Crime Story, part 2: Mugged!

I was once held up in the parking lot of a Las Vegas hotel.

In town to interview Mel Tillis for something-or-another, I was staying for the night at the hotel (Frontier?) he was playing. Set to leave the next morning, I decided to load most of my luggage into my car during the commercial break between Johnny Carson’s monologue and the rest of the Tonight Show. So that’s what I was doing in the parking lot, suitcase in hand and trunk open, when the young man approached me.

His hand was in his jacket pocket; holding, he told me, a pistol. I chose not to dispute him, and he told me to get into the car, where we wouldn’t be seen. Once there, he asked for my wallet and emptied it.  Fortunately, me being me, there was only $80 or so, plus some minimum-limit credit cards. He ran.

Within seconds, a car carrying two of  the hotel’s parking lot security people rolled by. I flagged them down, described the guy and told them what happened, and motioned in the direction of his escape. They directed me to the security office deep in the bowels of  the hotel and drove off.

Before long, the radio in the security office came alive, with the patrolmen reporting that they’d caught a suspect and were bringing him in. “Before they do,” I told the officer in charge, “let me describe him.” For a mugger, he wasn’t too smart: wearing an easy to remember, easy to identify, red windbreaker (maybe he was a fan of James Dean in “Rebel without a Cause”).

artist's poor rendition(artist’s poor simulation of mugger)

(Sometimes this picture — James Dean — shows; sometimes not. If you have to, use your imagination)

I gave them a few other identifying signs, and told them how much money he’d taken. Sure enough, he was wearing the same jacket and had the same amount of money. And, as I’d suspected, no artillery; the “pistol” had been his finger in his pocket. Security didn’t keep the cash as evidence, thankfully; they Xeroxed it and handed it back to me.

I was back in my room in time to catch the end of Carson.

Crooks love tourists, because we tend to go home and aren’t available to testify against them. On the other hand, Las Vegas casinos want your money, and don’t encourage competition from amateurs. With that in mind, the Las Vegas district attorney offered to fly me back and put me up in a hotel if I’d testify. This would be in a few weeks.

One day, my home phone rang and it was…the mugger. Somehow he’d got my name and number, and was trying to get me to withdraw charges. He was a young guy, never did it before, had a wife and kid to support, yada yada.

I was terrified: if he had my name and address, odds are that he had — or could get — my address. Even though my phone was unlisted.

I returned to Vegas. The hotel wasn’t, shall we say, Caesars Palace. Not even the Frontier. Rather, it was a nondescript (but clean) motel somewhere out of the way of anything even potentially interesting. I didn’t go out that night.

The Las Vegas courtroom was very small, and I wound up sitting, unwittingly at the time, next to the guy’s wife. We didn’t exchange pleasantries. The whole thing went by pretty much as quickly as this paragraph.

The mugger pled out, so I didn’t have to testify. But from then on, I made sure that I kept my doors at home locked, and never did discover how he had got hold of my phone number.


(part 1 here)


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