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Dear Diary...

01/01/07:

                Big party tonight at Red Square. Much high muckity-ness with lots of romp and porpisestances. Is supposed to be colder'n Eskimo hell - the vodky likes it that way.

                I can't feel my toes. Leo says they're all there. He's just being nice. Stop that. You can't nibble on them, they went wee-wee-wee all the way home.

                Can't sleep. Clown will eat me.

                Not clown. Just Leo. He can hold his breath a long time. He's a seal. Can't balance a ball on his nose for shit, though.

                And we danced like soggy gazelles.

01/02/07:

                Oh, dear Lord.

                As Corellon is my witness, I'm never going to do that again as long as I live.

                From here on out, I'm sticking to tequila!

02/10/07:

                Rumor is that Olivia finished working on the magic staff late last night and has been 'busy' all day today. We'll see if she makes an appearance tomorrow.

02/11/07:

                Olivia did indeed show up for breakfast today, "So what's been going on?" she asked.

                "Well, let's see," I said. "In no particular order…the New York/New York was donated to serve as the Temple for the Unknown Ones. Lot of renovations there. The new Lord Luxor's doing quite well, surpassing the old Lord's sales numbers. He's been using new methods, such as encouraging other Overlords to give Favor coupons to their employees as 'bonuses'. His customer base is growing, as is his profit margin and some of the other Overlords are getting annoyed."

                Olivia looked to Karyn to make sure that her orders are being followed - she doesn't allow her people to use the stuff and lucky Karyn is the head Pee-Narc. I continued on, "What else? Oh yeah…a group arrived from Reno in the middle of last month. They purchased both narcotics and prostitution licenses, then they introduced a new drug to compete with Favor. It's a hyper-amphetamine called 'Nitro'. It's also acquiring quite a following. There have been some clashes between the new Nitro dealers and the dealers of the more 'traditional' drugs, and the Nitro dealers are really quite happy to take their cases all the way to Thunderdome - and they always win. The Reno people have stated that the allegations of threats being made against the professional ladies (and their families, in some cases) working for other establishments are nothing but 'sour grapes'."

                She took it all in. "And what have you two been up to?" she asked.

                Rodrick grinned, "Pool time!"

                "That's it?"

                He admitted that he's been busy out at the War Temples, when he's not at a pool or busy with Allison.

                I said, "Besides hitting the pool, I've been watching the progress on the Cathedral. I check in every day to see how things are going. I make sure not to go more often that that - those Dwarves get so damn touchy if they think I'm checking up on them. Anyway - they told me yesterday that it's about 75% finished."

                "Anything else?"

                "Well, wedding plans."

                She squealed! Honest to God, she squealed! "Do tell!"

                "May First, at the Cathedral - if it's done. That way it won't interfere with Malcolm and Ellen's wedding. And I figured it would be easier to get them here than to get four or five Overlords to the Kingdom (though I'd rather it be there than here)."

                "Uh-huh…"

                "I've picked out a dress and veil, bridesmaids' dresses and tuxedos for the groomsmen. Now I'm working on the guest list and who all will be attendants. I hope that Izzy can come and help with the reception. But I'm stuck on some details."

                "Like what?"

                "Well, who to perform the ceremony? I'd like to ask Slash. After all I'd be dead if not for her, but will a Priestess of Ellistrae performing a ceremony in a House of Corellon cause a 'problem'? And who should walk me down the aisle? I was thinking Malcolm, but would that be weird?" Then I laughed and said, "Oooh! The perfect wedding! Malcolm can walk me down the aisle, hand me over to Leo and Olias could perform the ceremony!"

                Olivia ignored that and asked, "Who for the bridesmaids?"

                "Well I inked you in for the Maid of Honor, of course, and I was thinking Cordelia and Sylvia. I don't know if I'll need any more - Leo hasn't decided on groomsmen yet." That's when Rodrick saved himself and left. The rest of the day was pretty much showing Olivia the things I've picked out so far.

02/14/07

                Rodrick was out at the War Temples this morning, leaving Olivia and I sunning by ourselves. One of her girls came out and announced that there were some gentlemen in the lobby.

                "So?" Olivia asked. "Have Karyn handle it."

                "They're here to see Miss Jazz."

                "Me?" I exchanged a look with Olivia, "Bring 'em on out."

                She reappeared leading three men of indeterminate age who introduced themselves as Vincent, Dominic and Michael.

                Vincent took the lead, "Good morning, Miss, um, Ambassador, um, Sister…"

                Olivia decided to help out and provided him with, "It's 'The Most Rapturous Flame of Corellon'."

                Vincent paused, looked to his cohorts who just shrugged and plunged ahead, "Your Holiness, we are here to request a bit of interfaith cooperation. We are representatives from the Catholic community of Las Vegas. A community that has long suffered from the neglect of the Powers That Be. Now it is common knowledge that you are currently building a cathedral here at the Aladdin and we are here before you to ask that some of those funds be diverted to assist with the renovation of the only remaining Catholic church in the city, Saint Joan of Arc."

                Olivia snorted, "So ask your faithful. What have you done for Corellon lately?"

                Vincent was a little rattled but managed to spit out something about the Church's long history of helping those in the direst need.

                "Have you asked the other Temples in town?" Olivia wanted to know.

                "No, this is our first visit," Vincent said.

                Olivia asked, "And why should we help you?"

                "You shouldn't help me," Vincent said, "but help the Church. A Church in desperate need of help." He turned away from Olivia, towards me; "Your endeavor here has been so blessed while others are having troubles making ends meet."

                "You could have a bake sale," Olivia suggested.

                "Or a car wash," I said. "Those are always good."

                I almost threw him with that, "Yes, but there is a certain lack of cars these days," he pointed out.

                "Oh, right."

                "So what's your part in all of this?" Olivia asked him.

                "We're…idea guys."

                "Uh-huh, and who's in charge of this church?" she asked.

                "That would be Father Matthew."

                "And he sent you here?"

                "Oh no!" Vincent was emphatic, "In fact, he was quite clear that he didn't approve of our seeking outside funds."

                "Tell you what," I said, "let me get with my bookkeeper to see if I even have any funds left and then…"

                "So this is all your idea?" Olivia asked him. "Let's see your designs for the renovation, bids, estimates."

                "We're only in the preliminary fund raising stage," he objected.

                I was curious, "When you're not doing this - what do you three do?"

                "Currently, we're looking into the local labor practices. The laborers here are horribly under represented."

                Ah.

                "Believe me," I said, "the Dwarves working on the cathedral are quite able to take care of themselves."

                "But the Dwarven community is just right to appreciate the benefits of collective bargaining."

                I was enjoying a happy little image in my mind of them trying to organize the Dwarves into a union when Olivia asked, "So where are you boys living?"

                "We're currently between habitations," Vincent said.

                "What? You're living out of your cars?" Olivia asked.

                "No, we're trying to find a residence that is more beneficial."

                "Did you find Reno to be not so beneficial?"

                "Reno is a very nice place. A city of business." Vincent said. "A city that recognizes the nature of business is to grow."

                "But business won't grow if it gives money to every Tom, Dick and Harry," Olivia said.

                Vincent was undaunted and listed off several benefits to be gained by contributing. He also let it slip that they'd been staying at the Luxor.

                Olivia asked, "What do you think of the Lord Luxor?"

                "We understand that he's an improvement over the previous Lord, but he's a person of limited vision and it's not at all productive to run our business thru him. He tends to be…provincial. It's a business and should be run as such."

                "Back to your original purpose," Olivia said, "any money you get from Jazz would go straight to the church?"

                "Of course!" Vincent said. "Minus a ten percent fee that we would keep. For our 'worldly' needs, and for our troubles. But we are collecting for the benefit of the Catholic Church - it's in horrible condition. Filled with rats, dirty and falling apart."

                "Have you tried volunteer labor?" she asked.

                "We have - but we have not met with much success."

                "Sounds like you need better quality volunteers," Olivia said.

                "Exactly. And one of the nuns, who has been trying to teach classes, saw you on TV. She commented that Her Radiance smelled like an ex-Catholic to her. And we thought, 'Once a Catholic - always a Catholic' so she would be the most approachable and would realize that the church deserves to be more than a…a…"

                "Rat trap?" I supplied.

                "Yes. We knew you'd understand and would be willing to help."

                "So you're not here to shake us down for the unions?" Olivia asked him.

                All three of them were horrified, "No! If we were doing that, we'd come in here and say something like, 'Nice Temple - too bad if something happened to it'."

                I didn't appreciate the example. "Someone already tried that - they're out wandering in the desert."

                Vincent said, "Right - and that's not why we're here. Are you willing to help the church?"

                "I'll check with my bookkeeper and get back to Fr. Matthew," I said.

                "Good! When you need to get hold of us - we'll be checking into the Golden Nugget. And as far as the other subject - we believe that the workers of Las Vegas would benefit from representation."

                "Stay away from my girls," Olivia warned.

                "Hookers deserve representation, too," Vincent intoned.

                Olivia began to 'enlighten' him as to what she meant by 'her girls' but I'd heard enough and got up and went to the bar.

                "Can I help you?" Olivia's bartender asked.

                "Unions! Give me a double shot - no umbrella."

                Once I saw that Vincent and his friends had left, I got another round for Olivia and I and went back to the pool, "I'd love to see Caesar deal with unions should they move into town. Have they not heard about the whole 'whammy' thing? How everyone was whammied before, and now they're not? I don't see them being able to overcome that little detail."

                Olivia summoned Karyn (who practically 'appeared' from the landscaping - I wondered if she'd heard all of it) and asked her, "Did you see those three? Make sure they don't start anything with my people and I want to know how far they've gotten or if they've just started their activities."

                "They've just started," Karyn told her. "And they've been keeping a low profile, playing by the rules. But I don't think it will stay that way for long."

                "Ok, keep a close eye on them."

                "I don't think you have to worry about them, they're being very obvious - almost stereotypical - not very professional. They may be here doing their 'act' to cover for something else," Karyn said.

                "And that begs the question - are they being used or do they know they're working for someone else?" I asked.

                Olivia suggested, "Maybe they've just watched too many movies?"

                Karyn shook her head, "The small quiet guy, Michael, I'd say he's definitely a wiseguy. I think that this was a training run for the other two. Either that or maybe they were here to scope out your security - when, where, with who…"

                "Doesn't everyone in Vegas already know that?" I asked.

                Olivia sent for her crystal ball. When it arrived, she scryed Michael. The three of them were at the Golden Nugget negotiating room rates. When they were done, Vincent told Dominic, "Stay here. We'll go get everyone else, give them directions and get stuff moved."

                Then he and Michael got into an armored Hummer limo and drove to the convention center where they met some men at a tent city and handed out the room keys. They started loading gear into some monster trucks that had been rigged for desert travel. Then Olivia scryed the priest. He was in his office at the church trying to give some inspirational words to a family - some new arrivals - about where they could go to find jobs, etc.

                The man asked him, "Well how can the Church help us?"

                "We're still holding regular masses," Fr. Matthew said.

                "And that's it?!? No sanctuary? No succor?" the man whined.

                Fr. Matthew snorted, "Get real. No one can do that anymore. They only way that will ever happen again is if people who are employed start giving to the Church to pass on to others. Did you see the church when you walked thru it? If you want to come in and pray, though - be welcome. But if you're looking for some easy money so you can disappear into the sunset - goodbye."

                The guy changed from whiney to pushy and demanding. Finally the priest had had enough and muttered something in Latin. Suddenly the man looked horrified and then ashamed and fell to his knees, apologizing. Fr. Matthew calmly said, "When you repent - and mean it - you will feel better." The man gathered his family and they left.

                Olivia's spell faded and I whistled in admiration, "A Catholic Guilt spell. Nice."

                Karyn told Olivia, "You could summon him, Lady, for questioning."

                "Or I could just go talk to the man, it's my money they want," I said.

                "Do you want me to summon him for you?" Olivia asked.

                "No, I'll go to mass on Sunday and talk to him." I said. "No wait! Today's a holy day - I bet he's having an evening mass, I'll go talk to him tonight."

                "Holy day?" Olivia said.

                "Yes - the Feast of Saint Valentine."

                "Are you going alone?" she asked.

                "Yes."

                She didn't like that, "Call Leo, he'll go with you - or Rodrick."

                "I'll go alone, incognito - no one will ever know - I'll be fine."

                While I changed clothes into a big sweater, jeans and a scarf for my head, I had some go-juice to sober me up and Karyn got me a nice plain car to take. I called Allison and asked her how much money I had left in the vault. Four and a half million!

                At the church, I found things pretty much as Vincent had described. It was very run down and dirty and there were more than a few rats. There were some parishioners who were looking at me oddly - because I'm an Elf? Fr. Matthew was busy getting ready for services as I approached him.

                "May I help you sister?" he asked.

                I asked to speak to him in private.

                "Uh, certainly, but it will have to be brief."

                "I understand," I told him. "I don't want to make you late for mass. If you'd prefer, we could speak in the confessional."

                "If that works for you," he said and we headed that way. I saw he was about to put on his stole before he entered.

                "I'm not here to confess, Father,"

                "Right!" he said. "Force of habit, sorry."

                "Oh, I understand."

                "So you're not here to confess, why are you here?"

                So I explained about the visit I'd received that afternoon.

                "You think I sent them?" he asked.

                "Not at all. They were adamant that you weren't happy with the idea of them approaching outsiders."

                "That is quite correct. I had enough of guys like that when I was in the seminary in Chicago. That kind of Catholic makes me wish I were a Protestant. But they're here now and I can't do anything about it, except to tell you that you are under no obligation."

                "I understand that, but I hate to see the church like this and I'd like to help."

                "Well, seeing as how we're not in line to get any support from Rome…"

                "Does the Mother Church still exist?" I interrupted him.

                "It does, as it always will."

                "Oddly enough, I find that reassuring."

                He just smiled at that, "The way I look at I," he said, "Humanity somehow managed to bitch-slap itself back to the middle-ages. And I have to believe that this is all part of God's plan. I'm here, now, and I have work to do."

                "And I believe that your work and my work is fundamentally the same, that's why I'm interested in helping you out," I said.

                "I won't turn you away," he said, "But you shouldn't give thru guilt. Do what you wish to do but do it knowing that you are forgiven. Now I don't wish to be rude, but I have a service to perform."

                "I thank you for your time, Father."

                He went to begin mass and I slipped quietly out the back and returned to the Aladdin. Once there I went in search of the architect working on the cathedral. I found him and told him I had another job if he was interested. He grunted an affirmative so I asked him to go take a look at Saint Joan's and to give me an estimate on what it would take to fix it up.

                Back at the pool, Rodrick and Slash had joined Olivia. Slash and Olivia had decided to go somewhere 'nice' for Valentine's day and Rodrick said he was taking Allison somewhere, but wouldn't divulge any details. Leo showed up and after giving me Hell for going to Saint Joan's by myself - told me that he'd made reservations for dinner, but wouldn't say where.

                Butthead.

                While I was getting ready, I had the news on and heard a report that one of Luxor's men (one involved in distribution) had been turned to stone and then he'd been smashed to pieces. The central 'part' was still missing but his head had been found 'decorating' one of the interior gardens in the Luxor. Authorities weren't commenting on reports of a note found with the head. It was rumored to have read, "Sorry, couldn't wait for Thunderdome." There was much speculation as to who could accomplish such a feat and Lord Las Vegas Hilton was refusing to investigate the incident since no one has filed a complaint.

                Anyway - dinner was fabulous! Leo took me to the Italian place where we went on our first 'date'.

                Softie!

02/15/07:

                Pool time was interrupted again today, but this time it was by my surly architect, "It's not as bad as it looks. Some spit and polish, reinforce this, support that - it'll be as good as new," he said as he handed me a written estimate (in triplicate). "A million and a half will take care of it."

                I looked it over (as if it made any sense to me at all) and asked, "Does that include labor and supplies?"

                Well that just made him surlier, "You asked for an estimate on how much to fix it up - of course it include labor and supplies."

                "Sorry - no offense was intended. I thank you for looking into it so quickly."

                "Sign here."

                I did.

                "Initial here."

                I did.

                He gave me one of the copies and asked, "Should we ask permission before we start?"

                "No, I'll handle that, thank you, sir."

                He stomped off and I got up to go change. Olivia asked if she could come along.

                "Sure, why not?"

                I quickly realized why not.

                We pulled up in front of the church in Olivia's limo, which was flying not just the Aladdin colors but Corellon's and Crom's colors as well. There were bodyguards and a full police escort. So much for being subtle. Karyn insisted that Olivia and I wait in the car while Chocolate and Cherry did a full sweep and clear of the church.

                I was so embarrassed.

                Fr. Matthew came out to greet me and I apologized (profusely) for disturbing the peace of the church and then I introduced Olivia.

                "The Overlord of the Aladdin, herself. Here for confession?"

                Olivia laughed, "Oh God no! You don't have the time."

                "I could make the time," he assured her.

                "You know, I have over three hundred kills."

                "All that is forgivable," he said.

                "Thanks, but Crom thinks I'm doing okay."

                Fr. Matthew gestured towards all the security, "So, is all this just to put some money in the donation box?"

                Then he said, "Did you happen to send the Dwarf who was poking around here this morning?"

                Olivia said, "No - she did," and she pointed at me.

                "Ah! Lady Jacinta, I am sorry that I did not recognize you yesterday. You don't have to do this."

                "I know, but I want to. I see it as a beginning, once this is done we can work together on community projects - a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, whatever's needed," I told him. "And besides, I believe that the person who gave me the money that I am now passing on to you would approve of this. Call it a mitzvah."

                I handed him the estimate.

                "Wow!" he said, "I'm not inclined to turn you down. As long as…"

                Karyn interrupted, "TV truck coming."

                "Oh cool," Olivia said.

                "Oh crap," I said.

                "Oh Lord," Fr. Matthew said. "Well anyway, thank you."

                "Are you making a break for it?" Olivia asked him.

                "Yes."

                I said, "Go for it, she'll distract them."

                But it was too late - we were trapped. The reporter asked Olivia, "So, Lord Aladdin, why are you here at this church?"

                "I thought I'd visit some of the other clergy in town. I can't spend all my time at the pool or at New Babylon."

                They ignored the shameless plug, "And what brought the plight of this particular church to your attention?"

                Olivia said, "As you can see, my friend Jazz was raised a Catholic."

                They turned to Fr. Matthew, "Is there an official relationship between the Church and Ambassador Hughes?"

                "Any children of the Church are always welcome to return," he said. "The Mother Church cares for all her children. Now I must go. There are people's needs that I must attend to." He slipped away, lucky guy.

                Olivia took the opportunity to add, "Hopefully, some good Catholics out there will see this, see the need of the church and will volunteer their time or money to help restore it,"

                "And what about you, Lord Aladdin, will you be donating?"

                "This is just my first visit to the church," she answered.

                They persisted, "Can we assume that you'll be supporting the church in the future?"

                I stepped in and said, "As you all know, Lord Aladdin gifted some of her property to me so that I might build a Cathedral to Corellon. That was indicative of her concern for the spiritual well being of all of the citizens of Las Vegas."

                By then Karyn, Chocolate and Cherry had cleared a path to the car and we managed to escape. Olivia turned on the TV to see her plug for New Babylon. Whatever show was on broke for a commercial for tonight's Thunderdome. It was promoting a match between Dominic Scarpini and a Hobbit whose name I didn't catch because I was so shocked by the sight of one of the three men who'd visited me yesterday.

                "Is that who I think it is?" Olivia asked.

                "Yes it is."

                The announcer explained that the grounds for the match were "Disruption of trade and interference with a business and its running."

                "The Las Vegas police had witnessed the defendant, Dominic Scarpini, interfering with the Hobbit's business in a manner so egregious that Thunderdome was immediately decreed."

                We were appalled! That big goon against a Hobbit? And how (or why) would the Hobbit agree to it? It was suicide.

                Olivia called Jim, "What do you know about this execution tonight?"

                "Excuse me?" he asked.

                "Tonight's Thunderdome? Is the Hobbit allowed a champion?"

                "No, he's not."

                "But this is wrong!"

                "I'm not disagreeing with you," he said.

                I said, "We don't understand, Jim, what was the offence?"

                "The Hobbit was selling drugs from a vendor's cart, legally mind you, when the Scarpini character went at it with a sledgehammer, ignoring repeated demands from the police to stop. He stated that drugs are wrong and that he was offended by their being sold. The Hobbit tried to decline the trip to Thunderdome but the police and the judge said it wasn't his choice, the events clearly mandated a public hearing. The Hobbit offered Scarpini money, his home and other things as well, but Scarpini refused, saying, 'It just wouldn't be right.' Sorry ladies, it's wrong, but it's the law."

                We were back at the Aladdin by then and Olivia called for her crystal ball. First she scryed the judge who'd heard the case. He was still hearing cases. Everything seemed perfectly normal about him and what he was doing. Karyn got the book of Las Vegas Law and she and Olivia verified that as the defendant, Dominic did indeed have the right to push his claim all the way to Thunderdome and that no champions are allowed.

                Olivia then scryed Dominic and found him in a gym, working out. He was using martial arts to pummel a practice dummy. Then she found the Hobbit in an office of some sort, pacing and talking to an Orc in a suit. The Orc was leafing thru the same book of law that Olivia had open in front of her. We threw some ideas around, like just sneaking the Hobbit out of town. Or sneaking in and taking care of Dominic. But nothing we came up with would really work. Frustrated, Olivia finally appealed to Crom.

                "Follow the money," He advised.

                "Okay then," I said, "who does the Hobbit work for?"

                "He's an independent. He buys from Luxor but works for no one but himself," Karyn said.

                Olivia called Hilton; he was borderline rude and asked, "How can I help you now, Aladdin?"

                "Tell me about someone getting into Thunderdome using false pretences."

                "The law states that the accused has the right to demand Thunderdome," he said.

                "But what about the David and Goliath match tonight?" Olivia asked.

                "Do you have any proof of wrongdoing?"

                Olivia said, "The big guy was staying with Luxor and told us that he and his friends intend to organize locals into unions. And if he was so offended by the Hobbit's trade, why not take his money after destroying his business?"

                "Are you claiming one of the combatants falsified his reason to get into Thunderdome?"

                "Yes!"

                "Be at Thunderdome to present your evidence. My Truthsayer will determine the final truth. We go live at 8:00, be in makeup by 7:00."

                Olivia hung up and asked, "So what do I need?"

                "Um…proof?" I said.

                "Oh, yeah."

                She thought for a moment and called Luxor, "How's that new domain treating you?"

                "Lucratively, thank you," he purred.

                "Good, good to hear."

                "What do you need?" he asked.

                "Three men came to see Jazz yesterday; they said that they were staying at your place. Michael, Dominic and Vincent. Do you remember them?"

                "Indeed I do. Unsavory types,"

                "That's them," I said.

                Olivia asked, "Do you happen to remember if they ever said anything about their attitudes towards your domain's trade?"

                "Of course I do, they were here to buy distributions licenses."

                "Really?" Olivia said.

                "Do tell!" I said.

                "They stated to me that they represented a consortium from Reno who was looking to produce, exclusively, a new substance," he said. "Is there a problem?"

                Olivia asked, "Have you seen the news today?"

                "No, why?"

                "Well the one named Dominic smashed up a vending cart belonging to a dealer, a Hobbit, in fact."

                Luxor seemed genuinely confused, "Why would he do that?"

                "Well, he said that he was that offended by the Hobbit selling drugs. And now the two of them have a date for Thunderdome this evening," Olivia explained.

                "Offended? He actually said that? Why?"

                Olivia said, "We believe that it's just the beginning of a plan to intimidate independent dealers."

                That got Luxor's attention! "How dare he?!?"

                We explained it to him and he agreed to meet us at Thunderdome with the signed contracts. So, with that taken care of we relaxed, had dinner and filled everyone in before it was time to go to Thunderdome.

                At the arena, Jim's news crews were setting up and a sign on a bookie's booth showed the current odds were 200 to 1 against the Hobbit. Olivia stopped and put down 1,000 chips, "On the little guy!"

                Olivia (with Karyn in tow) was taken off to makeup while Rodrick, Leo and I were escorted to her private box. A comedian was working the crowd, getting them warmed up. As he was doing that, the stagehands were positioning all the various weapons inside the Dome. When they gave the thumbs up, the comedian finished his act, the lights went down and a spotlight hit the announcer who read the charges and introduced the two combatants.

                When he finished, Hilton stood and announced, "A challenge has been filed by an Overlord. By law, any Overlord must come forward if they have knowledge of false evidence or testimony. Lord Aladdin, please present your case."

                Olivia stepped forward, "Mr. Scarpini has stated that he was offended by the sale of narcotics and that this led to the attack. But Mr. Scarpini works with a group that just recently signed distribution contracts with Lord Luxor. So he can't be that offended, now can he?"

                Hilton nodded to her and said, "Lord Luxor?"

                Luxor simply stood and handed the contracts over to Hilton who read them silently. I took the opportunity to look over where Vincent and Michael were sitting - they were very unhappy. The Hobbit looked to be in shock and Dominic looked like he didn't understand any of it.

                Hilton handed the contracts back to Luxor; "These are contracts for the production and distribution of narcotics. I don't think I need to bother my Truthsayer for this matter."

                He turned to address the Hobbit; "You are free to go, sir."

                The Hobbit bowed to Hilton and scurried away into the darkness.

                Hilton addressed the crowd again; "All wagers made on this match are negated, return to the bookies to reclaim your money."

                He signaled and the stagehands wheeled out a large, garishly colored wheel of fortune.

                When it was in place, Hilton said to Dominic, "Mr. Scarpini, spin the wheel."

                Dominic shook his head; "I don't wanna."

                "Very well then, I will do it for you."

                It spun for quite some time and finally slowed. It barely passed the space marked 'Exoneration' and stopped on the space marked 'Drawn and Quartered'. The arena was silent.

                Dominic realized what was about to happen and tried to make a break for it, but he was subdued by some of Hilton's muscle boys. They held him as four high-powered winches were brought in and set up. Once they were in position, Dominic was secured to them, wrists and ankles.

                I admit it - I couldn't look and hid my face in Leo's shoulder.

                But I did see Karyn approach Hilton and whisper something to him.

                "Oh really?" he said and she nodded.

                He turned and said something to one of his men who left and came back carrying a fire-axe. He went to Dominic and gave him a good chop to each hip.

                "What the…?"

                "Drawing and quartering doesn't really work so well," Leo explained. "That'll make it easier to get the legs off."

                "Oh my God!" and I went back to hiding my eyes.

                Karyn rejoined us and the signal was given. The engines were started up and it was very quiet.

                For a few seconds.

                And then all you could hear were the winch engines and Dominic's screams. Then…it got worse. It was all very slow. I could see that Vincent and Michael stayed in their seats and finally Michael stood up and yelled, "Just kill him for God's sake!"

                Olivia told Karyn, "Go tell Hilton to end it - shoot him in the head."

                I said, "Olivia! You've got a gun - do it!"

                She got up, walked closer, drew her Glock and did it. She turned to come back and Hilton signaled for the engines to be shut off. In the resulting silence you could hear quite a few people being sick.

                Hilton said, rather quietly, "Make a note to take that one off the wheel." Then he said loudly, "There will be a brief intermission while the sand is cleaned."

                The lights came up and we saw Michael approach the box (or try to approach the box - he was stopped several feet away by security people).

                He said, "I am gravely disappointed by this turn of events. I was hoping for an amicable relationship - now I see that is not possible."

                "You shouldn't have picked on the Hobbit," Olivia said.

                "That was business," Michael said, "now you've made it personal."

                "I thought you wanted to defend the 'little people'," I said.

                "He was an independent operator who wouldn't listen to reason."

                Olivia said, "You should check out who you're messing with."

                "I was just going to suggest the same," Michael said. Karyn signaled to the security people that he should be taken away and they complied.

                I said to Olivia, "I do believe that was a counter-threat."

                Karyn said, "Him, I'd be worried about."

                "You didn't want to be bored, did you?" Olivia asked her.

                "I never really worried about it," she said.

                Then a runner from the bookie appeared to return the money that Olivia had wagered and everyone went home.

                Leo's fixing us some drinks right now, and I don't know about him - but I sure do need one!

continued...