L uke Slater had been expecting Jack Ballantyne's call. He was responding to a request for directions to his Las Vegas office.
"It's Kinsey Miller Architecture, Jack. Our office is on level twelve in the Forrester Building on East Flamingo Road. It overlooks the site for the new hotel-casino project under construction right across the street. I'm glad you have some time to spare, Helen and I are looking forward to catching up. See you when you get here", he said.
"A good friend of ours from the Philippines," he explained to a couple of his young assistant architects. "A guy called Jack Ballantyne. Best man at our wedding. He's a special investigator with the Australian Federal Police. Kind of like your FBI.
In fact he's here in Las Vegas at the request of the FBI, to deliver a series of lectures to recent graduate agents, on western felons operating in South East Asia. I've been waiting on his arrival, so I can catch up on the latest from my wife's home town of Manila. And of course to show him over the job," he said, gesturing through the windows at the huge construction site opposite.
"Jack is the son of an architect... He has a strong interest in design and construction, especially in the field of hotels and resorts."
"Married?" asked Luke Slater's personal assistant, Kaley Amorsola. "How old?"
"Single...mid to late thirties I guess," he replied.
"Interesting," she smiled mischievously. "I'll just go check my hair. This desert climate really dries out your skin you know...Why are you looking at me like that?" She headed to the ladies room.
"They never miss an opportunity," Slater said with a laugh to his head draftsman Jensen Downey.
"I'm constantly surprised at just how different a species women are!" said Downey. "I guess that's why us guys find them so darned irresistible."
Jack Ballantyne finalised his lecture series for the day. He excused himself from his FBI assistants in a conference room at the fabulous Mandalay Bay's Four Seasons Hotel, on the "miracle mile." It was at the southern end of the famous Las Vegas "Strip." Despite his above average size, Ballantyne was lean and clean-cut in a dark, conservatively tailored suit. A naturally taciturn individual, he seemed at first to some, to be a little arrogant, or at least convincingly self-assured. His hair was dark and his eyes blue, focused and intelligent. A deep but quiet voice for a big man. "I'm headed to catch up with a friend of mine, a fellow Australian. He's an architect, working on a new hotel project on Flamingo Road." Jack was speaking to agent Mike Hanna of the Las Vegas bureau of the FBI.
"I can drop you over there. It's on my way downtown," said the slim, immaculately attired thirty four year old Hanna. "Whenever you're ready to roll, JB."
Hanna drove his blue FBI issue Chrysler 300 efficiently and fast, heading east off the strip on to Tropicana as far as Paradise Road. Then he travelled north on Paradise, which took them straight to East Flamingo. Making a left, he pointed out the Forrester building up ahead in the block between Paradise Road and the Strip.
"Thanks a lot Mike, I appreciate it," said Ballantyne. "Tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I'll be with a group of young know-it-alls from Quantico, in their first year on the job. Mostly employed in out of the way field offices around the country. A trip to Vegas is a major new experience for most of 'em. Having to attend your lectures will be an unwelcome distraction from the serious pursuit of pleasure, belie