Here are the latest two Ben Venice episodes- Ben Venice Meets The Benefactor and Ben Venice In Ninth Floor Penthouse. If you’re wholly unfamiliar with Ben Venice, you can catch all his previous adventures here.
“You’re not coming up?”
“Hell, no. Sammy Davis is at the Sands tonight, and this guy gives me the creeps. You can deal with him.”
And with that exchange Red was off in the fire engine red Corvette, into the natural twilight, soon to to be erased by the Las Vegas glitz and glamor. Ben looked up and back down the towering Desert Inn, then headed inside.
Vegas wasn’t Ben’s scene. Everywhere he looked, he saw excess and waste. It felt like the whole city was just baited catnip for suckers, from the slot machines to the prostitutes. It was a toss up which was most ubiquitous. The inside lobby of the joint was like something out of ancient Rome, all towering ceilings and marble. Ben decided to skip the elevator and take the stairs, but started to regret the decision by the time he got to the top floor. He took a minute to catch his breath in the stairway before he got into character. Upon opening the door to the floor, he encountered two men in black suit and tie and tight short back and side buzzcuts.
“Director Venice!” one of them said, “It’s an honor to meet you. I’m a bit embarrassed to have to ask, but I have to…”
Ben smirked, then replied:
“Correct, sir. That’s the word.”
“I know, I made it up.”
“Of course, sir.”
Ben was allowed entry. Once inside the plush penthouse room, he laid eyes on the man he came to see. Whatever he had imagined he might find, this was not it. There before him, stark naked, stood Howard Hughes. Ben was taken aback, so Hughes spoke first.
“You’ll have to forgive me. I don’t shake hands.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr.Venice. I hardly even notice when I’m starkers up here anymore.” With that, Howard Hughes pulled a bathrobe over his white and boney frame. Ben was just impressed that Hughes wasn’t too far gone to register that he ought not be strolling around with his pecker out on a first meeting.
“Here, have a seat, here by the window, where we can look out at that skyline.” Hughes strolled over to the enormous window, where two lush leather chairs sat, both facing the window. Ben decided to resist the urge to physically move them before he sat in order to face this lunatic when they spoke like men, but instead just hoped for the sake of his clean slacks that Hughes previously practiced good hygiene before he flopped his naked ass on the damn thing when he was hanging out. When in Rome…
“So let me see if I have this right…” Ben began, craning his neck to look over at Hughes as he gazed at the lights outside, “it’s you who funds GHOST, and you build these fancy things for us?”
“I don’t build them. Mr.Venice. I just design them, although they are built on my dime. All your Buck Rogers vehicles and that island headquarters of yours. Have you been inside the Eel yet?” Hughes was smiling pridefully, his eyes locked on the scene of Vegas at night.
“Is that the submarine car?” Ben asked.
Hughes chuckled. “Yes Mr.Venice, the ‘submarine car.’ My next version will fly. I envy you. I really wish that I could get out there and mix it up with you, all you secret agents and crusaders out there.”
“Why don’t you? You’re creating things that are light years beyond what anyone is even dreaming of, outside of fantasy. Why only give this technology to us?” Ben said, wishing Hughes had offered a drink or three.
“Kennedy. Because of Kennedy. After all that shit with the Hercules and the government coming after me…you know, that really changed me, Mr.Venice. I was a patriot before that, and I only was again when Kennedy got in there.” Hughes was swinging his arms around as he spoke, his fists clenched.
Ben just watched him until he made eye contact, then began to simmer down. “He reached out to me, he wanted me to help him get the best of the Russians. What became GHOST was originally just a pact between me and Jack. But then those bastards shot him and…well…” Hughes crossed his hands, interlocking his fingers. “…I guess we went Rogue.”
Ben took a deep breath. “What about General Schwartz? When did he enter the picture?”
“Oh, long enough before they shot Jack to gain my trust. I’m not good with keeping track of time. Is it true that women have started taking off their bras and burning them out in the national parks out there?” Hughes’ eyes grew wide.
Ben desperately wanted a cigarette.