The trio got into Las Vegas a couple hours later. Hardcastle insisted on going directly to police headquarters near the airport on Las Vegas Blvd. South, and letting them know about the helicopter crash. However, he didn’t mention the part about Mark shooting it down.
When that was done, they went over to the Sahara Hotel, and checked into their rooms. Mark and the Judge shared a room with two twin beds in it, while Barbara had her own room right across the hall.
After they had all settled in, they met down in the hotel’s coffee shop to plan strategy.
“Well, where do we go from here?” Mark began, after they had gotten their drinks.
“The Cody Enterprises office building is a couple of blocks back off the Strip,” Hardcastle explained. “It’s a safe bet that the Coyote is hidden there somewhere. They made sure to get it out of LA as quickly as possible, so that the local authorities there couldn’t find it.”
“But where could they possibly hide a car in an office building?” Barbara offered.
“They couldn’t. More than likely it’s somewhere in their parking garage,” Mark said.
“But seeing as how hot that car is right now, and how easily recognizable it is, they wouldn’t leave it sitting out in plain sight,” Hardcastle added. “It must be hidden somewhere.”
“That’s what we’ve got to figure out, kemosabe,” Mark replied. “Where it’s hidden.”
Hardcastle thought for a minute.
“Okay, I’ve got an idea,” he finally said.
“Hah!” Mark replied. “Beginner’s luck!”
“See? You see what I’ve had to put up with for the last three years?” Hardcastle groused to Barbara.
“Oh, never mind Mark, Judge,” Barbara told him, trying to hide her amusement. “What’s your idea?”
“Well, I know this guy named Joe who has an auto body business in town,” Hardcastle started to explain. “And there’s this second-hand store on East Harmon ...”
* * * * *
The attendant in the security booth at the entrance to the Cody Enterprises parking garage, a young woman who looked to be about twenty or so, was reading a fashion magazine when a tow truck with ’Joe’s Auto Body, Las Vegas’ painted on the side pulled up to her booth.
“I got a car on the fifth floor that won’t start,” the driver of the truck — an older, husky fellow in overalls with a white moustache — told her. “Gotta tow it.”
“Okay,” the attendant replied. She pushed a button that raised the entrance bar.
The tow truck driver gave the attendant a salute and pulled the truck into the garage.
The truck proceeded up to the fifth floor and pulled to a stop. When it did Mark threw off the blanket that had been covering him and squeezed out from behind the seats where he had been hiding. He climbed up into the passenger seat.
“Talk about a facile liar!” he said to the truck driver. “’Got a car on the fifth floor that won’t start.’ And what’s with the mustache?”
Hardcastle scratched the fake mustache attached to his upper lip. “Just an extra precaution. Maybe the guy saw me on TV on ’You Be The Judge’ a coupla years ago or something. You never know.”
“Yeah, right,” Mark chuckled.
“Will you get goin’?” Hardcastle told him. “I gotta get out and look like I’m doin’ something, because there are probably security cameras all over the place in here!”
Mark sniffed, and started to get out of the truck.
“And put this hat on, so you won’t be recognized!” Hardcastle shouted after him. He threw Mark a beat-up old Panama hat that he had gotten at the second-hand store, along with the overalls he was wearing.
Mark deftly caught the hat and placed it gingerly on his head.
“God only knows who wore this hat before,” he mumbled to himself. “I hope I don’t get lice from it.”
He started walking around the garage like he knew where he was going.
When he had made a circuit of the fifth floor he went up to the next floor via the stairwell. He did the same with the seventh floor. When he had finished he headed back down to Hardcastle and the tow truck.
“Anything?” Hardcastle asked him.
“Nope. Not a thing,” Mark replied, disappointed.
They both climbed back into the truck.
“And we didn’t see anything suspicious on the first four floors on the way up either,” Hardcastle lamented. “Maybe it’s not here after all.”
Mark shrugged, as frustrated as the Judge was. He hid himself back under the blanket behind the seats, and Hardcastle headed the truck back down to the entrance.
Once there he stopped at the security booth again. “Didn’t have to tow ’em after all,” he told the attendant. “I was able to get him started.”
The attendant nodded and waved him on, opening the exit bar. Then she went back to reading her magazine.
Hardcastle exited the garage. He went a short distance and then pulled the truck over just down the street from the garage. Mark climbed out from behind the seats again and took his place in the passenger seat.
“I can’t figure this out,” Hardcastle said to McCormick. He pulled the fake mustache off his upper lip. “If it’s not in the garage, then where else could it be?”
Mark leaned his arm out of the passenger side window and thought. He glanced back at the garage down the street.
“Wait a minute,” he finally said.
“I went up to the seventh floor of the garage. That was the top floor.”
“That garage has eight floors.”
Hardcastle twisted around in his seat and looked out the rear window of the truck. He counted the floors of the garage.
“You’re right. From the outside, that garage has eight floors.”
Mark smiled. “Judge, I think we’ve found the Coyote.”
* * * * *
It was close to 3 AM, but the Strip was still humming with activity. Mark, Barbara and Hardcastle headed for Cody Enterprises in Hardcastle’s pickup. They parked a distance away, and walked to within a block of the company’s parking garage. Mark was dressed for business in his black pants, black shoes, and black t-shirt. He also carried a backpack slung over his shoulder.
“Mark, are you sure you want to do this?” Barbara asked him.
“There’s no other way, B.J.,” he replied. “We’ve got to get the Coyote back, or Flip’s legacy will end up in the hands of the company that was responsible for his death. Is that what you want?”
“No,” she said solemnly. “But I don’t want to see you back in jail again, either.”
“No matter what happens, we’ll find a way to keep that from happening, missy,” Hardcastle told her. “At least I think we will! After all, there’s a limit to how many strings even I can pull, y’know!”
“Oh, thanks a lot, Judge. You’re a real comfort here,” Mark told him.
“Just get goin’, hot shot,” Hardcastle admonished. “We’ll stay here as backup.”
“Sure. Backup. Right,” Mark mumbled, as he ran across the street. He hid for a moment in the shadow of the building there. Then he skirted around to the back of the property. Once in the middle of the block he deftly jumped over a cyclone fence, and then crossed to the back of the Cody Enterprises parking garage.
After a cursory examination of the building he concluded that there was no easy way into it. That being the case, he stooped and pulled the equipment bag from off of his shoulder. He took a long coil of rope attached to a grappling hook out of it. The rope line had knots in it every couple of feet or so. The first floor wall of the garage was solid, but beginning with the second floor the subsequent levels of the garage were partially open air. He stepped back a few paces and threw the grappling hook up to the ledge of the second floor, where it caught.
Pulling on a pair of black gloves, he tugged on the rope to make sure it was secure, and then began to climb up the side of the wall to the second floor.
Once there he slid over the retaining wall and quietly dropped to the floor of the garage. He loosened the grappling hook and stuffed it and the rope back into his shoulder bag.
Sticking to the shadows along the garage walls, he made his way to the stairwell. When he opened the door, he noticed that the stairwell was lit. Concerned about any security cameras that might pick him up in there, he pulled a pair of wire clippers out of his shoulder bag and cut the wire leading to the closest stairwell light. When he did this all the lights in the stairwell blinked out.
“Hopefully they’ll just think it was a short or something,” he thought to himself. He climbed up the stairwell to the seventh floor, where it stopped.
Exiting out into the garage again he went to the wall where the ramp leading to the next floor would normally be. On this floor it was a dead end. He pulled a little flashlight out of his bag and studied the wall closely.
Aha! There was a narrow seam in the wall that suggested a hidden garage door. Further examination showed a recessed doorknob in the wall off to one side of this door, hidden behind a small sliding metal plate. Mark took a small set of lock pick tools out of his shoulder bag, and worked on picking the lock in the knob. Within a few minutes he succeeded, and the doorknob unlocked.
Putting his tools back in his shoulder bag he gingerly turned the knob, which unlatched a camouflaged entry door in the wall. Once inside this door he found himself in another small stairwell. This stairwell was unlit, and took him up to the next floor. Once there he opened another door and found himself at the head of a long, dark hallway. He traversed this for a short distance until he came upon still another door to his right, which had a small window in it at about eye level through which a light shined. He came up to the window and carefully peeked into it.
There was a large room on the other side of the door which was filled with automotive equipment, and a number of small office cubicles with desks and file cabinets along the far wall where mechanics, artists and engineers could work.
Sitting in the middle of the room, all by itself, was the Coyote.
Mark was so excited to see the car he immediately opened the door, which was unlocked, and stepped into the inner room without his usual caution. Once inside he suddenly found a uniformed security guard sitting in a chair to his immediate right that had not been visible to him through the small door window.
At Mark’s entrance the guard immediately stood up and faced Mark. He also put his right hand on top of the gun holstered on his hip.
“Oh, hi!” Mark said, recovering quickly and using his best ’nonchalant’ voice. He stuck out his hand to the guard. “Mark McCarthy, Automotive Production. I just got in from our Culver City office to take a look at the little beauty we have here!”
The guard automatically reached out to take Mark’s hand. Just as he did Mark brought his right knee up into the guard’s groin. When the guard doubled over Mark gave him a karate chop to the back of his neck, and the guard collapsed to the floor, unconscious.
“I’ve always wanted to do that,” Mark thought to himself, “just like in the movies!” He quickly sprinted over to the Coyote, and noticed that the keys were in it. Then he ran over to the large door directly in front of the Coyote that led into the main floor of the garage. Spotting the button that opened it he hit it with his fist and immediately dashed back to the car.
This action, of course, set off an alarm system, which started beeping throughout the building. As the garage door started to roll upward Mark jumped into the driver’s seat of the Coyote. He turned the key, gunned the engine, put it into gear and stomped down on the accelerator.
“Man, is this Déja Vu all over again or what?” he mumbled, as the car shot out through the large doorway. This was rapidly bringing back memories of the first time he stole the Coyote from Cody Automotive three years before in Los Angeles — the theft that had brought him and Judge Hardcastle together.
The Coyote zoomed down a short tunnel, until it came to the opening onto the seventh floor of the garage. Fortunately, this overhead door had opened at the same time that the one on the upper floor had. The Coyote squealed into a tight right turn and headed down the corkscrew exit ramp to the sixth floor.
On the way down the ramp to the ground floor the Coyote picked up two tails. Apparently there were plainclothes guards situated throughout the garage specifically to prevent any unauthorized person from taking the Coyote out of the garage. When the burglar alarm had gone off they had sprung into action, their vehicles roaring out of their parking spots on the third and fourth levels to pursue the fleeing race car.
The three vehicles sped downward after each other. One of the pursuers bounced off the ramp’s cement wall while trying to jockey for position with the Coyote, crushing in its front passenger side fender. But it kept going.
A minute later the Coyote burst out of the garage and onto the street, catching about ten feet of air as it did so. The car hit the pavement. Its tires squealed loudly as Mark yanked the steering wheel to the left, pulling it into a tight turn. After turning completely sideways and narrowly missing the opposite curb, the race car quickly recovered and sped off down the street.
The two pursuit cars flew out of the building as well. They both jackknifed and headed down the street also, following close behind the Coyote.
When they all blew by where Hardcastle was parked in his pickup, he gunned his engine too and took off after them. Fortunately, at that hour, there was little traffic on this back street.
“Get my gun out of the glove compartment!” Hardcastle yelled to Barbara. She opened the glove box and grabbed the Judge’s .45 caliber pistol there, quickly handing it to him. He traded it over to his left hand and pointed it out his open side window at the second pursuit car that was now just a short distance ahead of him.
Aiming as carefully as he could from the speeding truck he let go a couple of rounds.
The first two shots missed. But the third shot was the charm. It hit the left rear tire of the car, blowing it out with a loud bang.
First the front end of the car swerved sharply to the left. Then as the remaining rear tire gripped the road again it swerved back to the right. This caused it to tumble over onto its left side. It turned over a couple of times in the middle of the street before finally coming to a stop back in an upright position. The roof was now severely crushed in.
Hardcastle skidded his truck to a stop just behind the wrecked car. He jumped out and ran over to it. The driver inside was still semi-conscious. Hardcastle yanked open his door and dragged him out. He half-pulled, half-carried the man over to the pickup. Once there he leaned the man over onto the pickup’s hood, where the man passed out completely.
Just then the car the man had been driving blew up in a massive fireball.
Meanwhile, Mark was still threading the Coyote through the back streets of Las Vegas, trying to stay ahead of the other pursuit car. He came to an intersection and pulled a sharp right turn onto Flamingo Road, one of the major roads in town. The Cody car made the turn too.
The two vehicles roared west down the street, weaving in and out of the few cars that were on the road that time of night. When they came to where Flamingo Road crossed the Strip the traffic light there turned yellow just as Mark shot through the intersection. The light had turned red by the time the Cody car got to it, but the driver kept going anyway. A few cars on Las Vegas Blvd. started through the intersection but stopped abruptly, honking their horns, as the Cody car came careening past them.
Both cars passed the Dunes Hotel on the left, and Caesars Palace on the right. Behind the Dunes was the hotel’s huge parking lot. At the last second Mark pulled a quick left turn into it, hoping to lose his pursuer. But the Cody car managed to follow him. Both vehicles sped through the twisting lanes of the parking lot to its rear boundary.
There was an expansive golf course there. Mark ran the Coyote right through the bushes that separated the course from the parking lot, and sped out onto the green. The Cody car went through the hole the Coyote had created and did the same. Both vehicles continued for some distance, the pale moon light being the only illumination on the closed, darkened course.
Mark suddenly came upon one of the large fountain pools situated throughout the course. He jerked his wheel and made a quick turn to the right.
The Cody car, a Chevy sedan not as stable and low to the ground as the Coyote, was not able to turn in time. The car soared over the pool’s bank and became airborne for a few yards. Then it splashed down into the pool, coming to a sudden stop right in the middle of it.
Mark roared back onto the street behind the golf course and sped away, as the driver of the Cody car stumbled out of it, up to his thighs in water and cursing loudly.