Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Larry was kidnapped by four men in clown masks one afternoon a few months later. He had been walking to his car in the Caesars Palace parking garage to drive to lunch with Ray Evans, gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Herald.
He had smelled trouble the second the large van pulled out in front of him, but he only got a whiff of the scent because the four men in clown masks were not presiding over their first kidnapping. They were very good at what they did and before you could say “The Colosseum at Caesars Palace” Larry had been grabbed, a sweet-smelling rag had been placed over his nose, and he had been stuffed in the back of the van. He was unconscious before the door was shut.
The whole evolution, which had been rehearsed a hundred times, took less than ten seconds.
The 50th Floor Bar and Grill
The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Ray Evans was sitting at his table a half-hour after Larry was supposed to have arrived and wondered where he was. Calls to his mobile phone went unanswered, and it was unlike Larry to be late for something without calling.
After forty-five minutes Ray Evans, sort of worried because this was highly unlike Larry, called Morty.
“No, haven’t heard from him,” Morty said, not particularly worried. Larry was a star, one of the biggest in the world, actually, and while pretty mellow as stars go, he was a star nonetheless. Who knows what he could be up to? Stars existed on other planes from mere mortals, like Morty Klineman, Professional Talent Agent and Ray Evans, gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Herald. Larry could’ve joined a cult on a whim or maybe he had taken up animal husbandry.
Both agreed, though, it was unlike Larry to be tardy, much less completely blow off something as important as lunch with the gossip columnist of the Las Vegas Herald. Though shocked by this very un-Lutheran breach of etiquette, Morty didn’t even think enough of it to mention it to Lenny, who was spending the afternoon at leisure with his wife in their new home.
The Regular Guys Offices
The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Morty got worried, though, when Larry hadn’t shown up or called by late afternoon. They were within three hours of that night’s show and the time was coming when The Regular Guys would be expected to show up backstage and start preparing.
He headed backstage and found Lenny sitting at his desk in his office.
“Lenny, you seen Larry?”
“No,” Lenny said looking up from his desk where he was going through some fan mail. “Ann talked to him this morning, but otherwise, no.”
“Well, we have no idea where he is,” Morty said sitting down in a chair in front of Lenny’s desk. “He was supposed to have lunch with Ray Evans and didn’t show?”
“Larry didn’t show up and didn’t call?” Lenny sounded surprised.
“No,” Morty said.
Lenny realized there was a lot implicit in that one word. He took off his reading glasses significantly.
“Where the hell is he then?”
“I don’t know.”
Lenny got on the phone and called his wife.
“Hey babe, nobody’s heard from Larry since you talked to him today.”
Lenny’s wife, a retired chief of police, of course, felt her stomach freeze.
“Oh shit,” she said, emphatically.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on my way.”
A few minutes later Morty called the vice president for entertainment of Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino and told him that that night’s performance of The Regular Guys was being canceled. He gave no reason, but since it was unprecedented for The Regular Guys to cancel a show that close to show time, Morty invited the vice president of entertainment down to The Regular Guys’ dressing room to discuss matters.
He got there in 15 minutes. He would’ve gotten there sooner; however, it took a few minutes for him to put in motion the actions necessary for canceling a Regular Guys show.
“Morty, what’s going on? It’s not like you to cancel a show,” the vice president said, sounding concerned.
“We don’t know where Larry is,” Morty said matter-of-factly.
“What?” His tone implied it was Morty’s fault they didn’t know where Larry was.
“We don’t know where Larry is,” Morty repeated.
Just then Ann Shelton walked in.
“All right, what’s going on?” Ann Shelton asked in a manner that indicated she was accustomed to having this question answered right now.
“Larry hasn’t been seen all afternoon,” the vice president said.
“Thank you,” Ann Shelton said in a tone that implied she was thankful to the vice president for sharing that tidbit of thoroughly obvious information
“Ray Evans called around two or so saying Larry was a half-hour late for lunch and asked if I knew where he was,” Morty said. “I didn’t. I haven’t seen Larry since last night’s show.”
“And that’s it?” Ann Shelton asked.
Everyone looked at each other. That appeared to be it.
“Do we know that Larry came here today?” Lenny asked.
“We can find out,” the vice president of entertainment said.
Jim got out his cell, punched a couple of buttons and put the phone to his ear.
“Ron, Jim. Call me the second you get this. It’s that important.”
Jim then went to the phone on Lenny’s desk.
“Bridgett, this is Jim. Is Ron around? He isn’t? Okay, listen, this is very important; as important as it gets, actually. Find him and have him call me. I would be grateful if he could call me in the next 30 seconds. I am in Lenny’s office, though I’m also on my cell.”
Jim listened to Bridgett briefly, said thank you, and hung up.
“Ron is the hotel’s director of security,” Jim said.
A few seconds later Jim’s cell rang.
“It’s him,” Jim said, opening the phone and putting it to his ear.
“Where are you?” Jim asked.
Jim listened for a second.
“Come to Lenny’s office immediately. It’s very important.”
He listened for another second and then hung up.
A few minutes later the director of security for Caesars Palace walked into Lenny’s office.
Ron was in his early 40’s. A former Secret Service agent, he had grown tired of government service and went straight. He was tall and unusually thin. He walked in, took in Lenny, Ann Shelton and Jim and for reasons he wasn’t really sure of, decided Ann was the trail boss of this outfit for now.
“What’s the deal?” he asked.
“Larry appears to be missing,” Ann Shelton said.
“Good God,” he said. He knew and respected Ann Shelton’s background and knew she wouldn’t say Larry appeared to be missing unless there was good reason to suspect that Larry really was missing. “What do we know?”
Ann told him.
Ron sighed. “It could be a lot of things,” he said.
Ann nodded knowingly. It certainly was not unprecedented for a grown man to go five hours without being heard from, and, of course, Larry was still an American citizen, fully vested with the rights granted him and his fellow citizens under the Constitution; he certainly was not obligated to check in with anyone.
“Of course it could. It could be any one of a dozen things,” she said. “Most of them aren’t all that good though.”
Ron nodded, acknowledging her point.
“I’ll get on if he was here or not. I’ll call when I got something.”
Ron did his work quickly and well. It didn’t take him long to establish that Larry had indeed been at Caesars Palace that afternoon. Various Caesars employees said he had arrived around noon and spent about an hour in his office backstage before leaving little before 1 p.m. He had exited through his usual exit into the parking garage where he usually parked his car when he came by in the afternoon.
He went and looked; Larry’s car was still there.
Ron didn’t like that at all.
Nobody, really, was pleased that Larry’s car was still in its parking space. Nobody really wanted to come out and say the word kidnapping, but everybody thought it. Larry was last seen walking to his car and he never made it. It was unlikely he had caught a cab somewhere.
Morty’s mobile rang.
“It’s Ray Evans,” he said, looking at it. He didn’t really want to talk to Ray Evans at this point in time, but something told him to take the call.
“You don’t know where Larry is do you?” Ray Evans said, getting right to the point.
“What gives you that idea?” Morty asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Ray said expansively. “A Regular Guy show is canceled for the first time since the Ice Age. He’s not answering his phone, he stood me up for lunch.”
“Don’t be silly. He’s not missing. He’s just…not here right now.”
“Morty that makes no sense.”
Morty didn’t say anything.
“Morty, I am not only a reporter. I can claim the privilege of Larry’s friendship. I am calling for two reasons: one, I have no idea where my friend Larry is. Two, I don’t think you have any idea where our friend Larry is.”
“Morty, he arrived backstage a little after noon; he left the arena a little before one, heading for his car. He never made it. His car is still there.”
Morty was speechless; wondering how Ray Evans knew this.
“Morty, Larry would tell you the better the information I have is, the better I can do my job.”
“You just want a scoop.”
Morty regretted that instantly. Ray Evans may well have been looking for a scoop, but he meant what he said about calling Larry a friend, too.
Ray Evans decided to let that remark pass. People often said things in stressful situations they either didn’t mean or didn’t mean to say, especially when they weren’t sure they wanted to talk to a reporter or not.
“I’ll tell you what Morty. Bark once if my info is correct; bark twice if it isn’t.”
Morty still possessed sufficient wits to realize he was being mocked.
“I’m sorry, Ray. That was wrong. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“That’s okay,” Ray said, dismissing it. He wasn’t one to hold a grudge. “I made some phone calls this afternoon, Morty. It’s unlike Larry to not show up like this, so I got curious. I even drove down to see if his car was there. I don’t like this.”
“We don’t either,” Morty said.
Ray Evans decided Morty was a tad shell-shocked and wasn’t going to be a whole lot of help here.
“Is Ann there?”
“Yeah, hold on.”
He held the phone out to Ann.
“It’s Ray Evans,” he told her.
“Hi Ray,” Ann said.
“Hey Princess,” Ray Evans always called Ann ‘Princess’. “Do you know anything Morty doesn’t?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head.
Ray Evans sighed audibly.
“I agree,” Ann said.
“It could be a lot of things.”
“Yeah, but Larry wouldn’t miss a show.”
Ray Evans realized Ann was talking to him as a friend and not as a former police chief would talk to a credentialed member of the evil media.
“I know, Princess. Chin up, you hear? This will work out.”
Ann handed the phone to Lenny. She couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Ray, what’s going on?”
“You tell me. When was the last time you saw him?
“After last night’s show. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Ray Evans sighed audibly again.
“There isn’t much to do, right now, I suppose.”
“No, there isn’t,” Lenny said. “Except wait.
Lenny and Ray Evans said goodbye and Lenny hung up.
“I’ll call the cops,” Ron said.
“What if he was kidnapped and they say no cops?” Lenny asked.
“Lenny, you’ve seen, and been in, too many movies,” Ann said. “Somebody’s missing, you call the cops. Trust me.”
Ray Evans’ Office
Las Vegas Herald Newspaper
Las Vegas, Nevada
Kidnapping Day 2, 2:40 p.m.
Ray Evans was at his desk the next afternoon when his phone rang. After some discussion about where to put it, The Las Vegas Herald ran Larry being missing as an item in Ray Evans’ column. He said last night’s Regular Guy show had been cancelled and that Larry had not been heard from since 1 p.m. yesterday. He also mentioned Larry had not shown for a scheduled lunch engagement with a certain Vegas gossip columnist.
Nobody associated with The Regular Guys was quoted, mainly because no one had said anything worth quoting. There wasn’t really much to say, except for the usual banalities anyway.
Ray Evans had stuck to the facts, and the item was short, but it set off a frenzy across the country. American cable news channels, as only they can, were on the story, though, since there wasn’t a whole lot to report, they were repeating themselves several times an hour, again as only they can. The world had not stopped rotating on its axis, however, the story did have most of the world’s complete and undivided attention.
Ray Evans answered his phone on the second ring.
“Hey, what’s up? Miss me?” His stomach froze and his feet got warm, a sensation he hadn’t experienced since he was a cub reporter assigned to call a man whose son had been murdered the day before.
It was Larry. Before he could say anything Larry wasn’t there anymore.
“That’s enough, funny guy. Okay, Woodward and Bernstein, you want in on this, you’re in on this. We have him. He’s OK. We’ll be in touch.”
Click. Then a dial tone.
He immediately called Ann.
“Princess, I just heard from him. He’s been grabbed. He spoke five words to me and then was cut off. Another voice said they had him and they’d be in touch.”
Safe House Basement
Meanwhile, one half of the most famous comedy duo on the planet was lying on an air mattress in a tent with his feet bound together. It was neither hot nor cold in the tent. Larry had a slight headache and didn’t particularly like having his feet bound together, but otherwise felt strong. He could lie down comfortably in the tent. He was taller than most so he guessed the tent was about seven feet square.
After some initial disorientation when he woke up, he realized he was not, in fact, out camping, but that he had been kidnapped instead. His last memory had been that of a van pulling in front of him and men in clown masks getting out of the van.
After he had been awake for about twenty minutes or so, he could hear a zipper on the tent being opened, and, soon, a flap opened to the outside. A man in a clown mask squatted at the opening. He was dressed in a black shirt and black pants. Behind him, Larry could see another man in a clown mask dressed in a black shirt and black pants. If Larry were a worrier, he would have found the clown masks scary.
“Hey funny guy,” the man in the clown mask said. “Here’s the deal. You have been kidnapped. It probably is not impossible for you to break out of here, but if you can do so without us killing you, you are better than us and this isn’t our first time around the block. As soon as the fat guy pays us money, we will let you go. It’s that simple.”
“Lenny’s not fat. He’s big-boned.”
The two looked at each other.
“Now, you may be thinking that we have seen your show and kidnapped you because we found your show unfunny and an affront to basic human decency. That is not true. Well, part of it is true. We have seen your show, several times in fact. It made us laugh.”
“Have you bought our albums?” Larry asked. “Those are good, too.”
“I know you’re funny, funny man. Now, here’s the deal. We will provide food and water. If you need something you are to pull on this” – he pointed to a rope coming through the tent near the entrance flap – “this will ring a bell. We will come when you ring this. You will ring it only when you need to use the bathroom. Do not use it if you are thirsty or hungry or bored. You will be fed and hydrated on a regular basis, at times determined by us. Here, try the bell.”
Larry accepted the invitation and leaned over and pulled the line; a bell rang outside the tent.
“Now, here’s the no-no. Pay attention because this is key: do not attempt to exit this tent. This tent is your sanctuary. When you are in here you are safe; if you leave the tent without having first rung the bell, we will kill you.”
Larry nodded. It was the first time someone had threatened to kill him since he fought with Billy Mead in grade school.
“We do not wish to kill you. The only thing we wish for is to exchange you for money. That’s it.”
Larry shrugged resignedly.
“What happens if someone opens the flap and isn’t wearing a mask?” Larry asked. He thought dying because one of his kidnappers was too dumb to remember to put his clown mask on would be a lousy way to go.
“Mr. Larry, we are not amateurs.” The kidnapper pronounced ‘amateur’ like those golf announcers on TV do. “That should not happen. In the unlikely event it does happen, I suppose that person would be killed. I repeat, our sole purpose is to exchange you for money. If you’re dead, we can’t do that.”
The man in the clown mask started to zip up the flap but stopped.
“Also, do not ask us questions. We will not answer them.”
The kidnapper finished zipping up the flap, leaving Larry alone.
Larry immediately rang the bell. In a couple of minutes, the flap was partially unzipped and a man in a clown mask and the official uniform for this evolution squatted at the opening. The man with the gun was still standing a few feet away.
“I have to go to the can,” Larry said.
“OK,” a man said and fully opened the flap. It was not the same man who had just talked to him. If this man found anything unusual or humorous about Larry having rung the bell so soon after the first guy had left, he kept it to himself. “I am going to blindfold you and then handcuff your hands. After that, we will help you out. We will take you to the bathroom.”
They did so. Larry estimated he walked about ten feet, though it was hard for him to tell because he was limited to the small steps allowed by the bindings on his ankles.
“Okay,” the kidnapper said when they had stopped walking. “You are going to go through a door. When you are through the door I will close the door. You will then reach up and remove your blindfold. Then you will stick your hands through the opening in the middle of the door. I will remove your cuffs. You will do your business, then we reverse the procedure. Any questions?”
“What if it’s an emergency? What if I get the trots?”
It took a while, but Larry was able to go to the bathroom and be returned to the tent.
In the morning they brought Larry breakfast, a couple of English muffins, buttered, with some breakfast sausage. Larry thought this interesting because it had been a favorite way to start the day since childhood. They also brought him a compilation of mystery stories to read to help pass the time, which he also found interesting because he liked mystery stories.