Not A Bad Place to Dump a Body—Until Climate Change

“It used to be that you could get rid of a body, no problem.” This is what one of Johnny’s long-time henchmen, Dez, told Michael as they sat at the edge of a receding Lake Mead near Hemenway Harbor. Dez had been one of those proverbial “gangsters” as far back as the early 60s, before Elvis came along to really put Las Vegas on the map. Johnny was seventy-six years old now, with the leathery skin to prove it. But, apart from that, he looked much younger than his true age. He told Michael it was because he prescribed himself with a steady diet of pussy. “Stay up to your ears in female discharge, and you get a facial every day,” he quipped. Michael didn’t broach the subject of how it was considered “gay” among mafiosi to eat women out. As Corrado Soprano once said, “It’s a sign of weakness. And possibly a sign that you’re a finook.” Because, obviously, it’s “soft” to want to give a woman her due pleasure. But Michael thought it best to avoid getting into whether or not anyone else knew about Dez’s knack for head-giving, for it might cause an unexpected outburst of rage. And the last thing Michael needed was to incite contempt from his “mentor.”

He wasn’t exactly sure how Johnny decided to link Michael up with Dez when he approached the former at the unassuming, off-the-Strip Vickie’s Diner, where, unlike most establishments on the Strip, it was all substance over style. The meeting had been preordained, and Michael figured that Johnny didn’t want to meet at the Flamingo or one of the other hotels he had his hands in because it wouldn’t be a “good look” to hire a new henchman “onsite.” Michael had reached a point in his life, at twenty-two, where he was keenly aware that “playing it straight” wasn’t going to get him very far. He had dropped out of UNLV about a year ago and had been taking on “odd (read: illegal) jobs” ever since. Johnny had gotten wind of some new “hotshot” on the block and decided he better poach the kid for himself before Michael tried to break out on his own. If Johnny had learned anything since arriving in Vegas in the mid-80s, it was that you needed to prevent other “rogue” “organizations” from cropping up. Better to “absorb” them than let them run wild and get their heads blown off.

But Johnny didn’t want to take on the “task” of Michael completely. He didn’t have the patience. An old-timer like Dez, with nothing much else to do these days, would be the perfect mentor instead. Even if Michael had hoped to “ride” with Johnny to see more real action. Instead, here he was twiddling his thumbs at Lake Mead listening to stories about how easy it used to be to dump a body. The “good old days.” It didn’t take going too many years back to see things that way now. For it was as though life got shittier by the hour in the current hellscape of 2022. Yet Dez seemed to think the best part about the past was a full lake to throw barrels with assassinated bodies in them.

Although he didn’t say it directly, Michael could tell Dez was responsible for at least one of the execution-style hits that were then deposited into the barrel and tossed into the lake. Otherwise, there’s no way he would be this wistful about the whole thing. His greater concern for what would happen to body disposal in the future amid a drought like this, as opposed to humankind at large due to climate change, was also the sort of selfish boomer thinking that came with knowing you weren’t going to be around anymore to see the fallout. Who gives a shit, it’s not gonna affect me, Blows chunks for the rest of yas, Sayonara suckas!, etc. Michael wanted to be mad about it, but it was too depressing. And, for a moment, he felt as though he had floated up out of his body to watch the whole sad scene. Sitting there with an old man in front of a lake that looked like it had been deliberately dragged while he waxed poetic about the heyday of mob murder/body removal. This isn’t what Michael had signed on for. If this was the “Miyagi wisdom” Dez had to offer, Michael would sooner go back to school than keep hanging around listening to this shit. And right when he was about to tell Dez exactly that, they noticed a corroded barrel burbling up to the surface of the water, creeping slowly to light like a recessed turd in the hole of a toilet.

Dez jumped up with the spark of a teenager in a combination of terror and excitement. Getting off on seeing one of his old crimes while simultaneously worried about being caught near the scene of it. He glanced around to make sure no one else was there and told Michael, “I gotta jet. Maybe we’ll go over some ‘techniques’ another day.” Michael was confused…wasn’t Dez obligated to give him a ride back to the Strip? The answer was a succinct no as Dez informed him that it was better if Michael wasn’t seen with him right now. Things were “too hot” among all these cold bodies. Maybe it would be better if Michael found another mentor for a while. Before Michael could protest, Dez was firing up his car and peeling out, leaving Michael alone with the barrel. He considered reporting the body, but it would only breed potential for the police to turn up at his own door, so why not let some more innocent civilian feel like the good Samaritan?

He walked the rather long journey toward Hemenway Park to get far away enough from “the scene” before he called an Uber to pick him up. On the way back to the Strip, the driver couldn’t help but “break the ice” by asking, “See any bodies at Lake Mead?” Michael only clammed up briefly before forcing a fake chuckle and assuring, “No, not this time.” It was so lovely how everyone could make light of climate change with morbid dead body jokes now. At least society could thank the mob for that.


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