Driven to Ink

Chapter 1

When Sylvia and Bernie came back from That’s Amore Drive-Through Wedding Chapel with my car, it would’ve been nice if they’d taken the body out of the trunk.

As it was, I didn’t discover it until a day later, when I hit a bump and heard a thump that made me curious about what I might have forgotten to unload on my last trip to the grocery store. By that time, the newly married Sylvia Coleman and Bernie Applebaum—Sylvia said at her age she wasn’t about to take on any new names—were at the Grand Canyon on their honeymoon, and I was in my driveway staring at the corpse of a man in a tuxedo—as if he’d expected death would be a black-tie affair.

Being both the daughter and sister of police officers, I did the first thing that came to mind: I called Sylvia’s son, Jeff Coleman, to find out whether he knew anything about this.

“Murder Ink.” Jeff’s voice bellowed through my ear. Murder Ink was his business, a tattoo shop up near Fremont Street, next door to Goodfellas Bail Bonds. He specialized in flash, the stock tattoos that lined the walls of his shop, even though I knew firsthand that he was an amazing artist when he put his mind to it.

Despite the flash, Jeff was one of my main competitors in Vegas. I own The Painted Lady, where we do only custom designs. We cater to a classier client, and my shop is in the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes on the Strip, a high-end themed mall that would never have allowed a tattoo shop to sully its image without a little blackmail by the shop’s former owner.

“It’s Brett.”

“Kavanaugh?”

“Your mother seems to have left me a little something for the use of my car yesterday.” Sylvia had asked me nicely if she and Bernie could use my red Mustang Bullitt convertible for their drive-through wedding. She said it was preferable to Bernie’s blue 1989 Buick and her thirty-five-year-old purple Gremlin, which looked like a lizard with its tail cut off.

“What about Jeff’s Pontiac?” I’d asked her.

“It’s bright yellow. It looks like a pimp’s car.”

I couldn’t argue with that. It did look like a pimp’s car. I told Sylvia that she was welcome to use my Mustang, but she had to drive. Bernie’s cataract surgery wasn’t scheduled for another six weeks, and even though Sylvia said she “watched the road” for him, it didn’t inspire much confidence.

“What are you talking about, Kavanaugh?” Jeff was asking.

“There’s a man in my trunk.”

A low chuckle told me that perhaps I hadn’t described the situation properly.

“A dead man. In a tuxedo.”

“And you’re sure my mother left it there for you?”

“I certainly don’t remember it being there before she borrowed my car.”

“So let me play devil’s advocate a minute. Maybe he climbed into your trunk and died after my mother and Bernie returned the car.”

Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. I recounted where the car had been since they dropped it off for me at the Venetian, and it had only been there and here, in my driveway overnight, and then at Red Rock Canyon this morning when I went for a hike. I leaned farther in toward the body. On the right breast pocket I could see something stitched in red thread: “That’s Amore.”

“He’s from the wedding chapel, Jeff. His tux is an advertisement. It’s got the name sewn on it.”

“Is your brother home? Has he seen the body?”

My brother, Detective Tim Kavanaugh, hadn’t been home all night. I could only surmise that either he was catching bad guys or he’d had a late date