APPENDIX KAPH: THE ROSY DOUBLE-CROSS
Saul, Barney, Markoff Chancy, and Dillinger were all puzzled that a man like Carmel would bring a suitcase full of roses with him when fleeing to Lehman Cavern. Those who knew Carmel in Las Vegas were even more perplexed when this fact was made public. The first readers of this romance were not only puzzled and perplexed but petulant, since they knew Carmel had loaded his briefcase with Maldonado's money, not with roses.
The explanation, as is usually the case when seeming magick has occurred, was simple: Carmel was the victim of the oldest swindle in the world, the okkana borra (gypsy switch). It was his custom to transport his earnings to the bank in the same suitcase which he used when looting Maldonado's safe. His figure, and the suitcase, were well known to the shadier elements in Las Vegas, and among these were three gentlemen who decided early in April to intercept him during one of his journeys and remove the suitcase from his possession, using, as young people say, "any means necessary"; they even considered striking him upon the temple with a blunt instrument. One of the gentlemen involved in this project, John Wayne Malatesta, however, had a sense of humor (of sorts) and began to devise a plan involving a nonviolent gypsy switch. Mr. Malatesta thought it would be amusing if this could be carried off smoothly and Carmel, arriving at the bank, opened a case full of horse manure, human excrement, or something else in equally dubious taste. The other two gentlemen were persuaded that this might indeed be worth a laugh. A substitute suitcase was purchased, and a plan was devised.
Two changes were made at virtually the last minute. Mr. Malatesta learned from Bonnie Quint (a lady whose company he often enjoyed, at $100 a throw) that Carmel suffered acutely from rose fever. A more hilarious image occurred to him: Carmel opening the case in the bank and starting to sneeze spasmodically while trying to figure out where the switch had been made. The roses were purchased, and the caper was set for the next day.
When Carmel, Dr. Naismith, and Markoff Chaney collided, Malatesta and his associates abandoned the switch idea: Two collisions in a few minutes would be more than a man like Carmel would accept without profound suspicion. They therefore decided to follow him to his house and revert to the more old-fashioned but time-proven technique of the sudden rap on the skull.
When Bonnie Quint left after her violent interview with Carmel, the bandits prepared to enter. To their amazement, Carmel came running out, threw his suitcase into his jeep, and then ran back in. (He had forgotten his candies.)
"It's God's will," Malatesta said piously.
The switch was made, and they took off for points south in a great hurry.
Several weeks after the crisis had passed, a state trooper found a car with three dead men in it off the road in a ditch. His own symptoms were self-diagnosed while he waited for the coroner's crew to arrive, and he received the antidote in time.
The empty suitcase in the car caused only minor speculation: A Gila monster had obviously eaten most of one side of it to shreds. "Whatever they had in there," the trooper said later, "must have been pretty light. The wind blew it all over the freaking desert."