It was mid-August and over 100 degrees. The air chapped lips, parched throats. The sun was starting to dip behind the mountains that ring the Las Vegas Valley; the Strip was shaking off its afternoon slumber. From outside the warehouse, David and Devon could glimpse the tops of the Wynn, the Encore, the Palazzo, and the Trump, its 64 stories sheathed in 24-karat-gold glass. That was not their Las Vegas. Neither was the Vegas of foreclosed McMansions — that was farther out, near the mountains, in the gated communities in Henderson and Summerlin.
Devon and David’s Las Vegas hadn’t lost its sheen in the recent recession; it had none to begin with. It was a Vegas of dollar stores, check-cashing services, EZPawn shops, gas-station slot machines, and storefronts stripped of fancy names — they offered DOG GROOMING and NAIL TIPS, nothing more. Everywhere there were apartment complexes painted in earth tones, their nameplates missing letters, their yellow welcome flags frayed. It was a Vegas of frustrations and resentments, of second and third chances squandered — the Strip’s opulence in sight, but always out of reach.
The warehouse was similarly glamourless, building B in a warren of squat structures. Scott worked there at a fledgling video-production business, near Code Red Emergency Plumbing and H&J Trophies. His boss didn’t mind if David and Devon stopped by. They mostly huddled in a backroom, on three couches arranged in a U, mapping out the mission until the sky was black and the Strip ablaze.
David was 42. He was 5 feet 10 inches tall with a disheveled air and a slight paunch. He’d recently shaved off his graying hair, adding a hint of menace. He had a lazy eye that had forced him to wear a patch as a kid, and now it made him appear as if he was always glancing over your shoulder. He was easily ruffled, and you never knew what might tip him from impassioned screed to full-blown rage. Devon and David’s squabbling had really started the day before, and had something to do with groceries. It seemed petty now that they were debating where to dispose of a dead cop.
Devon Newman parked her black Honda Civic outside the warehouse. Her friend David Brutsche glowered in the passenger seat — they’d spent the 12-minute crawl across Las Vegas bickering about the mission. How committed are you, David barked, in that prison-guard way of his. Is this a joke to you? A game of let’s pretend? A few weeks ago, when the mission was still a dark fantasy, their pal Scott Reibach had warned them: “What we’re doing, you know, is dangerous. We could be hurt, we could be shot by these knuckleheads, we could be thrown in prison for the rest of our lives.” David didn’t flinch. “I’m willing to give my life for this,” he said.