Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada
Kidnapping Day 3, 12:45 pm
Special Agent Sam Rider and Ron Thomas, Director of Security for Caesars Palace, entered the bus station, stopped, spotted the lockers and walked directly toward them. The pair did not usually patronize bus stations, either individually or as a couple, however, earlier that morning Ray Evans had received another phone call from the kidnappers at his desk at the Las Vegas Herald.
Ray Evans recognized the voice as the same one he had talked to the day before.
“All right Halberstam, here’s the deal. You are going to receive a small box in the mail today. Inside will be a key and instructions about how to use that key. We’ll be in touch.”
That was it. Ray was not offered the chance to hear Larry speak, nor was Larry even mentioned. And though the FBI had put a trace on Ray Evans’ phone line, the call wasn’t long enough to trace it, though they did record it.
The box had come in the morning mail. It was a small, brown box, mailed from the downtown post office. There was about twice as much postage on it than current U.S. Postal Service regulations required for first-class delivery of a package of that size.
Inside the box was a key to the locker. The enclosed letter said the key would open a certain locker at the bus station. The letter had been printed from a computer and would be impossible to trace.
Sam Rider and Tom Grant were at Ray Evans’ desk when the morning mail came. The box was easy to find.
Sam opened it very carefully, just in case whoever had packaged and sent the box had left fingerprints or other evidence, such as the address where Larry was being held, on or in the package. Both Special Agent Sam Rider and Special Agent in Charge Tom Grant personally doubted, based on their own vast experience in law enforcement, there would be fingerprints, or any other sort of evidence, on or in the package, but proper police procedure dictated they act as if there were until proven differently.
Sam Rider didn’t waste any time. He took the key and went to his car where Ron Thomas was waiting. Tom Grant had taken the package itself back to his office, where the lab would go through the formalities of establishing the box did not, in fact, contain any fingerprints or other evidence on or inside it,
“Any movement on the phone number front?” Ron Thomas asked on the short drive to the bus station.
Sam shook his head.
“It appears Hannah Smith is a stripper. Metro has a 24/7 tail on her; based on their considered opinion, and based on reading their rather thorough written reports, she appears to have a lucrative side business performing sexual favors in exchange for a consideration. This consideration is usually cash.”
Ron Thomas gasped in mock horror. Prostitution provided legal, honorable work in brothels for dozens of women throughout the Great State of Nevada, but not in Clark County, where it was a shameful, illegal trade.
Sam Rider laughed.
“We need her to call Tommy Montalvo. Or have Tommy Montalvo call her.”
“Have they searched her place?”
“We have. Or rather we had some talent brought in that does that stuff rather well. They found nothing. Or rather, they found nothing leading to Tommy Montalvo. They actually found a lot of stuff. One posed as a trick, took her to her place, drugged her, called his partner, and they searched the place.”
They arrived at the bus station, which was not too far away from the First Street Stage, where Lenny and Larry had performed a couple of times years ago. Sam Rider illegally parked in front of the entrance, and he and Ron Thomas walked inside. The lockers were near some video games.
Sam Rider opened the locker and found a manila envelope inside. It was thin and didn’t appear to have anything in it.
Sam Rider was under instructions from Special Agent in Charge Tom Grant to deliver the contents of the envelope directly to the Regular Guy mansion. These instructions did not specifically order Sam Rider to read and evaluate the contents of whatever happened to be found in the locker, but on the other hand, they did not specifically preclude Sam Rider from reading and evaluating its contents and since such reading and evaluation had not been specifically forbidden, Sam Rider opened the envelope and read and evaluated its contents.
It was traits like this – often exhibited by Special Agent Sam Rider – that made Special Agent In Charge Tom Grant sometimes wish Special Agent Sam Rider had chosen another career path.
Sam had actually opened it in case the letter was not a ransom note but instructions that called for immediate action on someone’s part, though neither Sam Rider nor Ron Thomas was surprised the envelope contained a ransom note. Like the note that had accompanied the box, it had been printed from a computer and would be impossible to trace. Sam thought ransom notes had come a long way from the days when their letters were cut out of magazines and newspapers.
Like every other communication from the kidnappers, this one was brief:
Larry is OK and will remain OK as long as you do as you are told.
Get $10 million cash ready for delivery.
We will be in touch.
Sam Rider read the note, whistled, and showed the note to Ron Thomas.
“That’s a lot of money,” Ron Thomas said after reading it.
Sam knew Ron wasn’t talking about the value of that amount of money, but rather how much space ten million dollars in cash would take up; that was 100,000 $100 bills, the largest bill currently circulated by the United States Treasury. Ransoms were strictly cash transactions and 100,000 U.S. banknotes would weigh just over 220 pounds and would not be easy to deliver.
The Regular Guy Mansion
Las Vegas, Nevada
Kidnapping Day 3, 4:45 pm.
From the start, Ann Shelton had made it clear she did not want to deal with a lot of people. The cacophony surrounding Larry’s disappearance had been deafening. It was simply one of the biggest news stories in human history, even though there wasn’t a whole lot to report, and Ray Evans, who had turned into the world’s liaison with the kidnappers, was the only one reporting what there was to report firsthand.
The only people she would allow in the Regular Guy mansion were Special Agent Sam Rider and Director of Security for Caesars Palace Ron Thomas. She had simply denied entrance to anyone else that was not her husband (who lived there and had to be let in) or Morty or Larry’s father or Ray Evans, though Ray had only visited once.
Ann Shelton sat on a corner of Lenny’s desk and read the ransom note twice, then stared at it blankly for a few seconds without actually reading anything. Lenny was sitting behind his desk and Sam Rider and Ron Thomas sat in chairs in front of the desk. Morty and Larry’s father, Dan, had gone into hiding together in an upstairs suite that was used by Larry when he visited. Morty was nearly devastated and Dan, who was taking this much better than anyone else, was spending most of his time counseling patience.
Ann handed the note to Lenny when she was done with it.
Lenny read it and tossed it on his desk, his expression no different than if he had just read the electric bill and not a note demanding $10 million for the release of his friend and comedy partner. For one of the few times in his life, he was genuinely angry. In a press conference yesterday he had stood on a podium and declared before the world that you could not kidnap a Regular Guy with impunity, which was about the worst thing that he could’ve said. To show the kidnappers he was serious he had taken off his suit coat, loosened his tie and rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt.
“We have ten million dollars,” Lenny said.
“Kidnappers rarely expect to get the amount they initially demand,” Sam Rider said.
“I have a feeling they do in this case,” Ann Shelton said. “Kidnapping is not unlike extortion; make sure you ask for an amount that can reasonably be expected to be paid and will not cause an undue burden. These guys have done their homework. They know $10 million is not a lot of money, relatively speaking.”
“How liquid are we?” Lenny said.
His wife shrugged.
“Hard to say,” she said. “It could take three, four days to raise that kind of cash. They know that, too; that’s why they told us the amount without stating terms for its delivery.”
Ann Shelton spoke dispassionately, as if she were conducting the investigation into the kidnapping of a complete stranger instead of the taking of one of her dearest friends. It was as if she was completely divorced emotionally from the episode; emotions could come later.
“We could make that work for us in case the clue we discovered turns into anything,” Sam Rider said. “We could use the amount to stall for time.”
“Clue?” Ann Shelton said. “What clue.”
“A very small one,” Sam Rider said. He told Ann and Lenny about the phone number they had found.
“Anything pop up yet?” Ann Shelton asked.
Sam Rider shook his head.
“It hasn’t yielded anything yet,” he said. “Unless the kidnappers are using a very sophisticated code system involving a doctor, various men – none named Tommy Montalvo – and a hairdresser.”
“Maybe it will. It’s better than nothing.”
“A little,” Sam said. “We have no idea how this girl is related to Montalvo, though.”
“What do you want to do about the ransom?” Ron Thomas asked. “The hotel has asked me to mention – at the appropriate time, which appears to be now – that they would like to pay whatever ransom they ask for. I am to leave the impression that this isn’t even subject for discussion, that they are doing everything up to insisting.”
“Ann and I will pay the ransom,” Lenny said, his tone leaving the impression that this, too, wasn’t subject for discussion.
Chapter 23 – Part II
Chapter 23 – Part IV
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