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The Fugitive Game

Eric Heinz strolls down the Strip, past the fantasy of pastel deco hotels, palm trees, and giant billboard maidens spotlit in their Calvin Kleins.

RAINBOW.

He walks under the vertical neon sign and by the red awning, opposite a dusty, sky blue wall plastered with rock posters. The crowd is restless, waiting to get into the popular bar and restaurant. He presses a little flesh and cuts to where he belongs, the front of the line.

Everyone knows Eric.

Those bedroom eyes, the sculpted nose, the tall slender frame. He looks like a rock star He’s got the Farrah Fawcett chest-length shag with highlights. The smudged Maybelline shadow and liner with a hint of blush. The long, manicured nails. The whole package poured into skintight jeans and cowboy boots.

But to thousands of pimply, bug-eyed boys on the Internet, Eric’s a badass computer hacker. Agent Steal’s his handle, the information superhighway his gravy train. He wiretaps for a slick Hollywood detective at two grand a pop. He wins thousands of dollars in radio contests by seizing stations’ phone lines. He scams Porsches by setting up phony credit under false identities. He lives on stolen ATM and credit cards. And best of all, Eric knows that he never really hurts the little guy. He’s a friendly rogue, just working corporations and nameless institutions, playing The System.

Eric cruises the red Naugahyde booths, pecking the cheeks of the rainbow’s silicone-enhanced, lingerie ladies, actresses, models, off-duty call girls, and strippers. He takes his spot up front by the stone fireplace that burns year round, cigarette smoke wafting, rock tunes blaring. White Christmas lights drape the oak paneling. Guitars and drums from Guns N’Roses, Bon Jovi, and Poison hang from the wall, their autographed, poster-size images peering down like Mexican roadside shrines.

Eric is in his element. The Rainbow Bar and Grill is a Hollywood legend. Decades ago Errol Flynn frequented the joint, and Marilyn Monroe kept Joe DiMaggio waiting here two hours for their blind date. John Belushi had his last supper at the Rainbow with De Niro and Robin Williams. Who will join Eric tonight at his table? A rocker? A star?

Little Brown & Company, 1996.  Optioned by 20th Century Fox; published in 16 languages.

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