The two men in the black limousine had already circled the theatre once. Now they pulled in on the other side of the road, opposite the main door. Outside, the temperature was well into the eighties. But they had turned the air-conditioning on full blast and the car was like a refrigerator. They sat in silence. The two of them had worked together for many years and despised each other. They had nothing left to say.
The theatre was at the northern end of Reno, Nevada. It was a square, red-brick building with a single door and no windows. It could have been a bank or possibly a chapel but for the neon sign over the front door. It was supposed to read THE RENO PLAYHOUSE, bu thalf the letters had fused so that as the two men watched it from where they were parked in Virginia Street, just two words flashed at them through the fading light: HERE LOSE.
It wasn’t exactly the most attractive invitation in a city that was dedicated to gambling, where every other building seemed to be a casino and where the hotels, the bars, even the laundrettes, were stuffed with slot machines. Despite its name, the Reno Playhouse hadn’t actually put on a play from the day it had been built. Instead, it provided a temporary home to a long line of second-rate performers: singers and dancers, conjurors and comedians who had all been famous, briefly, a very long time ago but who had never really been heard of since. These were the sort of people who performed night after night, trying to entertain audiences who were only thinking of the money they had come to win or, worse, the money they had already lost.
The next performance was due to begin in an hour’s time. The two men had already bought their tickets – but there was something they wanted to see before they went in. they only had to wait a few minutes until they were rewarded. The man in the driver’s seat suddenly stiffened.