through construction because the builder went bankrupt. Trace converted it into a 350-room hotel and casino. When he opened up, he hired beautiful young women and hard-bodied young men to hang around his topless pool as eye candy.”

“That beats a high-seas pirate battle outside the hotel or a huge fountain of dancing water,” Nick said, stacking the money on one side of the vast coffee table as he counted it. “It’s also a lot cheaper.”

“He also invites celebrities to stay for free,” Kate said. “Especially the ones likely to get into trouble and make tabloid headlines.”

“Saving him a fortune on publicity. Either he’s a tightwad or he was improvising because he was strapped for cash.”

“To lure in customers, he offered winning slot machines, bargain buffets, cheap rooms, and very strong drinks. People came in droves. But what really put him over the top were his TV commercials.”

“Never saw one,” Nick said.

“They were inescapable.”

“I was too busy running from you to watch TV.”

“Here’s the one everybody knows.” Kate powered up Nick’s laptop, went to YouTube, and played one of Trace’s commercials. Nick watched it over her shoulder.

The commercial was set late at night. The colors were so washed out that the picture was almost black and white. Trace walked down the Vegas Strip in a rumpled Armani tuxedo, his bow tie undone and collar open, and dragged on a cigarette, sucking every last molecule of nicotine out of it. He trudged past the erupting volcano, the Eiffel Tower, the New York skyline, all rendered seedy and crass in the harsh shadows, while he spoke to the camera in a voice made raw from a long night of smoking and drinking.

“What a f—king joke,” Trace said.

The obscenity was muted, but it didn’t really make a difference. It was obvious what he’d said.

“You won’t find an authentic experience here. Not on this street. Not in these places.”

Trace turned the corner, off the Strip, and there was Côte d’Argent, a slim black tower, untouched by gaudiness or pretense. He opened the door and looked straight into the camera.

“Gambling. Partying. No f—king gondolas.”

The obscenity was lost in the bells and coin clatter of a slot machine paying off. He took one last drag on his cigarette, flicked it into the street, and walked into the casino. The commercial ended.

“That’s their slogan,” Kate said. “ ‘No freakin’ gondolas.’ ”

“Catchy,” Nick said.

“He put it on T-shirts, hats, and coffee mugs,” Kate said. “The first two years that Côte d’Argent was in business, Trace made more money off his branded merchandise than he did from his hotel.”

Nick went back to counting stacks of hundred-dollar bills. “If we really want to learn about Evan Trace and the inner workings of his casino, we’ll need to take a trip to Vegas. Be a couple of whales.”

Kate could see where this was going. “We are not going to gamble with the government’s money.”

“It’s not the government’s money. It’s cash stolen from Stuart Kelso.”

“By the FBI.”

“Illegally,” he said.

“For the greater good,” Kate said, thinking that was kind of lame, but it was the best she could do to justify their actions.

“Fine. We’re gambling with this money for the greater good,” Nick said. “And for the free drinks.”

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