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Johnnie the Dime Koscko: don't be fooled, he's not really a gangster. But he'd like to be one, and that might just make him even more dangerous. He left the Mississippi coast thirty years ago in search of the big leagues in Las Vegas. But the closest he ever got was as a sometime flunky for the Mafia wannabes in the Rat Pack. Now he's back in Mississippi, and he's got a vision for his old hometown. With gambling legal, he's going to turn his Jackpot Bay casino into the classiest, swankiest attraction this side of the Rockies-If only he can expand his business beyond blue-haired locals and low rollers in polyester suits.
He's off to a good start. Rulon Hornbeck, the suave manager he reluctantly took on to give his place "class," has booked the spectacularly popular Snow Mountain Band to play a gig in the showroom. That's drawing some big-ticket gamblers from Europe. If they come and like the place, that puts Johnnie the Dime one step closer to realizing his dream.
Problem is, Snow Mountain hasn't made itself too popular with some religious folks, and it's not patching things up that the concert's on a Sunday. Enter the Narrow Path Independent Bible Church of Charismatic Believers. They have a bullhorn and they're not afraid to use it.
Then there's the other problem: Tara Conrad, a no-nonsense, hyper-liberated security auditor has been sent by the insurance auditor to figure out why Jackpot Bay's been losing so much money. She's not afraid to assert herself, and that doesn't sit right with Johnnie.
And, of course, there's the small matter of a bloody shoot-out that erupts on the gaming floor when Johnnie's oafish, violent nephew, Clyde, decides he can treat the staff however he wants.
Maybe the Jackpot Bay's future isn't such a sure thing after all. In fact, things might start getting pretty bloody pretty soon. And that's why Jack Delmas is there. Delmas, the hero of Martin Hegwood's critically acclaimed southern mystery novels had just accepted another routine assignment from his employer: introduce Johnnie and Tara and make sure they play nice.
But when the stakes are this high, playing nice is for losers.
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Martin Hegwood is a former Assistant District Attorney and is currently the Senior Attorney for the Secretary of State's office of Mississippi. St. Martin's Press published his first novel, Big Easy Backroad, in 1999, his second, The Green-Eyed Hurricane, in 2000, and his most recent, Massacre Island, in 2001.
Would ya just listen to all that racket outside? If them rednecks don’t haul ass, and I mean real soon, I’m gonna go down there and personally whip the hell outta every last one of ’em!”
Johnnie the Dime was bursting with high blood pressure, and both his face and his bald head were as pink as a boiled shrimp. He swept his fat fingers through the scraggly wisps of moistened hair that clung to the base of his skull, and then used the back of his hand to wipe away the drops of sweat that had trickled down into his eyes.
“I just turned and walked away from this great setup I had out in Vegas. Just walked away from it, I tell ya! I bring my ass back down here to give these shrimp pickers some good-payin’ jobs, and this is the way I get treated? You tellin’ me I gotta put up with this crappola?”
What I had to say to Johnnie was going to be tough enough, even without the swarm of singing protesters out on the street below. “Mr. Koscko,” I said, “I won’t take much of your time. Bayou Casualty needs to do a security audit of your casino.”
He glared at me and looked like he needed to clear his throat and spit. “Now, ain’t that just swell? They already done one of them audits before we even opened for business. Y’follow me? That ain’t been six months ago. Sent in that smart-ass broad.
What’s her name?” He glanced at Clyde who was standing at the window. “Hey, Clyde, ya listenin’? I’m talkin’ to ya.”
“Yeah, Uncle Johnnie?”
“Get ya ass away from that window and stop teasing them people. They won’t never shut up if they think ya listenin’ to ’em. That gal that did the audit on this place a few months ago. What’s her name?”
“You talkin’ about the one with the great legs?”
“And the smart mouth,” Koscko said. “What the hell’s her name?”
“Name’s Tara something.”
“It’s Tara Stocklin,” I said. “But, Mr. Koscko, she never got a chance to finish her work here.”
“That’s because she didn’t know what she was doing. She was too busy runnin’ around trying to get laid.”
“You want I should shut the windows, Uncle Johnnie?”
“You crazy or something? I’m already about to suffocate in here. Look, you . . . what’s your name again?”
“A.J. Delmas,” I said. “People call me Jack.”
“You one of them Delmases from around here?”
“He’s from around here all right.” Ever since high school, Clyde’s had this edge to his voice when he talks to me, or even about me. Like he’s always bad wanting to try to get a piece of me.
“Dammit,” Johnnie said, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
The air conditioner was broken and the morning sun was at just the right angle to light up the room and overpower the ceiling fan. We were in the downtown office of Jackpot Bay Casino. The casino itself was seven miles away, all the way down Beach Boulevard to where it dead-ended into Bayou Caddy. The office occupied the top floor of a two-story, turn-of-the-century building that featured twelve-foot ceilings and wide-planked wooden floors. A steamy breeze coming through the open French doors carried a strong fragrance of cinammon from the bakery next door. So the room not only felt like an oven, it smelled like one too.
“Delmas, I been in this business forty years. Y’unnerstand? I don’t need no insurance company telling me how to run a casino.”
“All we know is that you’ve been losing too much money to theft,” I said, “or maybe to cheating at the gaming tables. The company wants to bring in an expert to check procedures on the floor, calibrate the slots, check cash flow procedures. It’s just routine.”
Koscko grunted and pulled a roll of bills out of his front pocket. He peeled off a fifty and held it up. “Clyde, why don’t ya run on down to that Dollar General Store and get us a couple of box fans.”
Clyde was still standing at the window, behind Johnnie the Dime’s desk, looking out over the crowd like he was the Pope or something and, when his uncle wasn’t looking, cupping his hand behind his ear, acting like he couldn’t hear all the singing and chanting. Back in high school Clyde was a couple of years behind me, a hood from that tough part of Biloxi near the projects who used to drive over to Bay St. Louis just to get into fights. But even in those days he knew better than to try to mess with me.
He had been out in Las Vegas with his uncle the past few years working as a blackjack dealer at the Golden Nugget, but he still looked like a small-timer. Always would. He’s a big guy with a Fu Manchu, pumped-up arms, but soft around the middle, constantly reaching for the comb he kept in his back pocket.
“Go on and get them fans,” Koscko said. “I’m about to burn up.”
“I’ve done called the air-condition repair guys. They oughta be here any minute.”
“Don’t argue with me! You’re in charge of making stuff run around here. We need some relief right now.”
“But I’ve done called . . .”
“Just go get the damn fans. Okay?”
Clyde twisted about a quarter turn, just enough so that his back was to his uncle, and he flipped off the crowd. About what you’d expect from some eighth-grade punk, not a full-grown man. The gesture set off a big roar that caused Johnnie the Dime to spin his chair around, and Clyde held out his palms to proclaim his innocence.
“Quit messing with them holy-rollers and get ya ass in gear.”
The singing outside intensified. I never knew the hymn “I Shall Not Be Moved” had so many verses. “Listen to all that,” Koscko said. “Y’know what them dummies are down there protesting? They think the lead singer on this Snow Mountain Band is the Antichrist. Y’ever heard anything so stupid? One idiotic story shows up in one of them rags they sell at the checkout counter and them Bible-thumpin’ dummies fall for it.”
“Maybe I oughta call them air-conditioning guys again,” Clyde said.
“I heard they’re angry because you scheduled the concert on a Sunday,” I said.
“Yeah, that too. I told some of my buddies back in Vegas about that Sunday business and they nearly busted a gut laughing. Hell, this place ain’t changed one bit since I was in high school.”
I didn’t have time to argue the point, but Johnnie Koscko was dead wrong about that. The Mississippi Coast is changing every day whether I like it or not. You can see the change firsthand if you go twenty miles to the east and take a drive through all that new traffic along the beach in Biloxi. You’ll have plenty of time to take it all in, because it’ll be so crowded you probably won’t be able to go more than fifteen miles per hour. High-rise hotels have gone up where shrimp boats used to unload their catch, and these days the pastel glare of casino marqees crowds out the soft orange glow of the moon when it’s low in the eastern sky over Deer Island. The whole place has nearly been pushed to the limit as far as I’m concerned.
But of course the civic booster types, including my own brother, have got a different take on it. Their idea of progress is to pack a million people into this place. And, hell, maybe they’re right. Maybe the real estate salesmen and bankers and retailers and convention directors are right. Rising real estate values are everything. Just sit back, world, and watch us grow! I’ll admit it, I’m stuck in a time and a way of life that will never be here again. But I’m just hoping that down here we can hang on to at least a piece of what we have now.
“So let’s say ya set up all this high-priced security and ya catch somebody cheating,” Johnnie said. “What then?”
“You file charges at the police station and they start the prosecution.”
“Oh, that’s brilliant. That’s what your insurance company’s got to say about it? That’s just a great way to let the whole world know that we’re an easy mark. Get caught cheating at the Jackpot Bay and all ya do is pay fifty bucks to some justice of the peace. Listen, I cut my teeth in Vegas back in the old days. Y’follow me? I know how to handle cheaters so they don’t come back.”
Clyde smiled and started cracking his knuckles. “Damn right.”
The door behind me burst open and in stormed this tall, thin man. Short sandy hair, almost a crew cut, and a single diamond in his right earlobe. His lips were pressed together in a tight line. “Mister Koscko, I simply cannot put up with this any longer! I’ve got Snow Mountain coming here in two days and the accounting division is telling me I can’t hire a limo to bring them in from the airport. That is nothing but bush league, pure and simple. We’re talking about the hottest band in the world.”
“Do what ya gotta do, Rulon,” Koscko said. “You’re in charge of this weekend. I already told ya that a hunnerd times.”
“Well, maybe you better tell those accountants. They questioned the limo, the flowers, the food, everything. I thought we had an understanding. I thought you’d let me get whatever I need.”
“Ya got plenty of shrimp?” Clyde asked. “Shrimp and crawfish, that’s what the crowds down here want.”
Rulon glared at Clyde and put his hands on his hips. “Oh, and I suppose you want me to spread them out on folding tables covered with butcher paper.”
“This ain’t no fancy crowd,” Clyde said. “They ain&#...
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Book Description Thomas t Beeler, Sanbornville, New Hampshire, U.S.A., 2003. Library Binding. Condition: New. Large Print/Large Type. Careful packing, quick posting, delivery confirmation. Email for a list of other Large Print titles in stock. Seller Inventory # 016645
Book Description Thomas T Beeler, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX1574905341
Book Description Thomas t Beeler, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1574905341
Book Description Thomas t Beeler, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111574905341