Authors: Mike Dennis
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #crime, #Noir, #Maraya21
THE JACK BARNETT / LAS VEGAS SERIES
This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the
author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or dead, is unintended and entirely coincidental.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without
permission in writing from Mike Dennis.
Published by Mike Dennis
Copyright 2011 by Mike Dennis
designed by Jeroen ten Berge
by Harry Dewulf
Bought by Maraya21
kickass.so / 1337x.org / h33t.to / thepiratebay.se
Yesterday could never really be discarded.
always a part of now. There was just no way to get rid of it.
No way to
push it aside, or throw it in an ash can,
or dig a
hole and bury it.
buried memories were nothing more than
own sweet time to come back.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
is actually from Las Vegas. It's one of those towns that eats its own. Needs a
constant supply of fresh blood, like a vampire.
Fresh blood to keep coming with outlandish ideas
that won't work anywhere else. Fresh blood to keep bringing money in to dump on
the tables, or pour down the slots, or drop it on somebody else's questionable
Las Vegas. A grifter's heaven for sure, because
there's always a new mark somewhere. They flow through McCarran Airport and the
Greyhound terminal every day by the thousands, looking to throw money at
someone or something, or even just the promise of something. You can find them
up in the ritzy suites at the Venetian, in the desperate two-bit motels on the
edge of downtown, and everywhere in between.
Even people born and raised here aren't from here.
Not really. First of all, there aren't that many of them to begin with. Then,
their parents quite likely came from somewhere else. In most cases, the kids
leave as soon as they're old enough, looking to connect with more sensible
locations. Most of those who defy the odds and stay eventually wish they
hadn't, because what the city needs can't be produced locally.
Halt the flow of fresh blood into Las Vegas and
you might as well halt the flow of water. The whole place would dry right up.
Take me, for instance. I
moved up here from LA about eight months ago, back in May of '01. An old buddy
of mine was a pit boss at the Desert Inn and told me he could get me on there
in some kind of job.
Moving seemed like the right thing to do because
things were starting to close in on me in the City of Angels. I'd lost my
private investigator's license for pushing a guy around and doing some other
stuff while trying to collect a debt for a client. Problem was, the guy had big
juice, so before I knew it, my license was gone. He was threatening criminal
action against me, too, so late one night, I packed up and headed out while I
Not long after I got to Las Vegas, they announced
they were going to blow the Desert Inn up. Then, September 11th blew a hole in
the country. So I stayed on, scuffling around in the poker rooms for awhile
until I could find something.
Well, it wasn't long until something found me.
It started late one winter night downtown at
Binion's, two or three months after they imploded the DI. I was sitting at a
low-limit seven-card stud table. A hand tapped my shoulder twice. It belonged
to the swing shift supervisor.
"Jack," he said in a low tone.
"Someone here to see you." He gestured toward the cardroom entrance.
Glancing that way, I saw an older guy in a camel
hair topcoat over a suit and tie, way too well-dressed for Binion's. I had no
idea who he was, but I knew he couldn't be LAPD. They never looked that good.
I peeked at my holecards and at the upcards of the
other players. I had no shot in this hand. As I tossed my cards in toward the
dealer, I rose from the table and made my way to the entrance, eyeing him all
the way and thinking about what he could possibly want.
I found my best smile as he held out a hand.
"Jack Barnett?" he said.
"With two t's," I replied, feeling his
strong grip. This close, he appeared to be very fit beneath his sharp topcoat.
"Jack, I'm Robert Lansdorf. Could I speak
with you a moment?"
I looked back at the game. They'd started a new
hand. I didn't like to miss hands.
"Well … what's this about, Mr Lansdorf?"
He was the kind of guy you would call
"Mister", maybe twenty years older than I was, around fifty-five or
so, and not quite what you would call handsome. His hair was dove-gray and
well-styled. He looked like he might've had a Mercedes out in the valet parking.
Maybe with a chauffeur leaning against it, smoking a cigarette, freezing his
ass off in the January night, waiting for him to return.
He modulated his voice downward to a near-whisper.
"I want to hire your services as a private investigator."
A quick shot of surprise lifted my eyebrows for a
second. How did this guy know I was a PI?
I shook my head. "Can't help you, Mr
Lansdorf. I'm out of that business."
A cocktail waitress slinked between us with an
"excuse me" and a trayful of drinks, while somewhere in the distance,
a slot machine rang and rang, announcing a big payoff.
"Please." He motioned for me to walk
with him a few steps out of the poker room. When we got away from everyone, he
said, "I know about your troubles in Los Angeles. That's why I've come
here to see you."
Process server, I thought. I stiffened.
He caught it. As he patted my shoulder, he
"No, no, don't worry, I'm not
here to bring you trouble."
I started thinking that any guy in a camel hair
topcoat who tells me he's not here to bring trouble is probably the definition
of trouble. The very last thing I needed right then was somebody from LA who
knows who I am, knows I was a PI. The way I figured it, I had to bury that part
of my past, bury it deep, if I wanted to stay out of jail.
Then he added, "The fact you've lost your
license is the very reason I want to hire you."
"Indeed it is. Now, does five thousand
dollars get your attention?"
Five grand! Jesus! I hoped he didn't see my eyes
"You got it," I replied.
"Good. Let's go have a cup of coffee."
in the coffee shop, we took a corner booth, away from probing eyes. As he
removed his topcoat, I noticed his suit. It was dark and expensive.
Back when I had my license and things were going
good for me, I liked fine clothes, and I can tell when someone is
The waitress brought our order. He sipped at his
coffee. I could tell he wasn't sure if he liked it.
"First of all, Jack," he said, "let
me tell you a little about myself. I live in Los Angeles, but like you, I'm
originally from New York. My father started what became a chain of department
stores there and had a lot of success. He later expanded to California, but
while still in New York, he did a lot of business with your grandfather."
That one hit me from my blind side. My jaw dropped
just a little as he continued. "That's right, Jack. My father did business
with Mike Barnett, one of the greatest-ever private investigators of New York.
Had his heyday in the forties and fifties. Always worked alone. As honest and
reliable as any man who ever wore shoe leather."
I'd always tried to pattern myself after my
granddad, early on, anyway. Even though he died before I really got to know
him, he was a legend around our house when I was growing up. My parents kept
all these scrapbooks filled with yellowing accounts of his exploits, saving New
York from one criminal conspiracy or another, or so I thought at the time. He was
the reason I went into that line of work.
Unfortunately, I had a much shorter fuse than he
did. I didn't mind using a little force if I thought it would get the job done.
He wouldn't have liked it.
Lansdorf added a touch more cream to his coffee
and stirred it.
"Anyway, Jack, I read about your troubles in
the paper back in LA. Your name caught my eye, so I checked up and found out
you were in fact the grandson of Mike Barnett."
"And you want to do a TV special on my family
He sipped his coffee again, looking for
"Hardly." He reached over into the
inside pocket of his topcoat, then pulled out a rolled-up magazine. As he
unfurled it on the table, he said, "Are you familiar with this?"
It was a copy of
Las Vegas Weekly
know, the kind of tabloid-sized publication covering the local scene with
irreverent writing and plenty of attitude. Every big city has one of these.
"Yes, I'm familiar with it," I replied.
"Not this latest issue, but I know the magazine. I like it." I picked
up on the greasy aroma of french fries as the waitress brought a couple of
meals to a nearby booth.
He opened the magazine to a marked page in the
back, splashed with lots of ads for escort services and the like.
"You see this?" He pointed to an ad with
a picture of a gorgeous young girl, seated with her legs spread out from a
skimpy thong. The headline read, "Blonde Massage / We Come To You",
with a phone number underneath.
He brought his lips together hard, then said,
"That's my daughter."
I looked at her. Her eyes brimmed with promise,
while her mouth formed a dark, pouty slit. Tousled blonde hair fell across her
forehead and down her back. What there was of a top strained to contain full
breasts. She didn't get that look by hanging around her family's department
I glimpsed Lansdorf. His eyes were momentarily
downcast from the embarrassment of the ad.
"What do want me to do?" I asked.
"Find her and —"
"Whoa, now. I probably won't be able to bring
her home, Mr Lansdorf. She doesn't look like she'd be too interested."
"I don't want you to bring her home. My wife
won't have her in the house. And she probably wouldn't come anyway." He
fidgeted in his seat and paused for a breath. "I— I just want to
know where she is and I want to know that she's all right. If she needs
anything. That's all. Just to know she's all right." Desperation crept
into his voice.
I sat silent for a moment. I could tell he needed
it. Looking back at the ad, something in the girl's face — in her eyes
— grabbed my attention. It held me for a few seconds. I don't know, maybe
… maybe it was nothing.
I turned back to Lansdorf and said, "What
more can you tell me about her? And start with her name."
He drank some more coffee.
"Emily. Emily Jean Lansdorf. She left home
three — almost four years ago now. She came here and started waitressing,
then soon moved into the strip joints. She took up with a string of men —
I never knew any of them. We lost touch with her altogether around eight months
"Do you have any idea where she lives?"
"No, but she used to have an apartment over
off Maryland Parkway. It's her last address I know of. Here, let me give it to
you." He pulled out a pen and scribbled it on a paper napkin. I slipped it
into my pants pocket.
you know any of her known associates? Friends? Lovers?"
"No." His head bowed a little. "I'm
"How old is she?"
"She turned twenty-three back in
The waitress refilled his coffee cup. He pushed it
I said, "One more thing. Why me? Why not a
licensed PI? He could find her just as easily as I could. Maybe easier."
His head slowly raised back up so his eyes were
level with mine. They were steely now, like his voice.
"I want someone who isn't afraid to cross the
line when necessary. And if she's in any kind of danger, then it
necessary." He leaned toward me just a little, adding, "You know,
Jack, you might think that running a bunch of retail stores is a namby-pamby
kind of job. But over the years, there have been a few occasions when I've had
to do things that were, shall we say, questionable. And each time I made that
choice, I did so because I knew in my soul … that it was the right thing to
do." His eyes penetrated mine even more deeply as he said, "Not the
easiest thing, nor the most legal thing necessarily, but the
thing. You understand?"