Do You Understand That I Cannot Tell The Truth Here?

VEN (NEW ORLEANS) —  She flicks the ashes from her cigarette, then looks over her shoulder again.  She’s scared.   And so nervous, she almost knocks over her drink.

“You’re not gonna use my name, right?  And no pictures, right.  You know, now that we’re sittin’ here,  I’m not sure I should be talkin’ about this to anyone.”

strip-clubAmbrosia — not her real name — was an exotic dancer at The Carousel Club in Las Vegas until October of this year, when she abruptly pulled up stakes and moved back home to New Orleans.

“With all the things that were goin’ on, I just really needed a change — you know?  Because before all the . . . I just really needed a change, OK?

Now, as she sits across from VEN‘s Senior Correspondent Mark Lane at a quiet corner table at the Napoleon House  early Wednesday morning,  she’s afraid for her life

“Sure, I saw them together.  All the time.  Campos and Paddock were always at one of the vip_neonVIP tables, and Jack — the owner — he always wanted us to show Stevie (that’s what he called him) a good time.  But he was such a lousy tipper and so nasty none of the girls were very keen to spend any time with him.  He really wasn’t a party guy at all.

“They were always speaking in Spanish, and another real scary guy — I think  Jack called him Cesar — he and Stevie got into a big fight one night and Campos had to break it up.   Someone yelled at Jack to call the police, and Jack told him there were more cops in the place than anywhere in Las Vegas — which was true.  Jack liked havin’ cops around, you know, for protection.

“And there were always lots of off-duty security guards from the hotels at the club, too.  Especially the Belagio and the Venetian and The Mandalay Bay.  Most of them were illegals, but Jack didn’t seem to care,  and they always spent a lot of money.

“Anyway,  it seemed like this Stevie guy was always in a bad mood when he came in, so I didn’t pay him much mind. Well,  Mr Lane, I might not remember a name, but I always remember a face. When I saw his picture two weeks later on the television, I screamed, Oh, my God. That’s him! That’s Jack’s friend!

strip-club2–And the guns?

“I’m not sure I want to talk about that.”

–On the phone you said there were guns.

“Look, you have to promise me . . . OK — sure.  Yes, there were guns.  Lots of guns.

“One night another dancer Jada and me, we went out back for a cigarette (Jack doesn’t like us smokin’ in the club)  and we saw somethin’ we weren’t supposed to see.

“These Belagio security guys were unloadin’ all these wooden boxes from a big semi.   One guy was standin’ over an open box with a crowbar in his hand, and another guy had some sort of rifle in his hand, and they all turned and looked at us.

“I  swear to god, I thought we were gonna die right there!

“Jack yelled at us to go back inside.  Then later that night that Cesar guy came over to me as I was walkin’ to my car and told me that there were lots of places in the desert where you could put a body where  no one would ever find it, and if I was a smart girl, I’d forget everything I saw that night.  He took out his wallet and handed me five brand new one hundred-dollar bills and told me to go buy myself somethin’ pretty.

“And then he smiled.

“Mr Lane, as long as I live, I will NEVER forget that smile! I was so scared I just stood there looking at him smiling at me with those fanned out hundred-dollar bills in my hand so scared I couldn’t move.  Then he got in his SUV and drove away.

(End of Part One)