Still In The Past
Las Vegas, Nevada was one of Randolph's few notable vices. He could pretend to distain the adult Disneyland while thriving on all the random anarchy it generated. We had headed there once a month or so if our schedules permitted. It would be mid-week usually, because of my business, but I enjoyed the shows and shopping for different items not readily found in the LA malls. I liked to purchase Native American jewelry and New Mexico art pieces as gifts. Las Vegas tended to have more than most folks realized snuck into various corners of the city. While Randolph was only there for the gambling. I was amazed that I hadn't noticed how hopelessly addicted Randolph had become to games of chance, rarely skill. While I would take a turn or two at the blackjack tables, Randolph would only play roulette and in the worst case of boredom, he would play craps. Both of his favorite games were more of an unpredictable nature than I felt comfortable playing.
When my company was especially busy, like the holiday season or the wedding months of June through September, we wouldn't always go together. I didn't get the time. But often Randolph and I would go together, and since he golfed with some regularity and I erroneously assumed that was what he did during the down time between playing the tables when he wasn't with me.
So some days while in Las Vegas I would go one direction while he went another. At times we would meet up with Marge and some faceless friends she always had puppy-dogging along with her. I would occasionally bring along my chefs and assistants to give them a chance to blow off some steam. Randolph had a condominium there that was part of his family holdings. I would always put a guest up in the Desert Inn or one of the other quality hotels on the strip.
Randolph derided my choices, saying they were too tame and only old people went to those places. I always welcomed such a change of pace after hard work and long hours I'd put in during the month. I defended myself with saying there was a wonderful spa at the Desert Inn, which I enjoyed on a regular basis. Now I knew Randolph had met Marge for some weird sexual liaison during the Las Vegas trips. My lawyer found evidence they had gone out often with each other, but no one working in the casinos would go on record saying anything bad about a rich client who lost regularly at their tables. He also got some snap shots of them looking far cozier than I was comfortable with in any manner.
This trip wouldn't take me to any of the usual spots. At the last open rest stop before the city of Las Vegas I started on my new path. Seeing how there was nobody parked in the lot I elected to do my subterfuge without spectators. Using the edge of my keys I scraped open my hand. I splattered the dripping blood over the front of the dashboard. I took out the gauze I had brought to stop the blood and tore the ends and bound it around my hand tying the knot with my teeth. The coppery scent was clean and final. I really wasn't going to turn back now. The throb of my pulse along the edge of my hand kept tempo with my rapid heart. I was nervous.
From the trunk I removed a plastic bag of pre-collected trash. For the few weeks I'd been gathering up food wrappers and discarded cups while wearing gloves from behind my apartment complex. Sending a prayer heavenward, I hoped all of my neighbors had their typical Friday night parties going, as their patterns had been for every weekend since I'd moved in, and they could firmly establish their alibis. With a shrug I tossed the rubbish into the backseat from the passenger side. Cautiously keeping my hands in the gloves I didn't touch the debris in any way. The stuff I'd picked up had an especially large collection of candy wrappers. One hearty partier who'd kept me awake on more than one night with his literal yelping and howling at the moon had unknowingly supplied most of the candy trash. Snickering, I almost hoped that he didn't have a good alibi. Uncaring, I finished tossing the empty large plastic bag into a roadside garbage can while pulling other people's trash from the nearly-full can on top carefully.
Back on the road I pushed myself to finish what I'd started. It was with some trepidation that I had decided that I was going to abandon my car in one of the less desirable sections on the edge of town. All I had been through and all I'd seen in the past few months, I was stupidly worried about my car. The area I'd picked was on the brink of the growing city in one of the new places under construction. There were stacks of tattered boxes and various remains junked around at the end of an abandoned job site. I'd found over the years that the boom and bust areas of Las Vegas varied with the changing toss of dice and companies moving in and out of town. What was being built up one day would be left until more money poured into town. Some companies would have to refinance or sell off sites before the project was finished and the finished homes were even on the market. This creates an eerie netherworld of rats -- both man and animal kinds.
The particular site I'd found was an ideal choice for a few reasons. A week or so before, the LA Times had covered a story about a man who'd been nearly beaten to death earlier in the month. He'd been a transient down on his luck and made some misstep in the city. The police had found him dumped near the abandoned construction site I was now pacing. The newspaper mentioned how the local police were working hard cracking down on the homeless and shiftless sorts who freely wandered the areas. Add in that it was a block and half from the bus stop. There were quite literally tons of junk surrounding the area. The added attraction was the lack of visible lights on the street. The road was only half-constructed and not on any real maps yet.
Opening up my car door and getting out into the warm still night air I gave my car a soft pat of goodbye. I took my keys and jammed the car door key around the lock as if someone was using a key and missing the keyhole. The scrapes were raw and fresh giving me a nasty sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Shuffling my feet around the ground, which was basically sand so naturally dry and gritty, I then tossed the keys as far as possible into the desert wilderness. Next I pulled my backpack purse apart and threw down my library card, pocket book memorabilia and other debris I'd gathered over the past few months since my last purse was stolen. I still wanted to know what loser in my world had mugged me. My bet was still on Randolph and his friends.
I kept the money from my wallet and stuffed the half ripped purse underneath the car with the strap stuck out in the dirt visible to anyone walking by the car. My undershirt was a basic cotton tank top. A light jacket and a long sleeved denim shirt over the tank added to my 'normal' ensemble. The hiking boots were sturdy and I'd been wearing them for two months breaking them in and making sure they were considered part of my normal dress. I mentally shrugged then yanked the jacket through the brush where I'd tossed my keys towards earlier.
Now the hard part was ahead. I walked away, taking care to step only on the rocks. The shirt I'd worn over my shell top was tied around my waist because the desert air wasn't cool by any stretch of my imagination and my tank top was plenty of coverage. I twisted my way down the rocky path, avoiding the sharp rocks and sheets of metal pieces torqued along the ground like stones. As I headed for the road, I tried to keep to the path. Shivering in the cooling air, I kept to the gutter that ran along the side of the half-framed houses, missing some of the larger debris. The rains made these desert gutters fairly deep and unfortunately, churned up even larger rocks than the scraps and bits I was avoiding on the road. It was thus that I was able to continue all the way over to the blacktop without crossing into the softer soil leaving any footprints. Seeing nobody at the first bus stop, I kept walking casually towards downtown. The breeze seemed to push me to the bright lights.
* * *
Near Indio County
I looked at Detective Michael Stockwell to see how well he was taking this all in, now that I'd now pretty much concluded my side of the story. We'd been left undisturbed thoughout the day and now evening was beginning to chase away the warm air. I sucked in a deep breath and decided to test the waters.
"So, Michael," I began, "how is this stacking up? Now you see why your being on my doorstep might shake me up a bit?"
Michael looked more than a bit stunned during the past hour or so of my story. Somehow I'd got the impression he was expecting something completely different than the story I'd lived. Yet I felt so much better for having shared it with someone else. Perhaps there was another explanation for my fears, and I stupidly hoped that his background would provide one. Anything would be better than what I'd concluded. And I hadn't even told him about the vampires in Las Vegas. I still hoped they had nothing to do with me but wasn't sure of that anymore.
"Wow, Alanna, that is horrible. You think that Randolph really had something to do with all of the police reports disappearing?" his tone was vaguely upsetting to me. It seemed even dead Randolph still distracted folks from the truth. Hell, I shouldn't have been surprised but for some reason I felt something wither in me and die. Maybe I'd just wasted hours explaining my past for nothing.
"Randolph always had a very persuasive personality. If not, he just paid people off. Everyone I spoke with regarding all of the mess in my past were harmed in some way if they didn't cave. Not just those at work but also people I had considered my friends." I wasn't happy but trying to find out what the cop thought.
"Alanna," he started slowly, "I still don't know how it was that nobody could help you." Shaking his head he added, "It seems..." then he trailed off.
"Yes, doesn't it," I concluded, "but, what else could I do? My home was gone, my privacy invaded and I was harassed into hiding for fear of my life. That little attempt at stealing from my bank account was the final straw."
"And his cousin," Michael made a sour face at the idea. Which was more than I'd done. I was lucky I hadn't vomited all over them after seeing their idea of recreation.
"My attorney was horrified at his discoveries during the course of my divorce. Seems that Randolph and Marge were all but cats in heat. Everyone Mr. Clark contacted seemed to have his or her favorite sexual encounter with the couple. Apparently they were only discrete around me." I sighed.
"Mr. Clark said nobody had the guts to testify for me, but all were happy to tell their stories of chance encounters and what exactly they saw. Maids, gardeners and other Hagen household help had signed contracts with specific non-disclosure clauses regarding the family. But once Clark started asking questions, he kept being referred to other possible co-workers and past employees who might talk or perhaps didn't sign the same contracts. But in the end, everyone who worked in or around Rachel's house had contracts and were afraid to speak on record." I sucked in another deep breath. I still felt the pain from the stories that were told. Even if they never made their way into the legal records they still had the ring of truth. The pain was coupled with embarrassment at having been such a deluded fool for so long where Randolph was concerned. I hadn't even been in love -- just too comfortable in my life.