As Dave Sloan is leaving for the
airport to pick up his wife, Tricia,
the phone rings. It’s the cops in Denver . His wife
is dead. Her nude body was found that
morning in a hotel room at the Bellagio. Las
Dave is stunned and devastated. He thought she was in
at a week-long teachers’
conference. A lie, of course, concocted
by Tricia, who flew to Phoenix ,
then drove to Vegas to meet her Internet lover, the handsome, charming, and
very much married Joe Daggett of Phoenix . Chicago
When Joe can’t join her, Tricia’s a mess. He calls a close friend, Al Posey, who lives in Vegas, and asks him to take her to dinner. Al and Tricia hit it off and wind up in bed. On Saturday morning, he walks out of her hotel room at nine. Three hours later, her lifeless body is found by a maid.
A DEAD END IN VEGAS is a searing exploration of how Tricia Sloan’s tragic, mysterious death shatters, and later transforms, the lives of her family and friends.
For More Information
- A Dead End in Vegas is available at Amazon.
Slipping and sliding along Colorado 91 in the near white-out, Randy
looked in the rearview mirror and spotted a Colorado Highway Patrol car. Sarah, who remembered every detail of the trip, told me later that he panicked.
“Damn!” he cursed, pounding the steering wheel and pointing behind
them. Sarah turned and saw the police cruiser; her eyes widened and dazed. With her hand over her mouth, she made a sound part gasp, part groan.
“My dad must’ve called them,” Randy shrieked. “They’re gonna take me in for armed robbery!”
“No they won’t,” Sarah cried, gripping his arm. “We’ll be in Leadville soon. They’ll never find us there. In a day or two, we’ll leave for California. My Grandpa’s out there--he’ll help us!”
Randy glanced over at her and nodded. He was now driving as fast as he could, but in the rushing torrent of snow, visibility was failing, and, at 10,000 feet, the old Subaru was suddenly wheezing as if for breath. When Randy muttered something about engine trouble, Sarah buried her head in her hands and started crying. He reached over and patted her leg.
As they approached the farm community of Gage, 10 miles outside of Leadville, the highway cops were still on their tail. A wave of hopelessness and betrayal swept over Randy as he thought of his own father calling the police to turn him in. But in fact, the cops’ presence had nothing to do with Dave. It had to do with Randy’s reckless driving. He was swerving wildly in and out of icy, snow-packed lanes, endangering his own life as well as Sarah’s and everyone else’s on the road.
In a state of exhaustion and panic, they stopped briefly at a liquor store in tiny Bardsville. There Sarah loaded up on snacks and Randy bought vodka with a fake ID. In the parking lot, blanketed with over a foot of heavy, sodden snow, the two teens huddled in the freezing Subaru, scarfing down Cheetos and Pop-Tarts. As she gulped milk from a quart-size carton, Sarah felt queasy. A panic attack was coming on. When she told Randy, he stroked her hand, took another swig of vodka from a half-pint wrapped in a brown paper bag, and popped a couple more freshly stolen Dexedrine. Sarah stared at him, alarmed and terrified, but also adoringly.
There was one more stop to make, but it had to be fast. While Randy filled
the tank at a Conoco station, Sarah trudged through the thick, frigid snow in her beige suede loafers to a distant, battered door marked “Ladies.” Jerking it open, she gingerly stepped inside the filthy, broken-down restroom. As she perched on the grimy toilet seat, blasts of frigid air and snow sliced through a round hole in the door where the lock had been ripped out. It took a while, but she finally stopped shaking long enough to pee on a solid block of ice.
Back on the road, with the snow coming down harder and heavier, they maneuvered west toward Copper Mountain, the bustling ski resort nestled in the Arapahoe National Forest. Leadville, the old silver-mining town high in the central Rockies that they were running to, was still a tortuous 23 miles distant, a 45-minute ride in good weather, but much longer in this storm. At 10,000 feet it was a sullen, slate-colored Victorian mining town with a rowdy past that was fondly known as “the ice-box of Colorado.” A good place to hunker down in. No one would ask questions.
They almost made it.
Dave interrupted Pam.
“Excuse me,” he said sharply. “Your husband claimed the suggestive e-mails were written by a hacker? Who on earth could that be?”
“How should I know?” she snapped. “Maybe some
disgruntled student who didn’t like the grade they got on a term paper, or a tech major trying to make a name for himself. This is a college campus. There are always precocious students who are bored with regular class-work and amuse themselves by hacking into professors’ e-mail accounts to make trouble. They have some laughs over a few beers and move on to the next victim. It’s everyday life on a college campus.”
“So you’re telling me that my wife was an Internet
stalker, and the e-mails and photos came from some student hacker?”
“Yes, that’s right,” she confirmed with a nod. “My husband was the victim, not the perpetrator.”
“Excuse me, Mrs. Daggett, but I can’t sit here and listen to this garbage one more minute. Your husband is a liar!” Dave charged, rising from his chair and grabbing his briefcase. He opened it with a flourish and dumped the contents on her desk.
The shameful circumstances of Tricia’s death left Dave unhinged and in shock. He thought he knew this woman, his own wife, but he really didn’t. She was going through a rough time, worse than any of us could have imagined. She felt lost in her marriage. She was devastated by Dave’s affair, but didn’t want to leave him. He was the only real security she’d ever known. But she couldn’t see spending the rest of her life with him either. Her identity, and maybe even her sanity, were at stake. The Internet affair with Joe was a means of escape, a way to find some relief from the pain and confusion.
Tricia had also just turned 50 and, for the first time in her life, felt insecure about her looks. I thought of the photos I had taken of her at a picnic in the mountains last summer. She kept begging me to take more because she couldn’t stand to see the fine lines, tiny jowls, and strands of grey. She had been a stunning girl, a teenage beauty queen, and now she was a prisoner, in a sense, of her own midlife. She was groping for some way to make sense of it, trying to protect herself from the uncertainty of her future and a lack of confidence in her past. That’s a pretty delicate, treacherous place to be: uncertain about your future, and full of doubts about your past. What kind of present do you have when you’re wedged between those two?
Seven o’clock came and went. No phone call, and the snow continued to fall. Dave was becoming more and more desperate. Our old friend and neighbor was losing it now, marching in small circles around the kitchen, occasionally halting to pound the butchers’ block with a tightly clenched fist. Outside, darkness had descended as the wind howled and the storm tightened its grip. Lehigh Street was empty and forlorn, a frozen tableau where nothing moved and an occasional flickering porch light was the only sign of life.
Shortly before 10, I glanced out the picture window, now nearly shrouded with ice, and made out what appeared to be a pair of headlights inching ever so cautiously through the drifts. I looked again and couldn’t believe my eyes. A boxy, high-riding vehicle, like a Jeep, had just turned and was heading down Dave’s driveway toward us. Before we knew it, we heard car doors slam and then the heavy thumping of boots on the porch steps. Two sets of them. And then the harsh, grating sound of the doorbell. Two long, sharp buzzes, like a dentist’s drill. The shrill buzzing cut through the house and brought us all to attention. In this weather, at this hour, who could it be?
About the Author:
Irene Woodbury’s second novel, A DEAD END IN VEGAS, is a dark, probing look at marriage, infidelity, revenge, and grief. Immersing herself in drama and dysfunction for months on end was a challenge for this upbeat author, whose first book, the humor novel A SLOT MACHINE ATE MY MIDLIFE CRISIS, was published by SynergEbooks in 2011. At first glance, the two novels seem quite different, but both deal with midlife confusion and chaos, and the complexities and unpredictable nature of the human heart. And both, of course, are partially set inFor More Information
a city Irene got to know well during her years as a travel writer. Between 2000 and 2005, her stories appeared
in major newspapers in the Las Vegas ,
and Canada Europe. Irene, who graduated from the in 1993, lives in University of Houston with her husband,
Richard, a retired correspondent for Time Magazine who edited both of her
novels. The couple miss traveling, but,
after two novels, Irene insists there’s no greater journey than the one into
your own heart and mind. Denver
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