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In book #5 of the Mike Stoneman Thriller series, Jason and Rachel are off to Las Vegas to get married. Mike and Michelle are coming along to be their witnesses and to enjoy a winter trip to the desert in early January of 2020. Rachel is looking forward to seeing her brother, Jackie, who is a dancer in Vegas. She’s a little worried, however, about explaining to Jason that Jackie dances in a drag show. Her worry about Jason’s reaction quickly takes a backseat to other problems when Jackie is accused of murdering the lead in the show. Jason and Mike find themselves in the unusual position of defending the suspect against the local cops.
Why is Jackie a suspect at all? Who really killed Mimi LaRee? How is this all connected to the murder of a South Dakota senator? And why is the Vegas Mob involved? Find out the answers in Perilous Gambit!
Click HERE to read a free preview of chapters 1 and 2 of the new book.
Bonus Material: Deleted Scene from Perilous Gambit
If you have read Perilous Gambit, you may be amused by this deleted scene. There are no spoilers here for anyone who has not yet read the book, so don’t be shy. I wrote the scene in order to give New York Times reporter Dexter Peacock a chance to make a cameo. Peacock had appeared in each of the first four books, and I wanted to keep that streak going, but ultimately the scene did not advance the plot and my editor and I agreed that we should cut it. It was sad to take it out, but now I have the chance to put it back “in” here for my website readers. After reading, you be the judge of whether we should have cut it. Enjoy!
Chapter 43 – Musical Theater
Thursday, January 9
Las Vegas, NV
SINCE IT WAS THREE NIGHTS BEFORE THE WEDDING, Michelle convinced Rachel to have a quiet outing. She had done some research before leaving for Vegas and knew there was a performance of the Broadway musical, Chicago, at the Golden Peacock hotel. Rachel was thrilled. The last performance of Chicago they had attended had been interrupted. The two couples put their concerns for Jackie’s safety aside for a few hours.
Jackie, under doctor’s orders not to do any dancing, couldn’t stay away from his show and stayed backstage at the La Cage Aux Folles performances while cheering on Lizzy. The director was fine with Jackie not performing because he had been told by the house manager that someone accused of murdering Mimi LaRee should not be in the show. Since the charges had been dropped, Jackie was officially reinstated to the show cast, but for at least one more night, performing was not an option. The director was worried that the rest of the cast would have some problems without both Mimi and Jackie. With a dozen drag queens who treated Jackie as a friend – and many of whom were happy to have Mimi gone – several people were always there. Jackie was under strict instructions to not be alone. The rest of the wedding party would meet back at the theater after the late show, to make sure Jackie left the theater with a proper escort.
The Golden Peacock was a half-mile off the Strip, next to the Rio, where a ten-story image of Penn & Teller lorded over the landscape. Compared to the Mardi Gras, or any of the more recently constructed hotels, the old Golden Peacock seemed retro, with its flashing neon signage and concrete construction.
Las Vegas has a way of transporting people away from their troubles. Even when the troubles originated in Vegas, all it took was a new venue, flashing lights, and the prospect of a fun night out to make the group smile. As Mike noted, “It’s a wedding party.” Rachel didn’t wear the Bride to Be sash this time, but she felt very much like the bride as the rest of the group fawned over her.
After securing tickets at the box office, Jason pointed out that they had not eaten dinner. With an hour before showtime, they gravitated to the buffet restaurant and assumed a place in the line waiting to be seated. “If the line is this long, it must be pretty good,” Rachel said confidently.
As they chatted and moved slowly toward the front of the line, two men exited from the seating area and made their way past the waiting customers and toward the casino floor. One was tall and lean, wearing a cowboy hat and tight-fitting jeans. Mike and Jason immediately recognized the other man. He was not wearing his signature derby hat, but he was stylishly dressed in a silk shirt and well-pressed slacks. His curly brown hair was frozen in place by styling gel that gave it the appearance of being wet. He had a well-trimmed beard and rimless, steel-framed glasses. Jason nudged Mike with his elbow. “Mike. Take a look.”
“I’ll be damned,” was all Mike could say.
“Should we say hello?”
Mike shook his head and replied in a whisper, “Not on your life. The guy already thinks he’s my special friend and I—”
Before Mike could finish, a silky voice with an aristocratic eastern accent called out, “Well, this is just about the last place I would expect to bump into you, Detective Stoneman.”
“I could say the same thing, Mr. Peacock. Although, I suppose if I knew you were going to be in Vegas, where else would you stay but here?”
Dexter Peacock threw back his head and laughed heartily. “Indeed. I can’t resist both the great room rates and the wonderful treatment they give a Peacock here at the Peacock.” The tall man gave Dexter a reprobative stare. “Ah, I am so sorry. Allow me to introduce Austin Jackson, who has more fun in Vegas than any other man I know.” He nodded to his tall companion. “Austin, this is Detective Mike Stoneman from the NYPD, and his partner, Jason Dickson. And this is Dr. Michelle McNeill, the medical examiner for New York County and, I am told, a very good friend of Detective Stoneman.” Peacock paused in his introductions. “And this a amazingly beautiful woman next to Detective Dickson is, if I’m not mistaken, Rachel Robison, a hero EMT.”
Mike jumped in quickly. “Rachel, you remember one of the finest writers for The New York Times, Dexter Peacock.”
Dexter reached out and took Rachel’s hand, giving it a soft kiss. “I’m so happy to see you here. I trust you are having a splendid vacation from our very cold home city.”
“We are,” Jason said. “We’re here for our wedding.” He put his arm around Rachel and pulled her into a kiss.
“A wedding! How wonderful!” Peacock opened his arms for a hug with Rachel. Jason remained stolid while Rachel gladly gave the reporter a Bride to Be hug. “I wish you both the most happiness.”
“Thank you, Mr. Peacock,” Rachel said. “I hope you have a wonderful visit here. Are you going to see the show tonight?”
“We are,” Dexter responded brightly. “I just love Chicago.”
“Well, enjoy the show,” Mike cut into the conversation as the line moved forward and the group needed to move with it. “I’ll do my best to stay off the stage.”
Austin Jackson looked puzzled as Dexter led him away. Mike didn’t really want to hear the explanation the journalist would be giving to his companion.
When they reached the front, they were impressed by the quality of the buffet food, as well as the range of choices. They easily made it to the show on time, where a waiter came around and took drink orders at their seats. “Just like being back on the cruise ship,” Rachel observed.
“Except we aren’t on the unlimited drink plan,” Jason said.
“And hopefully there won’t be anyone we know on the stage,” Mike added.
When the show started, they settled in and enjoyed it. Rachel stood and applauded loudly when the curtain fell at the end of Act One. They all stood when the house lights came up to stretch their legs. It was Michelle who asked the question they had all been vaguely thinking. “I could be wrong, but I’d swear that the actress playing Roxie Hart is the same woman we saw in the show aboard the Colossus of the Ocean last May.”
“I know!” Rachel agreed. “I wasn’t sure. But I think you’re right. What was her name?”
“Donna,” Michelle said. “Donna—”
“Sher!” Rachel remembered. “She was the dancer we saw with Darci van der Meer on the ship. Wow! I guess she got a new gig.”
“I guess her career took off since she didn’t get murdered on the ship,” Mike laughed, causing everyone else to join in.
“They thoroughly enjoyed the second act. Rachel slipped her arm under Jason’s and snuggled up against his shoulder, squeezing his upper arm where the scar from a bullet wound was long-since healed. As they filed out of the theater after the show, they all observed how much fun it was to actually see the end this time.
Audiobook Listeners — Listen Here to the first three chapters of Perilous Gambit!