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Authors: Hayton Monteith

Tags: #Fiction, #General

Lotus Blossom

BOOK: Lotus Blossom
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Lotus Sinclair had never broken into someone’s office files before; in fact, she had never tried burgling anything. “And I don’t think I’m very good at it,” she muttered to herself as she rubbed her hands down the sides of her net stockinged legs. She hadn’t had time to change out of the skimpy black satin costume she wore as one of the roving photographers at Cicero’s, the high-style gambling casino that had taken Las Vegas by storm. In the few short months since it opened, it had become
place to see the best shows. It had also turned into the hottest gambling facility in the area, and the Las Vegas experts predicted that it couldn’t have gone any other way. Hadn’t Dash Colby, born John Dasher Colby to an old-money family in Boston, done the same thing in Atlantic City at the Xanadu and at a casino in the Grand Cayman Islands? Hadn’t he also done well in the restaurant business in San Francisco, London, and New York?

Lotus had no interest in Dash Colby, the boss she had never seen. Three short weeks ago she had come to work here for one purpose only. She 0was going to find out who had forged her uncle’s signature and used his credit card to run up monumental debts not only in Cicero’s, but also in Atlantic City at the Xanadu. Lotus knew the signatures had to be forgeries because her uncle, Silas Sinclair, was an honorable man who would never do such a thing. The thought of what her uncle had gone through is what steadied her hand. She hated doing anything illegal, but she hated gambling more. And it was a gambler who had forged her uncle’s name on all the IOU’s, and she was going to find out who did it.

Swallowing her fear she tried to concentrate on what she was doing. Still, she shivered as she thought what her brothers, Todd and Rob, and Jeremy, her brothers’ friend and her sometime date, would say if they knew what she was doing.

With the tool Petras had given her she attacked the lock on the file cabinet. Petras had been her brother’s bosom friend in Vietnam and was like a brother to her. He was married now, and though confined to a wheelchair, he ran a camera shop that was doing very well. He had assured her that the tool he had given her would easily pick any simple lock.

Lotus could still recall the shock on his and Martha’s face when she had arrived at their doorstep. She had landed in Las Vegas from Rochester, New York, that morning and had already checked into an inexpensive rooming house several blocks from Petras’s house.

“Petras!” Martha had cried when she saw her. Then she was embracing Lotus. “Come inside!”

The whirl of the wheelchair preceded his exclamation. “Lotus doll! What are you doing here?”

Petras tried to crane his neck to see around her. “Are Todd and Rob with you?” He reached up with both arms to hold her, his eager smile fading as he saw the look on her face. “What is it?”

“I . . . I . . .” Lotus bit her lip, then broke down. "Oh, Petras, it’s been so awful. I thought perhaps Rob or Todd might have told you.”

Petras gestured to his wife to take their children into another room. “Come with me, Lotus,” he said as he wheeled his chair around to precede her into the living room. He waited until she was seated in a chair, then he moved closer and took her hand. “Rob called me about what happened to your uncle. He said the family was torn up about it, that Lee and Will were like zombies after your uncle’s stroke.” He paused. “Your uncle is still holding even, isn’t he, Lotus doll?”

“If you mean, is he alive? Yes, he’s breathing, but he seems to have shrunk.” Lotus gulped a breath to steady herself, then stared out the window. “That’s why I’m here.”

“What do you mean?”

Lotus looked back at him. “I mean that I know my uncle was deceived and victimized. He didn’t sign those IOU’s. He’d never embezzle funds to gamble at casinos here and in Atlantic City. While I was in Rochester, I answered a newspaper ad to be a roving photographer at the Cicero.”

“What?” Petras gripped the arms of his wheelchair. “Lotus, tell me what you’re planning?”

“I’m . . . I’m going to get a hold of the records of the casino and find out who signed Uncle’s name to the IOU’s.”

“No!” Petras thundered. “Lotus, are you mad? I can’t believe that Rob and Todd allowed you to—”

“They don’t know I’m here and you’re not to tell them. Give me your word. Don’t you see I have to do this. Uncle is dying and my aunt is fading away. Our whole family is being destroyed by a lie. I can’t live with that. You must give me your word . . . because I need your help.”

“Lotus . . .” Petras lifted his hands in a helpless appeal.

“Will you help me?” she persisted.

Petras stared at her then nodded. “But you must tell me everything you’re going to do. If it’s too dangerous I can’t—”

Lotus kneeled in front of him, taking his hands in hers. “It won’t be. I’ve thought it all out. Once I’m a camera girl at the casino I can break into the office . . .”

“God, Lotus!” Petras groaned, his hand gripping hers. “Do you know who you’re dealing with? Dash Colby! The man makes granite look like cotton! And he’s damn smart. Even here in Las Vegas, where the high-rollers congregate, he’s considered a gambler’s gambler, a risk taker. He’ll face any odds and take on any challenge. Do you think you can put anything over on a man like that? Very sharp and dangerous men have tried and failed.” Petras shook his head as he looked at her determined face, aware once again that the youngest child of the Sinclairs’ might look Oriental, which she was, but she still had an Irishman’s determination. “Can’t I talk you out of this?” Lotus shook her head, her black silky hair swinging around her face. “I’ve decided to use my natural parents’ name, Weston. That way no one in the casino can make the connection to Sinclair.”

Petras nodded, wincing. “I don’t know what Mr. Sinclair will do to me when he finds out I aided and abetted you in this. I should be horsewhipped for even considering it.”

“If you tell my brothers, I’ll still go through with it, and you know if Rob, especially, comes out here, he is liable to create more trouble than we can handle.” Lotus referred to her very hotheaded brother who was the second oldest of the three Sinclairs. Lotus had been adopted by the Sinclairs when her parents had died, and she felt every bit a member of the family.

“Rob would be likely to take the casino apart.” Petras gave her a rueful smile. “What made you think of this scheme, Lotus doll?”

“I was desperate.” She pressed her hand to her mouth. “You can’t know what it’s like to witness the slow destruction of a person. Because that’s what’s happening to Uncle . . . and Mother and Dad aren’t much better. I just had to do something.” “Where does your family think you are?”

“They think I’m on a raft trip. I have a college friend who is on a rafting trip right at this very moment. When she wrote and said she was going and would be out of touch with civilization for a week, the idea came to me that it would be a good cover for me so that I could come to Las Vegas. So I did.”

Petras sighed and closed his eyes for a minute. "I suppose one of the things you want me to do would be to copy his file”—his eyes snapped open— “that is, if you can get it out of the office.”

“I can. I know I can.” Lotus felt a surge of hope. Petras was not rejecting her!

“I have a friend, Richard, who works at the casino.” Petras went over to the phone. “He’s another Vietnam vet.” He looked at Lotus after he dialed. “He owes me a favor. . . . Yes, Rich. It’s Petras. I was wondering if you could come over to the house this evening. Good. Sure. Eight o’clock is fine.”

That evening, after dining on one of Martha’s delicious meals, Richard, Lotus, and Petras went into the living room to speak privately.

“I can’t believe you think she should do this,” Richard said after he had heard Lotus’s plan.

Petras shrugged. “I don’t think she should do this, but since I can’t stop her, I’m going to try to make it as safe for her as possible. Will you help us?”

Richard looked irritated. “It’s not ‘will I.’ It’s ‘can I?’ Petras, you know that the security surrounding Cicero’s is the best.” He shook his head. “And Hans”—Richard shuddered—“God, he’d give his life for Cicero’s and that’s not even mentioning Colby.” He shivered again. “Dash Colby is tough . . . the toughest I’ve ever known—and I thought we knew some hard guys in Nam. . . .”

“I’m going to do it, with or without help, Richard,” Lotus said.

Petras smiled at his friend. “See what I mean?” Richard nodded. “All right, Lotus. Petras has told me all about your family and what they have done for him and what they mean to him.” He looked at his friend as he spoke. “And if it hadn’t been for you, I would be dead or in prison now, hung up on drugs and booze. So if the three of us can pull it off we will.” He turned to look at Lotus. “You say you have a job at Cicero’s?”

Lotus nodded, feeling her hope returning.

Petras patted her hand. “Don’t be too confident that we can pull this off, little sister.”

“I know whatever we do, it will be better than standing idly by and watching my uncle die.” Petras exhaled a breath. “All right, so we wait for Lotus to start her job and get accepted. I think vou should speak to Lotus as little as possible, so send all messages through me.”


“We can do it. I know we can.” Lotus was filled with determination now.

“I hope so,” Richard muttered. “I don’t relish Hans, the head of security, strangling me.”

Petras glared at his friend, then squeezed Lotus’s hand. “I don’t like what you’re doing but I understand it. If only I hadn’t promised I would help you. . . .”

“Too late,” Lotus said, smiling as she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

That had been three weeks ago. And now she was in Colby’s office trying to pick a lock by herself!

Snap! The lock gave! The sound scared her and she looked toward the door, hoping no one had heard the noise. She exhaled after a few moments, her breathing the only sound in the austerely decorated room. It was a large office with cream walls and beige leather and oak furnishings. Not one extra piece of furniture crowded the area, giving the rectangular room a very spacious look. With great care, she eased open the door that fronted the file drawers and choked.
Damn! Each of these drawers has an individual lock!
She gritted her teeth and pressed the tool into the file marked s-u, praying that it would contain what it implied—the files from the letter S to the letter U. It took a few long seconds before there was a pop and the drawer opened.

With hands shaking, she pawed through the file until she found the folder with the name
typed on the flap. She didn’t bother to open it. All she wanted to do was get out of the room. She shoved the folder into the shoulder bag she had brought along for just such a purpose and then quickly closed the file. She fiddled with the tool until she heard the click telling her that the file was locked again. Then she closed the wooden front door and locked it. Next she very carefully sprayed the wooden front of the cabinet with odorless cleaner and wiped the door.
Petras was right. It does take away most of the marks the tool made.
She tucked the tool and the cleaner in her bag, zipped it closed, and walked toward the door.

She stopped dead in the middle of the room when she heard the sound of the latch. Frozen, she watched the handle turn. She looked for a way to escape, but the door opened before she even had a chance to move, and she was facing a very tall, slim but muscular man whose ash blond hair had a silvery look from the strands of gray running through it.

He saw her at once. Pocketing the key, his eyes moved from her face to her feet and back up. “So that’s why the door was open. Did Hans send you in here?”

“The door was open. I came in myself.” Lotus told the truth. It had been Petras’s friend, Richard, who had managed to get Hans away from the office, after the office manager had unlocked it, so that she could sneak into the room.

“I'm Dash Colby. Are you looking for a job?”

“I’m Lotus . . . ah . . . Weston, and as you can tell from my costume, I already work here. I’m one of the roving photographers. I start my shift in fifteen minutes so I’d better go.” She tried to smile, but her face felt like solid dry ice, and she moved past him.

He caught hold of her upper arm. “Weston! That’s an unusual name for an Oriental, isn’t it?” “I was born in New York. My father was an American professor of history at Tokyo University when he met my mother, but they came to America before I was born.” Lotus explained, finding it difficult to hold his gaze. If she asked her to open her shoulder bag, the game was over!

“And you’re a China doll,” Dash whispered, inhaling her fragrance as he leaned over her. “Is that Joy you’re wearing?”

Lotus was surprised. “Yes, it is. Are you so familiar with French perfume?”

He shrugged, closing the door as he moved into the room to stand closer to her. “Somewhat.” She’d bet on that, Lotus thought. He probably has the damned stuff piped into his home for his cupcakes. Then she blinked as another thought crossed her mind. “What made you call me ‘China doll’?” Most persons assume my origin is Japanese.” “But you are Chinese, aren’t you?” Dash reached out a hand to touch her tiny nose, running one finger across her high wide cheekbones. “There’s both strength and fragility in your heart-shaped face.”

BOOK: Lotus Blossom
12.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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