harlie Ferris had a splitting headache thinking about how he landed unconscious in the men’s room of that Chicago bar. The restroom was empty. He walked up to the mirror. His suit was crumpled and his shirt had patches of blood. He lifted it up to reassure himself that it wasn’t a stab wound. His jaw was sore. He wiped the streak of dried blood from the left corner of his mouth.
He splashed cold water on his face, looked at himself in the mirror and tried to recollect the events of the last few hours.
* * *
“Do you know that it has been a full year since I have stayed away from the casinos?”
“Well, that’s great Charlie. I am proud of you!”
Stephanie raised her glass in appreciation and sipped her margherita.
“They were never able to find out how I counted cards. But they figured I was up to something and had me banned from all the casinos in Las Vegas. It was a wild ride while it lasted.”
Charlie had just finished his drink when the two men-- a burly black man in a leather jacket, a white man with large tattoos on his forearms.
“Yes. What’s up?”
“Can you come with us for a minute? We need to talk.”
“Can’t you see? I am here with my gal and I don’t want to talk to you!”
The tattooed man pulled out a gun just to show Charlie that they meant business and gestured him to move. Stephanie was terrified. One of the guys grabbed her by the arm and took her outside to the parking lot and sped away in a black GMC truck. The other two men pushed Charlie towards the men’s room where they were alone.
“Does the name Arthur McAllister ring a bell?”
A sudden shiver went up Charlie’s spine.
“You owe Arthur two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, don’t you?” asked the guy in the leather jacket.
Charlie had borrowed a small sum from McAllister as seed money when he went on his last Vegas trip. The action got too hot with the casinos and he had to get out of Nevada. With the juice and the passing of almost a year, the two fifty grand sounded just about right except that this was wrong timing for Charlie.
“And you thought we couldn’t trace you down to Chicago?”
“You have exactly 96 hours to get the money to Arthur. One minute after the deadline, I will kill your girlfriend. Once I am done with her, I will come to you. Do you understand?”
The tattooed guy held Charlie back when the other guy punched Charlie in the face and knocked him unconscious.
“That’s for making us come after you!”
* * *
“Freeze! This is the FBI. Drop your weapons!”
A dozen armed FBI agents surrounded Charlie as he handed over the bag containing two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in cash to Arthur McAllister.
It almost went exactly as per the plan made by Charlie and Stephanie except for the kidnapping part. But they had no complaints with the ten million dollar reward attached to the capture of McAllister and his gang.