Vegas Die

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Screenplay Award Sub-Category
Award Category
Golden Writer
Logline or Premise
Someone is killing the retired mobsters of Las Vegas and the Mayor is #1 suspect. Casino executive Owen McCombs discovers a dead body in the trunk of the Mayor's car. Homicide Detective Chastity Taggart believes McCombs is the killer especially when more dead mobsters turn up. Suspense surprises.
First 10 Pages


1. Gray Memories

July, Twenty-two years ago

Smart plan, bad destiny.

Cassandra Jewelry Emporium, corner of Eastern Avenue and Mt. Charleston Boulevard. Ten minutes, in and out. Store Manager, two clerks, and two customers led into the back office and told to lick the floor and keep their eyes shut, or else. Quick drying epoxy immobilized the alarm buttons. Phone cords severed. Surveillance cameras sprayed black. The one cell phone removed from a floor hugger.

The four gunmen operated with military precision. Jewelry from the counter displays rifled; from the safe they scooped up un-mounted gem stones, pirate-era coins, rare casino chips, grab bag prizes with the most valuable dumped into brief cases. A professional job, arriving in suit and tie attire, the ski masks pulled on at the last minute. Their calling card was smash-and-grab, smashing the display glass, ruthlessness to their capabilities. They grabbed the most expensive jewelry, skipped the factory-colored stones. With their home closets full of boosted Hong Kong replica watches, 8-track tapes, and bootleg porno beta, this year, genuine shit only had been the gang’s mantra.

The shattering glass freaked a woman clerk to believe this was the last day of her life, as it almost was. She scurried like a startled rabbit from the floor and

bolted, screaming, a full panic attack of blind emotions. She almost made the front door before one of the robbers, a fat man, round-housed her with his

gloved fist and sent her sprawling. As her arms and hands tried protecting her body, he beat her with the butt of his revolver; downward strokes, deliberate in his enjoyment. He could have killed her. He had killed before. Here, he was just pissed. Another of the heist team had to pull him away as they exited into the daylight, masks removed.

Their car, driven by the fifth gang member, pulled away from the curb, no hurry. Masks removed, once again innocuous businessmen on a work day. Several blocks later they split up, three of them driving off to establish alibis, while the two remaining, one being the crazed fat thief, took another car, but not before all the briefcases were emptied into a large athletic bag, a pro tennis racket carrier of green-red tartan design. A small Yale lock with metallic green coloring attached, snapped securely.

The two men said very little as they drove to the closed casino, pleased silence. Police cars screamed in the distance.

The fat one smirked. “This was the big score.”

The other man’s grimace carved his narrow face. His eyes darted in all directions causing his black bushy eyebrows to bounce like caterpillars barely clinging to their perch. His pencil-thin moustache twisted when he spoke.

“Yeah, but I don’t know if I like what we’re doing next,”

The fat man dismissed any other notion except his.

“Considering the heat coming down this is pretty smart. They get the stuff in Chicago today, and we get cash right back. No middleman except our VIP courier who doesn’t know shit. You’re pissed because you didn’t think of it.”

“If he only knew.”

“Fuckin’ rich, that’s us.”

As they approached the shuttered El Morocco Oasis Hotel & Casino, for over two years silent as the proverbial tomb except for clandestine meetings such

as this sanctioned by the new owner, the two gangsters had no idea they would never again see the product of their aggravated larceny or profit from it.

Late in the same day, a sleek black limousine stopped in front of the Executive Jet Terminal. Arrivals and departures bustled. Several private jets on the tarmac sat fueled; pilots checked instruments awaiting their passengers.

A father and his young daughter, followed by a nurse, exited the limo and entered the terminal. The nurse slow walked the girl who bore obvious pain. A preteen youngster; her paleness blended against her white skirt and t-shirt outfit, ghost-like against the sunlight’s brilliance. Their driver followed carrying three pieces of luggage, including golf clubs and an encased tennis racket attached to a red-green tartan bag, locked secure with a combination Master lock. Police officers, edgy and suspicious, hands on their side arms, stared with menacing intent at all those arriving at the jet terminal. They paid little notice to the family entourage on their way to the waiting aircraft.

Two men, joking between themselves, fiddled with last minute adjustments to their golf bags before handing them over to the copilot who stored them in the plane’s cargo belly along with the luggage from the limo driver.

The father said his good-bye.

“Don’t go,” begged his daughter, a plea, tears welling in her eyes.

“Only three nights in Chicago.”

“Don’t go.”

“Honey, I know you’re not feeling well. I wish I could stay, but this trip is part business, and important.” He pointed to the nurse nearby.

“Doris will take good care of you.” He paused. “And there’s your mom to help.”

“No, my Mother can’t help.” The girl snapped. The father nodded a silent understanding. His wife existed in a hazy world of morning
Screwdrivers and evening Cosmopolitans.

The father withdrew from his coat pocket a small rectangular box covered in ivory wrapping paper and tied with pink ribbon.

“This is for you. Open it after I’m gone. When we meet again it will be in the Garden of Allah.”

He kissed her. She hugged back with sobs, clinging for long moments before he gently broke free. She watched him shake hands with his friends, jovial, as they all boarded the private jet. He turned and waved to her.

A minute later, as the girl watched, the plane exploded.

2. Sputtering Torch -- Present Day

What day was this? Yes, he knew. The reporter would return tomorrow with the manuscript. He had been asked to read what the reporter had written, proof his stories. The best time would not be in his cell, but when they took him to the clinic for dialysis. Usually, he just lay there and read crap historical romance novels. Bodice-rippers. French tickler trash.

With no kidney function he was trapped within two prisons, one self-made from a life of excess. Both would hold him close until he gave up this mortal coil and they shipped his wrinkled husk to some medical school; where when they’d weigh his brain, and the professor would ask his students, “How could this brain create so much evil?”

At least his steady addiction to showgirls and double shot booze had not taken his liver or he’d be dead by now. The kidneys went instead. The price of life required cleaning his blood three times a week.

He found himself in the exercise yard. He started his ritual walk, an easy pace, to keep his heart strong, his legs from atrophy of prison confinement. As usual he found himself left alone. No fun for them to hassle a hunch-shouldered ill, old man. He had his stories if any wanted to hear, but none did, until the reporter came with his tape recorder. He tried to remember. Almost four months ago. At first he didn’t want to talk, but the distraction of a visitor drew him in and the reporter seemed to have clout to give him more time for his recollections.

He sensed his memory slipping away; he noted his oral history lost a few facts here and there and he had started mixing up names. The reporter bore saintly patience and they went over the stories several times, which he enjoyed retelling. The reporter had this cockiness, like he himself strutted in the old days. The reporter said his stories would be the crux of a best seller. So he told his stories glossing over the incriminating, skipping the damning.

Vagueness descended about his last showgirl, the bitch, as a sob sister on the witness stand, caused his incarceration. He did not want to admit aloud to a damn reporter, or even to himself, his last years had been downward, booze and pimping a stable of has-been line dancers turning tricks. He shouldn’t have kept beating her. She was stiffing him, doing freebies behind his back. Horribly mangled, she lived. Why did they have to throw the book at him? He knew. Because he ran with a bad crowd and they never could tie him to the robberies, especially to the Cassandra heist. Can’t get him on that score, so crucify him on beating up a hooker!

He didn’t care about the future. Today, sunny weather lay in the forecast. His body flowed with cleansed blood. The reporter would arrive in the afternoon and he could see on paper what stories he had told best.

Someone blocked his path.

“Gotta moment, pops?”

He didn’t recognize the inmate. The Hispanic accent and tattoos gave him away as East L.A. Probably one of those Barrio Locos gang members. A lot of those spic beaners were cutting into the Bloods crack trade in Vegas. The justice system juked the stupido ones who got caught. He tried to stay invisible. Ignore the prison culture, let the gangs strut and fight for their few yards of celled-in turf.

“I gotta letter for you.”


The gangsta mailman flashed a small envelope from his pants.

“Padrino. Came from the outside for you personally. Look at it over here.”

He knew few people who could have sent messages or had the juice to smuggle him gifts, some hooch. Until the reporter, and two of his old comrades two weeks ago, no one came.

Like a curious mutt he followed the Hispanic inmate over to a side wall .

“Sit here, old man. I’ll give you some shade.” A white plastic chair they used over at the weight training area was shoved under his butt. He did not like to be called ‘old’. All his stories to the reporter were of vigor and youth, of screwing and drinking. Rough times with no crap taken.

Placed in his hands, he opened the envelope to find a typed letter, no signature, no address.

Taking out reading glasses the first sentence began, ‘You may not remember, but let me tell you a story…” He liked stories.

Midway through the short letter, his expression changed, darkened, and he started to say, “What the…“ He tried to struggle up, but hands pushed him down.

“Finish the letter, Pops.” At the last sentence, the last word, shadows circled him. Two other men stood to his side, each etched with identical tattoos as the prison mailman’s. Out came a hand painted cardboard sign,

with a string rope, like a placard, and one of them slipped it over the elderly man’s head.

Confused, letter in hand, he read the placard. ‘Guess who?’ it read, ink-drawn names with empty spaces. Like that game show: industry pioneers theme, last name is, so first name is, _______ Hughes, ______ Dolittle. Fill in the blank. This was all about one of his stories, one that he did not tell, and never would. A story he had made himself forget, until now. The letter and sign brought it all

back, so vivid. He could fill in the blank, and in a whispered cough, uttered the name unspoken after all these years.

He relived that story, a crazed thrill long protected by omerta, a code of silence. He knew who had sent the message. His question as to why, why now, to what conclusion came too quick. The gang leader stuffed the letter in the old man’s mouth. As he gagged for air they pulled out hidden plastic soda drink bottles and poured the contents over him. One of the Barrio Locos lit a match.

The guards in the tower, those in the yard, became alert to a staggering fiery torch. Inmates backed away but stared with sick wonder. For a few brief moments the old man screamed, but his cries went unheard, silenced by the paper-gagged death warrant.

3. Slice of Life

The heavyset man stared at the immobile face of the statue and the unblinking bronze eyes. He cursed at what made him come to this particular place when he turned to see a gun pointed at his bloated belly. The gun leveled at him was his reality check. He had been suckered, simple as that.

Too many years of honest work made him rusty, like his arthritic knee that buckled in needles of pain as he fell, shoved to the ground. Damn grass stains. Somebody would pay, he winced. Being tied up, he noticed that the gun, a .22, not a good sign, lay out of his reach on the pedestal of the statue, like a reverent offering to a violent god. The rope thrown around him tightened and constricted his chest. He wondered if the angina would set his heart muscles into spasm.

“When my guys show up, any minute, you’re dead meat, asshole.”

Silence. He had no “guys” left he could count on. He knew that. Times had changed.

“Money, is that it? Take my wallet. Five bills.”


“What the hell do you want?”

His captor removed the face mask disguise. The old man stared with the sunlight in his eyes seeking recognition. Not a familiar face. He sputtered in surprise when he saw an ornate knife appear. He recognized the design, a type of silver dagger, similar to a knockoff brand he used to sell at his store for wall ornaments, mass-produced Persian kitsch.

Not this. This dagger was the real thing: a miniature scimitar, embellished on its polished scabbard with Farsi scrollwork, the hilt choked with semiprecious colored stones, highlighted by scattered sun-winking diamonds. He knew his antiques, a penchant for jewelry, his genetic desire to possess the beautiful, the unobtainable. Such a search brought him this day to the garden.

The knife slipped effortless from its silver sheath, glinting, blinding in the sunlight. The blade flashed razor sharp. Thrusting the dagger toward the old man, swiping the air in unknown magical designs, his captor spewed out words in lava-slow guttural anger.

“What the hell I want--is you to feel what my hell has been like!”

A past of ignoble deeds had prepared the old man his entire adult life for just such a moment, to be ready to accept without fear his own death. He steeled himself to handle the swift, merciful bullet, having always expected in all his years that gunshots by perpetrators unknown would be the impetus of his obituary. Not like this. Before the first slice, he prayed for the sudden heart attack he had always prayed not to have. At each incision of pain his captor told the story of why he was going to die. As his flesh parted in delicate butterfly flaying, his eyes widened in recognition of the tale and he started begging for his life, realizing all the while his sin weighed too great for earthly forgiveness.