originally published in Carnival Literary: Magic June 2014

Who would have thought I’d be here, Sin City, capital of all things evil, so my mother had said, performing for Sir Henry the Magnificent? Certainly not me.

Las Vegas is cold as fuck in the winter. They never tell you that. Even those of us that should know better like me. Salt Lake isn’t that far, and it’s close enough to be similar in weather, but heavenly father, I never thought it could get cold. They never show the barren hills and streets in winter. It is always summer here, according to the casinos.

Walking from my tiny, roach-infested apartment (I saw three yesterday), I traversed the few blocks, cold wind pushing me about like a rag doll on my way to work. Sir Henry the (less than) Magnificent hired me to be a prop on stage. A pretty prop (it’s that kind of show.) I was surprised myself when he hired me.

“But I’m a dude,” I had told him.

“Yeah? It’s a new world out there kid, and them women want to see shirtless guys.” (I can’t complain. He pays better than I’ve ever made and it’s really easy work—just strut around the stage like Tyler Swanson used to back home.)

The apartment building Sir Henry rented out a small studio from was where we normally met before grabbing a few last-minute valuable props before heading to the major casinos. On my way, I passed by Ricky, and handed him a crumpled dollar, wishing him a warmer day. I don’t know how he does it.

The building wasn’t tall, not by Vegas standards anyway, and I arrived when I normally do. Three thirty is call time for me, and we usually leave around three forty-five for shows starting at five—that’s the older crowd, Henry told me once.

He wasn’t there, and the door was locked. Unnerved, I knocked again. He never locked his door during the day and since he lived in the studio to save money, he only locked the door just before bed.

I tried his cell phone, landline, everything. No answer. I should have called the police first, but I panicked and broke down the door. My mother’s sister died in her home and no one knew for days. It was her face: locks of brown hair and a dead, half-stare that filled my mind. I needed to get in.

Sir Henry, red-faced and doubled over, looked dead. I rushed over and stabbed for a pulse. After a few minutes of trying, I gave up. I didn’t notice anything unusual, except that the daily props weren’t ready and it looked like he hadn’t changed since the night before.

When I saw the business card, I called the police. I had met Candy Cane before, and she means business—not the good, mostly legal kind either. The police showed up, took pictures, asked why the door was kicked in, and then booked me, is that the right term?

I knew I’d be released. He was a good enough guy. Not shady and paid me on time. Perhaps my mother was right all along, that this place was evil. She always told me I never belonged here. I thought she was wrong.