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January 23, 2003
Casino Royale _ or _ Let's Make a Deal

By Alex Dominguez
From the Move Over James Bond dept.

Perusing the Internet one day at stately Moreham Manor, the phone rings.
``Kahn-dee?’’ the voice at the other end asks.
``Excuse me?’’
``Is this the Count?’’
``Good. Sid Grift from LA here. Listen, I’ve got a co-branding opportunity here I don’t think you want to miss.’’

The proposal sounds interesting enough, and coincides with a trip to California to visit his sister. So, the Count agrees to meet with the as-yet unnamed sponsors in ``Vegas’’ as Grift says.
``Why they want to meet in Las Vegas is beyond me,’’ the Count thinks as he hangs up.
``As close to death as possible while still on this earth,’’ he thinks again while rolling through the desert in a rented Ford F-150 crew cab.
In town, the Count checks into the Frontier _ an Old West-themed place that is now a relic of the strip’s Rat Pack days _ because a home remodeler’s convention has filled all of the more modern hotels.
Getting onto the elevator he is joined by a 20-something Japanese woman and four young Japanese men.
``Kurata,’’ the woman says to the men, who stare blankly ahead.
``Yakuza,’’ the Count thinks.
The Spanish have had a long history with the Japanese, first hiring Samurai as mercenaries aboard merchant ships on the trade route between the Philippines and Peru. Obviously word of the meeting has leaked.
Those suspicions were confirmed later that night when the Count overhears a distinctly Castilian accent slip from two tables down at the Venetian.
When the two walk by the Count asks ``Espanoles?’’
``Si'' replies one of the pair, who had all the tell-tale signs of embassy attaches _ close-cropped hair, stylish yet casual clothing and a sort of comfortable manner.
``De donde,’’ the Count continues, feigning interest.
``De Barcelona,’’ is the reply.
``Aqui de vacaciones?’’
``Yo tambien. Buena suerte’’
``Buen proveche,’’ the second says as the Count returns to his meal.
The reason for the interest in what seems to be an inocuous meeting is unclear, but the Count decides the tail has to be lost before the meeting.

Posted by Alex at January 23, 2003 01:00 AM
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