Prior to the Grand Opening of the Sandfire Casino, no one in Nye County Government would have believed they could pull it off. Most historians credit Jeremy Boulder with an instinct for finding the skeletons in the right closets, believing it was this that allowed them to shoulder their way into local prominence. Boulder The Shoulder Does The Impossible, one headline shouted. It was not far wrong, but it did miss one secret incredient that greatly contributed to the Sandfire Success omelet.
That secret ingredient was a desert rat known locally as Buckshot Baker. Long a friend of Gene Trask, the owner of the Mizpah Hotel before he sold out in 2145, Buckshot knew who had power in and around Tonopah…and who did not. Buckshot shared his knowledge with Gene…who passed it on to the shadowy co-owner of the Mizpah Hotel / Sandfire Casino, Sven Jensen…who conspired with his sort-of-partner, Jeremy Boulder, to Git ‘R’ Done.
Or so a little birdie told me.____by Yurik Weebles, reporting for The Tonopah Tattler.
SANDFIRE SHOWROOM CASINO GRAND OPENING!!
ENJOY GAMBLING WHERE YOU LITERALLY CANNOT LOSE!!
GRAND OPENING SEPTEMBER 13, 2145, TWO P.M. TO TEN P.M.!!
THIS IS A GLASS ACT!!
These four massive headlines formed the centerpiece of nine thousand flyers throughout the state of Nevada, print ads published in thirty-seven newspapers and on the Internet, and an audio version condensed to thirty second spots on two dozen radio stations with varying amounts of clout.
Holo nets were ignored because of pricing.
By three p.m. on the appointed day, the Sandfire Tower, known for literally centuries as the old Mizpah Hotel, had already broken even on promotional expenses and was beginning to offset remodeling costs. By five p.m., eager cash customers had contributed enough to the Sandfire coffers to entirely cover the remodeling and were well into evening out the company’s move from Reno.
Jeremy Boulder sat in the Security Control Room with Sven Jensen, the two of them monitoring activity in the showroom and also in the Sandfire Restaurant. Each man had good reason to avoid public appearances as much as possible. The Rock knew he was a formidable force, the drive behind Sandfire, but sometimes he intimdated paying customers by his very presence. His sons were better people managers than he would ever be, and he had the wisdom to recognize that fact without being upset by it. He was big boned, street tough, and looked every inch the pit boss he had once been.
Sven Jensen looked like a pretty smooth guy, blade lean beside Boulder’s burly bulk, cool even without his teeth and even with that ridiculous Looney Tunes baseball cap perched on his head with Tweety Bird flipping off the world. For him, recognition in the wrong quarter meant certain death.
The two men had swiftly grown to love and respect one another, though if anyone had dared to sugges the “L” word in either man’s hearing, he or she would have been promptly bitch-slapped silly.
After all, Jeremy called his beautiful mulatto wife, Kah, a black bitch and made it stick, while Sven owned a pair of white slaves, each hot iron branded and thoroughly trained. No one would dare accuse either man of being effeminate. They had shared secrets, though. Boulder knew Sven Jensen’s original identity and Sven knew where The Rock’s considerable supply of skeletons was stashed. Sven might be a cat lover and Jeremy might not care much for any animal, but they still had plenty in common. Most importantly, they worked well together and had teamed to make this September 13 Grand Opening a possibility.
As a first step, Jensen had split the building condo style…sort of. Sandfire Inc. now owned the five story structure’s entire exterior plus all of the first four floors. Sven retained title to the fifth floor, interior space only, plus an elevator and staircase easement and a share of the small parking garage. All of the larger outside parking lot had gone to Sandfire to round out the deal.
“This way,” Sven had explained, “No one can even try to pressure me to raise your rent or vice versa, because each of us is sole owner of our own premises.”
“Makes sense to me,” the great-headed Greek had agreed, and the deal was struck.
In a stroke of good fortune so helpful it smacked of divine intervention, Sandfire Inc. had been sitting on a pile of unused plasteel and something close to a thousand bags of plascrete as well. Entirely new electricals, heating/cooling, and plumbing had to be obtained in a hurry, but Kah Boulder had contacts in Chicago who provided materials at cost and postponed billing for six months.
It still seemed unbelievable that the entire first floor plus living quarters for the Boulders on the second and Jensen’s group on the fifth had all been put together in a period of five months.
Especially when Jensen’s family had expanded to include the building’s previous owner, Gene Trask. Along with his eighty-eighth birthday in August, Gene had acquired a bit of increased difficulty in getting around and feeding himself without dropping a hot skillet on occasion. So Sven brought him home for the girls to coddle, home now being the Sandfire Tower, and in so doing lifted a huge burden from his own shoulders. Enemies would logically gain nothing by harming the old man, but enemies do not always think logically. Defending Gene in his old mobile home would have been difficult if not impossible. In The Building, hey, portion of pastry.
Gene grumbled that he’d miss watching the occasional velvet ant that used to show up at his place–he enjoyed watching the flightless females scurry from place to place–but no one took him too seriously after he’d had one taste of Kah’s boysenberry pie.
Many people, relatives and acquaintances and such, considered Sven (and Garrett Di Marco before him) to be sudden in his decisions, even reckless. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The man simply thought things out privately and shared his deepest mental processes with no one but Kate and sometimes Nina, making his public moves look sudden. His style meshed perfectly with Jeremy Boulder’s lightning fast decision making ability. It was this combination, what had become in a real sense a partnership, that more than anything made the September 13 Grand Opening date possible at all.
Elevators? The building possessed three, but only two would be made functional: One in full working condition for normal trips to and from the residence floors, the other put together from scrap for emergency use only and hidden behind a false wall in the northwest corner.
Living quarters? In Jensens’ case, that amounted to twenty-five hundred square feet of raw space bound by bare-wood interior walls and flooring with boxes of household goods piled in every corner, cheap air mattresses thrown down to serve as beds, a used kitchen range, and one toilet for the four of them with only a curtain for privacy.
Sven didn’t ask and Jeremy didn’t tell, but the Boulder family members were doubtless living under similarly primitive conditions…temporarily. First things first.
Security? One full timer in Homer Arbogast, Security Chief, pay to commence in December. Two part timers: Tall, rugged, light chocolate Pete and Ben Boulder, pay to commence whenever profits safely allowed. Ten temps, mercs hired from a Sacramento agency known to be reliable and retained for the Grand Opening only, plus two days fore and aft.
Hopefully, one or two of those men would be worth hiring away from the temp agency later.
Sandfire Cuisine? Managed by Kah, who knew more about feeding people and restaurant management than anyone else in three states, pay postponed. Special recipes contributed by Kate, who could invent her own or improve someone else’s dish through pure culinary genius instinct, paid only through praise for a job well done and sales of Kate’s Kreative Kookbook at the Sandfire Gift Shop.
The Sandfire Showroom Casino, however, was the masterpiece.
Players, and there were hundreds, entered through the bulletproof Sandfire Glass front doors and sat down at the various Ostrich Dollar machines. These were essentially replicas of gambling devices used in Las Vegas during the 2060’s and were designed to take special tokens whose size and weight closely imitated the silver dollar of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Young Ben Boulder, who qualified as some sort of wizard in such matters, had produced a Sandfire Glass coin called either an Ostrich Dollar or a Sandy. Aside from weight and size, it looked and felt nothing like the old silver dollars. Tails carried a richly colored design showing two ostriches with their heads in the sand. Heads showed two ostrich heads popped up out of the sand.
To idiot-proof things completely, the legend “TAILS” showed above the two ostrich butts on the appropriate side and the word “HEADS” above the two ostrich brain pans on the other. Each side also stated clearly, in any one of a rainbow of colors, “ONE OSTRICH DOLLAR”.
The apparent gambling devices were all slot machines. The greatest beauty of the Sandfire plan, however, lay in the fact that no player truly gambled. A player bought a roll of ten Ostrich Dollars from the cashier’s booth. No machine would operate until all ten Sandys were clinked into the Insert Money slot. The player was given forty pulls for his ten pieces of play money. Total winnings accumulated until all forty plays were complete, then ka-chinged the proper number of Ostrich Dollars into the pay tray.
Jeremy Boulder could never have obtained a gaming license, considering the forces arrayed against him in both government and the private sector. Since no one ever truly lost, however, Sandfire Showroom Casino play was not ruled to be gambling.
How did they not lose? All winnings could be redeemed in purchases of Sandfire Glass, and the machines were riggged to pay out more than was put in…every time. Players knew this and were simply determining the size of their discount.
Not that it had been a slam dunk deal. It had taken a court battle to stick it in the Nevada Gaming Commission’s face, said decision being fortunately rendered just forty-eight hours, seven minutes, and fourteen seconds prior to the official Opening. Close call, but the opposition failed; in the end, that’s all that mattered. Sandfire could now legally open one of its Showroom Casinos anywhere in the state of Nevada, not just in Tonopah, provided a regular city business license was first obtained in good order.
Not that the Gaming Commission appreciated being left to sit and spin, but you can’t whip up a legal victory without breaking a few eggheads. Self righteous Commission members who had not received their bribes were of course furious but, in this case, entirely impotent. Jeremy Boulder, never one to suffer fools lightly, referenced that impotence and suggested they try some Viagra 3000 Turbo.
That quote had inevitably been picked up by the media, which was present for the Opening in force, along with a fair number of undercover types for this or that Bureau or corporation. Homer, constantly roaming the premises in his understated but unmistakeable Sandfire Security blazer, spotted the young Fed who’d once visited him in the guise of a supposed Di Marco relative.
“At least he’s not asking me what I know,” the Frog muttered to Mrs. Arbogast, who would change long-skirted outfits later for her two stints as Edsella. “Obviously keeping an eye on our whereabouts, though.”
“Reminds me of a guy I knew from Skunk Rock,” his wife murmered back. “He’ll end up being trouble, or I miss my guess.”
The Arbo Man nodded in agreement. He felt the same. He only wished he was less certain about the sudden gleam in his beloved’s green-for-this-evening eyes.
“Skunk Rock? There was a Skunk Rock somewhere in California, I think. Back before the whole place fell into the ocean.”
“Not a real town, honey, and not in California. Real rock, though. My first boyfriend and I used to meet at a rock that had a white stripe down the middle, so we named it Skunk Rock. Turned out he was a skunk, too.”
Homer nodded again. Knowing Cory, the boy from Skunk Rock was probably sleeping under a rock somewhere these days. Would Fed Man cross the line and end up in that same situation? Killing even stupidly obvious–or obviously stupid–Federal agents was a sure ticket to bigger trouble than any of them wanted, for sure.
One other thing was for sure. If it came to that, he’d do what he had to do. Aside from loving his wife, he actually liked every one of these Sandfire people. A lot. And even though he was no cowboy, Homer P. Arbogast was a man who knew how to ride for the brand.