Read Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
Flynn opened his eyes.
Dust and sagebrush flew by. The desert. He was sitting in the backseat of a Cadillac convertible, red, circa early sixties.
This damn sure wasn’t Bridgewater.
He tried to brush the sleep out of his eyes, but quickly realized that his arms were otherwise occupied. A look to his left revealed that one arm was currently encircling the lovely neck of Angie Dickenson, while the other was occupied shielding the delicate shoulders of Ann Margaret from the wind.
Then, at the same moment, they both turned to him and smiled.
Had he died? Gone to heaven? Thank you God. Thank you!
“How’s it goin’ back there, Flynn baby?” the driver was asking.
The driver turned to face him. It was Dean Martin.
Dean Martin, was holding a filterless cigarette, driving a red Cadillac convertible through the desert, and asking him how it was goin’.
“Um..Ah…it’s fine! It’s goin’ great!” Flynn replied.
“That’s right, baby!”
Then the redhead in the front passenger seat also turned and smiled at Flynn. She pointed to a point in the distant horizon and insisted aliens had picked her up there one night after a show, probed her extensively, then brought her back to her dressing room at the Sands. “I just love aliens, don’t you?” she said, pushing her sunglasses down on her nose to reveal that he was having a conversation with Shirley MacLean.
In heaven, thought Flynn, he’d finally become a member of the Rat Pack.
The Cadillac made it’s way down the strip, pulling up in front of a neon-clad casino. Inside, the group made it's way down a glowing red corridor, lined with Vegas icons. Though a thick curtain cigarette smoke almost obscured his view, he could clearly make out the famous faces.
Wayne Newton was lighting Peter Lawford’s cigarette, while Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. huddled in a corner rehearsing a duo. “I’m Jackie Mason, dammit! Jackie Mason!” The legendary comedian was relating a tale of outrage to a shimmering Elvis. He wanted to reach out, to shake hands with these legends … when he suddenly he heard bells. Ding ding ding… Someone must have hit the jackpot on one of the slot machines.
And that’s when he smelled it. A mix of Channel No. 5 and sweat. Staring at him from the far corner of the corridor was a beautiful showgirl. Six foot four if she was an inch. When she noticed that he’d seen her, she stuck out her finger and curled it inward – indicating him to come hither.
But, as Flynn stepped forward, he discovered his feet were stuck in concrete. A concrete block to be precise. He panicked and flailed. As the smoke cleared Flynn realized he was not mired in a pair of concrete overshoes – but in fact he was still in his own bed, knotted in sheets, while the grandfather clock in the hallway was clanging away at the midnight hour.
“Damn clock! Ruined a perfectly good dream!” As Flynn untangled the bed sheets, he realized that across the room stood a six foot four showgirl in ostrich feathers, sequins and five inch heels – the woman from his dream!
“Good evening, Mr. Flynn” the vision said.
“Well… um… Good evening Miss… uh… do I know your name?”
“I'm the Ghost of Casinos Past.”
“Enough! I’m not here on a social call. I'm here to take you back in time. To the past.”
“Bah! I know more about casinos past than anyone as young as you possibly could – the Rat Pack, the headliners, the corruption, the the glory days…”
“I’m older than I look…” said the showgirl, and at that, Flynn’s living room melted into a junior high school auditorium. A boy stood at a podium on stage making a speech.
“Do you recognize that boy?” Asked the ghost.
“Why, that’s me! I remember – I ran for student body president in 8th grade.”
“Did you win?”
“No. Not that time. But I didn’t quit!”
Suddenly the auditorium melted away and Flynn and the ghost of a Las Vegas showgirl were standing on a sidewalk, unheeded by passersby, watching as a young man walked up to the front door of a white farmhouse. After knocking on the door, a woman answered.
“Hello ma’am, my name is David Flynn," he said, holding out his hand, "and I’m running for selectman. I was hoping I could count on your vote on election day.”
“Why should I vote for you?” said the woman, who not only didn't shake Flynn's outstretched hand - but also completely ingored it - allowing it to hang awkwardly in the space between them. “I don’t even know you. What exactly have you ever done for me?”
“Well…” began Flynn, dropping his hand to his side.
“Listen young man, there’s a lot of things wrong with this town. Are you gonna be the one to fix ‘em?”
“What kind of things? Talk to me. I just want to make this town a better place.”
“Well," she laughed "that’s a pretty good place to start.”
The woman continued to speak, but the scene was melting away again, and suddenly Flynn and the showgirl were on the town square where people all around them held Re-Elect Flynn signs and shouted his name.
“Those were the days, I tell ‘ya!” Shouted Flynn to the ghost. It filled him with joy to remember how it felt to see those signs, reading his name, and to look out at all those people who believed in him. “Look,” he said to the show girl “- that woman I was just talking to at the farmhouse – that’s her over there – she became one of my biggest supporters. Dammit - what was her name…”
The town square faded and became an indoor celebration. “This is my victory party!” Flynn exclaimed. “After I got re-elected for the first time! I knew I was on my way after that! Oh those really were the days!”
People were dancing, singing, cheering, holding up glasses of champagne.
The woman from the farmhouse made her way over to the young and newly elected Flynn. “Congratulations, David,” She said, as she shook his hand, “You’ve not only made it - you've made a name for yourself. Now all you have to do is make a difference.” And she smiled at him.
The present day Flynn remembered that smile and that handshake. How warm they both were, full of confidence in his ability. That had been the moment when he knew he’d chosen the right career.
And, just like last time, the party faded, to be replaced by a new scene - Flynn's old office. It was dark, another late night – one of many - and a middle aged David Flynn sat at his desk across from a man in a sharp business suit.
“I’d like to thank you for all your help, Dave,” said the businessman. “So here’s a little something for your trouble.” The man passed a box of cigars across the table to Flynn.
“Do you know who that man is?” the showgirl asked.
“Yes,” snapped Flynn, “I know damn well who it is.”
The man got up, shook Flynn’s hand and began to walk out of the office. “Oh, one more thing,” he reached into his pocket and removed a small wrapped gift which he placed in Flynn’s hand. The man winked and left.
In the dark quiet of his office, Flynn unwrapped the gift. A solid gold lighter, engraved with the simple phrase, “In Appreciation”.
Suddenly he remembered that moment as clearly as if it were yesterday, and watched as his younger self gazed lovingly at the lighter, watched him squeeze it, turn it around, marveling at how warm and heavy, and rich it felt in his hand. And he remembered how powerful he had felt.
Flynn looked on as his incarnation lifted a cigar from the box, flicked open the top of the lighter and spun the little gold wheel with his thumb. A strong glowing flame leaped straight up, like a torch straight from the bowels of hell. Shadows began to dance on the walls of his dark office.
Flynn turned to the ghost, “Please take me home, Miss. I’ve seen enough.”