So I’m cruising around the city looking for a fare, when outside the Flamingo, this guy with a briefcase waves me down. I stop, ask him where he’s headed. He just grins, gives me four hundred in cash, and tells me to drive. Anywhere, just drive.
“Got lucky tonight, huh?”
“You bet I did.” He grins like a six year old at Christmas. “Eight-point-six million… after taxes.” He opens the briefcase, and I’m lookin’ at more money than I know I’ll ever make in my lifetime.
“Wow.” I’m seriously impressed. I’ve had lucky fares before, but never one of these. They usually rent a limo for the night, not some broken down cab. Still, I aint complaining, not with four C notes in my pocket. The man wants me to drive? I drive.
So we cruise around Vegas for a coupla hours and talk. Well, funny enough, I do most of the talking, truth be told. He wants to know why I’m driving a cab — I tell him because it paid for college, and then when I got out of college, it gave me a job. Yeah, one of these days I’ll move to LA or NY — but on a cabbie’s pay, that’s like a week from Never. He just nods.
So he decides he’s hungry, and we stop to eat. Nothin’ outrageous or Strip fancy: just this great little grill I know out on the east side of town. He eats like it was gourmet dining, compliments the waitress, the cook, the cashier. Then we get back in the cab, and I ask him where to now?
The airport, he says.
So I’m figuring this is the end of the road, right? Wrong. We go park at the end of the runway and sit on the hood and watch the planes take off. He asks me if I ever wanted to travel? Sure, says I. Maybe someday. Not now, though.
He suddenly sits up and looks at me. “How long have we been driving around?” About four hours, I tell him. “I probably owe you more, then. Here.” And he hands me another couple of hundred. I just nod, thank him, and pocket it: the customer’s always right, right?
So we hit the road again. He tells me about his lousy family and how his wife left him and how maybe the money will change all that. I just laugh. “Dont count on it, bud. They’ll love you till the trough is dry, then you’ll be back where you started.”
“I suppose. You see that a lot?”
“Far too much.”
He just nods, then starts asking me about my family. I tell him about my girl, how we’re engaged, and how much I wish I could do something with my life just so she could be proud of me.
“So what do you know how to do?” he asks.
“Not much, I guess.”
He just nods, and then we’re both real quiet for a while, like we’ve pretty well talked each other out for the night. He starts giving me directions now: turn here, take this exit, go left here, make a right at the sign. And I havent the foggiest idea where we are — out in the desert someplace, probably in Arizona by now, on a little road that doesnt go anywhere. I guess if I were a sensible guy, I’d be a little scared that he might take a knife to me out here in the middle of nowhere… but he’s not that kind, I can tell.
“Stop. Right here.”
I do. There’s nothin’, for miles. He gets out of the cab. “Thanks for a great evening.”
“You sure you want out here?”
He grins and nods, then points to the mountains north of us. “The interstate back into Vegas is over there. You can find your way?”
“Sure, but — ”
“Good. Good night then.” And he starts walking off into the desert.
I watch him for a while, then get out and yell, “You okay? You sure this is where you want?”
He doesnt turn around, just nods and waves his hand.
“But there’s nothin’ here!” I yell.
He turns and yells back. “That’s okay with me.” Then he turns back around and walks away.
Maybe he has a house or somethin’ out here, I think. So I get back in the cab and drive back to the Interstate. I turn around to make sure I can ease into traffic — and goddam if he hasnt left the briefcase.
So I turn around and head back to where I dropped him off. But he’s gone. I mean, nowhere. I drove off the road towards where he was headed, and nothin’. I figure, okay, I gotta call the cops, so I open the briefcase, thinking there might be something inside with his name on it, an IRS form or something like that. Nothing. Just a note, written on a napkin from the diner: This should be enough to get you started in New York, right?
When I got back to Vegas, I called the cops, told them… well, almost everything. They knew who he was, of course: big winners are always noted. I took them out to where I dropped him off, and they found his footprints, walking for about three hundred yards, then just stopped. Disappeared. Like he was never there at all. They asked me a few questions, checked out my story with the diner and airport security, then sent me on my way. It was no biggie to them: folks take a hike and disappear all the time in Vegas.
The briefcase’s been under my bed for six months now. I dont know what to do with it. He gave it to me, but you know they’ll never believe that. I mean, it’s mine, right? But without him telling them that it’s mine… well, you get the picture, huh? So under the bed it stays, until I figure out what to do with it. Maybe I will, someday.