By David Himmel
I told her I was going out. For a drive.
“Nowhere. A drive.”
She convinced me to let her ride along, the way she always convinced me to do things I didn’t want to do. But they always turned out being the right things to do in the end. Like moving in together and marrying her. Like buying the car. I wanted a black ’57 Chevy. She said that yellow and older would make the statement I wanted to make. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I told her.
“Everyone with a classic car is trying to make a statement,” she said.
I drove fast. Always. Especially at 4 a.m. It was the one hour when you could find Las Vegas quiet. The rain had cleared the sidewalks out, too. I drove faster. We kept the top down because it was still hot and the rain wasn’t heavy enough to soak us or hurt the upholstery. I had the pedal on the floor so hard that we were almost outrunning it.
“Slow down,” she said. “You’re getting cigar ash in my eyes.”
At a stoplight, I opened the glove box. The light turned green; I floored it and shifted into third before clearing the intersection as a pair of her sunglasses fell onto her lap.
“Safety goggles,” I said.
“Is this how you always drive?”
“This is how this car was built. A V8 is a terrible thing to waste.”
We tore through the streets as her sunglasses reflected the neon and the reflection of the neon in the rain’s forgotten puddles. If there were any graveyard-shift stragglers hitting jackpots, our engine drowned out the bells and computerized coins falling into the computerized metal bucket at the feet of the one-armed bandits. A lot of people complained about those kinds of modernizations of the town. I liked them. Modern convenience with the appearance of a flashier past.
“Slow down,” she said.
This is why I preferred driving alone. “Why would I ever want to slow down?” I asked.
“You don’t want to get a ticket.”
“For speeding? A badge of honor.”
“For having expired plates.”
Before moving to Chicago and winning Outstanding Writing & Series Premise at L.A. Webfest 2015 for scripting Greetings! From Prison, David Himmel was best known as Las Vegas oldies DJ Dr. Dave Maxwell.
By Jarret Keene
There’s always that instant with a deadly woman, a femme fatale, when you realize the rationalizations you’ve devised for continuing to see her, the excuses you’ve made for her cold behavior, have worked against you. Indeed, they’ve become the threads of tensile she uses to test for vibrations, the strands she measures to determine precisely when you’ve committed your first big blunder. You’ve had nightmares about such moments, and in them there’s a horrific noise happening—like a car motor being revved. Sensing you’re stuck, she glides toward your heart. When she finds that pumping organ, she does what comes naturally: She bites hard, injecting you with venom.
Then she wraps you in silk, liquefies your intestines and cannibalizes your skull.
Stare at a black widow in the daylight all you want; only at night does her erratic yet sexy web, her chaotic yet enticing mesh, catch your skin. You begin noticing odd things, like how she asks you to pull the car over. You do it because you don’t want to seem intimidated. You’re a man, unruffled. You prop up a girl’s vision of the world. Even if the girl is lethal and her world is painted in blood. If only she weren’t so incredible in the sack.
You bring the car right up against the brick of a Las Vegas weekly motel.
“Headlights are dimming,” she says, removing lip gloss from her purse. For a second you worry it’s a pistol.
“The lamps are fine,” you say.
“They’re flickering,” she says. “Get out and check.”
You grip the wheel and take a deep breath.
“Jesus,” she says, pausing with the gloss to chuckle. “Scared of the dark?”
Without shutting off the car, you open the driver-side door. You make your way between the headlights and the motel.
All you see is radiance. You pull down the brim of your hat and plunge your hands into your jacket.
And you wait for the inevitable sound of an engine being gunned.
A UNLV English professor, Jarret Keene edited the fiction anthologies Las Vegas Noir and Dead Neon: Tales of Near-Future Las Vegas.
By Mercedes M. Yardley
Tarja was the kind of woman who would hold her own umbrella, but only if she ran out of other options.
“Good to see you, Craig,” she said. Her voice was polite enough. It almost sounded warm. She linked her arm through his and Craig knew they looked romantic to any outsider, except for the sharp blade pressing into his side.
“And you, darlin’? Careful with that knife. This is a new coat.”
“You look dashing, as always.”
“And you look beautiful in your red lipstick.”
Small talk was never part of their equation. Tarja was silent for a moment, and Craig knew her well enough to guess she was choosing which version of the truth to tell him.
“I need your help,” she finally said.
She looked up at him, her dark hair falling over one eye. The other was full of hope and suspicion and secrets.
“There’s a company that I want to take over,” she said. “The old-fashioned way.”
“Any reason why you don’t want to simply buy them out?”
Life sparked in her eyes. “Perhaps. But this will be so much more fun, won’t it? Like old times.”
The old times left them with broken bones, broken relationships and a lifetime of looking over their shoulders. There was something deeply personal at play here. Craig intended to find out what it was.
“I assume you have a plan.”
She smiled and it was the deadliest of sunshine. “Oh, lover. I always have a plan.”
She stood tiptoe to kiss him. She tasted like grenadine and tragedy, and he knew he’d fall for it every time.
Las Vegas horror writer Mercedes M. Yardley is the author of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy and Bram Stoker Award winner Little Dead Red.