Hell on Heels(4)

By: Victoria Vane



“I don’t imagine a New York woman would care much for cattle ranching.”

“You’re right about that,” Tom agreed with a chuckle and then retrieved his wallet. “Here, take a gander.” He pulled out a photo of a young brunette in her graduation cap and gown. “Harvard Business School, magna cum laude.”

Ty studied the photo. She had Tom’s clear gray eyes, but where Tom’s were softened by a perpetual hint of humor, Monica’s held a gleam that suggested she knew her worth. Her mouth was curved in a subtle kiss-my-ass kinda smile. Going by looks alone, Ty summed her up as a bitch-in-the-making. “So what is she now, about twenty-eight?” he asked, more out of courtesy than real interest.

“Yup. Graduated with an MBA five years ago and landed a job on Wall Street in investment banking. Smart as hell and tough as nails to boot. You know a woman’s gotta be twice as good as a man just to compete. I’ve offered to put her in charge of any of my business interests, but she refuses. Says we’ll talk only after she’s made it on her own merits.”

Ty handed the photo back with a nod. Whether Tom was close to his daughter or not, it was clear that he was mighty proud of her.

“She recently got engaged to a real asshole, though,” Tom continued. “Smug, self-important sonofabitch. Don’t know what she sees in him.” Tom paused, still looking at the photo. “You know, Ty, if I thought you had any mind to settling down . . .”

“Me?” Ty snorted. “You’re barking up the wrong tree there, Tom. I ain’t marriage-minded, and my track record with women isn’t much better than yours.”

“All right. Enough ancient history.” Tom replaced the photo in his wallet. “We’re here to talk about the present. I want to hear more about this idea of yours, Ty.”

Ty dipped his index finger into the glass and stirred the ice cubes. Even though it was the original purpose of this meeting, the sudden turn in conversation after talking about Tom’s successful daughter made him feel like a real shitheel. Monica, his own flesh and blood, had refused his help, and here he was with his hand out. He consoled himself that at least he’d worked for everything Tom had given him. He’d done his best, but the old hotel was finished unless Tom agreed to invest in it.

“I want to revitalize,” Ty finally said. “But we need an attraction to do it. Caesar’s has invested over five hundred mil in their new expansion, and SLS is refurbing the old Sahara across The Strip. They’re reopening it as a boutique hotel with a Fred Segal outlet. Everyone who wants to make it out here is renovating or innovating to attract a new non-gaming demographic.

“We can’t hope to stay in business, much less compete, unless we act on a big scale. For months I’ve been dealing with a settling foundation, leaking roof, and almost daily repairs. I’ve been slapping Band-Aids on the place for too long. If we don’t do something soon, we might as well demolish the whole damn place.”

There it was, the fifty-million-dollar question laid out on the table.

Ty waited, watching Tom stare into his glass, mouth pursed in thought. “I agree with you, Ty,” Tom said after a time. “But I’ve never been real eager to throw good money after bad. And you’re asking for lotsa good money. Fifty million is a huge investment under the circumstances. Hell, I only paid eight for the place.”

“But that was thirty years ago, Tom. Real estate on The Strip has skyrocketed since then. The land alone is probably worth triple that now.”

“I don’t get out here much anymore,” Tom said. “Maybe it’s time to just sell out. I admit I’ve thought about it a dozen times over the years and I’ve had some good offers too. Benny Binion offered for it three times. Don’t know why I’ve held onto it. Maybe it’s just foolish nostalgia.”

Ty swallowed hard, as if given a death sentence. He recalled watching the demolitions of the old landmark casinos and shut his eyes on visions of implosions and wrecking balls. He opened them again on a fatal sigh, scrubbed his face, and then took another long swig. Although they were still talking, he couldn’t judge by Tom’s expression whether he had cause to worry or to celebrate.

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