Tricia always said that Dave had his share of flaws as a husband, but he
was a great father. It was true. From the day his son was born, he was
devoted. When Randy was a baby, he carried him everywhere and changed,
fed, bathed, and dressed him. During his toddler years, the hands- on
dad drove him to nursery school every day and volunteered for
story-and-snack time once a week. When Randy joined Cub Scouts, Dave
became a troop leader. He never missed a little league game and treated
both our boys to fishing trips in the summer and skiing and snowmobiling
expeditions in the winter.
During Randy’s pre-teen years, Dave stayed close. When he expressed an
interest in learning guitar, Dave paid for private sessions with one of
the best musicians in town. And the day his handsome son turned 16, Dave
bought him a shiny new red Jeep and signed him up for driving lessons. A
job at Marigold was in the works when Tricia died so that Dave could
teach his son the restaurant business from the ground up.
Randy had also been very close to Tricia. When she died, no one was hit
harder. One day he was a happy-go-lucky 16-year-old kid with two
attentive, adoring parents; the next he was an angry, sullen young man
whose mother had died under mysterious circumstances and who blamed his
father for it.
Trying to cope with all this took a terrible toll on Randy, who went
into a shell after Tricia died. One of the few times he emerged was at
her memorial service, where he stunned all of us with his drunken,
disheveled appearance, and ended up trading punches with his father. He
did settle down somewhat during the summer he spent with his
grandparents. But it was short-lived. By the fall of 2005, he was back
home and in full shutdown mode, cutting classes and spending most of his
time locked in his room with a blaring television. He wouldn’t answer
his phone or e- mails. He would just sit morosely on his bed,
unshowered, with dark circles under his eyes, watching sports while
downing any form of alcohol he could get his hands on.
I had known Randy since the day he was born, so watching this
slow-motion meltdown was painful. But there wasn’t much I could do. He
wouldn’t open up to Mike or me. He seemed completely lost and alone.
Ryan and Sarah were the only friends he still talked to. Sarah,
especially. She was one year younger. After Tricia died, Randy turned to
her more, Ryan less.
She was the same sweet girl she had always been, but her plump, gawky
stage was over. She was taller now, and coltish, with curves in all the
right places, long chestnut hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Very pretty.
I sometimes wondered if Randy had a crush on her. He was a great-
looking kid too, with a thick mane of shoulder-length light brown hair,
green eyes, slightly tanned skin, and a shadowy moustache over a full,
pink mouth. Maybe Sarah had a crush on him, too?
The first fall and holiday seasons without Tricia droned by. I barely
noticed the leaves changing on the aspens, skipped all of Ryan’s
football games, ordered in for Thanksgiving, and the Christmas tree
never even made it out of the box. “Joy To The World,” it was not.
My grief for Tricia was still all-consuming, but it was nothing compared
to what Dave and Randy were going through. Mike would tell me how
strained and tense it had become across the street, with loud
arguments--some of them even getting physical – raging for hours, or
long days of bitter silence behind slammed, locked doors.
Apparently there was no respite from the hostility, even on national
holidays. Thanksgiving 2005 was a total bust for the Sloans. Dave’s
parents had invited him and Randy to come out to
Evergreen for a traditional turkey dinner, but Randy refused to go so
they carted umpteen bags of groceries to Lehigh Street and cooked in
Tricia’s kitchen. Dave showed up at the table freshly shaved and
sober, but his son remained locked in his room watching football and
eating a hamburger from McDonald’s delivered by Ryan. Needless to say,
the day was ruined for Dave and his parents.
I was worried about both father and son, especially Randy. He’d always
been the sweetest, most trustworthy, dependable kid. But after Tricia
died, all that changed. And then, as the one- year anniversary of her
death approached, he did the most unbelievable thing. He went to Las
The trip seemed sudden at the time, but, based on the details my kids
got later from Randy, it was well-planned and methodical. To raise money
fast, he took some pieces of Tricia’s gold jewelry to a pawn shop on
Colfax Avenue and hocked them for several thousand dollars. Then he
bought a one-way bus ticket.
On a cool, rainy Friday night in May 2006, he threw some things in a
knapsack and locked his bedroom door with the television blaring so Dave
would think he was still there. Leaving his Jeep in the driveway, he
took a cab instead to the Greyhound station in a seedy part of downtown
Denver he had never been to. At one am, the bus pulled out.
Thirteen long, grimy hours later, Randy arrived at the depot in downtown
Las Vegas. To get his bearings and stretch his legs, the rangy six-foot
man-child took a quick stroll around Fremont Street. What an eye-opener!
Under the warm, watchful gaze of Vegas Vic, the forty-foot neon cowboy
perched near 1st Street, Randy’s jaw dropped in amazement at all of
the lewd and bizarre sights. There were strip clubs with flashing signs
touting totally nude girls, shapely pole dancers in skimpy bikinis
writhing sensuously on bar tops, giddy showgirls in glittery get-ups
hamming it up with tourists, big-bellied cowboys barging in and out of
casinos, and even a few Mickey Mouse and Elvis-types popping out in the
Munching a red candy apple that served as breakfast, Randy edged further
down Fremont. Sprawling at 6th Street was the glitzy Spanish-ranch
casino, El Cortez. Its old-time Vegas charm captivated him. One look,
and images of tuxedoed Rat Packers swinging from chandeliers were
dancing in his head. He couldn’t resist a peek and wandered inside for
a quick spin around the vintage lobby. It was cool, lovely, and dark,
with soft lights gleaming on wood paneling and lush, brightly colored
carpets. The lanky youth wanted to sample the beckoning pleasures of the
adjacent casino, a gaudy mélange of blinking lights and clanging slots,
but he felt the lure of the Strip even more so he returned to the street
and asked a bellman to get him a cab.
The fifteen-minute ride along sun-baked Las Vegas Boulevard was replete
with more colorful revelations. Both sides were lined with
cheesy-looking motels and wedding chapels, raunchy strip clubs, taco
joints, and rickety wooden houses with chipped paint, bars on the
windows, and bail bond signs flickering in their front yards.
Closer to the Strip, things started changing big time. On the west side
of the boulevard, Randy gazed up at the towering Stratosphere. Then, a
few blocks further, the gaudy neon clown at Circus Circus, looking the
worse for wear, lurched into view, with the ratty-looking Riviera,
another relic from better days, glowering from across the street.
After stopping at a traffic-light in front of the sleek, bronze-hued
Wynn, curving softly and seductively like a massive slug of shaved
chocolate, the cab crawled into the heart of the Strip. Looming on both
sides of the palm-lined boulevard were the iconic mega-resorts Mirage,
Caesar’s, Venetian, and Treasure Island, each ablaze in neon glitter
and enticing come-ons.
Randy gave a hefty tip to the driver, who dropped him at the ornate
entrance to Bellagio. The
boy’s heart was set on staying in Room 1772 where his mother had died,
but since he was only 17, he couldn’t check in. Undeterred, he walked
back out to the Strip and crossed over to Planet Hollywood, where he
came upon a gaggle of scruffy young people handing out baseball-card-
like come-ons advertising sexy young females who could be delivered to
your door faster than a Domino’s pizza. Without a thought, he ordered
up a hooker who he figured could help him get the room. Yes, 17-year-old
Randy actually handed one of these hucksters $100 right there on Las
Vegas Boulevard and asked him to dispatch a girl who was over 21. I have
no idea how he came up with all this. But based on what he told my kids
later, I think he was desperate, at the end of his rope, needing to see
where his mother had died and wanting answers and closure.
The 22-year-old female promptly delivered to him in a van was a buxom
stunner from Kearney, Nebraska named Lola Ray. She was a sweet young
thing with cornflower-blue eyes, flowing blond tresses, and long, tanned
legs. They met under the Eiffel Tower at Paris and hit it off right
away. She told him he reminded her of her younger brother.
Randy bought her a burger at Mon Ami Gabi and told her he was 18 years
old, from Salt Lake City, and on a birthday-gift trip from his parents.
The shapely Lola, who was poured into clingy purple hot pants, a pink
tee shirt, and pink knee-high vinyl boots, told Randy about farm life in
Kearney, how boring it had been and how messed up her parents were. She
then went on about her new life on the Strip, where there was 24/7
glamour and excitement.
She had come to Vegas when she was just 20 years old with her
then-boyfriend, a professional poker player. But six months later,
before flying off to Dubai for a tournament, he dumped her and threw her
out of their suite at the Rio with just the clothes on her back. She
moved in with a girlfriend and found work waitressing in a coffee shop
at the Venetian. But paying the bills every month was a struggle, so
when a customer suggested a job as a “party girl” at Hot Strip
Babes, she went for it. The “20-minutes-or-less” delivery promise
kept her hopping, but she loved the flexible hours, and the pay was
After lunch, Randy and Lola walked across the Strip to the Bellagio,
where they checked into Room 1772 with Lola’s credit card. There was
nothing remarkable about the room. It was standard issue for a hotel on
the Strip: big and beige with too much furniture, a large flat-screen
TV, and a nice-enough view. When Randy gazed at the round, king-size bed
his mother had died in, a pungent wave of sadness swept over him. He was
suddenly overwhelmed by an image of her with that animal, Al Posey, and
the two of them were naked and all over each other having loud, rough
sex. Randy’s stomach knotted up. His heart felt like lead. He didn’t
tell Lola what was happening or why, but she noticed he was pale and
“What’s wrong lover-dude?” she purred, wrapping her long, tanned
arms around him and pulling him close. “Don’t you like the room?”
“The room’s cool, I’m cool,” he murmured, as he felt the
firmness and fullness of her breasts pressing against his boyish chest.
He was glad Lola was with him, but he wasn’t about to tell her his
real age or why he was here. And then he softened a bit and let himself
go as he inhaled her spicy perfume and the sweet, cotton-candy scent of
her hair. She felt so warm and willing, her lush curves kneading
perfectly into the hard contours of his chiseled young body.
Lola was still holding Randy, and then her soft, pink lips were kissing
his. It was warm and sweet and full. Not like an empty token-kiss
between a Vegas hooker and a gawky young virgin- boy from Denver. More
like a passionate intermingling of lips, tongues, and mouths between a
lost boy and girl discovering each other for the first time in a
cornfield in Kearney. Both of them were breathless with excitement, but
Randy was still trying to recover from the harrowing images of his
mother with Al, so he wasn’t especially interested at the moment.
Instead, the two awkwardly disengaged and then retreated to the casino
downstairs where they immersed themselves in slots. But it wasn’t
their day. After blowing through a wad of twenties with barely a ripple,
they strolled out of Bellagio and turned their attention to the Strip.
Like any other young couple, they meandered down the garish,
traffic-choked boulevard past bustling casinos, burger bars, and an
endless parade of panhandlers, showgirls, cartoon characters, and
musicians. While walking, they stopped to gawk at buskers; browsed in
gift shops overflowing with cheesy, bizarre trinkets, and treated
themselves to a white-knuckle spin on the towering roller coaster at New
York New York.
That night they made it to the south end of the Strip for a jousting
show with real horses and swords at Excalibur. Then they popped into
Dick’s Last Resort for $13 “Big Ass Burgers” washed down with
mojitos. Both of them savored the ambience of this loud, tacky saloon
just off the casino, where the waiters are in your face and the
customers wear white, condom-shaped paper hats with lewd musings
scrawled on them.
They were both fairly sloshed by the time they stumbled back to the
Bellagio, where they snuggled in bed and watched a movie. Then, I later
learned from my son--who got the lowdown from Randy--they had sex on the
same bed where his mother had committed adultery with Al the night
before she died. When Ryan told me this, I gasped. It seemed morbid and
almost gross, but also, in a way, sort of sad and poignant. I didn’t
know how to process it because I had never heard anything like it
before. Putting myself in Randy’s shoes, I tried to figure out where
he was coming from. I guess he was trying to reconnect to his mother,
trying to bond with her in some primal, intimate way. But through sex
with Lola? No matter how many times I turned it over in my mind, I
couldn’t quite figure out if I should be shocked and appalled or just
feel sorry for him.
Randy was drunk and it was his first time, but he told Ryan that Lola
made it good for both of them. She apparently really liked him and was
turned on by his sweetness, good looks, and buff young body. All in all,
I was the most flabbergasted by this part of Randy’s trip. Never in a
million years would I have guessed that his first time would be with a
hooker in Vegas. It sounds sort of funny when I put it that way, like a
cliché or a footnote in a raunchy Hangover movie, but when I heard all
this from Ryan my jaw dropped.
The next morning, while “Hot Strip Babe” slept, Randy took a shower,
got dressed, and prowled the halls searching for a maid. When he found
one, he pressed her with questions. Was she the one who had discovered
the dead woman in Room 1772 a year ago, he wanted to know? He confided
to her that the woman was his mom, and he had some questions. Before the
startled maid, who was Polish and spoke little English, could answer,
Randy started firing away.
“What did she look like when you found her? Was she still warm? Was
she breathing?” he wanted to know, staring in her eyes with an
intensity that was both alarming and riveting. “Did the paramedics
perform CPR?” he went on. “Did you see the guy she was with?” The
questions came fast and furious. The maid was stunned, taken aback. She
quickly begged off, trying to explain that when the body was found she
was at lunch and therefore missed the commotion. After expressing brief,
awkward sympathies, she shuffled off with her cart. But later, when she
spotted the freshly showered Lola in a denim mini and red halter
prancing out of Room 1772, she grew suspicious and called her
Randy and Lola enjoyed a second day of fun on the Strip. Breakfast at
Denny’s was followed by another workout on the one-armed bandits.
Randy quickly won $200 on Wizard Of Oz. That called for a celebration,
so he promptly treated Lola to a lace teddy at Victoria’s Secret in
Caesar’s. Afterwards, they roamed around three floors of glitzy
boutiques in the Forum Shops
and browsed for high-end jewelry at Bijoux Babe.
That afternoon they came upon a liquor store in a grungy strip mall
across from Circus Circus
where Lola bought bourbon and vodka. Later, while she browsed in the
Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, Randy settled at a table in the
food court and sipped Smirnoff’s from a bottle concealed in a plastic
Amply fortified, he then tackled his next mission. He found a pay phone
in a hallway and rang up Al Posey, whose name and number he’d filched
from a legal pad in Dave’s office. When Al finally picked up, Randy
told him right off that he was Tricia Sloan’s son and that he was in
Vegas and wanted to meet with him to talk about his mother’s last two
days, and death. Al mumbled something about deepest sympathies and
curtly told the boy to go back to Denver and never call him again. Then
he hung up.
Randy was stung by the brute insensitivity, but there was nothing he
could do. Flashes of anger tore through him. He stood there for a few
minutes, trying to absorb the full impact of having just spoken to the
man who had slept with his mother the night before she died. Warm
remembrances of his mom flashed through his mind, as did lurid images of
her with the scoundrel who had walked out on her dead body just hours
after having sex with her.
The events were too improbable and confused for him to reconcile or make
much sense of. Deeply conflicted, with his thoughts in a muddle, he
stood there dazed, gripping the iron stanchion of the phone stand for
support. Finally, with his emotions in check, he felt steady enough to
make it back to the table to wait for Lola.
The tall, bosomy hooker with a heart of gold soon glided back into the
food court. Strapped on her slender, well-manicured feet were freshly
purchased red-leather sling-backs with four- inch heels. Dangling in
both her hands were chic totes holding more pairs of sexy shoes. With a
breathy giggle, she plopped down at the table and announced, “I’m
starved!” Randy took the hint and got both of them hot dogs, crinkly
fries, and Cokes at Nathan’s. Lunch was followed by more shopping, as
Randy bought his babe a flirty blue sundress in a pricey boutique. The
bulging wad of greenbacks from his mom’s gold jewelry had taken a hit,
but he was still sufficiently flush to fork over cash for nearly
Excerpted from "A Dead End in Vegas [Kindle Edition]" by Irene Woodbury. Copyright © 2014 by Irene Woodbury. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.