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Sunday, July 31, 2016
SUNDAY REVIEW / PREVIEW OF WORLD OF HURT, A NOVEL
The following is a
PillartoPost.org exclusive preview of the first chapters from the World
of Hurt: A novel of Las Vegas by Richard J. Pietschmann, a Los
Angeles-based journalist and screenwriter.This is his first novel.
first three chapters begin the saga of three generations of fathers and sons in
the Las Vegas Valley. It combines fictional characters and events with real
people and historical facts as they unfold over more than half a century,
beginning in the 1950s and continuing through today.
swung his pickup into the Lucky’s crowded lot, David Alan Coe’s cheery tales of
misfortune and heartache keeping him company. Sunrise was an hour away in the
dusty furnace of a Mojave summer. At this time of night or morning—whichever
one made you feel better about yourself—it was never easy finding a place to
park. Tightly packed working-stiff cars and big-tired trucks pulled in at
random angles of hostility reminded him of ants around an ice cream cone melted
on the ground. Lucky You sputtered the sign, an upraised middle finger to the
generally luckless who were the usual patrons of the cinderblock saloon. Of the
many stories available, Randy’s favorite fingered the Lucky’s original owner
back in 60s as the one who thought up that sign. He was an Elvis impersonator
until he aged out, just as everyone in Vegas eventually does, including the
finally shoehorned into a spot and got out just as a nervous wind began
swirling and blew hardpan grit into his eyes. That’s when noticed the big
spit-shined truck idling hard and leaking equally loud country music through
tightly closed windows. Inside was a counterfeit cowboy under an imitation
cattleman hat. He was enjoying a fat joint, cranking air keeping him cozy.
considered for a moment, understanding it was that sour time of day when
violence comes easy to those with a talent for it. He walked over anyway and
rapped on the window. The boy inside turned an irritated face his way and
cracked the window an inch or so. Out rushed a nasal singer’s voice dispensing
advice to get drunk and be somebody.Randy wondered what had happened to the real country that George and
Hank and Waylon had made.
smoker scowled and yelled over the din. “The fuck you want?”
gave him a friendly nod and made the roll-the-window-down gesture.
wasted no time coming down angrily. “Yeah, asshole?”
saw that the boy was on the touchy side.
about putting out the doobie, partner,” Randy said, not a speck of antagonism
in his voice.
offended smoker sized up the dipshit in front of him, one who appeared to be an
accountant and didn’t even have proper headgear. He leaned his head and
about I kick your ass instead,” he said, punctuating his threat with jabs of
stared hard at Randy the way he had practiced in mirrors, took a deep toke,
held it in and blew the smoke directly at him.
unmistakable aroma of high-octane weed hit Randy in the face. He nodded
pleasantly and slowly raised an arm to scratch the back of his head, the move
lifting his untucked shirt high enough to reveal the butt of the Glock. The
boy’s eyes went straight to the big semi-automatic with 17 rounds in the
magazine, probably another one already in the chamber, the way cops liked to do
more than 34,000 citizens holding carry permits in Clark County and countless
thousands more who believed they had that right, it was sound survival policy
to show you were armed before somebody got it into his head to become frisky.
Afterward could be too late for everybody.
dug out his badge, held it out and smiled.The boy’s eyes went from the Glock to Metro’s star.
lucky day, partner.”
Shotguns and Hand Grenades
and carefully, the newly reasonable boy snuffed the joint, the thick, calloused
fingers the kind usually found attached to linebackers and construction
workers. Making sure his hands remained in plain view, he placed the doobie
gently on the dashboard. Just as easy, he pointed inquiringly at the controls
with a forefinger, Randy noting with some amusement it was missing its tip.
Receiving an affirmative nod, the truncated digit moved forward to shut down
the wheezy gale and wheezier music. The calmed outlaw then moved his hands high
on the steering wheel and held on tight, the knuckles showing white in the
perpetual glow from the big casino hotels over on the Strip. He looked at Randy
with what he calculated to be a contrite expression.
gratified Randy that this one was experienced in the drill that kept the odds
in favor of not getting shot.
your name, cowboy?” Randy said.
knew the weed meant Henry would have trouble with names. “Thank you, Henry. My
name is Detective Montgomery, but you can call me detective.”
Henry, I’m thinking you’re aware the weed is clear probable cause.”
stared at Randy, blinked twice and swallowed but said nothing. His brain was
working hard but getting nowhere.
would have to move things along.
Henry, what further inquiry might reveal is unknown at this point.”
let him think that over too.
I should worry about before we proceed?”
knew what that meant. Keeping his hands where they were, he indicated the space
behind the front seats with his nose. “Got a pump shotgun back there.”
looked and saw the gleam of a blued double-barrel.
looked confused. “No point to an unloaded shotgun.”
nodded at the reasonable answer. “Handgun?”
was confused again.
a joke, Henry,” Randy said, even though there was reason to think it was no
joke at all.
forced a polite chuckle.
Henry, do you happen to be familiar with Nevada statute one ninety-three point
wrinkled his brow, numbers not his strong suit.
obliged. “It’s about controlled substances.”
sat quiet and still, a learned response.
prompted him. “The marijuana, it’s a small amount for personal use?”
brain seemed to be making a comeback. Randy proceeded on that theory. “No more
than an ounce, Henry, long as it’s a first offense or even a second, that’s a
let’s say this is a fourth encounter with law enforcement involving weed, but
still an ounce or less on your person or in your vehicle.”
let that information make its way to its destination.
well, depending on past events in your life and how a prosecutor annoyed he’s
up late feels—and what a possibly aggrieved judge that might got woke up
decides—it could get bumped to a Class E Felony.”
stopped and looked without malice at Henry. “In that case, Henry, a conviction
could mean five thousand dollars plus four years state time.”
saw reefer panic shove aside dope intoxication in Henry’s eyes—his brain had
checked back in.
Henry, more than an ounce of weed, or possibly another controlled substance in
your truck, that’s a whole other ball game. Some energetic young ADA might get
possession to sell into his head—and that puts your Class D Felony on the
let it sink in.
know one of the penalties then?”
tried for helpful. “Jail time, bigger fine?”
nodded. “Sure, that, but it could also mean—”
swept his glance admiringly along the flank of the cherry truck with its
intricate airbrush painting of flames that ended at the rear wheel well in a
large-breasted fantasy woman with her hair on fire.
judge could agree this fine vehicle was used in the commission of one or more
felonies and be inclined to order its seizure.”
hands now held a death grip on the steering wheel. Randy could now back off
said, “Turbo six?”
look of indignation came to Henry’s face. “No sir, the biggest eight Ford got.”
six doesn’t sound like it means business?”
sir, it sure don’t.”
the aluminum body working out?”
nodded. “I’m real careful.”
where and how the truck was parked, Randy wondered how careful Henry generally
was in life.
think we can agree, Henry, what a shame it would be if you lost this fine
machine. So here’s what I think. I take your word about the dope and the firearms
and assume any mischief you’ve got going is reasonably minor. In return, you
agree to quit smoking and see the benefit to society of not driving until
you’re no longer impaired—”
looked at Henry’s eyes.
according to your pupils is two hours easy.”
paused to give Henry a moment to ponder that.
you agree, Henry, I’ll let you be. But I’ll get your plate, and if the truck’s
not here when I get back in an hour or so, I’ll know you could be threatening
taxpayers with vehicular mayhem. Then, naturally, I would be professionally
obligated to call it in for the patrol cops to handle—and, naturally, I would
have to inform dispatch there’s at least one loaded weapon involved.”
was certain that Henry was perfectly aware of the trigger-happy reputation of
Metro’s fine uniformed personnel.
was too stunned to speak, but his hat bobbed in quick agreement. Never before
had he encountered such a reasonable lawman offering such an unusual deal. The
cop hadn’t called in, hadn’t ordered him to exit the vehicle for a pat-down,
and hadn’t even asked for ID. His newly alert brain told him to just shut up.
his part, Randy was pleased that Henry was sufficiently toasted to buy into
such a farfetched scenario. Fighting crime sometimes took creativity if you
didn’t want to end up spending a large portion of your life in front of a grand
jury, or worse, trapped in the lieutenant’s office enduring his disdainful gaze
and wordy lecture full of obscure references you were supposed to appreciate.
said, “Henry, Vegas Metro is grateful for your cooperation.”
just stared at him, afraid to say anything that might change his luck.
took out his phone and pointed it at Henry, gesturing for him to face it. Henry
understood that the cop wanted to take his picture, but he was unsure how to
pose for a cop. He swiveled that way while keeping his hands carefully in place
and grinned like it was a prom picture. Randy snapped it, smiled at the image
he saw and turned the phone toward Henry. The distressed look meant Henry saw
an image of himself nothing like the one he cherished in his head. That might
be punishment enough for one night.
Henry would honor their agreement, maybe he wouldn’t. It was the worst kind of
decision for such a boy to make. You took your humor where you could in a town
leaned his hat out, keeping his hands high on the wheel. “I don’t mean nothing,”
he said. “You just don’t look like a cop.”
took a picture of the truck’s license plate and turned to walk toward the
Lucky. Over his shoulder he said. “Have a good day, Henry.”
was nothing new. Randy’s look of choirboy innocence and lack of bullshit
swagger meant he was never figured for a cop. Of course, no one ever supposed
he was LDS either, the idea of a squeaky-clean Mormon being a cop in a city as
wicked and debauched as Las Vegas sounding preposterous. It no longer surprised
Randy that almost no one knew Mormons were there first, long before the
casinos, the sleaze and the gangsters—or that there had always been plenty of
them on the police force.
me,” he would say whenever the subject came up. “Just like my daddy and his daddy
before him, Mormon cops in Vegas.”
is Los Angeles-based Richard Pietschmann’s first novel, but he has vast
professional writing experience, much of it positive. He has written hundreds
of pieces for numerous national publications such as Travel & Leisure,
Outside, Playboy, The New Yorker and Bon Appetit, regional ones like Los
Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego magazines, and those airline magazines
everyone loves. He wrote monthly
columns about music and travel for Los Angeles magazine, travel for Diversion
magazine and film for San Diego magazine. Other magazine credits: west coast
editor for Departures and special projects editor for Running. He has written
2-1/2 unproduced screenplays, which relatives insist are of great promise; one
was rejected because it had (this is a direct quote) “too many words.” Over the
years, he learned to view expertise with skepticism, including his own. He
regards dental plans as the Holy Grail of the writing game.