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51

Max slept on the plane, in his own private bedroom aft, and didnt awake until the steward knocked, then opened the door to say, Excuse me, sir, well be landing in ten minutes.

Max blinked, disoriented. Landing where?

Las Vegas, sir. Ill have breakfast for you out here. And he bowed himself out, shutting the door.

Las Vegas. It all came back to him now, and Max sat up and smiled. Las Vegas. Here he would have meetings over the next two days in connection with his purchase of a partial stake in two small southwestern TV cable companies; and meetings concerning land of his along the Mexican border in New Mexico; and meetings concerning a few western politicians who could use his counsel, advice, and money. And here, here, he would rid himself once and for all of that goddamned burglar!

In coming here from Sydney, with a pause for a meal and a business discussion in San Francisco, Max had crossed twelve time zones, and had briefly moved backward in time from Sunday to Saturday, before returning to Sunday again in mid-Pacific. At this point, his body clock hadnt the foggiest idea what time it was, but he hardly cared. It was Sunday here in Las Vegas, some daylight hour of Sundayharsh sun glared outside the small windows of his bedroomand he had arrived ahead of the original schedule, at Earl Radburns suggestion, to be sure the bait would be already firmly fixed inside the snare at the Gaiety before the mouse came to sniff the cheese.

Max washed and dressed, and soon went out to the main cabin, where the deferentially smiling steward ushered him to the table set for one; snowy linen, china with his own symbol on it in the dark red known as garnet, one bright red rose in a cut glass vase, a sparkling tumbler of orange juice, the smell of toast, the pale yellow of a thin square of butter on a small white dish, red strawberry jam agleam in a shallow bowl, a folded white napkin with a slender garnet border. Lovely.

As Max settled himself into the comfortable chair, the steward poured his first cup of coffee and murmured, Your omelette will be along in just a moment, sir.

Thank you.

A second steward entered, with newspapers: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the London Daily Telegraph. They were placed on the table near Maxs right hand, and then that steward withdrew.

Outside the window, the flat vista baked; gray runways and tan dead ground and low airport buildings in no color at all. Smiling upon this view because he was safely insulated from it, Max said to the remaining steward, hovering nearby, What time is it here?

Three-twenty, sir. Your car will come at four. Ill just go get your omelette now, sir.

Things are looking up, Max thought, as he drank his orange juice. I can feel it. Las Vegas is where all the bad karma gets worked out of the system, and Im on top of the world again. This is where it happens. Endgame.

He spread jam on toast, the cool knife in his right hand, and on the third finger of that hand the lucky ring glinted and gleamed.


| What`s The Worst That Could Happen? | * * *