I didn’t wanna go to Nevada.
I mean, I sure as hell didn’t wanna go to Winnemucca.
Reno? Sure, why not? South Tahoe? A delight. Vegas? At the drop of a pair of dice.
But Winnemucca, for chrissake. I can’t even spell it unless I look at a friggin’ map.
A booze jockey in Frisco told me the town was named for an old timey Indian chief, or somethin’ like that. Who
cares? It’s nowhere, man. I mean, what’s to do there other than wait for the other moccasin to drop?
So I figure they gotta be kiddin’, you know?
They weren’t; no way.
These people I work for on a kinda freelance basis don’t kid around when it comes to a job. When they want you to
act as a go-between, an intermediary, so to speak, you either say yes or no, and not too often with the no if you
wanna keep workin’ for them, or just keep workin’ at all.
They reach out to me ‘cause I got a rep for bein’ handy with bugs, mikes, and all that techno stuff used to find out
what other people are sayin’ when they don’t wantcha to know what they’re sayin’, dig?
My original thinkin’ was to sorta slide into and outta Winnemucca as quick as possible. Do the job and be home in my
own bed the same night. But when it comes to travel, man, my thinkin’ ain’t worth shit.
The basic problem is you can’t get there from here, not without a lot of hopscotchin’ around all over the damn place.
As for doin’ it all in one day, no way, man.
Sure, they got lots of full service daily flights outta Frisco into Reno. But go beyond “The Biggest Little City in the
World” and it’s pure torture - puddle-jumpers with mini-bags of stale party mix and no booze north to Elko, then 125
miles of drivin’ back south to Winnemucca. All the time lugging gear that ain’t gonna make it through airport security
anyway. Huh-uh! No thanks! Forget it!
So, I decide to do the whole commute by road, with a nice cooler full of cold ones close by my side.
Hardly takes no time to find a big-name car rental place that’s out of everything most people want to rent and is
jackass happy to put me into a humpin’ Lincoln LS at half the going sucker rate.
I do the 420 miles in four-wheel luxury, man – no airport security checks, no Nosey Parker sittin’ next to me, and no
stinkin’ seat-kickin’ kids. Helluva deal.
I stop in Reno, fail to out-guess a couple of roulette wheels, catch a few winks, and I’m in Winnemucca the next day
My shtik is to keep a low profile and poke around to get the skinny on how and when an ambitious newbie DA intends
to close down Winnemucca’s half-dozen bawdy houses.
Thing is, this bozo took money from my people for his election campaign. Now he’s conveniently forgot the-who-and-
the-why of things and made some headlines about padlockin’ the bordellos, in which my people have a substantial
financial interest. Not a healthy thing to do, you know?
I could easily deliver the jerko to an anonymous plot out in the desert, only I was told not to disarrange things too
much. Sort of take the sand-in-the-face option only if I can’t find a less extreme way to put things back on the proper
So, since this wasn’t gonna to be a quick-and-dirty, I needed to find out where Winnemucca’s movers and doers
usually rest their boots while doin’ business with each other.
The desk clerk at the One-Eyed Jacks Hotel & Casino, where I’m comped, points me in the direction of the Brandin’
Iron café on Winnemucca Avenue, which is no big deal since damn near everything is on Winnemucca Avenue.
I pick up a city map at the Chamber of Commerce, but smile away a friendly yak-yak push to visit their Buckaroo Hall
of Fame and Western Heritage Museum. Yuk!
With the map and a phone book, I find out not everything’s on Winnemucca Avenue. The ladies who provide adult
services are housed in what they call the Bell Addition, down near the Humboldt River.
Back issues of the local rag tell me what I already know – the citizenry ain’t too keen on having the DA messin’
around with their thrivin’ community of whorehouses.
Not too surprising since these little houses of joy aren’t exactly new on the scene. Some been around for decades,
operatin’ under a kinda unofficial state non-interference policy, which sorta translates into a local option don’t-ask-
That evenin’ I make a personal visit. Strictly research, you know? It’s a happy part of town, with some nice lookin’
broads at all six houses; not too Vegas-flashy, which is a compliment in my book.
In the process, I hook up with Darla Smyth, madam of The Nookery, which I’m told is the DA’s primary target of
opportunity. Ms. Darla lets me know up front she’s been expectin’ me, or at least expectin’ someone who will be
looking out after her interests, and those of her major investors.
Ms. Darla proceeds to give me the low-down on who is who and what is what, and later is very helpful in a more
personal way. I’m impressed, and quite satisfied. It was good for me, you know?
I spend the next couple of days hangin’ out at the Brandin’ Iron for breakfast and lunch, along with a couple of
different steak houses for dinner. Just kinda listenin’ to people’s conversations, you know? I also spend a little more
time with Ms. Darla, doin’ some deeper research.
On my third morning in Winnemucca, I’m at the Brandin’ Iron, scarfin' down a breakfast special big enough to feed two
guys, when this trio of jamokes in the next booth start talkin’ louder than they should, considerin’ what they’re talkin’
By the time they agree on what’s comin’ down, I’ve had so much coffee it’s all I can do to keep from jumpin’ up and
tellin’ them they’re dumb as posts.
Their plan, if you wanna call it that, is that tonight two of them are goin’ to The Nookery. One dude will carry a bug
into a crib – some gimmicky thing built into one of those dumb cowboy belt buckles that jab you in the gut every time
you bend over to wipe dust off your pointy-toed shoes. Anyway, while he’s gettin’ his jollies with the prostie, the
other dumbo will record the how-much-and-for-what, along with all the nitty-gritty action so the DA can use
everything as evidence.
I casually follow them outside. One jerk-off in a JC Penney’s suit and matchin’ tie climbs into a four-year-old, entry-
level Chevy Cavalier with tax-exempt plates. I figure him for a DA investigator – an underpaid underachiever if I ever
The other two clowns, wearin’ cheapo dress-up Western clothes, climb into a tatty Chrysler Sebring convert. While I’
m tailin’ them in the Lincoln, I use my cell to check in with my hacker back in Frisco, who does a little tap dance on his
computer keys and forwards me the info that what I’ve got are a coupla of punk PIs out of Reno. Big fuckin’ deal.
Once this pitiful pair is settled into the Days Inn motel, I slap my own bug under a fender of their ragtop and I’m off to
do some recon while my computer monitors any movement on their part. No sittin’ in a car with cold food, warm
sodas, and pee cup for this puppy.
When the bozos finally make a move, it’s almost 9 p.m. Straight to The Nookery they go, which is such a non-surprise
that I’m there waitin’ for them.
Of course I don’t say hello, or nothin’ like that. I just sit and let them do their thing. These goofballs actually flip a
coin to decide who goes in and who stays outside.
After Dinkumdee and Dinkumdoo have left the premises, I check in with Ms. Darla. She shows me the crib Mr. Inside
used, and intros me to the girl. We make our own Top Ten recording, complete with special sound effects. It’s the
kinda work a man can really get into.
By noon the next day, the only topic of conversation at the Brandin’ Iron is about the DA arresting Darla Smyth and
chargin’ her with “maintaining a public nuisance.”
“The first of six,” the DA announces, makin’ the populace none to happy.
* * *
I’m finishin’ up a little job in Frisco a coupla weeks later when I get the word on the trial date. The timing’s perfect,
besides which I’ve been gettin’ the hots again for Ms. Darla.
A snitch in the courthouse tells The Nookery’s madam that the DA’s primo evidence – virtually his only evidence – is
the tape made by the Reno PIs.
Several crisp Franklins go from my wallet to the snitch‘s hand, along with my own cassette, and we’re ready. At least
that’s what I think until the first day of the trial.
Several jurors fail to show and have to be hauled into court by the cops. A very angry judge shows them the paper
they signed sayin’ they were willin’ to serve; they shake their heads and claim they thought it was a petition in favor
of makin’ prostitution legal.
It only takes a couple of I’ll-damn-well-throw-you-in-jails and the jury box is filled with twelve miserable-but-ready-to
serve Winnemuccans. The DA and the defense attorney word-spar before the judge, then the DA calls his first so
called expert witness - Mr. Inside, so to speak.
These guys need to watch a few episodes of “Law and Order” ‘cause their Q&A routine is enough to put you to
sleep. I mean, when Mr. Inside is asked, “How were the girls at The Nookery dressed?” he thinks for a moment, then
The hoots and howls cause the judge to bang his gavel and threaten to clear the courtroom.
They finally get around to the makin’ of the tape at The Nookery. The DA, after puttin’ on a very serious face, asks
the clerk to play the tape. We all sit there, starin’ at a cheapo boombox. For the next five minutes or so, the only
thing we hear is my substitute cassette playin’ “Big John” as background music to the sound of squeakin’ bed springs.
When the gawkers realize that’s-all-there-is-there-ain't-no-more, we get snickers, then laughs, then boomin’ hee-
Once the judge gets things settled down again, the DA rushes through the rest of his presentation, the defense
attorney kinda shrugs off the prosecution’s case, and the whole thing is handed over to the jury.
Well, it takes those ten Jacks and two Jills only eleven minutes to bring in a verdict in favor of Darla Smyth. Obviously,
my tape was No. 1 on the Winnemuccan Hit Parade.
Later, I tell my people that the fine citizens of Winnemucca don’t want nobody, at no time, messin’ with their little
ladies. I think it wise, though, not to tell them about shtuppin’ the very fine Ms. Darla.
So, after just the tiniest little ole knife-point threat from me, the DA moves to Boise, I get
a four-figure bonus, and the local weekly caps off the whole caper with a boffo headline:
“Winnemuccans Win Whore War.”
By: J. J. Lamb