The French Quarter
New Orleans, Louisiana
Five Months Later
Larry and Ann Shelton sat on a bench in Jackson Square talking. He, Lenny, Ann and Larry’s current fling had been in town for a few days on a short vacation. Since it was before 2 p.m. Lenny was still sleeping and Larry’s current fling was off enjoying a spa treatment.
Larry and Ann had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together, and, then, went for a walk before settling in on a bench on a gorgeous southern morning. It was near the bench where they had discussed Rachel Rachmaninov’s marriage proposal years earlier.
“I think I’m ready to call it a day, Ann,” Larry said.
Ann looked at him fondly. She knew what calling it a day meant.
“You don’t look surprised,” Larry said.
“I’m not. Things changed after you were released. You changed a little bit; circumstances changed a little bit.”
“It was inevitable. You can’t undo what you’ve done or what’s happened to you.”
“You’re right, of course. As long as we’re on stage I can’t run around like I used to. If it happened once, it could happen again. Even I know that. Dad brought it up, too, so you know he’s concerned about it.”
“All this fuss for me isn’t what I’m looking for. It’s like I’m captive again, though to something completely different.”
Ann nodded again.
“There’s really nothing left to accomplish.”
Ann nodded; Lenny had said that once or twice as well.
“I mean, we could hardly get more popular. Dad would kill me if he heard this, but God would take second billing with us, third if we played with Toby Flotsam, and we hardly need any more money.”
“It’s still a good show though,” Ann said, her head weary from nodding.
“Yeah, it is. That’s what makes this hard. But the next show isn’t everything anymore. Getting through the next show so I can get home and be somewhat free again is. That’s not the way it should be.”
Ann took her friend’s hand and looked him in the eye.
“Then it’s probably time to stop. There is a lot to be said for going out on top anyway.”
“You think so?
Ann nodded. She had retired as Chief of Police on her terms; she was not completely unfamiliar with the concept, although her decision did not make international headlines.
“Lenny’s talked about it off and on. Better to go out while you’re still sold out than how you came in, doing free shows at the Sahara.”
Larry laughed. Accustomed to his success, he hadn’t thought about their first Vegas gig in ages.
“Okay, don’t go telling Lenny about this though. I want to think about it and make sure it feels right before telling him.”
“Lenny will understand when and if you tell him.”
“I think so.”
Ann let go of Larry’s hand and the two sat there for a while saying nothing.
“Interesting we’re having another significant conversation here,” Ann said.
“We talked about Rachel here, didn’t we?” he said.
“You regret letting her go.” It was half statement, half question.
“I dunno. I wouldn’t trade this for anything, even her, but if we could’ve accomplished this with her, well, that might’ve been nice. But I was still looking for something back then and wasn’t sure I could find it married.”
“It was for the best, I think.”
“Besides, she was born to be First Lady.”
The Regular Guys Dressing Room
The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
Las Vegas, Nevada
It didn’t take Larry a week to make a decision. A day after returning from New Orleans he walked into Lenny’s office. Ostensibly the visit was to talk about a movie script Lenny was developing called Hugh Homicide, about a homicide detective named Hugh Homicide. Larry had been reading it and contributing some funny lines, and in his role as co-owner of Regular Guy Pictures he was paying half the bills, though he really didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what was going on.
The pair sat and discussed the script for a bit. Then they sat quietly for a while.
“I think it’s time to call it a day, partner,” Larry said, apropos of nothing whatsoever. “I think I’ve had it.”
“Really?” Lenny said. “Had it as in ‘had it’, or had it as in had it.”
“The last one,” Larry said, pointing with an index finger. “With the italics. I’m ready for a new cycle.”
Lenny took off his reading glasses and leaned back in his chair. He smiled at his friend.
The pair said nothing for a few minutes. As always, the silence was perfectly comfortable.
“This isn’t completely surprising. I thought you’d want to call it a day sooner though.”
Larry knew Lenny was referring to his release.
“I feel caged. Everywhere I go there’s somebody looking out for me. This life is no longer being lived on my terms, so it’s time to find some new terms.”
“You’re not displeased with the show? I mean, I think we’re better than ever.”
“I think so too. We’re still humming, a finely tuned machine. But the stage is no longer home.”
Lenny spread his arms to his side.
“When it’s time to quit, it’s time to quit,” he said. “We always said we’d know when that time was.”
“That time appears to be now,” Lenny said. “If you think it’s time, it’s time. It’s that simple.”
“You know I hate when people say something is that simple.”
Lenny and Larry both laughed.
“But it is time,” Larry said.
The 50th Floor Bar And Grill
The Las VegasUSA Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
“I’ve got news for you,” Larry said significantly. They had just sat down to lunch. Custom probably dictated that business wait until after lunch, but Larry didn’t care.
“Can I use it?” Ray Evans asked. “I have nothing for tomorrow’s column yet.”
Larry laughed. Ray Evans, gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Herald, was always saying he had nothing for tomorrow’s column. According to Ray, it was because people like Larry held out on him that he was always trying to scrape up a column ten minutes before deadline.
“I think you’ll be able to squeeze it in,” Larry said confidently.
Ray Evans, busy negotiating the first of his three martinis, made a let’s-have-it motion with his free hand.
“Lenny and I are calling it a day. We’re going to end the show in three months.”
Ray Evans stopped drinking the first of his three martinis, stared at Larry and put his drink down. He looked as if he’d been poleaxed.
“You’re kidding,” he said, still staring at Larry. Then: “You’re not kidding. I can tell. I know you.”
“You’re right. You do know me, and I’m not kidding. You seem to be surprised.”
“Well, this is out of left field. You two are still selling out, and deservedly so. So, why? I mean, I know you don’t like being followed everywhere, but for goodness sakes, you two are funnier than ever.”
“Thank you,” Larry said modestly.
“In fact, at any time you could announce a national and international tour that, as a spectacle, would make Nagasaki seem like a sparkler. It would be the biggest spectacle in the history of man, not to mention grossing you half a billion dollars besides.”
“You’re probably right.”
Ray Evans considered that for a moment. He knew Larry was not entirely pleased with the fact it was probably best he no longer drove himself anywhere and that there were people to escort him wherever he went.
“Perhaps it is. Why now?”
“It feels right. There is really nothing left to accomplish. We’re still funny and we’ll be going out on top. We don’t need the money. If we lost everything we’d ever made today, we’d be rich again by the end of the month.”
“What will you do?”
“I dunno. Go out to lunch. Run for mayor. I’ll find something.”
“What’ll Lenny do? I mean, he’s got a wife to support.”
“He’s got some movie projects cooking. He’ll keep as busy as he wants.”
“All right, the hell with both of you, what am I going to do for material? I’ve got a column four days a week.”
“Pester somebody else?”
Ray Evans laughed. He took his napkin and put it to his mouth, replaced it on his lap, sat back and thought back to when he had first seen The Regular Guys doing free shows at The Sahara and their progression from there: their first shows with Toby Flotsam, their gig at The Golden Nugget, their complete pleasure at working Las VegasUSA and their completely unexpected liftoff into the stratosphere when they took over at Caesars Palace. Ray Evans thought of the kidnapping and how his role as reporter to the world kept him from going completely crackers during that sad time and now, finally, the end.
“I told you you two had no idea what you were going to accomplish.”
“Yeah, you did. I did too, really. I knew we’d be good together. But you can’t predict material success like this.”
“Why three months?
“Give us time to say goodbye, to enjoy what we accomplished a few final times.”
“Lord Caesar isn’t going to pick up the paper in the morning and see this for the first time, are they?”
“Morty’s telling them tonight.”
“How is Morty taking this, by the by?”
“Like a champ. He seemed genuinely happy to see we were pleased we were going out.”
“He would be. This town hadn’t always been kind to him. Not all endings had been on his client’s terms.”
“Lenny thought for sure he would weep, but he didn’t. He merely held the bridge of his nose with his thumb and middle finger and made noises usually associated with certain animals mating.”
Ray Evans laughed.
“Morty deserved this. He could’ve become completely insufferable with your success, but I’ll give him credit, he settled for graciously annoying.”
Larry laughed again. Morty seldom talked about his past days in the professional representation racket, and when he did, he never discussed them directly, merely alluding to people or events tangentially.
“Well,” Ray Evans said getting out his notebook and pen. “Since I do have a story, we need to talk…”
The interview lasted a couple of hours. Afterward, there was a bodyguard waiting at the door to escort Larry to his limousine.