By Bob Moats
This page contains chapters 1 to 13, this is all for this preview. Read the rest in the book when it is ready.
I hated phone calls in the middle of the night; they either woke me rudely or were bad news. The call at 4 a.m. was bad news.
I rolled over and grabbed the phone, hopefully before it woke Penny, although she could sleep through a nuclear attack. I almost rolled over Willy sleeping soundly next to me; he yelped and ran to the foot of the bed. I got to the phone just before its third ring and said hello. It was my brother; I just knew what he was going to tell me, our father had passed away.
Before I moved in with Penny, I had lived with my parents, helping my Mother with my Dad who was a stroke victim. His health went downhill over the years since that first stroke, and he wasn't getting any better after I moved out. I knew it was going to happen one day, but that didn't make it any easier. I hated to see him just sitting in his room watching crappy TV, that was all he seemed to want. I would stop by a couple times a week and he was not well, I could tell.
Penny was lying next to me listening to the fragments of my conversation with my brother and after I hung up and laid back, she pulled me to her. I laid there for what seemed like days.
We were dressed early and on the way to the cemetery two days later, my Mom not wanting a funeral, just family and very close friends at the burial. I refused to view my father in the coffin; I wanted to remember him alive, not laid out all made up like a mannequin. Dad was put in the crypt with military honors, a 21 gun salute and they gave the flag to Mom. We all ended up at a local restaurant for breakfast and then parted to go on with our lives.
I was driving back from the restaurant and I would glance over to Penny when I could. She was so beautiful to me and I loved her. I was feeling a bit mortal now; I'm 60 years old and I would never know when I would go out of life as well. We got back to the house and I took Penny to the living room and sat her down on the couch. I paused a bit too long and she asked if I was all right.
"I'm sad, but what I want to say is something I have thought about for a long time." I paused again, she waited. "We've been together for almost a year now and I love loving you. You amaze me every day with your silly little skits and shows, I am always wondering what to expect when I get home. I don't want to lose that."
I got down before her on the couch and said, "I'd be honored if you would be my wife, my love and my life."
Penny's eyes went wide and she got a strange look on her face, happy yet stunned. She took my face in her hands and kissed me fully and firmly. She pulled back and said, "What took you so long?" I laughed and she continued, "I have never met a man quite like you, smart, funny and a passion for life. Yes, I would want to be your wife and have you as my love and my life." She kissed me again.
I stood and pulled her up and told her to grab Willy's carrier and she did. I put Willy in the doggy purse that I had Penny wear, and aimed her for the door. She asked where we were going, I said you'll see. We got in the car and I drove over to the Macomb Mall and into Zale's Jewelers. She smiled and said she wanted the biggest rock they had; I said it would be a nice rock. The salesgirl went nuts over Willy, then showed us different engagement and wedding rings, we took our time, just to get it right.
I still had a huge nest egg from the check I got for the finder's fee from Marsha's embezzlement during the mistress murders, so I didn't care how much the rings cost. We picked out a very nice set and luckily they had them in our sizes. I paid the cashier and we went out.
Penny asked me on the way to our house if we should have a nice quiet wedding, just friends and family or an elopement to Las Vegas. I laughed and thought about it, Vegas would be nice, and we'd be able to see Deacon and Lynn. I looked at her and asked if she wanted to do that. She said the logistics would be difficult, bringing my mother and family all the way out there, not to mention Buck and Trapper if they wanted to go, but she really would like the idea. We got back to the house and sat talking about how we could pull it off. I got on the phone and called Vegas and got Lynn. It was about 9 a.m. in Vegas and Lynn sounded like she just got up.
"No work today for the wicked," I asked after putting them on our speaker phone. She recognized my voice, shrieked and called Deacon. I heard him grumbling about being woke so early. I said to Lynn to tell him to get the hell out of bed. Lynn told him who it was and he bellowed that it was about time I called.
After they both settled down and put me on their speaker phone, I said, "OK, here's the deal, Penny and I have decide to get married and we want to do it in Vegas." I waited for them to respond. They did with yelling and screaming, mostly Deacon was screaming.
Lynn said she had connections with some great wedding planners in Vegas and they would make it an affair to remember. That kind of scared me, but I saw Penny eyes light up.
"We're still in the planning stages, but we'll let you both know when we'll attempt it. We have to make sure everyone here can get time off to go, and if we can get them to agree to go out there."
We talked a bit more about life and I told them about my father, they gave their condolences. We said we'd be in touch soon and said our good-byes and hung up.
Penny had this look on her face that worried me, she looked devious. I asked what was on her evil mind. She said she had an idea to get everyone out to Vegas without having to suffer the airports of hell. I was intrigued, but she said I may not like the idea. I asked her to tell me, and I'd let her know if it was a good idea. She told me to wait and went to the phone in the bedroom, out of my hearing range. I was worried.
She was gone for about a half hour as Willy and I sat on the couch waiting. She came bouncing back into the room and said she made a deal with her producer, oh, and he said congratulations, that if the station can film the wedding for the show, they would send everyone out on the corporate jet we flew out the last time we were in Vegas. I sat looking at her thinking about the circus that this could become, but liked the idea of flying everyone out together for free. And avoiding, as Penny said, the airports of hell. The next thing we would have to attempt is to get everyone to agree on when they were free to go.
I knew my mother had all the time in the world now, but getting her to leave her home and board a plane may be a bit hard to get her to do. My brother was self-employed so he could adjust his life, I hoped. I wanted my son there, but he lived up north, about 250 miles away, I'd see if he could bring his wife and baby down to go with us. This could be a nightmare.
I called Buck and told him our plans and he whooped and hollered and asked when we were leaving. I said as soon as I get everyone to settle on dates and times. He said the second check I gave him for guarding Mrs. Truedell and her dog allowed him to have a lot of free time. I said I'd keep him informed.
I called Trapper, I wanted him to come with us, he was good people and he might get a kick going back to his home town of Las Vegas.
"Why do you want to spoil a good thing by getting married, Richards." Trapper said over the phone when I told him the plan.
"I've wanted to marry Penny for a long time, the events of the last week made me realize life can be short."
"Hey, I'm sorry to hear about your Dad. I'll have to see how much vacation time I have, of course the check you gave me allows for any unpaid time off I'd want, but I may be able to swing it, as soon as you let me know when we can go. I think I'd like to go back to my roots, and especially to go harass my old buddy, Captain Weber." I could see him smiling wide through the phone. We finished up and he hung up.
I looked to Penny and said that today was not a good day to talk to my Mom, so soon after the burial, so we'd wait a couple of days and hit her with it. I called my brother and told him, he congratulated us and said it sounded good, if the trip was free. I said it would be if we can get everyone together. He said to let him know.
I was feeling like this was not going to be easy. I called my son up in northern Michigan and told him, he said he and his family would love to come. He was unemployed, but I sent a check from my windfall to help them out, and they were free to go. I said they would have to drive down when we decided to go.
Penny and I sat and drew out a plan on paper and finally came up with an approximate date to make it all happen, it mostly depended on my Mom. Penny called her producer and he said he'd arrange for the jet and the film crew when we had a definite date. The film crew idea still scared me.
We sat back on the couch and soaked in the moment. Penny was admiring her big rock, commenting on how we'd be Mr. and Mrs. soon. She would have to keep her last name due to her show, but she would hyphenate it off the show. Willy was having fits that we were ignoring him; Penny picked him up and rubbed his belly, he forgave us.
The next morning we were up early and dressed. Earlier in the week, Penny had told her producer about the funeral and told them she was taking a couple days off. The station would run repeats till she was able to return. We had breakfast, I usually don't, but I was hungry this morning. I guess it had to do with all the pre-marital celebrating we did in bed last night.
I called my Mom and said we'd like to stop by, she said she'd like that. We packed up Willy and headed off see if we could get Mom to leave her home, get on an airplane that she's never been on before and fly two thousand miles to watch us tie the knot. Mission Impossible.
We got there and she showered Willy and Penny with hugs and kisses and told us to come and sit. We did and Mom told us how she started cleaning the house and packing away Dad's stuff. She pulled out a small box and gave me a choice of my dad's rings and I picked a nice silver one, my brother would get the other gold one.
She said we looked like we had something on our minds. We hesitated not knowing how she'd take it so soon after the funeral.
"Mom, I realized yesterday that life was precious and I wanted to make Penny an honest woman, so I asked her to marry me and she accepted." I waited.
Mom went crazy happy and jumped up to hug and kiss Penny, then me. I hated getting sloppy with that kind of happy, but it made Mom feel good. She asked when and I hesitated again.
"Well, that depends on you. We decided to get married in Las Vegas, and Penny arranged for her station to fly all of us out in the corporate jet to Vegas for free, and avoiding commercial airline headaches. I talked to my brother and my son and they are all for it, we just need to know if you are agreeable to going with us." I paused waiting for the reasons for her not going so far away.
She surprised me by asking when was the flight out. I told her we still had to arrange it but it would be soon, in a week or so. She said she wouldn't miss it. I looked at Penny and said we had a go for everyone, now to herd them all into the plane.
Back at the house, I spent some time on the phone getting commitments from everyone to narrow it down to a single date we would all be available to go. I finally got a date and told Penny; it was to be a week and a half from today. She said that would give her show time to run promos for our big wedding day to be shown on her program. I still had chills about that.
I called Lynn and Deacon and told them when we would be coming out. Penny and I talked about it and we would probably be out there at least a week, sending our family back just after the wedding to continue with their lives.
Lynn said she already contacted a wedding planner she knew and gave Penny the number so she could make arrangements. Lynn said they were online with a website and much of the decisions could be made there. Penny said that worked for her, Deacon was yelling in the background that I was an idiot for getting married, run away fast. Lynn told him to shut up and we talked a little more than hung up.
Penny called the wedding planner and they talked for a good long time. Penny got on the computer and the wedding planner gave her a tour of the website guiding her from the phone.
I was sitting on a chair next to Penny looking at the tons of wedding crap they offered. I was being amazed by the selection of wedding dresses they had, just as someone knocked on the front door. I went to answer and it was Trapper.
"Well, what brings out our finest of police Detectives today?"
"Yeah, sure, I don't know about the finest. I just stopped by to ask you for a favor." He looked like he wasn't sure if he should ask.
I said ask away.
"Well, I mentioned to Becker about the wedding and the boy looked crushed that he hadn't been invited. Is there any way we could fit him in?"
"Crap, I didn't even think about Barry. Wow, let me call him and I'll make it out like I had him on the list, just hadn't got to him yet. I think that will work."
Trapper did something he doesn't do often, smiled. "I'd like to show him around Vegas, give me something to do while you guys are getting ready for the big event. I know Buck wouldn't want to hang with me, he'd be around you most the time and I'd feel better with someone along too."
"Will, it's no problem, I like Barry, he's grown on me since the dog watching case, I like the kid. Can he get time off for the trip?"
"I checked on his vacation time and the idiot hasn't taken off in two years. He has more than enough time to go, besides the check you gave him will fill any extra time he needs."
"Good, I'll put him on the guest list and call him shortly."
"Thanks Jim, I'll leave you two to your... whatever you two do." He smiled again, looked down at Willy and asked if this was his namesake. I realized Trapper hadn't seen the dog yet and lifted Willy up so Trapper could get a closer look. He ruffled Willy's head and said, "You couldn't have named a pitbull after me?" He gave Willy another ruffle and left.
I put Willy back down and went back to Penny, still on the phone with the wedding planner and still exploring the website. I went out to the kitchen, followed by Willy, and made us something to eat.
After Penny finished, I told her about Trapper's visit and Penny said taking Becker along would be great, she liked him too. I got on the phone and called him, and said I was just now getting around to calling the people we wanted on our trip, he said he was honored that we thought about him. I told him when the plane flight was planned and he'd need the time off from work. He said he'd arrange it and be there.
Penny and I sat back and talked about what we were getting into. I joked about our wedding becoming a reality show for her program, and I hated reality shows. She smiled and said it was our reality and that was important to her.
"OK, tell me what you and the long distance wedding planner conspired."
"Well, we're going to the Little Wedding Chapel of Las Vegas to have the wedding and the woman I talked to, her name was Shelby Francis, said that she would call Lynn and arrange for a place to have the reception. There won't be a lot of people there, so we didn't need a big place."
I thought about it and figured I may invite a few of my Vegas friends, like Wally and the stage crew from the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, Penny said that would be fine with her. I got on the phone again and called Wally, he was happy that we thought about him and the guys, and took the information as to when this would all take place. I said I'd call with the final arrangements and would be glad to see them all again. I wondered how Jamie was doing, she was the sister of Lisa, who was murdered by Fritz/Wallace during the showgirl murders, and I helped get her a job working stage crew at the Flamingo. I asked, and Wally said Jamie was still working crew and was a joy to work with. I said to be sure to invite her along with the rest of the motley crew. He said he would and we finished.
I thought about inviting Captain Weber from Las Vegas Metro PD, that would make Trapper happy. Penny laughed at the thought of the two of them together and said this was going to be an interesting event. I laughed out loud and Penny just stared at me. I said we could invite Weber to be an escort for my Mom, that would be funny. Penny said Weber was too flighty a person to subject my Mom to. I agreed, but it was an idea.
"We'll also need a couple of limos to take everyone to and from the chapel and reception. The film crew will have to arrange for their own transportation." I grinned.
"OK, you're not crazy about the whole taping of our wedding for my show, I understand, but this is going to make things a whole lot easier getting out there. Remember our trip to the Cayman Islands last month. Did you enjoy that plane flight?"
"OK, I yield to your logic. This will make it easier. I'll grin and bear it."
One week later, we were zipping around making last minute arrangements for our family to fly out. I hired a stretch limo to take us all to the Detroit City Airport where the corporate jet was stowed. My son said they would drive down that morning and meet us at Penny's house. Penny was flitting around getting packed and I warned her to cut back on the suitcases. She managed to only pack three this time. She did manage to pack only one suitcase for Willy.
"OK, we get to Vegas on Wednesday, then we'll have three days to get ready for the wedding on Saturday afternoon. Lynn and Deacon said they had a banquet room at the MGM Grand reserved and they would be set up by the time we roll in after the wedding. I reserved suites for everyone in the MGM Grand, which cost a small fortune, I can afford it, but it was still a bit of a bite. Having the reception there would also make it easier for everyone to get to their rooms. I doubled up Becker and Trapper in one room, my brother and his wife in another, and my son and family in another. Oh, and I put my mother in with my brother, that should make him happy. We're the one's getting married, so why are we doing all the work?"
Penny looked at me and asked, "Did you get us a room?"
I grinned and said, "Yes, the honeymoon suite at the Bellagio Hotel. I don't want to be anywhere near my family on my wedding night."
Penny laughed and asked where Buck was staying. I said Deacon had told his sister Maria about her invitation to the wedding, and she asked if Buck was coming, he said yes, of course, so Maria wants Buck to stay at her place. I talked to Buck and he said that was fine with him. I knew it would be.
The next day, Penny came back from her station, bearing gifts. She said her station threw a bridal shower for her and they put it on her show. I helped her bring in the gifts and then we went to see the TiVo of the show. I still felt weird about having our wedding broadcast on TV but it was a trade off. Her show made a big deal about the wedding and Penny said she'd be gone for a week in Vegas and back to show everyone her wedding video.
Wednesday morning came quickly and my son, his wife and my grandson arrived around 7 a.m., and shortly after, my brother came rolling in with his wife; he also picked up our mother. Mom was really hopped up over going on this trip and said so. Penny was going all nuts over my grandson, Alex, holding him like he was hers; I didn't think she'd give him back. Trapper and Becker came in by 7:30 a.m. followed shortly by Buck. I had hired a stretch limo and it came by 8 a.m. and we all piled in, with Willy in a metal dog carrier. The limo company also sent a van to follow us with all the luggage that wouldn't fit in the limo. We headed down I-94 to Detroit City Airport and found the jet all ready to go. I was surprised to see the same pilots and flight attendant from our last trip to Vegas; I guess they were company people.
The film crew was already there and they amounted to one camera man, a sound man, one equipment handler and a woman who would be the director of this little project. She knew Penny so they greeted each other as the camera man was taking his videos of our arrival at the terminal. I was still not crazy about having my life on a reality show, oh, well.
Penny was still carrying my grandson, soon to be our grandson, and was directing everyone to the jet. I carried Willy's prison onto the plane and everyone was aboard and seated as the flight attendant gave us the standard flight briefing and we all buckled in for the take off. Willy's carrier was strapped to the back floor, where they usually put wheelchairs. The camera crew was busy recording everything for posterity.
The jet taxied out to the runway and was given clearance to go. I loved to fly, not commercial, but this private jet was great. We were airborne and my mother was excited watching out the window as the ground dropped below us. At 80 years old, she never went up in a plane, let alone a jet. She was glued to the window watching the scenery fly by below.
Penny retrieved her future grandson from my daughter-in-law and was talking to him, poor kid. We all gabbed and enjoyed the trip. Willy was let loose and cuddling up to everyone, then about half way across the states, I gave everyone a rundown of how this attack on Vegas would go. I explained the room set-ups and where we would be for the wedding and reception.
Trapper joked about having to be in the same room with Becker, I said he could pay for his own room if he didn't like the arrangements. He said that he'd put up with Becker, but if only if he behaved. Becker would have given Trapper the finger, but there were women and children aboard and said so.
About three and a half hours later the co-pilot came out and told us we would be landing shortly so if we could all take our seats. We landed in Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport without a bump and were all herded off the jet into a waiting stretch limo for our journey to the MGM Grand. The camera crew had a van waiting for them and followed us. We arrived and I told the driver to leave Penny's and my baggage and the doggy carrier in the car and wait for us, the driver agreed and parked off to the side. Penny had Willy in his doggy purse for the trip into the hotel.
The camera crew was still recording, but not too close, thankfully, all the way into the hotel lobby. People around us were wondering what was going on, since we departed a limo and had a camera crew recording our every move. I kind of felt like a celebrity. One woman asked me if we were famous, I pointed to Willy and said that he was Lassie. She bought it and went to tell her husband.
I took everyone to the registration desk and got them all assigned to their suites and then we went up to them. They were all next to each other and I asked the hotel for the best rooms, with a good view of the strip, I was happy with their choice. My mom was like a little kid at her first circus, she was just about bouncing up and down. I looked at my brother and said to have fun, he just smiled and rolled his eyes.
After everyone was shown to their rooms, I gathered everybody in Trapper's room and told them that Trapper was to be in charge, if there were problems. I told them Penny and I would be back shortly after we checked into our hotel. I wasn't telling anyone where we were staying, that was to be a guarded secret. I made sure everyone had their cell phones with them and turned on, in case I had to call.
I took Buck and Penny back down to the limo and had the driver take Buck to Maria's, where we said our hellos, Maria jumped all over Penny congratulating her and me. I told Maria where to bring the two of them for a dinner tonight. I said I'd call with more details and then had the driver take Penny and I to the Bellagio Hotel, where we got registered. We went up to the suite and I was impressed with the view, right over the fountain. Willy was right at home, jumped up on the couch and curled up to sleep. I called Trapper to make sure everyone was behaving and he said all was well. I told him we'd be back there to go to dinner around 5:00 and to have everyone ready.
I called Lynn and Deacon, they were excited that we were in and settled. I told them where we would be having dinner for our first night in and they said they'd be there.
Penny and I had about an hour and a half before going back to the MGM Grand, so we made good use of the time on the huge bed. I noticed there was no whirlpool spa by the window like we had last time we were in Vegas at the MGM; here it was back in the bathroom. It didn't matter, we would be busy entertaining our family.
Around 4:30 we called for a room sitter for Willy, they sent one up, and we gathered ourselves and went back to the MGM Grand and herded our group to go to dinner. We went down to the area of the hotel set up for any kind of restaurant you'd want. The restaurant I chose had our table ready for our group and the camera crew was asked by the hostess not to film while in the restaurant. I wanted to cheer on the hostess. The camera man did manage to sneak over with one of those tiny digital video cameras and recorded as much as he could before the hostess caught on and chased him out again. She was on my Christmas list.
Deacon and Lynn arrived and I introduced them to my family. Trapper latched on to Deacon with a bear hug that surprised me, and I think Deacon too. Deacon introduced Lynn to Trapper and Becker and then they took their seats. Everyone ordered and while waiting for the food to come we sat and talked.
Trapper stood and clinked his glass with a fork, getting everyone's attention.
"I was there when Jim and Penny re-united for the first time in forty years, at the TV station after she received the death threat. Deacon was there too, that was the start of our adventure that led us to this week. I want to say that even though I'm not best man," he made a fake cough, "I want to be the first to officially congratulate them on their wedding."
Everyone applauded and Trapper sat down. I was impressed by his short speech, and then Buck stood. "I've known Jim for a couple of years and Penny almost a year and I am honored to be the best man," he grinned at Trapper, "and I hope Penny and Jim have a long and happy life together now that they are not going to be living in sin any more." He grinned as everyone laughed. He held up his glass and proposed a toast, everyone joined and then our food arrived.
We ate and afterwards we all headed up to Trapper's room, called for room service, plenty of beer and pop, partied till about 2 a.m. as we started losing people to go to sleep. Mom was about the first to go, followed by my son and his family. My brother and wife hung in, then they left. Buck and Maria left around 3 a.m. then Deacon and Lynn left to get rested for tomorrow. They each took time off from their police duties to be with us. Penny and Lynn had plotted to go get Penny fitted for the dress tomorrow at the bridal boutique owned by Shelby Francis, the wedding planner.
Trapper, Becker, Penny and I sat for a short time, then Penny and I left to go back to our suite at the Bellagio. I told Trapper outside the room where we were at, but swore him to an oath he wouldn't tell anyone unless there was an emergency.
We got back to our room and just crashed on the bed, we were a bit too tired now to fool around, we slept. Willy was sound asleep at the end of the bed before I even drifted off.
Next morning, around 7:30, Lynn was banging on our door, I was surprised to see her.
"How did you find us?" I asked.
She grinned and said, "I'm a good detective." I laughed over her use of my favorite line. "And I have a badge," she added and laughed.
Penny and Lynn cackled like hens and I asked where Deacon was, Lynn said he'd be along shortly to keep me busy while the girls did their thing. They went out and Willy and I stood by the window looking out at the strip, wishing we lived here. I called Trapper and asked how everyone was doing, he said they all gathered and went down for breakfast. He said my Mom was a ball of energy, she was all over the place in the mall area of the hotel. I laughed and asked him to keep an eye on her, he said he would.
There was a knock on the door, it was Deacon. "Well, are you ready to go escort my family around Vegas?" He smiled and said he alerted the police that there was a crazy bunch of terrorist tourists in town. I put Willy in his doggy purse and Deacon made fun of me for wearing such a cute purse. I stuck my tongue out at him and we went out.
I asked Deacon to rent a large van with windows all around to haul my family around Vegas. He had rented this monster of a stretch van that he had parked at the valet parking, showing them his badge and warning the valet attendants that if anyone touched the van it would be fatal for them. We went to the MGM Grand where my friends and family agreed to meet us at the valet parking in front. Trapper knew the area well and had everyone waiting there when we pulled up.
I pulled Deacon aside and told him I was going to take Trapper and Becker over to Metro Police and see if we can stir up Captain Weber. Deacon said that neither he nor Lynn had said a word about Trapper coming into town, so it would be a surprise. I asked Deacon if he could take everyone to catch the afternoon show of Ron Lucas, the ventriloquist, and we'd catch up to them later. I gave him enough cash to buy everyone tickets and went to tell my family what was happening. They all loved the idea of seeing the show and so Deacon piled everyone into the van.
Buck said he and Maria wanted to go wander the strip and I said that worked for me. Then I asked them if they would watch Willy for me, Maria was all excited to take the dog and she slung the doggy purse over her head and they walked off heading over to Las Vegas Boulevard. I could see Willy's head looking back at me, probably thinking what the hell is going on?
I went into the MGM Grand being followed by Trapper and Becker, went to the car rental booth and got an SUV like the one I had last time we were here. They brought the car around and we climbed in and I drove over to Tropicana Boulevard and up to Metro Police. Trapper was like a little kid seeing his hometown again.
"Damn building hasn't changed at all since I left." He said as we pulled into the parking lot of Metro PD. I parked and we all headed to the front door, just as two officers were coming out. They froze and one of them yelled, "Crap, we got trouble, call SWAT."
Everyone laughed and the officer who yelled, ran to Trapper and gave him a bear hug. Trapper started to wrestle with the cop and then they broke loose.
"What the hell you doing in town, I thought Weber told you never to set foot back here?" The cop speaking was introduced to me and Becker as Sergeant Tim Carney, a good friend from Trapper's past.
"You know I don't play by the rules." Trapper laughed.
"Weber's going to crap when he see's you. Does he know you're in town?"
"Nope, this is going to be a total surprise."
"Come on in Will, I'll get on the horn and call Weber out. I want to see the look on his face." Carney put his arm around Trapper and took him in. The lobby went a bit nuts from the officers who had known Trapper and it was like a party. Carney got on the phone and called Weber telling him there was someone here to see him. Trapper stepped behind me as Weber came out; he saw me and got a big grin.
"Richards, you're back in town, pleasure or business?" He bellowed.
Behind me Trapper said "We're here for pleasure," then popped his head around me and smiled at Weber.
Weber just stared and quietly said "Oh, shit." I could see the veins on his head growing and he bellowed even louder, "What the hell you doing in my town! I had hoped I'd never see you again."
Trapper came around me and went nose to nose with Weber and said, "Did you think you could keep me out of my home town, you old-should-have-retired-years-ago dinosaur!"
Weber just stared Trapper down, then laughed heartily, and gave Trapper a hug almost lifting him off the ground.
"You crooked son of a bitch, how are you doing?" Weber was relaxed now.
"I'm doing great. You already know Richards; this other idiot is one of my boys from back in Michigan, Officer Barry Becker. He came out here to help me stir up trouble." Trapper was enjoying this.
Weber came to Becker, shaking his hand and said, "I feel so sorry for you. I'll tell you some stories about this man that will curl your hair." He loved those stories, I tend to believe they were the best times in his cop career he had.
"Captain Weber, I'm in town to marry Penny Wickens, you remember her?" I asked.
"I sure do remember that pretty little lady, about time you latched a hold of her."
"Well, I'd like to invite you to the wedding or if easier for you, the reception."
He was almost speechless, "I'd be honored to be invited, thank you so much for thinking of me. Do you want a police honor guard for your wedding? I can have them bring their swords."
"No thank you, it's just a simple ceremony, just my family and friends. If you want to bring a date, or your wife if you're married, that would be fine."
"No wife and no woman would want me for a date. Had enough of women, not wanting to get into that again." He gave out that deep throaty laugh of his and I figured my Mom would be safe from him.
"Well, you are invited with or without a date." I smiled. He congratulated me and then said he had work to do.
He said out loud in the lobby to all the officers nearby, "I want every man here to get a good look at this man," pointing to Trapper, "if you see him so much as jaywalk, I want him hauled in and booked." He smiled and punched Trapper's arm and said to come back again for a talk.
Trapper said he would and Weber went back into his office after saying good bye to Becker and me. Trapper stood around talking to his old friends and telling them about his adventures in boring Michigan. Most of the cops there had heard about the classmate murders incident, so Trapper had to talk about that for a bit. I just snickered as to how Trapper was saying he saved the day with his quick thinking and cop work.
My cell phone rang and it was Deacon saying the show ended and they were all going to Sonic Burgers for lunch. I asked which one and said we'd meet them there. I pulled Trapper away from his admiring audience and we departed the place.
Trapper was in heaven now. We got to the Sonic Burger and found Deacon's van, luckily there was an open space next to him. We pulled in and ordered through the speaker. My family all told me how good the show was, my Mom especially like it. The food came out with the roller skating girls and we ate what I consider the best burgers around.
Lynn and Penny were in the fitting room trying on the gown Penny had picked out from the website. Penny was speechless over the dress and Lynn was kidding about pinning down Deacon for a wedding just so she could wear one of these beautiful gowns. The camera crew was allowed to tape Penny after she was dressed and they were taping just as Shelby Francis, the bridal boutique owner came in and greeted Lynn who introduced Penny. Shelby had been a watcher of Penny's show and was honored that her boutique would be featured on her show. Shelby then told Penny that she would donate the gown if her store would get a mention in the credits on her show. Penny looked overwhelmed and said that was doable, and asked Lonie, the video director, if they could get a shot of the front of the building. She agreed and told the crew to get the shot before they left. Shelby was ecstatic now and told her employees to give Penny the royal treatment.
They were still getting the dress sized when a woman burst into the fitting room screaming about how she was supposed to be in fitting for her gown. The employee told her it would be a few minutes more, then she would be taken care of. The woman screamed that she wasn't to be treated like a second rate customer, started swearing and demanded to see the owner. Lynn was just about ready to pull her badge, tell the woman to cool her jets or be hauled in for disturbing the peace, when Shelby came flying back in.
The woman hadn't noticed the camera crew was taping her tirade and Shelby tried to calm her by telling her that she could use the main fitting room. The woman then started bitching about the material of the gown she selected saying it was too scratchy, she wanted better and if she didn't get better treatment, she would go elsewhere. Shelby had another employee take the woman to another empty room to start her fitting. Shelby apologized to Penny and said that she was an example of the Bridezilla, and so far this one is the queen of them all. She had Bridezillas in numerous times and as much as she hated them, they paid.
Penny told Shelby that in the past she had wedding planners on her show and they told tales of the Bridezilla, so she understood. Shelby said that this one actually dragged her future husband in and put him down so much while they were deciding on the food menu, that he was almost in tears. She treated her bride's maids worse and her future mother-in-law stormed out earlier telling Shelby that she hated her son's bitch. Shelby just gave a little chuckle.
They could still hear the woman screaming in the next room, something about the bride's maid's gowns being hideous and wanted to see the owner. The female employee came back, almost in tears and asked if Shelby could come back to the main fitting room, Shelby went out. Lonie, the video director was whispering to the camera man that this was video gold.
Penny said to Lynn she felt sorry for Shelby. They could still hear the Bridezilla screaming for everyone to get out while she changed clothes. The room went quiet for about two minutes when Lynn and Penny were surprised by what sounded like a gun shot.
Lynn pulled her gun out from under her jacket and ran out of the fitting room, followed by Penny still in her dress, and the camera crew came up fast. A crowd had gathered by the door to the other fitting room and Lynn called out for everyone to get back, holding her badge up. They dispersed and she went in. The Bridezilla was lying in a pool of blood, being soaked up by her wedding dress. Lynn checked her vitals and said she was dead. Shelby came running in and was shocked by the sight as Lynn went out to a phone and called it in. The camera crew was taping everything, it now looked like an episode of "Cops". Lonie was thinking two episodes on Penny's show, one of the wedding and one of the crime, she loved it and got on her cell phone to call the producer. Lynn came back and told them to get out of the crime scene before she had them all arrested.
We had just finished our lunch and were just getting ready to drive up to Fremont Street when my cell phone rang, it was Penny, I answered it. She was calmly telling me what happened and then Deacon's cell phone rang, I presumed it was Lynn. Deacon looked to me as I was talking to Penny and he nodded. We finished our calls and I took Trapper aside and asked him and Becker if they would escort my family around Fremont Street after filling him in on the sketchy details, Trapper said he'd be happy to. I apologized to the family and told them Penny needed me to go over wedding details at the bridal boutique; I didn't want to alarm them with the gory details. Deacon and I got into the SUV and drove over to the bridal boutique. We arrived and I saw Detective Williams outside, I knew him from the showgirl murders.
He saw me and smiled, "We got a murder, I just knew you were back in town." He laughed and shook my hand. I asked how Nicky North was doing, he said they got him a sentence of ten years. Nicky was one of the principle trouble makers in the showgirl murders here in Vegas and part of a drug running ring. Penny almost killed him with my gun when he tried to shoot me. Ah, the good memories.
Deacon and I went in and found Lynn and Penny, who had changed out of her dress so I wouldn't see it. Deacon was now part of homicide so he and Lynn went into the crime scene.
Penny put her arms around me, "The victim was causing all kinds of trouble for everyone, she was a Bridezilla." I knew the term. "They took her into the room and she was screaming at everyone, then chased everyone out of her room and that's when we heard the shot. Lynn got to the room, but the bride was the only one in there, alone."
I went to the door of the fitting room and looked in as CSI was taking pictures and making their examinations. The bride was still on the floor and Lynn and Deacon were talking at the back of the room as the ME was checking the body. I turned to see the camera crew was documenting everything, ah, reality.
I went back to Penny as Shelby came up and Penny introduced me. I said this was not a good start for our wedding, I was just glad it wasn't Penny.
"I don't think Penny was in any danger, this woman was a royal bitch and was not loved by a good number of people. I'm surprised she made it this far, pardon me, I don't mean to speak ill of the dead. It's just too bad it had to happen here." She excused herself when Lynn and Deacon came out of the room and went to talk to Lynn.
"I haven't had a lot of time with you or my family. I hope this doesn't get in the way." I said.
Lynn came over and said they had the fiancé and the bride's maids in a separate room, she asked me if I wanted to give my take on her questioning, I said I would. She wanted to do some interrogation here while it's still fresh. We went to the room, Lynn stopped the camera crew and said it was off limits to them, and she asked if the groom would come into a separate office. He had already been checked for gunshot residue and was clean. Deacon sat next to Lynn as I stood at the back of the office ready for the grilling. I missed the two way mirror.
Lynn introduced herself, then Deacon, and said I was a civilian advisor.
"Your name is?"
"Michael Rawlings, Annamarie was my fiancé." He sat straight and looked calm, strange for a man whose fiancé was just brutally murdered.
"Is there any reason that someone would want to murder your fiancé?"
He looked like he wasn't sure how to answer that question. "I'm sorry, I loved Annamarie, but she could be a bit mean to people. I don't know who was angry enough at her to do this, but I'm sure she pissed off a few people."
I thought that he was being open about the woman, but he still seemed a bit too cool about it all. He definitely didn't seem like a grieving bridegroom.
"Where were you when Annamarie was shot?" Lynn asked.
"I was in the waiting room, she told me that I wasn't allowed in to watch the fitting, you know, bad luck seeing the dress before the wedding. She insisted I come in today to settle the other details of the wedding and reception." He said calmly.
Lynn asked him a few more routine questions and cut him loose with a warning that he would be called in again for further questioning. He went out and I said I almost thought he was relieved that she was dead, but I didn't think he had it in him to commit the deed. Lynn and Deacon agreed.
Lynn questioned the four girls who made up the bride's maids and all had the same reaction, like they weren't upset by her death. I told Lynn that maybe they all conspired to murder her. Lynn laughed and said she only heard one gun shot. I asked if she were going to question the employees, Penny said they were a bit put off by Bridezilla. Lynn said she would but later.
The lead CSI came in and said they were done and the ME had carted out the body. Lynn went out and told Shelby that the room would have to be shut off from people using it for now. She asked Shelby if she saw the mother-in-law actually leave the building and was there anyway she could have slipped back in without being seen. Shelby said that her girls would have noticed her; there are so few entrances to the building that are not seen by her employees. Lynn thanked Shelby and came back to us, as Penny was holding on to my arm tightly. Lynn said there was not much else to do till they got something from forensics. The room had no windows, only one entrance and no one saw anyone come out of the room after the gun shot. This would be a puzzle.
Lynn turned and stopped, yelling, "Can you get that camera out of my face, or I'll take you in for something!" The camera man put his camera down and smiled, then Lonie said they had enough.
Shelby asked Penny and me if we wanted to discuss the wedding plans and I figured since we were both there, why not. Lynn and Deacon said they were going back to the station to file their reports and would catch up to us later.
Penny and I went over the menu for food, the table dressings, flowers and the cake was picked out. I had to call Wally to find out how many people he had on the list I asked him to get for guests from the stage crew, so we could have a definite head count. He gave me the info and I said we'd see him Saturday. Penny and I finished up on the details and Shelby said her people would have it all for us by Saturday at the banquet hall in the MGM Grand.
We stood and thanked Shelby for all she would do for us, and we turned to go out the door of the office, followed by the camera crew still taping. In the hallway we all stopped when a woman rushed by us screaming about her fiancé having a bachelor party that had a stripper. She was swearing that she would make his life miserable. She was yelling for service, she had a wedding to plan and it better be right or someone would pay. She went into an office still screaming about the crappy service she was getting here. Shelby looked at us with a sad face, apologized, then went to calm the woman.
I looked to Penny and said that we should get out of here before that Bridezilla gets murdered too. We left and headed back to the MGM Grand followed by the crew van. I called Trapper and he said everyone was gathered in his room and was having nice time talking about their day. He did say to rescue him so he and Becker could go do some fun things around Vegas. I said we'd be there shortly to take over and hung up.
I looked at Penny and said Trapper was going to go out and get in trouble, I could feel it.
We went up to Trappers room, I greeted everyone and said that Penny and I had everything ready for Saturday. Penny, of course, latched on to our grandson; Buck and Maria were back, so Willy jumped on my leg wanting attention, I lifted him and gave him a good nuzzle. He wiggled happily and tried to lick my face. I said "No doggy kisses, don't kiss, doggy," imitating Soupy Sales from my childhood.
Trapper pulled me aside and asked what happened at the bridal salon, I told him Penny and I got all the wedding details finished up. He looked at me, snarled and said that I knew what he meant. I laughed and gave him the gory details of the murder. He was thinking about the fact that the room was vacant of anyone else except the dead body. He asked me if there was any kind of opening or window and I said no, there weren't any openings someone could have fired a gun through. He smiled and said it was Deacon and Lynn's problem, and he wanted to take Becker out for a little fun on the town. I said to have fun, but please be back for the wedding, and call if I have to bail him out. He laughed and said they won't catch him. That had me worried.
Trapper picked up a small bag, asking to me to lock up his suite, grabbed Becker and they went out of the room, then disappeared down the hallway. Penny came up to me, we looked like the typical family, man, woman, child and dog. I asked if anyone had a camera and had my son start taking pictures with my Fuji camera.
Maria was sitting on Buck's lap on the couch and my mother was standing looking out the window over the strip. I came to her and asked what she thought about it all. She said she wasn't fond of the heat, but it was beautiful. I asked if everyone was interested in seeing the world's largest gift shop to get some souvenirs, they all responded positively. We all went down to the van and drove over to the gift store on Sahara and the Boulevard, followed by the camera crew. We explored the place for about an hour and after everyone bought up their remembrance articles, I gathered everyone and headed back to the hotel to relax and later get ready for dinner. Maria and Buck left to go to her home to change and would be back later.
My brother told me that he and his wife had been in Vegas once before and thanked me for bringing them out again. I sat with my son and his wife and talked a bit about what was going on in their lives. My Mom went into her bedroom to take a short nap before the evening events.
Penny was still playing with little Alex and I told her that we should go to our suite and get ready. She probably would have brought the baby with us, but I said that she should leave him to his mother. She surrendered him reluctantly and I said we'd be back around 5 and go to dinner. I didn't mention that I had reservations to see the Blue Man Group, I wanted it to be a surprise.
We got back to the Bellagio and relaxed a bit, then there was a knock at the door, it was Deacon and Lynn. They came in and we all sat talking.
"Forensics is doing their magic on the evidence, but won't have anything soon. I'm baffled how someone could be shot in an enclosed room without the killer being seen. Unless everyone was preoccupied to have seen anything, or just happy she was taken out, no one saw a thing." Lynn didn't sound happy.
"Well, a murder is not in our schedule of happy events for the next two days, until Penny and I take the oath of love. Murder is not part of that oath, I hope." I smiled as Penny agreed.
"Has Trapper gone on his rampage yet?" Deacon asked.
"He left with Becker about an hour ago, I've been waiting for a call to rescue him from jail." I laughed.
"Trapper loved to pull practical jokes around the Clinton Township precinct and I feel sorry for the beat cops here for the next couple days." He said with a smile. "One time back in Michigan, he managed to rearrange the captain's office, turning everything around facing the back of the room, Captain was not happy, but after he cooled, he appreciated the effort and thought that went into it. Never did nail Trapper for it. Trapper's crafty, never got caught in the past."
"Yeah, I heard it took Weber about two months before he found out someone was running a call girl ring right in the jail." Lynn laughed. "But he never could prove it was Trapper."
"I wonder how he stayed a cop all these years." I was amazed.
"Like I said, he never got caught." Deacon smiled.
My cell phone rang and it was Trapper, he excused himself and Becker from dinner and said they'd see us later. I said it was no problem, and hung up. I told everyone what Trapper said and Deacon exclaimed that the fun begins.
We called for a sitter for Willy and after they arrived, we went and met the family at the MGM hotel and everyone piled into the van with me driving, the camera crew trying to keep up in their van. We went to the Hof Brau restaurant and ate a good German meal and sang along with the German band. The restaurant manager asked the camera crew not to disturb his customers, so the camera man used his tiny digital camera again, that was accepted by the manager. After the meal I announced that we were going to see the Blue Man Group and everyone cheered.
We piled into the van and the camera crew said that they'd call it a night; they wanted to explore Vegas before their work was over and had to go back to Michigan. I thought that was a great idea and told them to go have fun.
At the theatre we sat and enjoyed the Blue Man Group show and one of the Blue Men startled my mom by walking across the backs of the seat till he got to her and looked down at her. She cringed and he went on walking over her head to the seats behind us.
After the show I took everyone up to Fremont Street to watch the overhead video that ran down the street for over two blocks. We watched the show then explored the mall watching the vendors displaying their wares and going into a couple of casinos so my mother could try her luck at the slots. She actually won a couple of dollars and she wanted to go again, but I said she should hold on to her winnings, she'd just lose it back to the casino.
Back out to the street, there was a jazz band playing on the small stage that they had on one side of the enclosed street and we stood watching them for a while. By this time a new show started overhead and we watched the new video. Penny was holding me tightly and whispered in my ear that she remembered the first time I brought her here and we stood watching the show. After it ended, we all went back to the van and drove down the strip looking at all the lights flashing and moving. My mother was thoroughly impressed and said she could see why I loved this town.
The evening ended well, I got everyone back to the Hotel, where my brother and his wife said they were going to walk uptown and explore the strip some more and asked my mother to join them, but she decided to go back to the room and relax. My son and wife decided to call it a night also, so they escorted Mom up to her room. Buck and Maria headed off into the night to do whatever they wanted. I felt sorry for Buck.
Deacon and Lynn came with us to the Bellagio to relax and get some room service. I tipped the girl who watched Willy for us and Willy went back to his space on the couch, circled and plopped down, worn out from the day.
Around 10:15 Lynn's cell phone rang and she answered, listened for a few minutes then hung up.
"That was Williams, he said they got a call around 6:00 from a distraught man saying his fiancé hadn't come back to the hotel. She was last seen at Shelby's boutique, he called there and they said she had left around 4:00 and they didn't see where she went. The officer who took the call told the man that she may have gone exploring Vegas and to call back if she didn't come back later. Around 7:30, one of Shelby's employees went to take out the trash and found the bride in the dumpster with a knife stab through the heart. ME and CSI has been on the scene for the last couple hours, Williams thought he'd let me know, may be connected to my Bridezilla murder. Williams talked to Shelby and she said the woman was another Bridezilla."
Lynn asked Penny and me if we wanted to tag along on a boring murder investigation. Penny was all excited to be included and packed up Willy to go. We all headed out in my SUV since it had more room for all of us, than Lynn's Pontiac Vibe. I was amazed that Deacon would even be seen in such a small car, but Lynn defended it as a good running and a comfortable vehicle. Deacon made no comment.
We arrived at Shelby's bridal boutique and found Williams, standing out back grinning from ear to ear.
"Boy, Richards, when you come to town they all drop dead." He made a motion of hanging one's self and Lynn said why don't you do that.
We found Shelby in her office looking totally distraught, she said she was worried this would kill her business. I thought not as much as killing her clients, but kept my mouth shut. Williams told Lynn she could take the lead since it probably was connected to the earlier Bridezilla murder. Lynn sat by Shelby and told her to relax.
"Now tell me everything that happened from the time this woman came to the boutique." Lynn started.
"Well, she arrived just before Jim and Penny were finished with their wedding arrangements, we came out of the office and this woman, Becky Taylor, came screaming by us that her fiancé had a stripper at his bachelor party and she was going to make his life miserable. Then she made our lives miserable with her demands. She made all the plans for the wedding without her fiancé, got fitted for her gown, complaining all the while, and then she finished around 4 p.m. and we were glad to see her go. That was the last we saw of her until Mindy took the trash out and found her in the dumpster. Oh, god, poor Mindy, she'll never get over this."
"Her fiancé was never here, never included in the wedding planning?" Lynn asked.
"No, he was not here, just the maids of honor, and the woman's mother came in briefly and then left. I don't really think she wanted to have anything to do with her daughter's wedding plans. She called her a real bitch, sorry to speak ill of the dead, but that's what her own mother said."
"You never saw her or the bride's maids after they left. No one came back?"
"No, I thought we were done with her until the wedding."
"Did Taylor leave by herself or with the bride's maids?"
"Well, I think the bride's maid had enough of her, so they left after being fitted for their gowns. Becky Taylor left by herself and did mention that she had a rental car, since she was from Kansas and in town for just the wedding."
Lynn looked at Deacon and said to check the parking lot to see if her rental was still here. He went out, and Lynn thanked Shelby, then said she was sorry for all that happened today. Shelby looked at Penny and me and said she hoped this wouldn't look bad on Penny's show. Penny said she'd try to down play it all, Shelby thanked her.
We all went outside after Lynn went around to the employees, still attending to their closing chores, and asking them a few questions. I was amazed that the camera crew was there taping the whole dumpster exam. I asked Lonie how they knew that we were there, and she said they were listening to the police scanner and recognized the bridal boutique and stopped by, thinking there was a connection, and it was. Deacon came back in and said there were no unaccounted cars in the lot; the rental car must have been taken. Lynn said to check with all the rental agencies to see who rented it to Taylor and what happened to the car. Deacon told another detective to follow the rental lead and report back. He looked to me and said it was good to be in charge.
We all stood out in the parking lot, Lynn looking frustrated.
"I hate to say it but I think Shelby or one of her employees are involved." I offered.
Lynn looked to me with weary eyes, and asked why.
"Well, stands to reason, I'm sure you already think this, but two unrelated cases of murder in the same location, murder of two Bridezillas, not knowing each other. What's the connection? The only link is the bridal boutique. Just my opinion." I offered again.
"As much as I like Shelby, I've known her since my first, and only marriage, and I can't imagine her doing this. Maybe one of the employees, fed up with the bitching, snapped and acted out. They have access to the rooms and the women, maybe one of them did the deed."
"Well, there are two murders, two murderers or one, maybe the second killing was inspired by the first, whatever. Two cases to solve." I said.
Williams came up and said, "You're going to love this, ME came back with a preliminary COD, she was stabbed with a cake knife. That's appropriate." He laughed and walked off.
"I hate Williams." Lynn said under her breath.
The CSI had finished with the dumpster and the surrounding area, and found nothing more; they closed up and went off to do their thing back at the crime lab. The camera crew said they were going back to exploring Vegas. We were wearing down and left the scene after Lynn made sure everyone was finished there. We drove back to the Bellagio, Lynn and Deacon begging off for being too wiped out, and went to their car and drove home. Penny, Willy and I went up to our room and crashed into the bed after quickly undressing, ready to sleep.
"Are we getting so old, we wear out after such a day? I don't feel like fooling around for the second night in a row. Damn, we're here to get married and we should be fooling around all over the place." I lamented.
"Oh, shut up and quit complaining. Go to sleep." Penny mimicked like an old married woman.
"Yep, now we sound like we're about to be married." I joked.
Penny swung her leg over me and said don't count on it. We kicked Willy out of the bedroom, he wasn't happy, but we were.
Friday morning came early; we laid around until the sun burst through the bedroom window of the honeymoon suite. Deacon called around 8 a.m. and said they were ready to go take the family exploring if we were ready. I said we needed breakfast and would be at the MGM around 10. Lynn came on the phone and said to look out my window, she waited while I walked to the window overlooking the fountain, today the water was pink. I asked if that was natural, she said no, someone dumped in a whole lot of red food coloring and turned the water pink. I thought of Trapper and Becker, and laughed. I asked if she was thinking what I was, she said most likely.
We were up and dressed, Willy was mad at us that he couldn't sleep in the bed. We took him down for his walk and to take a dump, then we went to get breakfast.
Deacon came by our room around 9:45 and said that Lynn would join us later; she was called in to report to Weber about the murders. Seems there are some important people in town who want the case solved quickly, they don't want the tourists to be afraid to get married in Vegas.
Penny and I gathered our stuff and packed Willy in his purse, Deacon still joked about my wearing the thing. I smiled at him and took the doggy purse off and slung it around Deacon who stood still not wanting to do anything to hurt the tiny dog. I said now Willy should be safe with such a big protector and turned to go out. Deacon started to protest, but Penny said he looked so handsome with the dog. Deacon smiled and looked down at Willy, looking up at Deacon. He said this is not so bad, and we all went out.
We got down to the lobby and I saw two Metro officers talking to a couple of suits. I recognized one officer as Sergeant Carney, Trapper's friend. He saw me and waved, I took my troops over and Carney smiled at Deacon, saying he liked the dog, he had a Yorkie too. Deacon sighed a breath of relief that he wasn't going to be subjected to jokes. I asked Carney what was up, and he said they were called in to investigate the coloring of the fountain, he just smiled. I had a feeling he knew who did it, but that was a subject for investigation. He said the perps moved around the security cameras, like they knew where they were. Then they dumped in a couple of gallons of red food coloring, being diluted by the tremendous amount of water to come out pink. I was trying not to laugh, as I'm sure Carney was as well.
Score one for the Vegas Jokers.
We arrived at the MGM and up to my family's floor. I banged on Trapper's door but there was no answer; he was probably hiding out. My brother was gathering his wife and our mother and came out to the hallway. My son and family were ready also; Penny, of course, latched on to the baby.
"Today we are going to take a helicopter ride over Vegas and I made reservations for the flight, so if everyone is ready, we can go, after I call Buck and Maria."
Deacon spoke up and said that Maria called him earlier and said she and Buck were going to take a trip up to Mt. Charleston for a picnic. I said that worked, and herded everyone to the elevators.
We went down to where the helicopter rides were located and had to put everyone on two helicopters. Deacon and I held back as there was still not enough room, so I told everyone to enjoy the ride and we'd wait here. Penny went with my son and wife still holding the baby. My mother, brother and his wife went in the other copter. They lifted off and I could see the expression on my mom's face, terror mixed with excitement.
Deacon's cell phone rang and he answered. It was Lynn, he told her where we were and she said she'd meet us later since she had to go question the employees at Shelby's boutique. He played kissy face on the phone and hung up. I said they were about as disgusting as Penny and I were.
"Lynn said the city officials were hot to stop the Bridezilla killer or killers, it didn't look good for the wedding industry here. She said she didn't need me, so I get to babysit your damn dog." He grinned widely.
"Well, truthfully, I'd rather be looking into the murder, then chaperoning my family. But I have to be the good guy and entertain everyone. I know my mother will remember this trip for a long time. Tomorrow Penny and I get married, and then Sunday morning I put everyone on the jet back to Michigan. If Lynn doesn't tag the killer before that, maybe we can join in the fun."
"Sounds like a plan to me, but you get to carry the dog." Deacon laughed and roughed up Willy's head.
On the other side of town, at Metro PD, a woman in a brown uniform with the logo, Speedy Delivery on the back walked into the lobby with a package. The officer at the counter asked what she wanted; she said she had a delivery for Captain Weber. He said to leave it, but she replied that it had to be signed for by Weber only. He paused, then picked up the phone and called Weber. A few minutes later he came out to the woman, asking for the package. She smiled and said she had a package for him, reached over and opened the front of the box, inside was a small boombox and she hit a button.
Music poured out as the woman pulled off her uniform and Weber realized she was a stripper. The lobby went wild as all the officers came running over to watch as the stripper gyrated around Weber who was totally flustered. No one had noticed Trapper and Becker at the front door with a video camera taping the whole thing. Weber yelled for her to stop or he would have her arrested, she looked hurt and ran her hand down the side of his face saying he didn't like her. He flinched and stormed off to his office as the squad of cops cheered her on. He turned and yelled for everyone to get back to work, and to go out and find Trapper, then vanished into his office. Everyone was still cheering the woman on as Trapper and Becker ran off to their rental car and were away, laughing their heads off.
Score two for the Vegas Jokers.
About a half hour more and the copters flew back to the helipads and out trooped my family. They were all raving about the sights and Mom was breathless. It was almost noon so we all piled into the van and I drove everyone to In-and-Out Burgers and we had our lunch.
After eating we went out to the huge mall north of town and wandered around there for a couple of hours. Penny finally gave the baby back as she was getting tired of carrying him. My son put the baby in a stroller they had and we continued on.
I announced that we would be having dinner in the Stratosphere, the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, and the place I almost took a dive off of. We were back in the van and on our way to dinner; this day was going fast, I was glad. We got to the top of the Stratosphere and I had everyone seated right by the windows overlooking Las Vegas, a spectacular sight. The waiter arrived for ordering and we did so. While we waited for the food to come, I took Penny to the spot where I was pushed off the side of building. She couldn't believe I held on for my life hanging so high off the ground. I told her I just thought of not being safely with her, that's how I held on.
Lynn called Deacon and he told her where we were and she said she would join us, she had enough playing detective on her day off. She arrived about a half hour later, and told Deacon and me about her investigations. Nothing earthshaking, just routine stuff and no leads.
We all enjoyed the meal, finished and back to the van. It was starting to get dark out so I drove everyone down the strip so we could admire all the lights. I drove all the way down to the Luxor, so they could see the beam of light shooting up, so powerful, that it could be seen from space.
It was still early, so we went to the Rio Hotel and I took everyone in to see the Penn and Teller show, luckily they still had some open seats. I hid Willy while we went by the ushers and sat rubbing his belly that usually made him sleep.
The show was amazing and funny, we all were satisfied, and by this time everyone was worn out, much to my relief. I took them back to the hotel and they all headed to their rooms. My son asked my mother if she could watch the baby for a while so he and his wife could go explore the strip. My son lived with me here for about five months until we went back to Michigan, so he knew his way around. I told everyone that the wedding was set for 1 p.m. tomorrow and the van would be here to pick them up by noon.
They were all tucked safely away, so that left Deacon, Lynn, Penny and me to our own devices. We went back to the Bellagio and ordered room service and sat talking about the Bridezilla case.
"I interviewed ten employees at Shelby's, eight women and two men. They all had a hate for Bridezillas, but I don't think enough to murder anyone. They all were a little wimpy to have done it." Lynn stated and went quiet. "Neither of the murdered women had anything in common other than being bitches. If it were acceptable to kill the bitches, we'd have a lot less women in this world."
Penny said, "Amen to that, I've had a number of bitches on my show. I usually just blow them off by asking a few questions then going on to the next guest."
"The only person who I suspected was this creepy guy who takes care of keeping the place clean. He was a bit off, kind of like the school geek who had the pocket protector and tape on his glasses. I grilled him a bit harder than the others, but he held on to his story." She went quiet again, "I have no idea who may have done it. Although I do believe that there were two killers involved. The way they were murdered, a gun and a knife, why not both vics murdered by the same weapon. Why the change, must have been two different perps."
Penny looked at me, "Well, after we get hitched tomorrow and send off our relatives, we'll have more time to catch the killer."
I was a bit surprised that Penny was willing to investigate a crime, rather than jump in to bed for a few days. Maybe we were becoming an old married couple.
Lynn's cell phone rang, she answered and listened for a bit then said she was on her way. I could tell by that, there was another murder. Deacon asked her what happened.
"It was Williams, he said a bride was coming out of Viva Vegas Wedding Chapel on the strip, after she and her fiancé argued and she called off the wedding. The bride stormed around to the side of the building, and was attacked and beaten just short of dead, saved by a tourist who saw the attack and yelled at the perp. He ran off and the tourist called the police. She's alive but unresponsive; they think she'll be in a coma. Worst part, the wedding chapel said she was a customer of Shelby's."
We all went to the Viva Vegas Wedding Chapel, and Williams made his crude remarks about how I was killing all the brides in Vegas. I looked at him and said he could be next. He toddled off after telling Lynn she could take the case, Lynn said he could just go home. CSI was checking the scene and surrounding areas, as Lynn and Deacon talked to the chapel director. He said the bride, her name was Cathy Ross, and groom argued about the flower arrangement and then it got heated and she called off the wedding and stormed out.
"Who all was attending the ceremony?" Lynn inquired.
The director said just the mother and father of the groom. The bride's parents declined to come, they didn't like the groom.
"Aren't there any good weddings in Vegas, where everyone gets along?" I asked knowing our wedding was going to be all right.
"Well, we have many weddings here in our chapel that go well, but occasionally there are the exceptions. There are a lot of people who come here to get married for the wrong reasons, and they don't have the temperament to just get through it without fighting. Then there are the one's who don't really want to get married, so they pick and pick till the other says it's over. We get a lot of angry people here, which is sad as it should be a happy moment." The director replied to my comment.
"The bride and groom planned their wedding through Shelby Francis, is that correct?" Lynn asked.
"Yes, Shelby set up the whole affair for this bride and groom, but she didn't show up tonight to set it up, she sent her employees."
"Is that normal for Shelby?"
"Oh, yes, she arranges many weddings for us, but it's hard to be everywhere at once." He replied.
"Do you have surveillance cameras in the parking lot?"
"Of course, isn't Las Vegas one big surveillance camera nightmare?" He laughed.
She turned to Deacon and asked him to see if CSI had the tapes yet. He went off to find them.
"I want to see the tape if they are still available."
The director said the tapes hadn't been taken yet, he had them in his office. Lynn asked him to take us to them and called for Deacon to come back. We went to his office and he ran the tape back to just before the attack. We watched as the bride came around the corner of the building and the assailant jumped out from the bushes and started hitting her with a pipe. He kept hitting her as she fell, Penny looked away, I was about ready to look away myself, just as the tourist, a big football quarterback type came running up. He wasn't in time to tackle the assailant, who ran off, as the jock stopped to check on the bride. We saw him take out his cell phone, I presumed to call the cops. The tape kept going as people came running to the woman and Lynn said to cut it off. She asked for the tape and gave it to a CSI standing by.
We all went back out to the scene of the crime and just stood, before Lynn spoke.
"The tape doesn't really show if the assailant was a man or a woman, black clothes and a ski mask. Not much to go on. But how could the person know that there would be a bride coming around that side of the building? Waiting for her to attack, it's not probable that he or she just sat waiting for anyone to come by, could they?"
"The assailant could have known the way the bride was, a Bridezilla, and figured she would pull this stunt. Maybe?" I offered.
"Sorry, Jim, it still doesn't make sense to me for the assailant to have been in the right place at the right time to commit the crime. OK, maybe this person had watched the couple carefully, knowing where their car was and figured the bride would travel that way, if she did what was expected of her, call off the wedding. Maybe if she had gone through with the wedding, she'd be fine right now instead of in the hospital in a coma. Son of a bitch, I want this fucker."
CSI had finished and Lynn had questioned the jock, he didn't have much to say other than he saw the crime and stopped it. He was there for a friend's wedding and wanted to go to the reception. Lynn released him after getting his contact information. She grilled the groom and the bride's parents but got nothing more from them.
I suggested we go to Shelby's and see if someone may show up there. Lynn said it was better than standing around with our thumbs up our butts, so we went there. The building was dark and Lynn and Deacon walked around the outside of the building. Penny and I were standing out front, and as I was looking to the windows, I saw a light moving inside, like a flashlight. I called to Lynn as quietly as I could and she came around the building. I pointed to the moving light and she said that was just cause for entering the building without a warrant, she asked Deacon to do the door. He crashed through it and Lynn and Deacon went in. I had my Glock out and told Penny to stay behind me; she pushed Willy back into his purse and zipped it up.
I stopped in the reception room and told Penny we'd wait here for Lynn and Deacon. They went through the building and heard a crashing noise at the back of the building, glass breaking and ran back there. They found a window in the back broken and someone running from the building, Lynn didn't want to risk anyone getting hurt in the neighborhood, so didn't fire her weapon. He was too far ahead to pursue anyways. They came back to us and Lynn turned on the room light.
"The son of a bitch must have had a key to get in; no door or window was broken to get into the building. But they broke a window to get out when cornered in the back. I'll have CSI come by to see if he or she may have let some trace." She went off to make a call as we waited in the front of the building.
She came back and said, "Doesn't make sense, if the perp did work here, why the lights out and a flashlight. They could have just turned on the lights and lied saying they were here before we arrived."
"Maybe they don't work here and were looking for something, like a list of the Bridezillas who came here, if Shelby saved those?" I was guessing and everyone knew it.
"Good theory, but where did they get the key to get in?" Lynn asked.
"Former employee? Did you cover that with Shelby earlier?"
"No, it wasn't something that struck a cord. I'll be sure to ask that later." She said.
CSI arrived and Lynn showed them where to check, we stood out front as Shelby Francis drove up, having been called by Lynn.
"What happened? Was there another murder?" She asked, looking totally amazed.
"Shelby, I have to ask, where were you tonight from about 9 p.m. to now?" Lynn asked.
Shelby looked shocked, and said "I've been at a party for my best friend; she was named director of child services at a clinic downtown. I was with about forty of my good friends." She answered now looking a bit annoyed.
"Sorry, but it's police protocol, there was a murder at the Viva Vegas Wedding Chapel, a woman named Wendy Morgan, did you know her?"
"Yes, she was in last week, we arranged her wedding early as she had business to attend to. Is she dead?"
"No, may be in a coma, we'll know more later. Tell me, was she one of your Bridezillas?"
Shelby paused, and then said, "Well, she was difficult, gave her fiancé a hard time and pissed off her parents. They didn't like the groom. I made all the arrangements and then figured I wouldn't have anything to do with her after that day. I had my plans for tonight, so I sent one of my employees to be sure all went well. May I ask if the murder was at the wedding chapel, why are you here?"
"We were checking out some leads, we saw someone in the building with a flashlight, an intruder or the murderer looking for more brides to kill perhaps. The intruder ran and went out a back window when we entered the building." Lynn replied.
"Well, I'm sure the intruder wouldn't find any brides here after closing." Shelby said.
"Shelby, the intruder got in with a key, do all your employees have keys?"
"Just the trusted ones, and the supervisors, we also change the locks when someone quits, for security purposes."
"Well, that would leave out former employees." Lynn looked to me.
"Shelby, do you keep any kind of file that list the difficult customers?" Lynn was pressing now.
"Well, yes I do list them, and put them in categories that we can use to identify the trouble makers before we agree to help them, but many slip past my criterion. I have the file in my office." she replied.
"May I see it, please?" Lynn asked politely now.
"Of course, follow me." She went into the building to her office, to a file cabinet and opened it. She dug around through the file folders and looked a bit stunned.
She looked to us and said, "The file with the Bridezilla list is missing."
"OK, Shelby, you're going to have to write down as many names of the brides that still have weddings coming up. We are going to need protection for them." Lynn spoke firmly, probably pissed that there was a list to make it easy for the killer to pick and choose his victims.
Shelby was pale and sat at her desk and took paper and pen to write the names. She checked with her desk calendar for the soon upcoming ones and listed those first.
She looked up at us and said, "Why is my bridal salon being the target for the murders, there are plenty of others in town who are even bigger than I?"
"The killer may have a connection to you, an employee or an angry former employee. For that matter it may be a groom who went through your planning and is angry that his marriage didn't get started. God, who knows?" Lynn was sounding a bit frustrated. She looked to Penny and me and said, "I'm putting a couple of officers on your wedding tomorrow, just as a precaution." She said quietly to Penny, "Not that you're a Bridezilla, but I'm not taking chances with you."
Penny thanked her and then felt Willy squirming in his bag, she forgot to unzip the thing. Willy popped his head out and made a little yip at Penny, she apologized and nuzzled him.
Shelby finished and gave the list to Lynn, who took it to one of her detectives standing outside the office. She told him to take some men to track down as many of these people as possible, starting with the weddings coming up the closest and see that they are protected.
"I'm putting everyone on this; I have the blessing of the city council to stop this killer, before he puts a black spot on our wedding industry. I just want the fucker.
We all went out and discovered the camera crew was there taping as much as they could, I said, don't tell me, the police scanner. Lonie smiled and said it comes in handy.
We were back at the Bellagio, it was now almost midnight and we had a wedding to get through tomorrow. Lynn and Deacon said their good nights and said they'd be ready by 10 a.m. to help get us to the chapel. They left and Penny and I sat on the couch looking out the window at Las Vegas. Again we were both a bit worn down and just sat there with my arm around her.
"You still want to get married?" I smiled.
"Of course, I want to inherit all the money you have stashed away." She grinned and kissed my nose, which made Willy jump up and start licking both of us.
"Do you want to go and fool around as single people for one last time?" Penny asked and I said I'd race her to the bedroom.
Willy got locked out of the bedroom for another night. He wasn't happy.
Saturday morning, it was a beautiful day, as it usually is in Las Vegas. The sun was beaming brightly, the sky was a sharp blue and Penny was glowing. I kissed her and we went to take Willy for his morning constitutional and then ate breakfast. We got back to the room and found Lynn, Deacon and two uniformed officers at our door.
"Are we going into protective custody?" I asked.
Lynn smiled and said she was taking no chances with us. We went in the room and I got my wedding outfit, just as Buck and Maria came to the door. Buck saw the cops and looked a bit panicky. I explained the reason Penny was being escorted to the wedding and he relaxed. I said I hadn't seen much of him the last few days and he said that Maria was keeping him busy, he winked.
Deacon said he was going over to the MGM with the van to gather my family and take them to the chapel, as arranged. I thanked him and he left. Lynn was going to be Penny's Maid of Honor and they headed off with the cops to go get Penny ready in her dress, Maria went with them to help and I asked her to take charge of Willy for the wedding, she said she loved to and took Willy and his bag. Buck and I were alone, he smiled and said good luck. I gave him a box, saying it's for the best man. He opened it and found a Rolex watch, he was speechless and put it on.
Buck and I left and got to the chapel around 11:45 and we went into the groom's waiting room. Deacon came in and said everyone was in place and he explained to my family that the cops were friends who were invited. He also said the camera crew was doing their thing. I asked if Trapper and Becker had made it, Deacon said they were sitting quietly at the back of the chapel, probably to make a quick escape if the place was raided, he smiled. Deacon said that he put one of the two cops behind Trapper and Becker to be sure they don't slip out.
Then Deacon laughed and said, "When Weber came in I sat him next to Trapper, you should have seen Trapper and Becker sweat. Weber said he didn't want to upset the wedding, but he wanted to speak with Trapper after the ceremony."
I laughed at that, and asked if the minister was ready. Deacon looked at me and asked if anyone told me that the wedding was being officiated by Elvis.
"Well, we got a problem. Penny can't stand Elvis. Go tell her now or she may become a Bridezilla when we go out."
Deacon went to the bride's room and told Lynn and Penny about Elvis. Shelby was there and thought Penny knew this is a chapel that has Elvis presiding.
"Shit, I'm not getting married by Elvis! I want a real minister, now. This wedding goes nowhere until this is changed." Penny had a look in her eyes that said don't mess with her wedding.
Shelby looked panicked and Lynn said to relax.
"OK, we can still save this, let me make a call." She went off to the side of the room and called someone, talked a bit, then made another call. She went back to Penny and Shelby.
"Penny, I have a friend, Reverend Mark, who is the pastor for a homeless mission off Fremont Street. He's ordained, and licensed by the state to perform weddings, he said he'd be more than happy to do the wedding. I called for a cop car to pick him up and have him here, ASAP. Will that do?"
"Are you sure he's OK?" Penny asked.
"Well, he presided over my marriage." Lynn responded.
"Lynn, you're a divorced woman now!" Penny was getting hysterical.
"Penny, Father Mark had nothing to do with my divorce, a slutty little blond did that." She laughed. Penny broke out in a laugh of relief, and Deacon said he would go tell me.
By 12:45 Reverend Mark had everyone's information and went to get ready for the ceremony. Buck and I went out to the chapel being guided by Shelby's assistant. We stood in the chapel and I looked over my little family and friends, along with the stage crew from the Flamingo and was a bit overwhelmed by it all. I had to smile when I saw Weber, Trapper and Becker all sitting quietly together at the back. I could imagine what was going through all their minds.
After a short time the music started the bridal march, and Penny came out of the bride's room, she had asked Deacon to give her away, he was honored to.
I was stunned, she looked so beautiful, so amazingly beautiful, I wanted to cry. She got to me and Deacon turned her over to me, I smiled at Deacon as he went to sit. Reverend Mark greeted everyone and said this was a moment of joy and a beginning. We gave our vows and said our I Do's, exchanged rings, then Reverend Mark pronounced us husband and wife. I kissed the bride and turned to our family as Reverend Mark introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Richards.
We went outside as the family threw bird seed, Penny insisted on that for the birds. We got into a Lincoln Limo I had reserved and had it drive us around Las Vegas. We kissed in the back and Penny asked if we could have sex back there, I said we should wait till we got back to our room.
We got to the MGM Grand Hotel and into the banquet room where everyone was already seated and having their libations. Penny and I sat at the head table and Buck made a toast to us then the food came. Shelby was making sure everything was going smoothly and had extra help along to be sure. Of course, the camera crew was all over the place, taping everything for the show and our wedding memories.
Lynn had hired a local band with a great female singer, that she personally knew and we all danced and partied till about 4 p.m., when we opened up wedding gifts that we had told people not to give us, but you can't stop people from doing good. Penny and I went around and greeted Wally and Jamie and the guys from the stage crew, and thanked them for coming. It made it a real Vegas wedding that way. My mother hugged Penny and welcomed her officially to the family. Penny scooped up the baby and danced with him on the dance floor, Alex's eyes went huge at the swirling they did. I asked the band to pause and thanked everyone for being with us old farts at our wedding. I hoped they would all enjoy our happiness and kissed Penny who came up with the baby.
I went to Reverend Mark and thanked him for coming in on such short notice and asked him about his homeless mission and how they were financed. He said they took mostly donations and had help from local churches for food and clothes. I took him to a table and wrote out a check and gave it to him for his work. I said when I last lived here, I would see all the homeless people wandering the streets and it bothered me, I wanted to help but I wasn't able to, so I hope the check helped and would try to send more when I could. He thanked me and said he had to get back to the mission and left.
A short while later, Weber came up and thanked us for inviting him, he had no real family in town so it was a delight for him to be with us. Then he whispered to me, asking if I thought Trapper may be behind a few pranks in town, I said I didn't think so but you never could tell. He nodded and said he regretted having to leave but had work to get back to. After he left I said to Penny, that man just could not stay in one spot too long.
The reception wound down around 7 p.m. and everyone started to head out. I gathered my family and told them that I had arranged for them to stay in Vegas one more day till Monday. They could do what they wanted tomorrow, they were on their own, Penny and I would be busy, but we'd see them to the jet on Monday. I gave an envelope to my brother and one to my son and said this would help to make the extra day more pleasant. I said to spend it wisely and stay out of the casinos. I told everyone that my son knew the town so they could ask him for advice on what to do. They all were happy and went up to their rooms to change clothes.
Trapper and Becker came over and congratulated us again and said they were going out to have a little more fun. I said does that involve red food coloring? Trapper looked at me and said he didn't know what I was talking about, winked and was just leaving when Lynn said she would be watching him, she heard about the stripper at the precinct. He laughed and said just try and catch him.
Buck, Maria, Deacon and Lynn stood by us, Penny holding Willy, as I thanked them for everything they did to turn this into a beautiful day. They walked us out to the waiting limo just as Lynn's cell phone rang, I looked at her and said she was on her own, pulled Penny and Willy into the limo quickly, and had the driver take off for another ride around Vegas.
Lynn answered and listened, then hung up. She looked to Deacon and said the Bridezilla killer is escalating; he just kidnapped a bride at a church over in North Las Vegas. They gave apologies to Buck and Maria and left to go to the church.
In another part of Vegas, in a dark garage, a woman in white was being dragged out of a car trunk. She was unconscious and a dark figure was pulling her to the basement stairs just off the garage. She was taken down the stairs hitting her head on each step till she hit pavement. The dark figure pulled her to a cot in the middle of the room, where her gown and under garments were removed and carefully hung up on the overhead floor joists by a hanger. The woman was tied down face up by her wrists and ankles to the cot and the dark figure came over her, breathing heavily. She would never know the joy of her wedding day.
Lynn and Deacon arrived at the church and found the primary detective from North Las Vegas Police. Lynn knew him, Detective Lieutenant Max Kitter; he greeted Lynn and Deacon and said he called her since this was the same MO from her case.
"The perp is getting worse now. First a quick gun shot, then a risky knife stab, followed by a beating, now a kidnapping. If these weren't brides being killed, I'd say we had four different cases, but they are all brides. What's the name of the vic?" Lynn asked.
"She's Debbie Loraine, decided to have her wedding here, her groom is from Vegas. She and the groom had a falling out, she didn't like his choice of best man and he didn't like her bride's maids, they fought and she ran out just before the wedding even started. She was seen going out to the parking lot, it's huge and unguarded and no security cameras. It was getting dark out but a woman saw a person wrestle with what looked like a bride in white and hit her, then put her in a trunk. The witness, a woman from the neighborhood, was frightened and didn't see much of the car before it sped out. She knows nothing about cars, just that it was all black and beat up."
"Great, we're not catching a break." Lynn lamented. She pulled out her cell and dialed Shelby, waited then asked Shelby if she knew a Debbie Loraine. Shelby said she didn't know the woman and asked why. Lynn told her about the kidnapping and said this time it wasn't Shelby's salon involved. She thanked Shelby and hung up, telling Deacon and Kitter about what she said.
"Now I'm both wondering and worrying. If this has nothing to do with Shelby's Bridezillas, then we have a serial killer on our hands, any Bridezilla is fair game. We need to send out a bulletin to all bridal planers, salons and boutiques." She thought about Penny, "I hope he only goes after unmarried brides."
Penny and I had arrived back to our suite around 10 p.m. and we were fooling around while still in our wedding clothes. Willy was locked out of the bedroom again and was sitting by the door waiting for us. He had a long wait.
Sunday Morning, it was beautiful again, and I called my brother and asked what they had planned. He told me what they were going to do and I said that was good and to keep in touch. I hung up just as Penny came up behind me and put her arms around my expansive waist. She whispered that she had a talk with Eric and said he could no longer visit her in her dreams, they were only meant for me, her husband. I said I gave up Pixie the moment I saw Penny come down the aisle. We both laughed and I turned to her to search for her tonsils.
My cell phone rang and it said Deacon. I looked at Penny and asked if we should answer it. She said if we don't they'll just bust down our door. I picked it up and answered.
"Can't you let us married people rest?" I said.
"You can rest when you get back to Michigan; right now Lynn needs your expert opinions. She gets a little unsure of herself some times and I didn't tell her I was calling you. I can tell her you called me to see how we were doing, I told you about the new case we got of a kidnapped bride, and you said you were coming down to stick your nose into it." He laughed.
"Well, if I do that I'll have something to hold over your head. Where are you?"
He told me and I said we'd be there. Penny could hear the conversation from my phone and when I hung up she jumped up and headed to the bedroom. I asked where she was going, she said to get dressed, we had a case to solve. We dressed, gather up Willy and went out.
We got to Metro PD and into Lynn's office. She asked how our first night of wedded bliss was. I said a little better than connubial bliss for most people. Penny said it was adequate. I just gave her a dirty look.
"OK, we're ready to get the fucker, what have you got so far?" I asked.
Lynn sighed, "We got squat. The witness at the kidnapping only saw a black beat-up car. It headed east in the direction of the mountains, the witness said. I would have the mountains combed, but I don't have enough people to go traipsing on a wild goose chase. CSI said the person in the beating video was based on the height of the bride to be about five nine or ten. Slight build, and no other remarkable features. The employees at Shelby's finally admitted they were staying away from the first Bridezilla so they weren't around when someone opened the door and shot her."
"Did the kidnapped bride have a purse?" I asked.
Lynn looked at the statements of the people from the reception and said, "One of the bride's maids saw her pick up her purse when she stormed out. It was not found in the parking lot. Why?"
"Maybe she has a cell phone and maybe it has GPS tracking."
Lynn just said crap and picked up her phone. She got hold of the CSI supervisor and asked if it was possible to track the vic's cell phone. He said they'd get on it. Lynn took us down to the crime lab and into the electronic wizard's domain. The supervisor greeted us and said he had his people check with the family about her cell phone and got the phone number, they ran a check to see if it was GPS enabled. The tech sitting at the computer said he checked with Verizon and she did have an active tracker. He punched a bunch of keys on his computer and hacked into the phone company towers. A map came up of North Las Vegas and a couple of lines coordinated together to land at an address on Wheat Street. The tech pulled up an address and gave it to the supervisor, he gave it to Lynn and she ran out.
We followed her back to the squad room and she was yelling that there may be a break in the kidnapping. She got on the phone and called the DA to get a warrant and said to get it ASAP, the bride may not be dead yet. She gathered up her people and called for SWAT. She was coordinating when her phone rang and she had the warrant. She yelled let's roll!
We all drove out to the address, it was a run down house in a slum area of North Vegas, the kind of place that tourist don't see unless they take a wrong turn off the strip. Everyone rolled up to the house, frightening neighbors who sat on their porches trying to cool themselves in the heat of the afternoon. Lynn and Deacon went to the garage and looked in. The glass was painted over but there was a small scraping in one corner. Lynn peeked through and saw a beat-up black Buick. She signaled the rest of the officers and they got to the side door of the house and smashed it in with the battering ram. The SWAT team streamed in and found the place clear. I insisted Penny and Willy stay in the car until there were results, I told her to lock the doors, she did. I went to the garage and looked in; Lynn, Deacon and the Captain of the SWAT were tearing into the car. They got the trunk opened and found the bride's purse complete with cell phone. Lynn looked at me and gave me a nod.
Lynn yelled to everyone to fan out and find the bride, look for hidden rooms if possible. I went to the side of the garage and saw the door in the floor, I called Lynn and she came over. She called for back-up and they opened the door and carefully went down into the dark and smelly basement, with two SWAT officers leading the way.
Lynn found a switch on the wall by the stairs and flicked it on, the room was flooded with light from just about everywhere, it lit up like daylight. Everyone turned to the center of the room, where they saw the cut up body of the bride.
Trapper and Becker strolled down the Boulevard and came to the bike stand where the Metro PD bicycle cops parked their bikes. The cops were in the coffee house getting their lattes and donuts. Trapper took one end of the bike cable and Becker took the other end, stretched it out and through the bike tires, then locked the ends around the bike rack. Trapper went up to the window of the coffee shop and tapped on the glass. The cops turned to see Trapper give them a smile and the finger, they all jumped up and stormed out to their bikes as Trapper and Becker headed up the strip. Then they stopped and turned to watch the cops pull their bikes from the rack only to collide and stumble around with the secured bikes. Trapper was video taping the whole incident and then the two of them ran off.
The cops were pissed but then a couple of them started to laugh. They found that the key was still in the lock so they could get their bikes free. One cop found a playing card of the Joker, the one the late Heath Ledger portrayed, on his radio and laughed his head off.
Score three for the Vegas jokers.
CSI and the ME were doing their best to find evidence as to the identity of the killer. The owner of the house was called and came in to tell Lynn that the house was rented by phone; the person sent a money order before moving in. He never met the man, he was told the man was from out of town and wanted a place to land easily, it was a furnished house and ready to occupy. Lynn asked the landlord why he didn't check his references, he said he had enough problems trying to rent the place, it's a bad neighborhood, why rock the boat.
A CSI officer came out to tell Lynn that his guy must have worn gloves the whole time he lived there, it was clean of prints. Lynn asked if the landlord had a copy of the money order, he said he did and would get it to her. He regretted renting to the man now that he committed a murder in it, that would make it real hard to rent. Lynn looked at him and said she felt so sorry for him, then she quietly called him an asshole when he walked out of the garage.
The ME removed the body of the bride and CSI had the wedding gown bagged and ready to go to the lab for examination. Lynn, Deacon and I wandered through the house. I could see Penny and Willy standing out front by the porch; she saw me through the window and waved.
"The house doesn't look very lived in, no clothes or personal items, almost as if he used it as a front, or a place to bring the girl, but he could have rented a motel room and did the deed. This guy is not making sense." Lynn commented mostly to herself.
We tore apart the place and found nothing of importance in identifying the killer. The car was being examined by CSI and they told Lynn there were no prints in the car either and it was reported stolen days ago from down in Henderson. Lynn asked if they checked the bathroom for hair in the shower or anything to take DNA from, they told her they found traces of hair in the drain but it looked like it had been there for a while, probably from prior tenants, otherwise it was clean.
Lynn hoped there would be some trace on the wedding gown from the perp, a hair or a print, anything to get a fix on him. I went out to keep Penny company and we waited for Lynn and Deacon to finish. They came out and Lynn was not smiling. She thanked me for the mention about the cell phone, they would have never had found her right off. Unfortunately, it was too late to save her.
CSI had finished and Lynn had the remaining officers seal up the place, then the four of us went to find somewhere to get a late lunch. We sat at Del Taco eating and talking about the wedding, trying to get our minds off the murders for a while. Lynn said she loved watching Trapper trying to avoid Weber at the reception, she said Trapper was good at evading him. I said he was good at evading police work too. He spent a lot of time at my office hiding from his job, waiting for his retirement. Deacon said he started hiding out when he became a lieutenant, he would assign people jobs then vanish. I said I hoped Becker doesn't pick up his bad habits.
Penny thanked Lynn for bringing in Reverend Mark, she said she liked his demeanor and his presentation. I looked at her and asked what college did she go to. Lynn said that Reverend Mark stopped her just before he left and thanked her for calling him, he said Jim made a very generous contribution to the mission.
Penny looked at me and said, "If you keep giving your money away to everyone, I'll have nothing to inherit when you keel over." I kissed her and said I had a small fortune stashed away for just that occasion. What I didn't tell her was I took out a huge life insurance policy; I was surprised they gave it to me, being in such a hazardous occupation. I was worth over a million dollars to Penny if I keeled over, I wasn't going to tell her, she might get ideas.
She looked at me and asked, "By the way, do you have any life insurance on you?"
"I have a small policy, not worth killing me over." I smiled and wondered if she read my mind.
"Well, it better be enough to take care of me in my old age after you're gone."
"It will be, now can we get off my death, it's creeping me out." I insisted.
We finished our tacos, nachos, burritos and salsa dip and went out to the parking lot. I said I was feeling gaseous. Penny said to expel the gases before we got in the car; I said it would be a few minutes.
"So Lynn, what's the plan of attack now?" I asked as we expelled our gases in the lot.
"I'm hoping that the lab finds something of value. Right now I'm going to visit the wedding planner who set-up Debbie Loraine's wedding and see if she has had any strange things happening. Care to come along?"
I looked at Penny and she said "Onward and upward."
We all headed to the Weddings by Design Studio just off Charleston Avenue and went in to the receptionist. Lynn flashed her badge and asked for the head person. The receptionist made a quick call and a woman, about fifty, blond and well built came out and introduced herself as Wendy Darling. We just stared as she said, "It was a joke by my parents, now please ask me where Peter Pan is and we can get on with the interrogation." She didn't sound like a happy Wendy.
"We're not here to interrogate you, Miss Darling. Is there a private place we can go to talk?" Lynn asked. Wendy Darling looked at the four of us and the dog, asking if the dog was a police dog. I said he was a bloodhound; she cracked a smile and asked us to follow her.
We went to what looked like a conference room, and sat around the big circular table. Lynn sat next to Wendy, who asked Penny to sit next to her, so she could pet Willy. He loved that.
"I'm sure by now you know of the kidnapping of Debbie Loraine, we found her this morning, she was murdered." Wendy looked faint as Lynn continued. "Can you tell us anything that may help our investigation, what was she like to work with."
"She was a bitch, simple as that. I could tell her stupid family was going through the motions just to please her, but she wouldn't be pleased. I'm surprised they even made it to the church."
"OK, you get Bridezillas often I presume?" Lynn asked.
"Oh, sure, they're part of the fabric of weddings. Every woman is commander of her moment and don't mess with her plans. Some are just worse than others. Sure we get a lot of good ones, but in the summer when the Vegas temperatures are up, so is the temperature of the brides. I like winter weddings better."
"Can you tell me anything about Debbie, her family and the groom?"
"Well, as I said, they were all goofy, not a brain in the entire lot combined to fill the head of a frog. I could see Debbie was the ring leader, and she hated the groom's best man. The groom wasn't pleased with the bride's maids either."
"Was anyone else hanging around the wedding party that seemed out of place?"
"There was this one young man, he had a smitten look on his face when ever Debbie went by. I assumed he was with the wedding party, but I asked him if he was here to be fitted for a tux; he said he wasn't in the wedding party and left rather quickly and rudely."
Lynn perked up and asked about how tall was he. Wendy replied about her height, five-ten.
Lynn asked if she would be willing to look at some mug books and see if he would be in any of them. She said she would give an hour of her time in the morning, she had an opening. Lynn thanked her and we went to leave. Wendy asked Penny what the dog's name was, she said Willy. Wendy patted Willy's head and said she'd see us in the morning.
Before we left the conference room, Lynn asked if Wendy kept track of the Bridezillas, in a file or list. She said no, but she did note the problem brides in their individual files. Lynn asked where she kept those files, Wendy told her in her office under lock and key.
Lynn asked if she could have a list of upcoming weddings that have problem brides in them; Wendy said sure and went to her office. She went to the file cabinet to get out her files on upcoming weddings, but was amazed that the cabinet was not locked. Lynn asked her not to touch the cabinet further and went to look at it carefully. She noted that the lock catches had been bent back, someone forcibly open the cabinet.
Lynn got on her cell phone and requested a CSI team to come dust for prints on a file cabinet. She hung up and asked Wendy if she had seen the same strange man from Debbie's group hanging around the place. Wendy said if he had been there she would have called the police. Lynn carefully opened the cabinet so not to disturb any prints and asked Wendy to look in, but not touch, files to see if they are all there. Wendy looked at the tabs on the file folders and said that they were out of order, not the way she would place them, she took a breath and said someone has messed with her files.
About an hour later, the CSI team had dusted just about everything within the vicinity of the file cabinet. Wendy volunteered her prints and CSI used a new device that records finger prints on a portable scanning platform. No ink involved. This would clear Wendy's prints from the unauthorized ones on the cabinet and folders. The forensic scientists did their work and left to go examine the findings. Lynn was hoping for a good print, but from the house experience, it wasn't a good bet.
Lynn asked again for a list of upcoming weddings that may have a high risk for attack. Wendy went through the now released folders, saying she could tell which ones were disturbed and wrote out the names from those files, giving it to Lynn.
We all left the building, and out to the parking lot, Lynn said she would get her people on these weddings. I asked to see the list, Lynn handed it to me. I read down the names and stopped at one.
"OK, this may be way out in left field to use an old cliche, but I noticed the names of the previously murdered or attacked brides were, so far, alphabetical. First was Annamarie, then Becky, then Cindy and last, Debbie. I may be wrong, but the only bride on this list that starts with an "E" is Edith Goring. Wouldn't hurt to check her out, her wedding is tonight."
Before she could say anything her cell phone buzzed. She answered and listened, then hung up.
"Well, interesting, CSI said they took the cot Debbie was tied to and when they removed the blanket wrapped around it, there was big writing on the cot from a paint marker, it said 'if you won't marry me, you won't marry anyone.' They also said they found a couple of hairs on the dress, but they couldn't get a match to anyone in the DNA database. This guy is off the records or never been hauled in. The cot did have a price tag on it, from Park Surplus, over off MLK Boulevard. We can check it later, but first I think we should have a talk to Edith Goring, shall we take a ride?"
We all got into my SUV and drove to the address Wendy had supplied of the hotel that Edith was staying at. We drove into the Hilton Hotel parking and then went to the reception desk. Lynn flashed her badge and asked for Edith Goring's room number. The girl at the counter turned to the manager standing nearby and told him what Lynn asked for. It's not policy to give out room numbers, but in the case of the law it is an exception. The girl was being cautious. The manager checked Lynn's ID closely and said anyone could flash a plastic badge, but he was satisfied with Lynn's credentials. He looked up the room number and gave it to us, then we headed to the elevators.
We arrived at the fifth floor and went down the long hallway, spotting the room number, and as we came to the door we heard crashing and screaming. Lynn pounded on the door yelling that she was the police and to open up. There was more crashing, and Lynn knew the doors wouldn't break open even if Deacon hit it. I saw a maid coming out of a room down the hall; Lynn saw her too and ran down grabbing her arm and pulling her to the door in question. She said to open it showing her badge and the frightened maid pulled a room card out and inserted it in the door lock. Lynn opened the door, then she and Deacon carefully went in with guns drawn. I held Penny and Willy back until I knew the situation.
CONTINUED IN THE BOOK....