Vegas Lies ( Lies Mystery Thriller Series Book 3), page 1
“Lies” Mystery Series #3
By Andrew Cunningham
Copyright © 2017 Andrew Cunningham
All Rights Reserved
Books by Andrew Cunningham
“Lies” Mystery Series
Eden Rising Trilogy
Arthur Macarthur Series of Children's Mysteries (as A.R. Cunningham)
The Mysterious Stranger
The Ghost Car
The Creeping Sludge
The Sky Prisoner
The Ride of Doom
To Charlotte … my love
Table of Contents
Did you like Vegas Lies?
About the Author
It dominated the headlines nationwide.
Five young teenage girls from the small town of Vista, Oregon disappeared in the same night. At first it was thought that the five friends, who were coming home from a movie, had run away together, escaping the stifling atmosphere of small-town America. But once it was determined that they were all reasonably happy, fairly well-adjusted young people, the focus shifted to the unthinkable.
The night they disappeared and the day that followed were fraught with confusion. The parents could offer the police nothing helpful. It had been a normal Friday night, just like most Friday nights before that. A couple of their friends remembered seeing them at the local Burger King, which is where they had planned to go before the movie. Others remembered seeing them at the movie theater. Nobody saw anyone or anything suspicious.
The local police called in the State Police, who set up road blocks, but to no avail. By late morning of the next day, the FBI had gotten involved. The town of less than 8,000 residents was turned upside down. The only clue was an area at the side of a road that they would have probably traveled that had numerous shoeprints and the tire tracks of a car. But the tracks were of poor quality and were of no help to investigators.
By the second day, a tip line had been established that generated hundreds of calls in the first two hours. In the beginning, every reasonable tip was followed up on, but they always led nowhere. As the day wore on, only the most credible of the tips was considered. By the end of the day, only one in twenty was even given more than cursory attention. The morning of the third day, over five thousand phone calls had been received, totally overwhelming the volunteers manning the lines. The girls had been spotted in thirty-nine states and fourteen foreign countries. At noon, the system crashed.
Fields and forests were searched. Lakes and rivers were full of divers, each hoping that he or she wouldn’t be the one to discover the bloated remains of the five girls. The parents of each of the girls went on TV to plead with anyone who might have seen their children to contact the authorities. One of the parents finally verbalized what the other parents weren’t yet willing to accept, but what so many others were thinking, that the children had been taken. The parent made an impassioned plea to whomever might have abducted them to please let them go, no questions asked.
Everyone was suspected. It started with delivery people, contractors, and anyone unfamiliar to the townspeople. The probe extended to adults who knew the girls, including teachers, coaches, pastors and extended family members.
After five days, hope of finding the girls alive was fading. The only ones still convinced that they would see them again were the parents, but lack of sleep, lack of nutrition, and extreme stress had taken its toll on even the most optimistic of them. Two of the fathers were hospitalized with chest pains and one of the mothers needed to be deeply sedated. The girls were still the lead story on the evening news, but had also become the headlines of the tabloids, all with different theories for their disappearance.
There were doubters, too. Many felt that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by the girls themselves, that after a week or so they would suddenly show up with a fantastic story of abduction. But those who knew the girls didn’t believe it for a second.
The girls had simply vanished into thin air.
“I’m not going.”
“No, I’m not.”
It was our first argument, but it wasn’t really an argument. Sabrina knew that she was going. She just wanted to make me aware that she wasn’t happy about it.
The argument (or not) in question referred to her attending BookExpo America, the annual national book trade show, this year being held in Las Vegas. As the hottest mystery author in the United States—if not the whole world—Sabrina Spencer was highly sought after for any appearance, especially considering her reputation as a recluse. Called the “J.D. Salinger of the mystery world,” a Sabrina sighting was a treasured moment.
“I thought I had an agreement with my publisher,” she said. “They told me I’d only have to do one-on-one interviews.”
“This is pretty close,” I answered. “It’s only something like one-on-five thousand.”
“You’re not helping any.”
I gave her a disarming grin. At least I thought it was disarming. Sabrina, however, was way too smart for me and wasn’t disarmed in the slightest. I knew it and she knew I knew it.
“Look,” I said, “they promised that you wouldn’t have to sign any autographs. All you have to do is give a talk. You’re good at that and people really want to hear about your adventures.”
“Yeah. Ha. You know full well that they will find a way to shanghai me into signing autographs.”
“I don’t trust them.”
The truth was, Sabrina didn’t trust anyone except me. Of course, with me trying to convince her to do this, I was probably close to losing that status.
Sabrina had lots of reasons for not trusting people. To her, most people were phony and only out for themselves. Truly genuine people were few and far between. She actually enjoyed signing autographs for true fans and she could talk to a fan for an hour about books. It was the “other” people she disliked; the kind who would see her signing autographs and would pester her for one ev
But even worse than dealing with the “fake” fans was when the media interest in her history overshadowed the interest in her books. When the secret story of her life was revealed, she was no longer just a famous author. She had become an oddity, a sideshow—at least in her own mind.
Sabrina had spent six years in prison for killing her abusive husband. When her history was discovered, it was after she had already become famous for her books, so her story became the hot topic in magazines and on TV “insider” shows. For a few months, she was the most talked about person in America. Maintaining her privacy became even more difficult when she and I became involved in a couple of national news-making adventures in which she was almost killed several times. Through our actions (her actions, if you believed the media), a few previously unsolved crimes had been solved. Sabrina was now known as an “adventuress,” along the lines of Amelia Earhart, Beryl Markham, and Nelly Bly. Somehow in all of this, I had managed to remain fairly anonymous, even though my name, Del Honeycutt, was on the cover of her most recent book, the story of our first adventure together. After several mega-selling mysteries, it was her first book of nonfiction.
It was because of this book that we were headed to Vegas. Her publisher wanted her to give a first-hand account of the adventure to a roomful of adoring fans and other assorted book-types.
“Okay, Del, I’ll do it,” she said, “but you will owe me big time.”
“Me? Why me? It was your publisher who set this up, not me.”
“But it’ll easier to collect from you.”
Not an altogether unpleasant prospect. With her long red hair (she called it auburn, but it looked red to me), her ever-so-slightly crooked front tooth that gave her a fabulous smile, and the faint scent of strawberries that seemed to follow her around, just being with her could cause me to hyperventilate. But it was more than that. After years of one failed date after another, meeting Sabrina and falling in love with her—and her with me—had totally transformed my life.
Yeah, I’d be happy to let her collect.
We put our luggage in the car the next morning.
We lived most of the time in my late father’s house in a snotty section of Northampton, Mass. He had been a college professor and had taken up residence in a neighborhood of other college professors much more interested in themselves than in the outside world. Because of that, Sabrina’s presence in the neighborhood had somehow managed to remain pretty much of a secret. Those who did know she was there remained quiet about it, so as to keep the undesirables out.
When we weren’t in Northampton or traveling, we stayed in my three-decker house in East Boston. It was where I had lived for ten years before meeting Sabrina. I lived on the third floor. When the book of nonfiction sold for seven figures, I bought the house from my landlord and let the other two tenants live there rent-free. Sabrina had developed a nice friendship with the first-floor neighbor, Mo, a radical lesbian/martial-artist/second-grade school teacher. Seymour, who lived on the second floor, was a grump who hated people. He could tolerate me, though … barely.
We were heading to East Boston for the night and were going to catch a flight to Las Vegas the next morning on the cleverly named Jet Blue Flight 777. Sabrina had calmed down somewhat, although she was still pissed at the world. But one of the things I loved about Sabrina was her ability to rise above it and retain her sense of humor. She insisted that she could rise above it only when she was with me, because she trusted me implicitly. Whatever the reason, the trip to Boston was enjoyable. She was back to being the Sabrina I knew and loved. In fact, she actually seemed excited about the upcoming trip. She had never been to Las Vegas and was looking forward to trying her hand in the casino and seeing some of the sights. I had been there once, several years earlier, with a woman I had been dating for a while. The trip was a disaster and I ended up flying home alone. I heard later that she had stayed in Vegas, serving drinks in one of the big casinos. I was pretty sure this trip would be more successful. I reminded Sabrina that within two hours of Boston were about six casinos, but it was the mystique of Las Vegas that interested her. A typical mystery writer’s outlook.
Mo greeted us when we arrived. She was pretty hot looking, with jet-black hair that reached mid-way down her back. Being an nth-degree black belt in some Martial Art I had never heard of, she was in great shape physically.
“Looks like you’re going on a trip,” she said, opening the front door for us.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Sabrina. The black cloud had returned.
“She’s pissed,” I said to Mo.
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
Mo helped us carry our bags up to the third floor, and then we all sat at the kitchen table while I explained about BookExpo.
“And you don’t want to go because of all the fans there?” Mo asked Sabrina.
“Honestly? I guess I’m okay,” Sabrina responded. “I just feel a little duped. I can suck it up.”
“Where is it being held?”
“Las Vegas,” I said.
“You’re kidding! Peep is there right now for a trade show. She’ll be there for a few more days. Maybe you guys can meet.”
“We’d love it,” said Sabrina, suddenly perking up.
Peep was Mo’s partner. Even though they didn’t live together, they had been a couple for about five years. Her name was really Priscilla, but when I first saw her, all I could picture was her holding a staff and herding sheep. She was small and had curly blond hair. She reminded me of Little Bo Peep. So I called her Peep and the name stuck. Even Mo called her that now.
“I’ll call her and let her know you’ll be there,” she said.
“If she wants to meet tomorrow night,” said Sabrina, “we’ll be there in plenty of time to have dinner with her.”
We flew out the next morning. Since Mo had school to teach, we took a cab. It was an easy ride, as the house was less than ten minutes from the airport. Sabrina and I flew a lot, but each time was an adventure. Sabrina’s fame and flowing red hair made her easy to pick out. I, on the other hand, was one of about a billion guys of average height, average weight, and slightly receding hairline. In other words, completely invisible.
So, whenever we flew we crossed our fingers that Sabrina wouldn’t be recognized. We tried to get to the airport as late as possible, but with long security lines, we couldn’t take the chance of missing our flight. We could have signed up for TSA Precheck, but one of us had spent six years in prison and was ineligible. That sucked.
This time we somehow lucked out. Not one person recognized Sabrina, or at least, not one person approached her. Our flight to Las Vegas turned out to be almost relaxing.
We checked into the Mirage mid-afternoon. From the airport to the hotel we gave our best tourist impressions, staring out of the limo windows at all the gaudy signs and activity. There was something exciting about the city, a veritable oasis in the desert. There was always something going on. I had discovered that during my disastrous first visit. By the third night, I'd been completely on my own and had lots of time to explore.
We had reserved a gorgeous suite. It was a perk of having money, a brand new experience for me. In fact, everything in my life since meeting Sabrina had been a new experience.
We took our time unpacking, as we still had a couple of hours before we were due to meet with Peep. We took a shower together, washing off the grime from a day of airports and flying. We must have been really dirty, because it took a long time to get clean.
At 7:00 we were sitting in a quiet corner of a pretty restaurant at the Mirage. Sabrina was drinking a glass of wine and I was doing my usual club soda and lime. We had our eyes on the door, waiting for the appearance of Peep.
At 8:00 we were still watching the door. I was a little pis
At 8:30 I was on the phone to Mo.
“Have you been in touch with Peep?” I asked.
“Earlier today. She was excited about meeting you guys for dinner,” she answered.
“Did she happen to mention to you the time she was meeting us?”
“Seven o’clock.” Mo’s voice took on a worried tone. “I assume she’s not there?”
“Let me try calling her. Maybe she just got tied up.” Mo was trying to sound calm, but she wasn’t succeeding.
Sabrina and I sat in relative silence until 9:00. We were no longer hungry, but the waiter didn’t hurry us out. He had recognized Sabrina and was doing a good job of sucking up to her. I was also no longer annoyed. Worry had begun to set in.
The phone rang and I picked it up in a millisecond.
“Del,” said Mo. “No one has heard from her. I’m really scared. Where could she have gone?”
“Don’t worry, Mo, getting distracted is what Las Vegas is all about. There are all kinds of reasons why she’s not here.”
“You know her, Del. She’s just about the most anal person around when it comes to time management. Even if she got distracted—which isn’t like her—she would have called you.”
“Give it some time, Mo. We’ll see if we can find her.”
“Okay.” The word didn’t have an ounce of confidence behind it.
I hung up and looked across the table at Sabrina. The worry in her face couldn’t have been more apparent.
The fact was, despite my reassuring words to Mo, I was very concerned. I couldn’t help feeling deep in my gut that something was terribly wrong.
I had just told Mo that we’d look for Peep. The fact was, we could look for Peep until the cows came home, but holy crap, this was Las Vegas. Where would we even start? Do we wander the streets and scan the crowds? Heck, I’d be more likely to lose Sabrina in the process than I would be to find Peep. Then I’d be down two women.
Other author's books:
- Eden's Legacy (Eden Rising Trilogy Book 3)Wisdom Spring
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