February 22, 2018

Vegas Snap Preview: Chapter 1

Billboard Corpse

(June 27, 2007. Mid-Morning)


“Where in hell is the victim’s head?” Detective Frank Stetson bellowed at his partner Billy Snow. Billy shrugged his shoulders. They both looked up at the headless man, hung upside down from the freeway billboard’s steel-grated platform. The swaying corpse seemed to be mocking the billboard’s message above, Own Your Dream Home: Low Down, Great Rates.

Frank was baffled by the missing body part. He planted the sole of his right shoe on the concrete base of the billboard’s high steel post, as if he was checking its stability. Then, he removed his shoe from the base. First, the detective mimed he was clutching the post. Then, he feigned he was shaking that metal cylinder. From the rocky vacant lot, Frank scanned the sky like a birdwatcher.

“What are you doing, boss?” asked Billy.

“Thought I might jiggle the head loose, that it could be stuck up there somewhere, and it would tumble down and land at our feet.”

“Come on, Frank. We look at two, three, maybe four corpses a month, but I’ve never seen you lose it like this. What’s eating you?”

“You could tell, huh? Well, it has nothing to do with work. Let’s just leave it at that, okay?”

“Okay. Just keep in mind this metal cylinder isn’t a goal post. Wouldn’t want to disturb the crime scene, right? It seems like you’ve never left the gridiron. Relax. At least pretend that it’s halftime.”

“Sure. But I do get a little edgy when I see a scene this brutal. My personal stuff must have magnified it. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t out on the playing field at all anymore, but instead up in that broadcast booth, just calling the game.”

“You are calling the game. But this game is murder.”

“Alright, I’m fine now, really. Thanks for the perspective.”

“Sure, partner, anytime” said Billy. “You see that Black Hearts nightclub over there? We already checked it out. They never heard a word or a sound outside last night. The club’s concrete block walls are thick enough to muffle the music inside so the residents down the street don’t complain. To make the interior even more quiet, the owner installed extra soundproofing.”

“If there’s no one at the club that can help us, how about the person who called in the crime?”

“It was an anonymous caller, but we traced his number to a cell phone owned by a Buddy Crawford. He’s coming in tomorrow for questioning.”

“We’ll see what this Buddy has to say. Tell me about the victim. Do we know who he is?”

“For now, we’ve identified him as Roger Blackstone. At least, that’s what the wallet says that we found here with his Nevada driver’s license, credit cards, and forty bucks. All we know about Blackstone so far is that he was a long-time Vegas builder.”

“Something else” Billy said. “This vacant lot we’re standing on. Joanna Jensen, our researcher, is checking with the county tax assessor to find out who owns it. You never know, could be a link between the lot’s owner and this crime.”

Again the detectives looked up, noticing the ropes tied to the dead man’s calves and ankles were also knotted around his pearl-studded cowboy boots. A single fixed pulley secured his beheaded body from the top of the left-side platform of the billboard. Because so much of the victim’s blood was found at the scene, it was likely the murder took place on this lot.

Soon the Clark County Coroner’s Office would remove the body, still fully clothed in jeans, leather belt, and a green-and-yellow plaid shirt. Then the forensics team would take over, working its magic. But the corpse, with its crucial missing evidence, would pose quite a challenge: No talking head.

Squinting through the hazy yellow-orange light, and shading their eyes as if they were taking a snapshot of the dangling man, the Vegas cops knew there was nothing routine, nothing routine at all, about how this late June morning had started.

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    1. Jordan Iversen says:

      Hi Paul,

      I really liked this sample chapter! I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book!



    2. Julia Grace Vogel says:

      I love this story’s ironic dark humor!

      • Regii says:

        Five years? Wow!Having heard of this only now, that’s a bit late to start reading. Any chacne for the whole story to be available in pdf or epub format, once it’s complete, to put on my ebook reader?Cheers, Klaus

    3. marnya says:

      Great beginning! Felt I was there at Black Hearts only thank God, I wasn’t there…you gave it reality from sights to sounds!

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