Javernick Makes a Deal with the Meatman

The unexpected visit from the Toledo mobsters gave Claude Javernick a feeling of unease. He was already worried about the casino’s remote location and knew the police wouldn’t be able to offer much help in the event of a robbery. That’s why he’d made Roland chief of security and authorized him to hire competent armed guards. Without them, the casino would be a sitting duck, and with lowlifes like Anthony Falanga in town, he needed to remain vigilant. 

It was common knowledge that organized crime had a strong presence in nearby Las Vegas. The city was growing fast with several casinos either planned or under construction, and from what he’d heard, much of the financing was coming from the Cosa Nostra. There were rumors about corruption at city hall too, and the local police department was old-fashioned and undermanned. Complaining to them about Falanga would be an exercise in futility—the casino was fifty miles outside city police jurisdiction anyway, and the Clark County Sheriff’s office was small and ill-equipped to help.  

Javernick had mob contacts in Los Angeles. Before prohibition had ended, he was buying bootleg whiskey for his speakeasy from Nick Lococo, a made man who belonged to the Kansas City Cosa Nostra. Lou “The Meatman” Civella was the local capo and he’d received the blessing of the mob’s New York City based commission to operate in the City of Angels. In exchange, he supplied the five New York families with the finest cuts of Kansas City steaks available. Notorious mob bosses like Sal “the Sauce” Aiello and Leo “Slow Poke” Triolo dined on the filet mignon and prime T-bone steaks that Civella shipped to New York in refrigerated boxcars from his slaughterhouse in Missouri.  

At first, Javernick was reluctant to call on Nick Lococo for help. He didn’t want to be dependent on anyone, certainly not organized crime. Pay-offs for mob protection were out of the question. He knew that if he gave in to Falanga’s intimidation, it would only be a matter of time before the mobster was calling the shots, telling him how to run the business, and the last thing he wanted was to have loan sharks and mob muscle hanging around on the casino floor.  

What he was willing to do was offer Lou Civella exclusive rights to supply his restaurant with meat and seafood in exchange for help. He didn’t like to use the word “protection,” because in mob lingo it was associated with shakedown artists, but if he gave Civella his meat business, it would give the Kansas City mob a presence in Southern Nevada, something they didn’t already have, and in exchange, he could ask him to take care of the problem with Toledo. It was, perhaps, a Faustian bargain, but it seemed like a reasonable idea. 

He met with Melvin and Roland on the Monday following the grand opening and told both to stay on the lookout for suspicious characters in the casino. He also authorized Roland to hire more armed guards. Elias Thunderhawk had said he knew two more Paiutes looking for jobs, and both were expert marksmen like himself. 

Javernick had a pilot’s license and he’d bought an airplane to make the trip back and forth from the casino to his Thousand Oaks nut ranch. It was a Bellanca Aircruiser, a single prop model. The landing gear had wheels for landing on the dirt airstrip at the nut ranch and retractable pontoons that he could lower to land on the surface of Lake Mead. It was fast too, with a top speed of over 2oo miles an hour. In the airplane, he could make the trip to L.A. in a little over an hour vs. five hours or more of driving on the still unpaved Arrowhead Trail.  

He made it to Thousand Oaks by noon. He landed the airplane on the dirt airstrip and went inside the main house. His live-in housekeeper, Marishka Sarkozy, made him a bowl of Hungarian goulash with buttered black bread for lunch and a slice of homemade pecan pie for dessert. Marishka was a talented gymnast, born near Budapest. She’d toured with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a high wire trapeze artist but had quit after suffering severe anxiety attacks. She was short in stature, physically fit and attractive in an understated way. 

Marishka was convinced that British intelligence agents had her under surveillance. Hungary had joined the Axis powers in 1940 and her brother Henrik was an officer in the army. In October of 1941, the United States had yet to join the Allies though World War II was raging in Europe and East Asia. Javernick was troubled by Mariska’s growing anxiety—she kept the curtains drawn and was wary of talking on the telephone because she thought it might be bugged. 

“Why do you think the British would travel so far to spy on you, Mariska?” 

“Because of my close relationship with my brother.”  

“But you’re not doing anything to aid the Nazis…Are you?”  

“Of course not. I loathe the Nazis.” 

“Then why would the British think you’re a threat? It makes no sense.” 

“My brother is a major in the Hungarian Army, Claude, and he’s mailed me letters from the Russian front, that’s why I’m suspected of sympathizing with the Germans…And now the new mailman has an English accent—coincidence?”  

“Yes, more than likely it is indeed a coincidence. Your fear of British spies seems rather irrational, my dear. Please make yourself a cup of tea and relax.”  

The nut ranch was an active agricultural property that produced almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios, mostly for the wholesale market, but he also operated a retail store called the Javernick Nuthouse on the public road that dissected the place. Dale Preston and his wife Rita managed the ranch for him. They were Dust Bowl refugees from Enid, Oklahoma. At one time they’d owned a productive farm, but like so many others, they’d been uprooted by the severe drought. They lived in a house next to the store.   

After meeting with Dale and Rita to go over monthly sales reports, Javernick called Nick Lococo and said he had something important to talk to him about. Lococo told him to stop by his office for a chat.  

The Lococo Concrete Company was located on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown L.A. Javernick parked his V-16 Cadillac on the street in front of the two-story yellow brick building. As he walked towards the entry, he had a look up and down the busy boulevard. In 1941, the City of Angels was blossoming with commercial construction. The urban core was growing so fast he hardly recognized the place anymore. There was literally new construction on every street corner.  

Nick Lococo supplied the concrete labor that was needed to put up the new buildings and he had the market close to cornered. It wasn’t that his prices were cheap. To the contrary, his bids were more expensive than average…But the word was out among local builders—deal with Lococo if you wanted to avoid problems.  

If you ignored the advice, and tried to get a foundation poured without him, you might not have anyone show up at all. Or the ready-mix company might call to tell you their trucks couldn’t make it to the job, and if you asked why, they might say, “Sorry, Mack, but you’re out of luck,” before hanging up the phone. Occasionally, a new job would go up in smoke, burnt to the ground in the middle of the night because the developer refused to deal with Lococo.  

Javernick went inside. He felt like he was walking into a lion’s den but did his best to hide his consternation. There was a ceiling fan gently turning in the reception area and the overpowering bouquet of stale coffee aroma permeated the room. Rolls of blueprints were stacked high on filing cabinets.  

A middle-aged receptionist named Luella sat behind a cluttered desk. She looked over her narrow reading glasses and smiled when she recognized him, though it had been years since his last visit. He’d bought hundreds of cases of bootleg whiskey from Lococo in the prohibition era. After exchanging greetings, she picked up the handset on her desk phone to let the boss know Javernick had arrived.  

Nick Lococo appeared, walking down a hallway decorated with framed photographs of commercial construction projects. “Claude Javernick, good to see you again.” 

“Likewise, Nick. It’s been a while.”  

Lococo ushered him into his office with an outstretched hand. “I saw a story in the L.A. Times about your new casino on the lake…Or should I say in the lake.” He grinned as he sat down behind his desk. “Any leaks yet?” 

“Jesus Christ, don’t even say that, Nick.” 

Lococo laughed as he sat back in his office chair on wheels and folded his hands behind his head. He was noticeably overweight, and the chair complained audibly when he shifted his weight. One look into Lococo’s dark eyes revealed the evil in his soul though his demeanor towards Javernick was amiable. “So, what can I do for you, my friend?” 

“We had our grand opening this past weekend and I had a visit from some men I thought you might know something about.”  

“Some men?” He held up his hands. “Who were they?”  

Javernick told him about Anthony Falanga and the attempted shakedown.  

“Falanga walked right up to you on opening day, huh?  No prior introduction?”  

“Nope, I’d never seen the man before in my life. Do you know him?” 

“I don’t know Falanga personally, but I know who he is. Toledo is a farm league operation, Claude. Holding hands with Chicago from what I understand.” 

“Well, I’m not going to let anyone intimidate me like that, Nick. I don’t care who he is.” 

“No, he was out of line. Threatening a big wheel like yourself.” 

“I have a business proposition for Lou Civella if you can get me a sit-down with him.”  

“What’s the proposition?”  

“I’m willing to give Lou all of my meat and seafood business at the new property.”  

“In exchange for help with Toledo?”  

“You read my mind, Nick. That’s exactly what I want to offer.”  

“Sounds like a mutually beneficial arrangement. I’ll call Lou right now.” He picked up the handset on his desk phone and dialed the number on the rotary wheel. “Hi, Julia. This is Nick Lococo. Is the Meatman available?” There was a pause then, “Louie, I have Claude Javernick sitting with me…Yeah, that Claude Javernick. He wants to offer you exclusive rights to supply his new property. You available for a sit-down?” Another pause, then Lococo pulled the receiver away from his ear and put his hand over the transmitter. “We can go over there right now if it’s convenient for you, Claude.” 

“Perfect, let’s go.”  

He took his hand off the transmitter. “We’ll see you in a few, Lou.”  

The Sicilians loved to eat, and Javernick discussed business with Civella over a late afternoon meal at his Manhattan Beach restaurant. The establishment was close enough to the beach to have a good view of the ocean with a few outdoor dining tables, but Civella led them to a table inside that was concealed behind a privacy curtain. Mob bosses generally disdained public dining because it exposed them to not only possible police surveillance, but also the ever-present danger of being clipped by a button man.  

Beyond Lococo and Civella, there were three more Kansas City mobsters nearby—the Meatman’s in-house muscle, and all three carried large caliber handguns concealed under their sport coats. Vincent “Slick Vince” Scudari sat at the restaurant bar sipping a club soda and flirting with a waitress. Carmine Giordano was out back, standing near the vacant outdoor dining tables, puffing on a cigarette, and Marco “The Shrimp” Di Stefano was on the roof, concealed behind a parapet wall, with a pair of binoculars and a .22-250 sniper rifle close at hand.  

Civella’s chef had prepared a sampler platter that had small servings of a variety of the different meats and seafood he marketed, bite size chunks of beef on toothpicks, salmon, king crab etc. The mob boss was a big wheel in the Cosa Nostra and Lococo kept his mouth shut while they ate. He let the Meatman do the talking. 

“Tony Falanga was out of line approaching you like that on your grand opening, Claude. An uncouth idiota.” He was an older man with graying hair around his temples and a paunch to match Lococo’s. His unattractive face resembled a waffle iron, pock-marked from the ravages of adolescent acne. 

“I’m relieved to hear you say that, Lou. It was completely unexpected, and it put a dark cloud over an otherwise very successful day.”  

“Falanga is a punk, and I’ll have a talk with Carmelo Viscuso about keeping him in line.” 

“I’d be more than happy to give you exclusive rights to supply my restaurant in exchange.” Javernick selected another bite size chunk of the grilled beefsteak and popped it in his mouth. “Excellent quality, Lou.”  

“Yeah, that’s prime Angus. Grass fed on the range, then they switch ’em to corn in the feedlot.” Civella took a sip of wine. “Was that stinkin’ Irishman tagging along with Falanga?”  

“A short guy with a body odor problem?” Javernick wiped his mouth with a fancy cloth napkin.  

“Yeah, that’s Branigan. You want to keep your eye on that sonofabitch. He’s a psycho button man from Cleveland.”  

“I’m hoping not to see any of them again.”  

“I’ll make sure of that. Once I talk to Viscuso, your casino will be off limits for Toledo. I have the pull with New York, believe me, and Carmelo knows it.” Civella cut the end on a thick Cuban cigar and lit it. “What about fruits and vegetables, Claude? Fresh California avocados, tomatoes, navel oranges, I get only the best.” 

“Sure, why not. If you’re already flying the meat in.”  

“I won’t even mention nuts, because I know you have the L.A. nut market cornered.” 

“That’s a fact. I have nuts out the wazoo, Lou.” 

“But what about linens? You need quality linens at a luxury hotel.” 

“I’ll give you my linen business too. And if you ever feel like getting out of town for a couple of days, I’ll comp you a suite within easy walking distance of the casino…You too, Nick.” 

“That’s a deal, Claude…And don’t worry about Falanga and that stinkin’ Irish teppista. I’ll make sure they don’t screw around with you again. 

The nut ranch encompassed a substantial parcel of real estate to the southwest of Thousand Oaks. The public road that dissected it crossed a saddleback in the chaparral before it descended into the isolated rural basin. Javernick had noticed a white Chevrolet step van parked at the summit of the divide on his way into town, and on the return trip, it was still there. As he slowed the Cadillac to safely pass on the narrow road, he noticed a man standing at the rear of the vehicle, and he quickly shut the door when he saw Javernick approaching. The sun was setting to the west, and it seemed odd to find the van still there.  

“Good evening,” said Javernick as he slowed to a stop. “Do you need help?” 

“Help? Why would I need help?” said the man, in a distinctive English accent.  

“I saw you parked here on my way into town. I thought you might require assistance.” 

“No, I’m quite all right.” 

Javernick thought the man seemed suspicious, and he examined the van for any sign of a telltale logo, an indication of what his business might be, but it appeared to be unmarked. He maintained his friendly demeanor: “I’m Claude Javernick, owner of the nut ranch,” gesturing towards the orchards in the valley beneath them. 

“I’m a lineman with the telephone company.”  

“Oh, you work for Bell tel? Problems with the transmission lines?”  

“Yes, there was a bit of a problem, but I have it all sorted out now, and I was just tidying up before I depart.”  

“All right, I thought you might need a hand. Good day.” Javernick put the caddy in gear and took off, still thinking there was something odd about the man… 

Inspector Alvin Cockburn kept his eye on Javernick’s car until it rounded a curve and disappeared, then he climbed behind the wheel of the step van and started the engine. Lieutenant Blake Keene, also of the SOE was seated on a short-legged stool in the back. He removed his headphones and switched off the power on a reel-to-reel recording machine before crawling over the disorganized console into the passenger seat. Cockburn put the van in gear and headed down the hill towards the town of Thousand Oaks. 

“That was Claude Javernick in the flesh,” said Cockburn.  

“I heard the conversation.” Keene stuck an unfiltered Woodbine smoke in his mouth and lit it. “Do you think we should pass the information along to the American police, in regard to his meeting with the mobsters?”  

“Absolutely not, Blake. It would blow our cover. All we need is the FBI muddying up our investigation. They’d certainly want to know what SOE is doing in the states.” 

“I suppose you’re right, but at the least we could pass it along to Baker Street.” 

“Why would they care? It’s the Hungarian bird we’re after.” 




Javernick began buying bootleg whiskey from Nick Lococo when he opened his Rioville speakeasy in 1925. The mobster shipped the hooch to Saint Thomas by rail. It arrived in unmarked crates, and there were six cases of quart bottles in each one. The first shipment arrived on an unusually cool day in February. Melvin Royce was 21 at the time and he rode with Javernick in a Chevrolet farm truck to pick it up.  

Melvin had gone to work for Javernick in 1923, part of the construction crew he’d put together to build the first hotel and the rest of the small village he’d erected at the confluence of the Virgin and Colorado Rivers. It was the young bronc rider’s first full time job. 

The 1922 Chevy farm truck was hunter green with a narrow bench seat in its box shaped cab. It had a T-head straight six engine and a three-speed manual transmission with a stick shift—not exceptionally fast, but it had the torque necessary to navigate the rocky Virgin River Road when loaded with supplies.   

Roland was on his way to Saint Thomas with a group of steamboat passengers and Javernick followed him to the train depot, thinking he could get him to help load the crates if necessary. He wasn’t sure how heavy the packaging would be and how close he could get the Chevy to the train car. He certainly couldn’t open the crates in town, because they were loaded with illicit contraband.  

The train had pulled up to the depot a few minutes before their arrival. There was no actual train station, just a lean-to of sorts with a corrugated tin roof, mostly for shade from the blistering hot Mohave Desert sun.  

The Union Pacific spur line reached its dead-end depot near the Gentry Store, and train tickets were sold inside. The Gentrys also operated a ten-room hotel and the town post office. They had one of the bigger houses in town too, a two-story Dutch Colonial, across the main road from their commercial operations.  

Harry Gentry ran an assay office in the store. The mountains to the east of town had rich deposits of gold, silver, and copper, and the assay office was where the small-scale prospectors sold their mined ore. It was a tricky job analyzing the ore for purity, because he needed to pay the miners fairly, and he was good at it. He developed a reputation as an honest man and that was how the Gentrys became the wealthiest and most influential family in the small town. Harry’s wife Ellen managed the hotel.  

Saint Thomas had a population of about five hundred in 1925. The Muddy River was nothing more than a creek by eastern standards, but it provided enough irrigation water for farming on the broad alluvial plain. The small town was a green oasis in the harsh desert and one of the few places along the Arrowhead Trail where travelers could stop for gasoline and water. The rail line was completed in 1912, and it gave the local farmers a way to market their produce. The railroad brought in block ice too, an invaluable commodity that improved the local standard of living immensely.  

The abbreviated train was powered by a diesel locomotive with two passenger cars, four boxcars and a caboose. It pulled into town in forward gear and would travel in reverse when it traveled back out to the main rail line, twenty miles to the north.  

Javernick and Melvin waited patiently while Roland helped his steamboat passengers board the train. When he was done, Javernick presented the conductor with his paperwork. They walked back to one of the boxcars with Roland and Melvin close behind. The uniformed trainman unlocked the door and slid it open, then he climbed a short iron ladder and entered the enclosed space. 

“Here’s your shipment, Mr. Javernick. Four crates from the Lococo Concrete Company.” A sly smile formed beneath the conductor’s bushy walrus mustache. “Must be some type of exceptionally important concrete supplies, shipped special from Los Angeles, California.” 

“That they are, my friend. Their importance cannot be underestimated…Do you suppose I could back my truck in close to the door?”  

“I don’t see why not.”  

Soon they had the crates loaded in the back of the truck and Javernick made sure to strap them down for the rough ride back down the canyon. Roland followed in his 1919 Packard as they set out for Rioville.  

They passed by the Royce homestead on their way out of town. Melvin’s parents grew a variety of vegetables and had fruit trees as well, mostly peaches and pears. Fresh produce was in high demand in the arid region and most of the small town’s residents were farmers. 

Melvin asked Javernick to honk the horn as they went by, and he leaned out the window to wave at his sister Charlene. She was hanging laundry outside to dry and was startled at first, but when she turned towards the road and recognized her big brother, she smiled and gave him an exaggerated wave. Melvin still had a room at home but was spending most of his time in Rioville because of the construction job. He’d yet to save enough money for a car, though Javernick would let him take the farm truck when he needed to go into town.  

They broke the crates open when they reached the brand-new hotel.  Javernick was anxious to sample the delivered product, to make certain it was as good as the whiskey he’d sampled with Lococo in L.A. He handed the first glass he poured to Roland, who examined the color and consistency of the amber liquid and then took a sip.  

“How is it?”  

“Damn good, Claude. Mighty fine whiskey.” He drank more and looked awfully pleased. 

Javernick handed the next glass he poured to Melvin who seemed reluctant to sample it. Instead, he simply gazed at the highball glass with an apprehensive expression on his face.  

Javernick grinned. “Go ahead and try it, Mel. It’s just whiskey, it won’t kill you.”  

“To be honest, I’ve never drank whiskey before, and I’m not sure I want to now.” 

“We’ve seen you drink beer before,” said Roland. “Seen you half-drunk too when we tapped that bootleg keg they brought up on the steamboat. Not much difference with the whiskey, it’s just a whole lot stronger.”  

“Come on Melvin,” said Javernick. “Give it a try.” 

“Yeah, okay.” He raised the glass to his lips and took a sip.  

“How is it?”  

“Kinda hot. Burns a little bit.”  

“Yep,” said Javernick with a laugh, filling a glass for himself. “But it’s good for you, Mel. Sterilize your insides.” He took a drink and smacked his lips. “I was afraid Lococo might try to cheese us with a lower grade product, but that’s premium hooch. Tastes like ninety proof Kentucky bourbon.” 

They broke the other three crates open and carried the cases into the hotel, then down the stairs to the new speakeasy. “The next thing we need is a competent bartender,” said Javernick as he set down one of the unmarked wooden boxes. “Then we’ll be in business.”  

Soon thereafter, Raymond McCoy brought Roland a bit of alarming news. He was the captain of the Sapphire Belle, one of the few steamboats with a shallow enough draft to make it all the way upriver to Rioville when the water was low.  

According to Captain McCoy, the recently elected Mohave County, Arizona Sheriff had raided a Hardyville speakeasy and its adjacent brothel. The tiny settlement was downstream, past the Eldorado gold mines, about a hundred miles from Rioville. Police in the region were generally easy going and willing to look the other way when it came to bootleg liquor and prostitution, but the new sheriff had vowed to crack down on organized crime of any kind if elected, and from all appearances he’d followed through on his promise.   

Javernick boarded the Sapphire Belle and traveled downstream to Hardyville to find out more. It was a slow journey on the steam powered paddlewheel, but the dramatic scenery in the steep-walled canyon made it worthwhile. The desert weather in late February was about perfect, cool mornings, and the afternoons were sunny and warm.  

When he arrived, he found the distraught speakeasy owner loading up a truck and preparing to depart. “I’ve had enough of this place. As if the summer heat and scorpions aren’t bad enough, now I have a holly rollin’ county sheriff trying to put me in prison.” 

“You’re abandoning the property?”  

“The county put a goddamn lien on it and I don’t have the resources to fight them in court. I’m headed back home to Ohio where I belong.”  

A stout blonde woman with a strong deep south accent appeared at the door. “Well, that certainly does leave me high and dry, Marvin.”  

“I don’t know what to tell you, Eunice. They’ll throw us all in jail next time so I’m not sticking around.” 

It wasn’t quite love at first sight but there was something about Eunice Adair that Javernick immediately liked. Perhaps it was her self-deprecating sense of humor, and she wasn’t bad looking either, though a bit on the heavy side. “Permit me to introduce myself, I’m Claude Javernick.”  

“Eunice Adair.” She shook his outstretched hand lightly.   

“If you need a new home for your brothel, I have just the place.” 

“Tell me more, handsome.” 

And that was how Eunice Adair ended up moving her brothel to Rioville. Eunice was from Pensacola, Florida, where she’d acquired her deep south accent, and Javernick loved to listen to her speak in the euphonious dialect. She had a natural talent in mathematics and had entered the prostitution business at the management level, she never actually worked on her back. She’d fled Pensacola because of another goody-two-shoes sheriff who wanted to put her in jail. 

Lonnie Rey had been bartending at the Hardyville speakeasy and Javernick offered him a new job too. Lonnie was from Minnesota and ended up working on the river because of the snow-free climate—he’d had enough of the subzero cold up north. 

Lococo began shipping the bootleg hooch to Saint Thomas on a regular basis. Lonnie sold shots at the bar, and he’d also sell a local miner or a ranch hand a whole quart bottle to go. 

Towards the end of the year, a wooden trestle bridge over the Virgin River was intentionally burnt down. It was on the Arrowhead Trail to the east of Saint Thomas, and it hurt the local businesses that relied on automobile travelers. After conducting a conclusive investigation, the Clark County Sheriff’s office was unable to identify the arsonist. It was a suspicious fire to say the least, and more than one rumor circulated town in regard to who might have been responsible.  

The bridge was never rebuilt because the Bureau of Reclamation was moving forward with its plans to dam the canyon. The road was rerouted to the north instead, following the path of the main rail line, and in 1928, Congress passed the Boulder Canyon Project Act authorizing construction of Hoover Dam. 




It was another majestic sunset, late in October in 1941, and Melvin and Kaylee were back in the boat, drifting over Saint Thomas. It cooled off quickly when the sun slipped beneath the mountains and Kaylee snuggled up to Melvin with her hand on his chest. Melvin had his arm around her shoulders, and it was about as romantic a setting as you could ask for as the shadows grew long and the mountains and clouds turned to soft shades of purple and pink.  

“How deep do you suppose the water is?” said Kaylee.  

“From what I’ve heard, about seventy feet.” 

“Doesn’t seem fair. If they’d just made the dam that much lower, Saint Thomas would be high and dry, instead of being underwater.” 

“Any consideration for the people living here was the last thing on their minds when they designed it, Kaylee. If they could have built it another hundred feet taller and flooded the whole valley, they probably wouldn’t have hesitated…No consideration at all for how hard the people worked at building what we had. It just about killed my pa losing the farm, and they didn’t even give us fair market value for it. Spent millions building the dam, but when it came to compensating people like us, paying for what we’d spent our whole lives building with our bare hands, why, ol’ Beekman and the rest of ’em, they turned downright stingy.” 

“Your dad asked for more too, didn’t he?”  

“Damn right. Everyone in town got together and figured out how much the various properties were worth to them, and they had a banker present it to Beekman in a bound ledger. But he came back a couple months later with much lower numbers and said that was it. All you’re gonna get, folks. Wasn’t anywhere near enough, though. The government got their water storage and electricity, but the average people of Saint Thomas, well, we got taken for a ride.” 

“And you’ll never get to see it again.”  

“I was thinking about that, Kaylee, and maybe there is a way we could go take a gander at it.” 

“How’s that?”  

“The submarine that Claude brought us to work on the casino. I was thinking of using the sub to see what it looks like down there now.” 

“That sounds sort of exciting, Melvin.”  

“You want to go? I have tomorrow off. You do too, right?” 

“Yeah, I’m off until Tuesday.” 

“I know Claude wouldn’t mind.”  

“Let’s do it.” 

The next morning, Melvin drove up to Logandale to pick up Kaylee in the Buick. The new house was for the most part finished, but she wasn’t going to move in with him until they were properly hitched, and the wedding was still a month off. So, he picked her up at the cottage and they drove down to the docks where Melvin’s boat was moored.  

When they reached the casino, Melvin told Roland what they were up to. Roland said he thought it was a good idea and to let him know how the voyage turned out because he might want to go along the next time.  

Melvin and Kaylee went out to the sub. It was moored in one of the slips, and they climbed aboard. Melvin started up the motor and checked the diesel fuel—it had a full tank. There were two seats in the front, and crew seats in the back. The pilot’s seat was behind a steering wheel linked to the rudder, and he showed Kaylee how easy it was to navigate; it was similar to driving a car. There was a metal stick with a knob on top like a gear shifter that controlled the diving mechanisms.  

They sailed off to the north in the direction they’d just come in the boat. After a mile or so, he pulled back on the dive stick, and they headed for the bottom of the lake. He turned on the headlights because the deeper they went, the darker it became. Kaylee had been talkative at first, but as they dove towards the bottom, she grew quiet, and looked a bit uneasy.  

“You’re not gettin’ scared, are you?”  

“No, I’m not scared…it’s just a little unusual looking down here.” 

“We can go back if you want.” 

“No, let’s keep going. I’m fine.”  

They found the Virgin River Road at the bottom, and it was truly strange following the road underwater because Melvin knew it so well. He recognized landmarks as they proceeded, certain truck sized boulders and the Empinado Curves and such. The depth gauge was close to five hundred feet when they started out, but the water became shallower as they went, and it gave Melvin an idea of how far they’d traveled. When it said three hundred feet, he figured they were about halfway there, but it took some time because the sub’s top speed was twenty-five knots.  

Melvin and Kaylee talked about various topics as they observed the extraordinary landscape through the sub’s forward viewport. It was a bit like looking through a car’s windshield, but they were hundreds of feet underwater.  

“Claude said he’d like to host our wedding reception at the casino, and I wanted to ask you how you felt about it before I gave him an answer,” said Melvin.  

“That’s awful nice of him, and I think we better say yes.”  

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too. We can have it on the promenade, where we had the grand opening, and he said he’d invite the Hepcats to play.” 

“That sound wonderful, Melvin, as long as we have the ceremony at the church.” 

“Well, yeah. Probably the only way to do it right. Because Pastor Mackenzie needs to hitch us up, and he wouldn’t feel too comfortable doing it in a casino.”  

“I hope he won’t feel too bad about missing the reception because I doubt he’ll want to come. Bonnie told me he was calling the casino Satan’s Palace.” 

Melvin laughed. “Satan’s Palace, eh? I’ll have to tell Claude about that one.” 

“I love Claude. You wouldn’t normally expect a man with so much money to care about people like he does.” 

“Yeah, he’s a saint, Kaylee. He has that assertive personality that some people might misunderstand but he really means well.” 

The underwater landscape began to flatten out after an hour or so and Melvin recognized the confluence of the Virgin and Muddy riverbeds. The depth gauge went under a hundred feet at that point and Melvin knew exactly where he was because they were approaching his hometown, and he was so familiar with it.  

Melvin wasn’t an overly emotional man, but he became visibly upset when they came to his family’s submerged farm. Kaylee reached over to put her hand on his shoulder and kiss him on the cheek. “You really miss it, don’t you?” 

“Damn right, Kaylee. Spent an awful lot of my life in that old house.” 

Some of the townspeople had moved their farmhouses up valley, but the Royce place was too old to disassemble, and they’d left it standing. Melvin’s father had come close to burning it down when the water had finally reached town, but he didn’t have the heart to do it, and they’d left it standing. It was eerie sailing by it in the sub. The wood had begun to rot and fall apart, and he kept the craft moving towards the center of town because it made him uncomfortable looking at it for very long.  

There were lines of shade trees along the network of irrigation ditches that crisscrossed the town, but most of them had been cut down by the townspeople before they left, better than letting the valuable firewood rot in the lake. The stumps were still visible, and though the ditches had begun to fill with sediment they were still easy to see too. The railroad tracks had been disassembled; the steel rails were worth too much to leave behind, but most of the ties were still in place and it wasn’t hard to see where the trains had once traveled into town.  

They sailed down Main Street, past Hanig’s Store, where Riner and his wife Ettie sold groceries and ran the local ice cream parlor. The Hanigs had disassembled the buildings, but the concrete foundations and a tall chimney were still standing. Further down the street they came to the remains of the sizable blacksmith’s shop and across the road the schoolhouse where Melvin had learned to read and write.  

For the most part, all that remained throughout the abandoned town were the concrete foundations, and the concrete and stone cisterns where the residents stored their drinking water. The townspeople had done a good job picking up all the scrap following the disassembly work, because they had too much respect for the place to leave any trash behind.  

Harry Gentry had torn his buildings down, the hotel, the store, and the post office, as well as the Dutch Colonial homestead on the other side of the road. The shade trees around the place were all still standing, he hadn’t had the heart to cut them down, but it looked as if they were starting to decay in the dark water.  

“Oh my God, what’s that?” exclaimed Kaylee as they came to the Gentry Store’s exposed concrete foundation.  

Then Melvin noticed it too. “It looks like a skeleton.” He guided the sub in closer and shined the headlights on what appeared to be a human skeleton…And what made it truly bizarre was it was propped up in a sitting position with one of its legs crossed over the other.  

“Who do you think it was?” said Kaylee.  

“I don’t know. Looks like someone was just sitting there waiting for the water to come up.” 

“And then they drowned?”  

“Not sure, Kaylee.”  

“Should we report it to the police?”  

“Probably wouldn’t do any good. We’re the only ones with a submarine. Nobody else has a way of getting down here.”  

“But it’s a human body, Melvin. Or at least it was a human body.”  

“There’s a diving suit in here. I could go outside and grab it and bring it along with us.”  

“No way.” Kaylee shivered. “That would be way too creepy.”  

“Yeah, it’d likely fall apart anyway.”  

“It’s just plain weird, Melvin. Did someone drown and then end up sitting there like that?”  

“I don’t know, but I think we’d better head back now.”  

Melvin turned the sub around and sailed back towards the casino, anxious to tell Roland and Javernick about the apparent ghost they’d found.  









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