The Secret History of Las Vegas

The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

Book: The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani Read Free Book Online
Authors: Chris Abani
discipline he knew well. When he was a boy, his father, a former sharpshooter from the British Army, had been very active in the ANC’s armed wing. Many a Boer policeman had fallen to his skill.
    He sometimes took Eskia with him. Together they would cross the vast desert of stubby grass and garbage that marked the divide between Soweto and Johannesburg. Keeping to sewers, culverts, and other places only the blacks knew about, they would travel for miles in the night, Eskia bearing the weight of his father’s Lee-Enfield rifle. By all expectations, a Lee-Enfield wouldn’t make a very good sniper’s weapon with its limited range, but the caliber was solid, and in the right hands even a boomerang was a deadly weapon. A relic of the First and Second World Wars, it should not have fired evenly. But Eskia’s father kept the rust away with oil and a leather rag and a high-caliber bullet. In his expert hand, that projectile could travel nearly a quarter of a mile to bury itself into the resolve of his chosen target.
    At first light they would arrive on the edge of a leafy, tree-shaded suburb and, climbing a select tree, they would sit the whole day, unmoving, until at dusk, just before the abrupt curtain of night, Eskia’s father would take the rifle from his son, hold it steady, and, with the tender caress of a whisper, pull the ratchet back. He would wait for a long moment and breathe slow, then he would squeeze the trigger, and before the crack could echo and reveal their location, they would be down the tree, melting back into the depth of night. Eskia, carrying the heavy rifle, always struggled to keep up. But this one time he tarried and saw the target fall. A plump man in his forties with a shiny bald spot. He saw a child running down a garden path to meet him. And then he saw the spurt of blood obliterating the bald spot and darkening the face of the child. And then Eskia turned away and ran after his father in the dark, the weight of the rifle heavier than usual.
    He turned back from the view of Vegas, put his coffee mug down with exaggerated care, and walked into the bathroom to shower. He had much to do.

Nineteen
    S alazar tipped the last of his coffee onto a white shell, staining it brown, flecks of coffee grounds standing out like black growths. He kicked sand at the shell, then watched the sun come up over Lake Mead. He was always amazed that something man-made here in the middle of the desert could look so natural and blue. The tire marks from the night before were still visible.
    Unable to sleep after signing the twins over to Dr. Singh, he had returned to the station, typed up his report, and then driven to Jake’s, an all-night diner off Fremont Street. His other favorite diner, right next door to the Gutenberg Museum on South Main, had gone out of business. Now it was a Chinese fast-food joint that closed at ten. When the Library Gentlemen’s Club and the Gun Store, on the other side of the museum, went out of business as well, he figured he should move on and so he’d migrated to this diner ten years ago.
    He liked the old parts of Vegas, ever since he moved here as a teenager. Parts that were now seedy and decrepit. Things seemed more honest here, less beguiling than the Strip or the new developments spreading into the desert. Jake’s had been in the same place for more than forty years, and it seemed that the staff hadn’t changed in that time either. It was the only place in Vegas that didn’t have any slot machines or gambling of any kind. Just a simple menu and a loyal clientele of people often down on their luck. He watched an old homeless man carry his bulldog past the diner, pause, then come in.
    Spare some change, he asked Salazar.
    Why the fuck are you carrying your dog, Salazar asked.
    He’s tired, the homeless man said.
    Who carries you when you’re tired?
    Jesus, the man said. Spare me a dollar?
    Get the fuck out of here, the cook yelled from the

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