The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear on my blog, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.
Throughout the series, there will be collections of stories, and we will even be producing some really cool swag along the way. Watch for contests, prizes, and even some fun “in-person” events!
Las Vegas was founded in the 1800’s, but really became a city in 1905. The name is actually Spanish for “the meadows” because it was a stopover on the rail line from Salt Lake to Los Angeles because there was an abundance of artisan springs in the area. Water, in Las Vegas.
But two real changes are what shaped Vegas into what it is today. The first was the huge influx of young men into the area in 1931 when the construction of the Boulder Dam started. Never heard of the Boulder Dam? That’s ‘cause it’s known as the Hoover Dam now.
That caused a bunch of hotels, casinos, and what such wild west communities called “support industries”. You know what I mean.
Most of those casinos were run by the Mafia, and that ain’t no surprise I’m sure. That’s when Solitaire got their start, even though that wasn’t their name back then.
The second change came in 1966, when a guy named Howard Hughes showed up. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
That’s when Las Vegas was transformed into what is now known as a “mega-resort” community that’s all family-friendly, supposedly.
The “support industries” that built the town largely went quasi-underground. That meant that most people knew they were there but pretended that wasn’t what Vegas was all about. “Sin City” tried to clean up its image.
Lucky (or unlucky) for Solitaire, of that I will let you be the judge, that’s when the Vietnam War really ramped up. And some Colonel came up with a great idea to scare Charlie—planting Ace of Spades cards in villages the Army had decimated, kinda like a warning sign that made the Viet Cong superstitious about the cards.
There was a deeper purpose, though. There were treasures of all types around at that time. Some of them were man-made, like caches of arms, American and those stolen from the enemy and buried in the jungle or sent back to the states. But there were others. Gold, jewels, riches beyond imagination.
That’s not to mention the opium trade. At that time, while young American soldiers were dying face down in the jungles of Southeast Asia or committing atrocities at the behest of their superiors that would haunt them for the rest of their lives, Solitaire was building an empire. And they weren’t the only ones.
Everyone connected got rich. Richer than most of you can imagine, I would guess. But I’ll let the story speak for itself.
* * *
Las Vegas, November 1969
“You ever seen anything like that, Captain?”
“You new, soldier?” he answered.
The men were both clad in fatigue bottoms and brown t-shirts, their army blouses and covers hanging on a peg in the hangar. The back of the C-130 aircraft was open and there were four pallets on the concrete floor.
The ceiling was hidden high above, and the metal walls did little to insulate the area from the surrounding heat. Outside the open hanger doors it was dusk, and the temperature would drop quickly, but for now both men were sweating profusely.
The pallets were filled with refined heroin ready to be handed over to their contact.
The captain, known as “Chuck” to his men outside of his Army unit, glanced at the pallets. The soldier, although new to this game, was right. This was the largest shipment he’d seen so far.
“Grab that pallet jack, Specialist. We’ll need to get this loaded as soon as the truck arrives.”
In the distance, Chuck heard a motor, and it sounded like the diesel of a deuce and a half, a two and half ton military vehicle that would not look out of place on this remote airfield. He’d sold this one after some creative paperwork allowed him to remove it from the government inventory.
This was a dirty business, but it had gotten him off the front lines and doubled his yearly salary. It turned out the American government wasn’t above being involved in this sort of thing.
War was expensive.
But they’d also made it clear. If he got caught, he was on his own. If he stopped giving them their cut, he would get caught.
And he paid whoever he recruited into the game out of his cut.
Chuck didn’t intend to ever get caught. Careful was his middle name, and as a supply officer, the military had taught him how to move things covertly and efficiently.
The headlights came first, swinging in a wide arc through the hangar, illuminating the plane and the pallets, and then pointing out into the night before they shut off as the truck backed in under the right wing of the aircraft.
The engine died, and four men jumped from the back, heading for the pallets.
“Whoa,” Chuck told them. “Money first, then product.”
The men stopped and stared at him. Chuck could feel the specialist step up beside him.
“But we have orders to—”
“I don’t care,” Chuck said.
He saw the soldier reach for his sidearm, a Colt M1911. He reached out a hand, stopping him. “No,” he said softly. “Be ready but wait.”
The passenger door of the truck groaned open, and Chuck heard another man coming, boot falls echoing off the concrete of the hangar.
When he became visible, Chuck sized him up. Not a small man himself at just over six feet tall, Chuck seldom found himself looking up at people, but this man had to be close to seven feet tall. His shoulders were broad and tapered down into a thin waist. He wore a jacket that hung on him in an odd way since it fit in the shoulders but was much too large elsewhere. He wore a leather driver’s cap, but his head appeared to be shaved bald underneath. A gold earring decorated his left ear.
He held out his large, brown hand. “You in charge here?” he asked.
Chuck took his hand and shook it the best he could, feeling oddly small and weak. He wanted to answer, “No, clearly you’re in charge.”
Instead he said, “Yes.”
“Do you have the passcode?”
Chuck reached into the cargo pocket on his pants. He saw the four men around the pallet tense as his hand went past the butt of his own pistol but relax as he pulled out a deck of cards.
“I was told this would do.” He handed the deck up to the larger man, who opened the pack.
He slid out the cards, smiling when he saw them. He spread the deck out into a fan, holding it in place with his large hand.
“Pick a card, any card,” he said. “But don’t show it to me.”
The rest of this story can be found on Amazon now, along with the rest of the series!
I hope you are enjoying reading this series as much as I am. You can the rest of this series on Amazon here! Stay tuned for another FREE story right here next week. I hope to see you then!