Operation Red Dragon

A Jonathon Stone Mystery Short Story

Jonathon Stone’s plans for a quiet gambling experience are interrupted by the sighting of a known gun-for-hire from Mexico. A casual weekend in the desert for Jonathon changes into an apparent assassination plot. With the FBI and the Secret Service involved, Jonathon tries to apprehend the elusive hit man before he can do damage.

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Excerpt from Operation Red Dragon

I’d been on alert for about a week now as a backup for one of our units. They were in hot pursuit of a terrorist cell in the Detroit area. Finally, I got the call from a unit leader. “See you next time. They are gone.”

So I was off to the high desert for a weekend of R and R.

Palm Springs was about two hours away and filled all my basic needs. It was much warmer than the beach in the winter time. And best of all they had a casino with great rooms and a bar close by.

I had called ahead and got the last room, I was told. That’s what happens when you build up some juice with the pit boss.

As I got to the turnoff, the Long Arrow Casino stood tall in the distance. It was about two miles off the highway. The casino’s large hotel stood like a small mountain ahead in the distance. As I approached the first major intersection, I realized I had a problem. I needed to turn right to get on the main street to the casino and the street was blocked off with large barricades. This had caught the other drivers by surprise, also. The right lane was very slow as each car had to change their plans at the intersection.

Well, it looks like I was headed downtown whether I wanted to or not. I continued down the road for about three miles until I finally found an intersection that would allow a right turn. I could still see the hotel jutting above the surrounding resorts and golf courses.

This was a very exclusive neighborhood. There was one more major street before I would be clear to go ahead to the casino. There were barricades in this intersection, like the others, but something was different here. There were lots of demonstrators carrying signs and chanting. You could tell this was well-organized. I counted four large buses along the curb.

After a slight delay as cars slowed down to take a good look, I proceeded down the street. I could care less about the demonstration. I had a date with a blackjack dealer and I could taste the cold beer already.

After the express treatment at the check-in counter, I dumped my bag in the room and headed for the casino.

The time delay and traffic were not what I expected. But now I was in the world I loved.

The cards started off running hot and cold. Up a thousand. Down a thousand. But drinks kept coming and the cocktail waitress was good looking.

The pit boss and I finally touched bases.

“Good to see you, Jon. Is your room okay?” “Excellent as always, Pete.”

Pete Serronie had been the head pit boss since the casino had opened. His very distinctive accent said he was from back East, Brooklyn I think. Every time I’d seen him, he had on a dark suit and a bow tie. “Anything you need, just holler.”

Pete liked the idea that I started my bank at five thousand dollars. I guess he thought he had a chance at getting some of it.

I got on a good run and doubled my money. I always told myself it was all about the action but I liked winning a lot. I motioned to the dealer to mark my spot. I got up to stretch my legs and hit the head. I walked around the pit, watching the winter visitors playing the slots. A jackpot always got a shout and that annoying music from the victorious machine.

As I wondered around the blackjack pit, I checked the other tables. Most of them had low-end limits.

I preferred the high-limit table. At least there I could get a good game where players knew how to play and most of the time I could get a seat. As I got closer to my table, I did a double-take. The dealer was attractive but that wasn’t what got my attention. I recognized one of the players at another table. I stood there staring at him. Where did I know this guy from? He looked up from his cards directly at me. I waited a moment and he looked back down and continued to play his hand. I needed to get a picture of this guy…

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