Feeling his miserable self, Sergeant Sid O’Toole of Homicide, sat at the bar in the dark casino off Flamingo and nursed a cheap beer while he inhaled the smoky air and stared blankly at one of the big screens overhead.
The low lights, the salsa music, the wall of TVs, the never-ending dinging and ringing of the slot machines drifting in from the floor—it all was part of the twenty-four-seven party that was Las Vegas. His town, you could say. But he wasn’t here for the party. No, his job was to take care of the grimy underbelly tourists never saw.
Criminals and corpses, that was his lot. And as usual, after a too long shift with too much paperwork, he’d just about had his belly full of it.
He took a swig of beer and curled a lip at the bartender. “Five bucks for this piss water?”
The guy just shrugged at him. “I don’t set the prices.”
“Yeah, yeah.” O’Toole dug in his pocket for his last fiver. “Like they say, the more bread you have, the less shit you have to drink.”
He slapped it down on the bar, picked up the bottle and wandered over to a small table for some privacy.
What was he doing, spending the last five dollars in his pocket on crappy beer? He could have bought a six-pack and gone home. But he didn’t want to go home. Not just yet. The house was too empty.
He settled into a chair and eyed the sparse crowd of three a.m. gamblers. A redhead with a flirtatious smile sat on the other side of the room sipping a daiquiri. She wasn’t looking his way, but she reminded him of Ginger.
She always called him a tightwad when he complained about the price of this or that. Maybe he was one, but he’d been trying to save for their future. Only Ginger hadn’t seen much of a future with him.
She’d wanted more. More than a homicide cop who’d been passed over for promotion three times in the last five years could give her. And because he’d been passed over, who could blame him if he cut a few corners now and then, fudged his time, goofed off a little? What the Lieutenant didn’t see, the Lieutenant didn’t need to know. Right?
He’d thought Ginger had been happy with her dancing job at the Last Chance. He’d thought she’d been happy with him. He’d thought she’d quit her job someday and they’d have a kid or two. He’d always wanted a kid. But no. None of that was enough for her. She wanted more than being a showgirl. She wanted to be a star. So six months ago she told him she wasn’t getting any younger and took off for LA.
Just like that. Just the way his mother had left him when he was six.
Feeling more miserable than ever, he took another pull of his beer gazed up at one of the big screens. Ah, now there was a sight.
Waves and waves of long blond hair and deep blue chiffon. A commercial for the show at the Dame Destinado. That was right. Ambrosia Dawn was in town.
A line from one of her old songs floated to his ears. “All Eyes on Me.” He loved that song. It had been number one on the charts about fifteen years ago. What a voice. She had a way of making you feel like she was singing just to you.
He watched her image. Those legs. Long and shapely. He’d always had a thing for legs. Ginger had had great legs.
He looked down at his empty bottle. He didn’t want to face his empty house yet. Why not have another? He’d have to hit the ATM. Or use his credit card, which he didn’t like to do. Just as he was getting up to head for the machine, his cell rang.
He sat back down and set the bottle on the table with a slap. Only one reason he’d get a phone call at this time of night.
“O’Toole,” he said as he answered, trying not to sound irritated.
He listened to the dispatcher describe yet another incident. This time it was a body along I-15.
Aw, Jeez. Why tonight? Why him?
But he had no choice if he wanted to keep paying his bills. Okay, okay. No rest for the weary.
“I’m on my way.”
He hung up and let out a long groan as he got to his feet and headed out to the desert.