Sin City Assassin
What happens in Vegas might kill you!
The new owners of Saints & Sinners Casino have a sinister secret that only comes out at night. When Nico learned the truth about her bloodthirsty bosses, it almost cost her life…almost.
Left with a fragmented memory and a need for revenge, Nico is intent on finding those that left her for dead. Teaming up with a supernatural investigator, the two traverse the casino floors like a modern day Dante’s Inferno to face the nest of vampires residing inside.
But when their journey brings them to the head vampire, will Nico have the courage to slay her own brother?
The final chapter in the VEGAS VIGILANTES fantasy trilogy.
The swift uptick in wind tussled her hair enough to make wearing the balaclava necessary. Jake always insisted they be worn during jobs to conceal their identities. The day he handed Nico hers, she stuffed it in her bag with no intention of ever putting it on. Tonight, the wind made her a liar and the balaclava turned her into a stereotype.
A lone ninja dressed in all black from head-to-toe ready to slip into the building next door without notice. Nico laughed at the thought. If only Jake could see her now. She wondered if he would be proud of her for carrying on their mission in his absence.
Perching on the roof of Diamond Dolls strip club provided the perfect view of her target. Across the street, Hollywood Pawn Shop held prime real estate. It hugged the curb of a busy intersection in downtown Las Vegas with no other competitors crowding the space.
Such a savvy real estate deal eventually catapulted the pawn shop into unprecedented success. Things were going so well for the shop they often had lines out the door. The only one who could steal their business now was the lithe Asian-American girl scouting it from afar.
Nico had been sitting in a similar position earlier that evening as she watched the steady stream of customers flow in and out. Ever since Hollywood Pawn whored itself out for a reality TV show, they’d become a local tourist attraction. Even though the series was faked with scripted dialogue and storylines, the merchandise inside was real enough to fetch a tidy profit.
The pawn shop used to deal in traditional merchandise traded in by locals looking to make rent. After the lucrative arrangement with the TV producers, they started getting more high end merchandise. They even changed the name from Deuces Pawn Shop to Hollywood Pawn, leaning even deeper into the brand. It worked, making the place flush with cash nightly.
Most thieves in Vegas stuck to small time convenience stores or went too big and tried to rob the casinos. Both instances led to gun battles. A notorious case even saw men wearing pig masks try to fleece a high-end jewelry store only to be thwarted by the former MMA champion of the world. The things that happened in Vegas still made Nico shake her head in wonder.
Jake and his crew started as low-level thieves and were smart enough to go a different route. They became notorious for hits on unsuspecting enterprises. The crew would target establishments that weren’t hit often. It left them with their guard down and allowed for a smooth in-and-out with no messy assaults or unnecessary theatrics.
Their M.O. was what attracted Nico to the crew. As a financial entrepreneur, Nico learned how to lay groundwork that would pay off big even before the job went down. With Jake gone on this one, she needed to be extra cautious.
She put in additional recon time to case Hollywood Pawn and come up with a new strategy for going in alone. Nico learned every employee’s schedule, work habits, weaknesses and even fetishes in some cases.
For instance, tonight Lee Dunowitz closed shop. Every Friday moved like clockwork. Lee liked to get out early so he could start his weekend marathon of strippers and booze. He shut down the pawn shop at 7:45pm and walked his stout body across to Diamond Dolls.
Once inside, he’d enjoy a plate of extra spicy hot wings with a couple draft beers. Then he’d spend the rest of the evening sticking sauce covered dollar bills into the G-strings of the dancers.
On nights where Lee felt extra frisky, he would pay extra for his favorite girl Jennifer to take him in the back for a private dance. There he’d solicit her for special favors to which she’d refuse until he waved around thick stacks of cash. Jennifer always agreed after that. In her mind, Lee was a big shot with money to burn and those types of clientele gained special favor.
In truth, the cash was Hollywood Pawn’s sales for the day and meant for the bank drop. Sooner or later management would catch Lee with his hand in the cookie jar. It would’ve been very easy for Nico to relieve him of that cash while Jennifer distracted him with dirty deeds. But Nico knew the real prize remained inside Hollywood Pawn. So she relieved Lee of his keys instead and then made her way to the rooftops.
Being inside Diamond Dolls for too long made Nico uneasy. Watching lecherous men handle girls barely out of their teens was disconcerting enough but something else bothered her. The environment held a sinister wash over it that always triggered a memory Nico couldn’t fully grasp. All she knew was the feeling of dread she felt stepping inside the strip club and that she needed to get out fast.
For as long as she could remember, Nico had an almost supernatural gift for stealth and agility. It was about all she could remember since waking up in the Las Vegas wash four years prior. Forced in and out of group homes until she aged out of the system, Nico leaned into her talents and developed a penchant for stealing.
Long limbs and an innocent-looking face made her a natural thief. When she grew bored with lifting wallets and cellphones, she set her sights on bigger prizes. That’s when she fell in with Jake Jarvis and his crew. They had a good run for a while until Jake wound up getting pinched. Tonight, Nico ran solo while Jake sat in prison awaiting his hearing.
With the ease of an alley cat, Nico hopped down from the roof and darted across the street. Sticking to shadows along the way, she only paused once to avoid a lone vehicle speeding past.
The dark Escalade didn’t bother slowing as it barreled through the intersection. It read ominously in the dark as tinted windows concealed the passengers inside. Nico felt a familiarity about the car but shrugged it off.
In Vegas, it wasn’t unusual to see dark Escalades around town. Invariably they held casino moguls, celebrities, and even drug czars. Best to let them go on their way as she continued her own business.
As the car drove out of sight, Nico hurried over to Hollywood Pawn. Lee Dunowitz’s keys rested inside her satchel with the rest of the tools of her trade. She retrieved them and entered the pawn shop. Once inside, Nico had about thirty seconds before the alarm sounded out.
Fortunately, friendly conversations with the staff and a keen eye led Nico right to the code. With fast fingers she punched in the numbers and shut down the alarm. For a moment longer Nico stood still to ensure all was well before proceeding. Satisfied that no secondary alarm would ring out, she hurried to the back of the shop.
On her way she bypassed a haul of items including movie props, musical instruments, and gaming equipment. Intricate pieces of people’s lives were now emblazoned with price tags. What Nico sought wouldn’t be on display with the rest of the pawned items. The owner of the shop, Paul Riley, stored his most precious pieces in his office nestled within a large standing safe.
Before she even laid eyes on it, Nico knew that cracking the combination would be far more difficult than the door alarm. Paul kept the information for his safe close to the vest. Even with her best efforts, Nico couldn’t pry away the code from Paul’s grip. Instead, she would have to go in the old-fashioned way.
Sliding the satchel off her shoulder gave her a rush of adrenaline. Getting her hands dirty always felt invigorating. Even with her high level of talent there remained the chance of human error causing her to slip up. In the minutia of that chance is where Nico felt most alive.
The safe was 24 inches with all steel construction. As an added measure of security, Paul had it bolted to the floor of his office. There was no way Nico could move the safe from the store. Her efforts would have to focus on popping the lock on the spot.
It was a newer model with a mechanical combo lock and tri spoke handle. Apparently, Paul spared no expense for his goods. This only excited Nico more. She was up for the challenge.
Opening a combination safe without destroying it takes expertise and finesse. Fortunately, Nico held both. Slipping the balaclava from her head she retrieved a doctor’s stethoscope from her satchel and went to work. With the stethoscope in both ears, and the bell end against the safe wall, the sounds of the lock mechanism would be amplified.
Nico slid the bell over the safe and simultaneously moved the combination dial until she located the sweet spot. For even the most experienced burglar it would be a grueling process. It took Nico a matter of minutes to catch the right clicks, memorizing each number as she found it.
As the final latch engaged, she was rewarded with the distinctive pop of the lock. The heavy door pulled open and revealed the prizes inside. Nico had to take a step back and marvel at what she saw. These were very rare items indeed.
Lined across the carpeted shelving rested a 1920 Nazi Luger, a hi-power Browning from 1945, an original Franchi Spas-12 and The Mauser C96 from WWI. Multiple automatic firearms lined the lower shelves including an FN PS90 and a Kriss Vector 45 ACP.
Mingling with the guns, Nico saw something else she wasn’t expecting. According to Jake, the contents of the safe were meant to be high-end jewels from Asia. Once they liberated the jewelry, they would break them down into smaller pieces and sell them off. The score would set them up for life.
Nico never asked who the jewelry belonged to, or why Paul Riley would store it. She trusted Jake at his word and went along with the plan hoping it would be their last job. What she saw in front of her didn’t add up.
Alongside heavy artillery that had no business being held at a pawn shop, rounds of ammunition sat in boxes on the floor. She opened one of the boxes only to find a strange silver core on each bullet. Others were made entirely of a fine-grain wood.
These weren’t regular firearms. In that revelation she pieced things together. In between managing Hollywood Pawn, it appeared Paul Riley was a gun runner. The sophistication of the weapons didn’t say street gang. These guns were meant for high-end clientele.
She thought about leaving the weapons and taking her chances with some of the merchandise out in the front room. But a sense of familiarity called to her as she looked them over. The nagging feeling in her gut wouldn’t allow her to just leave them there.
Not being able to recall most of her past life, she often relied on her gut to lead. It was no different now. She needed to take the weapons and ammo…all of it.
Grabbing a few loose trash bags from the storage closet, she stuffed what she could inside. This included a carrying case that felt cold to the touch. Whatever sat inside that package would need to be sorted later. She already overstayed the time limit for a heist.
While she packed up the stash, she noticed a small wire running from the dial of the safe towards the back. It didn’t take her long to realize it was a secondary alarm trigger. The minute she popped the lock, a silent alarm must’ve gone out. Nico guessed she only had minutes before the police arrived.
With time against her, the prior adrenaline rush was replaced with panic. She snatched up the half-filled trash bag and left the antique weapons in the safe. It would have to be enough.
Slinging the bag over her shoulder, Nico hurried towards the front door. Flashing red and blue bars outside on the street told her it was too late. The cops were already on scene blocking the exit. Instinct told her they would circle around back to cut off any alternative escape routes. She only had one way out now.
Cinching the bag tight to her body she took a running jump up to the air vent. Hanging onto support beams above her she pulled a screwdriver from her satchel. In two quick passes she popped the vent grate off and tried to squeeze inside. She’d managed her way through tighter spots before but this time the bag of weapons became her detriment. Either she would have to leave them or find another way out.
Sweat slicked her forehead and she saw shadows of movement outside. Las Vegas Metro’s finest were coming for her. Nico held a long list of priors from her juvenile days. If they caught her now, she’d be tried as an adult and could kiss her freedom goodbye. She couldn’t let that happen.
While holding onto the support beams for balance, she started pressing on the ceiling tiles. The good thing about old buildings in her line of work is they always afforded her an escape route if she knew where to look. As it turned out, Hollywood Pawn had a suspended ceiling with removable panels. Nico pulled open the tile providing her with ample room to slip up into the ceiling.
The tiling was built over thin metal frames running in a grid pattern across the room. If Nico kept most her weight on the metal it would hold her up long enough to make moves.
Just as she tucked her legs up and out of sight, she heard the jingle of the door chime go off. Beneath her on the ground two armed officers breached the premises. As they searched the floor for the intruder, Nico made her escape across the metal grids.
She followed the ventilation ducts hidden by the paneling until she reached the exit point at the far end. The ducts disappeared through another grate that faced the street. Nico could hear traffic outside and it gave her new zest. The original plan may have gone off the rails but she embraced this new adventure.
Beneath her on the ground floor she could hear the police rummaging the shop. Then the lights came on. Now, without the shadows to hide things, they would note the open grating above them. She had to hurry.
Using her screwdriver again, she picked at the ventilation duct until a section of it came apart in her hands. Pushing it aside as best she could in the small space, she followed the path it left. Its trajectory led her out onto the roof. She kept low so as not to expose herself to the cops still casing the building outside. Eyes wandering over her surroundings she found what she needed just in time.
Inside the pawn shop the police found the open grating. She could hear shouting and then communication came over the radios. Craning her neck to hear she caught the words “roof” and “proceed with caution.” It was time for her to move.
Hopping into a crouch, she made sure the bag of weapons was secure to her body and then readied herself to run. The minute she stood up, they would see her. She needed to be faster than ever before.
A dark speck against the backdrop of night, Nico slowly stood. The moon at her back illuminated the way as she tore across the roof in blistering speed. As she ran, the police detected her movement. She ignored their shouts and kept running towards the edge of the rooftop. Once there, her agility came into play as she launched herself through the air towards an adjacent lamp post.
The police below were dumbfounded by the height and distance such a small girl covered in a single leap. Nico could almost picture their jaws dropping in awe. She’d seen that reaction before when her super mortal gifts showed themselves in front of her foster parents. Needless to say they sent her back to the group home after that.
Playtime was over now. She used her talents to catch hold of the lamp post but she didn’t remain there long. Arcing her body like a gymnast on the uneven bars, she launched herself out into the middle of the street. She landed as softly as a cat and didn’t hesitate before bursting into a sprint.
The police started the chase behind her but Nico held a few tricks that would give her an advantage. Running at a controlled pace, she pulled the ace up her sleeve… literally.
In a flash, she launched the Ace of Spades playing card over her shoulder with a flip of the wrist. It whistled through the air and came down like a spike in the road. Once the card impacted with the street, a stream of smoke billowed up from it. The smoke grew thick enough to cause some officers to lose their way and others choked on the fumes.
A few of the cops broke from the pack and continued the pursuit. Nico wasn’t concerned. She knew how to navigate the elements on the street like no other could. It didn’t take long before she made her way up over a chain link fence out of their grasp.
As she flipped herself over the fence, she heard a string of expletives ring out from officers who were already winded from the chase. They started fumbling over themselves trying to climb the fence after her. Nico blew them a kiss and darted down an alleyway, safe and out of sight.
SIN CITY ASSASSIN
Vegas Vigilantes 3
Copyright © 2022 Cynthia Vespia
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