FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS -- A SAVAGE JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
by Hunter S. Thompson, © 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson
Chapter 4: No Refuge for Degenerates ... Reflections on a Murderous Junkie
We drove through the parking lot of the Flamingo and around the back, through the labyrinth, to our wing. No problem with parking, no problem with the elevator, and the suite was dead quiet when we entered: half-dark and peacefully elegant, with big sliding walls opening out on the lawn and the pool.
The only thing moving in the room was the red-blinking message light on the telephone. "Probably room service," I said. "I ordered some ice and booze. I guess it came while we were gone."
My attorney shrugged. "We have plenty," he said. "But we might as well get more. Hell yes, tell them to send it up."
I picked up the phone and dialed the desk. "What's the message?" I asked. "My light is blinking."
The clerk seemed to hesitate. I could hear papers shuffling. "Ah yes," he said finally. "Mister Duke? Yes, you have two messages. One says, 'Welcome to Las Vegas, from the National District Attorneys' Association.'"
"Wonderful," I said.
"... and the other," he continued, "says, 'Call Lucy at the Americana, room 1600.'"
He repeated the message. There was no mistake.
"Holy shit!" I muttered.
"Excuse me?" said the clerk.
I hung up.
My attorney was doing the Big Spit, again, in the bathroom. I walked out on the balcony and stared at the pool, this kidney-shaped bag of bright water that shimmered outside our suite. I felt like Othello. Here I'd only been in town a few hours, and we'd already laid the groundwork for a classic tragedy. The hero was doomed; he had already sown the seed of his own downfall. ...
But who was the Hero of this filthy drama? I turned away from the pool and confronted my attorney, now emerging from the bathroom and wiping his mouth with a towel. His eyes were glazed and limpid. "This goddamn mescaline," he muttered. "Why the fuck can't they make it a little less pure? Maybe mix it up with Rollaids, or something?"
"Othello used Dramamine," I said.
He nodded, hanging the towel around his neck as he reached out to flip on the TV set. "Yeah, I heard about those remedies. Your man Fatty Arbuckle used olive oil."
"Lucy called," I said.
"What"!" He sagged visibly -- like an animal taking a bullet.
"I just got the message from the desk. She's at the Americana, room 1600 ... and she wants us to call."
He stared at me ... and just then the phone rang.
I shrugged and picked it up. There was no point trying to hide. She had found us, and that was enough.
"Hello," I said.
It was the room clerk again.
"Hello, Mister Duke. I'm sorry we were cut off a moment ago ... but I thought I should call again, because I was wondering ..."
"What?" I sensed things closing down on us. This fucker was about to spring something on me. What had that crazy bitch said to him? I tried to stay calm. "We're watching the goddamn news!" I screamed. "What the fuck are you interrupting me for?"
"What do you want? Where's the goddamn ice I ordered? Where's the booze? There's a war on, man! People are being killed!"
"Killed?" He almost whispered the word.
"In Vietnam!" I yelled. "On the goddamn television!"
"Oh ... yes ... yes," he said. "This terrible war. When will it end?"
"Tell me," I said quietly. "What do you want?"
"Of course," he said, snapping back to his desk-clerk tone. "I thought I should tell you ... because I know you're here with the Police Convention ... that the woman who left that message for you sounded very disturbed."
He hesitated, but I said nothing.
"I thought you should know this," he said finally.
"What did you say to her?" I asked.
"Nothing. Nothing at all, Mister Duke. I merely took the message." He paused. "But it wasn't that easy, talking to that woman. She was ... well ... extremely nervous. I think she was crying."
"Crying?" My brain had locked up. I couldn't think. The drug was taking over. "Why was she crying?"
"Well ... ah ... she didn't say, Mister Duke. But since I knew the nature of your work I thought --"
"I know," I said quickly. "Look, you want to be gentle with that woman if she ever calls again. She's our case study. We're watching her very carefully." I felt my head unwinding now; the words came easily: "She's perfectly harmless, of course ... there'll be no trouble ... this woman has been into laudanum, it's a controlled experiment, but I suspect we'll need your cooperation before this thing is over."
"Well ... certainly," he said. "We're always happy to cooperate with the police ... just as long as there won't be any trouble ... for us, I mean."
"Don't worry," I said. "You're protected. Just treat this poor woman like you'd treat any other human being in trouble."
"What?" He seemed to be stuttering. "Ah ... yes, yes, I see what you mean ... yes ... so you'll be responsible then?"
"Of course," I said. "And now I have to get back to the news."
"Thank you," he muttered.
"Send the ice," I said, and hung up.
My attorney was smiling peacefully at the TV set. "Good work," he said. "They'll treat us like goddamn lepers, after that."
I nodded, filling a tall glass with Chivas Regal.
"There hasn't been any news on the tube for three hours," he said absently. "That poor fool probably thinks we're plugged into some kind of special cop channel. You should call back and ask him to send up a 3000 watt sensing capacitator, along with the ice. Tell him ours just burned out ..."
"You forgot about Lucy," I said. "She's looking for you."
He laughed. "No, she's looking for you."
"Yeah. She really flipped over you. The only way I could get rid of her, out there in the airport, was by saying you were taking me out to the desert for a showdown -- that you wanted me out of the way so you could have her all to yourself." He shrugged. "Shit, I had to tell her something. I said she should go to the Americana and wait to see which one of us came back." He laughed again. "I guess she figures you won. That phone message wasn't for me, was it?"
I nodded. It made no sense at all, but I knew it was true. Drug reasoning. The rhythms were brutally clear -- and, to him, they made excellent sense.
He was slumped in the chair, concentrating on Mission Impossible.
I thought for a while, then stood up and began stuffing things into my suitcase.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Never mind," I said. The zipper stuck momentarily, but I yanked it shut. Then I put on my shoes.
"Wait a minute," he said. "Jesus, you're not leaving?"
I nodded. "You're goddamn right, I'm leaving. But don't worry. I'll stop at the desk on my way out. You'll be taken care of."
He stood up quickly, kicking his drink over. "OK, goddamnit, this is serious! Where's my .357?"
I shrugged, not looking at him as I crammed the Chivas Regal bottles into my hand-satchel. "I sold it in Baker," I said. "I owe you 35 bucks."
"Jesus Christ!" he shouted. "That thing cost me a hundred and ninety goddamn dollars!"
I smiled. "You told me where you got that gun," I said. "Remember?"
He hesitated, pretending to think. "Oh yeah," he said finally. "Yeah ... that punk out in Pasadena ..." Then he flared again. "So it cost me a goddamn grand. That asshole shot a narc. He was looking at life! ... shit, three weeks in court, and all I got was a fucking six-shooter."
"You're stupid," I said. "I warned you about dealing with junkies on credit -- especially when they're guilty. You're lucky the bastard didn't pay you off with a bullet in the stomach."
My attorney sagged. "He was my cousin. The jury found him innocent."
"Shit!" I snapped. "How many people has that junkie bastard shot since we've known him? Six? Eight? That evil little fuck is so guilty that I should probably kill him myself, on general principles. He shot that narc just as sure as he killed that girl at the Holiday Inn ... and that guy in Ventura!"
He eyed me coldly. "You better be careful, man. You're into some heavy slander."
I laughed, tossing my luggage together in a lump at the foot of the bed while I sat down to finish my drink. I actually intended to leave. I didn't really want to, but I figured that nothing I could possibly do with this gig was worth the risk of getting tangled up with Lucy ... No doubt she was a beautiful person, if she ever got straight ... very sensitive, with a secret reserve of fine karma underneath her Pit Bull act; a great talent with fine instincts ... Just a heavy little gal who unfortunately went stone crazy somewhere prior to her eighteenth birthday.
I had nothing personal against her. But I knew she was perfectly capable -- under these circumstances -- of sending us both to prison for at least twenty years, on the strength of some heinous story we would probably never even hear until she took the stand:
"Yessir, those two men over there in the dock are the ones who gave me the LSD and took me to the hotel ..."
"And what did they do then, Lucy?"
"Well, sir, I can't rightly remember ..."
"Indeed? Well, perhaps this document from the District Attorney's files will refresh your memory, Lucy ... This is the statement you made to Officer Squane shortly after you were found wandering naked in the desert near Lake Mead."
"I don't know for sure what they done to me, but I remember it was horrible. One guy picked me up in the Los Angeles airport; he's the one who gave me the pill ... and the other one met us at the hotel; he was sweating real bad and he talked so fast that I couldn't understand what he wanted ... No sir, I don't recall exactly what they did to me at that point, because I was still under the influence of that drug ... yessir, the LSD they gave me ... and I think I was naked for a long time, maybe the whole time they had me there. I think it was evening, because I remember they had the news on. Yessir, Walter Cronkite, I remember his face all through it ..."
No, I was not ready for this. No jury would doubt her testimony, especially when it came stuttering out through a fog of tears and obscene acid flashbacks. And the fact that she couldn't recall precisely what we had done to her would make it impossible to deny. The jury would know what we'd done. They would have read about people like us in the $2.95 paperbacks: Up to the Hilt and Only Skin Deep ... and seen our type in the $5 fuck-flicks.
And of course we couldn't possibly risk taking the stand in our own defense -- not after they'd cleaned out the trunk of the Whale: "And I'd like to point out, Your Honor, that our Prosecution Exhibits A through Y are available to the jury -- yes, this incredible collection of illegal drugs and narcotics which the defendants had in their possession at the time of their arrests and forcible seizure by no less than nine officers, six of whom are still hospitalized ... and also Exhibit Z, sworn testimony by three professional narcotics experts selected by the president of the National District Attorneys' Conference -- which was seriously embarrassed by the defendants' attempts to infiltrate, disrupt and pervert their annual convention ... these experts have testified that the drug cache in the possession of these defendants at the time of the arrests was enough to kill an entire platoon of United States Marines ... and gentlemen, I use the word kill with all due respect for the fear and loathing I'm sure it provokes in every one of you when you reflect that these degenerate rapists used this galaxy of narcotics to completely destroy the mind and morals of this once-innocent teenager, this ruined and degraded young girl who now sits before you in shame ... yes, they fed this girl enough drugs to scramble her brains so horribly that she can no longer even recall the filthy details of that orgy she was forced to endure ... and then they used her, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for their own unspeakable ends!"